The Lorestaves: An Introduction


The Lorestaves – Prelude

by Fraser Ronald and Dean Martin

Almost a thousand years ago, Humankind had found civilization. City-states had risen to offer protection to the people. Philosophers and poets began to formulate logic and art. In this, the Old Gods had a hand. Led by the Al-Pater and Danu, the Encompassing Mother, the Old Gods walked the lands, involved in Humanity, in the achievements of man.

Then came the one called the Wanderer, the Divine Voice and the Shining Prophet.

The Wanderer brought word of the New God. The world turned from the Old Gods and soon the New God became the True God. The world changed. Magic, once a realm of science and philosophy, became a cauldron of superstition. The priests of the True God lacked the spells of healing and life that had nurtured fragile Humanity for so many centuries. As magic was denied them, the religious powers denied it. Kings and princes followed the dictates of the religious masters. Wizards and sorcerers became bogeymen and scapegoats. Those who had aided the sick and wounded, who had protected the seeds of the farmer, who had dispensed justice and shielded the weak were turned from their homes. Some burned, some hid, many died.

Only in one place did the old learning survive. In Highstone, the Magus survived. The master of the arcane arts created a sanctuary for those magic touched and a college for those who wished to learn the lost sciences. Soon after the coming of the True God, a crusade crashed against the walls of Highstone. The Magus laid waste the land for fathoms. Armies died. Never again was Highstone assailed.

Slowly, even in Highstone, knowledge of the Old Gods disappeared, hidden in dusty scrolls and ancient legends.

What none knew was that the Wanderer was Incarnos, a deva—a guardian spirit of the Old Gods. He had seen the suffering of age and disease and wished to save Humanity from this. He had believed this was a curse of the Old Gods. For centuries he studied the Planes of Reality, seeking an answer to his dilemma. The New God found him, promising to release Humanity from the bondage of the Old Gods. Incarnos believed him, and helped him access the world. He quickly learnt this New God had lied to him.

Trapped in an immortal body, devoid of his powers, Incarnos walked the world. With the same diligence with which he had planned the downfall of the Old Gods, he sought some way to contact them, perhaps release them. Why had they not stood against the New God? Why had they proved so weak?

Finally, Incarnos has learned the truth, but the New God—the True God—does not wish for any knowledge of the Old Gods to survive, even in the mind of one. His hounds seek to find Incarnos and kill the unkillable. Incarnos, though, cannot release the Old Gods. Only mortals may. The secrets are trapped in 10 staves created at the dawn of time—the Lorestaves.

Above was to be the introduction to a series of modules based around the concept of finding the Lorestaves and releasing the Old Gods. This entire cycle of adventures would have in turn been an introduction to the Divided Kingdoms, a campaign setting by Dean Martin.

Those who have followed Sword’s Edge Publishing from its founding in 2004 will recognize Dean Martin as one of the company founders. He has since moved on to pursue a career in law enforcement, and the development of the Lorestaves and the Divided Kingdoms screeched to a halt. Not even the first module was completed.

However, rather than let the work done during development go to waste, Sword’s Edge Publishing will host it as part of our now barren Arcane Kingdoms line. The introductory materials, the module and the rough maps will all be hosted here, as will fiction that was originally written to support the release of the modules. Only the first chapter was ever completed, and this will be broken into bite-sized chunks and posted here.

I hope that you enjoy this little peek at what could have been, and I hope that there is something useful in all this for your own campaigns.

Osiris Rising

Update (18 May 2020): The experiment that was the Osiris Files never got off the ground. No feedback or expression of interest was ever received. The product is no longer available.

The Osiris Files series
The Osiris Files take place in a world right beside ours. Next door, or perhaps just down the block. People drive cars you would recognize, have jobs you would recognize, and eat food you would recognize. Somewhere, though, there is a shadow world. It might be a world of super spies, super humans, or magic. It might be a world of hidden monsters, ancient threats, or that which man was not meant to know.

The characters inhabit this shadow world. They may pose as accountants, or librarians, or electricians, but they are not. They are not butchers, bakers or candlestick makers. They are something different, something special, and something absolutely dangerous.

The Osiris Files are not adventures, they are concepts. Each operation provides briefing materials, background and ideas. The core of the adventure and its place in the campaign are left to the GM. There are no maps. There is no conclusion. While the concept provides possible conclusions and ideas as to what is happening, there is no set path to solving a problem. The Osiris Files only provide ideas.

