Mundus Novit: On The Horizon

We are about two-thirds of the way through Dark Horizons, and things are starting to fall in place. Things are falling in place for Mundus Novit as well. I’ve seen proofs for the sourcebook and the Modern system supplement. They are looking good. It’s been a while, and I admit to having moments of doubt, but Neal Levin at Dark Quest Games has done what I had hoped and created a fantastic product, one I can be proud of.

I can’t say when it will be out exactly. What I saw were proofs that needed corrections. Neal also runs Dark Quest Books, so he has a lot on his plate. That and there is always real life, which has thrown me more than one curve ball.

But for those of you interested in the setting, you shall not be waiting much longer. For me, this has been a long, long road, and I will be really glad once I’ve reached my destination.

Gamers Help Haiti

This is being cross-posted everywhere I can.

I’m betting you’ve all heard about the disaster in Haiti. I’m sure that you would love to be able to positively contribute to helping the people of Haiti. There are lots of ways to do so, from the Red Cross to Worldvision, but I’m going to let you know about a way to donate and get a huge thank you in return.

Go over to RPG Now or Drive-thru RPG and donate $20. In return, you’ll get over $1,000 in RPG PDFs. That includes Albenistan: Election Day, Line Zero, and Cyber-state Avatar Toolkit.

The deal is tremendous, and I applaud all the publishers who have provided gifts. If you use PDFs at all or have any interest in checking out gaming PDFs, go get these now. Even if you are soulless, it’s more than $1,000 in product for $20.

Go donate now and get a huge RPG thank-you in return.

Mundus Novit: “The Crew”

As I’ve written elsewhere, Mundus Novit can be used for a lot of different styles of play. I mentioned my Osiris concept, which is basically a riff on the comic Planetary. That’s pretty much a super-hero concept, even though it is one without colourful costumes.

I had an idea for another super-hero game set in Mundus Novit, but this one would be with supers in costume. However, the player characters would not be those supers. The PCs would be a team assigned to remove supers whenever they got out of line.

And they get out of line a lot.

This campaign was also based on a comic, this time The Boys, written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Darick Robertson. The PCs would be part of a government (or possibly private, like Osiris) organization that keeps watch on the supers. In this setting, supers (or “masks”) start showing up and being deputized to work alongside municipal police departments. This is a move by certain corporations who sponsor the supers–and, it turns out, give ‘donations’ to the police forces who allow their sponsored supers to operate. Things get really cosy, and the municipalities, including some of the bigger ones, start to turn a blind eye to some questionable corporate actions.

These corporate shenanigans–including attempts to silence competition and opposition, as well as human experimentation–lead to the activation of the Crew (or a group with a more inspiring team name). The PCs are assigned to mess up those supers who are covering for the corporation, or who are involved in criminality themselves.

The PCs would learn, during the campaign, that someone has cracked the Oberon virus. Someone is now tailoring it specifically to order. The corporations are buying this and creating their own purpose-built supers. The PCs may be the same, they may be have higher stages of the Oberon effect than the supers they face, and they may be random or designed. The campaign was to be based on the discovery of this new aspect of Oberon, and to find out who had cracked its code.

I’ve got a short piece of fiction for this setting, but its language is even stronger than what we’ve been presenting with Dark Horizons, so if you want to read it, it’s available here. I’m warning you, the attitude and language may offend, so don’t be complaining if you read it.

The Crew is much darker, much dirtier, and much more violent than Osiris. Thing is, they could inhabit the same world. It’s a stretch, but these guys might even inhabit the world of Dark Horizons as well. The idea of the campaign was that the supers would start to appear late in the secret history, outside of what is presented in the sourcebook.

In Dark Horizons, after the mission in Kathmandu, Tangible Stream or the Vault might be pulled into the campaign as the supers begin to appear. Maybe only one or two supers or teams are active, but already there are concerns. Supers in colourful costumes kind of destroys the gritty, black-ops feel I’m going for with Dark Horizons, but I think it could still work. A bit of a shift in gears, but totally doable.

As for Osiris, it has its own story arc that leads to a discovery, and tacking on the Crew’s campaign narrative would be pretty easy. But that revelation needs to wait until the Osiris Files actually come out.

I think, for this game, I would use Mutant & Masterminds 2E. It just seems fitting when one has super-heroes, whatever their source. However, once the Mundus Novit True20 supplement comes out, I would suggest it instead. It is actually planned to address exactly this need–something that balances True20 and superheroics–though the method I use may not be acceptable to some.

That method? Again, sorry but you’ll have to wait and see.

Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons – Foibles

Seventeen: Foibles

He sat there, four young Russian women hanging on him, serving him, all but worshipping him. Money paid for that. It paid for so many things in the New Russia. But that man, that centre of adoration, was not Russian. At the bar, someone had called him Chinese.

That wasn’t true. Junsang Chay came from North Korea.

Chay represented North Korea within the networks of Vladivostock. So many illicit shipments moved through the port and the airfield that the regime needed a point man. Apparently, Chay qualified.

Rather than a government flunky or secret operative, Chay was an entrepreneur. You could be that while representing North Korea. Corruption ran to the very top. Even while the nation starved, the generals and bureaucrats knew there was money to be made. What of the Beloved Leader, the newly-resurrected Kim Manil? No one yet knew.

And what of Chay and his loyalties? Did he have two masters? Well, money might be his true master, but he also served two other forces. Which did he serve best? He had facilitated a package from Vladivostock to Kathmandu. That package had nothing to do with North Korea and everything to do with the instruments at play in the Nepalese capital. Who, then, pulled Chay’s strings in that particular operation?

The Beduoin sat at the bar, nursing his beer, listening to those around him yet focused on Chay. He knew of Chay’s ‘extracurricular activities’ because Jack Forbes–the man who had passed himself off as CIA handler “Hitch” Hitchens–had told him of them.

Perhaps not “told” him. Revealed might be a better word. The Bedouin had a way of getting answers. It didn’t require pouring water, slivers under fingernails, or even bright lights. The Bedouin simply concentrated, held the subject’s focus, and the subject would answer.

As one might expect, this proved handy for an intelligence operative.

If anyone could tempt the Bedouin to torture, Hitch would be it. The Bedouin’s interests, though, never swung toward the sadistic. Still, there was something about Hitch, something that made the Bedouin angry.

It didn’t matter. Hitch was out of the equation. He had told the Bedouin what the Bedouin needed to know. His usefulness at an end, he himself had ended. The Bedouin could only imagine that the fish of the Arabian Sea, just beyond Mumbai, had picked clean most of the weighted body by now.

Chay’s package was important. Hitch hadn’t known why, or what it was, but he had tried to hide his knowledge of it. He tried to hide his knowledge of many things. Most of them didn’t surprise the Bedouin. He knew a rogue element of the CIA was involved in Kathmandu. He knew some Chinese were involved, but that the People’s Republic was being set up for a fall. He knew the Russians had some kind of arm’s length involvement.

He didn’t know who, in the end, really pulled the strings.

Chay put him a step closer to that. Now he had to get closer to Chay.

Just in front of the corner booth in which Chay lounged, two large Russians in badly fit suits stood guard. Their poor tailoring had the benefit of clearly outlining that both carried handguns, and rather large ones. Their eyes scanned the bar. They seemed to exude hostility, ready to pounce should it be reflected at them.

These two were for show. These two deterred casual interest, intimidated the gawkers, removed the paparazzi and press. These two gave focus for those measuring protection, but they were not the protection.

Sometimes the show was enough, but you never have the show without the substance. The most expensive bodyguards in Vladivostock were of the ex-Spetznatz variety. If you had a Spetznatz standing post, you knew there were two you didn’t see. If you saw none, expect the worst.

The Bedouin expected the worst. However, the trail had led him here. He had no other trail, no other tips. If Chay proved a barren asset, the Bedouin might have to go to Kathmandu. That’s what the opposition wanted. They expected him there. He had survived so long by avoiding the expected.

A man moved out of the background. Before he spoke, the Bedouin sensed him. This man did not put on shows. This man did nothing extraneous. Ex-Spetznatz.

Ex- Directorate O. Ex-Hunter.

This man had captured post-humans, had killed sorcerers, had removed the brains of parapsychs from their still-living bodies.

This man knew more than Chay.

“You seem interested in that Chinese guy.” The man spoke Russian.

The Bedouin turned and faced this hunter of men. His slightly round face had strong features, with thin lips and cold eyes.

Evgeny. This one’s name was Evgeny, but nothing more. His mind presented a fortress with only a single portal. Strong defences guarded that portal.

“I’m sorry?” The Bedouin spoke English.

“You understand me.” Evgeny took the empty stool beside the Bedouin. “You speak Russian very well. My name is Evgeny. Should I call you Ahmed?”

Had this man read the Ahmed Zeghida file? Could the Bedouin be that lucky? Never rely on luck, but never pass up an opening. Still, this could be left for later. This could be one of many options for when this meeting turned to violence.

And the Bedouin was certain that it would.

“Ahmed will do,” the Bedouin said, in Russian. “How is it you know of me?”

