World Building: Magic, Demons, Angels, and Devils

Back in November I wrote about a new RPG campaign that I had cooked up, a game that I’ll refer to as For The King! for lack of a better name.  If you are currently playing in or are going to play in my 5th edition D&D campaign, you might want to be careful with reading this post.  If not, feel free to read this early-concept campaign overview.  I’ll avoid saying things here that could be too spoiler-y, but I plan to explore the nature of magic, demons, devils, and other such inimical forces.  Your character might or might not have access to this information.

Based on the first few sessions that I ran for my brothers, I already know that the setting allows for angels and fallen angels, though the latter are more like Remnants from In Nomine, powerful supernatural beings from other planes who have had some part of their greater nature stripped from them by intent or by accident.

Angels and their derivatives are all essentially moderately self-willed fragments of the god they serve, and might be thought of as something like having a god let its fingernail clippings (or maybe severed finger?) go off and do its bidding in the world.  A bit like some kind of overpowered intelligent celestial dandruff, I suppose.  But I don’t know off the top of my head how to make demons and devils work, and I don’t just want to sign on to the metaphysics presented in the 5th ed. Monster Manual without some editorial input.  I’d much rather doodle in the margins and make their setting fluff more thoroughly my own.  So read on for sweet lore! Continue reading

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Flash Fiction: Bart Luther, Freelance Exorcist (3/4)

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Ok, I know that’s Keanu Reeves as Constantine, but it felt appropriate.

This Monday I’ve got more flash fiction for you, my response to Chuck Wendig’s Part 3 of 4 challenge that he posted last Friday.  I’ve collected the two previous pieces in one place here, with my addition to the story at the end, so you can read the whole thing in order.  The first two parts are great and you should totally go check out the sites of the original authors, which can be found here (for Josh, the original creator of the piece), and here (for Pavowski, the author of part two).  There are asterisks marking the breaks between each section.

Ready for a good story? Continue reading

Flash Fiction: Night in the Canyon (part 2 of 4)

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I picked up the beginning of this piece, titled “The Sheriff, the Priest, and the Killer,” over at ROKTyping as part 1 for Chuck Wendig’s 4-part flash fiction challenge.  I had a hard time choosing, but this’ll be my contribution to part 2 of Chuck Wendig’s 4-part challenge.

I was a little confused about our dramatis personae, but I think I’ve got it down as follows: there’s Sheriff Cairns, Billy and Sam O’Connel, and two men named Johnny and Kurt.  There’s also a character named Rusty (who was dead, last we knew); the inhuman murderer Matt Quinn; an as yet unnamed priest; and an as yet unnamed boy with a toothy, too-wide smile.  There may have been some counting issues, since the priest only references 5 people being present, but I think we can ignore that.  Enjoy!

***

The sun rolled down behind the edge of the cliffs, limning the top of the canyon in light for a moment before it disappeared completely.  The deep gulch was suddenly too dark, but everyone could still see the too-wide smile of the freak that rode alongside the padre. Continue reading

Two interesting articles instead of a big post

I’ve been doing research for my History of Children’s Book Publishing class instead of writing an article today, and tomorrow I’ll spend as much of the day as I can cooped up in the Houghton Library at Harvard doing more research.  I should have gone there earlier, but for the past week and a half every single day that I planned to go (and haven’t been busy with other things) the library has closed because of snow.  Fimbulvetr has struck Boston, such is life.

In addition to that, I’ve been trying to figure out which story I want to continue for Chuck Wendig’s current flash fiction challenge.  I haven’t yet decided, as I’m still reading through some of the initial submissions.

But that doesn’t mean I have nothing interesting to share!  Two things have caught my attention today: one is an article about the ideological and theological underpinnings of ISIS / ISIL / Daesh, and the other is some super cool news about nanotech being used to fight cancer.  The cancer one is a super fast read and is worth checking out, and the other one is just straight up fascinating as an examination of the self-proclaimed caliphate as a fundamentally apocalyptic millenarian organization.

A Red and Pleasant Land: Old School RPGs through a Looking Glass

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My itinerant laser-show friend arrived unexpectedly this week, and as such it was immediately time to play RPGs.  He brought a copy of A Red and Pleasant Land, a Lewis Carroll inspired setting and rules supplement for the system Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and we all thought that this was so cool that we totally had to play it.  We got somewhat distracted by character creation because we’re a bunch of nerds and it’s fun coming up with details about our fictional selves, but I’m really looking forward to playing with these characters.

