Rise: Cogito

Case 1: Acrimony- Flash and _messiah
Flash investigates the Guardian Angel game

BGM: Theme of _messiah

Eugenia felt a wave of relief wash over her as her mind disconnected momentarily from the world, and her laptop connected her to her true home. The spinning wheel at the corner of the browser was almost like a pulse, signifying life.

Her fingers moved, almost reflexively, dancing and filling her ears with the subtle, comforting noise of a keyboard in use. She perused the usual sources first, looking for anything that could enlighten her about the most recent murders in Central Park.

As she searched, an instant message popped up. A familiar image adorned the tiny window- the Virgin Mary, eyes blackened with tears of blood. Eugenia smiled.

_messiah: (07/14/13, 10:43am) morning flash. up to anything interesting today?
flash: (7/14/13, 10:43am): Not a lot, no, trying to find out some stuff, seems tied to a HS, maybe a game? idk still working, not enough coffee this morning lol
_messiah: (07/14/13, 10:43am) Oh, are we talking about Guardian Angel, then?
flash: (07/14/13, 10:44am) Yea, but that’s a new one on me, guess I’ve been…busy, besides, I don’t go in for computer crack
_messiah: (07/14/13, 10:44am) All those Fatima kids are going nuts over Guardian Angel. I’ve been following it pretty closely- their school records have at least 4 kids suspended for being involved in it, supposedly. The guys at Truth are really grinding the rumor mill over it.
flash: (07/14/13, 10:44am) guess I should have a look, eh? ty :) you’re the best. guess I better look at records too, hm might be slow getting back, stuff y’know.
_messiah: (07/14/13, 10:44am) Oh, you never make any time for me anymore. Whatever job you have is just ruining our relationship.

She didn’t respond, instead pouring over her information she had acquired… all 9 victims were students at the Our Lady of Fatima Academy in Washington Heights. All 9? Certainly that had to have elicited some suspicions. Maybe Adam would be able to ply some information out of his old police contacts? She continued reading, and decided to check out the school for herself.

The school’s security system collapsed like a wet box for her- not that she expected much else. These types of networks were only well guarded enough to be a step ahead of the student body at large. Files sprang open for her like flowers, offering up their nectar of data for the young woman. Student files, class schedules, discipline records- she took it all in, drinking it all in as deeply as she could. As she downloaded the information, she took a moment to oblige her companion.

flash: (7/14/13, 10:47am) sorry man, but if I told you, I’d have to kill you but you know we’re still cool, even if I can’t help being what I am.
_messiah: (07/14/13, 10:47am) you wouldn’t kill me, would you? :(

Eugenia paused for a moment, and caught something. Although none of the victims seemed to be suspicious, they all had a class in common with a girl who seemed to stick out like a sore thumb. April Adley. She had been recently suspended for the second time within a two month period. Her first suspension involved an incident with the first victim, Derek Tennison. Although the records went into no great detail, it was enough to warrant some concern- especially considering April’s otherwise pristine record up until that point.

flash: (7/14/13, 10:48am) No, of course not. You’re too nice.
_messiah: (07/14/13, 10:49am) I know I am. You couldn’t have a better friend, Flash.
flash: (7/14/13, 10:49am) :D I’m glad. BRB, k? checking stuffs…again…

Eugenia logged out of the school network, and started looking into the Guardian Angel game in greater detail. She herself had not heard of it, which wasn’t surprising. She was hardly one to keep up with the latest trends, unless those trends involved the words XBOX Live or i-anything.

Her searches turned up a slew of out of context comments, and the perfunctory epileptic tree-style message board posts. Not to be deterred, she turns to some sites with established occult reputations, to see their take.

She clicked the link to the blog, Cryptid Petstore, and quickly searched the archives for anything regarding the game.

The Angel Statue at the fountain in Central Park, now the central figure in a trendy new urban legend. Photo courtesy of mindseye52 of the centralpark.com community.

Posted by Mistress Miseria, 11:29am 7/09/13

The latest urban legend to rise in the Big Apple (and subsequently, the online supernatural community) is the Guardian Angel Game. Following the trends set by the Jokaa cell phone games in Tokyo, the Guardian Angel game is yet another update on the classic Bloody Mary, no doubt derived from the leftovers of classic horror stories and copious amount of wishful thinking on the part of bored teenagers.