Evgeny smiled–almost sincere. “I’ve read about you for many years. I expected that I would meet you some day. I didn’t expect it to be like this.”

“Like this?” The Bedouin raised his eyebrows: do go on.

“Do you know of me, perhaps?” Evgeny waited, and perhaps saw the answer in the Bedouin’s eyes. “Perhaps not. Just a cog in a machine, it is true. My government work was exemplary, but being exemplary, is not known. My work now promises more of the same. Surely, you can understand the frustration.”

“An artist without an audience?” The Bedouin raised his glass in salute. “Yes, I can understand the frustration. You have an audience now.”

The bartender brought Evgeny a bottle of vodka and a shot glass without being asked. A regular? A parapsych? Planned? A small detail that might inform the Bedouin’s next actions. Evgeny filled his glass and tapped the Bedouin’s with it.

“You will not find me so easy to unravel.” Evgeny drained the glass, then re-filled it. “They thought they had you in Delhi, you know. Then they thought that you would follow their lead to Kathmandu. I told them where you would be found. I knew Forbes should have been removed.”


Evgeny laughed. It sounded genuine. “Now you are playing the part. Not so easy, Ahmed. Not so easy at all.”

“Can I be blamed for trying while you are being so forthcoming?” The Bedouin controlled his facade as he always did. Nothing came to his face or eyes other than what he wished to project.

“I wish it had turned out different, you know.” Another shot done. Evgeny did not pour another. “You are not without an audience. I, for one, relished each report. I applauded you, even when I opposed you.”

The Bedouin felt the tickle, just inside his spine. Trouble. Big, bad, ugly trouble. “But it is over now.”

“You sound so serene, as though you accept the outcome.” Evgeny’s brow knit. He honestly looked concerned. Did he control his emotions as tightly as the Bedouin controlled his face? Could he project such sincerity at a whim, or was he honestly pained by this situation?


One eyebrow raised, Evgeny gestured to the glass of beer. “Really?”

The Bedouin smiled. “A weakness.” There, three metres back and to the left, another man acted calm, but stood coiled, ready to move. He had two firearms and a needle of sedative marked for the Bedouin. There, a metre and a half to that man’s right, a woman. A parapsych. Did she cover others? “We all have our foibles.”

“Do we?” Evgeny tapped the rim of his glass. “Perhaps. But perhaps some of us are not allowed weakness. Perhaps some of us have exorcised it.”

“Perhaps some of us are fooling ourselves.” The Bedouin leaned toward Evgeny. “I want to know who they are. I want to know who pulls Chay’s strings and yours. I will get this information from you or from him. I am giving you two choices, tell me and profit or do not and still fail.”

“You know, don’t you.” Evgeny’s smile had taken on a predatory gleam. It had begun.

“I know. You won’t walk out of here alive, and neither will your people. This is not a game. I take no pleasure in this, but I am very good at it.”

“It’s too late,” Evgeny said. “It is a game, a game you have lost. Chay knows nothing and I don’t know enough. Even if you win here, you lose.”

The Bedouin concentrated. It put him at risk. The effort he expended left him unable to track the other two assailants. Every fortress had a weakness. Evgeny was about pride. He wanted the challenge, needed it. These walls will never fall.

But pride went before exactly that. “Ah, yes, the Algerian bit. 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.”

Nothing. Evgeny shook his head. “The semantic trigger? You must be desperate. It had to end this way, you know.”

“Yes, I know.” The Bedouin felt the blood trickle from his nose. Its flow roared in his ears. Feels like an ice pick right there. Damn that hurts. Focus. Focus. “We all have our foibles.”

Evgeny’s eyes went blank. His walls fell. The Bedouin would have only moments. “Tell me”

Movement behind him. Evgney began to speak.

A gun shot.


Followed by Eighteen: Who’s Taking the High Road?

Thoughts on Spycraft 2.0 Pocket Edition

Summary: Excellent, but too much crunch for my taste. 4 bullets out of 5


I picked up the Spycraft 2.0 pocket edition some time ago. The price was right and Flaming Cobra doesn’t gouge Canadian customers with shipping (unlike, say, Lulu or even IPR). My buddy Brad in Halifax was a Spycraft fan, and he ran us through some adventures, including using the Stargate RPG, which used the SC engine. I read lots of good stuff about SC 2.0 which made me very, very curious.

Now, I haven’t played SC 2.0, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. Here are my thoughts.

Character creation got me excited. And by excited, I mean hot date, dancing close, imagining where the night will lead excited.

Okay, sorry about that. Bleach out that mental image and let’s get on with this.

