Showing posts with label dap. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dap. Show all posts

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 12

Episode 12: No Other Troy

Yoln: You brought an army to stop me Slayer?
Buffy: No. I brought two.

- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 12 “No Other Troy”

Episode 12: No Other Troy by ~WebWarlock on deviantART

Why should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great.
Had they but courage equal to desire?
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as a fire,
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this,
Being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done, being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?

- William Butler Yeats, No Second Troy

Oh, I love you
God, I love you
I'd kill a dragon for you
I'll die
But I will rise
And I will return
The Phoenix from the flame
I have learned
I will rise
And you'll see me return
Being what I am
There is no other Troy
For me to burn
- Sinéad O'Connor, Troy

No time, no date (Cast returns on May 19, 2003. Monday)

The cast leads an army of demons and an army of angels to Leviathan’s plane, but they discover it may require the death of one of their own to seal the portal forever. Release the souls of all the Slayer’s Leviathan has been feeding on for years. Buffy must defeat Yoln, but Willow and Tara must find a way to stop a God on his home realm.

Story Arc Elements: Willow and Tara are shown their pasts and futures by the Mouth of Leviathan, how everything they have done was constructed to bring them to this point to allow Leviathan to enter this realm. Leviathan had meant for Willow to be his instrument to be powerful enough to allow him to enter this realm. Tara was the factor he did not count on, her influence was turning Willow away from the path she was on to one more in balance with magic. Without Tara, Leviathan will enter the realm through Willow at anytime he chooses.

Game Mechanics:
Stats for various Slayers from the past. Dragons.
Sinead O’Connor “Drink Before the War” and "Troy".  Megadeth “A Tout Le Monde”, Sarah Maclachlan “Elsewhere”

Notes and Comments:
This is the big one. The finale. Designed to be both the series finale for “Buffy” and the start of a new spin-off series “Willow & Tara” and there is a lot going on.

Let’s start with the big stuff. The Cast comes through Dawn’s rift using the Spear as a guide. It takes them to a cave in an outcropping overlooking a valley. A valley filled with demons (40,000 to be exact), when they see Buffy they all begin to shout “Slayer! Slayer!” It was quite a visual.

The first act of course is to get a grip on this new demonic army. The leaders are the Mormo demons from before. The cast is also joined by a smaller, but no less effective, army of angels. Among them is Kara, who has taken Tara’s place in the armies of Heaven. In fact she has surpassed even Tara’s previous achievements. Once the cast can convince the demons and angels to fight together against the forces of Leviathan then the action begins.

For the battles I used the Army of Darkness mass combat rules with Buffy as the general, but I made sure everyone had a chance to shine.
Upon entering the realm of Leviathan the cast notices that their Con and Wills are being drained. So, we have a time limit here. Both Faith and Buffy know that the realm is draining the source of their power, though they can’t figure out why.

Dawn has to hold the portal open, so she is given a group of angels to protect her. Spike has the Hand of Yoln as a weapon and Buffy has the spear.
We spend some time battling the armies of Leviathan. His creatures combine the worse aspects of dragon, snake and demon, for lack of a better word I called them Draconians.

The cast enters Leviathan himself, anyone with a soul takes another hit to Will. Anyone without a soul is absorbed into the walls, floor, everything. Thus newly re-re-ensouled Anya and recently souled Spike are fine. Well, fine as can be. I struggled with this for a bit, do angels have souls? In the end I decided no, they have spirits like demons. So the angels that went in with the cast are lost. This is done for the obvious reasons; the cast needs to shine here, not the armies.

Buffy fights Yoln. Until next season she is the star and the big guy is going after her. Now I don’t know how many of you all use the Original Slayer in games, but she is one deadly character. I had to up Yoln to obscene levels just to deal with her. Faith and Spike are fighting at her sides (I am sure there is metaphor here, but I am not going there) and these three can quickly mow down (and did) most opponents. Spike gets his arm chopped of by Yoln (yeah I did that first too) and dumps the ash out of the glove and puts it back on.

“You think you came here to stop me and my lord. You can’t. Everything is in motion, everything had been planned before you were even born. This is not my defeat, this is my apotheosis. You are not heroes.
You are sacrifices.”
- Yoln, the Shadowreaper
Yoln becomes fully human again (or at least as human as he was before), he tells them it is a trap and the attack start anew. Yoln is stronger now, but can be killed. Buffy does kill him, which just starts the whole place to start exploding.

There is truth in Yoln’s quote since this was an adventure I had planned to do for AD&D 1st ed back in 1987. It took place during the same battle as the “flashback” from Episode 5. Then, as in now, the story focused on a battle with Yoln and his Master, then known only as “The Whispering God”, and two lovers; Morganne (the Slayer from episode 5) and a young swordsman. So this adventure had been in the works long before Buffy and crew were ever “born”. Yoln was then a demonic-human that became a death knight.

Anya and Xander meanwhile are off to discover the reason why their “souls” are being drained. They discover that the spirits all of the Slayers that have died before are stuck on Leviathan’s plane. Literally. They are stuck in the wall of the dead god’s flesh and are slowly being consumed. Anya and Xander work to free them while fighting lesser minions (giant white blood cell things). They manage to free some of the Slayers who can fight (but are still dead, but at least now they can move on) till Spike come running up telling them it is a trap.

Willow and Tara confront Leviathan “himself” in the form of The Mouth of Leviathan played by Malcolm McDowell at his evil best.

From the Mouth of Leviathan we learn Leviathan worked through Set and other gods and demons to get things done. He empowered Willow when she first gave Angel back his soul. Willow was supposed to be his instrument, a force strong enough to bring Leviathan into this world, then he would feed on Willow. In a way she was working like another one of my old AD&D influences (or rather my DM’s), Raven from the Teen Titans. Though Willow is not Leviathan’s daughter, he does need her to enter the world.

What Leviathan never worked into his plans was how much of an influence Tara was having. Tara was pulling Willow away from the self-destructive forms of witchcraft (Sorcery) and too the more “natural” Magic. At first he worked on Glory and her minions to redirect Glory to a vulnerable Tara, but that was short lived. The Mouth shows the girls thousands of alternate realities where they are together, but in each one Leviathan manages to kill Tara (or somehow turn Willow) and consume the world. So Leviathan through his agents stopped the bullet from hitting Willow and instead redirected to Tara. The various realities shown are all various fan-fictions of my playtesters and our friends on the Kitten Board. There are also scenes of various alternate versions of Willow and Tara. Lots of ones on their past lives, including one where they both die in Atlantis; a pair of Chinese sorceresses; Liath and Bodhmal from Episode 5 and “The Dark Druid” and others. There are also alternate versions of Tara, the Tara that really was part demon, the nature sprite Tara that Whedon talked about doing, vampire Tara, even the “original” plan for Tara to make her what the Amy character eventually became; the dark magic junkie. The outcome for any alternate though is the same, the destruction of the world.

The mouth offers Willow a choice now, they can leave together, all she needs to do is drain all of her’s and Tara’s magic into Dawn. Then Leviathan will enter the world via Dawn. They can then live on Faith’s old magic dead world. Of course everyone they know or love will die.
Now at this point we had planned to go in a bunch of different directions, but the winning one, the plan that made the most sense won out.

Standing on spires (really his spine) of Leviathan’s plane Willow and Tara see their friends running back to the portal, being perused by devilish, dragon monsters, the armies still fighting. They see torn and battered Slayers limping to attack Leviathan’s creatures, even though they stand no hope of even slowing them down. Meanwhile with Yoln’s death the conduit to the mortal realm is breaking up. Dawn is fighting to keep the portal open and the land (which is really Leviathan himself) is reacting violently with “earth quakes” and volcanoes. The Earth can be seen (blocking out the sun) and rising. The Mouth tells the girls that all Leviathan needs now is enter the world through the gate, either through Willow now or Dawn (since she is holding it open) and then drain his “hosts” magic to manifest fully.

Seeing the death and destruction they realize there is only one way to keep it from getting worse. Grabbing hands, they jump into the gapping maw of Leviathan’s plane. Yup. I went for the “Thelma and Louise” ending.
Now everything goes berserk. Demons are running amok, trying to get out of the place. Angels find they are fighting the hordes of Leviathan AND retreating demons, the land is throwing fits more than ever, and then silence.
From the maw that Willow and Tara threw themselves in comes the reborn Leviathan. He was “force feed” all of Willow’s and Tara’s combined magic. Given the Anamchara rules that is quite a bit. He now stands over 200 feet tall and getting taller by the second, seven heads and full of anger. There is no way he can go through the portal now, so he is going to settle for killing everyone and everything on his plane. Time for the cast to run.

