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Old 01-01-2013, 12:55 PM   #31
Prince Charon
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Default Re: Five Earths, All in a Row

Originally Posted by Ketsuban View Post
This is awesome. I particularly love that it had to be the Space Force.

As for what'd happen to the 'you' in this setting (or, for that matter, the 'me'):

This seems to limit the gift only to those gamers who believe they have or strongly want a particular power.
Ah, not quite. You get the gift if you're eccentric or imaginative enough, or if you're seen as weird by the people around you, whether you are or not, and so forth. Your beliefs and desires only shape it.
Originally Posted by Ketsuban View Post
What qualifies as "strongly"?
I'm leaving that vague, so that different GMs and groups can define it. Having a few points of quirks or appropriate hobby skills is a good indicator (e.g. someone who has Hobby (Star Wars)-12 and the quirk 'Puts 'Jedi' on surveys that ask for religion' has a good chance of getting minor psi powers, and/or Ritual Magic (The Force)-12, while someone who has Hobby (Star Trek)-12 and Language: Vulcan (Broken/None) is likely to gain short-range or Touch-Only telepathy, and maybe Tactile Telekinesis to simulate enhanced strength; either or both might gain some points in Fetish, particularly if they're in the habit of making props). Having points in Symbol Drawing, Ritual Magic, and/or Fortune-Telling (lots of people have those skills in RL, they just don't appear to do anything) are likewise going to lead to abilities that fit those skills (maybe they 'just' get the perk, and their spells suddenly start working, or maybe they get levels in Thoughtform Talent and/or Path/Book Adept).

Being strong-willed (Will 11 or higher) and having quirks or mental disadvantages relating to independence and a lack of willingness to take orders are also factors, as is, in crunch terms, being a 150+ point character - as mentioned in post #16, most people with powers just get the two-point package of the Active Thoughtform Generation perk and Ritual Magic (Personal Book) at IQ-3, it's just that PCs tend to be a cut above the rest.

In short, the more points spent on skills or gained from quirks or disads that qualify as 'eccentric' or 'creative', or otherwise setting the character apart from 'normal' people in the area (which can include resident foreigners in an insular community, if their ways are different enough), and the higher the character's IQ, Will, Per (if it's high enough that you seem strange), and related advantages, the more powerful they could plausibly start out as.
Originally Posted by Ketsuban View Post
Does the gift read your mind and find desires even you don't know about so long as you self-identify as a gamer? (Also, do you mean just tabletop games or are video games included?)
Pretty much yes - the spirits touch your mind, and your mind shapes the gift. 'Gamer' includes tabletop, computer, and even LARPers, but remember that it's not limited to people who self-identify as gamers, or even those who are identified as such by others - it's a matter of not being 'ordinary', not a matter of any specific type of weirdness.
Warning, I have the Distractible and Imaginative quirks in real life.

"The more corrupt a government, the more it legislates."
-- Tacitus

Five Earths, All in a Row. Updated 9/28/2020: On Torture article has been posted.

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Old 01-04-2013, 03:30 PM   #32
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Default Re: Five Earths, All in a Row

Here's the latest updates to the timeline. I don't think I'll be adding anything else to December 2012, nor January or February 2013, but March is about half done.

Additions to earlier parts:

Dec. 23 (2012): Israel declares war on Nazi Germany. Hitler declares war on 'the Jewish State, and all puppets of the Jewish Conspiracy'. OTL-UK declares war on Nazi Germany, followed by OTL-US, OTL-France, OTL-Germany, OTL-Poland and OTL-Russia. Radio stations in the US celebrate by playing various renditions of We Did It Before (and we can do it again), among others.

Dec. 24: OTL-China, Taiwan, the Philippines, and both Koreas declare war on Dp-Japan.

Dec. 28: In her Christmas Address (being about three days 'behind' OTL-Earth), Queen Victoria declares that 'An attack on any Britain is an attack on every Britain!' Stp-UK Parliament declares war on Dp-Germany.

Feb. 16 (2013): A successful better-than-break-even polywell is demonstrated in OTL-Switzerland, and the plans and methods involved are posted online. The device confirmably works as advertised, but according to experts, shouldn't (though no-one finds any clear evidence of cheating, beyond that fact that it shouldn't work this well). Most who try to reproduce the device get a normal polywell, unable to break even, but a few, always the more eccentric, are able to replicate or even improve on the device using the same or similar methods.

Feb. 19: A few people on OTL-Earth, mostly in the US and Europe, but not exclusive to those regions, begin visiting doctors due to odd skin conditions. Mostly, these relate to the skin changing colour, but not itching or otherwise causing discomfort. Blood samples taken, in some cases, also appear to be the wrong colour, but are chemically what they should be, and return to red when separated from the source by enough distance, time, and/or both (usually no more than two yards and/or five minutes). Some, with or without odd skin colours, have noticed minor physiological changes, such as eye or hair colours changing, ears becoming pointed, foreheads gaining ridges, fingers and/or toes becoming slightly webbed, and so forth. A very few appear to have small improvements to strength, reflexes, senses, and so forth. In nearly all cases, they note that the new features make them resemble their favorite science fiction or fantasy race, or a specific character or characters.

New parts:

March 1: Stp-US President Edward J. Phelps (Whig) offers a reward for the design of an orbital rocket with greater lift than any in use by the Great Powers, and an astronef able to cross the void to the other Earths swiftly, safely, and comfortably. This reversal of the usual Whig policy surprises many, but most of the smarter Stp-American politicians can see the way the wind is blowing. Stp-Earth's Russian Empire declares war on Nazi Germany. The fact that the Tsar's current favorite mistress is Jewish has nothing to do with that, of course.

March 7: The astronef carrying Stp-UK's ambassador to OTL-UK, along with various trade goods, scientists, and so forth, is launched from British Guiana, along with the first unmanned supply flight to the Stp-British space station. The crew, and some of the passengers, are veterans of both space and war. Stp-Russia announces plans to assemble a 'heavy' astronef at their space station, the first sections of which will be carried into orbit next month. Also announced is the launch of an embassy to OTL-Russia, next week.

