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Obsidian Larp Quickstart

Credit: Art, Photos, Cover Design, Additional Writing and Layout.

Quickstart: Web Edition

Quickstart: Web Edition Color Cover

Quickstart: Web Edition Character Sheets

(I also did the icon/thumbnail posted here)

GenCon edition contained more photos and more pages and is not available online.

The CD label:

The envelope the CDs came in:

A Glorious Morning

My morning glory blooms opened this morning! Click on the thumbnail to see the full picture.

Two-Gun Mojo clarification (MET)

Written for larp houserules, but then made the rounds of the web. The original rules are on pg 207 of Laws of the Night, Revised.

The section of the book dealing with using both hands at once is unclear and the example doesn't match the stated rules. This is not a change. It is a clarification. So here it is, as simple as we can make it:

  • a) Every character is considered to be either left or right handed. For ease of play, the character is usually considered to be the same handedness as the player. An ambidextrous player should choose an on hand and an off hand for their character.

  • b) To do anything with the off hand (ie. the left hand for a right-handed character) is a two trait penalty. That means it costs THREE traits to perform an action with your off hand.

  • c) The Merit Ambidextrous negates the two trait penalty for using your off hand, and ONLY that penalty.

  • d) Each hand is considered an action. If you try to do two things at the same time, one with each hand, it is an extra trait FOR EACH HAND, which is a coordination penalty.

  • e) If you have an ability of Two-Weapon Combat or Florentine, that negates the one trait penalty for each hand. It does NOT negate the penalty for using your off hand.

  • f) You only get ONE extra action for using both hands, at the end of the round. Thus, if you're using enough Celerity to get an extra action, you get your basic action with your on hand, your Celerity action, and your action for your off hand. You do NOT get an extra Celerity action for each hand.

So, if you are going to use two guns at once, or two knives at once, or a knife in one hand and a gun in the other or...(you get the idea), you effectively have two actions. For your on hand, it is the regular one trait to initiate a challenge plus the coordination penalty trait in (d), for a total of two traits. For your off hand, it is one trait to initiate a challenge, the two trait penalty for using your off-hand (b) and the coordination penalty one trait (d) for a total of four traits. That totals six traits for the round.

If you have Ambidextrous, your on hand costs the same, the trait to initiate the challenge and coordination penalty (d), total two. Your off hand loses the two trait penalty (b), but retains the coordination penalty (d), plus the regular trait to initiate a challenge for a total of two. Total for the round: four traits

Florentine and Two-Weapon but not Ambidextrous: The on hand costs one trait to initiate a challenge but no coordination penalty (d) for a total of one. The off hand costs one trait to initiate plus the off hand penalty two traits (b), but no coordination penalty (d) for a total of three. Total for the round: four traits.

Florentine and Ambidextrous: The on hand costs one trait to initiate a challenge. There is no coordination penalty (d). Total for that hand: one. The off hand costs one trait to initiate a challenge; there is no off hand penalty (b) or coordination penalty (d). Total for the off hand: one. Total for the round: Two traits.

The enemy of my enemy

review by Crystal Odenkirk

Heralds of the Storm, Andrew Bates
Book One of the Year of the Scarab Trilogy, White Wolf Publishing, 2001

What would you do if you woke up one day and discovered that everything you thought was silly superstition and nonsense was real and you were the only thing standing between evil and the rest of Humanity?

Thea Ghandour, the unlikely pot-smoking heroine who continuously laments her lack of a sex-life, and a less-than-intrepid and equally unlikely band of fellow Hunters have been trying to answer that question since they found each other. Heralds of the Storm opens on one of their self-imposed missions, just outside the lair of a vampire, one of "the greatest predators ever to walk the earth."

Don't read Heralds looking for an introductory romp through the world of the Mummies, no matter what the back-cover blurb says. The story revolves around the conflict and manipulation between the Van Helsing Brigade (as Thea calls the group of Hunters), walking dead man Maxwell Carpenter and their mutual enemy, leaving the Mummy aspect largely unexplored and completely unexplained. Intentional? Probably. The story ends without closure; it was obviously written with the trilogy idea already in place.

