Friday, May 29, 2015

Weekly Update 5.29

Disclaimer: This is being written about a project that is in progress and is an attempt to give you a glimpse in the process of making the game. Abilities, powers, and mechanics discussed in this blog my not work as described here in the final product.

Hello everyone! So the website is back up after last weekend's outage and the update is that, work is continuing on Blessings. There was one setback last week, as there was a problem identified with the trickster archetype and disguise. This was alluded to in last week's kickstarter update. They're working on it, and Anne will talk about this further in an upcoming post.

With difficult blessings work continuing, you can find some updates on Twitter, there is much... passionate debate. I'll leave it at that, progress is being made.

I did finally get a blessing to spoil, and this one even has a name.


Serekh is an Egyptian Divinity Blessing. It is a written symbol of authority. In Hero's Journey Serekh allows an Egyptian Hero the ability to power a blessing through the force of their authority over their selected Domain/Aspect. When you purchase Serekh, you also choose and Aspect or Domain that you wish to have authority over.

Once per Chapter, you may "draw, emblazon, or otherwise make visible your serekh" allowing you the ability to use an episode labor from your selected aspect or domain without spending a labor to do so.

A hero may only have one serekh, and once chosen it cannot be changed.

So yeah, new Divinity Blessing! Yay! I'll try for more next week!

One question this week:

Can your Divine Heritage Favour be for a different God than your Patron?

The short answer for this is "No", the slightly longer answer is "Maybe". The still longer answer is: Hero's Journey is currently balanced around having one divine Patron, and if you select Divine Heritage your patron would also be your parent. If your Patron and Divine Heritage were different, it throws the balance off.

Looking to resolve this balance is not something the John and Anne will do for the core book, as while it does occur in mythology, it doesn't occur often. But they have ideas for more Divine Favours in future books.

What I can say is that having played in John's games, this would terrify me. Gods are jealous, and do not like to share. Having their attention is not something you want often, having divided loyalty among gods is a recipe for epic disaster.

Finally, while I'm talking about John's games, John and Anne have reached out to the "Pioneer of Universes" and "Venturer of Vistas" Kickstarter backers to start talking about their games. If you backed at this level and haven't heard from them. Please reach out to them.

That's it for this week, Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Goddess of Fateful Seeds

Okay, today I'm going to tell you about the raddest of ladies: Chach'ǒngbi, a Korean hero who became a goddess and left her mark in the general scorched remains of her awesomeness littering the landscape and all the people who could not handle her badassery as she went by. Chach'ǒngbi is a goddess of agriculture, but don't make the mistake of thinking of her as meek and docile as a result. Chach'ǒngbi could take you.

Like many other heroes of badass yore, Chach'ǒngbi's story starts before she was even born, when her parents were extremely rich and prosperous but didn't seem to be able to give birth to any children, much to their sorrow. By the time they were in their fifties and still childless, they were generally feeling pretty despondent over the whole situation; in fact, Chach'ǒngbi's father was so upset by seeing a beggar on the street with a happy child that he locked himself in his room for an epic sulk, until a monk arrived (as monks often do) to tell them that if they would get their piety on already, things could turn around for them.

So Chach'ǒngbi's parents rolled off to Sangju temple, where they offered a thousand pounds of white rice to the gods and prayed for one hundred straight days, because they were deadly serious about this needing children thing. Or, at least, that's what they thought they were doing, but at the end of the hundred days, the monks weighed the rice offering and declared that it was actually a little less than a thousand pounds, so as a result they wouldn't be able to have a son and would have to settle for a girl.

(As we will see later, this did not turn out to be a drawback in the slightest.)

The blessing of the temple did indeed work, and after a long pregnancy of ten months, Chach'ǒngbi's mother gave birth to a girl so beautiful that it was said she had the sun on her forehead, the moon on the back of her head, and stars on both of her shoulders. Because this was all sort of supernatural and questionable, they didn't name the girl until she turned three years old, at which point they called her Chach'ǒngbi, which means roughly "born because we wanted her". They went about teaching her the same general things you would teach a young Korean girl in the long-ago, and everything went about as normal until Chach'ǒngbi turned fifteen, and had started learning to weave at her loom.

The loom, apparently in defiance of the rules most looms abide by (or possibly just responding to being next to Chach'ǒngbi and all her nascent awesomeness), informed Chach'ǒngbi one day that she should go and wash herself in the pond of the Chuch'ǒn river, and while she was there, a young man by the name of Mun turned up and was understandably bowled over by Chach'ǒngbi's loveliness. He tried to hit on her via the tried-and-true method of asking her to get him some water, and during the course of his conversation bragged about how he was on his way to go study under the acclaimed Master Gǒmu, there to learn to be an ultimate badass. Chach'ǒngbi smiled and said she was very impressed and added that her own younger brother was also on his way to go study with the master, but had needed a traveling companion, and convinced Mun to hold on a few minutes so she could go get him.

(Spoiler: Chach'ǒngbi does not have a younger brother. Y'all can see where this is going.)

Chach'ǒngbi then went home, made the guy wait in the hall, and told her parents she wanted to go study. They reacted with dubiousness at first, but she reminded them that since they had no other children, they would have only her to take care of them in their old age, so really letting her have an education was only going to be helpful, and they were forced to conclude that this made perfect sense and sent her off. Of course, they thought she was going to a ladylike finishing school, but this is pretty much just evidence that they have no idea what they got into by giving birth to her in the first place.