Of course I gave them the chance to get to the portal. Leviathan is chasing them down, roaring in anger. Then I need to decide what I should do with the characters. Leviathan is not a stated out monster, he is pure plot device. But I want the surviving characters to well, survive. Yeah I really, really wanted to off Spike. I felt he was representative of everything that I considered wrong with the show. The plan was that he was going to take the remote detonator for his chip and wait till the armies got on top of him then he was going to blow his own head off. But Garner convinced me otherwise. Plus I was already working on “Season of the Witch” at this point and he never showed there, but I figured I’d need him later. I did in fact for a Ghosts of Albion/Buffy crossover. I wanted to make him into a ghost and said as much very early on, but he ended up being a ghost in Angel, so I figured I could do better than that. So his player and I agreed that Spike was going to buy the rest of the cast time. He stood and fought the on coming demons and draconians to keep them a little bit at bay. That way if I needed him back I could, or if I needed him evil again then I can say Leviathan had been whispering in his ear all this time, the same thing he did to Yoln. At this point anyway I was borrowing heavily from Charmed so Leviathan’s plan was the same as the Demonic Wasteland. There were plenty of powers laying around there for someone with the will to use them. Spike could have come back (and still might who knows) like Cole did in Charmed.

The remaining cast get through the portal. Beaten, broken, but alive. They leave the ruins of the High School (they are shot out of the Hellmouth) and Dawn says the mouth is closed completely.

Cut back to a grey void where Willow and Tara are. Luna, the Seraphim, returns and offers them a choice. They can go to Heaven together as their reward, or the Summerlands if they prefer, or they can be sent back to Earth. Tara will loose some of her divine power she had before (the aura around her that induced fear in demons), but they will let her keep the ability to heal by touch.

They come back and we wrap up the game. Scenes of Xander’s and Anya’s wedding (this time a small private ceremony), Giles ends up catching the bouquet. Buffy’s martial arts class is still a big hit, we see her going on dates with Tony, the cop from Episodes 6 and 7. There are a few demons left in town, but most have cleared off. The last scene is Willow and Tara enjoying themselves (not like that!) at home. I don’t have it my notes, but they talked about how their lives are theirs to do with as they please. At that point Dawn comes in to tell Tara the phone is for her, it is her brother.

This may be one of my most favorite cover of the series. The idea was to only going to get Willow and Tara fans to write the episodes, play test and do the covers, and in particular only members of the Kitten Board. This one was done by Chris Cook who runs a website devoted to Willow and Tara in every universe. Called “Through the Looking Glass” it has tons of art, stories, and even games for the Willow and Tara fan base. The premise really mirrors that of this episode. I showed the multiverse where Willow and Tara are together in every reality. I also showed that in realities that they are not together are doomed to destruction. Chris shows us the realities where they are together. Have a look, there is even some Dragon and the Phoenix art there as well. The various realities are all from various W/T fan fiction.  The sources for them were stories from the Kitten Board, Different Color Pens fiction board and the old Willow and Tara fiction site, Extra Flamey.

And of note. This is my 100th post tagged "witch".

Next time, DS al Coda.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 11

Episode 11: Shadows in the Rain

Dark Willow/Nox: Are you going to kill me lover?
Tara: Not if I don’t have to.
Dark Willow/Nox: That’s why you are going to fail.

- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 11 “Shadows in the Rain”

Episode 11: Shadows in the Rain by ~WebWarlock on deviantART

May 7, 2003. Wednesday

Willow becomes physically ill on the anniversary of Tara’s murder. Her magic has an effect on the weather. The Cast finds the weapon they need, but it is in the hands of the last person they expected. Tara, Willow and Dawn combine their power for the first time to retrieve it, but their attempt pulls the cast into a magically-dead (no magic for Willow or Tara) world where Dark Magic Willow (now called "Nox") was not defeated. Willow discovers the wages of her sins. Dawn gets a nasty surprise when she sees herself as a vampire.
Story Arc Elements: Show why the stupid “crayon speech” never could have worked. The cast finds the Spear of Destiny, the weapon they need to kill Yoln.
Game Mechanics: Push the “magic boost” rules to an illogical point and never use them again.
Note: This episode had an unintentional side effect in creating the prototype for my new Mutants & Masterminds villain, Nox.
Soundtrack: The Police “Shadows in the Rain”

Notes and Comments:
The basic idea of this episode, Dark Willow having to face Tara, is actually one from my WitchCraft based Willow & Tara game from the Summer of 2001. Yeah, I had Dark Willow two years before anyone else. But no magic-as-drugs metaphor here, this was pure desire to control the things around her. In Shadows in the Rain, I get my cake and eat it too by pulling the Cast into an alternate world were DMW went on unchecked, or as AU-Faith tells us, that after getting talked down by Xander, Willow just bides her time till she can power up again and this time control the world rather than destroy it. In the original it was Tara and Faith as the only survivors in a bleak future where Dark Willow (then called “The Queen of Darkness”) rules. Here in this adventure, Tara is replaced by Xander, who is nothing more than a puppet of “Nox” aka Dark Willow.

I sat this on the anniversary of Tara’s (though now Kara’s) murder for symbolic reasons and to make a point. You don’t get over something like your lover being killed and then hop into bed with the next person that looks at you. I worry about anyone that can honestly think that is true. Ok, sure, random sex I understand, but not “love” by any means. So on this day Willow is violently ill. Her grief, even though Tara is alive again, is causing her to be physically sick. In the AU the same thing is happening to Nox, only there Nox has enough power to make the whole world feel her pain. The other issue with this one is Willow needed to come to terms with what she had done. It’s like that old saying, “you can’t shake the devil’s hand and say you are only kidding.” Tara forgave Warren, now it was time for Willow to forgive herself.
The battle is complicated by the fact that no one can approach Nox’s fortress and AU Xander is actually working for Nox and not the cast. AU Faith is happy to see Buffy, whose death at the hands of Nox she took particularly hard (yeah AU Faith is bisexual). Matters are made worse when the Cast learns that the Government is going to nuke Sunnydale as a way to deal with Nox.

We also wanted to showcase Dawn’s power one more time. This episode takes us to Nox’s world which is magically dead. So Willow and Tara have no powers here. Their magic is gone (more symbolism since it was magic that brought them together). But Dawn’s powers do work. Speaking of Dawn, the cast gets a nasty surprise in the form of “Dusk”, the AU Dawn turned into a vampire by Nox. Dusk is still stuck in “whiny little kid” mode, the same place she was when she was killed. Dawn on the other hand gets to show her maturity and growth here. She is not the helpless kid sister anymore, she has a part to play.

The vampire Dawn pic was made by a guy named Zahir that used to hang out over at the Kitten Board and was into Willow and Tara based role-playing games of all sorts.

So. Why are they even here? Well the back in episode 5 we saw the spear fall into the same astral portal as Yoln, his sword and a bunch of other items. The spear ended up here. The cast tries to retrieve it with magic, but instead of pulling it to them, it pulls them to it. Why are they going for this weapon? Well the cast is convinced they need a weapon that can kill a god, the spear is one of four weapons in my myths that qualify.
In my other games this is also the Spear of Cú Ċulainn. He obtained it in the 1st Century and it was later lost after his death but before Fionn Macumhail was born.

The deal was at this point I less and less interested in what Buffy, Spike and Xander and all had to do or were doing, becoming primarily focused on the “stars” of the story, Willow and Tara.

The Cast fights the bad guys, and girls. My Spike player gets to kill Dusk because he really hated Dawn. And Willow and Tara have to face off against Nox. Willow finally gives Nox her Ankh charm from Isis. Since it’s job is to drain off dark magic it kills Nox, but she finds peace. She asks Tara if she could forgive her and then asks Willow if she can forgive herself.   All the magic in the world is gone though too and Willow and Tara are still powerless. Dawn opens a portal using the Spear and AU Faith comes with them since there is nothing left for her to do in this world.

The Cast walks out of the portal and not into Sunnydale, but a desolate landscape. In front of them in a valley below an outcropping of rock are thousands (40,000 in fact) demons. They notice the cast’s arrival and begin to shout “Slayer! Slayer!”

There are other issues too.
Willow and Tara both independently discover passages referring to the death of “Returned One”, which they both interpret as Tara. Anya (an NPC) keeps throwing out that after this is all done Tara may have to go back to Heaven still. (side note, at one point we even considered this to be true and tried to figure out how we could do it).

Then there are the two important questions.

1. Why kill Faith only to bring her back?
Honestly I felt the character of Faith was broken beyond repair, nothing the writers had her doing made any sense. It’s part of the “bad girl fetish” as my writing partner Garner put it. They were so in love with Evil!Faith and could only keep upping the ante on her behavior. Now I happen to like bad girls and I liked Faith (once upon a time), but the only way to fix the character was to start over. Yes there was the added benefit of having a new Slayer that Yoln could kill, but that was an afterthought in the “Faith Dies” plot. This Faith is based on the WitchCraft version of her I did long ago. While the stats are the same as the Buffy book, this Faith is different. She has done some bad things sure, but she has atoned and feels guilt and remorse.

2. Why kill Dawn, I thought you liked her?
I do, but the rest of my writing team did not. Plus, and let’s face it, the show writers had no clue what to do with her. I gave her psychic powers to represent her new maturity while vampire Dawn (“Dusk”) was still stuck in the mentality of a whiny high-schooler. Now personally I would have rather had Dawn kill Dusk with a snappy quip of “will you shut the hell up!”, but my Spike player got to kill her instead. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes I guess.

