Saturday, 6 March 2021

In Love And War (part 1)

I have been watching princess principal and I have become inspired. Here's a loose skeleton for a game.

 A PbtA game about spies, and dangerous sapphic romance.

Each player character is a spy, is gay, and is in over her head.
A spy's Classification determines her capabilities, initial relationships to others, and ultimate loyalties.
Everybody is lesbians because it's my game and you can't stop me.

You have 3 sets of assets, each rated from -1 to +3. They rate how good you are at an area of spy work.
-Lies, for concealing yourself and hiding your intentions.
-Clues, for gathering information and understanding others.
-Weapons, for using force to get what you want.

You have 3 perils facing you, threats that can end your career if they rise too high.
-Heat, as you expose your identity and damage your cover.
-Suspicion, as your handlers come to trust you less.
-Pain, as you're physically hurt.
Each Peril starts at 0. When it reaches 5, it triggers a Crisis Move - a moment of truth where the accumulated peril threatens to overwhelm you.

Increasing Perils
Sometimes a move will tell you to increase a Peril.
There will also be moments in the fiction when it makes sense for a Peril to increase. Some examples:
-Backchat your handlers, and Suspicion will rise. 
-Let a civilian know too much about you, and Heat will rise.
-Get caught in an accident or similar danger, and Pain will rise.
When this happens, increase Peril by 1. 

Hooks represent how much emotional leverage you have over a fellow spy. You build up a pool of Hooks, and can spend them to do things.
A hook can be spent to:
-Give her +1 or -1 to a roll by or involving her. Spend after you see the result of the roll.
-Offer her Experience as a bribe to do something. If she does as you wish, you both get one Experience for it.

You rack up experience as you get pulled deeper into the spy world, representing what you're learning. You get experience whenever a move says so. Further, at the end of every mission each spy who took part is awarded 1-3 Experience depending on the danger and complexity of the mission. Every full five experience can be spent go get an Advance. An Advance can:
-Give you +1 to an Asset (can be take up to 3 times, no Asset can go above +3).
-Gain a new Special Move from any Classification (can be taken up to 3 times).
-Reduce one of anybody's Perils by 1 (as many times as you like).

Resolving Moves:
When a move is triggered, roll 2d6 plus the relevant asset. 6 or less is a bust, 7-9 is a shaky success, 10+ is a flawless success. 
Some moves roll with Hooks instead of an asset. Spend as many Hooks as you want on the person you're using it on, and roll 2d6 plus the number of hooks spent.
Moves are divided into three sorts: Field Moves and Intimate Moves. Field Moves are for on a mission and revolve around action and suspense. Intimate Moves are for interpersonal, emotional scenes and handle how your spies relate to each other.
Finally, Crisis Moves are triggered when a Peril reaches 5, determining your spy's ultimate fate. Crisis moves aren't tied to a specific asset: which one you roll with will depend on how you try to resolve it (if you reach out to another spy who can help you, roll with Hooks as normal). A crisis move should get a whole scene to resolve it after the current scene resolves: set the situation up, see how the spy in question handles the crisis, roll for the move, and then narrate the results.

Field Moves:

Escape Notice (lies)
Bust: You attract unwanted attention. Increase Heat by 1, and you've been spotted. You'll need to find another way out of this mess.
Shaky: Its touch and go. Pick one:
-You get away barely, but leave a dangerous clue behind. Increase Heat by 1, but you're safe for now.
-You're spotted. You'll need to find another way out of this mess.
Flawless: You remain nicely hidden, no complications. You get +1 to act from surprise or using cover as a result.

Assess the Situation (clues)
Bust: You fuck up badly in pursuit of answers. You may still ask a question and get an accurate answer; if you do pick an appropriate Peril and increase it by 1.
Shaky: You get something useful. Ask a question and get an accurate answer, and get +1 to your next roll to act on the answer.
Flawless: Things fall into place. Ask one of the questions, and get +1 to your next roll to act on the answer. You, and every spy you share the answer with, get one Experience.

Resort to Violence (weapons)
Bust: You're badly injured before you can escape. Increase your Pain by 1, and you fail to achieve what you wanted.
Shaky: It's close, and getting what you want will hurt. Pick one:
-You're forced to retreat, and don't achieve what you wanted.
-You get what you wanted but are injured in the process. Increase your Pain by 1.
Flawless: You get what you wanted, without any injury.

