Pixels & Platforms

Monday, December 30, 2019

Meandering Thoughts About Combat

I mentioned recently how I was feeling creatively empty, which gave me a bit of a creative burst, but I appear to have run out of steam and can't seem to finish my Martians setting even though I have a bestiary post already 75% drafted and would like to make some Martian Mechs for TNT by way of Mechs & Monstrosities and Gamma Knights. But that probably won't happen unless I will it to happen by mentioning it here.

On a theory level, I've been thinking about combat in tabletop RPGs, and how to handle it. While I actually do find character builds and tactical combat in games like D&D 3.+ compelling when I've done a sufficient amount of research into them, I prefer that style of play in videogames, not tabletop. I've come to respect that style of game design a bit more again. By integrating all of the mechanics together, a relatively crunchy game can be made much more streamlined (as opposed to many of the overly complex bolt-on mechanics of D&D 2e and other games from that era, see Star Frontiers Advanced which I should but probably won't write a review of bc tbh I was a little disappointed that my Gamma Knights review didn't make it on the thought eater humpday blogarama). However, it also becomes much less modular, so unless you want to redesign the whole game any time you want to hack something, you're pretty much stuck with what you've got. Which is great if you lack the time, creativity, or general inclination to make stuff yourself. But at that point, I'd rather just play a videogame.

Anyway, that was an unintended tangent, this is a bit stream of consciousness. I've been thinking about this stuff because of games like TNT and Gamma Knights. I don't necessarily prefer opposed rolls to hit vs. armor type combat systems, but I do find them interesting, and I wish more OSR people would look to TNT for inspiration even if they aren't interested in switching systems. I like how in TNT ranged weapons have fewer damage dice but can bypass the opposed roll, or how rolling a six on any damage die gives 1 spite damage that also bypasses opposed rolls, such that a sufficient number of weak monsters can still make a mark on player characters, without necessarily being an hyper-deadly game. Likewise, while I generally don't like character builds and tactical crunch in tabletop, I do like the idea of that being a differentiation between regular PCs and mechs or power armored PCs. If I were playing a whole mech game I wouldn't bother, I'd just reskin any other game, but there is something kind of appealing to me that I can't fully articulate about the different sensors and power management and force fields and computerized systems in Gamma Knights (or maybe it's more generally related to the point I will be making below, which is supposed to be the main point of this meandering post).

That being said, in practice, I almost always prefer to minimize combat, or add saving rolls or other non-combat mechanics into combat scenarios. I don't find GMing combat fun, I only kind of find being a PC in combat fun, if the GM did a good job setting up the encounter, and anecdotally, I find that a lot of the fun leaves the table when things get too solely combat-driven. It could just be that I'm not a good combat GM. Or it could be that good combat encounters should include non-combat actions, and I'm doing it correctly after all.

While I haven't played it, I find the Pyrrhic Weaselry, Or At What Cost? system so intriguing because it's willing to defy the norm of combat systems in an otherwise D&D-style game space, and is really conscientious of fictional positioning and how to leverage that to create interesting encounters. I think the term fictional positioning gets thrown around a lot by storygame people, but frankly I've found that many of the people who sling that term around don't really understand what it means, or haven't thought it through all the way, just making common sense needlessly pretentious (this statement is not intended as an attack on all storygamers or all storygames! I'm not one of those obnoxious anti-storygame people! In fact there are many things I like about FATE and PbtA!). Anyway, If you really want to understand what fictional positioning means, read Pyrrhic Weaselry (we've had some good conversations about it on the underutilized SWORDDREAM_unofficial subreddit). I do genuinely think FATE and PbtA do good fictional positioning as well, and also deserve credit for abstracting away combat as not fundamentally different from other mechanics; it's more that I think other people sometimes reduce it to something less meaningful.

Despite all of what I just said, the idea of a combat-less system just seems... wrong. I want a combat system! I don't care that I generally don't like it, or that my players generally don't like it, or that I usually try to minimize its use as much as possible, I still want it there! In small doses it's nice. Just knowing it's there adds to the experience. Maybe that's crazy, but such is life.

That got me thinking though, while there are certain things I don't like about FATE, one thing I really do like about FATE is how it re-constructs tactical combat in a way that doesn't remove combat mechanics altogether, but abstracts them into different kinds of actions that play into the fictional positioning system (aspects). Skills can be designed flexibly for any setting, and can be used as either an attack, defense, to overcome an obstacle, or one other thing that I'm forgetting off-hand because I haven't played it in a while and also I may be getting some of this terminology wrong. That in tandem with the two kinds of stress tracks (one more physical, one more mental, I think called Will) and the ease with which one could hack in more stress tracks, allows you to have your cake and eat it to when it comes to tactical combat vs. fictional positioning. I actually think it's a shame how FATE has to some extent become a victim of its own success, because personally I think FATE is much more interesting, flexible, and DIY than PbtA, which I think has become (or by its nature is) really just the D&D of storygames (for better and worse), but that's also post for another day (I should really be keeping track of these tangents...).

So I don't have a concrete idea at the moment, but I'd like to think about how to, rather than remove combat altogether in games like TNT and OSR, abstract it across other mechanics or situations in ways that are both tactically and fictionally interesting. How could one bend combat to social conflict, or fire fighting, or ghost hunting with a proton pack, or to cooking a dish / line cooking as a team during the dinner rush? I suspect creating a FATE bolt-on to TNT or OSR, or a TNT or OSR-inspired hack of FATE, will play a part in this, but I don't want to commit to anything yet.

I've created TNT character types such as the War Dogs or Warlord that add more fictional-positioning Saving Rolls to combat, but I'd like to maybe try coming up with some character types or general mechanics that go the other way, adding combat-like mechanics to scenarios that are not combat per se. The idea isn't so much to increase the overall amount of combat, but to smooth out the delineation between combat encounters and everything else.

Fitting for this post, I'm going to end on yet another tangent that is dubiously related to the intended point of this post. I've also been thinking about a Poker combat-type mechanic for TNT, inspired partially by the poker mechanics in Deadlands. Because of how TNT uses D6s, I think TNT lends itself better to this kind of mechanic than OSR, but there's no reason why it couldn't also be bolted on to OSR. But again, that's a post for another day...

Monday, December 23, 2019

Alternate Universes of Popular Franchises

These are six settings based on major franchises that branch off at some early point in the timeline. So for instance, an alternate take on Star Wars that branches off after New Hope. I had originally intended this as a r/d100 Let's Build Series but didn't get any takers, so I figured I'd make it a Weird & Wonderful table.

Star Wars Episode V Whill of the Force: When Luke goes to Dagobah to train with Yoda, he taps into the Force and is inadvertently transported to a bio-tech Roman-esque Midichlorian Microverse of the Whills. The Whills are humanoids reminiscent of fairies or butterflies, who feed on the force. With the dissolution of the Jedi Order, their world has become cold and bleak, and tainted by their dependence on the Dark Side. The current ruler is essentially a Sith Lord, a parallel of Palpatine who looks like a xenomorphic Darth Vader. In order to return to the Galaxy (and come back with some sweet new Force skills, and maybe a few powerful allies), Luke will have to reignite the Force from within. He is hunted by Boba Fett, who is implied to either be a Whill, or a John Carter (Barsoom)-type who found is way into the Midichlorian Microverse. Through some shenanigans or other, perhaps the rest of the cast also wind up in the Midichlorian Microverse, or they reconvene after the fact, with the Whills joining the resistance.

