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July 6th, 2006

10:38 am - Copper Zombie, Take my Hand
The fiction of my late teens and twenties seems very much to have been dominated by retrospectives, pastiches, homages and so on. To be clear, by 'the fiction' I mean the fiction I consumed and was greatly impressed by at the time, as opposed to the business of fiction creation at large in my time. ('My time' is such a shonky phrase, but sometimes shonky gets the job done.)

I read somewhere that this could be a perfectly natural thing; a result of our measurement of time. We saw the eighties and the nineties as the closing of a cycle, the twentieth century, and like the end of an episode of Jordan's Crossing, we retired to our father's bar and attempted to work out what the fuck had just happened.

I don't know if fiction near the end of the nineteenth century did much the same thing, and if this were a serious academic work, infused with the pomp and splendour of finely crafted observations and such, I'd probably have a looksee, but I haven't the energy and to do so would be to fall prey to the procrastination that often plagues me. With this I plan to have some thoughts recorded as quickly as possible and then get out as soon as possible.

At any rate, even if the Victorians and their contemporaries in other countries and cultures who used the same calender didn't do this it makes no matter, because they were merely staring down the barrel of a fresh century; we had to deal with (approximately anyway) the end of the second millennium since the story a carpenter - who in a surprise twist turned out to be the Kwisatz Haderach and got nailed to a cross for his troubles - reached a kind of resolution. Bet the authors of that one were surprised to see themselves out sell (barely) Dan Brown.

Anyways, millennium and such. What the hell have we been doing for the last one thousand years and was it worth it? Not that I think for a minute most people give a fuck as to whether or not the Rennaissance fully made up for the Dark Ages or even whether or not the Industrial Revolution has been fully understood, they want to know about things still in living memory. It's interesting to see that as more and more things are recorded the habit of humans to not give a shit about things that happened before they were alive is largely unaltered. This is fair enough to a degree; when rent is due I could care less whether or not Charlemagne's attempt to deliver literacy to his people really worked because of him or despite him, or, as it turned out, became a large turd that stunk up the country because he went about it the wrong way. Still, in a world where Bush can deny having then things that he was recorded saying a few years ago, things may have truly come to a head.

I read an essay somewhere else - as opposed to the other unnamed location of the other thing I've already confessed to have read - about the culture of memory. Basically the guy wrote about how traditionally memory was a survival trait and kinda really good to have. In an age of mass media storage and the density of information storage devices (my ipod can half half a gig and it's a low-end shuffle, it cost barely over a hundred and can play music as well as hold things, compare that to the cost of storage even ten years previous) and the growing array of devices designed to organise us and help us remember things, implied to this guy that we were truly the first generation of cyborgs.

Not only do we (and by we I mean people who live much the same way I do) have machines to ease or eliminate lots of crappy work - surrogate bodies - we carry around phones and pdas and such that act as surrogate memories. The cheapness and potential redundancy of such storage helps protect information loss by copies of everything being everywhere and increasingly easier to get (p2p I'm looking at YOU in particular). If I wanted to really push the metaphor I'd say that the massive amounts of media we are exposed to that bombard us with such a high barrage of high velocity information that we lack the imagination and the awareness to fully understand, that a melodramatist could call them surrogate personalities. I won't though, because all that really says is that we are changed as much by our environment as we change it. What. A. Fucking. Shock.

Still, we have an unprecedented level of potential control over our external environments and our internal environments. People have been recreationally doing this for the existence of the species (the cavemen had music and music has very real mind altering powers), but we have a culture where people can spend all their time doing this, and people who can make a living creating recreational environment changes for others.

If you want to learn something about a complicated system you can get some insight by gathering statistics on the system's effects and results and play with inputs into that system and studying how the statistics change. Eventually you might learn enough to create formulae that predict the system totally and thus grant you total control. It's not that easy if at all possible, because every system we might define (and any discrete system we name has been defined by us and only exists in our minds) is entwined with all the other systems we've concocted.

My point though, is that the more data you gather the better chance you have or working shit out. The cultural/intellectual/technological etc etc output of a culture is a good way to gain insights into that culture. If you wanted to learn about some differences between, say the Swedes of the 1980s and the English of the 1880s (assuming it's somehow useful to you for this comparison to be accurately made), a look at their factories, how they're run, what they do, their impact on their surroundings should give some insight. A capsule summary of such a comparison, by the way, would probably go like this:
'Gee, the Swedish seem like a caring and sharing bunch, especially in contrast with those Victorians; man, those guys are douche bags!'
Fiction is also another way to have a look at what people think, but instead of comparing the qualities of different peoples, we might look at one group of people over time. Pulp fiction is one of my favourite things. Pissed upon from great heights by wanktards who ought never to have been taught to read and ironically have often made less useful contributions to the literary world than the turd you pushed out last night, pulp is pushed out in such quantity and read by so many that it serves as a good source of data. Also, Charles Dickens wrote pulp in his day, he just happened to be really fucking good at it and so we call him worthy. Pulp has it's own formulas which are often more easily apparent than in other areas of writing (due to the volume) and certainly genres are defined by their formulas, but pulp sees it's fair share of innovations, some of which survive the Darwinian pool of the mass paperback market and make it's way to other sectors where it is often hailed as new and important. (This is not always the case, pulp is not the sole cause of literary originality in our culture, but things created there have force; recent pirate, superhero and science fiction movie blockbusters all found their roots in pulp fiction earlier last century and do not exist without pulp.

