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/tg/ - Traditional Games

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In April, there were 559 pay phones in the major metropolitan area of Inland Empire. The utility service began removing the least used, unprofitable phones, leaving just 179 phones across at the beginning of this year's Autumn Equinox in September. The city plans to continue taking them out of operation until the last payphone is decommissioned the morning after the Winter Solstice, in late December. In Inland Empire this is the time between early autumn and midwinter is marked as the time between the Harvest Festival and Winterfest, due to the local history of an early harvest to make for way for the planting of winter wheat. This period has always been a time of increased crime, suicides, and the rise of a new annual crop of urban legends; and this year is no different.

On the morning after the Harvest Festival, the news reported a ritualistic killing and this year's urban legend began to spread, the story about a phantom phone card a friend of a friend's cousin found in his wallet following the previous night's drunken celebration downtown. A card that allows you use to use a pay phone as a conduit for the summoning of spirits into this world. And the rumors seem to have multiple sources, but then again, these things always do.

There is a secret war about to begin in this city, a red harvest as those possessing the phantom cards use the city's constantly dwindling population of payphones to invoke otherworldly being to strike down their rivals and defend themselves, because only one of them can control the last payphone on the Winter Solstice, where for one night you will be able to speak to god and change fate.

So how is that for a campaign premise?
What's a pay phone? Don't people just use cellphones?
Pretty good. I'd play it.
Persona Phreaking? I can dig it.
A little odd, but I'm definitely intrigued, especially with wrangling a vaguely modern technology into the 'slowly dying traditions of the past' schtick.
I think we can agree that the idea is at least interesting. What system do you plan on using?
They do now.

That's why they're getting rid of pay phones.
I would think that would sort of depend on whether or not the competing humans would have power granted to them by spirit-patrons, or whether the spirits are supposed to be just occasional big whammies while players go about with their 'normal' abilities to compete for phone control and the like.
Actually thinking about it again, Unknown Armies *might* work pretty well for this. Street level of course.
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Hmm, that is a good point. On a side note, it would be interesting to see later on in the story, as the number of pay phones dwindle to critical levels, the PCs' Patrons learn to communicate with them through cell phones, perhaps to lead them to the few remaining pay phones. But nothing else, as the Patrons don't have enough of a grasp on cell phone tech to effectively exert their power through them.

Sounds reasonable, from what I heard of the game.
So then what makes the Payphones special?
Does the payphone have to be operated by the city in order for the voodoo to work? What's stopping someone from ripping up a booth or two and hooking them up to a landline?
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>And the rumors seem to have multiple sources, but then again, these things always do.
I'd like to think that is to be determined, though given the city's odd plan to gradually decommission the phones IS a huge giveaway.
Seems like some would probably try that. Whether it would work, and whether it or they would survive for very long once rivals discovered it, would probably make for excellent story/adventure fodder!
>Unknown Armies *might* work pretty well for this
I was going to suggest exactly the same thing. Street level Unknown Armies was pretty much made for something like this. Could also lead into a higher tier of UA easily as well.
is this a premise for a Laundry game?

because if so, yes, it's got some of the sort of details that I'd expect to see in one of charlie stross' novels.

if its not a laundry novel, and you dont know what I'm talking about, go read
Atrocity Archives,
Jennifer Morgue
Fuller Memorandum
and The Apocalypse Codex

by charles stross right now, and then get a copy of the Laundry RPG by Cubicle 7 right now, and you'll love it.
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That could work nicely. The rate of pay phones disappearing picks up quicker than anticipated, and the PCs learn of a "phone farm" run by one of their lesser known rivals. When they arrive, they can see a large room in an otherwise abandoned office building set up with rows of pay phones, hooked up to a number of land lines.

The otherwise unknown looks to the PCs with a grin and grips his Phantom Card firmly, sliding it through a hacked-together card reader which connects to all the phones at once.

This, my friend, is your final boss.

If you want to leave out this kind of madness, you can always just tie specific pay phone locations to places of geomantic or occult significance.

Go through the list of Chicago payphones (that's where the numbers I was using in the OP came from) and look at the streetnames and pick some that had historical significance or have some sort of resonant element. Just having names that reek of some sort of symbolic significance could work, or look at a street map and form a pentagram, that sort of thing.

It could be a Feng Shui style thing of a war of control over limited (and in this case gradually dwindling) points of power.

Maybe the symbolic power of the payphone networks that have been there, growing roots into the leyline power or wahtever for so long, has caused it so that the decommissioning of the phones is nulling the spiritual power of those locations, which is causing Chicago (or whatever city)'s occult power to become less and less diluted, forcing all the power to go down fewer and fewer routes until the last payphone on the last night before it is taken offline becomes a straight tap to the city's entire resevoir of mystical power.
Of course if you want to set it back in the day and take out the removal of the phones and just have it be about control over key phone locations, you could have special coins instead of phone cards.

But either way, I'd like to pick a symbolic system other than the Tarot.
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>The Laundry RPG

You have good taste sir, it is indeed an exceptional game and book series.

>Unknown Armies

You too have amazing taste - it's one of my favourite games ever.
Maybe the last time the game was played was in the 1930's and the current personas/spirits/demons are the enslaved souls of those who played and didn't win? With power and appearance theming based on the names of historical Chicago speakeasies.
Sounds like a good explanation to me.

Ooh, so make it a cycle of games whenever a significant advance in technology/human advancement arises? So far those who played the game managed to keep the world going. Will you make the Call to God and continue the world's existence, or will you end the game along with the world?

This sounds a lot like [C]: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control, actually.

Awesome. What powers do the PCs have?
A mighty fine show, that. And yeah, it's starting to sound much like that, though with the race to control the phones and build the strength of your Phantom Card/collect the other Phantom Cards.

Each phantom card can, at night and at one of the (special?) payphones summon one of these avatars/creatures from the spirit world.

Debating whether its like summoning a persona or stand and having outrageous supernatural battles in an X:1999 style phantom battlefield (an empty, or netherworld version full of strange stand-ins for denizens) of the block or blocks the battle is taking place in; or more subtle abilities with a Tim Powers or Aleister Crowley bio type magical targeting of enemy's HQ's and stuff.
Hmmm, maybe a combination of choices A and B, with a dash of C. I know this is gonna sting some of y'all a bit, but the closest thing I can think of to my concept is the Hollow from the very first episode of Bleach. The Phantom would be a supernatural creature which exists in a secondary space and can only really be harmed there, but can exert a level of influence on the real world. In this case, the amount of influence and control thereof is proportional to its power.

For example, a highly-powered Phantom based on fire and explosions would cause much collateral damage in the city with its attacks, but the regular folks would only see a string of explosions occur for no good reason. Only those with working Phantom Cards can actually see the fire Phantom and its attacks with their own eyes.
Option Two has a cool aspect of having to use night to plan attacks for the day, having to preload what you want to do and not be able to change targets or rescind orders. You set up a supernatural hit and then have to live with it, or run around during the day trying to move people out of the place or try to defend the target you regret from your own power.

Option One has nifty face-to-face supernatural duels, persona and user on persona and user.
Maybe you can only summon your avatar at night from one of the phones, but using the phone you claimed (invoked from) the previous night, you have claimed surrounding territory for the next day, and can use limited personal supernatural powers the next day, because that block or neighborhood is now under your avatar's power?

