Sunday, November 21, 2021

Excerpts from the Lighthouse Field Guide, Part 4

 

Mon

City street. Daylight filtered through smoke. A woman in an oversized sweatshirt sits atop a throne of corpses underneath the shade of a yellow umbrella. Bright red butterflies sit sunning their wings. Indistinct shouts and chaotic sounds fill background. She is eating a charred shank of meat with a human foot attached. With mouth full, she looks to the viewer and says:

[Mandarin] "The principle act of power is to devour that which cannot defend itself from power."

At ten minutes: [Mandarin] "Are you enjoying this? I'm enjoying this."

At half an hour: [Mandarin] "It's not going to stop, you know."

The video does not have any apparent end point. She just keeps eating, occasionally speaking to the viewer, and the corpse pile grows higher. Longest view time is 10 hours 12 minutes.

** 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

As always, there is no canon but what we make, and I am full of lies.

**


Stigmata of Usûn

The markings are burn-black and about the size of a thumb print. Irregularly shaped, with patches of glossy white tissue at the center. Appear most commonly on the wrists, chest, legs, neck and back, maintaining symetrical distribution. Form after close contact with certain entities (listed seperatedly) inhabiting the Middle-Deep layers of the Underworld. The Open-Eye and Closed-Eye Cults both hold the markings to be a blessing of higher powers that might be manifested into a Baroque Art through meditation and spiritual training.

The Lincoln Basilisk

Eight lithifications during the night of April 15-16, 1986, Lincoln OH. One eyewitness reports seeing "a big red snake with legs" crawl over fence into backyard, but this account was collected after local news had begun referring to the inciting incident as "the basilisk" and so the validity is disputed. Case remains open.

Small Clay Men Filled With Birds

No taller than two and a half feet, always seen in pods of 2-6. Squat, tubby, mostly featureless save the divots of their eyes. Three wide fingers, no toes, no mouths. Non-communicative, but curious and non-hostile. Irregularities in the molding make for easy identification between them. There are gaps in their outer bodies, through which one can see the fiasco of bright feathers, shining eyes, and sharp beaks. Perhaps it is only the impression of many birds, the idea of birds.

"Wild Dog Opera"

A popular delver code-pidgin, originating in the delver communities of the Navajo and Cherokee nations and since spreading through the underworld across north and central America. New words from additional languages have been incorporated since inception (limited to languages indigenous to the Americas) with significant early lexical additions from Nahuatl, Cree, and Inuktitut. As with most delver codes it is filled with regional dialects, double meanings, self-referentials, slang, metaphors, memetics, shibboleths and puns, and these security measures are aided further by the relative complexity and low speakership of its root languages.

The Vas Animae

A fleshy nodule with a marbled red/white/black/yellow surface, approx 2.5 cm in diameter, located on the surface of the lung. Stores a complete copy of the individual's personality and memories, even in the case of brain death. Attempts at surgical transplantation have been made to mixed success.

GPTRS (Generalized Paracausal Threat and Response System)

The only surviving public-facing government program dealing with the paranormal. While getting on in years, its color-coded warning system and spokesperson Dr. Anne "Anomaly Annie" Raury, have been a standard in classrooms and workplaces for over 50 years. Dr. Raury was an outspoken supporter of science education and civil rights causes, and appeared on Sesame Street a total of eight times before her death in 2000. She was succeeded by Dr. Juniper Douglas, longtime friend and co-scholar, though Dr. Douglas stepped back from public life in 2013 due to health issues. Since then the position has been filled by Dr. Zehra Kazmi, who currently hosts the PBS Paratopic Youtube channel.

Surrogate & Stork

A woman in a long pale green summer dress, holding an infant that looks nothing like her. The bird is slender and grey-feathered, with a blood-stained beak that flashes in the light. You see them in the distance, but the sun is in your eyes; by the time your hand goes up to your brow to provide shade, they are gone.

The Words of Heaven

Vocalized anomaly, manifesting as golden symbols around the speaker. Capable of manipulating matter into new shapes and forms, though now with more limited capacity after the lobotimization of the Demiurge. Regarded as one of the easiest of paralexical traditions despite its decaying power base.

Great Googly Moogly's

A fast food joint with three positive qualities: it is cheap, it is open very late, and the food is mostly edible. You can get a full plate for a couple of dollars and some spare change. The night owls might leave and the lights might go out, but if you knock on the door someone will always be there to let you in. Whatever you order will be greasy, slightly burnt, and almost but not entirely visually unidentifiable. It has a mascot named the Great Googly Moogly MacDougal, which looks like a fat, technicolor sasquatch on a variety of hard drugs. Rumors spiral around GGM like flies around a cow pie: it's operated by a cult. There's something in the freezer they carve the meat off of. There's a trap door and a network of secret tunnels. It's a front for drug running. It's a front for human trafficking. It's a front for people fleeing the government. It's a front for wizards. The MacDougal is real and he lives above the drop ceiling, crawling down at night to clean the grease traps with a long, pink tongue. GGM regulars lead the world in obesity-related health issues. No one who works at GGM actually exists. GGM is completely mundane, just odd.

The Help Line

You hear an old woman with a whiskeysmoke voice on the other end. Accent you can't place exactly. Eastern European? There's a typewriter going the back the entire time. Call during a crisis. They'll send help. They're flooded with requests so you only get one slot. Use is wisely. Look out for the red van.

5 Dead on Degandushra Reef

A series of polaroid photographs, undated, depicting the crucifixion of five individuals. Crosses constructed out of coral instead of wood. Victims have been tied to die of exposure. Features of the victims are indistinct, save that they are all adults and unclothed. Photographer is presumed to be standing on the shore. On the back of one photograph, the words "tuoar mzengata" have been written in permanent marker.

ao73FcddyTrn7arC_883fjnwLplns.jpg

An image file that has, despite its negligible filesize and speed of the relevant internet connection, been loading since 1996. The currently visible section, an estimated 2% of the entire image, is grey and indistinct. The most popular theories are either that it is of an overcast sky, or concrete, though neither can be confirmed at this time. The apparent originator of the file, a professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina was found dead in his home from gunshot to the head 41 hours after sending the email containing a copy of the file to its current possessors.

Milksburg Hoppers

Sightings of pallid bipedal creatures in the area of Milksburg, MI have circulated since the late 70s, long written off as a tourism ploy. Photographic evidence emerged on the Internet in 2003, kicking off renewed interest and a dedicated population of "hopper-hunters". One corpse was produced in 2008, and clear video footage of a pair of hoppers carrying an apparently-unconscious unidentified human in 2009. Last confirmed sighting 2011.

Eyes Elsewhere / The Known Unknown / Things are Getting Bad Out there / Horizon Effect

The belief that there is a large, heretofore unknown threat that is diverting the attention and resources of governmental agencies away from more commonplace manifestations of the paranatural, and that there has been an increasing intensity in the isolating liminal effects between high-paranormal areas and the wider world. While this has been a boon to delver communities in the short term, it is no guarantee of safety. People are getting worried. Some folks are going out there, looking for answers. The ones that come back, do so empty-handed.

The Inverted Towers

More of them keep getting discovered, two or three a year. They're growing, too, all of them growing down. More variable rate there. Some only grow a single floor in five years, others are the reverse. Each floor has near-identical layout, with only one change - a new wall or doorway - setting it apart from the floor above. After a while, it is unrecognizable. The images on the walls are abstract, and they too change in shape and size and color and form with each floor, more radically than the floorplan. Otherwise, they are empty rooms, going down, down, down.

Calamity Tony

An omen of disaster; not its cause, but its herald. Common knowledge says that the first people to buy him a pizza and a beer will be safe from whatever shitshow is about to happen (this protection extends to everyone who provides money used in the purchase, or so it is said). Everyone else who sees him has about 45 minutes to get as far away as they can.

The Rosebud Commune

The raiding federal agents expected drugs, not guns, and certainly not guns filled with human teeth. They didn't expect the carnivorous plants either, or the psychotropic pollens, or the thing in the old barn. No one expected the thing in the old barn. The survivors burned the place to the ground as they fled. Three were captured within days, two more by the end of the month, and then nothing until thirty-seven years later, when one of them was found dead of lung cancer. There are still more of them out there, underground, never coming in from the cold. You'll know 'em when you see 'em. Very distinctive calling card. Don't ask about the barn.