Heralds will make more sense to readers who are already at least passingly familiar with White Wolf's World of Darkness, especially from the Vampire angle. Some of the more noticeable leaps of logic are easily resolved by reference to the wider setting but require previous knowledge of that setting to make sense. The idea of the Masquerade from Vampire -- that any notice of the supernatural by the mortals is a threat to the existence of the vampires and should therefore be concealed -- is the obvious answer to Thea's question "And why would they cover up something about us?." Without that background, the reader is simply left with half an answer and the question never comes up again.

One of the most entertaining aspects of the Hunter group is that they could be lifted from any random gaming table. They are the epitome of the typical dysfunctional player-character gaming group; they can't get along with each other but they still usually manage to accomplish what they set their minds to (after much arguing). While these characters are accessible to the reader precisely because of their familiarity, that same familiarity allows them to slip in and out of two dimensional predictability.

The text of Heralds stretches to be overly colloquial in an attempt to portray the Hunters as normal everday folks, leaving awkwardly wordy spots in an otherwise well-written story. The attempt to portray the Hunters as Jane and Joe Average is admirable, but not very accurate. These are, for the most part, not just normal people. Like most player-character groups, they are normal people with funky powers pitting their funky powers against the funky powers of other supernaturals in a vain attempt to save the world. The continuous recourse to traditional methods, such as Internet searches and camera surveillance and the fact that they at times fail do far more to paint the characters in an everday light, successfully keeping the Hunters from becoming a Buffy-verse rip-off.

All in all, Heralds of the Storm is superb game fiction. If you've got some background in the World of Darkness and you're just looking to relax for a couple hours, this is one you definitely need to pick up. If you have no experience with Vampire, Hunter or Wraith, however, you should come back to this one later. The story itself is highly readable and will make perfect sense, but some of the auxiliary details will be lost if this is your introduction to the World of Darkness.

Of all the damn fool things you've done...

From an rpg.net bootcamp:

"Of all the damn fool things you've done... I think you've outdone yourself this time, Miriam."

When that swine charged me, the last thing I expected was the exiled sister of my enemy stepping between us… but then, she always was first to raise her sword in challenge … or in protection of those close to her.

I should have stopped her.

Sounds jumble from her broken throat, but her lips seem set on making them unintelligible. I can see the iron in her eyes, though, feel the thundering heart flutter as she tries to turn her head to look out over the field. "Hush," I murmur soothingly. "Don't speak. I've sent someone for my personal physician. You'll pull through in time for our victory feast."

She tries to smile at that but the blood and grime of battle can't hide the pain that makes her wince. She knows better. We both do.

“We won, then?” she asks faintly. I nod, pride in our soldiers warring with the loss that begins to steal into my heart as I watch her life silently falling away. “My Lord,” she manages finally, her eyes reflecting a triumph I wish I shared. “You have carried the day!”

Have I? What did I have to do with protecting the keep looming behind me from falling to her brother’s armies? I would die before I let his tyranny fall on our people, but what blood of my own have I spilled that can bring back the burned fields and decimated villages? No, this accomplishment belongs to our people.

She tries to shake her head at me, her laugh lost behind the wave of pain the movement causes. “You can’t see it, can you? You never do.” Determination gives her a voice that her fractured jaw would deny. “Their blood is your own.”

Did I speak my thoughts? I thought… no, she always knew my -- always knows my thoughts, as though they were her own.

“Their blood,” she says again, with a force her crushed body shouldn’t allow, “Is. Your. Own. You try to be… you are one of them. These people fight for you, my Lord. The stones of that castle may crumble with age; our bodies wither with time. But these people spill their blood because… they love you.”

I hear the voice of my physician. I shout to him, and as I look back down at the woman in my arms, I am struck by the way the sun turns her hair to spun gold. Her face is shattered and bruised, but her eyes, the passion and the devotion and the unconquerable fervor in them, will stay with me forever. “Why are you sitting here with me? You should be chasing down the stragglers.”

“Troops have already been dispatched, milady.”

She sighs, a silent approval. “If you grieve for me, I swear I will come back and haunt you to the end of your days, Marcus. Your men need a celebration to keep their spirits up. Go out among them.” Her voice grows fainter even as it becomes more distinct. “It won’t be long before they come at you again. But today…” Her voice trails into silence, her breath following it.

