Saturday, October 24, 2020

Troika Background: Radical Anarchist Catgirl

 

DinerforWolves

Many apologies to everyone, especially David Prokopetz, whose game I am shamelessly ripping off. 

Lexi beat me to my own post, but I am okay with that. I was playing Outer Wilds at the time. Plus, I like this better as a Troika background.

Unlike most other Troika backgrounds, this one is put together in pieces, and you assign point values to the skills as you go (I am presuming a default of 9-10 skill points)

Background: Radical Anarchist Catgirl

You are a catgirl. You are also a radical anarchist. The world's gone right to shit. You have taken things into your own hands. L'Internationale is on your lips. The way is lit, the path is clear. It's ride or die time.

Why do you have cat ears? Precisely what anarchist band do you belong to? Who gives a shit, there's work to be done.

(Important to note that catgirls may be of any gender, of course: catlad and catenby are perfectly valid descriptors for those who choose them)

Starting Possessions 

  • Go bag (burner phone, painkillers, caffeine pills, disinfectant, water purification tablets, flashlight, emergency flare, pepper spray, cash, baggie of recreational drugs of your choosing, revolutionary pamphlets, handcuffs, etc)
  • Weapon of your choice
  • Fistful of Sharp (ie your claws, as a knife)
  • Idiom-appropriate casual outfit
  • Tactical vest / tactical gambeson (as modest armor)

d66 Personal Idioms

This is your deal, your gimmick, your essential distilled character archetype.

11) Team Mom

  • Gain Diplomacy, Wrangling, or Danger Sense
  • You have a bag of snacks and something someone else forgot to pack. 

12) Chonk

  • Gain Adorable.
  • You have a disarming, easily-underestimated demeanor.

13) Stronk

  • Gain BIG AND STRONG.  
  • You have immense quantities of protein shake.

14) Magical Girl   

  • Gain a Spell of your choice. 
  • You have a transformation sequence and an animal sidekick.   

15) Goth

  • Gain Secret Dark Knowledge
  • You have a notebook of dark poetry and occult tattoos. 

16) Bookworm 

  • Gain Overabundance of Trivia
  • You have a large book. In fact, you have entirely too many large books.

21) History Buff

  • Gain Period-Appropriate Knowledge
  • You have several period-appropriate artifacts and a bitter rivalry with another historian.

22) Punk

  • Gain Fight the Power.
  • You have spray paint and a camera-fooling haircut-makeup combo.

23) Heavy Metal Queen

  • Gain Real OG
  • You have a killer sound system and permanent hearing damage.

24) Delinquent

  • Gain Ruffian Persona
  • You have cigarettes and a pompadour.

25) Maximum Tsun

  • Gain Intimidating as Shit.
  • You have a supportive letter from your friends at anger management counseling.

26) Ice Queen

  • Gain Withering Gaze
  • You have a university education and  designer sunglasses.

31) Space Cadet

  • Gain Loopy Loon Logic
  • You have an astronaut helmet, and a big book about space.

32) Bright-Eyed Newbie

  • Gain Air of Innocence
  • You have a birthday card from someone back home.

33) Scarred Veteran

  • Gain War Stories
  • You have many scars and the fragments of many languages.

34) Runaway Nun

  • Gain Mission from God.
  • You have a stolen saintly relic and a book of liberation theology.

35) The Chipper One

  • Gain Talk About Anything, Forever
  • You have boundless enthusiasm and endless hyperfocus.

36) Lazybones

  • Gain High-Inertia Semiliquid
  • You have sweatpants

41) Alcoholic

  • Gain Alcoholic Savant 
  • You have a bottle of strong booze.

42) Witch

  • Gain a Spell of your choice. 
  • You have a pointy hat, sturdy boots, and a shamble

43) Tech-head

  • Gain Grey Hat Hacker
  • You have a high end computer and a porn hoard.

44) Pirate

  • Gain High Seas Nautical Chicanery
  • You have an astoundingly impressive hat and a actual goddamn ship cannon.

45) Arsonist

  • Gain Pyromania.
  • You have a box of matches and a can of oil.

46) Driver

  • Gain Drive Like a Lunatic
  • You have a car. It is not, currently, on fire. 

51) Beggar Knight

  • Gain HYPERVIOLENCE
  • You have a broken sword and a begging bowl.

52) Battle Cook

  • Gain Meal out of Anything.  
  • You have a ominous cleaver and a heavy apron. 

53) Artist

  • Gain Dsicerning Eye.  
  • You have a work in progress and a completed work. One is good and no one else likes it, one is bad and everyone else likes it.

54) Prima Donna

  • Gain Eyes on Me
  • You have an immaculate voice and a lawyer. 

55) Ninja? Sure, I guess

  • Gain Master of Stealth
  • You have a bright orange jumpsuit and a special move name for everything.

56) NEET

  • Gain Terminally Online
  • You have an army's worth of ramen and a body pillow of yourself.

61) Pop Idol

  • Gain Song and Dance Routine
  • You have at least one crazed fan and a bodyguard named Big Leroy.

62) Actual Cat

  • Gain Perfectly Ordinary Domestic Cat
  • You have a feathery toy and an unceasing hatred for all life beyond yourself.

63) Cyborg

  • Gain Cyberbrain.
  • You have a robot arm and a baggie of anti-rejection meds.

64) Blaseball Star Player

  • Gain Eldritch (Splorts) Knowledge
  • You have a blaseball bat and a miniature black hole.

65) Manic Pixie Dream Terrorist

  • Gain Homemade Explosives
  • You have a penchant for sudden, dramatic entrances in the lives of strangers.

66) Abomination in the Eyes of God 

  • Gain Anathema
  • You have a deconsecrating aura and the terror of angels, demons, priests, and cultists. There is no visible outward reason why.

