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Monday, 20 November 2017

RPGPundit Presents #7 is Now in Spanish

Hey folks, as always, and right on time, we have RPGPundit Presents #7: A Medieval Authentic Vancian Spellbook, is now available in Spanish!

You can pick up the Spanish edition at DTRPG, or at the Precis Store!

And stay tuned tomorrow for a great medieval-authentic issue #8!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + H&H's Chestnut

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Classic Rant: Real Magick" in RPGs: Types of Magicians and "Magical Orders"

I'm going to break from talking about actual practices of magick to take a step back into addressing types of people and groups who do magick, to add more information on that subject in the specific context of "serious" practitioners of the western magical tradition. 

These days, there are probably three broad categories of western occultist you could be likely to meet in a "realistic" modern-occult setting.
First, the seriously old-school (or to use a term from modern magick, "Old Aeon"). These are the guys who basically don't like anything that came along in the world of occultism after about 1904. They identify with very traditional western magick, and more specifically with the Victorian interpretations thereof. Most of them have an affinity with the work of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (more about the Golden Dawn found later in this entry), and basically have a serious hate-on for Aleister Crowley. Some of these guys "graduated" into occultism from the new-age (particularly quasi-theosophical beliefs), though some got into it from more specific segments of occultism like astrology or kabbalah. They are, these days, a relative minority among occultists. 
When encountered, they will be very vocal about "tradition", like to use a lot of props in their ritual, don't cut any corners, and will be quite focused on old-school style hermetic work. Lots of Hebrew, and maybe the occasional sanskrit that slips in there, but they're generally not into "mingling" eastern techniques with their western magick. I would say that a lot of these guys are more "theory" than practice, but you could really say that about basically ALL of the types I'm describing; its just that these guy's "theory" will quote a lot from medieval grimoires, pseudo-masonry or Rosicrucian sources, Eliphas Levi, etc. and will carry a general disdain for any novelty. They also generally tend to be prudes, both socially, morally, and magically squeamish.

Second, the new school: Thelema. "Thelema" is a Greek word meaning "will", and is the term referring to the general religious philosophy and school of magick that was created by and will forever be influenced by Aleister Crowley, who was basically about as much of a game-changer in the world of the occult as Einstein was in the world of Physics, Picasso in the world of art, or Elvis in the world of popular music. Note that not all magicians in this category would describe themselves as "Thelemites", that is, a lot of them might not actually be DIRECTLY influenced by Crowley anymore; but if they are practicing your standard "mainstream" (inasmuch as you can call it that) hermetic magick these days, the authors they're reading and the type of magick they're doing is based on Crowley anyways. 

In many ways, the "new school" guys are not so different from the "old school", they don't ultimately reject any of the symbols or basic practices of the 19th century magicians, but they have both modernized it, personalized it, and you could say "updated" it. These guys don't stick to traditional ritual, but rather look at the building blocks of those rituals and make new iterations of it. The Kabbalah for them is still the Kabbalah, but rather than referring to just the traditional lexicon of kabbalistic concepts they want to create their own dictionary of words and images that are meaningful to them. At least, the really serious guys in this category will do that; the rest will just do the rituals that Crowley wrote, the way he wrote them, becoming in a sense the new conservatives. 

Three big differences between the old school and the new are that the new school puts a big influence on the philosophy of self-transformation (defining magick as "the art and science of causing change to occur in conformity to the Will", for that matter, you'll hear "true will" bandied about quite a lot), individualism and respect for but not blind hierarchical obedience to spiritual authority; that they put a much bigger emphasis on personal revelation and personal "astral visions" (or whatever you want to call it), basically suggesting that a big part of the magical work is to experience altered perceptions and other dimensions of your being, and take very seriously the insights that these provide (for many of the new school, this includes incorporating both sex and drugs into their magical practice, something that Crowley was really big on and that the old school tends to seriously dislike); and that they will tend to be much more open to synthesis with all kinds of non-western influences. "New School" magicians and old-school magicians both tend to accept that there is a "Perennial philosophy", that all esoteric practices of every culture are basically different ways of describing the same magical "formula" for self-transformation, but the "new school" people have taken this to mean that there is a benefit to incorporating sources that weren't traditionally part of western-magick into their practices; so you have things like the "Voudoun-Gnostic Workbook" or the "Voodoo Tarot", the borrowing of rituals from tribal shamanic practices, significant interest in sufism, and most especially in the esoteric parts of the big three eastern religions: Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism. The parts they like to borrow from these religions tend to be the radical esoteric practices, things like Tantrism or Taoist Alchemy. 
On the other hand, the New School guys are generally less inclined to include Christian symbolism than the old school. Also, the new-school guys are the most likely to interact with the general Wiccan and Pagan subcultures and self-identify as "pagans" (though sometimes with the caveat that they aren't like "normal" neo-pagans, or that they're more serious about it, or whatever).

Like I said above, just as many of the "old school" guys will be more "theory" than "practice", so will most of the new-school guys; only their "theory" will be a lot more talking about received Holy Books, someone else's (usually Crowley's) astral visions of the kabbalistic tree of life or the Enochian Aethyrs, talking about the True Will, or about "sex magick". 
New school guys generally tend to think that "old school" guys are reactionary farts who "have the ritual but don't understand it", and that the "Really New school" guys are "posers" who are "too lazy" to study serious magick and don't know what they're doing.

Thirdly, the REALLY New School, or "Chaos magicians". Sometime around the early 1980s, a new kind of post-modern movement started springing up among the magick subculture of what was quickly termed "chaos magick"; this is a movement that basically rejects the old style of ritual completely (or at most, defines it as an entirely aesthetic personal choice), and have neither respect nor obedience to spiritual authority. They are extreme personalists, who believe that each magician has to not only interpret traditional symbols in an individual way (the way the "new schoolers" do), but have to create their own entirely new, entirely personal set of symbols, or incorporate modern symbols and concepts into their magical practice. Confusingly, many chaos magicians would also identify themselves as Thelemites and express admiration for Aleister Crowley (unsurprisingly, since many of them started as "new school" magicians, and then jumped over to the Chaos Magick current). They just don't believe that you need to use any of the old methods to do magick. 

These guys can be characterized for a love of creating spontaneous rituals, breaking the rules for rules-breaking's sake, using lots of "sigil magick" where they create some new word (sometimes out of the letters of whatever concept they're trying to invoke) or image (again, out of the general imagery of what they're trying to invoke) and then using that as a focus for their will (by varied means, anything from masturbation (over the sigil) to mass-production (of the sigil, making it seen in a whole lot of places or by a whole lot of people)), and going out of their way to try to mingle talk about modern quantum physics, chaos mathematics, or other cutting-edge legitimate sciences with their personal occult theory. 

This is the guy, in other words, who will use lots of quasi-scientific words to try to convince you that the Uncertainty Principle or String Theory "Proves" that magick is real. They see the "new school" guys as "old farts" and the "Old school" guys as utterly hopeless.
The general criticism that more traditional magicians have for fans of "chaos magick" is that they're not basically doing anything, they're just making it up as they go along; I've even literally heard one "new school" Thelemic magician accuse chaos magick of being "barely a step above D&D on the scale of credible occultism".

