My Games

Friday, February 9, 2024

Into Interodelia: A Probiotic Drug Cocktail Adventure [Campaign Setup]

There are no contraindications to Into Interodelia: A Probiotic Drug Cocktail Adventure (it’s system and setting agnostic), but it pairs well with:

“What does a scanner see? he asked himself. I mean, really see? Into the head? Down into the heart? Does a passive infrared scanner like they used to use or a cube-type holo-scanner like they use these days, the latest thing, see into me - into us - clearly or darkly? I hope it does, he thought, see clearly, because I can't any longer these days see into myself. I see only murk. Murk outside; murk inside. I hope, for everyone's sake, the scanners do better. Because, he thought, if the scanner sees only darkly, the way I myself do, then we are cursed, cursed again and like we have been continually, and we'll wind up dead this way, knowing very little and getting that little fragment wrong too.”
― Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly

In this adventure, your body has been reduced to a state between life and death, and your mind downloaded into the consciousness of a drug-induced microbiotic gut bloom. Your vagus nerve has been torn from spacetime as you know it, uncomfortably bundled to fit within the confines of the curled dimensions, and yours and all the other's stitched together like string puppets pulled by the GM's trigeminal nerve somewhere past the fourth wall. The entire world as you perceive it is disseminated through the pain of the GM as immunopathological signals.

Too much information squeezed through coiled wires like electrons, the only release existing outside the body, outside the mind, the magnetic field in this too tightly stretched analogy.

A low resolution low-fi virtual reality, a sub-conscious cloud of pain-protecting signals. When consciousness is compressed into computational clouds, real and virtual become an arbitrary distinction.

“I am, because we are; and since we are therefore I am.”
― J. S. Mbiti on Ubuntuism

Fools as you are, you cling to a semblance of self, even as inevitably you bleed into one another and all of existence, which as far as you can tell has reduced to your interior body outside of spacetime and a handful of very vividly misremembered memories that are probably some of yours.

Nothing but yourselves and each other, and the bare nakedness inside you, all the bile and mucus and piss and shit and blood; and metabolic warmth and white noise whooshing bodily fluids. Simple comforts cramped inside your body and the paradoxical ease of an embodied reality.

It was drugs that got you here, and you consented to it, and the rest is Incidental. All the same, you've got a few hours to make some magic.

Who am I?
You are the most reduced, prototypical version of yourself, whatever that means to you.

Where did we go?
Within the computational space of the gut bloom, signals of consciousness are reduced into a binary perspective. The Positive Plane, material reality as we understand it; and the Negative Plane, like multi-dimensional shadows, holographic reconstructions full of impossible colors, the metaphysical things. You navigate your own insides, spindles and fibers and gristle of the positive plane, and holographic rainbow shadows of your memories in the negative plane. But, they all kind of bleed into each other, it's all dream-like.

Each player should supply a list of misremembered memories for the GM, and you can roll them up as needed.

And mixed up all in it are also Pain, Sickness, and Ennui.

What can I bring with me?
  • You may bring the experience of a single album of your choosing, but the songs must be played in order, and each song may only be played once.
  • You may bring the symbolic representation of one piece of technology or equivalent, and consider how it extends your body, offloads your consciousness, or expands your senses.

That's it?
As you go through this Interodelic Adventure, you'll find that it's really much more useful to think about what you don't have than what you do.

“To know that we are only angels weighed down by filth, free of guilt? The bacteria in our bellies are responsible for the farts which shame us, tiny monsters shitting in their billions all over our pure skin create the acid reek of "our" sweat. And Slade: when the "inner voices" tell us we're unworthy or instruct us to "love" and "hate," despite our best instincts... are these incessant distracting thoughts our own? Or do we only hear the voice of the eternal germ screaming in our heads?”
― Grant Morrison, The Filth

Into Interodelia
Each player starts in the negative plane, in one of their own misremembered memories (you share the memory with the party).

