Wednesday 26 September 2018

Into The Oceanic Abyss - an idea

I've been watching a lot of David Atenborough documentaries lately, particularly the Blue Planet series, and I think the deep sea is an area for adventure that's not been covered much, particularly in the OSR. I'm tempted to write something up for it once the library module's done, so here's my thoughts.

Adventuring underwater is weird enough that I'd probably knock together a simple little system that goes in the front of the book for it, and notes for how to adapt it for other OSR stuff. Features would include a blend of LotFP and ItO, and then:
  • Access to the deep sea is granted by 'pressurized diving suits' that are worn like armour. Each comes with air tanks that limit how long you can spend down there. The type of diving suit you wear is a function of your class (like armour is in normal games) and sets your AC, carrying capacity, manoeuvrability, and amount of air (which limits the time you can spend without surfacing).
  • Air is a resource. You have X turns of air before you need to surface or start drowning. Exertion might use up turns of air.
  • Injuries have a chance to damage your suit, resulting in loss of air, or even drowning. Maybe as a result of critical hits, or as part of an injury table when you hit 0 HP, or a chance on every hit.
  • Weapons and other gear set up for underwater adventuring.
  • Drowning and breath-holding will get more detail.
  • XP for treasure, but you get paid by land-bound scientists for mapping and doccumenting the weird shit at the bottom of the sea (on commission, of course), and this pay counts as treasure for XP purposes. So you get XP just for exploring and recording what you find.
The setup is likely to be a hexcrawl, roughly dividing the map into a few biomes (chosen because I like them). You sail your little boat out to an area and plunge down to the ocean floor to explore. The biomes are probably going to be:
Coral reefs - close to the surface, lots of life and light, tight areas and 'rooted' animals (sea anemones etc) that act a lot like traps.
Coastal areas - close to the surface, lots of life and light, dangerous tides and currents.
The abyssal plain - deep down (getting that deep takes a turn of air, as does returning), no light, a vast wasteland. Spooky.
Geothermal areas -  deep down again, volcanic stuff, vents, and other weird hazards.
Abyssal chasms - giant canyons with Nasty Shit at the bottom. Rocky, dangerous, super deep super dark.
Each biome has an encounter table (of course) of different types of wildlife. Each plunge into a biome also roles on a 'location' table that gives you some specifics for where you are. Start exploring down there, and you roll up new 'locations' as you travel across the seabed.

There'll be a little port you can return to where you can recruit new PCs or NPC crew for your boat, trade your maps/drawings for money, buy gear, etc etc. But stuff above the surface is basically downtime.
Some hexes - a lot of them, probably - will have some unique features on them. These are little adventure sites, such as:
Underwater caves.
Whale carcasses- crawl into their innards and explore them like a mini-dungeon, maybe they swallowed cool shit worth looting. Maybe carcasses of other sea-monsters too.
Shipwrecks. A pretty straightforward minidungeon and an excuse for skeleton pirates. Super spooky haunted wrecks in the lightless abyss.
Cyclopean ruins constructed in the distant past by Aboleths. Lovecraftian nastiness and SUPER COOL loot. Possibility of Deep Ones. I should ask Kelvin green about having them be the same deep ones as in Fish Fuckers.

No central conceit really, just an excuse to run around in the deep ocean because seriously that shit is COOL AS FUCK and full of weird shit. Like the deep ocean is literally full of boggle-eyed tentacle monsters that eat each other constantly and glow in the dark, and there are giant smoking volcanic vents and leviathan carcasses that form year-long banquets where even the bones get devoured and that shit is RIPE for adventure.
Also there's a fuck ton of good public domain art of the deep sea, so that's a plus 'cos I do love using old public domain art. Like even if I wasn't writing stuff I'd have huge collections of illustrations from, like, the 1880s to 1930s, there's so much good stuff.
Also I have been bingeing nature documentaries and not slept in twenty hours, I am made of caffeine and inspiration.

Saturday 22 September 2018

From the Library - Some Inhabitants

Some inhabitants of the library, statted and stuff.

