Thursday, June 27, 2019

Cybernetics (You Never Asked For This)

Image result for cybernetics art
I have issues with how games like Shadowrun and Cyberpunk 2020 handle the mechanical tradeoff between augmentations and being made of the meat you were born with. Some sort of abstract degrading "humanity" stat brings a whole host of philosophical questions into play, with answers that either constrain the thematic space of the game to TECH = EVIL or are just plain ableist (people with prosthetic limbs are less human? please stop). Some newer games, like Hard Wired Island, make the downside of tech explicitly that it's expensive - and while that's miles better, it's still not particularly satisfying to me, because even under Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism there's still gonna be some sort of tradeoff.

Here's an alternative: tech is complicated! Anyone who's worked with intensely customized systems, built their own PC, compiled their own Linux kernel (please don't nitpick my incredibly limited Linux knowledge in the comments), or just had to check the side effects and interactions of multiple medications knows that this shit is difficult and often requires compromises just to stay functional. When you're fitting a bunch of electronics directly into the human nervous system, you combine the most complicated parts of all of the above, and glitches are bound to emerge.

Stuff that doesn't need any extra neural integration to work and just runs off of existing wiring - like prosthetics and cosmetics - doesn't strain your system in this way. They've ironed out those kinks. Anything that gives you superpowers, on the other hand, is annoyingly buggy and high-maintenance.

Cybernetics Rules
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Every cybernetic augmentation has a Strain level. When you're making a check with your augmentations, roll an additional d20 for Compatibility. If you roll under your total Strain, you Glitch. There's a variety of ways to compensate for Strain, including compatibility-forcing drugs like Neuropozyne, buying all your augs from the same manufacturer, or spending hours upon hours each day reconciling patches and bugs before they fire.

For every hour of aug maintenance you undergo per day, you can subtract 1 from your Strain that day, to a minimum of 1 per augmentation. Characters with relevant skills (like Biology, Programming, Surgery, or Electrical Engineering) can make a check to decrease it further. You don't have to be the one maintaining your augs, and many pro aug-thletes and corporate supersoldiers have teams of docs and technicians devoted to maintenance during their designated sleeping hours.

For the less technically gifted, or merc in a rush, Neuropozyne is a highly-addictive prescription drug tightly controlled by major pharmacorps. Each dose allows you to ignore Compatibility rolls when using one aug of your choice for 24 hours by selectively overclocking your nervous system. Make a CON save vs. chemical addiction after every use; being weaned off of it safely is a complex process that requires a month of professional monitoring and temporary augmentation removal. When in withdrawal, your Strain is doubled.

Neurachem is the bleeding-edge black clinic upgrade to Neuropozyne, with all the brakes removed. None of your augs will Glitch on neurachem, and the world looks like it's moving in slow motion. You get to react before anyone else does, and can do the thing from the Matrix where you dodge bullets. You're an augmetic god. When you come down from a Neurachem high, your base Strain goes right to 20, and make a Glitch roll for each aug you activated while on it. Also has all of Neuropozyne's side effects.

If you want a cyberpunk game with magic, tech, and a fundamental irreconcilability between the two, force a Strain roll on casting in addition to Mishaps, and a Mishap roll on aug use in addition to Strain. Need a justification? Both magic and augmentations interact with the human brain in increasingly complex and nonsensical ways, and feedback from one can break the other.

Glitches! If your Compatibility roll is under your Strain, that result happens.
1. Update Required. +1 Strain until you spend an hour installing a mandatory update.
2. Input Lag. Anything you're doing with this aug happens a second later than you expect; make your roll again and take the lower result.
3. Memory Leak. This action takes twice as many resources (time, bullets, power, etc).
4. Low Battery. You've got d4 more uses before you need to plug into a power source and recharge this aug.
5. Malfunction. The aug does something harmful to you instead of functioning as intended.
6. Null Pointer. Make your next Compatibility roll at disadvantage, but if both are under your Strain take the higher result.
7. Reboot. After the action, your aug shuts off. Takes a minute to boot back up.
8. Crossed Wires. Another random aug activates instead of the one you meant to.
9. Shutdown. Action fails, aug shuts off. Takes a minute to boot back up.
10. It's Not a Bug, It's a Feature. Your action goes awry in a way that's entirely outside your use case. Future similar actions malfunction in the same way, until you spend an hour finding software that actually works for you.
11. Sensory Feedback. Your senses glitch and fuzz. Disadvantage on all rolls until you take a turn to clear your sensorium.
12. Crash Override. You can't turn it off. Until you spend a turn engaging the manual safeties (you do still have those, right?), it does what you just did every time it has a chance to.
13. Cascade Failure. An additional aug activates and immediately Glitches.
14. Burning Chrome. Take d6 fire damage.
15. Drivers Crossed. Two of your augs swap functionality; or at least they try to. Until you spend an hour debugging, they'll try to replicate each others' functions to the best of their ability (read: poorly).
16. Structural Failure. The hardware cracks as it spirals past its breaking point. Make all actions with this aug at disadvantage, and when it glitches again, it becomes entirely nonfunctional. It needs to be repaired by a professional.
17. Implant Ejection. The augmentation you're trying to use forcibly disconnects from your body to prevent lethal biofeedback. Lose all functionality it provides until it's reinstalled by a doc. If external, it literally falls off.
18. Dataclysm. Neural strain sends your consciousness careening through the augs' bioneural output logs. Save or forget the last d6 hours.
19. Total System Collapse. Biofeedback shorts out your autonomic nervous system. Fall unconscious.
20+. Count Zero Interrupt. Your augmentations have reached the breaking point of complexity where they develop their own alien consciousness and override your entire brain. Save vs. death. If you fail, you die, and become an NPC under the GM's control, a cyborg intelligence with an entirely alien value set puppeting your shambling metal-studded corpse.

