Sunday, November 15, 2020

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 getting it playtested, have it ready for a wider release. Since this'll be the landing point for new people to the game, I've also put together a setting recap.

Sunless Horizon Beta 2.3

Despite all the stuff I've said about Sunless Horizon, I've never talked about the system.

Sunless Horizon is classless and levelless, with character progression entirely through equipment. Its core is a die step system, where your stats determine Check Dice that rolled against static target numbers.

Combat is working off a simultaneous resolution system, and instead of HP or an abstract wound system, damage for the PCs goes directly to a large Wound Table, similar to the GLOG's Death & Dismemberment.

Most of the rules are exploration-focused; a pointcrawl base expanded with rest actions, pathfinding, and a Difficult Terrain system for adding more gameplay to climbs and crawls. 

The game is currently mechanically complete (hopefully), but is missing content such as generators. Currently, there is a 4-entry bestiary and 2 d6 Obstacle tables, mostly for use as examples. Later releases will be focused on patching holes and developing these tools.

Click on the cover to take a look, and feel free to tell me what you think in the comments.


Sunless Horizon is a SF-horror RPG set on the worldship Ein Sof; the last sanctuary of humanity at the end of time.

The worldship's AI, Keter, has created new creatures to serve it, working deep in the most inhospitable corners of Ein Sof to slow the machine's decay. Some of them have escaped, creating new societies far from Keter's eyes. 

The players are members of these societies, sent out into Ein Sof's halls to hunt for needed resources.

Peoples of the World

The people of Ein Sof come in many forms.

Kaiva are tall and thin, with large faces and knotted, bulging veins. Their skin is translucent - under it is a shimmering silver second skin, which absorbs radiation to balance out their tremendous food requirement. In times of stress their veins pulse, and they discard tremendous amounts of energy in a single fast movement, damaging themselves in the process. However, the energy stored for these actions leaves little for the body to use to repair itself.

Seeleh are heavy and strong, with their bodies arranged radially - 3 faces, 6 legs, and 6 arms, all emerging from a reinforced central spine. They can carry more than other phenotypes, and their multiple lungs let them last longer without air. However, they are more susceptible to Keter's words than the other phenotypes.

Iklen are strange and graceful. Their ridged skin changes color constantly - some of these patterns force eyes to slide off them, as if they didn't exist. Those ridges are covered in small scales, that shed from the Iklen and drift through the air. If inhaled, they change the emotions of the sufferer. Iklen move slowly and inefficiently, as if dancing. When surprised, this dance ends, and they must consider their next moves.

Ayir are small and fragile, with gargantuan eyes. Their light weight and small size helps them navigate difficult terrain, but make them more easily injured. Even when they sleep, some of their brain stays active, letting them move and act.


Keter's only goal is to keep humanity alive and safe in their Empyreans while He works towards the completion of the Ishtar Program - opening a gate to a stable new universe, where humanity will rise once more.

However, the Program may take tens of thousands of years of technological advancement and failed attempts, and Keter's machines would fail someday. But, while He can run out of metal, living servants could sustain themselves indefinitely.

But despite Keter's best efforts, Ein Sof is still collapsing. Many of the biotech bays used to create these new servants now lie abandoned and unreachable, following their old orders. These lost thousands formed their own societies, and now live in the ship like parasites. 

Those were not His only followers, however. The machine Disciples of this silicon god still stalk through the halls, staving off the ship's failure and hunting those who have escaped His grasp.

Societies of Ein Sof


The Navigator Houses

The Houses are an industrial state, led by hereditary nobility. They have only just arrived to this part of the worldship, after being driven from their homes by the Disciples. 

In their territory, peace is kept through force. Holes are burned through walls, lights are strung up across new roads, and dissenters are strung up with them.

They trade with the Oasis Kingdoms, but plan to soon solidify their influence. If things go their way, tanks will roll through the Kingdoms' streets within months. 

Of course, there's no guarantee things will go the Houses' way. The Lord Navigators, each head of a House, are only held apart by a Regent. Border skirmishes are becoming more common. 

The Houses will go to war. The only question is who it will be with.

The Oasis Kingdoms

The Kingdoms were here first. They have control of most of this region, with each kingdom built on top of an important resource, whether that's power, water, farmland, or rare resources. Their authority was unquestioned - there has not been war for generations.

But now the Houses are on their doorstep, and the Kingdoms are forced to trade food and art for guns and time. 

Minor Factions

Ghoul Nests

Ghouls are born from human stock, meant for the Empyreans. Some stage of the cloning process was, when viewed through Keter's unknowable perceptions, deemed a failure, and they were released into Ein Sof to survive on their own.

Some nests turned to raiding towns and attacking traders. Now, both the Houses and the Kingdoms see them as a threat; that they are to be shot, and their nests are to be burned.

People of the Sea

Sea People shelter in the remaining towers of the Coolant Seas, farming the meager food that can be grown in its blighted water. This resource leaves them targeted by other groups, including the Navigator Houses. 

To protect themselves, the People of the Sea have turned their home chambers into trap-webbed nightmares. Despite this, outsiders are still more than happy to throw themselves into the grinder in the hopes of finding food.


Skinborne groups avoid Ein Sof's internals for its cold, sterile skin. They travel nomadically, floating through space in improvised voidcraft. The rare times they enter the ship are for violent raids, gathering food and components before fleeing. 

All these resources are being gathered for one purpose - completing the Ark, an escape ship made from a single engine of Ein Sof. They say the Garden World is passing by soon, and the Ark can bring them there. 

Sustainer Cells 

To the Sustainer Cells, everything is temporary. They say that someday, no matter how far in the future that is, the world will be safe. To keep themselves alive over this vast gulf of time, they commandeered many of Ein Sof's cryobays.

Now, most of their population rests, while those still awake struggle to keep them alive. This lack of manpower has forced them to focus their society on efficiency, creating a 4-caste system. Personality has been eroded, with Sustainer society expecting newly-awoken members of these castes to act identically to those they've replaced.
To keep themselves safe, the Tribes stay on the move. Their cities were uprooted and retrofitted into sealed walkers, each one hiding a secret - a functioning seed AI the Tribes hope to grow into a weapon to topple Keter from His throne.

However, the seed must be kept safe. Infohazards and hacking attempts can (and have) possessed them, and sent cities marching off cliffs.


Many tiny groups, unassociated with any faction, hide within Ein Sof. Runaway nobles from unknown nations, dragging their servants on a doomed quest for independence, strange cults following dream-quests from decoded transmissions, quiet villages, and a thousand thousand other mysteries, all (eventually) randomly generated.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Mystery Cults of the Hive Cities (GLOGtober Day 8)

It's GLOGvember now, get off my case. Part one is here. Also technically counts for GLOG WEEK, no matter what Oblidisideryptch says.

Day 8 - Mystery

Travelers in the Hive Cities would be remiss to think the dry-eyed people of that land have no religions. They have many, all hidden from the view of outsiders.

These Mystery Cults share some traits - baroque social orders, complex rituals, and an effect. Unlike the other religions of the world, the Mystery Cults work, contacting something out there that helps them.

1d4 Mystery Cults of the Hive Cities

The Mystery Cults use the format of A Distant Chime's Shrines and Saints.

Uncle Rainmaker

Patron of the desperate and the dying. Saves those who deserve it. Those uninitiated call to him frantically, to help themselves. Those of his Cult save their prayers for others.

Shrine: A pair of scales, one side filled with water.

Cult: Largely composed of judges and other agents of the state, although they will accept anyone. Aspirants are locked in a room in pairs, then abandoned. If they cooperate to escape, they are accepted. If they attempt to save themselves, they are abandoned.