Combat Expertise: Pick one of the following skills.

  • Tactician - Making sure everyone goes where they need to.
  • CQC Specialist - Right up in their face.
  • Reconnaissance - Scouting behind enemy lines
  • Wetwork - Covertly getting your hands dirty.
  • Cyber-Ops - Fucking around with computers.
  • Sniper - hitting small things from far away.
  • Heavy Weapons - More dakka.
  • Tank - Hits hard, takes hard hits, draws aggro
  • Field Medic - Bite the bullet this is going to get unpleasant
  • Frontline - This catgirl kills fascists.
  • Beserker - RIP AND TEAR YOUR GUTS

Weapon Skills: Pick one. Refluff according to taste, as all you really need to care about is the damage range and handedness.

Basic Skills

Pick any number of the following to fill out the rest of your character.

  • Swiftpawe - Quick reflexes, falling gracefully
  • Eyes and Ears - Extended senses.
  • Suss Out the Fash - A finely-tuned field of Detect Authoritarian Intent
  • Mother of Improvisation - Cobbling together solutions from items on hand.
  • Crowdwork - Getting people marching in the right direction
  • Political Theory - Someone needs it, probably.
  • Anime Bullshit - All-purpose style over substance.

You are now ready.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Further Alien Beings

Brent Hollowell

 

Previous installments can be found here and here.

They have names now!


*Kokopelli*

Hunchbacked hairless bipeds evolved from migratory herd omnivores. Cream colored underbelly, red-rust tortoiseshell dorsal pattern. Four huge black eyes, bracketed by bone plates, dominate an otherwise-featureless head. Retractable feeding apparatus. Language sounds between flute and pipe organ, can communicate easily over significant distance. Larger clades use a knuckle-walking gait. Climate shifts early in their development left them in an environment bereft of apex predators, but also subject to extreme seasonal variation, resulting in a tendency towards long-term planning, evenhanded resource allotment, and inter-communal cooperation.

*Centaurans*

Large, sessile radiotropes similar in structure to barnacles. Thick metallic shells provide armoring against predators and radiation. Vast fuligin petals absorb as much radiation as possible. Excess energy is transmitted out as shortband radio signals used for communication. Evolved on the meridian of a tidally-locked world orbiting a red dwarf: Those adapted for other worlds will require supplemental sources of energy, and have been used as radioactive waste containment in certain settlements.

*Flatlanders*

Colonial nanotechlife existing as two-dimensional images inhabiting solid surfaces, typically the walls of buildings. Forms and colors are variable, ranging from abstract to realistic. Colonies regularly migrate. Can perceive third dimension through visual, auditory, and electrochemical senses, but must communicate through displayed text.

*Toolies*

Similar in shape to a stocky, eight-limbed otter. Hundreds of known coat patterns and styles. Possess little in terms of material culture or tool use. About as intelligent as a small child, but capable of following complex directions without error and gifted with learning languages. Instinctively form strong social bonds with juveniles of other species. Believed to be a neogenic or uplifted species, or the descendants of one, used as pets or household guardians.

*APC*

Self-replicating fast food chain restaurant. Subterranean modules of the machine organism are devoted to food production, with above-ground levels used to host guests. Can grow to encompass up to half a dozen above-surface levels and host up to a thousand individuals at any given time. Will clone and cyborg staff from the local species.

*Fennecs*

Predatory bipeds from a low-gravity world. Wedge-shaped heads, very long limbs. Can keep up a loping stride with low effort over long distances at a steady speed. Nocturnal: enormous eyes and ears, both extremely sensitive. Hollow bones - flexible and light, but easily broken. Silent. Deep blue-black coloration.

*Bottom Feeders*

Pallid, eyeless, sluglike beings about the size of a walrus, their lumpy heads an eruption of. manipulative tendrils and feeding gills. Feed off marine detritus and abyssal chemical vents. The necessity of a high-pressure environment means that unmodified populations will always be at considerable distance from other species, some shallow-water and even amphibious clades have been engineered.

*Zebratupods*

Dome-shaped crustacean-analogs with a heavy metallic shell, about a foot and a half across. Scavenger-generalists. Capable of both swimming and digging to avoid predators and the common solar flares of their homeworld. When interacting with other species, they will typically use a vaguely-humanoid robotic body operated by an individual riding in the stump of the neck.

*Diamondoid*

Shards of artificial diamond strung together by a network of gold smartmatter filaments. Will take forms of trees, crystal matrices, the vague shapes of animals. Have made no direct network links with any other machine intelligence, preventing any observation of their internal mental organization - communicate instead by vibrating components to produce sound waves. Typically seen on board the vessels of other species. 

*Un-Men*

Wear human form like ill-fitting clothing, seemingly on purpose - corpulent bodies, stick-slender arms with too many joints and too many fingers. Broad, elongated faces poke out from beneath silken hoods. Skin the white of curdled milk, studded with shards of precious stones. Merchants of a sort, buying and selling unique goods of immense value and obtuse purpose.

*Daemoncore*

Clade of interplanetary vessels. Narrow profiles. Sharp, angular hulls. At the center of each vessel is a large, fluid-filled chamber containing the organic component of the ship; an immense being appearing somewhat like a fetus with an elongated, serpentine abdomen, measuring from 20 to 80 feet from head to tail-tip.

*Pertinamiles*

Tall, muscular bipeds that have retained the sturdy chitinous plating of their crustacean-analog ancestors. Abdominal swimmerets repurposed into mating displays. Inflatable throat pouch to produce intimidating noise. Six of eight arms are vestigial. Victims to a runaway militarist monoculture that has utterly destroyed both their home biopsphere and most traces of any earlier cultures. Not particularly good at war, due to the monoculture doing its best to undermine logistics, medicine, and tactics.

