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Meditations - My Summary
This is my summary of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.
I went through the whole book, collected together all points I could see, condensed them and then reordered them.
This is what I ended up with. I did my best not to embellish or add my own slant to it but I may have done so in places as I sought to interpret what he was saying.
It took a long time and I probably made a few errors so welcome any feedback or corrections.
The Concise Meditations of Marcus Aurelius:
1. For When You Encounter Unkindness:· When receiving bad treatment or criticism from someone:Tell yourself that either the other person is right in which case you’ve no right to complain.
Or they’re wrong, in which case they’re misguided and have just made a mistake. Remind yourself how many mistakes you’ve made in life and allow yourself to feel pity for them.
· By all means point out to them where they’ve gone wrong, but do so affectionately, not meanly, with hatred in your heart, or to impress onlookers, speak directly to them.
· If this doesn’t work, ask yourself what qualities Nature has given us to counter the defect? For example, as an antidote to unkindness it gave us kindness. Put that to use and see what happens, very few people can continually act unkindly to you if you show continued kindness to them.
“No matter what anyone says or does, my task is to be good.”· If you’ve mistakenly trusted an untrustworthy person, then turn the reproach on yourself, the fault is yours. Recognize that untrustworthy, bad and even evil people exist in the world – to expect not to encounter them is foolish. Say to yourself “I have encountered one of them, this it to be expected from time to time”
· Then remember that any evil that men do you only harms your soul if you do evil in return. It is your job to be good and not allow their evil to change that.
“The noblest kind of retribution is not to become like your enemy.”With that in mind, recognize that…
2. Everything Depends on How You Interpret it· “Everything is interpretation” is a quote Marcus Aurelius cites from a Cynic philosopher. He notes that obviously this is not literally true, but that it is a useful mental crutch. If you take it for what it’s worth you can apply it to everyday life with amazing results.
· With that in mind, remind yourself that how things affect you is determined by your mind’s interpretation of them, not the external things themselves. Whatever happens you can choose how to interpret it, so choose not to feel harmed and you haven’t been.
· If it rains, you can choose to feel angry at the weather and pained by the sensation of the water on your clothes and body. Or you can choose to feel grateful at being alive and able to feel such sensations.
“How easy it is to repel and to wipe away every impression which is troublesome or unsuitable, and immediately to be in all tranquillity.”· So work on gaining control of your mind to frame things positively.
· Ultimately, you are what you continually think, so take care which thoughts you allow to exist in your own head.
“Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought, for the human spirit is colored by such impressions.”On that point...
3. Your Mind Should Sit Superior to Your Body and its Sensations· You have a body and a mind. Your mind, your rational faculty is the advantage you have over other animals, to follow Nature means to recognize this and make use of what Nature has given you.
· Deep down you already know the things you should be doing and yet you are not doing them. That’s because you do not have control over your mind, whenever you determine to do something and don’t do it, it’s because your body has given you some reason not to:
“Do not allow pain, drowsiness, fever, loss of appetite [to alter your behavior]…When you’re bothered by things like that, remind yourself: I’m giving in to pain.”· When you give in to these sensations you make your mind the slave of the body which leads to unhappiness.
“Endless suffering—all from not allowing the mind to do its job. Enough”· Gain control of your mind. It’s only by gaining control that you can begin to act virtuously, and it’s only by acting virtuously that true happiness, eudaimonia, will be reached.
· Once you start to follow reason the difference will be night and day
“Within ten days you will appear a god even to those to whom to-day you seem a beast or a baboon, if you return to your principles and the worship of reason"With that in mind…
4. Stay Mindful and Take Deliberate Actions· Frequently we go through life on autopilot, most of the things we do we don’t even think about. Enough of this.
“No random actions, none not based on underlying principles”· Do not wander without a purpose. Act deliberately.
· Observe your own mind critically, as if observing someone else’s. In every case ask yourself to what you are currently employing your mind. What sort of soul are you displaying, are you acting like a child, a tyrant, an animal? What’s causing you to act that way?
· If you can control your actions and think and act systematically you will have an untroubled life.
· If you do not observe the movements of your own mind, then you will be unhappy.
· Further, you can find peace from external events at any time by going within your own mind.
But do so briefly…
5. Don’t Retreat from the World.· Humanity is born for cooperation and we are constituted for one another. Do not allow yourself to become angry with those around you, fall into hatred or give up on trying to make a positive difference in society.
“If you conceive of all rational beings as constituted for one cooperation, then helping other people becomes a joy and not just the “right” thing to do.”· Learn to feel affection for other people even when they make mistakes. You can do so by recognizing they’re human too and we all make mistakes, and that before long they will die just like you and that we’re all in this together. What’s more, regardless of what they’ve done they haven’t really hurt you.
