My Games

Sunday, January 31, 2021

"Final Fantasy" Worldbuilding

Originally posted on The OSR Pit

This post is probably not about what you think it’s about, it was just fun to troll :p. But it is, loosely, about Final Fantasy.

While nearly all of the Final Fantasy games take place in their own universe (or effectively so, even if they’re technically, loosely connected in some way or another), spanning all sorts of genres, from closer to traditional fantasy, to steampunk, cyberpunk, science fantasy, and even off-brand Americana, they have many overlapping elements.

You’ll see recurring character names like Cid and Gilgamesh, or summons like Ramuh and Ifrit, original creatures like Moogles and Chocobos; in some games, you see recurring original character classes, or semi-consistent class art design, even some recurring art design for more traditional fantasy monsters.

I tend to do this in my worldbuilding as well, if I build out a world long enough. On this blog, my first focus was on my science fantasy setting Phantasmos. More recently I’ve been focusing on Maximum Recursion Depth. I had already introduced one recurring character name, Doctor Lovesmenot, and I’ve been considering rolling over some other ideas from Phantasmos and possibly some of my other settings into MRD.

I go back and forth, between feeling like it’s creatively lazy, or too self-indulgent, to on the other hand thinking about how Final Fantasy, Zelda, Dragon Quest, and many other franchises, all do that too, and that’s part of what makes them endearing. It’s “part of the brand”, and while I could imagine the concern of being too tied to that brand, if I’m ever successful enough for people to be concerned with whether I’m straying too far from my brand, that’s just an entirely different set of problems.

I try not to get too precious with my ideas, something I discussed in a retrospective of my very first blog post, but at the same time, one of the hardest parts of focusing almost singularly on one setting as I’m having to do right now with MRD, is that I hate to abandon all of these other ideas from other settings that I’ve created. I find some comfort in the idea that somehow, all of my settings are connected, and they have these shared threads, and it’s ok if certain characters or names or concepts recur between them, or even if in some cases they contradict and in other cases they’re implied to be continuous. I guess in that way it’s a bit like Lovecraft’s anti-canon, before it got all mucked up as a “mythos”.

In any case, so I think rather than doing it half-way, or feeling a little ashamed for doing it, I’m just going to lean into it and own it, and really double down on the idea that there are going to be recurring elements across my settings, and hope that others see it as part of the charm as well. I haven’t given it too much thought yet beyond Doctor Lovesmenot, Mr. Smiley, and Hopscotch and Honeybee maybe, but I’m excited for what I come up with now that I’ve kicked down this door and accepted this as a thing I’m willing to do. Obviously, I don’t want to go so far that MRD and Phantasmos blur together, let alone some of my other settings, but they’re all different enough that I’m reasonably confident I can do this without that being a concern.

Anyway, what do you all think about “Final Fantasy” Worldbuilding?

Sunday, January 24, 2021

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim Not-Review

13th Sentinels: Aegis Rim is really good and I want to talk about it. This was originally posted on The OSR Pit, with some changes now that I'm further into the game. I took a break from it for a while or else I probably would have finished it by now, but I believe I'm a little over halfway through the game, whereas the original post I was only a few hours into it.

This game is really good and more people should know about it. It’s sort of a visual novel, point and click adventure game, except laid out like a 2D brawler, with super-duper-high quality 2D hand-drawn character models and backgrounds (maybe they’re not actually 2D hand-drawn, but they have that look) and butter-smooth animations. Also, despite describing it like a point and click adventure game, for the most part, the puzzles/item management type stuff is pretty minimalist; there were only a few times I had to look up online how to do something.

BUT it’s also a mecha tactical RPG. But even then, not quite like any other I’ve played before. First of all, it has this really unique art style, where it’s like you’re watching from a tactical monitor, like a radar or something, so it’s almost more like a hi-fi space invaders (and I think that this is intentional). It’s really evocative, and it’s a clever way to cheat around not having to develop super detailed assets for both game modes. I was worried it would get confusing, and sometimes it’s hard to see certain things, but for the most part, it seems to work. I think that’s in part because, kind of like into the breach, the goal is different than in a standard tactical RPG, and so it’s almost more like a puzzle, and the visuals mostly facilitate this successfully. In this case, you’re trying to defend a base from waves of aliens, most of which go down pretty easily, so it’s really about area control and energy management (so you can use your maneuverability or range moves, or your area of effect moves). I’m not describing it well, but it’s unique and fun.

Also, despite what the name may lead you to think, it’s really nothing like Pacific Rim, or only in the loosest sense. Or, at least so far, anyway. I assume the name was intentionally evocative of Pacific Rim though, but maybe not.

It also has a really interesting story. In some ways, it seems like your traditional teen mecha anime, but it’s got some cool timey-wimey stuff, a non-linear narrative to go along with it, and it feels a little bit more in the vein of something like Evangelion, Gurren Lagann, or Darling in the Franxx, where it seems to me like there’s some subtext here, but I’m not far enough into the game to know what that is yet, or in any case it’s got some cool high concept ideas. As it goes on too, you realize that it is homaging so many things, like War of the Worlds, Terminator, magical girl genre, cyberpunk, and a whole bunch of other stuff that I don't want to spoil. Some of it is explicit, some of it not, but it homages all of these specific works or whole genres, while still feeling cohesive.

Also, while the prologue organizes things in a tight loop between VN sections and tactical sections, once the game actually opens up, it becomes much more non-linear. Because you follow different characters, you can play the different characters’ VN stories somewhat freely (some things get locked until you’ve completed other stories), and it seems that even within any given chapter, there are potential branching paths, and the narrative also seems to support the idea that these branching paths and non-linear story developments are co-occurring. But also, while there are incentives to intersperse story and tactical, it actually separates out those modes, which I thought was a really cool idea. So if you’re not in the right headspace for tactical gameplay, you can push through the story, and if you’re not in the right headspace for a narrative and just want to fuck up some aliens, you can push through the tactical gameplay. It actually feels like it should have been a handheld game; I usually play my switch docked anyway, but if it did come to switch, I’d probably recommend buying it on switch just to have the option to play it handheld. Both the tactical sections and VN sections, at least as far into the game as I’ve gotten, are fairly bite-sized, it feels like it was designed with this in mind, like maybe a few years earlier it would have been a Vita game (RIP Vita).

I was saying, I think it was on an RPG discord, how I think it’s interesting that mecha anime has fallen out of favor in recent years, with a few high profile exceptions, so this was a pleasant surprise. I still don’t have any deep insights about that… maybe one day.