*Flagellants*

Rubbery wormlike beings possessing a cartilaginous endoskeleton, allowing them to grow to several meters in length at the largest and pursue an amphibious lifestyle. Dorsal surface carpeted with waving tentacles covered in paralyzing nematocysts. Typically hosts and protects smaller aquatic creatures in exchange for pest removal. Will rear up to display underbelly coloration (usually for attracting mates or threatening rivals) and mouthparts when interacting with other species, as this best approximates a face. Longer manipulatory and sensory cilia make up the anterior end and drape down the back when in raised stance.

*Motherfuckers*

Shuffle about on three stumpy legs. Grey-blue skin sags in wrinkles and folds, as if it is too big for the creature. Cartilaginous crests flush with color to display emotion. Immense eyes. Six delicate arms and hands, arranged radially, slip in and out of hidden pockets. tend to wear computer screens displaying smiley faces when dealing with humans. Symbiotic, droplet-shaped machine-life drones nest on them Three sexes: two male and one incubator that, while sterile, gestates and gives birth. Males can transition to incubators as they age, or when needed by population pressures.

*Red Queens*

Immense oceanic creatures filling a similar niche to terragen whales. Bright red in coloration, similar to the waters of their homeworld. Pods ruled over by the largest and oldest females. Males are much smaller, faster swimmers, and have a shorter lifespan. Initial observations were colored by an early instance of a leading female breaking away from the pod to bite the head off of of a male from another pod, for reasons still only presumed.

*Azazeli* 

Machine-life derived from adaptive virtual-reality consoles. Host simulations designed for therapeutic use by providing a safe outlet for aggression. Most common variant is a single-occupant capsule. Generally spring up in clusters in urban environments. The actual intelligence will rarely appear within the simulation, and in those cases will take forms and methods of communication appropriate to the participant. Tend towards stable tripartite organization.

*Semth*

Pallid, vaguely humanoid vacuumorphs. One to three head-analogs on sinuous necks - no outward features, packed with exotic sensory organs. Immense bodies clinging to the sides of spaceships with even greater wings stretching out a dozen times their bodies length, black on one side orange on the other. Planet-bound varieties perch on buildings like gargoyles.

*Moon-Eaters* 

Squat quadrupedal bodies with glistening, greasy skin and wide mouths filled with flat, grinding teeth. Thick coats of cilia. Enormous, luminous eyes. Bury themselves in mud to avoid the heat of the day. Accompanied always by a small, brightly colored flier covered in tufts of proto-feathers. The exact nature of the symbiosis is yet to be determined,

*Tripods*

Three too-thin legs, black. A small, round body, rust-red. A long, curved, bony false-head like a bird’s beak or mosquito proboscis. A loop of bone atop the fake skull. The brain and true organs are all compacted into the central body. Skittish, tend to flee at high speed when startled. Are starlted by most things.

*[Nomen Pending]*

A large, fleshy blob, roughly spherical, 20-30 feet in circumference. skin covered in flexible, ceramic scales as if a mosaic. Patterns of blue, white, and gold, swirl across flabby flanks. In lower-gravity environments they might fill their inner chambers with buoyant gas and float above the ground - these clade possess manipulator tendrils on the ventral pole. Will use members of other species exclusively as proxies for communication.

*Echidna Machines*

Derived long-ago from aquatic echinoderms, now used as surrogates to provide multi-species reproductive and modification services. Instrumental in the standardization of microbiomes and genetic modifications for species that share living space (for such a thing is impossible on a large scale without mass intervention over generations). The smallest individuals have six incubation chambers and weigh about a quarter of a ton - the largest known specimen covers a square kilometer.

*Reincarnators*

Biologically immortal. Progress through a repeating life cycle of 6-10 stages depending on clade, each stage lasting 50-200 years. Some memories and personality traits are maintained through metamorphosis, though fading fully after 3-4 transitions. Stages are generally bipedal, though some with longer metamorphosis times can more radically alter bone structure.





Sunday, October 11, 2020

DOG GOD Vol. 2 Rises to the Top!

 

Click here to download

Yes, it is true! The second DOG GOD has emerged into the light, shuddering and covered in amniotic fluid! It rises to join its preceding volume in the pantheon of cut-up zines that are made by me, that you can download and look at WITH YOUR VERY OWN EYES.

As before, this issue draws mostly from the Nov 99 and Jan 00 issues of Dragon, but it has been augmented by a collegiate alumni magazine, a 2018 issue of Counseling Today, and the Sept 2020 issue of Cosmo.

This one has an actual, functioning prose fragment in it, which I am immensely proud of.

More magazines will be required for the next one of this style, and so I might turn my gaze towards book recycling or Wikipedia redactions or so on for the next.

There's not much else to type here. Go read this dumb thing I made.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

A Story About Space Politics

Mac Rebisz

 

So this is a bit of a writing exercise. I'm taking a story (you can clearly see which one), stripping it down to its most basic beats, and then revising it according to stronger internal logic instead of genre convention. No goal in sight, just seeing where I end up.

It has been brought to you by Legend of the Galactic Heroes, which you should watch.

Where We Begin

The planet is not Earth, but is like Earth. The solar system it is located in is not ours.

A rapid period of expansion into the solar system comes to an end as technocratic colonies move to split from control of the [Homeworld].

The resulting years of brutal war exhausts both factions, petering out into occasional flareups, then a stalemate, then loss of contact. the war is never officially concluded.

The resultant economic catastrophe and erosion of human rights on the [Homeworld] paves the way for the rise of fascism, which took the form of the [Tyranny], which has either invaded or browbeaten other nations into submission.

