Factions in Maximum Recursion Depth / Session 5

I’m working on some Factions for Maximum Recursion Depth, specifically for New York City where my current campaign takes place, which will play a role in the next session of my campaign tomorrow. I’m also working on it as a blog post, but I’m genuinely concerned about certain things with these factions, so I would really appreciate advice as it pertains to cultural sensitivity and tone. I’m going to start by explaining my thought process for the factions in MRD, and in subsequent posts in this thread I’ll describe the factions (for now I’m only writing two or three, but there will likely be more down the line). Today I’m mostly focused on just getting the factions set up, and tomorrow I’ll probably focus on game-hooks for a hopefully sandbox-y game tomorrow evening.

Minhwa of Tiger and Magpie. Relevant to one of the factions, inspired by my discussion with Gearoong

Unlike most of my Weird & Wonderful Table-style posts, I want to break down in greater detail my thought process for these factions, and my approach to factions in MRD more generally (don’t worry, I’m only writing a few anyway!). This is because MRD is meant to take place in a world that is mostly like the world as we knew it circa 2019, and while these factions are all fictional, they tie into real-world elements (to varying degrees), and so I want to make sure people understand my intentions.

I love New York City. I’ve wanted to live here for many years, and despite Covid, I am glad to have been here for nearly two years so far (holy crap!). A lot of life goals have been accomplished here, it’s been fulfilling in ways that go beyond the scope of this post. Normally, I prefer to play in entirely Weird, unconstrained settings. But in mid-pandemic world, I am finding it cathartic and inspiring to play my campaign in New York City, a version that simultaneously reflects the real place that I love, but tints it with the magical Weirdness that reflects something more authentic to how I actually feel when I walk the streets of New York than the objective reality. There are so many cultures and subcultures either unique to New York or born here; not hiding per se, but drowned out from the sheer mainstream noise. There is a reason why so many stories of Magical Realism are set in New York and other cities- because that magic truly does exist, in a fashion. A MRD campaign does not have to be set in New York City, but my current campaign is set here, and given how much this setting is an expression of my personal beliefs, sensibilities, and feelings, it seems fitting to focus on New York for this setting, at least for now.

New York is diverse, and Weird, in all the best ways. There are cultures from around the world, and those cultures intermix and transform and become something unique unto themselves. It’s not a melting pot- a watered down, dumbed down, flavorless homogeny of cultures, nor, and I can’t stress this enough, is it a “wonderland”, a fetishism of the “exotic” and “other”, that exists for the amusement of a white American like myself. The factions in MRD are meant to reflect the diversity of New York, in all senses of the word, to play into some of the themes and tropes of New York’s history and media representations such as crime dramas, pulp adventures, noir, superhero stories, and so on, to reflect various aspects of the real world as it exists today, and to express the almost magical realism I describe above, but also to express that these cultures don’t exist in a vacuum. There is no one Italian Mafia or Yakuza in this setting- it isn’t the Black gang in one neighborhood and the Mexican gang in another. There’s the faction of Black Twitter - Seneca Village activists - Mindan Korean Japanese Americans, and another faction of TikTok Gamergate White Nationalists - countercultural European Mormon Punk Extremists - Uruguayan American Conservatives. It’s a mix of things that do exist (or a version of them), and things that don’t exist but one could imagine existing- that seem strange but have an internal logic to them which is as much due to chance as anything else. They are decidedly fictional, but demonstrate how Weird reality and culture can actually be.

But, again, I’m a white American, so I want to be very careful about appropriation, about misrepresenting real cultures, or being insensitive in any way. So I hope the above sufficiently explains my thought process, I hope it succeeds at expressing the magical realism I am describing, and I hope it does so in a way that is generally reasonable and decent from a liberal perspective.

Also WARNING there are some heavy topics explored in these factions, especially in the links, so trigger warning on that. I personally want MRD to be more of an escapist experience, but also, it is core to the idea of MRD that we have to face the bad things- both in ourselves, and in the world. So these factions do reflect that, to some extent, but that doesn’t mean that these issues have to be at the core of a MRD campaign.