So she took some of her father's clothes and dressed herself up as a man, collected up some books and brushes for maximum studiousness preparation, and then went to go introduce herself to Mun again, who was either not bright enough to recognize her or (more likely) simply in the presence of some extreme disguise badassery and unable to cope. And then she and Mun became school bros who spent the next two years reading and studying together, doing all their chores together, and sleeping in the same bed as penniless students were wont to do.

At this point, Mun started getting fresh with Chach'ǒngbi; although he clearly did not know she was actually a woman, that wasn't stopping him from making moves during the dark of the night (the translation I have literally says he "seemed to have noticed that she had a womanly body", but it's hard to tell if he actually suspects that she is a woman or whether this is just euphemistic language for Mun noticing that he was attracted to her). Annoyed by his attempts, she told him that she had learned a charm that if you slept with a washbowl with silver and brass chopsticks in it beside your bed, if the chopsticks fell off, you would become poor at schoolwork, while if they stayed in you would excel. Mun, being something of a booby, decided to try it but was constantly so worried it would fail that he wasn't able to get a good night's sleep, so he started both being too tired to try to molest her and started failing at his education, which made Chach'ǒngbi by default the best student by a mile.

At this point, Mun decided to get cranky about the situation, and confronted Chach'ǒngbi, claiming that maybe she was better in reading than he was, but he was better than her at everything else. Considering his track record thus far, it's not surprising that her response was, "Seriously, I'm not sure it's actually possible for me to be worse than you at anything." He did not find this comforting, and challenged her to a pissing contest. A real, actual pissing contest, in which the farthest pee-er is the winner. (Korean mythology is intensely fond of game challenges to settle who the top dog is, so this is only one of a long line of ridiculous contests that various heroes and gods get into.)

Mun went first, and pissed a prodigious six and a half feet, and then lingered around being smug about his impending victory (again, it's hard to tell if he might suspect that she doesn't have the physical equipment to compete, or if he's just that confident in his water-shooting abilities). But Chach'ǒngbi had been carrying a bamboo shoot around in her pants for JUST SUCH AN OCCASION, so she slotted it sneakily into place, and then pissed twelve and a half feet and Mun basically said, "Fine, I'll just go home and cry forever, then," during her victory dance.

But, in a last-ditch effort to pull off a gotcha, Mun then invited Chach'ǒngbi to bathe in the river with him, as they had been studying so hard for years that they had surely become very dirty (again, does he suspect? or is he just a weird dude?). Hilariously, even this didn't work; Chach'ǒngbi just used the water and stream movement to her advantage and enjoyed a full show of Mun being naked, while he wasn't able to see anything but her face and shoulders.

At this point, she took pity on him - well, sort of - and wrote him a love letter on a leaf, which read, "Hey, stupid, have we seriously been sleeping in the same bed for three years and you still haven't figured out that I'm the girl you met at the river, not a fictitious brother who looks exactly like her?" His mind was blown. And then she went home and told her dad that hey, I'm home, there's going to be a pissed-off dude here in about an hour so we may want to put in some extra dinner, and then went and spruced herself up back in her old feminine clothing and makeup. And clearly she knows exactly what she's up to, because her father says that the boy is welcome to stay with them, but if he's older than fifteen, he'll have to stay with him in his room rather than with her, and she says, "Oh, no, he is totally not fifteen yet." (This is a lie.)

Immediately afterward, she ran out and found Mun, told him her parents would murder him for his impropriety if they saw him, and convinced him to hide in her room where it would be safe. She is obviously not up to anything AT ALL. DEFINITELY NOT ALL NIGHT SEX. (No, wait, that's exactly what ends up happening. Mun is so confused.)

Speaking of confused, at this point it is revealed that Mun happens to be of divine blood, so Chach'ǒngbi has been running circles around a future deity this entire time, and he vanishes to go get his god on while she hangs around waiting to see if he'll be coming back any time soon. Eventually, a traveler informs her that Mun has become the King of Heaven and is hanging out with beautiful ladies and servants in a rich palace having a great time. When she asks if he's going to come back, the traveler doesn't know... so, being the dynamo she is, she decides she will just walk her ass up to heaven and ask him if he accidentally left her phone number in his other pants or something. She convinced the traveler to help her, and with the use of a magical horse, they started climbing the mountain of heaven in search of Mun.

Unfortunately, the traveler, like many other dudes on journeys with inexpressibly hot ladies in the middle of the wilderness, started getting ideas about how he should be allowed to start getting into her personal space without permission. Recognizing this, Chach'ǒngbi told him that she'd love to send the night with him if he would build them a little hut to sleep in, but then complained that the hut had too many holes in it that would let in a draft, and that she'd stay inside while he went around the hut blocking up the holes. Of course, for every hole he filled in, she opened two more, and he spent the entire night going in fruitless circles around the hut.

Then he tried to push the issue in the morning, so she stabbed him through the ears with a homemade skewer she fashioned out of vines. Honestly, he should have known better. (She also utters the immortal line "It'd be sweeter for you to lick my honeypot than try to kiss me," but he doesn't appreciate the pun.)

