Category Archives: Adventure Sketch

Second Really Wild West Session — After-Action Report (Part Two)

After the first Really Wild West: Doomstone game session After-Action Report, and its Part Two follow-up, numerous people indicated they were excited to keep learning about the campaign as I run it. So, it’s two weeks later, I’ve run another session, and adapted notes taken by my wife Lj (who is playing the fenrin operative bounty hunter named “Sawyer”) as a quick report.

We did Part One yesterday. Here’s Part two. If you don’t recognize a reference, it may (or may not) be in a previous session, or at the updated campaign notes page.

RWW Jerico Pistol

Still Day 4

After recuperating from the fight with monstrous Jerusalem Bugs, the PCs come to a fork in the road. One path leads to the Circle Axe Ranch, the other to the Vicious Hippogriff. There are five people on horses hanging out there, in the middle of the road.

  • When they get close enough, the PCs can see they are cowpokes, the one covered weapons and collar that covers his face, stopping the PCs. They won’t let the PCs pass. Nor will they tell us who they work for (just insisting it’s “the Ranch” without saying which one.)
  • The PCs move away to talk about our options. They glean some information about the cowpoke’s leader. -James “Burning Jack” Byrne,  a gun-for-hire. Wears fire-retardant gear and then covers himself in flammable material. Also, carries dynamite.
  • Burning Jack is clearly crazy.
  • PCs decide to go around, trusting their map and Brone Mallory the half-orc cartographmancer to get them through the badlands. T’ll come back later.

The map indicates that along the route to get to the Circle Axe while avoiding the trail there is–in the middle of nowhere, with no trail or nearby town or even apparent water sources–an inn the PCs can stay at called Tombspider Inn. Skill checks tell the PCs that a Tombspider is spider-based flesh golem construct with built in melee weapons for legs.

  • On the way there they find a ridge that has collapsed about  2 miles shorter than it should be accordign to the otherwise VERY recent and accurate map. Earthquake?

Tombspider Inn

The Inn is veru large and well-maintained… but tumbleweeds blow by right in front of it.

  • Kobold greets us at the door. Seems confused as to why we are here. Says he’s never actually had a customer. His name is Mr. Scrapgnaw.
  • Apparently, this inn was built so that people can fight “the Tombspider” when it returns. It’s been 110 years since the last appearance. Ulysses S. Abernathy was the last, and only, other name in the log book. This is the name of an engineer whose name is a brand of thingamabobs (UPBs) and who created the “phantom pocketwatch” spell. He also built this Inn, and corresponds by mail once every quarter or so.
  • Rooms are free since the PCs are on a quest. Tinned food. Room-temp drinks. Will take awhile to heat up the water for baths.
  • We all partake in the dark gray liquid from a keg marked with a dead dog. Tastes like rum and coke. Not bad!
  • Mr. Scrapgnaw says there’s not been an earthquake per se. Instead, he’s had wonky feelings over several nights recently. He thought it was just tommy-knockers.
  • Scrapgnaw shows the PCs where the Tombspider will supposedly appear in 1936. It’s down below the Inn in a cavern.
  • A rock covered in blood shows the symbol of the spider, but with guns for legs instead of blades.
  • Each Inn room is set up for many people, weapons, wash tubs, curtains, radiators, and gas lamps.
  • We forget to set watches and just enjoy the sleep and the fluffy beds.

Day 05

  • Breakfast: strong coffee, strong tea, cookies.
  • A few Pcs mention they now plan to retire here.

The PCs arrive at the Circle Axe Ranch

  • Sprawling fenced compound.
  • PCs stop at the gate where there is a tall, lanky elf woman. Waterlily.
  • She gets “Bo-hoss” a large ogre to take her post. He sports a rock bandoleer. (A broad leather strap with pockets for 8-10-inch smooth rocks perfect for him to throw)
  • Waterlily takes us to Forman Dwargus Hardfist
    • Hardfist carries a hand cannon (1-shot, 8-gauge shotgun pistol)
    • Has a complex timepiece with multiple functions
  • His family helped establish the ranch, and it was Hardfist’s mother who found the circle-axe the ranch is named for. She claimed it was an old Nordic relic, perhaps tied to the Hardfist family members who helped Leif Erikson explore North America.
  • As a stakeholder, he gets a cut of each Roundup. For the past three years, each time his cattle are separated out they, and not anyone else’s, keep getting eaten by a manticore. No one else ever sees it. If Hardfist can get one more good sale of his share of a roundup, he plans to retire.
  • It’s not the ranch owner’s family doing it.
  • Doesn’t seem to be a curse.
  • This all seems to have started when Felspark, the East Hudson Fur Trading Company representative, arrived as a guest at the Vicious Hippogriff ranch, which is also when relations between the two ranches went bad.
  • Not an illusion.
  • The fighter/mystic, who can both speak to animals and cast grave words, speaks with the skull 0.o
    • PCs hear scared moos from the skull
    • The fighter/mystic hears “Ow! Danger! Danger to the herd! I die.”
  • The skull shows signs of poison. The fenrin;s scent ability allows her to determine the poison is the same as that used by the serpentfolk on the train.

