Search Results for pastiche

Practical Pastiche: Fast Food

Practical Pastiche” is a series I expand on from time to time, offering drop-in names you can use in your home ttRPG campaigns to replace real-world organizations, places, groups, and anything else you might want to use in a fictional world without the baggage of using real-world elements.

FAST FOOD Whether you need some made-up restaurants to namedrop in your supers game, a character’s job at the local coffee house is a running joke, or you plan for a desperate battle for survival against zombie assassins at the burger joint, sometimes it’s nice to be able to use companies in your games without them being weighed down with any real-world corporate behavior.

Backgammon Pizza: A delivery-only pizza place (no dine-in options at 90% of their stores) that has fast-food American versions of pizzas, subs, pizza pockets, pasta, boneless wings, salads, personal hot cupcakes, and “Crazi Knots Garlic and Cheese Rolls.” Famous for their “Still Hot or All Free” campaign (which was launched when they could give every delivery driver a cheap handheld infrared thermometer), Backgammon Pizza is rarely anyone’s favorite choice, but it’s often no-one’s least favorite choice either.

Burger Ranch: A major worldwide burger-based, ranch-themed fast food company. Best known for the Rancher (a 1/3 lb. ranch-dressing cheeseburger), the Double Rancher, and, since 2002, the Tripple Rancher. Has a fairly standard fare of burgers, fried and grilled chicken sandwiches, fried fish sandwiches, fries, onion rings, and so on. Had a decades-long ad campaign that included the phrase “You’ll Enjoy Our Brand,” followed by a cattle branding iron searing the ‘BR’ logo into the side of a cup of soda.

Fuse-Asian: When several racist-themed Chinese and Japanese cuisine restaurants went out of business, the Fuse-Asian Corporation was created to buy them up and rebrand them as a chain of drive-through Americanized “fusion Asian” food. The menu is mostly Chinese-focused, with Japanese influences largely restricted to sushi.

Kno-Y Chicken: Apparently built entirely on the phrase “Know Why? Chicken Thigh!,” “KYC” is a popular drive-through and dine-in chicken restaurant that claims their secret to success is using chicken thighs where other places use breast meat. It focuses on fried chicken and chicken tenders, but branched out into baked chicken and wings when those because popular in the mainstream. Also famously have “burger nuggets,” tiny ground-beef-in-a-cheese-knot snacks sold in packs of 6, 10, and 20, which are generally thought of as stuffed micro-sliders and were launched in the 1990s under the famous “Hey, fair is fair!” ad campaign.

Menu-Inn: In the 1950s, every Motorin’ Motor-Inn had a 24 hour “Menu-Inn” restaurant. The Motorin’ brand went bankrupt in the early 1990s, but Menu-Inn has survived as a late-night sit-down restaurant, especially near universities and factories or mines with shifts covering all 24-hour. Its food is road-travel-themed, such as the Interstate Platter, Turnpike Combos, Rest Stop Drink Station, and (famously) “Regular,” “Leaded,” and “Unleaded” coffee.

Ringmaster’s: A circus-themed fast food chain famous for Circus Meal Deals, franchises, fries, ice cream machines that almost never work, and “Playring” in-store mini-playgrounds.

Pueblo de Tacos: A very Tex-Mex Americanized style of taco, but generally considered a significant step up from Taco Tavern.

Secret HQ Pizza and Pasta: Mostly a dine-in establishment, with limited levels of delivery available in various markets. “SHQ” started life in the late 1940s as a tiny mom-and-pop restaurant in a college town that had a real stone pizza oven, and two incredibly cheap options – the “Peanut Pocket” hot peanut-butter pizza-sandwich (jelly optional) and Peanut Pasta (essentially Pad Thai but with Italian noodles), which college kids loved. It’s since gone corporate, though never a franchise, and while most of its food is typical, there remains a “secret” menu (which is easily found online) that includes peanut butter as a topping option, and the Peanut Pocket and Peanut Pasta as things you can order.

Taco Tavern: Open “23 Hours A Day” (literally every store is closed from 4 to 5 am), Taco Tavern specializes in cheap tacos that supposedly can help prevent hangovers… but also famously may force a run to the restroom. Often make up new foods with weird pseudo-Mexican sounding names, like Enchaloopas or Torflandos. Also often offers custom flavors of Pepfül Soda and Cherry Bomm.

