Friday, September 23, 2022

Orbiters Local 519 2e, now out on itch.io

Orbiters Local 519 is a sci-fi dungeoncrawler about disassembling derelict starships, made for open tables and one-shots. It has a focus on instability - as the players move through the derelict, it falls apart around them, with walls collapsing, pipes leaking, and entire rooms possibly separating from the core.

Along with natural damage, the players are given tools to change the environment themselves: welding torches, plasma cutters, explosives, and barricades.

The post-Kickstarter version found on itch.io now includes GM advice, an expanded bestiary, and a large ship generator that determines ship type, disaster, room contents, and more.

The image below links you to the game's itch.io page.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Quarter Hour of Writing Challenge: Curses

As explained here. Hit the button, get a prompt, spend 15 minutes flailing wildly at a keyboard.

While curses are common across folklore, modern eigentechnology has turned them into something almost unrecognizable, in the same way a surgical robot has few similarities to trepanation with a rock.

Curses are organized using a few tags:

1. Auditory/Visual/Esoteric: describes the way the curse is cast. Auditory and Visual are both self-explanatory, and Esoteric can range from using other senses (such as touch, or smell) to requiring particular stimulus such as emotional states.

2. "Pronounceability": since the first curses (since recorded as #101a and #105b) were both auditory, the incorrect term "pronounceability" is still used in research into curses. "Pronounceable" curses can be memorized and set up by human agents - Auditory Pronounceable curses being, literally, able to be said by a person, while Visual Pronounceable curses can be drawn by hand. Unpronounceable curses require outside tools such as computerized voices, digital screens, or a chorus of multiple people. Esoteric-method curses are usually unpronounceable. 

3. Targeted/Untargeted: targeted curses can be pointed at a single target, while leaving others in range unharmed. Untargeted curses affected everyone exposed to the stimulus.

4. Effect: curses usually have one of a few general effects: Fatal, Polymorphic, Amnestic, and Probabilistic are the most common, though others have been confirmed to exist. It is important to note that the modern term "curse" envelops positive effects - Polymorphic curses may reinforce bones, and Probabilistic curses may make the target unusually fortunate while travelling.

5. Cure: all non-Fatal curses will end after a certain period (often the next dusk or dawn, though these curses are often skipped over by the agencies developing them), and all curses can be reversed or deactivated in some way. Importantly, cures can "time out" - a Polymorphic (Rodent) curse may leave the target transformed permanently if not cured in the first week, for example. Cures for Fatal curses override standard human biology - performing the required actions will bring the target back to life & fully restored, no matter the condition of their body.

Curses may be built to go off in the future, instead of when applied. When creating these kinds of Geases, the cure is the most relevant piece - carefully tuning curses to accept only very specific actions is a rapidly growing job market.

Curse Examples

Curse #4201, Auditory, Pronounceable, Targeted, Fatal (Cardiovascular) made the CIA very happy indeed. A fatal spoken curse that only afflicted certain targets, and was easily pronounced and memorized by human agents, would have been the pinnacle of the hexing arts.

However, it turned out to be contagious. Anyone within earshot who wasn't the target of the curse would not only hear it, but recognize it, knowing both its exact wording, use, and who had spoken it.

This would, depending on the situation, either lead to the assassin immediately being struck by the curse four or five times over, cause a rash of "unexplained heart attacks" as a crowd of people suddenly become armed with a completely concealable and unilaterally lethal weapon, or both. 

Curse #4201 can be cured by injecting the deceased with a serum of mercury, crushed daffodil flowers, and exactly one (1) dead ladybug (family Coccinellidae). The cure times out after 23.75 hours.

Curse #576, Auditory, Unpronounceable, Untargeted, Polymorphic (Rodent) also temporarily showed promise. While a computerized voice was needed to speak its dozens of twisting syllables, and everyone in earshot was affected, it could have easily been used for capture missions - turn the target into a rat, stick them in a bag, and then wait for the curse to time out (as non-lethal curses tend to do).

The problem was that it timed out too quickly - as soon as the curse stopped being spoken, the person would switch back to a human. Since it affected everyone in its radius, it couldn't be played constantly without causing chaos.

Later use in prisons and for riot suppression were both banned on ethical grounds.

Friday, April 8, 2022

RED GRADIENT UNDERWORLD & SLOWLY SPINNING STATUES - Modules for Best Case Scenario

Best Case Scenario is a combination RPG and skirmish wargame by Deus ex Parabola. It has a vaguely SCP/Delta Green/etc inspired setting, and a set of combat rules that I find quite interesting.

