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...