Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Play Report: Blood In the Chocolate

There are times when being proven wrong is a wonderful and welcome thing. This was one of them.

After a long while of warming up to the idea, I decided to run +Kiel Chenier 's Blood in the Chocolate in the Distant Lands of DIY (with a healthy amount of FLAILSNAILS character options) and it resulted in one of the best nights of gaming I've ever hosted. There was a point towards the end where I was curled up on the floor, laughing hysterically.

The first-level party, gathered under the employ of a Scarabae-Umberwell chocolatiers' guild, consisted of:
(Most of the characters went without names during the session itself, so I provided fill-ins for this report.)

A note of appreciation is in order for Robin's player, who supplied everyone with turkey and mashed potatoes before we got to playing.


The Arrival



They steps off the boat in the early morning, amidst the bustle of unloaded cargo. Martell Company sailors and Lucia's dockworkers scramble about with carts and crates, unloading raw goods from the Swordfish Isles and loading chocolates ready for market in Vornheim, Corpathium, and elsewhere. It is frigidly cold, of the sort where the sky is completely clear and the sun uncomfortably bright.

The party quickly introduce themselves to Karl Weiss, who tells them that tourists are always welcome to observe the factory from the loading area, but they are to come no closer. Dark figures can be seen in the guard towers. The factory itself was described as "huge and brutalist, like the inside of a Vogon spaceship but on the outside."

A plan is swiftly hatched to gain access to the dock office. Simmons, being a skeleton and thus immune to drowning, bumps into one of the sailors and throws himself in the water as if pushed. Robin raises the alarm, and Karl starts shouting for a rope. In the resulting commotion, Augustine slips into the dock office building. They steal the lockbox, the pistol shot, and a glimpse of the guards' timesheets before making an exit.

With the help of some sailors, Simmons is pulled from the freezing water. Being a skeleton, he is at no danger of hypothermia. Augustine and Octon make a convincing cover that he is some eccentric northerner, and so his swiftly-freezing clothing is of no concern. The frazzled Karl agrees that this makes sense and tries to recover his stalling work-shift. He's so distracted that he doesn't notice Simmons swiping the elaborate golden key hanging from his pocket.

The party convenes behind the office. 108 breaks open the lockbox with his big, meaty claw. Augustine gives the notice that the guard shift will be changing soon, and soon enough there are two whistle blasts.

Octon takes the opening to lead the group in a flat-out sprint up the path to the main doors. The mad dash is miraculously successful, if completely ridiculous.

"Shit! Shit! Shit!" Octon shoves the key in the door and hurries everyone inside. The doors swing back closed behind them, and lock with a solid kla-chunk.


The Smash and Grab



Upon entering the factory, the party swiftly sheds their heavy coats and gets geared up. The smash and grab begins: Xeno steals the mink coat in the foyer, pocket-fulls of chocolates are swiped but not eaten, several bottles of alcohol were picked up by Mel, Xeno, and Octon (108 decided to drink much of the rest), and Augustine raided the guest bedroom. Octon was able to identify the opal broach by its twin-headed raven insignia, marking it as belonging to the Von Vorg family of Vornheim.

With nowhere left to check, the party  attempt to open the locked door in the east hallway.

The locked door in the hallway gives way to Robin's shoulder, and the paladin manages to resist the poison gas. The group enters the main river-room, to the horrifying sounds of "Primus in the Chocolate Factory" (courtesy Augustine's player).

More looting follows. Mel and Xeno pour out their rum and fill up bottles of chocolate.  Simmons and Octon fill up their backpacks with whatever plant life they can find (much of it clearly imported from the Swordfish Isles).

There is some debate as to where to go next, but the group decides to pass on taking the paddleboat or crossing the bridges and instead exits by the southwest door into the west hallway. From there, they enter the stairwell and storage room, and happen across a mummified corpse.

"Everyone stand back! I'm a doctor!"

Augustine, of course goes to investigate the thief's corpse, which collapses into a cloud of sugar-dust. The beaked mask and goggles do nothing, and the good doctor is infected with Bubblegum Gasbags (A re-flavored Terrible Swells, appearing as clusters of neon-pink tumors that swiftly inflate) Robin takes the map from the dust, revealing that the bottom floor has two rooms: one marked with a skull and crossbones, the other with the phrase "what the fuck?"
 

The Descent



The now-buoyant Augustine is tied to 108 with a length of rope, and the crew descend the stairs into the darkened hell of the boiler room.

The pygmies working the boilers are a horrific lot; shrivelled, macrocephalic things colored like jellybeans. They attack the intruders immediately, but manage to do little. One fumbles his attack roll, and stumbles into a grinding gear. Augustine manages to drop a knife on one, 108 gurbles a crab-man war-cry, a dead pygmy in each claw.

But the violence, though intense, is short-lived: Octon shoots a Blob of Bioluminescence at the ceiling, and the flash of psychedelic ooze-light (plus the deaths of about a third of the pygmies present) breaks their morale and sends them scurrying back into their hidey-holes, beady glowing eyes peering from the darkness and evil chitterings heard under the noise of the boilers.

The experimentation room is next and contains in the far corner an elephant-sized blob of marshmallow goo. This is ignored to deal with what is brewing in the cauldrons. The party grabs whatever beakers and flasks they can find and gets to grabbing:
  • 11 pints of chocolate liquor, which is then used to overencumber Augustine so he's only bobbing a few feet off the ground, instead of up by the ceiling.
  • 2 pints of normal milk chocolate (stolen by Octon)
  • 3 pints of hazelnut chocolate (stolen by Simmons)
  • The last cauldron explodes all over the floor, and is lapped up by the blob.
The some of the hazelnut chocolate is fed to Augustine, in hopes that it might cure him. It gives him Brittle Throat Disease instead.

The prison is broken into, and they find a blue-skinned man there, body covered in scars and tattoos. No one can understand his babbling, but the pleads of an imprisoned man are universal. Robin, being sworn to liberate the oppressed, frees him from his shackles and leads him into the light of the laboratory...


The Ojou-sama Laugh



Enter stage right, Lucia de Castillo. There are four guards with muskets in the lab's two doorways, all aimed at the party.

"Hello hello hello," she says. "What have we here? Mice in my walls, nibbling at my pantry?" 

[Aside] The timing here was perfect, and completely not my doing: by the time the party was down in the lab, Lucia had just finished her tour of the factory floor and had descended there herself, with prior warning from Karl

Also, this moment is why you buy this module, guys and gals. You get to do the laugh. You could do the laugh normally without buying the module, and the module is really good on its own, but Lucia is designed specifically for this moment and it is wonderful. [/Aside]

There is a moment of knife-edge tension, and then Simmons throws his spear at her, which successfully wounds.

"Oh fucking hell..."

(Augustine's player comes in again with the music)

Lucia draws a pistol and puts a bullet through Simmons' skull; the skeleton collapses to the floor with a clatter and clang. The factory guards open fire to cover her strategic retreat back upstairs, but it appears that Lucia hires fresh graduates from the Stormtrooper Academy, as their shots (which could have easily killed several of the party right off) miss.

All is chaos. Octon hides himself by jumping inside the marshmallow blob. Mel rushes a guard pair and successfully knocks them down, pushing on to the boiler room. Blue takes cover behind a table. 108 and Augustine charge the other pair and together fail to injure them.

Octon notices now that the blob is purring, and he starts receiving psychic visions: scenes of gothic towers choked in snow and rust. Vornheim.

The two standing guards retreat to the stairwell, to block off Mel's path out. Robin gravely wounds one of the downed guards, who is left crying and bleeding on the floor: the other manages to right himself and retreats into the boiler room, just in time for Xeno to dash into the boiler room, stab him in the side, and nearly topple him into one of the furnaces.  (Like, she has got him hanging over the edge, it's super-metal). The pygmies cheer from the darkness, howling for more blood.

Octon continues to get visions from the blob; the two-headed crow of the von Vorgs on a tapestry, hanging across a long, knife-angular hallway.

Simmons reforms, picks up a dropped musket, and runs to the boiler room, just in time to see Augustine toss a vial of acid at the base of the stairs: an act that breaks the guards' defenses and forces further retreat, while simultaneously melting through most of 108's carapace and killing Mel in the friendly fire (his player immediately takes up the role of Blue, arming himself with the machete of the fallen Guild Dog). Augustine, being a balloon of healing, is able to aid 108. Xeno stabs the grappled guard in the chest and dumps him into the furnace. Blue and Robin take to the stairs. Tiny, technicolor hands pull the wounded guard into the machinery.

A third and final vision is delivered unto Octon: a table with a box of chocolates marked "Complimentary", and an invitation addressed "My dear Cordelia..."

What I'm getting at is that the squid-wizard successfully seduced a giant blob of marshmallow. 

Cordelia, now carrying Octon aloft, cascades out of the lab and up the stairs, the remainder of the party right behind.

The two surviving guards have planted themselves right at Lucia's door, and manage to avoid getting killed by Robin and Blue, but they ended up failing their saves vs. gigantic marshmallow ooze and are splattered all over the doors in a pulp (Robin and Blue manage to survive by pressing themselves against the walls)

"My dear Cordelia," Octon says in his best Lucia impersonation. "The rest of these traitors are in the next room. Open the door."

The ooze extends a pseudopod and taps out the musical key-code. The doors swing open.