Sample Cybertech
Cosmetic (0). Vidtats, plastic surgery, reskins, etc.
Cyberlimb, Prosthetic (0). Limb replacements that replicate basic human capabilities. Getting extra functional limbs requires them to be Enhancile.
Cyberorgan, Prosthetic (0). Organ replacements that replicate basic human capabilities. Any human organ can be replicated, besides the brain. Getting extra functional copies of organs requires them to be Enhancile.

Cyberlimb, Enhancile (1+). Limb that goes above and beyond baseline capabilities. May Glitch when enhancile capabilities are used. Baseline stats are identical to those you started with; your musculature can only handle so much without extra reinforcement.
STR+ (+1 per 3 STR over baseline). Maxes out at 18. Only applies to actions taken with this limb.
DEX+ (+1 per 3 DEX over baseline). Maxes out at 18. Only applies to actions taken with this limb.
CON+ (+1 per 3 CON over baseline). Maxes out at 18. Only applies to actions taken with this limb.
Detachable (+1). Can be removed and remote-controlled. When detached/reattached, or enhancile capabilities used, may Glitch.
Disguised (+1). Looks like a normal meat arm, no matter its capabilities. When scanned, may Glitch.
Extra (+1). This limb is an extra one, in addition to the base 2 arms 2 legs that humans tend to have. Comes with the necessary firmware and extra neural connections to make control as easy as your first set of limbs.
Inhuman (+0). Tail? Tentacle? Crab claw? This limb doesn't follow the two-segment-and-hand/foot plan that your brain expects.
Integrated Toolkit (+1). Built-in tools for a profession of your choice. Modular.
Telescoping (+1). Can extend up to 4x as long as default with no loss of capabilities. When extending/contracting, may Glitch.
Datajack (1). Universal mind-machine interface socket and wire. Plugs into brain stem or prefrontal cortex; allows for direct neural input to external electronics (bypassing manual controls). Actions with plugged-in equipment have chance to Glitch.
Eidetic Storage (1). Records sensory data and stores it in internal databank wired to the medial temporal lobe. Recalling this data may Glitch.
Gecko Grip (1). Smartly deploys from hands and feet to create almost-unbreakable connection to any surface not specially treated with FricFree (tm). May Glitch on activation or deactivation.
Implant Weapon (1+). It's a weapon built into your biology. Follows rules in the system; I'm not providing my own weapon rules in this post.
Blade, Claws (+0)
Pistol, SMG, Taser (+1)
Rifle, Shotgun, Chainblade (+2)
Sniper Rifle, Flamethrower, Rocket Launcher, Typhoon System, MASER, etc. (+3)
Disguised (+1). This weapon is concealed with a set of articulated joints inside your body. May Glitch when extended. Only usable when visible.
Muscle Replacement (1 per area). Meat? We can do better. A bundle of synthfibres replace your muscles in an area. You get advantage on STR tests with that area. The areas are all 4 limbs and your torso. Doesn't stack with cyberlimbs.
Pocket (1). Hidden skin pocket holds 1 inventory slot of items inside a scanner-proof container disguised to look like medical augs. May Glitch when scanned, or opened.

Cyberorgan, Enhancile (2). Replaces any internal organ besides brain. Advantage on checks that involve that organ, but may Glitch.
Dataeyes (2). Lets you interface with the internet and data without a physical connection. Acts as smartphone, but also visualizes nearby wireless connections and networks. When using downloadable filters like infrared, telescopic vision, flare compensation, UV, etc, test to Glitch.
Drug Dispenser (2). Contains a week's supply of any medications you can acquire, and dispenses them on command/automatically. Gives you a Glitchy save against any side effects you wouldn't otherwise be able to save against (except for Neuropozyne and other augmetic drugs).
Morphkit, Facial (2). Lets you change your facial features to anything within human-baseline (or reasonably beyond) on command. May Glitch on face morph.
Pain Editor (2). You can ignore stat damage from minor wounds for up to 10 minutes. May Glitch when you take a wound.
Sense Suite (2). Total overhaul of your entire sensorium. You're aware of everything that happens around you within 10 meters, and can focus on a point up to 100 meters away to be fully aware from there. Focusing may Glitch.

