Sunday, October 13, 2019

Cancer Warlock

It's time for another dose of body horror! The Oblidisideryptch's Warlock is one of my favorite additions to the GLOG (I wrote a previous Patron for it, the Baleful Star), and I've been considering adding it to Mimics & Miscreants. Of course, as a consummate tinkerer, I can't leave well enough alone, so here's my take on the Warlock and an all-new Patron for it: Cancer!

Power corrupts. But what's a little corruption among friends?

Level 1:
Patron, 1 maximum Credit, 2 Spells
Level 2: Beseech, +1 max Credit, +2 Spells
Level 3: d10 Credit Dice, +1 max Credit, +2 Spells
Level 4: Patron's Gift, +1 max Credit, +2 Spells

Hit Die: d4
Starting Equipment: see Patron
Skills (d6): 1. Art, 2. Etiquette, 3. Hermitry, 4. Lore, 5. Occult, 6. Theology

Patron: A powerful being that has lent you a portion of its power in exchange for your loyalty and service. You can cast Warlock spells from your Patron's list using the Patron Spellcasting rules. Your patron also gives you a passive Boon, and grants you three minor powers as at-will Favors. As you cast spells, you will accrue Debt. This Debt can be reduced by performing Services from the list of Services your patron may require of you. Your patron requests a random service when you gain Debt, and many services scale for each point of Debt you have.

Patron Spellcasting: As you cast a spell, you may cast it with a number of Credit Dice (d8s) up to your maximum Credit. Whenever you roll the maximum 2 numbers on a Credit Die (7-8 on d8, 5-6 on d6, etc.), gain 1 Debt and learn what Service your patron requires of you to pay it off. Step down the size of your Credit Dice once for each Debt you have. Performing a service for your patron removes 1 Debt. When your Debt decreases your Credit Dice below a d2, you can't cast spells until you pay off your Debt.

Beseech: Ask your patron for help. They'll give it in some form, though if you have more debt it'll be less useful - and patrons have odd concepts of what may be helpful. Always accumulates 1 Debt.

Patron's Gift: Your patron marks you for good as their servant, giving you a permanent powerful beneficial mutation (specified in the patron's entry). They can't take this away.

Some Patrons
Old Scratch, the devil at the crossroads
The Baleful Star, which hates and fears
The esteemed law firm of Semiramis-Nebuchadnezzar-Shamsi
Tawantinsuyu Imperial Armories (for Sun and Emperor!)
A small spider that lives in your brain and is very excited to explore

Patron: Cancer
by Bogdan Rezunenko
Your closest friend, so near and dear to your heart. Literally.

Something grows inside you. It made its intentions known when it first pushed on your organs and distended your skin. It would devour you, slay you in its feverish thirst for unchecked riotous growth. Life, the ultimate killer.

You spoke to it that night. Promised it life, promised it growth, promised it food, promised it everything - if only it spared your life. You are your cancer's weapon, its pawn to do what it will with a world it can only see in terms of Self and Not Yet Self, But Soon.

It gives you frenetic power, vast biological energies unleashed through cellular esoteries. It runs rampant through your veins and tissues, replicating furiously, creating more You-And-It every second. Your skin hangs loose, growing new lumps of meat. You're always just too warm to the touch, as the cancer burns calorie after calorie in its relentless quest.

Even if you-the-mind die, you-the-cancer will live on, growing and growing, in a thousand shapes in a thousand bodies. Immortality, of a sort, is in your grasp, if only you give yourself over to its power and its will. Others will call you deranged. You call yourself pragmatic. Your cancer calls you friend.

Starting Equipment: Random mutation, scalpel, jar with one of your many tumors
Boon: You always roll hit dice with advantage, as the cancer grows without mercy or restraint.

1. You can bud off 2 HP as a ration. HP spent this way cannot be restored until you take a daily rest.
2. Your cancer fights other diseases for you, to protect both you and itself. You're immune to mundane disease, and save with advantage against others.
3. At the beginning of each day, you may roll a d6. Up to (templates) times, you may subtract 2 points from that ability score to gain +1 to another of your choice.

1. Feed Debt HD of creatures to your cancer.
2. Let Debt HP of your blood over the dying.
3. Save Debt lives from grievous injuries.
4. Seed your cancerous cells over Debt new living beings.
5. Give over your body to the cancer for Debt nights, where it will run rampant and consume.
6. Integrate something with Debt new, unique properties into your cancer so it can adapt and mutate.
7. Destroy Debt HD of undead.
8. Gain a new mutation.

Patron's Gift: Your cancer overtakes you, and you become a mass of undifferentiated cells, writhing and mutable. At any time, you may sacrifice HP equal to the number of mutations you have to roll on the mutation table. These mutations reset after a daily rest.

1. Apoptose: A (sum)' diameter sphere of living material you touch dies off and sloughs away. An unwilling target instead takes (sum) necrotic damage (CON save for half).

2. Alter Self: Take on up to (sum) physical characteristics of a creature you touch. If (dice) >= the creature's HD, you may become a copy of that creature. Lasts for (sum) minutes/hours/days/weeks (1/2/3/4 dice)

3. Autoharuspicy: Disembowel yourself to tell the future. Sacrifice up to (sum) HP. You may ask the GM a question, and (sum) follow-up clarification questions, about the consequences of a potential action you may take. The GM is not obligated to answer fully, but must answer truthfully.

4. Cancerous Healing: Touch a living creature. They regain (sum) hit points. Unless you give them a random mutation as well, this can’t heal them above ¼/⅓/½/full (1/2/3/4 dice).

5. Cancerous Regeneration: Touch a creature. Heal (dice)*2 ability score damage. Can’t restore points above (sum)+6 (so a sum of 6 couldn’t heal a score to above 12), unless you give them a random mutation as well. At 4 or more dice, can heal fatal wounds if you have >50% of the corpse and regenerated within 3 rounds of death.

