Thursday, December 29, 2016

Troika! Actual Play

I ran Troika recently for +Brian Wille, who was a lot of fun to have as a player, as you can see in an actual play of The Black Hack's Sorrowset city & adventure generator demo.

I ran this using that Troika dungeon generator I posted a bit ago, which ain't no Sorrowset, but, works well enough.

So here is a map and notes. I started out with the room marked 1 and built from there. We weren't in 3 long enough for me to start drawing boxes and numbering them, but otherwise from 2 you have 5 and 6 because 4 is already taken and so forth. The list underneath is our order of movement, more or less. Brian's characters met Xel, the drunk master lammasu, when they were moving back from room 3 to 1, in order to head back up to 2. The room 4 was skipped as the catwalk over sewer canals got precarious, and said canals contained albino crocodiles.

This is just a room key.

My copy of the main character, Calmorra (probably misspelt), a Poorly Made Dwarf. His assistant Crampus, a Temple Knight of Telak. Their friend Xel, from the random encounter table, a clingy drunk lammasu, and Trances, a total dick of a tower wizard who offered to 'buy' Xel in order to render his flesh into medicines. I did not think through his spell list, as I made it up right then, so he used Assassin's Dagger to send a mace after Xel. If you actually read and think about the spell, or just read the name of the spell, a mace is kinda the opposite of how to use it. But you know, live and learn. Also it was kind of amusing to see, and it did seem like an in-character thing for an inappropriate, half-mad tower wizard.

That combat was fun - Brian quickly realized he was outclassed and asked Xel to help drag his PC and henchperson away, and they aced initiative - I think there was time for Trances to act once (Jolting Crampus a smidge). Trances didn't have a ton of combat-spells or weapons - I probably should've had a bit more stat-ing out of him in the dungeon generator, which I will add at some point.

The rules are good; we both compared Troika! to the Black Hack and Into the Odd. OSR-influenced/derived systems which make more ergonomic systems out of the original material. The background-derived Telak played a big role in the adventure, what with our Poorly Made Dwarf sitting in a Godspeaker throne and talking to him, pledging allegiance and asking for a route out, which was nearby. The room lit up, with a pillar of light shining down on Calmorra. Telak's voice thundered out (from some speakers), amazing Crampus and Xel. And then Calmorra Luck saved vs death to get back up again. I think Brian knew something like that was coming - Calmorra did have to toss a charred skeleton off that chair before sitting in it. It was certainly fun seeing Brian take chances like that. Play unsafe!

Calmorra and company left with 400 silver pennies and one fewer reflection, as Calmorra's slack-faced copy is running around loose. I imagine Calmorra and Xel found a bar and got drunk enough to wake up in some other interesting, dangerous, and hopefully lucrative situation.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Dungeon Generator for Troika!

My dungeon and encounter generator for Troika!

I've been nerding out over Troika lately, and am always glad to have another system like Into the Odd or The Black Hack. The setting is baked into the rules and backgrounds and such in Troika, similar to Into the Odd, and I have a hard time describing what I love about the setting so much. Probably the mix of fantasy and science fiction, without the setting feeling like Numenera, where it's all really technology at the end of the day. There are devils and demons and angels, and people who hunt and kill them (demon hunters' background description indicates they go after devils in the forests and angels in the city slums with equal gusto). Weirdo magicians and ministers who piss in ponds. Burglars and thinking engines and mutants from between the spheres.

I love that there are backgrounds which can naturally be at odds with each other, like the aforementioned demon hunter and, say, a skeptical lamassu who is hanging out on the mortal plane. Or a faction of fervent devourers and a priesthood who regard mass as sin. Wizards and wizard hunters.

So anyway, not having a dungeon like Into the Odd's one-page rules and dungeon, I wrote a very long Troika-inspired version of my own.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Some notes on the UNDERGROUND setting

I love implied or obliquely defined settings, and Into the Odd and one of +Joel Priddy's hacks of it, UNDERGROUND, do this well. Priddy has written a version of Into the Odd which takes place in modern day North America, where the PCs are living in a town or city above a megadungeon. Things seem normal but aren't. I had written up some setting principles a long time ago, and happened upon them today. Figured I didn't want them to just be another forgotten thing in a notebook. Chris McDowall's notes on the Into the Odd setting are mostly just bullet points, which I sought to emulate here, as 100 pages of notes on how Erotalia's honey trade is destablizing the region reads like the dialogue from the Star Wars prequels to me.


  1. Things seem normal on the surface.
  2. Nothing is really normal.
  3. The world recedes from itself.
#3 is meant to say that the world is stretched out. Distances which were once trivial are now perilous and fraught. People generally don't think about this; they tend to ignore it. Travel just isn't done by normal folks. Fortunately, PCs are never normal.

  1. City-states more than countries.
  2. No one is in charge.
  3. Everyone cleaves to strong opinions
  1. Balkanized into neighborhoods.
  2. Things rise from the Earth when it rains.
  3. It's raining more and more these days.
  4. People are stuck here from all over.
I'm in Atlanta, and I wrote this in 2015, when we had record-level rain. Flooding and water issues and the like. Now we're in a drought, but I still like the idea of Atlanta looking more and more like a horror Atlantis.

If I did this, I'd have the PCs start in Atlanta, but they'd've heard things about the rest of the country at the very least. Some of the following is true.

  1. 'Crypto', the soil bacteria, now makes enormous mounds and columns.
  2. From here the moon looks like the Earth.
  3. Days of the long suns burn things up.
  1. Oil rigs go dark and become places of treasure and danger.
  2. Daily storms reshape the coast.
  3. Giant crabs wander about.
  1. The dead live (mostly in Midtown).
  2. The lower necropolis connects to the Underground and Elsewhere.
  3. Bankers bunker down and are bringing back feudalism.
  1.  Frost giants stalk the tiaga.
  2. The twin cities are besieged.
  3. Lake Superior is endless.
  1. There used to be a mighty river here.
  2. Places were pulled in when the Earth split. Sometimes they come back.
  3. It goes deeper than it should.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Sprawl AP: Cakewalk in Fallen

The Johnson had promised an easy mission in a po-dunk rural town. A scientist to extract alive or kill, if necessary, provided the PCs could tolerate less money. Little security, the only hard part is finding her.

If you go to Fallen, tell everyone if you've been there before. If you have, you can declare another contact this session, who has to live in Fallen. If you haven't, mark experience. (I originally said if you've been there you can declare a contact or take 2 hold and spend that on social rolls, everyone chose XP or another contact.)

The PCs had spent gear getting out of a quarantine around the Sprawl, impersonating corporate couriers. They had driven to the walled town of Fallen, population 400 or so, farmer-drone operators and weirdos and the Cookers, the gang which monopolizes drugs in the town. The town is walled with stacks of cut-up double-wides filled with concrete and scrap metal. Most of the buildings are repurposed trailers, stacked up a few perilous stories, or shipping containers. A few streets to rub together, one hotel, one bar.

A few years ago, most of the town had been burnt down by Jack, our Killer.

The PCs had finished legwork, our Pusher, Bello, having acquired a flamethrower/guitar. Our Driver, Corsair, had found out his TB-2119 would not be fixed by wide-spectrum antibiotics. A detective or bounty-hunter contact of Jack's had indicated the target, Marstellar Wu, was working under the town's bar, which is the Cookers' HQ. A cousin of our Hacker, Norman, worked as a bouncer there, and would let Norman's family know about his mercenary work. So Norman jacked in from the hotel and did his work from there.

The player of our Infiltrator, Slip, had to leave due to work constraints, but she had left a gel-round filled derringer in case nonlethal work was needed. Between Bello (Pusher), Jack (Killer) and Norman on the building's security cameras, the crew arrived at the top of the underground lab. Jack had to emotionlessly threaten a bar back to keep his identity hidden, and the Pusher acted fast to use his Vision Thing on some basement-level guards. Otherwise, the Cookers were off checking spurious building security alerts.