Armorskin (3). Layers of plating replace your skin. Sets your base AC to 12 or greater, at the cost of being Wounded also potentially causing a Glitch.
AC+ (1 per 2 AC over 12)
Disguised (1). Looks like normal skin, no matter how much AC it gives you. When scanned, may Glitch.
Resistant (2 per elemental damage type). Your skin also is insulated against 1 elemental damage type. Damage dice of that type are rolled against you with disadvantage.
Attention Coprocessor (3). Gives you the fabled ability to consciously multitask with no loss of function. You can do 2 things at once with no penalties (besides potential Glitches), so long as it's physically possible to do them at the same time. You can have multiple Coprocessors installed.
Camoskin (3). Lets you change your skin color and patterns at will; also lets you set it to auto-camouflage into your environment. Auto-camo may Glitch when activated or when scanned.
Heuristic Optimizer (3). Draws from a wide database of proven heuristics and solution sets, then integrates them into your cognitive problem-solving routines. When solving logic problems, math problems, or getting a quick procedural solution that doesn't require intuition or emotional judgments, you can just automatically solve it with a chance of Glitching.
Microexpression Controller (3). Your expressions and reactions are automatically calibrated to convey exactly what you want them to. You can't give away information from physical or vocal cues, and you can test with a chance of Glitching to read someone else's microexpressions to see unintended subtext.

Bone Lacing (4). In an involved procedure, your bones are sheathed in a composite alloy that makes them incredibly tough. +2 AC, and step down the damage dice of bludgeoning and slashing weapons against you. When recovering HP, may Glitch.
Move-By-Wire (4). Neurons? Too slow. Your nerves have been pulled out and replaced with fibre-optic wiring. You can take an extra action each turn; whenever do you have a chance of Glitching.
Rocket Feet (4). You can temporarily fly for 5 minutes before recharging. Fuel cartridges for your feet are incredibly volatile, though not uncommon (it's like a fusion battery for cars). Activating your rocket feet might Glitch.

Morphkit, Full (5). You can shift your physical appearance to anything within human baseline. This takes 10 minutes of careful alterations, and has a chance to Glitch. If you shift more than once in the same day, the additional shifts automatically Glitch.
Nanoforge (5). An implanted nanohive flash-prints tools and other items you need to your specifications. With an inventory slot's worth of feedstock, you can roll a d6 to craft a mundane, non-electronic item out of that stock. It has a chance to Glitch, and the result of the d6 roll determines how well it fits your specs (higher is better).

Monday, June 24, 2019

One Page Goblinplagued Barracks

So, a while ago I made a dungeon - the Goblinplagued Barracks. It was my first attempt at writing an OSR-style dungeon, and I still like it quite a bit. Apparently, other people do too! Here's the Barracks converted into a one-page dungeon format; layout is by Gieljan de Vries; the map is "The Demon-Faced Tower" from Dyson Logo's.

This version has been slightly condensed content-wise to fit on one page; it's also got a Room 10 (unlike the text version, which goes right from Room 9 to Room 11).

(art from Shockowaffel)

Thursday, June 20, 2019

A Mind is a Horrible Thing to WASTE

I'll let this class SPEAK for itself; it's pretty much an extension of my previous post on psionics, after I realized that I could carve it into a class (as I'm wont to do with any of my ideas).

Image may contain: 1 person
(art by Peter Mohrbacher)
You THINK, therefore you ARE.
Level 1: WORD, choose a Dictate
Level 2: Echoes, random Dictate
Level 3: Devotees, choose a Dictate
Level 4: Choose a Dictate, random Dictate

Hit Die: d6
Starting Equipment: Common clothes, light of inspiration in your eyes, sheaf of scribblings on the essential nature of the universe
Skills (d6):
1. Art
2. Hermitage
3. Languages
4. Lore
5. Occult
6. Poetry

WORD: You are a WORD. To wield your psionic powers, compose a sentence that uses your WORD as the main verb. Roll 1d6 for each word in the sentence. If the total is less than your INT, the sentence occurs, to the letter. If the total is greater, the GM gets to change 1 of the words in the sentence (besides your word) for each die that came up 3 or greater, then the new sentence takes effect. In any case, something will happen. Psionic effects only persist while you are within line of sight. You can only have (INT) words of effects going at any time.

