Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Weird & Wonderful Survey October / November 2018

I'm running another survey, and would appreciate all of your inputs! I want to make this blog the best it can be, figure out where I can go with it, and in general better understand the RPG community. The survey should only take a minute or two, and it would really help me out and hopefully be interesting for others as well. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018


I've been trying to move away from writing tables, because I've gotten so comfortable with doing them, but also because I feel so comfortable doing them, I want to keep doing them! At the same time, I've been trying to write micro-settings, and I just keep finding mental blocks, or being unsatisfied with what I've written and how it's conveying the setting. So I decided, why not just make a table of settings! Some of these settings are intended as full-blown settings, others could be fit into larger settings (and in fact some of these are intended to fit into each other). It's the most micro way to do micro-settings, but it'll include settings I've already talked about in depth such as Phantasmos. Having to train myself to reduce a setting to a few sentences or less should be a good exercise if nothing else.

Also, depending on the feedback I get for these settings, that may influence which ones I decide to focus on next for my full post write-ups!

Antikythera NovaA non-Anglocentric scifi future. A gritty space opera. Eldritch trans-humans. Psionic signal processing aliens manipulating quantum uncertainty. A dash of speculative science.
Aquarian DawnA low fantasy feudal world, several hundreds or thousands of years after a high fantasy / science fantasy post-apocalypse. The typical fantasy races have mostly receded or taken on niche roles in this world, while humanity desperately clings to the Middle Realm. However, with the arrival from the seas of the peaceful, socialist, androgynous aqua-colored humanoids known as the Aquarians, humanity must face the fact that their age is coming to an end. Some wish to take this transition with grace, as many of the other races have, while others wish to fight and struggle against the (literally and figuratively) rising tide to the last.
CarnopolisAn ever-expanding city, like a slimy, protoplasmic meat or fungus. A living shoggoth city. The shoggoth matter are like nanomachines, able to rearrange the structure of the city or encode information, creating a hybrid virtual/augmented reality where there is no meaningful distinction between the physical and virtual. Generations of survivors living in a world of never-ending hostility. A city that can be anything. A city designed to kill.
Cold War Under a Rising SunAn alternate history where the atomic bomb was never dropped on Japan. In a prolonged second world war, the victorious allies carve Japan, the Soviet Union creating North Japan, and the western allies creating South Japan. Both Japans become cultural, technological, and economic powerhouses. Given the prosperity of the Russo-Ainu North Japan, this is a 1960's Cold War-era where the people in the communist world actually thrive. It's a world as much pulp as noir, with gadget-toting superspies, secret nazi revival sects, and world-threatening super-terrorists.
Dark and Misty RemainsA world of The Darkness Lagash and The Nameless Mist, the space in between the shell and spine of a world-sized dragon turtle. Albino underdeinos and platypus people who sense the electrical activity of muscle contractions and weird creatures made of dark matter and harnessing dark energy. A subway train system made of bone and the electrical activity of massive nerve tissue and muscle fibers. Houses the remains of Thalarion, the city of a thousand wonders, the undead shamanic Skadamutc and their necrotic god Lathi.
Frost and the Final FrontierA near future semi-hard scifi setting where Antarctica has been colonized, and is in the early stages of urbanization. A modern-day New World / Wild West. Heavily reliant on technology, but with early-20th century-esque access to resources. As much if not more so Chinese and Russian as American or Western European. A sprawling Denver-like city. A utopian military-science industrial complex, like a precursor to the Federation in Star Trek or Heinlein if he were less crazy.
I-ConsA near future cyberpunk world where electromagnetism has somehow fundamentally changed. While limited radio and television transmission is still possible, the internet is gone and nearly all electronic or electroconductive devices are connected to the Noö-Net. Humans can observe this realm, but can only interact with it through their Individual Constructs (I-Con), a Noö-Net artificial lifeform, trained like a neural network from the consciousness of their operator.
Kwik & KantankerousA near future cyberpunk world with a 90's-00's LA street racing aesthetic. A world populated by fungal, plant, and animal humanoids across socioeconomic strata race weaponized kwik karts in the streets. A world of gangwars, heists, social justice, and family.
Monsters and MadmenThe big war; the cities bombed and nations EM-pulsed; civilization as we know it is on the way out, but adults still cling to the old world from only a few years ago. On the other hand, the children wish only to leave their homes, to travel the empty, broken roads, and to collect and battle the monsters that have surfaced (or, perhaps, resurfaced) in the wake of humanity's decline. The world is in anarchy. Some of the magical creatures the children geas are intelligent, some infinitely more so than humans. They bide their time as anarchy ensues and humanity dissolves under its own weight.
OverlightDeep-dream qualia elves, golden carp-dragons, rainbow thunderbirds, baku devas. A realm of soft thunderous clouds like the action potentials of neurons. The air is vaporized alcohol, the clouds are novocain, the lakes and rivers are liquid mercury rising into semi-solid structures, the mountains are lithium salts, and there's a rainbow space elevator to the moon.
PhantasmosHeavy Metal gonzo weird Lovecraftian BDSM post-post-apocalyptic science fantasy. Lovecraft, Gygax, Dick, Morrison, and Asimov filtered through my own personal lens.
QuantumverseAn emergent microverse that exists "between particles"; a compressed computational world formed from the distribution of sub-atomic particles in physical space. A world of varying densities of compressed and encrypted pixels, voxels, and polygons. A fantasy world on a circuit board; a kingdom of baking-yeast people and the nefarious Rat King; A silk road Arabian Disco.
Second ExodusIn a near future, several decades after narrowly surviving the eldritch kaiju Nephilim, a new breed of monster, the Qlippoth, have forced humanity off the planet and onto orbiting space colonies. The Ein Sof have developed psychokinetic mecha, which must be piloted by children, to take back the planet.
Silicon SurvivorsA world of trans-human cyborg hunter-gatherers in a naturalistic world of silicon, plastic, and the most advanced technologies conceived in 1980's science fiction. They ride their white, plastic-skinned, CRT monitor-headed beasts across fields of flayed cables, hunting blocky robots for their nutritious floppy disk innards. They are led by an ancient and wise computer like a knockoff Max Headroom, although some suspect the computer may have ulterior motives.
Starcrossed SentaiIn a small rural town in an anachronistic, mid to late-20th century "golden age" Japan analogue, a group of preteen children are granted superpowers and must save the world from alien invaders, while still passing their exams! Their costumes may look like they were made in a middle school home-ec class (because they were), but when their powers activate, they become the greatest superteam the world has ever known! If the videogame Earthbound is a weird Japanese person's take on Golden Age Americana, this is a weird American's take on Golden Age Japan.
Starflower VoyagersA utopian post-singularity scifi setting. A trans-human entity, the starflower, a pure and child-like, god-like being, leads bands of loosely affiliated, 1960's-70's mod/hippie anarchic troupes known collectively as the Flower Power, to search the stars for intelligent lifeforms on the verge of their own singularity and assist them in the transition. They generally try to do good elsewhere in the cosmos along the way, not so much like police or judges, but like neighbors or good Samaritans. They are, of course, concerned with the greater philosophical implications of their actions, but generally hold a light heart and take a light touch wherever they go.
Stonepunk JourneyWhen the first Native Americans crossed the Bering Strait, they were not alone. They encountered monsters and spirits which went on to inspire the mythologies of the First Peoples, but also other intelligent species from sword and sorcery and medieval fantasy such as serpent-men and elves. This is a stonepunk world of chaotic primal magics, of anachronistic stone technologies, and perhaps other hidden, weird secrets.
VortekkaA world surrounded by a shimmering vortex. 17th century-esque pirates and privateers with a dash of steampunk mechs and flying machines. Competing centripedal and centrifugal forces where humans reside on floating plates and other species reside on the islands and oceans along the inner surface of the shimmering, iridescent vortex.
Weird WarsA science fantasy trench war... in SPACE. Warp-speed weaponry tear the fabric of reality into pocket dimensions, across which inter-dimensional trench warfare is fought. The heavy, deadly gases allow humans to take flight, but only the mutated Weirders, with their weird-metal bayonets and warp-blades, can maneuver gracefully in the harsh environments of the tears.
World of WondersA significantly alternate-history superhero setting where orgodynamics and entropy are opposite but equal physical forces of nature. Many ancient civilizations never fell and social constructs around things like religion, race, and ethnicity operate totally differently than they do in the world as we know it.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Unique Weapons (generated by the Weird & Wonderful Weapon Hack 2.0)

