Tabletop Roleplaying

Transmissions From The End #13: Westward Ho! And Sneak Peak: Cooking With Nanites

Greetings real followers and unpersons alike! Just tomorrow, I embark on the “Columbus Trail” with Mikaela, where we’ll set out with our oxen and our wagons to bring a shit-ton of role-playing game greatness to Origins Game Fair, June 14th-18th at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. I hope to see many of you there where I’ll be hawking my wares! Just now I’m obsessive-compulsively organizing the miniatures I’m bringing for the games I’ll be running–a demo of Psionics, the Glory & Gore living campaign which will hopefully gain some traction this year, and two never before scene playtest scenarios for the all new Systems Malfunction standalone RPG–of the to be as close to WYSIWYG as possible.

In the meantime, as I fervently hope to see you there, please enjoy the final sneak preview from the Systems Malfunction manuscript draft. This one is about nanofacturing which has been DRASTICALLY re-worked from the cludgy mess of the old sourcebook. Enjoy!

Cooking with Nanites

Nanotechnology is really complicated, in theory and in practice, in the Systems Malfunction universe and in real life. It is a technology with the possibility to change anything and everything about our lives, and about which we can for now only speculate, and people have been speculating about nanotechnology for decades now across many media. In the minimum number of words and pages, we’ll sketch out the massive role that nanotechnology plays in the Republic while keeping the rules for crafting with nanotechnology as simple and straightforward as possible.

  • By design, nanites cannot self-replicate. This is an inherent design feature hard-coded into the nanites to prevent a “grey goo” apocalypse scenario. It is effectively impossible to hack or bypass.
  • Nanites that are in organic bodies are sometimes called Medichines, and greatly increase the body’s natural healing rate and battlefield survivability while enhancing the immune system and battling diseases. All Organics have these from birth, while certain individual might have specialized nanite hives installed in their bodies that allow them to do more with their nanites.
  • Nanites can be created at planetary facilities and space stations, and can be destroyed by a high-energy electromagnetic pulse, as long as they have not completed been configured into an object.
  • Nanites can be used to build anything and everything, from guns, to medpatches, to buildings. Any handheld object that is “nanofactured” can also be disassembled into its component nanites.
  • Nanites are used as a form of currency, particularly on frontier worlds where there is less of an established economy. 1 Credit buys 1k Nanites. Because they are individually microscopic and invisible to the naked eye, nanites are collected onto “chips” or “casettes” not unlike credit chips. Common denominations are 50k Chips (50 Credits), 100k Chips (100 Credits), 250k chips (250 Credits), 500k chips (500 Credits), 1000k chips (1,000 Credits), 2500k (2500 Credits), 5000k Chips (5,000 Credits) and 1 Million Chips (10,000 Credits). These nanite containers are color coded (green for low denominations, blue for medium denominations, and purple for high denominations) and vary in size from the size of a bingo chip at the very smallest denominations to the size of a small thermos at the very largest.
  • Players should keep track of both the Credits their characters have in their bank accounts and the nanites they have on them.
  • Replicants, who can’t be healed by normal means and who don’t heal naturally, can ingest or topically apply nanites to repair damaged systems almost instantaneously (see p. XX).

  Nanofacturing

While buildings and structures can be nanofactured, and even demolished with disintegrator nanites, that is beyond the scope of gameplay in Systems Malfunction.

The following rules explain how nanites can be used to craft objects in the Systems Malfunction universe.

  1. Access crafting hardware. For most people, this requires gaining access to a Nanoforge, (a million credit piece of technology generally held by major corporations at most large facilities and capital ships). For PCs serious about cooking with nanites, this is probably the nanotech assembler you have already built into your hand.
  2. Download a schematic for what you intend to build. This requires a commlink, a GalaxyNet connection, and a successful Computer Test. The Difficulty Stage is determined by the GM based on the legal restriction level and rarity of the item. The time interval is one minute and the number of successes needed is equal to the cost of the item on the market divided by one thousand. The GM can decide that certain items just do not have their schematics available on the GalaxyNet, like HEAP grenades, BOROS H-TLAW, Hardsuits and other highly restricted military hardware. Note: PCs should be assumed to automatically access schematics of all items which are legally available to the public and/or cost 1,000 Credits or less. Once you have an item’s nano-schematics, you don’t have to re-download them for future builds of that item, unless you lose your commlink.
  3. Deposit a sufficient quantity of nanites in your work space. The nanite cost of an item is equal to 10% of its purchase cost. To wit: a medpatch or commlink requires 25k Nanites (25 Credits worth). A Laser Rapier or Capsilus Arms Hawkeye rifle each cost 400k Nanites (400 Credits worth). A basic Hardsuit requires 1000k Nanites (1,000 Credits worth), and so on.
  4. Start cooking. The skill used depends on what you are building. Electronics for a commlink or Vauggles, Demolitions for a grenade, a Medic test for medical equipment, Armorer for weapons and armor, and so on. If working from an external Nanoforge, each roll requires one hour. If working with an implanted nanotech assembler, each roll takes one minute, and the crafter receives +1 Die. The total number of successes that must be achieved to create a complete item is equal to the item’s Credit price divided by 500 and rounded up (minimum 1).
  5. When you reach the total successes needed, you now have a complete nanofactured item. Rinse and repeat as desired and as time allows.

