Thursday, October 31, 2013

Things Found In The Zone - List A

Art by +j garrison of Hereticwerks

Stalkers go into the Zone looking for things to bring back out with them. They may have shopping lists from scientists at the Institute or from various brokers and  black marketeers. It's not unusual for Stalkers to bring back items that blur the lines between living things, chemicals, and/or other kinds of environmental hazards. Others things they bring back are more obviously manufactured items, even if their purpose and use is often inexplicable. Anything that Stalkers bring back has the potential to fuel new scientific investigation, black marketeering, and even violent attempts by others to acquire the item.

Areas of town near the Zone frequently have hidden caches of items that Stalkers have brought back. Weirdness potentially lurks inside every loading dock, warehouse, or apparently abandoned building in town. And sometimes it leaks out and spreads.

Almost all the items on the List A Table below are named items mentioned by the Strugatsky Brothers in Roadside Picnic. In a couple of cases (#8, 20, and 21) I had to come up with a name for something the authors had described without naming. As in life, not all experiences have names.

We'll be writing item descriptions in individuals posts (we already have a couple), and may be adding a bit more to the list as we finish the novel in the next few days.
  1. Hell Slime
  2. Burning Fuzz
  3. Silver Cobwebs
  4. Wispy Hairs
  5. Graviconcentrates aka Bug Traps
  6. Magnetic Traps 
  7. Living Corpses
  8. Autonomous Viabilities (parts severed from Living Corpses that have a life of their own)
  9. Happy Ghosts
  10. Spacells
  11. Black Sparks
  12. Empties
  13. Full Empties
  14. Bracelets
  15. White Whirligigs
  16. Lobster Eyes
  17. Dick the Tramp (a wind-up mechanical doll)
  18. Bitches' Rattles
  19. Rattling Napkins
  20. Short-shocks
  21. Coal Pit
  22. Green Slime
  23. The Death Lamp
  24. Grinder (sometimes localized as a tunnel called The Meat Grinder)
  25. The Golden Sphere (sometimes localized as The Room)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Omega House: Scientist K. Panov

Art by Juan Ochoa

Centuries ago, Scientist K. Panov ventured into the Zone with a shopping list. He never came back. Perhaps he backed into something, maybe one of the crackling Silver Cobwebs. Or he stepped into hell slime? Who can tell?

What matters is that the Stalker who brought Panov into the Zone didn't bring him out. Scientist Panov was never seen again on Earth.

But the physicist was found centuries later by a salvage crew trawling space junk in the ring of a gas giant. He was encased within some kind of alien life support vacuole. The crew brought the vacuole on board; they cut Panov out using lasers. A few clean cuts were all it took.

But he wasn't the old Panov.  No legs, no hands. Only one good eye. A torso covered in alien polyps.

The salvage crew froze him, and took Panov to a nearby R.U.R externality within the Empire for medical treatment and further study. The R.U.R. of course repaired him. Just like they would any machine. R.U.R. artisans custom-built new replacement parts for Panov, including cybernetic forearms and a perambulator frame. They also gave him numerous implants and neural augmentations like most organics who live with the R.U.R.

Panov recovered quickly. He started learning about the world he had awakened and joined. He absorbed hundreds of years of technological advancement in a few months. Panov branched out from physics to also learn a few new languages:
  • The Prate - the common tongue of humanoids in the Empire
  • Afuera - an ancient galactic language from the long-consumed core worlds, used to communicate with other-planar entities
  • Glopnic - the R.U.R. language for communicating with space-time itself, as well as with other universes 
Panov fit right in here: so many of the aliens and fellow humans who chose to live on R.U.R. externality were scientists, technicians, and inventors. Or philosophers, linguists, and mentats.

But a few of the organics were salvagers and smugglers like the ones who brought him to the R.U.R. From one of them he learned of Omega House. Their work sounded like something familiar; work he could do.

The smuggler invited Panov to visit Omegapoint.

When the ship reached there, Panov signed-on.  He now crews for Captain Amargura on the Omega House Vessel Iboy.  They have a nickname for him. (He doesn't like it.) They think he's a little weird. (But aren't they all?) They say he has disgusting habits. (He wouldn't disagree.)

Scientist Panov
Science Specialist on the OHV Iboy

  • High Concept: Multi-legged cyborg physicist
  • Trouble: After spending centuries in an alien vacuole, there's a lot I don't know
  • Aspect: Please, don't call me "Tapdancer"
  • Aspect: I'd love to get a look under the hood of Clay
  • Aspect: Science comes easy to me
  • Careful: +2
  • Clever: +3 
  • Flashy: 0
  • Forceful: +2
  • Quick: +1
  • Sneaky: +1
  • Deadly Handstand - Once per session, Panov can go first in combat, by making a backflip to stand on his cyborg hands. Then take a +2 to Flashy Approach to Attack using the metallic pincer-like legs of your perambulator frame. 
  • Figure It Out - Because you are an expert scientist with R.U.R. cognitive augmentations, take a +2 to Clever Approach to Create an Advantage while analyzing new scientific phenomena in your lab.
  • Gauntlet Sensors - When you are studying something within hands' reach, you may take +2 to Careful Approach to Create an Advantage using the sensors in your cyberhands. 
  • Master Linguist - Once per session, you can master a new language - or crack a code.
  • My Children - It's painful, but Panov can tear the alien polyps from his skin, and send them off 1-3 Zones to check things out for him. He takes 1 Stress for every polyp he sends off. When the polyps are spying for him, Panov takes a +2 on his Careful Approach to smell, see, and hear what they experience in real time. Panov re-attaches the polyps to their source wounds when their mission is completed. We did say the crew thinks he's a little you believe us now?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Fateless Momentaries

The Fateless Momentaries only appear at night. They have forgotten most of who and what they were in life. They're shadow people, remnants and revenants, wandering inside the Zone, or in the lonely neighborhoods and places contiguous with it.

The Momentaries came from people killed by Silver Cobwebs. When the webs touch people, some die immediately. Others appear to be fine right after contact with the Silver Cobwebs, but start to sicken and die some 12-24 hours later. Fateless Momentaries can come from either kind of fatality.

Most  were Stalkers, or people that Stalkers escorted into the Zone. However, there are a few left who are soldiers or paramilitaries. These spectral unfortunates were sent into the Zone right after the Visitation in a futile attempt to subdue and reclaim sovereignty over it.

The ones still in the Zone today are recently created. They're trying to find their way out. All of them have forgotten exactly who they were, but they're all looking for clues about their past. When they arrive in town from the Zone, Momentaries roam places that look familiar to them, haunting their old neighborhood, the public squares, a favorite haunt in the city (you can sometimes find them sitting at a table in the shadowy back of a dingy bar, or in a place that resembles a distant home.

No Stalker tries to harm a Fateless Momentary; it's considered bad for the trade. The Fateless have trade secrets to share. Momentaries are constantly muttering. A few people who are good at listening to them can tease something intelligible from their babble. The skill of listening to, understanding, and bargaining with the Fateless Momentaries has created a small cottage industry of listener-brokers.

These intermediaries converse with the Momentaries and help Stalkers learn about new caches of artifacts in the Zone. The Momentaries know where the good swag is buried.  The Stalkers are often very well connected. They can often help the Fateless Momentaries learn something about the lives they lost and who they were. The listener-brokers make a bundle setting up these exchanges.

