19 October 2019

Faster Than Light

Unless you want to be rather hard in your cosmic sci-fi game, you will need a spaceship that can zip between star systems. Instead of giving everyone some generic FTL drive, what if each spaceship manufacturer had slightly different engines in their ships? Suddenly new opportunities for shenanigans arise when ships with different advantages and drawbacks compete.

What kind of faster-than-light drive will your spaceship use?
 
Do not give your players a TARDIS,
or they will break your spacetime continuum.

Roll for a base type and then for two drawbacks.

d4 Base Types of FTL Drives
  1. Beam drive dematerializes the spaceship and sends it as a faster-than-light tachyon stream to the destination, where it is rematerialized. This can be considered a type of transmat or teleportation technology.
  2. Hyper drive allows the spaceship to travel through an alternate dimension with more favourable laws of physics, such as higher speed of light, shorter relative distances, or slower passage of time. Of course, hyperspace is a scary place.
  3. Jump drive generates an Einstein-Rosen bridge (a wormhole) that connects the starting and target locations with a shortcut. While the bridges don't tend to stay open for long, sometimes multiple ships may slip through a single wormhole.
  4. Warp drive utilises a space-folding technology to contract the space in front of the spaceship and expand the space behind it, resulting in an apparent faster-than-light travel without actually travelling faster than light.

d20 Drawbacks and Complications
  1. The entry and exit points of each trip are easily detected and impossible to mask.
  2. The engines are still experimental and have a small chance to break down or burn out with each trip.
  3. The external duration of each trip is somewhat random, so it may take days one way, but weeks on the return.
  4. Each trip causes disturbances in local spacetime, so using the drive in orbit would have catastrophic consequences.
  5. The engines require a rare, expensive or limited type of fuel.
  6. The engines require excessive amounts of fuel or energy, enough that only very few trips can be made before refuelling.
  7. The engines require a lengthy cooldown and recharging period between uses, otherwise they might blow up.
  8. Destination must be planned with extremely precise and time-consuming targeting calculations, otherwise you might land in the core of a star, or never arrive at all.
  9. The ship cannot be piloted without the use of precognitive abilities. Non-psychic pilot will get you lost in deep space (and go insane in the process).
  10. The ship can only travel between specific nodes, such as star beacons, locations with weakened spacetime firmament, or through a portal network.
  11. The drive cannot be used within the gravity well of a star. Generally at least several light hours of distance are required to successfully engage it.
  12. The drive can only be engaged at near-light speeds, requiring the ship to first accelerate enough (and decelerate on arrival).
  13. The trip is deadly to a random race or sex for unknown reasons, though this can be circumvented by travelling in cryosleep.
  14. The activation of the drive attracts some kind of space monster. Roll for a special random encounter with every use.
  15. The trip causes mental distress and trauma unless you are unconscious, though pilots often overcome this with space drugs.
  16. The trip causes a period of nausea upon arrival, with some people even blacking out.
  17. The engines are very, very, very large. The spaceship has to be quadruple normal size just to pack them in.
  18. Targeting of the drive is somewhat imprecise, landing you within a few light hours of the destination.
  19. Each trip has a set length (1d20+10 light years), so long journeys are made as a series of smaller trips, while short ones may require a sidestep.
  20. Wow, your drive only has a single drawback! Someone will want to have a look at this advanced technology...

 
How F Is Your FTL?
I've decided to use a rough speed of 1000c (2d100 x 10c) for most FTL travel. This is fast enough that interstellar trips are relatively quick, yet it does not completely undersell the vastness of outer space. A ten light year distance will take around three days of flight, which for me sits comfortably between "space is irrelevant and no obstacle at all" and "not telling the players no, just making it slow enough they will get bored thinking about leaving the star system".

15 October 2019

Bogeymen

This is an expanded bestiary for Abyss of Damned Souls, though you could use the bogeymen in any game.

They used to be human, but they lost so much they could either die or adapt. As their souls and humanity slipped away, they fought and survived and changed. They may be monstrous, but are not necessarily monsters. Their powers might make them more than human - but they are human no more.

Every single one of them is missing something and can never get it back.
 