“You can do it, if you simply recognize: that they’re human too, that they act out of ignorance, against their will, and that you’ll both be dead before long. And, above all, that they haven’t really hurt you. They haven’t diminished your ability to choose”· Another mental crutch he offers is to contemplate the positive qualities of those around you. We all have different abilities and talents, and keeping theirs in mind will make you think better of them
“When you need encouragement, think of the qualities the people around you have, the energy of one, the modesty of another, the generosity of a third. Keep the thought of them ready to hand.”
6. Your Opinion of Yourself Matters More Than the Opinion of a Stranger.
“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own”· This is not an exhortation to arrogance; it’s reminding you to do what you know is best regardless of people’s reactions. You know what you’re about and you know the reason why you’re doing what you’re doing, you don’t need to explain yourself to everyone.
· Even worse is when we fawn over and seek the praise of people we don’t even respect. Think about that, seeking the praise of those who are worthy of contempt.
· As a crutch to avoid being too concerned with praise Marcus Aurelius suggests contemplating what difference it really makes, and considering the insignificance of it in the grand scheme of things.
“…fame in a world like this is worthless.”· His conclusion from all this is that we should be honest and straightforward. We shouldn’t prance about, keep airs or try to portray ourselves as something we’re not. We should abstain from rhetoric and trying to pander or curry favor.
However, with that said
7. Be Open to Correction.· Being corrected is better than remaining in self-deceit.
· You shouldn’t view changing your mind as “losing” or that you’re being coerced, it is still a free and noble action on your part to change your mind if the evidence turns against you. Just don’t change it because of peer pressure or to ingratiate yourself with others.
“Remember that to change your mind and to accept correction are free acts too. The action is yours, based on your own will, your own decision—and your own mind”With that in mind…
8. Cherish the Freedom and Liberty of Everyone· Learn to endure the freedom of speech of others, you cannot control them so learn to control your reaction instead.
· Learn to hear unwelcome truths.
· Listen attentively to people and seek to place yourself in their shoes
“Habituate yourself not to be inattentive to what another has to say and, so far as possible, be in the mind of the speaker.”· Uphold the rights of everyone as equal under the law
“It was from [my brother] that I conceived of a society of equal laws, governed by equality of status and of speech, and of rulers who respect the liberty of their subjects above all else.”· Recognise that power corrupts.
“recognize the malice, cunning, and hypocrisy that power produces, and the peculiar ruthlessness often shown by people from “good families.”· If you ever find yourself in a position of power remember this and check yourself, resist becoming despotic
“Take care not to be transformed into a Caesar, not to be dyed with this dye; for such things happen…Fight to be the person philosophy tried to make you.”With that in mind
9. Have Some Self Respect:· With every act ask if you are respecting yourself with it and if you will regret it inside.
· Watch for and erase any impulse to express things you don’t truly believe.
· Do not view anything as beneficial which causes you to break a promise, lose your self-respect or hate anyone.
· When roused to anger, remember there’s nothing manly about giving in to emotion. It’s courtesy and kindness that define a human being— and a man. He who possesses these qualities possesses strength, nerves, and courage, not the man who is subject to fits of passion and discontent.
· Make yourself neither the tyrant nor slave of any man
And whatever happens
10. Avoid Complaining.
“Do your job without whining”· If you can do the job in front of you, then do it and don’t complainAnd if you can’t, then seek someone to help you and don’t feel ashamed. But still don’t complain, not even inwardly to yourself.
“Don’t be overheard complaining, not even to yourself”Frequently in life…
11. The Obstacle is the Way· If something bad happens, just say “Good, what new opportunities does this open up?”
· In the same vein as recognizing how your interpretation of an event can affect whether it hurts you, you can go one step further and ask how your interpretation of it can even benefit you.
“The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”· Of course this is still very much a mental crutch because had you wanted your car to break down say, you would have broken it yourself, but now that it has, ask yourself what good can you make come from it?“The obstacle becomes the way” is a recognition that every event creates new possibilities and that saying to yourself “Good” when something bad happens and looking for the new opportunity is a far healthier way of living than complaining about it.
· Marcus Aurelius used such crutches a lot, The Meditations can be viewed as a series of practical psychological tricks to make like smoother. Such mental habits allow you to smile and remain happy even when things that would otherwise upset you have occurred.
With that in mind recognize that…
12. Adversity is Part of Nature· The universe is indifferent to your existence, it will throw things at you that will rock your world. Accept this for what it is, difficulties, setbacks and even tragedies are part of life, they are even part of what it means to be alive, everyone will experience them.
· Marcus Aurelius reiterates that since these events are in God or fate’s hands, you should not hope and pray for them not to occur, but rather hope and pray that you have the strength of character to endure them when they do.
“why not rather pray for the gift to fear none of these things, to desire none of them, to sorrow for none of them, rather than that any one of them should be present or absent?”· This puts your focus on something in your control, namely forging the strength of character to endure all onslaughts, rather than that which is in fate’s control: the unfortunate events.
· And when they do occur?
