Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Go Buy DMT!

"Hello? Mission control? This is Agent McCormack reporting in. Location... deep dreamscape, second layer, reflection of East-London dockyards. Requesting urgent support. Entire team pinned in combat with unknown assailants." 
"At least [fragment missing] on our position. Seemingly human, emerging from the harbour, most with fish-like alterations, many armed. ...I don't know, give me a [speech inaudible, sounds of gunfire]. Good God, it's huge! Coming out of the water, slithering this way." 
"It's [fragment missing]." 
"Oh! I hear police sirens in- [wet ripping sounds] Jesus, it got Granger, his skin came right off... Mucus everywhere, guns don't do... oh Jesus Christ, it sees me! [inaudible, heavy breathing and footsteps] Get me out of here! I can't-" 
[Transmission ends in static]

So. Deep Morphean Transmissions is done. You can buy the referee book here, and the player-handouts here.

So now I'm gonna ramble about the project a bit. 
Structurally, the game comes in two parts that you need both of. First up, the player materials contain all the rules of the game. This is, I think, a big thing. All the rules you need in order to play are on your character sheet, fitting on two sides of A4. I stripped down the game mechanics a lot so that you only got the bare essentials left. These are:
  • Attributes (Charisma, Intelligence and Will), which you roll under to do most things.
  • Saving throws, which work like you'd expect in OSR.
  • Rolls to hit, and defence (the equivalent of AC). If you attack, roll greater than your to-hit value to do so successfully. However, if your roll is greater than your victim's defence value, the shot hits but is deflected. IE, if you have a to-hit of 11+ and your victim has defence of 18+, then a roll of 1-10 misses, 11-17 hits and does damage, and 18+ hits but is deflected harmlessly.
  • HP, which are reduced as you take damage, and on 0HP you leave the dreamscape.
  • Heart rate, to which you add all your dice rolls, representing the increasing stress you're under. If it gets high enough, you're in the zone and can be badass (rolling again if you fail), but if it gets too high, you have a heart attack, taking you out of action just like if you run out of HP.
  • Reckless rolls roll twice and take the higher result. Careful rolls roll twice and take the lower result.
  • A special Technique or two for each department:
    >Security Agents can intercept attacks, and attack again if they drop an enemy.
    >Surveillence Agents get thief-skill style abilities that always work but increase heartrate when used; one such ability per level.
    >Tech Support Agents get a limited number of support and recovery abilities, much like a cleric's limited pool of spells.
    >Logistics Agents get an unreliable ability to call Mission Control for help.
  • You get XP for learning secrets and completing mission objectives. Every 10XP levels you up, improving your saves, to-hit and an attribute of your choice by 1. Maybe it affects your department technique, too.
And that's fucking everything. Congratulations, you now know enough to play the game.
So yes. The player stuff is pretty minimalistic. But that's fine, complicated mechanics don't make the game good, they just slow stuff down. The bulk of the gameplay is in how these mechanics interact with the setting and the monsters, and the properties that emerge from that.
In this case, playtesting has been pretty encouraging. My players have thrown themselves face-first into experimenting and exploring, trying weird stuff I didn't think of (there's a section in the referee book called 'things the agents can do' which is, more accurately 'weird things my playtesters tried').
And this is where the referee book comes in. It's also small - 77 pages, of which 7 are bumf rather than content and another 15 or so are full-page illustrations by Scrap Princess -

interjection: I fucking love Scrap's art in this book. Like so much. She's knocked it out of the park imho. Look at this brilliant madness!
interjection over.
so. Ignoring 15ish pages of art and seven of indexes and stuff, that leaves about 55 pages of content.
That's tight. It's the most concise I've ever released a full project. Which, to be honest, was tricky. I've been pretty ruthless in editing out things that seemed superfluous. Everything's been tightly trimmed. This is the bare minimum to run the game.
Incidentally, just like the Ref book not repeating the player-facing rules, it also doesn't include any of that 'how to be a good OSR referee' stuff. I can write for pages and pages about that, but here I didn't bother. If you're running it, you probably already know how to referee. So I cut it.


Anyway.

