Wednesday, April 1, 2020


Inspired partially by this video, but the blame should be placed on deus ex parabola on the OSR Discord.

Very Heavy Cube Owner
Weapons technology marches onwards forever. In your case, the march of progress got lost in a dark alley. The cube has its benefits, you desperately think to yourself - it's much quieter than a gun, and it's not stopped by armor.

These justifications do not stop anyone from laughing at your cube.

B: Cube-Sight, Increased Range
C: Cube-Cleave
D: Engraved Cube

Your body is covered in a prototype Kinesis Suit. In theory, you should be able to use the suit to telekinetically grab people and objects. In practice, the suit only works on materials made of a specific alloy - for instance, your Cube. You cannot wear any armor while wearing the Kinesis Suit.

On your turn, you can use the Kinesis Suit to move the Cube. The Cube moves at 100 feet per round, but it can only be controlled if it stays within a 50 foot radius of you. When it comes in contact with someone during it's movement, roll to-hit with a -2 penalty. On a hit, the target takes 3d6 damage. The Cube stops moving after hitting something.

You wake up one morning and start seeing through the Cube. Everything is red - it hungers to kill. You can switch between seeing through the Cube's eyes and your own.

Increased Range
The lights on the Kinesis Suit have all turned red. If you're very quiet, you can hear them crying as you move the Cube. The radius you can control the Cube increases to 100 feet.

The Cube's hunger is increasing. When the Cube kills something, the 100 foot distance it can move resets, letting it move 100 feet from this location. It does not stop after hitting something. If you squint, you can see a mouth starting to grow on its surface.

You cannot wield any weapons - the Cube will not accept them.

Engraved Cube
The Cube has been covered in grotesque engravings, and glows with a pulsing red light. Inside, you can see a dark shape. The Cube speaks to you when you sleep - it is but an egg, for the Flayed God who will rise, kill the world, and drown in blood. The Cube offers a gift, for a price. If the Cube kills 333 people, it will hatch, and you will ascend with it, to be the only god that survives this cataclysm.

The Cube deals 6d6 damage per strike. 

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Picture Pong Riposte - Archons March On

Picture Pong is a recent community event in the OSR MINDSCAPE, in the chain-letter format of "see thing, do what thing say". People write a blogpost based on an image, and then add a different image to their post, someone else makes a post based on that image, repeat forever.

The most recent one at this point (I think), was by Archons March On, sharing the following image:

Hyperborea in Ashes

The grand city of Hyperborea stood for tens of thousands of years. Its mile-high towers rose imperious above the frozen plains.

And then they didn't.

Hyperborea was put to the torch by the armies of Man, drawn to the frozen tundra by promises of unnatural science and grand magics. The giants were killed, their towers were burned, and a new city of humanity rose from its ashes. 

But the giants survived, in a way. They rose up from the dead, with their memories of Hyperborea intact. They saw this blackened, soot-covered city, and their blood boiled. This could not go unpunished.

These liches toppled the city of Man, and rose their towers anew. Now, the giants rule Hyperborea once more, holding humanity under their eternal tyranny.

Factions of Hyperborea

Gift-Thieves: No one is born with magic in Hyperborea. The only path to it is theft - use of Hyperborean genetic editors, ancient blessings, or consuming the flesh of a lich-giant. The Gift-Thieves attempt to unite these daring few, offering clandestine (and highly illegal) magical services to the populace.

The Final Legion: Everyone remembers the armies of humanity who tore Hyperborea from the grip of the giants. Some of them survive, although they are far too old to return to the battlefield. Instead, they build their new Final Legion, preparing to break the giants once more.

Birdwatchers: The Birdwatchers are a secret society, hidden from the view of the giants. They focus on stealth, assassination, and manipulation of the strange vermin of Hyperborea. They have no interest in resisting the giants - they plan to build a shadow government woven into Hyperborea, directing it from within.

The Next Move
Here's my image for Picture Pong. Take it, let it into your MINDSCAPE, turn it into words, put the words on the internet.
Tomislav Jagnjic

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Supplement Review - Star Dogs Referee's Handbook

Disclaimer: a review copy of this game was provided for free by the author. This review is based off of a reading of the book, not a playtest.