All images from Doctor Who.
  
d30 Bogeymen
  1. A mummified corpse in a clockwork armour. It's ticking loudly and can step outside of time. It needs someone to rewind its spring, giving up their time in the process.
  2. A woman with no face. With a touch, she removes - and what she removed is gone for good. Mouth or weapon or injury or memory or curse or happiness...
  3. An ancient warrior, a broken sword thrust through his heart. As long as the sword remains there, no weapon can harm him.
  4. Some might mistake it for a flightless dragon, but it's just a bogeyman who devoured so many it grew humongous. It vomits waves of amniotic fluid full of ravenous foetuses.
  5. A child dressed in filthy rags, insects crawling over and inside of its body. It will transform into a biting, stinging swarm when upset.
  6. An old man chain-smoking cheap, stinking cigarettes, with eyes burnt out and ash trailing from his clothes. He breathes smoke, or fire if threatened.
  7. A heavily pregnant woman, her stomach full of child ghosts. She releases them to protect or serve her, and never turns down an offer to consume another child.
  8. Human skin stuffed full of spiders. It lurks in halls covered in cobwebs, climbing faster than a man can run. Its bite leaves boils that later burst into more spiders.
  9. A barely humanoid figure, warped by excessive cancerous growths. Any skin contact will merge your flesh with its, and it will try to grab and assimilate you.
  10. A dancer with hands and feet hacked off, and replaced with long blades. She moves with the speed, lightness and ferocity of a whirlwind, but can never stop moving.
  11. A muscular monster of a man, nails, hooks, spikes and chains embedded in his flesh. He speaks in calm, hushed tone and his chains writhe like living snakes.
  12. An insufficiently dressed girl, pale and hugging her sides and shivering with cold. An eerily numb, tired despair fills your mind. You want to lie down, just for a bit...
  13. A human in constant flux, their features changing with the second. When you look at them directly, they suddenly look like the person you harmed the most.
  14. A statuesque woman, random bits of flesh replaced with black obsidian, her face always impassive. Arms of stone will grasp from the ground around her.
  15. Naked and scarred witch, her long, white hair whirling around her body like a storm of blades and leaving gouges in concrete.
  16. A skinless doctor, her lab coat and surgery tools brown and red with dried blood. She has a small army of sewn skins inflated with toxic gas.
  17. A small child with perpetual, too-wide smile of huge, asymmetrical teeth. It will tell a silly joke and you'll laugh, you won't stop laughing even as it slits your throat.
  18. Twins, a boy and a girl, moving in perfect unison, their features delicate and immaculate. Anything that affects only one of them fades nearly instantly.
  19. A limbless giant burrowing through the earth with impossible ease. His gullet is full of swallowed treasures, and he may vomit some for you if you bring him extraordinary food.
  20. A woman with an armour of rusty plates of metal embedded in her skin. Her fingernails are razor blades. She's excessively polite in conversation and excessively brutal in combat.
  21. A woman with translucent skin, her modesty barely preserved by ingrown corals and sea anemones. Her kiss will turn your flesh to coral.
  22. A drowned woman's body, bloated and rotting, shuffling and moaning, barnacled and gushing with water. She cannot be harmed except by fire.
  23. A man with an iron mask. He chants an endless song and serves gods long gone. As long as you can hear his singing, no magic powers of yours will work.
  24. A normal-looking guy who always talks and never lets anyone touch him. His real body is frozen deep within ice, the eyes and mouth sewn shut.
  25. A brutish woman, morbidly obese and freakishly tall. She will tear off your limbs and feast on your flesh. She wears a burlap sack over her head.
  26. A woman stitched together from ill-fitting body parts and stuffed into a dress suit. She can knit your wounded body, but only takes payment in fresh organs and body parts.
  27. A monster in the darkness. It is never there if you have light and always here when your torch goes out. It giggles and scratches you with broken nails.
  28. A man with screaming faces tattooed on his skin. He will offer secrets and knowledge, if you promise him a favour. He may summon anyone who owes him with just a word.
  29. A skeletal figure in tattered robes. It's falling apart and not long for this world, but the wounds inflicted by its rusty knife never heal.
  30. Royal, proud, diabolic figure. Its clothes are lavish and soiled, its words are wise and venomous. It carries trinkets forged from stolen souls.


So what is a bogeyman?

Take any player character, really. What awaits them in the dungeons? Some may bring back a fortune, but most will loose limbs and minds, mutate and adapt and change to survive. What returns is not a human, but something more monstrous and violent and powerful.