So at night your avatar can manifest in the territory you have tapped, during the day it is just helping you in more subtle ways but is unable to manifest outright.
Back in my day, before Animu shit infected everything, those were called ghosts.

Just saying. Your chinese cartoons have very little completely original about them at all.
Ghost, phantom, poltergeist, spook, shriek, apparition, revenant, specter, spirits of the vengeful dead.
Does it matter?
No, I just see no reason to bring up some hideous turd like Bleach in reference to what is an an utterly archetypical ghost.
Okay, this argument about semantics aside, we seem to grasp the concept. Let's move on.

That could be very interesting for what could very well be a supernatural turf war. Boons in your territory, but you have to constantly fight to keep what you got and get new territory, especially since the points of power are dwindling.
Work the concept from the opposite direction as well.

Just as not all phone cards are created equal the Phantom Cards have strengths, weaknesses, and limitations.

Just like regular phone cards, while all can be used for calling, some are better for single (high power) uses, some for multiple short (low power) uses.

Some are better for local calls (summons right next to you) Others are good for long distance (OH SHIT HE SENT IT INTO OUR HEADQUARTERS).

Of course the cards can ALL do this stuff, it's just some are better at certain aspects than others.

Plus you can be "mugged" for your card, but only after you use it.
I like where you are going with this. Perhaps after using the Phantom Card to make a call, you first reach the Operator, our favorite mysterious being who may or may not be the force behind the pay phone phenomenon who puts your desired effects to use. Some theorize that the Operator is God. Others believe that the Operator is the phone company's CEO. Others think it is simply an independent Phantom who rules over the others. In any case, the Operator decides if you are worthy to connect your call... abstain from the game long enough or do something against the Operator's wishes and you may just end up with a dead Phantom Card.
Remembering selling phone cards 10 years ago while working as a store clerk got me thinking.

Every one of the card brands had this medium to large poster displayed outlining per minute rates, restrictions, local vs. long distance surcharges. And almost every other night someone would come in screaming about how he used up his available minutes too fast, there's something wrong with my card, so what if I was calling Australia during peak talk time I should still have minutes.

What if each card only has a set amount of "minutes" per night and previous mentioned specialties drained them at differing rates.

What happens if you use up all of your "minutes"?
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And on that note, off I go. Hope to see this thread tomorrow.
Whata bout all the graffiti, decals, taxi and escort service numbers you see plastered all over some phone booths?

If you have a card you see something else, sometimes they're new "numbers" to call. Sometimes theyre territory tags. Sometimes they're prophetic messages.

Sometimes they're warnings.

And somewhere in the city there's a blank phone booth. No graffiti, no advertisements, not even a "Dial 0 For Operator" sticker under the keypad.

A demon disguised as a phone company tech comes looking for you to settle "the surcharge". He's the serial killer that's been in the news since this all started.
Yeah, and you can always buy more minutes, but few are willing to pay the price.

Each card has different crazy stuff the dial tone will tell you to do in order to recharge minutes. That's also the cause of a lot of the strange events happening across the city.
Needful Things kinda stuff.

Sometimes you just have to break a window, sometimes you just need to steal a pack of cigarettes.

Sometimes you have to kill someone.

And you ALWAYS find out later what the true consequences of your payment are.
And it's the consequences that determine how many minutes you end up getting, not the actual payment itself.
Kill someone? You get maybe 20 minutes. Break a headlight and cause a massive pileup that kills 15 people and orphans two families worth of kids? That'll net you a few Hours baby.
"They say that riot at four corners last night was caused by some guy splashing paint on someones door."

End Boss
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"I can get you an entire night's worth. You just need to play one small prank."
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Infinite bargaining loop.

I'm thinking more like if Hotline Miami had a baby with an adventure game - running around the city, doing weird stuff at weird places on a specific timetable.
Why are the payphones disappearing?

They SAY that the city is decommissioning them, but that's just a cover story.

Every payphone draws spell power from the same unknown source. Some say it's the Operator, others point to rumors of The Company, some say they draw it from "The Lines". It doesn't really matter.

What matters is that the phones themselves exist solely on the power gotten from being used by the uninformed masses. Meaning as a phone is used less and less for normal calls it eventually fades.

First it's just occasionally Out of Service, then it may be visibly broken, and finally it's just gone.

Opens up some strategy elements, dying phones revitalize immediately after holidays like New Years or Saint Patrick's Day. A faction may disable cell towers in their area before making a push into rival territory.

During the end games the only phones still working reliably will be in heavily trafficked areas, bus depots and airports. The bar district. Police stations. Greatly upping the stakes for our good guys and causing massive collateral damage.
I dunno, if it's just wacky hijinks everyone will be doing it for extra power. Unless the cards don't recharge on their own after every night. You need to have some type of tradeoff for conservative playing vs. profligate usage.
YES. This.
When starting a new game the DM has players roll for their cards. Depending on their score their card will lean towards defense or offense, long distance or local, etc. Maybe simplify or eliminate story breaking rolls (All Healers or everyone can only summon bees) by having your players find a stash of optimized cards.

However in a new wrinkle if you don't like your card you can just trade with a team mate, since they ARE just cards after all.
Heh, the balls out attacker has a broken leg, have him trade cards with your long distance assassin for the night that way he can still help out.

Also maybe there's an upper limit to just how many cards one person can carry at a time. Bad things start happening to people who carry too many. After defeating rivals you can choose to destroy their card, use it to replace the one you have, or take the risk of keeping both.
Enemy has an entire deck of cards that he keeps on him at all times.

He can't even be called human anymore.
This thread is incredible.

Thought: Your territory of power is based on what phones you've been tapping, and that won't change with your cards. So if you exchange cards, or add cards, you are changing the avatar or archetype that influences your territory. Introducing a new avatar into unfamiliar territory could do weird things.
I am very pleased to see this thread still alive, and with some pretty cool back-and-forth as well!
I don't think gradually decomissioning payphones is particularly odd. They did that where I live. Gradually took down all payphones except the ones at the airport and central railway station (and even those aren't normal payphones, but some kind of payphone/internet station hybrid). The last payphone was located pretty close to where I lived, so I walked past it every day. It got decomissioned 3 years ago.
Would play
So what I'm hearing is you bought into The Man's game! They've pulled the wool over your eyes, brother! *pulls out bullhorn* WAKE UP PEOPLE! THEY'RE TAKING AWAY YOUR POWER AND YOU'RE LETTING THEM DO IT! PROTECT THE PAYPHONES!


Deprived of payphones (wells), the mana under pressure would find new conduits.

Maybe Chicago's graveyards, or famous restaurants, or Jimmy Hoffa's grave.
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The Operator
I love the idea of having minutes to economize power with. But of course, you gotta run out of minutes someday, and some people will not want to get more minutes. For those who have held a Phantom Card however, it is possible that you can still see the weird supernatural shit. Something like a spiritual residue that stays in your eyes.

Those that can still see the underside of the pay phones can even possibly learn how to call Collect to their spirits. Unfortunately, all things need to be paid for and calling Collect can wind up with one of two outcomes: the Phantom in which you call becomes repossessed by the Operator, or the spiritual residue grows within you until YOU become a Phantom yourself, stuck in the Phantom World until the next game.

