Mage is Dead. Long Live Mage

I can count on one hand the number of books that I can say I am better for having read. These books that have had such profound influence on my life that I can say they changed my paradigm forever. The most important was the Bible, specifically Romans. The second was a book called Waking the Dead, by John Eldredge. And the third was the Mage Second Edition rule book. Compared with the other two, a RPG book might seem out of place.

But gaming matters to me. Stories matter to me. I still remember where I was when I picked up the book for the first time (a small game store in St. Louis in 1999 while visiting a buddy while in college). Up until then, I had only run Rifts, Star Wars, and Fasa games. Little did I know what awaited me.

Mage opened my eyes. It showed me that gaming could tell stories that mattered. That fighting for what you believe in is the greatest war. That tolerance is not homogenization. That just because you fundamentally disagree with someone’s core beliefs doesn’t mean they can’t be important you, that you can’t love them. And most importantly, magik is real. It happens all around us, every day. You just have to know where to look.

Mage went through some revisions, and ultimately ended. It was replaced by a similarly named construct that looked like the game I loved, at least on the surface. Its unique heart had been removed. In its place was a cold, grey, sterile, homogenized… volume. I did not make it through the volume, I hate to use the term book, before I set it down forever. My Mage was dead. The Technocracy had won, and printed Mage the Awakening.

Why am I sharing this? Because Mage is coming back from the dead. Mage20, a love letter to fans of the game I loved, is nearing the end of its Kickstarter. It is funded. In fact it has raised over half a million dollars. It already is chocked full of the Traditions, the Technocracy, Magik and the Ascension War. The stretch goals kick the doors into this world wide open.

I offer you this link. It offers you the chance to buy a book. And that book offers to change you, if you let it.

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Prologue – Part 4 of 6

“My children,” he asked in slow, tender tone, “Why have you come?”  It was clear from the expression on Oba’sansh’s face that he, and perhaps all the present children of the High Father, mistook their father’s tone for one of ignorance and weakness.  The truth was that it was in fact a long-suffering patience born of love.  With a pause long enough for Oba’sansh to gather courage from the presence of his conspirators, words which only had been whispered in secret were uttered into light.

“We are here for your throne, Father.  Too long you have ruled the Reach.  You have grown indolent up here in the Roost, ignorant of what happens in your city, to your people.  You are so far removed as to have become irrelevant.  The power of rule should pass from your hands to ours.  It will pass to us Father, for your time is at an end.  You have over-stayed your welcome in the Reach.” Each word was an acid filled accusation, regurgitated with malice.  The words were not Oba’sansh’s, not in cadence or form.  Foreign as they were, those words had putrefied in his mind with each recitation.  They gripped Oba’sansh with a fever that had spread systemically, flowing from him into the rest of his brethren, though the words’ hold on them was not quite so complete, waxing and waning among his siblings to varying degrees. The grasp on Pat’sum was greatest after his elder brother and on Dren the least.  But still this heated power possessed enough pull upon the six to gather them here for a coup.  They stood defiant, culpable, frenzied, and harried before the throne of their father, daring him to strike at them.  Their poisoned minds saw restraint as impotence, not recognizing the fact that a father’s love stayed a god’s wrath.  The High Father looked past his oldest son, at the rest of those who had accompanied him.  To Oba’sansh’s siblings he directed his next inquiry, pointedly ignoring his eldest son’s response.

“And you all stand with him on this?  What of your other brothers and sisters?”  They met his question with a silence of agreement, so he probed deeper, tension and sorrow constricting in his chest but not reaching his voice.  Compassion warred with logic against the schemes which possessed his children.  “What has lead you to this conclusion?  Have I faltered in the defense of this city?  In the shepherding of our worshipers?  In guidance? In law? In faithfulness?  In justice or mercy? Please,” the word issued forth as a command, no hint of beseeching in the High Father’s tone, “tell me where I have failed.” At their continued silence, ears stopped up with lies, he shifted his attention back to Oba’sansh.  Cutting to the heart of the matter, he again asked a question to which he had already guessed the answer.  “Who has turned your thoughts, Oba’sansh?  With whom have you all been speaking?”  The power that was laced through that question forced the immortals back a step. Oba’sansh quickly, fervently glanced back as if to reassure himself that his siblings still existed, that they still stood with him.  Then he reclaimed back the lost step, surging forward as he answered.

“Our council is our own, etiolate one.  Needless to say our eyes have been opened and the power you long sought to withhold from us is now within our grasp.  We have been chosen.  We will not be denied.”  Oba’sansh’s right hand stretched up of its own volition to grasp an arrow by the shaft and drew it free of its quiver.  He did not nock it yet.  The shaft quivered slightly, Oba’sansh’s excitement traveling along its length, exaggerated by the rigid wood.  The High Father sensed the hand of one of his enemies in all of this, although who it was he could not be certain.  There were many who desired to cause his fall.  Some sought it for control of the city he protected; some sought his ruin for vengeance’s sake.  Others wanted to claim the power he had invested in his children, whether through theft or control.  The High Father sensed deeper purposes here.  While prophecy was not part of his nature, his vision and wisdom often granted him insight into the future.  But here, within sight of his corrupted children, the weight of his foresight settled upon him.  Visions of the future blossomed, potentials stretching out before him and his mind began to see a path open before his children. A dark and terrible path that if they walked it, would threaten to not only consume them but plunge all of Shadow’s Reach into eternal night.  His city and his heirs would become a dark wound on the face of Ta’nar and suppurate to spread their infection to all that they could, drawing the world into madness and chaos.  While this was one mere possibility among the myriad skeins of fate, its gravitas threatened to overwhelm all others.  His forbearance must reach an end, for the sake of all that would come.  For while the High Father possessed a deep and abiding love for his children, his nature could not be denied.  Beyond love and compassion there existed within him the strictures of justice and defense: not just for the children who stood in opposition before him, but his other offspring who had not rebelled, who had not been seduced by the words of a foe, for the city that they all called home, for the priests that labored on their behalf, and for the mortal worshipers who sent petitions up from the city like fragrant smoke.  Their futures were as much at stake here as were those of Oba’sansh, Bak’ith, Bak’oth, Dren, Pat’sum, and his precious Ganagal.  His heart threatened to break as the pressure within his chest increased.  Torn for only a second, the High Father’s love ceased to war with itself.  Resolved to his choice, the High Father closed his eyes to summon the strength to mete out justice against those he loved to protect all he cherished.  In that brief moment, his children attacked. 

