Friday, 20 November 2020

Theory - Hard & Soft Tools

Alright, here's a framework I've been using to analyse games. It's about the mechanical means by which players can exert their will onto the fiction. Only a quick little post, but it should help clarify some of my thinking.


So, let's define 'tools'. A tool is basically a mechanic that gives a player agency in the fiction. They use the mechanic, and something happens. It's like a lever you can pull to get a desired result. Generally, this takes the form of options on the character sheet, or codified resolution mechanisms for a given action. The key is that they're player facing, a thing the player chooses to initiate when they want something to happen.
'My PC has +6 to Intimidate rolls' is a tool. 'My PC has the discipline Animalism' is a tool. 'Gaze Into The Abyss is a move I can use' is a tool. 

The next thing to consider is what I consider 'hard' and 'soft' tools. Basically, the harder the tool, the more precise the effect you get is, and the less space there is for the result to be fucked about with by the whims of the GM. 
As an example, in b/x casting the spell Sleep is a very hard tool. You cast the spell, and a valid target (or targets) falls asleep. There's no wiggle-room or interpretation, no saving throw or skill check or anything; you cast sleep, and stuff falls asleep. 
By contrast, let's take social skills in oWoD. Sure, you can say you want to roll Charisma + Intimidation, but there's a lot of wiggle room there. What's the difficulty for the roll? What happens if you succeed? What happens if you fail? Do you even get to make the roll, or does it just come down to a judgement call? All of this stuff is at the GM's discretion. Every time you invoke your social skills, the GM has to make a judgement call for how to handle it.
Lots of mechanics fall somewhere in the middle. Let's take the b/x thief's Hide In Shadows skill. It has a defined fixed chance to succeed, and a pretty clear result when it does. But when do you get to roll? That's a GM call. And what happens when you fail? Again, a GM call. 
Likewise, I think the attack roll in D&D 5e is a pretty fucking hard tool. You roll with a set bonus versus a set difficulty, and if you succeed, roll a predetermined amount of damage; when you've racked up enough damage against an enemy, they're taken out of action. Further, there isn't really any GM discretion in when you roll: every individual attempt at violence is an attack roll. But, there's a little softness, since advantage/disadvantage on the roll is at GM discretion, and the GM is the one setting the difficulty to hit and the amount of damage needed in the first place.

So we can look at a game and work out what tools it gives you, and that will give you an idea of how the game is intended to play.
For example, let's take Monsterhearts. Here are the tools Monsterhearts 2e gives you:
-The moves Turn Somebody On, Shut Somebody Down, Hold Steady, Run Away, Lash Out Physically, & Gaze Into The Abyss. All of them trigger automatically when you take a certain action, and have a fairly limited set of outcomes.
-Spending Strings (a metacurrency representing social influence) to offer XP, inflict a condition, or adjust rolls.
-Tweaks to the above depending on your playbook.
So these are all fairly, but not completely, hard tools. Most involve social manipulation of some kind. So, if you want to exert concrete agency over the fiction in Monsterhearts, the tools you have to do so involve that social manipulation. If you want to take a different approach (perhaps being less manipulative and more nurturing and supportive), the rules don't give you any tools for that. In some sense, you get less agency when you take that approach. So, the tools the game gives you shape play.

Another example, this time classic vampire the masquerade. The hardest tools you get, with the most precisely defined outcomes, tend to be one of three things:
-Most Disciplines
-Blood Bonds
-The Combat Procedure
Most notably, there are a lot of times where the skill system gives you a very soft tool, which is superseded by a discipline that provides a hard tool. As I mentioned above, social rolls in vamp are very soft indeed, filtered through multiple layers of GM discretion. But Dominate or Presence? Activate the discipline, roll against a set difficulty, and you get a well defined outcome that happens without any need for GM interpretation. Likewise, the 'stealth' skill is very soft, while the Obfuscate discipline makes you automatically invisible when you use it without even needing to roll. The 'empathy' skill is very vague in its use and what it gives you, but Auspex 2 gives you well-defined, powerful results. 
Combat is very much pinned down, unlike the rest of the skill system. Set difficulties, dice pools, outcomes. When you engage in violence, you can be sure of the mechanisms that will be used to resolve it. 
So, with this in mind, is it any wonder the game often drifts towards 'superheroes with fangs'? The hardest tools the players have are fighting and superpowers.