Jack drops down the last section of ladder, fast enough an automated turret he heard couldn't just shoot him before he could fire back. His rifle shredded the gun-cam, though the noise led the Cookers to summon the rest of their gang, who began driving up to the bar and hustling inside.

Bello and Jack used up some intel to know where to find Wu, as the lab had quite a few rooms. They heard the rumble of an explosive coming from some distant part of the facility, the sound of another team entering. The two headed off to Wu's residential room.

The Pusher tried to talk her into just walking away, and normally would've probably succeeded, but Wu adamantly indicated a cortex bomb would kill her if she left the facility. Jack whispered that they didn't need her alive, while Norman went on a Matrix rampage. He tried to burrow through the bar's matrix node and into the lab's, but was confronted by another hacker, who damaged Norman, but was dispatched. Norman logged into the hidden lab's node and began subverting the black ice laser fencing - behind it, a security node which controlled turrets and Wu's cortex bomb.

Meanwhile, the elevator down a corridor from Wu's residence chimed and descended. Bello and Jack set up at the other end of the corridor, Jack with the Ripper, a huge, high-powered rifle, and Bello with a semi-auto shotgun, just inside it's near range. The doors opened, fluorescent light shined on no one - the elevator appeared empty. Then, a small drone plopped out and began flying swiftly towards the two.

They fired and it exploded - a remote recon/grenade drone. The two took their 0 harm, thanks to armor and distance from the drone, and watched as the elevator descended again. Bello peeled the doors open and began burning everything he could, hoping to dis-temper the steel. Jack hefted a large couch from Wu's residence thanks to his cyber arm and ran back to the shaft, jamming the couch in place such that the elevator could not get to the landing and open. Inside, an assault rifle and grenade drone looked around. Its audio inputs registered someone clomping about atop the elevator.

Norman breezed through the black ice barrier and stood before the laboratory security node. He ruined the data which would allow someone to detonate Wu's cortex bomb, as the controls for it were local, and then accessed the rest of the lab's physical security systems. Down the elevator shaft was a garage full of Cooker vehicles. The garage door had been thermited open, and three runners stood in camera view. One deactivated turret was in range of them: Orval and Celesta, the drone operator, and Breaker, the only person Jack had personally fought and failed to kill. (And who managed to run Jack over with his sports car at the time.)

The turret opened up. Breaker whirled out of the way despite being the primary target - his chipped reflexes saving him. Orval also escaped death, but Celesta was lit up and fell, dead. The drone in the elevator fired its assault rifle through the sofa and then halted, its sensors dimming.

All in all, it was a pretty sweet session. Hopefully Corsair will get to bust out some sweet backroads driving against some hinterlands folk.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

I want my Studio Ghibli cyberpunk movie

On Your Mark

It is stupid hard to find this video on the internet. I think it's a combination of a super overused phrase ('On Your Mark,') and that it's a Studio Ghibli short from 1995. Anyway, quite the wonderful science fiction / science fantasy short.

In other news, Troika! is an outstanding and evocative little game. Like Into the Odd, the equipment (and, in Troika's case, the character backgrounds) suggests a  very cool setting without giving you one. All it needs is an implied setting workbook and answers to Jeff Rients' 20 questions, and you'd be off to the races. Running some crazy stuff with fallen angels and sword monks and key wizards and paper-skinned undead witches. And those are the PCs!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Samizdat Vol. 2 Issue 3

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Sickness SpreadingA dry cough is spreading through the sprawl, with sufferers also showing signs of fever, night sweats, weight loss. 

"I'm not sure how this has spread so quickly," said Iago Kuchina, head of the 2nd St Doc's Box. "I can confirm that the disease is very contagious. People with latent symptoms can transmit the disease. Symptomatic people are obviously stronger vectors."

Asked if micropore filter-masks helped, Kuchina shrugged.

"We're still trying to figure out what we're dealing with."

There is no known cure, and early symptoms could worsen over time, Kuchina indicated.

"Or, who knows? Everything could turn out roses." He laughed and peeled off in his mobile operating theatre, swerving around a man who coughed into his hand and held up his bloody palm. 

One anonymous source slaving through mid-management indicated that multiple corps are in meetings with Single Sun, discussing possible quarantine measures. Of course, involuntary quarantining carried out by megacorps would be illegal under territorial law... 

Black Eye for Networked Fabrication Implementations: Prototypes Stolen!!NFI sources indicate that a shipment of prototypes were stolen one week ago during routine transit. NFI CEO, Nathaniel Steele Bengt, has personally executed one of the contractor shipment managers involved in the incident during a debriefing. 

The prototypes are apparently legged armored personnel carriers, though one source indicated this is a misnomer - the vehicles can't transport more than one person and a small cache of cargo.

Such vehicles, armored and likely armed, would pose a serious threat to runners or gangers armed with anti-personnel small-arms, even firing AP ammo! Keep your Kilgore Co. RPG-777 launchers handy should you find yourself hunting this dangerous prey.

Yay another iteration on Apple-Monsanto SmartGrowth!Idiots at E3 are taking their anti-priapism pills, trying to look professional as they whore A-M's SmartGrowth, or iGrowth as cancer-laden old farts call them. They would know, having developed the initial skin cancers the comms-unit ("and so much more") caused as a side-effect of use. 

Though offering a number of (admittedly) useful features, which we won't bother to hawk here, Samizdat Editorial must remind people that SmartGrowth WILL GIVE YOU FUCKING CANCER. Thank you, this has been a public service announcement.

Deprecated Corporate Vat-Grown Bodyguards Apparently For Sale
Corp Fixers are wandering around with these creepy things in their crews nowadays. Apparently a job went very, very right against one of these metal-toothed, dermal armored fellows, and since then corporate mid-level management has divested themselves of their former meatshields. Though 'deprecated,' it's worth pointing out that these identical gents can withstand a surprising amount of punishment. It's rumored that a few have gotten inhibitor chips surgically removed, and are now freelancing. Some runners just made their own competition! Now that's Unbridled Capitalism at it's... finest? Yes. Let's go with that.

Omega 11 Satellite Probably Mind Controlling Us AllIn user-submitted news, the Omega-11 satellite, recently stationed in permanent geo-synch with our lovely patch of sprawl, is beaming down mind-control rays as we speak. These evil rays caused the water riots two years ago which devastated the old Underdock neighborhood. In short, it is to blame for many of our woes, and apparently the Church of Christ the True Flesh will pay for its sabotage. Of course, first you have to find the Church. And convince them that you believe their crazy bollocks. Good luck runners!


I stole this idea from Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Samizdat is an underground journalism / conspiracy publication there. Of course samizdat has a very interesting history as well. Anyway, I haven't written up APs from the Sprawl games I've run, but this is some between-session news that reflects both what the PCs have done and what else is going on.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Some Sprawl Enemies / NPCs

Just some NPCs / enemies for The Sprawl. I wrote out 'moves' for these folks - these aren't quite the same as Threat Moves or MC Moves or the like. It's more like how this NPC could Make Their Lives Complicated Now or Inflict Harm or the like. Or just things the NPCs might try to do if the PCs flub hard, which lets the MC offer up a choice - now Sandman and his crew are splitting up, the woman on a folding moped with... a rocket launcher? Or an electric van, or a VTOL 'copter? The Wire Dancers are harassing some merchants and heading your way, maniacal looks in their eyes. A skyscraper's window shatters and you think you see a stealthed microlight whip out into the night, but you can't quite track it without trying to Assess the situation. That kind of thing. Just ways of thinking about how these crews normally operate.