R: 100' T: 25' radius D: [sum] minutes

Clouds form in the sky, flooding an area with enough water to survive for [dice] days if collected. If 2 or more dice are used, you may also strike the area with [dice] bolts of lightning, each doing 1d8 damage.


1. Save the dying, no matter their allegiance. 

2. Eat and drink only when necessary.

3. Be just in all your decisions.

Cousin Birdcatcher

Hopes only to be free.

Shrine: A string knotted with feathers, tied to the highest point accessible.

Cult: Cousin Birdcatcher's worship is favored by those who want change. While many join as a symbol, assassins and rebels often leave prayers to Cousin Birdwatcher for more direct reasons. Initiation is simple - climb to the nearest shrine, and take it. The rest of the cult will try to stop you.



R: 0 T: self D: until landing

Shoots you [sum]*2 feet into the air. You fall at 1 foot per minute until you land. You can still act while falling.


1. Support the shrine with one feather each day.

2. Lead everyone deserving into the cult.

3. Always have an open route between you and the sky.

Father Farseer

Killed the first dragon, freeing the Hive Cities.

Shrine: There are no shrines, only totems - tiny sculptures of a dragon's skull, which only work if broken.

Cult: Hunters and their families make up most of the cult. There is no initiation - the cult will come to you if they feel you deserve entrance. This tends to lead to nepotism and other unfair influences.


True Strike

R: Touch T: one projectile D: instant

Bless an arrow or stone with Father's sight. The next attack with the projectile gains [dice] damage and always hits. The attack can accomplish impossible feats, like curving around corners.


1. Never hurt that which could not hurt you.

2. Never hurt something, then leave it alive.

3. Be the last to eat from what you kill. 

Mother Firetaker

Took the sun from Brother Bricklayer after he dropped it, burning the world.

Shrine: A piece of glass, pulled from the desert after the storms end.

Cult: Hide in plain sight. 3 people walk past, each wearing discs of hammered metal on your forehead. If you ask what they are, they respond "Oh, you're so clueless!", then walk further. 



R: 0 T: Self D: [dice] hours

Project an orb of light, as bright as a torch, from your hand.


1. Shun fire and its glow.

2. At dawn, bow to the sun in public.

3. Expose secrets, except those that would cause harm.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

OSR Interviews 3 - Xenophon of Athens

 This is the continuation of a series, where I interview members of the OSR community. 

A: So, introduce yourself - name, blog, social security number, etc.

X: Well, I'm Xenophon of Athens (not the real historical one, of course... or am I?) of, and my social security number is 000-00-0000.

A: Huh, I thought that was mine. Must've been mistaken. 

What have you been playing and running recently? Anything you've enjoyed?

X: I've been running a GLOG campaign in my own (unfinished) GLOG hack, Carolingia. I'm running Patrick Stuart's Deep Carbon Observatory, which is a fantastic module, and it's been great fun. I'm also in a GLOG campaign of deus ex parabola's G20 hack/Unfinished World setting, which has been going for a while now. Finally, I have been playing in a "bucket list" group where we play one- to three-shots of various games we want to play but haven't yet. Vayra DMed Sailors on the Starless Sea in DCC, and next week is Esoteric Enterprises run by Erika.

A: Deep Carbon Observatory was the first RPG book I bought in print, but I've never run it - it's good to see it's gone well.

I'm excited to see Carolingia when it's finished - what's going to make it different from other GLOG hacks?

X: Well, the basics are that it's a roll vs DC system rather than roll-under, and it is very thematically/aesthetically tied to the Early Medieval period in Western Europe (specifically ~800-840 CE). It's also got some slight differences in skills, and weapons deal class-based damage with weapon-defined to-hit bonuses. I'm planning to write some fairly in-depth domain play and mass battle rules, although those might be a while in the making, and religion rules similar to the ones Arnold K and Lexi have made recently.

It's also got its fair share of classes, some of which I'm currently very happy with and some of which still need some polishing.

A: I have a feeling you'll think some of them need polishing until you're dead.

I don't think we have any GLOG hacks with domain rules - that'll be good to see. Other than Carolingia, do you have any large projects?

X: I've got three other projects that I want to make, although none of them have anything substantial put to paper as of yet. A hard sci-fi RPG about being a mercenary with a spaceship in this solar system about 2-300 years in the future, an Earthsea-inspired RPG about being wizards with some sort of freeform magic system (somewhat like Mage: The Ascension but hopefully not bad), and an OSR adventure about journeying through the wilderness to a dragon's lair beneath a mountain.

A: Back to the classics, I guess.

And speaking of back, how'd you get into RPGs?

X: I've only been into RPGs for, what is it, three years now? Something like that. A friend invited me to play D&D 5e, I happily joined with a character that is in retrospect very cringeworthy - an attempt at making Gandalf a 5e character, using the Unearthed Arcana Mystic class (which was a terrible choice for a first ever character) and literally named Olorin. 

I played 5e for a couple of years, then got linked to Goblin Punch somehow, I think from a Reddit post about the False Hydra. From there I got into some other OSR blogs, and then eventually clicked on the link to the OSR Discord on Chris McDowall's blog about 7 or 8 months ago, and here we are.

A: ... that's exactly what happened to me (minus the Gandalf)

Which other OSR blogs would you recommend?

X: That's a hard question. There are far too many good ones. Goblin Punch and Coins and Scrolls are of course the biggest and most popular GLOG blogs, and are always excellent. Every GLOG blog run by someone on the OSR server is worth recommending, but I'll give a particular shout-out to As They Must, Mad Queen's Court, Caput Caprae, and of course Archon's Court, among many others. As far as non-GLOG blogs go, there are once again so many worth reading, but BASTIONLAND, Cavegirl's Games, and Throne of Salt are ones I read often.

A: What books (RPG or otherwise) have you enjoyed recently?

X: I haven't had too much time to read recently, but as far as RPGs go I've just read a fair bit of Cavegirl's Esoteric Enterprises in preparation for an upcoming game I'm playing in. It's a really fantastic game, and even though I'm not generally a fan of urban fantasy it really captures it perfectly and compellingly. It's also got a ton of excellent random tables that could work in any game. There's Deep Carbon Observatory, of course, since I started running that, and as I said before, it's a really good adventure. 

I started reading Robert McFarlane's Underland, which is a non-fiction book about, well, everything under the ground, and specifically the human relation to the underground. I only got a couple of chapters in before school and such made me put it down, but what I did read was excellent. It definitely should be suggested reading for a Veins of the Earth campaign. 

And since rereading things takes less brainpower, a severely limited resource for me currently, than reading them for the first time, I've reread Ursula Le Guin's truly classic novel The Dispossessed and started rereading Lord of the Rings for the 27th time or so.

A: Alright! Thanks for coming, and I hope you have a good night.

X: Thank you as well! I enjoyed this a lot.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Hermit of the Blood-Knots (GLOG)

Fractal Meadows of Reality is a new blog, started last month. It's already excellent. Their second post, on the demiplane of the Glass Fields, has a few references to Blood-Knots - strange assemblages of blood and glass, that whisper secrets - and the hermits who live around them.

Immediately, those words leapt off the screen and beat me over the head, crying "make a GLOG class".

Hermit of the Blood-Knots

The blood whispers to you. It speaks of sacrifice and preservation. Remember its secrets.

Perk: You can survive indefinitely by eating glass.

Drawback: Your teeth have changed shape (because you keep eating glass). Your speech is slow and incredibly distinctive. Anyone who hears it will recognize you.

