Friday, September 17, 2021

Eye of Newt and... uh... what was the other thing? (GLOG Class: Dabbler Cultist)

I don't know if this is a Buckets of Blood class, a starting point for Libra 2e, both, or neither.

You've managed to get your hands on a powerful tome of magic - the Necronomicon, a heavily redacted copy of The King in Yellow, the secret negative-first edition of D&D, or another incomprehensible resource. The problem is, you haven't gotten any time to actually read the thing. Getting spells and rituals out of it is like pulling teeth - everything's hidden under codes or behind allegories.

This is a slightly abnormal spellcasting class - by default, it has no MD. Each of its spells is a ritual, with 4 Ritual Implements. For every Implement the character uses in the casting of the spell, you add one Malevolence Die to the spell. Casting a ritual takes [dice] hours, and when the ritual is complete, the Ritual Implements are destroyed.

Malevolence Dice are d6s, and hit Mishaps and Dooms in the same way as Magic Dice. However, they do not return on any rolled result.

You manage to learn a spell from the Tome every template - roll 1d10 to figure out what it is.

A: Familiar, +1 Spell
B: +1 Spell, Sacrifice
C: +1 Spell, Beseech
D: +1 Spell, Awful Gift

Familiar
The book has taught you to create a 3 foot-tall creature - something between a rat and a child. With bribes of food, drink, and pocket change, it can be ordered to perform almost any task: touching things you think might be dangerous, grabbing loot, watching someone through their window, using the pedals of a car, etc. However, the familiar is largely incompetent, and apt to fall asleep when given a boring task, become flustered with an overly exciting one, trip over its own feet, and generally fail unless kept a close eye on.

Sacrifice
By spilling your own blood upon the altar (or car dashboard, or picnic table) and taking 1d4 damage, you can increase the size of one of the Malevolence Dice in a ritual to a d8. You can repeat this for every die in the ritual if you so wish.

Beseech
Read through the pages and scream and cry and perhaps they will listen to you. In a tight corner, call out to the Tome and it will do something to save you. Give you a tool, or summon its agents, or perform an unbidden ritual.

Immediately afterwards, you suffer a Doom.

Patrick Tilp

Spells

1. To See All Things Through the Eyes of the Stars
Observe either a location or person you have seen before within [dice] miles for up to [sum] minutes. By default, you see through it in a grainy, black-and-white view. For every extra MD added, choose one:

- vision through Scry is perfectly clear
- you can hear through Scry
- you can speak through Scry
- Scry will warn you of interesting things or if a predetermined event occurs, even if you're asleep or not paying attention

Ritual Implements
1. A human eye. If it's your eye, it counts as two Implements.
2. The circuits of a security camera either from that location, or that has seen that person in the last week.
3. An entire living owl.
4. Three pieces of written information about the target - the address, coordinates, etc., of the location, the height, hair color, birth date, etc. of the person. 

2. To Strike a Foe Across Innumerable Distances
A human (or at least near-human) target you know the name of, could pick out of a lineup, and have met face-to-face must Save or die instantly. If they pass the save, they take [sum] damage. If they fail the Save, their death seems accidental - a sudden heart attack, a falling object, a car crash. If they pass, damage dealt appears as cuts from an invisible source, and if the damage is lethal the target explodes.

Ritual Implements
1. A piece of the target - blood, hair, skin, etc. Especially large or deep pieces (bone marrow, an entire finger, etc.) count as two Implements.
2. A weapon that has killed at least five people.
3. A picture of the target that has been taken within the last day.
4. The tooth of a dangerous animal (wolves, bears, venomous snakes, etc).

3. To Create a Homunculus 
A humanoid creature with a flat face, fingerless hands, and empty grey eyes is formed through application of magic. It has [dice]*2 HD, 10+[dice] AC, a [dice] bonus to hit, and deals [dice]d6 damage. If you ignore an MD for the purpose of statistics (a monster summoned with 2 MD only having 2 HD, 11 AC, a +1 bonus to-hit, and 1d6 damage), you may also give the monster some kind of special ability - an arm with opposable thumbs, the ability to fly, night vision, etc. If this would give the monster 0 MD in its statistics, it has 1 HP, 10 AC, and can't attack.

Ritual Implements
1. Two hundred pounds of raw meat.
2. The corpse of an animal with the special ability you are trying to give the monster. If there is no special ability, or the ability does not appear in any animal, a human corpse can be used instead.
3. A lightning strike, or similarly large amount of electricity.
4. A false womb of baked clay, filled with nutrient jelly.

4. To Ward Oneself Against Stones, Arrows, and Blows
After the ritual is complete, you and up to [dice] other participants have +[dice] AC, and when missed by a ranged attack, may redirect them back to anyone you wish (using the same to-hit roll). This lasts for [dice] hours.

Ritual Implements
1. The whole and unblemished skin of a songbird.
2. Dandelion seeds, crushed into powder.
3. The shell of a tortoise, painted with glyphs in the tortoise's blood.
4. An engraved stone, thrown at the ritual's caster.

5. To Repel Demons and Other Unnatural Beings
A ghost, fairy, or other creature from another plane with [sum] HD or less is banished back to its home plane, and cannot be summoned again for [dice] hours. This spell can also be used to create a barrier [dice]*10 feet in diameter that cannot be crossed by creatures of that type with [dice] or less HD, which lasts until the barrier is broken.

Ritual Implements
1. An object from the creature's home plane.
2. A vial of water blessed by a religious figure (it doesn't matter what religion).
3. Salt that has never been touched by the light of the sun.
4. Meteoric iron filings.

6. To Give Oneself the Red Right Hand Whose Touch is Death
You, or another human subject, has their right hand changed. The veins within start to glow faintly red, and the nails stretch and sharpen. This lasts for [best] hours, and during this time anything touched by the Hand will take [dice]d6 damage. It also gives a +[dice] bonus to-hit.

The Hand will also rot wood, dissolve stone, and rust metal it touches - generally [dice]/2 inches of the material per round where the hand touches.

