Meet the Factions: Scale and Compass

The Drafting Room, aka the room where it happens

You sort of knew about Scale and Compass even before your Awakening into this magical underworld. The iconography is familiar: drafting tools arranged with a pointy symmetry, suggesting the kind of old boys’ club whose symbol you’ve seen on building foundations. Naturally, at the time you didn’t think there was anything more mystical about them than an arcane handshake.

Vanessa Haverhill, by Mandy Jürgens

Now, of course, you’re seeing mystical things everywhere. Scale and Compass is no different: another secret society, this one packaged in cigar paper and leather and vellum, a crystal brandy snifter full of magic. When Vanessa Haverhill, the branch manager of the People’s Bank, approaches you with a recruitment offer, it may be hard to resist: the meeting is in Chez Nous, one of the fancier restaurants in the city, and the wine is rather excellent. And her pitch is compelling, too. Don’t you want to experiment with creating exactly the kinds of spaces you want to live in, with exactly the sorts of people you want to be around? Why keep struggling to make the your world a better place when you can make your own world?

Inter-dimensional technology is the key to that world. Scale and Compass, or the Society, as it is sometimes simply called by its members (who also call themselves Architects, if they’re being pretentious or careless) is on the cusp of it, fashioning pocket-dimensions where alternate realities can be sustained. The ultimate in gated communities.

Professor Charles Reddinger, by Marty Kulma

They’ve got fingers in every pot: government, business, military, and of course, the academy. The boss of your local chapter is one Professor Charles Reddinger, chair of the philosophy department at Stratton University. To call the institution “elite” would be understating the truth somewhat. And what Scale and Compass considers “elite” has some definitions that you might find uncomfortable. No worries, though: apparently Reddinger and the rest have decided that you’re the right sort of person for the job.

Christopher Prentice, by Duncan Eagleson

Though you have your doubts about your companion, Christopher Prentice. The younger scion of the illustrious Prentice family, Christopher is rather disappointing in this – and most other – respects, and has been assigned to you as your companion in the Society. But if he’s intended to show you the ropes, it’s not been a particularly successful venture. So far, he mostly seems to alternate between goofing off, bitching and moaning, and begging for your help when he screws up. He seems to have gotten to where he is in spite of it, being carried along by his rich white boy privilege. Yet his hangdog, semi-pathetic ways are balanced by his desire to try hard and do better; he’s starting to chafe under the idea that he’s little more than dead weight in the Society. With encouragement, and maybe a bit of hard-assed-ness, he might even prove useful.

So. Now that you’ve lost the world you thought was real, do you want to be part of building a new one? Think carefully before you answer. But not too carefully. Rome wasn’t built in a day by people who worried about whom they crushed in the process.


Play with Scale and Compass, one of ten factions in Susurrus: Season of Tides. Read about the other 9 factions here.

Meet the Factions: The Guild

The Gilded Group’s innocent-enough-looking conference room

Not into all that science stuff? Religious cults make your teeth hurt?  Think aliens are for cranks and information technology is a boondoggle? Good news! There’s still a faction in the world of Susurrus: Season of Tides that’s right for you!

The Guild is slick, straightforward organized crime, without any of that family loyalty or Greek gods bullshit.  This is a straight-up violence, money, and power situation, and if you’re into that kind of thing, well. We have some questions.

But seriously: The Guild is exactly what it says on the tin – oh, except for when it’s not. The public face of it is known as The Gilded Group, a glittering panoply of couture labels and luxury brands to which you, as a recruit, will get steady access.

Miguel DeSoto, by Jon Hunt

And speaking of recruitment and snazzy dressers: have you met Miguel DeSoto? If you had, you’d remember. You may have run across him shaking down a drug dealer on your block, while wearing a flawless suit. If you help him out, he might start to find you interesting.

He’s an interesting guy himself – a friendly, expansive fireplug of a man, who happens to be a werewolf.  He’s eager to be a mentor to those who want to know what it’s like to be a highroller in the criminal underworld; he enjoys taking people under his wing. It’s worth deciding how far under that wing you want to be, though. For the Guild, there isn’t an in-between, and he’ll destroy his enemies just as readily as he’ll shake your hand.

So: are you in or out? Any Guild member will tell you: being on the inside with the Guild goes better than being on the outside, once you’ve already been noticed.

Sergei Kirov, by Jon Hunt

Sergei Kirov, the current boss of the organization, does nothing to dispel that impression. After a while, Miguel will bring you to meet him, and he’ll question you, genial Russian mob Santa that he is, smiling and calm all the while, but with eyes sharp as Miguel’s beardline. He’s watching to see if you can cut it – and to see if your partner can, too. You’ll be watching each other, see. He doesn’t expect trust, or loyalty. Just vigilance. Competence. Ruthlessness. And for you to do your best to protect his interests. Do well enough, and you’ll be rewarded lavishly; the Gilded Group is lousy with gifts you could never afford yourself, waiting to fill your stocking. If not…well, things could get ugly.