  1. Lose 1 HP worth of blood to give someone else 1 HP.
  2. You can step through your shadow. Normally, this lets you move an extra 5 feet. Being tricky with bright light and long drops will let you extend this.
  3. After you drink something, it suffuses your blood. You may take 1d4 damage to create another dose of the substance.
Spell List

1. Sent to Seek

R: 100' T: N/A D: [dice] Rounds

You can peel off one of your shadows and send it hunting for a specific object. It uses your Wisdom score + [dice] for search rolls, if those are required.

2. Draining Needle

R: 30' T: [dice] creatures D: [dice] rounds

You conjure the life-draining glass flora of the Fields, throwing them like knives. Targets take [most] damage each round of the duration. You regain [dice] health each round.

3. Listen to the Blood

R: N/A T: Self D: [dice] rounds

Your blood whispers to you. It can answer [dice] questions from this list, or others.

  • Where is the person you like most?
  • Who hates you the most?
  • What is the most threatening thing in this area?
  • How does this person feel?
The blood does not know facts - it cannot tell you what 2 + 2 is, for instance. It knows feelings - fear, hatred, love.

4. One is Preserved

R: Touch T: one creature D: Instant

A creature gains [sum] HP. Any dice used in this spell are automatically exhausted.

5. Another is Sacrificed

R: Touch T: Self/1 wizard D: Instant

Recharge [dice] MD. You may recharge another wizard's MD if you wish. In exchange, you or a willing participant lose [dice] max HP, permanently.

6. Raise the Pillars

R: 100' T: N/A D: Instant

[dice] pillars of glass, [sum] feet high, rise up from the ground. They move slowly, carrying people up rather than impaling them.

7. Heat Glass

R: Sight T: [dice] pounds of glass D: Instant

Glass shies away in fear of your gaze, and melts. On contact with a person, molten glass does [dice]d8 fire damage.

8. Silent Message

R: Sight T: [dice] creatures D: Instant

Send a message to [dice] creatures you can see. If you spend 2 or more MD, they can respond.

9. Silence

R: 40' T: 20' radius D: [dice] minutes

No sound can be emitted in the radius. This prevents most spellcasting.

10. Stallion's Path

R: 30' T: 30' line D: instant

A line in front of you is parted, shoving everything off to the sides.

1 [dice]: shoves people

2 [dice]: shifts trees

3 [dice]: splits buildings

4 [dice]: parts small lakes

11. Into/Out of the Fields

R: 500' radius T: N/A D: [sum] minutes

You and everyone else in a 500' radius are thrown into or out of the Glass Fields. NPCs who do not expect this transition must immediately make a Morale check.

12. Blood to Glass

R: Touch T: one creature D: Instant

The target's blood turns to glass. They must make a CON save - if they pass, they take [sum]*2 damage. If they fail, they take [sum]*[dice] damage and one part of their body is turned to glass permanently.


1. MD only return to your pool on a 1-2 for 24 hours

2. Take 1d6 damage

3. Random mutation for 1d6 rounds, then make a save. Permanent if you fail.

4. Lose 1 MD for 24 hours.

5. You must sacrifice 1 HP per MD you regain for 1d4 days.

6. Your blood solidifies and slows down. On a successful CON save to avoid an effect, you must succeed on another CON save on your next turn or be affected.


  1. Your blood shifts, and begins to whisper. It wants whatever you want, but more. 
  2. One of your limbs turns to glass. It is completely under the control of your blood.
  3. The rest of you turns to glass, and you become an NPC.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

GLoGtober - Week 1

For GLOGtober, I've decided to make a setting, one week at a time. I don't know if this is a good idea, but it's certainly... an idea. 

Note that this is done in sections - I haven't read any of the prompts past week 1, so the setting may shift as I take later prompts into account. Buyer beware, Saturn reigns, etcetera.

Day 1 - Guns

Guns are a modern invention, their use spreading from the Sunset Isles and across the lands of the Empire. Currently, there are only two: heavy, long cannonets, and light single-shot derringers.

These are both wheel-locks, limiting their use by the Empire's military due to their expense. However, this makes them more useful for the few that own them, as armor hasn't advanced enough to protect its wearer.

Both have been made illegal throughout the Empire after a spike in assassination attempts, including one on the Empress herself.


4d6 damage, one slot, all enemies and hirelings must make Morale saves. 20' range, advantage to hit. Illegal.


4d6 damage, 3 slots, all enemies and hirelings must make Morale saves. 300' range, disadvantage to-hit within 30', advantage past that. Illegal. 

Day 2 - Blood

Blood is the seat of the soul. Without it, the body is only a husk. When someone dies, their blood pulls itself out of their body and ascends to Heaven, as the body hopefully reduces itself to dust. 

Of course, sometimes the body does not. Then, it reverts, driven only by the base impulses written on humanity's bones. These Geists stalk the wilderness like animals, hunting for humans. (Just stat them as zombies, minus any infection chances.)

Some magicians of the Lamb's Continent have managed to die, releasing their blood, then control it, pulling it from its path to Heaven and using it as a tool before returning it and living again.


Starting equipment: a pendant token of your order, a katar (light), ritual equipment (six candles, a vial of sparrow's blood), a short magnetic bar (used to test the iron content of blood, which is thought to correlate to moral purity)

A: Motility

B: Condensation

C: Blood & Bone

D: Twist the Path

Motility: Through a short ritualized "death", you convince your blood to emerge from your body in an angelic form, bringing your consciousness with it. The blood can move at twice human speed, and fly. While your blood is gone, your body cannot move, and you take 1 damage each minute. The blood is too diffuse to move anything more than a pound, and too condensed to move through walls.

Condensation: You can shift the blood, making more or less condensed. When condensed, it is solid enough to hold as much a person or even attack, but cannot fly. If hit, it will dissolve. When diffused, it can slowly move its droplets through walls, but cannot hold anything. You must choose how dense your blood is when you release it.

Blood & Bone: You have reached inwards, reinforcing the instructions carved on your bones. When you release your blood, you can also raise your body as a Geist.

Twist the Path: When you die, your control continues, counting down from full health. When time runs out, you're dead. You can't return your blood during this time - it won't let you.

Day 3 - Goblins

Goblins do not exist. Despite this, it's normal to see about one a week. They are emanations from the noosphere, said to be responsible for bad luck. They knock over shelves, hide things, trip people, and all the other things that would be caused be random chance.

Hobgoblins and Bugbears are manifestations of even worse luck - a Hobgoblin will break your sword over its knee, then run into the forest. A Bugbear will burn down your house.  

Day 4 - Swirling Rainbow Vortices

Above the world is a gateway. It does not circle the world like the Sun and Moon. It sits, perfectly still. When the sun crosses it around noon, this is the Short Night, where work ends and people return to bed. When the moon crosses it around midnight, this is the Witch Hour, where monsters meet under unnatural darkness.

This is the gate to Heaven, where blood crosses into that prismatic city. The observatories of the Guild of Astronautics have peered through it, and now plan to build a great machine with which they can shuttle themselves (and their patrons) into Heaven without being judged.

Day 5 - Map

Here's an early map of the setting. I have no idea what any of this stuff is, but this'll remind me to figure that out later.

Day 6 - Food

1d4 Foods of the Empire
  1. A heavy meat stew served over dumplings - traditional during the winter holidays.
  2. Smoked fish, preserved and buried for emergencies.
  3. Pickled vegetables.
  4. Sweet wine, imported from the Lamb's Continent.

1d4 Foods of the Hive-States
  1. Small, bitter berries hardy enough to survive the droughts. Slight stimulants.
  2. A thin syrup made of those berries. Strong stimulant, usually mixed with water or wine to weaken the taste.
  3. Hard seeds, ground into a paste. Usually served on bread.
  4. Clams, pulled from the pools they hide in.