One of my favorite parts is how each player plays as a team of 5 agents, similar to a funnel in DCC or similar games. This makes duet games, with 1 player and 1 GM, completely possible. In fact, both of the missions here: RED GRADIENT UNDERWORLD and SLOWLY SPINNING STATUES, are meant for a single player (though enemy counts and other statistics can be increased for more players).

Both adventures are just written in Google Docs and formatted with a little bit of bolding here and there, because why use effort when you can... not... do that? Additionally, RED GRADIENT UNDERWORLD has been playtested, and worked quite well.

In RED GRADIENT UNDERWORLD (CLOSED-EYE), the PCs are sent to sell a Liver to a group of Fleshgod Inheritors - a cult/gang who hope to eat all the pieces of their god Stel Alune, and mutate when these pieces are consumed. After making the sale, their mission is to trail the Inheritors back to their safehouse without being noticed, and then clear it, capturing or killing the Inheritors.

In SLOWLY SPINNING STATUES (OPEN-EYE), a team of bank robbers seem to possess an anomalous artifact, though they don't know how to use it (in Agency parlance, these sorts of people are known as "buttonmashers"). The local police have already arrived, and the PCs have been given cover as FBI agents. Legitimate FBI agents are on their way - don't let them take over the operation or see anything they shouldn't, then defuse the situation before the buttonmashers get themselves, or their hostages, killed.

By Scorpion141, on the SCP wiki

The lore of Best Case Scenario is being put together on the GLOG server piece by piece, in the anti-canon way best fitting an SCP-influenced game. Both scenarios above expect some knowledge of the setting, so here's some needed context pulled from the Discord:

The Agency/Organization is the group you work for, hoping to suppress and contain the supernatural, as well as knowledge of the supernatural. PCs are agents of the Organization - sometimes responding to an unnatural disaster, 

Depending on who's talking, the Organization may be connected to the U.S. government, a branch of the United Nations, or an independent private agency. Similarly, their scale and reach wanders up and down between versions. 

In my scenarios, the Agency is part of American intelligence, but buried. Their funding and tools come almost entirely by hidden means - a CIA accountant puts in an order for 35 rifles instead of the 30 they need, an NSA technician just happens to nudge a satellite on a route where it passes over an operation, et cetera. 

They maintain three containment facilities - a Low Security Warehouse in New York (for objects that do not require constant supervision), the High Security Center buried under a Superfund site in Idaho, and the Village in Oklahoma (for people adjacent to anomalies, and Strangers - anomalous humanoids able to communicate and cooperate).

CLOSED-EYE, OPEN-EYE, and THIRD-EYE are designations for the publicity of a mission. Generally, CLOSED-EYE missions are meant to be completed without bystanders recognizing the Agents are anything out of the ordinary. Agents are usually provided with plain clothes and concealed weapons, but CLOSED-EYE operations in remote areas could allow more equipment.

OPEN-EYE allows Agents to publicly act - in these scenarios, they are generally provided false documentation as FBI agents, SWAT teams, or other government actors. As well as more obvious equipment (explosives, armored vehicles, etc.), OPEN-EYE permits more interaction with the public - interrogating witnesses, procuring assistance from local police, etc.

THIRD-EYE operations are rare, only undertaken when the threat of the anomaly is more dangerous to the Organization than the publicity gained could be. Equipment accepted during THIRD-EYE operations goes up to, and including, small-scale nuclear weapons. The Organization may directly broadcast evacuation instructions and similar things to civilians in the area. 

Importantly, these designations are unrelated to the danger of a mission. Confronting an identical Star-Cult compound could be CLOSED-EYE if it was in the middle of a city with an uncooperative police force, or THIRD-EYE if it was deep in the Arizona desert.

Bits of slang have also sprouted up in discussions of Best Case Scenario - here's a list, curated and defined by deus ex parabola, and included here because Discord conversations about the game use a worryingly wide array of them, and I expect future modules will do the same.

bogey - a human combatant

spookum - a non-human combatant

boojum - a spookum that is much more dangerous than we hoped

spook hive - many spookums in one place

Charlie-Foxtrot - a fireteam op. in normal military slang this is a mission that's gone to shit: any mission a fireteam is involved in is already a clusterfuck

Delta-Mike - the voice on the other end of the phone, your trusted friend who tells you where to go and who to shoot 

trashbaggers - non-combat teams responsible for cleanup of mission sites and lying to the police and media

friendly - an ally 

zendik - a traitor

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Orbiters Local 519 2e, now funding on Kickstarter!

Orbiters Local 519, the sci-fi dungeoncrawler I released last April, is getting an updated release on Kickstarter.

