Thursday, August 30, 2018

Goblins

Goblins (1d20)Description
1. Mirage GoblinsWhimsical creatures inhabiting a plane parallel to reality. No matter how far one travels, no matter how wonderful their world may seem, they exist always, tantalizingly, just on the horizon.
2. Forget-me-not GoblinsBlue or pink-skinned creatures with poisonous scorpion stingers and petal-like manes. They are not immune to their own venom, and accidental goblin-slaughter and suicide is not uncommon. They have low self-esteem and must receive praise for everything they do, deserved or not, and to deny them their recognition can be fatal.
3. Chattering GoblinsCovered in dentate armour, with mouths full of large, chattering and gnashing teeth. Their armour, despite providing protection, is sensitive to the touch. They are nervous creatures, put on edge by even a gentle breeze.
4. Dissonance GoblinsThey reject all religion, science, and philosophy. They rely solely on heuristics and never analytics or evidence-based reason. They engage in repetitive, ritualistic behaviors for seemingly no reason. They lack imagination or abstract thinking skills. They never change their mind. Many of their beliefs and behaviors are contradictory, and no amount of arguing with them will get them to acknowledge this fact, even if they demonstrably understand the arguments being made.
5. Hate GoblinsFat, orange-skinned creatures with tiny appendages. For countless generations they have thrived on the riches acquired by their ancestors, which they have leveraged towards unearned and ineffective economic and political influence. Their words are mostly nonsensical, but empathic meaning can be inferred from their tone. In most cases, the empathic meaning is hate. They are hate-mongers, full of impotent rage. As the world advances, rather than facing their increasing irrelevance and making any effort to adapt, they reject progress and double down on their meaningless hate.
6. Dysmorphia GoblinsCreatures with exaggerated features- lanky, squat, weird bulges, eyes just a little too far apart. Their appearance changes based on the physical insecurities of those around them.
7. Viscera GoblinsTranslucent down to the circulatory system and organs. Their internals bring to mind raw and bloody steak, bacon, sausage, and other commonly consumed meat products. Villages near viscera goblins often lean towards vegetarianism.
8. Atavism GoblinsA degenerate goblin-like species, the inbred progeny of the royalty of a once glorious civilization. Very rarely, one will be born resembling its ancestors; a celestial, demi-god-like being. Most live short lives of pain, poisoned by their own tainted blood or driven to destruction by their jealous and dysfunctional society, but an even rarer few rise above these circumstances.
9. Twilight GoblinsBright, fluorescent, every slight bodily function or movement is audible and grating. Nocturnal creatures who enjoy the company of others. Will convince you to stay out for one more drink, to work for just another hour, to express your every racing thought all throughout the night. Fun in an indulgent way, but most people find the lifestyle unsustainable.
10. Panic GoblinsBody of a wolf, face like a lemur with the jaws of a hyena, curled goat-like horns, covered in oily black fur. Semi-intelligent goblins bred as soldiers, hunters, and police. They have excellent climbing, stalking, and striking skills, and work tactically as a pack. They are excellent hunters, but also herders, able to induce controlled panic and funnel crowds. Wild panic goblins lack discipline and are notorious for playing deadly tricks on unwitting victims like wandering gangs in a war-torn land.
11. BlackcapsCraft machinists, intelligent but myopic. They are creative and expressive solely for the purpose of personal gain or sowing mischief, but can't see the bigger picture of the consequences of their short-sighted actions. Their blood is like a sludgy diesel that leaks from their pores and orifices. They have no brain, the sludge is a distributed neural network. They have no skullcap, but a continual combustion force projects from the top of their head like an oily, inky, black, upside-down funnel.
12. Anthro GoblinsThey revere humans as gods, seeing themselves and other goblins as poor reflections of facets of humanity. Unfortunately, the traits they identify with humans are their size, ferocity, and materialism. Anthro goblins have bred themselves to be human-like but exaggerated in their features.
13. Genocide GoblinsSome anthro goblins practice "dark arts"- killing other goblins to absorb their power. Killing a family, a village, a city, an entire people, provides non-linear increases in power. The more goblins they kill, the larger and more monstrous they become, from hulking brutes to titans.
14. Singularity GoblinsSome anthro goblins are human-passing or close to it, and their goal in life is to trick humans into mating with them. These hybridized half-goblins are often the most exceptional and creative machinists, as the singularity of human and nature. Their machines are thought to contain a nature unto themselves; a fey, djinn, ghost, or tsukumogami.
15. Ru GoblinsThese goblins do not build machines, they build themselves as machines. Sometimes grinding themselves and re-composing their meat as golems and biomachines. In other cases the machine is abstract, a consciously designed bureaucracy of goblins who identify only as the whole.
16. AnonygoblinsThe anonygoblins have no faces, and their bodies are each identical. Their consciousnesses are not fixed to their bodies, and they regularly exchange bodies between themselves. They avoid expressing personal traits, and in fact have made themselves quite homogeneous in belief and behavior.
17. Knife GoblinsMasters of the knife- specifically in the trading of them. They revere the power of the knife; the more knives a knife goblin can acquire and sell (specifically to other knife goblins), the more powerful they become. The king of the knife goblins is demi-god-like in power, but his power is contingent on the belief in the power of the knife by the knife goblins.
18. Deference GoblinsSexual, masturbatory, orgiastic beings. They do not engage in these activities for the pleasure or art of it, but nervously and compulsively, as a way of avoiding other obligations. They do not seek sustenance or engage in any survival skills. Those who join The Orgy eventually transform into them- this is their only means of reproduction. Unfortunately, The Orgy can be a tantalizing thing.
19. Binata sa punsoBorn in the foundation of buildings, particularly grand buildings using modern techniques or modern architectural sensibilities. They struggle to fit into the world, always thinking too far ahead, but those who treat them with care and respect, and attempt to learn from them, often benefit in the future, as the world conforms to the binata. Those who reject, offend, or exploit the binata, especially the middle-aged or elderly, are cursed to be forgotten in their eldest and most vulnerable years.
20. ScapesatyrGoat-men sculpted from gold. Whimsical, magical, musical, mischievous, selfish, somewhat a-moral but mostly well-meaning creatures. They are always the life of the party, always the best lay, and always able to bring someone out of a funk. However, it is impossible to get anything done around them, and those who embrace them will transform into animals, fey, or other beings of nature. As a result, powerful institutions turn their people against the scapesatyrs, often undeservedly.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Antikythera Nova Pt. 1: History

This is the first of what will likely be three posts for my science fiction space setting Antikythera Nova, as part of my attempt to post easily digestible "micro-settings". This setting is intended to be somewhere between hard sci-fi and space opera; gritty and "realistic", but still crazy aliens and a little bit of space magic. I'd say it's more Starcraft or Mass Effect than Star Wars or Flash Gordon. I've tried to subvert the tropes of the genre, while still being true to it, so let me know what you think!


History

In the near future, the global hegemonic powers of the 20th century receded as the result of war and environmental disaster. The new world powers of the 21st century were in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa; nations which developed their infrastructure from the ground up around new technologies, and not the outdated institutions of the past.

After roughly a century of relative peace, prosperity, and technological advancement, the world governments united to create a generation ship, the Malik Tous, to terraform the Antikythera Sector of the Pickman Galaxy. The ship took 300 years to reach its destination, and along the way underwent many disasters and cultural upheavals. Early in its journey, nearly three quarters of the passengers either died or separated from the main ship during a period which has since been referred to as the Dark Age. Certain known, notable events which occurred during or shortly after the journey were the formation of the Kaddai Empire, and the origins of the Häksen, a class of people used as livestock during the Dark Age, who are now a free but marginalized ethnic minority.

Colonization of the Antikythera Sector took roughly 100 years. During this time, the Kaddai Empire transitioned into the Kaddai Federation of Planets (KFP), although shortly after this transition, a subset of KFP planets, moons, and orbital colonies broke off to form the Hun-Long Confederation (HLC).

For another 100 years, there was relative stability, until the Gabor Invasion. Given their extraordinary abilities (NOTE: This will be hyperlinked when I post the factions), the war was initially one-sided in favor of the gabor. However, despite their abilities, the gabor lacked the principled scientific knowledge of the human factions, and eventually the humans were able to develop counter-technologies and tactics to turn the tide of war in their favor. It eventually came to light that the gabor did not view themselves as the aggressors; they had been attacked by another faction of humans, and not realizing the difference, believed they were retaliating against their invaders.

