RPG

Transmissions from The End #18: No Country For Great Old Ones

So, while all my many haters will definitely scoff loudly at this, I’ve never really felt comfortable tooting my own horn. But, now that I’ve reached the point where I pay other people to toot my horn, I figure that stepping it in to toot it myself from time to time is really the only decent thing to do. It’s like…really it’s my horn. I bear some responsibility.

No Country For Great Old Ones is an RPG adventure scenario that is coming to the Kickstarter machine in the next two weeks (yikes) based on an idea I had for a Delta Green adventure well more than a year ago. It is not in fact a Delta Green adventure (as of the time of this posting: I will probably figure out some way to release it ported for the DG rules, possibly for free, as long as the KS funds). It has statistics for DicePunk, and is officially licensed and compatible with HERO System and Savage Worlds, which is kind of a big deal, and so it goes without saying it’s gonna have FRED and SW stats too. And it may not stop there. Depending on where we wind up with the Stretch Goals, we might have officially licensed crunch for upwards of six other game systems. If you build it, we will crunch.

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Two Sides To Every Story

No Country For Great Old Ones is in the so-played-out western neo-noir crime/Lovecraftian-conspiracy-horror subgenre. The truly cool thing about this adventure in my opinion is that it does this mini-Rashomon type thing where it can be played either from the “A” side of the adventure where you’re law enforcement types, or the “B” side of the adventure where you’re the criminals, and we actually suggest you do play it both ways to get the whole story or at least to see two very different interpretations of what happens.

Each side has what are I think really strong pregenerated characters but obviously I wanted either side of this adventure to be able to be slotted into anyone’s ongoing campaign here which means they can be thrown out the window in favor of established PCs. And in fact, we will provide guidelines for just such figurative defenestration (hooking in established PCs instead of the pregens) in the adventure itself, specific to our level of expertise in each system the game is translated for. All that being said, I’ve been thinking a fair bit about the pregens since they’ve been around over these past couple of years, so I’m going to use their names when I lay out the two sides to the story.

Oh, and this was all vividly inspired by the exceptional 2016 film Hell Or High Water, written by Taylor Sheridan and directed by David McKenzie. I can’t recommend the film enough.

Cops

An elderly Texas Ranger within weeks of his mandatory retirement date, Marcus Bridges represents a classic Western stereotype–the man who has lost touch with time, and knows it, the man for whom, like Stephen King’s Roland or any number of classic western heroes and anti-heroes, “the world has moved on”.

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The character of Sheriff Ed Tom Bell from Cormack McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men is the iconic example: an old timer whose memories of a more idyllic west don’t allow him to truly conceive of the chaos and carnage of modern times.

Like many other western antiheroes, Marcus is also rough, gruff, surly, ornery, and generally unpleasant.  As Marcus Bridges represents the longing for the tranquility of the past, his long suffering partner Jorge Quesada represents the uncertainty of the present. He quietly tolerates his incessant politically incorrect barbs about his Latino heritage out of a sense of profound respect for the man’s experience…while worrying that Marcus is looking for an opportunity to die in a blaze of glory rather than face the slow decay of retirement.

US Marshals Roger Barrister and Gina Torres are not “really” US Marshals. They belong to a fractured, fractal conspiracy within the various agencies of the US government and the interstices and interfaces between them. Call it “the Shop”.  Agent Barrister and Agent Torres attach themselves to the Rangers’ case, and of course, they too want to catch the bad guys (and make sure that the situation never becomes publicly visible). They know things that you aren’t cleared to know.

And the bad guys that are taking more than money from the crime scene. Things like fingers. Things like eyes.

…And Robbers

The Quinns were a crime family in the deep, dark, muddy backwaters of the Lousiana Bayou since the turn of the 20th century or even sooner. Throughout the years they’ve operated as smugglers and trafficked in moonshine, “white slaves”, gun-running, and meth. Unsavoury rumors persist about the Quinn clan intermarrying with things from the Black Bay region…inhuman things.

The ghastly rumors about the Quinn family are true. Alectra’s mother Annabelle met her Deep One daddy some time in the late 80s and she followed family tradition. By the time of Hurricane Katrina, Alectra was already beginning to show signs of the change (see appearance).

Jimmy was always shy growing up and he still seems nebbish and retiring much of the time when he’s not in the midst of committing an armed robbery. He was a shrimpy little kid growing up, and a magnet for bullying, and he tends to be quiet and keep to himself. The love of his life is Alectra Quinn, who washed up on his doorstep when Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans in 2005. The two are now happily married and love, but Alectra isn’t entirely human and Jimmy isn’t entirely sane. However, deep down, he knows that the Deep-One Hybrid he’s in bed with is more than just his true love, that she’s evidence of a world of hidden wonders and horrors that the average “normal” person will never, ever witness or comprehend until it’s too late, and they’re dead. Jimmy takes great satisfaction in that.

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Here in the dry Texas heat, Jimmy “The Squid” Quinn is a ways from his home in the Lousiana Bayou. He met Chris Foster as his cell mate at the Federal Penitentiary in Pollock, Lousiana while he was doing a five-stretch for armed robbery. Jimmy got out first and gave Chris his contact info, and Chris contacted Jimmy for help on the job. Jimmy brought along his partner in crime, and in love.

Poor white trash from birth, Chris Foster has a criminal record a country mile long, gradually escalating from vandalism and aggravated assault to armed robbery (mostly gas station and convenience stores). Just out of prison on parole, and he was already thinking about the kind of hell-raising that would get him thrown right back in again. But then his straight-arrow brother, Taylor, with whom he’s had a very rough relationship, suggests a more ambitious plan. One which involves robbing a large number of banks in a short period of time.

