Category Archives: Games and Recreation

Secret Service Code names

Surely, all of you know by now that Presidential candidates, as well as elected Presidents and Vice Presidents, get Secret Service code names.
The code names for Santorum and Romney have been leaked out:
I like to think of Secret Service Code names as the modern equivalent of Roman cognomens, the “third part” of a tripartite Roman name. Cicero, for example, is really Marcus Tullius’ cognomen. Ceasar was Gaius Julius’ cognomen. Not everyone got one, or earned one. And after a while, the cognomen became formalized, and so a second cognomen, the agnomen, was created.
(example: Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus)
Anyway, what would *you* pick if you had the chance to get a Secret Service code name. For you writer types, what would your characters pick?
Me, personally, I’d either go classical and pick something Roman based (Cicero would not be a bad choice, really, he’s a hero to me) or something mythological. Griffin, possibly. 🙂

A Harry Connolly type hypothetical

On his blog, author Harry Connolly poses intriguing hypothetical questions
(Here is an example:
I thought of one today…
A device is perfected to give you the memory of a two-week vacation, anywhere and anywhen. You want the memory of a two week trip to Ancient Rome, circa 100 AD? You got it. Hawaii, 100 B.C. and you the only human there? Done! It would be accurate and real.
The trick is, you don’t have any physical proofs of your visit, and there is a 1/1000 chance of permanent and irreparable brain damage. Because of that, you can only do it *once*.
Do you do it? And where would you pick to go?

Gumshoe and the Internet

GUMSHOE, and the Internet
Jerry Pournelle, a few decades ago, mentioned that by the year 2000, it would be possible to find out just about anything one wanted to know, with the rise of electronic media and information. He was pretty much on target with that, although I don’t think you can say he predicted the form that would take–the Internet.
This point came to light to me in a Play by Email game turn in my newest game, Return of the Titans. The game is set in the modern day, April 2011. Thus, the player characters have all of the advantages
One of the player characters, having received a mysterious invitation, immediately went to Google to try and figure out more about it. It’s trivial today to google something and get some information. The further you go back in time, the more difficult such research would have been.
And then I started thinking about Gumshoe. Gumshoe is a system created by Pelgrane Press and is used in a number of their games:
Using a “point spend” system, the GUMSHOE rules revolutionize investigative scenarios, by ensuring that players are never deprived of the clues they need to move the story forward.
What does one have to do with the other? Think about it. In a modern game, unless you really run a railroad, player characters are in a modern age with the Internet. General information gathering is now a *given*, just like it is in the GUMSHOE system. It might take time and effort (read: Point spend) to find esoteric and really obscure stuff, but the technology of the Internet is a powerful lever for clues.
If you remember the heyday of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”, after a while, people would phone a friend only to have them quickly google a potential answer. I understand that the latest rules of the game actually incorporate an internet search engine into the game.
Thus, my point is, for an investigative game set in the modern day, there is something to be said for using a point buy system a la Gumshoe than having players stumble around because of a failed roll.