Critics will point to the absurdity of the fact that Chaos magicians believe that symbols are only powerful due to the personal impact they have for you in your personal history and experience (rather than the more standard occult theory that symbols are powerful because of an objective connection to the collective unconscious, the kabbalistic tree of life, or the divine supersoul). The chaos magicians, feeling that all that matters is one's own personal whims, will argue that it makes more sense to "invoke Superman" in a magical ritual rather than Zeus, evoke the Cthulhu monsters from Lovecraft novels rather than the demons of the goetia, or will use pseudo-latin words from Harry Potter rather than the Ineffable Names or the Enochian Calls. More traditional magicians will take this to mean that not only do most chaos magicians not know what they're doing, they don't even believe in what they're doing, they're just playing at being pop-culture post-modern wizards; an accusation that might be true for a significant number of chaos magicians, but then again, similar accusations of "playing at being Crowley" or "playing at collecting absurd titles" can be levied at the majority of Thelemites and the Golden-dawn old-schoolers.

Like the other two above, the majority of chaos magicians are much more "theory" (or one should say "talk", in their case, since they intentionally don't have a coherent theory) than practice.
I think Alan Moore perhaps put it best in his incredible occult-comic Promethea; "You know, in the 20s, magicians had style; it was turbans, tuxedos, and tarts in tiaras; now its all sigils, stubble and self-abuse". Of course Grant Morrison, a practicing chaos magician and writer of the even-more incredible The Invisibles, responded by calling Moore's treatment of magick in Promethea "elitist". 

Curiously, the thing worth noting is that the really great magicians of any of these three predominant types will all end up looking very similar; its the posers that tend to look different from one another. The hardcore guys who have developed a serious magical practice, regardless of what outer "school of thought" they belong to, will all have engaged in obsessive study of ALL kinds of sources, near-neurotic levels of daily practices, will demonstrate a notable ability to improvise and adapt their magick to the situation at hand, and will all have gone through similar experiences though perhaps via different methods. In other words, they'll all be batshit crazy, AND have something real going on; and so will a real tantrist, or a real shaman, or a real voodoo witch doctor or a real Taoist alchemist. They all end up looking very similar at the high end of the "attainment" spectrum, and if that's not a good argument in favour of the Philosophia Perennia, I don't know what is.

Now, a note about magical orders: there aren't really any truly "vast occult conspiracies" out there. That's because any order that becomes truly big, and there are precious few of these too, will inevitably end up becoming much more social and less "occult". That's not to say they won't have plenty of serious magicians in these groups, but those serious magicians will not be seeing their membership in the group as the central part of their magical work, only as a compliment or a social outlet. The largest "occult order" in the western world is undoubtedly Freemasonry, which at the present time boasts about six million members worldwide. That sounds like a lot but you have to remember that its spread over a shitload of countries, there's no central "worldwide" masonic institution, and the VAST majority of its members would not define themselves as "occultists" at all, much less magicians, even though what they do in their lodges and rituals is entirely a part of the western magical tradition. 

As far as "serious" magical orders go (that is to say, orders that define themselves as "MAGICAL" Orders), they're freaking tiny by comparison. One of the largest of these is one of Crowley's orders, the Ordo Templi Orientis or OTO, and its splintered into about a dozen different rival factions; the largest of these has about 3000 members worldwide, and none of the others get anywhere near that number. The smallest "OTO" claimant group I've run into personally had a whopping TWO members!

The "old school" order par excellence was the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which were absolutely revolutionary in their development of ritual magick in the late 19th century; the original Golden Dawn (of which Crowley was a member in his youth, and which included luminaries of multiple backgrounds, people like W.B. Yeats, A.E. Waite of the "Rider Waite Tarot" fame, Bram "Dracula" Stoker, Allan "first western Buddhist Monk" Bennett, and many, many more) broke up due to infighting around 1901; after that there have been dozens of groups claiming to be the "one true" Golden Dawn (in the same way that there are dozens of "one true" OTOs out there). These days none of these groups are very big; and they generally take the form of mail-order correspondence-course groups that send you instructional material and give you a fancy "degree" as you pass written exams; the better ones actually have some type of headquarter where you go for initiations. The entirety of the original Golden Dawn's secret rituals are available in print (and online), and many "old school" magicians practice or study that ritual on their own, rather than in a group.

There are two major and a host of minor "Thelemic" groups, the aforementioned OTO being the biggest; like the Golden Dawn it works with a pseudo-masonic "Lodge" structure and offers initiations. Its membership has been suffering a decline since around the late 1980s, however, and there are far fewer working OTO lodges than there used to be. The quality of these groups vary immensely, from being largely social groups that engage in a lot of magical "conversation", to individual lodges that do very serious magical work alongside the standard ritual. 

The other major Thelemic group is the A.'.A.'., which Crowley founded. It does not follow the "lodge structure", but rather works (in theory) on a "cell" basis, where each member only knows his immediate superior in the order (the guy who's teaching him magick) and those lower-degree members that the person themselves has brought into the order. 

This means that basically, since Crowley's death, there has been no true central structure of the A.'.A.'., and there are shitloads of people who spontaneously claim to have membership in this group; theoretically, the "real" A.'.A.'. is anyone who has an unbroken "lineage" going back to Crowley himself (that is, he was brought into the A.'.A.'. by someone who was brought into the A.'.A.'. by someone who was brought into the A.'.A.'., by someone etc. etc. who was brought into the A.'.A.'. by Crowley); but this is in practice notoriously difficult to accurately confirm. Fortunately in both cases, just like with the Golden Dawn, the entire OTO rituals and A.'.A.'. magical writings are available in print or online if you know where to look, though the legal heirs of Crowley's OTO try to suppress this material whenever they find it.

The "Really New School" guys tend mostly to be solitary or work in small groups, but there's one kind-of "major" group, the Illuminates of Thanateros, who were founded by the guy who first coined the term Chaos Magick (Peter Carroll). This group is, true to chaos magick format, pretty loosey-goosey compared to the other orders I've mentioned.

So magical orders tend to be kind of shit, which tends to put the damper on some of the traditional setting-concepts of occult campaigns; but is more in keeping with the far more "realistic" setting elements of isolation and infighting that I've been trying to emphasize as being part of an accurate portrayal of the occult scene. 

And in any case, this doesn't mean that you can't have "secret groups" being a significant part of an occult campaign; remember that there's probably literally hundreds of very small "orders", often incredibly pretentious in spite of their size, which can run the gamut from con artists to cults of personality, to a group of people who have tapped into some seriously Powerful (and Possibly Fucked Up) Heavy Shit. While the majority of magicians actually work alone, or through small or medium-sized networks of like-minded acquaintances, there's also thousands of "working groups" that don't go so far as to call themselves an "order", who are also often the groups that do some of the most serious magical group work. The PC party can be one of these, for that matter. 


(Originally Posted October 7, 2011)

Saturday, 18 November 2017

No Time to Write; Short L&D Update

I've had almost no time to do anything lately.

Anyways, I'll just update readers of my blog today: a while back, we did a 'reveal' of the Lion & Dragon cover.
Now, it seems that based on both some feedback, and receiving the proof copy, my erstwhile publisher Dominique Crouzet changed his mind.  The cover will now be something totally different.