Fire and heat leapt from the white wand that was now in Dren’s hand, erupting into dazzling panoramas of beauty and death.  His flames ascended and fell, dove and swooped, roiling around to consume his father.  The blaze slagged the granite of the throne upon which the High God sat and scorched black the mosaics underneath in an ever-expanding circle that radiated from the core of the poignant inferno.  But the molten destruction did not touch the High Father who emerged from the hellstorm unsinged and wreathed in the golden mantle of his power.  Concentrated as he was on Dren’s artful wrath, the High Father was unable to stay the arrow that Oba’sansh loosed.  Propelled by rage and dark magics, the arrow punched through that aura to puncture deep into the god’s shoulder where it was consumed by the power of his wrath.  This was only a slight wound, but it served to begin the slow process of weakening the god.  Blood charged with the faith of millions bubbled up from the ragged wound, the foul magics of the arrow preventing the Lord of Shadow’s Reach from staunching the flow.  Between one heartbeat and the next, the twins Bak’ith and Bak’oth leaped at their father with naked and wailing blades.  Uncovered desire for his end shone on their faces.  A silent detonation vented from the High Father, throwing the twins back against the walls of the throne room hard enough to shatter marble and bury them in rubble.  They were not dead, for his children were potent beings in their own right, but for the moment they remained trapped underneath the wreckage. 

The second arrow was unleashed from the black bow, but this time golden light caught the shaft in midair and snapped it with a thought.  Battle trained reflexes long unused sprang into motion as the High Father leapt at Oba’sansh.  Ingrained knowledge and newly awakened muscle memory traveled in a blazing arc and sought to connect a father’s fist with his son’s skull.  The blow was perfect; Oba’sansh stood uncomprehending at the sight of his impending death only to be saved when the blow was stopped by Pat’sum.  Dren gave a frenzied cry as Pat’sum caught his father’s fist in one palm. The concussive impact ripped tapestries from the walls and sent networks of crazed cracks along the floor.  These cracks rippled and thrashed against walls where they began to both climb high up to the ceiling and descend toward the foundation of the Roost.  Powerful blows, backed by divine might, were unleashed against Pat’sum.  Each blow was countered at the last possible second, but the Lord of Self-Control had to give ground with each block to survive.  Inch by inch, the High Father forced his son backwards toward the entry way, each gain punctuated by growing damage to the Roost from the violent outpouring of power. Dren’s eyes were wild in terror, as if this were the outcome he had deceived himself into believing would never happen but knew in his heart was inevitable. Oba’sansh stood in awe, arrow nocked but undrawn.  Whether it was wonder at his brother’s skill or admiration of his father’s power that stayed his hand, none could tell. Yet however perfect his defense was, Pat’sum finally failed to react in time, and the High Father’s fist connected with his son’s sternum with a sickening crunch.  The golden aura parted the young Immortal’s flesh an instant ahead of the fist, shattering his chest and flinging him back into one of the mangled doors.  Pat’sum collapsed to the floor in a wet broken heap, dying but not yet dead.

Mere seconds had passed since the throne was immolated, yet the High Father knew that such a physical clash would be drawn out, and his heart could not bear to brutally pummel his children into oblivion.  With a cry of desperation as his conflicted nature demanded an end to this confrontation, he prepared to unleash a consuming torrent of magic.  He would tear his granted power away from these wayward and rebellious children and render them mortal.  He thought this paradox might be the one answer to assuage both his love and justice.  As he reached out to summon his power to end his children’s divine link in a flare of passionate magic, the High Father was stunned to find himself cut off from his worshipers.  Power that had moments ago been within his grasp, and had indeed suffused his being, was now absent.  The reason for the flaw in his son’s defense emerged into his consciousness, for from his bloodied hand hung the black bands of Pat’sum’s chains.  The power flowing from that manacle lapped up his son’s blood, scouring the High Father’s hand clean but locked the expression of his divinity behind walls of magic.  While these walls were frail compared to the might and skill the High Father could bring to bear, they were clever ones artfully crafted to require more than a simple impulse to dismiss.  It would require precious time that the High Father did not have.

A cackle of mad laughter tore its way free from Dren’s throat, the manifestation of the realization that it was his hand that ultimately made this moment possible, for it was his magic invested in the shackles.  Dren’s mind, unable to reconcile lie he had chosen to embrace with the truth of the matter, snapped under the weight of betrayal.  Even as comprehension and pain masked the High Father’s face, Ganagal stepped up to finally join the others in the fight.  Twin daggers plunged into the back of the father who had gifted them.  With savage twists, Ganagal drove the blades deeper, forcing upon her father wounds that went beyond physical healing.  The Lord of Shadow’s Reach stumbled and sank to his knees.  With an expression of visceral terror, Dren sank to mirror his father’s posture.  The golden aura pulsed weakly, then failed the High Father as he leaned back against his calves, barely able to sit erect.  Spittle tinged bright red with blood flowed from his mouth to join with his shoulder wound in dyeing his raiment sanguine.  Ganagal’s bloody hands left the knives in her father’s back.  She circled to face her sire, Bak’ith and Bak’oth joining her, having freed themselves from the rubble.  Their bruised skin was a mottled testament to their father’s power.  Ganagal’s face betrayed no emotion while the twins wore expressions of pain and shock.  Oba’sansh walked slowly to stand again at their head, having retrieved Pat’sum from where he had fallen.  Oba’sansh supported his grievously wounded brother, one arm around Pat’sum shoulders, the other steadying Pat’sum’s broken chest.  The six Immortals gathered before their lord father as he bled out.  A wracking cough cleared the High Father’s lungs of the invading blood briefly, allowing him to speak.

“In the fullness… of time…. you will comprehend….. your folly……”  His body wracked with spasms, the god was unable to continue, and he fell prostrate, but all his children heard the lament in his final words.  Perhaps the fever had fled them upon completion of their dark intent, maybe reason broke through the cage of madness each had built in their minds, or possibly they at last could hear the truth in their father’s voice.  Even now his sorrow was not the swallowed rage of justified self-pity.  The tears that flowed from their father’s eyes were not for himself, but for them.  Shallow, ragged breaths were all that the High Father could manage, his lungs useless, punctured by Ganagal’s blades.  His mind tried to give voice to thoughts of forgiveness and warning, but his chest was thick and languid and refused to respond to his desires. The Lord of Shadow’s Reach, Empyrean of Ta’nar, slowly choked to death as blood filled his lungs.  As they watched their father die, Oba’sansh spoke quietly.  His first attempt was lost in the hysterical sobs that had overtaken Dren and the ominous groans that reverberated throughout the Roost.  Gathering himself, he tried again louder as the needs of the situation gathered about them.  His voice was calm, sharp in its call for attention. 