In my original WitchCraft AU (and remember Buffy was still dead at this point) Faith had taken on the role of raising Dawn. It was hard for both of them, but it seemed to work well in the game.  In the original WitchCraft version of this game it was Faith and Tara alone fighing against Nox and Xander was the vampire. In the end Faith and Dawn lived and were still "sisters" 

The cover here is a fantastic bit of art by Div, the same artist that gave us Episode 5’s cover. I felt it was symbolic to feature only Willow instead of Willow and Tara. In the original series Episode 19 was always a Willow centric one, here we felt the second to the last one of our series would be the Willow centric one.  We did that again in "Season of the Witch".

Next time. Nothing left to burn…

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dragon and the Phoenix preview

Ok. So this totally self-indulgent but this may very well be the only time this will ever see the light of day.

Back when we were working on the game I wanted to do a "comming soon" video for the "Sweeps Week" episodes. So there was one for Episodes 4 and 5 and then another for 11 and 12.
I never got the one for 4 and 5 started in time, but for 11 and 12 I did write the outline and even gathered up a couple people who's voices sounded like the casts enough for voice overs. I had the whole Macromedia suite at the time so I figured I'd do a video. Trouble was, never could find the scenes I wanted from external media and I discovered I also had no desire to watch Buffy anymore to even mine it for scenes. Plus life was getting REALLY busy again since we had a new baby in the house again (that was Connor).

So. Like role-playing you are just going to have to use your imagination on this one. ;)


Everything you know is about to end...

Tara (Voice over, Sinéad O’Connor’s “Drink Before the War” plays in the background throughout): I saw when he opened the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became as blood… (fade out)

Buffy (talking to her friends): This ends. We sit here and wait for these maniacs to come to our homes to end the world (Flashbacks of the Master, Angeleus, the Mayor, and Glory). They threaten me, they threaten to kill my family (Buffy holding Dawn at the end of “The Gift”) my friends (Tara/Kara getting shot, Spike getting burned in “Will We Burn in Heaven?”). No more.
I am taking this fight to their ground, I am going to stop this before it starts. I am going to get that Spear (scene of Faith wielding the Spear of Destiny to kill a pack of vampires) and I am going to Leviathan’s plane (the Cast standing in a desolate gray plane, emptiness as far as the eye can see).

Dawn: What do you plan to do?

Buffy (after a beat): I’m going to kill a God.

Scene: An army of demons led by Buffy attacks Yoln’s army. Yoln swings his Hellforged blade but it is stopped by Buffy’s spear.

Yoln: So Slayer. You brought an army to defeat me? (another swing)
Buffy: No. (a parry. Then wielding the spear with both hands she swings and knocks Yoln back.) I brought two.
The army of demons continues running while a legion of angels flies up an over them to join in the attack.

An armored angel swoops down with a flaming sword, she removes her helmet to reveal Tara’s face.

A younger Willow looks up with the black magic eyes.

Yoln’s voice over while the following scenes playout in rapid succession.
Yoln: This has all been planned. You are not heroes. You are sacrifices.

Tara standing in a cemetery waiting while vampires attack her.

Yoln lifting off his helm with two hands.

Dawn’s eye’s glowing with green fire as she holds a portal open.

Spike (carrying an injured Anya): It’s a trap!

Willow and Tara holding hands jump into a gapping maw.

Silence. Then a titanic seven headed dragon approaches the cast and roars.

Darkness, then back to Buffy’s home.

Xander: So I guess the revolution won’t be televised? (laughs to himself)
Spike laughs with him and they fall silent realizing they just “shared a moment”. They uncomfortably move apart.

Coming soon…
Episode 11: Shadows in the Rain and double sized series finale Episode 12: No Other Troy

Soon. There will be nothing left to burn.


Excited yet? I am!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 10

Episode 10: The Enemy Within

Jerome: "Come on dere Oz. Lets all do this one more agin'."
- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 10 “The Enemy Within”

April 30, 2003. Wednesday

Buffy and Spike quest for a weapon to stop Yoln and Leviathan. While they are gone a group of werewolf bikers come to town to cause trouble and Oz is with them. S
tory Arc elements: The return of Oz. The coda to New Moon Rising. The rebuilding of the trust between Buffy and Spike and the reveal of Spike’s roll in the upcoming battle. The discovery is not a weapon, but rather the one item that Yoln still needs for himself, his missing hand.
Guest Stars: Oz, Kit (a Japanese werefox), Jerome LeCoeur and his band of werewolves, Angelique (a witch knight), The Dealer.
Game Design Elements: Introduce Werefoxes. Provide a cure for lycanthropy.
Soundtrack: Rush “The Enemy Within”, Nick Drake “Pink Moon”

Notes and Comments:
This one is really two adventures in one. The “A” Plot features Giles discovering the location of a weapon they could use to defeat Yoln, who apparently can’t be killed. Weapons has no effect, since he has no body, and magic bounces off of him. Giles only knows it is an item of great power and it has something to do with Yoln’s previous defeat. Figuring he already has his sword, they should get this. The weapon though is in France. They determine the location and Willow works out a teleport spell for them both to get their and back. The rest of the cast with Giles remain behind to do further research. Besides, the Order protecting the weapon does not want a bunch of people popping in. Contrived? A little, but I need to separate the cast.
So Buffy and Spike search for this weapon in France. They discover a weapon connected with Yoln, his severed hand, it possession of a cult of witch-guardians (a mix Christian and Pagan beliefs). The gauntlet is not the weapon they were looking for, but witch-knights do tell them it is vital in the final confrontation, though they are not sure how. Buffy tries it on and it begins to drain her life force. Spike wears it and discovers that he is immune. He also discovers that he can withstand sunlight, is much stronger and can’t remove it.
Back at home a gang of werewolf bikers show up. These guys are straight out of Abomination Codex so that was fun. Their leader is this big Cajun guy, Jerome Le Coeur. Shortly afterwards Oz comes into town with his new wife, a Japanese girl named Kitsune. They have been following Jerome for weeks, looking for the chance to kill him, which will cure Oz. Long story short, the cast works out a spell to stop the bikers, Oz fights Jerome. To keep the action going the Spike-player got to play Oz. Likewise, Buffy’s player played Kit. Yes, Kit was a werefox, but she had complete control over her form and was helping Oz with his. In the end Jerome is killed, Oz and the rest of the werewolves turn back to normal. Oz and Willow have nice conversation as do Kit and Tara. This was a coda to “New Moon Rising” and had originally been called “Under a Cajun Moon” under the “Road Stories” outline. I later re-used it in it’s original format, minus the Oz stuff, for “Season of the Witch”.

This episode also featured a rather snarky cut-scene where a new Slayer, some spoiled dark-haired girl from a rich family, was sent by the Watchers to infiltrate the Cast. Her job was divide the cast and seduce Willow, Spike and anyone else to get them on the Watcher’s agenda. Of course she gets into town she confronts Yoln and before she can say “I am Ken-”, Yoln cuts her off, literally. Petty of us? Yeah. So what.
I introduced Japanese werefoxes, Kitsune, in this adventure as well as slightly modified werewolves. These both appear in Ghosts of Albion.

I also introduced a reoccurring character in this episode, the Dealer and his bar Halfway.

Up next. The Cast gets their weapon and a suprise (or three). Then the final battle.
In the meantime here is a teaser,

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 9

Episode 9: Rainbow in the Dark

Willow: I know spells Tara. I need you to teach me magic.
- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 9 “Rainbow in the Dark”

April 9, 2003. Friday

Dawn’s new powers are strong and out of control. She becomes the target of every occult faction left in town. All the while Hank Summers sues for custody of Dawn. Social Worker Marion “Cobra” Bubbles is sent in to evaluate her home life. Learn Hank is engaged to his blonde secretary named “Serenity”.
One of Dawn’s friends is killed by a vamp in the end of the last episode. Dawn blames Buffy (friend ends up being Strawberry Switchblade).

Story Arc elements: Return of the Vampire Chicas with new member Strawberry Switchblade. More cults. Willow, Dawn and Tara come to an agreement on magic and their individual journeys of power (Dawn with her new psychic abilities, Willow’s return as the magical powerhouse and Tara’s return to life). Willow and Tara talk about the “the Day of Silence”.

We had some scenes where Dawn was training, Slayer-style only not touching the weapons, but using here TK powers.  Good test of the TK-without-magic rules.  There was also a scene where Dawn gets upset and knocks out all the other PCs (I needed them out so she could run away).  After this episode my mandate was she was not supposed to act immature ever again.  I wanted growth, not lazy writing.

Te above quote came from the end of the game.  Where Willow and Tara are discussing their futures, not just as witches, but lovers as well.  You can have angst and moving plots without resorting to killing or addiction.

Other good quotes from this episode:
Cobra: “It seems that man responsible for your birth has no interest in your future.”
Buffy: “No, not now that he has his new blonde bimbo Serenity.”
Dawn: “Why would anyone name something after old lady diapers anyway?”
(yes, we still some snark left in us).

Runner up:
Buffy: “Oh don’t be a baby, I have been dead more times than you have had a bloody nose.”