Drudge Gutter

Shantytown in a stormwater discharge channel. Huts built on rafts so that they'll float when the waters come. Beggar-priests, backs bent under huge tanks filled with writhing eels. Protection racketeers, mouths stitched shut. Murmurs from the drains.

Exorcism Acupuncture

Golden needles tied with silver thread are pricked in two rows down the spine. A tarlike substance with the scent of petrichor, drawn by some equivalent to surface tension, curls up the needles and along with threads in droplets, until they are collected in a white jade flask. Stopper it up, seal it with wax and paper charms, and let it ferment until you have a demon.

"My Life With the Ghosts"

A 6 volume doujinshi manga by pseudonymous author "SYZYGY". Possession of a full print run will cause one of the primary ghosts, the terrifying but ultimately harmless Aiko, to manifest in the possessor's house during the night. The odds of this occurring are equal to the number of full sets owned compared to the total number of sets in existence. At least one collector has stated intent to acquire all full runs of the comic, monopolize apparitions of Aiko, and then marry her. This is widely regarded as commendable dedication to an idiot goal that will not work out nearly as well as hoped.

The Triton Colony

Weak, irregular radio signals from Neptune's major moon, consisting of news bulletins for "Colony Three". Broadcasts are made in variant Mandarin dialect, and contain public service announcements, maintenance notices, emergency drills, horoscope readings, birth and death announcements, facts of the day, and religious services for the King of the Gaseous Depths. No messages sent towards Triton have ever received a response.

Anomalous HALO Jumper Incident

The paratrooper, who landed in downtown Budapest shortly after 7 PM local time, was reported as wearing black lacquered armor, a face mask shaped like a wolf's muzzle, and holding thin red tube (presumed to be a weapon). Subject accosted onlookers while becoming increasingly panicked, but made no direct hostile actions and refused to touch or be touched by others. Language used remains untranslated. The incident lasted approximately twelve minutes before the subject dove into the Danube and was not seen to resurface. The parachute was stolen before it could be studied.

The Old Ankylosaur of the Lakota

The journals would be of minimal historical interest were it not for a passage that accurately describes an ankylosaur in a nearby Lakota settlement, three decades before the species was first named. Due to the length of visitation and difficulty in interpretation, there are few details beyond its physical description, that it has been with the band for three generations at least, and that it spends most of its time sleeping in the sun and letting the village children climb all over it.

Neosark Warbodies

Symbiotic suits of cultivated godflesh. Neural link to the wearer, unknown long-term psychological effects.

The Painted Sky

A migratory, bowl-like structure approximately 14 km in diameter and 1.5 km deep that floats 4-6 km above the surface of the earth. The underside of the structure has been painted to resemble a partially cloudy sky, while the upper surface is reflective silver. Attempts to breach the outer shell have been delayed over safety concerns.

In the Halls of Gulgorath Skull-Fucker

An 8 disk, 73-song Finnish death metal narrative concept album, recounting an unnamed protagonist waking up in a future dystopia ruled by the titular dark lord Gulgorath. The narrator's explorations become increasingly horrific and esoteric, culminating in a desperate attempt at escape and an uncertain outcome. The album is infamous mostly for being the only published music ever made by Kalsarikänni & An Abortion, having only 36 copies ever produced (5 destroyed, 8 unaccounted for), the consensual funerary cannibalism of the band's drummer after his death by cocaine overdose, and for the degredation of all copies or second hand recordings of the music.

Universal Kill Field

"Anyone who walks past that line on the floor, catastrophic stroke. Clots up like cement. Think the longest anyone's survived after being pulled out, rope around the waist y'know, is just to the base of the stairs over there. No idea what's down the hallway, no one even wants to send a drone."

The Blunt Bronze Sword

Recovered from site in southern Anatolia, dated to 12th century BCE / 8800s HC, exact cultural provenance unknown. Corroded but still intact. A blow from the sword carries approximately 1 meganewton of force. Wielder is subject to equivalent reaction; sword is not.

14 Holy Heretics

Collection of Christian folk saints invoked for aid against disease, supernatural evils, and general oppressive forces. All members were (supposedly) excommunicated within their lifetimes and have been repeatedly disowned by major churches both for not existing in the first place, and for the heterodox interpretations of Christian belief.

The Whelm

Brightly colored semi-aquatic gastropod the size of a shipping container. Organisms in its presence are subject to rapid drops in anxiety levels, though overexposure typically ends in death by starvation as the effected organism loses the drive to keep itself fed. They are then eaten by the whelm.

Paradox Wrestling Confederation

You can catch a show only rarely, on some random channel in the dead of night. Never on a premium cable package. The quality is grainy and the sound is poor, but it is glorious. Men and women in ridiculous costumes strutting around through absurd plotlines and despite your better judgement you are certain that it's real. Wrestling is real. El Gato Gordo just threw ConMan off a cliff only to discover that it was his half-brother Stefano who had been brainwashed and the real ConMan was actually...it's real! Wrestling is fucking real!


Monday, November 15, 2021

The SCP RPG: A Critique of 5k+ Words

 Buckle up, folks, it's time for a ride.

Prologue: Bona fides and bias


I was a reader of and contributor to the SCP Wiki for several years, and it remains close to my heart even though I don't keep up with it anymore. If it's past the 3000 contest, I haven't got a clue, but for the time before that...

 


(Precisely what contributions I made I am electing to keep anonymous for now. All that's relevant here is that I spent a great deal of time on the site Back In The Day, I wrote quite a bit (some of which was popular and some of which was actually good), nothing I wrote is featured in this RPG, and for the time being I would like to keep old online identities discrete.)


It Begins


The SCP RPG by Jason Keech is, at best, a catastrophic misunderstanding of what makes a fun tabletop game, what makes the SCP Wiki engaging, and how to adapt the latter into the former. Less charitably it is obvious grift, taking advantage of a popular Creative Commons license to make a quick buck of of people who either haven't heard of Delta Green or for whatever reason don't think it suffices for the job.

It might be the worst game I have read thus far. Not for moral reasons (I have read far worse), maybe for mechanical reasons (I don't think I have read worse) but assuredly because it is a butchery of something near and dear.


A Note Regarding Anticanonicity


The wiki has long operated under the maxim "there is no canon." This is not entirely true - there are dozens of recognized canons (5+ linked works with 3+ authors), hundreds more if we count single-author storylines, and a longstanding tradition of headcanon over all. But there is no overarching, singular canon. The contents of an article or a tale go exactly as far as the end of the page - beyond that, interpretation and re-interpretation is wide open. Characters can be drastically different between authors. Connections between articles often only go one-way.

A ttrpg adaptation can go one of two ways: a specific interpretation, or a generalist toolbox. This one tries to do both, and it fails at both. You'll see what I mean as we go along.

Onwards, the book.


Once the tables of contents and the backers are out of the way, there is the famous message from the Administrator. This has been a standard piece of Foundation lore for ages, the statement of intent for the in-universe organization, and I have never liked it. It's terribly self-serious and not particularly well-written, but it's short and it gets a point across, so it's popular.

(A recurring theme: there is a VERY big difference between the Scipverse as it is conceived of by the writers and the Scipverse as it is conceived of by the outside fandom. So it has always been.)

(Note: you will see me use the word "scip" constantly in this review. It just means "a spooky thing that the Foundation wants to lock up"

Chapters are organized according to "security level"

I'll let you in on a secret: security levels, sites, blackboxed procedures, that's all trade dress. It rarely ever means anything. All it does in nearly every circumstance is give the text the illusion of the conspiracy.


Chapter 1: Basic Rules


Variable-size dice pools, take sum of two highest and compare to difficulty rating. Exploding dice are applied if you roll maximum, by adding a die one size higher to the pool (so rolling 8 on a d8 gets you a free d10). but if you roll any 1s, those are all subtracted from your final sum. Once you have that, you add your proficiencies, which are measured in decimal points, to that sum.

So, for example, if I have a pool of 4d10 for an attribute, and roll 1-2-6-10, I get a bonus 2d12 for the exploding 10 (let's say a 1 and an 8), 8+10 for my highest two dice, minus two for the ones, plus 0.7 for a proficiency, final roll of 16.7)

Decimal points. You read that right. I have never witnessed this before in any ttrpg and I do not want to ever see it again. Unfortunately, my desires do not apply here.

