Friday, 23 October 2020

Vinculus Hive, A Scifi Setting For Dungeon Bitches

 So one thing that I'm finding with Dungeon Bitches is that, while the tone and themes are pretty concrete, the actual setting is never firmly pinned down. This is reflected in the games that have already happened; we've had a couple of grimdark fantasy campaigns, a biopunk post-apoc game, one in spooky 1920s america, a space-opera one, and one planned to be set in the 1990s with the PCs as a touring band. So you can take the structure to a few different places and it still works.

By way of demonstration, then, here's a little scifi setting that I'm gonna roll up. I'm fully intending this to be something I run when I next have a slot in my busy playtest schedule.

The initial hook, then, is gonna be a mix of Necromunda and Blame. A huge old urban environment, high-tech but left to decay. We can divide the sprawling complex into two parts;
-the Hive, which is still maintained and inhabited by the mainstream bulk of society. Still grotty and rundown, but functional and mapped out. Basically the Town, and using those random tables to generate it.
-the Wreckage, no longer maintained or properly explored. Coming apart, inhabited by outcasts, criminals and monsters. Dangerous, but with undiscovered technological relics in the depths that an explorer might discover. Basically the Dungeon, and using those random tables to generate it.
I'm gonna roll up both to get a feel for the place, and then pin down the rest of the setting a bit more firmly - including how various PC types fit into that - once I've got that picture.

First up, the Hive. To begin with, let's drop some dice and consult the relevant table, to see who the powers and factions of the Hive are. Doing so, I get this:

I'm also going to roll a few quirks and oddities for the town. Here's what I get:
-Gold-smelting industry
-Religious fervour
-Industry declining

This works pretty well, I think, but I wanna update things a bit and give these different factions and factors a bit of a scifi bent to them. First up, I'm gonna swap 'gold' out for 'uranium', and have the complex be a declining uranium mine and nuclear facility.

Next up, we have a church, a splinter-church, and general religious fervour. So let's define them.
The main church are going to be sun-worshippers. Seeing the local star as a divine manifestation, its nuclear fire bestowing the gifts of light and life. There is some irony here, since the complex is mostly urban sprawl, and the common people don't see sunlight much. Perhaps the main church is built below a single huge window, with the natural sunlight as a centre of worship. They're probably politically powerful, and control access to much of the power-grid in the Hive, literally controlling the difference between light and dark. I think they probably see the nuclear reactors the place runs on as being a sort of earthbound reflection of the sun's nuclear fire. Gonna give 'em some strong theocratic vibes. To hit home the themes of Dungeon Bitches as a game, we can make 'em pretty patriarchal and socially conservative. Perhaps they're Let's keep things simple, and call them the Solar Church. 
Our splinter-cult, then, has turned away from the sun in search of some other source of divinity/life. For now, I'm gonna keep things vague, and have that be something in the Wreckage: we can get more details as we roll the Wreckage up. I'm gonna call them the Church In The Shadows for now, and we can come back to them later. The point, for now, is that they're a hidden, largely persecuted religious minority. 

Next up, the nobility. I wanna make these a caste slightly set above normal society. So, let's make them physically a little distinct. Perhaps they're a result of genetic engineering or selective breeding in the ancient past, perhaps its just inbreeding. Give them some distinctive traits; albinism is common, and pallor is seen as a mark of good breeding. Obsessed with parentage and lineage, and with a rather nasty patriarchal streak as a result; arranged marriages among the extended noble house are common, to cement alliances and try to produce more pure-bred offspring; think the worst of the Crusader Kings games. They're wealthy, insular and control society via proxies. Most business can only legally be conducted with a license from them, and they charge a tithe to those they grant such charters to. Let's call them House Vinculus. It seems they seem to be covertly supporting the Church In The Shadows, mostly as a political matter since it reduces the religious hegemony of the Solar Church, their main political rival.
Linked to these is our secret Vampire, or rather Vampires. I'm going to make this a pathogen, an outright supernatural viral infection. The Strigoi Virus has a number of minor strains, the most notable consistent features being pallor, a need to consume blood, and physical mutation over time. The infection doesn't spread easily between hosts, but the child of a host will invariably be infected themselves. While the infection is somewhat entrenched in the main population, it's endemic among House Vinculus, where the physical symptoms tend to match the typical traits of the house, letting it go unnoticed for a while. Among the general population, somebody infected probably relies on an underground market to get the blood they need, and resist giving in to their condition. However, the infected among House Vinculus see the virus as a blessing, and form a secretive cabal within the noble house - the Fine Drinking Society - and use their position of privilege to prey on the commoners without repercussions. Rumours likewise talk about gangs of Strigoi dwelling in the Wreckage, hunting those who venture down there.