6. Cancer-Twin: Create clones of (dice) of your organs. They can be internal or external, and in any location on your body. At 2+ dice, you can make it an autonomous creature, and at 3+ dice you can create a clone of your entire body. It lasts for (sum) minutes.

7. Consume: A chunk of you opens up into a toothy, jagged maw. Bite attacks deal d4 slashing damage (step up once for each die past the first) and the target saves vs. you swallowing a random Cut from them (as Butcher). Lasts for (sum) minutes.

8. Debone: Steal up to (sum) bones from someone you touch on bare skin. Starts with whichever bone is closest to where you touch them. They get a CON save to reduce this to just one bone. The bones end up in your hand, and this leaves no open wounds.

9. Emergency Transplant: You touch 2 bodies and select 2 organs within them. The organs flow through you, swapping hosts. Each target body may make a CON save to resist this effect. They must be the same organ, unless (sum) is greater than 10. (credit to T AKW)

10. Evolve: Inflict (dice) mutations from a mutation table of your choice on a creature you touch (or yourself). Roll at random, but you may pick a mutation of your choice from +/-(sum) results on the table (so a sum of 3 and a roll of 12 on the table would let you pick a mutation between 9 and 15). If (sum) is 20 or higher, you may instead give them a random Organ from an Adulterated Lineage of the Primordial Flesh (+2 to an ability score of your choice, roll lineage randomly).

11. Meld: Take two living things smaller than a head (1D)/a person (2D)/a wagon (3D)/a house (4D) with HD <= and combine them into a new whole, with the abilities and weaknesses of each. Unwilling creatures get an INT save on cast and each time interval, and fused creatures must either share the new body or fight with each other for it (roll INT or WIS or CHA (mind's choice), high roller takes control each time interval). Lasts for (sum) minutes/hours/days/weeks (1/2/3/4 dice)

12. Raise Dead: Touch a corpse, or an object that was once living. It returns to a facsimile of its living form, and becomes (dice) HD divided between up to (dice) separate creatures. Each undead created this way has abilities based on its form. You can break up corpses this way, like into a flesh blob and a skeleton, or a skinwraith and nerve-jellyfish. You can control up to (level)*2 HD of undead at once. They re-die after (sum) minutes (1D)/hours (2D)/days (3D)/months (4D).

Monday, October 7, 2019

Having Mechs on the First Date

Humans skyrocketed to dominance through tool use. As we ascended, our tools became more complex. The bag and the word have their proponents, but here, at Chicxulub Heavy Industries, we're talking about weapons. The rock became the stone axe became the longsword became the flintlock became the machine gun. We've gotten better and better at killing - our predators, then each other, then the world we live in. Mechs are merely the latest, greatest, final word in weaponry. Their pilots are rock stars. Their enemies are not long for this world.

Our competitors at Of Slugs and Silver LLC, Nuclear Haruspex Zaibatsu, Words for Yellow Boutique Combat Implements, Oblidisideryptch Incorporated, and Octarine Tinted Security Systems will all offer you tools. We offer you weapons.

25 tons of awesome.

Level 1: Mech, Weapon, System, 1 Eschaton Die
Level 2: +1 Weapon or System, +1 Eschaton Die
Level 3: +1 Weapon or System, +1 Eschaton Die
Level 4: +1 Weapon, +1 System, +1 Eschaton Die

Hit Die: d4
Skills: 1. Brawling, 2. Conviction, 3. Engineering, 4. Gambling, 5. Gladiation, 6. Tinkering
Starting Equipment: Coveralls, crowbar, toolbox, mech, greasy manual

(1000+ name list credit to the OSR discord, and inspiration credit to EXTREME MEATPUNKS FOREVER)

Mech: You have a mech. It's about the size of a bear, has a cockpit-torso where you pilot it, two arms, two stubby legs, and is powered by d6: 1. Steam, 2. Magic, 3. God, 4. Blood, 5. Passion, 6. Life. Its power is represented by Eschaton Dice (d6s).

Roll your Eschaton Dice each combat round. You can add them to any mech rolls you want. You must allocate them before you make the roll. You may also spend or burn Eschaton Dice to activate special abilities of your mech. Burnt Eschaton Dice only return when you repair your mech (1 per repair). Outside of combat, you must take a rest to roll ED. Mechs crave battle, and their cores run cold in peacetime.

Mechs move at the same speed as a human, deal d8 bludgeoning damage with their fists/stomps, and have 6+2d6 STR, 2d6 DEX, and 6+2d6 CON. Their HP = CON, and base armor is 4. Whenever dealt damage that reduces it to or below 0 HP, roll on the mech Breach table, and when reduced to -max HP, it's rendered unusable. You can repair your mech whenever you would heal during a rest for the same number of HP you would otherwise recover.

1. Leg Snapped. Knocked down.
2. Hull Breach. You take damage from breaching effect as well (CON save halves)
3. Weapon Jammed. Can't fire random weapon until repaired.
4. System Shocked. Random system shuts off until repaired.
5. Core Breached. Mech takes d6 fire damage, and loses 1 ED until repaired.
6. Controls Scrambled. Save or act at random until you pass that save.

Anyone else who wants to pilot your mech is going to be bad at it (unless they too are a Mechwarrior). They can't do much beyond sluggishly, stumblingly move it around and aimlessly trigger weapons systems. Every time someone untrained tries to do something in your mech, they have a 2-in-6 chance of doing something different and entirely unwanted instead as they pull the wrong lever.

