Making our favorite games even better
I am tentatively calling the rpg system Singular Roleplaying System and the first main campaign Rogues and Masterminds.
The campaign and parts of the core system are inspired by movies, rpg’s, books, and tv shows like John Wick, Sneakers, the Equalizer, Leverage, Global Frequency, Planetary, V for Vendetta, the treatises of Fiore de’i Liberi, Hustle, Shadowrun RPG, Cyberpunk by the likes of Stephenson and Gibson, World of Darkness RPG, Amber DRPG, Grosse Point Blank, and Grifters to name a few.
Originally it was going to be Movers and Shakers a super/psi/spy world that I’ve been working on along with a connected campaign called Posthuman but I decided to scale back to making just a solid non-supernatural/SF game that can later on be built into something more complex along the lines of Donnerjack by Roger Zelazny and the works of Dan Simmons.
As a consequence I was looking to make a system that scales well from making a believable competent human to an extraordinary gentleman and later to beyond human. Too often games make mechanics in which a legendary person can be fairly commonly beaten by someone vastly less talented and skilled. Or the other issue that I see in games is that there are basically just one or two versions of a successful archetype for a PC to start with or end up with thus robbing characters of the chance to develop and become something completely unique both from a mechanics standpoint and from a story standpoint while also being successful. Few people want to play a helpless character or feel railroaded into choosing based on optimization min/maxxing. That is a tall order to make but I think I’ve come up with some interesting takes on things.
I am trying for that middle ground in complexity of mechanics to provide a scaffolding for making and growing the PCs and the campaign.
I am still in the alpha stage of development and will need art and design elements, playtesting, and a few decisions on how serious I want to be in developing this game but I think I have something cool and unique.
I will be posting shortly my plain and basic character sheet and another post about basic mechanics. I will definitely be looking at or for art, playtesters, advice on the game and campaign world, and on the business aspects. I’ve looked at places like drivethru which lets you do print on demand and pdf for far cheaper and easier than in the 90s. Still hard to make any money but maybe possible to have a nice hobby and maybe make enough for coffee and a bagel.
I will keep an updated collection on the My Shadowrun Fiction Page. Otherwise this is all the stories that are at least done with the rough drafts. As I polish them and add more I will make individual posts and add it to the above collection.
Black Eagle was proud of his wizard costume for the big Halloween party and was admiring it in the polished chrome of the elevator walls leading from his condo to the parking lot below. It was nice to have an excuse to take his staff with him without having to worry about the shamans teasing him. During his last year of college while he designed the ritual for his thesis he carried the staff everywhere just in case he had an eureka moment. Plus, it really did help with the attunement connection by developing that kind of familiarity. The staff had been sitting in a corner since last year’s Halloween gathering dust despite being his greatest magical creation. Leaving the south side elevator he started walking to his parked Eurocar Westwind 3000i when he noticed four suspicious looking riff raff wearing what looked like biker’s leathers standing next to a beat up van that really shouldn’t belong to anyone living in this neighborhood.
Without warning and with blinding speed the Anglo Ork quick draws a gun from his holster and fires at a woman stepping out of the west side elevator.
“Oh, Tawa what’s going on!” Black Eagle exclaimed in shock.
“Keep out of this Gandalf and you’ll live.” snarled an Anglo human with a mohawk standing next to the Ork with the gun. His accent was barely comprehensible between the growl and Nipponese style Cityspeak of someone from a bad trid or from a Japanese ghetto in San Francisco not a sane and safe place like Sante Fe.
The two asian humans with face tattoos ran to the woman who was now collapsed outside of the elevator.
“The narcojet worked she’s out!”
“Grab her and move, I want this extraction done and done in fifteen.” snarled the Anglo Ork with the gun.
The two street trash were dragging the woman towards the van. She was dressed to the nines in a faux Elven costume including a filigreed bow.
“She must be going to the same party I am going to.” muttered Black Eagle.
“I have to do something for her.”
Gathering up his courage and channeling his fear and anger into his center Black Eagle raised his staff and pointed it at the two gangers and shouted “Crear Fuego!” Flames leapt from the tip of his staff engulfing the two men causing them to drop the woman and roll on the ground to try and to stop the burning.
