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Author Topic: Preparation help!  (Read 3737 times)
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 16490

« on: April 18, 2006, 01:16:59 PM »

Hi Keith,

So, we have our characters, and I-as-GM have to prepare for next week. To orient you, the series is set in the Theocracy of Malindarov, and there seems to be a strong Amdati Church emphasis, including one character who's a priest. Let's see, a Vorish knight, a Valadarin priest, and a Norderian "one who fights," so a pretty high-status bunch.

They're all Witchblood - I read your text sentence out loud to the group -

Playing one of the Witchblood can be a lot of fun, but it is also very dangerous to the character. The Player should consult with the Game Master and the other Players before making the decision.

- then chanted, "one, two, three," and we all shouted "Yes!" I thought you'd find that amusing.

I made a supernatural terror-thing. That was easy and fun. I thought a little bit about the conspiracy. That was pretty easy too, no problem, although I'm a little daunted by making up a ton of NPCs. My taste for that has diminished sharply in the last couple of years.

Now for a question that pertained to character creation ... OK, first of all, there's a bit which says if you have Witchblood, you get one of the powers, and then later in the Witchblood section, you get a number of powers equal to your rank. It's the latter, right?

Second, what's up with the Rituals? Do you have to say "Path of the Flesh" as a given Witchblood power? Or do you get a Path for free as long as you have Academics or Folklore in combination with Witchblood? Or what?

I'm good with the interactive elements of Destiny Pool, Doom, and Taint. Looking forward to it; as I see it, with these in action, my job as GM is to provide unimaginably brutal pressure, and no obvious ways out for anything. Therefore Destiny Point-driven narrative elements, Doom-based outcomes to scenes, and wacky magic will be goin' on all the time. What a neat combination of Maestrom-type, Sorcerer-type, and TROS-type mechanics ...

Anyway, that's about it. More questions to come, I'm sure.

Best, Ron
Keith Senkowski
Posts: 725

On A Downward Spiral...

« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2006, 07:35:40 PM »


Awesome.  Lots of high end political types.  Very cool.  Lots of great possibilities to force hard decisions between fighting the conspiracy and maintaining their position.

I have yet to see and all Witchblood Game, so I am eager to see what happens.  Lots of room for fucking trouble, and I have a little treat for you below.  In a follow up post I will give you the expanded Taint rules that have some fun for the Witchblood (which will be in Apocalypse).

I too have lost all sorts of taste for making NPCs, so I have a second treat for you.  Below I will post the expanded Conspiracy creation process that is a part of the expanded GM prep stuff that is going  into Apocalypse.  Lets you get away without generating anything but major bads like the supernatural fuckers and the occassional bad ass leader guy.  It makes life way easier on the GM.

As to the questions:

The Witchblood get as many powers as up to their Bloodline Rank (during an early playtest we had a guy with a Bloodline Rank, but no powers which led to some interesting Taint issues).

Okay, the Rituals are non-Witchblood oriented.  Anyone who knows them can use them.  If you look into the Cell Creation stuff, one of the things is Rituals. If it makes things simpler, the Witchblood where envisioned to be natural sorcerers (which came from reading Richard Knaack Dragonrealm novels in the early 90s) while folks who use the rituals are priests/sorcerers ala Howard.

The Maelstrom is the goal with Conspiracy of Shadows.  The game kinda has the illusion of being a long term game, but in fact, if you are pushing, can be quick, tense and conclude in a bloody, glorious mess.

I have a question for you.  Are you using the new Character Sheets on the site?  They really work well and help to illustrate the fact that any Descriptor that ties into a conflict is used (their use is not tied to the Traits used in a conflict).

Conspiracy of Shadows: Revised Edition
Everything about the game, from the mechanics, to the artwork, to the layout just screams creepy, creepy, creepy at me. I love it.
~ Paul Tevis, Have Games, Will Travel
Keith Senkowski
Posts: 725

On A Downward Spiral...

« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2006, 07:38:05 PM »

This is the second draft of what will be in Apocalypse.  The examples are missing, but there are two out there (in CoS and in the Companion).

Revisiting Taint
Perhaps the greatest danger to the Cell is not death or failure, but corruption by evil.  Death can be a release from the unforgiving and unending fight against impossible odds.  This situation makes it all too easy for good men to become the monsters they seek to thwart and destroy.

Conspiracy of Shadows is about the hard choices faced by men and women who fight a war with a foe they cannot defeat.  It is the Game Master's responsibility to make sure these hard choices are consistently being forced upon the players, keeping the action focused on the tragic nature of the character's situation.

Taint is the representation of this tragic decent into damnation and insanity.  Every character's path is unique to his personality and the events of his life.  When a character violates the ethical beliefs the character holds to as represented by his Piety or commits a morally questionable act as defined below he must make a Taint Check.