The Librarians
These are the closest the library has to native inhabitants. They were mortal accademics once, who found their way into the library and - like a breed of that finds its way into a deep underground cave and slowly becomes a troglodyte - remained there indefinately. over time, the library has warped them into the beings they now are.
The librarians are diminutive, standing no more than five feet tall at most, and possess a slender, almost emaciated frame. Under their voluminous robes, wide eyes per out from pallid faces. For the most part, these beings are furtive when visitors are around, and can make themselves scarce with suprising speed and quietness when they wish to.
The librarians are divided into five ordes - the red, yellow, black, grey and white orders - who each attend to different duties in the library and teach different magical arts with which to pursue this work. The orders are broadly cooperative, acting in synchrony to keep the library running and the sheol computer working, much like a colony of social insects. It seems they possess no leadership among their own kind - each order is considered broadly equal in rank - and instead seem to serve the sheol computer and calculation engines directly.

hit dice 4, P 8, armour as unarmoured humans, unarmed attacks (+0, d2) or magic missiles (hits automatically, d6), saves as magic-user 8.
All librarians possess the following abilities:

  • They do not sleep or tire.
  • They are totally immune to any mind-controlling effect that would turn them against their work on the great calculation.
  • They can, if hidden behind a bookshelf, step to any other bookshelf in the library as if there was no intervening space, so long as the start and end points are both unobserved - effectively allowing teleportation.

The Red Order - Those who Maintain The Library's Infrastructure.
Can cast the following each once per turn: Mending, Message, Shape Stone, Shape Wood, Spider Climb, Levitate, Create Stone.

The Yellow Order - Those who Maintain The Books.
Can cast the following each once per turn: Mending, Message, Charm Person, Suggestion, Detect Thieves (as detect undead), See Invisible.

The Black Order - Those who Maintain the Portals.
Can cast the following each once per turn: Hold Portal, Knock, Hold Person, Turn Mortals (as turn undead),Wall of Iron.

The Grey Order - Those who Shepherd the Restless Dead.
Can cast the following each once per turn: Detect Undead, See Invisible, Trap the Soul, Command Undead, Reduce to Phantom.
Reduce to Phantom targets a single undead being or trapped soul. If a save vs magic is failed, the target is stripped of its individuality and reduced to a mere phantom.

The White Order - Those who Tend to the Calculations.
Can cast the following each once per turn: Invisibility, Dispel Magic, Levitate, Inflict Blindness, Inflict Deafness.

Phantoms are, effectively, the spiritual remainders of a dead mortal, stripped down to their most basic form. Personality and thought are eroded, leaving little more than a spiritual automata laden with the collected data of that mortal's lifetime. Suffice to say, such beings are ripe for exploitation by the skilled necromancer. Thus, they have become invaluable to the infrastructure of the library, which stores them in glass tubes and uses them to power all manner of arcane machines.

Hit Dice 1, HP 1, Armour as unarmoured humans, Emotional Lash (save vs paralysis to avoid, see below effects), save as fighter 1.
Phantoms are gaseous beings, immune to all physical damage save that caused by magical items. They can pass throughpermeable objects, and are unafected by fire, poison, and so on.
An emotional lash is not a physical attack (indeed a phantom is incapable of affecting the physical world directly) but rather a projection of raw emotion into the mind of its victim.The effects of a phantom's emotional lash depend on its current emotional state, as listed.

  • Contentment or torpor: The victim gets disadadvantage to all rolls to act in anger or other strong emotions for one round.
  • Pain or irritation: d4 damage.
  • Rage or anguish: The victim takes d8 damage if they don't spend their next action attacking the subject of the phantom's emotions.
  • Fear or despair: The victim takes d8 damage if they don't spend their next action hiding or cowering.
  • Hunger or envy: The victim takes d8 damage if they don't spend their next action divesting themselves of their equipment.
A phantom's emotions are simple and direct, like those of an infant not yet able to talk or an unsophisticated animal. It understands speech only vaguely, able to detect emotion and tone but not precise meanings Influencing its emotions - to calm it, or agitate it and direct it against enemies - is simple to achieve, perhaps requiring a charisma roll if the PCs have a sensible plan. It always fails saves to resist magical effects that manipulate its emotions.

