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Old 01-11-2019, 04:05 PM   #131
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Default Re: Conditional Spells, Local Mana and Places of Power

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I'm ruthless when it comes to deals with the devil (literally or figuratively). My article "How Very Tempting" was based in a system I used for my games for just that purpose.
I actually allow Pacts and contracts with supernatural beings that are surprisingly reasonable.

The point being that the temptation to take the easy path to power is a powerful temptation to players. And it doesn't have to transform them into ravenous monsters or mindless slaves. But it does mean being obligated to a being that might, ultimately, have other interests than what is best for you, your loved ones, your friends or even the fate of humanity as a whole.

Interesting stories about temptation don't necessarily need to have the decision to deal with the Devil be indubitably wrong. In fact, it's more interesting when no answer is clearly and indisputably right.

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I have some more Tellurgy spells you might like in the coming months. :-)
Great.

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That said, you may wish to allow ley tunnels as a method of travel. In Ceteri I have the Autumn Road - which is a fae-created network of ley tunnels to allow rapid travel - if you know what you are doing. Teleportation is also possible for spirits and those not made of flesh - the living end up greasy stains when they try.
Fair enough.

Traveling through other realities, especially the parts that some humans have dubbed Faerie/Feywild, is absolutely a thing. It's just usually a hell of a lot riskier than traveling by airplane, even if you're a magic-user.

But I expect that the players will still accept the risks of meeting terrible, inhuman Things and having to heroically fight them, over the risks of their plane suffering some kind of electronic malfunction that leads to the pilot being fatally deceived about the altitude and their lives ending in a mysterious crash into the dark ocean. It think it's about agency, they can fight monsters, even the most horrific ones, but plane crashes might kill them without them ever knowing what is going on or having any chance of averting it.

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I mean, I see where you are going. It just seems weird to me. If you want to run a cinematic game then do it - the PCs are the special ones, no one else is. No need to jack up point totals or penalties in that case. Though I suspect we're coming at the same problem in two different ways.
Well, I am weird.

I'm trying to avoid binary constructions; where characters are either Illuminated [Vile Donkeys] or Mundane Squabs. Having the use of supernatural powers depend on the ability to overcome massive situational penalties that applies in many, but not all cases allows for fairly low point characters who have arranged a special situation where their modest skills are effective and it also allows for awesome high point value types who might know a lot about the supernatural, but are not going to be able to cast spells in a typical city (but might still be able to kick monster posterior). And the true master mages, of course. And anything in between.
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Old 01-11-2019, 08:24 PM   #132
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Default Re: Conditional Spells, Local Mana and Places of Power

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I actually allow Pacts and contracts with supernatural beings that are surprisingly reasonable.

The point being that the temptation to take the easy path to power is a powerful temptation to players. And it doesn't have to transform them into ravenous monsters or mindless slaves. But it does mean being obligated to a being that might, ultimately, have other interests than what is best for you, your loved ones, your friends or even the fate of humanity as a whole.

Interesting stories about temptation don't necessarily need to have the decision to deal with the Devil be indubitably wrong. In fact, it's more interesting when no answer is clearly and indisputably right.
So more Doctor Strange less Doctor Faustus.


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Great.
Probably end up a total of 5 separate posts. Maybe 6.

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Fair enough.

Traveling through other realities, especially the parts that some humans have dubbed Faerie/Feywild, is absolutely a thing. It's just usually a hell of a lot riskier than traveling by airplane, even if you're a magic-user.

But I expect that the players will still accept the risks of meeting terrible, inhuman Things and having to heroically fight them, over the risks of their plane suffering some kind of electronic malfunction that leads to the pilot being fatally deceived about the altitude and their lives ending in a mysterious crash into the dark ocean. It think it's about agency, they can fight monsters, even the most horrific ones, but plane crashes might kill them without them ever knowing what is going on or having any chance of averting it.
Cool. Inglorious sessions tend to make player's eyes twitch. Even if they are funny to do sometimes.

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Well, I am weird.