A wildman outlaw, Chris was born into the wrong era. He takes genuine joy in the chaos and violence of the rough life of a career criminal. It’s not institutionalization–he hates being in prison–it’s just that he feels like the best use of his freedom is raising hell. Various lawyers working to reduce Chris’s prison sentences and increase his chance of parole have had psychiatrists (mostly correctly) diagnose him with anti-social personality disorder, ADHD, sociopathy, and oppositional defiant disorder, which Chris dismisses as “a bunch of bullshit”. His hatred of police and other authority figures is downright pathological. Deep down, he is badly scarred by his alcoholic father’s abuse, and resents his ailing mother for dying while he was in prison. The only person he cares about is his brother Taylor, who he’ll treat like shit, but ultimately, will do anything for. While Chris likes to appear dim so people underestimate him, he’s a lot smarter than he appears.In fact, he’s smart enough to know that he’s not meant for this world–a relic of another age–and is willing to die in a blaze of glory, laying his life down at the right moment.

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Chris Foster’s brother, Taylor has dealt with their poor white trash background and their abusive alcoholic father in the exact opposite way as his brother, by keeping to the straight and narrow in life. He did his best in school, got through some college, met a woman, had kids that are now teenaged, and got divorced, all without once spending a night in a jail sell. Now his ailing mother has died and Texas Heartland Bank stands ready to foreclose on the Foster ranch. Two other things have happened that have given Taylor the glimmer of an idea. His brother is just out from prison, and oil has just been discovered on the ranch property.

Taylor grew up in poverty and has a plan to finally drag his family out of generations of poverty. His plan is meticulous and if everything goes according to the playbook, he’ll be able to pay off the reverse mortgage on his mother’s ranch with their own goddamn money, laundered through an Indian casino, and they’ll get off scot free. The only challenge is going to be keeping his wildcard brother–who doesn’t believe anybody ever got away with anything and acts accordingly–and the even less trustworthy help that Chris brought on board.

***

And that’s all I can say about that. I really can’t go into any more detail about how the Mi-Go, Yig the Father of Snakes, or the Screamers from Phantasm(2010) may or may not be involved. Look out for our Kickstarter coming scarifyingly soon. But some time time before Halloween. Um…boo.

<End Transmission>

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Transmissions From The End #17 – Alien Predators

Back with the logical continuation of my Aliens content for the Singularity System. My thoughts on the Predator films, the crossover films, the extended universe, and then all the content you need to include the Yautja and their toys in your Singularity System game.

The Predator Franchise

As a general note, I don’t have the same passion for the Predator films, mythos, or universe that I do for everything Aliens. The exceptions are the original Predator film, which is a superlative piece of cinema, and all situations where Predators are, as I might have said when I was ten years old, “versing” Aliens.

  • Predator (1987): My God this movie stands up well over time. It’s genre slight-of-hand at its finest, and midway through the film a great dumb action movie suddenly becomes a damn fine smart horror movie, in a way that must have left audiences bamboozled on the order of 1996’s “holy shit now there’s vampires!” From Dusk Till Dawn. Dutch and his entire “squad of ultimate badasses” (yes that’s an Aliens quote, shut up, it also applies here) are charismatic and memorable: former wrestler and future Minnesota governor Jesse “The Body” Ventura’s Blain certainly has a memorable moment at the center of what has to be the most continuous barrage of gunfire being discharged into foliage in cinematic history, but my favorite character was and continues to be Bill Duke’s Mac, who I refused to believe was really for sure dead until the most explicit cut of the movie made it the most explicit it could possibly be. Arnold Schwarzenegger is at his absolute prime here, contractually mandated cheesy one-liners and all. The film is full of memorable moments, killer quotes, and macho banter, and there’s a lot to watch, from the general unhinging of the special forces’ team’s sanity (“gonna have me some fun, gonna have me some fun, gonna have me some fun”) to Billy’s incredibly brave, incredibly honorable, incredibly ill-advised decision to engage the jungle hunter in single combat, to the unforgettable finale when it’s down to just Arnold and the Predator…this is unquestionably one of the best action/sci-fi/horror films of all time.
  • Predator II (1990): Okay, I know “in the near future, the year 1997” dates this movie horribly, right alongside The Terminator, but that said, this is a solid sequel and an overall underrated film, and whatever time frame you imagine it in, Los Angeles being a violence-ridden hell hole is not that much of a stretch. Danny Glover delivers a capable performance as Lt. Mike Harrigan, and while it’s not his fault he’s not a larger than life 80s/90s action icon like Arnold Schwarzenegger, he’s almost certainly better at acting in the technical sense of the word. Solid performances from an interesting supporting cast, including my man Bill Paxton (plus an actress who until today I thought was Aliens’ Vasquez, Jenette Goldstein, but turns out to actually be an actress named Maria Conchita Alonzo) round out a movie that expand the Predator lore and mythos and most importantly teases us with this shot, leading to a fan-base drooling for an Aliens vs. Predator picture that finally comes to the big screen 14 years later.
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  • Predators (2010): I only saw this film once, when it came out in 2010, and it neither offended me nor made a lasting impression of delight. I am not sure if the world in general has largely forgotten it exists, or just me.