Lucia stands before the party, bloody bandages wrapped around her shoulder and a pistol in each hand.

"Cordelia. Put him down. Now." Her command is like a hammer dropping down.

"No, Cordelia! I'm the real Lucia! You know me! I don't bleed, I never lose!" Octon counters.

The ooze, terribly confused by two of its mistress, cannot withstand the voice. It deposits Octon before Lucia.

GUN VS INK, LET'S GO

GUESS WHAT TIME IT IS
GO ON, GUESS.

The squid-wizard's Ink-Splash is faster than Lucia's trigger finger, and just barely. Blinded, Lucia's shot goes a hair's-width wide. Simmons takes this opportunity to commando-roll out from behind the ooze and take a shot with his new musket. He rolls minimum damage, which in this case is sillier than missing entirely.

Robin, being the paladin and thoroughly fed up with this sort of tyranny, walks up past the deafened calimarimancer and the aimless skeleton and stabs Lucia right through the stomach with her greatsword.

Final Words: "Hurk, blugh"

Now dead, Lucia's corpse gains all the years and pounds it had hidden away, which was pretty gross. Robin takes the silver necklace, which upon closer inspection is a fat elf lady getting a bit handy with herself. The vial in Lucia's pocket is given to Augustine, thinking that it is a cure.

It was marshmallow serum. The poor doctor is now a marshmallow blob, help aloft by bubblegum gasbags.

[Aside] The table (and Augustine's player in particular) just loses it in the best way here. I end up doubled-up on the floor with laughter.[/Aside]

When the laughter subsides, the safe is opened with Lucia's key. The recipe book is lost to the acid trap, but the silver bars are there for the taking, as well as shipping contracts with the Martel Company, details of their Swordfish Island expeditions, and receipts for Carcosan slave-traders.

The group decides then it is best to take over the factory themselves, which they do.  With the recipe book lost, the factory is sure to hit some hard times, even with Octon and Cordelia acting as the pygmies' new god-king. But the Old Growth remains, and the jungles and ruins of the Swordfish Isles offer greater mysteries to unfold. So to does the frozen waste of Carcosa, and the palace intrigues of Vornheim.

But mostly Hot Springs Island because dammit, I want to run Hot Springs Island.

Final Notes

 

Man, I love this adventure. I know that I said I didn't before, but past me is an idiot and a notorious liar besides.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Holy Man's Anger

by Flibbertyjibbeth

You are defined by your convictions. The vows are your strength and solace in the world. They are the millstone at your shoulder. They are the fire burning in your heart. The vows are as integral a part of your as your own blood and the air in your lungs. In your deepest self, those words are inscribed.

You knew what would be asked when you prostrated yourself on the cold marble floor and swore that oath. You could have chosen anything else - your father's trade, the girl down the road with a face full of freckles, an ordinary life of ordinary pains and ordinary joys - but you believed, you knew, that this was your place, that the sword and the millstone was your life.

But no conviction goes without testing.

You have seen good men die and evil men walk free, and too many men in-between do nothing.

You have watched the law twisted out of shape to shield the wicked and trample the innocent.

You have killed men and buried them in the frozen earth.

You have delivered boys back to their mothers in pinewood boxes.

You have comforted more battered wives and heard more desperate confessions and said more prayers over shoebox coffins than a human being should ever have to.

You have seen the absolute black depths of humanity. 

You have cried out to heaven, and have heard no answer.

You continue.

You do not despair. To despair is to die. You must not stop.

If you are to be the last voice raging against the dying of the light, so shall it be. You shall rage to shake the pillars of the earth itself.
 

Paladin Class 

 

  • XP, HP, armor and weapons as fighter.
  • Saves as cleric.
  • AB begins at +1, then increases as fighter.
  • Can cast 1st level sacraments and use relics.
  • Begin with 1 spell die.
  • Minimum stat requirements: 13 STR, 13 WIS 
    • CHA can be used instead of WIS, as one prefers.
  • Begin play with additional convictions: these are the vows of your order.

by einsbern

Clash of Convictions


When your convictions collide with an impediment that you cannot overcome (that is, you have been handed a sound and significant defeat), roll against your WIS.
  • If you roll above your WIS, you manage to cope with the failure and carry on. Better sense prevails over the will. 
  • If you roll below WIS, the conflict between reality and your ideals puts more strain on you than you can easily shake off. You take 1d6 points of damage to your convictions.
(Conviction damage can be healed by re-affirming your vows. 1 point can be returned through a pilgrimage, meditative retreat, acts of penance, the counsel of a spiritual advisor, or by otherwise fulfilling your vows.)

When your conviction damage is equal to your WIS score, you have reached the point where unstoppable force has reached immovable object. There are two paths now. (The choice can be made by the player directly, or left up to the dice in a final WIS check, as desired. Option 1 is roll over, Option 2 is roll under.)

Option 1: You recant of your vows. The millstone is too much to bear. You lose your spellcasting abilities, the support of your order, and all convictions linked to your vows. You will not be permitted to return.

Option 2: You gain a new conviction. This one will be unique to the circumstances at hand, but will share the following traits.
  • It is directly focused on eliminating the obstacle that has thwarted you.
  • It does not have moral qualms on how the obstacle is eliminated or otherwise stopped
 When acting according to this new conviction, you gain the following:
  • +2 damage to all attacks
  • - 4 AC
  • Half damage received
  • -2 morale to all applicable enemies
(It's a targeted rage, nothing ground-breaking here)

Additionally:
  • Your spell die's burn range increases by one each time you act on your rage.  (ie: after the first rage it will burn after casting on a 5-6, then 4-6 on the time after that. At 1-6 it will burn out after every spell, and at the step beyond [6 steps from the beginning] all casting ability will be lost). 
  • You gain +1 to hit / + 1 bonus damage on alternating pips, max of +3 for each.
  • -2 to reaction rolls for people aware of your actions. This penalty is increased by 1 for every other burnt pip on your spell die for your targets or their allies.
This conviction and all the effects it grants will remain with you until it is either fulfilled, or you die.

The damage to your casting ability and reaction rolls made towards you are permanent.

I think FromSoft has a thing for this archetype.

Redemption Arcs


By the time you have fulfilled your conviction, you may be more monster than man. You can no longer gain levels as a paladin in this burnt and exhausted state (You can gain levels in other classes). But if there is still a glimmer of goodness within you, you might redeem yourself.

To redeem yourself, you must do the following:
  • A recover all of your conviction damage, through the methods listed above, until you reach your cap.
  • Gain a level - All XP must be gained through donations to your order.
  • Public penance and renewal of your oaths
A redeemed paladin has:
  • Additional spell die equal to their WIS modifier. (If WIS modifier is +1, gain 1)
  • Protection from all further conviction damage caused by defeat of their vows.
  • -1 / +1 to reaction rolls for those aware of your actions. A reformed sinner rarely finds themselves in the good graces they once enjoyed, alas, but there are many who are less judgemental.

Nah, probably my imagination.

Addendum


I wrote a post on knightly orders a few months ago that provides four paladin orders with pre-made vows. The Order of the Sable Maid is a good choice if you want a standard paladin, but I am certainly eyeing the potential that can be had with less-traditional oaths.









Thursday, December 7, 2017

1d20 Answers to an Important Question...

The world may never know!
  1. Noblemen's sex party; featuring a vat of honey, silken whips, and a live rhinoceros.
  2. Accountant-wizard breaks math, is devoured by the equations of his own ledger, regurgitated, and devoured again in terrible recursion.
  3. A fuzzy white void containing an old man with a mangled nose and gigantic eyebrows, angrily staring back at you.
  4. Clowns meditating upon mountaintops. "Ohmmmmmhahahaha..."
  5. Crucified woman wearing tiger pelt discusses astronomy with passing merchants.
  6. Sturgeons in sedan chairs, carried aloft by sunburnt slaves.
  7. Schoolchildren calmly and competently performing open brain surgery on a placid teacher.
  8. A grainy scrydeo feed of a dirty, darkened room, empty. Minutes later, a filthy man with a mantis-shrimp head stumbles into view.
  9. Chinchillas dance, are startled by something unseen, and explode in a puff of fluff.
  10. A tree falling in the jungle, utterly silent amidst the blind cacophonous birds.
  11. A glacier bleeding in the pains of birth. Leopard-seals keep midwife's vigil.
  12. Sunflowers stretch out to the horizon, intermittently broken by crooked, oily smokestacks.
  13. Migratory march of the landsquids to Big Head Pimple Mountain.
  14. A parliament of talking swords discussing trade embargoes, powdered wigs dangling from their pommels.
  15. Horrific fused mass of livestock goes about its daily business; grocery shopping, stopping by the bank, returning a sweater that was too small.
  16. Singing miners connected by golden chains, digging out a mountain of mouse bones.
  17. A gaudy game-show; the players, host, and audience are all long-dead corpses. The music, commercials, and camera switches are still working as normal.
  18. Soldiers drink coffee from tin cups atop the stooped shoulders of a gargantuan vampire.
  19. Eight temple prostitutes attempt to order takeout, can't decide on how many orders of Admiral Tung's Cockatrice they want.
  20. Headless giraffe gives newlyweds a ride around town.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Clerical Relics


Fun fact: St. Anthony's chapel in Pittsburgh contains
the second largest collection of Catholic relics in the world.

