Sunday, October 6, 2019


This post is for the GLOG Mech Challenge thundering around its small corner of the OSR Discord. Other pilots are: Lexi at A Blasted, Cratered Land, Ancalagon the Black at Of Slugs and Silver, Micah at Nuclear Haruspex, Princess in Yellow at Words for Yellow, rtx at Octarine Tinted, Vulnavia at The Lovely Dark, Skerples at Coins and Scrolls, and Gorinich at their blog.


Six pilots. One for each sense: sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, and proprioception.

See the chairs: five in a circle, resplendent with tapered helmets and grooved handholds, round a column thickly veined with glimmering, twitching tubes, cycling eutectic fluids through shallow trenches surrounding each helmet. You must strip and put on a bodysuit before the chair will open for you, unfolding curvaceous metallic petals designed to cradle your reclining form while stifling the agony and spasms of neural feedback.

One chair, separate from the rest, open to the interior. No petals here, simply an unassuming morass of silvery restraints. You must be bound by helping hands if you wish to helm the ezcocotli.

Once the pilots are cushioned and bound, trigger the starting sequence, fingers dancing over armchair embedded haptic sensors and eyes flickering through tracking sequences designed to ease the brain into releasing its grip on individuality. The corpus will shudder under you, dim impulses racing though neurons and trailing their way down the corestem, calling out to the organs, rousing systems from their slumber.

The five columnar cradles will gently film over, but the sixth will gyrate to an erect position while the cranium fills with a cerulean fluid, and the propriocept will dissolve into the liquid. The solution, now a deep emerald, will drain from the cranium and begin cycling through the helmets of the Senses. Simultaneously, a threadlike needle thrusts into five brains, seeking engorged grey matter exclusive to k'ix.

At this point, all pilots (except the sixth) must Save versus a respective stat. Mutations do not impose disadvantage on this Save, but Insanities or powerful magic (curses, etc) do. Take each stat a Sense saved against and compile them. Those stats are now the operational stats of the Ezcocotli.

Sight - Intelligence
Hearing - Will
Taste - Strength
Smell - Constitution
Touch - Dexterity

All Saves passed: The ezcocotli achieves perfect sync. All abilities are available, and estimated operation time before irrevocable brain damage is 6d10 minutes.
4/5 Saves passed: The corpus is operational, but suffers from a sensory Drift. The abilities granted by perfect sync and the failed Sense are nonfunctional. Roll on the Drift table to determine what effects plague the deployment. Operational time 5d8 minutes.
3/5 Saves passed: The ezcocotli is functional, but suffers from a Drift, and the abilities granted by the failed Senses are unavailable. Operational time 4d6 minutes.
2/5 Saves passed: Warning lights flash as slivers of ice withdraw from your brain. The propriocept must Save versus Will to reincorporate. Reactivation can be attempted with a different arrangement of pilots once. If the second time fails, those pilots can never sync with that ezcocotli again.
1/5 Saves passed or less: The corpus quakes as uncoordinated signals spider throughout its system. All pilots must Save or die seizing, iridescent spittle flecking from their lips as torrents of foreign signals unwrinkle their brains. The propriocept is trapped in the system until another successful activation is completed.*

Sensory Drift (1d6)

  1. Synesthesia. When exposed to significant sensory input, another unrelated sense is triggered.
  2. Dyspraxia. Save vs Will each round or always go last in initiative order.
  3. Congenital analgesia. The ezcocotli cannot feel pain. It will still take damage, but that damage is unknown to the PC's. They'll figure it out when reduced to 0 HP.
  4. Photosensitive seizures. Save vs Con when exposed to scintillating/bright lights or collapse for 1d4 rounds.
  5. Input loss. The ezcocotli doesn't have access to the failed Senses and associated abilities.
  6. Alien hand syndrome. One arm performs its own actions. Roll reaction to see how it responds to any encounter. 

Ariel Perez

Base Rules for Ezcocotli Piloting:
Everything is scaled up by 6 from a regular humanoid perspective. Each round of combat is 6 rounds longer, damage from an ezcocotli to a smaller target is multiplied by 6, and any damage an ezcocotli takes from something smaller than itself is divided by 6. Each inventory slot filled with armor ignores 6 damage from small sources. Improvise details based on this guideline as necessary.

Since each normal combat round takes 10 seconds, a round of ezcocotli combat is a minute. Plan well when piloting. You won't have much time.

From the pilots perspectives, combat and spells function normally, and things that regular humanoids can't normally harm (like large buildings) now have HD of their own.

For every minute that the ezcocotli is active, it loses 1 hit point. At the beginning of every minute beyond normal operational time, all pilots gain 1 point of Will. This ability score damage is permanent.

Hit points are equal to the combined Stress maximums of each pilot minus any Stress the pilots may be carrying.

A quick reminder of how my Stress score works: it's (20 - [Will score]) / 2. A PC with 10 will has a Stress maximum of 5, while a PC with 12 Will has a Stress maximum of 4. If a pilot with a Stress maximum of 5 currently has 3 Stress, they only contribute 2 HP to the activated ezcocotli.

When HP is reduced to zero, a random pilot (never the propriocept) must Save versus their own Will. If they succeed, they desync and gain 1d4 stress. If they fail, they desync, and they gain Stress equal to the damage of the triggering attack (which may trigger additional saves). When a pilot desyncs, the ezcocotli loses access to that Sense and corresponding abilities, and suffers from a Sensory Drift if necessary.

If the number of synced Senses is reduced to 2 or less, the ezcocotli shuts down.* All synced pilots must Save versus their own Will, desyncing and gaining 1d4 Stress on a success, and gaining Stress equal to the last damage taken on a failure. The propriocept must then Save versus their Will to reincorporate, remaining in the system on a failure.

During a normal system shutdown (which takes 1 round out of combat with at least 1 HP), all the pilots disengage normally, except the propriocept, who must Save vs their Will. On a success, they reincorporate normally with 1d4 Stress. On a failure, they reincorporate with 1d4 mental inventory slots stolen from another player and 1d4 Stress.

Regardless of the shutdown circumstances, each pilot who participated in a deployment cannot pilot an ezcocotli again until they finish a long rest.

Most Sense abilites take a round to use.

If the propriocept has any class templates, the excocotli gains access to those features. Remember, all effects (except for time) are scaled up by 6: 6 times the range, 6 times the damage to humanoid size creatures, etc.

The corpus vary in size. Most are about 200 feet tall. All are bipedal. They move with the laboring tread of weary travelers.

Ezcocotli Types:

Pilot advice paragraph:
Some powers only work with sunlight or starlight. Pilots cannot use the same power twice in a row.
Sense powers exist as options for pilots, not the only things ezcocotli can do. The propriocept has access to all their class templates and abilities. Corpus deal 6x damage to humanoids and humanoids deal 1/6 damage to the corpus, but ezcocotli deal normal damage to each other.

Shambling, slope-shouldered giant with luminous yellow eyes and huge plates of greenish, rusted metal draped over its body. As it walks, black dust flakes from its joints. It carries a large stone net speckled with barnacles and dried seaweed over one shoulder.

Stat Alterations:
-2 to Str and Con, +2 to Dex

Sense Abilities:
Sight - Can see through large bodies of liquid, even in total darkness, and can melt into mist and emerge from any water sources that it can see big enough for it to crawl out of.
Hearing - The Tlaloque can produce a thunderclap loud enough to extinguish fires and crinkle concrete by snapping its fingers. (d6 damage)
Taste - Can drink an unlimited amount of liquid and regurgitate it as a high pressure stream full of muck and fish.
Smell - Can filter all creatures out of all water within sight by dragging its net through the water.
Touch - Lightning blasts out of the sky, coils its way down the Tlaloque's arm, and leaps at what the ezcocotli is pointing at. (d4 damage to Tlaloque, 2d6 to enemy ezcocotli)

Perfect Sync:
The net separates into a bunch of floating stone chunks that slowly orbit the Tlaloque. The chunks can be mentally directed to create long strands that can wrap around creatures (even noncorporeal ones), grab things, whips, etc.

Its physical form is defined by a lack of substance, but the many grey, frost-encrusted bands wrapping around something hint at a bony, puckered form with unnatural joints. Its head is encased in a single flawless sphere of obsidian, and its claws are jagged voids in space.

Stat Alterations:
-2 to Will and Dex, +2 to Con.

Sense Abilities:
Sight - Wherever the Tzitzimitl focuses (treat as human sight arc), other creatures cannot see. Its range of vision is broken by solid objects, the horizon line, or magical light. Ezcocotli may Save vs Con with disadvantage to see normally each round. In addition, the Tzizimitl can see in all directions under the night sky.
Hearing - Any sound the Tzitzimitl makes or hears can be redirected to emerge from another location it can see.
Taste - Any shadow cast by the Tzitzimitl can become a void. It can reverse the polarity of the void if it chooses, causing any consumed objects to spill out. Things that do not die in the void become strange. Ezcocotli will fall in if they fail a Save vs Dex.
Smell - The Tzitzimitl can inhale and suck up all the nearby air. The atmosphere comes back in 1d4 rounds, but takes time to leak into enclosed spaces. Ezcocotli do not need air.
Touch - Under starlight, anything the Tzitzimitl touches with ill intent ceases to exist. Ezcocotli take normal damage. (d8 damage)

Perfect Sync:
At night, the Tzitzimitl can teleport to any area touched by starlight.

Centzon Totochtin
A portly, enormous shape wearing a tight, wrinkled yellow jumpsuit streaked with garish green and blue stripes. Occasionally, massive tufts of crusty hair erupt from rifts. It has a huge, green-stained clay vase tucked underneath one arm, and huge ears sticking out of a skeletal head encased in glass.

Stat Alterations:
-2 to Con and Str, +2 to Will.