Systems: Pick a system to install in your mech, or upgrade an existing mech system.
1. Bastion: +4 HP, can project 10' tall by 10' wide shield that gives +1 Armor to everyone behind it, shield bash deals d10 bludgeoning damage and forces save vs. knockdown → +4 HP, 2 shields at +2 armor each, can place as terrain with 4 HP, can throw shield as ranged weapon (boomerangs back) → +4 HP, 3 shields, can project/dismiss them within 100'
2. Berzerker: Enter rage state when reduced below half HP. Roll ED with advantage, must spend all ED each round, must move towards nearest creature and fight it, lose 1 HP whenever you spend an ED, rage ends on successful voluntary WIS save or when nothing in sight lives → Extra attack while raging → +ED armor and STR while raging
3. Bioform: Eat 1 HD of meat in combat to restore 1 HP → Spend an ED to get +3 to a stat of choice, must give up the bonus to get the die back → Spend ED with combined sum 10 or greater to mutate and replace this System with another system of your choice for a round
4. Blitz Core: +2 DEX, double max speed, if you move full speed you can go first in initiative next round → +2 DEX, +2 Armor if you moved full speed this round → +2 DEX, extra attack if you've moved full speed this round
5. Brawler: +2 STR, double the values of ED spent on melee attack damage, gain a melee weapon → +2 STR, melee attacks ignore armor → +2 STR, extra melee attack each round
6. Carrier: Gain 2 drones, each with a d4-damage mech weapon. Drones are cat-sized (3 HP), and can do one of the following: fly, have arms and hands, or have +2 armor. You can see through your drones' eyes. Spend ED to issue (sum) orders to the drones (max 3 per drone). Repair as mech. → +2 drones → +2 drones
7. Excavator: +2 STR, spend ED to excavate/construct (dice*5)' cube as turn → +2 STR, spend ED to excavate/construct (dice*5)' cube as action → +2 STR, spend ED to excavate/construct (sum)' cube as action
8. Giant Robot: Size of a house. +6 HP. Requires pilot to succeed on WIS test to control it each round (may spend ED on WIS test). → Size of a tower. +6 HP, +3 STR. Requires 2 pilots to each succeed on WIS test to control it each round. → Size of a dragon. +6 HP, step up damage dice.
9. Hazard Suit: +2 CON, advantage on saves vs. temperature/pressure/radiation extremes → +2 CON, advantage on saves vs. magic → +2 CON, +2 Armor, immune to temperature/pressure/radiation extremes
10. Jaeger: +2 STR, max damage attacks always wound/breach mech-sized enemies → +2 STR, +2 Armor when fighting mech-sized enemies → +2 STR, roll damage against mech-sized enemies with advantage
11. Juggernaut: Can't be knocked down or moved against will, +2 CON → +2 Armor, +2 CON → Double ED spent on saves, +2 CON
12. Magewrought: Mech core knows a random spell. Can spend ED as MD to cast it (burn on 5 or 6). → Learn another random spell, +1 ED (spend only on spells) → Learn another random spell, +1 ED (spend only on spells)
13. Mobile Frame: Double movement speed, can climb vertical surfaces, +2 DEX → Triple speed, jump jets (can fly, but must land on ground at end of turn), +2 DEX → Flight (no longer need to land), +2 DEX
14. Morphic: Your mech can spend an ED to turn into a vehicle (POW = STR, HAN = DEX, DUR = CON) with a vehicle trait of your choice. Still has ED in vehicle mode, but can't use mech systems → Extra vehicle trait and +2 to an attribute of choice in vehicle mode → Extra vehicle trait and additional mode of locomotion in vehicle mode (flight, submarine, etc.)
15. Overdriver: +1 ED, step up an ED → step up an ED, may reroll 1 ED per turn for free → step up an ED, may spend any number of ED to vent core and deal (sum) damage to everyone in melee range (save negates)
16. Spirit Machine: It has its own INT/WIS/CHA scores (3d6 down the line for each), is (d6. 1. snarky and jaded, 2. ruthlessly efficient, 3. naive and happy-go-lucky, 4. caring and parental, 5. enthusiastically helpful, 6. bloodthirsty and angry), and can act independently for (sum) minutes by burning an ED → act independently for (sum) hours → is fully autonomous
17. Stealth Frame: +1 DEX, +1 CON, camouflage into environment when stationary (won't be noticed unless someone's looking for it, or runs into it) → +1 DEX, +1 CON, burn ED to turn invisible for (sum) rounds until firing weapons → +1 DEX, +1 CON, invisibility lasts for (sum) minutes, firing weapons doesn't break invisibility
18. Telefrag: Gain a throwable teleport beacon. Can teleport to beacon if within 100'. → Can teleport to beacon from anywhere → Stored in a pocket dimension, summoned with teleport beacon, can be dismissed back into pocket dimension.
19. Voltron Module: Combine with another mech to form one big mech! The new mech has the highest of each mech's STR/DEX/CON and Armor, all weapons/systems, and all Eschaton Dice. The other mech must also have a Voltron Module → Can combine with mechs without Voltron Modules → Can combine with any machine (figure it out)
20. War Crime Machine: Gain an extra special weapons system with 2 combined Ammo types → Step up damage die for special weapons system and add another Property → Gain an additional copy of your special weapons system

Mech Weapon Generator
Property (d10)
1. Anti-material: punches through cover, halve defender's armor
2. Anti-personnel: reroll 1s and 2s for damage to smaller targets
3. Automatic: reroll 1s to hit and for damage
4. Dual: can attack two different targets at once (split damage between two equally)
5. Heavy: step up damage die
6. High-explosive: deals damage to all targets in 5' diameter area
7. Light: can always fire this before enemies
8. Rapid-fire: can spend an Eschaton Die to make two attacks against target
9. Semi-autonomous: can detach and run around on its own (1 HP)
10. Spinal-mounted: step up damage die twice, can't do anything else on a round you fire this

