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Author Topic: Modern Things  (Read 10435 times)
Joe Murphy (Broin)
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« on: February 05, 2002, 07:12:02 PM »

Just to give y'all some background... a rush of ideas came to me this evening for a Sorceror supplement. Without giving too much away, a http://www.intimate.org/bjork/lyrics/bjork4_3.htm">song by Bjork inspired a lot:

All the modern things
 Like cars and such
 Have always existed

 They've just been waiting in a mountain
 For the right moment


The setting deals with Technology and Flesh as massive opposed drives in humanity (mega-demons, really), aluminium foil hats, losing your car keys, the behaviour a schizophrenic friend of mine exhibited, when I was homeless, religious experiences, and a lot of other things that scare me. So far, so scary.

I read and reread Sorceror to make sure I was paying enough attention to the crucial bits of the game. So, Sorceror is about transgression. Breaking the law(s). Calling up evil to possibly do good.

I realised that there was a possible danger in my supplement, in that the sorcerors might end up using magical forces relatively safely. They'd use malevolent forces to destroy the malevolent enemy, and never be accountable to a higher moral code. It felt like some ourobouran White Wolf RPGs, where Werewolves can rationalise every action they take as being for the greater good. Rather than have complex moral codes, they can just act like assholes with claws.

My question is, how do the mini-supplements tackle the question of accountability? What laws (eternal or otherwise) are broken in the supps? What is transgressed?

Joe.
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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2002, 07:20:05 PM »

Quote from: Joe Murphy (Broin)

My question is, how do the mini-supplements tackle the question of accountability? What laws (eternal or otherwise) are broken in the supps? What is transgressed?


Well, Schism has no chewy nougat moral center. It dabbles in existentialism a bit (as filtered through my exposure to it through Cronenberg films). It doesn't deal at all with Good or Evil...what it does deal with is power and exploitation, self-actualization and that ol' bugbear: creativity as a force of destruction. As far as transgressions go, it's pretty simple. The demon (Psychogenesis) wants independence. The human host it inhabits is in the way. One of 'em has got to give. There's even a specific game mechanic where the character can willingly transcend his human limitations and let the demon out for awhile (this warrants automatic loss of Humanity).
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Bailywolf
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« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2002, 08:40:54 PM »

Hey Joe, I'd like to hear more about your idea... what's the deal with Modern Things?
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Joe Murphy (Broin)
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« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2002, 04:07:41 AM »

I did get some http://www.livejournal.com/talkread.bml?itemid=22630643">design notes up onto http://www.livejournal.com/users/broin">my LiveJournal last night. They're pretty rough, but there's definitely something to them...

Plus, the ideas kept me up till 4am writing, and till 6am thinking. Yeesh.

I'll be adding more design notes today, so check my main LJ page aswell as the individual post.

Best,

Joe.
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Bailywolf
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Posts: 729


« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2002, 07:20:37 AM »

I work with computers.

And I have this theory.

I believe that despite all the propaganda, computers don't run on electricity.  It isn't streams of charged subatomic particles which zip about in circutry and trip logic gates.

It's pure hate.

Computers run on malice, on curses, on the frustration of their users.  

They NEED to be hated to function.  

Don't believe me?

How often has your machine been humming along quite nicely, when suddenly it starts to freak out, shut down, crash, or corrupt files.

But when you get seriously piss-crazy mad, when you're just about to crush the satanitc beige box with your chair... it starts working again just fine.

It's trying to piss you off.

It NEEDS you to be pissed off at it.

It NEEDS your hatred.

Computers don't fail bacuase something breaks, they fail because they are running low on juice.  

But some of us have a measure of power over the creatures.

We TECHS have developed a certain presence, and when the machines sense us, they straighten up, fly right.  I can't tell you the number of times I've walked into someone's office who swore (swore to God in Heaven) that the machine was broken beyond repair, and with just a vague gesture to the keyboard, it starts working fine again under my hands.

The most importiant factor in being a tech, is to make the machines fear you.  And once they know they can't intimidate you, thet you don't get angry anymore, that they can't make you fret over hostage data on failing disks, they roll over and show you their bellies, and hunt for more vulnerable psychies to feed upon.


You see...


Copmuters feed on us.


I use em, but I don't really trust em.











So......







What if Machine is a parasite, a predator.  Technology feeds on humanity- draining vital energy, motivation, free will.  Flesh is the oposite extreme- sudden death with claws in your neck; a savage kingdom of predation.

