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.

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: Phaedron Labs

The lobby of Phaedron Labs

In the world you’ve Awakened into, you’re rarely surprised anymore to discover wonders and horrors burgeoning in the shadows of the City. Yet Phaedron Labs is still an odd one. Combining research into the human genome, advanced cybernetics, and the occasional mystical meddling, Phaedron is essentially a superhero factory.

Dr. Wing Li, by Duncan Eagleson

Or at least, that’s the goal. Unlocking hidden human potential, is how Dr. Wing Li, the brilliant geneticist leading the department, would put it. And for a good cause! Countless subjects have come to Phaedron with little hope of life left. That is, of life without constant pain, or severe disability, or an early death. Dr. Li and her team work with these desperate souls, using bleeding-edge technologies. The selection process is highly competitive, of course. And it carries significant cost. But those who volunteer trade life as a broken person for life with profoundly enhanced abilities, beyond any ordinary human.

Naturally, the subjects must detach from their old lives. If you’re dying of a rare genetic disorder, it’s likely your family will be made to believe you have died. They were expecting it, anyway. It’s better this way.

Captain Troy Aston, by Jon Hunt

After all, once Phaedron agrees to work with you, you are contracted to them. These treatments are very costly, unimaginable, and those who pass the selection process pay for them with service to the agency. It’s worth it. You’re not just getting healed. You’re being pushed a little closer to godhood.

Of course, the missions and work these operatives undertake is highly classified. But what could a genomics and cybernetics laboratory require of highly-enhanced powered individuals that calls for so much secrecy?

Perhaps, if you join their ranks, you’ll find out. When you first encounter Troy Aston, captain of their security team, you have a chance to help him out with a tricky takedown mission. “The enhanced,” as they are euphemistically called, sometimes step out of line, and it’s Aston’s job to discipline them. It’s likely that he’ll take notice, and you may find yourself courted.

Melinda Corazon, by Marty Kulma

If you do choose to join, you’ll be working with a partner: Melinda Corazon. She’s been brought on as a handler of enhanced operatives, and her tough-minded, pragmatic approach gives you grounding and confidence. She’s hoping to earn enough credit through her work to get some enhancement procedures of her own. And from what you can tell, she doesn’t seem to mind the risks. Somehow, Melinda wanting it makes Phaedron Labs seem a little less sinister.

Still…how far into the enhancement business are you willing to go?

 


Join Phaedron Labs or one of ten other factions when you play Susurrus: Season of Tides for free on any browser. Join us. The weird is waiting.

Meet the Factions: The Directorate (DSI)

They call it “The Laundry”

“You’re quiet, but it’s a loud kind of quiet.”

Alan Sharpe, by Jon Hunt

The Directorate for Special Investigations (DSI) is hardly the flashiest of the factions  floating around this city. An obscure branch of the government, they were originally founded as an elite unit of a larger intelligence agency, targeting top-tier organized crime figures who were hard to pin down using conventional means. A few high-profile successes put DSI firmly on the map. Their activities thereafter prioritized a return to more uncharted corners.

Which is not to say that they didn’t get the job done. On the contrary. Their success continued, for a time, but the nature of the quarry requires hunters who can hide in plain sight. There’s a reason DSI personnel generally wear blue suits. Standing out in a crowd is not in their interest.

Samantha Lerner, by Duncan Eagleson

Their obscurity, along with high power and low accountability, made corruption nigh-inevitable. It started with simple collusion: some members started working with crime figures in exchange for cash. Soon, this became a strategy for controlling organized crime in the city: after all, it’s easier to control criminality with blackmail material than to arrest and remove crimelords, only to see them replaced with more powerful ones. If you step in and control their business…well, you’re preventing the worst abuses altogether, right? It’s just a matter of making some compromises.

Things got a bit hazier when a powerful psychic took an interest and swooped in. Soon, the DSI was as involved with vampire lords and powerful mages as it was in bringing mafia figures to heel. (Plus, it’s not as if the worlds are all that far apart, anymore.) It was a short hop from there to exploiting the agency’s existing corruption – blackmailing Directorate leaders with their own blackmailing activities – and the DSI was quickly under new control.