Rescue Her (hooks)
Bust: You fuck it up, and now you're in just as much peril as she was too. Pick an appropriate Peril and increase it by 1.
Shaky: You get her to safety without anything terrible happening.
Flawless: You get her to safety. Each of you gets a Hook on the other.

Intimate Moves:

Flirt (lies)
Bust: She sees what you're doing, and gets one Hook in you as a result.
Shaky: She's into it. She picks one or both:
-You each get a Hook on the other.
-She offers you something she thinks you want.
Flawless: She's really into it, it's a moment. She picks one or both:
-You each get two Hooks on the other.
-She offers you something she thinks you want.

Read Her (clues)
Bust: You push too much, and spook her. She gets a Hook in you.
Shaky: Ask her a question. If she answers honestly, she gets a Hook in you. If she evades, you get a Hook in her.
Flawless: Ask her a question. If she answers honestly, she gets a Hook in you. If she evades, you get a Hook in her. Either way, you get an Experience, and if you're happy with what you learned so does she.

Push Her Away (weapons)
Bust: It ain't working. She gets a Hook in you.
Shaky: Its painful. You each lose a Hook from each other. If she leaves, you each lose another hook from each other.
Flawless: It's too easy. If she stays, you get a Hook in her and she loses a Hook in you. If she leaves, she loses two Hooks in you.

Open Up (hooks)
Bust: This is awkward. You lose a Hook from her.
Shaky: Expose something about yourself to her, and she gets a Hook in you. If she accepts it you get a Hook in her, too.
Flawless. Expose something about yourself to her, and she gets a Hook in you and one Experience. If she accepts it, you get a Hook in her, too, and one Experience.

Crisis Moves

Heat: Exposed And Pursued 
Bust: You don't escape. Maybe you're taken prisoner, maybe you die unceremoniously. Either way, that's the end of the road.
Shaky: You're able to give them the slip, narrowly. Reduce your Heat to 4. 
Flawless: You wriggle out of the trap effortlessly. Reduce your Heat to 0.

Suspicion: Left In The Cold
Bust: Your agency considers you a liability to be dealt with. Maybe you get a bullet to the back of the head, maybe you're cut off and abandoned. Whatever the case is, you won't be seeing your companions again.
Shaky: You're on thin ice, but you placate your handlers for now. Reduce your Suspicion to 4. 
Flawless: Your name is cleared. Reduce your Heat to 0.

Pain: Bleeding Out
Bust: Well, this is it. At least you might get some last words in before you die, but it's game over for you.
Shaky: You pull through, just about, but are gravely wounded. Reduce your Pain to 4.
Flawless: You make a miraculous recovery. Reduce your Pain to 0.

That's part 1, the basic mechanics. Parts 2 and 3 will detail the different Classifications of spy, and tools for generating missions and events.

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

What I consider good design

So, one thing that I've been considering recently is what a 'well designed game' even means to me.

I don't think "Is it fun" covers it. Basically any game can be fun if you play it with your friends and the chemistry works. I've had fun playing Pathfinder, because I was playing with my buddies and we were bouncing off each other, but that wasn't because of the game's design. We'd have had just as much of the same amount of fun with any other game, really.
And, conversely, plenty of really valuable experiences I've had with RPGs have hit me with darker emotions. Pain, grief, regret, fear... these can all produce intense emotions that make a game worth playing in my view.

So, what am I looking for?

After some thought, I figure I want a game to
create a specific emotional experience when I play it
and the better it does that, the more successfully it does that, the better I consider the design.
The specific emotional experience will obviously vary by game. OSR games create nervous tension like a survival horror game, Monsterhearts produces messy bitchy angst, Duneon Bitches gives you defiantly vulnerable hope. But I look at the experience the game tries to create, and if it does that, it's well designed.

But lets go into a bit more detail. How do games achieve this? How do we judge what they're doing?
Three ways come to mind:

1: Set expectations
2: Shape play 
3: Cover creative gaps

The better a game does these three things, the better it will create an experience, and the higher I rate it.
Let's go into each of these in a bit more detail.

Setting Expectations

This bit is all about communication. I open the book up, browse its fluff and mechanics and look at the art and graphic design, and I get inspired. It makes me picture what it's about, the feelings it wants to evoke, the themes it wants to explore.
This isn't just about the mechanics specifically. There's a reason so many RPG books start with a couple of pages of fiction to set the tone (or with several dozen, if they were made by white wolf). Same goes for visuals; The Stygian Library would feel totally different without Alec's art and Anxy's layout. It all serves to put you in a particular headspace when you go through the book.