Op NearscapeOperation Nearscape
The DNA of an astronaut and naval aviator declared MIA in 2006 has been found in a fragment from the Tunguska event of 1908. Is the aviator alive? How could his DNA be involved in the explosion of the Tunguska event, 100 years earlier? Osiris is tasked with learning the answers to these questions.

Black projects, super-science, and conspiracies all play a part in Operation Nearscape.

This product is part of the Osiris Files series and is systemless. It is not a complete module, but provides ideas and concepts built around a central conceit to help the GM build an adventure suited to the GM’s campaign.

Free Sneak Peek
The Osiris Files: Operation Nearscape is ready to go, except for some possible last minute layout decisions. Right now, I’m planning something pretty basic. I expect the product to be available for download within a month. When it is released, it will be free.

But you don’t have to wait. Send an email right now to with “Gimme Gimme” in the Subject line, and I’ll send you back a copy of Operation Nearscape. When it goes live, I’ll send you the product ZIP as well.

All I ask is that you send me feedback. What works? What doesn’t work? Is this useful at all? Would you pay for it?

Mundus Novit: What Is That Guy?

So what is the Bedouin?

Well, he’s not Algerian. At least, he’s not Ahmed Zeghida. I’m not saying if he truly is an Algerian posing as a Bedouin, or a Turk posing as an Algerian posing as a Bedouin, or something else entirely.

At least, I’m not telling you that right now. Later, many of his secrets will be revealed.

But the question ‘what is the Bedouin’ is asked in a role-playing game sense. After all, this entire exercise is to introduce you to a role-playing game setting—Mundus Novit: the Changed World.

So, in game terms, what is the Bedouin? Is a parapsych/psionic? Is he a wizard or sorcerer of some kind?

I’m still not telling. This much I will say: his game information will be forthcoming at a later date. When we get closer to the end of Dark Horizons, you will start to see game information. Can you hang in there that long?

Here’s something more: the Bedouin doesn’t know what he is. He knows he can do things, and he knows he gets information from somewhere, but he couldn’t explain how it is done. In “From Delhi With Indifference,” he gains information about objects by running his hands over them. He does this, and he knows he can do this, but he does not know how he does this.

And that’s an interesting way to play a character with powers.

Think of your True20 adept. This adept has powers. True20 is wide open enough that it doesn’t explicitly tell you how to run powers in your game. So there aren’t things like mantras that must be uttered or rituals that must be performed. There are powers and some characters have these powers.

The Bedouin has powers.

In a game, the player would know everything about the powers. The character, however, does not. Perhaps on an instinctual level—as in the Bedouin knows to run his hands over objects, that he needs physical contact to read the past of these items—the character knows he must act in a certain way or do a certain thing to succeed with his power/talent/”whatever the heck it is I do,” but he does not know or fully understand the rules of his talents.

This is the Bedouin. He knows what he can do, he just couldn’t explain how.

And here’s the last little tidbit about the Bedouin. He is powerful. We will see how powerful when it gets closer to the end. He is not powerful in the sense of fireballs out of eyes and lightning bolts out of his arse, but he has his talents and he knows how to use them. While he is combat capable—he deals handily with the hit teams—his real power is knowledge. He knows things. Not just things he conjures out of thin air, like Tashi’s name. The Bedouin can speak a plethora of languages. He knows that a guy using an designated marksman rifle with a laser sight is not a sniper, he’s a shooter or maybe a marksman.

He knows a lot of stuff.

And that makes him powerful. At least in this setting. Knowledge is power, since so many people are trying to keep so many secrets. A lot of guys can beat people up and shoot people. Very few know the things that the Bedouin knows.

Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons – From Delhi With Indifference

In “The Stream,” Boyle and his team get jumped in Kathmandu by a crew who may work for the Chinese.

In “The Vault,” a special section of Canada’s Communications Security Establishment is monitoring Kathmandu, which has gone dark to all electronic and parapsychic traffic. Madison and Heather, two agents from the Vault, joined their international spec ops team in “Meet & Greet.” That team was going after Boyle in Kathmandu.

In “Mission Unlikely,” we learn that Boyle and his team have gone missing. Becca meets Alex in Monrovia in order to get him to come with her to Kathmandu to find Boyle. Off the record and off the reservation.