I'm trying to avoid binary constructions; where characters are either Illuminated [Vile Donkeys] or Mundane Squabs. Having the use of supernatural powers depend on the ability to overcome massive situational penalties that applies in many, but not all cases allows for fairly low point characters who have arranged a special situation where their modest skills are effective and it also allows for awesome high point value types who might know a lot about the supernatural, but are not going to be able to cast spells in a typical city (but might still be able to kick monster posterior). And the true master mages, of course. And anything in between.
So I'm starting to see. It's different - not something I would do, but that doesn't mean it's badwrongfun.
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Old 01-12-2019, 06:56 AM   #133
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Default The (Secret) Vatican View of the Supernatural in the Setting

Here's some background on how magic and the supernatural might work in the setting. It goes some way of explaining the feel I want, even if the Vatican gives shorter shrift to various 'primitive' traditions than the PCs know to be true.

This proposed historical background may or may not be true, but it is the more or less accepted theory among those in the Vatican who know about magic (and believe in it). Their certainties about how difficult magic is to perform are constantly under attack, however.

The Vatican consensus is that at some time back in the unimaginably ancient past, things we would regard as supernatural were present in the physical world. Monsters, spirits, fey and other beings appear to have coexisted with humanity. Most of this happened before recorded history and there is even a school of thought that maintains that once a culture became complex enough for its own written language that records daily events (as opposed to runes, pictographs or hieroglyphs with mostly a ritual purpose), such beings were less likely to interact with it.

The theory goes that the various magical traditions in the world were learned from supernatural beings or developed in cooperation with them.

In the land of Sumer and Akkad, humanity consorted with what the Catholic Church considers demons*. They learned to bind these creatures into their service and command them to use their powers on their behalf. These demon-spirits or ekimmu were hungry for sacrifices and are drawn to strong negative emotions, such as fear, anger, shame and disgust. Blood and various bodily fluids solidify their connection to the world and may even allow them to take physical form in the world. Adepts in this style of magic have been called diabolists, necromancers, blood mages or conjurers.

Egypt is theorized to have been colonized by ultraterrestials, who may even have interbred with the population. Alchemy and much of the ritual magic the Church has documented ultimately appears to derive from such ultraterrestial interactions. The study of ultraterrestial archaeology before recorded human history and philological reconstructions of their ritual languages (in Egypt and elsewhere) are fields with much promise. Those who use magic derived from Egyptian roots may be dubbed alchemists, sorcerers, magi or magicians.

The Church regards ultraterrestials as physical beings and has at points during its history viewed them as without souls or free will. The progressive view, espoused by Pope John Paul II, was that they were simply pagans who had the same opportunities as human beings for good and evil and with faith could also be saved.

Ultraterrestials appear to fall into several groups. In Egypt and in other places around the Mediterranean, they lived in human society as rulers and were worshiped as gods. These groups of ultraterrestials may have had a different origin than the more reclusive groups who lived in magical places that appeared to straddle the boundaries between the physical world and some other place where Nature** reigned supreme. That world was dubbed Faerie by many and the beings from it the fey.

The fey are conjectured to be the origin for Celtic magic as well as Nordic rune magic. Those who study Ogham or Rune magic are convinced that fey are beings entirely separate from the ultraterrestials of Egypt, pointing to the very different magical traditions, but others claim that cultural differences among the fey account for these and that all 'human-like' ultraterrestials ultimately come from one place, which is Faerie, merely at different times in its history and with different attitudes towards humanity.

In any event, the beings who were called the fey, faeries, Hidden People, Lords and Ladies and many other things had direct contact with humanity after it developed writing. As a result, far more is known about them. It is known, for example, that some of them preferred to live on Earth over Faerie, but that nearly all of them wanted nothing to do with human society. Over time, the fey retreated from human expansion on Earth. Some were content to go back to Faerie, others lived in Hidden Places where humans did not wander and still others attempted to find areas on Earth where the wilderness was beautiful to them and no humans lived.

Some faeries, however, felt that meek acceptance of human supremacy on Earth was vile and unacceptable. They wanted to slay humans and carve out their own kingdoms there. The fey races*** were bitterly divided. Those who were cautious and feared the consequences of a war with the humans were more numerous and more powerful, but in their caution, they failed to see the danger of disunity among their own people. Centuries of civil strife took place, among those humanity would dub Seelie and Unseelie Courts, the 'friendly' or neutral fey against those who would destroy all humans.

