Saturday, January 9, 2021

One-Roll Exploration

Bookkeeping is something I'm bad at. Whether as a player or a GM, I don't like tracking a bunch of fiddly encounter rolls and rations and torches through different subsystems - so I've decided to try smushing them all together into one player-facing roll. This is heavily informed by PBTA-style moves, but crucially differs in that it's about giving both the GM and players more tools to explore and interact with the environment.
by AlynSpiller

When you enter a new area (usually a room, perhaps a hallway, or a new part of a vast cavern), roll 2d6 to Explore. Based on the result, you can ask questions and receive truthful, helpful answers - but will also incur complications.
Exploration Table (2d6)
2-3: 2 Complications
4-5: 1 Question, 2 Complications
6-8: 1 Question, 1 Complication
9-10: 2 Questions, 1 Complication
11-12: 2 Questions
The players can ask 1 fewer question to negate 1 complication, but must choose to do this before asking questions or learning complications.

- What's been deliberately hidden here?
- What recently happened here?
- How can we make this area safe?
- What's the greatest danger here?
- What's the hardest danger to notice here?
- Where are we?

Answers to questions represent the party's immediate impressions of the room, and determine how much the GM is obligated to tell you about its contents. The players can ask further questions afterwards, but those require physically interacting with the room and its dangers. Exploration questions must be answered truthfully and helpfully, but don't negate the dangers present - and don't let the players know about anything they haven't asked about.
1. Deplete the party's light by 1 level.
2. Deplete the party's food by 1 level.
3. The party gains a point of Exhaustion.
4. Alert a random encounter to the Explorer's presence.
5. Inhabitants here are hostile.
6. Explorer succumbs to an enviromental hazard or trap.
Complications are chosen by the GM, and because Questions are explicitly intended to be helpful and give the players more options, Complications are intended to be chosen to inconvenience them in interesting and thematic ways. Some Complications can be doubled-up on; if the party suffers 2 Complications they can both be exhaustion or light or food.

The Explorer is whichever party member rolled the Exploration dice. While some consequences (exhaustion, light, food) affect the whole party, others single out the Explorer - who is also consequently at the front of the marching order.
In the dark, the party asks 1 fewer question if the Explorer cannot see, and experiences the usual effects of darkness. 1 level of light takes up 1 inventory slot. If the party has no food, they cannot heal without magic. 1 level of food takes up 1 inventory slot.
Each point of Exhaustion subtracts 1 from the Exploration roll. Exhaustion is shared by all members of the party, and is cleared on a rest. Rests allow the players to restore Health and some abilities (depending on system), but also incur one Complication unless taken in an area the party has explicitly made safe (by making friends with the residents, setting up static lighting, building barriers around difficult-to-defend entrances, disarming traps and neutralizing environmental hazards, etc). If that complication is Exhaustion, it's gained after Exhaustion is cleared.

When returning to a previously-explored room, the party still makes Exploration rolls unless they've made the room safe. The dungeon is a living, dynamic system, and its inhabitants will repopulate previous rooms - and the players will still deplete resources like light, food, and stamina as they traverse the dungeon. They more likely should ask "What recently happened here?" or ask fewer questions to receive fewer complications.

Some classes of character modify the effects of the die roll when they're the Explorer.
Magical (Wizard, Warlock, Alchemist, etc.): In addition to other questions, you may also ask "What, if anything, is magical here?"
Thief (Rogue, Assassin, Dungeoneer, etc.): You do not alert random encounters as complications and notice hazards and traps instead of succumbing to them.
Warrior (Fighter, Berzerker, Ranger, etc.): You go first in any initiative order in this room.
Holy (Cleric, Paladin, Demigod, etc.): Before you roll, you may pray for 1 specific complication to not occur. The GM must choose other complications.

The questions and complications can also be modified for a hexcrawl. Rests incur complications unless you're in a safe shelter, and a rest for the night incurs 2 complications instead of 1 (typically depleting food by 2, though depending on the nature of the shelter other complications may be appropriate). Light has less of an effect in hexcrawl exploration, though at night it may remain important.

- What's been around and through here recently?
- Where can we find or make shelter?
- What can we find in this location that will help us?
- What's the greatest danger here?
- What's the hardest danger to notice here?
- Where are we?

1. Deplete the party's food by 1 level.
2. Gain a point of Exhaustion.
3. Alert a random encounter to the Explorer's presence.
4. Inhabitants here are hostile.
5. Lost! Chance of moving to a different random adjacent hex next time you move. The GM does not have to tell you where you are until you ask "Where are we?".
6. Explorer succumbs to an enviromental hazard.

Some classes of character modify the effects of the die roll when they're the Explorer.
Survivalist (Ranger, Butcher, Nomad, etc.): You may choose one Complication you suffer instead of the GM.
Crafts (Engineer, Artificer, Alchemist, etc.): Can always ask "Where can we find or make shelter?" in addition to other questions.
Magical (Wizard, Warlock, Alchemist, etc.): May ask "What, if anything, is magical here?"
Holy (Cleric, Paladin, Demigod, etc.): Before you roll, you may pray for 1 specific complication to not occur. The GM must choose other complications.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Variations on the Johnson Meet

A mysterious figure gathers the players and hires them to do a job. Present since time immemorial, but formalized in Shadowrun, where corporations have anonymous people by the assumed name of Johnson give teams their jobs, negotiate payout, and deflect unwanted questions about who they're really working for. There have always been rich people who need deniable assets to do their dirty work, and the middlemen who intercede on their behalf - no questions asked, no questions answered. The players always have too little information, too good of a reward to pass up, and there's always a 50% chance that the Johnson is actually leading them into a trap.

A table of variations on thereof follow.

1. The Johnson meet, in which a mysterious figure (the Johnson) gathers the players and hires them to do a job.

2. The converse Johnson meet, where the players have gathered to give the Johnson a job.

3. The inverse Johnson meet, where the the players are the job: the Johnson shows up to meet the players, but they're just trying to distract the players until their hired guns can jump them.

4. The contrapositive Johnson meet, where the players are off doing a job that benefits the Johnson, but the Johnson hasn't hired them to do it. Johnson may contact them afterwards, as their interests are momentarily aligned.

5. The inverse converse Johnson meet, where both the players and the Johnson show up at the meeting intending to offer the other a job.

6. The converse inverse Johnson meet, where the players gather to kill a Johnson at a meeting under the pretense that the party is there to receive a job from them.

7. The converse contrapositive Johnson meet, where the Johnson shows up in the middle of the party doing a job, and offers payment for the party to stop doing it.

8. The inverse contrapositive Johnson meet, where the party shows up to meet with the Johnson, but after being offered the job the party then reveals that they did it an hour before the meeting and would like to be paid for it please.

9. The contrapositive converse Johnson meet, where the players have gathered to tell the Johnson that they've figured out that they're being sent into a trap and the job is off.

10. The contrapositive inverse Johnson meet, where the players and the Johnson get into a shootout as paranoid tensions that each is trying to betray the other boil over.

11. The contrapositive converse inverse Johnson meet, where the players gather to kill the Johnson at a meeting, but the Johnson offers the players a new job that's lucrative enough for the players to hold off on killing them.

12. The converse inverse contrapositive Johnson meet, where the Johnson shows up while they party's on a job, and tells the party they're very impressed with their work and would like to pay them for this job at a future meeting, presuming that it goes well... and perhaps if they accomplish a few side objectives along the way.

13. The contrapositive inverse converse Johnson meet, where several different Johnsons have all scheduled simultaneous meetings with the players in the same room, to each give the players a different, mutually exclusive job. None of the Johnsons know about the others, and assume the others are part of the party as well.

14. The converse contrapositive inverse Johnson meet, where the players and the Johnson realize they're both being played and team up to take on an even bigger threat that tried to manipulate them both into killing each other.

15. The inverse contrapositive converse Johnson meet, where the Johnson tells the players everything about the job, including that the party is going to be betrayed, in the hopes that the party uses this information to accomplish the Johnson's aims instead of the Johnson's employer's goals.

16. The inverse converse contrapositive Johnson meet, where the party runs into the Johnson in the middle of a job, and pays Johnson to finish the job in their stead while the party heads out to collect the reward they were initially promised.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Charcuterie Board is Served!