Various other adventures occur, during which Chach'ǒngbi figured that being a lady traveling in the wilderness with a magic horse was not worth it and got back into mens' clothing again so people would leave her alone, and eventually ingratiated herself with a family in order to use their loom, which she used to weave the finest silk that had ever been seen. The lady of the house decided to pass the silk off as her own handiwork in order to win accolades from the King of Heaven (our old friend Mun!) and took it up to him, but had to admit that it was Chach'ǒngbi who had woven it when he asked, which no doubt caused him to have a rather intense mixed bag of flashbacks. He of course immediately went to the house where she was staying and asked her to come out, and instead she asked him to put his fingers through the door to prove it was him, and then pricked his fingers with a needle. This proved that it was him, since he bled purple divine blood, but he ran away after the pain of the prick, so Chach'ǒngbi was once again back on the road pursuing him.

Mun, meanwhile, had been apparently pining over Chach'ǒngbi something fierce, and ordered his servants to go find the stream where he had once bathed with her and bring him its water to drink. The servants had something of a despairing meltdown, since they had no idea how to find some random stream in the mortal world without help, but Chach'ǒngbi ran across them crying over the situation and said, "Oh, well, you know, that's me, so how about I get the water and then you smuggle me into the palace with it?" And the servants were like, "Well, beats getting punished for not finding it, you're on."

Then she stole fine clothes from the palace to pretty herself up, sneaked around the palace until she figured out where Mun's room was, and serenaded him with songs about his handsomeness by moonlight, like you do. At this point, Mun's the one who has to smuggle Chach'ǒngbi into his room so his parents (gods and not to be trifled with) don't find out about her and get angry, but Chach'ǒngbi wasn't willing to wait around until they were caught, so she coached him on how to approach his parents. He went to his parents and, using the clever wordplay she had instructed him to repeat, convinced them that he could break his engagement to the goddess he was currently supposed to marry as long as he had another woman with whom he had had a longer acquaintance to marry instead. His parents agreed, but demanded that whatever bride he chose be able to walk across the blade of a sword over a fifty-foot-deep pit full of burning coal.

Chach'ǒngbi, being herself, was like, "Eff you guys, I will walk on all the swords," and after she had put way more cuts in her feet than anyone expected her to, his parents relented and told her to get down off there before she killed herself and to go ahead and marry the kid already, for heaven's sake. And that's the story of how Chach'ǒngbi essentially pranked a god so hard and for so many years that she eventually managed to marry him, become a goddess, and impress basically everyone in the universe at the same time.

Chach'ǒngbi has various other adventures, including trying to save Mun from certain disaster she has foreseen in prophecy (in case you were wondering, he is not good at following instructions so he ends up dying anyway), and then tricking three thousand dudes who tried to kidnap her into thinking that Mun was still alive, insanely strong, and coming to kill them, using only a fake pillow made of iron and some cicadas. She is a capable lady, is what I'm saying.

Female trickster archetypes are comparatively rare in mythology; although the character of a woman who uses clever words, persuasion, or lies to trick men is a fairly common one, women who actually go undercover and perform super-spy feats are rarer. Chach'ǒngbi is an example of a lady master of shenanigans who can easily stand next to other trickster favorites like Odysseus or Maui, and is an example to all of us who want to just basically run the universe and endlessly commit hilarious pranks against those who aren't good at keeping up with us.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Weekly Update 5.22 No Update

This is going to go down as my shortest post, and carries with it my apologies.

I was unable to meet with John and Anne this week. Which means the questions that you have asked and the domain blessing spoiler I promised will be delayed until next week.

Hopefully you still have a great weekend.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Weekly Update 5.15

Disclaimer: This is being written about a project that is in progress and is an attempt to give you a glimpse in the process of making the game. Abilities, powers, and mechanics discussed in this blog my not work as described here in the final product.

Hello everyone! First off, I want to apologize for any typos in this posting, I am writing this from the road this week... so I am using that as an excuse this week. Secondly, I want to use this public forum (blog) to wish John a Happy Birthday! We were talking about this at the weekly meeting, realizing that we've now been friends for 10 years now, we're old. So yeah, happy birthday buddy!

But onto Hero's Journey news, I have very little to share. Despite my continued attempts, I have not been able to wheedle out any Domain Blessings this week. However, John is on the hook for at least one Domain Blessing spoiler next week, it's a commitment, next week's update will have at least one, but I am going to try for two.

This week Anne posted a Kickstarter update if you're a backer, you have probably already seen it, if not... I have a link here.

There is some news on the production of the book. The art department has seen some spots for some additional artwork. This week they've been meeting with an artist who will be doing some additional artwork, I will see if I can share any of it as it's produced.

I didn't come across any additional questions this week, if I have missed any, please reach out directly to me. I'm kekzakallu on the forums.

That's it for this week, Have a great weekend!

Monday, May 11, 2015 Too Forbidden For Mortal Eyes

Hey, everyone!

We're having some technical glitches this morning, so you may have noticed that the main Hero's Journey website is throwing up a 403 Forbidden error for some visitors. We apologize for the inconvenience, and the fact tha the forums aren't accessible at the moment. Clearly, the new redesign that Stephen has been working on was too excellent for us mere mortals to see yet.

Stephen's on the case, but in the meantime, the blog here is still up, and you can always reach us at We hope to see everything back up and running soon!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Weekly Update 5.8

Disclaimer: This is being written about a project that is in progress and is an attempt to give you a glimpse in the process of making the game. Abilities, powers, and mechanics discussed in this blog my not work as described here in the final product.

