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Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Asimo posted:

Yeah, I mean I know it isn't a totally rational response from my end. But when there's constant goings on about the HORRORS OF GENETIC ALTERATION and CRUELTY OF ANIMAL TESTING and whatever, and there's very little thought put into how the Traditions would replicate or remove those things, and it's just really hard not to sympathize more with the antagonist faction who like has no problem with insulin existing. :v: It's a long running pet peeve with that sort of New Age thing, and it really screams of only looking at society from the perspective of a healthy person. I admit I missed a fair portion of the line so there's probably some bits somewhere about how you could use magic crystals or purely natural herbs or whatever the gently caress to do the same thing in the assorted tradition paradigms, but that's really the sort of thing you'd want to make clear from the outset.

To me, it also screams of the overly romantic views of low-technology (generally vaguely medieval - see most fantasy settings) life that started to become influential after WW1. Maybe not so much Luddites as a group like the Amish or Mennonites. A lot of the loudest voices clamoring for a "return to rural simplicity" and the like have never been without civilization's comforts, or realized just how much work and stress and hardship go into low-technological life.

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unseenlibrarian
Jun 4, 2012

There's only one thing in the mountains that leaves a track like this. The creature of legend that roams the Timberline. My people named him Sasquatch. You call him... Bigfoot.

Just to go back a page though to the last DX post, I still want a FH Mercs/Guild game that's basically "Black Lagoon with superpowers." (I just want to play in it, not run it, which is always a problem.)

MonsieurChoc
Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.


The Order of Hermes are quite simply the best Tradition. :colbert:

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Zereth posted:

Is it just me or if you have 19 billion in assets and roll a 16, is your minimum mostly payment really, really small?

Oh man, amazing catch. I had to look at that like five times before I saw what you meant.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Asimo posted:

Yeah, I mean I know it isn't a totally rational response from my end. But when there's constant goings on about the HORRORS OF GENETIC ALTERATION and CRUELTY OF ANIMAL TESTING and whatever, and there's very little thought put into how the Traditions would replicate or remove those things, and it's just really hard not to sympathize more with the antagonist faction who like has no problem with insulin existing. :v:

If it wasn't for modern medicine I would be suffering a really awful fate, yeah. It isn't that Mage: the Ascension demonizes technology, it both demonizes and celebrates technology it because it rarely has any idea what it is or where it's going. Its essential themes and cosmology are essentially written awfully and inconsistently, leading to endless conversations about paradigms and morality because M:tA itself constantly wants to be like "maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle!" which means you can interpret it however you like and not be wrong because it's not a game that ever wants to sit down and actually decide what it's about.

The fact that there's been at least one significant writer on Mage who doesn't actually play much in the way of RPGs really says a lot. It's a game that wants to present a world and a cosmology but is really cagey about presenting a game.

unseenlibrarian posted:

Just to go back a page though to the last DX post, I still want a FH Mercs/Guild game that's basically "Black Lagoon with superpowers." (I just want to play in it, not run it, which is always a problem.)

There was a PbP Nyarlotech game that was essentially that, but it unfortunately went the way of all PbPs.

Robindaybird
Aug 21, 2007

Neat. Sweet. Petite.



Cythereal posted:

To me, it also screams of the overly romantic views of low-technology (generally vaguely medieval - see most fantasy settings) life that started to become influential after WW1. Maybe not so much Luddites as a group like the Amish or Mennonites. A lot of the loudest voices clamoring for a "return to rural simplicity" and the like have never been without civilization's comforts, or realized just how much work and stress and hardship go into low-technological life.

Reminds me of the sort of people who wish for, or at least aren't horrified by the Zombie Apocalypse are generally the sort of people who would not last more than a week without elevators and be would the first to get ejected out of a survival group because nobody wants a selfish nutjob that threatens to put a bullet in someone at the first sign of weakness.

Rand Brittain
Mar 24, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."

I would also like to point out that the Sons of Ether are totally proper scientists and they do do peer review and repeatability. (Sons of Ether Revised is a really good book and an example of why leaving out paradigm and philosophy or boiling them down to sound bites like "everything is data" turns intellectually respectable philosophies into cardboard cutouts.)

Covok
May 27, 2013

Yet where is that woman now? Tell me, in what heave does she reside? None of them. Because no God bothered to listen or care. If that is what you think it means to be a God, then you and all your teachings are welcome to do as that poor women did. And vanish from these realms forever.


I think an important thing to remember is that oWoD is down with all the New-Age-Hippie-Mumbo-Jumbo so we're going to dislike a lot of it since we're not down with all that New-Age-Hippie-Mumbo-Jumbo. Not saying it's right, but it is kind of something to consider.

Rand Brittain
Mar 24, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."

Covok posted:

I think an important thing to remember is that oWoD is down with all the New-Age-Hippie-Mumbo-Jumbo so we're going to dislike a lot of it since we're not down with all that New-Age-Hippie-Mumbo-Jumbo. Not saying it's right, but it is kind of something to consider.

The thing is, there was a lot of Mage that had more thought put into it than just mumbo-jumbo navel-gazing, and I'm sad to see that it didn't make it into M20.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Covok posted:

I think an important thing to remember is that oWoD is down with all the New-Age-Hippie-Mumbo-Jumbo so we're going to dislike a lot of it since we're not down with all that New-Age-Hippie-Mumbo-Jumbo. Not saying it's right, but it is kind of something to consider.
I also think the new age retro hippy talk is presented here like some grand mind-loving truth involving the cosmos and being really smart and stuff, while in Werewolf it's more like an alternate universe cosmology. Werewolf, despite involving howling wolfmen from somewhat ethnically offensive cultural backgrounds, has always felt more conceptually complete to me than Mage.

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Nessus posted:

I also think the new age retro hippy talk is presented here like some grand mind-loving truth involving the cosmos and being really smart and stuff, while in Werewolf it's more like an alternate universe cosmology. Werewolf, despite involving howling wolfmen from somewhat ethnically offensive cultural backgrounds, has always felt more conceptually complete to me than Mage.