Echoes: Where you walk, your WORD occurs around you and lingers. You know when others attempt to WORD around you, and once you have WORDed, the next (Psion level) others trying to WORD near you or in your footsteps have either advantage or disadvantage (your choice, though you must choose one for all WORDing).

Devotees: As you travel through populated areas, you collect disciples through the sheer power of your presence. They won't leave you alone, at least, not for long. You could grant them cosmic wisdom, or perhaps merely spread half-truths and white lies. Regardless, you have up to 10 hangers-on, collecting d6 in each town you come across (step die up or down in settlements of other sizes). Some will seek you out from far and wide. They will follow orders that you cloak in authority and mysticism - and are also easy fodder for your WORD, if you wish to wield it in less tasteful ways.

1. Aeon. Your WORD transcends time itself. Temporal prepositions like when, tomorrow, in an hour, etc. do not count towards your word limit or contribute d6s to your roll.
2. Anagrammatist. You can also wield WORDs that are anagrams (whole or partial) of your WORD. If you do, it counts as 3 words for your sentence.
3. Animator. Your sentences can animate objects to perform your WORD. When you make a sentence, you can have an object around you wield your WORD as if it was speaking the sentence.
4. Ascetic. You can sustain yourself on WORDs alone. When you successfully speak a sentence of six or more words, you can heal a minor wound or ignore your need for a ration during a rest.
5. Dictator. Your wordness is far deeper than others. Others you can see must make a CHA save to WORD without your permission.
6. Empath. You hear thoughts of creatures within line of sight that align with your WORD. You can dive deeper into a creature's mind on a (Psion level)-in-6 and view a memory of your choice that aligns with your WORD.
7. Far Traveler. You can teleport to anywhere that is under the effect of one of your sentences. You may do this (Psion level) times per day.
8. Flesh-speaker. Your body is malleable, shaped by your WORD. References to you and your biology are immutable in your sentences, and you can maintain an additional (Psion level)*3 words of sentences referring to your body.
9. Gourmand. When you eat something, you can choose a WORD it is. That WORD is immutable in your sentences. You can only have (Psion level) of words eaten at any one time.
10. Icon. You have advantage on actions that involve your WORD, so long as you have an audience of at least 10 who know what you're doing.
11. Intensifier. Intensification or diminutive adjectives don't count to your word limit or contribute d6s to your roll.
12. Legate. Your sentences are LAW. If you wish, they can linger in a location even once you have departed. Whenever you pronounce a new LAW, there is a (Psion level)-in-6 that your previous LAWs remain in place even if this would exceed your INT in words.
13. Psirurgeon. You can implant thoughts with your WORD in others' minds on a (Psion level)-in-6. If you can read minds, you can also remove thoughts or memories with your WORD on a (Psion level)-in-6.
14. Punctual. Invent a piece of punctuation. You can use it in your sentences.
15. Scribe. You can wield WORDs that are one letter different from your WORD, either by replacement, addition, or deletion. If you do, it counts as 3 words for your sentence.
16. Seer. You can divine when a specific action with your WORD will take place. Compose and roll for a sentence as if you were trying to wield your WORD. If you succeed, you know when and where that action will next occur. If you fail, that future becomes cloudy, and you cannot divine it again.
17. Truenamer. Names do not count as words for your sentences, and are as immutable as your WORD.
18. Universal Linguist. You speak and understand all languages, but only when you are talking about a subject related to your WORD.
19. Warmind. Acts of violence you commit with your WORD will always cause harm to the target you intended.
20. World-Poet. You can also wield words that rhyme with your WORD. If you do, it counts as 3 words for your sentence.

Sample WORDs (d50)
2. AM
3. BE
12. COME
16. DENY
17. EAT
18. END
22. FEEL
23. FIND
24. GIVE
25. GO
26. GROW
27. HELP
28. KEEP
29. KNOW
32. LIE
33. LOOK
34. LOVE
35. MOVE
36. NAME
37. NEED
38. PUSH
39. PUT
40. RUIN
41. SAVE
42. SHOW
45. TAKE
46. TEAR
48. TRY
49. TURN
50. WANT

Sunday, June 16, 2019


Image result for psion fantasy
OPEN are the double doors of the horizon

Your mind is deeply, permanently integrated with the fabric of the universe. You leave ripples in the world where you walk. You are more ontologically real than anyone else. The world around you is roped into your cognition. Wizards speak the language of the universe. You are a word in that language.

To wield your psionic powers, compose a sentence that has your Word in it. Roll 1d6 for each word in the sentence. If the total is less than your INT, the sentence occurs, to the letter. If the total is greater, the GM gets to change 1 of the words in the sentence (besides your word) for each die that came up 3 or greater, then the new sentence takes effect. In any case, something will happen.

Psionic effects only persist while you are within line of sight. You can only have (INT) words of effects going at any time.

