Karma in the Dark: The City
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!
More Shadows! More Running!
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.
Things We Learned from Werewolf the Forsaken
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.
Happy New Year!
And a grand Festivus to you all from the team here at Liberation Industries.
Got a couple of little bits of news for you now that dread 2017 (which crazy cult was it that predicted the end times for this year?) has finally borne down upon us. The first is, as prophesied, our early Apocalypse World sessions are due to be stricken from the internet due to our inconsistent approach to web hosting and inability to pay more than the bare minimum. Shouldn’t happen with anything we deployed after that, but if you want ’em, now is the time to grab ’em.
The second piece of news is that this darling New Year weather has not killed us yet, so we’ll be coming at you with Werewolf over the next few weeks with a spooky as can be return to the Devil John Moulton after that.
And as a New Year gift Dandy, who plays Sleeves in our Crescent Coast Werewolf game, has drawn these super cute chibis of Alex, Ava and Sleeves, the three teenage lycanthropes currently terrorizing the northern New South Wales coastline. So enjoy.
The Devil’s Own Self: Devil John Retrospective
Well, for those of you who listened to our Devil John Sessions, you’ll recognise that we all had a pretty good time.
Some of that was the rum. Some, but not all of it. It was very nice rum though.
In the interest of seeing this cool little game get a bit more polish as it develops further, we at Liberation Industries figured we’d jot down a few of our thoughts regarding how it played.
As possible points of interest, we didn’t have the official character sheets, and had to jerry rig some which in retrospect made the game very slightly more lethal. Which in a one shot session was ok, but it did skew the game slightly.
The other thing was that I had played copious amounts of Hard West before GMing this session, and it was a pretty serious influence. In case it wasn’t absolutely clear, by knowledge of Catholicism, indigenous myth, demonology, and ritual magic radically outstrips my knowledge of United States history, which probably coloured this session and later ones a bit.
Anyway, I’ll break this down into rough pros and cons.
Stuff We Liked
Character Creation Cards
These were a real winner. I loved that in a western themed game your character creation is a card based mini-game, which felt very evocative. The passing of cards between the players also made a nice prelude to the themes of guilt and devil’s bargains that the game features so heavily, with each player trying to second guess what shade of poison their compatriots would send them. The last card was almost inevitably terrifying.
It is a quick way to create characters with interesting and very troubled pasts, and means that both players and GM are given an avenue to create anti-heroes without chickening out with their prior acts of evil. You can take this to redemption or damnation with equal ease in play, which I think is great.
In future, I think it would be great if the deck could be expanded with more options; like a lot of what we found, it was a good number for a one off session, but trying to add new characters in later sessions led to a lot of repetition.
Its simple, its elegant, and it works perfectly. The fact that your pact will always work gets people thinking more creatively, trying to bring their horrifying powers to bear in a manner that actually helps makes for interesting situations.
Then there’s the repayment. As a GM I love any element that incentivises the players acting to promote chaos and something other than their own best interests, and really keeps the game full of surprises.
Of anything, I hope this element is the one that doesn’t change.
Stuff We’re Not So Sure On
In honesty, I don’t think we minded the combination of dice as a combination of your skills and a death-clock. It did feel a little clumsy at times, but on a later playthrough we found that the system became much easier to follow once we had the official character sheets.
The roll low element was a bit strange, with the pasts that cemented a characters competence making the rolls higher on average. This was sort of played off by the fact that a higher dice allowed more use of the “re-roll until you make it” system, but it still felt a little counter-intuitive at times.
In contrast to the very collaborative, rules light “indie” elements of town creation, character creation and demonic pacts, the dice system feels almost out of place, though I struggle to think of an alternative that would be appropriate. Perhaps a bidding system like Insylum or Undying, with characters receiving different coloured poker chips based on the four stats, which would be in line with the games other tactile elements.
As I said, not a bad element for a game by any means, but it may be worth shaking things up a little.