Ammo (d20)
1. Bore: slashing damage, pierces through targets to whoever's behind them
2. Charge: electric damage, may deal max damage once by run out of charge for 10 min
3. Chem: acid damage, melts through mundane substances
4. Cryo: cold damage and freezes target on failed STR save
5. Flak: slashing damage, max damage against aerial/fast moving targets
6. Force: bludgeoning damage, throw target in direction of choice
7. Fusion: fire damage, melts target to surface (save negates)
8. Gas: leaves burning cloud in 5' radius around target (save vs. on fire)
9. Grav: bludgeoning damage, attracts everything within 10' to target (save negates)
10. Hunter: slashing damage, if you can miss you can attack a different target near the first
11. Incendiary: fire damage and sets target on fire
12. Kinetic: bludgeoning damage, push target 10' away
13. Memetic: psychic damage, attack chains to anyone target talks to (save ends)
14. Mono-molecular: slashing damage, step up damage die, leaves perfectly clean cuts
15. Phase: piercing damage, phases through obstructions to target, step down damage die
16. Pulse: bludgeoning damage and target saves vs. knockdown
17. Shredder: slashing damage, damage can't be healed for a week
18. Sonic: bludgeoning damage, save vs. deafness (1 hr), can play music
19. Swarm: piercing damage, swarm of microbots flies around and deals that damage to things near target, can tell bots to move, dissipate when all damage dealt
20. Zap: electric damage and charges target (they attract other charged things)

1. Accelerator: d8 damage in line of sight, hits targets without attack roll if immobile
2. Beam: d8 damage in 100' line
3. Blade: d10 damage, melee
4. Blaster: 2d6 damage within 30'
5. Coil: d6 damage within 100', anyone who moves into or out of range saves vs. getting hit
6. Drill: 2d4 damage, melee, max damage to terrain
7. Impactor: d8 damage, melee, push target 10'
8. Launcher: d8 damage arcing, bouncy projectile
9. Missiles: 4d4 damage within 100', split dice among targets of choice, expend damage dice on 3+ (reload when repaired)
10. Mortar: d10 damage arcing projectile, disadvantage to hit within 100', accurate with setup time out to 5km
11. Projector: 2d4 damage in 30' cone
12. Rifle: d8 damage within 100'

Paint Jobs
1. A meaty dark red, with bone-white porcelain fringes and innards.
2. All gold, all the time. Ludicrously extravagant. Bejeweled.
3. Bare metal, raw, rusting at the edges. Purely functional.
4. Black, with a glow-in-the-dark skeleton painted on.
5. Bright red, with gold and black accents. Ruthlessly fast-looking.
6. Caked with dirt and grime. Moss grows in patches.
7. Copper and mahogany, with decorative piping and vents. Aristocratic.
8. Dazzle camo. Alternating zig-zag stripes of white and black.
9. Desert camo. Sandy tans and oranges.
10. Draconic. Scale patterns and a metallic d6. 1. red, 2. black, 3. blue, 4. white, 5. green, 6. purple. Decorative horns and wings.
11. Gunmetal gray, graffiti'd with slogans and dirty pictures.
12. Hot pink, with decorative bunny ears and cotton-tail.
13. Jungle camo. Browns, lush greens, greys.
14. Night-black, flecked with clusters of glowing stars.
15. Patriotic. In colors of your homeland, emblazoned with your lord or nation's banner.
16. Purple with emerald green highlights. A sickly, too-wide grin marks the cockpit.
17. Purple, with silvered arcane luck-sigils that rotate and twist on auspicious plating.
18. Silver polished to a mirror-finish.
19. Sky blue, sulfur yellow, crimson. Unmistakable, fearless primary colors.
20. So covered in rust and patches that you can't tell what color it originally was.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Elves and their Cities

by Candra
Elf: Reroll DEX and another score of your choice until you get higher results. Roll a negative mutation whenever wounded by an iron weapon (or other industrial source).

Elves are fragments of a god-machine. They look like humans, just better - taller, lither, stronger-sensed (from their large eyes and pointed ears), perfectly symmetrical, moving with silent, practiced ease. They're hyper-optimized for specific roles, and cutting into an elf reveals twisting, arcane biologies that are nigh-impenetrable to any mortal physician. Such is the physiology of an elf, that every component depends on every other component for every task, interconnected deeply and powerfully in ways only gods (or elves) can understand. They are smarter than you. They are stronger than you. They are more elegant than you. And if anything goes wrong, they fail in catastrophic ways.

Elven reproduction is slow and rare. As each elf is a unique piece of a god-machine, they will tend to take on forms of dead elves, lost pieces, rather than appearing similar to their parents. This is how they instinctively take their names; an identifier for their place in the Machine. These are arcane, obscure, and complex - this is how you get elf-names like Aetenathir, or Lirael'thelian. The names were not meant to be pronounced by mortals, rather, merely to be recognized by gods and other elves. Names are all unique among living elves. What do they mean? What does Part A mean in furniture assembly instructions? Elven rebels and hermits tend to strip themselves of names, or take on obscurative ones, so as to prevent other elves from interacting with them in ways that reproduce elven culture.

They are masters of the emergent. An elf can trace an event back to its thousand thousand causes, each no more significant than a butterfly's wing-flap. Humans instinctively calculate the path of a moving object in their subconscious, then move their hand to catch it. Ask one how they did it, and they'll shrug. An elf will explain each facet of wind speed, of rotational motion, each piece of calculus they went through in parallel to put their hand exactly where it needed to be. Every piece of data that an elf acquires, through its hyper-attuned senses, goes through its thousand parallel conscious processes and comes out collated and factored into its behaviors and knowledge. An elf knows exactly which question to ask to get exactly the answer it needs.

Elves were designed to be perfect, infallible parts of a perfect, infallible machine. But gods are fallible, and petty, and malicious, and shortsighted. They did not account for a changing world. So elves, designed too cleverly for their own good, have residual, debilitating allergies to iron, and to smog, and to every other part of human and dwarven industry - things the gods did not see, and never predicted. They can't evolve past this; they don't evolve at all (for if they did, they'd no longer function for their intended purpose). Because of this, an elf's supposedly immortal life is always cut short by painful, inevitable attrition. Their wounds spread, changing their bodies in unpredictable ways, causing systems to fail and cancers to grow in utterly unexpected parts of the body. An old elf may scarcely resemble one of its younger brethren, with forests of fingers, bark for skin, and toxic fruits hanging from its limbs.

