Friday, July 10, 2020

Spook Templates for Esoteric Enterprises


After playing Esoteric Enterprises for several months, I found I'm less than thrilled with the Spook as-written than I was at the start.
  1. I am not a fan of "and now you have spontaneously developed a radical new skill", especially when it's something you should already have had. 
  2. The pacing of powers at 1 per level means that you'll be missing ones you should have at the start, and spontaneously gaining more than you need at the end.
  3. Both characters I played in this particular campaign died before reaching level 2.
So here's some changes that I'm going to be instituting in the future.

Change 1: A Spook starts with up to four powers at level 1. They can start with fewer, but the sweet spot is 4. (The Lithic Court gets an exception here, just because of how alien they are.)

Change 2: At all levels after 1, a Spook may take the level up bonus from any other class. (Ex: a spook can gain the skill points of a criminal, but not any of the other features.) These bonuses start at the equivalent of level 1 (Ex: Spook 3 is really Spook 1, Criminal 1, Mystic 1). Alternatively, they may forgo this benefit in exchange for 1 point of Resources.

Change 3: Having starting resources as a human spook now costs two power slots, instead of a decrease in HD size.

Flesh / Grit, saves, and being off the books by default all remain intact.

For those making their own who would like powers or aesthetics beyond those in the Esoteric Enterprises book, I recommend Skerples' list of 1000 mutations

Core Book Templates

Blue-tinged morlock subspecies. Minds work perpendicular to reality.
  • Mad Insight - Forensics +2, Translation +2, can make Forensics check to ask DM a question.
  • Slippery Mind - Automatically shrug off supernatural mental influence. Causes 1 round of extreme disorientation as brain reboots.
  • Dream Manipulation - Can manipulate and direct the dreams of a sleeping target. If they are made terrifying, target gains no benefit from resting.
  • Darkvision - Can see in the dark as if it were in light.

A spirit of smokeless fire
  • Invisible Hand - Magically manipulate objects within 5' as if by ordinary hand.
  • Flame - Unarmed attack for d6, or +1 damage if their unarmed attack is already higher.
  • Lie Detector - Automatically detect lies. Bias, misleading but technically truthful information, and fast talk still slips through.
  • Spirit Form - Intangible. Cannot interact with or be touched by material objects (cannot carry equipment, be injured by mundane weapons). Interact with magical items as normal. Sudden dissipation and reformation deals 1 damage.

Frail enlightened necromancers. Leadership caste of the morlocks.
  • Magical Prodigy - Charm +1 for blessing rolls, Translate +1 for reading scrolls, can copy spell scrolls like an occultist.
  • Spell Warper - Charm +1 for blessing rolls, Translate +1 for reading scrolls, can cast spells experimentally like an occultist.
  • Darkvision - Can see in the dark as if it were in light.
  • Undead Nature - Immune to poison, disease, hunger, thirst, suffocation, cold. Double damage from holy weapons. Regains only 1 point of Flesh at a time, cannot receive Medicine checks.

Fair Folk
Spirits from the dreams and fears of men.
  • Fairy Form - Immune to hunger, thirst, poison, disease. Take double damage from cold iron, cannot carry cold iron items.
  • Inhuman Beauty -Reaction rolls +1, Charm +1
  • Mesmerizing Gaze - Target makes save vs magic; failure grants user Charm +2 against victim.
  • Mental Communication - Can communicate with others it can sense through mind alone.

Lithic Courtier
A representative of the geologic governments in the deep crust and upper mantle.
  • Mineral Form - Immune to poison, sickness, suffocation, cold, bleeding. Unique mineral diet. Double damage from electricity, automatically fail saves to resist. Move as if one step up encumbered.Cannot regain Flesh from Medicine checks.
  • Immune to Fire - No damage from nonmagical fire or heat. Magical fire damage reduced by number of HD.
  • Painless - Cannot feel pain. One die of Grit is now a die of Flesh.
  • Resilience - AC +2
  • Huge Size - +1 HP per HD
  • Tremor Sense - Can detect minute vibrations through solid objects.

Subterranean australopithecines, long abused by the serpent folk.
  • Darkvision - Can see in the dark as if it were in light.
  • Smell Magic - Can detect if supernatural powers are nearby or active, Perception roll for pinpoint detection.
  • Wall Crawling - Traverse walls and ceilings as easy as floors.
  • Magical Prodigy - Charm +1 for blessing rolls, Translate +1 for reading scrolls, can copy spell scrolls like an occultist.

Swarm in a Skin Suit
  • Detach Body Parts - Any part might separate from the whole, taking with it 1/2/3 Flesh points and keeping all skills, saves, and abilities.
  • Venom - Target makes a savE vs poison against an unarmed attack. d12 damage on failure.
  • Putrify - Touch causes flesh to rot away. Grappled enemies take 1 Flesh damage / turn.
  • Fluid Form - Pass through any gap coin-size or larger, escape any bindings, +1 to grapple.

Troll / Ogre
The two most corruptive elements to the soul are gold and human flesh. They partake in both.
  • Unnatural Strength - Strength bonus +2
  • Hoard - Resources increase with level
  • Huge Size - +1 HP per HD
  • Resistance - AC +2

The pale, slinking things with the vague shape of a human and the soul of a tick.
  • Blood Drinking - Can drain 1 Flesh point from target / turn, healing 1 Flesh if damaged. Target begins bleeding out after feeding ends.
  • Intoxicating Blood - Gain +2 charm against any who have tasted their blood, target vulnerable to suggestions outside normal behavior.
  • Creature of the Night - +1 to all skills, damage, and +2 on d20 rolls in darkness. +2/+2/+4 in total darkness. -1/-1/-2 in sunlight or bright artificial light.
  • Bite Attack - d4 damage, can be made alongside a primary melee attack.

A wolf that has eaten the flesh of a human that has practiced magic.
  • Bite Attack - d4 damage, can be made alongside a primary melee attack.
  • War Form - Damage +2, to-hit +2 while in form. Lose manual dexterity and speech.
  • Claws - Can make two d4 unarmed attacks
  • Animal Speech - Can talk to animals. +2 Charm when doing so.

New Templates

Vessel Knight
An empty shell that has been filled.
  • Armored Exoskeleton - You cannot wear armor, but your body counts as non-encumbering riot armor (AC 16). You cannot regain Flesh except through repair. You can go into negative health, but will not take grievous wounds.
  • Inner Essence - If you hit 0 Flesh, your shell breaks and your shade emerges. This form has all typical properties of a ghost, and cannot re-enter its shell until it has at least 1 Flesh.
  • Mothwing Cloak - You may close a 10' gap, in any direction, instantaneously.
  • Bound Nail -You are sworn to a single weapon (as sword, d10 damage), but it does not encumber and it will never leave your side.

Combat Cyborg
The cruelty is the point.
  • Darkvision (Augmented Eyes) - Can see in the dark as if it were in light.
  • Mental Communication (Tacnet Module) - Can communicate with others on the tacnet through mind alone.
  • Lightning Speed - Double movement speed, always rolls 6 for initiative.
  • Unnatural Strength - Strength bonus +2

The abductors.
  • Mental Communication - Can communicate with others it can sense through mind alone.
  • Mesmerizing Gaze - Target makes save vs magic; failure grants user Charm +2 against victim.
  • Paralyzing Touch - Target makes save vs stun, else stunned for 1 turn.
  • Memory Worm - Observers must make save vs magic to recall specific details.

Eyes like rubies. Followers of the sun they cannot bear.
  • Darkvision - Can see in the dark as if it were in light.
  • Silent Flight - Can fly silently, but slowly.
  • Insect Speech - Can speak with insects, +2 Charm when doing so.
  • One Single Boon - You can ask one thing, any thing, of Indrid Cold. Only once.

Azure Benthonaut
Someone who was pulled out of the echoing depths before they were consumed completely.
  • Azure Regeneration - Heals 1 point of damage / turn, so long as the suit is intact.
  • Containment Suit - Cannot be removed or replaced. AC 14. Will crack and lose healing waters if reduced to 0 Flesh

A great cat with a woman's face. An inhabitant of the Stygian Library.
  • Magical Prodigy - Charm +1 for blessing rolls, Translate +1 for reading scrolls, can copy spell scrolls like an occultist.
  • Bookspeak - Can cast at will.
  • Claws - Can make two d4 unarmed attacks
  • Library Card - Can exchange an owned grimoire for a random replacement.

The crime is forgiven, but the reformation is arduous. 
  • Healing Stigmata - Can heal d6 Flesh damage, taking the same amount themselves.
  • Thief's Brand - A mark declaring their crime.

