Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Giant Robots Deserve Giant Monsters

I wrote the Mechwarrior class a few months ago and I'm still unreasonably proud of it. Let's give our brave pilots something to fight. Specifically, kaiju, because that's a challenge floating around the discord. So here's something I threw together in 24 hours, as well as some setting tidbits I've mercilessly ripped from Pacific Rim, Evangelion, a pinch of Worm, and a little bit of that most horrific of settings: the gig economy.


WORLD

It's 20XX, year 1X of the Kaiju Era. 1X years ago, LEVIATHAN HEAVEN fell to earth, levelled what is now the San Francisco Exclusion Zone, and made humanity shit its collective pants over its place in the universe to the tune of 12 million casualties. The Survival Paradigm and Eschaton technology is all that stands between human existence and a swift, brutal death at the claws of titanic biomechanical horrors from beyond.

The kaiju kept coming. From everywhere. The depths of the sea, deep underground, materializing in rifts of ozone, falling from space, crawling out of secret labs, assembling from otherwise mundane technology, emerging from the fallout of other kaiju attacks. We couldn't stop them until we reverse-engineered Eschaton technology from their corpses and built the first mechs.

The Survival Paradigm is the democratization of mech construction, pilot training, and kill-op organization. It's the only strategy that survived the first year of kaiju attacks, the collapse of the short-lived United Nations Defense Accord, and a United States bid to monopolize anti-kaiju defense efforts (nuclear weapons have been written off ever since their strike on DEVOURER RADIANT, which escalated a category 3 to a catastrophic category 5 event).

Corporations immediately co-opted this framework, turning mech pilots into the highest-death-risk sector of the gig economy. The influx of capital for pure research and emergency crisis response developed some incredible technology: the Eschaton Core, the kinetic burster, direct neural interfaces, to mention only the ones that are in every mech on the planet. But once those designs were made free and open and public, the vultures of finance and the military industrial complex moved in.

You can buy a prefab for the same price as a used car, customize it in a makerspace, order baseline heavy weapons off of Triple-B (bloodbathandbeyond.ca). Get in the giant robot, give it a test run during the 3am curfew hours (the cops can't do anything but look the other way, you're in a mech and the one thing the govs did right was ban police access to eschatological weaponry). Then sign up for emergency response alerts, and wait for the call.

Sign into TacNet, the app that cornered the market on kaiju response command and control. find a handle some other joker isn't using already. deploy and hope your rival won't use a moment of weakness to accidentally push you into the path of the monster's jaws.

Win.

Collect your hazard pay (30% down since this time last year, because of "innovations in civilian bunker technologies"), collect your meagre kill fee (45% goes to the app), pay down your core loan, pay down your medical bills, pay your rent. Realize that you've gotta get another confirmed Category 3+ kill this month to stay in the black. Expand your fight search radius. Sigh. Kick back with a glass of cheap liquor to forget the fallen.
Dave Melvin

RULES

Let's break this down. Generate a kaiju. One of the big nasties.




DESIGNATION
Base how the kaiju appears on its designation. Many will be hybrids of meat and machine, towering eldritch abominations, giant featureless warriors with god-smiting weapons. Where they come from is up to you: excavated from deep time, summoned from the universe where everything's bigger than here, landing as the vanguard of an alien terraforming machine, mutated after a whatever-comes-after-nuclear test gone wrong. A superhero turning their powers to apocalyptic ends.

You're mech pilots. Handle it.

CATEGORY
Each category requires exponentially more minimum firepower for a confirmed kill. 1 eschaton is the reactor output of a baseline 5-meter mech, distributed over the course of a standard combat operation. You can increase your firepower exponentially, if you are clever and well-supported. Kaiju past Category 1 will require advanced plans, exotic weaponry, powerful reactors, ablative populations, larger mechs, rockstar pilots.

Proposals to rework the category system to include levels above 5 have been deemed irrelevant by experts in titanic studies worldwide. A threat that would require such degrees to classify would ensure that no one would be left to use the revised scale.

1: 1 eschaton (ET). The size of a bus, like an overgrown crocodile. Crushes through townhouses, wields a streetlamp as a crude cudgel. Threatens a population in the thousands, like a neighborhood or fishing village.
2: 10 ET. Building-size. It towers over houses and its roars shatter all the windows on the street. Tank rounds splinter on its skin. You're only making it stronger. Threatens a population in the tens of thousands, like a town or port district.
3: 100 ET. The size of a city block. Its tail slithers down the highway, its claws are the size of a category 1. Fighter jets crash into its eye and it blinks the debris away unfazed. Threatens a population in the hundreds of thousands, like a small city.
4: 1000 ET. It's the tallest building in the largest city. Its footsteps flatten mid-rise towers. It doesn't even notice as it turns and demolishes the Golden Gate by accident. Threatens a population in the millions, like a large city.
5: 10000 ET. Cloud-scraping. Affects weather systems. Wipes out towns without noticing. You can see it from space. Threatens a population in the tens of millions or greater. Could sink Great Britain or lay waste to all civilian populations on the Eastern Seaboard.

CAPABILITIES
Each round, a kaiju gets 3 actions. Use initiative that puts pilots either before or after the kaiju. These actions are more generalized than normal combat actions due to the sheer size of the monster; movement will necessarily also damage anything in the path of the kaiju. Any action that can be construed as an attack wil kill civilians, no save. Instead, roll (category)d10 for casualties in a metropolitan area that hasn't been evacuated.

Damage dealt by a kaiju's attacks to anything mech-size or greater is (category)d10, and may carry additional effects based on the kaiju's capabilities.

A kaiju's capabilities are directly represented by its ability scores, of which it has d3 identified and up to d3 as-of-yet unseen. If you roll a duplicate, increase that score by 10. All attacks deal ability score damage, depending on which weakpoint you're aiming for. Kaiju roll under their ability score to take actions that these capabilities afford it (anything else that a giant monster can do, they can do as well). Kaiju have a number of points based on their category (1: 50, 2: 200, 3: 500, 4: 1000, 5: 5000) to distribute between their ability scores. This means that many scores will be over 20; therefore, these actions will always succeed until the kaiju has sustained enough damage to sufficiently reduce its capabilities.

Any weapons smaller than mech-scale can deal a maximum of 1 damage, and then only on a critical hit, to kaiju of size 1 or 2. The Eschaton Core is what lets something like a mech go toe-to-toe with a kaiju. Conventional armaments, even nuclear ones, will be at best exponentially less effective. The nuclear strike on the category 3 DEVOURER RADIANT proved the obsolescence of nuclear armaments, and escalated the incident to a category 5 disaster.

If you fail or cannot respond: [CATEGORY] weeks of devastation may be enough for affected populations to marshal a response, at the expense of d10*10^(3+category) civilian lives per week. This may result in new pilots joining the force in cobbled-together mechs with a grudge against those who couldn't save them, or the takeover of your company by a more well-equipped force that steps in where you cannot.