This week John and Anne continued the ramp up for Domain Blessings. There are a few remaining Aspect Blessings that are still need some debate, but those are being set aside for the moment to focus on Domains. Anne has translated Domain Blessings from little notes and stat blocks to full descriptions. Now they are going to review, debate, tear apart, reassemble, and finalize those blessings.

Which brings me to one of this week's questions, "Can I spoil some Domain Blessings?" Unfortunately the review hasn't started yet, so there are no Domain Blessings to share. I will be asking about them for the next several weeks, so keep a lookout for spoilers in the future.

Anne and John have also met with the artists regarding a relaunch of the website. Once Hero's Journey launches, there will be a relaunch of the site and a change in focus. It is still in the early stages, but the new site will focus more on being a resource for running Hero's Journey games, this will include mythological information. We're pretty excited about it.

So onto the other questions from this week.

Let's say a Hero has armor for their Divine Favor, like Heracles' Nemean Lion skin. Would that be a Protective Weapon or an Adornment? 

Samudra, you were correct with your gut instinct. Armour that you wear would be and adornment. A good way to think about it is "If you wield it, it is a weapon. If you wear it, it's an adornment." I expect that there is a crazy edge case here, but I think that the above statement should clear up almost every instance.

Attribute mentions 'condition within the spectrum of human possibilities'. Does that mean my idea of a Third Eye that boosts the Spiritual Domain is out?

That could be up for rephrasing. I'm not writing it, but it might wind up being closer to something like "...condition within the spectrum of possibility appropriate to your tier". So as a Mortal you are stuck with features belonging to the mortal realm, so a third eye would be out. But, you could potentially make an argument for a third eye or other non-human features at high-level Immortal, but it'd probably most appropriate at the Divine tier.

That's it for this week, Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Game Theory Talk: Heroes and their Blessings

Now that we've updated y'all on how Domains and Spheres are working, we've all got a good handle on Blessings. You buy them, you use them, cool and awesome stuff happens, and you win the day. But what actually are Blessings, and what do they mean in the world of Hero's Journey? When you use a Blessing, what exactly are you doing?

Blessings are not actually "magic powers" - or at least, not all of them are, although some certainly might be. Rather, Blessings are special skills and abilities that only Heroes possess, powers that let them go above and beyond in a way normal humanity can't. Whenever a character in a story - whether ancient myth, more recent literature, or modern television or comic books - does something that normal people can't do and causes you to go, "whoa, that was amazing," it's likely they used a Blessing, regardless of who they are. After all, even if the hero of a story is just a normal person, they're still by definition a Hero.

A great example, when it comes to a Hero using Blessings that are not magical but are still fantastic and cool, is the often-parodied title hero of the 1980's television show MacGyver (who we have recently been discussing as an example in edits, actually!). MacGyver is not magical; he's just a human with no divine or supernatural powers whatsoever, who works as a special agent for the U.S. government and fights terrorism and spies with a combination of witty street smarts, incredible on-the-fly science shenanigans, and jumping off things with his hair blowing dramatically in the wind. MacGyver's signature move is to invent something ridiculous and improbable with only random objects he finds near him, usually in under five minutes, in order to avert certain doom; for example, he once combined a pair of candlesticks, a microphone cord, and a rubber mat to create a makeshift defibrillator and save a dying man in the nick of time.

Completely ludicrous, of course, but that doesn't matter. He's going to save that man, god damn it, with science, because that is who he is.

Obviously, MacGyver isn't doing anything magical here; he's doing some Creator action on a grandiose scale, but he's still a human being using human tools. Normal human beings trying to do this would almost undoubtedly fail; even if they did somehow manage to put the thing together with amazing speed and accuracy before the heart attack claimed its victim, it's overwhelmingly likely that it either wouldn't work or would misfire and kill the poor guy anyway.

But MacGyver is a Hero; he's the Hero of his story, he's the Hero of the show, and he's taking on the direct heroic role of saving this person right now. So he does things normal people can't do, because he's a Hero, and that's what using a Blessing is.

So you'll have plenty of Blessings that are "non-magical", in the sense that they are just things that you can do because you're a Hero and that no one else could do, but that aren't actually outside the realm of things possible or at least vaguely plausible without supernatural aid. You can dodge attacks better than someone else with the same Defense, not because you're using magic, but because you're a Hero who's great at dodging. You can leap a car over a median and drive it dextrously through oncoming traffic at ninety miles per hour, not because you're using magic, but because you're a Hero who is doing an action sequence with your Trickster powers right now. You can convince the leader of a country not to drop a bomb just based on your earnest and impassioned speech, not because you're using magic, but because you're a Hero rescuing millions and forestalling disaster. And you can cry, "Eureka, I've cracked the secret language of the ancients!" after study, not necessarily because any magic is in play, but because you're a scholarly Hero and gosh darn it, that is what you are supposed to do.

Of course, there are Blessings that are very definitely magical; you'll see these most often in the Domains and Spheres, which are for the most part dedicated to performing what might be called spells or magical rituals in other games. They're filled with abilities designed to wield forces usually not available to humans, and that's where you'll see Heroes breathing fire or becoming pillars of light or calling up storms to pour down on their enemies. Wizard archetypes are where you see this stuff in pop culture heroes the most - for example, Merlin in the TV show that shares his name performs these kinds of obviously-magical shenanigans all the time, such as causing things to move without being touched, seeing visions of the future, or changing his own age and appearance drastically.

