One of the players in my virtual Everway game at U-Con last weekend asked what was different about running Everway virtually, and was it more difficult to run Everway online?
That's a really interesting question.
My biggest fear in preparing to run Everway online was character creation. I was able to address this issue by creating a form-fillable version of the ready-to-run heroes in the Players' Book. There's really an embarrassment of riches when it comes to signature characters in Book I, and the publishers of the new edition had the brilliant idea to publish the characters as almost complete: they are missing the third of three images, and the brief narrative that appears under that image.
To prepare my games, I have created a folder with a lot of different fantasy images from different sources the internet. I invite players to select an image that speaks to them, and then to figure out what it stands for or illustrates with respect to completing the character's background.
Then we do 2-3 Questions per character.
All of this takes about 45 minutes with a group of 3-4 players online. It creates a very cohesive set of player characters and establishes a holding environment for the game of mutual respect and interest in each other's characters.
This is time well-spent in a virtual game, and probably works out similarly in-person.
Con of the North, one of the larger gaming conventions in the upper Midwest, will be happening February 18-20. The convention will have both in-person and virtual tracks. I plan to run several games in the virtual track, one of which is Everway-Silver Anniversary Edition.
My game is scheduled for 8 AM-12 Noon on Saturday, February 19th. I'll be using the convention's Discord server for all of my games. The time is kind of early, which is OK with me, and probably works well for some international gamers.
This is the blurb for the Everway quest I'll be running at virtual ConFABulous, on Sunday, November 7, 1-4 PM:
Everway-Silver Anniversary Edition RPG : "The Quest for the Queer Sphere"- You play Spherewalkers with the ability to use gates to walk between worlds in this multicultural, mythic, high fantasy RPG. Out now in a new edition via Kickstarter, Everway uses a Tarot-like Fortune Deck to determine the results of character actions. The focus is on narrative and story. Rules are easy to learn.
ConFABulous is a gaming convention for LGBTQ+ people and their friends. ConFABulous is 100% virtual this year. As well as RPGs, there will be a single track of high quality panels on topics of interest to gamers and fans of SF&F, horror, and comics.
The entire convention schedule (panels and games) is here.
To play in the game, you will need to register for ConFABulous, here. Registration is free. Then, you will need to email email@example.com and indicate that you want to play in this specific game session.
The game will be played on the ConFABulous Discord server.
The convention schedule has also been published on the convention website.
Although the panels are all on Saturday, November 6, there are enough cool RPGs that we decided to open up gaming for both November 6 and 7!
I had a great time running Everway-Silver Anniversary Edition as part of the virtual game track at Gamehole Con 2021 last night. It was a great experience. The PCs had an adventure in the Realm of Fire's Wall, one that I explored for the first time earlier in the year with my home game group. While in my earlier campaign, the Realm of Fire's Wall was mainly a starting point to bring a new group of adventurers together, last night the PCs solved a fundamental mystery/problem in that realm.
They did great with the adventure, and found that a bit of violence actually helped move things toward a solution. This felt like a bit of a surprise for the players, but each of them chose Spherewalkers who had histories of violence, so it kind of made sense.
That being said, the violence was of the "last resort" type, in the face of an inflexible adversary who was doing real damage to the realm.
To prepare for the game, I created form-fillable versions of the sample characters from the Player's Book. Careful readers of the book will note that these are the signature characters and mostly complete sheets, except that the third image tied to the character's story is blank, as is the space under the image for players to create a brief narrative interpreting the image's relevance for the character's story.
It's great that the third picture and narrative detail are blank, as that creates a great way to pull the players into co-creation of their stories. So I made the third picture and narrative block form-fillable to support that ideation.
I provided about 20 PDF/PNG images in a Vision Card folder (including the one up above) for players to select an image that called to them. I collected these from various online art sources. Once everyone had an image, I had players introduce their characters and say something about why they selected that image, and how it related to the PC's story. Then we entered a Questions phase, in which players asked each other questions about the images and their significance for the characters, digging deeper.
This worked really well, the players were clearly engaged with the process and their characters, which set the stage for a great, character-driven game. This activity took about 45 minutes, but it was time well invested and enjoyable for everyone.
I'll be using this technique again for convention scenarios.
More than 25 years ago, Wizards published an RPG with three booklets in a white box. Everway reinvented fantasy gaming, taking things to a mythic level in which you play Spherewalkers exploring the Multiverse. Characters were created using Vision Cards, and a Tarot-like Fortune Deck was the tool for resolving character and NPC actions. At the center of everything is the great City of Everway, the city with the greatest number of gates to other Spheres in the Multiverse. Now back in a new Silver Anniversary edition, this is your chance to experience this unique and visionary RPG for yourself! Visit everwayan.blogspot.com for more about the game and the setting. Game will be run on the convention Discord server.
I'm working on two Everway convention scenarios for October (virtual, and the details on the Gamehole Con scenario will follow in tomorrow's post), so that means I am in the ideation stage and creating new Realms. I pulled four image cards from my collection to get a sense of the Realm, and things that might happen in it.
The uppermost card on the left is from a Frank Frazetta art card deck and was never part of the Everway decks. It has great atmospherics, and the background details include rather succubus-like harpies, or harpy-like succubi.
It's interesting that the male figure is completely naked except for his sword (no symbolism there at all, move along!). The female figures are naked as well. The male is crossing water. Is this a ritual activity, perhaps even a rebirth?
Key questions that this card provokes for me include: Who are the women? What wisdom or gift does the man seek from them? What will he sacrifice to gain what he needs?
The next image, V10 by Janine Johnston, has an interesting question on the back asking: "What is the woman facing a different direction from the person leading the camel?"
I'm less concerned about the presence of the camel (the two final images are pretty Greek/Cretan, maybe) but what the question underscores is countermovement, maybe connected to the Fortune Card that I drew for this Realm's Fault: Law - Inverted: Treachery...
The next card, by Roger Raupp, is S1/71, a Spherewalker Source Card. It shows two wrestling men. Perhaps there is a connection between these two men and the first card? What is that relationship?
The final card, V24 by Roger Raupp, shows a man trapped in a labyrinth. A robed figure with a staff and a bull's skull is also in the labyrinth. A vulture looks down at the trapped man, patiently awaiting its meal. The card asks: "Who put this man in the labyrinth and why?"