People who are much smarter than me happen to agree and thus it was that people like Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Kim Newman, Tim Powers and others were/are intrigued enough to have a look at our pulpish past and poke around. Some works which have strong connections to what I've been writing about are Warren Ellis' Planetary, Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Tim Power's piratey, zombie book (can't remember the title right now), and Kim Newman's Anno Dracula books.

Anno Dracula and the LoEG have more in common with the other two, both being concerned with Victorian English fiction and the reams of characters and tropes that people read about at the time. Some of those characters survived, such as Dracula or Sherlock Holmes, and others were only relevant to the time they were born and languish in obscurity. These works are less concerned (to me, anyway) with the type of stories told then, but finding new stories to tell with those characters. Any one familiar with the characters and the stories riffed off can find insight into the incongruities of the plots and scenes which might tell us something about the Victorians then and us now.

Planetary is more concerned with the genres from a variety of cultures during the century and (initially at least) is a sequence of artfully composed snap shots of other fictional times, again with certain incongruities that make it worth reading above and beyond mere entertainment. Not that entertainment should ever really be described as 'mere'. Anything that can distract us from the stench of rotting bodies coming from next door's garage...

Power's piratey work is a darker re-imagining of...a Disney World ride. One of my favourite examples of the resonance of culture is some people (myself included) seeing much of Power's book in that movie that had Johnny Depp playing Keith Richards in it, and working ourselves delicately up to accusations of 'Plagarist bastards! Cunts! You can have Pocahontas, but leave us zombie pirates you shits!' only to catch ourselves just in time to be reminded that Disney invented the combination of pirates and zombies in our culture and to discover that Tim Powers was kind of writing a love letter to something he'd loved as a child. Ahem. Close one.

The Pulp Zombie universe mentioned previously in this journal is composed of much of the structures and motivations of things I've cited in this post and others. (I have gone nowhere near Jeff Noon's ideas on cultural remixing because I don't have all day to write this)
To take cultural artefacts familiar to people and add incongruities of time and place that make the old seem new and allow newish (gash of course, nothing is new blah blah blah...but we persevere anyway) things to be done with them.

It's entirely appropriate that this universe be born out of the roleplaying convention circuit; which is possibly more culturally rapacious than Hollywood, possibly in a good way, in that it is a grass-roots kind of rapine and not a billion dollar industry, although you;d have to prefer grassroots-type activities to big industries for that to be true I suppose. Anyways, from a place where the structure of a scenario used a thousand times can be made fun again by making the Wiggles cybernetically enhanced contract killers and having them sent back in time to ensure a dark future, it fits that the next convention scenario to be ran in the PZ universe be set in London in the sixties, but be a kind of Oliver Twist, Jack the Ripper situation featuring an underclass of people called copper zombies, Australian convicts' slang for criminals deliberately crippled with prosthetics, later on extended to all those unfortunates 'blessed' with the bulky copper-laden cybernetics of the early nineteenth century.

Just so you know, in this world Australia is still being used as a prison colony of sorts late into the nineteenth century. All England's worse prisons are there and when the convicts are released (if ever) they are denied pass ports and are now Australian (second and third-class) citizens.

Anyways, the title of the scenario 'Copper Zombie, Take my Hand' is a reference to a self-congratulatory movie popular at the time about how tough the Copper Zombies have it and how good the English are being by building soup kitchens for them and 'raising awareness' about their plight. I'm going to have a look through English directors of the time, find one I don't like, and make him responsible for it. He will be this world's equivalent of those (and I speak as a kind of lefty) chardonnay commies who talk more shit than I do and get less done than I do. In them I see my dark fate and so I hate them.

The plot will concern something with the return of Saucy Jack and the murder of both zombie and copper zombie prostitutes. Because the plight of our undead brethren is trendy in this time, the copper zombies are getting a bit of the short end of the stick (aside from being mutilated and murdered of course). There will be (probably superficial because how much can you get done in one or two gaming sessions?) examinations of the circumstances that create and perpetuate poverty, even in wealthy nations and the relationship between majorities fucking minorities and minorities in power fucking minorities who have less power and all that fun stuff that made Orwell want to kill us all.