Charnel-Pit Ghoul
Born of corpses in battlefield mud, and the catacombs below the revolution's abattoirs.
  • Undead Nature - Immune to poison, disease, hunger, thirst, suffocation, cold. Double damage from holy weapons. Regains only 1 point of Flesh at a time, cannot receive Medicine checks.
  • Claws - Can make two d4 unarmed attacks
  • Putrifying Bite - d4 bite attack, can be made alongside a primary melee attack. Causes flesh to rot away at 1 Flesh damage / turn.
  • The Chained Coffin - An impervious iron sarcophagus. Any being placed inside cannot be harmed by any force, even time, but cannot get out on their own. Can be used as a d6+6 damage weapon, attacks at -4

Misfortunate offspring of a cubus and two humans. Often targets of undeserved hate.
  • Heritage Infernale - No damage from nonmagical fire, half damage from embodied demons, immune to possession and seduction.
  • The Gitchy Feeling - Sensitivity to nearby spiritual beings. Can determine number and strength, but needs a Perception roll for specific location.
  • Lead Foot - Incredibly heavy, as if made of stone. Sinks in water, cannot be knocked over unless enemy HD > 1/2 CON.
  • Ember Eyes - Greyscale darkvision. Eyes glow like burning coals.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Collected Material Evidence

"The Dream (The Bed)", Frida Kahlo

Faded color photograph: A decrepit, single-story wooden shack. Sagging roof. Surrounding foliage is overgrown. Trees in background are partially consumed by kudzu. The river is black with silt. Strong wind bends visible branches. Sky is dark grey with clouds yet to rupture. Door is hanging open: interior cannot be seen.


Faded color photograph: Interior. A splintery wooden crib, filled with stained rags. Peeling yellow wallpaper. Pattern indistinct. Mildewed stuffed toy with limp neck.


Unreleased podcast excerpt: "It's like...say you have a giant tub filled with LEGO, and all the pieces are moving around and bumping into each other. Then two pieces from one particular set click into place, just like in the directions. And enough time goes by and the circumstances are just right and those two pieces fit together with a few more of the correct pieces and now you have a little cluster that's been built just according to the pattern.

Then you start getting another cluster forming, and all the pieces are different and they fit together in different ways, but it's still part of the same set as the first one, right? Different page of the directions, different pattern, same set.

Eventually, enough of those separate parts will come together, and the set's complete."


News site printout: Dated 02/05/2022. Headline: ANCIENT HUMAN REMAINS FOUND IN LAKE VOSTOK


Scrap of paper: "...the quince is the sole member of the genus Cydonia..."


Unpublished manuscript excerpt: "It was only ever an optical illusion. A plateau shaped just so, that a grainy black-and-white camera high above would send back images of a pallid, masklike face.


14th century woodcut, German: A skeletal woman weilding a hand sickle cuts off the arm of a recoiling peasant. She is exhaling a cloud of smoke and flies, and looks to have emerged from the ground.


Portrait: ("Old King Jeremiah", Anonymous, c.1830) Elderly man in yellow turban slouching in his chair, holding his face in despair. Table set with ornate, but tarnished, place settings and rotting fruit. In the background is a large portrait of a distant, snowy city has been set afire. A woman's form can dimly be made out in the shadows behind him: she is laying a hand upon his shoulder.


Damaged hardcover book: No title, author, or publishing information provided. 151 pages. French. Knife scars on black leather cover with few remaining traces of original embossed icon. Text has been heavily redacted by an unsteady hand.


Digital photograph: Graffiti on highway underpass. Location unknown. HER MOTHER WAS HER SISTER


Porcelain mask: Slim, androgynous appearance. White glaze shifts to pale gold at the edges.


Recollections of a dream: an open expanse of sere grass and stunted, dead trees, enveloped in a thick, grey fog. Still muddy water stretches out like a glistening mirror to the horizon, where stands the barely-visible towers of a distant city.


Suspicious mondegreen: "hidden in the branches of the poisoned creole soil..."


Viral computer application: カル コ サ.exe


Color photograph: Blurry image of a woman in a yellow dress, back turned to the photographer, surrounded by dark overgrowth. On the back, in faded ink: "Melinoë, saffron-cloaked nymph of the earth..."


Digital photograph: Graffiti on brick wall. Location unknown. Unidentified symbol in yellow paint (covered by other tags) accompanied by partial text. LE ROI N'A JAMAIS VECU LA REINE RESTE SANS FIN

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Amazing Hidden Name Meanings

Hey spambots, thanks for providing me with filler post ideas.

50 Amazing Hidden Name Meanings

Note: Hidden names for humans change often and without warning. They are intensely intimate, closely guarded, and shared with few, and so spells to learn one require the consent of the subject to work (those spells that bypass that step are near-universally regarded as Bad News)

These names are good fits for NPC or player character inspiration

  1. My-Debt-Is-Crippling
  2. I-Must-Return-To-The-Sea
  3. I-Am-Devoured-By-Shame
  4. I-Have-Nothing-Left-to-Give
  5. Today-Is-A-Good-Day-I-Caught-A-Fish
  6. I-Am-Finally-Free-Of-His-Shadow
  7. The-Light-Is-Broken-But-I-Still-Work 
  8. My-Son-Has-Gone-to-War-I-Do-Not-Believe-He-Will-Return
  9. I-Do-Not-Believe-This-Is-My-Correct-Body
  10. The-Arm-is-Gone-But-I-Still-Feel-A-Twinge-of-Pain
  11. I-Care-An-Unhealthy-Amount-About-Romantic-Pairings-In-Elfish-Animation
  12. I-Am-Angry-About-Things-I-Do-Not-Understand-Out-Of-Fear
  13. She-Fills-Me-With-Light
  14. There-Was-A-Hole-Here
  15. I-Have-Accomplished-My-Exercise-Goal-For-The-Day
  16. Have-You-Seen-My-Dog?
  17. I-Have-Not-Yet-Realized-It-Cannot-Be-Fixed
  18. [Faint Buzzing Static]
  19. They-Will-Come-Back-For-Me-I'm-Sure-Of-It
  20. I-Despair-For-The-Future
  21. My-Muse-Has-Fled-From-Me
  22. We-Are-Not-Beaten-Yet
  23. It's-Too-Fucking-Hot-In-Here
  24. Thank-Gods-It-Was-Benign
  25. The-Anticipation-Is-Killing-Me
  26. Everything-Is-Falling-Into-Place-Precisely-As-Planned
  27. Oh-No-Was-That-The-Sound-Of-Bees
  28. Day-81-No-One-Has-Yet-Suspected-That-I-Am-A-Bear
  29. I-Just-Want-To-Take-Care-Of-All-The-Cats
  30. Astoundingly-No-One-Was-Injured-By-My-Incompetence
  31. Testing-Testing-Is-This-Thing-On
  32. Fuck-I-Locked-My-Keys-Inside
  33. This-Suffering-Is-But-Temporary.
  34. Too-Much-Noise-I-Want-To-Be-Alone
  35. Just-A-Few-More-Hourse-To-Go
  36. I-Am-Being-Followed
  37. Why-Will-No-One-Recognize-My-Genius
  38. [REDACTED]
  39. Turnip-Prices-Dove-Again-I'm-Ruined
  40. Man-I-Am-Glad-To-Be-Off-That-Island
  41. There-Appears-To-Have-Been-A-Terrible-Mistake
  42. Oh-Dear-Not-Again
  43. I-Feel-Beset-By-A-Fey-Mood
  44. Hold-On-I-Am-Going-To-Do-Something-Impressively-Foolish
  45. Lenghty-Extended-Sigh-Of-Exasperation
  46. I'm-Certain-There-Is-An-Entirely-Logical-Explanation-For-That
  47. The-Kids-Are-Not-All-Right
  48. I-Can-Do-It-I-Can-Do-It-Nine-Times
  49. Well-That-Was-A-Bust-Let's-Try-A-Different-Tactic
  50. I-Love-Moth

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Highlights from the Itch Bundle for Racial Justice

With over 1500 games involved this can't even be close to remotely comprehensive. I will be limiting it to games that have left a noteworthy positive impression on me.

Tabletop Games


World Builder (Michael Elliot)

A card-based game focused on creating a setting through fleshing out character backgrounds. Very easy to hack (as it's really all a bunch of random tables) if you want to adjust outcomes.

Ex Novo (Konstantinos Dimopolous)

A citybuilding, mapmaking game. Developments are rolled off a d666, dictating the rise and fall of factions, the growth of the city, new constructions, conflicts, resources, and so on. A great deal of fun, though if you're meaning to play it, remember that faction power gain loss can be any number (I was under the impression that they only gained 1 point at a time, which made the early game more difficult than it needed to be.

Following it with World Builder would, obviously, be a great idea.

Anomaly (+ Anomaly: Containment Breach) (Carter Richmond)

I was not expecting an SCP-themed Quiet Year hack in this bundle, but that's 2020 for you. The core is the same - draw card, answer prompts, start projects, keep on trucking. Anomaly on its own is about investigating and containing the Weird Thing, while Containment Breach is about what happens while you've got it locked up.

Our Pantheon (D.W. O'Boyle)

A hack of the venerable Dawn of Worlds, providing a little bit more chance and structure with the addition of PBtA-style actions

Following it with Ex Novo and then World Builder would be, if very extra, probably a good idea.

Yokai Hunters Society (Chema Gonzalez)

A hack of Nate Treme's Tunnel Goons, where you play as members of the titular organization and do the thing on the title. It overflows with flavor and focus (in just 36 pages!) and uses its brevity to maximum efficiency - You have the pieces you need to get started, and a direction to travel. The core conceit is a brilliant choice, because it shifts the game away from "here is a monster, kill it" to "try and find out why the monster is here, see if you can fix the problem", and that sort of de-emphasized violence in a horror investigation game is, as one might guess from certain projects of mine, very much my jam.