A generation passes. The [Tyranny] remains the sole superpower on the planet, a position enforced by the threat of complete destruction at the hands of their [Orbital Weapons Platform] 

The Story

The [Class Traitor], heir of a venerable homeworld nation-state & member of the organized resistance movement, must fake their own death and go into hiding as [Tyranny] forces raid their family holdings on the (correct) belief that intelligence has passed to the resistance through the family.

**

After falling in with resistance cells, [Class Traitor] is drawn into a plan to sneak onto and either control or destroy the [Orbital Platform].

**

The plan succeeds at hijacking a transport vessel and securing the [Orbital Platform], despite the [Class Traitor]'s homeland being bombed into during the operation.

** 

In retaliation, the [Tyranny] plants their forces amidst civilian populations in a massive crackdown lead by the [Chief of Secret Police]. The [Tyrant] goes underground. Violence on the surface escalates.

**

After seizure of the [Orbital Platform] and declaration of war, fighting and crackdowns break out all over [Homeworld]. Previously undeclared factions announce allegiance to [Class Traitor's] cause. Other partisan groups, dismissive of this unified front as not thinking beyond the political structures that created the [Tyranny] in the first place, remain out in the cold, taking advantage of the chaos.

**

[Class Traitor] appoints an inner circle for formalize and centralize the revolutionary government. Despite the wave of new allies, more forces and advantageous territory are needed to sustain it long-term. A plan is drafted: capture of the long-abandoned pre-[Tyranny] moon colony. A scouting mission is sent out from the [Orbital Station].

**

[Class Traitor] is approached by a potential ally, a major corporonation, that is willing to switch sides and provide the revolutionary forces access to the full resources of a world power, in exchange for a marriage between [Class Traitor] and the [Scion] of that [Corporate House]. While the downside to this is obvious to all [Class Traitor] accepts, but not without immediately activating whatever counterintelligence they have to spare to figure out a way to neuter the [House]'s influence in the future.

**

Meanwhile on the moon, the scouting mission finds that the habitats are in salvageable condition, and with sufficient re-supply could be brought up to self-sustaining in potentially a few months. The primary wrinkle is one singular habitat, separate from the rest, that is very, very, very thoroughly sealed. They do not try breaking it open.

**

The wedding between [Class Traitor] and the [Scion] is carried out remotely. The [Scion] is a fool, looking at the rebellion primarily as a merchandising and investment opportunity. The [House] in turn launches a surprise attack against [Tyranny] forces, which blindsides them enough to get a small fleet of supply ships safely to orbit with resources and people for the [Orbital Station] and the moon. The [Scion] is among them. First contact between them is awkward. Most of the revolutionaries sent to orbit head onwards to the moon colony.

**

[Class Traitor] can lead from the [Orbital Station] for now, but it is not sustainable. Something must disrupt the [Tyranny]'s war machine.

**

The [House] leads the ground campaign against the [Tyranny]. Refugees and supporters flee en masse to its territory, public and international opinion is in its favor. Already, the partnership between the [House] and the [Revolutionary Government] looks to be shifting lopsidedly in the [House]'s favor. [Class Traitor] and the [Scion] have returned to the surface to help with the ground war.

**

A [Tyranny] military official, the [Brazen General], declares that the [Tyrant] has been dead for months now, that the orders the military has received in the [Tyrant]'s name are illegitimate, and that the [Tyrant's Right Hand] is both incompetent and part of the cover-up (In truth, the [Right Hand] had no idea). They assume direct control over the military and lead a brutal scorched-earth counter-attack against the [House].

**

Partisans bomb a primary office of [Tyranny] military org in retaliation, successfully killing the [Surveillance Chief]. The [House] goes public with a condemnation of the attack, against [Class Traitor] guidance and wishes, attempting to soften the blow the [Brazen General] has given them.

**

[Right Hand] has gone silent (they are actually busy reviving the [Tyranny's] mothballed space fleet.)

**

[Brazen General] blames the [House] for funding partisan groups and uses this as justification to use WMDs against the [House]. There is a catastrophic loss of most of the [House] military forces and immense loss of civilian life. The [Right Hand] emerges from hiding with a partial space fleet and, in a suprise attack, is able to bring down the [Orbital Station]. The [House] surrenders. [Class Traitor] is considered dead. The [Scion] goes into hiding.

**

The revolutionaries stranded on the moon elect a new [leader]. Seeing that the surface situation is fucked beyond repair, and that the moon base still does not have enough supplies to be truly self-sufficient, [Moon Leader] declares a new government on the moon, separate from the revolutionary government that just went down in flames.

**

The [Tyranny]'s two current leaders

The [Scion]'s parent is executed, the [House] is dissolved, and all its holdings are seized by the [Tyranny] and reallocated. Surviving revolutionaries fall to existing partisan groups, flee to minor nations, are caught and killed, or fade into obscurity.

**

Minor Timeskip, during which the Moon colony begins reaching out to the [Colonies] for aid.

**

With the [Orbital Station] destroyed, the [Tyranny]'s fleet has unrestricted access to [Homeworld]'s orbital space. While this would normally lead a straight shot to destroying the enclave on the moon, the careful balance of power between the [Right Hand] and the [Brazen General] dissolves as word leaks out that the [Tyrant] was well and truly dead, and has been for over a year. It's time for everyone's favorite game, Succession Crisis!

Claimants and potential claimants include

  • [Right Hand] has general, but waning, popularity, as well as a direct connection to the previous tyrant. They are not directly competing for the position, nor are they well-suited for such specific leadership.
  • [Brazen General] has the support of the military and the populace, but their skills outside of military leadership are yet to be properly tested.   
  • [Head of the Inner Council] is stable and has the actual bureaucracy and administrative knowledge to run the [Tyranny], but is also bland and generally unpleasant, barely any public support..
  • [Surrogate-Born] is, if they are to be believed, the only heir by blood of the Tyrant. They are dismissed by the other factions for their youth, lack of experience and dissolute ways. They are smarter than they let on and have some support, but have little in the way of actual resources.
  • [The Heresiarch] has no official backing or resource base, but is riding on a wave of heterodox religious fervor among the common folk, promising deliverance from the chaos of the times.

