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

Diseases
(d20):

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
(d20):

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.

"Fire!"

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.)

Notes:
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.

Favors:
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.

Spells:
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.

Preundetonation
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.

Sunlust
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.

Morning:
Creatures lose [number of 4’s] levels of exhaustion.
Noon:
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.
Afternoon:
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.

Notes:
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!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

One Page Setting Primer for P&P

This is something a player of mine and a comment on a previous post both requested. Below I deliver!

Diego Rivera

"Welcome to Requiem. Across the Salinum, the polar expanse of Alkalaquipeg, the blasted deserts of Nishburnaprigal, the fetid swampland of Tennisippa, and the drenched jungles of Chuptagul wrestle and sweat their way through a burgeoning industrial movement and social upheavals.

On our side of the Salinum, Texak, the Comanch, and Fearann Ur feud, bargain, and scrap for possession of the Upper Olmecad. The Triple Alliance stands firm in the heartland of the Mesolmecad, linked by blood, trade, and heritage to the Mayan Confederation, and fights alongside the cities of the Confederation to repel the offensives of Sapa Inka Mancoti of Tawantinsuyu, lord of the Lower Olmecad.

The Long Count rolls over to 12.13.16.0.0 and the war entrenches itself over roughly half the Yucatan. As the Inca spearhead an offensive into the Highlands, Palenque falls under siege. The Confederate railways are strong points of contention as each side strives to deliver troops, materiel, and weapons magical and mechanical, living and dead, into the humid, fern-choked fray.

Politicians in occupied Chichen Itza proclaim the establishment of the 5th part of Tawantinsuyu while Independance forces stage guerilla attacks on Inca strongholds and occupied cities throughout the Lowlands. In the plastered chambers of the Parliament, Mexica agitate for the annexation of remaining Mayan allies to protect their lands while the Mixtec defend the sovereignty of the diminished Mayan Confederacy.

In dry, chill chambers away from the humid noise of Mesol cities, scientists devise and test new ways of reducing humans to raw, steaming meat. To fuel any technological edge, expeditions delve into locations rumored to house elvish ruins throughout Mesolmecad, plunging deep into the war-wracked jungles of Yucatan and traveling to the Chichimec deserts. Beyond the deserts, Texak beats trade routes through Comanch territory with blood, steel, and Aurist devotion, eyeing the fertile lands of the Triple Alliance beyond.

The Red Serpent and Smoking Mirror find and eliminate enemies of the state, and Huitzilopochtli’s congregation swells with ranks of freshly drafted soldiers, shaved and prepared to lay down their lives in defense of foreign cities. Oil is transported by trains and pipes from Tututepec to fuel the war effort while twins, berzerkers, wizards, and believers, among others, are incorporated into traditional army hierarchies for the first time.

This is a time of fire and water, a time of madness in sweltering jungles and calculated outrage in the chambers of Parliament. Guns are drawn and fired in darkened rooms and the light of burning maize fields. Spells are woven over people, artillery, and crops. Oil slides down the eager throat of Mesol foundries and distilleries and out as marvelous objects wrought from metal and plastic. Things long buried are uncovered by grasping hands human, mechanical, and magical. In the midst of war, Mesolmecad thrives, but fissures threaten this growth and obscure clear purpose with smoke and mirrors."

Friday, July 5, 2019

P&P GLOG Class: Soldier

All my previous classes are part of my GLOG hack Plaster & Pulque, based off of preapocalyptic/postapocalyptic Victorian-era Mesoamerica where the Triple Alliance (Aztecs, main focus), Mayan city-states, and Tawantinsuyu (Incan empire) were never conquered or colonized. This is the first class that I feel reflects some specifics of the setting.

Some music to set the mood.
GLOG Class: Soldier

All glory to Lexi, Spwack, and Type1Ninja for reviewing this for me.

A: Barter, Ground Pounder, +1 Attack
B: Training or PFC, Connection, +1 Fighting Style
C: Specialist or Captain, Stoic, Mandate, + 1 Attack,
D: Special Forces or Sergeant, Requisition, +1 Fighting Style

Bartering is second nature to you. You can exchange luxury items (tequila ration, cacao bars/powdered cacao, pulque, tobacco) for other luxury items, rumors, gossip, privileged information, ammunition, drugs, and more instead of using regular currency. You can even trade with people whose language you don’t know or hostile soldiers if you’re a prisoner of war. 

You’re a Ground Pounder. You can ignore up to Soldier [templates] of exhaustion from being encumbered, forced marches, or eating half rations. You can also stand 2 night watches without incurring exhaustion.

Exhaustion Sidebar: You gain exhaustion when undertaking strenuous physical activity without a break (usually a Con Save) or when you’re overencumbered. Each point of exhaustion takes up a slot of physical inventory that you choose without mutations, and if that slot is occupied, you have to get rid of whatever equipment is in that slot or take a cumulative -1 penalty to all rolls involving physical activities. If your number of exhaustion points takes up half your physical inventory, you must Save versus Con or collapse, unable to move until a point of exhaustion is removed. 
A full meal and a good night’s sleep removes all exhaustion.

