Category Archives: Microsetting
This is an updated index of all the articles I’ve written about my “Gatekeepers” campaign for Pathfinder Second Edition.
How I Set Up My New PF2 Game, “Gatekeepers.” Part 1: Rules Options
The initial list of houserules and optional rules the campaign began with.
How I Set Up My New PF2 Game, “Gatekeepers.” Part 2: Houserules
The campaign begins with a few pure houserules in place to alter the feel and flow of the game system.
As soon as they exist, they’ll go here.
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Be it a comics pitch, background worldbuiding idea, or a supers adventure sketch, here’s a quick rundown on the concept of EuroVigil.
The EuroVigil Hero Contest has been held every year, in one form of another, since 1946. Hosted by the European Broadcasting Guild (EBG), it was originally an opportunity for the ad hoc WWII costumed heroes to gain greater visibility and compete to be members of the Peers, the Eurpoean Superhero Group set up to ensure the escape Nazi villains of the era would be unable to clone fallen madmen and tyrants, build factories to produce hordes of evil robots, train cyborg wolf armies, or unleash mind-control devices, all of which were surprisingly common concerns at the time.
Each hero for the EuroVigil is nominated by local agencies in their home country, the process for which can vary wildly. In France, it is determined by popular public acclaim. Germany trusts the Federal Minister for Empowered Affairs. In England, it remains one of the legal prerogatives of the Monarch to choose an entrant, though the decision is normally vetted and researched at great length before an announcement is made. Norway leaves it to their oldest serving Peer to select a candidate. Greece, Italy, and Spain all have a series of regional contests, and so on.
One selected, the contestants are broken into “Flights,” each of which is assigned to a region of Europe half the time, and to the Peer’s training facility half the time. While assigned to a region, each Flight is assisted in finding and handling crimes, disasters, and public appearances. When at the Peers facility, the heroes are tested in a variety of ways, from obstacle courses to sparring matches to being pitted against various simulated common dangerous situations (burning buildings, hostage rescue, sinking boats, and so on).
After each weekly set of events is finished television and radio broadcasts are put together to show highlights, and nearly all the raw footage can be viewed online. Each participating country then issues a set of votes, half determined by a panel of experts (often including retired heroes, firefighters, and civilian oversight groups), and half by the popular vote of the country’s population. The lowest vote-getters are cut from the program immediately, and a new week of events begins.
Though the program has remained popular for 3/4 of a century, there are criticisms. Often charismatic or kitschy contestants receive more votes than boring but effective heroes. National and international politics are seen as playing an oversized role in early selection and the editing of each week’s broadcasts. Some entrants are accused of seeking fame and fortune rather than a life of service and helping others. However, most winners do receive and accept an invitation to become one of the Peers, now the official European Union superhero team, and numerous runners-up have attracted enough support to become successful major international heroes.
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Or rather than a movie pitch, you could use this as the plot to an adventure, a backstory, or a campaign kickoff.
A new viral breaks out. It has a very slow incubation period, very few external symptoms, and requires personal contact to spread, so by the time it is detected it exists worldwide, and no one is sure how many people have it.
People who get it are largely immune to bacteria, fungus, parasites, and other viruses. Also, they can recognize each other by touch, and have a primal urge to care for and protect each other. They aren’t telepathic and don’t always agree on anything else (including the best way to protect and care for each other), but they do all feel “curing” them, or slowing the spread of the virus, is bad. And some “Spreaders” feel their best bet is to infect as many people as possible, so the number of them that want to protect each other goes up, even though that requires lots of close personal contact.
Meanwhile, governments of the world begin to realize Spreaders could mean the end of the existing global power structure. First they try to deny Spreaders have any benefits, then briefly hammer on the truth unknowns — will Spread mutate? What are the long-term effects? But quickly, it becomes a combination of clanism and competing narratives. Stories claim some Spreaders have begun attacking anyone not infected in zombie-like biting sprees, but no one knows if it’s true and, even if it is, how common it is or what provocations might be present. More believable reports claim in in 1 million people die slow, agonizing deaths if they catch the Spread, but even that can’t be proven to the masses one way or another.
