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Author Topic: Our Travels in Near  (Read 11291 times)
John H
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« on: April 11, 2011, 10:29:15 AM »

I like to read about other peoples' play experiences in TSoY, so in the spirit of fairness, I'm posting ours...

Anyway, I recenlty finished running my first TSoY campaign.  It ran for 10 meetings and the final meeting ended in a triple transcendence (I don't know if this is typical, but we took it as a sign that the tenth meeting was the last). 

We had a blast and one of the players volunteered to take up the mantle of Story Guide immediately after our campaign ended because she was interested to base a new campaign upon some of the foundations we'd set in this one. 

The campaign took us to a lot of strange places and we discovered some things in Near that I did not expect, including:

Transmutative Alchemy

In House Landry, Ammeni, there is a group of alchemists headed by High Alchemist Dragos de Landry who have integrated Three-Corner Transformation into their formulae.  With these potions, they are able to physically transform men into beasts.  Most of the time, the alchemists create potions to give a person a single beast propery.  We saw wings, poisonous fangs, claws, and thick fur, but there are probably other features they've come up with.

Mechanically, these sorts of things were taken as mostly-permanent physical changes and worked like Equipment (e.g., Wings give +1 to fly, +1 to glide, Flight Imbuement, etc.).

The Lost Lands of Goblantis

We discovered a race of goblins lived deep beneath the earth of Khale, I hear that they're called Grue, but I cannot confirm this because we did not get a chance to explore. 

When the Skyfire came, they receded into their caves deep in the earth.  Unlike the trolls of Goren, the goblins of Goblantis never had the desire to return to the lands of man.  Some people think these grue are already among us, but they are invisible.  Who can say?

Mechanically, they have a Grue Ur-Pattern and are able to be unseen.  They are typically addicted to dark places and eating people who don't see them.

Tribe Vatik

It turns out that the Khaleans have their own sort of temporal stabilizer heroes who see to it that the past is altered and nudged in order to provide a safe and glorious future for Khale.  The men and women of Tribe Vatik travel back through time to critical parts of Khale's history to alter events according to their own vision of the forest.

Telperion, the Silver Tree

Apparently, some Khaleans have taken to worshipping Telperion, the great Moon-Metal tree at the center of the Silver Forest.  Those who eat of Telperion's fruit have discovered a way to travel into Illae nu Terra, the Silver Lands where it is said that the Queen of Shadow herself lives.  As the Green World of Old Khale can be used to travel into the past, so too can the Silver Lands be used to travel into the future. 

We travelled to one possible End of Times in which the Queen of Shadows has covered all the lands in Moon Metal and became able to shape all of Near (and the people in it, who had all eaten the Silver Fruit) to suit her whims.  Near, in this End, was a flat, featureless land whereever the Queen was not currently focusing her thoughts.

This ran counter to many peoples' assumptions about the Queen of Shadow, but perhaps being trapped alone at the end of time caused her to change her perspective, who knows. 

Fortunately for the people of Near, this dark End of Times did not seem to be destined.  One of our characters, a walozi of considerable power, travelled into the Silver Lands alone and forced her spirit into the body of the Queen of Shadows.  Thus, Hrishikesh (the walozi), acquired the queen's power over all Moon Metal in Near.  With the power came the curse:  Hrishikesh could never take physical shape in Near until the End of Times.

Almost immediately, the Moon Metal that had been expanding out from the Silver Tree receded and reformed in the shape of a great dragon to serve as the new Queen's avatar in Near. 

Mechanically, we developed some crunch to handle advanced functions of Lunar Forging and we had some Lunar Travel stuff.