Psions' words are always verbs. We are already many nouns and adjectives - MORTAL, FLESH, POTENTIAL, FATED, are but a few - for the verbs of the world to act upon. A psion is not merely an actor or acted upon. You are the action.

Sample Words
10. FIND
11. GIVE
12. KNOW
14. MOVE
15. NEED
16. SAVE
17. SHOW
20. TEAR

Your word must be the main verb of the sentence. You are the word, and you are taking action, so the word will occur. This is not a wish machine. Just because you can pull the world's levers does not mean that you know which mechanisms they control.

Psions look like everyone else. They do not feel like everyone else. Others exist, you EXIST. Even if someone doesn't know what a psion is, they will feel uneasy around you, a profound sense of irrelevancy and inconsequence. Many psions use this to gather cults, feeding on their disciples' fears of inadequacy to keep them dependent on their (usually bogus) teachings.

Psions can be of any class. Think of psionic abilities like mutations; they often come from the same sources. Ancient magics, industrial accidents, meteors falling from the stars, other psions' curses...

Psionics are not limited to the once-mortal. Aberrations stir in the depths, concepts so powerful they have instantiated themselves in flesh. When you speak or enact their words, you call to them, and so they arrive in times when their words are strongest. Aboleths, the word ENSLAVE. Illithids, the word DEVOUR. Shardminds, the word FUSE. Beholders, the word BEHOLD. Some say that gods are naught but more aberrations, ones that all share the world BELIEVE.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


The land is a trifling curiosity, a mess of squabbling primates and reptiles devouring each other in a neverending pointless struggle. The Sepiidan Empire scorns the landfolk - it rules the sea. Long ago, the cuttlefolk learned that their camouflaging skin could be used for so much more. Certain patterns and colors could stun, or charm - or trigger subservience instincts in a variety of other molluscs. They built an empire, as brutal and vast as its rulers are squishy. What they can't control through their own powers, they dominate with their legions. The last thousand years of oceanic history are a long record of holding actions, surrenders, and extermination campaigns against the indomitable and ever-expanding Sepiidan forces.
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1. Cuttlefolk: reroll CHA, can change colors, 1/day cause strong emotion in everyone looking (save negates), step down hit die

The Cuttlefolk are small, short-lived, weak, and squishy. Is it then any wonder that they rule an empire? Long millennia of hiding and running as a consummate prey species them made them paranoid, convinced them of the essential hostile nature of the universe, and gave them long unique grudges against every other creature in the oceans. With new and terrifying powers of psychology at their disposal, they're working down that list of grudges, enacting tenfold vengeance on every predator species who has ever tasted cuttle. They are the new top of the food chain - and it's only a matter of time until the landfolk fall under their gaze.

2. Nautilid: reroll CON, +4 AC but can't wear armor, 50% chance to act in surprise rounds

Nautilids once had a long, bright histoy reaching back aeons upon aeons. They claim they predate the gods, and they once had artifacts to prove it. Now, under Sepiidan rule, those artifacts collect dust in the great golden cuttlefolk treasuries. As the first to fall under the sway of the Empire, the nautilids are now naught but the cuttlebone of the Sepiidan armies. A force of nautilids is nigh-invincible to conventional arms or subterfuge, and backed up by the psionic might of the cuttlefolk, they've become an ominous sign across the oceans that dark times are nigh.

3. Octopodes: reroll INT, eight hands (works as 2 hands for combat/lifting), arms don't always follow your orders when frightened or feeling strong emotions
1. Bluering: Venomous spots; save vs. 1d12 necrotic damage, doesn't work when covered by armor
2. Giant: Eight hands of carrying capacity
3. Mimic: Can imitate colors and textures; camouflage when not moving.
4. Vampire: Regain [level] HP on unarmed hit, unarmed attacks deal necrotic damage

Octopodes are solitary folk, coming together only to reproduce and trade knowledge. Curious, insightful, and deep thinkers, each has a complex set of philosophies and theories developed over the course of decades. Of course, everything changed when the Sepiidan Empire attacked. Their octopode servants are forced into close proximity, to build new war machines and research new fell magics - or just to cater to the ever-changing psuedo-intellectual whims of the cuttlefolk, who demand new paradigms that place them at the top and justify their atrocities.

4. Slugfolk: reroll DEX, can secrete trails of sticky, slippery, or poisonous slime, halve speed, salt inflicts acid damage

5. Snailfolk: reroll WIS, halve speed
1. Flail: eyestalks double as flail heads, can make a d6 bludgeoning damage melee attack that ignores shields
2. Giant: +4 inventory slots, shell takes on a property of stuff you eat (1/day, expires at end of day)
3. Whelk: 30' tremorsense, can identify creature through consuming traces

The landfolk molluscs baffle the cuttlefolk emperors. On one tentacle, they're brethren, of a sort. Squishy, curious, eminently susceptible to cuttlefolk mind-magics. On the others, they're landfolk. They're irrelevant, like all other superoceanic affairs. So the slugfolk and snailfolk keep their independence, for now, existing in small slow settlements on the edges of civilization. Many of their colonies delve deep into ancient ruins and dungeons, with long communal memories stretching back to when the ruins were constructed.

