Thursday, 17 September 2020

Dead Girl Classes, for Mork Borg

 Six new classes for Mork Borg, all of them dead girls. A bit WiP. Come with seperate equipment tables, which aren't done yet. Some CWs for roofies.

The Exsanguinated Doll

You were drained of blood by some vampiric predator, the life stolen from you, and leſt for dead.
Now you rise, a pallid bloodless thing. And you’re so, so hungry.

D4 Omens, d10 + Toughness HP.
Roll 3d6-2 for Agility, you’re lethargic and pale. Roll 3d6+1 for Presence
and Strength, your bloodless body is supprisingly vital.
Start with d6x10S, roll a d2 for Armour and a d6 for Weapons.

You have a Bite attack that you can make instead of attacking normally.
When you do,
d4 damage. Roll a d4 for the additional effect your Bite always has:
1: roll DC 15 Presence. If you succeed, the victim obeys a hypnotic command you give.
2: you drain blood and other vital fluids. Heal by the amount of damage done.
3: Victim swoons helplessly for as many rounds as the bite’s damage.
4: Entrancing effect. +1 Presence against your victim, cumulative, forever.
You may spend an Omen to have your Bite do another of these things as well: pick which when you do.


The Sacrificial Waif
You were picked out from the teeming masses of humanity. Told you were special. Plied with fine wine and other intoxicants. Adorned with beautiful ceremonial clothes, anointed with oil and paint.
Then killed as an offering to something inhuman, your life snuffed out early.

D2 Omens, d4+Toughness HP.
You’re beautiful but frail. Roll Presence on 3d6+2, Toughness and Strength on 3d6-1.

Roll a d2 for armour, d6 for Weapons. Begin with 2d6x10 S.
Your skin is painted or tatood with holy markings.
Treat your skin as a random Sacred Scroll.

 Your blood carries the power of the various herbs and alchemies they plied you with. Daily, you can use your body as an undead alchemical crucible, distilling the drugs in your blood and syphoning some off.
You can produce
d4 doses each day. Roll a d8 twice for what you know how to make. As well as their listed effects, all the drugs you produce have a euphoric effect.
1: Nepenthe Oil. Ingested or by contact. Victim makes a DC 16 Toughness roll or falls asleep.
2: Purifying Balm. Restores health. Ends Infection, +1 Presence for an hour.
3: Elixir Imortalis. Removes all fear of death, brings it near. Double all damage dealt and taken for an hour. Immune to Morale.
4: Xhat. Heals d6. Removes all scars and blemishes.
5: Liquid Peace. Ingested. Anybody who puts it in their mouth and swallows dies, instantly, no save no second chance.
6: Thanazine. Revives a sleeping, unconcious, comatose or Torpid character instantly, they heal d4 HP and regain an Omen.
7: Blank Slate. Ingested. Victim becomes disoriented and suggestible.
8: Black Moon Powder. Rubbed into the skin, dealing d2 damage. User rolls to use scrolls at -4 difficulty.
When you improve, you roll another drug and learn how to make it. A duplicate result means you learn nothing.



The Pyre-borne Witch

You never hurt anybody. Far from it, your practices were - a far as you’re concerned - perfectly benevolent. They burned you for it anyway. You died on the pyre, trying to scream for mercy with flame-ruined lungs. Now you’re back, you’re far less inclined to pity.

D2 Omens, D6+Toughness HP. Roll weapons with a d4. D6x10 S. You’re burned and ruined. Roll Presence and Agility on 3d6-2. However, your carcass has an occult might to it, nearly unstoppable. Roll Strength on 3d6+2. You begin with a random Unclean Scroll, and roll to use Scrolls with Strength. The fire gave you gifts. Roll a pair of d8s for what. 1: You can spit bolts of flame. Roll to hit with presence as normal, each bolt does d4 damage, and d4 damage each r0und until they put the fire out. 2: You are immune to fire, and cannot be hurt by it. 3: You can cause yourself to combust, covering yourself in flickering flames. D2 damage to anybody you attack or who attacks you up close. 4: When you look into a campfire, the flames show you odd truths. DC10 Presence and an evening’s concentration; if you pass, you get to ask a single yes/no question and get a truthful answer. 5: Things you burn - with supernatural or mundane fire - are utterly destroyed and forgotten. Records of them vanish, all traces of their existence fade away. 6: Your fires - either supernatural or mundane - illuminate more than they should. In the area lit by them, it is impossible to hide, and invisible things are revealed. 7: If you set somebody on fire, they fall under your thrall. You may set them a task; the fire does no damage so long as they obey. Shirk, and the fire does d4 damage a round. 8: You can cause even slight flames to flare into dangerous fireballs. D12 damage to anybody caught in the blast. For everybody killed by the fireball, you heal 1 HP.



The Doomed Romantic

You had such plans. You were going run away, see the world, fall in love. Your life was going to be so beautiful. But when you set out, all that was waiting for you was a knife in the dark and a cold, shallow grave. 

D2 Omens, d8+Toughness HP. 

There’s something weirdly compelling about your delicate corpse. Roll Presence with 3d6+2, Strength and Toughness with 3d6-1.
You begin with d6x10 S. Roll weapons and armour normally. 

Name the person who hurt you most; you always know the rough direction and distance to him. 

You are almost inescapable. Roll a d8 for how.
1: You can walk up walls on your feet and fingertips like a lizard.
2: You cannot be grabbed, pinned, tied up, or otherwise restrained; you always break free effortlessly.
3: Once you’ve got somebody’s scent, you always know the rough direction and distance to them, forever.
4: You can walk through walls as if they weren’t there.
5: You can walk on water.
6: You blend into your surroundings. Regardless of the circumstances, you roll to Hide at DC 8.
7: You can transfix others with your gaze. To do so, roll Presence at DC 12, if you succeed your victim cannot willingly break eye-contact or move away from you.
8: When you scream or sob, the sound renders those who hear it helpless. Roll dc 16 Presence, if you pass listeners are paralysed for a round. 