Becoming a sorcerer involves three distinct steps:

Awareness- the world is not as it seems.  Machines glare at me with fanged maws, cars lick their grill-fangs with carbide tongues.  Either I go mad, get killed, or accept it.

Authority- The artifice hates me... abuses me... trys to feed from me.  The only difference between me and anyone else, I know what is happening.  Then one day, pressed past the point caring, hitting bottom, I bark and order to that looming SUV about to crush me... and it backs off, whimpers.  So long as I can maintain my Authority, the machines obey.

Mastery-  Now beyond simple compusion, machines can be bound (as you suggest summoned), made to perform their native function (a computer coud be made to type, print, surf porn), a car can drive about, a gun can fire.  You just have to know how to handle them.



And the awakening to the possibilities of flesh:

Awareness:  Free will is rare- perhaps even impossible.  People are driven by mindless squalling urges, utterly selfish drives which compete for energy and outlet; every stimulus fires off a dozen drives which battle it out along twitching nerves and fat ganglia to see what becomes manifest.  I am nothing but a puppet to flesh; nothing at all but flesh itself.  No spirit, no soul, no mind.  Just flesh argueing with itself.

Authority:  i am not the only one.  Everyone is just like me, and by reaching out in that subtle way- by laying on hands just so- particular urges can beplayed out as desired.  You need obedience- summon forth The Coward, you need murder done, call up The Killer.  You want companionship, summon The Lover.  A tarrot of blood and sweat, bone and tears.  Nothing is more real than flesh, nothing more profound.

Mastery:  Bind certain Urges, make them your slaves.  Cause them to manifest at will in those around you.  You bring forth The Guardian when you need protection, The Pervert when you need horrors done.  Each drive (or combination of drives) is another creature you comand- the only thing that changes is the flesh it wears.  













Joe my friend.  This is some sick stuff.  

I love it.



Mastery-

Artafice vs Organ
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Joe Murphy (Broin)
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Posts: 178


« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2002, 07:47:25 AM »

Quote from: Bailywolf

I work with computers.

And I have this theory.


Cheers, chief. =)

The more I write about the setting, the more things seem to it in, but I'm becoming conscious that I can't just throw every shade of paint into a can and expect to have an interesting paisley pattern result. Ah, game design...

SO... (ack, goddamn, I almost choked on a tortilla chip, Machine's out to get me)... sorcerors in this setting are not good at what they do. They're not good with technology, and I don't see the relationship involving belly-scratching so much as... living with a bunch of gorillas for a few weeks. They know you're not a gorilla, but they'll tolerate you for a little while. Then, they'll sit on you.

I don't think I want to go down the road where we have a bunch of Fleshy sorcerors and a bunch of Machinists (though I like that name a lot).  I *think* your conception might be a little different to mine...

Ack, I feel awful stepping on your wonderful prose. I think you've taken a few steps beyond my conception, in a direction I hadn't expected, you holistic view guy, you. Must think about your ideas more.

What I want to emphasise is alienation of a kind. The mad old librarian who has a knack for finding just the right book, but can never find her glasses. The crazy homeless guy who rants at the buildings and has conversations with the cars. The grim fellow who only eats white bread, sleeps in a disused basement, and has a machete to hand whenever he needs it.

All technologies are demons, and the sorcerors are the ones who've mostly forgotten how to deal with 'em. Regular folks like you and I are the ones who have 10 dice to Bind computers; the sorcerors are re-learning that, but in relearning they've picked up a few new tricks that Machine never expected.

I might possibly develop a few factions, or emphasise certain combinations of powers... so maybe there will be Machinists after all, enslaved to technology, but able to do amazing things with a bad computer. And I still don't have a stated Narrative Premise, which I want.

Technology as a parasite. Yeah. Yeah... yeah. =)

Right, I'll post s'more metaphysics to my http://www.livejournal.com/users/broin">LJ.

Joe.
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lumpley
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« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2002, 07:58:25 AM »

My friend and former minion Michelle said to me, "Vincent, I think I'm finally getting the computers here to like me."

I said, "great god in heaven, Michelle, are you mad?  No wonder you have to call me in.  Every day, I want you to stab your finger at the computer like this, and say 'work, or I will hit you with a brick and put you in the dumpster out back.'"

She hasn't called me for geek support since.