“What now?  We have claimed the throne, but not his power.  It remains locked inside him, now beyond our grasp.  The others have to know of what has happened.  They cannot be ignorant of the power unleashed and will be racing here to end us.”  He turned to look at his siblings.  They were not the glorious Immortals that had entered the throne room with self-justified intent.  They were coated in dust and blood, both theirs and their father’s.  The dark tapestry of their conspiracy hung in tatters, being unraveled by the reality of their actions as they stood before the corpse of their father.  Oba’sansh was the one who orchestrated the plan, having been advised by dark powers. It was he who had turned the minds of his siblings to sedition by the strength of his argument and conviction.  Yet even he felt as if he were standing on shifting ground, the purity of his purpose leaked out of him like the blood from his father.  It was Dren who spoke next, his sobs turning to maniacal laughter that gripped him with an equal fervor.  When he looked up, the others saw that the patron of beauty was gone.  Behind his eyes shone a bright and fevered madness.  In lucid tones that sharply contrasted what Oba’sansh saw in his demeanor and with a stark casualness of tone as if he were explaining something to a child or simpleton, Dren said in a tone that carried with it the impetus of a prophetic demand.

“Then we consume his flesh to consume his power.”

Oba’sansh heard nothing of his other sibling’s reactions.  The fever that had gripped him before returned in force.  Blood pounded in his ears and his heart thudded with excitement.  His mouth salivated with a primal hunger for the power his father possessed.  Oba’sansh found that some part of his mind echoed the mad belief of his brother.  Did not he eat the hearts of the stags he took on the hunt, both in honor and to gain a measure of their strength?  Did sailors not tell tales of cannibals eating their enemies to subsume their power?  Unaware that his eyes revealed a depravity of spirit that would justify this terrible act only moments after committing patricide, Oba’sansh’s lips curled into a wicked smiled.  He was only vaguely aware of his siblings’ faces, some showing avid hunger and others showing reluctant horror that came from the knowledge that they were too far gone to stop now.  He only had eyes for the torn, red flesh of his father and the bright blood that pooled beneath the body.

When the High Father’s other children arrived at the door to the throne room with weapons in hand, they witnessed their brothers and sisters ripping into their father’s flesh in an orgy of consumption.  Revulsion gripped them, preventing them from reacting as they took in the gore-coated visages of their siblings.  Their brothers and sisters tore flesh apart with their hands, teeth gnashed and throats worked to choke down a god’s power.  Already a change was beginning to take place in the throne room.  Power radiated out from the cannibalistic frenzy, further weakening the Roost as the High Father’s divinity violently passed into his children.  Those who ate were no longer Immortals, a newly consumed puissance was passing into them from the dead god’s flesh, elevating them beyond their stations as demi-gods.  Power that was unearned possessed them, and, as they arose from around the corpse of their father, they were Empyreans, lords among the gods.  But that was not the only change that had commenced.  Already the manner of their ascension was perverting their very nature, poisoning their power and their being.  While the newly elevated gods of Shadow’s Reach reveled in new found power, their siblings slipped away into the night.  Their hearts filled with fear and dread, their minds struggled with the knowledge that their great father was dead.  And hundreds of leagues away, imprisoned in a myiar coffin bound to the back a cart bouncing along a road drawn by two thar, the architect of their doom laughed as six children of a god of light fell into darkness. 

A Portal of Darkest Obsidian

One aspect of game mastering is distribution of information.  Whether during a session or in between sessions, information about the game and system usually flows out from the GM’s spot at the table.  There are many tools out on the internet for creating, collating, and distributing information that can make a GM’s life easier.  Dropbox can give your players access to resource materials that you want to share with them.  Onenote and Evernote give GMs and Players access to campaign materials and notes across multiple devices.  Google Hangouts and Roll20 provide virtual tables to gather around and play.  Of all the online tools available for modern gaming, Obsidian Portal is by far my favorite.

What is Obsidian Portal?

If you haven’t checked it out, go here and check out Obsidian Portal.  At its core, Obsidian Portal is a site that hosts rpg campaigns.  It enables you and your players to collaborate on game creation, session recaps, and character development.  It is a great organizational tool for campaign management.  Obsidian Portal allows you to create wiki entries for NPCs, places, items, etc. and then tag them to allow for easy sorting, location, and cross-referencing.  It provides a blog-like feature for adventure logs to keep track of gaming sessions.  As the GM, you can choose to keep some of this information tracked but hidden.  You get to decide what is shared with your players and when.  On top of this, Obsidian Portal acts as a hosting site for forms, maps and other campaign handouts.  It notifies your players when updates to your campaign have been made.  And if you upgrade to Ascendant level you gain a host of additional features, most noticeably a forum for your game. 

Finally Obsidian Portal is a great CASE resource.  CASE stands for Copy and Steal Everything.  There are tens of thousands (Pathfinder has 11k games listed) of public games that you can view and read.  See what GMs around the world are doing for their game!  You can sort by game system, and spend hours reading on other campaigns.  I can attest to time sink nature of Obsidian Portal, so consider yourself warned.

Getting the Most Out of Your Portal.

Like most tools, you get the most out of them when you actually use them.  Obsidian Portal takes a lot of work to get up and running to the point where it is useful for you and your players.  And it requires upkeep.  You have to maintain the site to keep the information up to date.  If you are like me, and plan a lot of your game in advance and do session recaps then this just becomes a formalized step and repository for that data. 

The biggest piece of advice that I can give for Obsidian Portal is to get your players invested in the site.  If they are updating pieces, those are pieces you don’t have to touch.  I have handed out extra XP to those PCs who post recaps or who update NPC information for me.  In the current next game, where we are not using XP, I asked a player who enjoys writing to partner with me on creating a player resource for the group.  Getting a second, third or fourth set of hands on the site really helps make the campaign site sing and keeps it from being overwhelming for the GM to maintain.

How I Have Used It:

I still have a couple of campaigns up on Obsidian Portal.  Most are for games that have ended or that have been put on hold.  Games like my Mage game or my Legend of the Five Rings had good runs, but ended before the site really had a chance to become useful.  However, there are two examples I would like to share.