Tim Duncan’s Donuts: Considered the best coffee-and-donut place by its fans. Also serves a range of breakfast items, often 24 hours a day. No delivery offered by the stores, but food delivery services often make a big deal of being able to get you your Tim Duncan’s Fix.

Waffle Stop: A 24-hour breakfast-and-burgers eat-at-the bar holdover of the diner business plan, Waffle Stop is a big rough-and-ready, but also is prepared to pitch in for nearly any local or community disaster. A LOT of Waffle Stops are franchises owned by people who have an adjacent gas station and repair garage, which is always officially a different business.

Patreon Cafe: No, not a fictional restaurant. This is just a disguised pitch for you to support the creation of these blogs by joining my Patreon for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a month.

Practical Pastiche: Modern Soft Drinks

Practical Pastiche” is a series I expand on from time to time, offering drop-in names you can use in your home ttRPG campaigns to replace real-world organizations, places, groups, and anything else you might want to use in a fictional world without the baggage of using real-world elements.

SOFT DRINKS
From sodas to punches to energy drinks, sweet to sour, diet to diabetic, selling people ready-made things to drink is a 400 billion-dollar industry worldwide.

Apollo’s Coffee: Famously a ubiquitous coffee shop that sometimes is so dense that two can be on opposite corners of the same intersection. Very popular, and fairly pricey. Also sells ground coffee and chilled bottled coffee drinks.

Barkentea: Named after the Barkentine trading ships of the 1800s from which its business grew, Barkentea makes a dozen brands and flavors of ready-made tea, tea and juice drinks, lemonade, and fruit-flavored tea mixes. Their main slogan is “Set sail with Barkentea.”

Blue Bison: An energy drink popular with programmers, truckers, sailors, students, and anyone driven by late-stage capitalism to put being active above their own health. The main flavors are adrenaline and sugar. Uses the catchphrase “Take Life By The Horns”

Boltzz Cola: A soda famous for having tons of sugar (proudly cane sugar, not corn syrup) and multiple forms of caffeine. Claims it tastes like licking a battery. … It doesn’t really, but it is an intense flavor for cola.

Choco-Cola: The world’s most popular chocolate-flavor-infused cola drink. Cherry Choco-Colo, Diet Choco-Cola, Choco-Cola-Cafe (with coffee), and Choco-Cola-Free are its most popular sub-flavors. The Choco-Cola Company is one of the largest and most powerful worldwide corporations, though they do their best not to seem like it. Their two most famous ad campaigns where “Friendship? Chalk It Up To Choco!” and the Easter Toucan animation. Choco-Cola famously changed their formula to their “New World Soda” in the 1980s. It was a disaster.

Choco-Cola has Eleven Secret Formulas, for their varieties of Choco-Cola, which are legitimately unknown to anyone but a few people within the company, all sworn to secrecy, and according to urban legend, no one but a single random janitor who serves as a backstop should all the higher-ranking formula-holders be killed. The secret formulas are taken seriously because no one else who has tried to make a chocolate-cola product has ever had significant success.

Choco-Cola Brands: The Choco-Cola Corporation also owns Pixie (a lemon-lime soda, which comes in all the varieties Choco-Cola does, and yes, that includes Pixie-Cafe lemon-lime-coffee soda, which is only big in Chicago), Nutrition Water, Frutina (fruit soda flavors), Fresh Skweezed (fresh and concentrate juices), Mega-Ade (a sports drink) and Professor Spice (a knockoff of Ph.Delicious).

Crocovial: One of the original sports drinks. Has a lot of sports team endorsements. Barrels of it are often dumped on baseball coaches when their team wins a game. Owned by the Pepfül Soda Company (or “PepSoCo”).

Peakant: An uncarbonated fruit drink line, with Lime Peakant and Tangerine Peakant the most popular. Can be bought in powder form as well. famously drunk by the Aquanauts in the Deep Water Lab missions of the 1970s.

Pepfül Soda: The main competitor to Choco-Cola. Was cheaper during various recessions and depressions, which allowed it to gain a toehold worldwide where other alternate colas did not. Pepfül and Choco engaged in the Soda Siege in the 80s and 90s, which are the source of various conspiracy theories claiming people were really killed, or that it was a cover for a worldwide fight against shapeshifters, and a dozen other ridiculous things.