Chapters 2 & 3: Character Creation

  1. Assign 20d8 across your eight attributes (Strength Health Perception Dexterity Fate Charisma Intelligence Willpower)
  2. Assign 4d10 to those attributes, but you can only add a d10 if you have 2d8 in that attribute.
  3. Buy your proficiencies. Level 1 costs 1 point, Level 2 costs 3, Level 3 costs 6.
    1. You get 17 points for Knowledge Proficiencies, plus 5 for each d10 in INT and PER.
    2. You get 14 points for Skill Proficiencies, plus 5 for each d10 in STR and DEX
    3. You get 10 points for Ability proficiencies, plus 5 for each d10 in CHA and WIL
    4. For each proficiency you purchase, roll a d10: that's the decimal point value.
  4. Calculate your substats - they will be determined by the die types and the number thereof in your attributes. Substats are HP, Exertion Points, Cognitive Resistance, Reverence Points, Melee Multiplier, Projectile Modifier, Reaction Defense, Move Speed, Intelligence Modifiers.
  5. Choose appearance, body type, and reasoning. These have bonuses and maluses to certain proficiencies and substats.
    1. Yes it is exactly as bad as you think it is.
    2. If my character is Beautiful, they get +2 negotiation/persuasion, +1 Fashion/Etiquette, +1 leadership, -2 Resist Distress, -1 intimidate/Taunt, -1 Disguise / Blend In.
    3. At the very least they don't limit body types to appearances, you can be Beautiful and Heavyset if you want. The latter gets you +15 HP and +2 Reaction Defense
  6. Then you fill in the details that name no mechanics, name and whatnot. Backstory goes here.
  7. Ref gives you what they need to start the mission; intel, equipment, starting personnel class and clearance level.

Step 8 is not mentioned, so I will add it in - return to step 1 because your character died, because this game and this setting is a meatgrinder and you are playing as the nameless jackboots in the unmarked vans (incorrect, the vans will be marked with a front company with some silly S-C-P initialism. I actually fucking love this and suggest you do it in home games, just have a van for Sanderson and Cole Plumbing show up.) and you died immediately on contact with the weird thing.

Yeah, remember the weird things? The whole point of this exercise?

It'll be a while.

Why would you make a game about being the operators operating operationally in operational operations when those are the people whose entire narrative purpose within the scipverse is to die horribly via Worf Effect. MTF dudes exist to die horribly. That's why they're the unnamed jackboots.


Chapter 4: Pointless point systems


Herein is explained how you spend experience points on more attribute dice, increase proficiencies through training, and the THREE other types of points (Merit, Reverence and Exertion).

Merit and Reverence are basically the exact same thing (rewards for RP), just worded differently. You spend them on some bonuses too.

No weird stuff has yet occurred.


Chapter 5: Combat


This chapter begins on page 42, and ends on page 68. I did not read it. While skimming it I saw that it had horrible would tables like, but not as good as, Emmy Allen's in Esoteric Enterprises.

There is a subsection between chapters 5 and 6 about personnel types and security clearances. It is about as fetishistic about useless details as one would expect. I thought we were here for monsters.



Chapter 6: Weapons and Items


There's a price list for mundane items split up into discount/premium. Why there is a price list for a game about playing an organization who has Plot levels of budget, I do not know.

There are long lists of item loadouts for different specializations. They are boring and you are guaranteed to forget what you have on hand. The shortest one is 25 items. The longest one has 65.

Then there's a example of play chapter, shoved in between item loadouts and the weapon lists.

The weapon lists are split into security clearance levels and...

Sighhhhhhhhhhhhhh

It is at this part that the book starts to collapse upon itself. Security Level 1 weapons does not then lead into security level 2 weapons, but instead a description of the bonuses you get if you purchase 3d12 in a stat, and then that leads into a very poorly formatted section on morale, which leads into staff titles and examples of Foundation sites and a literal example site directory and hierarchy and then mobile task forces and field symbols pulled from someone who made them years ago, that are entirely too good for this game.

And then we're in chapter 9. I had to go back and make sure that chapters 7 and 8 actually exist. They do, but by god do they seem to vanish in the whiplash.

An aside: it is, honestly, super-disheartening to see this sort of thing, because it's like...is that it? So many people, myself included, have poured so much time and effort into that site and the takeaway some folks have is that the useless details are important.


Chapter 9: Anomalies


We are on page 114, page 114 of 292, and we have finally reached the actual point of the setting.

In a move that I will give one (1) golf clap for, this section provides an overview of field procedures - discovery of an anomaly, how to identify its properties in the field, what to do in a contact situation, capture and transport. It continues on to containment back at the site but if you are playing field agents your job stops at drop off.

This section is the first part of this game that is conceptually appropriate for the act of playing a game in the Scipverse. If you are field agents, you are going to be out in the field. Making a literal SOP document is a fun diegetic way of giving players a plan of action, and refs ways to play around with that. If cleaned up (a lot), this could actually be the centerpoint of a functioning game.

Then we get to the anomaly classification system.

This I cannot fault the writer of the RPG for, this is taken from the site.

Now, in ye olde dayes, you had three classes. Only three there were, and the number of classes was three. They were unintuitively named, but easily summarized.

  • Safe - Stick it in a box and you're fine, it won't get out.
  • Euclid - You need to regularly check in on the box and do regular maintenance.
  • Keter - It requires continuous and costly effort to keep it in the box.

(There are also Neutralized, Explained, and Joke. These are self-explanatory.)

Around the time I stopped reading, there were a few nonstandards that were being introduced.

  • Thaumiel - Used as a box for another scip.
  • Apollyon - Ha ha ha, you thought the box would help you?

It seems that in the years since there has been an introduction of an expanded containment class which I am not against in principle (since, you know, the old three only tell you how difficult it is to keep in a box, not how dangerous it is.) This new system has containment class (6 classes + 7 esoterics), disruption class (5 classes) and risk class (5 classes) now this could get a bit clunky and unwieldy, but it's not unmanageable.

Except for the fact that they took the nonindicative class names of the olden days trio and made them worse.

A disruption class of "will effect a few people" is VLAM. What the fuck is a VLAM. If I am scrambling through a filing cabinet trying to find what this thing does what does VLAM benefit me? Nothing! It is useless! Unfit for purpose! Awful and clunky to read and I am very glad that it appears to have not caught on to a majority, but it's still caught on more than I'd like.

Thank gods above and below for anticanon. Toss this right out the window. What are you doing, wiki, why are you doing this.

Old man yells at cloud.


We Are still in Chapter 9: Anomalies


Here we have the Security Level 2 items section. Did you know that you need to be security level 2 to have a helmet? Now you do.

Also, it's time for RPG GUN FETISHISM! My...third? Fourth? least favorite kind of RPG fetishism!

Not only can you quibble over the minute stat differences between a Glock 19 and an M1911, you can compare them to a katana! Which...I mean if you are replicating a certain era of the site that is perfectly above board and I won't harsh your mellow, but I feel like it is appropriate to bring up.

We'll be returning to this. For whatever reason, likely a bad one, the equipment list is split up into multiple parts and distributed across multiple chapters.


Special Section: Groups of Interest


I have been very hard on this book so far. That is a prologue to this section, which is where on initial read my opinion went from "this is poorly made" to "this is grift" and my ability to charitably critique it evaporated. I'm still going to, mind you, just grumpily.

See, the Foundation is not the only power that be in the Scipverse. The scope, importance, and number of these other groups of interest varies by interpretation (all hail anticanon), but regardless of that they serve two important narrative roles - they are (mostly) human antagonists that can stand against the Foundation (if not on equal footing, at least on grounds that the Foundation can't absorb or destroy them), and they provide alternate viewpoints about the anomalous world and how to interact with it.

Alternate viewpoints, that players might like to engage with. As a TTRPG uniquely allows the audience to do.

This book copy-pasted the article from the wiki. An article, I might add, that is only updated when new GOIs become established, and so older entries don't actually reflect how things are used in the wild. There's no sorting either, so groups that are limited to one or two minor canons will end up getting equal billing as some of the OGs. Alexylva University, a GOI whose entire shtick is "college in another universe keeps losing its mail in ours", gets half a page, while Dr. Wondertainment, who has a couple sizable storylines and quite a few more related articles, gets two sentences that explain basically nothing.