I drew a Virtue, Fault, and Fate for the Realm as well. You can see the difference in size and detail between the original Fortune Deck cards and their counterparts in the Deluxe Fortune Deck!
Each Deluxe card is marked with a number on the upper left, denoting that the card is part of Tier 4 of the Fortune Deck (Tier 4 is Seasons). This is new, and I like seeing how the cards relate to each other. On the upper right (admittedly hard to see on this card) is the Roman numeral X, which is the number assigned to the card in the Fortune Deck. So if you want to store your deck with the cards in numerical sequence, progressing from highest to lowest Tier of the Walker's Pyramid, you can!
Along the left side of the card are also icons representing what elements this card is tied to, as well as the astrological signs relevant to the card. This again makes relationships between elements of the Fortune Deck more explicit. The zodiac signs will also be useful when adjudicating Star River Magic.
So the Virtue is Winter: Maturity. I think this means that the Realm is an old one, previously stable and well-established. Since the element is water, that reinforces the Greek/Cretan connection for me a bit. Islands and sea trade are important here. The camel headed in the opposite direction of the woman in V10 may really be a ship.
Since the Realm's Virtue is tied to the element of Water and that Virtue card signifies maturity, the Realm's name is Eldersea.
With respect to the other Fortune Cards, as noted above we have Law - Inverted: Treachery as the Realm's Fault, and Trickery - Deceit vs. Subterfuge Revealed as the Realm's Fate.
Its Fault is tied to the elements of Air and Earth, and its Fate is tied to the elements of Air and Fire. Perhaps all this treachery and deceit is due to a conspiracy linked to those three elements. It is also noteworthy that the Fault and Fate cards represent deities - a god of knowledge, law, and magic, and a trickster god.
My Everway-Silver Anniversary Edition game has posted for Gamehole Con's virtual game track. The link to the event description is here. The game is slotted for Saturday, October 23, from 6-10 PM.
I had a great time running virtual RPGs at Gamehole Con last year, and am really looking forward to it this year. Anyone, anywhere can register to play. The admission fee for the virtual con is $20, which is very reasonable considering the scale, care, and level of organization behind this convention.
Go here to register for the convention; registration is open now! Sign up for events starts on Sept. 1 (Wednesday)! Events fill-up fast so if you want in, sign up as soon as you can!
The scenario is called "Everway: The Great Return".
Here is the event blurb:
More than 25 years ago, Wizards published an RPG with three booklets in a white box. Everway reinvented fantasy gaming, taking things to a mythic level in which you play Spherewalkers exploring the Multiverse. Characters were created using Vision Cards, and a Tarot-like Fortune Deck was the tool for resolving character and NPC actions. At the center of everything is the great City of Everway, the city with the greatest number of gates to other Spheres in the Multiverse. Now back in a new Silver Anniversary edition, this is your chance to experience this unique and visionary RPG for yourself! Visit everwayan.blogspot.com for more about the game and the setting.
Here's a hit about what you might encounter in this scenario:
This fall, I will have at least one other virtual Everway game at a convention: ConFABulous. This Minneapolis convention was scheduled to be in-person, but due to the Delta variant, we have pivoted to running a virtual convention. We will be using a different date than the one published for the in-person convention. Date and scheduling information will be available soon, and I will share that here.
Yesterday, my Deluxe Fortune Deck arrived for Everway Silver Anniversary Edition. I'll actually open the box a bit later, but for today I am sharing the form factor and appearance of the box. The cards themselves are probably about twice as large as the original Fortune Deck cards. They will be a lot easier to see around the game table, and MUCH easier to share in an online game, by holding the card up to the camera. Just imagine how great they must look out of the box!
The deck box is very similar in size to the box for a standard Tarot deck. The Fortune Deck works in analogous ways to a Tarot deck, including:
Quick one-card draws for fast, decisive resolutions in-game;
Serial one-card draws for blow-by-blow resolutions in an extended conflict;
Divinatory spreads to determine particularly complex in-game outcomes;
Generative spreads to create new realms or scenarios
Exploratory spreads to discover the deep-structures and conflicts affecting particular realms, spheres or spherepaths; and
Personal spreads, used out-of-game for personal divination, reflection, and meditation
The box will be easier to open, due to the side notches. I like the icon of the Walker's Pyramid. The lettering reminds me of RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, so it evokes other settings that I have loved for decades. The box needs to be wider than the original Fortune Deck would have required because it contains more than the original 36 Fortune Deck cards: there is also a 41 card Season Deck within the box. Divided into four suits, these cards expand on the Fortune Deck adding the dimension of time and additional setting flavor - a suitable Minor Arcana for the 36 "majors."
I might add that the box has a very nice matte finish.
Over the next week we'll unbox the box (as it were) and begin to explore things we can do with this new set of cards.
We're now past page 1,603 in this Chinese epic martial novel. In Vol. 3 of Outlaws of the Marsh, the scope of the action broadens significantly, from the individual and small scale melee clashes of Volumes 1 and 2, to predominantly large scale battles involving fortified villages, towns, and cities. Similarly, the targets of the outlaws' covert operations also shift toward larger targets, including the Eastern Capital of Kaifeng.
It took me slightly longer to read this volume (close to 40 days), as I had a few other books I was reading at the same time. The story continues to engage and entertain however.
A few things stand out in this volume:
Chivalrous values continue to trump realpolitik: when extremely competent enemy commanders (officials of the Chinese state) surrender, their respectful treatment by Song Jiang, the supreme chieftain of the outlaws, often compels them to join the outlaws' cause. Virtue wins out.
Song Jiang has a propensity to offer the supreme role to conquered commanders who join the outlaws. He does this repeatedly. Eventually, his veteran chieftains get really irritated by this, and threaten to quit if Song Jiang doesn't cease and desist from trying to yield the supreme role to others. [Incidentally, if I were to run my own martial arts campaign based on Outlaws, which I am tempted to do, I might begin it with an "Empty Fortress" scenario, in which the outlaw chieftains all quit, and everyone leaves in frustration with Song Jiang. It is up to the PCs to rebuild the grand rebel alliance, or do something new and different.]
The outlaws' opposition are an interesting bunch and include a commander who is a fire specialist, another who is a water specialist, another who is a master of the devastating (and perhaps legendary and impractical) chained cavalry tactic, as well as a master of the twin iron rod combat technique, and yet another who is an expert at throwing stones (!). [I actually checked my copy of Righteous Blood, Ruthless Blades to see if that RPG has a stone throwing martial arts technique, but it doesn't. We'll probably be eventually creating one.]