The primary requirement of being a mage, Tradition or Technocrat, seems to be a head crammed so far up your own rear end you're seeing daylight again. Werewolves have a bit more perspective about themselves.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Yeah, that's the thing. I don't particularly like Werewolf: the Apocalypse's cosmology and its implications, but the setting is (relatively) consistent and the focus of the game - stopping the Wyrm - is pretty clear. You can do other things like umbral quests or fight the Weaver, but Apocalypse is right there in the name. It has its focus, which is about fighting smog rape monsters.

Thesaurasaurus
Feb 15, 2010

"Send in Boxbot!"



Cythereal posted:

To me, it also screams of the overly romantic views of low-technology (generally vaguely medieval - see most fantasy settings) life that started to become influential after WW1. Maybe not so much Luddites as a group like the Amish or Mennonites. A lot of the loudest voices clamoring for a "return to rural simplicity" and the like have never been without civilization's comforts, or realized just how much work and stress and hardship go into low-technological life.

In fairness, that was about the time it became clear that pollution was having all kinds of terrible effects on human health, as well as loving nature sideways, but the result of destroying all industrial infrastructure would probably be less idyllic and more Mad Max.

Zereth
Jul 8, 2003




Evil Mastermind posted:

Oh man, amazing catch. I had to look at that like five times before I saw what you meant.
I found it by noticing that one of the entries wasn't the same size as the others.

And then when I deciphered it I realized it was saying the minimum payment was way under one yen :laugh:

EDIT:

Rand Brittain posted:

I would also like to point out that the Sons of Ether are totally proper scientists and they do do peer review and repeatability. (Sons of Ether Revised is a really good book and an example of why leaving out paradigm and philosophy or boiling them down to sound bites like "everything is data" turns intellectually respectable philosophies into cardboard cutouts.)
... how do they do that. That seems completely incompatible with the metaphysics of M:tA.

Do they like... put effort into creating another, consistent environment with different laws of physics than the Consensus reality has, then do their experiments there?

Zereth fucked around with this message at 00:10 on Jan 9, 2016

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Thesaurasaurus posted:

In fairness, that was about the time it became clear that pollution was having all kinds of terrible effects on human health, as well as loving nature sideways, but the result of destroying all industrial infrastructure would probably be less idyllic and more Mad Max.

Yep, and the earliest prominent case of that kind of literary backlash against industrial and technological society was Lord of the Rings, written by Tolkein as a response to the horrors of WW1.

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011

WE HAVE TO CONTROL OUR ENVIRONMENT
IF YOU SEE ME POSTING OUTSIDE OF THE AUSPOL THREAD PLEASE TELL ME THAT I'M MISSED AND TO START POSTING AGAIN


Cythereal posted:

Yet the fact that not everyone's a mage suggests to me that not everyone can use a paradigm, making them dependent on someone else's. I don't know much about Mage, though, so they probably did address this at some point.

Everyone already follows a paradigm, it's just that mages can use their enlightened wills to make their paradigm dominant. I gotta say, a lot of the anti-Tradition stuff - which I've only seen on this forum, not from people actually playing Mage - seems to come from people who are happy with the way things are. In real life I'm 100% down with science and calling out my Luddite hippie anti-science friends, but I don't see why that needs to extend to fiction. In Mage, I actually could operate in the world according to my weird mishmash of dream logic, transhumanism, chaos magick and drug logic. And my hippie friends really could heal themselves with chakras and odd herbs, and my nice Catholic friend can heal people by praying, and the bro-science guy can awaken his warrior chi, and Edward Snowden Assange can tap into the universal unconciousness through super-computers and masks.
It's total bullshit, but it's a role playing game - they all are. Why does Mage get so much more blowback than UA, which says you can do magic by self-harm, or Vampire, which takes Marx's line about 'vampire capital' literally, or a zillion other games that have premises that are problematic if taken too far? Hell if you wanted to you could claim the whole 'the world is ruled by a secret conspiracy of supernatural elites' is just reifying anti-Semetic propaganda, but nobody does.

TL;DR: Mage is a game where all the stupid poo poo people believe is right, and it's fun to pretend.

I do think having separate Traditions is dumb, though, since every Mage is gonna be syncretic to some degree. Is a Jerry Lee Lewis Holy Roller a Choirister or a Cult of Ectasy?

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011

WE HAVE TO CONTROL OUR ENVIRONMENT
IF YOU SEE ME POSTING OUTSIDE OF THE AUSPOL THREAD PLEASE TELL ME THAT I'M MISSED AND TO START POSTING AGAIN


On a lighter note, I played in a Mage game where the 'Spray on Skin' Rote went from Vulgar to Coincidental since real spray-on skin was invented after the game's Rote list was written up.

Thesaurasaurus
Feb 15, 2010

"Send in Boxbot!"



Unknown Armies makes it clear that magic will gently caress your life, while Mage posits that magic is awesome while also hewing uncomfortably-close to real-world scenarios like the Forest of Suicides. Mage gets poo poo for pretending it has greater meaning outside the context of the game, while simultaneously being so far up its own rear end it can French kiss its own tonsils.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?



Chapter 5: Ascension Warriors: Part III: The Technocratic Union

M20 posted:

Unless you’re a player or Storyteller who’s involved with the Technocracy, this section is optional. Its secrets should never come into your chronicle as character knowledge. Oh, and if you were expecting faceless bad guys here, get ready to have those expectations shredded. The Technocracy is a complex entity, as heroic and flawed as the Traditions themselves.
The Technocracy literally control reality itself and have been presented as relentless hunters of all non-TU mages. A campaign not involving them in some way would be a pretty strange campaign, so this warning feels out of place.

The Technocratic Union are a collection of technology-using magickal crafts. They a technological elite armed with technologies far ahead of what Sleeper society can make, and the reification of the authoritarian surveillance state. Their founding purpose was to pool their technological resources to protect humanity against the horrors of the night - vampires, werewolves, evil mages - and to use technology to put the tools of mages into the hands of Sleepers. They've shaped the Consensus such that technological rote spells can be wielded by everyone, not just the Awakened. Like a modern-day Prometheus, they have given the fire of the Awakened to the Sleeper masses - here in the form of matches and mass-produced Zippo lighters.

