Monday, April 29, 2013

Vimary Redux

When Tribe 8 first came out, it wasn't a huge secret that the setting, Vimary, was the remains of Montreal, Canada (Vimary is a play on Ville Marie). But there wasn't a whole lot to go on, aside from looking up other maps and information on the area on the Internet. We didn't have Google Maps or Google Earth to get a bird's eye view of the locations in the game. Looking over street view and photos of different locations in Google Maps, I think there are some tweaks that can be made to Vimary as a whole.

First is the proximity of the Z'bri to Tribal lands. They're just too close for me to find it believable that half of the Tribes don't see them as a large threat, at least in the default starting point of the game. My solution, at least in my game, is to move the Z'bri lands on Vimary proper back across the river. The areas where they were become a no man's land, an extension of the Discarded Lands that acts as a buffer between the Z'bri and the Tribes. This can be seen as a mutually agreed upon DMZ. It facilitates all kinds of story opportunities for the Z'bri to harry the Tribes by releasing monstrosities into the no man's land and fostering Serfs, forcing the Joanites from the Seven Fingers to have to deal with them.

A corollary to this is the Seven Fingers gets an upgrade. In the canon setting, the wall is a very porous border. In my game, it gets beefed up into a formidable fortification. There aren't any holes to exploit (except going underground), and the Joanite population is increased. The line of the fortification actually crosses over and continues toward Duskfall, although the actual Seven Fingers are still located where they are now. In addition to the increased fortification, the Seven Fingers are also imbued with Synthesis to repel Z'bri (similar to how The Wall in A Song of Ice and Fire is warded against the White Walkers). In fact, I see the Seven Fingers as being a spiritual counterpart to The Wall.

Similarly, I think the Jo'han Skyrealms are too close for comfort. I can see a handful at most taking residence  high up in the remains of skyscrapers on the outskirts of Tribal land where they can't be reached from the ground. I think parts of the underground would be better suited for the Jo'han than living atop a skyscraper.

Speaking of the skyscrapers, these are structures I think the Tribals would generally avoid being near period so the Skyrealms might work out. Anyone who's seen Life After People knows that the elements, lack of maintenance and time conspire to bring these buildings down. They're just not that safe to be around. I do think the Tribals would make extensive use of the Emporiums year-round as opposed to in the winter season. The majority of the population in and around Bazaar probably live down there. It also gives them refuge in the event of some kind of attack.

There's a fort on the island. Why was that never mentioned?
As far as Hom, I've always envisioned that the amusement park that makes up the center of the settlement is in relatively decent shape. Part of this is due to once the Fall began, it just wasn't a place where people went to and suffered relatively little damage. The other part is due to the spiritual nature of the setting. Sure the place is still a shambles, but there are some structures that are not doing too bad. These are the structures like the ferris wheel, carousel, funhouse, etc. Maybe whimsical things like statues or whatnot are still mostly intact. Also, a lot of buildings on the island look really cool. I mean, there's a freaking fort there. As the Fallen come into their own, the place starts to look better and better. It gains less of a depressed, tent city atmosphere and more of a vibrant one. Part of this is going to be tied to the spiritual nature of the setting and things happening like when Lilith [REDACTED].

Access to Hom over the Fallen Bridge (the Pont de la Concorde) to me is not realistic. I think that the bridge would have near completely collapsed and would not be an easy access point onto the island. This is noted in Tribe 8 1e, but I think even "makeshift" efforts aren't enough to allow access. The South Tier (Jacques Cartier) bridge, on the other hand, would still be mostly intact. For some reason,  the rulebook doesn't make mention of the off ramps leading from the bridge to the island. While they might have partially collapsed, I can see access to the bridge being easier the other bridge. It would be the primary means for Fallen to get on and off the island (besides boats). Thematically it works well too - Tribals are perpetually looking down on the Fallen from the bridge, and Fallen going to the island have to descend to get there.

I've always assumed it's not important to get things 100% right - it is a fantasy game. The landscape will have changed through altered river courses, erosion, natural disasters, etc. Supernatural influences can shift things around and cause conditions that can't exist in the real world. But going back and looking over Google Maps and Google Earth...there's a lot of awesome stuff in Montreal and little tweaks that can make Vimary come alive.

Just catching up

This is a respost from my other blog, just highlighting the Tribe 8 that I've done in other game systems. At some point all of this will be added to the link section. As an FYI, all general roleplaying posting (even if it has to do with Tribe 8) is going to continue to be on Aggregate Cognizance, my other blog.

