Monday, October 30, 2023

A/B/C (Shotgun Scenario)

A man is dead. Twice.

The police found body "Alpha" under an overpass, beaten and covered in garbage bags. No identification, no clothes, no importance; the police decided he was homeless and deprioritized the investigation.

At 8:04 AM the next day, "Beta" was shot in the throat from a third-story window. He looks identical to "Alpha", down to fingerprints and scars; 5'10", 130 pounds, black hair, thin face. By the time the police arrived, the shooter was gone.

The police have been delayed. Their investigation has been stopped, and Beta's possessions have been preserved.

This is now your problem. Catch the killer, and identify the copies, if any more exist.

 GM Information

The Doppelgangers

There are, or were, a total of 6 copies. Alpha and Beta are both dead; "Gamma", "Delta", "Epsilon", and "Zeta" still live. Only Zeta was meant to be released. He plans to kill the rest, and has persuaded Beta and Gamma to help him. The rest of the doppelgangers are going to ground, trying to build identities and relationships - making sure someone would notice if they disappeared, and hoping that will protect them from Zeta.

Alpha was desperate to find a cover as a human. He knew Zeta was after him and he was running out of time, so he tried to kill Epsilon and replace him. He got himself killed instead.

Beta was one of Zeta's agents. He avoided working - hoping that as long as there were others to kill, Zeta would leave him alone. He was wrong. Zeta got tired of his unreliability, and sent Gamma to put a bullet in him.

Gamma is Zeta's more active agent. He killed Beta with his own rifle, and now he's working down the rest of the list. He is unsubtle, and not above public violence. He always carries a pistol. He knows Zeta plans to betray him when the job is done.

Delta is a hermit - he's known someone's after him ever since Beta took a shot and missed, but he doesn't know who. His implanted memories are strong - he is entirely under the impression he is a real person, and has no idea there are any others.

Epsilon is hiding in plain sight. He lives in a perfectly normal house, with a perfectly normal girlfriend who thinks he's a perfectly normal human being. He killed Alpha in self-defense, and he'll kill again if he has to. He is also injured - nobody gets out of a knife fight clean.

Zeta is the first of the doppelgangers, the only one meant to exist. Everyone else is an error, not meant to be released. He's coerced Gamma (and, previously, Beta) to kill the rest. Then he'll kill Gamma himself, and vanish, secure in the knowledge he is the only one.

They were released in inverse order - Zeta first, then Epsilon, and so on, with Alpha the most recent. Except for Delta, all of their memories start with them waking up out in a forest. None of them know where this is. None of them know why.

Each and every one of them is a fake. Under layers of false skin and flesh, they are filled with wet gravel and foam insulation.


- "Day -1", Alpha is killed by Epsilon. Beta attempts to kill Delta, and fails.

- "Day 0", Beta is killed by Gamma. Gamma is reassigned onto Beta.

- "Day 1", October 12th, the players are brought onto the investigation.

- "Day 2", Gamma kills Delta.

- "Day 3", Gamma and Zeta meet at the diner.

- "Day 4", Gamma takes a shot at Epsilon while he's at home, and fails. The police are called. Gamma runs.

- "Day 5", Gamma tries again and succeeds. No survivors.

- "Day 6", Gamma and Zeta meet. Gamma is killed. Zeta vanishes.


Alpha's Murder Scene

Among the trash and ignored by the first round of crime scene investigators is a bloodied metal pipe, covered in wads of foam insulation. The fingerprints on it match any one of the doppelgangers. 

There are also Alpha's clothes and a journal - Alpha's information on Epsilon. Pictures of his house, pictures of his family, scripts recording the way he talks and the things he wants, all so Alpha can replace him.

There's also still a trail of blood leading away - the murderer must not have gotten away unharmed. It leads to a drug store where the workers will readily admit someone matching the description of a doppelganger came in, bleeding, and then took a taxi out east. This was Epsilon, returning to his house.

Beta's Body

Beta is shabbily dressed, and uninjured except for a bullet hole through the throat. His pockets contain the keys to his apartment, a pocket knife, and a wallet with $12.03, a driver's license under the name Johan Reading, and a picture of Delta's windowless basement apartment. On the back of the picture is "Amnesiac. By the the 28th. 610 East 35th St." - that date is two weeks ago. Beta was meant to kill Delta by now, but simply hasn't.