I don’t off-hand have anything tabletop specific to say about this either, besides that, I’m enjoying the game on multiple levels and am finding it creatively inspiring. Perhaps the way it integrates the non-linear story with player choice, separates the modes, and uses visuals to unique effects, could be analogized to tabletop… I dunno, if I think of anything I’ll follow up.

Check this game out.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Off to the (Karmamare) Racetracks: GM Notes for Maximum Recursion Depth Module

This is the second in a series of posts attempting to turn my GM Notes from the last handful of sessions of my current Maximum Recursion Depth campaign into something like a functional module (see Doctor Lovesmenot's Halloween Party, as well as a recent batch of play reports). As I say in the last post, this is not meant to reflect either the content or overall quality of what will be published in the Kickstarter-backed MRD Book, this is more so for general reference/practice.

Unfortunately, these play report/module posts have been some of my least popular posts in a long time. Granted, this is all just a passion project and I'm going to post whatever I want, but it's still a shame, so probably I'll bank these kinds of posts for down the line, and in the coming weeks, I'll try to mix things up.

I posted this note in the last module as well, but to reiterate: I sometimes put these generic Karmic Attachment Opportunities, Save or Conflict events, or other "canned" stuff in my notes. That being said, if I'm being honest, I often see these as more like "backup". They're there for inspiration, or for if I can't think of anything better in the moment, or I need something to push things along. That being said, I usually try to defer to player action and elaborate on the spot with more interesting developments. I've retro-actively included some of those in this writeup, to varying degrees, but I'm not sure how well it really captures how things actually played out at the table. This is something I intend to pay particularly close attention to for the module that will be published in the Kickstarter-backed Book.

This module includes two leads, which involve NPCs who effectively join the team as companions. As I discuss in this post, I'm a believer in using NPCs to join the party not as GNPCs, but as Specialist assistants. If the players are confused or struggling to decide what to do, these companion NPCs can provide some information or suggestions. They also have special abilities or skills of their own, which the players can leverage. For instance, in Conflict, they could suggest a companion do something in particular, in lieu of taking an action for their character. I rarely have these NPCs acting autonomously in Conflict, usually it's assumed they're assisting in some capacity, but it only affects rolls or options if players invoke them specifically.

The Investigation

  • The Client: Barry* O’Brien. A big trucker-looking cab driver, severely handicapped, carries himself meekly. Has a tin nose, giving his gruff voice a tinny-nasally quality, whistling like a mouse.

    • Make a Karmic Attachment with O'Brien to accept this job and help him clear his debt, his gambling addiction, and/or his guilt over his son's death.

  • The investigation: Has a gambling addiction, always falling for get-rich-quick schemes. Made a bad bet, lost a lot of money, and was going to have to give up his taxi and taxi medallion (and livelihood). Took his son with him on a ride, hopped up on meth and "cheddar" (the "study drug" dharmafinil), and got into a major accident, killing his son and totaling his car. His son was sentenced to be reincarnated as a pack mule, and he sees this as an unfair sentencing that should be placed on him when he dies instead.

    • Barry O’Brien-Gonzalez (the son; not technically “Junior”) was sent to The Court of Those Who Bet on the Wrong Horse.

    • This was a mistake on the part of the Judge Devil- not the least because this Court was actually decommissioned over a decade ago- unbeknownst to its archdevil.

    • Junior is not there anyway, as he was intercepted by Pepper Pan and the Recess Rascals just as he arrived at the Court.
* I changed the name from the play report to avoid confusion with Rick Barrett.

Getting to the Court / Complications

  • The entrance to the Court is Karmically Attached to O'Brien by way of the underground casino ring he used to play at. The underground casino changes locations regularly but O'Brien has a couple possible leads on the next location.

  • O'Brien is on the run from the casino, and therefore no longer knows the exact location, but has contacts who he trusts in these locations who may know more (they all use codenames); Shining Ostrich, and Rock Dove & Wild Turkey.

On the Way to Following the leads

  • The party is mugged (randomly roll for party member and item).

  • The mugger is a Poltergeist child, one of the Recess Rascals. A pale child in a pirate outfit. Carries a stuffed giraffe that can elongate its neck into a thrashing, toothy whip.

  • Will try to flee; can be intercepted either by a good plan, a NAT Save, or NAT chase conflict. 

    • 10 HP, Nd6 in running stamina (outpace the team), Wd6 for the giraffe to whip up the environment and blindside strike somebody (obfuscate the team's line of sight).

  • If defeated, will mumble something about the Recess Rascals, turn ethereal, and fly away, leaving behind the item, as well as a single-use Sachet of Nixie Dust. If not defeated, will laugh at the party and boast something about the Recess Rascals, and Karma Roll for the party member to see if the Recess Rascal accidentally drops the item.

    • Nixie Dust: +1 NAT Saves and flight for 1d4 hours. Flight requires NAT Saves to maintain.

SIDBAR on The Leads: The leads play out very similarly and the party should only follow up on one or the other. If you end up running both, there is one climactic conflict for each lead, and only one of those should be followed up on, or you'll need to change up some stuff, but it should be modular after that point, meaning no need to radically change The Court if somehow the team does investigate both leads. That being said, you can always bank the other lead and plug it into a different Investigation.

Lead One: Shining Ostrich

  • Shining Ostrich: Located in Parkchester Bronx in an apartment facing The Oval. An Eritrean immigrant who was once a famous Cat Burglar / Femme Fatale, until her throat cancer. She now speaks with an electrolarynx. Her grandson manages an Ethiopian hedge fund with Chinese connections, which has some kind of connection to the underground casino. Will accompany the party in her old sexy cat burglar costume, and she still wears it.

    • Karmic Attachment Opportunity: Her grandson wants her to leave the neighborhood and move in with him in Westchester. She needs to prove to her grandson that she can live on her own (or be convinced to move).

  • There have been some muggings around the Oval, she wants to take down the gangsters. 

    • There are four of them, 5 HP each, three with knives (Nd6), one with a gun (Nd12, 8 WIS).

      • Gun: A gun. They're really cheap and easy to get. Nd12 for violent conflict, but must roll WIS Save to use, and on fail, the wielder accidentally shoots themselves or an ally instead.

      • Gun information will be in the Items list in the book.

      • See SIDEBAR about guns in MRD in this post.

    • The one with the gun is witty and clearly the leader (Pd6, the others Pd4), goes by Fox-Hare.

    • The gangsters are just kids.

    • Fox-Hare is on the honor roll and desperate for a scholarship for college, wants to study computer science.

