Sunday, October 14, 2018

Yellow Dawn: Black Lake Review

   

    Yellow Dawn is a Lovecraftian post-apocalyptic near future scifi tabletop RPG campaign setting. Black Lake is one of several novels David J Rodger wrote within his Yellow Dawn setting. I should preface this by saying that I have not played the game or read the setting book.
    In 2015, David J Rodger was working on a 3rd edition of the game, and had supposedly completed a first draft of it, but soon after committed suicide. The 3rd edition was never released.
    2015 was around the time I was first starting to explore the greater RPG scene online and expose myself to new games, and this came on my radar. It was scifi, it was Lovecraftian, but most interesting to me was that other than Hastur (the Yellow in Yellow Dawn) and  few others, most of the Lovecraftian entities were original creations. I can appreciate the classics as much as anyone, but I've already read Lovecraft; when I see an original campaign setting, I want it to be something actually new.
    It intrigued me, but I wanted to wait for the 3rd edition, which never came, and then it just fell off my radar. Every once in a while I would post around reddit or elsewhere asking about it, to no avail. Even the 2.5 edition is not available on drivethrurpg or digitally elsewhere. It's available on lulu for print on demand, and I may end up buying it eventually, even though I generally prefer digital, but anyway all of his novels are available on kindle, so I bought his three books set in the world of Yellow Dawn. Apparently all of his novels are set in a shared universe and it's just a matter of whether they're pre- or post-Yellow Dawn, so I'll probably pick up the others eventually.
    If I'm being honest, there's more to this than just that it intrigued me. He wrote several novels, he wrote 3 (if you count 2.5) or 4 (if you count the unfinished 3rd edition) RPG books, as well as several blog articles and free online supplements, and he also wrote professionally on other projects. He is a more accomplished creator than I will likely ever be, both in terms of the quantity of creative output and in its commercial success and cultural impact. I don't know why he committed suicide, maybe it had nothing to do with his writing or career, but he killed himself, and nobody bothered to publish his apparently mostly finished 3rd Edition game. I don't mean to blame anyone, there may be logistical reasons why this couldn't have been published or would be exorbitantly difficult to publish, but all the same, he's dead, and it's like his creative vision immediately died with him, and that makes me sad.
    So despite the fact that I have absolutely no memory for details, I'm going to try to write a brief review of his novel Black Lake. I hope this brings attention to him and his world. I hope this can get a conversation going, and maybe his materials can be made available digitally (and by extension more affordably) and maybe his 3rd Edition can finally get published in some capacity or another.
    I've never played Call of Cthulhu or the Basic Roleplaying System, and generally don't like to GM pre-existing settings (my favorite part about RPGs is worldbuilding after all), but I would be willing to learn CoC/BRP to run or play in a game, even if it wasn't entirely set in Yellow Dawn per se, that incorporated elements of Rodger's world. To be honest, I don't really have much faith in my ability to impact the RPG culture on my own, and maybe it's selfish or childish or unrealistic to even want that, but in any case, if I can't do it for myself, I would at least like to do it for someone else, and I guess maybe I'm hoping we can all be champions of each other. If I suddenly fell off a cliff, I'd like to think maybe someone would do this for me.



Black Lake Review
This review may contain minor spoilers. It is intended as a broad-level discussion of the book and not a detailed plot synopsis.

    Black Lake follows a team of scientists/explorers hired to investigate an unusual meteorological phenomenon on an Arctic Island north of Scotland. On the island, eldritch forces slowly drive them mad. It falls in line with Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, or the film The Thing. The book is written entirely from the perspective of one of the scientists. Given the isolated nature of the island, much of the Yellow Dawn setting is merely in the background. Rodger does a good job of realizing the setting through the plot and through the technologies available to the team, with relatively minimal (or at least minimally obtrusive) exposition.
    On the one hand, I was a little disappointed that the book was so removed from what I imagine is the core of the setting, but on the other hand, what we do learn about the setting from this book succeeded in making me interested to learn more. I appreciate the fact that while it is post-apocalyptic, it doesn't revel in the escapist fantasy of "reverting to a simpler time". The zombie genre was originally intended as a critique of mindless consumerism, which makes it so ironic and gross that much of the post-apocalyptic zombie literature today is itself so lacking in self-awareness. In fact, the world as it is presented in this book almost feels optimistic, more like an equivalent to the early industrial era.
    They have all sorts of near-future technologies, but with such a relatively low population and poor global infrastructure, there is a sense of the unknown, and wonder, and even danger, although by and large people must still deal with the realities of civilization and day-to-day life. While it's not impossible to do truly post-apocalyptic horror (existential or otherwise), I think juxtaposing a world of promise with existential horror makes the horror more salient. I was worried that Yellow Dawn was going to be just another zombie setting by another name, but that does not seem to be the case.
    The writing itself was solid. It didn't blow me away, but it was rare that the writing got in its own way. It felt similar to Laird Barron. I can't honestly say it's as strong as Laird Barron, but that's a high bar and this should be taken as praise. He also describes the technologies and scenes well, without over-writing. I could tell that he was interested in the hard scifi / near-future technological aspect of the setting, but whereas many writers get fetishistic about it or overly detailed, he provides just the right amount of detail to enrich the world without dragging on about it.
    Considering the limited scope of the island setting and the small handful of characters, he manages to keep the plot moving and keep things interesting. It starts off a bit slow, but basically everything after they get to the island is entertaining and engaging, even when not much is happening. He plays well with tension, building and releasing and re-building it in organic ways. I rarely feel a sense of dread or horror when I read horror stories, but this book got me as close to that feeling as I've felt from a novel in quite a while.
    If I had one major complaint, it's that he provides a (comparatively) major exposition / lore-dump towards the end of the book. It certainly whet my appetite for the setting, but I wish that lore had been spread out over the course of the book, more like At the Mountains of Madness. Likewise, none of that lore meaningfully contributed to the plot or the eldritch threat, making the exposition dump feel even more out of place. I think he would have been better off either leaving the lore out entirely and letting the eldritch threat be vague and mysterious, or connected the eldritch threat and the lore in a way that felt more substantive.
    So with all that, I would say that on the whole, if you like Lovecraftian horror or stories about isolation, I would recommend this book. If you're interested in learning more about the Yellow Dawn setting, it'll give you some details but it's not the most efficient way to go about it. It doesn't do anything new, but it does what it intends to do well. Being a part of an interesting setting, even if only tangentially, I think works to its benefit. I've already started reading one of his other novels, Dog Eat Dog, so I suppose that alone speaks to my enjoyment of this book.