Spread becomes a new global faction, growing through a dedicated outreach program of its members without any core leader, debatable ideology, or unified message. Spreaders claim universal infection would mean utopia. Ethical objectors say much too much is unknown about how Spread will impact humanity over generations, philosophers object to the biological compunction of it overriding free will, and uninfected people in power simply have no interest in losing their positions to a virus.
Can a compromise be found, or will humanity destroy itself because of an infection that makes it want to selflessly help itself?
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I wanted to spread this info over 5 articles last week. I started several of them. but I also got kidney stones… and that derailed everything. So, here is 5 articles worth of content and pictures, all crammed into one post.
End of an Era… of Gaming
Since moving back to Oklahoma, I have been running a Starfinder play mode I called the Really Wild West, in a campaign titled Doomstone. We just wrapped it up in my last session.
I don’t get to actually complete campaigns all that often. Scheduling or relocation usually kills them off first, and honestly burnout of myself or players is more common than wrapping a whole campaign plotline. And, to be fair, some games I designed to be endless sandboxes, so there was no “end” for the storyline to reach.
I originally intended to turn Really Wild West into a commercial setting book, so there is a ton of art and game rules and background for it on this site. Given how far behind I am on other projects that’s certainly not happening anytime soon (thankfully I never took money or preorders for it), and it may never happen. But the material is all still available, so you can see where I was going with it. And I never let anything go to waste, so the core material will likely show up in *something*.
For those of you who were following along back when I was posting session-by-session updates, here’s a super-quick rundown of the campaign, minus subplots. (There’s tons of cool stuff I just don’t have time to go into for a summery –how the PCs got the pistol Killdemon, the redemption of Beardcutter Ben the Shaver’s friend, the duel where Crackers Jack threatened to murder a the mysterious gunslinger who killed his brother only to in the end shoot himself in the hand so honor is satisfied, the Tombspider Inn, BoHoss the Ogre, Tex Tanner the Helium Baron, Ceasear — professional snuggler, “that Goddamn Manticore”…)
Earth, 1891. Magic and fantasy creatures have always been part of the world. Last year, the Martains attacked in the first War of the World.
The PCs (a centaur paladin, mysterious gunslinger, fenrin bounty hunter, human mechanic technopolitin, and orc cartogramancer easterner) were each for their own reasons on a train headed west. It’s attacked by teleporting serpentfolk bandidos who, it turns out, are trying to steal a safe being transported by the Fonts & Bismark company. The safe contains a Martian Power Generator, salvaged from a Martian tripod.
The PCs do some investigating, and come to believe the attack was funded by the East Hudson Bay Fur Trading Company, who have also taken over a local ranch and are making life difficult for its neighbors. Investigating further they discover the EHBFTC is funding a dig into a mesa where a genius known as Professor Adremelich is using converted Martian Digging Machines to access Demiplanes, including one with serpentfolk, and one with svirfneblin the Professor is using as forced labor. Using svirfneblin crystal tech after liberating them, the PCs raid the Serpentfolk demiplane, and cut it off from the Material Plane.
Evidence gather suggests Professor Adremelich wishes to become a Darkling, a more-than-mortal creature empowered by one of the Fates Worse than Death. Specifically he appears to be possessed by the Venom King, a medieval worldwide threat put down by the centaur paladin before she died, and the return of which is why she has been brought back.
The PCs commandeer one of the Martian Digging Machines and the mechanic technopolitan converts to be their expedition vehicle, the “Armadillo.” The PCs begin to see themselves mentioned in the papers, and decide to take the name “Knight Rangers,” rather than be stuck with some yellow-journalism appellation.
They also encounter a Deputy of Death, a psychopomp cavalryman who warns that someone has escaped the Lands of the Dead, and if the deputies can’t bring him in their boss, “The Marshal” will come handle it personally. The Marshal getting into a fight on the Mortal plane could be… catastrophic.