Deconstruction

  • If you want to scrap an item that you know or have ascertained to be nanofactured (determining if an item is nanofactured requires a nanotech assembler and a Comms/Sensors (2) Test: the GM should make the test in secret, because if you use a nanotech assemble to deconstruct a traditionally manufactured item, all you’ve done is destroy that item).
  • Only a nanotech assembler can be used to deconstruct nanofactured items. Nanoforges are not designed to disassemble things made from nanotech.
  • Unless the GM decides otherwise (like if the piece of tech you’re trying to disassemble is very advanced, exotic or unfamiliar), no schematics are needed to disassemble something with a nanotech assembler.
  • Start deconstructing. Only handheld items and personal equipment can be deconstructed with a nanotech assembler. The skill used depends on what you are disassembling. Electronics for a commlink or Vauggles, Demolitions for a grenade, a Medic test for medical equipment, Armorer for weapons and armor, and so on. Each roll takes one minute, and the crafter receives +1 Die. The total number of successes that must be achieved to deconstruct a complete item is equal to the item’s Credit price divided by 500 and rounded up (minimum 1).
  • When you reach the total successes needed, you now have a tidy pile of nanites equal to the amount needed to craft the item. If you disassembled a commlink, you have 25k nanites (25 Credits worth), if you disassembled a katana, you have 100k nanites (100 Credits worth), if you disassembled a Shangdi Type 51 assault rifle, you have 200k Nanites (200 Credits worth), and if you disassembled a perfectly good basic Hardsuit (you monster, how could you!) you have 1000k nanites (1,000 Credits worth).

Limitations on Nanofacturing

  1. Clearly, nanofacturing is tremendously powerful. It lets characters with nanotech assemblers get most equipment at 10% of its normal cost in a matter of mere minutes (admittedly, there are times when you don’t have minutes). It does have some limitations, however.
  2. Vehicles, robots, and vehicle weapons/systems can’t be nanofactured, but nanites can be assumed to repair vehicle Hull during downtime. Assume that the vehicle regains Hull equal to the Engineering skill of a character with nanotech assembler (or a Vehicle Tool Kit) for each hour the character works (+1 Hull for each character helping).
  3. Replicants are much too sophisticated to create through nanofacturing.
  4. Nanofacturing cannot be used to create starships, but again nanites can be assumed to repair starship Hull during downtime. Assume that the ship regains Hull equal to the Engineering skill of a character with nanotech assembler (or an Engineering Tool Kit) for each day the character works on the docked ship (+1 Hull for each character helping), or the ship’s Repairs subsystem if it is performing self repairs.
  5. Nanofacturing cannot be used to create drugs or toxins (see p. XX), except for Replicant “drugs”.
  6. Nanofacturing cannot be used to create support machines (see following chapter).
  7. No technology exists that can safely purge the nanites from an organic’s body. An EMP grenade or two can kill all of a Celestial’s nanites, but doing so also murders the Celestial.

Replicants and Nanites

  1. Replicants can be healed by the direct application of nanites, a Major Action done by the Replicant or an adjacent character.
  2. No test is necessary. Every 1000k nanites restores 1 Health. Up to 10,000k nanites can be applied or ingested at one time (restoring 10 Health), but no more.
  3. A Replicant reduced to 0 Health is beyond the help of Nanites. A Hard (3) Engineering Test taking ten minutes can be attempted—once—to reboot a downed Replicant at 1 Health if its body is mostly intact (this requires an Engineering or Electronics tool kit). If that test fails or the Replicant goes down again, the Replicant is scrap metal until its next backup.

 

Transmissions From The End #12: Sneak Preview – Just Say Yes To Space Drugs

This is the third sneak peak from the Systems Malfunction manuscript, and it would probably be the last, except I inherited my father’s irrational hatred of the number three, so instead this is most likely the penultimate preview, with one more to come. The topic this time around is the section from the end of the Personal Equipment chapter called “Something No Pill Could Ever Kill” which includes revised and expanded rules and roleplaying cues for drugs, plus new and improved answers to questions about how drugs effect Xel, how Replicants can do drugs, and how characters can become addicted, and then (theoretically at least) get clean.

Shout out to Rachid Yahya, wherever he is, for originating one or two of these drugs and doing the original writeup on them for the now out-of-print Systems Malfunction sourcebook.

As usual, sorry for the janky formatting of the tables.

Something No Pill Could Ever Kill

Drugs

Most of these drugs are of the “performance enhancing”, not “recreational” bent and are often “prescribed” to appropriate troops by Great Houses or the Republic Military (a dose of Zip2 is standard issue for Colonial Marines going into battle: Red Mist is technically prohibited by the Red Army, but its prohibition is commonly violated). Most of these drugs are illegal for most civilian citizens of most systems most of the time. Of them, Prophecy and Skye are the most likely to be legal or unregulated in more liberal systems. Red Mist, Stardust, and Zip2 are all criminalized on the federal level.

Drug Duration Effects Per Dose Crash* Addictive? Street Cost

(One Dose)

Synthetica 1d6 + 1 Hours per dose Special: see text. 4 Fatigue plus 1 Fatigue per extra dose, and -1 to all tests for 2d6 hours. Yes. 1000 Credits
Prophecy 3d6 Hours Special: see text. 3 Fatigue, -2 Perception and Intelligence for 2d6 hours. No. 1000 Credits
Red Mist 5d6 Minutes +1 Strength, +1 Fortitude, and +1 Damage with all attacks. 5 Lethal Damage plus loss of all temporary Health: note that temporary extra Health gained from taking Red Mist is not lost ‘first’. Very 500 Credits
Skye 2d6 Hours Cost of sustaining Psi Talents is reduced by 1, to a minimum of 1. -1 Perception and Intelligence per dose, lasting 2d6 hours. No. 1500 Credits
Stardust 5d6x10 Minutes Special: see text. 6 Fatigue plus 1 Lethal damage per extra dose. Very. 750 Credits
Zip2 1d6x10 Minutes +1 Quickness; +1 Dice Pool Bonus To Hit With All Weapons. 6 Lethal Damage Yes. 750 Credits

* The minimum that a drug’s Crash effects can reduce any attribute to is 1.

