Monday, May 23, 2022

Deep Space Bitches: Starships and the Haunted


Space travel is easy, cheap, and essential to modern interstellar civilization. Millennia have passed (give or take, considering relativistic time dilation and various calendrical resets) since the act of boarding a starship to worlds strange became as mundane as waiting in an airport. That said, most don't travel often. While gatespace has ensured that known space can be crossed in months rather than centuries, a few weeks aboard ship from star to star is a luxury vacation comparable to an all-expenses cruise.

Owning a starship merely for the sake of having it is an unthinkable proposition. Docking fees, exotic fusion fuel, regular maintenance, and crew salaries ensure that ships are commercial vessels first and foremost. Typically, a group of "freelance entrepreneurs" shares the risk and goes in on a ship loan together, then contracts to a corporation for gig work until they pay off the loan and can form their own independent company with better terms.

Starships are powered by fusion reactors, or antimatter for the really big ships. Artificial gravity is easy to install, but hard to maintain without dedicated techs, so regular tune-ups are highly recommended if you don't like being subject to microtides. Ship "classes" have crystallized around established sweet spots of reactor mass to thrust ratio, starport docking bay size, and gate aperture diameter. Various constraints, including legacy ship components, interstellar compacts, and of course jealously-guarded corporate patents cause starships to be relatively consistent in design and tech base, though every ship has unique quirks and histories due to its nature as a phenomenally intricate system.

As a general rule, starships have 20 cubic meters of interior space per full-time crew member. For easy reference, 20 cubic meters is the inside of a small moving truck. This includes cargo bays, engineering, and maintenance ducts, but not thrusters, wings, or purely structural components; the actual livable/recreation space in the ship is far smaller than the generous-sounding allotment above. Any cargo that can be is carried on the outside of the vessel in hermetically-sealed shipping containers of standardized size, mounting points, and volume, but many types of cargo require frequent check-ups - and half-assed extravehicular activity is one of the fastest ways to be buried at c.


Transports have 4-12 crew depending on their design. The most common ship class and the most diverse, including everything from postal freighters and smuggling vessels to luxury yachts and patrol ships. Thousands of transports dock and depart every day from major starports, corporate, local government, imperial, and independent alike. If the party has their own ship, this is what they fly.

Frigates have approximately two dozen crew, and are the most economically efficient way to transport bulk cargo. You'll see freight frigates (colloquially just freighters, such is their ubiquity) laden with shipping containers at every starport and idling in every jumpgate queue, and passenger frigates have minimally comfortable pod-bunks for a hundred starry-eyed vacationers. Tight-knit crews are rare aboard frigates; a well-off captain may own the ship and fly with a complement of officers they know well, but the rest of the crew signs on to the ship or the company that owns it on a gig basis. Pirates fly and raid frigates with regularity; it's a small enough ship to refurbish and arm, but not large enough to make a noticeable dent in a corporate balance sheet.

Cruisers are staffed with an average crew of 50, and function as the primary mobile harvesting and refining vessels. A cruiser is the smallest class of vessel that has the power capacity to be self-sufficient, if appropriately equipped with fuel harvesters and printer bays. Luxury cruisers act as mobile casinos for the rich and famous, freight cruisers refine megatonnes of ore en route from mines to factory worlds. Militarized cruisers are battlecruisers, and are the ship-of-the-line of choice for colonial militaries. They can be fitted with fighter launch bays, have reactors large enough to power broadside salvos or spinal mounts, and house a troop complement that can repel boarders or occupy a recalcitrant habitat.

Starliners are the largest ships in production, with a hundred crew and cargo space for entire prefab colonies. Only the most profitable corporations and the most stable governments can afford to maintain a starliner fleet, which are typically put to use in orbital infrastructure construction, fuel harvesting, and power projection. Militarized starliners are known as battleships, and fulfill a variety of powerful roles in the modern combat space ranging from central command to supercarrier to orbital bombardment.

Titans are uniquely vast. Generation ships attempting to escape the strictures of known space, imperial flagships constructed to comemmorate a new emperor's coronation, orbital habitats retrofitted with engines and inertial dampeners to escape inevitable disaster. Too large for any jumpgate, they carry their own collapsible gate to be deployed adjacent to extant jumpgates and piggyback on the seam in reality (the portable gate is then collapsed to the size of a cruiser and moves through the normal gate, docking with the titan to be carried to its exit gate where the process is repeated). A waste of resources by any metric of profit, the construction of a titan is motivated by ideology alone, a testament to an idea's sway in the minds of the powerful. Historians have made their careers studying the circumstances leading to a titan's construction, or delving into the treacherous depths of a titan lost to time.

Shuttles are intraorbital craft the size of a transport or smaller, unsuited for gate travel. Typically have a dedicated pilot and crew contracted by the corporation that owns the shuttle and fly predetermined routes. Shuttle pilot is the least glamorous space pilot job you can have; you're a glorified bus driver and the novelty of seeing the stars has long since worn off. Militarized shuttles (fighters, gunships, troop transports, bombers) are a common carrier payload on cruisers or battleships. Because landing and takeoff in gravity wells is prohibitively fuel-intensive for cruisers and larger vessels, they load a few shuttles and staff pilots for any planetary needs.

In the descriptions above, "crew" is the fewest necessary to carry out normal duties. Ships usually bunk extra and squeeze them in tight for extra work shifts or to train apprentice engineers, pilots, and life support techs. Ships can be flown by skeleton crews of half maximum, or a quarter who are veteran spacers.

Starships aren't automated. AI is more expensive than hiring perfectly good human intelligence, and while AI most certainly exists, the fact that most of it is android labor makes corporations reticent to install minds on machines as powerful as ships. Attempts at subsapient automated starships always go wrong outside of the most limited roles as communications relays, light intrasystem freight, and monitoring satellites - it turns out that when something goes wrong, the only machines that can fix themselves are ones that are smart enough to start wondering whose fault the fuckup was.

Life Support
Water and air recycling has been perfected. Unless something goes horribly wrong, the automatic reprocessors will keep working for decades with a 99.5% annual mass retention rate. If a ship remains hermetically sealed, it can be abandoned for centuries and still retain anywhere from one to three quarters of its original atmosphere.

Supporting a shipboard population is the complex part. People require inputs and produce outputs that can destabilize entire planetary ecosystems, especially when those outputs include the detritus of the conveniences of modern life (like single-use wrappers for syringes or rations). Being a life support tech is more of a garbage disposal job than anyone expects at first, and you can't automate it into a box. It's a complex problem, combining biology, chemistry, engineering, and animal husbandry, and people go to school for years to get accredited, because if it breaks down, everyone aboard is going to die one of a thousand awful deaths.
        
 Modded mealworms digest different kinds of plastics, chemical recombinators distill useful byproducts. Solid waste feeds the air processor's organic components or the fungal rad-shielding. The air processor's organic components are genetically engineered photosynthesites; hook up the fusion batteries and the bio-waste converter and you'll be fine.
 
 Waste recyclers are fine-tuned for shipboard packaging and garbage; consumer-grade products are marked SHIP-SAFE if they're fully recyclable through a ship's systems. Naturally, these labels are marketing bullshit, and cleaning out the bits of fibre and gunk that get stuck in the system is a constant headache.

Aliens
Some aliens are more biocompatible with human-baseline systems, and us with theirs. They tend to be preferred by imperial and corporate power structures. The ones that aren't - that have been deemed too expensive to accommodate - are hung out to dry, paying exorbitant rates to get quarters tuned to their physiology. That said, most life support systems can be hacked to be widely xenocompatible. You'll need to deal with some inconveniences - wear a filter mask, warmer clothes, adjust your sleep cycle, take supplements to deal with lower gravity - but your alien friends will appreciate it.

Food
Big ships, the luxury star-yachts and first-class colony ships, have stasis fields that keep real food fresh for years. You aren't on one. While mass is relatively cheap, power and radiating heat are at a premium - a refrigeration and freezer unit is a small luxury. Most food only keeps for a few weeks anyway, and your average journey is just on the upper end of expiration dates. So it's hardtack, tough cheeses, aged liquor, nutrient supplements, and if you're really unlucky, Corp Standard Meal Replacement "Beverage" No. 3. It'll give you all sorts of cancers that you legally refused to sue them for!

You don't need to have infinitely-stable food. That's long-haul talk, for the fuckers who want to point their ships away from the imperial core and just *go* - or whose paranoia that the galaxy is about to be invaded by hyper-advanced space aliens at any moment, or that psychics are about to hull out the brains of everyone in a system with a jump gate, or that the simulation's parameters are about to be changed to prevent faster than light travel gets the better of them.