Inspiration-wise, it's both a weirdly mixed bag and very tightly-themed. The game's a dreamlike blend of espionage and noir and lovecraft and surrealism and body horror. It being written by me, there's plenty or parasites and transformations, ways to go mad and have your PC fucked with, and also an entire monster entry that's assembled from a big pile of random tables. 
Tonally, it's drawing on stuff like Paprika and Jacob's Ladder and Lacuna and Lovecraft's Dreamlands stories. Games in this setting will be excursions into paranoia and weirdness. The breaking down of reality is a big theme, unsurprisingly.

I even managed to get it to include the old standard of Law vs Chaos alignment, which is a first for me. Really though, Law vs Chaos just maps onto Reality vs Madness in this case.


Anyway, it's been a few months of furious work, and here it is. I hope you like it.
Thanks go to Scrap, my playtesters, and Chris (who ran the campaign back when I was a student that inspired this).

~ ~ ~

Also, while you've got your wallets out buying my stuff, there's a fundraiser going for Mandy Morbid's legal fees here. Mandy's a massive nerd and a real sweetie irl, and this has been a very shitty year for her for the sorts of reasons you can probably guess, so any help you can throw her way will be appreciated.

24 comments:

  1. Glad to be able to read and see it.

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  2. Looking very cool! Gonna have to see how I can scrape up a bit of cash for this.

    And that art is super creepy cool. I might end up with actual nightmares just from that!

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    1. Scrap's art is one of the things I'm most excited about here. Her work has this wonderful frenetic madness to it that really works with the tone I was trying to capture.

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    2. Yeah, she does an amazing job of capturing certain types of liminal vibe that just gives such a great style.

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  3. Your productivity has no off switch, and I approve of this entire shebang.

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  4. Any plans for a physical release?

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    1. In theory I plan to give this a physical release, but I've been saying that about other books for ages so who knows?

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    2. . . . you know the day you do you've basically /have/ my wallet, right? I've been waiting to throw money your way for a hardcopy of WP&WS Revised and Esoteric Enterprises since they dropped.

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  5. This looks great! Are there any plans for a physical edition?

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    1. as above, in theory I plan to give this a physical release, but I've been saying that about other books for ages so ???

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  6. Do characters physically go into a different reality, or is it just they see other powers and things there in the real world? Or are they trancing in a chair somewhere while they journey in an ‘inception like’ dream?

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    1. I am not going to answer this question properly here, as it's a question I want players to be debating what's / really/ going on.
      However, the way I've visualised it is a Paprika-style (or Inception-style for non-weebs) deal where you fall asleep in the 'real' world and wake up in the dreamscape.

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  7. Hi I think the link to the referee book is wrong? Idk my phone has tenuous connection with reality but I clicked twice and it went to the free player materials.

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    1. I would think that a tenuous connection with reality would be just about perfect for this ;)

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    2. ????
      I've done some fiddling and have no idea where the error you're seeing is.

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  8. Hey, just want to say I'm really exited to read this! Also, I think I may have encountered an error? In my player materials, the special technique for the Logistics Agent is just a big white block with no text? I tried downloading it again and got the same results. Figured I'd just let you know.

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    1. I just downloaded it now, and got the same thing. Unsure why this happened, will try to fix it and put a new version up.

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    2. OK, having fixed some issues with transparency I thiiink this should be sorted now.

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    3. Just checked, the issue is fixed! Thanks!

      Also, having just finished reading it, I really, really want to run this! Great job as always!

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  9. It just occured to me that the title 'Go Buy DMT' makes it sound like I'm encouraging you to purchase psychadelics from your friendly neighbourhood drug dealer.
    So there's that.

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    1. Wait, you didn't mean psychedelics? Now I've got to find my receipt so I can return them.....

      Still reading it, but looks pretty awesome so far. I like the cosmological espionage vibe.

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    2. Don't buy online! Support your local drug dealer! ;)

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  10. This is so good! And it's the first OSR product I've ever bought that isn't (from my point of view, for my personal tastes, don't want to fight about it) ruined by the system it's written in! The lack of any external variation in challenge inherent in most roll-under-stat systems ruins the game's verisimilitude for me normally, but works perfectly for a game about oneironauts. I could actually just like... run this, instead of having to write my own retroclone to do so. Very exciting. Might end up running this before Silent Titans, because I do have to write a retroclone for that one.

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