Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Fun with Linneaus II

Last year I brewed up a post where I made a bunch of monsters based on cobbled-together scientific names. Now that I'm halfway through The Book of the New Sun the itch has struck again, inspired by Wolfe's love of archaisms and his own Greek and Latin rootwords.

For this installment, I'm expanding beyond creatures and applying it to whatever makes sense for the name.

Acanthomata ("tumor back")

Stoop-backed from the weight of the bulging, pulsing growths that weigh down its spine. Head bowed to the ground, as if in prayer. Yellow eyes burning with the fervor of endurance.

Apulmon ("without lung")

A wizard's homunculus, grown for manual labor in orbit. Paper-thin bones. Shiny black mosaic scutes shield from radiation, solar sails fold against the back when not in use.

Arsenasthenia ("male weakness")

A terribly polite way of saying "vulnerability to being kicked in the dick."

Bidactylocide ("two-finger killing")

A martial art capable of killing a man using only two fingers. Each combination might cause death through a different means - explosion, implosion, liquification, excrutiation, exsanguination, etc.

Electrocrinus ("amber lily")

A rare water flower with petals of fossilized sap. Ancient insects can still be seen inside. Coveted for its conductive properties, used in a variety of folk medicine traditions.

Endodynamodynia ("internal power pain")

A medical condition caused by an inbalance of mana within a practitioner of the thaumaturgical arts. Symptoms include swelling of the lymph nodes, persistent headaches and light-sensitivity, bright discolorations of yellow, blue, red, and octarine starting at the navel and spreading outwards across the abdomen, excessive flatulence, and agonizing pain in the gut when attempting to cast a spell. The condition is not fatal, though any graduate student who's come down with it will argue otherwise.

Glaucoglott ("blue-grey tongue")

A vast salamander thing, twice as long as a man is tall. It can never completely reel its tongue back into its mouth, and uses the bright and flicking tip as a lure for creatures along the shoreline.

Homohippus ("man-horse")

The body of a horse, the legs of a man. The skull is twinned: a tilt of the head up or down reveals one face, and then the other. One neighs and whinnies, the other screams and stops only when it passes out.

Lacrimognosis ("tear knowledge")

With certain secret alchemical reagents, one might gather and consume the tears of another to gain insight into their lives and loves.

Lactolestes ("milk robber")

Its truest form is a sort of fat lamprey with a dozen stumpy legs. It may lull its prey into believing it to be their infant, thus nursing on stolen goods while the true offspring goes hungry.

Magniporphyrhino ("great purple nose")

An ape with a shaggy grey mane. Its face is flushed red, and the bulbous protruding nose a brilliant violent. Males will inflate this mighty shnozz to attract females during the mating season, an act terrible to behold.

Nocinax ("pain king")

PAIN. KING.

Octodon ("eight-tooth")

The teeth like shovel blades, each on its own mandible and arranged in a circle, fit for burrowing through soil and stone. It is blind and ill-suited to the light and nosie of the surface, but its skin contains many valued anticancerous unguents.

Osteopsy ("inspection of bones")

A divinitory practice, now banned by the new government. In it, one who wishes to have their future read will offer up a bone or bones, from the tip of a finger to an entire leg, to their shaman. The offering will be presented to sacred flesh-stripping beetles, and the cleaned bone will be placed in the fire until it cracks and can be read. If the proper ceremony is made, this prediction will always be accurate. The larger the bone, the more detail can be gleaned.

Spondylscolio ("twisted spine")

Thin and lizardly, coiled up like a spring. Can stick to walls using the gripping pads of its feet and launch itself great distances. Beloved for their cheerful chirps and eating of pest insects.

Striatocetus ("striped whale")

A cachalot named so for its bands of pale grey and deep blue. Known to launch itself out of the water to do battle with its favored prey, the pelagic sky-squids.

Tachystomy ("swift creation of a circular opening")

A finishing move in martial arts: punching a clean hole out of a target with a single blow.

Tritympani ("three eardrums")

Like a three-armed starfish, with a taut membrane between each arms. Arboreal, use vibrations of their membranes for simple humming and buzzing calls, and to attract insect prey.

Umbilicodendron ("umbilical tree")

A tree that is too much like a spine, with leaves too much like teeth. Meat-rope branches dangling down to raw red fetal-curled forms by the yellow-grey roots. They stir. Ride faster.

Xenula ("small foreign thing")

No bigger than a marble, but clearly alien in substance. Flit away from contact. Scrawl signs in the dirt. They may very well think.

Xiphzymy ("fermentation of swords")

Ritual preparation of dueling swords, where the chosen blades are steeped in a mixture of goat's milk, wild honey, and alcohol.




Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Play Report: Operation HYACINTH

So I ran Delta Green for some friends off-line. It was my first time as Handler and their first time playing it, and it ended up all right. We all had fun.

But I'll be damned if I can write up an interesting play report out of it. I'll try, but much of it feels redundant. This ties into my bigger comments regarding Delta Green as a system, which will follow.