So with all that said, I would encourage others to read his books and to talk about their experiences with the game. Please, if you know anyone or know anyone who may know someone who could maybe get this published, please let me know! I'd love to see Yellow Dawn 2.5 on drivethrurpg at least, or Yellow Dawn 3e released in some capacity. I'd even be open to trying to put together some kind of indiegogo or kickstarter if money is a problem, assuming it at least exists somewhere. I've also downloaded most of the pdf game supplements on his website and even converted the raw HTML of some of his game supplement blog posts into text files, just in case his website ever gets pulled, or just to make it easier to compile everything later. If this is something you would like to see happen, please speak out!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

SHIELDBREAKER: Play Report 4

This is the fourth (and probably penultimate) session of the SHIELDBREAKER campaign, although it's seeming increasingly likely that we're going to keep going after SHIELDBREAKER resolves. Below are the Play Reports for the previous sessions, as well as the NPC cards for reference:

Click here for the Session 1 Play Report!
Click here for the Session 2 Play Report!
Click here for the Session 3 Play Report!
Click here for the NPC Character Cards!

Additionally, I used this GLOG table of Minor Magic Items to give the party some extra toys to play with :).

I feel like these play reports end up being "this happened, then this happened, then this", and hopefully that's still interesting in itself, but this session was so much crazy fun and I know this post doesn't sufficiently capture the events as we experienced them.

Characters 
Jim Casper: Tartarian-Mutant Specialist. Working in a storehouse in the Tartarian kingdom, he learned about a mysterious martial cult, and has since been attempting to learn more about it. Has a mutation, a slit on his body which must be fed ancient artifacts.
    -- Player: Z_bill

Razlow: Kobold Garlic Knight (Fighter). In the early stages of transforming into a Garlic Berserker. Was a soldier in the Dogu kingdom but deserted when he discovered he was turning into a garlic berserker.
    -- Player: Murdoc

Kail: Mimic Knight (Fighter). A bland-looking mutant with greyish skin and coal-black eyes, giving him a stone-like appearance. Seeking something to make him special, he chanced upon a mimic, and was able to arrange a symbiotic relationship. The mimic armor slithers over him, occasionally altering its appearance to various effect. With his armor, Kail now seeks adventure, and has joined the Pearl Panthers to get it.
    -- Player: David Horowitz

Ortega: Mutant Apoptomancer. The fools back at the academy turned a blind eye to the limitless potential of the immune system... but who's laughing now?? He got kicked out of the academy for a very, very uncontrolled experiment and is now on the run. 
    -- Player: Saker Tarsos

Xx_Slayer_Queen_69 (Slayer): Mutant Phreaker and thrillseeker. Goth cyberpunk hacker-type with a scarlet mohawk and a black jacket covered in spikes and red eyes to boot. She has an automagic PMC on one arm and she makes it look good. She also has a roth obsidian visor.
    -- Player: Michael Kennedy

Play Report
After fully decrypting the location of the SHIELD, the party met with Mr. Myce at an entrance node of the Grand Stable system. From their, a dungeon crawl through the labyrinthine network ensued!


  • The party walks down a hall, nearing a room. A SWORD bowls past them, agitating a bunch of frelin and gozen mounts in the first stable room, and they find themselves trapped between the SWORD and the animals. They use one of their magical meridian gems from the magi-slime cave last session, without knowing what it does, and by an amazing coincidence (I swear!) it happened to be an anti-animal shell spell, so they were able to force the animals back and escape (relatively) unharmed!
    • Frelin: A beast with a hyena-like body and frog-like face, and long, clawed appendages above their shoulder blades.
    • Gozen: Horse-sized, six spindly legs tipped with claw-like hooves that scuttle like a crustacean. Pink, worm-like skin underneath a furry, feathery, mossy layer of purple. Their skulls are like a raven with ox horns, and rest loosely at the end of a long, worm-like neck. If the skull is torn off, a lamprey-like mouth is revealed at the end of the neck.
    • SWORD: An Unliving nematode-like creature in a psionic cell. The psionic energy objectifies a sack of bio-tissue, plastic, and cybernetic parts. If punctured, the abstract concept of null inverts from its object-oriented form to that of a null-space.
  • They find a room full of drifters who were lured into the Grand Stable by someone named SOMA, who incidentally produces a drug from their body called soma. He leads them like a cult, but has recently gone missing. Of all the addicts they meet, the only reasonably coherent one is Serabia (see NPC card above), who accompanies the party to find SOMA.
  • They head down to another room, a storage closet. There are several magical trinkets, but they are being hoarded by an impossible impostor crab. It is immune to physical attacks and it's shell of absolute solid evokes feelings of ennui and anti-love, but the party convinces Mr. Myce to take the brunt of it and lift the crab up so they can snatch the treasure. He reveals his inner feelings in the process, and forces the party into a verbal contract to be his friend and keep in communication with him once a week for a year (I'm so bad at writing these things up but I swear this ended up being hilarious and everyone loved it!). They receive several items listed below, including a psycho-cell.
    • Impossible impostor crab: A hermit crab-like creature, wrapped in the discarded/dead absolute solid shell and claw/gauntlets of an impossible organism. Behaves like an exaggerated hermit crab, full of jealousy and spite. Not an impossible organism but has adapted to absolute solid.
    • Psycho-cell: A cylinder of astrium glass and anti-information, filled with an Unliving axol sibling-type preserved in impossigen of incalculable value. A priceless artifact.
    • A magical electrum coin (could not determine it's magical function, hopefully that's fine...).
    • A handful of sentient (and rebellious) glue.
    • A ring that makes your eyeball pop out.  This is not a problem, and you can continue to see through the eye just fine, like a spy-eye.  Reversible if the ring is removed.
  • They find another storage room, where a strung-out soma addict named Steve is tripping out. They manage to scare Steve off and gather more loot (I think this was just gold, or maybe some of those items above, I've gotten it mixed up now :/...). Serabia steals some soma off of him on his way off.
  • Mr. Myce takes them on a shortcut to the next area of the Grand Stable, but this is still a three-hour journey. Along the way they attempt to identify their new magical items, finally identify some of their old magical items, and do other miscellaneous things.
    • They discover that the potion from the first session temporarily provides +3 strength.
    • The partially digested frog carcass provides temporary ESP (as ESP spell).
    • They identify the other meridian gem as a Conjuration of Animals spell.
    • Ortega the apoptomancer metamorphs his dog-like companion Karchev into a smoke monster with a reflective stinger capable of turning air to water.
  • In the next area, they find a stable room full of mechanical vehicles, primarily the spider-legged clankers commonly found in Nova Arkham. They find two aquorum drones patrolling the vehicles, and if they get in close proximity the drones will attack. The drones are explosive, and if any of the clankers are damaged, it's coming out of the party's pay. They manage to take down the drones while only destroying one clanker, costing them 100 gold.
    • Aquorum: Amorphous blobs. Prokaryote-like impossible organisms, unstable in physical space. Clones sprout on its surface which explode on impact.
  • Ortega, wearing the ring, rolls one of his eyes under another door. Unfortunately, in this room is a hallucinogenic shit-shroom, which has alluring psycho-active properties which transmits from the eye to Ortega himself, drawing him (and then several of the other characters) into the room and confuses them.
    • Shit-Shroom: An unassuming patch of bioluminescent fungi, which is an impossible organism feeding off a pile of excrement of another impossible organism.
  • The shit-shroom makes the party either catatonic, or go berserk, and Kail fatally wounds Jim Casper. As soon as they gather their bearings, they rush out of the room with Jim's body. Ortega uses apoptomancy to turn Jim Casper into an Unliving.
  • In Jim's new form, his skin is albino-white. His brain grows substantially, breaking free of his skull, and contains powerful psionic energy. His skin is semi-translucent, revealing his cytoplasmic internals. His arms have been replaced with necrotic tentacles which spread rot. He levitates, his dead legs dangling inches above the ground. He is capable of producing spores which bud into clones. He has lost much of his intelligence and is in a child-like state. He eats several of the items through his artifact-eating orifice behind his knee (pre-Unliving metamorphosis feature 0.o), making him more powerful (increasing his HP). When he eats the eye-ring, his patella on the knee containing his artifact-eating hole becomes an eye-like organ grown from dentate cells that can detach from his body.
  • After heartfelt apologies, and everyone coming to terms with the horror of what just happened, Ortega sends in Karchev to smoke out the shit-shroom, and then they head to the next room, which contains a pneumatic tube. They send a few messages to the outside world.
  • They enter a room full of viscera. Destroyed aquorum drones; exploded frelin and gozen; violated soma addicts; broken psycho-cells with fetal nematode-like corpses. Patches of null-space around the plastic, cybernetic, bio-tissue remains of SWORD corpses. Rows of dead SHIELDS delicately placed on emergency tables. The room is surrounded by shadow and null- the entrance cannot be found. 
    • This is where we ended the session... *BUM BUM BUUUUUM*