The physician scrambles toward us through the mingled bodies of defender and invader. Her skin is already cold as my lips brush her forehead; standing, I commit her face to my memory and her body to my physician.

Wading out into the field, I know our people need a ready smile and confidence. Right now, they need a king, not a man.

Solon the Politician

This paper is intended only as food for thought. It was written for a class in 1997, and was certainly researched thoroughly, but not exhaustively. I welcome comments or debate on the subject.

I don't know that I've found much to support the legend that Solon is the "father of democracy." Rather, he seems to have been concerned primarily with law, and the keeping of it. He must have been a damn good politician, though. He contradicts himself frequently, especially where it concerns the division between agaqoi, "noble," and kakoi, "base." Or maybe that contradiction comes primarily from the most common translation.

There are a few pieces which, looked at narrowly and specifically, could be construed to espouse a proto-democratic political view. The one of these that I would like to bring forward, fragment 4, sounds like nothing so much as a good campaign speech. Since this was pre-democracy, I would assume that this was probably a relatively seditious speech. After all, ultimately, the "nobles" were still in control, and here is Solon, rabble-raising.

Or was he? That certainly is how he seems to have been translated these days. His use of "Hmetera," an emotionally charged word, instead of "H," which is an emotionally neutral term, (sel 2, line 1) as the first word of a speech would definitely draw in his audience and incline them to listen to what he has to say.

The use of emotionally charged words is a tactic still commonly used to make the audience identify with the speaker or writer. I use it myself in my weekly opinion columns. In this fashion, it is hoped, the spectators or readers are less likely to reject out of hand the ideas which follow, because the author/speaker is making a "we" that exclusively contains the rhetorist and the receptor. However, is that "we" the common people, as Miller's translation implies, or is it someone else?

Whoever the audience is, that feeling of exclusivity is exactly what Solon needs. He has some pretty strong things to say, and he needs every ounce of sympathetic reaction he can garner. The city is on the edge of a revolution, and he has decided that someone needs to address the problems (he, of course, is the only appropriate person to do so, he would have his listeners believe). He subtly jabs the citizens, reminding them that they are protected by the gods, but also that the gods are constantly watching them, Athena in particular (so watch your step!). Then he blames all the city's current problems on money, particularly those who are persuaded by wealth.

He sounds just like the choices I was given to vote on last election.

From Miller's translation, it sounds like Solon is condemning the nobles, the city's leaders, for their "unjust... mind," and for "putting trust in money." Miller's translation of fragment 15 reinforces that thought:

"Many bad men are wealthy, and many good men are poor;
     but we shall not exchange with them
Our goodness for their wealth, because the one is sure forever,
     while money belongs to different men at different times."

(Miller selection 8, pg 72)

Reading this translation, it really talks Solon up. He seems to be breaking the old stereotype of "good" being exclusive to the upper class. I read that fragment several times, but something kept niggling at the back of my mind, telling me that there was something under Miller's translation that he didn't address. So I decided to find the original and try to find out what was bugging me.

I discovered that Miller's translation is something of an illusion, created by the use of the common and two-dimensional English translation of the words kakoV and agaqoV as "bad" and "good," or "evil" and "brave." Language is never two-dimensional, though.

The word for bad and evil (kakoV) also means ugly. It can mean cowardly. It can mean worthless. It can also refer to those of the lower class, the "ill-born" as Liddell and Scott put it. In fact, it means all of those things, because to the Greeks those things were frequently interchangeable.

AgaqoV can mean good, as Miller uses it. It's other stated meanings are gentle, noble, brave, worthy, powerful, and useful, among other things.

The definitions of each of these words would not have been a list of synonyms, however, for the Greeks. These things were all tied up together in the word, and the use of the word implies all of these meanings at the same time. So a good man, o agaqoV anqrwpoV, was also a nobly-born man, as well as a worthy, powerful, and useful man, while the commoner, o kakoV, was evil, base, and useless. A Greek from the time period would not have separated these meanings, and, since Solon is a Greek from this time period, it would not be true to his thoughts for us to separate them now.