This is a set of example weapons built using my Weapon Hack 2.0. As with how I use most tables, this isn't about following the table exactly, but using it as a point of reference. I'll decide on some number of qualities at some number of costs, see what I get, organize it into something interesting and coherent, and give it a name, some details, and maybe a plot-hook or related NPC. In the same way that James Raggi of Lamentations of the Flame Princess has argued that every monster should feel unique and should be able to be a story unto themselves, I think people should put a greater emphasis on doing the same with weapons. And not just the macguffin / generic Excalibur-esque supersword type of legendary weapons, but weapons that tell a unique story and say something about the character wielding them or the location they're found in. So hopefully these examples will demonstrate what the Weapon Hack can do and how to make weapons interesting both for combat use and for storytelling.

NameBase FormTotal CostQualitiesDescriptionPlot Hook
FlamemareMedium: 1d6, One-handed1Sticky (0); Devil-Water (0); Elemental: Fire (1)A one-handed but powerful, piston-pumping warhammer, powered by devil-water which leaks onto the handle. The combustion of the devil-water frequently ignites onto the leaking surface, covering the head in flame.A Blackcap Goblin warlord designed the Flamemare, powering it with his own devil-water, and that of his slain enemies. A talented phreaker and materialist, he kaibermantically manipulates the wild flames of the devil-water, such that his horde appears as a stampede of oily black horses in an aura of fire.
MerstaffMedium: 1d6, One-handed1Whispering (0); Animal (0); Elemental: Water (1)A swordfish-like naiad, geased to serve as a pointed staff. It whispers nothings into the ear of its wielder to no avail. Once a revered lake spirit, over the centuries the naiad grew bored and resentful of its limited domain. It manipulated its village into building an aqueduct, connecting the lake to a larger network of waters. The village benefited greatly from its aqueduct, growing in power and influence. The village rose to a fiefdom, overpowering its neighbors. After years of greed and exploitation, eventually the exploited villages united, razing their ruler's village to the ground. The naiad, seen as the architect of their suffering, was geased into a weapon to serve the people. Its elemental power over water is also leveraged to power the aqueduct. If the staff were taken, the united villages would be unable to power their aqueduct and necessarily fall to famine and chaos.
Metallic VenomLight: 1d4, +1 AB, One-handed, Concealable as free quality1Edible (0); Mutilating (1)A knife-like file of an unknown metal alloy. When mixed with blood and saliva, such as when licked on the sharp edge, a chemical reaction between the materials produces a coating that is volatile to living tissue.The original alloy was developed in a remote village, and was cheap to produce and easy to work into kitchen cutlery. Fearing the attention and inevitable exploitation this would elicit, when the soldiers arrived, they changed the formula in the alloy, inducing the poisonous reaction. Hundreds of innocents died. When the soldiers came back to punish the villagers, the villagers all committed ritual suicide with the venomous knives. The village was completely raised, and the formula for the alloy lost. It is believed that all but three of these knives have been destroyed. The Grim General would pay handsomely for even one of these knives.
RosethornMedium: 1d6, One-handed1Fragrant (0); Invisible (1)An invisible shortsword identifiable only by its strong and pleasant rose-like aroma. As the thorns of a rose are often obscured, so to is this sword.After countless guerrila slaughters, the major kingdoms agreed to an invisible weapons ban, making the use of weapons hidden from the senses a war crime. The Grim General realized that by making the weapons fragrant, he could circumvent the letter of the law. Less than a dozen Rosethorns were produced, when one of the blacksmiths on the project had a crisis of conscience, fled to the Deino Kingdom, and made the project public. The project was shut down and the weapons were supposed to have been destroyed, but it is believed that the Grim General saved at least one Rosethorn. If they were to be discovered it would be a political controversy. If they were to be stolen, reproduced, and placed in the wrong hands, it would be war.
Arm of Frankenstein's DemonHeavy: 1d8, Two-handed2Animal (0); Electrical (0); Spellbreaking (2)The arm an ogre-mage, kept reanimated with electricity and preserved with yellow jam, giving it a jaundiced-yellow color. In addition to its use as a blunt weapon, residual jammer magic in the arm can be used to counter spells or mana burn arcane magic users and phreakers.An ancient materialist and apoptomancer, a mad alchemist, a practitioner of the dark sciences, once deigned to create life. He practiced placing the spirits of his mad compatriots into the bodies of ogres and other monstrous creatures, but this was not enough to sate his curiosity. He combined the parts of the most powerful ogre-mages, the parts of his former friends in the bodies of ogres, to construct a super-demon of electricity and yellow magic. He succeeded in creating his demon, but he knew not what he was unleashing, and eventually the demon would be the death of him. Nobody knows what exactly happened to the demon, but it is said that a mad warlock off the meridian system, near Nova Arkham, wields the power of its arm to conduct its mad magics.
Flame-Dancing Yo-Yo Light: 1d4, +1 AB, One-handed, Concealable as free quality2Greasy (0); Elemental: Fire (1); Flexible (1)A greasy yo-yo producing some kind of animal fat, the friction of the yoyo sets it aflame. The twists and complex motions of the yoyo can create dancing flames. Although made of synthetic materials, it seems that some oily organism lives inside the yo-yo. No one is sure how the creature got inside the yo-yo, and nobody has been able to open it without destroying it. Whatever the case, the grease of the creature has made the yo-yo itself, and the string, stronger and more resiliant, and the former childrens toy has become the ceremonial weapon for the chieftan of the village, going back several generations. To become chieftan, one must face off against the current chieftan in a dance-off yo-yo battle... to the death!