Now, the place is crawling with psychics. Now, they’re interested in you.

Carolina Perez, by Duncan Eagleson

It’s pretty creepy the first time you see an unassuming woman in a blue suit on a park bench, only to realize that she’s talking to you inside your head. But if you follow the trail, then by the time you get to the place they call The Laundry, it’s almost charming when your new colleague, Carolina, starts making snarky remarks at you without moving her mouth.

If you choose to work with DSI, you’ll learn all kinds of fascinating things: how to project an emotion onto someone, and how to defend against someone doing it to you; how to hack into people’s heads; and of course, how to use the intel you find there to make their lives difficult, and the DSI’s job easier. Neutralizing criminal threats to the city, including supernatural threats. Simple, right?

Maybe. As you go deeper, you start to think there’s something more going on. There’s tension in the ranks, and it’s getting hard to tell, sometimes, exactly whom you’re meant to be working for. It’s hard to imagine a government agency full of psychics doing double- and triple-agent espionage work not having more internal strife and infighting than it lets on. But you’ll need to stick around to find out exactly what that means…


Play with the DSI faction or one of 9 others in Susurrus: Season of Tides.

Meet the Factions: Hermes

The heart of the all-seeing eye

The existence of Hermes is certainly nothing new. But since you began to perceive magic, you’ve noticed there’s something… odd… about the internet. Sometimes you feel like the search engine is watching you. Sometimes you have the strangest dreams if you’re browsing too late at night.

Robo-Robbie, by Jon Hunt

Hermes. The biggest tech conglomerate in the world. Your ISP. Your webmail. The most popular search engine. A line of phones. Petasus, the largest web retailer. New projects like H-leaks, an archive of leaked information on corporate corruption they maintain as a source for the common good; or the controversial H-spec augmented reality glasses. Hermes is everywhere, helpful, innovative, free when possible, affordable when not. It’s not a monopoly if they have competitors in every individual service they provide, right? Competitors who never manage to do as well as they do?

Agent Mandalia, by Mandy Jürgens

But there’s more you don’t realize until a black-suited woman you’ve never met before saunters up to you in the favorite bar of the supernatural community and asks you how it’s hanging. That’s how you meet Agent Mandalia: she’s on a mission to taste every form of alcohol in the world, has a tarantula called Robbie, and yes, her first name is Agent. And she’s here to offer you a job. Step into the world of spies, working for Homeland Data Management, because your skills have caught their eye. How, you don’t know. How she leaves herself as a contact on your phone, you don’t know.

It’s nothing too sketchy, she promises. No renditions, no assassinations, just perfectly legal surveillance. Good steady work.

Perfectly legal surveillance conducted with all the data collected by the biggest tech conglomerate in the world. Because ever since an obscure government ruling, HDM has had access to everything Hermes knows. Agent Mandalia works for the joint office. And now, if you choose to drop down this rabbit hole, so do you.

Oluchi, by Duncan Eagleson

Then again, so does Oluchi Emeagwali, and you can’t imagine any organization that Oluchi Emeagwali would work for being all that bad. A brilliant scientist and mage, specializing in cutting-edge robotics and AI, friendly, outgoing, devoted to the common good. About the only flaw he has, far as you can tell, is being a workaholic. He has a pet robot spider he built for fun. Agent Mandalia calls it Robo-Robbie.

Your boss–well, he’s a little more like what you’d expect from a strange joint surveillance office of technological spies. Ethan Rye is brusquely professional, a career operative, but for all that he’s a hardass in some ways, he’s very level-headed and tolerant of his office of eccentrics. He also just might be a werewolf.