The new edition keeps the streamlined, Event Die-based exploration of the original, while updating the classes to give more interesting choices and expanding the GM's toolkit with derelict generators and an expanded bestiary. 

Additionally, the new edition is built with open tables in mind, supporting that playstyle by, for example, tracking required resources like Oxygen tracked on a derelict-to-derelict basis; on the start of your shift, you get a certain amount. When you're done, whatever's left over is confiscated by the Company. This helps ease the amount of bookkeeping required as players (and the equipment they own) come in and out.

The new edition also includes art by Locheil, of the Nothic's Eye, and layout by kahva, of Anywhither.

Click on the image below to see the Kickstarter page, which includes a more detailed pitch of the new edition.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Brain-to-Brain Communication (GLOG Class: Psychic)

This was a collaboration with chloe, creator of Buckets of Blood. It was really nice to work with them.

What made you the way you are? Were you turned into something else as a child? Was it a joint at a party, laced with something that triggered a dormant gene in the back of your brain to give you a glimpse of what lies beyond the black rainbow? Or were you just born to destroy, plain and simple?


A: Eleven Percent of your Brain, Encoded Instructions, +1 Psychic Ability

B: Maelstrom, +1 Psychic Ability

C: Derangement of the Synapses, +1 Psychic Ability

D: Journey to the Center of the Mind, +1 Psychic Ability


Eleven Percent of your Brain

As everybody knows, it is a scientific fact that regular people only use ten percent of their brains. This is completely true and any reputable neuroscientist will confirm it for you, when asked.


You use eleven percent.


The government wants you dead or vivisected. The scum of the nation want to control you and turn your power toward their own ends. The everyday folks hate and fear you. Many times they have come for you, and even though you drive them away screaming and clutching their bleeding heads (if you let them live at all), you have never found anywhere safe.


You are also surrounded by small, coincidental phenomena, usually electronic in nature, well-attuned to your emotional outbursts. Radios and televisions flip channels and buzz with static, lightbulbs dim or burst, the lightning storm draws ever closer. It's out of your control.


Encoded Instructions

Roll 1d6 to determine your Instruction, and another d6 to determine who placed it inside of you. If you break your Instruction, it is replaced with a new commandment- “do as thou wilt”- and you lose all your current Sanity.


Encoder

1. the CIA, as part of their attempt to induce psychic powers in you

2. an alien, as a side effect of their probes

3. the Devil, in exchange for a single copper penny

4. an unknowable superintelligence; simply meeting its gaze turned you into this

5. scientists, researching human happiness

6. something you met during a really bad trip


Instruction

1. You must never commit an act of violence unless physically provoked.

2. You must never speak to someone without knowing their name.

3. You cannot use your psychic powers unless supervised by someone you trust.

4. You must not lie to people you know hold authority over you.

5. You must avoid water, though you can drink things that have water in them.

6. You cannot willingly touch metal.


Maelstrom

[templates] times per day, in a time of panic, you can release your psychic energies. Telekinetic force throws chairs, tables, and people. The wind picks up, then becomes a cyclone. TV screens and lightbulbs shatter. Everyone within [templates]x40 feet of you takes 1d4 damage and is stunned, knocked prone, and otherwise made unable to act for [templates] rounds, or until damaged again.


Derangement of the Synapses

[templates] times per day, you can force your neurons to rewrite themselves, creating new knowledge from scratch. This allows you to use a Psychic Ability you haven't unlocked. 


Journey to the Center of the Mind

With intense focus, you can enter another person's deepest consciousness. Inside, you can find and edit them completely - painting over the exhibits of the Memory Room, fiddling the dials in the Emotional Core, pulling out wires of the Ideals Matrix. However, if the other person attempts to stop you, you must fight them inside of their own mind - both sides roll 1d20+Weird+[Psychic templates], and the lowest dies or is knocked unconscious, winner’s choice. You can roll with Advantage by weakening the other person's mind or strengthening your own (dosing them with LSD, etc.). If you kill someone inside of their mind, their head explodes, killing them instantly. If they defeat you, the reverse happens. 


Psychic Abilities

Fix your target in your mind's eye. Imagine your hands cradling it as gently as you could manage. And then, reach out to it with that tiny and unknown piece of your brain, as simply as moving one of the muscles in your body, and then - a tiny, mental flex.


