Archive for April, 2018


Dark Future Ahead 26 – News from the ‘Net of a Cyberpunk bent

22 April, 2018

How will the future be dark?  Join me in reviewing some inspiration for cyberpunk gaming culled from my trips into the world matrix.  Enjoy the news:

A humorous look at living off the grid: How I went dark in Australia’s surveillance state for 2 years.

Tesla S sans armorInternational Armoring has upgraded the defenses of a Tesla Model S for their security and environmentally conscious customers.

While Battelle upgrades and fortifies conventional pickup trucks and SUVs for use by the spooks and special forces.  Amazing that they can conceal so much armor and equipment in a vehicle.

This seems like the sort of place you would need to find someone among Hawaii’s last outlaw hippies.

Perhaps they can move into 3D-printed houses?  Icon builds a house in Austin at SXSW in under a day as proof of concept.

A slight tangent but worth thinking about, the increasing gender fluidity of names.  Worthwhile pondering for character names in the future.

There is a massive complex in China that produces six billion cockroaches a year!  They are used in medicine and as animal feed.

What visions of the coming dark future have you seen recently?

Notes: Photo “Tesla Model S 85D” by Werner Bayer is licensed under CC BY 2.0









A to Z – Performers, Players and Playwrights (and Philosophers)

22 April, 2018

One of the ways that news travels across the Sea of Stars is with various types of performers, from lone minstrels to theater companies, Commedia dell’arte type troupes to wandering philosophers.

Minstrel, bards and even groups of musicians travel from place to place bringing news and good cheer with them.  Most can be sure of getting at least a free meal and space in the common room of whatever inn they visit for a few hours of entertainment work.  Music is widespread across the lands with many interesting instruments and styles emerging since the Sundering.  Dragons seem to be inordinately fond of choral music and many large cities, and wealthy nobles, retain choirs to please visiting dragons.

Theater is mostly confined to large cities and courts throughout the world, though some groups tour smaller cities in the off season.  The Empress sponsors between three and seven Imperial theater troupes at any time, sending them on goodwill tours through out the Empire.  Theater troupes often stick to classical plays which have been approved and made safe by age, it is only under dragons who ignore or appreciate the theater that troupes are willing to try new and experimental works.

Something for everyoneThe Commedia dell’arte type troupes travel widely, though mostly from city to city, taking their mix of set pieces and improvisational performances to a wide audience.  The open framework of their performances allows for easy adoption of local stories and news into their acts making each performance unique though with common themes.  One of the stock characters in the Sea of Stars is the masked and robed astrologer who give cryptic and often quite ludicrous advice to those seeking his aid

Philosophy as a performance art and intellectual competition, there is a great interest in philosophy in the Sea of Stars perhaps as a result of the loss of the gods and much of the traditional religious understanding of the world.  Traveling philosophers, many from Borusa the City of Scholars, travel a circuit of the cities and larger towns debating each other, local scholars and members of the public.  The dragons by and large tolerate such as long as the philosophers are not actively seditious, some even seem to enjoy the cut and thrust of academic debate.

Notes: While there have not been a lot of bards played in the Sea of Stars we did have a brief musically themed campaign.  And I find the idea of philosophy as performance art, or intellectual sport, highly amusing.  “Come, pit yourself against Ronalf the Learned, never beaten in debate, for a purse of 200 silver coins!”  Also, the idea of using a commedia dell’arte troupe as a framework for an adventuring party has great appeal to me.

Art Commedia dell’arte Troupe on a Wagon in a Town Square, by Jan Miel, 1640, found on Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain.


A to Z – Outlanders in the Sea of Stars

19 April, 2018

Many WorldsOutlanders, in this case people and beings from other worlds, are rare in the Sea of Stars, the Empress has constructed wards and barriers to keep out beings from outside, primarily from the higher and lower planes, but this effects dimensional and world travelers as well.  Which the Empress considers a benefit, such people are likely to be destabilizing elements on the world she rules and there are enough of those already.

However, as knowledge of her existence has leaked in garbled form into other worlds, due to no effort of her own, where she is sometime viewed as a savoir of oppressed dragonkin such as kobolds.  She will occasionally pluck such beings across the barrier and bring them to the Sea of Stars where they may start a new life.  Using such powerful magic has unexpected side efforts however, with other things being dragged in the wake of the chosen beings or odd magical energies being released.

The barrier is designed to keep beings out and it is easy to pass through when leaving the Sea of Stars should someone master the magics involved to do so.  The Empress has no problem with people leaving her realm as long as they do not steal from it, that might invite retribution, but any mortal from the Sea of Stars who leave are indelibly marked in their aura and the Empress will know if they return.  A large number of people fleeing her realm would also attract her attention which is likely not what such people would want.