Christ, it's after midday. I'm done with this for today.

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July 5th, 2006

05:58 am - Insomnia
In between watching old episodes of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report (I have about a month and a half worth to catch up on) I've been thinking about the game that Mik proposed we write together. I find myself amused by the idea that before I've recovered from one con, that I'm in negotiation regarding the stricture of a game for a con that won't be ran until next year. This from a guy who has only finished a game sooner than the morning it was due to be run once in his life. Hopefully we have a turn around here.

I've also been thinking about the rituals and tropes of con games, trying to work out why what happens, happens and whether or not there is any profit to be found in rewriting or ignoring said tropes. Things like the wisdom that characters are only taken out of play (usually killed, but there are other ways, and in some games death is not a real impedance) when there is fifteen minutes or less to go in the last session of the game. On the plus side this allows players the freedom to explore in ways they wouldn't normally, but it does seem a bit arbitrary to me.

Debriefing. Telling the players what they missed, giving out back story, that sort of thing. Fairly ambivalent about this one. I can see that players might get a kick out of it, and if a gm has put a lot of work into a back story than it's easy to see that they'd want to display it. (ie: the Pulp Zombie games Joel, Dan and myself have been involved in)

On the other hand, Shane Erikson also puts a fuckload of work into the backgrounds for his games (fifty, sixty pages sometimes) and he never really gives it up at the end. What the players have found out in the game is largely what they're going to get. For him the construction of a detailed background is interesting to him on it's own merits and allows him to provide verisimilitude, where the background provides him with perspective and a way to describe things that normally might not have arisen. I find myself drawn to this side of things more than the debriefing, if only ideologically.

Not all the work a GM does should be displayed. Should players come out of things having been told everything? I think most people would want to know, if only as paying customers, but I don;t think I'm one of them. Not all the time anyway.

In the last pulp zombie game I ran, the characters spent a lot of time living amongst a tribe of neandertal descendants, who lived at the base of a tower made out of blistered, charred bubbles of silicate that weaved up into the sky for seventeen kilometres. The neandertals lived in constructions of a similar nature that seemed to have been designed for them to live in.

How to get into the tower and the mystery of what it was occupied a fair chunk of the player's thoughts and the second session in particular revolved around player efforts to get into the tower and find out what it was.

In this instance my goal was to get them into the tower, have them explore it, and perhaps figure out what it was and how to make it work. If it didn't seem likely that they were going to solve the problem, I was going to end the session with the idea that it was possibly unsolvable in the short term and the session would have ended with the players defending their fledgling kingdom against others. Maybe in the future they would know.

If they had solved the problem they would have learned that the tower was a wormhole generator created by the martians to escape a Mars they had partially lost to Neandertals and would totally lose to vengeance seeking humans. The players would probably have gone through the tower and have found themselves trapped on the new Martian world on a world orbiting Alpha Centauri. A cliffhanger ending.

I had a number of ways in which the game would turn out, what 'truth' was real depended on where the players went. If they had gone no where near the tower there were other plot lines all together totally different, for one the Martians were only losing if the Tower storyline was followed. I used this strategy because I have very strong improvisational skills and I only needed to pre-establish some basic story structures and some pre-defined details to have a unique story be present wherever the players went.

In the session I'm speaking of, we ran out of time, unfortunately, and so I blue-booked their discovery of the tower in a brief and (for me and probably for the players) unsatisfying fashion which ended with their going to the new world.

How do I debrief something like that? There were a number of possible stories they could have ran into, but didn't. Some of them can co-exist, some cannot.

There are weaknesses to the structure, namely that hand outs and things that add verisimilitude to the game are not easily done. Not that I've finished a game soon enough to worry about such things beyond the essentials anyway... :)

With Mik I am going to totally have to rework the way I do things. I have no real idea how any other gm writes for a con and so I have to go back to school. This is clearly a good thing as my vaguely formed opinions of my own strategies in writing are likely to be brought into stark relief. Mik is a much more experienced (and succesful it must be said) con writer/gm than myself and I imagine a few short, sharp kicks to the arse are forthcoming.

From his own LJ has expressed concerns over the co-writing process; this is new for him too.

About the only thing I think I'm going to insist on is that if we deviate from SR canon, we have to know why. If all else fails I think out default goal should be fidelity to the material.

This does not refer to the rules, Mik has suggested not using the SR rule set at all and I kind of agree with him, but I am not sure if his reasons are my reasons. Something else to discuss I suppose.

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July 4th, 2006

11:13 am - I am violating my own rules.
In an early post I stated that this journal would only be used for Earthdawn-related material. I had (now obviously delusional) visions of an electronic document, bulging at the seams with background material, house rules and discussion. It didn't work for a number of reasons (laziness being king here) and I have used it recently only for keeping in contact with mareth_redorb outside of Dwarf hours.

