Carcosa Dreams

Games, Events, Madness

Dead Air

Dead Air

I’ve just finished my working day and I am, blankly, staring at my keyboard wondering what I am supposed to be doing that I forgot about. Dead Air is done.

As I said at the debrief, this was a game about relationships, disguised as a game about wizards and politics. Over the months we wrote it, it became so much clearer to us that the real meat of the game would be in the hearts broken, loves lost, families found, friendships reaffirmed and betrayed more than the motions written, procedures followed or spells cast.

That was the victory just as much as a new paradigm or a fantastical new magical world of art, guns and money. Those who forgot what it was to be friends, or to love, or to stand by their fellows in times of trial largely, by the end, found the strength to remember. Two people in love with a knack for telling stories changed the world through a combination of the epic and the romantic. A new Code for a new age. Wrongs righted or accepted – a heart too full of deferred grief come home at last. And a pair of Criamon who understood that you can always find a decent bar in Bithynia if you look hard enough finally, finally, went to the moon.

And in the end, it looked like everything came out right for everyone, even the people who could not bring themselves to change and grow, and clung to ritual, tradition and formality to the very knell of time out. For them, that was what really mattered and who are we to gainsay them? Maybe they are still there even now, arguing over the proper Bavarian Common calculations.

Everyone found something as adjacent to a happy ending as they were able to. Criamon’s riddle is solved and the flat circle of time is broken.

Everything is true; everything is permissible.

Believe it or not, we started writing a game about the effects of a global pandemic redefining a paradigm a full six months before a global pandemic redefined the paradigm.

I’d always wanted to do a game in the Greater Alps during the original runs, but we never quite made it fit, so I am glad we got to deal with the mad old peaks one last time.

There were times over the past couple of years between the brain fade and the lockdowns and the are-we-too-on-the-nose where it has been touch and go whether it was going to happen. Thanks therefore to the infusion of energy and spirit from the Greater Alps Knitting Circle – JFS, Helena, Tim, Eric, and the inestimable creative fusion engine that is Si M – and to my colleagues in Carcosa Dreams Antony, Rob, Helly and Aquarion for dragging this monster over the line. It has been a hard job well done and I am content.

It would be rude not to acknowledge where we shamelessly stole sought inspiration from for some of the plotlines. I would like to direct curious readers to the works of Tim Powers – much of the plots around Alyx, Carthage, the Great Gate of Eshmun and time travel were inspired by a night on the blue cheese after reading The Anubis Gates and a perceptive reader can see a lot of the narrative around the Muses and their less pleasant sides in The Stress Of Her Regard. You can see some of it in Declare too, and the snorting of “smoke”, consuming ghosts to extend your life, is lifted wholesale from Expiration Date.

Phaleni is, of course, heavily inspired by The Master from Doctor Who – Anthony Ainley era, of course.

I have always secretly loved House Mercere best, and a recent read-through of Ovid’s Metamorphoses framed a lot about our approach to the older magi, whereas Neal Stephenson’s System of the World series was the inspiration for the Templars-Medici-Bourse van Rijn-Verditius plan for a grand new world of guns and money. Change or die is a motto to live by.

The Fates, Balbina and the Loom was drawn, I fear, from one terrible online meeting in early 2022 where we egged each other on in a frenzy of awfulness and each “what if” was just worse than the last one until Balbina fell into the loom and got spaghettified into raw vis. Simon found the Loom prop, and Helly’s eyes lit up. You all saw the results – one of the most disturbing props I have ever laughed myself silly over.

Last of all, of course – two Criamon, one short and verbose, one quiet and sensible – were inspired by one simple sentence:

What if Faqib and Ali, but wizards?

I am happy that everyone more or less got what they wanted – but I am happiest of all above all other things, that Nec and Lat got to go to the moon.

And with that, we close the big old hoary book on the Alps, on Ars Magica, and on Dead Air. If the game has inspired you to have a look at Ars Magica as a game then I am delighted, because it’s a rich and unique game. I have really enjoyed getting these old tools out of the cupboard and playing with them one last time. To quote Nauvi’s partying shot to Fabianne – “I’d rather be on my deathbed saying I wish I hadn’t than I wish I had.”

Time for something new now, on ce I have slept for a week. Onward.