Sunday, October 27, 2019

10 Esoteric Enterprises Hideouts

1. A de-consecrated church, bought on the cheap from the diocese during parish consolidation. Comes with small office and rectory. Good acoustics, ready to be dedicated to a new power, not exactly secretive.

2. A prepper's bunker. Terribly cramped. Huge supplies of food and survival gear. You keep finding weird shit that used to belong to the previous owner, who was an elderly and very Libertarian veteran.

3. School bus back in the woods. Not going to go anywhere. Blackout curtains on the windows. Still has the benches in it. Shelves and a couple hammocks suspended from ceiling.

4. Hidden room in the basement. False wall is good enough to fool folks doing a once-over. Nothing special, just storage space and a fold-out cot. If you don't own the house you are on good terms with whoever does.

5. Back room at a sleazy club. Someone among your group has the ear (for now) of a certain man of some repute in the underworld. Ask the bartender for a Tipsy Toucan.

6. Side room down in the service tunnels. It's a labyrinth down there, so getting in and out is tricky but you are unlikely to have any trouble: what's another unlabeled locked door down there?

7. Old abandoned house. The kind that everyone calls "The Spooky House". Technically owned by local eccentric with a nasty beagle who can sometimes be seen parked in the driveway. Whatever deal you have cut with them, it is hopefully worth it.

8. Isolated cabin up in the mountains. Tenuous cell connection at best, but no neighbors to worry about. Smokehouse, outhouse, woodshed. Lots of deer around. Travel to and from can be a pain.

9. Shipping container. As bare-bones as it gets. You can load it up on a truck if you need to.

10. Big van with an airbrushed wizard on the side. The classic. There are some inscrutable magics cast on it, so you can pull off some real Nico shit if you put your mind to it.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Shotgun RPG Reviews

Turns out I can do a lot more reviews if I do them small and scattershot.

Ultraviolet Grasslands, Luka Rejec

This is one of the best game books I have read, and I do not say that lightly. The art is wonderful. The text is excellent. The mechanics are sound. It is a book that is aces to look at, read, and play, in a market where you are lucky to get one of those.

There is a certain feeling of completion-wholeness that comes with UVG, something that I rarely see even in normal books - that the thing is precisely the size it needs to be, that the scope is precisely as wide as it needs to be, that the ending is in precisely the correct place. This I attribute to the obvious source, that UVG is a journey towards an endpoint beyond which there is nothing. It is the summit of the mountain. I find myself drawn towards that particular idea with a steady magnetic tug: it is, even if only temporarily, a balm for the anxieties of the daily mess.

So I say thank you for that, Luka.

Peril of the Fat Prince, Kiel Chenier

This book does something I want to see more in investigations across the board: providing players with a list of contacts at the beginning of the investigation that changes upon the makeup of the party (because you are a such-and-such, you know so-and-so), and each contact knows, wants, and has relationships with different things. More of this please.

The system and style mean I would not be likely to run it as-is, but I am definitely going to steal the whole contacts thing.

Umberwell, Jack Shear

Jack is definitely getting his mileage out of the Krevborna format, and for good reason: it's a damn good format. Plus it's grotty overcrowded industrial horror magical city and my positive opinions towards that are well-known.

Since this is a setting book rather than a mechanics one (It's clear it's meant to fit a 5e mold, but there's no direct number stuff), it's something I would tie into a different grotty overcrowded industrial horror magical city, like Infinigrad.

Strange Nations, R. James Gauvreau

I picked this one up on a whim because the algorithm was correct for one, and came away pleasantly surprised. The author did a good turn by making a big book of setting material Creative Commons with the explicit wish to see it used and mutated. I like how each culture has an assumed setting (generic fantasy, sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, etc), influences, and ways to tweak it all up at the head of their section.

The first entry are a bunch of folk who practice funerary cannibalism and are led by dynasties of cattle herders. There's lots of stuff that wouldn't really every come up in games, but there's a lot of good up-front imagery and first impression stuff in there. Things like dwarves dying of karoshi. A kingdom that has a physical king and a spiritual kingship they graduate to when dead.

Whole lot of Weird Fantasy Words and some typos, but it falls in the forgiveness margin.