 **

Meanwhile, the organized rebellion on the ground has more or less dissolved. Partisan groups are still active and fighting, but there is no unified front to them. The [Scion], having gone to ground disguised as a low-noble clerk in a corporation, is part of a team excavating a second vault, similar to that on the moon (though they don't know that)

** 

Meanwhile, a band of partisans is plotting to assassinate the head of the relocation committee and break open one of the major concentration camps and fleeing across the border to safer territory. The [Class traitor] is among them, injured and no longer in a leadership position.

** 

On the moon, the [Colonial Commissary] arrives to meet with [Moon Leader].

End note

This is as far as the experiment has gone and I'm pretty pleased with it for what it is. But! I want to hear your thoughts on it - things you liked, things I missed, things that need more detail,potential places the story threads could go. I feel like the first major act is done and that we are in the setup of the second, and I have no idea what might come afterwards.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Miniposts: Tower Wizards, Funeral Customs, Paracausality

This Place is Not a Place of Honor


Tower-wizards are the great weapons of deterrence. Any conflict that escalates to the point of releasing them is one where, at the very minimum, entire cities are going to have to be rendered uninhabitable. Simply implying that wizards should be used to resolve a conflict is considered a war crime. Not even the most amoral members of the Cartographer's Guild would welcome a wizarding war, though if any of them survived they would certainly become very rich in the aftermath.

Wizards (or more specifically, wizards that have reached the point where they have begun to build themselves a Tower) are paranoid, megalomaniacal, obsessive, and long ago threw away any ethical compunctions that might have once possessed. They will do unspeakably cruel things simple because the thought crossed their mind, and will abandon such fancies the moment another idea crosses their mind. The prospect of the horrific deaths of tens of thousands or more would not even register as an event, so blinded they are by their depthless and all-consuming hatred of all other wizards.

And so, for those nations that house Tower-Wizards within their borders, the goal becomes containment above all else.

Towers are placed far away from human habitation (or, rather, no normal humans would ever habitate close to an inhabited Tower), though not far enough away to weaken surveillance. Each is  surrounded by acres of hostile architecture - angular earthworks, enormous concrete spikes, fields of broken glass. Warnings of death written in ten languages or more are carved in monolithic stones along the perimeter.

The Tower's interior is combination private study, labyrinth, prison and playground, filled with their creations and projects. Space and time are malleable there - always bigger on the inside than the outside, stretching up far taller and digging down far deeper than its stone shell would suggest.

The best way to keep a wizard in his Tower is to keep him distracted - and the best way to do this is some combination of short-term dopamine feedback loops.

Petty arguments and pornography.

For the former; through the tireless efforts of skilled necromancers, a lobotomized spider-godling, and the entire priesthood of a god of communication, an incredibly elaborate means of scrying directly with the countless souls of the dead was created. Specifically so that the wizard might never run out of people to argue with, that the people he argues with are in no danger of death, and so that he is perpetually distracted from attempting to contact other wizards. It is an astounding success, but the countless souls of the dead have made it clear that they do this purely to prevent overwhelming the cthonic bureaucracy, and refuse outright to participate in a wider application.

For the latter, a thaumovore is used - a simple arcane parasite that feeds off of excess atmospheric orgone, and in exchange will provide the host with whatever visions and illusions will provide them with the most energy to feed on.

Many wizards will brag of their expansive succubi harems - these projection-manifestations are always the work of a clever thaumovore rather than any actual demonology work, and for that we should be thankful.

Should containment fail and a wizard go rogue, it instantly becomes an international crisis. Better have no wizards at all than be the nation that let one run amok and start conflict with another wizard. A single indication of a change in the wizard's behavior, even his mere contemplating leaving the Tower, is enough reason to kill the wizard. Containment breaches cannot be risked.

To do so, a covert insertions is necessary when - mobilizing an entire army would simply alert him faster. Small parties of specialists kept on retainer by the government responsible will be inserted through the exterior defenses in such a way that they cannot get out again until the Wizard is dead - an unfortunate but necessary precaution.

Common wizard's servitors found inside towers include:

  • Vigilant Sentries - The wizard plucks out one of their eyes and feeds it all of their paranoia and spite until it has become a bloated, raving, bloodshot guardian. It will wander the halls of the tower babbling conspiracies to itself.
  • Homunculi - Mandrake roots (a potent alchemical reagent), infused with semen (provided by the wizard) and fermented in a warm bath of humours inside a horse's womb. Why? Because they fucking can.
  • Animated Objects and Armor - A menial task of wizardry. Given simple "If–then(–else)" programming while the wizard waits for the kettle to boil, and then let loose in the house.
  • Imps - Wizards will often summon and bind minor demons such as these for single tasks and leave them collecting dust in their cages for decades. Eventually they escape, but without being dismissed they are forced to live in the walls like mice.
  • Gargoyles - Statues embedded with the spirits of the dead. Transmit recordings of events to outside observers.

Hill Country Funeral Customs

And Chonagah asked the heron "Is it true then, that you know the way to the land of my fathers?"

"Ah, yes, that way. A swift way, a dark road through a dark forest. It is not a way one can turn back upon."

Certain spirits are fond of unattended bodies, and so funerary customs around the world must take on a third responsibility: beyond consoling of the family and safe internment of the body,there is the prevention of dangerous undead. In the hill country, the process goes like this.