A game doing this bit well has everybody come to the game already imagining what the game could be like. That image in their head will be strong, and will be similar. Everybody goes in on the same page.

Shaping Play

This is what most people think of when they talk about 'game design'. Things like how characters are designed, how events are resolved, and so on.
And this shit absolutely matters. Sure you can freeform things, or make every resolution mechanic up on the fly as you go, but that won't create the same experience. Game mechanics push and tug you in particular directions, the limit you in some ways and open up possibilities in others. 
Think of it this way: compare a fight in D&D 5e, and one in Dungeon Bitches. Even if you go in with the same starting fiction (the same location, characters, enemies, etc), the experience will be totally different, because the mechanics care about different things. In D&D, the fight is resolved round-by-round, its a chance to use various character tools, the consequences are (relatively trivial) physical injury and depletion of material resources, everybody gets to contribute about as much, and the PCs are pretty sure to win. The end result is empowering, tactically challenging - fights in 5e feel good. Compare to Dungeon Bitches. The fight is resolved with a single roll, only one PC's capabilities directly shape the results, the consequences might be emotional trauma or gruesome injury (both of them very hard to mitigate), and there is never a clean win. In DB, violence feels nasty and frightening, and characters respond to it far more seriously. 
This is a small example, but it applies to broad structures too. Who even are PCs? What capabilities of theirs matter? What tools do they use to influence the narrative? What rewards and disincentives shape their actions? All of these things will create a particular experience in play.
Like, here's a really simple example. The tension you get making a jenga-pull when you play Dread creates a feeling of mounting nervous anticipation that you wouldn't get if the game wasn't using Jenga as it's main mechanic.
This isn't just mechanics, either. The fiction matters. A setting without law enforcement plays very different to one with incredibly strict law enforcement, for example. That stuff shapes play, too. You'll have an easier time telling stories where PCs struggle with predatory instincts if - in the fiction - all your PCs are vampires.

Covering Creative Gaps

Its nice to imagine that we can simply draw on our infinite imaginations to create all the details and ideas we need for a good experience at the table, but that's just not true. There's going to be moments where nothing immediately comes to mind, or you would normally tend towards the generic. So, here, the game provides concrete examples, so when you might hesitate creatively, there's inspiration to fill that gap.
This might be the way a lot of PbtA moves offer specific options to pick between when they resolve. This might be the use of random tables (such as wandering monsters) in play. This might be pre-packaged character archetypes that clearly communicate the sorts of PCs you might play.
This is something a lot of design neglects. Vampire the Masquerade, for example, doesn't really provide much in the way of concrete examples to draw on. Want to run a feeding scene? The vessel, and how they're approached, has to come from the ST - there's no 'big list of vessels' you can pick one from for a side-scene where a PC feeds.

So that covers it, I think. I want the game to clearly communicate what it's about, for the procedures of play to nudge and push the game towards that experience, and for the game to pick up the slack where the participants might falter. If a game does all of these things, I can be pretty sure that I'll come away from it having had the emotional experience I was looking for. And that's a success.

Thursday, 31 December 2020

Progress on Dungeon Bitches

So. 2020 has been a heck of a year. 
In march, right as the 'rona hit, I started work on Dungeon Bitches as a project. It's a bit of a departure for me - a storygame about feelings with an overt message - but it's been a really rewarding game to work on. In a lot of ways, its more personal than other stuff I've written, more heartfelt. It deliberately reflects my experiences as a queer woman in ways that are at times rough and raw and unpleasant. So, this is a piece of design that matters to me.
I'm gonna talk about it some, and sprinkle in screenshots of how the thing looks in my layout program atm. 

Over the course of the year, the game's been extensively playtested, taken apart, hacked, re-written and iterated on to get to a point where I'm happy with it. It's close to that point now. I've got a decent version of the book that I'm tweaking, but the writing is mostly done. 

So, what's actually in the book?
You get the introductory stuff at the front - credits, what the game is about, a snippet of fiction to set the tone - and then from there the game's mechanics are explained. Starting with the basics of how storygames work, and then going into mechanics like how to roll for a move, hurt, getting broken, bonds, experience and so on. Those basic game mechanics take up 9 pages; the actual rules of the game are pretty light.
Then we get the games default moves. Each stat (queer/subtle/hard/soft) gets a two page spread. 