    • Karmic Attachment Opportunity to help the kid get out of crime and get into college.

  • Fox-Hare has a DS (Digital Spirit) Friend*, Black-Sheep Shepherd, which appears in graphical form as a fox wearing the stretched skin of a Hare. He has had this DS Friend since his first electronic device as a child. 

  • Black-Sheep Shepherd is the one who stoked his interest in computer science but also encourages some of his more impulsive decisions.

    • Black-Sheep Shepherd will attempt to hack the party’s QuaosNet** social network accounts (or other accounts- everyone's got something), stealing their information (Wd6) or undermining their social media presence (Pd6). 

    • Requires WIS Save to notice; or else they'll be slowly drained and not know how.

    • If caught, will give up within 1d4 turns regardless of whether it is winning or losing and undo any long-term social or privacy damage (but not literal Damage dealt), as well as give the party a single-use Mantra of Adblock***.

      • *More details on DS Friends will be in the book, but nothing you absolutely need to know.

      • **QuaosNet is a social network in MRD, made my QuinceSoft, a tech company in the setting. It comes up in some things in the book, but nothing especially important.

      • ***Mantra of Adblock: Wd10 in conflict against those who would try to sell you things, and immunity to PRO Damage from them. (This will be in the book)

Lead One Climactic Conflict

  • Shining Ostrich's apartment complexes comes to life, sprouting little mechanical feet and mechanical appendages, attacks the party.

    • 100 HP from outside, instant defeat if the team break into the complex and shut the fuse box.

  • The team will be accosted by human-sized mini-apartment people wearing fedoras and trenchcoats.

    • 5 HP each, Nd6 silenced micro-guns, Wd6 manipulating the environment against the party.

  • Upper hallway windows are vulnerable if the team can reach them.

  • Front windows are vulnerable if the party can get past the horde.

  • Fire alarm / Sprinkler System in the building.

  • Other tenants may help...
Afterward a portal opens up in The Oval leading to the Court of Those Who Bet on the Wrong Horse. The apartment complex was sent after the party because Junior is missing and the archdevil of the Court believes the party is responsible.

Lead Two: Rock Dove and Wild Turkey

  • Rock Dove and Wild Turkey: A vigilante duo and romantic partners who primarily fight to protect foreign sex workers in Flushing Queens, but also do other work to protect immigrants. 

    • Rock Dove is Taiwanese-American and immigrated to Flushing at a young age. 

    • Wild Turkey is Hong Kongese and immigrated to America a few years ago. He now lives in Little Fuzhou.

  • The duo have a reluctant partnership with the underground casino, which they occasionally turn to for information on illegal underground activities.

  • Karmic Attachment Opportunity: A Russian oligarch is staying in Little Fuzhou to meet with a Chinese business partner, and later an infamous New York real estate Crimelord. The duo intends to go after him and needs help breaking into his hotel room.

  • The oligarch is protected by four Orange Goblins, private security of the infamous NY Crimelord.

    • They are known for their suicide tactics and willingness to cause collateral damage, particularly if it would violate the morals of the would-be attackers. 

    • 5 HP each, Nd6 claws, 2Nd6 suicide bomb.

    • Trained to weaponize reason and morality against opposition (Wd8 psycho-ethical assault, -2 related WIS Saves against them, immune to WIS Damage), but vulnerable to those who exhibit alpha behavior (+2 related PRO or NAT Saves against them).

  • The oligarch is not currently in his room. He intentionally relocated, asking his secretary Yana Yasak, to wait for him. 

    • He intends to frame her for an illegal real estate deal with the NYC Crimelord that the IRS is about to uncover, and she needs to be in that room during a certain time window for the frame job to hold up in court.

    • Karmic Attachment Opportunity: She realizes something strange was going on from some discrepancies in the paperwork and needs help to escape the hotel and be witnessed by the hotel staff before the critical time period, so she has an alibi.

  • Yana is blind and Karmically Attached to a Seeing Eye Devil-Dog.

    • It looks like the New York City sewer mutant offspring of a Chinese Lion Dog.

    • It protects her from critical harm but is only minimally under her control, and he often snaps at her or forces her into work she doesn’t want to accept.

  • The Devil-Dog will not let the party interfere.

    • 10 HP, Nd6 Bite, Pd6 howl of dominance.

    • Can be convinced (WIS) to recognize the party as friendly to Yana's long term interests. If convinced, will spit out a Devil in the Sheets Credit.

      • Devil in the Sheets Credit: One credit to hire a succubus/incubus for their services for 1d4+1 hours.

      • This is currently in the book, but I'm considering taking it out. This item just seems like it will cause needless discomfort for some people, even if principally I'm not opposed to these kinds of things and am pro-sex work. If I kept it, I think I'd want to elaborate on what it entails and try to avoid making it anything obnoxious. For the sake of disclosure, I had originally intended for Yana to be a sex worker but decided against it because it just felt too exploitative and uncomfortable in the way I had originally designed it, and ultimately I think the revised version of this module is more interesting.

Lead Two Climactic Conflict

NOTE that as written this is nearly identical to the Lead One Climax. If the party investigate both leads, choose one, or find a way to combine them.
  • The buildings along the street will come alive, sprouting mechanical appendages from both sides to trap the party within.

    • 100 HP from outside, instant defeat if the team can break into one of the buildings and shut the fuse box. 

  • Will be accosted by human-sized mini-city people wearing fedoras and trenchcoats.

    • 5 HP each, Nd6 silenced micro-guns, Wd6 manipulating the environment against the party.

  • Highrise windows are vulnerable if the team can reach them.

  • First-floor windows are vulnerable if the party can get past the horde.

  • Fire alarm / Sprinkler System in the buildings.

  • Hotel staff, other customers, or people from other businesses along the street may help...
Afterward a portal opens up within a Chinese-style archway leading to the Court of Those Who Bet on the Wrong Horse. The apartment complex was sent after the party because Junior is missing and the archdevil of the Court believes the party is responsible.

The Court of Those Who Bet on the Wrong Horse

Looks like a massive version of the chain sports bar Wrongside Racetrax, the kind of place where people go to eat too much cheap food, drink too much domestic beer or sugary cocktails, watch sports, and place illegal bets. The bar is overstaffed with bored and anxious devils, and mostly empty of customers. The scattered, remaining poltergeists continue to make bets and continue to lose, but seem largely unaffected by their unsurmountable growing debts.