Seneca Tiger Collective

This faction began as a Black Twitter movement that formed after an act of police brutality against an African American in Central Park went viral, followed by the mainstream awareness of the historical Seneca Village. A Bronx-based band known as the K-Pop Orchestra, known for their jazz covers of K-Pop music, contributed to the popularity of this movement. The K-Pop Orchestra also shed light on the racism of Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and the ways in which the Korean Japanese experience relates to that of the African American experience, which then led to the cross-cultural Seneca Tiger Collective as it exists today. While the Collective is both intranational and international, The Bronx and K-Town in New York are generally seen as the focal places of the Collective.

While the Collective mostly focuses on awareness campaigns and charity drives, the vigilante Recurser Seneca Tiger , most well known for fighting against police brutality and supporting Black and other minority communities in the city, has spearheaded a more active group within the Collective. While Seneca Tiger generally promotes social activism and volunteer work over reactionary efforts and violence, she states in no uncertain terms that America requires radical change, and that radical change may require radical action. Seneca Tiger’s true identity is unknown. It has been speculated that the Tiger part of her vigilante identity is a subversion of the Tiger in Korean folklore as a symbol of the historical Korean ruling class, leading some to believe she is of Korean or Korean Japanese descent. Another theory is that she is actually an African American drag queen who performs at the Dromedary Urban Tiki Bar.

Deseret Avengers

The name is somewhat of a misnomer. The movement started as an online White Nationalist hate group proclaiming to be the anti-Zion, a play on the racist and misogynist beliefs present in the redpill / blackpill movements and a reference to the film The Matrix and the Marvel superhero group The Avengers. However, ironically, a counterculture of punk / skinhead Mormons in the Slavic / Germanic European country Ruritania, and conservative Mormons of Uruguayan descent, identified with the movement, in some cases due to a misunderstanding of its roots. As a result, the Deseret Avengers are decentralized and lack any singular goal or leadership. While online they are primarily young male gamers, their New York presence has been more so driven by upwardly mobile Uruguayan immigrants, and separately the Ruritanian immigrant community.

Th Uruguayan faction has rallied behind Mateo Silva, an executive of a financial firm with ties to the White Party in Uruguay. While he is not believed to be a member of the Deseret Avengers per se, some internet conspiracy theorists believe he has been sending them coded messages in various televised appearances.

The online (and to a lesser extent, Ruritanian) faction has rallied behind Moon Marine, a vigilante Recurser, TikTok and Instagram Influencer, and self-proclaimed anti-feminist gamer-girl. Besides promoting her brand and “recking the libs”, it’s unclear what, if any, broader agenda she has. She has done actual good as a vigilante, and many of her fans are entirely unaware of her political affiliation, which has been carefully manicured to attract vulnerable individuals who may be influenced by the online conspiracy / hate groups associated with the Deseret Avengers (or in some cases, genuine Mormon missionaries who are themselves unaware of the full breadth of the hate group, but who generally support Conservative values).

I was originally going to create three factions for this session, but between these two factions and some pre-existing plot hooks, I don’t think it makes sense to build up more than what I’ve got now. Still a work in progress, but here are roughly the game hooks for this next session, or at least the ones specific to these factions (there are a couple pre-existing ones as well). I’m planning on making this next session very sandbox-y. I do think I need to come up with some kind of incentive for the party to investigate these things besides maybe just personal interest (although hopefully that’s enough anyway). I might make one more faction, but only tease them, but this faction would be a bit more Weird and fantastical anyway; some kind of either shadowy government organization, or a corporation started by a refugee god, still deciding on the particulars. If I do create that faction and set them up in the session plan, I’ll share them.

WARNING: As I said before, there are some heavy themes and mature content.