At the opera tonight we have:
  • Chris Redfield (Special Operator) 
  • Talia (Anthropologist)
  • Bo (Engineer)
  • Darren (Federal Agent)
  • Odin (Special Operator)
  • James (Federal Agent)

Operation HYACINTH was stitched together out of two of the 2018 shotgun scenarios (Rendezvous in Rama and Peak DHOLE), which worked pretty neatly together. The team had two main objectives:
  1. Take an inventory of the items left in the long-abandoned Camp House and call in a cleanup crew to secure them.
  2. Agent Portland, to vanished. Last contact was a message he left with his case officer: "I've got to stop O'Rourke." (This was the party's official cover)

[Aside] I am terribly proud of both my manila-folder conspiracy file referee screen and how the case officer summoned them all to an Italian restaurant for a fake birthday party. She even had a hat. [/Aside]

The Junkyard


A bit of a chat with the Fairfield sheriff's department revealed O'Rourke to be the old drunk who lives in the junkyard. The team apprehended and subdued him in the middle of a murder, but were unable to save the victim, one Michael Mendoza. O'Rourke refuses to talk and seems intent on killing himself before capture. Odin sleeper holds him into submission and ties him up, but not before realizing that the spiral-shaped eyes carved into his skin begin to blink and swivel towards him.

The group investigate the junkyard further. In it they find his mobile home (ransacked: they find a bunch of cassette tapes, a diary, and a copy of View from a Height that had been duct-taped shut. The back cover has a sticker reading "From the library of Jurgen Leitner") and two rows of powered refrigerators (containing the eyeless corpses of Agent Portland and eight other people). Some tire furrows leading out into the woods but are not followed.

Team calls in the case officer and explains the situation. Officer tells them to kill O'Rourke to keep him out of custody and keep looking for whatever is behind this. No further explanation given, and Odin doesn't need one to shoot him.

Team calls the sheriff to come clean up. Story is simple: serial killer, shot in self-defense. The agents do not identify agent Portland, to keep their cover story viable. Some failed bureaucracy checks mean that filling out the paperwork takes the remainder of the evening and it is well after dark when they take off to Camp House.

Camp House


In the car, Chris and Talia are able to skim the diary and pick out that there have been multiple authors, writing about some creature too fast to view.

Camp House is an tiny cabin on the lakeshore, surrounded by a chain-link fence. A bit of reconnaissance shows a space to climb over, though the height and the dark means that nearly everyone makes a clumsy, injurious attempt at getting over. They sneak in the house through the bedroom window and after a quick sweep, head down into the basement.

One wall of the basement has collapsed inward, torn open by an explosion. A bunker hallway extends into the darkness. An oppressive aura settles upon the team. In the distance they hear a thudding beat and whining hum, steadily growing louder as they explore.Within those rooms, the team happens upon...

Items Found Within the Bunker


  • VHS tape labeled "Do Not View. Chinese scribbled on it reads "The fat lady sings." (x)
  • Disk of red stone engraved with a spiral of unknown characters. (x)
  • Hardcover copy of The Hanged King's Tragedy. (x)
  • Framed painting: "Still Life of Piles of Meat".
  • An algae-choked fish tank containing a sea slug and a silver bell.
  • Clay tablets arrayed with series of dots in rough pentagons. (x)
  • Silver consider with an inset triangle of USB ports. (x)
  • Severed right hand with bright red skin. (x)
  • A blue pellet labeled "alzabo extract". (x)
  • A King James Bible with heavy fungal growth. (x)
  • A leather-bound book stamped with a sun disk, in calligraphy of an unknown language. (x)
  • A fuligin cloak and mask. (x)
  • Wooden crate; customs stamp states it contains human souls, received in London May 1892.
  • Cracked black mirror, engraved with the word "FLAGA". (x)
  • Series of mason jars containing cuttlefish in formaldehyde. 
  • A rifle with strange organic protuberances where the bullets would normally go.

They proceed to steal everything marked (x) because what the case officer doesn't know can't hurt her.

At the final room the team is greeted by a vision of a man frozen in the moment of suicide. Chris freaks out and blows the corpse away with his shotgun. When he and Darren go closer to investigate, both of them witness the man's final moments of life. A voice behind them says "I've already called them" and the trigger is pulled.

The final room has nothing but a burnt chair. The music is muffled here. As the team turns to leave, there is the soft but unmistakable noise of something falling from the ceiling behind them and moving about. The piping is deafening.

There is a swift battery of fire but the blobby pale betentacled thing plays on. Chris, Darren, and James hit their breaking point. Chris gets smashed by a flailing tentacle, but survives the blow. The team books it out of Camp House, dives into their cars, and tears out into the night. They call the case officer, explain everything but the stolen goods. Cleanup will handle it. Return to the Portland case.

Before they get back to the hotel, they can see the fire glowing above the trees at Camp House.


Chris Redfield Has a Crippling Sexual Attraction to the Morbidly Obese


The VHS was clearly labeled "Do Not View", but Chris had hit half of his original sanity by the end of the session. What he got was some grainy footage of a strip club interior and an 800 pound woman straight-up eating a dude and dancing her way out of there way faster than even normal-sized people are capable of.

So yeah. He's a bit fucked up now.

[Aside]This was Y'golonac in the original shotgun but I subbed in the Bloated Woman for absurdity's sake [/Aside]

Some thoughts on Delta Green as a whole:


There's a lot of stuff I enjoyed. Stocking a room full of crazy bullshit (how many sources can you name?) and dangling mission threads like so many fish-hooks. Character creation that was straightforward enough that I was able to get the players (who generally don't play RPGs unless I am running something) to make their own characters instead of premades. Players exploiting their Bonds to get illegal goods. Players embracing SAN loss as a reason to go outrageous. All good and great. This genre is my wheelhouse.

