Thursday, January 23, 2020

What's Going On In My Town?

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

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

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

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

by Raphael Lacoste

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

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

by Elizaveta Lebedeva

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

Monday, January 13, 2020

Fleshcrafter Intrigues of the Idle Nutrient-Rich

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

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

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

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

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

Impersonation Balls

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

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

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

Skyscraper Topiary

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

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

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

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

Artisanal Resurrections

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

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

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

Fungal Emporiums

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

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

Organ-Theft Games

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Modern Mimics

by iguanamouth (more rad art in the link!)

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

"Where, in the dumpster?"

"No, it is the dumpster!"

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

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

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

21st Century Mimics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Structural Mimics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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