Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons – the Stream

“The Stream” is the first chapter in Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons. This is a serialized story set in the Mundus Novit universe. This will provide you with an idea of at least some of the potential and background of the setting. Black ops, secret government programs, and ESPers are all important aspects of Mundus Novit.

This serialized story also introduces a new organization into Mundus Novit: TANGIBLE STREAM. What it is and why its contractors were operating in Kathmandu will be revealed in the story. By the end, you will have another clandestine actor to use in Mundus Novit or any comparable modern campaign.

You can expect the next chapter in two weeks time.

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One: The Stream

White’s hand slip inside her jacket. Her eyes narrowed only slightly, her nostrils flared minutely. Boyle noticed all this. He knew White well enough to know what it meant even before he heard her voice in his head.

We’ve got company.

White was one of the the STREAM’s paranormals. She was a parapsyche–psychic, ESPer, telepath, call it what you like. Boyle didn’t have any of that. He had the tradecraft. She might be spooky but he was the spook. He was what TANGIBLE STREAM euphemistically called a ghost. White was a variable, a paranormal asset.

The two STREAM contractors sat at a round table with four chairs on the patio in front of a small coffee shop. The street out front had little traffic except for pedestrians. Signs poked out from shabby walls beckoning travellers into ill-lit buildings as the sun sank. No one gave two foreigners in the Thamel a second glance.

Some people joked about intuition, about gut feelings. Boyle didn’t. He was having one. Even without White’s special gifts, Boyle could feel the change. Something was about to happen. Something nasty. He had to make a decision: the Sig SAUER P226 on his hip or the HK53 in his canvas book bag. The Sig was closer, but the HK53 hit harder and farther.

Three men approaching your six. White spoke in his head. All locals.

Locals. Did she mean Nepalese? Government? Were they local to Kathmandu? Boyle’s training kicked in, and he masked his thoughts behind white noise, envisioning his will as a solid barrier. White didn’t need to hear his internal musings. The “locals” certainly didn’t.

All have psyche-shields. Though White spoke in his head, the smile was on her face, in the “real” world. She had a “key” to his surface thoughts–the image of the man in red from Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” and the word ‘ronin’–a filter for the first barrier of many. Not as good as yours, but formidable. I can’t get too deep, but they work for the Chinese.

Unless that’s a plant. Boyle had the image of a faded rose fixed in his mind, over top of which he visualized the word ‘patron.’

Unless that’s a plant. White’s voice echoed his sentiment. I don’t think they want to kill us.

Boyle frowned. He set his book bag on the table, within easy reach. Kill, capture, intimidate, it’s all the same to me.

The one calling himself Dolme has broadcasted that he just wants to talk. White emphasized ‘broadcasted.’ At least one of them was an ESPer. Her hand came away from her jacket, away from her Beretta 96.

“May I sit?” The man’s English was impeccable.

White gestured to an empty chair. The man appeared at Boyle’s right, and took the proffered seat. Boyle made him at about 40, fit, cold eyes. This one did dirty deeds for a living. He looked like a hard man. Boyle had met harder. He heard two other men come to halt about a metre behind him.

Boyle held Dolme with a dead-eyed glare–the glare that told Dolme his life meant nothing to Boyle. Boyle spoke in a harsh whisper. “Get them in front of me.”

Dolme raised an eyebrow, considered Boyle, then nodded. He gestured, and the two men moved to stand at his back. Dolme met Boyle’s eyes. “Your defences are exceptional.”

“Ain’t the only thing,” Boyle said.

“American, then.” A slight grin barely touched Dolme’s lips.

Dolme was wrong, but no need to tell him that. “You wanted to talk.”

Dolme leaned close. “Narcissus has no business interfering in Tibet.”

Narcissus. These guys tagged White and Boyle as Americans and as CIA. Wrong on both counts. Boyle sneered for effect. “You implying I like staring at myself or something?”

“I am not joking,” Dolme said.

“That’s unfortunate.” Boyle took a sip of his beer. He put disdain in his eyes. “I am. You have an issue with this Narcissus guy, that’s your deal. Don’t work with him, don’t work for him, don’t know him.”

“Do not play games.” Dolme’s face had flushed.

“That’s the difference here.” Boyle rose, shouldering his book bag. “I don’t.” Boyle had got to him, unless that blush was forced. That’d be a heck of a trick. No, Boyle tagged this guy as a hard man, and maybe he was, but he was no professional. White had said local. Someone drafted on short notice? Too many brushfires, not enough water–Boyle knew that feeling.

White followed Boyle to the counter to pay for their drinks. “He thinks we’re Narcissus.”

“So it seems,” Boyle said. He watched Dolme and his crew from the counter. They hadn’t moved. They eyed Boyle and White with unconcealed hostility. “It makes me wonder if Narcissus is here, somewhere. Could the CIA actually be operating here? Working with cells in Tibet?”