It was also common in the time to refer to Homer's work through allusion or through word order and choice. Since it was considered the "learned" thing to do, attention should be paid when a word pairing parallels a Homeric usage. According once more to Liddell and Scott, this is one such case. When agaqoV and kakoV are paired as opposites, they say under the headings for both words, then the intention is one of birth and rank, and the author set out as reference for this is Homer.

For comparison to Miller's translation (quoted earlier), I set forth Solon's words, and then my own translation.

Polloi gar plouteusi kakoi, agaqoi de penontai
     all hmeiV autoiV ou diameiyomeqa
thV arethV ton plouton, epei to men empedon aiei,
     crhmata d anqrwpwn allote alloV ecei.

(Tyler pg 19)

For many low-born men are rich, and high-born men are working;
     but we ourselves will not exchange
our worth (rank + virtue) for wealth, since worth (rank + virtue) is certain always,
     whereas the goods of men at another time are held by another man.
Areth is another of those words that can mean goodness and virtue while subtly implying ranking and power. In this context, trebled with agaqoV and kakoV, and considering their use, I would argue that rank is a shade of meaning that should not be removed from areth.

From this, I begin to wonder just who Solon's audience for fragment 4 really was. In fragment 4 he blames those who are witless and persuaded by money, but in fragment 15 he then implies that the ones with the money are the kakoi, the low-born and base, and that those agaqoi with areth, nobility or rank coupled with virtue, are above such things.

From this, I believe that Solon was not quite the egalitarian that he has been painted. He was obviously conscious of class differences, both through money and through birth.

  • Adkins, AWH. Poetic Craft in the Early Greek Elegists. pgs 108-125 (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1985)
  • Liddell and Scott. An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon 7th edition. (Oxford, 1996)
  • Mastronarde, Donald J. Introduction to Attic Greek (Berkeley, LA, London, University of California Press, 1993)
  • Miller, Andrew. Greek Lyric: An Anthology in Translation. pgs 64-76 (Indianapolis and Cambridge, Hackett Publishing, 1996)
  • Tyler, Henry M. Selections from the Greek Lyric Poets with an Historical Introduction and Explanatory Notes. pgs 12-19. (Boston, Ginn & Co, 1894)
Fragments I have included a copy of those fragments which I wanted to use and was able to find. All fragments have been taken from Tyler, and fragment 4 has been cross-checked with Adkins.

(Solon fragment 4, selection 2 Miller)

1hmetera de poliV kata men DioV oupot oleitai
     aisan kai makarwn qewn frenaV aqanatwn
toih gar megaqumoV episkopoV o(m)brimopatrh
     PallaV Aqhnaih ceiraV uperqen ecei
5 autoi de fqeirein megalhn polin afradihsin
     astoi boulontai crhmasi peiqomenoi,
dhmou q hgemonwn adikoV nooV, oisin etoimon
     uprioV ek megalhV algea polla paqein
ou gar epistantai katecein koron oude parousaV
10     eufrosunaV kosmein daitoV en hsuxih. ...
...ploutousin d adikois ergmasi peiqomenoi...
     ...ouq ierwn kteanwn oute ti kemosiwn
qeidomenoi kleptousin ef arpagh alloqen alloV
     oude fulassontai semna qemeqla DikhV (DikhV qemeqla, Adkins)
15 h sigwsa sunoide ta gignomena pro t eonta
     tw de crovw pantws hlq apotisomenh
tout hdh pash polei ercetai elkoV afukton
     eis de kakhn tacewV hluqe doulosunhn,
h stasin emqulon polemon q eudont epegeiprei,
20     os pollwn erathn wlesen hlikihn ek gar dusmenewn tacewV poluhraton astu
     trucetai en sunodoiV tois adikousi filaiV (filouV, Adkins).
tauta men en dhmw strefetai kaka twn de penicrwn
     iknountai polloi gaian es allodaphn
25 praqenteV desmoisi t aeikelioisi deqentes,
     [kai kaka doulosunhV stugna ferousi bia.] (not in Adkins).
outw dhmosion kakon ercetai oikad ekastw
     auleioi d et eceiv ouk eqelousi qurai,
uyhlon d uper erkoV eperqoren, eure de pantwV,
30    vei kai tiV feugwn en mucw h qalamou.
tauta didaxai qumoV AqhnaiouV me keleuei,
     wV kaka pleista polei dusnomia parecei,
eunomia d eukosma kai artia pant apofainei
     kai qama toiV adikoiV amfitiqhsi pedaV
35 tracea leiainei, pauei koron, ubrin amauroi,
     auainei d athV anqea fuomena, euqunei de dikaV skoliaV uperhfana t erga
     praunei, pauei d erga dicostasihV,
pauei d argalehV eridoV, colov, esti k up authV
     panta kat anqrwpouV artia kai pinuta.