All of these abilities can be used at will on anything within your line of sight. Each has four 'levels' that dictate how effective their influence is; Psychics are classified according to what level of an ability they can use safely. At any time, a Psychic can use an ability they know at any level; however, if the level is higher than their number of Psychic templates, they must immediately take Xd10 damage (where X= Ability's level - Psychic templates) in cranial hemorrhaging as blood pours from their nose, ears, and eyes.


d20 Psychic Abilities


1. Grab an object using telekinesis. For every [level], the object can weigh 10 pounds, and you are treated as having one hand (so at level 2, you can lift a 20 pound object and have two "hands") 

2. Set a fire. For every [level], the fire grows in size (1: a candle, 2: a torch, 3: a campfire, 4: a house fire), and you can start it another 10 feet away.

3. Manipulate a mechanical object, controlling it or destroying it. For every [level], your range increases by 10 feet.

4. Charm a person into liking you for [level] minutes; they won't realize you're influencing them.

5. Suggest that a person carry out a command [level] words long; they will know they are being controlled. They won't do anything suicidal, but they are otherwise powerless against you.

6. Read a person's mind. At level-1, you learn their current emotions, level-2 their current surface thoughts, level-3 you can search through their memories, and level-4 you can see everything they've seen for the last day, even if they don't remember it.

7. Astrally project up to [level]x10 feet; you can fly through walls, but cannot touch anything.

8. Wipe someone's memory - at level-1 you remove the last 4 seconds, at level-2 the last four minutes, level-3 the last four hours or memories of any single subject (you, for instance), level-4 the last 4 days or any single memory from any point in their life.

9. Freeze a person or object in place for [level] rounds, with a weight limit of [level]x100 pounds.

10. Witness the future: at level-1 you always know what will happen 4 seconds into the future, and cannot be surprised. At level-2 you can ask the GM what will happen if you do something (what will happen if I open this door) and they must answer truthfully. At level-3 you always know what the GM rolls when they roll on a table, and can ask long-term questions (is this person going to be OK). At level-4, you can have your ultimate vision and rifle through the GM's notes for five minutes once, ever.

11. Stun [level] people within your line of sight for [level] minutes each by manipulating the signals in their brain.

12. Focus telekinetic energy on an object to shatter it. Increasing level lets you target objects of increasing size. At level-1, a mug or book. At level-2, a rifle or a sword. At level-3, a door. At level-4, a car.

13. Electrify an object you're touching. Electronics and other powered objects will begin to function. Using this as an attack deals [level] damage.

14. Send messages [level]x2 words long into someone's head. If [level] is 3 or more, they can respond.

15. Impart an emotion on someone. At level-1, a nervous feeling or vague annoyance. At level-2, a shouting anger or persistent fear. At level-3, a vicious rage or fleeing terror. At level-4, a killing coldness or unending abject horror.

16. A more imprecise telekinesis. For every [level], the object can weigh 100 pounds, but you move them slowly, and cannot do anything more precise than you could do with a forklift.

17. You can absorb the stress from a willing subject, placing them in a calm, meditative state. For every [level] Sanity you restore to them, you lose 1 Sanity (at level-1 you lose Sanity every 1 Sanity restored, at level-2 you lose Sanity every 2 Sanity restored, etc.)

18. By staring at a point within [level]*10 feet of you and crossing your eyes, you can teleport there. This works on line of sight, so you can teleport through walls if you can see through them. Doing it too quickly starts to make you feel queasy, but that’s not a big deal.

19. You can make up to [level] people at a time see you as someone else. Specifically, all the people affected see you as the same person.

20. Form shimmering telekinetic barriers [level]*10 square feet (at level one, you could make a one by ten, two by five, or 3-ish by 3-ish barrier, for example). At level-1, they stop punches. At level-2, bullets. By level-3, grenade explosions. By level-4, semi trucks.


Sunday, October 31, 2021

Damned Old House - an Adventure for 1 Wandering Exorcist

Introduction

Duet games are very interesting to me - I like the idea of something you can play with only 1 PC and a GM. They're easy to organize, they go quickly, and they're better at creating an atmosphere.

I'm also very interested in the Sword Exorcist class - an investigator who has to determine the cause of a ghost's death and the things attaching it to the world of the living in order to fight it effectively. However, I've always thought it was kind of difficult to use in a standard OSR game, because of how different their goals are when compared to more standard classes, and how rarely their abilities will get to be used

But, neither of those problems exist when you make a game built around the Sword Exorcist. One where ghost investigations are the entire game, and where all (or at least most) of your enemies will be ghosts.

So, I combined those two interests into this combination game and module. The setting is ambiguously 1800s-ish; factories spring up in towns, Parliament has replaced the kings of old, and new ideas about what a nation is fuel equally new wars between them. But even with these new advancements, old ghosts aren't going away.