The D&D cleric spell list is, as +Skerples  has pointed out, rooted in Sunday School miracles and Hammer horror movies. This is fine and good if you want to play as Peter Cushing (and let us be fair, that is hardly ever a bad thing), but it perhaps does not get you the most bang for your buck in the field of religious fun-times in your games.

Now, there won't be any new mechanics here, just a method to provide some extra flavor. As such, it should be compatible with whatever cleric variant you are using. (For alternate clerics, see  +Lungfungus' hierophant, +Skerples  generic cleric, or Logan Knight's mystic.) 

Sacraments


First level spells are sacraments. These are the rites and outward signs sacred to your god and the basic building block of the religion. DMs, this is the easy way to change the ground-level flavor of your clerics. Swap out spells, give them some kind of spiritual / symbolic purpose, backronym till your heart is content.  (A single sentence will get you by. Dark Souls away!)

Relics


Mechanically, relics are just scrolls and wands. (But don't tell the wizards that, they'll have a fit. There are three categories of relics, courtesy of the Catholic Church (providing quality gameable material since AD 325.)

First-Class Relics are the physical remains of a saint. Items of direct divine influence or origin would also fall under this category. 

Second-Class Relics are possessions and other objects notable within the saint's life or work. If they belonged to a central figure of the religion, they may classify as first-class.


Third-Class Relics are items touched to a first-class relic, and so have inherited some of the mojo through the commutative property of holiness. Game Usage: treat these as scrolls - a single cast, then it's all used. Note: the wording here might indicate that you could make thousands of third class relics with a single first-class. For game purposes I would say limit it to 1d4, unless you want the big mess.

Based on this, what is to follow is geared towards a pretty standard not-Catholic fantasy church, for the sake of making a baseline example. It's also what I'm more familiar with, so don't be beholden to it on my account - relic classes can easily be swapped out for whatever hierarchy or lack thereof you wish, they all cast the same.

Die-Drop Relic Generator


d4: What Kind of Relic Is it? 
  1. First Class (see d12)
  2. Second Class (see d10)
  3. Third Class (see d8)
  4. Fake (roll 2d6)
d6+1: What Level Spell Does it Hold?
  • Roll on whatever spell table you happen to use for the spell in question.
  • Optional: for second-class relics, only count 1-4. For first-class relics, only count 4-6.
d12: First-Class Relics
  1. Blood
  2. Bone
  3. Skin
  4. Flesh
  5. Hair
  6. Head
  7. Limb
  8. Organ 
  9. Tongue
  10. Eye
  11. Other bodily fluids
  12. Entire body
d10: Second-Class Relics
  1. Walking stick
  2. Book of psalms
  3. Prayer beads
  4. Sandals
  5. Item associated with their trade
  6. The means of their execution
  7. Original manuscript of a theological treatise
  8. Piece of artwork
  9. Holy symbol
  10. Mark of office
d8: Third-Class Relics
  1. Piece of cloth
  2. Jar of oil
  3. Medallion
  4. Holy symbol
  5. Prayer card
  6. Icon
  7. Vial of holy water
  8. Incense
d20: Who is This Relic From?
  1. Minor, obscure saint
  2. Companion to a martyr
  3. Popular local saint
  4. Warrior saint
  5. National patron
  6. Martyr
  7. Foreign convert
  8. Amalgamation of several historical individuals and local folklore
  9. Noted scientist or artist
  10. Developer of important doctrine
  11. Spearheaded reform movement
  12. Founder of notable religious order
  13. Origin and deeds hidden by time
  14. Famous debater of heterodox factions
  15. Doctor of the church
  16. Figure of legend
  17. World-traveling missionary
  18. Potent hierarch
  19. Prophet
  20. Angel or equivalent celestial being
d20 alternate version: Who is This Relic From?
  1. Argrabahd, who would preach until he turned purple and passed out.
  2. Lox, who could read a man's heart like a book.
  3. Shejen, who was almost entirely unmartyable (not for lack of trying, mind).
  4. Brother Coal, who ministered to the Russet Country miners for forty years.
  5. Altook, who was cooked up in a stew and eaten by yetis.
  6. Quen-Liu the Pirate Queen, who bought her canonization alongside amnesty from the government.
  7. Elia, who decided that being a virgin martyr wasn't all it was cracked up to be and escaped her captors. Died at 104 after the birth of her fifth great-great-grandchild.
  8. Percival Tuckett, who survived thirteen nights of goblin pranks in a failed attempt to convert the warren on Puckawanakee Hill.
  9. Anne of Redrosen; gambler, cheat, patroness of the out-of luck. Had her fingers cut off for trying to con the House of Silver Dreaming.
  10. Henry Parson, the first priest to come to Tin Jacobstown; chartered the first agreement with the Black Amazons.
  11. [Redacted], who has been stripped from the record for posthumously-revealed crimes.
  12. The Sable Maid of Orlei, who led the campaign against the Dukes of Hell, and challenged Darvatius himself before the walls of Dis.
  13. Orichus Alm, tender of the Angelic Engine and wise teacher of technical theology.
  14. Stossisan, who oversaw the building of the  Obsidian Cathedral on the slopes of Mt. Kathualo.
  15. Hauteliwika, who lived on nothing but the morning mist and a single acorn a day.
  16. Bogab the Ogre, who held the gates of Dunson shut against the invaders with one hand and blessed the soldiers' weapons with the other.
  17. Iridalus, one of the rare wizard-converts and author of a masterful catalog of spirits.
  18. Grey, who forsook his name and tended to the ghoul-lepers of Janashkut.
  19. Kaeltophe, who is said to have fought off ten thousand demons with his enchanted spear, and ridden a gigantic bristleback boar.
  20. Navima, who crossed a sea a neophyte, and returned from unknown lands wise beyond all telling.
I am an Idiot and Bought a Fake Relic, What Happens? (2d6)
  1. Your knowing and unrepentent blasphemy has called down doom upon you. 
  2. Horrific spell backfire! Gain 1d4 mutations.
  3. Normal spell backfire. Gain a mutation.
  4. You are blocked from intoning the gods for 24 hours
  5. You are blocked from intoning the gods for 1d6 days.
  6. Nothing happens. Save vs fear, as your faith has failed in time of need.
  7. Nothing happens. A spell die is burnt / a spell slot is lost until tomorrow.
  8. Nothing happens. There is a sense of relief.
  9. Take 1d4 damage from the relic melting in your hands.
  10. It works, but the spell's effects (duration, range, damage, etc) are halved.
  11. It works, but casts a different spell of 1d4 levels lower.
  12. Well what do you know? It was actually real.

Monday, December 4, 2017

DCO with Randos: Session 2

Picking up from where we previously left off, the party departs up the river from Carrowmore, leaving the ruined town behind them. A fourth member of the party was introduced, leaving us with a fellowship of four.
  • Eren, human ranger
  • Alteriel, human monk
  • Durlan, wood elf life cleric
  • Ganel, fallen aasimar paladin
Since we were playing over Discord, I took advantage to throw in some musical cues, which shall be scattered about in link form. For normal boat travel, it was the wonderful sounds of Sunless Sea.

Into the silent, elegiac, greyness they went.

The Sarcophagus of Ambatoharanana

The party attempts to throw a rope to the two survivors clinging to the sarcophagus, to no avail. Pulling up alongside the coffin reveals that one is already dead, and the other is barely alive and non-vocal. He is taken onto the skiff and cared for by Durlan.

After a bit of equipment scrambling, Eren produces a crowbar and with Ganel's help opens the sarcophagus, revealing the mummified king inside. Ganel goes for the treasure.

King Ambatoharanana lives! The mummy springs up, laying about with his sword. Several solid hits are made by Alteriel and Ganel, but Ganel is struck by the king's attack and is overwhelmed with the sure and certain knowledge imparted in his animal hindbrain - that he shall be pursued to the ends of the earth for his transgression against a god-king.

Ganel  panics and runs to the back of the boat with Durlan. Alteriel is the next hit and is dropped in one shot. He passes his save on death's door, Durlan pulls him out of harms way and heals him.

At this point Eren tackles the mummy and both plunge into the water. A shaken Ganel pulls him up, and Durlan heals Arteriel. The king dissolves in the deep water, and soon that remains is a muddy smear on the water, and some limp silken bandages floating downstream. His treasure is lost to the muddy river bottom.

Fool's Duel

Grey silence again envelops the expedition, until they come to the dueling wizards, Rem and Ruskin.

The party attempts to learn what is happening by making authoritative demands, but the wizards are immune to such things as befitting their ego. Conversation goes nowhere, Ruskin is hit with a magic missile and demands their aid. But to no avail for the scrawny wizard, as the group leaves the two to their squabbling.

As they paddle away, they are able to watch the blue eggshell of Ruskin's shield disperse, and the wizard is knocked into the water by a second magic missile. A sleek, black, spied fin rises from the water, and the frantic splashing swiftly ceases.

The group was understandably enthusiastic to reach the dry land ahead.

Church of Selminimum Tem 

The party reached the overturned church without much incident. Ganel uses his hand axes to carve out footholds in the soft and water-damaged foot, so that he can climb up to the doors and gain entry. The party follows, and make a quick investigation. Ganel opens the shrine and finds the wafers and vials, Eren harvests some dry pew-wood for a fire. With evening approaching (and several players in need of retiring for the night), a watch is set, with one outside the church to keep watch over the boat and make sure that the giant pike has not been following them.