Mechanical Effects of Synthetica: Whenever you take a dose of Synthetica, roll a die. If the result is even, you receive +2 Perception and -1 Cyber (Minimum 1). If the result is odd, you receive +2 Cyber and -1 Perception (Minimum 1). As you take additional doses, keep track of the size of the bonus and the size of the penalty, but keep in mind that each additional dose makes the trip “switch”: the bonuses and penalties do not “level out”. For example: if you take two doses of Synthetica, rolling an odd number for each dose, you are at +4 Cyber and -2 Perception. If you later take a third dose and roll an even number, you are now at +6 Perception, -3 Cyber, not +3 Cyber and +/- 0 Perception as you would be if you were simply summing the bonuses and penalties. Each dose adds 1d6 + 1 hours to the drug’s effect duration.

Finally, for every two points of Cyber bonus you have from Synthetica, you receive +1 die to all skill tests with skills that have Cyber as a governing attribute. For every two points of Perception bonus you have from Synthetica, you receive +1 die to all skill tests with skills that have Perception as a governing attribute.

Roleplaying Notes on Synthetica: Synthetica (other street names include Cynerium and Answer7) is usually ingested in the form of a silver and/or gold capsule that is swallowed. As indicated by its mechanics, the effects of Synthetica are more than a little unpredictable. We’ve waxed poetic about what it’s like to be on Synthetica more than a little, in the braided Systems Malfunction fiction anthology Angels In Jersey City. The shorter version is that when it’s enhancing Perception, Synthetica blurs the barriers between yourself and other people, creating a kind of euphoric, genuine empathy. It blurs the walls between dreams and reality and turns personal boundaries porous. When it’s enhancing Cyber, Synthetica causes a less euphoric, more dissociative, and more contemplative high. The user feels like they have drifted outside of their own body, and they view it from a detached and clinical perspective that allows for a more complete understanding of systems of all kinds and how they intersect and interact.

Mechanical Effects of Prophecy: One hour after using Prophecy, you are tripping balls. All Tests become Hard for the duration of the effect. At some point during the trip, the GM should call for a Hard Perception Test. If you get two successes, you receive a (highly surreal) vision of your future: if you receive the vision, your Advent pool, if any Advent was spent this session, is refreshed. Additionally, you temporarily receive +2 bonus Advent that can only be spent this session. Unlike all other drugs, there are no bonuses or penalties to taking additional doses of Prophecy beyond the first.

Roleplaying Notes on Prophecy: Prophecy is made from naturally occurring, Aetherially active space flora. Sometimes it is consumed by swallowing translucent capsules full of seeds, sometimes by brewing tea, sometimes by inhaling smoke. Because prophecy is a strong hallucinogen, users experience vivid and strange visual and auditory hallucinations, as well as hallucinations that can’t be ascribed to any one sense or combination of senses. Stationary objects may seem to move, static patterns may seem to writhe, mundane objects may suddenly appear scintillatingly beautiful or indescribably sinister, and so on. Characters on Prophecy should not handle or have access to weapons, let alone go into combat.

Mechanical Effects of Red Mist: See table.

Roleplaying Notes on Red Mist: Red Mist comes in a hypo-sprayer and is applied (sprayed) directly into the eyes: the pupils dilate sharply and the whites of the eyes go almost completely blood red. You are an unstoppable killing machine, a humanoid thresher, your enemies but rows of grain before you. Manic rage fills you and it is difficult to stop yourself from giggling and/or screaming in sheer, violent joy. You have the killing fever. Characters on Red Mist suffer from delusions of indestructibility, but are of course unaware that these are delusions.

Mechanical Effects of Skye: See table.

Roleplaying Notes on Skye: Skye is ingested as brightly colored, triangle shaped tablets which are swallowed or crushed and insufflated.  Of all the drugs described here, Skye is the most subtle and perhaps the only one that a character might use unnoticed even by those who know the signs. Characters on Skye feel more alert and intelligent, are better at abstract thinking, act somewhat detached, and feel philosophical and calm about even imminently dangerous situations. It is difficult for them to comprehend the urgency of any given scenario unless they specifically focus on it.

Mechanical Effects of Stardust: Stardust has no mechanical effects except when you are in combat. While you are in combat, you receive +1 Die to all Macrokinetics tests, and you lose 1 Health but regain 4d6 Psi Points at the end of every combat turn.

Roleplaying Notes on Stardust: Stardust is a silvery golden powder which is snorted like cocaine. Its effects are not unlike Red Mist, but for Xel. The first few minutes yield a euphoric rush, after which feelings of manic rage and a sense of invincibility are often reported. Xel on Stardust often testify that they can see and/or feel the psionic energy of the universe coalescing and collecting and flooding into their bodies and minds, causing them to feel sensations of godlike and/or limitless power.

Mechanical Effects of Zip2: See table.