I really love the options and ideas provided. Not just the classes, but stuff like the gear picks, which are broken into electronic, gadgets, resources, security, tradecraft, vehicles and weapons. This idea and its execution is so outstanding, I am stealing it—well, is it stealing if I credit the source?—for all my games, whether they be set during the Trojan War or during the Rebellion Against the Empire.

The classes themselves have been extended and changed somewhat. I never was a huge fan of SC’s classes, but reading SC 2.0’s classes got me thinking of character concepts and how I could build them. This is always a good thing. SC 2.0 includes a good selection of base classes and some more expert classes to help build exactly the kind of character one imagines.

The skills include both the skills and the kind of checks one might make with them. This is another excellent idea, but this is where things starting bogging down for me. From this point on, I started to skim, started to skip ahead.

And here’s why: I’m looking for less rules during game play, not more. My go-to game right now is True20. Savage Worlds is a very close second, but because True20 is so close to d20, it is well within my comfort zone mechanics-wise.

Now, True20 doesn’t have a lot of rules for actions during game play, but it has enough. I ignore most of them. Seriously, even with something relatively streamlined like True20, I find there are too many rules. Rules slow me down during my games. If I have to open my book, you’ve broken my rhythm and I have to work to get it back. The last thing I want to do during a tense situation at the game table is interrupt with rules’ interpretation. I just want to move, to go, to get ‘er done.

Then there are Dramatic Conflicts. I have barely skimmed the surface of this, just looking for the guts of it to see what I could steal. This maps out ways to work stuff like chases, interrogations, hacking, etc. Again, awesome mechanics, but I am trying to avoid mechanics. I am going back at a later date to strip mine the ideas here and see if I can graft them on to my style of play, somehow. It simply too much work, for me, to learn this new system.

There is a lot to recommend SC 2.0, especially if you love that in-game crunch, the rules that tell you exactly what you can do, when, and how.

And that is the crux of it. SC 2.0 is not bad. I can’t say for certain, not having played it, but it reads absolutely outstanding. I can see why there are so many great reviews. I can see why there are so many dedicated fans. It’s just that this is different enough that I would need to learn it, just like a totally new game.

I have neither the free time nor the inclination to do that.

Sue me.

This is the exact same reason I haven’t bought D&D 4E. I’m sure it’s a great game (there is no sarcasm there, I can actually imagine a few styles of play for which I would prefer something like 4E), but there’s too much to learn. I am happy with True20, which had very little new to learn.

So there you go. If I had found SC 2.0 back in 2002, I would likely have latched onto it and never let go. Back then, I enjoyed delving into the rules, getting a basic idea, then learning the rules completely by playing them. Right now, that’s not what I want to do. I want something lean and mean that is easy to learn and doesn’t make me run back to the rules in the middle of the game.

Here’s the bottom line: I would strongly recommend SC 2.0 for modern action/adventure games run by people who like to learn rules and like to have lots of them to learn. I would strongly recommend SC 2.0 pocket edition for people like me who run modern games, but who may not want to learn all of SC 2.0, but would rather steal aspects of it to bolt on elsewhere.

Given the cost of the pocket edition and what is contained therein, I would say it provides a heck of a bang for your buck.

I’m giving Spycraft 2.0 pocket edition 4 bullets out of 5.

Reading Intelligence/Military Blogs

If you are going to read blogs about intelligence and/or military theory and thought, with a dose of current events, I have three that I think you need to read.

Abu Muqawama: Out of the Center for a New American Security (sic . . . yes, sic–I’m Canadian), this blog is nominally hosted by Andrew Exum, but includes the outstanding Londonstani, who has delivered a plethora of very insightful posts.

The Security Crank: Kind of the anti-think tanker. Scathing yet informative, I’ve just started following this blog, and it regularly delivers the Devil’s Advocate goodness. I like reading this one and Abu Muqawama together, as they help to mix up the ideas and interpretations.

War is Boring: This is the blog for the intrepid David Axe, a freelance journalist who seems just about willing to go anywhere and do anything to get a good story. He seems to have a lot of contacts in places like Somalia, that helps him to sound almost prescient in many situations. Most of his posts are pretty short, but they are interspersed by lots of longer articles that find their way into places likeWorld Politics Review and the Washington Times.

So what are you reading that you think I should?

Mundus Novit: In the System

With the sourcebook for Mundus Novit soon to be available, I thought I’d mention some thoughts about systems and how they apply to Mundus Novit.

Originally, Mundus Novit was designed as a d20 Modern supplement. The sourcebook and the system supplement were designed together, to be complementary. This was before official support seemed to drop, leaving RPG Objects as pretty much the de facto d20 Modern caretaker. Then Modern20 came along, and even that disappeared.