Anima: Into the Shadows – This was my first real attempt to use Obsidian Portal for a game.  What the group produced with this site was brilliant.  I still go back and read through the adventure logs as well as the wiki pages.  The group did a great job with their recaps, and referenced the site on a weekly basis.  I came to count on the fact that the group could (and would) go to the site and revisit NPCs and group history.  It enabled me to tell more complex stories, as I knew that I had a permanent record the group could reference. 

DnD Next: A Dark God Arises – This is my current DnD Next game.  I have partnered with one of my players to update large chunks of the site for game.  As the players routinely separates into two groups, this allows me to potentially have eyes and ears in both groups.  I have yet to talk to the other GM but I need to make sure he is ok with doing write-ups for his side if this player ends up in my group.  He has done a great job with initial set up of this site.  I will be interested to see if this becomes a resource for the group, or just an exercise for the GMs and this player in campaign management on Obsidian Portal.

 

So that is how I use Obsidian Portal.  How do you use it?

Prologue – Part 3 of 6

This week, we leave the Wanderer and the burning city of Rothin and travel south to the coastal city of Shadow’s Reach.  

 

Along the northern end of the chain of mountains that by the peoples of Sentali were called Hawkwing, there lay the Claw.  The massive tectonic pressures that forced from deep within the world a stone wall to shield the western edge of the Sentali plains had also bifurcated the strict line of peaks.  The forked range, the Upper and Lower Claw, ran north and west along the coast, creating a shelter between their sheer cliffs.  The Eragal Dwharvs had built their homes in the Hawkwing Mountains epochs before their race’s decline into barbarism, and it was they who had been the first to discover the shadowed stretch of land that lay grasped between the range’s two digits.  It was these Dwharvs who enjoyed command of the breadth of the range and, at the height of their fleeting glory, opened the tunnels granting ingress to the harbor.  Not satisfied with a single means of accessing this hidden refuge, two more grand thoroughfares were crafted through the Claws.  Used as a port for their underground kingdom, this area grew into a vast populace center in its own right.

It called to merchants from the great nations of its day to bring their wares and earn their fortune.  It gave to the Dwharven clan a market of desires, both for selling the prosperity of the mountain and spending its wealth.  Gold, red iron, coal, and the bounty of the earth’s gems were mined, which the Eragal toiled constantly to bring into light.  And Shadow’s Reach provided for the spending of these fruits of their labor. Long did Shadow’s Reach, named for the mountains that occluded the city in dimness during the whole of the day, grant its rulers wealth beyond imagining.  But when the curse of the Dwharvs came to the Eragal and they fell into ruin, the Reach continued.  It had grown beyond the need to tie itself to any one kingdom.  Merchants still came to its harbor and traveled the great trade roads that stood at its heart, while avoiding the cursed ruins of the Eragal’s holds.  The city began to extend its influence beyond the cliff walls that formed its bastion, and its power spread further outward.  Soon, as they reckoned time, gods came seeking to call the Reach their home.  For some, the lure of claiming such a great city and the prestige it would bring, was irresistible.  The greatest of these was the High Father.

 The High Father, Empyrean of Shadow’s Reach, looked down from a balcony on the temple mount of Hawk’s Roost, contemplating the city that had sheltered him for hundreds of years.  The grand golden temple overlooking the shadowed city served as home for the gods of the city, among them the High Father and his twelve children.  The High Father surveyed the city he had come to live in and the people he protected and received worship from.  His heart was troubled, for though the city moved about its nightly business unaware, plans and plots were coming to fruition that would alter its destiny.  The vastness of these plots’ reach and scope would perhaps change the course of the world.  He turned away from his beloved city with a weary sigh, his hand trailed along wood railing polished over years of contact with skin and oil, till it was warm to touch and sight.  The High Father moved away from the balcony and into his throne room.  The hawk that was his own symbol alighted on everything in the room.  It was worked into the arms and high back of the granite throne that was the seat of his power.  It flew from tapestry to tapestry, hung from gold hooks set high on the throne room’s walls.  The tapestries wove tales that spoke of a father’s love of his children, of a city’s grand achievements, and of petitioners’ worship. The hawks raced along the mosaics inlaid into the floor, swooping and diving among the marble designs telling the story of the High Father’s rise to divinity, his claim of Shadow’s Reach, and the birth of his children.  The roll of his years and the sum of his achievements were laid bare out throughout the room. 

Strange that any life, especially that of a god’s, should be captured so completely, incarnated so fully into the substance of the world.  Some would claim it was the height of vanity, and perhaps they would be correct.  But the High Father had no thoughts to spare on that matter.  His mind was aware of all that was around him, yet it was strangely absent from the observation.  As if his senses busied themselves with stimulus to offer a distraction to a troubled mind.  Darkness moved in the halls of his palace, in the sanctuary he had built for himself and his children.  A darkness that could only exist if it were invited in, welcomed, and hidden in this place of light.  This fact caused a touch of fear to alight on the surface of the High Father’s soul.  It was a great risk for a god to inhabit the world of Ta’nar anywhere but in the divine city of Cestario, the shining metropolis of divinity far to the north, for a god was vulnerable anywhere on the mortal plane but that glorious settlement where the law of reality was worn thin and those that mortals called gods could exist in the full expression of their power.  This fear was not of the loss of the ambrosia of worship that threatened all gods.  The essence of a god, who was starved of the worship that empowered them, lost his purchase on Ta’nar and when rendered irrelevant in the hearts of mortals was banished from this realm for all eternity.  That threat loomed forever just beyond the eyesight of all who would lay claim to the razor-edged path of divinity and worship.  No, existence within the realm of their worshipers brought with it different peril: being forced to contain all of his power in one mighty vessel rendered a god vulnerable to death by slaying. 

Even as these thoughts threaded through the troubled substance of the god’s mind, he sat down upon the throne, resolving himself to receive the darkness.  A darkness that moved through the golden halls of the Hawk’s Roost.  It was carried in the hearts of half of his children.  He could sense them, their shards of his power calling out to him, just outside his door.  Just as he could sense his power in their brothers and sisters out in the city.  Those outside his door had conjured some excuse to get those not included in the shadows of their conspiracy out of the way.  Whether out of love or a fear of intervention, the High Father could not tell.  But the fact that some of his children might be spared the coming confrontation gave him hope.  Perhaps some spark of who these approaching children once were could be reached and the dark fate which loomed over this night might be avoided. 