Sense Abilities:
Sight - Whenever sunlight reflects off the skull, it bounces a rainbow of colors on the surrounding area. Creatures the colors wash over suffer associated emotions a la Green Lantern.
Hearing - The Totochtin begins shuffling, beating on its vase and tapping its massive feet. Save vs Will or dance with it for 1d4 rounds.
Taste - The Totochtin throws the contents of its vase on something. Any creature the milky fluid touches (including ezcocotli) must Save vs Str or hallucinate a field of flowers, upon which rabbit skins cavort, fuck, and drink dust from bottle stumps. Lasts for 1d4 rounds.
Smell - Any creature close enough to smell the Totochtin must Save vs Int (ezcocotli save with advantage) or begin to hear a nonstop voice chattering in their head, alternating between tinkling jokes, screaming in despair, and a deep chanting voice overlaid with a cacophony of heartbeats. This drowns out normal hearing. Gain 1 Stress for every minute spent listening to this drivel.
Touch - If the Totochtin caresses a dead creature, that thing turns into a gargantuan, drooling rabbit with bloodshot, human eyes. (4 HP on the ezcocotli scale, bites for 1d4 damage.)

Perfect Sync:
The Totochtin takes a huge swig from the vase (somehow) and sprays it in the air. Everyone within sight range (including ezcocotli) must Save vs Con or become blackout drunk for 1d4 rounds. This ability can only be used once per deployment. Roll on the below table to see what happened!

What's Happening? (1d6)

  1. Ezcocotli are doing a breakneck tap routine in sync which has shaken 1d4 surrounding buildings down.
  2. Totochtin sitting cross-legged on the ground, picking up corpses from a massive pile, kissing them, and placing them on the ground as they turn into rabbits. 2d6 huge rabbits are cavorting around its feet.
  3. Orgies! Orgies everywhere! 
  4. The Totochtin is lying on its back across a couple buildings, unconscious, with a huge gash across its chest revealing fungus-matted hair and a large crack in its glassy skull. Your ezcocotli has lost 2d6 HP. 
  6. You awakens to blackness. You have a very large vase on your head. Before you can take it off, something thwacks you hard. Save vs Str with disadvantage or fall over.

A bulbous iridescent blue creature with spindly legs and arms crisscrossed in blackened rubber. It is slathered with a clear gel, and wears a massive golden helmet from the nose up. Its mouth yawns with slack lips and multitudinous slender teeth.

Stat Alterations:
-2 to Int and Dex, +2 to Str and Con

Sense Abilities:
Sight - The Cueyatl can focus on an object. That object is slathered in incredibly slick, foul smelling grease which causes seizing death to any human sized creatures that touch it. (1d4 damage to ezcocotli)
Hearing - Creatures that hear the Cueyatl croak must Save vs Int or go into a murderous frenzy for 1d4 rounds.
Taste - The Cueyatl can lick something and leave behind corrosive, tarlike saliva that turns into expanding foam when exposed to water. (Saliva/foam 2d4 damage to ezcocotli)
Smell - The Cueyatl can regurgitate a huge pile of decomposing matter. It can eat this stuff to regain 1d4 HP/round eating.
Touch - When the Cueyatl touches an ezcocotli, the target must Save vs Str at the start of 1d4 rounds or be paralyzed for that round.

Perfect Sync:
If the Cueyatl takes a huge bite out of something and spends a round digesting, it gains a beneficial mutation based on the qualities what it ate. All gained mutations last until the end of the deployment.

This list is by no means exhaustive.

Sheng Lam

Design Notes:
All these mechs are based off of mythological creatures from Aztec mythology. The abilities are hopefully useful as tools - some ezcocotli have a different set of powers than others. I'm pretty confident that any party could find a good use for each ezcocotli.

I know the majority of mech systems feature details on armor plating, energy costs, hard points, and size categories. I have absolutely no interest in creating and balancing a system like that. In my mind, the emphasis of piloting an ezcocotli should be on the players. Skerples, of course, has already done this, but I like to think mine is a convergent evolution.

The energy source for these things is your PC's sanity. If you step into the mech with a horrible fixation on cornhusk dolls, you may enter a downward spiral and eventually end up gnawing your legs off in a dark corner, giggling about braids and bean eyes. These things require stable meat to function. The cancerous, partially ossified brain tissue of a wizard is just perfect for this.

There's no dramatic death and dismemberment table. I don't think I need one. It's not the ezcocotli that takes the damage, it's the PC's. Besides, any good combat will have these massive creatures wreaking absolute hell on whatever landscape they fight in. Be sure to narrate screaming, fleeing crowds, numb, freshly orphaned children, bloody paste among crushed concrete, and the like. In my games, the PC's usually end up protecting people through their actions, so a lot of these creatures have collateral damage abilities to create a tension between "incapacitate the hideous monster" and "rescue the trapped children from face-melting acid".

The reason I used a x6 scale is because I want to be able to create a sense of pressure. Deployments are short. Get the job done. Also, since my combat rounds are 10 seconds, I could create a scenario where PC's struggle to accomplish a task around two fighting ezcocotli or attempt to hinder one before it does something horrible while a friendly one boots up.

Additionally, very powerful spells (3 MD and up), artillery, and strategic building demolition will have an effect on these things. Not enough to kill it (unless that deployment really has shit HP), but enough to tempt ezcocotli into spending a turn annihilating something.

I do indeed know that there are 7 senses. (Balance, proprioception, touch, smell, sight, hearing, and taste.) I chose 6 because I wanted to include one pilot for every stat I have and create an additional way to customize each mech.

While you can't alter the abilities of your ezcocotli (or can you?), each party can create a different playstyle depending on the class abilities of the propriocept, how many Sense saves they pass to activate the corpus, and the PC - Sense pairs. I feel comfortable with this level of customization - each deployment will be very different. If your party doesn't have 6 PC's, snag a couple of NPC's. It won't change too much because the group runs the mech anyway.

To my current players: don't read any further. Here be spoilers!

Sheng Lam is awesome
Alright. Remember the asterisks from before? Go back and take a look at the sentences they mark.

Each asterisk details a case in which the ezcocotli has a 25% chance of waking up from its horrible temporal-spatial lobotomy, ripping off its entropic shackles, purging the cryptosemantic slave-patterns from its causality, and going completely fucking insane. All the terror of an angry god's rampage without any hope of salvation (unless another piloted ezcocotli is in the area hehehehehe.) If an ezcocotli gains its freedom with pilots inside, its consciousness will drive them insane or the cradles will flood their brains with a chemical designed to induce quick death. Either way, those PC's are gone.

If you're a dick like me, don't be upfront about this danger. Hint at it, but keep it a surprise. Don't tell my players.

Enjoy these blood vessels (ezcocotli translated), and go read the other mech rules!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Lakamha: A City of Tables

Occasionally, when the madness seizes us, the denizens of the GLOG Ghetto decide to spew forth ramblings on a specific topic. A challenge, if you will. It usually percolates through the assorted blogs like honey, reaching some more slowly than others. Here's my hat toss for the city challenge, with a bunch of tables that I recently used over the course of three sessions in my ongoing GLOG campaign. 

Lakamha, or "Big Water", is a large Mayan metropolis so named for the myriad aqueducts coursing and crisscrossing the hill the city slopes down, bringing sheets of white water from the rainy mountains. If the Incans gain control of the water management system, they can stop the flow of water to lower, outlying agricultural demesnes, triggering a chain of surrenders that will cascade all the way to the coast, cutting off the unconquered western edge of the Yucatan from Triple Alliance supplies and reinforcements.

If you're playing in my campaign, I'd ask you not to look at the tables below because I'm probably going to reuse parts of them. The one table you really shouldn't peep at is the Loot! table. 

Alexander Skold

Main Objective: Extract an Triple Alliance Incan infiltrator - with important information - from a neighborhood under attack. 
Other Objectives:
- Map a clear path for evacuees to reach the camp. 
- Kill Incan scouts and soldiers. 
You have 9 ticks before the building is cut off from our forces. Each time-significant encounter/detour takes a tick to resolve, and might prompt a roll for another random encounter. It takes 7 ticks to get to the building by the straightest route.

Encounter tables (1d8)
  1. Environment
  2. People
  3. Friendly
  4. Hostile
  5. Hostile
  6. Mixed
  7. Mixed
  8. Mixed
Mixed encounters - roll to get 2 other encounters that aren’t Mixed and combine. Examples below.
  1. Medical tent for wounded run by Inca - 4 soldiers on patrol, 1d4 Mayan wounded, 1d4 Mexica wounded, 2 Incan doctors. Loot!
  2. 2d4 Incan soldiers removing wounded Mayans from a collapsed building, giving them first aid, and putting them on stretchers. Loot!
  3. 2d4 Incan soldiers with 1d4 unarmed prisoners, escorting prisoners to Incan camps
  4. 1d4 unarmed civilians, one is a spy who will set next encounter to hostile ambush
Environment encounters (1d4)
  1. Burst water main - provides fresh water, but forces you to go around. Add a tick.
  2. Collapsing building! Dex save to avoid rubble, on failure, take 1d2 damage and have to scramble over or around it. Add a tick.
  3. Functioning car with seating for 4 - will shorten distance by 1d2 ticks before running out of fuel. If shot at, breaks down after 10 damage (75% chance) or explodes for 1d4 damage (25%) chance.
  4. Abandoned shop
    1. Abandoned open-air market - 50% chance of ambush by a hostile encounter. Otherwise, can scavenge 1d4 rations of fresh food
    2. Children’s toys shop  - has usable solution-powered gadgets and solution
    3. Rubber shop - outfits for disguise and 
    4. Doctor’s - scavenge medical kit with 1d4 uses (2d4 with Medicine skill)
    5. Pottery store - bowls/cups, kilns, dangerous chemicals
    6. Calendrist - accurate timekeeping materials, predictions, omens