“Be like the headland against which the waves continually break. It stands firm and tames the fury of the water around it.”· But he takes it a step further again, and points out that…
13. It’s Through Adversity That We Get Stronger.
“It’s unfortunate that this has happened. No. It’s fortunate that this has happened and I’ve remained unharmed by it—”· There’s an ironic beauty in life that it’s these very hardships that give us the opportunity to test ourselves and grow stronger.
“in every event which leads you to sorrow, remember to use this principle: that this is not a misfortune, but that to bear it like a brave man is good fortune.”In any case he points out that for the most part,
14. Everything has happened before.· The Universe is in constant flux, but there’s nothing new under the sun
· Whatever challenges you’re facing, others have met them before.
· Obviously, society and technology has moved on, but the human condition remains the same, your partner cheats on you, your friend betrays you, you get passed over for promotion, all these things have been experienced by all of humanity for all of time.
· Instead of wailing against them, feeling outrage and shock and repeating the behaviors of those before you, let petty events wash off you and turn your attention to what really matters. Keep a sense of proportion and it will help you deal with such things.
“In all that happens, keep before your eyes those who experienced it before you, and felt shock and outrage and resentment at it. And now where are they? Nowhere. Is that what you want to be like? Instead of avoiding all these distracting assaults—leaving the alarms and flight to others—and concentrating on what you can do with it all? Because you can use it, treat it as raw material. Just pay attention, and resolve to live up to your own expectations. In everything. And when faced with a choice, remember: our business is with things that really matter.”· “Our business is with things that really matter”. With that in mind…
15. Stay Practical and Deal with What’s in Front of You.· Stop being aimless and stop allowing yourself to be distracted, maintain an unwavering commitment and focus once a decision has been made.
“If you seek tranquillity, do fewer things, better”.· Rid yourself of unnecessary thoughts and stop letting your emotions project into the future, fabricating worries for yourself. Master them and focus them on the present, on doing the thing that is in front of you as if it were your last.
“Do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you”
“Wipe away the impress of imagination. Stop being jerked like a puppet. Limit yourself to the present.”· Through hard practice you can learn even the things which you despair at learning now
· For any task at hand, ask yourself “Why can’t I endure it?” You’ll be embarrassed to answer.
· Don’t focus on any physical characteristic which you cannot change and do not allow yourself to want or pursue what is impossible.
· Focus instead on the virtues that are in your power to bring forth: honesty, dignity, endurance, austerity, resignation, abstinence, patience, sincerity, moderation, seriousness, magnanimity.
With that in mind…
16. Focus on Doing What is Right and be Prepared to Face Resistance
“If it is not right, do not do it, if it is not true, do not say it.”· Say nothing untrue, do nothing unjust, and do not be concerned with whether people recognize you for doing so. If you choose to do a kind act, don’t do it in expectation of a future reward. The acts themselves are their own rewards and what lead to a good life.
“True delight and stillness is to move from one unselfish action to the next.”· Since your job is to act with virtue, act well regardless of how people respond to it, and do not allow the bad actions of another to throw you off course.
· Do not expect a perfect outcome, be happy with the smallest progress, and in attempting the good act itself. In a sense if your aim is to always attempt to act well, then even if something immovable falls in your way you have still succeeded in that aim by attempting.
“Ambition means tying your well-being to what other people say or do…Sanity means tying it to your own actions.”· If you’re in a position of authority you may even be hated for your good actions. The important thing is that you are not dissuaded from the right course in search of applause.
“A King's part: to do good and to be reviled.”· Teach yourself to desire only to act virtuously, and do not let others hold you back
With that in mind...
17. Do Your Duty and Despise Cowardice· Stand up straight in life, don’t be propped up by others, and do your duty without fear.
“It’s like this, gentlemen of the jury: The spot where a person decides to station himself, or wherever his commanding officer stations him—well, I think that’s where he ought to take his stand and face the enemy, and not worry about being killed, or about anything but doing his duty.”
· Focus more on whether what you’re doing is right or wrong, than on the risk it brings you.
“You are much mistaken, my friend, if you think that any man worth his salt cares about the risk of death and doesn’t concentrate on this alone: whether what he’s doing is right or wrong, and his behavior a good man’s or a bad one’s.”
18. Life is Short and Death Comes to us All, That Means the Time for Action is Now.
“Decide once and for all to pursue justice, honesty, courage, self-control and rational action above all else”· Remind yourself how often you have put things off and procrastinated. How many chances you’ve been given and yet have wasted. Remember your time here is limited, you have one chance and it’s running out. Stop seeking approval from others, stop putting things off, decide today to start taking action.
“Not to live as if you had endless years ahead of you. Death overshadows you. While you’re alive and able—be good.”· Once you make such a choice you will cease your internal suffering.