March 12: On the 'forward' side of OTL-Earth's three light-second bubble, a small particle spray occurs, so faint as to be almost undetectable. Almost. While radar and infrared telescopes pointed at the area detect nothing, optical scopes observe something fantastic (once it slows down enough to be clearly seen): a gold and silver dragon larger than a C-130, flying through space, apparently by occasionally flapping its wings. Below the dragon is a bronze arch, with crossbars clutched in the great creature's front and rear talons. The arch carries a great bronze dish, upon which sits a magnificent roundhouse of the finest woods, ivory, and well-polished stone and bronze, not gaudy, but likely far more beautiful than any such structure was in our history.

March 13: The dragon and dwelling enter OTL-Earth's atmosphere, heading toward Britain, and more specifically, London. As they approach Hyde Park, a hill rises to meet the house (at a rate of about seven inches per second), in the clearing a little east of The Long Water. As the house touches down at the crest of the hill, the bronze dish and arch seem to collapse into themselves. A bronze fence grows three feet high at the base of the new hill, as the dragon seems to shrink to the size of an elephant, and gently dives into The Long Water, splashing around for a while. The people who exit the house are dressed quite finely, despite the over all look of their clothing being evocative of Ancient Britain. All are quite comely, and have pointed ears. The most beautiful woman among them approaches the fence, and attempts to speak to the British police and military personnel who by that point have arrived. After trying one incomprehensible language after another, the dragon sticks its head out, snickers, and says 'Lingua Latina.' Luckily, one of the officers remembers enough of his time at Oxford to establish a dialogue: The woman is named Brigith, and she is the daughter of Imperator Ambrosius Aurelianus Romanorum, known more properly as Arthur, High King of the Britons. Her mother is the High Elf Indeg, the eldest of the king's three principle concubines, and a daughter of the King of the High Elves of The Isles. Her father and maternal grandfather have empowered her to speak for them to the Queen of this Britannia, as her brother and sisters have been sent to the other Britanniae (the missions to Stp-Earth and Clp-Earth haven't arrived yet, but the one on Dp-Earth is on its way down, being escorted by a great flock of RAF fighters). The dragon, Dyfnallt, is only sticking around long enough to move the embassy, if requested, and then he needs to go back and get the embassy for the next Earth over (Clockpunk Earth).

March 15: The Russian ambassadorial astronef is launched, and is mated to it's long-range booster. The Russian ambassador is Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia, who hopes, among other things, to meet and court whichever of Putin's daughters will find him most attractive, as it's clear to the Tsar that Vladimir Putin is Tsar Vladimir IV in all but title.

For those who are wondering, Brigith and her siblings are a non-standard type of half-elf, being the children of a spirit who was not possessing anyone at the time, and thus being spirits, themselves (which is how they can survive unprotected in the vacuum of space). They are 'half-elves' only socially, and in being more psychologically human than most elves are. The staff and guards of the embassy are mostly half-fey of various kinds. On another note, I sadly lack the skill to write the epic tale of how Arthur got the King of Elfland's daughter as his first concubine, but Brigith is perfectly willing to tell it, in the grand style of ancient British bards (save that she'll be speaking it in Latin).

EDIT for clarification: What crosses the dimensional barrier when a spirit travels from one universe to another is information on telepathic carrier waves, and it really shouldn't disturb the 'gate' nearly enough to produce a detectable particle spray. It looks like they're actually traveling physically because that's how they think of themselves (and transferring spirits so that they have sufficient, erm, administrative access to manifest apparently physical bodies on worlds other than their own is a fairly epic achievement for any wizard). Just another example of the Random Omnipotent Being messing with people, since it creates assumptions in-character that are contradicted by reality (though on the bright side, it does convey a warning that would otherwise have been absent).
Warning, I have the Distractible and Imaginative quirks in real life.

"The more corrupt a government, the more it legislates."
-- Tacitus

Five Earths, All in a Row. Updated 9/28/2020: On Torture article has been posted.

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Old 01-17-2013, 03:11 PM   #33
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If not for the 10,000 character limit, I would be able to post the whole timeline in one thread.

Additions to earlier parts:

March 1: On Dp-Earth, a massive BRG rocket attack strikes at Peenemünde. The rockets that get through the crude-but-effective German missile defenses damage launch facilities and disrupt the next interplanetary fire mission. In the Dp-USA, Dr. Goddard's next 'probe', this time sponsored by the US Army, is launched, along with its attendant boosters. Hitler orders the alternative long-range launch facilities in German East Africa to be made ready ahead of schedule. On OTL-Earth, the Argentinian government points out that they are not at war with the Space Nazis, and thus the most moral act in regard to the Falkland Islands (which they call the Islas Malvinas) is to 'return' them to Argentina - several British tabloids make the claim that the reason Argentina isn't at war with the Nazis is that they're already ruled by them.

March 2: After some debate on both sides, Stp-France agrees to support Charles de Gaulle's Free French Forces, on the condition that the new Dp-French government with be a constitutional monarchy, with a strong monarch, under either the current head of the House of Bourbon on Dp-Earth, current head of the House of Orléans on Dp-Earth (either of whom would be Henri VI), or current head of the House of Bonaparte on Dp-Earth (Napoléon VI Louis), depending on which of the three Houses is the choice of the Estates of post-war Dp-France. Copies of the treaty are signed and witnessed on both Earths, and Stp-France declares war on Dp-Germany. The Papal States launch the first of four expeditions to the Romes of the other worlds, to 'help' the other Popes adjust to the 'correct' doctrines (those being the doctrines of Clement XV). This first mission is on it's way to Clockpunk Earth.

March 3: In orbit of Dp-Earth, the boosters are mated, all the math checks out, and the 'probe' (actually a delivery vehicle for military secrets FDR has elected to share with OTL-USA) is on its way. In Dp-China, Mao Tse-tung is executed by the Imperial Japanese Army. On Dp-Luna, several of the domed cities begin using masers mounted on the larger travel-spheres as transmitters, as these are less inconvenient to use than flashing the city lights, can still be used when the cities are in daylight, and are mobile, thus useful when the cities are facing away from Earth Prime.