A pointless but short story.

-Vincent
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Bailywolf
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Posts: 729


« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2002, 08:27:35 AM »

Joe,

Sorry I ran away with things.  I tend to riff when I like something.  Just ignore the man behind the curtain.  

I have a fairly fundamental question- and this comes from the purly mean, practacle side of may nature that milks the Hero system to get all the possible juice from the fewiest possible points:  

Why would I want to play one of these guys?

Their 'powers' are defined esentialy by a terrible failing in their nature- and inability to get along with tools.  Unless there is some big pay-off for the monumental pain in the ass... I can't see wanting to take on the roll of one.  I'm a bit of a throw-back here on the Forge.  I think 'kewlness' is a definite requirement for a game.  Otherwise, what's the point?  You have reality (and who wants that).

What is the payoff for being a... ah... sidelong sorcerer of machines?
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Joe Murphy (Broin)
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Posts: 178


« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2002, 08:43:37 AM »

Quote from: Bailywolf


Their 'powers' are defined esentialy by a terrible failing in their nature- and inability to get along with tools.  Unless there is some big pay-off for the monumental pain in the ass... I can't see wanting to take on the roll of one.  I'm a bit of a throw-back here on the Forge.  I think 'kewlness' is a definity requirement for a game.  Otherwise, what's the point?  You have reality (and who wants that).

What is the payoff for being a... ah... sidelong sorcerer of machines?


Aye, there's the rub.

There are two answers to that question, and I have only one of the answers.

Most of the time, I use roads in straightforward ways. In fact, because I'm not a sorceror, I *only* get to use roads in straightforward ways. Sorcerors can tame roads and take I95 all the way to Sydney. They can jumble a hard drive in moments. They can draw on the power of a gun to intimidate a crowd, or find a taxicab at the last moment. Possibly they can persuade a bed to tell who last slept there, or follow a dollar bill through various pockets.

So they do get cool powers. This is still Sorceror, but this time, some of the demons are *stuff* (and the other kind of demons are those urges you mentioned).

Possibly, they can detect (Contact) and apport (Summon) objects too. I think characters will probably own a few key items. Their initial bound demon will be something like a bicycle they befriended, or a trusted gun.

The other answer is 'so what do they do with the kewl powerz?' and I have very little idea of that so far. I'm not sure what the conflicts are in the setting.

And it was a great riff. Dayum. =) I'm still thinking about it...

Joe.
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Bailywolf
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« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2002, 09:12:03 AM »

Gotcha!  They can make use of a road's inherent nature to provide transport (ie: in Demon terms, the travel and transport abilities)... but can expect no 'free ride' of they want to just go up to the corner store and get a pack of smokes...

Very cool (even if it does raise questions of playability... how does the character just get by and live without constantly rolling to compell and bind?).

I can see two primary modes of binding based on which trait is used.  For stamina, it involves kicking, spitting, and shaking machines.  For Will, cursing, cojoiling, and intimidating.  The juy that attacks parcking meters with a baseball bat vs the guy who screams at cars.  




What you need is a third element; something which penetrates all aspects of your setting, something that equalizes, breaks down, destroys machines as easily as flesh.  Entropy.

Sorcerers live in the worst part of town, because among the decay, the machines are listless, responsive, lazy.  They don't attack as often because their essential functions are disintigrating.  By the oposite token, humans who dwell in highly entropic environments are energized with the forces of self destruction.  The urges feed off the entropy, getting stronger, getting louder, getting out of wack.  Madness, depravity, violence, hatred, dispair... all these things manifest much more strongly in the bad part of town; the part of town sodden with entropy.  

So you have Flesh, Machine which consumes Flesh, and Entropy which destroys Machine and drives Flesh mad.

Oil was once flesh.  Machines burn oil.  In the burning, both are destroyed.

To escape the hateful Machines, a sorcerer flees into the entropy ridden inner city... but there, he is confronted with entropy-bloated Flesh and it's demonic urges.  So he rides the perpherie, lurking outside Starbucks less the espresso machines try and steam him, while skirting housing projects to avoid the maddened urge-demons who recognize him as victim-confidant.

What you have is a game a razor-walking, of maintaining ballance between inner and outer entropy, between flesh and machine, between decaying urban mad houses and sterile, lethal industrial parks.  Wandering, wary, watchful... for someone who understands what it's like.