Crossover Films

  • Alien vs. Predator (2004): Whoever wins, we lose indeed. Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson whose career peeked around one of his first films, the Alien meets Hellraiser pastiche Event Horizon and has largely been a downhill slide ever since, this was a movie that I loved in theaters and have just found stupider and stupider with every subsequent viewing. Understand that when this movie came out I was 18, young, dumb, and full of, y’know, acid blood or whatever. I was so excited coming out of the theater about how “freaking awesome” this movie was that I managed to shatter a ceiling lamp with a music stand in my spastic enthusiasm (don’t ask, I couldn’t do it again if I tried). My major issues with the movie after my first theatrical viewing were that, based on my headcanon, deeply entrenched in the extended universe (see below), no way in hell should one Alien be able to take down that many Predators. On each subsequent viewing of the film, my concerns with it have turned more and more to how overall dumb and disappointing it was. It good have been worse, I guess, but it’s hard to imagine it being MUCH worse. Of course, AvP didn’t come out as a movie until it had been released/published/played/sequelized in virtually every other commercial medium known to man, so I was measuring it against the exceptional totality of the extended universe which preceded it, so again, see below.
  • Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2008): I both own this movie on DVD (or blu-ray, or whatever) and have frequently caught it on television. In spite of that, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to force myself to watch even a full consecutive half-hour of it. It just looks so dumb and so bad, like someone took the most generic teen horror movie setup ever and dumped xenomorphs and Yautja without any thought. I’m going to try to force myself to watch it soon…if I can. Does it have any redeeming value? You let me know.

The Extended Universe

Long before the turn of the millenium, and in fact–I’m just learning now–even before theatrical audiences could have seen that xenomorph skull on that Predator space ship, Dark Horse Comics got the rights to AliensPredator, and yes to Aliens vs. Predator. I don’t have time to get into all of the AvP videogames and what nots, so I’m just going to mention the Dark Horse Comics which I never got a chance to read and actually talk about the novelizations of them which I did. And actually, considering this is stuff I read like 20 years ago when I was like 11, rather than trust 11 year old me’s judgement, I’m only really going to talk about one of them.

  • Aliens vs. Predator: Prey was the 1994 novelization by Steve Perry and Stephani Perry (published by Bantam Spectra) of the first Aliens vs. Predator comic series published by Dark Horse, and if there was an AvP movie to be made, it should have been made using this book as a basis (and there were for one brief golden moment in the 1990s plans for exactly that), not whatever fatuous bullshit Paul W. S. Anderson’s screenwriters sprang on him in the early 2000s. Clearly set in the world of Aliens, it introduces protagonist Machiko Noguchi as the supervisor of the ranching colony of Ryushi as it is beset (unsurprisingly considering the general premise) with aliens and rogue Predators at the same time. What I thought this novel did best was its handling of the interiority of the yautja, namely I thought it very deftly walked a very fine line, making them both just relatable enough that you could see that there were stand up guys and bastards among yaujta just as there were among humans, and just alien enough as to still be really frightening. The novel ends with nearly everyone dead but Machiko who is Blooded by the Predator she had been forced to team up with, Dachande or Broken Tusk, who sacrifices himself saving her. As she is Blooded, she is now effectively a Yautja, which means from this point forward, the Predator race recognizes her as one of them. She now runs as a hunter among Hunters. Pretty cool, right? Virtually all of my headcanon in terms of Predator lore comes from this novel, and if my brain has embraced it, it must be right!

Races

Maybe you thought it would only be race because well…Predator. Ha! Did you forget about Ash from Alien and Bishop from Aliens?

Please note that in term of game balance, these races are roughly balanced with each other, and each approximately twice as powerful as a human starting character.

Synthetics

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“Actually, I prefer the term ‘artificial person’…”

Advent Adjustment: Max Advent of 2, and -5 to starting AP Pool (23 instead of 28 in an average game).

Attribute Adjustments: +4 Strength, +4 Fortitude, +4 Quickness, +2 Intelligence, +2 Cyber. Their starting caps are 10 for Strength, Fortitude, and Quickness and 8 for Intelligence and Cyber.

Artificial Person: Synthetics have Armor 3. This is cumulative with worn armor, making Weyland-Yutani “combat sythetics” a real force to be reckoned with. Synthetics cannot be poisoned and have the Durability and Toughness traits automatically, along with the First Strike and Ambidextrous traits. They cannot take the Charisma, Juicer, or Will to Live Perks. They cannot take the Addiction, Addictive Personality, Allergic Reaction, Missing Limb, Missing Sensory Organ, Obesity, Space Sickness, weak Immune System, Weap Pain Threshold, or Venerable Weaknesses. Synthetics built to obey the classical prime directives (see Aasimov, Isaac) must take the Mercy Weakness.

Built Tough: Synthetics are immune to all drugs and toxins and to all standard means of first aid. A Synthetic reduced to 0 Health is broken. A Hard Engineering (2) and Hard Electronics (2) test can restore them to 1 Health, but if only one success is achieved on either test, the machine is hardly functional. It is so badly damaged that it will “never be top of the line again”, but it can still provide a brief audience and share anything it chooses to with the characters that repaired it. The first (Fortitude) points of damage that a Synthetic takes can be repaired with an Armorer (15 Minutes) Test: each success restores 1 Health. Additional damage beyond Fortitude can be repaired in a similar way, but using the Electronics skill instead.

Eidetic Memory and More: Synthetics of course have eidetic memory. They also benefit from all of the benefits that can be installed in Artificial Eyes, from the Biotech sourcebook. They are damaged by Pulse weapons, and as usual, Pulse damage ignores all of their Armor.

Morally Inflexible: A synthetic must follow its programming. A synthetic programmed to follow the classic Asimovian prime directives, cannot “by action or omission of action allow a living being to be harmed”. Robocop must 1) Defend the public trust, 2) Protect the innocent, 3) Uphold the law (4, classified: not harm or arrest any employee of OCP). The Terminator only has to Terminate Sarah Conner. (Understand these are just examples: neither Robocop nor a T-800 would necessarily use the same “race) described here.) Ash, on the other hand, was programmed to serve the interests of Weyland-Yutani’s exosciences division. In any case, a synthetic must follow its programming. If one welcomes the canonicity of Alien: Resurrection, the exception would be Aut-Auts, synthetics built by synthetics who have free will.