Ritual Implements
1, An injection of the blood of an unnatural being.
2. A powdery paste of rotten wood, gravel, and rust flakes.
3. A fire to plunge the hand into at the culmination of the ritual.
4. Five fingers: one from someone who was murdered, one from someone who died peacefully, one from someone who died of illness, one from someone who died at least one hundred years ago, and the last from someone who was mauled by animals.

7. To Perform the Sign of the Evil Eye, Which Afears Beasts and Birds
After the ritual is complete, for [best] hours your gaze will be poisoned, and inflict fear on animals under it. Any natural, real animal (as opposed to supernatural creatures or people) with [dice] HD or less will flee rather than fight you. If they are cornered, commanded, or otherwise forced to fight, they take [best] damage - any inspection of the body will reveal long-term heavy metals poisoning.

Ritual Implements
1. The heart of a dog.
2. A thin needle with a drop of fatal poison, carefully stuck into the palate. The poison from the needle will be pulled into the eyes, making their gaze dangerous.
3. An arrow with a flint head and feather fletching.
4. A chime, rung throughout the duration of the ritual.

8. To Restore the Health of Those Injured or Infirm
A target regains all of their HP, and for every MD invested, a wound (such as a broken bone) or a malady (poisons, diseases) is cured. With 3 or more [dice], you can restore lost limbs or organs.

Ritual Implements
1. A bath in rubbing alcohol for the person to be healed.
2. A pound of leaves from a willow tree, crushed and consumed by the patient.
3. Ten feet of white silk.
4. An accurate sculpture of the patient. If it is inhumanly accurate, it counts as two Implements.


Tome Spells

All Dabbler Cultists have a Tome, through which magic is revealed to them. This Tome determines spells 9 and 10, as well as your Awful Gift.

Necronomicon
9. To Return the Souls of the Deceased to Their Mortal Shells
To perform this ritual, you need to have the corpse with you. It does not count as a Ritual Implement, it's just a requirement. 

A corpse of a human being or other sentient near-human creature with [dice]*2 or less HD is raised as an undead being. If [dice] is two or less, they return as a mindless servitor (stats as Skeleton). If 3 or more MD are used, they return perfectly conscious and in total control of their faculties (stats as Ghoul). 

Ritual Implements
1. Two pure gold coins, to place on the eyes of the corpse.
2. An object the deceased owned and adored in life.
3. A living family member of the deceased. They do not disappear when the ritual is complete.
4. Embalming tools and fluids, to ensure the corpse's integrity.

10. To Create a Terrible Killing Fire to Purge the Holy and Their Subjects
Creates a small amulet in the shape of a skull. When it is broken, it explodes into green poison fire in a [dice]*20 foot radius, lasting for [dice] minutes. Everyone within takes [best] damage with every breath, and anything combustible ignites. Any survivors are ailed, losing half of all their stats and being reduced to only one action per turn until they get comprehensive medical attention.

Ritual Implements
1. White phosphorous, safely contained in mineral oil. (The mineral oil is not a necessity, but it makes it way easier to work with).
2. The blood of someone who had been poisoned to death.
3. The ashes of a clearly, unequivocally, evil person.
4. A pound of uranium or another radioactive material.

Awful Gift - Lichdom
You die, yet live. You no longer need food, water, or air - nor do you bleed. However, you no longer heal naturally. Instead you must repair yourself - stealing fresh tissue, stapling lost limbs on, and replacing bones with sticks.

T*e K*ng ** Yel**w
9. To Mesmerize Those Who Read This Text
Blindly copy hidden parts of the King in Yellow, creating a dangerous piece of text. Anyone looking at the text must Save or be paralyzed for [dice] minutes. On a passed Save, they do not need to Save again. The text's power slowly declines, ending after [best] days.

The text can be written on anything, as long as you have the mundane tools needed to write it (pens, paint, etc.).

Ritual Implements
1. A grey silk blindfold.
2. A small amount of cerebrospinal fluid added to the ink or paint used.
3. Hallucinogenic drugs, to keep your mind from absorbing the text as you stare at it.
4. A blacklight, to reveal hidden sections of the play.

10. To Turn an Object to Stone With Application of an Alchemical Mixture
An object is turned to stone for [sum] days, through the application of an alchemical solution. For every MD added, the object can be larger (1 MD - a cat. 2 MD a dog, 3 MD a person, 4 MD a cow). You can do this to a living creature with no Save, as long as they stay within the range for the time of the ritual.

If 4 MD are used, the duration can be whatever you want, up to infinite.

Ritual Implements
1. A circle of yellow cloth, to contain and absorb the Mixture and focus its energies.
2. Mercury, poured carefully over particular parts of the object.
3. Lead disks, balanced under the subject.
4. A strong magnetic field (an MRI machine, or something equal).

Awful Gift - The Pallid Mask
Through the eyes of the mask, the world's true form, a lie, is revealed to you. The lakes are made of mist, the towers rise behind the moon, and the robes of the King are curtains surrounding the world.

You can tell automatically when someone lies, and when you lie, it is believed. A Charisma check will be required if the lie is directly disproved by something the target sees (saying the sky is green will work, but you'll need to make a check if they can see the sky). If this check passes, they believe the lie over the truth.

In the domain of the King, there is no difference.


D&D -1e
9. To Turn a Building Into a Stronghold, or Create One From Nothing
Up to [dice] floors of the building you are in are replaced with torchlit stone chambers, filled with [sum] HD of monsters (orcs, beholders, and other standard D&D fare) and set with [dice] traps.

Then, check one MD's roll on this table for each floor to determine the treasure inside:
1 - nothing
2 - 1d100gp
3 - 2d6 × 10gp
4 - 1d100 + minor magic item
5 - 2d6 × 10gp + 2 minor magic items
6 - 2d6 × 10gp + major magic item

All gold pieces found within do not match examples from any archaeological site.

If the spell is cast outside of a building, it creates [dice]*2 rooms of dungeon, with only [best] HD of monsters, [dice]/2 traps, and one roll on the treasure table.

Ritual Implements
1. A stone from a building at least 500 years old.
2. A pile of swords, bows, axes, and other weapons to outfit the dungeon's inhabitants.
3. A map, made by you, of the location being dungeonized.
4. A single small symbol written in every room of the building. If you are creating a dungeon from scratch, the symbol must be placed every 5 feet.