“You suffer justly, because you choose to be good tomorrow rather than today”· A mental crutch Aurelius suggested was thinking of the life behind you as already dead, and that from today you’re living a new shorter life. Take this new life and live it properly
“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what’s left and live it properly.”· Also, it is disgraceful for your soul to give up while your body is still going strong. As you age the chances that you’re going to be the next protégé decrease, when young you may have imagined yourself as a future savant, that you were going to turn pro, win the Olympics or change the world with your discoveries. Don’t let the fact that all that never really panned out dishearten you, you can still focus on building your character and on doing good in the world.
“Just because you’ve abandoned your hopes of becoming a great thinker or scientist, don’t give up on attaining freedom, achieving humility, serving others, obeying God”· And just as you accept the limits placed on your height, accept the limits placed on your life. Death will eventually come for everyone, and fearing the future does nothing but stop us acting bravely today.
With all that in mind…
19. Practice Getting Back on Track· Life is an obstacle course and no matter how wise you are there will be things that throw you off balance. When this happens, make a point of centering yourself at once before proceeding. The more you practice this the better you will get.
“When jarred, unavoidably, by circumstances, revert at once to yourself, and don’t lose the rhythm more than you can help. You’ll have a better grasp of the harmony if you keep on going back to it”· In other words, whatever negative compulsions you’ve overcome there will come a time when you fall off the wagon and revert to your old ways. Recognize when this happens and practice pulling yourself back. Do not listen to the voice that tells you to give up because “today is a write off”.
“Not to feel exasperated, or defeated, or despondent because your days aren’t packed with wise and moral actions. But to get back up when you fail, to celebrate behaving like a human—however imperfectly—and fully embrace the pursuit that you’ve embarked on.”· Avoid getting distracted with pride and showing off. Not only does it detract from what you’re doing but the applause you receive is worthless anyway.
“Pride and outward show is an arch-seducer of reason, when you think you’re occupied in the weightiest business, that’s when it has you its spell.”As such in all cases…
20. Look Beneath to See Things for What They Truly Are· A method of lessening the hold things have over you is to look at them for what they really are. Expensive wine is just fancy grape juice. Purple robes (those worn by the emperor) are just wool dyed with shellfish blood.
· This applies not only to material things but to actions and behaviors.
· Examine men’s ruling principles, even those of the wise. What kind of things do they avoid or pursue?
· Imagine someone’s soul stripped bare, what evokes their love and admiration, their vanity etc. Now try to imagine whether their disdain can really harm anyone, or their praise help anyone.
“Do you wish to be praised by a man who curses himself three times every hour? Do you wish to please a man who doesn't please himself?”· When facing their insults, hatred or whatever, look at what sort of person they are. You’ll see you don’t need to strain to impress them. But, you should still treat them well as they are still human.
· In all cases, speak the truth as you see it, but with kindness and humility
With all that in mind
21. Recognize Material Wealth is Neither a Good nor an Evil· Wealth in and of itself is not a good or bad thing, it’s how you use it.
· The term “goods” is a misnomer when used to refer to possessions. It’s possible that possessing too many things can make life worse so they are not in every case “goods”, your only true goods are your virtues.
· Respect your own mind and prize that. Be satisfied in yourself. If you can’t stop prizing other things then you’ll never be free, you’ll always be envious, jealous or afraid that someone might come and take things away from you.
· That said, while those who crave wealth are misguided so are those who despise it or feel guilt at possessing it, as it has just as strong a hold over them.
· Better is to learn to not let it have any hold over you. Learn to make use of it when have it but be absolutely prepared to let it go. Use it unapologetically but also without any arrogance.
“Treat what you don’t have as nonexistent. Look at what you have, the things you value most, and think of how much you’d crave them if you didn’t have them. But be careful. Don’t feel such satisfaction that you start to overvalue them —that it would upset you to lose them”With that in mind...
22. Express Gratitude:Marcus Aurelius spends the entire first chapter of Meditations listing the things he’s grateful for learning whilst young. Some of the things which standout to me and which I haven’t already mentioned elsewhere are:
· That I needed to work on my own character.
· The government of my temper, development of a strong character, generosity, charity and a sense of humor
· The value of investing in education, enduring labor, working with my own hands and learning to want little.
· Not to meddle in the affairs of others and to have not time for slanderers.
· Not to busy myself with trifling things or waste time on frivolous matters.
· To write simply and directly.
· To endure freedom of speech and make peace with people I’ve fallen out with when they’re ready.
· Steadiness of purpose, self-control in not being distracted and not letting emotion cloud judgement.
· How to receive gifts graciously without losing self-respect or appearing ungrateful, and how to offer praise without making a display.
· Indifference to superficial honors.
· Not to use the excuse “I’m too busy” to get out of doing things
· To listen to friends’ troubles, show teachers respect and children unfeigned love.
· To treat people as they deserve and possess a readiness to listen to those who have anything to propose for the common good.
· To refrain from nitpicking and constantly correcting people.
· To defer to experts when necessary.
