At first glance, San Francisco, 1999, is a bustling city of hope and growth. Classrooms are full of eager students. Buses, trains, and cars bring a flow of workers in from the surrounding suburbs to power the dot com boom. But the City by the Bay is quickly succumbing to the technocracy. Art, music and dance are no longer taught in school. Everyone competes to get into the elite science and technical prep schools instead. A growing number are being priced out and forced to beg on the streets, but the white collar workers don’t see them. They walk with their eyes down and their shoulders hunched against the cold fog of the morning. All they have the energy to worry about is how they are putting dinner on the table tonight for their own family. They don’t look around and see their neighbor struggling. They don’t look ahead and plan for tomorrow. And they don’t look up at the sky and wonder “what if?” The technocracy didn’t need to outlaw dreaming. People stopped doing that on their own. Welcome to “Another Brick in the Wall.”
Another Brick in the Wall, shorthanded as “ABitW”, is my new tabletop campaign that I am GMing. Yes, the game is inspired by the Pink Floyd song by the same name. As the intro suggests, it is a game of mages in the age of the technocracy. The leadership of the traditions on earth has been killed. Earth has been effectively cut off from Horizon (the umbral city that serves as a safe haven for tradition mages) due to the dearth of high level spirit mages who could reach it safely and reliably. In San Francisco, you guard your identity as a mage dearly. Your life depends on it.
I have a cast of five PCs, who find themselves in the middle of all of this. Of course, before I can tell you what happened to them in our first session, you’ll have to meet them. For those of you playing, there shouldn’t be any spoilers in these summaries.
Ezri Morningstar is a 17 year old who mysteriously disappeared into the Umbra for a year in the company of his mentor, a Euthanatoi named Xavier. He is recently returned, providing no explanation. He seems overly familiar with the Twilight bar in San Francisco and the play dungeon in the basement for a 17 year old. He has extensive knowledge of mushrooms and cultivates them all over the Peninsula. His mother is missing, and he is hounded by a particular technocracy agent, Rodrigo.
Simon Rodrigues is a rabbi, exorcist, and numerologist with an antique revolver, a serious drinking problem, and a large clay golem who stubbornly follows him around trying to keep him on the straight-and-narrow. He has a tendency to ramble about Kabbalah and other mystical traditions to anyone who will listen. Simon carries the marks of a troubled past–he walks like a man hunted, hiding amongst the rest of society’s castaways with his gaunt and haggard appearance, haunted demeanor, and tendency to engage in conversations with beings no one else can see. Though he still carries the trappings of his faith, it is clear from one look at his lost, suspicious eyes that he has wandered far astray. His relationship with the rest of the cabal is erratic and shifting.
Cyndi Aquilanti is paranoid Virtual Adept who spends most of her time holed up in her computer-filled sanctum, cruising around on the young internet. Due to her pathological distrust of nearly everyone, she has very few offline friends, but she is an active member of a number of virtual communities who share similar interests, such as cybersecurity, video games, anime, and opera. A talented hacker, Cyndi likes to imagine herself being like the sexy, leather-jacket-wearing heroines in the cyberpunk novels. However, in reality she is just an unkempt recluse who only changes out of pajamas on the rare occasions that she absolutely must attend an in-person business meeting with one of her web-design clients. Cyndi is a highly-ranked Starcraft player and deeply regrets the fact that, as a Tradition mage, it would be far too dangerous for her to move to Korea and attempt to break into the professional scene.
Natasha Lin is a 27 year old Stanford graduate who comes from a family of mages (most unusual). Her parent’s fled technocracy persecution in Taiwan before she was born and started a bookstore in Palo Alto. Natasha has a younger sister, Collette, and a baby brother, PJ, who was eight when he disappeared last year, at approximately the same time that Ezri vanished into the Umbra. She is growing into her responsibilities at the bookstore and growing up, and away, from the traditions of her family in a lot of ways.
Zig is in his early thirties. He is a drug dealer on the streets of San Francisco. He hangs around St. Anthony’s, where Ezri and Sam work part time, and Natasha volunteers. He is well plugged in with the seedier sides of San Francisco. He has a history of supporting anarchy and has had several run-ins with the law over his life.
By some chance *cough*entropy effect*cough* the party all find themselves in the Twilight bar at 4 pm on a Friday afternoon. Because what good tabletop doesn’t start in a bar? 🙂 Stay tuned for a run-down of the first session.