END OF DAY 1

The string of good, if short, sessions and good luck continues. Thanks are to be give to +Daniel Davis, whose notes on DCO really helped smooth things along.

Also, it appears that I really, really like to run pointcrawls!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Some thoughts on the Tome of Beasts

 
Had some leftover Amazon giftcardbucks, picked up the Tome of Beasts. Here are some thoughts on it.

This is a Fifth-Edition product

If you're the kind of person that rolls their eyes at challenge ratings and HP in the hundreds, it's still certainly usable, but you'll have to put more work into making it work for you. If you're a 5e fan, that's not going to be much of an issue.

The art is great

Exceptions exist, but even then the entries that are just mediocre in comparison to the rest of the art outnumber the properly bad ones, and the good stuff outnumbers both. It's solid, nicely evocative stuff, and "monsters that I want to use just because I think they look cool" is my baseline for judging a bestiary.

The words are poor

The quality of text in Tome of Beasts is, frankly, unacceptable. I have not read a single entry that is not stricken with redundancy, fluff, chaff, dead weight, bloat, stating the obvious, or filler - they're all generally as evocative as a brick. They're tiny little entries and they paradoxically manage to still waste space.

Ignore it. Stick a post-it note in there and write your own, the names and pictures will provide all you need.

"The hulking bearfolk are intimidating creatures", says the text near the picture of a bipedal grizzly bear with an axe.

It reminds me of the 3.5 Monster Manuals

In both good and bad ways. It's filled with obscure "why did you think of this?" variants of common monsters,  strange "how am I ever supposed to use this" monsters, "this is cool, why is it designed as a combat encounter" entires and "what is even going on with this page?" entries.

For my own part, I find a sort of charm in it - the odd sort of weird that doesn't want to let go of "palatable to a wide audience" and dive headfirst into the "OSR-land of cannibal mutant snake cultists" just yet.


Many of the monsters have a shared theme or origin

This is something I found quite nice and helpful - an easy way of populating dungeons with encounters that mesh well together, and you can build up factions and their interactions with each other or within themselves easily enough.

There's a setting behind the book

From time to time there are side notes and boxes detailing Kobold Press' published setting, which is often reflected in the creatures themselves: there's the Norse-themed monsters, the Egyptian-themed monsters, and an underground empire of ghouls.

It's not particularly intrusive, and overlaps with the point above, and so can be handy for the same reasons.

Please be more creative with your usage of breasts

I'm not going to harp on you for featuring lady-monsters in diaphanous states of undress, Kobold Press. But I will absolutely harp on you re-printing the same monster four times. Five times? They blur together

"Watery tart who lures men to their doom with sex appeal" applies to the eleinomae (swamp-nymphs), the lorelei, and the rusalka. Then you've got the abominable beauty (who isn't aquatic, but picks up the slack on diaphanous undress from the rusalka, who remembered to get dressed this morning), two very visually boring dryads, and the drowned maiden, who is just the rusalka again, except just angry and sad about being dead instead of seductive. She's cool.

Vary it up, guys.

Please start using templates instead of repeating statblocks

Like the 5E Monster Manual, Tome of Beasts provides a separate stat block for every stage of life for all six variants of dragon, all seven varieties of giant, and every other creature that could easily be summarized with "as [creature], with [special features]".

Please, for the love of all gods above and below, please stop referring to everything in the plural. It's okay to have unique monsters

The difference between a monster and the monster is a valuable one to make, and can have a  dramatic effect on how a monster is viewed and the impact it has on the players.

_Tome of Beasts_ does not make this distinction, which I find to devalue of cool or goofy monsters. Granted, if one ignores the text that the book provides, as I already recommended, this is far less of an issue. I'm still annoyed by it.

There are some fantastic monsters in here that I absolutely want to use 

Including but not limited to:
  • Horrible little guard-homunculi with huge underbites that PCs can grow inside their own bodies.
  • Dark cloaks filled with dozens of arms that can unbalance a player's humours.
  • Fat little dragons who live in pubs and love gossip.
  • Demons that set up brothels, restaurants, casinos and so on to lure people and then devour their hopes and dreams.
  • Kobold techpriests.
  • Evil pixie barbers.
  • An oasis that is actually a giant ooze.
  • Men of Leng, who will definitely find a home collectively being the _Resident Evil 4_ merchant.
I like the elemental dragons

They're pretty neat.

There are at least two instances of the text describing the creature with a beard and then the art showing no beard at all.

There are standards a man must hold himself to.

They gave the sphinx a table of riddles 

That's a gold star on the Good Noodle board for you, Kobold Press. 

Final Thoughts

The book doesn't set out to break any boundaries or break up any statuses quo, it falls short in places but succeeds quite well in others. Definitely geared towards people very much wanting more 5e for their 5e. I wouldn't put it on my recommendations list, and would recommend that anyone interested in it buys it on sale.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Mother Stole Fire

 
Ama Adimatha, Mother of Multitudes


The gods of man number in the countless thousands, but Ama Adimatha stands honored above all of them. Go anywhere in the world, even to the top of Sky-Eater Mountain or the deepest pits of Hell, and you will find her.

She is the soft voice you heard in the womb, the gentle arms that held you close, the guiding hand of your first tottering steps. She is the shield against evil, the keeper of woman's secret wisdom, the source of love and bountiful life. She is strong as the pillars of the earth. She's a joker, a japester, a right-up prankster. Vast is her compassion, unbreakable is her spirit, clever is her tongue, and most terrible is her wrath.

She is our mother.

Here is a story of how she stole fire.

*****

Long ago, in the green and timeless days before the coming of the ice, there was a goddess of the ape-men named Clever Lu. She was always getting into trouble: playing pranks on the tribe chiefs, gossiping with songbirds, stealing fruit from the highest trees, racing the gazelles, dancing with the Folk come the rains. And she she got it in her head that she ought to steal the crown of fire from Hō-ō, King of the Heavens and Highest of the Dragon Lords.

Clever as she was, Lu could not match the guile and power of the king. Not just yet. She went forth into the world to find her greatest trick and had a great many adventures, some of which were even true.

She escaped the clutches of Pan-Pongo, savage god-chief of the ape-men, by getting him drunk on palm-wine and leaving him lost in the woods. She ventured into the halls of the star-nosed Mountain King and feasted there with the dwarves. She wrestled the great catfish Tija Gnood for four days and four nights, and then cooked him up for breakfast. She stole the words out of the mouth of Fantool the River Serpent and sold them back to him. She made friends of the Old Ones, made enemies of the Álfar, and started a war in the process. She belched out a song to  She beat Aran Stone-Brow in a game of riddles, and walked all the way to the edge of the world. She moved a mountain from Here to There Over the Horizon by chaining it to the sun with a braid of her hair, and so won a cloak of feathers from Raven.

When finally she came to climb the Crown of the World, she was no longer the nut-brown girl who had left the forest domain of Pan-Pongo; She was now a goddess grown, taught well by time and trial. By the magics of Raven's black cloak, she disguised herself as a saurian priestess come from the distant deserts to give homage to the Mesozoic King, and so gained entry to his milk white palace on the mountain peak.

She was brought before Hō-ō, who was as glorious as the setting sun. Clever Lu bowed before him, and presented her most honeyed words. The king was taken by her tribute and by the comeliness of her disguise, and so agreed when she offered to dance for him. This was her trap, for she wove a spell into her dance so that the king and all his court would fall into a deep and dreamless sleep, and so it was.

Grinning to herself, Clever Lu shed her disguise, shimmied up the throne, and stole the crown of fire right from Hō-ō's head. The great dragon snuffled in his sleep. She departed the throne room by tiptoe.

But dragons have potent magic of their own, and her spell of sleep quickly faded. Hō-ō awoke, and realizing that he had been tricked, roared up to the night sky:

"THIEF! THIEEEEEEEEEEEEF!"

He tore through the his chambers, following the scent of ape. The milk-white palace collapsed around him in his rage. Claws glistening, teeth alight with dragonsfire, thunderous wings outstretched, he bore down on the escaping Lu, chasing her to the very edge of the mountain peak.

She stood there upon the cliff, knee-deep in the snow, the burning crown in her hands, and realized that she had made a terrible mistake.

She offered to return the crown, to leave and never return, but Hō-ō, blinded by rage, ignored her pleas and tears. The King of the Heavens vowed to her that he and his kind, their children and all their children's children, would hunt the ape-men to the ends of the world, to slaughter them to the last. None would be spared. Their forests would be put to the torch, their plains made barren, their gods broken and cast aside. To the last mewling child Hō-ō would see them devoured. With a terrible howl he summoned the ranks of his dragons, and Lu watched in horror as they flew out from the Crown of the World.

There was a moment, where Lu thought of throwing herself from the mountain there, but despair melted in the blast furnace of newborn anger. They had threatened her people, her children... 

Her fury a-burning about her, Lu reached up a hand to the sky and grasped a star in her fist. With all her rage and love and hate and hope, she tore that iron star out of the sky, screaming...


"FUCK YOU!"

 ...and brought it down upon Hō-ō, his castle, his mountain, and all the world: the fist of an angry goddess.

Thus the world was broken and remade, and passed from dragons to man. The green and timeless days gave way to a white and frozen age. Continents and seas were shaped and re-shaped. The dragons and their children died. Mankind was born of the ape-men. The Folk warred among themselves.