There's a few pages on how to set up a game and make PCs, and then we get into the Deals (a 'deal' being the game's term for class/archetype/skin etc). Each Deal gets 4 pages; a two page spread with a luxurious full-page illustration and the fiction for the deal, and then another two page spread with the mechanical stuff. After this, some guides for homebrewing your own Deals and Moves, and some rules for 'Legendary Bitches' - basically high-tier options for PCs who've run out of stuff to spend advances on.

After this we get into safety tools, taking up thirteen pages. This shit is important in any game, but doubly so in something like dungeon bitches that delves into darker, more personal stuff. There's a lot of useful tools out there - enough to fill a good sized book on their own with no game attached - but I've focussed on two particular topics here. Firstly, why safety matters and how the key to getting it is trust and communication. And then a sampling of tools that I've used personally and found worked well. Really, this section is a jumping-off point, an introduction to the topic, because the best tools for you will vary from group to group. The point is to encourage a culture of consent and care.

There's then a decent sized section explaining how the game is meant to be played. It's not really mechanics, but more about communicating the intended playstyle. There's sections on queerness, romance, trauma, violence, safe places and so on. This is kinda the meat of the book. You could read this section, ignore the mechanics and just freeform it, and if you follow the advice in here you'll get the intended experience. 

Then last up, you get some thoughts on using the Wounded Mother and Hollow Men, before the book closes out with GM tools. Some explanation of GM responses and how to use them. Then, because it's me, a big ol' pile of random tables. Encounters, events, monsters, NPCs, problems. And similar tables to put a setting together, building a dungeon and a town based on random dice prompts. 

So. It's a decent sized book. About 150 pages, give or take, a4, full colour, illustrated. I've been experimenting with some graphic design stuff, and Sarah's artwork is frankly stunning, so I'm confident its gonna be pretty once it's done.

Anyway. How does this play out in practice?

The single key element here is Bonds. You can spend 'em to give each other plusses to rolls or to offer each other XP. Bonds represent the strength of your relationships with other PCs, and you absolutely rely on them to succeed. In practice, I've found the flow of bonds between PCs is hugely important, and can tell you a lot about how they relate to one another.
This is something I really wanted to get across in the game. Your biggest strength is your fellow bitches, how you support each other. The bonds between you really, tangibly keep you sane and alive. A bitch on her own can easily be screwed, but a group of them together can - if the bonds between them are strong enough - basically overcome anything. 

I've tweaked Hurt some since the initial write-up. Now, when you get too much Hurt and are Broken, it's temporary. You're overwhelmed and helpless, but if your fellow bitches can get you to safety you can recover. However, being Broken like this leaves permanent scars, reminders of the extreme trauma you've been through. Pick up too many, and it'll subsume you, and you'll be gone for good.
So, characters are less fragile. You're less likely to lose your character, more likely to have her become vulnerable and fucked up. 
A key thing here, I think, is that you the player get to pick the exact form your character's scars take, and how they manifest. Trauma affects people differently, and the game lets you explore and portray this however fits your character best.

A few moves - flirt, share pain, spending bonds, healing - serve to build up a web of connections between PCs. Relationships between bitches tend to end up tangled and messy. There's often a strong level of romantic tension ('flirt' is probably the most commonly rolled move, after all), sometimes this remains bubbling under the surface and sometimes it emerges and gets acknowledged. You get these overlapping relationships and petty conflicts and love triangles and it just works. I've seen some absolutely wonderful love stories told in the playtests, sometimes painful, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes ugly, sometimes heartwarming.
And, like, sometimes that means sex. The relationships between PCs can get intense - intentionally so - and so that moment when two characters finally fuck is just... its got some real potential there. I could have shied away from some of the more overtly sexual elements, but I think including them enables some really powerful moments.

