My Games

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Undead Dreams

The idea is loosely inspired by Vampire Hunter D, specifically Volume 5. What is an undead dream? This post was originally drafted in like 2019 and I was never sure what to do with it. I've had some similar ideas lately, I intend to explore some version of this further in the near future.

They say that when you die, your brain floods with DMT, the chemical of dreams. Your perception of time slows and you relive your life as synapses die and memories pop into being one last time. Memories are fuzzy and imperfect things, and in your psychedelic dreamscape your life plays out a little bit differently. Then, your dreamscape self dies, and it floods with DMT, and so recursively, at the moment of your death, you dream and live your entire multiverse of selves.

These recursive multiversal selves exist in a metaphysical space, a space of souls, where the soul-self opens the gate of the pineal gland and enters the collective unconscious.

And what are undead, if not liminal beings, a physical, synaptic consciousness at the gate, lacking a soul, the apparatus to join the collective unconscious? Zombies don't hunger for brains, they hunger for souls. But no matter how hard they try, no matter how many brains they consume, they'll never be able to digest, to integrate, the soul. Weep for the pitiful hungry zombie. Vampires, lich lords, and other intelligent undead sleep, but without a soul, what do they dream?

They do not relive their lives, but the lives of those whose brains they've eaten, blood they've drank, bodies they've necromantically revived; damaged and mutated, the undigested souls linger within, propagating through a dark multiverse of astral un-life, the reciprocation of undeath, a limbo dimension of null that exists, cruelly, to balance the physical inequality of energy that undeath introduces into the universe. The undead dream the purgatory of the living.

Also, I made my first post on the collaborative blog Iconoclastic Flow!

Thursday, April 21, 2022

BONUS: Iconoclastic Flow Collaboration!

I am involved in a collaborative blog! See the description from Screwhead's tweet below:

Iconoclastic Flow is a collaborative blog, with content from Max of Weird and Wonderful Worlds, Semiurge of Archons March On, Spwack of Slight Adjustments, Sibylla of  Devil Devil Devil, and Sofinho of Alone in the Labyrinth, as well as 4 lovely creatives from my real life!

Screwhead being of the Was it Likely blog, who was doing brilliant FKR-ish stuff before FKR was even a thing.

I've interviewed all of these bloggers before (see interview tag) and Devil Devil Devil is genuinely one of the most interest RPGs I've read in a while. The other friends of Screwhead I've also been getting to know a bit and they all seem cool as well.

I've got one bog post there already drafted, but since Screwhead was the lead organizer, we felt he should be the one to kick things off, with:

Given how much I've bounced around on this blog between worldbuilding, game discussion, prose, game mechanics, coding stuff, interviews, weird experimental stuff like Weird & Wonderful Wavelengths, etc., I don't necessarily have a coherent idea of what will differentiate my posts there vs. here, and there may in fact not be any meaningful differentiation, it'll just be another place to read my stuff, so if you're already enjoying this blog, or any of the other creators involved in this collaboration, check it out.

Monday, April 18, 2022

The Art of Chrono War: A Hexcrawl Across Time, Space, and the Multiverse

I get really excited about timey-wimey stuff, but then inevitably get frustrated when either I overcomplicate it or fail to explain it coherently or whatever, so I will try not to do that this time. This is not a redo of my previous multidimensional hexcrawl post which I'm still going to hyperlink but that is definitely a case where I overcomplicated an idea that actually isn't that complicated, and this is actually a completely different thing from that anyway, so don't bother reading that unless you like weird complicated shit. I liked the post even if basically nobody else did :(…

This post is partially inspired by Skerples' post OSR: Time Travel Tips for GMs and the idea that I had suggested in the comments that frankly I felt like he was a little too dismissive of so now I'm coming back at this partially out of spite (come at me bro >.<!), but also because it's rooted in ideas I've had basically for as long as I've been doing TTRPGs so it's about time I actually try to do it in a more coherent and fleshed out way.

Was not a great RTS, but had a really cool time schtick

The High Concept

With this mechanic, time is multidimensional and causality is non-linear, and I think that is rad as fuck but if that means nothing to you then don't worry about it, hopefully it'll still make sense as a game.

I'm going to say the setting is a generic war across multiversal spacetime between two factions just to keep it simple, but if I were to use it I'd likely make the setting more interesting (maybe my Cold War Under a Rising Sun setting)

We begin with a Hex Map

Let's start with 7 hexes, so a middle hex and six hexes surrounding it. It can get bigger, it'll just be easier to start small.

Traversing this hex map is not a traversal of space, as in going from one town to another, but of multiversal spacetime in its entirety, flattened out onto a hex grid where each hex is a key event in some place and time and universe in the multiverse. Also you could just get rid of the multiverse aspect if you want and make it just space and time, but I figured why stop there?

If the setting is about a war, the center of our hex map may be some pivotal battle. The GM should probably prepare at least a couple other key events, or the group can do it collaboratively, or they can mostly come up in play over time.