After this, we have our narcotic gang. Call them the Society Of Many Fingers. Since its tied to both churches, let's give the drug it sells a distinctly religious flavour. Call it Sacrament. Taking Sacrament causes the user to become suggestible, to find significance in even minor things, and to experience a sort of euphoria that mimics religious devotion. Both churches, suffice to say, make use of the drug in their rites, both as a recruitment tool and to ensure the loyalty of the faithful. It's also commonly used as a recreational narcotic on all levels of society. Sacrament is harvested from something in the Wreckage - I'll get back to this when we roll the wreckage up - and the Society have an extensive network of harvesters, guards, smugglers and dealers to ensure the supply continues.

Then our inn and scandalous theatre, which I'm gonna roll into a single entity. Call this the House Of Delights, a moulin-rouge style den of pleasure, vice and bohemianism. A release valve from the pressures of life in a dark, claustrophobic hive full of religious weirdos, and somewhere the less reputable and acceptable members of society can emerge from the shadows to express themselves.

Lastly, we have our mad doctor. We know he's tied to the Solar Church, but other than that pretty isolated. So perhaps his work is a project they started that's spun of in its own direction. I think I wanna have him mostly be working to produce what he considers to be 'new men', a race of altered humans able to better survive radiation exposure and life in the dark, cramped confines of the hive. Of course, this means he needs material to work with to bring his 'new men' into the world, which means kidnapping victims to experiment on. Often pretty young girls, due entirely to his own vices. 
He's not working alone, with a small group of disciples as assistants, and then using his creations as muscle to snatch more victims off the street and out of their beds. We can call him Doctor Kyrchus, and he's a total bastard.

So, now we've got a picture for the Hive, let's roll up the Wreckage. First a map of the place, and then the factions and powers.
The map looks like this:

And the powers look like this:

And then we just gotta roll up the place's details: Who Built This Place, Why Was This Place Built, Aesthetics and Weirdness. In order, we get:
  • Built by an ancient monarch.
  • Originally built as an underground palace.
  • Ornamented with grotesque carvings.
  • A domain of the Wounded Mother, things don't die down here despite their wounds.
And now things start to come together rather nicely. Immediately, this suggests a history for the hive and wreckage below. I'm thinking that this was originally built as a palace for the ancestors of House Vinculus, who at that point held absolute power over the site's uranium mines and were utter sadistic bastards ruling with an iron fist. The plight of their various subjects - horribly abused by their masters and all slowly dying of radiation sickness - drew down the attention of the Wounded Mother, who sent them a pair of gifts; the fungus Soma, and the wounded-daughter prophetess Saint Iulia The Bloody. Suffice to say, a horrible civil war ensued, with all sides thoroughly fucked by the conflict. Somebody created the Strigoi Virus as a bio-weapon, infrastructure fell apart, the dead were interred in a mass grave and sealed up. In the end, the hive was left a shadow of its former self, with House Vinculus managing to claw their way back to power from the rubble, and Saint Iulia driven into the lower ruins to hide.
That was many centuries ago, and here we are now, in a crumbling radioactive hive that's slowly falling apart, year by year.

Let's give our locations and powers a little bit more detail. I'm gonna roll an aesthetic or weirdness for each location, and then tie them into the setting.

First up, the lodge to the wounded mother. It gets a Weirdness, and I roll 'Nothing Rots'.
I'm gonna call it the Immaculate Fracture. It's a haven in the greater wreckage, decorated with hydroponically grown flowers, populated by a small cadre of Wounded Daughters - I'm gonna make them our mystery cult - who defend the place. At its heart, what remains of Saint Iulia, reduced to a half-awake shell of herself, mumbling prophecies and warnings in her delirium. 
The mystery cult, then, I'm going to call Iulia's Little Sisters, and have them be mostly wounded daughters, or at least daughter-adjacent even if they've not gone all-in yet. They've got a religious devotion to the Wounded Mother as a preserver of life and protector of the downtrodden. Their lodge is a sanctuary for the mad, the desperate, the outcast, and the sick. Their rites are straightforward and visceral, sexual and bloody celebration of the unquenchable life that burns within them.

Next, the fungus, known as Soma, which is both a power and a location. A dreaming mind of mycelium created by the Wounded Mother. Not properly conscious, but a flood of ideas and emotions. Unreasonable hope, visions of better possible worlds, dreams of change. The fungus breaks down dead things, and gives rise to new life. Soma is harvested by the Society Of A Thousand Fingers, who process the fungal matter to create the drug Sacrament. The euphoria and sense of purpose experienced while high on Sacrament is a corrupt reflection of the dreams Soma brings.

