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Warehouse run synopsis
Yeah yeah, I promised this breakdown weeks ago. Not much I can do about it when BioWare releases the new Espionauts expansion the day after the run. (I'm a level 87 Atom Mole now, with Synergy. And that's without hacking. IR1337.)

But the run was pretty cool too. Now that I'm remembering it, it kinda kicked ass! I spent most of my cash buying new toys, and I even got the chance to play with em this time! Shiny things FTW, especially when they can fly autonomously and fire white phosphorus among other things.

The meet 'n' greet started on the matrix, as I mentioned last time. The Johnson was some stooge from Ares who (again) threatened our lives if we didn't work for them. Why these armament meatheads always think threats and force is necessary is well beyond me. Blackmail? LARGE SUMS OF CASH? Maybe it's all the weapon exhaust. Though I suppose Ares isn't as bad as Aztechnology--those guys are hamfists if ever there were. Regardless, dad would have pwn'd that guy if he knew he had threatened me. In the end, the guy did right and paid a handsome sum. Granted, we went above and beyond on this one.

The mission was to find out information on three locations known to be held by Tower Corp. Deliver said information, plain and simple. A quick 'trix search told us the locations were: an office building, an apartment building, and an old warehouse down by the train yards.

Here's where I begin to shine. A quick peek at the warehouse from next door showed that it was empty. Not only that, but somehow it was entirely not owned by anyone. Don't ask me, I just work here. The crew (DB, Slice, 18th, and Nog) headed down there to see what was up in vivo while I stayed home to play with the apartment and office managers.

Let me take a moment to tell you about my toy. I had 18th bring my new shiny: a Ford LEBD-1. O yes yes, the same ones you see your local and dutiful law enforcement officers using on your very streets. Well, except mine has an Antioch grenade launcher on it, and is named Suzy. I compiled a sprite to pilot it and defend the crew while they investigated, til I could jump in it myself. O the joys!

Back to the story. Warehouse: housing the three trucks we stole a run or two ago, sans a few uniforms, sans the Knights gear, sans whatever information was on the now-fried computers. (Note to self: ALWAYS TURN ON THE COMPUTERS AND HACK THEM BEFORE TURNING THEM OVER!) Office: full of corpie goons, who apparently didn't want to be seen. I hacked their systems without any trouble, but as soon as they spotted an intruder, they smoked the whole system hardline with acid. (I got some sweet FRAPS of it from their security camera before jacking out.) Whatever they had in there and whatever they were doing, they were pretty damn serious about it. Learned they had hired other Shadowrunner teams, presumably to do jobs similar to ours. Also learned they have strong connections in Aztlan. Apartment: filled with stooges.

Most likely mercenary stooges, turns out. Our crew got jumped while investigating the warehouse, and the apartment building went ape at the same time. Their hitmen were evidently unprepared for our awesomeness, as I don't think a single one of them was able to get a shot off. Then again, it's hard to shoot when your dodging Suzy's grenades. (And DB's, to be fair.) Other than the giant white phos bomb, the coolest part of the run might have been watching the chunk of walking mud that Noghri brought to the party. That thing threw two guys straight through the warehouse wall. The WALL. It was killer wicked cool. Nog will always be a weirdo, but that stunt he pulled was pretty rad.

Feeling like I was missing the party, I hacked the apartment admin accounts easily enough, wrote my own access, deleted most of theirs, then shut the place down as best I could. O yeah, and I round-housed some chump-ass security hacker who tried to bust me. Sadly, it was only a virtual ass-kicking. (Note to self: WORK ON DEVELOPING BLACK SOFTWARE.) What good is it to make someone wet their pants in the matrix, when they can't feel the warm sogginess of it once their ass is conscious in their office chair? Assuming they regain consciousness.

I jumped into Suzy after the apartment was crashing, just in time to light a few guys up with grenades. We let the last guy live, and I even got to use Suzy's shock cuffs. Incredible. Compiled a sprite to translate the guy's Spanish-only speech, got what little info we could from him, then gave him to Ares as part of our "report". They paid us nicely, and I'm gonna go back to browsing for new shiny. Got my eye on a personal flight vehicle.
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No Game Tonight (OOC)
On the off chance you didn't get my text message, or I or someone else didn't tell you in person, there's no game this week, sadly. I had intended to go the entire campaign without missing any weeks (which is why we had a re-scheduled game instead of just canceling when I went to my dad's birthday dinner).

In any case, we'll definitely be playing next Wednesday. OR ELSE.

Abby will still be in town to play then, and assuming Jese and Leila can make it, that'll be eight players. As such, I guess I'll just have to make the game ridiculously difficult for you guys, then. So... it'll be fun!
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I'm having Kobold stew tonight...
I love the trips to Duran. I was in the market having a hard time deciding what to experiment with for dinner, when these Kobold showed up at the front gate, and answered the question for me.

So later, when we are done with this place, I'm thinking stew for sure. I'll get some vegitales from old Ned and cook it up nice. I would have considered steaks, but the meat seems pretty tough. I think nice slow cook would be better. Maybe pulled sandwiches? I'd have to go back in town for some bread... Hmmm...