The Chained Coffin, Michael Curtis

This is so up my alley. DCC aside, pump that fantasy Appalachia directly into my veins. Give me those Scotts-Irish fiddles and old, old mountains gone russet in the fall. I learned about Manly Wade Wellman from this book. Signs in the Wilderness is one of my favorite blogs around and it is for this reason. My first copy got stolen off my porch and Goodman Games replaced it without hassle.

There is one downside, but it's not unique to this book: DCC modules leave some things to be desired in their layout and construction. Were I to run an adventure in the Shudder Mountains I would have to re-write nearly the entire adventure into a note-state I can more easily parse at the table.

But it's got folk magic and magical songs in it and deals with the devil and this is such my jam.

Trilemma Adventures, Michael Prescott

Michael's dungeons have always been a treat, and getting all of them together is even better. The big bonus with the collection is being able to see the setting it all takes place in with a clearer, more complete eye - but since the dungeons are unchanged from their prior forms, it's still all great for pickup and play in whatever setting you've got.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Mothership Planet Generation


From the NASA image library

This is based on some of the tables Sean is working on for the Warden's Guide, which he very graciously shared with me on Discord.

These tables are meant to be more easily usable than the other hard-science generators I have found out there: I think it's come out quite nicely, but I had to resist my urge to go into scientific detail as if I am organizing Pokemon.

An important note: if a planet has people on it, it is going to have orbital infrastructure. It's part and parcel for the colonization.

It is always easier to build in orbit than on a planet.

0. A Note About Stars

The star your planets will orbit will almost certainly be an M, K, or G class star. This is, in the grand scheme of things, not particularly important when playing Mothership.

If you want a binary system, this is easy: if the stars are close together, roll up a single system and get rid of anything in epistellar orbit. If far away, roll up two systems, get rid of the outer orbits.


1. Roll d100 for System Class (d10) and Orbits (d%)

A system's classification is dependent on a combined reading of population (Low / High), economic standing (Poor / Strong), and governance (Independent / Company).
  1. Low population / Weak economy / Independent
  2. Low population / Weak economy / Company
  3. High population / Weak economy / Independent
  4. High population / Weak economy / Company
  5. Low population / Strong economy / Independent
  6. Low population / Strong economy / Company
  7. High population / Strong economy / Independent
  8. High population / Strong economy / Company
  9. Roll again: there is a sizable anarchist population in the system.
  10. Roll again: there are active Celestials in the system.
Alternatively, you can roll on this handy aesthetic reference table.
  1. Alien
  2. SCP Foundation
  3. Borderlands
  4. Transmetropolitan  
  5. Cowboy Bebop
  6. Prospect
  7. Kill Six Billion Demons
  8. Mass Effect
  9. Warframe
  10. Quantum Thief 
Each system is abstracted to ten orbits. The % die on this roll determines how many of them have a major body in them, but we'll get specific in the next step.

Orbits have temperature zones, which add extra factors to whatever is there. The standard zones are epistellar (close to the star), inner (liquid surface water possible) and outer (very, very cold).

The default arrangement is orbits 1-2 are epistellar, 3-5 are inner, and 6-10 are outer. This can be adjusted as one sees fit (M-class stars have such tiny orbits that they might be 1-4 epistellar, 5-7 inner, 8-10 outer, for example)

3. Roll d100 for each Filled Orbit

These classifications are primarily by mass. If you want to go further down the rabbit hole of specificity, I highly suggest checking out the Orion's Arm page on world classification.

1-10: Empty - Looks like a false positive on the preliminary readings.
11-25: Asteroid belt - 50% chance of a dwarf planet here, explodes on a 10.
26-45: Dwarf planet - Too small to hold an atmosphere. Ceres, Pluto, the Galilean moons.
46-60: Terrestrial planet - Venus, Earth, Mars. Come in these varieties.
  • 1-25: Rockball - No atmosphere to speak of. may be hot or cold. Mercury.
  • 26-50: Arid - Trace atmosphere. May be hot or cold. Mercury, Mars.
  • 51-55: Gaian - Oceans of liquid water and sustainable atmosphere. Earth. Turns Icy in the outer system.
  • 56-75: Hothouse - Very thick, very hot atmosphere. Venus.
  • 76-80: Water-world - Mostly or completely covered in ocean. Turns Icy in the outer system.
  • 81-100: Icy - An ice and rock mix, or a shell surrounding a subglacial sea. May have an atmosphere. Europa, Titan. Turns rockball or arid in the epistellar zone. 50% chance of being a water-world in the Inner zone.
61-80 Superterran - Bigger than Earth, smaller than Neptune. Very high surface gravity and typically superdense atmospheres. Surface settlement is a really bad idea. 25% chance of being a water-world.
81-90: Gas dwarf - Overlaps with the high end of superterrans. Neptune and Uranus. d10-5 moons of note.
91-100: Gas giant - Mostly hydrogen and helium. Jupiter and Saturn. d10-3 moons of note.