There are a great deal of other games worth mention here: So You Got Thrown Down a Well, the Penicillin zines, The Wretched, The Sealed Library, and so on and so forth.

Video Games



You know how some video games just feel good to play? You press the button and the person on the screen does the thing and it feels right, in ways that can't be adequately expressed? That's Celeste.

It is a super tough game - I can't recall any other that gets my hands to sweat that copiously - but it is rewarding in equal measure. More praise than I can fit here should be heaped upon the way they approach Assist mode (you can customize exactly what kind of assistance you want!) and the friendly load-screen reminders that there's nothing locked behind strawberries and don't be ashamed of your death count.


It's a visual novel / rpg / sports game / religious ritual simulator made by Supergiant and it is gorgeous. It's a work that I can truly call fantastic, not only for how it looks and how it sounds, but in how it creates and establishes something that is unlike anything else around it, and does not lose sight of what gives it power. Every single screenshot in this game would make a good desktop background. All the characters are great. They made a conlang just for extra flavor and then made dialects to reflect different characters' backgrounds.


A walking simulator about exploring an abandoned cult compound. It is presented with a grounded empathy that I rarely see (but greatly appreciate). It's a horror game in a sense, but without a direct threat, or music cues, or any of the trappings of genre.

Also when I made a comment about a bug with the sound, the dev had put up a fixed version within an hour of responding to me. That's always a kudo.

Death and Taxes

A short game in the vein of Papers Please. Not particularly challenging (at least gameplay wise), but it is much faster to play than its spiritual predecessor, which is good at encouraging taking multiple routes. Very charming aesthetics & music. VA work is good.


Reviews of this game are superfluous. All one needs to do is watch and listen, and they will know.


Simple space exploration game with randomly generated planets. You can only ever move forward on your quest, so you can never return to a location.

The Floor is Jelly

Platformer where everything is jelly. A bit tricky to control at times but then you pull off some amazing air time or slip through the depressions in the walls and then everything clicks.

Heavy Bullets

A simple lunchbreak-length roguelite shooter.


Bonus: Dissident Whispers

Not part of the bundle directly, but aimed towards the same end. This book deserves to go down as a gold standard - 58 adventures for 12 different systems, assembled in a matter of days, all proceeds to bail funds. There is potency in this book. I can't wait to run something from it.

What are your favorites? Post 'em in the comments!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Minimodule 3 Part 2: ATTACK AND DETHRONE GOD


Picking up where we left off...

The battle of Yetek works like the opening sequence of Deep Carbon Observatory - everything is happening at once, you never get a chance to catch your breath. Pick one of the three entries into the city: you will be able to see anything that the arrows are pointing to. Your goal is the temple in the center.

There is a twist here: The God of Ankhar is also active and will move around the city. Every time the PCs move between events, roll d6.
  • 1-2: The God stays where it is.
  • 3-4: The God moves 1 space.
  • 5-6: The God moves 2 spaces.
If there are multiple routes it can take, a d6 roll divided by two or three as applicable will direct where the mad one goes.

What if I Don't Want Hyperlethality?

  • Option 1: Grievous Wounds - If you drop below 0, use Emmy Allen's grievous wounds here.
  • Option 2: Replacement characters - Use this handy Knave generator. You start with  a sword or spear, a shield, and Armor 13.
  • Option 3: Take A Break HP - You recover all lost HP when you get a moment to collect yourselves (Bath House, Elephant Enclosure, Arena without the manticore)

The Main Gate

Who needs a ram when you have Ayo?
  • A chaotic mass of soldiers (HD 4 HP 25, d8 damage, Defense 13, morale 8) waits on the other side. The formation will break after it hits 0 HP.

Over the Wall

The ladders! Get up the ladders!
  • Takes 2 rounds to get up to the top. Defenders will hurl down stones (DEX save vs d8 damage) or burning oil (DEX save vs d6 damage for d4 turns). Successfully hitting someone at the top of the wall will interrupt the attack.

Through the Drainage

Hold your breath.
  • Takes extra time to feel your way through the dark - the God rolls twice for movement. The Enemy camp is reduced to Low Chaos.
  • Crocodile attack! (5 HD 25 HP, 14 armor, d8 bite, morale 8, WIS save with disadvantage vs surprise attack, will attempt to death-roll after a successful attack)
  • Senech must use both hands to keep her guns and ammo from getting ruined. If this changes for any time, all her weapons have a 50% chance of being useless.
  • You are all caked in filth and smell terrible.

The Town

People running in chaos, soldiers fighting in the streets.
  • Combat is deafening. People are fighting house-to-house, you can barely tell who is enemy and who is friend.
    • Individual combat in this area would be miserable, so it will be abstracted like this: each player may grab as many d20s as they wish (including 0). They will roll them all at once. Each success (over 13) means they are able to break up a cluster of enemy soldiers and will be granted 1 Reinforcements (more on that later). Failure means they will take d8 damage.

Artist's Alley

Still filled with the impaled bodies of those deemed to have been working idolatrous crafts.
  • A mass of soldiers (HP 15, d8 damage, Defense 13, morale 8) runs through the streets to where the main fighting is.
  • From an upper-story window, an old man cries out: "Send them back to whatever demon's teat they sucked on!" He tosses the party a figurine of the Mother of Dawn, which possesses 1 charge each of 3 different spells:

The Market

Looted and smashed to bits.
  • A mass of soldiers (HD 3 HP 20, d8 damage, Defense 13, morale 8) charges on to reinforce their fellows at the gate.
  •  A Scholar and a Clown have taken shelter under an overturned fruit cart. If the soldiers are dispersed, they introduce themselves as the "Sons of Thunder" and will gift the party a smooth grey stone which, if thrown on the ground, will blind and deafen anyone nearby, after which they will use one of their own and run away.


The Baths

An old, sturdy complex of buildings where folk would purify themselves before heading to the Temple.
  • Townsfolk have barricaded themselves inside. CHA check or the head of Malenairis needed for entry.
  • Three sailors are lounging around in peace, despite the chaos outside. One is Tall, one is Fat, and one is Old. They generally (as they will inform you) don't tend to do anything much at all, but their ship is down in the harbor just outside the city and they'll be able to smuggle people out of the warzone and down the coast to friendly territory.
    • This is an emergency means of escape, should the party become too injured to continue on to victory.

The Stables

The stench of camel dung and the terrible sounds of animals in terror fill the air.
  •  The horses are panicking, and the stablehands are unable to keep them under control.
    • Releasing the horses will cause a stampede. If the Enemy Camp is Low Chaos, it is now High Chaos. If it is already High Chaos, the mass of soldiers' HP is reduced to 20.

The Arena

Where once there were chariot races and theater services, Malenairis transformed it into a place of bloodshed.
  • The manticore (HD 6, HP 30 Armor 13 2 1d6 claws OR 2d6 bite OR poison quills - ranged, CON save or keel over frothing at the mouth) has been fed on townsfolk since the occupation began, and like any overfed cat it has decided to sleep it off for twenty hours a day. (If it is not woken up, a surprise round is made.)
    • The manticore's quills are coated with a deadly poison (alas, the manticore itself is immune). They can be removed without waking it (DEX with disadvantage) and thrown like knives.
    • The manicore's gut is filled with 2d6 soul-pearls. Eating one of these will allow a PC to revive after hitting 0 HP, recovering half of their max. They can be eaten multiple times, but further revivals require re-rolling the PC's hit die - if the sum is lower than their current max HP, that number is their new maximum. If it is higher, they permanently lose 1 max HP.


The Enemy Camp (Low Chaos)

Malenairis' lieutenants have managed to establish order among the main body of soldiers.
  • Mass of Soldiers (HD 7 HP 40, d8 damage, Defense 13, morale 8)
    • For every point of Reinforcements the party has, remove 2 HP from the enemy.

The Enemy Camp (High Chaos)

The soldiers of Ankhar fight amongst themselves now, leaderless and in a panic. This is the default state of the Camp.
  • Mass of Soldiers (HD 5 HP 30, 2d6 damage, Defense 13, morale 6)
    • For every point of Reinforcements the party has, remove 2 HP from the enemy. 


The Palace

Once home to the queen and her consorts, then home to Malenairis and his lieutenants, now ablaze.
  • Soldiers scramble about, trying to form a bucket chain.
  • It's possible to rush in and salvage some of the treasures within, as follows
    • Players who go into the palace must make a DEX save. On failure, they will take 1d6 damage from heat and smoke inhalation. Either way, they will recover 1 slot worth of art and treasures, which will be 1-3 of your people or 4-6, Ankhar plunder of other nations. Either might be handed over for gold.

The Gardens

A moment of quiet, but not for long. The fire of the palace casts dancing shadows among the date trees and palms.
  • The Widow and Handmaid signal the party from their hiding spot with the call of a screech owl. They have Malenairis' head in a basket and are trying to find a way out of the city. 
    • The Baths provide the safest option, seconded by the party's direct protection. If they try to escape on their own, they will not make it beyond the walls.