Razor: Stealth melee assassin type

  • He's armed with a sword, wearing a stealth suit, grav harness, and has a microlight and a briquettes of hexa-C4. 
  • He has dermal armor, exposed in places like his cheekbones and knuckles, and stainless steel teeth. Can survive 4-5 harm. (Deprecated corporate vat-grown security.)
  • Helpers: Meeks and Scoot, tazers, knives, stealth suits, microlights.
  • Ambush suddenly at hand range 
  •  Cause an explosive distraction
  •  Misdirect the players from something Meeks and Scoot are doing

Bristol: Owned Pusher working for a Corp hunting a PC

  • Implanted weapon, holdout gun, armored coat, flashy methane-powered car
  • She squats with the Upstreet Folks in Lower Downtown, a gang of entertainers and technical kids run by a real fucker, Harvard
  • Works for <BIG CORP> and her fervent beliefs are related to their goals
  • Use Vision Thing / Fast Talk against a PC. The PC can mark experience if they do what she wants or are Acting Under Pressure to deny her, for Fast Talk. Vision Thing would give her hold and let the MC hand out +1's or -2's. I don't want to track hold, but if you feel like you're giving out XP like candy, it's an option.  
  •  (Anyone trying to Fast Talk or use Vision Thing against Bristol has to Act Under Pressure first. Good luck!)
  •  Rouse up an angry mob and send it after the PCs. Medium gang 0-harm, close, 0-armor, can take 2 harm. Of course as a medium gang it'll do 2 harm to any one PC who gets in range of it.
  • Send some technical Upstreet Folk against the PCs, directly or indirectly 

Crash and the Boys: Hacker collective

  • Fights as black ICE (Crash) or Red (the Boys)
  • (Note: I have no deckers in my game presently, so, most of their moves are about what they can do in the world. Also, not much info on who they are. The PCs would have to do some investigating, these guys are pretty obscure / intentionally anonymized.) 
  • Take over something in the immediate environment which can't hurt the PCs, but they can tell something is strange as cameras glitch out and then focus on them 
  •  Announce themselves with old school animation cutups  
  • Take over localized gun turrets 
  •  Set off alarms and direct security towards 'heavily armed bath-salts-smoking thieves/murderers/barbarians/raiders' - the PCs
Devona and the Wire Dancers: gangers, protection rackets and combatants

  • Small gang with monofilament weapon implants, cybereyes with night vision mods
  • Armored clothes, can eat 4 harm, have 1 armor
  • Nikki and Mina: VTOL bike riders with molotovs 
  • Blow lights in the immediate area 
  •  Set up an ambush with some stolen incentive (weapons, cyberwear, etc) 
  • Fall back, hide in dark decaying buildings, lay mines and noisemaker traps 
  •  Interdict trade in their territory

Sandman and Spotters: Snipers

  • Sandman has a 4 harm far/extreme rifle with thermographic, night vision scope. 
  • Sandman has carbon-fiber and anodized titanium eyes and an old chrome prosthetic hand which belies her seeming youth. 
  • Sarah and Sleeper are spotters/backup. Sleeper has a 3 harm far/extreme rifle with a regular glass scope. Sarah has a micro-missile launcher (near/far 3-harm breach) and a flechette pistol.
  • Sarah's chipped with skillwires around rocket launcher use and breaking & entering. Sleeper has 4 prosthetic limbs of varying length, and cybercoms.
  • VTOL 'copter, electric van, foldable scooter. They don't travel together if they can help it.
  •  Announce themselves as a laser beam traces over someone's face  
  • Kill from extreme range - someone the PCs can see
  • Kill from extreme range - someone the PCs know  
  • Fire on the PCs from extreme range
  • Split up and disappear  

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Sprawl in Space: Firefights

I don't want to run Firefly or Alien in The Sprawl, but I wouldn't mind my PCs heading up a space elevator for a mission, like Case and Co. in Neuromancer, or the last episode of Cyber City OEDO.

I read somewhere that flechette weapons were really designed for space, because they can kill without catastrophically compromising a space habitat. So the rules reflect that. I also wanted decompression to be orthogonal to winning or losing a fight. You can win and still have your AP rounds pass through your enemy and hit a silk flexiwall just wrong.

When you shoot people in a space habitat using non-flechette weapons or ammo, roll + the number of people you shoot. Add +2 for a breaching weapon, +2 for explosive or airburst ammo, +1 for AP ammo.

10+ Catastrophic decompression event. Nearby pressure bulkheads fling themselves shut to isolate the damage, as atmo fires itself (and any loose contents) out into the void.

7-9 Slow leak. You're going to need to a suit, a leak seal kit, a route away from the area, or some combination of the above, and very soon.

6- It's all good.

Anyway, I feel the breach/explosive/airburst/AP is maybe a bit too fiddly. At the same time, I don't want those things to automatically cause problems. Will try to run this sometime and see. I also need to come up with decompression rules. Act Under Pressure seems like a good enough fit in most ways.

In the spirit of being a fan of your edge runners, they'd probably know going up to space that regular weapons are extremely dangerous to use inside a space hab. Unless they're already wearing pressure suits...

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


(Art is from here.)

The Sprawl is an outstanding RPG. A Powered By The Apocalypse game, it provides a strong mission-based structure to sessions. This isn't just a conceit about why all the PCs are together (missions and paydays) - the game is split between doing legwork and carrying out the mission. Custom moves around getting the job and getting paid bookend it all, with the PCs picking whether they get paid in full, betrayed or set up, and whether they can identify their employer.

Legwork is about planning, but the PCs can't sit around in a squat or atop some abandoned building and Make a Perfect Plan. They drive around and get into rolling gunfights and get caught surveilling places. They make up contacts and hit them up for gear or rumors. They throw parties and start whisper campaigns and replace fallible flesh with machine. They hack corporate subsidiaries and buy guns and wire up knockout gas satchel charges.

The Legwork clock reigns in the PC preference towards a perfect plan. Unused portions of that clock get added to the Getting Real Paid roll at the end, which determines if the PCs get paid and get away, or are on the run, chased by vat-grown assassins. The legwork clock can also advance the mission clock, which, when filled, means they have failed.

Legwork lets the PCs pick up gear and intel, which are specific, game-mechanicy things. If you have a move that gives you [gear], it's abstract until you need it. If you have [gear] and get up to a sealed blast door, it's a D4 charge and a remote clacker to detonate it. If you come across a keypad-blocked entryway and have [intel], you know the passcode, or you know how to blackmail a security guard, or you know the walking route and schedule of the armed patrols.

The mission clocks lets the failure of an action ratchet up tension wherever the mission is. Alarms go off, people go on the alert, guards start searching for fake ID passes. You get to the end, the mission is a flub, and people either escape or get caught or killed. As it goes up, security locks down the building, calls in armed assets, and the MC moves get harder and harder.

(Art from here.)

Surrounding the missions are clocks for corporations and threats. Corp clocks let you know if they're aware of the PCs, and if they're hunting the PCs. Threats are non-corporate antagonists - lone gunmen, aggressive hacker collectives, replicants coming into the workforce, grey goo or plague outbreaks. They let the MC create ongoing consequences for people the PCs screw over in the course of their work. They might kill some random wannabe runner asshole, only to find out his cousin and said cousin's gang are looking for who did it. Maybe some corporate wage-grubber the PCs charmed into helping them gets cyborged out and trained as a corp sniper, thrown into the corp penal legion, but given enough spare time to start hunting the PCs. Maybe giving Mr Johnson those blueprints will let him test nanohive builders on the a PC's apartment block, killing hundreds.

The playbooks are quite fun. There's a few that might not fit with every group - a legit Reporter hanging with Killers and Soldiers? - but in general they're easy to throw in wherever, and lots of fun. Techs and deckers will get people past ubiquitous electronic surveillance, infiltrators will do the same against humans, killers will kill, drivers will drive, pushers will brainwash people with their fervent beliefs. The damage model is much closer to classic Apocalypse World than Dungeon World, with health countdown clocks and a harm move.

All in all, quite a fun system. I've an AP with my brother-in-law and nephew to write up, and am running this on Roll20. It's been a great deal of fun so far.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Savage Rifts Sample Characters: Juicer, Crazy, TechnoWizard, Burster, M.A.R.S. Mercenary

Had fun making some more Savage Rifts characters, with more to come.

All the sample characters so far

Crazy Vs Juicer

Juicers feel very focused - they're kinda high all the time, they can't use psionics or magic (high. all the time.) and they just seem like super warriors. They're a bit simpler to make - just throw in some Underworld / Thiefy skills on top of a lot of combat edges, and have a blast. You're physically somewhere near Captain America. So you're not great at doing math anymore, so what? Trade-offs. 