March 4: On Stp-Earth, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Holy Roman Empire (restored by treaty after the Franco-Prussian War, both to further humiliate the Prussians, and to make Germany less of a threat; if not for Prussia being a member, would be slightly smaller than OTL-Germany; Alexander IX did offer some Italian territories and a nice enclave in Rome, to go with the 'priviledge' of the Holy Roman Emperor being crowned by the Pope, but the Lutherans weren't having it), Papal States (only joining because Clement XV is an ardent monarchist - Divine Right of Kings, you see), Scandinavian Federation, and a few minor powers sign the Compact of Mainz, in which they pledge to join whichever side, Axis or Allies, will swear by oath and treaty to restore the legitimate governments (by which they mean, and clearly state in the text, monarchies under the Habsburgs, Hohenzollerns, Wettins, Wittelsbachs, and so forth, with significant de facto and de jure power) of the German territories currectly ruled by the Third Reich (analysts note that this would not actually require Hitler to step down, he'd just have to hand over some significant amount of real executive, legislative, and/or judicial power to them, as constitutional monarchs). While the OTL-USA and various other OTL powers aren't pleased by this, most of the other Allies are fine with it (especially the Stp-British, French, and Russians, and the Dp-British and Free French; not all for the same reasons, of course), and begin drawing up just such a treaty.

(OOC: I'm kind of wondering which OTL nations would agree to that just to troll the USA, which would agree out of not caring too much what happens to the Dp-German territories, just wanting more nations to at least pay the costs of the war, and which would be significant amounts of both. The Dp and Stp Allies aren't trolling anyone, but they don't consider OTL-USA useful or threatening enough to bow to its wishes.)

March 6: In OTL-Britain, a series of mysterious disappearances and other strange occurrences in and around Nether Wallop cause UNIT to first cordon off the village, and then evacuate it the next day.

March 8: Around 3am GMT, reporters and other curious folk lurking near the perimeter outside Nether Wallop hear shouting, gunfire and other explosions, and 'electric noises', as well as seeing strange lights.

March 10: One of Dp-Japan's submarine oil prospecting boats discovers petroleum near the Senkaku Isles. Dp-Japanese PM Konoe orders drilling operations to begin as soon as possible, using designs relayed by radio from OTL-Japan; in support, the Imperial Japanese Navy is ordered to begin the construction of bases on those islands best suited to it. (Daqing oil field, mentioned in one of the first messages from OTL-Japan (along with information on better methods of refining the thick crude there), has a higher priority at the moment, but doesn't make the news on OTL-Earth like the Senkaku Isles do.)


March 17: The Stp Allies sign the Treaty of Avallon, acceding to the Compact of Mainz. On Dp-Earth, Churchill and de Gaulle sign a similar treaty in London. The signatories of the Compact of Mainz begin declaring war on the Axis powers. For the moment, it is agreed that their assistance will flow primarily through the Scandinavian Federation's space program.

March 18: In a small town in northern California (OTL-USA), the high school is the site of a very strange and violent incident, in which several students are killed and more injured, by a person wearing what appears to be riot armour and a black cape. The attacker, who called himself 'Darth Venger', is described as having a voice 'like an angry nerd trying to sound like Darth Vader', but his actions were far more intimidating: those security cameras that were working at the time show him cutting up doors, furniture, and people with a glowing red lightsabre, as well as apparently causing several students and one teacher to choke or fall back by gesturing at them, and throwing bolts of lightning from his off hand (which accounted for some of the non-functional cameras). The school's lock-down procedure prevented the victims from escaping the assailant, who seemed to focus on suspected bullies, only incidentally harming others. In the last classroom he attacked, he ordered several attractive female bullies, some forced to follow him from other classrooms, to strip, but seemed at a loss for what to do once they were naked. At that point, the security camera in the room was destroyed, and the assailant was himself assailed, by 'a Jedi Knight and some superheroes', according to witnesses. 'Darth Venger' was forced to flee, and the 'superheroes' vanished after attempting to pursue. The entire incident took less than twenty minutes, a significant proportion of which was spent in the last classroom. It is not known who leaked the security footage to the Internet, but several clips had 'gone viral' by the end of the day.

March 20: On Earth Prime, the parents of the girls who were stripped by 'Darth Venger' file lawsuits against the school, school district, and so forth, for damages and emotional trauma caused by their failure to keep the video off the Internet. They and others also join a lawsuit againt the police department (and the city), for not arriving in time, or promptly capturing the offender. At the Tower of London, the late Queen Anne Boleyn engages in a lively theological discussion with several women taking the castle tour, among them an Anglican vicar and a Catholic nun. Also in OTL-England, the people of Nether Wallop are permitted to return to their village, which UNIT and the Royal Engineers cleaned and repaired for them, as an apology for the inconvenience. The place had never looked so good.

March 24: The capsule from Dp-USA penetrates the three light-second bubble around Earth Prime, accompanied by the now-familiar particle spray. Captain Henry Wales of The Blues and Royals (Prince Henry of Wales) returns to Britain, and is seconded to UNIT UK.

March 28: The Dp-USA capsule enters OTL-Earth's atmosphere, and makes a fairly soft landing at Area 51, pleasing and/or worrying conspiracy theorists all over the planet. The capsule, which looks like a slightly larger and sleeker Apollo Command Module, is found to contain: about a tonne of neatly organized microfilm, half a tonne of equipment and materials, a little over a third of a tonne of frozen and/or otherwise preserved biological samples, and about another third of a tonne of lead and a third of a tonne of water, as radiation shielding - mostly around said biological samples.

EDIT: As you can see, the timeline now has a couple of adventure seeds.

Later EDIT: To clarify something that might need clarifying, the Dp-Japanese got their technical information from OTL-Japanese civilian sources, not from the OTL-Japanese government.
Warning, I have the Distractible and Imaginative quirks in real life.

"The more corrupt a government, the more it legislates."
-- Tacitus

Five Earths, All in a Row. Updated 9/28/2020: On Torture article has been posted.

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Old 05-20-2013, 12:24 AM   #34
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Sorry for taking so long to update. I have been working on it, but computer trouble and other distractions mean that a proper timeline update may take a while, yet. If my computer is repaired tomorrow (I'm using my father's, at the moment), I'll try to have an update by Friday or earlier, even if it's got gaps in it. I have some crunch to post, but it's less ready. Might end up posting some of it anyway, just to get help, though.