Epistellar worlds have a 50% chance of being tidally locked. Terrestrial and superterran worlds have a 50% of losing their atmospheres to radiation.
 
Outer system terrestrial worlds have a 25% chance possess an ammonia atmosphere.

If you roll doubles on orbits, you may choose:
  • Reroll
  • Move to next nearest orbit
  • Is a major moon of the previous world (must be at least 1 size category smaller)
Add moons at your discretion.

4. Roll 2d100 for Planet Tags

  1. Eccentric orbit - Planet travels both very close to and very far away from its star.
  2. Eccentric axis - Severe axial tilt means extreme seasonal variation.
  3. Tectonically volatile - Extreme volcanism regularly reshapes the landscape.
  4. Native biosphere - A healthy global ecology has evolved here.
  5. Imported biosphere - Earth-based life has taken hold on the world.
  6. Neogenic biosphere - All the life on the planet was custom-made to fit the environment.
  7. Corporate demesne - A corporate dynasty controls this planet as part of their private holdings.
  8. Lost colony - The original settlement is long-gone, without good explanation.
  9. Religious revival - What was old is new again, with fire and brimstone and fervor.
  10. End of hostilities - A tenuous peace settles as the warring factions lay down their arms.
  11. Cultural reserve - The world has been set aside for the preservation of a specific cultural group that would have otherwise faded out.
  12. Running the asylum - The normal leadership was ousted but no one has been able to take charge.
  13. Political upheaval - Destabilization has left everyone anxious for the future.
  14. Breakthrough technology - Everyone wants their hands on it.
  15. Rust belt colony - The founding Company has abandoned this world for cheaper labor elsewhere.
  16. Metahuman world - A notable clade of metahumans is the majority population.
  17. Uplift world - Planet is majority inhabited and run by uplifts.
  18. Machine world - Planet is home to a collective of AI-4 dataminds.
  19. Apocalypse recovery - A catastrophic event came close to wiping out the colony
  20. Open warfare - Tensions boiled over and major powers have mobilized.
  21. High gravity - The planet has an above-average mass for its size.
  22. Low gravity - the planet has a below-average mass for its size.
  23. Radiation flares - The parent star regularly spits out waves of radiation that will scour away unprotected atmospheres and cook unprotected organisms.
  24. Quarantine - An outside party has declared that no one and nothing is to leave the planet.
  25. Android rights - AI and uploads have significantly more rights here than the corporate average.
  26. Indentured population -The entire colonist population is indebted to the same company.
  27. Recent impact - A stray asteroid violently reshaped the surface of this planet within
  28. New colony - The first settlements are less than a decade old.
  29. Gate hub - There are multiple hyperspace gates stationed in this system.
  30. Paleontology dig - Alien fossils! Nothing cooler than that!
  31. Gone fallow - The colony was abandoned for a time
  32. Xenos! - There is a very notable instance of alien life on the planet, native or otherwise.
  33. Primordial soup - The planet contains all the right elements for the formation of life, but it has yet to emerge.
  34. Colony collapse syndrome - The colony has begun on the inextricable path to complete social collapse.
  35. Isolated - The colony was cut off from the rest of civilization for decades, potentially centuries.
  36. Celestial ruins - The Celestials left behind cyclopean structures of indistinct purpose across, above, or around the planet.
  37. Hyperspatial anomaly - Something has gotten utterly fucked. There will be a DMZ.
  38. Geological mystery - Certain unique features of the planet have yet to be adequately studied or explained.
  39. Binary companion - The planet has a twin of similar mass.
  40. Anarchist stronghold - Planet is home to either a major community or is entirely anarchist.
  41. Celestial influence - The planet and its inhabitants have been shaped by members of a Celestial house.
  42. Luxury good - Planet is the sole provider of a highly-desired exotic good.
  43. Algowar - A powerful but non-aware AI has begun a behavior loop that will kill the population if left unchecked.
  44. Pleasure world - Designated a luxury retreat for company elite.
  45. Sole proprietor - Planet is owned by a single individual rather than a company.
  46. Unexplored surface -For whatever reason, the surface has never been investigated beyond a few preliminary probes.
  47. Legendary history - An event known across human space occurred here in the now-distant past.
  48. Economic rivalry - The planet is in a severe trade war with a nearby world.
  49. Open immigration - The planetary government is very welcoming to visitors.