Merlin is a Hero who specifically does things that aren't usually possible for humans - which is the whole point of his character arc, really - but he is no more or less a Hero than MacGyver up above. They're both the heroes of their tales, and the things they're beloved for - doing what's right, or creating spectacular and interesting solutions to problems, or making watching what they'll do next exciting and mysterious - are the same in both cases.

There are magical-style Blessings in the Aspects, too, of course, especially as you climb to higher tiers of power, such as Hunters literally speaking animal languages or Creators causing people to hear and see things that actually aren't there, and there are non-magical Blessings in the Domains, too. You can always choose what you want to do and where you want to go, as far as what powers are available to you.

What does all this mean to you, as a player? Well, it means that, although there are a lot of awesome things that you can do with just rolls of your stats (believe me, having lots of dots in stats is the best ever, ask the playtest group), there are some skills that are too specialized or powerful for normal folks to have, and that means you'd have to get Blessings to use them. Want to have the ability to shapeshift and change your appearance? Well, obviously, you need Blessings for that, as well as anything else obviously "magical" like creating food out of thin air or flying. But you'll also need Blessings to do incredibly difficult or impressive things that purely human heroes like Black Widow or King Arthur do - create a bomb out of household goods, or use your wiles to convince someone to attack a beloved friend, or steal a weapon right out of an enemy's strong and capable hands for your own use, or successfully impersonate a senator. It doesn't matter that human beings (which your Hero usually is themself, at least at the beginning of the game) can sometimes do those things without magic; what matters is that only human beings who are Heroes do them.

Blessings don't just refer to magic spells; they also mean skills (or even just Amazing Good Luck) that only Heroes have. They're the things Heroes do that make them exciting to read about or watch and fun to fantasize about being, and they have as wide a range as there are kinds of Heroes in humanity's stories.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Lady of the Hall

How about some information on my favorite Norse Goddess, Freyja? Well, folks, how about it? Freyja is an enigmatic and loved lady, and the Norse ladies, surrounded by shouting Ragnarok-bound beefcake, can always use a spotlight moment!

Freyja's name means Lady - as in the Lady of a hall or fiefdom, the counterpart to a Lord (which is what her brother Freyr's name means) - and she certainly lives up to the idea of being the boss of her immediate environs. She is the goddess of female power in myriad forms; she is a warrior and the leader of the valkyries, who collect the slain from the battlefield and deliver half their souls to live in eternal bliss in her pleasant fields and hall of Folkvangr, and she is also the goddess of sex, beauty, love, and all things romantic and steamy, frequently called upon by women during her time of worship to give them her blessings and famous for her sexual exploits with gods and other creatures.

As one of the Vanir deities traded to the Aesir in order to keep the peace between the two pantheons, and the only woman at that, she occupies an odd political niche; she is invaluable to both the ongoing truce and the gods themselves, who are very protective of her and almost universally fond of her (or at least somewhat dazzled by her beauty and sensuality). Of course, Freyja doesn't need the Aesir dudes to save her from most things; most of the time, they're helping her because they have caused problems for her in the first place, and want to avoid her wrath coming down upon them if they don't handle it.

For example, the charming gentlemen of the Aesir have managed to accidentally promise to trade Freyja away to other people not once, but TWICE, and neither time with her even knowing ahead of time. The first time, a giant appeared out of the wastes of Jötunheimr and presented himself as a master mason, and offered to build a wall around the newly-built halls of the gods, so strong and tall that the giants would not be able to invade and threaten them, and completed by the end of the winter. He asked, as his price, to be given both the sun and the moon as well as Freyja as his bride, and Odin, king of Bad Future Decisions, basically said, "Yeah, sure, sounds groovy," and then told everyone at home that it was totally fine, because obviously there was no way he would succeed so they'd just get the wall, or however much of it got finished, for free.

Needless to say, this turned out to be a poor decision; the giant harnessed up his massive magical horse Svaðilfari and successfully built the wall like nobody's business, until the appointed time was almost up and it looked like he was going to make it. A hilarious council meeting occurs, in which the gods try to pass the buck and try to blame everyone else for agreeing to give Freyja away to the giant, and then eventually they decide to go ahead and blame Loki (like you do), and Loki ends up handling the situation by turning into a mare, distracting the plow-horse, and preventing the wall from being finished on time.

In another case, the giant Thrymr stole Thor's mighty hammer Mjölnir, and then demanded that he be sent Freyja as a bride in order to ransom it back. In another stunningly poor decision, Thor and Loki headed over to Freyja's hall and tell her to get dressed to go get married to a giant she's never heard of before, which she understandably did not take well; in fact, she snorted angrily so hard that the hall itself shook and the chain of the magical necklace Brisingamen on her neck broke, and wisely everyone dropped that particular idea and fled. Loki ended up diguising Thor as Freyja and sending him to go have a wedding ceremony instead, thus reaffirming that Freyja herself is not here to do any of your bullshit errands or be passed around without persmission, and that Thor and Loki don't know how to solve problems in undramatic ways.