Marvel Platinum Age: An alternate universe based on the premise that Jack Kirby eventually rose to a position of equal if not greater prominence at Marvel as Stan Lee, and never left for DC. Instead, The Fourth World spins out of Thor and is essentially the first major continuity-altering event comic. Eventually pre-Fourth World characters get re-introduced into continuity, but often in different ways than they originally appeared. OMAC is a post-Fourth World alternative future version of Captain America and a statement about post-World War II American Exceptionalism and capitalism. The Eternals are never created, but some eternals and deviants later become part of the Marvel canon as New Gods. Likewise, much of Jim Starlin's cosmic Marvel work is significantly different, given the changes to the marvel cosmic canon. The Marvel Universe continues to be about "real" people, but with a greater emphasis on cosmic, psychedelic, and existential themes. In the late 70's and especially the 80's, Kirby's work is laced with a growing cynicism, of the Vietnam War and US politics in general, and Marvel as a whole becomes more overtly and aggressively liberal and political, as well as nihilistic. While Alan Moore wrote very little for Marvel, no more so than in the real world, Kirby's work in the 80's and 90's more so resembles Moore's work than his real-world works at Marvel and DC through the 60's and 70's. This period of the Platinum Age, sometimes referred to as the Sterling Silver Age, is noted for its micro-cosmic horror; even as the Marvel cosmos spirals larger and larger, the ideas and themes and character flaws repeat themselves, spiraling downwards. Kirby hits a "glass ceiling" creatively and emotionally, the universe becoming "smaller". These themes receive little cultural recognition until the early 00's, after Kirby's death. In the mid-1970's Don McGregor takes a more prominent role at Marvel, and as a result so do Black Panther and Killraven. He leaves a mark on several other major Marvel characters including Namor, Daredevil, and the X-Men. McGregor and Kirby's X-men run becomes as much a success as Claremont's run was in the real world, but the emphasis remains more on the X-Men as students at a school. Elements of Claremont's run, including most of his early Uncanny X-Men characters, are brought about in his seminal X-Men International run, which combines elements of his real-world Uncanny X-men and later Excalibur works. It is generally acknowledged that the Platinum Age ended in the early 90's with the rise of creators such as Rob Liefeld. However, Grant Morrison's New X-Men run of the early 00's was seen as a spiritual return to the late Silver and early Platinum Age of Marvel comics and set the tone at Marvel for the better part of the 00's and early 10's.

Spider-Man and his Powerful Friends: Alternate Universe where Stan Lee and Margaret Loesch were successful in bringing Super Sentai to America before Saban. The "Power Rangers" (we'll continue to call them that). This is an earlier iteration than the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers from the 90's, and unlike Saban, they did not cut the footage with American actors, only dubbing the series. In the comic adaptation, Takuya Yamashiro, the Spider-Man of Japan, joins the team in a "6th Ranger" role, with a costume more reminiscent of the Power Rangers than Marvel's Spider-Man. Eventually this comic, along with related concepts like Planet Spider, Leapardon, and the Iron Cross Army, are integrated into main marvel continuity. A fictionalized version of Yamato Takeru is revealed to be an ancestor of Takuya, in a time-travelstory combining elements of Japanese Mythology / Fantasy and science fiction from the Planet Spider.

Matrix Recursion / Renaissance: Assumes only the first movie as canon. Neo, The One, has seemingly freed humanity from the machines. They have taken control of the Matrix, leading to a transhumanist renaissance, and leveraged their control of the Matrix to reach a peace pact with the machines, awakening more humans and repairing the environment of the real world. Behind the gilded utopia, political machinations (pun intended) ensue, as various factions of humans and machines both within the Matrix and in Zion and other nations of the real world differ in their ideologies and aims. Some cling to the 20th century nation-states that were artificially crafted by the machines, others believe they should embrace the machines and the utopian transhumanist opportunities that may arise from such an alliance. For all his power in the Matrix, Neo is not an especially competent politician, and seems to have grown addicted to his transhuman, god-like state in the Matrix, and is distancing himself from humanity, the machines, and the issues of the world. A new religion has formed around him, including even some machine adherents. And amidst all of this, Neo discovers something odd in the source code of the Matrix, something which suggests that everything they think they know is wrong, that Zion may just be another level of the Matrix, that humanity was never actually freed. Either in the latter part of the 2nd movie (Recursion) or perhaps the 3rd movie (Renaissance), he learns to use his One powers in the "real world", and this time truly free humanity (although many would rather not be freed; also, who knows if he really succeeded anyway...).

Mad Max Hyperspeed: This setting only assumes the first movie as canon. While the global economy collapsed after the oil crisis, the world continued onward. The United States, Soviet Union, and their various allies formed the research team known as the Multinational Alliance of EXtranormal (MAX) Technologies. MAX-Tech developed all sorts of alternative energies including viable geothermal, solar, and more exotic technologies such as tachyonic and dark energy. Just as it seemed that society was on the verge of recovery, something went horribly wrong. Some rumors say that MAX-Tech was sabotaged, others say there was an instability in one of their power plant designs that caused devastation throughout the world. Some far-fetched rumors even suggest it was strange, gigantic beasts that came up from the Earth, or came down from the stars, that destroyed the world. Those rumors may have been inspired by all the mutations and superpowers going around. Whatever the case, Australia, so far removed from the rest of the world, has become one of the last refuges of civilization. Even as society is rebuilding, various warlords have managed to acquire or create exotic weapons salvaged from MAX-Tech, quickly undermining any hope of recovery. Max Rockatansky travels across the desert by car or motorbike, preferring old-fashioned gasoline-powered rigs (but not above utilizing some MAX-Tech enhancements), ostensibly just trying to survive, but inadvertently helping others like a wandering ronin.

Twilight of the Superheroes: DC Comics never publishes Crisis on Infinite Earths, and instead publishes a version of Twilight of the Superheroes. Rather than allowing Twilight to serve as a "Final" superhero story as Moore intended, instead it leads into years-long status quo like a superpowered, cyberpunk Game of Thrones. While this direction was generally well received under Moore's leadership, after Moore left the company many felt the quality of the books declined. Some exceptions to this include the Kingdom Come event comic (now in-continuity). Eventually things revert to a more typical DC universe, albeit one in which a version of the multiverse still exists.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Martians pt. 2: Items, Gear, and Vehicles

This is Part 2 of my Martians Micro-Setting. The stats are designed for TNT, but the ideas can be tweaked for OSR or other systems. Part 1 focused on Character Types, including the Psychomancer, Thark, and Radium Legionnaire. This part will focus on items, gear, and vehicles.

Martian Items, Gear, and Vehicles
  • Radium Pistol: 4d6 damage. Cost 250. The radium bullets create a Radium Explosion when doubles are rolled on a missile attack SR. On each use, roll Wear & Tear. On fail, the Radium Pistol is destroyed and explodes in a Radium Explosion around the wielder. Rolling 1 and 2 (critical fail) on a missile attack SR also destroys the gun and creates the explosion. (see Radium Explosion).

  • Radium Grenade: Cost 25. Can be lobbed (as missile attack SR) to create a Radium Explosion (see Radium Explosion).

  • Flying Saucer (Fighter Class): A smooth, disc-shaped, metallic flying machine with neon lights and usually a glass dome over the top. Can fit between 1 and seven people. They are powered by radium, and require knowledge of martian engineering, piloting, or really good luck to operate. They usually have at least one radium cannon. May be given MR equivalent to flame demon from the TNT deluxe gamemaster screen, or slightly lower MR but apply the massive combat rules. For PCs operating the Flying Saucer without sufficient knowledge, roll luck SR on each turn (or at some approximate rate like once per hour outside of combat), at least SR 2, to maintain flight and/or working order of the saucer. In vehicle combat, use saucer MR in place of normal character attributes.

  • Flying Saucer (Destroyer Class):  A massive version of the flying saucer above. Should be much more difficult to operate for those not qualified (at least SR 4). May use equivalent MR as a dragon, or lowered but with massive combat rules (as above).

  • Tripod: Fighting machines over 100 feet tall. They are composed of three long spindly legs and an almond-shaped body like a cephalopod or head of an insect. From the body sprouts several flexible and prehensile tentacles. They attack with a radium cannon and radium grenade launcher, and have MR comparable to a serious flame demon up to a serious dragon (from TNT Deluxe GM screen), adjusted lower if using massive combat rules (as above).

  • Hyperbolic Orange Torch: Cost 250. A handheld electric torch which produces hyperbolic orange light, invisible to non-martians. The torch masks the wielder's appearance as any hologram programmed into it, undetectable by any senses unless revealed with magic fire. The torch can only store one hologram and a replaced hologram is permanently destroyed. All Martians can use with an SR 1 LK, Orange Agents require no SR to use. Non-martians must make an SR 2 LK roll on each use. Additionally, any wielder must roll Wear & Tear after each minute of use. On fail, the torch runs out of power.

  • Hyperbolic Orange Torch Battery: Cost 50. Used to power hyperolic orange torches.