10. To Turn One Into a Fiery Beast, in Parts and Steps
For [sum] hours, you take on some of the attributes of a dragon. For every MD applied, choose one option from this list:

1. Scales: gain [dice] AC for the duration of the spell
2. Wings: gain the ability to fly at [best]*10 feet per round.
3. Breath: [dice]/2 times during the spell's duration, breathe a cone of fire dealing [dice]d6 damage.
4. Eyes: you can see treasure, even through walls. When you make eye contact with someone, you can see their greatest ambition and most pitiable failure.

Ritual Implements
1. A dinosaur's bone, at least as long as you are tall.
2. An entire, living, komodo dragon.
3. A fire that has burned for six days and six nights without stopping.
4. A gold bar, worth at least $1,000.

Awful Gift - Engraved Icosahedron
A small 20-sided shape, engraved with unknown symbols. Whenever a d20 is rolled for a stat check, a Save, or a to-hit roll, you can reroll it, taking the second roll. Every time you do this, you lose 1 HP.

Unbible
9. To Summon a Devil in Order to Write a Binding Pact With Them
devil is summoned. For every MD invested, roll once on the Prices and Boons tables. The caster can choose which result is actually applied. (For example, a 2 MD summoning would roll 2 dice on each table, then the Dabbler Cultist chooses one die from each of those sets).

Ritual Implements
1. An engraved brass container filled with blessed wax. The engravings must be made by someone who has not killed any living thing, nor consumed anything but water, for one month.
2. A lion's skin, with the name of the devil written on the inside.
3. A golden chain, at least 10 feet long.
4. A human heart.

10. To Ensure the Complete Destruction of Oneself, so You Cannot be Scavenged by the Weak
After this ritual is complete, a small red glyph glows on your heart for [dice] days. If you die during this duration, you explode, dealing [sum]x2 damage to everyone in a [sum]^[dice] foot radius. Increase GORE by 2 in Buckets of Blood or decrease Veil by 2 in Libra 2e if this happens.

Ritual Implements
1. Your favorite possession.
2. Some blood from your nearest living relative.
3. At least one hundred pounds of TNT or another explosive.
4. A true and magically enforced promise to die before the glyph dissipates.

Awful Gift - Book of Red Laws
Why should those who are strong bow to those who are weak? What prevents them from consuming everything, becoming everything, and turning the world to a final perfect shape?

Whenever you kill someone, their name is written in the Book, and you regain 1 HP. Their souls are trapped, and can be traded with the devil instead of your own. Anyone whose name is in the Book is condemned immediately and irrevocably to Hell, no matter how they acted in life.

Mishaps and Dooms

Mishaps
1. More blood is needed: take 1d4 damage.
2. A misread syllable: psychic shock drains every MD used in the spell.
3. More power, next time: the highest rolled die vanishes, and isn't counted for [sum], [dice], or any other effect.
4. Overcharged: arcane power bleeds off into the air like a flashbang. When the ritual is complete, you are blinded for an hour.
5. Slow going: the ritual takes twice as long.
6. An eye, oh the awful eye! A Demon from the Astral Plane has come, hunting disturbances. Increase GORE by 1 in Buckets of Blood or decrease Veil by 1 in Libra 2e. Also, you have to fight a demon.

Dooms
1. You need to do more, faster. Every day you don't perform a ritual, take 1d4 damage.
2. MORE. Every hour you aren't performing a ritual, take 1d4 damage. You can't stop thinking about the book. It has the answers to everything.
3. moremoremoremoremoremoremoredone. Driven by your desperate obsessions, you have both translated and completed a different ritual than the one you intended: Ascension. You vanish, screaming, from this mortal plane.

Monday, September 6, 2021

we've been trying to reach you about your extended warranty: the GLOG hack

Recently, I've been thinking about a new project - combining a minor blog fixation, Engine Heart, with a major blog fixation, the GLOG, along with bits of recent Zine Quest release Scurry! and vague, wrong ideas of what PbtA games look like according to someone who hasn't actually read one.

You play as a group of utility robots, alone and hoping to either make your way back to home or build a new one. The setting is going to be mostly undefined - maybe, like Engine Heart, humanity has been destroyed by an apocalypse. Maybe you just fell off the back of a truck, and need to get back to the factory. Maybe you're on a starship around Neptune, trying to get your rights as workers.

by Locheil, who is cool

Creating a Character

Stats

The stats are Strength (STR), Speed (SPD), Dexterity (DEX), Comprehension (COM), and Mirroring (MIR).

The first three are self-explanatory, but the other two are stranger. Comprehension is your ability to understand things you weren't designed for - will the stack of crates fall over if I move this one? Why is this on fire?

Mirroring is sort of like Charisma, but is more accurately described as your ability to act like a human. People like it when you can talk like them, and some robots could be tricked into thinking you're a person if you say the right words. You could also roll Mirroring to understand what someone is doing.

Some Parts can also give you Power dice, which can be added to any check.

Your stats are chosen from this array: 4, 3, 3, 2, 2.

Parts

The problem is, none of those stats can just get used. Instead, you have only specific actions you can take, based on your Parts.

By default, robots can only do three things - see (if there's light), move at a walking pace, and talk to other robots. Anything else requires the right Part.

Parts come in four slots - Arms, Legs, and two Body parts (A and B).

Gameplay
Rolling Dice
When you use one of your Parts, you invest as many dice from the applicable stat as you want, along with Power dice, if you have them. Depending on the Part being used, you might need to check different things. Some want you to check [sum] against a table, like a PbtA Move:

Sprinter Wheels (legs)
lightweight magnesium wheels allow you to rush along flat surfaces, but smooth tires cripple your handling

Invest [speed] and check the [sum]:

10+: you hit highway speeds immediately, in a straight line

7-9: you begin to accelerate, and will reach top speed next turn

6-: the tires spin and screech, unable to grip the ground

 Others are more similar to GLOG spells:

Lifter Arms (arms)

a pair of massive pistons connect to a narrow platform in front of you, just barely able to reach above your head

Invest [strength], and lift the platform up to your head-height with up to [sum]*100 pounds on board. 