Roleplaying Notes On Zip2: Zip2 is distributed in spring loaded epi-pen style syringes, and injected subcutaneously. The fluid inside is a rather caustic looking shade of green. Like Red Mist, Zip2 creates a state of manic fury in the user. Uncontrollable twitching and tics are a common side effect, as is a total lack of patience and the need for ACTION RIGHT NOW. Zip2 is issued to Armada Colonial Marines for use in combat. While on Zip2, users experience a sensation of time dilation, as though everyone else is moving in slow motion while they are moving and fighting at normal speed, or faster. While Zip2 does in fact make you faster on your feet and faster on the trigger, the adrenaline rush it releases can lead to (sometimes fatal) overconfidence.   Rumor has it that Zip2 is made from processed, fermented Xel organs, but this is widely disregarded as an urban legend.

>>>BEGIN SIDEBAR

Just Say No To (Human) Drugs

Most of the drugs listed here are specifically designed for (meta)humans. Accordingly, some of them have different effects on the alien physiology of Xel.

  • Zip2 provides no benefits to Xel, and causes them to feel extremely sick. While on Zip2, Xel receive a -2 dice penalty to all actions. They suffer the Crash effects of the drug as normal. On the bright side, Xel cannot get addicted to Zip2.
  • Crimson Fever is horribly poisonous for Xel. Any Xel who takes Crimson Fever must make a Hard Fortitude roll. If they fail, they automatically fall to 0 Health and begin bleeding out. While on Crimson Fever, Xel lose 1 Health per minute from poison. They suffer the Crash effects of the drug as normal. On the bright side, Xel cannot get addicted to Crimson Fever.
  • Conversely, Stardust has the same effect on humans that Crimson Fever has on Xel.
  • Synthetica largely has no effect on Xel. They must take four doses to receive the effects of one dose.
  • Prophecy affects Xel normally.

>>>END SIDEBAR

>>>BEGIN SIDEBAR

Do Androids Dream Of Electronic Smack? (Hooked On A Feeling)

 Obviously, none of the biological drugs described above have any effect on Replicants, since Replicants do not have the same internal anatomy as organics. However, there are digital equivalents for some of the drugs above that do effect Replicants, as well as some drugs that are for Replicants only. Replicant drugs—called chips—come in single use chips programmed to burn themselves out after running one.

  • Synth2 or Synthetica Squared (i.e. Synthetica for Synthetics) has the same cost and effects for Replicants as Synthetica does for organics.
  • Scramble (aka Radio Bye Bye) has the same cost as Prophecy for the most part the same effects for Replicants as Prophecy does for organics, except it doesn’t refresh the Advent pool or provide an Advent bonus.
  • Touchy-Feelies (a variety of street names exist for different “flavors”) cost anywhere between 200 and 1,000 Credits depending on the flavor and the fluctuations of the gray market. Their only effect is allowing a Replicant to feel, for 2d6 hours, an emotion the Replicant is normally incapable of feeling (see p. XX). Actually, ‘forcing’ would be a better word than ‘allowing’. A Replicant normally incapable of experiencing Joy that jacked in a “happy chip” will be happy for 2-12 hours, regardless of how wildly inappropriate that might be. Touchy-Feelies are in the mentally addictive (“habit forming”) category (see below). Their addictiveness varies based on “flavor”, common sense, and GM ruling. For instance the aforementioned Joy chip would be Very Addictive, while a Sorrow chip would likely not be addictive at all.

>>>END SIDEBAR

Addiction and Getting Clean

“I can think for myself, I’ve got something no pill could ever kill
Hey, I’m not Synthetica, oh
I’ll keep the life that I’ve got, oh
So hard, hard to resist Synthetica, oh
No drug is stronger than me, Synthetica”

– Metric, “Synthetica”

If you use drugs, the potential exists to become addicted during gameplay. PCs with the Addiction problem (p. XX) start the game addicted.

Red Mist and Zip2 are physically addictive. Stardust is mentally addictive (“habit-forming”). Synthetica is both physically and mentally addictive. Physical addiction is resisted with Fortitude. Mental addiction is resisted with Intelligence. Synthetica addiction is resisted with whichever attribute is worse.

Each time an addictive drug wears off, the user must make a test to resist addiction using the attribute indicated above: the number of successes needed is the number of times the user has taken the drug in the past. The test is Easy for drugs that are addictive, and Normal for drugs that are Very addictive. Advent can be spent as normal on rolls to avoid addiction.

If the user fails, he becomes addicted to the drug.

Penalties of Addiction: These penalties set in the “morning after” the character became addicted, or at the GM’s discretion. An addict must take the drug they are addicted to every day. If they are unable to do so, all tests are Hard until the character takes the drug (in which case the character is able to function normally for 24 hours before they must take the drug again) or beats the addiction (see below). A character who is addicted can still spend Advent to make a particular test Easy (see p. XX), but all characters addicted to drugs receive -1 Advent for each drug they are addicted to.

Getting Clean: To shake an addiction, first the character must go a full week without using the drug they are addicted to. That means a full week with all tests set to Hard and -1 Advent: withdrawal is no fun for the character going through it, who is virtually crippled by those penalties.

The character then can make a Fortitude or Intelligence test as appropriate (see above). The test’s difficulty is Normal and the character can spend Advent to add dice to the test before rolling it, or to reroll failures, but not to make the test Easy before rolling. Three successes gets the character clean of an addictive drug, while a very addictive drug needs five successes. If the character fails the roll to get clean, they can try again in one week (assuming that they don’t relapse by using the drug again). The character receives +1 die to the roll to get clean for every previous week in which they’ve gone without the drug but failed to get clean.

Note that if a character successfully gets clean of an Addiction that was one of their starting Problems (see p. XX), they must either choose another Problem that the GM agrees can logically replace the addiction, or lose the corresponding Edge and its benefits (see p. XX).

Thus endeth the excerpt…

Check back in a week or so for one last sneak preview, and don’t forget that Origins Game Fair is right around the corner!