These stories alone might make it seem like Freyja is a virgin goddess archetype, guarding herself against all these dudes who want to put their paws on her, but in fact she's very sexually active in her myths; it's not that she doesn't enjoy sex and represent sexuality, but that she has no time for other people deciding what sexiness she gets to do, instead of herself. In one myth, she sleeps with four dwarves in the same night in order to barter the necklace Brisingamen from them, which is renowned as the most beautiful piece of jewelry in existence and gives her great status among the goddesses of Asgard, and while she seems to have no problem with this, Odin later confiscates the necklace and tries to shame her about the method by which she acquired it. His demand that she create an unceasing forever-battle in which two warring kings' armies resurrect to continue the fight whenever they fall is fulfilled by her in short order - an interesting part of the myth, since it's hard to tell why that was what Odin wanted from her, and why he, also a major war deity with ties to the dead, didn't or couldn't just have done it himself.

That particular myth is actually one of the very few places in Norse myth where anyone tries to get on Freyja's case about her sexual shenanigans - for the most part, she does exactly what she wants and no one has much to say about it. She is lusted after by many of the gods, but they also acknowledge that she cannot be courted without her permission, to the point that Loki objects when Odin sends him to break into her room because he says her room is completely impregnable to outside invaders. She is married, to the wandering god Odr, and demonstrably fond of him to the point where she weeps tears that fall to the earth to become gold because she can't find him, but she also has lovers among the other gods, and no one seems to think this is a problem. In fact, the only time anyone ever says anything nasty to her about her affairs is when Loki makes fun of her for sleeping with her brother Freyr - and he's not making fun of her for having sex with someone other than her husband, just with the fact that it's her brother (which, incidentally, is something that the myth's context implies is a normal practice among the Vanir, but not accepted among the Aesir). Because so much of Norse mythology is passed down by Christian writers, in fact, and because Freyja's sexual nature made her such an easy target for Christian proselytizers who considered virginity the feminine idea, the few mentions of people getting down on Freyja for her behavior might have been later additions or interpretations rather than original to Norse myth.

In fact, Freyja's sexual nature is an important part of her helpfulness to humanity and the entire world; because she is associated with love and sex, acts that relate to the fertility of humankind, she's also associated with the fertility of the land, helping plants grow and bountiful harvests become a reality for those who pay her homage. It's a role she shares with her brother Freyr, and with the whole of the Vanir, in a symbolic sense; the Vanir are often theorized to function as deities representing nature and the earth itself, as opposed to the Vanir representing more human ideas such as civilization and warfare.

As a final interesting side note, there's also a slow but ongoing debate in the scholarly community over whether or not Freyja is - or at least, at some point was - the same goddess as Frigg wife of Odin and mother of the gods. There are numerous items of proof that make them similar: their names probably come from a similar root (frija/frijaz, a theorized word meaning beloved); they're both powerful in the occult, with Frigg knowing "all the secrets of the universe" but refusing to tell them and Freyja knowing the secrets of seidr rune-magic, which she taught to Odin; Frigg being married to Odin while Freyja is married to Odr, two gods with similar names who might be forms of the same deity; and connections to various other magical goddess deities, who may or may not be either one of them. Some scholars believe they're the same goddess, just with multiple names and roles, while others point out that similar root names is not much to go on in Norse myth and they might have nothing to do with one another, and still others claim that they probably evolved from the same original figure, but became distinct individuals long before the end of Norse religion.

Whatever your thoughts on Freyja and other goddesses who might share some of her real estate, she's a powerful figure beloved by her worshipers and feared by her enemies, and it's no wonder she's one of the most popular and badass figures the pantheon has to offer!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Mechanics Talk: Domains, Spheres, and What They Can Do!

By popular demand, we're back to talk about Domains and Spheres again! We did a quick runthrough of what these are all about back when we were starting this game... but that was more than a little while ago, and you have all shrewdly noticed that things have changed in the meantime.

So, first, some things that haven't changed: there are still four Domains, and they're still the ones you know. They also still contain the same Spheres as subordinate stats (much like Talents are subordinate to Aspects), as you can see in this handy reminder table:

Domain Spheres
Celestial Heavens, Solar, Lunar
Devotional Divinity, Ritual, Theology
Elemental Fire, Thunder, Water
Spiritual Death, Fortune, Life

But what did change, and how are you going to purchase and use Domains and Spheres for your Heroes now?

First of all, our initial conception of Spheres was very freeform, and it has since solidified. In the original version, you did not purchase dots of Spheres; Spheres were just organizational concepts inside Domains, navigated via webs of connected bonuses and Blessings.

You still do use the web above to get around inside a Sphere, so no worries there! However, you will now purchase dots of Spheres within Domains, and how many dots you have in a Sphere will matter to gameplay regardless of where you decide to go as far as nodes in the tree are concerned.

We did this for a couple of reasons, and they're all good, crunchy, mathematical ones, for those of you who are big fans of us doing things Because Logic. For one thing, it's more symmetrical and makes more sense when stacked up against Aspects and Talents; now, essentially, Aspects and Domains function the same way as container stats for Talents and Spheres, which have their own dot ratings and affect rolls. And for a second and much more important thing, at least as far as balance goes, we needed Domains and Spheres to have their own in-house way of handling rolls for activating Blessings, and that means that Spheres needed to have a functional use beyond just looking pretty.