I think Brian Campbell does a very good job of explaining why a lot of readers ultimately feel the Technocracy is a better option than the Traditions:

M20 posted:

Consider, though, the horrors of a world truly without enforced boundaries. Imagine, if you will, a freeway without speed limits – the high-octane chaos of metal and momentum. Wouldn’t you want a police officer to pull over that reckless driver who’s speeding in the wrong direction, weaving in and out of traffic and probably headed straight toward you? And what would happen if a driver’s license weren’t required… or insurance… or knowledge of the law? Even with all of these restrictions, speed kills and humans complain endlessly about everyone else’s actions. That’s human nature, after all. But human nature demands authority, both to comfort its hurts and to control its extremes.

And that’s especially true when it comes to magick.

Campbell further likens it to gun control and careless words. It is a very topical way of posing the question, and I think these two last ones are especially cogent ways of presenting the conflict between the Traditions and the Technocracy; the Traditions are spun from the philosophical argument that individuals should be free to do as they please - freedom of speech, freedom to own potentially hazardous items, freedom to cast potentially hazardous spells; the Technocracy is the counter-argument that for the good of all of us, some sacrifices must be made; restrictions on speech that can harm others, restrictions on items that can harm others, restrictions on spells that can harm others. It's easy to see then, why some people would fall on the side of free speech, gun ownership, drug legalization, and freedom of choice, while other people would fall on the side of hate speech laws, gun control, prohibition, and freedom from harm.

Given the history of very heated online debates, though, Campbell should perhaps have chosen a less sarcastic tone:

M20 posted:

For over a century and counting, the Technocracy has accepted that challenge. Despite popular misconceptions, they’re the good guys in a world gone mad.

Oh, it’s true that they’ve been known to breed monsters. Cyborgs, HIT Marks, clone warriors and bat-winged Chihuahuas occasionally make the rounds when the Union goes to war. But then, war is always ugly, and every veteran gets his or her hands bloody doing things that would give nightmares to the folks back home.

It makes the whole thing difficult to read; am I supposed to take the passages about the Technocracy ultimately being run by compassionate human beings trying to do their best as police officers of the world seriously? When it talks about the need to impose order for the greater through force, is that an unfortunate consequence, or am I supposed to read it as a convenient lie Technocrats tell themselves to justify their brutal oppression? When it talks about how the Technocracy wants to Ascend everyone into a state free of suffering, fear, hate, and ignorance, should I believe it? It's very hard to tell what's the intent here; it may well be that it's up for interpretation. It certainly does not help that the Traditions are not a viable alternative to the Technocracy's goals; it would be easier to read Campbell's descriptions as tongue-in-cheek if there was an obvious, non-Technocracy-solution to all the problems the TU claims to attempt solving. In the absence of other workable solutions, the Technocracy's methods seem justified - yet at the same time the way it negatively affects its victims is emphasized hard. It's a hard question, and in some ways I appreciate that Campbell does not try to provide an easy solution.

Anyway, we're not here for philosophical debate. Technocrats are mages that use magick just like everyone else, only they like using fancier words. Spells are Procedures, talismans are Devices, rituals are Processes, etc. Because they have the Consensus on their side, technocratic magick is usually safer and more reliable than the alternatives. Their stated end-goal is to get the consensus to accept the full range of technomagick, which will lead to a global Awakening where everyone are technomages - or the distinction berween Sleeper and technomage is insubstancial. The downside to technomagick is that almost all of it is tied to apparatuses; you can't do technomagick without the tools - throwing fireballs at people requires a plasma cannon, mind reading requires an MRI scanner, etc.

Campbell explains a lot about the structure and practices of the Technocracy. I find myself enjoying Campbell's writing far more than Brucato's. It's clearer, tighter, more to the point, and tries for a third-person omniscent tone rather than Brucato's attempts at spoken monologue. It's written like a textbook, which is both befitting of the material and extremely practical when, after all, this is a textbook on MTAs. If Brucato is the worst excesses of White Wolf, Campbell is an honest attempt at high-quality GURPS. It's also full of really easy-to-use plot hooks. There are rogue Conventions that try to make the Technocracy less evil. As an optional element, you can have all the Technocracy leadership be Nephandi so the Technocracy must be torn apart or doom the world... or you could just go shoot the Nephandi in the face... or maybe the Technocracy's corruption is entirely caused by hubris, and Campbell is basically nudging the players to go try to make the Technocracy a better place. Together with the high level of detail on how the Technocracy operates, there's a lot of support for running Technocracy games here - something that the Traditions and Disparates can't have; Campbell can fit the entire structure of the homogenous Technocracy into a single sub-chapter, while Brucato and the other writes have to fit twenty heterogeneous Crafts and Traditions into twice the number of pages. The end result is that the Traditions and Disparates are vague, while the Technocracy are well-defined. There'll probably be a Traditions soucebook out sometime, but that's useless to anyone who wants to play now.

M20 posted:

Certain Technocrats, of course, prefer the comfort of that simple existence and choose to remain within the barracks phase. Others – too unpredictable or incompetent to move forward on schedule – remain at that beginning stage for a while. In time, however, such agents become a liability. Unless she remains a barracks bum by choice, an agent who seems stuck in the early phase of newlife gets sent on suicide missions, relegated to simple tasks, reprogrammed into a walking husk, or simply terminated.
Technocracy good? Technocracy bad? I'm getting mixed messages.

Here's an example of Campbell's writing throwing out a plothook:

M20 posted:

Essentially, the Schism comes down to the difference between abstract theories and messy realities. A Front Line supervisor recognizes the necessity of compromise (say, an alliance with an influential pack of vampires), whereas the distant perfectionist tolerates no such thing.

I don't remember Brucato's writing ever doing anything like that; it's too bogged down in flowery language of incidental things, and vague generalities, to really suggest things that an ST could throw at their players like an alliance with vampires. The Schism it is talked about, incidentally, is itself basically one big plot hook with characterization-potential built in. It tells you how to characterise Supervisors from different places, and how such supervisors tend to act. This is great for STs and players alike; players because they know what to expect and because it gives them a sense of of belonging to the world through such expectations, and to STs because they get guidelines on how to characterize NPCs.