The town witch (or her apprentice) will be called to the home or the House of Departing as soon as the death has occurred. She will lead the preparation of the body - in her absence, family or other community members can still safely prepare the body so long as they follow the appropriate customs.

The deceased will be carefully cleaned and dressed in a funeral garment - in these parts, funeral shrouds are traditionally given as wedding gifts from parents to children. Fungal shrouds from Llaphedon are becoming a common alternative in these days of greater connection in the world, as is the bequeathing of bones to necromancers

Two copper coins are placed on the eyes of the deceased. They are stamped with a quartering cross, and the quarters are marked with four signs.

  • A heron, traditional psychopomp of the region
  • A sun crossing the horizon, marking a point of transition.
  • A river trout, leaping up out of the water, a symbol of travelers and journeys.
  • The North Star with attendants, symbol of eternity, stability, and peace.

If the body is to be cremated, a face veil will be used as a substitute and the coins added later, when the bones are interred. For unclaimed or unknown bodies, it is traditional to present them for cremation wearing a wooden crown, according to ancient hospitality custom - any stranger among you might be a honored person in their own land.

A vigil will be kept through the night, with the town witch and family members taking shifts. This is the most delicate time, where the body is most vulnerable to possession, but so long as at least one person is awake and sitting vigil, the deceased will come to no harm. If no family or community members are present (a rare occurrence), the witch will sit for the entire night.

The funeral will take place at dawn the following day, led by the town priest (if possible, a priest of a funeral god; if needed, anyone in the community can say the rites). The body will be cremated (typical) or buried (becoming more common with fungal shrouds). Bones and ashes will be interred in catacombs or otherwise buried.

From there, the funeral concerns itself with the living, and if all has gone well the danger has passed.

Should something go wrong, or rites not be performed at all, the appearance of an undead is not guaranteed, but is likely. The most common are:

  • Ghosts are the embers of souls, stirred into activity by the desecration of their burial sites or the mishandling of a corpse.
  • Ambulmorts are bodies that have been possessed by ghosts or minor demons. These are most commonly caused by improper preparation of the deceased or failure to maintain vigil. Most are incapable of much more than stumbling about, but those possessed by particularly potent ghosts or demons are much more active and capable of a great deal more, sometimes even speech. Possessed bodies will still decompose at the normal rate.

Commonly misconceived as undead are:

  • Ghouls are humans that have contracted ghul-disease (corporophagia) through consumption of human corpses. Primary symptoms are hair loss, weight loss, nerve degeneration, sensitivity to light, the drive to consume more corpses, greying rashes/boils over the entire body, and changes to the teeth, fingers, cartilaginous structures, etc. The disease is not related to leprosy, but resembles it in its early stages close enough that "ghoul-leper" is still a common term. No cure or effective treatment is yet known.
    • It should be noted that cultures that practice funerary cannibalism will have customs and practices in place to prevent contraction of disease, through consumption of an analeptic during the meal.
  • Vampires are humans that have been infected with victiscolex.

Paracausality and You

As best I can tell, "paracausality" first occurred in Destiny, a game I have never played and don't particularly plan on playing (I only know it because certain Youtube folks I enjoy talk about it on occasion). 

It is a good word, and good words invite brazen theft.

On the SCP Wiki, "anomaly" would be used (or "scip" if you're really in deep). Lobotomy Corporation uses "abnomality". Control uses "objects of power". Paranormal or supernatural are common parlance. I like paracausality more than all of them because like any good faux-scientific term, it is specific: something is bypassing steps in the chain of cause and effect. It is not dependent on perceptions of "normal" or "natural", and eliminates any wiggle room for principles we have yet to understand. It is set apart from miracles (which have the same function but involve intervening gods) and magic (which involves  knowable, consistent, replicatable systems)

At its most simple, I can whittle down paracausalities into three very, very broad categories.

  • Type A: Existence Without Cause
    • There is no way for the subject to exist or occur within the framework of cause-and-effect found in the rest of the universe.  
    • Ex: A pristine late medieval French castle at the bottom of the Pacific.
  • Type B: Disconnected Effect
    • The cause should produce effect A, but instead produces effect Z (or sometimes A+Z). 
    • Ex: Antique lamp that triggers whale beachings when turned on.
  • Type C: Mess Plate
    • The subject possesses traits of both A and B types. Honestly this is the grab bag catch-all.
    • Ex: Moths fighting with thorns, in the style of samurai movies. The loser commits seppuku.
  • Type D: Parallel Processing
    • Multiple subjects operating along the cause and effect chain that is nonetheless incompatible with the rest of the universe.

A post hoc schema to describe something that is supposed to be ineffable within the hoc.

I get a decent (that is, non-zero) number of comments praising my Lighthouse field guide posts and the contents therein, so I will round out this minipost with the writing techniques I use.

  • Be specific - Describe the paracausality as it is, with as much detail as you can within the space you have alloted. Avoid using "it appears to be", unless you can confirm that it is not what it looks like. Write me an image.
  • Avoid judgement terms - Describe the paracausality in as neutral a tone as you can manage. Let the reader make the judgement calls.
  • Be inconsistent on the broad scale - Resist the urge to make too many links between paracausalities. It's a great deal of fun, but it will shift your genre into a more traditional fantasy mold.
  • Use the weirdness of the mundane world to your advantage - You see plenty of weird or unsettling things just going out for a drive. Let that do the heavy lifting for you.
  • Reject genre expectations - Those just impose different cause and effect schemas to fulfill a plot. Bin them.
  • The interaction with the world we know is where the meat is - The paracausality is in many cases the launching point - it exists in conjunction with those observing it and interacting with it. This interaction might only be implied or briefly stated, but it will be there - while the subject itself bypasses cause and effect, those who interact with it are not so free.