So what do you roll for Blessings? Well, that depends on the Blessing and what it's designed to do. Previously, we had said that Blessings from Domains would roll using the Aspects and Talents; that way, your other hard-won skills could be involved in your use of Domain powers, and we'd be able to do neat stuff with making each power roll Aspects that were appropriate to its function. However, we found in testing (and some concerns aired by you folks, too) that this made some Spheres "better" than others for some character builds, and that it was easier to game the system by choosing certain combinations and not having to perform much investment in both, leading to potential situations where all Warriors are also Elementalists or all Sages are also Spiritualists. We didn't want to make any of the Domains feel "mandatory" for any character build, nor "useless" for any other, so we went to the simplest solution: you now have to also purchase Sphere dots to make things work, thus preventing players from buying a single dot in a Domain, getting all the bananas powers in it, and getting to lay waste with them without ever buying any stats they didn't already have.

So, like Talents, Spheres now provide automatic successes to rolls, in order to complement the dice granted by Aspects/Domains. However, we did still like the flavor and flexibility of being able to have Aspects involved in some Blessings, so we didn't completely boot that concept out the window, either. Now, there are two possibilities for what you might end up rolling to use a Domain Blessing:

1) Domain + Sphere (so, for example, Elemental + Thunder or Celestial + Solar). This roll turns up most often for Blessings that feel like pure expressions of a Sphere; a Lunar Blessing that has to do with embodying the moon or shedding pure moonlight is likely to make this roll, as opposed to one that might have more practical application or affect things other than the Hero's mooniness at that time.
2) Aspect + Sphere (so, for example, Hunter + Life or Sage + Fortune). This roll happens when a Blessing involves using a Spheres powers to do things that might normally fall within the purview of one of the Aspects. For example, powers having to do with divination or predicting the whims of fate might use that Sage + Fortune roll, since finding information is normally first and foremost the Sage's job, or breathing fire on someone to attack them might use a Warrior + Fire roll, since you're obviously being a warrior and taking the fight to your enemies.

We did discuss the elusive Domain + Talent combo (Celestial + Mysticism, or something like that), but after a lot of testing and investigation, it turned out not to have a lot of uses, and to be awkward and balance-problematic, so it's been sent back out into the cold for the time being. It might make reappearances in future expansions, although we won't promise anything.

So now, with this change, you can build more flexible and capable characters, depending on what you want to do. Heroes who want to purchase Domains and Spheres to complement what they're doing in Aspects and Talents can, without fear of accidentally setting themselves up in non-viable character builds or feeling the pressure of being "required" to take the Domains that are mathematically best for their Aspect regardless of what they want to do. Heroes who invest heavily in Domains and Spheres are rewarded by having some powers that they're complete dynamite at, and others that, even if they aren't as good as someone who had the Sphere AND the Aspect being rolled, they're still pretty great at by virtue of their great powers over Death. There is definitely a little more XP investment, which we recognize is annoying when you want all your great powers right now, but we think that's more than made up for by the resulting flexibility and possibilities when it comes to building different kinds of characters.

Okay, so there is also a little tiny flavor reason for this change, which is that it also makes more sense for various heroes and deities to have to specialize into Spheres instead of wandering around them all willy-nilly. Most Heroes are famous for, say, using a lot of Fire, not for using a lot of Fire/Water/Thunder/Earth/you know what, whatever element comes to mind. There are a few out there, but most need to focus down (which is why those few are interesting as characters; the Avatar wouldn't be all that special and interesting if everybody else in the same world could also wield all four elements instead of just one!).

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Spoiler: Divine Favor Pages!

Psssst. Hey.

After yesterday's blog post, the art department was like "you need more spoilers, look what we made!"

Hug the art department, they're great!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Mechanics Spoilers: Divine Favor!

In among all the wild baying for information about Domains and Spheres (don't worry, it's coming on Monday, I promise!) there was also a request for a post about Divine Favor. And heck, we have barely talked about Divine Favor at all, so this'll probably be almost as much fun for me to write as for you to read!

First of all, the basics: Divine Favor is a magical tool or other form of help granted to Heroes to help them on their journeys. They often get it from their divine patrons, who are the logical choice to be like, "Lo, here is a sword, go forth and hit things with it," but it can also be given or revealed to them by many other people and beings who want them to succeed or have an interest in seeing what they might do or become. When Divine Favor is a thing that can be given, it comes from a mentor- or supporter-type force that specifically provided it to help the Heroes get awesome for the trials to come; or, if it's something that can't be given to the Hero but is just part of who they are, Destiny itself decided to bestow it on them and some agent or force will reveal its effects to them as they head out into adventure.

If you're looking at that and wondering if it means that you don't get any say in what your Divine Favor is, since it comes from an outside force... well, yes and no. All players choose their first Divine Favor, so you'll be able to make sure you get something that fits your idea for your character from the beginning, but you'll receive more Divine Favor at various points later in your character's development, and those you won't know the details of ahead of time. (But they'll always have to do with your story and/or skills, and you'll always be able to communicate with your GM to make sure they don't give you something you hate, don't worry.)

I'm not going to tell you the specific mechanical details of what each Divine Favor type does and grants... but I am going to tell you what all of them are!