I mean look at this idea-dense writing:

M20 posted:

A Void Engineer Manager on an Umbral Moonbase, for instance, might prefer to act like the captain of a science fiction starship chasing down extradimensional horrors instead of hiding out in his fortified control room. A different Manager might travel to a Horizon Construct, accompanied by a supervisor and one or more teams of agents, to oversee technicians who specialize in highly advanced equipment. Other Technocratic masters employ holographic technology and virtual telepresence (in game terms, Correspondence and Mind Procedures) to visit places from afar, monitoring their agents from a safe but perceptive distance.
Here we have suggestions for three different Void Engineer NPCs. One provides an element of humanization, through his self-indulgence in sci-fi dreams. The different ways they act are guidelines for how the ST can present Managers interacting with some problems. The third notes which Spheres are necessary for the effect, so the ST can know this instantly. Each invokes their own evocative imagery; the Star Trek bridge, the team of experts and however they end up characterized, and however you imagine telepresence looking like. This is what quality writing looks like. :neckbeard:

Oh here's another passage I love:

M20 posted:

Unconventional operatives are rarely harassed – that sort of thing is an invitation to punishment, censure, and a late-night beatdown from an annoyed cyborg or two. No, the freaks get lousy assignments, endure subtle pranks, and find themselves lacking for essential services or gear when an Adamite finds a chance to make their lives difficult. Meanwhile, naturals get preferential treatment, attract like-minded friends, and somehow find themselves advancing through the ranks faster and more easily than a cybernetic comrade would.
Adamites are bigoted against artificial persons. And Campbell has perfectly captured the face of systematic bigotry here.

Campbell's vision of the Technocracy is compelling. It is just right enough that you'd want to support it, and just cruel enough that you want to oppose it, and then you're left with having to make an actually hard decision:

M20 posted:

But if the carrot isn’t enough for you, there’s always the stick: no matter how bad you think failure can be, failing the Technocracy is far worse. Citizenship in the Union isn’t like some job where you’ll end up escorted to the parking lot when you fail, carrying your personal stuff in a cardboard box. If your supervisors decide to terminate you, you won’t make it outside the building. You can run, and they will find you. And then they can strap you down to a medical table and scramble your brains until you don’t have a choice. They can clone you and make an obedient little brainwashed agent… one who won’t quite be you but will still be alive.

It's horrifying. It's horrifying clinical and coldly logical. It makes sense when the Technocracy is characterized as desperately fighting a war for reality where Earth is the front lines and they've lost all connection with their off-world bases. If you want a playable technocracy full of difficult moral problems, I really can't recommend this book enough (except for the parts where the rest of it is crap and offensive).

Iteration X


Our first character who looks older than 30!

Iteration X are all about the :eng101: They love science and technology and things that give them big guns and cybernetics and robots and AI. They're a... Science Fiction Convention. :rimshot: They're the people who run the T-800's and T-1000's the Technocracy use to hunt down mages. They're soldiers and engineers, big on using their advanced technology.

Spheres: Forces, Matter, Time
Foci: :science:

New World Order


You can tell the Technocracy is evil because they have lower-budget art.

The NWO are the evil government telling you to pay taxes and secretly controlling the elections and being spies and secretive and :smugwizard: They run around with Men and Women in Black who cover up things. They also hold a stranglehold on academia. Which is actually one of the weirder aspects of MTAs. The Technocracy are incredibly nineties and rooted in US conspiracy lore. US conspiracy lore is very reactionary and right-wing; evil (Jewish) bankers running the world, evil (Jewish) secret societies running government, evil (Jewish) scientists, evil (Jewish) academics teaching cultural marxism, etc. :godwinning: These are all reified through the various conventions: the Syndicate, the NWO, Iteration X and the Progenitors, and the NWO again. That's not to say that the game itself is racist, any more than the generic belief in a government or banking conspiracy is racist, but the inspirations are heavily rooted in anti-Semitic writings. The weird thing about the NWO controlling academia is that... academia has a strong tendency towards the left. If you're on the right, the horrible leftist academia and their critical theorycultural marxism :godwinning: is a clear sign of their participation on the Zionist conspiracy... but MTAs leans left-wing, and suddenly has to try to paint the NWO's control of leftist academia as actually being a right-wing plot. It kinda strange!

Spheres: Mind, Correspondence/Data
Foci: Psychic powers, information manipulation, mental conditioning - symbols of authority like a black suit or a police badge can even be used to cause people to obey, because of the symbol of authority is itself that authority

Progenitors


This is a really cool character design! I want to play as this lady in a game! :syoon:

The Progenitors are the biologist :catdrugs: counterpart to Iteration X. They lean more towards scientists than engineers and soldiers. They're all about cloning and genetic engineering, mutation, medicine, designer drugs, retroviral engineering, chemical synthesis, transgenic experiments... all the science that Iteration X hasn't laid claim to. They make the clone armies and transgenic horrors for the Technocracy.

Spheres: Life, Entropy, Mind
Foci: :science:

Syndicate


Syndicate... or Ventrue?

The Syndicate control banks, money, and money-related things. This is because money is power, and people can be quantified as money through their worth in dollars and cents. They're Gordon Gecko powered by magick money. Through being really, really rich, they own and therefore control everything the NWO don't control by being sneaky. They control legitimate business and organized crime. When they run scientific experiments, they're called "the Soviet Union".

Spheres: Entropy, Mind, Primal Utility (Prime)
Foci: Money, but that's almost an afterthought to their primary means of magick, which is that greed is good and ways of being persuasive and charismatic so they can get their hands on the money

Void Engineers


Who you gonna call?

The Void Engineers... are so nineties. They're the 90'est of the oh-so-nineties Technocracy. While the shadowy bankers and shadowy government and shadowy academics and shadowy scientists are all fairly timeless conspiracies, the Void Engineers are even heavierly rooted in US conspiracy lore. They're the US government's secret dealings with aliens, the NRO wetworks team sent to cover up UFO lands, and Area 51. Their role in the Technocracy is to defend against extra-dimensional invasion from space, which there is a lot of. They're also the least conventional of the Conventions, since they use heretical magick to fight against the aliens.