The vision of the Lord of Shadow’s Reach was not stymied by the physical realties of the palace he called home.  Six of his children came into focus as they gathered in the atrium outside his throne room.  All but one bore their weapons of choice and skill, though none were readied.  The seeds of their desire had not flowered enough into intent to approach their father with weapons in hand.  Oba’sansh moved at the head of his siblings, the mighty lord of hunters a striking figure in his forest green and gold tunic worked with the hawks of his father.  These hawks clasped embroidered steel arrows in their talons, Oba’sansh’s usurpation of his father’s symbol.  Bow in hand, a quiver of arrows was bound to his back by a plain leather strap.  The bow was crafted by Oba’sansh’s own hand, a new weapon to replace the one he traditionally used.  Black wood wrenched from some twisted tree had been shaped into a bow for this specific moment.  Intent had stained the wood as it had stained the Immortal who wielded it.  Amber eyes, which observed and absorbed everything in their environment, studied the door to his father’s hall with a mixture of poisoned fear and dark contempt.  His face was the embodiment of his father’s, for Oba’sansh mien was a reflection of the High Father’s in his youth.

Behind him, to his left and right, stood the twins Bak’ith and Bak’oth, Lord of Focus and Lady of Ambition.  The twins both wore sneers that were too new to their dispositions to sit comfortably.  The expression had not yet had time to erode into the lines of their demeanor, to reflect the bitter changes that had rooted deep within their souls.  That festering would take decades to come to fruition, untill they outwardly reflected their innermost convictions.  Nevertheless, they stood with their brother in open opposition to their father, short swords sheathed at their hips.  Gifts from their father, the blades were forged without peer on the continent of Sentali.  Long use in their hands had awakened the spirits of the blades, and the High Father could hear their soft keening through the thick walls of his sanctum.  They sensed their masters’ desires and ached to voice the blood call that embodied them.  Bak’ith’s handsome demeanor only bore echoes of the High Father, his features cast from his mother’s face.  His steel grey eyes bored intently on the door that secreted the High Father, seeking some imagined weakness or flaw in its surface that would justify this rebellion.  Bak’oth’s expression was fluid, her face a softer replica of her twin’s.  But where Bak’ith’s was consumed with a singular hunger, Bak’oth’s attention shifted, constantly looking for a more advantageous situation.  Both however shared a rabid desire that promised impending gratification.  So potent was this idea that it occluded their capacity for rational thought or familial bond.

The final trio in the wedge were the youngest of all the High Father’s progeny.  Dren marched behind Bak’oth, Pat’sum behind Bak’ith, and between them strode Ganagal.  Dren’s eyes hinted at the awareness of the honest shame of one who has attempted to deceive himself.  It was a queer expression on the Immortal’s face, for Dren was the perfection of his parents’ beauty.  As Shadow’s Reach’s Immortal of Love, he served as both muse and patron to beauty and the arts.  Shame veiled this beauty, casting a pall of contradiction on his demeanor that threatened to desolate his soul.  He carried a simple wand in the crook of his arm, its wooden shaft pure white, carved with soft lines that drew the eyes.  The warmth of its sight excited the mind to creativity.  With it Dren had crafted masterpieces of stone, canvas, words and music.  He had also fashioned traps and strategies in defense of his city and family so perfect in their execution that the invaders were said to have gone to their deaths gladly. 

Pat’sum, the Lord of Self-Control, exhibited none of Dren’s secret shame.  He moved as though he were independent of the group, his poise flawless.  While Oba’sansh was the focus of the wedge, Pat’sum radiated perfect conviction that both supported his siblings and brokered in them no doubt.  At least not enough to stymie their purpose.  He bore no weapon, for he needed none.  Pat’sum was the weapon, body wielded with the same stoic control and precision as his countenance.  His discipline flowed out from a mind and soul rigidly ordered into every iota of his body, affording him martial skill and prowess far beyond the need for physical weaponry and armor.  At his side however, hung chains of rune-scribed black iron, the surface of which were inscribed with runes that bled darkness as if the symbols had been sliced into the metal, wounding in some fundamental way the chains’ very existence.  The metal seemed to writhe against the form and purpose for which it was wrought.  None of this escaped the notice of the Lord of Shadow’s Reach.  But the High Father’s eyes were focused on Ganagal.  It was he who had given his youngest daughter her name, which meant Justice in the language of the now extinct tribe that had birthed him.  Of all his children, she had received the lion’s share of her father’s spirit.  Sheathed on her belt were two knives, the braided metal grips intimately familiar to the Empyrean seated on the throne.  From in the old Dwharven city under the Hawkwing Mountains, long abandoned by the time the High Father came to the Reach, the god had retrieved the knives from a vault beneath the expansive enclave.  They had called to him, their subtle song drawing him ever deeper into the halls of the Eragal.  Past warding spells, mechanical traps, and invading Var from the Deep Dark, the High Father had followed their pull on a path of conflict and blood.  He found the twin blades thrust into the heart of a forgotten anvil that rested in the long dead heart of Dwharven forge.  Though the blades should have been stuck fast, they pulled free as from an oiled sheath.  The High Father had carried the blades with him for centuries, and when Ganagal had come of age, he passed the blades to her along with a portion of his power, to the child he loved most of all.  The sight of her and those blades, among this pack, stabbed deep into the god’s heart.  He forced the rising tide of emotion down.  The time for regrets passed too quickly, as Oba’sansh threw his power against the doors in front of him, and the High Father’s vision retreated back into the room he occupied.

The looming gold sheathed doors that barred entry to the chamber of the throne room of Shadow’s Reach opened in mournful protest.  The desolate sound was a realization that their purpose was to prevent such violations as were about to occur and the gates screamed out in warning.  The heavy doors hit the walls to which they were mounted with a reverberating clang, the second and final warning the lovingly wrought guardians could utter.  The risk that the High Father always accepted as possible moved from the realm of chance into the immediate existence of reality.  Elaborately crafted golden handles crumpled against the stone walls, scoring the marbled as they were obliterated by the force of their opening.   The explosion of pressure caused the tapestries to flutter violently on their rods and hooks.  Six figures strode into the throne room, every bodily expression haughty and filled with the desire to claim dominance over what they had no right.  The six children of the High Father moved across the room in an unassuming wedge, as if to empower the figure at the apex.  They moved as a pack, by necessity becoming more than the sum of any single member for their prey outstripped the power any individual might hope to possess.  Yet the Lord of the Reach sat in silence, outwardly unfazed by this brazen intrusion into his sanctum.  Although he knew the hearts of his children, still he greeted them with a question instead of his might, hoping they would lose momentum of purpose if they were forced to answer their intent aloud in his presence. 