The Star Dogs Referee's Handbook, by Michael Raston, is a supplement for his sci-fi RPG Star Dogs, which I reviewed in November.

The book is absolutely crammed full of SF-themed generators - everything from a Planet Generator to an Impressive Technology generator or Mission creator. Most of these are freely available on Michael's blog (linked above), but the Referee's Handbook gives them to you in a more searchable single package.

Early Conclusion: Star Dogs is an excellent system-neutral resource for people running soft SF games, but it suffers from some redundancy and a lack of mechanical detail for alien abilities and starship equipment. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone interested in this sort of game, no matter what system you plan to use.

If you're interested in a more in-depth review, going over each generator in detail, see below.

Reviewing Each Generator

1. Galaxy Sector Mapper and Stocker - This is a drop table that creates the map for a galactic sector, divided into separate zones you move across like a slightly melted hexcrawl. I like the way it simulates the dense areas within solar systems and the empty zones between them on a single map, and it's quite quick and easy to use.

2. Planet Generator - Like many of the generators, the Planet Generator is not a hyper-detailed system that constructs continents and civilizations. Instead, between the Planetary Landscape table (which gives you a single scene of the world, like "planet covering alien geometric ruins of super-hardened material"), Planet Atmosphere Manifestation table (which gives you a small theme, like "shrunken, small and shrivelled - rotted and wrecked" and Planet Population table (which gives you a vague concept for the dominant group, such as escaped synthoids or primitive aliens), the Planet Generator gives you a concept of a world for you to flesh out. The first 2 tables are nicely useful, especially for space-opera style single-feature worlds. The Planet Population table, however, doesn't have much of a use. It's too overly simple, without any of the evocative ideas of the others. The book also has both an NPC Group Generator and Alien Species generator, which both do this job better.

3. Outpost/Space Station Generator - This generator starts a lot like the Planet Generator, with a Key Purpose and Atmosphere. It also comes with both a road and building map generator, where you roll up small single pieces and put them together. I'm not sure how often you need this sort of mapping, and the buildings come in strange curved shapes that seem hard to put together. This piece also comes with a building stocker, with single-line building types (weapons stores, abandoned and empty, etc.)

4. NPC Generator - This is an utterly excellent NPC generator for this sort of kitchen sink space opera. A massive d100 appearances help you perpetually toss out new, strange people for your players to meet, and the Wants, Modus Operandi, and Expertise give all of them both a personality, and a reason for the players to talk to them.

5. NPC Group Generator - A very simple single table of group traits, like "group members are ever burrowing deeper and deeper underground". A few rolls would be needed to build an interesting faction, but a single table makes that pretty easy to manage. More components for this generator (Leadership, Motives, Methods) would make it much, much more useful.

6. Alien Species Generator - Monster generators are pretty common in the OSR, but few of them are built for a SF setting. It seems to be specifically built for a civilized society, but it never directly says. It's split between Form (a body type, such as Rat or Ape), a Form Manifestation (a simple modifier, like skeletal, filled with holes, shriveled and gaunt), Armor and Weapon technology levels, a Communication Method (speaking, telepathy, writing, etc.), a d100 Special Ability table (in the same ultra-simple vague idea method as much of the Planet Generator pieces), and a Culture segment partially copied from the NPC Group Generator. I don't think the idea-generating method used in the Special Ability table works well for generating a mechanic, where I'd want a more concrete system. The Culture segment probably could've been fused with the NPC Group generator without losing much, as well.

7. Tables for Roleplaying NPCs - A d12 reaction table, a second, alignment-dependent d6 reaction table, and a 2d12 faction relations table. The faction relations are helpful, but I don't think we need a pair of reaction tables - a larger, alignment-dependent d12 table would be a perfect combination of both.

8. Mission Generator - I love having mission generators in games, especially in low-setting ones like Star Dogs. This one follows a pretty normal format - verb the noun, in the location, with the danger, for the reward. Like any generator of this type, some options are difficult to put together, like "have target be eaten" and "a secret".

9. Dangerous Sector Generator - I don't think Sector was a good term to use here, given the use of Sector as a world map earlier in the book. This is actually a dungeon generator, with a map builder (much more useful here than in the city section), room stocker, and dungeon atmosphere table. Like most of these tables, you would need to roll up the dungeon before the game and fit everything together. I think the atmosphere table is the best part of this generator, giving each dungeon some interesting character and distinguishing features.