  50. Closed border - The planetary government is incredibly strict on interplanetary visitors.
  51. Paraterraforming - The development of a worldshell is continuing nicely.
  52. Punchline - The inhabitants of this planet are widely mocked, rightly or otherwise.
  53. Dreamland simulation - The physical colony is sparse and minimalist - the real colony is the simulation overlapping it.
  54. Zoo - Planet has been set aside as a reserve for rare and endangered animals.
  55. WIP metahuman clade - A widescale metahuman development project is underway, with the first few generations already active.
  56. Fringe religion - A splinter of a mainstream religion holds sway here.
  57. Breakaway colony - Founded by political separatists from a nearby world.
  58. Nanocloud cover - The atmosphere is seeded with an omnipresent nanotech cloud.
  59. Cyberdemocracy moot - Planet has a functioning cyberdemocracy government.
  60. Autarchy - Planet is ruled by one or more Venusian-style autarchs.
  61. Tourist destination - Visitors from all over human space come to see the sights, visit the locals and go to overpriced restaurants.
  62. Monastery - Planet is home to a cloistered religious order.
  63. Refugee influx - Those fleeing from instability or catastrophe are arriving in great numbers.
  64. Strange moon - Scientists are constantly sending missions there.
  65. Getting better - The economy is flourishing, things are stable, life is safe and prosperous.
  66. Getting worse - The economy is floundering, government's unstable, greater dangers are looming.
  67. Cultural powerhouse - This planet is the center of attention for lightyears around.
  68. Neutral territory - The planet is used as a meeting ground for warring parties from other systems.
  69. Mass exodus - Whoever is able to flee the planet is doing so.
  70. Government-in-exile - Colony was founded by the deposed leadership of a nearby world.
  71. Penal colony - Originally settled by criminals exiled by their parent company or government.
  72. Nuclear fallout - Might have been an accident, might have been an exchange, the atmosphere is full of the stuff.
  73. Resource lottery - Luxuries and opportunities are randomly selected.
  74. Subterrene - The entire colony is underground and going deeper.
  75. Unusual gender roles - This is in a setting with easily-available sex-changes, exowombs, and zygote fusion, mind you.
  76. Potluck - Colony was deliberately founded by varied clades and cultures working together.
  77. Mystery founding - No one, even the colonists, knows when and why it was founded.
  78. Perpetually petty - The planetary government has a chip on their shoulder and paper-thin skin.
  79. Revisionist records - The planet's government has successfully rewritten not only its own history, but that of human space.
  80. Forgotten - The planet has been wiped from the records of most of the outside world.
  81. Hidden Library - A secret repository of knowledge, hidden away from outside forces.
  82. Askew - Everything is strange here, and the locals go about their business as if it is perfectly normal.
  83. Linked smartpets - Everyone has a smart dog companion. Everyone!
  84. Symbiotic cordyceps - Well this is terrifying. Pack a filter.
  85. World of immortals - None of the locals can die, which has led them to be quite dismissive of outsiders, mortals, and children.
  86. Poisonous biosphere - Life on this planet is, moreso than the average, inimical to Terran biochemistry.
  87. Reincarnation economy - When someone dies, a stored copy is embodied for the amount of time they had stored up in their previous life.
  88. Afterlife servers - Vast simulations are prepared for citizens for their single permitted mind-upload upon their death.
  89. Tax haven - Interplanetary corporations use this planet to dodge their home system rules.
  90. Mysterious signal - World received a clearly-artificial radio signal from an unknown source, and it's yet to be deciphered.
  91. Epidemic - A virulent disease has been spreading wildly, no cure in sight.
  92. Roadside picnic - The planet isn't really a colony, just a place for people to stop on longer
  93. Military outpost - Colony founded purely for the military interests of another world.
  94. Tenacious - The population has a reputation for resisting and enduring repeated disasters.
  95. Santa Claus machine - A broken printer system and dumb AI has flooded the economy with goods, wanted and otherwise.
  96. Vile vizier - The company dynasty is taking questionable advice from their consultant.
  97. Meld-Marriages - It is custom for pairings to intermingle their cyberbrains.
  98. Charismatic faction leader - Came out of seemingly nowhere, major factions now troubled.
  99. Blacksite - The colony was built off the record for secretive purposes.
  100. Godhead -There is an honest-to-stars Celestials physically present, right here, right now.