The Breakdown
    I think the last session was where I was finally starting to hit my stride with OSR, but it's nice to see that with a full party and the difficulties of a dungeon crawl, I was able to keep it going. The funny thing is, other than a few minor adjustments given some of the particulars of OSR, I'm realizing that I can basically just run this the same way I run anything else- this session could just as easily have been part of my Numenera/Cypher Phantasmos campaign. 
    From talking with the group, it seems the highlights of the session were Mr. Myce, whom the group loved, and they felt that each encounter was unique and interesting and I avoided the pitfalls of boring dungeons. In terms of things that could have been better, they felt that I could have provided them with a better sense of spatial orientation (e.g. given them cardinal direction cues), and provided more environmental details, particularly when they encountered forking paths and wanted some kind of cue so that choosing a direction wasn't just a coin flip. I've never been a visuo-spatial person so that's always been difficult for me, but their suggestions were helpful and I will be keeping them in mind for the future.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

LotFP Class: Apoptomancer (1.0)



Image Source

This is my first attempt to create an OSR class. It uses the LotFP magic-user class and spell-list as the base.

Note1: This has only just begun being playtested!

Note2: Given how reliant this class is on the LotFP Summon spell, I would encourage the use of Saker's Summon Hack, which streamlines the Summon spell, increases the chances of rolling fun appendages and powers, and "balances" it a little bit. The original spell, besides being a little cumbersome, is really awesome in its own right, but I think this hack makes a little more sense for the purpose of this class.

Note3: Even if you take nothing else from this class, I would encourage you to check out the Metaphysical Metamorphoses. I think they're pretty cool…

Note4: I would like to thank Saker Tarsos and Lungfungus for proofreading, editing, and providing various other comments and suggestions. Additionally, Saker is playtesting this class in my SHIELDBREAKER campaign which I greatly appreciate!



Description:
Apoptosis: The death of cells that occurs as a normal and controlled part of an organism's growth or development. Apoptomancers hijack the immune system. They tickle the vagus nerve, they aggravate the gut microbiome, they command cells to commit ritual suicide so the organism may be reborn. While the metamorphs they create are often thralled to them for the sake of convenience, the goal of apoptomancy is to create uncanny, beautiful, and thriving new lifeforms, and to protect themselves and others from illness and the mental trauma of the neuro-immune response. Of course, not all doctors follow the Hippocratic Oath, and not all apoptomancers have such noble intentions...

Stat Progression: Use the LotFP magic-user class starting stats and stat progression, but rather than the starting spells and one new spell each level, follow the below class abilities progression.

Class Abilities: For each level, take all that apply (or any ability/spell from a lower tier).

Lvl. 1: Create Metamorph AND (Metamorph Companion OR Trans-Metamorphic)
Description: Everyone gets to temporarily metamorphosize creatures they encounter, but at level 1 you can decide to either have a permanent metamorph companion, or metamorphosize yourself (you can always take the other at a higher level!).

Lvl. 2: Metamorphic Template OR Apoptomancer Spell
Description: Templates allow you to recast metamorph effects you’ve used before. There is a short apoptomancer spell list, but any magic-user spell that can be reinterpreted as apoptomancy can be chosen as well. The spell list is just a set of examples.

Lvl. 3: Super Metamorph
Description: Give your metamorph companion (or yourself, if you’re trans-metamorphic) more mutations (temporarily)!

Lvl. 4: Re-Metamorphosis
Description: If you don’t like your companion’s metamorphosis (or your own, if you’re trans-metamorphic), re-roll!

Lvl. 5+: Any previous tier ability/spell

Lvl. 1 Class Abilities


Create Metamorph (class ability / spell level 1): As the Summon spell, with the following changes.
  • Must be cast on a willing or incapacitated organic creature with an immune system or comparable biological system.
  • HD is equal to creature HD. Cannot metamorph a creature with two times apoptomancer level or greater.
  • Default stats are equal to that of creature.
  • If creature default stats are greater than the Summon spell default stats, consider each increase as a power (e.g. AC 14 instead of 12 would be equivalent to the power AC +2d6). Any creature special abilities are also considered powers.
  • Roll base form, appendages, and powers as normal. 
    • The metamorphosed creature may still resemble its original form in some ways in addition to carried-over powers.
  • If the base form would be one of the abstract forms, roll for a Metaphysical Metamorphosis instead.
  • To customize the metamorph, before domination roll, caster can increase or decrease HD or another stat, add or remove appendages, add or remove powers, or reroll base form, appendages, or powers a number of times equal to apoptomancer level, so long as other spell requirements are still met (e.g. HD still cannot be more than two times greater than apoptomancer level). This can be useful either for personalization, to make the metamorph more powerful (at a higher risk of failing the domination roll), or to make the metamorph less powerful (and therefore less likely to fail the domination roll).
  • Domination Roll difficulty is automatically decreased by apoptomancer level to a minimum of 1 (or for Saker hack, add apoptomancer level to opposed roll).
  • Cast time = 1d6 minutes, or on failed domination roll, 2d6 minutes.
  • Duration = 1d6 hours (barring changes due to degree of success or failure on domination roll).
  • Thaumaturgic circles and sacrifices should be re-flavored as medical/apoptomantic/alchemical procedures, but otherwise may still be applied.
  • This spell cannot be cast on a metamorph (e.g. a creature created using this spell, a metamorph companion, or a trans-metamorphic character).
  • Only one metamorph created using this spell can be active at a time.