You’ve caught the attention of someone who wants you to get some Training, if you wish. You may choose or roll one option from the list below. 

Training: (1d8)
  1. Combat Medic: As long as you have your medical satchel on hand, you may remove fatal wounds on a 3 in 6, halt the progress of fever, apply medication to prevent gangrene, and apply painkillers. 
  2. Mechanic: With a toolkit and necessary materials, you can fix damaged or malfunctioning machines (including guns) that you’ve seen before, and if you don’t have the needed materials, you know what they are. You can repair unfamiliar machinery with a 2 in 6 chance. You can also sabotage machinery, creating faults undetectable to casual inspection.
  3. Loader: You can operate and tow a field gun, howitzer, mortar, or cannon along with 3 other people. You can submit a request for special ammunition and have an exquisite pair of binoculars, earplugs, and a rangefinder. 
  4. Demolitionist: You can plant, set off, and defuse familiar explosives, and identify weak points in buildings and fortifications. You can defuse unfamiliar explosives with a 3 in 6. You have a small supply of blasting caps, safety fuses, and 6 sticks of dynamite or 6 gobs of blasting jelly.
  5. Field Engineer: You can direct the building of entrenchments and fortifications, divine rough floor plans of buildings you look at from 2 sides in 3 in 6, spot weaknesses/blind spots in fortifications, and create plans to remedy those blind spots. You have a scratchpad, charcoal, and a slide rule.
  6. Marksman: You have a scoped rifle that reduces penalties for aiming to 1/8th and one clip of sniper rounds along with a special uniform that helps you blend into either urban or jungle combat zones. You can sight for snipers, counter snipe, and divulge the directions of enemy movements or the possible locations of enemy commanders on 2 in 6. You can submit a request for special ammunition.
  7. Experimental: You’ve been assigned to test out experimental military technology/magic.
  8. Arcane: You’re given a rudimentary education in magic. Gain the cantrips and perk of a wizard school of your choice and the ability to detect combat magic like inverted goosebumps.
Experimental Technology (1d8):
  1. Flamethrowers
  2. Grenades (or special explosives)
  3. Guns (submachine guns, special ammunition, etc)
  4. Drugs (meth, regenerative, etc)
  5. Magical gear
  6. Enchantments
  7. Rubber gear or equipment 
  8. Petroleum derivatives
You’ve been promoted to a PFR (private first class, used liberally) and are put in charge of a 5-soldier unit, including yourself, that answers to a captain. You are responsible for your unit’s wellbeing and their behavior, and may give them orders that further your own and do not contradict or obfuscate any orders from higher ups except in extreme circumstances. Your soldiers will use hireling stats unless they’re other PC’s.
Despite your promotion, you don’t have to move any further up the command chain if you don’t want to.

You know a guy who knows a girl who has a Connection, enabling you to buy and sell contraband on black markets. Every time you buy or sell something, make a black mark and roll a d20. If you roll equal to or under the number of black marks you have, military police will show up (almost always in disguise) and investigate. For every week that goes by without you transacting via your Connection, remove a mark gained from your Connection.

Choose a Fighting Style from Mimics and Miscreants. Choose well!

You’re now a Specialist! Improve your Training to the corresponding Specialty if you already have one, choose another Training if you don't want to improve yours, or choose one Training if you don't already have one. You retain all the previous features of your Training unless otherwise noted.

Specialist:
  1. Field Surgeon: You have 2 combat medics to assist you and a portable surgery. When you have access to your surgery and an assistant, you may do anything a combat medic would do, amputate infected limbs, treat severe burns, reattach severed limbs successfully with a 1 in 6, cure gangrenous wounds with a 3 in 6, and remove fatal wounds with a 4 in 6. You can submit a request to use/carry special drugs or substances.
  2. Technician: You can design and construct mechanical devices and divine the function of unfamiliar machines. You can sabotage a machine to break down at a time within a day of your choosing with a 4 in 6 and jury rig a broken machine for one use or 1d6 rounds. You have a mechanic to assist you.
  3. Artillerist: You can operate any sort of artillery with 2 other people and are in charge of your own artillery piece, to be used at your discretion while following orders. You can diagnose malfunctions in artillery and detect unseeable faults in your artillery piece and its ammunition, and have access to special ammunition. With trained loaders, you can repair a damaged artillery piece with 2 in 6.
  4. Demolitions Expert: You oversee the destruction of strategic buildings and fortifications, infrastructure, and sapping efforts. You have 3 demolitionists under your command. You can also estimate the integrity of a damaged building and any weakened parts. You can also detect evidence of sapping operations, direct counter-sapping efforts.
  5. Engineer: You can plan and construct fortifications, buildings, and infrastructure. Additionally, you can identify hidden redoubts, bunkers, and artillery pieces. You have a field engineer to assist you.
  6. Sniper: You gain access to a sniper rifle and can manufacture a ghillie suit (camouflage suit) from surrounding materials while out of combat. You can acquire special ammunition.
  7. Experimental: You’ve survived testing the new innovation; it’s now yours to keep barring significant misconduct. Choose another thing to test!
  8. Arcane: You gain the drawback of the wizard school you chose, 1 MD, and 2 spells from that school. You can activate wizard vision in a 2 in 6 for one turn. 
If you were a PFC or performed an extraordinary feat, you’re promoted to Captain to oversee a team of 20 soldiers: 3 PFC’s, 12 accompanying soldiers, and 5 specializing soldiers to be distributed among your forces as you see fit.  You may give your forces orders that further your own.
If you take this feature but don’t have the PFC requisite, you gain the PFC feature instead.

You're Stoic, and can ignore one compulsion, phobia, and the like resulting from insanities while in an active combat zone. If you’re using this feature, Save versus Will with disadvantage after leaving an active combat zone or immediately suffer a breakdown.

You’re given a Mandate: permission to carry out your orders and preserve the lives of your forces as you see fit. For every time you publicly violate official regulations, disobey orders from higher-ups, or the like, make a black mark and roll a d6. If the d6 is equal to or less than the numbers of marks, your actions are subjected to review and you will be disciplined. If you ever acquire more than 6 black marks, you are subjected to discipline at the earliest possible opportunity.

Disciplinary Results: (1d6, 1d6 + black marks if you’ve acquired more than 6 black marks, including marks from your Connection.)
  1. 1 black mark. Keep track of these.
  2. 2 black marks.
  3. Demotion one rank (Sergeant → Captain, Specialist → Trained, etc. Please note that you don’t lose skills, just equipment and privileges. If you have rank and a Training/Specialty, you lose rank first.)
  4. Demotion one rank and 1 week of menial labor.
  5. Demotion two ranks. 
  6. Demotion one rank and imprisonment for 1d4 weeks.
  7. Demotion one rank and 2d4 weeks spent doing menial labor around the camp.
  8. Demotion two ranks and assigned to a non-combat position (cook, janitor, etc) for 1d6 months.
  9. Demotion to private.
  10. Dishonorable discharge. Lose everything except your skills.
  11. No punishment. Instead, a powerful figure will handwave your punishment and try to blackmail you into aiding their scheme.
  12. Imprisonment for 2d20 20-day months (or 2d12 months if your campaign uses a more Gregorian calendar). Time to plot an escape, prove innocence, or try another character.
  13. (13 and up.) The death penalty, to be carried out in 1d4 days. Escape or last-minute stays are never impossible.
Ryan Meinerding
You’re offered a chance to join a Special Forces team that operates on special assignments alongside friendly forces or alone. Upgrade a Training to a Specialty or choose another Training. You can choose a Soldier with 2 or more soldier templates to accompany you and gain access to special equipment to use on all your missions.

If you were previously a Captain, you’re promoted to Sergeant to oversee 4 captains with all their soldiers and either 4 specialists or 4 auxiliaries of your choice. If you were a PFC and took this feature, you become a Captain.

Auxiliary Forces:
  1. Sanctioned warlocks or wizards (Combat Mages)
  2. Sanctioned believers (Zealots)
  3. Sorcerer
  4. Sanctioned berzerkers
  5. Assassin
  6. Artillerist
  7. Prisoners of war fighting because you’re keeping loved ones hostage
  8. Mercenaries (can really be anything)
In the course of your mission, you may temporarily Requisition soldiers or materiel from lower ranking commanders.

Special ammunition for artillery/guns will be detailed in a separate post along with more complete encumberment/exhaustion/inventory/gun/artillery/etc rules.

Design Notes:
I’ve tried to create a class with a lot of career flexibility - one could either advance up the chain of command, improve individual capabilities and operate on a smaller tactical scale, or a little bit of both. The larger scale domain play (becoming a PFC, captain, and sergeant) requires more abstracted rules for combat to avoid lots of individual nitty-gritty dice rolls; probably lite wargame rules that work on at least 4 scales - individual (sniper duels!), PFC, captain, sergeant, and potentially higher.

This class is designed for maximum replayability. A captain with demolitionist training should feel and play very differently than a sniper with arcane training on a special forces team. Ideally, an entire party composed of soldiers would have a great time, while still feeling distinct from a group of thieves and wizards.

My hack doesn't have a class triad, but the Soldier is one of my Fighter analogues, along with my Veteran. I think there should be oodles of options for Fighterlike classes, to prevent the most interesting point of the class becoming "which weapon should I choose?" 

The Butterfly Effect

In each corp-issued spacer pack, and many of the ripoffs hawked to young vaqueres, there is a small yellow pocket tucked inside a flap. It c...