During the 500 years since the journey of the Malik Tous, the humans of Earth, still in a golden age and with no hardships of space travel and limited resources to hold them back, continued to advance. Shortly after the Malik Tous left, Earth underwent a technological singularity. This event culminated in the dissolution of the solar system into gray goo; nanomachines coordinated in a series of virtual and augmented realities, or a set of matryoshka universes- in other words, a giant computational space. Most Earth-humans advanced into an entity or entities known as the singularities, an advanced intelligence(s) beyond the understanding of humans or other intelligent life. The remainder of humanity on Earth, while still part of the gray goo, chose to maintain enough of their human identity to preserve autonomy from the singularities, and live in symbiosis with it. The singularities is incredibly powerful, with the ability to access, manipulate, and communicate with beings in other dimensions (and possibly other universes), in addition to space-warping, faster than light travel. However, these abilities demand high resource consumption. This resource demand has created a bottleneck on the ability of the singularities to expand or exert itself. The singularities uses its faster than light capabilities to send out scouting parties of human symbiotes, which search for energy sources for the singularities to consume. It was when the symbiotes discovered the energy-rich gabor that the singularities invaded gabor space and attempted to assimilate the gabor into itself, leading to the Gabor Invasion of the Antikythera Sector.

Even after this came to light, the war had gone on too long, and too much bad blood remained between the humans and gabor, and so the war continues. However, it has since become much more muddled from when it started. The gabor have split up into multiple factions, including those desiring peace with the humans, while others wish to assimilate into the singularities. Likewise, many in the KFP wish for peace, and many in the HLC are attempting to join the singularities.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

SHIELDBREAKER: Play Report 1

Last night I GMed my first LotFP game! The game was set in my Phantasmos campaign setting. On the whole I think it went pretty well, but I'll discuss it all in detail below. Also I don't know what the hell happened with the formatting on this post, it's clearly a mess but I can't figure out how to fix it so it's just gonna be what it's gonna be >.<.

The Premise
    The players are part of the Pearl Panthers, a mercenary group hired by the Grim General in Blue to resolve issues that Nova Arkham can't or does not want to directly involve itself with. The kingdom utilizes a program known as SWORD & SHIELD. Through unknown (and implicitly shady) means, the kingdom has acquired a large quantity of deceased axols, humanoid axolotl-like mutants born in pairs, where one sibling is a powerful psionic nematode-like creature. They reanimated the axols as Unliving, programming the humanoids into SHIELDs and the psionic siblings into SWORDS. 
    
    The SHIELDs are like tactical idiot savants, they have little to no ability to communicate rationally and little to no individual will, but are geniuses at urban tactics, manipulating the workings of the capitol in their favor. The SWORDs are like super-wolves, programmed to be the ultimate hunters. The SWORDs are programmed to hunt the SHIELDs, and the SHIELDs are programmed to divert the SWORDs. As the SWORDs learns the SHIELDs' tricks, the SHIELDs must improve their tactics to survive. The intel gathered from the SWORD & SHIELD program is utilized by the Grim General to better predict crime, re-organize the capitol for maximum efficiency, and tighten his grip on Nova Arkham. 

    One of the SHIELDs has gone rogue, manipulating the SWORDs and the capitol city of Nova Arkham itself. It is not known how, or why, but it is wreaking havoc in its wake.

The Characters
    Unfortunately only two players were able to make it to this first session, but fortunately they were both great!

    Cynope (played by Dan D): A quenduin amazon. She works for the Pearl Panthers to make money to take care of her sick sister.
    
    Xx_Slayer_Queen_69 (played by Michael Kennedy): Also known as X or Slayer. A mutant phreaker and thrillseeker. She's a goth cyberpunk hacker-type with a scarlet mohawk, spiky black jacket, automagic PMC strapped to one arm, and a roth obsidian visor covering her red eyes.

Play Report
          The party started at Helnwein's Tavern, celebrating their first successful mission, having busted a Dogu mafia electrocoil gun deal. They discussed the course of events to their handler, Arnold Tanaka. X charmed the entire gang and Cynope literally punched through their faces. Some embellishment may have occurred, but forever after that's how it will be remembered.

          Arnold planted a mesmeric suggestion into the party, effectively allowing them to maintain mental communication with him and each other. The communication is actually a neural network-like model estimate; the longer they go between mesmerism sessions, the more communication errors will occur.

          He gives the party the following intel
  1.           The SHIELD was seeing the psychiatrist Doctor Hyboria before going rogue.
  2.           A SWORD manipulated by the SHIELD intercepted the Phantom Sheriff during an arrest, releasing two dangerous outlaw mutants. Their victims are being treated at Quickie-Cut Barbershop and Feldshery.
  3.           The Oracle owes Arnold a favor, as a last resort they can seek consultation.
  4.           Arnold's mesmerist network predicts the danger of the rogue SHIELD with a doomsday clock. As they travel from place to place, the doomsday clock moves closer to midnight.
    The party traveled to Doctor Hyborea's mansion. They got lost along the way, but the constantly developing urban sprawl of the capitol is confusing, and the mansion is a bit off the meridian system... Anyway, they fail to find any major lead on the SHIELD, except that Doctor Hyborea does seem to know something, but also seems to be going dangerously insane.

    They travel to the Sheriff's office. The Phantom Sheriff gives them zir's intel. Most of it is redacted, but they learn that the outlaws were involved in some gang war, and their names are Barry and Terry. Barry is a barracuda-like bioluminscent mutant. When blue, he's docile, when red, he's psychopathically violent. Terry is a large humanoid mutant with super strength and loose skin which he calls his "foldy flaps". By stretching and scrunching the foldy flaps, he can tell fortunes and make predictions, making him not just strong, but also smart.

    They travel to the barbershop to interrogate The Feldsher and the victims of the fight with the outlaws. They learn that the outlaws were working with professional-looking goons associated with Occulon, and that the conflict involved a fight with electrocoil gun-wielding Dogu mafioso. Occulon is a powerful businessman who spends much of his time at the Forum, and has been gunning for the Grim General's job. While ostensibly above-board, everyone knows he's a crook.

    They travel to the Forum to investigate Occulon. Along the way, they get lost again. The Forum is located in the entertainment district and the party definitely knows how to get there. They realize that the SHIELD must be manipulating the city against them. X is ambushed by a SWORD, nearly killing her, before stalling momentarily and then running off. The party chooses not to track the SWORD, instead sticking to their original plan of investigating Occulon. Investigating the urban sprawl they were attacked in, they find a dead goon whose head was missing, as if entirely nullified. On the goon they find 30 gold and a potion that they could not identify.

    ... and that's where we left things off, with the Doomsday Clock at 4 and the party just outside the forum. Looking forward to seeing what they do next!

The Breakdown
    On the whole I think we had a good time and I'm reasonably happy with how this first game went. I generally prefer to have 3 or more players, but Dan and Mike were both awesome and made it work. I struggled a bit with the mechanics, not because LotFP is difficult, but because the sensibilities of OSR are so different from what I'm used to. I definitely over-relied on rolls when I should have made certain situations more streamlined. I also made some other mistakes that I'm kicking myself for because I know that I know better, and I think between being a bit rusty (my home group hasn't met in a while) and trying to get the feel for OSR, I stumbled a bit more than I would have liked. I also think I may have over-prepped a bit, to my disadvantage, and over-relied on exposition. I'm going to try to work on these things before the next game. That being said, Dan and Mike seemed to appreciate the mystery, the world, and the NPCs, so I think if I can clean up my GMing things will come together well for next play session. I anticipate this adventure taking 1-2 more play sessions, and from there we'll see where things go!

           


       




Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Qualia Elves and the Overlight by way of DeepDream




The mental images or thematic apperceptions of psychological projective tests; the objects seen in clouds; the phosphenes and hypnogogic imagery before sleep; pareidolia. Abstract like a Van Gogh painting or a projection of an elf through DeepDream. On sunny days they stream through physical space across sparse clouds on bolts of invisible lightning composed of the static charges of qualemes, the smallest units of subjective thought. They exist in and out of consciousness on the sunny plane of foggy minds known as The Overlight.