Who knows - maybe this bunch I seem t'be workin with here might like to siddown to a meal and tell their tales. (and maybe I forget to mention my special ingredient before they start going on about how good it is... *wink*)

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Posted in Duran Keep
And so it begins...
I was at the Temple this morning talking with Toring about needing to stretch my legs. I've learned about all I could from him and the eladrin of the Twilight forest.
Erathis will surely guide you on your quest for knowledge. You should seek out companions for your adventures. Erathis teaches us that we each have a part to play in the greater order of things. You are quite knowledgeable and skilled in the arcane arts. That alone may not be enough in these dark times, though. You would be wise to find those with skill that compliment your own.

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More Information Pamphlet
So, Wednesday's game was probably the least planning and forethought I've put into any mission for this campaign, and I still thought it went over pretty smoothly. In fact, I even ended up switching the order between this game and the next, because I really want to put some effort into what is now going to be the fifth game, tentatively titled Digging Up Some Dirt.

Understanding the Manasphere, Part II
Dr. Ellen Farley ThD, Dr. Philo Sexton PhD ThD, Dr. James Standingbear MD ThD, et al.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology & Thaumaturgy

The first part of this pamphlet was a refresher on the basics of astral space. This part will be a primer on phenomena one may encounter on the astral or physical planes.

Background Count
Mana originates from the metaplanes and covers the Earth, gathering around lifeforms and forming the astral plane. However, it does not necessarily cover the planet evenly, as the flow can eddy and swirl in some areas, surging through ancient ley lines, and pooling up in some places. Magical scholars refer to the level of ambient mana in any given place as background count. For a majority of the planet, the mana count is typically 0, though in some places the level of mana might be weak causing a negative background count, while in others it may be built up causing a positive background count. For all but the most skilled magicians, it doesn't make much difference whether the background count is positive or negative; anything but a 0 background count makes using magic more difficult. In areas of negative background count, mana is harder to gather and shape into spells or use to summon spirits. In areas of positive background count, the mana is so abundant that attempting to control it is akin to controlling a gushing fire hose.
  • At the lowest end of the spectrum are mana voids, places where there is very little to no mana to be found. Magical researchers and others who bother to quantify such things would say that a mana void represents anywhere between a -7 and a -12 background count. As the natural manasphere of the Earth tappers off at the edge of the atmosphere, all of space is considered to be one great mana void, with the exception of pockets of very weak mana near orbital stations or lunar colonies. Other mana voids include the so-called "blind spots" on the Earth's surface, found in areas of tremendous pollution (the SOX radioactive wasteland) or heavy manipulation of the local manasphere (the nation of Aztlan). A mana void can actually cause harm to mana beings within it; dual-natured beings, astrally perceiving or projecting magicians, and spirits can all receive lasting physical harm. It is recommended that you never astrally perceive or project while in a mana void (many mages will drink heavily or take a high dose of tranquilizers just before boarding a suborbital flight).
  • Areas of relatively low background count are called mana ebbs. Mana ebbs range from -1 to -6 background count. In these areas, magic is difficult but usually still possible. Astral space appears dimmer than usual to those attempting to assense within a mana ebb. Spirits and dual-natured beings are not hurt by mana ebbs, though they do find them uncomfortable.
  • Places of great beauty or strong emotional significance can cause mana to pool in the area, forming a domain. Domains have a background count between +1 and +6. Strong domains are often called power sites or astral nexi. In some cases, domains can form a line connecting two power sites, sometimes straight as an arrow and other times winding like a river. These are called ley lines, though other names for them include mana lines, dragon lines, or song lines. On the astral plane, domains are bright and can be as obvious as swirling eddies of mana. Domains are a common sight here on the campus of MIT&T, though a dedicated team of geomancers and cleansers work hard to keep the background count in check to make magic easy and comfortable for novice students.
  • An exception exists to the general rule that a positive background count makes magic more difficult: aspected domains. By their nature, almost all domains are aspected in favor of one tradition or another. Magicians of other traditions still find that the domain hinders their use of magic, while magicians of the tradition the domain is aspected towards will find their potency greatly increased. For instance, in a shamanic-aspected domains, shamans find their spells and spirits to be more powerful, while hermetic mages find it more difficult to cast spells or summon elementals in the first place. Mana lodges form an aspected domain in favor of its creator's tradition.
  • The final type of background count are mana warps, areas where mana surges and flares chaotically. These are, like domains, usually caused by areas of great emotional significance, though most recorded warps happen in areas of intense negative emotion such as the death camp at Auschwitz. Mana warps have a background count between +7 and +12. Mana warps are too turbulent to allow aspecting. Being exposed astrally to a mana warp is as dangerous as attempting to tap its power; it is impossible to see anything besides seething madness and senseless chaos. Many magicians who astrally perceive within a mana warp suffer lasting psychic damage and mental illness.

