Sorry for broadcast delay folks, its been the traditional cavalcade of family weddings and sickness. In recompense, here’s some design notes regarding the last little arc of our Flying Circus game.
Though Flying Circus obviously draws very heavily from historical sources when it comes to how its planes operate, the setting has been from the beginning plugged as, I suppose, a kind of diesel-punk laced high fantasy. Now we were operating in an odd place here, as a lot of the setting info is not yet published and we had adopted a slightly alternative setting anyway. Not wanting to jump straight to dragons, I decided to bring in an alternative airborne creature.
Naturally, the solution came in the form of a strange multilingual pun.
Now, our setting Maralto draws heavily on Italian imagery, and the Italian word for witch is strega. We can trace the route of this word back to the Latin strix, for screech owl, and its distant cousin strige does in fact parse as “a bird of ill omen”, which could be seen as equivalent to the bad reputation that crows and ravens have in English speaking countries. So naturally this gets thoughts of psychopomp birds stirring around in my brain.
The Striges then, within our setting, are a kind of revenant. When a strong-willed witch or sorcerer dies and that death cuts short the great work of their lives, the screech owls of the ghost world may offer them a choice. Rather than carrying them on into the great unknown beyond death, the owl may bring their spirit back into the world, repairing the body in their own image and fueling it with a hunger for blood, vengeance and the shadowy magic of the netherworld.
With this flickering magic surging through their skeletal frames and between their grey feathers, the Striges are given a near immortal chance at vengeance or, more rarely, closure. Their shadow wings carry them as fast as a fighter plane, and the long claws on their fingers can tear horrific gouges in steel plate and flesh alike. Perhaps most alarmingly, these avian horrors seem beyond the reach of death; though they can most certainly be wounded and broken in the manner of mortal things, the shadows will knit them back together in time. There are rumours that only burial with full funerary rites in consecrated ground will spell a true end to these creatures, but given the rarity of priests willing to cooperate with such actions this remains speculation.
So there you have it. Our terrifying owl-channelling sky witches were based on an old Italian play on words and some bits of James O’Barr’s The Crow, with perhaps a smattering of the Strix from Vampire the Requiem. But ain’t it funny how inspiration works that way…?
Good hunting to y’all.
For those following along on our playtest of Erika Chapell’s Flying Circus, I have enclosed a dossier of the three rogue pilots operating out of the Span. Hopefully it will prove useful to your further inquiries.
Geneve Schmidt appears to be the newest addition to the group, and despite rank inexperience as a combat pilot she has displayed an unusual knack for ambitious and highly creative feats of engineering. Origin currently unknown, but her dress and speech modality would suggest one of the far southern farm holdings, potentially Zuhaus or Fiore. She currently flies what appears to be a heavily modified Barbierri Asino, though what put it into her mind to attach those engines to a battered cropdusting biplane, or indeed where she got them at all, remains a mystery. Known Weaknesses: Cannabis and romantic novels.
Zelig Weiss is an exile from Greyreach, one of the insular fisher communities clinging to the southwestern cliffs. Despite presumably having vacated that community after trespassing their strange edicts, Weiss still presents as one of their priests, though the legitimacy of this is unknown. With the aid of his alarming follower who goes only by Nyx, Zelig operates a scarred but serviceable Caruso Scorpione. It might not be top of the line anymore, but the light cannon in the waist mount of these attack planes can still tear down a fighter or brain a skywhale with equal ease. Exercise caution. Known Weaknesses: Opium and Prayer.
Francesca di Flores we have a little more information on, though her early exit from the military stronghold on the other side of the mountains leaves clear records somewhat lacking. We know that she departed with several squadmates, though they took very little equipment with them, though rumours surrounding the unregistered departure of Striker, a clockwork built from the remnants of her former commanding officer have cast some suspicion over their actions. Between them, however, they still have access to a fearsome asset; a fully operational Martinelli Biscione monoplane fighter. There might have been better tuned fighters built in the last decade, but good luck finding one. Known Weaknesses: Amphetamines and compulsive exercise.