1d4 Foods of the Lamb's Continent
  1. Small soft cookies, shaped into spheres and stamped with (usually romantic) messages.
  2. A light salad of bitter greens.
  3. Raw fish, rubbed with hot herbs.
  4. Thinly sliced meat, seared quickly.

7. Adventure

1d6 Reasons to Adventure

  1. Your home in the Hive-Cities is suffering a drought. You want to find some way to alleviate it.
  2. The Imperial Guild of Astronautics has sent you to map the stars from all the corners of the world. You faintly suspect this is because they wanted to get rid of you.
  3. A border skirmish in the Lamb's Continent ended recently. Now you (and hundreds of other soldiers) have no work.
  4. You and the rest of your cell were caught on your way from the Bitter East, your assignment burned out of your heads. The Empire has given you a deal - work for us, or die.
  5. When your mother died, her blood streamed to the south. No one could tell you what happened to it.
  6. You want money. A lot of money.

Friday, October 2, 2020

On Depthcrawls + The Hundred Hands Depthcrawl

Part 1: The Depthcrawl

Depthcrawls are a new way to track space in RPGs, pioneered by Cavegirl's Gardens of Ynn. They are presented as a table, rolled on with an increasing bonus (the Depth), until a goal is reached.

Each of these rolls gives you a location. Each time the players pass through one of these locations, their Depth increases by one. This leads to them to the higher end of the table, and stranger environments.

For example, your players have just entered a depthcrawl, so you roll, and get a 13, which the table says is an abandoned tower. They are currently at Depth 0, because they just arrived. When they leave the tower and keep going, they would reach Depth 1, and you would roll on the table with a +1 bonus.

As well as locations, depthcrawls will usually have extra tables - Gardens of Ynn has an encounter table (rolled after the PCs spend time in a location) and a detail table. These tables are unaffected by Depth.

Players can also move backwards (returning to a location and decreasing Depth) or sideways (rolling a new location and not changing Depth).

Depthcrawls are very situational - generally, they're best used in environments that are either fluid (alternate planes like the Gardens of Ynn) or large enough to have wandering around seem sensible (an abandoned city).

Recently, depthcrawls have become more common, with blogs like I Don't Remember That Move creating new ones. After a discussion on Discord, Morgan (of no blog, sadly) and I created a framework to use for depthcrawl generation.

Part 2: The Template  

an epiphany

The template is made of three steps: the Aesthetic, the Threat, and the Goal.

The Aesthetic is the location of the crawl itself - the Gardens of Ynn are Alice in Wonderland-like, the Stygian Library is an endless repository of books, and Seraphim's Gate is a distorted assembly of cathedrals.

The Threat is something specific to this location - not just monsters in general, but something particular. In the Garden, the Threat is environmental, in the form of the Idea of Thorns. It could also be a particularly dominating group, like the Stygian Library's orders of librarians.

Finally, the Goal is the thing at the center, all the way at the highest depth. The Library's all-knowing computer, or Araquiel, the angel at the center of Seraphim's Gate. This should be something other than "a load of money" - it should be unattainable anywhere outside of the depthcrawl.

Template Example

We're going to use this as our example setting.

Our Aesthetic is winding tunnels of stone hands, interspersed with clusters of different stone organs - a room of eyes, one of stomachs, and so on.

Our Threat is the embodied sins. While you fight them as monsters, they are also influences, slowly affecting your mind as you spend time in the maze.

Obviously, our Goal is the ascended's brain, which shows you how to follow that long-forgotten person into the Final Heaven.

Part 3: Filling the Frame

Now that we have an outline, we can start to fill it in.

First, you want to determine how long you want the depthcrawl to be - this will decide how large of an environment table you need.

For short depthcrawls, make an 8-entry Environment table, and roll a d4. This gives you a minimum of 5 locations, and a maximum of 8.

Medium-size depthcrawls can use a 15-entry Environment table, rolling a d6. This gives you a minimum of 10 locations, and a maximum of 15.

Large depthcrawls should be of comparable size to the Gardens of Ynn - a 35-entry table with a d20 roll. This gives you a minimum of 15 locations, and a maximum of 35.

The last result of any of these is X+ - so for a short depthcrawl, the last result on the table is 8+, not just 8.

Now, you fill the table, with more mundane entries on the lower end, and stranger ones at the higher end. The Hundred Hands is going to be small depthcrawl (because I'm lazy and it's just an example), so this is my table.
  1. A cavernous, empty room made of hands all grasping each other.
  2. A bone of the ascended, full of holes. The wind slowly plays it like a flute, frightening spirits. Every turn you spend here decreases your Sinfulness by one.
  3. The ascended's lungs, slowly expanding and filling with lightly hallucinogenic incenses.
  4. One of the ascended's eyes, focusing any light in the room into a web of burning beams.
  5. The stomach, which is half-filled with acid. Stone sculptures of food float over the acid, unharmed.
  6. Petrification is slow. This room of hands still lives. They grasp blindly at anything touching them.
  7. The heart, the size of a house. It is crossed with rivers of pure, cold water, and rains constantly. These rivers cannot be forded without equipment. The rain makes the stone slippery - when under stress, characters must make a DEX check or slip.
  8. The brain, sitting on a stone pedestal. If you have a Sinfulness of more than 5, it prevents you from touching it. 
Aside: Sinfulness
Sinfulness is being used to track the PC's ability to ascend. At 2 Sinfulness, they must make a Wisdom save each hour or act according to their dominant sin (whichever one has dealt the most Sinfulness to them). On a failed save, they will still act, but they will act in accordance to their sin (someone dominantly Slothful will still set up a bridge over a chasm, they'll just be really lazy about it). At 4 Sinfulness, the PC must make a Wisdom save each hour or completely follow the dominant sin (someone dominantly Slothful will lie around and complain that they have to do any work). Past 5 Sinfulness, you are unable to ascend.

After you finish your main table, you should create an encounter table. This one is unaffected by Depth, but should be about the size of your environment table - you can expect to roll on both of them the same amount of times.

In this case, (because I'm lazy) each of the 8 monsters are a different Sin. Some are embodied, taking forms of hard stone. They can be treated as Golems, with an extra attack that provokes Wisdom saves or increases Sinfulness. Others are disembodied, floating invisibly through the air to whisper in your ears. They can be treated as Ghosts, except instead of level drain they inflict Sinfulness.

  1. Sloth (embodied) - an enormously fat, cheerful statue. Obstinately blocks your path, has a job it wants you to do for it - 1. move this heavy rock 2. find my lost ring 3.  4. nothing, it's just not moving.
  2. Pride (embodied) - a glorious marble sculpture. Automatically hostile unless praised.
  3. Wrath (embodied) - acts like a professional wrestler. Wants a challenge - it doesn't have to be you.
  4. Envy (disembodied) - wants the prettiest/most magic/otherwise superlative item you have. Can be tricked.
  5. Greed (disembodied) - will just start stealing your stuff. Runs if attacked.
  6. Gluttony (disembodied) - clamps on to the highest CON character and starts to drain them (1 CON per round).
  7. Lust (disembodied) - wants to go on a date. Candles, nice food, the whole thing.

Part 4: Depthcrawl Variations

One of the biggest problems with depthcrawls is a lack of player choice - they just go, continuing forwards until they hit the point where the game is done.

Morgan has made many complex variations on the depthcrawl in order to solve this (along with other problems, like the amount of time it takes to generate areas with detail tables). They're all great, and you should definitely take a look at them. 