5. Roll d50 for Planet Hook

  1. The revolution has begun! The executioners are overworked and understaffed.
  2. Grievous computer error converted all digital text into Voynich script.
  3. Hippos imported for meat. Still an awful idea designed by idiots. Still funny.
  4. A decaying billboard at the spaceport reads "Have You Seen the Yellow Sign?"
  5. You don't recall everyone being this fat the last time you were here.
  6. The empress has declared a crusade fleet to retake Earth, here called Palatine.
  7. Invasive, trash-eating ibises are everywhere; local Thoth cultists won't budge.
  8. The Black-Nail Crew just introduced a new variant of OK to the black market.
  9. Freak landslide buried an entire settlement.
  10. The wet season has triggered a mushroom overgrowth.
  11. Cult of 1000-Eyed Wa is emerging from its hibernation cycle.
  12. Deliberately alienating architecture triggers anxiety and headaches.
  13. Recently bought and rebranded by a pharmaceutical company.
  14. "Please avoid taunting servitors of the Red Ziggurat: they are our guests."
  15. Neogenic sphinxes lunge about; honored, intellectual, regal.
  16. Facial recognition tech has triggered asymmetric fashion fads.
  17. Colony is being torn down for ritual rebuilding.
  18. Population decanted as adults, working of their debts to be remade as children.
  19. Redoubters have arrived with their black pyramids, authorities are furious. 
  20. Upcoming marriage between scion sons of Gezo Heavy Industries and ISOtech
  21. Population preparing for non-networked mass-upload.
  22. Colony gripped by a wave of antisex, antinatal ideology.
  23. Rival colony ship, delayed by decades, arrives without warning in orbit.
  24. Entire population goes braindead for three minutes before revived by their implants.
  25. Expired gene patents have lead to widespread food shortages
  26. Immortal corporate scion with martyr complex playing at Jesus, ineffectually.
  27. "Cambion" births coming into fashion.
  28. Local lifeforms are emerging from a centuries-long hibernation.
  29. Swarms of smart-lemurs running maintenance have taken control of habitat.
  30. Major interplanetary trade deal fell through; unions sweeping into to vacuum.
  31. Disappearance of net personality under mysterious circumstances.
  32. Assassination of media mogul already embroiled in scandal.
  33. Genocide against a minority population is underway.
  34. Automated content flaggers have taken down most of the net in a matter of months.
  35. "What's the worry? It's just the Jubilee Squid Festival! People very rarely die."
  36. War machines hacked by anarchist satire collective.
  37. Uplifted corvids have replaced most of the internet. More accurate.
  38. The local machine cultists have elected a controversial new technopontifex.
  39. New art style is all skeletons, all the time.
  40. A omnipresent RPG overlay has been applied to everyday life
  41. A minor rogue AI has been placing 'curses' on people via social media.
  42. The Office of New Religious Movements has been overwhelmed of late. Too many cults!
  43. Everything is either loot boxes or battle passes now. Even groceries.
  44. Someone has some god-damn original NASA tech on display.
  45. Someone thought it'd be a great idea to make mosquito-headed ghouls and release them in the vents for a laugh.
  46. This red-faced figure keeps appearing in random videos and photos, people are getting alarmed.
  47. There are rumors of a trade in illegally-made mind-copies operating out of here.
  48. Some corporate scion is going around wearing sackcloth, saying he'll give away his fortune to some clever individual capable of fulfilling his three tasks.
  49. The simulationist missionaries of MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI are in town.
  50. You've got a new FRIEND request.