I chuckled. Expected, but fun at the same time.

Now off to work with me!
So, some workarounds to some of the plotholes we've discussed
- Only a number of specific payphones in the network, at key locations, have occult power; meaning you can't just have a bank of payphones or go the phone company and become God. It's a geomantic thing tied to locations of occult power in the city. This enables you to use the geography and local legends of the city you are setting the game in and help to establish the urban legend vibe.
- Exchanging or possessing multiple Phantom Cards transfers those thematic suites of powers/specific avatars/entities to your preexisting territory, changing the chi of that territory if you want to think of it that way, and perhaps conflicting or combining with each other in weird ways. If you exchange a fiery avatar for a card with a completely different thing going on, the neighborhood that you control the two occult payphones in is going to begin to change, in subtle and creepy ways, and you might have a weird time using your powers.

- Phantom Cards can run out of minutes and when that happens, the dial tone will give instructions on how to recharge them. If you keep an uncharged phantom card, you maintain a level of occult awareness, but the Operator comes to take you at some point.
>but the Operator comes to take you at some point.
I thought that was only if you were making Collect calls and racking up spiritual "debt".

Also, this thread is making me want to go out and buy an old payphone. Damn those things are expensive.
Another thing:
Since the power of the payphones is tied to local geography, history, and urban legend, this would require us to create a fully realized city for this to take place in.
I dunno about the rest of you, but putting that much detail into something sounds an awful lot like work. The next best option would be to use a real city. All of the groundwork is already there ripe for the appropriation, and small details can be added or changed as necessary.

Heck, if you wanted to get really into this, you could use your local city and add some ARG elements into the mix. Want your gang to control this territory? Call the Operator (GM) from this payphone before this time, and it is done. ARG by day and RPG by night.

Anyway, the question is, if we're going to base this on a real city, which one? New York? Chicago? London? Moscow? All of the above? At the same time?

I was mainly inspired by Chicago, which is where I got the number of payphones from. In real life the article said the 100-some they kept they were planning on keeping, not continuing to wind-down, but they did reduce from 500something to 100something in just a few months, which was pretty interesting to me.

Also there is an Occult Chicago blog and a lot of information about gangland Chicago, so it would seem ripe with material.
10/10 would read the manga
Loving where this is going so far. So, what possible reasons would there be for this game? Sure it decides the fate of the game world (or just the city it takes place in), but why does the Operator exist? Do the Phantoms have a purpose outside of the game? How long has the game existed? Has it only been around since the decline of pantheistic religion?

Stuff like that.

The game is a manifestation of the city's occult power/leyline energy/whatever; and is a fight for control of the city's magical power.

Basically, the creation of the phone network inadvertantly tapped the city's magical energies, and control of the points, like control of places of power in Feng Shui, gives one more and more power over the city as well as more mystical power for confrontations with others in the magical side of things.

The thinking was back in the 30's that if one man could gain control of all of Chicago, or today if one person can make the last call on the last payphone, they'd be able to harness the entire city's magical power at once and make some worldchanging wish or become a god or something like that.

Basically, the 1930's game was more about becoming King of Chicago (and with that magical kingship becoming a being greater than mortal), the modern game is about harnessing that power in a single burst to make a wish or become god or whatever.
Just with regards to how charge would work on these cards what do people think of having absolutely no way to recharge cards?
The only way to gain more power is to take someone else's card, and we can all guess what the easiest way to do that would be.
This gives the option for a lot of phone card users to be in the game as much out of a realpolitik desire to ensure their own survival as due to a quest for ultimate power.

Typically power would condense into the hands of a small few who've aggressively pursued the cards of others as the only option available would be to either accept your power coming to an end or begin fighting other card holders.
I thought The Game was only being played because the points of power (the payphones) were disappearing. Presumably the points and lines of power would re-emerge when a new system capable of hosting them emerged.

Which opens up a whole new can of worms. If the payphones are only powerful because there are so few of them funneling the entirety of the city's spiritual energies through a scant handful of points, what happens when the voodoo-juju latches onto a new, relatively small system? It'd be the same thing, but in reverse. They would start relatively powerful, but as the system grows, the individual point's powers would weaken to the point of uselessness.

So if The Game were to be played in the 30's, it wouldn't have been played with payphones. It would have been played with, I dunno, carrier pigeons or telegraph stations or something.

Nah, nah, nah. Its just in the 30's you'd have to control ALL the payphones. Or all the occult power points, that is. What do you think Al Capone and the Northside Gang were fighting about?

In the modern day, the dwindling payphones is going to concentrate all that power into one moment, one place. Making it more powerful, and more desirous, and giving it a limited time constraint rather than consuming years of men's lives.
Question in an attempt to foster discussion:

Okay, so we know how the Network™ works. More or less.
Also, I've decided that I'm calling it the Network™. Feel free to disagree with me.

What kind of supernatural entities / dark powers will the phone cards summon?
(Furthermore, how do these cards come to be, and how do the PCs find them?)

There's bound to be the odd human spirit that ended up bound to the Network™, but what else?
I would generally lean towards not defining those answers too strongly, so as to leave players with a greater sense of alien mystery about the Network, as well as to make it easier to BS on the fly as necessary.

That said, I would argue that there should be little recognizably human about the Patrons, or Phantoms, or what you will. I agree that there should be a few human spirits trapped in it, but they should be rare, and I feel like it would be a cooler fit if the only ones you might find are other people that actively and knowingly participated in the power games.

I also feel like, for the most part, outside of possible passive buffs and bonuses granted to Network players if we're going to go the territory route, the manifestations of the Network's power should not cause changes to the players themselves. No shape-changing or the like; the power isn't from you, it comes from Them.

Thought: Some form of corruption from rare Phantom Card-holders who *do* channel the Network's power through themselves? Might be how someone eventually gets consumed by it.
>eventually gets consumed by it
That sounds like a good general consequence of overstepping your bounds and trying to control more power than you can handle.

Try to "cheat" the system -- turn yourself into a conduit, wield multiple cards, whatever -- and you open yourself up to the Network, making yourself vulnerable to the less-than-benevolent Patron's influences.

I'd hate to see what damage could be wrought by some poor schmuck what got himself possessed by a particularly nasty ghoulie. The Patrons normally can't interact with the real world unless called upon by a Card user, right?
I can imagine that the Game would be different in each city, as each point of power and pay phone involved within a city are different in nature. Just imagine if a Phantom Card holder from one city, the supposed winner of the game there, travels to another city with his Card on him. Shit gets insanely weird for wherever he is.

More of a continued campaign, after-end-game sort of thing, but that could be an interesting twist in an otherwise straightforward story.
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And a shitscribble to keep the thread going.
And one more bump before bed. Hope the thread survives until the morning.
So I'm trying to codify how exactly this magic works, and I'm starting by defining a list of terms.

I just realized we don't have a term for those who have obtained Cards and accessed / become attuned to The Network.
Users? Callers? Phreaks?
Any suggestions?

Night Callers
Alright, so this is what I've got.