People encounters (1d8)
  1. 1d4 armed Mayans holed up at a chokepoint, armed with rifles and 1 grenade. Intensely paranoid of all “foreign soldiers”, if convinced to help, will hold the point as long as possible.
  2. Fleeing crowd - Str save to avoid taking 1d2 damage and being pushed back a tick.
  3. 2d4 unarmed civilians, if helped, give 8 rounds of pistol (evens)/rifle (odds) ammo.
  4. Priest of Tlaloc praying at a fountain. If convinced to evacuate, will sense party’s location through water and advise them through water.
  5. 1d4 civilians carrying wounded or dead, if helped, will give clotting factor.
  6. 1d4 unarmed civilians, one is a spy who will set next encounter to hostile ambush
  7. 2d6 civilians trapped on higher floors of a burning building. If saved, give the party an introduction to a noble family.
  8. 1d4 civilians attempting to extricate a trapped kid with a wounded parent inside a collapsed building. If helped, give party access to important infrastructure

Friendly encounters (1d8)
  1. 1d4 Triple Alliance soldiers escorting 2d6 refugees to safety. If directed to avoid obstacles, earn services of random shopkeeper
  2. 4 soldiers resting in a building, 3 wounded, 1 on patrol. If helped, provide info on hidden arms cache.
  3. Ambush set by 1d6 friendly soldiers. When defused, give info on movements of enemy patrol
  4. Temporary command post set up by Triple Alliance/Mayan soldiers. Refill on 1d4 rounds of ammo, one slot of special equipment, choose next encounter from 1d4 options
  5. Wounded Mayan officer from a slaughtered division with important information which gives hints to the next random encounter. If helped, will get back to headquarters and the party gets a favor from the Mayan military hierarchy.
  6. Ome of Xipe Totec with an attendant, looking for people to be healed/put to peace.
  7. Ome of Tezcatlipoca, can provide a charm allowing for concealment
  8. Special auxiliary separated from group (50%) or only survivor (50%). If directed to safe location, owes party a favor/can introduce them to a group.
    1. Wizard (roll to generate which one)
    2. Radiomancer
    3. Biomancer
    4. Rubberist
    5. Berzerker
    6. Ome (roll to generate which one)
    7. Veteran
Hostile encounters (1d6/8) (1d8 is for when they get close)
  1. Artillery barrage
    1. Tear gas - 40’ radius, visibility 10 feet, dissipates in 6 rounds. Save vs Con or be blinded and coughing. Effects persist 1 round after exposure ends. Visible white cloud.
    2. Atlacoya’s Kiss - 40’ radius, dissipates in an hour in sunlight after 1d6 hours. Save or gain 1 Exhaustion from dehydration every round of exposure. When mixed with water and exposed to light, the water evaporates. Visible blue cloud. 
    3. Qaparqachay - 1000’ radius, dissipates in 2d4 hours. Emits a loud, wavering cacophony, making sleep impossible. Save or gain 1 Stress/hour when audible. Within 100’, Save or be deafened.
    4. Tracer round - 10’ radius, Save vs Con or be blinded for 1d4 rounds. Enemies will converge on this position in 2d6 rounds.
  2. 4 Incan soldiers, either on patrol (evens) or waiting in ambush (odds). Loot!
  3. Incan command post - contains 2d6 soldiers and a captain along with a mobile telegraph station. The captain knows where the tank is heading. 3 things of Loot!
  4. 1 TIA warlock with 3 Incan soldiers on patrol. Loot!
  5. 2 Incan soldiers carrying 2 more wounded with 1 soldier on patrol. Loot!
  6. Incan medical post guarded by 4 soldiers, with 2 medics attending to 1d4 wounded Incans. 2 things of Loot!
  7. Sniper, holed up at the top of a building, kills a visible target (evens) or misses party (odds) on first shot. Loot!
  8. Tank, rolling through the streets. Main gun deals 4d6 damage in a 20’ radius but takes a round to reload, machine gun deals 2d8 damage. Rolls at 20’/round. Cannot be damaged by small arms.

Loot! (1d6)
1. Grenade
    1. Frag nade - 2d8 damage in 10’ radius, half in 20’ radius, save for half (Cover grants advantage), 1 action before detonation
    2. Flash nade - Save vs Con if looking at the nade or be blinded, Save to end at start of round, cover means automatic pass, 1 actions before detonation
    3. Smoke nade - Emits dense smoke that reduces visibility to zero in a 20’ radius for 1d4 rounds, instant detonation
2. Flare gun with 1 colored flare loaded
    1. Yellow flare - call for reinforcements/evacuation, which arrive in a tick.
    2. Blue flare - call for artillery strike, which arrives on that location in 2d4 rounds.
3. Quipu with coded information
    1. Info on Incan infiltrator
    2. Specifics on future (evens) or present (odds) assault
    3. Location of shop which is a front for an Incan weapon cache
    4. Details of special mission the quipu’s owner was sent on
4. Ornamental object
    1. Small engraved gold shotglass
    2. Patterned blanket denoting native ayullu
    3. Tintype of the soldier’s family (evens) or partner (odds)
    4. Checkerboard ceramic bowl with red lip
5. Small silver animal
    1. Alpaca
    2. Condor
    3. Guinea pig
    4. Tapir
6. Magical objects/drugs
    1. Inti quipu - if thrown over back, wearer becomes invisible for one tick in direct sunlight. Recharges when left in darkness for a day.
    2. Ayawaska powder - if inhaled, thrown in eyes, or eaten, Save vs Con or have a seizure/hallucinate for 1d4 rounds. 50% chance to get a glimpse of the future. If mixed into water and drunk, Save vs Con. On a success, see a round of future (evens) or past (odds). On a failure, shit yourself. Add one Stress until you change your pants.
    3. Coca rocks - if crushed and snorted, remove one point of Exhaustion and can skip lunch without ill effects, advantage on initiative rolls for a tick.
    4. Black ceramic flask - can store 1 inventory slot of stuff for every day exposed to direct sunlight, subtracting one slot a day without sunlight exposure. Wide enough to fit a hand inside. Starts at 1d4 slots.
Design Notes:
These tables worked pretty well introducing situations and obstacles for the party to bypass/push through. The best part was definitely when I rolled an artillery barrage and a tank at the same time while the party was already motoring along in a car. They eventually took over and commandeered the tank, reducing the pilots into a potpourri of meat mush. 
The best situations came up when I mixed two situations together, because then I created a scene for the party to interact with, events that had their own dynamic and motion even before the party intervened. 
Since all of this material was generated as necessary to simulate the impression of a city, whenever I had to specify where the party could shelter from hostiles, I improvised shops. I need to make a building generator, complete with unique contents for each type of building. 
The "tick" timekeeping mechanism is a time abstraction. Very loosely, each tick is supposed to represent a unit of time in my in-game timekeeping system, which is still thoughts rattling in the corners of my cranium. It worked pretty well with the table to create a sense of tension on the way to the extraction.
Since the generator could blossom into several nesting dice rolls, I started to roll before I needed an encounter and built up a slight block of scenarios. That reduced the mystery of the table slightly but gave me a leg up on segueing smoothly between scenes. 
I think that each encounter should have a lasting effect on the PC's. These effects could be HP loss, insanity, death, loot, or favors, but the PC's should carry something away from each encounter. Otherwise, why did it happen?
Loot and wounds are an obvious thing to gain from hostile encounters, but what can be gained from friendly and environmental encounters? Consumables (or consumable expenditures, but those should be reserved mostly for hostile encounters), intangibles like information (both pertaining to the immediate situation/possible encounters, to later scenes, and to important NPC's), favors from all sorts of groups, access to otherwise unreachable locales, and direct assistance. 
I did absolutely no sort of table balancing. I largely operated on "do I have enough options to roll at least 1d4? Okay, good."
Speaking of balancing, I decided to have a d8 decide the frequency of encounters instead of using a huge table so that I could scale the weight of different scenarios. I could've just condensed all the possible encounters into a huge table, to reduce the number of rolls, but for a quick prep, just staffing the different tables with ideas and then using a dice to moderate the type was faster. This format leads to slower generation at the table, but offers more opportunities to tinker with the encounter tables as separate gears rather than as one behemoth.

These are not the last tables - my campaign is going to be centered in this city for some time, so expect more tables as they're created and used. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

Dwarves Dwarfs Dwarii

I think dwarfs very underappreciated. Here are some stereotypes I see around dwarfs I'd like to refute.

Dwarves are Boring
Dwarves are awesome. Do you know the heat conductivity of basalt in lava or how to safely handle ghost encrusted uranium ore? No? What about the magnetite-petrolate slimes that attract and then dissolve all metals and organics they get their pseudopods on, and ignite as a defense mechanism? What about the current motions of the local fault lines that are the only things keeping that vein of fossil vampires buried and hibernating?
When dwarves talk to you, they are being nice. They are keeping things relatable and attempting to remember the last 50 years of your history. If they are off by 5 years who cares? This dwarf is the only thing standing between you and some insane undead warchasses with corrupted memetic kill-pattern phosphorescent ablative carapaces that cause schizophrenic murder personalities to emerge in those who see them. His grandad locked them in an airtight adamant-lined room and he's switching out the locks. Fucking elves and their toys.

Dwarves are Drunkards
Dwarves are not drunkards. They are patient and their livers are incredible. Dwarven livers can be blown up like goddamn balloons half the size of the dwarf it came from. They have had thousands of years to perfect the art of underground mushroom hops and by god it shows in their ale. Dwarven ale to beer lovers is like oatmeal to chocolate bourbon pecan pie. One of these makes the other taste bad.
Dwarven livers store concentrations of alcohol so high that strings made out of preserved dwarven liver act as great ignition fuses for explosives or artillery shells if you can find some of those. The dwarf with you is probably still breaking down her hangover from last Saturday.

Dwarves Have a Beard Fetish
Eoin Colfer already addressed this. Dwarven head and beard hair is not actually hair. It is a large and sensitive series of vibrissae (that stuff that makes walruses so cool looking) that can detect air direction, temperature, and the relative moisture content of air. Vibrissae are extremely sensitive, so any cutting or burning causes tremendous pain. Dwarves tolerate beard grooming because whiskers snagging is unbelievably agonizing.