“Is that a bad thing?” White asked.

Boyle let out a grim chuckle. “The US using paranormals to interfere in the internal matters of another nation, one that can credibly claim the title of superpower?” He held up his hand to forestall the retort he saw coming. “I don’t like the idea of Tibet being occupied by China anymore than you do, but right now, it’s part of the UN recognized borders. That’s all that matters.”

Dolme and friends finally left. Boyle glanced at White. “Taggert in place?”

After a moment’s concentration, White smiled. “She is. She gave the all clear.”

While Boyle wanted to ask what had amused White, he ignored it. He might not want to know. “Right. Back to the perch.”

The two left the café. Boyle knew Taggert provided overwatch from some rooftop, but he couldn’t look, couldn’t play the game of trying to find her. The two contractors–arm’s length, deniable operators for TANGIBLE STREAM–moved through the sparse crowd with caution. Pickpockets were common and they made obvious targets. Wallets weren’t the worry. Other hardware was.

Without warning, White fell into Boyle, grabbing at him, all weight. Boyle supported her, shuffling into an alley. He could only see the whites of her eyes. Still holding her, he fumbled with his earplug transceiver. He leaned White against the wall, slid the earpiece into place, activated it.

Boyle scanned the crowd quickly, looking for possible assailants–someone watching White, someone concentrating. Nothing. “Willow, this is Untold.”

“Willow here.” Taggert didn’t suppress the surprise in her voice.

“Cascade’s offline.” Boyle watched White as he spoke. Her eyes rolled up, her mouth working, she looked like she was fighting something. Or someone. He got her back on his shoulder, started moving deeper into the alley. “Do you have eyes on target?”

“Roger.” Taggert spoke with detachment. No surprise, no concern in that word, only business.

“Target the broadcaster and shut him down.” Boyle knew a parapsyche needed some kind of contact to make a mental assault. He couldn’t find another possible assailant. Even if it wasn’t Dolme, Boyle wouldn’t mourn his passing.

“Temporary?” Taggert would have Dolme in her sights, finger hovering over the trigger guard, waiting to engage.

“Temporary will do.” Another thing Boyle appreciated about Taggert–she provided options. She spoke her mind without questioning every order. Professional. Boyle had met too many contractors who weren’t.

“Broadcaster down.”

On the street, the screaming started almost immediately. The sight of a gunshot victim, with or without the sound of a weapon, tended to trigger that.

White didn’t recover.

“No joy.” Boyle scanned the crowd at the mouth of the alley, seething back from where Taggert had dropped the target. If not Dolme, who? “Put down the rest of them. Temporary if you can.”

No answer, at least not immediately. Taggert would be busy. Arm around White, Boyle got his Sig in hand, under his coat. He half-dragged, half-led White further down the alley, eyes on its mouth. White stiffened, then her weight eased.

“The whole party’s cancelled.” Taggert said. “Hurting, but survivable. Packing up. Permission to rabbit.”

Rabbit. Definitely a necessity, but whoever tagged White might watch them. They couldn’t risk being tracked.

“Hold position.” Boyle glanced at White. She was pale but standing under her own power. She braced herself with one hand against the wall.

“Dolme had a friend,” she said. “Must have jumped me.” A weak smile followed that. “Metaphorically.”

“Cascade is back online,” Boyle said.

Online, but shaky. White’s voice in Boyle’s head sounded anything but shaky. All three of the Chinese agents were parapsyches. None of them are active now.

If they were Chinese. Boyle holstered his Sig. Everyone rabbit. Rendezvous in one hour. Be careful. We are in the shit. He considered White, who stood straight now. Other than a lack of colour in her cheeks, she gave no indication she had just been ambushed. “You’re sure they’re Chinese?”

White cleared her throat. Boyle didn’t know if broadcasting was easier for her than talking, but too much of it gave him a headache. Taggert had admitted the same. White let out a slow breath. “They thought they were. When Taggert took them out, their defences went down for a moment. I didn’t get much, but their handlers were definitely People’s Army.”

Boyle held up one finger. “Or they wanted you to think their defences went down.” Then he held up a second. “Or the handlers wanted our goons to think they were People’s Army.” Third finger. “Or the handlers are being handled. Something really stinks. Bad.” He handed White a flask.

“Is that really a good idea?” White took it but didn’t drink. She sniffed at its mouth.

“It’s water.” For a moment, Boyle forgot the tension of the moment. “You think I’m that far along?” He glanced sidelong at her. “Would you take me for a scotch or vodka man?”

After taking a long pull at the flask, White wiped her mouth. “Vodka. James Bond style.”

“Yeah, I like that.” Boyle put the flask back in his jacket. “James Bond style. That’s definitely nice.”

They rabbited.

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Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons will continue with “the Vault.”