10. Impressive Technology and Advanced Combat Equipment Generator - An artifact generator, with a form, material (which also comes with a special rule, such as "Clusters of small metallic nodules. Will also make things smaller."), a power (a vague concept, like "Removes and separates."), and a power modifier (an extra issue with the device, such as "Results tend to be temporary."). Much like the Special Ability table of the Alien Species generator, I think a more mechanics-focused method of generation works better than the idea generator for this.

11. Random Space Encounter Generator - A quite complex random encounter system, rolling an Environment, Modifier, and Content. The Content roll is usually a group of things (Space Anomaly and Single Spacecraft) which direct to subtables which give you what type of Space Anomaly, Galactic Pallet, or other space object you end up with. I absolutely love more advanced random encounter rolls that give you more than just an entity - giving a location and some extra detail like this one does is absolutely excellent, and should be done far more often.

12. Spacecraft Generator - The Spacecraft Generator is one of the best parts of this book. It combines a set of small tables for fluff like Alien Spacecraft Form (done with single words like "Bee" or "Pyramid") Human Spacecraft Form, (using another grid-like visual table, similar to those used in the Dangerous Sector Generator), and Spaceship Form Manifestation (more simple descriptors, like "Large chunks of the hull are rotted away, revealing working innards") with the most detailed mechanical pieces in this book - 8 fully-statted starship classes ranging from tiny fighters to large transports. The Special Ability table could, again, use more mechanics - for example, "Extra resistant to Bull or Laz fire" could use some suggested numbers.

13. Nebula Generator - Nebulae are large-scale terrain formations in Star Dogs, covering multiple Sectors. The Nebula Generator is split into Appearance (which is both a small description, and affects the intensity of the nebula's effects), and Color (which determines the effect). This is the most specific of the generators, and the effects of each nebula seem like they could be difficult to remember, but it has its uses.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Joesky Tax #72 (Rail Screamer)

Recently, Dan released a set of blog post prompts. Since my plan of "one post per week, every week" has been going... badly, I've decided to use some just to fill space.

#72. Cryptids! Make some cryptids.

Cryptids are always attached to a location. Luckily, I live in a small Midwestern town on the edge of nowhere - the second-best location (after Oregonian forests) for cryptids. The town's built next to a pretty busy railroad, and every day I can hear trains passing.

At least, I think they're trains. I've never seen one. The rails are always empty when I look.

The Rail Screamer

A bent, gray creature covered in metallic plates, with a pair of floodlight eyes on stalks protruding from its front. The Rail Screamer crawls down train tracks, emanating long howls from the dozens of spiracles running along its back.

In all ways except for appearance, the Rail Screamer is a train. If it passes by you, a tremendous wind follows it. If it steps over you, you are crushed by its tremendous force. The Rail Screamer never stops moving, constantly turning its spotlights on everything around it like it's searching for something.

Using the Rail Screamer

The best use for the Rail Screamer is for a little self-contained mystery in a Delta Green (or similar supernatural mystery) game - someone was killed when their car was hit by a train, but the line's been closed for years. There's also the mystery of its search - what is it looking for? What happens if the Rail Screamer finds it?

You could also pull it out of its context and use it as just a monster. Perhaps their speed makes them the backbone of a nomadic people, or an important piece of modern cavalry tactics. Or, of course, their could just be one in a pit somewhere, sending its cry up into the air.


I know I namedropped Delta Green up there, but I know my audience, so these are more generic OSR-style stats.

HP: 20
AC: 16
Speed: 528 ft. (60 miles per hour)

Overrun: When the Rail Screamer moves over someone, they must make a Dex save or take 3d8 damage and be thrown 100 feet backwards as they are hit by a train. Overrun also triggers on obstacles like walls. When Overrun is triggered, the Rail Screamer cannot move on its next turn.

Mind the Gap: When the Rail Screamer moves, everyone within 30 feet is pulled along with it by extreme winds, taking 2d6 damage as they are dragged across the ground.