The Assassinated Princess 

You had power, or influence, or status, or just an inhereted title lined up. The details hardly matter anymore. Whatever it was, you were in somebody’s way, and they had you discretely removed.
Now, stripped of your wealth, finery and titles, you’ve clawed your way out of your lonely grave, and you want what they took from you back.

D4 Omens, d6+Toughness HP.
Roll Armour on a d2. Roll 3d6x10 for starting cash.
Despite everything, you carry yourself well, with an air of command that belies your frail form. Roll Presence on 3d6+2, Strength an Toughness on 3d6-2. 

Name the monarch from whose blood you hail. You get +2 to all rolls against them, their bloodline, and beings in their service. 

You’ve managed to retain something at least. Some token of your former life went into that grave with you: fine clothes (worth another d6x10 S if you stoop to selling them) and roll a d6 for what else.
1) A diplomat’s guide to translation. All rolls to translate, understand, or communicate in other languages are DC 8. Always sounds a little posh.
2) A rod of correction. A weapon that does d4 damage, or d12 to any target that has ever disobeyed an order you gave them.
3) A radient coronet, that can - at your command - create or suppress light, to even to blinding levels. When you have it active, your difficulty for attacks is 16 and for defence is 8.
4) A gourmet’s ring that makes you immune to toxins, poisons etc. Presumably, they killed you some other way.
5) A pen of office. Contracts written with it are supernaturally enforced; if a signatory breaks their side of the bargain, you instantly know and can punish them from a distance, dealing d2 damage each round you torment them.
6) A protective veil. Those who strike you with violent force find their bodies wracked with matching sympathetic injuries (taking half the damage you did). Doesn’t protect you from those related by blood, as you discovered. 


Well, you had oppinions. Bold and unpopular ones you were outspoken about. It didn’t work out so well for you. When you refused to recant, it turns out society has ways to shut people like you up for goood.

D4 Omens. d6+Toughness HP.
D6x10 S. Roll Weapons with a d6.

 You are a natural survivor. Roll Toughness on 3d6+1.
Your ruined face makes you less than compelling. Roll Presence on 3d6-2.

You’re a stubborn bitch. +4 to rolls to resist or shake off mind control, emotional manipulation,  pain, coercion, etc.

You came back from the grave different. Strangely altered by supernatural forces that took an interest in you. Roll a d8 for how.

1:    Once per day you can make a Prophecy. State something significant, interesting or weird that you believe will happen:  when it does, regain all your Omens.

2:    Can talk to carrion-feeders and scavenging animals - crows, hyenas, maggots - in their own tongue, and understand their words. +3 to Presence rolls to pursuade or understand them.

3:    You can spit teeth. Each does d6 damage, and rolls to hit with Strength. You have 32-d4 teeth in total. You can spit multiple at once.

4:    Your kiss is venom. D12 damage to anyody who meets your lips, with no roll to avoid it.

5:    Your blood rusts what it touches. Any metal weapon that damages you is corroded, doing half damage the first time, and useless the second.

6:    You can read people’s fortunes. When you do, pick a dice size (IE d6, d20, etc) and roll it, noting down the result. Wen she would roll a dice of the same size or have a dice of that size rolled against her, she can substitute in the noted result instead of rolling, using it up. Somebody can only have one predicted fortune at once.

7:    You see glimpses of your doom coming down upon you. Whenever you would go Torpid, before you do you get to make a Prophecy (see option 1) or read a Fortune (see option 6).

8:    Once per victim, you can predict their eventual demise. Your prediction must be specific and unexpected. +7 to all rolls (including damage rolls) that would bring that partiular demise closer.

When you first improve, roll a second such ability. The second time you improve, and thereafter, you may re-roll one or both abilities.

Friday, 11 September 2020

Dead Girls In Sarkash Forest - a Mork Borg Project

 Here's a project I'm working on. It's a lil' adventure for Mork Borg. 

The hook is this. You are all dead girls. You've woken up at the edge of the Graven-Tosk cemetary, and would quite like to not be here, please. But to go anywhere else - home, perhaps - you'll need to get through the Sarkash forest that surrounds the cemetary.

The book essentially has two parts. One is an adventure, a depthcrawl where you explore the forest. Similar to Ynn, but simplified some. Depth, Locations, Events etc. If you get a high enough result (24+) you reach the other side of the forest, so if you just keep pushing through you'll find the other edge of the forest eventually.

The other half is a set of new character options. Some modifications to the normal rules for if you're playing a dead girl, and a set of six classes for dead girls. Each class is a specific way you died - the exsanguinated doll, the sacrificial waif, the pyre-borne witch, the doomed lover, the assassinated princess and the silenced one - or if you want to have died of something else, you can play a default, classless PC.

Being dead, they take damage differently; rather than broken at 0 and dead at -1 or less, they go Torpid if they hit 0 or less HP. Fall inert for a while, lose a memory or bit of their humanity (and 1 maximum HP) and then awaken and continue. So they've got a bit of undead resilience to 'em. However, they also regain Omen's differently (being dead, fate has lost interest in them) and only get them back when they fall Torpid.

I'm taking things in a slightly more storygamey direction to core Mork Borg. Memories are a big theme. You ruminate on the memories of your life, or they slip away. When either happens, its up to the player to describe it, meaning that your dead girl's tragic backstory gets filled in incrimentally as you go - what's in doubt is how much she'll still be herself when she reaches the other side of the forest. 

My intent is that its a bit modular. You can use Dead Girl PCs in a normal Mork Borg game, or run a party of alive PCs through Sarkash. But the two are designed to complement each other.