Interview With Tim Brown!

Big news about Game Fest.  Author & Game Designer Tim Brown will be the Guest of Honor at Game Fest 2014.  For those of you scratching your head, wondering who Tim Brown is, let me introduce him.  Tim has been designing and writing role-playing games for over 20 years now.  He has worked for a number of industry names like Game Designers’ Workshop and TSR, Inc.  The big titles he has worked on include designing 2300 AD with Mark Millar and being one of the main creators of Dark Sun! 

 

That is not all, as if you are into Dark Sun and Kickstarters, you already know that his new setting Dragon Kings is releasing in April.  If you have not heard about it, you can read all about it here.  It is the spiritual successor to Dark Sun and is a multi-media and multi-system epic.  This game is being release as a system agnostic setting with rules supplements for Pathfinder, 13th Age, and Savage Worlds.  If that was not enough, Tim is also an accomplished musician and is releasing a Dragon Kings progressive rock album and concept album book in the tradition of Rush’s 2112.

 

At Game Fest, Tim will be sitting on panels on DMing, World Design, and Dragon Kings.  And he will be running some Savage Worlds games set the land of the Dragon Kings.  So come to GameFest and spend some time with Guest of Honor: Tim Brown.

As a special exclusive for Origins of a Dark God, I was able to interview Tim.

Tim, thanks for signing on with GameFest and to agreeing to do this interview for my blog.

It’s my pleasure. Thanks for talking with me.

What was your first RPG and how did you get into gaming?

I played D&D way back in ’78. I was already a boardgame and miniatures game player, and a friend of mine introduced me to D&D. It was a ton of fun, such a new concept!

How did break into the RPG industry?

I started working for Game Designers’ Workshop (GDW), which was in my hometown in Illinois, playtesting boardgames. I wrote my first supplement for the Traveller game in 1980. I ended up working at GDW for 12 years, on Traveller, Space: 1889, 2300 AD, and as editor of Challenge magazine.

If you had to pick one, what would be your favorite product that you worked on?

That’s difficult to pin down. I reminisce the most about Traveller, I suppose, and some of the great sessions and campaigns I was involved in. 2300AD, though, appealed to my ‘hard sci-fi’ leanings, though, and I had a more direct involvement in its creation. Of course, Dark Sun was such an all-encompassing positive experience, too.

How did Dark Sun come into existence?

TSR management let it be known that they wanted a new AD&D setting, and I volunteered to be part of the project. The existing settings – Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and Forgotten Realms – all seemed to be pretty straightforward medieval fantasy worlds, so I wanted to create something different. None of those satisfied the Conan or John Carter vibe, so we headed down that direction. Troy Denning and I started working on the savage setting originally titled War World, and hooked up with relatively new TSR artist Brom to get the ball rolling.

What was it like working on a new setting in the TSR/2nd edition heyday?

Very open and exciting. Honestly, we had a lot of time and resources and very few directives ‘from above.’ As you can see, we took advantage of all of that to create something pretty special. The AD&D 2ndEdition game could accommodate anything easily, I felt.

Who came up with the cannibal Halflings?

Our original thought was to dispense with all of the AD&D races, perhaps even humans, and create entirely new player character races. As we got into that, though, we found it wasn’t as satisfying as we had originally hoped. So, we decided to severely ‘twist’ each of the traditional races to make them unique for the Dark Sun setting. The halflings’ voracious appetites were already well established; we just changed their menu.

After all this time you are returning to the desert with Dragon Kings.  Dragon Kings had a successful Kickstarter and is offering a variety of products: books, cd’s, pdfs, art, and more for three very popular systems.  Why come back?

I had only a limited period of involvement with Dark Sun back in the day. After the initial design, I moved on into overall management at TSR and that took me away from the setting as it matured. With Dragon Kings I can take my various musings and introduce them into a thematically similar environment for game play. There are a lot of stories to be told in the spreading wastelands …

How would you describe Dragon Kings?

For centuries, a race of benevolent, powerful creatures known as the Dragon Kings watched over the civilizations of Khitus. But as their power waned and they one by one disappeared from existence, more sinister powers have risen in their place. The time has come for new heroes to emerge, defeat the despots, and reverse the planet’s fortunes before it slips into oblivion.

 

Being a spiritual successor Dark Sun, it invites comparison.  What would you say are the key differences between Dragon Kings and Dark Sun?

I’ve tried to create a richer, more complete fabric of tribes, societies, and organizations in Dragon Kings, all working in their own ways and with their own agendas to remake the world in their image. How the players position themselves within and among these groups takes on a more substantial role in the unfolding of each adventure, how it sets up expectations for the adventures that follow, and drives the role-playing aspects of each session. Further, the decline of the world is rooted in theft, both overt and subtle, rather than ecological collapse, so the themes are more in keeping with its danger and savagery. Finally, Dragon Kings introduces races who display truly alien intelligence and challenging motivations that take it a step further still from the traditional medieval fantasy setting.

 

Will Dragon Kings be available at GameFest?

It will be close. The books will be away at the printers in plenty of time, but whether we have them back in hand or not for the convention is anyone’s guess. At the very least I’ll have printouts of the PDF versions of the World Book to share with everyone there.

Prologue – Part 2 of 6

The Wanderer threw the full force of his presence at the Rivener, piercing the barrier of the warlord’s Self.  No soul, including those of the gods of Ta’nar, possessed the ability to truly judge another.   For only those outcomes that express themselves in actions can be perceived by the world at large.  But those actions do not occur in isolation.  Each, traveling back along the strands of effect and cause, are predicated by a host of other external forces.  Yet even these events are not the sole foundation of a person’s decision, for deeds are the expressions of thought.  And the thoughts that make up a soul are based on the myriad events that have been experienced by or inflicted upon the quilt of a life.  And even if it were possible to unroll a life and see whole of a person laid out for inspection, could anyone, mortal or divine, have the compassion or selflessness to sunder their own sense of self and experience the entirety of another’s reality to truly understand them?   And through that knowledge be able to judge them?  The Wanderer, bearing the pain of creation’s assault, did not have the strength to cleave himself so fully.  Despite these limitations of the spirit, he stood at the eye of the Rivener’s tumultuous soul.  Scenes of memory tumbled around him, showing a life in bitter hatred of what it once was and of what it had become.