The Elephant Enclosure

A makeshift wooden palisade set up in the gardens abutting the palace.
  • The elephant (HD 15, HP 75, 2d6 tusks x2 or 4d8 trample) is old, imprisoned, and grieves still for the loss of her herd. Her only comfort is the blind, deaf elephant handler who has been her companion for 40 years. She hates the Ankhar soldiers with depths that cannot be imagined. 
    • If she is freed from her chains, she will will fight alongside the players. Should she survive (and should the players keep going with these characters), all elephants shall be their allies.
    • If Ayo has any booze left, the elephant will sniff it out and down it all. She will fly into a rage, and all of her attacks will do double damage.

The Temple

The statues have been toppled, the frescoes scratched out by spearpoint, the mosaics torn up with shovels. The desecration is total, gleefully done. In the center of the wreckage a pavilion has been erected,a tent of shimmering indigo cloth whose dimensions are so perfectly measured that it hurts to look at it: the angles are too sharp. An altar has been erected in front of the tent; blood from the sacrifice of sheep and bulls already stains the scarred image of the Mother of Dawn on the floor.
  • The chief priest and his acolytes have hunkered down here. They are shaken by witnessing the God's departure. They are unarmed and unskilled in combat, but they remain defiant and utterly unbearable
  • This is the home of the God of Ankhar. He is not likely to be here.
  • The Azazel remains inside the tent.

The God of Ankhar

A naked manlike figure, twelve feet tall with golden skin and fiery beard. He has been mutilated by his worshipers: eyes cut out, ears cut off, feet hobbled. Screams and babbles incoherently. Masturbates furiously.

HD 9 HP 45 Armor 15 1d10+3 stone pillar, Morale 11 Can throw bolts of divine lightning (3d6, cooldown 5)


The Azazel

A bloated black goat just a bit smaller than the elephant. It has grown fat on Ankhar's sin, taking on all of their crimes against humanity into itself so they might absolve themselves of guilt.

The Azazel will not try to fight: it will permit itself to be killed. This will curse the party with the Mark of the Goat - they will not be welcomed in any city this side of the Indus if they bear that mark.

(MAKE SURE THE CURSE IS CLEARLY COMMUNICATED. PCs will have bad vibes about killing it - too easy, walking into a trap, whatever. Don't use it as a gotcha.)

Useful notes
  • The Azazel hates fire - that alone will spur it to move. Sunlight is even worse and can kill it without triggering the Mark of the Goat.
  • The Azazel is incredibly heavy, but could easily be chained up and dragged by the elephant.
  • The Azazel always lies, convincingly. It wants people to sin, so it can feed.
  • The Azazel will offer forgiveness of sins via transferral. This will require swearing a covenant with it, which will entail consistently and continuously feeding it through greater acts of evil.
  • The Azazel can be exiled without killing it - driving it out with fire or hauling it to the harbor and setting it adrift on the sailors' ship.
If the God has not been dealt with, it will interfere if there is an attempt to move the Azazel from its tent.

Final Reckoning

  • If the God of Ankhar is killed - Ankhar'swar effort is broken. Even if they survive and regroup, the loss of their general and their god in one night is too much. They will not visit this place again for generations.
  • If the God of Ankhar lives - It will return to the tent of the Azazel, if possible. If the Azazel is dead, it will limp out of the city, either to the Ankhar encampment (Low Chaos) or out into the desert alone (High Chaos)
  • If the Enemy Camp is in Low Chaos - Ankhar's forces retreat and regroup outside the city under the command of surviving
  • If the Enemy Camp is in High Chaos - Ankhar's forces are routed in their entirety. No surrender or orderly retreat is possible.
  • If the Azazel is...
    • Killed - PCs inherit the Curse of the Goat
    • Banished - Depending on method, it will either die a true death under the sun or slink away into the night, to emerge again some other cursed time.
    • Untouched - It will be taken with the retreating Ankhar soldiers OR the liberating army will find and have to deal with it.
    • Joined by Covenant - The PCs will be driven to lead the counter-attack, pillaging Ankhar's lands with equivalent cruelty. If the Widow and Handmaid survive, the war will eventually unseat the king of Ankhar himself.
  • If treasure recovered > 5 - The PCs can gain enough coin through rewards from return or profit from sale to retire to a wonderful little island somewhere, at least until they need to murder another god.
  • If the Widow and Handmaid are safely extracted from the city - The triumph over Malenairis brings not only all the people of the nearby cities together, but the hill tribes as well. This unified resistance not only drives Ankhar out of these lands, but helps to establish a new queen..
  • If the PCs die without dealing with the God or the Azazel - The Ankhar war machine continues despite the loss of its general. Your land is conquered.

Friday, June 12, 2020

30 Words that Don't Exist

It's filler time! Here are some prime results swiped and adapted from this here internet website, which may be of use to you.

30 Words of Dubious Existence

  1. mallettante (n): a small wooden figure with curved projecting ribs, often identified as a model of the Virgin Mary.
  2. tricothetik (n): a small, heavy flat-bottomed brass coffin, typically an antique.
  3. offredo (n): an artistic work devoted to or in the celebration of a game or occasion
  4. spitskool (n): a soft, soft ball made of spun yarn with a triangular spike forming the top
  5. incumulus (n): (in ancient Greece and Rome) the outer layer of a body of troops prepared for execution
  6. shan (v): to strike; to strike someone or something with a sword.
  7. inconsequentialism (n): a belief held or suggested by a person irrelevant to the situation.
  8. flabberto (n): a bright red, bulb-shaped citrus fruit. It is obtained from the sea and commonly dried.
  9. seedsie (n): a member of the leading science fiction group in the 1960s and early 1970s, originally formed by...
  10. dreadfield (n): a place where a bomb has exploded or will explode.
  11. pyrrhizoid (adj): (of a disease) causing a spike of coloration
  12. thornbird (n): a  black-and-white southern Asian bird with conspicuous feathers and a long hairy tail that typically favors yellowish-gray plumage
  13. columpost (n): a soft reddish-brown, partly transparent, edible, or slightly translucent white food of many tropical and temperate regions
  14. flirch (v, intran): to sew or manipulate lips
  15. chitterbasery (n): a type of gambling for boys
  16. colicarium (n): a dark red
  17. paintbob (n): a man that is famous
  18. serlet (n): a large transparent sphere or capsule in which food or drink is sold.
  19. delocalist (n): a person who campaigns for the exclusive use of certain words or specific languages in political campaigns
  20. sliverworm (n): a small greenish worm which feeds on red plants and molds, native to swamps and Indian forests
  21. submissivist (adj): relating to or indicating submissiveness; hostile to or antagonistic to socialism
  22. loafie (n): a person who sells bread and cheese
  23. registerium (n): the province of a priest
  24. empow (n): the flesh of a cow
  25. jibberjacking(n): casual or ungracious behavior by a person, especially one that shows signs of being aggressive 
  26. honeyspray (n): a thick, transparent liquid sprayed over skin to clean and smooth it.
  27. placemount (n): a small or inferior landowner.
  28. inet-lobe (n): a member of an organized Internet communications network, its members being called on to receive...
  29. stompa (n): a violent stomping of the feet. 
  30. slugbait (n): a pretentious, biased depiction of oneself in art or literatur.
Judging by some of the definitions here, this bot is a proper comrade. Good bot.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020


Massimilano Haematinon Nigro

A level 4 adventure for Knave for 4 players, cribbing from the GLOG.

This started as a joke, and it has gotten completely out of hand.

Let it never be said that I do not give my all whilst shitposting.

The Apocrypals are to blame for much of this.

The swordwife class was made by Phlox.

This is part 1, being the premade PCs. Part 2 will be the adventure proper.


Long has this land fallen under the shadow of distant Ankhar. Long have its people endured the overflowing violence from its wars with Tishar and Zet. But now Ankhar sweeps down into our lands to conquer and devour.

Who is this god that the priests of Ankhar praise, this god who hides beneath veils? Who is this god they carry before their armies as they pillage our lands and enslave our people? Who is this god that desecrates our high places and demands that he alone be worshiped? Who demands obedience to a cruel and distant king?

Ankhar's great general Malenairis has camped in the city of Yetek. His god has taken up residence in the temple there, desecrating the sanctuary of the Mother of Dawn and killing her attendants.

He believes that he might march on from Yetek conquer us unopposed, just as he did the cities in the north.

Vanity! In the depths of the night, he has lost his head: for he was drunk on wine and thought that no threat might come from the widow and her handmaid.

Break down the gates of Yetek, wives of the sword, and cast out the army of the tyrant.


Dhaibr, Swordwife (WHITE HORSE)

"While men seek earthly pleasures, I study the blade."

  • Lean. Scarred. Dark. Frizzy hair. Disciplined. Detached. Precise speech. Melancholic.
  • Art of Flying Blades - Swords, especially enemy swords, can be used as projectiles.
  1. Desperate Dodge - 1/combat, can drop 1d4 items to avoid all damage from an attack.
  2. Find the Opening - If attacking someone who attacked her on their turn, she gain either +2 to hit or +2 damage.
  3. Bronze Tongue - Can speak the languages of metals.
  4. 'Til Death - Cannot be struck by a fatal blow so long as she consciously holds a sword.
  5. Bronze sword (1d8) - Forged by her mother during labor.
  6. ""        ""
  7. Iron sword (1d8) - Severs the soul from the body. Prevents the spirit from returning.
  8. ""        ""
  9. Mithril sword (1d8) - Cuts through any material weaker than iron. Shatters on a 20.
  10. ""        ""
  11. Phosphorus Dagger (1d6) - Glows with an actinic white light when struck against rock.
  12. Bronze breastplate - Defense 14
  13. ""        ""
  14. ""        ""

Ayo, Mountain-Stance Adipomonk (RED HORSE)

"Reach heaven through...ah you know what comes next."