 

UPDATE (Crosspost from ETG Tumblr)

Why did we pick Tumblr? I literally can’t remember.

Systems Malfunction: The LARP: The Resurrection: If we get six more preregistrations today, and have an attendance of 20+ on July 8th, there will be a game. If not, this dream goes back in its coffin indefinitely, but maybe not forever. Here’s hoping.

SPLINTER: Surprising Things: ATTN Backers, assuming our printer doesn’t poo the bed, we should be mailing out books starting next week.

Also, Glory and Gore, the SPLINTER Living Campaign, got off to a rocky start because of a SNAFU in Origins’ preregistration system. I’m hoping for a more robust launch at GenCon.

DicePunk: The Pleasantville Project by Richard Kelly, the first Psionics adventure, is out! First of how many? Depends entirely on how it sells. So, you know. Buy it! (Apparently, as I type this it’s on sale? Kick ass, who knew!) It’s awesome. It’s the first thing we’ve published that I didn’t write even close to a majority of, and so I feel less iffy about saying that it’s awesome.

Singularity: MOD04 – Infowar, the book of the hackings for The Singularity System, is tentatively slated for a GenCon Release.

GenCon: We’ll FINALLY be at GENEVA CONVENTION (that’s what GenCon actually stands for, if ya didn’t know) in a booth of our very own: #2853 (mother of God that dealer’s hall is BIG)! Stop by and say hi. Get some books! Get your books signed! Etcetera. I should repeat this announcement several times before the show is upon us.

SPLINTER Core Reprint plus Journey To The Forbidden City nears its conclusion…

The much improved second printing of the SPLINTER Core Rulebook is now available! It’s free (in PDF) to anyone who already owns the original printing, just re-download it from DriveThru. Thanks to hard work from Mikaela Barree, it sports a massively improved layout and a sexier cover. But there are substantive changes as well. Along with some tweaks to the Realm rules, the game has been overhauled to use the DicePunk System rules for Earthside, as discussed here previously, which is very exciting to me because it makes our pantheon of games that much more coherent and organized.

Check it out here!

In other SPLINTER news, Journey To The Forbidden Jungle (MA15+, V/S/L) approaches its conclusion…

Below the Brigand’s Lair, the party found themselves on Level 1,011,999,603 – the shores of the River of Nothingness. Attempting to cross the gray river left Hegik and Viperis floundering amnesiacs (Yntrew and Philarion flew over, while Caduceus walked along the river floor in powered armor), after a Hoary Trenchmaw reared out of the river and was dispatched by the party. Hegik and Viperis fished themselves out of the drink as Caduceus, Yntrew, and Philarion were engaged by a trio of Harvester Assassins. The party was victorious, but Yntrew lost his head to an assassin’s monofilament garrote: before Analina could resurrect Yntrew, Caduceus took his badge and later crushed it before his eyes. After a battle with Demon Voormis leading their more mundane kin, the party rested, the tensions between them mounting. Philarion used an auto-mapper drone to map the rest of the level.

After resting, the party entered a large triangular structure in the center of the cavern level.  In the Hall of Traps, they sprung just about every trap, with predictably harmful results. Beyond the hall of traps, Herk Vadis rejoined the party: a Headless Hydra and a Painwracked Juggernaut fell before the party in quick succession. Entering the central chamber of the structure, the party initiated a battle with a series of Salamandrean Survivors emerging from a painted mosaic. As pitched battle was waged, they soon discovered that five Salamandreans emerged from the mosaic every turn, from a seemingly infinite supply!

The party was routed as Salima and then Philarion fell before the glaives of the endless lizard men. During the rout, while trying to rescue Salima, Viperis used Salima’s body as a human-shield to absorb the glaives of eight mosaic-born Salamandreans. This cowardly act allowed her to survive, as the party fell back from the rout to rest and regroup.

After a lengthy consideration of their options for proceeding, the party finally returned to confront the lizard men, finding them receptive to diplomacy. In fact, when the party acted in a friendly manner, the Salamandreans served them a large feast and even helped them discover the trap door leading down to the next level: Level 1,011,999,604: the Tomb of the Lizard King.

Moving down to the next level, the group was attacked by Bullet Men and managed to defeat them (a Scorpion_Tail symbiote detached itself from one of the felled Bullet Men and attached itself to Viperis). Next the party confronted Mordrin, the Asilos Punisher who had tried to assassinate the Duke of Reo on the Lizard King’s orders. A Hold cast by Yntrew paralyzed the Asilos, and the party destroyed the two Dark Walkers guarding him.

The Held Punisher was interrogated by the party, revealing that he’d acted as the agent of the Haon-Dor Fallen in awakening and guiding the Lizard King. When finally released from the hold, Mordrin narrowly avoided execution and fled using Smog Soul. The party followed him south through a secret door, and after trampling an Origin Wick and its family of Tallowkin, found themselves face to face at last with the Lizard King in his throne room.

The Lizard King–who was not alone, but rather attended by a Hypnogorgon, a Haon-Dor Fallen, and a powered armored figure with a rather large enchanted greatsword, as well as four GIU-44 Assault Droids–acted quickly, creating a Forcewall between himself and the party. The Lizard King spoke with the party for a short time: in the end, he offered Caduceus a bounty of 1,000 Eagles per head for his comrades, and Caduceus accepted. One of the droids brought an Entoptic Generator and activated it, initiating the ensuing battle.

