Category Archives: Microsetting

Practical Pastiche: Modern Soft Drinks

Practical Pastiche” is a series I expand on from time to time, offering drop-in names you can use in your home ttRPG campaigns to replace real-world organizations, places, groups, and anything else you might want to use in a fictional world without the baggage of using real-world elements.

SOFT DRINKS
From sodas to punches to energy drinks, sweet to sour, diet to diabetic, selling people ready-made things to drink is a 400 billion-dollar industry worldwide.

Apollo’s Coffee: Famously a ubiquitous coffee shop that sometimes is so dense that two can be on opposite corners of the same intersection. Very popular, and fairly pricey. Also sells ground coffee and chilled bottled coffee drinks.

Barkentea: Named after the Barkentine trading ships of the 1800s from which its business grew, Barkentea makes a dozen brands and flavors of ready-made tea, tea and juice drinks, lemonade, and fruit-flavored tea mixes. Their main slogan is “Set sail with Barkentea.”

Blue Bison: An energy drink popular with programmers, truckers, sailors, students, and anyone driven by late-stage capitalism to put being active above their own health. The main flavors are adrenaline and sugar. Uses the catchphrase “Take Life By The Horns”

Boltzz Cola: A soda famous for having tons of sugar (proudly cane sugar, not corn syrup) and multiple forms of caffeine. Claims it tastes like licking a battery. … It doesn’t really, but it is an intense flavor for cola.

Choco-Cola: The world’s most popular chocolate-flavor-infused cola drink. Cherry Choco-Colo, Diet Choco-Cola, Choco-Cola-Cafe (with coffee), and Choco-Cola-Free are its most popular sub-flavors. The Choco-Cola Company is one of the largest and most powerful worldwide corporations, though they do their best not to seem like it. Their two most famous ad campaigns where “Friendship? Chalk It Up To Choco!” and the Easter Toucan animation. Choco-Cola famously changed their formula to their “New World Soda” in the 1980s. It was a disaster.

Choco-Cola has Eleven Secret Formulas, for their varieties of Choco-Cola, which are legitimately unknown to anyone but a few people within the company, all sworn to secrecy, and according to urban legend, no one but a single random janitor who serves as a backstop should all the higher-ranking formula-holders be killed. The secret formulas are taken seriously because no one else who has tried to make a chocolate-cola product has ever had significant success.

Choco-Cola Brands: The Choco-Cola Corporation also owns Pixie (a lemon-lime soda, which comes in all the varieties Choco-Cola does, and yes, that includes Pixie-Cafe lemon-lime-coffee soda, which is only big in Chicago), Nutrition Water, Frutina (fruit soda flavors), Fresh Skweezed (fresh and concentrate juices), Mega-Ade (a sports drink) and Professor Spice (a knockoff of Ph.Delicious).

Crocovial: One of the original sports drinks. Has a lot of sports team endorsements. Barrels of it are often dumped on baseball coaches when their team wins a game. Owned by the Pepfül Soda Company (or “PepSoCo”).

Peakant: An uncarbonated fruit drink line, with Lime Peakant and Tangerine Peakant the most popular. Can be bought in powder form as well. famously drunk by the Aquanauts in the Deep Water Lab missions of the 1970s.

Pepfül Soda: The main competitor to Choco-Cola. Was cheaper during various recessions and depressions, which allowed it to gain a toehold worldwide where other alternate colas did not. Pepfül and Choco engaged in the Soda Siege in the 80s and 90s, which are the source of various conspiracy theories claiming people were really killed, or that it was a cover for a worldwide fight against shapeshifters, and a dozen other ridiculous things.

Pepfül Soda Brands: The Pepfül Soda Company (or “PepSoCo”) has a dozen other major soda brands, including Chery Bomm (a super-sweet, super-caffeinated beverage that’s neon red in color), Crocovial (see above), Oceanical (juices, and fruit-flavored teas and noncarbonated punches), and Axeman (energy drinks).

Ph.Delicious: An independent soda that’s not quite a cola, but is extremely popular. Began to franchise before Choco-Cola, in the late 1800s, Nearly every major beverage company has its own knock-off. While its ad campaigns are updated every few years, they almost always revolve around the phrase “Be smart, get your Ph.Delicious!”

Snapricot: A brand of ready-to-drink fruit-flavored teas. Has reimagined itself several times, and currently has flavors that mix a type of tea with a juice (English Breapple, Green Tangerine, and Chamomilelderberry are the most popular, with Chamomilelderberry poking fun at its long name by having it wrap around the bottles in a spiral). Currently uses the slogan “Brewed to BE The Best TEA.”

Whammo Water Works: They sell bottled water. They make it sound fancy, but it’s tap water.

The K-Force Files (Part 3)

I covered what the K-Force files are, and why I wrote them in Part 1, which covered Terminology, Locations, and Organizations in a kaiju-rich world. Part 2 presented some of the most important Kaiju within the setting.

Here in Part 3, I go over some of the hardware used, mostly by K-Force, to handle Kaiju threats.

HARDWARE

Gunslinger Gamma: Gunslinger Gamma is an enormous 300-foot tall mecha operated by K-Force. Sometimes referred to as a kaiju itself by the public, Gunslinger Gamma requires a 2-personc crew to operate and thus is categorized as a vehicle by K-Force.

As K-Force studied the properties of Kaiju and their K-Calls ability to alter how fundamental forces operated in a field around a kaiju, and acquired partial blueprints on the technologies used to create Mecha-Deltara, an experimental build program was initiated to attempt to emulate this effect using massive quantum generators. Because the generators were trying to match quantum field readings from specific kaiju, the vehicles housing them had to conform to roughly the shape of the kaiju from which those readings were taken.

In 2013, the program produced 6 K-Class Mecha, which were deployed in a rush to face kaiju threats including Tarankura’s attack on New York City. The Mecha faced 6 J-Class and K-Class threats in 6 months, and all but Gunslinger Gamma were destroyed in the process. In 2014, Gunslinger Gamma took on, and defeated, the Tier Kaiju Void God KLKQ, making it the only purely Earth-built device to ever defeat a tier 1 K-class threat in solo battle.

So far, all efforts to create a second Quantum Generator that can duplicate the field used by Gunslinger Gamma have failed, leaving it the only active and proven antikaiju mecha.

KDestroyers: K-Destroyers (or Kaiju Destroyers, or K-Ds), are K-Force ground vehicles designed specifically for dealing with J-Class and K-Class threats. While they are clearly derived from modern tanks and AFVs, K-Ds are purpose designed to engage giant monster threats. As a result they generally focus on overwhelming firepower and mobility. Because a direct attack from a K-class threat can destroy even the most heavily armored standard-technology military vehicle, K-Ds normally have just enough protection to prevent ricochets and rubble from taking them out. They also aren’t designed to oppose enemy infantry with antitank weapons.

Gen 1 K-Ds were essentially tank destroyers with some armor removed in favor of higher speeds. Gen 2 and 3 K-Ds were increasingly specialized vehicles, and the few designs of Gen 4 K-Ds often look nothing like modern AFVs.

(Art by Avasylenko)

M-Destroyers: M-Destroyers (or Maser-Armed Destroyers, or Mas-Ds) are Gen 4 K-D chassis equipped with powerful masers (Microwave Amplification by Stimulation Emission of Radiation, also sometimes called ‘Microwave Lasers). Masers are the most effective anti-Kaiju weapon using standard technology available to Earth. Mas-Ds are bigger, slower, and less armored than K-Destroyers, and are deployed as far away from K-Class threats as possible while remaining in effective maser range.

Mobile Armor Pods: MAPs are much smaller mecha, averaging 8-12 feet in height, used by K-Force primarily to allow spotters, observers, scouts, and researchers to get close to rampaging kaiju while remaining protected from debris and wreckage. They can be armed if a situation warrants it (such as if a swarm of juvenile Taranturas are overrunning an area), but normally primarily carry lifter arms, communications gear, scanning equipment, and scientific instruments.

Striker Ks: The Striker K airships are electromagnetic hover ships, and form K-Forces’ primary antikaiju fleet. They are designed as operate as small sea vessels do, but with the significant advantage of being airborne. They are roughly the size and power of modern navy destroyers and are often used as testbeds and delivery platforms for specific antikaiju devices.

Submersible X: K-Forces mobile field headquarters, Submersible X is an extremely advanced submarine aircraft carrier and missile carrier. It can operate at extreme depths underwater, and is able to transport Gunslinger Gamma. It carries the very first successful Quantum Generator K-Force ever possessed, though unlike those used in Gunslinger Gamma, Submarine X’s generator is repaired Externian technology salvaged from the ruins of Lemuria.

Submersible X has faced kaiju directly, and even defeated Gangcheora on multiple occasions.

Patreon
I have a Patreon. It helps me carve out the time needed to create these blog posts, and is a great way to let me know what kind of content you enjoy. If you’d like to see more system-agnostic worldbuilding, game industry essays, more rules for Starfinder or either edition of Pathfinder or other game systems, fiction, game design articles, worldbuilding tips, or whatever!, try joining for just a few bucks and month and letting me know!

The K-Force Files (Part 2)

I covered what the K-Force files are, and why I wrote them in Part 1, which covered Terminology, Locations, and Organizations in a kaiju-rich world.

Here in Part 2, I go over some of the best-known kaiju in the world. This is far from a complete list of all kaiju who have ever appeared, just the best-known kaiju, along with a representative sample of lesser giant monsters.

KAIJU

Annihilah: A tier 1 kaiju, Annihilah appeared in 1995 and immediately sought out Tsarkyrkon. A crustacean-like kaiju, Annihilah was immune to Tsarkyrkon’s nuclear fire breath, and could stun the God of Kaiju with a Neuron Burn Beam. It fact, Annihilah was created by sea life that had been mutated by the Neuron Suppressor (used to drive off Tsarkyrkon on his first appearance) and exposed to Tsarkyrkon’s k-cell-infused blood. The mutated creatures had slowly sought each other out and merged, until at some point they gained sentience, and sought to finish the task of killing the god of kaiju, which was to be the first step in destroying all life. Annihilah was destroyed by Tsarkyrkon, with K-Force’s aid in weakening the hybrid Neural-Suppressor-created kaiju.

Arcotopeltus: A Tier 2 kaiju, Arcotopeltus is a heavily-armored quadrupedal reptilian kaiju that can create subsonic fields which damage anything that touches it, and can turn ground and earth to quicksand allowing it to swim through the ground as if it was water. Arcotopeltus was the first kaiju to fight Tsarkyrkon, in 1955 and, upon being defeated, has only operated to support the God of Kaiju.

Deltara: A heavily armored burrowing quadrupedal kaiju, Deltara made a series of appearances in 1965, when it arrived to oppose XJPT (usually pronounced CHI-jar-pit), one of the three the so-called Void Gods which it is generally accepted to have been sent to Earth by an as-yet unknown alien intelligence (which were the Externians), likely with hostile intent. Deltara burst from the ground before XJPT reached Tokyo (the most populated city in the world at the time). Using an as-yet-not-understood “force beam” which allowed Deltara to both swim through bedrock as if it was liquid and slice through nearly any material at range, Deltara drove off XJPT, though not without suffering extensive wounds. (The other two Void Gods were driven off, but not destroyed, by Tsarkyrkon and Vespira).

The two would clash five more times, at the edge of five major cities worldwide. At each battle, prepubescent children are reported to have felt strong compunction to approach the site, and anecdotal reports claim Deltara grew stronger as more children watched it fight. However, children within a mile or so of such battles began to show signs of psychic abilities, which have since been attributed to their exposure to the k-cells in both Deltara and XJPT. Even today, the majority of confirmed psychics are, or can trace their lineage back to, adolescent witnesses of the 1965 Deltara/XJPT conflicts.

The final battle between the two took place outside Mumbai. Forewarned by children chanting Deltara’s name for hours, most parents fled the city to ensure their children would be nowhere near such a conflict. Deltara destroyed XJPT (though the Void God may have since been reincarnated), but died in the process. Deltara was never studied while living, and his remains were claimed by the General Oil Company. Because of his behavior during the Void Gods crisis, and cave paintings that bare some resemblance to him, many kaijologists believe Deltara was a Guardian Spirit, and possibly an extremely old one.

Gangcheora: Gangcheora is a wingless, flying serpentlike kaiju that can control storms and tides, and breathe a ray that advanced the age of whatever it hits. Apparently once a Guardian Spirit of a civilization destroyed 10,000 years ago by the Externians dwelling in the ruins of Atlantis, it awoke in 1964, and immediately began attacking any signs of advanced technology. The K-Force vehicle Submarine X was rushed into service to seek and defeat Gangcheora, and wounded it badly enough the kaiju was thought dead as it fell into the Mariana Trench. However, Gangcheora survived, and has fought K-Force several times since then.

Ghengis Kong: Ghengis Kong is an oddity amongst kaiju. The massive primatelike kaiju is clearly from a long line of the same species that lived on Fang Island — a rarity among kaiju. He is resistant to known forms of disease and poison and can regenerate damage well, and his species were clearly the alpha predators of Fang Island, but is the last of his kind with no sign of what killed off his kin. All objective analyses of him place him as a Tier 3, or at absolute best a tier 2 kaiju, but he has defeated numerous tier 1 kaiju and even fought Tsarkyrkon: God of Kaiju to a standstill. He was late to the global scene of kaiju, but was secretly encountered and captured by General Oil Company in 1933. He mostly ignores people, including residents of his island, but they consider him their legal ruler.

Ghengis Kong is 110 feet tall, and though his hide is among the least armored of any true kaiju (about on par with tough J-class creatures) he can apparently use sheer determination to remain focused and active even after taking horrific damage. His bite is his most damaging attack, but he is far more likely to use his fists or grapple foes. If he stays in one place long enough, thunderstorms gather around him, and seem to ignore him and focus wind, hail, and lightning at his foes. His greatest asset appears to be his intellect, as he is clearly at least as smart as a typical human (and possibly much smarter), and has a true tactical genius.

Although he doesn’t go on rampages unless attacked or the world is in serious danger, he recognizes the General Oil Company logo, and attacks it on sight, which GOC claims is random brutality and actually proves he lacks human-level intelligence.

Kravaithan: One or more tier 3 kaiju, Kravaithans are giant squidlike kaiju with acidic ink sprays and poisonous mucus generation. Fast in water but very slow on land, they regenerate extremely quickly, so it is unclear if the dozen that have been seen over the decades are different members of the same species, or if a cell or two survives each time it is destroyed and eventually grow back to its full 200-foot length.

Kulicidara: Essentially the anti-Vespira, Kulicidara is a tier 1 kaiju that looks like a massively over-armored and spiked mosquito. It was created in 1992 by GOC using Externian tech and a captured Vespira regeneration egg to make a kaiju able to prevent Vespira from interfering with their mining and drilling operations. Kulicidara can infect other kaiju with its long injector spike, then control them. It took control of Tsarkyrkon, and began to use the God of Kaiju to destroy anything not owned by GOC, but Vespira broke the control and helped the greatly weakened Tsarkyrkon destroy Kulicidara, though the effort killed her.

Larval forms of Kulicidara have been created several times since then, and have been dealt with by K-Force and/or Mega-Z before growing to full size.

Mecha-Deltara: After the death of Deltara, the General Oil Company (who ran numerous oil rigs near the scene of the battle) claimed the body. They refused all efforts by governments to confiscate or even see it. While neither the decision-making process nor the actual construction method used are known, between their acquisition in 1965 and one of Tsarkyrkon: God of Kaiju’s attacks on new oil wells drilled in the arctic in 1974, GOC turned the dead kaiju into a massive k-class robot, using the nearly indestructible bones of the kaiju as a frame, reinforcing its carapace for a layered armor exterior, and drawing power from the dead kaiju’s revived nervous system and k-cell infused organs to create a plasma beam. This was further augmented by missiles and canons tipped with bacteria that had been found able to consume k-cells, so they could (at least in theory) both penetrate another kaiju’s hide, and weaken its regeneration. Further, the Mecha-Deltara was piloted by a small crew of young pilots who had gained psychic abilities after observing Deltara in battle in 1965.

Mecha-Deltara was used by GOC in an attempt to defeat Tsarkyrkon. Though the Mecha-Deltara badly injured Tsarkyrkon, in the end the pilots were a weak link and even though no attack ever reached their control chamber, the mecha-kaiju itself being constantly smashed about eventually gave them concussions, allowing Tsarkyrkon to outmaneuver it. The failed mecha was reclaimed by GOC, repaired, and a new set of pilots trained to use stimulants to retain focus regardless of the concussive force they suffered. A second battle between Mecha-Deltara and Tsarkyrkon occurred in 1975, but this time the pilots’ hearts exploded after they insisted on using more and more stimulants in an effort to win.

Although GOC claimed the Mecha-Deltara was destroyed, redesigned and upgraded models have attacks Tsarkyrkon in 1993, 2002, 2003, and 2022. It has often come close to defeating Tsarkyrkon, but never done so.

Its current whereabouts are unknown, and GOC claims it was destroyed.

Mega-X: The true nature and origin of Mega-X are not common knowledge, though K-Force and most world intelligence agencies are aware. Mega X first appeared in 1966 and appeared to be an artificially intelligent, size-shifting robot, similar to the true robot Tiger Turbo. But in fact, Mega-X is a title granted to one Earthling at a time, who gains the power to transform into an armored “Mega-X” form, and to grow up to 300 feet tall. This title is granted by the Megarians, who granted it to a young man who had bravely helped people flee from one of the fights between Deltara and XJPT a year earlier, in 1965. Aware that the Void Gods had been sent by the alien Externians to weaken Earth prior to an invasion, and that one of Earth’s mightiest kaiju, Deltara, had died in trying to defeat it, the Megarians assigned a Mega-X guardianship over Earth, to help it defend itself against further Extarian kaiju attacks. Each time the holder of the Mega-X title dies or chooses to retire, the Megarians grant the Mega-X title to another worthy human. There have been five Mega-X holders since 1966, two of which are now dead, and two retired. One of the retired Mega-X guardians, Professor Hiroko Sahara, is now the senior civilian kaijologist at K-Force.

The Mega-X form takes energy from the human using it, and the bigger the Mega-X form, the faster it uses energy. Larger forms also require a warmup time in Mega-X form to assume, so Mega-X often appears on a scene, tries to help as much as he can in human-sized armored form, then grows to great size only when absolutely necessary, and maintains it for as little time as possible. Mega-X is heavily armored but also very fast and nimble, gains advanced combat training, can fly, and project power beams from his eyes.

Mega-Z: Mega-Z is typically just seen as a female form of Mega-X. In fact Mega-Z is the holder of a second Megarian guardianship (see Mega-X), who happens to be female and has been the only holder to date. Megarians granted the Mega-Z Guardianship in 2001, when a rogue Megarian decided to begin converting various Terran kaiju into Guardian Spirits, but had to destroy Tsarkyrkon: God of Kaiju to do so as they were all attuned to his dominance through GQS. Because a Megarian trying to destroy even one of Earth’s kaiju was a violation of Megarian law, the Megarians responded by granting Earth another Guardianship.

Mega-Z is much, more more energy efficient in her Mega-Z form than Mega-X, but otherwise has all his abilities, just at a lower power level. This makes her less effective in a short battle where Mega-X can unleash his more powerful abilities to win quick victory. But while Mega-X can retain his enlarged form for an hour at the most, Mega-Z can operate at full scale for days if she wishes to do so. The current Mega-Z is also far more experienced than the current Mega-X.

Petagan: Petagan is a tier 1 Externian cyborg kaiju, used by the aliens as one of their primary weapons of war. It can fly, has a graser beam eye ray, and has cybernetic claws and vibro-spikes. Petagan also appears to actually be a series of extremely similar kaiju, and on at least one occasion a dozen Petagans operated at once under the command of a larger, more powerful “Lord Petagan.”

Scythella, the Preying Mantis: The first Scythella was released from an antarctic iceberg in 1957, and rampaged up through North and Central America until it was finally destroyed in a pitched battle in Washington D.C. It is often referred to as a “weak” tier 3 kaiju as it can be affected by conventional weaponry, though its speed and agility makes it extremely difficult to hit, and it requires bunker-buster weapons to wound it at all. Additional Scythella kaiju were encounter in 1967, 1969, 1972, 2004, and 2019, and each time killed by another kaiju or by massive assaults by combined military forces. These are believed to have hatched from eggs on Hive Island.

Scythella can fly at just above the speed of sound, create deafening buzzing sounds, and has praying mantis-style claws capable of crushing buildings and the limbs of other kaiju.

Tarankura: Tarankura first appeared in 1955 in Arizona, and created mass devastation before being destroyed by a US Air Force Strike. The origin of that Tarankura is unknown. A second appeared in New Mexico in 1958, with similar results. In fact, Tarankura appears to be the *most* common species of kaiju. In addition to dozens of unconfirmed reports from various Pacific island encounters (many on the Kaiju Islands), additional appearances occurred in Colorado (1960), Nevada (1963 and 1968), Wisconsin (1975), Los Angeles (2000), New Guinea (2004), Los Angeles (again) and New York City (2013), Italy (2014), and the Taklimakan Desert (2021). A seafaring Tarankura was encountered by a fishing trawler in 2020, though details of the encounter are sketchy. In 2002, a massive wave of hundreds of Tarankura appeared in Arizona, ranging in size from 200-lbs to a single specimen weighing in at 8,000 metric tons. It is the largest number of Tarankura known in a single incident.

Tarankura all have k-cells, even those just born and found at the roughly 200-lb. size. Only those that exceed 1 metric ton appear to gain GQS, subseismic movement, and regeneration. All are extremely poisonous, prodigious jumpers, and able to spin weblines and traps with silk thread significantly strong than steel.

Teralon: A Tier 1 kaiju, Teralon was the last militarized kaiju possessed by a splinter Externian group living in the ruins of Atlantis. An insectile creature it could fly, has cyborg drill claws, and a biomass grenade launcher and mine dropper. It was destroyed by Tiger Turbo and Tsarkyrkon the God of Kaiju, but rumors persist of a Teralon-like creature being spotted in states of damage by various submarines and ships.

Tiger Turbo: Although neither biological nor naturally occurring, the size-changing AI robot known as Tiger Turbo is generally classified as a kaiju rather than hardware. The robot was originally constructed in 1973 as a prototype a remote-controlled humanoid analog to use in situations too dangerous for humans, such as disaster search-and-rescue. When the Externian splinter group living n the sunken ruins of Atlantis unleashed Teralon (and the standard Externians took the opportunity to also attack Earth with Petagan), Tiger Turbo’s creator was trapped in a wrecked building Petagon crashed into. Tiger Turbo was damaged, and its creator used pieces of Petagan to repair him, hoping to rescue himself and others trapped in the building.

The Exterian technology from Petagan was successfully grafted to the Earth robot, and caused it to gain sapience and k-cell powers, including the ability to fly and change size. Tiger Turbo assisted Tsarkyrkon in defeating Petagan and Teralon. Tiger Turbo has since continued to work as an independent global search-and-rescue force, but will also oppose rampaging kaiju if they threaten population centers. Tiger Turbo has an arms-length cooperative agreement with K-Force.

(Art by Jacob Blackmon)

Tsarkyrkon: The “God of Kaiju,” Tsarkyrkon was the first kaiju to make a major appearance in the modern era, attacking Tokyo for unknown reasons in 1954. He was driven off with a weapon of desperation, the Neural Suppressor, which kills neurons directly at a quantum level without having to propagate through any physical medium. Thousands of humans were killed by the Neural Suppressor’s collateral effects, and its creator destroyed it and all notes regarding it (or so he thought), believing Tsarkyrkon to be the only existing kaiju, and thinking him dead.

The God of Kaiju has remained active in the years since. He sometimes rampages, apparently driven by a sense of imbalance detected through his GQS or in response by attacks against him by various force, but also often moves to corral other rampaging kaiju, and seeks out and defeats alien kaiju (causing him to be seen as a major hindrance by the alien Externians). He otherwise spends most of his time on Omega Island.

Tsarkyrkon is a roughly 350-foot-tall, reptilian, bipedal, spiked, nuclear-fire-breathing kaiju with fangs, claws, and a long powerful tail. officially a Tier 1 kaiju, he is sometimes referred to as “Tier Omega,” classifying him as the most powerful of all kaiju.

Vragon: Vragon is a tier 2 kaiju, that essentially appears to be a quadrupedal version of Tsarkyrkon. He appeared in 1958, during a time Tsarkyrkon was thought dead (and was mistaken for some kind of mutated the God of Kaiju for a time), and attacked New York City. He nearly reached the UN Building, but was driven back through massive combined military efforts, including the use of Spine Missiles, literally tipped with bits of kaiju gathered off previous giant monster battlefields. His appearance was instrumental in the formation of K-Force as a worldwide organization.

Vespira: A winged, insectile kaiju, Vespira is the last Guardian Spirit kaiju, and through her reincarnation process the oldest living k-class creature. She is worshiped by a small but dedicated worldwide faith that claims to date back to before the evolution of modern man, and does seem to avoid harming her worshipers. Some Vespirians, mostly women, do seem to have psychic abilities (which they focus through song) that allow them to communicate with the kaiju, and occasionally even call to her. The most common theory among kaijologiests is that these “chorists” are from lines that have been in close contact with Vespira or her reincarnation hives to be infected and mutated through exposure to her K-cells, though there is no proof of this, and not even M.I.K.I. has managed to get any Vespirians to agree to be studied.

Vespira does not go on rampages unless provoked, and historically all such provocations have involved k-class creatures threatening her hive grounds (of which she has several hidden throughout the world), or groups of Vespirians being threatened. However, she also occasionally appears to oppose particularly destructive kaiju, even working with other k-class creatures when doing so. Numerous well known kaiju appear deferential to Vespira, and it is unknown if this is a sign of sapience, or a result of her being favored by those kaiju’s GQS. Even the mega-k-class Tsarkyrkon: God of Kaiju makes no effort at dominance displays toward Vespira and she has aided him against major foes more than she has any other kaiju, though she has also on a few occasions opposed him. Tsarkyrkon has even killed her once, though in doing so he was so weakened he retreated to enter a hibernation stage, and neither of them seem to keep a grudge about it.

In addition to the super-gigafauna size, strength, resilience, and baseline regeneration of all kaiju, Vespira possesses the ability to fly at near-sonic speeds, an area sonic scream (which she can reinforce with the buzzing of her wings if she is braced on the ground), razor-edged wings (which she can use to strafe with when flying, or as chopping weapons if in melee), and molecular acid sting. The sting is among the most devastating of attacks, perhaps more damaging even than Tsarkyrkon’s Nuclear Fire Breath, though her sting is a single target melee attack which takes hours to recharge and, if she is weakened, the strain of its use can kill her.

However, as long as she has at least one reincarnation hive, she eventually returns in either a larva or fully-grown form.

The Void Gods: The Externians sometimes use three kaiju known as the Void Gods to create chaos and distraction while they carry out other operations. Unlike Petagan and Teralon, the Externians cannot control or command the Void Gods, only place them in a state of hibernation through unknown (and imperfect) means, and let them lose someplace. They have only unleashed all three Void Gods once, in 1965, when it took the kaiju Deltara, Tsarkyrkon, and Vespira to stop them, and Deltara died in the series of conflicts.

The Void Gods are all Tier 1 kaiju. They are DTZR (a shapechanging, plantlike kaiju with control of air and earth), KLKQ (a flying, batlike kaiju with control over sound and fire), and XJPT (a flying, reptillian kaiju with control over gravity and lightning).

HARDWARE

I’d meant to include notes on armor pods, Gunslinger Gamma, k-destroyers, m-destroyers, mobile armor pods, Striker-Ks, and Submersible X… but I ran out of time. I’ll add them in Part Three, out either Wednesday or sometime next week.

Patreon
I have a Patreon. It helps me carve out the time needed to create these blog posts, and is a great way to let me know what kind of content you enjoy. If you’d like to see more system-agnostic worldbuilding, game industry essays, more rules for Starfinder or either edition of Pathfinder or other game systems, fiction, game design articles, worldbuilding tips, or whatever!, try joining for just a few bucks and month and letting me know!

The K-Force Files (Part 1)

(This article is not covered by the OGL).

My love of kaiju goes way… waaaaaay back to my early childhood. It predates my love of D&D, Star Wars, Star Trek, powered armor, space opera, pulp adventures, comics, superheroes, psychic powers, monster hunters, swords, or much of anything else I can thing of.

I believe it’s my first fandom.

It’s just grown as I aged. Some classic comics mixing superspy groups and kaiju, more modern kaiju movies constantly playing with classic elements such as mechakaiju, psychics, alien plots, and so on, just made me more and more want to boil down all the things I love most about it into a single set of worldbuilding ideas, and a single unified continuity, which I can then draw from as needed for various projects.

These are the K-Force files. You’re welcome to use them in your own home games, but mostly they are a look into how I build blocks of fungible lore and ideas that I can use as needed for various personal and professional projects. Part 1 covers Terminology, Locations, and Organizations.

Part 2, of course, covers some Kaiju.

(Art by Second F)

TERMINOLOGY

Gigafauna: Gigafauna much-bigger-than-elsewhere creatures that are not kaiju (as they lack k-cells, the physics-defying size, strength, and resilience of kaiju), but are extraordinary in one or more other aspects. Gigafauna are considered one class larger than megafauna, and are often J-class creatures.

Guardian Spirits: A popular theory among kaijologists is that while several strains of kaiju have always been primarily agents of chaos and destruction — serving to provide the same kinds of ecological and evolutionary forces as volcanos, meteor strikes, hurricanes, and earthquakes — that there were once numerous “Guardian Spirits” that explicitly protected early hominid settlements. While the theory is conjecture based mostly on cave paintings and the teachings of Vespirians, the appearance of Deltara in 1965, and Vespira on numerous occasions since 1961, can be seen as evidence for the theory.

J-Class: Study into kaiju revealed their native habitats (mostly the Kaiju Islands) are often inhabited with dinosaurs, megafauna, and gigfauna that aren’t kaiju but are at the absolute upper limit of what biological entities can reach in terms of size and power. These most often include sea life, turtles, reptiles, insects, arachnids, rodents, and ursines. Because they are “short of being k-class,” the casual term J-Class is often used to note their commonalities. Some kaiju are considered J-class in early, smaller stages of their development, such as Tarankura.

K-Cells: All kaiju that it has been possible to study possess k-cells, biological elements that appear to be independent power generators (possible drawing quantum 0-point energy) that fuel every part of a kaiju and are theorized to create quantum fields that alter the way fundamental forces (strong and weak nuclear forces, gravity, and electromagnetism) act on kaiju’s bodies (allowing kaiju to channel energies in ways other matter — much less biological matter — cannot). No Earthly technology has yet to create k-cells, though some have repurposed k-cells taken from kaiju and kaiju corpses, and humans exposed to k-cells sometimes develop psychic powers (apparently inheritable), or develop other mutations.

K-Class: Because there’s little evidence that all kaiju are related, despite common elements such as k-cells, super-gigafauna mass, subseismic movement, and GQS (Global Quorum Sensing), creatures that meet at least most of these features are placed in a single polyphyletic group referred to as “k-class creatures.” Informally, anything that is shown to be able to compete with the power of kaiju is sometimes referred to as being of “k-class,” such as referring to the mecha Gunslinger Gamma and the AI robot Tiger Turbo as “k-class machines.”

Kaijologists: Since the appearance of Tsarkyrkon “God of Kaiju” in 1954, the rush to understand these varied and violent life-forms that prove humanity is not at the top of the food chain has formed into the multidisciplinary study known as kaijology. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult for a kaijologist to get extensive first-hand material to work with, and the field is renowned for producing both crackpots who make wild claims and psychopaths who consider their research more important than ethics or human lives. Despite this, every major world organization and learning institution has at least a couple of kaijologists on-staff… just in case.

Kaiju: A specific form of gigafauna, kaiju are enormous creatures standing 50 to 500 feet in height and possessing a series of traits that makes them distinct from just big creatures (see K-Class). The first kaiju known in the modern era (and arguably the most powerful) is Tsarkyrkon, the so-called “God of Kaiju,” who attacked Japan for unknown reasons in 1954. Because the first kaiju appeared in Japan, Japanese language and culture has a strong influence on kaiju naming and kaijology as a whole.

Kaiju are classified into tiers, with a dozen known Tier 1 kaiju that no known force can reliably stop, roughly double that in Tier 2 kaiju that require entire fleets and combined armies to even slow down, and scores of Tier 3 kaiju, which can be faced with massed firepower and are just one step above J-class creatures and typical gigafauna.

GQS: All kaiju seem to be aware of one another, even over vast distances and when separated by vacuum, and to be aware of large-scale changes to their environment (both current and upcoming). More powerful kaiju can sometimes use dominance displays to subdue other kaiju without physical combat, and even call on them over the same vast distances, but without any apparent language and possibly while lacking sapience. It is theorized that they do so as a result of being in-tune with some energy field that surrounds the entirety of the Earth, and that they all contribute and receive information using this field including territorial claims and pack leader status. Some psychic humans appear to be able to tap into this kaiju sense and communication network as well. Though the mechanism for this sense is not yet understood, the phenomenon itself is referred to as Global Quorum Sensing, or GQS.

Subseismic Movement: Kaiju are able to travel long distances without disturbing the medium of their travel, as long as they are not attacking, defending, or making dominance displays. Flying kaiju are often invisible to radar and listening stations, swimming kaiju do not impact the water flow around them and cannot be found on active or passive sonar, and kaiju walking or even burrowing through the ground do not set of tremors. Once a kaiju becomes more alert to and reactive of its environment, this disturbance-free effect ends, and they can often be felt miles away. The exact mechanism of this ability–called subseismic movement– is not understood, though it is believed to be another function of k-cells, and possible related to GQS.

LOCATIONS

The Kaiju Islands: A series of islands in the South Pacific that are the only territories known to have long-inhabiting kaiju in apparent balance with their environment. The Kaiju Islands are all extremely difficult to navigate to, with tides, winds, and even electromagnetic fields apparently directing travelers around them, no evidence of their existence visible by satellite, and fog, storms, and rogue waves

Fang Island: Fang Island is one of the smallest of the Kaiju Islands, and among the furthest from the main line of isle formations. It’s also the only one to show signs of constant human habitation going back to a Neolithic time period, despite being both the home of a few kaiju (most notably, Genghis Kong) and thousands of species of dinosaurs, megafauna, and gigafauna. It is governed by the Fang Island Protectorate.

Hive Island: The current residence of Vespira and headquarters of the Vespirian Religion, Hive Island has thousands of caves and secret “reincarnation hives” from which Vespira can be reincarnated. It has dozens of species of J-Class insectoids and arachnids, which for an unknown reason do not encroach of the area used by the Vespirans. The kaiju “Scythella: the Preying Mantis” and the spiderlike kaiju Tarankura appear to have come from Hive Island, and it is believed that eggs of more of those kaiju breeds lay dormant on the island.

Omega Island: Omega Island is the largest of the Kaiju Islands, and is where most active known kaiju (with notable exceptions, see Fang Island and Hive Island) have resided–when not on active rampages–since Tsarkyrkon “God of Kaiju,” subdued the majority of them in a dominance display at the end of Operation: Destroy All Kaiju in 1968. The disastrous results of O:DAK, and the fact civilization likely would have been destroyed if Tsarkyrkon had not ended the global rampages dozens of kaiju undertook following the U.N.’s efforts to end the kaiju threat once and for all. Many kaijuologists believe that Vespira “convinced” the God of Kaiju to do so, though they are split on whether this was just a case of her seeking balance using GQS, or a sign of higher-reasoning.

ORGANIZATIONS

Externians: An alien species that works to weaken or destroy the world with kaiju-related plans, including being responsible to sending the Void Gods to Earth. Work with GOC (General Oil Company), but their existence is largely unknown outside the highest level of that corporation.

Fang Island Protectorate: The independent nation of Fang Island claims it is ruled by the kaiju commonly known as Ghengis Kong, and its government is just a protectorate under his control. Most nations of the world (and several multinational corporations, most loudly the General Oil Company) consider this a ploy for the tiny island to hide behind having a native kaiju that is protective of people born within its territory, and dislikes large vehicles, machines, and factories.

General Oil Company: The vast multinational corporate conglomerate GOC is one of the richest and most powerful nongovernment organizations on Earth. It is also deeply involved in kaiju incidents, issues, and politics, including the creation and operation of the hybrid kaiju-vehicles Mecha-Deltara. Unbeknownst to most outside the Fang Island Protectorate and GOC itself, this history dates back to 1933, when a GOC expedition attempted to take control of Fang Island for its vast, rich oil and mineral reserves, only to run into a young Ghengis Kong and his parents. GOC killed Kong’s parents, captured him, made plans to turn him into a worldwide sideshow and their mascot, lost control of him, and the controlling families lost several members of their upper ranks in the disaster that followed.

Though Kong swam home, the controlling board of GOC were the first modern worldwide organization to realize k-class creatures existed. They spent decades studying crackpot theories and ancient devices seeking to understand and monetize kaiju-related technologies. These efforts included raids on Fang Island to acquire the bodies of Ghengis Kong’s parents, and the bones of more of his ancestors, allowing GOC to be the first to discover k-cells. GOC was contacted in 1950 by aliens they codenamed the Exterians, who cut a deal to allow GOC to rule the world after the Exterians destroyed all major governments with kaiju attacks. GOC used Exterian technology to build a “GearGhengis” hybrid kaiju-vehicle, on the framework of Kong-kin bones, which they used to attack Ghengis Kong in 1966, and again in 1969. The GearGhengis was a crude cyborg operated by remote, but the experience allowed GOC to build the much more advanced Mecha-Deltara in the 1970s.

GORGON: GORGON is the secret and mercenary corps employed by the General Oil Company board to achieve their goals through extralegal means. The existence of GORGON is not publicly known, and the few who are aware of it outside GOC lack detailed information about its goals and funding and/or don’t have enough evidence to convince others. Even groups aware of GORGON at some level (such as K-Force) generally believe it is no more than than a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world, and assume it is hired by GOC on an ad-hoc basis, rather than being a fully-funded and controlled subsidiary.

GORGON operates with numerous fronts, including several executive security and private military businesses (most notably the Basalt Group, FieldOps, an Redrock Contracting), criminal organizations (often arms smugglers and drug operation, including the Acrisio Cartel and AKR Weaponry) and terrorist groups (including Dreadfang, the New World Operation, and the Promethean Order). If a GORGON operation goes badly enough, evidence is created to assign all its activities to a cutout front, which is then allowed to be destroyed.

K-Force: K-Force is a branch of S.T.E.E.L. (Special Taskforce on Espionage and Enforcement of Law, an internationally empowered paramilitary group) that searches for, studies, monitors, and if needed fights Kaiju. It is based in Tokyo (with branches in other cities, including NYC), and has a small fleet of antikaiju mecha. The largest of its mecha is Gunslinger Gamma, the only mecha to ever defeat a Tier 1 Kaiju, but most are Mobile Armor Pods (designed to allow observers and scouts to survive being near kaiju battles). K-Force also has the Submersible X-Carrier for sea operations, and Striker K airships.

K-Force works closely with a few other antikaiju and kaiju-study forces, including the size-changing AI robot Tiger Turbo, and M.I.K.I. It is the only foreign group allowed a base on Fang Island. It is often at odds with the General Oil Company, and (though no one in K-Force can prove it) their secret illegal militant mercenary branch, GORGON.

K-Guard: A unit of K-Force that monitor and protect the Kaiju Islands. They mostly serve as early warning if a kaiju seems to be leaving the islands, and as guards to prevent anyone else from getting into the islands without authorization.

Megarians: An alien society that opposed interference in cultures such as Earth, the Megarians oppose Externian operations on Earth, but do so by granting two Guardianships on native humans, who gain the power to become Mega-X and Mega-Z.

Mentalist Institute for Kaiju Investigations (MIKI): Following the confirmation of psychic powers following the battled between Deltara and XJPT in 1965, numerous organizations have been created to study, train, and sometimes contain psychics, the oldest of whom are reaching their late 60s now. The oldest and most respected of these is the Mentalist Institute for Kaiju Investigations, based in Tokyo and founded by the only psychic known to have been at all five Deltara/XJPT fights in 1965. Rather than just study and train psychics, MIKI makes a major part of their activities to study Kaiju, K-cells, and the links between many psychics and some kaiju.

MIKI often works with K-Force, and some MIKI graduates are K-Force members, but leadership and funding of the two organizations are independent from one another.

Webburners: Officially “Task Force Minerva,” the Webburners are a unique, multi-component US military organization, made up of active Army and National Guard units, rounded out by U.S. Army Reserve support units. They are the US’s official North American kaiju-fast-response team, with a particular focus on dealing with J-class and k-class bugs (see Tarankura), which for some reason are the most common form of giant creature threat the US faces. Founded in 1960 with a five-year term, and renewed by every congress and president since. Originally just a fast response team, over the decades the Webburners have developed tactics, operational plans, and weapons designed specifically for dealing with kaiju and gigafauna outbreaks, rather than for dealing with other military forces.

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7 Days of the Tomb Lands, a #Dungeon23 Project

Well, who knows how long it’ll last, but I managed 7 encounters in the Tomb Lands (my #Dungeon23 project) in 7 days.

Check them out here! https://www.patreon.com/posts/76655396

#Dungeon23 Project – How Did The Tomb Lands Come To Be?

My #Dungeon23 Project is “Into the Tomb Lands,” which presupposed a massive underground realm with its own cities and kingdoms, all tied to “the dead, the dying, memorials to the lost, guardians of the grave, eaters of dead things, mummers, mourners, funerary attendants, and perhaps even the undead.”

It further says “There are 1,000 stories about how the Tomb Lands came to be, and most are mutually exclusive. All that is agreed upon is that they are vast, cold, filled with burial offerings and gifts for the fallen… and sealed off from mortal man forever.”

Well, clearly not forever, since they’re open now. But, what ARE some of those stories about how the Tomb Lands came to be?

Here are a few. I’ll never make one officially right or wrong, so you can adapt any (or none) of these as the “truth” if you opt to run games in the Tomb Lands.

Tomb Land Origin Stories

1. When the gods were young, they thought themselves omnipotent, eternal, enduraing forever. Mortal than immoortal, they thought themselves so fundamental a part of the universe that should one of them ever cease to be, the universe would unravel.

But they were wrong, and a lost eon ago, the first god died.

So stricken were all other divinities that they stopped in all actions for an indescribable moment, and came together. Not in peace, but in truce to ensure the death of a God was not the beginning of the end of all things. And, as part of that truce, the Gods made a place apart from all the rest of the universe. A Tomb Land, at the bottom of which lay the final grave of the First Fallen God.

And like any place created purely for a single god’s use, that land naturally became a part of that god’s will. But the First Fallen God had no will, as it was truly and permanently dead. And thus, the divine power that shaped the Tomb Lands had nothing but the trappings of the grave and burial upon which to build an entire domain.

No god rules the Tomb Lands, and since it is an extension of a dead god’s own resting place, no God ever can.

2. The first undead was not a lich, or a vampire, or wight. It was a revenant, the spirt of a dragon wrongfully slain, returned to half-life through the power of its wrath. As it unleashed its vengeance, it’s dread power created lesser undead, things horrifically powerful by the standard of modern mortals, but a mere shadow (in some cases literally) of the Dracul, the Dragon Half-Returned. And when Dracul’s vengeance was fulfilled, that first undead settled itself at the bottom of the world and wove a Tomb that none could ever penetrate. for each lair of his final resting place was empowered to built more Tombs on top of them, and those new tombs were also so empowered, each new lair able to create its own protective margin of additional graves, on and on, forever.

3. All concepts are represented by spirits, from genus locii that are spirits of the place to muses that are spirits of art to the elder beasts that are spirits of each kith of living thing. Even Death itself has a spirit, an eternal representative of the concept of dying separate from any necromancer or angel. And the spirit of Death must, to fully embrace the nature of itself, be able to die.

Thus came to be the Strange Eons, known as the Tomb Lands, where the spirit of Death goes to die, coloring the nature of every inch of its endless tomb.

4. The Ureld was the first city, the first kingdom, and the first empire. So great was it power that the Last Emperor of Ureld dared to claim to be able to build his own Heaven and Hell, places so great his command over them would make him a god, and his people angels and devils.

And perhaps he could have. But his efforts were a violations of the natural laws, and the Principles of Heaven and Hell combined to destroy his mortal duplicates of their home before it was complete. Archangels and Archedevils joined forces to turn Ureld upside-down, burying that first civilization forever, and turning its aritficial heaven and hell into very-mortal kingdoms of death.

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Gatekeeper’s Campaign for PF2, Session 3

Since people still seem interested, here’s the notes for session 3 of my Gatekeepers game for PF2.

The PCs wake having stayed the night at the farm run by Morgan’s Dad — whose name is Ferris, and can go by Goodman Ferris, Yeoman Ferris, or Landsman Ferris (since he owns his own land and has the deed on register in the Imperial Archive on the Continent). Player’s start to jokingly refer to him as “MorgansDa.”

The storms which have wracked the area for the entire autumn have suddenly stopped, but it’s unseasonably cold – winter cold. There’s barely any wind, the sky is clear but the air crisp, and the night was so cold dry wood cracked and frost formed on stones around the farm.

Heading out from MorganDa’s Farm, the Pcs see a group of 7 sailors coming down to road to the farm, pushing a cart. Hailing them, the PCs discover they are from the “King of the Crest,” an enormous 14-decked imperial Gantharian warship (Ganthar being a major kingdom on the Continent). The sailors are looking to buy food, and offer to pay in gold, or double-price in spellsalt. Gantharians being legendarily proper and polite there’s no sense of threat, so Morgan takes most of the sailors (lead by Deckmaster Rithan) goes to take to Ferris and see about buying some food.

“Bohrgun the Badly-Named” (the ship’s bosun) – stays with the other PCs to answer questions. They learn the Continental Empire nation of Curtalia, “the Grainhouse of the Empire,” has been stricken by a blight that both destroys crops and rots food in warehouses within hours. Curtalia is being avoided and quarantined, but many of the major food stores of the Empire are already infected. The King of the Crest managed not to put in at any quarantined harbors (which would have led to it being quarantined), but as a result it is seriously low on foodstuffs.

Further, the PCs are told Tidesgate is being flooded by other ships looking to buy food. Because the sea is suddenly becalmed, only ships large enough to afford a storm witch or sea warden (druid) can make it to the island easily, and those ships are too big to put in anywhere by Tidesgate or Seagrace. Most are avoiding Seagrace unless they have contacts or contracts there, so Tidesgate is being inundated with big ships.

MorganDa agrees to sell some preserved food, all for spell salt, and the Pcs get to see that he has potato cellars on his land that aren’t easily spotted (being under trap doors covered in sod and then under scattered hay and where he parks his empty wagons and large items waiting for repair.

The group then head back to Tidesgate. As they approach they see other groups of sailors from different nations (not all from the Continental empire) heading out of town, but in this case each is accompanied by someone the group recognizes as a responsible citizen of Tidesgate (often guards-for-hire). The harbor is choked with huge warships, many from distant lands that normally bypass this island when making a route along the Circle Trade, but must now be desperate for supplies. One is a huge ship with a spiked roof covering it, and rows of long oars in addition to massive ribbed sails, and is clearly not from any nation of the nearby Continent.

(Art by Juulijs)

In town, the price of food is skyrocketing in town as captains go door-to-door to buy anything people will spare, and send their men out of town to buy from farms directly (such as the Gantharian soldiers were doing). Rumor is some ship’s crews are threatening or outright stealing, while others offering to buy with spell salt at x2 to x5 food’s normal cost, and even black sugar is being used at 2/3 its normal value. Some are sending foraging parties into the plains and woods, which is technically illegal. The law is normally ignored, but there are so many now that local residents that depend on forage are beginning to run low on food, and there’s been a spike in apparent wolf and trihorn steer attacks, suggesting the sailors are stirring up trouble.

The PCs see Pottage’s Tottage has been turned into a central depository, with townsfolk bringing anything they are willing to part with to sell on consignment (and then locking their home’s doors and placing “No Thing For Sale” signs on them), while Pottage takes lists of desired items from a line of ship’s quartermasters, and makes them wait until each evening for him to say what each can buy, and at what price. The PCs grab a moment to update Pottage in private.

Then they head to Hexer Hellaina’s, to report to her. She pays them well for the information (in spell salt), and buys the black glass they got from the broken salt circle around the burial grounds (last game session). That she pays for with silver. Hellaina promises to update the Town Council.

Later, the Town Council wants to see the PCs, and confirms what Hellaina told them. In addition to Tidegate’s other issues, the council tells the PCs it’s been falling below freezing already, months before the norm, and hard freezes are expected in the next few days. The entire fall crops are in danger of being lost, and only having farmers putting out torches all night, every night, may keep that from happening.

With all this, the Tidesgate Council is spread impossibly thin by the combination of early freezes and hungry sailors. They are called on to watch the docks, keep fights from breaking out, and enforce usually-ignored laws on hoarding and cornering markets. The PCs offer to help, and the Council asks them to go to Southmount Farms, 2 days south beyond the God-Knuckle Hills. The farm is normally reliable in regular fortnightly deliveries, and now they are 4 days late. The Council sent Briarbrow Hooffoot (a cousin of Holly’s) to check it out, and he has not returned yet.

Southmount is run by the Braddoc family, who are regular suppliers of the Smoke Pine Taven, old friends of Morgan’s father and Averill’s family. They make “the Clear,” a very high ABV liquid that tastes like stale fire, which Nana Cutthroat often uses to add kick to drinks she has watered down, so people don’t realize how little of the original booze is left in the version for sale.

The PCs head out south the next day. They discuss their concern about things getting worse in town, especially if panic sets in about a lack of food, or folks sell too much of their emergency reserves and then the fall harvest falls.

As they enter the God-Knuckle Hills, they come across 5 shambler zombies, caught on a hill surrounded by a flash flood river from the heavy rains in previous weeks. They identify one of them as a farmhand at Southmount. The shamblers seem to be constantly trying to cough up something (like a hairball). The PCs jump the rushing creek and destroy the 5 shamblers. They also conclude that these are created intentionally with necromancy, not spontaneous undead that sometimes rise. The bodies seem diseased. The heroes burn them, making sure they do so in a hollow that will keep the ashed from running into the local water supply.

End Session 3.

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Practical Pastiche: Modern News Organizations

“Practical pastiche” is a new series I’ll be expanding from time to time, offering drop-in names you can use in your home ttRPG campaigns to replace real-world organizations, places, groups, and anything else you might want to use in a fictional world without the baggage of using real-world elements.

MODERN NEWS ORGANIZATIONS
Whoever controls the news has massive influence over public opinion and understanding of current events. The news has always been one way the rich and powerful controlled the narrative of the world, but in the modern era the willingness to place dogma over truth. Some blame the creation of 24-hour news networks, others the move to make money off internet news through ads (which encourages clickbait titles and engagement-at-any-cost editorial decisions), while others feel the fix has always been in and modern awareness of it is an inevitable result of greater access to information.
While real-world new organizations served as inspiration for some of these entirely-fictional sites, these are presented not as efforts to accurately characterize any actual business or journalistic endeavor, but to offer a range of fictional news media that cover a narratively useful range of options. Whether you need someone on FAQS News to constantly spin everything a superhero does to make them seem villainous, an intrepid ANZIS reporter to give constant updates of a local war, or have monster hunters discover a surprising amount of fiction covered by Looky-Loo sites has real supernatural information, these organizations can act as background or major plot points for any modern ttRPG setting.

(Art by Alex White)

ANZIS: “Australia/New Zealand Information Services,” a government funded, theoretically-independent worldwide news service that’s been in place since WWI. Has 24 radio news feeds and web information, a wire service local news agencies often subscribe to for access to international news stories, a reputation for asking hard questions, and though underfunded its funding is not dependent on advertising or sponsors to pay the bills.

Broadcaste: The largest news organization in the world, though a typical person may only be aware they sell internet and cable television packages. But they are also the owners of NBS (National Broadcast Service), NBS News, MSNBS News, CNBS, and Cloud One news channels and services. Some of their channels have a firmly liberal bent, while others sew more conservative, suggesting those biases are intentional and cynical efforts to attract all possible markets.

The Boston Lantern: One of the last Great Newspapers, though most people read it through online subscriptions. Still operates out of the Lantern Building, built in 1919, though they now occupy less than 1/10th of the floors, and others are rented out as office or storage space or vacant.

FAQS News: “Frequently Asked Questions News Networks,” the mouthpiece of a conservative billionaire, FAQS is famous both of often reporting conspiracy questions while claiming they are “just asking questions,” and for being classified as entertainment rather than journalism in some countries.

GNN: “Global News Network,” one of the earlier 24-hour, worldwide cable news networks. Still among the most respected, though extremists often call it “fake news” when they don’t like what it has to say.

Looky-Loo: A media company that runs dozens of specialized topical news websites, such as 1138 (Fantasy and Scifi entertainment news, including comics, movies, novels, ttRPGs, and television), Clutch (racing and vehicle news), Lilith’s Pen (women’s issues), Silver Scream (horror stories, mostly movies & TV), Staydium (sports-news), Smackhead (stories of people being stupid and the oft-humorous consequences of their actions), and Vertical Slice (video game news). The quality of both journalism and writing varies wildly, but the people covering the topics are usually also true fans of the things they report on.

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Gatekeeper’s Campaign for PF2, Session 2 (Part 2)

Part two of my Game Session 2 notes for my Gatekeeper’s campaign for PF2 (part one here). The articles at the Gatekeeper Index can remind you of all the characters, backstory, rules changes, and setup, if you want a refresher.

Morgan quickly climbs up to the top of Pottage’s Tottage, and sees a Large spider with a face he realizes matches the one he saw looking over the edge. It has struggling people-sized silk bundles webbed to its hind legs, a bright red sigil on its back, and seems to naturally have just 7 legs (4 on the left, 3 on the right). The spider sees him, covers itself in a fog cloud that moves with it, and jumps away to another roof. Morgan follows town protocol by raising an alarm (screaming “MONSTER! GIANT SPIDER!”), and goes after it. (Chase Rules)

Averill tries to follow from the ground and raise the alarm.

Meanwhile, the PCs at the Smoke Pine Taven are passing out food bundles. The system is simple, a line forms by the counter. Everyone throws down a couple of copper and gets a bundle. But Jaedyn sees a figure she does not know, who is wearing a cloak, completely covering their hands with its edge and totally covering their head with its hood. While it’s not unusual for shy strangers to come in off a ship, one being that covered is odd and with the recent weirdness makes Jaedyn suspicious. She opts to hand it a food bundle in a way that causes it to fall at the last second, hoping to get the creature to look up to grab it. (Thievery check) This succeeds, and she sees it has a desiccated face, a lock built into its forehead (like the front of a padlock), and it’s eyes are hollow black pits, with tiny bright red motes of light far, far back within the eye sockets.

It hisses at her, and runs to exist the Smoke Pine.

Jaedyn throws a knife in an effort to pin its hood to a wall so it is jerked back and its face is revealed. She succeeds, and the whole cloak comes off. The desiccated creature flees out into the street. Holly grabs its food and runs after it. Nambra takes this opportunity to conceal herself from anyone in the Smoke Pine, especially the cats. Jaedyn grabs the dropped cloak, the runs after Holly.

Holly wants to get ahead of the fleeing figure (Chase Rules), and eventually does so. She offers it the food pack, saying it’s done nothing wrong. It crouches and replies “Give me your BLOOD!” Taken aback, Holly refuses, and the creature turns into smoke and flies away faster than be followed.

It begins to rain.

Morgan is chasing the jumping cloud of fog that has a giant spider in it, while Aervill tries to rally people in the streets below. Eventually Morgan catches up to it and, since the fog is made of water vapor, tries to access his water powers (sending a hero point) to dispel it. that succeeds, and the spider creature seems surprised. Getting a better look at it, Morgan sees it has a black collar around its neck, with inward-bent hooks that dig at the spider’s flesh and cause trails of smoke to trail upward from the contact. Morgan tries to access his water powers again, succeeds, and uses them to form curved blades of ice that cut the collar free of the spider creature.

The spider gasps, drops the two figures strapped to its legs, looks at Morgan and chokes out “You’re in DANGER!” Then, it flees.

Morgan cuts the two figures loose, discovering they are Pottage and Mac. He and Averill get back together, and Pottage comes to enough to say he’d like his return to be kept secret for now. Morgan and Averill agree, and happen to mention the new woman working at the Tottage, Chandra Chase, didn’t know he was back yet. Pottage is concern because he hasn’t hired anyone new, and doesn’t know a Chandra. Pottage promises to meet them in a bit at the Tottage, but asks if and can they get Mac to Hexer Helaina, since he’s not recovering as fast. They agree, and while Morgan takes Mac to Hellaina, he sends Averill to go get Jaedyn, Holly, and Nambra and bring them to the Tottage as well.

Nambra, as it happens, noticed the two coins the desiccated figure used to buy food looked different from any others she’s seen, and exchanges them for two coins of her own. Holly and Jaedyn come back in, noting the figure disappeared. Nana Cutthroat comes up to them and hears the description, and says it sounds like a wight. She is asked if wights are common in Tidegate, and affirms they are not. There was one wight captain who couldn’t set foot off his ship that used to come to port now and then, and they allowed it, but it turned out he had a plot to have his ship carried by millions of tiny crabs, and then a holy knight from the Continental Empire showed up and destroyed him.

But, Nana Cutthroat notes, this cloak seems older than that. She gives it a deep sniff, then suddenly says she must talk to the council, and rushed off into the rain, with the cloak.

And just then, Averill shows up, and explains why they should go to the Tottage.

End Part 2.

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Root of the Problem (A Pathfinder 1e Mini-Adventure)

I recently applied for a full-time, remote, full-benefits, game writing position at Foundry. (One thing I have learned in this industry is that you need to keep up with changing needs and markets.) While I didn’t make the final cut, I did get far enough along to do a timed writing test. I was given instructions at 10am by email, and had to return my work by noon. The test called for an adventure in any game system I wished, that included a missing druid as part of the plot and at minimum one encounter that included investigation, one that included talking to an NPC, and one that was potentially a fight. The main prompt was “The wilderness surrounding a remote town has become perilous. Wildlife that previously avoided contact with humans is now overcome with some form of madness or disease, attacking townsfolk with reckless ferocity. A local druid and longtime protector of the region has gone missing. The protagonists are tasked with investigating the nature of this affliction and resolving it, if possible.”

Obviously, with just two hours for a complete adventure I just managed a “first draft” level of manuscript. But I thought people might be interested in what a produced. So, with Foundry’s express permission, here is “Root of the Problem,” a Pathfinder 1st -edition Mini-Adventure for 3-4 characters of 1st level. By Owen K.C. Stephens.

(Art by Chaotic Design Studio, and not part of the original writing test)

Adventure Background
The Crosstimbers are a dense and ancient forest, filled with towering evergreen trees that rise up to 300 feet tall, smaller trees that grow in clumps so tight that their limbs cross and weave together to form natural platforms, and dense, thorny underbrush that is often impassable to anything larger than a rabbit. They are also the site of an ancient battle thousands of years ago, between a powerful necromancer queen and a court of faeries. Though relics of this battle are mostly buried deep beneath the roots and moss of the forest, their influence can sometimes reach up to the surface level.

One such ancient power is the Grave of Lord Vaugir, also known as the Baron of Stakes. A powerful wight warrior who served the necromancer queen, Vaugir had a particular hatred of vampires (even those who were theoretically his allies), and carried a number of wooden stakes he used to both unsure those he killed would not raise as vampires naturally, and to destroy any vampire he could successfully accuse of treachery to their queen. Lord Vaugir was slain by a group of faerie Swan Knights, and buried in a stone tomb hundreds of feet below the surface. While Vaugir himself remains trapped in the tomb, a few roots of one redwood have cracked one corner of his burial vault, and been tainted by his undead powers.

This influence has not gone unnoticed, as the dwarven druid Ferron Ironbark has long known one of the Crosstimber’s mighty trees was fighting some dread infection. Ironbark has monitored the tree for decades, doing his best to heal and nurture it in the hopes it would overcome what ailment was attacking it. However, at the last new moon, the necromantic energy finally took control of one of the redwood’s roots right at the surface becoming the Grave Root and, when Ferron came to visit it, it impaled him through the heart. Ferron’s apprentice, a brownie named Rumpleridge, managed to drag Ferron back to the druid’s grove, and has watched over the body to ensure it won’t rise as some form of undead.

The Grave Root still does not control more than one short length of the redwood it is attached to. It cannot free itself, and cannot, yet, taint the entire massive tree it’s attached to. However, it can reach a spring adjacent to where the redwood grows, and has been tainting that water for a month now. The spring is a common watering hole for native fauna, which are also being tainted by the Grave Root’s power. This makes them ravenously hungry and much more aggressive than usual, but also causes them to work together and not attack one another regardless of the natural instincts.

Not far from Ferron’s grove is the town of Highmoss-On-The-Hill (often just referred to as “Highmoss”), a walled settlement just outside the Crosstimbers. The people of Highmoss have long been on good terms with Ferron, and work to maintain a sustainable relationship with the Crosstimbers. They gather herbs and wild mushrooms, hunt only as much food as they can eat, drag out dead timber for their own use, and make sure any foray into the forest is able to come home before nightfall. While an occasional attack by minor monsters or wild animals is not unknown, in the past month anyone who stays in the Crosstimbers for more than 2-3 hours has suffered an attack by wolves, wolverines, a bear, or even packs of apparently-rabid squirrels. No one has seen Ferron (and the town is unaware he has died), and in recent days some townsfolk have been attacked within sight of Highmoss’s walls, not even within the Crosstimbers.

The Town Council has decided someone must venture into the Crosstimbers are travel to Ferron’s Grove, a 6-hour trip down a well-known path, and speak to the druid. This group should confer with Ferron, determine what is going on, and if possible assist him in fixing it. The more experienced hunters in town who would normally undertake such a missing are missing or too injured from wildlife attacks to attempt it, so the PCs have been chosen to do so. It is the height of summer, and daylight lasts 15 hours from sunup to sundown. If the PCs hurry it is hoped they can enter the Crosstimbers at dawn, consult with Ferron, solve the issue, and return before sundown.

Random Encounters
Wandering around the Crosstimbers is genuinely much more dangerous than usual, and there’s a chance the PCs may encounter some of the fauna that has been affected by the water tainted by the Grave Root. Until the water source is cleaned, for each hour the PCs are exploring the Crosstimbers there is a 20% chance of the PCs being confronted by one of following random
encounters. That chance doubles at night, and is halved if the PCs have been confronted by an
encounter in the past hour.
[Insert CR ½-1 random animal encounters here]

The Dead Hunter
The trail is marred by the smell of blood and signs of a vicious fight. Torn leather and cloth are scattered about, and a few tufts of black fur sit matted in old pools of blood.

This is the location where a Highmoss senior hunter, Apaxus Longshank, was attacked and killed by a pack of black wolves tainted by the spring next to the Grave Root. His body was dragged off the trail when they ate him, and a DC 10 Survival check to track or DC 15 Perception check to spot signs of the drag marks can locate him.

Examining the body show bite marks that can be identified as wolves, but the more significant clues are on Longshank’s own weapons. He fought with a masterwork handaxe and shortsword, which are still clutched in what’s left of his hands. They are bloody from the fight, but the blood is streaked with dark, oily slime. A DC 10 Knowledge (religion) check reveals this is necroplasm, a material sometimes used in place of blood by undead creatures. Finding it mixed with actual blood suggests the attacking wolves had been tainted by undead energy, but not yet true undead.

The Grove of Ferron Ironbark
The dense canopy of leaves and branches above break open, and light shines down to reveals a small, neat grove just off the path. There is a round hut with neatly fitted stone walls, a low, wide wooden door, and a roof apparently made of interwoven tree leaves and needles. A firepit sits in the middle of the clearing, with a wooden framework holding a small iron cauldron and
kettle side-by-side above it, but there is no fire now.

To one side of the clearing a neat pile of rocks has been build in an elongated dome roughly five feet long and three feet high. Laying next to it is a short humanoid, no taller than a human’s knee, with a bulbous head topped with a pointed felt cap.

This is the grove of Ferron Ironbark, but now it is his burial place. The brownie Rumpleridge build a stone cairn for his teacher and friend Ferron, and guards it all day and night. Rumpleridge won’t notice or acknowledge the PCs unless they call out to him, and even then, he’s slow to realize who they are or what they want. But eventually his enormous tear-streaked eyes will focus on them, and he’ll answer their questions as best he can. Rumpleridge wants to honor his teacher’s alliance with Highmoss, but is unwilling to leave the cairn for any reason. He plans to stay here through the summer and fall, and only come winter will he consider moving on.

Rumpleridge knows the general backstory of the Crosstimbers, but not the details of Lord Vaugir’s tomb or creeping influence. He does know Ferron was convinced some ancient, deeply buried evil was tainting a specific redwood an hour from the grove, at a major watering hole, and that a root from that tree impaled the druid. He gets tearful when he admits he saw the event,
and that it took all his strength and cunning to drag Ferron back home, and bury him.

Rumpleridge knows animals are going rogue, and can confirm that behavior began when Ferron was killed. It doesn’t occur to Rumpleridge that the Grave Root is infecting the nearby watering hole, but he does mention the infected redwood is “By the main watering hole in this section of woods,” and if a PC asks if the watering hole could be the source of the problem, Rumpleridge agrees the animals becoming vicious are all ones that would periodically drink there. As Ferron had been checking on the tainted redwood for decades, there is a well-worn path leading from the clearing here to the watering hole.

If attacked or pushed too hard to render aid, Rumpleridge will use his brownie powers to harass and confuse the PCs, but he won’t risk harming them. If he must, he flees into the Crosstimbers, and only returns to the cairn after the PCs have left.

The Grave Root
A large pond sits in a low point in the forest, a short outcropping of rocks surrounding it to the north and west, and the roots of a mighty redwood bordering it to the south and east. The surface of the pond’s water seems oily and black, with dark swirls spinning within it though there seems to be no breeze or current to cause the movement. At the southern edge of the pond, one root among the masses is darker, wetter, and more gnarled than the others, it’s 10-15 foot length pulsing slightly. The tip of the root moves, dipping itself into the pool to release a black ooze that joins the oily darkness covering all the water. The root then curls up, rising like a wooden tentacle, and sways back and forth.

The Grave Root uses the stats for a Draugir (HP 19, Bestiary 2), but with the following changes.
It has 15 feet of reach. It is immobile. It can fire a hunk of its own rotting bark as a target as a ranged attack that uses its slam attack, but has a range increment of 20 feet.

If the Grave Root notices the PCs, it immediately attacks. If destroyed, it breaks down into rotting mulch, and the oily blackness begins to clear from the water (taking 2-3 hours to be fully gone). If a PC drinks the water before it is clear, they are immediately confused and affected by the rage spell for 1d10 minutes.

The oily material on the pond is necroplasm, and PCs who found Longshank’s body can identify it as the same as was in the blood on his weapons. Without the Grave root, the water will run clear within hours, and the tainted animals return to normal within a few days.

Continuing the Adventure
Dealing with the Grave Root eliminated the immediate problem, but the risk presented by Lord Vaugir’s tomb remains. Striking up a friendship with Rumpleridge can help explore the region and safely travel further into the Crosstimbers. Seeking a senior member of the faerie court that claims rulership over the forest may reveal the true nature of the evils buried beneath it, and
lead to finding and dealing with Lord Vaugir, and other threats like him.

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