(oh yeah also the other influence on this, and the source of the name, is this Russian pop-punk song from the 2000s i found on the internet somehow. don't ask questions)

The Exorcist

An Exorcist uses the stats from your preferred OSR game, but has no class. Instead, they have a particular set of starting equipment and abilities. All Exorcists bear a sword in a wooden scabbard, bound with silver. It cannot be drawn unless particular preparations are made, but even sheathed it deals 1d4 damage, even to ghosts.

They have also been trained to have a second sight. While a ghost may rarely appear to others, it is always seen clearly by the Exorcist.

Exorcists will also bring other, more specialized equipment - any two entries from this list can be chosen by the Exorcist at any point while they are in town. It is generally best to not choose all your items until your investigation is complete, to ensure you have the right tools.

1. 4 paper warding marks. When one is placed on a wall or floor, the passage of a ghost will cause it to burn with a cold white flame which you can see through walls with your second sight. 

2. 3 rations worth of hard dried bread and salted meat paste.

3. Six candles. Five are normal, but the sixth (with ink designs covering it, and a wick of human hair and foul-smelling oil) will reveal invisible things touched by its light, and let you see through thin walls, into closed chests, and otherwise through obstacles.

4. A hand crossbow, with six silver-tipped darts. This deals 1d6 damage to people, and some ghosts are weak to silver, due to its antibiotic properties.

5. A one-handed hammer, for knocking holes in walls, smashing windows, and generally causing problems.

6. A grey silk shroud. If the corpse a ghost is connected to is found and shrouded, the ghost's HD is halved.

To draw your sword, you must know three things:

1. The Form - how does the ghost manifest? What does it do?

2. The Truth - how did the ghost die? Who was involved?

3. The Reason - why does the ghost still hang on? What does it want?

When your sword is drawn, the targeted ghost is unable to flee - it must stand and fight. The sword glows unnaturally, deals 10 damage with each strike, and has Advantage on to-hit rolls if your system uses them.

from Mononoke, the original basis for the Sword Exorcist

Damned Old House

GM Introduction

Decades ago, an old man lived in a house on the edge of a small village. The man's name is forgotten - the village's name is irrelevant. As old men do, he eventually died.

The people of the town feared and distrusted him - they said he was a thief, a con, and a killer. When a sheep died or a child fell ill, people's eyes turned to his home.

When he passed, the town got together, beat his corpse, hid it in a wall, and bricked up his house. Now, his spirit wanders, tearing at the boards across the windows and the bricks laid in the doorways. The villagers keep their distance - the truth has been forgotten, now all that survives are tales of the Damned Old House.

The Form: the ghost manifests as an old man, and devours light and food

The Truth: the ghost died of starvation and disease because it was unable to buy food or fuel

The Reason: the community bricked up the house and the corpse instead of burying it (note that this does not mean any unburied corpse will create a ghost - people spent more effort boarding up the house than it would've taken to bury the body. this insult is the cause)

The Exorcist has to answer these questions correctly, but not in detail - "the ghost looks like an old man", "starved" and "was abandoned" still count, because they're correct.

Player Introduction

You arrive in a small town, on the edge of a forest. A ruined, ancient house on the edge of town is seething with energy through your second sight. A ghost is here - an old, raging one.

Next to the damned old house is a smaller, two-story home in good condition, and more homes start to show up as you get closer and closer to the town square. Around the square is a small stone church with a narrow graveyard, a few more homes, and a squat building with a sign reading "Licensed by Parliament for distribution - Year 492" over a picture of a blue-striped shield with a dog's head. All the way on the other side of town from the haunted house is a large brick factory with a single red-painted smokestack.

NPCs and Stories

The house closest to the ghost's residence is owned by the Timur family: Sonia, her husband Yevgeny, and their six year old son Maksim. Sonia and Yevgeny will both say they've seen the ghost appear on cloudy days, and that it bites at the boards nailed to the windows until the sun returns. (Clue: the ghost is afraid of light.)

If asked about the origin of the ghost, they will both say that they both listened to the local priest, Father Baksin, who often discusses the ghost's past. They say the ghost was a sinful, avaricious man, who was so attached to his money that he rose from the dead to count it, over and over, forever.

Maksim will tell a different story he had heard from a friend; the old man killed himself by accident, in an explosion while trying to make a potion that would let him become young. That's why he's afraid of fire. If asked to prove this, Maksim will talk about how he lit a candle in his room, and when the ghost looked through his window the candle went out, instantly.

Yevgeny will also talk about one of the people he used to work with at the factory, Vasily. He says Vasily went, along with many others, to destroy the ghost. They fought valiantly, planning to burn down the house and destroy the old man's body, but they were repelled - Vasily nearly died, and a few others did. Now he's retired, and spends most of his time in the local bar, when he isn't on vacation.