Soundtrack: Dio “Rainbow in the Dark”

Notes and Comments:
Ok here is the big Dawn episode. I wanted to show the character as growing and maturing. Though she does do some very typical immature Dawn things, like lashing out at the cast and knocking them all out for a while. The deal here is the final scene for Willow in the shadows of magic. Here she comes back to her own. In the end Dawn's power opens up a tiny hole in reality and she and Willow, without Tara, have to close it up. After ths we talked about what would Dawn's future be. One of my players, Lisa (Tara) thought she should be a doctor, another (sorry forgot who) thought she would end up studing physics. Either way we knew she was going to have the life she felt her sister never could.

Strawberry Switchblade was Dawn's friend who was killed by the Chicas. She became a reoccuring threat in my games regardless of system for a while after that. Her death was to show the Cast that they do not live in a vacuum. The Chicas of course leave town after all of this.

I also wanted to bring back Hank in this one. Everyone seemed to have forgotten him so I figured he was shacking up with some bimbo named Serenity. Anyway he sues which brings in my all time favorite CIA-Agent turned Social Worker, Marion "Cobra" Bubbles. He manages to allow Dawn to stay, garnishes Hank's checks for Child support and kills a vamp in the process.

Strawberry Switchblade
Name: Strawberry Switchblade
Motivation: To make the cast pay for letting her die. Kill anyone else that gets into the way and have fun doing it.
Creature Type: Vampire
Quote: “What do you mean? You MADE me like this. Now I get to return the favor.”

Sex: F
Age: 16 (when killed)
Height: 5'1"
Weight: 105 lbs
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Red

Attributes: Strength 6, Dexterity 6, Constitution 5, Intelligence 4, Perception 3, Willpower 3

Life Points: 69
Drama Points: 5

Qualities: Attractiveness +3, Fast Reaction Time, Hard to Kill 7, Vampire (Murderous)
Drawbacks: Adversary 2, Cruel 3, Delusion (blames the cast for her death) 2, Obsession (kill the cast), Reckless

Acrobatics +4
Art +1
Computers +2
Crime +3
Getting Medieval +5
Gun Fu +1
Knowledge +2
Kung Fu +5
Languages +1
Notice +3
Occultism +1
Science +1
Sports +1
Wild Card (Seduction) +3

Combat Decapitation +6 S Successes X5, Armor Negated
Dodge +11 N Defense Move
Grapple +11 N Impairment Varies
Kick +8 14 Bash
Punch +9 12 Bash
Knives (2) +11 12 Slash/Stab

Marion "Cobra" Bubbles

“Let me illuminate to you the precarious situation in which you have found yourself. I am the one they call when things go wrong, and things have indeed gone wrong.”

Kids have it rough. Their parents or guardians die or just leave. Then to top everything off they adopt and dangerous alien creature or find out they are glowing balls of energy. It’s enough to make them want to go on a six state killing spree. Fortunately for them (and us) there is the last line of defense, Marion “Cobra” Bubbles.

Cobra Bubbles is a social worker, a special classification (maybe Division 6). He deals with the cases that send most other social works screaming in terror or crying like babies. He also tends to deal with cases of a rather unusual nature.

Cobra from “Lilo and Stich”
The Disney movie, Lilo and Stich is a riot. I won’t get into the details here, but this movie introduces Cobra as Lilo’s social worker. We find out that he is ex-CIA and help broker a deal to keep Earth protected from aliens back in 1973. We learn that Cobra (don’t call him “Mr. Bubbles”) is very serious about his work, cares for children and is really damn strong. You would not want to piss this guy off...
In "animated" episodes he is a cartoon above, voiced by Ving Rhames.

Cobra in “The Dragon and the Phoenix”

Cobra is pissed off. Headquarters has sent him to Sunnydale, a place he hates. There is a case, that of Dawn Summers, that needs his attention. Her last few social workers have been either too scared or too disturbed to go back to the Summer’s home. The case is a special one. The child’s guardian was completely missing on computer files for the Summer of 2001, no paychecks, no classes, nothing. Then one year later the murder of Kara Mclay occurred in the home. The minor in question, Dawn, found the body along with the murdered woman’s sister, Tara.
There is also a claim that the guardian is living with a much older English man that does not appear on any INS database.
To make matters more urgent the minor’s father is now suing for custody.

It should be no surprise that evil-cultists choose now to kidnap Dawn to extract her Key energy.
In my series here he is played by Ving Rhames.

Cobra Bubbles
Character Type: Experience Hero
Life Points 46
Drama Points 20
Quote: “Thus far you have been adrift in the sheltered harbor of my patience.”
and after he surpise kills a vamp in front of the cast "I hate this town."

Attributes: Strength 5, Dexterity 3, Constitution 4, Intelligence 4, Perception 5, Willpower 5

Qualities: *Cop (Ex), Fast Reaction Time, Iron Mind, Nerves Of Steel, Photographic Memory, Resistance-Pain 3, Resources Level 3, Situational Awareness

Drawbacks: Conspicuous 2 (6'5" tall bald black man in $1000 dollar suit), Honorable 2, Humorless, Obligation 3, Obsession (protect children), Secret 1

Acrobatics 2
Computers 3
Crime 3
Doctor 2
Driving 4
Getting Medieval 2
Gun Fu 6
Influence 4
Knowledge 4
Knowledge, Aliens and the Supernatural 4
Kung Fu 5
Languages 1
Mr. Fix-It 3
Notice 4
Occultism 2
Science 3
Sports 4
Wild Card, Government Contacts 4

Maneuver Bonus Base Damage Notes
Dodge +8 — Defense action
Grapple +10 — Varies
Kick +7 12 Bash
Punch +8 10 Bash
Big Pistol +9 15 Bullet
Pistol +9 12 Bullet

Next up. Buffy and Spike look for a weapon to deal with Yoln. Oz returns with a few suprises.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 8

Episode 8: Silent Lucidity

Tara: Wow. Who knew Miss Kitty could quote Shakespeare?
Willow: I am still having trouble getting past “
Who knew Ms. Kitty could talk.”
- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 8 "Silent Lucidity"

March 24, 2003. 

Dawn’s emergent psychic powers traps the cast in her nightmare.
More than a week later and things have cooled down, a but only a little. At least everyone is agreeing to watch a movie together. It’s a Japanese-monster horror film and Xander has to remind Buffy that it is not a training video. Dawn begins to emerge as a powerful telepath and psychic, but not before she traps the cast and herself in the Dreamlands. The Cast must work through there own subconscious issues before they can escape. Willow and Tara’s issues with each other (loss and power), Buffy and Spike’s issues (trust and obsession) and Anya and Xander’s (fears of commitment and rejection). Dawn is dealing with the issues of constantly worried that she nothing more than Buffy’s shadow or even less. All the while Glory taunts her in her dreams.
Story Arc elements: Dawn focused, but also focused on the interplay of the cast.
Game Design elements: Non-magic psychic powers, rules for play in the Dreamlands, Bast for Cinematic games. Introduce Miss Kitty Fantastico II as a Bast. Have the Vampire Chicas come back to town. While the Cast is “sleeping” Dawn’s friend is killed and Faith dies in the hospital.

Notes and Comments:
Given that I was going to college in the 80’s and 90’s I am allowed to name one adventure ever my entire life after a Queensrÿche song. This is it.  I am also allowed to do one "dream" episode.  This is also it.

Ok. So. I killed Faith here.

Of course I have her appear in Buffy’s dreams and up the bi-sexual attraction she has for her. Mind you YEARS before it ever showed up in any comic. But I was careful not to repeat the cliché of a girl showing interest in another girl and have end her up dead (see “The Celluloid Closet” and the "Evil/Dead Lesbian Cliché"). I have Dawn watching all of this in her dreams, but unable to hear anything. She is taunted in her dream by Glory (really just the manifestation of her own fear) with the fact that she is no more real than Kara was and it is only a matter of time before Willow screws up something and undoes the magic holding her together.
I’ll be honest here, I liked Dawn. I always did. So she gets a chance here to shine (figuratively and literally) in the next few episodes.  We had built up her power slowly over the course of the season and this was the episode we let it cut loose.
This episode was very interpersonal. Very little in the way of combat. Most of the creature in the dream lands were Bast (which you have seen some of those in the past here). For the others I used some creatures that later would go on to be in Ghosts of Albion.  I used my old copy of Call of Cthulhu for ideas, but we never really ran into any mythos creatures other than seeing them in background or "through the veil of other dreams".

For the confrontations in the dreams, the cast were paired of (though I was still having trouble getting and keeping a regular Anya player) to deal with their issues.   For Willow and Tara's case, Willow agreed to basically "re-learn" magic from Tara.  If this had been earlier in the season then I would have dropped her back down to Sorcery/Magic 0 and work back up. But we didn't have that benefit.  Plus the next episode I needed a magically potent, if wounded, Willow.  Tara forgave Willow for her dabbling in "dark magics" and agreed that learning magic together would be the best for them both.

The cast finds out Faith died while they were sleeping.  I have a cut scene at the end where a coroner played by Zach Galifianakis performs Faith’s autopsy while Angel waits. Thought it was appropriate if morbid.

The cover of this does not quite represent the agnst of the episode, but my mandate was Willow and Tara on every cover and this was the one I liked the best.