I ran this drawing by the artist Belibr of Merisiel from the tabletop RPG Pathfinder by Paizo through DeepDream, as a crude representation of the Qualia Elves and the Overlight from my list of 20 Weird & Wonderful Elf Subtypes. The "Overlight" was just some dumb bullshit I came up with on the spot as sort of a joking nod to the Underdark, but I was really happy with my writeup of the qualia elves and now I kind of actually want to write up a mini-setting for the Overlight. I dunno, is that something you would be interested in seeing? Let me know!

 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Elves

Unless I'm completely forgetting something, I believe this is my first Weird & Wonderful table that is setting-neutral and decidedly NOT Phantasmos. Elves in the traditional sense don't really exist in Phantasmos, but everyone likes elf subtypes, so I figured I'd if  I was going to do a non-Phantasmos table, this is where I'd have to start. My main goal will still be to focus on this setting (and at some point post about my other settings), but if people like these, I might do some more non-Phantasmos works now and then.


Elves (1d20)Description
1. X-Ray ElvesMostly translucent, shadow-like skin, muscles, and everything else up to the skeleton. Can project X-ray beams for X-ray vision.
2. Gamma ElvesGlowing neon-green skin, gigantic and muscular, violent and quick to anger, radioactive. Can project destructive gamma beams. Many wear special suits to contain their radiation and protect those around them.
3. Radio ElvesBat-like ears which allow them to hear with greater spatial resolution and across a wider range of frequencies than typical elves. Have a mechanism in their throat like a cross between vocal chords, direct current generation, and the visual system, allowing them to emit and transduce radio-wave signals.
4. Cock ElvesRaptor-like warriors. Their hands and feet are bird claws, their forearms and lower legs are covered in feathers (usually white, brown, black, red, yellow, or less commonly green or teal). Males tend to have more exotic colors, and long, curled tail feathers (females have shorter tail feathers). Have a mohawk-like comb, sometimes feathered and sometimes hairy or bald. Commonly wear weaponized beak-masks.
5. Pestilence ElvesMottled, jaundiced, green or blue skin. Rashes, parasites; bugs, mold, fungus. No hair or wispy and white. Pink eye. Rotten yellow or black teeth or gingivitis gums. STDs. Flesh-eating bacteria. Virulent. Can't be killed by any kind of disease, but can't live a life worth living either.
6. Purple ElvesSkin various shades of purple. Shiny obsidian hair like a starry sky. Fae-like in demeanor; whimsical and musical and brilliant and out of touch with reality. Dress lavishly, exotically, erotically, erratically, anachronistically, unconstrained by gender or class or race.
7. A-Gnostic ElvesLike a photo-negative of a black and white photo. Immune to any kind of divinity, divine presence, divine magic, faith, belief, or religion. Their very presence challenges the existence of gods, even in a world where gods or their divinity are tangible. Draw anti-divine power from themselves like a libertarian paladin, or jazz or blues or punk-rock bard.
8. Karma ElvesBorn backwards- they spontaneously appear as elders, ending their natural lives as a sack of egg and sperm cells in meiosis. In their early elder stage they are nigh-invincible, full of karmic presence like an asura. They are childish, impulsive, and materialistic, but not necessarily evil. As they (de)-age, their karma drains, they detach from the material world, and their physical presence weakens. They can extend their stages of development by clinging to the material world, and in rare cases even reverse development, but in such a case they will inevitably and irreversibly transform into an asura, regardless of the cause or intention.
9. Asura ElvesKarma elves who, even if for noble reasons, became too attached to the material world. Incredibly powerful, but so driven by their base, material desires, that they no longer have a soul. They are still conscious, intelligent beings, but lack agency. Any intelligent being with a soul or agency innately finds them pathetic, unattractive, or disgusting, no matter how powerful, attractive, noble, wealthy, skilled, or accomplished the asura elf may be. For all their strength, they are perceived as children full of impotent rage.
10. Mu ElvesElves from a sub-sub-atomic quantum relativistic microverse where logic is not only many-valued, but linear and effectively continuous. Causality as we know it does not apply, but can be roughly interpreted as backwards-causality. Their consciousness is a state of nonbeing; pure awareness prior to knowledge or experience.
11. Qualia ElvesThe mental images or thematic apperceptions of psychological projective tests; the objects seen in clouds; the phosphenes and hypnogogic imagery before sleep; pareidolia. Abstract like a Van Gogh painting or a projection of an elf through DeepDream. On sunny days they stream through physical space across sparse clouds on bolts of invisible lightning composed of the static charges of qualemes, the smallest units of subjective thought. They exist in and out of consciousness on the sunny plane of foggy minds known as The Overlight.
12. Starborn ElvesLong ago, alien beings of light came to this world. The plants that absorbed the light merged with the celestial essence, transforming them. Able to absorb and manipulate light so efficiently that they can grow and move as rapidly as animals animate. Attuned to the world's electromagnetic field and plantae-sphere.
13. Shadow ElvesThe distortions left behind in the presence of the divine- the platonic shadows of the gods themselves. Neither better nor worse than the gods from whom they are shaped. Manipulators of holy fire and the lesser shape of things, beings defined by absence.
14. Sex ElvesFor every sexually reproducing species in every ecosystem, there are one or more ideal sexual types. They take on these types, co-opting the breeding pool of a species. Some take a form that will attract the most mates, others take a form that will attract a specific type of mate.
15. Blue ElvesBlue-blooded, tinge of blue to their skin. Vampiric, superhuman, superintelligent oppressors. Formed from the desire of other hierarchically-organized species to absolve themselves of responsibility for the state of their own civilization. Derive power from others believing in them, like Gaiman-esque gods or the desperate delusions of conspiracy theorists who want to feel important or believe there is order in the universe.
16. Lost ElvesNearly indistinguishable from half-elves or even humans. A collection of elves all of whom were once of other kinds, but in failing to capitalize on their abilities, gradually degraded. Can be found, but the longer they are lost, the less likely it becomes. In rare cases, a lost elf not only finds themselves, but becomes some entirely different kind of elf.
17. Kink ElvesA homologue of sex elves. Not merely acting on primal "alpha" or "beta" instinct (although some utilize these instincts), they are intellectual and theatrical, charismatic, wielding force of will like sorcery. Systemic power is manipulated like an engineer designing an electrical circuit. Unlike sex elves, they are not necessarily physically attractive, their attractiveness comes from how they manipulate systems, power, and will.
18. Dada ElvesNot truly elves, an abstraction of a post-human fantasy age. Whereas humans bring civilization, science, and logic, the dada elves bring abstraction, critical thought, and uncanny deconstruction and recombination. Like uncanny valley alien anime characters come to life.
19. Reminiscence ElvesFantastical creatures of sweetness and joy and naive adventures. A peaceful but stagnant people. Full of power, but without the desire or wisdom to apply it. Often develop co-dependent relationships with others.
20. Deep ElvesOf the forests, jungles, oceans, and other bodies inaccessible to humans. Majestic, but also fearsome. Animalistic but alien. Generally resemble dangerous, unknown, or long extinct creatures.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Danscape Play Report (with poorly-edited sprite art by me)!

I played my first game of LotFP/OSR/FLAILSNAIL the other day, with GM Dan D. His play report is great so I don't need to repeat it, just follow the link above. I feel like I have a better sense of what OSR and LotFP are all about now, and I'm looking forward to running my own Phantasmos LotFP game in the near future (was supposed to be this weekend, now I think some time next week :( ).

Despite rolling terribly all game, I'm really happy with how Harabim "Rob" Seraphael, the corrupted Anti-Mutant (former Anti-Cancer Druid) turned out. Ze was a little bit Data from Star Trek: TNG, a little bit Data doing other characters as he is wont to do on TNG, and a little bit of my own sensibilities.

I really appreciate Dan allowing me to use my own setting content in his game, and despite his caveats about how he was under-prepared, I had a lot of fun with his science fantasy sensibilities and hope to game again with him and the rest of the group soon!

Below is a brief writeup of Rob, and a poorly edited sprite art depiction of zir:

Zirs original name was wiped from zirs memory, along with any other pertinent knowledge of the anti-mutants and anti-cancer druids, after an encounter with an especially powerful urban organism corrupted zirs DNA. Ze nominally still identifies as an anti-cancer druid but has lost most of zirs abilities. Ze was chased off the Green Moon by the other anti-mutants, surviving only by chance after a clumsy escape. Ze has found zirself on a spacefaring vessel unfamiliar to zir, traveling far beyond the world ze knows.