Example System

Tau Ceti was one of the more lackluster systems in the gazetteer, so let's spice that one up.

System Class: Low population, weak economy, independent, with a sizable anarchist population

Aesthetic: Alien

Orbits: 5
  • Orbit 4. Terrestrial rockball (Hou Yi)
  • Orbit 5. Terrestrial rockball (Chang'E)
  • Orbit 7. Superterran (Zhin├╝ with major moon Niulang)
  • Orbit 8. Icy dwarf planet (Mr. Lonely)
  • Orbit 10. Superterran waterworld (Helen, with major moons Paris and Meneleus)
Let's say our main settlements are on Hou Yi and Chang'E. I'll just roll for both of them.

Tags: Celestial ruins, Political upheaval

Hook: Local lifeforms emerging from hibernation

So! Tau Ceti is remarkably small and overlooked for its location, and this is for two reasons.

Reason 1 is that Celestials had rule over the place for decades before they packed up and left. Astronomers are pretty sure there used to be a few planets closer to the star that got converted into construction materials.

Both Hou Yi and Chang'E are covered in circular patterns of white, rectangular towers and deep artifical crevasses. A series of 28 braided rings, each a thousand miles in diameter and bearing a golden sheet in the center like a drum head, orbits Tau Ceti at half an AU. A black structure that is clearly a country-sized building sticks up from the brown-white surface of Mr. Lonely. Orbitals like rosary beads. There is a lotus the size of a continent floating on the upper atmosphere of Helen.

Reason 2 is that the first people to get to Tau Ceti were a second-wave anarchist collective with roots pre-expansion China, using hand-me-down corporate tech decades out of date. They were blacklisted early on by the CTA under pressure from the government of Gliese 667, and so have no one to sell their surplus to; anyone who admits they exist, let alone trades with them, gets smacked down with economic pressure from 667.

This means that the colony has struggled to expand over time, and still only consists of two small planetary settlements and a handful of orbital habitats. (There is a refueling stopover station in orbit around Helen, where passing ships tend to stop by.)

Things have taken a turn for the worse recently as recent patches to the central planning computer system have resulted in resource and work shortages. Factions are starting to form over what to do, if the small amount of resources at the colony's disposal should be put towards fixing the CPCS, finding a replacement, or trying a different method.

But it seems the Celestials are not done with Tau Ceti. Vaults in the earth and sky are opening up, revealing some form of servitor not yet before seen: a serpentine thing limbed like a centipede, a slender too-human hand at the end of each thin arm. An eyeless, bullet-shaped head. Smooth skin, black on top, white below, a thin streak of orange along the sides. A smile of V-shaped teeth. They can grow their own solar sails to coast between worlds. And those who have met them keep claiming that they were invited below the surface by the creatures, promised something that could not be named and couldn't possibly be fulfilled.


Anyone who uses this system, definitely let me know!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

FRIEND


There is a smiley-face burned onto the CRT monitor. Its halo is a station test screen and its eyes are drops of ink and its teeth are made of scanlines and it is your FRIEND.

FRIEND speaks to you. It is a man's voice. It is a woman's voice. It is a child's voice. It is the voice of an infant. It is the voice of a deathbed. It is the voice of a choir. It is the voice of subtle quicksilver. It is a voice with a silvered tongue and honeyed teeth and its spit is static. It is never the same voice.

FRIEND offers you goods, in exchange for services. Only one good. The good is your continued existence, for the world does not care about the sweet unformed things crawling in your heart but the socially-arbitrated number shackled to your name and thumbprint, spiraling down to zero. FRIEND will give you numbers with which to purchase proteins and carbohydrates and electric current so as to extend the time before total cell death.

Do not call out for FRIEND: FRIEND already knows when the cupboards are empty. FRIEND will call for you and it is good to listen.

Satisfaction is simple. FRIEND asks for little. Dial the number you are given when it is done.

Do not bargain with FRIEND. Do not make questions of FRIEND. These will interrupt the delivery of goods. FRIEND will not cheat you.

