Thursday, 12 July 2018

Travel between Settings

There are infinite Planes and Spheres in the multiverse, all possibilities caught and bubbled from the roiling chaos of everything else. They are the rafts of pattern amidst Everything. They are the worlds on which stories are told.

Spheres are stories. When a character leaves the world they are from, they sign away their rights to that tale. For most, it isn't a bad deal: the majority of stories for natives involve working a long, hard life only to retire and die. The majority of roles are walk-on features. Some people have sacrificed their parts in grand and incredible dramas to see what else was out there. Many such people are sorely disappointed.

Parallel worlds exist, but you'll struggle to see them: when viewed from a cosmic scale, worlds that are similar up to a point of historical divergence tend to look the same. Their "wavelengths" collapse into one another, manifesting as a single world in the material sense. The parallel worlds are there, still, but the only sure way to reach one is the long way around: go back to the divergence and do things differently.

Travel between the worlds is often accidental. There are endless soft-spots and fuzzy borders, where there aren't enough living souls to pin the usual laws of reality in place. There are deserts of glass shards that join up reflections, from just out of view of the mirror. There is woodland so dense that when you get to the heart of a thicket, a full rotation on the spot has more than three hundred and sixty degrees in it, more than four cardinal directions to walk in. There are doors which open to the wrong world when the weather is a little queer.

Travel between worlds on purpose is often confusing. Time doesn't play well with different continuities, as though it struggles to keep so many things in mind at once. Golden Barges are a popular method of travel, but every culture builds them differently (and each is insistent that theirs is the "normal" kind). The one thing they have in common is a weird non-relation between their internal and external dimensions. Roll three times on the table below with a d3 and d6 to generate one on the fly.

The Engine…
The Appearance…
The Quirk…
Great Golden Ship with glass bubbles
Impossible for sphere-native souls to look directly at
Auto-Cartographic Realizer
Enormous rectangle of metal, featureless but for a door
Sings to sooth itself on long journeys or periods alone
Revelation Drive
Folding silver yacht, only visible from certain angles
The intelligence that is the engine’s functionality is evil
Great brassy bullet with submarine port-holes
The intelligence that is the engine’s functionality is a sop
Discordant Thought Engine
A perfect sphere with freakishly ideal dimensions
Has a long list of things that the engine may require to work
Spatial Re-Philosophizer
Rusty, battered, and extremely unflattering design
Has “favourite worlds” it will try to revisit
Recurrence Loop
Long, sharp and thin, with an array of antennae
Smells foul and makes any land it lands on infertile
Blocky and bulky, with many added shapes welded on
Has an interfering spirit trapped in the interface-system
Fractal Surfing-Hull
Glittering and iridescent, like an inverted oyster
Can only travel to planes and spheres of a certain kind
Chaos Ingestion
Like a classic Galleon, but with a weird metal shell-top
Has the potential to explode if left inert for too long
Parallel Chronovore
Organic golden shape, like a grown boat
Will vanish into its own paradox forever if left unobserved
Elysian Reality-Wurm
Tree-like, but sticky with black ichor
Is actually a proto-sphere of its own, waiting to grow bigger
Profound Disconnection Engine
Dagger-shaped, with landing gear as its hilt
"Plays up to look cool" when there are other interdimensional ships near
Platonic Equator
Something like a helicopter and a solarium at once
 Prone to tearing open chaos-dimension portals when the engine goes wrong
Satrian Crab-Power
Huge and gloriously steampunk
 Is almost always coveted by intelligent beings throughout the multiverse
Hallucinogenic Reality-Broker
Impossibly dark and squat, with bat-wings
 Is almost always feared by unintelligent beings throughout the multiverse
Aneristic De-Entropifier
A great flapping ray-shape, always hovering off ground
 Generally erodes the quality of reality in places it has spent too long
Possibility Combuster
A hellish machine of chimneys and fire-grates
 Has some bizarre set of creatures living on-board, always just out of sight

There are places where the Planes and Spheres naturally intersect, cities and monuments that are interplanar by their very nature. There are also places that just plain don't believe in other worlds.

Magic from one world may just not work on another. If you visit the same place by two different means, you may end up in two different places. If you find a way home, it won't really be the same place.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Set a course for the City

Cities, or plot hooks, or hometowns for NPCs, or... anything, really. I'm using these in Troika!, a game with a vast multiverse, so they're geared up to be on different worlds. With a bit of fiddling though I think most of them fit into generic fantasy settings with a big enough map!

As ever, it's a case of rolling 2d6, one for each digit, and consulting the table below! Hope these are useful.