Ze has taken on the name Harabim Seraphael, so named for zirs corruption of form, but after being told that the name sounded pretentious and morose, ze took the nickname “Rob”. Ze has most of zirs prior self-knowledge, but no personality or self-identity to speak of, although ze finds zirself phasing through different identities ze mimics from zir new acquaintances. 

Ze is humanoid, covered in a sleek metallic skin with neon green lines running throughout. Ze wears a vantablack cape and carries a noxium sprayer gun, stuck in the concentrated beam formation. With some effort, ze can feed simple matter such as crossbow bolts into the sprayer to fire reality-shredding beams of noxium. Ze’s head is reminiscent of a raven, and additionally has a neon green feathery plume. Ze also has a milky green, fleshy humanoid face.



Thursday, August 16, 2018

Mogleth (art by Scrap Princess)

So now here is the official post for Mogleth, the second ordinal beasts which I have commissioned amazing art from Scrap Princess, and also the art I've used for the new background for the blog. I also have another piece of stream of consciousness prose and thinking man, I forgot where my head goes when I don't get a good night of sleep and really hope I'm not going to be embarrassed by this tomorrow.


(NOTE: temporarily removing prose, going to rewrite it at some point but I don't feel comfortable with what I wrote originally anymore)


Mun Jira REDUX (art by Scrap Princess)


This is a repost of Scrap Princess' amazing interpretation of Mun Jira, now accompanied with words which hopefully don't read like child's play next to her art. 
NOTE: I'm temporarily removing the prose because I decided I don't feel comfortable with what I wrote anymore.




LotFP: Decyphered (WIP)

This is an attempt to hack the OSR game Lamentations of the Flame Princess to utilize certain core mechanics from the Cypher System. Note that I have no LotFP/OSR experience (although I'm supposed to play my first LotFP game tonight!), but I love the Cypher system, and have been very interested in OSR for a while now and have read many OSR books and blogs and listened/watched many podcasts and actual plays. That being said, this is very much a WIP, given not only my lack of experience, and by extension that this has not been playtested, and also I whipped up this first version rather quickly. That being said, for as rough as it may be, I thought it might be more efficient to just put what I have out there and let people much better and more experienced than me at game design let me know what they think! As for why I'm doing this, I discuss in this post on r/rpgdesign why I love the Cypher System and how I think these mechanics can benefit other systems. Depending on how successful this is, how much effort it takes (pun intended), and how much I can playtest this or others are willing to playtest or contribute to this, I would like to do something similar for other systems such as FATE and some PbtA games. Without further ado:

Character Creation and Progression

Rather than the traditional D&D stats, there is Might, Speed, and Intellect. Roll 2d3 three times and either assign the sum of each paired roll to the three stat pools down the line, or assign by preference (GM discretion). An easy way to roll d3 is to roll a d6, where a 1 or 2 = 1, 3 or 4 = 2, and 5 or 6 = 3. For races/classes with starting HP > 4, assign 1 additional Pool point to either Might or Speed for every 2 starting HP > 4.

At character level 1, start with an Effort Level of 1, and increase Effort Level by 1 at every third level (4, 7, 10, etc.). Possibly cap Effort at character level 10 (max Effort = 4).

At character level 1, start with 1 point of Edge which can be applied to any stat, and add a new Edge point to any stat at every third level (4, 7, 10, etc.). Possibly cap Edge at character level 10 (max Edge across all stats = 4).

Do not roll for HP. Instead, at each level, roll 1d4+2 and add that many points split across the three stat pools in any way. Races/classes with HD > 1d6 receive 1 additional Pool point to either Might or Speed for each unit increase in HD die (e.g. +1 for 1d8, +2 1d10, etc.).


DESIGN NOTES: The choice of 2d3 for stat Pools was meant to provide starting characters with roughly comparable total Pool points to starting LotFP character HP, and roughly comparable variance in starting attributes by way of modifiers after random rolling. This was entirely determined by eyeballing/intuition and not something mathematically derived nor that I'm committed to. The 1d4+2 Pool progression rate was also meant to be comparable to HP progression. The bonus points for characters with higher HD in Might and Strength is meant to serve a similar balance purpose, but I'm definitely worried about balance with this. The rate of progression and proposed caps on Edge and Effort was meant to keep the characters from getting too powerful (and making balancing easier ;) ); this is still meant to be OSR-esque and players shouldn't be able to 100% buy their way to victory.

Combat

Attacking

Melee: Before rolling to hit, spend any number of Might Pool points up to Effort level and add Might Edge, split up any way either to Attack Bonus (AB) or as a modifier to the Damage roll. At GM discretion, certain melee weapons could use Speed Pool and Edge instead of Might, such as a rapier.

Ranged: Before rolling to hit, spend any number of Speed Pool points up to Effort level and add Speed Edge, split up in any way either to Attack Bonus (AB) or as a modifier to the Damage roll. At GM discretion, certain ranged weapons could use Might Pool and Edge instead Speed, such as a Gatling gun.

Defending

Before rolling to defend, spend any number of Speed Pool points up to Effort level and add Speed Edge to AC. On a failed defense, subtract Damage from Might Pool. If Might Pool is depleted, subtract remaining/subsequent Damage to Speed Pool, followed by Intellect Pool.

Initiative

Either roll for players vs. enemies, or for individual character initiative, prior to rolling for initiative, spend any number of Speed Pool points up to Effort level and add Speed Edge to initiative roll.
Spellcasting

For Damage-dealing spells, before rolling Damage, spend any number of Intellect Pool points up to Effort level and add Intellect Edge as a modifier to the Damage roll. Do likewise before rolling for success if the spell has a misfire or negative outcome possibility for a low roll, or before any other spell roll with a graded response (see below for magic saving throws).

Before rolling a saving throw for Magic or Magical Device, spend any number of Intellect Pool points up to Effort level and subtract Intellect Edge to decrease the saving throw.

In addition to prepared spells, spellcasters can cast a number of additional spells per day up to Effort level. The spell costs as many Intellect Pool points as the spell level minus Intellect Edge (minimum 0).

DESIGN NOTES: My understanding is that most spells in LotFP are not damage-dealing, but I wanted to hedge my bets. I wanted to avoid touching saving throws altogether, but it seemed unavoidable here, so then i figured I may as well do the rest of them.

Saving Throws

For Magic and Magical Device, see Spellcasting. For the other saving throws, at GM discretion, spend any number of relevant stat Pool points up to Effort level and subtract relevant stat Edge to decrease the saving throw.

Stat Pool Depletion

If a stat Pool reaches 0, Edge cannot be applied to actions which use that stat. Additionally, natural 20’s do not count as critical successes (although natural 1’s may still count as critical failures), and Pool points for actions using the other stats can only be applied up to half Effort level rounding down. If two stat pools reach 0, in addition to the above, Edge for actions using the remaining stat cannot be used, and Effort level is treated as 0. If all stat Pools reach 0, the character is either rendered unconscious, or dead (GM discretion).

ADDITIONAL DESIGN NOTES

  1. Ideally I would like to apply this mechanic to skills as well, but can't think of a straightforward way to do so that doesn't require completely reworking skills. If it could be done in a way that used a relatively straightforward conversion rule, that would be ideal. In any case, especially for the Specialist this seems important to figure out. 
  2. I have not considered what to do about retainers yet, but would probably fold charisma-esque stuff into intellect. 
  3. I have not considered what to do about encumbrance yet, but would probably fold strength-esque stuff into might. 
  4. There are plenty of other more specific rules for LotFP I have not thought about yet. 
  5. I know that LotFP differentiates between various kinds of AC, but I don't know if this still makes sense given the level of abstraction of this three-stat system. That being said, I'd like to figure something out.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Locations in Nova Arkham