To play Guardian Angel, you need to live in Manhattan, really, although there have been accounts of this game being played in some variations in other parts of the world. The premise is that by taking a picture of someone under the angel statue at the fountain at 59th Street entrance to Central Park on your cell phone, you can then kill the person by forwarding the image to the number equivalent to the time at which the photo was taken; for example, if you were to take a picture of someone at 10:30am, you would text the picture to 1030, but if you took a picture at 3:15pm, you would text it to 1515. It is believed that if you have a desire to see that person dead, when you send the image it will send a confirmation message back that tells you the time the person will die.

Naturally, the entire game is a glorified game of chicken, but it has become problematic in several Manhattan high schools lately, due to students using the game as a means of harassing and threatening one another. Several whisperings by your standard groves of epileptic trees have speculated that the game is a secret cover for a clandestine CIA assassination training exercise, but ultimately I think we can file that theory away with the notion of chain letter miracles and chalk this new fad up to yet another case of kids and their creative cyber-bullying.

Flash shook her head. “I think I may need some help on this one.”

As she saved her findings and logged off, a message popped on the screen again, long after she had left.

_messiah: (7/14/13, 11:01am) Try not to die again… my dear Flash…
7/14/13, 11:02am: _messiah has signed off.

At that moment, the window closed, seemingly of its own accord…

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Case 1: Acrimony Intro
  • 2:16 AM, July 14th, 2013
  • Central Park, 59th Street Entrance
  • BGM: Can You Feel Me Touching You?

Madison’s heart raced in her chest as she stumbled. The evening humidity made it even harder for her to breathe, the air choking out of her as she crashed to the hard ground. She felt the skin break on her knees, but at the moment that seemed inconsequential. She looked up at the girl standing before her, her familiar form seeming eclipsed by the shadow of the angel that cloaked her. Her eyes were cold, and piercing… what had happened to make her that way.

As she struggled to return to her feet, she managed to stammer out a weak plea.

“Please… April, take it back… take it back… I’m sorry… I’m…”

“Quiet, you bitch!” the other girl snarled. “I can’t take it back… just like no amount of begging can take back what you did to me…” The other girl looked away in disgust.

Madison felt a tear trickle down her cheek, almost undetectably against the backdrop of agony coursing through her. This couldn’t be happening… could it?

“Please… April… I’m sorry…” the young girl stated quietly, as she slumped to the ground. Her eyes began to get heavy, drawing closed despite her best attempts to keep them open.

She looked up at her friend once more. She looked so sharp, so angular, a vertical silhouette tearing through the fabric of shadow cast by the statue looming over them. She looked nothing like the mousy girl she had first met in junior high.

For a moment, her mind left the moment and traveled to back then.

“Hi, I’m Madison!”

”... um… hi. Am I in your way? I’m so sorry, I can be so clueless…”

Madison opened her eyes briefly, her chest aching. She looked up.

April… what had happened?

Just then, she thought she saw something… something around her friend. Something thin and barely visible, but with an unmistakable grip on the girl’s shoulders. April, what is that? Who is that? Madison asked silently.

Just then, she felt eyes on her. The thing… the thing on April’s shoulders was glaring at her! Madison wanted to cry out, but there was no strength left. A long, slender hand extended from the form, and caressed her face.

April… please get out of here…

  • 9:32 AM, July 14th, 2013
  • The Penthouse, SoHO
  • BGM: The Penthouse

The morning light creeps through the Venetian blinds of the picture window overlooking Manhattan. The Penthouse is quiet this morning, the only sounds filling the air- the sound of Miranda typing away endlessly at her desk and the sound of percolating coffee from the kitchen- twine together almost seamlessly, making a sort of ambient music that creates a sense of calm in the office area.

You find it somewhat relaxing as you lounge about, but know that you shouldn’t be taking it easy any time soon. The morning headlines confirm that once again, Manhattan is the scene of yet another unusual circumstance.

Ninth Teenager Found Dead in Central Park, the paper reads. Madison St. Clair, 16, and the third girl to be found dead in Central Park this week. No marks are found on the body, and there were no signs of a struggle… only the frail, crumpled body of a young girl found beneath the fountain at the 59th Street entrance to the park, posing for a picture that could be the definition of poignant- a broken young thing discovered in the comforting shadow of an angel, watching over her from its vantage point at the fountain but unable to save her.