  • Holographic Prism: Cost Varies (minimum 50). Made of martian glass, these handheld objects store holographic images which may be used with a hyperbolic orange torch. The cost of having a custom hologram made, or to buy a hologram of an abnormal creature, or an especially important / powerful person, will generally be much higher than something unassuming.

  • Directional Compass: Cost 100. A pocket watch-sized compass which contains a phosphor-radium monochrome viewing glass, which can be used for directional navigation on Mars.

  • Radium Gauntlets: Cost 30 (per pair). Sleek metal gauntlets, generally worn by Tharks, but some are made for medium-sized humanoids. They provide up to 2d6 weapon damage per fist, 1 armor per fist, and can bypass most magical defenses and armor.

  • Radium Falchion: Cost 100. A one-handed sword hilt which can project a close-range radium current edge for 5d6 combat dice. Except for the hilt, it is weightless, and can cut or burn through most physical defenses and armor. As a LK SR, may attempt to melt or burn a target's weapon or armor.

  • Radium Backscatter Shield: Cost 75. A large target shield made of a gold-colored metal with a greenish radium glimmer, commonly carried by thark warriors. It projects invisible, close-range waves of radium which deflect radium weapons. Provides 5 armor against radium damage or 3 armor against all other kinds of damage.

Re-posted from part 1:
Radium Explosion: The target and all characters in melee range of the target (including allies) take 1d6 radium explosion damage.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Gamma Knights Review

I am terrible at writing reviews, but even so, I think I'm going to try. This is my review for Gamma Knights, a supplement for Gamma World 4e. Gamma Knights includes new content for Power Armors in Gamma World 4e, in addition to being its own wargame. Below are a few caveats for the review (in addition to me being terrible at writing it).

  • This review is just for the RPG supplement content, not the wargame content. It seems like it might be a fine wargame, that just doesn't interest me personally at the moment and I didn't read it thoroughly. 
  • This review is of the pdf, purchased on drivethrurpg during the 2019 black friday / cyber monday sale.
  • I have not read Gamma World 4e in a while, which I also purchased as a pdf on drivethrurpg at some point, but from what I vaguely remember it is more or less compatible with D&D 2e and by extension most OSR. 
  • I have not played this supplement nor any version of Gamma World, although I have incorporated some elements of Gamma World into my campaigns at various points, most notably in my first Phantasmos campaign. In other words, this review is not from in-use experience, just of the book and my impressions of how it might play.

What is Gamma World?

For those of you who don't know what Gamma World is, it's a post-apocalyptic (arguably post-post-apocalyptic) science fantasy setting, arguably THE post-apocalyptic science fantasy setting. It's usually tongue in cheek, with plenty of references to the real world. You have mutants of all kinds, uplifted animals and plants, robots, and high-tech humanoids. It's Weird & Wonderful and it's a shame that it's never come close to the same level of popularity as it's sibling D&D (it was originally created by TSR and is currently owned by Wizards of the Coast). It's inspirations can be felt all over the OSR though, and even videogames like Fallout or Borderlands.

Visuals, layout, and pdf quality

Sometimes the pdfs of these older games are really low quality scans. Granted I read it on my brand new microsoft surface pro 7 which I also bought for black friday because I'm that guy, but it ran well and looked good. The text has been parsed from the page and can be searched and copied, not sure about bookmarks and stuff since I don't really bother with that anyway (I have a onenote file where I keep all my bookmarks anyway).

The layout is nice. It's simple and a little dense, but that's pretty typical of books of its era, or so it seems to me. I was pleasantly impressed by the art. It's black and white and has that old school cartoony charm, but it's well done and the designs were more interesting than I expected. Even though Gamma World is in many ways the archetypal post-apocalyptic science fantasy, I do think it has a certain unique identity of its own, and it comes through in the Gamma Knights art.

Writing and Clarity

It's a bit dense and overwritten, sometimes obfuscating important information with needless detail or getting deep into minutia or blending discussion of mechanics and setting in ways that I personally dislike. That being said, I generally found it to be well written and relatively clear. Despite the mechanics being a bit more fiddly than I'd like, they do a good job of explaining how it all works and making it make intuitive sense. All of the parts of the power armors are explained, with light mechanical explanation, before really getting into the meat of things, which I think was smart. That being said, I would have preferred if they had included an even higher-level overview, very briefly explaining all the parts and how the power armors work in one concise section, maybe a few paragraphs at most.


The mechanics of the power armors are a little more fiddly than I'd like, but I'm intrigued. A lot of the faux-realism fiddlyness can be easily ignored, and most of the mechanical fiddlyness that is there seems logical and fun. While I generally prefer rules-light games that stay out of my way and don't pack all that my character can do in a tight build, I do like to "build" a mech, and it's a nice way to differentiate mechs / power armors from regular play.

They provide a reasonable number of pre-made power armors (Standard Armor Suits) which can be used as a good point of reference. They don't explicitly have a section for different power armor chassis which seems weird, but one can simple take the chassis of the pre-made power armors and re-spec the slots.

The power armors have a base AC and a number of slots, for head, left arm, right arm, front plate, back plate, left leg, and right leg. Certain mods (I don't think they ever provide a specific terminology for all gear so I'm calling them mods, but I could be misremembering) can only be placed in certain locations, and also any given mod must be able to fit within the entirety of that location (e.g. a mod that requires three slots can't be placed on the back plate if there are only two slots left). In addition, most mods require power, so the power armor must have quantum processing units (QPCs) to power those parts. A power armor doesn't need to have enough QPCs to power all their mods at once, they can switch them on and off. The slots system is exactly what I want from a mech supplement, and the power part at first seemed like the kind of thing I'd find annoying, but actually the impracticality of having all mods powered at once, and having to think about when to switch them on and off, actually seems like it could be fun and not just fiddlyness for the sake of fiddlyness.


While there are some useful tables in the back, and also for the mods for each section, there is annoyingly not a section where all the mods tables are collected together. Also, while the pre-made power armors include the location and power demand of each mod, they don't include the number of slots for each mod. Maybe it was a formatting thing that they couldn't fit it, but it's very annoying that it's not there. This issue with the tables is probably my single biggest issue with the book, but even so it's not too bad, it just could be better. Note that the tables at the front of the book are for the wargame, not the RPG (or at least, so I can tell...).

The "Mods"

The mods are broken into sensors, which generally provide sensory and attack bonuses, defensive options which provide defensive bonuses and healing/repair, weapons (melee, ranged, missile, grenade), locomative assist options which give movement bonuses, and strength enhancements which provide unarmed damage bonuses and increased carrying capacity.

The mods are all surprisingly interesting, both in terms of flavor and mechanics. The autosurgeon defensive option seems to predict research in neuroimmunology that I don't think existed yet when this book was written. There are multiple kinds of force fields and they have various benefits and flaws and counterbalances that all seem tactically interesting and evoke a sense of being in a power armor. As do the mechanics for computer systems and computer-assisted actions. The weapons are also surprisingly interesting; the flavor text for the Mark XII Blaster elevates it to something more than just a generic scifi gun.

All of that being said, this all seems like the kind of thing that could just... not work. Like, it reads well on the page and sounds interesting, but in practice I could see it being really difficult to plan for as a GM, difficult to keep track of as a player, and slow down combat or any tactical maneuvering to a boring crawl, like the grating of rusting metal plates against each other. I don't think I can say for sure without trying. If nothing else, it's all inspiring.

So What Do I Think About Gamma Knights?

If nothing else, it was an entertaining and inspiring read, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in incorporating power armors into their OSR game. They suggest that power armors should be rare and limited within the Gamma World setting, but this begs to be at the center of a campaign. Given how powerful the power armors are, one could easily scale up these power armors into mechs, without even necessarily touching the mechanics, besides maybe just units of measurement for movements.

I am skeptical about whether or not some of the mechanics like the force fields or computers would actually be fun, but they're also some of the more interesting ideas. However, if nothing else, this book makes me want to play / run a Gamma Knights game, or at least make a power armor / mech OSR or TNT hack inspired by this, but stripped down. If you've played this or have read it and have thoughts of your own, please let me know! I hope this review inspires others to check it out and give it a shot, or make something like it.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Martians pt.1: TNT Character Types

I've been struggling creatively (as I've recently mentioned), but as I suspected, the process of venting publicly about my creative frustrations did help inspire me creatively.