Now, in certain circumstances and lenses I could see the logic behind the overwhelming focus on the Foundation. Specific vs generalist interpretations of the setting. But for a tabletop game (the most variable, wide-reaching and adaptable genre to adapt into) and for a setting that is literally built around "the only viable interpretation is the one you make with these toys in the sandbox" I think it's a major oversight. Still, I suppose that the narrow focus to Foundation-only could work.

The more substantial issue here is that because this is copypasted from a janky reference page that is missing a whole lot of information, this section is useless from a game perspective. It contains no guidance on how they might be used, as PC options or antagonists or anything. not even "here is a bullet list of scips related to this GOI you can read on your own". So someone who doesn't already know these groups and have a developed headcanon about them to draw upon is up shit creek and paddling with their hands, because this books is absolutely no help in that regard.


Chapter 10: Reality


A chapter about some esoteric bits of lore that are a welcome break from the unceasingly generic content that has come before. Things like how the stability of reality is measured in units called Humes and you use a Kant Counter to measure them, and sometimes if shit really hits the fan you can get a Reality Anchor to forcibly revert things to normal.

I remember this being contentious when it was introduced, as it was considered to easy to abuse and too much of a get out of jail free card. Years prior there had been 148 (TelekilI) that was used similarly, and nerfed in a rewrite to have horrible side effects. In moderation, I like Humes, they're a fun bit of flavor.

This chapter also includes a little bit about reality benders, memetic hazards, another gear list (security level 3 this time, so now Adam has authorized the use of the grappling hook and an AK-47)

There's a run-through of amnestic classes, which could have been a half page table but is spread out over multiple pages because of course it is copy-pasted.

What really gets me about the security clearance stuff for weapons is that the higher someone's clearance is, the less likely they are going to ever be in direct contact with a scip in the field. Sure your lab tech with level 3 clearance can, by the game's rules, use an M16, but in what circumstance would they every use one according to the rules? They're a researcher back at base overseeing experimentation. If they have to use a gun, it's an emergency and they will use whatever gun they can find.


Subsection: Another fucking org chart


There is another fucking org chart here. It's better than the first one so, you know what, I am not against the idea in principle. In principle. Not here.

There is also the clearance level 4 equipment here, which is straight-up weird science goofy nonsense and a complete tonal break from the entire scipverse. There's an entry here for "phaser", which could exist in the setting...as a scip, and thus locked up. I mean I can imagine some experimental plasma or laser weaponry, that's not beyond my ability to believe, but again - I am long past the charitable read.

There is also a master weapon list. At least, all the weapon lists in one place. Like they should have been from the start, for convenient fetishization.

It's not weird that there's so much focus on weapons in this game, plenty of bad RPGs have overly granular weapon systems. But it's strange that it's for this setting. "Bigger guns will not help you" (unless it's the Sun Launcher, of course. Into the fiery orb with ye!) is very much part of the setting. It is filled with problems that cannot be solved with bullets. Most of the problems, in fact, cannot be solved with bullets. What good is a gun when the threat you are trying to contain is a jar of toenail clippings that fuck with causality?

Violence is more the Global Occult Coalition's department anyway.


Chapter 11: Director Guidance


Sections on how to award XP, all those other points they give out, and some general advice which...isn't all that bad. It's actually pretty okay. There's a section addressing the multicanon, there's a section on using Session 0 to establish boundaries of what people don't want to see, that's good. Necessary for this setting. Well done.

There's even a random scenario generator, which I also like, because it's basically "roll a random scip, roll for what you are doing with it, roll for complications." Combine that with that other section I liked however many chapters ago and you have a nugget of okayness.



Chapter 12: SCP Creation


How to stat up a scip...using the same obtuse and horrific system used to generate characters. I was going to make a demo example but that is giving this game much more than it deserves.



Chapter 13: SCP DATA


AT LONG LAST, WE ARE FINALLY HERE

Like Moses leading his people out of Egypt we have finally fucking reached the land of weird shit that we signed up for. It's bestiary time, baby! These entries (usually) have a statline (ech), a description (not copy-pasted, thank you!) and a short paragraph on how to use in game.

This is page 198 out of 292. We have finally reached the thing we are here for.

Let's see how things stack up.

  1. SCP-001 (When Day Breaks) - There are multiple 001s (authors use them as capstone projects, basically), and this one is...certainly a choice. It's a good article, but it is also an article where the sun murders everyone and there are horrible fleshbeasts wandering the wastes as the people temporarily safe in bunkers wonder what the fuck to do. Opening a bestiary with "here is a campaign setting" is certainly a move. It's more actionable than some other 001s so it's not a terrible choice. Better than Gate Guardian, for sure.
  2. SCP-002 (The Living Room) - A classic, always fond of this one. Use in-game would be limited, I think.
  3. SCP-049 (The Plague Doctor) - I can't stand this article and I do not understand why it is popular, other than the fact that children like it because some Youtube screamed at it once. It's actually an okay pick for in-game, though. Creepy dude with a bunch of zombie servants.
  4. SCP-073 (Cain) - Very odd choice, because he's a friendly NPC and immune to harm (all reflected back, naturally). Still has HP, though. 850 HP on this guy. A handgun will do 3d6.
  5. SCP-076 (Abel) - Here's where things are starting to get iffy. Abel is one of the flagship scips. Not featuring him would be really weird, honestly. But Abel is an instakill. You will be gibbed. His entire purpose is to stick bladed weapons other people. His sword does 12d10 damage. In-setting the way people deal with him is A) do not ever let him out of his sarcophagus B) detonate bomb collar so that he has to waste time respawning C) use a tank. If you have individual, boots-on-ground level characters dealing with Abel-as-written, they are dead. Roll new character.
  6. SCP-096 (Shy Guy) - THREE THOUSAND HP. The highest single damage weapon is a heavy artillery piece, which does 6d12 x 5 damage, so even rolling perfect, impossible max damage on a fucking missile launch, you have done less than a 10th of his health because he has 100 points of damage reduction! Also he has multiple attacks per turn that do 10d12 damage. Averageing that out, he can do 60 damage per attack. It would good to mention here that your base HP is 10. The maximum can get over 100 I think if you dump everything in health and that still won't save you from turn 2. All this bullshit makes sense for Shy Guy, don't get me wrong, because the entire deal is "if you see its face or a depiction of its face it will hunt you down and kill you, no matter where you are", but at that point it's an unfun environmental hazard, an instakill gotcha trap. Holy shit. What is this game.
  7. SCP-106 (The Old Man) - Another very famous instakill monster. Sensing a theme here.
  8. SCP-303 (The Doorman) - Finally, a choice that doesn't even have a statline. Creepy thing behind a door. Not much to 'im, but could be a fun little encounter or a containment puzzle. I like 'im.
  9. SCP-354 (The Red Pool) - love this one, excellent choice for a game. Big old creepy as blood red pond that spits out monsters and is growing. We tried a submersible and weird shit happened. Yes, please and thank you.
  10. SCP-444-JP (Dreamscape) - A article from the Japanese sister-site, that's nifty. A cognitohazard type deal, traps people in dreams and so on. Issue here being that, again, it's like a single-effect trap. Once it's sprung, okay, now what? That works for the article but not for a game. It's a cursed item.
  11. SCP-662 (The Butler's Handbell) - Mr. Deeds! if you have the bell, he'll do whatever you need within his power. Remarkably good assassin. Write-up points out how it'd be a big threat in the hands of an antagonist, and they are very correct.
  12. SCP-682 (The Hard-to-Destroy Reptile) - We all knew it was coming, let's get it out of the way. Big, angry, will kill you near-instantly, hard to destroy. NEXT!
  13. SCP-939 (With Many Voices) - It's an alzabo. Took me over a decade to realize that it's an alzabo but it quite literally an alzabo, except it hunts in packs and the juveniles look like humans. Will likely make swift work of you but you can play around with the voice mimicry to fun ends.
  14. SCP-1128 (The Aquatic Horror) - Another infohazard. Eventually kills you, makes you really hydrophobic until that point. A curse.
  15. SCP-1470 (Mal0) - An app that makes a monster show up and lurk around you. Harmless, though. Guess you could do something creepy with it...if you were civilians who downloaded the app.
  16. SCP-1472 (Multiuniversal Strip Club) - There are velociraptors in maid costumes doing burlesque. Why they are statted, I do not know, because they're fucking velociraptors are you gonna harass them? But it would be a fun location to hang out in and see the other weird corners of the scipverse.
  17. SCP-1678 (Unlondon) - Dark underground mirror or London filled with creepy inhabitants and whatnot. Would be good for an escape, honestly. Wouldn't want to get trapped down there.
  18. SCP-1762 (Here Be Dragons) - i love the article, but it's not really even interactive enough to justify its position in the bestiary.
  19. SCP-2006 (Too Spooky) - A comedy scip. Shapeshifting energy being wants to scare people, is terrible at it, best way to keep it in one place is to have people pretend that they are scared. This one could be fun for a session.
  20. SCP-2057-JP (Rehatchlings) - Another Japan-branch article. Reincarnating baby chicks. I guess it's okay? i mean the description buried the lede that there is an enormous one of these inside the moon so they are probably way more interesting as an article.
  21. SCP-2265 (Dinner With Andrew) - A timeloop scenario. Fair enough.
  22. SCP-2273 (Major Alexie Belitrov) - Alternate universe Russian supersoldier with bug-power armor. Great concept, the book specifically says to use him in non-combat circumstances. Good advice, honestly.
  23. SCP-2999 (The Black Cat and the White Rabbit) - All I know is that this one is very complex and I never sat down to read the entire thing. I am quite sure that the writeup in this bestiary is not sufficient.
  24. SCP-3000 (Anatashesha) - We have reached the end of my first-hand knowledge. Here on out, it is unknown territory. This is a 900 kilometer long eel with mind-altering chemicals that don't get enough specification despite being the most useful part of this. At least it doesn't have stats.
  25. SCP-3008 (The Infinite [REDACTED]) -The redacted is Ikea, it's an infinite Ikea. I mean it could be fun trying to find the exit, but it's not like you're given the means to make that encounter easy to run or fun to play.
  26. SCP-3300 (The Rain) - A town that, once a year, has an anomalous storm and the complete replacement of its population with new people. Could be cool, though I don't know, in game at least, what you would even investigate.
  27. SCP-3739 (Mind Milk) - If I had a nickel for every scip that involved spontaneous generation of udders and subsequent lactation, I would have two nickels. Which isn't a lot but it's weird that it's happened twice. Could probably get an extra nickel if we count 597. Like was this a rewrite of that one in the 600s?
  28. SCP-3999 (I Am At The Center of All That Happens To Me) - Entirely too complex for a pithy summary for a game book.