Mundus Novit Design – Setting the System

The manuscript for Mundus Novit is all written. There’s not much to develop. Well, that is if SEP intends to publish it only for the d-Modern version of the world’s most popular RPG. SEP certainly will release a Modern version. But now I’m thinking there are other avenues as well.

When I originally developed Mundus Novit . . . wow, that was a long time ago . . . anyway, when I first developed it, I was only playing D&D and its variants, including its Modern variant. Things have changed. Right now, my system of choice is still a D&D derivative, True20. I’m comfortable enough with True20, and the licensing deal for using True20 is sweet enough, so I figure we need to do a True20 version.

Thing is, I like to tinker with systems. I’m not a game designer, I would never call myself that. I’m not knowledgeable enough to design a system. I like to tinker with them, but I could never build a system from the ground up with any sense of assurance. True20 is a pretty heavy tinker, but it’s a riff off D&D, rather than a system built from the ground up. It changes some of the assumptions, cleans up some things, and injects some stuff totally new, but it is still built on the D&D foundation.

So right now, along with doing a Modern and a True20 version, I’m thinking of developing a variant based on the Open Game Licence specifically for Mundus Novit.

I’m not considering doing Savage Worlds right now because I don’t know the system well enough. I’m not thinking Mutants & Masterminds because I don’t know the system at all. That’s not to say I won’t consider these, but the plan is to get this out relatively quickly, so trying to do too much would kind of be shooting myself in the foot.

But how to package it? I’ve got two options I’m considering: multiple full setting + system books; one systemless setting book, followed by various system primers; or one setting book with a full game system (Mundus 20?) and then various system primers separately. The only reason to do a full game system + setting book is because otherwise, I don’t think anyone would buy a Mundus 20 (MN20?) system. Download for free? Sure, but people will download anything if its free. It doesn’t mean they’ll do more than give it a cursory glance.

These decisions aren’t final. There’s still administrative and financial stuff to consider before I make final plans. I’m excited to see the trade dress, as Rob Wakefield is working on that, and Rob’s work as always been exemplary. I’m very excited to see what he comes up with.

Another good thing is that I’ve secured the services of three great writers to critique and edit the Mundus Novit fiction that you can expect to appear beginning May 28. That’s going to put my game up a notch . . . or they’ll all tell me to burn everything and never write again.

Like I haven’t heard that before!

SEP Necromancy for Mundus Novit

Sword’s Edge Publishing will soon be rising from its hibernation.

SEP has been very quiet of late. That was a conscious decision by Fraser Ronald, who chose to focus on his family and personal responsibilities. That changed when the opportunity to release Mundus Novit–a product Fraser had wrote for a different company–presented itself.

If you haven’t heard of Mundus Novit, there’s mentions of it on the SEP website and at Fraser’s blog. This Dialogues episode from Fist Full of Comics & Games has an interview with Fraser about Mundus Novit, but a lot of the publication information has changed. The book has changed slightly as well, but the core concepts remain the same.

Here’s a snippet from the manuscript:

Mundus Novit – the Changed World introduces a world posited on the idea that genetic experimentation triggered a change in Humanity. Some have become more than human, with physical abilities unknown in nature. Others have learned that the mind is a powerful weapon which can summon more than simply ideas. Finally there are those who understand the secrets of magic, secrets that may have always been with us, but have been forgotten and ignored by the world at large.

There is still work to be done on Mundus Novit–editing, layout and art. Not wanting to disappoint, SEP is not going to be a street date on Mundus Novit until it is absolutely certain the book can be delivered on that date.

One promise that can be made: the SEP website is going to be hosting serial fiction in the setting of Mundus Novit starting Thursday, May 28. Every two weeks, a new chapter will be posted. The fiction will refer to a startling new event in the world of Mundus Novit. Kathmandu, Nepal has gone “black.” No transmissions–not radio, not TV, not cell phones, nothing–can enter or escape the city. Not even psychic powers work in the city. The CIA blames an operative of the mysterious TANGIBLE STREAM organization. Friends and possible foes hunt down Boyle, a secret operative for the STREAM, who may hold the key to Kathmandu’s transmission darkness.

Mundus Novit will be released as a PDF with rules for the Modern version of the world’s most popular RPG. SEP is looking into releasing it in other systems.

In support of Mundus Novit, SEP will be publishing the Osiris Files. These will be a series of adventure concepts. More than seeds but less than actual adventure modules, the Osiris Files will give a gamemaster or narrator everything required to set the game in motion, without deciding on the genre or conclusion. Most of the Files will be devoid of keyed maps or linear events, rather the concept will be fleshed out and possible conclusions or events will be provided.

There is a preview of the first release from the Osiris Files here. Operation Nearscape will be released free closer to the release date of Mundus Novit. More will be forthcoming, including a glimpse at how one might incorporate the Osiris organization into one’s campaign.

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