Metamorph Companion (class ability): As Create Metamorph, with the following differences.
  • Companion is permanent unless killed.
  • HD = Apoptomancer level or less. Default Summon stats prior to rolling base form, appendages, and powers.
    • Note that Metamorph Companions, although permanent, have a lower HD cap than the temporary metamorphs created using Create Metamorph.
  • Cannot have a Metaphysical Metamorphosis base form.
  • Disadvantageous powers lower the difficulty of the domination roll by 1.
  • Domination roll has a graded effect. On failed domination roll, add the respective Sympathetic Response trait (depending on degree of failure). 
    • At GM discretion, the base form, appendages, and powers can be chosen manually by the player or by the GM, but domination must still be rolled and normal limitations still apply.
  • HD increases by 1 and HP by 1HD for each increase in apoptomancer level after creation.
  • Taking this ability additional times allows rolling for additional powers. If the companion does not already have the Sympathetic Response trait, a new domination roll must be made accounting for current HD and all powers.
  • At GM discretion, taking this ability additional times can allow for additional companions instead, but total HD for companions cannot exceed apoptomancer level (although I would discourage that as it may get cumbersome...).
  • If a metamorph companion is killed, a new one can be created. If this ability was taken multiple times, create the new companion as default, then roll for the additional powers as many separate times as this class ability was taken after the first time.
Trans-Metamorphic (class ability): As Create Metamorph, with the following differences.
  • Base form, appendages, and powers are applied to self.
  • Metamorphosis is permanent unless altered through some other means.
  • Cannot have a Metaphysical Metamorphosis base form.
  • Gain one random power for free. This power does not add to the difficulty of the domination roll. If it is a disadvantageous power, ignore it and roll again.
  • When rolling for powers, if the power is disadvantageous, keep it, and either roll again for free, or lower the difficulty of the domination roll by 1.
  • Domination roll has a graded effect. On failed domination roll, add the respective Sympathetic Response trait.
  • Taking this ability additional times allows for rolling additional powers. Same rules apply for rolling new powers as in the first case.
  • Note that trans-Metamorphic characters keep their class abilities and spells.

Sympathetic Response (trait): Metamorph Companions or Trans-Metamorphic characters who fail their domination roll gain this trait. When bloodied (< Half total HP), depending on how much they failed their roll by, the following effect is activated for 1d6 turns:
  • Fail by 1-5: Sympathetic Response causes flight behavior.
  • Fail by 6-10: Sympathetic Response causes fight behavior (targets nearest creatures).
  • Fail by 11-20: Sympathetic Response immediately triggers upon creation (permanent, control of creature is taken away from player. If trans-metamorphic, roll a new character...).
  • Fail by 20+: METAPHYSICAL METAMORPHOSIS (permanent, control of creature is taken away from player. If trans-metamorphic, roll a new character...)
  • After the sympathetic response subsides (or if it never activated), if the metamorph is still bloodied, each time the metamorph takes additional damage, roll Sympathetic Response again.

Lvl. 2 Class Abilities

Metamorphic Template (class ability): After casting Create Metamorph, if the template is saved, you are always able to create this metamorph effect.
  • Template includes base form, additional appendages, and powers.
  • The decision to save the template must be made during the metamorph's duration.
  • Cannot save metamorph template if the domination roll was failed.
  • Cannot save metamorph template with a Metaphysical Metamorphosis base form. 
  • Must still roll for domination when re-casting a template. 
  • If the creature the template is being applied to is different than the creature the template was saved from, add creature HD minus apoptomancer level to the domination difficulty roll (minimum 1). 
  • Can only use a template when the difference between the template creature HD and the target creature HD is less than or equal to apoptomancer level.
  • Can save half apoptomancer level rounded down templates. If attempting to save a new template while already at capacity, one template must be permanently forgotten.
  • Taking this class ability additional times increases the template capacity by 2 each time.

Lvl. 3 Class Abilities


Super Metamorph (class ability): Create Metamorph can be used to temporarily change the base form of, and add appendages and powers to, creatures that are already metamorphs.
  • Roll for a change in base form, additional appendages, and additional powers. 
  • If the metamorph does not already have the Sympathetic Response trait, re-roll domination, adding pre-existing features and new features to the difficulty. On a failed roll, the Sympathetic Response trait is added to the metamorph, but only for the duration of the spell.

Lvl. 4 Class Abilities


Re-Metamorphosis (class ability): Reroll a Metamorph Companion or Trans-Metamorphic character's metamorphoses. The old metamorphoses are permanently replaced.
  • Cast time is metamorph HD/level minus half apoptomancer level rounding down number of days (minimum 1 day)

Apoptomancy Spells 


  • Apoptomancy spells or class abilities do not need to be prepared
    • However, there must be an available spell slot for that spell level (i.e. at full rest and no spells prepared, they can cast as many apoptomancy spells as they have available slots for each spell level).
  • Apoptomancers cannot write or acquire spells from scrolls or spellbooks 
    • They also cannot create wands or other non-apoptomantic magical devices, although they can still use magical devices as per the magic device saving throw.
  • Apoptomancers can take any spell from the magic-user list 
    • However, the spell must be interpretable as a result of apoptomancy.
    • This re-flavoring of the spell may limit the scope of the spell (e.g. ways or circumstances it can be used), but it cannot enhance the scope of the spell.
    • The apoptomancer spell list below is a mix of actually new spells and spells re-flavored from the magic-user or cleric spell list, as a point of reference.

Apoptomancy Spell List (1d6)


Microbiotic Compatibility: Apoptomancy alternative to the charm series of spells. It can be taken as a lvl. 1 spell (as Charm Person), lvl. 4 spell (as Charm Monster), or as a lvl. 8 spell (as Charm Mass). Alters the microbiome of the creature, inducing a neuroimmune response making them open to suggestion from the apoptomancer.
  • A similar logic could be applied to other manipulation/compulsion magic-user spells.

Super-Inflammation: Apoptomancy alternative to the Cleric Cure spells (e.g. as lvl 1 = Cure Light Wounds, as Lvl. 4 spell = Cure Serious Wounds). The apoptomancer hyper-activates the immune system of the target, leading to rapid healing (i.e. as Cure). However, after 1d6 turns, the target must save against paralyze or become fatigued and depressed as a result of neuro-inflammation. The duration lasts as many minutes as turns it took before feeling the fatigue. During this time, they have -1 to all rolls (as LotFP Sleep Deprivation). 
  • A similar logic could be applied to other buff spells such as haste (an immune-effect of cortisol).