So far this little crew have limited themselves to minor strikes against pirate forces, but in the hub that is the Span the scope and strangeness of work they might find is limited only barely by their ambition. Time will tell.
For those of you following along at home, you may have recognised that the Liberation Industries crew frequently leap headlong into creative endeavours, followed by screams, explosions and a great deal of boozy rambling close at their heels.
But after a spectacular chrysalis, the first instalment of Lee’s book series, The Ferryman’s Apprentice, is now available for you to possess! So for those among you who prefer something with physical mass, its your lucky day; head over to Amazon and check this out!
You can find more ways to support Lee at their website, Whimsy and Metaphor, including the book in both electronic and physical format, so… well , frankly, the more you support Lee the higher the number of Jury the Rigger’s clones you all get to meet. Ultimately its win-win.
Keep on rockin’, listeners (and readers).
Having taken a look in our previous installments at the City and the Factions that we created for our Karma in the Dark game, its probably time that we took a look at our leads! The base unit of Karma is a team of crooks toeing the line between striving and selling out… and its these desperate folks that we’ll be following on their adventures.
Our group decided on a crew of Cleaners… that being cleaners in the Jean Reno sense, specializing cover-ups, frame jobs, and at the extreme end outright assassination. Their lair is tucked away in the guts of a long abandoned tower block in the labyrinthine heart of Metro East’s decaying coastal highrises. Though partially collapsed, the team is in the process of stripping the building for resources.
Having chosen Anarchy as their Ideal, they’re going to need all of the resources they can get… but with their Tenacious rep and a knack for getting others to take the blame for their misdeeds, if anybody’s going to get away with it.
Jury the Rigger (Tech Jockey)
The teams resident tech head and getaway driver, Jury grew up in the elegant surrounds of one of the Clan capsule communities until the orcish tusks and muscles manifested along with puberty. Packed away to a vocational education away from prying eyes, Jury makes most of his money as a mechanic down in the lower levels these days. Despite little hints of sentimentality for his upbringing, Jury prefers a world where people have a purpose of their own, rather than being viewed as disposable.
Rebellion: Consumerism, Virtue: Give new purpose to the forgotten, Look: Mechanic Chic
Having made an unceremonious exit from her Clan after an unforgivable betrayal, Evie refined her understanding of the Source to push her body past the limitations of the petty laws of physics. As a highborn and an elf, she enjoyed a more refined upbringing than her compatriots, which made the fall more even more scarring, leaving Evie distrustful and wary of authority structures. Admittedly, when you’re a Source-fueled brawler who can free-run up sheer glass walls, structures begin to feel less and less real.
Rebellion: Exploitation, Virtue: I keep my promises, Look: Goth Clergy, Jaded: Distrust
If a life spent in and out of prison taught Bertrand anything, it was how to keep his head down. With a knack for co-opting social groups and a will to collapse concentrated power, he knows that power isn’t established by violence or strength, but by having others willing to use those for you. Understated, unobtrusive and on the run, Bertrand acts as a parasite living in the body of large and dangerous factions, and for now remains undetected… only time will tell how much damage he can do.
Rebellion: Monopoly, Virtue: I will feed the hungry, Look: Grey and Greasy
Fixer: Granny Lock
The ageing matriarch of an ever larger clan of low grade street criminals, Granny Lock has her ear to a lot of keyholes, including a string of recent coffee dates with Doctor Pierce of the Tailors’ Union. Granny shifts seamlessly between nurturing and ruthless; she knows from harsh experience that the city runs on the law of the wild, but also that its impossible to survive there alone. To her, the team are somewhere between adopted wastrels and a tentative retirement plan… no sense letting such talent go to waste, after all…
Traits: Ambitious, Patient, Drive: Secure the family’s future, Circle: Organised Crime
Tune in this Sunday to see what happens when the City and the Team collide…
Having given a description of our future-Sydney, Metro East, in last weeks post, lets take a look at some of its inhabitants. Building factions is collaborative in Karma in the Dark, and you can basically make as many as you like. With our team of ne’er do wells inhabiting an abandoned building down near the flooded districts and the industrial zones, that strongly influenced the flavour of our factions, and Karma gives you a lively nest of vipers right out of the gate.