Next up: The New Marvel Girl

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 7

Episode 7: The Road to Hell

Tara: My whole life has been ‘Tara, don’t use your magic.’ ‘Tara, hide your powers.’ ‘Tara you will scare people or hurt an innocent.’ But you are not innocent are you? You tried to hurt and then kill Willow. So maybe it is time I showed everyone just how powerful I am.
- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 7 "The Road to Hell"

March 15, 2003. 

Buffy must make a pact with demons to fight Leviathan. Anya is ordered to kill the Cast. The Knights of Elohim are back, this time with a Tainted Fallen with them, but not before stopping off in LA to fight Faith. A group of demons, the Mormolycia (Mormo), go to the Slayer for aid in fighting him before he ignites the Hellmouth with his Taint. Yoln has discovered the final piece of Pillager. Cast discovers that he is nothing but pure will now, his body having decayed completely away by the mad god’s Taint. D’Hoffryn orders Anya to kill the Cast to prove her loyalty to him. When she doesn’t he strips her of her power and curses Xander. Tara defeats a newly resurected Warren, but she and Willow have a big fight.
The Cast learns that Faith is dying.
Story Arc elements: The Yoln arc is moved up, the Knights are killed finally, Buffy makes a pact with a dangerous group of demons, Anya rejoins the Cast, the Bronze is destroyed, Andrew dies a horrible death screaming and crying like the little b!tch he is. Buffy’s disconnection to others is more pronounced when the Mormo demons seem to have more in common with her and even call her “sister” when they call everyone else “monkeys”. Willow begins to take more of a backseat role as the group’s magic powerhouse. Tony Foster is introduced. Giles discovers the truth about Slayers and the Watchers council.
Game design elements: Taint rules for Cinematic games, new group of demons, more on Fallen Angels, rules for curses.
Soundtrack: Chris Rea “Road to Hell”

Notes and Comments:
This one is huge. The biggest adventure to date actually takes place, game time, in the shortest amount of time. We have Warren coming back, summoned by Andrew. Warren kills Andrew and takes his skin. And believe me fewer things were more enjoyable to write than Andrew dying like a little stuck pig. Warren-in-Andrew's skin now works on getting the Knights of Elohim back into town. They have brought one of their own who is now Tainted; think of the Hulk with greasy black wings. The Knights want the Slayer, but Warren wants Willow. At the same time someone or something (Yoln) has been killing all the supernatural creatures in town looking for the last half of his sword (which Warren has). There is a scene in the begining when the cast goest to the Wharf Bar because they hear the Hellions are back. They are, or were, but when they get there they are all dead including two of the Knights.

Mormo DemonWe also introduced a new race of the demons, the Lilim. One sub-race, the Mormolycia, are a group of warrior demons, normally they all look like stunningly attractive 6ft tall women in green armor. Their true form is so horrifying that other demons fear them. The Mormo make a pact with the Slayer. They will leave each other alone in order to fight the greater threat, the Tainted Fallen and later Leviathan. Stat-wise the Mormo are Slayers. This is on purpose since it is later revealed that the progenitor of the Slayers was Lilith (see: Every Angel is Terrifying). The Mormo keep refering to Buffy as "Sister" and the others as "monkeys". Thier leader H'Cathh was once known to Anya.

The big battle happens at the Bronze. We have Warren in his Andrew suit with Bronze regulars that he has turned into zombies with some tech device. The fallen Angels. The Tainted Fallen (who is crazy) and Yoln who will fight anything not human. On the other side we have the Cast and the Mormo demons. Keeping track of all that combat was a nightmare. In the end the fallen, the tainted fallen and the zombies are killed. Yoln's head it cut off by Buffy but they discover there is nothing under the armor but pure will to live. Yoln gets up gets his sword piece from Warren and leaves. The Mormo keep their word and tell "their sister" that they will be at her side in the final battle. Tara defeats Warren with her "special power" (more on that), but she and Willow have a huge fight. Before that can get heated D'Hoffryn shows up asking Ana why she has not killed the Slayer yet, a job he gave her to do 2-3 episodes back. He strips her of her power and curses Xander to always feel her pain. Game wise this means any damage Anya takes, Xander takes as well. Images from Star Trek I have not gotten out of my head since I was a kid. During the fight the Bronze blows up, well parts of it.

Warren and Tara: this was an interesting problem. We knew he was going to have to come back to deal with the issue of Willow murdering him (we didn’t want to forget that really), but for the balance we wanted Tara to have to defeat him. Our working theory was to have Tara go all uber witch on him and show that you can be powerful but not have to resort to “dark magic” to do it. But I never liked that idea. And we went back and forth on this for a long time. In the end I made an executive choice but a bit of a compromise. Tara was going to show off some power, but only in terms of defense. Bullets melted when coming near her or bounced off and really that is the same spell she used in Episode 5. She did the one thing though that I felt was totally in character and showed that she was more powerful than the others. She forgave him. In that instant Warren lost all his anger and it was replaced by guilt and remorse. I wanted to show that being empowered did not mean having a power-up. Plus there is the other issue at hand, Adam Busch is in reality a nice guy and pretty cool. He hated playing that character and he told Whedon that killing Tara was “the stupidest thing he ever heard of”. So I was willing to cut him a break by not “playing” that character here. Warren, who the cops think is Andrew, goes to jail. Jonathan, who turned himself in at the start of the episode, is released thanks to Tara giving him the phone number of Tatsou from Episode 4. There is a truce between demons and the Slayer thanks to the Mormo (but she still gets to kill vampires). Willow and Tara are still fighting, but it is that silent sort where you are both mad but not talking. Anya and Xander are dealing with their new reality. Giles tells Buffy what he has learned about Slayers (see link above).

The cast then hears that Faith is in the hospital, she had fought Yoln, and she is going to die.

Next up. Dawn goes all Carrie and goes toe to toe with Willow as the magic powerhouse of the cast.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 6

Episode 6: Tainted Love

Xander: You know what, prophecies are really beginning to piss me off!
- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 6 "Tainted Love"

February 14, 2003. Friday

The cast becomes the guinea pigs of a Governmental psychological experiment. The Cast learn of the Bureau, another Initiative like operation whose goal is to control demons and vampires via a means of psychological conditioning. Spike learns he, like all former Initiative subjects, has a remote controlled explosive buried in his head.
Story arc elements: Deal with loose threads involving love. The stress in Willow and Tara’s relationship forms because of her return. Buffy feels she is loosing sight of her own humanity and that everyone around her is moving on and growing up, but she is stagnant. Learn more about the Slayers and their relationship to the fallen angels.
Willow and Tara each discover something about the final battle, but keep it from the other since it involves either the death of Tara or the eventual return to evil for Willow.

Game Design elements: Retcon the scientifically ridiculous Initiative control chip into something that makes sense.
Soundtrack: Marilyn Manson’s cover of “Tainted Love”, Elvis “You Were Always on my Mind”

Notes and Comments:

The first of the "unpublished" adventures. This one should be obvious, it was full of information from Military Monster Squad. We could not get the episode out for the longest time while the material was being written and then longer when the book was further delayed.  Of course we hated "the chip" so I decdided to use something I knew very well, psychology, and say Spike was submitted to a Clockwork Orange like treatment, only with cattle prods.

This was our "dark Valentines Day" epsiode. Everyone's love life was in a lull in the story and we wanted to make it a bit darker. There were a lot of gues stars and really a lot of stuff going on here. Almost too much really. The episode is big, so we decided it was the first "mid season sweeps" episode. Lots of enemies to deal with especially some older ones. Dru comes back and I gave the Cast the opprutunity to stake her if they wanted, but she got away. The first clues on Spike's role are revealed here as well. Plus we wanted to confront the issues of his attempted rape. While all of this was going on the players of Spike and Buffy discovered a means of defeating nearly any foe thrown at them with various combo moves. So much so that when we went to work on Ghosts of Albion it was one of the things we wanted to address.

Here are some more crunchy bits for you.

Revised Initiative HST Control Chip3-Point Drawback (Psychological) The HST Control Chip, installed into many demons, vampires and other non-human lifeforms is a ruse. The chip itself is nothing more than a small tracking device connected to a small, but efficient explosive.
The behavior modification works not because of high-tech nonsense and techno-babble, but rather old fashioned psychology. Through a combination drugs, imagery and liberal amounts of electroshock torture and what is termed “aggressive behavior modification therapy” the HSTs are classically conditioned to not harm humans. While the Initiative was happy to leave it there, the Bureau went the next step and conditioned many HSTs to become a fighting force. Strong, nearly deathless, immune to bullets and an array of natural weapons the idea seemed foolproof. And it was. While eventually the Initiative controlled HSTs would begin to exhibit often dangerous psychoses, the Bureau controlled subjects maintained their conditioning over long periods of time.
Wired into each chip is a locator device, capable of sending and receiving signals up to 100 km with a handheld locator and globally with the use of GPS satellites.
The signal is constant, using a small LiION battery with motion recharge abilities, and a masking signal to cloak it’s true purpose.
Each “chipped” subject also has a small package of a controlled explosive, not enough for collateral damages, but enough to remove the head of the chipped subject. Treat as an automatic decapitation.
The conditioning associated with this chip is a 3 point drawback.
Removal of the chip was never a design feature. Once the chip is active any exposure to oxygen will cause the explosive device to trigger.  Once the frequency is discovered (getting past the cloak) constructing a remote detonator can be easily built with parts from any local Radio Shack.