Detect Pathogens: Level 2, 10'/level, 5 rounds/level. The apoptomancer can detect dangerous particles in the environment by consciously focusing on their vagus nerve and immuno-sensory system.

Immuno-Sensory Perception: Level 2, 1 turn, 60'. The apoptomancer enhances their vagus nerve and immuno-sensory system to the point that they can detect and interpret the microbiomes of creatures in range. They can use ISP to read thoughts and emotions, not unlike ESP. While less precise than ESP, it is more useful for detecting tonic states and unconscious motivations than ESP.

Inflammasome: Level 4, 0 range, 1 round/level. The apoptomancer secretes symbiotic fungal and bacterial organisms and other cells and particles from their microbiome in a 10' diameter sphere around themself. Within the inflammasome, both pathogens and physical threats can be detected, and immuno-sensory signals are cascaded back to the apoptomancer, pre-activating a defensive inflammatory response. All pathogens are ignored, and damage activates super-inflammation (as Cure Light Wounds). However, after 1d6 turns, the target must save against paralyze or become fatigued and depressed as a result of neuro-inflammation. The duration lasts as many minutes as turns it took before feeling the fatigue. During this time, they have -1 to all rolls (as LotFP Sleep Deprivation).

Pyroptosis: Level 2, 20', 1 round/level. Same effects as ray of enfeeblement, in addition to the following. For the duration, the target receives +2 AC of natural super-inflammation armor and damage reduction 2. However, at the end of the duration, the target must save against paralyze or become fatigued and depressed as a result of neuro-inflammation. The duration lasts as many minutes as turns it took before feeling the fatigue. During this time, they have -1 to all rolls (as LotFP Sleep Deprivation).

Metaphysical Metamorphoses (1d4)


Anti-Cancer: The metamorphosis sets off an apoptotic genetic cascade of anti-cancer. Over 1d4 days, the metamorph undergoes teleological anti-mutation, transforming into an harbinger of the anti-mutants. The harbinger finds a suitable location full of life, and begins terraforming it with noxium fumes and prasium. Over 1d4 weeks, as the atmosphere and geological composition of the region is transformed, the harbinger will build structures resembling those found on the Green Moon. At the end of the terraforming project, as many hordes of anti-mutants as the duration of weeks it took to terraform the region will arrive from a noxium-tear in the paraverse and colonize the region. They will continue to spread until they have terraformed the entire world. If they succeed at terraforming the entire world, they will spread into every moment of the world in the paraverse. If they do so, the world will become like an egg, birthing the anti-mutant teleological end-state (essentially the anti-mutant god), and will continue to spread across the rest of the paraverse, and then the multiverse, and then the omniverse, and then...

The Gate: A dormant psilosymbiote germ, something like a fungal, bacterial, or viral pathogen from another universe, is apoptotically activated. Over 1d4 days, the metamorph undergoes psilosymbiosis. The apoptotically-enhanced super-strain provides it +2 HD and one new beneficial mutation/power each day for the duration of the transformation, and on a successful attack it has a 1 in 6 chance of spreading the infection. If it is still alive 1d4 weeks after full psilosymbiosis and has created as many super-psilosymbiotes as it has HD in that time (or any of its spawn have done so), all of the super-psilosymbiotes merge into a spire beaming impossible light into the sky, a beacon which opens The Gate to another universe: Yog-Sothoth. Impossible light orbs fill the skies, and all sorts of eldritch, impossible creatures and a-logical principles seep into the universe.

The Fourth Wall: The metamorphosis activates a neural pattern, a mental representation, like a meme, connecting it to the Real World (the world of the players). The consciousness is merged with that of the real-world person (player/GM), and they can bring any meta-game knowledge with them. The real-world person should stay in contact with the rest of the party even when they are not in a game session, informing them of what the metamorph is doing in the game world. Real world emotions, cognitions, sickness, etc., should apply to the metamorph. If the real-world person fudges a roll or secretly changes their or an NPC's character sheet, it is now Truth within the game universe. Most other characters in the game world, even paraterrestrials, are fundamentally incapable of or unwilling to acknowledge this, and will engage in whatever cognitive dissonance necessary to deny the obvious truth.

Narra-ativistic Organism: The apoptotic cascade has atavistically activated a metaphysical state in the organism from a time when the rules of the universe were narrativistic rather than mathematical, like fey wood. Decide on a narrative arc for this metamorph, and choose any story-game system and character build to best facilitate this arc. OSR or not, the metamorph is now playing by a different set of rules.

Friday, October 5, 2018

A personal account of tabletop RPGs, design and play philosophies, and other things

I think I'm past the point of being depressed about how people weren't willing to take my GNS survey* despite it taking less than a minute and having no negative outcome case, mostly past the point of being legitimately angry about it, clearly still in a place of being not-so-passive aggressively annoyed about it but that'll pass too, but I still want to talk about some of these things, so this time I'll just talk a little bit about my tabletop history and how that history informs how I think about tabletop as a whole. This is more a stream of consciousness than anything else, but I hope people find it interesting or informative.
*incidentally I think I've come up with a way to redesign the study that will account for the concerns people had more directly and actually have greater statistical power, but the results will be less easily interpretable to an audience without a statistical background. I would potentially be interested in giving this another go, but I don't want to go through again the frustration and disappointment of getting excited about it and then no one doing it.

This is kind of insane when I think about it, but I'm pretty sure I've been playing tabletop RPGs for 6+ years now. I know compared to some people that's nothing, I just mean that it still feels like I just started but 6 or 7 years is a long time. Technically I had a few non-starters prior to that, particularly with D&D 4e, and when I was much younger I was actively involved in a whole bunch of play-by-post free-form forum RPGs about things like X-men or Megaman Battle Network, but that's a whole conversation in its own right. 

But ya, about 6 or 7 years ago I started playing D&D 3.5 with some friends, and our first campaign lasted about a year. None of us except the GM had any experience, and in many ways I remember him being a really good GM, although it was very obvious to me even back then that he and the rest of the party carried certain sensibilities that I did not, and for as much fun as I had fun with that group, I don't think I ever really got what I wanted out of tabletop with them. They wanted traditional fantasy, and I don't mean to sell their narrative sensibilities short, but they were more interested in the character-building and combat tactics than telling a story or building a world. I didn't know tabletop could be anything besides that, but I also knew that wasn't quite right for me.

Then I ran a 3.5 campaign of my own for a year that was in so many ways a horrible mess but I think on the whole we had fun and it was definitely an informative and humbling experience. I tried to include way too much homebrew that often didn't work and my players never wanted it anyway, and the setting was a very early prototype of Phantasmos, but in part because I was a terrible worldbuilder and storyteller at the time, and in part because my group had no interest in anything besides traditional fantasy, it didn't quite work. But again, I think we had fun on the whole. There were moments of greatness or potential greatness in there. Anyway...