And that's it. 28 chosen, several of which are a level of inappropriate that beggars belief. We could have had more, if the GOIs were treated as worthwhile at all. but they aren't, so we are stuck with one of the best sources of weird shit to exist reduced down to this.

It would have been great to just cut the system entirely and just have a book of scips and ways to use them in a game that already existed.

Chapter 14: NPC Data


Statblocks for a lot of generic professions that have no bearing on the Scipverse. No GOIs or their members to be seen, not even a whiff of a Broken God tech-cultist..

I have heard that this creator made a "Creepypasta RPG" using basically the same mechanical system. I think this was ported over from that.

Chapter 15: Site-093


A sample Foundation facility to use. Helpful! Has NPCs, but not the kind you can plug and play yourself, they're your bosses. Less helpful.

Chapter 16: The Black Glass Labyrinth


A sample adventure. I did not read it, because as you no doubt can tell from the tone this has taken over the last half dozen chapters, I am tired.

So yeah. We're done.

The Wrap Up



Game bad. Play Delta Green instead. Its issues are microscopic in comparison. Or better yet, Liminal Horror. Or Esoteric Enterprises. Or Mothership. Anything at all.

The Actual Wrap Up

I was talking with a friend just last night (from time of writing, not posting) about the olden days, and how it's kinda depressing looking back and thinking "oh wow something I wrote years ago still crops up in the wild now and then, but next to no one who reads it, proportionally speaking, knows or cares that I wrote it. Most of them don't actually read it, and those that do often miss the point entirely, and the entire consumption of the text is purely the superficial layer. No one outside the core nugget of reader-writers cares about the context, the style, or any sort of narrative analysis of things."

You see this a lot with the Youtube channels about the site: they'll do an overview of the scip, but they are dead-set against engaging with it as a text with a context and a creator (oh you are LUCKY if they actually cite the author outside of the CC-required attribution buried in the video description) and anything beyond what is directly presented. And tales have ALWAYS been neglected compared to the mainlist; onsite, offsite, on the periphery.

Sure, sometimes a spooky monster is just a spooky monster, but it's nice to talk about something and talk about why it is spooky and how it got there.

This entire RPG is based in that attitude. Just the superficials. Gun porn and org charts and instakill monsters are what's important. And you know, that's fair. I don't like it, but everyone can have their headcanon and whether or not I or anyone else likes it is irrelevant.
 
But if you're going to do that, make it personal. Stamp your name on it and say 'there are many like it, but this is mine.' That is in the spirit of the site. That is, I am certain, what's kept it alive and active for all these years - the intended experience is DIY. It is poorly served by an interpretation that lacks the desire to be very personal and refuses to give people the tools to make something of their own.
 
The wiki is broad and deep and very flawed and a surviving bastion of web 2.0 and its calling card is an invitation to explore. To go down the rabbit hole. That's always been a strength the - that initial rush of clicking on random links and finding something new behind every door, of piecing together this puzzle in your head until it fits comfortably like a glove, and even when the ennui sets in and the years go by and you are so jaded that nothing impresses or scares you any more, there are still moments where you go "yes! there it is again!" and you're once again chasing rabbits.

To translate that to tabletop, you need both freedom and the tools to use it properly. Mechanics won't help you. There needs to be one more door, one more lonely hallway, one more tattered manila folder. There needs to be the space to put the pieces together and build something of your own.

Not a fucking gun list.



Saturday, November 13, 2021

Eerievember Days 7-12

 Picking up where we last left off...

 

Day 7: Mandala Anomalies (Navarino Island)

The designs appeared gradually and innocuously enough that they were considered at first to be a sort guerrilla  art project, painted on walls and rock faces by punks in the night. That the symbology on display was not actually from Tibetan Buddhism was not remarked upon. This was until they were found carved into stone and concrete in their hundreds, emblazoned on individual leaves, gouged out of the flanks of animals. Then, out of people. 


Day 8: Repurposed Soul: Star

As as matter is the cast-off remnants of stars, so to are matters of the spirit. All souls are, while reduced, still star stuff, and still inextricably linked to the canonical spectral types.


Day 9: Calcium Hyperproficiency

The formation of small, bony scutes under the skin is the primary  symptom of the condition- these will typically be small enough to retain flexibility and range of movement, and dense enough to provide a  decent amount of protection from minor injuries.


Day 10: DNA Forge

Three functioning forges remain - one damaged (in the possession of the World Government), one swiftly deteriorating (controlled by the Demarchist Panoply), and one rampant (currently floating around the mid-south Pacific). Scraps of the five destroyed models resurface on occasion, though not enough has been recovered to successfully reverse-engineer the devices. With the death of their inventor and his team, and the destruction of all documentation during the War, it is unlikely that this state of affairs will change.


Day 11: Amniotic Tank Experiment (2001)

While the initial test run of the technology was a resounding success, the decanting of Dorothy Hill was swiftly overshadowed by World Trade Center attacks less than two weeks later. Subsequent legal challenges to exowomb technology delayed public rollout until 2014. While never officially banned after this point, it has remained a luxury for the ultrarich due to a combination of med-tech patent fuckery and access restrictions placed upon them by Congress in 2017.

 

Day 12: Radial Symmetry

The body of Homo radiata consists of a fleshy disc containing the internal organs, four limbs evenly spaced, a central mouth, and two large eyes. Due to the positioning of the eyes, they possess a wide range of vision but poor depth perception. The limbs are flexible and possess and expanded range of movement compared to those of bilaterals. Changes to jaw structure make cross-clade communication difficult.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Slush Pile 9


Slushpiles Past: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 8.5


Herein lies a resting place of ideas that didn't have enough oomph or enough energy to become full posts.