This is my main point here. The tools the game gives you shape how the game plays out. Players will gravitate towards activities in the game that they have tools relating to. In particular, the relative hardness and softness of tools is useful to consider. For example, a game where fighting is treated only with a few comparatively soft tools ('Lash Out Physically' is one of the softer moves in MH, for example) is one where violence gives you less agency and will be used to solve problems less.



It is worth noting that games that mostly give you soft tools aren't necessarily bad, and don't necesarily deny players their agency. It's just that that agency can't be achieved through the use of mechanics. And, really, the most useful comparison is to look at a game and say which areas are harder or softer in the context of that game. It's comparative. 

Monday, 9 November 2020

Alright Fuckers I Made a Better Version of Vamp

 So, vampire the masquerade. I've played it a lot. I really like the setting and have had a lot of fun exploring characters within it (although some elements are... problematic. Yeesh, the ravnos). 

But the mechanics frustrate me. They're too complex and too much of a straightjacket. I feel like I'm fighting the system to get the experience I want, and it runs best when the mechanics are ignored.


So, I'm gonna make a better version.  

Design goals:

  • strip the mechanics waaaay back. All the way back.
  • strip out the agency-removing mechanics and the stuff that mechanises morality; moral choices aren't meaningful when the system punishes you for being bad.
  • keep the setting more or less recognisable as VtM or VtR if you want it to be, but with some more flexibility.
  • not go too hard on storygamey, but lean on those ideas a bit.
  • put a focus on hunger and self-control.




the base mechanic:


For any action where the outcome is in doubt, roll a pool of d10s. In almost all circumstances, you'll be rolling an attribute plus a skill. Every 8+ is a success. More successes is better. 
Sometimes there are complications; bad things that might happen. You can spend successes to negate these complications; successes spent removing a complication don't count towards how many successes you get. If you spend all your successes on negating complications, you still fail, but avoid causing problems, which might be a bigger priority. You're probably looking at 1-3 complications, max.
If a task is particularly hard or easy, you might gain or lose successes automatically. (Before spending sux to negate complications).
For group rolls, pick whoever has the best pool and they roll for everybody. Apply the results and complications to everybody.

Influence:
Decide what you're trying to get them to do, and what leverage you're using to get it.
Roll an appropriate attribute plus skill. Probably social ones, but not necessarily. The more sux, the more extreme shit you can get them to do.
GM or player being rolled against selects complications from the following list, or invents their own.
-They're spooked by you.
-They'll tell people about what you asked.
-They do a half-assed job.
-They'll badmouth you.
-They'll only do it if you offer them a reward.
-They do it, but don't give it much priority.
-They're intrigued, and will try to find out what's up.

If PCs have influence rolls used against them, they aren't compelled if the roll succeeds. Instead, they get a point of Willpower for each success rolled against them if they go along with it, and lose the same amount if they don't.

Violence:
First determine the stakes: what each side wants, what they're trying to achieve. Maybe torpor, diablarie, capture, escape, feeding, driving them off or just inflicting pain.
Both sides in a fight roll an appropriate attribute plus skill. Probably violence, but maybe stealth or athletics if trying to avoid an enemy. Whoever gets more successes wins. Winning means whatever the winner was trying for.
For each success the loser achieves, there is a complication. The GM or relevant players pick from the list, or invent something.
-You're injured.
-If you're injured, you're put into torpor.
-If you're in torpor, you suffer final death.
-You frenzy. 
-You increase Hunger.
-You lose or break something valuable to you.
-The fight is obvious and attracts attention.
-There are bystander casualties.

Feeding:
Feeding can only happen on-screen. The exception is the characters chosen predator type, which can be rolled for off-screen without needing a scene.
Each success decreases your hunger once. The GM chooses one or more complications, from this list or made up:
-Your victim dies.
-You're observed at the scene.
-Your victim's most notable personality trait bleeds through to you temporarily.
-Your victim becomes obsessed with you.
-You leave evidence of your involvement.
-Your infected with a blood-borne illness or affected by a narcotic your victim was on.
-Your victim is spooked and becomes paranoid. 

Hunger:
You can increase hunger to do one of the following things.
-Add as many dice as your points in Might to your pool.
-Recover fully from being Injured.
-Rise from being Torpid, becoming Injured instead.
-Rise from daysleep temporarily during the day.
-Rise from daysleep for the night.
-Feed it to somebody, blood bonding them.
-Feed it to an exsanguinated corpse, causing it to rise as a vampire.
It also increases when a complication tells you it does or your presented with an easy opportunity to feed without consequences, and decide not to.