6. Squidfolk: reroll STR, tentacles give you two additional hands of carrying capacity and can inkbloom as a Fog spell 1/day, senses are halved out of water

Squidfolk are the resistance. Able to dive deeper and survive far greater pressures than any cuttlefolk or their servants, they strike at Sepiidan reef-fortresses and supply lines from abyssal trenches in a guerilla war of attrition. Yet every captured squidfolk is another addition to the cuttlefolk armies, and every year those armies push closer to the squidfolk strongholds. Many now make desperate runs to the surface, to make allies or find lost landfolk magics that could turn the tide.

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Skot Olsen

Saturday, June 8, 2019

The Turtle Moved

I posted my terrain generator last week and I like it a lot! Still, it really only works for earthlike worlds, and most of my homebrew settings are very much not. The format works, though, so I just whipped up some new tables for slightly meatier play.

Fair warning to the squeamish: this post, nay, this entire setting, relies on healthy doses of body horror and meat. If surgery videos squick you out and you don't particularly care for being reminded that you're five pounds of meat piloting a bone mecha, this setting is either something that's very much for you or very much not for you.

The Turtle Moved
once, long ago
Image result for zombie turtle art
now, but in space
Once, the world rested on the back of a turtle. Then, the world fell off. A few stragglers clung to the back of the turtle, and cut deep into its shell to build a new civilization. Mighty cyclopean halls, cut from turtleflesh and adamant-bone, quarried with magic picks and mine-beasts formed of and fed on what they excavated.

Then, one day when civilization was strong and hearty and thriving, the turtle died and began to rot. Its heart had stopped, and with it the sun froze, casting the turtleback into eternal twilight. Now the turtle-corpse coasts through space, en route to wherever it may have been going.

The scavengers came, from beyond the cold dead stars, to feast on the greatest banquet in the universe. Civilization fell swiftly, and the few remaining points of light flicker in the depths of the turtle-corpse, pursued by creatures as large as worlds and ridden with parasites of all manner.

Perhaps the turtle may be rejuvenated, if its heart could be restarted. Perhaps there are relics from the time-before-time, that mages from the Old World once stored for safe-keeping on the back of the turtle, that could let civilization flourish once more. Perhaps the world will return, and bring with it final salvation. Perhaps the turtle will collapse, and everyone will die in the cold blackness of intertestudinal space.

The Turtle is rotting, and dead, but most of it hasn't had time to realize this and so it teems with life. Hulking cities forged from blood-iron, weeping their poisoned oils into the clotting arteries and veins. The bone tunnels of the dwarflords, honeycombing the shell and the femurs and the ribs like great engraved beehives. The Meat Hells of the fleshcrafters, where some sickly facsimile of the Turtle still lives on...

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David Kendall
Image result for fantastic voyage art
Matt Tkocz
The Turtle's biology is broadly like that of a normal turtle, but it fractalizes into smaller reproductions of turtle at every scale. Piercing its main heart slew it, but there are many more beating hearts in many more ribcages, tumescent lungs metastasizing across continents, oceans of bile spilling from stomach to stomach. Shell honeycombs the space between bones, growing eyes and limbs and even brains. Smaller turtles of every possible size gestate in great egg-sacs, or float freely through arteries and even the voids of decay (if they've mutated enough to have wings).

What lives in the Turtle? Parasites. Hyperparasites. Very large cells trying their best to do their jobs in a world that no longer makes any sense. Plagues so large they become entities in and of themselves. Lots of undead raised from individual body-parts or organs. Hybrid creatures formed by the fleshcrafter kingdoms of old, now loosed upon the ecosystem. Packs of roaming spells, given life by the Turtle's vast decayed neural wiring. Machines from other worlds, abandoned and forgotten in the void, impacted and burrowed into the shell. Lasts-of-their-kind, sole survivors of the Old World. And most of all, people.

Here's my generic generator. Replace the Terrain table with this one; adapt other results as you see fit.