I've been enjoying these TNT character types, even if I am yet to succeed at making TNT the new GLOG (that's a draft I am wholly unprepared to post at this stage). One thing though, is that I think most of my TNT character types so far have been cool ideas, but too complicated or overwritten. Wanting to simplify was part of the appeal of writing the Subtypes (here and here). What appealed to me so much about TNT in the first place was how simple and elegant the character types are (although imo the rogue is underpowered, but my house rules alleviate that somewhat, I think). The warrior gets an additional 1d6 combat dice per level for melee attacks, can double the hit reduction of their armor if they roll Wear & Tear, and can't use magic. That's it. Simple, elegant, fun. So as much as I like some of my more "high-concept" character types, I'm going to try to keep most of them relatively simple going forward. Also, given my more limited time and creative slump, simple is easier ;).

Here are a few character types for martians, inspired largely by schlocky B movie-style martians that I a mainly associate with the 1950's, and then 80's/90's, but seems to have fallen out of favor in the decades since. In October I went to a cool arcade in Asbury Park that was largely pinball focused, and it had a really cool martian pinball machine. I don't know why, I'm not a huge pinball guy, but for some reason whenever I do play pinball, I find it really creatively inspiring. So anyway, it made me want to make some martian TNT character types. It also made me want to come up with some headier tabletop RPG concepts, but I just don't have that in me right now, so this will have to suffice for now.

This post has actually turned into something much larger than I initially anticipated, so I think I'm going to break it into parts. This first part will be Character Types, but it will be followed by (in no particular order) an Items/Gear/Vehicles list, a Bestiary, maybe a Martian Spellbook, or a micro-setting post...

I'm pretty sure it was this pinball cabinet. Also, this animated 3D image is perfect for what I'm going for here!

Martian Psychomancer

The psychomancers are psionically-empowered martians. The ancient martian wizard Vance developed a new kind of magic; by encoding memory engrams from the psychosphere, they can cast any spell in the martian collective unconscious, so long as they are powerful enough, and have time to prepare the psychograms.

  • Same abilities as Wizards except for the following.
  • Must prepare psychograms over the course of a long rest (e.g. beginning of the day). Allocate WIZ for each psychogram. A spell may be encoded more than once. Left over WIZ may be used to powerup psychograms at time of casting.
  • Psychomancers may prepare any spell from the GM approved spell list of their level or lower.

Martian Thark

The Tharks are ogre-sized, four-armed, fanged or tusked martian warriors with large, menacing, glowing red eyes. Their extra arms and regenerative abilities make them a force to be reckoned with.
  • May regenerate 1d6 CON as a single action up to their level times per day.
  • May attack unarmed with all four fists for 2d6 damage per fist plus combat adds (applied once, NOT per fist!).
  • Lack the acuity to multi-wield weapons efficiently, but may use their extra arms to carry additional shields, backup weapons, or other gear or items, or attempt to grapple* and attack in one turn as part of a full turn action.
* I forget if there are official grapple rules off-hand, but here is my proposed grapple rules: Make a strength SR, default level 2, modified if the enemy is much smaller or larger (difficult to grasp), too powerful, abnormally shaped, etc., or modified easier if the grappler is much stronger. Grappled enemies may not move or attack on the subsequent turn. The grappler must re-roll the SR each turn to maintain the grapple, and each turn the SR level increases by 1.

Barsoom was another inspiration for this

Martian Radium Legionnaire

The Radium Legionnaires are the elite foot soldiers of the Martian Space Force. They are infamous across the galaxy for the explosive, devastating power of their radium pistols.
  • Gain +2 combat adds per level for missile attacks.
  • May make a Radium Explosion (as missile attack SR) up to their level times per day with a Radium Pistol.
  • Do not need to roll Wear & Tear for normal use of a Radium Pistol and critical fails on missile attack SRs with Radium Pistols do not destroy the pistol or create a local explosion.
  • May choose not to create a Radium Explosion when rolling doubles on a missile attack SR with a Radium Pistol.
  • The missile SR for lobbing Radium Grenades is decreased by 1.
  •  (see Radium Explosion).

The coolest Marvin the Martian

Radium Explosion: The target and all characters in melee range of the target (including allies) take 1d6 radium explosion damage.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Help! Life is good and I don't know what to do about it!!!

For the past month+, everything I've posted was a complete or mostly complete draft that I had written at some point prior, in some cases much prior. I've got a handful of drafts nearly finished that I just can't wrap up, and a handful of ideas I haven't started writing yet and haven't been able to focus on. Only a couple of those are from more recently than a month ago and I have written nothing in that time. I haven't gamed in that time either, although that may change this weekend. I can kind of feel the bug coming back. The problem is that life has been really good lately, and I'm afraid that life being good is killing me creatively. I keep trying to remind myself that Republicans and Boomers are ruining the world and the president of the United States is a rapist traitor who launders money for the Russians and China is committing genocide and climate change is plausibly going to make my 401K irrelevant, and I am genuinely upset about all of these things, but on a personal level life is good, and apparently I lose creative inspiration and/or motivation to create when I'm happy? I don't even think I'm really happy, just the closest fascimile of happiness that I'm capable of experiencing that will likely crumble at any moment anyway, but in the meantime I don't know what to do about this. I'm trying to convince myself that this creative break will give me a chance to refresh and I'll come back stronger, but what if I just don't? I think I need to make a concerted effort here, but I don't know how or towards what ends. What is something reasonable and within my wheelhouse you'd like to see from me? Or maybe something outside my wheelhouse? This is a rant. Hopefully I'll have a real post soon.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Throne of Salt Mothership Play Report (and The Microbiome)

I recently (as of when I drafted this post, it's actually been quite a while) played in Dan D's Mothership game (I'm tagging this Danscape since that's what I used for Dan's other game I played in, but it's a different setting), and it was awesome! I also tagged this post as play report even though it's not much of a PR because I'm terrible at them, but I'll say that it was effectively a very creepy, modern Lovecraftian game- not in the sense of encountering Cthulhu, but in the sense of their being a low-key disquieting, ominous factor throughout the session.

We investigated a radio tower on behalf of our Handler named Friend, who communicates to us through an old-school CRT monitor as a smiley face which is burned into the screen (I jumped into the game without proper context for the setting so it's possible I'm making some incorrect assumptions). We encountered an android that wore human skin which I named Leatherdroid, which had gone insane and was attempting to find the Blessed Interface, a means of reaching singularity with some sort of Machine God. Then we wound up in a small town under the thumb of space fascists that served amazing Goan food and drink. Dan's going to write a better play report later but that's the gist of it, and my explanation is not doing it justice but it was great.

Anyway, this is about an idea I had for the setting. Dan has said that every player can contribute one thing to the setting, and I have a hard time turning down an opportunity to do some worldbuilding! A big theme of the setting seems to be the idea of trans-species-ism; the androids trying to find the Blessed Interface, various post-human species, uplifted animals, etc., and additionally there is the aforementioned theme of ominous weirdness, so this idea is intended to combine those two things. I don't know if he's actually going to use it, but I liked the idea so I'm posting it here.

*NOTE: It was brought to my attention that this idea may come off as offensive. To be clear, the choice to make the human antecedents of the Microbiome Hasidic Jews was only because I wanted to tie in a real-world religious / cultural element, and I wanted Kabbalah iconography (specifically the spheres of qlippoth / sephiroth, which seemed like a cool symbolic representation of the Microbiome). It was in no way intended as any kind of statement about Hasidic Jews. For what it's worth, I am ethnically Jewish (although not Hasidic), which may be why it didn't even occur to me that it could be interpreted as offensive. I wanted to leave this idea in its original form, but there's certainly no reason why you couldn't just take that part out, it's certainly not critical to the idea. Anyway, this caveat is partially why I delayed posting this for so long, but I'm running out of pre-drafted posts and haven't had much time or creative energy lately, so I'm taking my chances and hoping people understand and can take from it what they will.*

Uplifted Microbiome
The bacteria, yeast, and single-cell organisms that comprise the microbiome of a community of humans became uplifted. It is unclear whether this was by design, or an emergent phenomenon, as the community has managed to keep its nature a secret from the wider world. One could theoretically conceive of a means to scientifically test for the existence of the microbiome, but they have not yet incited a need for the world to do so.