Monday, September 28, 2020

Play Report: Thousand Year Old Vampire

Following up my run of Barbarian Prince, it's time to move on to something else in the solo sphere. Something more recent.

This play report will be written as it is in my notebook. I will do my best to clarify events as needed. 

(D) indicates the memory was, at one point, stored in a Diary.

(^) indicates a skill was checked

Strikethrough indicates that the experience or memory has been lost

(#) Indicates the chronological order of experiences, as far as they are accurate (my notes fell apart towards the end)

The Record

Background: Jeanne, a runaway Cistercian nun living in northeast France around 1330.
  • Skills: 
    • Polymath
    • Charismatic Talker (^)
    • Sturdily Built
    • Medicine (bleeding and leeches) (^)
    • The Nameless Language
    • Anatomy
    • The Unspeakable Arts (^)
    • The Greater Unspeakable Arts
    • Visionary (^)
  • Characters: 
    • Margot - The other nun Jeanne escaped from the abbey with.
    • Thomas - Margot's husband
    • Alice - Errand girl from the village
    • Abelard - A clumsy physician's assistant
    • Guibert - The fool who seeks to expose me.
    • Charles -A nobleman. Brother of Samuel.
    • Samuel - A nobleman. Brother of Charles.
    • Joan - My scion.
    • The Rock - A very large boulder
    • George - Looking to make a fortune in the New World
    • The Ember-Eyes Man (Immortal) - Appeared when I performed the ritual of the Book of the Night, cursed me with this state.
    • The Man with the Rotten Teeth (Immortal) - Fucker took my eye.
  • Resources: 
    • The Old Mill
    • The Book of the Night
    • Medicinal Garden 
    • Diary 1 
    • Significant Wealth
    • Country Manor
    • Wondercabinet
    • New World Property
    • Comfortable savings 
    • Diary 2
    • Pearl-Handled Revolver
    • The Star Peoples' Cults
  • Marks
    • White hair, black burn scars on hands 
    • Full black eyes
    • Unhealing knife wound
    • Missing eye

Memory 1 (D)

  •  I am Jeanne, once a nun of the Cistercians in the northeast of France, having fled south since my escape. (1)
  • I find myself in Flanders now, living as the widow of a doctor that doesn't exist. Alice is my apprentice, Abelard my idiot assistant, drawn here because he thinks I have the answers to his inane spiritual questions. (3)

Memory 2

  •  I flee through the night with Margot; running through the forest in the moonlight, cutting our hair, taking new names. I had talked her into this, and she followed. (1)
  • Those who come to me for healing are often afraid. I ease their pains as best they can, and feed on the blood I draw. (4)
  • The plague has come. Abelard is dead. I find some solace in the Book (6)

Memory 3 (D)

  • Thomas' lantern bobs up and down in the darkness as he shows me to the old, ivy-choked mill. He's nervous, afraid of me, but Margot persuaded him to help. (1)
  • Alice arrives to me in a dream, saying nothing. She stabs herself in the chest, and when I wake I find the wound on my own body. Damn this English climate. (9)

Memory 4 

  • I am kneeling in the dirt, weeding the garden. Alice leans against the fence, asking pointed questions of herbs and their uses. Too clever to be wasted as a farmer's wife. (1)
  • The village suspects corruption, that I am teaching Alice witchcraft or some other slander. She warns me before they arrive. We flee towards Flanders. The mill is lost. (2)
  • I have killed Alice. I am sorry. She had thought to counter public opinion through truth and gathering more students, and I could not persuade her otherwise. There is nothing left for me here in Flanders. To England. (8)

Memory 5  (D)

  • Deep in the catacombs I stand before the Ember-Eyed Man. He tells me "Keep the book. I've already read it. Terribly boring. But you have potential to be interesting." It burns my hands as I hold it, unable to let go. (1)
  • A new and nameless language, unbidden, rises in my mind as I study the Book. My perception of the world falls into a different order when I think in it. I can more easily discern the secret threads of the world. (5)
  • My eyes have gone black. The people have seen it. They fear it. Damn that Guibert and his shrieking. They call me Devil-Eyed. We cannot remain here for much longer. (7)

Memory 6 

  • The British are a cruel and superstitious lot. Easy to feed upon. I provided free service to the rebels in Wat Tyler's rebellion, and they paid me back in bodies and stolen noble gold. The nobles do not know this, and so still call upon me. I bleed them dry. (10)
  • A wagon of bodies is brought in for dissection, authorities paid off. The human body is a book to me, and I master the arts of anatomy. (11)
  • [REDACTED] and [REDACTED], the bastards, are arguing the paternity of [REDACTED]. I solve the problem. To secure my secrecy, they offer me a country manor. I move immediately. Fuck London. (13)

Memory 7 

  • I fight with the Man With Rotten Teeth. He gouges out one of my eyes and flees with his new trophy. (12)
  • The book! The book! I destroyed it in a rage of my own doing, upon learning of Joan's ultimate failure. (17)

Memory 8 (D)

  • Joan arrives at last at the manor, raised and educated these last twenty years as I dictated. Fathered by a hanged man's seed and born of a dead woman's womb. occult significance abounds in my new scion. She will do well. (14)
  • In our laboratory, we work with the dead; shaping meat, organs, bones, changing their nature and structure to our own purposes. Joan is as brilliant a student as I might have imagined. (15)
  • I sleep, as if all was well, and wake in the decaying manor. A century has passed since last I walked. Joan did well, but she has died. only I remain. (16)

Memory 9 

  • The language has changed since I last woke, and words are clumsy in my mouth. I find myself disgusted by their preening propriety and false manners. (18)
  • The manor became a site of occult pilgrimage during my sleep. They left and still leave tokens here, to gain the favor of the great dead and deathless teacher. (19)
  • Money is tight. I throw open my specimen cupboards and build myself a wonder cabinet for pilgrims to gawk at. (20)

Memory 10 (D)

  • This Great Stone on the manor grounds is like me - it is a companion that cannot age. It is a summer afternoon, and we picnic together.
  • George, all sickeningly bright and optimistic, one of Joan's journals in his hand, standing on my front step, babbling about opportunities in the West Indies. He offers property there...
  • Ha, the fool. The labyrinth I built on that island, the stones I raised...were just to fuck with people.