Our abandoned laboratory, which I'm gonna call the Chambers of Dead Inquiry, roll 'dead flesh twitches and stirs uneasily' as their weirdness. I think this is where the Strigoi virus was engineered, along with other bio-weapons. Dr Kyrchus's work is probably a distant derivative of the research that was conducted here.

The Prison is, I think, a horrible place. When the Wounded Mother turned her gaze on the hive, her attention created monsters. Raw, untamed life, running riot in its many horrible forms, that cannot truly die, that always comes back adapted to each new threat. Unkillable, and sealed away. The architecture here is stark and brutalist, and the inhabitants fearsome. 

Likewise the Halls of the Unquiet Dead. Here, the grief and pain of the dead is palpable. You bleed, from the eyes, nose, between your legs. It hurts to be here. The ghosts that linger are blind, mad, lashing out at intruders. 

Lastly, the treasure-vault. Here, the greatest wealth gathered by House Vinculus in the distant past is kept, inaccessible to the nobles now dwelling in the hive, guarded by horrible defensive systems and vicious security measures. Here can be found fabulous treasure and terrible weapons. This is the prize that many Bitches seek, delving through the rest of the wreckage in search of the power hidden in the depths.

And then, onto powers. Firstly, I'm going to tie our Corpse Doll fleshcrafters and Metamorphocist Witches into a single broader faction. These two teams - The Beautiful Dead and the Confluence of Nerves, respectively - seek to elevate mortal humans to something greater. Witchcraft and necromancy are combined with the sheer vital life of the place, and their work draws close to completing its first step. In the depths of the Prison, from twitching flesh and mycelium, they have created something - a fleshy womb-chrysalis-crucible that transforms those who rest within. What you come back out as is always different, unique, the fragile frame of humanity stripped away to reveal your true nature.
This, I think, is what the Church in the Shadows worships, although they're only dimly aware of its true nature. Mostly, the two covens use the Church in the Shadows as useful patsies, a distraction to keep attention away from their work.

And lastly, we have the Gorgon Aesthetes. Three sisters who stepped into the metamorphosis's crucible and emerged changed. Equal parts elegance and horror. Refined beings, who see beauty in the truly monstrous. They treat the Prison as a sort of gallery or zoo, and bring truly strange and dangerous creatures here so they can be preserved and appreciated. They have an arrangement with Iulia's Little Sisters; when a Wounded Daughter is too far gone, her humanity stripped totally away, reduced to a feral monstrous shell of her former self, the Trio come for her, taking her to their cells, where she can be allowed to rest safely, and poses no threat to her former sisters.

This, then, is the state of the setting. What of the specific PCs? Let's handle each archetype one at a time:

Amazons can stay pretty much the same. The place is horrible, and some women respond to their oppression by lashing out, and get good at it.

The Beast (formerly Lilim, Spider, etc) gets renamed again for this setting, becoming the Strigoi. Whilst you can carry the strigoi virus and not be a member of this class, those who have particularly potent strains, that come to be dominated by them, fit in here. Of particular note, the move Horrid Form lets you represent a Strigoi who's been dramatically mutated into something gruesome-looking by the virus, and the move Beseech The Mother Of Monsters lets you tap into the virus's collective mind, drawing on the oldest of the Strigoi for advice.
A more standard Beast might be a monstrous resident of the Prison, now escaped, or perhaps somebody who allowed the Confluence of Nerves to metamorphose them.

Corpse Dolls are pretty easy to fit in here. Girls resurrected by magic or science don't need tweaking. Tying them in as escaped victims of Dr Kyrchus perhaps, or maybe they're allied with the Beautiful Dead.

Firebrands, like Amazons, fit right in. You're pissed off at the state of the things, and that revolutionary zeal has made you enemies. Perhaps you're roughly aligned with the Church In The Shadows, but equally you might be part of a more dispersed radical underground.

Banshees get renamed Psychics, and work just like you'd expect. Think unsanctioned psykers from 40k, or Carrie. Most are isolated individuals.

Runaway Nuns have a few options. Maybe you got driven from the Solar Church (they are, after all, utter bastards), or got burned by the Church In The Shadows, and left out in the cold as the Solar Church's inquisitors came for you. Or maybe you have a Wounded Daughter move or two, and are one of Iulia's Little Sisters, not so much 'run away' as merely away from home.

Lantern Girls likewise fit into the setting without too much change. It is, however, worth noting that the Solar Cult imbues religious meaning into light, so a Lantern Girl's choice to carry a light might carry some subtext there; is she still clinging to a faith that rejected her, or does she view it as subversion or reclamation of the forces that oppressed her? There's room for some overlap with Runaway Nuns here.