The Anglo Ork spun and fired two shots at him striking his chest. Black Eagle looked down expecting to see holes in his chest but instead saw two small darts trapped in the folds of his wizard’s robes.
“Drek! Marty go grab the girl and get her in the van while I geek the mage.”
The ork tossed his gun through the window of the van and turned to Black Eagle with a snarl. With a burst of inhuman speed the thug sprinted directly toward Black Eagle while his hands began to glow with the tell-tale aura of an Adept using the power of Killing Hands which would make his hands as deadly as sword blades. Adepts are martial artists whose magic wove through their bodies allowing for impossible feats of physical prowess.
“Crear Fuego!” Black Eagle screamed flinging flames into the space the ork had been a second before as he weaved back and forth zig zagging until the adept was suddenly only a few feet away and completely untouched by the flames.
Panicked Black Eagle realized that he had no chance of hitting him with a flame bolt or fire ball. The only other spell that might be useful was a touch sleep spell he last used as a prank during hazing week in college. There was no way Black Eagle could lay an hand on the adept but maybe he could get the ork to the hard work for him.
Black Eagle thrust the staff at the ganger who dodged the blow with ease and moved in to strike when Black Eagle awkwardly turned the thrust into a push and the Ork automatically grabbed the staff between Black Eagle’s hands just as Black Eagle put him to sleep with a single whispered “Crear Sueno.” The Adept could feel the magic flow into him through the staff and ground through his psyche as he had just enough time for his eyes to glaze over and his face to turn slightly puzzled looking as he slumped to the ground.
Black Eagle turned to the last of the street thugs and brought up his staff menacingly. The man blanched and ran. Bringing up his AR GUI from his ‘link Black Eagle called Knight Errant and alerted them to the situation with the lady and her location along with the two dead, one escaped, and one sleeping ganger. After getting his first close look at her he realized she was Holly MacMann the network reporter who had had several major successful stories in the news about corruption in the Pueblo Corporate Council and had done a piece on racism against Anglos and Utes with their glass ceiling in the upper echelon corporate and government positions most of which are held by Hopis and Zunis.
The copycat killer grinned at the litter of ork babies screaming as the new Mayan Cutter went to work on their mother and father with the many surgical blades and lasers that were part of his trade as a professional interrogator.
“Tell me where and when Project Freedom is having an inner circle meeting.” He spoke slowly and carefully as he had during the entire process with never an hint of hurry or worry.
“Frag you!” Whimpered the once strong frame of the ex linebacker and minor hero of the ork rights movement and prop 23 known as Ryan Two-Tusks.
“Tsk-tsk now I suppose removing your eyes by laser after the dental surgery Mr No-Tusks means you won’t be able to see what will happen to this creature you call a baby.” The copycat killer reached down and grabbed the ankle of a few week old baby girl dressed in a purple onesie emblazoned with UW representing the University of Washington one of the first universities to allow in goblinized people to the school and where Ryan had been a star.
“Nooorrrarrw!” Came a roar from Ursa Two-Tusks as all the rage she had felt at watching a former government torturer mutilate her husband merged with the fear for her children and the flood of emotion awakened within her a latent gift for Sorcery that had slumbered since her tribe had cast her out at the age of eight to fend for herself. A vaguely bear-like and hazy mask began to shimmer around her face.
Glancing over at the ork mother the killer smirked on seeing a shaman’s mask appear on her.
“Hmm…that definitely wasn’t in the file. Oh, well. There is nothing you can do little cub. The astral pollution I have created here interrogating and cleansing the world of your filth over the past year will block any attempt to save you and renders even experienced spellcasters helpless…”
Reaching deep down Ursa remembered the training the tribe shaman had given to her all those ages ago before she committed the crime of goblinizing. Calling out to the spirit world and Mother Bear with all her heart and all of the sudden the swirling chaos of fear, terror and pain stopped and a dozen children and a great she-Bear appeared in her mind’s eye.
“Mother Bear is here my daughter. I have quieted the Astral Maelstrom and brought these cubs who have suffered so much at this monster’s hands.”
A dozen children rushed toward her and entered her mouth and were transformed with her gift into a spell that charged like an enraged bear from her soul into the copycat killer’s mind.
