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