In “The Bedouin,” Kyle and Meredith from the Prospero Group contract the intelligence broker known as the Bedouin to get them a lead on what is happening in Kathmandu.

In “The Russian,” Alex meets with Rudi the Russian, a contact in Burma, who agrees to supply both equipment and information for Alex’s forway into Nepal.

Now the Bedouin has returned to his old haunts, seeking help from the Indian secret service. He has a meet in the Chandni Chowk market with an old contact. But as with all plans of mice and men, this one goes astray.


Six: From Delhi With Indifference

The Bedouin stood near a paratha stall on an alley within sight of the Chandni Chowk. The market was crowded, and pedestrians jostled him regularly. It didn’t bother him. He had once lived near here, in Delhi. He knew it well. This was a homecoming of sorts. But he wasn’t there to lose himself in nostalgia. He needed information. He figured his contacts in the Research and Analysis Wing might have something for him. Probably not much—nobody had much—but he could aggregate his many tidbits into a substantial meal.

His contact was already late. That made the Bedouin nervous. His people worshipped at punctuality’s altar. He leaned against the wall and swallowed his reservations along with a bite of paratha. He needed to find the connections, find something that lived close enough to the truth that he could navigate the rest of the way.

He did not know the man who moved toward him through the crowd, but he knew that man came for him. The Bedouin knew this. Asian featured, the man’s long coat likely hid weapons—guns, knives, or both. The Bedouin saw the man’s intention, he saw it clear.

This man had come to kill the Bedouin.

Curiosity made the Bedouin await the man, that same curiosity that made him do so many foolish things.

Their eyes met. The man—the Bedouin saw the name Tashi—paused. The Bedouin smiled. The man named Tashi glanced around. The first look, the Bedouin read as the search. The second look gave away his two back-ups. Two groups with four men each, one group on each side of Tashi, marked themselves with their subtle reactions.

Someone seriously wanted to kill the Bedouin. Not that this was unheard of.

The Bedouin waited, his back to the wall. The weight of the two Glock 18s  in his shoulder rigs should have been reassuring, but they weren’t enough. Nine men had come to kill him, but at whose behest and for what reason? The Bedouin had been careful to create as few enemies as possible, covering his tracks, employing cutouts, sanitizing information before passing it on. Still, one cannot help but annoy powerful men when one passes on their secrets.

Tashi began to approach. Strange, a Nepalese name but not a Nepalese person. What does he think of all this?

Just when Tashi reached the mouth of the alley, a good three metres from the Bedouin, the Bedouin held up his hand. “That is most certainly far enough.” The Bedouin spoke in Mandarin, both because few here would speak that and because he liked to play his hunches.

Oh yes, he had a hunch.

“I thought you had resigned yourself to the inevitable.” Tashi also spoke Mandarin, but the Bedouin thought it sounded like Taiwanese Mandarin.

“Nothing is inevitable.” This time the Bedouin tried Taiwanese Minnan.

“Not exactly true.” Tashi’s Minnan was that of Fujian, not Taiwan. “Your death is absolutely inevitable. It can be quick, or it can be painful.”

Taiwanese Mandarin but Fujian Minnan? It didn’t make sense, unless both were second languages, learnt later in life. The Bedouin played another hunch and switched to English. “I’ve had some of the best in the business come after me. You and your friends are not quite so talented.”

“You’re playing games,”Tashi said in English.

It was tough, but the Bedouin would put money on California. It made him smile. That made Tashi eyes narrow and his brow furrow.

“You have a joke you want to share?” Tashi asked.

One group of Tashi’s confederates covered the mouth of the alley from across the street. If the Bedouin attempted to escape that way, too many innocents would get caught in the crossfire. And where was the other group? Likely trying to get behind the Bedouin, cut off his other escape.

These nine didn’t know Delhi. They didn’t know the market. They certainly did not know the Bedouin.

“Why a Nepalese name?” The Bedouin returned to Mandarin. “Did you think to fool me?”

“What are you talking about?” Tashi sneered and scoffed. “You don’t know my name.”

“Who calls you Tashi?” The Bedouin asked. “I would doubt it is your mother.”

That made Tashi take a step back, his hand went under his jacket. The Bedouin flattened himself against the wall, side to the road. He had a hand on one of his Glocks. Tashi didn’t draw.

“They didn’t tell me you were an ESPer.” Tashi said.

“They would have told you what they knew, and they know nothing of my talents,” the Bedouin said. “I, on the other hand, know much about you.”