TABLES

Name (2d100)
1. ALPHA
2. ANGEL
3. APOC
4. ARCHER
5. ARTIFICE
6. ASCEND
7. AUTONOMOUS
8. AXE
9. BEAR
10. BEHEMOTH
11. BERSERK
12. BLAZING
13. BLITZ
14. BLOOD
15. BROADSWORD
16. BUTCHER
17. CANNON
18. CHIMERA
19. COLOSSUS
20. CORE
21. CORONA
22. CORPSE
23. CRYPTIC
24. CYCLOPS
25. DEIMOS
26. DELTA
27. DEMON
28. DEVOURER
29. DJINN
30. EFFECT
31. ELDER
32. ENGINE
33. ESCAPE
34. EUROPA
35. EXECUTE
36. EXILE
37. EXTERMINATE
38. FALLING
39. FORWARD
40. FUSOR
41. GHOUL
42. GIGANT
43. GOD
44. HAMMER
45. HEAVEN
46. IMPACT
47. INFERNO
48. IO
49. JORMUNGANDR
50. KINETIC
51. KOMODO
52. KRAKEN
53. LEVIATHAN
54. LICH
55. LILITH
56. MECHANIZE
57. MOMENT
58. MOTH
59. NEPHILIM
60. NEURON
61. NIHIL
62. OBELISK
63. OMEGA
64. ORBIT
65. OUTER
66. PANGOLIN
67. PHALANX
68. PHOENIX
69. PREDATOR
70. RADIANT
71. RAPTOR
72. REACTOR
73. REAPER
74. SAUR
75. SCREAM
76. SHARK
77. SIGMA
78. SIMURGH
79. SLAYER
80. SPIDER
81. STAR
82. STORM
83. STRIKER
84. SURGE
85. TERMINUS
86. TERROR
87. THUNDER
88. TITAN
89. ULTRA
90. VACUUM
91. VECTOR
92. VIRUS
93. WALKER
94. WAR
95. WARHEAD
96. WYRM
97. WYVERN
98. XENO
99. YUGGOTH
100. ZILLA

Capabilities (d6)
1-2: Standard
3-4: Monstrous
5-6: Weird

Standard (d6)
1-2: EXCEPTIONAL STRENGTH
3-4: EXCEPTIONAL TOUGHNESS
5-6: EXCEPTIONAL SPEED

Monstrous (d20)
1. FLIGHT
2. BURROWING
3. AMPHIBIOUS
4. AMBUSH PREDATION
5. CAMOUFLAGE
6. PARASITISM
7. ENDURANCE PREDATION
8. HIGHER COGNITION
9. SPAWN
10. REGENERATION
11. TOXIC TRAIL
12. MANY-HEADED
13. TOOL USE
14. ENHANCED SENSES
15. BERZERK MODE
16. ELEMENTAL RANGED ATTACK
17. ELEMENTAL MELEE ATTACK
18. ELEMENTAL IMMUNITY
19. ELEMENTAL AURA
20. ELEMENTAL ESSENCE

Elemental (d20)
1. BLAZING
2. CORROSION
3. DARKNESS
4. DEATH
5. ELECTRIC
6. EXPLOSIVE
7. FREEZING
8. GRAVITIC
9. KINETIC
10. LUCK
11. MAGNETIC
12. POISON
13. QUAKING
14. RADIATION
15. RAGE
16. SONIC
17. STORMING
18. TAR
19. VACUUM
20. WEAPON

Weird (d20)
1. ABSORBS PROPERTIES
2. AUTO-DISASSEMBLY
3. DATAVORE
4. FEAR AURA
5. HIDES AS HUMAN
6. INFECTIOUS
7. INVISIBILITY
8. METAMORPHIC
9. MIND CONTROL
10. PHASING
11. PILOTED
12. PROJECTS ILLUSIONS
13. RAISES DEAD
14. SUMMONS
15. TELEKINESIS
16. TELEPATHY
17. TELEPORTATION
18. TEMPORAL LOOPS
19. TWIN
20. WIELDS WEAPON


Target Area Modifiers (d20)
1. ACID RAIN
2. ACTIVE WARZONE
3. ADDITIONAL KAIJU BATTLE IN PROGRESS
4. AWFUL PUBLIC IMAGE
5. ELECTROMAGNETIC INTERFERENCE
6. ESCHATON CORE FACTORY
7. EVACUATION FAILED
8. FLOODING
9. GEOLOGICALLY UNSTABLE
10. HEAVILY IRRADIATED
11. KAIJU RESEARCH INSTALLATION
12. KAIJU SPAWNING PITS
13. MAJOR METROPOLITAN AREA
14. MINOR METROPOLITAN AREA
15. ONGOING HURRICANE
16. POLITICIANS DEMAND EVAC
17. POWER PLANT
18. UNDERGROUND
19. VITAL PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE
20. YOU LIVE IN TARGET AREA

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Immortal Art of Fleshcraft

Fleshcraft makes Ogoath go 'round. To hear one of its practitioners speak of it, they are the sole force between the blood-red lamplight of civilization and the total decay of the rotting turtle-corpse. Those who control the meat control the universe, and their powers tap in not to "magic" or whatever "divinity" survived the loss of the Old World and death of its gods, but into the base raw bleeding truth of reality. And while they aren't technically wrong, most fleshcrafters have (in addition to their power) taken on the egos of old-world wizards with none of the pretension of secrecy or solitude.
by Igor Vitkovskiy
If one would listen to the butchers speak of them, fleshcrafters have no respect for the world that's adopted them. They walk openly, twisting meat to their basest whims, capricious children who've stolen their parents' big fancy knives and are chopping up the walls to see the pretty patterns they can make. Their empire killed the world. Their domain is life-made-cancerous, mind without moral, craft without code.

I've given the Butchers their due. Their rivals now demand the podium.

Fleshcrafter

Paint with all the pleasures of the flesh.

Level 1: Fleshcrafting, 2 Techniques, 2 Forms, 1 Flesh Die
Level 2: +1 Technique, +1 Form, +1 FD, +1 HD
Level 3: +1 Technique, +1 Form, +1 FD, +1 HD
Level 4: +1 Technique, +1 Form, +1 FD, +1 HD

Hit Die: d4
Starting Equipment: Scalpel, bone saw (d6 damage and reveal an organ of choice), red leather robes, sheaf of skin-parchment with anatomical diagrams, a bone-vial of each Form you know
Skills (d6): 1. Etiquette, 2. Gardening, 3. Lore, 4. Sculpture, 5. Surgery, 6. Undertaking

Fleshcrafting: Combine a Technique you know and a Form you know to perform an action. Absorb Blood. Grow Bone. Speak to Emotion. Their effects are broad and often self-evident. Roll any number of your Flesh Dice (d6s) in the process. In addition to the damage dealt by the Law of Consumption (see below), they burn out on a 6. 1 can be restored by lunch; all can be restored after a daily rest. If you roll doubles, a Mishap occurs. On triples, gain a Doom.

There's some limitations of what you can do with these. Any numerical effect (damage, duration in minutes or hours, bonus, penalty, etc) can't be greater than either (dice) or (sum); which is the limit is up to the GM. I recommend looking at the Mimics & Miscreants spell list for equivalent effects.

All fleshcrafting follows Three Laws. These laws are well-founded, well-tested, and seem inherent to the Art.

The Law of Consumption. Action requires calories. Greater changes, such as those wrought by magic, require more. Your body will devour itself in your quest for power. Whenever you fleshcraft, you take (dice) damage.

The Law of Contact. Fleshcraft requires touch between the crafter and the form. It is an Art of the body, and so the body is central to its workings. The closer the flesh one wants to shape to their point of contact, the easier it is to shape. Forms separated by a membranous barrier like skin, or like the lining of an organ (if you wish to only affect the material inside) roll your Flesh Dice with disadvantage.

The Law of Continuity. Forms remain the form they are. One cannot transmute blood to bone, or acid to eyes, or skin to cancer, (et cetera), through fleshcraft. That is the provence of mundane biology and naught else.

You may violate one law, and suffer a Mishap.
You may violate two laws, and suffer a Doom.
You may violate all three laws, and be consumed by the Art.