Crazies are a bit more diverse in their skill set. They can Frenzy, they have guns and psionics, but can't use either when berserk, by default. They have Edges to change these things - you can be a berserker gun-bunny or a frenzied psi-assassin. This really changes how their frenzies play out, which is very neat. And unlike Burn, there's far less of a downside to one Frenzy per session, especially if you pick the right Edges. Their physical attributes are up there with the Juicers, though they get fewer free physical edges, which seems to fit what I've read about Juicer sporting events in the Rifts universe. Juicers tend to have a bit of an edge at Deadball.

Using Juicer Burn in Fun New Ways (Is Not Where I Went With This Juicer)

Maybe I'm somewhat conservative in my meta-gaming - you might notice I almost always send out magickers / psychics with Armor, in later posts. I also didn't look at a lot of Juicer 'Use Burn In New Ways' Edges. There are a bunch, but you only get to use them 8 times by default, so, yeah. People have complained that a Juicer using these Edges a lot will die quickly - they're right! That's the point! Don't use Burn every session! Not until you want a new character to play.

There are still some nice Juicer-centric edges which don't draw on Burn (Splitting the Seconds being my favorite sp far). That said, if you're playing this as a one-shot, plan for a Juicer Viking Funeral.  Give her some different Edges around going out in style.

Techno-wizards are Unique and other non-surprises

There's a section in the player's guide around making Techno-Wizard (TW) mods to other items. You're going to want to read that (around page 106) if someone plays a TW. It's a really cool spellslinger class. Most require you to pick 3-5 starting powers, and the TW framework is this way (3), but you also have access to all your unchosen spells, thanks to the magic of making TW gizmos on the fly. The sample character can do this 5 times a session, which is going to throw some awesome wrenches into some GM's plans. New players will probably need a GM who can prompt them a bit, because they won't have much exposure to all the Savage Worlds powers. I imagine at least the list as a handout would help, and maybe have a spare to eyeball during any time the players are having trouble planning their daring heist/escape/attack/etc. I didn't recapitulate the list on the character sheet, because I am cruel.

Techno-wizards also wind up having a lot of skills, a lot of Knowledge (Scientific Things), a high Repair. So that's also different, an Iconic character who starts out with a lot of skills freebies.

Bursters Know What to Do

They're going to light everything on fire and watch it burn. Seriously, what an insane psychic combatant. They're on fire (and armored, often to Mega-Damage levels). They're starting small fires as free actions. They're shooting bolts of fire. They're taking half damage from laser weapons, you know, one of the most common Rifts small arms. They have so many Iconic Framework bonuses I ran out of room and had to format things in a different, possibly better way. They don't start out with a lot of other psychic powers, but hey. No one is going to mention this when a flying, burning crazy person floats through town looking for CS Deadboys to wail on. 

Finally a M.A.R.S. Character

I imagine MARS characters will take longer to generate than other Iconic Frameworks, because you get Hero's Journey tables to roll on, a Novice character, 4 advances, and another table to roll on that will probably up your Traits in awesome ways. You wind up with a character who will surprise you in some way, having gained some unexpected (and useful) skills or Edges. They're going to start out with a much broader base of ability than most of the other Icons, even if they are a little less hyper-focused on, say, lighting everything on fire.

This Mercenary is a keen-eyed Investigator, a decent warrior, and a divine Champion who is great at killing supernatural evil. Naturally, he believes that God wants him to do this all the time, and that whenever he finds supernatural evil, it's Fight Night. Hopefully he'll level up a lot before going anywhere near Mexico.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Savage Rifts: Combat Cyborg Sample Character

I've been messing around and making characters in Savage Rifts; this is my clothes-hound former-mechanic-turned Combat Cyborg. The Juicer Uprising was rough on Kal, or rather, the Coalition Shattered Earth campaign against some Juicer irregulars.

Combat Cyborg Sample Character

I originally had one of his edges as Acrobatic, but that seems to go against the spirit of the 'war only, otherwise not dexterous' nature of the Icon. On the other hand, it could be fair enough - it's not going to help with lockpicking, but it definitely applies to moving about the battlefield efficiently and safely. I'd imagine agility tricks would be not hindered by their lack of skin sensitivity and such, but that's subject to your GM. Though I would argue that throwing sand in someone's eyes isn't so different than hurling a grenade at them. Just cheaper.

Regardless, I picked Brawny, Battle Hardened, and Elan instead. This cyborg is going to kick ass at soaking hits, and is still going to be fast enough to maneuver, flank, and even swim. And strong enough to club someone with a tree, doing Mega Damage!

Hindrances were fun. The fellow is a clothes-hound, kitted out like Punished Snake in fancy load-bearing harness, fashionable military fatigue pants, and an over-sized, antiquated hat. So a mix of Snake and Ocelot? Anyway, the clothing won't stand up to a grenade very well, unlike the cyborg, but that's just a good excuse to get revenge on your enemies (who are also the enemies of fashion). Heroic was somewhat obvious what with the Tomorrow Legion, and this borg's background as an aid to the Juicer Uprising. Wanted by the Coalition - I imagine this minor hindrance being that he's wanted for petty smuggling - they didn't find out he helped get Uprising prisoners out of detention blocks, much less that he fought against the Coalition. This may be a weak excuse - maybe he broke some Federation laws traveling through there at some point. Maybe the Coalition isn't sure that he did anything because many combat cyborgs look similar.

Cyborg attributes feel like they're stamped from a common piece of MDC metal - which is the point, after all. Skills and edges allow for more variance, though you're not playing a Lord of War to shy away from being good at fighting. I could've increased one more stat rather than take those 3 edges, but I love the way Elan and Battle Hardened work together, and skipping BH now would mean my novice character couldn't grab it for a long time. And I can't resist the boulder-hurling implied by Brawny. I'd probably want to have this character spend his downtime doing yoga, meditative handstands, climbing, leaping, rolling, etc, such that picking Acrobat in the novice rank would make sense. I've read a lot of Battle Angel Alita, and love the idea of a somewhat-graceful cyborg.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Savage Rifts

I have no idea why Savage Rifts has captivated my imagination so much. Perhaps it's how the game strives to let these three characters run in the same group, and all have things to do. The vagabond, basically a hobo

 A full-conversion cyborg

 Oh you know a FUCKING DRAGON

In the original game you can take a look at the equipment for starting characters. Glitter Boy pilots start with a Glitter Boy, a 10-foot gleaming power armor suit with an incredibly powerful Boom Gun. Juicers start with their biocomps and their US-football-pad-looking armor and their variable beam rifles. Vagabonds have like a laser handgun and soap. There is a long list of Vagabond gear and it reads like the kind of thing a homeless survivalist might have. We can safely assume the Glitter Boy pilot doesn't smell terrible (unless she's been stewing in her armor for a week), but with the vagabond, we have to be reassured, and the equipment list does that. Soap.

Anyway, marrying this insane setting to Savage Worlds meant that our author, Sean Fannon, and his cohorts and compatriots were going to balance out these different OCC/RCC classes. Dragons and vagabonds, living together in harmony, both contributing to a party of adventurers.

Having made some characters with the Player's Guide, they may be getting there. I doubt a vagabond or a wilderness scout can punch-out a combat cyborg, but that's not really what their role is. But it does seem like the MARS characters (Mercenaries, Adventurers, R?, Scholars) are seasoned skill-hounds compared to the other characters, who are quite gifted within their narrower focus.

I'm really looking forward to more; I hope to start posting some sample characters I wrote up, trying to learn Savage Worlds and the Rifts-specific rules.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Jail: Building Character and Eventually Causing Death

This particular jail is a mine. Perfect for PCs who've slighted someone such that they figure backbreaking work will help them gain character, and also eventually die. PCs start out with no gear. Any oddities not built into their bodies are also gone.


