Thursday, 7 May 2020

Sex in TTRPGs

Now that I've got your attention...

...nah. This actually is about sex. Here's some thoughts on how I've handled sex in RPGs, and how GMs have handled it, and why it's fun. This is all based on my own experiences, maybe yours are very different.

First up: What the fuck? 
"Cavegirl," I hear you ask, "isn't putting sex into RPGs really weird and awkward and a bit creepy?"
To which I reply, no. Not unless you make it weird, awkward or creepy. If everybody's on the same page and wants to engage with it as a topic, it needn't be any of those things.
Obviously, this is gonna vary by group. A lot of groups aren't gonna want to go down this route, and if they don't, that's fine!
It's something that comes up a decent amount in games I run and play, and by and large people that are new to the idea, and sometimes even a little nervous about getting into this sort of thing, tend to get into the swing of it really easily once they're confident nobody else in the game is going to make it weird. There's a lot of judgement and unfortunate stereotypes around sex in RPGs, and once you've demonstrated that that stuff isn't a factor in your own game, those hangups melt away.

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So. With that done: Why? What's the appeal?

Look. I read a lot of romance fiction, and a lot of fiction that sits right on that border between romance and erotica. I like love stories, and... I mean, lots of love stories have people fuck. That's a thing people do when they're in love (or, like, bored or horny or insecure or...). I don't think it's a big deal; I'm an adult, you know?
It's really easy to limit RPGs to a fairly small set of stories; ones that are about danger and fighting and action. But that doesn't need to be the case, I've used RPGs to explore all sort of themes; I have a habit of building very religious characters and RPing through crisis-es of faith, for example.

RPGs are, by their nature, an immersive experience. I like using them to explore characters, which means digging into a PCs emotions and personality, working out what makes them tick and how they respond to different situations. I like putting my PCs in difficult situations, roleplaying intense emotions, doing angst.
So, romance falls into that. How two characters relate to one another in a romantic context can unlock all sorts of big dramatic emotional states, cause all sorts of trauma and euphoria and heartbreak. Plus, like, I'm a sucker for love stories in general, and I like playing through love stories in character. Sometimes they're heartwarming. Sometimes they're fucked up and toxic. Sometimes, they're just tragic. Sometimes, they're all three.
Sex scenes are kinda just a natural culmination of that. 
To take it further, I think sex scenes can be uniquely good for exploring some stuff. Sex is, by its nature, disarmingly intimate. You make yourself vulnerable and expose yourself to your partner. So, in the context of RPGs, that vulnerability (coupled with the fact that its a pretty intense experience) lets you expose aspects of a character that might be hidden or flying under the radar the rest of the time.

Let me use an example. In a recent game, I'm playing Saint Anna, a dead martyr who's corpse miraculously stood back up again and carried right on preaching. She's a sweet, sincere, self-sacrificing sort of girl. She's also worried that, because she's undead now, she's going to end up as a cannibalistic monster like the ones she's heard about. That worry is being mostly repressed, and its emerging as guilty urges. She wants to bite into people, to tear flesh out with her teeth, to taste blood and viscera. And the more she tries to ignore those urges, the stronger it gets.
So, recently, she hooks up with a friend. Ends up fucking, like you do. And it's odd, because a lot of the biological processes of 'being horny' don't really work for a zombie-girl, but on an emotional level she still wants that intimacy. So this gets mixed up with those hungry-zombie urges above, and she gets this overwhelming desire to bite her partner, to wrap her lips around her, sink her teeth into sensitive skin.
She's hungry and it comes through in how they kiss, and what comes next. So they fuck, and it's a bit bitey before Anna goes down on her partner, and kind of works through those hungers, channels it into a desire to taste her. And the human connection helps - for a while, at least - to assuage those fears that she's a monster, and accept that she's still the same person she always was.
She comes out the other end much more secure and stable, better able to cope with her new undead state. It's kinda heartwarming if you ignore the necrophilia.

Could I have explored this stuff outside of the context of sex? Sure. But sex provided a good catalyst for it, let me probe angles that I wouldn't have been able to outside of that context. And the other PC had her own stuff going on that came through in the scene, resulting in a wonderful complex entanglement of feelings. It was a good scene.

I dunno. I enjoy this stuff. It feels kind of stupid that I have to justify putting it in RPGs. We put violence and gore and horror in RPGs, and nobody feels like they have to justify including fight scenes. And, personally, I find playing through a sex scene far more interesting than another interminable fight.

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Next up: How?
Like, how does this actually play out at the table, how can you do this healthily? 

The social demographics of the group matter a lot, I think. I have found that all of the following factors tend to make a group more comfortable engaging with sexuality in games:
  • People who are happy being very open about sexuality ooc.
  • People who know one another fairly well.
You probably need one or both of those. I wouldn't get my rpg slut on with total strangers, nor with people who were significantly less open about this stuff than me. Personally, I've found that the higher the proportion of queer people in the group, the better for this sort of thing, although I'm not sure why. Maybe the cishets are having wonderful smutty fun in their own games and I'm just not invited.

On that note, you want to be really fucking careful with the OOC power dynamics at play. 
I shouldn't need to say it, but there are plenty of shitty predatory men who'll use this sort of situation to harass or manipulate women, using the game as an excuse. Work out if any of your potential players are like that, and kick them out. Do this even in games not involving sex, because you don't want to be around people like that. 
But even when there's not a deliberate predator in the mix, power dynamics can get icky. Where one of the players involved is a guy, and the other a girl... look, we live in a sexist society with expectations for men to be sexually pushy and women not to give a firm no. The dynamic can be perfectly healthy, but keep an eye on it just in case. The same goes for other differentials in social power and privilege. Older & younger players, experienced with this stuff & new to it, GM & player, whatever. Be mindful of the situation, check in, make sure everybody's OK and nobody's being pressured into stuff they'd not be comfortable with.

Seriously. Sexuality is messy and intense and personal. Fucking check in with people before and after (and during, if it's not brief). Your fellow players' emotional wellbeing is more important than 'not interrupting the scene'.
In one of the games I'm in, we've got into the habit of using traffic lights to check in sporadically through the scene (not just sex, but anything that gets dark or intense). Just a quick "Everything green?" "Yeah, all green, let's get nasty." It doesn't really interrupt the roleplay, anymore than pausing for a moment to roll dice and apply the result does.  

By and large, the further detached the medium is, the more comfortable people will be delving into sexual stuff. People will do stuff in a tabletop game they won't do in a larp. They might do stuff in a game over voice-chat that they would get embarrassed about in face-to-face games. And, believe me, they can sometimes go all-in in text-based/play-by-post games.
Seriously. Absolutely filthy. It's great! Here's a post of mine quoted from a text-based game I'm in:
Ash leans in, kisses Hina, and then... ah, the pressure, the feeling of being so close and tightly held is enough to push her over the edge, and as she lets the climax claim her her moans turn to breathless gasping 
"Oh... oh fuck... ah... please more, Ab-"
No. She catches herself in time, corrects it before she blurts out the wrong name. Focuses on her flesh-and-blood partner.
"Hina, don't stop, please... ohh..."
And then unintelligible noises as the sensation washes over her.
So, yeah. Pretty fucking explicit. That scene in particular was really fun to roleplay through, there's some more discussion about it here. And it was little moments like that, such as Ash nearly calling out the wrong name at the crucial moment, that really made it worth it. Stuff that you might only get if you play through the sex scene frame-by-frame.

But this is one extreme of the sliding-scale of graphic-ness. At the other end, you've just got "...and then they fuck, right?" "Right." "Cool, moving on..." and if that's all you're into, that's fine.

Mostly, though, I find it's somewhere between the two. You'll discuss the broad details of how it goes down, who's taking what role, what the general dynamic is like. 
A (paraphrased) example from a Dungeon Bitches game I ran recently:
"So, I figure she'd push Mags up against a tree, right? As much to prop her up as kinda a domme thing. And because Margaret is kinda delicate, she's going to be really gentle at first, at least until she knows what's OK."
"Yeah, that makes sense. But I think as she gets into it Margaret is going to be getting rougher, like her body's working on its own. Her sex-move says its a bit rough and intense, so I think she'll get really into it and kind of move like she's not actually ill." 
"Oh, that makes sense. My sex move basically just says I'm good at it, lol." 
"Right, so. They fuck. And then once they're done, Mags is gonna fall asleep without bothering to get dressed again."
 Like you skip over the graphic details, but get a general picture of what happened.