It is my assumption–ready to be proven false–that there are still players of d20 Modern. I really hope so. The plan now is to have the Mundus Novit setting released systemless, then have system supplements as required or requested. Being as Mundus Novit was designed as a d20 Modern setting, the d20 Modern supplement will definitely be released. I’m working on a True20 supplement, so that is almost a certainty.

What about other systems and other supplements?

I might be able to do a Savage Worlds supplement, if I thought it were worth my time. I am less conversant with Savage Worlds than with True20, so there would be a greater effort (and likely a result with lower quality mechanics). This is one thing stopping me. Luckily, in my local group I have people interested in playing Savage Worlds, so this is something I could certainly work on.

The system I am using for my Mundus Novit campaign is Mutants & Masterminds 2E. Now, in my opinion, M&M is good for some uses of Mundus Novit, but not all. Mundus Novit was always seen as a toolkit, as a foundation on which to build all kinds of things. Dark Horizons provides one example, a conspiracy and thriller setting with subtle but important SFX. I think the Modern supplement for Mundus Novit is the best choice. Possibly the True 20 supplement would work, but not having finished that, I can’t say that for certain.

My use of Mundus Novit is in the vein of Warren Ellis and John Casaday’s Planetary. That is a super-hero story within a conspiracy and secret history background. I don’t think my Osiris campaign could intersect with my Dark Horizons story very well. These are two different worlds, but both were envisioned using Mundus Novit.

For Osiris, M&M 2E could be used with little or no additions. I’m not absolutely certain that nothing needs to be added. Possibly some feats might be adapted from the True20 supplement to better replicate stuff like a DRIFT operative, but I don’t know if this is absolutely necessary.

If you see an M&M Superlink product, you’ll know I had to include additions to make M&M fit better into Mundus Novit. Right now, though, superhero action in Mundus Novit, I think can move forward with M&M.

I’m excited about some of the opportunities Mundus Novit represents. I’m happy that two different genres can exist in the same setting equally well (at least for me), and I have envisioned a few others, including a kind of monster hunters campaign (seeking out the Others from beyond the Hedge), and, of course, a spec ops campaign (opposing a drug empire in the Golden Triangle, led by a powerful shaman and selling a drug distilled using the brain tissue of parapsychs).

Just wait until you see what you can do with Mundus Novit.

SEP Doesn’t Look Back, Only Forward

I lie. We certainly do look back. Thing is, I can’t say much for Sword’s Edge Publishing in 2009. The big events came late in the year.

The Osiris Files, first discussed in April, remain languishing in development perdition (not exactly hell, but not released, so not heaven either), but I am moving forward, slowly, with that. For your personal edification, two of the projected seven products are done, but I want all seven done or close enough to finished that completion should not be an issue, before I release any. The reason is that they are all linked, and form a kind of story arc if so desired. I don’t want to start putting them out and then they evaporate. Other big plans have done that.

May saw the first chapter of Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons. The story continues to unfold every two weeks, right here. Chapter 16 of a projected 24 chapters is out, so we’re a third of the way through, though the outline doesn’t always conform to the writing, so there may be more chapters lurking in there.

At the end of August, SEP presented the first, unfinished module in what would have been the Lorestaves series. Piece by piece, the module has been presented for free on the website. The last section was released on December 15. I hope someone found it useful. Personally, I’m kind of sad this didn’t take off back when we had planned it (back when I had time to write massive 13 module campaigns), but it’s not the only project to die a lamented death.

So what’s coming in 2010?

That’s a good question. In some form or another, Mundus Novit will finally be released. The exact method and form of its release is still uncertain, but once I know, you’ll know.

Will the Osiris Files make an appearance? That’s the plan. I’ve started on module 3, so I’m almost half-way through the planned arc. If it gets done, it’ll come out. I am torn between testing the waters with the first two and waiting until I have a big enough buffer that I can ensure one release per month.

If you listen to the Accidental Survivors, and specifically Collateral, which has become a kind of personal soapbox, you know that I started SEP for the wrong reasons, that I enjoy creating rather than business. It’s for this reason, and the fact that I have a beautiful wife and two awesome daughters (a 3 year-old and an 11 month-old), so my free time is devoted to them first and my hobbies–including SEP, which should be a business, but I have to admit is a hobby–come a distant second.

I want to see how Mundus Novit is received before I make any promises, but if it is popular, SEP will basically become the Mundu Novit channel, and the Osiris Files will be edited to link them more closely to Mundus Novit.

Keep an eye on my blog for personal news, like my writings and such, as I hope to have more news about that soon.