Next episode I blow up the Bronze. For good.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 5

Episode 5: Heaven Bleeds

Willow (calmly): You hurt Tara. The last one who did that was a God. I made her regret it.
- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 5 “Heaven Bleeds”

February 2, 2003 Sunday. Imbolc.

Assassins are sent to kill Tara and turn Willow back to evil or kill her as well. Tara and Anya learn more about the truth of why she was allowed to take Exile so easily. They learn that there is more to Tara’s exile than the cast (including Tara) knows and that she and Willow have an important role to play in the final battle with Leviathan. Willow, Tara and Buffy are sent back in time to see the battle Yoln had with a Slayer protecting a weapon powerful enough to kill a god (the Spear of Destiny). Willow and Tara meet themselves in a past life. After threats and physical abuse from D’Hoffryn, Anya leaves the cast.
Story Arc elements: Dawn’s psychic power begins to emerge.  Willow and Tara learn they have a role to play in the final battle (though not yet what that will be).  The Slayer from the past, Morgan calls Buffy "sister" the same thing that she is called by the Mormo demons later in Episode 7.
Game design elements: Cinematic Old Soul and Anamchara spell casting rules.
Quote Runner up: Anya: Demonic lizard tastes like chicken.

Notes and Comments:This one was big. Full of new monsters, spells and characters. We get to see Willow and Tara’s past life hinted at in “The Dark Druid”, though the Liath and Bodhmal of this time have not yet fostered Fionn. The assassins were an idea we kicked around for a few episode ideas, plus we also wanted a tangible threat to Willow and Tara and make sure that Willow did not have to go all black magic to solve it.
This also marks the last time we see Anya for a while. She has work to do and hanging around a bunch of demon hunters in bad for business (plus she was a way too powerful NPC).  Plus I got tired of the whole "Demons are just different kinds of people with funny faces" stuff we saw so much of the last season.  Demons are supposed to be evil, they are supposed to be vile.  D'Hoffryn had become a crazy grandfather type; so we turned him abusive.  If his demons didn't toe the line and kill the cast he would kill them himself.  So Anya, expressing some concern about this, gets beaten by D'Hoffryn for her troubles.

Now normally I have this rule, No Time Travel unless I am playing Doctor Who. But for this one I could not help it. Plus I love the visual of Willow, Tara and Buffy falling into a book and reliving the events in it.
This confronting their previous incarnations gave both girls the "Old Soul" Quality.

If Sass is the quintessential Willow author, then Lisa is the same for Tara. Lisa’s Tara is bold and willing to fight for the woman she loves. And no one does Tara-in-peril better than Lisa. While Lisa’s Tara is not quite the same as my Occult Scholar Tara, or Garner’s more reflective Tara, Lisa does do an excellent Liath; Tara’s past life.
Now we know who all the players are and pieces are all on the board, from here on out it is pushing the plot. It is also the last time (till the end) that Willow and Tara are 100% happy. The stress of what is happening is setting in. Before this they were still on their "honeymoon" with Tara back. Now she is back and she and Willow have some issues that need to work out. After all, Willow killed for her and Tara was considering leaving to go back to Heaven in Episode 1. Thess issues have not been forgotten, and they are coming back up.

Next Time: Love Stinks.

New Spells

Brigit’s Hands of Flame
Quick Cast: Yes
Power Level: 5
Requirements: A command word in Gaelic, “Adhain!
Effect: Upon utterance of the command word flames erupt from the hands of the witch causing 4 x caster’s Will of Life Point damage, double to vampires and other undead.
The flame leaves the hands in a fan like pattern. The length of the fan is in yards equal to the Success Levels.

Brigit’s Waves of Flame
Quick Cast: No
Power Level: 6 or 7
Requirements: Level 6: Blessed water drawn from Brigit’s well and dung from her fields. Level 7: The blood of a saint or other quasi-divine being replacing the water.
Command words: Latin “Incindar” or Gaelic “Adhain
Effects: Brigit is the Celtic goddess of fire, water and life. To her there can be no greater insult than the undead. This spell is actually a purifying one designed to burn out the offensive creatures. By using her blessed water and dung her witches perform the same ritual they perform to ready the land for growth every Imbolc (Feb. 2). This spell adds the extra kick of turning her sacred water into a wave of flame that will race out 50 feet + 10 feet per SL from the caster. The flames are soundless, and produce no heat unless the affected victim is undead (Vampire, Zombie, Skeletons) then they take fire damage of 2d10 (12) initial damage and additional damage at the rate of 6 +SL life points every turn in the flames. Demons take only the initial damage.
Level 7: The first version of this spell was discovered when Ireland was still Celtic and Pagan. Once the Goddess Brigit was transformed to the Catholic Saint Bridget her followers discovered that using her blood not only increased the casting level, but also increased the effectiveness of this incantation. In addition to the undead taking lasting damage now so did demons. Damage is increased to 3d10 (16) and recurring damage at the rate of 7 + SL LPs every turn.
Note: This was a 1st Ed AD&D spell that my then DM created called Sheets of Flame.  In fact it was his character E'fir Enur tht had "created" it.  I felt it was good to bring back as attribute it to Brigit.

Protection of the Goddess
Quick Cast: No
Power Level: 7
Requirements: A chant repeated by two or more witches. Not available to non-witches.
Command words: “Goddess above, ruler of all, protect your humble servant, as love becomes wall.”
Effect: A defensive ritual with an offensive bite, this magic shows that the Goddess protects what is Hers. This ritual once cast and activated will not allow any aggressive action taken upon those within its confines. Melee attacks turn back on the attacker, spells backfire or effect the hostile caster instead. Beneficial spells and magic will continue to work and others, ones not protected nor involved in the casting of the ritual, can effect each other as they please.
Witches and those they choose to protect may not attack others, but they can force out attackers. Anytime during the duration of the ritual the lead witch can say a command word or phrase and all those of hostile intent are removed from the area of effect.
The effects will remain dormant until the first act of violence is committed or until one of the witches present at the original ritual activates it. Often the coven chooses to activate it once the ritual is cast. After that time the effects persist a number of hours equal to the effective Sorcery Level + the total Success Levels.
The effects of the spell appear to be a dome of magical energy large enough to hold all the casters in close quarters, typically 5’ radius per caster.
Note: This spell is presented as an alternate to the Energy Barrier spell from The Magic Box Sourcebook..

New Qualities

“The only thing more frightening than meeting a Celt in battle is meeting a Celt in battle with his wife at his side.”
- Attributed to Pliny the Elder, 1st Century CE

Variable Point Quality (2 Base Points)
Prerequisites: Love (Romantic or Platonic, but not Tragic), both must take Quality

Anamchara (“on-um-kor-ah”), or soul-mate, is the Gaelic term used to describe a deep and powerful bound shared between two people. This goes beyond mere companionship and even beyond love; the souls of the two people are connected at a deep and fundamental level. Some occult scholars even speculate anamchara share one soul between two physical people.
The anamchara (singular and plural) are often aware of each other on a preternatural level. While this not a full blown telepathy or even empathy it is beyond what the normal senses would allow. This manifests itself in mundane ways as two lovers humming the same song at the same time with no outside influence, husband and wife completing each others sentences, separated twins living parallel lives, or even one sibling knowing her other sibling is about to walk into a room before the event happens.
Anamchara can be, and often are, lovers, but they are not limited to that alone. Some anamchara can also be very close siblings or very deeply devoted friends. Sometimes the connection can be forged in battle, giving rise to a “brothers-in-arms” effect. The Anamchara can also have a deep connection resulting from life times of being together, often both having the Old Soul Quality.
The only prerequisites for this Quality are the two characters must love each other, as represented by the Love drawback (but never Tragic Love).
This quality offers several benefits

Extension of the senses (“I Will Always Find You”). This acts like a mild form of Empathy or a lesser Situational Awareness that extends only to their anamchara. This grants +2 to locate their anamchara via mundane, magic or psychic means. This also gives each anamchara a broad sense of the other’s health and well being.

Boost Morale (“I’ll Stand By You”). When anamchara are together even dire situations do not seem as grim. With a soothing word or even a knowing look a character can grant his anamchara +10 on any one test. Best of all, he can do it after the player has already made this test. The granting character spends his Turn explaining he is doing this to aid his beloved. This can only be done once per game session per character.

These effects cost two (2) Quality Points. In addition the anamchara must choose one or both of the effects below. These are extensions of this quality, but must be trained in order to be used. Training is represented in a point cost and some time devoted to the pursuit.