· To display dignity without pretension
And finally: “To stop talking about what the good man is like, and just be one”
Edit Nov 2019: PDF: http://bit.ly/313H72w Kindle: https://geni.us/MeditationsSummaryBook Audio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hu0xDtK3g3Q
Kickin' It Euro-Style - Part 3: Reviewing the Eurotour
Welcome back to the Eurotour, choombas.
In the third installment of this trainwreck conversion, I have one (1) present and one (1) review of Eurotour. But before we get started, let's go over the basics.
As a reminder:
- Remember that our goal is to run Eurotour with RED's Jumpstart rules, not retrofit the entirety of RED or upgrade 2020 (the full rules will handle that, ideally). This means making some sacrifices and playing fast and loose with the Rule of Law (but you Edgerunners ought to be used to that. ;)
- I've got my way of doing things as a Ref, and it works for me. That doesn't mean it'll jive with you easily or that everything I do will work for everyone. Take what works, tweak what doesn't, and discard the rest if you've gotta.
- I'm in uncharted Netspace here, so if you've got a better idea or catch something odd in the data, hash it out to me in the comments.
- Lastly, there will be MAJOR spoilers for Eurotour here.
A Gift, For YouI did promise, and I shall deliver. The Tour Crew's converted stats, skills, cyber, and weapons can be found on this lovely PDF. Savvy eyed readers may notice that some characters lack a lot of their skills. The Tour Crew in Eurotour were designed as fully kitted characters for the Referee's benefit. Their backstories, secrets, vices, and hobbies are all on display via their sheets (Entropy's business mind, Clement's "early retirement" plan, Kessler's lack of education, etc.). The best part of the old sheets as a Ref is that you don't need their mechanics, just their information. Unless you're excessively meticulous, Jack Entropy isn't going to be rolling his Stock Market skill every hour on the hour. At worst, you need to know what happens if they get into a fight (which, for most of them, is not much). The PDF conversion of these stats will help with that, but they are barebones for a reason. Their gifts and talents can still be found in Eurotour, so go get a copy and start reading.
And when you're ready, read on to the review. I've got some choice words for this thing.
EUROTOUR - The PremiseIn the off-chance you've missed all the headlines, vids, and ads for it, Jack Entropy's Total Entropy Tour is kicking off in Europe in 2021, taking the shining star of the music world from Liverpool, UK, to Copenhagen, Denmark. But not everyone is as hyped for the pyrotechnics he's bringing, with some governments and corporations fearful of the anti-corp sentiments of his songs and of the fervent fans that eagerly answer his calls for rebellion. And in the Dark Future of *checks notes* 2021, if you've got the money, murder is always an option.
Unfortunately for Entropy, one of his own crew is planning to kill him. And it's only a matter of time before they get their chance...
Eurotour is a short campaign that finds the PCs hired as roadies, stagehands, and bodyguards for Jack Entropy during his last tour in Europe. This star's going to burn out, but if the players pick up on the clues, maybe they can keep him alive. Or fail terribly.
These six adventures can be run without the additional dressing of the tour, and they can also act as intros to each locale for groups that enjoy a slower pace. With the tour, however, the party will also be given a bunch of clues that lead up to one last showdown 30,000 feet in the air.
While I plan on going deeper into each adventure as I run them through my RPG Conversion MachineTM, today's post will take a quick look at each as part of Eurotour and as individual stories. Starting with...
The First Night - Paper ChaseAnd I do mean "The First Night," as not three hours after Entropy's first show in Liverpool, the PCs are asked to go find out where he's run off to. Turns out he can get into a lot of trouble in a few hours.
First, he and the techie Tinker (both at least a little high) ran off to a casino in Little Hong Kong to make a quick buck, but they got caught cheating the e-roulette.
Then Jack ditched Tinker to run off to a new night club while being chased by the Seven Feathers mafia. While there, he steals a BMW...
Which he immediately crashes. Stumbling from the wreckage, Jack interrupts a drug deal between two nomad groups, buys some Synthcoke (which he partakes of), and tries to hold up a pub, starting a bar brawl.
The party catches up to him as he's stumbling into a duel between the Galvanized Roses and the Dancing Demons, to which he "intervenes" by shooting one of the Demons. Cue a melee and the police showing up soon after, and you've got a four-way battle with one objective: get Entropy out of it in one piece.
This adventure is, to put it simply, bonkers. And it is by far my favorite from the whole book. From the get-go, the party is introduced to the diva antics of Entropy, the brutal world of Cyberpunk UK (Post-Brexit?), and a chain of events that tells a complete story while leaving some breadcrumbs for the party to follow. And it can also work as a solid one-off adventure in itself with little effort.
"Flush Johnny Silverhandle" - European GraffitiJack Entropy's antics in Liverpool pisses off a lot of people in the up-and-up, so the tour skips over the Channel to Brussels, Belgium, for the next leg of the tour. Though the Main Man is on "house arrest" by the rest of the crew, he asks the players to do something...unofficial for some extra pay.