Dwarves Hate the Outdoors
Dwarves hate uncontrolled variables. It's necessary to know the exact structural stability of a mine to extract the maximum possible ore with the minimum of effort. It's necessary to know if any stray elvish archaotech has permuted the surrounding area. It's necessary to map the entire cave system because demon nests are tenacious and stealthy. The outdoors is a system in constant flux with lots of allergens and dwarven vibrissae get overstimulated. This is why dwarves armor their beards away from the caves and are grumpy.

Dwarves are Greedy
Dwarves understand the exact process needed to get from electrum to gold and silver. They treat the materials involved with the amount of respect they deserve. 99.999% refined gold requires huge quantities of acids, that, when combined, are so powerful they are nicknamed aqua regia (king of water). These huge quantities of acid are used to create equally large quantities of choloroauric acid (acid with dissolved gold) which is also incredibly detrimental to organic material.
You think your chemistry class is hard. Dwarves learn how to do this as part of their education. This creates a distinct appreciation for any well-made item of purified metal or an exquisitely cut gemstone as well as an incredible snobbery for such.

Dwarves Have a Metal Fetish
You're damn right dwarves have a metal fetish. They also have a rock fetish and an engineering fetish. When you live 250+ years, you have to come up with things to do and perfect or go insane.

For example, dwarves like to build things. Go google the Sagrada Familia. It'll be finished in 2026, hopefully.

Dwarves do that....upside down....over a huge underground lake full of giant mantis shrimp and catfish titans.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Plaster and Pulque: Ability Scores + Stress/Corruption

A long, long time ago, in a post far, far away...

I promised a shining beacon of GLOGness, incandescent in its glory, usability, and flavor. Because incandescent beacons aren't built in a day, y'all get two foundational logs from the eventual fire. It's time to meet the scores! And mutations! And insanities!

Dicebound, on Tumblr
And for the record, good and evil aren't ingrained into race.

Roll 3d6 5 times and record the numbers. If the total is above 50, you may reroll all stats. You choose where the numbers are placed. Low numbers are good.

  1. Constitution: Determines your endurance and Corruption. Subtract your Con roll from 20, divide that number by 2 (rounding down), and record the result as your Corruption score.
  2. Dexterity: Determines your unarmored Dodge and initiative. 
  3. Intelligence: Determines how much your mind can hold. Subtract your Int roll from 20 and record that number as your mental inventory slots.
  4. Strength: Determines physical strength, how much you can carry, and sometimes armored Dodge. Subtract your Strength roll from 20 and record that number as the number of Inventory Slots you have.
  5. Will: Determines how much Stress you can take and your force of personality. Subtract your Will roll from 20, divide that number by 2 (rounding down), and record that number as your Stress score.

Ability Score Comments:
My system is rollover, not sum 21. This is literally reverse roll under. Low scores are good, make one roll, if you get over your score, you succeed. Crits on 20, crit fails on 1. (More on that later.)
This GLOG is also modifierless. All situational bonuses have been replaced with advantage and disadvantage, or roughly +4 or -4. My reasoning is +/-4 is a significant bonus, and anything smaller than that can be ignored without affecting gameplay too much. Also, bonuses and penalties much larger than 4 are pretty damn large. Any roll shifted by 4 on a d20 is shifted by  20%, which is significant enough for me.
Players choose where their stats go after rolling their class. This is as much chargen metagaming as I'm comfortable with. Yes, ome (an upcoming Mesoamerican GLOG spellcaster) will want a high Int to store more spells, but every other stat is designed to be equally urgent. In short, I've tried to decouple stats from specific character classes as much as possible to make any character possible with most any stats. I'm firmly in the class/race determines character camp and not the "well I have 18 Int (high stats are bad!) so maybe I'm not a wizard" camp. This isn't remotely like AD&D; I don't care. Please address those critiques to another PO box.
I don't have Constitution affect hit points at all. Any damage taken at 0 HP is added to Con and triggers a roll on the Death and Dismemberment table. If your Con ever reaches 20 or above at 0 HP, your character dies. Characters with lower Con are more resilient on death's door and are better at fighting exhaustion and corruption, which I think is enough for one stat to mandate. Hit points are influenced by class - more on that in another post.
I'm actually quite happy with how I managed Dexterity. Dodge is what a player rolls over to avoid getting hit. It's modified by armor. Players also roll over their Dexterity each round to go before the monsters (I've never trucked with Wisdom as an initiative stat). Simple, and yet effective. Obviously waxes and wanes in importance with how much combat my campaign has, but so far it's working.
Intelligence is much less of a "spellcaster only stat" than it used to be, thanks to the excellent mental inventory rules written up at the Library of Attnam. While it still feels like a spellcaster priority, it's also important for non-casters because it limits how many languages and skills you can have. The emphasis is on having mental inventory be as much of a challenge for brain-centric classes as physical inventory is for martial classes.
Speaking of physical inventory, Strength is quite essential for everybody. The average number of muscular inventory slots is 10, and they fill up quickly. I've never liked differentiating between Str and Dex based armor, and I didn't want to discard Strength as an option for armor because Dex should not affect movement in plate. Dodge can be based off of Str, but only if armor is worn. More on that in another post.
Will is the new stat. It's a redo of Charisma, encompassing all what I thought Charisma covered: namely, force of personality. It borrows a bit from Wisdom but I'd like to think the majority of Wisdom (common sense) gets bundled into Int. Will governs mental fortitude (so Will::Int as Con::Str/Dex, which I find appropriate.) This stat is the most swingy - some of my players have cautiously invested their good scores into it to avoid cracking and insanity, while others have made it their worst stat. As my stress rules undergo testing, time will tell if that was a good thing or a mistake. So far, I haven't laid on the stress, but that'll change.

Kobe Sek

Stress and Corruption:
Every time you experience something beyond the pale, trauma, or are just really tired, Save or gain a point of Stress in a random mental inventory slot. Record each point of Stress with an S by that mental inventory slot. If you place a point of Stress by an occupied mental inventory slot, you have disadvantage when attempting to use whatever’s in the slot. If you ever gain Stress equal to your Stress score, Save with disadvantage against Will or Crack. If you Crack, remove a point of Stress and roll on the table below. If you pass the Save, halve your Stress and roll on the Virtues table below.
If you Crack, after your breakdown, Save versus Will or roll on the Insanities table below. Insanities take up a mental inventory slot until they’re removed, and every time you give in to or suffer from your Insanity, allies who watch it happen gain 1 Stress. If you ever have a number of Insanities equal to your Stress score, you go homicidally insane.
You can remove Stress through telling your story, drinking, doing drugs, relaxing for a day or more, sex, playing games, chatting with friends, praying, bloodletting, really good food, writing, reading, a good night’s sleep, or anything else the DM okays.
You can remove Insanities through psychiatric treatment, magic, or arcane devices.

d8 Cracks:

  1. Abusive: Why aren't they pulling their weight? For 1d6 rounds when an ally fails an action, they take 1 Stress as you scream obscenities at them.
  2. Blackout: You faint for 1d6 rounds. You can be slapped awake.
  3. Breakdown: You cannot see for tears, nor speak through a sudden stutter. Lasts 1d6 rounds.
  4. Fight-or-Flight: For 1d6 rounds, you either viciously attack the source of Stress, or run away. Your choice.
  5. Hopeless: All is lost. Your despair makes all allies roll with disadvantage for the next round.
  6. Nausea: You gag or vomit for a round, and cannot benefit from Lunch today.
  7. Scream: AAAAAAAAAAAAA for a round. If anyone didn't know you are here, they will now. May provoke a Random Encounter.
  8. Shock: What's happening? Save vs Will once per round, until you succeed you can take no actions.
  9. Berserk. (Only ashanti unless otherwise noted.) You fly into an insane rage and attempt to kill everything you can see for 1d6 rounds. 

d8 Virtues:

  1. Confidence: You will prevail. You deal +1 damage until the end of the encounter.
  2. Courage: There is nothing to fear but fear itself. You are immune to fear and Stress until the end of the encounter.
  3. Focused: Suddenly, a moment of inner peace. You have advantage on your next roll.
  4. Inspiring: Your unwavering resolve emboldens your allies. They may all roll a new Save against one of their current afflictions.
  5. Invincible: You must persevere. You postpone death from Wounds and all Insanity effects until the end of the encounter.
  6. Selfless: You are all in this together. You may redirect an attack from an ally to yourself until the end of the encounter.
  7. Stalwart: None shall pass. You cannot be moved, knocked prone or tripped until the end of the encounter.
  8. Vigorous: You feel more alive than ever before. Heal 1d6 HP.

d20 Insanities:

  1. Addiction: You need your fix to get through the day. If you don't get your drug, you automatically Crack every time you gain Stress, in addition to any withdrawal effects.
  2. Amnesia: Roll d10 on your mental inventory and lose whatever is in the slot you rolled. If you roll an empty slot, that slot is permanently filled with Brain Damage.
  3. Anxiety: You are a nervous wreck. You have disadvantage on Saves vs Fear and all fear effects have double duration for you.
  4. Catatonic: You are completely unresponsive until you can be brought back to town and nursed back to your senses over an extended rest.
  5. Delusion: Roll d6: 1) You are the long-lost heir of the throne. 2) You can fly. 3) You will burn in sunlight. 4) You are of a different race / an animal. 5) You are invincible. 6) All magic is inherently bad. You cannot be convinced otherwise and rationalise any evidence as an illusion, trick, or any barely believable "explanation".
  6. Depression: Every day is a struggle. Roll with disadvantage until the first time you succeed on a roll in a given day.
  7. Hallucinations: The GM might sometimes describe something incorrectly or in a misleading way to you.
  8. Insight: When encountering a thing beyond human comprehension, you have a 50% chance of gaining a useful piece of information, and a 50% chance of trying to claw your eyes out, taking 1d6 damage and blinding yourself for 1d6 rounds.
  9. Minor Compulsion: Once per day when the GM calls for it, you must stop everything else to satisfy your compulsion (wash your hands, count your money, vandalise something). Good roleplaying of the compulsion should prevent the GM from using this at too troublesome times.
  10. Major Compulsion: Once per week when the GM calls for it, you must stop everything else to satisfy your compulsion (kleptomania, necrophilia, cannibalism). Good roleplaying of the compulsion should prevent the GM from using this at too troublesome times.
  11. Nightmares: Save each night or wake up screaming, gaining only half the effects of rest. Alcohol or opiates may grant you serene sleep.
  12. Obsession: You become obsessed with a random person and start following them around. You "love" them. If you don't see them for a day, you automatically Crack every time you gain Stress.
  13. Paranoia: No one counts as an ally to you. You must Save to accept aid or work in a team.
  14. Phobia: You have a phobia based on what caused this insanity (or roll a random one if this does not make sense). Gain 1 Stress when you encounter something that triggers your phobia.
  15. Quirks: You have personality quirks. Severe ones. Roll d8: You 1) talk to yourself, 2) laugh wildly and inappropriately, 3) constantly fidget, 4) eat odd substances, 5) mimic those around you, 6) have irritating tics, 7) stutter, 8) suffer tremors. You take a penalty to Reaction rolls and social checks equal to current Stress.
  16. Sadism: You are brutal and violent. Every time you kill a creature, everyone in sight takes 1 Stress as you revel in the suffering.
  17. Schizophrenia: Make a new character sheet with a different class, but the same name, race, attributes etc. Each session, alternate between these two character sheets.
  18. Self-Mutilation: Every time you would take Stress, you can instead take 1d6 damage. If you take no damage for a whole day, you must hurt yourself for 1d6 damage. You are covered in scars.
  19. Submission: You are seriously aroused by being ordered around. You must Save not to follow a command and may want to seek out someone who will abuse you and treat you like their slave.
  20. Veracity: Every time you deliberately lie, Save or faint.
Chris Bourassa, from Darkest Dungeon

Every time you fail a Save against a harmful magic spell, a radioactive place/item, or antediluvian, mysterious devices, you gain a point(s) of Corruption. Record this with a C next to a physical inventory slot of your choice. If you ever gain Corruption equal to or above your Corr score, Save versus Con or gain a mutation and 2 points of Stress. (Follow the link and roll on the table.) Mutations take up one physical inventory slot permanently. If you ever gain a number of mutations equal to your Corruption, Save versus Will or go homicidally insane, permanently.
You can remove Corruption (and mutations) through magical treatment, special items, and mysterious rituals. Corruption disappears naturally at a rate of one point a week.

Stress/Corruption Design Notes:
The Stress rules were taken directly from Library of Attnam's post on madness mechanics inspired by Darkest Dungeon. They haven't gotten much testing yet, but they're designed to interact with mental and physical inventory in meaningful ways, making both inventory and Stress/Corruption more tangible, associated mechanics rather than just another thing to track. The inspiration for associating S/C with inventory slots comes from DIY & Dragons's excellent series on resource management. Please please please read those posts. I'll touch on them more when I discuss mental and physical inventory and their contents.
Corruption utilizes Arnold K's mutation table. Eventually I'll write my own. Sometime. I promise. Pinky swear.
Corruption's designed to make magic and eldritch locales a larger threat, and to make gaining mutations more player facing. I want Corruption and Stress to have a creeping sense of inevitability, and for the players to be seeking out solutions for them before the effects hit. I also like corruption better as a damage type than "magic", "eldritch", or "anathema", because that word describes the immediate effects of its damage. It corrupts you. Magic is corrupting.
Stress is supposed to show the non-physical damages of the adventuring life, how grinding terror and periodic adrenaline rushes accelerate the gradual erosion of self and sanity. Large dungeons will stress you out, and they will drive you insane if you stay in them long enough.
Mutations and Insanities are supposed to be mostly permanent character baggage. They both cut off inventory slots, thereby depriving players of resources. They both affect roleplaying and how a character is mechanically utilized. My tieflings roll a random beneficial mutation, and one player's spider legs have made a lot of difference. 
These strong negative factors can also be cured back at town/during downtime, making those activities more important. If you emerge from the Spiraling Oubliette of the Plutonium Tecuhtli with four Mutations and two Insanities, you bet your tentacle-ridden ass you're gonna spend that hard earned, slightly radioactive gold on some treatments for your bulging, mucous, saggy armpit that takes up an inventory slot and leaks a highly corrosive fluid when punctured or chafed and is delicious when you lick it.
Stress also disadvantages use of a skill, language, or spell, which can be huge. All the more reason to keep it down and drink the demons back into the closet. Drugs and alcohol can remove Stress so bring along that hip flask and drink after every combat encounter.
Managing when to ask for Stress saves is the most delicate balancing point of these systems. Corruption has pretty hard-coded triggers, but deciding if an event is normally stressful or Stressful has been difficult. I've been softer on my players because this is my first GLOG game, but that's going to change. We haven't had anyone crack yet, but we will soon. And the Stress rules are designed to mimic the Darkest Dungeon mechanics - stress compounds, and it can lead an entire party into a negative death spiral.
Perhaps the most fiddly math in chargen is generating S/C scores.
[Subtract your Con roll from 20, divide that number by 2 (rounding down), and record the result as your Corruption score. Subtract your Will roll from 20, divide that number by 2 (rounding down), and record that number as your Stress score.]
It's not intuitive to any D&D veteran, but it works well as a mechanic. If S/C were simply inverses (20-stat) of Will and Con, I'd need to pile on the Stress and Corruption points to see any physical effects or simply have effects trigger at certain thresholds of S/C. I didn't want to mess with that, so I scaled S/C scores down to make each point feel meaningful without making each one its own stat. If S/C were stats, because they're the inverse of inverse scores, they'd have to be roll-under stats, and that's anathema to a completely roll-over system. Again, it's not elegant math, but as ability scores improve, so do S/C, just more slowly.

More to come on skills, mental/physical inventory, hit points, leveling up, and general class notes. I'm going to unpack my GLOG hack because a lot of design decisions made to create clear, player facing rules can be anything but, and because my GLOG is a very different animal. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

More Ways to Get Sick!

Base Rules:
When you contract a disease, whether from the environment, an enemy, or spoiled food, it infects a random slot of inventory (never a slot with mutations, usually a physical slot). Put a D by the infected slot. You know when you’re infected with something, just not what unless you've had that disease before.
Each interval, make a Constitution save or the number of slots that disease takes up doubles (eg: 1->2->4->8), infecting random slots not infected with the same disease. If the disease ever infects an inventory slot that has something in it, you suffer its Symptoms, and if it infects all your slots without killing you, you must Save vs Con or die unless otherwise specified. If you’re infected by more than one disease, use the symptoms for the worse one.
You can stave off the worst effects of a disease, its spread, or even reverse the progress of some diseases by giving in to the disease’s Urges. (You don't have to follow a disease's Urge, you'll just want to.)
 If the disease can be reversed, you can make a Con save to reverse it one Interval after you've succeeded on a Con save to stop its spread.
Some diseases are infectious. Some are not. Infectious diseases are spread by close proximity (3 in 6 chance per day), by combat (2 in 6, 4 in 6 if you killed a diseased creature) and are always spread by contact.
Diseases can be cured by magic, medicine, downtime, and very rarely exorcism. Some of them have no cure.

This post pairs deliciously, like fine cheese and wine - no, more like blood and mosquitoes - with Lexi's Plaguezerker, as part of a sick collaboration! Disease names also courtesy of Lexi!

Katerina Kirillova


1. The Plague (Interval: Daily, Inventory: Physical, Infectious)
Symptoms: Large black buboes, chills, weakness,, and gangrene of the extremities. Save vs Con with a penalty equal to the number of slots infected or die in 1d4 days.

2. Malaria (Interval: Weekly, Inventory: Physical, Infections)
Symptoms: Fever, Save vs Con when you eat or vomit up food, Save vs Con after intense exertion or have muscle spasms.

3. Smallpox (Interval: Daily, Inventory: Physical, Infectious)
Symptoms: High fever, pustules all over the body, hard coughing. Save vs Con or die in 2d4 days.

4. Leprosy (Interval: Weekly, Inventory: Physical)
Symptoms: Gradual numbness in affected areas, skin rash. Save vs Con or lose 1d4 digits, exploding on a 4. If you’re out of digits, you start losing limbs. Does not kill.

5. Rabies (Interval: Weekly, Inventory: Physical)
Symptoms: No immediate symptoms. Save vs Con or die in 1d4 weeks. A week before death, you become murderously aggressive, infectious, and develop a fear of water, refusing to drink.

6. Cholera (Interval: Exploration Turn, Inventory: Physical, Infectious)
Symptoms: Immediate, unstoppable diarrhea. If you can’t get clean water, you die in 1d4 hours. Reversible.
Urge: Drink water and rest to avoid getting sicker. 2 rations worth of water an hour to prevent the spread, 4 rations of water an hour allows you to make Con saves to reverse the spread with advantage.

7. Influenza (Interval: Daily, Inventory: Physical, Infectious)
Symptoms: Fever, chills, soreness, fatigue, sneezing, runny nose. Reversable.
Urge: Rest to avoid getting sicker. If you rest uninterrupted for 1d4 days, you may make Con saves to reverse the spread with advantage.

8. Tuberculosis (Interval: Weekly, Inventory: Physical)
Symptoms: Roll a d10 every Interval. On a 1, you become infectious, die in 1d4 weeks, and until then, you cough bloody phlegm.

9. Ebola (Interval: Daily, Inventory: Physical, Infectious)
Symptoms: Exactly like influenza. Save vs Con or die in 1d8 days, bleeding heavily from your orifices in the last day.

10. Prions (Interval: Monthly, Inventory: Flip a coin. Mental on heads, Physical on tails.)
Symptoms: 1d6 random symptoms. (see table below) Save vs Death or die in 1d4 weeks.