Combat Effects
The benefits detailed above have some application in combat as well. The Situational Awareness and Empathy translate into making the anamchara a particularly effective fighting team. In order to gain this benefit the anamchara actually need to train together in a fighting style. Players should decide which style (martial arts, medieval weapons or even guns) they will train together in. This training offers a +2 bonus to all attacks of that type and damage for each. Both can also effectively fight against one opponent with out penalty due to room. Anamchara naturally avoid each others weapons.
Cost: 1 Quality or Skill Point

Magic or Psychic Effects
When anamchara cast magic together it is more than mere cooperative casting in the same way an orchestra is more than a few instruments playing the same song.
To use their magic together anamchara must be able to grasp hands and concentrate. It is a simple matter of rolling a normal 1d10 + Perception + Occult roll. If they both roll a 9 or higher they are in synch. Keep track of the average Success Levels as this is their Synchronicity Score. This only needs to be rolled once per magical situation. Such situations like scrying, or lifting a rock together or one session of combat would qualify.

When anamchara cast they can add their Synchronicity Score to the spell’s Success Levels after figuring out all the effects of casting together. This results in a little extra bookkeeping during game play, but also some amazing effects. For Directors that want less bookkeeping, anamchara can roll their Synchronicity score at the beginning of each game session and use it throughout. This could be part of a special ritual used to “tune” each other’s magic.
This is added even to spells where two or more casters is required. As a “side effect” of this magical synchronicity anamchara can use each other’s ritual tools without penalty.
Cost: 2 Quality or Skill Points

Sidebar: Using Ghosts of Albion Magic rules
If you are using the Ghosts of Albion RPG you can opt to use the “William and Tamara Casting Together” rule in this case in place of the rule above.

Note: The Combat and Magic bonus are not cumulative in the case of combat magic.

Roleplaying the Anamchara
Anamchara are best suited as Cast members (PCs) and not a combination of Cast and Guest Stars (NPCs). When playing these characters it is vital to understand that, sages’ hypotheses to the contrary, they are in fact two people. They are subject (maybe even more so) to all the pitfalls of love (the emotion) and Love (the Drawback) as everyone else. Arguments can and do erupt. In fact it is also recorded in the same pages describing the anamchara that a Celtic male expected his wife to be able to stand up to him and speak her mind (though no Celtic couple would argue in public).
Any situation that would turn Love to Tragic Love also would result in the loss of benefits for the Anamchara Quality. Though mythology and history is replete with tales of the extremes one would go through to retrieve their anamchara from the grasps of death.

Old Soul
4-points/level Quality
Prerequisite: Magic/Sorcery (Cinematic)

“Of course! It would have to be you two!” the giant Celt gathered both girls into a giant bear hug.
“Y-You know us?” Tara said.
“Know you? Know you! My dear sweet Liath, I would know you if my eyes had been plucked from my skull! Do you not know me? It is I, Fionn. Your Demne!”
“Fionn. Ok, so who are we then?” asked Willow.
“My dearest Bodhmal! Always with the riddles, ok I will play. You both are my mothers! We must celebrate, your son has returned and our family is one again!” He said as he pulled the two, very confused, girls into another enthusiastic bear hug.
- The Dark Druid

These characters have been reborn many times. As a result, their souls have become stronger. Old Souls tend to be very mature and precocious for their age. It would be nice to believe that age invariably provides wisdom, but Old Souls are equally likely to be depraved or insightful, cruel or kind. Whatever their orientation, it is usually be more extreme, having been refined over several lifetimes.
This Quality can be acquired multiple times during character creation (but it cannot be acquired afterwards, see below). Each “level” represents some 3-5 previous lives lived before the character’s current incarnation. Every level gives one “magical” past life and 2-4 “mundane” ones. The player can determine who these former selves were, where they lived, and what they know, or she can leave such information in the hands of the Director. From a roleplaying point of view, creating a “past lives tree” can be interesting.
Anyone with this quality can call upon the magic of her past lives to aid her in casting spells. They can add 1 sorcery level for every magical past life they have. So every level of Old Soul adds one level to your Sorcery level.
To call on the power of the old soul cost 1 Drama point (or one Essence Point for games that use Essence).
Successive lives tend to increase the character’s overall insights and understanding—for good or ill. For example, Tara has 5 levels of the Old Soul Quality. This gives her 5 more points to put into her mental Attributes (and 30 more Essence Points).
An Old Soul is sometimes able to tap into the knowledge of her previous lives. These attempts require the character to pass a single Test using both Willpower and Intelligence as modifiers, and each attempt drains the character of 1 Drama Point, which is regained normally (via play). When attempting to perform an unskilled Task, the character may receive a flash of knowledge from one of her previous lives. If the player took the time to decide what her character’s previous lives knew, then the character gains, for that one Task, a skill level equivalent to the character’s Old Soul level, but only the skills that the character knew in her previous lives are available. If the previous lives are not known, the character uses only one half of the Old Soul level (rounded down), but virtually any skill might be known. The only exception would be high-tech Skills that a previous life would be unlikely to know. Asking one’s ancestral memories how to hack into a computer system is not likely to work very well .
For example, Tara, with 5 levels of Old Soul, has about 20 past incarnations, six of which were magic users. Tara’s player has figured out that at least half (10) were peasants. These include Belen, a priestess in the Temple of Diana in ancient Greece, Liath, a Celtic warrior woman, Jing Jin a Chinese sorceress, Teamhair a Daughter of the Flame from Christianized Ireland, Fiona Maclay a witch from 18th century England and Tamara of 19th century London.
During an adventure Tara needs to play a game of fidchell against a demon to rescue her friends. Fidchell is an ancient Celtic game similar to chess and Tara does not know how to play. But Liath was an expert. If she passes the Willpower and Intelligence Test, she can play with an effective skill (Wild Card: Fidchell) of 5, at the cost of 1 Drama point. The skill lasts as long as the game lasts. If later in the day she needs to play it again a new Test and an expenditure of Drama Points are required. If Tara had not fleshed out the past incarnations, she would have been able to play fidchell, but with a skill of only 2.
Generally, only human beings can have Old Souls. Long-lived supernatural beings rarely reincarnate, or do so only over spans of millennia.
This quality is not accessible to vampires, demons, zombies or robots (who have no souls), werewolves in werewolf form, and one can argue Slayers. Slayers by their very nature have a bit of the Old Soul quality in the Slayer quality.

Awakening the Old Soul
Not every character will or should have access to this at character creation. There are some circumstances in which the character’s Old Soul can be re-awakened.
When this quality is first added to the game the Director will need to have a good in game or storyline reason for allowing the character access to this. These reasons could also be used for characters that wish to acquire this Quality later, but directors are urged to only limit this to characters during the character creation process.

1. Meeting a past life. The karmic and dharmic energies released when a soul meets a previous or future life is usually enough to jar that soul awake.
2. Exposure to a psychically tainted object related to that old soul. Example if a person picks up a dagger that was used to kill one of her past lives.
3. Psychic regression. No not the type done in less reputable psychiatric offices or even calling Shirley McClain or Ms. Cleo. A real psychic, such as a member of the Cabal of the Psyche, must help with the past life regression.

After this point Old Soul should be limited to character creation only.

For crossovers with other Unisystem games this can be interchanged with the Supernatural Quality “Old Soul”, on which this is based.

New Monsters

Devils are fiends, similar to demons. Devils though, unlike demons, are ordered and fit into a strict hierarchy of Hell. They are the creations of the original angels that rebelled in Heaven and were cast out into the pits of Hell.

Devil, Barbazu (Barbed Devil)
Motivation: To guard and protect the populace of Hell
Creature Type: Demon (Devil)
Attributes: Strength 5, Dexterity 3, Constitution 4, Intelligence 6, Perception 4, Willpower 7
Ability Scores: Muscle 16, Combat 16, Brains 12
Life Points: 50
Drama Points: 3
Qualities: Hard to Kill 4, Armor Value 8, Sorcery 4
Drawbacks: Attractiveness -2
Skills: Getting Medieval 3, Kung-fu 4

Combat Maneuvers
Name Score Damage Notes
Claw (2) 7 10 Slash/stab
Bite (beard) 7 15 Stab
Punch 7 10 Bash
Dodge 6 - Defense action

Barbed Devils are monsters in the truest sense. Vicious, armed and armored, these devils chief duties are to attack as guards or protectors of other devils. They have two massive claws ending in viscous dagger-like claws. They are covered in terrible spikes, have two large sharp horns, a long tail covered in barbs and a thick leathery hide.
Barbed Devils attack with a claw/claw/bite routine. Any successful hit the Barbazu can cause their victim to experience fear (a Fear Check will be required). Typically they will use this on their first attack to terrify their victims and make them easier targets.
Barabazu can also cast Hold Person and Jet of Flame (from The Magic Box Sourcebook p. 76 and p. 79).