 
Techniques
1. Absorb
2. Animate
3. Bind
4. Burn
5. Command
6. Consume
7. Divide
8. Dowse
9. Engrave
10. Extract
11. Grow
12. Hide
13. Inflict
14. Mutate
15. Restore
16. Shrivel
17. Smooth
18. Speak To
19. Ward
20. Weave

Forms
1. Acid
2. Bile
3. Blood
4. Bone
5. Brain
6. Cancer
7. Emotion
8. Eyes
9. Face
10. Guts
11. Hair
12. Heart
13. Limb
14. Meat
15. Nails
16. Nerves
17. Pain
18. Rot
19. Sense
20. Skin

Fleshcrafting Mishaps
1-2. Decay. Halve a random physical ability score for the rest of the day.
3-4. Mutation. Gain a random negative mutation for the rest of the day. At the end of the day, roll a d6. On a 1, it is permanent.
5-6. Independence. The Form you wanted to manipulate? It decides its had enough of you, and a (dice) HP chunk of it removes itself from you to become an independent being.

Fleshcrafting Dooms
First Doom: Lose a Form. This inexplicably does not kill you, but it will do everything else that losing it would. Losing a seemingly negative form still has negative effects - losing Rot would prevent your cells from dying (commensurately, losing Cancer prevents cell growth).
Second Doom: Lose another Form.
Final Doom: Your individuality sloughs off as you merge with all flesh and organic matter around you. You are not "dead" in a technical sense, but you have become part of something so much greater that you cannot continue play as a player character.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Black Markets

 

When I'm making a random generator, I've always been inspired by Joseph Manola of Against the Wicked City's essay on conceptual density - namely, that each entry has to be better than what I could come up with on the fly. Combining a few thought-provoking prompts is easier on the spot than thinking those prompts up, too. So welcome to a bazaar of bazaars, an emporium of emporiums, a selection of stalls and shopfronts that'll keep your party in business for as long as they're willing to pay...

There's pretty much one archetypical black market for fantasy settings. You've got your shadowy figure hawking illegal wares in a seedy part of town, then break out your list of cursed and rare items. It's all well and good, but not particularly memorable. I like to differentiate my entries by making them recognizably conceptually similar to the archetype, but one or two steps away from what the generic version is. A little more specificity, connecting up a concept that the players wouldn't immediately expect, think out the implications of the existence of a place like this or why it'd sell what it sells. All this requires brainpower I'd want to devote elsewhere at the table, but it makes a fantastic set of generators!




Venue
1. A bar in the seedy part of town. During deals and liasons in dark backrooms you can sneak even further back, into the shop proper. They only admit those intoxicated enough to ensure a purchase.
2. A contraption that displays wares behind a pane of glass and dispenses them when currency is inserted into a small slot on the side. Proprietor tinkers with the machine.
3. A narrow labyrinth of winding alleys leads inevitably to a barred, metal door. A Judas window in the door reveals only the proprietor's eyes. Leaving requires a map that only the proprietor sells.
4. A perfectly ordinary-seeming cheesemonger. Many cheeses are code for a particular black-market service or item, and those in-the-know will order those cheeses for delivery at their place of residence, where the Cheesemonger will personally deliver the item in question.
5. A secret door in the wall of another black market opens into their real moneymaking business. Or is it?
6. Abandoned manor is actually cover for emporium chock-full of surplus banned products hidden under furniture covers and layers of dust.
7. An abandoned storeroom in the lord's castle. Access to the market requires getting into the castle first.
8. An upscale hotel. Calls for a certain order of room service result in a particular individual arriving with an array of wares concealed beneath platter-lids and wrapped in napkins.
9. Beneath a cemetery's mausoleum. Any remains within have been disinterred, and the coffins filled with merchandise.
10. During a particular hour each week, a particular sewer tunnel flushes. It smells not of bile and ichor but of raspberries and thyme. In that hour, the merchant sets up their stall and their wares, and dismantles it all at the end.
11. In the city guards' barracks. It's how they supplement the pittance they get from the city's lords. All items guaranteed confiscated from the "real" criminals.
12. Loud and upfront, with no facade of legitimacy. They're close with exactly the right people in government, and often you'll find said people partaking of their wares.
13. Mineshafts beneath the city drop deep into the earth. They converge on a surprisingly well-lit and comfortable row of townhouses transposed into the rock. One is the market you seek.
14. No venue. Proprietor wears extra layers of coats even in the hottest weather, beneath which lie a staggering amount of product. Accosts adventurers back from their latest looting spree.
15. On the rooftop of a complex of buildings, with no sightlines to the ground. Accessible via service entrance to roof.
16. Street food stall sells new items daily, cleverly hidden beneath the countertop.
17. The back room of a publishing house. Their newspapers and pamphlets detail, in code, the day's stock.
18. The city's public forum hides an open secret. Deliberations are often cover for exchanges of illegal goods, while philosophers ranting at the sky slip in covert ads for their wares. Pledging your support will garner their interest, and an argument of moral principle becomes a coded haggling venture.
19. Wine cellar of a reputable winery does double-business selling illegal goods. Don't tap the oldest casks.
20. Zoo of ill and struggling repute uses animals as cover for the loud sounds and smells of their real business.

Proprietor
1. Cheery, heavily-scarred elf. Doesn't seem to realize illegality of or potential harm caused by products. Willing stooge? False persona?
2. Collective of street urchins. Vicious with both insults and shivs. Brook no quarrel or complaint.
3. Decrepit, but wears the attire of a king. Looks strikingly similar to the royal family. Speaks imperiously, but in whispers, as if being surveilled.
4. Devil, aristocratic, stinking of sulfur. All items come with lengthy fine print, merchant indemnity in case of misuse, and no warranty whatsoever.
5. Elaborately masked being with no exposed skin. Changes mask based on emotion they wish to display. Poetic.
6. Ex-adventurer, took over business from previous owner by force. Not exactly sure how the whole running-a-shop thing works, but knows the ins and outs of the products and the job.
7. Excitable apprentice mage, selling something that they stumbled upon in their research. Definitely way out of their comfort zone.
8. Family, parents and grandparents and children all staffing their business, teaching the next generation their hereditary trade. Rightfully proud, even of the grimmest crafts.
9. Frail, elderly human hunched over an elaborate contraption. They won't look up from their work, and respond with only the barest necessities.
10. Grizzled ex-mercenary. Personally vouches for the efficacy of everything in the store and has a tale of how each saved their life in the field.
11. Immaculate human, speaks like an upscale tailor. Willing to go to great lengths for their regular clientele (or those who may become regulars).
12. Large, boisterous orc in an elegant robe. Mercilessly critiques patrons' taste, but gives legitimately good advice.
13. Middle-manager type from the local mob. Missing a variety of fingers and facial features. Never stops grinning.
14. No proprietor at all. Items are carefully, meticulously labeled and laid out. If you remove one from the premises, the price is deducted in full.
15. Rat king. Served by a swarm of hundreds more chittering rats. Generous to those who respect the city's true, hidden ways.
16. Set of mechanical automatons acting eerily in sync. Will speak with many mouths. Who made them?
17. Shambling corpse. Communicates with a series of index cards laid out in boxes, or by pointing to signs laid out around the shop.
18. Shirtless, tattooed mystic reading from a set of ironbound tomes. Speaks in platitude, metaphor, and verse.
19. Spindly, nosy human with no sense of personal space. Very interested in the party's personal lives, and their exact intents for the items they purchase. They're a big fan.
20. Wizard, selling their failed experiments and outdated products of star-maddened genius. Insists you take some more with you. To test.