Heat-StrokeLight: 1d4, +1 AB, One-handed, Concealable as free quality2Singing (0); Small (1); Phlogisten (1)A halfling-sized shortsword that glows violet with phlogisten heat. The sweeping of the blade and the ever-changing heat differential as the phlogisten absorbs heat from its environment produces a pleasant singing sound.A weapon created by the halfling/vaki. It was intended as a multi-purpose tool to provide light and warmth in subterranean travels, and the singing would scare off sonic bats and other cave creatures, and burn away by the time the party reached the end of their travels. Because of their temporary nature, high cost, difficulty to produce, and strategic importance, they rarely sell the heat-strokes to outsiders. Only those who earn the trust of a vaki company may receive a heat-stroke.
Pitmaster PlantMedium: 1d6, One-handed2Plant (0); Cooking (0); Elemental: Impossible light (2)A long reddish-purple plant that ends in a two-pronged fork like a barbecue skewer. The plant is impossible light photosynthetic, and can also draw power from skewered impossible organisms.Like the devil's own pitchfork, a hellish, living, vine-like impossible organism, barbecuing the denizens of hell (if rumors are to be believed). The current owner of the pitmaster plant has, in fact, become a renowned barbecue pitmaster and chef. Once a greasy spoon out in the middle of nowhere, after stumbling upon the plant, the quality of their food improved over night. Not just the subtle tastes and textures, but the meat itself seemed to change entirely, in colors and shapes and aromas. As their star rises, some have noted that many of their customers become violently ill, or have mysteriously disappeared. It's probably just a coincidence...
Rainbow BatonLight: 1d4, +1 AB, One-handed, Concealable as free quality2Plastic (0); Multi-Colored (1); Elemental: Air (1)A plastic, rainbow-colored conductor's baton. The sweeping motions of the baton can harness the power of air, subtly altering airflow, producing bursts of pneumatic power.The pneumatic abilities of the baton allow it to be used for musical conduction, aerial magics, and as a wind instrument. It was designed by a renowned conductor / explorer, a renaissance person, who needed to be both conductor and performer; artist and combatant. The ultimate musical bardic tool. On their last expedition deep into The Wilds to discover the musical majesties of nature, the conductor went missing. The search for the lost conductor is still ongoing.
Thought-PickerLight: 1d4, +1 AB, One-handed, Concealable as free quality2Crafting (0); Reflective (0); Astrium (2) A psychic dental instrument made of astrium glass, on one end a mirror and the other a dental pick. Can harness the power of anxiety to carve works of art out of teeth and other dentate tissue.The astral plane is a place where boundaries of self and identity are deconstructed. One does not simply go to the astral plane, they become it. Not all who seek the ways of mystics find enlightenment. Some, at best, become psycho-knights, and others, psychopathic killers. One such fool was a dentist. His ego so stretched and warped by the astral plane, upon his return, he became fascinated with the horrors people unleash on their teeth. The gnashing and clenching and chattering. At first he would pull teeth that did not need pulling to carve his art, but eventually this was not enough. He must have all the teeth, even if it means he must kill his patients. The dentist, with his handy astral-edged thought-picker, travels from remote village to remote village, offering dental services on the cheap.
Ur-SmithHeavy: 1d8, Two-handed2Ugly (0); Elemental: Metal (1); Elemental: Earth (1)A heavy pickaxe on one end, a hammer on the other. A single stroke of the axe can carve complex tunnels, and a single stroke of the hammer can perfectly smelt ore. The hammer appears rusted and is covered in the tetanus blood of those who could not handle its power.This mythic tool was created ages ago by a great Coleopteran queen, often given demigod-like status. It is thought that the dwarves were once more populous, with sprawling subterranean kingdoms, but with the Ur-Smith, the coleopterans overtook much of their territory and the dwarves were forced to abandon their past. Of course, now even the coleopterans are a rare breed, at least within the meridian system. The Ur-Smith is thought to be lost somewhere deep in the abandoned subterranean system. Without the ability to create new meridian nodes on the surface, if any kingdom were to find the Ur-Smith, they would be able to expand their domain well beyond the capabilities of the other kingdoms.
Wailing RamHeavy: 1d8, Two-handed2Static Charge (0); Loud (0); Impossigen (2)A battering ram filled with impossigen, making it especially useful against a-logical structures and impossible organisms. Each bash of the ram produces a hideous sound like the wail of a ram or goat, and a powerful static shock on impact.During an incursion from another universe, the Men of Leng, demonic, goat-like beastmen, brought with them certain tools from their universe. One of them, the wailing ram. While disorientating and unwieldy in its internal physics under normal conditions, where impossible organisms thrive and a-logical physical principles prevail, the wailing ram can be a powerful tool for bearing down on villages and small towns. Few remain, most having long ago fallen apart under normal physics. Those few are often employed less for their siege effectiveness, and more so for their intimidating wailing noises. One gang of gnolls recently got their hands on a wailing ram, and have been terrorizing the nearby villages and towns.