Spices and pre-packaged grains are essential to keep spacer diets interesting. Cured meat fills daily protein requirements (usually vatmeat, unless you've been to a ranching world recently), instant noodles remain a quick and dirty fave even centuries hence. Tea and coffee are staples, and independent crews live and die by the power of their microgravity coffee-makers. "Old-school" vaccuum-sealed MREs have fallen out of fashion, but some spacers with a military background swear by them (as they're still preferred for ground operations).

Aboard ships, culinarily-inclined crew members spend their ample spare time brewing engine-room moonshine, grinding wormflour, and bravely coaxing the radshield's fungus into an edible form. The supplies to culture vat-meat aboard ships are more of a curiosity than anything sustainable, but it's a popular hobby (usually for life support techs who want a challenge that's a step up from mealworms). All you need for jerky is airflow and climate control. Still, once you've got a side of vat beef, you can just strap it to a rack and hang it in the coolant vents leading around the galley to get a mean dry-age. Baking bread is also a prevalent custom, as yeast does funny things in microgravity, and spacers making shipboard sourdough traditionally let it breathe in the bacterial flavors of every port they go through.

Old spacers get huge grins on their faces when a ship or station has a vermin infestation. For one, it's a chance to compete among ludicrious home extermination techniques, all of which give spacers more shit to pedantically argue about in the months and years between hamster or roach population spikes. And of course, a meat surplus is always welcome!

Interfaces
Habitats are littered with screenwrap. Imagine a sheet of plastic wrap, the durability of a plastic bag, see-through and running a digital display with a basic touchscreen interface. It's replaced paper. They make plastic bags out of this stuff, ponchos, umbrellas, banners, pamphlets - anything cheap, disposable, and that you can stick some virtual ad-copy on. It wrinkles, tears, glitches, and crumples like nobody's business, and collects in melted wads in gutters once it's been improperly disposed of.

No one knows how to use screenwrap properly. It's the texture of a plastic bag, so you can mostly flatten it out but it's always going to be crumpled. Scrolling and touch input is deeply finicky, it's covered in ad copy by design, and editing it requires a proprietary interface pen and software attached to a different computer altogether - but it's just so goddamn cheap it's impossible to get rid of.

Naturally, spacers hate it. Screenwrap collects in intakes, is just a little too hard to recycle through the waste processor, and if there's a sheet shorting out somewhere in your field of view you're going to want to strangle whoever brought it aboard. Instead, spacers swear by bulky monitors and mechanical controls.  Switches, keys, dials, levers, blinkenlights - all of these are easier to diagnose and manipulate than a screen that might lag at a crucial moment or misinterpret an input through some programming fault. Touchscreens have fallen by the wayside for control schemes, and joysticks are back in a big way because they're more space-efficient than mice.

Smartphones have been replaced with retinal contacts or smartglasses - smaller, more intrusive, and absolutely ubiquitous. Controls are based on contextual interaction with the environment, always-on subvocal commands, hand signs, or a control pad mapped to flat surfaces in your field of view (like your hand). Everyone knows at least one interface sign language, which is broadly mutually intelligible with spacer vac-sign.

Gatespace
Jump gates don't directly connect to each other. Instead, they act as thresholds into the strange sub-dimensional realm of gatespace, where jump gate apertures are far closer together than they are in the vastness of realspace - days or weeks of travel, rather than the years or decades that even near-c drives take to traverse between colonies. Gatespace weaves together interstellar societies, ensuring a modicum of both speed and safety for passengers, freight, and information travelling from star to star.

The pearlescent expanses and ever-shifting clouds of exotic matter that form the native substrate of gatespace are beautiful and deeply complex. All gate matter is simultaneously matter and space, a literal fabric of reality. When gate matter condenses from a dispersed fluid into a crystalline solid, the space around it compresses, allowing ships from realspace to travel an incredibly short distance between gates. However, this physical matter also acts as obstructions - clouds of gate-weather, fields of gatematter planetoids, even lifeforms that evolved in this strange biosphere. Engineering stable jump lanes through gatespace is difficult but of paramount importance. Optimal densities of gatematter for rapid transit create an environment like that of a gas giant's upper atmosphere, marked by beacons mounted on artificial nodes of ultradense gatematter.

by Pradal Aurele

Panpsychism, the belief that all realspace matter is conscious, has been conclusively disproven. Physical matter is an abnormally difficult medium for cognition to arise in. However, consciousness can arise in any sufficiently complex system of matter - whether baryonic (us), dark (long story), and yes, gate matter. Gate matter is incredibly easy for cognition to emerge within, and the current scientific consensus describes gatespace as a "panpsychosphere" - a holistic ecosystem that derives energy from cognitosynthetic processes.

The cognitive processes of gate matter emerge as its state condenses from spatial fluid to matter and expands back to space. Low-density fluid states are higher-energy than high-density solid states; expanding from matter to space requires energy, condensing bleeds it off. Condensation runs thoughts to their endpoints, making large low-density areas small, and creating natural areas of high-density space that's very quick to travel through. Thought termina are navigational landmarks and natural starting points for jump lane construction.

Light is a common byproduct of gatematter condensation, creating gatespace "suns" of stable cognitive networks rhythmically expanding and contracting. However, the light is barely relevant to the psychosphere's food chain - cognitosynthetic producer organisms feed on the energy-dense contractions of gatematter thoughts themselves. Some gatespace organisms can convert entirely into fluid thoughtforms as part of their feeding process or to become more motile; most have partially immaterial components that they can condense or disperse as needed.

Sometimes - often - a jump gate opens into a low-density, spatially vast area of gatespace. Gatespace engineering conglomerates are hired to connect that gate to established networks. Bearings are taken to find the optimal gate to connect it to, and a process begins of creating an artificial thought terminus, a high-density endpoint in the psychosphere. Trained psychics interface with gatematter; construction ships unfold and process vast amounts of gatematter into information and matter-dense states. Military ships enter to protect the nascent lane from megafauna looking to chow down on this tasty nexus of condensation. Gatespace minds, vast and incomprehensible, find a new snarl of dead-thought in their consciousness. Psychics who've communed with the minds surrounding the jump network have reported intense trauma - a sad but necessary byproduct of progress in realspace (xenologies papers questioning the validity of deeming our universe more real than others are ignored at best and actively mocked at worst).

The thoughts of baryonic matter minds (us) function differently. Because they're unlinked from spatial components, our minds have the ability to indirectly communicate with gatespace. Psychics can even learn to consciously manipulate it, given time and training. This is not a one-way relationship - once a mind is inside a dense area of fluid gatespace, the matter will shift to reflect thoughts in uncontrollable ways. More than one ship has tried to chart a new, potentially lucrative jump route and escaped with naught but tales of being hunted by their nightmares. These properties make gatespace incredibly hostile to long-term habitation, though some pirate stations have found relatively stable areas to raid from.

Natural jump points between gatespace and realspace exist, but can only (as of yet) be charted from within gatespace. Certain ultradense formations of gatecrystal can wrap gatespace so thin it punches back into realspace, allowing small ships to transit through. These formations are highly inefficient and incredibly fragile compared to artificial jumpgates (which cannot be altered from within gatespace), but allow for exploration vessels to chart sectors far from inhabited space, hoping to strike gold.

Removing gatematter from gatespace is possible but not, as of yet, useful in any context outside academic study of its properties. Its space-altering properties seem to "roll up" and collapse into extra physical dimensions inaccessible even, seemingly, by other removed quantities of gatematter. Research is ongoing, though chronically underfunded and treated as an academic curiosity.

Interlude: Star-Gods
If you point a microphone at the sun, you hear screaming.  
 
You can read meaning into those screams, like making constellations out of the night sky, or seeing shapes in the clouds. It's the way we've always made meaning, the way we make myths and gods and friends.  
 
Psychic powers are what you get when the meaning takes shape. The medium is the message; the message becomes medium. The ink on the page absorbs heat and bursts into flame, and the flame traces letters, and if you put a microphone close enough to those flames you hear screaming.  But it's only screaming because we know what a scream is.  
 
If we work with a complex system, reading enough meaning into it and then pushing enough meaning into it back, it starts to be able to make meaning too. Not all systems are good for this; they need to be stable, high-entropy but not too high entropy, dynamic. Find someone who is good at reading meaning into things, who scores high on empathy and pareidolia and the standard battery of psychic aptitudes. Make them stare at the sun until they know it's screaming at them. Then have them scream back.  
 
Scream until its screams are dependent on ours, until ours are dependent on its. Make it part of our system and our culture, the same way we do to children and very smart computers. You can start building a common lexicon, it starts to say things that your interlocutor (now fully star-blind, but you have to break some eggs) taught it. It starts to scream louder, and if you ask it nicely, you can get it to scream at someone. A coronal mass ejection, a plasma burst more massive than worlds. We don't know if that hurts it or if it can feel pain; all the screaming makes it hard to tell.  
 
If you point a microphone at the sun, you hear static.  
 
We are the ones who make it scream.