In the thread on, Random 832 asked a question that I feel should also be answered here, since it's potentially quite important:

Originally Posted by Random832
Will newly-built props still be able to empower themselves, or are these (of any type, not just portal guns) pretty much a limited resource?
The props don't empower themselves, they're empowered by the spirits and the possessor's subconscious as part of the empowerment of outsiders. By 'newly built,' I think you mean props built after the probe arrives (I can't think of another interpretation in context, but I could be missing something)?

Yes, but more haphazardly. Spontaneous' enchantment occurs due to several factors: possession, emotional investment, whether the owner also built/modified it, how 'interesting' the spirits think it will be, ambient temperature, and surprise factor - the latter is important, because if an item is made, modified, or otherwise obtained with the intention that it will be empowered, the spirits usually expect the owner to consciously work toward empowering it (though once they've started, a change in expectation won't necessarily get them to stop), which mostly limits it to the skills the owner has developed, or gained access to by getting outside help. The spirits may help out, especially if the result would be interesting/entertaining, and/or would be 'in-genre', from the spirits' PoV.

I should also note that how long a spontaneous enchantment takes varies upward by how powerful and how complex it would be, and downward by how many spirits take an interest, how much interest they give it (i.e. how much time and effort they're willing to spend), and how powerful the spirits are (gods and powerful saints can just snap their fingers and it's done, but that's more a matter of enchantment through prayer, not 'spontaneous' enchantment; spirits tend to take longer).

The first few magic items were empowered within a day, but weren't all that powerful, and in some cases, what power they had took longer to notice. The last items marked for 'spontaneous' enchantment are still being worked on. The restored Galileo prop is one probable example, although it probably won't be as capable as it's fictional counterpart. Likewise, there are attempts to build the Millenium Falcon, and other SF vehicles. The various TARDIS props will probably take the longest to go 'live', due to the massive amounts of permanent space warping (wormhole or otherwise) required. (EDIT: Signature Possession (GURPS Spaceships, not sure which page, due to aforementioned computer problems) is probably the easiest way to write this up; Joel described it as "an Enhancement modifier to Wealth-level that lets you treat an object (must be SM+4 or larger I think, so you cant use it for personal gear) worth a % of your total wealth as if it's signature gear.")

None of them will be capable of FTL on their own, unfortunately, though some may be capable of astrally projecting the crew/passengers into the realms of the collective unconscious occupied by their series of origin (or into humanity's memory of the past/prediction of the future, for vessels said to be capable of time travel). That's not necessarily a good thing, of course, but it could be advantageous - the probability of it being lethal is not small, though, and it could lead to attracting the wrong sort of attention to the physical world.

Determining whether a prop or other item is being enchanted is fairly simple, once you know how to look. The most mundane method is comparing temperatures: fetishes and some charms are often a little cooler than their surroundings, as the spirits involved draw in the heat to power themselves (unless they have no physical effect, in which case they don't need it), and items being enchanted (even those with no powers that should have a physical effect) will normally be cooler than that, as the spirits make small physical changes to the item. How much cooler, again, depends on how powerful the item will need to be, and how fast the spirits are working. Very rarely, if ever, will an item be cold enough compared to it's surroundings for condensation to form, and in those cases, only briefly, while it's in use, not while being empowered. Electromagnetic sensors, such as those used by OTL ghost hunters, will sometimes detect spiritual activity, but won't help much in determining what the spirits are doing. ESP, telepathy, astral sight, and various sensory spells and magically enhanced sensors, will also detect such activity, and may grant more details as to what's actually being done, and how long it will take.

A similar situation prevailed on Clockpunk Earth (though on a smaller scale, due to the lower population, smaller number of outsiders, and the relative lack of things to be enchanted - still, a fair number of people had geegaws that they thought were 'lucky' or 'magical'), a while after the comet arrived, but it happens very rarely, now.

Another note, related to spirits: Spirits capable of semi-permanent 'solid' manifestation are fairly common on Fantasy Earth, uncommon on Dieselpunk Earth, quite rare on Clockpunk Earth, and vanishingly rare on Steampunk Earth, to the point that few, even among magic-users, believe it's even possible (they'll be quite surprised when they find out what the Britannian embassies are). On Infopunk Earth (calling it 'OTL Earth' is starting to feel odd), it's rare, but growing more common, especially after the arrival of the embassy from Britannia. It will probably never be as common as on Fa-Earth, and perhaps not even as common as on Dp-Earth.

Spirits capable of brief moments of 'solid' manifestation, or longer periods of audible and/or visible interaction with the living, perhaps accompanied by momentary bursts of psychokinetic and ergokinetic force, are much more common, though less so on Stp-Earth (where even a moment of 'solid' manifestation almost never happens) than on Clp-Earth. Sorry about the run-on sentence.

I may end up altering which worlds have more easily manifesting spirits (or altering how generally easy it is, at least), between Infopunk Earth and Dieselpunk Earth, but the others are pretty firmly set.

EDIT: The disconnects between 'reality', 'what human society wants', and 'what the spirits expect and want' (for the spirits, that's mostly 'in-genre behavior,' not that they all agree on what the genre is), is one of the important background conflicts of the story. For example, if a government makes a habit of 'stealing' the gifts the spirits give (whether or not that government gives itself the legal right to do so, a la things like 'eminent domain'), that government is likely to end up cursed by angry spirits, even if their motivation is a genuine desire to keep irresponsible children and/or fools from killing themselves with their 'cool new toys' (a very real possibility with some of them).

On another note, I'm thinking that having whole paragraphs in red text, bold or not, is perhaps a bad idea, for reasons of eye strain. Having the first few words might work better, as in the edit a few paragraphs up, about Signature Possessions. What do you think?

Later EDIT: 'Will Not Immediately Work For Thief' is a normal 0-point Feature for spontaneously enchanted possessions. Something that will automatically work for anyone (or any category of user that the GM feels is large enough) would get a limitation on point cost, worth the negative of the 'Will Not Immediately Work For Thief' enhancement's normal cost (I can't find it, but I know I've seen it somewhere, before - maybe in Supers, in the gadget rules?), or should just be treated as equipment. Signature Gear and Signature Possessions that were not a gift of the spirits may have the 'Will Not Immediately Work For Thief' enhancement, but are not required to. It costs half as much as normal, if they do. 'Will Try To Return To True Owner' (not sure how much that should cost, but if it doesn't move on it's own, this qualifies as a very limited form of the Serendipity advantage) is not a Feature, but it should be very common among spontaneously enchanted items.