What PCs want to know

  • When is the next cattle round up? (Anytime — it’s been delayed until hardfist could get some help)
  • Where could the serpentfolk and a manticore be hiding?
  • What’re the forces that link the serpentfolk, manticore, and East Hudson Fur Trading Company together after? Water rights aren’t enough for this much trouble.
    • Other ranch may want the water, so they let the manticore folk use the land.
    • Venom King … what’s he after?
    • What have the tripods awoken? Did the black gas seep down and wake something up?
    • What if they’re headed to the hollow world?
    • And the Trading Co would have a monopoly on the passage to the hollow world from the USA.
  • Hardfist is convinced none of his people are leaking information.
  • There were supposedly invisible rattlesnakes in these parts. “Smoke snakes.”
  • The are given the seasonal bunk house to work out of.

XPs: 400 each (PCs now at  11,050, need 15,000 to reach 6th)

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First Really Wild West Session — After-Action Report (Part 2)

Apparently there REALLY IS a big demand to hear more about my first session of “Really Wild West: Doomstone.” You can read Part One (which covers the first fight on a train) here, and may find some useful context from the campaign notes I developed from this session.

Disintigration Ray

After the fight, the PCs introduce themselves, and compare notes.

  • According to the Transit and Portage Guild’s bylaws, since the PCs were instrumental in defending Old Number Seven, they have the right to a payment from the train. The acting conductor (the halfling porter) offers them a cut of the valuables from the robbers, or passes for free rides any associated vehicle in perpetuity (the end date on the passes is officially “Kingdom Come.” Every PC decides to take lifetime free travel.
  • The soldier/mystic says he’s gonna talk to Vardalos, the dead Kasatha. PCs all follow, The soldier/mystic casts “grave words,” and the corpse says the following:
    • Stormfront rolling
    • The grass is all blue
    • The venom king has returned – the signet ring
    • My manticore gang – on the revolvers
    • All is lost
    • The teacup is in the meadow
    • Bandersnatch
  • One of the Fonts & Bismark agents confirms a theory of the centaur paladin that the robbers wanted to send the train over the cliff and recover the item from the bottom of the gorge.
  • The soldier/mystic goes to see Vardalos’ *very* strict and loyal pony, which he can talk to. Discover’s the pny’s training means it accepts help from and takes orders from only who its owner approves. It’s owner is now dead, but the owner had allowed the porter to feed it, so it takes orders from the porter. No PC or the porter wanting the pony, it’s decided to give it to the nice Moyer family (1 father and 5 kids, headed to a farm owned by the father’s sister, in Kansas for a fresh start. The mother died during the War, and the father need help raising the kids).
  • The mechanic roboticist helps with the bridge – cuts the repair time in half

PCs arrive in beautiful Cheyenne – which was sacked by Martians.\Is the state capital… but the state and its capital are a mess. Notes about the city:

  • Opera house biggest building left in town, serves as city hall for now.
  • The Tivoli building is almost finished as new construction. It is a Pabst beer distribution center, and has “Mr. Satin’s Satin’s House of Refined Delights (an all-race, all-gender brothel) on the second floor.
  • There is a cheap, reliable Cheyenne Citizen Hostel
  • Also some homes that will let a room

The Fenrin Bounty Hunter checks on new Bounties:

  • Chimera Kid is now worth 650c as of yesterday
  • Bounty for “That Goddamn Manticore” 1000c posted by Ranch Master Dwargus Hardfist (a dwarf), go to the Circle Axe Ranch for more information

General:

  • This place is crawling with bounty hunters, assassins, guns fire hire, bodyguards, ugh-me-toughs
  • Why? No clue.
  • Old Blue (a fenrin bloodhound on the sheriff’s porch) says a “Year and a day” ends in a couple of weeks
    • Records house burned to the ground, lots of people died, so there is a lot of land no one knows who owns it. It was decided you can lay claim to land it and if no one has a better claim within a year and a day, it’s yours. Those first year-and-a-day claims come up in a few weeks, and everyone is expecting there to be some trouble over it.

The PCs are invited to a meeting with Fonts & Bismark Station Master Ralston Adler (who turns out to be in a wheelchain) at 5pm, to discuss the mysterious package the bandits tried to steal.

  • The Item is being held for a client who’s coming to get it (no details on who or when available). The item is a Martian crystal (tripod’s power core)
  • Nineteen duplicates were shipped at the same time for security. Eight were attacked
  • About the scrap of paper
    • The handwriting appears to be that of one Felspark Klein – elf woman Regional Director for East Hudson Fur Trading Co. She is new to the position (her predecessor died choking on a chicken bone).
    • She is staying at Vicious Hippogryph Ranch, adjacent to Circle Axe
    • Significant disagreement about who owns what plots of land
      • Biggest area of dispute has all the water
    • Adler agrees to get the PCs a copy of an excellent map of that area (+4 to know where we are)
  • Adler also knows that Dwargus hardfist of the Circle Axe has been claiming for months that a Manticore is loose in Wyomingn and feeding on ONLY his cattle

PCs decide to go check it out. They will wait until the map is ready before they take off to see about this manticore, and checkout Felspark Klein.

Fonts & Bismark agrees to equip the PCs with horses and supplies. Also note that a couple of other people are asking about these events, and if Adler is convinced they are assets, he’ll diect them to the PCs in the morning to see if the PCs want to join up with them.

End of game. XPs: 650 per PC.

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First Really Wild West Session — After-Action Report

A number of people have asked for more details about the train fight in the first Really Wild West game session (with the campaign entitled “Really Wild West: Doomstone”), so I have adapted notes taken by my wife Lj who is playing a fenrin operative bounty hunter named “Sawyer.” Some context may also be available from the campaign notes I developed from this session.

