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The Flux Preview

After Blood & Honor (which is in layout right now and should be available very soon!), I'm working on a project called The Big Book of Little Games.

It's a collection of all the "little games" I've done over the years. Games like Schauermarchen, which most people have seen; games like Yesterday's Tomorrow, that only a few people have seen; and games like The Flux, that almost nobody has ever seen.

I'm going through each game, revising here and there, and writing a new introduction for each. Here's the intro for The Flux...


“About two weeks ago, the world died.”

That sentence hung in the air. He said it but I don’t know what it means. I look at the beer on the table, afraid to look at him.

“You mean…” I start to ask the question, but he answers it before I finish.

“I mean,” he tells me, “that two weeks ago, the world died.”

I pick up the beer, feeling the cold glass under my fingers. I take a drink. “Okay,” I tell him. “What does that mean to me?”

His eyes stared at me from across the table. He hadn’t touched his beer. I was ready for my second.

“The world is like everything else,” he told me. “We’re all part of the same system.” He started with his hands together at the palms, slowly bringing them apart. We’re born, we live, we grow old.” He brought his hands back together. “We die.”

“Yes,” I said, not sure what to say.

“The world is the same way,” he told me. “And just two weeks ago, it died.”

I nodded. “All right. But we’re still here.”

He pointed at me. “That’s because the world lives in cycles. After it dies, it’s born again.”

“Like a phoenix,” I said.

He nodded again, his eyes still wide. “Yes. Like a phoenix. Exactly. Born from the ashes of the old world. Made from the same stuff.”

“I assume then,” reaching back to my philosophy classes in college, “that since we’re made from the same stuff, a lot of what we are is predicated on what we were.”

He smiled. “Yes,” he said. “You’re getting it now.”

“So two weeks ago, the world was reborn. Why didn’t anybody notice?”

“Only a few people notice,” he told me. “And only a few people remember.”

“I don’t remember,” I said.

His eyes grew wider. “I know. But you did. The world made you forget. You lost yourself in the Flux.”

“Is that what it’s called?” I drank more beer. The jukebox in the corner changed from Ratt to Poison. That guy with the mullet who put his dollars in the box couldn’t let go of high school.

“That’s what we call it,” he said. “Those who remember. The Flux comes and the whole world dies and is reborn in the span of a heartbeat. And most everybody doesn’t even notice. They just keep on going the same way they’ve always been going, assuming the whole world has always been this way.”

“So, all my memories? They’re all fake?”

He shook his head. “No, they’re real. The world is what it’s always been. Until the Flux comes along and changes everything. Then, when the world is completely different, it’s still the way it’s always been.”

“But you remember the way it was?”

“Yes. And the way it’s been before.”

I nodded. “Tell me.”

“Oh, the last time before the world died, it was full of airships and steam-powered marvels. Mad scientists and mystery men. It was amazing.”

“Sounds like it.”

“The time before? It was all horror show. Secret societies and occult workings and—oh, it was just like something out of Aleister Crowley’s wettest, darkest, bloodiest dream.”

“And the time before that?”

“That’s a little fuzzy,” he said, frowning just a little. “I remember swords. A red dress. Something about revenge…”

I nodded. “I see.”

He paused. Looked at me strangely. “I don’t think you do.”

“Oh, I do,” I told him. “I honestly do.” I got my purse and stood. He stood with me.

“I don’t think that you do,” he said again. He reached forward. I tried to avoid him, but he grabbed my arm. “But you will,” he said.

I felt it, then. A rush through my skin like lightning and fire. I tried to breathe, but the whole world was caught in my throat.


… I was in a long dress on the deck of a ship. A skyship. And it was mine. Stolen from a man with a broken heart. I was surrounded by lovely men. The sky was orange and red and the sun was plump and sinking below the horizon…

… where a black castle stood. I had a sword strapped to my waist and a horse beneath me. The dust of the road in my long, braided hair. I had only half a day left to go. And when I reached the castle, I would have my revenge. Finally, I would have…

… the Opal. Once and for all. It belonged to my father and it belonged now to me. But the man who stole it demanded a sacrifice. I let the gown fall from my shoulders and he watched in that dark room. The bed loomed between us like an omen. Standing naked in the moonlight, he held the Opal in his fingers. And I would have it. And I would make him pay for making me…

… kiss him. That’s what my mind told me to do. “Kiss him!” I reached forward and put my lips against his. His hands reached up and his fingers ran through my hair. We stood together on the deck of the ship. Stars looked back at us from the view screens. “The AI can pilot us to Cygnus VII,” he said. I smiled. “Yes,” I told him…

… yes.