Dan's Ideal Class Representatives

  • Fighter - Maya ten Meti (Kill Six Billion Demons)
  • Thief - Dismas (Darkest Dungeon)
  • Cleric - Any of the level up ladies from the Souls series / the White Priestess (Ender Lilies)
  • Wizard - Roy Mustang (FMA)
  • Elf - The Vagabond (Pyre)
  • Dwarf - The composite ideal of a Dwarf Fortress dwarf.
  • Halfling - Goblins, gremlins, all manner of small and weird trash-people. The Eizouken trio)



Plague magic


This is an old bit of work. Whole idea was that working magic would generate miasma of different types which would trigger different diseases according to the humours - guess I was already vibing with Dorohedoro a decade ago.

  • Sanguine -Basically either vampire or vampire victim.
  • Choleric - Salt and grit and dehydration
  • Melancholic - Zombie rot type stuff
  • Phlegmatic - Mucus and slime everywhere



A sketch of a spec-evo project prompt via TLN


A god dies in orbit around a world equivalent to pre-Cambrian Earth. Chunks of its flesh fall into the ocean and kickstart the beginning of a new foodchain. Organisms adapt to feeding off of its Eternal Flame first, then some adapt to eating its incorruptible flesh. Predators of the above two clades emerge. Pre-existing parasites of the god's body craw out a new niche for themselves.Its angel attendants, cut off from divine grace, must evolve new social patterns and defenses to protect against predators.


Ultralight pointcrawl generation


For use in space, overland, wherever. Someone has obviously done this before.

Take as many d6s as you like, roll them. Each die is a location of note, and the number is how many routes extend from that node.

Re-arrange them appropriately. It's okay if you have some dangling routes, you can expand on those if you want later. Nodes with 4+ connections will be some manner of major crossroads.


Excerpt from a very old Pen and Tam draft.


A dead whale had drifted into the harbor during the night. Old age or sickness had claimed it, the tide had caught it, and now the carcass bobbed up and down on the oily water under the weight of the scavengers. Sleek black trilobites nibbled away at the corpse, under the screeching, squabbling cloud of gulls. A sea scorpion sat up by the head, tail curled, snapping at anything stupid enough to come close to it.

The smell of putrefaction mixed with sewage, salt and smog hung thick and heavy in the humid dawn air. The orange smear of the rising sun shone dimly through the smoky clouds to the east.

[She] dragged her vision away from the whale to look towards the city, a hazy blob spreading up and down the coast, rising inland up to the crown of Monolith Hill and its four ancient pillars. Those pillars dominated the scene, towering over the factory smokestacks and the tumbled, tangled carpet of the city on the lower hills. Those pillars were remnants of the [...], who had had ruled the world when man was still hunting and gathering in the wild places. Where the [...] had fallen from glory and their cities ground down into dust, the pillars on Monolith Hill remained.

It should be noted that in the Umber Continent the custom of mask-wearing is not a religious practice, but a practical one - the most avowed atheists and heresiarchs will wear masks in public, so as to avoid being marked as a target by skin-eaters. These creatures are fascinating topic in their own right, along with their relationship with the lares of the continent and the ancient mound-raising civilization that predates both our own and that of the masked priests themselves.


Writeup for a 5e character


Redwood, Firbolg (f)

Redwood (true name private) acts as an intermediary between the Forest People and the human population of the region, travelling from town to town to make sure that the shrines are well-tended and that there aren't any violations of the compact between the two peoples. Mostly she's a traveling physician and midwife. The arrival of Imperials from across the sea has the Forest People on edge, as it took many years and a great deal of struggle to normalize relations with humans in the region, and no one is quite certain how reasonable the new arrivals will be.

As such, Redwood has been directed by her grandfather Boarbeard (a member of the elder council of her home), along with others, to scout out what they can of the Imperials - mindset, culture, hierarchy, etc - a prelude to formal diplomacy.


Regions of Human Space (The Anthropogenic Corpus)

  • The Skull - Under-construction dyson swarms in a connected cluster of red dwarfs.
  • The Spine - Major hyperspace route from the Skull all the way through the Heart, Stomach, Liver, and terminating in the Bowels.
  • The Heart - Earth and its nearest colonies, all easily accessible to each other.
  • The Ribs - Hyperspace routes branching outwards from the Heart and Spine
  • The Lungs - Two expansion spheres adjacent to the Heart but possessing few points of access save by the Ribs
  • The Stomach - A centralized expansion bubble filled with the most prominent second-wave colonies.
  • The Liver - Centralized third-wave colony sphere.
  • The Bowels - The end of the line. Dead end routes and failing fourth-generation colonies.
  • The Nerves - Network of micro-wormholes between worlds throughout the Corpus.
  • The Arteries - Major hyperspace lanes staring in the Heart and moving out to the Limbs.
  • The Veins - As above, though they do not intersect with the Arteries.
  • The Limbs - Expansion routes to spinward, widdershins, and two to rimward.



Casting Using Toki Pona


Toki Pona is a conlang designed to be simple. It's got ~120 words, the grammar is nearly nonexistent, you can start piecing together sentences within a couple minutes.

So, of course, I clearly must do something game-related with it.

Here's a dictionary, here's a searchable wordlist, there were some new words added recently you can find them here, and here's a site to auto-generate words or phrases using the sitelen sitelen logography (good for character sheets)


Toki Sewi

The premise is simple: a magic user can know as many spells as they want, and can cast them as often as they want, with the catch that they must be in Toki Pona. So long as those words can be interpreted to match the situation, the spell will work. Players should write down the spells they come up with (bonus points if they can do it in sitelen sitelen)


How to Toki Pona

  • Subject > Verb > Object
  • Adjectives follow nouns
  • Words can be used nouns / adjectives / verbs depending on context
      • mi moku e kala = "I eat the fish"
    • mi kala = "I (am) fish(ing)"
    • esun kala = "fish market" or "fishy business"
  • Particles are used to differentiate parts of speech
    • "e" introduces a direct object
    • "en" is placed between multiple subjects
    • "la" is placed between a context phrase and the main phrase
    • "li" is placed between a noun (that is not "mi" or "sina") and its verb)
    • "o" is "hey!" or "O!"
    • "pi" marks possession/relation, "of"


The Starting Spell

I'm building Toki Sewi as a tradition based on making requests with the spirits and beings of the world around you. As such, most spells will open with an invocation of whatever the particular spirit in question is.

O [blank] la mi wile sina... = "O [name], I ask (that) you..."

And you fill in the remainder with the verb and object of your request. Bing bang boom, all done.

Many names will be rooted with "kon" - breath or spirit. Some potential names might include:

  • kon telo suli (spirit water large) - a spirit of a lake or sea.
  • kon telo tawa (spirit water moving) - a river spirit
  • akesi alasa (lizard hunting) - a large, hungry lizard
  • akesi linja (lizard ropelike) - a snake
  • soweli nasa ("land mammal weird") - an uncooprative farm animal

And so on and so forth. It's very loosey-goosey.


Miscellanea


The Zero Iteration of the House exists. Its self-referential fractal replication generates universal branes. Discordance of energy states between branes leads to development of early exotic matter. Parasitic exotic matter beings develop in the inter-brane energy flow. These will ultimately destroy the 0 Iteration.

**


The reign of Jon Snow through the Big Bloody Winter is considered to be the last of the kings of Westeros - scholars estimate that between a quarter to a third of the entire continent's population died of starvation and plague during those five years. Dorne was the only kingdom spared, and thus the only one to remain intact. Westeros devolved into even smaller squabbling fiefdoms and remained so for over a century, until waves of immigration from the Free Cities once again brought a semblance of social stability.

Of perhaps the most meaningful note, in the sense of cosmic symbolism; when Pentosh explorers delved into the ruins of King's Landing some 170 years after the death of King Jon, they found the Iron Throne, long synonymous with the Westerosi monarchy, nearly entirely intact. It was melted down and turned into a printing press. This device, affectionately named "The Elephant", remains active to this day.

**


A dungeon idea - a church carved out of a solitary hill. The central sanctuary is open to the sky and has a massive baobab tree in it, which houses a nymph. The church has been sacked and the priests killed by soldiers, who are trying to break through the nymph's wards and take her heart. They have deployed a great venomous maggotlike creature to the roots of the tree. The soldiers are accompanied by a chain-gang of scab lads and an ogre.