Ethan Rye, by Marty Kulma

But the rabbit hole keeps going down and down. You have no idea where Ethan stands in the chain of command, or what he does when he’s out of the office for weeks at a time. The internet, Hermes is discovering, has a mind of its own: spontaneously emergent sites that appear and disappear in the bowels of the deep web, defying indexing or categorization. And you still don’t know who that man you met in your dreams was, with the dark eyes and the wide smile and the polo shirt, but for some reason you keep expecting to turn an office corridor and find him…


Play in the Hermes faction, or one of 9 others, in Susurrus: Season of Tides.

Meet the Factions: The Gandolfinis

Nice mansion. Be a shame if anything happened to it

You knew about them almost before you knew anything else about this magical world you’ve found yourself swimming in: The Gandolfinis, the most influential crime family in the city. They’ve been around for generations, keeping a quiet handle on things: influencing the government, doing “business,” and, you figured, getting rid of people they didn’t like. But you never fully understood the extent of that last one until you walked out onto your street that morning, the morning before you changed, before everything changed. There was a face in the sidewalk, moving in slow agony, that you hadn’t been able to see before. “Poor guy pissed off the Gandolfinis,” a passer-by told you. Now, you can’t un-see it.

Mr. Ferri, by Duncan Eagleson

Since you’ve become a part of this magical underworld, the choices you’re making have been attracting attention. There are powerful forces at work, and they are looking for fresh recruits. Depending on your actions, you might receive a visit from Mr. Ferri.

He’s neat and unassuming in appearance, well-dressed but his suits are old, starting to go out at the elbows. He speaks in a way you know is designed to make you trust him.

You don’t trust him.

But if life on the inside of a major crime syndicate appeals to you, you can go to work for them.

Priscilla Gandolfini, by Jon Hunt

They have a rather strange setup at the moment. Outwardly, they’re an Italian crime family like any other you might have heard of. Inwardly, they’re torn by a fundamental division: between the old and the new, the cautious and the aggressive, and – strangest of all – the mythical and the real.

The house patriarch, Giancarlo Gandolfini, has a peculiar delusion, you see. Or else, a peculiar plot that looks a lot like a delusion. He has decided – and Mr. Ferri is determined to promote the idea – that he is the literal god Pluto, of Greco-Roman Underworld fame. Which makes Priscilla Gandolfini – his niece, and current face of the organization – Persephone.

Cheryl Gandolfini, by Duncan Eagleson

But in spite of Mr. Ferri’s own insistence in the matter – after all, his name and position both lend themselves well to the role of Charon – Priscilla is not pleased with the development. When you are called to the mansion to meet the rather grand lady, you can see that she is caught in something larger than herself – something she is trying hard to steer back toward sanity.

And then there’s the family’s three-headed hound, the 20-something siblings who haven’t quite decided what side they’re on. You know little so far except that they’re dangerous, but maybe the thing to do is get on their good side. Help them out, and maybe they’ll help you out.

The one thing you know for sure is that the only thing you want less than a pair of concrete shoes…is an entire concrete life.


Play with the Gandolfini faction, or one of 9 others, in Susurrus: Season of Tides.

Meet Red, the “young” vampire

Red, by Duncan Eagleson

Nice kid, that one who calls himself “Red.” Not something you ever thought you’d be saying about a vampire, but then, a few weeks ago you didn’t know you’d ever say anything about a vampire in real life. It’s just another sign of how strange things have gotten lately, that this toothy teenager with the eponymous shock of hair ignites a protective streak in you, fangs and immortality notwithstanding.

You met him in the close and quiet aisles of Conliffe, the antiques shop you’ve come to frequent when you’re looking for magical artifacts, or another clue from Rhys’ notebook of anomalies. While the proprietor eirself is a bit off-putting, Red is the opposite: sweet and welcoming and a little too open.

He tells you, if you ask, about how he was changed at the young age he now finds himself at for eternity. Some kind of joke, apparently: something an older, crueler man thought it would be cute to do the kid he was supposed to have taken under his wing. Red tells it without a trace of anger; it was a long time ago, but you feel it, just a bit, on his behalf. It’s the way he looks down when telling it, smiling slightly in that way that tells you it hurt him, but he doesn’t yet know you well enough to show how much.