  • Hooters: The attractive, big-eyed, avian-humanoid waitress and hostess devils. Overly excited to seat and serve the party. Will start bringing over food and drink they didn’t order, most of it covered in dust and mold. Will give canned lines about the sports teams and urge the party to place bets. They’ll grow increasingly forceful if the party tries to leave, and will not provide any useful information unless the party starts making bets.

  • The bets are a Karmic Attachment Opportunities, and there is only a 1 in 6 chance of winning (WIS Save to learn the odds). 

    • Each bet attaches the player to a Karmamare.

    • Winning the bet grants a Gift Shop token and auto-resolves the Attachment. Failure leaves an open attachment to the Karmamare.

  • Hooter Stats: 5 HP, Wd8 ability to entice the party and force their guard down (karmic-related, otherwise could arguably also be NAT for willpower).

  • Another table of schlubby Poltergeists are being egged on by Hooters and will taunt the party into betting (PRO Save/Conflict, 3 HP each).

  • If things get too hot with the Hooters, Barsabbas the arch-devil will call them off.

Karmamare Generator

You can make up your own names, but here are some suggestions on a d10:

  1. FauxJack

  2. Skycookie

  3. Maverick Queen

  4. Drunk Driver

  5. Traffic Jammer

  6. Late Bloomer

  7. Colt Magnum Suicide

  8. Bronco Rogers

  9. Buck Danger

  10. Daymare

I used the SS&SS Monster Generator as a point of reference, but you can make your own. I intentionally leave the abilities rules-light and no stats, but you could make this more involved if you want, particularly for the Karmamare Race.

  1. Hummingbird-like, superspeed, OCD.

  2. Comprised of simple shapes, hallucinogenic, vulnerable to points.

  3. Comprised of nanotube fibers, dampens WIS, very stupid.

  4. Algae swamp monster. Absorbs NAT, gambling addict.

  5. Chimeric (Shark, Moose, Wolf, Oyster). Existentially terrifying, but also afraid of itself.

  6. Corpulent, rolls rather than runs, unstoppable as long as it wears its bib.

  7. Undead / taxidermied with human parts. Can use its human hands to hold things. Gets distracted by True Beauty.

  8. Has a crab-like shell. Is nigh-invulnerable, but is pregnant and ready to burst at any moment...

  9. Made of hard-light and able to levitate. One of the other Karmamare's hates its guts...

  10. Floating ouroboros horse that can consume and reproduce itself if injured. Vulnerable if head separated from back-end.

Barsabbas: The bartender and also archdevil of the Court, who looks like the love child of Chow Yun Fat and Ted Dansen in a white/gold-black/blue suit.
  • True form is like Jersey Devil / Blue Mustang / Horse Face Devil.

  • He will try to play it cool, but it is clear that he is underpowered. He is not aware that his Court has been decommissioned, and thinks outside forces must be plotting against him, explaining why he has so few poltergeists left.

  • No stats necessary; He's weakened, but he's still an arch-devil...

  • He believes the party is working for Pepper Pan and the Recess Rascals, who intercepted Junior.

    • Karmic Attachment Opportunity: If Barsabbas can be convinced that the party isn’t working with Pepper Pan, they can make an attachment to defeat her.

    • He wants Junior returned to him- not given a better sentence.

    • If the party learns beforehand and tells him that he’s been decommissioned, that also changes the equation...

  • Barsabbas will not allow the team to escape unless they make a Karmamare Race bet (they'll ride Karmamares, the Jockey Devil will race on Barsabbas' behalf).

    • Even if they've come to friendly terms, it is his Devil-nature.

    • Not all players have to race, they can investigate the Court such as to find clues as to what's going on, or to look for an alternative exit.

    • Barsabbas will give each PC a Gift Shop Token beforehand if they agree to the race.

    • If a PC had not already made an open Karmic Attachment with a Karmamare, they will do so as a condition of the race.

Gift Shop

The number in parentheses is the cost in gift shop tokens.
  • Quince-Tini 2 Go: (1) A Quince-tini in a bottle. For 1d4 hours, -2 WIS, +2 PRO.

  • Wrongside Racetrax T-Shirt: (1) Makes you Basic.

  • Wrongside Racetrax Novelty Poker Chip: (2) Automatically win one bet. Automatically lose the next bet.

  • Quince-enero Hotsauce: (2) 3d6 drops. Each drop grants one conical (AoE) blast of Promethean Fire (Wd10, but Wd4 to self).

  • Wrongside Racetrax Gift Card: (1) Can be used to open a portal to The Court of Those Who Bet on the Wrong Horse 1d4+2 times.

The Racetrack

Jockey Devil: At first appears as a cyber-tech centaur (cyborg armor over jockey attached to Karmamare), but its true form is half humanoid, half karmamare, half RACETRACK.

  • The Jockey Devil will not reveal its true form until right before the race starts.

  • The racetrack ring bends, twists, stretches, compresses, contorts to its movements.

  • The karmamares are attached to meridians along the track and cannot escape unless they win in a race against the Jockey Devil.

  • Up to 3 laps for the race.

  • 50 HP: Whittle down before the end of three rounds to reflect either disabling the Jockey Devil, or finishing all three laps before the end of the de facto time limit.

  • Each turn gain a Mario Kart style item, lasts one turn (1d6):

    • Switch (1): Spank yourself to swap places with another Karmamare.

    • Fixed Bet (2): One Karmamare will take a fall / do something to your benefit.

    • Dark Horse (3): Like being covered with a sheen of galaxies. Can perform one extraordinary feat (or gain bonus to Save).

    • Devil Dog (4): Devil Dogs usually used to keep the Karmamares on track, but can be used to trip one up on the track instead.

    • Supershoes (5): Stepping into the shoes gives your Karmamare an Iron Man-like power armor (Rocket leap, laser attacks).

    • Blinkers (6): Gives the Karmamare cosmic awareness (provides some unique insight or WIS Save bonus).

SIDEBAR: On the whole, I think this went well, although in retrospect I wish I had designed it more concretely. On the one hand, I like leaving these things mechanically flexible because in the moment things often play out differently than you expect, but still, sometimes really cool ideas come out when you over-design, even if you don't stick to it too rigidly. If I were to include this in a published module, I would expand on it, probably with a caveat about encouraging GMs to alter it to their needs or preferences.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Doctor Lovesmenot's Halloween Party: "Module" / GM Notes for Maximum Recursion Depth

This is a follow-up to my "They Did a Mario Kart" set of play reports for the last three sessions of my Maximum Recursion Depth campaign. In this post, I'm sharing a cleaned-up version of the GM Notes for the first two of the last four sessions, which accounts for one Poltergeist Investigations. I intend for the module included in the Kickstarter-backed book to be more complete than this, I'm just trying to put this stuff out there. Next week I'll have another post like this for the next Poltergeist Investigation, which will include The Court of Those Who Bet on the Wrong Horse (including the Karmamare Race) in addition to an adventure in New York City leading up to that. I think the next post is somewhat better formatted.