Devil, Osyuth (Bone Devil)
Motivation: Fight for the greater glory of Hell
Creature Type: Demon (Devil)
Attributes: Strength 7, Dexterity 5, Constitution 7, Intelligence 3, Perception 3, Willpower 4
Ability Scores: Muscle 20, Combat 17, Brains 12
Life Points: 71
Drama Points: 3
Qualities: Hard to Kill 4, Armor Value 9, Sorcery 5
Drawbacks: Attractiveness -3
Skills: Getting Medieval 4, Kung-fu 3

Combat Maneuvers
Name Score Damage Notes
Claw 8 14 Slash/stab
Kick 7 16 Bash
Bone Hook 9 18 Slash/stab
- Grapple 10 - Capture
Tail 16 21 Poison (Str loss)
Dodge 15 - Defensive

Bone Devils, also known as Osyuth, are a lesser devil employed by the armies of Hell. They look like skeletons with dry leathery skin stretched over their thin frames. What sets them apart from a skeleton is their height, 9' tall and a large scorpion like tail.
They typically attack with their large bone hooks which they wield with deadly effectiveness. If a hit roll has 3 or more Success Levels the victim becomes trapped by the hook. Trapped victims are subject to a tail or kick attack.
The tail of the Bone Devil has a poison that reduces the victim's Strength score. In addition to damage the victim temporary looses 1 point of Strength.
Bone Devils are also capable of the following magics (from The Magic Box Sourcebook) Glamour, Magical Disguise, Quick Illusion (used to make Invisible) and can cause Fear (victims must make a Fear Check).

The devils appear in the "Flashback" sequence.

Umu Demons
Motivation: Guard dogs
Critter Type: Demon (Guardian)
Attributes: Strength 4, Dexterity 5, Constitution 4, Intelligence 3,Perception 7, Willpower 4
Ability Scores: Muscle 14, Combat 15, Brains 16
Life Points: 48
Drama Points: 3
Qualities: Hard to Kill 2, Armor Value 2, Acute Senses
Drawbacks: Attractiveness -4, Honorable (Rigid)
Skills: Getting Medieval 4, Kung-fu 3

Combat Maneuvers
Name Score Damage Notes
Big Sword 9 25 Slash/stab, can use one-handed
Bite (2) 8 17 Must Grapple first
Punch 8 8 Bash
Kick 6 10 Bash
Dodge 9 - Defense action
Grapple 8 - Resisted by Dodge

Lower level demons employed by the Uttuki, Umu demons act as guard dogs-a job they are perfectly suited for. Each Umu demon stands 6' to 7' in height. Their skin is covered with a fine dark fur, often black or dark brown. They are very muscular and often dress in ancient Babylonian or Sumerian garb; open toe sandals, papyrus kilts and bare chested. What sets these demons apart are their four heads. The heads most often resemble that of a Doberman, but some have been reported with jackal heads as well. All faces feature prominent snouts with dozens of needle like teeth. Each head faces a different direction, thus the Umu is never surprised. Their senses are as acute of that of a dog's (sharper sight, hearing and smell) only four times over. They are loyal to their demon employers and thus very much in demand by those that have things they want guarded. Each head is independent of the other. So heads can eat, carry on conversations and even sleep separately of the others.

Umu typically kill and eat anyone that comes too close to the thing they are guarding, making no distinction between friend and foe. Only their employer, the demon or witch that bound them are immune to their attacks.

There is also a rumor that there are three-headed varieties that serve the Goddess Hecate.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 4

Episode 4: Identity Crisis

Willow: So you are saying that whole season of ‘Facts of Life’ was nothing more than unrequited lesbian love between Blair and Jo?
Tara: Absolutely, they were totally into each other, that’s why they fought so much.
Willow: Now you’re just playing with my emotions.

- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 4 “Identity Crisis”

January 8, 2003 Sunday

Willow’s first big dive back into magic is to recreate Tara’s identity and remove all references of her death. A magical surge created by Yoln, the Shadowreaper, causes the magic to go awry and creates a duplicate of Tara who believes she is Kara, Tara’s twin sister. A magic ID provided by Anya also goes awry and the personality of a dead stripper is imprinted on Tara. In addition, the cast have to deal with hungry snake demons, a small gang of mobsters and a 7ft tall, one handed killing machine.
Story Arc elements: Establishes Tara’s “twin” sister Kara and Murl the demonic identity merchant. Introduces Yoln.

Notes and Comments:This is the adventure that made me forget that the show was even still on TV. Once we got to this episode things were moving great. The ideas flowed much faster. This was also our most comical episode despite the fact that it began with a dead stripper. We have "two" Taras running around, demonic identity merchants, would be gangsters, and a 7 foot tall man in armor with one arm. Plus there is the whole Tara-as-a-stripper scene.

The identity merchant was a great idea.  These are demons that make a living integrating other demons into human society.  They do it by having the demon assume the identity of someone that had died and they get all their effects, basically becoming that person.   Anya gets the id of a recently killed japanese stripper.  We also wanted to do one "Willow's magic screws up" episode and ehen never do it again.  She is supposed to be the most powerful witch on the planet afterall.  In truth her magic didn't screw up it was the combination of her magic, the dead stripper's id and the magic of Yoln.

Special note: Because of this episode Tara can still speak fluent Japanese, Amber Benson made a remark at a con a while back along the lines of "well I guess I can speak Japanese" when talking about the afterlife of fan fic. Wish I could find the link for you all.

Yoln of course is the proxy for our big bad.  We find out more about him next episode, but we learn he is the "Hand of Leviathan" whom he calls "The Whispering God".  Yoln was also an old D&D NPC that plagued my characters.

Kara, Tara's "straight" sister was an inside joke that began on the Kitten describing the soap oprea like plotting we were seeing in the show up to Season 6. We decided in the alternate past that Kara had a hugh crush on Giles. The ophidians were an old AD&D monster of mine.

The author of this adventure, Sass, has a better grasp on Willow than anyother author I have ever met. She gets her on such a fundamental level that her fiction should be required reading for anyone wanting to play Willow in a game.

Kara was not just a proxy for dead Tara, but Dawn as well. We established that she was as real to everyone, including memories, as Dawn, and a spell took her away. This was part of the alienation plot for Buffy and Dawn. Both were feeling like they were less and less human than the people around them, though for different reasons. I disliked the Slayer-as-demon (the episode where the girl was raped by a demon to make her a Slayer had not happened yet) and wanted to go a different direction, so we began by having Buffy become stronger and faster than before, becoming something other than human, or so she thought. For Dawn it was the start of her psychic powers.  I wanted both characters (via the players) to struggle with what it means to be human, or maybe no longer human.

And true to our cause here  "Candy", the dead stripper, gets avenged in the end and her killers are met with justice at the hands of the Yakuza.  Tara also gets a marker from the Yakuza boss.  The boss was named Tatsou which means "Dragon".  There is no connection, just a pun on my part to keep some element of the overall plot in every episode.

The quote above is an in-play quote between Willow and Tara.  All this terrible stuff is going around them and they are having a discussion about the lesbian sub-text of the Facts of Life.

In this episode we also established that Willow & Tara's favorite indie band is Lipkandy. They were playing the night after Tara's birthday.

At this point we began to insert a lot more crunchy stuff to our games.  Previously we had been content to use the playtest material of Buffy, but now we were moving along at good pace.  Episodes 4 and 5 were our playtests of the new Magic Box book, but we wanted to add more.

New Monster

Motivation: Eat humans
Critter Type: Demon
Attributes: Str 7 Dex 6 Con 6 Int 2 Per 2 Will 5
Ability Scores: Muscle 20 Combat 14 Brains 15
Life Points: 70
Drama Points: 1
Special Abilities: Armor Value 10 (scales) Qualities: Hard to Kill 3
Dodge: 14
Claw: 16 18 dam Str x 3
Bite: 15 21 dam (Str + 1) x3,
Tail slap: 15 14 dam

Ophidians are said to be a young race by demon standards, thought to exist only for the last 3 or 4 thousand years, since early Egyptian times. They are an isolationistic race, known to spend time only with their own kind, and have little regard for other demons. While most demons are decidedly carnivorous, the Ophidians are one of a few whose diet is thought to consist solely of the flesh of human beings. It is known that almost all Ophidians worship some sort of a serpent deity, but whether this is Set or Leviathan is unclear.
These Ophidians worship leviathan, but it can’t be a coincidence that many also worship Set and the cast just dealt with Set.

New Spells

Magic Missile
Quick Cast: Yes
Power Level: 2
Requirements: Witches and Warlocks need only shout “dissolvo.” Other magicians also need to meditate for one minute.
Effect: A ball of light shoots from the caster’s hand and shoves the target one foot per Success Level rolled. This spell could knock someone down or push them free from someone who was holding them. It normally does no damage, but if the target is shoved into a wall or some other hard surface, she takes double the casting roll’s Success Levels in Bash damage.
Note: This is the spell Tara used in “Bargaining”. It is assumed that Kara has it as well.

Quick Cast: Yes
Power Level: 1
Requirements: Command word calling on the gods of sleep (Hypnos, Morpheus, or ‘the Sandman’) and a bit of sand.
Effect: Target must make a Will check. If failed the target falls into a deep sleep for one hour per level of sorcery skill.
Note: This spell is know to both Tara and Kara.

Undo Spell
Quick Cast: Yes
Power Level: 5
Requirements: Witches and Warlocks need only to command that the spell be ended. Others need to concentrate on the spell for 1 minute per power level of the original spell. If the caster does not have the sorcery levels required she can bring in other casters.
Effect: Undoes one spell or magical effect.
Since the magical effect in not natural, the magic is easy. But the witch needs to be able to overcome the level of the original spell as a resisted check.

Next Week:  Tara and Willow are targeted by assassins and they learn more of their mission here.