One of the pre-eminent scholars of Elven language has published a fantastic treatise entitled The Perfect Languages of Elves, to which this author makes frequent reference.
by Nadegda Mihailova
Elven societies have no government. Each elf acts on its own, as a perfect cog in a perfect machine. This is what they were made for, after all. All communal needs are met, all resources gathered, all crafts produced in eerie silence and harmony of purpose. If there is noise at all, it's of the wind blowing through carefully sculpted archways, ringing in perfect tones to convey information to elves in frequencies too high and at rates too fast for any other creature to deduce. It is the philosopher-king's utopia, with no dissent, no want, and beauty in every corner. An elf city expands slowly, almost on its own as each action and footstep over the course of decades slowly weathers the surroundings into more city.

If these societies are pushed out of balance, they cannot course-correct back towards perfection. Elven societies are each a horrific dystopia pretending towards perfection, covering their sins in porcelain and greenery. They may keep slaves of the "lesser folk," scurrying around hidden pathways to move products of elven perfection precisely where they need to be. They may poison the soil, their bleaches and chemical disinfectants leeching life out of their surroundings, an oasis of flora in a wasteland of ash. They may eat the brains of the dead, and go to war to find more dead to eat. They may use powerful magic to shape fortune to their designs, cursing all who know of their existence to destitution and hunger. Elves may rediscover hierarchy, and enshrine immortal royals to enforce brutal perfection at the expense of all others within and without. Elves, to those who know them well, are nightmare-creatures. The word commonly taken up for these elves, desperately trying to compensate for unexpected change and spiralling into horror, is drow.

Drow-cities fail. The downward spiral into dystopia inevitably collapses, through scarcity, through revolution, through disease, through infighting, through ennui. The cleaning-hexes run out. Buildings are overtaken by their no-longer-trimmed foliage. Porcelain cracks. Heartwood rots. Fungi and decay spread everywhere, taking what is rightfully theirs from the loosened grip of eternity. The last few elves retreat further and further into the core of their halls, attempting to maintain any semblance of normalcy and purpose in the face of implacable entropy. They take on absurd titles, fight over petty grievances, spiral into mutation, burn their priceless art for warmth. Eventually, the entire city falls to ruin, taken over by scavengers and even perhaps mortals who see the shattered spires as a convenient shelter from the elements. The elves scatter, or die off, or languish for aeons in melancholy and grief.

What was the elf-machine supposed to do? The Purpose of Elvenkind, as the question is phrased in the hallowed halls of elfdom, is the contentious heart of elven religion. Often, this question is taken up by drow-lords trying to repair their failing cities, to find the missing pieces and replicate them through arcane science. Religion becomes engineering, research, experimentation. Holy texts are filled with biotechnical diagrams, musings on the nature of elven-kind merged with histories of failures and speculation on their error. Some believe the machine will bring peace and harmony, that holy grail that so eludes elves and mortals, freeing them from the cycle of decay to which all elves are doomed. Some believe it will birth a new god, merging the elves into a deity that exemplifies all their best qualities. Some believe it's nothing but an art-piece, a proof of concept that is nonetheless so beautiful that it deserves creation solely on its own aesthetic merit. Some think this question is immaterial, and want to unite all elfkind in one great city, bring all the pieces into one harmonious symphony, and let nature shape the machine as it will.

Given the evidence of the drow-cities, some believe the machine's ultimate nature is evil, or a trick to consume elvenkind as they stray from whatever the true path may be. The only moral way for an elf to exist is to disobey their purpose, and venture forth among other mortal folk, never meeting or speaking with another elf. They often turn to adventuring, their own self-hatred and pursuit of alternative religious frameworks pushing them to ever-stranger modes of existence.
by Ukitoki
Not all elven cities fall to drowdom! Or rather, not all have fallen yet. All begin with high-minded visions of being the one to succeed, or at least one that won't fail. Some maintain elven normalcy for decades, or even centuries. Still, the longer one lasts, the harder it will someday fall. Many larger cities find their end in civil war, as passive-aggression spirals into full-on war. Sides are taken, districts are claimed, and battles are fought as part of radical political debate, every destructive alteration of the city as part of a reshaping work that will overhaul the entirety of the society in question - if and only if one side is unquestionably victorious. More often, the war takes too many lives, and either breaks the city into two competing drow-cities in an endless Orwellian cold war, or one side wins a pyrrhic victory and for decades hence must contend with the form-traps their enemies set throughout the course of the war to avoid their inevitable descent.

Elven warriors fight with seemingly wild abandon. They dance through combat, wielding blades and spears many times the lengths of their bodies. When they emerge from the fray entirely untouched by their foes, spattered with little bits of blood that they quickly scrub away, they seem to be just showing off. In fact, their every move and tactic is calculated to minimize their risk of injury, staying physically out of reach, moving too fast for their enemies to figure out how to hurt them. They opt for minimal armor (chainmail or steel plate, of course, gives them monumental hives), so they can maximize their natural speed and grace. Magic augments their prowess. Often, elves (or serfs, for the drow) act as moving loci for powerful enchantments, throwing themselves headlong into battle to put a spell in the right place to turn the tide. Elven wizards have no compunctions about using their magic to fight dirty. Better the enemies fall to horrific means than the enemies inflict horrors upon the elves.

Elves in other societies are typically adventurers or traders. Elven shops are common in many cosmopolitan cities, trading their supernaturally elegant crafts or intellectual services for rare materials, favors, or secrets seemingly irrelevant except to the inscrutable minds of other elves. Elves who wish to  find a way to better themselves against their nature, or who know their place to be in a far-off elven city, or survivors of and rebels against drow-cities, or hermits finding a place entirely divorced from their mechanical purpose, will all turn to the jobs-for-gold mercenary-explorer life. Occasional elf neighborhoods may grow in the largest cities, their particular experiment with elven society leading them to seek interaction with others. These are typically neighborhoods of outcasts and rebels who have no moral antipathy against other elves, and still resist the common elven dogma that other folk disrupt their paradises. As they pretend not to form utopia, their settlements last longer, but fall to simple attrition as the industrial hazards of city life slowly degrade their forms.