Like, end-of-the-Olmec Empire catastrophic.
Realizing that defeating a proto-Darkling will require mystic aid, the group head to Hellgate, Montana, home of the famous hellgate University which allows the licensed study of fel magic, and thus should have experts who can help. Along the way they face Sumerian Vrock Demons, Angry Minotaurs (who they placate and befiend), and a cyborg named “Barron the Immortal”” who is causing all sorts of trouble, and they deal with him scoffing at the “Immortal” part of his name.
Of course the expert they need is currently lost after taking an expedition into the dinosaur-infested Badlands. Also, Hellgate appears to have a mole, and another cult is found supporting a myserious cigar-smoking man who clearly also wishes to become a Darkling, the Bloodletter, and is not as far along as the Venom King but is apparently working with him.
The PCs go rescue the expert they need, put an end to a spreading ghoul plague among the dinosaur population, drop a boxcar on a ghast allisaurus while using a holy smite to empower it, discover the mole in Hellgate U is the Chancellor who is also the Bloodletter Darkling wannabe, get attacked by Barron the Immortal again (who, it turns out, cut up his brain and used it to empower multiple mechanical bodies), and get a line on where Professor Aremelich is.
Their expert will make them a nail to drive through a Darkling’s shadow, so shooting them with a bullet will kill the darkling position itself, never to return. But, she also recommends they use the Chancellor’s research to find King Arthur’s Spear, Rhongomiant, which was forged to destroy the Darkling of Betrayal but was never used against it. The PCs raid the Chancellor’s secret base, slay a vampire, and get his notes. those take them to a hidden valley where there is a gate to the fiendish demiplane where the lost Legio IX Hispana Roman legion has existed for centuries, having turned to diabolism to survive a massacre and the fall of the Roman empire.
Fight on a giant gearwork dimension device, lots of Roman themed devils, free the people living under fiendish tyranny, get the spear. Encounter a second Psychopomp Deputy of the Marshal of Death, who warns time is getting short.
Upon returning to Hellgate, they discover it’s been attacked by a Martian Walker, the first anyone has managed to get functional since the War of the Worlds. They immediately help the US cavalry track it down, discover it’s a distraction drawing eyes away from a third Barron the Immortal, who is trying to complete a Martian Factory they began building just weeks before they fell to disease. The PCs stomp him and it, and find notes suggesting there’s just one Barron left… the most powerful of them.
They also discover a working Martian interplanetary communicator, and from its signal learn the Martian elite back on Mars are diabolists, and they are planning a second invasion… eventually.
The Knight Rangers still need to deal with the Tripod, and hunt it down with the Armadillo, fighting it in a Ghost Town. They win.
Tracking Professor Adremelich to Helena, Montana, they find the city is cut off by an evil vapor projected from a Paddle Steamer. They sneak up on and attack the Steamer, ultimately dealing with its owner an ancient Sumerian Elf Vulture Diabolist. Upon killing him, the Mysterious Gunslinger PC discovers he has become a Deputy of Death, for bringing in a long-outstanding fugitive, giving him natural ghost gun advantages
Helena saved, they advance on the Monarch hotel, where Professor Adremelich/the Venom King is preparing to perform the ritual to become a full Darkling. To get to him they must face the last Barron the Immortal… who is a giant mechanical spider n the third act.
From there they descend into the basements beneath the Monarch, then the sub-basements, then they discover the builders had ignored numerous warnings from pre-Columbian cultures that said not to dig here. This is because when a Darkling brought down the Olmec Empire, his disciples had fled to North America, and build an underground Ziggurat to try to bring him back. The heroes of the existing lost-to-history native cultures of the time (referred to as the Woodland Mounds culture by some RWW historians) defeated them and left warnings which later cultures in Algonquian- and Siouan-language speaking peoples had maintained and respected.
The builders of the Monarch had not.