The precise start date of this conflict is hard to ascertain. The Catholic Church can trace Unseelie sentiment, in attacks against humans, back to the earliest records of interaction with the fey, but most scholars believe that large-scale warfare between fey didn't start under well after the year 1000 and probably not until after 1100. What is known that Seelie nobles came to leading human adepts in secrecy and asked for their assistance if the conflict should spread to Earth. As a consequence of this, the Unseelie were put on the defensive**** and mostly forced to stage their war from their fastnesses in Faerie.

Most scholars believe that the eventual closing of the way between Faerie and Earth was related to the war. The theories of precisely why it happened are legion, but as no fey appear to be left on Earth, there are none to confirm or refute them.

Scholars of magic note that supernatural occurrences appear to have been waning on Earth for all of recorded history. Yes, it is true that many of the magical traditions were preserved throughout the ages, but the effectiveness of the rituals, when experimented with by these scholars, was always much less than in the ancient sources they had access to.

Finally, at some point after the Industrial Revolution and before the First World War, all supernatural charms, rituals and spells ceased to work. No confirmed and proven working of magic or sighting of supernatural phenomena exists in the Vatican after the date of 1901 (there is dispute among some even about those events).

As a result, even with the wealth of occult materials in the vaults of the Vatican, most people born after this time ceased to believe in the supernatural. Those who had access to the secret files usually believed that it had once existed, but if so, it was irrelevant now. Where there had once been a strong organisation of Christian priests educated in the occult and dedicated to eradicating all magic that conflicted with their faith, there were now only a few scholars who theorized endlessly about a subject no longer relevant to the world.

The story among other adepts, less centralized and with access to less information, was similar. Rituals were passed on down as part of religions or culture, but most people did not remember a time when they truly worked. Ever since scientific study of magic began, with the rebirth of science in the Renaissance, even the smallest magical effects required the flawless knowledge of truly ancient languages and a complex working where nothing could go wrong. Folk magic was mostly superstition, even during times when magic did work*****.

The game is set at the end of 2018 (it's the 28th of December, 2018). At some point past 1980, or at any rate before 1990, credible reports of supernatural phenomena again began to surface. In 1989, the Catholic Church took official (albeit secret) steps to investigate and confirm these reports. In the modern day, the Jesuits and the Knights of Malta oppose supernatural evil in the world, but despite the desire of Pope John Paul II and the early plans of Pope Benedict XVI to go public with what the Church knows, it remains official Vatican policy to act only in secret.

*Some more secularly-minded Jesuits theorise that these beings only appear demonic to our sensibilities, but are natural creatures who fit into God's creation in a way that is not currently understood. Theories include a race of pure physic energy from another plane (ultraterrestials), spirits of fierce animals and angry ghosts of humans who fail to find their way to the afterlife or simply mental projections of the worst things about humanity.
**In all senses, that is, breathtaking beauty, serenity, wholesomeness and oneness with all living things and the Nature that is red in tooth and claw.
***For the inhabitants of Faerie are not all alike, with some being small and sprite-like, others being tall and majestic humanoids and still others having stranger forms.
****Well, over a period of some centuries. Time in Faerie probably passes at a very different rate than it does on Earth, as recorded interviews with named fey take place with centuries between them and the fey appears to have changed little and is still engaged in much the same events on his home plane.
*****This is due to the massive penalties to magic in the setting. At no point in recorded history has the Earth as a whole been more than Low Magic and non-mages (the vast majority of people) have a further -5 penalty to work magic. Trying to cast spells in 'common' languages, as most people did, is a further -5. So, only scholar-mages with encyclopedic knowledge of the theory of magic as well as the ancient cultures from whence it sprang have a realistic chance of using it safely and effectively (or so the scholar-mages of the Vatican believe). It does not help that working magic in the presence of skeptics is at a penalty as well.
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Old 01-14-2019, 05:01 PM   #134
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Default Re: RPM Rituals: Official, Semi-, Quasi- and Un-official

I don't really have anything to add here except that is very cool. :-)
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Old 01-15-2019, 12:59 AM   #135
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Default Re: RPM Rituals: Official, Semi-, Quasi- and Un-official

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I don't really have anything to add here except that is very cool. :-)
In GURPS terms, RPM magic is fairly new in the setting. In the 1980s, mostly only those with Advantages like Channeler, Medium, Postcognition, Precognition and similar could experience supernatural phenomena.