While Stalkers never try to harm a Momentary, the military, paramilitaries, and police are quite aggressive in dealing with them. These forces won't enter the Zone, and can't control it. But they seek to maintain the zone of exclusion around it. Part of their containment effort is clearing whatever weird things cross from the Zone into town. Bullets don't bother the Momentaries very much, but they are uniquely vulnerable to bright flashes of light. Flash-bulbs, flash bang grenades, and strobe lights are very effective weapons against the Momentaries.


Fateless Momentaries
Spectral shadow people from the Zone (neutral)

  • High Concept: They've come back but forgotten who they were
  • Trouble: Bullets don't harm them much but flashing lights do
  • Aspect: Constantly muttering
  • Aspect: Know where the good swag is  buried
  • Aspect: They'll bargain for memories
  • Careful: +2
  • Clever: +2
  • Flashy: 0
  • Forceful: +1
  • Quick: +1
  • Sneaky: +3

All Fateless Momentaries have these two Stunts:
  • Hide in Shadows - Take +2 to Sneaky Approach to Create an Advantage by hiding.
  • Insubstantial - Take +2 to Forceful Approach when Defending against physical attacks from melee or ranged weapons.
Momentaries also have at least one of the following Stunts: 
  • Double Doppel - Once per session, one of the Fateless Momentaries may create a lasting double of itself. Both the original and its double will work together to find clues about its past existence.
  • Silver Touch - Once per session, one of the Fateless Momentaries may remove a patch of Silver Cobweb and transplant it to another location. The transplanted web will grow in its new location. The transplantation creates a spatial bridge between the two webs (see Webcrawl, below). 
  • Webcrawl - Once per session, one of the Fateless Momentaries may touch and pass through a Silver Cobweb in one location, and enter The Webwork, a kind of Tidal Pool that radiates from Zones. They can pass through The Webwork and will step out in another location where there is a Silver Cobweb. Once a Fateless Momentary lspends some time in that other-space and learns the local Webwork, they will be able to reliably navigate it to desired exit locations. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bulldogs! Has Cool Art!

Bulldogs! has cool art. Like a space mechanic who could have stepped out of the Boondocks!

And telepaths!

And alien space-decadents.

So glad my FLGS finally got it in!

The Silver Cobwebs

Art by Jim Garrison of Hereticwerks

The Silver Cobwebs provide more evidence of how little we really know about the Zone. There are no bugs anywhere in the Zone - we have that on good authority - but Silver Cobwebs can be found anywhere there are remains of the built environment in the Zone. There are big patches of them, sometimes a meter or two across in some of the old buildings, structures, and tunnels.

Unlike Hell Slime, nobody tries to bring Silver Cobwebs out of the Zone. They're easy to overlook; sometimes they almost seem to creep up on you. Stalkers often keep Stalk Rock with them to hurl at the webs. These special salts are the only safe thing to use against the webs.

The Silver Cobwebs are considered bad luck. They mess with Fate. If you see them, back away slowly. Keep an eye over your shoulder, in case there's more nearby.

They make an unusually loud crackling sound if you touch them.

Hours later, you die.

The silver cobwebs or crackling cobwebs are based on Boris and Arkady Strugatsy's SF novel Roadside Picnic.


Silvery Cobwebs
Strands that break Fate

  • High Concept: Big silver cobwebs
  • Trouble:  Vulnerable to certain salts  
  • Aspect: They crackle when you touch them
  • Aspect: They break your Fate
  • Aspect: You don't want to see the spiders these came from
  • Careful: 0
  • Clever: 0
  • Flashy: 0
  • Forceful: +3
  • Quick: +2
  • Sneaky: +2
  • Fatebreaker - Touching or being touched by a Silver Cobweb (including with touching the webs with poles, tools, or handheld weapons) kills Mooks immediately. With PCs and major NPCs, such a touch triggers an immediate Forceful Attack by the web. When the Attack Succeeds with Style, characters immediately gain the Temporary Aspect Broken Fate. They have 12 hours to obtain some kind of superscience or magical healing or they will begin to sicken and die. Death invariably occurs within 24 hours of the touch. Many of the dead will subsequently come back as one of the Fateless Momentaries.
  • Hard to See - Take +2 to Sneaky Approach to Create an Advantage by hiding in plain sight.
  • Right Behind You - Silver Cobwebs can move behind people who are in the same Zone as the web. 
  • Sudden Draft - A Silver Cobweb takes +2 to its Quick Approach to Create an Advantage and touch someone standing adjacent to the web.

SPECIAL: Stalk Rock, the special salt crystals used by Stalkers as a defense against the Silver Webs; they allow the user to make ranged Attacks on the webs. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Deck Of Fridays

DECK OF FRIDAYS is a new weekly feature at FATE SF in which we make a draw from the Deck of Fate, our deck of  RPG Inspiration Cards, or use some other randomizer to select an Aspect. Then we do something interesting with the Aspect - use it to create a campaign or scenario seed, a situation, location, NPC, thingie, etc.

We'll see where this goes!

This week's draw, pulled from the Deck of Fate, is the following Aspect:

Fell Into Your Lap  

You always were the Golden Child. At least that's what that fortuneteller told you back on Melrak IV. But you never felt that way - quite the opposite in fact. You were always the Black Sheep of the family, the ne'er-do-well bad limb on the tree. Bad luck follows your bad reputation, and recently, you'd even begun to think a bounty hunter was after you!

You and your friends have been shadowed for a few weeks by a mysterious man (or woman, or alien, or robot, or drone). It's gotten to be tiresome, dodging into alleys to get away from them.

And then you turned into the wrong alley, and there they were: standing there with a clutch of papers.

A Last Will and Testament in fact, from your Aunt Drucilla, the far trader. 

"Congratulations!" your unwelcome shadow informed you. "You now own a ship. The Bad Romance. Sure, she's a bit beat up, but her hold is capacious and her drives still work. 

"Your lucky, kid! That shite band of yours can even play offworld now if you want to now!

"Here's the paperwork and the 'keys'. Sign right there. Gotta go."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hell Slime

Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker

On Monday, we posted about Andrei Tarkovsky's classic SF film Stalker, as well as about the novel upon which the film was based: Boris and Arkady Strugatsky's Roadside Picnic. Within a few minutes of our post, our friend Porky posted his own review of the film.

With this kind of synchronicity; we think something is definitely in the air. Or in the ether. Perhaps someone has come back for another roadside picnic, and new Zones are forming?

So where do we go from here? For FATE SF, I am planning a series of posts inspired  by the book and the movie, dealing with how to run a Zone-based campaign, including pertinent Aspects, encounters, and the alien junk (aka "treasures") that might be encountered in the Zone.

This is a creative exercise, though, so we'll be doing things inspired by the book and film, as well as striking out in new directions, using the source material as a jumping off point for extrapolation and divergent exploration.

We're making a Zone of our own.

Today's post deals with one of the Zone's most ubiquitous, insidious, and deadly menaces, as featured in the novel Roadside Picnic.


One of the ever-present dangers of the Zone is hell slime. It's a sometimes viscous, sometimes runny, always drippy substance that burns through organic materials. One reason that Hell slime is so insidious is because it is difficult to discriminate from other goopy agrottments in the Zone. Hell slime is usually blue or green - when it can be seen clearly (which is almost never in situ) - and it can be difficult to distinguish from other slime and muck such as oils and other industrial effluent that has leaked from machines or spilled from containers onto the floors of long-abandoned buildings, the detritus of the built environment that remains in the  Zone. Another reason that hell slime is so insidious is that it sometimes drips up, climbing up a boot and ducking under a pant leg until it finds exposed flesh.