It is revealed Professor Adremelich has been hired to build digging machines to go even deeper below the Monarch, had encounter the darkling Cult Ziggaraut, and because of the poisonous Black gas the Martians has used in the War of the Worlds was so power, the dead Venom King had been able to whisper to the professor, hooking him as a host. Now, in that cavern, the Knight Rangers must face the about-to-ascend Venom King one and for all, in an ancient cavern littered with his failed technological and magical experiments, magic teleporting portals, two canopic guardians, a venom specter, a stream from the River Styx, and the Venom King himself.
The fight was long and hard, but in the end, the Canpoic Guardians were destroyed, the mechanic kept the mystic or technological experiments from coming to life, the bounty hunter took down the undead chimera, the technomancer dispelled the Venom King’s displacement and other defenses, the Paladin pinned his shadow to the ground with Rhongomiant, and the Gunslinger took the only and only bullet they had to destroy him forever, and made an attack roll in the open, for all to see.
And rolled an 18. And shot the bastard right between the eyes, destroying that threat forever.
There was some wrap-up after that. The Marshal of Death dropped by to say the issue was settled. The paladin discovered she didn’t have to die to keep the universe balanced. Everyone agreed to invest in the mechanic’s soon-to-be-established tech company.
So, for now, game over.
I mean THAT game. I’m still getting together with these folks, who I have been playing with for 35+ years, and bouncing dice. Just not, for the moment, the Really Wild West.
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Just a quick idea for a scifi-horror or urban modern fantasy campaign.
DWARF PLANETS, DWARF GODS
Each planet is a god… but only as long as they are revered as planets. Pluto was the gatekeeper of the realms of the dead. Its power was vast, but focused entirely on keeping the vile undying of the extrasolar void away from the worlds of light.
Now? Now Pluto is only a dwarf planet, and thus only a dwarf god. The civilizations of Earth have noticed as things get worse and worse, but don’t understand why. Small vile things from the cosmic true vacuum have been slipping past, and people are affected. But that was just the first cracks. Years have past. Pluto is tiring.
It’s about to get much, much worse. And much, much more obviously supernatural.
The mummies of Mars are rising. The vampiric tombs crawling along Mercury’s dayside are slowing, inching closer to the darkness that can awaken them. The ghoul spores of the world that became the asteroid belt are stirring. The angry Red Specter of Jupiter is awakening, and preparing to burst forth from his cyclonic cage.
The other god planets are preparing to do what they can. To empower people, organizations, and creatures to defend against the growing threat. But each god planet is already has its full attention and power dedicated to other concerns. Jupiter can spare little attention for the Red Specter, else the infernal comets it deflects from life-bearing worlds will smash into the inner system. Saturn’s rings must kept the ecliptic harmonic in balance, lest the constants of the current universe vary.
The god planets will help where they can, but it is humanity that demoted Pluto. It is humanity that must bear the brunt of the consequences.
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We’re coming up on a year I have been working on ShadowFinder, though not with the regularity I’d like. Because I have big way-behind projects after carving out a period of time to try to “finish” it (which, for various reasons didn’t do anything like get it finished), I’ve pretty much been restricted to jotting down notes when ideas come to me, and sneaking in some work on the project as blog posts (since I have blog subscribers who have already paid me for this content, so I’m obligated to keep doing this along with the other projects I am obligated to do, as opposed to ShadowFinder which is entirely optional).
But even slow and sporadic progress is progress. And today, I’m sharing some conceptual material I wrote early on in the process. I wanted to think about the types of characters I would want to be able to have as supporting players (and, perhaps, PCs). Things like this are among my guiding ideas when I work on a game setting or expansion — conceptually what do I want to be able to make with these rules and any advice that comes with them?
Earlton and Alyssal
Earlton Fust is an old, old zombie. He cannot see, smell, feel, or taste, and his hearing is weak. But for all that he is slow and clumsy, he possesses vast strength and resilience.
Alyssal Rein is a very recent ghost. Though she cannot be wounded, moments that would have harmed her living self still cause her to flee into the umbra. In fact, she can barely affect the physical world, her powers largely limited to her senses, speaking to the dead, and the ability to possess corpses.