I've been promised this won't delay the publication.  So we're still aiming for early December.
(this is the part of doing an RPG book that I hate; it always seems like after I'm done writing a book it still takes almost a fucking year for it to see print, and there's always endless delays at the end)

Anyways, I'll do a NEW cover reveal as soon as I have a new cover.


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Virginia

Friday, 17 November 2017

DCC Campaign Update: Because It's Venger

In our last session, the PCs had just arrived to the shantytown outside the massive spire known by locals (on the surface of the solar skyshield) as The Citadel, where they would now have to participate in a contest known as the Death Race 3000 in order to gain entry. They're doing all this because the Citadel seems to be the place where there's a transmat into the heart of the sun, from where they will be able to use the Sunstaff to reach the Crown of Creation and save G.O.D. from Sezrekhan, who has taken control and is slowly turning everyone in the universe into his zombified slaves.


-"It's a good thing someone is tracking time in this campaign, because I'm sure not."

-"What happend to Sami while I was gone?"
"Oh, yeah, she shat herself into a coma."
"Just like her player!"

-"The shantytown has a thriving economy based on the annual Death Race."
"So a lot like Punta del Este?"
"A more murderous Punta del Este, yes."

-"So wait, this is the 3000th Death Race?"
"Yup. You've come at an auspicious time."

-Sami awakens from her coma.
"Ohhh.. why didn't you just kill me?"
"We need a cleric."
"I'm sure that if you'd let me die, another cleric would have just suddenly appeared."

-"I look for somewhere to clean myself up.."
"Well, you're basically in Space-Calcutta here, so.."

-"I'm going to put on Ekim's Plastic Surgery mask."
"Ok, you now have a 9 Personality."
"Wow, you're a considerably less unappealing ex-hooker."

-The PCs start to wander around the shantytown.
"I'll stick with the group. I don't want to run into a blood vampire around here."
"So that is to say, a normal vampire?"
"Yeah, well, this party encountered a Fire Vampire first, so now to us those are the normal ones."

-The PCs start talking about what kind of vehicle they want to buy for the Death Race.
"Could we get one with like, a guy strapped to the front holding up our war banner?"

-Suddenly, the PCs spot the Vegan Wizard, who had last been seen running off in the labyrinth on Gebo. Somehow, he's ended up in the shantytown, and is apparently wandering around in a daze.
"So, should we help him? Or just leave him here?"
"Well, we do need a wizard."
"I'm a wizard!"
"We've got the Hippomagus, he's a wizard..."
"I'm a wizard!"
"But the Hippomagus might not be enough."
"I'm a wizard!!"
"Yeah, we need a second wizard, let's save him."
"Screw all you guys."

-"How did you even get here, vegan?"
"I have no idea. I don't even know where here is?"
"Have you got anything in your ass?"
"I don't think so.."
"We could check with my staff!"

-A suspicious looking lizard man shuffles up to the PCs.
"Hey, psst.. you want to buy dolphin?"
"...yes. Yes we do."
"Wait, you not city guard, no?"

-While a couple of the PCs go off with the sneaky looking dolphin-seller, the others go to a 'magic supply store', run by a forehead-ridged mutant looking a bit like a klingon.
"Can I pay for this with credits?"
"You wish for store credit? We do not give credit!"
"No, my credits, from my credit stick."
"No credit. Only cash."

-"What kind of money do you use here?"
"Do you also use gold?"
"We can take gold, yes."
"But you don't know about credits?"
"Credit? You want money-lender."
"No... but holy shit you guys we should always go to money-lenders! We should borrow money at every city we go to! I mean, since after all when we're done with it every city we ever go to is either destroyed or we can never go back anyways."

-"So do you sell scrolls here?"
"No, we sell supplies to make scrolls! Like this high-end vellum."
"Ohh, this one is bordered by little flowers. And this one is lavender-scented!"
"Dude, you're not in a magic shop at all, this is just a stationary store."

-"I wonder what the rest of the party is doing?"
"We're buying a dolphin!"

-"There are two dolphins in the warehouse; one is rather emaciated and is hanging from some leather straps. The other is relatively fat and soaking in a small pool of water that seems infused with a variety of herbs."
"I run my finger over the fat one and then lick it... yeah, it's pure!"

-"This one is for eating.. other is for, well, you know."

-"Wait, you are Death Racers?"
"We will be, tomorrow."
"Oh, so then you may want dolphin catapult!"
"Dude, this is getting out of hand."

-"Can we use this Dolphin-launcher for things other than dolphins?"
"Yes, large catapult can also launch dogs, small children, etc."

-"Do you have Dolphin explosives? Like, that we could put on the dolphin so he'd explode on impact?"
"You can stuff him with grenades!"
"The dolphin looks very nervous."

-"Hey, with my Animal Summoning, we could use the dolphin to create MORE dolphins!"
"Ok, so wait... we're actually doing this now, aren't we??"

-"I don't know what happened to you Heidi, maybe it's the rarefied air here, but you've really changed."
"Well, um, we could make sure the dolphin only does non-lethal damage."
"Too late for that now, dude. You've become one of us!"

-"I'm pretty sure that dolphin is sentient, and can understand us. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm still on board with this."

-"Man, I'm sure glad we haven't gotten totally side-tracked..."

-Having secured their plans to purchase assault dolphins, the PCs now move on to trying to hijack a vehicle. They settle on a cool-looking post-apocalyptic APV manned by a bunch of pirates.
"We want to buy your vehicle, captain."
"Yarr, this ship is not for sale!"
"It's an APV, not a ship."
"Maybe it's a land ship?"
"Narr, that's where ye're wrong, lad. It be a Sea-ship Of The Land."

-Heidi uses his Ring of Human Control to force the captain to buy the ship for 50gp. Then he tells the captain to lend him 50gp.
"Ok, so you've used 2HD to control the captain, out of 30, right?"
"Oh shit, never mind... as far as you know you have unlimited uses.. it was all a dream!!"

-The captain's crew realize something suspicious is going on. To stop them from all attacking, Vizi challenges the biggest one to a duel and cuts him to pieces with his light sabre.
The rest of the pirates run away.

-"Yarr, I'll lend you the 50gp, but the Death Race be cold at night..."
"We plan to get a dolphin..."
"That'll do."
"Wouldn't you rather have me?"
"Nar, there be no place for women at the sea."

-Heidi decides he'd better get rid of the legless captain, since he has to continually concentrate to keep him controlled. So he flies him out about an hour away in the middle of the wasteland, and dumps him there to die.

-Blitzkrieg and Space-Bear show up, and they got themselves a hovertank!

-"How did you get that??"
"I won it in a sabacc game, baby."
"of course."

-"Are we allowed to split our party into two vehicles?"
"That's what that random weirdo in the gas mask told us back in town, and he should know."

-"What are you going to call your hovertank, Blitzkrieg?"
"The Shaft-1"
"of course."
"Wait does that mean you never had a shaft before?"

-"What's your APV called?"
"Well, it was called the Lolipop, but we're going to rename it the Mammoth-1, on account of the huge mammoth skull in the front."

-Heidi flies back.
"Did you take care of the captain?"
"Yes. He's in a farm now, with a big field where he can crawl around with other legless captains and have fun."