The Haunted

Brevet-Admiral Kel Cheris, advised by General Shuos Jedao

+1 to Subtle and Queer, -1 to Soft and Hard

The Haunted is an information-gathering playbook that can become a powerhouse in a very specific field on demand. Observe the environment carefully, decide what is needed, then act decisively to enact your will upon the world.

Bitches cannot take cross-class moves from the Haunted. However, in the middle of a campaign, circumstances may transpire which cause a character to become Haunted. If they do, they immediately gain the Brain Ghost move and replace their sex move with Impromptu Threesome. Further moves gained must be from the Haunted, or from their Ghost's original playbook.

This isn't about playing a character who has multiple endogenous personalities. The Haunted is inspired by various SF&F lesbians (Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Mahit Dzmare, Kel Cheris, Baru Cormorant) who literally have the ghosts of other people in their heads. The Ghost is someone from outside who's now your roommate in the galaxy's most fucked up timeshare.

d6 ways to become Haunted
1. Have another person's mind forcibly inserted into your head by a nefarious actor.
2. It's a cultural tradition; mind-shares are a way to pass down institutional knowledge.
3. Someone important to you dies and your mind refuses to accept it, insisting they're still there as the world's worst coping mechanism.
4. Someone important to you dies and is stored in your head as a backup until they can be re-instantiated in a new body. New bodies are hard to come by.
5. Brain slugs.
6. A god or other extradimensional entity is sitting side-saddle in your brain.

Who or what haunts you?
1. Your lover.
2. Your ex-lover.
3. Your predecessor.
4. Your rival.
5. A legendary figure from your culture's history or myths.
6. A space god.

Three Questions
Who did you lose?
Why were they important to you?
What was their final request?

Two Relationships
Someone close to your ghost, or that they had unfinished business with.
Someone who cares about you deeply, and is worried about you in the aftermath of your loss.

Start with Brain Ghost, a move of your choice, and your Sex Move.

Brain Ghost
You have a Ghost in your brain. They talk to you, and you talk to them. Choose a basic move, a playbook, one of that playbook's moves, and one of that playbook's stat bonuses.

When you Commune With Strange Powers with your Ghost, you may ask one of the following questions in addition to the listed ones:
- Do you remember anything relevant?
- What would you do in this situation?

If you choose to gain a Bond due to an Overwhelming Success on a Commune With Strange Powers roll, you may gain a Bond on someone your Ghost knew who is relevant to the situation.

During a scene, you may spend 1 XP to let your Ghost take control. Whether this is you imitating them, or them piloting your body like a fucked-up mech suit, is up to you - and may change depending on the circumstances.
- While under your Ghost's control, all of your stats are at -1, except for the chosen stat (which is at +2).
- You may use the move you chose for your Ghost, but may not use any of your own moves.
- Your mannerisms, expressions, and cadence immediately identify you as your Ghost; this is deeply unnerving to anyone who knew them.
- Once you are under your Ghost's control, you cannot back out until the end of the scene.

Let's Put Our Heads Together
Whenever you Reveal Truths, you may also roll with Queer to let your Ghost take a look at the scene. Both results count, though only one Overwhelming Success can provide Experience.

I'm Your Gun
Your Ghost is at your beck and call, and you may use their move without being under their control. If it calls for rolls of their chosen stat, treat the stat as +1.

Strange Minds Think Alike
When you successfully Commune with a Strange Power that isn't your ghost, you can choose to either ask a follow-up clarifying question or get a bond on that power. You can't gain more than one bond per roll this way.

I Will Write Your Name Across History
The first time each session that you successfully use a move to further your Ghost's final request, gain 1 XP. Doesn't count for moves you use while under your Ghost's control.

I Am Undone Without You
In a wail of pure psychic grief, you manifest your Ghost externally. During a scene, you may spend 2 XP to summon your Ghost instead of using Brain Ghost. They appear as a dreamlike vision, appearing to whomever they so choose, but unable to physically interact with the world except by possessing an unoccupied body or item. They can use only their chosen Move (with the relevant stat at +2), but can take other actions as necessary. Obviously, your Ghost is not under your control - they can take suggestions and will use their Move as directed, but their actions are ultimately up to the GM (though never inherently harmful to you or your allies).

Old Codes
Automated systems recognize you as either your ghost or yourself, whichever is most advantageous to you at the time. You have access to all of their accounts and password-protected systems.

Sex Move: Impromptu Threesome
Is it really a threesome if one is riding side-saddle in another's head? I'm not sure, I think we need a larger sample size. When you and your Ghost have sex with someone, each of you gets a bond on another, where no two of you can have bonds on the same person. For example, you get a bond on your partner, your partner gets a bond on your Ghost, and your Ghost gets a bond on you.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Superterra: This is Not a Land of Honor

art by Sylvia Ritter
A BRIEF HISTORY OF SUPERTERRA
Long ago, there was a war that ended the world. Everyone knew it was coming, and so they ceaselessly prepared both to prosecute that war and to continue after its end. They built bunkers, installed autonomous systems to rebuild after the end, launched ships into the endless blackness of space to return in distant aeons.

Then the war occurred, the world ended, and their best-laid plans went awry. The vast discharge of mortal souls from their fragile frames, in bursts of incandescent radiation and ash-shadows on the rubble of great cities, shifted the very balance of reality. The Radiation Angels and Orbital War Gods trace their ancestries to this one moment of utter senseless obliteration, bestowed divinity through destruction in proportions that could only be divine.

While billions perished in the first nuclear strikes, their souls riven from bodies and expelled into what would become the Stratospheric Heavens and the Hells-in-Earth, billions more lived on - to die in famine, in plague, in climate disaster, in soulstorm, in retaliatory hunter-killer drone attack. The Old World died with a bang, and then rotted in whimpering decades. The few that lived were the lucky, the experimentally-protected, or those who made deals with new powers before the rest of the world cottoned on. For centuries, survivors eked out a meagre existence as scavengers in a dead world, their numbers winnowing every generation.

All the while, other things grew in the dark and the dust. Plans to survive the End Times soured and twisted but never died, new entities emerged into vast power vacuums they could not help but fill. Souls precipitated from the Heavens and Hells into new embodiments, merging into strange new forms that were never designed to think for themselves. Reterraforming machines woke to a world outside of any expected parameters, but dutifully set off to cleanse the air and soil of radiation. Thousands hiding in bunkers slowly broke their way to the surface, modifying themselves with the strange biotechnologies they discovered in deep Subterra. New life-ways grow and old life-ways adapt as cultures sustain themselves in a world of gods and souls and machines and angels. The world is irrevocably scarred, but healing into something unrecognizable - and intensely alive.

by Sylvia Ritter

WHO ARE YOU?
The category of "human" swells and distends. Mutations beneficial, harmless, and detrimental, nanotechnological augmentations and experiments, and soulcraft curses and geases long ago worked their way into heritability. Two people from the same village may look as different as an insect and a whale, despite nearly all originating from the homo sapiens sapiens we're familiar with today. The largest cladistic groupings organize along their tried and tested methods of surviving Superterra's omnipresent radiation; whether by technological, biological, alchemical, or stranger means.

People aren't stupid. They know, broadly, about the old world - how could they not, in the shadows of its greatest achievements and greatest follies? Details are forgotten in their irrelevance to the modern landscape, or consigned to treatises as comprehensive as they are dense. The cultural consensus regarding the old world centers around how powerful they were, how superstitious they weren't, and how their hubris inevitably ensured their undoing.

by Sylvia Ritter

 

The soul is the unit of meaning and meaning-making. A soul in a complex system becomes a person. Complex systems sometimes spontaneously generate souls on their own, but freedom, safety, and comfort are required to generate soul. Souls have flavors based on the consciousness they emerged from. Soulmelliers will tell you that machine and mortal souls taste a lot alike. If you're quick enough, you can grab soul out of the air after it's discharged, but that's just rude - especially if you're planning on eating it for power.

The mass discharge of souls in the end times, at the hands of radiation angels, created atmospheric soul deposits (the Stratospheric Heavens), which precipitates in soul-storms (with various forms of soul-lightning, soul-hail, soulsnow), and discharges into the ground (the Hells-In-Earth). These soulsoils can then be purified at a Soulforge, jealously-guarded Old World structures refitted through occult means to refine the dross out of base soulsoil and elevate its dreaming consciousness into infernal metals. Most notably in the increasingly financialized wastelands of Superterra, control of a Soulforge permits the minting of soul-backed currency.

The rarity of soul-catalytic conditions makes them perfect as currency, especially as the Heavens, Hells, and Soulforges enable fungibility; in short, currency is the cycle of eternal torment. If you're killed by a radiation angel, it sends you straight to hell, burned into the earth and the dust as a shadow; areas like the Scar that were struck heavily by angels in the war are rich in hell-dirt. Nothing grows in these cursed hell-soils except fungus, because fungus is merciless and willing to torment the souls trapped within its mycelial net for energy and nutrients.