Return of the Titans

The Return of the Titans
A modern day mythic PBEM.
Greek and Norse Mythology
Ilium and Olympos, Dan Simmons
Prospero Lost and Prospero in Hell, L Jagi Lamplighter
Mortal Coils and All that Lives Must Die, Eric Nylund
Roleplaying Games:
FATE, in the Dresden Files Role Playing Game
GURPS Technomancer
Trail of Cthulhu
Amber Diceless RPG
Clash of the Titans
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds
With those words spoken at the Trinity bomb test on July 16, 1945, Julius Robert Oppenheimer spoke more truthfully than he knew. The power of the Trinity bomb, combined with the ritual words that Oppenheimer spoke, drastically accelerated a process that had been slowly occurring over the last thousand years:
The freedom of the Titans.
Untold Eons ago, before time itself existed, the chthonic, inhuman, ancient forces known as the Titans created the multiverse, or, perhaps, merely emerged from it. In either case, they and theirs were the original rulers of the Earth and worlds beyond, and ruled for an uncounted period of years, until they were overthrown and imprisoned by their children and creations, the Gods and Goddesses of the Mythologies of the World. The Titans and their spawn fought against the Gods and their children, heroes and demigods sired upon the mortals of Earth. Many of the stories of their struggles survive as myths we know today. In the end, the Gods and their children won, and the Titans were imprisoned.
Their victory complete, the Gods and Goddesses for the most part retired to explore and rule the Otherworlds that they won in addition to the Earth. The Titans were safely in their prison of Malfeas, or so the Gods believed. The Age of Gods and Heroes was over.
In Europe and the Middle East, the absence of the deities of the Celtic and Greek pantheons from widespread activity in the world lead to the decline of their faiths, and the rise of the Abrahamic creeds. In other parts of the world, the inattention of the Hindu, Japanese and Chinese pantheons led to the development of faiths such as Buddhism. In the Americas, the pantheons of the Native Americans still received worship until European colonization forcibly ended the practices on any significant scale.
The Gods relative inattention to Earth finally stopped in the twentieth century, as they learned that the Titans were trying to find ways to escape Malfeas. They had been twisted, crippled and neutered, yes, but they were still potent, and worked with force and craftiness against their fate.
They had not escaped in body, yet, but had, for some time, perhaps as long as several hundred years, managed to send out their creations and spawn to Earth, and beyond.
All of these monsters, demons and beings were set toward the task of freeing their masters from their long imprisonment, and so help the Titans revenge themselves on their children and their children’s children.
While the Gods had paid only sometimes fleeting attention to Earth, on their visits to Earth, they had, as in the myths of old, found liaisons with mortals. Their children, the Scions, often found that by their half-divine nature, trouble would find them, whether they wished it or not. This trouble often came from the machinations of the Titans and their spawn, or from rival Gods and their children. With the Trinity test, the seals on Malfeas have weakened to a fatal point, and now the Titans threaten to escape their bondage entirely. Perhaps some of them already have.
In this modern age, with the Titans breaking free of Malfeas, Gods and Goddesses have sought liaisons in a more deliberate manner, to sire or birth children upon the world.
Further, they have sought ties to their children, to both arm them against the Titans spawn and agents, and against their rivals both within and beyond their pantheons
Finally, the Scions are intended to help swell the numbers on the Gods’ side for the long prophesied battle between the Gods and their twisted Titanic parents:
In the PBEM Return of the Titans you will play a child of one of the Gods and Goddesses of mythology in the modern world. Thrust from an ordinary existence into a greater world, what will you do with the power given to you? How will it change you? How will it change those you care about? How will it change the world?
Can you stop the Titans from overthrowing your parents and remaking the world in their own twisted image? Can you become a Goddess yourself?


From a conversation between William, son of Flora, and Shannon, daughter of Fiona.
He pauses, watching his cousin, then says, “A Spikard.”
Shannon’s eyes widen in surprise and shock. Given how very quiet the
room is, William
can hear the catch in her breath, too. Fiona’s daughter is trying to
modulate her response, but
she’s not quite as good as her mother, yet.
She finishes her port, decisively.
“A Spikard” she says, once she has done so. “I didn’t realize she had
anything to do with THEM. None
of what I’ve read and learned hinted at it. She’s a sorceress, of
course, and a very good one. She built the Palatinate Safehold in
Begma. Bound Jacint,
the Demon of Roads, to stop an attempt by Adorjan of House Helgram to
forge what we might today call a Black Road. I came across
this reference, too, to an Archipelago of Shadows she supposedly
molded and linked together. But Spikards, William? No.”
William nods agreement. “The impression I received was that she was
concerned that its protections might be weakening, not necessarily
that she had anything to do with it herself.” He shrugs. “But I am
not about to make any judgment at all about a previously unknown Aunt.
There is simply too much I do not know.”
“We don’t know” Shannon clarifies.
“That goes for us as well” Devaine says. “Although I suspect we will
learn more than we expected, by the time this business is done.”
“Did she tell you which Spikard?” Shannon asks.
“Chromatic, the Spikard of Light,” William answers her. “Have you heard of it?”
“Some” Shannon says. “Its one of the portable Spikards. Master of
Light, Illusions, and Perceptions. A ferociously dangerous spell
engine, William.”
William nods grimly. “And like to find someone powerful enough to
wield it, ambitious enough to want the power it promises, and fool
enough to not realize that it is certain doom to anyone insane enough
to use it.”
“Mother has put some thought into trying to undo them.” Shannon says.
“Unfortunately, she has come
to the conclusion that while it might be possible, it could be a cure
worse than the disease.”
“What does that mean?” Valric says.
“It means” Shannon says “The Spikards were made and constructed, in
some part, to tame rogue and out-of-control Shadow Powers, Powers that
were Old when the Pattern was drawn. And to undo a Spikard would be
to unleash that Power upon the universe again, with *no* safeguards.
The Spikards are a very imperfect way
to bind those Powers…but unless someone comes up with a better
binding, the alternative to it is worse. We must see to its binding.”
“Now you know” Shannon says to William “what nightmares my mother, my
brother, uncle and I sometime have. And why Sand and Delwin are so
dangerous. Even Uncle Brand wasn’t crazy enough to try and meddle with
the Spikards, except for one.”
“I think I need more port, please, cousin.” Shannon adds.