11. Mummy Rot (Interval: Daily, Inventory: Physical)
Symptoms: Skin darkens and peels away in papery strips. Dust falls from joints. Save vs Con or lose 1 limb a day until you die.
Urge: Obey a mummy’s direct orders.

12. Cordyceps (Interval: Daily, Inventory: Physical, Infectious)
Symptoms: A fungal growth begins to emerge from a random facial orifice, growing upwards. Save vs Con or die in 1d4 hours.
Urge: Find large gatherings of people. Take dead flesh and stack it into spiraling piles and twisted lines. Babble.

13. Contagious Murder (Interval: Daily, Inventory: Mental, Infectious)
Symptoms: You begin envisioning your comrade’s most likely form of death in the next day. Save vs Will or kill them, spreading the disease to all who witness you kill them.

14. Magepox (Interval: Daily, Inventory: Mental, Infectious)
Symptoms: Your skin begins to dry out and painfully separate into paper-thin layers very suitable to be torn off and written on. If you die, you collapse into a mess resembling a large pile of discolored paper.
Urge: Peel off your flaking skin. Anyone who touches the skin or reads what you write on it must Save vs Con or contract Magepox.

15. Goblin Plague (Interval: Exploration Turn, Inventory: Physical, Infectious)
Symptoms: Goblins are drawn to you, 1 goblin for every slot infected. If you’re a goblin, look over here.  Not lethal.

16. Red Death (Interval: Minute, Inventory: Physical, Infectious)
Symptoms: You bleed from all orifices for 1 damage per slot infected/combat round. Incredibly lethal, incredibly rare. Almost never natural.

17. Vampirism (Interval: Daily, Inventory: Physical, Infectious)
Symptoms: You take 1d4 damage when exposed to sunlight per combat round, silver and consecrated weapons deal critical damage to you, you cast no shadow and no reflection, and you can turn into a small rat, bat, or toad. You can eat anything but can only survive off blood. 1 regular person has 4 rations of blood in them. If someone gives you permission to feed, you can do it without infecting them for 1d4 damage. This disease does not kill you.
Urge: Drink blood whenever possible. If you ever take this blood without asking, you can turn into a wolf and merge with darkness, but you can no longer cross running water or enter a home without being invited in.

18. Eyeball Spores (Interval: Daily, Inventory: Mental)
Symptoms: Your eyeballs slowly divide like cells. (1 division/day) This is incredibly painful and gives you a cumulative -1 to anything involving sight for every eyeball that buds off you. These eyeballs have small tentacles to crawl away and will eventually grow into beholders with a strange tolerance for you. This disease is not lethal.

19. Sanity (Interval: Daily, Inventory: Both)
Symptoms: You gradually begin to hear the words of people playing a game. It’s easy enough to ignore, but what they’re talking about is eerily similar to whatever you’re doing, and listening to them automatically progresses the disease one stage but allows you to get insights into the world. When you’re fully infected, Save vs Will. If you fail, you go stark raving mad. If you succeed, you become an NPC who’s conveniently forgotten what they heard.

20. Goldipox (Interval: Weekly, Inventory: Physical)
Symptoms: Any money on your person degrades one step: gold to silver, silver to copper, copper to dirt. Offloading degraded money onto others infects them.
Urge: Get your hands on as much money as possible. If you ever collect 1000 gold coins or one flawless diamond, those items turn into dirt, but you’re cured.

Monica Delgado

Random Symptoms

1. Fever
2. Chills
3. Shaking
4. Uncontrollable laughter
5. Mild bleeding from orifices
6. Headache
7. Fatigue
8. Sneezing
9. Diarrhea
10. Vomiting
11. Sore throat
12. Compulsion
13. Phobia
14. Philia
15. Itching
16. Rash
17. Licking lips
18. Jaundice
19. Bruising
20. Weird pee

Design Notes:
Three goals here. One was to create impactful rules, which is why the common cold isn't on this list, and why the duration for almost all of these diseases is daily. The duration between "getting worse" is geared towards a party crawling through a dungeon or hexcrawling through the wilderness. Obviously, with campaigns that have longer time measurements, (e.g: if one day was one exploration turn) these diseases are more lethal. Feel free to scale anything about the effects and durations that you want, that's supposed to be flexible.
Another goal was to bolt disease onto an already existing system instead of creating a completely disassociated system. By linking disease to physical inventory, I'm trying to create another reason to track inventory. If carrying all that loot makes you sicker, (or at least feel the effects of your sickness) will you chance it, or will you dump it in exchange for survival? 
Another goal was to do disease without linking it to ability score damage. I suppose it's because players are bad at keeping track of penalties, but the same argument can be made against my system. I'd like to argue that having disease as a concrete inventory "infection" instead of "you have syphilis, make 1 save a day" places it more in the players minds. If you have a high score, are you really going to miss one or two points? Well, yes, but only in situations where those points could've made a difference. Unless a disease does a lot of ability score damage, sometimes its effects can be easy to forget when you have to keep track of loot, hirelings, light, spells, HP, and other party members! But if disease is directly linked to loot, which is gold, which is XP, then your players have a reason to care.
I also think that different symptoms help differentiate a disease in a way more interesting than math.
The inventory argument only holds up as long as inventory matters, which I think it should. If you run games without good inventory systems (5e comes to mind) or don't like inventory (which is fine) ability score damage may work better for you. But for a more OSR mindset, where what you're carrying and how much you can carry matters, I think disease should be tangible, infectious, and scary.
Disease also gives some weight to downtime. Most players use it to recover from wounds, buy things/gain XP from spending money, and the like. But having disease recovery as a viable option gives downtime a bit more purpose, even if that purpose is just removing a negative condition. 
Don't forget to infect hirelings and pack animals too. Animals are plague vectors.
This also gives a different cast to things that remove disease or cure all diseases. If progression is important to a mechanic, anything that instantly solves that mechanic, ignoring its usual progression, should be at least rare.  I'd advise modifying spells that cure diseases into spells that give a saving throw to halt or reverse a disease's progression.
I considered including mechanics to cure disease in this post but most of those were either a long list of "X thing that requires money/exploration/time to find" or "here's another subsystem!" My recommendation is adapting any subsystem you have for preparing food to preparing cures. Just requires different ingredients. I'll probably write my own, but for now I wanted to focus on presenting a challenge. Y'all solve challenges in OSR games, right?

Monday, July 29, 2019

P&P: Rails and Slime - Session 3

Find the previous chapter here!

The cast:
Skitters the tiefling thief.
Ixcuina the tiefling radiomancer.
Werd the human soldier.
Itzapal the ashanti veteran.
Ton, the NPC ashanti soldier.
Tot, the NPC berkins soldier.
Huehue, the NPC ashanti soldier.

The setting: A train bound for the urban battleground of Palenque, a Mayan city. The train consists of 7 cars (from front to back): The conductor/engine, 3 troop transports, 1 officer's quarters, and 2 cargo cars at the end. Conductor's car is #1, the first troop transport #2, etc.

After performing a crude pseudoautopsy on a tridog that might not have been completely dead, the gang decided to split up. Skitters, Werd, and Itzapal went to investigate the top of the engine. After climbing atop the cars, Skitters noted that the wind had picked up considerably. The gang pried open the emergency hatch, noting some resistance from some unidentified goop caking the hatch.

Meanwhile, Ix suggested that the strange tridogs should probably be moved out of a potential engagement. A captain agreed and ordered several soldiers to carry the tridogs to the cargo cars, and out the tridogs went. Ix then located the small wizard who soaked him earlier, and asked for assistance. The child came along willingly, and revealed that they had splashed him with a defoliant earlier because Ix looked green. Ix remained noncommittal.

The gang, with Ix and the child watching from the second car, opened the hatch. As they did so, they rapped on the surface of the train...and something tapped back, matching the intensity of the impacts. When they opened the hatch, they discovered the conductor's hand still affixed to the controls. Unfortunately, those hands trailed off into glistening streaks of slime that wound their way towards the back of the train, where a large, amorphous mass pulsed. Iz and Werd tapped their rifles on the side of the train to distract various grubs meandering about inside. Skitters reached down with his rifle and knocked the controls to half speed.

Ix asks the child what they can do. The kid says they can alter their shape and make potions obey them, adding an ominous comment about an "accident". Ix sighs and asks what happened, and the child narrates how they accidentally turned their brother into a fish monster while playing with a ball.

A moment of silence.

Ix hears some gunshots towards the back of the train.

Iztapal, Skitters, and Werd pull out all their available lantern fuel and, with the help of some twine and rope, lash the flasks into a large bundle, planning to swing the lit bundle through the opened hatch and smash it against the ceiling. Skitters dangles the makeshift molotov off the side of the train, gently swinging it back and forth to build up momentum, and then lobs the smoking bundle neatly into the hatch, where it smashes against the ceiling with a tinkling noise. A blaze of light erupts from the hatch and the party hears a greasy crackling noise that smells like dog bacon.

Itzapal descends and rallies the loud, uncoordinated soldiers in the car, making a stirring speech and outlining a plan of action.

Except nobody volunteers to help her.

The captain then mentions that hazard pay is awarded for especially dangerous combat activities, and people start talking. Some lots are drawn, and three soldiers present themselves to Itzapal: Tot, a timid berkins, Ton, a bulky ashanti, and Huehue, a voluble ashanti, Ton's sister. Iz sends off a couple soldiers (with approval of the captain) to investigate the gunshots. The soldiers return and report that the captain's quarters are locked and unresponsive.

Itzapal files the information away for later and organizes her volunteers into a firing line. She gives a signal, and the transport's door is flung open. Directly ahead, a thing pulses behind a milky, obscured window.


The window shatters -

"Soldier down! Soldier down!"

- and Itzapal collapses to the ground, stone dead courtesy of massive internal hemorrhaging from her old wounds. Everyone gasps, and her body is quickly moved to the side. Her nonexistent pulse is taken, and almost everyone hushes as her death is announced.

