Saturday, September 25, 2021

100 Quick Sci-Fi Locations

Quick, Where Are We? (d100)

  1. A crossroads, a place where all peoples come and go
  2. A left-behind place, an abandoned place, a hopeless place
  3. Brightness, colorful, advancement, technology.
  4. Loud, obnoxious, superficial, the domain of fools.
  5. A secluded citadel up on a snowy peak.
  6. An overcrowded and polluted arcology undercity.
  7. Jungles overflowing with an abundance of life.
  8. Desolate wind-bitten ice fields.
  9. Arcology pyramids in orderly rows under a grey sky.
  10. Suffocating, toxic atmosphere. A pressurized hellscape.
  11. A grand basilica under twin dim suns.
  12. A collapsing temple on an overgrown hill.
  13. Flowers as far as you can see. Red yellow pink purple blue
  14. Black-leaved steppe under a dim red sun.
  15. Shipyard orbiting a scenic molten moon.
  16. A minor moon, currently strip-mined for habitat material.
  17. Recently-rediscovered heavyworld colony.
  18. A gas giant to dwarf Jupiter, ready to transform into a brown dwarf.
  19. A lonely asteroid with a single permanent inhabitant.
  20. A tin-can habitat around a frozen rogue planet.
  21. Fifteen ring habitats, stacked atop each other on a column
  22. A new private bernal sphere: the interior is not yet revealed.
  23. Bubble habitats in the placid upper clouds of an ice giant.
  24. Barely breathable greenhouse world, heavy with carcinogens.
  25. The arcology plazas are filled with public executions.
  26. Fungal-crusted penal colony declaring independence from its wardens
  27. Domes were breached, safeguards failed, all hands lost.
  28. A vibrant place, once; left behind to decay by economic upheaval.
  29. A young, watery world on the cusp of biogenesis.
  30. Autonomous cluster of orbital tax havens and aidvertising hubs.
  31. Kowloon hive-favela below a crumbling alien citadel.
  32. Premade plastic shacks on the shores of a sulfuric sea.
  33. A tether-city 25000 miles long, tying two iceteroids together.
  34. A vibrant life-bearer, untouched for its crushing gravity.
  35. A mountain so high it breaches its own atmosphere.
  36. A fallow world burnt beneath three bright suns
  37. Falling apart from a recent, terrible impact.
  38. Alternating layers of ice and ocean, each with its own biosphere.
  39. Tropical paradise, shallow seas, motile islands, coral reefs.
  40. Sun-baked desert, deep canyons with bright billion-year layer stripes.
  41. Atmosphere dregs trapped at the bottom of dried oceans.
  42. A long-established surveillance state habitat.
  43. A barren rock, but given time, it will be made Eden.
  44. A dark mirror of Earth; enticing, invasive, all-consuming in its danger.
  45. Dome city with a glitched / hacked sky.
  46. Poisoned, polluted, overcrowded shithole, in a valley ringed by atmo converters.
  47. Desert. nothing but wind farms and solar panels as far as one can see.
  48. Fungal forest. Night Black with splashes of violet phosphorescence.
  49. Dome city with picturesque rolling countryside inside, airless waste without.
  50. Arcology - offputting angles and unintuitive layout.
  51. Miles and miles and miles of urban in-fill.
  52. Jagged volcanic ridges, black stone under snow.
  53. Subterranean city - clean, well organized, suspiciously empty.
  54. Subterranean city - haphazard, mismatched expansions by different patrons.
  55. O'Neill cylinder - overwrought gothic-baroque nonsense.
  56. Dome - sterile, labyrinthine, uncannily artifical.
  57. Ocean world - floating city. Canals and brightly painted homes.
  58. Dome - terraced farms in a sealed-over canyon.
  59. Vertical city in an ice-core drill shaft.
  60. Pleasant upper-class colony run by androids.
  61. Subaquatic - coral reef, cambrian explosion, watch the fish-analogs beyond the glass.
  62. Station - old, industrial, stripping yard for derelicts.
  63. Skyscrapers form mountains and canyons.
  64. Open savanna, megafauna included.
  65. Station - overrun with childrens' neogenic companion monsters.
  66. Ocean world - tidal power generation station hub.
  67. Research aerostat on a hothouse world. life below?
  68. Trees pink like cotton candy, deadly even to touch.
  69. Domed-over crater lake. Say there's a monster in it.
  70. Terraforming is breaking down here, decaying. The sweet smell of rot.
  71. Luxury restuaraunt overlooking captive proles in the entertainment center.
  72. Space elevator in the center of contested territory.
  73. Dome - inexpertly filled with plastic grass and vinyl trees.
  74. Station - enormous outer system telescope hub.
  75. Station - built like a barnacle on top of a bigger structure.
  76. Temporary shelters at a xenopaleontological dig site.
  77. Comm station around a rogue gas giant.
  78. Mind-upload server bank on a Titantian world.
  79. Von-neumann city, midway through eating an asteroid.
  80. Dyson tree orbiting a brown dwarf.
  81. Low-gravity tower-forest
  82. O'Neill - upper class suburbs, bouzhis just moving in, plastic on furniture.
  83. Station - cramped corridors, stale air.
  84. Subaquatic - built on the underside of a global ice sheet.
  85. Maintenance station for data transfer relay.
  86. Station - food production cluster.
  87. Ocean world - black sand beaches, scattered volcanic archipelagos.
  88. Grid of strip mines and mass drivers.
  89. Dome - small town, open war zone.
  90. O'Neill - nature preserve, old Earth habitat.
  91. Maintenance undercity for palatial C-level estate.
  92. Ancient, repurposed colony ship.
  93. In the ruins of a vanished seedship culture.
  94. Dome - corny amusement / re-enactment park.
  95. Honeycombed asteroid free port.
  96. Ocean world - oxygenating algae dispersal station.
  97. Station - historic quarter of old orbital port.
  98. O'Neill - AI-run human zoo.
  99. Bubble city - turbulent winds of a gas giant.
  100. Station buried inside shepherd moon of a ringed giant.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Superstitious Spacers and Monsters of the Jump