  1. The Mines: A warren of small tunnels. People have to hunch over to enter. Chintzy candle-lanterns provide meager light. There are pickaxes (d6) and a few pneumatic hammers (d8, two-handed). You can perform all kinds of Honest Work here. Working here for a week nets you a roll on the Random Finds chart.
  2. Barracks: bunch of triple-decker bunk beds. You can sleep here. There's little to no privacy, and hiding anything in or near your bunk will be tough. There are tables where people eat in a corner. Someone, somewhere in the dim is often playing a mouth harp.
  3. Mess: It's behind a stout metal door and iron bars, one way in and out. It's run by the Boss, Shady Topper. There are a bunch of yes-men and quasi-useless folk, as well as his muscle, the Tonic Boys, who actually go out into the rest of the prison (but sleep in the Mess).
  4. Spring: Water bubbles up from below. 150' of water down, there's a passage into the Underground, but it's a hard swim (STR save or die, advantage if you tie yourself to a stone first). Corpses have floated up before, and folks don't appreciate getting one of those in the prison's supply of free drinking water.
  5. Exchange: The only area seriously engineered by humans, you can see daylight through the bars in the ceiling. Soldiers (5hp, d8 muskets) lower hoppers on thin ropes to get ore, and then throw down rations, overseen on the jail end by at least four Tonic Boys. They take the food back to the Mess and dole it out to hard-working prisoners.

Cast of Characters

  • Boss Shady Topper. 9hp, fine saber (d8), 5 bombs (d12) to blow up food store if needed. 100 days of rations for the whole jail, a crate of booze. Wants to escape with a prisoner army, believes Honest Work will leave him with able-bodied soldiers.
  • 7 Tonic Boys. Knives and burning oil (d6). d6+1 hp. Want to be as drunk as possible.
  • 118 Prisoners in strung-out shape. Can get pickaxes (d6). d6 hp. Want to sleep, eat, escape, sometimes in that order.
  • Other unique Jail-related NPCs.
  • Ground-level soldiers. Unless an ore shipment is being picked up (every 2 months), there are only 11 of them. 6 hp, d8 muskets. Want to be somewhere else.

Honest Work

  • You can work hard for a day and earn enough ore for a day's ration.
  • You can push it (STR save) and earn d4 day's ration. If you fail the save, take d4 STR damage.
  • When you work a week in the mines, make a STR save. If you fail, lose d4-1 points from a random stat. Also, roll on the Random Finds table.
  • If you don't eat for a day, you get no benefit from a short rest and can't be taking a long rest.
  • If you don't eat for a week you take d6 damage to each stat.
  • Honest work in a prison mine is a slow death.

Random Finds

Either you did some Honest Work, or you had enough free time to be in the right place at the right time.
  1. Someone nabbed a little TNT from the boss. You now have a bomb (d12) which can defeat the Mess doorway or the iron bars at the top of the Exchange.
  2. You find a crevasse in the mines (or a map to one) that could lead out. Or to some underground hellhole.
  3. You dig up a few ancient casks of preserved booze! You can live the high life, make a few dozen prisoners your best friends / willing Detachment, placate the Boss, bribe the Tonic Boys...
  4. You wake up next to a corpse in the Barracks - he's still clutching a flask of poison! 4 doses, lethal if imbibed. 
  5. You dig up an d4 oddities!
  6. You knock some stone out and can see daylight! You can escape now, right now. If the Boss gets wind of the exit before you can escape, he could seal it off for his own Official Business or the like.

How These Tribesfolk are Different

Tribesfolk: 4d20 total, 2d10+5 fight-capable folks. They have d8 hp, d6 damage (spears and shortbows), 12 AC (elaborate stone-and-string jewelry/clothing/armor).

But these guys also

  1. Use poisoned arrows (DC 14 Fort Save or 1d6+1 Agility damage, unconscious at 0 Agility).
  2. Don't feel pain (x2 hp).
  3. Beserk! At 0hp, 50% chance the warrior actually has 1hp.
  4. Have d4+1 laser rifles (2d6 damage, 4 shots).
  5. Have a flying disk (25' wide, 50' MV, can lift half a ton). Archers on it have 50% cover.
  6. Have d4 trained triceratops mounts (30hp, d12 damage gore with horns, charge to double damage, 40' MV, +4 to hit, 14 AC).
  7. Are actually an android hivemind (one tribesman will suss out PCs intentions, can be remade if her head makes it out intact, tribesfolk in constant communication with each other, typically surprise attack PCs).
  8. Are ghosts, bound to keep a demon captive via blood sacrifice. Nonmagical physical attacks are not going to work, look up ghosts in DCC to see what these guys can do to hurt the PCs.

My Frozen in Time PCs are now stuck in a jungle, and will probably encounter other humans or human-ish folks in said jungle. Whoever they wind up close to could be very helpful allies, or, you know, terrible foes.

Friday, April 29, 2016

DCC After Action Report: Stealing Skyskippers part 1

The crew had infiltrated a derelict temple to Crom, overrun with Crab Folk settlers. They had alongside them a freed ghost, Belwin, who was friendly, or at least in control of himself, thanks to the crabs' Soul Thresher technology. They retrieved and buried his corpse, so he agreed to pilot a skyskipper for them, if they could steal it from the crabs.

The PCs walked into the temple's main entrance and the cleric, Foozy, attempted to negotiate an airship rental from two crabs, armed with electrical whips and faraday shields, idly tormenting a lightening-fenced ghost. The crabs agreed to go let their boss, Joyce, know that humans were about, and one was tragically slain. The other freed the captive ghost, Balda, and drove him towards the PCs, half of whom failed their reflex saves and saw Joyce murder them (-2 to all rolls in the initial presence of Joyce).

One crab escaped (I started rolling twice for encounters). The PCs wandered the twisted paths of the temple, ignoring desecrated statues and wondering about Crom. The thief, Gipp, managed to keep the PCs out of one combat with fast lockpicking; in another case, the party's henchperson of note held fast a door so that opium-addled crabs could not pursue them. They stole a brick of opium, found a secret door, and ascended to a skyskipper hangar, from which they are currently planning a distraction. They can get to a control room, visible from the hangar, but filled with crab guards or Joyce himself. So, distractions are in order.

(Skyskippers look like a wooden nautical ship, but instead of a mainmast, a giant plant trunk rises up to what looks like a dandelion seed head. The tiller of the ship is a root system. They have to park in water periodically to refuel. They have cannon and can take cargo and so on.)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

This doesn't have grappling rules, does it?

That was a question from a player, during a game of Into the Odd. They had run out of the Underground and into Bastion, having stolen an Arcanum from two old doddering cultists. They had gone to a local bathhouse and met a contact, Grer, who they knew could move Arcanum, but Grer lowballed them (they felt). Grer said they could always take it over to Laugher, Laugher pays well, but he's crooked and a double-crosser. So to Laugher they went, and almost immediately (after an offer of 45 silver), began shooting Laugher and his two men.

Laugher had Tyrant Rod'd one of the PCs into fleeing, and his men were in turn forced to flee - via stealing said Rod, using a Pain Wire oddity. Laugher got the drop on the remaining PC and their two companions. All were down, but above 0 strength. The last PC came back as Laugher was humming to himself and sharpening a long knife, comatose people slumped about his office.

"Oh, there are grappling rules," I said, "what're you trying to do?"

Well, throw Laugher out the window of his top-floor tenement building. I figured this was just a strength save, rolled up Laugher's strength (14), and watched as the dice said he passed a strength check. He grabbed the window frame to keep himself from falling out, and tried to do this to the PC in turn, who made a strength save as well to stay in the room and alive.

(Laugher went back to stabbing with his knife, won, killed the companions, and sold the PCs into slavery. They awoke shaved, branded, and in a mine. My first TPK - though everyone kept their strength above 0, so no PCs really died.)

This is a real strength of Into the Odd - if you can figure some way to grapple and throw a human NPC (or a reasonably-sized nonhuman) into instant death, you can try - but you're not guaranteed to succeed. Whereas damage is going to happen, against unarmored people, but it's going to take longer. Slow but reliable, faster but chancy. To me they're very well-balanced, different approaches. I don't want combat maneuvers to be 'sweep the leg' or the like, unless that's done the way DCC does it. Warriors (and dwarves!) can sweep the leg and do damage. And at higher levels, the leg is gone.