  • Seneca Tiger intervenes in a case of police brutality, victim dies in the hospital.
    • Rumors that the poltergeist is haunting Central Park and that the police are covering it up.
    • Police say they will crack down on the Seneca Tiger Collective.
    • Cloud Social (K-Town), Linda’s Jazz (Bronx), Dromedary Tiki Bar (Bushwick).
    • Rick Barrett: Founder of the K-Pop Orchestra and Seneca Tiger Collective.
    • Pro-Fane: Popular African American Drag Queen rumored to be Seneca Tiger.
    • Baek Yesu: Korean Japanese Experimental K-Pop / Trip-Hop artist who repatriated to South Korea, but is currently working with Rick Barrett as part of the Seneca Tiger Collective in New York.

I need some specific motivations, or at least behaviors, for these NPCs, something for the party to latch on to and that will lend itself to gameability. I think there needs to be some more explicit reason for why the party would want to intervene in this besides for the sake of justice, and some obvious sense of how it will affect the game going forward.

  • A demo video for Moon Marine’s planned onlyfans site has been leaked, dubbed “The Platypussy Leak” on the internet.
    • Johnny (pronounced with a Y) Strohmann, a Ruritanian American immigrant, attempts to shoot up his school, claiming it’s a response to The Platypussy Leak. Self-proclaimed member of the Deseret Avengers.
    • Robby the intern (an NPC karmically attached to the party) was childhood friends with Johnny’s older brother.
    • Mateo Silva: Wealthy Uruguayan financial firm executive pledges to donate to the school, which is in a largely mixed Ruritanian-Uruguayan neighborhood.
      • Has ties to the Church of Latter Day Saints extremists sub-faction of the Deseret Avengers.

I need to think carefully about how I want the party to interact with these NPCs. Do I want to really go all-in on making them awful, or try to make them relatable on some level? Why would the party interact with them? I think there should be some direct threat they pose that the party wants to intervene. Might be a good place to tie in Escalator Devil somehow, since they already encountered a fight between Escalator Devil and Moon Marine and seem interested in this devil…

My game tonight got last-minute cancelled due to an obligation that sprung up on one of my players. Anyone interested in doing a Maximum Recursion Depth One-Shot on short notice!? Planning on running it in 3 hours, the first four people to express interest are in. If you know how to play Into the Odd / Electric Bastionland you can pick it up with no reference whatsoever, or even if you don’t, it’s still pretty much pick up and play.

Looking for up to 4 players, audio/video (preferably video), preferably on discord. 6pm Eastern Time.

tl;dr looking for names of things, but mostly animals and mythical creatures and such, that have “King” or “Queen” in it e.g. Rat King, Goblin King, Queen Bee, etc.

Since my game got cancelled last Sunday, I’ve had a little extra time to prep. Haven’t done much until now and don’t need to do too much, so I’m mostly just thinking about big picture stuff. While those two factions I posted before are more real-world rooted, I’ve got one idea for a faction, building off of some dangling threads that I wasn’t sure what to do with, that is more fantastical.

The faction is Polterzeitgeist, a group of rogue poltergeists who are fighting to exist as poltergeists permanently in the material world (not be reincarnated nor stuck in the Courts of Hell). I had previously established an NPC, Rat Jack, who originally teamed up with the party and then betrayed them. He was a play on the idea of “Rat King” and “Jack” from a deck of cards but also plays into a Prince/Rogue dichotomy, and I want to take that idea further.

Polterzeitgeist is led by “The Council of Jacks”, and here are what I have so far:

  1. Rat Jack (Rat King)
  2. Goblin Jack (Goblin King, but I might also play into Goblin Monkeys to tie him into Sun Wukong in some other way that I still haven’t figured out yet)
  3. Jungle Jack (King of the Jungle / Lion)
  4. Honeybee Jack (Queen Bee. I don’t love this name but can’t think of a better name. Also, would Ant Queen be more interesting?)
  5. Dragon Jack (Dragon King from Chinese mythology; connections to Monkey King as well from Journey to the West)

I don’t necessarily want the Council of Jacks to be too large, but are there any other good “Kings” I’m forgetting?