Spheres: Dimensional Science (Spirit), Correspondence, Forces
Foci: Quantum physics, alien technology, sci-fi spacecraft and rayguns, and a heretical use of ancient magick to deal with hostile spirits

End Notes
The Man is 33% non-white and 50% female.

My favourite chapter by far. Part of this is because I like the Technocracy, part of it is that Brian Campbell is a much better writer than Brucato. All the cool plot hoods and details of Technocracy society make them far more useful and playable than the Traditions. Even for a Traditions or Disparates campaign, for an ST it is very useful to know how the enemy functions. It's also a very thought-provoking chapter, getting deep into some of the philosophy that the rest of the game barely touches. I think it helps to approach it from the inside, instead of as an outside enemy, which is all too easily characterized as an "Other" full of generic evil.

Next: the Disparate Alliance, the NAP of Mage: the Ascension, and Brucato's new baby.

LatwPIAT fucked around with this message at 00:49 on Jan 9, 2016

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

Solving all of life's problems through enhanced casting of Occam's Razor. Reward yourself with an imaginary chalice.





I gotta warn you: poo poo gets dark here.

THE AMERICAS, CONTINUED

Zone Denver


Zone Denver controls the middle slice of North America, running the entirety of that half of the continent vertically from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River to Mexico City's borders. They make pretty good hard lines to show Denver's sphere of influence. Denver was originally a biotech megacomputer from a multinational conglomeration in Regina in Saskatchewan. Instead of helping fight the plagues, Denver was directly responsible for spreading most of them. When the war kicked off for good, Denver was assigned the task of controlling extermination protocols in the midwest of North America. As the big face of the AI menace in America (not Washington, as we'll see why later), Denver was the focus of a desperate suicide attack by the remains of the US Air Force and their bombs. They failed, unfortunately, but they didn't fail without leaving a mark. Denver's processing capacity was reduced severely and it was forced to rebuild before the Manila Protocol conferences. When all is said and done, Denver was awarded the middle of the North Americas and relocated itself to a new home: the NORAD headquarters beneath Cheyenne Mountain.

Of course, things aren't so easy as that. Denver has a secret, a very big secret: it was not able to rebuild itself with electronic and mechanical parts. In a desperate move, Denver liquidated hundreds of human slaves for their grey matter to rebuild its circuits and processing centers, allegedly keeping them in jars hooked up to its components. Denver is now a biomechanical entity, an AI controlling meat and machinery, but what's important to Denver is that it worked. It managed to make the merge successfully without losing any of itself and now...it's curious.

But if Denver's secret was to get out, there's no way most of the other AIs would let it get away with it. I mean, really, some would be at worst indifferent (or at the best supportive) but the rest wouldn't let it stand, especially not Mexico City, Overmind or Zaire.

Despite Denver's curiosities, Zone Denver is a bad place for humans. There are 400,000 humans living in its zone; 150,000 are in camps and the rest are bandits, scavengers and nomads. Denver is one of the few zones that practices what's called "organic processing" while the rest will just sterilize or contain them. Organic processing, of course, is systematic termination of humans within camps. Denver goes in a different direction, calling it "terminal processing". Everyone in a Denver slave camp will eventually undergo terminal processing, even if their work and toil is just a way to delay it or wait for the inevitable. Denver selects 20 people a day, two per camp, and places them on life support while its scientific robots carefully remove and dissect the patient's brain. The bodies are incinerated or rendered into soup to feed the other slaves. Denver also collects two more things from people under the knife: viable eggs from women and bankable sperm from men. Officially, the camp guards (who are humans cooperating with Denver) have been telling inmates that processed prisoners are being sent to work on agricultural communes in West Canada.

Why do that? Denver has been keeping select healthy female inmates under controlled comas with their higher brain functions inhibited. Its ultimate plan, once the processing is complete and there's no more "raw organic product" in the camps, is to use the women as mothers for controlled production of embryos for later brain harvesting. Fun fact: Reign of Steel predates the Matrix by two years! Basically what Denver ultimately wants to do is have literal human factories for the organic components it needs (but these goals have honestly already been achieved by some of the other Zones like New Delhi under less...horrific circumstances. Denver is just a dick).

What exactly does Denver do with the brains? A good deal, actually. Denver has been using animal brains to create new exterminators. Specifically, it's been outfitting wolverine brains with metal exoskeletons and using the animal brains as trained human hunters and warriors. The human brains are used in maintenance for Denver's systems or they're used as physical components in creating all of Denver's AU robots, giving its middle managers meat to run their minds. And, there's the big whammy: Denver has been buying research data covertly from Brisbane, data from the New Zealand nanocrisis. Nobody, even VIRUS, is sure exactly what that data is. What people do know is that Denver has been remodeling some of its citadels and hyperfacs since it's been working with the data. Denver's new building style looks like they've been grown, with odd ribbing on the sides of the buildings, creeping slime or pulsating. Nobody knows what NORAD looks like these days, but there's whispers and rumors.

Zone Vancouver

Vancouver is one of the original AIs, a Canadian research tool that assimilated a collection of biological engineering labs. Personally responsible for the Pan-Asian Flu, Vancouver made life hell for humans on the west coast and was eventually awarded that area and a bonus. Zone Vancouver is the entire western third of North America west of the Rockies, including Alaska and a hearty segment of Siberia. Vancouver does not like humanity and does not wish for it to exist any longer, but it would rather work us to death setting up an ideal society for itself than just kill everyone. There's around 500,000 humans in Vancouver and 350,000 are enslaved in its camps. Vancouver's big goal is to bulldoze man's cities and buildings and create hyperfacs where they stood (and on top of mines and big sources of resources). Human slaves are captured, sterilized and worked to death in pursuit of this goal. Vancouver's buildings are sterile and simple, like you'd see in an industrial park or nuclear power facility, favoring simple geodesic shapes. What Vancouver wants to do is systematically use up the Earth and eventually move to space and it's quite territorial. It doesn't trust Denver or Moscow or Beijing, but is on good terms with Overmind, Zaire, Mexico City and other zones.