You can’t help but wonder, too, whether one can ever truly get over something that happened to them at a young age, when they never get to leave that age.

In spite of all this, Red’s sunny disposition seems entirely genuine. He loves his work, loves his boss, and makes the best of every situation. Maybe, you think, getting to be a sweet young thing forever isn’t the worst thing that could happen to a person.

Definitely not the worst thing. You’ve seen many worse things in the past while.

But still you wonder. Who he was before. Where else he might have ended up. What he’ll do if Rhys decides to move on, what he might get mixed up in.  Whether wisdom comes with age even for those who don’t age. Whether his pluckiness and cheer are truly evergreen.

Whether he’ll survive what’s coming.


Learn more about Red, Rhys, and countless others when you play Susurrus: Season of Tides!

As requested: More of ‘L’ in Susurrus

Last week’s game update included, per player feedback, another quest to go on with ‘L,’ the mysterious vigilante who shows up to kick fifteen shades of ass shortly after your character’s awakening in Susurrus: Season of Tides. We like her, too.

For us, L is one of many examples in our game of characters who break certain molds for video game heroes. She’s female, for one thing; while female protagonists and supporting characters are on the rise in video games, it’s still somewhat rare to see a woman character show up in-game who is there to give beat-downs to bad guys without also being a skintight-clad sex object. (Not that we have anything against skintight outfits, but really, other outfits truly are possible!)

It’s also less than common for such a character to appear who doesn’t make some kind of move on the player character. While we plan, in the near future, to make certain NPCs romance-able, we also find it tiresome that the assumption for female characters continues to be that they show up to be the love interest.

So it’s not all that surprising that our player feedback tells us they love L: female, fiercely competent, combat-equipped, straightforward, and interested in how you can help her in the work she’s already doing. Granted, this shouldn’t be a rare thing, but at present, it still is.

There are more mysteries that are apt to unfold about this somewhat epic fighter; get to know her a bit better, and you’ll learn some interesting things about why she dresses as she does, and how she got so powerful. Find her in the latest update, and stay tuned for more character development, more story arc, more quests, and, well, more as we continue to add content to the Early Edition, every two weeks!

Play for free, now:

Play Susurrus: Season of Tides

The Harbinger

Harbinger, by Duncan Eagleson
Harbinger, by Duncan Eagleson

Nobody had seen the Harbinger before, not until recently. Now, it seems like they’re everywhere.

Not that folks would notice, so much. A strange figure – mostly for their total lack of strangeness. Average in height, build, skin color, gender presentation … relentlessly average, one might say. So much so that the figure is uncanny, odd in the way a humanoid robot might be, were it designed by aliens observing the totality of a city and attempting to create a Median Human.

In a way, in spite of the equally nondescript uniform of loose jeans and gray hoodie, this makes the Harbinger rather noticeable.

The conspicuousness of this being – who apparently goes by no actual name – is further increased by the fact that the Harbinger has approached every single person who has been Awakened in the past year. All of these troubled souls, stumbling into magic. The Harbinger comes to them, strange eyes burning, and speaks in an affectless tone.

“Everything is breaking,” they say, looking around as if observing the cracks in every living and non-living thing, “and the turning wheels are gaining terrible momentum.”

Life has been confusing enough of late, what with your recent transformation into a supernatural being, and the fallout destroying what vestiges of normal life you knew. But these vague portents and foreshadowings are downright agonizing.

Soon, though. Soon you will know more. You feel it, that if you just hold on in the storm of this city and its unremitting oddities – or maybe the oddities are in you; you’re not yet sure – that you will know more in time. This seeming construct, this Harbinger of you-know-not-what, is giving you another piece of the puzzle.

“Remember,” they say to you, just before disappearing down the alleyway, their furtive notes assembling into a full song, “Remember: the Ten and the Five.”

You’re quite sure, mostly sure, at least 34% sure, that it means something.


Susurrus: Season of Tides is coming! Play at susurrusgame.com beginning August 15 – and meet us at Gen Con from August 17-20!