I'm working to keep the mechanics and such more minimalistic than normal. Locations are a single paragraph, a few at most. Things are sparce. It's an interesting shift in writing style compared to my normally florid prose.

Anyway, here are some location previews. It's still early in the writing process, but I think it's working alright.

20: A little cave, barely more than a hollow in the bank of a creek. Writing scrawled at the back of the cave; a prophecy mentions you by name. Ask the players what it foretells. Reading it for the first time refreshes your Omens.

21: A hollow, the ground swampy. Lilies and violets grow here. Rest immersed in the bog, and you dream of romance. Describe a romantic memory while you do, and you heal 2 more HP.

2:    A brook blocks your path. Touching the water causes amnesia, -1 Presence. Drinking it, -d3. Tell the player what you forgot.

3:    Corpses strung from trees. Roll for LOOT for what’s in their pockets. Reanimate as STRANGLEMEN when interfered with.

12: A Unicorn Graveyard. Scattered with bleached-white unicorn bones. Aura of tragedy. Healing is doubly effective here. Violence done here carries greater weight; you feel the unicorns judging you. Every time you deal damage, reduce a random attribute by 1 until you leave the graveyard.

13: A stone table, split in two. Engraved with foul text, covered with old black bloodstains. Read the text, and you can perform sorcery. The table is like an Unclean Scroll, but harder to carry with you.

10: A clearing, at the centre an eternally-burning bonfire. Anything you put in the flames is destroyed. Anything. You can put fears, curses, trauma, or fates in the fire. DC 8 Agility when you do to avoid putting an important bit of yourself (a finger, memories of your first kiss, sense of smell, that sort of thing - decide what) in the fire too, reducing your HP by 1 permanently.


I'm poor, so the art is gonna be mostly public domain stuff, sometimes hacked up and photoshopped to work better. Here's something I'm probably gonna use, by way of an example:

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Vogenheim and Elsebeth's Rest - an example setting for Dungeon Bitches

So one thing in the GM's section at the back of the Dungeon Bitches manuscript is a set of guides for rolling up a random town and nearby dungeon. It's pretty similar to the method EE uses, as shown in this blogpost, if tweaked somewhat.
Anyway, I'm gonna go through it and roll up a sample setting for a game.

Let's begin with the local town. The first step is to work out what the main players in the town are. For this, we're gonna put together a faction map; drop a few six-sided dice onto a sheet of paper to see what there is. Where each dice lands is a faction in the town. Doing so, I get this:
the start of a faction map
To read the dice, we look at two things here; the number on the side pointing up, and the number on the side pointing towards us.The first number on the map is the top side (marked in pink on the handy diagram below), the second is the front side (marked in green).
what to look at on the dice
Anyway. This lets each dice get 6 x 4 results, since for each 'top face' result, there's only 4 numbers that can be on the front; if you've got a 6 on top, that precludes getting a 6 or 1 on the front.
But, we can look these numbers up on a lil table to get a faction.
At this stage, we'll also include three constants that appear in every town: an Inn for travellers to stay in, a religious authority, and a ruling noble. For each, we can just drop a lil marker onto the map (I used three coins) and record where it lands. We can connect nearby factions with a little line, indicating an alliance.
Looking stuff up, and adding the inn, church, and noble, we get this for our map:
Now, already there's some interesting connections we can pull from this. For example, the church's only alliance is with a criminal gang; explaining that could probably produce something compelling. Likewise the relationship between the gaol and the assassin-cult.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, lets get a few extra details for the town. We can roll a few times on a random table for town quirks. For each, its a d66 roll, one dice as a tens, and the other as a units, for a result from 11 to 66. This is what we end up with:

1,2: A disproportionate number of poets.
2,3: A famous pilgrimage site.
6,4: Lots of lynchings.
 Already this suggests a few things: firstly, we can make the pilgrimage site be informal rather than sanctioned, under the control of local mafia types, explaining the church/crime alliance. Maybe its an unrecognised saint, a patron of thieves and gamblers. The vulnerable people our assassin cult picks off might well be pilgrims, then; they're strangers in town, so nobody will miss them. The lynchings, combined with the way the assassin cult works with the local gaol/executioner, suggests that these killings aren't sneaky; the cult works by whipping up mobs against outsiders they deem a corrupting influence.
...well, shit, this seems painfully relevant at the moment.
Anyway, we can use this to pin down the relationships between the factions. Normally, the connection between the criminals and the assassins would be an alliance, but here I think it makes more sense to make this a secret war between the two.
The end result looks like this:
So what is this place actually like?
Let's call it Veltenheim. It's a little town nestling between the mountains and the coast.
With a militia and a gaol, it's presumably got a superficially tight rule of law-and-order, and the inhabitants seem like a painfully judgemental and vindictive lot, what with all the lynchings.
There's an underground veneration of Saint Elsebeth - patron of thieves, gamblers, and those who have limbs severed - and various rogues make a pilgrimage here. The town's respectable front, of course, thoroughly disaproves of these ne'er do wells, and frequently mobs of citizens - stoked on by a shadowy cabal of murderers - do horrible things to those who transgress the town's strict social rules.
The town's ruler - Baron Von Velten - has little interest in these internal matters; he simply channels his wealth into ensuring law-and-order is brutaly enforced, while hypocritically indulging his own vices in one of the town's more prominant hidden brothels.
So we have the idea of public judgement, hypocracy, and a hidden underclass emerge from all this. The themes and feel of the town seem pretty clear.

Next up, let's roll a nearby dungeon, for our Dungeon Bitches to take refuge in.