We then switched to Pathfinder, which I think as of now is the pinnacle of that style of play, and for the most part I'm over that style of play but I can remember why I enjoyed it and there are moments when I think about giving it another go, maybe Starfinder or the upcoming Pathfinder 2e. With pathfinder, we had one shorter, more experimental game that was a fun concept but we never finished, and another one of the guys took a stab at GMing another year-long traditional fantasy campaign. I think of our three main campaigns, we each brought something a little different to the table, and for as little as that style of game or style of play interests me anymore, I look back fondly on those experiences.

The last game I played with that group (certain people came and went, but mostly the same group) was a short Mutants & Masterminds 3e campaign that I GMed, based on a superhero setting I haven't posted about on the blog yet but is arguably my #2 main setting after Phantasmos (and at one time was my #1 setting). M&M 3e is not a game I have much interest in playing again, but I appreciate it for what it is and I think it served as a good transition game for me. It had the crunchy, character-building stuff that at the time I thought was critical to tabletop, but it taught me that crunch and game mechanics don't just have to be about combat tactics, that game mechanics can serve another purpose, such as to facilitate story progression or storytelling, and when we hit out groove about halfway into the short campaign, it was the first step towards changing how I thought about tabletop. I would consider this campaign the first one where I felt like I really got what I wanted out of it.

This was around the time I moved out of state and started grad school, so for nearly a year I didn't game at all. However, this was also around the time that I started exploring r/rpg. While I've been frustrated with that community on the whole lately, I have to appreciate that r/rpg really opened my eyes to all sorts of new games, and new philosophies about games, and I feel like I am so much more personally and creatively enriched for having found that community, and I can't even imagine who I would be if I hadn't been exposed to all of these things.

In that time I learned about rules-light games and storytelling games, and at first primarily latched onto Numenera / Cypher System. The high production value and science fantasy setting was what brought me in, but the Numenera core book spoke to me on multiple levels. In retrospect the setting is, on the whole, fairly tame (although I still think it has some cool stuff), but they really did an excellent job of baking into the book a tutorial on how to effectively build a Weird world. Outside of reddit and the blogosphere, the original Numenera core book probably most influenced me in terms of my techniques as a worldbuilder. For all of the fiction I had read or science I had learned, and all the ideas I had in my head, prior to Numenera I had no idea how to coherently put it all together (although if I'm being fair, some might argue I still haven't figured that out). Anyway, I eventually grew to appreciate the Cypher system itself as well. 

While I've recently been trying to delve much more deeply into both storygames and OSR, as of now I think Cypher System might be my overall favorite RPG. I think many people misunderstand it or don't give it a fair chance. First I played in an online group for a year, not set in Numenera but using Cypher, and while again I don't think my sensibilities were 100% in-line with that group, it was the first time I played an RPG where we were playing the characters and telling the story first, and playing a game second. After so long of reading all of these reddit posts and blog posts and RPG books but not actually playing, it was so rewarding to put all of that new knowledge to the test and feeling like it had paid off, and feeling like I was tangibly closer to getting what I wanted out of gaming in a more reliable way than that first success with Mutants & Masterminds 3e.

Eventually I was able to start a local group, again using Numenera / Cypher, set in Phantasmos. Unfortunately I think that group may have officially died as of this summer (we were so close to my intended "end" too :/), but that was an extraordinary experience. My second year of grad school was really miserable for a whole bunch of reasons, and I don't think I would have survived it without my Phantasmos campaign. Over the course of those two years I became such a better worldbuilder, storyteller, and even game designer (although for me the "game" part of RPGs is and will likely always be tertiary to worldbuilding and storytelling). I broke the campaign into several narrative arcs, so even though we never finished my intended "end" arc, we had several "full" story experiences. It taught me a lot about how to work flexibly with mechanics to get what you want out of them, to manipulate them to develop the game or story experience you want, and other general principles about worldbuilding, storytelling, and gaming. Start small, build out as needed. Plant lots of seeds and let your players water them. Let some seeds grow in the background. You'll look like you had a master plan but really you developed the "master plan" as you went. Encourage the players to contribute to the world, to think about what their characters want and how they fit into the world. Don't just roll to hit, describe the awesome thing you did. Don't worry if you have the ability to do that on your sheet, we can find a way to make that awesome cinematic super move you just did make sense with the materials we've got. Whatever story you have in mind, make your characters a tangible part of it; this is tabletop, not a videogame.

During that time I got to try out some of my micro-settings, mainly using FATE. I think FATE is a great system if you want to tell a full story in a one-shot, and I think it's a cool and different way to frame game mechanics that can make you a better worldbuilder and storyteller, but on the whole I don't love it. I was already more or less doing what Aspects in FATE do within Cypher but in a more free-form way, and I really don't like the probability distribution of FATE dice (although I respect the elegance of it for what it was designed to do). I'm by no means done with FATE, but I don't think it's surprising that it's been receding in popularity lately- I think most people already got what they wanted out of it, and I don't know if there is anywhere for it to grow, but I hope I'm wrong.

More recently, mainly in the time since I've started my blog, I've been primarily delving into the Old-School Renaissance/Revival/Revolution/whatever the kids call it (OSR), but also to a lesser extent into Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA). I think the reasons for this were two-fold. Part of it is that I think the storygaming scene seems to have moved away from FATE and consolidated around PbtA. Part of it is that it seems like many people are just moving altogether away from storygames and into OSR. Specifically what interested me about OSR is the whole community, primarily around Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP), who seem to share my sensibilities towards worldbuilding. This community seems to have the same or similar Weird sensibilities I have, building fascinating worlds I have never seen, and coming up with interesting game mechanics and ways to think about gaming. Like with Mutants and Masterminds 3e and Numenera, the OSR/LotFP community has really changed how I think about things. There are certain aspects of OSR that I can respect but don't necessarily appeal to me, like player skill vs. character skill, or high-lethality, or the sandbox. Again, I can respect that philosophy and understand why people enjoy it, and I do enjoy it as an alternative experience, it's just not my primary interest.

That being said, as I've been playing more OSR recently, what I'm finding is that actually I can basically run it in the way that fits my style, that many of the sensibilities I developed from Cypher and FATE work just as well with OSR, and it's just a solid framework. In fact, more so than any other system, even Cypher, it makes me want to become more of a game designer and not just a worldbuilder or storyteller. The more I play OSR, the more I really want to revisit my Decyphered Hack, which I think has potential to be my ideal game. Unfortunately, I don't think it's anyone else's :/, but maybe if I find the right way to bring it all together, other people will grow to appreciate it as well. 

I think I talk a little bit about why I love Cypher so much in that hack, but I should probably do a whole post on that at some point. In brief, I think it finds an excellent balance between setting or character flavor flexibility, mechanical depth, "gamey-ness", and "narritive-ness", and has some unique features which I don't think I've seen in any other system, or not done as well, that provide useful data to the GM and the party, which as a data scientist I appreciate.