Products
1. Absolute tat, guaranteed to come in handy at least once so long as you carry it around religiously.
2. Angry, mutated spells heaving at the bindings of their spellbooks.
3. Blessings of forgotten and murdered gods.
4. Corpses and corpse accessories
5. Dirty deeds (done dirt cheap!)
6. Drugs, potions, alchemical reagents
7. Fine clothing and armors suitable for any occasion - even (and especially) the untoward
8. Incredibly cursed magic items. The curses are a selling point.
9. Magical creatures in small, easily-carried, soundproofed glass jars. A command word opens the lid and returns them to full size. The same word imprisons them again.
10. Maps and floor plans. Usually up-to-date, often of locations otherwise unknown.
11. Mercenaries
12. Mutations!
13. Other adventurers' contact information
14. Other peoples' fortunes - both the money kind and the future kind.
15. Outlandish, impractical, brutal weapons. As dangerous to their wielders as they are to their enemies - but also, very cheap!
16. Paraphenalia of mythical heroes, famous rulers, other notables. 3-in-6 chance any particular item is counterfeit.
17. Poisons, venoms, and flasks of plague. Each is the cure to another.
18. Spices, rare meats, wriggling things presumably for consumption
19. The last copies of lost books and records (all other copies have been destroyed, either before collection, or to ensure this is the last copy)
20. Thieves' tools and guards' timetables

Payments
1. A percentage of any loot gotten with the aid of the shop's merchandise
2. Art
3. Beating the owner in a riddle contest
4. Blackmail on yourself and others.
5. Blood. Lots of it. Cutting your hand won't do the trick here; you need to exsanguinate a whole horse to buy their cheapest items.
6. Captured magical creatures.
7. Confirmed bounties.
8. Contracts for future favors, callable at any time for any reason.
9. Converts to their religion
10. Credit, but they take your body parts as collateral.
11. Currency from a nation long fallen.
12. Exclusive rights to your life story.
13. Ghosts.
14. Good ideas.
15. Knowledge of secret places - or secret entrances to very well-known places.
16. Magic.
17. Raw metals - preferably adamantium, mithril, orichalcum, occultum, but raw gold ore may do in a pinch.
18. Whatever they sell, for far less than they sell it for.
19. Years off your lifespan (in multiples of 13)
20. Your skills and abilities

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Space is Boring

 

For baseline humans, even the fastest interstellar travel is boring. You're trapped in a metal box with people you'll swiftly grow to resent even if you're close friends, recycling all your air and water and biomass in an endless cycle that only gets more nervewracking as the walls close in and the stars grow coldly menacing. You tread the same corridors day after day, weathering a dull routine into your mind as you watch your instruments for danger that will never come (but if it does, you will all die, quickly, cold and impossibly alone).

Jumpspace is worse, as the ship's windows turn to blind-spots that the eye refuses to parse. Vision slips across the opposite of space, and even when all the shutters slide closed, the underlying wrongness of existing in that dimension bites at your bones, twists your skin, and knots your nerves.

And the waiting, the endless interminable waiting, becomes far worse if you know nothing but death may await you at journey's end. Soldiers often travel in cryosleep so they don't have to contemplate their fate for months on end. Mercenaries and adventurers that need a full complement to run their ships rarely have that luxury. Distractions are essential when tensions run high and anxiety floods the corridors like an electrical fire.

Stress
1 baseline. Humans were never meant to ply the void.
+1 per jump.
+1 if ship is overcrowded.
+1 if the ship is going into a dangerous situation.
+1 for each unexpected diversion before the crew arrives at their destination.
+1 if alone
-1 for each unique morale-building event you participate in.
-1 for each amenity (like holosuites, competent cuisine, drugs, etc) on board.



Some metahuman subspecies are better (or worse) adapted to space. This can add or subtract Stress from individual totals. Similarly, if one character indulges in their secret stash of Pandoran writheweed, or two characters have a truly legendary breakup, that might change their totals too.

At the end of the trip, total up the list, each crew rolls to see how much Stress they gain. Crew in cryosleep gain 2 Stress no matter what; cryo is the cheap option for non-essentials who don't need to be carefully maintaining the ship. Long-haul colony ships have low passage berths for cheap travellers who won't (or, usually, can't) pay for the amenities needed to keep them engaged for the trip's duration. Don't mind the cryoburn. Here's the studies that show the chances of neural degradation on newer models are down orders of magnitude from last generation. And hey, if something in jumpspace decides the ship looks tasty, you'll be asleep for it...



The morale-building events are the meat of this system. In space, you're going to have to relax somehow. A poker table has sufficed for many a small crew. A competent chef with a well-stocked kitchen (none of that freeze-dried crap) does wonders. Spacers have made up an esoteric set of holidays to celebrate, just to pass the time. On larger cruisers, there may be computer systems dedicated to running VR sims, and luxury ships might even build in entire terraria for the crew (or more likely, the ship's owner) to pretend they're back planetside.


Others might have ship's bars complete with hired bartenders (though what the bartenders do to keep their stress down is a well-kept secret). Ships too small for bars regularly have stills in the engine room, fermenting a frightening variety of life-support fungi, megayeast cultivars, and the odd jumpspace lichen into potent brews ranging from surprisingly light fruity spritzers to universal solvents. And alcohol is but the most common relaxation incentive, with a whole suite of exciting spacedrugs on offer at the local spaceport. Some are even legal (depending on jurisdiction and corporate sponsor)!

Of course, there's a set of Company-approved morale-building exercises, complete with worksheets and paperwork. Mostly, they boil down to team-building problem sets and unimaginative, sanitized VRscapes. Genetic and psychometric compatibility tests are used to engineer and sometimes mandate relationships between crewers, with universally disastrous results.

Love within the crew tends to be frowned upon by most captains. A breakup can sour the mood until everyone involved's contracts are up, and let's face it: bulkheads between bunkrooms are thin. That said, gossip and rumor spread through ships like wildfire no matter who's sleeping with whom.

Creative endeavors are the go-to for some crews. Collaborative storytelling, songwriting, poetry nights, art, even tabletop role-playing games... anything that gets the crew together and lets them escape their day-to-day drudgery. These get shared around, but often it's far more covert than it would have been in decades past - once the Company caught word, an IP clause became standard in contracts, giving the contracting company exclusive rights to all works created on their ships. What are you gonna do, starve or accept the terms and conditions?

Song is a constant companion. Every crew has that one crusty old spacer with a guitar, a croon, and a head full of old shanties they've learned over their decades spacing. Some stretch back to the first days of spaceflight on Earth, before the first jump breach, before even the disastrous first Mars Landings and the Liar's Flight. Here's a few for table ambience.

Games turn to more dangerous competitions. Undercity fight clubs on space stations often welcome competitors from whichever ships are in port, and so some spacers put their pride in their fists and aim, letting off steam by sparring with their crewmates. The occasional captain turns this into a way to maintain hierarchy, resulting in the tradition of Klingon promotion re-emerging so far from its origins in centuries-old space operas.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Thieves' Guilds

There's been a renewed interest recently in making GLOG classes that are extensible, like the original Wizard and its schools. I've been part of working on several of these before - Bottomless Sarcophagus' Witch, Oblidisideryptch's Barbarian and Warlock, I even wrote a Bard, so I decided to take a crack at a class I haven't really touched: the Thief. To give it a little more mechanical identity, I've decided to give the thief access to some storygame-esque skills.

While Wizards can warp the fabric of reality, and Clerics can channel the powers of the gods, Thieves are so good that the narrative itself bends to their whims. They can retroactively choose to have prepared just the tool for the job, or set up a trap in just the right place, or realize they've always known the language that the merchants speak. It might rub some people the wrong way, but it's my class and my rules and I think it's really cool to let the Thief have some definition of its own. Of course, other Guilds will provide other ability sets, and hopefully I come back to add more.

These Thieves have Guilds, like Wizards' Schools or Bards' Genres. The Guild you belong to determines the suite of 6 abilities you can rank up in. Each ability has 3 ranks. At level 1, you start with 2 abilities, each at rank 1, and as you level up you both increase the rank of the abilities you have and gain new abilities at rank 1.

Thief

Level 1: 2 rank 1 abilities
Level 2: +1 ability rank, +1 rank 1 ability
Level 3: +2 ability ranks
Level 4: +1 rank in all abilities, gain all abilities you don't have yet at rank 1

Hit Die: d6

Specific abilities, equipment, and skills are all determined by the Guild a thief belongs to.

