ImagiNation Excerpt: Creativity

In ImagiNation it’s a combination of creative skill and an unconventional mind that gives people their power over the mutable reality of the mainland. They can seem magical, which is almost appropriate given that magic has also been called ‘the art’.

This is a sort of pre-first draft but other than more examples and better wording, not much is likely to change much. If it seems opaque or tricky to understand to you, let me know. Most of the rest of the system will be broadly identical to that found in Neverwhere 3rd Edition.

The Arts

Every character who can enter the mainland is a creator of some kind. It needn’t be their professional talent but rather something inside a person that drives them to create. Even people who are awful at art, or writing or poetry sometimes feel the drive to create regardless. A character who is good at their art will be more powerful and capable but it’s by no means absolutely necessary.

The arts allow a character to shift and change and create, not just on paper or in their minds but, out on the mainland, they can change themselves, change the landscape, even conjure things out of nothing but their own thoughts and passions.


An actor is able to don a mask, a face, the persona and thought structure of another person. They can lie, so well, that they can even believe the lies themselves. An actor is mutable, changeable in how they present themselves and – once they enter the shifting reality of the mainland they can change themselves physically, mentally, absolutely, rather than merely pretending.


An Actor has a pool of points that they can use, the combined bonus of their Acting skill bonus and any appropriate adjectives to their acting capability. During the course of a day the Actor can spend these points on a one-for-one basis to change their adjectives or two for one to add additional adjectives. They’re always able to revert to their normal self.

Even drastic changes or additions are possible, an actor can give themselves claws, for example, or night vision, animal traits or more conventional changes that alter their description. They can even give themselves down traits, just like during character creation, a maximum of another two which can be spent to give positive adjectives.


An architect can envision structures and understand how buildings are put together. They can envision things are they are supposed to be, how they could be and as they are. What is drawn and built in an architect’s mind is often an ideal that never comes to be in reality. This was starkly shown in the 1960s and 1970s when the concrete housing blocks of British cities turned out to be much worse in practice than in theory.


An architect has a pool of points equal to the total of their architect skill and any appropriate adjectives. They can conjure or change the descriptive traits of a building on a one-for-one basis. These points regenerate after a day. A strong door can become a weak door. A dark chamber can become a bright chamber, a ruin can become pristine or the pristine can become a ruin.

If they want to conjure a shelter out of their mind they can do so, describing it with their available traits. Needing a shelter at night, for example, an architect might use their ability to create a ‘Hidden, strong bunker, deep beneath the earth with running water.

They’re a good person to have along.


A dancer moves to time, to a beat, they make shapes with their bodies and create a spectacle of themselves that can evoke wonder and envy. Whatever the form the dance takes it ties one into the beast of the music and when there is no music, one can create their own beat.


A dancer can distort time or fascinate with their gyrations. They have a pool of points based on their dance skill and their appropriate adjectives. They can spend these points in one of two ways:

  1. So long as they dance their audience can be drawn in, fascinated and rendered mute and still until such point as the dance ends. This costs one point from the pool per turn.
  2. The dancer can distort time for themselves, slowing it down or speeding up by a factor equal to the points that they put in. For each point spent they can take an extra turn doing something as they slow time – provided they can work it into the dance.

Music & Singing

Music is one of the less powerful but more wide ranging of the influential arts. Music can make few specific changes to individuals but it can evoke mode, change mode, create or lighten an atmosphere or make it more oppressive. It plays upon the emotions and the resonance of a place in a way that can blanket a whole region.


A musician, provided they have access to their instrument and can play, can use their music to alter the mood whenever they want as many times as they want. There’s no limitation on how often it can be used. When playing music the musician can alter, replace or add to the mood of a location, creating an adjective that anyone can tap into – if it’s appropriate. A place that is frightening, might become amusing. They might play something inspirational or courageous, sound the charge to aid people in a fight. It’s a subtle, but powerful, effect.

Painting & Drawing

Those who paint and draw can create things out of their imagination and bring hem to visible life. Outside the zone this is limited to paper and canvas but within the zone, so long as they can at least sketch, they’re able to bring these things to genuine life.


An artist has a pool of points drawn from their writing skill and their appropriate adjectives. They can use these points to draw and create items, even creatures out of nothing. They can also draw doors, windows or other features onto a surface and cause them to become real – at the cost of a single point. In creating something out of nothing the description is made using the pool of points available. For example one might draw out a sketch of a ‘powerful handgun’ and then use that, at the cost of two points. One for the object, one for the description as ‘powerful’.


Poets have a facility for artful language and for rhyme and meter. A poet plays with language as a writer constructs it. A poet can work their words in their mind, without the need to jot them down to make them work.


A poet can freely change any word in any description, even that of other people, to a synonym. Strong can become powerful, fast can become speedy. This is a subtle but potentially very powerful effect as it can tailor a description to very specific circumstances. For a point from their pool (poetry plus adjectives) they can change any word from a description to its rhyme. A ‘violent’ beast may, thus, become a ‘silent’ beast, a ‘dangerous’ man a ‘timorous’ man, and so on.


A writer has a powerful way with words and can use them to evoke almost anything, to spin the imaginary into a form people can see in their mind’s eye or to create an evocative description that can make something more real or convey it in a way even pictures cannot. Within the zone, provided that a writer can scribble down their thoughts on a scrap of paper or in the dirt, they can have a wide-ranging, but somewhat unpredictable power.