Really, the key is to work out what your group are comfortable with before you go in, and then once you're engaged with this stuff keep an OOC dialogue going so everybody's on the same page wrt things like graphicness, nastiness, ooc intimacy, all of that stuff.
You need to communicate well. You need to treat the topic maturely. But if you do, it's well worth it, in my experience.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Dungeon Bitches Playtesting!

OK so. I ran a playtest. There were some issues but it mostly worked.
(content notes for miscarriage, violence against women, sex while drunk, homophobia, body horror, mental illness, vomit... look just assume that it's gonna get nasty, OK?)
Also I was a little bit drunk while running this, and it was a couple of days ago, so my recollections might be slightly innacurate. It still gives an accurate impression, though, I think.
First, have some more of Sarah's concept art: the first is our Banshee for the session, the second a fairly typical Spider.

So, who were our PCs for the session? We have:

"Daughter", a Wounded Daughter. A kidnapping-victim of the town's fucked up burgomeister, who likes taking girl's teeth out with pliars (and also killing them). Escaped, and tore off her own skin to assume a new identity. Has been sleeping rough for a few months since, went kinda feral, has forgotten how 'people's names' work (hence being called "daughter").
Bellamy, an Amazon. Given as an indentured servant, along with her sister, to the local Viscount (who was a total shitbag). Her sister was a serving-girl, Bellamy a guard. Shit went south, the Viscount got handsy with the sister and sent Bellamy to die a soldier's death fighting monsters when she objected to her sister being concubined. Bellamy, however, survived (sans an arm and some sanity, and with more scars and weapons), was rescued by St Margaret (see below), and returned - now thoroughly pissed off - with the intent of rescuing her sister from unwanted marriage. Her sister, not recognising Bell and thinking the monstrous-looking bitch who busted through the window was a dangerous intruder, bit off her tongue in fear, and Bell was driven off. She doesn't know what's happened to her sister, and is on the run. A big brutal big-sister.
Cecelia, a Lantern Girl. A good, pious girl who used to work around the church. Fell in love with her best friend, and - upon confessing to her - got brutally outed and thoroughly shunned by everybody in her life. Was living with her parents, who were slowly gearing up to go full conversion therepy/exorcism on their 'gay failure of a daughter', before she met some other bitches and ran away with them in the night, stealing anything useful she could from her parents home on the way out. Young, naive, virginal and scared of fucking everything.
Deidre, a Lilim. (We hacked the Spider class back to being more demonic, to avoid arachnophobia issues). Got summoned by the Viscount's sorcery-practicing spymaster, and nearly enslaved. Rescued through sheer coincidence by St Margeret accidentally summoning her. Posh, likes the finer things in life, the only one taking care of her appearance.
And  St Margaret, a Banshee. Originally offered as a sacrifice to the lich The Decayed Mother (who dwells in a dungeon outside town), she was somehow not suitable as a sacrifice, and the she-lich gave St Margaret back to the cult, to raise as their own kid. It went... better than expected. Something was clearly wrong, though. She left home, got married and tried to have a kid. The kid was stillborn. In her grief, her locked-away supernatural power ignited properly, and she burned her home down (killing her husband) in a moment of emotional anguish. Since then, her supernatural power has been slowly consuming her, she's been getting steadily less healthy as time goes by, and steadily less rational.

The session begins with our girls camped in a little cave outside town. They realise winter is coming, they're low on supplies, and they need cash. A plan is hatched: sneak into town, steal some dungeoneering supplies, and then hit up a local dungeon - The Thirteen Chambers Of Castigation - for loot.
St Margaret suggests that she has a contact in town, an urchin named Corkscrew who's part of a street-gang, who might be able to help. So the gang sneak into town, and find Corkscrew, and a few of her gang, drinking under a bridge together. While Daughter and Bellamy stand guard a little way away, Cecelia and St Margaret (and soon Deidre) have a little chat with the girl-gang about getting supplies. Corkscrew is convinced they're all gonna die, but suggests that they should talk to her boss, who can sort them out with what they need. 
To work out what they want, St Margret attempts to Commune With Strange Powers, which she does by vomiting up blood and interpreting how the blood-puddle lands. She is effectively doing haruspexy on herself. What she sees is a jumbled mess of imagery; human-animal hybrids, lots of corpses, and looming behind it all, The Decayed Mother - an ancient she-lich who seems to be the biggest power of the dungeon.
So, across town they go. At the back of the local inn, they're met by The Old Boss, an elderly woman running the criminal underworld in town, who invites them in to discuss business. 
First order of business is absinthe, as a mark of mutual trust. Some of our PCs totally fail the proper etiquette and preparation, but everybody becomes mildly tipsy and negotiations begin. The Old Boss listens to their plan, and says she can get them a couple of crates of dungeon-exploring kit, no problem. But, she has a Price. 
The town's spymaster is proving a problem. The Old Boss wants him dead. Unfortunately, the hit-men she's sent have failed; the boss is protected by bound devils, who render him impervious to mortal weapons. The Old Boss wants the party to recover some sort of magic weapon that can kill the spymaster, and either hand it over, or use it to kill him. If they don't, she politely reminds them that the Bitches are not immune to mortal weapons, and she has a lot of spies and a lot of hitmen. Anyway, their stuff will be ready in a few hours.

So, they go back under the bridge to drink more heavily. One of the urchins begins flirting with Cecelia, which escalates to a fumbling first kiss for the lantern girl, which then triggers her 'sixth sense' move, since she's this is moving pretty fast for her. She gets a snapshot vision of the future: the urchin isn't in fact trying to seduce and rob her, and is merely horny, and her fellow bitches are all basically hanging back and being encouraging. So, whilst the rest of the team head off to collect the goods, Cecelia stays behind, and gets laid for the first time. It's weirdly heartwarming for anonymous drunken outdoors-sex. (Only later did Cecelia realise that this was a "you are probably going to die and it wouldn't do to let you die a virgin" fuck).

The group are returning home with their goods, when they attract the attention of the town guards, manning the walls against intruders in the night. As a distraction, Deidre wanders over and plays up the 'poor lost waif all alone late at night' thing, and rolls to Flirt with them. It works, and the guards decide that it would be much better to get this waif to a warm inn (and then go drinking) than to stand around in the cold all night; as a happy coincidence, neither of them are assholes, and their intentions are in fact entirely pure! So Deidre goes drinking with the guards, and as they drink, learns that one of them has a child who's gone missing, and is distraught about it. The other guard is convinced it's our asshole burgermeister (the same one who kidnapped "Daughter") responsible, but is powerless to do anything against a politically powerful citizen. Deidre commiserates, and then sneaks off to rejoin her buddies back at camp.

Back at camp, "Daughter" is horribly drunk, and has decided to make 'art' on the cave wall by scratching it in with her fingernails. She doesn't really seem to feel pain anymore, and doesn't notice - or possibly doesn't care - that her fingers are bleeding. Bellamy tries to talk her out of this, (since "Daughter" has already wracked up some hurt by drinking until she's sick, and now her fingertips are being ripped to shreds), which turns into a bickering argument until "Daughter" is finally physically pulled away from the cave wall.

Meanwhile, Deidre and St Margaret have a little chat about the spymaster. They conclude that the bound devils are the same sort of being as Deidre is, and if they can summon said devils, they can be removed from the spymaster's service, thereby rendering him vulnerable again. A plan is hatched; St Margaret will Commune With Strange Powers to learn the names of the devils in question, and would fail the roll, but she uses her move Burn to take Hurt for plusses to the roll, and another bitch (I believe Deidre but my memory is hazy) spends a bond to support her, tipping her over to success. Her consciousness snaps out of her body, and she finds herself - as if in a dream - viewing the Decayed Mother from above. The she-lich is compiling a list of enemy assets that need to be removed, writing down the true names of devils in the spy-master's service. St Margaret reads out what she's seeing, and Deidre records her gibbering, realising she is - successfully - compiling a list of True Names.
It is at this point that "Daughter" sees how badly hurt St Margaret is. "Daughter" knows she can take away St Margaret's hurt through physical intimacy, letting her take that pain on herself. Unfortunately, her attempts to explain this are kinda incoherent, both because she's absolutely wasted, and because even sober she's kind of bad at acting like a human. Her offer is made badly, an argument breaks out, and her frustration triggers St Margaret's 'Blight' move, causing dangerous supernatural weirdness to plague the target of her anger. Daughter takes some Hurt from a minor cave-in. Worse, though, is the side-effect, scrambling all the writing nearby to be illegible. Which includes the True Names of those devils that Deidre just wrote down. I'm slightly merciful, and have it shift to being in a script nobody present can read, so the information is inaccessible until they can find a translator, but not completely lost.
They go to sleep.