The first step is to come up with a network of dungeon factions, much like in the town. I'll spare the full process, and just give the end result:

And then for the dungeon's layout, we can do a similar thing. Now, the dungeon isn't mapped room-by-room. What's important is individual encounters and set-pieces, and how the PCs respond to them, rather than room-by-room exploration. However, to get a rough feel for the place, we can divide the dungeon into a few themed sections. The method of generation is again the same; drop some dice, look at the front and top number, connect into a network. Each link on the network indicates one area is accessible from another.
Dropping some dice to get a rough layout of the dungeon, this is what we get:

To tie the dungeon together, there are four random tables: who built it, why it was built, what the overall aesthetic is like, and why its weird down there. Like with town quirks, its a d66 roll for each. Rolling, we get:
14: It was built by a forgotten saint.
33: It was built as a necropolis.
43: The architectura style is fluid, elegant, organic. Art nouveau.
26: Your dreams here are cruel, showing what your life could have been.
So we can tie this all together too. We can make the saint in question Saint Elsebeth, who built the place to house the bodies of persecuted martyrs during a religious civil war; these are the bodies in the pit. The nunnery makes sense too, if they're venerating Saint Elsebeth. These sisters are probably not traditionally nunny - their patron is a patron of rogues and ne'er do wells, after all - but sincere in their devotion none the less. I imagine this space forms a neat little safe-community for PC bitches to rest in.We can have the gardens be underground memorial gardens, with the fungal infection being cases where the natural underground ecosystem encroached into this garden.
Our other significant powers make sense in this context: Vull the Undying can be the abbes for our nunnery; since she's immortal, she knew Elsebeth in life, even if her state as a Wounded Daughter has warped her memory somewhat. The Marble Girls and Old Magda are probably more recent arrivals, setting up shop in the more secluded corners of the gardens; the Marble Girls have a pavilion they've filled with medical equipment and specimens, and Old Magda has an ornamental pond they lurk in.
Lastly, our dragon, I think, resides with Lobelia. Both were again companions of Elsebeth, although they fell out with Vull some time ago, and have strongly differing visions for the dungeon. The pair can be lovers.
We can call this dungeon something evocative: Elsebeth's Rest, perhaps.

So, the dungeon foms a nice contrast to the town on the surface. Where the surface town is judgemental and spiteful, concerned with appearances and punishing deviation, the dungeon is more melencholy. It's about remembrance, hidden beauty, things that might have been in a better world.
It's the creation of a saint who wanted something better than the war-torn nightmare that was her current reality, a little hidden paradise. And, while it's crumbling apart, infested with fungus, it remains as a monument to her vision. The bones of those she interred here remain, as do those companions from her lifetime who are no longer - or were never - mortal. 

It has some resonance to it, I think. I'd want to run a game in this setting.

Monday, 29 June 2020

Exciting Shonen Fight Scenes

OK so, a problem I have with a lot of the systems used to resolve violence in RPGs is that attrition is not particularly exciting. Often, each side has a pool of HP, and take it in turns to make attacks against the other, slowly wearing down that pool until one side or the other has none left, and loses.
I don't find this particularly exciting.
I'm taking inspiration from anime here, and how shonen fighting shows (or at least, the good ones) often handle fights. Essentially, each fight is a puzzle. Each side brings their own techniques and advantages, and the other side has to work out how to negate those methods to bring their own to bear. A fight tends to swing one way and then the other, as one side sets a challenge and the other has to find a solution or be defeated; once a solution is found, then the fight swings the other way until the losing side finds a solution of their own, until once side gains a decisive advantage that the other simple can't answer, and is forced into defeat.
Ultimately a fight is won by wits, creativity and adaptability; the ability to formulate a plan that your enemy can't find a counter to.
This is the dynamic I want to capture.

Here's a system to do that.
It doesn't care much about the numbers on your character sheet, and is instead driven by what's happening in the game-fiction. Negotiating and defining what's happening in the fiction is how you win.

Determine the stakes of the fight. What will happen to each side if they lose; death, capture, humiliation, injury, whatever.

Determine the capabilities of each fighter. If you're bolting this onto an existing system, this might be easy. Looking at a system like D&D 5e or VtM, a character probably has some clues as to their capabilities and powers on their sheet; just pick out what the key elements are.
If you're not bolting this onto an existing game, you can instead determine your fighter's capabilities quite simply. You get to state three advantages they have. These might be:
-A weapon they use, and its quirks.
-A supernatural power they have.
-A wildly impractical stunt or maneuver they've learned, and can pull off reliably.
-A broad fighting-style they're skilled in.
They can get two more such advantages, but for each extra one you have to state a weakness they suffer from.

The Winning-O-Meter:
Who's winning is measured on the winning-o-meter, a sliding scale from -3 to +3. When it reaches +3, one side wins, when it reaches -3 the other side wins. It starts at 0. Over the course of the fight, the winning-o-meter will go up and down depending on who's dominating.
EG: Alice wins at -3, Bob wins at +3.

Control determines who's currently setting the stakes for the fight. The character with control is the one who has set up a situation that the other must find a solution to, or be defeated.
Which character begins with control is a judgement call. It will probably be the character who's overall stronger, attacking from an advantageous position, striking from surprise, and so on.
EG: Bob started the fight, so he begins in control.

The Exchange:
The fight is divided into Exchanges. When an Exchange begins, the player who's character is in Control gets to state a fact about the fight and why it gives them the advantage over their enemy. The character not in Control must attempt Gambles until they overcome this, which ends the Exchange.
EG: Bob might state "My spear easily out-reaches your sword, meaning you can't get close enough to hurt me while I can attack you with impunity".