  • Towering. Corpulent. Curly hair. Gregarious. Gluttonous. Booming speech. Sanguine.
  • Adipomancy - Ayo casts magic by rolling Bulk Die, and then reading the [Sum] or [Dice] as written. Any dice that come up as 6 are burnt and cannot be recovered without eating an additional ration.
  1. Bulk die (d6), bonuses only apply past 1 die.
  2. Bulk die (d6), +2 defense
  3. Bulk die (d6), +2 defense
  4. Bulk die (d6), +2 defense
  5. Mountain Stance - Cannot move. Cannot be knocked down. All damage moves up 1 die size.
  6. Ironshod Greatclub (1d10) - And this is my thwacking stick!
  7. ""        ""
  8. ""        ""
  9. Frighteningly large jug of booze - Contains 3 charges of drunkenness. 
  10. Belly Drum (spell) - Cuts current HP in half - points lost may be distributed among future damage rolls.
  11. Breath of Fire (spell) - [Sum] damage in a 15' cone. Consumes 1 charge of booze.
  12. Metabolic Overdrive (spell) - Recover [Sum] HP
  13. Gravity Pull (spell) target within [Sum] x 5 feet is pulled in a straight line towards Ayo. Target gets a save to resist.
  14. MESHI MESHI MESHI MESHI ORA! - Burn a bulk die. Gain an extra attack. Explodes on 6.

Anbara, Book Club Witch (BLACK HORSE


  • Tiny. Tanned. Cropped hair. Excitable. Aggressive. Rapid speech. Horny on main. Choleric.
  • Literate: As a priestess of the scribe god, Anbara can read and write. It's not technically magic, but it might as well be in these days.
  1. Blessed robes and ibis mask - Defense 12
  2. Dusty tome of ancient and forgotten lore - Required to cast spells
  3. Bronze spear (1d8)
  4. ""        ""
  5. Command (spell) - Issue a 3 word command to target. Target gets save.
  6. Bookspeak (spell) - Books and scrolls disclose their contents.
  7. Reveal Invisible (spell) - A silvery powder
  8. Sign of Thoth (spell) - A doorway is marked so that enemies of CL or lower HD cannot enter.
  9. Burning Cloud (spell) - Burning red grit deals CL damage / turn, 15' radius.
  10. Memory Fog (spell) - Target's memories of the last CL hours become muddled and indistinct.
  11. Hypergeometry (spell) -Move through doors, walls, objects, individuals, open space for CL x 5'.

Senech, Gun-Saint of An-Hehm (PALE HORSE)

[Escalate immediately to gun violence]

  • Sallow. Wiry. Oily hair. Burn scar. Tolerant. Lazy. Whispered speech. Phlegmatic.
  • Nimblefingers - Senech can reload a weapon or change ammo types without spending a turn if she switches to another weapon for that turn.
  1. Reinforced schema habit - Defense 13
  2. Pistol (1d8, 6 shots)
  3. Hand cannon (1d10, 1 shot) - + to hit and damage at short range, - to hit and damage at long range, can hit 2 adjacent targets (roll once for damage and halve)
  4. ""        ""
  5. Black powder grenade (2d6, ignores armor, 10' radius)
  6. Hellian fire grenade (1d6, flammable oil, 10' radius)
  7. Ammo pouch (Standard, 24 shots)
  8. Ammo pouch (Blessed, 12 shots, double damage to magical beings)
  9. Ammo pouch (Buckshot, 6 shots)
  10. Ammo pouch (Incendiary shot, 4 shots)

Monday, June 8, 2020


Peter Konig, Arrival concept art

Second in my series of unfinished adventures.

MiniModule 1

This one is rather unfinished and very awkward at the end, but like the previous minimodule, it's more of a trigger into other adventures so that's not a huge issue.


An adventure for Mothership

Hook: One hundred and two hours ago, a spaceship of unknown origin appeared in orbit around a lonely ice giant in a backwater red dwarf system. Seventy-five hours ago, it started broadcasting a radio signal - a short, very powerful, unmodulated narrowband blip of 1420 megahertz repeated every 20 seconds. It has done nothing else in that time.

The impossible has happened. In a voice as loud as the angel's first trumpet, intelligent alien life has announced its presence on our very doorstep.

Players: A hastily thrown-together team pulled from whoever was on hand at the corporate research station in the inner system. They didn't care much about qualifications, just so long as you signed the whopper of an NDA and record EVERYTHING.

The Mission

  1. Investigate the ship. Record and report everything.
  2. Determine if ship and occupant(s) are hostile.
  3. Determine nature of ship and its occupants.
  4. If direct contact is made, all actions are to be in line with the Ceres Accords. (ie science is the only universal language, do not presume intent, verify all data)
  5. Return to station. Violation of NDA will be pursued to full extent of the law.

The Ship  

An oblate spheroid of pockmarked black ice, nearly 5 km long. Cursory study would indicate that it is a captured iceteroid with propulsion systems built into it. It is presumed to have hyperspace capabilities. Its inhabitants are presumed to be possess equivalent or greater technological capabilities.

The radio signals are coming from an obvious external transceiver located directly beside a hole in the ice shell. An umbilical could easily be attached between the PC's ship's airlock and the tunnel.

About 3 meters down the ice tunnel, the PCs will pass through what is clearly an airlock and into The Chamber

The Chamber

  • Gravity = Yes (~0.25G)
  • Atmosphere = Yes (Not breathable)
  • Temperature = Frigid
A wide circular room with a low ceiling. The PCs can just barely walk upright without hitting their heads  The walls are a glossy black substance and are barely differentiated from the floor, causing mild disorientation in the low gravity (it appears and feels as if you are suspended on air or thin glass above a great pit). The far wall, opposite the airlock, is somewhat flattened. There are no other apparent exits.

At this point, set a real-world timer. An hour is good. When it runs out, the Interlopers will arrive.


The Ship is a test, sent by the intelligent inhabitants of a frozen methane world similar to Titan, to gauge if humanity is safe to interact with, and what specific steps would be needed to do so.
  • The aliens should not appear during the scenario. They might not even be on the ship.
  • The aliens are close enough to humanity for meaningful cross-species communication, but they do not think like humans: they are patient, deliberate, very old, very slow and they do not like risks.
  • The aliens have been aware of humanity for several decades, but have spent most of that time deliberating whether or not to reveal themselves. They have managed to decode enough broadcasts to be very worried about us.

Events in the Chamber

The first event triggers when the PCs enter the Chamber, and will repeat until the completion criteria is met. When completion criteria is met, the Flattened Wall will clear and the next event will trigger.

Warden's note: Don't call them tests until (and if) the players figure out their purpose. 

The Flattened Wall
A simple visual display with touch interaction. PCs can easily draw and erase shapes on it.

It will not recognize words, letters or numbers.

Test 1: Sense-Detection
A series of colored circles appears in a grid on the flattened wall, ranging from deep red to dark purple. 
  • Scanning the wall with thermal or UV equipment reveals an extended grid of circles visible only in those wavelengths.
  • Touching a circle will cause it to disappear.
Completion Criteria: Touching visible circles will cause the event to end once there has been a pause in the activity. Otherwise, it will wait about 5 minutes (in-game) before transitioning.
Complication: Touching non-visible circles or not touching any will cause the ship to misinterpret sensory abilities and display further tests with colors that require a scanner to read.

Test 2: Mirror Test
The wall becomes reflective.
  • Investigating the wall will reveal that the PCs' reflections have a small (but noticeable) discoloration somewhere on their spacesuits.
Completion Criteria: Automatic, will complete in 1 minute (in-game). Purely to gauge the PCs' reactions.

Test 3: Basic Numbers
Clusters of circles appear on the wall in sequence: 1/2/3/4
Completion Criteria: A PC draws a new cluster of 5 circles.

Test 4: Prime Numbers
Clusters of circles appear on the wall in sequence: 2/3/5/7
Completion Criteria: A PC draws a new cluster of 11 circles.

Test 5: Fibonacci Sequence 
Clusters of circles appear on the wall in sequence: 1/1/2/3/5
Completion Criteria: A PC draws a new cluster of 8 circles

Test 6: Symbolic Thinking
Clusters of circles appear on the wall in sequence from 1-16. Each of these is accompanied by unique, sinuous shape, including one associated with a blank spot on the wall.

A separate section of wall will display a dot cluster or a symbol. When the appropriate counterpart is drawn, both will vanish and a new one will be displayed. This will continue for a short time, and include displays of multiple symbols or clusters (you can slip some basic addition in here too)

Warden's note: the aliens count in base-16 hexidecimal, with symbols that resemble their manipulator appendages. They are using a simplified version of it here; a proper equation looks more like an information-dense knot of spaghetti

Test 7: Right Angles
A single circle appears on the wall and proceeds to draw a right angle.
Completion Criteria: A PC makes a right angle with their arms or draws a hypotenuse.