NPC / enemy stats are generally all at the end (in a published version, they'd be better integrated).

NOTE: I sometimes put these generic Karmic Attachment Opportunities, Save or Conflict events, or other "canned" stuff in my notes. That being said, if I'm being honest, I often see these as more like "backup". They're there for inspiration, or for if I can't think of anything better in the moment, or I need something to push things along. That being said, I usually try to defer to player action and elaborate on the spot with more interesting developments. I've retro-actively included some of those in this writeup, to varying degrees, but I'm not sure how well it really captures how things actually played out at the table. This is something I intend to pay particularly close attention to for the module that will be published in the Kickstarter-backed Book.

Any suggestions, comments, advice, general discussion, etc., would be greatly appreciated!

The Client: Rat Jack

The Investigation: Rat Jack wants the team to investigate Goblin Jack. He is as vague as possible about the truth of Polterzeitgeist / The Council of Jacks.
  • He knows that Goblin Jack had a Karmic Attachment with Doctor Lovesmenot.
  • He believes Goblin Jack also had a relationship with Pro-Fane.
  • The team can follow up lead on Doctor Lovesmenot (Coney Island) or Pro-Fane (Bushwick).
  • Karmic Attachment opportunity for one PC (on behalf of the whole team) to investigate Goblin Jack for Rat Jack.

The Court: This was the first Poltergeist Investigation I've run for Maximum Recursion Depth where I intentionally avoided the Investigation -> Court adventure structure. Instead, the "Court", or "Dungeon Crawl"-like part of the module is in Doctor Lovesmenot's swanky, extra-dimensional luxury penthouse apartment in East Village Manhattan.

Doctor Lovesmenot’s Hectic Eclectic Erect-ic Freak Show (Coney Island)

  • NOTE: The Freak Show is very loosely based on a real place in Coney Island, but is not intended to reflect the real place. Despite the name and concept which may seem insensitive, they're actually very self-aware and intended to be empowering towards "freaks", and they discuss the history of Freak Shows and where they've been problematic, and where they stand today.
  • Doctor Lovesmenot: A genderqueer experimental performer, primarily in drag and burlesque, but also other forms of live theatrics and other media entirely. They look like a cross between Jareth the Goblin King and Snake Plisskin, or Ziggy Stardust and Mad Max Rockatansky. They were raised as part of The Doppler Potential and see Goblin Jack as a sibling. They are not part of the Seneca Collective per se but are associated with many of its members. 
    • There is more to them than I have currently written about, but you can play them off as mysterious and with Presence, like a folktale wizard- they may not show off a bunch of flashy superpowers, but they hold an innate and nuanced kind of power. 
  • They are throwing a Halloween Party tonight in their East Village luxury high-rise penthouse and invite the team.
    • Many people who know Goblin Jack will be there.
    • Goblin Jack himself may show up.
    • Karmic Attachment Opportunity with Doctor Lovesmenot who is also concerned about Goblin Jack and Rat Jack.
  • Baek Yesu will be there (he’s so hot right now!).
  • Doctor Lovesmenot will be very vague if asked about Goblin Jack. They will refer to him as their brother, but not acknowledge whether they mean that literally or figuratively.
  • Deseret Avengers are outside protesting the show. A squad of Devils arrive to claim a poltergeist.
    • Here or at Tiki Bar, not both, if the team does follow up on both leads.
    • This may lead to a riot. The poltergeist will be someone who dies in the riot that ensues. Why were the Devils here if the poltergeist didn't exist yet...?
    • If a riot does ensue, Seneca Tiger may show up.
    • Karmic Attachment Opportunity if the team tries to defuse the situation before a riot ensues. This could be with one of the prospective rioters, the performers, the audience, etc.

Dromedary Urban Tiki Bar (Bushwick)

  • NOTE: This is a real place, if I were to publish this, I would change the name. This is an entirely fictionalized representation and not reflective of the real place. They're a cool bar in Bushwick that sometimes hosts drag shows and other events.
  • Pro-Fane is performing.
  • She is in a TikTok feud with Moon Marine, who is claiming Pro-Fane is responsible for the “Platypussy Leak”, as a way of discrediting Pro-Fane’s claim as a sex-positive figure (Moon Marine may or may not actually believe this to be true).
  • Pro-Fane invites the team to Doctor Lovesmenot’s Halloween Party.
    • Karmic Attachment Opportunity with Pro-Fane who is also concerned about Rat Jack, Goblin Jack, and Doctor Lovesmenot.
  • If asked about Goblin Jack, she will say that they met through Doctor Lovesmenot, that she didn’t understand their relationship and that Goblin Jack was not like the rest of that crowd, and that he seemed like a well-meaning but angry and dangerous person.
  • Deseret Avengers are outside protesting the show. A squad of Devils arrive to claim a poltergeist. 
    • Here or at the Freak Show, not both, if the team does follow up on both leads.
    • This may lead to a riot. The poltergeist will be someone who dies in the riot that ensues. Why were the Devils here if the poltergeist didn't exist yet...?
    • If a riot ensues, Moon Marine will intervene (on everyone's behalf).
    • Karmic Attachment Opportunity if the team tries to defuse the situation before a riot ensues. This could be with one of the prospective rioters, the performers, the audience, etc.

SIDEBAR: As an example of how things play out differently in-game vs the module writeup. I don't remember how exactly it came to happen this way, but basically, a Deseret Avenger pulled out a gun and was going to commit a mass-shooting on behalf of Moon Marine (of his own accord- not directed by her to do so, he was just an internet fanboy). It ended up playing out as a really intense scene where they talk him down from it- no joke maybe one of my favorite moments as a GM ever. I had the Devils show up at the end, basically as a way to move things forward from that point, but basically just moved past that because, after the attempted shooting, it just wasn't necessary.