Beta's Apartment

Gamma shot Beta from their own apartment, after getting an extra key from Beta's landlord (who will say that "Johan" was in his apartment at the time Beta was shot). The day of the shooting, Gamma arrived in his van (bright yellow, license plate COE-3881 - tenants and the landlord can give a decent description).

The apartment itself is a wreck, trampled over by a crowd of tenants and cops. There are no signs of forced entry (Gamma used the key). A telescope tripod still stands by the single window.

On the desk is a letter. You didn't show last week. I'm tired of this. Do your fucking job.

Next to it is a map with three spots marked and dated - one last month, one last week, and a diner in two days.

At the bottom of a bathroom trash can are a set of notes on Beta, made by Gamma - his routines (home, then work at a local car wash, then home, shopping once a week), his acquaintances (none), his equipment (an AR-15 in .308 - the gun that killed him).

Gamma's Van

A boxy panel van in aggressive bright yellow. Through Day 1 and Day 2, it is parked with a clean line of sight to Delta's apartment, waiting. All the doors are locked.

There are a few holes in the walls for him to fire his new rifle through. He will take this opportunity.

Inside is a checklist: Latecomer (how?). Brother. Amnesiac. Family Man. Management. (this is every other doppelganger in alphabetical order - Gamma's kill list),  

- Beta's rifle

- another copy of the meeting-map in Beta's apartment, 

- a sleeping bag, and a few newspapers. And, of course, Gamma.

There's a camera pointing through one of the holes at Delta's apartment door. He will see the players if they go there.

On Day 3, it goes to the diner. Then, to Epsilon's house on Day 4, an alleyway after the attack fails, and back to Epsilon's house on Day 5. Finally, on Day 6, it sits in front of the diner, where it will stay. Permanently.

Delta's Bolthole 

A basement apartment, accessed from a staircase outside. The door is barred and locked. There are no windows. Delta hasn't left since Beta tried to kill him, but now he's starting to run out of food.

He has no idea what's going on. To his memory, he is David Gardner, who had a nice responsible banking job until someone tried to shoot him. These memories are false.

On Day 2 he runs out of food, and opens the door. Gamma is waiting for him. He'll see the players if they appear, too.

Epsilon's House

Epsilon (under the name Herb Olsen) lives in a one-story house in the suburbs with his girlfriend, Jane Danner. He will not react well to the PCs appearing and asking questions, assuming they've found out he killed Alpha. Jane knows absolutely nothing - she's been in a relationship with Epsilon for six months and hasn't noticed anything about killer doppelgangers.

On day 4, Gamma will park his van atop a nearby hill and then start shooting through the windows, wounding Jane. When the police are called, he flees. The next day Gamma returns and kills them both.

The Diner

Gamma and Zeta meet here twice. It is wide open, surrounded by windows, and brightly lit.

The first meeting is in the afternoon of Day 3, when the diner is crammed. They talk (about music, mourning Beta [who they each call "our brother"], about Delta [who they just call "him"]) for 14 minutes over coffee, then split up - Gamma returns to his van and drives out into an alley to wait, while Zeta ambles to a car and drives out to a completely empty hotel room. There isn't even any furniture. He just sits on the floor for a day.

The second meeting is late at night on day 6. Zeta arrives first, and when Gamma sits down, Zeta immediately shoots him, then runs. He doesn't stop driving until the sun rises.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Isotelus Complex (Mothership? Eclipse Phase?)

Isotelus Complex is an in-progress bipartite colony on/over the Jovian moon Callisto, under the purview of the "Regional Authority" (RA), manager/holders of a variety of habitats in the area. Isotelus is largely paid for by a public/private partnership with the Yosef Industrial Concern, who offered startup capital in exchange for a substantial cut of the expected mining profits.

The Complex comprises a orbital habitat, a space elevator, and a groundside colony, currently in progress. The majority of the population lives on the orbital habitat and the surface colony. Simultaneously.

After a 6/5 vote by RA/determination (and months of discussion between RA/consensus and RA/dissent), it was decided that all working citizens of Isotelus would be uploaded and forked. Most work both in orbit (operating their baseline bodies for maintenance, shipping, loading, and administrative tasks) and groundside, loaded into chitinous, bear-sized labor forms.

These labor forms are built to survive the hostile conditions of the Callisto surface; defense against radiation, a hardened exoskeleton to maintain internal pressure, and a set of grown or implanted tools and communication devices. In optimal conditions, a labor form breathes exactly once every 29 hours.