The extended hunt for the Immortal Bastard is a handy framing construct, with the collaborative element once again allowing players to shape their story as well as the identity and motives of the main villain.
The problem we noted is the level of lethality, and even with the short-chase option there is a very strong chance of an old style Call of Cthulhu-esque ending where none of the characters at the finale were there at the start. Not saying this is bad; the system works beautifully for a poignant, Seven Samurai style showdown, but feels a little harsh if you want to actually reach the end of your search.
Whether this is handled by more opportunities for healing between towns, or perhaps a more cinematic approach to each session, or even just more options to choose when you all meet your destiny – say, “It was in the fourth town that we found him, but this is the story of the first.” – might give more options for campaign play.
I weigh whether the final showdown with the Immortal Bastard should be a question of dice at all, whether we couldn’t use a newer-fangled collaborative thing to decide how it ends. But perhaps that’s just my rules aversion talking.
What I will say is that it is gritty as all hell, which I suspect was the intention.
I would thoroughly recommend you check out the Devil John Moulton, available through Drivethrurpg, and add your voices to this infernal choir we’ve now joined. Nick Wedig has produced a very promising alpha that we would like to see developed further.
Its a very timely addition to the Western genre, and with a recent revival of interest in revisionist works, it means you as players can play out the stories that you want to see.
So jump on and show it some love.
Keep on Rockin’.
Heya folks. Got some good news and some bad news.
Bad news is that I didn’t have enough bandwidth to publish the final installment of Devil John at the end of the month. Part of that is the funny alignment of the Gregorian Calendar and my fortnightly publishing cycle, and part of it is the addition of playtest info to give as much data for the Devil John’s development as possible.
Whichever reason is responsible, the next episode will be delayed a week.
The good news is that I was able to use the tail end of my bandwidth to archive an old production of Satyros Comedy Society, the whacked out radio play Jerks in Space. First four episodes are up, and you can expect the others in the near future.
Couldn’t leave you without some entertainment, now could we?
Greetings imaginary listeners!
Well, we’ve put another season in the grave with a flurry of wolf teeth, so for those of you scattered across the world, I hope you have a joyous return to Spring or a grim and terrifying descent into Autumn, depending on your geography.
We’ve been hearing a lot from the kids from Crescent Head lately (or if you haven’t, you should be), but as the USA begins its annual journey through the dying time we figured now is as good a time as any to shake out our copies of the Key of Solomon, get our demonology on, and crack out some occult Western with The Devil John Moulton.
Last months episodes were a little short, which as a positive allowed for some vital archiving. Given this is a refresher time for some of our hosting, we may lose access to some episodes for a time; if you have any trouble making a download, please get in touch and we’ll get you sorted out.
Until then, enjoy the Weird West.
Those of you in tune with our particular occult frequencies have probably noticed an anomaly in your supply of the Liberation Industries Roleplaying Podcast.
Please do not be alarmed, and do not adjust your set.
I am referring to the bonus episode of our Werewolf game that appeared this week. Turns out that we have just enough bandwidth to be giving you three episodes a month, and that rather neatly rounded out our second session of Crescent Coast.
You may also have noticed that our Werewolf game is… well, to quote Alex’s player “Do we have to turn into Werewolves? Can’t we just keep playing high school?” What I’m getting at is that our approach to the World of Darkness tends to be incredibly slice of life, and on that note you may have noticed a bit of a lack of traditional Werewolf shenanigans in the first couple of sessions.
This is about to change, and on that note we’re going to spend the next few issues with the Crescent Head kids, before moving on to some other games to give you all a bit of variety. Unless I come into a lot of money, we’ll only get three issues a month, but that’s about all I can edit, so as much as I love you imaginary listeners, that’s what you get.
Otherwise, its been great to see all this imaginary activity. If you like what you hear, please feel free to leave a comment, tell your friends, or offer up your worship in that weird space in the corner of a room that forms when you cross your eyes.
Keep on rockin’,