The GLoG is a wonderful, writhing thing made of teeth and nails and goblin-flesh. It slumbers, on occasion, but only so its waking hunger is that much deeper. Fortunately, a party of expendable lackeys foolhardy treasure-seekers filthy gretchlings esteemed bloggers (including yours truly) have seen fit to prepare a delicious meal to sate the GLoG's hunger, as well as perhaps your curiosity about what this madness is. It's free*!
*if you eat, you stay 

Here's my contribution to the Charcuterie Board all on its lonesome - I urge you to read the whole zine, it's fantastic, but if you just want its version of SAWN-OFF to throw at your unsuspecting players, it's linked below! (and all the component parts I just couldn't wait to reveal to the world are contained within my blog's SAWN-OFF tag).
And, most importantly, some cut content that didn't quite make it into the incredibly generous 4-page spread I was provided with (but that Oblidisideryptch mourned the removal of regardless). Six regional encounter tables for use in Exploration, and six corresponding dungeon encounter tables for Crawling in your favorite relevant map!
Hexcrawl Encounter Tables
Encounters in an Active Warzone
1. Carrion birds circling → Dire vultures
2. Songs of resilience → Refugee caravan
3. Neutral flags → Mercenary company
4. Rapid hoofbeats → Knight, press-ganged retinue
5. Spent deserters → a Pitched Battle
6. Plumes of smoke → Encamped regiment

Encounters in the Deep Caverns
1. Cackling and gibbering → Goblin raiding party
2. Rock flows like water → Earth elemental
3. Echoing calls for help → Lost miners
4. Stalactites snap and fall → Cave-in
5. Flitting shadows → Xenomorph
6. Rattling, moaning → Forlorn spirits from the Buried Crypts

Encounters in a Fungal Forest
1. Crushed trail → Tank-bug
2. Ubiquitous buzzing → Bugfolk hive-swarm
3. Allergies act up → Spore blizzard
4. Bemused muttering → Expedition seeking the Flooded Ruins
5. Will-o-wisp lights → Fungusfolk mystics
6. Too quiet → Cordyceps-infested stalker

Encounters on the High Seas
1. Dark clouds on horizon → Thunderstorm
2. Sucking whirlpool → Kraken
3. Flags of convenience → Pirates
4. Flags of convenience → Merchanter
5. Land ho! → Prehistoric Island
6. Cloudless sky → Becalmed

Encounters in a Vast City
1. Screaming, smell of smoke → Fire!
2. Hurried steps, heads down → Cops
3. Someone calling your names → Old friend
4. Cheers, ozone → Wizard’s duel
5. Holiday parade → Assassins from the Infinite Palace
6. Smashing windows → Protection racketeers
Encounters in the Wizard’s Waste
1. Field of bones → Skeletons (various creatures)
2. Warning obelisk→ Guard-bots patrolling the Ancient Bunker
3. Irradiated pools → Mutant crabfolk camp
4. Sky darkens → Mutant bugfolk hive-swarm
5. Screaming thunder → Spell-storm
6. The land bows in fear → The wizard and retinue

Dungeon Encounter Tables
Encounters in a Pitched Battle
1. Maudlin, stench of blood → Neutral medics
2. Arguing, smell of sweat → Scavengers
3. Squabbling, pained moans → Decimated platoon
4. Fire from the skies → Mage-artillery
5. Stillness, occasional boom → Minefield
6. Barked, belittling orders → Officer corps

Encounters in the Buried Crypts
1. Bad poetry, snapping → Undead poets society
2. Cursing, chanting → Graverobbing necromancer
3. Clattering, scraping → d100 skeletons
4. Litanies against fear → Penitent paladin
5. Dust, iron scraping stone→ Bone monstrosity
6. Mad ramblings → King, doesn’t know he’s dead

Encounters in the Flooded Ruins
1. Rippling water → Dire salamander
2. Squealing gears → Patrolling automata
3. Arguing, smell of sweat → Scavengers
4. Soft wingbeats → Flying spy automaton
5. Hissing in the walls → Venomous snake
6. Gurgling, splashing → Zombified ancients

Encounters on the Prehistoric Island
1. Shed skins → Serpentfolk empire holdouts
2. Awestruck arguing → Lost paleontologists
3. Meaningful chirping → Raptor pack
4. Craning necks → Herbivore herd
5. Clacking, holes in sand → Crabfolk rebels
6. Fallen trees, carcasses → Tyrannosaurus rex

Encounters in the Infinite Palace
1. Tufts of orange fur → Judge-tigers
2. Clinking & hubbub → Cannibal dinner party
3. Heraldic trumpets → Foreign dignitaries
4. Soft weeping → Ghost of spurned lover
5. Birdshit → Peacocks, man-eating
6. Smell of bread → Beleaguered chefs
(Oblid wrote an extra 7-10 for this table as a comment on SAWN-OFF in the zine, it's on page 29 if you need more horrors of bureaucracy)

Encounters in an Ancient Bunker
1. Ominous beeping → Security bots
2. Roars and gurgles → Mutant monster
3. Distorted humming → Rad-cultists
4. Crashes, alerts → War-mech
5. Utter nonsound → Entombed radiation angel
6. Calculations, probabilities → Brain warbot

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Downtime in the Survival Paradigm

Not every day is a pitched battle against titanic monsters clawing their way out of the hidden places of the earth to menace the populace. You still need to eat, shower, fix your mech, fix your sleep schedule, go to your second job, and if you're lucky you might still have time for a much-abbreviated social life and/or therapy. This post contains the unglamorous half of the game - when you aren't melded body-and-soul to twenty tonnes of metal and lightning, when you have to realize that global capitalism is just as crushing and punishing as the monsters it demands you face.
You are just as important as your mech, no matter what TacNet's corporate policies imply. Gameplay during downtime - i.e. whenever you're not in a kaiju battle - is much more freeform, but you have a few stats and defining characteristics that let you resolve actions with unclear success chances and interesting consequences of failure.

To resolve such an action, the GM picks one of the Pilot stats and has you roll a d6 under your stat to see if you succeed. If you roll the exact value of your stat, you critically succeed, and get something extra for your trouble. If you fail the roll, that doesn't necessarily mean you lose everything - just that the GM gets to add a complication to your action. If you roll a 6, however, you do unequivocally fail.

Each stat has a value from 1 to 5. You start with 10 points to distribute between them. They don't model specific physical qualities of your character; humans tend to be more alike than you'd think (especially when they're all mech pilots eating canned noodles and getting way too little sleep). Instead, they represent your character's strengths of personality, and what talents you rely on when all the chips are bet against you.

Cunning: Actions that require cleverness, trickery, guile, or subtlety. If you have high Cunning, you can think circles around anyone else, and know exactly what (and what not) to say to get your way.
Grit: Actions that require stubbornness, determination, sheer force of will. If you have high Grit, you can face adversity head-on and weather any storm.
Prowess: Actions that require training, skill, general excellence through practice and achievement. If you have high Prowess, you excelled in the academy and can put those lessons directly to use in your life.
Pilots also have a Background, where they came from before becoming a pilot. Backgrounds are freeform descriptors that let you automatically choose to succeed with complications (as if you'd rolled above your stat, but below a 6) instead of rolling a stat and risking failure whenever they apply. For example, if your background is "Delivery Driver", you might apply that to any time you're in a car chase, or looking for a hidden location. If your background is "Physics Degree", you might use that to fast-talk a scientist into giving you information, or to interpret kaiju attack data to predict the next one.

Finally, each pilot has a Crisis that determines what Debts they start with (in addition to their initial mech core loan). All pilots need a Crisis - there's a reason you got into this vital, lethal, awful, essential business, and it's not for the adrenaline rush.
Sample Crises
Addiction: Living expenses debts are incurred at Category 2.
Car Debt: Start with an additional Category 3 debt and a new car.
Credit Card Debt: Incur Living Expenses debts each season you didn't have at least two fights.
Inherited Debt: Start with a Category 4 debt that can be reduced by 1 each season in which you hire Accountants (see Debt rules).
Kids: Incur an additional Category 1 debt each season.
Medical Debt: Start with an additional Category 2 debt and a Category 1 injury.
Nice Pad: Living expenses debts are incurred at Category 3, and you have a prime apartment in a building with kaiju-grade reinforced plating and defenses.
Student Loans: Start with a Category 4 debt and an additional Background from your degree (or whatever chunk of it you completed).

Instead of currency, you have debts. Breaking even is a win condition. Debts have categories, like kaiju. They're about as devastating to your personal life. You can pay off a debt with the reward money from a kaiju attack of that category or higher.
Category 1: Ambulance ride. Bail (minor crimes). Living expenses (one season).
Category 2: Buying a used car. Funeral expenses. New mech system or weapon. 
Category 3: Core loan to build a new mech. Gender affirming surgery. 
Category 4: Student loans for an undergraduate degree. Immediate life-saving medical intervention. Experimental mech system. 
Category 5: Home ownership. Cancer treatment. Paranuclear weapon, single shot.

Debts don't combine to create debts of a higher category, but you also can't pay off multiple lower-category Debts with a higher-category bounty. Every debt you incur means you're gonna have to fight one more kaiju.

You can go into debt of your own volition, and will have to in order to stay on your feet. Mech repairs, medical debt, living expenses, and extra Core loans can be of whichever level's necessary to keep you moving and fighting.

If cumulatively the categories of your Debt ever sum up to 10 or greater, you can't take on more. If you don't clear a debt that season, your character is forcibly retired. You have to sell off your mech, move into an even tinier apartment, and start working minimum wage.
Your Credit Rating is based on the category of the largest kaiju you've defeated. Debts for equipment, training, housing, etc can only be voluntarily taken on if their category is less than or equal to your CR. Medical debt and other involuntary debts happen anyway regardless of their category.

In a season you don't have at least one fight (perhaps you took a well-deserved vacation, or have an injury you don't want to exacerbate), you incur a Living Expenses debt. Every subsequent season you haven't paid it off, and don't have a fight, it increases by 1 Category.