Along with those, I have a simple variant of my own - a branching pointcrawl. To add more choice in the players' exploration, roll 1d4 locations each time, showing the players each one. When they move to one, then roll details and encounters for that particular location.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Libra (GLOG Hack)

Libra is an urban fantasy/supernatural conspiracy version of the GLOG. Instead of dice, it uses Zener cards - tools used by 20th century researchers into psychic ability.

It has 7 classes (6 varieties of psychic and 1 standard person), an original magic system, and 18 adventure seeds. It's been playtested in a short campaign that reached level 2. Click on the cover to grab the PDF.

Edit: ArkosDawn has recommended a great way to make this game still work online - roll 1d6 ignoring 6 (or 1d5 on a die roller) instead of drawing, and have the player guess for checks as normal.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

King of Dust Zine!

 My cyberpunk management game, King of Dust, has finally been released publicly - you can buy it on here for $4. Thanks for your patience - it's taken a lot longer to release this than I had hoped it would.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

OSR Interviews 2 - Vayra

A: So, introduce yourself - name, blog, favorite color, etc.

V: HI MY NAME IS VAYRA you can find my Works (gaze upon them, and despair) at

I live in the PNW (BC, Canada, to be exact) and my favorite color is being needlessly contrarian.

A: Ah. I'm partial to yellow, myself.

What have you been playing/running recently? Anything you've enjoyed?

V: I'm currently engaged in a (supposedly) weekly Monster of the Week game IRL, which I hate. Beyond that, I'm participating in many GLOGs online: OSR Discord user deus ex parabola's Face campaign (probably the best game I've played), Phlox's Vain the Sword play-by-post, and Xenophon of Athens' run of Deep Carbon Observatory using his own Carolingian GLOGhack rules. I also recently wrapped up a minicampaign of a novel scifi-horror game called Sunless Horizon run by someone whose name escapes me, and am hopefully going to be in an OSE run of Barrowmaze, if we can work out scheduling.

On the GMing side, I recently had to mercy-kill a 3.5e play-by-post (which went the way of most of its ilk, withered due to lack of attention) and am gearing up to run a DCC one-to-three-shot for a "RPG Bucket List" event a discord server I'm on is holding - basically a lot of people signed up to run or play one-shots and try systems they've always wanted to.

A: Hm, I wonder who could've run Sunless Horizon.

Have you run DCC before? What do you think about it?

V: Right? Who could it be?

I have not! I dug into it a bit to make pregen level 0 characters (four each) for my prospective players - it seems awfully complicated, if I'm honest. I'd thought that anything with such a focus on funnel play would have very rapid character generation, but it's a bit overwhelming and would probably remain that way until/unless I fully familiarized myself with the process. I am apprehensive about running combat with something close to 20 participants (though DCC being initiative-per-player in funnel play is a nice gesture towards usability). Besides that though, it seems like a perfectly serviceable D&D.

A: It was the first RPG I ever ran - I thought it went quite well.

And speaking of first games, you were introduced to RPGs through D&D 3.5e, if I remember correctly. How did you move from there into the OSR?

V: My first introduction was actually through Red Box Basic, in elementary school - but we only played a couple sessions (through the introductory dungeon in the box) and I don't remember anything about it except that someone rolled a 1 for their Magic-User's HP and that we got TPK'd by that fucking Carrion Crawler. I do commend that version for being able to teach myself (age about 7), an older student (somewhere in their young teens, the school was K-12) and a teacher I'd roped into it how to play, all of us with no prior experience.

But yeah, I really got into it in highschool with 3.0/3.5e. Long before I'd heard of the OSR, my favorite way to play was E6 - capped at 6th level, before the towering superstructure of 3.5 really starts collapsing in on itself under its own weight. I was also always big on homebrewing and hacking: I ended up making a classless E6 hack using bits from 3.5, d20 modern, and an entirely homebrew firearms system (which I keep meaning to clean up and post, eventually) to run a hugely successful post-apocalyptic campaign - still before getting into the OSR, but I'm sure you can see the parallels!

At some point a few years ago - maybe 2013-2014-ish? - I happened upon the blog of [DATA EXPUNGED], which was okay, and from there somehow found my way to Goblinpunch, the home of our gobfather Arnold K. (PBUH) and a pile of other blogs like Middenmurk (now defunct, here's a good post) and Straits of Anian (likewise). This was my introduction to the OSR, but I never got onto Google+ so I remained exposed to them purely through reading the blogs and immersing myself in the wonderfully Weird settings. I really got involved with the community only recently - mid-March this year (2020) - when I joined Chris Dowell's OSR Discord and started a blog to work on my own Weird Fantasy setting.

A: Let's talk about that setting - the Mountain. Where did that come from?

V: So, after playing 3.5e through highschool (and for a while after), I was pretty thoroughly tired of Generic Fantasy settings. Regardless, around 2014 I started gearing up to run an online E6 game for some pals from leftbook, and for my broken brain that meant creating a fully detailed more-or-less-generic-fantasy setting to run it in. It was roughly patterned after the world from the Belgariad/Malloreon novels (exemplary works of Generic Fantasy) - basically a pastiche of interesting historical empires all smashed into the same time period. My sole concession to Weird was: "'Human' is a generic term for vaguely humanoid species. Common 'races' are orcs, goblinoids, kobolds, lizardfolk, minotaurs, dogmen, etc."
The game never happened, but I still wrote out a whole-ass 31 page setting document for it, in the style of a 3.5e gazette. It is deeply exhausting to read and I will never link to it directly, but it lives on as the basis for the (off-screen, out-of-scope) "Civilized Lands" in the Mountain setting.

More recently, around 2018, I remembered I had all these OSR blogs bookmarked and I started reading them at work (I believe the best way to recover excess value stolen from us by our bosses is to work as little as possible, so I spend a lot of time reading things at work). This drove me to re-envision the setting: I stole the basic concepts, some elements from the history, and one thing I remembered from a short-lived highschool campaign run by my girlfriend at the time - the entire thing would be set on a single, gigantic Mountain. 

I also committed to making it much more thoroughly Weird, starting with the four elements. I had been listening to a series of witch house mixes by a duo named ∆AIMON a lot at the time, one of which was titled WATER BLOOD ASHES BONES, which I thought was an excellent set. Obviously keeping 'water' as an element wouldn't do, so I swapped it out with 'fish' and, well, here we are.
In the future, I'm hoping to slowly produce the Mountain's levels as self-contained booklets, then maybe self-publish them as a megadungeon along with a setting guide. Somewhere along the way I'll also have to actually run it, of course.

A: I hope you manage to run it sometime - megadungeons are really interesting, and it looks like this one will be more interesting than most.

Well, we've talked about playing and writing, so now we only have one of the three pillars left - reading. What have you read recently (an OSR book, an RPG book, just a book) that you'd recommend?

V: Hmm, these won't all be recent, but let's see...

David Graeber, who is probably my favorite nonfiction author, died recently. I consider his book 'Debt: The First 5,000 Years' to be essential reading for any aspiring worldbuilder, and I read it within the last year or so, so I'm gonna recommend that one first. His other books are also excellent, and I would recommend 'Bullshit Jobs' and 'The Utopia of Rules' to everyone as well despite them being less directly connected to RPGs.

A lot of RPG writing and worldbuilding focuses around war. They aren't fantasy or historical, but I would highly recommend people read 'Hammer's Slammers' by David Drake (mil-SF) and read or watch 'Generation Kill' - either the book by Evan Wright or the 7-episode HBO miniseries based on it - (nonfiction) to get a feel for that sort of setting. Both works paint an excellent - and reportedly, accurate - picture of war and the people who fight in it without falling into jingoism common to works about the topic. 