In the ensuing battle, Caduceus and the droids now on his side killed Analina, felled Philarion repeatedly, and nearly felled Viperis. Yntrew, meanwhile, was held and then spared by the Lizard King and his entourage on their way off the level via a high-tech elevator. Caduceus too fell in the battle against his former friends, destroyed by Philarion with a dramatic use of a Rust Grenade. The GIU-44 Assault Droids marched past Caduceu’s corpse, trying to finish Viperis and Philarion, but were ultimately destroyed. Maurice Beauxxhome escaped from a coffin-like closet in the Lizard King’s throne room. At first, he attempted to resuscitate Caduceus, only learning that Caduceus was a traitor upon seeing Viperis personally perform Caduceus’ coup de grace.

The party–now reduced to Viperis, Philarion, Yntrew, and the not-currently present Hegik, Varatha, and Herk, with the deaths of Analina, Salima, and the betrayal and then death of Caduceus–now tries to decide their next move, alongside Maurice Beauxxhome in the Lizard King’s abandoned throne room.

Renzozuke, a Mnemonic adventurer sent by the Marquess Rella Biron to determine the fate of Maurice’s expedition, joined the party.

Searching first for Maurice’s equipment the group encountered a pair of Halflifes, destroying the radioactive undead. The team then defeated a Dire Dragoon and rescued three dozen captives that the Lizard King had used as human cattle and feeding stock. Here, the group split in two, with Maurice, Philarion, Herk, and Renzozuke leading the mistreated and malnourished captives upstairs to safety, while Yntrew, Hegik, and Viperis went downstairs to pursue the Lizard King.

Taking a high tech elevator 340 floors down to Level 1,011,999,945 — in the vicinity of the ancient but high-tech city of Archaeobatrachian — Yntrew’s group was set upon by a pack of Rust Cotillion Raches. The appearance of a mysterious sniper–the Vryx known as Ziq–was instrumental in the group’s triumph over the Cotillion forces. Meanwhile, Maurice’s group encountered the duke of Reo outside of the lizard king’s Fortress, turning over the Lizard King’s prisoners to their care.

The two teams reunited and regrouped down the elevator shaft, at a Penitent colony situated on the upper levels of the Temple of the Frog – Level 1,011,999,946. From there, the group pursued the Lizard King downwards. They found no sign of the Lizard King’s forces, but did confront an Automated Sentry Platform, a deadly pair of Raving Reprobates, and a series of devious traps. Ziq and Renzozuke were transported to the top of the elevator shaft by a Teleport Trap, but managed to rejoin the party eventually, in the Penitent colony.

After refreshing themselves in a nicely appointed bathroom, the group triggered another trap, teleporting Renzozuke temporarily into the vacuum of space. A battle with a Viscerid Hysteric followed. With the Hysteric vanquished the party slaughtered a Voormis Broodmother and brood, and then were attacked with swarm gas pods by a Rookery Paymaster. After slaying the Paymaster, the group entered the compute room he’d hold up in, and Hegik and Philarion gained access to one of the computer terminals. The group systematically searched the camera feeds of each functioning camera to reconnoiter their surroundings. The most interest seemed to be in the room across the hall, which contained a leaking Nuclear Reactor and a brown Ugly Thing guarding a large horde of treasure, most saliently, custom Powered Armor.  After much planning and preparation, the group finally lured the Ugly Thing out onto a series of mines buried by Hegik–destroying it–and seized the treasure.

The party next moved down into an incomplete utility space below (Level 1,011,999,948). There they destroyed a Softshell Moltless before being ambushed by a pair of Viscerid Liberators.

After a brief interruption due to technical difficulties… (Part IV)

“We are happy to bring you the latest from Prestige Studios’ Journey To The Forbidden Jungle (MA15+, V/S/L), already in progress…

We’ve got some internal tensions developing within our party of stalwart adventurers as they proceed further and further into the lost and forsaken Syncopean Jungle!

Yntrew Tilt (Alistair Chu)’s group–as he reaches AL6 and continues to take the lead of the party–fight their way south into the bandit base, encountering Harvester Drones and Harvester Assassins, a Hook Hunter, Burning Men, and a Necrosprite Construct inside a pair of Gauntlets of Potency. Along the way they join forces with Philarion Octavian (Reid Omara), an Aventine Technologist that was another member of Bauxxhome’s team.

The group also found a port to the Annuleez and defeated a Painwracked Juggernaut before being locked in a pitched battle with a Star Pharaoh (one of the Lizard King’s acolyte) and four Void Elementals. Philarion was instrumental in chasing down and defeating the Star Pharaoh while the others wore down the Void Elementals. As the battle reached its climax, a Death Smog spell cast by the Star Pharaoh began to fill the chamber with deadly poisonous gas.

After a brief interlude Earthside due to technical difficulties, the group (sans Philarion) resumed their hunt for the Lizard King. After reuniting with Philarion (who had driven off a Demon Voormis with a summoned Maelsterom Elemental), they defeated a Scourge Lord and his Byrozoan Mongrel hound, and Yntrew Tilt brutally executed a Ophidian Lorescale acolyte of the Lizard King (in spite of Philarion’s promise of safe conduct to same).

The group was then nearly devoured by a Slaughterhouse Ramp trap (leading eventually to the next level down), then narrowly won a pitched battle with a Carcerian and its Sacrophigaunt spawn, clearing the rest of the level where the brigands had made their lair and finding no trace of the Lizard King…”

 

Hot Action From Prestige Studios (Part III)

-Action Report So Far-

“Bringing you the latest on Prestige Studios’ Journey To The Forbidden Jungle (MA15+, V/S/L), already in progress…

After the Swamp Baphomet attacked with its deadly poison gas breath, the party returned accurate fire with small arms and an RPG-7, and the dragon fled to the south. The party then journeyed south to join Stefan Demanis, boarding his raft and wending their way southward through the great Southern Swamp over the course of several days (nearly being killed and devoured by an Ophidian Coatl along the way).