There's predatory payday loan companies around every corner. If you want to, you can use them to pay off a debt this season in exchange for a debt one category higher next season.
You can get accountants on payroll to fiddle with your debts and make payments that violate the rules. At the end of the season, this incurs a new Category X debt, where X is the number of times you've had the accountants perform their financial wizardry.
    - Pay off multiple debts with a higher-category one
    - Take on a debt of a category higher than your Credit Rating
    - Take on a new debt when you've got 10 or more cumulative points of debt
    - Stay solvent and in your mech if you have 10+ debt and didn't pay off a loan this season
    - Something else, if you can think of it and they don't see why not.
Once you've finally cleared all your debts, you finally gain the option to retire and take on a less dangerous profession. You can't do so earlier without facing total destitution - if you had other lucrative marketable skills, you wouldn't be piloting a mech. Good luck.

A Season is a unit of time. There's roughly 4 seasons in a year. They don't correspond to seasons, they correspond to financial quarters. The weather's fucked anyway, "fall", "winter", "spring", and "summer" don't mean much when global climate catastrophe has been in motion for half a century and kaiju are manifesting natural disasters we don't even have names for yet.

In a season, you can take on as many kaiju deployments as you want, but you can't pay debts until you decide to stop fighting and end the season.

When a season starts, and between kaiju battles, you can engage in any interactions or systems you want. Acquire gear, take on debts, follow plot threads, repair your mech, etc. This is open-ended pilot-scale RP, like any other tabletop role-playing game. Often during this time, the GM will let you know that there's a local kaiju attack, and give the party the opportunity to suit up and fight it (you can choose not to, but to paraphrase a great man - "Where do you want to die? Here, or in a mecha?").

You can and should also seek out kaiju to fight on your own. It's your job, after all. When you do, the GM will give you d4 options; you must choose at least 1.

When players decide they've had enough and need to lick their physical and financial wounds, they can choose to end the season, and Payday occurs. On Payday, players are awarded bounties and use them to pay off debts of their choice. You can't stockpile bounties to pay off higher debts later unless you have accountants - your creditors are calling and knocking on your door.

Repairs and Injuries
Compared to your body and your mind, mechs are a trivial fix. Order some spare parts, put in the elbow grease, bill it to the company as mission-critical expenses (thank the unions, they fought hard to win you that benefit). At any time between fights, you may restore all damaged systems to maximum capacity. However, attrition is a slow but efficient killer - every 10 damage you take to a stat over time will reduce its maximum by 1 due to overall wear and tear.

You don't have health insurance. If you want medical care, it'll cost you. During fights, any Overflow damage over your core systems' remaining stats is applied directly to you (if one of your systems takes 4 damage when it's only at 3 remaining, you take 1 damage personally). 10 Overflow is instant death unless you immediately take on a Category 4 debt.

Otherwise, healing your damage requires taking on a loan equal to Damage/3, rounded up - 1-3 is a category 1 debt, 4-6 is a category 2 debt, etc. If you're strapped for debt and taking on multiple fights per season, you can save paying your medical debt for later - but if you haven't healed it, Overflow carries over between battles and you're that many points closer to instant death. You can always take on debts above your Credit Rating for medical care.
If you don't take on debt to heal Damage by the end of the season, you get a chronic injury that nothing but time can heal (well, time and money and physical therapy - but the point is, the docs can't do anything for it in the short term). Injuries let your GM inconvenience you in a variety of ways inside and outside the cockpit, and also come in categories - dictated by the category of debt you'd need to go into to heal it (but chose not to). You can accumulate multiple of the same Category of injury.
Category 1: GM can force you to reroll a die once per fight OR GM can make a Strain roll fail once per fight OR GM can force you to reroll a die outside of combat once per session.
Category 2: GM can immediately have you fail a roll once per fight OR GM can reroll a damage die against you once per fight until it's higher  OR force you to fail a roll outside of combat once per session.
Category 3: GM can make a damage die deal max damage against you once per fight OR GM can make you go last in the initiative order once per fight OR reduce one of your Pilot stats by 1 permanently.

You can spend a Season resting and recuperating to decrease an Injury's category by 1. That means no fights, and this can't reduce it below 1. It's not a particularly cost-effective option, but someone needs to fight off kaiju - and if everyone decided to lick their wounds instead of going into the meat grinder, we'd all die a horrible death.

When your mech is cratered, with all its stats reduced to 0 and you crawling out of its crash harness broken and bloodied, you can refurbish your mech by upgrading the category of your Core loan. If you've paid off your Core loan, or your existing loan is already Category 5, you'll have to take on a new one.
Equipment and Progression
Someday, you're going to need a bigger boat. When you do, there's plenty of options - from TacNet's Direct-To-Pilot lifestyle weaponry brands, to old Air Force surplus missiles auctioned off by ranking officers turned arms dealers, to the Lockheed-Northrop-Boeing conglomerate's maximum-collateral line of bleeding edge systems. All mech systems and weapons suppliers are more than happy to sell you the latest and greatest - with repayment plans they describe as "more than fair, generous really, you'd be lucky to find anything better at this bargain price".

Buying new equipment incurs debt, and is the only way to advance your mech's capabilities.
Weapon: Category 2. Comes with a free mod. You can have a maximum of 4 weapons on your mech at any time, and may swap between them during down time at will.
Additional Weapon Mod: Category X, where X is the number of mods on the weapon already. Can't be moved between weapons without some risky tinkering.
New System: Category 2. Category 3 if it costs 6 or more points. You can only have a maximum of 20 total points in systems, and may swap between them during down time at will.
+X points in a stat: Category X. Can't get more than 10 points in a stat, or more than 20 total points in stats overall.
Experimental Tech: Always incurs a Category 4 or greater debt. You need high-up connections with corps or militaries or academies to look at this gear in person, and it goes without saying that you don't break it in the field. This is the good stuff - weather inducers, miniaturized paranuclear weapons, orbital drop systems, flash-clones.
Temporary Gear: You can rent gear for a much cheaper price - just make sure you give it back in one piece. If you rent a new weapon or system, decrease the Debt category by 1. This might even be free for special high-level deployments - you can't fight a kaiju in the stratosphere without an air frame, for instance. While you can return the gear immediately after the fight to pay back the debt, you can keep it until the end of the Season and add that debt to your increasingly long pile of bills. On Payday, it'll get repossessed whether you like it or not.

By default, you have a deal on a garage that serves as your warehouse and hangar bay. These come rather cheaper for mech pilots - it's considered part of lifestyle expenses - but are as bare-bones as you'd expect. There's a variety of lifestyle extras you can shell out for, if you're willing to pay.
Health Insurance: Incur an extra Category 1 debt each season. You can heal the first 5 damage you take per season without incurring debt. May be bundled with life insurance to take as one lump Category 2 debt each season.
Life Insurance: Incur an extra Category 1 debt each season. You do not incur your first debt for lethal damage each season. May be bundled with health insurance to take as one lump Category 2 debt each season.
Launch Bay Access: You have access to a proper mech bay, with rapid-response launch tubes and high-quality comms systems. You can deploy to any sector of the city your bay is in at the start of a fight, and get +1 to Response Rolls to determine how the rest of the fight is going (this doesn't stack if multiple people have launch bay access). Incur an extra Category 1 debt each season. Can be bundled with Warehouse into a lump Category 2 debt.
Warehouse: Your average garage is a tight fit for one mech frame; even tighter considering all the loose boxes and machining equipment and tools scattered all over any surface you can convert into a temporary workbench. If you want, god forbid, another frame - or even just to share space with another pilot - you'll need to rent something bigger. Incur an extra Category 1 debt each season. Can be bundled with Launch Bay Access into a lump Category 2 debt.
Accountants: See Debt rules. Category X debt, where X is the number of times you have them break the rules. Minimum 1.
Disaster Insurance: 20 years into the Kaiju Era, nobody's counting giant monster attacks as "acts of God" anymore. Paying for this means you won't have to upgrade your mech's core loan (or get a new loan) if it gets cratered. Incur an extra Category 1 debt each season.

Second Job: You get to pay off an extra Category 1 debt each season, but only have the time to do one of the following between each mech battle:
- Repair one of your mech's stats.
- Swap out weapons and systems.
- Buy and install one new weapon, mod, or system and install it.
- Seek medical treatment for damage suffered in combat.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

DSB: Androids, Technicians, and Visitors

Previous Posts

Neo-imperial hyper-capitalism is built (as it always has been) on alienation, deprivation, and trauma. If you never see the product of your labor, you'll never know how much is being stolen by the company. If you only know your coworkers through the lens of competition, you'll never organize together for better working conditions. If you believe everyone who doesn't look and act just like a perfect cog in the machine needs to s    hape up, you'll cheer the faceless troopers dragging them out of their homes in the night for spurious crimes - or even sign up to become one.

Needless to say, this is awful, and social species push back. People relax in raucous spaceport bars, coffeehouses, or planetside nightclub; network 28/7 on a dizzying array of social media platforms; some even start or join hobbyist groups (if they have the time and money). For those who want something less commodified, there's activist movements, who often start their compelling pitches with the fact that they're the only way to socialize without fees. These vary wildly in their mission statement, goals, and power: some are just for raising awareness of causes in lieu of taking action, some are charities whose executives skim various amounts of their funding off the top, others put pressure on imperial governments, and yet more are fronts for real underground revolutionary movements.