“Geeeeeaaaooogghhhhcht.” The torturer fell to his knees his mind teetering over the abyss as the agony experienced by each of the children splashed at once into his psyche.
Little Tara chose this moment to free herself and place her newly erupted tusks into his wrist.
Ryan saw everything that had happened in the astral with his Adept powers but instead of Mother Bear he saw the wisened warrior form of his old football coach telling him this terrible ordeal had initiated him to the inner mysteries giving him increased physical strength and that the chains holding him suspended were no barrier to the prepared and thoughtful player who remembered his lessons.
Ryan used his great ork strength bolstered with his newly improved Adept strength and rocked back and forth with tremendous force causing the bolt in the ceiling to give way dropping him ingloriously onto the concrete of the basement floor.
Using his astral sight he saw his wife exhausted from her first spell and the copycat killer’s aura starting to become ordered again.
Dragging his body up Ryan wrapped the chains that had once imprisoned him around the shaking form of the copycat killer’s neck and began to squeeze.
Whitestaff and Blaze
Sergeant Carson was readying his drones laden with nanites designed to find and bond with pollutants and render them safe by altering their chemical makeup as the two mages walked by arguing.
“It really seems unnecessary for this operation to have someone of your limited skill set here,” said the man in a British accent with artfully silvering hair at his temples and dressed fashionably in an Armanté suit under a Mortimer of London Argentum great coat.
“Geezers like you put us all in danger during an operation as delicate as this one. Just because I am an aspected magician doesn’t mean I am not more competent and battle experienced than a wannabe druid who goes to war in a tailored Italian suit.”
“You’re what 14 girl?”
“My name is Blaze just like your name is Whitestaff. I am a chaos magician like my father and his father before him and I spent two years in bug city cleansing out insect based astral pollution, re-aspecting a dozen power sites using advanced memetics to reprogram their genius loci spirits, and dealing with astral fallout from Ares’s nuke so chummer shut the frag up.”
Major Matthew Grayson appeared out of the shadows then. “Now that you’re done bickering I need the two of you with me as we go over the battle plans.
Four hours later a team of four physical adepts in full ruthenium stealth suits entered the swamp from the north while two squads of Knight Errant’s Tactical Division entered in the south with the two mages, Carson and his combat and nannite laden drones.
“I have made contact to the ley line Captain.”
“Thank you Magus Blaze. Lt Foxrunner you are to follow orders and maintain defenses here and protect Blaze at all costs while she performs her Cleansing Ritual. I dont care if four of those horned gators rush you nothing breaks her circle.”
“Yessir,” said the young Sioux shaman before he started ordering a perimeter and began singing to the spirits to lull them to sleep.
“Good luck kid.”
“Same to you geezer.”
Three hours later the team had finally penetrated to the heart of the swamp leaving a trail of dead toxic and mutated creatures and arrived the old dumping ground from the 19th and 20th century with a pond laden with centuries of lead and decades of toxic waste disposal by cost cutting corporations.
“Ready the last of the delivery drones Sarge.”
“Are you ready Whitestaff?
“Yes, just give me cover until I get to the nexus point and can access the power site.”
“Team 1 you’re the ram; team 2 you’re the net…let’s go!”
Whitestaff strode forward cloaked with finest enchantments of protection and astral stealth making him invisible to spirits and most dual natured critters but not to a starved looking woman whose gaunt face had seen too much as her hair had fallen out except for a few stubborn patches barely clad in an grungy ‘Terrafirst!’ camo shirt much too large for her body but clutching a State of the Art Heckler & Koch assault rifle who aimed unsteadily at him as she pulled the trigger.
Whitestaff had managed to evade the sudden melee by falling into the toxic pond as toxic critters poured in from all directions and ecoterrorists took badly targeted shots at the Knight Errant forces.
Shuddering Whitestaff realized that the nexus was at the bottom of the pond so he pulled out a golden egg from his soaked great coat and began twisting it until the shell collapsed into a vaguely pyramid shaped device that evoked Babbage’s difference engine or a retro steam punk table weight.
Breathing deep he dove and swam to the nexus and activated his creation which began to send sonic vibrations throughout the land and water by the time he made it back to the surface. Climbing through the mud he saw that the team had mostly survived the initial onslaught and had left a pile of dead beasts and ecoterrorists.