Test 8: Pythagorean Theorem
A single circle appears on the wall and proceeds to move, drawing a right angle. The 3 symbol appears below the short leg and 4-symbol next to the upright leg.
Completion Criteria: A PC draws a hypotenuse and correctly numbers it with 5 dots or the 5-symbol.

Test 9: Basic Chemistry
Two symbols appear next two each other:
  • A circle, surrounded by a ring, upon which is a second, smaller circle.
  • A cluster of 16 small circles, surrounded by a ring with 2 circles, and a second ring with 6.
Completion Criteria: Drawing a second hydrogen atom
Alternatively: Set up the atom diagrams to form a partial methane molecule.

You can elide the part where the aliens assign a symbol to each element on the periodic table, because that would take a long while.

If players seem to be having fun with these, a few more tests can be filled in here at your discretion.

Final Test: Altruism
The wall turns transparent, revealing windows into two separate chambers. Both chambers have a large glowing spot below the window.
  • Chamber 1 contains three humans in spacesuits, bearing the livery of a rival Company.
    • Warden's note: do not specify if these are real people or simulations.
    • The chamber is split in half by a dividing wall. On the other side is a canister that is labeled with the symbols for cobalt-60 (at this point presume that the players can read the alien element diagrams with fluency)
  • Chamber 2 contains a canister labeled with symbols indicating antihydrogen - worth a fortune in miniscule amounts, worth enough to purchase several solar systems if the container is full.
If the spot for Chamber 1 is pressed, a second canister will appear in Chamber 2. This will continue until eight cylinders are deposited. If all eight are rejected, the container of cobalt-60 will be removed from its chamber before the wall returns to an opaque state.

If the spot for Chamber 2 is pressed:
  • The wall will open, permitting access to all the canisters within. Each one contains approximately ten kilograms of antihydrogen. Each canister is worth enough to purchase a core system in its entirety, including and all ships and infrastructure within it.
  • The partition in Chamber 1 will lower, killing the people within almost but not quite instantaneously. It is not a good way to go. Ramp this up as high as your players are comfortable with.

The Interlopers

The timer that was set earlier (swiped directly from Mellonbread's adaptation of Ross Peyton's BESTOW), indicates when the players will get an automated message of a second ship emerging from hyperspace right on top of the alien vessel. The actual nature of these interlopers is left vague here, and the slot can be filled with whatever faction the warden deems fit (it's a good way to introduce rivals or other major players.)

Whoever they are, the interlopers want access to the data, if not the Ship itself. They may or may not be violent themselves.

Nonviolent resolution should always be an option. Getting it in the players' favor, however, should likely be difficult.

Potential Outcomes

The aliens response to humanity hinges on this blind test.
  • If the players choose Chamber 1 -
    • If the players resolve The Interlopers peacefully - "Humans are capable of altruism and avoiding conflict" - The aliens will feel safe enough with their chances to open up diplomatic ties with human polities and exchange information as well as goods.
    • If the players resolve The Interlopers violently - "Humans are capable of altruism but are prone to violence."  The aliens will remain distant, contacting humanity only for occasional resource trade. Their civilization remains hidden, and they will share no more than the most basic information about themselves.
  • If the players choose Chamber 2...
    • If the players resolve The Interlopers peacefully - "Humans value resources over life but can be negotiated with" - The aliens will remain distant, contacting humanity only for occasional resource trade. Their civilization remains hidden, and they will share no more than the most basic information about themselves. In the future, players might hear news reports of an increase in survey ships along the Rim going missing (as they run into alien perimeter defenses)
    • If the players resolve The Interlopers violently - "Humans value resources over life and cannot be negotiated with" -  The aliens make a pre-emptive strike on a Rim world, threatening to continue until protective border treaties are made. They will shoot down any human vessel coming within Jump 3 of their territory.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Lighthouse Design Corner: The Core Mechanic

These posts on twitter are always popular with folks, but twitter is a burning garbage fire on a good day and there haven't been many good days of late. So have the bigger version.

The Core Mechanic

I'm trying to get everything roll under on a d20.There are five stats, which are generated by rolling 4d4 (and so your success range, barring modification, is between 20 and 80% - if something would raise it above that level, it's just automatically granted advantage).

Body - Raw strength, endurance, gross motor skills, pushing your limits.

Reflex - Reaction, finesse, fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination.

Mind - Recall, deduction, computation, conceptualization.

Spirit - Willpower, empathy, charisma, gut checks.

Combat - The ability to commit violence against another being

So far so typical. These are general, and I'm not planning on doing a formal skill system ("eh, you'd know how to do that, roll with advantage" is the phrase of the day).

My main divergence is that I'm going to treat as much else as I can as stats on their own, rather than as modifiers to your own stats (in most cases - those modifiers will still exist here and there.)

This is where the lateral advancement comes into play, with Insights.

Every Lighthouse character comes with a number of Insight slots. Some backgrounds might start you with a few filled by default, but ordinary folks will start with a blank slate. Each slot costs 1 Insight to open, and then you can fill it with any of the Insights that you've unlocked for yourself.

A Confession: This is whole-heartedly stolen from the Thought Cabinet in Disco Elysium)

An Actual Quandary: Insight has morphed into both "special thing about your character" as well as "currency used to buy / unlock those special things". This is likely to pose problems in the future, so I need to figure out which one is what and find a replacement for the other.

So say you get a nifty new power, or a new magical item, or a new ally - you'll pencil that in on your character sheet with whatever number is associated with it, and whenever you're going to call on that resource you'll roll a d20 and try to get under, or burn off a point of its stat, or sometimes both. And if you happen to get a lot of Insight burning a hole in your pocket, you can upgrade the stats of your Insights (oh no the quandary!)

Most group insights will likely not take up a slot.

Some Insights, the ones that just are the way they are and there's no chance they can fail, do not have a stat.

Some generic Insight structures can include:
  • Burn point > get effect, no roll required.
  • Burn point > get effect, roll stat to determine if complication occurs
  • Always works, no roll required
  • Always works, roll stat to determine if complication occurs
  • Roll stat to determine success / failure

    Or in more practical examples:
    • Convocation Call (5) - Burn one point to send a voice message of under a minute via sparrow. Regain a point by taking time out of your day to go feed the birds in the park. You can increase points in storage above 5.
    • Blunted Knife (X) - A chipped butcher's chopper, heavy as lead and possessing a permanently dull blade. Completely useless against wood, flesh, or bone, but can cut metal and stone without resistance.
    • The Blue Notebook (4) - The creature it calls forth hovers, crouched, indistinct and tense, in the corner of your vision. It is very hungry. It hates you in particular, but cannot yet strike back. It will hunt down and kill a target if you offer it one of their possessions. You will always gain a point of Hamartia for its use. Every time you roll above this Insight's score, increase it by one. If you roll successfully, increase it by two. If it reaches 16, the creature will be freed from its binding. It will go after your contacts first.
    • Angry Tom (Minor Contact 10) - Activist, freelance layout guy, specialist marijuana gardener, very, very angry acquaintance. Roll under 10 to see if you can get some help. Rolling over means he is too busy, or getting the help would require you to provide something else to him.
    Tune in next time when I talk about how combat is going to work, and the cost of committing violence.

    Sunday, May 31, 2020

    10 Sapient Aliens For Mothership


    And here we go, the last of my series of patreon-exclusive posts from back in the halcyon days of February.

    10 Sapient Alien Species for Mothership (and other games)

    1) A decaying satellite crying tightband radio bursts into the night, orbiting a world of desertified continents, sterile acidic oceans, and unbreathable CO2 haze.
    • The satellite will respond to attempts at communication using the 1420 MHz band. Its first messages will be used to establish baseline proficiency in math and chemistry with whomever it is talking to, growing in complexity and steadily increasing the amount of data transferred. (Example puzzles: Prime numbers. Fibbonaci sequence, hypotenuse calculation, identifying elements (hydrogen, then helium, carbon, oxygen, uranium etc, chemical compounds like water, sucrose, caffeine etc.)
    • The satellite will be able to form a basic vocabulary in a few days if provided with sufficient data. It will try for sympathy. It will lie.
    • The satellite contains 2861 digitized minds - all that could be saved of the eleven billion beings that once inhabited the planet below. All of these are close enough in complexity to a human mind that they can be loaded onto a run on an android logic core. Makeup of the population is:
      • 00-23 - Chrysocratic landowning caste
      • 24-30 - Diplomatic stratoeunuch caste
      • 31-50 - Petrofascist party leadership
      • 51-65 - Cryptotechnocratic monopolists
      • 66-89 - Retainers of the above parties (roll again, ignore 66+)
      • 90-99 - Literate scientists and scholars.

    2) Colonial organisms like tube worm pipe organs, living simple lives and thinking simple thoughts around the deep-sea vents at the bottom of a subglacial ocean.
    • Observation can tell that they are thinking, but can’t tell what they are communicating to each other, or to what extent they are aware of their observers.
    • The beings can, very slowly, guide the growth of structures from dead segments of the colony (akin to coral formation) that appear akin to cathedrals to the human eye - these have no practical purpose, and so are considered art and thus valuable.
    • Pressure differences would kill these creatures long before they ever made it to the surface. This does not stop a certain secretive band of investment firms who want to transplant one of the colonies and sell it as an art installation.