Tashi’s hand slowly slid out of his jacket, empty. “The name is part of the job. That’s all.” He spoke English, apparently not caring who heard and could understand.

“I hope the plan is not to have me believe the Chinese sent you.” The Bedouin winnked. “That will not happen.”

“You have all the answers, do you?” Tashi spat off to the side. “Then you should know what’s about to happen to you.”

The Bedouin rubbed his nose with his right hand—his left still on one of his Glocks. “Before the event which you have described as inevitable takes place, tell me, why would you want me to believe the Chinese have sent you?”

“I’m not the one pretending anything,” Tashi said. “I’m not the Algerian pretending to be a Bedouin.”

“Ah, yes, the Algerian bit.” The Bedouin chuckled. “I take it you’ve read the Ahmed Zeghida file? The one important thing that the file does not tell you is that Ahmed Zeghida died before his first birthday. I am not Algerian.”

At first Tashi laughed. He shook his head. The laughter became strained. “Why tell me now when it’s been a secret so long?” Tashi coughed, then went rigid.

The Bedouin glanced around, noting that no person stood within earshot. “Because that particular file is worded very specifically and includes a semantic trigger formula.” He drew his Glock, keeping it under his coat. “I know there are no listening devices, nor eavesdropping. I know this.” He screwed the silencer onto the Glock. “And I know you won’t be telling anyone. I apologize. If I thought there were another way . . .”

Tashi blinked. The Bedouin put two rounds into his chest, then moved forward to ease the body down to a crouching slouch. Two men broke from the crowd at the mouth of the alley. The Bedouin fired four times. Both men went down. The crowd started to shriek and surge away from the falling bodies. Two other men drew sub-machine guns from under their coats. They went down to one knee. They took aim.

Four more rounds from the Bedouin’s Glock and they too lay on the ground. The Bedoin reloaded.

He rifled through Tashi’s pockets quickly. That second group of four was somewhere close by, probably trying to cut off any escape routes. They could return. He moved with deliberate speed. By touch, he noted the importance of some items. The transceiver had been handled by a woman who hid her true intentions. The pistol had been fired by a man who believed he knew the truth about Tashi’s employers.

The curious had begun to overcome their fear, and gawkers began to poke heads out from cover. The Bedouin had no more time. With a mere whisper, he traded faces with Tashi. Now to the onlookers, the Bedouin lay dead and Tashi began to scale a building using a drain pipe that looked far too flimsy for that purpose.

On the roof, the Bedouin paused to catch his breath. He had expended a lot of energy in a short time. He needed to regain his centre, regain his focus. He could hear the crowd now, returning to the streets and discussing in loud and excited voices what had happened. Everyone had an opinion on the identities of the actors and their presumed purposes. None of them were correct.

The Bedouin put on the transceiver’s rig, which fit snuggly over his ear.

“Alpha, respond. Beta, respond.” The man on the other end spoke Russian.

Russian? That made little sense. But then again, nothing so far that day made sense.

“Clear the comm, he’s on.” The man speaking Russian did not seem perturbed or fazed. He spoke with quiet assurance. “Are you listening,  Ahmed?” This time, the man spoke French. “You know there is one more group, one last gauntlet to pass. They will not offer such easy targets. But if you do live, and I doubt this greatly, you can find me in Kathmandu. I will be waiting for you. We will finish it there if you are not finished now.”

The Bedouin felt the slight heat on the back of his neck, an all but imperceptible dot of heat. The dot moved, rising to the back of his head.

He jerked to the side, all but throwing himself from the roof. Behind him, he heard a sharp crack. A mist of dust and chunks of concrete rose from the roof. He could pinpoint the shooter on an adjacent rooftop. The shooter had some kind of  marksman’s Armalite.

As he switched the Glock to automatic, the Bedouin saw the shooter’s eyes widen, only for a moment. The next second, the shooter would fire again. The Bedouin needed to take that second from him.

With a few quick bursts of automatic fire, the Bedouin emptied his magazine. He did not bother to reload. Jamming the Glock back into his shoulder rig as best he could with the silencer still attached, the Bedouin dodged around the antennas, satellite dishes, laundry and general chaos of the Delhi rooftops.

His opposition had sent four teams after him—Tashi, the four at the alley, the four circling around, and the shooter. He had only noted three. That led him to believe someone powerful had shielded the shooter. He had played into their hands. He had allowed himself to be distracted.