Something that emerged over time, that I'm really pleased with, is the relationship between the town and the dungeon. In most games, the town is safe - a place you retreat to in order to rest and recover and resupply. Here, that's not the case; the town is controlled by the specific systems of oppression your characters want to escape. Town is dangerous. It's somewhere you venture into for potential rewards - food, equipment, etc - but don't stay too long because of the risks.
The dungeon is kind of the opposite, really. It's a space where the rules of Man don't really reach, a marginal space outside of their control. That's not to say that it's entirely safe, but it's certainly safer. You descend into the darkness, and the darkness embraces you, and you can be yourself. 
So, in a way, the dungeon becomes an inherently queer space. One where you can find others like yourself, where you can be yourself. And this comes with its own risks, but when it comes down to it you're welcome in the dungeon in ways that you aren't on the surface. Heck, a good proportion of the encounters you'll find down there are other bitches like yourself, or creatures that were once bitches like you but which have slowly transitioned into being something else, something unique. There are communities in the dungeon. Rough, harsh, communities, often very weird ones, but there's a space for you.

So all of these elements come together to create a game where the shared experience of marginalisation brings people together. Your characters can no longer stay in mainstream society, so they find others like themselves and form their own little communities. Insular, tangled, fucked up communities, but still. Trauma hurts, and the scars it leaves can cause problems a long way down the line. But that shared experience pulls you together. 

Ultimately, I think the game's hopeful. It says that you can be there for each other, can support each other through your pain to find a place in the world, to be yourself. It's angry, defiant, burning with this idea that together we can make a better future, despite what we've been through.
What's that phrase? "Not gay as in happy, but queer as in fuck you." The game's fucking queer.

But. I'm being arty and sentimental. Where are things in practical terms?
Well. We have a mostly done manuscript. It's just a matter of finishing the art and layout, getting it properly edited and proofread. Then it can get released properly. 
Which is why I'm pleased to announce that
the game's getting kickstarted in January. 
There's a team of three of us on this: Myself, Sarah doing art, and Khan doing editing. 

So, that's something to look forward to. I know I'm excited.

Finally, I wanna take a moment to thank the various people that have helped me get this project where it is. Playtesters and collaborators and sounding boards, y'all have been wonderful.
Thank you, I love you all.

Monday, 21 December 2020

The Virgin Huntress & The Invisible Girl

A pair of deals for dungeon bitches. As official as anything else, I guess. I wrote them and DB is my game, so feel free to use 'em.

The Invisible Girl

The world is cold and nasty at the best of times, but for people like you, it's actively cruel. You've learned not to draw attention to yourself, to slip under people's notice, to become invisible. It's easier this way. It's safer.
Your ability to pass unnoticed verges on supernatural. They eye naturally slides off you, you drift out of people's memories. You move through the world without a trace, hidden and safe.
Sometimes you wish somebody could see you for who you really are, that you could be recognised and valued, but the feeling soon passes.

The three questions
What are you running from?
You had a dangerous run-in recently. What was it, and how did you escape?
What about you do you wish you didn't have to hide?

The two relationships
Somebody back in town frightens you. Who are they, and why? They get a bond on you.
One of your companions relies on you for something. What do they need from you? You each get a bond on the other.

Soft +1, Subtle +1, Hard -1, Queer -1. Add +1 to any stat, like normal.

Pick any two moves. Like normal, you also get your Sex Move.

Second Face
You have a faked identity, a whole other person you've carefully constructed, and the means to disguise yourself as her. Perhaps the disguise is one of cunning makeup, or perhaps there's something almost supernatural to it, you've been pretending so long. Perhaps your second face is who you originally were, who society wanted you to be, an identity you only revert to unwillingly.
When you Escape Notice by adopting your second face, roll at +2.

You've learned that people do all sorts of revealing things when they think they're alone. By patiently waiting and observing, you can pick up all manner of useful little secrets.
When you Reveal Truths about somebody who doesn't realise you're observing them, roll at +1. On a success, pick either a bond on your subject, or +1 to act on what you learned. On a critical success, take BOTH a bond AND +1 to act on what you learned.

Quietly, Carefully
You're adept at acting while hidden. So long as you remain unnoticed, you can take advantage of your concealment. Sometimes, you're there 
If you aren't present in a scene, but conceivably could be, you can declare yourself present and hidden at any point to insert yourself - roll Escape Notice when you do to see if others pick up on your presence. If you succeed, you get +1 to any actions you take while remaining hidden.

Lifting the Veil
The real you is something kept carefully hidden. When you trust somebody enough reveal yourself, the resulting moment of intimacy can pull you closer together.
When you Flirt by revealing something hidden about yourself, roll with Soft. On a success or critical success, she adds the following option:
-She feels protective of you, and gets +1 to her next roll made to protect you.