In an attempt to get me writing more again, I have cut mornings out of my regular Sunday role-playing sessions and have resolved to spend some time in those mornings writing.

Not fifteen minutes ago, I decided that this nearly defunct journal would be a good place to write in, it ocurring to me that writing in it on a semi-regular basis would be a good way to write regularly, and not just on Sundays.

Since Dwarfcon just finished, I might start some essay-type thingies on the gaming universe Joel Purton, Dan Wheeler and myself co-created to write convention games in. I secretly call it the Pulp Zombie universe, but I have plans to abandon this as soon as I can find something a more suitable name. Although two of the three games have featured zombies as a (very) main component, they are not the singular focus of the place. This was made starkly apparent to me in a conversation with mareth_redorb after Dwarfcon on Sunday, where he reasonably (considering the information he had) objected to my running games set previous to the appearance of zombies because they, in his eyes, were the point of the thing.

While I have focused heavily on the zombie element, this is mainly because zombies are fun and make for good con games. Would you rather be a human commando or a zombie commando? Which one gets to use the medic's acidic blood as the main component of a healing unguent? Which one gets to roll onto anti-personal land mines as a viable method for clearing them?

That being said, there's all sorts of things to be played with: the so-called copper zombies, Rasputin's Children, Tesla's influence on Victorian society, the Damocles Club, Moriarty and the whole sorcerous scene, Atlantean Neaderthals etc. In the more mundane area, what happens to things like the mining industry in a Thatcherian England when zombies can be made that won;t form unions? Would a Thatcherian England come about considering the vast political changes brought about if only because Martians invaded in 1915 and slowed England's Tesla-fuelled conquest of Europe by a few years? Why did Tesla give his toys to England?

And so on, and so on.

All this should also not obscure my plan that the universe we've started to put together be kind of our version of Ellis's original idea for Planetary: an examination of the fictional genres of the 20th century. I also want the zombies to stand as a metaphor for more than a generic minority group which can be used to replace jews, blacks, women etc etc. The Prometheus breed in particular can be used as 'slaves become the masters and enslaving the old masters' and 'technology becomes self-aware and may rise up' and a few other things I can't quite put words to right now.
Current Mood: lethargiclethargic
Current Music: Probably Tom Waits soon. What else is there?

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January 7th, 2006

07:52 am - Stop gap which will probably work and become permanent
I cannot find my expanded weapons/armour lists. The list on this journal is incomplete and I can't (right now) be bothered pulling out all the scraps of paper (masquerading as my notes) to reassemble it.

I am however, concerned that with the rules for improved defenses that I've been using for at least a year now, Dex is too much of a power stat. I have a quick fix and I'm going to implement it in both my ED games from this date forwards, if only experimentally.


All throwing weapons use Dex to hit and damage.
All Melee weapons size 3 and larger use Str to hit and damage, exception: whip, which uses dex.
All melee weapons size 1 and 2 use dex to hit, and str for damage.*
Missile weapons use Per.

*Crossbows still have their own str rating, and blowguns never do more than 1 step damage.

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December 8th, 2005

04:06 pm - Expanded critical hit rules
Mythic Combat

Mythic combat adds two new success levels to the game. It enables obscene amounts of damage (or effect rolls for spells) that might easily overpower the more powerful creatures/opponents in the game with ease. Because the levels, if unlocked are available to all characters, it also enables the chance for minor opponents to score truly amazing attacks before they are hacked into giblets.

These rules also contain reworked effects for the normal success levels.

On a good success, the options are: 1-3 Nasty blow +1 step damage
4-6 Nasty wound (-1 WT)

On an excellent success, the options are: 1-3 Terrible blow +3 (+25%) damage
4-6 Terrible wound (-3 WT)

On an extraordinary success, the options are: 1-2 Mortal blow +5 (+50%) damage
3-4 Mortal wound (-3, -25% WT)
5-6 Armour defeating hit

On a cataclysmic success, roll two options from extraordinary. Roll as normal for the first and then use 1-3,4-6 for the remaining two.

On a legendary success, use all three options.

The players may decide whether or not cataclysmic and legendary successes are to be unlocked for any given fight. For the sake of ease, this will be called unlocking mythic combat. All players must agree for this to occur. Players may unlock the higher successes in any fight, if they choose.

The GM may also decide to unlock mythic combat. Generally it is recommended the GM use this as a way of signalling to the players that the shit is about to hit every fan available. In the major fights, when the GM unlocks the higher levels, players may be awarded with free karma commensurate to the difficulty. A guideline is provided below. GMs may choose to award karma to players who willingly unlock mythic combat on fights the GM was probably going to anyway, but not necessarily.