But the game still feels 15-20 years behind. It's good for what it is but if I think I'd much rather do something with Esoteric Enterprises purely on the grounds of the amount of material I can hack into it and the ease of making more. DG is fun, but gigantic statblocks and unreadably dense scenarios are the standard - and the shotgun scenarios only sometimes alleviate this. I still had to edit them down into one-page formats.

Not a fan of how the game lends itself to "Can I use [skill name]" either.





My quest continues.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

An Evening at the Jasmine Dragon


VirusGarura


Owned and run by the man once called the Dragon of the West (and now known to all just as Uncle), the Jasmine Dragon is an upscale tea shop tucked deep in the city center. The shop has a much broader clientele than what would be typically be expected for the neighborhood - Uncle throws the doors open to friends old and new and certainly isn't above helping folks out when they need it.

"Have you heard? Judge Dee is in town to investigate..."

  1. The brutal murder of a gifted young painter.
  2. A newlywed bride, dead of poison.
  3. Theft of expensive silks bound for the capital.
  4. A break-in desecration at the local shrine.
  5. Three men claim the child is theirs.
  6. A reclusive scholar found strangled in a locked room.

The old man at the pai sho table...

  1. Has two teeth and cataracts, is half deaf, and he keeps winning.
  2. Has gone 0 - 45 today, but he's still sitting there with a smile.
  3. Has a buffalo-snake tattooed on his face. Always pauses before responding.
  4. Has been gambling away a fortune without a care in the world.
  5. Has a beard that reaches his ankles and claims to be 140 years old.
  6. Is some nondescript scholar with glasses. Certainly cheating, but how?

 Special brews on the menu include...

  1. Iron Goddess of Mercy
  2. Monkey's Elixir of Immortality
  3. Dragon's Dance Oolong
  4. Yu Yan Special
  5. Camel-Yak Milk Tea
  6. Air Monk's Breakfast Blend

Urgent News! Great Aku, Master of All Darkness, is...

  1. Unleashing unspeakable evil!
  2. Tearing open a portal in time!
  3. Flinging his enemies into the future!
  4. Telling stories to a group of children!
  5. Hiring even more bounty hunters!
  6. In a slump and depressed! He is simply too good at winning!

Class: Elemental Bender


HD: d6
Armor and Weapons: Varies by specialization.
  • Water - No armor, simple weapons. Add Level/2 to AC. Bending attacks do d6.
  • Earth - Light and medium armor, light and medium weapons. Bending attacks do d10.
  • Fire - Light and medium armor, light and medium weapons. Bending attacks do d8.
  • Air - No armor, staffs. Add Level/2 to AC. Bending attacks do d4.
Elemental Arts:

Minor use of bending can be done without a roll. Attacks and skill checks are made with the addition of a deed die, as featured in the DCC fighter. When 3 or higher is rolled on a successful attack or check, the deed succeeds.
  • Level 1: d3
  • Level 2: d4
  • Level 3: d5
  • Level 4: d6
  • Level 5: d7
  • Level 6: d8
  • Level 7: d10
Each discipline has an advanced form learned at level 3 and a master form learned at level 7. Advanced forms use a deed die one step lower than normal. Master forms use a deed die three steps lower.

Optional: If you want to add chi dice (they work like glog dice, burn out on a 6) and get a good idea of how much can be manipulated at once, I shall steal from Mateo.

  • Level 1: (1d6) Palm
  • Level 3: (2d6) Bucket
  • Level 5: (3d6) Truckbed
  • Level 7: (4d6) Bedroom
  • Level 9: (5d6) Barn


Water

  • Advanced - Healing
    • You may use Cure Wounds as a cleric two levels below you.
  • Master - Plants 
    • You may control the water inside plants. Works best in wet environments.
  • Master - Blood 
    • You may control the blood inside another human being. Requires a full moon.

Earth

  • Advanced - Tremorsense
    • You can detect vibrations within 50 feet if you have bare-skin contact with stone or earth.
  • Master - Metal
    •  Becomes more difficult the more refined the metal is.
  • Master - Lava
    •  I shouldn't have to mention how excessively dangerous this is.

Fire

  • Advanced - Breath Control
    • You can create flame and adjust the intensity of fire through breath alone.
  • Master - Lightning
    • You may generate and redirect lightning bolts.
  • Master - Combustion
    • You may fire an explosive projectile from your forehead.

Air

  • Advanced - Flight 
    • So long as you have something to glide with, you're a leaf on the wind.
  • Master - Sound
    •  You can create and muffle sounds.
  • Master - Vacuum
    •  You can create bubbles of vacuum, centered on yourself.
pugbytes



Thursday, March 7, 2019

Three Miniposts

My muse is a fickle one. An idea will possess me for a brief and brilliant moment, then vanish. Drafts will languish untouched for months and when i finally return the excitement that once possessed me has passed.

Here's some of that brain-detritus: unfinished, incomplete, fragmentary.

Playing Around with World States

You know how Zelda has the Dark World? It's like that. Take your map and add a new plane on top of it as a new layer. If there's a city in that spot, there's still a city there now, but it's changed according to whatever plane the adventurers find themselves on. If there's a mountain there, there will continue to be a mountain there.