Mana Surges
While background count is permanent or semi-permanent in an area, sometimes mana can unpredictably spike in an area and quickly recede again. This usually happens in areas of extensive magic tampering as the natural tide of mana sloshes uncontrollably. Magic within a mana surge behaves erratically, and no two magicians can expect consistent results. Casting a spell or summoning a spirit within a mana surge might fail completely or else find the strength of the spell or spirit increased or decreased at random. Sometimes the results are even more beyond understanding, resulting in a temporary curse of sorts on the magician, dubbed the "Witches' Mark" with bizarre effects.

Mana Storms
Sometimes the highly concentrated mana in a domain or mana warp can spill out into the world, creating a mana storm. These swirling and chaotic areas of unleashed mana are moving zones of background count equivalent to the domain or mana warp they originated in, and mana storms that come from an aspected domain will maintain the same aspect. On the astral plane, they appear as swirling clouds of mana, crackling with energy, while on the physical plane they manifest similar to violent weather patterns, but with the added illusory effects typically found in a Confusion or Chaos spell.

In some particularly charged places and times, the mana in a region can spontaneously form creations in the physical world. These alchera (a word borrowed from the Arrernte Aborigines of Australia) typically take the form of natural terrain such as lakes or rock formations but can also assume the forms of man-made structures such as buildings, bridges, or even ships. They exist only for a short time, and often occur on important dates such as anniversaries of notable events or dates of astrological significance such as an equinox.

Manifest alchera are insubstantial, simply an image created out of pure mana, and will appear as a ghostly, translucent object; many believe that some or all UFO sightings might be caused by manifest alchera. Materialized alchera assume an actual physical form in otherwise unoccupied space, such as a building simply appearing on a flat piece of ground. Though materialized alchera are solid, they still give off an apparent otherworldliness, such as emitting a fog or being cold to the touch. Being inside a materialized alchera as it appears or disappears is disorienting, but rarely dangerous. The final type of alchera is referred to as "replacement" because it can take the place of existing terrain, sending part of the "real world" away and taking its place. Examples of replacement alchera include rivers or small canyons appearing where previously there had only been flat ground.

Both materialized and replacement alchera are dual-natured constructs, existing on both the astral and physical planes. Some researchers here at MIT&T believe that alchera may be attributable to an intersection between the physical world and the metaplanes. Alchera of all three types are not unheard of on and around campus, probably as unintended side effects of some of the magical experiments.

Astral Shallows
In some parts of the world, the barrier between the physical and astral planes occasionally weakens, a phenomenon referred to as astral shallows. While in an astral shallow, even a mundane can see the astral plane. The auras of other people become visible, as do spirits and other astral forms such as spells and barriers. This astral perception is every bit as detailed as a normal magician's astral perception, though it is a bit more cluttered as it is overlayed on top of the physical world, rather than shadows of the physical world. A magician who can astrally perceive at other times finds switching his perception back and forth to be much easier while in an astral shallow. These astral shallows are harmless and usually only last for a matter of hours. Again, astral shallows have been observed here on the MIT&T campus, though usually for very brief periods and in very localized areas.

Astral Rifts
Unlike harmless phenomena like alchera and astral shallows, astral rifts can be more dangerous and must be approached with caution. Astral rifts form a bridge directly from one fixed place in the physical plane to a place on the astral plane, allowing anyone to astrally project, whether they are a magician or not. These rifts do not always have an obvious presence on the physical plane, usually appearing as a shimmer or similar to heat ripples in the air or sometimes as an aurora-like glowing haze, though occasionally they are obvious tears in physical space, showing as brightly luminescent.

In some cases, astral rifts can even connect to the metaplanes, allowing a person to travel there without having to pass the Dweller on the Threshold. However, non-Awakened and the uninitiated must use the rift to return to their bodies; if their body is moved from the rift's influence on the physical plane, return becomes impossible and their astral form dissipates leaving their body in a permanent coma. Further adding to the risk of using a rift, the exact metaplane it connects to is often undetermined, potentially delivering a traveler to a particularly deep metaplane. Some astral rifts are known as "deep" rifts and posses the power to physically draw victims into its area of influence and then force them into projecting into the metaplanes.

As the School of Thamaturgy is looking out for the safety and well being of the students here at MIT&T, astral rifts have only rarely been opened on campus and in those few cases, they have always been locked down or otherwise controlled within a few minutes of first being observed.

The Metaplanes
Though not a phenomenon, the metaplanes are still not fully understood. Where the astral planes are an alternate realm that exist in the same space as the physical plane, the metaplanes are even further removed. They are innately indefinable but represent a wide variety of places, realms where the spirits reside, many bearing strong resemblances to ancient mythical places such as Shambhala, Hyperborea, or the Navajo emergence lake.

In almost all cases, a magician needs to be an initiate to gain access to the metaplanes. Doing so involves extensive careful preparation, then passing the Dweller on the Threshold, and finally completing one or more trials once in the metaplanes in order to achieve the goal of the metaplanar quest. This goal might be to conceal an astral signature, perform an initiation ordeal, learn a metamagic technique, or gain power over a spirit.
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