The number of female combatants increases from two to three, as Sun Erniang, the Witch, joins Hu Sanniang, Ten Feet of Steel, and Mistress Gu, the Tigress. There is at least one battle in which they team up as a unit, and Mistress Gu also takes part in covert action inside a city under siege by the outlaws.
Chapter 71 comes very late in the volume (and around p. 1500 in the novel), but feels very much like a formalization of everything that has happened previously. After a major victory, Song Jiang convenes his chieftains for a supernatural ritual in their fortress on Mt. Liang, formalizing membership and governance among the outlaw chieftains, and assigning military and other duties to the heroes. The outlaws essentially instantiate a rebel government in a liberated zone. The narration lists the 36 stars of the Heavenly Spirts and 72 stars of the Earthly Fiends, which roughly sorts the heroes by status. During the ritual, the actual "list" falls from heaven inscribed on a stone, so the heroes and their government are divinely ordained to restore dignity, order, and justice to the imperial government.
We'll end with a quote from Chapter 72, when Song Jiang and close associates go undercover to see the lantern festival in the Eastern Capital (Kaifeng). They visit the home of one of the Emperor's favorite concubines. She serves our heroes tea, and the narrative describes the tea leaves as:
"finer than bird's tongues, [and] the brew was as fragrant as dragon's saliva."
Tonight was the fifth session of our Everway game, and the session started with the PCs arriving in a sphere with a mysterious red and gold comet (with moving parts; perhaps an orrery?) in the night sky, as well as a full moon.
The environment was fresh, wet, flat. Green, even in the darkness, with frog and cricket sounds.
The PCs spotted a large, city-sized object in the distance, sort of a bowl below, with a dome overhead. The approach. Human figures dart out of the way, and stay evasive.
The dome is made of a purplish-white material: porcelain. The PCs find a set of gates; the knock. A gatekeeper answers the door, invites them in.
Part of the porcelain dome has cracked, and fallen into the Purple City [this is where Whiskers said he hailed from]. This disaster happened in the last day. The gatekeeper says that the city is dangerous; a rebellion against the Cat Lords is underway. Barricades have formed. Humans have rebelled against their cat masters.
The party encounters a group of rebels, and clamber over the barricades to one of their headquarters. This group of rebels is led by a bloody-handed human named Blood; this is a new name. The rebel humans have renamed themselves that day.
The rebels have have books and scrolls that have been plundered from various wizards towers of the cats of the Purple City. There are a number of charm and illusion scrolls among the books. One text appears to be about the architecture of the city and its towers, but as Pahoeho spends time with this book, he suspects that it is a magical text about Air magic and teleportation. He later confirms that this text is also about gate magic, specifically air gates. Jumping off towers is one way to spherewalk. At one point the rebels also mention that there are winged cats in the city; some have feathery wings while other have leathery ones.
None of the locals have heard of Everway. Farming is a new concept to them. Pahoeho and Tom strongly suggest they learn how to farm. The Purple City was surrounded by deserts just a day ago, before the comet arrived. Conditions are good for farming now; the surrounding lands are lush. How did the city get food in the past, the PCs ask: from sludge grown below the city, and mushrooms and other fungi. The food is flavored with imported spices from across the desert. It is just OK.
Percy decides to use spirit magic to search for the human No Whiskers. He looks for a low Air person. There are a LOT of them around in the cats' towers. There are still cats in the city. Instead, he searches for other groups of humans who are high Air. Percy finds a group in one of the cat towers.
The PCs go to that tower. Osbert's magical sword Demonsbane begins pointing the way to the tower - an omen of things to come. The tower gate is closed and no one within responds to Pahoeho's knocking. Tom uses his magic to summon a rebac, and plays a rebel song that stirs up the crowd to bash in the tower gate.
The PCs go in, and ascend the tower. Up, up, up, to a room where a summoning ritual is underway. In the center of the ritual space is a chiming, pulsating mass from which spikes push out in all directions: a demon! Osbert charges the demon with his sword. He strikes well, but the demon is stronger: Osbert takes a wound from the demon's dark energies while his sword, Demonsbane is stuck in the demon.
Tom uses his musical magic to disrupt the demon's song. Pahoehoe taps on the shoulder of one of the summoners to distract them and hopefully weaken the summoning. Osbert plunges his sword even further into the flesh of the demon, as its pulsating mass forms numerous delightful lips to tempt and distract him. The sword plunges completely through the demon's mass, and into a wall on the opposite side of the tower wall.
Meanwhile, Pahoeho uses his Forge of Earth magic to reshape and ignite some of the stone flooring into a giant flaming glob of Earth. Pahoeho is immune to fire. He hurls the flaming stone glob at the demon, which explodes UP, blowing the top off the tower. Everyone flees.
Osbert heroically saves one of the summoners, pulling them to safety, and leaving Demonsbane behind. The heroes reassemble outside the tower, Tom performs a song about Bad Ideas - like summoning demons as anti-Cat Lord weapons of mass destruction. Such tactics can ruin revolutions. Tom uses Star River magic to teleport Demonsbane out of the tower and back into Osbert's hands.
Osbert discovers that the sword has a new pictograph on it: one which resembles the demon. It is hot to the touch. Apparently Demonsbane has a memory! New information for Osbert!
Osbert relates the story of his order of warriors, and its matriarchal rules of sword inheritance.
There is a BOOM from the outskirts of the city dome, and a huge chunk of porcelain wall comes flying in. Many are injured by flying porcelain shards. Pahoeho uses his healing magic to save many, transforming porcelain into flesh.
In march the dog-warriors, and an uncertain occupation begins.
Will the adventures of our heroes continue?
A couple of the inspirations for this, and the previous session include the Cat Lords of the Violet City, from Luka Rejec's The Ultraviolet Grasslands, and the magical porcelain dome from Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett's delightful novel, Havemercy.
Tonight's game took place entirely within the Library of All Worlds, and took a really bold turn. The action picked up where it left off last time, with Percy talking with some scribes about his home sphere, while Tom was in deep conversation with another scribe about music, and the Library's collections.
Pahoeho, meanwhile, was in the Library gift shop. He browsed the various wares there, and soon noticed another odd shopper.