Friday 21 September 2018

From the Library - Some Locations

Copy-pasted in from the document I'm writing it up in, here are some places in the library module I'm writing.
In answer to some previous questions: yes, this is designed to be rolled up like Ynn was. I know some people aren't fans of it. 'S cool. I like it as a GM, and I write random tables much better than I write linked locations. Worst case scenario, roll everything up ahead of time.
Anyway. Here's some places.

Catalogue of Contents
Chained onto a lectern, a single huge book with pages the size of a human torso, bound in black leather.
The catalogue lists what books are stored nearby, and where. The instructions and directions given are confusing to follow; the PCs can get a picture of what’s nearby but actually tracking things down will be difficult.
Consulting it for a turn allows one of the following benefits:
· Increase the party’s Progress score by 5. This benefit can be gained only once per piece of information sought.
· Roll a random Extraordinary Book (p. xx). The next time the party discovers an Extraordinary Book, this will be with it. Once the party rolls the same Extraordinary Book a second time, that is all that can be found.

Ink Vats
Large brass vats of ink, the tops open to the air, stirred slowly by a clockwork whisk that hangs from the ceiling. Five vats total, providing black, red, green, blue and infernal ink.
On the sides of each vat is a tap, labelled, that allows you to refill an inkwell or bottle from the vat.
The black ink is mundane.
The red ink stings when touched: anything written on flesh in it appears as if a it were a birthmark or scar. The green ink permanently stains anything it touches, and can never be washed off. The blue ink is invisible during the daytime.
The infernal ink can be used to write infernal contracts. Any contract written in this ink is magically binding. Every signatory on the contract instinctively knows if anybody else has broken the contract as soon as it happens. 

A long room supposedly dedicated to religious devotion. A high arched ceiling, supported by pillars. Rows of pews, and at the front a pulpit before the altar.
The pulpit has, built in, a small lectern with an Extraordinary Book resting on it: roll for which (p. XX).
The altar is a simple affair, with the suitable trappings of a common faith - maybe a crucifix and candles, perhaps a bowl and sacrificial knife, depending on the religion.
Under the altar, there are a few stored trinkets; roll for Treasure (p. XX).

A small, well furnished room. Comfortable chairs, low tables. Cosy.
To one side, there’s tables against the wall with food and drink, and the chinaware and cutlery required. Roll 3 d10s for what:
1. Scones, jam and cream.
2. Cake.
3. Sandwiches.
4. Port and sherry.
5. Cheese and biscuits.
6. Tea.
7. Cocktails.
8. Coffee.
9. Fried breakfasts.
10. Pastries - croissants etc.
Every time the party visits the room, re-roll what food is present: Red Librarians re-stock the room periodically.

A high domed ceiling, onto which lanterns project dots of light that resemble alien constellations.
In the centre of the room, a large clockwork orrery  modelling the solar system. A lamp burning in the centre, and long arms that hold model planets, moons and comets in place. The whole thing clicks and grinds as it slowly turns.
The planetarium moves to represent accurately the position of the celestial bodies outside in the real world. It can, however, be manually re-set to a past or future position of the celestial bodies.
Bookshelves at ground level contain information on astronomy and astrology.

Anybody who uses the planetarium to cast an astrological horoscope for the subject of information they are seeking adds d6 to their Progress score. Furthermore, if they roll a d20 under their intelligence, they may ask a single yes-or-no question about the subject of the horoscope and get an accurate answer.

Lastly, re-setting the position of the orrery has a distorting effect on the time-stream. Those present find their state re-set to the time shown on the orrery. If they set it to a point in the past, then the consequences of events after that point are negated for those present: injuries disappear, curses were never bestowed, healing never happened, etc etc. Likewise, if set forwards, then any healing, ageing, disease etc that might happen in the time set forward occurs immediately.
The orrery can go forward or backwards one round, turn, hour, day, week, month, year or century.
The time-stream for the rest of the world remains unaffected: only the PCs party skips back or forward in time.