  • The newest is my completion of my Fate of Vimary draft, which consolidates the various rules modifications I've made to support Tribe 8 in Fate Core.
  • Next, I'm going to be doing a quick Spark setting write-up. This is actually for the eventuality that I run a dual Fate Core/Spark Tribe 8 game. I'm thinking two parallel games, but I'm not sure yet.
  • Previously, I had worked on an adaptation of Tribe 8 to Strands of Fate called Strands of Flesh and Spirit. Since reading Fate Core, I've stopped developing that branch but it's reasonably complete.
  • I also have a pretty much empty Wikia wiki called The Hundred Books. This will be an eventual rebuild of the wiki I once hosted on my website (which was sadly lost).

Friday, April 12, 2013

Giving the Keepers Some Love

Cross posted from Aggregate Cognizance

For the most part, the portrayal of Keepers in Tribe 8 has skewed toward a few archetypes: the hard boiled survivalist, the over curious yet-open-to-that-hippy-crap youth, the doddering wizard-stand in, or the tech-obsessed lunatic (as in the Machine Monks). Many times they are depicted as reluctant allies - often relegated to the role of firearm and ammunition dispensers. When they act as antagonists, often they're more of the gun-toting, "Get off my lawn!" type and not nearly as multi-faceted as, for example, Tribal antagonists.

Given that Tribe 8 is about the Fallen and their plight, this is  somewhat understandable. Keepers just aren't the heart of the game. It's still a damned shame.

At one point,  there was a Keeper supplement in the works called Word of the Keepers, which fell by the wayside and was never released. It was pitched as:

Enigmatic and reclusive, the Keepers are those who hid themselves away during the Fall of the World Before, and now devote themselves to the preservation and recreation of ancient technology. Word of the Keepers is both a sourcebook and player's handbook for incorporating members of this group into your Tribe 8 campaign.

Opining about the relative incompleteness of the Tribe 8 core books is especially poignant considering how many books were released - surely something like the Keepers could have been slotted into the line a lot earlier. While Tribe 8 2nd Edition featured Keepers more prominently than other books, they still amounted to a couple of decent factions (the Sanjon Keepers) and a motley assortment of groups that are just downright xenophobic, isolationist, hostile, weird, or most often some combination of all four.

Yet there are some fascinating tidbits and unexplored facets to the Keepers. The first is that Keepers are, without a doubt, the only ones who know exactly how much time passed while the bulk of humanity was in The Camps. At least one group of Keepers, mentioned in the Tribe 8 Companion, has only recently emerged from their high-tech bunker. While I'm hesitant to drag realism into it, I can't see how they could have stayed down there for too horribly long.  I've seen estimates for the time between The Camps and the Liberation ranging up to 300 years, on account of the amount of knowledge the Tribals lost. Given the overall amount of decay and ruin seen around Vimary, that figure seems way too long - I'd put it at less than 100 years. The Keepers surely know, but in the published books they aren't telling.

As a side note, for those wondering how the humans in the camps could have lost everything in the span of only a decades, it's simply because of the Z'bri. For those in the Camps, hundreds of generations could have passed, as the Z'bri used Sundering to accelerate their lives and resurrect them again (there are descriptions of Z'bri doing this in various books). Also, the opposite is true of the Keepers - while the wholesale destruction of modern civilization naturally led to a loss of a tremendouds amount of knowledge, given the Keepers' persistence at trying to uncover the past after a couple of centuries they would be much further advanced. Their loss of knowledge, if it has been less than a century, is still difficult to explain - but it can be fudged or chalked up to supernatural reasons a lot easier than explaining two centuries or more of very little progress.

Another piece of information apparently lost in the plethora of setting material is the Ancient One. While later books, and especially Tribe 8 Second Edition, mention "The Ancients" in Olympus, Tribe 8 First Edition says "the Ancient One." The implication here is that there was a single person, entity, or something else at the heart of Olympus. Does he predate the Camps? Is he the equivalent of a Keeper Fatima? A Keeper mech? We don't know because that little blurb was never explored.

I think "never explored" pretty much sums up the state of canon Keepers in Tribe 8. The Olympus Keepers are pretty much our template for what a "Keeper" is. Yet they turned out to be just one group among dozens, each of them a following a cookie-cutter pattern of "Find an industrial-looking location, insert Keepers with goggles and gas masks, make them not trust people." As antagonists or protagonists they are little more than cardboard stand-ups with remarkably little to flesh out the things that could make them truly stand out. While I appreciate that the Sanjon in Tribe 8 Second Edition got their own city and have a write-up, I kind of only got out of it that they dress like the Morton's Fish guy and make people drink alcohol out of dead cod. The closest we get to some kind of non-superficial variety are the Novohuron, who are described as "like Keepers."