I have a long-winded version of our adventures through Near on my web site (you'll have to scroll down a bit):
http://toasty-fish.com/tsoy
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2011, 12:36:41 PM »

Absolutely delightful, this campaign has gone a long way since we discussed it last. I can see how the game went from your transcript - I recommend that others take a look as well, that's very life-like roleplaying right there beyond that link. I especially liked how the player apparently decided with his post-Transcendence powers to transform the Qek theology to the wacky side: "Hrishikesh danced. Within moments, 500 ancient and evil spirits, zamani, appeared in the grove... Thirsting for blood and yearning for oblivion. Hrishikesh gave all of them a cup of Brawndo and declared, 'at this time, every day, until the end of time, all zamani will drink tea.' And so it was that zamani: evil, ancient spirits began having tea parties at a quarter past five." I can only imagine how that's going to puzzle shamans to come. I can only recommend that the Story Guide take this sort of thing with deadly seriousness so as to ride it for all it's worth. An Eccentric Practice based on Tea Ceremony (I) seems warranted, too.

Also, that player who tries to bed all named NPCs in the story, male and female alike, only to end up transcending out of such an attempt - tell them to rock on, that tea scene with chief Aonghus Bearskin is just wicked. I think I'll have to read the entire thing from start to finish to see how the campaign ended up with that psychedelic wibe you have in the last session transcript.

I have to also give high marks to your setting exploration, if I may; very exciting discoveries you've made in the land of Khale. Reminds me of Dragonlance in places for some reason, maybe because you have Queen Takhisis in a supporting role there. You should all take the Secret of the Unknown for your next characters for free to celebrate a successful campaign like this - tell the Story Guide I said so ;)

It seems to me from the transcript that you drove hard for Transcendence during that session. Was it because the group was seeking to end the campaign and you felt it necessary to end with a bang, or was Transcendence the best solution to the problems the characters faced? Or was it accidental, perhaps? It seems to me to be pretty natural for many characters to be within range of Transcendence at the same time, but in my experience players don't usually seek it out so aggressively; even when a campaign is clearly ending they often consciously opt to let their character ride towards the sunset without pushing for the Transcendence epilogue, perhaps in the hope that the character might get revisited later on after all.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2011, 03:04:50 PM »

Hmm, you should definitely let us know if you get that new campaign going, and write about it, too. I'm reading the transcripts here and enjoying them immensely. Apparently the campaign's structure is specifically adventurous, with the presumption that the player characters form a disparate crew of adventurous ne'er-do-wells. I especially appreciate the comedy, as you clearly had fun with the game, but there's also lots of quite serious fictional stuff in there. I like the risque tone, too. Apparently this has been written as on-going notes as the game progressed, instead of typing from memory afterwards. Some of these conflict descriptions are just hilarious.

This Castor fellow is definitely my favourite, he's living the high life like some sort of picaresque anti-hero, with little to recommend him except for the magnetic ears - and yet he manages to achieve the satisfaction of all his desires in the end. Funny how he remembers occasionally to not take things so seriously. "Castor Casseus strolled up one of the Vatik who was keeping watch and said that he was back to... Umm... Conjugally visit the chief's daughters. He implied that it was okay and that the chief was cool with it, but the Vatik was not convinced. He blew a large horn, alerting the entire tribe. Seeing danger, Castor threw a bottle of rice wine in the Vatik's face and remembered that this world was just a dream. He faded and hid."

In fact, reading this further, the overall sense I get of the campaign's tone is very picaresque. Reminds me of Decamerone or some such, as the irresponsible adventurers roam around Ammeni lands and cheat and kill their way through a colorful cast of thousands... The Dying Earth RPG strives for this same genre. Quite interesting, a very rare genre in the oh-so-serious fantasy rpg scene. In fact, I can't stop reading this, as every session springs up some new lunacy ranging from eat-offs to off-topic priapic feats, all topped by frequent punch-lines.