Chrono Points

While on a hex, as the group accomplishes some set of tasks, like the usual kinds of things PCs in a big intrigue/war game would get into, they acquire Chrono Points (CP). These CP can be physical coins or poker chips you can place on the grid, or you can mark them in some other way. Since this is a war, the enemy side may have CP of their own (should probably be a different type of coin or different color chip).

Before leaving that hex, the group can choose what to do with their points. They can use them, leave them on the current hex, or take them with them to the next hex.

…And How to Use Them

Because causality is non-linear, it is not necessarily the case that actions in the past affect the future any more than events in the future affect the past, and even events in an adjacent universe can affect other events in other universes across the multiverse, regardless of where in spacetime. So while the group's actions within a given hex may affect the circumstances in that given hex, that has only limited baring on the grand scheme of things; instead, the way in which those circumstances affect other events in the multiversal spacetime is determined by the use of CP.

The group may want to say that if, while on this hex where a major battle is occurring, they win the battle, then that will affect an adjacent hex in some favorable way. Maybe the event on an adjacent hex involves a political assassination of an ally in the near future of an adjacent universe, and so the group wants to cause a blizzard to occur on that hex, making the political assassination more difficult or less likely. You can call it butterfly effect if you want- the underlying "cause" in linear terms doesn't matter- linear causality is not how the multiverse actually works, that's just how we myopically perceive it.

The default cost might be 3, but depending on what actions occurred while they were on the hex (e.g. how favorably the battle went) and how they want that to affect another hex (e.g. change the weather vs. cause the assassin to have a heart attack), that might affect the cost at the GM's discretion.

If the enemy has CP on that hex, they might choose to contest the result. In such a case, both sides (the group and the enemy) would write down their bid, and whoever bids higher wins (but the CP are spent regardless).

Even after the group has left a hex, the enemy can return to the hex to change things in their own way, or by spending CP on that hex before leaving an adjacent hex in the same way the group uses CP, so there are reasons to return to hexes (although each time it will have changed in some ways), and also reasons to leave CP on hexes rather than always carrying your CP with you on each hex.

What Else Can be done with CP?

If there are any undefined hexes adjacent to the current hex, the group may instead want to create a new key event on that hex. They'll have to then go to that hex to ensure the outcome is favorable, but there is advantage and fun to be had in defining those events. Whether the event is viable, and the cost to create the event, will also be determined by the GM, with perhaps a starting cost of 3, and greater or lesser cost if the initial status is more or less favorable to the group's interests.

You can also spend CP to swap two adjacent hexes on the board (again, perhaps default cost of 3). This doesn't affect the outcomes, or how many CP are left on that piece, but since you can only move to or affect with CP the current or adjacent hexes, there may be advantages to moving hexes around on the board (like if you very desperately need to get to a hex that's otherwise too far away).

But it's Not Over Yet!

Sure you've won the battle, but time is multidimensional and nonlinear. The enemy may return to that hex to undo or alter what you've done, or spend their own CP on adjacent hexes to likewise change the outcomes, and you may need to return, but it should be notably different now. Alternatively, if you left some CP on that hex, you can spend it to start a bidding war to counteract their actions (but remember, they can do likewise to the group).

Why should we use this?

Well for starters, the idea of a world with multidimensional time and non-linear causality is rad as fuck, if you don't agree then we just don't see eye to eye.

But also, maybe there's a higher barrier to entry in wrapping your head around the idea, but once you do, it's actually way less complicated than most one-dimensional and linear-causal versions of time travel; there is no concern about time paradoxes, no convoluted logical chains of antecedents and consequences since causality itself has been modularized; if you just think of it as a flat board like any strategy game, that's all it is conceptually, and the mechanics themselves are about as rules-light as can be and can be bolted onto any TTRPG.

And it's just a novel way to think about space and time and the multiverse and causality and how to conceive of a world within a TTRPG and how you might interact with it as players.

And "Time Loops".

Since you will likely return to previous hexes- it's not quite like a time loop story because the circumstances in the hexes are changing based on how the group and the enemy interact with them or use their CP, but you can still to some extent explore some of the themes and ideas of a time loop story in a gameable way.


This is still just a proof of concept and I've discussed with several others and we have a handful of alternative takes on this idea.

One idea would be to make the outcomes of using CP probabilistic. So you can try to alter adjacent hexes with or without CP, perhaps doing like a d20 roll under, but CP would lower the difficulty.

Another idea, closer to my original idea, would be to make the board more like a sudoku board, except instead of being 9x9 it would be 4x4. In this version, each of the events would be keyed to a number, and the rules of sudoku would be the underlying causality. By changing a number on a given square, given the rules of sudoku, it may be necessary to change the whole board.

In regular sudoku this would be way too complicated and also there are fail states if you're messing with the board like that, but in 4x4 it might be more manageable. The idea to reduce to a 4x4 was suggested to me by Deldon on the NSR discord server.