While his comrade drops dead, Ixcuina takes advantage of the shattered window and peers into the engine. A thing like knotted, fleshy ropes with moist orifices adorns the front of the entire engine, with purple grubs crawling in and out of the orifices. It leaks a runny, pink goop from multiple perforations, and Ix takes advantage of its wounded state, draining electrons from a nearby lantern and firing a concentrated blast at the tangled mass, critically dazing it.

Skitters takes advantage of the stun, wrapping a bedroll over the pulsating thing and tearing it off the engine with some meaty snaps. He hoists it up through the emergency hatch, and before it recovers, tosses it off the train. The quivering bundle hits the ground with a thud and unceremoniously rolls to a stop, quickly disappearing in the distance.

Skitters hears a familiar skriii-kreeeeee noise and scampers away from the grubs moving towards him, back to safety. The excitement ended with the party discussing the shocking loss of a comrade.

Tune in soon for Session 4! (Which has already happened. I just need to write it up.)

Well, so much for testing the Veteran class. Apparently any chance of instant death the first time Wound Dice are invoked is enough for the (now fired) dice bot to murder a PC. I would say it worked well, but maybe I need to account for the 1.53% chance that any Veteran player will die instantly when invoking their most important class ability. Sigh. Maybe someone else will die and try their hand at the class responsible for 100% of PC deaths so far.
Ixcuina got lucky with his spell because the fleshy thing, despite having no visible light-sensing organs, nonetheless critically failed its save. His luck probably won't hold forever.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Warlock Patron: Tawantinsuyu Imperial Armories

By Inti and Inca Mancoti, you will bring light to these rich, fertile lands. Your light is glorious, blinding, and brief, but while it burns, how wondrous! Soldiers will fear the golden sun on your breast, shells and bullets will strike off you harmlessly, and you will wreak havoc.

Blind and blast! For Sun and Emperor!

Warlock Patron:
Tawantinsuyu Imperial Armories

Anthony Jones

Main warlock rules here. This warlock is dedicated to Lexi, as thanks for everything she's helped me with.

Starting equipment: A pair of darkened glasses, a beaten gold cup, a spyglass, and a quipu.

Boon: 5 in 6 chance to ignore damage from friendly fire. Self-damage does not count. If unsure, flip a coin. Occasionally, when you touch metal, it flashes.

Convert ammunition types to different types - cartridges to bullets, artillery shells to bullets, etc - once a day. Can only do this for ammo you’ve used before.
Set off very flammable materials (oil, gunpowder, alcohol, dry tinder, etc) with a touch.
Dry and oil a metal object by running your hands over it.

Goals: Win conflicts for the holder of your contract, ideally the Tawantinsuyu Imperial Armories. Contract expires upon your permanent death or helping your contract holder to win 5 wars, whichever is sooner.

Obligations (1d8):
Kill 3 x [Debt] enemy creatures.
Assassinate [Debt] enemy commanders.
Ferret out [Debt] enemy agents.
Recover 2 x [Debt] taken weapons or equivalent objects.
Capture 3 x [Debt] war prisoners.
Destroy [Debt] enemy fortifications.
Rescue 2 x [Debt] captives.
Help [Debt] operatives infiltrate enemy territory.

Sparks Off Cloaks
R: 0 T: [dice] creatures D: [sum]/target attacks
If an attack would damage you and it was faster than a thrown rock, step the damage dice down [dice] sizes. Step the damage dice of attacks slower than a thrown rock up [dice] sizes. If you cast this spell with 3 or more dice, you may reflect [dice] attacks faster than a thrown rock back at their origin.

R: [dice] x 30’ T: explosive material D: [dice] rounds
With a gesture, you can either set off or defuse [dice] or less explosives that you can see. If you Test versus Dex, you can set off or defuse fast-moving explosives.

Ferrous Charmer
R: [dice] x 20’ T: ferrous metal D: [sum] rounds
You can attract or repel metal. See the table below for the size and speed of metal you can affect.

1 dice: Knife size at walking speed.
2 dice: Torso at running speed.
3 dice: Human running as fast as a horse.
4 dice: Cart blurring with motion. Can warp the paths of bullets.

Blast Wave
R: 200’ T: 20’ radius D: 0
Objects and people take [sum] damage. For every hard, immovable surface the blast wave overlaps, add [size] to the spell’s damage.

Shape Metal
R: touch T: metallic substance D: variable
You can mold refined metal that you touch like wet clay, sculpting it to your satisfaction. The changes last for [sum] rounds with 1 [dice], [sum] minutes with 2 [dice], [sum] hours with 3 [dice], and are permanent with 4 [dice].

Organs to Grenades
R: touch T: Fresh corpse with [dice] or less HD D: [sum] minutes
You convert [dice] organs of a fresh corpse (no older than [dice] days) into explosives. When you throw the meat nades, you may either set them to detonate on impact or detonate after [dice] or less rounds. Creatures in the radius of the explosives may Save vs Con for half damage.
Hand/foot: 1d4 damage, 10 ft. radius
Arm/leg: 2d4 damage, 20 ft. radius
Eye: 1 damage, 5 ft. Can see through the eyes of one damaged creature for the duration of the spell.
Ear: 1 damage, 5 ft. Can hear through the ears of one damaged creature for the duration.
Tongue: 1 damage, 5 ft, can talk with one damaged creature’s tongue for the duration.
Head: Deals 1d6 Stress damage, those who take full damage from the blast gain the contents of 1 random mental inventory slot from the head.

R: 100’ T: [dice] creatures D: [dice] minutes
Creatures you can see that can see sunlight must Save or rush towards it, staying in the sunlight for the duration of the spell. If 4 [dice] are invested, the duration is days instead of minutes. If there is no sunlight visible, the spell fails.

Blood to Gunpowder
R: touch T: unclotted blood D: permanent
You touch up to [dice] buckets of fresh blood from a creature with [dice] or less HD and convert it to dry gunpowder. If this blood is in an open wound, the creature must Save vs Con with advantage or take [sum] damage as its blood turns into gunpowder.

Metal to Light
R: touch T: metallic substance D: [dice] hours
As you hold some metal, you convert part of it to light. This subtracts half an inventory slot per hour from the metallic object. The brightness depends on the [dice] invested: 1 [dice] for a candle, 2 [dice] for a torch, 3 [dice] for a bonfire, and 4 [dice] for daylight brightness. Alternatively, if you cast this spell with 4 [dice], you may choose to instead turn light into metal.
Casting this spell with certain metals has different effects: gold produces sunlight, silver moonlight, mercury a poisonous grey light, occultum octarine light, etc.

Compartmentalize Mixture*
R: touch T: object D: 1hr
Command a mixture of items (a soup, a pile of coins) that weigh no more than [dice]x100lbs to separate into [sum]+1 categories. The separation is slow, and hindered by even the slightest effort. The categories must be clearly defined and identifiable by inspection. For example, you could split a soup into "vegetables" "broth" and "poison", or a pile of coins into "minted during the last century" and "older". You could not, however, split a pile of coins into "handled by Xerphion the Tyrant" and "not handled by Xerphion the Tyrant", as there's no way to tell just by inspecting them. You could not separate "a locked chest" and "its contents", because the items could not flow freely into separate piles.

Teleport to Shooter
R: self T: self D: 0
You may trigger this spell upon taking projectile or firearm damage from a creature trying to kill you. The damage from that attack is reduced by [dice] x 2 and you teleport to a safe spot within [dice] x 10’ of the attacking creature. If you can see your attacker, you can choose where you teleport to.

Solar Flare
R: self T: creatures D: [dice] rounds
Creatures that can see you must Save vs Dex or be blinded by a flash of sunlight.

Gaze of Inti
R: sight T: [dice] creatures in sunlight D: varies
When you cast this spell, roll all your Credit Dice, and note the time of day and the number of 4’s you roll, and consult the table below. If you roll four 4’s and you cast this spell at noon, for 4 rounds, you achieve perfection.

Creatures lose [number of 4’s] levels of exhaustion.
Creatures must Save vs Con. If they fail, they take [# of 4’s] x [dice] damage. If they pass, they gain [# of 4’s] MD that last as long as they stay in sunlight.
Creatures lose up to [# of 4’s] x [dice] HP, which go to creatures of your choice. Save for half.

* - spell from Skerples's excellent List of 100 Orthodox Spells.

Patron’s Gift: If you are killed by an explosion you cause, note how many HD of sentient creatures (except yourself) were killed by that specific explosion. Then roll a d20. If you roll under the number of HD recorded, you return to life intact (if blown apart) and in the nearest safe location.

Design Notes:
These spells are pretty powerful, but also somewhat situational. Lots of them require objects or input to activate, and depending on your campaign world/technology level, not all of these spells are useful. For wizards running around a battlefield, though, any one of these spells could be a lifesaver...or could mean you die in a fiery explosion. Your obligations are also quite lethal.
My favorite spell that I’ve created here is perhaps Teleport to Shooter because of how many uses it has with foes and friends and how wrong it can go. Teleporting into a fortified enemy position with a bleeding wound is always a good idea.
Organs to Grenades sounds like so much fun - I really hope someone uses it soon.
I’m a bit worried about the thematic overlap of these spells - 3 of them have to do with metal, 2 projectiles, and 4 with explosive material (I’m including a favor). I don’t think this warlock is too narrow for my setting, but they certainly will be helpless in a social situation, which is what I intended.
This is also the first warlock patron tailored to my setting! 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Poetry from the Yucatan War

The following two poems address the schism between public opinion and actual experience of the Yucatan Wars currently devastating the Peninsula. Author attributions at the bottom.