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Alright

So, although the offline version of this game has been stalled (along with most of my offline games) due to scheduling, I have recently begun doing a play by post version of this game on MTG Salvation. I’m excited to see how this plays out for me- truth be told, I haven’t had much luck with PbP in the past, but this group has proven to be pretty good (for the most part), and I trust them. So, over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting compilations that are edited versions of the events, which will hopefully be a good read and give a good idea of what’s been going on.

P.S. MTGS Players, check out the house rules section for some bonus incentive to join OP here. :)

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Revelation System Posted

I’ve completed the basic rules on Revelations, and posted a full revelation list, with explanations on the functionality of the various powers. Partly to avoid violating copyright laws, and partly to save time, if a revelation has an equivalent power, the rules text just references back to the original document (defaulting to the True20 Roleplaying Game whenever possible), but whenever those rules vary or when there is no equivalent power to which you can refer, I provide as detailed of an explanation as I can.

Furthermore, I’ve started working on new talents which can be taken by PCs and NPCs, although this will take considerably longer to post and test. Right now, one of the most basic talent trees is up. Anyway, check it out, and if you have a mind for design and modding, let me know what you think?

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The Rise World
Some key ideas behind the world of Rise and Cogito

Some key conceits to this game that are important to realize before playing:

1. No one is infallible. The notion that all sentient beings are capable of error is a strong theme throughout the game world. There are no clearly cut heroes and villains, but the world is not without good and evil. In fact, it is rife with it, and the exchange between these concepts is a powerful factor that can drive the game. However, unlike in most games, the idea of good and evil are less of a dividing factor. While the PCs may encounter many different adversaries, it never feels like a case of “us” versus “them”. All characters in the world are capable of using their power for great good and for great evil, and they may be forced to do both at any given time. One of the dramatic elements in the storytelling is developing the characters through this dichotomy.

In order to preserve this conceit, it is imperative to avoid painting any particular PC or organization as being wholly right or wrong- merely appropriate or inappropriate depending on the circumstances surrounding it. While the PCs are likely to act in a way that favors a certain morality, it is important keep them from becoming too comfortable with what they do. On occasion, it may be necessary for them to do something that doesn’t feel right, be it for a greater purpose, or merely to preserve themselves. However, it is also important for them to feel like protagonists, as well, so avoid pitting them against difficult moral dilemmas every session- too many difficult choices make the players feel as if they are set up to fail no matter what they do, which is no fun for anyone.

2. There is a great and secret history to this world that we among the living are not to know. Powerful demons and angels manipulate wide arrays of world events, vengeful ghosts exact their wills on the world, and secretive heroes move in shadows to prevent the world from falling apart around us while we go about our business, working and living as if everything was fine.

Because of this, it is important that the PCs move discreetly. If the knowledge of what was happening behind the scenes of the living world became common knowledge, the world would fall apart very quickly. Because of this, players need to carefully evaluate their courses of action- while it may be easier to deal with some challenges directly, they have to be wary of exposing themselves and drawing too many questions. The authorities of this world don’t recognize the authority of the Estate, so suspicious activity of any kind can be very dangerous to both the PCs and those around them. It may be necessary to circumvent legal challenges by way of illegal activities, but then the characters run the risk of becoming enemies of their respective law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, there is always the concern of drawing the attention of higher powers, such as The Talmudic Regency, or the Cocytal Seat. Navigating the game world is a task that requires much forethought. You need to encourage players to plan and consider all their options, but at the same time, players are prone to making poor choices on occasion. In this case, the character should face some adversity, but you want to avoid overly punishing the players for the odd offense. After all, the game primarily about non-action obstacles. Characters may go session after session without ever taking HP damage, but they shouldn’t be impervious- but just as you wouldn’t drop a CR 20 enemy against a ECL 7 party, you shouldn’t propose obstacles so great that a player cannot bypass them on their own merits.

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World Building Questionnaire
Taken from Wyrmul's Tales of a Thousand Seas

This exercise was taken from wyrmul’s Tales of a Thousand Seas

1. What are the musical themes of this world and its characters? What would the soundtrack contain? What instruments would best illustrate the tone of the world? Create a soundtrack that inspires the emotions of the Story World.

The music should be environmental, but urban, combining the emotional qualities of instruments such as the violin, piano, and guitar with contemporary elements such as R&B, electronica, and drum and bass, pop, and metal. A great example composer would be Shoji Meguro, composer behind many of the recent Shin Megami Tensei games, as well as Japanese electronica artist and composer Shiro Sagisa. Other artists that would be influential would be Akira Yamaoka (of Silent Hill fame), Marilyn Manson, Imogen Heap, Basement Jaxx, Pendulum, Emiliana Torrini, Aya, Lotus Juice, and Evanescence. It should have a generally eclectic feel, but should also have a real edge to it.