Adventurers are bogeyman.

You know, for a technically kid show,
Doctor Who can be a bit disturbing.

11 October 2019

Abyss of Damned Souls

I submitted an entry to the 200 Word RPG Challenge. It's basically a card-based deck-building RPG.

Sort of.

From here.

It is intended for 1 game master (the Abyss) and 1+ players, and you will need several decks of playing cards.
You're dead.

You got lost and went where all lost things and forgotten places go.

You'll need one suit from a card deck. Take 2-10 and choose one face card.

  • Jack is sneaky.
  • Queen is charming.
  • King is violent.
  • Ace is clever.
This small deck is your soul.

Actions have difficulty determined by the Abyss*. Draw a higher card to succeed. When you draw your face card, you automatically succeed and reshuffle your deck. You may discard extra cards to sum them with an already drawn card, but only if the action corresponds to your face card. Discarded cards are gone forever.

In conflict, opponents draw from their decks and the higher card wins. Winner takes the card of the looser, both discard their card in a draw. When only your face card remains, you fade away.

The Abyss will throw obstacles and monsters** in your way, and reward achievements with inhuman powers.

You'll loose pieces of your soul, then patch the holes with stolen bits of others. Your deck will change, until nothing from you remains.

You'll be a monster.

Damn you,
damn us all.

*) Game-master.
**) Monsters may be customised by the size and value of their deck.

Unlike normally, when I pile fun mechanics together and see what sticks, this game has themes I tried to build the central action resolution mechanics around: power at a price and the slow loss of humanity.

The players will start with a full suit of cards in their deck, and then loose them as they perform big actions or get defeated in combat. They will gain new, different cards from successful combat with monsters, and magical powers when the Abyss is pleased.

I suggest that the Abyss uses distinct decks to build their monsters, so that it becomes obvious how much the players' decks changed. Hopefully, they will notice that there are no true "monsters" in the Abyss, only other lost souls that survived for far too long.

On the right, a newly arrived lost soul.
On the left, one already experienced with the ways of the Abyss.
 
How to make a monster
Separate a deck of cards into number cards and face cards, then shuffle them both. Roll 2d6 and take that many number cards, then add one face card. Have a look at the face card and decide what the monster might be like, what does it want and what kind of magical power it has.

Voila, your random monster.

Very weak monsters might have no face card, turning to flee once they run out of cards. Their deck is reshuffled only once they rest. On the other end of the spectrum, very powerful creatures might have more than one face card.
 
 
Example bestiary

Rats and bats and piranhas and insects
Deck: 3-4-4-5-6-6
There are some diseased, warped animals in the Abyss. They have no face card, so once they run out of cards, they will turn to flee.

Goblin
Deck: 2-2-3-4-5-J
What do you get when you take a human and remove everything positive from them? An undersized, disgusting wretch. It cannot win in a fair fight, so it won't fight fair.

Carver
Deck: 5-6-6-7-7-9-Q
A woman stitched together from ill-fitting body parts and stuffed into a dress suit. She can knit your wounded body, but only takes payment in fresh organs and body parts.

Ogre
Deck: 2-2-7-7-8-8-9-9-10-10-K
A brutish woman, morbidly obese and freakishly tall. She will tear off your limbs and feast on your flesh. She wears a burlap sack over her head.

Summoner
Deck: 10-10-A
A man with screaming faces tattooed on his skin. He will offer secrets and knowledge, if you promise him a favour. He may summon anyone who owes him with just a word.

Grue
Deck: 3-3-3-5-5-5-7-7-7-9-9-9-J
A monster in the darkness. It is never there if you have light and always here when your torch goes out.

Wraith
Deck: 3-4-5-8-K
Skeletal figure in tattered robes. It's falling apart and not long for this world, but the wounds inflicted by its rusty knife never heal.

Demon
Deck: 5-5-6-6-7-7-8-8-9-9-10-10-Q-A
Royal, proud, diabolic figure. Its clothes are lavish and soiled, its words are wise and venomous. It has a trove of artifacts forged from stolen souls.

by apterus

10 October 2019

Light

There was nothing but darkness full of hungry, horrible things.

As they drew ever closer, I screamed in terror: "Let there be light!"

And there was light.