Thieves Guild


 Possession is nine-tenths of the law. That last tenth is the tricky bit...

Starting Equipment: 2 daggers, a dark cloak, set of lockpicks, roll 2 extra random items
Skills (2, d6): 1. Acrobat, 2. Bully, 3. Forger, 4. Gambler, 5. Lookout, 6. Pickpocket

Abilities

1: Bag of Tricks
    ✧: You have a Bag of Tricks, which takes up 2 inventory slots. While you have inventory slots in your Bag that haven't yet been filled with defined items, you may produce a mundane tool of neglegible value from your Bag that will help you solve a current problem. It then takes up one of the inventory slots in your Bag of Tricks. You may clean out and refill your Bag when you return to town.
    ✧✧: Your Bag now has 4 slots.
    ✧✧✧: Your Bag no longer contributes to encumbrance.
2: Opportunist
    ✧: Whenever you would gain advantage to hit, you may also roll damage with advantage.
    ✧✧: Whenever you would gain advantage on a roll, you may reroll 1s.
    ✧✧✧: Whenever you would gain advantage on a roll, you may roll 3 results instead of 2 and take the best.
3: Prepwork
    ✧: On a 1 in 6, you may declare that you've set up a minor environmental effect nearby in an area that you would've had access to within the recent past, and trigger that effect.
    ✧✧: One automatic success per day, then 2 in 6 for each following attempt.
    ✧✧✧: 3 in 6 for each following attempt, and you can have retroactively set up effects in any area you plausibly could have had access to at any time in the past.
4: Second Story Worker
    ✧: You can climb vertical surfaces as quickly as you can walk.
    ✧✧: Double your move speed and jump distance.
    ✧✧✧: You can climb upside down as quickly as you can walk. Halve fall damage.
5: Thick as Thieves
    ✧: You can recruit d4 thugs in town who're loyal so long as they'll get a cut of the loot and are sure they'll make it out alive. They will flee, cheat, or betray you and each other if either of those conditions becomes sufficiently murky.
    ✧✧: d6 thugs or d4 thieves, each with 1 rank in a random thief ability (besides this one).
    ✧✧✧: 2d6 thugs or 2d4 thieves, each with 2 ranks in a random thief ability (besides this one).
6: Tricky Fingers
    ✧: Whenever you try to perform sleight of hand (lockpicking, pickpocketing, etc), failure won't alert anyone who isn't already paying attention to you.
    ✧✧: You leave no trace of tampering, or specific traces of your choice, when you perform sleight of hand (whether you succeed or fail).
    ✧✧✧: Whenever someone tries to retrieve or draw an item, you can (on a 2-in-6, with 1 guaranteed success per day) reveal that you actually burgled it from them at some point in the recent past (if you had access).

Seamstresses Guild
You'd be surprised what people let slip when they're in the company of a good listener.

Starting Equipment: 3 sets of fancy clothes, 3 stilettos, bottle of liquor, makeup kit, noble's calling card
Skills (2, d6): 1. Artist, 2. Casanova/Seductress/Them Fatale, 3. Dancer, 4. Gambler, 5. Poet, 6. Seamstress (but for real)


Abilities
 
1. Con Artist
    ✧: So long as no one can verify what you’re saying is wrong, you can lie through your teeth and they’ll believe you for at least d6 minutes.
    ✧✧: d6 hours.
    ✧✧✧: Even if they can verify, they'll believe you over other people until the end of the duration.
2. Cunning Linguist
    ✧: Three times, you may encounter a language that the party does not understand, and reveal that you speak that language. Add that language to your character sheet, you are now fluent in it.
    ✧✧: You can attempt to translate any language you don't speak. The GM rolls a d6 secretly for the number of errors you make in the translation.
    ✧✧✧: You can crudely communicate with anything that has a language. Gain the ability to speak with (d6: 1. Birds, 2. Clothing, 3. Doors, 4. Gold, 5. Fire, 6. Weapons)
3. Fancy
    ✧: Fancy clothes give you a +2 AC bonus.
    ✧✧: Can choose to ablate fancy clothing like a shield; reducing the damage from one attack by d12 points but ruining your outfit in the process.
    ✧✧✧: Given a short rest, you can make any outfit into a fancy outfit through sheer willpower and coordination.
4. Seductive Wiles
    ✧: You can keep someone engaged in conversation with you, to the exclusion of all else, for an hour. This makes them less hostile, and on a 2-in-6 they let valuable information slip.
    ✧✧: You don’t have to roll to impersonate someone in casual conversation, but gaps in your knowledge can still reveal you. 4-in-6 to let info slip.
    ✧✧✧: You can choose which specific information they reveal, if any, and you can keep them talking for d6 hours.
5. Thick as Thieves
    ✧: You can recruit d4 thugs in town who're loyal so long as they'll get a cut of the loot and are sure they'll make it out alive. They will flee, cheat, or betray you and each other if either of those conditions becomes sufficiently murky.
    ✧✧: d6 thugs or d4 thieves, each with 1 rank in a random thief ability (besides this one).
    ✧✧✧: 2d6 thugs or 2d4 thieves, each with 2 ranks in a random thief ability (besides this one).
6. Tricky Fingers
    ✧: Whenever you try to perform sleight of hand (lockpicking, pickpocketing, etc), failure won't alert anyone who isn't already paying attention to you.
    ✧✧: You leave no trace of tampering, or specific traces of your choice, when you perform sleight of hand (whether you succeed or fail).
    ✧✧✧: Whenever someone tries to retrieve or draw an item, you can (on a 2-in-6, with 1 guaranteed success per day) reveal that you actually burgled it from them at some point in the recent past (if you had access).

Archaeologists Guild

That belongs in a museum! No, *my* museum, not yours... no, not even if you're still using it, now hand it over, it's priceless!

Starting Equipment: Case of maps and pens, wide-brimmed hat, machete, whip, leather armor
Skills (2, d6): 1. Cartography, 2. History, 3. Merchantry, 4. Occult, 5. Religion, 6. Soldier

Abilities

1. Appraisal
    ✧: You can tell the rough value (within an order of magnitude) and historical/geographic provenance of items, architecture, etc. You know how to dismantle them to get 20% value from the more manageable components, rather than the ordinary 10% for defaced art.
    ✧✧: You can identify that an object, effect, or creature is magic on sight. Gain the ability to Speak with Art.
    ✧✧✧: Gain the ability to Speak with Magic.
2. Bag of Tricks
    ✧: You have a Bag of Tricks, which takes up 2 inventory slots. While you have inventory slots in your Bag that haven't yet been filled with defined items, you may produce a mundane tool of neglegible value from your Bag that will help you solve a current problem. It then takes up one of the inventory slots in your Bag of Tricks. You may clean out and refill your Bag when you return to town.
    ✧✧: Your Bag now has 4 slots.
    ✧✧✧: Your Bag no longer contributes to encumbrance.
3. Cunning Linguist
    ✧: Three times, you may encounter a language that the party does not understand, and reveal that you speak that language. Add that language to your character sheet, you are now fluent in it.
    ✧✧: You can attempt to translate any language you don't speak. The GM rolls a d6 secretly for the number of errors you make in the translation.
    ✧✧✧: You can crudely communicate with anything that has a language. Gain the ability to speak with (d6: 1. Birds, 2. Clothing, 3. Doors, 4. Gold, 5. Fire, 6. Weapons)
4. Danger Sense
    ✧: 3-in-6 chance of acting in surprise round when ambushed, advantage on saves against effects you haven't seen yet.
    ✧✧: Always act in surprise rounds; always act first in initiative order.
    ✧✧✧: Once, you may cheat death.
5. Historian
    ✧: On a 1-in-6, you may declare a historical fact relevant to the current situation (negotiate it with the GM). Whether correct or not, it's believed to be true in the current era.
    ✧✧: One automatic success per day, then 2-in-6 for each following event.
    ✧✧✧: 3-in-6, and the historical facts you declare can be outlandish - but your reputation will make them believed.
6. Second Story Worker
    ✧: You can climb vertical surfaces as quickly as you can walk.
    ✧✧: Double your move speed and jump distance.
    ✧✧✧: You can climb upside down as quickly as you can walk. Halve fall damage.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

What's Going On In My Town?