(fragment 15, selection 8)

Polloi gar plouteusi kakoi, agaqoi de penontai
     all hmeiV autois ou diameiyomeqa
thV arethV ton plouton, epei to men empedon aiei,
     crhmata d anqrwpwn allote alloV ecei.

The Kult of Stupidity, An Obsidian Satire

Obsidian is a game created by Apophis Consortium.

Daemon in Control: Considering the Damned Fools' overbearing presence in corporate culture, rumors suggest that another Circle (or perhaps an overly ambitious lesser Daemon of Avarice) may be attempting to undermine the Internalists' domination of the Zone's corporations. Still others claim that these are Undead minions, in which the brain has died but not the body. The truth is that no one, least of all the Damned Fools themselves, really knows... but everyone, from the average citizen in the conduit to the Daemons of each of the Circles, fears this Kult above all others.

Motivation: Tempt everyone else to commit violent and horrific acts. Since success on their part usually results in the death and/or mutilation of said Kultist, they manage to hide their affiliation, not through stealth, but through sheer obliviousness and lack of longevity.

General Appearance: Damned Fools appear at first to be just like any other Citizen of the Zone. Their tendency to make the lives of those around them a living Hell generally betrays this Kultist, as do their frequent inane questions and pointless babble. They are occasionally mistaken for Internalists within occult cliques (until they open their Fool mouths) due to their propensity for expensive clothing, extravagant vehicles and their attempt to command others by flaunting the power of their misappropriated positions. Internalists do, however, often employ the Fools because they are indistinguishable from any standard middle manager and too vacuous to realize they are being used.

Blade: Their kult blade is not a physical weapon, but rather the whine of the incompetent, which saps all intelligence and will from anyone forced to listen to them droning on and on.

Weaknesses: As should be obvious to all but members of this Kult, Damned Fools may not take any Social which offers a bonus to the Knowledge, Mind or Perception Attributes, nor may these Attributes be raised above 2D during character creation. If any of these Attributes ever reaches 5D (for whatever reason, temporary or permanent), the Kultist is hunted down by Daemons of Stupidity and forced to watch "reality vids" until their attribute has once more dropped to the preferred 2D.

Powers: Due to incompetence, these Kultists are incapable of calling an entire Spirit. They can, however, siphon individual points of Spirit from the living by using their Call skill while incessantly expostulating in the most petulant, insipid and insulting fashion possible. The victim loses a Spirit point for every hour they are subjected to the Kultist's whiny little voice, up to a maximum of four per day, though during this time the Kultist's entire body radiates as much Dimensional activity as a Kult Blade. It is not recommended that you attempt to roleplay this, as your Narrator will probably be forced to kill you. Repeatedly.

Daemons of Stupidity: Demons of Stupidity look like humans. They talk like humans. They dress, eat, sleep and breathe like humans. But their utter lack of common sense precludes any attempt at infiltrating human society directly, except in the most extreme circumstances, such as a Chemicalist-inspired party or a vacancy in the ranks of any large Corporation. Daemons of Stupidity lack the adaptability and common sense necessary for survival outside the Zone.

Induction into the Kult: Members are not inducted. They are born. Only supernatural guidance could keep these poor idiots from being snuffed out as the waste of oxygen that they are long enough for them to reach adulthood.

Convokations of the Kult of Stupidity:
1 pt. spirit: Red Tape This convokation is cumulative. For every point of Spirit spent, the Fool may "lose" one minor piece of information from the Zone's database. This is NEVER intentional on the part of the Kultist, but happens at least once each session.