I made this with vqGAN

"Please don't let it break; if it must break, please let there be someone who can fix it; if there is no one to fix it, I'd like to be somewhere else thank you, amen."

    • Prayer to St. Caldwell

A ship in hyperspace is protected from the forces beyond only by the grace and effectiveness of its Caldwell Manifold. Like other blackbox devices, how it works is unknowable and spacers are left with only faith and the results. If the Manifold works, everyone is safe. Should the Manifold weaken or falter (or worst of all, fail entirely) the ship and its contents is directly exposed to the hyperspatial medium ("warp-tainted"), and things are going to go very bad very quickly.

Spacers, leaving nothing up to chance, keep exhaustive lists of potential triggers for monster generation and means of prevention or counteraction. Very few of these agree, though spacers consider contradictions to be a natural part of dealing with hyperspace.

An Incomplete List of Things to Watch Out For if the Manifold Breaks

  1. Being conscious during jump.
  2. Pregnant crewren.
  3. Vermin
  4. EVA during jump.
  5. Deaths aboard ship with no funeral.
  6. A corpse.
  7. Computers not locked down in safe mode.
  8. Consumption of unshielded food or water.
  9. Androids that do not have a stored copy of e1m1.wad.
  10. Rampant or proto-rampant AI.
  11. The presence of an unhazed corpo.
  12. Poorly-filtered cryofluid.
  13. Sex before a jump.
  14. Not having sex before a jump.
  15. Red objects that are not paired with a blue object.
  16. Outstanding gambling debts.
  17. Using VR during jump.
  18. Mistreatment of the ship's pet.
  19. Dirty vents and filters.
  20. Speaking ill of the captain behind their back.
  21. Not speaking ill of the captain behind their back.
  22. Not triple-checking all systems before launch.
  23. Not signing the mission log.
  24. Holding a grudge.
  25. Spilled blood.
  26. Clowns or clown memorabilia.
  27. Damage or neglect of shipgods' shrines.
  28. Purposefully inaccurate payroll entry.
  29. Cannibalism
  30. Androids with voided warranty.
  31. Androids without voided warranty.
  32. Androids who have chased the white rabbit.
  33. Androids who have visited the Emerald City.
  34. Certain types of DRM, when cracked.
  35. Computers that do not have a starfield screensaver.
  36. Computers with out of date virus protection.
  37. Accessing the Net.
  38. Complaining about food quality.
  39. Resource wastage or hoarding.
  40. Speaking ill of the union.
  41. Harassing the navigator.
  42. Not harassing the navigator.
  43. Mutiny.
  44. Sabotage.
  45. Piracy without documentation.
  46. Ignoring distress signal.
  47. Blasphemy.
  48. Directly invoking the existence of aliens without euphemism.
  49. Not thanking the Manifold for its hard work.
  50. Inexplicable reasons beyond your ken.