Her appearance is rather odd. She either has extreme pallor, or her makeup is really caked on. It's probably the latter, as some tattoos are just visible on her face under the white. And then there's her amber eyes...
He greets Pahoeho, and flirts a bit. She calls him handsome, and asks if he's a Spherewalker. He says yes, having most recently visited Fire's Wall, and brags of being immune to flames. The young woman snaps her fingers, and a flame appears. She touches it to his hand and Pahoeho doesn't flinch a bit.
The Scratch sales clerk quickly says: "No open flames in the Library."
The young lady snaps her fingers again, and the flame goes out.
Pahoeho asks her name, and what she's doing in the Library.
The young lady's name is Shattered Tower. (Pahoeho internalizes this as Crashed Tower; that's what he calls her later in the game.) Pahoeho recognizes Tower as the last name of an Everwayan family, introduces himself as Pahoeho Sun (another Everwayan family). Shattered Tower gestures toward the hand drawn handbills she is leaving in a few places in the gift shop. The handbills invite people to attend the Woke Forum tonight, when the drumming starts at the Wattle and Dub, one of the wattle and daub dwellings in Strangerside.
Isn't the Woke Forum the group supporting the whole Year King initiative? Pahoeho asks Shattered what she thinks of the whole Year King thing. She rejoins that "It's better than being ruled forever by the Emeralds." Pahoeho replies: "Isn't the Year King an Emerald?" Shattered Tower says "Kind of, but not really."
Shattered Tower hands Pahoeho one of the handbills: "You should come."
Pahoeho decides to leave the gift shop after seeing Shattered Tower shoplift some reading glasses. She goes deeper into the Library. He goes out to a wine bar in eyeshot of the Library. He'll keep a lookout for her when she leaves. [Later, he does see Shattered Tower leave, with quite the stack of books. Generally speaking, removing books from the Library is #NotPermitted.]
Meanwhile Percy wants to find out where the cat Whiskers, and his human, No Whiskers, went. The young warrior, Osbert Haukmune, goes along with Percy. They go up a few levels in the library, and find a quiet place near some grandiose, well-guarded doors. Percy does some spirit scrying and goes into a trance.
There are a lot of spirits here; there is a spirit on practically every shelf in the Library. Percy can hear their intonations, their recitations of favorite texts. (These are Shelf-Bound Spirits.)
Percy scries for the cat, but picks up another disturbance: one of the Shelf-Bound Spirits, a few stacks away, has begin shouting the records it guards: census records, names of Everwayans long past. The disturbance spreads: the guards leave the grandiose doorway they were guarding. There are other sounds: tearing, grinding of paper. Munching sounds. Falling books, book chains rattling, scroll cases clattering onto the Library's tiled flooring.
Whiskers and No Whiskers are at the grandiose doorway. The doors gear open. They step through. The doors close and gears click and whirr and lock in place.
Percy calls for help. A librarian comes, begins to shout for help himself. More guards come. The guards all fall with gruesome, terrible wounds. The tearing, grinding sounds continue, as Osbert draws his sword and approaches the noise. Books open themselves in mid air, scrolls unfurl. Pages disappear in chunks. Munching, grinding.
More guards arrive, and a Librarian-Sorcerer (some badass from the Acquisitions, no doubt) begins casting a spell. Terrible creatures suddenly materialize. Big, blind silvery bugs are consuming the books and scrolls. One bug begins chanting and gesticulating, and a rough-edged chiming oval gateway appears.
The chiming disturbs Tom, who has been deep in the Music galleries of the library (poetry; musical theory; recorded music on scrolls, playable on special lecterns; countless musical instruments from the Million Spheres). The player-lecterns resonate from the gateway's chiming and the alarums of the shelf-bound spirits. Tom pursues the source of the sound, and discovers his friends.
The Thysanurians have escaped through the ovoid gate. The only remaining trace of their gate is a fissure suspended in midair. The dust of consumed books and scrolls mixes with the fallen guards' blood on the tile floors. Osbert helps with the clean-up. Ape-like creatures emerge from service doors and remove the bodies.
Eventually all of the party comes together by the grandiose, gear-locked doors. The twin Librarian Administrator-Scribes, Spiral Scratch and Circular Scratch, attend to the party. The PCs ask how the doors can be opened? "It requires a key" the Scratch brothers say. "Who has the key?" the PCs ask. "There are three keys: one is in the possession of the High Pontifex of the Chamber Platinum, one with the Emerald King, and one with the High Priest of Lord Hermanubis. None are available at the moment."
Tom uses his magic to summon a musical instrument. He summons a clavicembalo and begins to play.
The gearing turns and moves, and the doors open. Beyond the doors it is dark, illuminated only by a shaft of moonlight and by stars. (It is daytime.)
The PCs enter the chamber beyond the door. It is a small round space. The doors close. it remains dark except for the moonlight which illuminates the cast iron staircase which ascends up the tower.
Pahoeho takes the lead, followed by Tom, then Percy, and finally Osbert. Flashes of heat lightning far above, the smell of ozone as they ascend, flashes of Fortunes as they ascend the steps.
Each step is a grating. Looking down through the slats, the staircase goes down infinitely. And so it also goes up.
Pahoeho Sun, a son of Everway, recalls the legend of the Stepwise, a royal staircase that one must ascend in order to become King.
There are three great flashes of lighting and three Fortunes ring out with thunder:
A CAT'S MIAO.
And the PCs are in another world.
Thysanurians were created by Jim and Jody Garrison of Hereticwerks, and are used with their permission. Thysanurian image by Jim Garrison.
Does the Library of All Worlds have a gift shop? Of course it does! The Library of All Worlds receives guests from all over the Million Spheres. Expect the pricing to be unreasonable, as in any museum gift shop. Some of the items sold will even be the genuine article.
This is a sample of goods for sale:
Left hand amulet with a heart symbol in the palm - helps the wearer find the book that is their heart's desire
Right hand amulet with an eye in the palm - helps the wearer find books hidden out of sight
Fine papyrus paper, blank
Fine blades/abrasives for sharpening styluses
Bookmarks of all kinds (thick, thin, organic, inorganic)
Various book dusting implements, cloths, etc.