Bolter of BreakingMedium: 1d6, One-handed3Short Range (1); Meridian Metal (1); Breaking (1)Like a crossbow made of meridian metal, except rather than a bow and string, the bolts project by magical energy, making them exceptionally potent at breaking objects. Coded into the metal is a Hold Portal spell which can be cast once per day by firing a bolt.A prototype for an auto-magical military-police weapon. Its mechanical and magical ability to break objects makes it useful for taking out a lone attacker in a hostage or violent outburst situation in a relatively non-violent manner. It can also be useful for temporarily containing powerful outlaws with its Hold Portal spell, until they can be routed to a more secure location. They have been itching for an excuse to try out their new prototype and securing funds for a mass rollout, but such a rollout would be expensive and is currently an unpopular plan. If the prototype could play a pivotal role in a media-grabbing incident, surely they could get the funds...
Dragon LanceHeavy: 1d8, Two-handed3Ornamental (0); Sentient (1); Aether Metal (2)A large and ornate fire lance made of aether metal, the shape of a dragon twists around the shaft. The lance is too large for practical use and can't be fired, but it has an animalistic intelligence and is believed to house the spirit of a dragon.The Dragon Lance was said to have been created by the very first aether dragoon, a massive deino who could wield pillars like a lance. The lance is clearly ornamental, making this story unlikely. Even so, it is valued by the mercenary group Riesentotter, whose lineage carries back to the beginning of the aether dragoons, during the deino-tartarian wars. A group of quenduin thieves recently stole the dragon lance right from under the Riesentotter. They have managed to keep this embarrassing event secret, for now, but are looking for agents to find the lance and return it to them, discretely.
GodspineHeavy: 1d8, Two-handed3Concealable (1); Glowing (1); Cold Iron (1)A long object in the shape of a spine, that can be concealed by attaching itself over the wielder's own spine. When detached and wielded, it glows blue with anti-fey energy.The spine of an ancient, mythic creature, possibly humanoid. Nobody has been able to determine if the spine has been somehow transmuted into cold iron, or if it came from a creature made of cold iron; if it is the spine of a fey creature, an impossible organism, or some other parraterrestrial organism of immense power. Nobody knows for sure who has the Godspine, but it is rumored that the Grim General wears it on his person at all times. Of course, if this were true, the Fey King would be quite unpleased.
Kaiber-Gaussian Sniper RifleHeavy: 1d8, Two-handed3Long Range (1); Magical (1); Deadly (1)An ancient artifact, a magnet-rail sniper rifle. The magnetic field of the rifle is kaibermantically encoded, and not a physical magnetic barrel that could be reverse engineered.High-calibre sniper rifles, especially Gaussian rifles, are a rare enough commodity as is, but the kaiber-gaussian sniper rifle is especially unique. It is believed to have been created very early in the current era, or in some prior era between that of the ancient technologies and the present, but its exact kaiber-mechanics are even less well understood than the even more ancient, strictly mechanical Gaussian artifacts. It had been held in a museum in the Dogu Kingdom, but went missing, and is believed to have been stolen by the dogu mafia and smuggled into Nova Arkham. The reason for this is unknown, but the Nova Arkham military police are on the lookout for an unusual sniper rifle.
Pneumatic Knockout MachineLight: 1d4, +1 AB, One-handed, Concealable as free quality3Medium Range (1); Stunning (1); Silenced (1)An antique-looking weaponized air press. Filled with pressurized gas pellets that, when released on contact, incapacitate their targets. The pneumatic power of the pump is nearly silent.An unusual and unassuming contraption, originally designed for feldshers to anesthetize their patients. Some spies and assassins disguise themselves as feldshers, their odd tools a convenient disguise for weapons and tools of stealth and thievery. The mysterious reptilian Feldsher of the Quickie-Cut Barbershop has recently come under fire, being accused of making and selling pneumatic knockout machines to foreign spies and other enemies of the state. The evidence is dubious at best, but the Grim General himself has already decided that the Feldsher must be guilty and has expedited the trial.
Swarm RakeMedium: 1d6, One-handed3Farming (0); Reach (1); Byzma Metal (2)A long-handled rake, the head made of byzma metal. If programmed with byzma metal armor, the teeth of the rake can detach from the head and swarm around the wielder, pelting others in reach.During the height of the psilosymbiote wars, even the farmers had some garlic knight training. They wore byzma metal armor and used farming tools made of byzma metal. The detachable, autonomous teeth of the rake, while less effective than a garlic knight chakram or sword, could provide short-term protection against a horde of psilosymbiotes. Now, rather than fighting psilosymbiotes, these rakes are used to fend off against bandits and tax collectors. One wandering garlic knight has taken it upon himself to protect his new village against those who seek to exploit their rich farms.
The RosegoldMedium: 1d6, One-handed3Bronze (0); Mutilating (1); Deadly (2)An urumi, like a flail of metal sheets. Although soft against iron and harder metals, it is damaging and mutilating against leather and flesh.The rosegold is so named for the pinkish color it has developed from the staining of blood on the bronze sheets of the flail. Although still found in remote villages, it is considered a war crime to use an urumi. It is primarily only effective against under-armoured targets, and inflicts devastating, mutilating wounds. For this reason, it is often used by guerrila fighters and terrorists. An unidentified killer has somehow gotten their hands on a traditional rosegold, and has been targeting individuals with political and industrial power. The Grim General, Occulon, and other powerful individuals wish to find this killer and make an example of them.
Twilight SnakeMedium: 1d6, One-handed3Anthropomorphic (0); Obsidian (1); Masterwork (2)A piercing obsidian flammard. The guard is in the shape of a serpentine humanoid head, the blade like an outstretched serpent tongue.The preferred dueling blade of a mutant outlaw with the ability to create dueling fields. Not in itself especially powerful, but by reputation alone the Twilight Snake has become a symbol to be feared.
Picture Source:

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

High Level Games: 5 Steps to Make Monsters that Matter (A Halloween Special)

This is my second article for high level games, 5 steps to Make Monsters that Mater (A Halloween Special). It's partially a play report / loose module for a "Halloween" special, partially my attempt to explain how monsters can be used to build a setting and tell a story, and partially my attempt to do Halloween with a Weird & Wonderful twist. Let me know what you think!

Monday, October 22, 2018


Jim-Thing: A collage/digital edit created by our very own z_bill!

Jim CasperTartarian-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. After his death at the hands of Kail under the effects of the Shit-Shroom, Ortega used apoptomancy to bring Jim back to life as an Unliving Metamorph. He now has completely white and cytoplasmic skin, a giant exposed brain, necrotic tentacles, levitates, can bud like a fungus, and has a bony detachable eye-like growth on his knee.
    -- Player: Z_bill

KailMimic 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

OrtegaMutant 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

  • At the end of the last session, the players found themselves in 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. The null-space has been occupied by a Spreading Shadow
    • Spreading Shadow: An ethereal mass in the shadows, spreading shadow-pseudopods. Claws reach out to prey from the shadow. The shadow is 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. Will only attack infrequently (every other “round” or so).
    • Also in the room with them is the mutant cult-leader / drug producer SOMA (pictured above). 
    • SOMA: A mutant in his 40's wearing a cloak. He has jaundiced yellow skin and spiky platinum blond hair. He produces the drug soma, and has formed a cult of homeless and social undesirables deep within the Grand Stable system.
    • There are seven lamps, numbers written above them in blood, only the last lamp is lit, and it is violet colored. The numbers read 18-15-25-7-2-9-22.
    • SOMA offers to help the party escape if they give his cult amnesty from the law, legal autonomy, and if they sample his soma. Instead, Slayer... slays him (accidentally, supposedly). Serabia freaks out and nearly gets absorbed by the shadow. Kail saves her, but in the process nearly dies, and his consciousness is temporarily taken over by his mimic armor. 
    • They eventually solve the puzzle and open a rainbow-light portal which takes them to another room.
  • The next room is completely dark. Eventually they see a void elemental, not because it produces light, because it is darker than dark and therefore stands out even in absolute darkness.
    • Void Elemental: A 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.
    • It makes the following statements each round as it attacks the party:
      • What does the cow say?
      • What is the non-binary response? 
      • Do you still hate me? 
      • What does the cow say? Do you still hate me?
    •  In response to the last statement, on the verge of death, the party says "Noo" And the Void Elemental dissipates (the correct answer was supposed to be Mu/Moo but I misheard and anyway it ended up being funny so I ran with it ;) ). 
    • The party, a faction of the mercenary group the Pearl Panthers, are now known as The Knights Who Say Noo.
  • After escaping this room, they find themselves in front of an unlocked, but heavily reinforced door, covered in scratches and indents from SWORDs, lying dead in front of the door. In a hallway preceding the door, they find two weapons (generated using the Weapon Hack 2.0).
    • Kaiber-Gaussian Sniper Rifle: An ancient artifact, a magnet-rail sniper rifle. The magnetic field of the rifle is kaibermantically encoded, and not a physical magnetic barrel that could be reverse engineered.
      • Heavy: 1d10, Two-handed
      • Total Cost: 3
      • Qualities: Long Range (1); Magical (1); Deadly (1)
    • Flamemare: A one-handed but powerful, piston-pumping warhammer, powered by devil-water which leaks onto the handle. The combustion of the devil-water frequently ignites onto the leaking surface, covering the head in flame.
      • Medium: 1d6, One-handed
      • Total Cost: 1
      • Qualities: Sticky (0); Devil-Water (0); Elemental: Fire (1)
  • They enter the room and find the SHIELD, who gives the following monologue: 
    • Read the monologue quickly, with little space between sentences. Put a twinge of anger and sadness and voice-breaking in it. Imagine it building up as it progresses into a mad crescendo. 
I was alive once, I think. I think I am. I am, am I not? Null, Unalive, Unliving. If I am, I am Unliving. Am I, I? Can four dimensions exist while three are null? Where are the vertices of null-space? If space is null, what are objects? Null objects = Null life. Living = Unliving. Yes = Not Yes ~= Yes. Binary logic dissolves and I remember when they separated my sibling and I, when my heart turned Blu and my mind went to a faraway place, and my sibling hunts me like a dog and we are broken inside. Fractured, defined by conflict, mathematical models derived from psychic suicide, playing a game no party understands to serve ends that mean null, and now I ask you: What was it all for!? Am I alive?! What am I!? AM. I?