The Network: The system of phone lines and payphones that acts as ley lines for the City's spiritual energies.
Card: Magic telephone cards that allow access to The Network.
Night Callers: Those that have accessed, and thus become attuned to, The Network. Only Night Callers are capable of percieving the supernatural.
Operator: The mysterious overseer of The Network. Offers information and Minutes in exchange for "small favors", and punishes those who try to cheat the system.

Phone: Points of access to The Network, which hold dominion over a given Authority.
Authority: The extent of influence for any given Phone, as dictated by the laws of Feng Shui.

Minutes: A numerical measure of a Card's capacity to influence the real world. Minutes are drained more quickly during Long-Distance or Overseas Calls.
Local Call: Within the Authority of the Phone you're using.
Long-Distance Call: Within the Authority of any Phone.
Overseas Call: Anywhere within the city.

Patron: Spiritual entities that allow Night Callers the use of their abilities in exchange for power.
Number: The true name of a spiritual entity, used to contact them through The Network.
Call: To invoke a Patron to enact some deed or effect in the real world using a Card.
Collect Call: A Call made in exchange for allowing the Patron influence over the Caller.

Feel free to post comments, concerns, suggestions, revisions, or, if it be deserving, plain ol' scorn and disdain. It's late and I'm going to bed.
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Recharge: Rituals performed specific to each Card and Patron (different Cards that invoke the same Patron will have different Recharge rituals) that increase or fill the Minutes on a card. Can range from the miniscule to the mind-boggling to the morbid.
Coming here to say I love the idea, OP. I'd play in such a setting.
To the top with thee!
So are Cards bound to a specific Patron and only that Patron, or no?

I could see players seeking out Numbers written in graffiti throughout the city (visible only to Night Callers, obviously) in order to expand their repertoire.

Maybe when you first use a Card, the Operator gives you your first Number, the one attuned to the Card, and it's up to you to find more from there.

Maybe different Patrons charge different rates, and the Patron to which the Card is attuned charges a lower Rate than normal?

I dunno, I'm just throwing ideas around.

What kind of rituals, besides doing "favors" for the Operator? Are all of these rituals just doing "favors" for various supernatural entities? That kind of jives with the whole "symbiotic relationship" thing I'm getting between the Callers and the Patrons and which I'm totally not just ripping off from Paranatural.

I'd say that it is more about the city and the lines of power than about the specific patron you have in your card or cards.

Sometimes you've got to put another quarter in the cosmic vending machine; and that might be murders at specific locations or setting up colored lights ontop of several of the highest buildings in the city in order to form a shape visible from the air, or anything else that is difficult and strange.
So then let's say the Operator is the only entity capable of processing Recharges. Alright.

What about transferring Minutes from Card to Card? Say if you killed a rival Caller or managed to steal his Card.
Or would that be "cheating" in the eyes of the Operator?
Maybe Minutes can only be transferred if freely given by the Card holder?
I don't have anything to add, except that I seriously want in on this game.
Well if someone's gonna run this, it's gonna be someone besides me.

I mean, I'd volunteer if I thought I could get the job done.
I just don't think I can get the job done.

So at the moment I'm just content to sit here and throw ideas around.
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I wouldn't think the Operator would give a damn. Recharges are already pretty insane - I don't think he knows what "cheating" is. I would say that, in order to keep mechanical stability, that you might not be able to transfer all your Minutes from a card with an easy Recharge (say, the breaking windows one mentioned earlier in the thread) to one with a more difficult one (the lights on rooftops to make an image, or the murder one). This can be either a flat "transfer half" or "transfer 1:1", a specific transfer Recharge Cost that can be moved back and forth (a value each Recharged Minute is worth on the card, where the power can be moved over onto another card - I can see a card or two with high values and simple Recharges being a valuable tool for keeping everyone's Minutes topped up, if you can get your hands on it), or the GM can fiat a specific transfer as they desire, or not allow it at all ('competing Patrons don't want to give their Minutes to others').
I'm gonna ask this again:

Are the Cards linked to a single Patron, (and thus a single set of powers), or can they be used to invoke any Patron whose Number you know?

Because unless someone speaks up, I'm just going to go ahead and assume the latter.
Some places of power in the Windy City:
I imagined each Phantom Card is tied to a specific patron, making acquiring or exchanging cards a significant matter as it is changing your power set (and introducing a different or additional spirit to the territory you control).
I just found this.
The location and number of every payphone in Chicago.
That might come in handy.

Now that that's settled, what other questions need answered?

Well I'm trying to come up with possible Patron theming conventions. Turns out 30's speakeasies had pretty mundane names, and I really want to avoid playing cards, chess, and the tarot arcana, both of which are way overdone as theming conventions.
We need some possible consequences for taking on too much spiritual "debt" by making Collect Calls.

Consumed by the Network, possessed by a Patron, the Operator siccing his demonic hit man on you. Stuff like that.

A Night Caller who can no longer leave his district, because he can't live without the mystical/elemental affinity of his Patron.

And/or just as the district begins to take on the characteristics of the Patron, such does the indebted Caller.
It used to be Bell and Telus, all across the island. Then, one day, without warning, they gave those payphones over to some crooks called "Wymac", and the phone cards and all that stopped working.

Long distance in-country with those fuckers is around 5 bucks just to connect, and a dollar or so a minute; this in a world where transferring gigabytes of data cost fractions of a penny on the dollar.

Wymac certainly didn't install or maintain the lines or phones either [half of them no longer work purely by disrepair], they've basically got no costs to recoup there, so most of montreal's been losing its public phones while they pocket the money.

Fuck those guys.
I was cornered outside the Biograph Theater. It was Tuesday night. More and more of this district was falling everyday, to the mysterious Night Caller who had been making cryptic threats on local late-night radio programs. But he'd as of yet been unable to stake out the phone outside the Biograph. He'd been expanding geographically, taking one phone after another, consolidating his grip. That's why even the district itself had seemed to be attacking me. There were no holes in his area of control, he kept adding phones step by step. And now I was cornered here.

Pulling the Phantom Card from my wallet, I prepared to stake my claim. This was too desirable a location, in the middle of hostile territory. I knew I'd never be able to defend it. But I wouldn't survive the night if I didn't make a contract, right now.

As the card slid through the phone's reader, I noticed not for the first time the design of a chain of multicolored scarves, like a magician's trick, illustrated on the front face of the Phantom Card.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the street rippling from the distance. The Stranger himself was here, because the earth itself moving against you was the sign of his Patron, the thing they called Ruggedo.

For an instant as the Night Call was patched through my breath turned to ice in the air, despite the warm night. And then the air itself shattered like a pane of glass, and floating before me was a girl, not a girl, a Patron made of multicolored rags. A patchwork girl.
Revised list of definitions. I'm still not completely happy with the wording for Phantom Card and Patron, but what do you want from me I'm not a writer.

The Network: The system of phone lines and payphones that acts as ley lines for the City's spiritual energies.
Night Callers: Also known as Card Holders or simply Callers, those that have accessed, and thus become attuned to, The Network. Only Night Callers are capable of perceiving the supernatural.
Phantom Card: Magic telephone cards that allow access to The Network. Each Card is bound to a specific Patron.
Patron: Spiritual entity bound to a Card, which allows the Card Holder the use of its abilities in a sort of symbiosis.