Calculation Engine
The shelves give way to a huge machine made of clockwork and steam pumps. Incredibly complex, the machine hisses, creaks, clicks and turns.
There is a terminal in the front-centre of the calculation engine. Tiles marked with letters a-z, numbers 0-9 and punctuation, that can be pushed.
Above the tiles, there is a slot from which emerges a long ribbon of paper that winds down into a pile on the floor, like ticker-tape. A mechanical pen writes onto the paper ribbon as more is extruded.
It is, effectively, a mechanical computer, using gears and valves rather than electrical components. It is only one part of a much greater whole that lies in a huge network spread through the lyceum.
Pushing a tile results in a series of clicks and new wheels within the machine starting to turn. You can type things into the engine using these tiles.
Anything the players type in is input to the calculation engine. The output will be written on the paper ribbon, extruded   out into the pile. The players can read the response, which will vary depending on what input they used. Go down the following list, starting at the top, and use the first response that applies to their input.

¨ If the players input a fact that is known to be true (which is to say,  correctly recorded as factual in any book anywhere in the world), the response is:

###Data Confirmed###

¨ If the players input a fact that is known to be  false (which is to say, correctly refuted in any book anywhere in the world), the response is:

###Data Contradictory###

¨ If the players input a question that has an answer in any book anywhere in the world, the machine responds by naming the closest book which contains an answer. They get +1 Progress if the question asked is related to the information they are looking for. This +1 Progress applies for each related question they ask, each getting the response of a new book, until they have a list of 6 books (and so a total of +6 progress). After this, the calculation engine begins to repeat the same books.

¨ If the players input a question to which no answer is recorded in any book anywhere in the world, the response is:

###Data  Not Found###

¨ If the players input anything which is neither a stated fact nor a question, the response is:

###Unknown Input###

The Calculation Engine is attended to by d4 Grey Librarians at all times. If they are slain or removed, more will arrive within a turn.

Phantom Databanks
The room contains a set of shelves against one wall. Each shelf holds a row of glass jars. Each jar has a set of wires emerging from it, linking it to a small machine at the end of each shelf that displays the pressure, temperature, emotional state and acidity of each jar’s contents on a set of dials.
There are 30 jars in total. 24 contain a phantom, the rest are currently empty. Each phantom appears as a condensed mist, thrashing wildly, flickering with colours and patterns, glowing softly.
Opening a jar releases the contained phantom (see page XX). It doesn’t really want things or have a sense of self, but in the jar it was compressed unnaturally, and it will expand to its full size (about that of a human) when released.
A newly released phantom is agitated and energetic. Whilst it does not have enough awareness of its surroundings to attack per se, it will almost certainly cause problems.
Alternatively, a phantom in a jar can be used as a dim source of light, illuminating out to a five-foot radius.

Spider Trapdoor
Under the floor of this location, there lurks a huge spider, an ambush-predator adapted for the Lyceum’s environment. It can lift up a section of floor, and emerge to grab prey, dragging it down to feed on. It’s burrow is just about big enough to fit itself, and a few prey (either bundled up ready to eat, or else one still being subdued).
When the players first enter this location, describe the floor-boards as being a little uneven, and that there are strands of cobweb over the floor. This is the only clue they get. If they test the floor, tell the players there is a hollow space beneath. If they don’t think to check, it’s their own fault when they get ambushed.
The spider can sense the footsteps of those walking above it as vibrations and sound. It knows how many are present, if any are injured, and how heavy they all are. From this, it can make a good guess as to who makes the best victim. Typically, this will be whoever is bringing up the rear. Sometimes, it waits for a group of victims to disperse to explore the room, and grabs somebody who stands over its pit undefended.

When the spider makes its move, a section of floorboards lift up, and it’s front half (face and front legs) emerges from its pit. It grabs its victim and tries to drag them into its pit, closing the lid behind it.
It makes a single surprise attack. If the attack hits, the victim is pulled into the spider’s pit as well as taking damage. Furthermore, there is a 3-in-6 chance that the spider does this quietly enough that (unless the victim states that they are going to cry out) that nobody notices it has happened unless they’re looking at the victim.
Inside the spider’s pit, there are various valuables taken from its previous victims. Roll for Treasure.