I like cities and towns a lot! However, the core loop of most OSR games is focused on towns as often little more than glorified item shops and inns. The interesting things happen in dungeons, or on hexcrawl maps, or in strange pocket dimensions. This has changed recently, what with fantastic books like Magical Industrial Revolution or Electric Bastionland, but both of those presuppose quite a bit about the settings involved and really package a whole game setting in a book. The tables I've made in this post are for general use; slottable into any table where you quickly need a new town for the players to rest at, resupply at, or pillage.

Here I'm trying to "solve" three problems I run into when I'm running towns in my games. One, they all feel the same. They look right out of generic fantasy MMO #8975; all thatched rooves and those white walls with cross-bar wood frames, with a big walled castle somewhere. The first table is supposed to provide a little bit of flavor to differentiate them on a more macro level; what the PCs have heard about the town from afar, and something that probably permeates the fabric of the town's day-to-day existence.

Two, the towns-as-menu-interface problem. When the PCs go to a town, it's usually just an opportunity for them to meet quest-givers, rest up, and take a look at the item charts to see what's available and what they can buy. There's precious little else I can whip up on short notice; so this is a group of other things the PCs might be interested in interacting with. It could use a list of NPCs related to the buildings as well; that's a challenge and table for another day.

Three, towns as places where nothing happens. On one hand, towns should be a place of relative stability as opposed to the random-encounter-filled wilderness; that's the whole point of a town. On the other, towns are boring if the players are the only driving force! Giving a little bit of motive force to the players' actions, forcing them to deal with new situations (or ignore situations that could cause problems later) is a great way to fill time if nothing else, when the table gets stagnant because everyone's looking at gear lists.

by Raphael Lacoste

What makes this town special?
1. A fortress, impregnable by attacking forces.
2. Birthplace of a major religious figure, site of many pilgrimages.
3. Built around an institute of higher education.
4. Built atop a vast, ancient structure.
5. Covers for a secret town nearby or hidden in plain sight.
6. Everyone who's born here, or lives here longer than a year and a day, develops a particular mutation (roll on your favorite mutation table to figure out which).
7. Farms something that isn't plants (d6: 1. Glass, 2. Flesh, 3. Books, 4. Weather, 5. Fire, 6. Dreams).
8. Freak constant weather pattern (d6: 1. Rainstorm, 2. Strong winds, 3. Oppressive humidity and heat, 4. Bone-chilling blizzard, 5. Permanent twilight, 6. Incredibly pleasant)
9. Home of the most delicious food in the region.
10. Military town. Everyone's armed to the teeth.
11. Moves around over time.
12. One big building with the entire town under one roof.
13. Openly run by a cult based around (d6: 1. Cult of living personality, 2. A powerful local creature, 3. A deity proscribed by the dominant culture, 4. A local philosophy, 5. A powerful supernatural phenomenon, 6. A band of mythical heroes)
14. Rebuilding after a recent disaster.
15. Run by a cruel and capricious noble, whom the peasants live in fear of.
16. Split in two. Ongoing conflict between the two sides.
17. The monarch built their seasonal home here.
18. They revere their dead. The whole town is a cemetery, and spirits are part of the community.
19. Train and rely on a unique beast that hasn't been domesticated by anyone else.
20. Roll twice, it's super special and has both.

by Artur Zima
Buildings that the PCs might want to frequent besides shops or inns
1. A blacksmith who knows how to imbue items with (d6: 1. sparkly gems, 2. spirits, 3. magic words, 4. stronger materials, 5. clockwork mechanisms, 6. elemental energies)
2. A castle with a local noble who's easily impressed
3. A mercenary company's local camp, with loose morals and heavy armaments
4. Abandoned sewer system full of secret passages and hideaways
5. An abandoned tower full of strange machines
6. Art gallery
7. Bardic college
8. Cemetery with restless spirits
9. Church that gives blessings freely
10. Gladiatorial arena
11. Library with eldritch tomes
12. Mine, with valuable metals within
13. Observatory to view the stars and faraway locales
14. River or sea-side port
15. Stone ritual circle, where the walls between worlds grow thin
16. The haunt of a not-so-secret society of philosophers
17. Town forum, where ideas and gossip flow like a river
18. Underground hot spring with hallucinatory vapors
19. Well of mutating radiation
20. Witch's haunt

by Elizaveta Lebedeva

When The Party Returns to Town
1. "Any last words?" One of the party's friends is about to be executed publicly!
2. "Burn the heretics! Take their tithes!" An inquisition is rounding up faces familiar and strange and preparing a bonfire. Better hide your loot and magic items!
3. "Excuse me! You still owe me!" Someone's come to collect...
4. "Fire! FIRE!" The town's going up in flames!
5. "Halt, in the name of the law!" The city watch accosts the party! Mistaken identity? A shakedown? Legitimate grievance?
6. "Help, help! Who will defeat the beast who has taken up residence in my home? I can pay..."
7. "Oh, the horror! There's been a murder! A noble's been found dead!"
8. "Please, teach me!" A young scamp has heard of your deeds, and demands you take them on as an apprentice. They don't even want pay, and they're willing to do menial labor...
9. "ROOOOAAR!" A great beast has broken loose from its chains!
10. "There's a war on, don't you know?" Recruiters see your heavy armaments and think you're perfect saps to press-gang into service.
11. "Trinkets! Talismans! Tigers! Towers-in-a-box!" A wizard's come to town, hawking esoteric wares from their flying cart.
12. "Who will fight the MIGHTIEST WARRIOR IN THE LAND!" Someone's bragging about their strength, and wields a weapon you've never seen before. They're starting trouble with anyone who looks tough, and are bound to come over to you sooner rather than later...
13. "You seem like a discerning customer. I have exactly what you need!"
14. *CRASH!* A bar brawl spills into the street!
15. *KABOOOM* Something nearby explodes! And there's a shadowy figure darting away from the scene...
16. *Slap* "How dare you speak, dress, or breathe like that in my presence! I challenge you to a duel!"
17. An incredibly rich person (a noble? an artist? a priest?) has arrived in town, and everyone's scrambling to raise their prices to cater to the foolish among their retinue.
18. Someone screams! They're far too close for comfort...
19. Whoever the party wanted to see? They've closed up shop and disappeared - under mysterious circumstances...
20. Roll two - they're both happening at once!

Monday, January 13, 2020

Fleshcrafter Intrigues of the Idle Nutrient-Rich

Who are the nutrient-rich? The leftover scraps of fleshcrafter dynasties from the Cyclopean Empire that once ruled (and killed) the Turtle. In a world where the basics are, in general, vastly overabundant - one can just pull meat out of the ground, so long as the area has not yet begun to decay - what does nobility mean? In the final days of the Empire, the dynasties claimed vast quantities of resources and land in the Final City (that would one day become the Meatropolis). They intended to use it to maintain control over the shattered remnants of civilization, parceling it out as necessary to the needy and the hungry as they once did on the barren shell.

But the ways of the organ-dwellers bypassed them entirely; as the Meatropolis grew, they realized they had no leverage but space, and even that was barely important as vertical dwellings grew on the side of the heart like a patchwork of scarification. The average dweller of the Turtle takes what they need, and no more - what use would they have?