The Gamble:
To make a Gamble, the player not in Control states what their character does, and how it will overcome their enemy's advantage.
EG: Alice might state "I'm going to feint to one side and dash past your spear-tip, so I'm in sword's-reach of you and too close to easily attack with your spear."
To resolve the gambit, roll a d10. The base chance of success is 5-in-10. Circumstances may modify that base chance, but it can't get worse than 1-in-10 or better than 9-in-10.
The chance is 1 better for each of the following:
-The  gamble is totally unexpected.
-The gamble takes advantage of the enemy's weaknesses.
-The gamble leverages one of the character's strengths.
-The gamble uses the environment to its advantage.
-The gamble turns the apparent strengths of the enemy's technique against them.
The chance is 1 worse for each of the following:
-The gamble was easily predictable.
-The enemy has taken counter-measures against this sort of attack.
-They've used a similar gamble already.
-The gamble is hindered by environmental factors.
-The gamble is unusually risky.
It's a judgement call which of these apply, of course.
If a gamble won't realistically be able to overcome the character in control's advantages, it can't be attempted at all.

If a Gamble Fails:
The exchange continues. The player in control gets to state another fact about the fight, and the subsequent gambles must overcome that advantage too. Further, the winning-o-meter shifts one point in favour of the player still in control.
EG: the gamble fails, so the winning-o-meter shifts from 0 to +1, and bob is 1 step closer to winning when it reaches +3. Bob then states a new fact: "not only do I have a reach advantage, but you've been knocked to the floor."

If a Gamble Succeeds:
That exchange ends. Control flips to the player whose gamble just succeeded, and the winning-o-meter shifts one point in their favour.
The facts established for the exchange so far are negated by the successful gamble, and the player newly in control starts a new exchange, stating a fact of their own and why it gives them the advantage.
EG: the gamble succeeds, so that Alice gains control, and the winning-o-meter shifts one point in her favour, from 0 to -1, bringing her one step closer to victory. A new exchange begins, and Alice states her advantage: "From my diving attack along the ground, I've cut your hamstring, hugely reducing your ability to maneuver or even stand properly".

The fight is over when the winning-o-meter reaches +3 or -3.

The player in control can, rather than stating a fact about the fight to give them an advantage, state that they've safely withdrawn from the fight.

Adjusting the Winning-O-Meter.
You can make a fight shorter and more brutal by making the winning-o-meter range from -2 to +2. Likewise a fight can be made longer and more complex by extending it to perhaps -5 to +5 or even more.
A particularly one-sided fight, perhaps where one fighter is much stronger than the other, or an ambush, might be asymmetric. Perhaps it ranges from -2 to +4, giving one side far less room to fail and the other much more wiggle-room.

Friday, 26 June 2020

Class - Amazon Pairs

The Amazons are not quite a culture, and not quite a cult. It is perhaps more accurate to term them a social phenomenon. 

This is how it goes down:

Two women find one another. They form a bond, one they've never really felt before, and they realise the world has no place for them. That they will be torn apart by cruel and impersonal forces, forces that care more about preserving the social order than the happiness of anybody within it.
At this point, things can go one of two ways. Perhaps the see the writing on the wall, and go their separate ways. And this hurts, the deep soul-ache of having a part of yourself torn away. That pain never really leaves them, but they can go on to have reasonably normal, successful lives.
The other way, though, is to refuse such a fate. To fight back, rip down those forces that would keep them apart. The furious, stubborn struggle merely to be together takes its toll, of course. The descent into desperation, defiance and violence is a rapid one. By the time they've first killed, they've become Amazons. 

There is, of course, no place for such women in polite society. Many retreat into the wilderness, to the wild places of the world. And there, they are surprised to find others like them. Entire communities of similar women, the products of love and mayhem. Bandits, raiders and - at times - war-parties, plaguing the civilised world, exulting in wine, women, havoc and ruin.

They see the civilised world for what it is; a decaying, diseased hulk, a thing of filth and pain that traps those within in lives of toil, misery, and spite. They know, from bitter experience, that the world of men is ready to die, and deserves it. When it dies, they say, a new society will be reborn from the blood and ashes. It's birth might be painful, but - the Amazons say - the new world they usher in will be better than the current rotting carcass of a culture.

Their numbers are growing. They venture into civilised lands sometimes, as mercenaries or spies. They ally with the Corpse Dolls and the Wounded Daughters. Year upon year, they encroach on civilised lands more, draw more women to their cause, tear down more of the world that hurt them.

Amazons always come in pairs; one Shield-Bearer and one Spear-Bearer. If you're going to play as Amazons, a player has to play one of each; you can't have only one or the other, they have to come as a pair. Work out who plays which.

XP: As a Magic-user.
Hit Dice: D6
To Hit: As a Fighter
Saves: As a Fighter
Alignment: If your game uses alignment, Amazons are always Chaotic.
Equipment: If your game has equipment restrictions, Amazons work like Fighters. The Shield-Bearer, however, can only use one-handed weapons and the Spear-Bearer cannot use a shield at all.

The Bond: 
An Amazon always instinctively knows roughly where her partner is in relation to her, the state of her health, her mood, and any supernatural effects on her.
An Amazon carrying her partner over her shoulder is not encumbered or weighed down at all by doing so.
When the pair fall asleep together, their pain is shared. They can transfer as many HP as they want from one to the other; one Amazon loses some HP, and her partner heals by that many. Any other time spent in close intimate contact - sex, hiding together in a tight spot, etc - is likewise a chance to transfer HP in this way.
An Amazon cannot heal lost HP at all if her partner is not present. Natural healing doesn't kick in, and healing magic does nothing. This is a bit of a problem if they're temporarily separated on an adventure, and really fucking sucks if one of them dies.

An Amazon has a 3-in-6 chance to destroy anything built by the society of men, if she puts her mind to it. She might smash down doors, snap manacles, or even ruin magical items with her bare hands.
An Amazon takes no damage, ever, from a fire she or her partner set, although things like buildings collapsing on top of her might still be a problem.

Terror and Rage:
If an Amazon kills a member of civilised society, she can choose to make it brutal and gruesome, and make an example of her victim. If she does so, that victim's allies must make an immediate morale check, with a penalty equal to the Amazon's level. 