Arriving at an ancient temple, the group was attacked by a troop of the Electric Dead armed with light crossbows. At the eruption of violence, Stefan Demanis fled screaming into the swamp. The party pressed their way into the temple, overcame six Drowning Pools lurking in fountains, and breached the lair of the Swamp Baphomet Aulicus, slaying the beast in a final, decisive confrontation. Among its treasure hoard they found a functional suit of Powered Armor amongst other artifacts. A trapdoor under the temple’s alter lead downwards, and the party descended stairs bringing them from Level  1,011,999,601, the Duchy of Reo, to the bandit lair immediately below, where they would find the brigands they sought.

Just inside the bandit’s lair, the party saw a troop of twenty armed and organized Morkrim apparently lead by a Rookery Guttershrike lieutenant. They had a single hostage: a Tzaetzi in Ouroborous who had clearly been ill-treated. The party burst through the doors and battle ensued: Viperis, Yntrew, and Salima were all trapped in a Temporal Stasis Grenade thrown by the Guttershrike. This left Fenx alone versus the Rook and the fifteen surviving Morks.

Fenx fought valiantly against impossible odds, but two flashbangs later she was finally brought down by the Morkrim horde. As the temporal stasis bubble burst, Fenx’s head was hurled at the feet of the other party members, who rejoined the fray, hurling themselves at the Rook and the remaining Morks. While Salima and Viperis both fell under a storm of Morkish swords and spears, Yntrew once more carried the day, mopping up the brigands and resuscitating VIperis and Salima. Nothing could be done with the decapitated Fenx.

Freeing the captive Tzaetzi, the group learned that she was Analina, a member of Maurice Bauxxhome’s expedition. Their group had been separated, and the three other members taken further below. Armed with this information, Yntrew, Salima, Viperis and the others have begun their hunt for the “Lizard King”…”

Stuff Goes In, Games Come Out

Resolution 2016.1: Blog More. 

To make this easier, I’m going to try to stop waiting “until the stars are right” to make a blog post, and that includes that I’ll stop waiting until I have a fascinating topic. Loads of internet folks have huge followings just for consuming media and pontificating on it publicly, and while I doubt I’ll achieve any such following, I can do one better: I don’t just consume stuff and pontificate on it, an alchemical process in my brain cave turns stuff into game content. This is happening constantly, so there’s no need for a special occasion to “blog” upon. That’s the theory, anyway. In practice, maybe this will be a one-off or a very occasional thing.

Ok, let’s go!

Watching

The Simpsons: Is there any doubt in anyone’s minds that this is the greatest American comedy program ever made? Almost 30 seasons at my fingertips means countless hours of binging. I always have this on in the background even if I’m not watching it: it’s comforting to me. I don’t really like Season 25 and on: it’s not the quality of the episodes, which is eh (debatable), it’s that seeing the Simpsons talk about smart phones and twitter makes me feel like I’m living in a parallel dimension. I remember too vividly when the family couldn’t afford cable. Season 10 and earlier are pure comfort food for the troubled mind and the quality of the next 6-8 seasons is surprisingly high too. The mix feels a bit off in the Season 18-Season 22 range, like maybe the cynicism is a bit too high. This bears further investigation.

Fargo: I watched the entire first season (amazing, my favorite part was all the subtle and not-so-subtle hints that Malvo was not even human, and when we saw the wolf in the finale I exclaimed half-ironically “It’s Malvo! He’s taken wolf-form!”) and now I’m slow-crawling my way through the second. It’s definitely entertaining, but I’m not convinced yet it’s of the caliber of the first season, I’m giving it a fair shake. I’m definitely wondering what the fuck is going on with these UFOs.

Oh, the whole “rain of fishes” thing in Season 1 really messed with me, because like an unthinking dolt I actually believed that the series–and the movie it was following on–was “based on a true story”. Then I reread those ponderous opening captions more closely. “This is a true story”…no, it fucking isn’t…very, very tricksy.

Parasyte: The MaximI’m not a big fan of anime in general (although I have watched a TON of it over the years) but I can’t recommend this series strongly enough. Like the manga it’s based on, it hooks with black humor (VERY black humor) and body horror but over the 24 episode run it morphs into something very different…almost like a very philosophical and very dark “boy and his dog” story. It’s chock-full of fascinating characters, interesting philosophical underpinnings, and cool gory tentacle fights.

Oh Yeah: Like everyone else, I saw the new Star Wars.  It was alright. I’m not a Star Wars fan and I never have been, so in that sense my opinion doesn’t really matter. But…I can’t deny that it’s a good film. It’s just so formulaic and so manufactured…it is exactly what needed to be made to erase the “old shame” of the godawful prequels and make the franchise economically viable. But however deftly it accomplishes its goals as a piece of commercial entertainment, it also seems totally uninterested in being art, which is why it’s no surprise that it isn’t.

Reading

The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker: I was looking for this one for a while before I got it for Christmas. I’m not sure if it was actually hard to find or if I just wasn’t looking that hard. Anyway, I was hoping it would add some insight to the movie it inspired, “Hellraiser”, which is a solid flick (unlike its many sub-par sequels) but I thought might have suffered a bit for having been made at the time it was made at (the 80s) with the budget it was made with (not a whole heck of a lot). I was particularly hoping for some more insight about the Cenobites, AKA the Theologians of the Gash (what a phrase!). Anyway, no luck there. The Hellbound Heart is an excellent novella and “Hellraiser” is a very faithful adaptation by its author. About the biggest change I spotted was that Kirsty seems to just be a friend of Rory’s rather than his daughter, like she is in the film version. The novella ends just as abruptly as the movie, if not moreso.