The next morning, they head to The Thirteen Chambers Of Castigation - the dungeon they intend to hit up - which is an hour or so from their camp, hidden in the mountains. The approach is a narrow gorge, getting progressively deeper and more shadow-filled, until they reach the gorge's end, where the dungeon's entrance looms. The archway, hewn from the living rock, is carved with the heraldry of St Cyprian, that can also be seen in the cathedral back in town.
Cecelia rolls to Reveal Truths, learning that the ancient saint supposedly built this place to lure in the sinful, and then punish them with suffering and then death. St Margaret attempts to Commune again. Belamy spends a Bond to give her a plus, holding her hair back as she vomits, and St Margaret responds by anointing Bellamy with her vomited-up blood, Simba-style. It's all a bit odd, but kinda hot. Anyway, she gets a direct vision of the Decayed Mother saying she is looking forward to meeting with St Margaret. It emerges that St Margaret was given to the she-lich to be turned into a weaponised monster as part of some greater struggle, but the girl's will to live broke partway into the process, so the lich rejected her and sent her back to mortal society. Hearing this, "Daughter" attempts to commune directly with her patron, the Wounded Mother, to see if this lich is one of her patron's children, and if she's a threat. The result is a direct message from the Wounded Mother; the Decayed Mother is one of her children, and - while she doesn't know who "Daughter" is, she would consider her an ally. 

The party ventures within. There's some room-by-room dungeon exploration, which grinds things to a halt a little and doesn't really affect the emotional stakes much. I'm gonna skip over the details. I'm looking at ways to fix this, thinking of using a Ynn-style depth-crawl rather than mapping the place room by room. The main point is the huge amount of flirt rolls that happen, building up a stock of 
The party ends up in a room scattered with the bones of thousands of long-dead people, filled with a susserus of whispering voices. Some research is conducted, and the players learn that this is where the Decayed Mother dumps the corpses of her creations after they fall in battle. They also conclude that, whatever the Decayed Mother is making these monsters to fight, it's clearly much worse than the lich herself. Anyway, she lacks the ability to lay their souls safely to rest, believing that they'll be caught  further in in the sadistic punishment intended by the dungeon's creator, so she's just taken one room as her designated mass-grave and left the souls there, where they can be at least relatively safe from eternal damnation.
Cecelia considers this, and asks if - if she prays really hard - she can lay the souls to proper rest here. I figure sure, it's a Commune With Strange Powers roll, and rather than getting to ask questions on a success, she'll be able to do... something. So she rolls. Gets something fucking stupid like a 12.
I tell her she can feel two separate forces, both willing to answer the prayer. She has to pick between Punishment and Love. She picks Love. A number of souls - not all of them, but still hundreds - pass on to some sort of peaceful afterlife.
Cecelia realises that she's abandonned the last vestiges of her faith in the church, rejecting her god and his ideas of judgement and vengeance, and embracing something else and it's message of unconditional, if painful, love. She is, by any measure, considered the most horrible sort of heretic by mainstream society, the sort that gets burnt at the stake when she gets found out. This sounds, to "Daughter" at least, a lot like the Wounded Mother. Discussion and flirting happens. 
(Quote of the session goes to: "everyone's flirting in the bone room")
The group hears something large approaching from behind them, and flee deeper into the dungeon, arriving at an elaborate metal door that they bust through.

On the other side, there is the opulent sanctum of the Decayed Mother, who rises from her seat to greet them, including greeting St Margaret by name. St Margaret falls to the floor in shock. 
The Decayed Mother instructs St Margaret to stand up properly. St Margaret does so. The lich asks her how she's been finding the outside world, St Margeret responds - on the verge of tears and/or a full-on debilitating trauma flashback - that it has been shit. The lich informs her  - quite fondly - that she's going to 'fix' Margaret, and instructs her to approach so the lich can begin the process.
This is too much for her, and Margaret has to roll to Endure Pain to cope. She rolls, and the result is shit. But she spends a bond on the lich to bump her roll up, and then Bellamy takes her hand, holding it securely, and spends like 3 more Bonds, bumping the roll up to a success.
She keeps it together, for now. Tells the Decayed Mother "No, I'm fine like this". The lich responds "I see. Your friends have already fixed you. Good. Anyway, I suppose you've all been sent here to try to kill me, which is a shame."
The party explains that, no, they just need money for food, and possibly some sort of magic knife to kill a devil-enslaving bastard back in town. The lich nods, clicks her skeletal fingers, and a meal appears. Takes a moment to remove a few of her (fucking ancient) rings, and hands them to the party, suggesting that they can sell them for quite a lot of cash. Then asks about the sort of man they're going to kill. On hearing about him, decides on an appropriate end.
To test the party's resolve, she settles on Cecelia (the most normal and least murderous looking of the group), and instructs her to fetch a pet rabbit from a box on the other side of the room, on which the lich will demonstrate the weapon she intends to give them. Cecelia is doubtful, expecting a trap, and rolls to Reveal Truths by scrutinising the lich's body language. The result she gets is that the Decayed Mother is using them as pawns in a greater conflict, but has no particular ill-will towards them. So the rabbit is fetched. 
The lich takes a vial of smoking liquid, and drops a little onto the rabbit's face; the rabbit rapidly, painfully mutates into a rabbit-sized tetsuo-style mass of cancerous flesh, totally helpless. She suggests that if they splash the poison onto their victim, he'll suffer the same fate.
Lastly, she selects Deidre for some scrutiny, and asks her who she considers the most beautiful person present; Deidre promptly answers that it's Margaret (prompting a bunch more flirt rolls as the Bitches process that - I'm predicting a bellamy-margaret-deidre love triangle forming and it's great). The lich nods, and begins ripping off her own face, re-sculpting herself to resemble her broken protege. Instructs the party that they should leave.

And that's where we ended the session.

Overall impressions? There's some stuff I wanna tweak. Make XP more available. Let Commune With Strange Powers give those who hear the result XP and/or hurt the inquirer, to give it a little more oomf and distinguish it from Reveal Truths. And I think I want to make Broken a temporary, rather than permanent, condition, so players are a little less cautious about getting Hurt.
I'm also gonna totally re-do the dungeon stuff, making it a depth-crawl rather than room-by-room, so mere navigation uses up less time, and there's more focus on the actual emotional ramifications.
But, it's getting there.

Appropriately enough, today's apparently Lesbian Visibility Day. All you gay girls reading this, consider your self seen and appreciated.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Dungeon Bitches Continues Development

So it's been about three weeks since I started Dungeon Bitches as a project, and I have been writing furiously. The rough skeleton of the game can be seen in the previous two posts here and here but I've expanded it out a lot from there. I'm anticipating the book having maybe 100 pages of a4.

So, what's in those pages?
The game starts out with a brief introduction. The overall concept for the game, a rough picture of how you play PbtA games,  set of up-front content warnings.Then after that, into the base mechanics. Stats, rolling for moves, hurt, bonds, experience and what the basic moves actually are. Then how to make a character, and the ten classes.
Compared to the blogposts, classes have been expanded on somewhat. There's an extra section in character gen, in which you define a relationship with another PC (tying the party together) and with an NPC in the world (tying the party into the setting). Fairly freeform, again designed to prompt you into considering who your PC is and how she relates to people, much like the Three Questions. Each class has been bumped from a choice of 4 moves, to 6, meaning you can spend all of your advances purely on your own class's moves, getting all of them and not needing to branch out.
One concern I got a lot with the initial notes was that the selection of classes skewed strongly towards the supernatural, with four of the six being non-mundane, resulting in a game where all the PCs were kinda weird. So, additional classes were added to compensate for that. You know have 10 classes; 5 mundane, 5 supernatural. The new classes are:

  • The Firebrand. An angry bitch with strong views, a rabble-rouser, saboteur and activist. Hard/Soft. Her mechanics mostly revolve around self-sacrifice. She can spend her own XP to benefit her party members, or take Hurt so they don't have to. Some damage-mitigation stuff in there, and an option to get XP when you do something self-sacrificing out of principle. And then, her last significant move lets her do proper large-scale rabble-rousing, which can potentially have some big effects on the game world.
  • The Lantern Girl. New to adventuring, out of her depth, paranoid about danger, still working a lot of stuff out. Soft/Queer. Well suited to a 'coming out of the closet' sort of narrative. Has a 'lamp turned on/lamp turned off' dichotomy going, getting benefits to information gathering and perhaps supporting her allies in its light, but being able to slip away into the darkness when it's turned off. Super efficient information-gathering capabilities, and some mechanics that reward you for working out who you are and who you want to be. Totally not a self-insert.
  • The Disgraced Princess. Used to be a member of the upper nobility or royalty, due to be married off for political purposes. Rampant gayness resulted in her either being kicked out of her noble house, or fleeing it, so now she's one of the Bitches. Subtle/Queer. An absolute social powerhouse. Has money, gets bonds on people, can issue direct orders, and the best PC for using the Flirt move if she has time to prep. Also gets some stuff encouraging her to shy away from real nastiness, and rewarding other PCs for sheltering her.
  • The Spider. (Look, I like spiders, OK?) A shapeshifting humanoid spider living secretly among, and preying on, mankind. Hard/Subtle. Gets a lot of very sexualised moves that let her lure and ambush people. Can reveal her horrible true form to inflict various psychological effects on victims, heal up by draining blood, heal others by feeding them her blood. Her Sex Move lets her shift her appearance to look like whoever she last fucked (and she gets temporary a bonus to a stat to reflect it!). Lastly, her bite contains a euphoric venom, which can be used to knock out victims. Or, she can bite during sex, and the euphoric effects of her venom mean her partner's sex-move triggers *twice*. She's very much a sexualised predator, keying into a lot of tropes from things like Carmilla.
The Spider in particular went through a few revisions. The initial version was called the Lilim, and tied into some IRL mythology around Lilith and her descendants. This got chucked out because it tied the game to a real-world setting a little too hard. There were also, like, some issues with the moves where she went over the line from 'sexy and predatory' to 'kinda rapey', so they got altered. And, like, the class can absolutely still be played that way if you want to, but it's much less overt.

The next big section is on safety tools. This is honestly the most I've ever written about them. This section's not prescriptive, I don't say 'you should use this tool and it will make your game safe' because that's not how it works. Different groups will find different tools work for them. Rather, the point of this section is to be up-front about the need for something and to discuss what I've found works well. Really, the three main points are:
  • communication is important
  • consent is important
  • feeling in control is important
And the specific tools you use will follow from that.
Normally, I'd make this section pretty short, spending a few paragraphs talking about why traumatising your players is bad and a quick 101 on how not to do that, but here I've gone into a more depth. Really, though, this project is a giant pile of potential triggers, so I kinda had to give it some weight.

Following this, there's some advice on how the game is intended to be played. It begins with some general tips on how to be a good player (be proactive! treat the world like it's real! embrace emergent narratives!) and some advice on things like how emergent narrative works, the relation between fiction & moves, etc. Then some more specific sub-sections dealing with different areas of the game; Queer Stuff, Sex & Romance, Violence, Trauma, Dungeon Exploration, Safe Places & Downtime, and Going Back To Town. Each gives a rough overview of how the game is expected to work. Rather than hard mechanics, there's a discussion of things like the expected dynamics, good 'probing questions' to ask in these scenes, when to apply (or not apply) a given move, where different types of scene fall into the general structure of the game. It's about setting expectations, rather than laying down concrete rules.

The last major section is GM stuff. You get some general pointers on being a GM, and then on handling things like logistics, wandering monsters, etc. Lastly a set of tools to roll up a random dungeon (with tables for treasure, room/body searching, etc), and to roll up a random town (with tables for who the main factions are, shitty injustices to witness about town, rumours, etc).

It's a very rough first draft. There's a bunch of other stuff I wanna put in (how to set up session 1, some essays on the assumed setting and what, like, a dungeon is, guidelines to running longer-term plotlines, that sorta thing). That, combined with some full-page art, proper indexing, etc... I'm expecting expand the book out to 100+ pages.

Tonally, I've been using a very casual, conversational voice to write it. Sentence structure is loose, there's swearing, there's slang. I think the precise, technical, textbook-style tone of voice commonly seen in RPGs is quite a masculine coded thing. I want to push away from that. Using a more informal tone pushes the intent of the game quite well, puts you in the right headspace. Similarly, I'm not shying away from putting social justice stuff in the text. If I think shitty patriarchal bullshit is relevant to whatever I'm discussing, I'll just call it 'shitty patriarchal bullshit', because honestly if you're not on board with that worldview already why the fuck are you playing this particular game?

I'm gonna be running the first round of playtesting soon. I'm excited for it.
One thing I've been finding is that the more rpg work I put out, the more personal the stuff I put into it. Esoteric Enterprises explored my experiences with poverty and life on the fringes of society, for example. The islands module - under the working title And The Sea Gave Up The Dead Who Were In It - is exploring a lot of different thoughts I have around religion, death, faith, rebirth, and the failings of those principles. Dungeon Bitches is the most I've pushed this for something I intend to publish, though. It's meant to be raw and messy and personal. I'm drawing on a lot of my experiences with being poor, disowned by my family, gay, trans, homeless, all that stuff. There's a lot of stuff in there where I'm reflecting on and channelling nasty shit I've dealt with; the Wounded Daughter, Lantern Girl, Corpse Doll and Runaway Nun are all kinda self-inserts. 

In some ways, it's not been an easy text to write. I'm pulling on stuff that was painful at the time, maybe continues to be painful. In other ways, it's been incredibly easy; I stick some music on, have a beer, and the words just sort of flow out. I'm not restricting myself and holding back on anything, it's kind of a brutally honest piece of self expression.

I've been working closely with an artist for this project. Sarah Carapace is super talented, really gets what I'm going for, and has had a lot of useful suggestions for game stuff and visual stuff. Plus there's a lovely rough softness to her work that really clicks with what I want from the game. Art takes time, obviously, so it's gonna be a while before the full book is ready, but when it's done, it's gonna be fucking stunning
Anyway, I'll leave you with some concept art from her, and some test layout work we've tried.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Dungeon Bitches Part 2

General mechanics, default moves etc here.

Corpse Dolls given more detail here.
Wounded Daughters given more detail here.

Character Creation:

Step 1: pick a class.
Step 2: answer the class's Three Questions
Step 3: assign stats
Step 4: pick moves

Stats: You start out with two stats at +1 and two stats at -1. You can add +1 to one stat of your choice.

Moves: You start out with all the basic moves, with an automatic sex move for your class, and then your class will let you pick some from a short list. Exact details vary.

(Hard/Subtle. Violence focus.)

What are you running from?
Who did you first kill?
Why do you enjoy violence?

Hard & Subtle start at +1, Soft & Queer start at -1.

Pick any two. You also get your Sex Move automatically.

Favoured Weapon
You have a particular weapon that holds sentimental value, and which you are unusually skilled at. When you make use of it, you get +2 to Lash Out.

You're just tougher than your companions. You can take an extra point of Hurt before you're Broken. You're at Death's Door after five Hurt, and become Broken if you take a sixth. 

Military Training
You're well equipped to deal with the consequences of violence. When you Lash Out, if you would suffer Hurt as a consequence of the move, ignore the first point of Hurt you suffer.

You carry a nice supply of poisons, and are skilled in their application. When you attempt use your poison (other than in an open fight), use this move. Your choice of poison might cause uncontrollable bleeding, paralysis, unconsciousness, convulsions, vomiting or some other nasty effect of your choice. For NPCs, you can choose to have your poison's result be death - potentially near instantly, or drawn out and horrible if you wish. PC victims suffer 2 Hurt. Roll with Subtle.
On a miss: You screw up and expose yourself to your own poison. Your victim avoids being poisoned. Take one Harm.
On a Success: Your victim is successfully poisoned, but pick an appropriate complication:
  • You expose yourself to your poison, taking 1 hurt.
  • The poisoning is obvious, and evidence is left behind that might implicate you.
  • The poison acts more slowly than usual, potentially giving the victim time to get to a doctor.
On an Overwhelming Success: Your victim is successfully poisoned, and there are no complications.

Sex Move
Despite your grim demeanour, you're surprisingly good in bed. If you had no Bonds on your partner, you get one. If your partner had no bonds on you, they get one.

(Hard/Soft. Medicine & Necromancy.)

Questions:What are you running from?
What did you die of?
What brought you back?

Hard & Soft start at +1, Subtle & Queer start at -1.

You get Reanimated, and pick one more. You also get your Sex Move automatically.

You are already dead, but not gone. You do not need to eat, drink, breath, sleep and so on. Poison, cold, drowning and other stuff that needs you to be alive cannot hurt you. Unlike other characters, you can use the Heal move on yourself by stitching your dead flesh back together. When you do this, on a Miss you take an additional Hurt (instead of losing Bonds) as you helplessly watch your carcass slowly crumbling.