Locations (1d20)DescriptionNotable People/NPCsAdditional Notes
1. The People's MarketAn open market, most famous for its fruits and vegetables, but also carries other foods (more conventional than Clamy's or Sporie's), lower-end curios, and various other odds and ends. Conjunctiva's own fruit stand is most famous for its juicy, crystalline red fruit, delicious, nutritious, and unlike anything else.The owner of the market, Conjunctiva, is a giant eyeball mutant hovering on a biojet optic nerve, and the bad-blood brother of Occulon. In addition to light-manipulation abilities, he is also a practiced necromancer. His eye is always bloodshot, and when he activates his bloodfont, his biojet becomes a necromantic hemojet.Conjunctiva, a hardcore social anarchist, subsidizes much of the cost of the market out of pocket to make it more affordable for the people. He also encourages bartering over monetary exchange. Conjunctiva's famous red fruit is actually derived from his own necromantic blood magic.
2. Silky Satina's Clothing and TextilesThe shop is covered in a skin-like membrane, with no nervous system. The skin grows various kinds of hair, fur, cotton, silk, polyester, or whatever more exotic materials Satina needs.The owner and designer of the shop, Satina, is a demonic-looking humanoid mutant with the tongue and camouflage abilities of a chameleon. She is a lovely person, and always wears amazing, trend-setting outfits.Large, fleshy, spider-like creatures can be seen skittering and droning around the shop. They do not survive long outside the shop, but that hasn't stopped people from stealing them for various reasons.
3. Alistair Bank and Stock ExchangeA rectangular, pillared building of stone, marble, and precious metals. The bank exists across the paraverse- meaning outside of space, time, and causality as we understand it. The value of currencies and corporations is estimated from a model universe, encrypted across every instantiation of the bank in the paraverse, and adjusts mostly smoothly to changes in the paraverse.The owner of the bank, Alistair, is a humanoid gecko-like mutant in a fancy, expensive suit. He is supernaturally charming, with a visible aura that inspires others. Despite his supposed business and financial acumen, secretly his fortune was built through the blind luck of finding one of Lutwidge's writs of debt, which he keeps on his person at all times.Given any attempt to rob the bank, the paraverse will rewrite itself, making a robbery impossible to all but the most powerful paraterrestrial beings. The model is more stable than any resource-backed currency, and has never busted. It is theorized that the bank defies entropy, and at worst will eventually grow at such a polynomial rate that it will encompass the entire paraverse and then go supernova.
4. Sheriff's Office and JailAn unassuming building of mostly wood, like the Wild West. It is inestimably larger on the inside, drab, gray, walled with cement, and labyrinthine. Except for the beautiful, mountainous desert courtyard, clearly not within the Capitol, the inmates receive no exposure to natural light, and are rarely taken to the wonderful courtyard. All other illumination is dull, shoddy fluorescence.The Phantom Sheriff is a consortium of souls, each a murder victim. It is believed ze is a parraterestrial- blurring in and out of reality from the perception of mortals. Ze appears as a blur of the faces and bodies of the souls comprising zir, and has limited access to their various skills and abilities. Ze does not eat, does not sleep, and cannot be harmed by physical means.Despite its extra-dimensional nature, the jail does not exist outside of time, although inmates quickly lose sense of chronology anyway. It is rumored that the jail is somehow connected to the Grand Stable. It is also rumored that the Phantom Sheriff is manifested from the jail itself.
5. Dr. Hyborea's AsylumDr. Hyborea wears astrium-glass lenses, which he uses to turn patients into living spaces. The asylum is an extra-dimensional, metaphysical embodiment of the patients' minds. It is generally not safe to traverse the asylum without the assistance of Dr. Hyborea or a powerful mystic, and only the Doctor or a mystic could make use of the lenses. He works from his mansion, in a peaceful and secluded area, just barely outside the meridian system, a few hours away from the capitol.Dr. Hyborea is a large and muscular humanoid mutant with metallic blue skin and no head or neck, with two long eye stalks sprouting from where his head would be. His entire body is ganglionic- a distributed network of nerve clusters. Even if parts of himself are removed, he can encrypt and compress his knowledge until he can regenerate the necessary lost mass. His identity has been infected by the asylum. He is going mad and is prone to rages.The asylum never looks the same, because its form is dependent both on the patients-as-spaces, and the visitors. The visitors either observe/manipulate the space through contact with the astrium lenses, or enter the asylum as an object-as-space. Nonetheless, Dr. Hyborea always knows his way around the asylum, and can dissociate features in the space from specific patients.
6. The InfereriumA small, round, planetarium-like temple, it's dome made from roth obsidian. Kaibermantic light shows are put on for small groups, and it attracts the masses.The Oracle is a beta, a living dimension. Its presence can be sensed as a distortion, an axis along space, time, and metaphysical/platonic constructs.While expensive, the fortunes provided by The Oracle have saved (or destroyed) businesses, relationships, and lives. The fortunes are intentionally vague, so as to avoid causal alteration of the paraverse (and by extension invalidating the fortune).
7. Helnwein's TavernIn addition to booze, the tavern vents psychedelic ectoplasmic gases which induce a reminiscence of dead dreams- on the house. Glasses adhere to the hands of their owner and are too slick to be grasped by others (besides tavern staff).The bartender, Helnwein, is a floating, partially out of phase, baby-like mutant with a deep, gravely voice.Serves Clamy's "meats" and various foods (and select drinks) from Sporie's.
8. Grand StableA labyrinthine series of parking garage-like buildings, mostly subterranean, which can raise to varying levels above ground and rearrange floors across units. Any pack or mount animal, mode of personal transport, or livestock must be registered and stored when not in use.While mostly automated, most access-points have a single, generally disinterested employee monitoring the operation. The entire Grand Stable is managed by Mr. Myce, a minotaur-like mutant, reminiscent of a bull-hippocampus, with blue fur and skin, great strength, and hydraulic magical abilities.Stable-units are plentiful throughout the city, making it easy and carefree to traverse on foot or by mount. The grand stable is nigh-impenetrable, and even more difficult to escape than enter, meaning your animals will be in good hands. Of course, it also means the bureaucracies can always find you...
9. Clamy's "Meat" ButcheryFresh "meat"! Get your chicken-spiders, your frog-bats, your fungi-shelled tortoises, and don't forget our delectable vulture-monkeys! And wait 'til you see what we have in the back...In addition to zirs rare and exotic meats, the cactus-meets-venus fly trap-like mutant also grows various plant, fungal, or nondescript organisms which ze sells as "meat". Better not to question it...The deli cutter aggressively sprays a delicious smelling, greasy purple and brownish liquid, regardless of what kind of meat (or "meat") is being cut. It makes sexual moaning noises as it does so.
10. Materia MasonryA cave-head at the entrance of a simple-looking beige factory. The interior is always dark and dripping with a milky, acidic fluid.No one has seen the mason except for his shadow, as he crawls along the surfaces of the cave-factory in the dark.Every block has an ideal form. The acids identify and carve the ideal form out of any block of any kind of material. Effectively an arms and armory shop, but may have other uses...
11. Dr. Sphing's Apothecary and Medical OfficeThe apothecary portion is suitably dim and dusty. Many of the tinctures, herbs, and other products are stored in mosquito egg-like membranes. The actual medical office is pristine, except for always one blotch of blood, never in the same place.A humanoid mosquito mutant. He can draw the sickness or ailment out of blood (regardless of the nature of the sickness or ailment) and regurgitate it into chemicals and tinctures for other medical purposes. He is also an excellent physician and herbalist in addition to his mutation.Despite its off-putting appearance, Dr. Sphing's medical care is second only to what can be provided within the Fey Court itself.
12. Quickie-Cut Barbershop and FeldsheryA place to get a shave, a haircut, or undergo emergency invasive surgery. By manipulating the speed and direction of the swirling barber's pole, time can be sped up or slowed down within the shop, to facilitate quick shaves, or buy time for dangerous surgical operations.The Feldsher (name unknown) is a vaguely serpentine-faced mutant covered in short, bristle-like feathers as sharp as razors, with a hump on its back. The hump opens up to expose leech-faced appendages which can be used for cutting, bloodletting, cleaning, infusing, or stanching.Conveniently located next to Dr. Sphing's. Also offers dental hygiene services, but these services are generally not recommended...
13. Sporious Results (aka Sporie's)A bakery, distillery, brewery, dairy, and maker of other things fermented and pickled.The bakery is itself a giant yeast (or yeast-like) colony, collectively referred to as "Sporie's". It is not known if it is sapient, but it seems to get the job done...Carries a wide variety of rare and exotic, and laboriously bred yeasts, fungi, or similar organisms. Their products come in all sorts of shapes, colors, textures, and flavors unlike anything else. Tasting even the non-psychoactive products is often a psychedelic experience.
14. Le CirqueAn open field of makeshift tents and stages made of shoglite. A dedicated grounds for theater, comedy, dance, oddities, and other entertainment. Located in the entertainment district.The unofficial ringmaster is Feste, a porcelain clown-like harlequinade dressed in an outfit like a cross between a bal masque costume, an early 20th century circus ringmaster, and the Swiss Guard. More coherent than most harlequinade. Often speaks in rhyme and metaphor with frequent, ominous giggling.The shoglite tents, stages, and much of the equipment of le cirque were provided by the Harlequinade, who frequently perform here. Most find their performances puzzling and unsettling, but they nonetheless continue to attract crowds out of sheer curiosity.
15. The ColiseumA ring-shaped structure made of bone and ancient metals. The fighting grounds are pulled into the air, dissolving as they rise up only just remaining in view of the stands below. The grounds regenerate. Located in the entertainment district.The reigning champion of the coliseum is an enormously large and impossibly fat (yet fast and agile) mutant with greenish, greasy acne-covered skin, a wide grin, rows of shark-like teeth, and long antelope-like horns. He is known for his brutality in the ring (despite being a decent guy irl), and goes by The Glutton, but his real name is Walter.The coliseum is one of the few locations in Nova Arkham which predates its construction by the Fey King. Many believe it once served some other purpose.
16. The ForumAn hourglass-shaped, gigantic government complex. Gravity converges at the vestibule where the conical structures meet. The lower chamber is the public forum where anyone may discuss policy, and the upper chamber is for the courts and bureaucracies. Located in the entertainment district.The demagogue Occulon is frequently present at the forum, among other elites of Nova Arkham such as Penn the Penguin.In the lower chamber, to account for the inverted gravity, the interior is upside-down. Flowing throughout the vestibule are grains of sand-like micro eyes. Besides the courts, most of the offices in the upper chamber are relatively insignificant, or even outright shams. Workers are often not aware that their career is a lie, serving only to bamboozle the public.
17. Dengo SensoriumA tall and narrow pagoda building capped with an onion dome, full of paradoxical gears (mostly for show). A spa and community center containing amenities such as: massage, baths, sex work, psychedelia, sensory deprivation chambers, hyper-sensory chambers, dream inducers, astral inversion...Asimov Dengo is a handsome, middle-aged dogu garlic knight with salt-and-pepper hair and a goatee. His bestial form is spider-like. He's covered in scars, notably two iridescent scars running vertically across each eye. The owner of the sensorium, and also the leader of the dogu mafia, spending too much time away from home...Sensoriums are common in the Dogu Kingdom. Nova Arkham has some smaller sensoriums to cater to its dogu inhabitants, but this one is by far the largest and most prominent (and is also a front for the dogu mafia...). Despite being a mafia front, the sensorium itself is a legal, safe, and wholesome business.
18. School of Hyperbolic OrangeA simple-looking martial science campus just off the meridian system outside the capitol. On a clear night, unknown constellations can be seen in the sky. The stone buildings contain noticeable quantities of anti-information, coating everything in a faint, holographic cyan light. The architecture of the buildings are beholden only to a-logical physics.Flash Viper is the leader of the School of Hyperbolic Orange. A snake-like mutant with snake-appendages for arms. Boomer Cicada is a humanoid cicada-like mutant with the ability to move at supersonic speeds, and the greatest pupil of Flash Viper.Home of the Enchiridion Chimerica: vol. i (aka sqrt(-1)), from which the martial scientists derive the SMASH style of combat.
19. Penn Tell's All Curio ShopAn extra-dimensional shop which crops up in various locations throughout the capitol. In addition to whatever is on display, hidden doors hide pocket dimensions containing more rare and dangerous items.Winston Pennington the 3rd, aka Penn the Penguin, a penguin-like mutant with vibrantly mottled skin, from a family and community of seal-like mutants (and a chip on his shoulder about it). Wears a top hat, monocle, and three-piece suit. A self-made man with connections and hubris.In addition to carrying a wide variety of ancient artifacts, modern wonders, and general curios, has also learned to create (or may have simply acquired a large stock of) automagica decks and automagica spell cards.
20. The Fey CourtAn enormously tall, narrow, sleek, smooth white structure. Much of its length is composed of two fused, cylindrical structures, capped with a round structure, raised at the four corners and concave at the center. It towers over the rest of the already rather tall capitol of Nova Arkham, reaching into the skies.Despite having built the meridian node upon which Nova Arkham was built, along with the Court itself, the Fey King is rarely present. Instead, the Court is primarily managed by the Grim General in Blue and his family and associates. Most of the length of the court is bureaucratic, with the cap being the Royal Chamber.The bureaucratic offices of the court are mostly industrial, brutalist, and bland. The royal chamber is sleek, futuristic, alien, and bio-technical. It is full of vaguely organic pulsing and humming veins of bright energies, sleek surfaces, and smoothly moving parts.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Phantasmos: Key Concepts