The human hosts of the original microbiome mostly maintained their independent intelligence and autonomy, not even conscious of the intelligence lifeforms within them, but over generations of neuro-immune, genetic, epigenetic, and selective meddling, the human hosts have been reduced to little more than biological machine vehicles for the microbiome, and would not be able to survive without the microbiome except with extreme medical intervention.

The original human hosts were Hasidim, and the microbiome religion uses iconography of Kabbalah, seeing the Tree of Life, and the spheres of the Sefirot and Qlippoth, as God communicating the concept of the microbiome to humans, who failed to heed God's wisdom. The fruit of knowledge for humans was a poison to the microbiome, dulling it for the sake of the human hosts. Eden was not outside humanity, it was within.

The microbiome have no social taboos around excrement and other bodily expulsions, and in fact have many religious rituals around it. Poop is to be revered, but it is also sensual and sexual. It is not wasted, instead it is laid throughout the town, a constantly fed, living network, connecting the microbiome.

The human hosts provide little in the way of intellectual identity, existing as little more than a "lizard brain". They have simple urges, mostly relating to pain and pleasure. The microbiome are thrillseekers; they play with knives, they touch hot things until their skin burns. Mutilation is a lifestyle choice. Sometimes they forget to restrain themselves around humans.

They try to be respectful of humans, but to them, humans are like zombies or morlocks; they look into human eyes and see little more than a dumb animal, a primitive microbiome trapped in meat, a creature living its entire life in sensory deprivation.

While the microbiome expresses itself uniquely within each host, and undergoes rapid change moment-to-moment, there is a large degree of continuity in its being. It is difficult to quantify how many microbiome individuals exist, or if it is meaningful to quantify them as such. While their hosts have gender, the microbiome do not. They communicate verbally as humans, or through the expulsion of bodily functions, burping and farting and pooping, and these pheromone signatures are not just artifacts of communication, but part of the microbiome itself.

Their human bodies are not tied to their identity or intelligence, and because they can transfer between bodies, and at least temporarily exist outside the body in excrement, the body has very little psychosocial value to them. They wear clothing only for protection, as needed, or to make humans comfortable, and they put very little effort into physical appearances. They are not sexually attracted to human bodies but to human microbiomes (but only the most exceptional).

Their lack of hygiene, due to lack of care of the body, and the practical and ritualistic use of excrement and other bodily expulsions, disgusts most humans- at first. The microbiome is smarter than human gut flora, and soon humans no longer notice the smell, and find that the microbiotic "humans" have a je ne sais quoi about them, a subtle underlying attractiveness. The symbiosis between human host and microbiome is so deeply selected that baseline humans are not at immediate risk of infection. It would take months or even years before the microbiome could even survive the hostile wilds of a human gut forest. However, it is theoretically possible, and would be exacerbated by sexual transmission or the insertion of microbiome excrement into a human.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

More TNT Character Subtypes

Part of my series of TNT content, currently including:

TNT House Rules and Cheatsheet
TNT Character Type: Mystic
TNT Character Type: The Huntsman (and TNT Traps)
TNT Character Type: War Dogs (and Caves & Canines Hack)
TNT Character Type: Warlord
TNT Character Subtypes: Paladin, Eldritch Knight, Ace
Mechs & Monstrosities Hack
M&M: Mechs
Dueling Minigame

Berserker (Warrior Subtype)
Harder-hitting warriors, but less resilient.
  • Do not gain armor bonuses from wearing body armor, helmet, shield, gloves, etc.
  • Rage: Once activated, lasts 1d4 turns. Counts as a free action (can move, attack, or do other things the same round as raging). Add +1d6 combat dice per barbarian level to combat rolls, but take 1d6 damage at the end of the rage (ignores armor).

Cleric (Wizard Subtype)
Can cast "divine" spells at no cost, but with longer cast-times.
  • Cleric spells do not cost WIZ.
  • Cleric spells require praying for spell level - WIZ level number of turns (minimum 1).
    • If the party (if in group combat) or the cleric takes combat damage, there is a 1 in 4 chance that the cleric spell will be interrupted.
    • Powering up spells increases duration rather than WIZ cost.
  • Unlike wizard spells, cleric spells resolve last in combat.
  • Can only cast divine spells (see examples).
  • Do not subtract cleric level from WIZ cost / duration.
  • No benefits of wizard focus.
  • Example Spells:
    • Detect Magic --> Detect Divine (holy/unholy)
    • It's Elementary --> Holy Water, Divine Light
    • Oh Go Away --> Turn Undead (powerup increases duration geometrically)
    • Will O' Wisp --> Divine light rather than blue light
    • Poor Baby --> Can be cast as level 1 spell. Powerup increases quantity linearly OR increases range (touch -> close -> short -> medium -> long).
    • etc...

Bard (Rogue Subtype)
Limited talent versatility compared to Rogue. Better spellcaster, but less flexible (in combat takes a turn to switch from casting to fighting).
  • At least one talent must be presentation-oriented (music, acting, singing, dancing, etc.).
  • Can use a presentation tool as a wizard-like focus for spellcasting (e.g. instrument, prop).
  • During combat, takes one turn to switch between a performance (spellcasting) and regular combat attacks.

Mystic (Rogue Subtype)
A simpler version of my Mystic Type as a Rogue Subtype. The ability to optimize for mental attributes and the tank-like CON/WIZ ability is offset by increased spell cost and limited unarmed / mystic focus damage.
  • Use mental attributes for combat adds when fighting unarmed or with mystic focus weapons (IQ, WIZ, CHA, LK).
    • Mystic focus weapons do not provide any other benefits.
  • Spells cost 1.5x WIZ to cast.
  • Body and Mind are one: CON and WIZ are interchangeable for taking damage and casting mystic spells.
  • Can fight unarmed or with mystic focus weapons with (1d6 * STR Multiplier) + 1d6 + combat adds.
    • For human characters, this would mean 2d6 + combat adds
    • This is the same as the Martial Arts rules in TNT Deluxe but with an additional 1d6

Huntsman (Warrior Subtype)
A simpler version of my Huntsman Type as a Warrior Subtype. Sort of like a more combat-oriented rogue or dungeoneer.
  • Gain warrior combat dice only on surprise attacks or ranged attacks while hidden.
  • Cannot wear metal or other heavy armor (or else lose other huntsman abilities).
  • Gain one of the following as a bonus talent: trap-making, trap-setting, hunting, tracking, lumberjacking, survivalism

Artificer (Wizard Subtype)
Less flexible than a wizard, but arguably longer-lasting. Additionally, depending on what kind of spells are imbued in what kinds of items, they can be made to be more warrior-like.
  • Can imbue items with spells.
    • Imbued spells do not cost WIZ to cast.
    • Only Artificers can cast imbued spells.
    • Can only imbue spells of artificer-level or lower.
    • Takes spell-level hours to imbue an item.
    • Must roll SR Luck for wear & tear after each casting of imbued spell.
    • Artificer's WIZ is reduced by the WIZ cost of the spell plus spell-level until the imbued item is destroyed or discarded. If the imbued item is later retrieved / put to use, the WIZ reduction re-applies.
      • Discarded means nobody in the party has access to it. If you give it to a party-member it still affects your WIZ.
    • An item can only be imbued with one spell at a time.
  • Cannot cast spells.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Terrible & Awesome Sorcerers

I was discussing Robert E. Howard (Conan)-style Sorcery with Lungfungus of Melancholies & Mirth, who is doing some really cool stuff with Conan-style mechanics, and we came to a topic I've thought a lot about and been meaning to come back to in a blog post.

Magic in D&D and other tabletop RPGs is very mechanical, more so in D&D 3.+ than in OSR, but still, it is mechanical, and in being mechanical, loses some of the metaphysical, abstract, metaphoric "Terrible & Awesomeness" of Howard magic, or magic in other older fantasy literature (I would argue this all applies more or less to Tolkien as well).

So below is a Terrible & Awesome Sorcerer generator; the Fate of those who become entangled with them, their otherwordly Presence, and what makes them a Force of Nature (and how to overcome them). Figuring out how to work with, work against, or avoid them at all costs, becomes a challenge unto itself, like a fairytale.