“Darkness fills your heart, Deveron Rotha,” he observed as the storm of the Rivener’s hate and rage manifested black voids of lightening, each bolt scarring the mindscape around its intruder, seeking to drive it out.  “It has fed on every bright spot that once resided inside you, consuming each possibility of who you might have been.  All but one.” the Wanderer declared softly as he saw the soft projection of a small tow-haired boy.  This fragment of the Rivener’s soul was hiding, independent from the storm:  a memory from when he was a child of no more than eight or nine years old, before the stream of his life carved out the path leading him to this courtyard in Rothin.  The Wanderer paused, a hair’s breadth from extinguishing the life force of this blood-damned warlord.  It was within in his power.  But in that instant, in the eye of a hate-filled storm, where an unexpected fragment of light lingered in the heart of darkness, the ache over all that had been lost to the course of the war, the ache which had fermented and soured deep within the Wanderer’s soul, evaporated.  Compassion welled from springs long thought dry, and the man who bore the weight of existence upon his shoulders remembered his calling.  Gathering his power around him, shielding himself from the warlord’s instinctual attempts to expell the foreign entity that had invaded his soul, the man known as the Wanderer sent a weave of magic into the soul of his enemy.

Light ripped violently through the soulscape, ignorant of the darkness’ attempts to defy it. This light arced around and through Deveron Rotha, forging powerful chains of sorcery that knit soul tightly to body, far more tenaciously than natural.  Pure ribbons of argent energy flowed from the Wanderer’s soul form and gave succor to the ember of essence that was the phantom of a young boy.  They lifted the small fragment, and the streamers of light slid over it and each other, layering into a protective cocoon of brightness.  As strength flowed down the link, the Wanderer spoke, not to the Rivener but to the man Deveron Rotha had been, might have been, and could yet be again. 

“You have damned yourself with the actions of a butcher, Deveron Rotha.  You have trod across the lands of this world, riven nations, armies, families and lives, and have exalted yourself in chaos.” The voice that spoke had lost any trace of compassion as its pronouncement was stabbed into the heart of the warlord.  But the man that spoke focused his words on the sheath of light he had woven around the boy who was not truly present, and their hard edge was lost.  “These actions require atonement.  There are those who would slay you, who would end your existence as you have ended others, and they would call it justice.  Even the hand of your master, bound as he is, seeks to end for your life, for he holds you in no special regard. I, too, sought this end for you.” The pause that followed was filled with hesitation. The light unwound from the structure of Deveron Rotha’s soul and Wanderer’s soul claimed its power.  This light now shone from the eyes and mouth of the Wanderer, who seemed transubstantiated from an old man.  Shining metal plate-mail was spontaneously created, encasing him in radiant armor releasing waves of light that broke on the soul storm and refracted back.  Each pulse carried with it the cumulative strength of the preceding upsurge, the breakers building on each other, to slam back the rage and hate of the maligned soul, even as its core was pulled in by the Wanderer’s light.  The essence of the Rivener struggled against the immutable lure of the Wanderer’s power and was drawn into the luminous cocoon.  “The geis of atonement I lay on you condemns you to a harsher justice, but it is one tempered with hope.” As he rent the final fabric of hate from the Rivener’s soul, the Wanderer’s hand reached out to touch the luminescent egg of light before him.  It contained the essence of Deveron Rotha. Though stripped of power and laid bare, it was protected, sheltered from its impending doom.  Such grace was undeserved for one such as he, but granted for the sake of a small child long ago cast aside.  “The chance for your redemption lies within your grasp, Deveron Rotha.  But you have annealed yourself with the blood you have spilt, scarring your soul until you are unable to grasp the necessity of feeling.   And without that knowledge, without that ability to feel, you lack the necessary weakness to receive absolution.”

Now that the storm was banished, the eldritch waves of light emanating from the Wanderer began to flow inward.  Into the now omnipresent calm within the warlord’s soul, the Wanderer’s magics pulled shades into being.  They appeared nascent, on the edge of the soul space, but each ripple of power brought with it new wisps.  They gathered on the fields of Deveron Rotha’s soul, a multitude beyond counting, an army of the warlord’s victims marshaled at the behest of one man.  Still caressing the magic of the shelter constructed for this piece of soul, the Wanderer spoke as he inspected his spell for flaws.

“These shades, flooding your anima, are the spirits of those you have slain through word or deed,” the Wanderer whispered to the essence that was bound within the soul cage.  The twin halves of Rotha’s soul were contained within.  The reality of who Deveron Rotha was, was tightly bound with the small boy who represented who he could yet become.  Even as the Wanderer spoke, hundreds of thousands had answered the Wanderer’s call, while Deveron Rotha railed impotently against the walls that bound him.  The bright egg of the prison was still bound tightly to the body of the warlord, and it served as a beacon for the dead to draw close to.  Souls from all walks, races, and peoples gathered.  And the vast multitude was not yet whole.  All bore the wounds of death fresh upon their scarred and tattered bodies. Soldiers marked the majority of those present, for the Warlord’s armies has known constant war for decades.   Their souls bled soft light from sword slashes, ragged limbs reduced to stumps, arrow perforations, and split skulls.  But men of war did not answer the summons alone.  Peasants shimmered into existence, still bearing the scripts of violence written on their flesh.  Merchants trampled under iron shod hooves appeared with ruptured chests, the soft gore of light slipping from mangled ribcages to disappear on the plane where they stood.  Priests burned, mages dismembered, kings and queens cast down, all gathered to mete out vicious justice against the man whose life had ended their own. 