You can make surgical alterations to yourself or your patients, creating all sorts of interesting effects. This ability might be used to create a perfect surgical disguise, 'improve' the patient's anatomy, undo a serious ongoing wound, or any other mad science you can think of. However, without Graft as well, you can't stitch new bits onto your subject. When you use this ability, roll with Soft.
On a miss: You screw up the procedure, badly. Your subject takes 1 Harm and suffers a permanent, ongoing wound as a consequence.
On a Success: You are able to make the alterations you wanted, but there are medical complications. The GM picks a consequence from this list:
  • Your subject suffers significant pain as a result of the procedure. They take one Harm.
  • Your subject's body is badly damaged as a side-effect of the surgery, resulting in a permanent, ongoing wound. 
  • Your subject's appearance becomes warped, marking them as unnatural and making the nature of the alteration obvious.
  • If operating on somebody else, your subject finds the process invasive and uncomfortable. If you had any Bonds on them, you lose one. If they had any bonds on you, they lose one. 
On an Overwhelming Success: You are able to make the alterations you wanted, with only mild complications. You pick a consequence from the list above.

You can stitch organs and body-parts onto yourself, to grant yourself stolen powers. To do this, you need to be able to justify why the body part in question would give the desired ability. Good examples include a dragon's flame glands giving you fire breath, venomous fangs giving you a toxic bite, wings allowing you to fly, spinnerets allowing you to spin webs, extra limbs letting you hold more weapons and so forth. At first, you can only graft things onto yourself, but if you have the Flesh-Crafter move you can graft body parts onto others as the process's alteration. Doing this - on yourself or others - is difficult, and the body initially rejects the grafted-in tissue, resulting in one Hurt being suffered.

Corpse Puppets
You can reanimate carcasses, by stitching part of yourself into the corpse to operate it. Doing so causes you to suffer one Hurt from the loss of flesh. The animated husk is under your total control, with as much finesse as its state of decomposition will allow, and also largely expendable. The husk remains animated until it is utterly physically destroyed - even severely mutilated it will continue to act.

Sex Move
When you fuck somebody, the whole experience is deeply disturbing for them - you are, after all, clammy to the touch and might be decomposing a bit - even as you take comfort in the sense of vitality. You may heal one Hurt, and they get a Bond on you.

(Hard/Queer. Uncontrolled supernatural prowess.)

What are you running from?
How are you marked as supernatural?
Why can't you control your power?

Hard & Queer start at +1, Soft & Subtle start at -1.

Pick any two. You also get your Sex Move automatically.

When you scream, roll to Lash Out at +1. Add the following options to the possible consequences:
  • Everybody who didn't know ahead of time to cover their ears is deafened. 
  • All delicate objects nearby shatter. 
You have learned to sacrifice your health in exchange for supernatural might, torching away flesh and sanity for temporary power. When you roll for a move with Hard or Queer, you make take Hurt to get +1 to the roll for every Hurt suffered. You may choose how much Hurt to spend after rolling the dice and seeing the result.

When pursuing a target, you have an uncanny ability to arrive in places you weren't meant to. You may spend a Bond on somebody to appear in a scene with them (one currently going on, or beginning a new scene if you wish). No distance, barriers, wards or security can prevent you appearing in this way.

You can mantle yourself with an aura of furious supernatural power. Each time you do this, choose one effect:

  • You can cause anything you see to burst into flames just by willing it.
  • Weak-willed NPCs, animals and non-sentient monsters are overcome with terror and utterly unwilling to approach you.
  • Objects move at your command when you gesture to them.
  • Animals flock to you and obey your commands.
  • Nobody but you is capable of talking louder than a murmur. 
When you lower the aura, you take one Hurt, plus one more Hurt for every full day you'd kept the aura active.  

Sex Move
When you fuck somebody, you go all out and the experience is raw, feral and a little scary. You may suffer any amount of Hurt, and get that many Bonds on your partner. Your partner can do likewise.

(Soft/Subtle. Spiritual support and conflict avoidance.)

What are you running from?
What do you venerate?
What brings you comfort?

Soft & Subtle start at +1, Hard & Queer start at -1.

Pick any two. You also get your Sex Move automatically.

Spiritual Adviser
Your words, though quiet and cloaked in religious symbolism, are surprisingly shrewd and persuasive. When you use a Bond to offer somebody XP to do something, if they don't accept, you get the Bond back.

Cloistered and Sanctified
You are something precious, to be protected from the grim realities of the world. You take -2 to rolls to Lash Out. Whenever you are unable or unwilling to act to act, your companions get +1 to any rolls to protect you. You get a Bond on them when they do.

Beatific Visionary
You have a connection with a benevolent higher power that you can call on for aid. When you Commune With Strange Powers, you may spend a Bond on the subject of your question. If you do, you may roll with Soft instead of Queer.

Beyond Reproach
Your status as an ordained member of a religious sisterhood protects you from certain social consequences. If you are ever accused of wrongdoing - regardless of whether you actually did it - this move triggers. Roll with Subtle.
On a miss: Your shamed reaction provides compelling evidence as to your guilt, regardless of whether or not you're actually at fault. Your accuser gets a bond on you.
On a Success: Your reputation defends you. You immediately get a Bond on anybody who took part in the accusation and, if they had any Bonds on you, they lose one.
On an Overwhelming Success: Your reputation absolves you and shames your accuser. You immediately get a Bond on anybody who took part in the accusation. If they had any bonds on you, they lose all of them, and you get that many extra Bonds on them.

Sex Move
You're a nun, and you know you shouldn't be fucking people. You and your partner have a choice: either you confess to failing your vows, in which case your partner gets two Bonds on you, or try to keep it secret, in which case you get two Bonds on your partner.

(Soft/Queer. Flexible magical power to solve all problems.)

What are you running from?
Who taught you your gifts?
What is the price of your gifts?

Soft & Queer start at +1, Hard & Subtle start at -1.

You get Witchcraft, and pick one other move. Note that, since the other Witch moves refer to the Witchcraft move, they're useless if taken as a cross-class move without first taking Witchcraft.
You also get your Sex Move automatically.

You are capable of casting codified spells from some magic tradition. When you gain this move, pick three spells from the list that you can cast:

  • Shapeshift (take on the physical form of an animal or person, lasting as long as you wish).
  • Enthrall (the spell's victim becomes obsessed with your approval, lasting as long as you wish).
  • Glamour (creates an intangible illusion of anything you can picture, lasting as long as you wish).
  • Animal Speech (you can temporarily talk with and understand animals, and they react well to you).
  • Shroud (somebody or something becomes invisible and otherwise imperceptible, until its presence is impossible to ignore).
  • Second Sight (temporarily become able to see invisible things and pierce illusions and disguises).
  • Transform (temporarily turn the spell's victim/recipient into an animal).
To cast a spell, you need to spend a few minutes performing the correct rites, and the subject of the spell must be present. If you have an appropriate token representing the spell's subject - a little wax doll, a vial of their blood, a letter with their signature - that is just as good as if they were there in person. There is no limit to how frequently you can cast spells, so long as you have the time and space to do so.

The Vancian Tradition
When you cast a spell, you may leave it unfinished, suspended in your mind so that only the final syllables and gestures need be made to complete it. Completing a spell prepared in this way takes only a moment and a flick of the wrist, rather than several minutes of complex rituals. You may have only one such spell readied in your mind at a time; prepare another, the currently prepared spell is wasted.

Expanded Repertoire
You know the other four spells you didn't initially pick.

Magical Research
You have worked to unlock arcane secrets, and have created an entirely new spell of your own. Work with the GM to determine what new spell you've created.

Sex Move
When you fuck somebody, you can keep a little token from the encounter to remember it by. Obviously, counts as a sympathetic token for the purposes of casting spells on your partner.

(Subtle/Queer. Supernatural endurance & lost humanity.)

What are you running from?
When did you become a Daughter?
How much humanity have you abandoned already?

Subtle & Queer start at +1, Hard & Soft start at -1.

You get Unstoppable Life, and pick one other. You also get your Sex Move automatically.

Unstoppable Life
Your physical body refuses to die, recovering from even the most horrible of injuries. Like a rabbit gnawing off its leg to escape a trap or a lizard shedding its tail to distract a predator, you slough off humanity to evade death's embrace. If you are at Death's Door and would take Hurt from a physical source (injury, poison, starvation, etc), this move triggers. You erase all Hurt suffered. Furthermore, you discard some aspect of humanity, such as morality, restraint, mercy or ambition.

Feral Attacks
Maybe you can spit teeth like bullets. Maybe your maw is a ragged-toothed semicircle, far wider than it should be. Maybe your fingernails extend into talons. Maybe your kiss is lethally venomous. Maybe your saliva teems with diseases to which you are immune. As you abandon humanity, you will acquire all these strange defences, and more. Whenever you Lash Out from surprise (after a successful Escape Notice), you roll with Subtle. Whenever you Lash Out at a victim put off guard by your sex-appeal - that is to say, who you have just successfully Flirted with - you roll with Queer.