I do want to play more PbtA too though. I've played a small amount of Uncharted Worlds and Dungeon World, both of which are fun, but I don't think fully leverage the system (or I didn't understand how to fully leverage the system). Like with FATE, it sometimes feels like PbtA is codifying things I'm already doing in a way that feels cumbersome, but I do think games like Masks or Monsterhearts could maybe give me some new insights or make me a better storyteller or character builder, just as some of those other systems I've mentioned have. I've been reading Space Wurm vs. Moonicorn, and I don't think I'd ever actually want to play it per se, but it's a fascinating beast that is once again making me think about gaming in a different way, and it makes me think that it would be foolish to write off the storytelling game philosophy altogether, even if that style of play isn't your primary interest.

Anyway, for now, those are my thoughts. Let me know what you think!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Weird & Wonderful Weapon Hack


This hack is intended as a simple tool to generate simple but interesting weapons/loot for OSR games (although it's so simple that it could probably be applied to other systems as well). Below is the table to manually construct the weapons, and below that are some automatic generators.

This hack takes elements of weapon rules from Cypher System and the Powered by the Apocalypse game Uncharted Worlds. The basic principle is that any kind of simple weapon can be constructed from a base, and a number of qualities. There is a cost associated with those qualities which could be thought of as the weapon level, or converted to a 1point = Xgold system.

If people like this hack and find it useful, I want to expand on it in a whole bunch of ways. I'd like to make a version of this hack with qualities unique to my Phantasmos setting, or to various other specific settings or genres. I would also like to make some additional tables with more advanced / spell-like qualities, or add flavors as additional 0 cost qualities just to add more fun and versatility to the hack and make each piece of equipment feel more special.

I also would like to thank Angus Warman for making publicly available an automatic list to HTML translator for the automatic generator, Lungfungus for additional coding experience, and Saker Tarsos for bringing me into the fold on this and inspiring me with his Saker Summon Hack.

Anyway, here are my recommendations for how to use this hack (with some suggested alternative implementations- this hasn't been playtested at all!):

New character starting weapon

In place of whatever starting weapon your class would start with, you can instead construct a level 0-1 weapon, either randomly or by what would make sense for your character.

For level 0, just pick a base form. For level 1, add one quality with 1 cost.

Despite the fact that this generator was designed so that short-long range has a cost of 1-3 respectively, I don't think it would be unreasonable to let a player take short/medium range for free, or long range at cost 1 (or maybe even make that free as well).

Loot / randomly rolled weapon

Decide on a weapon level or randomly roll for level. Depending on how powerful you want the weapon to be, I would recommend something like level 1d4, 1d4+1, 1d6, 1d6+1, or something like that. I think if you add too many qualities it might get a bit out of hand. You could potentially also make it relative to the HD of the enemy holding it.

As with new character starting weapon, I think range could be handled in an alternative way. By default, the random distribution is uniform so the probability of rolling for even just short range is pretty low, and you'd have to randomly roll range 3 times to get long range. Instead, you could roll 1d4, where 1 in 4 is ranged, and an additional 1d4, where 1 = reach quality, 2 = short range quality, etc., prior to rolling other qualities.

Weird & Wonderful Weapon Hack Tables


D3Base FormBase Qualities
1Light1d4, +1 AB, One-handed, Concealable as free feature
2Medium1d6, One-handed
3Heavy1d8, Two-handed

D30Qualities ListDescriptionCost
1Area of effectEach upgrade increases area of AoE (close, short, medium, long).2
2AttachedAttached to gauntlet or armor, leaving hand free.1
3BondedWeapon only usable by owner, cannot be removed from person without consent.2
4BreakingCan be used to target and break objects at no disadvantage.1
5ConcealableCan be hidden from view.1
6ConcussiveCreates a burst of sound or light on impact to deafen/blind/temporarily stun.1
7DeadlyEach upgrade increase attack die (up to d10).2
8Elemental: AirHas properties related to air (e.g. can subtly manipulate winds, harness electricity).1
9Elemental: EarthHas properties related to earth (e.g. benefits to mining).1
10Elemental: FireHas properties related to fire (e.g. produces heat/light, can cause burning).1
11Elemental: MetalHas properties related to metal (e.g. benefits to blacksmithing).1
12Elemental: WaterHas properties related to water (e.g. can extinguish fires).1
13Elemental: WoodHas properties related to wood/plants (e.g. benefits to gardening, nature traversal).1
14FlexibleWhip or whip-like; Range (close), AoE (close), Stunning (binding), Unwieldy (-2 AB).1
15Focused AreaAoE can be focused in a line, cone, etc. Each upgrade allows a different option.1
16Focused DamageAoE can be focused to only target specific creatures or objects. Each upgrade allows greater flexibility.1
17ImpactingEach upgrade increases range of knockback (close, short, medium, long).1
18MagicalHas general magical properties.1
19MasterworkEach upgrade +1 AB.2
20PenetratingIgnore armor. With second upgrade, ignore shields. AC otherwise still applies.2
21PoisonousCan cause poisoning.1
22RangedEach upgrade increases range starting at short (short, medium, long).1
23ReachCan be used at close range or thrown at no disadvantage.1
24RendingSerration or other features cause sustained wounds and mutilation.1
25SiegeCan be used to break open structures.3
26SilencedThe weapon produces little to no sound on projection or impact.1
27SpellbreakingCan silence spells/spellcasters on successful attack.2
28StunningCan be used non-lethally to incapacitate at no disadvantage.1
29SuppressingCreates an obstacle to those in weapon range. -2 AB to anyone in range.1
30Unique AppearanceMay be a well known item or associated with a well-known person or faction.1

Generated weapon examples

Here are a few examples of weapons generated using this hack:
  1. Assasin's Dagger (Lvl. 1): Light (1d4 dmg, +1 AB, One-handed, Concealable), Poisonous. A simple dagger, easily concealable, coated in poison.
  2. Martial Spear (Lvl. 4): Medium (1d6 dmg, One-handed), Reach, AoE (close), Focused (Line), Focused (Cone). A versatile spear which can be used to keep opponents at a distant and control your space when encountering multiple enemies simultaneously.
  3. Excalibur (Lvl. 4): Medium (1d6 dmg, One-handed), Masterwork 1, Deadly 1, Magical, Bonded. An unassuming but powerful magical sword. Only the worthy can pull the sword from the stone and wield it. (NOTE that I did not include the Unique quality, since I described it as unassuming in appearance, but one could easily have included that as well).
  4. Siege Hammer (Lvl. 4): Heavy (1d8 dmg, Two-handed), Breaking, Impacting, Siege, Concussive. A massive warhammer fit for trolls, capable of sundering weapons and armor, sending enemies flying, powering through walls, and blasting ear drums.
  5. Fey-Gun (Lvl. 4): Light (1d4 dmg, +1 AB, One-handed, Concealable), Magical, AoE (short), Ranged (short), Suppressing. A fey wand capable of spraying bursts of magic all around, hindering attacking opponents.
  6. War Whip (Lvl. 2): Medium (1d6 dmg, One-handed), Flexible, Rending. A whip covered in flesh-rending thorns capable of injuring all in reach. Can also be used for binding.
  7. Mage-Killer Bow (Lvl. 4): Heavy (1d8 dmg, Two-handed), Range (Long), Spellbreaking. A heavy longbow, capable of firing at great distance, which can silence spellcasters hidden behind enemy lines. 
Automatic weapon generator

The below can be used to randomly roll a base form and qualities, one at a time. I eventually want to write an all-inclusive generator where you input weapon level and it'll pick a base form with number of qualities up to weapon level in cost, but I'm hardly an expert HTML coder and it might make more sense to wait until I've decided what to do about flavor qualities or if I want to change how range is treated "officially".