“They call for vengeance, they call for me to cast your soul to this multitude for them to shred.  Their pain binds them here; their need for redress shackles them to the lands of their death.  The gods of the dead cannot appease this gathered multitude nor can their realms hold such rage.  It would rend the gates of death and overthrow its boundaries, if it were allowed to fester.  Perhaps your master’s plan all along?”  The Wanderer’s voice was a whisper but thrummed with power that rumbled through the throngs of gathered witnesses.  He again roused himself to action.  “But they are now gathered here.  Justice they shall have, but it shall be tempered with mercy.  They shall be the first step along the path: the bridge of torment that may cross the gap of inhumanity between who you are to who you might become.  And in return, you will take their burden upon yourself as penance.”  With a slight nod of initiation the first shade stepped forward out of the crowd.  A soldier marked with a cruel wound, ragged and deep across his chest, limping from a shattered pelvis, stepped up to the egg shaped cocoon.  His surcoat was blood-stained, the mist of his wounds obfuscating the heraldry of his liege.  His face was twisted, malformed by a malice that gripped the entirety of his being, preventing him him from moving on in the afterlife.  The Wanderer grasped the man’s hand, its splintered bones grinding against each other, feeling more like a sack of nails than a hand, and guided him to the soul of the Rivener.  Placing the spectral palm upon the enclosure, the soul of the Rivener and the soldier mixed.  Pain fell like rain upon the egg, ripping deep into Deveron Rotha’s soul inside as the pain of death left the soldier.  Memories of violation at the hands of the warlord’s army poured from the summoned wraith, the experience delving deep into the cocoon, and when it was over the soldier’s soul stood renewed.  Whole again, the wrath chaining him to this existence disappeared, and the soul faded from the gathering.  The power that had been infused tormented the soul of Deveron Rotha.  Trapped within the Wanderer’s complex spell, the essence of the warlord now experienced the pain of the departed soldier’s death, while the shade of the boy drew on the power.  The pain also stabbed into the callous surrounding the Rivener’s soul.  It was an insignificant scratch on the cold-hearted armor Deveron Rotha had forged about his spirit, hardly able to claim true damage at all.  But the multitudes gathered, each awaiting their appointed meeting with the soul of the Rivener.  And within the enclosure of power, the small light of a child, a light pure in its view of the world, in its need for protection and shelter, grew slightly more distinct.  Shielded and somehow empowered by the magic of what occurred, it briefly flared in answering the call of the slain. 

“For a hundred years you will bear the agony of those you have slain, experience the want of the helpless, and listen to the cry of the desperate.  At the end of which you will walk the dusty paths of this world again, drawn in death to the conflicts you craved in life.  When you fall, your soul will retreat here, to this struggle, while your body lays in a torpor.  The light in you may triumph over the darkness, allowing you to transcend your torment and emerge renewed. If you cannot, you will harden yourself and tumble into chaos.  The choice is yours.”  The next soul, a small girl, stepped up.  But the Wanderer’s power was spent, and the world screamed again. The distraction and exhaustion slammed him back into his corporeal form.  Everything was as he had left it; no time had passed in the world outside the soul of the warlord.  The Rivener’s men were still caught in the web of stasis.  The Rivener showed no outward sign of the torment now raging deep within the core of his soul, although the Wanderer could see the magic within burgeoning beneath the surface of the warlord’s skin.  The soul would remain bound to the body, but the body would rot and decay.  Bound as he was, the Rivener would slumber but not die, and every hundred years the wight would rise and perhaps be ready to seek redemption.  And when he was slain his soul, would find no rest, returning for another hundred years of the punishment the Wanderer had meted out before waking again.  The Rivener was damned to repeat the cycle until he found redemption or was condemned to his fate with the dying of all light within him.

The thar observed their master now, the beast’s heads turned back, mouths filled with cud, jaws working as they regarded the man who held their reins.  Giving the beasts a small, tired smile, the Wanderer snapped the leather, sending the cart forward with a groan of protest.  It maneuvered clumsily around the bodies in the courtyard, weaving through the retinue of butchers till it was free.  The thar, once again given leave to move, slowly following the broad street out of the city without any further direction from their master.  With only flames and ruin behind them, they yearned for air untainted by the smell of blood and ash.  As they pulled the cart past Rothin’s grand outer walls, the Wanderer was once again lost in his own thoughts:  thoughts of the Rivener, of a legacy perverted, and of the two prisons he had constructed this day. 

 

The Gambler

Sometimes sessions don’t work out the way you plan.  It is a reality of game mastering, we all know that.  You plan for the players to go left, and they go right.  They kill the NPC for no good reason.  You plan a puzzle that they solve in a creative way and instead of 30 minutes, it takes 10.  Sometimes they latch onto the most obscure parts of your clues and come to the completely wrong conclusions.  Perhaps that the villain must be made of living sound.

But sometimes the stars align and the group is not meant to game that night.  Distracted players, distracting environment, tired GMs, and any number of other combinations of factors can conspire to create a perfect storm of anti-gaming.  As the GM, that can be extremely frustrating.  Let’s be honest, it is very unsatisfying seeing a session that you took time out of your busy week to plan, fall apart.  

Just like in poker, reading a table is invaluable to influencing how your night is going to play out.  I will admit that it is a tough skill for me, mainly due to how often I actually use it.  Most of the time, this skill is completely unnecessary.  You and your players come to the table and the game gets rolling.  The table is in the zone, and while you may have a couple of stragglers or bumps in the road, the table/game interaction stays below the distraction threshold that the GM are able to manage.  But when you have a session that goes pear shaped, it is time to turn on Kenny Rogers and brush this skill set off.

For those times that that threshold is reached, here are some idea to help take the edge off and hopefully help you navigate through a frustrating evening. 

 

Hold ‘em

Sometimes it is as simple as grabbing the table’s attention.  If you think you can pull the group below the threshold with an unexpected twist, sudden fight or some other shock to their system, do it.  Keeping the game going is the best solution.  Have robo-ninja-nazi-zombies kick down the door and attack.  Then when the fight is over, give the PC’s a clue that puts the game back on track.  With a bit of clever story manipulation, you pull your games focus back to the table.

 

Fold ‘em

Some nights you just need to turn in the towel.  Maybe you tried to hold ‘em and it failed, or maybe you don’t have the energy.  Call the game and get a boardgame out.  Or just hang out and chat with friends.  It could be that the source of the distraction is just that the table needs a hang night.  In my opinion, when it gets to this point, it is better to call the game for the night than to let (GM or Player) frustration ruin it.

 

Walk Away

If you are finding yourself holding or folding a lot, maybe it is time to walk away from the current game.  It could be time to end the campaign.  The game might not a good fit for your game group’s style, or your style as a GM.  Just make sure you talk with the group when it comes to this point.  I have walked away from games with only cursory explanations of my reasoning and it never worked out well.  Take the time to explain to your group why you feel this way.  You might be surprised with a solution to your situation that you never considered.

 

Run

Running is a last resort.  But it needs to be mentioned.  Sometimes, the situation is too broken to be fixed and you need to remove yourself.  This could be because the GM is suffering from burnout and needs a break, whether as a player or from gaming as a whole.  It could be that the group needs a break from RPGs or that it has reached its expiration date.  But when your frustration with the game, on either side of the screen, reaches the point where it is damaging your mental health, get out of there.  Explain your need to step down or away and then relax. 

It is only a game.