11... Lasthork, a settlement founded on the frozen river Iborr. Lasthork was the site of the desperate unification of the savage Hork people and their foes the Phanac. Some centuries later and it is a frozen and bitter land, unified only in name. The Hork workers murmur of rebellion, while the Phanac draw up plans to send a fleet of ice-craft downstream to their lost lands.
12... Tremula, the shimmering city-state ruled by the brutal theocracy of the Djinn-eaters. Tremula is surround on all sides by dense forests of the tinkling, singing ghost-trees, calcified structures that stand between 4 and twenty metres. The city itself has an unearthly quiet, its citizens warm but reserved. Visitors are directed shyly to the state cathedrals, where they are questioned about the outside world in return for room and board.
13... Valeswatch, an old fortification turned capitol. When the plague-horde swept from the northern mountains some years ago, the villagers fled to Valeswatch, a keep on the hillside. All else in their province was laid waste, leaving the survivors to rebuild from their new home outward. Valeswatch is a town of hardy folk, who welcome new hands and have a refreshingly forward-facing attitude. 
14... Carce, the city in chains. Carce was annexed by the Empire of Augurs long, long ago. The Empire sent dissidents there alongside murderers and criminals, and walled off the peninsula it sat on when the prisoners rioted and overturned what was left of the local government. Now it is an anarchic and violent place, often called the Land's Great Shame.
15... Llanfaranfal, or Church-in-the-Deep-Valley, is a city clinging to the sides of a fissure in the rolling plains around. Llanfaranfal has a booming trade in mining, with endless tunnels sprawling from it on both sides of the many-bridged chasm. There are whispers in the tunnels of tremors, rumours of violent shakes which could dislodge the settlement.
16... Dioresque, a riverside city reputed far and wide for its decadent art and flawless architecture. It finds itself, however, in the grips of sickness that visits nightly, leaving pale and desiccated victims in its wake.
21... Alvamoor, the Sleepwalkers' City. By day, this city of long, squat buildings is a dreary, if prosperous town. Its wealth is gathered from the vast Cloud-fields to the west, making it a famous hub of commerce. By night, it is a weird and ghostly place while some seventy per cent of its inhabitants wander the streets like restless apparitions, pale and quiet.
22... The Englade, a woodland commune swollen to extreme size. It's largest trees are sky-scraping towers, with houses carved and grown from their trunks. The Englade is a peaceable place, but is governed by a complex social code that forbids any being from harming another. Mealtimes can be a dangerous affair for the unwary visitor.
23... Farrenpit, once a prosperous mining town and now a dangerous city ruled by the various thieves guilds that sprang from the remains of miners' unions when the mines finally ran out of coal. The people of Farrenpit are stoic and uncompromising, and visitors are not always welcome in the sprawling streets.
24... Columnaea, the celestial city. Blessed by the sun gods, Columnaea sits amidst bounty in the largest oasis in the Desert of Varrin. It is widely known for its beautiful, luxurious lifestyle. Less publicised are its people's hateful attitudes to all citizens born at night. Infanticide and a brutal caste system are common to see.
25... Emberhall, the county seat of the Jarl Freddernung. More myth than man, Freddernung has built Emberhall from a minor outpost into a bastion of the Fforden culture. Now that he sickens, the city is torn between which of his thirty six sons should succeed him. Good-natured street brawls are not uncommon.
26... Vander's Gate, a vast sea-port sitting on the Straits of Vain. Vander's Gate is the launching ground for Vain's impressive navy, as well as home to the original palace of the Vainish royalty. The paved and pristine port gives way to rolling farmland further inland. New visitors to the city find it a suspicious and unwelcoming place, but on repeat visits the Gaters are a friendly people.
31... Drakesweir, a hauntingly beautiful city on the coasts of a lake. Mostly unoccupied, Drakesweir is home to only a few hundred souls who live in the whirling spires and domed halls of the once great city. There are many preserved buildings to explore, but looters should beware the silent and deadly seaguard that stalk all visitors.
32... Farth, the windswept city of the Warda Plateau. Farth is isolated, leaving it a small and shrivelled place. Suspicious whispers of the catacombs beneath suggest there is a ruined city lying beneath Farth, still populated by the remains of its inhabitants.
33... Kah-Re-Lah, the sunken city off the coast of Balmorn. Only spoken of in legend, Kah is now a strange palace populated by the descendants of survivors of the cataclysm that sank it. These humans have embraced the ethereal sea-folk that helped them adjust their city to life beneath the waves, and survive through a combination of sea-folk aid and magic of their own.
34... Pharras, the living ruin, home to the oldest civilisation on the Sphere of Evveren. It is a city of vast monuments and labyrinthine streets, every building standing on older still stones. The people are strangely weary, as though the weight of history rests on them themselves.