Whenever stat dice are invested, they decay if they roll a 4-6, and if they roll doubles or triples you have a Minor or Major malfunction.

If you have a Minor malfunction, check the number on the dice on this table:
1. Uninsulated wires. Every die used in this check decays, no matter what it rolled.
2. Low batteries. Until you next Recharge, this stat's dice decay on a 3 or more.
3. Bad safety checks. The part used is Damaged.
4. Power surge. The highest-rolling die used in this check is ignored for [sum], [best], or other measurements. If it would decay, it still does.
5. Crossed wires. Decay one die from a different stat.
6. Jammed bearings. Nothing happens. Dice still decay if roll 4+.

If you have a Major malfunction, the part that was used is destroyed completely.

Getting Hurt
If something bad happens to you (falling off a hill, getting crashed into by another robot, catching fire) one of your Parts is damaged. Choose whichever one makes the most sense, or roll 1d4:

1. Arms
2. Legs
3. Body A
4. Body B  

When a Part is damaged, you can't use it until you get it fixed. If a damaged part is hit again, it's destroyed completely, and you'll have to either find a new one, or go without.

Regaining Dice
If you can find a place to Recharge, all your lost stat dice return. The problem is, you can only Recharge somewhere where you can get electricity.

Repairing Parts
Some Parts allow you to repair damaged Parts on other robots, and some places may have machines or friendly robots that will help you. If a Part is destroyed, you might be able to find someone offering new ones, in exchange for help, directions, or other things.

You cannot cannibalize other robots for their Parts. They are well-connected to the robot's frame, and attempting to remove them by force will damage or destroy them.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

OL519 Actual Play - ISK Halamandaris

This was the first session of Orbiters Local 519, back before it was fully complete. Luckily, the game really didn't change much during development (though I'm working on a couple small fixes), so it's still a good example.

The events of the game are in standard text, quotes from PCs or players are italicized, and GM advice & important concepts are in bold.

Players & Characters

Kahva - Big Ish, Hardsuit Operator A

Mihau - Oyld Seelskin, Sentry A

purplecthulhu - Magdalene Mathers, Sentry A

Vayra - Abrams 2 Planes, Hardsuit Operator A

Xenophon of Athens - Agarwaen, son of Umarth, Controller A

csp499

The salvage team approaches the ISK Halamandaris in their boxy, yellow-painted Transport. The ship's habitat domes are shattered, and luminescent jellyfish shine like neon stars around them. One engine nacelle is gone, leaving a long tear through the hull, and the bridge window at the front of the Halamandaris is shattered.

The PCs enter the bridge after a vote, where only Xenophon dissented.

Mihau: "I want to go through the rear airlock, but all the cool people want to go to the bridge."

Xenophon: "Well f*** you too."

Abrams & Madgalene carefully drift through the shattered bridge window and tie themselves to the remaining consoles. Abrams checks the walls and doors with the thermal scope of his tranquilizer rifle, finding a snake-like shape swimming through the inside of one wall. The rest of the team enters as Madgalene seals the room's vents with foam, hoping to keep the creature out.

Ish splices his coffeebox (a briefcase-sized battery, used to power systems on derelict ships) into one of the computers, which comes online and displays the ring-and-sphere logo of the Tau Sigma Terraforming Group.

Abrams keeps his rifle trained on the shape as Ish searches through internal documents & reads through logs. A few weeks after the last captain's log, and after the ship was reported derelict, the computer recorded a security system override - lethal force, target all non-crew organisms.

The computer was all improvised except the security override - this was a mistake which came back to haunt me in later sessions. It's best to give a computer three things - Security (some computers might be open to everyone, but others may need passwords, fingerprints, transponders, or simply be completely inaccessible without being hacked by a Controller), a Start Screen (usually explains what it's for, or at least makes a nice bit of description) and the Content (a list of both everything the computer can do, and every important file on it).

The rest of the group wait, wary of the Hardsuit Operators:

Oyld: "Remind me why you two aren't in the military?"

Ish: "I was. Now I'm not. Long story. Short story, actually, I just don't like to talk about it."

Abrams: "Don't let you shoot enough things. Or take trophies."

Ish finds references to the ship's AI, Solace, and Agarwaen tries to use the console to send messages to it, but transmission to and from AIs is heavily sanitized - the consoles aren't allowed to send anything to the AI, and Solace can only send information its archived, not things it's written. Instead of spending a Program Slot to override the console, the salvage team decides to dismantle the consoles. 

This part of the session included another improvised concept that worked much better than the computers: everything on ships is well-labelled. Power cables say [Reactor <-> Hydroponics Pumps], pointing the way to both. Bundles of fiber-optics are labelled [AI Input], or [Observatory]. These labels help in two ways - first, they give the PCs extra information, and let them make changes to the derelict in ways they understand, instead of chopping away at wires and hoping something good happens.

Second, once the players get used to well-labelled ships, you can change things. A freighter rebuilt from a mothballed warship, with power cables saying they go to the Particle Beam Array when they actually control the galley lighting. A ship from a budget manufacturer with no labels on anything, so the players have to guess (or try to figure out the role of the wires based on color).

Once the bridge is torn apart, they drift out the window, grab the Transport's netting, and fly to the ship's rear airlocks. On the other side of the airlock is a locker room, with a deactivated TV and camera along with two doors: one left, with stacked-up crates on the other side, and one right, leading to the Halamandaris's jammed-open shuttle hangar.

Abrams & Ish activate the TV and download its contents (mostly nature documentaries), while Madgalene creeps into the cargo bay and retrieves the contents of a crate labelled "generator": foldable solar panels, tiny wind turbines, and a gas generator that might be older than the Mars colonies.

Agarwaen inspects the camera, finding a cable marked [AI Input], then tries to communicate with Solace in a... less than polite way.

Agarwaen, waving frantically: "Please don't try to kill us, AI, I don't think you'd enjoy the result very much."

As the generators and TV are loaded on to the transport, Oyld grabs packets of Meat Discs™ from the cargo bay, and passes them out to the team. They decide to leave the camera intact, weighing its value against the possibility of angering Solace.