Book locks, chains, book frames and binders - everything to imprison a text
Fine scroll cases
Weatherproofed scroll cases
Paperweights (metal, jewels, stone) - symbols of deities, planets, Fortunes
Paperweights that prevent spirit-scrying
Warding items (charm-plaques) to protect libraries from spiritual intrusions, theft, and invasions
"Birds of Roundwander" -guide/checklist
"Lizards and Amphibians of Roundwander" -guide/checklist
"The Grand and All-Inclusive Bestiary of Fourcorner"
"Legendary Creatures of the Million Spheres" by Ulric Seen-It-All
"The Great Book of the Library" by Hermes Branch Crookstaff
"A Guide to the Library of All Worlds" - annotated map, possibly out-of-date
"A History of the Chamber Platinum, Including Biographies of Illustrious Founders and Travellers Among the Million Spheres" by Stacks Scratch
"That's Pretty Well It: A Guide to the Art of Hosting" by Allready Host
"Cuisine of the Million Spheres" by Alltrythat Host
"The Book of Emerald Bindings"
Numerous small vials of seeds from the Great Gardens
"A Treatise on the Gods and Fortunes"
Figurines of the various gods and goddesses of knowledge
Reading glasses of various sizes, magnifications, styles, and shapes; tinted lenses, clear lenses, etc.
Reading glasses for reading the texts buried within palimpsests
Reading glasses that convert characters to numbers according to varied cyphers; these are sold in pairs
That evening in Strangerside, Tom summoned and then played The Serpent. Its sound made it impossible for Percy three floors up in The Salt Mill to continue his efforts toward sleep. Percy through on a nightrobe and descended to the main floor where Tom was performing. Pahoeho forms a conga line, there is more drinking, and Percy, Tom, and Pahoehe retire late.
Percy sleeps surprisingly well, but our Spherewalkers have hangovers. Tom, Pahoeho, and Percy order the Strangerside equivalent of Bloody Marys with breakfast. Then they head to the Walker's Pyramid to see the sights, and learn what they can about this whole Year King thing.
The Walker's Pyramid is huge. The steps of this step pyramid are too large and far apart for a human, but there is a scaffolding on one side of the Walker's Pyramid that humans can climb.
Tom is a people watcher and takes an interest first in a dark skinned acrobat and dancer, whose routine includes tumbles off the side of the Walker's Pyramid, and conjuring coins behind kids' ears in the crowds that gather to watch him. He notices another dark skinned young man with lots of rings and an earcuff. He is holding an golden-eyed black cat, and curiously the young man has similar golden eyes.
Using the Pisces Zodiac Force of his Star River magic, Tom channels a spirit cat to speak with the cat that the man carries. The cat's name is Whiskers. The young man's name is No Whiskers. The cat is from a faraway Sphere that reportedly no one from Everway has ever visited.
What's Whisker's favorite realm? Merryflag, where humans delight in getting into bloody duels and vendettas over trivial slights.
Where are the best fish? The realm of Shallowsea, where my human can wade out into the water with a trident or a net and catch a feast.
No Whiskers is his human. Tom's spirit cat attempts to communicate with the human, but there isn't much Air there. What gives?
Pahoeho Sun finds this strange: he belongs to an Everwayan family and knows that there is no slavery in Everway. Well, maybe there is among recent immigrants in Strangerside; but any slave who sets foot within the city walls of Everway becomes a free person.
The party observes a procession comin from the direction of the Council House and Palace down Walker's Way to the Pyramid. Bright Mask, the priest of Osiris that Pahoehoe chatted up on the golden barge performs a bridal ceremony. The young Year King, Younger Wood, is wed to a heavily scarred Emerald woman who is missing a left eye, but has an unusual eye glyph tattooed on the palm of her right hand. Is she a mystic? A sorceress? Her name is Righteye Emerald.
Next comes a visit to an office of the Sun family located near the west side of the Walker's Pyramid, and adjacent to the Gold family house. Pahoeho wants to collect his allowance, and fortunately, it's one of the uncles who likes him who is running the office that day. Uncle gives Pahoeho a string of cash.
Local gossip that Uncle Three Sun shares: the Gold family (practically next door) is debating a name change to Jewell, or possibly to Jade. Pahoeho's uncle Three Sun speculates that the name change might invalidate some contracts that the Sun family has with the Gold family, which would be a great way to get out of some debt!
Pahoeho, Tom, and Percy ask Three Sun what he knows about the whole Year King situation. Uncle confirms that there hasn't been a Year King in Everway for hundreds or maybe thousands of years. The whole thing seems strange: one day, Great King Horizon Emerald is officiating at ceremonies, and the picture of health, and the next he is dead. Then, seemingly out of the blue, Year King project is pushed forward, and several rural Emeralds from the Emeraldcloak Forest of all places seem at the center of the project. For example, Righteye Emerald: who even heard of her before today. And the new Year King, who used to be Younger Wood (and now is supposedly Younger Emerald - for a year!) - he is from an obscure, unimportant offshoot of the Emerald family from the same area.
Three Sun shares his suspicion that all this has something to do with the trouble that Prince Woke, a recent arrival in Strangerside has been stirring up. He has been pointing to the refugee problem, the collapsing spheres, the stagnation of Everwayan culture, and the need for new leadership and civic renewal. Three Sun has heard a lot about his so-called Woke Forum in Strangerside. This Righteye Emerald is no stranger there! Someone needs to look into this Prince Woke, Three Sun says.
Three Sun also asks which spheres Tom and Percy come from, and offers that the Sun family is always looking for local partners among the spheres, since the family business is leading pilgrims to shrines among the spheres.
The party agrees that maybe someone should look into this Prince Woke (maybe indeed, us!), and Pahoeho wishes his uncle well. They head out, but first let's get lunch. "No more fish, please" pleads Percy, and Pahoeho suggests pasta instead. He knows a second story pasta and tomato sauce place nearby, just the thing, a heavy filling pasta place that everybody who matters knows: The Red Brick. It's not far from the Sun business office so they go there. A good filling meal and wine, consumed in moderation.
The party was going to head to Strangerside next, and look for this Prince Woke. But Percy and Tom are still thinking about Whiskers and No Whiskers. What is Whiskers up to and where is he going?
Percy uses his Water Magic to search the city for a human with very low Air. The GM draws Failing to See the Diamond, Reversed, a propitious draw. Interpretation: Percy spots No Whiskers, just as Whiskers and No Whiskers pass through the wards at the entrance to the Library of All Worlds. They pass through the leftmost archway into the Library.