Doctor Lovesmenot’s Halloween Party

  • Massive penthouse, exotic, full of theme rooms. A long tunnel-like hall with psychedelic lights and patterns leads to the living room where most of the party is taking place.
    • Ceiling angled, non-Euclidean-like curves and stretches in the architecture.
    • Modern, sci-fi / technological, smart home.
    • Costumed people, kinksters, nature spirits, rogue poltergeists (Polterzeitgeist).
  • The team will find somebody murdered in one of the theme rooms. The longer the team goes without resolving the murder mystery, the more guests will be murdered.
    • The victims are at first former Deseret Avengers, people who were once part of hate groups or had committed hate crimes but have reformed, or people who have infiltrated the party “undercover” from the Police (and/or The Doppler Potential) or Deseret Avengers.
    • If the team doesn't attempt to keep the murders under wraps, eventually the cops will arrive, led by Detective Dick "Fuck Ya" Smashburn.
    • Spoilers the killer is Goblin Jack.

SIDEBAR: I'm not great at writing mysteries, and when I ran this, the team never really had reason to suspect it was anyone besides Goblin Jack. I just leaned into that, and it became less about a murder mystery, and more about just finding him and figuring out why he's doing this, or who if anyone was working with him, but I think a better GM at mysteries could set it up better than I did. If I were to publish this, I would put in more work to create other leads ahead of time so it's more of a true murder mystery.

  • Party Guests / Suspects:
    • Doctor Lovesmenot as themself.
    • Pro-Fane as herself.
    • Baek Yesu as Mr. Nobody (Doom Patrol): Karmic Attachment Opportunity. He is concerned that his political efforts are distracting from his music, and needs help finding his creative inspiration again.
    • Moon Marine as Sailor Moon (why is she here?! She's hoping to gather dirt on Pro-Fane in retaliation for The Platypussy Leak).
    • Rob Santos as Tuxedo Mask (possible victim): An Uruguayan immigrant who used to work for Mateo Silva and was himself a Deseret Avenger and Mormon, before coming to terms with his sexuality, leaving the church and Deseret Avengers, and joining this crowd.
    • Rick Barrett as Joker (Persona 5). Karmic Attachment Opportunity. He is concerned that people are not taking his political efforts seriously enough because of his political work, needs help working on his image and priorities. 
    • Soft Mother as a Playboy Bunny: Although she is on "friendly" terms with Doctor Lovesmenot, it would be a mistake to consider her an ally. This may not be obvious to the team unless they talk with the NPCs.
    • Chester as himself: A drug-dealer, primarily dealing in the college/study drug Dharmafinil. Has ties with Rat Jack.
    • Udo Kier as Dracula: NOTE Udo Kier is a real actor. The fictionalized version here is not meant as a statement about the real person and would not be included if I were to publish this module. Within the setting, Udo Kier died recently, but used connections to cover-up his death, and continues to work as an actor in the Material World, as a Rogue Poltergeist. He is of Ruritanian descent (IRL he's German) and has some ties to the Deseret Avengers, but is not himself part of the DA. Karmic Attachment Opportunity to help him keep his secret, or alternatively to help him come to terms with his death (this latter result would divest more Karma / be considered the more profound result).
    • Alexei Strauss as Rawhide Kid (possible victim if not "canonically" already dead in your game).
    • Clara Cocksure as Dominatrix Cop (possible victim if you're ok taking her off the table).
    • Unknown as The Monkey King (possible victim): Basically just a red-herring, but could easily be used as a future plot thread.
    • Hannah Thompson as Sexy Pirate / Catering Staff (possible victim if the murderer becomes an Ashura- see further below): Daria-like personality. Aspiring Broadway actress who sees this work as demeaning, but needs to pay the bills. Karmic Attachment Opportunity to help her decide whether this is all worth it...
    • Hay Boy as himself. This is a reference to the first campaign, but I do intend to write up about Hay Boy at some point. He's not critical to this module. He will probably be added to the module in the book...
    • Your own NPCs (or random other possible victims)

SIDEBAR: In trying to do a Murder Mystery module at a party of LGBTQ+ people and POC, I inadvertently wrote myself into a corner where most of the victims / potential victims are LGBTQ+ or POC, which I don't feel great about. I don't remember exactly the order of operations when I designed this; I tried to make most of the potential victims people who were undercover or with ill intentions as a way to justify why Goblin Jack would target these people, but then, in order to make more potential Karmic Attachment Opportunities and to make the scenario more dynamic, I chose to make it so that some of the victims were reformed, but that then meant more of the victims were LGBTQ+. If I were to ever publish this module, I would definitely put some significant work into modifying this.

  • In addition to the entry hallway and main room, there are theme rooms. Randomly roll or on-the-fly assign some of the NPCs above to the rooms.
    • The Lovecraft Reading Room: Stuffy “intellectuals”, mostly men. May get a clue by winning a bad-faith argument (PRO save/conflict) against one of the “intellectuals”.
    • “The First Hipsters” Art Exhibit: Paintings on the wall like cave paintings, erotic club dancing. WIS Save to overcome the wild passions of the art and/or glean a clue, NAT Save/conflict to safely navigate through the crowd.
    • The Unseelie Court: Fantastically-themed room, smokey, drug den, dharmafinil. NAT save to avoid contact high, WIS save/conflict in psychedelia to glean a clue or fend off a threat.
    • The VIP Station: Like if the MTA system had a first-class lounge. PRO save/conflict to justify the team's place in this room and glean a clue.
    • The Twinkle Star Viewing Room: An entirely translucent room cycling between a raw view of the city and holographic projections of the future of the city overlaid on top of it.
    • The Rubber Room: A bedroom made entirely of soft and rubbery things, like a high-tech bounce house. Very very lewd.
    • "The Dungeon": An elaborate augmented reality medieval fantasy-themed “playroom”. Contains Orkas, the self-aware Orc King AI. Intellectual, contemplative.
    • The Sensorium: A spa-room of sounds, colors, smells, and textures. NAT Save to avoid fatigue. Contains ASMRelda the ASMR Guru.
    • The Zen Fascism Room: All of the furniture is people. Contains Tik Tok the Man in Moment.

  • The murderer is Goblin Jack, who has been hiding in the vents and/or as a partygoer, is at first targeting Deseret Avengers or other people who may be associated with a hate group who have infiltrated the party.
    • He is on the verge of becoming an Ashura, and if this happens before the team figures out what's happening and intervenes, he is more likely to kill an innocent person by mistake. 
    • If the team fails to find Goblin Jack / contain the problem within a reasonable amount of time, the party is raided by SWAT working for The Doppler Potential.
    • Most partygoers flee, some hide, many are killed or seriously injured.
    • Goblin Jack starts picking off SWAT and other survivors.
    • The team has to decide whether to cooperate with SWAT to stop Goblin Jack or work independently.
    • Enemies: Wire Mother, Redlight / Greenlight (two SWAT officers in experimental high-tech gear), SWAT.