The as things wound you, you become acclimatised to the pain and learn to shrug it off like it were nothing. Exposure to sickness, hunger, fear, knives and fire all serve only to inure you to their worst stings. When you are brought to Death's Door, you become totally immune to whatever it was that caused that penultimate point of Hurt. You are only immune to one thing at a time: if brought to Death's Door again, you can choose either to retain your current immunity, or discard it and become immune to the current source of pain.

Desperate Hope
If an effect would trap you, grab hold of you, put you to sleep, knock you unconscious, mentally enthral you or otherwise render you helpless, you get one last burst of spiteful action before it claims you. You might choose to Lash Out when you do this; if you have the Feral Attacks move, you may roll with Subtle or Queer (whichever is better) instead of Hard. Alternatively, you might try to Escape Notice, or to use some other move. If your response can destroy whatever threatened you, or allows you to escape it, then the effect doesn't happen and you wriggle away in time. Otherwise, after your last action is done, you are ensnared and must rely on your companions to save you.

Sex Move
When you fuck somebody, the raw force of untamed, furious life within you uncoils and extends. It uses the meeting of your bodies as a conduit to feed. You and your partner may collectively decide to transfer any amount of Hurt from one of you to the other.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Dungeon Bitches

This post is the result of a series of shitposts on /osrg/ that accidentally turned out to have a kernel of a good idea in them. Thanks go to regretAnon for getting the ball rolling on this.
That said, this pulls together some ideas I've been forming for a while now. Some of it keys off the same elements as the Wounded Daughters, who will probably get to be their own class in this.
It's Monsterhearts mashed up with OSR dungeon exploration mashed up with survival horror.


A game where you play as dungeon-crawling disaster-lesbians.
Here's the pitch. A faux-medieval gritty fantasy setting with all your standard crap hetero-patriarchal assumptions. Political marriages, dowries, etc etc. Not the best society to be a queer girl in. Luckily, if the thought of getting married off and having to pretend like you're happy with that is too much for you, there are two options.

  • You can run away and join a nunnery. This is slightly more socially acceptable, much less likely to get you killed, but will also result in living a life defined by limitations and restrictions.
  • You can run away, join a band of similar (heavily armed) bitches, and make a living as mercenaries, tomb-robbers and adventurers. This is far less socially acceptable, and far more dangerous, but you might get rich, fall in love, and be able to wreak terrible vengeance on the society that wronged you. 

So how does this game work?
It's a PbtA hack with certain OSR ideas thrown in. I cannot be bothered to explain a) how PbtA games function or b) how the typical OSR sandbox/emergent narrative works. If you're reading this you probably are familiar with them already, and if not, google exists.

I might do this up as an actual game and stick it on drivethru. Who knows?

This is the mechanics. Basic moves and structures and stuff. Not yet playtested, but it probably will be. Character gen, with classes and special moves and sex moves in an upcoming post.

Instead, let's get into our mechanics.

THIS MUCH IS A GIVEN:-Your PC is female, young, isn't straight, and doesn't have a place in polite society. All of these are absolute requirements, but the definition for them is messy. Femininity need not be defined in strict and binary ways, 'youth' is relative by culture and species, you can be ace or bi or whatever so long as The Straights don't get it, and if you had a place in polite society you wouldn't be exploring a dungeon, would you now. 

You have four stats, rated from -3 to +3. They are:
  • Hard: used to do harm, act violently, and cope with hurt.
  • Soft: used to behave sensitively, perceive subtleties, nurture, and heal.
  • Subtle: used to avoid notice, deceive or manipulate others, and steal things.
  • Queer: used to seduce your fellow gay dungeon bitches, interact with and understand weird things.

When a PC is harmed - physically or mentally, they accumulate points of Hurt. Normally one point at a time. You can have up to four points of Hurt and survive: when you have all four, you're At Death's Door, and things might affect you differently. 
If you would take a fifth point of Hurt, you're Broken. You'll be dead shortly. Or, if not physically killed, no longer able to go on. You hide in the dark to be picked off by monsters, or accept defeat and crawl back to the life you tried to escape. Either way, it's game over. It's debatable which of these ends is worse. Most Dungeon Bitches don't really differentiate between giving up and being claimed by the monsters, or giving up and being reclaimed by society. To them, Broken is Broken.
Sometimes you'll encounter monsters with the faces of your former companions that accumulated too much Hurt and got Broken. Often this will be in the dungeon, but just as often it'll be when you return to town.
NPCs don't track Hurt. If the PCs try to hurt them, then a successful Lash Out move means the NPC is as injured as the PC wants them to be.

  • Not getting a proper night's comfortable sleep.
  • Not getting enough food or water.
  • Drowning (AKA, too much water).
  • Eating unsafe food.
  • Monsters trying to eat you.
  • Booby-traps.
  • Town guards kicking the shit out of you.
  • Being on fire.
  • Exposure to awful body-horror.
  • Awful body-horror being done to you.
  • Meeting people from your past who really hurt you.
  • Having to pretend to be somebody you're not.
  • Getting your Heart Broken
  • Being exposed to freezing cold or dangerous heat.
  • Finding the corpse of somebody you loved.
  • Falling from great heights. 
  • Poison.

PCs learn from the horrible shit they go through. They grow:  more calloused to the world, but also better able to understand others. 
Tally up Experience like you do Hurt. When you get five points of Experience, erase it all and pick an Advance.
  • +1 to a stat (each stat can be increased in this way only once).
  • Take an extra move from your class (up to twice).
  • Take an extra move from any class (which can be your own if you want) (up to twice).
NPCs don't track experience.

Bonds are a measure of how close you are with somebody. You accumulate them sort of like Hurt and Experience. However, Bonds are specific to a given character. IE, you might have 1 Bond on Annie (a fellow PC), 4 Bonds on Beth (another fellow PC), and 1 bond on Xiximanter (an NPC snake-lich that rules the dungeon). Annie, Beth and Xiximanter might all have Bonds on you, too, although Xiximanter is likely to have less since he's an NPC and only gets to gain Bonds in response to moves made by PCs.
There's no limit to how many Bonds you can have on a given character.
You can spend a bond to:
  • Heal an additional Hurt when a move you use would do that. Whilst NPCs don't track Hurt, you can use this to make attempts to heal them more effective, if you're very fond of them.
  • Deal an additional Hurt when a move you use would do that. Whilst NPCs don't track Hurt, you can use this to make attempts to harm them worse, if you're feeling spiteful.
  • Give the person in question +1 to a roll. NPCs don't roll dice, but you can do this to give them useful moral support on their actions.
  • Give the person in question -1 to a roll. NPCs don't roll dice, but you can do this to sabotage their actions with your bullying.
  • Give yourself  +1 to a roll against them. 
  • Offer them one XP if they do something you ask of them. The Bond is spent even if they don't go for it. NPCs don't actually track XP, but will normally accept the offer unless they have a pretty darn good reason not to.

We're playing as disaster-lesbians trapped in a horrible situation, so obviously characters are gonna fuck eventually. When a PC fucks, each class has a sex move that triggers automatically. If multiple PCs are fucking, all the sex moves trigger. This may cause cascading effects. This is probably gonna be Fun, in the Dwarf Fortress sense. 

When the fiction triggers a given move, roll 2d6 and add the relevant stat. 6 or less is a miss, 7-9 is a success, 10+ an overwhelming success. Sometimes it will happen that the group *as a whole* will trigger a move (such as when everybody gets pulled into a fight or must hide from something): in this case, the players nominate the PC who is taking the lead, and that player makes the roll and takes the consequences.
Every class gets access to all the moves listed below, and then some unique to their class. See the upcoming character gen post for more deets.


Lash Out:
Use this move when you resort to violence to solve your problems. This probably means killing somebody/something, or it might mean using violence to force somebody to act. Roll with Hard.
On a miss: The problem isn't solved, and the GM picks two options from this list (they can pick the same option twice):
  • You take a point of Hurt.
  • Somebody you care about who's present takes a point of Hurt.
  • The move's victim gets a Bond on everyone acting against them.
  • Something valuable of yours is lost or destroyed in the fight.
  • You and your companions are forced to flee, and anybody who doesn't or can't is Broken automatically (this one can't be picked twice).
On a success: The problem is solved and you get what you wanted, with costs. You pick one option from the list above, and so does the GM. If your victim was another PC, they probably need to Endure Pain to cope, taking 1 Hurt if they fail.
On an overwhelming success: the problem is solved, and you get what you wanted, with only mild costs. You pick one option from the list above. If your victim was another PC, they probably need to Endure Pain to cope, taking 2 Hurt if they fail.