I'd also open to additional ideas.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

MRD Campaign FINAL Play Report

The final play reports for my >1yr long Maximum Recursion Depth campaign. I can't fully express just how happy I am with how this all resolved, and how grateful I am for my players. I've played in or run a handful of >1yr long campaigns so far, and this is only the second to come to a proper conclusion, and the first to do so satisfactorily. This campaign truly lived up to the ideals of what I had intended MRD to be, and did so in a way that I had not anticipated, driven by the actions of the Players and the decisions they made given the conceits I presented to them. We'll be following up with a new campaign where one of the Players will take over as GM with their own modified take on MRD, and I'll be running an MRD2 campaign with a new group IRL, but this feels like a milestone in the journey of creation that has been MRD.

I realize at this point that these play reports are all over the place and probably impossible to follow. Maybe at some point I'll try to do a "campaign summary" basically explaining the whole thing in brief. In typical Weird & Wonderful Worlds fashion, I'd say don't worry about the particulars, just come along for the ride, there's some cool wild stuff in here.

MRD Play Report Index

MRD Module / GM Notes
The Court of Those Who Succumb Prematurely to Crippling Expectations (A significantly rewritten, improved, and expanded version is included in the Module of the book)
I gave up on doing GM Notes posts after a while, but some of the GM Notes are included in the PRs, especially for sessions that were more Conflict-heavy or Adventure-y

Session 25: Kristalvers Amsterdam

An oppressive stillness, trapped in a grayness between twilight and sunrise. A city like a retrofuturist cyberpunk 1970’s/80’s New York/Hong Kong/Tokyo full of metal and neon injected with sleek modern glass skyscrapers. Mirrors and invisible glass walls create mazes and optical illusions and it is often easier to traverse space across the illusions. The entire space appears to be encased in glass, recognizable due to a fracture in the sky streaking like a comet from its round epicenter.

After defeating Charging Bull in the previous session, Naked Fox-Hare opens up a portal to Kristalvers Amsterdam. This session served mostly as a send-off, giving the Team one last chance to interact with many of the NPCs they encountered on their journey and tie up any loose ends. They also get a final encounter boss fight with The Multi-Armed Bandit, the Rogue Poltergeist who has been mastermind the hate group The Deseret Avengers, who they had a tenuous alliance with but which collapses.

Tim’s at 25th: A 25-hour diner that finds the lost and listless. A temporary refuge from the pervasive yet ill-defined threats of the outside world; whether ennui or dysphoria or the panopticon of a fascist dictatorship.

They work a deal with Randy, the Recess Rascal who they encountered in one of the earliest sessions, who has since aged up and is working with Chester, they're former Handler as Poltergeist Investigators who they had long ago moved on from.

They have a quick quince-tini with Barsabbas and Yana at a Wrongside Racetrax franchise location.

There was a Niguma Temple scenario they didn't engage with.

Then they finally have a big boss battle confrontation with The Multi-Armed Bandit.

The Arena
  • Glass and Mirrors
  • Tall but still enclosed with a fracture in the sky
  • Multi-tiered- street, skyscrapers, medium-sized buildings, plenty of above-ground walkways
  • Fast-passing vehicles
  • Inception-style illusory geometry

Multi-Armed Bandit
Alexei Strauss has been evading reincarnation while running the Deseret Avengers as a Rogue Poltergeist. While working with the other factions to defeat Glass Maiden Pixie, he realizes that he will no longer be able to evade the Numberless Courts of Hell and has a change of heart. He would sooner let the world be destroyed than accept the reincarnation sentenced to him.
  • Red Bandits (x5): 3HP, Nd8 (collectively), 60% Word
  • Blue Bandits (x5): 3HP, Pd8 (collectively), 40% Word
  • Green Bandits (x5): 3HP, Wd8 (collectively), 80% Word
  • There is an X% chance of getting a Word when defeating bandits.
  • Words are used for Concept Crafting.
  • A counter shows X/10, increasing by each defeated Bandit, after which no more Words are provided and a bigger threat approaches.
  • There's a 50 Word Bank for this but this post is already cluttered so I'm just gonna leave it out...
After defeating the bandits, the Multi-Armed Bandit becomes an Ashura.

Ashura Multi-Armed Bandit
Wild West Sheriff with an explosion of arms like a tumbleweed, flashing with disoriented lights, neon, and loud noises, each arm a different kind of gun composed of Words.
  • 30HP
  • Xd6-Xd12 depending on Gun, conditional abilities from Words
  • New gun generated on each turn, composed of three Words (if buffed by Moon Marine), two words if >50% HP, one word if <50% HP

Moon Marine
Wrapped up in Alexei’s claims that this will be the end of the DA, she initially turns on The Team, but may be convinced to rejoin.
  • Uses her magic to provide Alexei an additional word per Gun every other turn.
    • 15 HP
    • Scorned Lover's Halation: Wd12, Bifurcated Cupid Arrow tipped with bright light.
    • Spiraling Heart's Abandon: Nd12, Pink spiral beam emits from chest.
    • Lost in Moonlight's Escalation: Pd12, Summons a magic moon that emanates below.
  • KAO: Soft Mother suggests to Alco to sacrifice her Plumbers License to the Ghost in the Mirror, so that she can return to Squaretime and free Jerome Candle, who can empathize with (and be entangled in Conflict with) Moon Marine, convincing her to reconsider her worldview.
    • It doesn’t mean anything anyway, she says.
  • KAO: Doctor Loves-Me-Not sacrifices themself, as a living idea, to incept Love into Moon Marine.