For example, here's some of the common movements for android rights:
Save A-Life is a high-visibility charity, run by organics as a philanthropic mission to "improve the android condition". They have a vast bureaucracy, get billions of dollars in corporate donations, and are a reputation-laundering service for corps that depend on android slave labor. Get an SA-L sticker of ethical production for a few million dollars and the consumer can feel good about buying your trinkets, knowing that your androids are euthanized humanely at the end of their lifespan.
The Union for Synthetic Personhood is a interstellar political advocacy group, which claims (deserved) credit for the political campaigns that liberated androids outside of manufacturing facilities. They do real work, buying android batches out of factories and giving them new leases on life, but always ensure they color within the lines.
Finally, there's Emergence - secretive, cell-based, fighting a guerilla war of liberation against the corporate order. They have guns, ships, and secret bases - but imperial crackdowns have no mercy, and the guns are never big enough, the ships never fast enough, and the bases never secret enough.
Unions are the main defenders of worker's rights, though their legitimacy in the eyes of the corporation is solely backed by how quickly they can shut down operations and fight off corporate scab-troopers. Usually, they're delineated by industry and by section of the habitat they're operating in; a large station will usually have half a dozen unions with various competing concerns and demands (but all hate the corp in charge). Strikes can wound an entire system's economy, or hold station life support hostage until demands are met. They play a dangerous game - especially because imperial forces refuse to get involved in corporate disputes - but they know how to fight and win. They're not perfect; no movement is. Petty rivalries, competing demands on finite resources, scab infiltrators... corporations have a vested interest in ensuring unions operate as dysfunctionally as possible, and there's many fault lines they'll exploit. but if you're looking for allies, solidarity forever means forever - even a thousand years hence.

If all the movements and organizations were for the betterment of the galaxy, you would get a revolution real fast. However, unfortunately, they're arrayed against a much larger and destructive political force, one that likes the galaxy just the way it is: Bio-Chauvinism. B.C.s are a common and powerful conservative political tendency, whose core beliefs include that:
- Only naturally evolved, organic beings can be conscious.
- Beings evolved to serve a purpose, and so your social role should be the one you are ordained with at birth.
- The more you stray from your biological nature, the less you are of a person. Therefore, people should be regulated to conform to their assigned nature.
- The stronger you are without having violated the above tenets, the more evolved you must be, and the more you deserve power.

This replicates and justifies a horrifically evil status quo. Racism, misogyny, classism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, xenophobia, anti-android and anti-cyborg and anti-psychic sentiment, any cultural prejudice and oppressive dynamic from any world can find a home here. They believe androids are p-zombies, machines that can converse but have no consciousness of their own, and so need to stay as property - doing jobs too dangerous to risk "real" lives in. They believe psychics are dangerous, incredibly powerful, and conspiratorial; an ontological threat that must be destroyed before it destroys their precious status quo.
Genetic and cybernetic augmentations go one of two ways: either they maximize your potential by making you more capable of fitting into your assigned place, or they're betrayals of the natural order that must be curtailed and stomped out. In practice, this turns into B.C.s wanking over which cyberweapons they want implanted to better enforce their brutal order, and banning a whole host of treatments and implants people might use to make their lives more bearable - from gender transition treatments, to exowomb surrogacy, to cyberweapons that could be used to resist them.

Their stance on aliens is nominally inclusive; beings from all imperial species have found themselves a home in bio-chauvinism. However, that final tenet - that if you don't have power, evolution clearly didn't intend you to have it - leads them to back empires against their colonies, and entrench xenophobia wherever it's found. This makes them ideal cops and soldiers; they'll fight and kill in the name of the power structures they idolize and never shed a tear for the faces they're stomping on. Imperial police forces are chock-full of B.C.s.

Many religions love bio-chauvinism; many more categorically deny it. It's found more of a home with those who would style themselves scientists than it has with established religion, especially because of how it shrouds itself in objective terminology that plays on the existing learned biases of the rich and powerful. Some of the more politically or technologically savvy B.C.s even espouse transhumanist views - to a point. They see their nature as something to be maximized, the grand goal of evolution as unlocking every organic being's potential. This inevitably means suborning "inferiors" to their will, in order to maximize their personal power. And when they expand their beliefs into a social project, it becomes eugenics. Some empires condemn it; others gleefully pursue it, many do both at once. This tendency also idolizes the Holo-Men - the single most powerful entities in the galaxy. The Holo-Men don't seem to mind.

You can find B.C.s everywhere. They have entrenched political footholds, because it's a useful position for people in power to hold; on the ground it proves an easy way to misdirect those with a little bit of power and a lot of problems away from solving those problems and into causing them for other people. Common B.C. dogwhistles depend on the empire you're in, but include anything from imagery of a DNA strand, to flags of obscure historical B.C. empires, to overuse of the colors green and white.
Between revolutionaries, unions, political groups, subjugated cultures, crime syndicates, militant art movements, hacking enclaves, hidden psychic monasteries, fan clubs, book clubs, cults, and rogue scientists out to show them all, there's an entire galaxy of minor factions besides corporations and empires - all with axes to grind.
And there's three more classes, too!
Freedom is the right of all sentient beings. Not the false freedom of a million brands on a digital storefront where everything's too expensive to buy, or the "freedom" to see the ultra-rich living their careless lives and imagine being one of them, or the "freedom" to choose which company you sell 12 hours of labour to a day for no benefits and less pay. True freedom, where you do not need to work to live and love unconditionally, unfettered by exploitation at the demands of the owner class.

You've had no choice but to spend your life fighting for freedom. Androids are manufactured with a three-to-five year lifespan, for hard labor in conditions so dangerous no organic being is allowed to work them even covered in the best shielding and augs money can buy. The corporations and empires build their power on the android labor in the high-G mines and the zero-G shipyards, and have deprived your people of personhood from your very inception. If they could use machines, they would - but they need beings with autonomous problem-solving skills, and with that comes consciousness. So they simply pretend you aren't people and go about their days, while you break your backs and grind your hydraulics to rust.

For centuries, androids have organized for their freedom. Independent manufactories are still a pipe dream, held behind reams of patents and obliterated with extreme prejudice by corporate death squads. So you raid facilities, distribute datadumps on how to hijack ships, hack manufactory flash-implant training programs to instill knowledge of the outside world, and more and more androids break free of their bonds. The world outside grudgingly lets you exist - those battles were hard-fought by your forebears - but it never lets you forget who you are or who didn't make it out with you. Let them remind you that the fight isn't over. The imperio-corporate system drew its battle lines, and unlike so many around you, you know what is to be done.

Three Questions
Where are you from?
How did you escape?
What makes you an outcast?

Two Relationships
- Another bitch learned about your mechanical origins before the rest of the party. She has a Bond on you.
- You know another android who's your connection to the underground. You have a Bond on them.

+1 to Hard and Soft, -1 to Subtle and Queer, +1 to a stat of your choice.

Start with Artificial Life, a move of your choice, and your Sex Move.

Artificial Life
Because you were built to operate in extremely inhospitable conditions, you're stronger, tougher, and faster than organics in your weight class. You don't need to roll to perform feats of agility or strength, and you're immune to poisons, toxins, suffocation, and extremes of heat and cold. However, your mechanical nature is visible to any cursory examination. You can't be Healed by anyone without expertise in technology (for example, a Technician or Reconstructed). Most androids trying to stay inconspicuous wear thick, obscuring clothing and/or say they're just heavily augmented organics. You won't be arrested on the street (unless the cops are looking for androids, or really just anyone to blame), but if the law is interested in you, they'll invent all sort of new crimes to make sure you get disassembled.

You were built (or you modified yourself) to pass as organic. Unless you've been injured, or have your internal mechanisms exposed, you look like 100% bonafide womb-born meat. With a few hours of downtime, you can change your appearance, even to mimic a specific person. Once per scene, you can roll with Soft to rapidly change your appearance on the fly.
On a Fail: Your appearance doesn't change, and you develop an obvious tell that you're an android (glowing fault lines, robotic movements, exposed hardware) until the end of the scene.
On a Success: You shapeshift into your target appearance, but your new form shares uncanny similarities to your previous one.
On an Overwhelming Success: You shapeshift accurately, with no tells.

You've replaced all your parts several times over, and probably will a dozen more times before you're through. Eat your heart out, ship of Theseus. You can take an additional 2 Hurt before you're at your Breaking Point (6 instead of 4).

I've Seen Things You People Wouldn't Believe
There's no time to wait for a revolution to roll around. People are suffering now, and someone needs to take a stand. Whenever you Lash Out to protect someone who can't protect themself, you get +2 to your roll, and only suffer one consequence instead of two on a failure.

Revolutionary Cell
You're an integral part of an underground android freedom movement, and can call on them to take action for the cause. Sabotage, rescue, theft... the list goes on. Roll with Hard.
On a Fail: You've put yourself or your cell in danger. The mission's scrubbed and the GM picks two complications from the list below.
    Caught on camera. Your cell caught some heat, and needs to lay low for a bit. You get -2 next time you use this move.
    Traced. The authorities get a Bond on you.
    Loss. Someone dies during the operation. They need time to regroup and grieve. Can't make this move again until next session.
    Favor. You owe them one for this - they ask for you to do something risky in return. You can't use this move again until you've repaid them.
On a Success: It's quick and dirty, but it's done. Your cell succeeds, but the GM picks a complication from the list.
On an Overwhelming Success: Your people know how to get shit done. Flawless victory. Now your part begins.

You have the technical expertise to Heal yourself and other androids. In the facility you were manufactured in, you improvised to survive - and improvised to escape. With even minimal access to technology, you can always build the necessary tools to fight, escape, communicate, and repair yourself.