Hell slime is commonly found in pools of water or other moist areas on the lower levels of structures such as basements, tunnels, sludge channels, and wells. But it can be found in any damp area, even on walls, so caution is always advisable. Look for accumulations of scum or dark fluids on floors made of concrete, wood, and tile.  Be wary of open containers such as paint cans, corroded steel drums, and cracked plastic drums, as well as uncapped bottles and jugs. Any of these are likely places where hell slime readily congregates.

The extremities are usually the first part of the body infected with hell slime. The stuff is invasive, able to penetrate through clothes, shoe leather, and cracks in boot heels to reach exposed skin. Once on the skin, it quickly gets into capillaries and pores, and begins to burn away subcutaneous tissues. Within a few minutes, it can dissolve connective tissue, muscle, cartilage, and bone. What's left is a gooey slurry that eventually bursts through the skin and leaves a new puddle of slime below the victim.  Immediate amputation of the infected limb is the best course of action to avoid losing the entire patient within a few hours. 

The tragedy of hell slime is that many stalkers in the Zone are victims of their own greed. Outside forces commission stalkers to go into the Zone and collect hell slime. It fetches a good price on black market.  The substance is opening up new avenues of basic research and development for chemical and biological weapons. An arms manufacturer is developing ammunition with a hollow tip reservoir for hell slime. There are reports of a government spraying "liquid prions" on remote mountain villages to cut off a rebel insurgency's base of support. And whistleblowers in yet another government have published allegations that their intelligence services are using hell slime in so-called "single drip waterboarding" sessions to extract information from captured foes and dissidents. 

What the substance is - and is for - remains entirely a mystery. Is it a lubricant? A waste product? A stardrive exudate or other-planar chemical ectoplasm? An intelligent alien life form?

Only time will tell.


Hell Slime
Otherworldly sarcophagic sludge (inimical)

  • High Concept: "I think you just touched Hell Slime"
  • Trouble:  Burns easily  
  • Aspect: Is there just a bit in here or is it the whole room?
  • Aspect: That just dripped up
  • Aspect: You can burn it but there are consequences
  • Careful: +2
  • Clever: +2
  • Flashy: 0
  • Forceful: 0
  • Quick: 0
  • Sneaky: +3
  • Burns It's Way In: When hell slime Succeeds with Style on a Sneaky Attack, it gets under the skin of a surprised victim and begins to dissolve one or more of its limbs. The infection does +2 automatic Stress per turn unless some form of super science or magical healing is used to destroy the infection. The victim takes a Moderate Consequence when a limb turns to slush. A Severe Consequence means two limbs have turned to slush, or major organs are failing.
  • It Gets Around: In any given scene, hell slime is restricted to the location (i.e., zone with a small "z") where it starts the scene. But once per session, hell slime may propagate itself into another adjacent zone. For the purpose of tracking stress, the hell slime in the adjacent zone becomes a distinct creature from its parent.
  • Not So Nice To Burn:  Hell slime burns easily, but the smoke when inhaled produces extremely unpleasant effects: the victim will begin to experience fierce hallucinations of alien voices, places, memories, and worlds. Consider this a Flashy Attack which does mental stress.
  • Remote Access: Even when a victim's infected body parts have been amputated, the hell slime that infected the victim has some degree of access to the victim's thoughts. The victim's thoughts and experiences will be recorded continuously on the physical medium of the hell slime as long as victim and slime remain on the same planet and plane.
  • Spacetime Lubricant: Once per session, hell slime may shift itself (and part or all of a victim) into an spacio-temporally contiguous tidal pool. It can't be attacked physically when in this contiguous zone without the use of superscience technology or magic.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Omega House: Clay and Fury

Art by Juan Ochoa

The duo of Clay and Fury are always together; usually, they occupy almost exactly the same space. Clay is the alien Ceramoid mobile suit. Fury is the archaeologist-sapper. They crew for Captain Amargura on the Omega House Vessel Iboy.

The twain met when Fury was in the Empire's special forces. She was one of The Banishers of Gloom, the elite Imperial Order charged with cleansing dead planets and space hulks. The Banishers are feared and revered as fearless hunters of other-planar abominations and the undead. They are masters of the Smoking Mirror Engines, and use the sentient mirror machines to cross to other worlds.

The Banishers fight abominations in labyrinths and other hidden places. They are masters of both traditional hand-to-hand weapons, and gem-like occular energy projection weapons. Even The Banishers' bodies  are mystical weapons. Their skin glows in the presence of otherworldly enemies, because their flesh is inscribed with protective glyphs from all-but-forgotten ancient languages.

Fury discovered Clay in the heart of an alien labyrinth on a proscribed world besieged by spectral forces. A archaeologist-sapper, her combat role was to discharge the other-planar energies accumulating in such structures. Often the easiest way to dissipate such energies was to cause the structures to collapse by means of a few well-placed explosive charges. Fury discovered Clay while she was planting a series of such charges.

Clay, the Ceramoid mobile suit, was trapped within intersecting stasis fields deep below the labyrinth. It might have been stuck there for centuries - or possibly even longer. Fury found the stasis field projectors easily enough. She disarmed them. Then the walls and ceiling of the labyrinth began to collapse. And then the charges detonated.

When Fury awakened, she was within the mobile suit. She was walking up a ramp toward the surface of this deadly world. Being walked, actually. Fury gradually became aware of the Ceramoid's thoughts. A symbiosis developed.

Fury's fellow Banishers were not entirely comfortable with this symbiosis. Clay was always underfoot. Even when Fury wasn't wearing Clay as armor, he followed her like a dog, always exactly two meters behind her.

The Order called Clay a Golem. The Order didn't like Clay; Ceramoids should not regenerate. The Order suggested to Fury that she had become too dependent on the armor. She was taking too many risks. That put other people at risk. They hinted that it was time to move-on.

Shortly thereafter, Clay and Fury took the hint and left the Order, hauling all of Fury's sapper gear with them.
Omega House was watching and waiting. They always keep an eye on the Orders; their cast-offs make good recruits. Omega House made the two a generous offer. Clay and Fury signed on.

Archaeologist-Sapper of the OHV Iboy

  • High Concept: Archaeologist-sapper of Omega House
  • Trouble: When I wear Clay I feel invulnerable
  • Aspect: Veteran of The Banishers of Gloom
  • Aspect: I can find the heart of any maze
  • Aspect: Clay will back me up
  • Careful: +1
  • Clever: +2 
  • Flashy: +3
  • Forceful: +1
  • Quick: 0
  • Sneaky: +2
  • A Sapper Knows - Take +2 to Sneaky Approach to Create an Advantage find the weakest point in a structure.
  • Armor Helps - When wearing Clay in combat, the mobile suit takes the stress and consequences from physical attacks first.  
  • Glyphs of the Banishers - Take +2 to Flashy Approach when Defending against undead and other-planar entities, due to the glowing protective glyphs that cover your flesh.* 
  • It Went BANG! - Take +2 to Flashy Approach when using explosives to Overcome an Obstacle.  

*When wearing Clay, the glow comes mostly from glyphs on Fury's face.