It's a sort of hyper-dense Planescape, expanding deeper instead of outwards. Your map can be far smaller than it would be normally but contain more content. You can have fun with portals. Puzzles can cross worlds. You can get more material put of prepping one map and just adding variants. String together modules.

Binding of Isaac: OSRbirth Double Plus Platinum God Edition

It had to happen eventually. I've sunk too many hours into these games to avoid it. And thanks to Nick over at Papers & Pencils and his Legend of Zelda ruleset, it may now come to fruition, even in this unfinished state.

If the stars could not possibly get more aligned, there's a multiplayer Binding of Isaac card game out there that has mechanics that can be hacked into the aforementioned Zelda rules, plus the rules and all the cards are just listed on the official site.

1 heart = 2 HP
  • Soul hearts cannot be replenished. When they are gone, they're gone.
  • Black hearts are like soul hearts, but upon depletion do 2 damage to every enemy in the room.
  • Bone hearts have 3 HP each. After taking a 3rd point of damage (if it has not been restored), it shatters and is permanently lost. 
Characters
  • Isaac - 3 hearts - The D6 (reroll an item)
  • Maggie - 4 hearts - Yum Heart (gain 2 HP)
  • Cain - 2 hearts - Lucky Foot (1 point of luck)
  • Judas - 1 heart - Book of Belial (+1 damage to attacks in this room)
  • Eve - 2 hearts - Whore of Babylon (gain +1 damage when at 2 HP or less)
  • Samson - 3 HP - Bloody Lust (gain +1 damage after killing 5 enemies and taking no damage)
  • ??? - 3 soul hearts - Poop (hide behind it for 1 armor)
  • Azazel - 3 black hearts - Flight, short brimstone (gain +1 damage / turn of charging)
  • Lazarus - 3/1 hearts - Resurrects with 1 heart after death, leaving 1 damage blood trail.
  • Eden - Random, up to 3 of any combination - 2 random items
  • The Lost - 0 - Flight, spectral, Holy Mantle (negates 1 attack / room)
  • Lilith - 1 heart, 2 black hearts - Incubus (Familiar), Cambion Conception (gain new familiar each 15 points of damage)
  • Keeper - 2 coins (1HP each) - Wooden nickel (gain 1 penny)
  • Apollyon - 2 hearts - Void (permanently trade item for stat boost)
  • The Forgotten - 2 bone hearts / 1 soul heart - Physical form has club only. Spectral has tears.

Religion As Alignment

Some time ago now, I caught an NPR segment (or was it a completely unrelated podcast? I honestly don't know) that broke down religion into five core questions.
  • How am I here? (The cosmological question)
  • Why am I here? (The existential question)
  • Why do bad things happen? (The problem of evil)
  • How do I know right from wrong? (The morality question)
  • What happens when I die? (The afterlife question)
You can see the random tables practically generating themselves.

The answers to those questions becomes alignment. It's social alignment, it's cultural alignment, it's political alignment, it's incredibly important when dealing with the relationships between large groups of people. If you are dealing with people, you can't escape it: atheism doesn't mean that religion disappears, it just means that the answers to the questions come from different sources.

So the religious alignment chart ends up turning into a nifty little spreadsheet (James Young over at Ten Foot Polemic already did something like this years ago) where you can easily see what the general relationship is between two religions. To whit, I say there are four relationships:
  • Peaceable
  • Neutral
  • Dislike and Distrust
  • Open Hostility
But religions themselves have alignment of their own. I shouldn't have to go into detail on all the issues with defining gods (and their followers) as objectively lawful or good or chaotic or evil, but the idea of using a short hand to determine where a religion sits shouldn't necessarily be thrown out with the bathwater. It just needs a little edit.This part is helpful for people who are running 5e for folks who have yet to come out of the shallow end of the pool, I suppose.

The Law / Chaos axis is replaced by one representing organization, hierarchy, and orthodoxy.

The Good / Evil axis is replaced by one representing a religion's social acceptance.

So a religion previously labeled as "Lawful Good" now becomes "high organization, high acceptance". It might be awful as hell, but this alignment chart doesn't care about that.

Both of these factors can change according to where and when the religion in question is situated.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Adapting the SCP Wiki 2: Groups of Interest

(It won't fit on the page, but the art that should go here is by Zhange000)

We're back! In the previous installment, I went and featured bunch of items and monsters for use in Esoteric Enterprises. Here I'll be running through the various groups of interest - what they want, how they operate, and how players would generally interact with them.

I'll be writing with the presumption that EE players are all on the fringes of the supernatural world and don't belong to any particular faction. Several of the groups listed would be very easy to play as, though, so adjust to taste.

As with anything on the SCP wiki, most of these groups have a downright ludicrous amount of material written for them, and everyone interprets them differently.

Emmy's "Law Enforcement in Esoteric Enterprises" post is necessary reading and will need only minor adjustments when it is applicable.

Gorich from the Discord server was a great help organizing this and providing feedback

Major Organizations

High organization, wide scope. 
These are the big players. Their reach is global, their members number in the thousands, they have deep pockets, politicians and CEOs by the short and curlies, and enough skeletons in the closet for a necromancy convention. They're recurring features of the world and players can expect to deal with them regularly. These are the guys who show up to fuck you up.