Rather than these KAOs, Jack used the Sword of Manjushri to enlighten Moon Marine and bring her around to their side.

Alco had to use her reincarnation ritual, but was brought to Squaretime by The Ghost in the Mirror. She made the same KAO deal with Soft Mother above to give up her Plumbing License in order to rescue Jerome Candle and return to the fight immediately.

After defeating the Multi-Armed Bandit, he gives them the location of the Glass House for the final confrontation with Glass Maiden Pixie.

Session 26: The Glass House aka The Court of the Unasked Question

The final confrontation with Emil McGinley aka Glass Maiden Pixie, the Poltergeist Investigator who used to work with Dori before setting her up for a fall in order to escape with a Magic Lamp. With the Lamp, he encoded a Wish to Break the World, in order to be freed and free all from this disgusting, distorted, dysfunctional existence. The Team don't want the world to end, but they have their own plans in mind for how to break the Karmic Cycle and radically alter reality.

The Glass House
Massive Crystal Palace, where the entire outer surface is like a one-way mirror (the inside is The Court of the Unasked Question).
As The Wish Unravels, the Karmic Cycle is so disturbed that Reincarnation Rituals are not possible; if one acquires too much Karma they either die or become an Asura.
  • Lobby/South Chamber (moon roof access for N.E.M.Os)
  • East Chamber (Ghost in the Mirror / Homicidal Maniac)
  • West Chamber (The Wish Unravels)
  • North Chamber (Asura Glass Maiden Pixie)

N.E.M.O. (Non-Entity Multiplex Obliteration) Mk0 and Mk1
drop from a kaleidoscopic Twilight Beam in the sky in front of the Glass House. They will not attack on-sight, only if engaged or The Team tries to enter.
  • Pungent odor of nearly overaged meat that sizzles in the Twilight Beams. Subtle notes in the odor change in sequence with the Twilight Beams.
    • The odor and Twilight Beams of light are two components of Twilight, the encryption algorithm and language passing instructions to and from the NEMO.
    • If The Team decrypt Twilight they can deal Enhanced TECH Damage to the NEMO once per turn.
  • When they move the Twilight Beams of light follow them.
    • If somehow the lights are blocked or the NEMOs pushed outside the bounds of the light, they take Sd6 Damage and are disabled for one turn. Each consecutive turn out of bounds the die size of Damage increases as they spoil.
  • Much too large to enter The Glass House.
  • KAO: Moon Marine and/or Doctor Loves-Me-Not could hold off the N.E.M.Os… but they will be tied up in it for the duration of the encounter and possibly die.
Indigo Cyclops bio-Mecha with a burning bright Karmic eye.
PHYS: 12, TECH: 11, SPEC: 11, HP: 6
  • Nd6*10 Tendril of Null (eldritch prehensile tongue).
  • Pd6*10 Churning Mass (one hundred arms extending from its stomach, the vengeance of exploitation of workers and the desperation of the starving).
  • Wd8*10 Trauma Beam (indigo laser beam from Karmic eye, induces the experience of being eaten alive and having one’s Karma extracted like the separating of meat fibers from fat).
  • Pulsing energy shield of indigo light (2 SPEC Armor).


I forget exactly how it played out, should have written better notes, but I believe they hacked the NEMO by stealing the Twilight Controller (see below) or something to that effect. It was very clever at the time, but the way things play out in the end was so profound to me that some of the boss battle / dungeon crawl-y particulars kind of don't matter to me as much anymore.

South Chamber
The lobby of The Glass House. The exit which they came from, and the entrances to any of the other chambers, are blocked by glass panes (only perceivable after they approach them).
  • Moon roof and massive crystalline Glass Maiden Flying Guillotine chandelier floating in place.
  • x6 Niguma Gangsters and x2 Niguma Mystics hovering on glass panes. They allow The Team to act freely unless provoked, merely standing ominously in rows on each side.
  • Niguma Gangster: 3HP, Nd6 Axes, Enhanced if breaking a glass plane onto a PC
  • Niguma Mystic: 3HP, Wd6, create physical glass pane barriers that can push PCs around (WIS Save). The planes can also be used to block exits, or push The Team up on the moon roof to the NEMOs or into the Glass Maiden Chandelier.
  • Whoopi is the leader, also a Niguma Mystic, and the Twilight Controller of the NEMO. She wears sparkling gold and white robes and a cow horn hood, standing under the moon roof and Glass Maiden Flying Guillotine chandelier.
    • 15HP, Niguma Mystic Abilities
    • Controls the NEMOs (Twilight Controller)
    • Twilight Beam Scramble:
      • Full Success: Pd4
      • Partial Success: Pd6
      • Partial Failure: Pd6 and can't speak or understand language for duration of conflict
      • Full Failure: Pd12, can't speak or understand language for duration of conflict, can't use WORDs
    • Having doubts about Emil’s goals. Reining in the Gangsters from premature action, and may be convinced (likely through PRO Conflict) to back down.
      • Fearless Girl will recognize Whoopi's disposition if The Team don’t.
      • Fearless Girl will suggest using the Naked Fox-Hare Credit to preincarnate her into The Bear, having a sense that Whoopi will listen to The Bear.
    • Offers to give The Team a tour of the Library.
  • It is possible for The Team to take the Glass Maiden flying guillotine with them.
  • Get the words TWILIGHT and FERMENT if the Conflict ends peacefully.