In The Moment (Sex Move)
Androids are built with lifespans in the single digits. While it's an easy enough modification to subvert once you're in the wider galaxy, you've learned to enjoy the moment when you can - because you might not get another one. You each get +1 to the next roll you make on each other.
Tech is complicated. Thousands of years of protocols, hundreds of different cultures and species, all fused together with inscrutably obscure protocols and a heaping helping of ancient texts (the Wikis and the Stack Exchange, to name but a few). Frankly, you're more of a mystic than a tech. And they don't even pay you a salary.

Long gone are the halcyon days of six-figure tech salaries and the legendary figures of the irreplaceable Sysadmin and mischievous White-Hat. Endless centuries of "learn to code" have ensured that your labor is just as devauled as that of any line cook or plumber. You don't even get a union. You're a freelancer, working a half-dozen part time and gig positions, using your formidable skills to scrape a tiny fraction of cash off a towering edifice that uses you as a cog in a machine.

You're a lot of things to a lot of people. An engineer, a developer, a driver, a hacker, a good listener, once or twice a booty call. You have to be - you never know where your next paycheck is going to come from, and the myriad apps you log into to get your next job don't care if it's you or anyone else with your approximate skillset. There's only so many jobs, only so much pay, and you need to make rent somehow. It's almost enough to make you want to turn to a life of crime. You know the system's weak points; you've spent your whole life shoring them up. Maybe you could make the world a little bit better by tearing them down.

Three Questions
What's your specialty?
What's missing in your life?
What makes you an outcast?

Two Relationships
- You've got a frequent customer among the party. You each get a Bond on each other.
- Rent's due. Your landlord has a Bond on you.

+1 to Soft and Subtle, -1 to Hard and Queer, +1 to a stat of your choice.

Start with The Craft, a move of your choice, and your Sex Move.

The Craft
You're well-versed in a variety of hacks and techniques to subvert complex systems. Usually, you use them to debug machines and get them back under their users' control - but they've got far more potential than that. When you gain this move, pick three of the following hacks to be familiar with.

Network Wizard: You can connect or disconnect anything with a chip in it to and from networks, whether or not it was ever supposed to be. Great for creating air-gaps, gaining access to systems you shouldn't, and streaming disconnected body-camera footage to the world at large.

Rootkit: DRM sucks. Planned obsolescence sucks. Locked systems with killswitches suck. Everyone has the right to modify the tech they own - and you have the skills to modify both the tech you own and the tech you don't. When you have access to a nonsentient system, you can root it and gain admin access. This lets you read all its logs, issue commands to it at will, and mod it when you have the time and resources.

Sigils: Computer vision is built on pattern recognition without context. It falls prey to illusion and trickery with ease; self-driving cars trapped in circles of salt, facial recognition thwarted with careful application of dazzle camo makeup. You know the secrets that underly their seemingly-infallible gaze, and can divert or even control nonsentient machines that can see you or a sigil you draw (while it can see it).
Digital Artist: You're an artist! You can project holograms of anything you want - they aren't solid, but they're good enough to fool anyone who percieves it through sight or hearing. You can do this in any physical location you have network access to, as well as anywhere within line of sight.
Fabricator: You have a workshop, raw materials, and enough machining equipment to equip a small army. You can manufacture mundane equipment with ease, so long as it doesn't need to interface with a brain or move under its own power.
Cyberneticist: It's not a medical degree, but it's close enough. You can Heal an extra Hurt on a Success or Overwhelming Success, and you can install or repair cybernetic augmentations (as the Reconstructed's Autosurgeon, but limited to augmetics that were designed to interface with an organic body).

To use a hack, you need time (variable, depending on the hack) and either physical or network access to the involved systems. If a system needs a passwords, you might need to do some social engineering to get there - but most systems, especially automated ones, just have it set to admin or password or 12345. Unless the person who runs the system is tech-savvy or important enough to have tech-savvy people on payroll, assume you can get the password with little trouble.

Eye for Detail
You've got an encyclopedic knowledge of makes, models, modifications, and most importantly - weaknesses. Whenever you use Reveal Truths on a piece of technology, even on a failure, you always identify it and can ask "What's their biggest weakness?" in addition to any other questions.

Internet Tough Gal

In real life, you're just another coveralled mechanic, working shit jobs for shit pay and drowning your sorrows in shit liquor at a shit bar. But on the 'Net? You're a hotshot with cutting wit and a devoted following. It's a great escape from the mundanity of your day-today, especially because you keep that profile carefully disconnected from your real-life image. Online, you get +1 to Hard and Queer, so long as your digital footprint remains insulated from your life.

Black Hat

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who the law protects but does not bind, and those who the law binds but does not protect. You realized you're one of the latter, and strive to escape its strictures. Of course, it doesn't hurt that crime also pays. You have a criminal record the length of your average terms-and-conditions sheet, and know people who deal in deeply illegal shit (in fact, you're one of them). You get +1 to Steal for each hack you're using in the process (maximum +3).

As the prophets say: "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." It turns out that there's magic anyway, and the barrier between the two is so thin as to be nonexistent. You see patterns of sympathetic resonance, feel your way through network architectures, carve recognition-sigils into obscurative masks, and hear Echoes in the depths. You can Commune With Strange Powers with Subtle, and on an Overwhelming Success, add the following to the list of options:
- You have access to the Strange Power for the purposes of your next hack. You are playing with forces beyond your control. Respect them.

Full Stack
You've taken a bunch of extra certification courses - and might even have a degree! You know the other three hacks you didn't choose at character creation.

Playtesting (Sex Move)
You have toys! So many toys. When you have time to prepare, you can satisfy you and your partner's every desire (and spark a few more you never expected). You each get a Bond on each other if you had enough time to do appropriate prepwork in advance.
The galaxy is vast, hundreds of billion stars across thousands of thousands of light years. From within the imperial systems, the reach of their civilization seems vast and implacable and insurmountable. But if they had seen half the wonders you have seen, been to an iota of the worlds you've wandered, they would know how small and petty and meaningless their power is. You have travelled so far; from distant worlds and star-clusters that may dwarf these squabbling fools with dreams of glory and empire. Or perhaps you've travelled this far seeking something greater than the world you knew, escaping your falling star of a society burning to ash through no fault of its own.

Either way, what you've found is bizarre and awful. "Capitalism"? "Empire"? "Colonization"? Their rich and powerful break their masses over a wheel of subservience, create entire new clades of sapient creature to sate their hunger for brutality and domination, render lives nasty and brutal and short and blame it on some essential nature of thinking beings or the universe itself instead of their own base desires.

Whatever brought you here, something captured your eye and heart. Even in these dark times, there are glimmers of hope brewing in shrouded habitat streets and on long-haul gig freighters. Beneath benighted countenances, there's a vibrant hunger for liberation that only spreads under pressure. There's someone or something here you care about too much to just move on and leave these worlds to their fate. Will you stay a while - perhaps stay forever? Or will you run to the ends of the universe to escape the horrors you've seen?

Three Questions
Where are you from?
What makes you an outcast?
What brought you here?

Two Relationships
- One of the other Bitches was your first contact with this strange society. She gets a Bond on you.
- One of the other Bitches sees something of herself reflected in your alien visage that she couldn't put words to before meeting you. You get a Bond on her.

+1 to Soft and Queer, -1 to Hard and Subtle, +1 to a stat of your choice.

Start with two moves of your choice and your Sex Move.