Wendy Trang, by Mandy Jürgens

Which is what your partner, Wendy Trang, worries about, though if you only watch her behavior, you wouldn’t exactly get the impression that caution is her watchword. She’s a classic hothead, a tightly wound operative who greets you at your first meeting by throwing a knife past your head. She’s been at this kind of thing a long time: she grew up hunting vampires, and now she does wetwork for the Guild.

And she’s not exactly thrilled to have been assigned a partner, by the way. Like so many of her kind, she doesn’t think she needs one, and mostly thinks that you’ll be dead weight. It’s true that you have yet to prove yourself – newly Awakened, and now trying to make a go of it in the criminal underworld. But she has her soft spots and her weak points, though she can barely admit it. You may turn out to be more useful to Wendy than she realizes – in fact, you might even make a great team.

If you survive, that is.


Play with The Guild or any of 10 other factions in Susurrus: Season of Tides, free in any web browser.

Help us win $10K from Rockland Trust by giving our video a thumbs-up!

We’re participating in the Small Business, Big Dreams contest from Rockland Trust!

We could win $10,000 in funding from local bank Rockland Trust – and you can help.

You can watch the above video right here in this post, but please also click through to it and hit the little thumbs-up button. Every ‘like’ we get on this video counts as a vote, and every vote gets us closer to the top!

Voting is open, and closes May 14. Please help us out!

Click here to go to Rockland Trust’s YouTube page and vote for our video!

The XYZZY Awards are live! Here’s how to nominate your favorites.

The XYZZY Awards are one of the oldest and most respected awards given to works of interactive fiction. Each year, the IF games that were released in that year are made eligible, and considered for nomination.

We spent a great deal of time, money, and energy last year getting Susurrus: Season of Tides ready for release in August, 2017, to coincide with Gen Con’s 50th anniversary. Although Susurrus is a different kind of IF game than most – in fact, truly multiplayer networked interactive fiction may be a new thing – we are still listed in the Interactive Fiction Database, and therefore have been made eligible for voting!

If you are interested in IF in all its forms, we highly encourage you to go check out this year’s eligible candidates, and, once you have a good sense, go and vote for your favorites! The voting system is somewhat complicated, though, so here’s some handy instructions.

Have fun, and play more interactive fiction games!

Meet the Factions: Vanguard Sol

What airfield? I don’t see any airfield.

Vampires, werewolves, and mages – check. Faeries, check. Mystically-inclined secret societies vying for control of a supernatural underworld – check. You’ve gotten used to this reality pretty quickly. You’ve had to.

So why not aliens?

Vanguard Sol, perhaps the most secretive of the organizations you can join in Susurrus: Season of Tides, is dedicated to tracking the activities of the extraterrestrial life already on our planet. More importantly, they are dedicated to keeping this knowledge hidden from the general public.

Maybe you were a “the truth is out there” type even before your transformation, before the world, which always seemed topsy-turvy, turned definitively upside-down for you personally. Or maybe you were a skeptic, believing that however wacky things on Earth got, there were only other Earthlings to blame.

But now that you’ve seen the magical underbelly of everything…what’s one more conspiracy theory among friends?

Imani Leveque, by Marty Kulma

Not that Vanguard Sol’s mission doesn’t seem completely legit. Their leader is a liberal US Senator, Imani Leveque, whose scientific background and capable, grounded presence lend immense credibility to the organization. The recovered alien technology you’ve seen so far – holographic shields that disguise black sites as construction pits, hoverboots like something out of a scifi epic – convinces you of yet a different brand of magic sweeping the world you thought you knew. It’s all rather exciting, frankly, and doesn’t even feel like you’re doing anything wrong.

Except the secrecy part. It’s hard, for more reasons than one. Hard to keep quiet about something so spectacular, hard to not shout from the rooftops that truly, literally, there are aliens, people!!

Hard too, though, to know that if most people knew what you were working on, they’d think you were out of your mind.

Adam Brown, by Marty Kulma

Also…well, you’re not entirely sure you’re not. For all the incredible artifacts Vanguard Sol has collected, for all the coverups they’ve staged, for all the fear-driven faith you’ve seen in your short time with them…they’ve never had unambiguous, actual alien contact. You’ve seen Senator Leveque and other high-level people express worry that the aliens have already infiltrated us. But given what else you’ve seen so far…it could be anything, couldn’t it?

On the other hand, it’s hard to believe that the man who recruited you, Adam Brown, is anything other than an alien. (If he were, would Vanguard Sol tell you?) He’s more generic than any human should be, so bland and unremarkable that you forget what he looks like every time he leaves the room. He seems harmless enough, you guess, but with a group that keeps such huge secrets as part of its SOP, it’s hard to say.