To me that makes combat feel real, like, really dangerous. When I've had rounds where all players and I whiff, it makes combat droll. I mean, if you're enjoying everyone just missing, that's fine. It just makes me feel like I'm doing something horribly wrong. It should be quick and tense. Whiff rounds take it in the opposite direction.

And then I try to figure out how to take this and stick it in my DCC campaign

Even with the absence of to-hit rolls, I want combat to always be moving somewhere dramatic. Maybe I just need something like Detect Magic's Scary Combat Choreography, or, for DCC, a modification to +Claytonian JP's super-sweet Things Hurt and Armor Soaks houserules. Clay has been running it with the soak roll going on in every round (every round a 1 HD monster rolls a d8 to see how much damage it absorbs). I was thinking of it like soak being your 'not getting hit' points, restorable with an Into the Odd short rest, and your Con being your static HP. Pretty sure a Star Wars RPG has been set up this way.

(I also really like how Clay's rules mean you crit on rolling max damage! No more 2-hp-damage crits.)

The problem might be scaling - how does a 3hd monster in chainmail roll soak? 3d12? Averaging, what, 18? I just don't want soak to become another HP inflation. I'm also leary of computing a constitution score for every monster. Probably some will just have soak, and one hit past that, they are DED. Others will get CON scores and take wounds like the PCs.

Other people who have thought about this: B/X Blackrazor has a good post about auto hits in B/X DnD where armor changes the damage die an attacker rolls.

Necropaxis might've done this in the simplest way with Damage Symmetry. Every miss means the enemy hit. Unlike Clay's rules, this will not Make Daggers Great Again (1/4 chance of a crit!), but it does mean less thought goes into changing things up. Maybe. Or maybe since low-level PCs miss half the time, it makes Everything a Meat Grinder.

For now I'm going to get through level 1 before hacking the DCC combat rules much - I feel like once we got away from a massive 0-level funnel of scrubs, combat has been more interesting. But we'll see.

Gameable Moments: Master of the Flying Guillotine

(I own nothing, I uploaded nothing, etc etc. I imagine people who see these things will be inspired to go buy them, because they are awesome.)

Sweet Crom, Master of the Flying Guillotine has an incredible soundtrack. Neu! provides an awesome intro to the villain (who has mastered the art of the flying guillotine) with this song:

And really, the whole villain intro is just wonderful. The villain is entering the story because the hero, a one-armed boxer, has killed two men. These men were apprenticed to the imperial assassin, the flying guillotine wielder, and before their final fight, sent off a clay tablet bearing a drawing of their nemesis (the master is blind, so, gotta have tiny clay tablets). Have to love consequences of the PCs slaying folk, even if said folk deserved it.

HNNN that opening. The downside is that it's hard to describe some evil villain just straight-up coming to kill the PCs from afar, absent some prophesy, mushroom-tea hallucination, astral beast whispering, poison save vision, or near-death out-of-body experience. Which of course are things the game should be filled with, so, just keep them in mind for having some little 'cut to' part where the next villain is described, briefly but awesomely, practicing martial arts and burning down his own fucking house to come after the PCs. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Crab Temple Random Encounters

So my PCs for a DCC game went through the Time Portal in Frozen in Time. The time and world they arrive on is somewhat inspired by a Dungeon Dozen post and contains Marlinko and the Slumbering Ursine Dunes. But all that worldbuilding ain't where we're at; we're in a crab temple! The upper levels contain ships that fly through the sky (thanks to a large fluffy plant stalk embedded as the main mast); the lower level is full of somewhat hostile crab folk.

Crab Folk Stats

They're about 4 to 5 feet tall crabs wearing belts, with spears or crossbows. They have wet sponges and 1d6 coppers in their belt pouches and bleed blue blood. They can speak to humans via translator orbs (a chittering-to-Common Ioun Stone, DC 19 to steal, AC 19, hp 2), if they bother to have them.

HD 1d8. +1 to hit. 12 AC. Mov 30' (or whatever a human can do). Spear (1d8) or Crossbow (1d6) and 10 bolts. +1 to all saves.

Max HP: Elite. Has a d3 attack/damage bonus, 14 AC in built-up excess temporary chitin. Can use Mighty Deeds as a lvl 1 warrior.

Tactics: Pincer attack! Flank! Fall back! Defend crossbowmen! Acquire human ghosts! Deploy Horseshoe Crab Dogs! Establish outpost and grow another Crab Folk City!

Horseshoe Crab Dogs

HD 1d6. 12 AC. +1 Atk. 1d6 damage (biting). Mov 40'. 

Max HP: Extra aggressive. Attack has 50/50 change to either cause 1d4 damage from bleeding or knock victim prone (DC 17 Reflex save to stay on foot).

Temple Encounters

  1. Crab tourist family. Dad (crossbow crab). Mom (spear crab). Daughter (gas grenade, DC 15 save or blinded for 1d4+1 rounds). Son (2 short swords, 1d6 dmg each, 2d16 to attack). Want to escape alive, parents will save kids over themselves. All kitted out in religious paraphernalia of their god, Brachyura.
  2. Horseshoe crab trainers (2) armed with crossbows and knives. 2d8 Horseshoe crab dogs on leashes. One trainer has a training gong.
  3.  Wandering ghost. Use a reaction roll, higher means not dangerously insane. Or less so.
  4. Old man pacifist crab. Translator orb, 6 smoke bombs (humans in the smoke are blinded, infravision works through it), dagger. Wants to find snacks. Comes in and out through panels that connect him to the sewers below the temple.
  5. 6 crossbow crabs with two spear-bearers. Just back from target practice.
  6. Priest (blunted spear, 1d6), bearing a ghost in a lead bottle. 3 guards with lightening whips (1d4, double damage to ghosts). Priest can cast Word of Command (language difference won't matter in the eyes of Brachyura) and Paralysis. +5 to cast rolls. 3x spells a day, or can use the spell slot to cause/cure 1d6+1 HP. The ghost is as above, only 50/50 chance of being hostile, but a) the crabs can drive it about with their lightening whips and b) its hideous countenance requires a DC 12 Wil save or you freeze up for a round. The crabs are used to ghosts and do not have to make this save.
  7. Stray Horseshoe crab dog. Reaction roll for hostility! Can be bribed with food; potentially a loyal and happy ally, though has a 50% chance of running off if ordered to attack crab folk.
  8. 2d4 Crab sneaks. Slingshots (1d4, 2d20 action roll to use, or x2 attacks per round). +5 to sneak and picking pockets. Good at running - DC 18 to catch in a chase. Backstabbers - crit on a sneak attack.
  9. 1d6+2 Opium-addled crab folk. -1 to hit (other than any Warriors). Reroll HP with advantage (pick higher of two) when rolling HP. Want to repel invaders and PARTY!
  10. 1d6+3 patrolling guards. Escorting a human prisoner (level 0, occupation: sky skipper crew) to the Ghost-maker chamber for deconstitution. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Running The Nightlight Circus

So if you have not gotten Odditional Materials, and you like Into the Odd, I heartily recommend it. It's got rules hacks like Maze Rats and Odd Dungeons, arcanum and new monstrous beings, and adventures like The Nightlight Circus, which I ran recently.

And if you don't want it spoiled, stop reading! It's a fun adventure with well-thought-out room descriptions, which describe both the rooms and the liminal connections between them (dusky smells versus fresh smells versus a staircase with light leaking through), which is great for making informed decisions. And it's got gambling and creepy folk!

The adventure is a location, the aforementioned Circus, a gambling den fronting for joy-missionaries waiting to brainwash more poor souls clapped in irons. There's a rumors table, but I figured I'd give the players more of a job or mission to have a reason to be there. The husband of a missing City Council troubleshooter hired the PCs to rescue him. Errol Brightlow, John's husband, knew the passphrase to let the PCs in, and gave them 20 pence up front to gamble with and blend in. Errol was a great reason to have them start in the Circus, rather than trying to shake the password out of random gamblers in various other parts of Bastion.