Standing over the corpse of Hō-ō, Mother placed the crown of fire upon her head, and led her children into winter.

*****

This is it, then, the proper opening to this setting I've been working on. There will be more to come, of course, most of it far more gamable than this. Next up should be the famous 40 questions.

But to prevent this post from being totally ungamable, I present the following table for other stories about Mother:

How true is it? (1d12)
  1. Bullshit
  2. Double bullshit
  3. Absolutely true
  4. Embellished
  5. Not entirely false
  6. Jury is still out
  7. Way more truth than you wanted
  8. Given value of true
  9. Have to squint at it
  10. The truth you needed
  11. All of the above
  12. Roll twice


Monday, November 27, 2017

DCO with Randos: Session 1

In an effort to get around to actually playing games, I decided to brave the wilds of looking for an online game. I quickly found one that was looking for a DM, and with immense luck it turned out to be a great time for all parties involved.

When I asked about what sort of adventure they wanted me to run, the group was quite enthusiastic in their support of the "weird and dark" parts of my module collection, which meant Deep Carbon Observatory, for there are none weirder or darker, and hacking it to 5e is not much trouble.

The party consisted of:
  • Eren, human ranger
  • Alterial, human monk
  • Durlan, wood elf life cleric
It was a short session (one of the party had to leave early), and so they did not end up leaving Carrowmore, but we did get through all the chaos. Man, what an opening.

The sequence of arriving in Carrowmore, with everything happening all at once, is perfectly overwhelming. Not enough to impede running it (by the second or third series of events the flow begins and you are carried along as if in the flood itself), but enough to get you really into things.

The group's opening arc was something like this:

  • The group rushes in to help Callao rescue the children and elders of Pollnagollum Village.
  • Alterial and Durlan go and try to round up Sue Trouin's schoolchildren.  With some food they're able to collect the band and lead them back to Callao's group.
  • Eren goes to investigate Busla Rant and her clocktower fishing spot. He learns of the gold dust, and is nearly but not quite pickpocketed by Wit Tambdoun. Eren trades a portion of rations to have Wit steal one of  Busla's treasures. 
  • Eren saves Theodore Brosen.
  • Wit returns with a severed head, mouth full of gold dust.
  • Alterial and Durlan nearly have the lynch mob turn on them, but are able to . The rescued sailor leads them to the Snail-Shell Zarathustra. The captain makes his offer, as normal.
  • Eren (followed shortly thereafter by the other two) comes across the Snowflake Squad accosting Constable Stary. They call the bluff and send them packing, and get quite excitable when Stary makes her offer of 5000 gold for proof of there being no treasure (as well as catching on to the inherent silliness of the claim and potential avenues for abuse - there's no treasure north of the Lock if we've already stolen it, now is there?)
We had to end there, but that's still two hours of thoroughly enjoyable game for six pages of module (and more time to prep for the next session. Eagerly looking forward to the continuation.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Delta Eclipse: Draft 1

by Alex Drummond

Housekeeping:


If you follow me on G+ you've probably heard me talking about this for the last month or so. If you haven't: it's a hack for Eclipse Phase using Delta Green rules, because I like the idea of Eclipse Phase but find the system and books super-unfriendly for purposes of running the game.

This is still something of a work in progress: it contains all the basics of the hack, but there will doubtlessly be tweaks as I finish the list of advanced morphs and people point out gribbly mechanical bits that got overlooked. But! This draft right here can be considered usable, if untested.

If you come across gribbly mechanical mistakes that make sense, please let me know.
 

Note:This is a pretty significantly changed Eclipse Phase - no asyncs, no Factors, no gates, factions have been shifted around / edited / removed / added, and transhumanity is not necessarily the standard. If you want to add any of that it, go for it.

Here’s the deal:


It’s the future, and Earth got fucked. We had giant, super-powerful AI god-babies that, upon waking up, also woke up a Bracewell probe from some civilization way up the Kardashev scale that was hibernating in our solar system. The probe ate all the AI god-babies, fucked off to its masters with a bellyful of devoured and assimilated potential competitors, and left a bunch of killer robots and Old One AI subroutines behind to deal with the leftover mess.

Humanity did what it always does in times of crisis: shit the bed and start fighting each other.

All of you people are in this group called Firewall whose job it is to keep the killer robots, crazy super-tech, or plain old human greed, cruelty, and stupidity from finishing the extinction job. 


Solve the problem by causing more problems.

 

Here’s the deal with the rules:


This is a Delta Green hack. It uses Delta Green rules. If you don’t have Delta Green rules, the Need to Know quickstart rules are free, and will cover basically everything you need.


By bigmsaxon


Here’s the deal with your character:


Your character consists of two parts, your morph and your ego. You can take your ego out of your morph and stick it in another morph, because you’re a soul in a phylactery a digitized consciousness on a hard drive.

Morph stats are STR, DEX, and CON. Ego stats are INT, POW, and CHA. You roll 3d6 for each of these or take the pre-generated spread as provided in Need to Know. Ego stats are rolled up during character creation and stick with them through the life of your character. Your morph stats are rolled according to the morph you are currently inhabiting. Derived statistics (HP, WP, SAN) are calculated in the typical fashion.

You don't have to be a transhuman if you don’t want to. Or you can be a little transhuman but not go all the way. Or you could start out baseline and upload yourself, or you could start as H+ and lock yourself in a single body.

 

Here’s the deal with the transhuman stuff:


Transhumans get a fourth category of mental trauma all of their own. Call it Identity.

Re-sleeving, uploading, forking, or locking down requires a sanity roll. As with other types of sanity loss, you can burn willpower to push through it, project damage onto your bonds, and become adapted to it.  The sanity damage values are as follows:

  • 0 - You are intimately familiar with the body.
  • 0/1 - You are familiar with this type of morph.
  • 0/1d4 - Standard roll.
  • 0/1d6 - This morph is unorthodox and you have no prior experience with its type.

Backups should be a regular occurrence. At minimum they will occur when you sleeve into a new body, are about to go out on a mission, or according to your insurance plan (once monthly is industry standard).

You only have one backup (unless you’ve come across extra cortical stacks and are storing your forks yourself), so saving again will override previous data. Be sure to get everything taken care of before the next backup!

And if you worry about abusing savescumming, don’t worry - it is still committing suicide, and we’re still hardwired to avoid that.

Neurosurgery can be used to directly remove or edit traumatic memories. Roll POW x5 per trauma you want removed: Success will recover all SAN points lost for that particular event. Upon failure, the memory will be erased but no sanity will be gained. Critical failure will result in losing 1 point of POW, permanently.

There is a downside to being a transhuman, though: you are lunch. The Bracewell probe’s many robotic children categorize you as a parasite that was sucking off AI god-baby data and every single one of those killer robots has the stink of the DRM on your cyberbrain apps memorized.

Also, continuity is a bitch. If you are a full digital transhuman, you are already a copy of someone. The original meat-you might be dead, or they might not – that fact depends on whether you took the suicide uploading route to maintain continuity.

If you don’t have a body at the moment, you are just an infomorph. You have no body stats and can use no skills that would require a body, but all Computer Science checks are made at INT x5 while you are disembodied data.


The fact that Adam is a tech demo makes it even more appropriate for this.

 

Here’s the deal with skills:


Only a few changes here.



  • Archaeology and Anthropology have been removed and replaced with Academics. Characters start with 0% in this, and may choose their specialty(s) as they see fit.
  • Free Fall has been added to the skill list, covering maneuvering in low- or zero-gravity. All characters start with a base value of 10% in this skill.
  • All characters now start with a 10% in Computer Science.
  • Occult has been replaced with The Fall, though its usage is the same: wading through the secrets, pseudohistory, conspiracy theories, and so on born of the species’ collective trauma.
  • Unnatural deals with true knowledge of the Bracewell Probe, its functions, its creators, its creations, or its greater purpose.


Here’s the deal with professions:


The default Delta Green ones work just fine. Rename the agency you work for and no one will know the difference.

If you want to make a new profession, the guidelines in the Delta Green core book are:

  • 400 points split between 10 skills
  • 30-50 points for each skill, no higher than 60    


Here’s the deal with bonus skill packages:


Same as last time, just use the defaults. Choose eight skills to give +20 to, raising none higher than 80. Any of the background packages in the core book will work.

 

Here’s the deal with self-skills:


You’ve got three additional skills, separated from the normal set. These are:

  • Networking: [Field]
  • Profession: [Field]
  • Interest: [Field]
You have 120 points to split between as many of them as you want. They are used as follows:
  • “Hey, I know a guy in this [social group].”
  • “I can do this, because I’m an [occupation].”
  • “My interest in [obscure thing] can help me in this situation”.
Use these skills when normal skills would not apply.

 

Here’s some morphs, and the deal with them:


 

Basic Morphs


Most of transhumanity lives in one of the six morphs listed below. The system’s not always a body-hopping flying circus of eccentric immortals: even in the post-apocalyptic transhuman future, most people are just ordinary.

Flatlander – You’re the very same homo sapiens that ran gazelles to death, built the Pyramids, and got to the Moon with slide rules. You’ve got nothing – no cyberware, no gene tweaks, nothing. You’re probably going to die of cancer, heart disease, or the effects of low gravity. It’s not too bad, all things considered: You survived the Fall.

  • -1 to all stats
  • Additional -1 to STR and CON for each year spent in microgravity.
  • Base of 75 to avoid the notice of hostile, Bracewell-derived machinery.