By the 1990s, it was possible to work ancient rituals or rituals from still living traditions. There was little flexibility and heavily penalised effect-shapingPath/Book magic fits it best, with only minor rituals having a chance of working.

Only around 2000 or so had study of Thaumatology progressed to the point that RPM rules could be used, but even then, the massive penalties involved meant that few rituals produced useful or even detectable effect.

You may feel that it's far too difficult to cast spells at 2018, but compared to the past couple of centuries, the world is awash in magic.
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Old 01-15-2019, 03:12 AM   #136
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Default Re: RPM Rituals: Official, Semi-, Quasi- and Un-official

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In GURPS terms, RPM magic is fairly new in the setting. In the 1980s, mostly only those with Advantages like Channeler, Medium, Postcognition, Precognition and similar could experience supernatural phenomena.

By the 1990s, it was possible to work ancient rituals or rituals from still living traditions. There was little flexibility and heavily penalised effect-shapingPath/Book magic fits it best, with only minor rituals having a chance of working.

Only around 2000 or so had study of Thaumatology progressed to the point that RPM rules could be used, but even then, the massive penalties involved meant that few rituals produced useful or even detectable effect.

You may feel that it's far too difficult to cast spells at 2018, but compared to the past couple of centuries, the world is awash in magic.
So my question then becomes did they use another system of magic before this awakening or did they use RPM? Maybe whatever magical block that was functioning temporarily enhanced magic - like water escaping a bottle - until an equilibrium was reached. That could be interesting as a GM - a sudden outpouring of magic in the early years allowed someone to do something that can't be done today even with the world being "awash in magic."
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Old 01-15-2019, 07:35 AM   #137
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Default Re: RPM Rituals: Official, Semi-, Quasi- and Un-official

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So my question then becomes did they use another system of magic before this awakening or did they use RPM? Maybe whatever magical block that was functioning temporarily enhanced magic - like water escaping a bottle - until an equilibrium was reached. That could be interesting as a GM - a sudden outpouring of magic in the early years allowed someone to do something that can't be done today even with the world being "awash in magic."
Well, the way that it was done in play was that spellcasters who'd started their studies before 2000 and, indeed, their apprentices, were using a fairly limited list of possible effects and, indeed, for one of them, almost exclusively involved effects that a particular powerful spirit with whom he had a pact could accomplish (or, well, any number of smaller ones he could convince), with his 'magic' consisting of giving the spirit enough energy and sacrifice for him to accomplish the task.

That villainous spellcaster, however, was explicitly growing in power and skill, with events in play making clear that he'd acquired more powerful spirits and was able to perform many more types of rituals. By 2012-213, he was almost certainly an RPM caster of some power, but where, in his history, we should draw the line between Path/Book and Ritual Path Magic, is pretty unclear. He had Thaumatology skill all along and he still has Ritual Magic (Sumer and Akkad), but the precise function of each skill has altered slightly.

For PCs, the only PC caster seen so far, who was played in 2010-2011, got access to Path/Book magic, but as he and the GM were building the Paths of an as yet undefined Zoroastrian magical tradition and adding new spells according to what we believed should fit, he might as well have been an RPM caster.

The character started play as an expert in Zoroastrian influences on major Abrahamic religions, as well as a comparative study of various Ancient Near East beliefs about magic and the supernatural, as well as specific practices and to what extent influence of them can be discerned in later Hermetic thought or qabalistic teachings in magic.

When he found out the supernatural existed, he discovered that he was already one of the most knowledgeable people in the world about at least one magical tradition and he had a very good working knowledge of several others. He started trying to develop Thaumatology skill, using various tomes, as well as forming relationships with academics involved in the British and Vatican conspiracies, who already had Thaumatology.