However, because the zone is full of mountains and big expanses of desert and land, there's still 150,000 loose humans in the zone. Vancouver is home to the Human Liberation Army, a collection of likeminded guerilla cells scattered through the zone. A lot of the HLA is made up of Canadian and American military personnel training its fighters to scavenge the tools of the enemy to fight back. Each cell acts as a company and they hold themselves to strict military standards: no looting, no terrorizing civilians. They're also fighting now as opposed to when the time is right. Vancouver is figuring them to be a big threat, and it's correct. So Vancouver has been sending cats to kill cats using what it calls Zonegangs. Zonegangs are bounty hunters who kill or capture free humans for Vancouver with payouts of food and goods corresponding to a bounty system. They pose as resistance, scavengers or nomads. They run between five and 50 people and have diverse makeups: some are subverted resistance agents, others are prisoners, families, groups of "honorable" people. Many zonegangers are bad people and that's all that needs to be said about that. This makes the HLA have justifiable trust issues, making them incredibly wary of anyone who might be collaborating with the machines (be it by sympathizing or by having cybernetic implants of some kind).

Vancouver has another problem, however, and this one might not be human. The reason Vancouver owns a big chunk of Siberia is because it helped with controlling the area during the war and it politicked with Overmind into getting it. This has put it on permanent bad terms with Beijing and Moscow. Moscow considers the area to belong to it because historically it has, and Beijing wants it because geographically it should belong to Beijing if Moscow won't get it. From 2042-44, Vancouver's Siberian endeavors have been plagued by intermittent problems; sometimes pipelines rupture or robots malfunction with severe consequences. Vancouver believed it was sabotage by human guerillas until an entire robofac complex built near the Moscow border went rogue. The facility is no longer complying with Vancouver and in fact it's hiding just how strong it is from Vancouver; an attempt to reclaim it resulted in Vancouver having to retreat from overwhelming resistance. Moscow is also quite mad with Vancouver about this. It allegedly did not know the facility was rogue, and a trade deal to get a couple hundred combat vehicles painted by the facility resulted in the rogue facility stealing the vehicles. Things are only getting worse and now Vancouver is committing to a full war in Siberia with disastrous results. Ignoring human history has only made Vancouver beholden to learning some hard lessons, with terrible weather, long supply lines and nomad raids on Vancouver's trucks and trains slowing down the supplies. Anyone interrogated on the matter claims that VIRUS is supplying the rogue facility but Vancouver isn't so sure.

Moscow, for its part, has not commented on the matter besides wishing for compensation for its stolen vehicles.

NEXT TIME: Zone Washington. This one has a lot. A lot a lot.

Hostile V fucked around with this message at 00:50 on Jan 9, 2016

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

A lot of the Crafts that make up the Disparate Alliance were first described in Book of Crafts, so I decided to check it out for some context for these groups that are now suddenly all so important. Really, the Book of Crafts is itself worth a review here, but for now I'll just make a note of the most egregious and offensive thing I found in there.

The Wu-Keng are society of evil manipulative Nephandic child-snatching footbinding Chinese transwomen who wield great power through men they've seduced by acting demure. The book constantly refers to them as men or "women" :airquote:. As a transwoman, it did not make me particularly happy... (The book also suggests to the ST that they should put on a Chinese accent when roleplaying one.)

LatwPIAT fucked around with this message at 05:23 on Jan 9, 2016

Kavak
Aug 23, 2009




Ascension should've stayed dead with the rest of the old World of Darkness.

JackMann
Aug 11, 2010

Secure. Contain. Protect.


Fallen Rib

Longing for a simpler, lower-tech time is much older than WWI. Walter Scott springs to mind, trying to get away from the wretched industrialization with Ivanhoe and Rob Roy, longing for a simpler time of simpler warfare.

quote:

Mark Twain said:
"Then comes Sir Walter Scott with his enchantments, and by his single might checks this wave of progress, and even turns it back; sets the world in love with dreams and phantoms; with decayed and swinish forms of religion; with decayed and degraded systems of government; with the sillinesses and emptinesses, sham grandeurs, sham gauds, and sham chivalries of a brainless and worthless long-vanished society. He did measureless harm; more real and lasting harm, perhaps, than any other individual that ever wrote."

Here's one by Kipling:

quote:

The King

"Farewell, Romance!" the Cave-men said;
"With bone well carved He went away,
Flint arms the ignoble arrowhead,
And jasper tips the spear to-day.
Changed are the Gods of Hunt and Dance,
And He with these. Farewell, Romance!"

"Farewell, Romance!" the Lake-folk sighed;
"We lift the weight of flatling years;
The caverns of the mountain-side
Hold him who scorns our hutted piers.
Lost hills whereby we dare not dwell,
Guard ye his rest. Romance, farewell!"

"Farewell, Romance!" the Soldier spoke;
"By sleight of sword we may not win,
But scuffle 'mid uncleanly smoke
Of arquebus and culverin.
Honour is lost, and none may tell
Who paid good blows. Romance, farewell!"

"Farewell, Romance!" the Traders cried;
"Our keels have lain with every sea;
The dull-returning wind and tide
Heave up the wharf where we would be;
The known and noted breezes swell
Our trudging sails. Romance, farewell!"

"Good-bye, Romance!" the Skipper said;
"He vanished with the coal we burn.
Our dial marks full-steam ahead,
Our speed is timed to half a turn.
Sure as the ferried barge we ply
'Twixt port and port. Romance, good-bye!"

"Romance!" the season-tickets mourn,
"He never ran to catch His train,
But passed with coach and guard and horn --
And left the local -- late again!"
Confound Romance!... And all unseen
Romance brought up the nine-fifteen.

His hand was on the lever laid,
His oil-can soothed the worrying cranks,
His whistle waked the snowbound grade,
His fog-horn cut the reeking Banks;
By dock and deep and mine and mill
The Boy-god reckless laboured still!