Bullets cracked past him, supersonic. There could be other shooters shielded from him. He had to get off the rooftops and get into the Delhi crowds. He needed to disappear once again. But he intended to find his opposition. He needed to remove that thorn. And if that meant a trip to Kathmandu, so be it.

First, though, he needed to get out of Delhi alive.


Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons will continue with “Dirty Hands.”

Pining for the Fjords . . . er Gen Con actually

Y’know, last year, on the ride home from Gen Con, I stated that I didn’t need to go to Gen Con again. That I had done it, and with the milestone passed, I didn’t need to return.

Now I’m seeing all the tweets and all the pics coming out of Gen Con—David from the Podgecast has a fucking stripper pole in his hotel room—and I shrink a little.

What I loved about Gen Con was the meetings. Accidental Rob, Colin, and I met so many cool people, the gaming was incidental. In fact, except for the absolute fucking gaming high-point of the table with the Fist Full of Comics and Games crew, Rob and Colin, all the gaming was done among us three. And we didn’t do that much gaming. We talked gaming. We talked gaming like a motherfucker.

So, yeah, it’s not that I pine for Gen Con in particular, I pine for the parties and the conversations and the seminars and whatever in which one meets awesome folk.

Damn. Now I want to go to Gen Con.

Woe is me.

Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons – The Russian

In “The Stream,” Boyle and his team get jumped in Kathmandu by a crew who may work for the Chinese.

In “The Vault,” a special section of Canada’s Communications Security Establishment is monitoring Kathmandu, which has gone dark to all electronic and parapsychic traffic. Madison and Heather, two agents from the Vault, joined their international spec ops team in Meet & Greet. That team was going after Boyle in Kathmandu.

In “Mission Unlikely,” we learn that Boyle and his team have gone missing. Becca meets Alex in Monrovia in order to get him to come with her to Kathmandu to find Boyle. Off the record and off the reservation.

In “The Bedouin,” Kyle and Meredith from the Prospero Group contract the intelligence broker known as the Bedouin to get them a lead on what is happening in Kathmandu.

Now, Alex is meeting with a contact in Burma, getting equipment and information for his foray into Nepal.


Six: The Russian

Coming from Monrovia, Alexander Scott wouldn’t call Mawlamyaing in Burma primitive. The buildings looked like buildings all throughout Southeast Asia—slightly colonial, often discoloured, very open. It reminded him, oddly, of lots of places in Africa. Besides the faces on the street and the food in his belly, not much divided the two cities in his mind.

He sipped at his tea, the only patron of a small café, open to the street, with thirty year-old furniture and twenty year-old décor. Though clean, the place looked run down. Dark patches stretched out from the  corners of the white walls. Scratches and marks marred the sheen of the wood floor. Even the dingy white of his cup spoke volumes of age and use.

One of the shadows he had developed in Yangon watched him from the mouth of an alley. Alex pretended not to notice. It was hard, given that the man’s casual shirt, light jacket and slacks were far too new and unblemished for the area. The shadow watched the café over the top of his newspaper. He never turned the page.

The shadow reached into his pocket and fished out a cell phone. He spoke little, but listened attentively. Alex had to force himself not to stare. The man might lack craft, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t notice. Cell phone stowed, the man disappeared back into the alley.

Someone had called off the surveillance, at least momentarily.

The tall Russian had more beef on him and less muscle then when Alex had seen him last. His fair hair, still cut military short, had thinned somewhat, and one could no longer refer to his jaw as chiseled. Still, he carried himself with poise and assurance. Alex had no doubt that the Russian could still handle himself, and that he would be well-armed.

“Scott, I thought you were long dead.” The Russian’s English was immaculate, with only the hint of an accent.

Alex rose and took the proffered hand. “Rudi, what are you doing working for the Burmese?” He gestured and the Russian sat.

“What is different between the Burmese and the Americans?” Rudi the Russian smiled. “Elections? Buy power with money or with guns, it is no different.” He called out for a beer in Burmese. “Maybe you thought I’d still be working in Moscow? The money is not good there. The money here is better, and there are advantages.”

“Yeah, you’ve got quite a tan.” Alex sipped his tea when the beer arrived.

Rudi didn’t speak until the two were alone again. “Want do you want, Scott? I thought you were out.”

“I am, officially,” Alex said. “You could say this is personal.”