As the season ended, I think it would have been fair to convert him from a Path/Book caster to an RPM one.
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Old 01-15-2019, 07:54 AM   #138
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Default Re: RPM Rituals: Official, Semi-, Quasi- and Un-official

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Well, the way that it was done in play was that spellcasters who'd started their studies before 2000 and, indeed, their apprentices, were using a fairly limited list of possible effects and, indeed, for one of them, almost exclusively involved effects that a particular powerful spirit with whom he had a pact could accomplish (or, well, any number of smaller ones he could convince), with his 'magic' consisting of giving the spirit enough energy and sacrifice for him to accomplish the task.

That villainous spellcaster, however, was explicitly growing in power and skill, with events in play making clear that he'd acquired more powerful spirits and was able to perform many more types of rituals. By 2012-213, he was almost certainly an RPM caster of some power, but where, in his history, we should draw the line between Path/Book and Ritual Path Magic, is pretty unclear. He had Thaumatology skill all along and he still has Ritual Magic (Sumer and Akkad), but the precise function of each skill has altered slightly.

For PCs, the only PC caster seen so far, who was played in 2010-2011, got access to Path/Book magic, but as he and the GM were building the Paths of an as yet undefined Zoroastrian magical tradition and adding new spells according to what we believed should fit, he might as well have been an RPM caster.

The character started play as an expert in Zoroastrian influences on major Abrahamic religions, as well as a comparative study of various Ancient Near East beliefs about magic and the supernatural, as well as specific practices and to what extent influence of them can be discerned in later Hermetic thought or qabalistic teachings in magic.

When he found out the supernatural existed, he discovered that he was already one of the most knowledgeable people in the world about at least one magical tradition and he had a very good working knowledge of several others. He started trying to develop Thaumatology skill, using various tomes, as well as forming relationships with academics involved in the British and Vatican conspiracies, who already had Thaumatology.

As the season ended, I think it would have been fair to convert him from a Path/Book caster to an RPM one.
Or maybe it was RPM the whole time and magic only started getting more mutable as your ontoclysm began. I did this for one of my campaigns (Aersalus) where it began as RPM and then became standard GURPS magic. It actually worked out very well. Just a thought.
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Old 01-17-2019, 05:25 PM   #139
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Default So... First Adventure, the PCs Are Dream Projecting to Stop Ragnarök

The utility of the diamonds full of arcane energy continues, as I do not have to work out exactly how much energy a given ritual requires, but just state that they need to tap one or more of the 34 stones.

When they received them, six medium sized ones were empty of energy. They've tapped five now, one moderate size and the four they judged to be the most powerful.

The rituals powered are designed to astrally/dream project them into a rift between worlds created within the mind or soul of the Girl with the Kaleidoscope Eyes, following the Cold One spirit to its master and gird their astral bodies for war in order to defeat what they find. Then they'll use an Obsidian Athame of immense power to cut the link between Earth and the Thing that is trying to enter through the Girl.

Simple. And they expect to tap the rest of the stones to close the Doorway behind them. You know, to prevent drafts or Ragnarök.

The ritual to gird their thought bodies for dream combat in the Otherworld is actually a druidic brew of hallucinogenic tea, incorporating some truly mind-boggling mushrooms.

I ruled that nothing that was not ritually purified clothing or Signature Gear magically attuned to their personal identities could travel with them. Naturally, even without considering that the characters could ever astrally or dream project, every PC has Signature Gear and all of them have at least one Signature Gear weapon with Weapon Bond and Named Possession.

Teddy Smith is naked, except for a belt made of seaweed to carry his Elder Sign, Browning pistol, Leatherman, alchemical supplies and mixing bowl, as well as a necklace of huge teeth around his neck. He's also carrying a shaman's thigh bone covered in otherworldly runic sigils and an A-Square Hannibal rifle in .577 Tyrannosaur.

Lucien Lacoste is wearing a long duster, waistcoat, nice suit, gun belt and cowboy hat, as well as carrying a stockless, sawed-off shotgun inside his duster. He's also got a huge Bowie knife.

'Nonc' Morel is dressed like the swamp hobo he is and carrying his gnarled druid's staff and an honest-to-God hatchet. Also a sling. He had a Colt Peacemaker revolver, but is probably going to leave it behind, as it's not attuned to him in the way his lower tech gear is.

Alice Talbot, meanwhile, is wearing a One-Punch Man t-shirt and sweatpants, because she's too old to sleep in fluffy pajamas, or so she told herself. She's wielding the obsidian athame that looks like a tear in reality into an infinite black void and tucked inside her sweatpants is an IWB holster with a Walther PPK that she was recently given as a Christmas present, complete with ritual enchantment and attunement to her.