35... Bendai, the floating city and only inhabited settlement of the Lost Islands. Trading hub for the merchant fleets of the continent, Bendai is a glorious mashup of cannibalised ships and towering platforms. Its people live up to their reputations as pirates and scoundrels, many eschewing the continent for the freedoms of the sea.
36... Carrenbury, cathedral city and rustic dream. Home to romantic poets and ruddy faced farmers alike, Carrenbury is a popular destination for the nations gentry come hunting season. But something dark stirs along the banks of the river, great muddy fish that crawl on land and swallow men whole...
41... Shenton, a tormented city famed for its storms and foul climate. The people are grim and hardy, but friendly in their own way. Superstition abounds, however, and witchhunts are a near yearly occurance targetting any the townsfolk see as a bearer of ill fortune.
42... Avenchester, an industrialised city reaping the benefits of the modern lifestyle. It is smog-choked but cheerful, if one doesnt mention or regard the growing slums and strange tales of men made from smoke...
43... Tentavia, the Library City. So known for its scholars and universities that it was made exempt from the national draft some years ago. Tentavians have a cruel and rude streak, and an often deeply misplaced pride in their home. One can, however, learn of almost anything in Tentavia.
44... Orzoghage, the city lost to limbo. Remembered in myth as a bastion of enlightenment, Orzoghage has become a xenophobic and slavishly dogmatic city. Its inhabitants and cold and withdrawn and its rulers are zealous autocrats. 
45... Endenton, largest of the Downs Settlements that dot the edges of the vast Marrowald forest. Vast social upheavals have left the future of the Downs Settlements uncertain, but Endenton thrives even as merchants caravans are intercepted and farmers revolt- whatever it is that stalks the fringes of the forests is watching over Endenton well.
46... Barrior, the mountain city of the Precursor-Men. With its ancient stone streets leading up to the monolithic True City above, alleged site of the first human civilisation, Barrior is something like a monastery to history grown out of control. The fringes of Barrior jostle with merchants and travellers, but the further to the True City one travels the greater the stillness and respectfulness in the air. 
51... Vyhem, the city-in-the-mountain, built in ages past by men and dwarves. Once the seat of power for a militaristic kingdom, Vyhem has seen a recent surge in intellectual and inventive powers. Now the city is torn between the old traditionalists and the looming shade of modernity.
52... Rivenhall, the great metropolis that stretches over seven rivers as they converge. Rivenhall's military might drove back a great dark army decades ago, and now its people recline in a sense of quiet jubilation.
53... Pansierre, the towering capitol of the Glittering Coast, home to the Pale Knights. In Pansierre, and the Coast as a whole, magic is outlawed. The Pale Knights hunt and kill magicians of all ilk in the name of reality's stability. Pansierre is also known for its fragrant spices and seafood, and the jubilant culture of dance that the settlers from the Southern Archipelago brought with them.
54... Pon-Precia, central hub of the great flat Sphere of Precia. The fashion in Pon is surreal and ever-changing, based on a religious edict that determines the current material meaning of good. This week, "good" may be not speaking aloud, or perhaps its wearing as many colours as one may at once. Society is fickle and shallow, and the people secretly miserable as a result.
55... Amdenford, city of shacks. Erected by refugees from the Balantine Conflicts, no one expected the shack city to last for more than a year, due in part to its shoddy construction and in part to the volatile mix of transient inhabitants. The shack city is neither peaceful nor luxurious, but its been there for the better part of a century now and the inhabitants have become curiously proud of it.
56... Callass, the cliff markets. Between the steep cliffs of the shattered archipelago, thick rope bridges suspend bird-cage houses. In the caves set into the sheer faces of rock, shopfronts and churches have been hewn from the stone. Larger ships dock just beyond the weird, high walled canals, sending small craft in to parley and trade.
61... Irifice, the city of spires. Stretches so high that it passes between the worlds themselves, making it less one city and more a set of instances of one city, connected by myriad doorways hidden around the oldest towers.
62... Fomalia, Steppes Edge. A city of cruel and barbaric people, made hard by the barren steppes. Fomalia's principle worship is the current Dragon, their chief warlord and leader. Strangers are treated well if they are too formidable a threat to kill and rob, otherwise they are... well, killed and robbed.
63... Endrington, city for the privileged. With the dissolution of crown rule two decades ago, Endrington formed its own senate of the wealthy and influential. Now laughably corrupt, the city is the destination for the rich and immoral, where any perverse tastes can be exercised. The gothic buildings darken in shade, and the parlor rooms and halls are dens of debauchery. 