They did manage to successfully convert Whoopi to their side without conflict, although I think it was all a bit dicey. Again, I've kind of forgotten the particulars, but it was fun. They definitely preincarnated The Bear, that I'm sure about.

East Chamber
A digital library on a massive holographic display. The walls are all reflective screens, and hidden projectors reflect the contents both onto the surfaces, and refracted around glass particles in the air itself.
  • A cat-like Holo-Selkie playfully interacts with The Team, nudging them to interact with the holo-books.
  • Each holo-book is keyed by two Words. Using whatever Words they have (or taking a turn to get two new Words), they can scan for books.
  • The Team can explore for a bit, but they hear weird banging noises from inside the walls, before Ghost in the Mirror eventually crashes through
  • If on a tour, Whoopi and the Niguma Gangsters will ally with The Team, but only affects conflict if PCs use their turns to make an action with them.
  • The Perfect Cat (see below) will resolve Dori’s Attachment for Jack and also any Jerome Candle Attachments and also can have powers from two Words applied to it.
  • Each PC can make a permanent Holo-Book granting powers related to the content of the book (as pertaining to one or more Attachments).

This encounter allowed us to wrap up several loose end Karmic Attachments explicitly, but also by tying the Holo-Books to other Karmic Attachments, and based on Hairball Devils worked (see below), it also allowed us to indirectly settle some of the really ancillary Karmic Attachments.

Ghost in the Mirror / Homicidal Maniac
  • Cat-like homicidal maniac cyborg, covered in a circuit of metal pipes and hydraulics.
  • 20HP, Enhanced WIS Damage.
  • The knowledge from the holo-books can be used to block Ghost in the Mirror’s otherwise devastating Enhanced WIS Damage, but the book must characterize the PC’s Attachments in some substantive way.
  • Eats non-Starting Karmic Attachments. Consumed Attachments do not divest Karma and do not count towards Advancement.
    • A consumed Karmic Attachment gets barfed back up as a Hairball Devil.
    • Hairball Devil: 3HP, Xd6, characterizes the Karmic Attachment in some way. If the PC fights it, that's that. If they use the holo-books similar to defending against Ghost in the Mirror, the Attachment is resolved.
    • Will be satisfied after eating three Attachments.
  • When defeated / appeased, the Holo-Selkie turns into The Perfect Cat (and a twin for Jerome Candle). Will receive the words VIBRATION and SOFT, and can apply any two Words to the cat.
    • Jerome and the cat afterwards willingly go to be processed as Poltergeists.

North Chamber
A palatial yet filthy bedroom. The sheets of the overly large floating bed are undone and covered in sweat and grease stains. Distracting glaring light filters in from random places through random spaces, reflecting the filth and microscopic Time Worms and Mu and glass dust in the humid air that feels gelatinous like swamp water. The glass walls of the room reflect recursively, giving it the appearance of being infinitely large like a glass ocean.
  • The Bed: Swims in the thick air like a fish, nudging unsuspecting occupants of the room to rest on it. 
    • On the bed one feels Time Worms crawling over them, dragging them into the bed as if in a deep pit.
    • Deal Xd4 per turn to the PCs highest Ability Score (Max not current) and must make a Save of that Ability or else can’t leave the bed (but can still do other things).

  • Pixie Cage: Half-eaten corpses of cute little pixies lay at the bottom of the cage; Mu like inside-out ravens screech with dial-up tone, electric pixie blood and glass shards caught in their beaks.
    • Floats and bobs like a jellyfish.
    • Deal Xd6 to anyone who gets too close (random Ability each time).
    • If the Pixie Cage is opened, Mu will war with the Time Worms on The Bed, doubling Damage received on The Bed but removing the other effects.