The Foundation

The biggest kid in the sandbox. A sprawling leviathan of uncertain origin, the underworld's version of a bank too big to fail. Devoted to the capture and collection of anomalies, both to prevent knowledge from spreading to the world at large and for study of the paranormal. They are extremely reluctant to actually use anomalies in practice, due to some disastrous incidents in the past and a very conservative outlook towards the paranormal.

Using it in play: The arrival of the Foundation on the scene is an instant complication. Sure, they might be able to help you out of a pickle, but they'll also confiscate all of your cool magical shit (and any Spooks in the party) and put you on a watch list. Escaping the scene without getting caught easily becomes the order of the day. The announcement that the Foundation is on the way should be a call for grabbing whatever you can and getting the hell out of dodge, and there's no guarantee the players will ever be able to go back to the location after it's been secured.
  • Field Agents will be as plain clothes officer.
  • Mobile Task Force operatives will be as riot cop, fire team officer, and police marksman. 
  • Field Agent Specialists are as MIB field agent.   


The Global Occult Coalition

A UN task force formed in the wake of the second World War to combat the paranormal, consisting of 108 member organizations pulled from all the major powers. They are much more willing to experiment with the anomalous than the Foundation, embracing both weird science and occultism - but only so long as it can be controlled. Threats are dealt with succinct, overwhelming violence.

Using it in play: The GOC functions similarly to the Foundation: sweep in, make sure that everything is either under control or dead. Spooks in the party will be targeted, and any occultists or mystics they can find in short order behind them. Parties that have accumulated significant paranormal resources will not be given a chance to explain themselves.
  • Assessment Team - As plain clothes officer, possess advanced reconnaissance and surveillance equipment.
  • Strike Team - As riot cop, fire team officer, police marksman, MIB Field Agent, MIB paladin, with accompanying support from occultists and mystics. Equipped with the best equipment the modern world can provide. Drop in a helicopter APC if they really want to break stuff. A tank is not out of the question if things get really bad.
 

The Horizon Initiative

An alliance of secret religious societies, primarily those of assorted Christian, Jewish, and Sunni Muslim traditions. Originally founded to study religious relics and counter cult activity, the organization now finds itself torn between upholding its ancient traditions, and the realities of the paranormal world. Minor cults and mystic traditions more rooted in the anomalous world have begun to make inroads as well as the old guard dies off and new discoveries of the true nature of the universe are made. The Initiative attitude towards the paranormal is on a case by case basis: use, destruction, or leaving well enough alone as circumstances dictate.

Using it in Play: As the Initiative has a more focused aim, their interactions with players will generally happen when the players are mucking around with relics and cults. If they haven't made a threat of themselves, they probably have nothing to worry about.
  • Scribes - Tend to be buried in their work. Most neutral faction. Noncombatants, but may possess grimoires and a few spells.
  • Shepherds - Mostly normal folks out in the field. Lean more liberal. As plain clothes officer or mystic of Judas Thaddeus. 1d4 minor magical items per team. 50% chance of blessed weapon.
  • Wolves - The militant arm. Ultraconservative zealots on a short leash. As MIB paladin, can cast Dispel Magic, Protection from Weapons, Magic Blade, and two other spells. All attacks count as holy and magical.
 

Church of the Broken God

Religious organization seeking to escape flawed and ruinous flesh through machinery. Seek to rebuild their god MEKHANE and achieve apotheosis through it. Three main denominations:
  • The Broken Church - The oldest branch, from which the other two are derived. Headed by Robert Bumaro, the man responsible for revitalizing the Church in the 20th century.
  • Cogwork Orthodoxy - Remake themselves according to "Standardization". Deliberately invoke outmoded technology: steam, clockwork, so on. Tend to make loud ticking noises. Hate electric and digital devices. Call their god MEKHANE.
  • Maxwellianism - The modern reform branch, embracing computation and networking as part of their worship. Call their god WAN, seek to rebuild it through mass networking of transhuman digital minds.
All branches of the Church demonize the Flesh and will wage war against the Sarkists at whenever the opportunity arises. 

Using it in Play: The CotBG will generally ignore players, unless they were to come in contact with a piece of MEKHANE or have been dabbling in Sarkism. Otherwise, they will evangelize (mostly Maxwellists through social media) and leave minor players alone. Recovering a piece of the god and returning it to the church

Sarkicist Cults

Loose collection of cults centered on Yaldabaoth (referred to as The Flesh by the Church of the Broken God), an old and terrible god of meat and matter, blind and mindless progenitor and destroyer of all life. Sarkicists do not worship Yaldabaoth as a rule, instead feeding off of its power as parasites. Seek apotheosis through bodily augmentation, ritual cannibalism, bloodline purity, blood sacrifice, and theophagy. Two main variants:
  • Proto-Sarkicism - Remnants of ancient cults, practiced now only in isolated Eurasian communities. Secretive, anti-modernity, ruled by superstition and taboo.
  • Neo-Sarkicism - Modern variants that have shed many of the ethical strictures of their older counterparts and embraced the technologies and cosmopolitan customs of the modern world to further their own power.
Sarkicist Cults either do not know or do not care about MEKHANE and the Church of the Broken God.

Using it in Play: The Flesh does not play nicely. We're talking "airborne cancer", here. A major emergence will be enough to make other organizations set aside their differences to wipe them out. From the players' perspective, the Sarkists provide all manner of horrible monsters to fight, horrific realizations when a new cult is stumbled across, and a looming threat.