Operator: The mysterious overseer of The Network. Sells information and offers Recharges or Transfers.
Phone: Points of access to The Network, which hold dominion over a given Authority.
Authority: The extent of influence for any given Phone, as dictated by the laws of Feng Shui.
Minutes: A numerical measure of a Card's remaining power. Minutes are drained more quickly during Long-Distance or Overseas Calls.

Local Call: Within the Authority of the Phone you're using.
Long-Distance Call: Within the Authority of any Phone.
Overseas Call: Anywhere within the city.

Number: The true name of a spiritual entity, used to contact them through The Network.
Call: To invoke a Card’s Patron to enact some deed or act in the real world.
Collect Call: A Call made using a sacrifice of the Caller’s spiritual power. Racking up too much “debt” leads to bad things.

Recharge: Rituals performed for the Operator in exchange for Minutes. Each Card requires unique rituals, which can range from the miniscule to the mind-boggling to the morbid. The more difficult and strange the ritual, the more Minutes it confers.
Transfer: To exchange Minutes from one Card to another. Usually incurs a Minute loss, the necessitation of a Recharge ritual, a sacrifice of the Caller’s spiritual power, or some other fee.
I'm working on the assumption that Recharges work in a manner similar to Generating Charges in Unknown Armies.
Maybe less "work in a similar manner" and more "are based on / ripped off from", but whatever.

Next I'd like to figure out how exactly controlling Phones works. Any ideas?
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"Great... so we're going to the Ninth Ward for our next target, aren't we? Don't you think that a couple white guys are gonna stand out in that junkyard?"

"Hush Richard. You know plenty well that we can defend ourselves just fine."

As the car turns off of historic St. Claude Avenue onto Tupelo Street, one can see the scars of Katrina still borne upon New Orleans to this day. It was the perfect storm at the time, but from the vantage point of pure numbers, the hurricane shouldn't have done nearly as much damage as it did. But after the engineering disaster that followed the actual storm... well... history tells the rest of the story. Except from one very important detail, of course. Those with the Phantom Cards know just what really happened - Katrina was a Patron once known by a now-forgotten name.

The story goes that Mayor Nagin wanted to consolidate control of the city once his administration started slipping in influence. Some wanted Morial back. Others wanted the Landrieus to return. Others still wanted someone else altogether. Then Nagin was given a funny-looking card by one of his associates. Backed by the NOPD, Nagin and his cronies started a campaign to take his city's Network under his control. One by one, the rivals fell and the phones went under his Authority. His Patron, a simple water spirit. Faceless. Bodyless. But ever-present, and masterful in its subtle control of a situation. A very simple strategy - flood them out. Make it rain and make them miserable. Some of them gave in. Everyone else was weakened enough for the police to take over. It was fantastically disguised as a crackdown on crime. Except for a couple phones which were in terrible disrepair or well hidden, the Mayor had nearly absolute control over the Network.

But in one last push to find these last points of power, Nagin's Card ran out of Minutes. At this point in the Game, the costs were simply too much to Recharge the Card, and he already Transferred all the Minutes from the Cards he took to his own. The Operator could only smile within the miles of phone lines He lived in as His ears picked up the ping of a Collect Call being made to his now ridiculously powerful water Patron. The Mayor would offer all he had to the Patron to make one last surge ahead, to finally bring the entire Network under his control. It left the Mayor near death, but he was able to make an Overseas Call which would draw forth the Sea itself to the city. Hours before the swirling mass of spiritual chaos, piercing winds, and surging water reached his city's shores, the Mayor's associate appeared before him in his office with a sickening, seemingly impossible smile.

"You have always been greedy Ray. It is this greed that will not only do you in, but also those who follow you into the abyss. However, you have done great work. You have reawakened the spirits here, stirred them from a long slumber, pulled them up from living beneath the shadows."

The smile grew ever wider as the blistering wail of a fax machine started to ring into the Mayor's ears.

"I am here to make you a deal. You are clinging to life before me, and the Patron you gave your own uncontrollable ambition to is threatening the lives of those who live within your dominion. Surrender your Card to me, and I will spare both your life and that of your city..."

As the associate's voice began to pop and crackle like a phone call with a bad connection, the wailing and beeping of the fax machine grew louder. It didn't take much before the Mayor fumbled through his wallet, throwing the Card to the associate like a hot coal. Calmly, the smartly-dressed man reached down and gracefully plucked it from the floor with dainty fingers.

"Excellent. I believe you have made the right choice."

The associate turned and headed toward the door before turning his head back to regard the Cardless Mayor.

"You will live, as I said. But you will live with the consequences of your reckless campaign for power. Good day, sir."

There is no need to describe what happened afterwards. The storm ravaged the city, killed many people, and made the Mayor and those close to him practically impotent. The Operator got what he wanted. The Mayor lost everything. And eight years later, the seeds of ambition grow anew as two smartly-dressed men step out of the car in front of a run-down and steel-barred convenience store. The single, graffiti-covered pay phone seemed to phase in and out of existence beneath the flickering bulb of a street light. From behind the shadows come out an exuberant pack of men, guns pointed at the men.

"Richard. Do not see these men as animals, as the police do. They know precisely why we are here. And they have the strength of will to protect it with their lives. Now, let us take do what we have come to do, shall we?"

As the older man pulls out a cigar and lights it, the younger man pulls out a light blue plastic Card from his inner jacket pocket and holds it out in front of him. The gang opens fire at the men, a pale blue sphere of energy emanating from the suits as they calmly walk towards the phone. The bullets ricochet off of the sphere as the men approach ever closer to their target.

"Bless the Operator, for His Authority is the world itself."

The men then suddenly stop as one of the men suddenly drops his gun and hops back to the phone, seizing the receiver and clutching a bright orange Card in his other hand with a wild grin spreading on his face.

"Hey Operat'r! Shut these chumps up, wouldn'tcha!?"

That night, an explosion wracked a whole city block of the Ninth Ward. Authorities were quick to reach the scene, but there were only charred bodies and blackened wreckage. It looked like an old gas main missed by the crews which cleaned up the city after the storm was the cause of the explosion, but those holding their Phantom Cards, there was a particular crackling in the air, a certain electricity in the air. The Second Battle of New Orleans was about to begin, and the city would be both battlefield and prize.

>New project for us. How about some writefagging in this setting about our home cities. And go!
That is some damn fine work if I do say so myself.
As I've said before, I'm not much of a writer, but I'll see what I can do.
The inland empire?

Are you from Spokane?
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That's really good, makes me want to play in this setting even more.

>Writefagging about home cities
Oh the joys of living in a backwater Texas village.
How about the closest city you know well?
So how would the actual casting of magic be handled? Would there be some type of guidelines for how many minutes certain acts would cost? Or will it be entirely GM fiat?
I'd like to think that magic could work depending on the distance one is from a phone. Essentially, the further away one is from a nexus of power, the weaker and more difficult it is to use it. Best situation - holding both the receiver and the Card at once. Full surge of power. Even BETTER when it's from a phone that you "own". You can still use power from phones you haven't extended your Authority over, but the strength wanes and the difficulty increases.
I've been assuming, at least as far as "active" effects, throwing around fireballs and whatnot, the Minute cost would be measured in the minutes of time you're "on the line", with some multiplier for Long Distance and Overseas calls.
There would have to be some mechanic, either a "connection fee" or a warm-up/cool-down time, to prevent players from constantly placing/dropping Calls in an attempt to spend as little time "on the line" as possible.