The Shield-Bearer in Combat: 
The Shield-Bearer gets an additional +1 AC if she's using a shield. This increases to +3 if she's fighting in front of her Spear-Bearer. If she chooses to forgo her attack for the round, concentrating on fighting defensively while her Spear-Bearer is present, this increases further to +5.
She can intercept attacks that would target her Spear-Bearer; it rolls to hit against her instead of against the Spear-bearer, and if it does, she takes the consequences. Each round, she can intercept as many attacks as her level.

The Spear-Bearer in Combat: 
The Spear-Bearer gets an additional +1 to hit with a spear. This increases to +3 if she's fighting from behind her Shield-bearer, or +5 if she does so in a round where the Shield-Bearer forgoes attacking to fight defensively.
When her Shield-Bearer is attacked, she can make a free attack against whoever made that attack if they're within stabbing-range. Each round, she can make as many extra attacks like this as her level.

Wilderness Skills: 
If both Amazons search, each day they can scavenge up enough food to feed both of them while in the wilderness. Likewise, given time, they can construct a functional shelter for the pair of them in the wilderness, using their equipment and scavenged materials, without needing a bedroll or tent.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

On bleed, pain and self-inserts

I'm going to start this ramble out with a bold statement: When I'm roleplaying, I want you to hurt me ooc.

All of the most rewarding and cathartic experiences I've had with RPGs (live and at the tabletop), have been painful. That's not a negative thing, it's an experience I actively seek out.
I think a lot of people tend to lean towards RPGs as light, unchallenging escapism, and try to avoid grappling with anything painful. That's fine if it's what you're into, don't get me wrong. There's a place for it, and if that's what your tastes align with, more power to you. It's an approach that's well catered towards. However, the ubiquity of this take makes its opposite - more difficult, personal games - less discussed and less understood.

When I'm roleplaying, I find it rewarding to engage with things that are personal to me, things that have hurt me in real life. Examples include abuse, mental illness, crises of faith, homophobia & transphobia, suicide, gaslighting, sexual uncertainty, poverty, bereavement & grief, toxic relationships, trauma, crime, sexual violence. That stuff is raw and real for me because, at some point in my life, I've had to deal with it. Maybe personally, maybe somebody I'm close to had it happen and I was there picking up the pieces. 
Engaging with it in the context of roleplaying games lets me explore it, probe at it and my reactions to it, re-experience it in a safe, controlled space. It's valuable. I've learned things about myself by exploring this stuff through the medium of roleplaying. I genuinely would not be the person I am today without those experiences.
The interactivity is important; it lets you probe at the stuff that's rewarding to you, avoid the stuff that's too much, control how you interact with it. It's empowering. And the fact that your PC is an avatar of yourself is likewise important; it makes it immediate and personal to you.

With this stuff, I find that I know exactly where my limit is, where the line is that, if we go there, it goes from dark and interesting to traumatising. And, in all honesty, I push up against that limit. I want to get as close to that line as I safely can, without tipping over it.
I don't think that's unusual, actually. I think a desire to see how close we can get to our emotional limits is pretty common. You see it in people who enjoy horror films. You certainly see it in people who enjoy kink, particularly on the more submissive/masochistic side. It's the same dynamic at play. Experiencing something in theory painful, in a way that's controlled and safe, is something a lot of people seek out.

When we make PCs - the ones that aren't merely throwaways who die five minutes into the dungeon at least - we invest a bit of ourselves into them. Their traits are our traits. 
Now, that isn't to say that each of them is a copy of us identically. We take a particular trait that we find interesting, or want to explore, and isolate it. Or a combination of a few. And maybe we heighten those traits beyond how they are in us naturally, or we distort them. 
Each of our characters is a shard of ourselves, pulled out and laid bare on the game table.
Why do you think it hurts us when they suffer and fail and die? Because that's us - a bit of us, anyway - merely seen through the lens of fiction. But we empathise with their fictional suffering, in a way that we don't when we watch TV or read a book or even play video games, because in a very real way, that's ourselves we're watching suffer.

The number of people I know who worked out they were trans because of RPGs, or who have - while that egg was still cracking and they were still in there, struggling to emerge - used RPGs to explore gender stuff in a safe, controlled medium before they were able to come out publicly. It's a lot of people. I was one of them, for a bit.

The boundary between our characters and ourselves is porous. What they feel, we feel, if perhaps half a step removed. When my PCs are frightened, I feel my heartrate rise.When my PCs fall in love, I feel the same warm glow inside me, just muted slightly. We share in their elation and their despair. 
This is, to me at least, something I'm really looking for in RPGs. Experiences that push those buttons and make me feel things. Good things, maybe, but not necessarily. Pain can be as rewarding as fun. Indeed, I find the intensity of painful experiences hard to replicate with more positive ones. (This is, perhaps, mirrored in my desire to get dommed in the bedroom; pain is just as desirable as pleasure in that context, too.)

This is what Bleed is; when the barrier between ourselves and our characters becomes particularly thin, and we feel what our characters feel almost directly. This gets spoken about in larp circles, often in the context of more negative emotions, particularly in terms of how to mitigate it and counteract it. However, I love bleed. I love being made to feel alive. I want to ride as close to my limit as I can.

All of this stuff about pain and trauma and fragments of ourselves isn't necessarily conscious. Often, it's only in hindsight that I'll realise just how reflective of my own mental state a given PC was, and how events reflected issues I was dealing with. But we all do it, to a greater or lesser extent.