Father Baksin works in a small church, in the center of town. His version of his story is slightly different than the Timurs', saying the old man was named Hikmat Salil, and that his body was buried in the town's graveyard when he died, though that was before Father Baksin started to work at this church. He says that the man was greedy, but that was not his real sin. He was a prospector, and his money came from a miraculous discovery of gold he found with his brother. When the mine caved in, Feodor gathered the food they had brought, and kept it all for himself. By the time he got out, his brother had starved. Now, the ghost is starving, gnawing at the walls of the house to try and feed itself.

He will also offer to let you enter the church's library, which includes most of the town's old news and other documents. With a day of searching the library, you can find the journal of the last priest, who ran the church when the man died. In his journal, he describes "the old man who lives in the house on the edge of town" constantly - saying the community blames him for ill children, dead livestock, and even bad weather. 

One entry, dated around the time of the old man's death, says that when he went to his house to collect his body, it had already been bricked up. He says he has sent a letter to a nearby city asking for an Exorcist - he worries this poor treatment may cause problems in the future.

In the church's graveyard, there is a grave for a Hikmat Salil, who died decades ago, around the correct time. There is another grave for his wife, Atiya, that has no date of death written - she is still alive.

If she is found, she says her husband and her had recently moved to the town when Hikmat fell ill and died. He had never lived in that cursed old house, he definitely wasn't some kind of evil alchemist, and for God's sake he died in his thirties. 

She tells the same story that Yevgeny did, about the last time the town tried to deal with the ghost. However, her version is less flattering - according to Atiya, the angry mob ransacked her house first, saying it was her husband who haunted the house, and that it was her fault somehow. Then, they went to the old man's house and when they came back out, one of them was dead of a terrible wound. She says that she bets the idiot got separated, and someone stabbed him thinking he was a ghost. A few others came out with bite wounds - the ghost, she guesses. She remembers a man named Vasily who led them into her house - she tries to avoid him, now.

Vasily is a cheerful old man, scarred both by the ghost's attacks and his time in the War, which he gladly tells increasingly unlikely stories about. Hearing him say it, no one on his side ever actually died, and the War was a constant roller coaster of exhilarating action and romance. 

He takes a similar tone talking about the ghost - talking about how he personally decapitated the old man's corpse with an axe, and built a great bonfire in the house's common room to burn the place to the ground. And yet, no matter how much wood they piled on to the fire, it barely grew, and whenever they stopped for even a moment, it began to shrink.

Vasily also talks about a woman named Atiya, saying she was really responsible for the ghost - it was her husband, and when he inherited great riches from his dying father, Atiya poisoned him to take it all for herself. But the evil of her act cursed the money, which melted into the ground and vanished. Out of rage, Atiya shackled her husband's spirit to the house, so he could never reach the afterlife. Vasily says he'd gladly kill the witch if he could, but he's afraid of facing her himself.

The Damned Old House


Random Events & Encounters

1. The ghost is frightened by light - if the Exorcist has a candle, torch, or other tool, the ghost puts it out.

2. The ghost is starving - if the Exorcist has food, 1 ration-worth of it vanishes. If they don't, they feel a sudden bite on their shoulder, and take 1d4 damage.

3. The ghost tears at a window in a random room, trying to pull the boards off of it. If the sun is out, the ghost takes 1 damage. No matter what, the window is now open.

4. The ghost weeps audibly. The Exorcist can hear what direction the ghost is from them.

5. The ghost panics, and moves across two rooms this turn.

6. The house creaks and shudders, but nothing happens.

The ghost starts in room 11, and moves one room per exploration turn at random. It will move into rooms with the Exorcist, but will try to flee when damaged.

Room Key

1. Foyer. Dust hangs in the air and covers the ground, along with a few broken clubs and rusted knives from the last attempted exorcism.

2. Living room. Bookshelves hold old copies of religious texts, cookbooks, and novels. The rest of the furniture is gone, and the window is no longer boarded up, allowing sunlight into the room. 

3. Dining room. A long table and three chairs, all covered in bite marks. The skeletal corpse of the dead member of the angry mob lies atop the table, with a makeshift spear next to it.

4. Fireplace room. A large fireplace built on the east wall is empty. The ashes of a bonfire made of sticks and furniture dominate the room, yet nothing is burned. The ghost will not enter this room, fearing even the memory of the fire.

5. Kitchen. Empty cans and drained bottles of oil lie on the floor and counters, some of them seemingly untouched since the man lived.