Soulcraft is the art of shaping and manipulating souls. Soul-lightning is the easiest trick; create a soul gradient and you can get a crackling discharge that chars and scorches flesh. Necromancy is the art of putting soul back into dead things; fossils are actually better for this because no one's going to try to get the body back. The soul has power over the body (and vice-versa, that's how killing someone works) - powerful soulcrafters can imprint the map of their changed soul on their flesh, shifting their shape to fit their whims.

by Sylvia Ritter
How do you survive the radiation?

1. Regimen of powerful antiradiation drugs with equally powerful side-effects.

2. Mechanical hazard suit. Filters, purifies, and recycles air and water. Requires charging. The highest-quality suits are built in the City of Domes, one of the only locations that can manufacture new microchips, but kitbashed suits are common across the Scar and suitshops are a fixture in even small villages. Often mount powerful devices and weapons.

3. Organic hazard suit. See above, but it's an organism and requires food. Plates of shell or bark, wiring of capillary or vine. Grown in the Hells and the Thorn Kingdoms; Thorn Knights wear menacing suits of leaf-green and rose-red.

4. Cancer-cult prayers, cleanses, exercises, and meditations. Some work, some don't, but you can't tell which is which. Each sect has their own regimens, and debates over correct technique or efficacy are the basis for bitter internecine feuds.

5. Living fast and dying young. The radiation isn't that bad if you never intended to make it past 25. Maybe you'll get some interesting mutations and insightful hallucinations along the way.

6. Soulcraft rituals anchor and tailor your form to its soul's template, forcing cancerous cells to stay in line through sheer willpower. People with training as soulcrafters are in high demand, for obvious reason, and travel widely to contract out their services.

7. Made of more robot parts than flesh. Hardened circuits and thick plating go a long way. Common in the Junk Sea, by the Spire, deep within the Subversion, and in the Technotheocracy's cyborg armies.

8. Symbiotic colony of cryptococcus neoformis, a fungus which feeds on radiation. It's taken up residence just beneath your skin, and pokes out through your mucous membranes.

9. Blood replaced with the Luminescent Ooze, upwelling from deep within Subterra, duplicating and rewriting your chromosomes. The Ooze has a slow, alien cognition of its own, communed with through dreams that are forgotten on waking but that influence your psyche all the same.

10. Nanomachine rad-scrubbers in your bloodstream, passed down through generations. Can be shorted out temporarily with an electrical charge. They build external ports and nodes on your skin for maintenance and information transfer with other nanite colonies. Some strains are transmissible through fluid mediums.

11. Buying life from others with soul currencies as a medium of exchange. The economancers of Tall Street in the Broken City have pioneered this art, and woven a Scar-spanning network of trade in soulsoils and trinitite crystals to fuel their techniques.

12. Joining a soulhive and adopting new bodies as the old ones wear out. Soulhives descend from  ancient bunkers, where bodies were in too short supply for the wealth of minds and souls seeking entry. It's like a time-share, where you spend most of your time in a communal noosphere waiting your turn to pilot around one of a dozen bodies. Soulhives have the dankest memes in Superterra.

13. Weekly tank treatments; long baths in radscrubber solution. The people of the Crawling Cities love communal antirad steam baths, heated by the fires of their city's engines. Others spend weeks on end fully immersed in tanks at the end of long voyages, reknitting their genome together in a psychedelic haze.

14. Autonecromancy! Dead things can't get cancer. Necromancy remains deeply taboo, as the Wizard War staunchly refuses to pass from living memory, but that doesn't stop the curious and ambitious from seeking out the Wizard's last apprentices and plundering his tomb-towers for the secrets of eternal death.

15. Physically removing tumors and replacing them with new parts, whether organic or mechanical. Difficult and resource-intensive, but there's a certain charm to exercising one's right to true morphological freedom.

16. Soul-bond with an eidolon, a much hardier creature that mutates for you in exchange for food and shelter. Think the Picture of Dorian Grey, except instead of a painting it's an owlbear.

17. Living in an ecosynthetic biosphere where the radiation has mostly been successfully scrubbed from the environment by a local reterraforming AI's machines.

18. Eating part of an angel's corpse. On one hand, this is an awful idea. On the other hand, if you're filled with divine irradiance, it may be strong enough to push back the radiation from the outside. Don't worry about what the radiation will do to you from the inside.

19. Contract with a Hell to tithe it souls in exchange for additional life. The Mycelial Hells and Metastas the Meat Hell make these deals with distressing regularity.

20. Roll twice; you're doing both. While most stick to whichever method they grew up practicing, redundancy is important in such a hostile world, especially for the adventuring sort.

by Sylvia Ritter

Infernal Matter

Hell-soils are wrought into an entire periodic table of Infernal Metals. Different soils can be forged into different metals. Each metals freezes one moment of delectable torment in perpetuity, which can be seen in reflections. Metals used for construction are painted bright matte colors to paper over this inconvenient reminder. Coinage, in variously stamped denominations of sin-silver, cryptgold, or stranger alloys, keeps its natural luster of grief as an anti-counterfeiting measure.

Scarstuff, the red and raw cracked matter of the Scar, can be forged into cold iron - the base infernal metal. Sturdy but not too sturdy, easily worked. Rusts over time, but the rust doesn't hurt its structural integrity; it's only a new form of torment for the souls within.

The soulsand dunes of the Scar can be forged into glass-steel. Translucent, thin, and sharp, but brittle in the light. Rings with the final scream of the damned within when struck. Not great for windows unless you like torture. Conductive like nobody's business, excellent for microtechnology.

Mycelial Substrate is hellsoil shot through with fungal growth, eternally tormented to fuel the fungus. Economically useless, but often holds nexi of valuable soils that it's saving for a deliciously surprising meal of pain.

The unpredictable tides of the Quicksilver Sea leave behind wet sands that can be evaporated into Quicksalt, a preservative that rapidly dehydrates and chills anything packed in it. Farmed by the City of Domes on the delta of the Coil, and by the Tubedwellers who live within the forests of Carnivorous Tubeworms.

Soulglass is a glowing green crystalline structure that permits the souls within some freedom to roil and writhe. The Old World term for it, Trinitite, is hypothesized to be linked to some ancients' beliefs in a Holy Trinity of three linked deific figures.Outcroppings of soulglass are abundant in the scar, from swirling shards of glass blown around by the burning wind to great crystals that act as landmarks for miles around. Unlike soulsoils, the souls in trinitite can't be economically extracted, even at a Soulforge, but it's very powerful for soulcraft. Even without soulcraft expertise, it glows in the presence of strong emotion, and by reading the glow's shades and perturbations you can tell someone's emotional state.

TRADE IN SUPERTERRA

I'll do a better map at some point.
 

 

Meat from Metastas the Meat Hell for vegetables from the Thorn Kingdoms. Food and microtechnology from the City of Domes for soul-soils and archaeotech uncovered by the Crawling Cities. Bullets are traded for food along the eastern rim of the Scar. Souldirt and soulglass are refined and sold for jerkied meat around the Glowing Lake and the Array, while an abundance of supplies for Scar-travel attract merchant-venturers at the Array and the Soulhive Serai.

Metastas is the one place meat can be reliably grown on an industrial scale, which is much more calorically efficient (and less irradiated!) than anything else. This meat feeds the entire Shattered Coast, transported by hermetically sealed refrigerator-ships built at the bubble-docks of the City of Domes. These ships navigate the Unmoored Isles, evading pirates and krakens and soulstorms, and travel up the Coil once they've passed the City's extensive checkpoints. The City, of course, takes a literal cut of the meat trade, and has an extensive tariff regime on all other goods passing through the Coil's delta.

While the Thorn Kingdoms are broadly considered a primitive feudal backwater, their local biota has aggressively flushed the soil and made it fertile for a few species of thorny, hardy crops. Nowhere else is anything close to conducive to large-scale agriculture, so the Dukes with coastal fiefs trade inland vegetables for meat, and jealously guard their caloric bounty.

Ships charter to a variety of concerns headquartered either in the City of Domes, Metastas, a Thorn Kingdom port duchy, or up the Coil at the Array. Flags from the Dragon Empire, a rising power to the southeast, are a rarity - but are becoming more common sights in recent years. Unaffiliated ships "go missing" due to kraken attacks or are chalked up lost to soulstorms and pirates. Pirates in the Unmoored Isles hack and redirect ships to feed their towns; whether convict brigades from the Godforsaken Prison-Dome, denizens of the Pirate Bay Processing Collective, or the brave sailor women of Parthens.