Minor Organizations

High organization, small scope.
These groups are either small, defunct, background, or otherwise limited in scope. They generally won't recur unless one actively seeks them out, or players are remaining in the same neighborhood.

Alexylva University

An extrauniversal university from a much more Greco-Roman timeline. Keeps losing its mail somewhere in Tennessee.

Using it in Play: Players are unlikely to interact with Alexylva University unless they mistakenly get a package from the Department of Natural Philosophy.

Ambrose Restaurants

A chain of fine-dining restaurants appearing across the multiverse. Franchises vary in appearance and menu depending on location. Non-hostile but deeply entrenched in the anomalous. Will pack up and vanish when threatened by an outside force. Known to cater to MC&D and occasionally bring in Herman Fuller's Circus for entertainment.

Using it in Play: Local branches of Ambrose Restaurants can serve as meeting grounds for those who have gotten deep into the paranormal. A good way to keep up with appearances and meet with contacts.

Anderson Robotics

A small, Portland-based paratech company specializing in anomalous AI, cybernetics, software, and robotics. They will readily do contract work for other groups in need of anomalous tech.

Using it in Play: Direct interaction with Anderson Robotics is unlikely. Players will more likely than not run into their products in the hands of other parties, or perhaps seek them out when the team doctor decides that cybernetic enhancements are in order.

The Chicago Spirit

Organized crime syndicate founded by Richard Chappell in 1895 and dissolved in 1938 after Chappell's capture. Has seen a resurgence through the "Chicago Spectre" since 1990, though it is unknown if there is a direct link beyond the name.

Using it in Play: The Chicago Spectre would be equivalent to higher-level EE players, and so can be brought in as a rival party competing for the same treasures.

Church of the Second Hytoth

A branch of an extraterrestrial religion (Orthothanism). Mythos focuses on aiding a godlike being (Rakmou-leusan) from a previous universal iteration (The First Hytoth) against their great enemies (Voruteut) through offerings of blood and vital essence. Human practitioners are often skilled occultists and theurgists, and have some limited contact with extraterrestrial practitioners.

Using it in Play: The Orthothan Church would be the party's primary means of contacting any extraterrestrial beings, though the first difficulty would be finding the group and gaining their trust.


Dr. Wondertainment 

Creator of whimsical and often dangerous anomalous toys. It is uncertain whether Dr. Wondertainment is an individual, a company, or the head of said company, and likewise uncertain how aware it or they are of the dangers of their products.

Using it in Play: Wondertainment toys can be stuck wherever one wants, and the Little Misters series can be used as random encounters. Otherwise, players might stumble across Isabel Wondertainment and her assistant Emma (and Jeremy the corgi) in the midst of their own adventure.

The Factory

Secretive manufacturer of mass-produced anomalous items. Raids on production plants have found products and workers, but no sign of leadership.

Using it in Play: The Factory exists primarily in the background. Items bearing its stamp are generally dangerous (but not immediately so) to the consumer.

The Fifth Church

Mystery religion popular among west coast entertainment elite and hidden cults in the deep south. The tenets are so heavily coded in verse and poetic language that they appear as gibberish to outsiders. Are they communicating with stars? Shedding their mortal bodies and ascending beyond this vale of tears? Are the patterns they weave the path to the transcendent? Or are they just to religions what clowns are to people?

Using it in Play: Fifthism is infectious. Those who start studying it will need to make regular saves to resist its influence. If too much of it builds up in a person there's no going back, it's all gibberish and starshine from hereon.

GRU Division P

Rendered officially defunct by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Most of their projects vanished along with the remaining members, filtering down into the paranormal underworld out of the eyes of the Foundation or GOC. The paranormal world's equivalent of an unexploded landmine, just waiting to resurface.

Using it in Play: Ex-GRU-P members are always good leads to find hidden artifacts. Likewise, a GRU-P project dug up by some other underworld party is always a cause for concern.

Herman Fuller's Circus of the Disquieting

A traveling show filled with all manner of bizarre beings and freakish sights. The circus itself is notoriously difficult to find - most interaction comes from members or equipment that have been left behind after shows. Currently led by the Man With The Upside-Down Face and Icky the Magic Clown.

Using it in Play: Random encounter. There wasn't a circus here yesterday, now there is. There was a circus here, it's gone now.

Imperial Japanese Anomalous Matters Examination Agency (IJAMEA)

Japan's once-official counter-paranormal organization. Founded during the Meiji Restoration, dissolved in 1945, absorbed by the Foundation and GOC. The modern iteration is a network of autonomous cells, many of which are family lines themselves, and the occasional radical holdout.

Using it in Play: While geographically limited, IJAMEA cells can serve as friendlies for players avoiding the Foundation or GOC.

Manna Charitable Foundation

An interfaith non-profit humanitarian organization. Their desire to help often outweighs their knowledge of the paranormal, which has lead to several incidents of disastrous consequences.

Using it in Play: Manna Charitable is always hot on the heels of disaster, and has an unfortunate tendency to make things worse. If the players themselves are responsible for the disaster, all the better.


Marshal, Carter, and Dark

An exclusive club and auction house for the rich and depraved. Centered in London, but representatives might be found wherever wealth accumulates in amounts worthy of their notice.

Using it in Play: MC&D representatives will always be willing to purchase artifacts from and extend lines of credit to the players. Their auction houses are also perfect opportunities to do a black-tie heist job.