The Marine Patrol Corps (Police Faction)
A municipally funded force has the primary function of keeping a lid on any crime and unrest in the city’s vital aquacultural centres. Painfully underfunded and thinly stretched, the MPC would have their work cut out for them if it was just jittery unions they had to worry about; with the continuing campaign of sabotage perpetrated by the Circle of the Tides they are beginning to get desperate. Their shows of force might not be enough to stop the situation from boiling over… they need up to date gear and boots on the ground, fast, and they are getting rapidly less picky about who supplies those.
Drive: Order, Goal: Acquire Up to Date Hardware, Methods: Shock and Awe, Crackdowns
Relevance: 5 (Pervasive, Protective)
The Circle of the Tides (Arcane Faction)
A loose conclave of mystics, beast speakers and environmental extremists who have taken the Outbreak’s mission to annihilate technology as their own, seeking to defend a natural world that each day grows more complex and dangerous with each day. With extensive knowledge of the city’s flooded districts, powerful magic and a bestiary of awakened animals at their disposal, they seek to rid the coastline of exploitative resource extraction and return to the world to a state of balance. Viewed by some outsiders as misguided and others as a deranged death-cult, the Circle nonetheless continues its mission in places where those same outsiders would struggle to survive.
Drive: Defend the Natural World, Goal: Disrupt the Kelp Farms, Method: Secrecy, Hit and Run
The Circus Maximus (Entertainment Faction)
The Circus is a loose alliance of celebrities, entertainers and their myriad support staff, driven by the whims of the Oligarchs’ patronage and sharpened by their precarious position. With the favour of the great clans comes some of the benefits they enjoy, including the coveted biotech and longevity treatments… as long as one can hold the spotlight. Their power comes from being able to make or break reputations, and cultivation of powerful friends… though some whisper their attempts to secure monopoly rights in the burgeoning international market are their first step in replacing the nobility they have imitated for so long.
Drive: Power, Goal: Acquire an export monopoly, Method: Social Engineering
Relevance: 5 (Pervasive, Trendsetting)
Circus Maximus Agent: Clint Burgundy
Clint was one of the beautiful people once, but that was a long time ago. With the good life of sex, drugs and loud music having turned him into something of a greasy walnut of a human male, he clings on to his place in C-Max as a broker, enabler and troubleshooter. The team has landed on his Shit List due to their cover-up activities… if there’s a PR clusterfuck looming, Clint wants to be the one in control of it.
The Tailor’s Union (Crime Faction)
In Metro East, the rich get access to tailored bioware, and the finest medical care that can be found. For everyone else… there’s the Tailor’s Union. Where there is a demand a supply will surface soon enough, and the Union have a strong hand in keeping the city’s poor and desperate alive, running the black clinics, pharmaceutical smuggling and illegal cybernetics that keep the human element from breaking down. The fact that they cement this position with a merciless network of blackmail and a small army of augmented assassins has not done anything to hurt their reputation.
Drive: Expand criminal empire, Goal: Inflitrate the MPC, Method: Secrecy and Terror
Relevance: 4 (Consuming)
Tailor’s Union Agent: “Doctor” Francis Pierce
A quiet, almost monkish demeanour hides the scalpel sharp mind of “Doctor” Pierce, with the willowy troll being perhaps the most capable surgeon ever to have their license revoked. Not cruel, or malicious, they might best be described as efficient, whether in an improvised operating room or aboard a smuggling sub… and they owe the team one, on account of some help with some personal problems…
Artemis Pharmaceutical Futures (Corp Faction)
The local branch of APF has seen better days… a long way from their patron’s heartland, the lab has been struggling to produce the results that they need to avoid being written off as a loss come next review. The Head of Research is going to need to get creative… especially after a rather nasty chemical spill that they may or may not have been responsible for. There’s a lot to worry about, but Artemis aren’t to be written off just yet; they might not be a big lab, but their parent corporation doesn’t like competitors messing with their assets…
Drive: Secure more funding for research, Goal: Cover up recent accident, Method: Market Manipulation
Relevance: 4 (Protective)
Tune in next week, and we’ll meet the team!