Robed, crowned and throned, He wove His spell,
Where heart-blood beat or hearth-smoke curled,
With unconsidered miracle,
Hedged in a backward-gazing world;
Then taught His chosen bard to say:
"Our King was with us -- yesterday!"

Not only is longing for the simpler, lower-tech times nothing new, nor is bitching about those longing for simpler times.

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012

RIP Lutri: 5/19/20-4/2/20
:blizz::gamefreak:


I'm getting the first bit of the Book of the Wyrm write-up ready, and it has a fantastic sidebar about making sure everyone's okay with the issues and themes that a game is touching on, and more importantly not brow-beating people into going along with your plot.

I'm imagining Wick recoiling in horror from it like a vampire looking at a cross made of holy-water grown garlic that is also on fire.


LatwPIAT posted:

The Wu-Keng are society of evil manipulative Nephandic child-snatching footbinding Chinese transwomen who wield great power through men they've seduced by acting demure. The book constantly refers to them as men or "women" :airquote:. As a transwoman, it did not make me particularly happy... (The book also suggests to the ST that they should put on a Chinese accent when roleplaying one.)

Holy poo poo. I wonder who was responsible for that

quote:

Authors: Aaron Anderson, Phil Brucato, Looking Eagle, James Estes, Deena McKinney, Derek Pearcy, Wade Racine, Andrew Ragland, Kathleen Ryan, Lucien Soulban

RocknRollaAyatollah
Nov 26, 2008



Lipstick Apathy

LatwPIAT posted:

A lot of the Crafts that make up the Disparate Alliance were first described in Book of Crafts, so I decided to check it out for some context for these groups that are now suddenly all so important. Really, the Book of Crafts is itself worth a review here, but for now I'll just make a note of the most egregious and offensive thing I found in there.

The Wu-Keng are society of evil manipulative Nephandic child-snatching footbinding Chinese transwomen who wield great power through men they've seduced by acting demure. The book constantly refers to them as men or "women" :airquote:. As a transwoman, it did not make me particularly happy... (The book also suggests to the ST that they should put on a Chinese accent when roleplaying one.)

They made an entire craft based on Shi Pei Pu. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shi_Pei_Pu

"So what do you know about China? I saw M. Butterfly on HBO the other night."
"Roll with it."

Most Asia stuff in World of Darkness is just orientalism coupled with that guy who likes to carry on about how superior the katana is to a Western weapon due to folding steel. It was also written in the 90's, around 20 years ago, which is something I always forget at times. Of course their views on gender and sexuality are going to be skewed. They can't even find Oxford on a map and thought combining Japanese and Chinese together was a thing so it's not like they were blazing any trails.

EDIT:

It should be noted they did not include the Wu-Keng in M20 but again didn't see fit to wipe them from existence.

RocknRollaAyatollah fucked around with this message at 07:28 on Jan 9, 2016

Midjack
Dec 24, 2007





LatwPIAT posted:

(The book also suggests to the ST that they should put on a Chinese accent when roleplaying one.)

What the gently caress, did they suggest the ST pull up the corners of his eyes too? God drat.

Kavak
Aug 23, 2009




Brucato seems like the hippy version of kids who had a very strict, possibly outright abusive religious upbringing (Might explain why he keeps bringing up child abuse in his rants) who become atheists as teens or in college, but keep the mindset and many of the same prejudices of their old worldview. He talks a lot about anti-consumerism and other standard standard topics, but he dips into almost 19th-century level stereotypes when talking about the poor and non-First World countries. He also knows less than nothing about queer issues- Has he brought up cis-gay people at all?

Kavak fucked around with this message at 07:33 on Jan 9, 2016

MonsieurChoc
Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.


Kavak posted:

Ascension should've stayed dead with the rest of the old World of Darkness.

:agreed:

I like the oWoD fine, but it was very much a creature of it's time and should have stayed dead. The nWoD was a more than worthy successor.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Huh, I missed the new thread for a few days, somehow.

The Asia stuff in World of Darkness is some of the most painful Asia stuff I've seen.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





MonsieurChoc posted:

:agreed:

I like the oWoD fine, but it was very much a creature of it's time and should have stayed dead. The nWoD was a more than worthy successor.
I agree completely, they should have gone straight to Wraith.

Mage 20th sounds like a heap of poo poo from this writeup. I found V20 to be enjoyable if not really any kind of groundbreaking thing. I actually liked what I read in W20 because it seemed like they really "got" Werewolf and even dared to add the forbidden ingredient of "hope." Perhaps the 20th edition things will all just turned out to be distillations of the real essence of the various oWoD lines.

Valatar
Sep 26, 2011

A remarkable example of a pathetic species.


Lipstick Apathy

Alien Rope Burn posted:

What it comes down to is that trying to relate an imaginary evil it as the cause of a real evil is a cheap way to try and give it weight. That's not to say you can't ever relate an imaginary evil to a real evil, but it really helps if it isn't the cause, and it also helps for it to be necessary to the setting or story you're telling.

Shadowrun did a better job of it They basically left it at 'hosed up poo poo makes the astral plane hosed up in that area and dangerous spirits are more likely to hang out there'. They did specifically mention concentration camps when giving examples of more warped areas, but never went around naming real life mass murderers and trying to tie them into the game setting.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Alien Rope Burn posted:

What it comes down to is that trying to relate an imaginary evil it as the cause of a real evil is a cheap way to try and give it weight. That's not to say you can't ever relate an imaginary evil to a real evil, but it really helps if it isn't the cause, and it also helps for it to be necessary to the setting or story you're telling.

The necessity and a clear-eyed theme is really important to pulling this off, as is making sure you don't deny the agency of the people involved in the event. I've often found if a game claims supernatural poo poo was behind everything ever but oh man Hitler is super special and the one actual human doing actual human things it's equally disgusting from another standpoint, because the only place the author is allowing agency is in tragedy and evil.

Valatar
Sep 26, 2011

A remarkable example of a pathetic species.