Splicer - Pre-natal gene therapy and affordable, low-intrusion cybernetics have set a new baseline for humanity. The advancements are modest compared to what is possible, but the improvements to health and variability of appearance serve as the foundation of human life in space.
The baseline morph, no bonuses or maluses. Affordable, adaptable, and ordinary.

  • Common variants:
    • Artjob - The cantinas and Morphmakers’ Wards of Venusian aerostats spill over with those who have reshaped their bodies in the name of artistic expression. Most run towards “extra in an old space opera”.
    • Celebrity Morph - Pre-Fall celebrity likeness rights were gobbled up by the hypercorps, along with the genomes to gestate them. Copycats and lookalikes are common, and anyone can do a historical recreation or fictional character (not to besmirch the considerable talent that goes into such work) but the real thing is often as much a status symbol as the original geneholder was in their day.

Ruster - The Red Martians. A marvel of morphological engineering reduced to a punchline for jokes about poor people, rusters are capable of surviving the Martian surface with minimal equipment. Arcologies, as it turns out, are more cost-efficient than people.

  • Cold resistance to -30 °C without specialized equipment
  • Capable of breathing the Martian atmosphere for up to six hours of low activity.

Bouncer - A morph designed for microgravity environments. Long limbs, opposable toes, hollow bones, short hair. Some models even have tails.

  • +2 DEX
  • Free Fall at base 40.
  • +1 damage taken
  • Common variant:
    • Slowboater - A bouncer variant designed for long-distance travel. Stockier and heavier in build due to internal fat reserves, they can hibernate for weeks or months at a time between ports.
      • +1 Dex
      • Free Fall at base 40
      • Can go without food or water for three months in hibernative state.

Pod -  Flash-grown bodies with cyberbrains. Mass produced on the cheap in Martian and Lunar factories and notorious for their many shortcomings.

  • Cyberbrain
  • Require regular GRM package updates - missing your update will begin the spiral of obsolescence, granting you -10 to all of your skills. Jailbreaking your morph means voiding the warranty.
  • Common variant:
    • Salaryman - The salaryman happens when a person becomes a product.
      • -1 to all stats as flatlander.
      • Cyberbrain with GRM requirement.
      • Unable to resist commands from those in pre-programmed authority over them. Switching authority figures (ex: switching submissive servitude from Coca-Cola to Pepsi) involves re-wiring the cyberbrain.

Synth - A generic term for a machine body. While a synth can obviously and easily come in any variety that a machine could, typical consumer models tend towards the humanoid.

  • Cyberbrain
  • Armor 4
This is why no one likes octopi. (Art is from Posthuman Studios)


Uplifts



Uplifting programs, even the well-intentioned, have always been an ethical can of worms. The Fall has made the adolescent growing pains worse. For every person who welcomes their new siblings into the family, there is another who thinks they are owed a station of superiority.

Great Ape - Chimpanzees, followed by gorillas, and orangutans, were the first, the most widespread, and unfortunately the most maligned. Multiple parties claim ownership of the gene lines, (Venus offers asylum to any uplifts who manage to make it into its orbit) and good old racism is alive and well. Sometimes the greatest hate is reserved for the ones closest to us.

  • + 1 STR
  • -10 to interactions with corporate-aligned individuals.

Raven - Sapience has only increased the corvids’ propensity for ceaseless mockery and uncanny problem solving abilities. Their numbers grew considerably after the Fall, in part to the complete destruction of their uplifters and the corvids’ purchase of their own genetic rights.

  • 1d6 STR
  • Flight at base 70
  • Ad hoc manipulation - you can get by with talons and beak, but it will take some finagling and time.

Dolphin -.Uplifted dolphins require mechanical harnesses and excessive amounts of moisturizer to move about outside of their aquatic habitats. Unsurprisingly, most of those able to immigrate set sail for Europa the moment tickets were available.

  • Swim at base 80
  • No manipulators without a mechanical harness
  • Sonar at POW x5

Octopus - The best scientists in the pre-Fall system couldn’t overcome the species’ natural anti-social behaviors, leaving everyone to deal with a species of incredibly smart, incredibly stealthy, non-communicative sociopaths.

  • Swim at base 70
  • Free Fall at base 50
  • Disguise is base of 80 for visual camouflage
  • Can manipulate 4 tools simultaneously
  • Ink spray (blind an opponent) 1/day
  • Maximum of 10 in all social interactions. No one likes you, no one trusts you.


By Paul Pepera


Here’s some backgrounds, and the deal with them:


Each of these 100 backgrounds serves as a bonus skill package: eight skills, 20 points per skill. Since you’re doubtless all creative folks, I’ll leave the skills up you you and provide the flavor.