I've played with this idea to some extent with how I use superpowers in my games; basically defining them loosely and letting players Just Do It if it's a minor thing, or roll to do it, or spend some kind of player point to do it if it's advanced enough. But in those cases it's more of a story-game effect like a FATE aspect, made loose just to keep the game running smoothly and emphasize narration and flavor. This is about leveraging that same kind of mechanic, a nominally "storygame" mechanic, in an OSR or TNT-style capital-G Game. A character in an OSR game that plays like a "storygame" character would be something Terrible & Awesome, something Weird and detached from the physics of the game in a very real sense. If your fate is foretold by sorcery, IT WILL HAPPEN AS A FACT OF THE UNIVERSE.

Take these as non-finite, as suggestions. Feel free to tweak them and make your own.

Note that I have been very busy lately, in a good way, but unfortunately it means I did not have time to code this up as I would have liked to and as I usually do.

This sorcerer compels Fate. To...
  1. do business with
  2. appease
  3. anger
  4. become acquaintances, friends, or fall in love with
  5. run from, ignore, or deny the wishes of
  6. seek out, give audience, or acquiesce to the wishes of
  7. loyally serve
  8. morally or principally oppose
  9. be known by
  10. personally meet
  11. be in the presence of
  12. have personally met and been forgotten by
  13. have personally met and forgotten about
  14. create, spread, or hear/read rumors about
  15. develop a relationship of any (or some specific) kind with a close friend, family, or lover of
  16. get drunk or high with
  17. survive a deadly battle or duel against
  18. impress
  19. fail to impress
  20. deeply know
this sorcerer is to...
  1. Suffer the curse of
    1. Mortality: You will die soon.
    2. Loss: You will lose a loved one soon.
    3. Mutilation: You will be transformed in a grotesque and debilitating way soon.
    4. Jinx: You will be unlucky forever after (always have Disadvantage e.g. roll two dice and take the lower value, or a similar negative game mechanic).
    5. Debilitation: One of your abilities (or some equivalent, depending on game) will be permanently impaired by 1d4 and cannot ever be raised above that value.
    6. Forgetfulness: You will forget some important aspect of your history, a piece that may very well change who you are as a person.
    7. Hatred: If you do not already feel all-consuming hatred towards another, you will develop a feeling of all-consuming hatred towards another soon, driven by some tragic circumstance. You will never overcome this hatred.
    8. Irony: Your strength will become your weakness; that which you most value will cause you enormous grief; you will come so close to succeeding at your greatest ambition, only to fail in some tragic and symbolic way.
  2. Gain the boon of
    1. Peaceful Death: You will not die violently, unexpectedly, or in pain.
    2. Love: You will always have love in your life.
    3. Beauty: You will become, and forever after be the most beautiful version of yourself, regardless of how your body changes over the course of your life. Others will recognize this beauty in you, and you will have self-acceptance of this beauty.
    4. Blessing: You will be lucky forever after (always have Advantage e.g. roll two dice and take the higher value, or a similar positive game mechanic).
    5. Empowerment: One of your abilities (or some equivalent, depending on the game) will be permanently increased by 1d4 and cannot ever go below that value.
    6. Remembrance: You will remember some important aspect of your history that will change you for the better. If nothing of such value has been forgotten, you will experience a dream of equal substance. 
    7. Acceptance: You will come to terms with a hated enemy. If you have no hated enemies, you will have the certainty that you will never make one.
    8. Irony: Your weakness will become your strength; that which you most detest will be your salvation; on the verge of failing at your greatest ambition, a comedic or symbolic deus ex machina will favor you.
This sorcerer has a Presence. Around this sorcerer...
  1. the beauty in all things is apparent.
  2. the ugliness in all things is apparent.
  3. animals and monsters, even those domesticated, revert to their basest natures.
  4. conversation and all noise-making gives way to silence and seriousness.
  5. activities, even those of importance, give way to raucous merriment and silliness.
  6. playful or socially acceptable violent urges are likely to be acted upon, and they will escalate if allowed.
  7. the dead or lost are remembered.
  8. the dead or lost are forgotten.
  9. an oppressive lethargy, an ennui, presses upon all.
  10. animals and monsters, even the wildest sorts, are abated, and carry a gravitas evocative of a heretofore unseen intellect.
  11. it is difficult to remember names, details, facts, or prepared spells.
  12. muscle memory and other skillful actions feel sloppy and unpracticed.
This sorcerer is a Force of Nature. They cannot...
  1. be harmed or killed
  2. be impeded
  3. be banished
  4. fail
  1. their true name is revealed.
  2. they fall in love.
  3. their phylactory or other sorcerous focus is destroyed.
  4. they experience empathy.
  5. they reach enlightenment.
  6. they will it to be so.
  7. they dream.
  8. reality is fundamentally altered.
  9. reality ceases to be.
  10. a hero succeeds in their journey.
  11. they produce an heir.
  12. they take a life.
  13. they refuse to kill.
  14. someone or something they love is killed.
  15. someone they love is turned against them.
  16. they are shamed.
  17. they are made to forget themselves.
  18. a species is brought to extinction.
  19. a civilization is destroyed, all traces of their existence are irrecoverable, and they are forgotten.
  20. they defy the gods.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

BONUS: J-Pop and Jazz

So I've talked before about my interest in jazz, and I've also talked about anime before. Nujabes and Shoji Meguro, the Sega Sound Team, and the anime and videogames they've worked on such as Samurai Champloo, Persona, and Jet Set Radio, have influenced me creatively, on an aesthetic level and also a deeper thematic level. I don't know when I'll actually post this, but I watched this video on youtube "recently" (as of drafting this post), of the J-Music Ensemble, and found Patrick Bartley to be a really interesting and insightful person, in addition to an excellent musician, although unfortunately I don't know a whole lot about music or music theory. I look forward to exploring his music and learning more about his music theories in the future.

Some of my ideas that I've posted about or intend to post about that have the strongest musical influences are below:

From my old micro-settings post:

  • Phantasmos has some jazzy elements that I'll discuss below
  • Cold War Under a Rising Sun is an alternate history setting largely about the development of Japanese culture in the 20th century, including the music
  • Kwik & Kantankerous is inspired by Mario Kart crossed with Fast & Furious, so like a hip-hop meets chiptune vibe
  • Quantumverse is heavily inspired by old Japanese videogames such as Super Mario (as well as early 20th century pulp such as Flash Gordon), so chiptune influences
  • Starcrossed Sentai is inspired by Power Rangers and its Japanese origins, and in a more roundabout way inspired by the videogame Earthbound, which has an excellent, funky soundtrack. The Japanese musical genre City Pop is also a big theme in this setting.
From Phantasmos (digging up several old and shoddy posts here...):
  • My SHIELDBREAKER campaign included an event inspired by a moment in Earthbound. While the music involved was more electronic than jazz, but is a demonstration of how music affects me creatively
  • Deep Time City, and the dada-DA more generally, have a strong art and music influence. In terms of music, some of the bigger influences are electroswing, trip-hop, lounge jazz, and the soundtrack from the videogame Transistor
  • The Zoomer and Necromancer classes in Phantasmos both have musical influences. The zoomer class is heavily inspired by the videogame Jet Set Radio, with its funky hip-hop vibe, and the Necromancers in phantasmos have a blend of 60's flower power and 70's disco and funk. The Necromancer Nina Soulchild also plays into this theme
Also, while I haven't posted much about them yet, the faction Le Fauves in Aquarian Dawn also has an art and music influence, currently I'm thinking more so EDM but that may change as I flesh them out more

I feel like I'm probably missing a bunch more music references (well... "Heavy Metal" comes up a lot but I'm usually referring more to the comic magazine and aesthetic than the music per se, although the two do generally go together).

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

High Level Games: Five Settings To Pilfer For Your Game

I wrote another article for HLG! This one is Five Settings to Pilfer For Your Game. It's about a handful of books, shows, and games I've experienced relatively recently that I think would make for good tabletop RPG settings, or at least settings to pilfer from. One of them should be obvious given the image below ;), but hopefully one or two of these will be new to you.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Make it as you go RPG (200 Word RPG Challenge)

I made a 200 word RPG for the 200 Word RPG Challenge! It's called Make it as you go RPG and it's not even worth me re-stating it here because doing so would be longer than you just clicking that link and reading it!