Pepfül Soda Brands: The Pepfül Soda Company (or “PepSoCo”) has a dozen other major soda brands, including Chery Bomm (a super-sweet, super-caffeinated beverage that’s neon red in color), Crocovial (see above), Oceanical (juices, and fruit-flavored teas and noncarbonated punches), and Axeman (energy drinks).

Ph.Delicious: An independent soda that’s not quite a cola, but is extremely popular. Began to franchise before Choco-Cola, in the late 1800s, Nearly every major beverage company has its own knock-off. While its ad campaigns are updated every few years, they almost always revolve around the phrase “Be smart, get your Ph.Delicious!”

Snapricot: A brand of ready-to-drink fruit-flavored teas. Has reimagined itself several times, and currently has flavors that mix a type of tea with a juice (English Breapple, Green Tangerine, and Chamomilelderberry are the most popular, with Chamomilelderberry poking fun at its long name by having it wrap around the bottles in a spiral). Currently uses the slogan “Brewed to BE The Best TEA.”

Whammo Water Works: They sell bottled water. They make it sound fancy, but it’s tap water.

Practical Pastiche: Modern News Organizations

“Practical pastiche” is a new series I’ll be expanding from time to time, offering drop-in names you can use in your home ttRPG campaigns to replace real-world organizations, places, groups, and anything else you might want to use in a fictional world without the baggage of using real-world elements.

MODERN NEWS ORGANIZATIONS
Whoever controls the news has massive influence over public opinion and understanding of current events. The news has always been one way the rich and powerful controlled the narrative of the world, but in the modern era the willingness to place dogma over truth. Some blame the creation of 24-hour news networks, others the move to make money off internet news through ads (which encourages clickbait titles and engagement-at-any-cost editorial decisions), while others feel the fix has always been in and modern awareness of it is an inevitable result of greater access to information.
While real-world new organizations served as inspiration for some of these entirely-fictional sites, these are presented not as efforts to accurately characterize any actual business or journalistic endeavor, but to offer a range of fictional news media that cover a narratively useful range of options. Whether you need someone on FAQS News to constantly spin everything a superhero does to make them seem villainous, an intrepid ANZIS reporter to give constant updates of a local war, or have monster hunters discover a surprising amount of fiction covered by Looky-Loo sites has real supernatural information, these organizations can act as background or major plot points for any modern ttRPG setting.

(Art by Alex White)

ANZIS: “Australia/New Zealand Information Services,” a government funded, theoretically-independent worldwide news service that’s been in place since WWI. Has 24 radio news feeds and web information, a wire service local news agencies often subscribe to for access to international news stories, a reputation for asking hard questions, and though underfunded its funding is not dependent on advertising or sponsors to pay the bills.

Broadcaste: The largest news organization in the world, though a typical person may only be aware they sell internet and cable television packages. But they are also the owners of NBS (National Broadcast Service), NBS News, MSNBS News, CNBS, and Cloud One news channels and services. Some of their channels have a firmly liberal bent, while others sew more conservative, suggesting those biases are intentional and cynical efforts to attract all possible markets.

The Boston Lantern: One of the last Great Newspapers, though most people read it through online subscriptions. Still operates out of the Lantern Building, built in 1919, though they now occupy less than 1/10th of the floors, and others are rented out as office or storage space or vacant.

FAQS News: “Frequently Asked Questions News Networks,” the mouthpiece of a conservative billionaire, FAQS is famous both of often reporting conspiracy questions while claiming they are “just asking questions,” and for being classified as entertainment rather than journalism in some countries.

GNN: “Global News Network,” one of the earlier 24-hour, worldwide cable news networks. Still among the most respected, though extremists often call it “fake news” when they don’t like what it has to say.

Looky-Loo: A media company that runs dozens of specialized topical news websites, such as 1138 (Fantasy and Scifi entertainment news, including comics, movies, novels, ttRPGs, and television), Clutch (racing and vehicle news), Lilith’s Pen (women’s issues), Silver Scream (horror stories, mostly movies & TV), Staydium (sports-news), Smackhead (stories of people being stupid and the oft-humorous consequences of their actions), and Vertical Slice (video game news). The quality of both journalism and writing varies wildly, but the people covering the topics are usually also true fans of the things they report on.