1. Boughs of enormous tree
2. Artificial island in picturesque lake
3. Oasis of green in dessicated desert
4. Tallest peak of mountain range
5. Back of titanic fauna
6. Outlying district of a multicultural metropolis

1. Crystalline domes and spires
2. Built seamlessly into natural features
3. Lights and bridges of magical force
4. Menial jobs done by by elegant constructs
5. Filled with elaborate, exquisite artworks
6. Extends deep underground

1. Have enslaved and purpose-bred goblins to hide between the walls and make all the "magical" feats possible. 3-in-6 chance the goblins are just about ready to revolt.
2. Forcibly control dissenters and visitors with airborne spore-clouds and surgical interventions
3. Unsustainably drain magic from nearby areas to power magical creations and effects, need to expand violently to maintain quality of life
4. Anyone who enters is cursed to never leave until they have performed a number of services for the elven archmage who has deemed themself lord of the city
5. Active, brutal war between two elven factions who disagree over a minor point of decorum
6. All residents have been dead for centuries, replaced by unthinking necromantic effigies living half-lives, killing newcomers to prolong existence

Friday, September 27, 2019

Darkspace Star-Ships

Star-ships are the most advanced arcane creations of a thousand civilizations. They ply the night as symbols of prestige, power, commerce, the conquest of inhospitable realms and twisting of base nature to fit useful ends. Fleets of star-ships are the iron fist of empires and the last best hopes of revolutions, the long arms of the law, the explorers seeking out new worlds, new magics, and new civilizations. Any adventuring party who sees eternity as naught but a new challenge for their skills needs a ship.

Space Galleon 01 by SkullGarden
by SkullGarden
Ships follow Vehicle rules, with a different set of chassis and a larger assumed scale. Despite the 3D nature of space, combat is simulated on a 2D plane, on account of properly 3D grid paper being nigh-impossible to create or feasibly manipulate.

Ship Stats
Power: Acceleration or deceleration
Handling: Changing heading quickly, maneuverability
Durability: Saves, defense rolls
Fuel: Every week of travel, roll the fuel die to see if it depletes (depletes on 1 or 2). On depletion from d4, out of fuel, can't change heading or accelerate/decelerate.
Life Support: Every week of travel, roll the Life Support die to see if it depletes (depletes on 1). On depletion from d4, air quality downgrades by 1 step each day, and gravity stops working.
Hit Points: All mortal-scale weapons deal minimum damage to a ship. Also determines Cargo Capacity. 1 point of cargo capacity is enough for either 1 crew member or 1 tonne of cargo. Equals HP. Whenever you lose HP, lose that many cargo spaces (empty space first).

Ships need a minimum of 1 crew member per 6 HP to function. If you have fewer, the ship has disadvantage on all tests, as the few remaining souls frantically scurry around to keep it running.

Ships can attack once with each crewed weapon they have. Crew members can only crew one weapon at a time, and can't do other things while crewing a weapon.

Shuttle: d6 HP, 4d6k3 POW, 4d6k3 HAN, 2d6 DUR, d4 Fuel/Life Support
Corvette: d6*10 HP, 3d6 POW, 4d6k3 HAN, 3d6 DUR, d8 Fuel/Life Support
Frigate: 2d6*10 HP, 3d6 POW, 3d6 HAN, 3d6 DUR, d10 Fuel/Life Support
Cruiser: 4d6*10 HP, 3d6 POW, 2d6 HAN, 4d6k3 DUR, d10 Fuel/Life Support
Dreadnought: 6d6*10 HP, 2d6 POW, 2d6 HAN, 4d6k3 DUR, d12 Fuel/Life Support

The Helm
From whence the ship is sailed. A great wooden wheel is traditional, as is a captain’s chair. Comms are also controlled from here, on a scrying orb enchanted to allow for ship-to-ship communication.

Life Support Sigils
Air needs recycling, gravity needs to hold the crew down, light must illuminate the corridors (and torches obviously won’t do, fool – do you want to ignite the ship?). For all of these, series’ of intricate sigils dot the ceilings and walls. They gain their magic from the painstaking act of inscription itself, and burn out over the course of a voyage. Like Fuel, life support sigil integrity is measured by a depletion die. It begins at the same size as the fuel die (or higher, if you’d like to spend on more intricate and durable sigils). Each week, roll to deplete (depletes on a 1). When you’re out of life support, depletion instead decreases the air quality by 1 step.

The question of toilets is perhaps the most eldritch function of the life support system. Plans for an ideal, multi-species, zero-G-capable toilet escape even the greatest artificers in the cosmos, and many a genius has been driven to madness pursuing this holy grail of space travel. As it stands, the solutions are varied and all insufficient. Single-body-plan crews; using disintegrate spells on the waste; polymorphing toilets; simply venting waste into space out airlocks...

Air Quality
Full Air: Act as normal.
Half Air: Disadvantage on CON and STR rolls.
Thin Air: Disadvantage on all rolls.
Vacuum: Disadvantage on all rolls, save vs. unconsciousness each round; once unconscious, save vs. death by suffocation.

Air Venting: d6 rounds for air to decrease 1 level. Can slow down venting by patching leaks, summoning more air, etc. Can mitigate penalties by reducing personal air consumption, etc.

The Engines
The beating heart of every ship. Six common types of engine are described below.