While I've posted about the Big Picture and my personal Themes for the setting, this is my attempt to further clarify the Key Concepts in the setting, the things that make it unique from other Weird Post-Post-Apocalyptic Science Fantasy settings, as succinctly as possible. Without further ado, and in no particular order:


Ordinal Elements 
     Impossible Light, Absolute Solid, Liquid Starfire, and Anti-Information (see materials). If elements are supposed to be the smallest or most symbolically meaningful units in a world, then one cannot discuss Phantasmos without the Ordinal Elements.

     The name is a play on the Cardinal Symbols of Chinese Astrology, mapping to four (or five) mythic beasts, which are themselves mapped to the elements in Chinese mythology. Elements in mythology are generally things which occur in nature but are utilized by man, such as fire, water, air, and earth. The ordinal elements come from another universe, and represent more abstract concepts such as subjective perception, materialism/physicality, change/energy/mania, and a-logic; a fundamentally different set of universal principles; and are likewise mapped to mythic beings

     Elements are also often mapped to colors, usually primary colors derived from Red Green Blue (RGB) light additivity. Instead, I wanted the color theme of the ordinal elements to be the subtractive Cyan Magenta Yellow Key/Black (CMYK) colors. Going back to the Cardinal Symbols comparison, the "center" of the compass is mapped to mainland China and yellow/gold/brown. Instead, the fifth ordinal element is "void", the absence of object or space, and is colored black/purple/vantablack/null.

The Paraverse
     I put the ordinal elements first because they are easier to conceptualize, but I consider the paraverse to be the most important concept in Phantasmos. It starts with a myth:

     The gods created the paraverse and so exist as paraterrestrial beings, existing outside the paraverse and not constrained by its mechanics. Mortals cannot perceive reality like the gods, but the gods themselves created the paraverse as a model for their own understanding, and so it is that mortals can, through models, begin to understand reality like the gods. One must be wary of this knowledge as it often comes at a cost, even if only the cost of peace of mind, but certainly there must be value in emulating the gods...     

     We know some number of gods were driven to create the universe as we understand it, towards some end beyond our knowledge. They needed the nature of the universe to be consistent to meet this end, so they first created a deterministic universe. However, a deterministic universe suffers an observer problem- the gods, as paraversal beings, could not observe the system without altering it. The gods needed to be able to observe the universe, and also needed it to be robust to manipulation from other gods or mythic beings who did not share their intentions, so this would not do.

     The next universe was still deterministic, but rather than causality being the linear product of space and time as mortals still perceive it, this causality was an encryption algorithm. The encryption protected it from outside interference, and several toy model universes were created, from which model estimates of the true universe could be derived. In this universe, every bit of information served as its own symbol, with its own inherent value.

     The symbolic and deterministic universe would inevitably be compromised, and in any case, compared to the models, it was highly inefficient. Why give every bit of information meaning, when one can derive polynomially more states through conjunctions of bits, as was the case with the models. So, the gods created one more universe, which became the paraverse as we know it. The paraverse is a multi-dimensional space with at least three dimensions of space, at least two dimensions of time, and countless other dimensions which do not map natively to mortal perception and cognition. The paraverse is asymbolic, algorithmic, and probabilistic. To a paraversal being, the state of the paraverse can be inferred from a model of it. The models contain some number of dimensions like a multi-dimensional array, and the distributed weight and activation across the array can be used to infer from the true paraverse. The precision and simplicity of a symbolic, deterministic universe was traded for the flexibility of an asymbolic, probabilistic paraverse.

     In this way, rather than causality being the linear product of space and time, it can be more appropriately thought of as like a distributed representation in a connectionist neural network. Changes in activity at nodes "forward" in time(s), "adjacent" in time(s), or along separate dimensions entirely, can lead to updates throughout the whole network, towards the maintenance of some relative homeostasis. 