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Random Idea Generation Methods. 1. The Reverse and Twist

Sometimes, I just need an idea to play with. I may need a starting point for a new project, or some color and side-thoughts for a bigger ongoing work. Often I just generate new random ideas as a palate-cleanser when I need a break from something I am grinding on. Other times I want to throw ideas out to other people, either for fun or to jump-start their creative processes.

Now if I am lucky, a random idea just comes to me when I need it. Or, if one comes when I don’t need it, I can jot it down with just enough detail to come pick it back up later.

But more often than not, i have to generate an idea, and when i have to come up with dozens at a time, I have verious methods I use to do that. Here’s one”

Reverse/Twist The Starting Point

This is one of my favorites, and it’s a good way to use inspiration without turning everything into a pastiche (or rip-off). The basic idea is to take the core premise of an existing setting or story you like, and make a major change to it. Then, you follow the permutations of your new set-up.

For example, take Moby Dick. It’s a captain’s obsession with getting revenge on a whale. It’s compelling, but it’s also been done and redone hundreds of times. So, what if we reverse a number of elements.

Our Captain is still a whale hunter, but he has not a care in the world. The Red Demon, which may or may not be a whale but is certainly a sea creature, seeks to destroy the captain as revenge for the captain slaying the Demon’s mother. We still have stories of obsession and revenge, but now our focal human point is ignoring the risks, his arrogance convincing him that even if the Red Demon is real, it’s a brute animal, and he has all the advantages of human civilization and intellect to overcome it if it ever finds him.

Now, the inspiration for that idea are pretty clear. That’s fine–the starting place of a story, setting, or even writing prompt is only a small part of the work of making something. But once you have that nugget, you can twist and add/alter as you see fit. Instead of a whale-hunting captain hunting you could have a famous ivory poacher, clearly a villain and an up-and-coming local warlord–who does worry about human threats (and perhaps kidnaps a journalist to tell “his side” of his story, giving us our narrator), but ignores local legends of a Red Demon elephant out to get him, even when other poachers are slain by it.

The further we get from the trappings of the original idea, the more our end product will be clearly its own thing.

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Building New Things That Feel Iconic

I love making new fantastic things. Not just “fantasy” things, but amazing and otherworldly things you could find in supers stories, or ancient mythology, or scifi, or weird west tall tales, or all of the above.

I especially love to make new things that feel like they have a long, established, iconic niche even if they are brand new. Obviously that’s a great *goal*, but it’s extremely difficult to do without making something that’s just a pastiche. It’s also extremely difficult to know when you have succeeded.

I do have some tricks I try to apply. Firstly, I often find if I can’t explain a thing within the number of characters allowed by a Tweet, I don’t have a firm enough grasp of what the core of that thing is. Second, I try to think about what the base of a thing is, and what the expansion is.

For example, today I had an idea leap into my head (likely due to insomnia-induced fatigue toxions) which I described thusly:

Ghortal are 7-8 foot tall unguligrade bipeds with roughly bull-like heads featuring tusks and 2-7 curling horns. Immune to undeath, if infected their faces take on skeletal features as their aging slows and they gain occult power.
They have a strong clan structure.

The base of ghortal is clearly that they are a kind of minotaur-kin, though with tusks and more horns. But then the idea is expanded to give them a special immunity to undeath, and a reaction to undead exposure that’s unique to them.

Minoaturs are clearly iconic, and there are a lot of similar beast + biped creatures in myth and fiction. Bovine skulls being used as masks and symbols is also extremely common, so I wanted to find a neat way to combine those into my minotaurs-with-extra-pointy-bits concept to make ghortal new and more interesting.

As for how I know when I have succeeded — it’s always a matter of how other people take to the idea.

But it’s sure a good sign when a professional cartoonist is so taken by the idea, they do art for it. Relatedly, here’s art the amazing Stan! did after reading my ghortal post earlier today. 🙂

Image

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Quick Notes for the potential “Wayward” Setting for AGE Creator’s Alliance

So I am planning, as a private individual (rather than as a developer for Green Ronin or the publisher of Rogue Genius Games) to release an AGE Creator’s Alliance product… eventually. Not at that program’s launch, but hopefully within a year or so.