Yautja (Predators)

“When I was little, we found a man. He looked like – like, butchered. The old woman in the village crossed themselves… and whispered crazy things, strange things. “El Diablo cazador de hombres.” Only in the hottest years this happens. And this year, it grows hot. We begin finding our men. We found them sometimes without their skins… and sometimes much, much worse. “El cazador trofeo de los hombres” means the demon who makes trophies of men.”

Anytime.”

Honor Instead of Advent: Instead of an Advent stat, Yautja have an Honor stat that starts at 2 and works the same as Advent except for how it increases (AP cannot be spent on it). Honor represents the pride the Yautja and its status in its community. A Yautja first gains an Honor for successfully killing one of the “hard meat”, an alien drone. Such a Yautja is considered Blooded and is permitted to hunt the “soft meat” although might not wind up actually doing so until they have Honor 4. The increase from 3 to 4 Honor comes when a Yautja survives an ordeal such as escaping alone from a xenorph hive or single ritualized combat with another Yautja. The increase from 4 to 5 Honor occurs when a Yautja hunts and kills a suitably badass warrior of the “soft meat” (human beings). This hunt cannot be begun with the blessing of the community until a Yautja has Honor of at least 4. No less than taking the skull of an Alien Queen increases a Yautja‘s Honor from 5 to 6, making a Yautja an elder or tribal chief. Only the GM can determine what feat of honor could increase a Yautja’s Honor from 6 to 7.

Note that Honor can be lost for dishonorable actions: the loss of and failure to recover Yautja technology (the Yautja guide their technology jealously), or the killing of helpless prey (not befitting of the galaxy’s greatest hunters) or pregnant female prey (depriving the hunting ground of a potentially suitable prey animal in years to come).

Attribute Adjustments: A Yautja has only 20 AP to spend on its attributes, but receives the following bonuses to them: +8 Strength, +5 Fortitude, +3 Quickness, and +1 Cyber. Their starting attribute caps are 14 for Strength, 11 for Fortitude, 10 for Quickness, and 7 for Cyber. While Yautja are more technologically advanced than humans, they are not necessarily more intelligent. They may simply be benefitting from a head start.

El Diablo Cazador Los Hombres: Instead of getting to pick two free perks, Yautja instead start with all of the following specific free perks: Catlike, First Strike, Outdoorsman, and Toughness. They can take up to two weaknesses to gain up to two additional perks.

Hunter’s Training: All Yautja begin with the Dismemberment and Trick Shooter Combat Maneuvers from Firefight. Additionally, when attacking a xenomorph with a melee weapon, a Yautja can use the Pick Target action specifically to avoid the xenomorph’s acid blood backsplash.

Thick Hide: A Yautja‘s hide is much tougher than human skin. They have a natural Armor rating of 1, cumulative with worn armor.

Deadly Reflexes: A Predator with Honor 4 or higher automatically has ReAct -30. A Predator with Honor 6 or higher automatically has that upgraded to ReAct -20.

Predator (Yautja) Technology

I’d like to give a shout-out to the helpful fan-site Xenopedia with helping me remember the details of some of these and reconciling it with my own headcanon.

Instead of being purchased with credits, these items are acquired based on a Yautja’s Honor level. Any human (or non-Yautja) attempting to use any Yautja weapon does so at a +1 Difficulty Stage penalty until they have successfully hit with that weapon ten times, at which point they are considered to have gained familiarity with it.

Bio-Mask: Requires Honor 2 or higher. The Bio-Mask allows the predator to see in the Infrared, Ultra-Violet, and EM-Field spectrums, along with numerous others. The EM-Field spectrum is specifically designed to spot Xenomorphs, while the Infrared Spectrum is specifically designed to spot humans (although being infrared, it can be tricked, such as by a human masking his thermal signature). Switching modes is a free action. The mask provides +2 to Perception tests (to spot creatures when in the correct mode; the rest of the time it amplifies sounds and allows for digital zoom, providing a bonus to Perception tests in general). The mask also provides access through a series of dreadlock-like tubes to the Predator’s supply of oxygen mix from its home-world. It is a fair assumption that this oxygen mix is not very different than that of Earth, because Predators remove their masks in the presence of worthy opponents on Earth and seem able to breathe well enough to function.

Wrist Blade: Requires Honor 2 or higher. Free action to extend or retract. Uses the low-tech weapons skill. Size 0, Damage 4, Piercing 6. Harder than a diamond and sharp enough to cut through bone, or the hardened carapace of a xenomorph drone.

Plate Armor: Requires Honor 2 or higher. This plate armor notably does not cover a Predator’s lower torso or thighs, which are instead wrapped in a black wire mesh. It does cover the predator’s upper torso, sometimes asymmetrically, and also includes gorgets, spaulders, tassets, and greaves, as well as foot armor. Armor Rating 3, with two points of special resistance to Piercing. The plate armor is very strong, but ultimately is inferior to some human combat armor in that it does not provide full body protection. As a final special quality, a Yautja‘s plate armor does not have its rating reduced by the backsplash of xenomorph blood.

Medicomp: Requires Honor 3 or higher. The Medicomp is a small case that contains various medical supplies should the Predator ever be injured. This healing kit contains enough tools to perform minor surgery and repair superficial wounds. Among the medical supplies are vials of liquid which, when mixed with heated minerals, creates a regenerative sludge that can be used to cauterize wounds. Also contained are a shrapnel extractor, wound staplers, one stimulant shot, and one antiseptic tube. If the Predator has the First Aid skill, the Medicomp provides a +4 bonus to First Aid tests. The stimulant shot automatically restores Health equal to the Predator’s Fortitude, but once it’s used, it’s gone. If the Predator does not have the First Aid skill, the Medicomp is semi-intelligent, using its own First Aid skill of 5.