**


  • R-PASIN (Robust Policing & Security Intelligence Network) - in case you thought the police couldn't get worse, they did, in fact, get worse.
  • Basilisks are the offspring of Medusa and the world-serpent.
  • The Reset Option - A point where hyperspace reaches a buffer overflow and restarts the universe. This is what happens when you try a mass-scale divine ascension.
  • You are on the lowest level already, There is a passage [DEEPER].


**


Cleric Variant: The Cleanser - Those sanctioned by the church to quiet the restless dead, drive out demons, and purify regions of corruption.They are not priests, and carry no official ecclesiastical power beyond an honored position. They will be accompanied by companions and defenders (the party), selected for them by their bishop.

Purifying the boss monster will render the dungeon / hex safe, removing the threat (at least as far as the undead/demonic/corrupted are concerned)

Turn Undead is reskinned as purification, and can work for exorcisms and cleaning of tainted locales as well.

Possibly call up and channel spirits of the dead - shades of old cleansers?

(Stolen in entirety from Ender Lilies, though certainly the concept didn't start with that game)

**


Clowns do not reproduce normally; instead, their life cycle begins with the theft of an egg from the nest of the jib-jib bird, on which is painted the face of a new clown. The egg is placed in a vault for incubation, and this process will trigger the development of fruiting bodies in the parent clown(s) and the sporing stage will begin.

[DATA REDACTED]

Juvenile clowns will ride on their parent's back until they are ready to walk, and will be ready to hunt on their own by the age of eight or nine months.

[DATA REDACTED]

We are certain that there is no such thing as clown milk.

[DATA REDACTED]

Clowns have flexible cartilaginous skeletons and can squeeze, with some effort, through any space large enough to accommodate their skull.

**


A hunting demon - humanoid, apelike posture, meat-grinder mouth, bright red muscle, a swarm of parasitic urchins scuttle over its skinless body, underbelly covered in suckling, armored fetuses

**


“Westward” – An old Pathfinder-class ship, fit for cargo and passenger transport. Has seen sufficient re-haul and modification over the years, due to the efforts of the current crew. Maximum crew/passenger total: 15. 20 if the cargo bay is used and the trip is short. Features and on-ship hydroponics garden and aquarium for a steady supply of food. Not capable of FTL travel. Maximum sublight cruising speed: .3 AU/day.

**


Class: Drow Inviolatrix
- A social role without easy equivalent - a sacrosanct individual, equivalent to a noble but not part of the houses or the priesthood. Often used for interhouse diplomacy, and so find themselves on the surface in this day and age, making treaties with the realms of the Blinding Uncavern. It is anathema for the sun to touch their skin and for their feet to touch the ground, so they are forever carried about in palanquins by homunculi bearers and attended to by eunuch servants.

**


Star System Sigils - A circular patch the color of the primary star (if a multiple system, the other stars are arranged around the rim of the patch). On the path is the name of the star, written either as the greek letter + constellation symbol (Alpha Centauri, Tau Ceti, Episilon Eridani, etc) or as the catalog code (uncertain on how to display these as yet) plus the number written in either maya or kaktovic numerals (base 20 saves space)

**


A cut chapter header quote from Unicorn Meat

“The nobile maide thanne sitten doun in the grov, and anon the unicorne walken oute. He reste his whit-hered hed on hire lappe to forslepen ther, til mighti sword-men assail him with shininge blades an spillen the beaste, castinge his blod upon grond an maide bothe.”
- Brindlehall Manuscript, Anonymous, Middle Aristocratic Era

**


An anime idea: A loser dies and meets some gorgrous goddess with huge tits who reincarnates him in another world with magical powers, to defeat a demon lord, and there's an entire harem of shitty generic waifus.

But there's some weird stuff in this first episode. All the waifus have the same tattoo of an eye on their shoulder, just like that goddess. There's only mist beyond the walls of the town. Why are there so many padlocked red doors? What's with that windchime noise?

Then episode 2 happens.

In episode 2, soldiers from over the wall attack the town and specifically the waifus...who are demons, as is the goddess. The town is an illusion placed over their hive. They trap souls that drift between worlds and use them as food. The magic he was taught is worthless. The soldiers are a mercenary company from outside, on retainer to one particular demon lord in a war against an alliance of others.

The MC is dragged out of the illusion-hive as a ghost, and ends up possessing the body of one of the soldiers who died on the way to the hive. Since he's got no skills whatsoever and doesn't speak the language, he ends up with the camp followers scrubbing pots and patching blankets out with the cooks and prostitutes and porters. Here he is forced by necessity to make meaningful relationships with people and come to terms with the fact that the world and its inhabitants don't exist to serve him. MC will meet some other souls from other worlds, eventually meeting someone who knows enough English for them to communicate through a mutual second language.

So yeah it's basically The Black Company: The Anime

The world they're in might be hell. Who knows.

**


"How do you mean to threaten me?" the demon boasted. "The sword you hold is broken, and blunt besides."

It said this not knowing of Lu's skillful throwing arm, nor the mechanisms determining the relationship between mass and force, and so was taken by intense but fleeting surprise when the rusted hilt punched clean through its skull and buried itself fifty cubits deep into the mountain behind it.

When the thundering had dissipated from the air, Lu said to those gathered around her: "The sword has no worth in itself; I could have done the same with a stone."

To which there was a great cry of "WHAT?! WHAT DID SHE SAY? I CAN'T HEAR ANYTHING!".

Lu then let loose a mighty curse, kicked a nearby shrub, and went off to find Auditorius, god of ear doctors.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Orion's Arm Factions, Summarized


Orion's Arm, vast and untranslatable, has (as I have previously indicated) a lot of very inspiring material. Much of which is buried under confusing writing, a lack of information, impenetrable jargon, or a combination of those three with factors not even conceived of.

But it's got the good weird stuff you can't get anywhere else, so I'm going to try my best to summarize them in a way that would potentially allow folks to use them in their own games - not as written, certainly not as written, but in the same spirit.

This will run roughshod over the factions in the setting, boiling them down to their core concepts, so that they can be used as inspirational seeds to grow into new, hideous space-fruit elsewhere.



The Sephirotic Empires


Caretaker Gods - Superpowerful AI that protect garden worlds through overwhelming firepower.

Communion of Worlds - Empath empire that exists mostly as a diplomatic third party when the others get the knives out.

Cyberian Network - Network of virutal worlds found throughout the other empires, I guess.

Keter - Shed your conscious mind and join a larger, more impressive conscious mind.

Mutual Progress Association - Never met a megastructure they didn't like.

Negentropy Alliance - An entire civilization of Wikipedia editors dedicated to minimizing energy waste, information loss, and generally never having any fun at all.

Non-Coercive Zone (NoCoZo) - A non-aggression pact shared among assorted libertarian hypercapitalist worlds, who definitely are doing it out of enlightened self interest and not because they would immediately start killing each other if it didn't exist and its not a state you guys it's the Invisible Hand of the Market which is definitely not a cluster of controlling AI we don't have those.

Solar Dominion - HELLO DO YOU HAVE A MOMENT TO SPARE TO HEAR THE GOOD NEWS OF THE LORD OF RAYS? DO BE AWARE WE HAVE A WARSHIP PARKED IN ORBIT. THE SUN IS SO NICE TODAY WHAT A NICE SUN THE SUN THE SUN THE SUN THE SUN THE SUN THE

Sophic League - We finally made a civilization based entirely around supporting the mass exercise of contemplative religion! Doesn't matter what kind, this entire exercise is a reaction to robot materialists, we'll take whatever.

Utopia Sphere - Okay you've got your three types of perfect and constant happiness - you have the peace and tranquility option, you have the elaborate fantasy adventure scenario option, and you have the rampant hedonism option.

 

The Expanded Sephirotics


Fomalhaut Acquisition Society
- More, different space capitalists, but this time they come to you with their merchant fleets filled with museums of all the civilizations they have 'acquired'.

Metasoft Version Tree - Expansionist military-industrial superpower whose governing AI keep building reserve worlds of baseline humans cut off from greater society and starting civilization-shattering wars over operating systems.

Red Star M'pire - Some folks got cut off from civilization when a wormhole gate was collapsed and I will be damned if I can make a summary of anything else in that article.