Corpses like Earlton Fust.
She can literally become his eyes and ears, feeding him her senses, animating his flesh to be swift and nimble. In turn, his flesh can impact the mortal world in ways she cannot, his tongue speak words she wishes spoken. It is a strange arrangement, two dead souls operating in the world of the living, but they both appreciate its benefits.
Earlton was a private detective a century ago. Alyssal was murdered by an unknown foe a year ago.
They fight crime.
[I see Earlton as a specific build for a mechanic character with the exocortex option, except the “exocortex” is the ghost Alyssal. That leads to needing rules about mechanics that are magic-based rather than technology-based, which can then also be used for magical girls, ring wielders, and maybe lycanthropes. Which begins to sound like an alternate class, which is fine, I have technicians for most of what mechanics do with tech, and with a few tweaks the mechanic drone option can become a pet class that summons a spirit to fight for them, like an eidolon…]
Michar Micharland, known in some circles as The Sleepwalker, knows the real world is one free of magic and monsters. So, despite his memories, he rejects the idea that he was hit by a bus, killed, and brought back to life with eldritch powers.
Well, he thinks the bus part probably happened.
Which means if he’s not dead (and this seems too weird to be either heaven or hell) then he must be in a coma, and everything he is experiencing is just his brain firing off random neurons to keep itself amused until he wakes. If he wakes.
So, he has no fear. No concern. He believes to his core that everyone he meets is just part of his coma-induced dreams. None of it is real. Nothing can actually damage him, even if he feels pain. (Flashes of the pain from the bus impact leaking into his subconscious, maybe). He believes he’s walking through an imaginary world where none of his actions have consequences.
So, he helps as many people as he can. Because that’s his idea of a fulfilling dream. Doing anything else would make him feel like an ass.
[The Sleepwalker could be a mystic with a connection to dreams, or a warlock using my new warlock class. But he also needs something that lets him lean on his belief system, even if it’s wrong, to overcome things like pain and fear. That sounds a lot like a feat or archetype which could then be used for people with strong religious convictions, or the ability to fall back on scientific rigor, or who think they are the Chosen One.]
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Nobody ever pays much attention to Slammer, Oklahoma. Sure, it’s weird that there’s one Big House where the mayor lives, and everyone else is in tiny cabins and do farm work. And yeah, now that you mention it it’s odd that so many of the residents are cyborgs, floating brains, talking wombats, and the floating brains of talking wombat cyborgs.
But, it’s not like the whole town is populated by nothing but paroled super-villains, living under the watchful eye of the God of Dungeons just so they can live some semblance of a normal life, right?
And when tornadoes tear and flooding through Slammer and all the surrounding counties, taking out the God of Dungeons and doing a ton of damage and putting lives at risk, how are the ex-villains going to react to the combination of sudden unmonitored freedom, and a massive natural disaster?
Rob a bank?
STEAL a bank?
All of the above? …
You can find more information about the mysterious Armitage Building on my Facebook and Twitter, under the hashtag #WelcometotheArmitage. Some other folks have joined in under that hashtag, as well. This is one of several longer pieces I started about the building, but have yet to finish or decide what to do with.
The Tragic Atheneum
On the 10th floor of the eclectic Armitage Building, in room 1016, is the Tragic Atheneum. It’s door is marked with “10*1016” in gold paint, and an image of a quill pen. The door is unlocked from 3 am to 11:11 pm, and no force seems able to get past it when it’s not locked. Those waiting for it to open do not note any sound, or see anyone tending to the door. At 2:59:59 am, it is locked. At 3, it is not.