Combistick: Requires Honor 3 or higher. This is a spear-like combination weapon made from an ultra-light, ultra-dense, ultra-sharp alloy completely unknown on Earth. It has a length of less than one meter when retracted, but can be telescoped outwards as a free action, and is more than two meters long at its full length. It has several modes of attack, and when used in melee or thrown as a spear,  it uses the Low Tech Weapons skill, has Size/Accuracy of +2, does 6 Damage, and has Piercing 4.  The other end of the Combistick can launch a net to restrain prey before the final kill. The net has an Accuracy of +2, an accurate range of 30 meters, and does 2 Damage, Piercing 4. More importantly, a target hit by it is entangled in it and most likely pinned to a wall behind them: the net has more than enough velocity to drag a man sized target backwards until they hit a wall. Even attempting to wrestle free of the net is potentially fatal, because the net is made of sharp metallic wire and responds to all outward pressure by tightening further. To escape the net, a victim may attempt an Opposed Strength test versus the net’s Strength, which is equal to their own Strength times one and a half, rounded up. If they fail to achieve a net success and break free, they suffer damage equal to the successes the net achieved; this damage is Piercing 4. The netgun loads only one net; collapsing and reloading the net

Cloak: Requires Honor 3 or higher. A Predator’s cloaking system is controlled by its wrist computer and activated as a Minor Action. When activated, all Perception tests to see the Predator are Hard, and all Stealth tests the Predator makes are easy. If the Predator becomes even partially submerged in water (more than a foot deep) the cloaking device shorts out until it is repaired with an Electronics (10 Minutes) Test. If the Predator is wounded (i.e. loses Fortitude points of Health) the cloaking device becomes effectively useless due to the vivid green of the Predator’s bright green blood.

Sat-Comp: Requires Honor 3 or higher. This device, also located in the wrist computer, serves as a local GPS and through millimeter wave scanning, allows a Predator to map out the area surrounding it in moderate detail, including the positions of prey. This requires a Comms/Sensors test. One success maps out a 0.5 Km radius, and each additional success increases the radius mapped by 0.5 Km.

Plasmacaster: Requires Honor 4 or greater. A shoulder mounted plasma-cannon with a fusion power pack laser guided by the signature triangle laser sight and linked to the bio-mask for greater accuracy. Some of the oldest predators, with Honor 5 and higher, disdain the use of ranged weapons such as this, preferring the challenge of going in for the kill with just melee weapons. The plasma caster uses the Energy Weapons skill. It has Accuracy +3, Damage 6, a maximum Rate of Fire of Single, and Piercing 3. One shot can easily kill either an elite human soldier or a xenomorph if a Predator uses the Aim action while Cloaked and the Pick Target action (from Firefight) before taking the shot. The plasmacaster has effectively infinite ammunition, so it can keep firing continuously unless it is damaged (it is not completely waterproof) or discarded by a Predator seeking a fairer final confrontation with worthy prey.

Self Destruct Device: Requires Honor 4 or greater. Built into the Predator’s wrist computer, this is a weapon of last resort designed not to kill the Predator’s enemies, but to destroy it, all of its equipment, and its ship so none of them can be recovered by “lesser” civilizations. The only thing more shameful than being forced to use a Self Destruct Device (which renders a Predator’s Honor irrelevant as that predator is vaporized) is failing to for some reason at a time when its use would be appropriate (causing the immediate loss of 1 point of Honor). A self destruct device takes 2d6 Full Turn actions to set. It then goes off anywhere from 60 seconds to 300 seconds after the Predator sets it (it’s the Predator’s choice). As implied by the name, a self destruct device cannot be survived: not only would this be extremely dishonorable, but it is built into the Predator’s wrist computer which is effectively impossible to remove from the Predator’s wrist short of hacking it off at the elbow. When it finally goes off, a self destruct device creates an enormous nuclear fireball that deals 500 Damage, Blast -2/1 Meter, eradicating the Predator, its equipment, its ship, and approximately half a mile in radius of whatever else happens to be around.

Smart Disc: Requires Honor 5 or greater. Combining the Yautja‘s futuristic technology with the deadliest qualities of boomerang and chakrum, the smart disc is a programmable, mono-filament sharp, throwing weapon that rotates at extraordinarily high RPMs like a circular saw. Thrown on its own, the Smart Disc uses the Low Tech Weapons skill to attack one target, has an Accuracy of +1, deals 10 Damage, has Piercing 10, and returns to the Predator at the end of the phase. Alternatively, the wrist computer can be used to program the disc with targets. A Predator can take a Minor Action to make a Computers (2) Test to program one target into the disc’s memory. The disc can have a total number of targets programmed equal to the Predator’s Cyber. When the disc is finally thrown (a Major Action like most attacks, using the low tech weapons skill), it calculates a path through the room to hit each target before returning to the Predator at the end of the turn. Its accuracy for each of these attacks is equal to the Predator’s Computers skill + 1, with the damage the same as if throwing an unprogrammed disc at a single target.

Finally, in a pinch, the Smart Disc can be used as a melee weapon (Low Tech Weapons), with Size -1, 10 Damage, and Piercing 10.

Transmissions From The End #14: Reviews & More

Greetings from the End of Everything!

So, thanks in part to the work of our marketing director, a few of our games that have been out for years actually have reviews! How about that! It’s almost like we don’t actually exist in an interstitial dimensional bubble that separates us from true reality and prevents us from interacting with it or being noticed by it in any meaningful way!

The GMShoe’s (Dan Davenport’s) Long-Awaited Review of The Singularity System: https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/2017/03/04/review-the-singularity-system/
Throat Punch Games’ Review of Psionics (This One’s Even On The Big Nurple):  https://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/17/17166.phtml
The Wandering Alchemist’s Review Of SPLINTER: http://thewanderingalchemist.com/2017/05/19/review-splinter/

A soothing balm on the burns inflicted by our tremendous losses at Origins, the reviews range from mostly positive to glowing. Rock on.