And so this is the problem that the nutrient-rich face: they took far more, and now need to find things to do with it. Most leave them to their intrigues, or involve themselves when it would be fun. or they want access to these resources for their own ends, for their plans need vast quantities...
Igor Vitkovskiy
Clone Schemes
There are innumerable ways in which a clone of oneself can be used (and misused). Keeping it for replacement parts is merely the most pedestrian of schemes, and would be scoffed at by any truly decadent noble. Keeping it as a delicacy? Now that's more like it. Flash-implant it with a piece of your soul, so that it can behave as you at various social functions that you are far too busy to attend. Make many such clones, and see how they tackle problems that you have exhausted yourself on. Have a family all of clones of yourself. Pass down your inheritance to your clone just so you can giggle at writing the worlds "all to me" in your will. Clone other people - with their consent (good if creepy), or without (evil, but you're a noble, that's practically part of your job description). See what it's like through someone else's eyes for a day - or the rest of your (their?) life.

Clone someone else's descendants to sow discord and mischief in their household, or besmirch their good name. Challenge someone to a duel, then send your clone in your stead (rig your clone to explode when killed, your rival isn't getting out of this one unscathed). Disappear on sabbatical without anyone noticing that your clone is running the day-to-day in your stead. Use clones of yourself (or your clients) as surgical, mutational, or alchemical testbeds for your newest experiments so you can be sure they'll work on their intended recipients. Clone yourself as a team of adventurers to do your bidding - who can you most trust, if not yourself?

Grow an entire garden based on your genome. Why must your clones be limited to your own form?

Impersonation Balls

The masquerade has always been a staple of the noble caste. With fleshcraft, it has only become more popular, more precise, and more ghoulish. Each week brings a new event to a new bone-spire or subcutaneous ballroom. Between masquerading as creatures, faceless replicas, other members of high society, or characters of their own design, they bore none and are each the site of intrigues petty and grand. If vengeance must be taken, reputations made, new flesh-fashions tactically deployed, or fortunes broken, it is sure to happen here. Gossip flows as freely as lymph, every back room fills with trysts ostensibly forbidden by convoluted noble etiquette.

The impersonation itself, too, is perennially a subject of contention. While most basic changes can be wrought by any amateur fleshcrafter, far more detail, innovation, and art must be present if one is to share tables or furtive conversations with the truly important. Such art is in high demand - despite the abundance of the Turtle and the gross overabundance of the nutrient-rich's claims, skill (and style) remains seductively rare. Many intrigues surround mere access to renowned fleshcrafter icons, whose proclivities and interests are as fleeting as wizards' lives.

d10 Themes
1. Extinct animals
2. Heroes of legend
3. Facelessness
4. Come as someone else who you know will attend
5. Change faces over the course of the night
6. A particular architectural style
7. The alien
8. Sin
9. Fables, myths, and tales
10. Dreams

Skyscraper Topiary

Architecture in the Meatropolis takes a staggering variety of forms, from the scrimshaw of the Siding to the jerky-streets of the Butcher's Quarter to the soaring rib-spires that mark its iconic skyline to the hulking bloodiron foundries on the coast of the Blood Sea. Fleshcraft in its most extravagant form is the raising of entire towers from raw meat and wet bone, weaving floors and windows and facades together into a cohesive whole that's more art than living space. Most such endeavors take dozens of fleshcrafters working in teams, or one fleshcrafter to devote years to growing one from a custom tailored gene-seed.

Like prize vegetables of the past, competitions are held every growing-season (a description of such a thing would require a full account of the calendar and what passes for seasonal variance in the decaying husk of the Turtle, take it on faith that there is such thing as a growing season). Miniature castles are displayed at impersonation balls like bouquets, ready to mature into their fully-fledged magnificence a few months hence.

The seeds of such a building are carefully cultivated and bred on small scales, or pruned from the side-rooms of buildings expected to bear strong, healthy young. Meat-architects then mutate and carefully inscribe the seed with patterns that will guide its growth as it matures into an adult building. Often, the final structure is never truly known until it has grown to completion, revealing fractal halls and hidden pathways unplanned by any mortal mind. In some schools of thought, minimizing these is a sign of great skill, in others, maximizing them is a sign of great artistic vision.

There are many different architectural styles and accompanying trade secrets, and all can be found lauded in noble halls - of course, ones grown by the architect whose praises are sung. Of course the architect themself may be willing to reveal features of their creation unknownst to those who dwell in it, for a favor...


Artisanal Resurrections

Resurrection is no longer the provence of heavenly bureaucracies or clerical conduits. Fleshcrafters can weave new vessels from the barest scraps of the old. So long as a corpse is recoverable (which is more difficult than one may expect, in this bloody new world of deepest pits and voracious parasites), it can be regenerated by one of great enough skill. Of course the wait lists are long. It takes much power, much raw meat, and much time - not to mention the risks of mutation, of amnesia, and the still-extant suspicion that the person you once knew is long, long gone.

The nutrient-rich have turned this into a status symbol, because of course they have. The accumulating mutations of many resurrections is a testament to many things - keeping up with the latest fashions in a holistic, full-body manner, or the foolish bravery to take on challenges and set records that are universally fatal, or simply the status needed to become the victim of political assassinations several times over. Beleaguered fleshcrafters find time for their personal projects between scraping the remnants of their patrons off of floors and walls and ceilings, and resurrecting them to the requested degree so they can continue providing their obscenely vast resources.

These gruesome customs have spread like wildfire through those with the resources to participate. Often, the end of a fashion season is marked with a mass resurrection - and a corresponding mass grave.

Fungal Emporiums

In the vastness of the cosmos, there lie trillions of spores from millions of worlds, cast off into space in search of ever-further lands in which to lay down tendrils and expand, expand, expand. Ogoath's defenses against such an invasion failed catastrophically when the Cyclopean Empire slew the World-Turtle, and now the fungi feast upon the greatest banquet of rot in existence. They seed microcosms of their old worlds, then war between each other in fractal wars at every level of biology. These alien wars from alien worlds, upon a biology familiar but of scale unimaginable, create biomes utterly hostile to mortal life - and beautiful in their violent throes. Expeditions to the Turtle's extremities returned decimated, but rapturous, and the nutrient-rich couldn't get enough.

So go adventuring party after adventuring party, seeking out beautiful or interesting fungal varieties to bring back as spores for the nobility to grow in specialized gardens. They brave toxic atmospheres, extradimensional fungal beasts, creatures vaster than anything that existed in the Old World, clouds of disassembler-wasps, semantic blossoms that will consume through one's comprehension of them, geometries that change as the battlefields between duelling ecosystems advance and recede. Any who return are feted handsomely. The hermetic emporiums of the nutrient-rich span stadiums, entire sealed gardens as art statement or biological experiment or eldritch farm. The truly obsessive may fund adventurers not to venture out into the dangerous extremes of the true biomes, but to steal or sabotage a rival's work. So goes the arms race.


Organ-Theft Games

Heists! Intrigues! Back-alley fleshcraft! All these things keep the attention of bored heirs and tired nobility. Those of a more active persuasion than fungal gardeners or skyscraper topiarists spend their days planning elaborate ventures to steal each others' unique and valuable organs out of their very torsos. Black markets do a thriving trade in instruments of spycraft and surgery, teams of adventurers are hired to baby noble heirs seeking the thrill of the game (or protect nobles who're likely to be targets), fleshcrafters who want to join in the fun grow organs as decoys, or as incredible luxuries that can't help but attract the attentions of self-styled master thieves.

In this way, organs change hands (and bodies) again and again. A heart may beat its way through the chests of a dozen heirs, a pair of hands is used to burgle and is burgled in turn, even one's brain may find itself on the inside of a keratin-glass trophy case (in good taste, it is of course returned, though not without initials carved into its grey matter). Such trophies are displayed in tantalizingly visible ways, hanging from ballroom ceilings or sitting on pedestals in personal chambers, inviting the game to continue. Some spectacular braggarts install the organs inside themselves, becoming patchworks of their hard-won victories, and high-profile targets themselves.