-"We want to buy some dolplin explosives."
"OK, do you want your dolphin to be alive when he explodes?"
"Oh yeah, we need it to make dolphin sounds as it flies down on our enemies."
"Yes, plus his eco-location could help him target somehow."

-That night, Mu perfects his sleep-rune. When the Vegan wizard starts to annoy him, Mu puts him to sleep.
"That's a damn good spell."

-The next morning the PCs go and, having pooled their money, purchase their artillery-dolpin. The Dolphin salesman suggests that to smuggle him out of town to where they're parked, they hire his cousin who has a small cart and a giant-snail disguise for the dolphin.

-The city guardsmen are coming down the street. Nervous, Sami tries to cast Ackbasha's Sanctuary, which only draws their attention.
"You were casting some kind of spell, miss?"
"So what? Hey! I'm not allowed to cast something now? I know my rights! I thought this was America, man!!"

-They manage to distract the guards by claiming they saw someone disguised as other guards trying to sell a dolphin. They make it over to the vehicles, but Space Bear has serious reservations about their use of a projectile dolphin.
"Space Bear says the dolphin is sentient."
"How does he know?"
"Space Bear speaks dolphin."

-Blitzkrieg has to translate from Bear to Common, while Space Bear is translating from Dolphin to Bear.
"There are way too many NPCs in this group."

-They remember that the Vegan mutant can use his Animal Summoning and that when he does so the dolpins won't be sentient dolphins. He hopes.
"Cool. So do you need to cut a piece off the dolphin or something?"
"The dolphin looks very nervous."
"No, that won't be necessary."
"The dolphin looks relieved"
"OK dolphin, I just need you to shit in this cup!"
"Why, you sick fuck?!"
"Because its Venger!"

-Later in the day, a group of Space Vampires, from a rival Death Race team, come along.  The group is nervous, but they come in peace.
"We have come to offer an alliance, blah!"
"Can you give us some time to think about it?"
"Yes, we will come back in 10.. 10 hours! Ah hah haha!!"

-"I don't know, could these vampires double cross us?"
"Wouldn't a double cross hurt them?"

-"Guys, I think Mongo is petting the dolphin a bit too roughly"
"You have to pet him hard so he can feel it!"

-The pirates who the PCs stole their APV from try to ambush them on the streets of the shantytown. But Heidi first intimidates them and then recruits them. "You are my new crew. Look at me: I am the captain now!"

-For their first task, Heidi has his pirate crew go out and buy fireworks, fish (for the dolphin to eat), wooden stakes (in case the vampires double-cross them) and pirate hats.

-The Vampire crew come back to continue negotiating an alliance.
"I am Lord Dracul. These are my cohorts: Count von Count, Count Chokula, Blackula and Sidney Appelbaum."

-The Vegan is approached by a cat-humanoid, who claims he has items they might want. He wanders off with this total stranger, and Vizi goes along just in case. It turns out that the cat-people-gang are working with a stereotypical Mad Scientist (including the German accent).

-Heidi and Mu go looking for their missing team-mates. Some mental-control driven interrogation leads them to some tips on the cat-people, and Mu follows a cat-boy while psychically invisible. Unfortunately, he loses track of him, loses his invisibility, and can't find his way back to where Heidi was.

-The Mad Scientist drugs the Vegan and initially wanted to implant some kind of probe in the Vegan, but discovers that apparently the Vegan already has a probe in him, so instead he puts one in Vizi after drugging him with poisoned but delicious strudel.

-Mu gives up and heads back, but Heidi flies around and eventually finds Vizi and the Vegan, both nearly naked on a rooftop. They were robbed blind, and had been drugged to lose all their short-term memories of what happened.
They've lost their jetpacks, their armor, their weapons, their comms, their electro-spears, their light-sabres, and their dignity.

-"We're also missing Mu. Wait, let me rephrase that: Mu is not here. We don't miss him."

-They eventually find their way back to the cat hideout. Heidi breaks down the door.
"I'm here to weaponize dolphins and kick ass. And I'm all out of dolphin!"

-Heidi goes after the Mad Scientist, who had fled out the back while the group was dispatching the cat-people. But when he gets out flying he sees that the Mad Scientist tried to use a jet-pack, crashed it, and blew himself to bits starting a fire in the shantytown.

-Vizi uses his precognition on the scientist's lab, and gets a vision of himself getting implanted with a probe. He hears the scientist mention how the Vegan had a magical probe already, but that his 'client' would be pleased with Vizi getting probed.

-"Roman, I think they put something in me, not up my ass mind you. Also, the Vegan had something already inside him, which for sure was put up his ass!"
"Yup, you've got an explosive probe. Looks ass-implanted to me."
"No no, they used microsurgery. Only on me though, not on the Vegan, on him they totally implanted it anally"

-"well, I've managed to deactivate the probe, but the bad news is you still have a lot of explosives lodged firmly within your colon."
"...through microsurgery! On me, not the Vegan"

-Heidi managed to recover one of the light-sabers, a comm, and the cats had left behind some of the other armors and weapons. They also found some low-grade cybernetics, and some drugs, which are later identified as anasthesia, euthanasia drugs, and rohypnol.
"That explains the memory loss!"
"And the ass-probing!"
"Only the vegan, not me!"

-"The Vegan's probe is totally different. It seems to be magical, and it's in his chest cavity."
"Wow, that's so strange that they got it all the way up there through his ass, while they put one in my colon but not by that route!"

-"Guys, I can try to deactivate the Vegan's probe, but there's a slight chance he  might explode."
"We step back slowly... go ahead, Roman, do it!"

-"I'm going to take off all my armor and equipment to save in case I explode."
"That's incredibly grand of you given how obvious it is the rest of these assholes don't care whether you live or die."

-"Here, I'll give you a helping hand... I give the Vegan that cyber-arm I got from the lab."

-Roman fails to be able to disarm the magical probe in the Vegan, so they call on the Hippomagus to try dispel magic on it, with the help of the Sunstaff, which they briefly lend back to him. As soon as he manages to de-power the probe, they take it away again.
"But.. i was told i'd get to keep the staff?"
"You will, later."
"i'd like my staff back please..?"
"You guys realize that eventually he's going to snap and kill us all, right?"

-Sami heals the Vegan, but only on the condition that he's baptized (she had earlier suffered divine disapproval, and needed a new convert). She baptizes him by breaking a bottle of beer over his head.
"You know that kind of baptism is only what the Religious Fantastics do, right? It's not the normal way to baptize people..."
"It's now a tradition for me."

-"The good thing out of your shameful misbehaviour is that we learned we were being probed."

-That night, the party rests after an eventful day, knowing that the Death Race starts tomorrow. But late at night, they're woken up by their Pirate hirelings, altering the PCs to a very large horde of Sezrekhan zombies marching right for them!

That's it for today. Will the PCs actually make it to the Death Race next time? Will they be able to get closer to their quest? Or will they get distracted by more nonsense or yet another side-quest? And most importantly: will their projectile explosive-dolphin weapon work?

Stay tuned next time for the answers to at least some of these questions, we hope!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti half-volcano + Sutliff's Man's Best Friend

Thursday, 16 November 2017

NOW is a Great Moment to Send me Your Review Copies!