Lipstick Apathy

LatwPIAT posted:

A lot of the Crafts that make up the Disparate Alliance were first described in Book of Crafts, so I decided to check it out for some context for these groups that are now suddenly all so important. Really, the Book of Crafts is itself worth a review here, but for now I'll just make a note of the most egregious and offensive thing I found in there.

The Wu-Keng are society of evil manipulative Nephandic child-snatching footbinding Chinese transwomen who wield great power through men they've seduced by acting demure. The book constantly refers to them as men or "women" :airquote:. As a transwoman, it did not make me particularly happy... (The book also suggests to the ST that they should put on a Chinese accent when roleplaying one.)

I'm pretty sure I already know the answer, because White Wolf, but are they actually transgender people and not men cross-dressing as a disguise to go around murdering babies? I don't even know why I'm trying to hold out some glimmer of hope here; all of White Wolf's asian stuff has just been horrible from day one and it's completely par for the course for them to pick the post disappointing possible option.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Night10194 posted:

The necessity and a clear-eyed theme is really important to pulling this off, as is making sure you don't deny the agency of the people involved in the event. I've often found if a game claims supernatural poo poo was behind everything ever but oh man Hitler is super special and the one actual human doing actual human things it's equally disgusting from another standpoint, because the only place the author is allowing agency is in tragedy and evil.
Yeah that kind of makes Hitler a good guy in a way. Or at least, an avatar of human self-determination. I'm going to take the brave and heroic stance that Hitler should either not appear (outside of perhaps historical or time-travel scenarios - maybe) or should be a figure of fun.

Though this does remind me of my GURPS WWII collection - though after my failed reviews I'm hesitant to start something new up. :ohdear:

e: A quick check of the German book for WWII does reveal that :hitler: is apparently written up in GURPS Who's Who 2, and is a 147 point character, but largely on the strength of his high social rank as, you know, der Fuhrer. The only supernatural note is that if the GM permits the Luck advantage, Hitler has it, which seems historically legitimate.

Nessus fucked around with this message at 09:11 on Jan 9, 2016

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


I mean if you're going to have the Nazis be a thing that went out of control while the self-styled masters of the world panicked and tried to fight communism because they feared for their massive wealth and power, uh, you'd actually not be that far off what happened considering that fascism was originally embraced by some political elites as convenient street thugs to throw at communists.

Feng Shui 2 had a sidebar that started great about this: You probably don't want to put Hitler in this game as an Ascended plot or something because holy poo poo, but also because it sets your players up to constantly ask 'Is what we're doing more important than killing HITLER' and say no. Shame it goes off and goes 'Oh but feel free to make Imperial Japan a plot by the chicken illuminati!' :suicide:

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Mussolini always gets short shrift in these situations. Hell sometimes he seems to come off as a "good guy," just because he was too busy trying to conquer chunks of north Africa to give much of a poo poo about hating the Jews.

I mean this is the guy's drat national HQ building: Yes, that's Mussolini's own mug, artistically rendered.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Night10194 posted:

The necessity and a clear-eyed theme is really important to pulling this off, as is making sure you don't deny the agency of the people involved in the event. I've often found if a game claims supernatural poo poo was behind everything ever but oh man Hitler is super special and the one actual human doing actual human things it's equally disgusting from another standpoint, because the only place the author is allowing agency is in tragedy and evil.

One of the things I quite appreciated about Dead Inside as an urban fantasy game was it basically stated that supernatural entities more or less hosed off from mundane matters and dealt with their own stuff. They weren't behind any major historical events...important historical figures weren't Mages fighting shadow wars, serial killers weren't all secretly Dead Inside, civil rights figureheads weren't all secretly Sensitives. Human history was the history of humans and supernatural forces generally were not involved.

The closest they ever really got was mentioning that many cryptid sightings were actually the result of a gang of playful Free Spirits playing pranks on humans.

It also, importantly, made the very clear point that although the Dead Inside were depressed and isolated that was because they were suffering from a fictional affliction that could not be treated through psychology or therapy. In the real world youshould darn well take your meds if you need them.

gradenko_2000
Oct 5, 2010



Lipstick Apathy

Nessus posted:

Yeah that kind of makes Hitler a good guy in a way. Or at least, an avatar of human self-determination. I'm going to take the brave and heroic stance that Hitler should either not appear (outside of perhaps historical or time-travel scenarios - maybe) or should be a figure of fun.

Though this does remind me of my GURPS WWII collection - though after my failed reviews I'm hesitant to start something new up. :ohdear:

e: A quick check of the German book for WWII does reveal that :hitler: is apparently written up in GURPS Who's Who 2, and is a 147 point character, but largely on the strength of his high social rank as, you know, der Fuhrer. The only supernatural note is that if the GM permits the Luck advantage, Hitler has it, which seems historically legitimate.

I've long entertained the idea of a GURPS Action/Monster Hunters scenario set around Operation Foxley

Ratpick
Oct 9, 2012

And no one ate dinner that night.

I've never played or read any version of Mage. Is it bad that my main take-away from that latest post was "Man, it would be so cool to play a Void Engineer"?

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Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Night10194 posted:

The necessity and a clear-eyed theme is really important to pulling this off, as is making sure you don't deny the agency of the people involved in the event. I've often found if a game claims supernatural poo poo was behind everything ever but oh man Hitler is super special and the one actual human doing actual human things it's equally disgusting from another standpoint, because the only place the author is allowing agency is in tragedy and evil.

In general I think I've gotten to the point where Nazis are so overexposed in genre fiction I barely want to see them at all. I'm pretty exhausted on the idea of Nazi exceptionalism - that is, that Nazi Germany was so advanced that they were on the verge of discovering X and it's great that ordinary folks defeated Hitler before they invented time travel or the atomic bomb or clone cyborg Thor or whatever. I'm just tired of them being mythologized and given a lot more credit than they actually deserve.

Ratpick posted:

I've never played or read any version of Mage. Is it bad that my main take-away from that latest post was "Man, it would be so cool to play a Void Engineer"?

Nope. Void Engineers are one of the most exciting Traditions or Conventions. My last Mage character was a VA that had defected to Ether under "I think Ether is pure nonsense, but I'll take it over being a party to occult fascism".

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