Acts of Evil
Unprovoked physical assaults are perhaps the most common actions to draw characters down the path of corruption.  Assault on another person born of spite, malice, bigotry and even passions left unchecked is a terrible act.  When it is exceptionally violent, such as in the case of rape, the face of evil can truly be seen.

Blasphemous acts of all kinds taints the soul.  Blasphemy is more than an accidental omission, such as failing to genuflect when entering a church.  Rather is describes purposeful actions that desecrate and defile some aspect of the faith such as the fouling of a holy place or the bringing of violence into a place of peace.  Those who commit such acts are condemned to damnation.

Betrayal of one's friends, families, and lord is perhaps the worst kind of the corruption of one's soul.  To betray a confidant is to give in to greed and bring about lasting harm and death to those who trusted you.  This sort of evil is common in a world where vast conspiracies use men's greed and lust for power to control them.

Torture, even to gain information vital to thwarting a terrible evil, corrupts the soul, often beyond repair.  When it is done for sadistic pleasure or as a means of revenge it is even more damaging.

Murder is one of the most extreme forms of violence that can be perpetrated by one person on another as it steals something that never can be given back.  This is not death brought about from battle, but the taking of a life for selfish reasons.  Whether fruit of passion or premeditated, quick and clean or brutal and bloody, all acts of murder are crimes against all life.

Paths to Corruption
Many paths lead to a life of evil and each road is unique to the person who takes it.  They are born of tragedy and leave shattered lives in their wake. The most commonly taken paths are those born of seduction, unfortunate circumstances and uncontrolled passions.

Those who succumb to seduction commit ever increasing acts of evil in exchange for power.  This can be brought on by the search for political power or through dealings with demons and devils.  Regardless of what the person's goal is, it is a path that starts with small acts and builds up to greater and great acts of evil.

Some are simply the victims of unfortunate circumstances that drive them to evil.  They have suffered from some grievous evil and that is the only sort of response they can think of, or it plants a seed within them which grows over time. Often they commit the very same acts which they themselves were once the victim of.

Others lose control of their passions and are tainted by the actions they commit.  This is a common fate of those who passionately fight against evil.  They are driven by the horrors they seek to thwart and in the process become a horror themselves.

The Taint Check
Each time the character commits an act of evil or goes against his faith he must make a Taint Check.  This is a Knowledge/Temperament roll against a Piety/Taint roll.  Characters with a Bloodline add that rank to the Piety/Taint roll.  If the roll is failed the character gains a rank of Taint.

Knowledge/Temperament vs. Piety/Taint + Bloodline (if applicable)

The longer one is on a tainted path the harder it becomes to step off.  Redemption can be attempted any time prior to the character gaining his fourth Taint rank.  As soon as the Fourth Rank is gained, he is beyond help and well on his way to succumbing.

Redemption can be sought in one of two ways.  The character may attempt to step off the path of evil by devoting himself to good acts.  He cannot once slip, nor once descend into evil ways for an entire season.  Only then may he erase one rank of Taint as well as the gifts and curse that it grants.

The other way to seek redemption is through a Cleansing ritual (see page 60 of Conspiracy of Shadows).  This religious ritual, if successful, will take away one rank of Taint.  However, should it fail, it can never be used on that individual again, as he is forever marked and may only seek redemption on his own.

Descent Into Darkness
There are six steps taken as one falls to the corruption of Taint.  When a character gains a rank of Taint, the Game Master and the Players must confer to discuss the ramifications in terms of both game mechanics and how the character is role-played.  The decision is ultimately up to the Player, but a group discussion on the matter can lead to interesting and exciting results.

Taint ranks always bring with them a new ability as well as a disability, and once a character reaches a Taint rank of six, he fully succumbs to his evil impulses and is no longer appropriate to be controlled by a Player.  He is fully a servant of corruption bestused as an opponent for the Cell.

The gifts of Taint can take one of three forms:  a weapon or armor similar to those listed in Conspiracy of Shadows;  a positive Descriptor; or a Witchblood power.  The curse always takes the form of a negative Descriptor that can be both mental and physical in nature.  The only requirement is that at the later stages it manifests physically in some way.

The first rank of Taint makes the character Unclean.  Salvation is still in sight and disaster is not inevitable, though he has strayed from the path.  This brings about a minor change in the character in the form of a gift and a curse.  The change in him is imperceptible to others at this point.

The second rank marks the character as Corrupted.  He is apparently unable or unwilling to seek redemption as it is more difficult to return to grace.  He receives his second gift and the curse deepens, starting to take an emotional toll.  He begins to change physically, but it can be easily concealed from others.

A character is Accursed when he achieves the third rank.  It is brought on by a continuation of his vile actions and redemption is virtually impossible.  He receives his third gift and the curse deepens further.  Now the changes are obvious to those around him and not easily hidden.