The monetary cost (which determines the cost of Signature Gear/Possessions) should be based on the cost of the base object, with a small multiplier - the actual cost will vary quite a bit until the setting matures, after all.

EDIT: Turns out it's Signature Assets, not Signature Possession, and it's SM+2, probably so you can use it for a motorcycle. It's on Spaceships 2, p27.
Warning, I have the Distractible and Imaginative quirks in real life.

"The more corrupt a government, the more it legislates."
-- Tacitus

Five Earths, All in a Row. Updated 9/28/2020: On Torture article has been posted.

Last edited by Prince Charon; 05-22-2013 at 07:05 AM.
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Old 05-22-2013, 01:48 AM   #35
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Over on SpaceBattles, I noted you asked for snippets. I came up with one, while I was thinking about this at work, today. (It was a boring day.) I wanted to read the rest of the thread, over at SpaceBattles, before I posted it.

You and some of the other guys, over there, hinted at some of these ideas. It's long, so it'll take several messages. Given that this is the SJ Games GURPS forum, I thought of it more as an adventure seed.
__________________________________________________ _________________

During the winter, all color vanished and Washington, D.C., became a washed out daguerreotype of gray and white. Dark gray clouds blocked the sunshine on most of the short winter days, and dropped fresh white slush in layers atop the dirty gray remnants of previous storms.

Not that Bill Friedman ever really saw much of that. He spent most of his time, these days, in windowless rooms deep inside a crowded, nondescript office building on the outskirts of the nation's capital. With the onset of war in Europe, the previous September, the Signals Intelligence Service had seen a rapid increase in the size of its staff.

He hoped they got funding for the new digs out in Arlington, soon.

The appearance of four other Earths, actually visible in the daytime sky, meant the SIS budget would probably double (at least), this next fiscal year. Some of his best people already worked day and night as they tried to listen to and decode the radio traffic from two of the other Earths. The traffic from the center Earth had proven the most problematic. That planet's advanced broadcast technology had been a blue-nosed bitch to figure out, and the sheer quantity of the information had proven absolutely overwhelming.

All they initially could hope to do was record as much of it as possible, and devote as much of the little time as they would have, in the war-years to come, sorting through it all.

Then, they got some help.

The broadcasts that began, a month ago, had initially caused serious distress amongst the staff. When Frank Rowlett realized some of the broadcasts were directed to him, personally, and used some of his own private encryption schemes, the young man almost had a coronary. As Friedman walked into the room set up especially for Rowlett, he breathed a sigh of relief. He and his senior cryptanalyst were the only two permitted inside, and it was the quietest room in the building, since it had only the one teleprinter.

That machine currently chattered quietly, to itself. It seldom paused, these days; usually, it only became still when the radio receiver shifted to the predetermined frequency according to the schedule sent during the first transmission received by Rowlett. It was a damned clever innovation, brilliantly simple, and one Friedman kicked himself about; he wished he'd thought of it.

Of course, given what he'd learned about the organization at the other end of the broadcast, Friedman expected to learn a lot more tricks like that, in the very near future.

Frankly, this so-called, "National Security Agency" on the 21C Earth scared the hell out of him, even though he now understood it to be the successor of Friedman's very own SIS.

If anything, that actually made it worse. As quiet as this room was, Friedman had grown to dread opening that door, each morning. All too often, Rowlett looked at him with the same mix of perplexity and foreboding that appeared on his face, now.

"Did the broadcast finish, Frank?"

"Yeah, I got the call about 5 a.m., and came straight in. Couldn't sleep, anyway, knowing it was nearly done."

"Is it as bad as we thought it might be?"

"Well, no, to be honest. Thankfully. I see no threat to the nation from his activities, directly, but the issue still needs to be addressed. It's a real vulnerability, in one of the worst possible places."

"You got it packaged up?"

"Yeah. I finished proof-reading it, just a bit ago. Weirdly, it's not complete. The timeline of the narrative just stops."


"This month."

Friedman picked up the bundle of type-written pages, and scanned through them. He'd already read everything received, up through yesterday. There wasn't that much more. He ran his fingers through his hair, before he realized it. Now, he'd have to comb it out, again.

"Alright. I'll take it to the president."

************************************************** ******
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Old 05-22-2013, 01:49 AM   #36
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The man on the bench outside the door of the Oval Office fumed silently. He'd already been through this, once, with this president, and thought he'd worked out clear understanding with the man. His work to defend the United States against her enemies, both external and internal, brooked no interference. Once he'd explained that to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and provided proof of the sincerity of his belief (in the form of the surveillance transcripts he had about Mrs. Roosevelt's... distaff interests), he felt the two men had reached an accommodation.

Since then, on the rare occasions he'd visited the White House, he'd been ushered in to see President Roosevelt with all courtesy and no delays. If anything, the growing threat of war in Europe, followed by its actual outbreak, had made his work even more vital.

The door opened. Finally.

"Mr. Hoover? The president will see you, now."

J. Edgar Hoover levered himself from the bench with an almost inaudible "hrumph" and walked into the Oval Office. He greeted the spectacled Roosevelt politely enough, and eyed Mr. Friedman. J. Edgar Hoover knew the Jewish gentleman, of course (he knew everyone) and knew Friedman's mathematical passions left little room for the more... physical sort. The man was happily married to a wonderful woman who shared his passions, and she had even proven quite useful to the FBI's pursuit of rumrunners during the '30s.

Now, Friedman avoided looking him in the eye, and Hoover felt the first hint of a chill. What could the SIS have discovered?

"Thank you for coming, on such short notice, Mr. Hoover. Would you like a cup of coffee?"

More chill. The word, "pleasant" never described Roosevelt's demeanor toward the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"No thank you, mister president. I understand you had a matter of some urgency to discuss?"

Cut to the chase. Get to the point, and then deal with it head-on.

"We do, Mr. Hoover. It has come to our attention that a security risk exists at the highest levels of this government. A risk this nation cannot tolerate, given the troubled times ahead."