Tlachtli Miquini  
(roughly translates as "Ball Court Worthy of Death")

There's a breathless hush in the Court to-night—
Ten to make and the match to win—
A bouncing ball and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last girl in.
And it's not for the sake of a paper coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
But her captain's hand on her shoulder smote
'Play up! play up! and play the game! '

The stones of the city are sodden red,—
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; —
The Gatling's jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And Tikal's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolgirl rallies the ranks:
'Play up! play up! and play the game! '

This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the school is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind—
'Play up! play up! and play the game!

- Recited every tenday by the Agency of War Propaganda from their headquarters in the Excanaltepetl, capitol of the Triple Alliance

Nocuica Atl-Tlachinolli
(roughly translates as "Song of War", taken literally, "Song of Fire-Water")

for my wife

After the storm, after the rain stopped pounding,
We stood in the doorway watching turtles
Swim off lazily across the lagoon’s crest.
We stared through the reed screen,
Our vision altered by the distance
So I thought I saw a mist
Kicked up around their fins when they faded
Like cut-out turtles
Away from us.
The maize was never more blue in that light, more
Scarlet; beyond the pasture
Trees scraped their voices into the wind, branches
Crisscrossed the sky like barbed wire
But you said they were only branches.

Okay. The storm stopped pounding.
I am trying to say this straight: for once
I was sane enough to pause and breathe
Outside my wild plans and after the hard rain
I turned my back on the old curses. I believed
They swung finally away from me ...

But still the branches are wire
And thunder is the pounding mortar,
Still I close my eyes and see the girl
Running from her village, napalm
Stuck to her dress like jelly,
Her hands reaching for the no one
Who waits in waves of heat before her.

So I can keep on living,
So I can stay here beside you,
I try to imagine she runs down the road and wings
Beat inside her until she rises
Above the stinking jungle and her pain
Eases, and your pain, and mine.

But the lie swings back again.
The lie works only as long as it takes to speak
And the girl runs only as far
As the napalm allows
Until her burning tendons and crackling
Muscles draw her up
into that final position

Burning bodies so perfectly assume. Nothing
Can change that; she is burned behind my eyes
And not your good love and not the rain-swept air
And not the jade green
Lagoon unfolding before us can deny it.

- Discovered among the personal effects of Sergeant Tlachinola, sent to his family after a "training accident" with his sidearm.

The first poem is "Vita Lampada", by Sir Henry Newbolt, and the second, "Song of Napalm", by Bruce Weigl.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

P&P: Rails and Slime - Session 2

This was the first game set in my personal GLOG hack, Plaster and Pulque. I finally put together a rough rules document under pressure and it's not horrible, I think? Anyways:

The adventure takes place on a train bound for the urban battleground of Palenque, a Mayan city. The train consists of 7 cars (from front to back): The conductor/engine, 3 troop transports, 1 officer's quarters, and 2 cargo cars at the end. Conductor's car is #1, the first troop transport #2, etc.

The players:
Werd, a human Soldier who is thoroughly paranoid of all things unnatural after the introductory session.
"Skitters", a tiefling Thief with a penchant for investigation. Rolled spider legs as his beneficial mutation. (Skitters isn't his actual name, but I'm using it in place of the player's name.)
Ixcuina Quiahuitl, a tiefling Radiomancer who likes cards. He is a plant. 

The session opened with soldiers gambling, drinking, and completely eschewing their duty, chugging tequila and munching cacao bars with abandon. 

A man walked through the cabin, and the only noticeable thing about that was the other man with the exact same face who followed him a minute later. 

After that, a disheveled captain walked hurriedly into the room, and Skitters noticed his clothes were not entirely put on. Skitters deftly tripped the captain with one of his legs, catching the man and inquiring to his well being. Meanwhile, Ixcuina dodged a flask of tequila spilled in the rush to hide illicit substances from authority. 

Skitters, after being solicitous, took the chance to pick the captain's pocket while the man was distracted by the fresh puddle of tequila. While the captain gathered himself to tear the unfortunate lass a new orifice, one of the same-facers walked in and whispered in the rumpled man's ear. The party caught the words "conductor", "barred", and "unresponsive". 

Same-face and the captain rushed off, and Skitters examined the purloined papers, finding one to be a telegram directing the biological samples acquired by Werd in the intro session to be brought back as a top priority, superseding even the return of personnel. The other paper was simply a manifest of the cargo cars, listing such fascinating items as a mechanized macahuitl, jellied fire-water, and some fast-hardening rubber with special molds. Skitters filed away the papers for later.

Around that time, the second same-face walked back through the train car. Werd and Skitters decided to chat with the captains and observe their reactions. Werd, burdened with normal legs, walked through the train cars while Skitters crawled underneath the cars until he reached the captain's cars and then lurked on the outside, watching through the windows. Ixcuina wandered off to find another wizard.

While observing his superior officers, Skitters saw a slime trail that ran from the cargo hold to the front of the train or vice versa, and after inspecting the trail, determined that it ran from the cargo hold to the engine.

Werd knocked on the door to the captain's quarters and lied to his section's captain about hearing a noise near the cargo hold. She responded by offering him a drink from a flask and drawing her revolver. Werd then chugged some gutrot tequila and went off to investigate the hold with his captain. When the captain's argument resumed, Skitters noticed it had calmed down somewhat, although he noted the field surgeon had joined in.

Werd and Skitters briefly talked on top of the train, and Werd noticed a purple blob atop the train behind the thief. Skitters whipped around and quickly trotted over to the blob, revealing it to be a small wormlike creature with a toe on a segmented tail and fingers poking out from a central orifice. It popped up at him on thin legs and he whacked it off the train with the butt of his rifle. Peeking inside the open window (which was covered in slime) he discovered that the floor was covered in a sticky goop and saw a pulsing thing lurking in the shadows by the engine. The conductor was piloting the train, but his face was slack and unresponsive, lolling on his neck.

A cdkcdkckd-ciii noise erupted in front of Skitters and he saw several more grubs approaching him. The closest on popped up at him, landing on the arm he swung at it with, and proceeded to pull his lips open with its fingers.

Werd entered the cargo bay with the captain. They found the light off and the soldiers assigned to guard the car gone. Lighting a lantern, they began to explore the car until they heard a chittering noise. Panicking, Werd fired once at the shadows atop the cargo crates over his captain's orders. She ordered him to stand down and they retreated from the car back into the captain's quarters to secure backup.

Ixcuina saw a person huddled in a corner playing with a ball of water and noticed Same-Face passing by again. As they brushed by, Ix got splashed with a bit of water, and noticed the previous owner of the water snickering. Suddenly, Same-Face's face began to blur and smoke, and Ix cast Annihilation, cancelling the magical effect. The surprised face of a curly-haired woman was revealed behind the illusion and Ix noticed some soldiers rolling their eyes. Sitting down, Ix discovered that the woman was probably a member of the Smoking Mirror, counterspies devoted to Tezcatlipoca embedded in every regiment. Ix broke out some scrip and started a hand of cards with the soldiers, noticing a new slime trail on the window.

Meanwhile, Skitters decisively whacked the grub off his mouth (and the train) with his rifle. He broke the window he was observing through, which had closed, and tossed a lit lantern through the hole, which shattered, spreading burning oil on the slime-coated floor. The conductor convulsed, and his organs melted out of his skin, crawling away from the fire towards the back of the train. A wave of chirruping arose and Skitters noticed more grubs crawling towards him. One jumped at him and Skitters introduced it to the his rifle's stock. It tumbled off the train, but then ejected its tail with a splorch and grabbed back onto the train's sides. Skitters chose this moment to decamp for safer parts, crawling under the train while noticing that the wind had picked up.

As he crawled underneath, Skitters felt a thumping rhythm from inside the car. The rhythm stopped as he neared its source. A large bone spike erupted with a metallic screech from the floor of the car, narrowly missing him.

As they moved towards the troop cars, Werd and his captain noticed some cooing noises coming from the cars. They opened the door to find the troops clustered around a small creature. It had a segmented tail, an oval torso, and three legs. Its face was doglike, with beautiful eyes and long eyelashes, and it was covered in dark brown fur. Some soldiers were petting it as it nuzzled up to them and arguing over its gender, as its underside was smooth.

Werd decided the thing was probably a threat and asked where it came from. A few people pointed to an empty bucket. (Last session, Werd stored a dead biological sample in a bucket.)  He tried to shoot it, but some soldiers blocked him. The captain ordered them back, and they reluctantly fell into inspection stance. Werd then perforated the small thing with half a clip of bullets. He pulled on some rubber gloves and poked around in the creature's guts, finding that its internals were mostly a semitransparent non-Newtonian fluid very similar to the slime trails.

As he inspected its belly, he discovered that the creature's inside was composed of serrated, segmented bone strips that ran from head to tail all the way around the creature. Its organs were lurid yellows and greens. As he pulled his hands back, he noticed that the goop was slowly moving up his gloves. Choking back a yelp, he quickly shucked the gloves and called for a mop to clean the creature up. Some soldiers went at the corpse with soap and water but only succeeded in smearing the goop around. A soldier successfully scraped the slime off the floor with her dagger and went to wipe it on a rag. Werd stopped her and had her toss the dagger out the window along with the thing's corpse.

Ix, after winning a couple hands of cards, went over to the window and tentatively touched a scrap of old slime, carbon dating it. It appeared to be extremely old and yet very new. He suddenly noticed some soldiers clustering around an object and discovered another small doglike thing. It rubbed up against him and he petted it, deciding to rejoin his companions.

He met Werd poking through the creature's guts and decided to date the fur, which was very young, and confirmed that the fur was dead.

Werd and Ix discussed their next move, and the session ended there.

It was nice to finally use my system. Somehow, people have avoided getting hurt so far. That may change tomorrow. I like how investigative my players are, it's more entertaining than "I shoot everything." Allows for more horror, too. I managed to actually disturb Werd enough to shoot at shadows (he didn't Crack from stress!) so I consider that a plus as a DM.

Tune in next week!

10,000 Chambers of the Cnite King

Deep within the turgid reaches of the Samarkand Desert, a lone crag of withered sandstone presents a visage long scoured by time.  Samuele B...