At the fourth rank he has become a Beast and the corruption cannot be hidden.  He begins to lose control over his actions.  The taint has granted him a fourth gift and his curse has deepened to the point of being all but impossible to hide.  Close examination by others will always reveal that something is amiss.

The fifth rank is the last rank at which the character can be controlled by a Player.  Now he is a Monster, almost fully transformed into a creature of evil.  At this stage the gifts are great, but the physical changes brought out by the curse are pronounced.

The sixth and final rank is that of The Tainted.  Those who have fallen this far are no longer appropriate to be controlled by players.  They are true creatures of evil, beyond redemption and driven by their own personal vices.  Their final gifts and manifestation of the curse is impossible to conceal.

Taint and Madness
The unnatural corruption of those who succumb to Taint is not the only side effect.  Those who have committed horrific acts also begin to fall deeper and deeper into madness.  However, this madness isn't a constant state of being.  Rather it is a state that is triggered by different stressors depending upon how far the individual has fallen.  It can last minutes, hours, or even days.

The nature of the madness is unique and can take many forms.  It is common for a Tainted individual to suffer from a new form of madness each time it is triggered. Most, however, suffer from the same madness each time.  The most common types of madness are visual and audio hallucinations, paranoia, blind panic, a complete withdrawal from the world, and mindless rage.

When a character with Taint is subjected to one of the stressors in the table below, he enters into a Simple Conflict with himself, rolling Temperament/Knowledge versus his own Taint/Temperament roll.  If he fails he succumbs to the madness effect of his choice.

Taint Rank   Trigger Condition
1 - 3   Injury
4   Injury or Stress
5   Injury, Stress, or a Threat
6   Constant State

Conspiracy of Shadows: Revised Edition
Everything about the game, from the mechanics, to the artwork, to the layout just screams creepy, creepy, creepy at me. I love it.
~ Paul Tevis, Have Games, Will Travel
Keith Senkowski
Posts: 725

On A Downward Spiral...

« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2006, 07:41:12 PM »

Here is an excert from the section on being the GM, which will cover this, an expanded Series Bible (my codified relationship map for CoS), and stuff on Episode Creation.  All of it will be in Apocalypse.

Being the Game Master
The role of the Game Master is to provide interesting opportunities and events for the Players to decide and act upon.  This is achieved through the framing of interesting scenes and the compelling presentation of NPCs, both of which are informed by the Players in the group.  This is done by observing the Players and their priorities in conjunction with tools such as the Series Bible.

Observing the Markers
In Play you use audio, visual, and physical markers to help define different characters. When Players create their characters and the Cell they do so with Descriptors, Drives, Triggers, and their group Kicker.  These give you a clear signal to the priorities of the players and should be written down as they are a clear indicator of what the group is interested in exploring through play.

If at any point you are unclear as to what their priorities are or if a Marker seems vague to you, discuss it with the Players.  Get them to help you understand what interests them.  This is very important because these Markers will guide the entire game.

Creating the Conspiracy
With the list of Markers you have from the Players it is now time for you to create your primary character, the Conspiracy.  Look at their list and see what interests them.  If the Players created characters tied to the church, it is a clear sign that your conspiracy should be about the church.  If they made oppressed peasants then your conspiracy should be about the tyrannical overlord of the region.

Conspiracy Creation Mechanics
While Conspiracy of Shadows gives you the tools to create a fully fleshed out sinister organization to oppose your Cell, it does not give you any form of mechanics to represent it.  The following section gives you the mechanics you need to develop an organization that is balanced against your Cell.

Step One: Defining the Conspiracy
The first step in constructing a conspiracy is to define its various parts.  This is done by the Game Master based upon the input he receives through the Cell creation process.  After the Cell is created he should have a clear understanding as to what the Player's priorities are and take those into account.  Use the process found in Conspiracy of Shadows (see page 69) to define the conspiracy.

Step Two: Attributes
Attribute Ranks are a numerical representation of the Conspiracy's ability to operate.  They are used in all aspects of conflict resolution.  The Game Master has a number of points to divide among the four attributes equal to the number of characters in the Cell times two plus 4.  No score may be lower than one.  All of the initial points must be spent and each attribute must have a Descriptor (see page 9 of Conspiracy of Shadows).

Leadership (LDR)
The Leadership rank describes the ability of the Conspiracy's leadership to command and make tactical decisions.  It represents general cunning, the ability to make sound decisions, and command men in battle.

Membership (MSP)
The Membership rank is the Conspiracy's strength in manpower.  It represents retainers, soldiers, and agents of all kinds within all the organizations it has infiltrated.

Resources (RCS)
The Resources rank describes the Conspiracy's physical assets.  The land, livestock, merchant concerns, as well as coin of the realm.