     While mortals are not consciously aware of this, and still perceive time and space linearly, in fact a paraversal moment can include activity in the paraverse not within the conscious perception of mortals that meaningfully affects the mortal's conscious perception nonetheless. In other words, the paraverse is not just a set of separate and linear planes like a multiverse, but an entire predictable (but not causal), flexible system. While incursions of paraversal beings or mortals being pulled (or removing themselves) from the paraverse have altered it, thus far it has remained robust to destabilization, given the ends for which the gods desire.

So I realize that "brief" entry has a lot going on, and I'm probably going to keep working on it (at the very least, I'd like to make the writing more flavorful), for now I think that is a decent introduction to the paraverse.

Finally, I will talk about the Astral Plane and the notion of Object-as-Space and Space-as-Object.

The Astral Plane
     Not a plane per se, but any hierarchical relationship between dimensions, relative to an object and a space. It is an inherently metaphysical concept- objects and spaces are arbitrary terms, and the mind and body of a sapient agent is even more so subjective and arbitrary. It exists solely through force of will- not just in sapient agents, but in any "thing" which affects other "things". A flow of water over a rock surface to form a river of millions of years has, in this sense, a will, and what is an object (the body of water, the rock surface) and what is a space (the river as a place), is relative to the other objects, agents, or spaces which could be operationalized. It is "psychic" in the truest sense, a "plane" rooted in the metaphysical concept of the psyche and of will, or perhaps the soul. It is a surreal "plane", a subjective gestalt. It is mind and matter and math. 
 
     Consider spatial dimensions: the vertices of a simple shape in a lower dimension are the edges of a comparable shape in a higher dimension. If one were to place vectors on the third dimension at the corners of a square, the two-dimensional square would become a three-dimensional cube. To go from three- to four-dimensional space, one could draw vectors along the vertices of the cube, creating a three-dimensional model of a tesseract/hypercube, like a cube within a cube. By "pulling" on the cube within the hypercube, the edges would stretch and change the angles of the tesseract. The metaphysical concepts of objects and spaces can be manipulated in a similar sense. 
     
     Objects are defined by what they are not. The distance or orientation between two objects, the continuity or barriers between them, define them. In other words, objects are defined by what they are not, and by their spatial relation to other objects. Further, this suggests an inverse relationship between the freedom of an object, and the parameters of the space. An object in a null-space is completely free, but lacks any context to differentiate that object from the space it inhabits or other objects, like dissociating blood cells in the body or molecules in pudding. By parameterizing the space, such as a single vector "floor", one creates a frame of reference to dissociate the object from the space, so that the object may act as an agent within that space, but the object is now defined by the space that it is not- its platonic form limits it. 

     The parameters of that space also affect the ability of sapient agents to interact with others, like a literal barrier of land or sea or air, or like skin or emotions. By extending one's consciousness to some higher dimension, one could manipulate their space from the outside, as if the space were an object and the object-agent were the space. It's a physical metaphor for a metaphysical concept. Within this plane, sapient beings are not separated as objects within a space. However, they can affect the spaces themselves, as objects, like interior decorating, to distinguish one agent from another.

That's all for now
     So anyway, please let me know if this makes no sense at all, or whether it makes sense or not, if you came out of this feeling like you better understand Phantasmos and what makes it unique. I've been trying to figure out how to relate what makes Phantasmos greater than the sum of its parts, and I'm hoping a bit closer to that now.



Wednesday, August 8, 2018

BONUS: Creatures of LotFP (with statblocks!)

For an upcoming one-shot I will be running in my Phantasmos campaign setting using the OSR book Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP), it was brought to my attention that the awesome Summon spell in LotFP could be used as a good template for creature stat blocks. I already have a table of creatures and plenty more besides, but I had so much fun using the Metamorphica to make a table of mutants that I figured I'd do a similar thing for LotFP monsters. I'm still new to OSR, so I'm not totally sure if these stat blocks are accurate/functional, but hopefully they're good enough. Even though we're playing with LotFP, I used the Sword & Wizardry's SRD Monster guide as a reference. I didn't include movement in the stat block unless it's anything especially good or bad, and I couldn't figure out what "ML" was supposed to be from LotFP, but I did include an approximate CL, based on Sword & Wizardry. In some cases I might add additional qualities that I didn't get from rolling- I'm just using these tools as a guidelines.

I've been finding this table to be just a little more cumbersome than I would have liked, and I don't think I'll need it in the future, but I think it's an awesome spell, and in some ways I think the fact that I don't want to use it in the future is a testament to how effective it was. Writing these up has helped me get a better sense of how to put together a stat block and how relatively dangerous a given creature is. Of course I won't know for sure until I put it to the test, but for now I'm pretty happy with this as an exercise. In the future I might just use the metamorphica to get ideas for special abilities and tweak the stats by intuition. I like in Cypher system how all enemies and NPCs have stats that can be generated from a single number, and then tweaked for effect. For the most part, I didn't touch the AC (armor class), AT (# of attacks), or DMG (damage) stats unless I rolled something which affected those stats, but in practice I might tweak them a bit.

As always, I'd love to hear what people think of the creatures, but even more than that, please let me know if you think the statblocks and abilities are reasonable or appropriate!

IMPORTANT: If you're going to be in the one-shot, DON'T READ THIS UNTIL AFTERWARDS! I may not even use any of these creatures (although I've grown attached to a few of them), but just to be safe...