Skyler Jarrett, by Duncan Eagleson

The most normal-seeming part of all this is your partner in the organization, Skyler Jarrett. She’s a bundle of nerves, a sweet, over-enthusiastic hacker geek who fell into Vanguard Sol by accident. Seems she was investigating a little too hard with her group of conspiracy theorist friends, and they offered her a deal: join and keep quiet, or. She doesn’t talk much about the Or.

She does talk, though – an awful lot – about nearly everything else. And it’s this, perhaps more than anything else, that endears her to you: unlike the whole rest of the organization, Skyler is anything but tight-lipped. And for that reason alone, you have a feeling you’re going to have to protect her before too long.


Do you want to believe? Play in Vanguard Sol and any of nine other factions in Susurrus: Season of Tides, free on any web browser.

GDC welcomes its Evil Overlords

The Evil Overlord seeks an opportunity, under cover of night, to gank a Speaker badge

We sent an Evil Emissary to the Game Developers Conference (GDC) this year, and it was a thrilling time. We showed the game to a number of Conference Associates (the splendid minions that help the conference run for the attendees), attended many useful talks, and said hello to some of our Massachusetts cohort at the Made in Mass party. It was all rather splendid.

GDC is a special event, in that it’s a developer-facing gathering, rather than a fan-facing one. This also makes it incredibly expensive to attend, but one of our ranks took on a volunteering slot with the Conference Associates program for the second year running, which meant an all access pass to the show in exchange for a lot of working hours.

Luckily, there are off hours too. So while we couldn’t manage a booth, we had some time to share Susurrus with fellow attendees and developers, folks we chatted up at parties, and so on.

The Evil Overlord takes a moment at the IGF and Developers Choice Awards to take a selfie

It was fantastic to watch a very narratively-driven game, Night in the Woods, take not only the Excellence in Narrative IGF award, but the Seumus McNally Grand Prize as well. More and more, people are looking for great stories in their video game experiences, and in many ways, the indie world is leading the charge in the growing-up of the industry.

In other ways, growing up – in the sense of leaving “childish things” behind – is nowhere in sight. The spirit of play and exploration was alive and well throughout the conference. While many of the talks were focused on Serious Industry Business(tm), the feel of the interactive experiences like the Indie Megabooth, Day of the Devs, and Mild Rumpus reminded us why we do this. There’s nothing quite like the smiles, laughter, and wonder of people discovering through play.

Gay drawing conspiracies are the best conspiracies.

We hope to see you at upcoming events, like the Made in MA at PAX East party, where we’ll be showing off Susurrus: Season of Tides on the first day of the biggest gaming event in Boston! Come play!

Meet the Factions: Rhytec

One of the inner sancta of Rhytec Labs

Welcome to Rhytec Life Sciences, home of the most sophisticated life-changing medical interventions available today. Through advanced  research and highly safe and regulated human testing, Rhytec seeks nothing less than peace in our time.

The famous Rhytec lanyard (also available in real life!)

So the ad copy goes, in any case. A cursory Google search will also reveal Rhytec’s affiliation with Cosmic Beverages,  purveyors of fine caffeinated products available on every street corner. What other molecules said beverages might contain, you’ve only begun to surmise. The samples you tried that day in Hamilton Square had some decidedly anomalous results.

Sure, their methods seem a bit extreme at times: you still have nightmares about the experiments you volunteered for. You were fine afterwards. Whatever they shot you up with, they had an antidote for. And later…well, you don’t remember how, but you were clean and healed. Still, most nights you again see the blood exploding out of your skin.

Mrs. Grey, by Duncan Eagleson

Nonetheless, you’re intrigued by what the recruiter, Mrs. Grey, tells you when she calls you in. They’re trying to do good work, important work, she says, and you believe at least that she believes that. She’s a brisk, efficient woman, and if she’s not entirely forthcoming, she at least has an eagle-eyed clarity and get-things-done-ness that you can’t help but admire. She tells you that the glassy makeup of Rhytec’s main building is meant to represent their “commitment to transparency.” Of all the things she says in that first meeting, this one is the hardest to believe. The easiest to believe, if the hardest to swallow, is that one of Rhytec’s main focuses is finding a “cure” for people like you: Awakened vampires, werewolves, and mages.

No wonder those experiments were so painful…

Zenith, by Marty Kulma

It’s with this thought in mind that you are introduced to the person who will be your companion in this faction, Zenith. Already a flashy dresser, Zenith’s look is further enhanced by the network of lines you can see under the skin of their hands, and the apparent tech implant, called a Cheval, that they wear on their glasses. Zenith, too, has a condition of some kind that is helped by medications that Rhytec provides. They’re vague about it, but you don’t think it’s the same kind of condition you have. You wonder what happens if they don’t get the drugs. You wonder what happens if Rhytec succeeds in making the magic-suppressing drugs, and whether you’ll have a choice in the matter.