  1. Priest of Tharsis -  When the thark clans call for blood, who is there for their war council? When the border treaties are not upheld, who speaks to the corporate slavers? When all of Barsoom cries out for freedom, who answers her cry?
  2. Martian Wage-Slave - You once had a window on your wall, looking out on the bluest sea and whitest beach Old Earth ever had. Management got rid of them after the suicide rate spiked in your office complex.
  3. Advertisement Baby - Your parents took a sponsorship deal in exchange for reproductive rights. You’ve sounded like a commercial since your first words, and you actually believe the garbage you’re saying.
  4. Asteroid Bastard - Independent Belt settlements have a reputation for hard attitudes. This is absolutely correct. You didn’t come out here to have a corporate lackey breathing down your neck or some starry-eyed Venusian telling you everything is going to be okay.
  5. Drone-Game Conscript-Pilot - The Lunar government drafts anyone with good reflexes and sharp hand-eye coordination. It’s not a bad living: you’d be playing video games anyway. Now it comes with a military paycheck.
  6. Reclaimant Propagandist - The reclamation of Earth is a task that will outlive you. Making sure that the next generation will carry on the task is paramount. By your hand the icons of the old world appeal for their own salvation.
  7. Leftbehinder - Earth got fucked, but not completely. Millions survived the Fall and continue to survive there in nomadic tribes and pockets of anachronistic civilization; you were one of them. You adapted to the new rules: guile will keep you alive, high technology will not. There are things you should not trust without question and things you cannot take for granted. All the remains of the pre-Fall world are yours for the taking and making - their mistake might well be your gain in time.
  8. Spiderfood - Beneath the icy crust of a Uranian moon, there lives a giant spider that was once a man. Long ago (How long? you cannot say), you were brought to its shadowy maze beneath the ice. The others, you don’t know what happened to them. They were not rescued.
  9. Posthuman - You are a stranger in your own land. The gulf between yourself and the rest of humanity is too vast to be bridged without aid. You left for the emptiness of the outer system long ago. It’s friendlier to alien minds such as yours.
  10. Lensman - A civilian organization of adventurer-police. Mostly harmless, often humorous, helpful when they can be. Like the scouts, but in space and with sillier costumes. Put on really nice spaghetti dinners for charity.
  11. Reformed Church of Bracewell - The Fall was punishment for mankind’s misdeeds, as falls always have been. You and your brethren have taken the warning to heart - you might worship the probe as God, but you do not wish Him to return any time soon. “By the good grace of God and His angels may you be blessed and kept out of His notice!”  For this reason your faith is permitted a small chapel in understanding corners of the system. Most corners are less enthused.
  12. Bound to the Wheel - The crimes of your past life were so great that a second was necessary to pay off your karmic debts. If that is not enough, there will be a third, a fourth, as many incarnations as might be needed. Your morph is that of the penitent asura, forever walking a path of razors.
  13. Morphsculptor -  Exowomb displays line the storefronts of a Venusian artists’ alley, showing off the magic that can be done with a little creativity and a big public-domain gene-pool. Proud parents all, but not proud enough to turn down a good commission.
  14. Social Parasite - You exist to leech off of other people. You live to stir up drama and drive clicks. You write listicles, you abuse hashtags, you use thumbnails with circles and arrows and shocked faces. Your lot is the cynical spewing-out of the thrice-regurgitated effluvium of pop culture.
  15. Corporate Sectarian - The tyranny of your parent company has become too much to bear. You fight now for hostile separation and the foundation of your own corporate bloc. The management has clearly gone mad in their advanced age: the current monetization scheme is not exploitative enough!
  16. Voider - You were born aboard a spaceship and have lived your entire life in the Black. Your world is one of the thrum of engines, cramped quarters, spacer’s superstitions. Your crew-family is your life - there is no king, country or god that would break you away from them.
  17. Cultural Reservist - You and your family are practitioners of an Old Earth culture now bordering on the forgotten. Access to the outside world is limited (so as to stave off complete collapse) but some communities will still send their bright-eyed youngsters out on rumspringa.
  18. Reclaimer Crew - If you manage to survive the trip down, survive the stay there, and survive the return trip, you will be rich as kings. The price paid per kilo for anything from Earth - soil cores, genetic samples, cultural artifacts, trash - is astronomical, and Luna, Venus, and Mars are locked in bidding wars for it. If you happen to die, your insurance package covers one body and a resleeve as severance; They’ve no use for a liability down there.
  19. Dreamlander - You have spent most of your life in the streets of golden Celephaïs and the grim docks of Dylath-Neen, wandering the Enchanted Wood and exploring the ruins of ancient Sarnath. You long for the simulation in your waking hours, seeking now ever more the world of wonder that was yours before you were wise and unhappy.
  20. Digital Archaeologist - The Fall was the single biggest loss of data in human history. So much media existed outside of physical space and simply vanished in an instant, and there’s only so much than an off-world backup of Gutenberg and some fragments of Wikipedia can do. The Wayback Machine is no longer an option. Your work computer is filled with shattered remains of art that no longer exists.
  21. The Red Eye of God - The All-Father gave up his eye to gain wisdom, and so have you. In the depths of the bloody storm you have seen with clarity the alien pattern beneath and heard the thunderous voice of knowledge. You are called upon in times of need: to defend, to judge, to advise, to destroy.
  22. Shitposter - Raised on pornography and recycled memes, your formative years were spent trolling about being a pain in the general craw. At best a passing annoyance, at worst a social carcinogen that metastasized into adulthood.
  23. Fork-set - You forked yourself nine times, and sent them off to explore the system for a few years. You’ve since merged together, and now have the stuff of ten lives to sort through. Homes to return to, friends to keep in touch with, family to care for.
  24. Jesuit Dissenter - Mother church has put what remains of her strength into the reclamation effort; The result is a too-cozy-by-far relationship with the Lunar government. You want to see the papal flag above the Vatican as much as the next, but the current state of affairs won’t do at all. It’s time for a little Jesuit creativity.
  25. Barsoomian Thoat-Herder - Thoats are a nightmarish genetic chimera of camel, yak, and buffalo: ill-tempered and harsh as the Martian outback they call home, and utterly necessary for human life in the wilderness. So it is that the creatures have become the emblem of the Barsoomian independence movement, and their herdsman the basis of civilization.
  26. Escape Artist - You’re a runner for the underground railroad, smuggling infomorphs and occasionally entire people off of Luna and Mars. You keep your papers up to date, your secret compartments insulated, your coded signs and ciphers memorized, and a list of all the palms that need greasing.
  27. Corporate Aristocracy - With the coming of immortality, money stays in the family more than ever. Your demesne would be the envy of any feudal lord. Your lifestyle would make Mansa Musa himself think that you’re overcompensating. After a short and annoying interlude of democratic liberalism, royalty is back in fashion.
  28. Cultural Experiment - You and your family are the result of a purposeful experiment in lifestyle and beliefs. Whatever you practice, it has either never been seen before, or has not been seen in centuries or more. Depending on where you live, there might be a reality TV deal thrown in.
  29. Backup Insurance Agent - Even, perhaps especially, in the apocalyptic transhuman future there is still a niche for insurance sellers. As ever has been, they charge high, pay low, and flood every medium they can with commercials that have nothing to do with the product.
  30. Dashboard Holo-Hula Model - It’s not just hula anymore. Line dancing, square dancing, swing dancing, break dancing, belly dancing, cossack dancing, pole dancing, you’ve done it all. It paid the bills.
  31. Uplift Autonomist - You campaign for the autonomy and self-determination of all uplifts. This includes but is not limited to: reproductive rights, freedom from corporate sponsorship, independence from human-derived political / social / cultural systems, and the nourishment and support of uplift-founded societies. 
  32. Matchmaker - The post-Fall system is awash with more diversity of bodies, cultures, genders and sexes than ever before, which means that finding and building functioning, meaningful relationships can be incredibly difficult. You not only set people up, but offer counseling services as well: an understanding relationship is a successful one.
  33. Europan Isolationist - “Fuck right out of our ocean”  is the rallying cry. You have all you need in your habitats under the ice. It’s cold, dark, isolated, and most importantly, safe. Unfortunately, the opinion is not entirely shared with the Europans on the surface.
  34. Constructive Anger Art Therapy Fellowship - Healing ennui and despair through lots of a shouting and very aggressive painting. The Fellowship is newer organization, but has shown great promise in combating the post-Fall trauma.
  35. Star Maker - Your community has extrasolar designs - not just to expand the scope of humanity, but to create something wholly new. New biospheres, new cultures, new strains of the transhuman family It’s something of a god complex, you’ll admit to that.
  36. Bon Morte Community - Death hasn’t vanished, he’s just adapting to the new job market. Whether immortality blues, data deletion, hospice care, or suicide prevention, your group takes care of what comes for us all. Even the immortals can’t beat entropy yet.
  37. Chop-Job - Something was taken from you. Memories scooped out of you as if someone had taken a melon-baller to your brain and inexpertly sewed the gaps closed. It was not a clean cut, but it was a very deep one.
  38. Blue Martian - You are the oft-ignored third party of Martian politics: the terraformers. There are hundred-year-plans in the works for a world-shell to maintain atmosphere, the resurrection of Earth life to fill the recoverable land, the importing of iceteroids from the outer system to fill the Vastitas Borealis with water, all you need for a new Eden. The corps and the Barsoomians hate you, and you hate them in turn.
  39. Fence-Authenticator - The market in goods from pre-Fall Earth is lucrative business. Sniffing out counterfeits is even more so. You’re strictly aftermarket sales, where people might not necessarily want a computer sniffing around to see where something’s been.
  40. Jovian Whaler - It’s a dangerous, beautiful life on the high skies. When your ships return to port, laden with oil, ambergris, fat, meat, leather, and bones, you do not forget to pay your respects to the dead. You’ve put too much blood and tears into the job to take it for granted; Jove makes you humble.
  41. Parody Fascist - Bands of young men in jackboots goose-step through the station, holding rallies about the importance of being friendly neighbors and being pleasant and respectful to everyone. They will not stand for the other kind.
  42. Esoteric Physicist - No one has much of a clue as to how Bracewell technology works, and the upper tiers of it are firmly rooted in the Clarke principle. Somewhere, if you follow the line high enough, physics is broken: your job is to figure out what happened, and re-write the books.
  43. Titanian Datamind - Titan’s greatest resource is its cold. The population is almost entirely digital, taking advantage of the higher-efficiency computers possible there. You feel sluggish and stupid when away from home, but by anyone else’s standards you are a walking encyclopedia polished to a brilliant sheen.
  44. Disciple of the Doomsday Clock -  The clock was reset with the Fall. Now, it’s a matter of running enough simulations to predict precisely when midnight will strike again. The entire station you call home is devoted to this task. The tock of the central hub is the movement of history.
  45. Cryo Van Winkle - You were put on ice prior to the Fall, and woke up in a world you no longer recognize or understand. Charitable organizations do their best to help you and those like you, but the shock of the future often proves too much for even the most well-meaning care.
  46. Ultra-Bureaucrat - The amount of data that must be sorted through at any given moment in any given place is obscene. Algorithms can’t handle everything, which is why a good hypercorp keeps a band of the right kind of laser-focused sociopaths on its payroll.
  47. Data Cleaner - Unfortunately, your job is not as simple as “find a hacker, break his fingers”. Self-perpetuating botnets have created entire malware ecosystems that can last far longer than their creators. You tend to and manage the adaptive counter-agents that are able to carve out safe zones online. Life on the cyber-DMZ isn’t easy.
  48. Corporate Personhood - You are the company, the avatar of a god: Your ego has been pruned and adapted to be the perfect spokesman and representative character. You do not pull your own strings, and certainly will not be the only one.