RWW Good Doggo

(“Sawyer,” by Jacob Blackmon)

I specifically set up this fight to bring the player characters together with a common interest. Here’s the set-up.

PCs:
Female Fenrin Operative Bounty Hunter (Seeking a bounty)

Female Centaur Paladin Mercenary (Seeking an ancient evil, the Venom King)

Female Human Mechanic Roboticist (Seeking to access Martian tech found in the field, rather than the picked-over scraps she can get hold of back East) – has stealth drone mechanical dog, “Pinion”

Male Human Soldier/Mystic  Criminal (Seeking to tip the balance for past bad deeds)

1891 – Spring

  • The Fenrin bounty hunter is looking for the Chimera Kid, who he shot a federal judg. The Kid is a Ksatha missing one of his four arms. Fights with poison pistol, flame pistol, ram-headed hammer.
  • Currently tracking Gavra Vardalos, a previous associate of the Kid, who is headed West on the Old Number Seven train out of St. Louis. Vardalos wears a black bandito mask with a green scorpion tail. Vardalos seems to be waiting for something.

Evening of day two – around 36 hours into the trip – as the sun sets

  • Alarm bell goes off as the train comes to an emergency stop
  • Bridge is out ahead. Fresh damage.
  • This might be what Vardalos was waiting for
    • He gets up and says he’s gonna check on his pony
    • Fenrin bounty hunter gets on top of the train and follows
  • The porters arm themselves
  • Vardalos says his pony needs medicine and wants to get into the baggage car
    • A halfling porter takes him around the outside to the caboose
  • Gunshots ring out from within the back of the train

FIGHT!

  • Just after the porter knocks on the caboose door, Vardalos attempts to kill him. Vardalos has two sabers enhanced with jury-rigged Martian heat-ray crystals. The distinctive sound of them powering up can be heard throughout the train, and including by the mechanic roboticist. Fenrin bounty hunter jumps down to stop vardalos.
  • The halfling caboose porter rolls under the train and pulls down a shield with a gun port from the bottom of the caboose, then locks his gun into it
  • The centaur paladin, suspicious of Vardalos’s possible involvement because of the scorpion-tail mask, also comes to stop him.
  • A stamer trunk turns out to be a mimic, and attacks a Fonts & Bismark agent guarding a package in the boxcar.
  • Outside the train, thin lizardfolk step out of the air – serpentfolk (5) from a hidden reality. Everyone not already engaged helps fight them off.
    • They shoot old revolvers. Poisoned bullets.
  • The mechanic roboticist and Pinon run to the back of the train to investigate the Martian tech sounds, and run into the Fonts & Bismark agent fighting against the steam trunk mimic. Stop to help.
  • The caboose door rotates out, revealing an old, beat up robot breakman, with a 2ft spanner
    • Moves to attack the serpentfolk who is attacking the porter
  • When Vardalos dies, his body writhes and breathes out a green vapor
  • As serpentmen overpower the conductor guarding the engine, soldier criminal comes running up the center of the train, shooting it from 2 cars away and preventing it from powering up the train and running it over the broken bridge into a gorge below.

ON VARDALOS: 2 manticore stamped revolvers; 2 jury-rigged Martian metal sabres; 350 credit chips issued from the East Hudson Fur Trading Co.; under a glove a signet ring with a scorpion tail with a green teardrop signet stone; scrap of paper with Fonts & Bismark Service# written on it – these go on whatever F&B is shipping that the mimic went for. The scrap has a watermark from the EHFTco. The fenrin bounty hunter can confirm it’s not written in Vardalos’ handwriting.

At the end of this introductory fight, the fenrin bounty hunter wants to follow up on the clues around Vardalos to see if they lead to the Chimera Kid. The centaur paladin wants to follow up because the green vapor and scorpion-tail clues are her best lead to find the cult of the Venom King. The mechanic roboticist wants to follow up because somehow Vardalos got access to fresh Martian heat-ray technology. The soldier/mystic wants to follow up because this seems like a good opportunity to earn some karmic balance.

The session didn’t end there of course.

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Running a Really Wild West fight on a Train (in Starfinder)

For tonight’s Really Wild West game, I drew out the train “Old Number Seven” on a very simple 1-square-is-30-feet scale. That got the whole (short, 12-car) train onto one map, and character tracked where they were (inside a car, on top of a car, or outside the cars) on that map whenever they were not dealing with anyone in melee.

If greater resolution was needed, each car and its immediate surroundings were drawn on their own flip-tile. We actually only had to do that twice, and while I was initially worried about running one fight at two scales, my (brilliant, veteran) players had no trouble figuring it out or moving PCs seamlessly between them.

It also meant the fight took place over a distance hundreds of feet long, which I could never have gotten onto a single game table. Things like firearm range increments and who was more effective in melee had real tactical impact. (And we got some awesome cinematic moments like the centaur paladin in full plate charging down the length of the outside of the train, the fenrin bounty hunter flinging herself off the caboose’s roof to tackle a foe, and the human soldier running along a train car, civilians huddling for safety as his command at the sides of the car, while he fired at a foe in the aisle of the next car over… and hits!).

It also really helped drive home the genre of this campaign. Sure there were kastha… and snakemen… and centaurs and spells and pistol shots. But it was a fight on a steam train stopped by a blown-up bridge as brigands attacked it.