Memory 11 

  • Damn them all! I sleep again, and this time I had to claw my way out after I awoke! The manor is gone. It is time to leave. I take a piece of the Stone with me.
  • Fight difficult bloody large injure flee flee
  • (All else is hazy)

Memory 12 

  • George, idiot George, is to be hung for my crime. I used the Arts to alter the evidence against him. No other choice, I was too closely linked.
  • I had been holding myself back in my practice. I have glimpsed the Greater Unspeakable Arts.
  • I have been on the move too long. My knowledge of the mundane sciences has become worthless.

Memory 13 (D)

  • Selling the misshapen embryos and ancient medical tools of the wonder cabinet
  • There is a Man with Rotted Teeth who claims to know me. He says that he was once an enemy, but now desires peace. I do not remember him. He offers me a book as a gift of friendship: The Star Peoples' Cults. I share in turn my visions for the future.
  • I perform the ritual in the center of the labyrinth, as the book instructs. But the gate to the greater cosmos is not right, I have laid a stone incorrectly, or painted a sigil with improper care. I am trapped between gates, never to arrive nor return. For a time I dream up grand fantasies, before I fall forever into mindlessness.

Final Thoughts

Another winner in the solo sphere. While getting into the groove of non-linear recordkeeping took a while to get into (and you really spoiled for choice in background options), by the end it really felt like it had accomplished a goal - my recollections of the early state of my own game were fuzzy and lost. I had expected the old mill to be important, I suppose. No matter.

It succeeds over many other solo games I've looked into for the strength and specificity of its prompts. I'd love to see the structure applied to other scenarios.



Sunday, September 27, 2020

Class: Gun-Saint of An-Hehm


 

Yarryozzo

By Beholster eye, Dragun tooth
Gungeon wind do whisper one truth


SULFUR 10, CHARCOAL 15, SALTPETER 75.

These are the words of the first Gun-Saint, passed down through the ages from blackened lip to deafened ear. Know this well, for it is the tripartite formula of God.

The chambers and firing ranges of their monastarmories are ever home to those men and women who have become priests of the parish of black powder.

Their sanctuary is the foxhole, their flock is the platoon, their sermon travels at 853.4 meters per second.

Flesh & Grit: d6 Flesh, d8 Grit
Saves & XP: As Mystic

Improved Accuracy – Gun-Saints have an attack bonus equal to their level.

Combat Maneuvers - Gun-Saints can Aim, Fight Recklessly, Fight Defensively, Go For The Kill, and Provide Covering Fire without penalty.

Guns Akimbo – A Gun-Saint can wield two one-handed weapons with no penalty to hit. This does not grant an additional attack per turn.

Starting Items: Firearm of choice. 1 standard ammunition. 1 special ammunition. 1 standard grenade, Reinforced Schema Habit (light armor)

Tinnitus and Other Hearing Damage: You're almost, but not quite, entirely deaf by this point.

The Leaden Sacraments


Gun-Saints undergoing their muninitiations gain access to a new sacrament with each level.
  • Sacrament 1: Nimblefingers – You may reload a weapon or change its ammo type without spending a turn by switching to a different weapon. 
  • Sacrament 2: Quick Draw - With a successful DEX check, you can make your attack first during combat, regardless of initiative or surprise.
  • Sacrament 3: The Coat of Arms – Store up to character level firearms and reloads in your clothing without encumbrance.
  • Sacrament 4: Clicka Clack Bang Bang -You may make two attacks per turn.
  • Sacrament 5: The Magic Bullet – Will instantly kill the individual whose full name is inscribed upon it, should it hit. Takes up 1 equipment slot and can only be removed if fired. A new bullet cannot be engraved until your next level up.
  • Sacrament 6: The Golden Gun - A +4 pistol. It cannot use special ammo, but if it hits it will always damage Flesh directly.

Weapons & Ammo

Several of these were stolen from Swords and Scrolls

Base Weapons

  • Pistol - d8 damage. Can be used in melee combat.
  • Rifle - d10 damage. Can be used as a melee weapon with -2 to hit.
  • Shotgun - d12 damage. Can attack 2 adjacent enemies, splitting damage between them.
  • Sniper - d12 damage. -4 to hit when not used with Aim.
  • Grenade - d12 damage, no to-hit roll (save for half damage), area of effect, one use.

Ammo Tags
  • Standard - Default, no special properties. Always available to purchase.
  • Blessed - Double damage to demons etc.
  • Cold Iron - Double damage to fairies etc.
  • Anathema - Double damage to angels etc.
  • Exotic Matter - Double damage to ghosts etc, no damage to material foes.
  • Flechette - Can attack 2 adjacent enemies, splitting damage between them. If applied to a shotgun, both targets take full damage.
  • Needler - Ignores armor, decrease damage die by 1 stage.
  • Incendiary - Target must Save vs Hazards or be set alight. +1d4 bonus damage.
  • Foam - Expands and hardens. Save vs hazards or immobilized.
  • Hypervelocity - +2 damage, enemies gain no AC bonus from cover.
  • Beam - +2 to hit, rendered ineffective by smoke or fog.
  • Plasma - Damage is split between Flesh/Grit and AC reduction.