Witches continue to be witches. Witchcraft is practiced in hidden covens, condemned by both churches. Perhaps you're aligned with the Confluence of Nerves, perhaps you commune with the massed dead, or perhaps you're part of the criminal underground with the Society Of A Thousand Fingers.

Disgraced Princesses are likely fleeing from the horrible rape-culture that is House Vinculus. It's pretty cut and dried, really.

Lastly, Wounded Daughters work exactly like you'd expect, and are pretty key to the setting. A wounded daughter might be one of Iulia's Little Sisters, but a setting this dismal and horrible will produce plenty of others. You might be a victim of Dr Kyrchus or the Fine Drinking Society, a member of the petty gangs that lurk in the wreckage, or a survivor of a smaller and more personal tragedy.

In terms of rules hacks? I'd let anybody take one of their two starting moves as a Wounded Daughter move, just because those girls are so prevalent here. Likewise, I'd let any character who wanted to be a carrier of the Strigoi Virus have their second move be one from the Beast. 
I'd make it so being Broken doesn't make you *die* while you're in the wreckage. Instead, your mind shatters irreparably, and your flesh warps into something monstrous. You are no longer who you once were, now merely a thing of unkillable roiling flesh and insanity. The best you can hope for is for the Gorgon Sisters to take you home to the prison, but the person you were is gone forever.
The presence of radiation sickness also makes you more fragile: reduce your maximum Hurt from Four to Three.
The Steal move can be used to cover covert, subtle hacking etc. Likewise, you can Lash Out to brute-force technology in some situations.

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Some Encounters In Sarkash Forest

Old, wizened, moss and algae growing on her skin.
Give her a bit of your humanity (say what, and reduce your max HP by 1) and she’ll answer any question. The gift lets her know the absolute truth, which she’ll probably share; she only lies if she really hates you. Donated humanity makes her basically immortal so long as she keeps answering questions every few years.
HP 6. Morale 9. Witch-knife for d4.
Can cast, as if by an Unclean Scroll, d2 times per encounter with her.
She can’t DIE. If reduced to 0HP, dissolves into moss and lichen to regenerate, recuperating at the next new moon.

A strange sort of vampire. Long, sharp, hollow fingernails allow feeding. Wants to stick his horrible fingers in you and drain you of blood, doesn’t care if you object.
HP 10, Morale 6, Crimson Armour -d4.
Hollow Fingers d4, attacks twice, heals by the amount of damage done.
A stake to the heart (DC 14 to hit) renders him helpless.

A long-armed, grasping-handed giant with sharp wooden stakes instead of claws and teeth. His voice sounds familiar. Players who hear it describe the last man to hurt their PC before she died; that’s who he sounds like.
HP 12, Morale 6, No armour
Grabbing Hands for d4. Or Impale for d12.
Grabbing Hands victims roll DC12 Agility to avoid being held.
Can only Impale after a successful grab.

Single-mindedly devoted to her garden, but talkative. If guests are polite, she will protect them while they remain with her.
HP7, Morale 8, No Armour
Gardening tools for d6.
Can spend a round putting herself back together, healing fully.
Can animate roses at will (d4 if used to attack).

CORPSE THINGS in large numbers:
Old, withered, senile, feral. The flesh of the Dead Girls still contains some lingering vitality, and they’re hungry for it. Won’t pursue you deeper into the forest; they’re loath to stray far from Graven-Tosk.
1 HP. Morale 10. No armour.
Teeth and Claws for d2.

SABLE KNIGHT of Graven-Tosk: 
Agent of the Shadow-King. Clad all in black armour, his shield blank. On a quest, although the details are vague. Thinks he’s better than you.
Thinks you’re escaped subjects of the Shadow-King. Will attempt to subdue you and return you to the graveyard.
HP 13, Morale 9, Blackened Plate Armour -d6.
Impaling Pike: d10 Damage.
On a roll of 1-3 for Defence, you’re impaled on the pike. Getting off it does another d10 damage and uses your action.
Alternatively, can bite and drain blood: d4, and heals by that much.
Cannot cross running water, cannot approach a crucifix, cannot enter a dwelling uninvited.

In the distance, getting closer, their howls circling around you before you see them.
Ragged fur draped over skeletal frames. Hollow eye-sockets. Lips receded, teeth prominent. Act very much like they did in life. Don’t realise they’re dead.
It may be possible to distract or even tame them with food they can’t eat.
HP 8, Morale 7, Thick fur -d2.
Bite d6.
Can track by scent.
DC 10 Toughness on hearing their howls for the first time, or be fear-struck and panicked, unable to act usefully until you see them or the howls end.