For my part, I've tried to battle the two-dimensional nature of the Keepers with a Keeper antagonist, Hanna. She was actually involved in my game with meta plot, dealing with the Institute, Abonom and Agnes. Basically, she is the head of a Keeper group called the Zetetics who are dedicated to discovering a way to harness and control the River of Dream. Hanna isn't a horrible person beyond being highly motivated to seeing her theories and experiments through. In many ways, she is a pawn being played by other groups, including her own kind.

While obviously not every Keeper character or group has to be unique, as it stands they are entirely too homogeneous. They're behind the curve, especially given their story potential. In my fantasy world where Word of the Keepers was actually published, the Keepers would have unquestionably been on the forefront of the curve instead of hiding out in the tunnels underneath it. For now, I'll just have to take solace in my personal reconstruction of Tribe 8 using Fate Core, where I'm able to inject a little bit of variety to the Keepers.

Revised Technosmithing

Cross-posted from Aggregate Cognizance.

In keeping with the Keeper theme for today (har har), I've also finished with my revised Technosmithing write-up for Fate Core. It has some interesting features that set it apart from Synthesis and I think gives Technosmithing more character. You can grab it from Google Docs at the link below.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

S'klas, Z'bri Gift Giver

This is being cross-posted from my other blog as part of the April A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. It is a rewrite of a sadly long-lost Z'bri NPC. For anyone who knows the Tribe 8 metaplot, [REDACTED] happens to Agnes and then she [REDACTED]. In my game, S'klas was going to be instrumental in that.

Rummaging through your mind
With a tentacle down your throat,
What secrets will I find?
Oh I really love to gloat!

Eyes on ivory bone rings
Forcing you to watch your plight.
My how your flesh truly sings
As I receive my gift tonight!

S'klas (Major NPC)
S'klas is a Z'bri Joh'an living in the Skyrealms near Bazaar. Once a Melanis Lord, it was driven out of Hl'Kar because his experiments and penchant for abducting Tribal children threatened the Pact of the Dome. S'klas is convinced because of the innocence children have, and their closeness to the River of Dream, that they hold the secret to opening the Fold. These experiments led it to uncovering a long lost collective memory of a mythical figure who visited children on a certain night of the year, passing out gifts to those who behaved themselves and leaving an item showing his displeasure for those who hadn't. S'klas has taken on the role of this figure, of course corrupting it in a fashion only a Z'bri could.

S'klas is tall and broad for a Melanis, wrapped in a glistening red robe of exposed muscle and sinew. Tentacles often emerge from the folds and openings in the robe of their own accord. Its features are often concealed within a deep cowl, but its visage is disturbingly jovial, with plump features and a mouth forever frozen in a grinning rictus within a "beard" of writhing tentacles. S'klas surrounds himself with diminutive, twisted Serfs who assist him in luring children back to his lair. When he travels it is on a living sled of bone and tissue, pulled by eight nightmarish beasts fashioned into mockeries of the Fatimas.

While S'klas often ventures forth to find new subjects for his experiments, on the longest night of the year is when it truly visits terror upon Vimary. On that night, S'klas fills its sled with horrifying living "toys" and delivers them to children around Vimary. S'klas reserves the worst for those that it deems have been "naughty" over the past year.

Agnes in particular, and Agnites in general, are a particular obsession of S'klas'. Its research has turned more and more toward exploring how Agnes' rebirth from Mary and the way that Agnites use Synthesis might not only be used to re-open the Fold, but also allow for S'klas to dominate all children in Vimary. It is S'klas' hope that this will allow vindication and a return to Hl'kar.

Of course, getting close to Agnes is nearly impossible. Even when S'klas suppresses its Atmosphere, Agnes is still able to sense his presence long before he gets near - and a confrontation with a protective Fatima is not something S'klas could survive. The Agnites themselves are a little more accessible. Some Agnites are  fascinated by the idea of S'klas and the items he leaves. They encourage S'klas' winter outing by creating small shrines in hidden places, replete with grisly "snacks" and decorations. These Agnites willingly accept the items that S'klas brings, squirrelling them away lest an adult take them away or Agnes Herself finds out.

Their behavior only encourages S'klas, who thinks that his methods are working. The items he leaves are obviously all Tainted, and sometimes actively dangerous. Worse still, as S'klas' understanding of children grows deeper his toys become more subversive. There may come a point that S'klas will succeed in getting a toy into the hands of the greatest Child of all.

High Concept
Twisted Children's Icon. Invoke this aspect when dealing with children (both scaring and appealing to them - sometimes both at once). Compel it to push S'klas to do something in line with what the true icon would do (like protect a child).

Horrible Helpers: S'klas' serfs often provide the means for both the "gifts" S'klas distributes as well as luring children. It holds for these Serfs what amounts as "affection" for a Z'bri. Invoke this aspect for S'klas' Sundering as well as situations involving enticing children. Compel to make S'klas to have to take some action to protect his Serfs.