Then, they leave, with Agarwaen setting a laser gate on the door to the hangar. They float through the cargo bay, and into a fuel storage room, which they mark as Volatile. Big Ish barely squeezes into a maintenance shaft, putting him into the remaining engine nacelle. Inside, he finds something - a slab of non-heat-sensitive plastic explosive, pressed to the inside of the engine. Its detonator had gone off, but not set off the slab.

He carefully scrapes it off, and Agarwaen tests Tools to print a remote detonator, planning to use the bomb later. The nacelle is marked, and they return to the fuel storage room to find one of the tanks starting to leak. Madgalene uses some more of her foam to plug the hole, and Abrams makes a detailed check over the tanks using his thermal scope, since small leaks or cracks would have a different temperature than the heated tank.

The breached tank was a Creaking roll, but the PCs had fixed the issue before it escalated - before that, there had been a Creaking roll (and subsequent Decay) causing the ship to turn, which was so irrelevant that it didn't really come up in the session or the report. A later version of Orbiters Local 519 will have that result changed.

Then, they check through the main door of fuel storage, finding a hive of metal-shelled barnacles devouring a floating jellyfish. The PCs quickly discover their shells are impervious to bullets, but a shot from Big Ish's hardsuit railgun causes one of them to flail its spiked tendril, hoping to strike its attacker.

Abrams thinks for a moment, then unwraps his package of Meat Discs™ and throws them to the barnacles, shooting them when they open up to grab the food. He fires his tranquilizer rifle at the last of them, then digs it out of the floor, hoping to keep it for study. 

Returning to the Transport to store the barnacle, they run into a pair of hovering security drones. One is deactivated successfully by Agarwaen, but the second fires a flashbang into the room. While everyone failed their saves, Agarwaen still succeeded on initiative and initiates Deactivate Security System again.

Here, I made a mistake - Agarwaen had placed a laser gate on the only other entrance to this room, and it should've done something.

And has a problem - electric feedback fries his nerves and he feels like someone's grabbed him by his lungs as his HP hits 0 and his maximum HP is halved due an Injury roll.

The rest of the team still disoriented, panic as their hacker gasps and wheezes for air. After making sure both drones are disabled, they work together to pick him up and carry him to the Transport. Once he's stable, they return to the Mothership, which closes with the derelict and dissects it with its dozens of laser cutters.

As Agarwaen is taken by the salvaging company's medical team, the rest of the group settle in to their rooms. It'll be weeks before the Mothership reaches their next target.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Car Chases for Libra

Libra is a (shockingly incomplete, in retrospect) modern occult GLOG hack I made late last year. Now that I've started a campaign in the system, that incompleteness has become glaring, and so I'm working on a short series of posts to fill gaps in the game, possibly culminating in a second edition.

First is a system for car chases heavily based on this system by Ten Foot Polemic.

Cars & Their Stats

All cars have three stats, ranging from 1 to 3. These stats are:

Speed (SPD) - both the car's top speed and its acceleration. SPD does not affect the car's speed in overland travel.
Handling (HND) - the car's ability to turn and brake quickly, avoiding obstacles.
Durability (DUR) - how resistant the car is to damage and how effective it is when ramming.

When you roll a check using your car, pull Zener cards equal to the stat and have the driver guess one card that was pulled. To roll an opposed check, or to determine things like ramming damage or movement per round, pull Zener cards equal to the stat and read them (Circle = 1, Plus = 2, Waves = 3, Square = 4, Star = 5).

If you're using a regular system with dice for normal people, either use the stat as a bonus to a d20 roll, or add 10 to it and use it as a target for a roll-under system.

The Chase System


Chases have two groups - the Pursued and the Pursuers. The Pursuers start at the START point on the board, and the Pursuers start 1d6 spaces ahead.

On a turn, you pull Zener cards or roll d6s equal to your Speed and move that many spaces, either forwards or backwards. If you end up on a space with a !!!!, the GM rolls an Obstacle. If you land on a space with a line on the top, you follow that line to the arrow. (Both the line and arrow are at the top of their respective spaces - for example, landing on space 10 brings you to space 19).

If you are in the same row or column as the other group, you have line of sight, and everyone in the car can also take combat actions. You are 100' away for each space in between you and the other group.

If the Pursued make it to the END or START spaces, they escape and the chase is over. If the Pursuers land on or pass over the space the Pursued are on, they catch up. The same happens if the Pursued turn around and drive past the Pursuers.

If the Pursued are NPCs, they must immediately check Morale when they're caught up to. If they fail, they come to a stop and the chase is over. If they succeed, the Pursuers must disable their vehicle to end the chase. If the PCs are being pursued, it's their choice (though car crashes are dangerous enough that they may want to stop).

Disabling Cars

When you shoot at a car, either (if playing Libra) invert its DUR (3 turns into 1 and vice versa) and draw that many cards for the hit check, or (if playing standard OSR games), double its DUR and add 10 to determine its AC.

If you hit, a random passenger is damaged.

When you use heavy weapons such as explosives or anti-material weapons against a car, it is destroyed immediately.

When you ram a pedestrian with a car, draw both SPD and DUR (or roll that many d6s) and deal that much damage. When you ram a car with a car, make an opposed DUR check. The losing car is disabled, and all passengers take twice the excess in damage. 

Obstacles

When the PCs land on a space with an obstacle, roll 1d8 on this table to find what they're confronted with. These obstacles are meant to be avoided - the PCs are free to act in any way they wish to avoid them, whether that means skill checks, psychic abilities, or use of equipment.

1. A red light. You cannot move on your next turn, unless you want to drive through cross traffic.
2. Potholes. Draw one less SPD card next turn.
3. The bridge is out. You cannot move next turn, and your movement after that must be in the other direction, as you look for another route.
4. DUI checkpoint. You cannot move next turn, and the car will be searched by the police.
5. A car accident's blocking the road. Draw two less SPD cards next turn.
6. A drunk, tired, or distracted driver veers into your lane. If you don't do something, you'll crash.
7. Traffic jam. Draw only 1 SPD card for the next 1d4 turns.
8. You're stuck behind a truck carrying gravel, pipes, or other badly-secured items. Until you pass them, there's a 1-in-10 chance each turn that something falls from the truck (treat as a gunshot into the car).