Looms beneath the boughs. Slinking and crawling towards you. Hungry.
A coward with a need to assert dominance through violence. Uses its sheer size to physically crush those it considers lesser. 
HP 25, Morale 3, No armour.
Fists for 2d4.
If it retreats, then rolling a second encounter with a troll will be the same troll, returned fully healed. It does d4 extra Damage and the amount healed is added to its HP.
Its words are venomous. If it speaks and you respond, DC 12 Toughness or the venom seeps into you, dealing 1 damage and causing you to bleed from the ears.

Originally from Kergüs, sent to find and claim individuals who might amuse his queen, Anthelia.
The Dead Girls are awfully amusing.
Taciturn, unhelpful, will resort to brutal violence at the drop of a (blood-soaked) hat. 
HP 13, Morale 9, Plate & Shield -d6+1.
Longsword d8.
Attacks once for each enemy up close to him.
Can regain all lost HP by defiling the body of one of the fallen instead of attacking.

A warlock drawing power from primal serpents. Wildly heretical, condemned by the basilisks. She claims a better world is possible, that doom can be averted if the basilisk Verhu prophecizing it is overthrown.
Filled with desperate, unreasonable hope.
HP 2. Morale 12. No armour.
Accompanied by 3 snakes (1hp).
Snake Bites d4, attacks once per snake.
If she’s hit, a surviving snake will sacrifice itself to negate the damage.
Once per snake, can cast a random power, as for Unclean Scrolls.

WANDERING PRINCE of the Shadow Palace:
An entitled little shit who thinks you can’t see through his disguise. Finds it diverting to torment his inferiors, whatever gets a rise out of you.
Has never faced any sort of consequences for his actions.
HP 1. Morale 8. No armour.
Rapier d8.
Slay him and the Shadow King’s gaze falls upon you. Every time you roll events, roll another d10; on a 1, a SABLE KNIGHT shows up, tasked with slaying you.

Ghostly, forlorn, traumatised by their untimely demise. Endlessly wander through the woods in which they died. Pale. Pretty, in a morbid sort of way.
Follow them, and they’ll lead you to a previously explored location. Probably somewhere safe or comforting.
HP 5, Morale 5, Unarmoured.
Wail, d4, resist with Presence not Agility.
Mostly intangible, DC 15 to hit.
Once you’ve met them, you have the option to join them when you become TORPID. You are no longer playable. Roll a new PC, who your former companions will meet, treating all ones rolled when creating the character as sixes.

Venturing into the forest in search of those who blaspheme against Varthu. (Being dead but still walking and talking probably counts). Take a cold cruel certainty in their work. Have many invasive and painful tests to ‘prove’ impurity.
Organised, efficient, and utterly unmoved by reason or emotion. Convinced of their own righteousness, prosecute on a whim. Bastards.
HP 8, Morale 9, Heavy Leathers -d2
Cutlasses or crossbows for d8.
Alternatively, can attempt to Restrain. Roll to avoid the attack as normal, taking -d2 Agility for the rest of the fight if you fail. If reduced to -4 or less, you’re rendered helpless: this probably bodes poorly for you.

Undead with broken necks and minds. Pitiful looking. Hate you for being beautiful or shameless or whatever positive qualities you might embody. Hate and lust and envy all mixed together. Wants to abuse your broken body, to degrade you.
HP 5, Morale 6, Tough Skin (d2 armour).
Strangling hands. D2 damage the first round they hit you. Then d4, d6, etc.

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Dead Girls In Sarkash Forest - Layout Experiments

 Some layout stuff I've been fiddling with. 

Inspired by the Mork Borg core book, I've been doing things a little differently. Big high-impact layouts, making text bigger and only putting one (or a few) bits of information on a page rather than picking it in. Eclectic in look, with a mix of fonts, art styles, etc. Like making each page as a poster, almost.
All the art is by dead people.

Anyway, here's some of the spreads I'm more pleased with.

In other news, I was on Chris McDowell's (of Electric Bastionland fame) podcast, talking about narrative wargames. Maybe give it a listen.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Dead Girl Classes, for Mork Borg

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

The Exsanguinated Doll

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



The Pyre-borne Witch

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

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



The Doomed Romantic

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

D2 Omens, d8+Toughness HP. 

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

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

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

The Assassinated Princess 

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 11 September 2020

Dead Girls In Sarkash Forest - a Mork Borg Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 29 June 2020

Exciting Shonen Fight Scenes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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