6. Workshop. Filled with saws, axes, wrenches, and other tools.

7. Trapped room. This room has no ceiling, allowing the Exorcist to see into room 10. When the mob came, one of them set a bear trap in this room to prevent the ghost from coming through. It still lies there today, covered in dust. If stepped on, it deals 2d4 damage.

8. Bathroom. Under the sink are a few containers of powdered cleaning products.

9. Overgrown room. The east wall has fallen apart, and the room is now filled with stinging nettles. Under them is a wooden box, which contains about 12 gp in banknotes and a small key to the study's desk in room 12.

10. Bedroom hallway. The floor has mostly collapsed, leaving only a single thin beam, which requires a DEX check to cross safely. On a failure, the Exorcist falls into room 6. On a failure by 5 or more, they fall into room 7. Falling deals 1d6 damage, and falling into room 7 may cause the bear trap to go off.

11. Main bedroom. The bed is gone, taken for the fire. The southern wall is missing its wallpaper, and a section of it is made of wooden boards instead of brick. Behind those boards is the corpse of the old man, mummified, beaten, and burned.

12. Study. The only piece of furniture left is a large desk, with a locked drawer unlocked by the key in room 9. Inside are a set of loose papers, all undated journal entries. One talks about a few children from town who came and threw rocks through his window - the old man stayed inside, afraid of both the stones and of worsening his reputation. Another talks about when he invited a young man and his wife from another country for dinner. They had a wonderful time, and he hopes to do it again someday.

13. Guest bedroom. The bed is gone, and the floor is marred by dried blood - this is where the member of the mob died. A bloodied knife still sits on the ground.

The Ghost

When the Exorcist's sword is drawn, the ghost is forced to fight. The ghost takes 1d8 damage per round spent in sunlight.

HP: 36

AC: 10

Each round, the ghost will do two of these things:

Collapse: the ghost will cause part of the roof to collapse, forcing the Exorcist to make a DEX save or take 1d8 damage and be knocked prone. This will also let a beam of sunlight into the room.

Devour: if the Exorcist still has rations, the ghost consumes 1d3 of them. Otherwise, it deals 2d4 damage.

Extinguish: the ghost puts out all the light in the room, and causes the temperature to drop precipitously. The first time this happens, it deals 1 damage. The second time, 1d4. Then 1d6, 1d8, etc. Each use allows a CON save for half. Doing something to heat up the room will make the damage go back to 1.

Weep: the ghost cries of the things it has endured, forcing the Exorcist to see them. The Exorcist must make a CHA save or lose an action next turn (instead of moving and attacking they can only move or attack, for example) as they push through the ghost's memories.

When the ghost is defeated, it disintegrates into feathery fragments, which ascend through the roof of the house and into Heaven.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Translator & The Dead Language (GLOG Class)

On the GLOG discord and its close siblings, an idea for an archaeological campaign has been simmering - a megadungeon (which, for the purposes of this post, will be called the Inverted Pyramid) has been discovered, and the PCs enter to write its history, translate its Dead Language, and learn about its Builders - not to just loot the place (after all, any common thieves could manage that) but to research it.


One of the ideas of this hypothetical campaign is a stronger divide between class roles - a Fighter is not someone who's slightly better at fighting, they solve fighting problems. Other characters are at best incompetent and at worst actively harmful in a fight.

But, if one character solves fighting problems, we need other kinds of problems - traps and the like are already well-trodden ground, so the Translator deals with a new issue - the Dead Language used by the civilization that built the Inverted Pyramid.

The Dead Language
The Dead Language comes in two forms - Terrestrial Script (ansi e-tan, literally "words that are close to the ground"), a normal language used for writing and record-keeping, and the Spiritual Script (ansi en-ot, "words that are in the sky"). The Spiritual Script can, with the correct enunciation and enough focus, cause changes in the world around you.

Some people in the OSR space are both knowledgeable and determined/crazy enough to make their own conlang. I am neither. Instead, here is a list of 20 sample words of Terrestrial Script, which the Translator can roll on at character creation. If you want, you can expand this into an actual conlang, substitute one you already like for it, or otherwise mess with Terrestrial Script. If you aren't interested in taking these steps, simply tell the Translator the words they know, and surround them with meaningless syllables.