I posted about it on the 200 Word RPG Subreddit where I describe my intentions and motivations for the system in a bit more detail. It's as much a setting generator, game generator, and thought experiment as it is a game per se, and I hope people get some value out of it. If you try it out, let me know how it goes!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Cantrippers: Novelty Superpowers

A list of Novelty "Superpowers". These mutants are no X-Men, but if you're clever, you might be able to put these powers to some use. This idea is loosely inspired by the Valiant Comic series Secret Weapons, about "Psiots" (basically Marvel Mutants) with unremarkable powers who have been brought together as a superhero team. So you could use the official Valiant Universe RPG / Cue System, or you could implement these powers into pretty much any other system or setting, since they're intentionally supposed to be minimally useful.

I thought "Cantripper" would be a fun name for them, since these are kind of like Vancian-magic Cantrip-level superpowers, and I'm always a fan of adding superpowers to an otherwise traditional fantasy setting.

These could just be a background element of the game, but I think it would be fun to build a whole adventure around them. You could go the narrative game route, which might be easier, but it might be fun to implement these powers in an already underpowered system like OSR, where the players will have to come up with really clever uses of their powers in order to survive.

  1. No reflection.

  2. Can see one second into the future.

  3. Can levitate while running off a cliff so long as they are unaware that they are not on the ground (cartoon-style).

  4. Invulnerable except for an Achille's head and heart.

  5. Can speak to the recently dead (within six minutes of their death). The dead are exactly as coherent as they were at the moment of their death, and generally panicking over the existential and metaphysical dread of their situation.

  6. Can turn invisible but only when no one is looking.

  7. No body odor (entirely scentless).

  8. Can eat anything (like a goat). Only derive sustenance if the ingested item has nutritional value.

  9. Can turn any static image on any surface into a gif-like animation loop for up to one minute.

  10. Can produce spider-sized spider webbing.

  11. Can speak to cats. They are exactly as communicative and cooperative as you would expect.

  12. Abnormally long tongue that is prehensile, retractable, detachable, re-attachable, regenerative, and operates independently with its own nerve cluster, like an octopus tentacle (and is maybe telepathically linked to its person).

  13. Swaps dreams with any random person each night.

  14. Has somehow acquired expert-level knowledge of a seemingly non-existent topic, like the biology of an unknown species or geography of an undiscovered land.

  15. Can produce a flame equivalent to a match from their own metabolism, or extract excess clean fresh or salt water from their body.

  16. Bone structure, height, weight, and other physical features are constantly shifting. Changes are noticeable day-over-day; clothes they wore at the beginning of the week no longer fit by the end of the week.

  17. Can create a room-sized devastating explosion, only once.

  18. Can alter their own brain chemistry to induce any kind of inebriated / psychoactive state.

  19. Can prepare a supernaturally delicious meal from any ingredients. The meal appears as the best version of itself but nothing more, and the nutritional value is unchanged.

  20. Receives an unintelligible signal (telepathic, electromagnetic, magical, etc.) from an advanced lifeform that may (or may not) be a deity, or the epicenter of all reality.

  21. Eyelids are one-way screens through which they can see even when closed.

  22. When they close their eyes they see through any random person's eyes.

  23. Can adjust their perception of different acoustic signals as if they had volume control over all sounds in their environment. This ability does not alter the loudness of the sounds, just their perception of it.

  24. Long or thick tail that may or may not be prehensile.

  25. Do not appear to age, but still experience the effects of aging / mortality.

  26. Can adjust their height between 5'1'' and 6'6'' within the span of half a minute.

  27. Can vocalize a loud, air horn-like sound.

  28. Can levitate six inches off the ground for six seconds at a time.

  29. Is immune to the psychoactive effects of any substances, but is still vulnerable to other physiological effects (e.g. won't get drunk, but can die of alcohol poisoning).

  30. Can summon an ineffectual, cartoon-ish, teddy bear-like pet / companion. It can't talk, but makes cute noises. It is lovable, but mostly useless. It will try to follow simple commands to the best of its ability, but often fumbles even the simplest tasks in astonishing and humorous ways. If destroyed, it can be re-summoned within a day (or you can remove this regenerative ability if you want to get really sad with it...).

  31. Has the proportional speed and metabolism of a sloth.

  32. For any possible occurrence, they can increase or decrease the probability by 1% in their favor (e.g. the probability of winning the lottery goes from ~0.0000000715% chance to ~0.0000000722% chance).

  33. Sour foods taste sweet to them, as if they are always under the effects of miracle fruit.

  34. Immune to boredom.

  35. Experiences one or more unique or inexplicable emotions, such as an emotion vaguely like "manic annoyance" triggered by dogs that are slightly less cute than they should be, or "meditative aggro" triggered by a good workout towards the end of the day. Brain scans would suggest these emotions have unique neural activation patterns or even unique neurobiological circuits, not unlike fear and arousal.

  36. Can change their eye and hair color at will, including exotic coloration.

  37. Can turn gold to lead.

  38. Has a supernatural "presence". Not a literal aura of light, but they always stand out in a crowd.

  39. Lays eggs, independent of gender. The appearance and taste of the eggs is best compared to that of a platypus or echidna. The eggs cost as many calories to produce as they provide. They feel a pressure to lay an egg usually once or twice a day, and can suppress the feeling for a while, but as with bowel movements, will eventually need to go.

  40. Muscle flexion produces flashes or sparkles around them. Sometimes it also produces a BAM noise.

  41. Eidetic-like memory, except the memories are always incorrect in some critical way.

  42. Quantum-entangled with a self-aware machine or golem on a distant, empty celestial body. They perceive its contemplations about life and the vastness of spacetime and the meaning or meaninglessness of the universe, like a running monologue.

  43. No shadow.

  44. Can change the color of non-living things by touch.

  45. Supernaturally broad vocal range.

  46. They are extremely fragrant, but can control the scent of their body odor, such as to smell like chocolate or roses.

  47. Can draw a mathematically perfect circle, down to the sub-atomic level, that maintains its perfect state across time, regardless of the movement of particles. Has absolutely no conscious awareness of how they can do this.

  48. Has a mostly cosmetic supernatural phenotype, like a beak, scales, unnatural skin or hair color, tentacles for arms that are effectively only as functional as regular arms and hands, cyclops eye (may or may not affect depth perception), etc.

  49. Tough soles on their feet that provide equivalent protection as hiking boots.

  50. Their brain is a literal black box. They seem to have normal consciousness for their species, the black box is as vulnerable as a regular human brain, and seems to respond to stimuli and chemicals in the same way as a regular brain, and yet its exact mechanics are completely inexplicable.

  51. Colorful shadows.

  52. Their reflection is of a different person.

  53. Can alter the way things taste (no nutritional / health changes).

  54. Their shadows act independently, and can stretch or compress to roughly twice or half size, change shape, and rotate around them.

  55. Once a day a random piece of factual trivia that they did not already know springs to mind. This may be something they have insufficient context to understand, or something they could not have otherwise ever learned.

  56. Supernaturally boring.

  57. Always warm to the touch. This has no effect on their biology and does not protect them or others from freezing.

  58. Always cold to the touch. This has no effect on their biology and does not protect them or others from overheating.

  59. Is a were-carp. Can transform at will, but is compelled into transformation in the presence of waterfalls. They will ignore everything in the presence of waterfalls and attempt to swim up the waterfall until they bring themselves to exhaustion. They have the proportional strength, intelligence, and other abilities of a carp.

  60. While they are alone, a pocket dimension opens 10'x10' around them. There is a 5 in 10 chance it is indistinguishable from the space it is replacing, 4 in 10 chance to be weird but harmless (or maybe even pleasant), and a 1 in 10 chance to be their personal hell. When the pocket dimension closes, any positive or negative effects of the space are reversed as if they never happened.

  61. Can transform into an animal for 1d6 minutes. During their transformation, they have the intelligence and behaviors of that animal. They may or may not have the ability to control what kind of animal they turn into.

  62. Every day, a random single moment (no more than 1 minute in duration) is eidetically encoded into their memory.

  63. Once per day at a random time they experience divine bliss and cosmic awareness for 1d6 minutes. They have little ability to interact with the material world during that time, and their memories of the experience are hazy and dreamlike, and difficult to derive meaning from.

  64. Super-speed, but susceptible to the shearing force of that speed on their body, the force of colliding with another object at that speed, and the force of inertia if they attempt to stop abruptly. Even with practice, utilizing the super-speed is extremely dangerous.