That word hung between us. From my lips. I said it again.


His hand still on my arm. “Now,” he said. “Now, you see.”

“Through all the worlds,” I told him. “You and I are together.”

He nodded. “Yes.”

“Sometimes enemies,” I said.

“Sometimes lovers,” he said.

“Sometimes both.” One of us said that. I can’t remember who it was now.

“What is it this time?” he asked.

I smiled.


The Flux is an idea I’ve had for a long time. A multiple reality roleplaying game where the players don’t jump from world to world, but instead, the world jumps to them. The only problem was, the game itself could be summed up on one or two pages. I could pad the game out with worlds of my own, but that always felt like padding. Here, in this book, the game has finally found a home.

The Flux has many inspirations, but chief among them was a deep desire to run every game I own. But players want continuity. They liked the stories I was telling and they liked the characters they were playing. If only there was a way for me to keep continuity between games

And that’s really where The Flux comes from. Players want continuity and I have short-attention span disorder when it comes to roleplaying games.

(Even now, with the incredibly wonderful Changeling game I’m running, I’m just itching to run Pendragon.)

My solution was The Flux. Every game I’ve ever run has had The Flux under it. Every game world is really just a Fluxworld, waiting to shift into something else. Similar names, familiar faces, but slightly different circumstances.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 5th, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC)
2 things. One, I really like the way you wrote the girl getting all her memories back. The flow from scene to scene is very well done. (also like the HotB reference).

Two, this seems like an interesting idea. I am just curious if you designed it as its own game, or if it is designed as a 'frame'. Something you use to link between characters in different campaigns, that doesn't care what rule set is being used at what time. So you literally could in a 2 year flux game run L5R, HotB, Pendragon, Changeling, and whatever else you wanted with the same characters just flitting from life to life in them.

Looks like it'll be an interesting read.
May. 5th, 2010 05:51 pm (UTC)
1) Thank you.
2) It is a "meta-game" that occurs between and during games. The Flux influences everything. You'll see. :)
May. 5th, 2010 06:11 pm (UTC)
I see a Beta test is already in progress. I was wondering where the round table reference was going; seemed to jump out as the important flashback. Very nice.

I did a hackneyed version of this between AD&D 2nd ed. and Gamma World once. It was... less than elegant. *shifty eyes*

In my defense, that was 14+ years ago, and teenagers are seldom elegant.
May. 5th, 2010 06:03 pm (UTC)
(Even now, with the incredibly wonderful Changeling game I’m running, I’m just itching to run Pendragon.)

Man, I know this feeling all too well. I already have a D&D game that's on hiatus, a side-story D&D game related to the first, a Shadowrun game I'm running in the meantime, and I still want to run Burning Wheel, Mage, and have a couple ideas for other D&D games brewing in the back of my mind.
May. 5th, 2010 08:43 pm (UTC)
A private eye can totally hurl fireballs! Jim Butcher says so!

Other than that, though, brilliant!!
May. 6th, 2010 01:53 am (UTC)
Speak softly of Mr. Butcher around teh Wicks, wizards and anger and all that. But yes, I heartily agree. Someday, someday Mr. Wicks will read these books and come to loves them as we do, oh yes.
May. 6th, 2010 05:42 am (UTC)
Maybe if we tell him about the theory that each book in the series can be mapped sequentially to the Major Arcana of the Tarot?

You start counting with The Magician instead of the Fool, because it's all about the Fool's Journey, after all.
May. 6th, 2010 02:22 am (UTC)
Interesting. I agree, it does give the characters a chance at continuity - at least in the world. They may be completely the same or completely different depending on how they want the butterfly effect to treat them this time.
May. 24th, 2010 04:14 pm (UTC)
now if only you would invite others far away to play in by skype... even if only to guest appear when said personality was needed...
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )