Sunday, January 29, 2023

Two More Fools Play Reports

While my blog itself has been mostly silent through 2022, I have spent an honestly unreasonable amount of time writing play reports for games I've played in or just spied on on Discord. I have, just now, realized that these play reports can, in fact, be used for free blog posts, which is currently the kind of blog post I need. 

This game used deus ex parabola's superhero rules, but exact mechanical details are not particularly relevant.

Session 1

As the long-running, action-packed, and generally much more reasonable superhero campaign One Less Fool noticed its fuel-air mixture was terribly wrong and caught fire, the GM attempted to start a side campaign with a pair of its players, who both conspired to send the game’s tone down some unplanned side alleys.

On a wet evening in Destin, Florida, Mr. Jefferies (Shift, Weird - cursed for his sins with the form of a rubbery clown and an endless hammerspace of inedible pies) and Checkmark (Think 1, Weird - a racecar driver dragged back from Hell and turned into an accountant) sit on the curb in front of a nightclub neither of them are cool enough to get into. 

Eventually, one of the patrons realizes the two of them are A) superheroes, and B) completely abject, and says he’ll toss them $100 if they go handle a job he doesn’t have time for - checking out a “ghost” sighted in a retirement community’s library. With nothing better to do and the prospect of Real Legal Currency, the PCs managed to drag themselves out of their self-pitying stupor and hike their way over.

By 10 PM they make it to the gate of the Shaded Palms Retirement Community and very suddenly come to the understanding that gated neighborhoods have gates in front of them. After a few minutes coming up with increasingly improbable Doordash-based lies, Jefferies drags his horrid clown body through the network of storm drains under the sidewalk and tosses a rope over for Checkmark. 

A little more walking gets them right to the unlocked library

and its decade-old computer lab, which sparked some conversation - Checkmark’s only real useful power is sending objects directly to Hell in exchange for a bit of money. On the one hand, they don’t want to get caught stealing from the public library - on the other, money can be exchanged for goods and services, which is more than enough to persuade them. While they pocket the hell-sent $360, they hear a footstep somewhere outside.

Since he doesn’t squeak whenever he moves, Checkmark creeps up to the second-floor meeting rooms, where he is soon confronted by An Ghost, Or Similar Creature, staring at him through a door. Filled with an excess of courage, he shoves the door open ready to give it the ol’ what-for, only to be stopped suddenly when it doesn’t try to maul him.

As Checkmark runs out of ideas and tries to offer the dog-skull-headed creature a cigarette, Jefferies hears someone running down another set of stairs and leaps up to block her path, starting a four-creature pileup as the dog-skeleton rushes to protect its master, Jefferies tries running down his list of pratfalls to prove he’s safe, and Checkmark runs down the stairs to make sure nobody kills anybody else.

Luckily, no one has much time to talk to anyone or pull their limbs off for fun, as after a few half-introductions, the creature’s controller warns that back when the PCs decided “Ah, the building is simply unlocked, we will open the door and go inside” they set off the burglar alarm. 

    However, the PCs kind of ignore this and instead drill down into a long and winding conversation about names (the woman introduces herself only as “Friend”), power classifications (Friend describes herself as “Weird ב”, a statement that doesn’t frighten her nearly as much as it should), and personal histories until a dozen police cars fill the library parking lot. Oops.
    Friend chops a hand towards the glass front of the library and it shatters as the dog-skull figure slams into it at hundreds of miles an hour, dragging Friend behind as it leaves a trail of destruction.

Jefferies and Checkmark decide that running does seem prudent, and are careful to take a path that leads them away from Friend and her runaway train of a pet.

They manage to get away as the cops stream after Friend, and later meet their patron to shrug and go “yeah, you know, exploding libraries - what’re ya gonna do”, a conversational tactic that works surprisingly well. 

Jeffries spends his week of downtime “clowning around” - no further context is provided.

Checkmark saves up money for a handgun and keeps in touch with Friend (now hiding out in a golf course sand trap) over the phone.


Session 2

While Jefferies hovers around a McDonalds waiting for Checkmark to get off his shift, superhuman problems come directly to them as a pair of men in red and blue hoodies respond to the time-honored teenage dirtbag tradition of harassing fast food workers by simply picking them up, biting them, and throwing them right out of the building.

This promptly clears out the restaurant, and as the until-recently-occupants call the police, Checkmark both remembers to blink, and to gather as much information as possible. Luckily, this set of bloodlusted superhumans readily hand out business cards listing them as “Sinistro e Destro” before running out the back door as the cops arrive.

Now that the McDonalds is definitely closed for the day, the PCs hurry through the rain to their local (non-destroyed) public library to feed the rest of the Italian business card through Google Translate, finding (among other things) their Facebook account, where they have just posted a picture of Sinistro standing atop a pile of bruised Home Depot patrons a mile away. More running brings them there, where they’re confronted by reporters for the Destin World-Herald, who succinctly explain their own institutional problems by asking Checkmark about the “dangerous potential space aliens”.

Checkmark is savvy enough to take every opportunity for publicity, even against his better judgment:

though within moments the sheer presence of Mr. Jeffries has driven the reporter into a crisis about spending her career trapped in a Bigfoot-and-Roswell rag in a rainy corner of Florida.

 Resigned to not making it onto the front page, the PCs bother the wounded for directions and chase Sinistro and Destro over to a local golf course as the rain transitions to a tremendous thunderstorm. Attempting to rouse the crowd of dried-out retired superhumans into an angry mob based on ideas like “helping other people” eventually gets one of them to admit that this is, for all intents and purposes, where supervillains wind up once the arthritis gets bad enough to stop them from holding cities hostage with death rays.

However, one of the retirees, Clarence (x-ray vision, complete with the risks of radiation exposure) is persuaded (more on the virtue of “beating someone up” than “helping others”) and as the PCs pile into his golf cart, Checkmark texts Friend, finding that not only is she hiding out at this golf course, but that she can currently see Sinistro and Destro beating an eight-foot tall mechsuit with its own arms.

The golf cart slowly trundles through the mud to the 7th hole, where sneakful trick plans like “blow them up with a firework purchased from the Hell Store” are slowly whittled down until “sneak up behind one of them and hit them in the head with a baseball bat” is the only idea left. Unfortunately, Sinistro and Destro are superheroes with abilities like “extra melee damage” and “extra HP”, as opposed to “accountant” and “clown”, so within a round Jefferies and Checkmark are both on the ground getting pummeled and trying to tie a blanket around Sinistro’s neck.

A golf caddy emerges from the rain and simply starts beating people indiscriminately with a club while Destro manages to break Checkmark’s jaw by biting it and Checkmark attempts to stick a utility blowtorch into Destro’s ear.

This at least gets Destro to run, so the PCs double up on wailing on Sinistro until the golf caddy manages to crack Mr. Jeffries down to 0 HP and forces him to drop the strangling-blanket. As Sinistro flees, Friend tries her best to stop him but her pet simply digs a 10-foot deep furrow in the golf green in the wrong direction.

With the time for violence over (at least, after Checkmark clocks the caddy upside the head with a bat, to even things out), the PCs check the injuries of both the mech’s centenarian occupant (a broken arm) and Clarence (deceased) and carry them back to the crowd.

While Checkmark is allowed to shove a golf cart into hell for a clean $1000, his broken jaw ends up hospitalizing him for the rest of the campaign.

Session 3

With Checkmark indisposed, his player replaced him with Meiosis (Weird, Fly), a man who can divide into two at will, and fly by having both of them push against each other, in clear defiance of all physical laws.  

While sitting around playing poker with the golfers, the PCs get their hands on, honestly, exactly the kind of problem they deserve to solve - the utterly ancient superman Cab Calloway has lost his cat. Luckily, Calloway’s minder had held onto another one of Destro and Sinistro’s business cards, this one complete with a ransom note for One Million American Dollars, Brought To What Used To Be The Library. 

Of course, neither Sinistro nor Destro are actually there, so the PCs wind up having to slowly follow their trail of petty theft and property damage around town until sighting them from the air all the way back at the old folks’ golf course, bent double under the weight of a refrigerator full of ice cream cakes. 

Meiosis’s player had, to describe it politely, “used out-of-character information” when choosing his equipment, so after dropping Jeffries on Sinistro he splits - one half attempts to beat Sinistro with a sledgehammer while the other drops out of the air to spray Destro in the face with paint, for Immediate and Permanent Blinding.

The dice do not like this idea, so instead of a clean, synchronized neutralization of both of them, Jeffries ends up wielding a shattered Nokia phone as a shiv and is promptly absolutely turned to paste as Destro crits him over the head with a commercial refrigerator. The fight continues with the PCs hounding Sinistro and Destro as they run to the retirees;

Destro does, indeed, attempt to pull Cab Calloway’s wheelchair out from under him, but as he reaches for it he, Sinistro, and a wide semicircle of shuffleboard court simply *pop* out of existence.

Luckily, as the PCs chased them, Sinistro and Destro ditched their stolen goods - Calloway’s cat, the fridge, and an old lady’s handbag with… an entire human skull, rendered perfectly in a single sapphire.

Mr. Jeffries spends his downtime reading about Cab Calloway - along with the rest of his century-long supervillainy career, he apparently once survived a Soviet assassination attempt with a suitcase nuke.

Meiosis rents out a self-storage garage and furnishes it for Friend to live in, assuming her pet skeleton-nightmare fits well.


Session 4

Rooting through the stolen handbag reveals plenty of identifying information, so the PCs meander over to the house of its owner, one Tanya Halls, who perhaps unsurprisingly for being the kind of person to own a life-size sapphire skull, is also the kind of person to have a six-foot-high oil painting of herself and her late husband in full pirate getup in her living room.

Said late husband ran a “completely above-board” extraterritorial gambling ship, which was “completely legal, no matter what that pesky Attorney General said”, until it sank in Hurricane Andrew. While said gambling ship has since been found, its cargo of millions of dollars in poker chips still sits at the bottom of the ocean since the local Fun For The Whole Family Diving Center took the last of Halls’ money and “””neglected””” to attempt a recovery.

And with the offer of one of the $25,000 cranberry poker chips in exchange for option B, the PCs run off to the Fun For The Whole Family Diving Center with petty vandalism on the mind. Veiled threats of legal action quickly turn into regular threats of sledgehammers applied to windows and doors, and moments after that decay into every staff member of the Center grabbing the nearest blunt object.

Meiosis applies his sledgehammer to a Center worker, suddenly realizing as the blow lands that people tend to stop being alive when you hit them in the head with hammers. As he’s soon pummeled down to 1 HP with a pipe wrench, and the police are already on the way, the PCs decide discretion is the better part of valor and flee.


Epilogue

Now trapped between a building full of angry boat renters and the wrath of a octogenarian gambling tycoon, with no money, no friends, and no plan, the PCs fleeing takes them further than they’d expected at first - certainly out of Destin, probably out of Florida, and honestly maybe out of the United States.  

While it did not come up in the logs, Two More Fools managed to have all the structural problems its parent game did - between each session were weeks of unpredictable schedule changes, injuries, and decay.

I hope Friend is still doing well in her garage.

Friday, January 20, 2023

1d8 Bayport Superheroes (for a certain value of "super", and for that matter "hero")

Despite generally being uninterested by Superhero Content And Media™, I find myself pulled aggressively towards deus ex parabola's Bayport - a model for superhero campaigns in a comically terrible mode, filled with petty crime, omnipresent corruption, and superpowers like "shove unattended items into Hell for money", "summon poor drawings of guns", and "turn into a glowing sphere", and players spending a decent amount of their time trying to figure out how to kill some unstoppable ultraman with a crowbar and a box of rat poison.

With my work ethic, ability to string words together, and inner soul completely pasted by completing Orbiters Local 519 (you may have noticed an unusually conversational tone in this post, for the same reason - I expect that in future I will return to my standard dry, unhelpful writing style), I realized it'd be Free Real Estate to dredge up some of the characters I never got around to using and turn them into Blogge Post.

I expect my next attempt to Blogge Post to occur somewhere around November, or maybe in 2025, so remember to set your watches, I suppose.


Third Eye - 1Σ, Zap, Weird

An ability to bend space, somewhat, allows Third Eye to both see through walls (though this is blocked by lead, and even through lesser materials his vision is reduced to only monochrome splotches) and, with roughly 5 minutes of focus, force a single human target to Save or experience tremendous health problems in the form of their head no longer being attached to their neck, and many parts of their head no longer attached to the others.

- Real name Page Fulco, history unknown and potentially concealed intentionally

- Quiet, jittery, impulsive

- Currently leading, or perhaps soon will lead, a cross-state manhunt after spreading a half dozen corporate executives over the walls of a single locked boardroom. 

Lucent - 1Σ, Fly, Ace

Lucent can treat transparent materials (water, plastic, air, etc.) as either glass or air at will, and can "fly" by walking up glassed-air staircases.

- Real name Liêm Quỳnh

- Purely heroic, motivated by selflessness and the love of mankind.

- Sometimes sighted in random positions over open ocean, standing on one of his platforms for an unknown reason.

Dead Zone - 1Σ, Weird, Martial I (+DEX, +CON)

Within 10 feet of Dead Zone, no sound can be produced - notably, it can be perceived - sound from outside can be heard inside the Zone, but sound from inside cannot be heard anywhere. Martial I represents extra running speed and jump height (roughly double human baseline).

- Real name Johanna Calvin, history includes work in the U.S. military before cutting out suddenly - we assume this is when her power became evident. At the end of that tour she never returned, so I suppose they must not have liked her all that much.

- Before the cut in her history, Dead Zone was well-regarded - reliable, trustworthy, and just the right amount of unscrupulous. It is unknown how many of these qualities remain.

- Currently out in the suburbs of Bayport, only leaving her home during the night. Otherwise, she seems to hold no routines - we may not be the only ones following her.

Scion - 1Σ, Martial I (+INT, +STR), Fly

Recovered a ruined alien mechsuit while digging in their back garden, and has been trapped inside ever since. Flies disorientatingly with half-functional engines burning lime-green, and attacks with the suit's hands - one seven-fingered metallic grasper, and one ferrofluid bulb morphing between long needles and wiggly-looking chainsaws.

While the suit has hundreds of buttons in reach, Scion avoids pressing most of them ever since hitting Hazmat Seal and getting a few good breaths of alien atmosphere.

- Real name Callisto Marley, prior work in astronomy (how do we know she found the suit by accident?), wife Lori Marley vanished around the time the suit was recovered.

- Cheerful, careful to avoid collateral damage, good reputation

- Rumors abound of a second entity inhabiting the suit itself - as Scion has never volunteered for research into the suit, and evades when questioned about its functions, this has not been proven.

Ouija - 1Σ, Perceive I, Ace

Able to perceive what he assumes to be the spirits of the dead, using this both for information-gathering and, with appropriate payment and preparation, send them as a torrent to possess others with the screeching, hedonistic, panicked dead for one hour per year spent.

- Real name Glory Grover. Age somewhere in his 20s, outward appearance around his 90s due to payments of lifespan. We expect roughly 8 hours of his ability remain.

- Gullible, paranoid, certain he has knowledge he does not

- Appeared recently in the news after causing the collapse of a Bayport crime family by possessing their head continuously over the space of months. We expect the remnants to be after him, and expect him to die.

The Lion of Paris - 1Σ, Martial I (+DEX, +WIS), Weird

A "reformed" museum thief with the ability to teleport small (size of a fist, roughly) objects into his hands. Notably does not function on living things, or portions of living things.

- Real name unknown, former aliases include "Doran Eugen", "Levi Hadley", and "Otto Emmanuel". Surveillance has never seen him in Paris, or anywhere in France for that matter.

- Self-interested, self-obsessed, unafraid of consequences; caught six years back after stealing the Swords of Temporal and Spiritual Justice from the Tower of London and using them to duel with a collaborator of his in broad daylight.

- Currently in prison in Germany, but we wouldn't find it particularly difficult to get him out, if it becomes necessary.

Stranger - 2Σ, Durable I, Perceive I, Ace, Zap

Stranger is able to see through the eyes of anyone he has touched, knows the name of, and trusts him (Perceive I). While looking through someone else's eyes, he functionally inhabits their mind and can appear physically somewhere inside their cone of vision - stepping around a corner in front of them, for instance (Ace). Once a day, when he would be killed by an attack, he does this automatically, landing in the view of the nearest partner (Durable I).

With effort, he is able to damage his partners directly, by reaching through their eyes to claw at them (Zap), dealing 1 damage per minute at functionally infinite range. Methods to protect from this damage vary - wearing a heavy mask to prevent Stranger from reaching your skin, dissolving the arms in water, attacking the arms yourself, or perhaps even pulling Stranger through by the arms.

- Real name Mirza Arezou, 1 wife, 2 children, 1 living parent.

- Well-read, polite, generally uncooperative with authority.

- It is unknown what threshold of trust Stranger's ability requires, and unknown how many people are wired into his system.

Hydrazine - 3Σ, Create (III), Fly, Durable II

Creates rocket engines at will, powered by already-ignited solid fuel. Lower bound for rocket size is around the dimensions of an American football - higher bound is slightly smaller than Hydrazine. If she desires, the thruster can be created already attached her through unnatural means. She is resistant to heat, impact, and changes in atmospheric pressure, but still needs to breathe air.

- Real name Ulyana Varlam, though we expect this to have changed thanks to the events of 1974.

- Uninterested in superhero work, uninterested in publicity, uninterested in money. Search for living family members?

- Several of Hydrazine's rivals still live - Polarity, Standard Bearer, and Milan have been found attempting to locate her.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

See It Descend Into - Premise & Classes

See It Descend Into is a megadungeon campaign I am, in theory, going to write and run.

Maybe.

Perhaps.

Eventually.

The players are citizens of a nation undergoing colonization by the foreign Pentarchy, and attempt to recover and record archaeological information of the ancient stepwell-palace known as the Inverted Pyramid before the Pentarchy sends their own teams to strip it of anything of value and send it back to their capital to rot in a warehouse.

The Inverted Pyramid is filled with writing in the now-lost Dead Language, and decorated with murals, sculptures, and other artwork. XP comes not from the value of treasures looted from the Pyramid, but instead from analysis, with bonuses for taking photographs, translating inscriptions, and recording the context of the artifact. 

the stepwell Chand Baori, in Rajasthan

Classes

See It Descend Into is using a GLOG variation too generic to post here, and so far 4 classes - a Fighter (quite overtuned, as an experiment in hyper-specialized classes), an Explorer (a form of Thief entirely about trap management), a Quartermaster (general-purpose support class), and the Translator I posted last year.

One mechanical note is the prevalence of a damaged keyword - items can be damaged through strenuous or nonstandard uses (beating a door down with a crowbar, etc). Once damaged, they can be used once more before they break, but can be repaired in town or by Quartermasters.

The Fighter (stolen from deus ex parabola and Vayra)

The Fighter A: Subclass, Expertise, +1 to hit and damage B: Extra Attack, +1 to hit and damage C: Subclass II, +1 to hit and damage D: Extra Attack, +1 to hit and damage Δ: A Heavy, Iron Hand Subclass Choose between The Foreign Method and The Native Method. Gain its first bonus now, and its second at template C. The Foreign Method An altered form of the Pentarchy’s martial practices, taken up by rebels in the places that would not be Provinces. 1: You can damage a weapon to reroll its damage dice. 2: Stolen power from the Pentarchy’s divine bureaucracy lets you name a single specific action (attacking with swords, walking East) Illegal during combat. Everyone understands this declaration, even if they do not speak your, or any, language. You must immediately make a free attack against anyone committing an Illegal act - these attacks ignore maximum ranges. If you commit an Illegal act, you die instantly. The Native Method Once common, now rarely mastered in a world dominated by firearms and switchblades. With a few changes of your own, however, it still holds on. 1: You may fill up to [templates] inventory slots with muscle (+1 STR), sinew (+1 DEX) or fat (1 point of damage reduction), through a day of focused effort per slot filled, emptied, or changed. 2: You can take 1d4 damage and burn away one of your filled slots to: leap 20’ horizontally, make a pair of unarmed attacks immediately after another attack, throw a grappled target ten feet, and perform other feats. Expertise Whenever you hit someone with an attack, you can attempt a combat maneuver against them for free. Δ: A Heavy, Iron Hand Kill two foes with a single strike. All damage dice on all your weapons explode on their highest result. 1d6 wayward students will soon approach you, pledging their service in exchange for your teachings.

The Explorer (stolen from deus ex parabola and Michael)

A: Skilled, Click

B: Stay Away

C: Under Tension

D: Experienced

Δ: Steady Hands


Skilled

Given a few minutes, you have a [templates]-in-6 chance to succeed at any of your Skills (any 2 of Climb Sheer Surfaces, Hear Noises, Hide in Shadows, Move Silently, and Pick Locks), in addition to normal resolution rules. 


Click

If you set off a trap, you get to act before it goes off, but before it reveals what it does. Guessing a safe option (ducking under the hammer trap) protects you, guessing the wrong option (ducking into the spike pit) does not. Shoving another party member in the path of the trap is always an option.


Stay Away

You can invert your Skills, letting you roll to Render Walls Impassible, Move Silently, See in the Dark, Hear Noises, and Sabotage Doors.


Under Tension

If you already know there is a trap before you set it off (finding the pressure plate, but not knowing what it will do), you can make a Save - on a success, it doesn’t go off, but you know exactly what it would’ve done if it had. On a failure, you can still react with Click.


Experienced

Choose another 2 skills out of the earlier list or these: Leaping Gaps, Running Away, Attacking Someone Who Can’t See You, Intuiting Thoughts, and Finding a Friend. These do not invert.


Δ: Steady Hands

Kill an enemy with a trap you built.


Once you have determined the presence of a trap, either using Under Tension or good gameplay, you can spend an Exploration Turn to completely extract it, so you can set it up elsewhere.


A stepwell in Karnataka

The Quartermaster (stolen from Skerples, Lexi, and Lexi again.)

A: Evaluate, Boarding School Education, +1 Inventory Slot

B: Prominence, Smithing, +1 Inventory Slot

C: Hidden Market, +1 Inventory Slot 

D: Craftsman, +1 Inventory Slot

Δ: Baron


Evaluate

You know the market value of any mundane item on sight. Unique items like ancient pottery require an Intelligence check to evaluate, and some magical items cannot be evaluated.


Boarding School Education

You know the language of the Pentarchy, letting you easily communicate with guards, foreign merchants, and colonial officials. You gain either +1 or +INT bonus, whichever is higher, to reaction rolls with these groups - they are delighted to see their “””civilizing influence”””.


Prominence

When you meet someone, you can choose to be the most prominent person in the group or the least obvious person in the group. This doesn’t give you a mechanical bonus to stealth.


Smithing

You can repair a simple item, including melee weapons, for free during a Rest.


Hidden Market

Items the colonial government has deemed illegal (firearms, drugs, etc.) can still be found and purchased. Roll 1d6 - on a 6, you find exactly what you want. On a 3-5, the item has an issue or condition (works poorly, the original owner wants it back, it’s twice as expensive, etc). On a 1-2, you find nothing.


Craftsman

You can repair up to three items during a Rest, including complex objects like firearms. 


Simple items repaired and upgraded by you get a bonus that lasts a day: armor gets +1 AC, weapons get +1 on attack rolls, lamps last an extra Turn, et cetera.


Δ: Baron

Invest 2,000 Notes into a piece of property to turn it into a successful business of your own.


Gain your choice of 100 Notes or a hireling (up to 3 at a time) each day. Expect insincere invitations to formal events, patronizing interviews from Pentarchy journalists, and near-constant attempts to buy your business out from under you for 1,000 Notes.

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.

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...