If the memory was of a physical act like a sports achievement, you might connect with the party in the positive plane via a muscle. If it was a concert you attended, it might be the banging of the tympanic drum, or sweating skin, or strobe-addled eyes. And so on.

You didn't come here to defeat evil, collect treasure, or gain XP. Here we are our most reduced selves, before space and time and causality. Those are just means to justify the ends, but magic is in the journey itself.

It's only a few hours, all you have to do is explore, and survive.

...the rest is Incidental.
Or so it feels in Interodelia, but then we still have to go to work tomorrow, don't we?

Unless you're like Del, the shared delusion destined to die, a sacrifice to The Nuclear God Shevet. Crazy, snarky, cynical Del, who was secretly a bit of a dork as well. Lost in Interodilia for Shevet-knows how long.

And besides, you'll need to clean Jakhodo's litter box. Jakky can be a real homicidal maniac if he doesn't get his way. Jakky doesn't believe he's a tiger, he was conned into thinking he's a human. Jakky is also dead, but he doesn't believe he's mortal either. He's made a home for himself in the memory buffer of grief, and like any cat, he will not be told where he can and cannot go.

And then there's Carolina. Oh, Carolina, did you forget about her? Everyone else has, but really you of all people... Sweet Carolina only wanted to please, but all she ever received in turn was scorn, or nothing, nothing at all. Wouldn't it be easier if you forgot about her again? Because, we all know, whatever happened can't have been good. She really looked up to you too.

But that's all Incidental. Or so we keep saying. But Incidental has a way of making incidents out of accidents and Shevet help you if Incident insights a cohort of colluding co-incidents and then you have a Calamity on your hands. All I'm saying is keep an eye out for Incidental, no matter how innocuous it seems.

Some would have you believe that happiness cannot exist without suffering, and to that I say, go fuck yourself. Have you ever experienced Pain? It fucking hurts! If you really think Pain is necessary for Pleasure, then come on over because I've got a five-finger treat for you. Oh, you're a masochist you say? Well fuck me, that's another matter entirely… Anyway, Pain and Pleasure may or may not necessarily go together, but they certainly both exist in Interodelia. 

In this reduced reality, the spectrum of Pain and Pleasure is the one and only signal of embodied experience. The spirits, anima, ki, djinn, daemons, however you want to think of it.

I want to say something about Fire, and Being and Non-Being and Becoming, and Prometheus and Dveikut, and Oxidation and Inflammation, and Pathogens, and Anxiety and Depression, and Hangovers. I want to say these things, but I'm just so tired. There is no space for thoughts inside me, my head is full of explosions. My skin burns. I can’t keep a single thought straight, it dissipates from me like light and heat.

There is a fire inside me, a controlled burn that firewalls me from the rest of existence. This raging flame allows me to be strong, but I don’t feel very strong right now. I recede inside myself, my cells, a cell. The divine light and warmth of my existence, all of existence, illuminates and enlightens the universe like stars. But all I feel of it is like a candle dripping away to nothing. A pool of sticky spent wax, and crusty white ash.

The Sickness mutates my DNA and sets my body and mind on fire with inflammation. As I flicker away impotently providing neither light nor warmth, as my most notable quality becomes my conspicuous absence, I remind myself, we are Phoenix.

In Interodelia, Sickness is paradoxically the source of both strength and weakness. It is an ongoing process, like the relationship between fire and fuel.

Because “boredom” is a boring concept. A lazy, unexamined, flattening of a maddening sensation. The cyclical pattern of learned helplessness and cortisol angst towards that which is beyond your control. The illiminal spacetime of a late train that cannot be compelled to arrive. The psychopathic rage of being surrounded by a bunch of ignorant fucks without a clue, and you without the faintest idea of what to do about it all. Knowing it’s all wrong, and it’s all outside your control, and therefore it’s all pointless. A lazy, unexamined, flattening of a maddening sensation.

Ennui manifests in the physical plane as a kind of anemic, unaroused, seething frustration. But in the negative plane, it is imagination and creation.