(Gambling in Into the Odd is fun! I imagine this maps to most OSR games. I decided games of chance would pay out on a 5-6 on d6, since the house clearly has an advantage. Games of skill required a WIL save to win. In games with a Wisdom score, I'd have them roll under that, possibly with a +1 per opponent.)

One of our players was rousing up a distraction, winning at cards, whilst the other used his starter package to try to read a grinning cultist's mind. Failing, he cast about for a familiar face and found... Santos Barbato, a confidant and bomb enthusiast. They spoke of the place at length and I rolled for a random encounter, discovering that a grinner had brought in vicious dogs who got loose. Toby, the professional duelist PC, ascended the bar and shot one dog down, while Lazarus abandoned his card table and rushed the south doorway, leading past the gaming front and into the quarters of the cultists.

The players killed a waiter rushing out of the gambling room, as the remaining dog caused an enormous mess of things. The waiter managed to down a companion, but they dragged him south and entered a room with a fire pit and couches, where a hugely muscled man hunkered down, captured and iron-clapped sailors imprisoned behind him. The PCs bested said man in combat, incapacitating him and stealing his thoughts, thanks to Toby's starting gear/traits - low stats and alright HP had given him telepathy. They freed prisoners and had them go through a doorway which smelt of fresh air.

Each room describes the passages out quite succinctly - well enough for the players to make decisions, without giving away more than their characters could get from standing at the threshhold. This is incredibly helpful when they're deciding where to go next.

The seriously injured strongman gave some clues as to Brightlow's location, due to our thought-stealing PC, and then was summarily thrown partway through an illusory wall, which electrified him to death. The PCs jumped through into... the Loot Room. My only regret is not pondering the loot room's description a bit more.

The loot room paragraph states that anyone disturbing the treasure would be known to the Joy Machine. That's well and good... but it is an immobile column of light, which has no obvious means of communicating with its people. If I had thought things through in advance, I would've decided that it could communicate with Copper, a beastly and mobile fellow, and send it after interlopers. As is, I figured it'll know who did things, and the cultists will be after the thieves... So a reaction perhaps more suitable to a second session, and less towards a one-shot. Hopefully I'll manage some time to run this again, and when the same players can return.

(The other question I would've answered with a bit more forethought: what happens if the players cut or destroy the electrical cables between 3 and 11? I'm sure that they could cause serious damage (d10), but what happens? Terrible, wonderful things, I'm sure. Copper running around on fire, dogs running around on fire, etc.)

Suffice to say, the players wisely snuck around / away from the Joy Machine (one had a Smart Arm oddity which was gnashing its mental teeth near it). They killed another enslaver, freed more prisoners (so now 10 random Bastiards owe the PCs their lives) and escaped, leaving an enraged/joyful Copper and company to hunt for them. Errol and John, reunited, headed home. The PCs got away with 125 silver each, and a 10g piece of Golden Lands jewelry with a melt value of 4g - they intend to find a very discreet fence and get a fuller price for it.

Twas a great adventure! The Circus-folk are wonderful, creepy characters, and it was nice that their lair has a public-facing front where the PCs can pretend to be about for legitimate reasons. I regret not thinking through the Loot Room implications, but I think it worked out fiiiine. And certainly the adventure does a good job of making dangerous things obvious - like the Joy Machine, which seemed to creep folks out.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Into the Polar Ocean: Things Get Worse

Things to do in the Polar Ocean
- Die horribly.
- Never return.
- Barely make it back to civilization as a babbling husk of your former self.

Polar exploration is something of a last resort here. There are plenty of unexplored islands and a whole continent to your South. Anyone that tries to solve the mysteries of the world by sailing North deserves what they get.

From a 2012 post Chris wrote about the Polar Ocean.

If you decide to run the awesome detachment-and-boat focused mini-module, Into the Polar Ocean, you will inevitably run into lots of times where the daily rolls indicate that things get worse, somehow.

Now if things get worse once in some unforeseen way, or twice, a GM can probably improvise and roll with it. But when things get worse in 5 different categories at once, you need something that hurts the PCs without the classic 'Rocks fall, you all die.' Unless there were several tons of floating rocks levitating above the PCs' boats, in defiance of God's Will and all Natural Law.

If things can't get worse, they find a way.


  1. A deck collapses! Lose d6 days of rations.
  2. Another deck collapses! The weapons and gear of a detachment are rendered useless; their attacks are impaired.
  3. Taking on super-dense water! A battalion must bail it out or the boat will not be able to move.
  4. A few tons of granite appear above the ship. At least it's shady. If re-rolled, they fall, dealing d6 damage to the ship and anyone abovedeck.
  5. Low gravity! Ranged attacks are enhanced, melee attacks impaired, and if the ship hits waves the wrong way it'll be floating in the air. Can be subject to falling damage if gravity ratchets back up.
  6. The boats develop their own gravity! One can walk along the walls or the sides of the hull. If in close proximity to one another, the ships may ram into one another for d6 damage to each.


  1. One battalion sees the other as Agents of The Enemy, and will attack! Getting between the two to stop this brawl is a risky act.
  2. Darkness blots all but your peripheral vision. All attacks are impaired. There are good chances (50/50 or make a WIL save) to go in the direction you want to go in, otherwise you go the opposite direction.
  3. There's too much static screaming in your ears for any verbal communication. You can barely think.
  4. A shuddering, jumpy image of an Astral God's Human Form is on deck. d4 WIL damage if you have business up there. Battalions will need to be cajoled or beaten to get up there and work.
  5. The PCs appear to be Agents of the Enemy, and at least one battalion will hunt the ship for them today.
  6. A giant crab swims up to the ship and begins attacking it! This is entirely illusory, but a battalion may fire on it and damage the ship, or any neighboring ships. WIL save to get them to cease fire, if you can even tell this is an illusion.


  1. You and your crew need d4 Rations to get through today, as it seems to never end.
  2. 50/50 chance you do the opposite of your stated intentions, as you have fallen into the wrong timeline.
  3. Future-version of your ship sails by. d4 WIL damage, but each PC can reroll any one roll thanks to their (terrified, terrifying) advice. Touching your time-duplicate will do d6 damage; the applies to ships as well. Basically, Timecop rules. Remember Timecop?
  4. Accelerated entropy. Boat takes d6 dmg. If it is armored, armor can reduce damage, but is damaged in turn and will provide 1 fewer point of protection until repaired.
  5. Fast time! You may skip one level of dice-rolling (d4 can go straight to d8, or vice versa) because of the velocity you gain. Also age 2 years and 10 years go by in Bastion.
  6. Time loop! You start each day with this day's stats, in the same place, and must figure out a way to get out. After a day or two some Astral God vision should start giving clues about how to get out, feel free to make up more scenarios/ways out. WAYS OUT: a) everyone must be Good To One Another. Requires at least a WIL save, probably some extra rations burned up making bathtub gin. b) Break the Flying Hour Glass that suddenly started circling the ships. 8 hp 1 armor, d10 dmg (slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. literally slings and arrows.).  


  1. Organic beings corrupted! Role on a mutations table
  2. Boat becomes sentient, may or may not want to be a part of this foolishness. Does not want to die. 2d6 WIL.
  3. Water is a powerful intoxicant. Beer and rum doubly so. Battalions may become totally (and understandably) wasted, given how bad everything probably is.
  4. Wood grows. You have to hack through doors (d4 hp), the mast is twice as tall, rigging and sails must be improvised or cannibalized from other boats.
  5. Rations scurry about! A battalion must hunt for them today or you will lose d6 rations. If they hunt them, the scurrying parts of the rations will count as an extra ration, if you can choke that down or sufficiently disguise it.
  6. Gunpowder works too well! If firearms or cannons are used, they work once and then are rendered broken.