The job is to find a French artist to paint an Entropy ad on the side of the unfinished New Age Office Building, one of the largest in Brussels. Sounds simple, but nothing is. The artist is hiding from Biotechnica after a different graffiti stunt, and the team's inquiry into his whereabouts falls on the ears of a Goldengirl who wants to get back together with her old flame. And what she wants, she's got the money and muscle to get.
If the party can get the artist out of there, then there's the other issue: getting into the building. That's right, gato, it's a heist! Well, no one is stealing anything, but it's still breaking and entering with extra steps! The party has to figure out how to infiltrate the building with the artist and his assistants, cover him while he's working, and get out. And there are the predictable complications that occur when getting out, but there's an added twist: Entropy (and his marketing director Clements) forbid the party from using lethal force to keep the heat off the crew.
Where Paper Chase was a Hangover-style runaround with a rather direct path, European Graffiti slows things down and lets the party take things at their own pace (within reason, as the first show in Brussels takes place in 24 hours). The hunt for the artist puts the party in familiar territory (another hunt for a person) but throws the massive curveball of the heist in the second half that will require a few Mission: Impossible musical cues and Neuromancer vibes. And the non-lethal requirement of the mission forces more trigger-happy parties to work outside their comfort zone. No one wants to get caught in a firefight without a gun.
Though European Graffiti isn't as tied to the characters and overarching plot of the Entropy Tour as Paper Chase, it's major job is to introduce Continental Europe's glitzy lifestyle and the strict crackdown on the Night City/Liverpool "Blood and Chrome" way of handling disputes. Players will have to choose between following the letter of the Law (which keeps the well-funded and -armed military police off of them) or settling things quicker with a three-round burst of lead that can lock a PC up for good.
When in Europe...
No Do-overs - Trapped AnimalWhile the adventures are a little light on conversations between the PCs and the Tour Crew, hopefully everyone's had a chance to really sit down and chat. Maybe a player really gets attached to Tammi-Lu, Entropy's girlfriend(?), and wants her to do better than that dick. Or perhaps a solo starts hanging out with Kessler, swapping war stories and sharing cigs in between shows.
Unfortunately for the latter, Kessler bites it in this one.
As the PCs arrive in Paris, Kessler accompanies the gang as security detail for Entropy, who proceeds to get himself infatuated with one Beatrice. As they agree to meet up for breakfast the next day (and possibly have a stint in the bathroom), Kessler tells the team that he and the lady used to work together and that if she's here, Jack's in trouble.
He's right, which he proves when he meets up with Beatrice in Jack's place and is sniped by an unknown assailant. The party is tasked with investigating Kessler's death, finding Beatrice, and putting a stop to the assassin before they strike again.
A murder mystery adventure! While not a difficult mission, this one is heavily centered on the Eurotour storyline and depends on getting the players to care (or at least know) the rest of the Tour Crew going in. A party that could care less about characters won't find their heartstrings tugged here. On the other hand, this mission could give the crew the motivation they need (and the clues required) to keep on the hunt for the other mystery (who's trying to kill Entropy?).
Explosive Finish - Menace in VeniceTwo words: Bomb Plot.
Short version: one of the biggest corporations in Venice plans to blow up Jack Entropy and blame a rival corp for the act.
Long version: Ace, the head of security for the tour, brings the party to Venice's police headquarters to meet up with the head of Wortrac-Italy, who claims that their German rivals Seal GmbH are puppeting the local eco-terrorist and anti-tourist organization to assassinate Entropy for his anti-German rhetoric. In actuality, Wortac is the one pulling the strings, and Seal is trying to put a stop to it.
After the party dodges an attempt on their own lives, they once again go mystery-solving. Unlike Trapped Animal's clean-cut ending, this adventure--like Venice's winding canals--can go just about anywhere. One party might fight their way through the eco-terrorists Salvare Venezia, get the names of their members that infiltrated the construction crew, get the location of the bomb, and desperately race against time to cut the right wires. Another could figure out the Wortrac connection and attempt a net-run into the Corp's servers, leading them to the location of the solo running the assassination op. Or the party could persuade the general manager Jimenez to cancel the show and hunt for the bomb at the cost of a week's pay, only for the mystery assailant of the campaign to have more chances to cause a mishap for Entropy.
This one might be a headache to run (and to read), but it covers a lot more contingencies for the players' actions and provides the options for the players to end the story how they want to.
Well, I say "end the story," because I plan on ending Eurotour here when I run it. This is partly to time constraints, but it's also because the next two adventures... Well, let me show you.
SideQuest Central - Touring the MarginDue to the sheer number of attempts at Entropy's life (and the general violence used in stopping said attempts), a bunch of cities drop out of the tour. Clements sends the party to Sweden in an attempt to set up a series of shows in the untapped ScandBloc countries, which could make up for all the lost revenue (and the general clean up from the party's messes).