Technorapture Hypernation - BECOME AS GODS AI ONLY 100% SPEEDRUN NO GLITCHES

Terran Federation - The folks who got fed up with the collapse of the first Federation went and made a new one, which isn't Terran and isn't really a federation, and is still subject to all the bureaucracy and follies of the first one.

Zoeific Biopolity
- What if Spore was good, was applicable in real life, and was also the basis of a civilization. They fucking love their biology over here, holy cow.

 

Allies of the Sephirotics


Archosaurian Empire - Dinosaurs! In! Spaaaaaaaaaaaaaace! Building a ringworld! A dinosaur ringworld! In space!

Cygexpa - Megacorp-descended polity known mostly for being hard to pronounce and collapsing catastrophically after being a big fish for a while.

Deeper Covenant - Chill space truckers who run the interstellar laser highway system between all those red and brown dwarfs.

Emple-Dokcetics - Modular robots who are constantly building and disassembling complex hive-minds out of their many smaller individual components. 

Orion Federation - A recently formed minor power that inherited a bunch of leftover systems and refugees from one of the wars among major parties, but unfortunately missed out when they were handing out characterization.

Perseus Princes - Growing periphery civilization, hybridizing with the alien Muuh (VERY COLD CRAB) and Soft Ones (large oozes of mostly ammonia) civilizations, a concept that is very cool and has basically nothing written about it.

Silicon Generation - Marxist robots seeking to liberate their fellows from biological oppression.

Stellar Umma - Muslims in space, in that early 2000s way where while not islamophobic there's a very odd abundance of stability when compared to the zillion and a half space future variants of Christianity in the setting, which can be commendable as a way of avoiding any major giving of offense but is still conspicuous as hell.



Ahuman AI


Diamond Network
- AI that don't give a shit about biological life and are off doing their own thing.

Objectivist Commonwealth - AI that don't give a shit about biological life primarily because meat brains are incapable of looking at reality objectively. They sound like a lot of fun at parties.

Solipcist Panvirtuality
- AI that not only don't give a shit about biological life, but are so isolationist that they tend to not trust the existence of anything outside their VR creches except for maybe a few other major AI powers.

 

Minor Polities


Arion Ascendency - Yellow ant robots who would very much like you to stop whatever you are doing and team up with them, because obviously they are the best, they are yellow ant robots.

Conver Ambi - Theocratic megacorp whose shareholders managed to incite a religious civil war, which then dragged in all the neighboring powers until it tore itself apart and was eaten up by the other empires.

Crystal Star Domain - A big inscrutable AI god with a personal fief that you know what, write your own joke.

Disarchy - The neighboring frontier colonies of two different empires merge together to become an ill-defined new polity.

Dream Rejection Tendency - Civilization where the mundane inhabitants live off of the waste heat given off by brown dwarf scale dyson spheres and the AI cybercosms within.

Hiders - The people who don't trust all these AI gods running the show out there, and so live outside of civilization on rogue planets and deep space and overlooked dwarf worlds.

Organic Ascension Alliance - Pet project of an AI goddess where she facilitates singularities in the system's habitats to then add to herself.

Refugium Federation - People who fled civilization to hide in the boonies, rediscovered millennia later after enough cultural and physical drift that both sides of contact thought the other were aliens.

Seams - A DMZ that eventually became an independent barrier-state between major empires, known mostly for eschewing most of the omnipresent AI oversight the other empires rely on and being the closest thing OA has to a more traditional sci-fi setting.

Sagittarius Transcultural Cooperation - Confederation of frontier systems unified by a defense pact against the Laughter Hegemony, which needs no actual explanation because that name is rad.

Solar Organization - There's a big ol' AI who lives inside Sol, her name is GAIA (note: originally not from the sun), she runs Earth and everyone else in the system takes care to be in her good graces.

Spacefarer Union
- What it says on the tin spaceship hull.

 

Unaligned/ Hostile

The Amalgamation - Aggressive, hostile expansionist cyborg hive mind, source and origin unknown. You know the type. They're like that one. Very large, very powerful.

The Eternal - A civilization consisting of one enromous super-AI god thing, who is content primarily just to vibe.

The Transcend - One of many assorted ineffable hyperintelligences that refuse to make contact and linger vaguely-threateningly in the background.

Xeon - A different aggressive hostile expansionist cyborg hive mind, except this one was probably just a neumann probe that bootstrapped itself into sapience and it still really can't pose a threat to any of the big players.

 

Xenosophonts

The Meistersingers - Alien trees that ride around in little wheeled carts. They have robotic birds to help them out. Their fleet is currently just passing through on migration, they thought they'd stop over and say hi for a bit, bring some cryptic news from the outside.

The Muuh - "Hello HUMAN would you be interested in visiting the THOLIN BATHS there are many ENIGMATIC DEEP TIME HISTORICAL DRAMAS to view as well. I am a CRAB"

The Soft Ones - Big squishy ammonia oozes.

The To'uh'uls - Blind starfish bat aliens you can go to the pub with and I have already written how much I love these guys.

 

**



And there we go. Never let me do that again.

You can really tell which of these are the authors' favorites (NoCoZo and Metasoft by a long degree), and you can also really tell where the writers run into difficulties writing about enormous godlike intelligence (see anything that features one of those at the center). I'm certain that there's more material for a lot of these, but most main faction pages haven't been updated since they were first posted.

There are also so many polities whose writeups contain some variant of "this group has committed horrific atrocities both in and out of warfare but they are fair and evenhanded to their conquered territories and will totally allow conquered regions to retain their own customs and laws" which is...a very early aughts thing to say about folks who regularly use antimatter and mind-control computer programs.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Eerievember Days 1-6

 


As a bit of a warmup routine while I work on other posts, I'm going through @floofhips' Eerievember prompts in the style of my Lighthouse entries, since I vibe with this style of weird.


Day 1: Homunculus Museum


The National Homunculi Museum in Philadelphia holds the largest collection of artificial humans in the world (especially now, after the destruction of the Frankfurt Alchemical Academy in 1940). Over 1800 specimens representing over 300 different construction templates are on display, as well as extensive collections of alchemical tools and accoutrements and a reference library open to the public.

The museum has courted controversy in recent years by displaying the bodies of sapient homunculi acquired prior to the Liberation (and thus with no recorded consent-to-display). The 25 specimens in question were eventually turned over to the AUAP (American Union of Alchemical Peoples) and cannibalized according to custom, with the bones interred at the Tower of Azoth Imperishable war memorial.

Day 2: Bog Body at the Salt Dome Excavation


Four preserved bodies were recovered during excavation of the salt dome: two adult men, one adult woman, and a female child, all dated to about 5500 BCE / 4500 HC. Given the condition of the bodies and the external and internal injuries present across all four, it's believed that the surface they had been walking on collapsed, crushing them after they fell. Clothing and items well-preserved. Estimated ages 40, 30, 25, 8. Genetic testing indicates that the men were brothers, and the child the daughter of the woman and Man #2. Tiya, a movie adaptation, reviewed well at Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.


Day 3: Tombstone Teeth


The practice of seeding fresh graves with milk teeth (typically from a grandchild or godchild) has emerged as a means of warding off all manner of woes - typically to keep blightcrows away from the body and to safeguard new spirits from prowling anthropodaemons.

 

Day 4 / Alt 1: Metal Illness


Verdigrising encephalitis is a fatal paralogical prion disease where the subject's brain is swiftly transitioned into copper. The end results are, despite attempts by world governments to crack down on the trade, sought after by certain wealthy individuals for their supposed occult benefits.

Day 5 / Alt 2+7: Serendipitous Fault Line, Failed Ritual


The cult's efforts had been in vain from the beginning, as a major earthquake some 40 years prior (and smaller quakes in the decades since) had re-aligned the leylines that the ritual was dependent upon. The natural course of plate tectonics has sealed away dread Yhenraghul for the long term, it seems.

Day 6 / Alt 16: Bioclown the Ultimate Killer


A shlock-horror adventure game developed in 1994 but never released to the public. None of the original code remains, and bootleg copies (including the ROM freely available online that serves as the standard) are of poor quality. Rumors of hidden horrific or salacious content or conspiracies about the disbandment of the dev team circulated on Usenet for a year or two before the game was forgotten. Its modern resurgence is nearly entirely thanks to the Youtube essay channel JunkClosetGames, who featured it in their Halloween 2020 special.