For what seem like obvious reasons I originally thought that would be a Fantasy AGE product… but now my opinion is shifting. I have had an idea for a Modern AGE setting I might prefer to release though the Creator’s Alliance, and that might not only be a great way to divide what I am doing as a GR dev and a private citizen but also help me have a more baseline feel for the Creator’s Alliance experience.

Now, this is far from a done deal. I could discover there are good reasons not to do this setting, or change my mind about the best rules set for it or venue to offer it in. I could find something I like better as a first offering, I could just lose interest. Who knows?

But since part of what I wanted to do was showcase my own journey through the Creator’s Alliance, I wanted to offer up the short notes I jotted down at 5am for this setting idea.

Product/Product Line Title: Wayward
This idea began as I was driving on errands, listening to a song used as a theme for one of my favorite TV series. So, yes, I’m wearing one of the inspirations on the sleeve of this concept. Like anything that might change as the product moves forward, but working titles are useful.

Product Type: Campaign Setting and Adventure Line
As I currently envision it, Wayward is a campaign setting for Modern AGE which comes with built-in adventure support. each Wayward product would have a chunk of setting material, a smattering of new rule options, and an adventure designed to highlight both.
For example, the first product would be Wayward, which would also serve as the name for the whole setting, and be the in-world title of a certain kind of person most PCs are expected to be – the “Wayward,” people who operate outside the expectations and even the reality of common society. The Wayward operate in a shadowy world with creatures and abilities that are literally set apart from most of existence. This Wayward World normally isn’t “real” enough to impact most people, but there are rare exceptions, which Wayward Heroes need to deal with.
So in this first product there would be rules for what makes people Wayward, and an adventure for 1st level characters just discovering the existence of the Wayward World around them and dealing with something leaking out of it.

Inspirations
Wayward is clearly in big part inspired by specific modern media, but I don’t plan for it to be a pure pastiche of one thing. Instead my inspirations include Diana Tregarde Investigates (novels by Mercedes lackey), MAGE (the comic, especially The Hero Discovered and The Hero Defined), the Maxx (animated series especially, but also the comics), Sin City (just the first movie), Supernatural (TV show and it’s literally tie-ins)… and especially the trailer for the Max Payne movie (Yes, really just the trailer. not the movie itself, not the games–just that one trailer) and the trailer for Dark City (yep, again, JUST the trailer).
And I really mean “inspiration.” Wayward is an idea that grows out of thoughts I had when exposed to those sources (and many, many more), rather than an effort to duplicate them. It’s very much a thing I wish existed and had movies and comics and games, but doesn’t quite. Not a wholly original idea of course–just my take on a slice of the zeitgeek.

Kernel: Modes of Reality
The core kernel of an idea for wayward is that there are modes of reality that overlap slightly. Most people live only in the Ecumene, the “normal” world we all know and that (roughly) follows the real world rules of physics and history. But there are other modes, where twisted, dark, and blindingly bright things dwell. Sometimes you can glimpse those things when you sleep, or are in an altered chemical or emotional state. And, sometimes, those things can glimpse you. The most powerful things from other modes can sometimes visit or influence the Ecumene. But no Ecumene dweller can go into other modes to deal with the root of those problems.
Well, none but the Wayward…

And that’s as far as the idea has gone so far. 🙂

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Some Fictional RPGs

Look, sometimes you need to reference a tabletop RPG (or similar game, like a MMORPG or video game) in your real ttRPGs. So here’s a list to use for that.

Or maybe I just wanted to talk briefly about all the games I WANT to make, but don’t have time to work on right now. Either way, at least I have these names written down in public now. 🙂

Adventures of the Ladies’ Spelunking League
No Man can Survive these Perils!
Set in three time periods (Late 1800s, early 1900s, and Nowish), this math-free, dice-based, story-oriented ttRPG sets the members of the Ladies’ Spelunking League against horrors found beneath the Earth’s crust… and in the inherent biases of the patriarchy we all live in.

Blades Against Cthulhu!
A Barbaric Horror Fantasy rpg.
It’s swords and sorcery against unspeakable things, with two themes. One, all humans have much more in common with each other than they do with eldritch horrors. Two, there are lines even mecriless killers won’t cross.
And a lot of severed tendrils of indescribable ichor.