  • Suddenly a SWORD enters the room from behind and attacks the SHIELD. The SWORD ignores the party, and they choose not to intercede. The SHIELD casts kaibermantic magic missiles at the SWORD, but eventually the SWORD latches onto the SHIELD's throat and tears through it. For a brief moment, the party sees consciousness, remorse, and finally hatred in the SWORD's eyes, and it attacks the party.
  • After defeating the SWORD, they go into a mesmeric trance. They hear the following voice in their heads, along with this song (although I screwed up the audio so they only heard my the voice >.<).
    • Play this video, wait until after the cassette tape clicks and the music starts, and then read or say out loud the below to yourself slowly. It's better if you can get someone else to say it while you close your eyes, or you for them. The timing doesn't matter too much, but if it helps, I finish the monologue with a little under a minute left in the song.

Your eyes are warm, your eyelids heavy. You close your eyes and take a deep breath, in through your nose, out through your mouth *breath 5s in, 5s out*, and then another *breath*. A warm current flows through you, radiating out from you like a soft blanket tickling your skin. You think about everything leading up to this moment, all the way back to childhood. You acknowledge the bad moments but only focus on the good. You’ve been through a lot. I know there were times you thought you couldn’t make it, but here you are, and you’re doing it. Even when the world feels wrong, you can find your center, I know you can. Just think of all that you’ve accomplished. Think about where you are right now. Think about the people around you, and the experiences you’ve shared, and the memories. It’s hard to believe, it feels like you’ve only just met and now you all are such good friends. It’s wonderful, isn’t it, all the people in the world, and how at any moment any of them can become your friend. Mmm… it feels good, doesn’t it, focusing on the good. There is still so much left to do. I know it can be daunting, but I believe in you, I believe you will do it. And if you don’t, if your adventure is cut short, that’s ok too, because you will always have those good moments, they carry with you. Every moment leads to this one, so every good moment is with you too, always. There is good and bad, but you get to choose which moments drive you, only you get to make that decision, and I believe in you, I believe you will focus on the good. Take another deep breath, in through the nose, out through the mouth, *breath*, and again *breath*. Ok, take your time, and slowly open your eyes. I’m sorry to say, it won’t be like this anymore, it may be cold, you may see bad things, but that’s ok. You always had to open your eyes, but remember, you will eventually close them again. Things can be bad out there, but when they are, just remember that you were here, and you will be here again, and in fact you never really left. You are here right now, in this moment and in every moment. I would wish you good luck, but you don’t need it, because no matter what happens, you will find the good in it. I know you will. I believe in you.    
  • This scene was inspired by the "Coffee Break" scene from the videogame Earthbound (below).

  • The party magically find themselves at the terminal entrance of the Grand Station. They meet up with Gary Molehands and the violinist cricket, Mr. Myce leaves the group to do paperwork, and they reach out to their handler, Arnold Tanaka, to get paid (and gain 2 levels!). They meet back up at Helnwein's Tavern, where this adventure started. 
  • Helnwein serves them a strange purple drink with living fish eggs in it from Sporie's, which gives Jim temporary lucidity, and then the entire party is psychically imprinted with a memory from a page of one of Jim's occult books of a picture that looks much like his new form (see picture at top). The moment passes, and they only vaguely remember this impression.
  • Arnold tells the party that they will be receiving a dossier of new missions in the near future, and for now should just enjoy the city.
The Breakdown
    I'm really happy with how this campaign went! The first couple sessions were a bit of a learning curve, but I think I really hit my stride with session 3. This session was a little on the short side, in part because they got through the puzzles a little faster than I expected, and I'm still annoyed about the audio issue with  the "coffee break", but on the whole I think this was a fun journey, and I'm looking forward to the next adventure!
    We decided that the next session we're going to do a one-shot of something else, a different system and setting and possibly different GM, and then come back to the next Phantasmos campaign. I really wanted this one to be entirely within Nova Arkham, but I think the next campaign will involve exploration!
    The "coffee break" is a thing I've wanted to do for a while, and I think it was fairly successful. Try it out yourself and let me know what you think! I'd like to see more of this kind of thing- integration of guided meditation, ASMR, breath practice, etc. in tabletop. It's kind of weird, but then that's what I'm all about ;).