  • Infinity Glass: The recursive reflection can be traversed, but the further from reality one goes, the dimmer and stiller things become, and the harder it is to find one’s way back. Pushing past the point of seemingly no return leads to Squaretime. From Squaretime, one can hear King Kevorkian coming.
    • It is apparent that Asura Glass Maiden Pixie will not follow them into the Infinity Glass but will eerily and patiently wait with an inscrutable grin.
    • If Ghost in the Mirror has not already been defeated, it will prowl the PCs who enter Infinity Glass, but will deal only Wd6 and only if the PCs keep moving forward- corralling them back into the North Chamber.
    • Time Worms will become more and more of a problem.
    • If a PC reaches Squaretime via Infinity Glass, they will find Time Worm Fumigation Gear.
      • King Kevorkian: Like a biblical angel by way of Jack Kirby and the Radiation Symbol. According to Psyr Psimon Stilton, it is the third god which the Monkey King could not defeat. It waits in Squaretime, fumigating Time Worms, serving either as the beacon of the <danger message>, or the executioner of its will, or both.
      • Time Worm Fumigation Gear: Holographic fumigation suit with an emerald Klein bottle fumigator. Immune to Time Worms. In Lineartime the fumigator is self-intersecting and can only be used by breaking. Immediately destroys all Time Worms in the vicinity, creates two Mobius Time strips which the fumigator can use to create interconnected portal-like time loops.

Ashura Glass Maiden Pixie
  • Has all Quirks and all Poltergeist Features of Glass Maiden Pixie Poltergeist Form and a metamorphosed appearance like a kaleidoscopic cosmic butterfly of shining stars and nebulae straining against a partially cracked glass maiden cocoon armor.
    • Always gets a turn after the first PC and again after all PCs.
    • All Ability Scores are at Max 20. Karma starts at 8 and can be further accrued but not divested. Uses a d8 for Karma rolls.
  • Reduce all ability scores to 0 to defeat.
    • After each one is defeated it is debilitated in some way / losing certain features.

This played out mostly as a typical boss fight, although at some point Doctor Loves-Me-Not was merged with Alco's Karmamare Bronco Rogers in order to save The Team from Obliteration, but I don't remember anymore how exactly that played out...

West Chamber
The Lamp is more like a furnace, taking up the entire Chamber. It cannot be stopped by physical means, and as it churns, existence itself begins to unravel like a black hole. If The Team did not examine the Infinity Glass in the North Chamber, it will become apparent that King Kevorkian is coming.
  • West Chamber is LOCKED until Ashura Glass Maiden Pixie and Ghost in the Mirror have been defeated, or some other extraordinary means, after which the remaining enemies will immediately swarm The Team.
  • The Team received Credits from the Guardian Elemental Beasts over the last several previous sessions, and must use the profound abilities of these Credits along with their own ingenuity to unravel the Wish to Break the World or supersede it for their own purposes.

Moon Marine is the <Danger Message>, this will become apparent to her if she is still with The Team. She will allow herself to be sacrificed if it means stopping King Kevorkian, but The Team must determine how.

Doctor Loves-Me-Not, the living meme and the unintended side effect of the Doppler Potential superorganism, in combination with one or more of the Credits, may be able to reroute or disable The Wish, but The Team must determine how.

Just as The Team were beginning to deliberate... BETRAYAL!
Soft Mother whistles and in a flash Wire Mother, Redlight/Greenlight, and a squad of x3 Calamansi Goblins (Orange Goblin shocktroopers with literally shocking power armor) arrive on the scene.
  • Knowing that The Team plan to break the Karmic Cycle anyway (Soft Mother of course breaking their trust), and lacking the means to alter The Wish for themselves, The Doppler Potential will play chicken with existence, demanding that they include The Doppler Potential’s ascension into godhood as part of the alteration of The Wish, or else let the universe be destroyed entirely.
  • If Doctor Loves-Me-Not is still available, they suggest that despite the backhandedness of The Doppler Potential, that this is ultimately worthwhile and that The Doppler Potential’s ascension will ultimately be for the best anyway.
  • If Moon Marine is still available, she will reject this on principle, but clearly from a place of Karmic Attachment and reactionary anger.
  • Fearless Girl will be uncertain. If she was preincarnated into The Bear, she’ll be defensive of The Team.
  • There is no “objectively” right or wrong answer, it’s the end of the campaign…
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Calamansi Goblin: 5 HP each, Nd6 electric 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). Nd4 and Pd4 when in touching range of them from electric power armor and shock tactics.
This ended up being a long and intense deliberation, and it was awesome. While they at first took the "fuck this" stance of Moon Marine to the point of summoning The Metro Thing to eat Soft Mother whole, they eventually open up to the possibility of compromise given the overwhelming opposition. They learn why The Doppler Potential actually wants to ascend to godhood in the first place, to represent humanity in the Celestial Bureaucracy (no taxation without representation). 

They had already intended to destroy the Karmic Cycle regardless, rendering The Doppler Potential's request moot regardless. By destroying the Karmic Cycle and creating something new, this achieves the Doppler Potential's intention of humanity leaving an indelible mark on all of existence.

After much philosophical deliberation as much out as in character, they replace the Karmic Cycle with a Metaphysical Sewage System and elect Alco to become the god of these Pipes, effectively becoming the God of Plumbing, despite having sacrificed her Plumbing License earlier to rescue Jerome Candle and herself from Squaretime.