This stuff is difficult on a practical level. It requires a lot of trust with the people you're roleplaying with. I've got a lot of friends I RP with, and a much smaller subset that I feel comfortable diving into this stuff with. Often, these things are very intimate one-on-one scenes. I had a twitter thread here that was kind of an actual-play of one such one-on-one scene.
And, it should go with out saying, if you're doing this stuff, you need to be communicating with the other participants, you need to have safety tools in play so everybody knows where the limit is and can correct course if things are gonna actually go past it.
But if you can get those ducks in a row, there's nothing like it.
RPGs as a medium can do some truly amazing things. They can let us explore ourselves, learn about ourselves, revisit past traumas in an empowered space. I love this medium, and what it can create, and what it can do for people.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Haunt / Hearts - A Mini RPG

Here's a little game that's been on the back of my mind, that I'm going to try to put into writing. It's about ghosts, queerness and loneliness. It's one of my first forays into a more experimental, diceless style of play; perhaps you might even call it a storygame. This is a first draft; I might tidy it up and publish it.
Loosely inspired by these comics.

Art by sarah carapace who is excellent

Our mortal protagonist, Jenny, has moved into a new flat in east London. Little does she know the flat was not empty when she moved in; the other resident is the little ghost Agatha, the painful remnant of a former resident who died in unfortunate circumstances. Can our protagonists learn to live with one another? Can they resolve the ghost's issues? Can a deeper relationship develop? Maybe even... romance? Play to find out.

The main cast:
There are two players. Decide between you who plays Jenny and who plays Agetha.

Aged 24, having just left university with a bachelors in history. Currently working stacking shelves at the local supermarket. She's working on a manuscript for a book about queer life in the years leading up to the second world war, although finishing it, let alone publishing it, is a pipe-dream. She doesn't really have many friends locally, and only a few online. Her days are a blur, with little meaning to them. She's lonely.
Health problems - a congenital heart condition - have forced her to take less hours at work, meaning she gets paid less, meaning she's had to find a cheaper place to live. That's why she went for this flat; it's far cheaper than you'd expect. Apparently all the previous tennants have moved out in a hurry, citing all manner of reasons that have (apparently) had little basis in truth. 
Her health is getting slowly worse over time. She's hoping it will level out soon, she needs her independence. She can't afford a carer, and while her family can pay for one (or just look after her), re-initiating contact with them means getting constantly misgendered by people who never really accepted her in the first place, so it's hardly an option. 

Agatha is dead. She's been dead since 1940, and she's stayed here the whole while.
She died aged 23. Her older brother caught her engaged in 'inappropriate' activity with another girl, confronted her about it when she got home. The confrontation turned into an argument, she shoved him, he shoved back, she toppled down the stairs and when she landed, her neck was bent at an angle it shouldn't be, and she wasn't moving.
Her brother stashed her body in the space between ceiling and attic-boards, and left her there to desiccate and crumble. Told the family she never came home, and it was, eventually, assumed she'd died in an air-raid.
In life, Agatha was a timid, shy thing, scared to open up to others, scared to be truly recognised. Since her death, her fear has given way to loneliness and bitterness. She's furious at the world, furious at herself, needing a connection to somebody, anybody, but unable to achieve it without driving people away.
For now, she's a lingering presence in the building, able to observe freely but struggling to manifest herself. Unlike the previous people to move into her haunt, she likes Jenny.

Supporting cast:
Nobody plays these characters exclusively as their main character. Normally, Jenny's player will take suggestions from Agatha's player and decide based off that what the supporting characters do. Agatha's player can, however, control them instead, particularly in scenes where Agatha isn't active or present. Who controls a supporting character is fluid and flexible, varying from scene to scene and moment to moment as you each have ideas for them.

Jenny's father. He's an asshole. He thinks that no deal Brexit is what the people voted for, that this gender nonsense has gone too far, and that his kids should shut the hell up and respect him. Owns a carpet store, which he hasn't set foot in in twenty years. An upstanding member of society, allegedly.

Francine's a doctor at the local clinic. Overworked, underpaid, stressed. Frustrated by the lack of time to give things the attention and detail they deserve. Jenny is one of her more regular patients, both for blood tests and her recently-emerging heart problems. She's good at endochrinology, bad at mental health stuff.

Jenny's landlord. Doesn't really give a shit anymore; he manages thirty properties, and this is the only one with any persistent problems. His response is to ignore it, accept the place is a bad asset, and rent it out cheaply to whoever will have it for however long they'll put up with it. He's used to fast-talking his way out of conflicts, and not having real problems. He's doing alright for himself.

Jenny's boss at work. Mid thirties. Hates her dead-end middle-management job, her stagnant life, her useless employees. Drinks more than she should. Has been drinking far more than she should since separating from her girlfriend six weeks ago. Cares less than she should. Used to be a good person, maybe she could be again. 

Harriet is 95, living in a nearby retirement home. Her lover died in the blitz, and in the years following that, she settled down, got married, had a family. Her husband was an asshole, but he's dead now. Her kids don't visit her. She often thinks back to her first love in 1940, and wonders what could have been.

Agatha's brother. He died in the blitz not long after Agatha did. He regrets what happened, but not enough to admit it to anybody. He died guilty, and now haunts the place of his death, which has subsequently become a grotty petrol station; it would probably be less grotty if it wasn't haunted.

Other Supporting Characters
Feel free to introduce other characters to your game, whoever might be relevant to the story. Work out who they are, how they related to the main characters, what drives them, what the possible conflicts are.

The Flat
What was once Agatha's house has been divided into three flats; Jenny has moved into the top floor, the one Agatha herself pays most attention to. There's a shared stairwell between the flats - the same stairs Agatha was pushed down - and a shared hallway with letter-boxes, and electricity and gas meters.
The flat itself is seemingly clean and neat when Jenny moves in. A bedroom and a living room. A well-equipped kitchen with an old gas cooker and a modern (and slightly shit) fridge, washing machine, freezer, dishwasher. A bathroom with an old bathtub, newly installed shower over it, a medicine cabinet where Jenny stores her titty skittles. It came unfurnished, and Jenny doesn't own much furniture, so for now she's making do with a camp-bed in her bedroom, and a cheap desk and swivel-chair with her computer on it. A few items from her time at university are scattered about, but absolutely nothing from her childhood. Most of her minimalist possessions are still in boxes in the living-room, unpacked until she needs them.