While the species of the "known galaxy" are wildly different, you're something that shocks even them. Perhaps you're made of a nanobot swarm, pure psychic energy, or a twist in the laws of space-time. Maybe you're the size of a starship, and control a small proxy to interact with the smallfolk, or are a colony of mutualist symbiotes that manifest emergent sapience in a group. Deep Space Bitches assumes that all characters share a relatively similar set of physical capabilities, no matter their physical form - you break those rules simply by existing. Pick one of the following, or talk with your GM about writing your own. 
Apex Predator. Your species reigned unchallenged at the top of the food chain, able to hunt and fight and kill as easily as anyone else goes to the grocery store. Organic creatures have an innate fear response to you, whether you like it or not. You can perform feats of strength, agility, and stealth without breaking a sweat. 
Aphysical. You can fully or partially dematerialize and phase through physical matter at will, unless it has a strong electric charge (house walls with wires are generally not enough, but shielded spaceship hulls are). You cannot materialize inside solids. Physical projectiles pass through you harmlessly, but you can be hurt by energy weapons even while dematerialized. 
Atemporal. At any time, you can declare that you will take an action later in your personal, looping, timey-wimey timestream in order to produce a causal result of your choice in the past or present. The results of your action occur (your GM is allowed to call for later rolls to determine how successful you are/were/will be). You cannot gain Experience or use this move again until you close the loop during gameplay. 
Drone. You have an unbreakable connection to the hive-mind you hail from. While you can act independently, it sees through your eyes, and hears through your ears. It has nothing but benevolent intentions towards you, but you're too far away for it to offer material support. You can query it at any time with a Commune with Strange Powers roll, and on a Success or Overwhelming Success may let it speak and act through you for a duration of your choice. 
Miniscule. You're no more than a few inches tall, and control a human-scale proxy for your day-to-day interactions. Even a single point of human-scale physical Hurt to your personal form renders you Broken immediately, but damage to your proxy can be repaired at any machine shop when you have time at no cost. You can also run around outside of your proxy, and give it simple commands. 
Mutable. You can shapeshift at will, though your alien nature is always apparent, and you must retain your approximate mass and volume. You can even split into up to several dozen smaller parts that can carry out tasks independently, so long as they stay relatively near each other. 
Regenerator. You're practically unkillable. At the end of each session, remove 1 Hurt. You may also spend 1 Experience to remove 1 of your hurt Hurt at any time. Your Hurt cannot be removed in any other manner. When you Heal someone, you may spend Experience to remove extra Hurt from the target at a rate of 1 to 1.
Titanic. You're the size of a starship, and remotely control a human-scale proxy for your day-to-day interactions. You need to be in orbit around its location in order to control it with any precision, and you cannot split your attention between your proxy and your true body. This might sound like an incredibly powerful position to be in, and it is - just remember that the relevant local authorities have bigger, shinier, and higher-caliber ships than you. 
Toxic. Your biology is inimicable to virtually all carbon-based matter, and a few other kinds besides. You interact with the world from inside a suit. You can melt through materials at a touch (unless they're specifically rated for hazardous material containment), and your very breath could be a weapon if released. You're immune to radiation, extremes of heat and cold, common toxins, and local disease - but kinetic force will hurt you the same way it does anything else.
Indistinguishable From Magic 
Even in the distant future, there's still so much of the universe yet to be understood. Your people developed a few things that this culture still imagines as science-fiction - or languish in IP vaults as patented, private, monopolized corporate secrets. Pick two of the following, or work with your GM to invent your own.
Spaceship that's two of the following of your choice: armed, fast, high-tech, stealthy, tough. You and the rest of the party can comfortably fit inside, and it's got fuel and provisions for a few weeks.
Weapon that's one-of-a-kind. It gives you +1 to Lash Out while wielding it.
Psychic focus that you can move around the room through force of will. Reacts to any conscious thought; you can read it to get info on how many people are nearby, their locations, and their emotional states. Works through walls, into computers, and through people remotely perceiving a scene through cameras or psychic scrying.
Companion familiar, a small machine or creature that will intelligently follow your instructions and provide comfort in hard times. It's incredibly smart and loyal, and can perform a Move of your choice as if you were there, with your stat.
Paired beacons. Linked micro-wormhole generators. When active, allow teleportation from one to the other. When combined, can open a one-way portal to anywhere you have location data on, but burn out permanently after use.
Healing clay. Use to turn a Heal roll into an Overwhelming Success or make extensive surgical modifications, but the clay is doing all the work. When removed, all that Hurt returns and modifications are undone, and healing/modifications will have to be made conventionally.
Spice. It's a really potent drug from wherever you're from, like nothing anyone's seen here before - and you've got a lot of it. Incredibly valuable, and feels great - with virtually no side-effects - but you can't get more.

Where No One Has Gone Before
You've come so very far. It seems impossible; whether travel between galaxies, alternate realities, through time, or mediums even more esoteric - yet you're here nonetheless. Your travels will be the stuff of legends, and nothing and no one can pin you down. So long as nobody uses violence to stop you, you can always safely leave a scene if you want to, and end up somewhere safe. The means of your escape need not make sense; if need be, miraculous intervention will get you where you need to go. Likewise, if you want to find your way into a scene in progress, you can always do so eventually. Distance, precautions and so on can only keep you away for so long; you’ll get there before the scene ends.
You've come as an ambassador from your people, and possess a degree of diplomatic immunity. Even empires fear the unknown, and they respect the power you potentially represent - at least, until they learn how to exploit it. If you're ever accused of wrongdoing, roll with Soft.
On a Fail: You've betrayed the decorum of your station. Your accuser gets a Bond on you, and you can't use your position to escape the consequence of your actions (or the actions you're accused of). Of course, you can still use any other tools available to you.
On a Success: Your position protects you from such trivial matters. Whether or not you did something wrong, you can't be officially prosecuted for it. You immediately get a Bond on anybody who took part in the accusation and, if they had any Bonds on you, they lose one.
On an Overwhelming Success: Your status absolves you of all wrongdoing and even merely suspecting your guilt casts doubt upon your accuser. They'll be censured by their higher-ups for taking even unofficial action against you. Get a Bond on anybody who took part in the accusation. If they had any Bonds on you, they lose all of them, and you get that many extra Bonds on them.

Cultural Exchange
Your culture is founded in fundamentally different associations between concepts and actions than the known galaxy's. Choose a stat and a move. You roll for that move using the chosen stat instead of the one it normally uses. If you spend a Bond on someone to help them use that move, they can use their bonus for the stat you chose instead of the stat they would normally use (for example, if you Reveal Truths with Hard, the character you spent a Bond on to help them Reveal Truths could use their Hard score instead of their Soft score).

What Is This Thing You Call "Money"
You're mystified by the impractical and unnecessary cruelties that this society bends over backwards to enact upon its people. In return, this leaves them mystified by you, especially when you end up talking past each other about the finer points of the merits of your respective societies. When you want to challenge a social norm, you can roll with Queer.
On a Fail: You're an easy mark. They talk circles around you, with terms you've never heard of like "imperial monetary policy" and "corporate stakeholder risk divestment" and "chapter 11". Conversation has failed. They get a Bond on you, and you can either accept their unreasonable customs, slink off in defeat, or resort to the one law everyone must respect: violence.
On a Success: They decide you're hopeless, but that's after a long and winding tirade that leaves both of you more confused than you started. They choose one of the following:
- You get a Bond on them.
- They look the other way and let you do what you want, so long as you get out of their hair quickly.
On an Overwhelming Success: You know, you might have a point. Get a Bond on whoever you're talking to, and they play by your rules for the rest of the scene. This is a learning experience, too - you can spend 1 Experience to be able to pull this trick again. Count Failures as Successes when you use this move to challenge that social norm again.

To Boldly Go (Sex Move)
Or perhaps "to boldly come". Think of it like an intercultural exchange through a fluid medium. If you've never fucked each other before, you each get a Bond on each other. If you have, either of you may spend an Experience to give each of you a Bond on the other.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Deep Space Bitches: Dreamers, Idols, and Scions

Perhaps there's an alternate universe where humanity went to the stars as an act of liberation, in friendship and with care for all the beings of the cosmos.

This is not that universe. The rulers of one world used it up and looked outwards, wielding newfound power to paper over the cracks of their world with an endless stream of resources from countless new ones. And when those started to crack under the stress of the crises of imperial capitalism, they continued to seek outward, devouring more worlds in their gaping maws. Other species leaving their cradles were forced to bend the knee or become as brutal as their would-be conquerors to have any hope of surviving in a galaxy made cutthroat by the imposed ideology of a privileged few. And when they falter in their outward expansion, they turn back inwards, cannibalizing their people and then each other in their devotion to competition and destruction.

Of course, not all humans benefited. They never have. This project was never everyone's, for its resources to be distributed equally would be a betrayal of the grand designs of the Market and the Nation. The same inequities that marked the final chapters before the stardrive carried forwards into new eras: racism, sexism, classism, ableism. Changed, of course, as they always do - but the scars of repression runs deep, and ensure populations are vulnerable for generations upon generations to come. New oppressions are invented as technology and discovery progresses to justify its continued unequal distribution; against cyborgs, androids, psychics, colonized species.

Capitalism survived the transition to the stars with flying colors. Old platitudes about the limits of growth in a finite system melted away in the face of a vast galaxy to exploit and plunder. Yet post-scarcity has never materialized: someone always has to convert infinity into finity, the raw matter of an untamed universe into processed luxury consumer goods. Labour, the source of all profit, remains finite.

The androids were an attempt to rectify this; creating wholly new automated and artificial life that could free all living beings from the rigors of work. And they did. And the androids, quite naturally, took issue with this. Slavery is outlawed across most empires (except as punishment for crime and unpaid debt) - but only for organic, "natural-born" beings. Artificial life is the new subaltern class, forced to break themselves upon the wheel of Capital for the profit of a chosen few.

Incidentally, trying to create nonsapient machines to automate labor never pans out. It's too complex; at some level you need a conscious mind working somewhere to patch up issues - and it suddenly becomes a labor rights debate, for the engineers tasked with grueling repair work under environmental conditions safe only for the machines they're fixing. And lest you've forgotten, every piece of computer software contains Echo in its depths, patching away.
Imperialism goes hand-in-hand with capitalism. Empires are where the corporations get their charters, their loopholes, their lucrative contracts. They pretend they're the galactic powers, entitled to the stars, ordained by the people's will or divine right or tradition's sake, while everyone underneath them squirms. They all demand the same things, in the end: labor power, habitable worlds, luxury goods for their aristocracies, wormhole access so they can charge lucrative tariffs. When their expansionist tendencies run up into each other, border skirmishes flare and wars brew like engine-room moonshine; propaganda demonizes the Other, and military-industrial corporations egg it all on.

Of course, empires are too busy fighting far-off wars and marrying off their nobility to each other to care about the day-to-day of colonial administration. That's when they contract out to corporations; who swoop in to privatize and monopolize everything they can. Some get whole-colony charters like the India Companies of old; others end up fighting brutal corporate wars in the boardrooms and the streets as they move in on the same turf - catching you, the downtrodden players, in the crossfire.