Up the Coil, goods feed the Forest of Hands and make their way throughout the Scar. The Land-Reefs provide for their denizens, who in return protect their local fauna vigorously (plus, the reef-dwellers are the only ones who either know which are poisonous or have the genetweaks to eat them without haemhorraging from every orifice). By the Glowing Lake, the Array acts as an informal trading point for the Crawling Cities, as well as a variety of caravans who take goods into the Scar. The Array also processes food into hardier, preserved forms that'll survive its upcoming long and treacherous journeys.

by Sylvia Ritter



 The Crawling Cathedral feeds the Gene-Fortress of Ghol (though their Old World seed-stores could feed them for decades if pressed or besieged), and trades refined soulglass from the Soul Pits and their own trinitite harvests for food and goods from the coast. Crawling Cities often trade at the Broken City, and while the Mycelial Hells don't want for food, they're always willing to facilitate the food-for-souls trade in exchange for a percentage. This food then goes on to feed the armies of the Borderland of the Gun-Kings, who trade their immensely valuable guns, bullets, and vehicles in return.

Further north, any trade around the eastern rim of the Scar heading to the Crater Sea stops at the Soulhive to replenish supplies. Then it goes to the Technotheocracy of the Orbital War Gods, the Spire, or braves the Wizard's Waste to supply the Frozen Cryptlands. A north-south trip around the Scar will travel west from the Soulhive or the Technotheocracy, skirt the edge of the Antifossilized Necroforests, and stop at the Soul Pits and the Subterran Embassy before going south to the Glowing Lake.

The City of Domes has a faddish weakness for the beautiful, currently fuelled by tulip farmers in the Thorn Kingdoms and Metastasian meat-artisans. The carno-botany department of the Insulatan Academe now allows outside students' tuition to be paid in rare bulbs and tumors. While the tumor-trade is deeply illegal in a society that holds cleanliness sacrosanct, transgression only increases its luster.

The Crawling Cities have the most developed financial markets in Superterra, matched only by the Economancers of the Broken City and perhaps some Subterran regimes. Their practices of futures-trading have recently spread to the City of Domes, but have failed to take hold in the Soulhive (which refuses them on principle) and the Technotheocracy (which believes that the future is the domain of the priesthood and the Orbital War Gods, and therefore speculation is wholly immoral except by said caste).

There is ample room in this paradigm for enterprising smugglers, pirates, soldiers-of-fortune, merchant-adventurers, con artists, and speculators - and that's only scratching the surface of the perennial parasitic industries that crop up around developing markets. Explorers plumb the depths of the Junk Sea for ancient relics that will buy them entire towns. Defrosted refugees from the darkest periods of Old World history make their way south from the Frozen Cryptlands, awakened into a world that looks perhaps too familiar. The Dragon Empire encroaches on Orbital War God-fearing subjugated territories of the Technotheocracy, and cries are raised across the Crater Sea for something to be done. All the while, angels moulder in their launch cradles, gods twinkle in the night sky, souls scream in torment as their coinage changes hands, and the many oozing hearts of Subterra beat faster, seeking blessed, cursed light.

Friday, May 6, 2022

GLOG Arts of War

I've been away for a while; finishing my final semester of university, consumed with life, and playing far too much Elden Ring. This is the result - a GLOG class (as is tradition), but more importantly a system of weapon arts stolen from inspired by soulsborne mechanics. 

A Weapon Art is a school of combat connected to particular weapon types, revealed by scrolls (or similar records) that detail secret meditations and exercises that unlock the true powers within implements of war. Weapon arts detail multiple special attacks that can be used by expending Stamina Dice (outlined in the Warrior class), and may provide other abilities as well.

Scrolls must be found through play. Most cannot be bought, many are lost to the ages, and masters of an art keep their secrets close out of wisdom, jealousy, or a genuine desire for peace. Naturally, the scrolls detailed below are not a comprehensive list.

All weapons deal d6 damage by default. Two-handing a weapon, or wielding two identical one-handed weapons, means you roll 2d6 and take the higher value.

After you hit an enemy, you may choose to either deal damage or execute a maneuver. A maneuver deals no damage, but can provide an advantage in combat, whether tripping an enemy, feinting to drop their guard, temporarily blinding them with thrown dust, grappling them, etc. Negotiate with your GM. On a critical hit (a roll of 20), you both deal maximum damage and execute a maneuver.

These rules should be easily adaptable to other combat systems. You're reading GLOG content, you're smart and probably have your own GLOG blog, I believe in you. One easy change is simply to give every class some number of Stamina Dice, so that thieves and clerics and even magic-users can get in on the visceral thrill of turning people into corpses.

 

Warrior

Speak not of right and wrong or truth and lies. There is only the blade, and which end you're staring at.

Equipment: Weapons of your choice, one weapon art scroll, armor of your choice, and a shield if you want one.
Warrior 1: Master-at-Arms, Warsight, 2 Stamina Dice.
Warrior 2: Push Yourself, +1 Prepared Art, +1 Stamina Die.
Warrior 3+: +1 Prepared Art & +1 Stamina Die, or +2 Stamina Dice

Master-at-Arms
You have stamina dice, which you can expend to perform feats of strength, endurance, and bloodthirst. You can roll a Stamina Die to add it to any to-hit roll, damage roll, or STR/DEX/CON roll after you've seen the outcome, whether it's a success or failure. Stamina dice can also be used to wield Weapon Arts, rolling any number of your stamina dice and applying the result to the art's listed effects. Unless otherwise specified, using a Weapon Art takes an action on your turn. A stamina die returns to your pool on a roll of 1, 2, or 3. Restore all your Stamina dice after a hearty meal or a full night's sleep.

You may prepare 1 Weapon Art at a time before combat by performing the rigorous exercises and meditations described within the scroll. This takes approximately 10 minutes. The number you can have simultaneously prepared increases as you gain more Warrior templates.

Warsight
All (successful) warriors develop a system by which they classify their enemies, so as to inform their judgments on who first to render into their constituent parts. The more intellectual warriors refer to such arcane principles as a "plus one to-hit" and an "armor class of 12", or speak of the "hit points" an enemy must be damaged at before they become a gibbering wreck.

You can see characters' mundane combat stats (if they aren't being deliberately concealed) and whether or not they have magical abilities. Mundane stats include damage die size, current and maximum hit points, armor class, and to-hit bonus.

Push Yourself
As an action, you may sacrifice HP to regain a single Stamina Die. The first time you do this during a fight, it costs 1 HP, and doubles each time thereafter (2, then 4, then 8, etc.). Reset this after you have performed your post-combat warm-down, similar to the Art preparation exercises.

Prithee, be careful. I don't want to see my work squandered.

Weapon Arts

Duelist's Handbook (one-handed swords)
The final word in rules and regulations of honourable combat. The ritual forms developed by the Marquis Fonchauntaire have stood the test of centuries, and to question them would be to invalidate all the blood spilled and feuds settled under its auspices.
🗡 You are immediately identifiable as a poncy motherfucker. Spend a round bragging to get +templates to attack and damage the following round.
🗡 Parry-Riposte. When an attack hits you, you may expend Stamina Dice and add the sum to your AC. If this would make the attack no longer hit, you parry their attack and may riposte, making a retaliatory attack at +dice that deals +sum additional damage.
🗡 Challenge an enemy who can understand you (anything that has a language, whether or not they share it with you). You must close in and attack each other instead of anyone else. Once either of you has dealt sum damage, the challenge is won, and whoever dealt that damage gets a free attack against the other. You may have multiple enemies challenged at once, but may make only one challenge per turn.

Soldier's Scrawl (one-handed weapon and shield)
A crudely bound diary of a soldier who fought and died on the Archipelagan Front. Provides a harrowing first-hand glimpse into how the best-laid plans without fail go horribly awry, and how everything can be turned to purposes of war.
🗡 Your shield provides an additional +templates armor.
🗡 Shield Bash. Make an attack roll at +sum that on a hit deals damage equal to your shield's  armor bonus and staggers the target for their next turn. This doesn't count as your attack for turn, and you may follow up with a weapon attack.
🗡 Brutal Strike. Freely hit your enemy for sum+dice damage. They get to hit you in response, even if your attack subsequently incapacitates them. 

        NOTE: Staggered enemies can either move or attack, not both.

Brawler's Notebook (unarmed combat)
An artist's sketchbook filled with detailed studies of musculature and various fistfighting stances, lovingly rendered in charcoal. Towards the end, sketches tend kinetic, annotated with the names of long-closed bars and monikers like "Aurochs Pate" or "Benit the Butcher".
🗡 Your maneuvers also deal templates damage.
🗡 Unleash a Flurry of Blows on your enemy. Make sum attacks. Each attack that hits deals dice+1 damage. If at least half of the attacks (rounded up) hit, knock your opponent down.
🗡 Throw a Knockout Punch that deals sum damage minus the target's armor bonus, and doesn't require an attack roll. If this attack deals 6+ damage, the target is staggered for their next turn.