Escaping the game is a trial in and of itself. To be unvaluable, rather than invaluable, takes effort and time and attention. One's attempt to leave may only invite more scrutiny and thefts, and one's last heist may prove their greatest achievement of all. A foolproof way, as always, is to pull off a trick so impressive that none wish to tarnish your reputation by sullying it.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Modern Mimics

image
by iguanamouth (more rad art in the link!)

"Watch out! It's right behind you!"

"Where, in the dumpster?"

"No, it is the dumpster!"

Mimics are anxiety in monstrous form. It's not paranoia if everything you touch really could be out to get you. Keep a stack of post-its on hand for labeling things you know aren't mimics. Trust nothing. Trust no one.

Mimics only have near-perfect mimicry. Sometimes, they slip up; sometimes, they leave traces. Roll the tell before they discover the mimic. Bigger and older mimics may have no tells at all, but ensure that players have some sort of countermeasure against them - it's not just an instant kill when they open it, that's no fun.

Mimic Tells
1. breathing slowly
2. bulging at seams
3. droppings in surroundings
4. fetid stench
5. holes underneath for limbs
6. making the wrong sounds
7. mirrored/illegible writing
8. moving parts don't move
9. part of another form
10. ridges for eyes
11. warm air
12. wound leaking ichor


21st Century Mimics

Pizza box. In supernatural suburbia, pizza eats you! Sneaks into trunks of delivery cars, devours a pizza, then replaces it. The delivery driver doesn't know what doom they're bringing to your door (but it smells delicious).

1 HD. Armor as leather. d8 damage bite attack.

Email. The most dangerous chain letter. Open it up, and it'll try to eat your data, then your brain.

1 HD. Armor as leather (or more, if it's on a chunkier device). Animates the device it's on, giving it legs and teeth. If you can delete it (easier said than done when it's trying to chomp on your hands), you instantly kill it. Can bite for d6 piercing damage, or static discharge for d4 lightning damage to everything within 10'. Any electronic device that can receive/display email must save or receive a copy of the email mimic.

Trash can. Subsists on a diet of possums, raccoons, squirrels, and dumpster-divers. Leaves an acidic trail behind it that exudes a noxious stench of decaying flesh. The closest thing to a normal treasure-chest mimic you'll find in the city. Each has a designated hunting ground; fights heard in alleyways are occasionally a pair of trash can mimics fighting for dominance.

2 HD. Armor as leather. 2 attacks per round (any combination of tentacles (d6 bludgeoning, save or grabbed, 15' range), bites (d8 piercing), and lobbing a wad of sludge (60' range, d6 acid, 10' radius detonation, sticky - targets are slowed (save ends)). Gets a free bite attack against everyone it's got grabbed.

Corpse. Poor fucker, but looks rich enough to have something juicy on it. When you try to loot it, it splits open lengthwise into a toothy maw. Speaks in a genteel human voice. Will morph back into humanoid form and run once reduced to half HP - and the PCs are gonna look like they're attacking a hapless bystander. Likes hiding in dumpsters, car trunks, rivers.

2 HD. Armor as leather. 2 attacks per round (any combination of tentacles (d6 bludgeoning, save or grabbed, 15' range) and bites (d8 piercing). Gets a free bite attack against everyone it's got grabbed.

Sidewalk. Step on a crack, it'll break your back and then digest you. Attacks at night, when there's no one else around. Spans d4*10 sidewalk tiles. Looks like a centipede made of concrete and sinew when it fully reveals itself. Hunts in packs; often an entire street has been colonized by sidewalk mimics.

2 HD. Armor as chain. 2 attacks per round (any combination of smashes (d6 bludgeoning, save vs. knockdown) and bites (d8 piercing)). Runs at double speed, can climb walls and ceilings.

Grand piano. Attacks when played. The strings within whip into a frenzy; anyone within 15' takes 1 slashing damage on their turn (no save) and must save or take another 1 when they try to move within that radius. It snaps its lid to bite, and charges far faster than its bulk would suggest. Kept half-domesticated by the rich, powerful, and guilty.

3 HD. Armor as chain. 3 attacks per round (any combination of strings (d6 slashing, 15' range), bites (d8 piercing), and charges (d6 bludgeoning, target chooses to either be pushed 10' or be knocked down)).

Streetlamp. Like an anglerfish. Exudes a clinging supernatural darkness within 100'. Can't move from its rooted foundation without great effort. Grabs travelers walking along the highway, or victims of car accidents.

3 HD. Armor as chain. 2 attacks (bite (d6 piercing and save vs. grab), lash (d6 bludgeoning and save vs. knockdown to all in 180 degree arc; range 30') or blinding beam (target is blinded (save ends)) per round. Will retract into sky and drop grabbed targets from 30' up.

Taxi. Waits to pick you up on the corner. Tinted windows. Can perfectly mimic human voices. Interior looks like a worn taxicab with distressingly human leather interiors. The front seat is occupied by a lump of misshapen eyes, teeth, flesh, and tendrils. When someone enters, the mimic reveals itself (as the entire taxicab) and tries to eat them.

4 HD. Armor as plate. Will try to run over characters as it moves (d12 damage, DEX save to jump out of the way). Has 3 tentacle attacks per round (d6 bludgeoning damage and save vs. grab) OR 1 tentacle attack and a move. Anyone it grabs, it will pull inside the following round. Anyone inside takes d6 piercing damage and d4 acid damage per round as they are chewed and digested.

Structural Mimics

The two following mimics have grown fat and vast over decades; slowly becoming entire buildings. Do you know what every building in your city is? Have you ever really looked at the skyline? Could you truly tell if that one was where it was yesterday?

Kill a structural mimic through defacing its component rooms (hammers, spray paint, and fire are your friends here), or by destroying its vital organs.



Gas Station. Convenient. Local. Hungry. Does actually provide gas, occasionally. Full-service; go inside to pay. That's when it gets you.

2 vital rooms. When destroyed, it convulses, spewing gouts of flame through cracks in the parking lot. Everyone within takes d10 fire damage (save for half).
Heart is in basement (see ambnz's post), stairs down are behind the counter.
Brain is on the roof, encased in what looks like an AC unit.
3 attacks per round. Within parking lot, can spread gasoline in 10' square puddles, then set it on fire. Inside or adjacent to building, tentacle lash to grab (d6 bludgeoning and save vs. sticky grab) and bite anyone who's been grabbed for d8 piercing (save for half).

Skyscraper. Ostensibly an insurance company, but no one knows anyone who works there or has a plan from them. Who would, these days? It's just another cog of the unfeeling, uncaring corporate machine. Some people still venture inside - urban explorers, lost tourists, people walking around late at night who need to get in from the cold. They're never seen again.

4 vital rooms. Elevators still work, against all odds, though they'll still try to eat you.
Brain in penthouse.
Heart in sub-basement.
Lungs on ground floor. Blows characters out of room, or slams them against walls.
Stomach in building core, in middle of elevator shafts. Constantly sloshes with incredibly corrosive acid; need armor or a hazard suit to even think about entering (and it'll ablate quickly).
When it's down to 2 vital rooms, will stand up and sprint down city streets in mad dash to eat as much as it can before it dies.
Inside, riddled with parasites. Carrion crawlers, smaller mimics, ropers, rust monsters, etc.
Has 4 attacks per round. Tentacles and bites against grappled enemies (you know the drill at this point in the post), or room convulsion to knock everyone in the room over (save negates).

Most Recent Post

Giant Robots Deserve Giant Monsters

I wrote the Mechwarrior class a few months ago and I'm still unreasonably proud of it. Let's give our brave pilots something to fi...