Bethany Steele, by Duncan Eagleson

Which brings you to the boss: Bethany Steele, an imposing woman who, like Mrs. Grey, seems to have everything under control. More so, in fact: her passionate backing of Rhytec’s work in the world is unquestionable. And in particular, she makes a great case for what they’re doing to cure the disease of magic. In fact, she’s almost too convincing. But that’s only because she’s right, after all: your relationship to everything changed literally overnight when you Awakened. Your appetites and needs now rule nearly everything you do. Is it any wonder that so many vampires, werewolves, and mages that you’ve met are involved in shady dealings?

Is it any wonder your life is no longer your own?


Join Rhytec, just one of ten factions in Susurrus: Season of Tides, which you can play for free on any browser. Go ahead: curl up with a cup of Cosmic Coffee and let the hours slide by… 

 

Meet the factions: The Church of Eternal Life

Maybe he is a bit of a shill…

There are a lot of factions out there – 10, in fact – fighting for dominance over the magical underworld of the city. Most of them are pretty creepy, in your experience. Since you’ve Awakened to your new life, you’ve been courted from all directions, most of them unsavory. There’s organized crime, mass surveillance, questionable genetic experiments, and who knows what-all. But the Church of Eternal Life? Oh it smells like a cult, sure, even more than it smells like patchouli. Sometimes its members seem just a little too happy. But you reserve judgment. For the most part, the place feels like a mostly-innocent haven for lost souls seeking the truth. You haven’t bought all the way in, yet, but no harm in working for a bunch of hippies trying to reach a higher plane, right?

Dan the Guru, by Marty Kulma

The Church’s leader, Guru Dan, is an odd one. He wants everyone to see him as this loving spiritual advisor, who wants you to get to a point of “greater peace with yourself.” You can’t see anything wrong with that, exactly, though you always feel just a little unsure of things when you leave Dan’s presence. Plus, he has some strange ideas about life and death that are…questionable. Long story short, you don’t know if you can trust him or not, but as these things go, he doesn’t seem particularly dangerous. Honestly, he just isn’t the type of guy to have a world domination plan. (You don’t know what he hides in his dreads, but you’re pretty sure it isn’t a doomsday weapon.) Sure, maybe he’s a little too charismatic, even with the slightly orange spray-tan. But you don’t let it affect you. To your mind, the Church is a great place to be who you (now) are, get steady work, and not worry about doing a lot of harm. Nobody was ever killed by a leaflet, and you haven’t seen any Kool-Aid at the office parties. Maybe Dan has some minorly evil plans? You can’t bring yourself to worry about it that much.

Shalini Vipattiwala, by Mandy Jürgens

Shalini, though – she’s the one who recruited you – she’s a true-believer. She’s so touchy-feely and new-agey that it’s hard to take at times, but she’s just so earnest.  If anyone knows the good that the Church of Eternal Life can do, it’s Shalini Vipattiwala. She’s gotten real hope and guidance from this place, and holds together a community of others in the Church who have found the same thing. Her every utterance may be florid and rife with platitudes, but it’s clear that she believes it all. It’s hard not to love her a little, even when she’s saccharine enough to make you puke. And it’s hard to believe that someone like Shalini could be involved in anything truly bad.

Then again, perhaps she just doesn’t know. You don’t, after all.

Leaf, by Duncan Eagleson

Once you join the Church you are given a partner in crime – uh, in missions – named Leaf. His initial appearance shakes you: his face is half burn-scars, half cold and dour expression. He does not speak, but instead communicates in a seemingly personal sign language, which further throws you until you realize he is translating directly into your mind.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Another true-believer, he was brought in by Shalini as well, and has found great peace and comfort in what the Church provides. He probably won’t be thrilled to discover that there’s anything wrong in this storefront sanctuary, though as a vampire, his life and death problem has already been solved.

What will you do about yours?


Play in the Church of Eternal Life or two of ten other factions in Susurrus: Season of Tidesfree on any browser. Join us; together we will live forever. 

How puzzling! The Susurrus ARG puzzle at Intercon – and at home

Winners of the Susurrus puzzle at Gen Con

Back in August, we did our first run of the Susurrus puzzle, a light alternate reality game which led players into the interlocked conspiracies that characterize the world of Susurrus: Season of Tides. (Above are two proud puzzle-solvers.)

This weekend, at Intercon, we’ll be running it as a kind of light hallway larp. However, we’re also inviting folks to play along at home.

Want to join us? Go to each of the three links below to begin. Find the clues that lead you deeper into the puzzle, and the game itself will guide you to the next steps.

Have fun, and let us know what you find!