  1. Here (en, is also attached to words as a prefix to show that they are in the same place - en-ot meaning "in the sky").
  2. Animal (shur)
  3. With/Having (sen, can be put between two words to display ownership - shur-sen-tut meaning "an animal with think", or a person)
  4. Not (ja, attached to words as a prefix to show the inverse - ja-qut meaning "not safe")
  5. Light (wer)
  6. Food (pone)
  7. High/Important/Valuable (noian)
  8. Say/Write (tursa)
  9. Stone (met)
  10. You (ti, is also used as the number "two")
  11. Me (fir, is also used as the number "one")
  12. Them (dren, is also used as the number "three")
  13. Away (os, is put between words to show they are far apart. When seen as a lone word, usually means an instruction to stay away)
  14. Moving (wase)
  15. Water/Road (sunsir)
  16. History (kohi, also used as a prefix to show the past-tense)
  17. Future (shajli, used as a prefix to show the future-tense)
  18. Prophecy (shajlike - either used on its own to mean "a foretelling", or as a prefix to show a particular kind of future-tense that is best compared to "after we are all dead")
  19. Hand (feshed, is also used as the number "four", and as a word similar to, but not identical to, "angel")
  20. Air/Sky (ot, is also used as the number "five" or just "many")
A note on the Dead Language's numbers: sen is placed between them to add, os is placed between them to subtract (ot-sen-fashed is 5+4, ot-os-feshed is 5-4). However, ot-sen-fashed-dren-fir-ti doesn't mean "15", but means "more than could ever be counted", and usually appears in historical texts to mark the passage of generations, or in religious texts to describe the Builders' god (who, for example, is described has having "innumerable hands/angels".

Heaven's Vault is a video game about translation that I stole parts of the Terrestrial Script from (sort of) - you should play it! (I say, having only played a couple hours of it)

In contrast to Terrestrial Script being an actual language used by the Builders, Spiritual Script is a magic system - specifically, a modified version of rune magic system from Ten Foot Polemic, along with standard GLOG magic dice.

Guidelines for GLOG Rune Magic
If a rune already exists (placed on one of the walls of the Inverted Pyramid, for example), it requires no MD or magical talent to use. You just push and the effect goes off.

If you're making a rune, you need to invest MD into it. For every MD you use, you can add a Minor Rune. These MD aren't rolled until the rune is activated.

Generally, damaging runes deal [best] damage, or [dice] damage with some kind of status effect (freezing, poison, etc.). Remember, the campaign's structure is based on heavy class specialization - the Translator is supposed to do minimal or no fighting.

Take and Repel runes each have a range of 20*[dice] feet. Make runes will, by default, place the created object either in or directly over the user's hand (Make Earth drops some dirt in your hand, Make Light creates a hovering glow-sphere).

The Translator

A: Old Notes, Close Study, +1 MD 
B: Rubbing, +1 MD
C: Good Handwriting, +1 MD
D: Ancient's Tongue, +1 MD
Δ: University Tenure

Old Notes
You start knowing 3 random words of Terrestrial Script. You also begin with one Meticulous Die, representing your focus and concentration. Unlike Magic Dice, this cannot be used to cast spells. Instead, it can be used for Close Study of Terrestrial Script, and empowering rubbings of Spiritual Script. Meticulous Dice decay and are regained in the same way as Magic Dice, but do not have Mishaps or Dooms except during Close Study.

Close Study
If you can't determine the meaning of a piece of Terrestrial Script on your own, you can invest MD (along with one hour of study per MD used) to look through known words, assumed etymology, and other hints, eventually coming up with translations of [dice] words in the writing being studied. If a Mishap is rolled, one word in your translation is wrong - it still kind of works in this line, but it doesn't mean that. (For example, you may mistranslate "the king rode a chariot pulled by oxen" as talking about a farmer, or about a plow). If a Doom is rolled, your concentration is broken. You spend your time pacing, unable to focus, and accomplish nothing.

Rubbing
With the right equipment, you can make a rubbing of a piece of Spiritual Script, and invest MD in it. The rubbing can be activated by anyone, and your MD return immediately when it is used.

You cannot make rubbings of rubbings.

Good Handwriting
You have analyzed the Spiritual Script enough that you can write runes of your own.

Ancient's Tongue
After dozens of sleepless nights poring over assumed descendants of the Dead Language and carefully transcribing the ramblings of the Inverted Pyramid's undead, you have recreated a spoken version of Terrestrial Script. 

However, only 10 glyphs of your spoken version are correct (roll randomly once again). The rest, you'll have to correct through speaking to liches, mummies, golems, and other inhabitants.

Δ: University Tenure
Write, then publish, an article demonstrating comprehensive knowledge of written Terrestrial and Spiritual Script.

2d4 excitable archaeology students arrive at the camp, each with one Meticulous Die they can apply to Close Study. They are uninterested in entering the Inverted Pyramid itself, due to its danger. Any further discoveries published will bring another 1d4 students.

Sunless Horizon Beta 2.3 Release

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