Blades Against Cthulhu

Checked Out
You can’t win, but you can choose to keep playing.
A zombie apocalypse game where the most important attribute is your Humanity. Survival requires accomplishing difficult tasks. Difficult tasks are made easier if you choose to do things that reduce your Humanity. Your Humanity is also what lets you form alliances, earn trust, and keep going. If it gets too low, you Check Out.

Eye of Argon, the RPG
No horror can match it
Bad pastiche fantasy, with the resolution mechanic being based on how many pages of Eye of Argon you can read without laughing, groaning, or rolling your eyes.

Persuade. Ponder. Prepare. Punch.
You Only Do One Thing Well
The game has exactly four attributes — Persuade (all social interactions), Ponder (for all investigation, knowledge, and thinking), Prepare (for all crafting, planning, leading, and equipping), and Punch (for all fighting).
You can Master one of those categories (automatically succeeding at all related tasks), and be bad at all the others, or you can be Great at two and Okay at two, or you can be Good at all four.
But no two characters can have the same selections.

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What The Heck is “ShadowFinders?”

So, I happened to mention a “ShadowFinders” campaign on social media a few times in the past few weeks, leading a number of people to ask “What the heck is ShadowFinders, and when does it come out?”

Cyberpunk katana

And now I’ll have a place to point them to, at least for the moment. And the answers are… “A theoretical modern Pathfinder campaign I have been noodling and, as far as I know, never.”

I know, not very satisfying.

The thing it, I already have TWO campaign settings mulling about that I work on when I get what I laughingly refer to as “Space Time.” I’ve been working on-and-off on the Really Wild West (a campaign hack for Starfinder), and more recently Sorcerers & Speakeasies (a campaign setting for 5e). Those are both mix-modern-and-fantasy settings, with Really Wild West having a great deal more material done for it (having begun working on it more than 2 years ago), and Sorcerers & Speakeasies currently having an actual for-sale product currently being designed by a freelancer.

So, clearly, I already have my hands full with modern fantasy pastiche ideas for two game systems that I don;t have time to move forward at full speed as it is. So why would I add another?

To some extend, I can’t help it.

I didn’t become an RPG game designer because that was my life goal. I slid into it sideways, by loving games (especially RPGs), and making up stuff for my own home games (mostly RPGs), and wanting to turn my hobby into a revenue-neutral pastime that paid for itself. (You can read more detailed accounts of my nearly-accidental entry into my 20+ year RPG design career at “From the Freelancing Frontline,” in a series of articles at EN World.)

And, it’s still one of my primary hobbies. Which means, I am still having ideas about things I’d like to run as games, or add to games, or even play in games. Now, a lot of that content ends up in products I write or develop–I find it easiest to work on a game system if I am playing that system. (I know some rpg designers prefer not to be frequently playing the game they are working on, and given how great many of those designers are I have to say that works for them. I don’t think it would work well for me.)

But a lot of it DOESN’T end up in my professional writing. Now, some of that is for legal reasons (yes I have thoughts on Jedi in Starfinder, but unless I create a totally different Owen-as-fan-only space, I’m never going to share them). Some of it is because it’s material I’d only want to use in a context where I knew the people involved and could tailor it to match their preferences and playstyles. But some of it is just because there hasn’t been a good match yet, and/or because I haven’t had the time.

And that last category is the weird limbo where ShadowFinders exists.

Cyberpunk Gun

I have several solid ideas for ShadowFinders, as a modern supplement for Pathfinder 2nd Edition. Essentially a smaller stand-alone hardback book that is a complete RPG and 100% compatible with the Core Rulebook, but focuses on a modern, urban fantasy game. I have ideas on how I’d save space (many fewer ancestries and classes, likely only occult and primal magic), how to link it to existing cosmology (some primal magic comes from Egypt, which once had strange portals to another Egypt-like land in another world, but most magic is occult material that entered the world in through strange events involving Rasputin), and how it would work with the existing rules (as a modern supplement, with material you could use in a 100% fantasy setting, or could add to a fantasy setting that happened to already have alien spaceships and guns in it in limited locations).

But that approach works best if it’s a book Paizo publishes… and that is both unlikely (I have some idea how hard it is for Paizo to manage to both maintain its currently offers AND produce a new core rulebook with a new setting), and if it did happen would  most likely not involve me in any major capacity. I have thoughts on that too, of course (involving Paizo deciding to outsource creation of a SahdowFinders rpg to keep costs and down and experiment with freelance production and development), but that’s not particularly likely either. (Never say never, but be realistic with your planning.)