An old man wearing a shirt emblazoned with a biohazard symbol cried out “enough!” Raising his hands above his head a swarm of toxic water spirits and a tsunami wave of acid dove towards the team. Whitestaff attempted to counter the area effect spell but the toxic shaman was far too powerful for his attempt to do much more than blunt the spell so no one died but many screamed as their armor bubbled before they could strip it off.
A backhand from the old man sent a telekinetic strike at Whitestaff that sent him flying more than the length of an football field.
“At least the shield held.” Whitestaff muttered to himself after extracting himself from a twisted tree rubbing his neck which probably had whiplash.
Suddenly a materialized astral face appeared before him looking like a small not as bright version of Blaze. “Master wants Geezer to know the moment is nigh or whatever you Brits say.”
Whitestaff pulled out a small stick from his belt and planted the strangely beautiful wood and channeled his magic into it and the device willing a change in mana flow and the stick became a tree pulling mana from the device which was causing a mini earthquake disrupting the toxic shaman’s domain and purifying it while creating a new power site with Blaze’s ley line.
An howl of rage and it’s echoes filled the swamp and a swamp thing monster that had once been a man concerned about the environment who investigated the wrong locale came barreling towards Whitestaff and the rapidly growing tree as four ghosts or vague shapes like in that old 2d movie predators began rendering the swamp creature into mulch.
“We did it.” Whimpered Sergeant Carson who was clinging to his last aerial drone a few feet above the ground.
The Smoky Mirror’s Shield
The light of the noonday sun bored into Javier’s uncovered head causing rivulets of sweat to pore down his face and his stylishly designed airmask designed to filter out the deadly particulates in Tenochtitlan’s smog and also provide ample space for his tusks to move comfortably while talking.
Javier stood at the top of the temple of the sun listening to the chanting in Nahuatl preparing for the ritual ‘Aegis of the Protector’ that would be the key to furthering his career as one of the best bodyguards employed by Aztechnology. The Nahuali priest magicians had moved around him like serpents around an egg since dawn while he stood still without water or food.
“I hope this ends soon” he subvocalized into his commlink which again showed no response to his query about the ritual’s length. “I should become an amigo to a mage so I can know more about this kind of stuff or at least find the answers.”
Shortly after thinking this a young blue haired and eyed girl with pale strangely reflective skin approached him and took his hands.
“You shall be my Shield against my enemies.” She said in a sweet voice in flawless English.
“I am Zyana Annabelle Rivera Citlalmina and you are Javier Padilla Chimalli now and forever.”
With the last syllable the sun came straight down upon the two far different people standing in the exact center of the great pyramid of Tenochitlan burning away their differences in a flash as exact noon struck. All around them Nahuali wonder workers employed blood magic upon enemies of Aztlan and the great corporation that funded the temple removing enemies while strengthening the people.
Javier could now feel the direction and distance of Zyana and her general emotional state and health as if she was him. He was of the Chimalli. The shield of the people. He had arrived to the pinnacle of his profession.
Maker-of-Death grimaced in distaste causing his Maori face tattoos to ripple. The dwarf shaman a few paces away let go another undulating scream into the cool night air blanketing the desert. The music earlier had relaxed him to sleep for the first time in weeks but the multi tonal screeching put him on edge and seemed to strike at his bowels.
“I should never have taken that fraggin mask. I knew it was unprofessional,” Maker-of-Death whispered to Crimson his long time mate in the Australian shadows.
“Well, who would’ve guessed Maker that…well now I’ve seen everything!”
The ancient samurai mask floated in the air surrounded by a nimbus of neon purple as Crimson saw into the astral for the first time revealing the form of a deadly Japanese warrior whose form bubbled with dozens or maybe hundreds of tiny faces mutely screaming their pain and terror before dropping back into main body of the samurai to be absorbed in a constant flux of suffering.
The dwarven shaman turns to the pair. “You want to unweave the artifact’s hold on you then you must make a better story.”
“What do you mean Allambee?” Said Crimson as his cyber spur popped out.
“Defeat the artifact by overcoming your fear and your friend is free and I can begin the next stage of disenchanting it.”