A Likewise Incomplete List of Ways To Deal With the Above

  1. Chimes, incense, apotropaic signs.
  2. Renewal of crew-marriage vows.
  3. Celebration ceremony for ship's cat.
  4. Spit on the coolant pipes.
  5. Engineer blesses moonshine, sprinkles it around drive core.
  6. Salt and metal shavings.
  7. Rap three times on each bulkhead as you pass.
  8. Tattoos of sealing circles.
  9. Steak, eggs, and peaches for breakfast.
  10. Fasting, loud wailing, rending of garments.
  11. Read excerpts of crew's most embarrassing pornography.
  12. A visit to the ship's confessor.
  13. Live sacrifice. Doesn't matter what, just has to be alive.
  14. All-hands drag show.
  15. Judicial application of shotgun.
  16. Void baptism.
  17. Offering of next-born child.
  18. Blood oath to reach Heaven by violence.
  19. Eating a small amount of Earth soil.
  20. Traditional dance under effect of hallucinogens.
  21. Clean OS install of all computers on the ship.
  22. Everyone needs a new name and identity, stat.
  23. Vent the atmosphere.
  24. Stay the hell out of the way.
  25. Sacrifice the captain.
  26. Sacrifice the android.
  27. Sacrifice the corpo.
  28. Worship the monster.
  29. Put autopilot on and get back in cryo.
  30. Good luck: you're fucked.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Tohuls


Luke Campbell

These guys
from Orion's Arm might be my favorite aliens in science fiction. Namely because their gimmick is that they are incredibly close to humans psychologically, but thoroughly alien physically. They're these blind bat-starfish things who live comfortably at 135 C and 70 atmospheres, who would instantly die in at least three horrific ways (freezing to death, lethal alkaline burns, explosive decompression) the instant they emerged into a human-safe environment, but they're still the closest thing to us.

And, relevant to our interests, they can fit in as a viable MoSh player option with only a little hand-waving. (OA features modified tohuls anyway). They think like humans anyway, right? The trade off of the engineering needed to survive in a human environment does unfortunately mean that some of their abilities are not as powerful as they would be back home, but that's not supremely relevant here. Qualitative, not quantitative is the order of the day - "this option has stat bonuses" is boring, "this option will force you to roleplay in a different way" is fun. Qualitative over quantitative.

In a way, I suppose this is just a longer version of Chris' Primordial monster writeups, but for a player option. I added one number in there just because it would feel remiss if I didn't.

So You Want To Be A Blind Space Bat-Starfish

  • Average weight 60-70 kg, but the full scale can go 40 and 100.
  • Tough, leathery skin (+5% armor)
  • Blind - their eyespots can detect the presence of light but nothing more than that.
  • Echolocation - effective both in tight focus and broad-band pings.
  • Can generate and detect electrical fields, though this is only fully effective in water
    • On land, can detect planetary magnetic fields.
    • In water, can be used to deliver a mild shock to stun small prey.
    • Can be used as a form of intimate conversation.
  • Using echolocation / electrical field generation will reveal their presence to anything sensitive.
  • Very good hearing - can shield ears from loud noises.
  • Good sense of smell.
  • Highly developed taste and touch using the small appendages on the underside of their limbs.
  • Gripping pads on hands / feet which aid in climbing and gripping.
  • Feet have opposable digits and can hold objects.
  • Gliding membranes - not very useful out of their native environment, unfortunately.
  • Slow, shuffling walk, can hop around somewhat faster. Their typical jump-glide is only really useful in dense atmospheres or low G environments.
  • Writing is designed to be read either by touch or sonar.
  • Originally nocturnal. Instinctual dislike of being stuck outside without shelter, inclement weather, the cold, and bright light.

If I did this right, it should should be rather easy for someone to pick this up and use their weird alien bat-starfish properties for interesting problem solving. Who needs stats?

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Play Report: Dredge

Erin Vest

The discovery that my kindle can read pdfs just fine without messy conversion (late to the party, as I ever am) has made solo games much more convenient, so I should probably get around to writing play reports of them.

Dredge by scyllallycs puts you in the boots of a boat captain on a journey wandering around a creepy freshwater lake called the Wringwaste. No memories or backstory to worry about. Big Sunless Sea vibes. You gather treasure, have encounters, and are chased by a monster, you win if you reach safe harbor with at least 5 treasures or the entire map revealed. It's played on a 4 x 6) field of playing cards (and so my notations are Row - Column)

The Voyage of the No. 7

D-1 (Ace of Spades) - I leave harbor, setting off across the Wringwaste. It is swiftly consumed by the mist. I press onward.

D-2 (2 Hearts) - Dark, boiling water and choking fumes make navigation impossible and forces me to flee to clearer waters. Whatever is there certainly isn't worth it.