Notes: The idea of kobolds being “saved” by the Empress and other people getting dragged through into the wake, I used as a framing mechanism for a introductory D&D I have been GMing.

Image “Kleine Welten VI (Small Worlds VI)” by Vasily Kandinsky (French (born Russia), Moscow 1866–1944 Neuilly-sur-Seine) via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0


A to Z – Nobility and Draconic Houses

18 April, 2018

NoblesWhen the dragons defeated the gods, naturally they wanted to take their spoils.  In most cases, the Empress convinced them that ruling over the other being in the Sea of Stars was the most efficient way to gain wealth and power.  A few ignored her and just pillaged their assigned lands, but they soon saw the errors of their ways and imported new people to farm and manage their lands and resources, except for a clawful of holdouts who rule over savage areas devoid of civilization and usually avoided by all others.

While dragons, in general, prefer the trapping of power to its responsibilities most just took over the local power structures and either replaced the highest power or placed themselves above them liking such titles as High Queen, Supreme Ruler, Most High and such, anything that elevated them over those they ruled.  Thus most dragons receive a constant revenue from taxes and tribute without having to go through all the effort of actively extorting it from their subject, leaving that to the nobility whom serves them.  The Draconic Houses emerge from such an arrangement, serving as the bureaucracy and enforcers of the dragons, making sure that proper taxes are paid, approving major projects and negotiating with other houses for trade deals and favors.  Over time the noble houses over seen by the Draconic Houses have often intermarried spreading draconic bloodlines wider throughout the lands.

Dragons understand the concept of nobility and an aristocracy, after all the idea of being born to rule is a core aspect of the philosophy of Dominae, but the day to day tasks are far too dull and petty for most dragons to enjoy so they leave them to their most honored servants, the nobles.  Dragon have greater tasks, at least according to them they do.

Notes: Aspects of this has been touched upon in the discussion of Knights and Knightly Orders in the Sea of Stars.

Image “Miniature showing Dripetua riding sidesaddle on a white horse . . .” by Boccaccio, Giovanni (1313-1375) is licensed under CC0 1.0


Tuesday Magic Item / A to Z – Mercenary Contract

17 April, 2018

ContractVoddick cleaned his knife and stared at the contract.  “I hate signing these contracts.”

“There are not my favorite but at least you know what you are signing up for,” said Gollaon.  “They are very explicit.”

“True,” Voddick nodded.  “That is a small comfort.”


Mercenary Contract

Originally created by the god known as the Prince of Mercenaries for use by his followers.  These contracts are made of durable material, vellum, leather, thick paper, though even wood or sheets of metal have been used.  They are inactive until freely signed in blood both by the employer and the employed.

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A to Z – Love and Such in the Sea of Stars

16 April, 2018

Love!?Of course, love exists in the Sea of Stars, though there are no longer any deities that embody or promote the concept.  Among most cultures, love is how it always has been, which includes a nearly infinite number of combinations, rules, taboos and dangers.

The elves, however, have embraced the love of loss, they have developed entire genres of poetry and romances addressing the loss of the wholeness of the world, their gods (suitably allegorized), their near immortality, their place in the cycle of things, their lack.  Almost all of the elven cultures are woven through with loss and nostalgia to a greater or lesser extent.

The Visse, mostly, have a love of service and of those who are their social superiors, usually dragons, such is how they were made.  Their family lives tend to be ordered and hierarchical but not locking in love, though the strict hierarchies do lead to the occasional secret assignations and unrequited love.

Dragons are . . . not good with love.  They have great passions, driving passions, and they often acquire and collect things with an avarice that borders on love.  This sometimes extends to people but their love is usually possessive and can be cruel.  Almost all dragons are exceedingly self-centered but some try to learn more about mortal love, with mixed results at best.  But conventional wisdom says that it is best to avoid the eye of a dragon.


Notes: Love is a strange thing and dragons are strange, so naturally the two together are even stranger.

Image “Love” by Thomas Rowlandson (British, London 1757–1827 London), T. Smith (British, active London 1785–1800) via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0


A to Z – Knowledge and Knowing

15 April, 2018

Is this true?Among the scholars and philosophers of the Sea of Stars, epistemology, the philosophical discipline of understanding how we know and what we know, is much debated.  Many thought that the gods served to underpin reality, when the dragons slew the gods, some expected the world to just end, the Sundering seemed to confirm their fears . . . and then it stopped.  The world and all certainties about it were shattered.

With the Empress’ name magically written out of of the world and the lost of the names of the gods, certain foundations of knowledge seem to have been eroded.  Even the rising and setting of the Sun had ceased to have it old certainty, replaced with the rules of the Dragon Empress.  If she could be the cause of so much change, could it not all change again at her whim?  She even created a new type of people, the Visse!  Perhaps change was the new way of things?