Sandman: Overture: Neil Gaiman wrote a new Sandman storyline for the first time in two decades. Did you know that was a thing? I didn’t but then I got it for Christmas out of nowhere. Now you know it is a thing. It’s a prequel. Go read it. Anyway, to my surprise, while I wouldn’t for a second have read it if Gaiman’s name wasn’t attached, the words really weren’t the big deal here. This is the prettiest comic book I have ever seen by a huge margin. I am not a big art guy as a rule, but the art is BEYOND amazing. I would describe it without irony as hypnotic. This is a picturebook that any adult could stare at for hours.

The Dying Earth by Jack Vance: So I finally got a copy of this. I’m only about ten pages in, but damn. Did you know this Jack Vance guy invented “Vancian casting”? That’s the magic system that Gary Gygax chose for Dungeons & Dragons, and which has been wedded to the game ever since. The idea that wizards memorize a certain number of spells which they then cast and then “forget”? That comes DIRECTLY from here. Pretty cool, right? That’s why I wanted to read it. Anyway, as I said I’ve barely got a toe in and shit is crazy. Everyone is a wizard and a high level wizard and one guy’s brain can know about four spells at a time and another guy’s brain can know about four or like six if he takes kind of crappy ones and everyone is making ladies in vats because I mean why not and some of the ladies are defective and kill the other vat-ladies and they’re like “oh shit gotta make more ladies cause we’re wizards and that’s what you do” and the shit is just nuts. I’m only like 15 pages in and we’re already at like…peak wizard. Or if we’re not…damn.

Thing I just learned: Vecna is an anagram of this guy’s name. I mean holy shit, you guys.

Playing

-Videogams-

Currently NOT Playing Fallout 4: I abruptly stopped playing this about three weeks ago for no particular reason. I didn’t finish it, I had four characters in various factions of various builds at various levels of progress and I was having a grand old time. Then, suddenly, I lost all interest in continuing, like the bottom fell out. It could be burn-out, I guess, but I don’t feel burnt-out. What’s going on here? Am I going to die?

Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup: Roguelikes are a perennial obsession of mine, and DCSS is the greatest roguelike I have ever played. I am not sure if it is THAT hard or I am THAT bad at it or some combination of the two, but I’ve been playing this game on and off since at least…2012…2011?…earlier? More off than on, sure, but still logged at least a couple hours. Now don’t laugh, but I finally got my very first rune of zot…yesterday. (I’m playing a MiFi for those in the know. Apparently, MiFi is the “master race” based on the results of the 2015 Crawl tournament: Minotaurs and Fighters scored by far the most ascensions.) Cataclysm: DDA is still amazing and Dwarf Fortress is still crack, but DCSS is definitely the “traditional” Roguelike for me. I tried Nethack and I definitely was not able to ‘hack’ it.

Anyway DCSS has somehow taken over from my Fallout 4 as my primary timewaster instead of more like a cofeebreak kinda time-waster, which is astonishing. How does this happen. How does a $0 game with graphics that would not have impressed in the year 1990 take away my attention from a $60.00 cutting edge AAA Bethesda game? I don’t get it.

Halo 5: Guardians: Late to the party on this one, just got an XBone. The lack of couch co-op is fucking UNCONSCIONABLE and I hate that I’m playing this because I do not want to support that kind of shitty and awful design decision but I’m too much of a junkie for the ongoing story of Master Chef and his quest to serve the galaxy cuisine.  Anyway, not done yet, but I just want to say that Cortana “turning evil” is a plot point I have been feverishly awaiting since the trailers for Halo 3 like circa 2007 or earlier.

-Tabletops-

For all you kooky kids who think that “tabletop games” means board games, when I say/hear “tabletop games”, I mean/think “tabletop roleplaying games”.

HERO System 5E: Sleep No More Season 2: This is a horror campaign I am GMing heavily influenced by Call of Cthulhu and even more heavily influenced by Delta Green, although there are other influences mixed in to create what I hope is a uniquely intense horror melange. Intensity is the byword of this campaign. This campaign has been going strong since around late August/early September, and six more sessions are planned before the “season” ends. The first Season of Sleep No More was played back in 2011: this second season has been set in the same universe, but a different part of it, and no PCs have directly carried over.

Singularity System: Systems Malfunction currently exists only in the form of a Singularity System tabletop campaign (but this should change in the future!). Mikaela is GMing and I am PCing: my PC is the captain of a stealth courier ship and we’re adventuring across the galaxy for profit, making enemies left and right! Sessions have been kind of far-flung and scattershot so far, so I’m hoping the schedule will tighten up going forward.

Dungeons & Dragons: I was supposed to be playing online in a 5E campaign but it seems to have fallen through, so I have been running some 3.5 dungeon crawling action for Mikaela as a solo campaign, heavily informed by item two in the above category. Playing with some fun house rules and custom tables, partially made up as I go along, which is not what I usually do, and which has been pretty fun.

Listening

Psychic Warfare by Clutch is an unbelievably kick-ass rock and roll album by a mind blowingly awesome band that just seems to keep churning them out like clockwork.

“Firebirds! Energy weapons!
Both of these things are interesting to me!
I don’t care how you get them
I need them both and I need them urgently!”

Who could possibly disagree?