Creatures (1d20)AppearanceThoughts/BehaviorsStatblockSpecial Abilities / Additional Notes
1. AquorumAn amorphous blob. A prokaryote-like impossible organism, unstable in physical space. Clones sprout on its surface which explode on impact.A simplistic organism that operates on the most basic a-logical equivalent of stimulus-response.HD 1, AC 12, AT 1, DMG 1d6, CL 2.HDd6 anti-information explosion on contact.
2. Impossible Impostor CrabA 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.HD 1, AC 12, AT 1, DMG 1d6, CL 3.Immune to physical attacks. Double movement. Attack can induce anti-love or ennui. Not an impossible organism, but has somehow adapted to absolute solid.
3. Magi-SLIMEA jade-colored, frosty-cold SLIME with a meridian metal core.Behaves animal-like. Will try to flee, only fights if cornered. Its body is dangerously cold.HD 2, AC 12, AT 1, DMG 1d6, CL 2.Half movement. Its meridian core is worth 500sp. Occasionally also contains a spell (if so, it can use the spell too...)
4. DNEaA double-helix shaped creature which writhes like a snake.Will attempt to constrict its prey and inject a virus.HD 2, AC 12, AT 1, DMG 1d6, CL 5.Can constrict its enemies. Its bite releases a virus (treat as poison) which won't heal naturally. If an infected creature dies, it will immediately turn into another DNEa.
5. Cognetic of the UnknownA creature levitating from its own electromagnetic field. Looks like neural tissue, but not in the shape of any known or plausible brain.Aggressive creatures which roam in packs known as "fields", given their combined electromagnetism.HD 3, AC 12, AT 1, DMG 1d6, CL 4.Immune to electricity.
6. Shit-ShroomAn unassuming patch of bioluminescent fungi, which is actually an impossible organism feeding off a pile of excrement of another impossible organism.Emits a strong, enticing, savory aroma. As prey approach, it releases gases which explode, spraying fecal matter. Can uproot and flee if necessary, but will generally not move unless it must.HD 3, AC 12, AT 1, DMG 1d6, CL 5.On successful hit, the gas and fecal matter induce confusion.
7. Creepy-CrawlerA creepy-crawly creature camouflaged as a large bundle of seaweed.Waits for prey to step on it, then attempts to grapple them. Covered in sticky slime.HD 4, AC 12, AT 1, DMG 1d6, CL 5.Its slime can slow a target (10 rounds to generate more slime).
8. Void ElementalA vantablack void orb with thorny tendrils. It is not clear if this is an organism, construct, or the platonic concept of null.Suction cups on the trendrils create mini-black hole vacuums.HD 4, AC 12, AT 1, DMG 1d6, CL 6.Immune to physical attack. Can cast Darkness (at will).
9. Pseudo-ZapatotianA thick vine with tentacle-like branches. Generally grows on trees and large fungi.The vine reflexively dangles its resin-covered tentacle-branches over climbers.HD 5, AC 12, AT 1, DMG 1d6, CL 6.Target of successful attack takes DMG-die -1 damage each turn until the DMG-die reaches < d4, from resin on the tentacle-branches.
10. KirboidA transparent balloon-like creature with rudder-like fin-hands.Will meander over to slow-moving or unaware creatures and swallow them whole. Can replace its normal attack with an attack / special ability of a digested creature (1d4 turns to digest).HD 5, AC 12, AT 1, DMG 1d6, CL 8.Can swallow creatures whole (on nat 20 or hitting by >= 10). If punctured, summons a random creature or induces a temporary (or sometimes permanent) mutation on swallowed creature.
11. DjinnA dogu-like being of pure energy, softly humming.Mysterious and inexplicable in its behavior. When it attacks, its tail punctures and injects painful, pure energy.HD 6, AC 12, AT 1, DMG 1d8, CL 11.Immune to normal attacks and wood. Can cast prismatic sphere (at will).
12. CamelbugAn insectoid impossible organism covered in rubbery lumps.The lumps carry reserves of liquid starfire. Prior to release it behaves manically and aggressively. After popping the lumps and releasing aerosolized liquid starfire, is more docile.HD 6, AC 14, AT 1, DMG 1d6, CL 8.Can cast incendiary cloud (at will).
13. Spreading ShadowAn ethereal mass in the shadows, spreading shadow-pseudopods. Claws reach out to prey from the shadow.The shadow is actually a pocket dimension. From within, it hums. The walls feel like fur or moss-covered chitin. The fur-like cilia push and pull at the objects within.HD 7, AC 14, AT 1, DMG 1d6, CL 9.Blurred (first defense always successful)
14. Wild Blood GolemA finned, quadrupedal marine-humanoid composed of necromantic blood. It is blue like the photo-negative of red. Blood-mist pours from its teeth.Its negative color provides it some camouflage in water. It can walk on land but is better suited to swimming, or sliding in its blood-mist drool.HD 7, AC 12, AT 1, DMG 1d6, CL 10.Immune to normal attacks. Haste (on self).
15. Rebirther BugInsectoid machine, drips psycho-caustic fluids from its great, fanged maw.Its fluids impregnate micromachines into its prey, converting the creature into a clone of itself.HD 8, AC 14, AT 1, DMG 1d6, CL 13.Impregnates (poison save). Chaos (at will, one at a time).
16. Harbinger of the Anti-Mutants.A baroque, marble and metallic, neon, psychedelic super-platonic polyhedron so dense as to be nearly indistinguishable from a sphere. Has four sets of wings made of a similar material as its body. Occasionally displays a holographic projection of a stretched humanoid face on its surface.Its wings operate on a-logical, impossigenic mechanics, to "lift" through the paraverse. It will not attempt to injure a foe unless provoked, but will try to wipe its memory. The process seems to facilitate anti-mutation.HD 8, AC 12, AT 1, DMG 1d6, CL 12.Memory wipe on successful hit (no damage). Possibility of inducing anti-mutation 1d4 days after memory wipe. Supernatural intelligence. Immune to physical attacks.
17. Shit-Shroom ShamblerA shit-shroom which has grown over centuries or even millennia. A rot-covered, slimy, fungal shambler, covered in malformed lumps filled with liquid starfire, sores, and a hard, glowing, fungal shell.A critical-mass of shit-shroom growth. Spews spores not just for reproduction, but as a dispersed neural network, allowing it to coordinate with other shit-shrooms. Its lumps can explode in a wall of liquid starfire to trap prey. All shamblers are part of one distributed network from another universe.HD 9, AC 12, AT 1, DMG 1d6, CL 12.Causes disease on hit. Wall of (liquid star-)Fire (at will, one at a time).
18. Acid Ant SwarmAnt-like creatures with psychedelic swirling patterns on their back, dripping hallucinogenic fluids from their antennae over their entire body.The acid ants swarm together, surfing along currents of their own psychedelic fluids. The swarm can reach the size of a tsunami. Their screams aerosolize the fluids.HD 9, AC 14, AT 1, DMG 1d6, CL 11.Psionic Scream (autohit 30', 1d6 DMG, magic save or slowed)
19. The Give-and-Taking TreeA giant coral- or tree-like creature with flowing colors and reflective flower-like appendages.The flowing colors attract prey, and the reflective flowers create hostile duplicates of the observer.HD 10, AC 12, AT 1, DMG 1d6, CL 13.Phantasmal Force (at will, 1d6 at a time).
20. KatamarinuAn elephantine, wolf-like creature with a narwhal-like horn, covered in bony thorn armour.Its horn and thorny bone armour is covered in an adhesive fluid. Its pores release more fluid as more objects stick to, exponentiating its all-encompassing destructive capability. It drains the life and nutrients from the objects stuck to it. HD 10, AC 16, AT 1, DMG 1d6, CL 13.Move 180', drain CON 1d4 on successful hit

Monday, August 6, 2018

Phantasmos: Themes

An Introduction

Usually when I pitch a setting for tabletop gaming, I break it down into three points: Description, Theme, Suggested Systems. The latter is more so about the game than the world obviously, and the former is a straightforward account of the setting; scifi/fantasy, species or monsters, environments, special powers, etc. My Big Picture post is more so a description.

Themes are the ideas that the world, the characters, or the plot are intended to explore. I think tabletop is in a unique position to explore themes, in that the consumer of the art is also a participant in it, and in that game mechanics can be utilized to evoke specific themes. There are certainly some RPGs where theme, world, and game are inextricably linked. This is not the case with Phantasmos.

While there are a few specific themes that have been intentionally written into the world, I have tried to make Phantasmos broad and open enough that potentially any themes could be explored. Adventure Time was a big inspiration to Phantasmos, both for its post-post-apocalyptic weird science fantasy trappings, but also for how it explores themes. The themes of Adventure Time include the appreciation of genuine child-like wonder, overcoming fears, maturing, dealing with loss, moral ambiguity / complexity, relationships, nostalgia, and so much more. Some of these themes are incidental to the setting, but I do think that the Land of Ooo is leveraged to uniquely address at least some of these themes. 

I remember so badly wanting to learn all of the secrets that had been hinted at within Ooo, only to realize after so many of them were exposed, that I could never look at Ooo the same way again. No longer can I see the Candy Kingdom with child-like wonder, all I can think of is its dark history.

Phantasmos: Themes

Weird and Wonderful are obviously themes of Phantasmos, but also Wisdom, Weariness, Whimsy, and Wistfulness. I love worldbuilding and always have, but it can be difficult to determine how much of a world to reveal, and how much should be left open to imagination. In designing Phantasmos and dealing with that frustrating balance, I wanted to embed that idea into the world. I want the players to want to learn more about the world, but I also want them to regret that knowledge, although not necessarily in some Lovecraftian, Cosmic/Existential Horror sense (although that is a viable option). It should feel like growing up and learning that not everyone loves you like your parents do, or realizing you don't dream anymore. Gaining that Wisdom should come with a loss of Wonder and Whimsy and a burden of Weariness. 

Another theme that has been heavily written into the setting is anxiety. I don't want to reveal all of the intentional symbolism within the setting, but there are certain recurring aesthetics or concepts which are allusions to feelings of anxiety, or the kind of depression that is co-morbid with it. I do think this theme can also tie into the former- the Weariness of Wisdom and the feeling of loss of Wonder and Whimsy which goes along with it.

As a counterpoint, there is also a theme of novelty-seeking (Weird), thrill-seeking, and the addictiveness of these things. It probably goes without saying that I'm an anxious person, and I'm definitely not a thrill-seeker, but I am definitely a novelty-seeker. This theme is less developed, mainly because it's one that I don't understand in the world or in myself as well, but that's exactly why I thought it was important to include, and serves as a counterpoint to the theme of anxiety. At what point does novelty-seeking become unhealthy, in its own right?

If there's one final theme, I guess it's about subverting expectation and not being limited by conventions. As much as I love Tolkien and traditional fantasy, there are already so many books, movies, TV shows, tabletop RPGs, videogames, etc., that have explored the genre to death. I think, at this point, traditional fantasy has lost most of its fantastical-ness. Despite the number of sci-fi like ideas in the setting, I consider Phantasmos to be Fantasy, because its about discovery, the unknown, and the feeling that anything could be possible. As the sum of its parts, Phantasmos should not fit comfortably into the players' prior expectations of fantasy. In an ideal world, they should come out of the game feeling like they did when they read Lord of the Rings or saw Star Wars for the first time. Tall order, but that's the hope, anyway.

So there you have it. Themes! Let me know what themes you like to explore in your games or write into your worlds!