Damage Wounds Deaths Victory Award
Easy Fight maybe probably not very unlikely a given none
Difficult Fight a given maybe possible likely +5
Hard Fight definitely a given likely probably +10 or 25% of maximum
Suicidal Fight loads loads probably unlikely +15 or 50% of maximum

These are rough benchmarks and do not take into account players tipping the balance in their favour via trickery, tactics and strategy. Generally speaking it’s a gut-call on the GM as to what

This karma must be kept track of separately; if it is not used during the battle it is lost.

When these abilities are unlocked, the GM may be awarded karma. Every time a player kills, incapacitates or otherwise defeats an unwounded (ie no wounds) opponent in one cataclysmic or legendary attack, the GM is awarded a karma point. Every time a player kills, incapacitates or otherwise defeats an undamaged opponent in one cataclysmic or legendary attack, the GM is awarded three karma points.

The karma points available to a GM may be spent to enhance the success of any roll made by any NPC/ creature. The level of the karma is equal to whatever karma would normally be available to the creature/NPC/ Horror or 1d8 if no karma is normally available. Karma points accrued by the GM are brought from one session to another. The score of such points should be kept account in the open. (ie: on the blackboard) to keep in the players’ clear view the price they are paying for destroying low level combatants with ease.

At the end of the session, karma points awarded the GM that session are multipled by 25% of the legend award value for the session and divided amongst the players.

example: seven points won, awards are worth 200, 7*50 = 350 to be allocated.

The actual target numbers for the higher difficulties are to be found in my expanded success level chart, which as well as having the new levels is tweaked for a more mathematically regular progression. The chart will be posted as soon as I can find the bastard (it's in a note book somewhere). Not that players need to see it anyway, all they need to know is "high rolls are still good". Bastard monkey players.

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October 5th, 2005

09:49 am - Notes on Thread Magic theory
Thread Magic, Pattern Items and Thread Items

From ED 2nd Ed

“Thread Magic is the process by which a thread of magical energy is woven into an existing True Pattern, thereby strengthening and enhancing that Pattern. Magicians of higher Circles can weave threads to any True Pattern, such as those possessed by any Named person, place, or thing. Once a character has learned the knowledge contained in a True Pattern, he can use thread magic to turn that knowledge to his advantage.”

From Magic 1st Ed

“Thread Magic enables adepts to manipulate magic using strands of magical energy called threads. Two types of magical threads exist: spell threads and pattern threads, and both share certain traits. Spell threads represent finite strands of magical energy that are used to power certain spells. As described in the Spell Magic section of the ED rulebook, most spell patterns are too complex to fit in entirely in a spell matrix. In such cases, a magician must complete a spell’s pattern before he can cast the spell. Unlike pattern threads, all spell threads offer the exact same quantity and quality of magical energy, regardless of the Circle of the magician or his Thread Weaving rank. In other words a spell thread is a spell thread is a spell thread.

Adepts use pattern threads to connect the magical patterns of two or more people, places or things. Two types of pattern threads exist; temporary threads and permanent threads. To this point, the ED rules have discussed only permanent pattern threads, the type created when weaving threads to magical treasure or pattern items. Weaving permanent threads requires an adept to spend a number of Legend Points, based on the type of item the thread is being woven to and the rank of the thread being woven. This expenditure of Legend Points creates the permanent thread.

To weave temporary pattern threads, an adept performs an act of willpower to create the thread and usually suffers a number of Strain points in order to use the thread. Primarily, temporary threads are used with Thread Weaving knacks.”


The world is alive with magical energy, which is ordered into patterns.

Because magic permeates everything in the physical world, all people, places and things have patterns.

These patterns allow all things to exist and make it possible for magic to potentially affect or interact with any person, place, or thing.

Patterns are static in nature; left to themselves they do not change over time.

A pattern only changes by interacting with other patterns in significant ways.

Significant interaction always adds to a patterns complexity and power.


Naming is important because it focuses the world’s magical forces into a Pattern.

Naming only occurs in conjunction with the interaction of magic and a person, place or thing.

Magic can be introduced deliberately through a talent, spell, or ritual (eg: Forge Weapon or a child’s coming-of-age Naming ritual), or accidentally.

The use of powerful magic items near a person, place or thing may spontaneously Name it.

Most Named patterns are low in magic and effectively negligible, except occasionally on a personal level.

The stand of trees behind your home might be Named “the grove” or “those trees out back”.

There is nothing particularly important about those trees and they do not stand out magically.

The oak tree that is Named Where I First Kissed My Wife-To-Be however, has a measurable power over you and others who had any stake in the Naming, such as your wife, the man you competed with for her love and so on.

Such a personal Naming that has little if any significance to others almost never creates a True Pattern.

A thread weaver however, can use that tree to link to your pattern more effectively once he is aware of its significance.

Nobody knows if a Name exists and has power *before* anybody knows it, there is evidence either way.

If malevolent creatures chase the wounded hero Samaran into that grove one night and kill him, things change.