There are six types of Divine Favor, and each of them has three different forms that Divine Favor might take. Your six types are:

Earned Prestige: Your Hero and the things they've done are well-known and impressive, and there are things in the world commemorating this fact. This Divine Favor can take the form of Artwork of your Hero or their deeds, which grants your Hero the option to buff some of their rolls to reflect how famous and impressive they are; a Legend about your Hero's deeds and exploits that allows you to grant some additional healing opportunities to themself and their companions to make sure they can get back on said adventures sooner; or a piece of Music, which buffs themself and their allies when it's played and everyone remembers how inspiring your Hero is.

Foretold Fate: There is some kind of prophecy about your Hero and their future, which is known to at least one or two oracles or seers and will undoubtedly shape the course of their story. This Divine Favor can take the form of a prophecy of Greatness, which allows your Hero to regenerate their injuries faster so they can continue on toward their glorious destiny, a foretold Mission, which allows your Hero to regain some resources over time so that they'll be armed to succeed in the future, or a forecast of Doom, which gives your Hero more baseline resources as they react to the desperation of knowing that time is short and they have to make the most of it.

Guiding Spirit: A guardian spirit or presence extends its powers over your Hero from afar, helping to protect or promote them (although they may not often or even ever meet face to face). This Divine Favor can take the form of an Ancestral spirit, who grants your Hero resources specifically used to do things their noble lineage has a history of doing; a Heroic spirit of a deceased hero of a previous age, who grants your Hero the ability to call upon the Endowments they favored in life more often than would otherwise be possible; or a Supernatural spirit, who grants additional resources to use powers normally barred to mere mortals from the Domains and Spheres.

Inherited Legacy: Your Hero has some prestigious or notable history or skill that impresses other people and causes them to respond accordingly. This Divine Favor can take the form of divine Heritage, which represents a Hero being related to a deity or magical being by blood and allows them extra resources to use powers favored by that deity; an impressive Title, either passed down through the Hero's family or given to them in their lifetime, which causes NPCs to be more positively-inclined toward them than they would otherwise have been; or an important Tradition of their people, culture, family, or other group, which increases their chances to call for help from an outside force when the going gets lethally tough.

Legendary Weapon: Your Hero's been given a weapon or implement of war of some kind, and told to get out there and kick some butt with it. This Divine Favor can take the form of a Destructive weapon, which allows your Hero to hurt enemies more than usual when wielded against them; a Noble or ceremonial weapon, which grants your Hero the ability to reroll some failed rolls in order to remain as impressive and respectable as they rightfully should be; or a Protective weapon or shield, which can be used to save allies or bystanders from injury in the nick of time.

Physical Feature: Your Hero has something about their physical self, whether part of their body or something they choose to wear on it, that is particularly important or symbolic. This Divine Favor can take the form of an Adornment such as clothing or jewelry, which gives your Hero the ability to gain bonuses to any roll you like for a steep resource cost; an Attribute like a birthmark, medical condition, or other naturally-occurring physical feature, which gives your Hero the ability to gain bonuses to rolls in specific Domains; or a Modification such as a tattoo, scar, or other change to your Hero's physical body, which allows them to gain bonuses to rolls in specific Aspects.

You won't be able to stack Divine Favor - once you have a Destructive Legendary Weapon, you won't be able to get five more in order to try to one-shot every enemy you meet - but you will be able to get more than one in the same type, so you could also wield a Noble scepter of state to try to get people to take you more seriously, or deal death with your Destructive weapon with one hand and dispense mercy with your Protective shield with the other.

There are about ten thousand reasons we set up the Divine Favor system this way, most of them having to do with balance, character freedom, and the ability to have the story be supported by mechanics rather than the other way around; in particular, providing pre-set options for Divine Favor allows us to make sure they're all balanced against one another and that no one player will automatically override the others with their choices. Of course, that's more restrictive than a kind of "choose whatever power you want as long as you can get GM approval" model, but we hope to provide enough possibilities and a wide enough selection that all players will be able to get something useful to them, and they're still fully customizable in terms of flavor and meaning to an individual Hero and their story. It also takes some of the weight off of a GM to have to recognize potential problems or compete with powergaming players to try to keep them under control, and likewise it takes the burden of figuring out what powers a player wants off their shoulders and leaves them free to focus on how this could be interesting for their character's story.

I'm sure there are a lot of questions to be asked about this, so don't be shy - if we don't answer them in the comments below, Cameron will round them up for our meeting this week.

And before anyone asks, yes, we do definitely have ideas for further Divine Favor types to be released in the future, but we really need to focus on getting this book to you, so expansion will have to wait! (Yes, having a familiar or companion animal is one of them!)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Weekly Update 5.1

Disclaimer: This is being written about a project that is in progress and is an attempt to give you a glimpse in the process of making the game. Abilities, powers, and mechanics discussed in this blog my not work as described here in the final product.

Welcome to May! I think it might actually finally be spring, the formally frozen hellscape of Vermont seems to have finally thawed. Hopefully the weather where you are is similarly temperate.

Sadly, with the extra hour I don't have a lot to report. Anne is finishing up her last week at her job which has involved handing off her responsibilities in addition to her normal work, these have aligned with finals week, to create a perfect storm of additional responsibilities.

John has worked on some Blessings, but the remaining ones are really a two person job, requiring significant debate. So this week work has largely stalled, but will begin again in earnest next week.

I can report that Anne is working on the promised blog posts that you asked for last week. You can expect them soon (Probably within the next week)!

That's it for this week, Have a great weekend!