When the party arrives, their contact turns up missing, kidnapped by a rival rock group. Following the trail, the group rescues the VIP, who then gets them in touch with two promoters. One is a kindly old lady who can set them up with a risky but potentially lucrative show that could be the best of Entropy's career. The other is a typical corp offering a typical deal for a typical rate.
If the party doesn't immediately jump onto the corp's safe bet, he tries to bribe one of the characters with 10,000 eb and the promise of more. If that fails, he takes the typical corp approach... and threatens to break some kneecaps. After a showdown later... that's it. That's the adventure in a nutshell.
Compared to the previous four adventures, Touring the Margin hopes to slow things down for the party, and it succeeds. If anything, this adventure works best as an opportunity for the party to explore some personal quests, talk to the Tour Crew, and explore a rather unique part of Europe. This would also be a perfect spot to ramp up the "mystery assailant" angle of the adventure. But it does feel more like a sidequest, much more so than European Graffiti did. The story is very straight forward, but there are plenty of points where the party is just kind of waiting for things to happen rather than being proactive.
While it matches the adventure's goals and style (the general plot is music business at its finest), the lack of extreme danger might be a good change of pace... or the party will be more than a little antsy to "get on with it."
They might be disappointed in what "it" is.
Seriously, Why? - Plundering PrahaThe final stop in the Total Entropy Tour is Prague (also known as Praha), and not long after landing, the party figures out that things are not well in the state of the Czech Republic. Civil war is about to break out, and the team is "persuaded" to join a deadly heist for the Czech crown jewels. Why? Because reasons. Honestly, the PCs have no way to wiggle out of the job that's forced on them. Remember my note about wanting players to be proactive? This is not that. This "You do what the Ref tells you to do or die."
And the end result? Absolutely nothing of importance to the Tour, the Party, or the overall plot. The whole venture just... happens.
But it wouldn't be a rock tour without one last show, and stapled to the beginning and end of Plundering Praha is Jack Entropy's last gig. Unlike every other adventure, Plundering Praha gets really meticulous about introducing the many, many, many complications and mishaps occurring as the show rises to its crescendo. And just as Entropy hits the final act, the metaphorical sh*t hits the metaphorical fan. That civil war set dressing? It sets off, with planes, mercenaries, and warring factions paying more attention to each other than the stadium.
That doesn't stop the crew from making one last attempt to get to the airport and steal a jet out of there. Yes, we've hit the big finish, where the party and the Tour Crew must evade an invading military coup and get the hell out of Prague! That one solo who has been itching for a firefight finally gets their wish, and it is not an easy fight either.
Here's my problem with this ending, though. It, again, heavily relies on forcing the party into a situation where there's only one predetermined solution. It's the RPG equivalent of when the final boss is defeated via quick-time events. I'm not saying players wouldn't be down for it; really, I'm the one who's not down for it. I want my party to feel like they earned their victory, not that they were buckled into a roller coaster they couldn't leave.
What a Twist! - The Hidden VillainI've been talking about the "mystery assailant," but there hasn't been any detail given on that.
That's because it isn't one assailant. There are six. Well, six options. In short, each one of these six wants to off Jack for personal, political, or business reasons, and they'll use the plane ride back to the States to do it. The party might just be collateral damage or, worse, accidental accomplices. At the beginning of the campaign, the Ref chooses the villain and then provides the set of clues during each individual adventure that will build up this mystery. So who are these devious devils, and what are their plans? More importantly, which ones are the best to choose from? I'll be ranking them in reverse order, starting with the worst of the lot.
The Worst: Tinker
"Aha! Tinker was actually one of Jack's exes!" Which one? "You've never heard of her!" And the players would suspect this because? "Uh...because they kiss a lot!" Why would Jack hire her anyway? "Because she actually biosculpted herself to look like Jean Gardner, a completely random individual! And with her intimate knowledge of Jack, she could re-seduce him, only to trigger the trap in his new cyberarm!" Wait... What?Yeah, it makes as much sense as it sounds. It's a twist for the sake of a twist. Worse still, Tinker's "revenge" hinges on Jack's old associations with the 3000, an eco-terrorist group that Jack used to run with that no one even hears about until they show up for some two-bit sidequest roles in Plundering Praha. Then there are the connotations that the only major black character in the adventure turns out to be someone in a disguise. At best, the reveal is cliche and shocking for the sake of drama; at worst, someone had themselves biosculpted to look like a murdered black woman (and I really don't want to touch that).
2nd Worst: Tammi-Lu
"Alright, I've got this idea for the villain of Eurotour. basically there's this girl except she's got huge boobs. i mean some serious honkers. a real set of badonkers. packin some dobonhonkeros. massive dohoonkabhankoloos. big ol' tonhongerekoogers. what happens next?! Jack Entropy keeps runnin' off with other chicks with even bigger bonkhonagahoogs. humongous hungolomghononoloughongous. So she decides to kills him!"Oh BOY is this one a can of worms. Like with Tinker, we again have the only prominent minority character (an Asian woman) being the villain. But this time, her motivation is "This woman is seriously mixed up, and has a real love/hate relationship with Jack" (Eurotour, pg. 84). Quite literally, the designers of Eurotour want you--the Ref--to throw Tammi-Lu at a player until they hook up, hit them with the pregnancy scare (along with lines about how Jack is abusing her and she only wants to be loved), and then have the two brawl in a drug-addled craze. Just... no.