Office For The Reclamation of Islamic Artifacts (ORIA)

Iran's secret anti-paranormal office and the primary anti-paranormal organization in the Middle East and Central Asia. Close ties to the Iranian government and the djinn of House Asfeneh leave the organization in a precarious position.

Using it in Play: ORIA fills the role of the Foundation within its territory, though has fewer resources above the level of normal field agents.

Prometheus Labs, Inc

The first major paratech company. Dissolved in 1998. Most of the projects and personnel were absorbed by the Foundation and other groups. Those that remained either faded into obscure retirement or made desperate attempts at continuing development of their projects.

Using it in Play: Players will most likely interact with Prometheus Labs through discovering lost projects or through old personnel who managed to avoid death or recruitment.

Shark Punching Center 

An alternate-universe version of the Foundation that has devoted its entire pool of resources and the acquisition of paranormal objects towards punching sharks.

Using it in Play: Random encounter. Is there a shark around? Can be real, could be a toy, a painting, could be something that vaguely looks like a shark. Some absolute lunatic comes in from nowhere (bursting through walls as needed) beats the shit out of it, and runs off. Crafty players might weaponize this, or attempt to stall and get information. If they do, take them down the rabbit hole.


Unusual Incidents Unit

The official response of the US government to the paranormal. This tiny, woefully underfunded office of the Federal Bureau of Investigations serves as a punchline to most other groups and rarely deals in with any major anomalies, but they've kept at it for decades now and will occasionally be drawn into Foundation and GOC operations.

Using it in Play: UIU only ever handles small incidents and so its field agents can serve as antagonists or friendlies for low-level groups new to the paranormal world.

Wilson's Wildlife Solutions 

Publicly-funded wildlife service based out of Boring, Oregon. An official relationship was made with the Foundation in 2008, allowing WWS members to be brought in for the care and keeping of anomalous fauna under Foundation control.

Using it in Play: WWS can be treated as part of the Foundation for purposes of player interaction, though they'll generally be friendlier towards players than their mainline compatriots.

Clandestine Groups

These hardly count as an organization. No obvious leadership, no coherent motives, more of a collection of ideologically-aligned individuals. Players will rarely encounter more than one or two individuals at a time, but they. Low organization, wide scope.

Are We Cool Yet?

Anomalous artist collective, linked through their love of high-visibility installations featuring the phrase "Are We Cool Yet?" or something close to it somewhere in the project. 

Using it in Play: Rogue art installations can serve as encounters or items, and the anartists themselves are good contacts and go-betweens for players. There are plenty of non-AWCY artists in the underworld, too.

Chaos Insurgency

The Red Right Hand split off from the Foundation in 1924 and have been running a guerilla war to topple the Overseer Council since then, believing that their meddling in the unnatural has set the world on the path of paranormal rot. They have no qualms about extreme measures, and will use whatever paranormal powers fall into their hands to do as much damage as possible to the Foundation.

Using it in Play: CI operatives are a treasure trove of paranormal treasure and excessively dangerous. If they bring the players into an operation, it will be to be disposable. If players get into a fight with them, someone or someones aren't coming home: if no one dies, you are running it wrong.

Gamers Against Weed

Some insufferable online web inhabitants who do a lot of ironic hipster shitposting and occasionally make anomalies.

Using it in Play: Players who know their way about the memeosphere might be able to forge connections worth some information among members of GAW.

Oneiroi Collective

A hive-mind of dreaming beings, human and otherwise. Physical manifestations are always directed in such ways to benefit the dreamscape and the dreamers that are a part of it.

Using it in Play: Physical manifestations may be used as rare random encounters.


Serpent's Hand

A network of pro-paranormal individuals operating out of the extrauniversal Wanderer's Library through a network of Ways (spatial shortcuts and passages between universes). Anyone affiliated with the Hand will be skilled with magic and have an array of occultist and mystic spells at their disposal. They are opposed to the Foundation and even more to the GOC. The leaders of the group are a shifting cabal called the Nest; recurring members include a bipedal female bull moose, a patchwork man, a satyr, and "the silver woman".

Using it in Play: The Hand are natural allies to a party that has gone deep into the paranormal and embraced the wily ways of magic. Fostering good relations with the Hand might allow access to the Ways, or even the Wanderer's Library itself.

Individuals

Sometimes a single person is enough to be classified as an entire group.


The Black Queen

The infinite alteruniversal iterations of Allison Chao, daughter of a prominent Foundation scientist. Operates out of the Wanderer's Library, known connections with the Serpent's Hand. Most active iterations hostile to the Foundation.

Using it in Play: A random encounter within the Wanderer's Library, who might task players with assisting her in a raid on the Foundation.

Nobody

Might be a person, might be a lot of people. The nondescript figure you're sure you recognize, who appears at portentous times and disappears just as swiftly.

Using it in Play: Random encounter. A moment of help, a warning, a portent of things to come.