1. Meat
2. Bone
3. Void
4. Blood
5. Guts
6. Weird (roll on the Weird Table)

Weird Table
1. Artificial
2. Brain
3. Cancer
4. Claws
5. Eyes
6. Fungus
7. Hatchery
8. Mouths
9. Magic
10. Nerve
11. Rot
12. Roll twice, it's a teratoma of both results

Image result for gigeresque art
H. R. Giger
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Innerspace (1987)
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Fantastic Voyage (1966)
Example Terrain
Meat/Meat: A vast expanse of parched fibers, spasming rhythmically faster and faster. Caravans crossing the meatscape must latch on tight when the spasms grow quick and violent.
Meat/Bone: Fat clinging in lumps to scoured, exposed ribs; sticky strands hang between them and play host to nesting pods of sharkbats.
Meat/Void: The inside of a lung, branching alveoli providing ample shelter for small communities with incredibly fresh air. Perhaps it's better than it no longer breathes, for if the floor was to contract and breath out, everyone inside would surely be crushed.
Meat/Blood: A heart the size of a city, split in half under its own weight. Blood spills from its edges in a vast waterfall, and fleshcrafter cities on its sides use their fell magics to filter out iron and forge that most valuable of metals.
Meat/Guts: The dead live again in the deeper, odder organs. The liver not only purifies toxins, it purifies curses and even death itself, returning inanimate chunks of meat and bone to a half-life of far greater animation and far less effectiveness. They shamble across vast plains of pate, attempting to fulfill their purpose - typically this makes them hostile to anyone seeking to claim the purificative powers of the liver itself.
Meat/Weird: A glob of marbled brain and muscle, animate and thinking and gurgling. Sometimes it seems as if it is trying to speak. Fleshcrafters often aim for immortality through merging with the flesh of the turtle - is this a horrific failure? it a success?

Bone/Bone: The shell of the turtle, carved and hollowed into cavernous halls by the giants that survived the fall of the world. They are now abandoned, with lone giants ruling domains in immortal and unchanging silence.
Bone/Void: Shining citadels of bone protruding downwards from a long-rotted rib. They've iced over from condensation and the cold blackness of space, and hyperparasitic wasps flit between the lowest rooms, seeking other parasites to grow their young within.
Bone/Blood: A snapped bone, with parasites eagerly devouring the bounty of marrow inside. The great beast that cracked it now lies dead nearby as well, ridden to death by whatever harnessed it and drove it into the bone.
Bone/Guts: A ruptured stomach far above leaks acid onto a spine, etching it with patterns that seem almost purposeful. Neural ghosts of turtles long-past flit across the spine, creating ghostly storms of acid and nerve-lightning.
Bone/Weird: Fungi have used a flat expanse of shoulder-bone as a stable substrate for growing into a thriving forest, one of the few places of greenery (well, more like brownery) on the Turtle.

Void/Void: On the turtle's shell, where once there was a vast disc with a thriving world, there is now only emptiness and coldness and the judgment of twinkling stars. A crack runs down the shell, splitting it into rough hemispheres, quarried by the first survivors to find meat and water.
Void/Blood: A network of arteries across a vast gap between organs. The arteries have been harnessed to act as impromptu channels, carrying passengers in hermetically-sealed subsanguines. Captains of subsanguines hire on mercenaries to defend against the myriad terrors of the bloodways, including kraken-sized white blood cells with reaching tendrils just trying to fulfill their purpose.
Void/Guts: Bubbles of gas produced as the byproducts of megabiota digestion have inflated a section of intestine to vast proportions. The wind currents propel skyships from polyp to polyp, as they harvest chunks of food devoured long ago.
Void/Weird: In a perfect sphere of emptiness, there hangs a perfect jewel of rock a mile across, covered in trees and pure water and a small house. A micro-sun orbits the miniature world, so unlike the dead sun frozen above the Turtle's head. Why is it there? Can you go there? Should you?

Blood/Blood: An ocean of blood. It runs deep into abysses of all manner of organs, and serpents regularly rise from its depths to consume floating chunks of meat fallen from high above. Island-bladders dot the surface, moving with the currents.
Blood/Guts: A vast gash through organs and veins has created a horrid, clotted mix of fluids and scraps of torn bowel. Parasites fight over every inch of the catastrophe, wriggling and devouring each other as much as they devour the nutrient-rich concoction.
Blood/Weird: It's blood, but instead of the giant blood cells that permeate the Turtle's primary arteries, it's full of eyes and snapping mouths. They flock like fish and swarm like locusts, seeking and searching - for what?

Guts/Guts: A veritable goldmine of mashed-together spleens and pancreata, bloated with filtered-out toxins and hormones. Mining operations delve deep, harvesting tubs of gluey fluid to sell across the region.
Guts/Weird: Turtle eggs of all sizes embedded in a great womblike sac, from city-sized mutants with multifarious new limbs to hand-sized eggs of most ordinary box turtles. Many of them are in the process of hatching, and sometimes a stillbirth plummets from a cracked shell as the Turtle's life draws to a close.