Secrets (SCR)
The Secrets rank is the depth of the Conspiracy's secret knowledge. It can represent the dark secrets men keep, supernatural knowledge, or both.

Step Three: Influences
Influences are specific individuals, organizations, or families that the conspiracy has infiltrated.  They are used in conjunction with attributes in the same manner as skills in the standard Conspiracy of Shadows rules.  The Game Master has a number of points equal to his total attribute ranks plus two to divide among as many influences as he desires.  No influence may have a rank less than one or more than six and all points must be spent.  Each influence must also have a Descriptor assigned to it.

Step Four: Destiny Pool
The Destiny Pool is a reservoir of points that the Game Master spends to use one of the Cell's assets and influences against them.  All conspiracies begin with a number of points equal to the number of characters in a Cell in this pool. It also gains an additional point for every Negative Descriptor the conspiracy has.  At the end of each season, the Conspiracy's Destiny Pool refreshes.

Using the Conspiracy
In Conspiracy of Shadows the Cell is opposed at every turn and at the heart of this opposition is the sinister machinations of the Conspiracy.  The Conspiracy uses its Traits and Influences as defined above, which, are used against the Cell in conflicts as if the Conspiracy was a character.

However, there are times when you may wish to create individual characters to oppose the Cell.  In the case of mortal foes, they gain the bonus and penalty dice from the descriptors the Conspiracy has.  In the case of Supernatural Complications, they also gain the benefits of the Conspiracy's Descriptors, but it may not have a total trait score higher than the total score of the Conspiracy's traits.

Sample Conspiracy:  The 13

The Conspiracy Defined:
    •  A cabal of nobles and clergy in Bravich number 13
    •  Leadership: The cabal works primarily through three men
   •  Dobry Selkowski, Mayor of Selkowski
   •  Gerik Taraski, Head of East Polian Trading Company
   •  Jan Howicz, Landless noble
    •  Membership: Spans every social rank within society.  However it is
        primarily made up of members of the nobility.
    •  Goal: The cabal seeks to destroy the support of the king of Bravich by
        isolating and eliminating his allies.  This will allow them to install their
        own puppet monarch.

The Conspiracy's Attributes:
    •  (4)  Leadership 
    •  (3)  Membership 
    •  (3)  Resources 
    •  (2)  Secrets

The Conspiracy's Influences:
    •  (1)  The Orthodox Diocese of Witnow
    •  (1)  The Orthodox Diocese of Selk
    •  (1)  The Witnow Chapter of the Cup Knights
    •  (1)  The Mason's Guild of Witnow
    •  (1)  The Criminal Syndicate of Witnow
    •  (3)  The Guard of Selk
    •  (4)  The East Polian Trading Company
    •  (2)  The Royal Court of Bravich   

   •  The leaders have difficulty agreeing on anything.
   •  The members are very skilled in warfare.
   •  The organization does not have many safe houses.
   •  They have little access to useful secrets.
   •  Has access to the occult library.
   •  Can call on several priests for aid here.
   •  Has trouble getting political aid from them.
   •  They can interfere with building projects easily.
   •  Has access to their network of informants.
   •  Can arrest almost anyone in Selk.
   •  Can use their influence to bring financial ruin on others.
   •  Has the ear of the royal accountant.

Destiny Pool: (8)

Conspiracy of Shadows: Revised Edition
Everything about the game, from the mechanics, to the artwork, to the layout just screams creepy, creepy, creepy at me. I love it.
~ Paul Tevis, Have Games, Will Travel

Posts: 373

« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2006, 05:37:08 AM »

I have a question for you.  Are you using the new Character Sheets on the site? 

Damn.  I swear that character sheet was not at your site over the weekend.  We started with an older version (link was posted in this forum, circles instead of squares for numbers).  I'll print out a new batch for our next session.


p.s. Ah!  I think I figured it out.  The Forge forum link is to http://www.bobgoat.com, but your sig link goes to http://www.bobgoat.com/conspiracy/ (I can't find a link to the conspiracy page from your main page).
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 16490

« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2006, 06:30:57 AM »

Thanks Keith! This is tremendously helpful and right in line with what I want to do with the game, in terms of effort-of-play, attention-to-what, and so on.

They'll be building the Cell this weekend and we'll hop into play then as well.

Best, Ron
Keith Senkowski
Posts: 725

On A Downward Spiral...

« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2006, 07:06:47 AM »

Hey Julie,

Yeah I am renovating the site, but I haven't been moving as quickly as I want to, which 'splains why you couldn't find it.  Hopefully everything will be done soon.

Conspiracy of Shadows: Revised Edition
Everything about the game, from the mechanics, to the artwork, to the layout just screams creepy, creepy, creepy at me. I love it.
~ Paul Tevis, Have Games, Will Travel
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