Alex shook his head. “Looking out for a friend.”

Rudi let out a low chuckle, almost a growl, and threw back a fair portion of his beer. “Friendship. It is not worth very much these days. It was once quite valuable.”

“Still is, to some people.” Alex put down his cup of tea. He left his hands on the table, visible. “I need three things from you. I’m going to be visiting Nepal and I’ll need weapons. I need a contact that I can trust, one that works for pay, but won’t stab me in the back for a bigger payday.”

“I can do these things.” Rudi fished out a pocket-size spiral notebook and wrote in it. “You said you needed three things.”

“I need to know what you know about Kathmandu.” Alex gaze fixed on Rudi’s eyes. “I know you still have the connections. I know you can get a better picture than even Langley.”

“Langley?” Rudi scoffed. “That is no compliment.” He wrote in the notebook, ripped out the page and passed it to Alex. “The weapons and the contact, this I do for free. As you said, some people still value friendship. For Kathmandu, this will take me time. It will be work. This is my price.”

The amount on the page was less than Alex had expected. “You still use the same account?”

Rudi smiled and nodded.

“You can expect your payment by the end of the day, as long as I can get a secure line.”

“I can call off the dogs,” Rudi said. “I can tell you this now, the Americans blame the Chinese, the Chinese blame the Americans, and the Russians blame both. None are involved. Do you know Tangible Stream?”

Alex didn’t allow any reaction to reach the surface. “I know it well enough.”

“They had one team in Nepal, at least,” Rudi said. “It was a wet job. The Russians believe the target was a gun smuggler. The job was about weapons. The Chinese sent a team to intercept the Stream based on intelligence that the operation was CIA and targeted Tibet.”

A weapon’s dealer? In Nepal? One that Boyle needed to eliminate? That didn’t make much sense. “Who was the Stream after?”

“I have no name for you yet.” Rudi glanced around quickly. “The Russian information is based on signals. The codename was Blackout.”

“Blackout? Seriously?”

Rudi nodded. “It is strange, yes? I have three other names for you, for now: Untold, Willow, and Cascade. These are Stream.”

Alex released a slow, long breath through his nose. Untold. That would be Boyle. But who were Willow and Cascade? Why didn’t the CIA want them?

Rudi took the silence as a dismissal of sorts. He shoved his notebook and pencil across the table. “You will give me the information I will need to contact you, yes? It must also be secure.”

“Route it through your contact in Nepal.” Alex rose. “That’s my next stop. I’m on a bit of a tight schedule.”

“Yes, I saw your airline itinerary.” Rudi said it with no hint of shame. He also stood. “Tell me, Scott, who does Tangible Stream work for? Are they American?”

“I wish I knew, Rudi.” Alex shook the Russians hand, looking him in the eye when he spoke. “I really wish I knew.”

“When you are done with helping your friend, you should come back.” Rudi patted Alex’s bicep. “I could find you work here. It is not hard and it pays very well.”

That made Alex laugh. “I’m out, Rudi. I’m way out.”

Rudi winked. “Only officially.”


Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons will continue with “From Delhi With Indifference.”

Did I Mention the Collapse of A Universe?

I just wrote a bit of an article about the demise of Jim Baen’s Universe. You canfind it over at Sword’s Edge.

Let me just say here, for those spec fic fans out there, you better start supporting short fiction markets, because that is an important place where new writers can polish their craft. Sure, you can sell directly into the novel market, and I know the writing of short and long fiction are two very different crafts, but the loss of short fiction markets will impact on the quality of long fiction.

It was also very negatively impact on the quality of short fiction. You get what you pay for, and free e-zines are more about validation for the author than quality fiction for the reader. And I write that as a former editor of a free fiction e-zine.

Mundus Novit: Real Life with a side of Fake

Things are swinging with Dark Horizons now, though still not much action. There’s a lot of groundwork to lay, and each scene builds on the background and the story. Pretty soon stuff will hit the fan, rest assured.

Meet & Greet” had a lot more organizations that do not appear in the Mundus Novit source book. Task Force 12 doesn’t, and it is more of an ad hoc assembly than an actual unit. The Vault, which appeared back in its eponymous chapter, is a fictional part of a real organization—the Communications Security Establishment. That chapter also hinted at Detachment 7, which Walker refers to again in “Meet & Greet,” and he mentions Det 7’s “grandfather,” the Security Reconnaissance Group.