The Atheneum is one of the biggest rooms in the building, decorated in a heavy, overstuffed Victorian Gothic style. The gold leaf crown molding repeats “10*10*16” endlessly, there’s a small counter no one is ever manning near the only apparent door in or out, there’s no sign of any windows, and the interior is filled with a labyrinth of bookcases and cabinets that you can, literally, become lost in. Here, filed in ways no mortal has yet to comprehend and with constantly shifting positions, is every written book, story, and article that could have been, but wasn’t. There is no staff, but the Atheneum is meticulously clean and maintained. A simple ledger sits at the front counter, marked on the cover with the title “Million-Million-Million-Milton-Monkey-Marginalia” has columns for who is checking out a book, what book is checked out, and when it will be returned.
There’s a 1921 World Victory Pen Company ball point inkwell pen by the ledger. It never runs out of ink, and anyone who takes it out of the room loses it, as it always returns to the counter. Nothing else successfully writes in the ledger.
Faded instructions on a small index card notes at the counter all returned books must be placed on the return table, and no book may be borrowed from the return table. Of course, you books are removed by someone from the return table and refiled, and you can’t always find the same book again. A sign warns that return dates must be within 28 days, by 11:11 pm of the last day, and that tardiness is strictly forbidden. No one at the Armitage knows anyone who has ever been late turning a book back in. A few people who used the Atheneum and were habitually late or disorganized have simply disappeared but no one knows for sure if that is related.
Any print media from the Tragic Atheneum that is taken from the Armitage grounds becomes so faded as to be unreadable, though within the Armitage’s lights the print is perfectly clear. Electronic and recording devices do not record words from Atheneum texts, whether typed in, spoken aloud, or photographed. Written copies of such texts fade immediately if removed from the Armitage, and are not restored upon returning, and fade within weeks regardless.
Nonresidents visiting the Armitage seem unable to find room 1016, even if escorted by a resident. They can see and read texts residents have in their rooms, or any of the many cozy reading nooks, lounges, and studies scattered throughout the building, but only retain information gained in a general way, and never remember any twist or noteworthy conclusion. Residents do, but get a general sense it’d be a bad idea to spread that information around.
Sometimes, alternate version of religious texts are found within the Tragic Atheneum, but they are always bound shut by chain cages, and marked with a tag indicating they are not to be checked out. A few have done so anyway. One of those was last seen fleeing from the lost god’s suite on the 72nd floor.
The others have never been seen again.
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Absolutely nothing I release today is going to get any attention whatsoever, given the new playtest for the World‘s Most Popular ttRPG went live this afternoon. So, I am taking this as an opportunity to do whatever I want!
“Underground States of America“ was an idea I had in late 2019, while living in Evansville, Indiana. It sparked with the concept of having subterranean “Brain Eaters“ in a Post–Apocalyptic setting that everyone was scared of, but turned out to just be Hoosiers who still enjoyed pig–brain sandwiches. From there, I began to think about what the underground in every state would look like and, for no good reason whatsoever, started in Kansas.
I was never sure what I was going to do with this. Third–party campaign setting for the space–based “Finder“ rog I had helped create? Game world for the system I have been working on ever since I thought of the Adventures of the League of Women Spelunkers, in 2016? Actually write a novel like I have meant to for 30 years?
Then I took on other projects, and stopped having time to do anything with this nugget, at least so far. I hope you enjoy this file from my archives.
Nothing here is Open Game Content, this post is not covered by the Open Game License.
U.S.A –Underground States of America
No one older than the age of 3 survived whatever sent all of Lebanon, Kansas (including a shockingly large number of politicians, scientists, and military), to flee to Shelter 48, and none of those ever knew what had happened to cause the evacuation. They were raised by clearly-repurposed automated systems, which often tried to pluck eggs from under the children, or check them for Swine Fever. Shelter 48 had canned and powdered food aplenty, power, clothes, tools, medical supplies, movies, novels, manuals… but nothing with a year on it. Very little with name brands. No firearms. No *explanation* of firearms, or gunpowder, or nitro, or fireworks. Lots of bodies, though. Burned, skeletonized, mummified, rotted, and some twisted like they’d been turned to putty, placed in taffy-pulling machines, then dried out into the consistency of old leather.