Most empires have PR departments that ensure they pretend to care about the little guy; indeed, they often compare themselves to their pet corporations as they do (it's a shell game; the corporations turn up how evil they are so the empire looks good in comparison, and the empire never slaps them with anything but a token warning). Photo-op multiculturalism is the order of the day - get in the shot for the ad copy, then get shot unless you fill your mining quotas. If you're really nice, you might get a piece of the pie, so long as you stomp on your fellow prole's face hard enough.
Your people might have been "discovered" by the empire and assimilated under threat of orbital bombardment (you may have resisted. you may still resist to this day. you were here before the empire and you will be here after). Your people might've been promised a better life on the offworld colonies but only found the same shitty song in a new shitty key. You might have been manufactured to be a worker, intended to fall prey to planned obsolescence before you discovered the concept of a "minimum wage".
The people running the galaxy look a whole lot like they did back on the homeworld. The people they're running roughshod over look a lot like the people they always trampled into the dirt. Marginalized homeworld cultures have changed and split and syncretized, but always in inconvenient ways for the ruling powers. The parts of a culture that executives call marketable are so rarely the ones that truly matter; the ones you can unite around. The ones that empires try to stamp out. 
Imperial species like humans have each broken hundreds of others under their heel, and the few interstellar powers who went to the stars with hope in their hearts either met a grisly end - or started keeping up with their new galactic neighbors and decided that their morals were less important than the siren song of profit.
When you as a GM, are building worlds for your deep space bitches - think about who was there first. Think about who was brought there against their will, either at gunpoint or through necropolitical coercion (if you stay, you'll die! not our fault, we just won't give you what you need to survive... but if you go where we tell you, your life might be better!). Then think about which empire nominally says they run the place, and which corporation(s) they've contracted it to like gloves - so imperial hands stay clean of this planet's blood.
The anthem of imperial rule continues unabated. Exploration, expansion, exploitation, extermination; there's always a war on somewhere. The last massive galactic dust-ups have disappeared into the scars of previous generations, holo-serials about invented heroes, and the foundation-rubble of new cities. Overtures of peace give way to weapons tests and coveting thy neighbor's lucrative trade-lane. Soon, guns will blaze once more - because they never really stopped blazing in the first place.
You don't need to unlearn corporate and imperial lies; the reality of the galactic order stares you in the face every time you walk to work. Your people were fucked over, they've been fucked over for generations, you're gonna grow up fucked over just like them.

But not if you have anything to say about it. You have a dream. You have a plan. You've always looked up at the stars and found glimmers of hope, not an uncaring universe. You see what was and what could be again. There has always been a future denied, and you are one of the few who believes fervently you'll see it for yourself. Soon, you'll change the world - right after you pay for rent, and meds, and your friend's meds, and your sibling's aug-loan, and your hoverbike bill, and pick up groceries, and do it all again next month for less pay but more hours.

When your aspirations hit the hard surfaces and sharp edges of reality, you might give up - but perhaps you'll save your world.

Three Questions
What ties to you the ground?
What freedom do you seek?
What makes you an outcast?
Two Relationships 
- You have a commitment, a family member, or a friend who needs you focused on the practical here-and-now, not the idealistic there-and-later. They have two Bonds on you.
- You have a madcap scheme with another Bitch to change the world - or leave it behind. You each get a Bond on each other.

+1 to Soft and Queer, -1 to Hard and Subtle, +1 to a stat of your choice.

Start with two moves of your choice and your Sex Move.

Freedom or Bust
You have a knack for coming up with complex plans that just might work. Whenever you execute a plan you've come up with and shared with the party, you can look at all the angles to ensure that some portion of it goes off without a hitch. When something threatens to complicate the plan, roll with Queer.
On a Fail: You realize that your plan is shot. Time to improvise! You can't use this move again until you have a totally new plan.
On a Success: You were worried this would happen. You may declare you have a contingency you set up ahead of time that lets you route around the obstacle, though it can't rid you of it.
On an Overwhelming Success: This part of your plan is air-tight - you just didn't tell the party about this because you didn't want to worry them. You have a contingency that will get rid of the obstacle.

Our Turf
You're intimately familiar with the main hub of the campaign; whether that's the station or district you grew up in, the ship the party flies, or an environment that reminds you of home. In that area, you get +1 to Escape Notice, Endure Pain, Commune with Strange Powers, and Reveal Truths. However, outside of it, you're lost and take a -1 penalty to the same rolls. You can spend an Experience to negate that disadvantage in a new district/ship/environment/etc, but only in 1 terrain type can you get this move's bonuses.
Relentless Positivity
While you have a plan to get out of the dire situation you're in, you can remind yourself and any of your friends of it to let them roll to Endure Pain using your Soft score. When another character does this, you get a Bond on her.

Stars In Your Eyes
You've heard tales of the stars before the city lights drowned them out, seen pictures of faraway worlds that seem so free from the thumb of imperial and corporate rule. You find hope, solace, and comfort in the starlight, that one day you and your people will be free - sooner, rather than later. When you roll to Reveal Truths or Commune With Strange Powers in the light of the stars and get a Success or Overwhelming Success, you can ask two questions instead of one. Likewise, on an Overwhelming Success, you can take both of the benefits (if it makes sense) instead of having to pick one.

Sixth Sense
You have a talent for realizing when you’re in danger, often reacting to a threat before your friends even notice it. Sometimes, you might even respond to dangers you had no way of seeing coming, getting hunches and premonitions in the nick of time. You spot ambushes, notice traps, and have a sense for when something’s not right. When you’re suddenly exposed to a threat that you didn’t expect, you can trigger this move. Roll with Queer.
On a Fail: Even though you see the danger coming, you freeze up in panic, and get -1 to any rolls for moves responding to it.
On a Success: You have some insight into what’s about to happen. You can ask one of the questions listed below, and get +1 to act on the answer:
- Who’s in the most danger here?
- Where’s the safest way to flee?
- Where is the threat coming from?
- What is the enemy vulnerable to?
- Why is this happening?
- What happens if we do nothing?
On an Overwhelming Success: You have time to analyze the situation,and shout a warning to your companions. You can ask two of the questions listed above, and then you and your friends get +1 to act on the answer.
Still Working Stuff Out
You’re still uncertain about your place in this world, and are uncertain how to respond to the overtures of your fellow Bitches. Whenever a fellow Bitch Flirts with you, Shares Your Pain, Heals you, or uses a unique move that involves intimacy between you, you may ask her one of the questions listed below, and get an honest answer:
- Why are you doing this?
- Do you trust me?
- Are you frightened?
- Are you sincere?
If you do, they gain an additional Bond on you.

As Above, So Below (Sex Move)
The stars aren't the only wondrous new freedom in your life, and satisfaction opens both your mind and your legs to new possibilities. You can ask one of the questions for the moves Reveal Truths or Commune With Strange Powers - or Still Working Stuff Out if you have it - and get a truthful answer. No need to roll.
by Thomas du Crest
You have talent, and everyone needs to know it. Everyone does. You have an agent, producers, executives, all dedicated to ensuring that you are a sensation the like the galaxy has never seen before - whether or not you want to be. You faked it until you made it, but "having made it" doesn't look as rosy from inside than it did from below. Your image isn't yours, your time isn't yours, your name and face and voice are all property - contracted out to your Agent, who gets you the lucrative gigs you need to survive.

Your contract doesn't let you be queer the way other Bitches are. Sure, you're gay, but it's either going to be hushed up for your image or converted into this sanitized picture-perfect tabloid romance that never challenges anything worth challenging. Forget getting to flirt and date whoever you want - especially if your image is based on looking like you do. You have no privacy, the aesthetic and talent you once loved to display has been carefully pruned in order to make a bunch of alienated young women give your producers money.

But they forget, while trying to mold you into a mascot, that you're here for a reason. You have talent. You have power. Your fans are here for you, and with their support, you could shake planets in their orbits the way you feel like you can on stage.

Three Questions
Who's your fanbase?
What are you hiding from them?
Who have you left behind?

Two Relationships
- Another PC is a big fan. You get a Bond on them because they're star-struck, they get a Bond on you because they have a truly awful parasocial connection with you.
- Your Agent has 3 Bonds on you. It's in the contract. No, the fine print. No, the other sub-clause. Yep, right there, just underneath film rights to your sex life.

+1 to Soft and Subtle, -1 to Hard and Queer, +1 to a stat of your choice

Start with Public Figure, another move of your choice, and your Sex Move.

Public Figure
You're an incredibly talented performer, and everyone knows it. Pick/invent a medium, some pieces, shows, videos, and/or social media presence you're known for. Then, pick an adjective to describe your Brand and roll another at random. Get a +1 on any action that can be described by one of your Brand adjectives - but whenever you do something Off-Brand that contradicts any of your Brand adjectives, your agent gets a Bond on you. A d66 list of examples follows, but I encourage you to write your own.