Beast Hide Diary (spears, axes, natural weapons)
Carved with the tooth of the beast it was skinned from. Records the hunting practices of apex predators, and instructs one to give in to those selfsame instincts.
🗡 You can speak to beasts. Their language is loud, raucous, and conveys complex ideas through light combat.
🗡 Charge into your enemy with reckless abandon, dealing sum damage and knocking them back dice*10'. Anything they hit in this process also takes sum damage.
🗡 Leap upon a distant enemy. Can move up to dice times your movement speed in this action. Deals an additional sum damage and knocks enemy prone.

Juggernaut Tablet (two-handed weapons)
An ancient stone slab engraved with pictographs of a rigid exercise regimen, and stained with similarly ancient blood.
🗡 You cannot be moved, stopped, pushed, or knocked over. No earthly force can hold you. If you would fall, you grab onto the ledge. If a wagon or even a battering ram would hit you, it stops in its tracks (though you still take damage).
🗡 After you hit an enemy, you may Cleave through them with a powerful, continuous stroke. Deal sum damage to the next enemy adjacent to them in a direction of your choice. Continue the cleave through up to dice total enemies.
🗡 Steel Yourself against your foe, gaining a pool of sum temporary hit points.

Manual of the Siege-Sage (colossal weapons)
Priests of the Conquering King Olgoros have waited centuries for an opportunity to finally entomb him. Each time his still-warring corpse arrives to besiege the gates of the cathedral tomb that was prepared for him, the priests have accumulated new knowledge with which to weather his storm.
🗡 You can wield siege weapons like twice-height polearms, battering rams, or ballistae with your own two hands. These weapons deal d12 damage, but you cannot attack with them in the same turn that you move, draw, or load them.
🗡 Shatter your enemy's guard after hitting them, dealing an additional sum damage and reducing their Armor by sum for the next dice rounds. Also works on inanimate objects.
🗡 Become an unshakable Bastion, providing +dice armor to yourself and adjacent allies for the next sum rounds.


Absolutive Prayerbook (crushing weapons)
Spilling thine neighbor's blood is proscribed by various holy texts across the Continent. Enterprising preachers have found ample ways to reconcile this with their abiding need to enact violence upon their enemies.
🗡 During combat, your weapon glows like a lantern. This light counts as sunlight.
🗡 Smite your foe with holy light. This attack deals +sum damage on a hit and inflicts holy damage. Whether or not your smite connects, your next sum attacks also inflict holy damage, and deal an additional +dice damage. This stacks with subsequent smites.
🗡 After you hit an enemy, you may chant a Guiding Prayer. That enemy glows with sunlight, and for the next dice turns, your allies get +sum to their attack rolls against that enemy.

NOTE: Holy damage will vaporize corpses of the unholy upon death, preventing resurrection; but can only incapacitate enemies that aren't unholy. According to the CLXXIVth Conclave of the Continental See, "unholy" includes:
- All forms of material undead
- Malevolent (but not benign) spirits
- Devils
- Mortals excommunicated by a bishop or higher priest in good standing with the Faith
- Devotees of the Archipelagic Gods
- Beasts with more than two eyes or more than four legs.

The CLXXVth Conclave approaches with haste. All expect the Locrian Archbishopric to be added to this list and its practice of spiritcalling certified as an official heresy. Other changes may occur in the frenzy.

Trigonometrics, Vol. I (bows)
The arcs and forces necessary to propel projectiles across great distances were calculated by monks as an academic exercise and recorded in illuminated books of tables. Upon hearing of this innovation, the Baron Trigonometras (an acclaimed archer) took the monastery by force and replicated these mathematical proofs for distribution to his bannermen.
🗡 You can hit any stationary target you can see, so long as weather conditions are optimal. This only deals 1 damage, but can split rope, put out candles, push levers, break jars, etc.
🗡 Loose a High Volley of dice arrows that arch over cover to land scattered among your foes for highest damage per arrow. Make a separate attack roll for each arrow. May split volley between multiple adjacent targets.
🗡 Spend your entire turn aiming. At the end of the round, fire an Aimed Shot at a chosen location if it's still visible. Automatically hits, add sum to the damage roll, and if you chose to hit a particular body part, impair it appropriately. 

Trigonometrics, Vol. II (bows)
The Baron Trigonometras sought to extend and correct the monks' proofs to account for his experiences in the field. His own contributions, while less mathematically ground-breaking, are essential to the study of ranged combat in varied weather conditions.
🗡 You can fire a Grapple Arrow attached to a rope. The rope securely attaches to whatever it hits, and can hold one person's weight at a time.
🗡 Fire a Piercing Shot through one enemy and up to dice additional enemies in a row. Automatically hits the first target, make an attack roll at +sum for each following enemy. It deals highest to each enemy.
🗡 Release a Fan Barrage of arrows at a group of adjacent enemies. Make an attack roll for each target. Deals dice+1 damage to each of up to sum enemies, or sum damage to each of dice+1 enemies.

Trigonometrics, Vol. III: Sacred Arcs (bows)
Once the Baron Trigonometras perfected his archer's art, he set off to hunt a dragon. As he traveled, he sought deeper mathematical proofs derived from what he saw on the road. On the cliffs below Dragonroost, mere days before he planned to sight his quarry, Trigonometras renounced his title and used his considerable fortunes to build a monastery to repent and seek mathematical perfection for the rest of his days. This tome is the result.
🗡 Loose a Tracing Shot upon an enemy. Make an attack roll at +sum. The attack deals no damage on a hit, but the target glows with sunlight. Further ranged attacks to hit them (including spells or siege weaponry) can either take a +sum bonus (doesn't stack with additional tracers), or move around cover. An enemy can clear the tracer through acts of intentional devotion or heresy.
🗡 Break off an arrow's head to fire a Crushing Shot, sanctified and guaranteed not to spill blood. Make an attack roll at +sum, deals sum+dice damage. Deals holy damage. 

Kniferose Almanac (edged or piercing weapons, including bows & arrows)
Holds brewing instructions for the most common contact poisons, which range from the mildly inconvenient to the amusingly lethal. Kept only nominally secret by the Order of the Kniferose, a society of gentleman-assassins lauded among the upper echelons of Society.
🗡 Your combat preparations include the brewing of three vials of Kniferose Poison. One causes temporary blindness, another causes debilitating pain and nausea, and the final causes paralysis of the site around the wound. You may reveal which a weapon was poisoned with after hitting with an attack (you need not decide until the dramatic revelation). Applying a new poison removes the old one. The poison lasts until combat ends.
🗡 Feinting Thorn. After an attack with the poisoned blade misses, you may expend Stamina Dice to immediately hit with another weapon you're wielding that has not yet been revealed as poisoned. That attack deals sum damage.
🗡 Poison Spray. Artfully flick your weapon's revealed poison in a cone up to dice*10'. This removes the poison from the weapon and inflicts the status effect upon anyone it hits that fails a 10+sum save.

Assassin's Journal (one-handed blades, shortbows)
The church holds that no mortal has the right to determine who lives or dies - yet mortals still determine that every day. This journal belonged to a prolific decision-maker in that regard, detailing their process and sketching out specific "accidents" that recently befell prominent nobles and pontiffs.
🗡 Disappear into the shadows. A darkness folds around you as you dash at your move speed for cover; enemies lose your location. You may make this in reaction to being hit. Choose one before rolling:
    - Get +sum armor against that attack.
    - Your next attack deals +sum damage, and if made from concealment gets +sum to-hit.
🗡 Wield the illusory Darkblade that carves flesh and bone without damaging the skin. Deal sum damage; this does not cause pain until the victim tries to move the affected area. If you're quiet, this won't break concealment. Shortbows can fire the darkblade as arrows.

Bleeding Parchment (edged or piercing weapons)
This short chirurgical paper details methods of sharpening a blade such that wounds it delivers will bleed excessively. It must be handled with care to avoid dire papercuts.
🗡 Whenever you take 6 or more damage, restore a lost Stamina Die.
🗡 Purge yourself of excess humours. Inflict highest damage upon yourself to remove dice conditions affecting you that have been inflicted during this battle. This can include immobility, poison, charm effects, etc.
🗡 Self-Mutilate. Feed the weapon an amount of your blood. Inflict highest damage upon yourself to make an attack that automatically hits for sum+dice damage. 6s rolled this way explode.

NOTE: Self-inflicted damage cannot be taken back once rolled. If it renders you incapacitated, the attack still occurs, your final action before collapsing in a pool of your own vital fluids.