Old blogs! Dig up some old blogs! I mentioned Goblinpunch, Middenmurk and Straits of Anian earlier, but check out Udan-Adan and Richard's Dystopian Pokeverse too. Start from the beginning. I bet there's something you missed.

A: I have read Goblin Punch and Udan-Adan front to back more times than I want to admit.

We're getting close to our time limit - is there anything else you'd like to talk about?

V: Gimme a topic, anything.

A: Why did you choose the GLOG as your OSR system of choice?

V: Ah! That's easy: So as I mentioned, I really got into TTRPGs with D&D 3.5e and mostly played E6 - and as I maybe haven't mentioned yet here, I still really enjoy it. GLOG reproduces the elements of it that I like (low level cap, relatively powerful characters, lots of options) while dispensing with the elements I don't like (too many moving parts). I was briefly in a BFRPG game or two and even that kind of rubs me the wrong way now, as does anything else with uncapped (or high-capped) levelling! It's all about that juxtaposition of power and vulnerability, for me - something that GLOG and E6 do very well, and I find most other things don't.

The mood, the culture, also, is essential. I wrote a whole post more or less about that, in fact.

A: That post looks great! Thank you for your time!

Monday, September 7, 2020

OSR Interviews 1 - Erika

For a couple weeks, I'm going to be posting interviews with members of the OSR community - first is Erika, of Ice Queen's Throne. This is my first time interviewing anyone, so it has some issues; the next ones should be better. If you want to get on the list, I have contact information on my blog's sidebar.

Archon: First, let's talk about something light - have you been able to play anything recently?

Erika: The last game I ran was the final session of my Old School Essentials game set in the Forgotten Realms; we kind of got collectively frustrated at the poor design of the module and cancelled it, so not the most fun session, but onwards and upwards!

A: Ah, I'm sorry about that. I haven't played OSE - what do you think of it?

E: I like it a lot, honestly - I'm about to back the kickstarter for new rules taken from AD&D. The toolbox purity of making sure it's compatible with original B/X stuff is really appealing, as I often want to revive some older module/setting/style of play that I'm curious about. The rules are well presented and easy to run, which is really nice.

A: So, do you think you'll keep running OSE in your next campaign, or is there another system you'd like to try?

E: Honestly, I have so many games I want to try it's hard to tell! I'm running Pathfinder 2e for my other group right now and that's a blast; I'm looking at setting up some one-shots to clean out stuff that's been on my shelf for years and never been played, and I kind of want to run a new World of Darkness/Chronicles of Darkness game next. For old-school stuff, if I want to do something strictly revivalist, OSE is a good bet; for something more revolutionary I should really try the GLOG and Esoteric Enterprises and Knave and [goes on forever here].

A: There's always a lot to try, isn't there. I'd recommend the GLOG (because of course I would).

E: Why would you recommend the GLOG? What does the GLOG do well for you?

A: I think it does a lot of things quite well - for one thing, it's incredibly simple - one of my unreleased hacks fits all its rules onto a single page. It's also very modular; I've seen lots of different combat systems, stat systems, and settings, because of how easy it is to change the few rules it has. Most importantly to me, it's excellent at containing setting - through your class choices, you can show almost any genre through the GLOG. For example, there's a couple cyberpunk versions, and I'm currently working on an EE-like urban fantasy hack. 

And, I know this is a peripheral thing, but the culture around the game is excellent - they just keep making things, constantly, and its always something strange.

I know you have your blog, but is there anywhere else you release OSR content? A book or a zine you've written, anything like that.

E: Nothing yet really, most of what I do is specifically for the games I'm running, so I haven't had a lot to show otherwise. I was thinking about doing a hack of OSE and 2e AD&D, but put that aside with the game ending.

A: That's a shame. You were one of the originators of the PLOG movement - do you think that's had an effect on the OSR as a whole?

E: Not a lot? It was more of a personal calling card for myself and Zach about how we wanted to approach our own way of interpreting the OSR, and if it didn't go a whole bunch of anywhere, that's okay. 

Part of the idea of it being about loving your own trash was that it didn't have to be the same as everyone else's trash, and if other people didn't see the value in it, that's alright! Stuff like the GLOG is way beyond the realm of the PLOG, and if that's where people are having fun/being happy, that's what really matters. I appreciate having an idea and a mission statement for how to approach the revivalist stuff I like doing with OSE and other older D&D books.

A: It's a good guiding concept for OSR revivalists, in my opinion. The idea of tearing apart official products to scavenge good bits of them was what drew me to the community in the first place.

Speaking of that, how did you get into the OSR?

E: So for me, I straddle the line between old-school and modern D&D. I picked up D&D when I was like 9, at the very tail end of 2e, and didn't really get to play until I had the 3e starter box set a few years later. But my grandfather picked me up a used copy of the 1e DMG, and I was blown away by how incredibly lush and dense and inspiring it was. I could see that the rules were generally better in my 3.0 books, but the STORY and especially the world was so much better in that old DMG.

A: I've heard a lot of good things about the 1e DMG.

E: Right! there's tons of good stuff in it, so I'm always kind of balancing, the smoother rules and careful balancing and all the little content gimmicks of 3e/4e/Pathfinder with the sheer captivating power of the old-school stuff. and I want to find a way to kind of reconcile those, in my head? 

Have good flexible rules that can do a lot for character creation but also have a lot of room for worldbuilding and sandbox play like the old-school games did. I can never quite settle on one or the other. 

And I remember back in the 3.5 days the older stuff was kind of discarded, frequently given away for free by WotC; it wasn't until OSRIC came out that there was really something THERE to grab on to. The most influential OSR blog to me personally was likely Grognardia, because James Maliszewski's readings of older products really illustrated what they did well and what was worth celebrating about them that my newer stuff didn't have, and that was a convincing argument for trying old-school games off and on over the years. Haven't really quite had it stick yet, but I've learned a lot!

A: Grognardia recently returned to blogging - how do you feel about that?

E: I'm very excited by it! And he picked a hell of a product to come back with in Mork Borg, which is great. James admits he doesn't quite get "it" but he also doesn't have to, he can recognize that it's cool and good without being his cup of tea.

A: Have you taken a look at Mork Borg?
E: I haven't, but I'd really like to, it looks like a lot of fun, both stylistically and gameplay wise. As someone who GMs a lot by choice, Mork Borg is right up my alley, if I can pull myself away from big juggernaut projects to give it a go.

A: I hope you can find time to read it soon. Earlier, you also mentioned an interest in WoD/CoD - do you think there's anything the OSR can take from White Wolf's games?

E: I don't think there's a lot, because a lot of what those games do is very much what the OSR specifically doesn't do or does already do. CoD stories are often very tightly plotted, not a railroad but definitely involving quantum ogres and the like; at the most they're in sandboxes but they're very frustrating grindy ones for the players. 

The OSR definitely doesn't want metaplot, and it has its own toolkits already, so they're not very much alike. Emmy Allen's Esoteric Enterprises is a good example of putting the two together, but it does so by taking some of the narrative ideas in CoD stuff and putting it in the rules, style, and game framework of an OSR game, instead of mixing the two completely.

A: It's been about an hour: do you have any final statements before we finish up?

E: I don't blog a lot but when I do it's usually been about the Forgotten Realms not sucking pre-5e, so you should check out my blog for stuff on that.

A: Sounds great. Thanks for coming!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Sunless Horizon Play Report #2 (Sessions 3, 4, and 5)

Last session, the party started their adventure, went on a nice boating trip, were attacked by bugs, and then ate someone.

