Category Archives: Microsetting

Off-The-Cuff Campaign Ideas, Part 3

Just like my two previous entries, these are off-the-cuff campaign ideas I have done no prep or pre-planning for. They may all suck… or might spark a good idea for other people.

Surveyors: Ecealhstede is a god, but not a sapient or humanoid one. Ecealhstede is the Eternal City, the Home Before All, and the Foundation of Divinity. It is literally an eternal divinity in the form of a city, which has a center, and an outer wall, but no limit to how big it is, or how many denizens it can support. It is a mix of all architecture styles, all cultural influences, and all building types. It has a sea port, and a river port, and a desert caravan gate, and a forested merchant’s gate, and one long wall of nothing but sharpened stakes that keep out something living just beyond, in the eternally fog-shrouded bog beyond.

Ecealhstede has at least one door to every other city in existence, and it’s aqueducts, and sewers, and culverts, and roads, and alleys are similarly linked.

Many more creatures pass through Ecealhstede without noticing than ever realize they are within, and many more glimpse it briefly than spend any notable time within its walls, moats, barricades, and squares.

But Ecealhstede has chosen you, and your allies, to fulfill the role of surveyors. Because every settlement and structure everywhere is part of Ecealhstede, any threat to any of them can, in rare circumstances, become a threat to Ecealhstede. If a warehouse fire is going to spread through reality-spanning streets into the Eternal City’s thatched quarter, or siege engineers are going to breach a fortified wall that is harmonically linked to one of Ecealhstede’s walls, or if a flood is going to poor through dimensional cracks to flood Ecealhstede’s cisterns, the god-city draws you in to the base of operations it provides you and your allies, and then all doors out lead to the problem.

Of course, being a god’s champion, even one made of boulevards and bridges, has its advantages. With each threat to Ecealhstede you solve, your wealth, prestige, and personal power grow. Though there is also a god of ransacking, and soon you may draw ITS attention…

Brand New Season: Probably, no one should have exposed the Aelder Things to the concept of television. But they did, and now the Apocalypse Prevention Bureau (APB) has to come up with exciting entertainment for those nameless, formless entities to enjoy. You are an expert from a modern, technologically-advanced world. And you have been recruited for the Brand New Season.

The APB puts you in a group of diverse, often edgy allies. Then they send you to go deal with some specific moment, in some fantasy world. Those threats are always discrete, focused, and generally can be solved with properly applied violence. And they are always JUST within your ability to overcome them. You certainly CAN take guns instead of crossbows, and jeeps, and CB headsets… but if any of those things makes the adventure significantly easier, SOMETHING always comes along to even the odds.

And if you make it back, you get to rest, make some merchandizing deals, heal up, train… and then go back out for a new adventure that’s just a bit tougher than the last one.

Otherwise, it wouldn’t be entertaining enough…

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Sigil Scions (for Pathfinder 1st Ed)

I’ve been meaning to finish this for more than two years, as I began it back when I worked at Paizo. I meant to put it up yesterday, but it took longer than the time I had allotted for blogging, so you get a triple-sized post today instead!

Tithain kept her eyes open and one hand resting easily on the longsword at her hip as she walked alongside Queen Aerigold, who was clearly keeping her attention on the crowds that had gathered to welcome their new monarch. The Queen had insisted she get a new tabard—a bright green silken thing with gold thread and the shining sun-and-tree symbol of the Queen’s Trusted on it—but beneath that Tithain had on the same utilitarian plate armor she’d worn at the Battle of Seven Crowns, all those years ago.

A glint caught Tithain’s eye, and she instinctive stepped between its source and her beloved lady. As a bolt shot out of the crowd, Tithain raised a gauntleted hand and felt the power of her family’s Sigil flow through her, its bright blue lines visible even through the steel protecting her. The arrow slammed into her and shattered, the majority of its force expended against her defensive ward.

A dozen pale-skinned men in the crowd threw off cloaks, reveling the red-and-black garb of Kakkain cultists, and drew weapons as the cityfolk began to cry out and flee from them.