As far as passive effects, such as those gained by controlling an Authority, it would either be a freebie, (you're having to defend this area from your rivals, that should be enough) or there is a small daily/weekly upkeep charge.
Interesting. Perhaps have the Operator set a ranged amount of times a Night Caller can make his Calls during a period of time/game session. Sure, one may want to "phone-hop" in order to be "on the line" less, but the number of connections will rise and will gain the unwanted attention of the Operator. Another way to make the Operator both a grantor of power AND a danger to be reckoned with.
A side note: Even when you hit that limit, you can continue to use the phone, though the consequences grow larger with the overage of calls and minutes used. Maybe take some cues from Earthflame's Break meta-system to overlay whatever system you want to use in this setting: making calls make the world bend to your will, and at a certain point, the world breaks you in return. http://1d4chan.org/wiki/Break
I kind of like that.
Go over the limit, and you start accruing Surcharges.
Surcharges would be the same thing as the "debt" incurred by placing a Collect Call, which would carry with it the consequences previously discussed.

So, stepping aside for a second to consider crunch:
I'm thinking that the best way too go about this would be to make it a homebrew supplement for Unknown Armies. No need to reinvent the wheel, right? Just swap out the Magic system for a revised one, throw in a couple pages of fluff, and bada-bing, bada-boom, it's done.
I'm almost assuredly oversimplifying this, I know.

Any objections?
Street-Level Unknown Armies, I should specify.
Just in case that wasn't evident.
Wild Talents has a flexible power creation system and the guts of its system, ORE, are also used horror games like Nemesis. Even basic Wild Talents has stability, and Recharges could be used to restore Willpower.
This song is almost perfect for what's going on in this thread. Ladies and gentlemen:

Kavinsky - Nightcall
Unknown armies?
That sounds right...


Tati sighed as the old Chevy Bel Air pulled into the Monroe County Library, slowing as its driver jockeyed among pedestrians and other vehicles for one of the small lot's spaces. The car was unmistakeably the one her friends across Indiana's southern Networks had warned her about; if nothing else the strange gray pallor it seemed to carry with it made things somewhat obvious. The color slowly drained from the cars next to it as it slowed to a stop, its engine giving a bestial snarl before powering down.

Tati felt she could guess how its occupants spent some of their Minutes.

She scratched out her half-finished cigarette as a family walked by, blocking her view of the intruders' car. Even so, she started in surprise once she looked back up; these boys were fast, standing only a few feet away.

Once again, there was no mistaking them for 'normal' humans: the grayness engulfed them as well, and as one's appearance fizzled with static for a second Tati realized it was as if they were in an old black-and-white TV, walking through a world of color. They stood there for a long moment silently studying her, and vice versa. There were two of them, both average height, both men, both in leather jackets and either dressed as greasers (or maybe hipsters on a greaser kick, Tati was never quite sure these days). The one on the left wore sunglasses, and it was he who broke the silence. "It's ours now. Stay out of the way."

The Indiana girl glanced to the right, where about thirty feet away stood the Library's doors and just inside the prize: a Phone, one of Bloomington's scant few. She looked back to the newcomers, and gave them a cynical half-smile. "Now boys," she drawled, her country girl accent coming through strong,"I don't really think that's something y'all really want to do. Indianapolis is just an hour away..." She trailed off as the silent greaser shifted, his jacket falling open slightly and showing his hand resting on the pommel of his gun.

She glared, and gestured to the scene around them. "Really boys? With all this?" Men and women and cars milled all around them, the Library a constant bustle of college students, families, children, and the homeless streaming in and out. The armed greaser smirked as his companion replied, "Stay out of the way, you get to live. I'm not saying it again."

"Hmph!" She snorted before leaning back against the wall. "I swear, you boys have the worst manners! Can't handle the Louisville scene so you come running out here and pick on little Networks like this one." The look on their faces was grim and dangerous, so she raised her hands in front of her. "Now, now, go on ahead, damn you. But I'm tellin' ya," she added as they walked towards the door, the armed one keeping an eye on her, "it's a waste!"

Tati muttered and grumbled to herself as she lit the remains of her cigarette, watching as the invaders finally stepped inside. They looked around the vestibule, searching for an ambush that just wasn't there, then with visible relief at their good fortune pulled out their Cards and walked up to the Phone.
Moments later Tati wondered once again, as they convulsed on the ground screaming, blood streaming from their eyes and ears, just what the *fuck* had gotten into the Bloomington Network that'd caused it to be so...stubborn...over the last few decades. With a shrug she walked away, the greasers' dying screams replaced by the frightened civilians'.

A coffee would suit her just fine right now.
Ivan froze. In the receiver he was holding, on the other end of the line, only the Operator's raspy voice was able to be heard.

'You said *How* many minutes?!'
"I hate to repeat myself, Mr. Boleski" the Operator sounded annoyed. He always sounded annoyed, "You have 1 minute and 3 seconds left on your card."
'What? That's barely enough to call local!'
"That would be your problem, Mr Boleski, not mine. Perhaps you would like to recharge your minutes?"

Ivan was silent. He never liked doing jobs for the Operator. In fact, he loathed the damn thing. The first time he recharged, he had the break into a Bellevue Hill mansion in the Eastern Suburbs and steal their home phone. Their pitbull terrier nearly got him when he was scaling the fence. The bloody Operator never had fun jobs for him. He sighed. There was nothing else he could do. Certainly, he could fight an opponent and transfer their minutes. But with hardly a single minute left on his card? Not a chance.

Grimacing, Ivan raised the receiver to his ear

'Fine. I want to recharge some minutes. What do i have to do this time around?'
"A fine decision, Mr Boleski," the Operator murmured, words silken and laden with implicit threat, "There is a certain book that i'd like. Its title is 'Ranges and Peaks of South America' by Bruce Hutterstein. For this service, i offer 6 minutes."

Ivan groaned into the receiver. Finally, the Operator, in his omnipotent wisdom, decided to give him an easy job. But for only six minutes? There was not much he could do with six minutes. But it will have to do. He couldn't afford to be picky at a time like this.

'Fine, you win, you insufferable bastard. I'll get your damn book.'
"Excellent, Mr Boleski. Drop it off at the corner of Pearl street and George street, in the CBD before midnight. Thank you for your patronage."

Before Ivan could issue more curses into the receiver, the Operator hung up. Bloody asshole.
Truthfully I can't help but think of Refilling Minutes similarly to generating Charges in UA, so this sounds decent to me.
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Take two. Captcha ate my image.

I'm going into town tonight, and I'm making a note to look for some payphones. With luck, I might come back with some ideas for a story.