The man who said I was a joke and my life was a joke—he may not have been there in my final moments, witnessing my final breath, but what I realized was: he foretold my death. He could only have foretold it by seeing me to my core—by having been my soul’s witness. When he said those awful words, he witnessed me into the future, a future he knew I would meet. During our fight, I tried to convince him that he was wrong. “I’m not a joke!” I cried. “You’re the joke! You’re the joke!”
― Sheila Heti, My Life is a Joke

And then we find ourselves at Heaven’s Gate Academy…
Which is neither in Heaven nor an academy.
(And if you feel you've been railroaded, truly you are more lost than was intended.)

I came up with the majority of this adventure / micro-setting in Fall 2023 and never quite finished it but even in its current form I thought it worth posting. It's supposed to be a whole adventure. If I follow up, I'll elaborate more on how the songs work and maybe more concretely how Pain, Sickness, and Ennui work mechanically, and also maybe write the Heaven's Gate Academy adventure.


  1. This...

    This is really, really good, Max.

    I wish I could italicize that second really.

    I have a feeling I will come back to this; I'd like to run it, but on a first read there's much too much I feel I haven't processed thoroughly enough. If you ever decide to run it, I would be interested in participating. I had to think about that phrasing carefully - at first I wrote "I would enjoy...." then "I would like to..." and then settled on "I would be interested in..." because it may not be a pleasant experience as such though I feel it could be a really enlightening one - and I use the term enlightening in the sense of "providing knowledge or insight" and in the sense of "unburdening, reducing load" and in the sense of "injecting light into."

    Great stuff.

    1. Ya I get the sense that people are getting a kind of intrigued but discomfiting vibe off of this but the funny thing is this actually came from a really positive and cathartic place lol. I appreciate your interest, I've been trying to cut back on big online commitments although I was enjoying our group a while back, so if I do decide to run it online I'll for sure let you know.

      Other than running the MRD Vol. 1 Module at PAXU in Philly a few months ago (the only module I've ran multiple times lol), I have not run a game in over a year, and I think that is in part why I've struggled lately with inspiration and commitment to writing and blogging.

      I'm disappointed that I wasn't able to carry this to completion, I mean maybe I still will, but it was like an explosion in Fall and then a drip of inspiration here and there ever since. I just tried to get it to a place where I could post it, but ya there's potentially a fair bit more to do for this to accomplish what I had originally set out to do with it.

    2. On the intrigued but discomfiting bit: your use of the word cathartic is absolutely one aspect of what I meant by "enlightening." It feels as though it would (or at least should) overall be a very positive experience to me, though parts of it might be harrowing or uncomfortable!

      I know how it is with inspiration that comes in a gush and then slows to a trickle. I have like ten or fifteen unfinished stories, and as many ideas for games and whatnot that I've begun at some point and then somehow...just couldn't get anywhere with. I'm glad you posted this even if you consider it unfinished, as I certainly believe there is enough there to work with. No pressure, but if you DO decide to run it, I think that group we had would be a great place to give it a shot!

    3. "It feels as though it would (or at least should) overall be a very positive experience to me, though parts of it might be harrowing or uncomfortable!"

      Yes this is very on point haha, that is exactly right.

  2. my god dude this rules...and rules in a way that i think only could have come from the very particular interests and hangups that run underneath the rest of your work here - a weird and wonderful world indeed. some great bits of prose here too, loved ennui and "[b]ut Incidental has a way of making incidents out of accidents and Shevet help you if Incident insights a cohort of colluding co-incidents and then you have a Calamity on your hands" got me.

    1. oh and "made a home for himself in the memory buffer of grief" excellent excellent excellent

    2. Both of those parts you quote were some of my favorites as well, glad you liked it :).

      > "my god dude this rules...and rules in a way that i think only could have come from the very particular interests and hangups that run underneath the rest of your work here - a weird and wonderful world indeed"

      🙏 Thank you thank you :) 🙏

    3. The ennui part was actually the last part I wrote before posting. In retrospect I wish I had fleshed it out just a tiny bit more, but if anything maybe I should have just made the other ones shorter.