Well, the Liberation Industries team took to the world and character creation section of our Karma in the Dark game with characteristic gusto. The full recording of this technologically hobbled session is still available through the Whimsy and Metaphor Twitch, and should surface on our Youtube pretty soon. But for those in the Too Long, Didn’t Listen camp… I’m going to do a few quick blog posts here to summarize the results, and whet your appetites for when the next live sessions air.
Welcome to Metro East
Now Karma offers us some downright robust world building tools; though the game’s elevator pitch is probably “Blades Powered Shadowrun” its got a lot more going for it than that, and can basically handle all of your magic cyberpunk needs. It lets you build a world with a strong focus on privilege, and the exact avenues that power is expressed in that dystopia.
Naturally, we decided to set our game in Sydney, Australia. Or at least, what’s left of it.
Power is influenced by three factors in Karma, chosen by the players at the start of the campaign. Our group chose Metatype as one factor in a nod to classic Shadowrun; elves and humans have an easier time negotiating society than their goblinoid cousins. The other two factors we chose were Bloodline and Property, with family ties to the Oligarch Clans offering a measure of protection, and a citizen’s social clout strongly resting on how much capital they can bring to bear.
With that in place, we have a distinctly neo-feudal city.
Glittering Heights, Murky Depths
Even before the magical Outbreak hit, Metro East was not doing so well. With its lower levels subsiding in ever greater floodwaters and further growth choked by geographical restrictions, the skyline grew desperately taller, clawing for the sky even as the building’s foundations were swallowed by the sea. The city grew upwards in layers, like a mad termite mound.
Then the Outbreak struck, and the world changed completely. With the return of magic to the world, technology that had been the lifeblood of a globalised economy – wireless communication, positioning satellites, even long distance radio – went silent in the face of a global magical susurrus. Technology had to be rebuilt in shielded, wired form, and cities were left to fend for themselves. It is a metropolis of text-fed terminals, flickering hologram billboards, and murky phone booths with gnarled nerve-jack leads swinging in the ever present storm winds.
The crash was eighty years ago, and only now are we returning to the globalised world that was lost. So far, even the great corporations have been unable to challenge the primacy of the City States, but with more ships arriving in Metro East from abroad every day, that may be set to change.
It is a city of great divisions. Industry is driven by intensive, exploitative aquaculture and risky ocean mining, offset by a ravenous urge for respect that has manifested in a cutting edge fashion scene. The Oligarchs maintain their hold through monopolies on the most alarming magic – they say the rites of divination that keep them ahead of their rivals are unspeakably horrid – and access to the best medical care. They have developed a taste for flaunting their elegant, tailored bioware, the symbol of their coveted longevity, with the fashion for gauzy, revealing garments that display humanity’s augmented peak. For the kelp-fed poor, crude cyberware can be the difference between life and death, but social pressure often drives it to be covered; given the harsh weather, the working classes make their way in shrouds and bulky raincoats through the torrid, waterlogged industrial quarters. Life expectancy gets lower the deeper you go.
Metro East is viewed by outsiders as both an enclave of vain upstarts, and a pit of desperate criminal savagery… and both of these statements are true.
Tune in next week, and we’ll take a look at some of the City’s movers and shakers, at least in the tumbledown neighbourhood our characters inhabit. If you have any questions, drop a comment, or have a look at Cass K Designs; this game comes thoroughly recommended!
Hey hey imaginary listeners!
We are taking the Liberation Industries magic into the modern age with the help of Whimsy and Metaphor, and taking our teeth to Cass K’s fantastic Shadowrun/Blades in the Dark hybrid, Karma in the Dark!
The show will be airing on Twitch at 7pm tomorrow (Sunday 1st April), Australian Eastern Standard Time. The first session will be mostly world creation, but for the die-hards among you I look forward to seeing you there!
Apologies for the accidental hiatus we have been on for the first half of the month, imaginary listeners.
Due to the terrors of house moving we have been without a reliable internet connection here at Liberation Industries, but with that reestablished and things settling back to a modicum of sanity, we should have your usual transmissions flying out later in the week.