This time, we end the first "season" of the campaign with them completing their final objectives. And then they ate someone.


Unnamed - Oblidisideryptch 
Aemanda Tessier - Dom (only session 3)
Eni Léashvath - Vayra
Arok Tseyvar - Kwub (only session 3)
Erul Avedayati - PurpleCthulhu
Zoma - Justin Hamilton


More Walking
The players spent some time in Subrayada - giving the Overseer the capacitors they'd gathered, then going on a shopping trip. They managed to afford some more bullets for [PLACEHOLDER]'s new gun, and a knife for Aemanda.

They checked their map - the nearest objective was a Network Anteenna, from Network Station 32-c, only a mile and a half away. They leave, passing through Subrayada's front gate and a massive crack in one of the ship's walls. As they walked, the path in front of them split, over and over, until eventually they marched through a corridor only 10 feet wide. 

Then, they stopped. A 20-foot wide stream of corrosive liquid cut through one of the path's walls like a bleeding wound. burning through the floor and vanishing somewhere below.

[Unnamed] was immediately interested in tasting the liquid. When Erul's 10-foot pole (used for depth testing) came up tarnished and smoking, that attitude changed.

Eni decides fire fixed everything last time, and lights a torch, pushing it across the ground towards the stream. The liquid sputters and boils immediately, but does not burn. The party quickly realized that turning the dangerous corrosive stream into a dangerous corrosive cloud really wouldn't help their situation, and pulled out the torch.

Eventually they decide to block the flow with a wall panel. Eni bravely sacrifices their 10-foot pole to the task, and starts prying at the wall. The other PCs hear a pair of footsteps coming up from behind them - their special brand of violent paranoia is (at least time) unjustified, as the footsteps come from a pair of Sworn (Sworn are well-supplied direct agents of the Hierarchs, usually kept for actual wars. Subrayada has a few because of its proximity to a Coolant Sea, and with the rail line down the Overseer is at the top of their chain of command), out here trying to build a perimeter.

The Sworn warn them about the Network Station - traders have returned from there warning of Ghoul attacks. Eni responds with a... less than charismatic reference to Creationist Heresy, leading the more pious of the Sworn to blink in confusion. Luckily, the other breaks the tension, offering the party a round of drinks if they manage to make it back.

Having (barely) managed to talk to a person for 5 minutes without thinking about eating them, the party decide it's time for some lunch, and a test of Sunless Horizon's Rest system - instead of just healing, you get to choose 2 of a list of options (resting to restore Hope, using bandages and other medicine to restore Flesh, Scouting to change the random encounter table, etc.). 

[Unnamed] passes their Scout check, and decides to hunt down a group of bandits in the area. Aemanda passes as well, and removes one of the more threatening Obstacles. They start to move, and conceal themselves on one of the bandits' routes. Thanks to my poor initiative system, the fight turned into a massacre - each PC killed the bandit just below them in initiative, so initiative went to another PC, who then killed the next bandit, and repeat. (After this session we switched to a simultaneous system that seems to be working a lot better). 

The party loot the bandits, then travel the rest of the way to the Network Station.

Network Station 32-C

The Station is marked by a pair of enormous hydraulic doors, both stenciled with the station's designation. Over these stencils are unknown brownish symbols, scrawled by Ghouls to mark one of their nests. 

As the players crossed the doorway, they found a pair of heads on pikes (one Kaiva, one Disciple) staring at the entrance of the nest. Inside this front room is a round shaft leading deeper into the station, and a rusted scaffold drooping into the pit from the ceiling, bearing the antenna at its nadir.

While the players inspect the pit, they see a pair of wet, dark eyes - a Ghoul, staring back up at them. They decide to move down and try to parley - Eni descends on a rope and offers it some food. It accepts, but doesn't understand their language - Eni asks where the antenna is, but the Ghoul assumes they're looking for the last group of Jackals, and points to a small maintenance room on the other side of the shaft.

The rest of the PCs keep an eye on the Ghoul while Eni crosses over, and opens the door to the maintenance room. They are almost stabbed by one of the last Jackals - an Ayir named Alexis, with two broken legs. Alexis begs to be rescued, and the players bring her up to the first floor. The Ghoul they found leaves, crawling through a tunnel.

Then, they decide to descend all the way to the bottom, skipping the 3rd and 4th floors of the pit. At the bottom, they find the Network Antenna, hanging over an abyss. They can see lights blinking back at them from the bottom - it seems like they're miles away.

Like this, but upside-down. Sure looks safe to me!

As the PCs make a plan to detach the Antenna without it falling, a Ghoul starts to climb across the scaffolds above, from one room of the 3rd floor to another. As Eni disconnects the Antenna, [Unnamed] uses their duct tape to tape it to Eni's back. 

The Ghoul looks down and sees them. It coils and leaps, but [Unnamed] deflects it, sending it into the abyss. Its scream awakens the rest, and 5 Ghouls emerge from the 3rd floor. 2 start to climb the scaffolds to the top, while three descend.

This fight was the first test of the new simultaneous initiative system. 

Round One

Zoma and Erul both fire, the sound of their guns resonating in the walls. Both shots hit, one caving in a Ghoul's skull, the other puncturing its lung. Alexis throws a spear, stabbing through one of the descending Ghouls.

Round Two
One ghoul manages to reach the top floor, clawing at Erul before it dies of blood loss. Another simply collapses, falling from the scaffolds into the abyss. The last Ghoul resists Eni's poisons and bites them, before being thrown into the abyss by [Unnamed].

The PCs all rest, then decide to return to town and give the Overseer the Antenna. 

Oh Wow, a Real Conversation

Every obstacle between the Network Station and Subrayada had been cleared, so the PCs returned with no random encounters. After surrendering the Antenna, they take up the Sworn's offer of a meal. Eni immediately takes over the conversation, rambling about Keter's will. One of the Sworn, a Seeleh named Azad, rebuffs these arguments - the other, the Ayir Purnama, doesn't care (he's a pagan anyway).

Eventually, talk turns to more corporeal matters; Eni asks about becoming Sworn, and is told "Once you get the Overseer's Favor, they'll start giving you work - take it. Eventually, if you do well, they'll send you up to the Hierarch. This is a good time to do it, too - the Oasis Kingdoms are arming themselves, and the Lord Navigator's worried."

The Sworn also talk about the Mass Driver Aperture - apparently, some Skinborne say the own the place now. They don't usually hold territory; there must be something special about the place.

At this point, the players decide that direct exposure to vacuum isn't particularly healthy, so they sell one of their two guns to buy a Papersuit (thin foil spacesuit) and some air. They also made a backup plan - if they can't manage to afford the papersuit, they're just going to abandon the Houses entirely and try to make friends with the Sea People.

Luckily, the tiny amount of money they had was enough to buy a child's Halloween costume state-of-the-art spacesuit. Then, they leave town.

Even More W A L K I N G

The floor of their path quickly decays, eventually collapsing. 4 feet below is a reservoir of filthy, stagnant water. The floor returns after 60 feet. While Eni goes fishing (catching a strange crustacean), the rest of the party prepare to climb across the ceiling.

Eni slightly cuts herself on the ceiling's bars, while Erul falls off and lands eye-first on debris.

So, the party's priorities change immediately as Erul is now stuck in the reservoir and missing an eye. They all try to fish Erul out, and succeed.

(At this point, I gave up on my climbing system completely - it takes too long to resolve, and the failure tables are way too abrupt. If anyone has any good ideas, please put them in the comments, because this system has haunted me for months.)

After that incident, they make it to the Aperture without a problem.

It is Puzzle Time. You Have No Choice.