This is an incredibly lethal statblock, with very high damage output and utterly preposterous speed. Ranged attacks might help the players for a short time, but the sheer speed of the Rail Screamer will make that a dangerous plan.

However, as long as your players have some warning that they are fighting a train, they should be fine.


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Skinborne (Sunless Horizon)

Sail Into the Light

The Skinborne are rarely seen by Ein Soph's inhabitants - they eschew the worldship's internals to cling to its metal Skin, safe from the threats of that inner world. The rare times they breach the Skin, it's for sudden, violent raids that gather as many resources as they can in the space of hours.

Their technology is incredibly advanced - not only do they have spaceflight, hydrogen from Ein Soph is harvested to power generators and weapons far beyond what the Navigator Houses have achieved. 

They live nomadically, drifting across the Skin in small voidcraft. These crews stay on their voidcraft for months at a time; despite this, they are nearly empty, with no frivolous items onboard except for a single seemingly random object in each person's quarters, kept atop an altar. Once their voyages are complete, they return to the Ark to refuel.

They are confused by the other societies of Ein Soph - can they not see they are failing their test? How do they expect to leave this hateful place when the Garden World arrives?

Their Exodus

According to their religion, Ein Soph is the Iron World, a test from a stern, silent god. Every ten thousand years, this Iron World passes by the Garden World, a paradise of nature and abundance. 

But the Iron World never reaches it. Even at its closest point, they are millions of miles away. This is the test their god has given them - to escape. The vessels they use to skip across the Skin like a stone over water are children's toys compared to their true project - a city-sized starship pointed out from Ein Soph, into the void. 

Soon, they say, they will escape this world forever.

Their Ancestors

The Iron World's orbits have gone on since the beginning of time - entire generations of people have escaped from its grasp, and passed their test. The spirits of these ancestors are revered, and their knowledge is treasured and collected into the Skinborne's holy books - somewhere between Bible and technical manual.

These ancestor spirits are spoken to through objects, passed down through generations and once owned by the spirit in question.

Their Ark

An entire engine of Ein Soph, uncountable stories high, slowly turned to face at a shallow angle. Titanic battery banks, leeching power from the worldship to keep this parasite alive. The Ark is the culmination of generations of work - the answer to the test the Skinborne have been given. Now they wait, until the Garden World comes into view and they can sail away into the light.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Preparing Sewer Rats, Part 3 (Equipment and Progression through Self-Debasement)

One of the main focuses with Sewer Rats is speed - fast character creation (thanks to Into the Odd), short sessions, that sort of thing. The other one is bureaucracy - Sewer Rats don't really get to make their own decisions, and they have a vertigo-inducingly huge chain of command telling them what to do and where to do it.

And you know what isn't fast? Spending half an hour searching through equipment lists and thinking about if you want a hammer and nails or another 50 feet of rope! And you know what has lots of bureaucracy? Being assigned equipment by some incompetent middle manager who doesn't have the faintest idea what Sewer Rats even do!

So, every time you complete a mission, more equipment is provided to your group.

If you complete only your primary objective, you roll 3 times on the table below per player, and each player can choose 1 item. If you complete both objectives, each player can choose two items. New characters are created entirely as written in ItO, and get all the equipment they normally would.

We are tracking ranged ammunition, using Usage Dice. Whenever you get new equipment, you have a 2-in-6 chance of having your weapon's Usage Die increased back to the default (1d8).

Digression: Sewer Rats House Rule #1
I've run a couple sessions of Sewer Rats using Into the Odd completely RAW, and now I am doing the OSR thing. Instead of the standard 3 stats, I'm using 4 - Vitality (STR + CON), Dexterity, Will, and Charisma.

I like having Charisma, because in the same way being smart can help you avoid a pit trap, but you still get a Dex save to avoid it, being persuasive should help you persuade someone, but you should still get a Cha check.

The change from Strength to Vitality is just because STR ended up being used for poison and disease saves anyway, so I wanted the name to reflect what it really was.

Of course, there are more house rules - disease stuff, healing changes, etc. These will be coming in the 4th and final Sewer Rats post, possibly next week (either that or another Sunless Horizon post, depending on the will of the people).