Still with watches, glasses, nametags, and even money But only pennies, quarters, and golden Sacagawea dollars, all shiny and new when found, and all with XXXX where a date should be.
That first Orphan Generation was big, though no one is sure of the exact number. The best guess is around 5,000 children were in the 100 nurseries when Shelter 48 came online, each with their own Sigil, a small distinct black-line shape on their wrist.
The Big Clock says it’s been 54 years since Shelter 48 came online. And it keeps counting up in years, months, days, hours, minutes, down to thousands of a second which spin by so fast no one can tell if there are actually numbers on those dials. And from 7 pm to 7 am, by the Big Clock, the Main Lights get dimmer and dimmer, though never completely going out, and then brighter and brighter
Very few of the Orphan Generation are still around, but their children and grandchildren, and even a few great-grandchildren are. Every child is born with all the sigils of their parents and grandparents on their wrist. Some great-grandchildren have their great-grandparent’s sigils, some don’t, and some have a few and not others. But you don’t need to check someone’s wrist to know if they share a sigil with you. If you smell a sigilkin, or touch their skin with yours, you have a flood of affection, protection, trust and familiarity fill you. But not sexual attraction. Indeed, the idea of being sexually attracted to your sigilkin is… well, it’s just gross. Nauseating, in fact.
Shelter 48 had numerous huge metal doors. It took a long time to find them all, given the almost-23,000 acres of tunnels, dorms, nurseries, warehouses, sick bays, factories, hydroponics, classrooms, databases, labs, libraries, theaters, parks, air scrubbers, power transformers, jail cells, observation posts, pools, gyms, sports fields, archery ranges, go-cart courses, mushroom farms, indoor skydiving shafts, meat printers, knife dispensaries, pill vendors, obstacle courses, computerized therapy and career guidance offices, pillow pits, quiet rooms, loud rooms, cryogenics repositories, cybersurgery autodocs, insect zoos, suicide booths, 21+ robot-monitored red-light halls and toy rentals, thumbprint-coded safety deposit boxes, courtrooms, trial-by-combat rooms, companion animal adoption centers, snorkeling courses, self-serve horrorhelm and deprivation stations, psionic activation chambers, and the periodic weirdly lit dodecahedral-shaped RONKUs (Rooms Of No Known Use).
None of them opened easily. But over 5 decades, with books and screens and machine shops, most of them have been forced open or torn apart. None lead up. Indeed, nothing found ever even suggests there *is* an “up.” But there are more tunnels, and chambers, and shelters, including those that claim to be located under Caldwell, Ellsworth, Kansas City, Lincoln, Leavenworth, Douglass, Fort Scott, and Wichita. Sadly, none of those have done as well as Shelter 48. Shelter 16 under Caldwell is the source of endless corpses (human and otherwise) infected and animated by weird fungi. Shelter 67 under Leavenworth has turned to cannibalistic warfare between 7 factions. Shelter 104 under Witchita, the largest encountered to date, is a dangerous ruin of run-amok robotics, carnivorous roaches, mole-boars, psionic ant colonies, and apparently one madman called Rawhand wearing a Richard Nixon mask and attacking people with an atomic-battery-equipped power drill he carries in massive, gnarled, skinless hands.
Several smaller Shelters simply had their populations fail to thrive as well as Shelter 48, and survive by trade and hiring out as mercenaries, workers, and anything else they are willing to be paid for. Some non-shelter Chambers have been turned into homesteads by groups fleeing on failed Shelter or another, or decided to carve their own way rather than bow to whatever ruling party controlled their point of origin.
Outside the Shelters and Homesteads, are thousands of rooms, tunnels, caves, and waterways both natural and man-made crossing an area of at least 90,000 square miles, all underground. Not only has it not all been mapped, but cave-ins often block old paths, and sometimes open new ones. Ancient, apparently indestructible and self-motived digger machines called Zom-bore-nies bore out new tunnels, or clear obstructions… apparently at random. Sometimes, a floor gives way, to reveal part of another level lower down.