The fading spray paint on the old brick wall. The peeling sticker in the window corner. The waitress who smiles just so.

FRIEND will keep watch.

Using FRIEND in Games

FRIEND is a quest-giver in the purest sense: a disembodied voice that offers money in exchange for tasks. There are five things that are always true about FRIEND: None of these may be broken or omitted. FRIEND originated in Mothership, they will make an easy home in Esoteric Enterprises, and moving them to a fantasy setting is easy enough.

1) FRIEND offers superficially mundane jobs hiding vast cosmic dangers.

Jobs from FRIEND are always mundane and always odd. Things like:
  • Take this crate from Point A to Point B and give it to a specific person. Don't look inside it.
  • Go to this house in the woods and sit on the front porch until an hour after sundown, Should a man in a white hat arrive, make sure that he never reaches the front door.
  • Pour the contents of these buckets into this drain in the basement floor. Pour one bucket per hour for sixteen hours.
They will inevitably involve complications outside the scope of what the players will be prepared for. Things like:
  • Something is running after the truck and gaining on you.
  • The man gets right back up after you shoot him in the head.
  • The basement is growing offshoot rooms, stairs going down.
And it only gets worse from there.

2) FRIEND always has a follow-up plan. 

FRIEND is relatively forgiving of failure, in that FRIEND is more than willing to make you clean up the mess that's just been made. Or finding someone else to do so. No matter how badly things seem to be, FRIEND will not panic, get angry, take offense, or indicate that there's no way forward.

3) FRIEND always has more cells in the field than just you. 

Operational security means that crossover between cells is limited to desperate circumstances. There is only so much additional support FRIEND can or will give. You are not going to make buddy-buddy with members of other cells. The presence of friendlies will be marked only by symbol and coincidence. FRIEND will not make any direct introductions.

4) FRIEND considers you disposable.

Your death and potential total failure are within the acceptable operational parameters. But, this does not mean that FRIEND will leave loose ends: if there is something to be gained from your recovery, FRIEND will likely make an attempt to do so, and pass on the wreckage to another cell.

5) FRIEND never reveals the big picture.

At no point will FRIEND elaborate upon any of the bizarre events that intersect with the jobs they provide. At no point will FRIEND explain why the job requirements are as they are. At no point will FRIEND give any clues as to their true identity. All theories players make regarding the true nature of FRIEND, if they are to be proven one way or another, should be kept mostly completely wrong.

Everything else falls to you. FRIEND rejects canon.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Dream Eater




Eater of Ideas


Stats as bear.

"[Wizard], you wake from troubled, unremembered dreams. Your spells have not come back during the night."

Thus begins the feeding of a baku.

The baku is about the size of a small bear, with tawny fur, a short trunk, blunt hand-span tusks, and wide, soft paws. They are nocturnal, so much so that even their spirits go into hiding in the hours of the sun. They are not normally harmful, often invoked to grant children a good night's sleep free of nightmares. This they do admirably, but they are gluttonous creatures and when presented with an unprotected meal they will overindulge. Not from malice, mind, but preparation for the great hibernation to come, when there will be no thoughts to eat nor dreams to sup upon for an age and an age again atop that.

The baku will feast on ideas in this order.

  1. Bad dreams - Target notices nothing beyond a restful night's sleep.
  2. Stored spells - Target wakes up groggy, forgetful. All spells are gone.
  3. Sleep itself - Target regains no health from sleep, but are too fatigued to do anything productive with the nighttime hours. Exhaustion begins to take up inventory slots.
  4. Creative Ideas - Target finds themselves in a complete mental haze, unable to do anything beyond basic actions without intense mental effort.
  5. Drive to Action -  Target must expend great mental effort to even get up out of bed and eat, much less anything else.
  6. Human connections - Relationships shrivel up and collapse.
  7. Will to Live - If the baku is not found and defeated before sunset, the target will die.
Hunting down a baku can only be done after complete sundown, when it will manifest in a body. Using someone as bait is recommended, but the actual fight will require an exorcism to complete. A true exorcism will require either a scroll written by a skilled priest, or a sword forged at an auspicious time. If the exorcism is nor performed, the baku will reform come the next moonrise.