2. What is the core feeling or emotion of the setting?

The game should feel dark and edgy, as a general rule. A loss of innocence is a common theme, as well as general feelings of despair. However, despite this, there is hope in the world, and determination in the face of such oppressive feelings. Even though the characters are aware of their fates, they continue to act against it, if only to preserve the happiness of others around them. In this way, the campaign should convey a sense of responsibility and martyrdom.

3. What is the world-view presented by the game master?

The world view presented is one of moral ambiguity. There are two powerful forces at work in the world- the forces of Heaven, and the forces of Hell. At first glance, this is a clear cut case of good versus evil, but as is prone to happen, there are plenty of situations in which one cannot be sure just which side is supposed to be which. Advocates of Heaven can be as cruel as any devil, and the representatives of Hell may ultimately be as human as any given character, causing the characters and their players to really examine why they believe what they believe.

4. What is the ideal attitude of the players in response to the setting?

Objectivity. While characters are encouraged to react strongly to things, this iteration of Rise is not one in which the characters are encouraged to act as agents of benevolence. The goal of the players is merely to investigate and police the activities of spirits on Earth, and at the core, the game is a mystery game- and as such, staying a little detached and taking in all sides of the situation is advised.

5. What kinds of major conflicts will the characters face? How difficult are the levels of major conflict? Are the conflicts beatable (as in high fantasy) or impossibly dire (as in Lovecraftian horror)?

It’s a bit divided. As mortal characters, the players will have difficulty truly defeating the ghost they encounter, not to mention the myriad of angels, demons, and other spiritual forces that outmatch even the most potent human soul by far. The conflicts are primarily supposed to be handled non-directly. While combat will occur on occasion, it typically should be an act of self defense. While their opponents are not “impossibly dire”, they are certainly not intended to be taken down in your average five rounds. Rather, they are only meant to be held off temporarily while a more permanent solution can be devised.

6. Are there answers to the mysteries of the story, or are the deeper issues left open, ironic, or unsolvable? Are the heroes able to win, only capable of surviving, or able to win but at a high price or through a great sacrifice?

There are three layers of mystery to this game- minor mysteries, which are presented on a once-per-session basis and are expected to be resolved within a single session. These are the meat of the game, serving as the main “encounter” for the cast. There are then larger mysteries, which serve as over-arching plot lines for individual characters and NPCs, which may or may not be resolved, but should at least be outlined enough so that the players understand the true nature of the situation by the end of the campaign. Finally, there are major mysteries, which encompass the whole of the setting. While these may be hinted at and new theories may arise to explain them as time goes on, most of them will never truly be solved.

As far as the heroes being able to win, they can never truly win- they can only hold their ground, and prevent themselves from sliding down the slippery slope as they do what they do.

7. In what camp will the conflicts be based: physical, emotional, political and social threats, psychological threats, spiritual threats? Will the adventure challenge the body, the intellect, or the emotional weaknesses of the character?

Spiritual, emotional, and social, with some physical. The adventures will primarily challenge the intellect, but there will be plenty of cases in which a particularly nasty spirit may take a stab at the psyche of a vulnerable PC.

8. If this adventure was captured in a piece of artwork, what would it look like: color, texture, oils, watercolors, figures, subject…? If this world was captured as a movie, what would the first five minutes look like? Design a series of promotional movie posters that clearly illustrate the tone of the Story World.

Charcoal based, gritty, dark, lots of blurred lines and heavy hues, mostly depicting portraits and urban scenes. As a movie, the film would open with an otherwise normal looking scene out of a person’s life, but there would be elements of cinematography that would suggest something sinister, up until the very end of the scene, at which point something truly horrifying and unexplainable would occur, shattering the peace and showing that, even in the most placid times there is a darkness present.

Posters would show solitary shots of the various PCs as they walk through a large metropolitan area, with the character shown clearly observing as both phantasms and people move about their business, neither group aware of the activities of the other.

9. What is the fundamental philosophy of life adopted by the game master/author? What is the overall purpose of the game master/author when it comes to creating an effect? What emotion or series of emotions does the game master/author want to evoke in the audience, players, reader as they experience the world and its conflicts? What literary devices, images, music, sound effects, props, will best serve these emotions?