"As director of the FBI, I am terribly concerned by this, Mr. President, and will do everything in my power to assist in this matter."

"I expected nothing less, Edgar. May I call you Edgar?"

The chill becomes an icicle, inserted from below.

"Certainly, sir. May I know the nature of this threat?"

"Not a threat, Edgar. At least, not yet. However, it could become one, should it be permitted to continue on its present course. It came as quite a shock, I must say, when Bill, here, delivered the information to me, earlier, today."

"Bill...? Mr. Friedman brought you this."

"Yes he did, Edgar. As you may know (but probably shouldn't), Friedman's people have monitored the radio traffic from our new celestial neighbors. Well, one of them, the United States on the future Earth, contacted the SIS directly, several months ago."

Cold dread.

"Did they? This Negro college professor they have as president informed us of a threat?"

"Not a threat, Edgar. Simply a risk, but one we cannot tolerate."

A long pause.

"What is the nature of this risk, if I may ask?"

"You certainly may, Edgar. Take a look."

Roosevelt slid a thick binder across his desk. With no hesitation, his guest picked it up and flipped open the cover. He stared at the first page, for a long moment.

The president's voice was surprisingly gentle.

"Bill tells me he'll soon be able to receive what he calls 'high-resolution photographs' that validate this information. He's also paper-clipped the most relevant sections. You may read them, if you like."

"I'm... I'm certain that will not be necessary, Mr. President."

"I'll need your resignation, Edgar, effective immediately. Mr. Tolson's, as well. You will both receive your pensions, and a quiet retirement with no fuss and no publicity, but the continued presence of the two of you in your current positions has become... untenable."

The director of the FBI looked up from the binder, lips pressed into a firm line, but his face pale. He no longer needed to see it. He would not soon forget the title page, J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets.

"I believe I can speak for Mr. Tolson when I say you shall have them in the morning, Mr. President."

"Thank you, Edgar. That will be sufficient."

The two men watched the FBI director depart, back stiff. The door clicked shut behind him, quietly.

"Are you certain that was the best way to handle this, Mr. President? The files he has...."

"It's a risk, Bill, I know. But the one thing that came through clearly in this biography is that, despite his... foibles, Mr. Hoover loves this country very much. So much, in fact, that he's willing to betray its principles in the name of defending it, and therein lies the rub. I don't think he'll use the files. In fact, I think your contact on the the future Earth is most likely correct. The most damaging ones will be gone, by morning."

"Well, sir, I hope you're right. Mr. Hoover never really struck me as the altruistic or forgiving sort. But, be that as it may, whom do you have in mind as a successor?"

"I've got a couple of ideas, Bill, but I need to kick 'em around, some more, and talk to Harry."

************************************************** ******
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"Some days, I just don't know what to think." -Daryl Dixon.

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Old 05-22-2013, 01:52 AM   #37
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New York Police Commissioner Ralph Weston checked his hat and coat and made his way into the Cobalt Club. It had been a long and exciting day, and he needed to unwind with a drink before he went home. The wife would sniff, but as long as he arrived early, Mrs. Weston wouldn't complain. Much.

Especially since the repeal of prohibition meant his presence at the club didn't threaten his political standing.

Not that it ever did, all that much. New York wasn't Chicago, but the Big Apple's ability to wink at slight contraventions was one of the city's most pleasant cultural traits. Besides, Mrs. Weston's social standing was in for a meteoric rise, in the near future, and that always put her in a forgiving mood.

"Well, hello, commissioner! Please, won't you join us?"

Of course, pleasant conversation always helped ease one's burdens, and the reason Monte and Margot were two of his oldest friends (How did they meet, again...?) was because they were such excellent listeners. Smiling, the New York police commissioner took the proffered chair.

"Thank you, Monty, I believe I will. The usual, please, Clevon."

"Right away, sir."

Margot smiled, and touched his arm in that delicate manner he found so appealing.

"Commissioner, I do believe congratulations are in order, if my little birds aren't all a-twitter over nothing."

"Your little birds are as astonishing as ever, my dear. Yes, we should make the official announcement, tomorrow morning, but the appointment has already made back-room rounds at the Capitol. The departure of my predecessor was met with such surprise and relief that I believe Mr. Roosevelt could have appointed John Dillinger to be the next director of the FBI, and won Senate approval. We anticipate no difficulty, on that score."

"Mrs. Weston will be so excited! When will the two of you depart for Washington?"

"I've already spent several days, there, Margot, and the two of us will travel there, by train, in two days. We'll need to pick out a residence, of course, and the briefings have already begun."

Weston patted his briefcase, and Margot's companion smiled with delight.

"Any juicy scandals in there, Weston?"

The commissioner chuckled.

"No, not at all, Monty. That was rather more the forte of my predecessor, actually, and I have better things to do than listen at bedroom keyholes. The rumors of war grow more dreadful, every day, and the FBI is charged with the responsibility for counter-intelligence. I shall have quite enough to do, without re-creating Mr. Hoover's library of secret files."

Weston waited until Clevon had brought the snifter of brandy and left, before he pulled out the packet of paperwork from the case. The soon-to-be former New York Police Commissioner sighed heavily, and the grooves on his face deepened.

"In the meantime, the FBI staff has begun to brief me on more prosaic matters. These are particularly disturbing. Apparently, what we thought was a random series of murderous assaults on young men and women of color may have a common thread."

Monty leaned forward, eyebrows arched with interest, and tried to get a peak at the report. Weston slapped the cover closed, and the younger man jerked back, looking slightly hurt.

"Oh, come on, commissioner! You can't just drop a bombshell, like that, and then not tell the story. Give!"

"Sorry, Monty. FBI business, you know. Don't even know why I mentioned it to an amateur detective such as yourself."

Margot cut in.

"Now, now! Monty, the commissioner came in here to relax a bit. I don't imagine he'll get to do much of that, in the foreseeable future, so why don't you give the poor man a break? Commissioner, I insist I must intrude on your wife's prerogatives, this once, and ask you for a dance!"

Weston's face lit up with a smile. He swallowed the last of his scotch with a gulp, stood up and offered his arm to the delighted Margot Lane. He walked her to the dance floor, the folder on the table temporarily forgotten.