64... Caraccia, the sun-soaked city of vice. Known largely for its fine wine and the inhabitants penchant for elaborate duels. The city is large, but spread out in the extreme- with landscaped parks and vast vineyards, many mistake the whole for a scattering of smaller towns. 
65... Taronn, last palace of the Valkyrie. Taronn is an incredible domed city overlooking the dark salt-flats on one side and the lush, jungled valleys between mountains on the other. Centuries ago Taronn was established by rogue Valkyries fleeing from a higher plane, and it has settled through those years into a strict but fair matriarchy. Men are welcome in the city, but may not own property- it is said that the original settlers were cast out by a churlish male ruler, and will never allow such a situation to arise again.
66... Saah, Lost Celestial City. Hidden in a mountainous region, Saah is spoken of in religious tracts all over the continent, but widely considered myth. The streets are paved with carved tablets, and the buildings hung with charms and symbols against evil. No spell can scry into or out of the city: no magics can teleport inhabitants away. Saah is ruled by a council of the wisest philosophers through the lands surrounding, an ever growing senate of knowledge, since no inhabitant of Saah ages. Any who find their way to Saah can claim citizenship.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018


I've been playing around with a table of injuries for my campaign. I'm aiming here to create some sort of... not realism per say, but life-like lasting damage. In Troika! eating a ration heals stamina. While its not meant to be a super realistic system, that to me marks stamina as something other than just a health bar in a video game. I feel like stamina is more the will to continue, the ability to keep dodging blows and getting back up. I assume at lower stamina players have a bunch of cuts and bruises, perhaps- but all things that will naturally heal with rest and time. The table below then, is for when things get dicey...
When a player reaches 0 stamina, then, they get hit deeply. For every successful strike after 0 stamina, no damage is taken but the player rolls again on this table. There's still insta-death here, but there's also the chance of survival.. weighed against the possibility of becoming dead weight to the party, far from safety. All of the results below will naturally require graphic narration of the blood and guts, and it's also possible that if a player with even only a minor penalty incurred via, say, a -1 blow to the arm, could suffer further consequences if they overdo it with that limb. These are just a working table! I'll be playing with it, and perhaps updating it to reflect changes as I go. If you find the balance is out for you, please feel free to change it yourself or let me know how you find it!

D66 Table- Roll 2d6!

11. Head- A skull-splitting, life-ending strike!
12. Head- A brutal connect that knocks you unconcious for 1d6 hours!
13. Head- The blow sends you reeling, leaving you dazed for 1d6 rounds (-3 penalty to all rolls)
14. Head- The blow sends you reeling, leaving you rattled for 1d6 rounds (-2 penalty to all rolls)
15.Head- The blow sends you reeling, leaving you sore for 1d6 rounds (-1 penalty to all rolls)
16. Head- The blow is harsh, but only superficial. No further ill-effect, except a gnarly scar.
21.Trunk- a cruel strike that knocks the life out of you! You have 1d6 rounds to be stabilised by magic or mundane healing, but even then you'll need serious medical attention to survive (save versus death every 1d3 minutes until you've recovered 2d6 stamina through magic or healing applications AND you're in positive Stamina. Even then, you're considered to be at 1 Stamina and pretty much disabled as far as physical activity goes for another 2d6 days)
22. Trunk- a severe wound is opened up, giving you -3 to all rolls. If this wound isn't patched up satisfactorily in 1d3 hours, or if you take another wound, it develops into entry 21- see above
23. Trunk - a nasty wound sets you on your rear- you are rattled and bloodied for 1d6 rounds, taking -3 to all rolls.
24. Trunk - a harsh wound knocks you aside, leaving you dazed and bloodied for 1d6 rounds, taking -2 to all rolls.
25. Trunk- a bad wound gives you reason to gasp, leaving you staggered and bloodied for 1d6 round, taking -1 to all rolls.
26. Trunk- the wound looks cruel, but it's largely superficial- gnarly scar for you!
31. R. Arm- deep wound or broken bone- this arm is either severed off clean or so badly damaged as to be useless and in need of amputation. The bloodloss is such that you could die if it's not looked at pretty swiftly.
32. R. Arm- deep wound or broken bone- the arm is useless for at least 1d6 days, and will have a -2 penalty for 1d6 weeks after that.
33. R. Arm- a rough blow numbs your arm, giving you -3 on rolls that need it for 1d6 rounds
34. R. Arm- a rough blow numbs your arm, giving you -2 on rolls that need it for 1d6 rounds
35. R. Arm- a rough blow numbs your arm, giving you -1 on rolls that need it for 1d6 rounds
36. R. Arm- a nasty, but superficial blow- you get a gnarly scar
41. L. Arm- deep wound or broken bone- this arm is either severed off clean or so badly damaged as to be useless and in need of amputation. The bloodloss is such that you could die if it's not looked at pretty swiftly.
42. L. Arm- deep wound or broken bone- the arm is useless for at least 1d6 days, and will have a -2 penalty for 1d6 weeks after that.
43. L. Arm- a rough blow numbs your arm, giving you -3 on rolls that need it for 1d6 rounds
44. L. Arm- a rough blow numbs your arm, giving you -2 on rolls that need it for 1d6 rounds
45. L. Arm- a rough blow numbs your arm, giving you -1 on rolls that need it for 1d6 rounds
46. L. Arm- a nasty, but superficial blow- you get a gnarly scar
51. R. Leg- deep wound or broken bone- this leg is either severed off clean or so badly damaged as to be useless and in need of amputation. The bloodloss is such that you could die if it's not looked at pretty swiftly.
52. R. Leg- deep wound or broken bone- the leg is useless for at least 1d6 days, and will have a -2 penalty for 1d6 weeks after that.
53. R. Leg- a rough blow numbs your leg, giving you -3 on rolls that need it for 1d6 rounds
54. R. Leg- a rough blow numbs your leg, giving you -2 on rolls that need it for 1d6 rounds
55. R. Leg- a rough blow numbs your leg, giving you -1 on rolls that need it for 1d6 rounds.
56. R. Leg- a nasty but superficial blow- you get a gnarly scar
61. L. Leg- Deep wound or broken bone- this leg is either severed off clean or so badly damaged as to be useless and in need of amputation. The bloodloss is such that you could die if it's not looked at pretty swiftly.
62. L. Leg- deep wound or broken bone- the leg is useless for at least 1d6 days, and will have a -2 penalty for 1d6 weeks after that.
63. L. Leg- a rough blow numbs your leg, giving you -3 on rolls that need it for 1d6 rounds
64. L. Leg- a rough blow numbs your leg, giving you -2 on rolls that need it for 1d6 rounds
65. L. Leg- a rough blow numbs your leg, giving you -1 on rolls that need it for 1d6 rounds.
66. L. Leg- a nasty but superficial blow- you get a gnarly scar

