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!