Wide, low homes of labor forms line the northern edge of the planned colony, where construction efforts are at their peak. This subcommunity ("the Bucket", either in reference to its various craters or because "that's where you put crabs") also maintains a minor population of baselines, for supporting tasks - a variety of derogatory terms exist for this population among those in orbit.

Once a year, the orbital habitat doubles in population as the groundsiders are given their vacation hours. Office workers ride to parties on the back of themselves, play a variety of asymmetrical sports, and try not to think about what it means if your counterpart doesn't show up.

Crime, and the Other Thing

Nothing should go up or down the space elevator except for workers and parts for the surface. Of course, there is a booming trade in smuggling absolutely anything else - people creep up or down in boxes to meet their counterpart outside the allotted vacation, send (deeply confused) doctors, (barely helpful) medicine, and (stolen) organs down to provide illicit healthcare to labor bodies, hide illegal drugs in the walls of boxes, and all the other things you'd expect them to do.

Mismanagement of company-provided infrastructure, attempted escape from contracted work, assault, and all other crimes are handled not by the Regional Authority, but directly by ComSec (a franchise of a subsidiary of a subsidiary of the Yosef Industrial Concern), who are free from the upload requirements, and thus nearly all baseline and nearly all wandering the halls of the orbital station in their yellow raincoats.

They are explicitly, entirely, focused on the success of the Concern's investment, and nothing else.

The Ways This Will Go Wrong

Officially, the Regional Authority's 33-person administrative body is entirely in control of the Complex, ensuring measured, representative governance with quotaed sortition and adversarial decisionmaking. In practice, the Concern owns the police, owns the labor bodies, owns the materials used to build the station, and is starting to get nervous about exceeding the budget.

So, despite their required placement in administration, the place of the labor bodies on an inhabited Callisto is, to put it lightly, in flux. It is a common refrain in the literature of dissident groups that every single one of them is certain to have a captive bolt pistol pressed to the back of their shelled heads when the job is done.

That might not be true; it's inefficient, after all. It's more likely that the Concern will treat them like anyone else unemployed - a simple choice of "leave now, or sign another contract". The fact the labor forms couldn't fit on any ship out, don't know anyone who isn't working onboard Isotelus, and have only now paid off their fees for upload is not the Concern's problem. Sign, or leave.

The first wave of groundside colonists is coming soon. Positions from doctrinaire Marxism-Palladeism to leaving the surface purely for labor bodies are sprouting in orbit. The space elevator is hitting its maximum safe stress level with every launch. Six ComSec men spaced a dock worker. The impression contracts are ending soon and not a single person knows how the Concern plans to keep the station staffed.

And it's only going to get worse.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

All Roads Lead to Molont (Encounter Tables)

While my Lanthanide Horizon campaign grinds up to speed, I am haunted by entirely unrelated things - in particular, Skerples's Bosola, a 14th-century near-Italy that is certainly having... a time of it. The Archpriest Simon II rules from the city of Molont, while the other Archpriest, Ignatius I, is hosted by the wealthy nation of Pellamy.

To the surprise of no one, they do not like each other very much.

While Bosola is, in theory, united by their support for Simon II, the peninsula's many cities are too busy knifing each other to... do anything for him. The Church's funds, split between the warring Archpriests, are used to bid for the same foreign mercenaries that the cities seek.

Everything is on fire. Cities are spasming in revolution, or up for sale, or besieged. Mercenary companies (such as the PCs'!) march from town to town, working for Simon II one day, the city of Arda the next, and the nearly powerless Emperor of Grept (technically, legally, owner of all the parts of Bosola that aren't personal property of the Archpriest) on the third.

Skerples's wonderful pointcrawl map

This is, secretly, a GLOGtober post; random encounters on ancient roads - older than the Archpriests, they say. 1d6 for encounter type, 1d6 for encounter.

1. Mercenary Encounters

  1. Six soldiers from the Sable Company trudge down roads and through fields, dragging a cannon behind them. They are terribly lost, and there's a decent chance they'll get their cannon stuck in a ditch before they find their way back.
  2. The foreign Company of Saint Beria, hired by Pellamy and the Archpriest Ignatius I. Only around two hundred of them are left - and nobody's paying them to kill you.
  3. An exceptionally foreign mercenary company of unknown name and unknown tactics, five dozen strong.
  4. Two dozen more members of the Sable Company, who haven't been paid in months. They aren't "sliding into" brigandage, they're reveling in brigandage.
  5. The core one hundred soldiers of the Company of Sunrise, along with their leader Azzone of Verrino, heading to a city to camp. It is said that Azzone has the patronage of a demon, who predicts the future for him - but only on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays (Saturday and Sunday are the days of the Saints and the Authority, respectively, so no demon could issue predictions related to them. The lack of Friday, however, has no precedent.)
  6. The entire 1000 man Peerless Company, along with a village worth of camp followers. May as well be a town on the move. Last hired by the Archpriest Simon II, and now returning to Molont.