If you want to buy any of those games (or the supplements and adventures supporting them), we’ll be selling them at DexCon,  July 5th-9th at the Hyatt Regency & Convention Center in Morristown, New Jersey and of course at GenCon50, August 17-20 in Indianapolis. We love meeting our fans in person, but if you can’t wait till then, our entire product lines can be found on One Bookshelf and at select Friendly Local Game Stores through our distributor, Studio2. Further convention appearances will be announced as the year develops.

Upcoming cons mean revised street-date announcements, so we’ve got those!

We should finally be able to debut the introductory SPLINTER adventure “Return To The Dread Abyss Of The Digitarchs” at DexCon, hot from the presses, by the exceptionally talented Richard Kelly.

At GenCon, for our major new title launch, we’ll have the Systems Malfunction standalone RPG. I just got done editing the introductory fiction for this one, by the aforementioned absurdly skilled Richard Kelly, and it’s a truly phenomenal read both for people brand new to Systems and to the oldest of oldbies. The playtest period on this one is ending in the next week or so, then it’s a race through art, layout, and printing in the month of July to have it ready to go for GenCon 50.

I’m excited! Are you excited?

<end transmission>

dat room

SPOILER ALERT: I really like the musical Hamilton.

So what’s up guys? I’m going to write down my method for designing a game, and you get to be (figuratively speaking) in the room where it happens.

The room where it happens.

The room where it happens.

{Repeats}

the_room

No, not THAT Room, for the love of God!

SPOILER ALERT: I might actually be said to have a Hamilton “Problem”.

My method is just my method. My method is not the best method. My method is not the only method. My method was arrived at by designing games, which means my method is informed by the 10+ roleplaying games* I have already designed.

(There is exactly one inaccurate word in the sentence “Devon Oratz has been actively engaged in game design for his entire  adult life”. That word would be “adult”.)

(more…)

Transmissions From The End #005 – Making Up For Lengthy Silence With Endless Rambling!

Sorry guys, I’ve been really fucking busy. The Kickstarter that is going to jump in about two weeks has been taking all my time getting ready for it. I am about excited enough to poop my pants. So I missed about two installments of Transmissions From The End, so I’ll try to make up for it by making this one triple length!

Guest Shit From Thom Caulfield:

I asked Devon if I could have a guest post and he was like “you can have a guest 1/8th of a post because I have a lot of shit to write get your own fucking blog man” and I was like “I will take what I can get!” so here goes.

I’m sad that I can’t post this to the big purple because fascism (hurray!) which we’ll probably have in real world American in about a month and five days (double hurray!) but here are the sample complications I came up with based on the movies that Fiasco abjectly failed to be the Roleplaying Game Version of.

////FARGO (1998)

-JERRY LUNDEGAARD-
* “What kind of trouble are you in, Jerry?”
* “This was supposed to be a no-rough-stuff type deal!”

-MARGE GUNDERSON-
* “Love ya, hon.”
* “There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well. I just don’t understand it.”

-STEVE BUSCEMI-
* “… So maybe the best thing would be to take care of that, right here in Brainerd.”
* “You know these are the limits of your life, man! The rule of your little fuckin’ gate here! Here’s your four dollars, you pathetic piece of shit!”
* “Is this a fuckin’ joke here?”

-PETER STORMARE-
* “That’s a– that’s a fountain of conversation, man. That’s a geyser. I mean, whoa, daddy, stand back, man.“
* “I need … unguent.”

/////IN BRUGES (2008)

-RAY-
* “One of the girls they murdered WASN’T a friend of mine. I just wanted to make you feel bad. It worked quite well.”
* “The little boy.”
* “He pauses, even though he should just hit the cunt, and he repeats, yes, I am talking to you.”
* “That’s for John Lennon, you Yankee fucking cunt!”
* “I’d hit a woman who was trying to hit me with a bottle! That’s different. That’s self-defence, isn’t it! Or a woman who could do Karate. I’d never hit a woman generally.”
* “Would you ever think about killing yourself because you’re a midget?”

-KEN-
* “Harry. I am totally in your debt. The things that’s gone between us in the past, I love you unreservedly for that. For your integrity, for your honor, I love you.”
* “The boy had to be let go.”
* “My wife was black. And I loved her very much. And in 1976 she got murdered by a white man. So where the fuck am I supposed to stand in all this blood and carnage?”

-HARRY (Raiph Fiennes)-
* “How can fucking swans not be somebody’s fucking thing? How can that be?”
* “I liked Ray. He was a good bloke, but when it all comes down to it, y’know, he blew the head off a little fucking kid.”
* “You fucking retract that bit about my cunt fucking kids!”
* “An Uzi? I’m not from South Central los-Fucking-angeles. I want a normal gun for a normal person.”
* “I know I shouldn’t, but I will.”
* “You’ve got the capacity to get fucking worse!”
* “Well obviously I’m not gonna go through you, am I, with your baby and that. I’m a nice person. But could you just get out of the fucking way, please.”
* “Don’t be stupid. This is the shoot-out.”
* “I do want the guy dead. I want him fucking crucified. It doesn’t change the fact that he stitched you up like a blind little gayboy, does it?”
* “You’ve got to stick to your principals.”

\\\\\PHANTASM IV: OblIVion (1999)

* “Mike, that Tall Man of yours didn’t take Jody away. Jody died in a car wreck.”
* “Small Man, your end approaches but it is not yet. Take great care how you play.”

\\\\PULP FICTION (1994)

-JULES-
* “Say ‘what’ again. Say ‘what’ again, I dare you, I double dare you motherfucker, say what one more Goddamn time!”
* “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon you.”
* “Pigs are filthy animals. I don’t eat filthy animals.”
* “Well, I’m a mushroom-cloud-layin’ motherfucker, motherfucker!”