I can’t tell you that much about the game yet, since I haven’t really gotten much of a chance to play, but I can tell you this: Lamentations of the Flame Princess is a little bit like a more metal version of original DnD, and A Red and Pleasant Land is a far more metal version of Carroll’s visions, chock full of murder, bloodthirsty vampires, and wars.

If you like the idea of playing a stripped down and often lethal version of old-school Dungeons and Dragons, something that will force you to think your way out of your various predicaments (because your stat line and the game systems surely won’t save you), you should check out Lamentations.  If you like the idea of doing that in a fabulously lethal Wonderland, and possibly wandering the world as an Alice (yes, “the Alice” is a class, and from what I’ve seen she’s totally amazing), then you should check out A Red and Pleasant Land.

Ok, that’s enough for now, I’m afraid the time has come for me to go back to seeing my visiting friend before he disappears onto the road once more.

Flash Fiction: Miranda (part 1 of 4)

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Eva Green in Casino Royale feels like the right face for this role.

This week’s Flash Fiction (as brought to you by Chuck Wendig’s weekly challenge) is a 1000 word beginning to what will eventually be a 4 part story.  The basic idea, as I understand it, is to write 1000 words and then swap sections with another author, or maybe just play musical chairs or something.  Technically I wasn’t supposed to make any sort of ending, but instincts kicked in and I started wrapping up the story before I really knew what I was doing; fortunately, I left things wide-open enough for someone to continue where I left off without too much trouble.  So, without further ado, enjoy!

(Edit from 2/20/2015: CJ, over at cjreader.com, has picked up this piece and written part two.  It’s great!  You can find it over here)

***

Dearest Charles,

It takes 31 separate steps to set up a proper party, or so Mother always said.  She spent so much time nattering on about how best to do this or that, I don’t know whether she realized that I tuned her out nearly every step of the way.  It wasn’t that I hated her, though I did a little at the time, it was just that there were always things that seemed more important for me to pay attention to.  I think she’d be pleased to know that I’ve come around these days, that I now treasure some of the things she tried so hard to drill into my head.  I’ve only really held onto the most important ones, I think, and a few of the ones that she repeated too many times for me to forget.  What, you ask, brings this to mind today?  The most important of my mother’s lessons: always have fall guys, always have alibis.  I really do think she’d be pleased by how much I’ve put that lesson to good use. Continue reading

Flash Fiction: Dreams of Drowning

Well this one is grim.  Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge of the week was a subgenre mashup this time around, and I rolled “Dystopian” and “Satanic Horror.”  I’m not sure I like the results, but they seem appropriate.  I decided that dystopia was dark enough, and thought that I’d try for a Luciferian take on the whole “Satanic” bit this time around, but that apparently wasn’t enough to tip the scales towards the lighter side of things.  Even well intentioned Luciferians can’t compete with a dystopian state this time around.  I think I’m in need of something a little happier or more optimistic next time.

***

Her name was Lucille, and she wore the standard safety gear like a professional.  Her coveralls were a faded grungy black, but she had a crisp, clean patch sewn onto one shoulder, a simple black circle with a four pointed star falling, no, dangling from a parachute.  A flare.  There was a word around the bottom: Phosphorus. Continue reading

The Wizard’s Dilemma, by Diane Duane

JacketWelp, this one took me a long time to finish.  I’m still not quite sure how that happened.  Part of it was that I started the book while I had far too many things on my plate and thus got distracted.  But part of it was that at a certain point in The Wizard’s Dilemma, I felt like I could see where all of the pieces were, where they needed to go, and had a pretty good idea of how they were going to get there… and I really wanted them to just be there already, instead of making me wait.  I suspect that this is the price I pay for reading so much.  Or perhaps for being impatient.

It turns out that I was right about most of those various story beats, but seeing what Diane Duane did with them was far more satisfying than what I’d imagined.  I probably should have seen that coming, given that I’ve read the earlier books in the series and know how good Duane is at her work.  Once I finally got over my block and moved into the last parts of the book, I didn’t want to put it down.  And then, of course, the climax made me cry.  Whatever the real reasons for my reading delays, I feel quite certain in saying that this was an excellent book, one worth reading, worth recommending, and one that leaves me wanting to read the next one in the series.  Just like the previous books in the series.  I probably could have seen that coming too.

So, why the heck did this book make me cry?
Continue reading