Friday, February 22, 2019

Mother Stole the Background Kits #3

Johasnes Helgeson

Previous posts 1, 2

Table 3: Knightly Orders


1. Order of the Sable Maid

Defenders of the weak, enemies of the wicked.
  • Greatsword (d10, 3s)
  • Chainmail and Tabard (14ac, 3s)
  • Holy Water
  • Anointing Oil

2. Knight of Autumn

Followers of the Folk of Fall.
  • Sword (d8, 2s)
  • Gambeson (12ac, 1s)
  • Shield (+1ac)
  • Spell: Grow Mighty Oak (Magic Acorns)
  • Cloak of Leaves
  • Bottle of Goblin Moonshine

3. Knight Embryonic

Justice will not wait for birth.
  • Warhammer  (d10, 3s)
  • Elaborate Plate Armor (16ac, 5s)
  • Helmet (+1ac, 1s)
  • Spell: Aura of Safety

4. Crusader

The front line against Hell.
  • Sword (d8, 2s)
  • Plate Armor (16ac, 5s)
  • Battle Standard
  • Shield (+1ac, 1s)
  • Helmet (+1ac, 1s)
  • Spell: Turn Demon (Blessed Scroll)

5. Lantern Knight

By our light, the path in the dark.
  • Sword (d8, 2s)
  • Brigandine and Cloak (13ac, 2s)
  • Lamplighter + Snuffer
  • Lantern
  • Flask of Oil

6. Leper Knight

They shall not die timidly.
  • Sword (d8, 2s)
  • Mask and Bandages
  • Shield (+1ac)
  • Healing Balm
  • Terrifying Visage

7. Red Witch

Blood red in tooth and blade, life and death.
  • Barbed sword (d8, 2s)
  • Blood-Soaked Rags
  • Spell: Blood-Lore
  • Spell: Frenzied Lust for Violence

8. Incense Knight

Such sweet smells that rise up to the gods.
  • Censor-Mace (d8, 2s)
  • Bag of Charcoal
  • Tin of Incense
  • Half Plate (14ac, 4s)
  • Helmet (+1ac, 1s)

9. Gunpowder Knight

Sworn by Colt and Winchester.
  • Revolver (d8, 1s)
  • Repeating Rifle (d10, 2s)
  • Spell: Quickdraw (Coat of Arms)
  • Powder and Shot

10. Harmatean Knight

Know thyself, and know thy demons better.
  • Axe
  • Shield
  • Brigandine
  • Spell: Summon Demon
  • Spell: Chain Demon

11. Legio Ultimo Marine

The last of Darvatius’ finest.
  • Spear (d8, 2s)
  • Segmentata (14ac, 3s)
  • Helmet (+1ac 1s)
  • Shield (+1ac, 1s)
  • Short Sword (d6, 1s)
  • Sling (d4, 1s)
  • Field Ration x1

12. Knight of Cordyceps

Chivalry is an effective quarantine.
  • Longsword (d10, 3s)
  • Half-Plate and Cloak (15ac, 4s)
  • Spore Pods
  • Spell: Cloud of Spores
  • Spell: Creeping Mycelium

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Unironic Use of Fake Jacobean Speech

E.R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros ends on a pristine moment of horror: the four protagonists are granted a wish by the gods, and they wish to endlessly repeat the brutal four-year war they just finished fighting, forever.

This book was written in 1922.  There are no signs of satire.

(This is where I plug Jack and Kate over at Bad Books for Bad People, they have a great episode all about this).

Anyway! Games. Whilst unspeakably horrifying to any human being even remotely on the spectrum of decency, the cyclic forever war is damn good gaming material. So for that purpose I shall use it.

War, huh? What's it good for?


The two main belligerents in the Ouroboros War are Demonland (led by the Lords Juss, Spitfire, and Goldry Bluszco) and Witchland (led by King Gorice XII). Everyone seems to be human for whatever reason.

Witchland has a bunch of minor client nations allied to them (Goblinland, Pixieland, Impland, etc. All of varying reliability), at least one competent political advisor, and a black magician. Demonland tends to field Big Strong Distressingly-Aryan Big Strong Men What Fight Good And They Are The Best And Noblest Because They Are Big and Strong And Also Manchildren.

Actual foot soldiers? Ha, fuck them, they don't matter in this story. All the actual consequences of war get a single sentence.

The important thing is that everyone remembers what happened in the last loop. The world state resets, the dead are now alive again, but no one forgets. Each time it will be different, but the end result will always be the same.

Everything Old is New Again

Game premise: You are all soldiers and peasantry who have been on the receiving end of the Ouroboros War for 3 / 5 / 10 / 20 / 50 / 100 cycles. You are engaged in a desperate attempt to stop the cycle and depose the Lords, if possible. By now you know that Juss' queen, Sophonisba, is responsible for the hell the world finds itself in. She called upon the gods, and they answered her. Perhaps she can call upon them again, if she had a conscience.

But she is always in the presence of the Lords, and that is a great problem: the Lords are either at the head of their army, or wandering around in the wilderness halfway around the world. Defeating them in direct combat is unlikely, given how Big and Strong they are. There are potential allies to be found in certain members of the court of Witchland (though that nation is likewise filled with meatheaded manchildren) and perhaps among the minor nations, but that must be saved until the cycle is broken. Killing the Lords now will do nothing but give Witchland the round.

It is likely that you will all die. This is only a temporary problem, because you will return in the next cycle with all the knowledge you gained the last time.

Edit: And then Dark Souls Happens


Type1Ninja in the OSR Discord said that my description sounded a lot like Dark Souls III. Lords of Cinder constantly perpetuating a cycle, rejected nobody ends up either perpetuating or ending the cycle. Aesthetically, Souls games are the polar opposite of The Worm Ouroboros, which can only mean that the interaction and synthesis of the two is a great idea.