2 pt spirit: Blank Stare The last refuge of the truly Stupid. By drawing on their awesome lack of brain cells, the Kultist may ignore all terror ratings for an entire turn.

3 pt spirit: Ignorance Is Bliss If you can't see something it's not there, right? Out of sight, out of mind. By dedicating three points of Spirit, the Kultist may completely ignore one person or object that they cannot see (such as an oncoming vehicle) for one turn. Note that, though the Kultist is unaffected by the ignored object, the object is still there for everyone else. Useful for causing accidents (ignore the car next to you and swerve into its lane) and invoking Road Rage.

4 pt spirit: Corporate Slave This Convokation allows the Kultist to negate the common sense of any one person, forcing them to adopt whatever convoluted and broken procedures the Kultist's numb little mind can conceive of. This lasts as long as the Kultist is in a position to enforce it.

5 pt spirit: Darwinian Evolution People are lemmings. By enacting this Convokation, the Kultist is capable of persuading one person to join them in some great -- and likely fatal -- act of true stupidity. Doing so dedicates the spirit of both the Kultist and the victim to the Fool's Daemonic Circle… whichever one that may actually be.

6 pt spirit: Going Postal The ultimate accomplishment of the Fool is to torment their fellow citizens to the point of murderous frenzy. The Kultist's mere presence is all that is required beyond the spirit expenditure, though a single application of the convokation may be insufficient to cause the victim to break. Most commonly used several times over a short period of time by multiple Kultists all affecting a single target.

New Social Middle Manager: Lacking the ambition of the Executive and the business savvy of the Suit, the Middle Manager skates by doing as little work as possible while taking all the credit for the accomplishments of those below them.
  • Primary: Starts with +2D Subterfuge or Manipulation (all that time spent looking busy while doing absolutely nothing productive has to count for something, right?) and 10,000 Credits worth of equipment which is owned by their employing Corporation but which can be redirected at a moment's notice without justification.

  • Secondary: Starts with +1D Subterfuge or Manipulation and 6,000 Credits worth of equipment which is owned by his/her Corporation but which can be redirected at a moment's notice without justification.

New Skill Bureaucracy: The flipside of Data, this is the only Knowledge-based skill that the Damned Fools may truly excel in. Used as a contested roll when trying to hide information or foul-up otherwise efficient procedures.

  • The life of your character is in your hands, for you to decide what your character does and says. For the purposes of the game, you are your character. You decide what risks to accept or decline. Everything you say or do has an effect on the world. (actually this is a quote from one of the original Masquerade books but well worth repeating)

  • Life is just one big roleplaying game, and you're a pc

  • You never have to fear the Machiavelli at your back. You expect them to be there. It's the one in front of you that you have to worry about. This is also true of every shadowy, manipulative type of person you can think of... including GMs!

  • If you eat enough pizza and drink enough Mt. Dew and Guinness, you can successfully stave off sleep for more than 96 hrs before collapsing... The addition of whiskey, however, brings that number down to 9.6 hrs... and the addition of rules' lawyers brings that number down to 9.6 MINUTES.

  • Anything that glitters is probably a trap.

  • Hope and despair are the same emotion, with opposite amounts of energy and action.

  • Interesting rarely coincides with "safe".

  • Beauty doesn't mean crap. Stats mean even less. Interesting quirks of personality and setting yourself apart from your fellow characters/players with the chutzpah to carry off those quirks, now THAT's sexy.

  • If it looks too cool to be true, run.

  • Never underestimate people who don't look like fighters. They can often kick the crap out of you without breaking a sweat.

  • Never assume that the muscle-bound badass can't read Latin or Greek.

  • Death is swift. Revenge is slow torture.

  • The best revenge really is outliving your enemies.

  • Truth really is stranger than fiction.

  • All madness has method. All methods have madness.

  • Never bring a sword to a gunfight.

  • All rules and laws are made to be broken. Even the rules of Elysium and the laws of Physics... the only exception? The Game Master is ALWAYS right.

  • Falling in love with someone is the surest way to kill them. Falling in love is the surest way to bring the disappointment and hatred out in your fellow characters. It's also the surest way to stop giving a damn about what they think of you.