What do you think, will your next campaign fall along these same lines in terms of tone and content? If I may ask, also, is this typical of your group's style? I'm quite intrigued by the seemingly effortless comedic stylings here; the stereotypical view of fantasy gaming tends to be that while players might like all sorts of irresponsible wackiness, GMs rarely go along, and will rather fight these inclinations all the way to preserve his serious and committed vision of the setting. Here, the best I can discern, you seem to have used the game mechanics a lot and provided more material conscientiously, and then participated in turning the proceedings into a delightful farce all the while utilizing the game's systems (instead of throwing them out and freeforming, which I often see when a campaign turns farcical). Besides, I think that a lot of the material here is genuinely interesting from a dramatic point of view as well, so I find it a very pleasing feat of Story Guiding in that as well; often a comedic game will disintegrate because the jocular efforts pull the story to all possible directions, but here we see a Story Guide who ever so patiently knits together fictive material until something sticks with the players. I write about this exact approach to transcending the limits of comedy and drama at the very end of the WoN book, so it's really interesting to see somebody else execute something similar.

Also, if I read the xp flow correctly, you might consider upping the Advance cost from 5xp to 10 if you haven't already done so. Not a necessity by any means if you like the pace you've been setting, but it's an option to keep in mind.

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"Numquam, if you can lead me to Moon Metal, I can give you a rarity that only someone like you could truly appreciate... I can give you Moon Cheese!"

Numquam's eyes went wide and a single tear poured from them. The ratkin said, "you have the cheese of the Queen of Shadow? A piece of the Moon that Was? How did you come by this? By Telperion, the Moon Tree, it is a sign! The Lady has made it clear to me that I am to take you to her. I will lead you to Illae nu Tropa, the Silver Forest, if you give me this cheese."

Duval said, "once you lead us to the Silver Forest, the cheese is yours."
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John H
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« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2011, 03:39:16 PM »

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I can only recommend that the Story Guide take this sort of thing with deadly seriousness so as to ride it for all it's worth.

I'm pretty sure the Story Guide will take the zamani tea ceremony seriously as she was the person who played Hrishikesh.  ;)

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Also, that player who tries to bed all named NPCs in the story, male and female alike, only to end up transcending out of such an attempt - tell them to rock on, that tea scene with chief Aonghus Bearskin is just wicked.

I'll definitely pass this along to the player.  :)

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You should all take the Secret of the Unknown for your next characters for free to celebrate a successful campaign like this - tell the Story Guide I said so ;)

She was pretty delighted that you enjoyed her transcendence and says she will definitely give all of the characters Secret of the Unknown for free.  Thanks, Eero!

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It seems to me from the transcript that you drove hard for Transcendence during that session. Was it because the group was seeking to end the campaign and you felt it necessary to end with a bang, or was Transcendence the best solution to the problems the characters faced? Or was it accidental, perhaps?

Anyway, regarding the Transcendces...  Before we ran the 10th meeting, I had anticipated we'd need to meet an 11th (and possibly a 12th) time to finish everything. 

Yet, the player who was playing Hrishikesh (the walozi) said she was going to create a really wicked drug and inxtoxicate the tree in which King Khale's spirit was said to reside so that she could summon his spirit (Secret of Eccentric Practice swapping Pray out for Psychonaut).  The other players (four were present) were enamored with the idea and they each gave her one of their Gift Dice.  Susan (Hrishikesh's player) didn't actually want to transcend then but the other players gave her too many Gift Dice and she ended up rolling a 7.  Since the game was going to wrap up in the next meeting or two, she didn't bother with Secret of Bodhisattva.

Castor (the elf who liked to bed everyone) also didn't really mean to transcend.  The player rolled Charm normally but burned a point of Instinct before the roll for a bonus die and rolled 4 +s.

Lucky's player was the only one of the bunch who really wanted to transcend.  He  had been looking for important things since the game started (he found the Ur Codex in his backstory) and the player really wanted to conclude by finding a secret goblin nation.  So, he poured a couple bonus dice into his Scrounging check, petitioned for a couple Gift Dice, and transcended to find Goblantis. 

As I mentioned, I thought we'd get one or two more meetings out of the campaign, but the players who transcended wrapped up everything in which the players were invested.  The other players basically agreed that their characters could just ride off into the sunset or whatever and that it was a good time to end the campaign and start a new one.