So, that leaves me with a name and idea I like but that would work best in production circumstances that aren’t going to happen soon if ever, no spare time, two more similar projects already further along… and tons of ideas for a thing I can’t take time to move forward on right now.

So is ShadowFinders dead? No, definitely not. But it is in a holding pattern, neither being given up on nor getting any resources to speak of at the moment. One of the few things I know is that I never know what I’ll be working on in 3 years, and often have no idea what I’ll be working on in 1 year.

It PROBABLY won’t be any version of ShadowFinders…

Cyberpunk Butterfly

Unless, of course, it gets a huge positive response from a Patreon crowd that grows large enough to support even more of my time going to working on such things. 🙂

Real Mental Health Issues: My Traumas (2)

This addresses and describes trauma I have suffered, and if you don’t have interest in knowing about that, or if it’s not in your mental health best interests to read about cruelty, assault, or being immobilized, don’t read this.

It’s okay. I’ll get back to imaginary creatures and game spells later. At my therapist’s recommendation, and with their support, I am both making a list of the potentially traumatic events in my life, and trying to nail down details about them I have forgotten.

It is exhausting, frightening, shocking work.

having been diagnosed with civilian PTSD, I also think it is important work for my own well-being.

This is a frank discussion and description of some of that trauma. If you’d rather not be exposed to that, it’s perfectly all right to skip this. I’ll go back to pastiche supervillains ideas and my take on politics and gaming later.

This content is mostly about alcoholism.

My father was an alcoholic. He and my mother tried to control his alcoholism with rationality and intelligence, because they were rational, intelligent people.

It did not work.

My father was never violent. In fact, I have never witnessed any violence against any member of my family except myself, and I have never witnessed any member of my family be violent except myself.

I have assumed, for my entire life, that since my father was never violent, there was no trauma to me associated with his alcoholism.

When drunk, my father made promises that not only would he not keep, he would not remember.

All the alcohol in the house I grew up in was kept in a cabinet that, after he had consumed the two drinks a night my parents thought was reasonable, my mother would lock.

Then, when he felt he needed more alcohol, my father either had to try to force the doors of that cabinet open just enough to pry a bottle loose with a bent coathanger, or go out.

He never drove to get alcohol, and never drove after having even one drink.

He did, however, call a taxi… of just take a walk. We lived 3 houses down from a bar and restaurant (The Mont, in Norman, OK), and late a convenience store was even closer,

As early as 5 or 6, if I woke up late at night and my father was going out, he might take me to the Mont as 10 or 11pm, after everyone else was asleep. I could sit in the restaurant section, and he’d sit right next to me, on the other side of the railing that demarcated the bar.

I learned to play chess with him, and later the game go, at that bar.

As I grew older, he was more likely to walk to the store, buy a bottle, and come back and we’d play games at home. My earliest game experiences–chess, go, checkers, pitch, and a civil war wargame/boardgame I don’t know the name of, were with my father, but only when he was drunk. We almost never got to finish those games, because he’d become too drunk to keep playing. Usually he’d fall asleep, or begin to cry about international politics he’d slurringly try to explain to me.

This was all I knew. To me, this was normal.

I did that less once I had friends, and could play games with them. No because I was avoiding my father, but because the window during which he could play got shorter and shorter, as he drank more, faster.

After my sister went to college, it began to be normal to come into the living room in the morning to discover my father had passed out after unlocking the door to come into the house, and we had, for an unknown period of time, been asleep with our front door held open by his body being slumped across our doorway.

My mother told my father to stop getting drunk at home, so he would take a taxi to a motel, and get drunk there, often paying people to spend time with him because he disliked drinking alone.

In my mid-to-late teens, I met some of the people he paid to spend time with him. They suggested I could pay them to spend time with me. They also suggested I could get the money to do so from my father and he wouldn’t even notice.

I am sure I could have.

My father was a sweet man who loved me, and was doing the best he could.

He and my mother were going to take my wife and I out to dinner on our first wedding anniversary–but he got too drunk and couldn’t do it. My mother had to call me, and confess he had moved out a few weeks before, and they hadn’t told me because they didn’t want to ruin my anniversary dinner.