So, at this time I've actually managed to get to the end of my queue for review copies.

First of all, that means that if you have sent me something to review, and I have NOT reviewed it, that would mean I did not get it. I don't think that there is anything I was expecting to get that has not arrived, but if there's someone I forgot or you sent me something without checking first, please get in touch with me ASAP, since I have not yet received it.

Second, if you have an RPG product, be it an OSR book or any other kind of RPG at all, and you would like to get a review done for it, now would be the time to send it my way!

If you check out theRPGsite's Reviews Subforum, you will find that I have a ridiculously large number of reviews under my belt. And it will give you an idea, if you did not know already, of the kind of thing you could expect.

If you're wondering why you should send me a review copy, here is reason #1: I review EVERYTHING I receive.  Those of you who are experienced publishers will know just how important that is, because I have heard time and time again from publishers countless horror stories about how they've sent 5 or 7 or a dozen review copies to all kinds of people and don't get even one review back. Knowing that there's someone you can send your review copy to that has a 100% track record of providing a review in return is, in and of itself, a huge deal. One might wish it wasn't, one would expect that this should just be normal, but sadly, that's just not the case in our hobby/industry. There's only a couple of reviewers who have a consistent record of producing reviews when they get review copies, and I'm the most prolific of these.

Reason #2: a lot of people who send review copies, after paying for the copy and the shipping, and even if they do get a review out of it, will get a pathetic review of a couple of paragraphs.
My reviews, on the other hand, are always very thorough, detailed, and insightful.

Reason #3: The reviews get coverage. Even if you did send a review copy and got a review out of it and that review was more than two or three paragraphs long, it doesn't do you much good if no one reads it.  My reviews are always posted at multiple locations: they get posted here on my blog of course, they get linked on my G+ account and posted through that to a number of G+ gaming 'communities' relevant to whatever the book being reviewed is about. They also get posted, in full, in the RPGsite Reviews subforum, linked to above. Furthermore, these reviews are often reposted as "classic posts" here several years after the initial review was posted.  That's a lot of coverage!

Reason #4: I'm FAIR. Yes, I know, that might be something you might doubt if you know my reputation. But I'm not saying I'm unbiased. I make my biases in terms of what I like or don't like in RPGs, and I don't try to put on a veneer of neutrality. But I certainly DO make an effort, even while I talk about what I personally like and dislike about a game, to differentiate that from what I think is objectively good or bad about a game from a design point of view. And I ALWAYS make an effort, whenever possible, to conclude a review by assessing just what type of gamers would like a given gaming product, and what kind might not.  In that way, the review allows people to get an idea of whether the game will be for them or not, regardless of whether it's for me or not.
I won't ever promise you a favorable review. But I do promise it will be thorough and every effort will be made to look at it fairly.

Finally, IT WORKS.  There's a reason why people send me games they know I'll hate. There's a reason why people who clearly can't stand me, either my type of gaming or my politics or my personality or whatever, still send me games to review. Because if you have a gaming product and you send me a review copy, when my review comes out, in the vast majority of cases that translates into sales. The "pundit bump" is real and even people who have no reason to like me have admitted it.

So, if you have a game you want me to review, please get in touch with me!
All reviews will be done in the order I receive them, so it's first-come first-serve; and often that means long waiting periods from the time that your book arrives until the review comes in, because I'll have a big backlog, but right now, I have none, so whoever gets a book to me first will get a review fairly quickly from when I receive it.  Note that Uruguayan mail is notoriously slow, so assume that whatever you might have been told is the estimated delivery time will possibly be double that or more, though sometimes it surprises you (there's no way to guess at this, I've had books that arrive to my door a week after they were sent, and in some very few extreme cases, books that took six months to get here!).

So, RPG designers, writers and publishers, take advantage of this moment. I'm betting it won't last long, and new books will be getting to me shortly, so strike while the iron is hot!


Currently Smoking: Raleigh Hawkbill + Image Virginia

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Classic Rant: "Real" Magick in RPGs, Continued: Divination

Pretty much every serious magician practices "divination" of some form. However, divination is an interesting subject because it is also the one magical practice most likely to be at least nominally practiced by non-magicians, or by wannabe-magicians, or by posers. That's because of all the forms of magic, it's relatively easy to get into, and to have some initial "results" with, however blurry. More than a few great magicians (that is, batshit obsessed magicians) had their start by the seemingly innocent act of buying a tarot deck for kicks.

The first thing to clarify on the subject of divination is that a serious magician wouldn't refer or consider it to be "fortune telling". First, because the purpose of divination is primarily self-analysis, and secondly to help develop an understanding of the language of symbols. Second, because the way magick understands the nature of reality (and specifically "time") means that "seeing the future" per se is an impossibility. "Destiny" is not a concept that has a lot of leverage with magicians or the magical world view; the future is not set, it is rather a series of events that are based on the weight of patterns and prior events. The events of each moment is the product of the influence of billions of other little and big moments that preceded it. Thus by doing something, even a "little" something in the present, you can radically alter the future, for yourself, or for the whole world.

Divination doesn't work by somehow gazing into the future; rather, it works by looking at the present and at that "flow" of events, with a special perspective. If the future is the product of a current of circumstances flowing from the present, being able to clearly see the present allows you to understand not just how things are in the present, but the general direction in which things are likely to develop. Hence the name of the Chinese system of divination, the "I Ching" (the book of the changes). A divination system is a system of symbols, that put together create a kind of scale model, or organizational system, to describe reality. A "Dewey Decimal system for the universe", if you would. 

As symbols, these systems can intuitively connect with our human consciousness, so that even someone who has almost zero experience with a deck of tarot cards could just intuitively feel their way around them and maybe (assuming they've exercised their intuition at all) get a glimpse of the "message" a card reading is trying to tell them. A magician, on the other hand, studies these symbols profoundly, connecting to them on both the intuitive and intellectual level. Thus, as he gains in ability, he develops a very good skill at being able to use a divination system to take a "reading" of his own situation, of the balance of his elements, of trends that are going on for him in the present and how these are likely to go in the future, and get ideas of how to shift them subtly in order to make positive changes; or he can likewise do the same for other people.

This working with divinatory tools is thus never (for the hardcore magician) primarily about trying to determine the future; it is part of the process of self-analysis. You can use a divination tool to try to get a better grasp of your inner nature; it is part of the work a magician does, along with the magical diary and exercises of contemplation and meditation to try to understand themselves better. A big part of magical theory is that human beings are bound up by "conditionings"; ideas about themselves or the world, about likes and dislikes, about personality, that act as a trap. I covered some of this while talking about "masks" in the previous installment; the personality mistakenly believed to be the self. Part of being able to initially liberate one's self from that ego-persona requires being able to understand it clearly, and divination gives you hints to this. Basically, the symbol becomes a bridge for self-communication, between the conscious and the unconscious mind. Those messages your higher self is trying to send you, which you can't normally hear clearly, can become clearer when intentionally run through the "translation program" of a divinatory tool.

There are tons of different systems of divination out there, from new age oracles to ancient yoruba cowrie-shell casting; but there are three "big" systems that tend to be the ones most often used by magicians, which I'll try to briefly explain. Any of the three may be used by "posers" and magicians alike, but the way they would appear to use them will tend to be different, and can serve to give subtle hints as far as whether you want to portray an NPC magician as a newbie, or as someone who has got their shit together, or as someone who's plunged off the deep end.