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Survival in GammaFinder

One of the core concepts of any post-apocalypse RPG is survival. This is definitely true in GammaFinder, as the world is full of poison earth, acid rain, toxic water, deadly environmental effects, baked earth, rusted, twisted metal… it’s harsh. Just traveling beyond a settlement, even if nothing rises to the level of an encounter, is dangerous.

And, as it happens, Starfinder has a Survival skill.

But making Survival rolls daily, and making people think about where their character sleep, find water, hunt, how they avoid heatstroke, dodge poison ivy, and so on gets boring.

So GammaFinder has a Weekly Survival Check.

PA dead carscape

Weekly Survival Check

Each group makes a Survival check each week. The DC is equal to 15 + 1.5 x the average CR of hazards and monsters in the area, +1 per person in the group. (When in double, if there is a titan nearby, the GM can assume the average CR is within the Titans range. Otherwise if the area is not known to be particularly hazardous, assume an average CR of 2. Yes, 2. GammaFinder World is rough).

If multiple people make Survival checks, the highest check result is treated as the primary result, and each character in the group after the first who succeeds adds one to that highest result. The following additional factors modify the roll, as can previous rolls (see results, below).

PA Wasteland

Weekly Survival Check Modifiers
Group begins week out of food and water: -5
Group has no wilderness gear: -2
Group has at least 1 piece of survival gear for each member: bonus equal to the highest item level of such gear every character has. (For example, if 4 people have a piece of 5th level survival gear, but one person only has a 1st-level piece of gear, the bonus is +1. If six people all have a piece of 3rd level gear, the bonus is +3).

Results
You not only need to know if the group succeeded or failed, but by how much.

PA japan Fire

Success by 5 or More: Things went very well! You slept in protected spots, avoided unpleasant allergens and minor hazards, and found plentiful and quality food and water. You do not use up any of your carried food or water resources, and everyone in your group gains a +2 bonus to the next week’s Weekly Survival Check.

Success by 4 or less: You use up resources (such as food and water) normally, but manage to avoid being run down by the constant dangers of the GammaFinder World.

Fail by 5 or less: You didn’t manage ideal conditions, but it’s livable. You might be  sleeping in a cold, cramped space under a large rock, eating grubs, drinking water that’s slimy but not poisonous, or just dealing with gnat bites, rough terrain, sunburn, weariness, and so on.
Everyone in the party takes a -1 penalty to skill checks, including next week’s survival, until you succeed at a weekly survival check or you get a good night’s sleep and food in a settlement. This is cumulative if you fail by this amount in consecutive weeks.

Fail by 6- or more: Why did you ever leave your hovel?

Everyone in the party takes a -2 penalty to skill checks, including next week’s survival, until you succeed at a weekly survival check or you get a good night’s sleep and food in a settlement. This is cumulative if you fail by this amount in consecutive weeks.

Everyone temporarily has their maximum Stamina Points reduced by 1 per character level. This lasts until the group succeeds at a Weekly Survival Check by 5 or more, or get 2 good night’s sleep and food at a settlement.

PA dead trees

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Thanks, everyone.

GammaFinder Index

GammaFinder is a post-apocalypse setting for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game. I have multiple articles that begin to describe and define GammaFinder, and this is the index to all of them.

PA Street Scene

CORE RULES AND SETTING
The basics.

GammaFinder Rules. Simple rules for post-apocalypse gaming using Starfinder, along with just the hint of a setting *mostly to justify calling it ‘GammaFinder.’)

The Unburned World. A larger article that includes a quick description of the pre-apocalypse Unburned World, and the Chasm of History that separates it from the modern era.

Titans. Halfway between landmarks and gods, no one is sure where these motionless giants come from, or what their purpose is. But they have a real, if subtle, effect on the world around them.

PLAYER OPTIONS
Beyond the core rules, here are the things players can use.

Mega-Heroic Moments
You just get one, but when you use it, it’ll be memorable.

Themes
Alphite. You were raised in the domed city of Apha, before it was destroyed.
Brain-In-A-Jar and Murderous Toy. These stretch what themes are supposed to do to their limits, to give weirder character options.
Mutie. You are a mutant, and your mutations are evolving.

Archetypes
Mutamorph. Exposed to the strange energies of the World of GammaFinder, your body is morphing into… something.

Class Options
Mutant Soldier. Options for soldiers to gain mutations as class features.

Mutations
Gaining Mutant Abilities. All the options for PCs to gain mutant abilities and tiered mutations, all in one post!
Advancing Mutations. In GammaFinder, sometimes YOU get weirder and weirder.
Mutations for Starting Characters. You were just born that way.
Tiered Mutations (teleportation). The rules for tiered mutations that grow in power as you focus on them, with the psychoportation tiered mutation as an example.
Danger Sense. It’s tingling! A tiered mutation.
Elasticity. Yep, it’s stretching powers. A tiered mutation.
Entangle. Slow them down, wrap them up. A tiered mutation.
ESP. Telepathy and psychic projection. A tiered mutation.
Genetic Sorcery. The power to create magic is in your DNA. A tiered mutation.
Healing Factor. A tiered mutation.
Incorporeality. A tiered mutation.
Invisibility. A tiered mutation.
Luck Manipulation. A tiered mutation.
Ranged Attack. A tiered mutation. For attacking things. At range.
Summoning. A tiered mutation.
Super-Strength. A tiered mutation. (Scroll down a bit for the mutation)
Weather Control. A tiered mutation.

Junk Magic
Two spells – junk gizmo and junk HUD.

GM TOOLS
Beyond the core rules, these are things the GM can use to help built the setting and its feel.

Hazardous Junk
The Starfinder RPG has lots of spells that use junk as an element of the casting. But what if that junk is hazardous materials?

Halidoms.
Weird relics of the Unburned World, from before the Chasm of History. Presented conceptually in Part One, and rules for PCs trying to figure them out in Part Two.

Survival.
Survival is a key theme of post-apocalypse rpgs. Starfinder has a “Survival” skill. Making skill checks to survive every day is boring, and no one wants their game to end because everyone starved to death. And tents, even high-tech tents, tend not to actually make a difference to PC’s health and happiness.
These rules fix all those issues and brings them together.

MUTANTIARY
These entries are like a bestiary, but for weird mutant threats!

Hammerderm It’s a dangerous sonic shark-rhino mutant.

BOOMER EXTRAS
The spectacularly creative Clinton Boomer has done some additional material for GammaFinder, and we’re thrilled to link it here for folks who want Moar Weird!

Dhampir of the Gamma Wastes. Yep, post-apocalypse vampires.

Fist of the Gamma Star. Ready for Post-Apocalypse Martial Arts?

Footprints in the Burning Wasteland. Each blasphemous caress of your sorcery is, of course, a unique & terrible thing.

The Halidom City of Rho. It drifts along, some seven & a half miles above the scarred, broken wasteland stretched-out far beneath it, pushing effortlessly against the hellish winds of ash, glass, and the blood-thick dust of Empires.
An awesome setup for a whole campaign, or the most random of random encounters.

Omegamancy. Even after the world ends, some things are forbidden.

Reek of Corrupted Wasteland. You can smell what the Omegamancers are cooking!

WANT MORE GAMMAFINDER?!
I now depend on my Patreon for more of my income and support than I ever expected to. If you find any value in my blog posts or videos, I could use help with the Patreon. If you can spare a few bucks a month, it’s a huge help. If not, even just sharing and linking to my blogs, videos, and the Patreon itself is a huge help that just takes a moment of your time.

Thanks, everyone.

 

 

‘SCRAPERS

‘Scrapers is a campaign concept, for whatever system or use interests you.

You live in Jenney Tower West. You were born here, you presume you’ll die here. The top of the tower is somewhere unseen above you, stretching like a ribbon into the sky. The bottom is equally invisible, down under the Vapor. You’ve never gone down to the Vapor levels. Jenney Tower East is visible. The middle of it anyway. A few hundred feet across the Empty. Sometimes there are crosswalks.

Which are always war zones. Easters are more than a little crazy.

You are a Scraper, one of the migrating scavengers who strips each floor of anything of value or use, and trades it to survive. As each level is, on average, roughly 4,500 square meters of floorspace, and there are 20-30 levels being Scraped at any time, you often trade to other Scraper gangs, or solo Scrapers. But more often, you depend on the Ele-Markets, hand-cranked mobile trade stalls that ratchet between the Scraper levels, the Middles in the 10-20 floors above you.

On the Middles levels, things still work… some. Warehouses haven’t been depleted of everything yet. Automated systems and assistants can still sometimes turn on and off lights, close windows, and so on. Power still comes from the walls… sometimes. The intercom is almost entirely functional, the vid-screens can run 24/7. Plumbing is mostly functional. It’s easier for Middle on the higher floors, of course. As they use up the things they prefer, those upper Middles migrate to the floors above them. The ones the Uppers left behind when they migrated upward seeking caviar and fully functional android assistants.

As the higher Middles move into new territories, the floors below them migrate up as well… as long as they can afford to. A level every month, more or less. Moving takes credit with the Ele-markets, and spare time, and manpower. Your ancestors might have been Middles, once. But they waited too long to shift up a few floors, so you’re all Scrapers now. You also move up roughly a level a month. If you run out of scavenge early, maybe you push those above you, or supplant them, a little early. You certainly don’t want to wait around too long.

You’re told there are Penters, up above even the Uppers. Just one floor of them, or maybe two. But you’re not sure you believe that. If there was just one floor worth of Penters, why wouldn’t the Uppers just rush those floors and move above them?

Below you are poorer and poorer Scrapers, groups unable to enforce claims to better scavenging grounds. You don’t have much, but at least you can still find food now and then, or trade with one of the scaffold farms hanging on the outside of the Tower, suspended from ropes that go…. up. Though honestly, what you have isn’t all that awesome. Security systems still work sometimes. Middles come down with better weapons and gear to take things they realize they left behind. THINGS come out of the vents, and ducts.

The THINGS live in the Vapor levels, but they’re climbing too. The Deep Vapor has worse creatures, but they can’t survive out of the Vapor, even for a moment. And between the lowest Scraper floor, and the highest Vapor floor?

Crazies, cults, broken machine angry at being abandoned, and the Uninsured. The Uninsured have a taint of the Vapor, be that boils, or sharp teeth and a taste for flesh, or weird mind powers. Even the lowliest Scraper can’t trust Uninsured.

You may have some Vapor taint too, but you want that to stay a secret.

Scrapers life is hard. Detritus comes down chutes, which you capture when you can. Bodies, sometimes. You can make mulch, and sell it up. Or pull up cables, carve off building materials, turn it into raw material for Middles to patch what they have. Or to sell as new things to Uppers. Uppers don’t know how to make anything. Or for Ele-markets to turn into cranks, and winches. You can gather water, from rain and from broken sewers above you. Grow a few things. And repurpose to make clothes. And tools. And barricades. And weapons.

Weapons kill a lot of Scrapers. So do traps, rogue machines, Middle mercenaries dipping down, Uninsured raiders popping up, and even other Scrapers often threaten you. Scrapers die faster than they breed, but that’s okay. Poor Middles who lost their spot become Scrapers fast enough to make up the difference. Every month, at least a dozen Middles discover their last neighbors moved on. Moved away.

Moved up.

The Vapor is moving up, too.

Faster than you are, in recent months.

PATREON
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The AssassiNations

The AssassiNations is a conceptual paradigm, a rough description of  a secret world and their rules and rulers, designed for use in TTRPG campaigns where something a step more involved than just secret societies is desired.

AssassiNations

The AssassiNations are non-territorial governments that rule over populations of secret societies and superhuman clans, ruled with an iron fist by the Erebocracy and it’s regimented laws known as the Canon. They are also one of the least closely-guarded secrets in the world.

Nearly all classic world powers are aware of them. In most service industries between 10-15% of the members know enough to avoid violating the Canon, but that goes up for many fields such as train and bus employees, hotel concierges, sex workers, smugglers, and mercenaries. More than 3/4 of the cabbies in New York City are formally Read In, even if they are mostly nonpartisans.

Despite nearly 10% of the world’s population having some level of familiarity with the AssassiNations, that knowledge does not spread. No one who does not need to know is told, and this rule is very rarely broken. In part, this is because the Erebocracy forbids such revelations, and rules over the greatest sects of secret killers, spies, and double agents the world has ever known. And partly, it is because it’s better for everyone that way.

The AssassiNations are a solution to the problem of there being more than one clade of person in the world. While the classic governments of the world are sufficient for most people, there is a second kith of people with extraordinary abilities. They have been called many things over the eons–Argonauts, fey, djinn, even demigods. The next step in human evolution. Aliens. What is important is that the Shadowbreed exist, and are capable of acts of reasoning, endurance, resilience, accuracy, and strength literally impossible for typical humans.

The Shadowbreed vary between 2-15% of the human population, and are found in every nation, every ethnicity, every culture. If they are a different species, they are as broad and varied as humanity itself. If they are a mutation, they are one that does not seem to be spreading. If they are sidhe, they lack the vulnerabilities legend suggests they should possess.

The AssassiNations themselves are often strongly tied to their native cultures, though they evolve and adapt and adopt as any culture does. Whenever a territorial government or group explored, conquered, committed genocide, there were Shadowbreed AssassiNations present on both sides. Once, they warred in near-open conflicts, many of which are the source of ancient mythology. But with the rise of the Erebocracy and it’s Canon, their conflicts are much more regimented. Choreographed. Secret. Quiet.

Canon dictates no single conflict may include more than a dozen Shadowbreed without Ereborcracy sanction. Sanctions are generally in the form of contract hits, laying a price on the slaying of a rogue Shadowbreed that any member of an AssassiNation can claim. No one who is not Read In is ever to be involved in any AssassiNation business or conflict, and only regional Triararchs and their sworn Liturgies can read anyone in. Anyone not a formal member of an AssassiNation is nonpartisan, not to engage in violence against Shadowbreed, or be a target of it.

All AssasssiNation services, known as Custom, as available only to those in good standing with the Ereborcracy. Custom is paid for only in Blood Gold, red coins only the AssasiNations mint or use, and any single Custom has a cost of a single Blood Coin. Custom includes the creation of things that might be seen as “magic” by those who do not know the ancient techniques and materials used to craft them. Business suits of dyed golden spider thread, stronger than steel. Secret therapies of bacteriophage, custom-designed nanite-controlled hormones, and fungal skin grafts. Combat caseless ammunition that pack 100 flechettes into a common-looking pistol. AI programs that truly can extrapolate new information from security cameras to create pictures of events that happened just offscreen. There are limits to Custom Craft, but they are not the limits of the rest of the world.

Specific locations are declared Moresnet — neutral zones where violence of any kind is forbidden. These include the headquarters of every AssasiNation, most churches and temples, and a significant number of hotels, pawn shops, bus stops, ships, and cemeteries. Most Moresnet are overseen by a Castellan, who within that single space is equal in rank to a Triararch, and is considered the match for a Liturgy even outside their domain. The Ereborcracy anoints Castellans, but cannot remove their title. It can, however, suspend the sanctions of anyone violating the neutrality of their Moresnet, and even place a price on their head. But only for 72 hours — if a Castellan has not been killed or forced to capitulate within that time, their authority and sanctuary within their Domain is maintained without further Ereborcracy interference for no less than a year and a day.

No action by a Shadowbreed may ever expose the Ereborcracy, the AssassiNations, the Canon, or any element of the careful balance of this shadow world. As needed Triararchs can Read In non-Shadowbreed for the purpose of maintaining the ability of the AssasssiNations to function and fight among themselves, but any that abused this power will be sanctioned.

PATREON
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Hit man

#101Mimics, the First Fifty!

Last month I spent some time on social media thinking up 101 unusual options and encounters for mimics, under hashtag  #101MIMICS.  Was it a good idea to take time to write up 101 ideas for unusual encounters with mimics? Well, you’re reading this, aren’t you?!

So if you want to hunt down all 101 mimics, they are still available on my Facebook and Twitter. But here are the first 50 of them, to give you a good chunk of mimic all in one place.

My Patreon backers get even more! All my mega-patrons will get a PDF in a few days that has all my free content from September, including the 101 Mimics, but I also wanted to compile these in one post for anyone interested in them. So all my patrons have access to a Patreon post with 101 Mimics, plus I added ONE more mimic encounter idea as a bonus, at the end of that post!

So if you want more mimics (and similar material as time goes on), go join my Patreon!

#101MIMICS

  1. Mimic as the keystone in an arch (build by mimic minions). When it attacks and jumps free not only it there a bitey mimic, the room’s ceiling collapses on you.
  2. Mimic treasure map. The mimic pretends to be a treasure map that leads you to am ambush of the mimic’s allies. The mimic changes this location as needed to keep the news from getting out.
  3. Mimic bandage. It just quietly drinks your blood when you wrap it around your wound.
  4. Mimic haute couture. The mimic rents itself out to be brand-new, impossible-without-living-cloth high-end outfits and shoes that fit perfectly, match your coloration, hair, and jewelry, and you don’t have to put in a closet after wearing once. Hourly or daily rates available.
  5. Mimic rope. It waits until you are using it in a life-or-death situation, then extorts you with greater payment or it withdraws its (literal) support.
  6. Mimic golem: Easiest to pretend to be a wood golem or clay golem. You think it’s a construct, but it’s actually an aberration, giving it a distinct tactical advantage.
  7. Mimic rock at edge of common rest-stop campsite. Look, people are SUSPICIOUS of treasure chests these days, but no one looks twice at a rock that happens to be near where their head is going to be when they sleep.
  8. Mimic false bottom of a chest. Go ahead, check the chest for signs it’s a mimic all you want. then, once you are inside and your guard is done, and you get excited you’ve spotted a false bottom…
  9. Mimic hanging tapestry. May rent itself out to high-end castles as a magic every-changing tapestry that also shouts an alarm when people find the concealed door behind it, or may drop down on unsuspecting adventurers looking behind it for a concealed door. Or both.
  10. Mimic trash-can private investigator. You can learn a LOT about someone by sorting through their trash, and if they give it to you there’s no expectation of privacy.
  11. Mimic Spike at the Bottom of a Pit. If you fall into the pit and still look fine, it ignores you as too tough to handle. If you fall into the pit and seem badly injured or incapacitated…
  12. Mimic bookcase wizard. People have been placing powerful and dangerous books on it in the forbidden section of the library for decades.
  13. Mimic altar. Honestly, a faithful devotee of a god that has decided to serve as an altar. Of course, if you come to DESECRATE that temple…
  14. Mimic Kitchen Table. Mostly just eats scraps when no one is looking. But may be in trouble since it is now so fat, it doesn’t really fit in the same space anymore…
  15. Mimic Mirror in a Vampire’s Employ. Look, some vampires care how they look!
  16. Mimic Siege Tower. Always the right size and shape to reach the top of a wall, able to become a bridge to get over a moat, and able to be healed or buffed against fire with “1 target” spells.
  17. Mimic Wagon. Mostly lets your draft animals pull it along (while it dozes off), but for an extra fee and turn into a boat to cross rivers, walk itself out of mud, and so on.
  18. Mimic Wine Barrel. Takes a nip now and then, but mostly stays sober so it can eat the occasional vagrant that wonders by late at night, who no one will miss.
  19. Mimic Wishing Well. I mean, people just THROW money into it! Why risk combat when you can get paid to sleep, then go buy any food you want later?
  20. Mimic Coffin. Sneak into undertaker’s (or cut deal with them). Get corpse placed indie me. Eat it. Dig my way out of grave, making people panic about ghouls. Sneak back to undertaker’s.
  21. Mimic Iron Maiden. Torturers put people in me, I drink their blood, and they are kept alive to go back into me again and again.

Mimic smuggler. Can look like any crate, fake any needed seals or markings, hide among other crates and shuffle from warehouse to warehouse and hold to hold as needed.

  1. Mimic roulette wheel. Doesn’t detect as magic or illusion, but can still make sure the house gets more than its cut (or, if smuggled in as a ringer, it’s partner can take a huge bite out of the house).
  2. Mimic Spymaster Confessional. Look, if there’s a place people are going to just whisper their secrets anyway…

(Lots of other Mimic Spy possibilities, too.)

  1. Mimic sleeping bag guard hireling. Hires itself out to protect travelers. It can sleep during the day, eat all your leftovers, and quietly watch over you while you sleep at night, while being the perfect size and warmness for you.
  2. Mimic is a single wheel in a rented wagon. It can thus “fall off” at any time to make the wagon vulnerable to ambush, and attack from inside the defensive perimeter once the ambush begins.
  3. Mimic weapon rack. With luck, you disarm yourself and give it your weapons before the fight starts, and it’s certainly armed.
  4. Mimic as obviously trapped secret door. Everyone moves away from the rogue in case the trap goes off, leaving the rogue alone with the mimic.
  5. Mimic table in room convicts meet with lawyers. Might be spy for illicit law enforcement, or might be enforcer for the thieves’ guild ensuring people keep their yap shut.
  6. Mimic cloak. Rules a gang of cloakers who think it is a highly evolved version of themselves.
  7. Tiny mimic sheath for dueling rapier. One of two. Everything seems fine when your foe selects one of them, but once the fight starts, the mimics don’t let your foe even draw his weapon.
  8. Mimic fishing pole. Mostly works as advertised, but when hungry just eats a fish which you think is “one that got away.”
  9. Mimic emulating a corpse. When it starts moving and eating things, everyone thinks it’s an undead. But it’s not.
  10. Mimic big overstuffed chair. Is a consulting detective, but keeps hiring someone to sit in the chair and play the public role of detective, so no one suspects their cases are being solved by a mimic listening in.
  11. Mimic crystal ball. Works with fake psychic to show clients what they want to see, but can’t actually tell the future.
  12. Mimic workbench. Friend and ally to renowned craftsman, acts as his guard and assistant, moving tools to be in reach as needed.
  13. Mimic guillotine psychopath. Just wants to kill people, so as long as the revolution feeds its bloodshed, acts like a guillotine. If anyone tries to reign in the mob rule, sneaks out to kill that person.
  14. Mimic crossbow. Works with its hunter. Loads itself, can even fire itself as needed.
  15. Mimic printing press. Always well informed, and can tweak things it prints to move its own narrative or plots forward.
  16. Mimic sail. Self-trimming, self-furling, heals if damaged, and can help defend the ship if attacked.
  17. Mimic lump of clay. Works with fake sculptor to allow the sculptor to appear to be a great artist, then sneaks off with sculptor once a commission is paid.
  18. Mimic high-end furniture from antique store. Gets bought and placed in rich house. Waits to see where their valuables are. Steals them blind while antique dealer has alibi. Sneaks back to look like different high-end furniture at shop.
  19. Mimic banker’s or merchant’s scale. Check for false weights and magic all you want, it can still claim your valuable are 1-2% lighter than they really are, getting its merchant partner an extra profit margin.
  20. Mimic rock full of veins of gold and silver. Sits in a mine its partner wants to sell. Makes sure the potential buyer “happens” to see it, still wedged into the wall. Great for cycling through multiple played out mines.
  21. Mimic pile of hay. Only good for some seasons, but great way to hide in plain sight, and local children often sneak off to play near you, making them easy targets.
  22. Mimic outhouse. Perfect for catching prey with their paints down.
  23. Mimic dressmaker’s dummy. Can be the exact size and shape (and even weight) the dressmaker needs, often happy to work for scraps of cloth (leather, cotton, and other biomass). Plus, gets to feel like a pretty, pretty mimic.
  24. Mimic periscope. Fits in any shape, crack, or around any corner, can show you what it sees, and even report on what it hears.
  25. Mimic game table. Can play chess with you, or help you subtly cheat against others.
  26. Mimic elevator. Crawls up and down (and even sideways) though the large castle, giving easy access quickly in return for a fair daily wage.

Ouroboros & Oubliettes RPG

This is barely a game. It’s more a way to track cooperative storytelling than a tactical exercise. It works only if everyone playing wants it to work, and is willing to overlook when it doesn’t work well.

Oroborous & Oubliettes

The Ouroboros is the dragon that encircles the world, unseen but everpresent, and survives by consuming itself. Agents of the Ouroboros wish to unleash it to consume the world, which will destroy everything within a few generations, but give those who release it vast power until that time.

This has been tried many times before, often by those who cannot be killed, or using objects that cannot be destroyed. In desperation, these things are placed in oubliettes, dark holes that go deep into the world’s crust, and thus deep into Oroboros itself, in the hopes of burying them forever.

But nothing is buried forever. When a new threat arises, the player characters must seek to stop it, often by delving into an oubliette to recover some lore or object that can aid them, or to beat some group of Ouroboros cultists from getting it first.

Making a Character

Describe your character in 2-3 sentences, between 10-40 total words.

Write down one thing you are good at.

Write down one thing you’re bad at.

Write down one important thing you have.

Write down one thing you want to accomplish.

Mechanics

The Game master sets a scene, the players say what their characters do, in order they are sitting at the table, and then the GM tells them if their actions automatically succeed (so extremely simple things), automatically fail (for impossible things), or are handled by a test.

Each scene is clearly defined as casual or dangerous when introduced. Casual scenes have no consequences. A casual scene can become dangerous, in which case the GM says so.

In a dangerous scene, there were normally 3 chances for each character to take an action. Actions aren’t blow-by blow things like “I stab a scorpion bandit,” but more like “I attack the bandits, trying to drive them back out of the mine shaft.”

A number of successful actions equal to the number of players but less than double that number is a draw–players ended up neither better off nor worse at the end of the scene.

A number of successful actions equal to at least double the number of players but less than x2.5 that number is a win. The players make progress on the adventure without any major setbacks.

Successes at least equal to x2.5 the number of players is a BIG win. The players proceed, and get some kind of permanent improvement.

Successes less than the number of players is a failure. A number of players equal to the difference between the successes they needed for a draw and those they got must take a wound. A wounded character must either give up one of their bonuses until she healed, or write down a new thing you are bad at (which the player got to pick) as a scar that is kept kept until the character succeeds at a task using that trial.

BIG wins might give special equipment (standard equipment is assumed), or new allies, or new abilities, or anything else the GM and players agree on.

For each action that needs a trial, a player rolls 1d6, and a result of 4, 5, or 6 is a success and 1, 2, or 3 is a failure. If the trial involves something you are good at or have an important thing for you get to roll two dice and succeed if either is 4, 5, or 6, while if it’s a thing you are bad at you have to roll two dice and get 4, 5, or 6 for both to succeed.

The Campaign

A typical campaign is 9-14 scenes. If all the characters end up with wounds, and at least one has two or more wounds, the campaign is a failure. Every 2-3 scenes, there should be a way for one player to make progress on the thing they want to accomplish.

For now, that’s it.

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