HD 4, HP 16, Armour as chain, Bite (+4, d10 damage and save vs poison), saves as fighter 4.
3-in-6 chance to make no noise at all  when it does something.
If a victim fails their save vs the spider’s venom, they are paralysed for a turn.

Infernal Gateway
This room contains, as well as the normal exits, a single huge horrible doorway. Made of gnarled dark wood set into a stone frame, with black iron hinges and a sturdy lock. The whole thing - door, frame and lock - is engraved with the sort of horrible sigils that hurt to look at for too long.
The doorway leads to hell. 
Each turn, there is a chance that a minor devil will come through the doorway. This chance depends on how depraved the PCs are (sin attracts the devils): check the list of sins below for the chance.
¨ Trespassing into another’s home, petty theft and other minor crimes give a 1-in-6 chance.
¨ Serious theft, such as armed robbery, grave-robbing, extortion and so on gives a 2-in-6 chance.
¨ Unnecessary violence or mayhem (such as arson, pointlessly attacking people, or acts designed to outrage the public) results in a 3-in-6 chance.
¨ Murdering people results in a 4-in-6 chance.
¨ Wilful sadism and cruelty - such as torture, murder out of spite and so on - gives a 5-in-6 chance.
If a devil shows up, it has the following basic statistics:
HD 2d4, HP 2 per, HD Armour as chain, Whip/claws/pitchfork/flensing knife (bonus to-hit same as hit-dice, d8 damage), saves as fighter of equal HD.
Halve damage not from holy, magical, or silver weapons. Double damage from holy sources. Immune to mind-control that doesn’t specifically target infernal beings.
Roll a d6, d8 and d10 for it’s specifics.
The d6 determines its appearance. It is:
1. Angelic
2. A goat-human hybrid.
3. A bat-human hybrid.
4. Serpentine.
5. Corpselike.
6. Perfectly human looking other than tiny horns.

The d8 determines its role in the infernal hierarchy. It is:
1. A thrall.
2. A lawyer.
3. A librarian.
4. A jailer.
5. A torturer.
6. A tempter of mortals.
7. A financier.
8. A diplomat to other realms.

The d10 determines a special ability the devil possesses.
1. Can turn any object to solid gold by touching it, at will.
2. Can grant a single wish in exchange for a mortal’s soul upon death.
3. Can transform into a cloud of flies.
4. Can transform into a harmless-looking animal.
5. Can mimic the appearance of the viewer’s loved-ones.
6. Touch drains memory (d12 damage to intelligence).
7. Can teleport short distances in a puff of smoke.
8. Can locate the soul of a specified individual unerringly.
9. Immune to fire.
10. Casts charm person when it shakes your hand.
The devil wants you to damn yourself. It will seem helpful until you anger it. Everything it offers has an unforseen price.

Jarred Brains
The shelves here are lined with glass jars, each filled with a clear fluid. Floating in the fluid is an intact human brain, with wires linking where the spinal column would be to a small mechanism set in the jar’s base.  Each jar is labelled to say who’s brain it contains, and when they were interred.
Each jar’s fluid is a nutrient solution designed to keep the brain within alive. Occasionally, a bubble rises to the surface as the jar’s mechanisms keep the fluid oxygenated. The mechanism links to a small metal grille in front of the jar; this is how the brain within communicates, in a tinny, staticky voice. The brains are torpid and dormant as the PCs enter, but can be roused by - for example - shaking their jars or speaking directly into the grille at the front of their jar.
Of the brains present, at least one (perhaps more) will be an intellectual figure (recent or historical) known to the PCs. 1-in-4 chance that it’s somebody directly connected to the subject of the PCs’ research. Conversing with this figure might answer all sorts of questions, and adds 4 to the party’s progress score if their area of knowledge is relevant. Being stuck in a jar has almost certainly given the brain a long time to spend in self-reflection with little external stimulus. It has no doubt become deeply strange in its outlook and priorities.
The remaining brains are split roughly evenly between those incapable of intelligable communication due to language barriers, those incapable of intelligible communication due to total jar-induced madness, those unable to be roused from their torpor, and those with little worth saying.
A brain-in-a-jar exists in a weird halfway state between life and death. It is affected just as easily by magic that affects the living, the dead and the undead.