The death of an adept is a magical event often powerful enough to etch itself into the surrounding patterns.

The grove of trees may now be Samaran’s Demise. It has a Name that has enough power to make the grove into a True Pattern.


All Name-Givers must have a Name to be able to Name.

All Name-Givers have a Name, even if it is self-imposed.

People are Named and re-Named at various stages in their lives.

Most cultures Name just after birth.

Some cultures allow a child to re-Name in a coming-of-age ritual.

In other cultures a person can choose to, or can be, re-Named at any time as a symbol of a new beginning of a new stage of life.

Naming a person for the first time form his or her True Pattern.

Re-Naming can change a True Pattern. (An ork named Horror-Stalker by an overbearing father will never be the same again.)

If the change is too drastic, a break in continuity, an adept may lose all their abilities and talents in their Discipline(s) and is in effect an entirely new person.

It is not unheard of for memories to change and be destroyed in such a re-Naming. (see the fate of many Therans in Vasgothia for a good example of this)


Places are usually named for their association with important events and powerful magic. (see the grove of trees example above as one example).

Magicians who name their sanctums or workplaces create for themselves an area that becomes an extension of them and gives the, great power.

Circle 14 and 15 circles spells are able to Name every place in which they are cast.

Even Theran magicians rarely cast circle 14 and 14 spells.

Naming a place in honour of a powerful individual or creature can be dangerous to the being thus ‘honoured’ as that person’s True Pattern becomes echoed into the place and thus anything from that place becomes a direct link.

Most cultures thus prefer to honour their heroes posthumously.


Important items and objects are usually Named when created.

Creation of a magical item requires naming to focus enough energy to create the True Pattern.

Non-magical items are often Named by their owners and occasionally become magical, especially for example, if an adept refuses to use any other sword than that which belonged to his father and is renowned for performing great deeds with the sword.


Patterns that become especially unique and important to Name-Givers are True Patterns.

A True Pattern can be seen as a blueprint for what is represents.

True Patterns define not only physical nature but also the metaphysical.

Abilities, talents, skills, knowledge, psychology and history all defined and depicted within a Name-Giver’s True Pattern.

This holds true for all places and things that have a True Pattern.


The specific knowledge contained within a True Pattern.

Pattern knowledge is made up of Key Knowledges.

Each Key Knowledge represents one specific piece of information about the True Pattern.

Most (if not all) True Patterns contain more Key Knowledges than can be ever learned in any Name-Giver’s lifetime, there are simply too many permutations and angles of perception to fully assimilate.

Very few Key Knowledges are potent enough to be used for magical purposes, these are either the easiest to discern or nearly impossible to even perceive.


People and places that have True Patterns may become associated with items that reflect the knowledge stored within their patterns.

These are usually personal possessions or items directly associated with the person or place.

Objects cannot themselves have pattern items associated with them.

Studying a Pattern Item can bring understanding of and insight into the True Pattern that influenced it.

It is proximity to and association with a True Pattern that creates most Pattern Items.

Adepts and magicians have next to no control over this process, although Naming objects can help kick things along.

There are three types of Pattern Items: minor, major and core.


Are very hard to detect magically.

Have no distinct physical appearance that will identify them as pattern items.

No special physical properties.

Usually spontaneously created.

Rarely have more than personal importance. (favourite walking stick)


More resistant to physical damage than a comparable, non-magical item.

Must usually have been created deliberately as a vessel for magic in order to become a major pattern item.

Minor items sometimes become major items as they grow in importance in relation to the supporting True Pattern.

For such an event to occur, the minor item must have existed as such for at least three months (roughly).

Major items are almost always of psychological importance. (favourite weapon)


Creation of a core item marks a major turning point or significant event in the life of the person or place.

A core item will be protected from destruction by coincidence and fortune as much as possible.

Even if physically destroyed, the item will reform in a time frame ranging from one day to a year and a day.

It may appear anywhere in the physical world when it has reformed.

A major item may become a core item but only after it has existed as a major item for a year and a day.

Core items have intrinsic spiritual significance for the person or place, often a key as to their identity. (a king’s crown or an ork warlord’s metal gauntlets)


The first pattern item created for a character or place is always minor.

A major pattern item is only created for a character or place once a minor item exists.

A core item is only created for a character or place once a major item exists.


A Pattern Item that can, or has had, Threads woven to it.