Melanis Atmosphere: Like all Z'bri, S'klas constantly emits an Atmosphere. S'klas' Atmosphere causes those around him to ignore his gruesome visage, replacing it with feelings of wonder and joviality.

Melanis Johan: S'klas was once a Melanis Lord, but has now been exiled from Hl'kar. As such,  it is not bound by the tenets of the Pact of the Dome by Z'bri or Tribal. Invoke to provide a benefit to doing something that violates Z'bri law (such as dealing with Tribals or Fallen). Compel to put S'klas in a situation where it has to answer for his actions.

Naughty and Nice List: S'klas spends a lot of time observing children and recording their actions, categorizing them as having been "naughty" or "nice" (of course, these concepts to him have little to do with actually being good or bad). Invoke this aspect to provide allow S'klas information about a specific child. Compel this aspect when S'klas may not have that child on its list.

Touched By the Seed: All Z'bri are close to the Seed. Invoke to activate Sundering, compel to make S'klas to do something visceral or hedonistic.

Investigate+2 Deceive+2


Animation: You get a +2 bonus to using Sundering to create the advantage Animated on an inanimate object. In addition, you can use Sundering instead of Craft to make items.

Appeasement: You gain a +2 when using Sundering to create physical advantages on yourself or others.

Atmosphere Suppression: By paying a Fate Point, S'klas can suppress its Atmosphere for one scene.

Chaining: You get a +2 bonus when using Sundering to inflict Equilibrium stress on another character, by attempting to combine that character with another character or object. When doing so with another character, both characters must have stress inflicted on them. If the character(s) are Taken Out by Chaining, they become a mindless, pain driven fusion of objects with the additional aspect Chained.

Note: This was created using my Fate Core conversion for Tribe 8. You can view any of the relevant documents here.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Even more eyecandy

If you ever need an inspiring image for a scene in your Tribe 8 game, this has everything you need:

33 Most Beautiful Abandoned Places In The World

Musings of a Z'bri

Originally written by Edwyn Kumar

"Leave it to humans to need explanations in matters of sex. We are imposed upon the flesh and take the pleasures of yoursz and organz with delightfulness. Are we the manifestation of a feminine or masculine emotional 'Sundering' created by the darkness of your minds? Yes, that and more. I am in my rage, full of 'she-ness' and in my perversion, complete in 'both a gender'. I am in my vengeance 'him' among you, for that duality is where the strength residez!

"We are NOT withering. You who keep us trapped in the flesh will feel itz sinfulness. When I tempt you I am a child, when I caress you I am a mother, when I scold you I am fear incarnate! My ages here has instilled in my frigid soul a love deeper than you can fathom; more rich than your hatred for me could achieve. I lay the 'Seed' within you you doubt your destiny? That doubt is my offspring, your dread my milk. With every poisonous thought you possess I grow and as your shadow fans my soul with fire, your action gives birth to my kin.

"Death is such a mystery to you humanz. You are blinded by the 'light' that falls from your Fatimas. They are your threshold where we have none. You cry for your ignorance and hide from your knowledge. Monsters we are and progeny are you. Before we leave this cursed, vile land, your kind will know... Never again will we go unheeded or shunned by the race. We prosper in death as you await our return.

"I know your dreams and have visited you, for your mind swims with visionz, tracing paths among the dreaming like fireflies in the night. There are so many beautiful things, so much ecstasy to engage; to crush. My prison of flesh is my reward!

"When you awake dreamer, know that I was here among you, and never forget that it is we that are your release!"

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Songs of Life and Dream

Note: I'm not sure exactly who originally wrote these, but I believe it was Edwyn Kumar.

Jacker Affirmation
Shadowed with beauty
Eyes of fire and ambition
In my path step not
My destiny is mine alone
For none to touch
Nor manipulate, foul hands
Shiver, fear comes
Grows as their souls shrivel
Death is quick
Yet just
I will be forever
Time will not touch this
Body and soul eternal
Bow before me, even
If you know me not
I am the ultimate power
Feel my wrath 

Song of the Goddess
Pain you have felt
Lost ,alone in the years that pass
Children falling
From the graces

We can see that
our dreams are what will guide us now
Visions of times
We shall create

Your hand a guide
The light our beacon in the night
Leading towards
Freedom and life

(chorus) The age has come
For us to fight
Our foes will fall
Falling into the night
(repeat once)

Bringing us back
To the rise of our destiny
Spirit and soul
Become as one

From the graces which we shall create
Freedom and life become as one.
(Spoken in harmony with chorus repeated three times)