-VINCENT VEGA-
* “Oh man, I shot Marvin in the face.”
* “Bacon tastes gooood. Pork chops taste gooood.”
* “I don’t mean any disrespect, I don’t like people barking orders at me.”
* “I got a threshold, Jules. I got a threshold for the abuse that I will take. Now, right now, I’m a fuckin’ race car, right, and you got me the red. ”

-BUTCH-
* “The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That’s pride fucking with you. Fuck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps.”
* “I specifically reminded her – bedside table! On the Kangaroo! I said the words, “Don’t forget my father’s watch.””
* “I’m American, honey. Our names don’t mean shit.”

-MARSELLUS-
* “…Marcellus Wallace don’t like to be fucked by anybody except Mrs. Wallace.”
* “The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That’s pride fucking with you. Fuck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps.””
* “I’m prepared to scour the the Earth for that motherfucker. If [Butch] goes to Indochina, I want a nigger hiding in a bowl of rice ready to pop a cap in his ass.”
* “I ain’t through with you by a damn sight. I’ma get medieval on your ass.”

-MRS. MIA WALLACE-
* “Why do we feel it’s necessary to yak about bullshit in order to be comfortable?”
* “This fucked-up bitch is Marsellus Wallace’s wife! Do you know who Marsellus Wallace is? Do you? If she croaks on me, I’m a fuckin’ greasespot!”

-JIMMIE-
* “I’m gonna get fuckin’ divorced. No marriage counselling, no trial separation, I’m gonna get fuckin’ divorced.”
* “Did you notice a sign out in front of my house that said “Dead Nigger Storage”?”

-THE WOLF-
* ” If I’m curt with you it’s because time is a factor. I think fast, I talk fast and I need you guys to act fast if you wanna get out of this. So, pretty please… with sugar on top. Clean the fucking car.” (I am going to call out Devon on totally having this complication in real life, because it’s his favorite thing to quote when demanding that me or Mikaela or anyone else to do something in a completely unreasonable timeframe.)
* “You see that, young lady? Respect. Respect for one’s elders gives character.”
* “Just because you are a character doesn’t mean that you have character.”
* “I get my car back any differently than when I gave it, Monster Joe’s gonna be disposing of two bodies.”

/////BONUS (2016)

-RPG.net Moderators/Admins-
* “I love rules! They make me powerful!”

I had more planned, but to be honest, the one-month ban from RPG.net made me feel like my sample complications would have less of a

If you had any questions about how any of those complications are supposed to work (in what situations would you bust them, in what situations would you raise them, etc, why are their so fucking many for In Bruges.), email aventine.iconoclast@gmail.com.

Worlds End. Heroes Die. Systems Malfunction.

I saw what you did there, Thom, and if Harvey Keitel wasn’t so fucking awesome, you’d never have gotten away with it.

In two and a half weeks, I will have been developing this game, this setting, and this world, for exactly 12 years of my life (add 2-3 years if you count the videogames too, which started development in 2001). For that entire time, I have been trying to make it a thing. I feel like I have finally “brought the thunder” enough that I feel like I actually have a chance of making that happen.

This is a very early rough of a single piece of promotional art. It might not be enough to get you hyped, but it gets me fucking HYPED.

movie-poster-rough-options

Actually, it’s 10 of them. And that makes me HYPED X 10.

I am hereby officially announcing that our Kickstarter for Systems Malfunction the tabletop roleplaying game is launching on Tuesday, October 18th, 2016.

Artificial Nocturne

Accompanying the Kickstarter will be an 80,000 word braided fiction featuring stories from yours truly, Mikaela Barree, Richard Kelly, John Jemmott, and others. While this will give our monowire sharp deadlines to contend with, our intention is to have the first story ready to launch by the 21st and to launch one story roughly every three days thereafter, on the KS main page. There will be 11 stories total.

Artificial Nocturne is a braided anthology set in the Systems Malfunction universe designed to show up why that universe is FUCKING AWESOME: smart, literate, literary, genre-savvy, morally ambiguous, violent, profane, beautiful, science-fiction like you’ve never seen it before, with vampires fighting robots in goddamn motherfucking space.

Most of the writers already know how awesome Systems Malfunction is because of having played the LARP it’s based on. Some of the writers already know how awesome Systems Malfunction is because of having played the amateur CRPGs it’s based on. The rest of them will have to learn as they go.

It is the year 556 R.T…

D-042 “Jersey City” is an artificial nocturne. It is a wretched hive of scum and villainy (our principal characters). It’s just as fucked up as they say. It’s an outsider’s escape for a broken heart. You can buy anything there. Anyone.

They hide out in the back. They are the YWY (pronounced like “Why” singular, or “whys” plural), a sleeper cell of the Fallen that is wide awake. They are kids, all, terrorists all — age 3 to 300. Some of them are 200 year old psychic aliens. Some of them are robot prostitutes. Some of them are psychic cyborg immortal posthuman teenage prostitutes with a grudge against the po.

They are all terrorists. They are all kids.

They are our heroes. This story is about them and the shadow of a life they eke out around and beneath a space station with 250.5 million souls on board and a million stories.

Artificial Nocturne is a braided anthology in the Systems Malfunction universe designed to introduce it while telling a COMPLETELY NEW STORY within it (believe me, I have a LOT I could have rebooted).

Artificial Nocturne is informed by and keys to the album Synthetica by the rock band Metric.

It’s Not Just A Job, It’s An Adventure

I’ve had a couple of DicePunk adventures planned for a couple of months. The first of these, “Escape From Cleveland”, a Psionics adventure set during the Republican National Convention, I was really excited about this fucked up and awesome idea. But the closer we’ve gotten to the general election, the more and more terrifying Trump’s inevitable rise to power has seemed compared to his merely possible rise to power  and the less and the less fun this adventure has seemed to write and playtest. I might actually leave the country if/when Trump wins. I don’t know that I’m feeling as keen on statting the fucktard  giant douche in DicePunk as I was back in July.