Ceramoid Mobile Suit

  • High Concept: Fury's Loyal Golem
  • Trouble: "CLAY, be careful with that - it's DELICATE!"
  • Aspect: Surprisingly stealthy for such a hulk
  • Aspect: I am no mere Extra!
  • Aspect: The sword on my back weigh more than you do!
  • Careful: +1
  • Clever: +2
  • Flashy: +1
  • Forceful: +3
  • Quick: 0
  • Sneaky: +2
  • Armored Telepath - Once per session, you may establish and maintain an ongoing telepathic connection with one individual. The connection lasts as long as the two of you remain in the same Zone. 
  • Kadmonic Regeneration -  Once per session, you may remove up to three checked stress boxes or one Mild or Moderate Consequence due to physical damage - as long as you have a humanoid occupant within your armored shell.
  • The Armor Makes A Way - Take +2 to Forceful Approach to Overcome an Obstacle by smashing physical barriers.
  • Swordmaster - Take +2 to Forceful Approach when wielding a sword in both hands for an Attack. This may create an opportunity for the GM to Compel a humanoid occupant if the occupant is attempting an action for which swordplay could be distracting. 

Omega House: Captain Amargura

Art by Juan Ochoa

This is the first in a series of posts featuring the crew of a Quetzal-class Rapid Intervention Vehicle, the OHV Iboy. The Quetzals are the workhorse vessels of Omega House, the chartered imperial organization responsible for developing resolutions to many dangerous situations on the frontiers of the Empire. Omega House assets are usually the last ones to evacuate dangerous places where an exurgent crisis has developed. Omega House brings things to an end

But of course every omega has its ourboros-like ontological ties to a prior alpha. Omega House teams are often the first resource deployed to explore unusual or potentially dangerous phenomena. They're a safe bet, because Omega House teams are usually successful. And they have enough ordinance to cover most of their mistakes.

They also have good PR. Omega House's alpha-flight explorations often trigger crises, although they never, ever admit to that. When reinforcements arrive, they pose as the Empire's first responders. They clean up - or at least try to do so.

Captain Amargura is one of the operatives of Omega House. She's a Captain, in fact. Her current assignment is the Quetzal-class Omega House Vessel Iboy.

Something of a promotion, especially for a Witchfinder-class android.

Amargura had one previous assignment. Back then, she was known as Medical Officer Stillwater of the OHV Jaguar Mantle. That last mission had not gone well.

The Mantle had been assigned to investigate an inky ultraglassine ziggurat on a bleak moonless world orbiting a brown dwarf.  The Captain of the Jaguar Mantle decided to land the vessel directly on top of the ziggurat. The structure seemed made for that and had an intriguing central 5 meter-wide shaft running into the ziggurat's interior from the "landing platform" on top of the structure.

The Captain and the rest of the crew suited up and prepared to descend into the shaft. They used a belts-and-suspenders approach, wearing AG harnesses and a superstrong cable/winch system, which depended from underside of the Mantle. Stillwater remained onboard to monitor drones and safeguard the ship.

Drones went in first of course. Both Stillwater and the descending crew were monitoring the drones; no one detected anything of concern. Unfortunately.

Twenty seconds into the crew's descent, they just weren't there anymore.  Neither were the drones. Within seconds, Medical Officer Stillwater sent a second flight of drones down the shaft. Those returned just fine. In fact, the drones carried extra data packets back up the hell-shaft with them: the recorded screams of the terrified crew in their last moments, along with a jumble of random memories from crewmembers.

Stillwater defied standard orders and immediately took the Mantle to the R.U.R. shellworld called Rainhaven. Unfortunately the R.U.R. Intelligence known as Drowned One said there were not quite enough memories for the R.U.R. to reconstitute the crew.

Stillwater took the Mantle back to Omegapoint. She was surprised to find herself praised for taking initiative and heroic measures to save her crewmates. Omega House offered her a promotion.

Stillwater first took a leave of absence to reflect on what had happened. She blamed herself and changed herself. As a sort of penance, she tore off every bit of synthflesh covering her hardcase sheleton.  She reprogrammed herself as well. Deleted useless Medical Officer programming. Mastered strategy and tactics. Changed her name to Amargura.

Then Amargura went even further, reprogramming herself to constantly relive those 20 seconds of terror when she lost her crewmates. The events cycle through her processors, in full fidelity, every three minutes. She'll never forget the incident. She keeps it fresh. It's an accident that should never be repeated, and that is Armagura's responsibility.

She stores the crew's remaining memories too - someone has to remember them.

The crew call Amargura the Cold Restart, but never to her face. They have no idea what she is capable of, or what she is planning.

When the Iboy's crew are ready - when they finally meet Amargura's exacting standards - she has a detour planned.  Amargura is going back to that cold Ziggurat to find out what happened there.

Captain Amargura
Captain of the OHV Iboy

  • High Concept: Embittered, hypervigillant Captain of the Iboy
  • Trouble: The wound is still fresh
  • Aspect: Mistakes must not be repeated
  • Aspect: Sometimes a Cold Restart is necessary
  • Aspect: "Proceed with caution"
  • Careful: +3
  • Clever: +2
  • Flashy: 0
  • Forceful: +1
  • Quick: +1
  • Sneaky: +2
  • Logic Prevails - Take +2 to Clever Approach when Create an Advantage in a battle situation.  
  • Omega Sniper - Take +2 to Careful Approach to Attack an enemy who is three zones distant, using a ranged weapon 
  • Sheleton - Take +2 Forceful Approach to Defend against melee and projectile weapons.
  • There's A Safer Way - Once per session, you may identify a way in or out of a situation that is safe from one kind of Attack (i.e., close-in, ranged, energy, automated deathtraps, mines, etc.).

Monday, October 21, 2013

Back From The Zone

One of the mysteries of the Zone

On Sunday I was fortunate to see Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker on 35 mm film at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. The screening used the only remaining print with English subtitles. The curator shared that the film is deteriorating; hopefully someone will work on the film so that it can be restored. I have seen Stalker many times on video, but there is just no comparison with the subtlety of color, texture, and sound between the quality of the 35 mm film and video.

It has many of the qualities of the best nature films.

 And more than a little of the weird.

Brother Wolf?

This may be the first and last time in my life that I get to see Stalker on the big screen, so I am glad I went to the Walker's screening.

But on to the story the movie tells. Stalker is based on Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's novel Roadside Picnic, which deals with the shattering aftermath of an alien Visitation. Imagine the end of a roadside picnic. The humans get back in their car and drive on. They're litterbugs, and have left some things behind. Ants arrive to inspect the trash. They find bunch of crumbs, a few chicken bones, a few beer can tabs, some wrappers, some plastic bags - but would the ants be able to make any sense of this stuff? 

In the Strugatsky brothers' novel, six sites on Earth experienced the Visitation. These site fell along the so-called Pillman radiant, like a trail of shots fired from some alien weapon at the revolving Earth . The Visitation left wrecked Zones hiding inexplicable alien artifacts (artifacts like "empties" and "full empties" in the novel) and terrible existential and environmental threats.

Roadside Picnic is cited in the back of the Numenera RPG as one of Monte Cook's influences; that makes a lot of sense once you have read the novel or seen the movie Stalker. And just like in an RPG, the action in Stalker starts in a particularly grotty bar.

Stalker (c.), Professor (l.) and Writer (r.) meet up - where else? - a BAR!

The nameless Scientist and Writer arrange to have a character named Stalker sneak them into the Zone (more on both Stalkers and the Zone, below). They want to make the journey to a particular place in the Zone: The Room, where any one's deepest wishes will be fulfilled. Along the way many strange things happen.