Endure Pain:
Use this move when something horrible happens to you, and you must cope with it. Maybe you're risking drowning, maybe you're watching somebody suffer a grizzly fate, maybe you're facing people who victimised you in the past, maybe you're gritting your teeth to act despite an injury. Roll with Hard.
On a Miss: You don't cope. The GM will give you one or more points of Hurt, depending on how bad the situation is. For group rolls, everybody takes this much Hurt.
On a Success: You can just about deal with it. The GM tells you how many points of Hurt you would have taken; if you accept it anyway, mark Experience. For group rolls, everybody gets this choice.
On an overwhelming success: You give no shits. Mark experience. For group rolls, everybody marks experience.

Use this move when you spend a significant time and effort trying to fix somebody else's Hurt. Roll with Soft. 
On a Miss: Your attempt fails. If you had  Bonds on your patient, you lose one of them. If your patient had Bonds on you, they lose one of them. If nobody loses a bond, pick one of you to take one Hurt.
On a Success: Your healing leaves scars. The patient erases one Hurt they were suffering, replacing it with an appropriate permanent injury. 
On an Overwhelming Success: The patient erases one Hurt they were suffering, with no long-lasting consequences.

Reveal Truths:
Use this move when you probe a situation (physical or social) to uncover something hidden. You might use it when searching a room you believe is dangerous, when assessing an NPC's trustworthyness, or feeling out your relationship with another PC. Roll with Soft.
On a Miss: You learn nothing. Your probing probably sets off a hidden danger, destroys the evidence you were looking for, or spook whoever you were talking to.
On a Success: You learn something useful. You may ask the GM (or most relevant player) one of the following questions, and get an accurate answer:
  • What is the most dangerous thing here?
  • What is the hardest danger to notice here?
  • What is being deliberately hidden here?
  • What hidden motivations are at work here?
  • What did the most damage here?
On an overwhelming success: You learn something useful, and can act on it. Ask one of the questions listed above. In addition, you can chose one:
  • +1 to the next roll to act on the answer.
  • A Bond on the person in question.

Escape Notice:
Use this move when you rely on your wits and skill to avoid being noticed. Roll with Subtle.
On a Miss: You are spotted. If you want to escape, you will need to Lash Out or find some other solution.
On a Success: You successfully escape notice for now. You may leave the scene safely. Otherwise, if you stay acting with the advantage of surprise gives you +1 to the next roll to do so.
On an Overwhelming Success: You escape notice, with plenty of cover to use and an easy escape route. If you act, the advantage of surprise gives you +1 to the next roll to do so. Even once you've revealed yourself, you can escape safely - immediately, if you wish.

Use this move when you try to take something valuable that isn't yours, without being caught. Roll with Subtle.
On a Miss: You're caught in the act. You'll probably need to Lash Out or Escape Notice to get away.
On a Success: You get what you want, and everybody with you gets one Experience, but pick a complication:
  • You and your companions need to leave immediately or you'll be caught.
  • You leave some evidence behind pinning the blame on you.
  •  A tool you were using is lost or broken.
On an Overwhelming Success: You get what you want, everybody with you gets one Experience, and there are no complications.

Use this move when you use your sex appeal to make somebody feel good about you, or about themselves. Roll with Queer.
On a Miss: They see what you're doing, aren't into it, and you know. They get a Bond on you.
On a Success: They're into it. They pick one or both of the options below:
  • They offer you something they think you want.
  • You each get a Bond on each other.
On an Overwhelming Success: They're really into it. You get a Bond on them, and they pick one or both of the options from the list above.

Commune with Strange Powers
Use this move when you reach outside of yourself, asking a spiritual force for help or advice. You might be praying to some patron, practicing divination, or taking part in some mind-altering ritual. Roll with Queer.
On a Miss: The results are confusing, overwhelming or frightening. In any case, they're of no use to you, and you will need time to recover.
On a Success: You asked for help, and something answers. Ask one of the following questions, and the GM (or most relevant player) will give an accurate answer:
  • What did I do wrong?
  • What bad shit is coming my way?
  • What is supernatural about this?
  • How does she feel about me?
  • Am I safe?
On an Overwhelming Success: You asked for help, and something has your back this time. Ask one of the questions above. In addition, you can chose one:
  • +1 to the next roll to act on the answer.
  • A Bond on the person in question.

The 'steal something' move is basically XP for treasure (endure pain also grants XP, but is risky). Lash Out resolves fights in one roll. Endure Pain is your saving throw against all sorts of bad stuff.
Hurt is meant to represent the accumulation of pain, exhaustion, fear, loneliness, that comes with the premise. When it gets too much, you're done for. Healing somebody makes you vulnerable but that vulnerability is needed because it's the only way to recover from being hurt.
Hurt probably won't kill you all in one go, but it will accumulate fast and be slow to get rid of.
Reveal Truths and Commune With Strange Powers are basically parallels to each other. They differ in the situational use, and which stat you use, but otherwise work the same. Being Soft (so sensitive and delicate) makes you good at spotting immediate danger and deceptions, whilst being Queer (and so strange and alluring) deals with more long-term or esoteric stuff.
To succeed, you need to bond with your companions: building up Bonds (by probing each other with Commune With Strange Powers & Reveal Truths, or the direct way by Flirting) is vital: you need those bonds to boost each other's rolls, to bump up healing, etc. It also makes a neat source of XP if you're willing to get into that power dynamic. 
The flipside of Bonds is that they're also a threat: a PC with lots of Bonds on you can spend 'em all and royally fuck you over. So the closer you get with somebody, the more you *have* to cooperate.
Of course, you can get bonds on enemies, and spend 'em to fuck them over. This means its best to probe situations before going into conflict, maybe lay some social groundwork *before* you kick stuff off.

The intent is that being put in horrible situations will cause everybody to trauma-bond just to survive, resulting in messy social dynamics in the dungeon as well as a gritty horrible survival-horror feel. 

Monday, 23 March 2020

A Selection Of Supernatural Seas

Lotus Sea
The surface of the sea here is covered in floating water lilies, a vast plane of glittering white flowers. As the Primrose sails through it, it leaves a trail of open water that slowly closes as the lotuses drift back.
Eating the lotuses is a mild euphoric. The high gives the eater +1 to every roll they make (damage, saves, etc). At the end of this, they can eat another lotus to keep the high going, or suffer the comedown. The comedown lasts as long as the high did, during which time they suffer -1 to every roll. For fresh lotuses straight from the water, the high lasts for an hour; otherwise, the high lasts a turn. A lotus loses power entirely a week after it’s taken from the water.
Within the lotus sea, there are a handful of black lotuses, which have far greater potency.  The high from a black lotus lasts for a full day (or an hour if it’s not fresh), and gives a +5 bonus (the comedown likewise inflicts a -5 penalty). If a second black lotus is eaten to prevent the comedown beginning, the eater must make a Save vs Paralysis. If they fail, they fall into a coma lasting as many days as the result on the d20 that failed the save, during which time they are plagued by nightmares and visions of hell. If the save is passed, however, the eater is forever changed. Consult table XX (slipping beyond the bounds of mortality) for how.
There is a 1-in-20 chance of finding a black lotus just by sailing through the lotus sea, or 1-in-10 if deliberately looking.

This whole sea is caught in a huge circular current that spirals inwards, pulling ships inexorably to its centre. At the centre is a huge whirlpool, mountain sized, that swallows ships whole. Surrounding the maelstrom, like the accretion disk around a black hole, is the debris of countless wrecked ships smashed to bits by the maelstrom’s power.
When the maelstrom’s surrounding sea is first entered, whoever’s at the helm must make a Strength roll to avoid being pulled further in; if this is passed the ship can continue as normal, but if failed the primrose is drawn towards the Maelstrom.
If this happens, every hour, whoever is at the helm must make a Strength check to resist the maelstrom’s pull. If they wish to allow the ship to be drawn towards the maelstrom’s centre, they can roll as many extra d20s for the check as they wish, and take the worst result.
Explain the dice mechanisms being used to the players, and the potential risks and rewards, and let them make their own decision on how close to the maelstrom they wish to be pulled.
If the check is failed, note the actual result on the dice (taking the worst dice if multiple were rolled) and add it to a running total for how far into the maelstrom the Primrose has been drawn. If this running total reaches 40, the Primrose is pulled into the maw of the maelstrom and utterly destroyed.
If the dice roll is passed, note down the result on the dice and add it to a running total for how much progress the Primrose has made in escaping the maelstrom. If this total is higher than the running total for the maelstrom’s pull, the Primrose escapes the maelstrom and is able to continue sailing normally.
Regardless of if the roll was passed or failed, look up the result of the dice roll on page XX (treasure) for what can be dredged out of the water. If multiple dice were rolled, look up all of them.
The maelstrom exerts a much lower pull on small vessels (such as life-rafts, rowing boats, etc), which might be deduced from the way the flotsam isn’t being pulled into the maelstrom’s heart. If piloting a small vessel like this, roll the relevant Strength check on a d12. Start a new running total for the new vessel if they abandon ship and board an escape raft etc. In the worst case scenario, if the crew leap into the water and try to swim to safety, then roll using a d8.