Select a base form:

Select individual qualities:

Anyway, with all of that, let me know what you think of this hack! I think it could be a lot of fun to do those flavor qualities, Phantasmos or other setting qualities, etc., but i want to make sure people actually find this valuable first!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Antikythera Nova Pt. 3: Technology

This is the third and final post in my series of micro-setting posts about my Antikythera Nova scifi setting. Part 1 is about the premise and history, and part 2 about the factions.


Technologies

Gaussian propulsion: Many forms of combustion-based propulsion, in terms of vehicles and weaponry, have been replaced by electromagnetic accelerators. During the journey of the Malik Tous, and still on many of the less terraformed planets, spaceships, space stations, and orbital colonies, combustion is an extreme risk. Furthermore, Gaussian weaponry can be fired at a higher velocity, at a higher frequency, and silently.

Smart rockets: While not replacing ballistics altogether, many fire arms now use smart rockets. While lower-velocity than ballistic weapons, smart rocket bullets can be used defensively, deflecting incoming projectiles, and can smartly lock-on to targets and navigate environments. Most have limited range if used non-ballistically, but they can also be equipped with various sensors, making them useful for local environment scanning or data collection.

Plasma and laser: Plasma tech consists of balls of energy, whereas lasers are any continuous beam of light within a focused bandwidth. These technologies are used as weaponry, as well as to transmit information.

Power armor: Traditional space suits have developed to the point of being light and comfortable, however many jobs in space require power armor. In particular, the space marines have various power armors which provide enhanced strength and speed, weapon and reflex assistance, jetpacks, augmented reality, and various other useful features.

Nanotube plate armor: The Gabor have developed an armor made of some kind of matte, carbon-like material filled with nanotubes of a possibly organic nature, or modeled after organic materials. The armor is tougher, and significantly lighter, than any power armor, and neither the KFP nor HLC have been able to reverse engineer it.

Cintamani and the Makara: Cintamani is a high-energy gem found throughout the Pickman Galaxy. Longterm exposure to cintamani induces a mutation in some humans, who are referred to as Makara. In the early stages of the mutation, they grow patches of cintamani gems or crystalline skin. Next, they develop enhanced speed, strength, agility, and dexterity, and the ability to traverse space unprotected. Eventually, they begin to develop psionic abilities not unlike the Gabor. However, over time they become increasingly crystalline, and what little organic material remains becomes bestial; an alien form with vague mammalian, reptilian, and aquatic features, but mostly altogether alien. These Makara lose their human intelligence, lash out violently at anything around them, and attempt to flee into space if threatened.
This risk aside, both the KFP and HLC have a supersoldier program for makara, including makara training and research. This research includes creating makara under controlled circumstances- a politically divisive practice. In the KFP, the general public is not aware of this cintamani-related mutation, and even among military personnel, if they know of the makara at all, they know of then only as part of a supersoldier program.

*********************************************************************************

On an unrelated note, if you have not done so already (and given how little data I have, I suspect you have not >.>), please take my Weird & Wonderful Survey! It should only take a minute, it will really help me, and also I want to show people how much fun it can be to play with data, but I can't do it if I don't have any!

Likewise, please participate in my GNS study! This is a somewhat controversial topic and I've received a lot of resistance on it. All I can say is that if my study is somehow fundamentally flawed, then either I won't find anything, or what I find will require a degree of healthy skepticism, but it is possible I may find interesting effects or interesting trends in the data, which could inform our understanding of GNS or tabletop or inform better follow up studies, but the only way any of that happens is if I get data! There is literally no harm in participating, so if you value empirical science at all, why not just take a minute and let's see what the data have to say!?

Danscape (Partial) Play Report 9/28/18

Finally my schedule allowed that I could play again in Dan's Danscape Campaign! I don't need to provide a full account because I'm sure Dan will at some point, I'll just say a few pieces from my perspective.


  1. As per usual, Dan was awesome! I also got to play with some people I've never been able to play with before so that was a lot of fun!
  2. I was not feeling too great and wasn't able to get into the right head space. I had some moments where I felt like I was really in Rob's head but on the whole I don't think I was RPing to the standard I hold myself to, which was super frustrating. It doesn't help that my connection was shit and I would occasionally just not hear anything for like 60 seconds. At least I was rolling like a boss, which was a ton of fun!
  3. Here is a choice quote that we didn't actually do (although what we actually did ended up being just as or more exciting) but might give you a sense of what can happen in a Danscape game.
What if lantern boy just sits in the 'weird' chair? Just sits and stairs at him. Knowingly. Just sits there, as time passes. Each moment, Osric wonders, why? He contemplates the meaning of life. Why are we fighting? Why is she sitting in the chair? Why is the chair so weird? Why is chair? Is chair life? Is there anything besides chair? Chair is all. Chair is life.
 *********************************************************************************

On an unrelated note, if you have not done so already (and given how little data I have, I suspect you have not >.>), please take my Weird & Wonderful Survey! It should only take a minute, it will really help me, and also I want to show people how much fun it can be to play with data, but I can't do it if I don't have any!

Likewise, please participate in my GNS study! There was a lot of controversy around this study, which is understandable but still frustrating. I wish people would participate, even if they fundamentally disagree with GNS or think I don't know what I'm doing (which quite frankly is super insulting as someone who does this stuff professionally and coming from people who seem intelligent enough but clearly don't have a background in research design or statistics, even if the comments are not intentionally malicious, but that's neither here nor there). The survey only takes a minute, it's anonymous so no one will judge you based on your responses if you think the survey doesn't effectively capture your unique and nuanced view, if I'm wrong I'm wrong and no harm is done, or even if I do find interesting effects or trends in the data, it's not the end all be all on the topic and likewise no harm is done, so why not just try it so we can see what happens!? It actually legitimately makes me existentially sad that data science does not seem to be practiced or appreciated in our community, so why not participate just to make me less sad :), even if you don't believe anything I have to say about it?