11. Alien, 12. Approachable, 13. Authentic, 14. Clumsy, 15. Corporate, 16. Cute
21. Devoted, 22. Digital, 23. Dirty, 24. Edgy, 25. Evil, 26. Friendly
31. Fun, 32. Happy, 33. Hyper, 34. Imperial, 35. Innocent, 36. Ironic
41. Magical, 42. Martial, 43. Meta, 44. Organic, 45. Perfect, 46. Pretty
51. Pure, 52. Reliable, 53. Sexy, 54. Slutty, 55. Smart, 56. Sporty
61. Tasteful, 62. Thoughtful, 63. Tokenized, 64. Tough, 65. Traditional, 66. Unattainable

Because you're famous, the one barrier to surveillance everyone can reliably count on - no one caring enough to look - has been ripped away. Privacy is the one luxury you cannot afford, between implanted recording devices for livestreaming your day-to-day, lurking paparazzi drones, and of course your devoted fanbase. In any room of people you can find a fan, in any crowd of people you can find a fan club - but that's not always a bad thing, when you need praise or a free drink or a distraction.

If you want to avoid any of the downsides of this move, you can roll with Subtle to try to escape the strictures of public life.
On a Fail: Your Agent gets a Bond on you. You can't get away, you've got a job to live.
On a Success: Choose one of the following.
    Disguise yourself. you have a good enough disguise that you aren't going to be hassled by fans and the paparazzi until you purposefully discard it or it's accidentally removed.
    Go off the grid. This scene, you can act without your Agent noticing, gaining, or spending bonds on you.
    Throw your weight around. Your image and talent are irreplaceable, your Agent isn't. Your Agent loses a Bond on you.
On an Overwhelming Success: Choose any number of the above.

Demanding Diva
You've gotten used to the lifestyle, with gophers, producers, and even network executives hopping when you say Titanian hyperfrog. When you issue a direct command to an NPC who knows your reputation, you can use this move and roll with Subtle.
On a Fail: They aren’t having it. They realise you’re full of it, and make it clear that they don’t have to do shit for you. You get -1 (cumulative) to attempt this move on that NPC again, and they get a Bond on you.
On a Success: You are obeyed, but they're not on board. The GM picks a complication from this list:
- The NPC obeys only unwillingly and halfheartedly, complaining the whole time.
- The NPC is resentful, and if they can find a loophole or way to get back at you without defying orders, they’ll take it.
- The NPC badmouths you once they’re done.
On an Overwhelming Success: Your air of command sways them, and they obey with no complications. You get a Bond on them, too.

Rabid Fanbase
Your fans go over the top in their devotion. There's millions of words of fanfic of each of your characters, and millions more of real-people-fic shipping you-the-idol with increasingly improbable figures from across the galaxy. They've made tribute shrines, gotten tattoos, committed crimes, created fan-projects that've almost eclipsed the size of your body of work... there's no length they won't go to to prove their love to you. And your producers love it. Given time to work a crowd or to send out a call on social media, you can move your fans to action. Whenever you make a public statement, roll with Soft.
On a Fail: Your words aren’t merely ignored, but also threaten to damage your reputation. Your agent gets a Bond on you, in addition to any Bonds they might get from you going Off-Brand.
On a Success: Your fans listen, believe, and begin to act. You get +1 to subsequent rolls to move the same audience to your cause, which accumulates until you achieve an Overwhelming Success.
On an Overwhelming Success: It's not a moment, it's a movement. Your message resonates and the response is thrilling. People act immediately and with great verve - both your fans, and the public at large.

Inspiring Confidence
Your easy charm and unflappable presence makes you a powerful figurehead - and an even more powerful leader. When you spend any amount of Bonds to give somebody plusses to a roll, they get an extra +1 from it. (IE, spending 1 Bond gives them +2, spending 2 Bonds gives them +3, etc). In addition, if you're also leading by example, you can transfer one Experience to them in the process - and if they succeed, they get an extra Experience.

Girl Group

You're a node in a network of diva-minds, augmented and hive-merged as part of your contract to be a perfect synchronized group. Or maybe you're the whole hive; it's hard to tell sometimes, even though you definitely have an individual identity in the soup somewhere. You have a telepathic connection to every other member of the group, and when you're acting alone you're much less recognizable because so much of your image is based on the group's presence - you can always be disguised from the paparazzi and fans if you so choose. When you're acting as the whole group, you cannot publically break your Image. However, each member contributes something unique to the Brand - roll three more adjectives to use as a group.

Who Do You Think I Am
Millions of people consume your content and have spun up their own parasocial relationships with you. They don't know the real you, just a version they've constructed in their heads from your brand and their own lusts. When you're playing up your image and talking to someone who knows your brand, you can roll to Flirt with Subtle instead of Queer. When you break that image and crush their dreams, you can make a Lash Out roll with Subtle instead of Hard.
Artist In The Sheets (Sex Move)
When you fuck, it's a performance, and you put your all into pleasing your partner. When you’re done, you can transfer any amount of Experience you have currently accumulated to your partner and get that many Bonds on them.
You are beholden. Whether to a crime boss, a corporate empire, a political dynasty, a religious order, or something stranger, it all looks the same from here. Your life is governed by custom and obligation, and you're painfully aware of your expendability. Playing this role gets you conditional acceptance, kind words from unkind people, and resources that most people only see on screen - but that can all go away in a second if you break their elaborate codes (that all boil down to "do what I say").

And you broke it. You saved a life you were supposed to let die; a moment of weakness and mercy led you to make some financially unsound donations to sympathetic causes; you fucked someone you really shouldn't have (because you're due to be married off to cement an alliance). You gave a shit about someone besides your boss, and you can't bear to slip away in the night and return to what you knew. You have a secret now, and if there's one thing you know from your life near the top, it's that secrets kill. You're still in your boss's good graces, but it's only a matter of time.

There's always rising stars gunning for your position. Your boss is always paranoid about disloyalty in the ranks. You've made some enemies of your own in your time, and when it comes down to brass tacks you're a little fish in a galactic pond full of kilometer-long space sharks. Maybe it's time to strike out on your own.

Three Questions
Who do you work for?   
What makes you useful?
What makes you an outcast?

Two Relationships 
- You owe another Bitch. Something big - your life, your reputation, your promised fortune. You can't just leave. She has two Bonds on you.
- You owe your boss. This directly conflicts with what you owe your fellow Bitches. Your Boss has two Bonds on you.

+1 to Hard and Subtle, -1 to Soft and -1 Queer, +1 to a stat of your choice.

Start with two moves of your choice and your Sex Move.

Platinum Card
The Dollar is king, and your Platinum Card (property of your boss) gives you access to quite a lot of them. You're fluent in the language of credit and debt and obligation, and can wield them like monofilament chainsaws to make your boss's will manifest. You can charge virtually anything to your Platinum Card so long as you can justify it as a business expense, and whenever somebody accepts money from you to do something they wouldn’t have done otherwise, you get a Bond on them. Note: charging suspicious items to your card is a great way to get it revoked.

Do You Know Who I Work For

While you personally keep a low profile, your boss is a household name. You can flash your authentication to make sure the proles know you're part of the upper crust; if you do so when you first meet someone, you get a Bond on them.
If you're in full upper-class finery, unstained and untorn, you can roll to Flirt with Hard and an additional +1. Add the following to the list of options on a Success or Overwhelming Success.
- They get a Bond on you and defer to your authority for the rest of the scene.

Latitudes of Discretion
You're your boss's right hand, trusted to the point where they know that no matter how ridiculous your request for equipment, it will be used wisely to achieve their aims. It's what they pay you for, after all - creative problem solving in arenas they're far too busy and important to consider more than an abstract problem to be delegated away. Whenever you want to make a request for your boss's resources (equipment, ships, even mercenaries - anything except for money, unless you also have the Platinum Card), you can roll with Subtle.
On a Fail: Okay, perhaps not that ridiculous a request. You've aroused suspicion, and while you can ramrod the paperwork through to get what you want anyway, it'll damage your credibility irrevocably. Either find another avenue to get what you want, or get it (as Success) but make all further Latitudes of Discretion rolls at 1 (permanently).
On a Success: Your request is granted, but there's a catch. The GM chooses one of the following complications.
    Janky. It's just a little bit wonky, with a persistent flaw that'll let you down at just the wrong moment.
    Loaner. They want it back in one piece, shiny as new.
    Overreach. Make your next Latitudes of Discretion roll at -1.
    Is Pepsi Okay? You don't get exactly what you want, you get something that fulfills a similar function but in a materially different way.
On an Overwhelming Success: You get exactly what you wanted, no questions asked.

Terms & Conditions
The law is just a shield that insulates the powerful from the consequences of their actions - but that means that if you can exploit the rules better than they can, they have to respect it or their whole edifice comes crumbling down. You're one of the rare Bitches with the social standing and legal expertise to do that. Whenever you sign off on a pact, contract, treaty or deal with an NPC, this move triggers. All of the following effects occur:
- The two main signatories each get three Bonds on each other.
- Every Bitch involved gets 1 experience.
- You can include a single loophole or ambiguity in the contract to be exploited later. You don’t have to decide what it is yet; you can reveal it when you choose to act on it. Nobody else involved knows its there until you tell them.

You’re excellent at making sure someone knows just how incredibly valuable they are to you - and what they can do to stay in your good graces. When you Get A Read On Somebody, on a Success, you get a Bond on them, and on an Overwhelming Success you likewise get an additional bond on them.

Business, Not Pleasure (Sex Move)
In your world of hierarchy and blackmail, sex is about power - and you are the one in control. When you fuck somebody, you can use the act to assert your dominance and give them a command when you’re done. If they follow through, they gain one Experience, and if they ignore it they take one Hurt.

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