Depending on your game, you might add extra obstacles - for example, supernatural events (awakening the Road Dryads, who must be persuaded to allow you onto the road) or post-apocalyptic disasters (pre-War minefield).

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Sunless Horizon Play Report #3 (Campaign 2 Session 1)

At the start of summer, I started a campaign the newest edition of Sunless Horizon. It's currently on hiatus, but we managed to play a couple sessions first. This is a slightly newer edition than the public one, but everything should still make sense. The campaign started with the Response Engine, a funnel-style campaign start.

As a warning, this play report includes depictions of the following: body horror, torture, brainwashing, and violence.

The Players

The Instrument - Kahva

I - Mihau

You - Mister Kent

The Meddler - Xenophon of Athens

The four characters dropped into a humid, brightly-lit metal room, with dozens of large tubes attached to the ceiling and a heavy coating of thick, reddish-brown liquid on the floor. However, they hadn't dropped into the same humid room.

I and the Instrument had landed in the eastern Growth Chamber, along with a few other clones, while You and The Meddler had landed in the western with a couple more clones and something else - the Hanged King; a pale crawling creature the size of a bus and with a single immense arm, gnawing desperately on something they couldn't see.

While they choked and spat the growth medium, words projected into their eyes: Please move to the Activation Chamber for infohazard injection and psychological testing. An arrow pointed them south, to a metal sliding door.


While the Instrument and I followed instructions, moving towards the Activation Chamber, the Meddler entered a dilapidated side hallway. 

The Activation Chamber was a large room, with a + carved into one wall. Their headsets played another message: Please give the + your full attention. Both of them complied as a hidden projector played an infohazard, filling the room with images of authority and punishment, centering around a single fact: Keter loves you, and you love Him. He knows what to do, and will instruct you. The Instrument's mind opened like a flower, and closed around the idea. I kept looking, but their subconscious resisted the instruction.

A tube on the room's ceiling dropped two sugar cubes. Thank you for your cooperation.

You and the Meddler continued through the ruined hallway, only to find it leading into their version of the Activation Chamber. Both of them covered their eyes as the infohazard played. They could, just barely, hear someone screaming in their Growth Chamber.

All four of them then begin the second stage: cognition tests. A set of circles appears on the wall:

O
OO
OOO
OOOO

along with a one minute timer. After a minute of panic (and obstinacy on the part of the Meddler), culminating in the Instrument shouting "Ten!", they failed the test, and their headsets administered punishment: an electric burning sensation shooting across their faces.
As the second test (O + O, OO + OO, O - O, OO - O) began, You and the Meddler heard an immense crash as something tried to break through the Activation Chamber's door. Both groups passed the test, and were given another cube as the headsets instructed thank you for your cooperation. please face forwards for Registration and every wall flashed white.

The doors unlock, and both groups move into the single Assignment Chamber, meeting each other for the first time. This is also when Mihau's character decides that now that there are four of them, they need names: they name themselves I, Kent's character You, Kahva's character (now muttering constant praises to Keter) the Instrument, and Xenophon's troublemaker the Meddler.

Unsurprisingly, having a character named I and a character named You has wreaked havoc with my narration.

Inside the Assignment Chamber are dozens of opened lockers, and a single breaker box marked with a lightning bolt. The Meddler immediately proves how much they deserve their name by opening the box's front panel and flipping each switch, plunging the room into darkness and opening every door. Then, they sprint to the lockers and loot them as the others try to find their bearings, grabbing a set of clothes and a bottle-sized square battery. As I lunges for the breaker box, the Meddler moves through the southern door into a garbage-filled room. When I turns the power back on, the doors close and a snap echoes through the Response Engine as a door shuts on the Hanged King's arm.


You, I, and the Instrument continue to loot the lockers, finding three sets of paper-like clothes along with a gray nutrient bar and two 30 foot lengths of rope. The Meddler sees that the room he entered is dominated by an immense nest of skin, plastic shards, and rotting meat. Shattered crates, larger than a person, lie strewn around the room.

Another message appears: the Response Engine will be reaching a Black Zone in 3 hours, 2 minutes, 32 seconds, 21 milliseconds. please decelerate the monorail using the control center on the upper level.

The three in the locker room start to hear scratching, and a coughing voice.

"in... i-in, let in. cold, let in, alone?"

They recognize that this is the Hanged King, and are absolutely certain they're never going to open that door again. At this point, I makes an odd decision, climbing on top of the Instrument to give themselves a safe place to stay.

The Meddler continues to wander through the Engine, finding a room marked "Liquid Oxygen Storage" then returning to the nest room as the other PCs arrive. They continue south as they hear a crunch - the Hanged King shattering its own bones to fit through the halls of the Engine. This new room is covered floor to ceiling in sketches of stick figures giving offerings to an immense, one-armed thing. The ground is covered up to their ankles in rotting, maggot-infested meat.

Meddler begins to poke at the Instrument - who is Keter? What does He actually want? However, the Instrument evades the questions.

Looking south shows a message:  area off limits to A section subjects.

Unsurprisingly, Meddler took this as a challenge and walked right through the door. They could barely see more lockers as a burning, electric pain clouded their vision. This Assignment Chamber was damaged, however - a small hole in one of the walls led to the hallway with the two staircases. Both of them had blood dotting the first and third stairs, so the Instrument stepped on the second as Meddler looted the second Assignment Chamber.

The Instrument had, sadly, made the wrong decision and the stair snapped under his foot, dropping his leg into a small spike-filled pit. (The second stair wasn't bloody because it gets replaced every time the trap goes off. The first and third don't, so the blood stays on them.)

I and the Meddler rush to bandage the Instrument's bleeding leg, as the Meddler takes the lead upstairs into cramped hallway illuminated by a buzzing light. They check both doors - one has footsteps behind it, and the other has a crude drawing of a spear. They choose the second, finding another staircase leading upwards and a mural of stick-figures, armed with spears, fighting against masked people twice their height.