The transcendences took me by surprise, honestly.  I thought we might have one person transcend, but the Gift Dice really altered the landscape on transcendences 1 & 3.   Everyone seemed pretty pleased with the outcome, though, and I guess that's what's important.  When we ended, I petitioned to the next Story Guide to do away with the Gift of Dice mechanic because I thought it had been more problematic than beneficial during the campaign (as I've mentioned in a previous thread about "Safety Nets in TSoY").

Almost everyone liked the Gift of Dice mechanic (although they admit that it was somewhat problematic at times) and so the next Story Guide is going to compromise by keeping Gift Dice around, but only give players 1 Gift Die to give out per night (instead of 4).  This should hopefully help keep Gift Dice from getting too crazy
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John H
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« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2011, 04:32:55 PM »

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Hmm, you should definitely let us know if you get that new campaign going, and write about it, too. I'm reading the transcripts here and enjoying them immensely.

Thanks for the compliments on the writing, I'm glad that they can be amusing even for people who weren't in the game (except for the end of log 8 and all of 9 during which my whole family got sick with some sort of stomach flu and I couldn't give it a proper treatment)!

I've been put in charge of writing the adventure log for the next campaign and I'll make sure to post a note in the forums as I update it.  We're planning on starting it the end of this month or the first weekend of May (depending on player availabilty). 

My wife (aka Hrishikesh) is running it so I'm trying to coach her in the ways of the Story Guide and she's pretty terrified (it's her first time running a real game).  I'm coaching her but any advice for an up-and-coming SG would probably ease her zamani-obsessed spirit.  ;)

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What do you think, will your next campaign fall along these same lines in terms of tone and content? If I may ask, also, is this typical of your group's style?

I imagine that the tone will be similar.  Our group tends to be serious about our silliness, if that makes any sense. 

There are a couple members in the group who are traditionally more serious gamers but they ended up cracking once they noticed that an Almighty DM wasn't going to smash their characters for engaging in lude or otherwise less-than-heroic behavior.

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Here, the best I can discern, you seem to have used the game mechanics a lot and provided more material conscientiously, and then participated in turning the proceedings into a delightful farce all the while utilizing the game's systems (instead of throwing them out and freeforming, which I often see when a campaign turns farcical).

Definitely.  I prefer to make extra rules to encourage silliness rather than ignoring rules, whenever possible.   

We ended up with a bunch of Secrets, but I made a couple Keys that I was pretty proud of:

Key of Cat's Curiosity
The character is distractible, dangerously so, and imperils himself and society to sate his curiosity.
1xp:  your curiosity distracts you from the task at hand
2xp:  your curiosity inconveniences you or your allies
5xp:  your curiosity endangers you or your allies
Buyoff:  stay focused and overcome adversity

That one was for Hrishikesh (the walozi).  The next one was for Castor (the elven playboy):

Key of the Sexual Conquistador
Do you have a sister?  Oh, you have three?  Let's do this.
1xp:  have sex with someone new
2xp:  experience a new kind of sexual encounter
5xp:  put yourself in danger or suffer harm to have a sexual experience
Buyoff:  turn down a sexual encounter

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I write about this exact approach to transcending the limits of comedy and drama at the very end of the WoN book, so it's really interesting to see somebody else execute something similar.

I assume you're talking about the Love Letter to a Story Gamer part of the book?  Those two pages almost perfectly align with how I like to run / play RPGs.

I made several of my more serious players read it after a few meetings when it became clear to me that they were still very thematically tied to D&D / Tolkien.

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Also, if I read the xp flow correctly, you might consider upping the Advance cost from 5xp to 10 if you haven't already done so. Not a necessity by any means if you like the pace you've been setting, but it's an option to keep in mind.

I'm interested to hear the reasoning for this. 

Would it mainly be to draw out the story?  Require characters to specialize more?

-Galwinganoon (aka John)
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2011, 05:19:04 PM »

Yet, the player who was playing Hrishikesh (the walozi) said she was going to create a really wicked drug and inxtoxicate the tree in which King Khale's spirit was said to reside so that she could summon his spirit (Secret of Eccentric Practice swapping Pray out for Psychonaut).