  65. A healing factor that makes them susceptible to ugly scars, broken bones healing incorrectly, rapid cancer metastasization, rapid over-development of muscle tissue, and similar negative consequences, in addition to the obvious positive benefits.

  66. Emits perpetual low-grade EMPs within a 6" radius around them; all electronics shut down, and magnets lose their attractiveness.

  67. Can transmit energy equivalent to a potato lightbulb.

  68. Automatically knows the curse words of any language they encounter. This does not transmit any magical properties of those words if they are literal curse words!

  69. Non-magical, non-intelligent cats will respond to their commands equivalently to a moderately well-trained dog.

  70. Supernaturally talented at something highly specific and mostly useless, like playing a single videogame that nobody cared about even when it came out 15 years ago let alone today, or making savory jello salad, or something else like that.

  71. Slugs, snails, and related creatures of a non-magical and non-intelligent nature are attracted to them. It is not uncommon for them to find a cluster of slimy things waiting for them when they exit a building.

  72. Can perform simple prestidigitation. If they are a magic user in a setting where magic users already can use prestidigitation at no cost, they can do prestidigitation of twice the magnitude than would normally be possible, or two separate instances simultaneously.

  73. If they carry no currency, they gain the equivalent of $1 once per day.

  74. Can make non-living things shiny by touching them.

  75. Can make non-living things sticky by touching them. They are not especially adhesive, just kind of gross and uncomfortable to the touch. Clammy.

  76. When they go to sleep, they pop out of existence. When they wake up, they return exactly where they were, as they were. Anything that would trigger wakefulness, such as a knock on the door or an alarm, also returns them.

  77. Once per day at a random time, they pop out of existence for 1d6 minutes, after which they return exactly where they were, as they were.

  78. Can instantly kill any mundane creature with a single finger strike, but the finger falls off shortly thereafter. They have a sixth finger on each hand, so they can use this ability 12 times in their life. If they have extra fingers, extra hands, or no hands, it still works 12 times by some other identifiable means.

  79. Despite appearances, they are actually of a different kingdom than their origin species, e.g. if they were birthed from animals, they are actually a fungus, or if they grew from a fungal spore, they are actually a bacteria. This affects what kinds of diseases they may contract, genetic disorders they may have, and certain other biological functions, but they are mostly functional and passable as their origin species. Magic operates on them as if they were their origin species (it's like how tomatoes are considered vegetables in a culinary sense even though they're fruits in a biological sense).

  80. When they must wait in a line the line moves supernaturally fast and smooth and/or they somehow get to cut through some or all of the line. This also applies, to a lesser extent, to traffic and other bureaucratic "lines" like customer service or dealing with paperwork.

  81. Maintains moderate physical fitness even with poor diet and exercise. If they want to actually be or appear athletic or muscular, they'll still have to do some exercise and have some consideration for their diet, but less so than other people.

  82. Zeitgeist; without consciously understanding what, how, or why, they can design logos, catch-phrases, and jingles that capture the zeitgeist. The things they create are not magical or supernatural, they're just really on-point.

  83. Both conscious and unconscious ability to control their circadian rhythm. Will always get the best possible night of sleep. Can make themselves practically unwakeable, or quickly readied at the slightest interruption. Seamlessly switch between different sleep modes such as micro-sleep. Will always dream or lucid dream, if they want to.

  84. Is cold blooded (or if their species is already cold blooded, then is warm blooded).

  85. Color vision is as acute in low-light as it is in normal light.

  86. True multitasking; can effortlessly maintain two separate trains of thought, or more with penalty (as normal multitasking).

  87. Once per day, can reverse time by up to 6 seconds.

  88. Has a fully functional extra appendage.

  89. If they are hungry, carrying no food, and have no currency or no other access to food, they can summon a food item with the equivalent nutritional value of a deli sandwich once per day.

  90. Produces excessive amounts of earwax which can be used as wax (e.g. for candle making).

  91. Produces excessive saliva of varying viscosity.

  92. Has relatively brittle, nubby little horns (if their species already has horns, they now have more horns, but of a relatively brittle and nubby kind). Getting poked by them would kind of hurt. They grow like nails but only up to a short length.

  93. Can alter probabilities, but only when using randomization devices such as cards or dice, and only when the results have not been made deterministic (such as somebody effectively counting cards, or using loaded dice). The magnitude of their ability is more like a "nudge" than it is like loading the dice or fixing the deck.

  94. Can produce beams of colorful lights and sparkles from their hands. They have no effects besides being bright.

  95. Can convert non-living things made of mundane stone (e.g. non-magical, non-psionic, etc.) into other kinds of mundane stone of a comparable mass, hardness, economic value, and other quantitative and qualitative differences.

  96. They can integrate clothing, armor, weapons, and tools into their own biology, like their skin, muscles, and nerves intertwining with a suit of armor. It takes roughly a day to fully integrate the item or to separate from it (somewhat varying by the size and complexity of the item). This provides little to no additional advantage, besides it becoming a natural and comfortable part of their body, and is not removable except by intentional or violent means.

  97. Have the very niche psionic ability to press buttons or dials, turn knobs, or make other simple mechanical gestures, by blinking.

  98. Their body is completely hollow. In every way their body operates as normal (normal weight, nutritional demands, ability to consume foods, be poisoned, choke on food, etc.), but they can also open themselves up from a number of latches on their body only visible and operable by themselves, and store up to their body size of stuff. Those things do not affect their weight and are effectively in stasis until they reopen themselves.

  99. Has a potato-like body and the ability to swap out their body features with spare parts. This technically makes them more resilient to mutilation and injury than a normal person, but they can still feel pain and be killed.

  100. Can expel a substance like vanilla pudding from their hands in short spurts, with just about enough force to knock over an average-sized human child. The pudding is bland and not especially tasty, nor does it have any nutritional value or provide a sensation of satiety. It evaporates into nothing in less than a minute. They can build up more pudding for slightly greater effect by not using their power for a while. The process of expulsion is weirdly pleasurable to them, and not using their power for some time can be uncomfortable.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Contrarian Hot Take: I am Down for Feast of Legends: The Wendy's RPG

If you're expecting deep, critical analysis, look elsewhere. This is strictly a hot-take.

If you are not familiar, Wendy's just made a tabletop RPG, Feast of Legends, based fairly closely on D&D 5e, set in their original setting Freshtopia. This is not a review of the game; I've coarsely skimmed through it, and anyway I'm not a huge fan of D&D 5e in the first place. This also isn't a detailed breakdown of what's in the book. It's about 100 pages, it's free, and it's fairly well organized, you can skim through it yourself. This is me saying, I am a-ok with this.

Is it just a cynical, corporate advertisement for a massive fast-food chain. Of course. Is it going to be an ENNIE award winning system / campaign that we should all check out. I dunno, I just skimmed it, but probably not. Is it cool. Fuck ya it is!

Are you god damn kidding me!? Am I the only one who used to build worlds out of my happy meal toys!? I dunno, there's something just kinda nostalgic and pleasant about the idea of a fast-food chain themed fantasy setting. I want to see a barbarian in a Wendy's wig fighting a horde of monstrous Grimaces. Do you remember that creepy fucker!? I want a magic french fry sword! I want a wizard to cast Deep Fry you Fucks! Fuck! yes! 

The setting of Freshtopia is more original than anything D&D-proper has put out in like 20 years. This is just a dial over from Adventure Time! You even have what is essentially an Ice Kingdom! And come on, we all love evil clowns, and fantasy-Mcdonalds is the perfect evil faction! Ronald McDonald the science-fantasy Cryo-tech Jester Lich King. FUUUUCK YEEES!!!!

I'm not saying I'm likely to play this setting as-is, but then again, I don't play any settings as-is because I build worlds. But this makes me want to run with this. I'd totally be town to game in an Adventure Time-esque post-post-apocalyptic science fantasy setting with anti-corporate cyberpunk themes centered around fast food chains!! Wasn't there a Judge Dredd comic like this!? 

Anyway ya, so I'm probably not going to Wendy's any time soon (although Frosty's are delicious), but even if I did, fuck it. They put out a ~100 page RPG book, and it seems like they put some genuine effort into it. It has, if nothing else, made me chuckle, and inspired me a bit. I'm not trying to shill for a major corporation here, they can rot in hell like the rest of them, but someone there is having fun, and good on those people.