They creep up the stairs, finding another sliding metal door at the top. Behind it, they can hear the soft crackling of fire. They search their meager inventories for firefighting tools, then open the door. The room is covered in a carpet of skin and hair, with a dying fire and hammered pot in the center. 

After planning to contribute whatever food they could find to the stew, they listened at the other doors, hearing breathing from one, and a mechanical whirring from the other. They choose the whirring door, finding Driver B: a set of wheels in a torn-open casing, screeching as they drag the Engine down the track. There's two other doors and through one they could hear an argument. They check the unoccupied room first, finding a staircase, then pick up their weapons, breathe deeply, and knock on the arguer's door.

They could hear as someone placed something on the ground (a pole, used to stop the door from opening), and then it slid, revealing three Ghouls - fragile, scale-less, and bipedal. Two of them point spears at the PCs while the third, wearing a crown of foil and wearing an engraved sword on her hip, barks orders they don't understand.

In the room behind them is a computer console, covered in talismans and maps drawn on skin.

When a guard sets down their spear and moves to arrest the PCs, grappling the Meddler, the Instrument dodges past them both, grabs the spear, and hands it to I. A fight breaks out, where both the Instrument and I attack the leader, stabbing her in the sword arm with the spear and punching her in the face.

The Meddler pulls out his wrench and cracks his captor over the head with it, while You first attempts to grapple the other guard, fails, and overclocks his metabolism to act again, shifting his grapple into a quick stab to the temple.

The leader nicks one of the Instrument's arteries with her sword, causing them to bleed, while the still-armed ghoul cuts You's cheek with his spear. The unarmed guard continues to grapple with the Meddler, hoping to pin them. 

Round 2 begins: the Instrument goes to grapple the leader, but she manages to stab them in the arm before being immobilized. Then, I stabs the unmoving ghoul in the eye, fatally.

The Meddler continues to grapple with one of the guards, until they break free and crush his skull with their wrench. You lunges forwards with their knife, clipping the last ghoul in the arm and getting a stab to the leg in return. 

In the last round of the combat, I leaps from his vantage point to avoid the final ghoul's stab, as the Meddler hits him in the back of the head and the Instrument drives their spear fatally through his ribs.

As the adrenaline fades, the Meddler, the Instrument, and I come to a realization: they just killed someone. I lies unmoving in the corner as the Instrument gazes, catatonic, into the leader's empty eye socket. 

The Meddler walks slowly to the console, and listens to their headset as it instructs them on how to bring the monorail to a safe stop. Then, they bandage their wounds, and think.

The Instrument breaks the silence. "I thought... I thought He would reward us, and provide further Instruction. Upon completion."

I shakes their head. "I don't think the instructions were meant as a reward. I think instructions are provided only as long as service is needed."

The whine of the wheels slowly falls silent.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

False Elf (GLOG Class)

(if i wasn't such a coward i would've titled this post "earaboo")

Flip Templates are a new piece of GLOG class design, where a single level gives you two template abilities, but you can only access one after using the other. So, this class has template A1 and A2, and you must use the A1 ability before the A2 ability, and then must do the A2 ability in order to use A1 again.

This is a Flip Template wizard, based off the four seasons. However, the flip does not come with the seasons themselves. True Elves will do that, but you are no True Elf. You are a thief, so envious of their power that you snuck in while they slept and stole their power.

Instead, you change because of the characteristics of the seasons.

Official 5e Art

A: Switching Seasons, +1 MD

B: +1 MD

C: +1 MD

D: Pinnacle Spells, +1 MD


Switching Seasons

Each of the four seasons has its Activation, its Cantrip, three Spells, and one Pinnacle, unlocked with the D template.

When a season is activated, it stays active for one week. If you have an active season and would activate another one, you can choose whether or not you want to switch.

If you have no active seasons, you are Neutral and cannot cast spells.


Winter

Activation: get frostbite or hypothermia.

Cantrip: your body temperature naturally equalizes you with your environment, preventing creatures that seek heat (which may or may not include Darkvision) from perceiving you in that way.

Spells

Vanish

R: n/a T: self D: [dice] minutes

Become a flurry of snow, vanishing from sight and flying low across the ground at walking speed for [dice] minutes (this flight is affected by wind), reconstituting at the end of the duration. You cannot be damaged by anything except fire, and if you are damaged by fire the spell ends immediately.

Freeze 

R: touch T: an object or person D: instant

At a touch, lower an object's temperature by [sum]*4 degrees or deal [sum] damage to a target.

Halt

R: 60 feet T: a 20' radius, or one object or creature smaller than an elephant D: variable

This spell can either target a radius, a single object, or a single creature.

If this targets a radius, all creatures within the radius have their movement speeds halved, and act in initiative order only after all creatures inside the radius have acted. Any moving object moves at half speed. This lasts for [dice] rounds.

If this targets a single object, it is frozen in place for [dice] minutes. This works on objects in midair, which will hover. When the duration ends, the object does not keep its prior momentum (a fired arrow will fall, not continue to fly). 

If this targets a single creature, it must Save with a -[dice] penalty. If it fails, it is completely immobilized and unable to act for [dice] rounds.

Pinnacle: Cataclysm

R: N/A T: [dice] mile radius D: [sum] hours

At one MD, the temperature within the radius reaches below freezing, and snow begins to fall.

At two MD, the temperature reaches into the negatives (negatives in Fahrenheit, or about -20 degrees Celsius) while freezing rain and snow cover the area.

At three MD, the temperature continues to descend, causing hypothermia and frostbite within minutes. The wind picks up, turning the rain and snow into a blinding blizzard.

At four MD, the sun vanishes from the sky. The temperature hits levels only found in space. Lightning strikes down through the whiteout.


Spring

Activation: create a lasting object that requires effort or money (building a chair or writing a poem counts, stacking two twigs or writing "hello" on the ground do not).

Cantrip: 

Spells

Heal

R: touch T: one creature D: instant

A creature you touch gains [sum] HP. If two [dice] are invested, this can instantly remove a minor Wound (broken bones, etc.) or cure an illness instead of restoring HP. With three [dice], you can regenerate mangled limbs and cure diseases. With four, you can regrow limbs and organs.