The party decides to head right there and figure out what Whiskers is doing.
Pecuniary Scratch is waiting for them right at the entrance. He demands an inducement in exchange for entry.
Tom says he is at the Library to learn about Song. [You can almost feel the Platonic ideal form behind that capital "S".] Song, as in the mechanical vs. spiritual aspects of Song, as well as connections between Song and Magic.
Percy makes the practical offer with respect to inducements: knowledge about his Sphere, which appears to be unknown to the people of Everway. The party are welcomed into the Chamber of Welcoming Visitors from the Million Spheres [speculation here that its decor is as plunderous as that of the British Museum], and library staff bring out long rectangular Spherepath Scrolls which note details of individual spheres, and the gate connections between them.
Percy references knowing about Water Gates, which the Library's scribes and scholars dismiss with feigned disinterest (there is no credible record of gates tied to elements other than Earth!). Meanwhile, Pahoeho is browsing Library's gift shop, and about to get into trouble...
In tonight's second session of our new Everway campaign, Bob was able to join us, and introduce his new character, the spherewalking musician "Tom". During the questions phase, I asked: "Is he Tom like a tomcat, like Tom Bombadil, or like a tomtom? Bob answered "I think like a tomcat, because he can find food in garbage and sleep wherever." He has the ability to summon musical instruments (but can't control which ones come) and has a 3 in Star River Magic, with the constellations Pisces, Gemini, Aquarius (I think). (Another player, Eric also modeled his more powerful Fire-inflected mage on Star River Magic, using Ares, Leo, and Capricorn. So we'll see how this new magic system works!)
Tom emerged from the Emeraldcloak Forest, after exiting the gate from Granite, close on the heels of a rather noisy party tromping southwards through the forest toward the western bridge over the Susnset River. The party was bearing a golden palanquin and escorted by soldiers. Tom hails from another Sphere, so he didn't the soldiers' livery as rustic Emerald family, but Pahoeho Sun, who is a native Everwayn (sort of did).
On the bridge, waiting for a river barge to Everway, are Percy, Osbert, and Pahoeho. A barge appears, but not from further upriver. This one is huge, and being rowed upriver by banks of oars. It must have come up river from Everway. The barge has a solid gold exterior, and all sorts of outlandish Outsiders and Strangers on deck - along with a few Everwayans.
Pahoeho has never seen a barge like this in Everway: not even a royal barge belonging to King Horizon Emerald. The barge has three tiers above the main deck. There is a party going on with powders, smokables, drink and food on the enormous aft deck. The forest party boards the deck and the palanquin and all the soldiers go below deck. They aren't seen again until the barge reaches the city some three hours later.
Pahoeho jumps on board and is welcomed. He joins the party. Tom goes aboard and offers to perform some music. He is escorted to the pilot station on the top tier of the barge, and summons an instrument: something percussive, like a sistrum. He performs.
Osbert boards and Percy grudgingly boards. Percy doesn't like the pretentious, social climber types he sees on this barge.
The barge docks at the Mercy bridge and the passengers disembark on the Everyway Proper side of the river. Pahoeho hears the phase "The Year King" used a couple of times during the river journey, and learns from one of the party goers, a unlikely priest of Osiris named Bright Mask, that while Pahoeho was off in Fire's Wall, King Horizon Emerald passed beyond and been put back upon the Wheel of Karma. The other likely Emerald heirs who might contend for the throne are all off among the spheres at the moment, so the Council invoked an ancient law (?) / ritual (?) from Everway's distant past.
Bright Mask embellishes the age of the ancient law:
Before the Emerald ruled Everway
Before the Tower
Before Whiteoars clashed and contended
May their name be cursed and forgotten forever.
The soldiers and the palanquin disembark from the barge in a procession with flowers, rice, and coins cast about as crowds gather. The gold palanquin has embossed images of the Walker's Pyramid, and of a tree from which a man hangs upside down. The procession seems to head towards the Walker's Pyramid.
The party decides to head over to Strangerside - the really interesting half of these twin cities. Pahoeho observes that Strangerside is even more packed than ever. Every possible quality of dwelling can be found here, from prosperous estates to shanties all the way down into the mud on the southern bank of the Sunset River.
They enter a marketplace and find a place serving fresh fish and turtles. (The PCs did not engage with the far travelling Fourth Doctor, as seen on the upper left. Also, the character in blue and white with the turtle is one of my favorite Everway images!)
Marketplace by Rudy Rauben (Roger Raupp) - Vision Card #506
They sit down to eat fish, and Pahoehoe recommends consuming some of the raw ones that are potentially poisonous. Most of the party order raw. The Fortune Deck pull is favorable: the Priestess, Understanding Mysteries. Percy, hailing from a rules-bound realm as he does, orders something cooked: a fish sandwich. It's still potentially poisonous, so I drew a Fortune Card for him as well.
His draw: the Usurper.
The fish head animates. Percy sees a ghost fish. So does Tom. Percy doesn't react; Tom uses Star River Magic to call the ghost fish to him. The ghost fish swims over and begins making utterances. It chants the names of several Year Kings from over a thousand years ago. It intimates that the blood of ancient Year Kings still soaks the platform at the top of the Walker's Pyramid. Percy banishes the ghost fish, which disappears with a *PLOP*.
There is some discussion with Pahoeho of the Walker's Pyramid. Are there people there? Lots. There is the Pyramid Cult, a mystery sect of Outsiders, Strangers and some native Everwayans (but not typically priests of the Moondance family). Pilgrims come to the Walker's Pyramid from hundreds of spheres. There are numerous booths where hucksters and cultists alike sell votive bricks with images from the Fortune Deck, astrological symbols, or other symbols of the god or pf the Ineffable and the Mysterious. You can buy figurines of the Walker, and effigies and amulets of the Walker's Pyramid.
Dusk is approaching and Percy wants to get settled somewhere unassuming and quiet, while Tom wants to make sure they hole up in an inn that has an "open mike" stage for performances. Pahoeho recommends The Salt Mill, a place which Osbert soon notes is near Avenue the First.