Margot's companion slid it over, and flipped through the report. Monty glanced at each page, briefly (he needed no more than a quick glance...), returned the folder to the briefcase and locked it securely. After all, Weston might grow suspicious if he saw it left out, when he would clearly remember that he had stashed it, away, before he left the table.

************************************************** *****

Virginia lay cold and slushy, far to the north. However, winters in Mississippi seemed to mostly consist of day after day of cold, miserable rain.

At least, that was the understanding of the new director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This was his first trip south of the Mason-Dixon Line since his honeymoon in the Florida Keys, and that was 23 scorching Junes, ago.

The police chief of Greenwood, Mississippi, blinked in amazement as FBI Director Ralph Weston picked his way across the puddled street on the outskirts of town, toward the roadhouse reluctantly guarded by blue-clad officers huddled in their patrol cars. His men didn't want to be here. He didn't, either. If the FBI claimed this as their jurisdiction, then let them shiver in the rain.

Let them go inside and deal with that... mess. The chief had to meet with some of Greenwood's community leaders about all this. The local "gentlemen's club" would need to lay low.

Weston exchanged the required greetings to the sullen police chief, nodded to the uniformed officers, and then made his way to the door of the roadhouse. James Clarke, the special agent in charge, had apparently been watching for him, and met him, there, with a handshake.

"I'm surprised to see you here, director. This is a big mess, but I didn't think it warranted a flight down from Washington, in this weather."

"Normally, something like this wouldn't. Or, well, it might not. After I read your initial report, though, a few things jumped out at me."

Weston glanced at the Greenwood police chief out of the corner of his eye.

"Let's take this inside, shall we?"

"Well, alright sir. If you insist. You'll need paste under your nose, though. The corpses are gone but there was a lot of blood, and it doesn't get cold enough in Mississippi in March, to freeze things."

The two men made their way inside. The smell was bad. Weston had been around worse.

"So, what's the score, sir, if I may ask?"

"I wanted to double-check some of the finding in your report. I need to know if anything's changed."

"What do you mean? What parts?"

"Your report included detailed descriptions of the gunshot wounds on the victims."

Clarke swallowed, and the lines at the corners of his mouth deepened.

"Yes sir. Noticed that, did you?"

"Yeah. No more than three shots, each. Most only one. Every shot from one of two .45 caliber pistols, mostly likely M1911A1 auto-loaders. Every shot to the torso or the head. No wounds to extremities except those consistent with reflexive defensive moves, in the form of pass-through bullet wounds to the hands and lower arms."

Weston looked around the room, the floor criss-crossed with ghostly chalk outlines. He started to sigh, and then stopped before he gagged.

"No bullets lodged in walls or the floors, except those that passed completely through the bodies of the victims, or those fired by them. Every suspect .45 round matches a wound. That means no shots missed. Has that changed?"

"No. No, sir. It has not."

"What can you tell me about the victims? What do they have in common? Other than the fact they were all white men and were all slaughtered in a roadhouse bar with a Confederate battle flag on the wall?"

"It took us awhile, and we're still confirming, sir, but none of the locals are exactly forthcoming. However, our preliminary information seems to indicate they may have all been members of the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan."

"Is the chapter very active?"

"Records seem to indicate they are, sir. Or, they were. They had a particularly violent record. Beatings. Lynchings. The whole gamut."

"Yeah. Yeah. It fits."

"Fits what, sir?"

"I've seen this sort of thing before, on the New York waterfront. Individuals who met a particularly violent death who, when investigated, seemed to have particularly brutal pasts. Said death dealt out by no more than one or two people who demonstrate a level of murderous skill that borders on the... extraordinary."

Clarke's lips drew into a thin line.

"Yeah. Er, yes sir. I agree."

"My predecessor records similar incidents up and down the East Coast, and even a few cases over in California, especially around the docks of San Francisco. Also, the Chinatowns in New York and Los Angeles, starting about 10 years ago. He opened an 'Extraordinary Circumstances' file, about them."

"I... may have heard something about those files, sir. But this is nowhere near the coast, and there aren't any Chinamen anywhere near Greenwood, Mississippi. Do you think it's the same guy? Do you think it's... him?"

"If it is, what would you think of trying to catch him? Stop him?"

The muscles clenched in Clark's jaw.

"If we can, sir, we should. Vigilantes, especially ones this violent, need to be brought in. The only thing is, sir...."


"Well, the only thing is, sir, that if it is him, I'd want more men. I'd want an army. This man scares the hell out of me; out of anybody sane. He's worse than that guy in the cape. Much worse."

"I agree. Well. It may come to that. So, have you found anything else?"

"Yes, sir. The office in back has a wall-safe. It was well-hidden, but we found it open, and it had some documents."

"Tell me."

"There was a ledger book, sir. It has a list of names we don't recognize. Alongside each of the names were other names -- including the names of some of the victims who died, here."

"Get on it, Clarke. Work the list. Find them, for me. You can be sure that he's looking for them, too, and wherever they are, that's where he'll be."
MXLP:9 [JD=1, DK=1, DM-M=1, M(FAW)=1, SS=2, Nym=1 (nose coffee), sj=1 (nose cocoa), Maz=1]
"Some days, I just don't know what to think." -Daryl Dixon.

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Old 05-22-2013, 01:53 AM   #38
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Stupid teacher. Doesn't know nothin' 'bout nothin', Red thought sullenly, as he trudged through the Boston slush. He hated this place. He hated this city. He wanted to go home, 'cept that home wasn't there, no more.

"Red! Hey, Red!"

The sullen boy stopped, as Thomas came running up. The bigger boy was really strong, but he didn't move as fast as Red.

The strength came in handy, though. A white boy had called Thomas, "Uncle" one time. He'd missed school for the better part of a month, and Thomas had got expelled for the rest of the year. He and Red and been friends, ever since, though.

"Hey! What did that old bag have to say?"

Red scowled.

"She said I had to take a note to my mama. It says I ain't been studying, and I been makin' trouble, and she says my aunt needs to come see her."

"You gonna take it to yo' aunt?"

"Hell, no! She got enough to do, without talkin' to no cracker-jack school teacher who don't even talk English right! Ain't nobody can understand none of these white folks, up here in Roxbury."