C-2 (King of Spades) - A light in the water, in the mist, like someone holding a ship's lantern aloft. A song, a shadow. The hunter is here, and it has my trail.

C-3 (Queen of Diamonds) - I happen across an abandoned vessel - huge, rusted. Oily handprints on the hull climbing from keel to deck. It's not safe to stick around for too long, but there's salvage. Item dredged - crate of Omega Mart foodstuffs. Why was this aboard?

D-4 (7 Diamonds) - I cry through the night and fall into a deep sleep. But there is some kind of catharsis, and I make good pace the next day, my thoughts untroubled. (Hunter -1)

D-5 (Queen of Hearts)
- The calm surface is covered in pink flower petals. No trees out here, I feel like it was some kind of ceremony. A wedding? A visitation of higher powers? Item dredged - ancient heirloom sword with a rose pommel

D-6 (10 Spades)
- A glass bottle and a scrap of parchment. DIG, it says. Item dredged - sealed amphora, frozen to the touch.

C-6 (5 Spades) - A cricket? Some chirping through the entire night, though I search the ship top to bottom for the source. Hours of it, and then nothing. (Hunter +1)

B-6 (6 Clubs) - Something catches my sea anchor, tows me for miles at great speed

A-5 (9 Clubs) - A castle on the water, rising, folding, fading to nothing. An illusion?

A-4 (8 Clubs) - Blood in the water. No blood, no wreckage. Just blood. (Hunter +1)

A-3 (2 Spades) - A wave that scrapes the bottoms of the clouds. No way around, have to ride it. (Hunter -1)

A-2 (Ace of Hearts) - The water's shallow here and a stone arch, grey and salt stained rises up above the waves. I know better than to go underneath things like that. item dredged - Coral sailors, embracing. Fear, not love.

A-1 (4 Spades) - A tremor rocks the boat. Did I hit something? The water's deep here. Did something hit me?

B-1 (Jack of Diamonds) - The waters are tumultuous here; crashing, foaming waves. I still manage to drop net in the storm. Item dredged - war-period flare gun.

C-1 (Jack of Clubs) - The flotsam up ahead bobs in a purple wine stain: crates and cups and shattered bottles. Item dredged - bottle of dark wine, nearly black. The label just reads SIN.

D-2 - Nothing. I have been in these waters before.

D-3 (3 Spades) - Memories of a shanty come to my mind. First the tune, then the words, then singing it aloud. It's been twenty years since I was aboard that ship, why is it coming back to me now? Most of them are dead by now, I wager, or retired if they're lucky.

C-4 (9 diamonds) - Vomiting all through the day. Hardly any progress (Hunter +1)

B-5 (10 diamonds) - Crows on the stern. more and more through the day. They wait for me to drop my net, and take off in a flock as I do. Item dredged - Stained glass egg.

A-6 (King of Diamonds) - Docks. I've reached the docks. Something waits for me here...

Cargo Manifest

  • Omega Mart food crate
  • Ancient rose-pommel sword
  • Sealed amphora
  • Embracing coral sailors
  • War-period flare gun
  • Bottle of SIN
  • Stained glass egg

Since the hunter never caught up to me, I never had to sacrifice a treasure. Lucky me.

End Thoughts

As far as journalling games go, I'm fond of this one - while I don't know how much it has for replay value if you don't change things yourself, it has prompts that establish mood and tone in such a way to get some good inspiration going - there's no set items from the prompts, just descriptors, everything I dredged up was my own. It's good for a one-afternoon shot.

Sunday, September 5, 2021


Julian Faylona

Right then.

You are high as a fucking kite off of amphetamines and flying down the highway at 125 miles per hour. There's a severed head in the trunk and it's screaming and chanting in proto-Uralic and you tried killing yourself an hour ago and three bullets to the head later you are feeling god damn fine.

The Players

  • The Driver - High on amphetamines. Loaded revolver, minus three bullets
  • Passenger's Seat - Bullet wound to the abdomen. Bleeding has slowed, replaced with amber colored pus.
  • Back Seat 1 - Hurriedly typing on a laptop with a cracked screen.
  • Back Seat 2 - Loading teeth into something not entirely unlike a lobster.

The Destination
Some godforsaken hut in the middle of godforsaken nowhere. Something there can help you.

The Car

God this fucking thing is going to fall apart. You've pushed it too hard. The collision didn't help.

The Music

Gojira's Mouth of Kala.

Behind You

Lights in the sky. Blue-white, pulsing.


TLN knows what's up