There are the Long Ducts, which stretch so far from the edge of the known Underground that no one has gotten to the end of them and returned. Long ducts are often collections of related and interconnected tunnels and shafts, all running parallel. They are also often overrun by caustic slime-molds, scavenger gangs, raider camps, and the hallucinogenic electrified twisted vine-cables that someone dubbed Black Lotus, and which no Shelter book gives any information about.
There are the Dropshafts, that lead down. Some Dropshafts obviously lead to warehouses, and have Homesteads set up to control them, or outposts of more violent Shelters. Others go so far down, no rope anyone has found or crafted can bear the weight of a person to go far enough to reach the bottom. Most softly blow fresh, cold air. Some belch gray stinging fog. At least one smells of brimstone, and is guarded by batwinged cyborg mandrake roots. New Dropshafts have been showing up more frequently of late, sometimes with a floorplate just disappearing one day, and a new shaft replacing it.
There are rumors of new groups being spotted, claiming to be from Her Royal Majesty’s Subterranean Expeditionary Force, or Empire State Bunker AA-5. Some objects with markings like that show up in the hands of roving junk dealers, but most folks assume they’re fakes.
Though the Empire State thing that might have been a pistol, once, sure got everyone’s attention.
No one much cares how any of this came about. The few who do haven’t found any good explanations, just more questions. But it is what it is. These are the Underground States of America. This is your world.
The past is the past. What are you going to do to ensure your future?
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Sometimes, I have good ideas I just can’t get out of my head.
These are not those.
10. Army of the Dead Zone
A virus causes people to go crazy, bite 2-3 other people, fall into a coma, then wake up 5 years later with psychic powers. As interesting as all that sounds, this is a heist movie that doesn’t really touch on it.
9. Halloween Out of Space
A strange holiday descends from space, which no one can describe, but celebrating it involves lots of people showing up without calling first, spending time with your least favorite relatives and your boss’s family, and killing people with an axe.
8. Nightmare on Wall Street
What’s that you say, the movie Wall Street isn’t a horror film, so this isn’t a horror film mashup?
(Stares at you in late-stage capitalism.)
After conning retirees out of their life savings, a Wall Street bigwig is burned at the stake. But his greed is so great, he survives as a dream-based apparition, who can force people to pay him if they want to sleep.
7. Silence of the Quiet Place
Yes, hearing-based aliens have invaded the world and everyone must operate in complete noiselessness. But the FBI still needs to catch serial killers, even if they have to pass notes delicately written in crayon to serial killers for insight into what kind of wacko goes on a killing spree during an alien invasion.
6. Amityville of the Corn
It turns out the same architect who built the Amityville House built an identical house for himself in the corn fields of Nebraska. Sadly, entirely by coincidence the architecture itself is a form of spirit-summoning rune, and He Who Walks Behind the Corn, and the kid who wishes you to the cornfields, and the cannibalistic creeper who pretends to be a scarecrow have al moved in.
5. Bride of Young Frankenstein
The wife of Young Frankenstein decides to make her own monster, for the merchandizing potential.
4. Train to Cabin in the Woods
An evil corporation tries use supernatural monsters to kill off everyone on a train to appease evil gods who are conceptual stand-ins for the audience itself, while constantly complaining that their actions are largely pointless, derivative, and a crude cash-grab as conceptual stand-ins for what the audience are thinking. Obviously, this is a prequel.
3. The Mummy of the Opera
An opera singer’s voice is so bad, it could wake the dead. And it does.
2. Night of the Cabinet of Doctor Dracula’s Labyrinth Hostel
Doctor Dracula, professor of bloodletting, lures innocent tourists into his maze-themed air bnb so his animated cabinet can torture them. … Or something like that, anyway.
1. Interview with a Voorhees
An unkillable psychopathic murderer agrees to give a reporter an exclusive interview on what it is like to be the vengeful spirit of not letting teenagers have any fun. In the end, the Voorhees turns the reporter into a vengeful spirit of not letting teenagers have fun
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