Effects of Hunger:
You should expect to roleplay the effects of hunger as it increases. If you have no hunger, you're happy and full. If it's less than your Might, its an irritating presence on the edge of your mind, but easily ignored. If it's less than double your Might, it colours everything, becoming a constant temptation. At double your Might or more, hunger is overwhelming and impossible to resist for long. How this affects your actions is up to you.
When you feed, if you get more successes than you have Hunger to reduce, you get a point of Willpower for each excess success. You might ignore complications to get more successes, feeding sloppily for the fun of it.
When you go to sleep each dawn or go into torpor, you lose as much Willpower as your current hunger: the hunger gnaws at your mind.

Willpower:
You have a pool of Willpower. It starts at 0, and goes up and down as you get stuff from the game. 
You can spend Willpower to:
-Add a single dice to a dice pool.
-Temporarily ignore a mental effect, such as mind-influencing magic, a blood bond, or the basic effects of being a vampire. Blood bonds need you to spend as many as the level of the blood bond. Mind influencing magic needs you to spend as many as the successes rolled to create the effect.
-Buy new stuff following practical experience, training or study, costing ten times the thing's freebie costs.
You lose willpower when you:
-Go against one of your Limits from character creation.
-Don't go along with it when Influence is rolled against you.
-Go into daysleep or torpor while hungry.
You gain willpower when you:
-Fulfil one of your Urges from character creation.
-Go along with it when Influence is rolled against you.
-Feed excessively, getting more successes than you have hunger to sate.

Blood Bonds:
For each time you're fed a vampire's blood, they get a point of Blood Bond on you. Blood Bond accumulates over time.
You're expected to roleplay the effects of Blood Bond against you. If the level is less than your Might, you find them compelling and your thoughts sometimes linger on them, but it's not particularly troublesome. If it's less than double your Might, you find it hard to think ill of them, find yourself obsessing over them, and have a strong desire to serve them. If its double your Might or more, you're overwhelmed by their influence, becoming utterly enthralled. Exactly how you interpret this effect in your characters actions is up to you, but its always there unless you spend Willpower to resist it.
They add their points of Blood Bond to rolls against you. 
A blood bond goes away if you avoid contact for an extended period of time (on a scale of months or years), or take part in a vaudlerie. You can be under many blood bonds at once.

Vaudlerie:
If two or more vampires mix their blood and drink the concoction, the result is a vaudlerie, a short of mutual blood bond between the entire group.
A vaudlerie breaks all pre-existing blood bonds, but doesn't prevent more arising.
When you take part in a vaudlerie, add together the Might of every participant and roll that many dice. For each success, every participant gets a blood bond on each other participant. 

Diablerie:
If another vampire is at your mercy, you can diablerise them, consuming their soul. You get each of the following benefits:
-Your Might increases by 2 if it was less than theirs, or by 1 if it was equal or more.
-You can learn a Discipline they knew and you didn't.
-You can add a point to an Attribute or Skill that they were better at than you.
-Your soul is irrevocably marked by the act.
-You take on traits from them. The higher their Might compared to yours, the more pronounced this is; roleplay this appropriately o

Disciplines:
Disciplines don't come in levels anymore. They just unlock a general thing you can do now. You always need to roll to use a discipline. The specifics are left freeform. EG, animalism lets you communicate with and influence animals; any supernatural effect that falls under that purview could work, although for really dramatic or out-there stuff, you'll need more successes. GM and player between them select at least one complication, based on what could go wrong.
-The use of your power is obvious enough to be a masquerade breach.
-You increase Hunger.
-You increase Hunger
-You increase Hunger
-Your power traumatises its subjects, leaving them emotionally unstable.
-Your power leaves you temporarily emotionally unstable.
-Your power is uncontrolled, causing collateral damage.
-Your power requires you to make a material sacrifice to succeed.
-Your body is wracked by the effort, and you become Injured.
-You frenzy.


Advantages:
Advantages represent your place in society. They unlock new capabilities that you wouldn't otherwise have. You may or may not need to roll to use them. Mostly, you'll use the rules for Influence to make use of them when you do.