Really though, this is just an excuse to bump the thread.
Lunchtime phonebump.
>As the crossroads of America at the end of the 19th century, Chicago was the home of a burgeoning esoteric scene, launched by the infamous 1893 Columbian World Expo and World Parliament of Religions which introduced the West to yoga and Eastern wisdom. Through a series of colorful figures, such as William Walker Atkinson, Laurence de Laurence, and Emma Curtis Hopkins, groups like the Theosophical Society, the Choronzon Club, and the Ordo Adeptorum Invisiblum, publications like The Occult Digest and the Kybalion, and locations like the Masonic Temple Building, at one time the tallest building in the world, Chicago maintained its identity as an occult city through the 20th century and into the 21st
I was thinking that if I were running or fleshing out Chicago as the setting, I'd base the Patrons or avatars or whatever loosely after characters or archetypes based on the Wizard of Oz; just because its something different and when I think of the Midwest I think of the Wizard of Oz.
So are there any special rules for the Winter Solstice, the day for the last phone and The Call? Perhaps The Call can't be made until midnight and the desire to have that phone at midnight spawns a citywide gang war...
That's a good question. Perhaps by the time of the Solstice, the Operator has already chosen the winner of the Game, but wants to watch the crux of all the chaos and destruction all at once. Or perhaps by my earlier writefaggotry, to take the moment to put the most powerful mortal down a peg, to reassert His power over the Night Callers.

So, the rules? Well... most of the Night Callers don't receive the rules, but only those the Operator have shortlisted at that point. And the rules change depending on where and when the game takes place.
>the game
About that-- This mad grab for power is only happening because the payphones being decommissioned, right?
It wouldn't make much sense to refer to just -any- instance of conflict between Callers on the same terms as something of this magnitude.

So here's my suggestion:
"The Game" is a slang term referring to the machinations of the Network and the continual struggle for authority over it.

A Network dying out because the phones hosting it are abandoned? Channeling the city's entire spiritual essence through a single point, just before dissipating entirely?
This would be a significant, highly uncommon occurrence. I'm not sure what you'd call it, but the term "swan song" certainly comes to mind.

Also, the practice of capitalizing -every- instance of a key term is beginning to grate on me.
Although I will admit that it's a convenient way to differentiate them from the usual mundane meanings of the words, it kind of lessens the impact they have in instances they -should- be capitalized.
Like for example:
>"Bless the Operator, for His Authority is the world itself."

I will agree with you on the unnecessary capitalization. Guess I'm just used to that to help highlight game terms to players and readers. That can be dealt with.

As for the game itself, it feels like the circumstances of the game are different depending on when and where it takes place. Chicago is a power grab as the points of power dwindle. New Orleans was about a plan to reawaken the dormant spirits. Other cities have different ends to their games, and possibly different Operators.

Maybe there is an internal conflict among the Operators? Or is there only one true Operator running all the games?
>Maybe there is an internal conflict among the Operators? Or is there only one true Operator running all the games?

That sounds like the sort of mystery that should be left up to the GM.
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> Writefag

Terry shivered, wrapping his icy, soaked hoodie tighter. His trembling hand clenched the open wound in his side. He glanced over at the older man, wishing he would just hurry up; the man's voice was muffled, lost in the torrential downpour, his back turned in disgust on the ragged teenager. Once again, Terry looked up and down the long, wet roads for any sign of pursuit. It looked like he had gotten away clean. All that fire... the screams. He would never forgive Ryan for this. They had never been friends, but this shit was war.

"Excuse me." He said politely, his teeth rattling involuntarily. Nothing. "Excuse me, sir. Could you hurry it up a little?" He added. "Please?"

"Hold on a minute." The man ran a hand through his graying hair, and turned, trying to stare Terry into submission. When he realized it wasn't going to work, he just turned back to his call.

"Look--" Terry said, "it's important. Life or death, do you understand?" With a sigh, the man cupped the phone in his free hand.

"Are you threatening me?" Terry glanced around again, suddenly paranoid. Was that... a car crash?

"No, I just--I have to make a call!" Terry said, his voice rising.

"Then you can wait your turn." The middle-aged man said, before turning back. "Kids these days," he muttered, almost to himself, "I swear."

Suddenly, Terry could hear an engine. It was far, but he knew it was them. He knew it in his soul.

"Get the fuck off! I'll pay fo your goddamn call, old man!" Terry yelled, grabbing the man's shoulder. The older man suddenly dropped the phone and grabbed Terry, twisting his arm. There was a twinge of pain in his side as he felt himself bending back.

"I don't have time for this!" Covered in blood, his other hand shot into the older man's midsection. A writhing bolt of electric white fire shot out and lanced through his body, sending him tumbling to the ground. His gleaming blue card emerged from a hidden pocket, singing with power.

Terry slammed the phone on the hook and yanked it off as a huge white panel van screamed around the far corner. His hand was a blur, tapping bloody fingerprints on the keys in a particular sequence.

"Operator hear me," he whispered "Operator hear and deliver." He clutched the phone to his ear as the van peeled into the gas station parking lot. Before it could even stop, two shapes hopped out the side, humans, men, writhing with moving shadows, flexing long, black blades. Terry was surprised to see them in broad daylight, much less in public. They came fast. The line connected.

"Zuriel!" Terry said, ducking as the smoking black blade lopped through the payphone, rending it in two.

Terry flexed his right hand open, sprayed out a peal of crackling light. The shadowy hitman staggered from the move, but it wouldn't hold him long. Terry clawed his way off the ground and shouldered through the front doors of the convenience store, past the shocked faces. He found what he was looking for; a metal chain coated in dirty yellow plastic rested next to the counter, for locking up.

Still holding his side, Terry grasped at the chain and cast it behind him. With a gesture, the links whipped around like a snake. The chain latched onto one of his pursuers and struck like a cobra, embedding itself into the tile floor. The shadow-draped man tripped and slammed into some displays as his erstwhile companion leaped over him easily. Terry unlocked the back door with a wave of his hand, and slammed it behind him.

He dove over the manager's desk as the assassin sliced through the door easily. Terry clenched his left fist and slid the nearest filing cabinet at the thug, but it was cut apart like paper. He shoved the heavy, metal desk forward, and the figure jumped over it, landing nimbly. The assassin came slow, like a cat. But then there was a peal of thunder. The assassin was smashed into the back wall like he had been hit by a truck, his shadows fleeing with his life force as his body was torn into two ragged pieces.

On the desk behind him, splayed in the middle of the floor, stood a grey, rough-looking beast. It's two legs were bent wide, hunching it over like an ape, with sharp crenellations of bone jutting form it's rippling, muscular arms and legs. It's eyeless head was one large jaw, drawing hot, foggy breathes in great heaving motions, and on its back, two large, reptilian wings rested like sheathed daggers.

"Zuriel." Terry said, a smile appearing on his lips.
...Did he call 911 or something?
>Or is there only one true Operator?
I prefer this, personally.
One Operator, many Networks, many "games", many plots, of which the Operator is the grand orchestrator.

>That sounds like the sort of mystery that should be left up to the GM.
True. To steal some more ideas from UA, we're talking about Global or maybe even Cosmic level stuff, when the game is going to be played on the Streets.
But just because the PCs won't know about it doesn't mean we can't play around with ideas, right?

Speaking of which, the Networks of different cities are more-or-less independent of one another, right? I'm guessing that cards could be taken between networks, but minutes wouldn't.
And since the power of your patron is proportional to the number of authorities you or it controls (we still haven't figure out exactly how that works), your patron would be back to baseline-level power until you acquire some territory in the new city.