Bolster

R: 30' T: one creature D: [dice] minutes

For the duration, a character is supernaturally invigorated, gaining [sum] bonus HP and adding [dice] to their AC. This does not restore lost HP.

Animate Plants

R: 100' T: [sum] small plants or [dice] trees D: [sum] minutes

[Sum] small plants or [dice] large plants or trees spring to motion. They can be commanded verbally.

Pinnacle: Garden

R: 100’ T: N/A D: 

In a 100' radius around you, plants grow uncontrollably, no matter how difficult: in a desert, cacti spring up. Within a dungeon, moss spreads over walls and hardy plants punch through stone floors. The more MD are used, the larger the plants become: in a forest, one MD causes grass and flowers, two will begin to grow saplings, three will create trees, and four grow mythical plants that tower into the sky.

Jim Bahn

Summer

Activation: catch on fire.

Cantrip: if you wrap your hands around an object, it catches fire. 

Spells

Silence Weather

R: N/A T: one mile radius D: [sum] hours

For the duration of the spell, all weather effects stop, replaced with a vaguely-uncanny perfect average (partly cloudy, warm-ish, no precipitation).

Light

R: N/A T: N/A D: [dice] hours

A small pale yellow orb hovers over your head, shedding light as a torch.

Melt

R: Touch T: one object D: Instant

Steel, and anything with a lower melting point, melts as you hold it.

Pinnacle: Fireball

R: 200' T: 20' radius D: instant

Does [sum] fire damage to everything inside the radius.


Autumn

Activation: destroy a lasting object that required effort or money to create (kicking through a door, tearing apart a book).

Cantrip:

Spells

Shatter

R: 30' T: one object D: instant

An object smaller than your head, made of something no stronger than wood, breaks apart. Every added MD allows you to increase the size and durability of an acceptable target.

2 MD: an object smaller than a person, made of something no stronger than stone

3 MD: an object smaller than a car, made of something no stronger than iron

4 MD: an object smaller than a house, made of something no stronger than adamantium.

Feather Fall

R: N/A T: self D: [dice] minutes

For the duration, you fall at a leisurely 10 feet per round.

Gust

R: 30' cone T: N/A D: Instant

Objects in the cone, with a weight of up to [dice]*100 pounds, or half that weight if they are firmly attached to the ground, are thrown at [sum]*[dice] miles per hour.

Pinnacle: Fatal Touch

R: Touch T: One creature D: Instant

At your touch, a living creature takes [sum]*[dice] damage. If this kills the creature, it is reduced to dust.

Mishaps

  1. You catch fire.
  2. Frostbite covers your fingers and toes.
  3. The wind picks up, throwing objects and pushing people.
  4. All MD used on this spell are expended.
  5. For the next day, MD only return on a 1 or 2.
  6. You lose your current season, becoming Neutral.
Dooms
  1. The True Elf you robbed is on your trail. They have cursed you, hoping to put you down and repossess their gifts afterwards. Animals (except dogs) roll 1d6 instead of 2d6 for Reaction Rolls.
  2. The curse has a second layer added. You can almost feel it in the center of your heart. If you spend more than an hour near a plant, the plant becomes hostile and attempts to kill you. Trees will fall on you, grass will grow into your nose and mouth, poison ivy will slither into your hands.
  3. The True Elf has arrived, as has their Hunt. Fight, or die.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Flip Template Adept (GLOG Class)

wow, that whole "one post a week" thing sure is going well, isn't it?

Flip Templates are a new piece of GLOG class design, where a single level gives you two template abilities, but you can only access one after using the other. So, this class has template A1 and A2, and you must use the A1 ability before the A2 ability, and then must do the A2 ability in order to use A1 again.

(Also Flip Templates are cool and I'm going to be making more classes that use them.)

This is an unarmed fighter, with some MD-based resource management.


A: Gather // Release

B: Durability // Agility

C: Block // Counter

D: Invincible


A1: Gather

Every fight you win without being hit, gain 1 Momentum Die (d6, depletes on a 4+, Cramps on doubles and Atrophies on triples), up to your total Adept templates. With ten minutes of stretching, Flip this template.

A2: Release

You cannot gain MD, but can roll them to increase an unarmed attack's to-hit by [dice] and damage by [sum], or improve a STR, DEX, or CON check or save by [best]. When you Rest, Flip this template.


B1: Durability

While you have Gather, attacks that deal less than 4 damage don't count as hits for gaining Momentum Dice. Attacks that deal 1 damage do no damage. When you Flip Gather into Release, Flip this template.

B2: Agility

While you have Release, you can run across walls as long as you don't stop, jump twice your height from a still position, and sprint at twice your normal speed. When you Flip Release into Gather, Flip this template.


C1: Block

When you are hit by a melee attack, you can spend MD to reduce its damage by [sum]. Then, Flip this template. If you take no damage, this does not count as a hit for the purposes of gaining Momentum Dice.

C2: Counter

During your turn, or when hit by a melee attack, you can make an unarmed attack for free. Then, Flip this template.


Invincible

If you win a fight without getting hit, gain 2 MD. Even if you get hit, you still gain 1 Momentum Die.


Cramps

  1. Trip over your own feet. Flip every template you have.
  2. Torn muscle. MD only return to your pool on a 1-2 for 24 hours.
  3. Pinched nerve. Take 1d6 damage.
  4. Slowing down. You cannot Flip any of your templates until you next Rest.
  5. Broken toe. Your movement speed is halved until you next Rest.
  6. Overextended. Every MD spent on this ability is exhausted.

Atrophies

  1. You're going too fast, and something slips. Randomly choose one ability score (roll 1d6 if you're using the standards), and tear it off the page. You cannot make checks with that score and do not add its bonus to anything.
  2. The speed is tearing apart your soul. Roll two more ability scores and tear them off.
  3. You've been hollowed out. Tear off all your ability scores.

Sunless Horizon Beta 2.3 Release

Commissioned from Scrap Princess excited screeching I've been posting about  Sunless Horizon  for about a year, and after finally gettin...