Tarot: the big daddy of the divination systems, the Tarot is a 78-card deck that dates back to the 14th century, though some really ill-informed magicians might try to claim that it dates as far back as Egypt or "ancient Atlantis". Its four suits plus 22 trumps (major arcana, the cards with names like the Fool, Death, or the Sun) represent, as a whole, a working model of the magical universe. The suits connect to the four classical elements, while the trumps detail the whole process of magical work and development, from initiation to "union with the universe". The tarot is a composite work, it contains in it symbols that are important in the Kabbalah, Astrology, Alchemy, Sufi teaching, and other elements. There are thousands of decks available, most of which to some extent or another end up stripping away, rather than emphasizing that symbolism.

 A newb could be using any deck at all (often some "thematic" deck like the "dragon tarot", the "celtic tarot", etc), and will either just make up meanings or have to refer regularly to a book. Hardcore magicians will generally use either the Crowley "Thoth" deck or one of its variants, or if they're old-school will use one of the reproductions of the medieval decks like the Marseilles or Visconti. The typical magician will read the cards in a "spread", a kind of layout (which varies, there are hundreds of them); whereas a really experienced magician will likely omit the spread and read the cards just by laying a series of them out in order. A serious obsessive of ceremonial magick or crowleyana will tend to use an extremely complex counting system that originated with the 19th century "Order of the Golden Dawn"; done in full, that kind of system takes a couple of hours to do a reading.

Runes: This is a relative newcomer to western occultism, popularized in the 70s by pagans who were looking to revive the "norse tradition" and later embraced by new-agers. The runes are the viking alphabet, which has 24 letters; each letter has a literal meaning, and it has a divinatory significance; for example the f-rune, "fehu", literally means "cattle" and it symbolizes material issues (usually material prosperity). Runes today are used by hardcore magicians, wiccans, new agers, other kinds of pagans; they're widely adopted, though still most popular among "asatru" (norse pagans). The latter are mostly dedicated revivalists of ancient norse religion, who try to strive for authenticity; though there's also a seedy minority of these that mix up runic magic with neo-nazi philosophy (usually, the latter are rightly reviled by mainstream norse pagans; they could also make good occult Villains for a campaign, its always fun to beat the shit out of nazis). Newbs will use cheap store-bought runes made of plastic, ceramic, or (most popular with new agers) crystal. 

Serious students of the runes will try to follow the old rules about them: namely that runes for divination should be made out of organic material: wood or occasionally bone. Real hardcore types won't settle for anything other than carving their own runes, which they will then guard lovingly; though the truly batshit obsessive types will sometimes insist on carving a new set of runes for every divination, ritually burning the runes after they are used. The ignorant will follow bad book-advice and read runes in pretty well exactly the same way as tarot cards, laying them out in a "spread", while those who actually know the way runes are meant to be used will instead literally "cast" the runes, throwing a certain number of them so that they fall into patterns which are then part of the interpretation, sometimes within the boundaries of a traced or drawn circle. Aside from divination, the runic alphabet can also be used for a variety of magical purposes, most notably the creation of sigils.

I Ching: This chinese system of divination first became popularized among western magicians by Aleister Crowley, who was the first white man (that we know of) to regularly use the I Ching for divination. Crowley actually liked the I Ching far more than the Tarot, relying on the I Ching much more frequently (we know this because of the records kept in his magical diaries). The reason for this is that while readings with the Tarot (or the runes) tend to be kind of vague even in the best of times, dealing in symbols that you then have to try to decipher the meaning of; the I Ching is motherfucking specific. Its all "go do this" or "don't go there" or "you'll fuck up, but it won't be your fault, so do this anyways". It gives a much more specific and personal kind of oracle while the Tarot or Runes give a more open kind of oracle that seems to deal with larger issues or trends; for me, the Tarot is for sensing patterns and sweeping developments while the I Ching is for when I want the answer to a concrete question. Both have different uses.
(Runes are somewhere in between the two, by the way, but closer to the Tarot)

Later, the I Ching became incredibly popular with the hippies in the 1960s, and has become a mainstay of the magical community ever since. Of the three, it is the one least popular among the newbs, since it requires interpreting directly from a book (the I Ching itself), and leaves the least room for making it up as you go along; to use it really well also requires at least some knowledge of Chinese philosophy, and an understanding of the elements (and a good translation! most translations focus on huge academic commentaries and are exactly the opposite of good for practical divination work). 

The I Ching is a book that, like the runes or the tarot, presents a working model of reality, based on a series of 8 trigrams that when combined in pairs form 64 hexagrams. Each trigram is binary, either a single solid line or a single broken line. "Post-modern" magicians (hipsters) like to make a very big deal about how the I Ching connects to all kinds of things from computer programming to genetic code to chaos theory to quantum mechanics, invoking all kinds of pseudoscience to explain their reasoning. The I Ching itself describes the flow of elements over time, how one set of circumstances evolves into another. You use a method of divination (usually tossing three coins six times, but more traditionally using yarrow stalks) to get a hexagram that represent the present; and as each line can be either "stable" or "changing", the changing lines (the ones that form the really important part of the divination) determine what the second "future" hexagram will be, by changing the lines from solid to broken or vice-versa. 

While less newbs tend to use the I Ching, you may find them using I-ching themed oracle-decks, which serious fans of the I Ching tend to deplore. Unlike other methods of divination, it is not a sign of clueless newbie-ism to be referring to the book; only the craziest of fanatics is likely to have memorized the entire text of the I Ching (I've been using the I Ching on a very regular basis for two decades and haven't come even close to that, despite being pretty hardcore). But a newbie will be likely to seem more lost paging through the book, will have more trouble remembering the meaning of the hexagrams, or trigrams, etc. Serious Crowley-fanatics can be identified by the fact that they might refer to this system as the "Yi King" (the old-timey name for it, back in Crowley's days when Beijing was "Peking"); they are also likely to use six sticks instead of three coins, as that's the method Crowley devised when the magnificent bastard started using the book before anyone in the west actually had a clue as to the traditional method of casting a hexagram. 

Really hardcore guys will use the "old" traditional method of using a huge bundle of yarrow stalks, in a much longer and more complicated ritual process to generate a hexagram; they'll tend to obstinately insist that this is a superior "more accurate" method (I would agree!). It's possible that some truly batshit hardcore guys might even use the even-older method of burning a turtle-shell over an open flame and looking for lines to determine the hexagram. Those would be the kind of magicians you'd either really really not want to meet, or really want to meet, depending on the circumstances.

Divination techniques are a great element to include in any modern-occult game, since they provide ready-made props. Its not hard to get your hands on a tarot deck or a set of runes (or the I Ching, though that's not as visually effective), which are good visual aids to use as flavouring in your actual game; you could even try to figure out some way of incorporating a "reading" done in real-time to the system of the game you're running; though I'll leave that for you to figure out.