Of course, such fears were unfounded as the Empress sought an understandable and predictable world as well, but still doubts remained, at least among the philosopher and thinkers.  For most people, the world, is stable and predictable, well as predictable as a world of magic and dragons can be.  It is only the classically educated who worry about the nature of reality.

Notes: K is a tricky letter.  Sorry to be behind, this should have been up on Friday but I was on the road all day and then back to work yesterday.  Hopefully the rest of the A to Z should stay to schedule.

Image “Miniature showing Erythraea . . .” by Boccaccio, Giovanni (1313-1375) is licensed under CC0 1.0,


A to Z – Jesters and Humor

12 April, 2018

Harlequin?There is a long tradition of having court jesters, however, as a general rule, dragons are not the best with humor and are objectively terrible at accepting criticism even -or especially- in the form of parody and play.  The exception, as if often the case, is the Empress.  While she does not hold court regularly enough to have a court jester, she often brings players, clowns and jesters, acrobats and other performers with her when she visits other Draconic nobles.

The Empress lets fools and jesters lightly mock her, and often more seriously tease or even ridicule her hosts, as the performers are under her protection, the other draconic nobles may grumble, but they will not act obviously against her playthings.  The Empress realizes that criticism crouched in humor sometimes will penetrate where direct confrontation would not, she lets her jesters and clowns provide that critique if her words will not be heeded.  After all, there is nothing a tyrant fears more than the laughter of their subject directed at them.

The Empress does not mind the occasional comedic barb sent her way, accusations of laying multicolored or gold eggs, being portrayed as a lusty dragon/woman (her seven closest aides are all handsome male dragons after all), joke about the greed of dragons, and so on.  As long as her competence to rule is not questioned, she can take a few laughs at her expense.  After all, she remembers being roundly mocked, laughed at and dismissed when she first ventured to talk about a plan to overthrow the gods, that was painful and humiliating . . . but look who is laughing now.

Notes: Something for everyone, a comedy tonight!

Photo “Jester” by Michael Neel is licensed under CC BY 2.0.  (Yes, I know it is Harley Quinn, but that is the name the photographer gave to it.)


A to Z – Infernal Realms

11 April, 2018

Infernal PlaceOne of the end results of the Gods War was a sealing off of the Sea of Stars from outside realms, some more so that others.  The higher, heavenly, and lower, infernal realms were deliberately and effectively cut off from the Sea of Stars while magic could pierce the barriers, it is difficult and the called beings find themselves drawn back to their native realm.

Naturally, the rulers of the infernal realms are not happy with this situation, they are certain that if they could gain unrestricted access to the mortal realms again they could, at the very least, reap a harvest of souls and, at best, conquer the world and and promote themselves to gods.  Unfortunately, the new nature of the world works against them in so many ways.

  • Hell reaches for youIncreasingly powerful magics are required to bring over more than the most minor being.  Once summoned, the magical membrane separating the realms moves to close and to eject any creature from the lower realms (or, to be fair, the higher realms as well) unless they are bound to a contract or a physical object or being in this one.  If the binding is broken, the process of ejection begins anew.
  • The new morality of Dominae makes many of the sins that the lower beings feed on and leverage into corruption people into acceptable and even expected action.  How can a demon tempt you into what is expected or even encouraged?
  • The dragons have no wish to see new rivals to their power and while a small number of dragons will make minor deals with the lower planes it is always from a position of strength and never for more than minor boons or servants.  Most dragons ruthlessly hunt down infernalists and dark cults with the same zeal they destroy zealots wishing to resurrect the gods.

This does not stop the infernal realms from seeking a foothold, or cults from seeking a new dark, god or infernalists seeking power, but it does make all of their paths much more difficult.  Thus demons and other infernal beings a known but rare danger in the Sea of Stars.

Notes: Just under the wire on this one.

Image of the Palace “Inferno. Hell.” by Luciano and of the grasping hands of hell, “A Depiction of Hell” by David Wiley both are licensed under CC BY 2.0.



Tuesday Magic Item / A to Z – Hell Lance

10 April, 2018

Knight with lance“Look, they are bringing up their elite.  The knights of the doomsday?” Voddick asked, not sure if he remembered the name correctly.

“Indeed, armed with weapons left over from the Gods War, forged in hell flames and other such fanciful nonsense,” said Gollaon.

“Does that indicate that they are not exceedingly dangerous?”

“Well, yes, but less so because of the weapons.  They were forged primarily to fight a divine foe that no longer exists, but they are still potent magic items.”

Hell Lance

These weapons are deliberately constructed to look cruel and vicious with hooks and barbs common motifs, made of black or red tinted steel with poles of dark wood reinforced with strips of metal and studs.  They are as much a tool of intimidation as a weapon of war.

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