Maker-of-Death freed his damascene sabre and Ares Predator in a smooth motion firing his pistol as the mana flowed into his mind and body speeding up his motion to a blur and the orichalcum in the sabre began to glow red in the night as it began arcing towards the wispy neck of the samurai and clanged upon an opaque katana blocking the blow while the mask spun and drop kicked Crimson before his cyberspur could strike beginning the melee and a new chapter of the legend of the cursed japanese artifact or a new chapter of the Legend of Maker-of-Death and Crimson…
The battle raged and Allambee told the battle and fear aspected spirits gathered by the hundreds around the Song pool. “We get good entertainment tonight and a new story to share with the Dreamtime no matter who wins.”
An Abstract from the Journal of Practical Thaumaturgy Volume 17: Mana Theory
Dr. Joseph Mentem Professor of Ritual Spellcasting at Charles University of Prague.
Mana is the energy that allows those entities capable of using it to perform work by an understanding of memetics or neoplatonic thought, controlled concentration, imagination, force of personality, and training alone. A mage has no need of a tool or physical exertion to harness the power of mana to change the world around him.
Mana flows and ebbs from the Metaplanes though it seems to be influenced by activities in our universe as shown by the increase of mana during Haley’s comet. Mana flows through our physical realm of existence and through our astral realm of existence. There is some feedback between physical realm mana and astral realm mana but as it is today it is minor and slow to transfer and it places certain limitations on how mana can be used to effect change in a Realm the mage is not currently inhabiting. An astrally projected spellcaster cannot cast a spell on an entity or target that is wholly in the physical plane because of the feeble flow of mana from one realm to the other. Decades ago it was possible for an astrally projecting mage to ground a spell through an active focus so it would be released into the physical realm but that is no longer the case though we do not know why precisely however it is theorized that it involves an emergent property of the physical/astral barrier when mana saturation reaches a certain point on the scale.
Mana flows through the astral and physical realms and sometimes forms what could be considered through a metaphor as rivers and lakes. These locations have an abundance of mana and are called power sites and the mana rivers are most often called ley lines. Usually if a ley line exists in one Realm the contiguous area in the parallel Realm has one as well with the same going for Power Sites though the degree of flow may differ.
It is known that aspected mana tends to attract like and repel the dissimilar as a rule thus on occasion a new Power Site will emerge in an area and exert a “pull” on a nearby Domain thus encouraging a ley line to flow between them. Geomancers and Geomasons specialize in encouraging this especially for a megacorporation’s new magical research lab. This can sometimes lead to a war in the shadows as various organizations try to create Power Sites or Domains to alter and weaken the other’s mana network.
Domains are Power Sites that when Named and invested with a genius loci become aspected which means that it helps and hinders different types of magic or uses of magic. With this abundance of mana it should be obvious that it can allow magic wielders to attempt more powerful or difficult work than would ordinarily be possible. Most commonly newly created Domains are aspected towards certain traditions of magic, magical societies or individuals of great power or Influence such as Dragons as well as military, political, and corporate leaders. The Domain provides enhanced mana towards those who serve the Individual or to those who share a certain mindset about how magic works and are in line with the genius loci of the domain. Emergent Domains tend to provide enhancement towards certain magical activities and the genius loci tend to have more personality and variety as every emergent domain is different and usually oriented more towards either the astral realm or the physical realm as well as more vulnerable to changes in Background Count of feeder ley lines than a created domain which tends to be very stable and balanced evenly between the astral and the physical.
For example a minor power site near the university is on land owned by SK and was Named to be aspected to Lofwyr the great dragon. As a consequence those who are either Named Lofwyr or serve him can tap into the greater mana at the site while those opposed would find the power site working against them once the genius loci of the site became aware of them otherwise neutral spellcasters would find themselves unaffected and unable to use the extra mana around them. The genius loci of the site is no surprise in the form of a dracoform. There are rumors of metamagical skills or rituals that allow the renaming of a power site or grant the ability to ‘spoof’ the genius loci into thinking that you are Named by altering the aura of the spellcaster to match the weave of the site and thus gain approval of the genius loci.