When confronted with the breaking of the universe and asked to protect the status quo, even though that status quo was a dysfunctional bureaucracy doomed to fail, the Players of their own ingenuity determined to break the Karmic Cycle and create a new system. They acknowledged both in and out of character that they could not know if this new system would be better, but they knew the previous system would inevitably fail, and made a conscious decision to disrupt the status quo in the hope of creating something better. I could not be happier with this conclusion to the campaign.


Thursday, April 7, 2022

Weird Mecha: A Metaphor for Embodied Cognition

This is the second batch of tables/Mecha, see first post here and an explanation of how this word-based Mecha Gear system works here.

Mecha are sometimes described as being a metaphor for the body- which makes sense, they are humanoid giant robots, often unnecessarily anthropomorphized, and often used to tell stories about the adolescent experience or the brutality of war. I don't mean to suggest this is all that Mecha entail, but this alone can be explored in ways that I have rarely if ever seen.

In the first post, the Golem (the MRD2 term for Mecha) were mostly extrapolations of humans as units within greater superorganisms- Entropy Elancer existing partially in the Fourth Wall outside spacetime, Lycaon Strain a macroscopic distributed organism, and Hibernating Hyberia an encrypted civilization.

In this post, I explore the Golem as extrapolations of an individual consciousness and the mind-body connection, which I described as Embodied Cognition in the title although I'm only using that technical term loosely. These Golem are externalizations of thoughts, feelings, states of consciousness and their intermediaries; the biological expressions of them, and how they drive perception.

First, the three tables:

Golem 1 (Emotion + Psychoactivity tables)

Silent Scream Surf
A perturbation across spacetime; a cry for help never to be answered. A sharply cresting wave crashing and collapsing along the intermediary state of consciousness between terror and resignation. These are its emanations, but it is not the wave, it is the perceptual distortion in the act of surfing along its transient edge.

Karmic Orbitoclast
A blunt but effective solution to resolving Karma but not its root cause. A tool for puncturing, especially through the third eye socket. It will dull the pain of loss and desire, but also any wisdom or joy accrued from it.

Tsunami of Truth Serum
Rising of the multidimensional tide separating consciousness from the corporeal. Those within this dissociated state may finally detach from their pride and guilt and shame, apologizing as much to themselves as others. Though there may be consequences, few regret the release.

Exit Field
A glossy forcefield euthanizing those within and trapping them between life and death. There is a thrill in the novelty and immortality of this undead hypo-existence; a compelling and alien perspective. A drug like any other, not to be taken lightly.

Golem 2 (Sensation + Psychoactivity tables)

Chemysterious Cascader
Convoluted chemical cascade like a Rube Goldbergian neural synapse. A coffee-powered paradox summating serialized events into absurd outcome chains, proportionally as powerful as complex. A mobile platform like a deconstructed humanoid head.

Porcelain Prayer
Fermented feelings fuel tantalizing truths from a technicolor yawn. In the hazy, yeasty, fruity field of disinhibition, desires supersede reality. This is not always such a bad thing, until the vomitted fuel particles crystallize into shards like slamming jaw-first into porcelain.

Mucus Morpheus Missiles
A slimy schnoz apparatus bursting macroscopic odorant particles fractally extruding, crawling up noses, extracting dreams never to be remembered again. The memories transduced into chemical messages train the Chemysterious Cascader's AI.

Synesthetic Serotonin Starshine
A lolling tongue apparatus beaming starshine. Piercing tendrils seeking slick tongues to rest beneath, inducing bright light synesthestic explosions, washing out emotions and replacing them with a taste like a pina colada on vacation or a big ball of bubble gum in the mouth of a child.

Golem 3 (Emotion + Sensation tables)

Blue Raspberry Crush
Partially projected collage of ever shifting bodies of many-valued beauty and many uncanny faces smiling with ambiguous intent. An ozone field of artificial fragrances and fresh plastic from flitting cherubic projectors. A hologram simulacra ever on the verge of embrace. An ethereal thirst for touch that cannot be quenched. A sickly aftertaste.

Eros Pulse
Beaming waves on broadband frequencies of love, spurned and reflected back like radar. The full tapestry of love and all its shades laid bare. Seen but not touched, yet impactful like a voyeur exposed.

Love Bomb
Mashing meat and putrid hormonal lubricants and invasive proteins. A suppressed immune response for the sake of carnality. A necessary compromise of the self in service of another. An exchange of spit dribbling down onto the erotic shadow. Lowers inhibitions and opens up those in its exposure to the experience of another, in any genuine sense, and only with mutual consent.

Icy Hot Touch
A tingling sensation from a reiki touch. A kaleidoscope of textures like silk and matte and fur. Provides positive pleasure-pain, invigorating but not restoring. A compelling constraint drawing desire, subversively disempowering.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Worldbuilding with Pokemon

An earlier version of this post was first shared on The Cauldron. I've fallen behind a bit and digging into my backlog, but I do have a few upcoming blog posts in mind that are more directly RPG related.