NPC Stats

These are in no particular order because I didn't think this through when I was collating my notes...

Consider these "soft" numbers. I'll frequently adjust enemy stats depending on how much time we have left in the session, how powerful the team is, how many players are present, how much of an emphasis I want to put on the scenario, etc. Better that than fudging the rolls...

Wire Mother
  • 30 HP
  • Wd10 for existential trauma conflict. Nd8 for physical conflict.
  • Drips nutritious milk that can be lapped up if in close range. Recover Nd6, at risk of getting cut on a wire barb causing Wd4 of existential loneliness and learned helplessness.
  • Being in close range of Wire Mother risks accidentally lapping up the milk and/or getting barbed.

Goblin Jack
  • 30 HP.
  • Nd6 in physical conflict, increase die size each round of Conflict.
  • On taking damage, green ichor splashes out for Nd6 area damage.
  • 1d6 HP regen per turn.
SIDEBAR: If Wire Mother and Goblin Jack seem "unbalanced", that's intentional. They're supposed to be very powerful and dangerous. In MRD I encourage players to take an OSR approach of trying to solve problems with creative and lateral solutions, rather than outright Conflict or single dice roll Saves.

Redlight / Greenlight
  • 8 HP each.
  • Xd6 each, various kinds of attacks, whatever makes sense in context.
  • By high-fiving and yelling "redlight", "greenlight", or "blacklight", can induce red-phase, green-phase, or black-phase.
  • Red-phase cancels out all NAT Conflict or NAT special abilities, green-phase cancels out PRO, black-phase cancels out WIS.

Dick Smashburn / Clara Cocksure
  • 8 HP each.
  • Gun: Nd12, WIS Save required. On failure, may accidentally shoot an unintended target, an ally, or themselves, or in some other way critically misfire.
  • WIS 12 (for gun WIS Save).
SIDEBAR: The WIS Save for the Gun item is not meant to be slapstick. The implication is that guns are dangerous weapons and even supposedly trained professionals can easily fuck up under duress. This is a general rule of generic guns in MRD. I don't necessarily care if it's "unrealistic", if it's too far overbalanced in the opposite direction of guns in most games, it's more just a conceptual thing.

  • 5 HP.
  • Gun (Nd12, WIS Save req, see above).
  • WIS 8.

Raiding Devils
  • 5 HP.
  • Nd6 in physical conflict, Pd6 in intimidation/authority conflict.

Moon Marine
  • 15 HP.
  • Pd8 (charismatic conflict) or Nd8 (physical or magical conflict).
  • Once per Conflict, can cancel all Conflict Damage for one turn with her Wholesome Dance.

Doctor Lovesmenot
  • 15 HP.
  • QuinceSoft Jazz Trumpet: While being played, gives the performer and all allies +2 to NAT Saves, +2 NAT Armor, and increases NAT Damage by one size.
  • Soul Mate x2: Guarantee one Karma Roll Success.
  • Tesseract Cutter: A knife that cuts into one's mind in fourth-dimensional space for Wd6 Damage.

Seneca Tiger
  • 15 HP.
  • Nd8 physical conflict or willpower conflict.
  • For each round, the first physical attack against her will always fail.
  • Immune to any kind of intimidation (but not to the point of fearless-stupid).
  • While there is no canonical answer as to whether or not Pro-Fane is Seneca Tiger, it's fun to say you should never have the two together at the same time (unless one or the other is a fake). 

Monday, January 4, 2021

They Did a Mario Kart: Maximum Recursion Depth Play Reports Catch-Up

I realize I have not written an MRD play report in quite a while. The last one being the first session with my second group, here. In the 2-3 sessions since (I've lost count 0.o), quite a bit has happened. I'll try to roughly recap here. Also, I reread my Marvel / DC / My Hero Academia FASERIP One-Shot post for the first time in a long time, and looking back on it, I really like it. It wasn't a great play report, but it was a solid not-review, and also worked well as a self-contained module. As I continue to think about how I want to write up the Module for the MRD Kickstarter Book, that one-shot was a good reference, so in addition to the Play Report, at the bottom, I will try to collate some of my GM Notes into a semi-usable module in another post, not unlike what I did for The Court of Those Who Succumb Prematurely to Crippling Expectations which I also included in the Ashcan Edition of MRD

I'm going to gloss over a lot of the particulars in the Play Report, they'll be included in the "modules" in subsequent posts. PR 5 was recent enough that the details are still fresh so I dig a little deeper, but the GM notes / "module" posts to come will also elaborate significantly.


Alco (SlimyKeyboard): A student in a trade school for plumbing. While working the pipes for the Poltergeist Investigators (the original team), she inadvertently activated her Poltergeist Form, Ghost in the Mirror, and has since joined the team.

Jack (Eight): A "wetworker", a Recurser with the Poltergeist Form, On a Full Moon an Ichor Heart. Works for the Nature Spirit drug dealer Chester, and has joined this team of Poltergeist Investigators on Chester's behalf.

Adore "Dori" Greyfeldt (Fiona Maeve Geist): An enforcer, also working with the team on Chester's behalf. Her Poltergeist Form is Crashing Rocket Nixie.

Pauling Linus (WildFDiscord): A scientist who moonlights as a Poltergeist Investigator, with the Poltergeist Form Afterbirth of the Broken Machine Dragon. After the last Play Report, his original team ultimately failed to save Goblin Jack, and the team was forced to use their Reincarnation Rituals to escape. On return from his reincarnation Court of Hell, he found a former companion of his, another scientist and Poltergeist Investigator by the name Watson. Much to Pauling's chagrin, he developed a Reincarnation Attachment with Watson, who escaped / auto-reincarnated alongside him. Watson blames Pauling for his death and abandonment in the Court of Hell. The rest of the original team have scattered.

PR 1

The first session of the 2nd group. We're technically now on the 3rd group but it developed directly from the second so I consider it part of the same campaign. There were a handful of sessions for the 1st group, I never wrote play reports for them, but the events of that campaign are canon to this campaign.

PR 2

At Doctor Lovesmenot's Halloween party, the team failed to stop Goblin Jack from becoming an Ashura. The police, led by Dick "Fuck Ya" Smashburn, stormed the party with a SWAT team after the murders got out of hand, alongside Wire Mother, and Redlight / Greenlight. They "killed" Goblin Jack (forced reincarnation), and SWAT had the party surrounded until they committed their reincarnation rituals to escape. Jack and Dori, hired by Chester who was also at the party, helped Chester, Doctor Lovesmenot, and the other NPCs like Rick Barrett and Baek Yesu escape. Unbeknownst to Detective Smashburn, Wire Mother was brought in to coverup Goblin Jack's association with The Doppler Potential*

*The PCs and possibly the players themselves don't technically know this, but I've already written it on the blog, so...