This is totally why I play TSoY; I haven't thought about it previously, but it makes sense that King Khale is, indeed, a spirit on whom Qek spirit-sorcery would work. Also, that's a really sensible Eccentric Practice, I imagine that there are a lot of more-mellow-than-you Walozi practitioners out in the jungle who follow that sort of variant path. Why pray so hard when you can just trip out to catch the spirits, after all!

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My wife (aka Hrishikesh) is running it so I'm trying to coach her in the ways of the Story Guide and she's pretty terrified (it's her first time running a real game).  I'm coaching her but any advice for an up-and-coming SG would probably ease her zamani-obsessed spirit.  ;)

My best advice in this regard is probably the one about attitude: Being the GM/SG of a roleplaying game is a bit of a craft, and while we traditionally try to make the player's life as care-free and playful as possible, the Story Guide does things that are truly based a little bit on skill and vision, which makes it the slightest bit more responsible and difficult as a role. This can be intimidating because it's more "play" like playing a musical instrument than "play" like playing a game, but in truth it's not a difficult skill - I believe that everybody can do it. The most common problem I see with first-time GMs is that sometimes a person comes to the table with strong preconceptions of what they should do, perhaps because they're modeling their actions on somebody else; this can cause choking and aimlessness in guiding the game as the GM doesn't know why they're doing what they're doing - for this reason it's much better if you can relax and only do things you understand the reasons for instead of trying to blindly copy what a cryptic book or a more experienced GM is doing. Often that more experienced GM is merely following their own unique muse, which is not something you should or could replicate, anyway.

Of course, the second-most common difficulty I encounter is when the prospective GM is too self-absorbed and listen to their own inspiration a bit too much. This mostly causes difficulty when the GM/SG starts ignoring the systemic procedures of the game the group is playing in favour of directly forcing the fiction to accord with their vision of how things should be - turning the game into GM-controlled freeform, in other words. The reason might be because the GM finds the game's system intractable or indimidating. In these situations it's a very good idea to ask the group for help in understanding how to go about things, or to simply play some simpler game you feel you can respect; people shouldn't play RPGs they don't respect as things to play, I think, as that just leads to in-game murk and ignoring parts in a haphazard manner. Seems obvious, but often it isn't when the group is deeply committed to playing that one game whether it be D&D or Vampire or whatever.

Fortunately I've never seen either of the above become a serious problem when the group has had good communication. If players dare to simply ask the GM/SG what they're doing when the inexperienced SG seems to be going off the rails, discussion will straighten out almost anything. Just don't let your own creativity get to choked by external pressures, but don't let that creativity override the framework of the activity you're guiding for the other players, and in my experience you'll be just fine. Also, read the Story Guiding section of the Solar System rules, I like the list of "Story Guide responsibilities and tasks" there :)

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Key of Cat's Curiosity
The character is distractible, dangerously so, and imperils himself and society to sate his curiosity.
1xp:  your curiosity distracts you from the task at hand
2xp:  your curiosity inconveniences you or your allies
5xp:  your curiosity endangers you or your allies
Buyoff:  stay focused and overcome adversity

That one was for Hrishikesh (the walozi).

She was a very fickle character all through the campaign, I gather; a real agent of chaos. I imagine that her being the SG will be quite interesting; the GM position naturally makes you take things more seriously and forces you to worry about the cohesion of the fiction, so it's a very different role. I could see a joyful, impulsive player like that having some trouble developing interesting NPCs and situations over the long term, but I believe you'll get a lot of unique interpretations out of it, too. A real treat, I'd expect.

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Also, if I read the xp flow correctly, you might consider upping the Advance cost from 5xp to 10 if you haven't already done so. Not a necessity by any means if you like the pace you've been setting, but it's an option to keep in mind.

I'm interested to hear the reasoning for this. 

Would it mainly be to draw out the story?  Require characters to specialize more?