We’re gonna be doing our darndest to have you all caught up by the end of the month, as frankly leaving bandwidth fallow feels… wrong, somehow. So for now, just this.
We’re not dead yet, listeners. We just don’t exist.
Well, we certainly played a lot of it. There’s probably 45 or so hours stacked up in our backlog so far, so you would have thought we’d have picked up some Wisdom renown.
In short, we probably didn’t, and we’re the same dysfunctional freaks we started as. But here’s a few things for those who might be interested in WtF Second Edition who put their trust in internet weirdos.
Slice of Life
This may be our default means of playing, but the updated pack creation, Wolf Blood and Lunacy mechanisms play into this really beautifully. Your werewolf pack is, by default, part of a much larger community… which makes it real hard to take the Murderhobo route, as was seen in Payment in Kind. With Lunacy being less of the Masquerade protection it used to be, you can’t rely on people forgetting your carnage, and even PCs seem less willing to kill an enemy if its one that can fish up embarrassing childhood stories about them.
Tactical Nuclear Gauru
Yeah, the huge regenerative capacity of the war form has been a sticking point for some posters online, but in my mind it combines the best of the wuxia second wind trope and a weird game of mutually assured destruction. Lets just say that the advantage isn’t as huge as it seems once you fight people who actually have an idea how Uratha tick, which incidentally includes the ubiquitous swarms of spirits, the Azlu and Beshilu, and those oh-so-buff Predator Kings. Oh, and… any group willing to pin down a giant and devour them Lilliput style. Ouch.
Also, a well built Rahu is murder incarnate. Grandpappy Fever was no pushover, but sometimes your bonuses do lead to seventeen successes…
This led to some fun moments of nudist comedy, but once the pack got to a balanced level it seemed to become less important. Perhaps a default “hit a breaking point and gain Conditions” would have been better, with Flesh-Locked and Spirit-Locked being the dramatic failures in either direction. I think the Harmony gauge is a relic from previous edition, but like all elements of the CoD toolbox, you can discard whatever you like. Which leads us to…
Conditions, Conditions, Conditions
These are great. Print the deck, and for any extreme occurrence, you have something tangible for the player to nurse. Love ’em, best thing God Machine did.
… is something I don’t think I said once in all 29 episodes. Basically, we put a slightly modified Down and Dirty Combat system up front and center, as… well, Werewolf, to our minds, shouldn’t feel like an Errol Flynn thrust-parry-riposte-dodge-lock-break-taunt-repeat routine. You’re rolling at the same time as your opponent because you are crashing into each other at speed with each trying to tear something vital out of the other. We let defense count, as it pays to have a guard up, but otherwise we never used the turn-based combat system.
This Story is True
I quite like this little recurring phrase in the book, as it really drives home the fact that most of the Werewolf tribes’ founding mythology is… hearsay at best. In the end we kinda doubled down on this, with most tribes claiming their totem as the eldest, giving contrary information, and extolling the grand cosmic importance of the refreshments table. This played into our new players insecurities, and it took a long time for the pack to shake the idea that Destroyer Wolf wasn’t a Pure totem. I also took some liberties with tribal backgrounds, but more importantly with their current human manifestations: Jonah’s Ivory Claws present themselves more like the Bene Gesserit than neo-nazis, the modern Blood Talons are mostly ex-military burnouts, and… well, it wasn’t much of a stretch to make the Hunters in Darkness completely nuts.
After all, just because your god is still up and lumbering around the Deep Shadow doesn’t mean they’re sane.
We love Werewolf. That’s probably pretty obvious, but it is a rock solid toolbox for your middle-crunch gamer. If you wan’t to run a game that explores family, community, and the slow disintegration of a dying warrior clade, you can do a lot worse than this one.
Keep on rocking listeners.
It has come to our attention here at Liberation Industries that we have been publishing a regular podcast for nearly two years without engaging in any kind of “social media”. Apparently this media is something that humans do.
So we have established beach-heads to begin a process of media socialization, and you are free to utilize the boltholes that we have established below.
We also have a charming new banner courtesy of Fred, who has been hard at work over at Mimic not being a marmot.
Liberation Industries out.