Jenny's bedroom used to be Agatha's bedroom. On the skirting-board, there's a little carving of Agatha's name that she made as a teenager, under a loose floor-board there's a handful of scandalous pulp lesbian romance novels Agatha stashed there, which nobody has since found.
There's an area five feet long and a foot wide in the kitchen, where black mold seems to form regardless of what measures are taken. Everybody scrubs it away before it gets too bad, but if left to develop, it will form the silhouette of a woman's body, curled in the fetal position, stashed between the ceiling and floorboards above.

In the public stairwell, there's a hatch leading to the attic above. It's not even locked shut. The landlord has stored some leftover lino and wallpaper here, but really nobody goes up here; the place gives people the creeps.

Game Mechanics

The game is divided into scenes. In each scene, Jenny's player begins by describing what she's doing, narrating her actions and what's going on around her. Agatha's player doesn't get to control the narration here, but she can ask questions, offer prompts and suggestions. She serves, initially, as a sounding board for Jenny's player to narrate the scene.
Agatha is, diegetically, present and observing. Although she cannot normally communicate with Jenny, her player can still offer Agatha's thoughts and observations as a running commentary. She can, however, manifest herself if she wishes, and expends the effort to do so, as detailed below.
Whilst normally Agatha's player doesn't control the narration, she can - if Agatha isn't really around - take control of a supporting character for the scene. 
Likewise, it's possible to have scenes which Jenny isn't around for, but Agatha is; here, Jenny's player would control any supporting characters, and Agatha can respond as normal.

Agatha's player has a pool of Emotion Points; in games in person, you can represent these with physical tokens, online keep track of them in a text chat.
There are five emotions Agatha has access to:
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Love
  • Pain
  • Loneliness 
Agatha begins with one point each of Pain and Loneliness.
When Jenny openly expresses one of these emotions - either to herself, to Agatha, or to some other supporting character - then Agatha gets a point of the relevant emotion. It's Jenny's player's responsibility to keep track of when this happens, and dole out Emotion Points as appropriate, although, of course, she should listen to Agetha's Player's input.

Agatha's player can use her Emotion Points to Manifest.

When she Manifests, pick an Emotion she's manifesting and spend a Point of it. Direct supernatural events occur exactly as Agatha wishes, totally under her control. Agatha's player can narrate these how she likes. However, the supernatural events in question must reflect the emotion being manifested; Agatha cannot spend Loneliness to smash a picture-frame of somebody she's mad at, or spend Anger to make Jenny feel the sensation of being held affectionately. 
Possible Manifestations include strange noises, alterations to what the TV is showing, physical sensations, glimpsed images, objects moving by themselves, electrical items malfunctioning or functioning oddly, and other poltergeisty activity.

Once Agatha has spend an Emotion Point to Manifest, she can continue to Manifest that emotion for the rest of the scene; if she spends a Point of a different Emotion, she shifts to manifesting that one instead.
In order to speak audible words without a source, she must spend two points of a relevant emotion, not one. In order to show her visual appearance, she must spend three points of a relevant emotion, not one. In order to create a brief physical body out of nothing, she must spend five points of a relevant emotion, not one.

Framing scenes
In each scene, discuss between you what you want out of it, what you want to explore. Ask yourself where the conflict is: is it between Jenny and Agatha? Between Jenny and the external world, and the supporting characters in it? Between Jenny and her own weaknesses and traumas? Between Agatha and her own weaknesses and traumas?
Once this is decided, work out the specifics. Where and when it takes place, what Jenny is doing, who else (if anybody) is present, either in person, or on the phone or internet. Once the scene is set, Jenny's player can begin narrating, bouncing off the suggestions and questions offered by Agatha's player, until Agatha has sufficient Emotion Points, and the desire, to interact with the scene more directly.

Scenes can be influenced by previous ones, drawing from their events and outcomes to create new conflicts. After one scene ends, take a little breather, discuss between you both how it went, and then work out what you'd like to play through next.
There's no set point where the game ends. You can play through as many scenes as you want - maybe in a single session, maybe spread out over time - until the emergent story reaches a natural conclusion. That conclusion will vary from game to game; maybe Jenny doesn't cope with being haunted, and moves out. Maybe Jenny's heart problems get too serious, and she dies - and maybe, if she does, her ghost lingers with Agatha's. Maybe Agatha gets a proper funeral and can finally rest. Maybe the two protagonists fall in love, and settle down together. When the game ends, and if you consider that ending happy or sad, is down to you.

During scenes
When deciding what happens in a scene, there are a few priorities to consider. Does the new element reveal something about the main characters? Does it reflect or symbolise the conflict for the scene? Does it reflect or symbolise the deeper feelings and motivations of the characters? Does it create or advance a conflict that will be interesting (IE uncertain and rewarding) to resolve? All of these factors are positives. It is also worth trying to keep your actions consistent with your characters as established so far, both in their briefs and in previous scenes, and making changes and developments to their personalities flow naturally from what they've experienced.
Where the outcome of a conflict between characters is in doubt, ask yourselves what the most interesting outcome would be, what the most likely outcome would be, and what the most desirable outcome would be. Weigh these factors up, and decide by mutual agreement what ends up happening.

What Jenny Initially Wants:
  • To feel safe.
  • To be free from her past and her family.
  • To be accepted.
  • To be loved.

What Agatha Initially Wants:
  • To have people know what happened to her.
  • To have a proper funeral.
  • To be accepted.
  • To be loved.