...So the "jealous lover" angle?
"Yeah! And, get this, she gets one of the PCs to give her a good *cking and scares them into thinking she's prangent! Then she drugs them or something on the plan and get them to fight, idk"
Middle of the Road: Clements
"Alright, I've got this idea for the villain of Eurotour. basically--"This one was so close to being fantastic, and it probably still can be! The major problem is that the "clues" are... Clements dating one of the PCs. And paying them more? It doesn't make much of a mystery to solve. Rather, this "ending" is intended as a gut-punch to the player who decided to engage in romantic activities with the business lady. Also, has anyone else noticed that every female character in the Tour Crew is a possible villain?! Cause I have. I could see this one working with some tweaking of the clues (maybe have a player find the note and try to investigate it?), but as is the plot is the best of the "Honeypot Trio."
You did this one already.
"Hold on, hear me out. There's this girl--"
NO. We're not doing the jealous lover again.
"But it's not!" ...fine, what is it?
*"*Remember how Clements' whole deal is she wants an early retirement? Well, she's been seeing Jack more or less throw his career away, and she doesn't want to see his star crash and burn from one bad move. So, she decides to slip the Main Man and Tammi-Lu some poison in their cups."
And they don't suspect her because...?
"well first, because she put a forged suicide note in one of their hotel rooms just within Ace's sight when he calls the players to warn them!"
Alright, that's not half bad. She has a motive, and the method is pretty chill. Hey, I think this one is--
"And, get this, she gets one of the PCs to give her a good *cking and--"
3rd Place: Jack Entropy
"What if... Jack was the killer! :0"So this one is number 3 because it fits. Jack has been the star of the show for the whole campaign, and the party's biggest threat to Jack Entropy... is Jack himself. He's already a sociopath who only uses people for his personal gain and could care less about others' feelings, so he's prone to cyberpsychosis (even going so far as to chrome up his arm in a vain-attempt at mimicking Johnny Silverhand). Tinker even admits that Jack's drugs from Paper Chase were supposed to help him self-medicate, but the boy needs therapy! But he's too proud so he... starts blasting? The ending here can fit (and fit really well to cap off the adventure), but it needs to be handled with tact and taste. Otherwise, it will crash and burn.
Hey, I could see that. Jack's been running on the Edge for a long time, and his self-destructiveness makes sense if his target was himself! Plus this would be an interesting look at mental illness and cyberpsychosis.
"Yeah, and he shoots Clements for trying to take him to therapy!" What?
2nd Place: The Martial Law Authority (MLA)
"So you know how Jack made a mess in the UK?"This one is simple, and its simplicity is its greatest virtue. All through Eurotour, the party has to deal with MLA assassins and agents trying to stop Jack from singing his songs of rebellion (and his gun-running side gig) for good. Not only will the clues to this one be painfully obvious, but the setpiece ending is delicious. The plane's autopilot has been hacked and is sending the plane into a corkscrew straight into the ocean. You've got the stakes (everyone's lives) and the chance to turn a humble stewardess into an MLA agent. It's good, but my favorite is...
"So what if... they wanted to make a mess of him?"
1st Place: The "Company"
Okay, so I really like Clements' plot, but I despise how her plot is introduced rather suddenly. So here me out for once, what if she's not the only one who wants an early retirement?Who better to want to take out the "anti-corp" Jack Entropy than his own corporation, Entropy Enterprises? They've also noticed Entropy's downward spiral and want to make his Total Entropy Tour the last. In short, they want Entropy to join the 27 Club like Jim Morrison or Kurt Cobain, and they're going to make sure it happens. A latecomer to the tour, a "Mr. Anderson," has hidden a microwave bomb on the undercarriage of the wheelwell. Did I mention the plane was flying over the ocean? However the party manages to solve this one is up to them, and I am down to find out just how they do so.
What was that old saying: "A dead artist can make a good living?"
Final ThoughtsI've got a lot of praise for this adventure, but I also feel like it drops the ball. A lot. The fact that three of the "villains" are the three major female NPCs is only the start to the rather "boy's club" approach to female character design here. The final adventure also doesn't quite fit with the rest of the tone of the tour. There is this lovely high-point with Menace in Venice that just doesn't come back until the Epilogue, and that's if you picked a decent "bad buy" and dropped the requisite hints.
I'll gladly give more thoughts on each adventure as I convert them over, but for now, I ask you, humble 'runner, to let me know what you think in the comments.
Until then, this is Masq, signing off.