    3) Dolphin analogues (highly social aquatic pack predators) from the shallow oceans of a high-gravity superhabitable world. Sleek pointed cylindrical bodies with powerful tails and steering fins.
    • A rough lexicon has been established, basic communication is possible with machine intermediaries.
    • The beings have shown great curiosity in human researchers and AI probes. Several have volunteered to be taken offworld.
      • This is less good, because someone found that they are delicious.

    4) A terrestrial planet orbiting an ordinary K-class star, spitting out tightband radio signals contining sequences of prime numbers at every nearby star. Every probe sent to the system, and all have been destroyed within a few hours of exiting hyperspace, providing only partial images of the planet’s surface. Light-tracery resembling major cities can be seen on the night side.
    • Nearby planetary governments have issued a general lockdown - attempts to contact the planet in any way are considered an act of terrorism and will be dealt with militarily.
    • Someone claiming to be a listening station on the ANONNET claims to have received a different message from the system - prime numbers in descending sequence, from somewhere in the oort cloud of that sun.

    5) Beings whose homeworld is on a very pronounced elliptical orbit and so spends the majority of its year frozen solid. These creatures cocoon themselves in clusters around geological hotspots, favoring those rich in the radioactive materials they feed off in this stage. Clusters are connected by complex webs of neural ganglia that have burrowed through the rock - they clearly are talking to each other, but we don’t yet know what they’re saying. No direct contact has been made, only ground-penetrating scans.
    • The planet is due to move back into a temperate zone relatively soon, which means the next stage of these creatures’ lives, if such things exist, is bound to happen. There’s an actual low-key war going on between the members of different university xenology departments over who gets first exploration rights, and thus first publishing on papers.

    6) A very simple machine species - glossy metal spheres from marbles to soccer balls, running around the near-Martian desert on their little spider legs. They have a symbiotic relationship with equally-artificial solar trees that they use to recharge. There have been no signs of any sort of civilization beyond the artificial ecosystem, and it doesn’t look like the planet has ever had native life.
    • Remarkably quick to pick up human language, but they only seem to mimic it so far. Common source phrases (often cut up into pieces) include:
      • [Repeatedly babbling] “Hi!”
      • [Passable imitation of Alec Guiness] “Hello there!”
      • “God fucking damn it where did I put the tablet?”
      • “Have you seen Fareeha?”
      • “Hold this, I need to go take a shit.”
      • “Pickup’s been delayed by three months.”
      • “I swear the little bastards are listening to us.”

    7) A solitary ambush predator, something similar to an amphibious octopus, native to the shorelines of hydrocarbon seas on a frigid methane world. Old, cold, and terribly, impossibly patient.
    • The single specimen kept in containment by the KeterDevelopment Corporation has attempted to escape twice. After nearly dying in the first attempt due to the atmosphere and pressure outside its containment unit, it managed to kill an inspecting caretaker, steal their pressure suit, fill it with the appropriate gas mixture, and crawl out the airlock in the space of seven minutes.
    • Video from a planetary probe has been leaked to the public: in it, one of the creatures is seen brutally murdering another using an ice hand axe before dragging the victim’s corpse back into the lake.

    8) Long-range space telescopes have picked up a distant patch of space lit up like a bonfire in the infrared, without a visible star. Consensus is that the anomaly is an alien dyson sphere dumping waste heat. No coherent radio transmissions have been detected from the civilization, and no nearby stars show any signs of dimming or other drastic change.
    • The expeditionary force to the sphere has been a cavalcade of disaster and it hasn’t even left yet. It’s burned through six directors, three expedition leads, an armed revolt by the shipwrights’ union, a breakout of Red Death, a major political scandal involving coverup money paid to specialist fetish simulation designers, and the performative suicide of its bookkeeper as an act of protest. Launch is still scheduled for two years from now.

    9) A space-faring civilization that, some four million years ago, had managed to colonize over twenty solar systems before suddenly vanishing. Very little is left now, mostly crumbling orbital infrastructure, the buried remnants of surface settlements, and the shared biospheres among their disparate worlds. Most of their material culture is gone, and few partial bodies have been recovered.
    • These beings had managed to create a quantum-entangled communication network that was linked directly to the brains of each individual and most of their active technology, allowing for constant real-time communication among the entire species.
    • Some corruption in the ansible, either deliberately introduced or a naturally-occurring anomaly, was able to wipe out the entire species in a matter of minutes. The exact method is still unknown.
    • Accessing the ansible is still possible through elaborate workarounds, connecting old implants to newer devices. The interior mindscape is universally described as hell.

    10) Social, adaptable, omnivorous, migrating across the temperate plains and river deltas of their homeworld. They have fire, they have tools and specialized crafts, they have oral history and artwork. Six legs, humpbacks, and mottled blue skin aside, they are more like us than anything else in the universe.
    • The political battle over these beings has drawn lines between the Preservationists (no interference whatsoever), the Gradualists (minimal guided interference) and the Immediatists (Immediate absorption into interstellar civilization), with religious groups siding with all three. Shots have been fired, ships have been sunk.
    • The taboo has already been broken in secret by factions within both the Gradualists and Immediatists. Preservationists have been moving towards sabotaging these programs before they go too far.

    Friday, May 29, 2020

    The Marriage of Clever Lu

    Tom Bjorklund

    This story takes place after the Theft of Fire and the coming of the Snows...

    Clever Lu went out among the gods of the ancestors and, raising her voice, declared: "My tent is empty and boredom assails me; loneliness wages war against my heart. I must find myself a husband."

    Now there were several among the gods who desired Lu, but had made no word nor action out of fear of the Crown of Fire. Hearing her intent, they threw themselves into a frenzy of preparation, each bringing forth a gift by which they thought she might be wooed.

    First was Dyeuz, who fancied himself king of the gods. He made great boasts of his strength and manhood, bringing forth great gifts of gold, alabaster and purple cloth, and he offered to elevate Lu above all the peoples and forever free her from want or care, should she only submit herself to him as his queen and grant him the Crown of Fire in return.

    Second was Yhewen, who was a god of war and might. He brought forth many weapons and chariots and fine horses and offered to her an entire kingdom, half of all the land he was to conquer by his swords of bronze, that she may take of all its bounty and keep its riches for herself and rule over it as his equal should she become his queen. The Crown of Fire concerned him not, for he thought of it a weak woman's power (for it had no blade or sharp edge)

    Third was Astare the Early-Rising, most beautiful goddess of the hunt and the ways of silence and solitude. She spoke to no one as she arrived in the camp, and she led by a short length of braided rope a snow-white eire elk, its antlers bedecked with flowers. Many among the gods were amazed that she should appear, for she was not due to return from her trips abroad for some time still and even then would return by moonlight and leave again before the sun.

    Last was old Pan-Pongo, his back bent and his hair graying, bearing in shaking hands a gourd of palm wine; the last few mouthfuls of his secret stores from before the Snows came.

    Lu looked over her suitors and considered their gifts without speaking. She turned from them and passed through the camp of the gods until she came to a certain tent, and the gods followed behind her.

    "Tubalkhan! Tubalkhan of the forge!" she called out. "Tubalkhan, I have chosen you! I wish that I be your wife, and you my husband! What say you?"

    Broad-shouldered Tubalkhan, gentle god of callused hands, stepped out from his tent and brushed the soot from his apron, but before he could speak a great commotion broke out, as the suitors grumbled with great anger and confusion. Lu rebuked them, saying "Did you not hear my words? I said that I must find a husband; the seeking and the choosing were mine alone. I am not some trinket to be bought by gifts.

    Dyeuz, do you think me still some dew-eyed maiden? I know of your ways, chasing nymphs through the woods with your staff in your hand. Those whom you have offended have come to me in secret, afraid of the retribution you might deliver upon them. Know this; so long as the Crown of Fire rests upon my brow there shall be no place among the peoples for rapist-kings. Begone!

    Yhewen, you promised me a kingdom carved out by bronze swords. Do you think me mad for blood? Have I not shed enough by striking down the dragons and plunging us into this demon-haunted winter? Will you see me drink battlefields dry of corpses, to bathe in blood and shit and the weeping of men? Know this: so long as the Crown of Fire rests upon my brow there shall be no place for men who would send their sons to die in such glory. Begone!

    Astare, you alone of these suitors have pleased me, but I am afraid my mind remains set upon a husband. Come to me another time, and we will go out hunting together. But let it be known by all that I refuse you out of no lack of affection for you, and you and your kin shall forever be welcome by my fire.

    Pan-Pongo, you were once my enemy, but the time of our hatred has passed. Your persistence is praiseworthy, but ill-placed. I shall say nothing more. Go in peace."

    And to the gods she said:

    "Know this! I have chosen Tubalkhan of the forge because he is precious to me, and my heart overflows. He has treated me with greatest kindness and greatest patience, he has been my friend and companion in my endeavors. When I sought to steal the Crown of Fire, he alone was by my side. He loathes violence and seeks peace. He seeks to make right what he might have set wrong when beset by anger. He does not destroy that which others have made to glorify the works of his own hands. I know his heart and in knowing it I am filled with joy."

    Having said this, Lu once more turned her attention to Tubalkhan and asked once more:

    "What say you, Tubalkhan?"