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Sicknesses Slinking from Strange Directions

I am returned, from a long absence inflicted by a change of address and many, many hours of work. In the interim I've been incubating some bizarre sicknesses, contracted no doubt in one of the damp, fetid caverns at the very distant back-end of my brain.

I've never been a huge fan of super-realistic diseases in roleplaying games: I think the aversion stems from a particularly traumatic episode as an early player, watching my beloved character slowly succumb to some particularly depraved invention. That said, I would be troubled to see them totally absent from a setting- even if they are generally only represented by ability score penalties and perhaps an inhibited recovery from damage. And, well, where there are standard diseases there should be some really weird ones, too.

Dwarven Diamante-Rash
It's said that this disease is native to the very depths of the deepest dwarven mines, where much toil and labour is expended carving materials long believed to be the stuff of myth and legend from the crude bedrock beneath the mountains. The traditionally stoic dwarven approach to sickness, weakness and medicine meant that few outside these ancient mines and their accompanying citadels ever heard of the Diamante-Rash until trading routes with the nearby petty kingdoms of humans were established. The humans, with their much lower standards of hygiene and much less robust immune systems, were a perfect host for the rash.
The Diamante-Rash first manifests as an itch in one particular spot. Eventually, the skin there will blister and split, blossoming into a gaudy but materially worthless gemstone. For 2d6 days after infection this process will repeat as the rash spreads over the body. After this period is done the afflicted individual enters the infective stage of the disease, with the gemstones slowly losing their lustre and shine even as the host begins to sneeze dry and uncomfortable bursts of glitter for 1d3 days. This glitter is the pathogen for fresh infection in new hosts.

During the infective stage treatment may be sought for the affliction. A successful save against disease means that the infection ends with the final glittery outburst and the host is left immune for 2d6 weeks, with advantage on this save given for those who maintain good hygiene throughout and a further advantage for those who seek medical attention to this end. The initial blisters begin to flake away harmlessly when infection has ended. If the save is failed more of the gemstones will begin to appear for another 2d6 days, and the cycle continues on.

The disease is not itself directly fatal, but it will begin to impair movement after successive infections since, while the disease is active in one's system, the gemstones remain very hard. For every six days that new diamantes are actively growing the afflicted takes an accumulated -1 penalty to all skill checks involving fine dexterity. When this penalty reaches -5 movement is impaired. With long term exposure, the ability to eat will likely be impaired. Dwarves that were infected with the Diamante-Rash and then trapped in the mines due to cave-ins are often discover many years later as bizarre sculpture-like memories of themselves.

Dwarven Diamante-Rash is caught either from an individual in the infective stage of the infection themselves, or from mysterious secretions of the glitter-pathogen that can sometimes be found on the walls of deep, deep cave systems. This glitter-pathogen has been used to great effect in the mischievous traps and pranks arranged by alchemist apprentices.

The Gull-Sickness
Weird plagues crop up all along the Coaster-towns every year, washing in with the heavy tides to pepper the poor hardy-folk with ailments as summer comes to a damp conclusion and freezing out with deep winter. By the account of near every grumpy inn-patron and harbour-hand, the worst in living memory was the Gull-Sickness. This freakish affliction that swept away hundreds and hundreds of lives over a good few years of virulence is still reported by the sailors who venture out to the rocky islets between the Yammerstills and the Ice Cities.