My mother took us out without him.

About a year before he died, in an effort to get him to go back into rehab, I told him he was drinking himself to death.

He told me he knew, and that was what he wanted. He wanted to drink himself to death.

He did.

The Public Enemies: Inverted Jenny

Superheroes and pulp adventurers need nemeses who are just as colorful, interesting, and talented as the protagonists they oppose. Batman’s Rogue’s Gallery, the Flash’s Rogues, Spider-Man’s Sinister Six, Superman’s legions of foes, the Green Lantern’s Yellow Lanterns and so on, define those heroes as much as their powers and backstories do. So when running a supers RPG, GMs often want to create memorable foes to serve similar roles.

One way to do that is to do pastiche versions of classic villains. Another is to create new villains that draw on similar tropes, but aren’t 1-for-1 homages.

Since villains are often coolest if they have some collective noun (which doesn’t have to mean they work together… though sometimes they might), I have begun pondering a group of colorful foes ready to be the nemeses of nearly any hero.

I call them, the “Public Enemies.”

Inverted Jenny
The  master criminal known as Inverted Jenny is well-known to actually be Dr. Jennifer January, an expert in computational complexity theory who funded many philanthropic pursuits by working as a freelance postal and insurance investigator uncovering fraud. After she exposed a profitable money-laundering scheme being used by the Wolf’s Head, she was kidnapped and questioned by the villain Toxin under enhanced interrogation to see how much information she had turned over to the government. This treatment resulted in her developing dissociative identity disorder, apparently as an intentional side-effect of the psychotropic treatment she underwent.

The second identity that developed thought of herself as the opposite of everything Dr. Jennifer January believed in, and thus dubbed herself “Inverted Jenny.” Inverted Jenny is a genius planner obsessed with things that are the reverse of the norm, and stamps and stamp collecting. Though she has no superhuman powers, her ability to carefully plan, prepare for nearly any eventuality, adjust on the fly, and adapt to changing situations in clever and unexpected ways makes her a famously successful and dangerous foe. She is often very well funded, able to gather vast wealth in short periods of time through various forms of fraud, and happily spends that money to commit crimes that bring in much less value, but matches her personal aesthetic.

As Inverted Jenny she wears a domino mask (despite knowing her identity is public knowledge), and a high-quality pinstripe suit with a label pin of the famous Inverted Jenny stamp. She normally carries a handgun (often with specialty ammunition designed to deal with specific problems she has foreseen running into), a utility knife (generally concealed), a big ring (with the biplane from the famous stamp on it), and sometimes a cane (which has about a 50/50 change of having some special function, such as being a sword-cane, or a one-shot shotgun, or a cattle prod).

Inverted Jenny often works with a small club of all-women mercenary criminal specialists known as the Philatelists. These include Basel Dove (nonlethal munitions), Red Mercury (explosives), One-Cent Magenta (naval and underwater ops), Penny Black (disguise and infiltration), and Scinde Dawk (hand-to-hand combat). The Philatelists aren’t insane, and aren’t obsessed with stamps or inverted items. They were first assembled by Inverted jenny in an early, spectacularly successful, caper. While they were captured after they went their separate ways, their reputations were such that they were often freed and recruited by governments, master criminals, and of course Inverted Jenny herself. As a result, they use their stamp-based codenames, even when working independently or with groups with different motifs.

Two other Philatelists have sometimes been acknowledged, Penny Blue being a bodyguard often hired by Inverted Jenny, and Penny Red being a trainee of Penny Black (and possibly a younger relation) who operates independently as a bounty hunter and repossession expert on the gray side of the law.

Since Inverted Jenny is truly and genuinely insane, when captured she is generally confined and treated at the Segefield Sanatorium for the Criminally Insane. Of course, sometimes Dr. January’s personality is dominant, and at such times Inverted Jenny effectively does not exist. On numerous occasions, Dr. January has seemed to successfully and permanently suppress the Inverted Jenny personality, and managed to receive clearance to live in public, though always with regular monitoring and check-ins. Sadly, some treatments turned out to be only temporary, others couldn’t prevent a resurgence of Inverted Jenny if Dr. January was in extreme pain or danger, and in at least two cases what was a permanent fix was undone by some other villain who felt the need to recreate Inverted Jenny to access her planning expertise.

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