One of the broadest of the men, his eyes glittering with the flickering light of a Fel Embraced, pointed a thorned mace at her and cried out in the echoing voice of those with one foot already firmly planted in Hell.

“She’s a Scion of the Shield Sigil! Kill her first, then the peace-lover queen will fall!”

Sometimes, you want to add something to a campaign that isn’t anchored in class, background, ancestry, or other standard game categories. Sometimes, you just want to be able to slap a whole new power source on characters, and see what fun evolves from it.

Sigil Scions are such a concept.

Sigil Scions have a powerful, mystic source of capability. That might be from their position within an organization, the mark of a god, the collective will of those they defend, an asteroid radiating them with runic power–whatever. The easiest way to add Sigil Scions to a game is to just decide on a narrative framework (anything from ancient heroes reincarnated or cheat codes given to modern characters when they are sent to a fantasy world), and let each player build their own sigil from there. Sigil scions are a pure power-up for characters (especially monks… ), but not as much as being gestalt characters.

(Art by warmtail)

Sigil Power

Select any one bloodrager bloodline, cleric domain, inquisitor inquisition, sorcerer bloodline, warpriest blessing, or wizard specialization. You cannot select a specific option you already have, nor later take the specific option you select here if you gain the appropriate class feature to do so (for example, if you select the cleric healing domain, and later gain cleric domains through some other class, you could not take the healing domain again.)

You gain the abilities of the selected class feature, using your total character level as your level in the relevant class. You do not gain any ability not expressly granted by the selection (so taking the abjuration wizard specialist schools does not give you the ability to prepare spells just because the resistance ability is tied to when you prepare spells). However, you can apply any option from the selected class feature to relevant options gained from other classes (so if you are a druid, and you select the healing domain, you can apply the healer’s blessing ability to your druidic cure spells).

When you first gain sigil power, select one ability modifier. Any time your sigil powers refer to an ability score or modifier (such as to determine save DCs or uses per day), you use the selected ability.

Sigil Spells

Sigil Scions gain spells as they grow in power.

At 1st level, you select three specific class spell lists, which you note down. When you gain Sigil Spells, they must come from these three spell lists. You cannot select spells lists from a prestige class, or a class that gains multiple spell lists (ie you cannot select the hunter class spell list, as it is made of the druid and ranger class spell lists). If a spell list comes from a class with requirements for alignment, background, or armor/equipment restrictions (such as druid or paladin), you must meet those restrictions.

Each Sigil Spell you select is noted as being from one of these three lists (even if it on multiple class lists, you must assign it to just one of your three), and follows the general rules for spellcasting from that class (such as Arcane Spell Failure), though you never need to prepare spells in advance (see below). When you cast these spells you do so as if you were a member of the selected class (Sigil Spells are normal spells, not spell-like abilities).

When you first choose Sigil Spells, You may choose to gain Eschew Materials as a bonus feat, and for all of your Sigil Spells to automatically be Still Spells (thus ignoring Arcane Spell Failure). If you do this, your Sigil Spell caster level is equal to half your character level (at 1st level, your CL is 0.5 – all CL-influenced values are halved, rounding down).

Sigil Spells can be used to meet prerequisites for feats and item creation, but not archetypes or prestige classes.

When you first gain Sigil Spells, you select three 0-level spells known. In addition to 0-level spells from your three class spell lists, you may also choose from the following 0-level spells: detect magic, guidance, light, mage hand, read magic, stabilize. You can assign these to any of your three class lists, even if they do not normally have these spell on that list.

At 2nd level, your total spells known increases to four, and the maximum spell level you can select from goes from 0-level to 1st level. You can select any one 1st level spell from the three spell lists you choose as your Sigil Spell lists to bring you spells known up to your new maximum. You also gain one spell slot you can use to cast any 1st-level or higher spell you know. Your spell slots are restored once per day at a set time (normally dawn) as long as you are not fatigued or exhausted.

As you gain in character level, you gain additional spells known and can select higher-level spells. You spell slots are used to cast any of your 1st-level or higher spells. Thus a 6th level Sigil Scion knows five spells (three of which are 0 level, one 1st-level, and one 1st or 2nd level) and has two spells slots (which can be used to cast any 1st or 2nd level spell the Scion knows). Each time you gain a new level, you can change one spell known to another spell of the same level from one of your three class lists.

When you first gain sigil power, select one ability modifier. Any time your sigil powers refer to an ability score or modifier (such as to determine save DCs or uses per day), you use the selected ability. If a spell references an ability score of yours to determine how it works (such as spiritual weapon allowing you to add your Wisdom bonus to attack rolls with it), you can also switch that to your selected ability.

As you gain levels, your total spells known and the maximum level of the spells you know increase, as shown on Table: Sigil Spells, below.

Table: Sigil Spells

1st           Three spells known (max level 0), Zero slots

2nd-3rd      Four spells known (max level 1), One slot

4th-5th      Four spells known (max level 1), Two slots

6th-7th      Five spells known (max level 2), Two slots

8th-9th      Five spells known (max level 2), Three slots

10th-11th                       Six spells known (max level 3), Three slots

12th-13th                       Six spells known (max level 3), Four slots

14th-15th                       Seven spells known (max level 3), Four slots

16th-17th                       Eight spells known (max level 3), Four slots

18th-19th                       Nine spells known (max level 4), Five slots

20th             Ten spells known (max level 4), Five slots

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Starfinder HyperMall: GoTo

The HyperMall is an InfoSphere Commerce company that sells extremely cheap, but modestly useful, items in bulk to vending companies on worlds with Hyperspace travel. The HyperMall has literally hundreds of millions of items available for order, so many travelers enjoy downloading their virtual catalog and clicking through it on long, dull hyperspace trips.

HyperMall items are all Level 0 minor items that cost 1 credit (or you can buy 120 of them for 100 credits), and have negligible bulk unless noted otherwise. However, crafting any HyperMall item takes 10 UPBs… a fact that frustrates armchair economists and bespoke crafters. HyperMall items are not robust enough to have a major effect on gameplay. Essentially, none of these items have any Strength, damage, hardness, HP, or game-mechanical effect.

(Art by artbase)

GoTo (Technological item): A GoTo is among the most popular brand-name of Smart Data Compilers. By itself, it largely does nothing (though many come with games and basic local InfoSphere access). However, a GoTo can be synced to a theoretically-infinite number of other devices you own and have on your person, so compile and organize the data they offer. Most users begin by syncing their comm links, and then add more and more items as they enjoy the convenience.
Syncing an item to a GoTo takes 10 minutes, root access to the device to be added, and requires a Computers check with a DC equal to 5 + double the number of items already synced. If you fail this check by 5 or more, the new item IS synced, but a randomly selected previously synced item is removed from sync without any notification. Generally you don’t realize an item is removed from sync until you try to use it.
A GoTo can be placed in an armor upgrade slot, be added to any head/eye system cybernetic, or be held. Either way, it allows you to use all items on your person that give you information (such as scanners, comm links, computers, and so on), though you cannot access any function that requires an attack roll or skill check other than Perception, or that forces a target to make a saving throw. However, whenever you use it to make Perception check that you cannot take 10 on, a natural 1 on the die is both an automatic failure, and randomly removes a device from sync.
Despite the glitchiness of GoTos, they remain extremely popular among the techneratti. Indeed there are advanced models that can cost hundreds or even thousands of credits more… and function exactly the same way (but with better style and branding). Some social scientists fear the constant use of GoTo devices is eroding person-to-person relationships on a number of worlds.

Adventure Seed: A new GoTo program, free-to-download, claims to fix de-syncing issues. It is actually a hybrid curse, that causes anyone who uses their GoTo for more than 8 hours in a row to become a borai, and after 8 more hours a ghoul.
Within a few days, entire cities may fall to this necromantic viral app.

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Starfinder HyperMall: Chromat

The HyperMall is an InfoSphere Commerce company that sells extremely cheap, but modestly useful, items in bulk to vending companies on worlds with Hyperspace travel. The HyperMall has literally hundreds of millions of items available for order, so many travelers enjoy downloading their virtual catalog and clicking through it on long, dull hyperspace trips.

HyperMall items are all Level 0 minor items that cost 1 credit (or you can buy 120 of them for 100 credits), and have negligible bulk unless noted otherwise. However, crafting any HyperMall item takes 10 UPBs… a fact that frustrates armchair economists and bespoke crafters. HyperMall items are not robust enough to have a major effect on gameplay. Essentially, none of these items have any Strength, damage, hardness, HP, or game-mechanical effect.

Chromat (Hybrid Item): A chromat is a short penlike object that functions as a 1-shot fashion redesign device. Using a chromat takes 10 minutes, and requires you have sole control of the item to be affected. The item selected must be something you could wear or carry. It’s style, symbology, and color scheme are altered to match your general style, in much the way weapons with weapon fusions are altered. You do not have precise control over the new style and coloration (though it generally matches your preferred style, or if you prefer any 1 item you already have personalized and is present). You cannot duplicate any specific uniform, symbol or gear using a chromat. Once used, a chromat is expended, and the purely-cosmetic changes to made to the item you used it on are permanent.

Adventure Seed: Someone is breaking into clothing stores and textile cleaning businesses, and using handfuls of chromats to alter items to look like they belong to a crazed nihilist cult. Local authorities are convinced this is a marketing stunt for a new holovid series or void-rock band, but regardless the businesses in question want the fashion-vandalism stopped.

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Starfinder HyperMall: Brimmerfloat

The HyperMall is an InfoSphere Commerce company that sells extremely cheap, but modestly useful, items in bulk to vending companies on worlds with Hyperspace travel. The HyperMall has literally hundreds of millions of items available for order, so many travelers enjoy downloading their virtual catalog and clicking through it on long, dull hyperspace trips.

HyperMall items are all Level 0 minor items that cost 1 credit (or you can buy 120 of them for 100 credits), and have negligible bulk unless noted otherwise. However, crafting any HyperMall item takes 10 UPBs… a fact that frustrates armchair economists and bespoke crafters. HyperMall items are not robust enough to have a major effect on gameplay. Essentially, none of these items have any Strength, damage, hardness, HP, or game-mechanical effect.

Brimmerfloat (Hybrid Item): A brimmerfloat is peaked circle of cloth with an enchantment giving it a very, very slight negative gravity and a tiny gyro in it’s wire outer circumference, causing it to float gently upwards using a built-in, nonchargeable microbattery. It can be tethered to the top of your head, turning into a hands-free umbrella. It’s not string enough to float upward when being hit by rain, but will remain level in typical rain, sitting atop wherever you clipped its tether. The process that allows it to resist gravity has only 8 hours of effectiveness, though its not used up when the cloth is folded up. After 8 hours of use, it’s just a thin piece of cloth. Brimmerfloats are most often sold by vending-drones at posts and travel terminals during rainy weather, for people arriving from less wet locations who didn’t think to bring a more permanent umbrella options.
Catalog Code: H01Br@!67F22P[p]678413YSK

Adventure Seed: One bimmerfloat has no game mechanical effect. But a fight in a warehouse with crates of tens of thousands of them could cause any missed attack to break open a crate to form clouds of slowly expanding, spinning, lifting umbrella-tops that may give concealment between different altitudes.

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Two More Off-The-Cuff Campaign Ideas

I didn’t expect to write more of these… but I guess that’s what makes them off-the-cuff. I envision both of these as likely Starfinder campaigns, but you could mold them to work however you like.

Armageddon Helix: While there are numerous theories about its creation, no one is sure what caused the Armageddon Helix, a 525-mile wide strip of alternate reality running in a spiral from pole to pole of the Earth. Within the Helix, technology became unpredictable, magic and psychic powers bloomed, monsters arose, aline ruins and mythic buildings burst up from the land itself, and destruction was wrought. Magic does not function outside the Helix, but many strange technologies do. However, those technologies require materials that only exist within the Helix.
Those within the Helix changed as well, becoming unable to survive outside of it, and becoming ill if the come within a few miles of its edge. Similarly, those from outside the Helix cannot live near or survive within the Helix. Of course, this makes travel much more difficult–going from Seattle to Boise is simple enough, as they are within the same Safeland strip, but the center of the country is within the Helix, and travel to the East coast requires travel up to the north pole, around the end of the Helix, and back down toward North America.
The exception to this are extremely rare Apocalypse Riders, 0.01% of the population who can move freely between the Safeland and the Apocalypse Helix. Apocalypse Riders are heavily recruited, to take emergency supplies and news into the Helix, to bring valuable HelixTech materials out, to hunt down criminal riders who operate on the borer where few can seek them out, and to explore ever-changing Helix Ruins in the hopes of understanding what brought about the Helix, and if it can be reversed or controlled. Between missions, Apocalypse Riders can live in relative comfort in the Safelands, going to restaurants, seeing movies, and sleeping in soft beds. But within the Helix, danger lurks around every corner.

Gjallarbrú Guard: There are many names for the river that separates the lands of the living from the lands of the dead. Regardless of its name, that river is crossed by an infinite number of massive bridges, each bridge a city wherein the work of the afterlife is carried out. One of these is Gjallarbrú, the Golden Hall.
Souls dwell here. Mostly those who expect to reach a Norse afterlife, but others two. Some know how they got here. Many don’t. A few don’t even believe they are dead.
In most cases, those souls eventually move on. Once they pay their obolgild, or finish their limbo-punishment, or clear up some paperwork. Some don’t ever go on to the afterlife. Others can’t. And a lot just need to work to earn the obolgild to do so… or steal it.
There are rules, too. Cosmic, immutable laws. And fiends and elder alien reality-warpers and astrally projected living necromancers and sleepwalking psychics and Miskatonic university professors keep stirring up trouble. And sometimes, a dead soul even gets killed.
You are one of the souls that can’t, or won’t, move on. And you are part of the city Guard. It’s your job to keep the peace. The Peace of the Already Dead.
Sometimes Guards come from Chinvat, the bridge-city upstream from Gjallarbrú, chasing escapees who floated down the Infinite River. Less often someone must go downriver to Hardos, the broken bridge city, for similar reasons. Rumors claim that Guards are sometimes sent more than one bridge away up or down the river, but if that’s true, you’ve never spoken to such people.

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Five Off-the-Cuff ttRPG Campaign Ideas

So, when I am making off-the-cuff descriptions of ttRPG ideas or campaigns to make a point, if I don’t just go with halfling battle-bakers, I usually throw together random elements as they come into my head, and just run with them without giving them any serious consideration.
And, to be honest, those ideas (from royal families of were-rats who now rule their empire from gilded sewers to campaigns set in the dying husk of the World Tree) tend to be pretty popular. Once my self-censor is off, sometimes good stuff comes.
So, here are five off-the-cuff campaign ideas I have done no prep or pre=-planning for. They may all suck… or one or two might spark a good idea for other people. 🙂

Recruits of Heroes’ Hall: Valgard is the Heroes’ Hall, the ultimate interdimensional base of operations for the Valorous Guard, the mythic and legendary champions of all reality.
Sadly, they are all dead. The Heroes’ Beacon, which lights up when societies throughout the multiverse need help, now goes unanswered.
But Valgard ITSELF is a living, thinking thing. And it wants new heroes. It does not care about their power level, or plane of origin. It’s going to select those it believes have the potential to be legendary, and bring them into itself.
Participation is not optional.
And after all, if you die, Valgard just brings you back to life… sometimes during the same fight.

Celestial Racers: The lights in the sky actually are the shining wheels of celestial chariots. They also control the destiny of mortals. So teams of worshipers are selected to compete in Celestial Races, with winners forming constellations that benefit their patron deity.

Sigils: Sigils are ancient marks of conceptual power which select those psychologically aligned to them. Being of a compatible sigils is more important than family, or ancestry, or culture. Most sigilkin have a minor, cantriplike power to call upon. But the great Sigil Scions can change the world, and those champions are empowered with energies far beyond their class or training.

Inkbound: New spells aren’t researched. Magic is not some academic pursuit you can master through study. No, new spells only occur when written ideas are exposed to enough danger, destiny, disease, and damnation that it becomes infused with eldritch meaning, and forms into a new, unique spell. Powerful wizards thus employ the poor, desperate, and criminally sentenced to become Inkbound, people with bodies covered in mystic symbol tattoos who are sent through the most horrific and dangerous quests imaginable, some specifically created to push Inkbound to the point where spells begin to manifest on their skin.

Boldly: The Crescent is a fragment of an ancient, galaxy-spanning civilization. Hundreds of miles long, it is a surviving part of a Dyson sphere that once held billions of civilizations. But now no one can control it. It has food, water, can sustain life at differing gravities and atmospheres effortlessly, and no one knows how. It also heals those on it so instantly injury or death are impossible, and teleports at random from civilized world to civilized world, with a huge digital hourglass telling all on it how long until it transits again… anywhere from an hour to a month.
Once you get on the Crescent you may live forever and see the galaxy… but chances are you can’t even find your way home.

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Worldbuilding with Proverbs

Whether it is because you need something for a character who is presented as wise to say (or to have written, so their wise book can be quoted), or want to represent common values in a fictional culture by showing what they hold as common advice, it can be useful to consider proverbs as an important part of worldbuilding.

Even homilies that are conceptually the same can carry some cool worldbuilding information. You might start with “Don’t complain about the crust on the bread that holds starvation at bay,” and decide it’s too negatively focused, or too plebian. “Vinegar slakes thirst as well as wine, but is much less commonly sipped” has a very similar core idea, but carries a very different nuance.

You can also add callbacks for proverbs. “A dull sword hurts more than a sharp word” is a perfectly reasonable proverb. But if one culture stops there, and a different one adds “But sharp words are more easily whispered behind your back,” it shows both that the two cultures have impact on one another, and that they have different core concerns.

You can go so far as to have proverbs that are clearly driven by political or religious control, rather than folk wisdom. The novel 1984 is a masterclass on this, and I can’t provide better examples than “Ignorance is Strength” and “Slavery is Freedom,” so I’ll just note adding a little George Orwell to your reading list can go a long way.

Of course, putting this theory into practice can also since you down a rabbit-hole of creating entire books of pithy things your different fictional cutlures say and talk about… none of which may ever come up in games you run or scenes you right. I find that kind of thing fun and useful as mental background, but not everyone has the time or inclination. Since many ttRPG-focused worldbuilders are just looking for some fun things to drop in their campaigns, rather than essays on theoretical ways they could spend more time thinking about things to spend time thinking about things, here’s a short list of proverbs you can add to your home game worldbuilding, or use as jumping-off points for creating your own.

“Cursing your wakefulness does not help you sleep.”

“That a tragedy could have been worse does not make it less a tragedy.”

“A novice who will defend you is of greater value than a master who won’t.”

“The fly does not care how complex the web is.”

“Starting a fight is bad, but tolerating an injustice is worse.”

“You need not be the one to build a bad bridge for its collapse to harm you.”

“It is fair to suspect your motives when you tell only one kind of truth, even without accusing you of falsehood.”

“Do not assume those who are paid to smile enjoy your company simply because they do as they are paid to.”

“To complain a cat’s meow is too loud, when the cock’s crow and dog’s bark go without comment, is to show your complaint is with cats, not noises.”

“Increasing the volume of your voice does not increase the wisdom of your words. But it may convey information about your anger.”

“Those blessed with lives that require no labor can most easily be dismissive of the value of work. But their figs still do not pick themselves.”

“We should not call them wise words because they come from someone accounted wise. We should account someone as wise if we find they have offered words with wisdom.”

“Platitudes cannot staunch bleeding, nor return what has been stolen.”

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Really Wild West “Doomstone” Campaign — After-Action Report (Game Session 8, part 1)

I got a bit behind on posting these due to the holidays, but here’s the after-action report for Session Seven of the Really Wild West: Doomstone campaign. The Knight Rangers have headed out in their converted Martian Excavating Machine, now known as The Armadillo, to the Montana city of Hellgate as part of their quest to find and defeat Professor Barkane Adrameliche, who has become the darkling Lord, the Venom King.

Along the way, they topped in on the family of the ogre ranch-hand and ally Bo Hoss, and discovered the Hoss clan was being forced to labor for a group of Vrock cultists.

This entry is adapted from the notes of my friend Carl, a player in the game, and told from his point of view. My wife, Lj, was unable to play this session. As a result her character, the fenrin operative bounty hunter, was caught up by a twister while flying ahead to scout using DaVinci Wings. Sawyer managed to assure the other Knight Rangers that she’s catch up with them after she landed (and since Lj wanted us to go ahead and play without her, we hand-waved any concern the characters might normally have had over losing a member for a few days).

You can find Session One here: Part OnePart Two.
Session Two here: Part OnePart Two.
Session Three here.
Session Four here.
Session Five here: Part OnePart Two.
Session Six here.
Session Seven here: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.

If you don’t recognize a reference, it may (or may not) be in a previous session, or at the updated campaign notes page.

May 7, 1891

Travel past Idaho Falls, turning west.

May 8, 1891

The Knight Rangers pass many signs, pointing back to Idaho Falls, which appears to have been called Eagle Rock until recently. Numerous families in wagons are headed East toward Idaho Falls, evacuating the area further west.

Reach Root Hog, Idaho (will someday become Arco). It shows signs of extensive  new construction, Edison and Tesla-based engineering, and numerous Martian tech survey teams

The nearby “Craters of the Moon” was a major Martian landing location, and kind of an initial base for them. When Martians were getting sick at the end of the War of the Worlds, this was a place they fell back too. The town is “Martian wreckage boom town.”

Recently the Army Corps of Engineers has opened up Craters of the Moon battle site to public exploration. The Corp found a lot of stuff, but the mass of public can find more, and even a simple Martian “screw” is worth 2 credits.

As the Knight rangers arrive in the Armadillo, a bunch of people with newstypes (Newspapers printed locally having been received over the Babbage-Bel Grid) approach us and ask us for signatures.

(The Armadillo, the Knight Rangers’ mobile base of operation they converted from a Martian Embanking Machine. Art by Jacob Blackmon)

Headline in the “Lake Hudson Dispatch” reads:  Knight Rangers Threaten Town of Texburg. The coverage is all negative and wrong, along with a negative artists rendition

Headline in the “Gotham Times” reads: The Really Wild West: Martians, Mercenaries, and Magic!, and only mentions the KR in passing

Headline in the “Washington’s Bugle Weekly ” reads: The New Wild: Heroes Arise to Meet Unimagined Threats, and is accompanied by a fairly accurate artists rendition, although the female centaur paladin is depicted as being 12 feet tall. The article is written by “April Raynes,” and it mentions two other groups, the “Swordslingers” and the “Blud-Hexen Bunch”

After about hour, 12 men with rifles who have us artilleryman’s badges and red strip trousers show up. They are led by Sergeant Levy Cooper, a gruff man with a big bushy mustache and beard. He is currently in charge of Martian issues in Root Hog. Wants to see our Martian papers, and to have one of his people go over the Armadillo to make sure its not leaking or going to exploding. We agree.

Locals had more encounters with the “bug gum” and takes some affidavits from us about our experiences with it (the Jerusalem bugs and walking meat).

The engineer mentions “orange goo”  from some Martian tech that makes bugs grow big. Sergeant mentions Tesla was here first, indicates the least constructed building, “they had a really nice headquarters.”

He gives us a whistle that has a specific frequency that his fenrin employees can hear, they use it for emergencies.

They leave a corporal to keep an eye on us. Sergeant cooper says ” people don’t do what is expected, they do what is inspected.”

The closest crossing the Armadillo can take is a bridge which currently has so much traffic, we have to make an “appointment” to cross the bridge with the bridge officer.

In town, the centaur paladin goes for a hot shower, can’t find a shower place big enough, but a place that normally does degreaser for salvaged Martian tech, allows her to wash there. She encounters a large, 6″ wasp and pops it with a towel. It explodes into a green goo that is the same color as the Venom King’s various poisons.

The roboticist mechanic does some gambling, and looses to a professional gambler, “Slyton Seeves” , his friends call him “Sly.” They chat. He seems polite and proper. He wants to buy her (custom built) spark pistol for a lead lined box with a glowing blue dodecahedron crystal, She recognizes it as technological, but doesn’t know what it is. She does identify it as a part of a Martian interplanetary communicator. She makes the trade (and later builds herself a new spark pistol).

The human soldier guards the Armadillo while others are in town. He sees a woman walking about unnoticed on other people’s camps. No one else seems to see her. She then kisses a guy who is wraked with coughs, and that guy dies.

She approaches the Armadillo, and the soldier makes it obvious he can see her. She approaches, and they talk. She is Macha Morriga, basically a psychopomp. They exchange information, she tells him darklings rewrite reality. About 1,000 one got loose in South America, and destroyed an entire empire. She leaves, peacefully.

The cartographamancer half-orc was contact by agent of Tex Tanner. Tanner wanted to hire the Cartographamancer away from the Knight Rangers on a long-term contract, but was turned down. Tex Tanner is clearly paying agents throughout the West to keep track of the Knight Rangers.

(End Part One)

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ShadowFinder Campaign Sketch

ShadowFinder is a concept for a Modern Urban Fantasy setting using heavily-modified Starfinder.

The idea behind ShadowFinder is that there used to be magic in our world, but it went away when the Gods of Old Egypt left to go a place Beyond. Then there was no magic to speak of, until a group of mystic champions arrived in Siberia during WWI to kill Rasputin, and accidentally left a few magic devices behind.

Now it’s the Modern era, and magic is common enough that most governments and many international organizations have at least one department that knows about it, and as needed deals with it. But the greatest protection a mundane creature can have is to believe magic does not exist, and so these in-the-know groups are literally protecting the world by keeping magic a secret. Further, just as vampires cannot be seen in mirror, they (and all magic effects and creatures) cannot clearly be recorded or sensed by any camera, film, or recording device, but are vulnerable to atomic weapons. So magic threats tend to try to stay out of sight, so they don’t force the whole world to grapple with their existence and potentially over-react with devastating power.

Both sides work to keep magic in the Shadows, and to find sources, allies, threats, and lost relics in those shadows to bolster their own side in a never-ending was keep just out of sight.

(Art by grandfailure)

Classes would be drawn from various sources. Soldiers and operative from the core rulebook, certainly, with little change. Likely mechanics, but with neither drones nor exo-cortexes as common options, replaced with some other variable class feature. No solarions or vanguards at all, but maybe sword saints. Warlocks and witches seem more appropriate than mystics or technomancers, though it’d be a shame to not have some kind of modern-device-focused spellcasters — again variant classes might do the trick. Biohackers are out, witchwarpers likely in. The precog is a definite maybe, depending on how it turns out.

Weapons would scale differently, with an equipment list that didn’t assume you got higher- and higher-level weapons, but instead use weapon damage benchmarks to scale up the damage a character does as they gain levels, allowing things like pistols, shotguns, and rifles to retain utility even at extremely high levels.

In a standard characters would at least initially be part of one of the groups that monitor, track, and if needed neutralize supernatural threats, and action would primarily take place in wilderness areas, abandoned towns, lonely highways, and defunct sewers, basements, and subway lines. As players got used to how the ShadowFinder world worked, some scenes might burst into the bright light of day, only to be misconstrued by the public (and maybe even misremembered by witnesses) as gas main explosions, terrorist attacks, or herds of feral hogs.

Plots could include locking down viral zombie outbreaks before they turn into zombie apocalypses, retrieving the book that got moved to a university’s accessible library that is bring people’s nightmares to life, undead serial killers that haunt campgrounds, tracking down wererat colonies that are feeding on the homeless, rescuing student filmmakers from nighthags in the woods, capturing souls that have escaped hell, slaying evil clown demons, and racing against time to beat cultists to the artifacts of power in the bottom of dungeons built in the ancient era to prevent them from falling into mortal hands. Along the way other weirdnesses might be encounters, such as cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers, giant alligators in the sewers, giant cockroaches mimicking humans, and genetically engineered giant spiders.

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