The Gull-Sickness appears at first to be a sort of stomach bug, inducing nausea in the afflicted and affecting balance for 1d6 days. The sufferer would complain of an upset stomach, perhaps, or a fluttering chest. At this stage, treatments are often administered with some success- quelling the vomitting, settling the stomach. Regardless of the treatment, the afflicted suffers a strange lack of focus, struggling to maintain concentration on matters important and tending to distraction, staring at odd objects or into the middle distance- this is reflected in a small penalty to initiative. After the initial sickness passes or is treated, the afflicted experiences 1d3 days of relieved symptoms and mostly-returned focus, albeit with a growing and insatiable hunger. The afflicted requires double the usual rations to feel the benefits of a meal. After these last days, the sickness enters its true phase.

The hunger that was an inconvenience before becomes all-consuming now. For 1d3 days the afflicted must make a save to avoid eating anything that looks reasonably edible. For 1d3 days after that the afflicted must make a save to avoid eating anything that is a texture roughly equivalent to common foods. For the next 1d3 days they must be physically restrained from shovelling anything they can physically masticate and swallow down their throat. The sickness does not compel the afflicted to eat living things- only inanimate matter seems to flag as "food" to their fevered mind.

The Gull-Sickness is so named because the sufferers in their latter stages appear as voraciously hungry and non-discerning as the muddy-white seagulls of the coast. Physicians of all manner up and down the settlements have treated the Gull-Sickness with very limited success, supposing it to be some taint affecting a meal eaten that causes the illness. Really the illness is of a memetic nature- it is a learned behaviour with a mind all of its own, meaning that merely observing one in the throes of the final stage is enough to potentially infect a new host, with a save versus mental compulsion. The real danger of Gull-Sickness, of course, comes from the various substances eaten while in the state of frenzy, since the illness offers no improved constitution. Saves against the toxicity of various substances should be made at the GMs discretion to avoid harmful side-effects. Should a failed save result in vomiting, it is cheerfully noted that vomit is most definitely often reasonably edible-looking. Many a sailor of the Coaster-towns has drowned after to trying to cram back in an ill-thought meal he had already once lost.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Home-made Origins

These are 7 backgrounds I wrote up for using in Troika last autumn. Why 7, you ask? Because I like to produce awkward and odd numbers of things, so they're more difficult to incorporate into a background table.

1 Homesick Deity
You were once lord or lady of all you surveyed: a god embodying one or more of the natural forces of your world and revered by the mortal inhabitants. When your world withered and died on some unfortunate alignment of the spheres, you were fortunate enough to come unstuck and survived. You are certainly a shadow of your former self, but then you were literally a divine incarnation before so perhaps you should be happy with what you’re left with, eh? You are, of course, still a little hung-up about the homeworld. That’s understandable.

- A badly damaged but still functionally excellent weapon of your choice, granting +1 to attacks made with it.
- A drinking horn with 4 gulps of Ambroise and Nectar in it (each drink counts as a provision that also restores 1 Luck) OR a rather gaudy set of statuettes depicting you and your other playmates on the pantheon.

1 Astrology
2 Second Sight
2 Weapon Fighting with the weapon of your choice
2 Spell – Random (Table 5, Troika!)
2 Spell – Animate

Being without your home turf advantage may have severely lessened your divine abilities, but you are still very much above the norm. You aren’t immortal or omniscient anymore, but once per day you can spend a luck point to impose your divinity on your surroundings. This might involve commanding an unusually recalcitrant object nearby to behave (and having it listen), or impressing the mortal proles. Said proles may test their luck against being compelled to worship you for at least 1d6 days. And who knows, perhaps they’ll end up liking your church better than their old one.

2 Caped Crusader
You were chasing your nemesis from Metroville City after what must have been your hundredth high-powered punch up in the downtown area. This time, however, with an evil cackle he opened some sort of aperture in front of you, which you flew straight into like the great big do-gooding doofus that you are. Now you’re adrift on the cosmic currents, and trying to adapt to a life without the precious city you swore to protect. Best not to worry too much about whatever it is your nemesis is doing in your absence.

- A very gaudy, skin tight costume complete with cape.
- A communication device for the League of Heroic Chums, which has picked up only static since you passed through the portal.

4 Fly
4 Strength
3 Fist Fighting
1 Awareness
1 Disguise

You don’t wear armour, but you have a mild invulnerability to harm. You count as Heavily Armoured, without the associated encumbrance. Additionally you must roll 1d6 to determine your secret and mortal weakness: 1 - a kind of shiny space-rock chemically similar to your homeworld; 2 - anything that’s a particular shade of green; 3 - plasmic core fumes; 4 -  sour dairy products, including cheese and off-milk; 5 - light produced from a magical source; 6 - nuts. Whenever the subject of your secret and mortal weakness is brought near to you, you lose 2 points of skill until it is removed, and lose a point of stamina every round (or every few seconds) it is near.