Instead, what we have coming up for some point in the future is an adventure I like to call No Country For Great Old Ones. It’s southern-fried cops and robbers a la recent incredibly amazing film Hell or High Water only with a ‘dash’ of the supernatural thrown in. We plan on releasing it “quad-statted” for DicePunk (specifically, Phantasm), Delta Green, HERO System 5E (Revised), and Savage Worlds, assuming that we can get all the licensing lined up. It’s going to be the tits.

This Is Entertainment

The SPLINTER Quick-Start Rules are called SPLINTER: This Is Entertainment. It will be a free PDF booklet (some dead tree copies possible for Free RPG day) that will include everything you need to jump into SPLINTER including pregenerated players/Avatars and an introductory adventure. In other words, the world’s weirdest RPG just got a bit more accessible.

It’s currently on schedule for a Christmas season 2016 release thanks almost entirely to one Richard Kelly. Richard: TYVM for keeping this particular ETG assault vessel on track and on target.

In Closing

I think that’s all I’ve got for now. Thanks everyone for listening to my blather and turn in next Thursday for another Transmission From The End.

 

Guest Post By Richard Kelly (without his knowledge or consent): Sparkledance: The Marveling

This is a game we have in deep R&D, for a release some time at or after 2020 in business card format. But playtesting can begin now.

Core Rules (And Character Creation)

Pick your favorite kind of horse (or another other four-footed animal, like a giraffe, a baby, or the tarrasque!)

Pick your favorite color!

Decide which type of magical horn you have. Is it:

  • Narwhal-y?
  • Free-floating and follows you around like a security drone?
  • Actually a tuba?

Now roll a d6! Just do it!

Start monloguing, as fast as you can!

The person who says the most words before someone flips the table over is the winner!

Have at!

The Cyborg Manifesto Explained

Of Most Interest To Those Who Have Followed Me And My Work Obsessively For Years and Years

You know, like, there are maybe 4-6 of you? When I’m drunk enough to have double vision, I mean. : P

Also, in the off off off off off off off off off chance that you’re Kevin Siembieda and you’re currently on shrooms and reading this in a good mood, I’m sure this all makes perfect sense to you.

I’m aware that without context all of the following sounds super duper crazy, like time cube crazy. But if you don’t have the context of knowing that, for instance, Earthdawn and Shadowrun exist canonically on the same timeline and that in my own head-canon my alternate RIFTS setting (nee stand-alone experimental LARP) “The Last Day” follows Shadowrun, then this probably isn’t for you. That’s okay, you can still look at it, and it’s still kind of neat looking.

Multiversal Map 2016

For what it’s worth, this isn’t SOLELY my being a creative monomaniac. The text and subtext of RIFTS explicitly says that it contains every other possible world. So does the text and subtext of The Dark Tower. So does the subtext, at least, of The Magician’s Nephew. Therefore it blatantly refutes the text of these works to say that they don’t contain and connect to each other, and to all others (like, even to fucking Star Trek or whatever), even if you personally think “The Dark Tower is the shit and RIFTS is stupid and no they’re NOT set in the same universe I can’t hear you lalalala”.

It also helps if you have recently read either The Magicians or The Chronicles of Narnia, and therefore understand what the “Neitherlands” or “The Wood Between The Worlds” is. If you’ve ever talked to me seriously off-camera about SPLINTER, you understand that the SPLINTER is a manifestation of the same exact concept. If you raced up the Tower of Heaven pursued by the Pulsarians/demons during the end of Systems Malfunction Third Edition, then you probably understood the Tower of Heaven as a manifestation of the same multiversal “axle”.

This infographic shows how the “worlds” of my different game campaigns, published and unpublished game universes, and (unfinished) novels intersect (and who can move freely between worlds) in the form of a multiversal or metaversal Venn Diagram. In very fannish terms, it is the closest you are going to get to a CAT scan of my head-canon.

In the upper circle–“THE CYBORG MANIFESTO”, the creative mega-meta-narrative I have been working on since I discovered the creativity-enhancing properties of cannabis circa 2008 (ah, there’s the rub!) contains a large number of recognizable logos for other peoples’ intellectual properties.

I am not claiming ownership of these by placing them in my multiversal map. That would be rude and stupid.

Even though the text and subtext of several of these works–RIFTS and arguably Dungeons & Dragons and certainly The Dark Tower explicitly state that they contain and transcend all possible fictive worlds–I am talking solely about my own campaigns using these game systems/IPs, not the IPs themselves.

The lower circle is simpler, coming from a time when I was younger and smoked less pot. The isolated circles to the lower left and lower right are self-contained universes that are not connected to anything.

But the middle sliver of the Venn Diagram still connects it to all of the others, by virtue of the pesky buggers that can “walk between worlds”. Many of whom are names to run away from really fast. Of course, you can neither run, nor hide, because they can follow you from one universe to another as easily as you could go from your bedroom to your bathroom.

Final note: no, I will not EVER explain who “geraldine” is. That one is just for Mikaela.

My brain is experiencing a literal storm,
– D. T. O.

P.S. No relation to this, except the name. If you want to know why the more recent “multiverse” is and always has been called that, I’ve finally figured it out. However, your best chance to learn this secret is if I get hired by Palladium, write published things for RIFTS, and Kevin give me PLENTY of rope by which to hang myself from the crazy tree.

P.P.S. If for some bizarre reason you want to see the hideous mess that was my conceptualization of this same thing circa 2011, I’ll show you that infographic. But only in private. It’s really confusing and ugly.