The writer creates a pool of points from their writing skill and their appropriate adjectives. They can freely change words for their synonyms – one per turn – just as the poet can and they can conjure objects or creatures out of thin air as an artist can, but at a cost of two points per adjective. The most powerful thing a writer can do is to narrate. They can – within reason – describe something that happens, spend a point, and have it happen. For example: “Without warning, the roof collapsed upon the gunman…”

ImagiNation Thank Yous

Delving into Marvel Heroic: 2013

The difficulty in getting people together regularly and reliably for the Victoriana: War of the Worlds game means that I’ve decided, at least for the moment, to kick it to the curb and to start a Marvel Heroic game. This won’t be the Marvel Universe of course, that’s so crowded it’s hard to create legends or a world of your own. It’s so choked up with heroes and villains that the whole world-creation part that’s a lot of the fun for me isn’t possible.

Characters are going to be amongst the first generation of superheroes known to the world, erupting into power on or around Jan 1st 2013 (I don’t believe in the whole Mayan cycle thing, but it does make a convenient plot-hook).

I’ll be running it on Sunday nights from around 8pm. The great thing about the superhero genre for this is that anyone can just ‘drop in’ and it makes sense for superhero team ups. The MH system is good because it allows balance between the likes of, say, Batman and Superman so that nobody feels useless and the Doom Pool somewhat automatically balances the difficulty for the size of the group and how many dice they throw at you.

My superhero inspiration doesn’t tend, so much, to come from ‘straight’ Marvel and DC. I take my cues from elsewhere. Planetary, The Authority, Zenith, The Boys, Underground and Aberrant. This is going to make for one interesting – and potentially fucked up – game world.

I kind of can’t wait to get started but the only thing that’s not ‘working’ for me as far as MH goes is the very, very linear ‘set fight’ nature of the existing scenarios. At the moment it seems to lack an example of a more complex and interesting, tangled adventure format, which is the kind of thing I much – much – prefer to run.

We’ll see how it goes. I’ll post some of the villains and resources etc I come up with as we go along.

Ex Machina – A Whole New London

So I started running a cyberpunk setting game using Ex Machina (Tri-Stat). It has to be said, I’m not a huge fan of Tri-Stat. Making up characters and powers and options and things in the system is good fun, so far as character creation goes, but in execution it all feels a little bland and Ex Machina’s way of working damage is a little intrusive and annoying. The three-stat reductionism is also more than a little annoying, even though it makes things relatively simple.

Still, the setting is the thing though and while the settings in the book (the bulk of the book) never really roused my interest they do comprise a good toolkit for putting things together of your own with examples and some statted up NPCs, guards, cybernetics and so on.

My setting is set at some point around/after the 2050s and incorporates ideas liberally lifted from Doktor Sleepless, Augmented Reality speculation, Maker/Fabber speculation and Peter F Hamilton’s earlier cyberpunk setting books (such as The Nanoflower) along with my own ideas which I’ve been developing for some time either for personal games or for Genesis Descent (which will hopefully actually get greenlit at some point).

My setting is London, some time after 2050, and it’s a London much modified by climate change (flooding) and energy starvation issues. The key points of the setting are:

  • Ubiquitous Augmented Reality: Pretty much everyone is wired in with contact lenses or glasses that give an augmented overlay to the world. Your social networking is connected to your personal transponder and distributed processing and gestural detection fields surround you. Almost everyone is wired in 24/7 and has a wealth of personal data available to anyone who cares to check. Police and other groups have more advanced versions of this and can even flag people for the general public to notice. Some sentencing involves displaying special HUD info, like, say ‘Sex Offender’ over your head. Almost everyone has ‘opted in’ to a near total surveillance culture.
  • Unobtrusive Enhancement: Prosthetics have reached the point where they’re equal to or better than flesh-and-blood but actually chopping off a limb to get enhanced is crazy or fetishistic. Veterans or cripples may get these fitted and end up enhanced but regular people? No. Nano and biological enhancements or hidden/cosmetic enhancements are the order of the day. Cybernetics and Bionetics are subtle and hidden. A lot of enhancements are pure software, apps and expert systems loaded into your AR suite.
  • Environmentalism: Everything, everywhere is concerned with environmental impact. Buildings are covered in a living coat of algae or moss and have roof gardens. There are incentives to have window-boxes or hanging window gardens and most buildings have one or two windmills or solar power/heating arrays. Cars are almost all electric, a lot of people cycle or walk and there are new tramways, light rail and monorails (corporate owned) replacing the crumbling London Underground (much flooded and hard to maintain).
  • Corporatocracy: There is still a government but it’s a toothless rump, completely in the thrall of the corporations. Global turmoil following The Great Recession replaced many governments but the money was still in the company coffers and able to corrupt whoever was elected or to fix subsequent elections. Voting, protesting, none of it makes any real difference and you can’t depose a multinational through revolt. Companies own whole zones, set their own laws and regulations and ignore what remains of the government in any case.
  • Energy: Lack of sufficient investment in alternative energy sources has caused a massive shortfall. Fusion has been cracked but requires massive powerplants that are much less efficient and much more expensive and difficult to run than nuclear reactors. Nuclear has such a bad reputation hardly anyone uses it though exhausted Middle Eastern nations continue to try to develop nuclear power. The Russian Confederation is one of the last major fossil fuel exporters and that’s drying up. They’re investing heavily in space resources. Remaining oil, gas, coal and other resource areas – particularly in Antarctica – are flashpoints for diplomatic incidents.
  • Space: Pretty much entirely ceded to private enterprise, save by China which continues to gain space supremacy as a nation. Two consortia, one Russian/Eastern, one Anglo/Western are trying to make profitable means to harvest Near Earth Asteroids. Mining does go on, but is hideously expensive. It provides rare earths and important metals to Earth Industries but is barely profitable and intensely competitive.

What do players do?

With government and police almost entirely irrelevant there’s little to hold companies back and, hence, a huge amount of potential for PMCs, freelance industrial espionage and so on. Players are likely criminals, social networking engineers, people off the grid or otherwise capable of ‘doing things’ for important players.