2. Papal Encounters

  1. A bishop rides down the road in a large carriage, surrounded by servants and guards. Get out of the way.
  2. A papal messenger, running their horses ragged. They will pay you handsomely for yours (if you have any), and then return to their frantic sprint. Their letter concerns the current and future positions of the Peerless Company - and would be worth so, so much money to the forces of Ignatius I.
  3. A menagerie of lions, leopards, elephants, peacocks, falcons, and some kind of terribly tall, long-necked camel, herded down the road to be given to the Archpriest.
  4. A crowd of runaway monks, who have no idea what to do now. Attaching themselves to a mercenary company wouldn't be so bad...
  5. Fifty members of the Archpriest's (50/50 chance which) personal soldiers. Impeccable, imperious, impervious. They're even taller than you.
  6. An absurd spectacle. A twelve-wheeled, two-story carriage, flanked by hundreds of mounted people. The Archpriest Simon II, out of Molont and on the road... or so it seems. In truth, this is a body double, sent on some kind of convoluted mission. On the other hand, a copy of the Archpriest may be worth just as much as the real thing.

3. Civilian Encounters

  1. A merchant caravan, loaded with grain, gold, and armed guards.
  2. A small hunting party from a local village.
  3. A princeling of some city or another, blessed with a complete lack of self-preservation and, to balance it out, an immense sense of self-importance.
  4. Four pilgrims, headed to some tiny shrine nestled in the absolute middle of nowhere.
  5. A gang of bandits, who only realize how large a group the PCs travel with after jumping out at them.
  6. A crowd of refugees - their town has just been sacked by mercenaries. They don't know why. They don't know who.

18th century engraving of mercenary company leader Luchino Visconti, by, as far as I know, an anonymous artist

4. Villages & Buildings

  1. A small village, currently in the midst of their spring festival. They absolutely do not, even slightly, want a mercenary company rolling into town, but they can't do much of anything about it.
  2. A looming castle-tower on a rock outcropping. Still occupied, and subservient to the nearest city on the point map.
  3. A looming castle-tower on a rock outcropping. Still occupied - the home of a cackling, theatrical Sorcerer. Powerful, independent, and unpredictable. If you're lucky, they'll think you're amusing.
  4. A very, very old church, now in ruins. There is a relic inside, of some near-forgotten saint. Unfortunately, you'll be struck by lightning if you steal it.
  5. A town with a large portion of the underfunded, poorly-managed, and generally kind of incompetent Sable Company parked in front of the gate. They would, of course, like to come in. The town would, of course, prefer if they did not.
  6. An orchard!

5. Wild Things

  1. A swarm of some kind of small songbird blots out the sun - then descends to steal food, hide in places, peck ineffectually at people, and carry off anything they can use for nests.
  2. Someone, somewhere, lost track of a flock of sheep. Now they're yours.
  3. Back away slowly - your horse, or your foot, just about trod on a snake.
  4. A tree, bearing golden fruit. Each and every fruit is electrified at all times.
  5. A herd of wild boars. Probably not the best thing to interact with.
  6. Some kind of awful chimera - the head of a bull, the legs of an ant, the arms of a man.

6. Encounters with the Supernatural

  1. A demon, sent from below to tempt the souls of humankind. Do you want gold? Health? To know the secret language of the birds? All is yours - just sign here.
  2. A walking dead man, an agent of the terrible Necromancer, about whom little is known. The dead man cannot be killed again, but he can be dismantled.
  3. A Sorcerer, riding a mount of blown glass they projected from their mind.
  4. Ghostly fires and the sound of distant music. The lights are coming over the hill - they are getting closer.
  5. A circle of standing stones, crackling with static at all times of day and night. Step through and find yourself in the same place, but a distant time.
  6. A crowd of runaway monks - secretly scholars of occult forces. Might be able to lay down curses with a set of secret hand-signs, or might not; but I wouldn't risk it, personally.

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...