Pokemon is obviously a huge decades-long phenomenon of a franchise requiring no introduction. Yet despite this fact, I am surprised by just how little impact it has had on fiction, how little regard is paid to the fact that it is a unique science fiction or fantasy sub-genre. My intention for this post is to describe what I think makes Pokemon unique as a sub-genre, and using that as a case example for how to go about thinking about works of fiction and how they might be extrapolated into new kinds of sub-genres, which can then be explored in tabletop RPG form.

I am aware of the rash of Pokemon knockoff videogames or anime and manga, some of which have come into their own, or for that matter Pokemon-inspired TTRPGs or unofficial Pokemon fan TTRPGs, but that's not really what I mean. Yes, there is a unique gameplay aspect to the monster collection / monster battler genre, but I'm speaking more to the setting aspects.

Pokemon is a world of magical creatures that are not quite animals but also not quite human, even when they have human or superhuman intellect. They're more like nature spirits or fey creatures from mythology. The Detective Pikachu movie characterized it really well, such as the interrogation of Mr. Mime, where it could only communicate through mimery. It made really salient the way that, even when they look humanoid and seem to have human-like intelligence, they operate by a different, magical kind of logic. I had been interested in exploring the concept of Pokemon much earlier, such as the Monsters & Madmen micro-setting from my old micro-setting post (I'll come back to this later), or even when I was ~10 years old or so first playing the videogames and watching the anime, but Detective Pikachu was where this idea that they're more like magical creatures really hit me.

People have of course talked about the questionable ethics of monster collection and battling, and I don't think this idea of them being magical creatures totally mitigates that, but it does put an interesting alternative perspective on it. Pokemon are magical creatures, metaphorical extensions of humans; they can be examined from a human-centric approach and the monster collecting and battling can be recontextualized as a form of ritual and reverence towards nature and humanities place in it, as is often the case in animist religions and hunting in animist cultures.

There are a few not-obvious equivalents to this I can think of. Another series that I am shocked has not had more longterm resonance, is the Megaman Battle Network videogames (the micro-setting I-Cons in that micro-setting post linked above was inspired heavily by MMBN), where the internet is basically a virtual reality space where human operators use AI avatars called net navi to traverse the internet as if it were a physical space, and where the net navi usually reflect and exaggerate the characteristics of their operator. The manga/anime Shaman King also did a similar thing, where the ghost or spirit companions of the Shaman usually reflect some aspect of their personality or identity, and in this case the mythological elements are overt and literal. There's actually a recent ongoing Netflix remake of Shaman King, but sadly it's kind of mediocre (maybe Shaman King just doesn't hold up as well as I remember :(?).

So as I'm listing it out, I guess there were some other settings, it seems almost exclusively from Japan, around the early 00's, that either consciously or unconsciously got at these same sorts of ideas, but it was like a flash in the pan- maybe more exists out there, but not much I can think of, and nowhere near proportional to the continued popularity of Pokemon as a game or singular franchise.

So let's return back to Monsters & Madmen. That name is not great, it was always a placeholder, and I still have not developed this setting much or done anything with it, so here we're just using it to examine the thesis of this discussion.
The big war; the cities bombed and nations EM-pulsed; civilization as we know it is on the way out, but adults still cling to the old world from only a few years ago. On the other hand, the children wish only to leave their homes, to travel the empty, broken roads, and to collect and battle the monsters that have surfaced (or, perhaps, resurfaced) in the wake of humanity's decline. The world is in anarchy. Some of the magical creatures the children geas are intelligent, some infinitely more so than humans. They bide their time as anarchy ensues and humanity dissolves under its own weight.
I was inspired by fan theories discussing "The Pokemon War" that canonically exists in the setting, and how a world could exist where 10-year old children travel the country or world alone, towards this seemingly frivolous goal of becoming a Pokemon Master, where the protagonists are missing fathers (who likely died in the war).

I was also inspired by Mad Max. Not Mad Max: The Franchise as it is popularly conceived, but the first Mad Max movie, the one that still looks and feels mostly like the real world- where an apocalyptic war occurred, but where there is still conceivably a chance of a return to "normalcy", where the adults still remember "normal", but the children live in a very different world.

One can imagine why I was thinking about this in 2018, but it is perhaps an even more relevant idea post-2020.

On the surface of it this could be a dark and dystopian setting, and that was more so the idea at the time that I first conceived it. But even then, I wanted there to be that possibility of hope- again, it's no Mad Max Fury Road, it's Mad Max 1. But also, adding in this human-centric approach of the monsters as extensions of people, as a part of nature- it's still a bit half-baked within the context of this setting, but I believe this has legs.

So this is just one example of how Pokemon could be extrapolated into something fairly novel, and gameable, and how one might approach thinking about extrapolating other popular series into new kinds of sub-genres that have not been seen before.