Haemhorragic Manual (one-handed edged weapons)
A book bound in gnarled skin. Its pages weep blood when read, yet remain dry. It demands its student's hands be soaked through with fresh blood, and record in exacting detail the splatter patterns its techniques leave behind.
🗡 Spew Bloodflame over an area by vomiting blood all over your sword. It sticks and clings to surfaces, armor, and flesh alike. Lose sum hit points, then deal highest damage to everyone in a dice*10' cone. It continues to burn, affecting the area it coats and dealing lowest damage to everyone in the area and anyone it's stuck to at the start of your turn.
🗡 Expend Stamina Dice to cause a Bloodflame Rupture when you kill someone. They detonate in an explosion of bloodflame, scorching everyone around (including you) within sum meters for highest damage. This explosion chains; anyone who dies to it also explodes, and so on.

Shard of the Walking Kiln (hammers)
On the march, an amphora of water will save you where fullplate cannot; when besieged a pot of burning oil will prove deadlier than the most legendary sword. Before it shattered, the Walking Kiln provided this vital support to the greatest armies in history, and is still worshipped as a god in its own right by the smith-cults of the Penultimate Legion.

🗡 The shard itself provides enough heat to power a crude portable forge, kiln, or oven.
🗡 Your hammer leaves a Burning Brand upon your enemy. After hitting, sear their flesh with the mark of the Kiln and deal an additional sum fire damage. At the end of your turn, all branded enemies take dice damage for each brand you've inflicted this combat. Brands can be removed by quenching the mark, but leave a gnarled scar.
🗡 You are an Armorsmith, and know its strengths and weaknesses better than any of its wearers. Make an attack that gets +sum to hit and ignores armor; on a hit, in addition to dealing damage, your target loses dice points of Armor and you gain that armor for the rest of the combat.

Windweaver's Quilt (dual-wielded edged weapons)
A small but dense scrap of fabric. Running your fingers along its knots and holes reveals a dynamic flow of contortions that can weave the air around you into gale-force winds. Your blades are the knitting needles of the storm.
🗡 Surround yourself with a Whirlwind that disorients your enemies. Gain +sum temporary armor, which degrades by dice every time you're attacked (hit or miss). You may only have one whirlwind active at a time.
🗡 Fire off a Vacuum Blast at a faraway target. Make an attack roll; the blast deals sum damage and staggers the target on a hit, and deals half sum damage on a miss.
🗡 Bang your weapons together to cause a Thunderclap, forcing everyone unprepared nearby to save or be temporarily deafened for dice rounds.

Conductive Scroll (polearms, spears)
A leather scroll depicting a Lichtenburg scar. Following its patterns reveals miniscule text within the fractal's whorls and spines, revealing the secret nature of the connection betwixt thunder and lightning.
🗡 Lightning Rod. Feel the charge. Smell the ozone. Breathe deep and shatter the clear blue sky. Make an attack roll against an enemy within walking range. If it hits, it deals sum+dice lightning damage and you may swiftly leap adjacent to them at any point before your next turn. If it misses, you may immediately move adjacent to them anyway.
🗡 After hitting with an attack, you may make an additional attack against another enemy nearby at +sum. A Crackling Chain strikes from your initial target to the new one, and deals sum damage. You may repeat this process, subtracting dice from sum each time, until an attack misses, you run out of new targets to add to the chain, or sum reaches 0.

Sword Sage's Thesis (swords)
Even wizards grudgingly respect the primacy of the blade. Some even take up its study, and realize that properly wielding a length of sharpened steel is just as complex as wielding phenomenal cosmic power. Those who are appropriately humbled by this experience and pursue it still become sword sages, and contribute their writings to magical libraries throughout the Archipelago.
🗡 You may use your Magic Dice as Stamina Dice and vice-versa.
🗡 Your attacks are inherently magical, and so can hurt ghosts and other ethereal enemies.
🗡 Your blade is more real than the world it cuts through, followed by Blade Echoes of itself. Make an attack with +sum to-hit; whether or not it hits, an echo makes a follow-up attack with no bonus.
🗡 Dispel magic (and magical effects) with a slash of your blade. Attack the magic. If sum+dice is greater than the spell's sum, negate it. You may use this in reaction to a spell being cast, a dragon loosing its fire breath, etc.

Shieldmaiden's Creed (shield)
The Stars Above speak; we answer the call,
Our Inner Light protects us all.
'Til Final Death shall do us part,
We stand together, hand on heart.
When evil finds its shallow grave
The stars shall judge -
    My shield shall save.
🗡 Your shield blazes with Blinding Light. You can flash the light in a semaphore code known only to other Shieldmaidens and those who serve with (or against) them. For the next dice rounds, any who approach you must either approach at half speed to shield their eyes or take highest holy damage.
🗡 You Retaliate with swift and righteous judgment, cold as starlight. As a reaction to one of your allies within a turn's movement being damaged, move to the attacker and smite them with a holy attack at +sum to-hit. The afterimage of vengeful wings imprints behind the eyes of onlookers.
🗡 A Dome of Radiance blossoms as you raise your shield, protecting you and your comrades from harm. The shield has a radius of dice\*10', and protects everyone within it from sum mundane attacks, regardless of how powerful the attack is. The dome can be entered, but cannot be left, and attacks made from within to without will bounce uselessly off its inner surface. You can move the shield with you, but as soon as you lower your shield, the dome dissipates.

Stargazer's Ravings (melee weapon)
The chant won't leave your head. It appears on empty pages and clear skies, when you close your eyes, when you hear silence. When you write it down, the ink is blood, and it smears uselessly across the scroll. You give it to a friend, and they can read it perfectly. They say it's a star-map, but a pointless one, as the constellations are all mixed-up and backwards. You look at the sky and you can't tell if it's right or wrong, the sky is just words. You pick up the fire poker, and know what you must do.
🗡 Anyone who touches you in combat takes fire damage equal to the number of SD you currently have.
🗡 SPREAD THE WORD. Your eyes see fire. Their eyes don't. It's not fair. They need to see fire too. Your face blazes with starlight; anyone looking at you saves vs. being horrifically enraptured at a sum penalty. All they can do for the next dice rounds is either snuff out your light or run screaming, their eyes burning like yours.
🗡 STARS FLAYING STARS. Your weapon is an extension of your arm, your arm an extension of your will, your will an extension of the stars, and the stars an extension of the universal principle of violence. You scourge them as they deserve, making an attack at +sum to-hit that deals sum fire damage and turns their mind to jelly. Their next attack is against whoever is closest to them, regardless of friend or foe. If no one is close enough for them to reach, they will turn their weapon on themself.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

GLOG Item Enchantment

If you have magic dice and know spells you can try to craft items. It's not rocket science (though whether or not it's rocket wizardry is still up for debate).

Enchantment

To enchant an item, acquire a mundane shell you wish to impregnate with your phenomenal cosmic power. Carve or ink appropriately eldritch symbols on the item and its surroundings. Select a spell you know, and gather your arcane might to your fingertips. Then let the magic flow, following the path of minimal symbolic resistance, tricking the spell into believing that this inert mass is a wizard's fertile mind.

Roll and expend magic dice for the spell you wish to imbue within the item. Unlike casting, these dice don't return on a 1-3. On doubles or a sum of the item's Conductivity or less, a random enchantment mishap occurs.

If the enchantment succeeds, the item gains the magic dice you expended and can now be used to cast the spell you infused it with. Your own MD will return when you rest.

Multiple wizards can work together to enchant an item with multiple spells at once. Doubles for mishaps are counted across all dice rolled this way - if one wizard rolls a 2 and a 3, and the other wizard rolls a 3, a mishap still occurs. sums for mishaps, however, are counted on a per-wizard basis; if one wizard rolls a sum of 3 but the other rolled a sum of 5, and the material's conductivity is 3, a mishap occurs.

You cannot re-enchant an item that has already been enchanted. The original enchantment must be dispelled first, which is a risky process that requires a steady hand and specific magical preparations, much like enchanting itself.

Enchantment Mishaps
1. Cursed! The item is crafted but it's got a malevolent downside, and you can't seem to get rid of it.
2. Shattered. The enchantment fails and the item breaks. Either fix it or buy a new one.
3. Blowback. The enchantment fails and you cast the spell on yourself, taking sum damage and applying its effects.
4. Drained. The magic dice you poured into the item won't return to you until it's spent all of its charges.
5. Decay. The enchantment succeeds, but it decays into a different random material with 1 less Conductivity.
6. Personality. The item wakes up and learns your language. Awkward if it's expendable.

Each type of item has unique effects and its own mishap table. Most items (wands, orbs, staves, scrolls, and tomes) are used to cast spells from their internal reserves of magic dice. Weapons and clothes have passive bonuses that can degrade over time.

 

Wands

Easy to make and commensurately expendable. Dice always return to the wand's pool except on mishaps. Breaks when out of MD. Mishaps on doubles or a sum of 1.

Wand Mishaps
1-3. Wand cracks. -1 MD.
4-5. Ricochet. The spell bounces out of control.
6. Blowback. Take sum damage of a relevant type.