1. Locomotive. Burns coal, or souls, or in a pinch anything living or once-living may do. Creates great gouts of flame to propel the ship. Covers engineers in soot, leaves trail of darkness across the sky (or brightness, if burning souls).
2. Solar Sails. Stars emit tides of passion-light into the cosmos. Know what the stars feel, raise the sails of the commensurate color, and let winds of fury or love or sadness or greed push you towards your destination.
3. Weaver. Climbs through the stars with an auspicious number of legs, clinging to webs of gossamer starlight that underlie reality. Slow, but steady, and highly maneuverable. Can slip between spaces to emerge on odd trajectories.
4. Lodestone. Magnetize the stone to its target, and have it pull you through space. Larger stones pull faster. Only works on trajectories towards stars, but can "sling" between different stars to reach new destinations. Instantly changes heading. Favored by dwarves and lizardfolk.
5. Oars. Acts upon the same strands that a weaver-engine does, but pushes through rather than gingerly striding between. Slow, steady, requires nothing but the power of the rowers.
6. Sacrifice. The stars’ sole truth is death, and they look upon it with grim favor. This is the rudest, most base form of calendrical mechanics (described below). A ship needs not even a proper engine to fly with sacrifice, merely enough to sate the call of the stars it sails under. Sacrifice a captive to the constellation-alliances that rule your location, and they will move you for a week. Betray them not, or find yourself becalmed in quiet, airless hell.

The Calendrical Drive
(many kudos to Yoon Ha Lee and his excellent Machinations of Empire series, which I’m shamelessly cribbing from)

Space is time, time is space, and both are the dominion of the stars. You mark years and days and hours by the suns, and the times change with their whims. Accurate time keeping is essential to ensure a semblance of normality between the stars (and it's the subject of many a cosmic treaty - and casus belli for many a war). Inaccurate timekeeping, on the other hand, can create vast and powerful exotic effects that defy the laws of sun and sky. This field, calendrical theory, can hurl ships across the cosmos, scour planets, transform death into life and life into art.

These effects are created through the observance of holidays, particularities of societal structures, implications and deeper meanings and interpretations of portents. If tarot met analytic number theory and had a drug-fuelled threesome with astrology, their child of uncertain parentage would look something like calendrical theory. A ruler who follows the right calendrical mathematics may force the stars themselves to bow.

Ships turn calendrical theory into stellar speeds through the operations of a particular kind of calendar-stone, part sundial part abacus part grandfather clock, and particular sorts of sacrifices and observances at holy hours and on holy days. The calendar-room is often by the helm of the ship, including not only the great calendar-stone but also a small podium and benches for the crew's observances and altar for sacrifices. The art of piloting includes training in calendrical mechanics, so that a ship's captain will know the proper observances to follow on major trade routes, and be able to calculate the days and times and forms for other observances when travelling off the beaten path. Some sample observances are listed below.

Calendars may have d20 months, each with d8 weeks, of d12 days each. It’s not particularly important. What matters more is how many holy days (and therefore how many observances) may occur during a trip. This can be used by a GM to provide some semblance of time passing on a long-haul voyage.

12 Holy Days and their Observances
1. Journey’s Eve. For luck, and speed, and the willingness of the thirsty stars to speed your passage. Let 1 HP of blood from each crew member, mingle them in a bowl, then use the blood to trace your route on a map of the stars.
2. The Traitor-Saint’s Feast. Memorializes a day of betrayal, when a general slew not only the entire enemy force but his own as well. The captain and first officer must duel to first blood with ceremonial knives.
3. Grievesgiving. For morale purposes, to ensure that the crew shares in everything – the good and the awful. Dissect a small creature alive while each crew member announces a personal grievance they have with another crewer. Each crew member must eat a different organ, raw and dripping.
4. Lessenday. Let go of the burden of old doubts, old connections, old horrors. Make room for the new. Burn a meaningful journal page from each crew member’s diary. The memories on it are lost.
5. Strifemorrow. Scarify each crew member. The lines, together, form a picture of some relevance to recent events.
6. New Star’s Day. A star has pronounced a new year. Light a candle for each day of the voyage, let them melt down over the course of the day, then each crewer drinks a sip of the scalding wax.
7. The Funeral of Night. For the dead between the stars, always remembered, though never named. Draw lots. The loser must spend the day strapped to the hull in a vac-suit, meditating upon infinity, and gains d4 Stress.
8. Culling-Fast. All crew must act as if dead, carrying out their duties in solemn, sullen silence. None may acknowledge each others’ presence. Disadvantage on all tests, as if operated by a skeleton crew. The captain may not issue orders without breaking the Fast.
9. Justice Day. A member of the crew (chosen by lot) recounts their sins. They must be thematically punished for each.
10. Hedon’s Hour. For an hour, the crew participate in substance-fuelled debauchery, then return to their work. Roll on a Carousing table if you’d like.
11. Talk Like The Captain Day. Started as a joke. Everyone played into it. Now it’s not a joke anymore and the worlds are poorer for it. Everyone’s the captain today. All orders must be followed as if they came from the captain. Minor mutinies are unfortunate but expected.
12. All Hallow’s Eve. Everyone dresses up. Sweets are distributed. Roll for a random encounter.

Using calendrical mechanics on the scale of societies produces vast arcane effects. Locally, it's far weaker and more unstable, yet may be harnessed by a cunning or desperate crew. Emergency observances can be made to roll for Calendrical Distortions upon the laws of nature; for every observance you make, you get to roll on the spell list and choose between all the results. Cast it at starship scale, with (dice) equal to the number of different observances made. Mishaps are on the following table.