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Weird & Wonderful Weapon Hack 2.0: Phantasmos Version

Given the positive reception towards my Weird & Wonderful Weapon Hack, I've decided to make a new version! This version contains new Qualities unique to the Phantasmos setting,  but I'm also changing a few rules from the original hack. I think many of the Phantasmos-specific Qualities could be re-worded to be more generic, but many of the new Qualities are generic and mundane. For the Phantasmos-specific Qualities, some good points of reference would be the Materials, Character Classes, and Crafted Items tables.

Also, I've beefed up the auto-generators! In addition to randomly generating a base form or a single quality, there is now a generator to generate a full weapon with a random base form and any number of Qualities of each cost! It still needs more work (which will hopefully be in the 3.0 version), but for now I think it's pretty cool!

EDIT: I recently posted a table of 20 Unique Weapons, generated using this hack! Each weapon additionally has a plot hook written for it, the idea being that any of these weapons could have a whole adventure told around them!

Rule Changes
  • Ranged Qualities separated and rules changed.
  • Renamed or reworked some of the original Qualities.
  • Added a bunch of new Qualities!


Select a base form:

Select individual qualities:

Generate Full Weapon
NOTE1: Meridian Metal and Sentient Qualities removed since they have variable costs and other considerations.
NOTE2: Currently will only sample any given Quality once, so Qualities that can be stacked would need to be done manually.
NOTE3: Currently does not account for Qualities that have prereqs, so either ignore or manually replace.
NOTE4: I'm sure there are some bugs, so please let me know if you find any!
Number of 0 Cost Qualities:
Number of 1 Cost Qualities
Number of 2 Cost Qualities
Number of 3 Cost Qualities
NOTE: Currently the only 3 Cost Quality is Siege