In the second volume of Outlaws of the Marsh, things really come together for the outlaws and rebels of Mt. Liang. This volume represents the stage that revolutionary Marxists might call "the accumulation of forces". The outlaws' forces multiply, drawing on rebels and bandits from other mountain strongholds, as well as from contingents of officials who have been wronged for the honorable discharge of their duties. Song Jiang the Timely Rain, the just legal clerk, gains a leadership role among the rebels, and there are major incursions against an imperial city to prevent Song Jiang from being executed, and against a town on the other side of the river where a corrupt "side-clinger" (to borrow a term from the Hwarhath Stories of Eleanor Arnason) had set Song Jiang up for arrest.
How and why did Song Jiang get arrested? While doing time in the imperial town, he went to a riverside inn with a great river view balcony and private drinking room and got really drunk. (Protip: if you are in a local jail, it pays to spread inducements broadly among the guards and the warden. Make friends, and you will be able to leave the jail whenever you want and enjoy what towns have to offer.)
Drunk Song Jiang notices all the poetry that the inn's patrons have written on the room's walls. Much of the poetry is not-too-good, and Song Jiang knows he can write better. He is also somewhat depressed and angry to be stuck in this town. So he writes his own poem on the wall:
Since childhood I studied classics and history,
And grew up shrewd and intelligent.
Today, a tiger enduring in the wilderness,
I crouch with tooth and claw, intent.
A criminal's tattoo upon my cheek,
An unwilling exile in far Jiangzhou,
I shall have my revenge some day,
And dye red with blood the Xunyang's flow.
At this point Song Jiang drinks some more, then laughs, and writes some more:
Heart in Shandong, body in Wu,
Drifting, I breathe sighs into the air.
If I achieve my lofty aim,
No rebel chief with me will compare.
So like any hip hip poet, Song makes a boast, and an enemy reports it. This leads to two major battles, and a massacre in the village across the river. Song Jiang's prophesy comes true. Great stuff.
This volume ends with the rebels besieging three village towns, each ruled by a single clan, and allied against the Liangshan rebels. For the first time, two women warriors make an appearance, namely Ten Feet of Steel, and Mistress Gu. Hopefully we see more of them in Volume III!
Magic also makes its appearance in this volume: Dai Zong the Marvellous Traveller has two paper charms. He places one on each leg, and he has super speed, which makes him a very fast messenger/courier. He can also put one charm on a comrade's leg, and the two of them can travel at magical half-speed. Cool stuff!
And then there is the duel ax wielding Li Kui the Black Whirlwind. He kills many, often unnecessarily, and to the chagrin of others in the gallant fraternity of martial artists. He is crude, always spoiling for a fight, over the top - and amusing.
Snip from "Fire Dance" Vision Card by Janine Johnston
With three characters ready for play (and one more on the way next week), we set out to play Everway. While I have run a few in-person Everway one-shots, all of my previous campaigns as a GM or player have been play-by-post games. So it is great to play my favorite game again after a number of years, this time for my regular Thursday night gaming group!
The action started with Pahoeho Sun, a fire mage, seeking to find what is on the other side of the firewall in the great ocean of Fire's Wall. Too much steam, and turbulent seas, and Pahoeho swims back to his iron dinghy, and goes back aboard the local's much larger wooden fishing boat.
From the deck, the spirit mage Perceives That Which Others Do Not (Percy for short), gazes into the sky and sees an armored figure falling from far above into the sea. The figure goes into the depths, and Percy summons a water spirit to "push" the young warrior up towards the surface. Pahoeho dog paddles back to where the warrior now bobs on the surface, while fishermen follow in the iron boat. Together they pull the warrior, who they soon learn is one Osbert Haukmune, to safety and back to their big fishing boat.
Pahoeho's question to Osbert: "What did you see on the other side of the fire wall?" His answer was unclear [ahem].
The odd thing was that it looked like Osbert fell from a flying mount, but no one saw the mount. In fact, Osbert had lost a flying mount some time ago, and was on his way to Everway to see if he could learn more about how this might happen. One of the PCs had a definite impression that something in the air had been snatched by a fire spirit, just before Osbert fell. Osbert's memory was of taking the "normal" Earth gate route between spheres, but perhaps somehow he fell through an air gate upon arrival at Fire's Wall.
From there, back ashore Pahoeho commences a debauch in the beach bars on the firewall-facing western shore of the island, Nearest the Fire. The island is kind of a tourist trap, since the nighttime view of the firewall is astonishing, and in the daytime, this is the point of departure for boats taking people for a closer look at the firewall.
Everyone is drinking rum, even Osbert has some even though he seems unaccustomed to carousing. As the night goes by, there is some boasting between members of the party, and Pahoeho uses his earth magic to create a "grave" in the beach sand. The party and a number of the locals go out to look in the resulting pit. There are a lot of mussels there. The locals collect them for a clambake!
But suddenly Osbert's sword Demonbane is out of its sheath and pointing at a man carrying a bucket of mussels to the fire. He sets the bucket down. The sword points toward the bucket. The PCs open and inspect the clams. One has a Black Pearl inside. Demonbane is all eyes for it!
The Black Pearl morphs into a dragon, which starts out the size of a large shark, but gradually grows. This dragon is aquamarine. Osbert is "all-in" with trying to kill this thing immediately with Demonbane! Percy summons a spirit of calm to try and cool Osbert's spirits, as well as the dragon's.
Percy hears draconic speech. The dragon speaks its own language, not the Tongue. How odd! He wracks his brain for dragon lore from his studious past, on his rules-bound home realm. He remembers stories that dragons once challenged the gods, made war on them to displace them as the rulers of creation, and were defeated. But are dragons inherently evil? Demonsbane seems to think so. And the priests and scholars of Percy's native realm certainly thought so. One dragon above others, deceitful Alurax, certainly was evil. But Percy's knowledge of the lore of other realms suggests that dragons are viewed with more nuance elsewhere:
Dragon knots are often found in the designs of clothing and textiles
Some view dragons as incredibly wise
Others know of dragons as rare beings who sleep long enough to become mountains
The dragon unfurls butterfly wings, begins to hover like a hummingbird, and begins to rise.
The spirit of calm loses its grip on Osbert. He (or is it Demonsbane?) lunges, and chops off one of the dragon's paws.
The dragon quickly rises and flies away to the west. It passes through the firewall, or at least seems to do so. Pahoeho is intrigued: what IS on the other side of the firewall? Could one ride a dragon through the fire?
After the battle, Osbert is a bit pissed. Maybe embarassed. He doesn't want to be known as the Dragon Wounder... hopefully nobody starts calling him Osbert Dragonscratch! But that evening the PCs are celebrated as heroes. Osbert primly rejects amorous overtures from several locals. More drinking ensues.