Current Mood: geeky
Current Music: Tom Waits - (album) Real Gone

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July 15th, 2005

06:52 pm - Nature of adepts and their powers.
(This is incomplete. The title is currently incorrect as I got caught up on some bullshit metaphysics as to the nature of adepts and never got to the non-adepts. So far. :) )

Non-Adepts in Earthdawn

Adepts are as a group, the greatest concentration of magical, political and social power within namegiver society wherever they are found. (There are some areas where adepts’ powers are not functional and others where talent use is dangerous to the adept.)
The power that charges an adept’s pattern and allows them to use talents (and all their other abilities) is situational and amoral. There are few if any ethical or competence requirements that allow one name-giver to develop as an adept and another not to.
Without a detailed structure an adept’s power is unfocused and largely useless. Disciplines originally started out as painstakingly devised exercises and became so efficient that they supplanted any other techniques, although vestiges of older times can be seen in the human Journeyman discipline.
Unlike questors, adepts have no intrinsic moral code that restricts the use and abuse of their powers. Personalities are indeed shaped by the practice of a discipline, leading to stereotypes of adepts being largely accurate if not all prevailing.

Adepts have almost sole access to thread magic. They may create and control threads for a wide variety of uses. They may heal horrendous and crippling wounds at great speeds with virtually no long-term effects, up to and including recovering from a severed limb if the part is pressed against the stump while the adept focuses on his healing mantra. Adepts are very resistant to non-magical infection, indeed adepts only get sick because many viruses and diseases are brutally strong either from competing with Horror-borne disease or by being Horror-type diseases originally. There is no drawback from being an adept aside from the social consequences of having access to power that one day may allow you to challenge armies. Not surprisingly many low circle adepts who push their luck before having truly mastered their fledgling powers are murdered by suspicious non-magical name-givers.

Earthdawn is focused on adepts as player characters and the rules reflect this.

This essay will attempt to address and highlight the differences between adepts and non-adepts and supply rules to reflect this contrast.


What is a talent and how is it different from a spell?

In practical terms, a spell is an astral program (or macro, or whatever) that needs to be stored in a matrix for safe utility.

A talent is a series of astral and genetic modifications to an adept’s pattern and body that allow him to stretch and break the laws that govern material reality.

Spells often utilise threads to fill in the details required for the spell to relate successfully to its target.

A talent is able to use the adept’s own body and physical actions as a cue as to the appropriate ‘direction’ for the talent to focus on, and is brute forced through to completion with karma and strain.

A spell is a temporary fleece of wool pulled over reality's eyes, and the details must be complete in every way.

Magic background is simply the level of flexibility in the local laws of reality. Every weird thing that happens in a high magic area is a result of flexible laws competing for supremacy.

A target's spell defence represents the target patterns defences. A pattern must have defences else it would never have had any coherency. Think of it as analogous to surface tension in water.

Patterns change, but preferably from internal forces.

A spell is an invader that must be treated as hostile.

A spell creates a situation that the pattern may or may bot be able to resist.

A spell roll that exceeds the spell defence is representative of a compelling argument that the pattern (and local reality) reality must accept.

Illusions are analogous to glass swords.

There are many sneaky ways around pattern defences, short cuts to take, irrelevant details to be ignored etc, in order to make more apparently powerful effects possible with a comparative amount of effort in a non-illusion spell.

Many spells outside of the illusionist's repertoire might mistakenly be called illusions, and a spell that fails does so in a way identical to a disbelieved illusion or glamour.

Illusions utilise specific techniques that make them very different from a 'normal' spell.

A talent, like a spell, is an attempt to alter reality. It follows the same process, only the details are different.

The threads and matrices are not required.

The power for the talent comes from the same places that make any task in the physical/ mental realms possible, the adept's body and mind or her pattern.

Much of a talent's work goes into making the pattern temporarily able to be able to perform the desired action or effect within a largely unchanged reality.

A spell works directly opposite to this, the adept remains unchanged, as reality swirls around him.

A spell's effect is much more drastic and thus greater power is needed.

Because a non-adept can swing a sword without needing to harvest astral energy, an adept does not have to harvest as much.

Bending flexible rules are still required, as things like muscle fibre strength, synapse speed, gravity and bone load bearing capacity must all be challenged and overcome at least for an instant to enable a swordmaster to run fifteen feet up a wall and deflect an arrow without thirty years of intense training.

Although the defences of a living pattern serve easily as a matrix against most astral energies required to power a talent, a place like the wastelands will tear a pattern apart in an effect exactly the same as what is know as raw magic, casting a spell outside a matrix.

The sudden alterations made to a pattern create stresses and problems that can be 'paid for' in two ways.

The first is simply stress, little rips and tears in the pattern that manifest in the body to alleviate reality's 'disbelief', the other is intense self-belief and visualisation.

Adepts spend a lot of time enacting ritualised modes of behaviour designed to reinforce their vision of their own abilities, hours are spent focusing on themselves in order to more precisely manipulate their own pattern.

The obvious difference in skill with a sword between a novice warrior just starting out and a master warrior with thousands of hours of combat is easy to see.

The master has a greater visualisation of what is possible with a sword and within all those possibilities what can be used.

He is powerful enough in his self-belief and control to order his body and the local reality to agree with him.