Going Along With It
Sometimes, its easier to let yourself be guided by others, to not assert yourself or pursue your own ideas. You've learned to let go, and stay in the background as a follower.
Whenever you're offered XP to do something, either from a spent Bond or as a result of a Get A Read On Somebody move, if you go along with it you get one more XP than you otherwise would.

I Remember Who Hurt Me
You grit your teeth and endure what you need to, keeping your head down and waiting for the bad times to be over. You might not react, or show any real sign of fear or anger, but you remember.
Whenever you must Endure Pain because of somebody, you get a Bond on them.

Sex Move: A Quiet Hope
After you fuck somebody, everything feels okay for a moment. Maybe its safe to emerge from your hiding, at least to her.
In the afterglow, you can reveal something about yourself to her. If she accepts you, you get a Bond on her. If she doesn't, you take one Hurt and she gets two Bonds on you.

The Virgin Huntress
Civilisation doesn't have a place for women like you, so you stopped trying to find one. Picked up a knife and some supplies instead, and headed into the wilderness. Made yourself a little shelter, a bow, the various things you needed to live. Cast off the trappings of civilisation and dwelled among the strange and monstrous inhabitants of the world.
You lived among monstrous things, and became subtly monstrous yourself. Still, something about your fellow Bitches caught your fancy, and you deigned to live among them for a while.

The three questions:
What are you running from?
You kept a single affectation from the civilisation you abandoned; what was it, and why?
Something about you marks you as an outsider; what is it, and how did you get it? 

The two relationships:
You've had friendly relations with something that lives down the dungeon. Who is she, and what brought you together? You get a bond on each other.
You've been secretly admiring one of your fellow Bitches. Who, and why? She gets a bond on you.

+1 Hard, +1 Queer, -1 Soft, -1 Subtle. Add +1 to any stat as normal.

You get any two moves, and also your sex move automatically.

You leave little trophies and tokens with your friends, gifts for them to remember you by.
You can always spend bonds on your fellow Bitches even if you aren't present in a scene. When you do, state something you've given them, and the memory it reminds them of.

You're fundamentally unlike most other people, distancing yourself from them. Opening up to others is difficult for you.
When somebody Flirts with you or Shares your Pain, you may pick one:
-You push them away. You get a bond on them and they lose a bond on you.
-You let yourself be vulnerable. You lose a bond on them and they gain a bond on you.

Monstrous Sympathy
Your place outside of society has its perks, bringing you closer to the more monstrous powers in the world. When you parlay with them, that closeness lets you
When you Commune With Strange Powers, if you've physically met with (or are currently face-to-face with) the entity you're communing with, you can roll at +1. On a success or overwhelming success, you and the entity you're communing with get a bond on each other was well as the normal results.

Hunting Rites
You take the ritual of the hunt seriously. There's proper steps to take - you gird yourself before you set out, and pay proper respect to your prey once you're done. The ceremony needs to be done properly, or it's not really a hunt.
You can perform a short ceremony to declare somebody or something as your Prey. Once you do, you get +1 to all rolls towards finding them or harming them. You can only have one Prey at a time - to abandon a Prey before you kill them, you must relinquish all the Bonds you have on them, which must be at least 1.

Not Quite There
Something marks you out as unearthly, not wholly part of the mundane world. When you need to, you can slip away from unwanted attention.
When you try to Escape Notice from mundane, civilised people, roll with Queer. On a success, when you leave the scene safely, you can choose to fade out of the mundane world but remain present and able to return if you wish. 

The Wild Tongue
During your time in the wilderness, you learned to speak with all manner of strange beings, things civilised people dismiss as inanimate and lifeless.
You can speak with plants, stones, water and so on, just as easily as if they were a person. When you do, you can roll to Reveal Truths with Queer. On a success or overwhelming success, your understanding of your surroundings gives you +1 to your next roll to Escape Notice here.

Sex Move: Protect Her
For you, sex isn't something trivial, it's precious and almost sacred. Your partner is more than just a bit of fun, she's somebody you've shared something truly important with. You must guard her.
When you fuck somebody, you get +1 to all subsequent rolls to protect her. Each time you benefit from this bonus, she gets a bond on you. This lasts until you fuck somebody else, at which point the bonus moves over to her instead.

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.

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.

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 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. 

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.

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.

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. 

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 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 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.


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

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.

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.

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.


-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.