The Communications Security Establishment (or CSE) is Canada’s answer to the National Security Agency, and while not as large or powerful, holds an equally secretive place within Canada’s intelligence community. To my knowledge, there is no protected, sealed off monitoring environment that can track mental as well as wave transmissions, but one never knows. You know—even if no government admits to this—that there are nerve centres within our intel organizations that monitor everything else, so I figure if they ever learnt to monitor telepathy, you can bet they would.

A lot of the Vault is based on all those movie sets of intelligence nerve centres. The atmosphere is hopefully replicating the guarded camaraderie one sees in the BBC series Spooks (sometimes called MI:5). Working in any intelligence monitoring or analysis section is stressful. During crises, well, it can be a lot worse than working a stock exchange floor during a rush—good or bad. The people who not just work in these areas but work successfully and thrive are special. They either deal with the stress, or they burn themselves out.

From what I understand, there’s a lot more burn-outs than stress-eaters.

There is also a little hint of Marvel comics continued insistence that Canada has a massive, high-tech intelligence community. Anyone from Canada who followed Alpha Flight would likely have a good chuckle at the super-tech available not just to this super team but apparently to some branch(es) of the military as well. Perhaps this is an alternate history in which the Avro Arrow project wasn’t scrapped at the cusp of completion.

And then there is Detachment 7.

It’s true that Canada is a bit of a late-comer to the military special operations community, though JTF-2‘s fore-runners, the Special Emergency Response Team of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were plenty game when it came to counter-terrorism and hostage rescue. The thing is the Canadian military is so small, a robust special operations branch would drain other forces of some of their best and brightest. With the creation of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, that might be happening, but I haven’t heard too many complaints just yet.

So Detachment 7 is something like the Vault—its a fairy tale inside the real story. It’s also possible there is something like this within the Canadian military, something nobody talks about because almost nobody knows. Likely? No. Possible? Sure, why not?

JTF-2 and the CSOR undertake real missions and encounter real peril, but not of the James Bond variety, at least not to which they are admitting. Detachment 7 acts as a kind of military spy unit. It allows the characters to be James Bond in BDUs. I did something similar with the Combined Security Reconnaissance Section.

If your players want their characters to be part of organizations like the Vault or Detachment 7, or perhaps they want characters from these units, you can expect to have complete write-ups, in the same format and fashion as the units in the Mundus Novit source book, by the end of Dark Horizons. Both organizations would work in military, espionage, and/or conspiracy campaigns.

That’s kind of what Dark Horizons is, a military/espionage/conspiracy story.

Narrative Powers in True20 – the Idea.

Another moment over another massive cup of coffee. While the Princess is busy downing strawberries, I’m going to try to get this idea down and out there.

I was thinking about the next campaign I intend to run once I get the band back together (if you are in Ottawa, we could still use another player). It’s going to be a “supers” campaign but in the setting of Mundus Novit. I’m leaving it up to the players as to what level of supers they want to play, but I’m kind of leaning toward something like the Authority or Planetary. Yes, Warren Ellis still owes me money from all those Nextwave: Agents of Hate plugs on the podcast, but I continue to pimp his stuff.


I’m leaning toward Savage Worlds for Planetary and Mutants & Masterminds for the Authority. I got some good suggestions from the Twitosphere (thanks@JamesDillane and @thornlord) but unfortunately, the excellent suggestions are impractical—though  if anyone can suggest a way to get print copies of Truth and Justice and/or Prime Time Adventures without doubling the cost in postage, let me know.

I had an idea for powers that would let me use True20. Why bother with learning a whole new system when I can tweak the one I love?

Narrative powers.

Just a basic idea right now, and here’s how it would work. Instead of having a specific power effect—like energy blast or sleep—the character has a power concept. For example, Mr. Snow would have “cold.” As long as the player can explain how this power applies to what the character is trying to do, the character makes a power check, just like now. All powers are fatiguing.

The powers would get 10 points to put into combat or utility. So, Mr. Snow might drop 8 points into combat and 2 into utility. That means for combat purposes, the power is +8. If the player tries to use the power outside of combat, the power is considered +2. If Mr. Snow tries to freeze Mr. Leather’s brain, that’s combat. If Mr. Snow tries to short circuit the security network by dropping its temperature into the negative hundreds, that’s utility.

Strawberry break is ending. More later if I get the chance.