Life is what you make it, even in the limited frame of time that one exists. Despite the fact that there are some very cruel inevitabilities, we are born with free will, and we can always stand up to face our own fates. The game will try to create effects that cause both the characters and their players to think a little deeper- about the situation at hand, and about the nature of their world and their lives. It is an introspective experience, and a highly cathartic one, I feel, to contemplate the gravity of death and judgment. This game should evoke feelings of awareness, and cause everyone involved to look inward. Music, lighting, distorted sound effects, and mundane tools taken from the modern world can really help to show the contrast between a world centered on the moment, and a world centered on eternity.

10. Create a chapter of a design bible for the world that contains colors, textures, images, lyrics and collections of written imagery and poetry that capture the emotional content of the Story World.

I have all sorts of things, but those will have to be uploaded later, since they are primarily on the hard drive of my out of commission desktop.

11. Create a piece of artwork that clearly establishes the tone of the game. Compose an instrumental piece of music that establishes the tone. Write the beginning of a short story or novel (up to two pages) whose primary purpose is to establish the tone of the world. Write a diary entry from the point of view of a character inhabiting the world; capture this character’s feelings in response to the world.

Some images of mine that really feel like the game world to me-

12. Use the tone list to come up with a one, two or three word description of the overall tone of the game.

Ominous, introspective, mature, gritty.

Inspirations:

Films


Video Games

  • Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3
  • Valkyrie Profile
  • Shadow Hearts
  • Silent Hill
  • Kagero: The Deception
  • Tsunagai

Anime

  • Bleach
  • Death Note
  • Witch Hunter Robin
  • Vampire Princess Miyu
  • Ghost in the Shell

Tabletop RPGs

  • The original Rise game, obviously
  • In Nomine
  • Wraith
  • Ravenloft
  • Ghostwalk
  • The Chronicles of Aerie
  • Call of Cthulu

Literature

  • Taylor Caldwell’s Dialogues with the Devil
  • C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters
  • C.S. Lewis’ The Perelandra Trilogy

Television Shows

  • Angel
  • Torchwood
  • Medium
  • Law and Order
  • Paranormal State
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The third take on my own setting
The third tale in the Rise cosmology

Back in early 2006, I started working on my own RPG system, called Rise, complete with its own complicated setting. In the world of Rise, players took the roles of the recently dead, finding themselves standing before the black angels of judgment, who propose unto them a difficult choice- ascend to Heaven and exist in peaceful service, descend unto Hell and be the master of one’s own fate while in eternal struggle against the pull of corruption, or wander the earth as a lost soul, with no future or present, trying in vain to establish a meaningful purpose in a world that is itself doomed to die.

The game went through various stages of testing, and there was one test campaign of mixed results. While the campaign itself was ended abruptly due to outside issues, and the development of the game was shelved due to a lack of testing support, I have still held onto the world and concept of Rise.

Summer 2007, we attempted to reinvent Rise in the form of Rise: Der Tod und Das Mädchen, an alternate reality Rise game taking place in a high fantasy version of 18th century Europe, using d20 D&D rules. The campaign itself didn’t pan out, either, but the ideas behind it were pretty interesting, and I put a lot of work into it.

Now that my main campaign is getting near its halfway point and now that most of the planning has been finished on our temporary campaign, I’ve been thinking of combining elements of previous Rise games with other campaign ideas I have had brewing over the past year or so. This game will be a spin-off of the main Rise concept, only instead of playing as the deceased, players will play as living humans who have somehow become aware of the perils and conflicts ravaging their world, invisibly, in the world of the dead.

They must try and prevent the constant struggles for dominance of man’s fate from harming the innocent and help keep those lost souls who wander the earth from using their newfound powers to exact revenge on those in their lives. They must use a combination of supernatural talent, investigation, and careful negotiation to navigate through their challenges, taking on angry spirits, avenging angels, grim executioners of natural law, and perhaps even the Devil himself, all while preventing the dread knowledge- the truth of life after death- from becoming known to the public at large.

Over the next few months, I’ll be posting development on custom rules, setting material, and background information, as well as possible pieces of short fiction set in the Rise world.

I would ask that you please consider this campaign site to be a work in progress while you browse, as it will most likely take several months to work out all the details, and retype up old material. Additionally, the campaign itself may not start for another three to six months, depending on time allowed and the progress of pre-existing campaigns.

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