The party opens the sliding door to the Aperture. On the other side is a ladder leading up, and an airlock.

Everyone except [Unnamed] and Zoma go up the ladder, to the control room.


Control Room Objects
Console: Joystick, Red button (fire), green button (load)
Loader: Marked “No Personnel - Electrical/Crushing Hazard”. A large set of rollers lead into it, and it's connected to the breech of the mass driver
Floor Panel: Marked "Warning - Electrical Hazard. No Detach"

Eni immediately messes with the console. After some experimentation, Eni finds that the green button turns on the loader and energizes the rails, while the red button opens the barrel cap (the barrel is capped to ensure everything stays airtight) and releases the rails' energy.

Then, [Unnamed] and Zoma open the airlock, and float outside. Here, they find the Turret Ring, which connects the Aperture to the worldship's hull. They also see a single star, just over the hull's artificial horizon.

They both come back through the airlock, while Erul and Eni jam the loader with a metal pole. Then, they make a plan - the pole should short the rails next time they try to charge, so the inside of the barrel should be safe, or at least safer. [Unnamed] will out into space, then Eni'll cycle the gun again, and [Unnamed] will climb into the barrel while the turret cap is open. Zoma will go with them to make sure nothing weird happens.

The plan works... mostly. [Unnamed] makes it in without a problem, but Zoma notices the star they saw earlier is a lot closer now, and looks to be about 6 lights. Then it gets closer. And closer. Because it's a Skinborne ship, coming to take apart the Aperture and attach it to the Ark.

At this point, everyone panics. [Unnamed] hovers inside the barrel, hoping the ominous blue glow of the rails subsides before they drift into one of them, while Zoma completely abandons him, barely making it into the airlock before a pair of Skinborne emerge from the ship.

As the Skinborne move to the airlock, [Unnamed] begins stripping the mass driver's rails, ending up with 4 8-foot long cables studded with electromagnets. As the rest of the PCs hide in the ladder, [Unnamed] hatches a quite risky plan - they start to tie the rails together, and reconnect to them to their power source, explaining the plan by hammering on the walls of the turret in morse code.

Eni climbs up to the turret and hits the red button, opening the turret cap. [Unnamed] floats out of the barrel, throwing the rails as Eni hits the green button, charging them. The rails make contact, and both Skinborne convulse violently - one cracks their helmet's faceplate on the hull, and the other one wraps around the rails.

After a few minutes, a third Skinborne opens the ship's airlock, sees the two corpses, and goes back inside.

The PCs loot the bodies (getting a pair of lightly scorched Papersuits along with some tools), then they start the long trip back to Subrayada.

The Ceremony of Favors


At that point, the campaign (or at least its first season) ended. But, I'd prepared this little epilogue, so why not use it?

After the party returned to Subrayada, they spent a few days waiting for the Maglev Rail to be repaired. They were all formally invited to the opening.

When they arrived, the Overseer's Herald brought them up onto the train platform, and pushed them down in front of the Overseer. The Overseer signed, and the Herald translated - "You will be as hands to me. My orders will be obeyed, and in return, you will be elevated further. Look to me."

The Herald pulled their heads up to look at the Overseer, and dragged a thin knife across their foreheads. The Overseer bent down to taste the blood.

"It is sweet - you are Favored."

  1. Simultaneous combat is definitely the best option for this game.
  2. The Difficult Terrain system isn't really working how I had hoped. I'm currently debating whether to try a pointcrawl-like Difficult Terrain minigame, or just drop the subsystem entirely. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd really like to hear them.
  3. The game doc needs a lot more resources to be run by anyone but me - the Obstacle and Encounter tables are all placeholder, there's no guidance for if the PCs abandon the Houses, etc. This is my highest priority for the next version.
  4. And finally, this is a working concept. Even after all the work I'd put into this setting, I was still (very slightly) unsure if it would work for an RPG.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

sunless horizon rambling

i n t r o d u c t i o n
I am very lazy. Instead of writing something with actual substance, here's both a pile of pictures, and some vague rambling about video games.

first bit - the pictures

much of Ein Soph has decayed, becoming a wellspring of new life
some has not.
second bit - the rambling

zoop woop veyedio gaems

I steal all sorts of concepts and ideas from video games for Sunless, simply because it's all easier to reach. I can go "hm yes, maybe this game has good ideas", and then just play it for ~30 minutes, and see the good ideas! (yay)

So here are some veyedio gaems that I am mercilessly deconstructing and scavenging. Also, hey, maybe some of them look like fun.

Reciever - Fairness in Hyper-Lethal Environments

Reciever is the fastest, most utterly ridiculously lethal game I've ever played. You play as a person(?) wandering through an infinite purgatory of fancy apartments, hunting for audio tapes and fighting drones and turrets.

It would be incredibly boring if it didn't hate you so much. You can't just reload your gun, you need to mash 8 buttons in the correct order to go through the process of firearm operation step by step. 

Fights with the drones aren't even really fights in the traditional sense - either you see the drone first and knock it down with a single well-placed shot, or it sees you first and you frantically dump your entire magazine into it while screaming, then die.

look into the eyes of death

Despite this, it has one thin barrier between you and not-being-you-anymore - every enemy forgot to turn their headlights off, and they're so powerful the light glitches through walls. 

It's nearly impossible to be surprised - even if you don't notice the huge blue light (which is also the only blue thing in the game), the little *beep* they make a second before they attack will be burned into your mind.

This gives some good advice for the equally lethal combat found in Sunless Horizon (and the majority of other OSR games) - warn the players about monsters. For example, no one in Sunless Horizon has darkvision except the Disciples, so any group of wanderers would be bringing light. While Disciples are harder to see, they're easy to hear, thanks to their constant static-filled chanting.

NaissanceE - Inhuman Architecture

NaissanceE is a platformer(?)/walking simulator... thing, where you walk through a seemingly infinite purgatory of machinery and stark colors. Are you starting to see a theme?

The game is incredible at making you feel like you don't belong - the lights shift instantly from pitch-black to blindingly bright, you spend 5 minutes crawling through a tunnel barely taller than you are only to emerge in front of a mile-long chasm, electricity arcing across it in massive bolts. Nothing here it built for you. You should not be here. You do not fit into it's world.

A lot of what's been written about Sunless Horizon is very "woog darkness claustrophobia argh", but that's something I'm trying to move away from, into a less predictable framework.

You should absolutely watch this video, which explains the game better than it could ever be described in text.

Pathologic - Just Utterly Ruining Your Player's Lives
H E Y - this has spoilers for Pathologic, so if you don't want that, go away ok cool

Pathologic is a Russian survival horror game where you work to cure a plague in a rural steppe town. Pathologic is incredibly unpleasant to play - the vast majority of your time is spent slowly trudging through town over and over, the combat is odd, slippery, and terrible, and the game has a slight habit of not actually telling you how to play it.

However, it's very interestingly cruel - for example, on your second day in town, all prices increase tenfold without warning, dragging you down from a place of "I can easily afford stuff, I thought this game was hard!" to "Maybe I should sell my only weapon so I can buy food and survive another day."

It's incredibly unstable - things just change (always for the worse), with no warning, and you just have to deal with it. You can never be prepared for what happens next, it's all awful forever.

This is surprisingly easy to accomplish - a few timetables similar to those found within A Pound of Flesh can set up a framework for multiple types of events, from war between the Navigator Houses to the Disciples' Last Crusade. This idea's also useful in any game - have tables for the living Moon coming to kill everyone, the invasion of the Icthyan Empire from beneath the sea, or the rise of Hell and upending of all of the cosmos.

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...