Geomancers and Geomasons claim to have the ability to manipulate mana flows as to create domains called Power Sites (analogous to a lake) and Ley Lines (analogous to a river) through manipulation of astral energies in the case of Geomancers and through manipulation of physical energies for Geomasons who often sculpt and modify a physical environment to promote certain aspects onto the mana in the domain. In Europe skilled practitioners are often Freemasons or caretakers of the cathedrals, mosques, and temples while in Asia they are often students of Feng shui. There are specialized “types” of mana described by experts in mana manipulation as being very similar to each other but lending themselves to certain magical activities and derived from different sources as varied as places of worship to tectonic plates. As a consequence of the increased effectiveness of magic to do work at certain locales these power sites tend to be highly prized by magical societies, governments, dragons, and megacorporations.
(The types are known as Song grooves and pools, Dragon Paths and Nests, and are differentiated by the dominance of either astral or physical mana flow compared to a balanced flow between both realms found in what are traditionally called ley lines and power sites. -Editor)
As the pre-eminent scholar of power sites and the ley lines that connect them in Europe the Great Dragon Schwarzkopf has developed the ‘Schwarzkopf Scale of Ambient Mana’ which is most often used when rating a power site and goes from -10 to 10 with 0 being the current world norm. So far no location has been rated above 5 on a permanent basis and above 8 on a temporary basis. However a -10 is found in the void of space representing the extreme sparseness of life, emotion, and mind in outer space. During the year of the comet many regions saw a temporary rise of one or two points and it was a time of power for many mages who achieved effects that they normally would not be capable of doing.
Not all changes in the mana flow of an area are good for the practitioner. Mana can be distorted by powerful emotions or experiences in the astral realm and by environmental damage in the physical. When this happens the mana becomes harder to work with leading to what magicians call Ephemeral Background Count and it is rated based on degree of distortion using the Schwarzkopf Scale to provide an estimate of degree of difficulty in mana manipulation compared to a lack of mana. It is common for there to be bleed-through from one plane to the next in these cases and if there are causes for mana pollution in both realms sometimes that can start a feedback loop leading to more permanent damage to the mana flow in the area known as Persistent Background Count which can lead to regional problems. Certain twisted and deviant traditions can actually reinforce this feedback loop creating near permanent areas and by rumor can use the Background Count as a normal magician would use a power site. We know some mages are capable of creating domains that match their tradition out of the background count if it is aspected appropriately .
The Filtering Metamagic is known to allow Initiate’s to bypass some of the problems involved in using mana for magic in an area with a Background Count. However despite an area having a similar rating on the Schwarzkopf scale they behave differently as an area with a -2 on the Schwarzkopf scale that has a background count typically has a normal amount of mana it is just polluted to make it harder to use while an area with a lowered mana level simply has less mana to use. Since mana pollution is commonly stronger in one realm than the other knowledge of the state of the local mana in both realms can be really useful in helping a wise mage in spell choice as a physical realm background count without a mana realm background count would naturally lend itself to mana based spells.
If the damage is temporary then the background count is what theorists call ‘ephemeral background count’. A series of traumatic events or a long term and powerful experience can all provide greater difficulty in mana manipulation. What makes this type of mana distortion ephemeral is that as soon as the aggravating element is removed the mana flow returns to normal.
Longer lasting Background Count would be such as the Cermak blast site. In this case the combination of massive defensive magics on the part of the insect spirits, nuclear detonation, and loss of life was enough to disrupt the mana in the area to prevent all but the most skilled Initiate’s from making mana work in the vicinity. This is an example of Persistent Background Count and without the constant presence of Knight Errant and periodic Cleansing Rituals it would be inevitable for a vulnerable shaman to be influenced into becoming an insect shaman should they spend too much time around the Cermak area as it is known to have some sort of astral connection or bridge to the metaplanes of the insect spirits.
Depending on tradition of the mage there are many ways that mana is imprinted on in order to be effected by the mage into having a real world effect. The key to magic involves perception of the nature of something and the ability to rewrite the song of that secret nature. Some call it “Renaming” while others use basket weaving analogies or storytelling metaphors and even religious contexts. But, in effect we all end up reweaving the narrative of whatever it is we are seeking to manipulate with our magic. The pattern of our reweaving varies depending on the spell, ritual, conjuration, or enchantment we are attempting as well as the Name of the target we are attempting to create or alter.