The sea here is composed of ink, not water. Almost opaque, staining everything that touches it, slightly sticky. Even the air feels grubby.
Pitch black fish, adapted to the environment, lurk in the pitch black ocean.

Precambrian Nursery
When the world was young, there was an explosion of life, infinitely varied, wildly experimental. Strange creatures not seen since emerged, flourished, and died out.
This age did not last. Without the ambient force of  possibility and vigour to sustain its wildest excesses, life fell into a few, well-worn patterns, that survive to the present day.
In this area of sea, however, that never happened. The atmosphere of vibrant potential hangs over the sea, which seethes with strange life.
All healing is doubly effective here. Fishing yields twice as much here, but roll a d20 for what the fishing yields.
(1) Armour-plated fish. Perfectly normal and edible.
(2) Spined toxic sea-slugs. Rather than food, each slug can be used to produce one dose of poison (d20 damage on a failed save). Best not to eat them.
(3) Huge undulating flatworms. Edible, but mildly poisonous. On a day that the flatworms are eaten, -1 to all dice rolls from stomach cramps.
(4) Twitching, squirting sea-sponges. Vaguely suggestive looking. Totally inedible.
(5) Oyster-like luminescent shellfish. As well as meat, can be harvested for pearls worth 100 gold per meal gained.
(6) Hermit crabs parasitizing living bivalves. Perfectly edible.
(7) Thumb-sized tardigrades. Edible.
(8) Incomprehensible masses of thrashing tentacles. Perfectly edible. Also produce ink from pores in their skin.
(9) Giant copepods. Edible, crunchy.
(10) Gigantic aquatic beetles. Meaty and delicious.
(11) Strange half-lobster-half-lizard creatures. Exquisite taste. Double XP on the day they’re eaten.
(12) Huge sessile tubeworms. Instead of food, half of the fishing yield is their chitinous shells, which can be used as timber.
(13) Boneless eels. Edible. Tasty.
(14) Long sea-centipedes. Have a toxic bite. Half of the fishing yield is instead poison (fall comatose on a failed save).
(15) Rubbery half-prawn-half-serpent creatures. Perfectly edible, if a little weird.
(16) Jellyfish with exoskeletons. Edible, but not very tasty.
(17) Tiny bioluminescent mouthless fish. Hallucinogenic. Roll for Omens & Portents (p XX) if eaten; everybody gets the same omen.
(18) A blob of indistinct twitching flesh. Edible, if a little bland.
(19) Exploding one-eyed ringworms. Chemically volatile. Half of the fishing yield is highly explosive, and counts as a batch of cannon ammunition.
(20) A mass of heaving, wiggling pink flesh with no discernible anatomy. Edible and delicious.

Zombie Sea
The water is dark and murky. It stinks of rot and death. Bloated things drift about, tossed by sluggish waves, gently writhing.
Merely touching the water results in sickness, death and then reanimation. Even very slight contact - a fingertip, a few droplets of spray. On contact, make a Save vs Poison. If passed, the victim is ill for an hour or so, but recovers. On a fail, note the number on the d20; after that many hours of sickness, the victim dies, and their corpse stands back up as a zombie.
Needless to say, fishing here is a terrible idea.
Each day or night spent here, there’s a 1-in-6 chance the dead floating in the water notice the ship, and 3d6 of them attack. Their stats (and those of anybody zombified) are as follows:
ò 2HD. 10 HP.
ò AC as Chain.
ò 2 Clumsy Unarmed Attacks (+0, d4 damage and save to avoid zombie sickness, as detailed above).
ò Saves as Fighter 2.
ò Vulnerable to turning, holy water and other stuff undead are vulnerable to.
ò Immune to poison, pain, cold, drowning and other stuff undead are immune to.

Jellyfish Pilgrims
Jellyfish have a simple nervous system. Not enough to be intelligent like a crab or a fish, but enough to detect changes to their surroundings, and respond to them. And, perhaps surprisingly, just sophisticated enough for faith.
Imagine the faith of small children, without sophistication, reason, or doubt. Just exuberant and sincere. This is how jellyfish worship.
This sea is, for some reason, holy to the jellyfish. They drift here, floating on imperceptible currents, and gather in huge blooms. The water is dense with them, so a ship must push them aside as it sails. From the water’s surface comes a constant, sonorous Gregorian drone, the sound of millions of jellyfish at prayer. Beneath the jellyfish’s habit-like mantles, trail several-meter long filamentous tentacles.
The water here is holy (and so can be used for things like throwing on devils, etc), but loses its potency a week after being removed from the sea. Each vial’s worth of holy water uses up one ‘slot’ for cargo in the Primrose.
Fishing here does not yield food (the jellyfish are pretty inedible) but instead the jellyfish’s toxins can be extracted from their nematocysts for use. The poison does d20 extra damage if a Save vs Poison is failed, and furthermore is effective against supernatural beings such as devils and undead that would normally be immune to poison - against unholy beings, the poison damage is doubled. Like the holy water taken from here, each dose uses up a cargo slot, and loses potency after 7 days.

Whale Cemetery
Whales come here to die. Like elephant-graveyards on land, their remains are scattered about, and a morbid air permeates the place. Every few hundred yards, another bloated whale carcass, floating as it decays.
The place is serenely haunted. Odd lights flicker over the whale-corpses at night, the sound of distant whale-song echoes from the deep. Odd little coincidences occur to travellers here - a whalebone corset might break, or images of whales rearrange themselves when nobody is looking.
If the players think to look, 1-in-6 cumulative chance each day (IE, 1-in-6 on the first day, 2-in-6 on the second) that a corpse is found that is fresh enough to have harvestable ambergris, worth 2,000 gold as treasure.
If a whale carcass is interfered with (for ambergris, or other reasons), the haunting goes from serene to wrathful. Poltergeist activity flares up on the ship, spoiling supplies and disturbing sailors. 10% of the ship’s provisions, timber, and cannon ammunition is lost to poltergeist activity, and roll for The Crew Grow Restless (p XX) for how they respond to the haunting. The haunting follows the ship once it has left the Whale Cemetery, only ending once they return and attempt to make amends to the whale whose spirit they’ve angered (a funeral, offering, service etc).
Once the haunting has begun, there is a 1-in-6 cumulative chance that the Primrose is attacked by the whale ghost seeking to exact vengeance for the desecration of its corpse. Its stats are:
ò  20 HD, 60 HP
ò AC as Unarmoured
ò Attacks with Ghostly Bite (+5, 2d20 damage, ignores non-magical defences).
ò Saves as MU 20.
ò Totally immune to non-magical physical attacks.
ò 1/2 damage from physical magical attacks (IE magic swords, fireballs etc)
ò Undead, and vulnerable to everything the undead are vulnerable to.
ò Intangible. Can attack through walls, float, swim through ships, etc.
ò As well as biting, can use Banshee Whalesong. All hearing it either take d8 damage or are permanently deafened (player chooses which)
ò Can poltergeist instead of biting, creating various spooky effects.

The water is sweet. As if infused with dissolved sugar rather than salt. Vaguely floral scented. The taste is rather like liquid parma violets.
Drinking the nectar prevents the need for food; the dissolved sugars provide all the nutrients the body needs. Furthermore, drinking nectar allows the drinker to perceive people’s souls as luminous auras that hang around their bodies. By gauging the appearance of this aura, the viewer can judge the state of the subject’s soul; any damage to it, how tainted it is by sin, any pacts that have a claim on it, and so forth. This ability to view souls lasts the rest of the day after nectar is drunk.
Each day that nectar is drunk, there is a 1-in-6 chance that the body becomes physiologically reliant on it; if this happens, the drinker can only gain nourishment from drinking nectar; their body fails to process other food, in the same way that a carnivorous animal cannot digest leaves.
A day’s worth of Nectar uses a cargo slot, and loses its potency after one week.