EDIT: I really need to come up with a different name for Honeybee Jack since I already have an NPC named Honeybee who is totally incompatible with this, so I either need a new name for Honeybee Jack, or go with Ant Jack (but I’m just not sure if I want to do that…)

EDIT: This faction I think strikes a good balance between groundedness and fantasticalness. It’s rooted in real-world issues like The Seneca Collective and the Deseret Avengers, but is much more supernatural in nature, like The Council of Jacks. It also allows me to incorporate some new ideas into the setting, hopefully without straying too far from the core concepts of the setting (if anything, I think they’re perfectly consistent with the core concepts of the setting, but perhaps in a less straightforward way).

The Doppler Potential

A distributed intelligence, a living system birthed as an emergent property of the United States government. Its modern name is derived from a combination of the Doppler Effect and an Action Potential in the brain, and as a reference to the sound of a speeding police siren passing one by. The collective actions of humanity can be thought of as a connectionist neural network and by extension, a wave function, where individual humans are to civilizations as neurons are to the brain. This model had been converging nonlinearly towards the manifestation of a superorganism for some time; the crests of the wave function interfacing with the nodes of the network (humans) at an increasing rate. With the formation of the United States, the frequency of the feedback between the superorganism and humanity reached a critical mass, like post-synaptic potentials in the brain summating into an action potential, setting off a cascade response wherein the superorganism became self-aware, in some sense, if not necessarily as humans think of self-awareness.

The Doppler Potential exists as a living idea, manifesting in jingoism, religious-like reverence towards historical American figures and artifacts, cultural mores, institutions, and the systems behind them. It operates as a meta-governmental, multi-body organization interfacing with all aspects of the United States government.

Through various aristocratic families, housing projects, government orphanages, and similar means, The Doppler Potential has engineered, mostly behaviorally but more recently also technologically and genetically, human agents, corporations, and artificial intelligences, which serve either directly for The Doppler Potential, or completely unknowingly serve its will across the country and even the world.

The Doppler Potential has reached god-like status, although it is formally recognized by the Celestial Bureaucracy and the Numberless Courts of Hell as an incorporated human. It is karmic, although as a superorganism, and a young one at that, it does not necessarily interact with the karmic cycle in quite the same way as normal humans.

While the results of the Doppler Potential’s will may be interpreted as negative, or outright evil, by many humans, it does not see its actions as evil any more than a human would think themselves evil for killing brain cells on a night out drinking. Nonetheless, it’s utilitarian (if we’re being generous), if not outright Machiavallen treatment of humanity, is perhaps net-negative for humanity. Even so, it is neither the total cause nor total solution to all of humanities problems, and in fact, could potentially be leveraged towards its salvation, if only humanity could understand it and come to terms with it.

The Doppler Potential makes no effort to hide its existence, but in most cases, it is simply too complex, and for many humans too existentially and epistemologically challenging, to even acknowledge, and therefore it is able to operate in plain sight, despite not being recognized in the general public consciousness.

As the United States has descended towards militarism and fascism, so too has the Doppler Potential become increasingly violent and hostile towards its perceived opposition, although its motives are often inscrutable.

It is not necessarily the only of its kind.


Soft Mother: A cartoon humanoid in the form of a voluptuous woman, like a cross between Jessica Rabbit and Betty Boop. She serves as the mouth of The Doppler Potential; her words comforting, but without substance.

Wire Mother: A putrid, zombie-like humanoid, naked, seeping noxious milky fluids, held together by a barbwire exoskeleton. She serves as the gut of The Doppler Potential; impossibly disgusting, yet plays a crucial role in its ability to gain sustenance (not so crucial that she cannot be replaced, of course).

– Still deciding on the particulars, but I think Goblin Jack from The Council of Jacks will have been part of The Doppler Potential before becoming a Poltergeist. This also plays into the Monkey connection I had wanted for Goblin Jack, if you get where I’m coming from with Soft Mother / Wire Mother.

Detective Sam Smashburn: A short, bald, mustachioed, middle-aged, no-nonsense cop who plays by his own rules (or so he thinks), and dreams of “the old days”. He is not aware that he is part of the Doppler Potential, but his actions serve its greater and often arcane causes.

– I’d like one more human / humanoid NPC, I’m thinking either a scientist, corporate / tech exec, or politician, but still need to give that more thought.