Dissection Theatre
A surgical table sits in the centre of this room, illuminated by bright lights and surrounded by seating for spectators. This is a space where researchers can take apart bodies (alive or dead) to see what’s inside them. Sometimes there is an audience when this happens, but always a grey librarian taking notes.
Roll a d4 for who’s present when the PCs arrive.
1. Nobody.
2. A pair of black librarians preparing or cleaning up after a dissection.
3. A neurovore performing a dissection, watched by 2d4 visitors and a grey librarian.
4. An archivist-lich performing a dissection, observed only by a grey librarian.
Roll a d12 for what’s being dissected.
1. A human baby.
2. A monkey.
3. A large spider.
4. A pregnant ape.
5. An injured human youth.
6. An elderly human.
7. A goat.
8. A large shark.
9. The egg of a huge serpent.
10. A vampire, staked to keep it dormant.
11. A lobotomized elf.
12. An octopus.
1-in-4 chance the subject is still alive.

Mummy Vault
This is where dead librarians go. Each is dried out, treated with the same chemicals used to preserve the books, and wrapped in a tight shroud. The shelves are packed with little corpses swaddled up in off-white grave-cloths. It smells of natron and vinegar here.
The dead librarians won’t rise, ever.

The place is thick with cobwebs, stretching across the corridors and over the books themselves. Getting through, or getting to the books, is perfectly easy, since the webs break as soon as you push through them, but it’s a little unpleasant none-the-less. The first encounter here is always with several mundane, harmless spiders.

The location is lit by a roaring fire in a grate, with a bucket of coal nearby as well as tongs, pokers and so on.
Where the chimney opens out, its impossible to say; you’ll get stuck or die from smoke inhalation long before you escape.
However, if more than one location has been generated with a fireplace, you can use the chimneys to travel between them. Climb into the chimney of one, and you can climb out of the chimney of the other. If the players try this before a second such location is generated, instead it links to another location with a fireplace; roll a d12 for depth and then roll the location randomly.

An iron lamp-post bolted to the floorboards, with a lamp at the top that illuminates the shelves nearby.

Negligible Gravity
Gravity’s effect is drastically reduced here, much like on the moon. Things drift downwards rather than falling. Nobody ever suffers damage from falling or having things fall on them. Creatures can jump to great heights and long distances; five times further than normal. Shooting takes a -3 penalty to hit (except at point-blanc range), since the drop-off of missiles is far less than the shooter is used to.

It’s stereotypical for a library, but an air of total silence hangs over the room. Speech is inaudible, and even the loudest noises are barely more than a whisper. Needless to say, this has a number of benefits for entities wishing to be stealthy, but means that the incantations to cast spells are impossible.
A spellcaster who tries casting by shouting at the top of their lungs might succeed if they pass a strength-roll (their shouted spell is as loud as a handkerchief hitting the ground). If the roll is failed, they only succeed in damaging their vocal chords, and if they had more than 1 hitpoint left they take 1 damage.

Rather than books, the location’s shelves hold stacks of letters, most still in their envelopes. There’s a 1-in-4 chance that, if the players are looking for information about a famous person known for their correspondence, there is a letter addressed to them or written by them present (giving them +1 progress). If there is, there’s a 1-in-6 chance they can find the reply, and then 1-in-8 that they can find the reply to that, and so on.

Spirit Illumination
The room is lit by an ingenious, if subtly disturbing, method. Around the room are glass orbs, each containing a phantom. The orb is held in a clockwork device which, every few minutes, shakes the orb gently, agitating the phantom within and causing it to produce pulses of light that express its irritation. The room is, therefore, lit by a constantly shifting and flickering glow of different colours that rises and falls as the different phantoms are given a good shake periodically.