Mostly that came to mind because the characters seemed to be collecting Secrets pretty quickly and routinely in the campaign description. If I read it correctly, the style of the group was that Advances were spent relatively quickly and decisively on all sorts of character-candy. This is absolutely fine and certainly better than making character development painful, but it occurs to me that you might want to try emphasizing the character development more, too: I myself tend to get a lot of mileage out of new Secrets when characters only learn at most one of them per session (in addition to the Abilities and Pools they develop), as I can introduce new NPC teachers and bring out consequences and possibilities of using the new powers more. Slower development also makes buying high Abilities less of a no-brainer, which ultimately slows down accidental Transcendences, which is useful for players who don't have a lot of self-restraint about it; their characters get a slight bit more time to mature before they're written off, which might be more enjoyable. Or not, I can certainly see the virtues in getting really powerful characters really quickly, too, especially for a group that enjoys cavorting through the setting and making a mess of things.

As a comparison, I'm myself currently in session 13 or so of a Solar System campaign set in Glorantha, and it's much more staid and minimalistic about the crunch than the average TSoY game. The characters take in an average of five xp per session or so, and they each possess only a couple of Secrets, most of them pieces of equipment. They tend to only get new toys out of complex, deeply setting-rooted interactions such as new religious insights. I play every piece of crunch for everything it's worth, basically, to the extent that acquiring each is almost like a mini-adventure. A really enjoyable campaign, and very different in resource dynamics from the wild stuff you have here.
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John H
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« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2011, 05:39:15 AM »

BTW - I changed my forum name to something more personal (from Galwinganoon) since that seems to be the standard.

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Mostly that came to mind because the characters seemed to be collecting Secrets pretty quickly and routinely in the campaign description. If I read it correctly, the style of the group was that Advances were spent relatively quickly and decisively on all sorts of character-candy.

Thanks for the response to the 5xp vs 10xp thought process. 

I examined the character sheets and at the end of 10 meetings (usually 4 hours each), I noticed some trends:
1.  The characters had 5-9 Secrets
2.  All characters had one ability above 2.  Some had 2 at 3, others had one at 4 (and they ended up transcending in the final meeting).
3.  Everyone ended with 2-4 Keys.
4.  No one invested heavily in Pools (one character ended up with the total pool combination at 13, most ended at 10)

Going into the game, I expected that people would end up pouring more into Pools so they could power some wicked Secrets (Secret of Creation, I'm looking at you here) and get bonus dice at will, but that never really happened.

I'm not sure if this sort of distribution is normal / high / strangely aligned or what.
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John H
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« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2011, 06:50:17 PM »

Eero,

As promised, I've added the cast bios and adventure log from the first meeting of our new game.  It was a pretty wild time and I'm glad that I've finally been able to play TSoY.

http://toasty-fish.com/tsoy/

-John
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #8 on: May 03, 2011, 06:49:05 AM »

Epic yet picaresque, with horror and humor elements. Seems like playing that was fun, even if the story tends to meander with so many player characters all in one situation. It's the story of a young ghoul-in-training being egged on by a Gandalf-like figure intent on stopping the rise of the undead by the way of specialized anti-undead goblin cracktroops. A high-concept game, if any. I like how dark and twisted your Maldor is, arena fights and all. It's a decayed post-apocalyptic society.

It occurs to me that your vision of Three-Corner magic is very mystical, it reminds me of psionic mysticism, sort of like some Taoist magic. This is something I've done a bit lately myself as well, moving away from candles and incence and other traditional paraphelia of wizardry. Perhaps you'll have an opportunity to explore how it all works and whether it has some sort of hidden cost, or if it truly is the nature of the world to be moved by the minds of men intent on balance of the Foci.

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After hearing Catha'ir's so-called Truths, the Historian looked particularly wise and unimpressed. Belfrius simply responded, "sir, our Lord will protect us from any sort of 'undead tsunami.' The events in your song are impossible. Have you even been to our library?"
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