This isn't about alienation... it's about mobility, about constant furitive movement, about alwaysing moving.  About leaving things behind.  About loosing things.  About being lost.  Alienation is a sense, a feeling.  Here, you can never trust your feelings.  Your own myrid drives will hapily swarm up into your mind and devour you, just as surely as they do those you infect with entropy, and just as surely as an unbound, unbroken machine will chew off your leg.  

Entropy becomes both savior and damnation; too much and everyone around you goes mad, too little and the machines try and kill you.  Not too much, not too little.  Sorcerers must ballance their environments between chaos and order, between death by Flesh or death by Machine.

Sorcerers must work with entropy, but be careful not to become too stained with it.  It molifies the machine, but maddens the flesh.  A Judas Christ, savior and betrayer all in one.





Jeepers... I ramble on
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lumpley
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« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2002, 09:22:00 AM »

Maybe, but you sold me at least.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2002, 09:34:47 AM »

Problem: I'm lookin' at all this and I see it all in Unknown Armies.

Solutions are welcome.

Best,
Ron
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Joe Murphy (Broin)
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« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2002, 10:27:24 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

Problem: I'm lookin' at all this and I see it all in Unknown Armies.

Solutions are welcome.



I worried about that too, but I think it's cool.

For a start, there are some important thematic and metaphysical differences. In UA, everything is humanity's responsibility. Demons are dead humans, the gods of the universe are humans with a little more know-how than the rest of us, and magicians are just another flavor of human. There are no big monsters, and no big forces. We're all in this together.

With 'Modern Things', all of humanity has deluded itself into ignoring a colossal, impersonal force, and just a few people realise that. The world as I see it is much more like Kult, I think, or bits of UnderWorld. And in that sense, it opposes Sorceror's advice to avoid conspiracies.

UA is set in the real world with a couple of twists. Modern Things, for the PCs, is set in a very unfamiliar world. If you don't tame the road before travelling someplace, you might end up in Albuquerque rather than the West End of London.

UA magicians are defined by their obsessions, and are divided into schools of magic. MT magicians are defined by their inability to deal with the world, and don't have factions or similar commonality. Their goals may be entirely unrelated to the fact that they can't deal with toasters.

UA and MT do cross over slightly, in that madness is a common theme. In both settings, you end up with shabby people in shabby coats who can't cope with the world.

But the major thrust of the sorcery in this setting is that all technology is demonic, and I haven't seen that anywhere else.

In MT, mankind has deluded itself into trusting a certain worldview. I was very much inspired by http://www.plastic.com/article.pl?sid=02/02/05/1613255">this thread on Plastic.com. I might read about CIA conspiracies in the 60s, yet still blindly assume that the present government is more trustworthy. Why is that?

And I don't drive, so it shocks me that people drive over the speed limit, and ignore http://www.hwysafety.org/safety_facts/safety.htm">statistics. 40,000 people die on the roads each year in the US? But people still speed? Wow. There must be a reason for that... they're delusional. Pow, that's the game: people have deluded themselves about technology.

How's that, Ron?

Baily's riffs on the topic may be emphasising things I wouldn't emphasise, and the thread itself has snowballed alarmingly. I hope to capture much more of the flavor of the setting in the next couple of days, along with some rules, and that should make discussion a lot easier.

Best,

Joe.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: February 06, 2002, 11:00:48 AM »

Looking pretty good, Joe. I suggest checking out Raven's mini-supplement, Electric Ghosts, which provides a fairly extensive treatment of technology-as-demonic, although I think the "world" of Electric Ghosts and that of your notion (I really like the title, Modern Things) are pretty different.

Best,
Ron
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greyorm
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« Reply #14 on: February 06, 2002, 12:35:16 PM »

Yep, the EG "world" (such as it is) is definitely different from MT; but that certainly stems from the definitions of sorcery and what it takes.

Sure, both are about demonic technology, and both posit that technology isn't what we believe it to be, but it seems that the sorcerers of each setting are different in their abilities and understandings.

From what I'm seeing, MT definitely sounds cool.  I look forward to more on it.

Heck, I don't wonder if I might do some updating to EG to make MT its flipside (with your permission, of course)...when you've lost all your humanity, you can't connect with the machines anymore, not normally, because you KNOW what they ARE.

Course, I'd have to figure out how to make that work with the current end result of 0 Humanity -- where you become a machine, you become a tool, you're not the user anymore, but you who is being used.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
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