The Zone is a queer place, a wilderness infected with the ruins of the built environment - and with something else. Travel into the Zone is a very local hexcrawl through an indoors/outdoors maze with terrifying subjective effects. A maze which reassembles itself and offers new existential snares with every visit.

After the aliens left, the armed forces had first tried to invade the Zone in a failed attempt at... something. Pacifying it? Dominating it? Privatizing it? Who knows?

Perhaps, like the U.S. military in Iraq, or the Russians in Afghanistan, they felt invading the Zone would be an easy roll. They could conquer the Zone and incorporate it into their national/rational state and subject it to market discipline. But while the Zone was still a partly familiar landscape, it was no longer theirs to conquer. The armed forces that invaded the Zones are still there standing watch. You'll see the hulks of wrecked and rusting armored vehicles and tanks, and the occasional burned skeleton behind the wheel of a jeep or APC.

After that disastrous expedition, the various militaries and special police forces settled for establishing a cordon sanitaire or "zone of exclusion" around the entire Zone. Only the Institute is allowed to sponsor expeditions inside the Zone to recover artifacts (in the novel) or to probe it's deepest secrets.

But the Stalkers sneak through. In the novel, we meet Red Schuhart, a Stalker who works for the Institute of Extraterrestrial Cultures, taking scientists inside the zone of exclusion, but also running his own freelance artifact-hunting expeditions. He's a criminal, a jailbird who has trouble distinguishing the prisons with their barbed wire fences from the Zone itself. The only place he feels that he belongs is in the Zone.

No booze in the Zone! Stalker decants Writer's booze bottle.

As Stalker takes us inside the Zone, there is a lot of religious or mystical iconography. There is a dark night of the soul (i.e., the subterranean passage that Stalkers call "the meat-grinder"), a crown of thorns, a supine hand as in Jesus' in the Pieta, quotes from scripture, uncanny birds (the Paraclete?), the Threshold (of the Gates of Heaven?), and maybe even Francis's Brother Wolf.

And a 20 kiloton bomb.

Stalker came into my life around 1993 or 1994. It influenced the Shadowrun games I played in, and the ones I ran during the 1990s, and it has continued to influence the games and settings I create. In many ways, the movie encourages similar speculations to the setting of the Kult RPG. You could even see the Zones of Stalker as analogues or fragments of Kult's Metropolis. I hope Roadside Picnic's presence on the list of inspirations for Numenera brings some new attention to the Strugatsky brothers' novel, and to the film Stalker.

There is certainly a lot to work with there.

French poster for Stalker

Saturday, October 19, 2013


Tony McVey's Morlock Bust

Just gaze in the Morlock's face and you can see its humanity. Its sensitivity and intelligence. Teeth accustomed to eating meat. Intelligent meat of the healthiest kind.

The Morlocks are a robust abhuman subspecies which evolved from the bifurcation of human stock after a long ReIndustrial Age. In the far future, long after the collapse of the Empire, humanity started over. The long Ice Age had ended, and humanity could once again reclaim and rebuild the Earth.

The ReIndustrial Age proceeded much as the Industrial Age had. Appalling wealth was concentrated over generations in the hands of an idle class which grew ever more effete, indolent, and beautiful. The industrial proletariat tended the wheels and mechanisms of industry and grew ever more rugged, clever, and... ugly.

The Beautiful forced the Ugly to work, sleep, gobble and breed in subterranean factories. The Ugly provided for the Beautiful who lived lives of timeless, dull pastoral pleasure in the world above. In time, the Ugly realized that they no longer needed the Beautiful as bosses; they were able to manage the world below just fine on their own.

Worker self-management.

The Morlocks had broken their chains and won for themselves a world of industrial gloom.  

But the Ugly still needed the Beautiful. The Beautiful made the best food source, far better than the industrial goo that was their fare during the period of their industrial peonage.

The Beautiful. So fair.

And now docile. Compliant.

Good fare.

Tender flesh. Soft, snapworthy bones.

Tasty marrow to consume.

In time, the Visitor came to the Morlocks on his Time Machine. The Morlocks soon discovered how to use the Time Machine for their own advantage. It would allow the Morlocks to spill out of this future Earth into other times, places, and planes. So, they seized the Time Machine.

Soon, they found other machines to tend. Other flesh to consume. Other worlds to win.


Machine-tending subterraneans

  • High Concept: If you are Beautiful we will eat you
  • Trouble: The sun blinds us
  • Aspect: We love machines
  • Aspect: We hate the surface world
  • Aspect: We move freely across space and time 
  • Careful: +1
  • Clever: +3
  • Flashy: 0
  • Forceful: +2
  • Quick: +1
  • Sneaky: +2
  • Awaken Machine: Once per session, a Morlock may awaken and/or repair an ancient machine.
  • Find the Weak Spot: Once per session, a Morlock may find a weak spot in space/time and pass it through to another world.
  • Toolbelt: Take +2 to Clever Approach to Overcome an Obstacle by using just the right tool. 
  • We No Longer Feel the Masters' Blows: Take a +2 to Forceful Approach to Defend against physical blows or melee weapons.

Morlock Mooks
  • +2 at: Capturing intelligent meat; Using tools as weapons
  • -2 at: Fighting in daylight; Persuading other humanoids
  • Aspect: Bestial, machine-loving, subterranean cannibals
  • Stress: 6 (12 Morlocks; 2 per stress box)

Do yourself a favor and also check out the Fine Young Cannibals Table at Hereticwerks, a shuddersome and outstanding collection of 20 Morlockian personalities to horrify, annoy, (and possibly) amuse your players.


The Neothanderals, frequently called "Neos", are a Neanderthaloid species of clan-based humanoids dwelling in caves and itinerant hunting communities on the surface of iceball Earth. They hunt the retrocloned megafauna of past ice ages, as well as a number of cold adapted alien species apparently imported from other worlds. A few clans also have a taste for human flesh, hunting the Eloic abhumans living in the scattered verdant green valleys created by geothermal springs.

Neothanderals have an extremely low reproductive rate, which is balanced by the fact that they never starve. Neos have the ability to sustain themselves in lean times by draining energy from great machines found in the ancient Deeps far below the Earth's surface. This adaptation, combined with the fact that Neos frequently situate their clans in the caves connecting with these deep spaces, has led to a perpetual state of war between the Neos and the subterranean machine-tending Morlocks.

Mentats and star-scholars have put forward several contending theories to explain the origins of the Neothanderals:
  • Perverse Autoatavism: One popular theory is that the Neos are derived from a group of sensualists, mystic seekers, or religious enthusiasts in the Final Days of the Star League. These individuals are alleged to have modified their genetic structure to have a direct experience of the life and meat-rich diet of Ice Age Neanderthals. DNA analysis of the Neos provides some evidence for this position, since 99% of the Neothanderal genome is identical to that of Galactic Standard humanoids.
  • Adaptive Exile: The accumulation of residual temporal energies within the fat tissues of Neothanderals has led to the second theory regarding their origins.  This theory asserts that the Neos are the descendants of temporally-exiled political prisoners, cast from the future into the neo-Ice Age gulag of contemporary Earth. The presence of small amounts of alien DNA in the Neos' genome, and of retrograde temporal weak points both above and below the neo-Ice Age Earth's surface, are cited as further evidence for this theory of adaptive exile. 
  • Inhibitor Theory: A third theory is that the Institute, that time-lost precursor of Omega House in the pre-Diaspora Era, anticipated a future global catastrophe, and developed the Neothanderals as a survival-oriented curator species to ensure human survival and continuous occupancy of the home world. They then placed the Neos into stasis until they were needed. Proponents of this view often also contend that the Neos were designed to protect a future Ice Age Earth from intrusion and colonization by other-planar entities. It can't be an accident that most sedentary clans of Neos make their homes in close proximity to invasive transplanar, transtempral species such as the Morlocks.  Neos have the ability to diffract the energies that accumulate in Nexus Points, making transplanar and transtemporal intrusions more difficult.