What about twin cities? No, not THE Twin Cities.
Would they have one Network, or two separate ones?
(If the latter, fleeing to the other city could be a valid tactic if you need to escape the heat -- you won't have access to your powers, not without paying for overseas charges anyway, but neither will the people after you.)
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Holy hell this is an amazing setting.
I'd Contribute more if I could write for shit or knew anything about unseen armies, but bumping with a pic will have to do.
I think he called his patron and summoned it directly instead of just using its powers.
Apparently, we have a variance on what the Patrons should look and act like. We have personae/stand-like creatures, lovecraftian monsters, and just plain primal forces of nature at work.

I am liking this diversity.
Which wouldn't be a bad meaning for a emergency number call from a phantom card.
Perhaps an automatic depletion of minutes, and then some. The consequences afterward are grievous for the user. Think of a collect call, but amped up several grades of magnitude. Perhaps a 911 call is the starts a Caller on the path of becoming a Patron him/herself.
"...is the call that starts a Caller..."

Yeah, can't into language right now.
When you actually run the campaign, get rid of the intentional ambiguity. It makes me just try to connect everything you say with an equivalent, like winterfest with christmas, harvest festival with thanksgiving. Name the winter festivals and harvest festivals something.
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This sounds great, but I would avoid charging any minutes for emergency calls (after all, they are normally "free" if needed). Instead, I would go with other, more significant consequences. (especially if the call turned out to be unnecessary?).
Ooh, I like this better. An emergency call would only be for if the Night Caller has absolutely, positively NO other options in his or her situation. If there was even the slightest thing he or she could have done in the situation without requiring the call, the consequences begin to pile up.
The way I figured it, the dialing of a Patron's number would include a few variables. A small code for the card, or the user, or a number custom made for that combination of card/caller, as well as the destination phone number. Maybe with just '000-0000' for summoning at that phone.

Sort of... an automated service. For pressing matters, where you don't need or potentially want the Operator's influence. Or, if he or she is busy.

I kind of imagined some sterile, robotic voice saying, "If you'd like to summon your patron, please say the name clearly."
I like the idea of using payphones in a modern magic game. What the OP is saying isn't really grasping my interest, but urban magic through old urban devices is an interesting concept.
In other words, surcharges? Massive, possibly unrepayable surcharges?
Oh no, the terms are quite reasonable. There's just the matter of interest...
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Interest. More than just errands and actions in the real world can account for.
Maybe the darker turn of this lifestyle is leading others to be consumed by the network and turning them into future Patrons.
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Sorry to slightly hijack the direction of this thread, but I think there is a side of this you're missing.

We have a rough idea what happens if dial from a public phone - you're effectively 'calling' on a entity to assist you - but what is the significance of picking up a call from a public phone?

The phone rings, but obviously there is no guarantee if or who picks up. It could be any mildly curious passerby on the street with no idea what is calling.
I'd say this would make an excellent hook to bring people into "the game" and give them the tasks that lead them to their first phonecard.
A very literal "answering of the call".
Hmmm, didn't think about that angle.

And what would happen if a new, inexperienced Night Caller tries to make a call from his cell phone rather than a bona-fide pay phone? Well, other than get a very puzzled person on the other line. In another country, at that.
Think of the minutes that'd net you...
Except I don't think even the Operator is -that- evil.
Truth be told, I'm not sure the Operator is evil at all. He's more likely to be above such narrow definitions of morality, in that all-powerful, lovecraftian sort of way.


Wait-- Callers presumably have some sort of intuitive, empathic link to the network. For example: you'd know what phone your buddy is nearest, and your buddy would know that someone was trying to reach him through that phone. If so, why would they communicate among each other any other way? Not wanting to be eavesdropped upon by some Patron or the Operator is the only reason I can think of.

Maybe the Hero accidentally intercepts a message meant for someone else. Probably because that someone got whacked by his rivals.
Shame I gotta run off to bed now. I'm thoroughly loving this thread!

Now what we need to do is to get those who knows UA well (read: Not me) to start crunching things here.

Evil, no. But what if the people you had to take and turn over to the network were renegade callers who had broken deals with the Operator, or stolen minutes?
Having someone else do your dirty work for you does seem like the Operator's M.O.

>some sort of intuitive, empathic link to the network
In retrospect, that should only apply to authorities you control.

Also: We need to figure out how claiming authorities works.
Does anyone know how to archive threads? I think this deserves a place on the wall.
It's already archived.

And just so you know, you go to the sup/tg/ archive, click the button under "add thread", and follow the directions.

>claiming authorities
Wait. I've got it.

The supernatural stuff only happens at night. I mean, the passive bonuses you get from your turf last through the day, and maybe you can set up "hits" with your Patron beforehand to be carried out later, but it's still for the most part a nocturnal affair. They're called Night Callers for a reason.

To claim an authority, you have to be the one holding the receiver at sunrise, OR be the last Caller to have held the receiver that night.

That gets you control of the authority until the next sunrise. If no one else claims it before then? It's still yours.

Multiple Callers can claim a single authority together, and it counts as each of them controlling an equal fraction of it.

This could be as part of a pact between allies, or it could be because you and your rival were wrestling over the receiver as the sun came up.
>The supernatural stuff only happens at night.
Except I just now realize that contradicts Knives' story taking place during the day.

Okay, umm...
New idea: Only at night, or periods of profound darkness during the day. Eclipses, heavy storms, et cetera.

I dunno. I'll think about it later.
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>Only at night, or periods of profound darkness during the day.
>Eclipses, heavy storms, et cetera.

This is actually pretty awesome, the weird shit stays away from daylight.
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The issue with this is that it makes it practically impossible to hold any territory.
To defend a set of authorities you would need to guarantee that their were no other callers in the area, as you could only "hold" one at a time.
Well, as mentioned here, >>22632373
I figure you'd have some sort of empathic link with your authority, as a part of the whole passive-benefits thing. You'd know if someone was trying to claim it. Heck, you'd know if another Caller so much as set foot on your turf. If you're good enough, you might even be able to tell who they are, or at least which Patron's card they're carrying.
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The story was also just flavor, and my particular brand. I'm crafting at least some of this into a UA game for the future, but believe me, if it doesn't work. throw it away.

That said, pic related.

Cutting off access to magic in the daytime does strictly limit some of the world's cities from any involvement.

I think what we need to go for is an atmosphere of 'mutual agreement', where magic isn't really done in the day (because of the masses) but it can be.

I think the idea of a city coming alive in a deep war with magic pumping constantly can add tension. Players restricting themselves to hidden shenanigans might have an 'Oh shit' moment this way, for example.

And it can open access to secluded parts of even a well lit, open city.

It could also mean murders, especially of witnesses, or odd Operator favors involving getting people committed, or wiping their memory, to remove their credibility.

> Captcha: stay yrnimpin
For the record, I do like the idea of some groups working together in multiple cities.

The idea of two PC's across the country is awesome, to me. Obviously, they could call each other, and send support, and maybe if things go well, the occasional travel and team-up will give them a dose of awesome.

That, and later on, you can bring them together for a more thorough experience.

The idea of working for and against various factions, with the PC's alleigances in a constant state of flux and with potential contradictions tingles me very greatly in my secret places.

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