Distortion Mishaps
1. Space Invades. One inhabited compartment at random is filled with vacuum and stars for (dice) minutes.
2. Star Light, Star Bright, Last Star I See This Life. All ship’s sensors are whited out for (sum) rounds. Navigate and fire by memory or not at all.
3. It Is Not The Day That It Was. Local calendars all move (sum) days into the future.
4. Crunch Time. The ship takes (dice)*3 damage.
5. Morphological Breakdown. Everyone aboard saves or mutates. The mutation lasts (sum) minutes. Save at the end of the duration vs. permanence.
6. Yearning, Burning. A star is here. It asks for a sacrifice. Choose someone aboard and inflict (dice) wounds on them. Every major wound you inflict this way lets you add an additional die to the spell.

by Adam Burns
The Hull
It’s all that protects you from falling forever. Damage follows the vehicle rules. Damage below 0 HP inflicts a Breach. When a ship is reduced to -max HP, it's Wrecked. Warning klaxons scream their final screams through the thin, venting air. All hands scramble to abandon ship, or die in the frigid airless dark. The wreck remains, floating through eternity, a warning to all that there is no mercy and even less justice in the dark. Depending on the nature of the final blow, the evacuation procedure may be easier, harder, or impossible. A result of Wrecked always results in an inoperable ship.

1. Punctured. Air stars venting. Patching breach ends Venting.
2. System Shocked. Random accessory stops working until fixed.
3. Engines Cut. Can't change heading until engines repaired.
4. Fuel Breach. Ship takes (Fuel Die) additional fire damage. Deplete Fuel die 1 level.
5. Cargo Ruined. (damage) units of cargo destroyed. If more damage than cargo, excess damage goes to crew quarters.
6. Life Support Failing. Air stops being recycled, and gravity shuts off until life support fixed.

1. Torn In Two. The rending shriek of metal, then it splits down the middle. Half Air, air starts venting.
2. Behelmed. A precision strike or lucky shot annihilates the bridge. Everyone at helm saves vs. death. Air starts venting.
3. Hulled. The outer plating has been blasted away, and all the insides are bleeding out. Everyone aboard saves or is blown out a breach. Thin Air, air starts venting.
4. Core Breach. The ship's engine is a source of incredible power, and now all that power is released at once. Every breach occurs simultaneously. Everyone on board takes 3d6 fire damage (save for half) as the compartments fill with roaring flame. Half Air, air starts venting.

Sometimes you’ll need to figure out which specific compartment gets hit, or infested, or irradiated, etc. This table is organized roughly by average mass in a ship. Replace areas as necessary to fit the plan of your ship.

Random Compartments
2. Captain’s Quarters
3. Lounge
4. Engines
5. Random Accessory
6. Access Corridor
7. Crew Quarters
8. Cargo Bay
9. Random Accessory
10. Fuel Storage
11. Sundial
12. Helm

20 Accessories
1. Ablative Plating: 1 cargo slot of plating = +3 ablative armor (destroyed before HP loss).
2. Autobrain: Doesn't need a pilot, will follow simple orders (a short program of directional and acceleration instructions) input through levers in pilot's seat and continue executing them until complete or OVERRIDE switch thrown. 1-in-20 chance to fail to execute any particular order.
3. Cannons: Old-fashioned broadsides. Works at short range. d8 damage per cannonshot, requires manual reload. 2 cargo capacity.
4. Cargo Straps: Can hold (capacity/4) cargo on outside of ship. This cargo is automatically destroyed when damage occurs.
5. Escape Pods: 1 slot per 3-person pod. Pods are self-propelled at 4 Power, 4 Handling, 4 Durability, 1d4 Fuel, 1d4 Life Support. Manually launched in emergency.
6. Exo-Butchery: Lets you carve your way into dead star-beasts and wrecked enemy hulls. A tube through the butchery apparatus lets brave crew enter the target to harvest the internals. Butchering a resisting target requires the target to make a Durability save, or take d6 damage. Must be in docking range to butcher. 4 cargo slots.
7. Grapples: On hit, locks you to your target. Whoever has more Power gets to determine the course of the two ships. Can pull closer to target on successful Power test. 2 cargo slots. Works at short range.
8. Hangar Bays: Can take up to half of the cargo slots of a ship. Includes launching and docking mechanisms for vessels of a size up to (slots).
9. Hushfields: Ship can’t be detected until short range unless it’s being actively looked for. 1 slot per 10 HP
10. Inkburster: Nulls light in a 10-point radius. Even suncasters can’t penetrate it (or fire out). Each inkburst takes 1 cargo; so does the apparatus to launch them.
11. Luxury Berths: 1 slot per luxury berth. Fit for a mid-level bureaucrat, an easily-pleased noble heir, or your inconvenient aunt.
12. Magic Missiles: A spellbook and auto-reader that casts an amplified form of Magic Missile. Works within visual range. d4 damage per missile, ignores Shields.
13. Mines: Dropped in wake, detonates when something comes within 2-point radius dealing d10 damage. Each mine takes up 1 cargo.
14. Mining Array: Can mine valuable materials from objects in the sky. 4 cargo slots. Mangles whatever you’re mining with it; this matters less for a chunk of ore than the hull of a station.
15. Observatory: Can make out close details of objects from edge of visual range. 2 slots.
16. Ramming Prow: Deal ramming damage with advantage and take damage when ramming with disadvantage (see Vehicle rules).
17. Shields: Soaks damage each round before damage goes to HP. Regenerates each round. Fails at 0 HP. 1 Shield per 2 points of cargo capacity taken up by shield generators.
18. Suncasters: A miniature sun, amplified and emitted through a metalwork tube of lenses. Very angry. Works within visual range. d6 damage per caster, overheats on a 5 or 6 (recharges manually). 2 cargo capacity.
19. Tactical Sundial: By performing a particular Observance, you can reliably trigger a particular Calendrical Distortion at 1 die. Rolling a 6 on that die triggers a random Distortion Mishap. Requires 5 cargo slots, and only one tactical sundial can be present aboard a ship at once. Calendars brook no disagreement.
20. Thaumion Torpedo: Launcher takes up 2 cargo, one torpedo takes up 1 cargo. The payload is a powerful scroll, and is exactly as expensive as that implies. Mechanizes the spellcasting process by forcing a load of thaumions through the scroll, casting the spell at maximum power. Spells cast through Thaumion Torpedoes are cast at 1 die.

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