STUFF ON YOUR SHEET:

Attributes (rated 1-5):
Social: Charisma, Manipulation, Composure
Physical: Strength, Dexterity, Stamina
Mental: Wits, Perception, Intelligence

Skills (rated 0-5):
Physical: Violence, Stealth, Athletics, Reflexes, 
Social: Charm, Intimidation, Politics, Subterfuge
Mental: Occult, Technology, Academics, Medicine

Might:
A measure of how potent your blood is, a function of age, diablerie, and generation. Starts at 1, and can go up. Mortals have might 0.

Disciplines:
Animalism: Communicate with and influence animals.
Auspex: Perceive or deduce things you otherwise wouldn't be able to.
Celerity: Perform feats of supernatural, otherwise impossible speed and agility.
Dominate: Override people's free will to make them obey you.
Fortitude: Endure, survive, and shrug off otherwise lethal dangers.
Obfuscate: Conceal yourself and create illusions.
Potence: Perform feats of supernatural, otherwise impossible strength.
Presence: Inflict or manipulate others' emotional states.
Shapeshifting: Alter your shape, either making minor tweaks or taking on a new form entirely.
Blood sorcery: Pick a theme for your magic (eg: necromancy, koldunic connection to your territory, fleshcrafting, blood poisons, elemental magic, shadow control). Through slow, careful rituals, create overt magical effects around that theme.


Advantages:
Age: You've been around for ages, a significant social advantage in vampire society.
Anonymity: You don't exist in the official record.
Contacts: A wide number of people who know stuff, who you can hit up for info.
Cover identity: A fake person you can pretend to be.
Employees: Mundane people who work for you (house staff, employees in a business you run, etc).
Fame: You're well known among mortals.
Herd: A good number of people you can feed from. 
Occult Library: A big collection of books about magical things.
Reputation: Other vampires have heard of you.
Retainer: You have a (possibly supernatural) servant who is loyal and capable.
Territory: A building, estate, or other area you control, other than your own haven.
Wealth: You have lots and lots of money.


CHARACTER CREATION:

-Pick your name and basic concept.
-Pick a clan, bloodline, lineage or family. This will cement your concept, and determine which disciplines it makes sense for you to know, as different clans specialise in different disciplines. If you follow a particular Road, or your beast is particularly weak or strong, note this down; this will influence your Limits and Urges.
-Each of your attributes starts at 1. Prioritise social/physical/mental as Best/Middling/Worst. You get 4 points to increase your Best set, 3 for your Middling, and 2 for your Worst.
-Each of your skills starts at 0. Prioritise social/physical/mental as Best/Middling/Worst. You get 6 points to increase your Best set, 4 for your Middling, and 2 for your Worst.
-Pick between one and three Limits: things your character will never do. Distribute 3 points between them, that's how much willpower you lose if you do them.
-Pick between one and three Urges: things your character feels compelled to do. Distribute 3 points between them, that's how much willpower you get when you successfully do them.
-Pick your Predator Type; how you feed by default. Work out your particular methods, where and who you hunt, how restrained you are, etc etc. This isn't the only way you feed, but it's what you fall back on.
-Pick a single Discipline. 
-Pick two Advantages.
-Your Might begins at 1.
-Work out any flaws or limitations your vampire has, either as a person, as a result of their circumstances, or as a result of their supernatural nature.
-Agree on the starting relationship between you and each other PC. You can, if you agree, come in with points of Blood Bond on each other, which don't need to be symmetrical.

You can then spend Freebies to increase stuff. 
-Increase a Skill by 1 (1 freebie)
-Increase an Attribute by 1 (2 freebies)
Get a new Advantage (3 freebies)
-Get a new Discipline (5 freebies)
-Increase Might by 1 (7 freebies)
How many freebies you get depends on the intended power level of the game. 5 for grounded street-level games or games about newly-turned vampires. 10 for more established characters. 15 for fairly old ones, and 20 or more for movers and shakers.




This is not playtested or nothing. But I figure I'd have more fun with it than the official games. It shouldn't be too hard to bolt it onto the VtM or VtR settings, or make a homebrew one for it.

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

LICHEN PROPHETESS:
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.

FINGERMAN:
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.

IMPALER: 
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.

SKELETAL GARDENER:
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.

DEAD WOLVES: 
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.

SARKASH TROLL: 
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.

REDCAP KNIGHT: 
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.

SNAKE WHISPERER: 
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.

SPECTRAL WAIFS:
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.

INQUISITORS:
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.

STRANGLEMEN:
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. 



The 
Silenced 
Wretch


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: