Category Archives: Microsetting

The Monday Bad Idea

The Monday Bad Idea!
A modern supers game, where most issues are handled by the International Forces.
But if they can’t cope with something, it gets passed up to the World Hero Emergency Network.
“So it’s not I.F., but W.H.E.N.”

BONUS Bad Idea!

“Sir, I’m writing the the Military Action eXtreme Intelligence mandate protocols, and they need a to define default super-agent team for class 1 incidents. Should I indicate the
National Emergency Veteran Executive Reserve?”
“We could, but let’s not go straight to our most experienced agent team in such cases. I think we’re better served with that protocol calling on the Legion of Advanced Tactical Experts first, whenever possible. ”
“Ah, so the M.A.X.I.M. is better L.A.T.E. than N.E.V.E.R.”

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Hit or Myth

I often play with new mythologies when writing up new campaign worlds, and some work out better than others. When making new mythologies, I like to remember that real-world mythology is often much, much weirder and more primal than the neat pantheons we often get in RPGs.

It’s a fantasy world. Have fun with it. And\ example:

“Think you that first came gods in man-form, in the shape of elf or dwarf was born divinity? Now, all these gods are but recent tribes, attested by those who build shrines to the power that look onto them.

Before the god tribes were the Hrimthur, the storm gods, and the Svadilfar, the horse gods. The Hrimthur sought to freeze or drown or shatter with wind and lightning all living things, and of all the first animals, it was the noble horse gods, the Svadilfar, who put the Hrimthur in check. Long were their battles, but in time the Hrumthur were driven back to the mountains and oceans, from where to this day their make their assaults in the storm seasons.

The Svadilfar sought to heal the world damaged by their battles, and the eldest and wisest of them, the mare Sleinyrsa, saw among the animals two that were more clever. She selected them, the female Freafar and her mate the male Wojanan, to aid in rebuilding the world. They were allowed to ride on Sleinyrsa herself, and thus became gods, and selectors of dead animals to also ride upon the Svadilfar. And this god riders became the tribes of tool-using gods, second only to the Svadilfar, and kin to the Raven King gods, who also learned of tools.

And from these tribes later come all the gods of elf, and gnome, and dwarf, and man.”

Fantasy Idioms

One way to add a little flavor to a person, city, or culture is to add a few useful phrases that take the same kind of place as “Who benefits?” and “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Even just one phrase, introduced as part of a philosophy or something that’ll come up throughout a plotline, can help drive home a feel for a region,

There’s no need to overdo these, but I often find dropping in one or two can really boost player interest in a representative of a foreign or alien group. Here are some examples.

Gold sheds no tears.

The poison proves the plot.

Which god is thus glorified?

All accounts shall be balanced.

An arrow cannot recognize a king.

It need not be a dragon to burn you.

All who had the power to stop this are guilty of it.

All jackals scavenge, but even lions accept a free meal.

Those who pay the minstrel are the first to hear the song. (Yep, it’s a Patreon reference, snuck in as content. Mea culpa.)

The Setup (Supers): Big Housers

The Setup is a one- or two-sentence  “high concept” for an RPG campaign or similar background.

This one is for a Supers world.

Big Housers

At 11:59:59 EST, it happened. Not at every prison, but at most of them, worldwide. Perfect spheres of bizarre energy of unknown composition, unknown source, and unknown event. Each circle was between a few hundred and a few thousand feet in diameter. It became known as the Drama.

The Drama infused people, and in rarer cases animals and objects, with spectacular (and random) powers. There are more than 2 million adult inmates in the US alone, and less than 500,000 correctional officers. In the blink of an eye more than half the people in prisons had powers… and criminals outnumbered people trying to maintain order four to one.

The chaos was instant.

No one knows exactly how many people gained powers. It wasn’t every incarcerated prisoner, guard, and administrator, but it was many of them. And sine the Drama created spheres, some few folks who simply had reason to be near prisons were also impacted. Tens of thousands of children in detention centers. Scores of lawyers with need to be with a client late at night, as well as a few law enforcement officers, witnesses to at least one execution, and at least one bus full of student athletes coming back from a late-night basketball game decided in overtime were driving by a county jail and got caught in the Drama.

All told, estimates were that 2,000,000 people, give or take, suddenly gained extraordinary abilities, 60% of them hardened criminals.

Roughly half gained some knack at or close to peak human performance, regardless of their previous physical or mental condition. Geriatric prisoners became as swift, or as fast, as Olympic athletes. Correctional officers of causal intellect became geniuses. Hardened criminals became philosopher poets. Secretaries became world class martial artist. In most cases people were affected directly, but in a few cases the power was imbued into something else. The wild dogs who later formed the Pound Pack gained human intellect. Sgt. Damian Hammer’s riot shield became nearly indestructible. The Folsom state prison’s computer network became the world’s first strong AI. But these were rare exceptions.

This level of power was quickly dubbed “one inmate” worth of Drama power, and that got shortened to 1M within a day of memes and 24 hour news cycles. But while half the subjects of the Drama got 1M, some got more. Roughly half as many 1M recipients were 2M–gaining either two forms of peak human ability, or one thing with twice the potency of the greatest human. Gangbangers able to lift 2,000 pounds, con men able to speak more than 100 languages fluently, assistant wardens able to run at 50 mph. These people from the Big House, were eventually called Big Housers more than they are called anything else.

The distribution of power followed the same rough linear pattern, one additional “inmate” worth of power being given to a group as as big. Half as many recipients who got 2M were 3Ms, and half as many 3Ms were 4Ms who had quadruple the ability of the best humans. Though the numbers were approximate, that means the distribution continued until about 1,875 Big Housers in the US alone were 10Ms.

A 1M might gain a punch with 1,000 pounds of peak force. A 3M could hit as hard as a handgun bullet.  A 10M hit as hard as an antitank round. And at about the 10M level, powers stopped being limited to things explained by science.

Flight. Telepathy. Telekenesis. Teleportation. Eye beams. Fire breath. Sonic screams. A 15m Big Houser might be “limited” to running at 375 mph and making 1,200 punches in 60 seconds… or he might have the power to turn lead into gold, or perfectly predict the next 15 seconds, or be able to regenerate a lost limb. Estimates place between 2,000 and 3,000 Big Housers in the US at 10M and higher, with a believed upper limit of 20M, but it’s extremely difficult to categorize such people. Red Hand, the crazed killer who can create a virus that causes insanity and stigmata, might be a 10M with a single inexplicable power–or he might be a 15M given his cunning, durability, charisma, and rumored ability to switch bodies. Slammer is just strong and hard to hurt, but is he 14 times peak human performance, or 18 times?

 

It’s been two years. More than 20% of the original Drama recipients are dead. Only roughly 10% have successfully been captured and incarcerated. Another 10-15% work for various governmental agencies, or actively work to protect the world against the rest.

But about half the Big Housers are still out there, committing crimes.

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Spring Elves

Spring Elves

Spring elves are between 25 and 110 years old—physically adult, but still in what staid and traditional elven society considers their “Spring Years,” too emotional and impulsive to be allowed to leave the safety and education of the home. They are essentially eternal teenagers, sure of their own intellect and ability, but largely incapable of considering the long-term consequences of their actions—a particularly troubling trait for the long-lived race. Spring elves are always, always supervised and watched over by older, most experienced elves, and kept from adventure, and as much as possible kept from any decision-making. While spring elves are physically and mentally capable of the same kind of training and education as young humans, these decades are a time when they are so wild, so free of consideration, that over the course of eight decades they only manage as much preparation for life as a typical human manages by age 16.

However, in rare circumstances, a spring elf lacks any of the careful parenting and sheltering from life the races has learned from long experience is necessary to prevent the just-post-adolescent elves from setting the world on fire. For example, the Elves of Solstice are an entire race rules by spring elves, given power and authority with no sense of responsibility. And the gods help everyone else.

Spring Elf

Standard Racial Traits

Ability Score Racial Traits: Spring elves are nimble and amazingly likable, and still have their youthful resilience, which is the only reason they aren’t all killed for weeklong benders and experimental magic, but they lack the intellectual focus of properly raised, adult elves. They gain +2 Dexterity, +2 Charisma, and –2 Wisdom.

Size: Most spring elves are Medium creatures and thus have a 30 foot base speed and receive no bonuses or penalties due to their size. Some are still size small, and have all the normal bonuses and penalties for that size and a base move of 20 feet.

Type: Elves are Humanoids with the elf subtype.

Languages: Spring elves begin play speaking Common and Elven. Those with high Intelligence scores are drawn to “fun” languages and can choose from the following: Abyssal, Aklo, Cyclops, Dark Folk, Draconic, Gnome, Necril, Protean, and Sylvan. See the Linguistics skill page for more information about these languages.

Keen Senses: Spring elves receive a +2 racial bonus on Perception checks.

Impulsive: Spring elves gain a +2 bonus to Initiative checks, but they cannot delay an action (though they can ready), and take twice as long to take 20 on skill checks (as they are constantly distracted).

Elven Proclivities: Spring elves are immune to magic sleep effects, but take a -2 saving throw penalty against enchantment spells and effects. They gain a +2 bonus to charisma checks, and to the save DCs of their own enchantment spells and effects.

Low-Light Vision: Spring elves can see twice as far as humans in conditions of dim light.

Reckless Abandon: A spring elf can reroll a single attack roll, ability check, skill check, or caster level check (but not concentration check) per encounter, immediately after determining the result of a failed roll. However, if the spring elf does this, the GM earns an impulsive token. The GM can later spend a token to force the spring elf to move to anyplace within the spring elf’s base move that is not obviously hazardous, as the spring elf is overcome by an impulse. This can begin a fight, set off a hidden trap and so on, though the spring elf gains +4 to AC and a +4 to saves against the initial effect of anything set off by this impulsive move.

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Campaign Ideas Hanging Around

The proposed (and definitely never happening) Analemma Tower would make an awesome set up for any number of campaigns using Anachronistic Adventures or Starfinder. Here are some campaign ideas for a mobile city-sized building hanging down from an asteroid.

All Along the Watchtower: The U.N of 2075 can’t operate out of any one nation or building anymore. Diplomacy, military intervention, and trade all work better from mobile city-towers hanging from asteroids.

Ark V: After the Quantum Genegineering Wars, the ground level of the world became uninhabitable. At the small scale, mutant Morlocks and hunter-killer drones are contant random threats. At the large scale, the doomsday weapon biotank Kaiju are drawn to any major stationary power source.
There are still survivors scrabbling to survive in a ruined world, and super-science and relics to be dug out of cities overrun by horrors. but the only way to get to them is to wait for a period of low threat, then jump down from the roaming bastion of science and civilization that is Ark V, our last, best hope for survival.

High Ground: The evil supergenius Tex Tanner could have engaged in countless battles to overthrow nations, establish shadow governments, and defeat heroes like Anthem Lass and the Gargoyle. Instead he created one overwhelming show of his scientific brilliance and endless resources, the mobile space-anchored archaeology known as High Ground. From there he runs TannerCorp, literally above the laws of other nations.
Is he done now that he’s made his point, or is High Ground just step one/ As as an archaeology under his exclusive control, why is he hiring street-level heroes to police his private fiefdom?

The Sword of D.A.M.O.C.L.E.S: Aliens have conquered Earth for Earth’s own good. Mostly humanity is left to its own devices, but certain activities and experiments are forbidden. The Department of Alien-Mandated Oversight, Committee of Law Enforcement Systems are mostly humans, though a few alien races also work within it, and makes sure forbidden actions are not attempted. DAMOCLES operates out of the Sword, a hanging alien watchtower that orbits the Earth in a variable pattern to allow maximum command support of hot spots.

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Genre: DieselDada

I’ve never been particularly happy with the term “DieselPunk,” because it often seems to be missing any “punk.” You perfectly well CAN add the punk philosophy to a superscience 1920s-1950s setting, but most people who make a run at it don’t seem to. Mostly, they are just doing flavors of pulp.

Now, I like pulp. A lot. I have mostly squared that circle by calling my own setting Diesel Pulp, which I feel helps convey more of what I am going for. But I have always wondered what a real effort to inject punk into a diesel-driven superscience setting would look like. And, personally, I think it would be more interesting to look to the movements of the era, and inject a big dose of Dada into a diesel-drvien superscience setting.

DiselDada

Imagine a world where calculating machines, broadcast power, personal flight, giant robots, teleportation, selective breeding, talking animals, and all sorts of other marvels and terrors of science and knowledge exist… because of a war. where the world has all the tools to build paradise, but they were just used to slaughter millions as retaliation for a single assassination. Where some individuals have spent years as super-powered solo operatives, given permission to do anything for victory, and are no being told to take 9-to-5 jobs to make toasters.
In response to that insane circumstance, many of them rebel not just against the establishment, but against the very ideas of logic, money, society as a whole, and even rationality. Some wish to help in their own way, others use their vast sea of options to create nonsense acts even if that hurts others.
That diesel-driven super-science post-war setting of individuals rejecting modern society’s ideals and rules because following them lead to the Great War, which they see as the Great Horror, is DieselDada.

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Pulp Hero Names

I love pulp heroes.

I love coming up with hero names and ideas.

You see where this is going.

It’s TOUGH to come up with a pulp or even golden age hero name that have the classic pulp feel, don’t suck, and comic fans don’t recognize as being from something else.

So no promises on these, and I may use them myself someday, but here are some pulp-era hero names I’ve not found in use in comics or pulp stories and that don’t seem to be trademarked… along with the concepts I personally used them with.

Armor Man
Nothing Can Hurt Him. Nothing Can Stop Him. Nothing But The Truth.
Armor Man is one of the great heroes of the later Pacific Theater campaign, using his fully covering custom Automatic Rotary Manual Operation Rig, and it’s amazing defensive properties of green steel construction, to save the lives of thousands of marines during the island-hopping fighting. Everyone knows that, and everyone knows (despite never having seen him, and only hearing his mechanically amplified voice) he’s a rich and famous industrialist, likely of New England decent, likely Hardwick Steele, who the press often call “Hard Steel.”
But Armor Man isn’t Hard Steel. Or of New England descent. Or a man.
Instead she is Tomoko “Tom” Hajiro, a genius and courageous warrior whose family was interned during WWII by the US government for their Japanese heritage. Though Hajiro managed to avoid the camps as a result of traveling when the orders came down, she was unable to interest the U.S government in any inventions by a woman or an Asian-American. Wishing to help defeat the evil of fascism, Hakiro turned to Hardwick Steel, the fairly deplorable man who bought her family’s property when they discovered that if it was stored with the government, the US would honor no claim for loss, and offer no insurance for damage. An opportunist, Hardwick took advantage of Hajiro’s genius to build a massive industrial company and helped her build the ARMOR suit and go off fighting toward the end of the war, in the hopes she’d get killed.
She didn’t. She became a national hero, in her role as Armor Man.
Now that the war if over, Armor Man remains a national hero, dealing with Super Science Villains and International Crime Leagues. As long as Hajiro keeps inventing for Hardwick, he’s happy to keep funding her heroic efforts. He can’t expose her without risk of being exposed as a fake and fraud himself (and losing his chief source of new inventions), and she has seen and heard what common American men say about both Japanese and women when they think none are present, and fears what the government would do if it discovered she has duped it, heroically while only doing good, for years.

Crime Basher
Justice Never Sleeps
The man who became Crime Basher was a veteran of WWI who took a piece of shrapnel from an experimental chemical bomb to his skull. It caused him to never sleep, and never need to sleep, and almost never grow tired.
Upon his discharge after the war, the veteran discovered corruption had taken over his big city home, and no one was doing anything about it. Already a combat expert, and now able to work during the day and still stay up to fight crime all night, he assumed the blue-color working-man’s hero identity of Crime Basher, and used his hard fists (and a pair of weighted-knuckle gloves) to punch crime in the face!

Donny Brook
He doesn’t start fights. He ends them.
Domhnall “Donny” Brooke doesn’t mean any harm. He just doesn’t like to see people get picked on. It makes him sore. And so he does something about it. Usually involving hitting things with whatever is handy.
But he happens to also be the reincarnation of the Thulian Age warrior-god Anextiomarus, also known as the Champion of Protection. So when he gets sore, bullies get even MORE sore. He can usually just beat people up, but he IS a reincarnated god. He is always a little strong, and a little tougher, and a little better fighter than the strongest, toughest, most dangerous person present.
But he can still be outnumbered, and he’s not that smart.

Katherine (Kate) “Blaze” Carson
She’s Out of the World!
Blaze Carson is an adventurer’s adventurer. She’s not a masked hero, but she is an ace pilot (with her own custom tricked-out Bell P-59B Airacomet and a massive Dornier Do X seaplane she uses as a mobile headquarters). She’s also a crack shot, drover, anthropologist, master of Bartitsu (which she learned directly from Edward William Barton-Wright), fencer, engineer, deep sea diver, and detective.
She’s also been to the Moon and mars, where she faced and defeated the Mondreich and Aresites, respective, but she doesn’t talk about that much.
Though she kept the ray gun.

The Scarlet Shadow
Crime Makes Her See Red!
The Scarlet Shadow is Lilibeth Jefferson, the oldest daughter of a large family with numerous men becoming police and soldiers in every generation. She learned everything her brothers learned, but when they went to academies and military programs, she was packed off to school. She became a determined chemist and aided in the creation of new munitions toward the end of the war, but couldn’t get any real science job after the war ended and men came home.
She took a position as a detective’s secretary, and discovered she was better at the job than he was. When he was investigating a case involving strange substances she tailed him and saved his life when an experimental chemical bomb went off. The mix of chemicals didn’t kill her, but gave her the power to create the Scarlet Mist, a thick red fog she can see through (even at night), but which block’s anyone else’s vision. Armed with this power, and a red trench coat and fedora and twin 1911a Colt .45s, she has become the greatest detective in America, the person you go to when everyone else is stumped.
The detective she saved, Mason Alder, has become her chauffer and assistant.

Sky King
The Highest of High Adventure!
I’ll be honest, Sky King is a Rocketeer pastiche, though he works with a group of Stratoknights and has a mountaintop base called “Avalon” and an airship named ” Llamrei.”

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And if you want to see more of these kinds of ideas, let me know!

 

Roller Dungeon

So here is the idea:

Dungeon speed runs as a team sport, on roller skates. “Roller Dungeon Team T-Shirts” optional, but the Absalom Abyssals Woman’s Speed Destruction Team is my favorite.

EVERYONE is on roller skates. Heroes, monsters, gelatinous cubes… everyone.

The Rules

Every PC must have half their levels in barbarian, brawler, cavalier, fighter, investigator, kineticist, monk, ninja, rogue, or slayer.

For these mandatory class levels, you get +4 skill points per level, and the Skating skill. Also, any class that has Ride replaces it with Skating.

Skating works like Ride, but your “mount” is a pair of skates that take your space. Anything you could do on a mount, you can instead do on skates. All skates have a 30 foot move rate and, like a mount, if you control your skates without taking an action, you get a full action.

Skates are never battle-trained mounts, unless you would get a mount as a class feature like cavaliers).

All dungeons should be 2 CR lower than the APL *your spellcaster assistance has been limited after all, and you are making speed runs).

You only get full XP and treasure for a combat or trap encounter if you finish it in 5 rounds or less. For every round more than that, you lose 25% of your XP and treasure. An encounter begins when you become aware of it, so scouting eats into your time. If you complete an encounter in less than 4 rounds, you get a 10% treasure bonus for each round less time you take.

It’s assumed you have an audience, so Performance combat is an option.

Combine with DungeonBall! or X-Crawl as desired.

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Simplified High-Level Pathfinder

Simplified High-Level Pathfinder

Rather than gain a new character level from 11th or higher, you simply gain the ability to potential overcome any one obstacle foe or challenge you are directly facing. Your chance is 45% +5% per level above 10th, , and each time per game session you do this your chance of it succeeding when used again that game session goes down by 10%.
Describe how you used your areas of specialty to succeed. You can use this ability no more than once per encounter. or twice per encounter if you are 15th level or higher.
Also, gain +10 hp and +.5 to all saving throws for each level above 10th.

Simplified Mythic Pathfinder

Rather than gain a new character abilities with each mythic tier, you simply gain the ability to potential overcome any one obstacle foe or challenge you are directly facing. Your chance is 50% +5% per tier, and each time per game session you do this your chance of it succeeding when used again that game session goes down by 10%. If you are only facing creatures with no mythic tiers,. or mythic tiers no greater than half your own, you gain a +25% bonus to this roll to succeed.
Describe how you used your mythic role to succeed.
You can use this ability no more often per encounter than half your mythic tier (minimum 1).
Also, gain +10 hp and +.5 to all saving throws for each mythic tier.

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