(september 9, 2011)

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

RPGPundit Presents #7: The Medieval-Authentic Vancian Wizard's Spellbook

You may be aware that my upcoming Medieval-Authentic RPG rule-set, Lion & Dragon, is going to be using a totally revamped magic system. It won't have the standard Vancian spells that you're familiar with from D&D. Instead, it will focus on a series of magical techniques that are all based on real Medieval magical beliefs, practices, and rituals.

But of course, a lot of people like their Vancian casting. And they might prefer to keep that system while trying to give it at least a little bit more medieval flavoring.

So if that's what you're looking for, this is the product for you.

In RPGPundit Presents #7: The Medieval-Authentic Vancian Wizard's Spellbook, now available from the Precis store or from the DTRPG store (for just 99 cents!) you will get a 7-page guideline for how to make your standard OSR magic-users into something more similar to medieval magicians, who were not just spell-casters but lore-masters.  A big focus of this is the spellbook, re-imagined as the medieval-wizard's Magical Diary.

So check it out!

Also, while you're at it, be sure to check out the earlier issues of RPGPundit Presents:

RPGPundit Presents #1: DungeonChef!

RPGPundit Presents #2: The Goetia

RPGPundit Presents #3: High-Tech Weapons

Stay tuned for more next week!


Currently Smoking: Dunhill Classic Series Rhodesian + C&D's Bayou Evening 

Monday, 13 November 2017

"Pipes & Pipeweed" Supplement Now Available in Spanish!

So, right on time, my latest RPGPundit Presents #6: Pipes And Pipeweed is now available in Spanish!

You can pick up  "La Ilustre Guia del Mago de Pipas y Hierbas" (that sounds much better in Spanish!) from either the Precis Store, or just on DTRPG!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti A + Sutliff Man's Best Friend

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Lion & Dragon Cover Reveal

So, within the next three or four weeks, this will be happening:

Stay tuned!


Currently Smoking: Mastro De Paja Bent Apple + Image Virginia

Saturday, 11 November 2017

RPGs Now Have Their Very Own Fake-Hate-Crime, Sort Of

Today I'm an invited guest at a local gaming convention, so I don't have much time to write myself.

Instead, I'll direct you to this blog entry by Oakes Spalding, which is a neat little investigative expose into what is obviously a hoax perpetuated by a game designer I never heard of.  In any case, it seems this douchebag went and made up a Fake Religious-Conservative and wrote up a very stereotypical diatribe against the sins of D&D, which our 'heroic' hoaxer went on to "discover" and share all over Facebook.

A ton of people predisposed to think it true fell for it, but as Oakes pointed out, the guy made it up himself and did a sloppy job of 'discovering' it right after it was posted.

Silly gamers. The Puritans who think D&D is full of Sin these days aren't Baptists, they're the Social Justice Left. All the recent demands to ban RPGs or to claim RPGs are full of wickedness that must be purged has come from the New Totalitarians.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Poker + Image Virginia

Friday, 10 November 2017

Classic Rant: Real Magick in RPGs - Sanity rules?

Before I go on with things real magicians do (or would-be real magicians routinely fail to do), I thought I should address a mechanical issue. In "modern occult" themed games, usually there is some kind of special mechanic or set of mechanics that are meant to reflect the state of both a magic-user's power, and the state of his "mental health" in whatever form as he works magick.

Obviously, none of these have been really well done as accurate reflections of what goes on in a magician's career. To give some examples of what I'm talking about here, in CoC you have "sanity" and "Cthulhu Mythos" stats, in Unknown Armies you have the madness meters, in oMage you had "paradox" (if I recall correctly), etc.

So what kind of stats would you really have to have to reflect the state of a magician's attainment, and his deterioration in turn, if you were trying to reflect how "real" magick is done in our modern world?

I've thought about this for a bit, and I think you'd have to do something like the following:

First, you'd need a stat to reflect the Magician's ongoing state of enhanced perception, the flowering of intuitive knowledge, the capacity to see into the supernatural world, or the general sense of transcending the mundane; let's call this Gnosis. 

Gnosis would start at basically zero, but your goal would be to gain in it as time went by. Gnosis can only be gained by what the mystic Gurdjieff called "Shock points", moments of spiritual crisis where something sufficiently outside your mundane understanding of reality happens that it leads to a potential growth in awareness. Basically, "mind-blowing experiences" and general weird shit happening.

Most people have some of this weird shit happen in their life at some point or another, yet usually they end up repressing it (this means that a Shock moment only has the potential to lead to gain in Gnosis, more on that later). But for magicians, there is almost always some initial event that takes place, something that knocks them out of their consensus of reality sufficiently that they can't ignore it, and this leads them into the study of magick in the first place, however half-assed or seriously they may go about it from there. 
Gnosis is increasingly hard to develop as you go along; this is because any previous experience is no longer a Shock. For example, dropping acid, the first time that you do it, completely blows out your frame-of-reference, your ego has nothing to compare it to; by the second time you do it, you already do have something to compare it to: the first time.

So a Shock has to be something different each time, and has to lead to a progression in one's understanding for it to even have a chance to increase Gnosis. I would probably run this as some kind of 0-100 ranged stat, where each time you experience a shock you would roll a percentile die, and if you got HIGHER than your current level of Gnosis, you would gain a certain number of Gnosis points. Any experience that was too mundane, or that was a retread of what you had experienced previously, would not grant you new Gnosis points, though it may be useful in other ways. This would be a tricky thing to govern, because your state of mind can affect whether something is a Shock or not; if you repeat the exact same action (for example, performing a certain ritual) but your state of mind has changed sufficiently, it might count as an entirely new Shock, as it provides you with some new revelation. 

Gnosis wouldn't be the only important statistic to keep track of, however. There's the flipside of Gnosis, which is Ego. "Ego" in this case refers to the "illusion of the world", to the construct of ideas and concepts, memories and outside influences on your being that you've patched together and decides is "you", as well as your ideas about reality and how reality works. Everyone would start with a certain level of Ego, a measure of how strong their personality is. Any Shock which successfully generates Gnosis should also reduce Ego. 

But on the other hand, any Shock which FAILS to generate Gnosis could potentially increase Ego. That is, you perform a ritual or have an experience that presents you with the chance to redefine your whole concept of yourself or reality; it creates a Shock (a spiritual crisis), and the next question becomes how you deal with that Shock. You can be receptive to it and allow it to change you, that means Gnosis is generated. Alternately, you can simply fail to take advantage of the change. But you can also react strongly against the change, trying to hold onto the Ego. Then you create new kinds of justifications for yourself, to avoid having to change, you rationalize the experience, and use it instead of as a vehicle for alchemical transformation, as a way to reinforce your existing prejudices about reality. Thus, your Ego gets stronger. So I would say that any Shock experience that fails to raise your Gnosis would require a test against Ego, to see if Ego increases. Basically, any Shock event that raises your ego is an experience so terrifying (maybe LITERALLY terrifying, or not, but definitely terrifying to your sense of self-definition) that you just refuse to accept it as it really is and build up a fantasy to help strengthen your existing ideas instead.

The third stat of importance in all this would be Obsession. As Shocks occur, whether they increase Gnosis or affect Ego, they can end up generating a certain amount of Obsession in the magician; this is the closest to "madness" that you would see. Someone under the effects of Obsession would be caught up in the distraction of the events that caused the Shock; they would end up getting lost in the minutiae of the vehicles used to obtain the Shock (be they drugs, magical ritual, ecstatic frenzy, kabbalistic numerology, alchemical gobbledygook, metaphysical ruminations, etc etc.), and this would complicate both their ability to function in the everyday world, and their ability to continue developing magically. 