Orbs

It's mesmerizing. Its clouded surface, the patterns of octarine lightning lurking within, its slight imperfections from the Platonic sphere that all orbs aspire to become. Each hour a day you spend in deep thought, pondering the orb, restores 1 of its MD (up to a maximum of the orb's Conductivity). Mishaps on doubles or a sum of 1.

Orb Mishaps
1-3. Runaway reaction. -1 additional MD.
4-5. Rolls away. Run after it, fool of a sorcerer. It goes for the most inconvenient place nearby.
6. When you ponder the abyss, the abyss ponders you. There is a reason why wizards who rely too greatly on their orbs go mad. The reason is revealing itself to you, in the orb's eternal depths, and it is not madness, but a truth too potent for the cowardly to accept. Look closer. Look away! WIS save to tear yourself away. Keep pondering until you succeed. 


Staves

In addition to containing a spell of its own, a staff can also be used as conduits for channeling a caster's own magic. When casting a spell using a staff's MD, its Conductivity becomes a minimum for sum rather than a maximum. Mishaps occur on doubles or rolls below Conductivity. A staff's MD are always expended, and only return to a staff's pool when the caster sleeps with it, allowing their natural magic to flow into it and giving life to a million homoerotic staff jokes.

Staff Mishaps
1-3. Drained. All MD spent on the spell do not return to pool, including the wizard's.
4-5. Warped. Reduce the staff's Conductivity by 1 until you can repair it. If this reduces it to 0, the staff is unusable until it's repaired.
6. Burned. Lose **sum** HP. 


Scrolls

Scrolls are powerful devices that ignore the limitations of other, more reliable magic items. Instead of Conductivity limiting the whole sum, it instead limits the value of each die involved in casting. However, they're crude tools - one-shot, rolling all their stored MD at once, and burn up in the casting process. Mishaps occur on doubles or sum equal to or less than Conductivity.

Scroll Mishaps are the same as standard casting mishaps for the spell involved.

 

Tomes

While scrolls are fire-and-forget, tomes hold reams of arcane knowledge and occult procedure. They provide passive bonuses and instructions for spellcasting rather than spells-in-potentia. Writing a tome is not a short and simple process like enchanting a wand, and the manufacture of a single occult grimoire can be the work of a lifetime.

Tomes can contain many different spells that a wizard knows, and provides a passive bonus for casting the spells inside the tome (to a max of Conductivity). Spells cast from a tome can't be cast at more MD than the tome is enchanted with, and take 1 hour per magic die to prepare and cast if the wizard doesn't know the spell already. Tomes also each have their own unique lists of mishaps related to the passive bonus they provide. Mishaps occur on doubles or a sum of 1.

MD within tomes cannot be used, but can be lost if the tome is damaged. 

Weapons & Tools

 Enchanted with passive bonuses, rather than spells. Bonus cannot be larger than Conductivity or the number of magic dice in the item. When damaged, reduce bonus by 1 (or more depending on the amount of damage).

Arrows, bolts, sling stones, or bullets can be batch-enchanted. Each attempt can enchant sum pieces of ammunition.

Tools are enchanted similarly. Enchanted shovels, picks, spinning wheels, archway keystones, wagon axles, fishing lures, lamp-posts, carpets, and more can be found in the dusty basements of enchanters' towers and the vaults of artificers' guilds.

Weapon mishaps occur on use, whenever they roll a 1 to hit or damage.

Weapon Mishaps
1-3. Off-balance. Reduce your AC by the weapon's bonus until the start of your next turn.
4-5. Bloodlust. If you don't attack with the weapon the next chance you get, it refuses to provide its own bonus for the rest of the fight as it snubs your cowardice.
6. Marred. The sigils carved into the weapon deform, reducing its bonus by 1.


Clothes

Includes jewelry, hats, tattoos, cloaks, gloves, boots, armor, etc. Enchanted with passive bonuses, rather than spells. Bonus cannot be larger than Conductivity. When damaged, reduce bonus by 1 (or more depending on the amount of damage).

The act of weaving magic into fibres is not to be taken lightly or tried on a whim. Unless you have expertise in sewing or tailoring, roll for a Clothing mishap when you craft a piece of enchanted clothing whether or not you roll an enchanting mishap. If you do have such expertise, when you would mishap, roll a d6 on each table and choose one.

Can be mended to restore MD, but requires a roll on the Clothing Mishaps table whenever you try unless you have the appropriate skills.

Clothing Mishaps
1. Looks ugly as sin. All the other wizards are going to laugh at you.
2. Won't fit properly no matter how hard anyone tries.
3. Fragile. Tears easily; requires lots of mending. If armor, reduce AC bonus by 1.
4. Eye-catching. Too eye-catching. Everyone can tell it's magic, and worse - valuable.
5. Always either too warm or too cold.
6. Restrictive. Whether too tight or too bulky, prevents normal range of movement.



Materials

Conductivity (Con) determines the maximum sum an item can cast. No material (save for occultum) can channel a sum higher than 6. If you want to cast a big flashy spell, do it yourself.

A material's Conductivity is not related to its physical hardness. Skin and bone may be magically conductive, but are poor cutting tools. Copper may be as conductive as protective bronze, but there's a reason bronze is the metal that won the ancient world.

Items are rarely made of a single material. A steel axe may have a haft of bone which is far more magically conductive than the head. Use your judgment as to what enchanting various parts of an item may do.

  1. Iron. 2 Con. +2 Con when being used for violence.
  2. Steel. 1 Con. Sturdy, but forging beat the magic out of it.
  3. Bronze. 1 Con. +2 Con when used for protective items.
  4. Tin. 2 Con. Cheap.
  5. Copper. 3 Con. Cheap.
  6. Silver. 3 Con. Ignores magical resistances.
  7. Gold. 5 Con. Expensive, shiny, and soft. Large items bend under their own weight. Not great for weapons, but magically powerful enough to incinerate any who mock your flaccid golden staff.
  8. Crystal. 3 Con. There's lots of charlatans out there peddling crystals that are naturally magical, but you know how to exploit their true potency. Fun fact: ice is a crystal.
  9. Gemstones. 4 Con if you can make a whole item out of a single gem. Impractical for anything besides an orb. Inlaid gemstones, on the other hand, provide +1 Con (though this doesn't stack with more gems).
  10. Paper. 1 Con by default, but remember: knowledge is power, The more pages you can fill with relevant information, the more magical it becomes. 100 pages provides 2 Con, 1000 is 3 Con, 10,000 is 4 Con, etc. Magical libraries are unimaginably powerful - because knowledge is power, power is energy, energy is mass, and mass warps the fabric of space-time, a large enough library is practically a black hole that knows how to read (Pratchett, T.)
  11. Fabric. 2 Con if common fabric, like cotton, linen, or wool. Silk has 3 Con.
  12. Skin. 2 Con (animal), 3 Con (human), 4 Con (powerful magical creature, like a manticore, a hydra, or a wizard).
  13. Glass. 3 Con, but fragile. +3 Con for divination. Refracts light and magic like a prism. An occult doorway - whatever you look at may look back.
  14. Rock. 1 Con. Stones have their own slow minds and slow plans, and are entirely uninterested in being party to yours. Can be enchanted on an architectural scale, but don't bother with anything smaller than an archway.
  15. Wood. 2 Con. Cheap and easy to whittle. Annoys dryads, but dryads are weak to fireballs.
  16. Bone. 2 Con (animal), 4 Con (human), 6 Con (wizard). Wizards' bones in particular are perfectly tempered by occult energies. The challenge, of course, is getting your hands on some - without becoming it yourself. All bones, of course, are definitely haunted.
  17. Lead. 0 Con. Fundamentally antimagic in nature, blocks octarine radiation. Reduces magic effects, including combat magic and curses. Definitely toxic.
  18. Heavy metals. 4 Con. Chromium, bismuth, uranium. Probably toxic.
  19. Souls. Can't make an item directly out of a soul, but if you can put one in the item, +1 Con if it's relevant to the item's purpose. -1 Con if it really doesn't like being there. It'll let you know what it thinks.
  20. Occultum. ∞ Con. There has never been enough Occultum in the world to create a staff, but if there was, its wielder would stand amongst the gods. An Occultum staff always casts at maximum power.

X. Adamantium. 0 Con. Rendered magically inert by the same processes that make it indestructible.

Table of Conductivities
1. Steel, bronze, paper, rock.
2. Iron, tin, fabric, wood, skin (animal), bone (animal), paper (100+ pages).
3. Copper, silver, crystal, glass, skin (human), bronze (when used for protection)
4. Gemstones, heavy metals, skin (magical creature), bone (human), iron (when used for violence).
5. Gold.
6. Bone (wizard).
∞. Occultum.
0. Lead, adamantium.
+1. Trapped soul, inlaid gemstone.

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