Weird/Weird: A complex of a shining solid, like bone but cold to the touch and molded in angular forms. Its corridors sparkle with embedded lights, and the hum of artifacts can be heard in the walls. Defenders made of the same material as the complex deploy immensely destructive spells from long tubular apertures, and throughout the area a voice speaks with toneless, mechanical precision.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Distant Lands and the Creation Thereof

You know what's really cool, in adventure games? Exploring new, unique, beautiful (and deadly) places. One of my favorite, oft-overlooked parts of a game in an entirely different genre - Magic: the Gathering - is the diversity of locations depicted on its land cards. There's so many more interesting lands to explore than your hobbity rolling hills, dwarven mines with dark secrets, frozen viking tundra, elven forest with sparkly bits... you get the idea. Below are a few of my favorites, evocative locales that make me itch for a road-trip across fantastic worlds - and below that, tables to generate some of your own!

Image result for mtg ravnica lands art
Richard Wright
Related image
James Paick
Image result for mtg tarkir lands art
Titus Lunter
Image result for mtg eldrazi lands art
Jung Park
Tomasz Jedruszek
Image result for mtg kamigawa lands art
Raymond Swanland
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Adam Paquette
Image result for mtg dominaria lands art
Dimitar Marinski
How to use these tables
Roll 2d6 and combine the results for the basic terrain types of the region, then roll 2d8 for the number of hexes the region takes up. If the terrain types came up doubles (plains/plains, etc), roll 4d8 for the number of hexes instead. If you roll Weird, pick something setting-appropriate, or just roll another Feature and exaggerate it to the point where it becomes Terrain. All regions have a Feature, Inhabitants, and something Going On.

Then, roll a d4 to see how many adjacent regions there are, and a d8 to see which cardinal direction each is in (1 is north, 2 is northeast, go around clockwise)

Terrain (d6) (thanks, Spwack!)
1. Plains
2. Mountains
3. Forests
4. Wet
5. Dry
6. Weird

Example Combinations
plains/plains: big plains
plains/mountain: plateau
plains/forest: savannah
plains/wet: marshes
plains/dry: desert
plains/weird: sheets of floating rock hovering above each other connected by artificial, massive chains
mountain/mountain: vast range
mountain/forest: mountains with forest on top
mountain/wet: glacier
mountain/dry: volcanic
mountain/weird: inverted mountain with tip touching ground and slopes widening up into the sky
forest/forest: old-growth, towering millenium-old trees
forest/wet: rainforest
forest/dry: dead, fossilized forest
forest/weird: fungal forests that descend deep into the earth
wet/wet: great lake or inland sea with archipelago
wet/dry: swamp
wet/weird: ever-hurricane, land scraped clean by winds and lightning
dry/dry: vast desert
dry/weird: vacuum moonscape, but on earth - air just stops at the boundary
weird/weird: towering stacks of obsidian, with temples to various forgotten deities carved into the sides and and endless stream of pilgrims searching for meaning

Features (d20)
1. (1. Good, 2. Evil, 3. Lawful, 4. Chaotic)-Aligned
2. Ancient Ruins
3. Big River
4. Canyons
5. Coastline
6. Cursed
7. Elementally-Aligned
8. Extreme Weather
9. Highly Magical
10. Isolated
11. Lake
12. Major Road
13. Megaflora
14. Resource-Rich
15. Spirit-Saturated
16. Treacherous Terrain
17. Vast Caverns
18. Wasteland
19. Roll twice, it's got both
20. Roll three times, it's got all three

Inhabitants (d20)
1. Burgeoning kingdom
2. Explorers/adventurers from neighboring regions
3. Extraplanar incursion
4. Isolated (1-2. academy, 3-4. monastery, 5-6. temple)
5. Major city with outlying farms
6. Megafauna
7. Nomadic tribes
8. Resource extraction from another region
9. Scattered villages
10. Towns with powerful industries
11. Trade caravans and major trade route
12. Warlord and subjugated peoples
13. Roll 2d12, first is subservient to second
14. Roll 2d12, closely allied
15. Roll 2d12, facing regional crisis together
16. Roll 2d12, at open war
17. Roll 2d12, uneasy alliance
18. Roll 2d12, combine into one
19. Roll 3d12, first rules other two
20. Roll 3d12, all at open war

What's Going On? (d20)
1. Ancient secrets long-buried are coming to light
2. Bountiful harvest, supernatural flourishing of life
3. Conversion to new belief system spreading like wildfire
4. Generations-long war is coming to tenuous ceasefire
5. Growth, new settlements built and towns becoming cities
6. Influx of wealth changing class character of region
7. Inhabitants factionalizing, threatens war within
8. Invasion by nearby region
9. Looming threat from next region over
10. Natural disaster
11. New interplanar conjunction
12. New technology changing all facets of life (printing press? gunpowder? scrying orbs?)
13. One leader consolidating power
14. Plague, decimating populace
15. Resource rush
16. Surge of monster activity
17. Terrain type changing rapidly (roll what type)
18. Threatened by intelligent monster (dragon, beholder, lich, etc)
19. Widespread unrest due to scarcity
20. Roll twice, first caused second

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