The novice is only just getting to grips with the concept that his physical exercises and drills are not quite as important as his ability to order reality to accept that his attacks are unstoppable and deadly.

He lacks the understanding of the arguments he must make.

He knows on a very superficial level he can kill a horror with one blow, but he will not really believe it for many years to come, if he ever does.

Over three quarters of all adepts never become journeymen.

Amongst adepts the will to become a legend is as rare as amongst so-called 'mundane' name-givers.

Not all exceptional namegivers become adepts.

It is often (but quietly) suggested that this is because adepts are people not willing to earn their craft and are satisfied with short cuts and gifts.

If true this would imply that adepts are actually more prone to laziness and greed and impatience than non-adepts.

It is true that power corrupts, but such a theory ignores the intense willpower that must drive an adept to become a master of his discipline.

Upwards movement through the circles of power is not assured.

A lazy adept will remain a low-circle adept.

Many adepts do not ascend the circles because they have power enough to satisfy them and serve in their lives.

The concentration and belief in one's abilities required by an adept to ascend circles rapidly becomes obsession, as it must be.

Adepts that do not reflect on their own powers daily, who do not seek to know themselves, will never be able to convince anyone else of their power.

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January 27th, 2005

01:05 am - Artisan Skills and Artisan Adepts
The first artisan skill an adept acquires adepts becomes a talent. It shall be referred to as an artisan talent.

An artisan talent does not count for purposes of advancing circles in the normal fashion but in fact acts as another talent that must be brought to the appropriate level in order to advance to the next circle.

All artisan skills purchased by an adept become talents.

Karma may only be spent on the first artisan talent an adept acquires. Exception: Weaponsmiths may spend karma on any artisan skill they acquire.

Questors that are also adepts may spend karma on artisan talents used in the service of their passion. If the questor was already able to spend karma on a given artisan talent up to two karma points may be spent.

Any pattern items must be created using appropriate artisan talents. Thread items must be created with appropriate artisan talents and karma must be spent. Exception: Weaponsmiths do not *have* to spend karma when creating thread items but may if they choose to.

There is a type of half-adept that, for game purposes, will be referred to as an Artisan Adept.
They receive karma over time that may only be spent on their artisan talents. Artisan Adepts are born with their artisan talents and may never acquire more. Artisan Adepts are born with varying numbers of artisan talents. An Artisan adept who is also a questor may apply their bonuses to other appropriate skills as well/instead of artisan skills.

Thought: Can an artisan adept prove to be a legendary architect/ engineer *without* the blessing of Upandal?

Probably not.

For a later post: There is a variation of the Artisan Adept called the Knowledge Adept.

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December 26th, 2004

02:57 pm - Battle Group Threads
A Mill Battle Group has access to unique threads and knacks that help simulate the ties that bind them (ultimately) into an organism with five bodies and one guiding mind.

Life Thread

Life Threads help a Battle Group deal with the petty annoyance of one of it’s bodies dying.

A member body must have at least one rank in Life Thread to both benefit from and assist other member bodies.

When a member body dies, all other member bodies take a level one wound.
If the dead body had any recovery tests left before dying, add the lowest rank in Life Thread amongst all member bodies to the body’s base recovery test step and make a recovery test immediately. If the damage dealt to the dead member body is reduced below the death rating, than the next round, the dead body is restored to life. Make a Willpower roll at diff 4+ the amount of damage that exceeded the death rating to act on the round the body was restored to life, otherwise the body is able to act in (twelve minus the higher of the body’s will or toughness step) rounds. Minimum of one.
If the body is not restored to life, then next round every assisting body takes another wound and another recovery test is made.
If the dead body has no recovery tests left, than the free recovery test is made with a step equal to the total calculated earlier.
If multiple bodies are dead, a wound is taken for each dead body and rolls are made simultaneously.
If relevant, all rolls are made at the initiative of the highest initiative rolled by the still living bodies.

Advanced Life Thread

Once all member bodies have attained circle nine, a Life Thread becomes an Advanced Life Thread upon purchase of the knack of the same name.
A dead body with an Advanced Life Thread may not require a free recovery test to gain the benefit of a free recovery test. If the dead body has no available recovery tests, one assisting member with Advanced Life Thread may provide one of its own. The loaned recovery test is made using the toughness step of the assisting body.
Assisting members may take three points of damage in place of a wound if they choose.
Advanced Life Thread recovery rolls are made until the dead body is alive; there is no limit of one roll per round.
The restored body makes a Willpower roll at diff equal to the amount of damage that exceeded the death rating to act on the round the body was restored to life (min 2), otherwise the body is able to act in (twelve minus the higher of the body’s will or toughness step) rounds. Minimum of one.

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Okay, tables don't come out too well in livejournal. SHITS AND FUCKSTICKS!

Help me here people, how do I get around this filthy limitation?

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