I'm wondering what benefits the druidic drink ought to give?

The ritual to transport them there was cast by Alice, using the energy from the diamonds and the athame as a focuser. But what does 'Nonc' Morel's ritual do?

It was meant to facilitate their immersion in the dream world and allow them to control it, make them more powerful there and protect them from dangers. So... in game terms, what would that mean?

Obviously, they'll all be high as balls. But within the dream reality or whatever apparent reality they visit, what would be cool stat modifications?
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Old 01-18-2019, 05:30 AM   #140
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Default Thoughts on the rituals

Ok, so we broke up the session for the evening as the PCs were swirling through a kaleidoscope of colours as they entered the dreams of 'Gwen Delvano', a.k.a. 'The Girl with the Kaleidoscope Eyes', a.k.a. (unknown to the PCs), the sorceress whose botched spell had touched the Void and given the Cold Ones a toehold in this world.

I hadn't defined the effects of the rituals involved in any way, just that the main one, which all the PCs cooperated on, but Alice Talbot acted as the lead caster, was meant to take the PCs in some kind of avatar form into the dreams of Ms. Delvano, where they could not only obtain answers*, but also confront the Lord of the Last Waste whose Ineffable Form had extended a fraction of Its consciousness into Ms. Delvano, and by extension, the world.

Metaphysically, by defeating the dream representations of the Being or beings inhabiting the Dreamlands of Ms. Delvano's mind, the PCs are supposed to be able to close the gates of reality and prevent any attempt to widen the entrance, say, at the New Year's in three days, when the veil between the worlds is weakest.

It was not specified, but I'm thinking that the ritual was bound into an object which they must use not only to enter Ms. Delvano's Dreamlands, but also to come back. This object can be nothing else than a Silver Key, especially as the ritual they are using was reconstructed and theorized by Dr. Alfred L. Lapointe, a long-time gamer and GM with an encyclopedic knowledge of geek lore.

I'd like the PCs to have appropriate equipment for their Dream-Quest. They'll be able to take their Signature Gear with them, of course, which actually serves them as a fairly decent start, including as it does at least one magical weapon for each of them and, in the case of Lucien Lacoste, his somewhat idiosyncratic outfit of a business suit, fancy waistcoat, gun belt, long duster, nice black leather shoes and a black leather hat with a vague cowboy-ish look.

I'm wondering if the ritual they used to travel there should include some extra equipment for them or if the hallucinogenic tea 'Nonc' Morel made them drink, to give them power and protection in the Dreamlands, ought to cover that part.

Also, the PCs will appear somewhat differently than they might in the real world. They'll have some dream-self that they appear as. That might actually be a good hook to use for dream equipment which awaits them in the antechamber to the Dreamlands.

Edward Alvin Smith, for example, no longer looks entirely human and has flaring gills and apparently, his mustache now resembles some kind of aquatic feelers. Lucien Lacoste's player shouted that his character now appears as his character's player character in the in-game campaign of D&D that the PCs are playing with several NPCs, one Glorn the Barbarian (Glorn Smash!!!) I expect that 'Nonc' Morel's disheveled look will get even earthier and greener, with his beard apparently having some kind of flora growing in it. Alice Talbot will probably appear much as she always does, but, if possible, even less prepossessing.

Hmmm... perhaps the antechamber ought to be the result of Morel's spell and contain some greenery, including water, fruit and other supplies (as well as a beautiful spring of high-proof moonshine), for them to load up on. As Morel started play without any prepared Charms, whereas the other PCs did, it might be fair to rule that the antechamber contains a selection of dream-versions of Charms and Elixirs he might have at his grove at home, up to what he could have chosen to start with, but didn't.

Any other thoughts?

What should be the equivalent to Papa Legba as Lord of the Crossroads for a Cajun druid who has studied rural Louisiana 'hoodoo' or 'root work', but not actually voudon religion. I'm thinking a black rooster, but what might one call him in Cajun French or English?

*The original purpose of 'Nonc' Morel when he proposed a vision quest into her dreams.
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