3 Broker Envoy
There are a number of powerful forces in the multiverse, and a number of conflicts, checks and balances that exist between them. Your magical powers and abilities were bartered and cajoled from greater beings by acting as a diplomat, negotiator and broker between them. You consider yourself as a specialist agent of the cosmic balance, having survived encounters with strange and mercurial forces of the cosmos. Others more likely consider you a wheedling con-man, try-hard, or brown-noser.  

- 1d6 sigil-badges, the first your personal crest and each other representative of a patron or specialist subject.
- Diplomats robe and cloak, subtly padded out. Lightly Armoured.
- Impressive-looking staff
- Tea set for impromptu summits

1 Astrology
1 Second Sight
1 Awareness
1 Evaluate
1 Staff Fighting
2 Etiquette
2 Spell – Random
2 Spell – Random

4 Wizard Tower Thief
You grew up with ambitions for a career in sorcery, but unfortunately you also grew up without demonstrating a single iota of magical talent. Working initially on the premise that if you can’t have it, no one can, you set about pilfering interesting magical lore and spellbooks. You have worked out by now the fundamentals of eking out the residual magic in objects taken from spellcasters, but refinement is a long way off.

- Burglars outfit with deceptively deep pockets, giving an additional 2 inventory slots that can be used without incurring weight penalties.
- Climbing gear, for those damnable tall bookshelves.
- 2d6 random magical nicknacks and spell scrolls you have recently liberated from an uncaring home.

4 Awareness
4 Evaluate
2 Sneak
2 Locks
2 Trapping
2 Activate Magic Spells

You may use your skill Activate Magic Spells to use up a written spell as found in a wizard's spellbook, scroll or magic item. You can still use items with magic abilities as normal, but if for whatever reason it isn’t working, you can jimmy some sort of dramatic reaction out of it with a little fiddling and persistence. Whenever you use an item this way, roll 1d6. On a 1, it explodes and deals you 1d3 damage. On a 2, 3, 4 or 5 it’s magical residue is used up without any fireworks, rendering it inert. On a 6 it still has a little juice left in it, and is usable again.

5 Chapter Knight of the Grand Sanctum
As a child barely old enough to read you were dropped into the greatest library in the million spheres, trained as a powerful protector and charged with guarding and curating one of the many areas that intersect with another world. Of course, these days literacy rates are very low and interest in the public services wanes. You have left your post (or else been laid off amidst huge cuts) and set out to discover if there really is anything more to the world than your dusty tomes.

- An enchanted sword, providing +2 damage against those with late fees.
- A quick cheat sheet on the Grand Sanctum’s rather complicated index system.
- A suit of librarian’s Tweed-mail, thickly woven Modest Armour.

2 Sword Fighting
2 Sneak
1 Astrology
1 Organize

6 Undercity Denizen
You had a life now long forgotten as a mundane mortal in one of the many metropolises on the material plane. But you slipped through the cracks, faded from the street level, and the bleak otherworld of the undercity caught you in its grasp. Now you walk the spaces unseen and deal in circles which only the truly certifiable can deal, like a particularly pungent shaman of the city.

- A bag of assorted tribble and rubbish wrapped fast to a stout length of wood
- An unkempt and ragged outfit that manages somehow to express an air of nobility while simultaneously dirtying the actual air with a mysterious but powerful odour.

2 Fist Fighting
4 Awareness
4 Second Sight
2 Spell - Astral Reach
2 Spell - Illusion
2 Spell - Random

Since to any common passerby you appear to be nothing more than a crazy homeless person you have 4 Sneak when in Urban areas, while all the well to do citizens of the City Above desperately avoid making eye contact with you. Doesn’t apply to others awakened to the Undercity.

7 Feeble-pit Survivor
Maybe because you were too pretty or charming or just plain unfortunate, you were taken by the royal guard one night and for weeks, months or possibly even years you survived the expansive and diabolical dungeon of Feeble Ezra, the Crown Prince of Philomere. It took some skill but you’ll be the first to admit that you only really got by on tightly-wound paranoia and sheer dumb luck. Eventually a newly-placed magical trap misfired and teleported you away, but honestly you aren’t yet wholly sure that this isn’t all some further dastardly trap by the Feeble Prince.

- Manacles and a length of chain
- Ragged and soiled prisoners clothes
- An expertly crafted shiv

4 Trapping
4 Awareness
4 Run
2 Stealth

You are so fuelled by neurotic terror that you’ve become desensitised to the horrors of the world. You don’t spend a luck point when testing against fear related effects. Of course, if you ever manage to chill out again this bonus is lost.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Myths & Rituals

The Homebrew rules below are intended to work with Troika! or AFF, since they deal with the Luck stat. If you're not playing with those rules I'd recommend switching out Luck for either a suitable Magic score or a saving throw that is appropriate. 