Someone who is being affected badly by obsession would be that guy who gets caught up in the visible appearances of "being a powerful magician"; the guy who can't keep his mouth shut about the subject, tries to talk about the kabbalah or pagan gods, or whatever he's into, to anyone at all who'll listen.  The guy who starts ignoring his regular life and work and relationships to instead spend all his time trying to study or talk about or summon up demons, or read tarot cards, or find the numerical significance of every little thing that comes along. Like Gnosis or Ego, you'd have to mechanically create a chance of generating Obsessions whenever you had a Shock Experience, and you could require someone to make a roll against their obsession value at different times to see if the Obsessions don't end up interfering with either their magical study (obsession tends to create "blinders" where you ignore certain avenues in favor of your pet obsessions) or their social lives (obsession turns you into a nutter).

Failing an Obsession check might lead to a small increase in your Obsession level, while doing certain other things (meditation, intentionally trying to build up social connections, psychological self-analysis, etc) might have a chance of slightly reducing your level of Obsession. Later Shock experiences would affect Obsession in such a way that a given Shock might either increase or reduce obsession; so that I'd probably have any Shock point cause a direct percentage "check" in obsession, where if you rolled equal to or under your current level, you'd gain more Obsession, and if you rolled higher than your current level you'd reduce your Obsession. Note that unlike Ego, which would only increase in the case of failing a Gnosis check, obsession would be checked in every Shock event, so you could theoretically gain both Gnosis and Obsession at the same time. That's pretty common, actually.

Should someone get to 100 Gnosis points, they would become an "Adept", someone who has obtained a permanent state of awareness that there are dimensions beyond the material, and the ability to connect to that altered state of consciousness beyond the rational mind. Someone in this state would be able to permanently access their "higher self" (in magick sometimes called the "True Will" or more poetically, the "Holy Guardian Angel"). They would not necessarily always be willing to follow the direction and guidance of that True Will, however. 

Further Shock experiences would not need to be tested against Gnosis, but could still work against Ego, either to reduce or increase it, as the Adept struggled between the constructed-psyche he continues to identify with, and the higher state of consciousness he is now constantly (and sometimes painfully) aware of. Note that "True Will" rarely has much to do with what your ego thinks it wants at any given time, it is rather a kind of cosmic consciousness that has to do with your higher purpose; from the perspective of the human being at the level of the ego, it can seem like an entirely different entity, hence this notion of an "Angel" trying to guide you, and often demanding things of you that are very difficult.

Its possible for your Ego to reach 0, in which case you will have become a "Magister Templi", a Buddha, completely transformed into a new level of consciousness (where the physical body, the mind, the Higher Self, and what you previously believed to be the Divine are all experientially understood to be one single thing); but only if you can cross the "trial of the abyss": the dark night of the soul that is the final challenge of the ego's will to dominate versus your true will to transcend. 

A person confronting the Abyss would have to face all of their resistance, fears, attachments and obsessions, and be willing to let them all go. Failing the trial of the Abyss, resisting the annihilation of the ego to the point of shutting one's self in, would result in the creation of a new Ego-construct instead of transcendence; what Crowley called a "Black Brother", trapped in delusions of power and grandeur, and unable to let go of those accomplishments they cling to. It would be theoretically possible, but very difficult, to overcome this and again face the abyss a second time. Mechanically, this initial failure of overcoming the Abyss could be done by having your Ego raised back up to the level of your Obsession (which would be that which the magician would cling to, after all), and for a subsequent attempt to overcome the Abyss requiring some kind of very strong (probably life-endangering) Shock event, and a check with greater difficulty than the former (with another failure causing an increase in Ego to some multiplier of your obsession; ie. obsession x 2, x3, x4 etc. for each failure).

Having an Ego score get up to 100 would simply mean that you have an extremely rigid sense of self and reality, you would be almost completely unwilling to accept anything that was not your own illusions about what you are and what reality is like. It would make it very difficult to be able to reduce your Ego level, as you'd basically be in deep denial about everything. Having an Obsession level of 0 would just mean you're a very well-functioning human being, whereas an Obsession level of 100 would make you utterly batshit certifiably insane.

There's probably one more thing that would need to be mentioned here; and that's what I'll call "Masks". The Ego is seen as a problem for the magician's ultimate goal of "transcendence", unity with the universe, cosmic consciousness, whatever you want to call it.  But the Ego is also the personality, it is what we normally define ourselves as, and the basis for our interactions with everyone else, who also define themselves as their egos (in fact, the difference between magicians, and a few other spiritual practitioners on the one hand, and everyday people on the other is that most regular people don't normally question that they are their personalities, and don't even imagine that there is something else much greater beyond that which is also "them"). 

So the "successful" magician can quickly run into a problem, which is that if you reduce your Ego without developing any skill to compensate for it, you will end up seeming basically "broken" from the perspective of everyday society; you won't have a real personality, or a sufficiently stable one. You'll seem weird, disconnected (or obsessed, if your Obsession level has grown while your Ego has decreased), and generally uncomfortable to be around. But the fact is that the Ego is just a kind of mask that people have glued onto their true nature, their inner vastness. That vastness is uncomfortable and people can't connect to it (in fact, one of the most common early "Shock" experiences of a new magician is when they run into some kind of teacher in whom they catch some glimpse of that vastness). But if the Ego is just a mask, it is possible for a magician to learn how to put on other masks at will; to basically create a personality (or as many personalities as he likes) and put them on as needed to deal with different people. This would be a magical skill, which could be called "Masks". 

To obtain it, the magician would have to perform practices and techniques of invocation, learning about archetypes and how to embody those archetypes, or how to create new archetypes. Mechanically, he'd probably have to develop a level of Masks skill that was in some way greater than his level of Obsession, because Obsession acts as a total barrier to the effective use of a mask. Someone who is successful in the use of a Mask skill would be able to essentially "construct" a temporary personality out of archetypal concepts; and would go from being socially inept due to low-Ego or high-Obsession to being extremely socially capable, as he could create a different mask for different occasions as they were necessary (becoming a "regular guy" when he's around regular guys, an intellectual around intellectuals, a hobbyist around hobbyists, a hobo around hobos, a hipster around hipsters, whatever). This is not just "acting" or "bluffing"; part of what wearing the mask does is temporarily incarnate the qualities of that mask-persona completely (its only comparable to acting in the sense of those very intense method-actors who go so totally into a role that they "become" the character). Someone who became a "master of the temple" would have to continually rely on the wearing of Masks to be able to function in regular society at all.
The easiest masks would be those closest to your existing persona (or for those beyond the Abyss, the imitation of their prior persona); after all, that too is a mask, it just happens to be the one you've been wearing your whole life.

Anyways, that's all I've got for now, and I'm not really planning on developing anything further in this direction; after all I'm not making an RPG here, just trying to create guidelines for others to try to use and develop stuff for their own "modern occult" campaigns.


Currently Smoking: Castello 4k Collection Canadian + Image Latakia

(Originally posted August 23, 2011)