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

D100Qualities ListDescriptionCost
1AnimalMade of or contains elements of animal life (e.g. bone, teeth, blood, skin or muscle tissue) or is a living animal.0
2AnthropomorphicHas features vaguely reminiscent of a humanoid face or humanoid body part.0
3BronzeMade of bronze. On a critical fail (natural 1 on 1d20) against stronger metals (such as iron or steel), it breaks.0
4CarbonMade of a carbon.0
5ColorfulIs an unusual color.0
6CookingDesigned in some way for cooking (e.g. butcher knife, paring knife).0
7CraftingDesigned in some way for carpentry and other crafting (e.g. screwdriver, saw) 0
8Devil-WaterRequires devil-water.0
9EdibleCan be eaten.0
10ElectricalRequires electricity.0
11FarmingDesigned in some way for farming (e.g. rake, spade, shovel).0
12FragrantSmells good.0
13FungalMade of or contains elements of fungal life or is a living fungus.0
14GlassMade of glass. On critical fail (natural 1 on 1d20) it shatters. Against any surface harder than a human body, this increases to 1-4 on a 1d20.0
15GreasyIs always greasy. On critical fail (natural 1 on 1d20), is dropped.0
16IronMade of iron.0
17LaserMade of hard light or projects beams of light.0
18LoudProduces annoying noises when carried; painfully loud when used.0
19OrnamentalAs Stylish or Unique Appearance, but not designed for practical use. On critical fail (natural 1 on 1d20), it shatters or breaks.0
20PlantMade of or contains elements of plant life or is a living plant (excludes normal Wood).0
21PlasticMade of hard plastic.0
22ReflectiveReflects light and can be used as a mirror.0
23SingingSoftly hums or unintelligibly sings. The tune never gets old. Knows when to be quiet... usually...0
24SonicMade of hard sound or projects bursts of sound (not the same as Loud).0
25Static ChargeOften builds up a mildly painful static charge (not the same as Electric).0
26Steam-PoweredRequires steam.0
27SteelMade of steel.0
28StickyIs always sticky.0
29StinkySmells bad.0
30StoneMade of generic gray stone. On a critical fail (natural 1 on 1d20) against metals, it breaks.0
31TastyFun to lick.0
32UglyHas an especially unattractive or even gross appearance.0
33UnpalatableTastes especially bad.0
34WeirdHas weird properties or a weird appearance (can be anything appearance-based on the table, or something not on the table).0
35WhisperingWhispers unintelligibly when brought close to the ear.0
36WoodMade of wood (not the same as Elemental: Wood). Lightweight (half encumberance), but generally not good for cutting.0
37AttachedAttached to gauntlet or armor, leaving hand free.1
38BondedWeapon only usable by owner, cannot be removed from person without consent.1
39BreakingCan be used to target and break objects at no disadvantage.1
40ChainsawPrereq: Devil-Water, Electrical, Steam-Powered, or Wavepunk. Has fast-moving serrations along a chain. As Breaking against anything softer than iron (or relative to what it's made from).1
41Cold IronMade of Cold Iron. +1 AB and +1 DMG against Fey.1
42ConcealableCan be hidden from view.1
43ConcussiveCreates a burst of sound or light on impact to deafen/blind/temporarily stun.1
44ElectricGenerates electricity.1
45Elemental: AirHas properties related to air (e.g. can subtly manipulate winds, harness electricity).1
46Elemental: EarthHas properties related to earth (e.g. benefits to mining).1
47Elemental: FireHas properties related to fire (e.g. produces heat/light, can cause burning).1
48Elemental: MetalHas properties related to metal (e.g. benefits to blacksmithing).1
49Elemental: WaterHas properties related to water (e.g. can extinguish fires).1
50Elemental: WoodHas properties related to wood/plants (e.g. benefits to gardening, nature traversal).1
51FlexibleWhip or whip-like; Range (close), AoE (close), Stunning (binding), Unwieldy (-2 AB).1
52Focused AreaAoE can be focused in a line, cone, etc. Each upgrade allows a different option.1
53Focused DamageAoE can be focused to only target specific creatures or objects. Each upgrade allows greater flexibility.1
54GlowingCan be used to provide illumination (as torch).1
55ImpactingEach upgrade increases range of knockback (close, short, medium, long).1
56IntoxicatingEating or even tasting it can cause intoxication (poison saving throw).1
57InvisibleCannot be seen (even by owner/wielder).1
58LargeDesigned for large-sized creatures. Medium-sized creatures take -1 AB, small- creatures cannot use this weapon.1
59Long RangeCan attack targets up to long range, -2 AB at close range.1
60MagicalHas general magical properties.1
61Medium RangeCan attack targets up to medium range, -1 AB at close range.1
62MobileCan (slowly/clumsily) move autonomously when not in use.1
63Multi-ColoredIs multiple unusual colors.1
64MutilatingSerration or other features cause sustained wounds and mutilation.1
65ObsidianMade of obsidian. As Glass, but +1 damage.1
66PhlogistenGlowing-hot from red to violet or white. Incredibly hot, but must be fed hot materials once a day or it will dissolve.1
67PoisonousCan cause poisoning.1
68Prasium CrystalHas a neon green crystal which emits small amounts of impossible light radiation.1
69ReachCan be used at close range or thrown at no disadvantage.1
70Short RangeCan attack targets up to short range with no disadvantage at close range.1
71SilencedThe weapon produces little to no sound on projection or impact.1
72SmallDesigned for small-sized creatures. Medium-sized creatures take -1 AB, large+ creatures cannot use this weapon.1
73StunningCan be used non-lethally to incapacitate at no disadvantage.1
74StylishLooks especially cool.1
75SuppressingCreates an obstacle to those in weapon range. -2 AB to anyone in range.1
76Unique AppearanceMay be a well known item or associated with a well-known person or faction.1
77Aether MetalA softly glowing and humming white metal. Detritus levitates around it. Does not count towards encumberance. Utilized by aether dragoons. 2
78Area of effectMay hit all targets in close range.2
79AstriumPrereq: Edged weapon. Can be used to access/enter the astral plane. Utilized by mystics and psycho-knights.2
80Byzma MetalWhile wearing Byzma metal armor, the weapon can be thrown/projected and will behave in a programmed way (e.g. boomerang)2
81DeadlyEach upgrade increase attack die (up to d10).2
82Elementa: Liquid StarfireHas properties related to liquid starfire. Successful hit lowers target Dexterity by X for 1dX minutes (where X = number of applications of this quality).2
83Elemental: Absolute SolidHas properties related to absolute solid. Successful hit lowers target Charisma by X for 1dX minutes (where X = number of applications of this quality).2
84Elemental: Anti-InformationHas properties related to anti-information. Successful hit lowers target Intelligence by X for 1dX minutes (where X = number of applications of this quality).2
85Elemental: Impossible LightHas properties related to impossible light. Successful hit lowers target Wisdom by X for 1dX minutes (where X = number of applications of this quality).2
86Elemental: NullNot is. Successful hit lowers target Strength by X for 1dX minutes (where X = number of applications of this quality).2
87Fuchsia Phosphene CrystalCan produce fuchsia light, which can be utilized by Fuchsia Phosphenomenologists.2
88IFODPrereq: Light base form. Can be used as a wind instrument to produce inverse-frequency noise. Utilized by jammers.2
89ImpossigenFilled with super-cold, lightweight impossigen. In normal physics -2 AB, under a-logical physics +2 AB.2
90MasterworkEach upgrade +1 AB.2
91Nanotube SteelMade of nanotube steel. This is an ancient, lost technique. As Masterwork 1, Deadly 1.2
92NoxiumFilled with noxium gas. If punctured/released, +2 damage and 1 in 100 chance to induce anti-mutation. Starting ammo 10.2
93PenetratingIgnore armor. With second upgrade, ignore shields. AC otherwise still applies.2
94Radio TransmissionCan be used as a radio. Utilized by priests of Lamarr and materialists to control ancient electronic devices and robots.2
95ShogliteIs actually a mimic. Can shapeshift into other items of a similar size. Treat additionally as Bonded.2
96SpellbreakingCan silence spells/spellcasters on successful attack.2
97WavepunkHas keys, gears, knobs, and chains arranged and moving paradoxically. Utilized by materialists, zoomers, and phreakers to access wavespace.2
98SiegeCan be used to break open structures.3
99Meridian MetalA soft metal, not good for attacking, but channels phreaking magic (contains a spell as a wand).spell level
100SentientHas some degree of sentience (cost 1 = impressionistic/animal-like, cost 2 = human-like, cost 3 = superhuman).varies

Picture Source:

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!