  1. All organic beings sparkle with electricity. Contact deals d6 dmg to both. 
  2. All organic beings are incredibly fast today! You can run at super-speeds but it's a DEX save or slam into something for d8 damage. DEX save for any fine or delicate work.
  3. It seems to require more force to achieve the same acceleration. Battalions must be encouraged to get any work done, and an extra d4 rations will be consumed.
  4. So cold, icebergs form in jagged, submerged masses. The boats must be carefully piloted to avoid d6 damage.
  5. Light is slowed. Ranged attacks impossible, nothing is quite where it appears to be. Good luck driving the boat through any obstacles.
  6. Standing water boils, always. The water already inside your body is fine. No one can drink water, giving a disadvantage on any rolls requiring cerebral acts or endurance (disadvantage: roll twice, take the worse of the two rolls). If injured (STR damage), then the wound may expose blood and deal an extra d4 damage as it boils.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Into the Odd: One Page Ruleset is awesome

I ran Into the Odd for a friend, using the Underground area generator in the one-page edition, which was awesome. I had zero prep, other than reading one-page encounters and locations, and playing a bit of this solo through the same area. It was my friend's first time playing any tabletop game; he enjoyed it enough that he's bought his own set of dice and will probably try to run ItO on his own at some point.

His character, Trent, and Trent's companions, Finn and Kathi, awoke in the Underground after fleeing a failing expedition. We began at location (4), the horrible merging machine. After creating a terrible weapon - a throwing club - and an over-large brick that was soft as shale, and no random encounters wandered through, they moved on. There were 4 exits to the room, and it was at this point I realized I didn't want the player to have to pick a direction blindly. I rolled for the next 4 areas, and improvised some artifact or sound or smell which would let him make some kind of decision. Due South was area (9), an abandoned train station full of luggage and blood, so he saw a single sock in the corridor. (8) was East, with its mounted guns, so he could see a dull brass cartridge. North was (11), so, a smell of mildew and the sounds of faint singing, from a lake and its talking fish. West was a fighting pit (10), so he could smell sweat.

I was rather proud of this detail; I didn't want him to make navigational decisions without any clues to what he could find. He kept the Northern route in mind, but headed South, where he gathered up 4 silver in goods and his first random encounter: Ivo Calico, hungover aristo. After sufficiently insulting the three, going on about parties and how the Golden Lands are a Bastion city council conspiracy, Ivo offers them a gold each to walk him out of the Underground and back to Bastion. Trent accepts.

The first monstrous random encounter occurs, where a huge block of flesh clomps down the train-tracks. Trent and co. hide and, DEX save made, are not discovered. They head North and North again, arriving at the lake of talking, lying fish.

The fish tell Trent to take the stairs down, if he finds any, to leave the Underground (in reality this makes encounters more frequent). They say that the Underground is upside-down, and the way out the top is further down. They also say they'll trade rations for silver coins, which excites Trent's avarice. He throws a ration into the lake and waits. And waits. He concludes the fish are full of shit, and moves on East-South-East, towards the sounds of chanting.

Naked old men worshiping Arcanum awaited the four. A WIL save and humble pleading meant that one of them could direct Trent and co. out, due North.

The way out turned out to be an ambush; Finn fell in combat, but Trent and Kathi and even Ivo managed to drive off the mutant weirdos. Finn, bandaged, recovered as they marched out into Bastion. Ivo insisted they all sit down for a daguerreotype, so he could remember these common-blooded idiots in perpetuity, and later paid them their due.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Forlorn North / Frozen in Time hexcrawl encounters

An encounter table for the Forlorn North, the setting in Goodman Games' Frozen in Time. This was, of course, heavily influenced by Goblinpunch's Have a Nicer Trip, which does random encounters so well.

  1. Death Yaks
    1. Charging at you, chased by 1d20 wolves
    2. 3d4 Herders, 6d10 death yaks. Herders looking for a missing one in a nearby summit/vale, will pay for its return
  2. Flying Laser Ursine - stats are in Crawling Under a Broken Moon, issue 10. If you cannot pony up the dosh, take bear stats, add a laser attack, flight, and laser grapple. They serious business.
    1. 1d2 adorable, friendly cubs. Mother arrives in 2d6 rounds. She will not be happy if the PCs are doing roughly anything other than fleeing.
    2. Caught in a Portable Prison, some old cage-generating relic. Lockpick to free, dc 10 if you use DC. 2d4 rounds till a Hill Giant nomad comes by to check his trap.
    3. Fighting an owlbear. Dead death yak is burning low off to one side, 50% a small localized forest fire results.
  3. Hermit
    1. Actually Tsrura, Petty God of Time's Wintery Death(#176). Watching frozen trees drop branches, or ice crystalize over a puddle. Friendly PCs will be ignored, angry/bitchy PCs will get Hexed, Cursed, or Geas'd to wander 100 miles away. Those PCs will end up somewhere else, very short on supplies.
    2. Hiding in a tree. 1d5+1 wolves below. Will join party as a Level 1 Cleric of Crom. Not initially an exemplary example of Crom's devout. 9hp, STR 9 AGI 9 CON 7 INT 9 PER/WIS 16 Luck 9. Sack, 4 torches, 3 days rations, waterskin, thick fur cloak (+2 AC), empty longsword sheath.
  4. White Ape Science Villains
    1. Escorting 2d4 captured tribesfolk to a nearby Crystal Dome habitat.
    2. Trying to repair their crashed Ornithopter. Sloppy perimeter established as the boss is too busy chewing everyone out.
    3. Raiding a tribesfolk tent-town, set up around an old Hyperborean statue. The tribesfolk are all Bentbacked, hobbit-sized, and vicious, bleeding black blood and suicide bombing the White Apes, who fire some kind of ray emitter. The village is burning.
  5. Sabre-toothed tigers
    1. Eating a mammoth carcass. The bones are scrimshawed and look to be made of silver. The smilodons will not appreciate PCs trying to walk away with part of their kill.
    2. Starving, mangy. Will stalk PCs and attack at night. Bite attacks: save (vs poison) or start developing rabies.
  6. Meks: War refugees
    1. Seeking guides to Gonewater, a Hyperborean (space) port
    2. Pursued by Last Castle deathbots, 1 hour lead at present.
  7. Krib Mountain Cultists
    1. Carting a vat full of the cut-up remains of a upper-level member. Will be reincarnated at Krib Mountain.
    2. Disguised as merchants, looking for 'escorts,' sacrifices. Hollow Ones.
    3. Conducting a ritual around standing stones. A few nomads are inside and cannot seem to leave - the air itself seems to wall them in.
  8. Nomads
    1. Religious pilgrims to Moothill. Accepting of PCs tagging along.
    2. Successful hunters w/ furs and food to trade. One has an emerald plucked from a demon's eye socket in Whitethorpe.
  9. Merchants
    1. Lost. Cheap prices for guides to Moothill.
    2. Flush with gems, riding yak-pulled floating disks. Willing to take passengers.
  10. Bentback tribesfolk. Hateful mutant-things, can be bargained with if you're clearly outclassing them, 50% they follow and try to ambush you when you sleep. 1HD, d6 spears, AC as leather, darkvision 80'. Have 1d4-1 bombs (2d6 dmg) and will make traps and try to lead you into them with fake retreats, or just rush you and detonate them.
    1. Besieging a human tribe's current location, holed up in a hillside ruin.
    2. Turning their village into a multi-level Siege Tower! At the top the PCs can see a golden saucer-shaped device. (Given a few more weeks work, it may be rolled towards a human village. The device at the top can fire a beam which sets buildings afire. 3d12 damage, save (reflex or breathe) for half. It would require a small army to move and is worth 3000 gp to a king, if you can wash it out first.)
  11. Odobenmen - walrus-folk. Bipedal walruses. If you don't have stats from Frozen in Time, 1HD, d6 swords, AC as leather.
    1. Wearing mind-control collars, carrying a poorly-drawn map, heavily armed and wary. Crossbowmen with AC as leather, chain mail clad warriors.
    2. Desperate refugees, trying to escape mind control. One wears a control collar in secret and is scouting for adventurers with treasure.
  12. The joke is, my players jumped through time and/or space and are no longer in the Forlorn North, but hopefully this will serve someone else well!