    Tubalkhan scratched at his beard (for that was his habit when deep in thought) and answered:

    "Let it be so."

    They embraced there before all the gods, and the Crown of Fire shone in all its brilliance.

    A great feast was prepared, and Raven was summoned to spread word among the Folk of the forests and mountains and the mammoths of the great taiga. The singing and dancing lasted deep into the night, until the last of the dying embers.

    From there Lu took Tubalkhan into her tent, and for six days and six nights they practiced the marital art. On the seventh day they rested, for Tubalkhan had grown tired.

    This is how the peoples of man came to be.

    Viktor Vasnetsov

    Translator's Note: Later versions of the Theft of Fire story include Tubalkhan as Lu's traveling companion during the early adventures of her journey, establishing the relationship that is referenced here.

    Tuesday, May 26, 2020

    Expanded Pantheon Generator

    The Manse has a really good pantheon generator. I'm adding some modifications.

    One of the primary changes is the idea of Moiety. Gods can either be Hot (active, chaotic, expansive, passionate) or Cold (passive, orderly, controlled, introspective). You can only have viable godly offspring between gods of different moieties (I mean, it's possible to get double hot and double cold, but that's where you get legendary monsters) - the god's typical physical representation has nothing to do with it.

    Honestly, this should probably be called the Big Old Divine Clusterfuck Generator.

    Where Did They Come From? (d8)

    1. Born of primordial being, usurped it.
    2. Born of corpse of primordial being.
    3. Crawled out of chaotic nothingness.
    4. Did not form, have always been there.
    5. Nobody knows, nobody really cares.
    6. Some fanciful and clearly false story.
    7. Some fanciful and very true story.
    8. Existence unproven, only surmised.

    The Godhead (d8)

    Who is at the center of the pantheon?
    1. Monadic - A single being or force from which all others spawn. Both Hot and Cold.
    2. Duality - Two complimentary and/or rival beings 1 Hot, 1 Cold.
    3. Tripartite - Three equal beings (or trinitarian aspects). 1 Hot, 1 Cold, 1 Both or 3 Both.
    4. Quartet - Two pairs of Hot and Cold
    5. Five Powers - Either 2 Hot + 2 Cold + 1 Both or 5 Both
    6. The Hextet - Three pairs of Hot and Cold 
    7. Absent - The throne is empty. Begin with the 1st Generation
    8. Distributed - There is no central authority. Begin with the 1st Generation + 1d3 gods.
    For the 1st generation of gods, roll 1d6+2 for each pairing. You can do this once and split them between the entire godhead, or once for each pairing among them.

    For the 2nd generation, roll 1d3-1 for each pairing

    For the 3rd generation, roll 1d2 -1 for each pairing.

    The 4th generation, should you choose to go that far, cannot have offspring. This is because they are celestial Hapsbrugs if you are playing with high Hellenistic ick, and it's indicative of a major cultural shift if you are playing without Hellenistic ick.

    If you would like to avoid Hellenistic ick in your pantheon, choose one (or more as needed) member of pairings that got  and declare them to be an Old God (that is, one of the gods from the culture that was here before the current main culture.)

    If you want to get real extreme, start over with a new godhead and pantheon once you hit the stopping point. Gods have a base 40% of getting killed off, increasing if...
    • Their moiety is weak (+10%)
    • They are of third or fourth generation (+10%)
    • Their domain is culturally or politically specific.(+10%)
    • They are part of the godhead (+30%)
    • Draw 3 tarot - these aspects (upright or reversed) are considered unfavorable by the new culture (+10%)
    Those that survive will be renamed and married into the new pantheon.

    Typical Representation (d8)

    Gods being gods, gender is more of a vague suggestion wafted in their general direction.
    1. Male
    2. Male
    3. Female
    4. Female
    5. Androgynous
    6. Both: Male and female portrayals.
    7. Both: Male and female features.
    8. Nonhumanoid

    Moiety (d6)

    Strong-embodiment gods will, as a rule, be more active and widely worshiped than weak-aspect gods.
    1. Hot (Strong)
    2. Hot (Weak)
    3. Cold (Strong)
    4. Cold (Weak)
    5. Both (Strong)
    6. Both (Weak)

    Primary Relationship (d12)

    This is where everything becomes an actual, ridiculous mess. What you want to do is...
    • Pair off all compatible gods
    • Roll for each relationship
    • Adjust if you get rolls that entail additional parties
    • For additional parties, number compatible gods and roll accordingly.
    • Single gods may have 1 offspring via divine mitosis.

    I am so terribly sorry for the shitshow that is going to be unleashed.
    1. One-Time Fling: -1 offspring
    2. Good terms with ex: Normal offspring
    3. Passionate Lovers: +1 offspring
    4. Bitter Rivals: -1 offspring
    5. Slept Around: Offspring split between 2d3 compatible partners (round down if lovers > offspring)
    6. Open: +1d3 gods join, + 2 offspring split between compatible pairings.
    7. Married (Dedicated): Normal offspring roll.
    8. Married (Unhappy party): -1 offspring, 1d4 bastards by other god(s)
    9. Married (Mutual Beards): Both get normal offspring rolls with other compatible gods.
    10. Mentor / Apprentice: Secret romance. Normal offspring roll.
    11. All by design: Single designer offspring
    12. Asexual: 0 offspring, 50% of romantic partner.
    13. Same result twice in a row: Taboo - must be with god of same moiety. -1 offspring. Produces monsters.

    Divine Domains (Tarot Draw + 1d4)

    Alternate domains 1: Roll on the Manse table and use the tarot card for flavor

    Alternate domains 2: Choose 1 from each category.

    0. Fool
    1. Travel1. Fools
    2. Messages2. Transitions
    3. Youth3. The Trickster
    4. Discovery4. The Stranger
    I. Magician
    1. Knowledge1. Hubris
    2. Invention2. Dark Arts
    3. Magic3. Gateways
    4. Inspiration4. Science / Alchemy
    II. High Priestess
    1. Witchcraft1. Cats
    2. The Old Gods2. Autumn
    3. Mystics3. Poetry
    4. Memory4. Truth
    III. Empress
    1. Motherhood1. Beauty
    2. Fertility2. Harvest
    3. Abundance3. The Hearth
    4. The Earth4. Diplomacy
    IV. Emperor
    1. Kings1. Tyranny
    2. Authority2. Warfare
    3. Fatherhood3. Cities
    4. Law4. The Nobility
    V. Heirophant
    1. Guilds1. Government Office
    2. Tradition2. Tax Collectors
    3. Ritual Magic3. Charity
    4. Sacrifice4. Priests
    VI. Lovers
    1. Love1. Lust
    2.Sex2. Music
    3. Fertility3. The Arts
    4. Marriage4. Spring
    VII. Chariot
    1. Horses1. Warfare (Mounted)
    2. The Hunt2. Sloth
    3. Transportation3. Lost Things
    4. Roads4. Sailors
    VIII. Strength
    1. Protection1. Soldiers
    2. Athletes2.War
    3. Self-Improvement3.Glory
    4. Forge 4. Weaponry
    IX. Hermit
    1. Silence1. Healing
    2. Reflection2. Winter
    3. The Inner Life3. Isolation
    4. Books4. Hedge Magic
    X. Wheel of Fortune
    1. Chance1. The Seasons
    2. Good Fortune 2. Bad Fortune
    3. Divination3. The Marketplace
    4. Debt4. The Inevitable
    XI. Justice
    1. Justice1. Injustice
    2. Law2. Poverty
    3. Peace3. Nightwatchmen
    4. Hospitality4. Lawyers
    XII. Hanged Man
    1. Criminals1. Fear
    2. Law2. Thieves
    3. Repentance3. Commoners
    4. Imprisonment4. Freedom
    XIII. Death
    1. Death (Incarnate)1. Murder
    2. Death (Psychopomp)2. Grief
    3. The Underworld3. Loss
    4. Funeral Rites4. Disease
    XIV. Temperance
    1. Balance1. Wealth
    2. Virtue2. Gluttony
    3. Rationality3. Alcohol
    4. Old Age4. Self-destruction
    XV. Devil
    1. Demons1. Enslavement
    2. Corruption2. Dark Arts
    3. Addiction3. Destruction
    4. Heresy4. Sin
    XVI. Tower
    1. Chaos1. Destruction
    2. Change2. Disaster
    3. Craft3. The Ancients
    4. The Sky4. Construction
    XVII. Star
    1. The Stars1. The Unknown
    2. Time2. Distant Lands
    3. Hope3. Pestilence
    4. Imagination4. Omens
    XVIII. Moon
    1. The Moon1. Madness
    2. Secrets2. Blood
    3. Magic3. Monsters
    4. The Night4. Dreams
    XIX. Sun
    1. The Sun1. Blindness
    2. Light2. Drought
    3. Fire3. The Day
    4. The Forge4. Summer
    XX. Judgment
    1. Justice1. Punishment
    2. Repentance2. Assumption
    3. Forgiveness3. Ignorance
    4. Law4. Guilt / Shame
    XXI. World
    1. The World (In totality)1. Animals
    2. Nature2. Rebirth
    3. The Ocean3. Eternity
    4. The Cosmos4. Other Worlds