PR 3

Chester has become the new Poltergeist Investigation team's Handler. They take on a new client, Barret O'Brien*. He is a gambling addict who owes a secret underground casino a lot of money. In his haste to run from the casino, he gets into a car accident with his son, Barret O'Brien-Gonzalez aka Junior, who dies in the accident, and is sent to The Court of Those Who Bet on the Wrong Horse to be reincarnated as a pack mule. He believes this is unjust and wants his son sent to a better Court, with a better reincarnation.

O'Brien has a few confidantes within the casino that the team can follow up for leads. They choose to investigate an older woman from Parkchester Bronx, known as Shining Ostrich. She was an infamous cat burglar / femme fatale back in the day, but today is on the straight and narrow due to her bout of lung cancer, and she now speaks with an electrolarynx. She is an Eritrean immigrant, and her grandson, who has ties back home and throughout the world, is hedge fund manager of an Ethiopian hedge fund with Chinese backing, which also it seems has ties to the casino.

On the way to the party, a child attempts to rob them. They chase after the child and recover the stolen item, and the child turns into an ethereal being, reveals themselves as a Poltergeist, and flies off, saying something to the effect of "just wait until Pepper Pan and the Recess Rascals** find you, you'll see!"

In exchange for providing the team information on the casino, she asks the party to help her deal with some street punks in The Oval outside her apartment, to prove to her grandson she can still live independently, and to relive her glory days. After viciously taking down the punk kids, the apartment complex around The Oval itself comes to life. While Jack, Pauling, and Watson hold off the apartment-monsters outside, Dori, Alco, and Shining Ostrach break into the main building to deactivate the monster from the inside, fighting monsters and blowing holes through the floors floor-by-floor until they get to the fuse box in the basement. After defeating the apartment monster, a portal opens up.

* I accidentally used the name Barret twice >.<. In the module writeup, I'm changing it to Barry.
** The prominence of Pepper Pan and the Recess Rascals is fallout from the original campaign for which I wrote The Court of Those Who Succumb Prematurely to Crippling Expectations, but never wrote a full play report for the whole Poltergeist Investigation. If the original team had done things differently, it's possible that this event and where it's heading would be totally different.

PR 4

The team have found themselves in The Court of Those Who Bet on the Wrong Horse. It's themed after The Wrongside Racetrax sports bar chain (like an off-brand Applebees) and is full of sports gambling, including Karmamare races. The Court is sparsely populated and seems to be falling apart. The archdevil of the Court, Barsabbas, puts on a strong front, but it becomes clear rather quickly that he's been weakened. He believes that Pepper Pan and The Recess Rascals, on behalf of the archdevil of The Court of Those Who Break Their Toys who models himself after the Toys R Ours mascot Joffrey the Giraffe, has been sabotaging his Court. It turns out Junior never arrived at his Court, and he was the one who created the apartment monsters and opened the portal, believing the party was working with Pepper Pan and the Recess Rascals.

As a means of winning his respect and appeasing his Devil nature, they accept a Karmamare Racing bet with Barsabbas. If the party wins, they'll be able to escape the Court. If Barsabbas wins, they have to serve him.

At some point before the race starts, the team learns, inadvertently through Watson, that this Court had actually been decommissioned, but due to bureaucratic error, Barsabbas was never informed. So while he thinks Joffrey has been undermining him and trying to take his territory, which may be true, his undoing has actually been driven by this fact.

Alco and Pauling make Karmic Attachments with Karmamares and enter the race against the Jockey Devil, a cyborg centaur creature that is half humanoid, half Karmamare, HALF RACETRACK. They do a Mario Kart*, and are going to win the race.

In the meantime, Jack investigates a few things from the sidelines. He eventually proposes to the team and to Barsabbas, that they'll throw the race, allowing Barsabbas to save face, in exchange for assistance against Pepper Pan and the Recess Rascals, and for the right to use The Court as a temporary refuge as needed. They accept the deal, and that's where we leave off.

* More details on "The Mario Kart" in the "module" posts to come.

PR 5

After returning to New York, they learn of an upcoming Christmas Toy Drive Festival in Forest Hills Queens, and that Pepper Pan and the Recess Rascals first appeared at the Christmas in July in August Toy Drive Festival at the same location. They have the option to explore O'Brien's other lead, or go straight to Forest Hills, or...

Pauling had previously made a Karmic Attachment with Baek Yesu to help him rediscover his creative inspiration for his music. Towards the end of the prior session, he worked out a deal with Barsabbas to try to get Baek Yesu a new record deal, to help inspire him. It turns out that Rick Barret and Baek Yesu have been hiding out in New Jersey, waiting to find out whether or not there is a warrant for their arrest, although this appears not to be the case, and they suppose that there's been some kind of coverup. Chester also mentions that there's a gangster in Newark, Romeo Suzano aka Sweet Romeo, who owes him money. So the team decides to head to Newark

Barsabbas' agents Ox-Head and Horse-Face meet up with Pauling, Alco, and Baek Yesu at The Prudential Center in Newark. Barsabbas owns a partial stake in the New Jersey Devils and intends to work out a deal for a live performance. They find some sneaky language in the legal jargon and use poltergeist features to alter the nature of the contract in Baek Yesu's favor.

Meanwhile, Jack and Dori strongarm their way to Sweet Romeo, and convince him that "the family" has it out for him, and he gives them the Hell Money, which they load into a QlippothNet crypto-currency account.

They also learn of an experimental ternary-logic AI + Tibetan Buddhist monkey robot art exhibit at The Newark Museum of Art, and that the museum is supposedly being haunted by a rogue Poltergeist, and they choose to investigate this. The museum curator The Worcestershire* walks them through the exhibit. The "Do No Evil" monkey robot claims to recognize Pauling, but that must be a mistake...

They come back to the museum at night and find a security guard who is clearly just The Worcestershire with a Groucho Marx disguise. They do some investigating and eventually find The Bear, a large were-bear woman in a baseball outfit, the rogue poltergeist. She juggles three baseball bats as balls of magical energy appear and repeatedly spikes them out in all directions. The team has to subdue her while also protecting the art, which they manage to accomplish.

After all this, they return to New York, to be continued...

* Another NPC from the first campaign that I never wrote up in a play report, but he's become a personal favorite to roleplay because he has a very goofy schtick.