Thomas' laugh ended abruptly, when his brains exploded out of the back of his skull. Red stared for what seemed forever but must've been only a second because he started to run just as the other boy's body started to crumple and the crack of the gunshot echoed down the street.

A brick exploded as he dodged down an alley. Jumped a fence to see the white pickup truck wheel around the corner, wheels screeching. Dodged through the vacant lot as a bee that wasn't a bee buzzed past his ear. Another alley and through the door of ol' man Greavey's grocery, shouts behind him. Another alley. Another lot. Through the door of his aunt's home.

Two white men in dark suits in his aunt's living room, jumping to their feet as he burst through the door.

Red's knees weak. He was gonna die. Right here, right now. Just like his daddy.

"Relax, boy. We aren't here to hurt you, or anybody else."

"Bull! You with them!"

"Them? Them who?"

Screeching tires outside. Broken glass as the front window exploded and one of the men in the dark suit went down, screaming, a red spot high on his shirt growing larger. Aunt Ella jumping on Red, pulling him to the floor, "Get down! Get down!" The other white man with a revolver in his hand (Where did he get that?) firing out the shattered window. The sound of tires screeching away. Shouts, the white man on the floor yelling, "Call it in! Call it in! I'm okay!"

More white men in black suits. Police, too. You and your family can't stay here, Mrs. Collins. Where will we go? Where will we go? Man in Baltimore. Attorney. Agreed to give you a safe place.

Train ride for a long, long day that passes in a haze. Not really thinking too good. Not really real. White men in black suits protecting them.

Protecting him.

The house in Baltimore was the nicest he'd ever seen. The furniture was new and comfortable. The rugs were clean and bright and not at all frayed. Everything smelled fresh and new.

Red looked around. Tried to be calm. Tried to look like he didn't care.

"Who lives here?"

"I do."

Red turned around, and blinked in shock at the face of the young black man in the white shirt and dark slacks, who looked as if he were trying to hold back laughter at something funny.

"Aw, there ain't no way."

"There is. This is my house. I own this place, and you aren't my only guests."

Voice deep and resonant. It would sing a good hymn. The words, though. They were crisp, no accent. A black man's voice speaking a white man's words. Not really real.

"How did you get a place like this? Did you kill somebody?"

"No, young man. I don't kill people. I'm an attorney, and I get paid good money to do a good job."

Red stood there and blinked like a rube, speechless for the first time in as long as he could remember. The attorney-man stuck out his hand.

"My name is Thurgood Marshall. I doubt your mama named you 'Red', though."

"No. Uh, no sir. I'm Malcolm. Malcolm Little."

************************************************** *****

Ralph Weston sat quietly in the comfortable chair, trying not to stare around the room, as the president of the United States sat across the desk from him, leafing through the report.

"So, all the names on the left side of the list were either colored boys in their teens, or young men of color with good educations and strong family backgrounds?"

"Yes, sir, Mr. President. Also, all of those people in the corresponding list to the right --at least those we've been able to find, alive -- have links to the Ku Klux Klan or other white defense groups, mostly in the south."

"Are there any connections between these boys on the left?"

"No, sir. Not that we've been able to discover and, honestly, it would've been strange had we found any. They ranged in age from 11 years old to nearly 30, and come from all sorts of backgrounds. The only things they have in common is the color of their skin, and the fact that some of them come from families active in civil rights agitation. However, none of them have any history of violence, save for that boy, Little. That's all schoolyard stuff, though."

"You said, "those we've been able to find, alive."

"Yes, Mr. President. Some of the names on the right have dropped out of sight. Most of them are dead, though. Murdered, we think, by the same individual in the same way. Gunshot wounds from one or two .45 caliber autoloading pistols, most likely some variation of the M1911A1."

"How did he find them, Mr. Weston? How did he know to look for these evil men?"

"I wish I could tell you that, sir. I've run across his work, once or twice in the past. Many of his victims have no record of criminal activity, but subsequent investigations almost always turn up evidence of brutal or depraved activities. Opium smuggling. Human trafficking. Worse things. And we have no idea how he finds them."

"Yet, nonetheless, he does."

"Yes, Mr. President. He does. However, there's another question -- something I didn't see, right away."

"Which is?"

"Why did his victims pick these particular coloreds? Mr. Marshall, maybe, makes sense. So does that Reverend King, down in Atlanta. But this boy, Little, is only 14 years, old, and that dead kid, Evers, was only 17, and they lived hundreds of miles, apart."

"I think they're students of history, Mr. Weston, or they received the names from someone who is such a student."

"Hist..? Oh. My God. You think someone on the Future Earth is sending them these names? The names of young colored men who may do something, in the future -- what would be our future?"

"Mr. Friedman thinks that, and I tend to agree. I think I'll have him contact my... colleague, in that Earth's Oval Office. Perhaps some of his people can find out who broadcast these names to our Klan."
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"Some days, I just don't know what to think." -Daryl Dixon.

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Old 05-22-2013, 06:52 AM   #39
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Oh, wow. This is good, tshiggins. It's brilliant. I especially like how you wrote it from the mundane perspective, rather than focusing on the supers.

It seems I'll need to start that Creative Writing thread on Spacebattles sooner rather than later.
Warning, I have the Distractible and Imaginative quirks in real life.

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Five Earths, All in a Row. Updated 9/28/2020: On Torture article has been posted.
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Old 05-22-2013, 07:18 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by Prince Charon View Post
Oh, wow. This is good, tshiggins. It's brilliant. I especially like how you wrote it from the mundane perspective, rather than focusing on the supers.

It seems I'll need to start that Creative Writing thread on Spacebattles sooner rather than later.
Thanks. It was already going to run long, and if I'd put in the blow-by-blow of things from Cranston's perspective, I'd have been writing all night. I also think this way evokes the reader's imagination (or at least, that's what I was trying for...), and may make it more dramatic.

It also demonstrates that the world isn't brightly four-colored, just because it has supers in it. Some of those pulp-magazine characters would have looked like psychopaths (heck, some of them were psychopaths) to those who stumbled across the aftermath of their "adventures."
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"Some days, I just don't know what to think." -Daryl Dixon.

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