Another Digression: Using Useless Items
Loads of these items seem totally useless. Let them not be useless. If someone tries to distract a Hurtta with dried meat, get drunk to improve their Will saves, or change their clothes to help them with a VIT save against disease, let them. Sewer Rats PCs won't get many (if any) magic items, so getting use out of mundane objects is very important for keeping the game interesting.

1d100 Items from the Ratcatcher's Guild
  1. A bucket, with a large hole in the bottom.
  2. A single boot.
  3. An empty bottle.
  4. 1d4 pieces of chalk.
  5. A wooden 10' pole.
  6. A tattered shirt.
  7. 1d20 feet of rope.
  8. A bent trumpet.
  9. Half of a shortsword (1-3 handle end, 4-6 blade end).
  10. 1d4 bottles of beer.
  11. A cheap pair of pants.
  12. A shoddy hammer.
  13. 1d4 metal spikes.
  14. 1d20 caltrops.
  15. A broken musket.
  16. 2d4 candles.
  17. 1d6 pieces of dried meat.
  18. 1d8 matches.
  19. A blank book.
  20. A quill and ink.
  21. A whistle.
  22. 1d4 flasks of lantern oil (each lasts 5 Turns).
  23. 2d8 empty glass flasks.
  24. A lantern.
  25. 50' of rope.
  26. A net.
  27. An empty barrel.
  28. A pair of rusted manacles.
  29. A loaf of dense, dry bread.
  30. 1d20 pieces of paper.
  31. A crowbar.
  32. A chicken.
  33. A bucket.
  34. A pickaxe.
  35. A mirror.
  36. A shovel.
  37. A pair of heavy gloves.
  38. 1d4 sticks of unreliable dynamite (1d10 damage, 30' radius, 1-in-4 chance of detonating, 1-in-4 chance of detonating in the next 1d4 turns, 2-in-4 chance of nothing). If an explosive does not detonate, you can collect it and try to use it again.
  39. 1 set of Shield Armor
  40. 1 flask of acid
  41. 1 dose of antitoxin (cures poisons, but not diseases)
  42. A metal 10' pole
  43. A set of caltrops (covers 4 10' squares)
  44. 1 vial of rosewater (defends against airborne illnesses)
  45. 1d8 torches (each last 3 Turns)
  46. Heavy Plate (as Modern Armor, sinks)
  47. A full set of clothes.
  48. A handheld battering ram.
  49. 1d2 doses of dragon's blood - when consumed, be consumed by anger; +2 to attack and damage, must attack each turn, no defensive or subtle actions, must pursue fleeing opponents. Lasts 1d6 Turns, lose 1d4 VIT when it ends. (while called dragon's blood, it is actually created alchemically from far more mundane ingredients)
  50. 1 huge mining charge in a cart (2d10 damage, destroys walls, 100' radius, goes off 5 turns after the fuse is lit).
     51-60. Melee Hand Weapon (dagger, shortsword)

     61-70. Ranged Hand Weapon (pistol)

     71-80. Melee Field Weapon (pike, longsword)

     81-90. Ranged Field Weapon (musket)

     91-95. Melee Noble Weapon (rapier, sabre)

     96-100. Heavy Gun (arquebus). Heavy Guns have a 1d6 Usage Die instead of 1d8.

Also An Advertisement
The Kickstarter for my Zine Quest project King of Dust has one week left! It's a rules-light cyberpunk RPG with a Darkest Dungeon-like management phase, and a free demo version!

Enter the looming cityscape to take a look!

Thursday, February 6, 2020

King of Dust is Live!

The Kickstarter for King of Dust, the secret zine project I talked about in my last post, is live!

King of Dust is a rules-light cyberpunk RPG with a focus on domain-level play - you play as the Board of Directors of a cyberpunk megacorporation, managing your corporation's Resources in an abstracted management phase, before switching to the mission phase, where you control a group of Associates - vatgrown soldiers used for particularly dangerous missions. You can take a look at the campaign by clicking on the image below - there's a free alpha ruleset, some art examples, and a more thorough description.

Posts that actually contain something useful return next week - sorry about all the not that.

Sunless Horizon

Sunless Horizon is the most self-indulgent setting I'll ever make, taking inspiration from Veins of the Earth , Axis Mundi , HMS Apolly...