We start already with a big world: you flesh it out and pore over the details and develop it into the grandiose epic you know it ought to be. This shouldn't reduce the mystery, though. Just as soon as you've established rules, you should showcase those things that run counter to them- things that would be called exceptions if it weren't so that they are myriad, vastly outnumbering you in any of the wild spaces that exist beyond the little bubble you were so comfortable in.

This is the sort of game I like to run, play, or just idly daydream in or about. My posts have had a bit of a gap recently, and one of the main things stewing in the interim has been myth and ritual, and more specifically how to get the quality of those things across in-game. The character I use in my ever-to-be unfinished short fiction is driven to know more about the gods, goddesses and otherworldly forces that drive things behind the scenes- it is only natural, then, that I try to bash out some broadly corresponding rules.

I've been reading a lot about myths and dreams, and one of the notions that comes up again and again in the Jungian-derivative essays and various chaos-magician writers' works is that a ritual is a kind of theatre, acting out myth-themes to please or entice some supernatural being or force. I like this idea of ritual or myth as a narrative, some pattern which a given being is almost compelled to interact with.

Qualities for Otherworld Denizens

The sphinx is powerless to resist riddling any intelligent being she would eat. The god of thunder is drawn like a moth to a flame to any amorous activity that resembles his raunchier conquests. A summoned devil abides by a certain code of conduct- providing the summoner remembers to follow suit. These rules are not enforced by the physics of the universe or the mechanics of magic, they are the entity itself's weakness to the very fabric of their reality- narratives. A creature of this kind would have the quality Addicted to Narrative.

The dignitary from Faerie is easily coerced by bargains and trades. The High Priest of Banzion will always find himself inclined to excess and waste. A sorcerer with infernal blood finds herself absorbed by scenes of suffering. These creatures, through relation or extended interaction with supernatural forces and places, have taken on something of those forces qualities. They have gained the quality Susceptible to Narrative. 

The quality Addicted to Narrative is really reserved for NPCs, or perhaps as a temporary curse on a player, since it limits agency in the game. Susceptible to Narrative is a more fitting quality for a player character, offering rewards and drawbacks for certain actions performed or avoided. When a character encounters a scene playing out that the GM determines to be a narrative they are susceptible to, they can choose to resist or give in to the urge. Resisting requires Testing their Luck. Giving in will reward them with a Luck point.

What do you think? Is this stuff better just roleplayed, or is a bit of a guideline rule helpful?

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Magic by the Milithaum

Magic is a bit of a problem for me.

Not in that I struggle to personally cast spells and work enchantments myself: you misunderstand, I am in fact a very competent wizard. Probably one of the most competent wizards you know. No, magic is a problem for me in that when I sit down to play RPGs, or even just to daydream and plan for RPGs, I don't know where to put magic. I want magic that abides by laws, has its own internal physics. I also want magic that is fantastical, and holds a real sense of wonder.

I think that's what draws me again and again to games and stories that hop between worlds. In my headcanon for any fantasy that covers a multiverse, magic is a refraction of ones' will through the lens that is reality itself- it is the focusing of the otherdimensional potentials that exist all around us, invisibly. Sometimes, I want there to be an implication that other parallel worlds are touched by our actions. Other times I want to be able to hurl fireballs without constant angsting about other worlds.

At the moment, what I want more than anything is a system that supports the stories I've been daydreaming about for over a decade in one form or another. I want a system that lets me and my friends play in the universe I already know better than any campaign setting. I think I found that system in Troika!, and now I'm just tinkering to stretch it around every concept I want it to cuddle.
So magic, now, is something I want to be big and broad and paradoxical. I like the spells in Troika: I like that they drain stamina to cast. Magic should have a cost. But as pointed out on the G+ once, this narrative-honest magic is pretty harsh in combat situations. It has a steep cost and a pretty low chance to do much against, say, the more traditional method of hitting things.

My current tinkering is in the direction of YSMV: your Sphere may vary. The world you're on may have its own way of doing things. In Snowcastles by Duncan McGeary the magicians can only use their magic in service of another. They are given a token payment which they retain while in service, and they give that back later. They can use magic out of service, but its described as being hard to do without a force of will and spending of power. That sounds to me a lot like Troika's stamina-cost is the standard way, but in this world there exists a sort of pact ritual that gives reprieve.

Then there are magic items. I have a system for magic items at the moment in Troika. Each item has a pool of energy, replacement stamina points that the item draws on instead of your own. Each item also has a spell or two that it "knows", that it can cast. Different items will react differently to using up their energy- maybe a scroll crumbles, the ink fades. Maybe the clay rod collapses and dries out. The silver sword of smiting will recharge though, one point of stamina for every hour of meditation.
This system also allows for items that just store stamina. Maybe you have to sacrifice stamina today to fill it up for tomorrow. Maybe you need to feed it the stamina of innocent victims by night!

I don't know, these are just ideas. Let me know what you think!