In the bleary morning our heroes arise, and seek out one of the ships of the Sea Traders. They want to go to Everway and seek answers to questions about dragons and missing mounts.
There is a long sea journey to a Sea Trader city. In the temple on the hill there is a gate maze, and soon they pass through a gate to the realm of Roundwander.
[They emerge at gate #22 on the new map of Roundwander in Everway Silver Anniversary Edition Book 1: Players.]
To the north they see the huge orange-red tower mountain that is Phoenix Rock. The gate Keepers inform them that a barge will be along within a couple of hours. They can stretch their legs for a bit and wait for it.
My friend Boris and I used to joke that my Mage (etc.) campaigns of the 1990s were made of "deconstruction flakes." He never seemed to mind this, but Lord Quetzalcoatl knows, plenty of other players used to find my games confusing and disconcerting. I've even had people quit over it.
I have seen players quit other good GMs' campaigns too, over equally cryptic approaches to setting creation and storytelling. This was especially hard when as a player I felt like I had an intuitive sense of where the GM was going, even if I didn't get all the references.
Well, except for that one time I really misread the GM's cue: my wereraven proceeded to step outside of a magical circle, and was shortly edited out of the rebooted universe, once the circle closed. Period.
Sometimes you do play the feathered wise fool.
But bottom line: not everyone can follow the mystic thread; not all clues are obvious; and not everyone enjoys gaming-as-mystery. It's important to figure out ways to get players the information they need and get them into the action. That will be more fun for them than spending forever exploring a realm and trying to figure out where the adventure really is.
That is one good piece of advice from the new Book 2 - Gamemasters for Everway: Silver Anniversary Edition.
Nevertheless, here are a few of the "deconstruction flakes" swirling around in my head for the current campaign. Some of these will make it into the game. Others, maybe not.
One quarter of a lifetime achievement unlocked: I finished the first of four volumes of Outlaws of the Marsh aka Water Margin aka the Marshes of Mt. Liang aka All Men Are Brothers. Only 1500 more pages to go!
Outlaws of the Marsh is 14th Century Chinese novel about events at the end of the Song Dynasty in the 12th century. The state is corrupt at every level. Honest people cannot make a living without bribery, and are forever at the whim of officials. A group of bandits and people who have fallen due to various crimes take to the slopes of Mt. Liang, and to the vast wetlands surrounding the mountain (the so-called water margin) and the greatest assemblage of thieves, swindlers, and martial artists come together.
The novel is episodic, with a cast of 108 heroes. If you intend to run a martial arts RPG, this really is the ultimate source material. I'm looking forward to starting the next volume. I have an RPG campaign in mind, eventually.
Everway's Silver Anniversary Edition offers two ways to access the images that drive the game: there will be actual cards for the Vision Deck, Season Deck (a new feature), and Fortune Deck, and a huge chunk of Book 1 - Player's Book also reproduces the Fortune Deck and the Vision Deck (which includes more images than found in the original Everway boxed set).
Since I am running my new campaign using the Silver Anniversary Edition, and we are playing online, I was pretty worried about how character generation was going to go. We play online in two hour sessions, weekly. Would that be enough time to generate characters? Would the players be able to understand the basics of setting and mood for such a visually oriented and reflective game in the virtual environment?
I decided to run in Zoom, rather than our usual home on Discord, because video quality is better. (Or at least I have more confidence in that platform with respect to screensharing and video interaction.)
One of my four players DOES have the original edition of the game (which he purchased online recently), so not surprisingly he got the furthest with character generation last night. For the Vision stage of character creation he was able to use his own set of Vision cards to select five that resonated with him for creating a character. He did the same with selecting his Virtue, Fault, and Fate using the Fortune Deck.
For the other players, I did a screenshare of the Vision Card chapter of the new Player's Book, so that they could see all the cards - and the questions associated with each Vision card. I also walked players through the setting chapters of the Player's Book to give them a sense of the game environment: the much expanded map of Roundwander, the City of Everway, and various images in the book. This helped the players to "get" the mood of the game: mythic fantasy. I also showed players the cards in the Fortune Deck, and the various images of deities that are included in the deck. This was a useful anchor as well.
As we began character generation we also explored a Premise for the campaign, which the new edition brings into stronger focus. What brings the characters together? What kind of group are they?
The players decided that their Spherewalkers have come to Everway after learning that they have a shared ancestor - some relation has invited them to visit the City of Everway. I thought this was a great idea. We agreed that this might be come kind of crazy uncle. When I explained the matriarchal-matrilineal family structure of Everway, they speculated that their relative might be a "crazy aunt" instead!
The visually rich review copy to which I have access gives me confidence that GMs will be able to create an authentic Everway experience online. The range of Vision card images did what they always do: they gave the players some ideas about other cherished card collections that they might raid for the Vision stage of character development! That was another "win" for the session, and very consistent with my experience running the RPG face-to-face and play-by-post in the past.
We did about two hours of discussion and exploration, the players will do a bit of image selection sessions, and will finish characters and begin the campaign in the next session.
While Everway doesn't have character classes or levels (the original of course came in a white box, so comparisons to D&D are both inevitable and illuminating), but the characters emerging seem to fall into the following categories:
A wizard who is a spirit medium/channeler
A cleric (pretty sure)
So this promises to be a well-rounded party. I am looking forward to their adventures together!
After I bought the first edition of Everway, I dropped it off at my friend Amon's house. I came back later, after I had purchased some dinner, and saw that he had filled a dining room table with Vision Cards from the box set. It was such a splendid array, and he was quite impressed to see Ogun on one of the Fortune Deck cards, as back in the early 1990s, there were still relatively few depictions of characters or beings of African descent in RPGs! Everway was probably the first truly multicultural and inclusive RPG in that respect!
Twenty five or so years later, I am so thrilled to be beginning a new campaign for Everway with the new Everway Silver Anniversary Edition which is about to go on Kickstarter. Tonight we will step into character generation, which feels like returning to the source!
To learn more about what's going on with the Silver Anniversary Edition, you can join the Everway Facebook group here. To get notified about the launch of the Kickstarter, you can sign-up here.
The Everwayan blog was created to celebrate everything Everway, so expect updates about how character generation and the campaign are going!