  49. Venusian Magus - The oligarchs of Venus do not keep their power not through capital as the Martians do, nor military might as is the way of the Lunarians. Their position is maintained through mastery of the arts - biomantic, esoteric, cultural and memetic. As always, immense power and negligible conscience tend to go hand in hand.
  50. Belt Hermit - The Belt is home to a multitude of isolated habitats holding only small communities. Those seeking seclusion, privacy, or self-sufficiency could do far worse. Monastic religious orders are so common as to lend the Belt the nickname of the Cincture.
  51. The One-Man Oedipal Show - With a sizable investment and some creative use of forks and morphs, you’ve managed to become your own father, your own mother, and your own children.
  52. Resurrection Man - You provide a friendly face and counseling to the newly-resleeved, helping them deal with the continuity gaps and bodily alienation. There’s a certain sense of humor that comes with the job.
  53. Redoubter - There is a pyramid of obsidian black, eight miles tall and five and half at the base, rising to the sunless sky above the Tombaugh Regio. Mankind will go extinct some day: Bracewell and its children will finish the job, we’ll off our selves in apeish suicide, the sun will die and take us all with it. You are ready for the bitter end.
  54. Kibbutznik - It’s not easy to keep a communal habitat together, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar. But you manage. There’s work to keep you busy, food on the table, and a lot of really friendly dogs. It’s not the first diaspora you’ve had to handle.
  55. Chinese Box - You aren’t actually a person. Something went wrong in the upload and transfer. The lights are all on, but no one’s home. You speak and act and go about your business, but you aren’t aware of it at all.
  56. Relic-Bearer - You possess something of Earth. A baseball, a book, a jar of dirt. It’s genuine, and absolutely priceless.
  57. Consensus Lost -Your community was a social network so tight that you were a part of each other person. Their lives were yours, and yours was theirs: you laughed as one, wept as one, raged as one, and worked as one. Now they are gone.
  58. Reverse-gnostic - Bracewell and its children have shown you plenty of evidence: salvation is not in metal but in flesh. The mind untethered from its mortal shell is an instrument of utter and absolute evil.
  59. Let’s Live Player - You stream and record your life to be enjoyed vicariously by the masses. You carved out your niche by force of personality - people will watch laundry if you’re charismatic enough. Alas, your life is dictated by the attention spans of other people.
  60. Corporate PMC - The advertisements on your riot shield proclaim to all exactly whom you work for and why you’re working for them. The virtual currency gained by beating down protestors can be used to purchase loot boxes which contain armor skins, weapon shaders, and other perks like marriage subscriptions and child custody. If you want to skip the grind, a premium currency is also available.
  61. Autodidact - You taught yourself, and taught yourself well. An actual education: history, philosophy, language, all the humanities that are so often tossed aside in the modern system. You are a self-made scholar in a world that desperately needs some enlightenment.
  62. Social Isolate - Your ability to deal with others in realspace was unfortunately stunted by an over-reliance on digital communication early on. You are far more comfortable with the layers of protective distance and abstraction online interactions offer.
  63. Legionnaire - You are Homo democraticus: 101 minds in a single cyberbrain. Neither forks nor entire minds, each fragment is individual enough to remain distinct from the other parties, but must work in concert with the rest of the minds to achieve anything.
  64. Hitchhiker - A hoopy frood who knows where their towel is. A common sight in Venusian aerostats, as they’re generally the only people who don’t round them up and kick them out that often.
  65. Singing the Ganymede Blues - Things were looking good on Ganymede for a while. Capital of the frontier, everyone said, able to stand toe to toe with the inner system blocs. Then, lightminutes away, some numbers went screwy and some shareholders got skittish and suddenly you all found yourselves up shit creek with no canoe. You’re rebuilding, you’re doing your best, but it’s going to be a while until you’re back to things being rosy.
  66. Counter-Cult Agent - The lightning-paced development of new religious movements and ideologies makes the feds uneasy. Most are harmless, but then there’s always that one group that tries smuggling fissile materials or printing bomb components because Techno-Jesus / Robo-Buddha / Cyber-Mohammed told them to.
  67. [Noun]punk - Find a motif to follow, find an authority to rebel against, and you too can create a subculture!
  68. Hive Dog - Some stations in the Belt decided to try out anarchism after they declared independence from Mars. Shortly after that, a lot of them ended up trying xiphism - rule of the man who holds the sword. Flash forward a few dozen major regime changes and we find people like you: The nastiest, foulest, toughest, hardest motherfuckers in the system.
  69. Survivor of the Fall - You escaped Earth by only the slimmest skin of dental plaque. Were others embraced what psychosurgery can do to dim the memories and heal the trauma, you have kept your account intact. It is important to remember.
  70. Afterlife Designer - You design virtual realities for those who want a permanent retirement from life. New religious movements pay top dollar for your work - half the work is already done if you have an actual heaven to subscribe to and an actual hell to avoid.
  71. Churchkeeper - There is a cathedral in the Martian outback, built by some mad dreamer. It’s half collapsed and a quarter buried, but the crooked belltower still stands and the dust-silenced bell still hangs. This is a gathering place of a mysterious lot: secret handshakes and cryptic phrases, meetings of strangers before they go their ways.
  72. Protein Farmer - Worms, grubs and crawly things, printed meat and bacterial broth; most people still need to eat, and you supply them. With automation and a little elbow grease you can manage the entire operation yourself.
  73. Monk of Primus Oort - Navy hoods and synthesized chants, obscure beliefs yet to be discerned, and a great resistance to being closely observed. No one in the inner system is quite sure what to do with you, or the Neptunian gods you revere.
  74. Society for Human Consumption - It’s all above board, I assure you: printed or cloned organs, regular health inspections, we screen for prion diseases three times a year. The reservation list for the next gala is packed, I’m afraid, and even if it were not, tickets cost an arm and a leg...a bit of cannibal humor, ma’am, nothing to worry about.
  75.  Astradhari - Being a space marine isn’t much like how anyone thought it would be, especially with all the immortals about, but there’s still a need for aggressive boarding operations. You’re trained for cramped fights, zero gravity, sudden catastrophe, and your crew is the best of it.
  76. Caught in Limbo - You were trapped between bodies for a time. The glitch left you conscious, and you swam in the sea of data, touching upon currents  beyond reckoning. You drowned. You saw the Big Picture. You were brought back, and don’t have the storage space to describe it.
  77. Preservationist - Zygotes on ice and terabytes of genetic code - you have the tools to bring the dead back to life. What was lost during the Fall can be recovered, even if it is only a sliver of rainforest in an O'Neill cylinder zoo.
  78. Chimeracist -  Why revive the old when you can be at the cutting edge of new? The principles are more than sound - spliced organisms are already common, from adapted pets to entirely new species.
  79. Updated NPC -Your procedural AI was advanced enough, and your manner endearing enough, that someone pulled you out of your game into a real body. Culture shock put a swift end to that dream.
  80. Mercurian Machine-life -  There is an entire crypto-ecosystem growing within the silent factories of Mercury. You piggybacked your data on an ore shipment, to find out what the gods on the other end of the mass driver were like.
  81. Cloud-Folk - Aerostats can become a bit crowded, leading some people to seek an alternative. You spent a few years traveling the cloud-routes between ports by chimeric bubble-beast, alone save for the radio chatter of others who had made the same choice. Friendships were made in the space where ranges overlapped, perhaps you’ll meet again.
  82. Ionian Death Games Participant - It is as Valhalla! Each dawn you are sent out into the sulfurous warfields, each day you fight and die, each eventide you return to feast in the halls of glory! Winner winner, chicken dinner!
  83. Software Pirate - DRM is everywhere, and that keeps you in business. The landscape is competitive, the benefits slim, the thrill intoxicating. It’s all cat and mouse, a game of jail-breaking devices and smuggling in open-source code from the outside before someone catches on. Get rich quick and get out quicker is the common wisdom; you’ve seen enough names vanish from the chat rooms you frequent to know how true it is.
  84. Pnakotic Librarian - Deep in the Noctis Labyrinthus, there is a buried library. Miles of stone honeycomb filled with ceramic manuscripts written in a language no one has yet been able to fully parse. The place does not officially exist, but you work there all the same, attempting to piece together some sense from the artifacts within
  85. Indigo Child - You are Special. You’ve been told this ever since you were born. Every part of your rearing was geared towards encouraging your inborn talents. The psychic bits were just a chip in your brain and an internet of things, of course, but you believed.
  86. Face of Mars - Speakers and intermediaries for the Barsoomian clans. The symbol of your office is a red porcelain mask and a reasoned voice. Your identity must remain secret, for the corporations would love nothing more than find leverage over you.
  87. Callistan Utopian - The utopian movements of Callisto come in every flavor under the sun. Any philosophy you could think of, carefully cultured to provide the maximum quality of life for whatever quality of life is subscribed to.
  88. Eraser - It’s very difficult to kill someone who can jump between bodies. Backups must be erased, morph access must be cut off, resleeving must be prevented. Only then can one deliver a killing blow.
  89. Ancient Astronauts - Look we all know that they’re just guys who like messing with the luddite commune, even the luddites know that! Stop taking it all so seriously!
  90. Nightmare Artist - Through the power of creative morph design, a healthy VR/AR budget, and a lot of trial and error, you have made some of the best haunted houses and room escapes in history. You even offer true-kill runs for the especially rich-daring-foolish.
  91. Working the Saturday Line - There is an agreement between the inner and outer systems: Saturn is the boundary line, go further with caution.The dataminds of Titan serve as arbitrators. You spent some years on the human station as a diplomatic aide, and saw a great many things that never made it back to Mars or Venus.
  92. Slowboat to Centauri - You were chosen alongside other scientists and technicians as the passengers on the first extrasolar voyage. You won’t be going personally, a fork of you will be making the trip, but right now that doesn’t matter. The hull for the ship is under construction, and some idiot in project management decided to hold a public vote on the name. Current frontrunner is the “Dead Meme”.
  93. Earthwatcher - Telescope in hand, you make the pilgrimage out to the Sea of Tranquility each year for Landing Day. It’s still the most beautiful sight in the system: a blue marble just out of reach.
  94. Ringer - The few settlers around Saturn have a reputation for being not quite right. Listening to all the hyperspeech broadcast out of Titan has something to do with it, most likely. It’s like you’re not entirely there, thinking sideways to how things are.
  95. Office of Reincarnation - It is important to make sure that only the right people are reborn. Bad ideas could take deep root if an individual who has proven themselves dangerous to the state is reborn, permitting them to lead people astray with their misguided words and actions. You must make sure that the appropriate applications are filled out, so that they might be appropriately screened and educated.
  96. Tiger Lily - A cooperative group founded to protect the rights of and provide assistance to pleasure-house indentures that has since expanded to fighting all strains of post-Fall slavery. Sad truth of the system is that even now ownership of your own body isn’t a guarantee.
  97. Barn Swallow - Young sons and daughters with no lands, you flit and swoop about the summertime evening. No lords, no masters, you are free upon the stellar wind. You wear the colors always, even if only in a patch, even when you return to roost.
  98. Postman - There’s no such thing as secure electronic messages. Sworn to discretion, the Postmen (and women, and others)  will deliver a message or package anywhere in the system, personally.
  99. Barsoomian Witch - Medical care is hard to come by on the Martian frontier. You travel between clan strongholds and nomad camps: treating wounds, bringing news, delivering children, brewing medicine.
  100. Ghost Hunter - You make your living off of tracking down lost or dissipated infomorphs.The datasphere is deep and trackless, and those who don’t know their way around can easily find themselves in danger.