Neo-Ice Age Neanderthaloids
Curator species

  • High Concept: Protector of Ice Age Future Earth
  • Trouble: The Morlocks are our eternal enemies
  • Aspect: We never starve
  • Aspect: Our clan-caves ward the ancient Deeps
  • Aspect: Our shamans build their huts on Nexus Points 
  • Careful: +2
  • Clever: +3
  • Flashy: 0
  • Forceful: +2
  • Quick: +1
  • Sneaky: +1
  • Drain Machines: Take +2 to Clever Approach to Create an Advantage by psionically draining energy from a machine. 
  • Planar Diffraction: Once per session, a Neo may use its psionic abilities to close an inter-dimensional Nexus Point or temporal gateway.
  • Power Lifter: Like the average Neanderthal, Neos can bench press 300-500 lbs. Take a +2 bonus to any Forceful attempt to lift, move, or hurl something.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Panjandrum's Eye

Panjandrum is the exclusive manufacturer of General Operations Device (G-O-D) Modules. These Modules are the "red eye" special weapons mounted in the forward housing on Quetzal-class Rapid Intervention Vehicles. Panjandrum is Thingmaker-class Intelligence at the hub of several R.U.R. factory wheels orbiting a gas giant on the coreward rim of R.U.R. space - quite a long way away from the Empire and its Quetzals.

The Quetzal's G-O-D Modules are single use devices. One might easily imagine that the distances involved in resupplying the Quetzals would pose severe logistical issues. But that is not the case. Panjandrum has found a way to close the distance and deliver the Modules that Omega House needs to resupply its expeditionary striker vehicles.

Quetzals needing a new G-O-D Module travel to the Sol system, the backward and largely abandoned point of origin of the vast human diaspora. Sol's first planet remains a cinder; its second has become a wet jungular realm for saurian megafauna; its, third a barely habitable iceball, with a surface trammeled by hunting bands of Neothanderals, and subterranean depths tunneled and trawled for relics and gates by the Morlocks; and its fourth, a desert world of decadent warring city-states.

Cold, featureless, and grey, the fifth planet of Nibiru coasts in its silent orbit, casting strange ripples in hyperspace that pose a navigational hazard for vessels in the shallow enumerations. Ships entering the Sol system should heed the hyperspace beacons warning ships to enter normal space before they reach Nibiru's orbit.

Sol's mighty sixth planet is the bleary-eyed gas giant Jupiter: that glowering world is Panjandrum's. Eyeless Quetzals travel here, arriving either as singletons or in small flotillas. The Quetzals stay their orbits above the Panjandrim's Eye, anchored to await the moment when a small black void appears in the center of the Great Red Spot.

As soon as that black iris opens, each ship hurries to transmit its request.  When the eye closes seconds later, the Quetzals begin their wait. Sometimes they wait for hours, sometimes for days.

Eventually Panjandrum's Eye becomes a fountain. A spray of white particles geysers up from the center of the Eye, and one or more replacement modules ride right up that column, spinning off it to become small, temporary red moons of great Jupiter. Each little red eye has its own cyphered song. A Quetzal will be drawn to one specific eyesong, and move in collect its new Module.

The fountain quickly recedes. Once again, Panjandrum's Eye glowers on in silence.

Panjandrum's Eye Aspects
  • Stay clear of Nibiru's wake
  • Were you followed to this ancient place where Quetzals gather?
  • Approach Panjandrum's Eye and wait for an audience
  • Panjandrum takes special requests
  • Patience is its own reward
  • The White Fountain is Panjandrum's Answer

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cancion Del Elegido: A Columbus Day Science Fiction Counter-Song, Now With Fate Mechanics

This version of Silvio Rodriguez'  "Cancion del Elegido" is sung by the Uruguayan singer Daniel Viglietti. It's my favorite version of the song. You can read the Spanish lyrics by Silvio Rodriguez here, as well as their translation into English. The English translation doesn't really do it justice, but it will give you a sense of the meaning of this science fiction song.

The Elegidos

Los Elegidos, or The Chosen Ones, are an ancient race of solitary wanderers between the worlds. No one knows what set the Elegidos to wandering, whether they were motivated by loneliness, a desire for sensation, or a yearning for their own final quietus. They are most often found on the peripheries of great star empires, observing their worlds and peoples, and pondering their fates.

But make no mistake: the Elegidos are much, much more than impartial, passive, moon-faced Watchers, that race of alien giants who are a living excuse for inaction in the face of injustice.

Instead, the Elegidos intervene. They join forces with the oppressed on the worlds they encounter, linking their own fate and fortune to those of people who are struggling against merciless sovereigns and foreign oppressors. The Elegidos help those planet-bound souls fight for freedom, peace, and a true measure of justice. Elegidos go naked into battle, equipped only with their futuristic weapons and their knowledge of the secrets of the stars.

The Chosen Ones embrace the dialectical belief that in an age of war, it is only through struggle that peace be won. There are chains to be cast off, and stars without number to win.

So who chooses the Chosen Ones? Does freedom itself choose? Does necessity? Do the people at whose side the Chosen Ones joyfully fight - are they the ones who choose?

Maybe the Elegidos choose themselves.


Star Spanning Soldiers for Justice (friendly)

  • High Concept: Ancient child of the galaxy, searching for warmth
  • Trouble: We aliens do weird things, like go naked into battle
  • Aspect: Your fight is our fight!
  • Aspect: We have mined the stars themselves for their secrets 
  • Aspect: We wield gleaming weapons from the Future!
  • Careful: +1
  • Clever: +2
  • Flashy: +3
  • Forceful: +2
  • Quick: +1
  • Sneaky: 0
  • Advanced Scout Ship: You have a +3 Sneaky, single-person spacecraft capable of FTL travel and atmospheric reentry.
  • Canon del Futuro: Take +2 when using Flashy Approach to Attack with your advanced alien weaponry.
  • Like Every Human: Once per session, you may modify your baseline humanoid appearance to almost perfectly match that of the people for whom you fight. There will still be some small physical feature that can betray this difference. (Hint: The Trouble Aspect Go naked into battle can be compelled to spot this difference.) This effect lasts until you wish to change your appearance again.
  • The Wisdom of Star Kings: You know much about the universe. Once per session, you may Create an Advantage for an underdog group, based on this wisdom. This advantage persists until the current conflict is resolved.   

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Aspects Are Universal; Or, Tekumel Quotes Of The Day

Saturday was another fine day of Tekumel gaming with +Chirine ba Kal as GM, and +Rob Leduc back in player mode. A full table (1 GM, 7 players, 1 baby!) - great fun!

The action started with a Pachi Lei falling dead with a crossbow bolt sticking out of his?her? back on his way to deliver a message to the White Stone Clanhouse. The quarrel was from a Shen hand crossbow. It had green and yellow fletching, suggesting a Yan Kor connection.  At the moment I had to leave, we were approaching the estate of a certain Shen black marketeer in Butrus, hoping to get him to take a look at the evidence.

The money quotes from the session:
"The exploding priests of Thumis"* - Our GM, creating historical-situational Aspects for a non-Fate game!
"Can we not throw more money at them? I thought that's how this works?" -Evan the Pei Choi, attempting to Create an Advantage in persuading some human priests of Belkhanu to resurrect our poor enquarrelled Pachi Lei

Azwaj Brick Ape Demons

Toothy brick entrance to the Underworld on Tristis V

The Azwaj Brick Ape Demons are bi-phased quantum-locked creatures with some similarities to the Lunar Rock Aliens and the Lonely Assassins. The Azwaj were first created in distant times past to guard sensitive places such as the tombs of the Star Kings and Comet Khans, the laboratory-shrines of the Anapa, and countless time-lost labyrinths on dead worlds. They continue to be created today by  sorcerers, priests, and psychics who seek to hide their dark secrets in lonely subterranean places.

The Brick Apes are made from three material components: the shattered clay of golems destroyed by their masters, the offal of demonic apes, and the blood of a dutiful apprentice. These substances must be mixed by hand and kneaded into a lumpy, rough, odiferous dark clay. The clay is shaped into bricks, each of which must be stamped with the artisan's personal sigil. The newly shaped bricks are then be fired for three days in a Demon Kiln. What emerges at the end of the process are coarse but otherwise quite unremarkable bricks which can be used to build walls and other protective structures in a sanctuary of labyrinth.

The bricks are of course alive and possessed of a crude and malignant simian intelligence. Once placed in their creche structure, Azwaj will wait patiently in their quantum-locked brick form for an intruder to pass into their zone. Once that occurs, a number of bricks will seemingly leap off the wall, battering the intruder from all sides. Upon hitting the intruder or the floor, a few invariably shatter into chunks of clay. However, the majority will immediately thereafter bust into a sudden whirling mass of grot-djini. A moment later, and the intruder is surrounded and attacked by demon apes. One among their number will always be the alpha of the group, and will typically have access to special spells or other powers.

Azwaj slain during combat shatter into clay rubble as soon as they are slain. However, at the end of any encounter, surviving Azwaj transform back into demon-bricks. These demon bricks coalesce in mid-air and fly back to fill niches in their home wall or structure, re-stacking as best they can to fill any gaps created by slain Azwaj. Beware of such gaps in Underworld structures, especially in subterranean areas with a malign aura: this is a telltale sign that Azwaj may be present.

The rubble resulting from slain Azwaj is a constant source of new threats in the Underworld. Such infernal kipple tends to coalesce over time, and this engrottment gradually produces new, independent Azwaj who are free of any bonds of loyalty to their original creator. The Free Azwaj have the ability to reproduce by chipping, and often wander away from their originary creche structure to found new structural communities deeper in the Underworld.

Any Maharalic Golem will recognize Azwaj on-sight - even when the creatures are in their quantum-locked brick form. The Gatherers of Gloom often use such golems to seek out Free Azwaj before they can establish their own independent creche-structure communities. Also known as the Dour Masons, the Gatherers seek out the Free Azwaj as their preferred familiars.


The Azwaj
Brick Ape Alpha Demon (inimical)

  • High Concept: Demonic Brick Ape Sentinel
  • Trouble:  Golems always see us
  • Aspect: Loyal until slain the first time
  • Aspect: Intruders shall not pass
  • Aspect: The walls close in on you
  • Careful: +1
  • Clever: +2
  • Flashy: +1
  • Forceful: +2
  • Quick: +1
  • Sneaky: +3
  • A Malign Intelligence: Take a +2 to Clever Approach when using demonic magic to Attack an intruder. 
  • Fecal Scratch and Bite: When you Succeed with Style on a Forceful Attack against a living victim, victim is infected with a demonically transmitted disease. 
  • Quantum Lock: Change state from Demon Brick to Demon Ape form, or the reverse.
  • The Walls Move: Take +2 to Sneaky Approach to Create an Advantage over intruders by making the walls seem to shift and move around them.

Brick Ape Mooks
  • +2 at: Surrounding intruders; Striking, biting, & scratching
  • -2 at: Betraying their creator; Hiding and fighting Golems
  • Aspect: Flying Bricks & Demonic Apes
  • Stress: 6 (12 Brick Apes; 2 per stress box)

Friday, October 11, 2013


The Drowned Drumlin of Clew Bay

The planar steeds known as Dromedaries are shaggy, drumlin-sized mountains of flesh capable of shifting individuals or entire groups from one sphere to another. Dromedaries have a very thick integument that is typically 8-10' in depth. Beneath this capsule swims the gelatinous core of an enormous hyperganglion. Although blind, the Dromedary's hyperganglion gives it a highly complex psychic sensory system and allows the creature to perceive simultaneously the local environments in multiple contiguous planes.

Dromedaries are particularly drawn to interdimensional Tidal Pools. They remain there indefinitely, unless threatened in some way or given reason to move on to better pastures. When they find a place that is particularly interdimensionally rich, they begin Keening psychically. Shamans, sorcerers, telepaths, and other psychically-attuned individuals will be drawn toward a Dromedary's location due to its mesmerizing Keening. The Keening effect has been posited as a reason why many religious epiphanies happen on mountains, hillocks, and drumlins.

Someone wishing to visit another plane may bargain with a Dromedary for transport. Such creatures want for little, craving only information and experiences. Attractive bargains often commit the traveler to bringing novel creatures, objects, or persons into contact with the Dromedary.

They are ideal planar steeds for trade missions, as an entire caravan or the contents of several great storehouses can be transported on these great hills of flesh. Dromedaries are also useful for the movement of armies or the relocation of entire communities, because hundreds or even thousands of persons can be plane-shifted on the backs of these enormous creatures.

Dromedaries may be summoned if one knows psychic sutras which imitate the psychic impressions created by Keening. Although the majority of summoning is done with the intent of calling a Dromedary as a planar steed, some desperate and/or selfish communities summon the creatures for a very different purpose: to kill them by the bite, consuming their meat over a long winter.  If the intended Dromedary victim is within Keening range of another of its kind, such summonings often spell disaster for a selfish community.


The Dromedary
Enormous Planar Steed (neutral)

  • High Concept: Shaggy mountain that moves between the planes
  • Trouble: Mountains cannot dodge 
  • Aspect: Blind but psychically aware
  • Aspect: Their Keening can inspire madness or illumination
  • Aspect: If you want to attach it you'd better bring a BIG weapon
  • Careful: +2
  • Clever: +2
  • Flashy: +1
  • Forceful: +3
  • Quick: 0
  • Sneaky: +1
  • The Keening - Dromedaries take a +2 to their Flashy Approach to Create an Advantage using their powerful mesmeric psychic Keening. The numerical result of this Flashy role determines how may zones into this plane (and any adjacent planes) its Keening extends. 
  • Plane Shift - Once per session, a Dromedary may shift itself (and anyone on it) into an adjacent plane.
  • Sidestep Crush - Mountains are dangerous when they move. Once per session, a Dromedary may plane shift one zone, making Forceful crushing Attacks against whatever is in that zone. 

See the Very Large Monster rules at Evil Hat.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Sea Devils

Sea Devil

The Sea Devils are one of several allied races of intelligent reptilian bipedal marine creatures. Like their close relatives the Deep Ones, the Sea Devils worship an other-planar entity: a fertility god associated with agriculture, fish, and rain. This piscine or mer-humanoid deity is known as Dagon.

But let's not orientalize them. Mieville's account in The Scar underscores the particular dangers of doing so.

The Sea Devils have numerous deep sea sanctuaries and habitations - many are ancient, and home to millions of their species in suspended animation.  An offshoot or close kindred of the Silurian race, Sea Devils were among the first intelligent creatures to evolve on Earth (although genetic ties to races such as the Chelonians cannot be ruled out). They feel a strong sense of affinity, responsibility, and ownership of our planet, will respond with violence to intrusions or perceived threats to either the habitability of the seas or to their deep sea havens.

They have undersea vessels capable of moving great distances, and some have hypothesized that Sea Devil communities are also linked by a network of tubecar systems buried deep within the ocean's bedrock. Another formidable Sea Devil technology is their heat ray weaponry, which is effective both on land and underwater.  They have great aptitude for genetic engineering, which they have often used to create monstrosities to disrupt shipping in the sea lanes as well as to attack coastal settlements.

Persistent rumors also point to human-Sea Devil hybrid populations, which have mixed with small maritime human populations in the coastal areas of Northeastern North America, as well as with more isolated human groups around the globe.

Freshwater populations of Sea Devils may also exist in North America. Over the last century and a half, there have been numerous reports of Sea Devil sightings in and around Cayuga Lake (NY). Nearby Ithaca has a well-deserved reputation as a haven for Dagon worshippers, with many different signs of cultic activity (e.g., Dagon graffiti, fish-fetish vandalism, and the founding of a "House of the Star" society at Cornell University in 1868).


Sea Devil/Deep One
Reptilian Marine Humanoid 

  • High Concept: Humanoid Horror from the Seas
  • Trouble: We are Dagon's Children
  • Aspect:  The sound of flapping feet
  • Aspect: If there's one of us, there's a colony!
  • Aspect: We stopped evolving millions of years ago but we're still more evolved than you primates!
  • Careful: +2
  • Clever: +3
  • Flashy: 0
  • Forceful: +2
  • Quick: +1
  • Sneaky: +1
  • Heat Ray - +2 to Forceful Approach when using a hand-held heat ray gun in an Attack
  • Suitable for Hybridization - +2 to Clever Approach when attempting to Create an Advantage by genetically modifying another living creature
  • Swim Like the Devil - When swimming, a Sea Devil can always get somewhere first
  • The Ocean is a Very Big - Once per session, a Sea Devil may make a successful getaway from enemies by swimming away

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sovereign Dreams

Anti-aircraft guns guarding the sky of Leningrad

Saturday night, we had our first dream about the Empire. The Imperial Sovereign was alone in a city under siege, on an anonymous war torn world far from Altair III.  Evasion and misdirection were the only means to survive until evacuation - for almost certainly, a rescue ship will eventually arrive. (If not, we have the seeds for a very gritty "politics-and-small arms" campaign.) These congeries of Aspects, with arbitrary line breaks, relate the experience and share a bit more of the history of the Empire. 

Sovereign Dreams In A City Under Siege

Not everything had fallen yet:
The great hotels 
In the City Center of that 
Forlorn T -2 world

Still stood

Lights still on
Up here
Unlike the soldiered 
Streets below
And the battered slums
That surround the City
Besieged by tyrants, factions, armed rats
From the west

They had marched here for Us
Wanted to strike a bargain
And win the Empire's favor
Through force

What could we do?
Just visitors here
So far from Home

No comet-scarred Third
No Krellic Fourth
No Eagle King or
Plastic educator here
To devise a winning 

Our strategy, then:

Stay hidden
Take no messages
Treat with no one
No deals
No fighting

Seclusion only
Like the Sovereigns 
Of Old 
(When was this, anyway?)

In this grand hotel
Still standing

A floor to Ourselves
Just room service
A few lean Red Men
Violet eyes hidden 
Behind dark shades
War harness 
Under olive 

Thus we stay, and
Through our seclusion
To the Middle Sovereigns
Be True

(The Middle Utmost
safely ruling from sealed palaces
spun deep into future times, 
their towers only now appearing
in this late age) 

In seclusion
We await evacuation 
From above

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Fate Of The Nodens: A Weird Adventures Campaign Seed

The H.M.S. Nodens

"'What rough beast slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?' - or in this case towards The City to be moored? Early risers in the Castle Park and the Financial District greeted the dawn with an uncanny surprise: the appearance of the Royal Empire's long lost dreadnought, the H.M.S. Nodens, sitting a bit to the south of The City's great harbor.

"Once again, dear readers, The City Confidential has the scoop. 

"One of the greatest mysteries of the Great War was the fate of the H.M.S. Nodens. The Neptune-class Royal Dreadnought set sail to confront the Hun and engaged the foe in the battle of Judderland. 

"Serious naval buffs will recall that the Hun's barbaric Kriegsmarine used horrific munitions in the battle: acid fog shells, amorphing artillery, and thaumaturgical explosives pitted and twisted flesh, and warped metal, while setting the seas aboil. 

"After the battle rumors circled for months in both the Admiralty and the Kriegsmarine that the furious battle had awakened hungry dreamers from the depths. Many of the sailors and officers who survived Judderland reported that a host of abominations swirled between the vessels, skimming the slick of blood, chum, and oil at the surface, and sending probing eyes and tentacles into portholes and onto decks seeking charred and twisted flesh.

"The Nodens bore the brunt of the Hun's attack. The vessel was last seen blanketed by a nimbus of noisome yellow billowing clouds. The Hunnish papers crowed that the Kriegsmarine's unnatural hail of fire had rechristened the ship the "Noxins". When the cloud lifted, there was no sign of the Nodens.

"But now it has appeared in view of The City harbor, under tow from two stalwart tugs. Observers saw no signs of life on the vessel, but in a press conference today by Mr. Carl and Mr. Fredrick Staberinde, Rookend's ever-youthful, fraternal industrialist powerhouse duo, the plan was revealed.

"'Staberinde Industries found the Nodens and has claimed it in concordance with deep sea salvage law' Mr. Carl Staberinde declared. 'We have purchased a few blocks of Castle Park, which we will soon dub Battery Park' Mr. Fredrick Staberinde continued. 

"'Once the vessel has been thoroughly searched, repaired and restored to pristine condition' Mr. Carl Staberinde declared,'Battery Park will become the Nodens' new home. By day, it will be a living museum to the memory of the Great War. By night,its searchlights and batteries will maintain a constant vigil protecting the city from incursions by sea devils and newts' completed brother Fredrick.

"The City Confidential has learned that Staberinde Industries will be hiring a number of specialists - naval veterans, steel workers, plumbers, scientists, nurses and medics to complete the restoration and readying of the vessel for it's new home in Battery Park."
-The City Confidential Daily, Today's Front Page Story

This is of course a campaign seed for Trey Causey's Weird Adventures pulp RPG setting. The PCs would be specialists investigating what happened to the Nodens, and helping ready the dreadnought for its future role as museum cum fortification protecting The City's southern tip.  The idea came to me after reading Iain M. Banks' Use of Weapons, but Dungeon of Signs' HMS Apollyon campaign structure was an inspiration as well.