The new edition of Call of Cthulhu has alternative names for many of its spells, which is a huge improvement, but many of them are still lame sounding. It’s not a bad idea to come up with new names, both to obfuscate the exact meaning and nature of the spell, and to situate it better within the setting and mythos.
As a basic rule of thumb, going to mythology and finding something appropriate to invoke works well, as does delving into a thesaurus, or etymological dictionary to find obscure or outdated terminology you can put to use.
Greek, Egyptian, Hindu and Middle Eastern mythology is particularly appropriate, given the references, sources and themes that Lovecraft was working from. Old English grimoires and supposed witches’ tomes are also useful tools, and Latin is always a useful tool of last resort. Failing that, just make it up (like Lovecraft did) using the form of ancient languages, much at Nyarlathotep follows – vaguely – Egyptian style.
Apportion Ka (Tenu Ka, Egptian, meaning to divide or separate the soul).
Bless Blade (Alipriya Asi, Sanskrit, Red lotus blade).
Body Shaping (Ar Aat, Egyptian).
Breath of the Deep (Mists of Dagon).
Brew Space Mead (Mjólka af Heidrun, Norse ‘Milk of Heidren’).
Cause Blindness (Greek, I Perifrónisi tis Íras, ‘Scorn of Hera’).
Cure Blindness (Greek, Chéri tou Cheírona, ‘Hand of Chiron).
Cloud Memory (Waters of Lethe).
Enchant – Alternative terms: Bewitch, Charm, Hex, Curse, Spellbind, Ensorcell, Cunning, Annoint, Consecrate, and use a thesaurus to offer alternative terms for the sub-spells. EG: Ye Cunning Opuscule of Ye Laughing Sangesuge.
Classes and levels in some games, sure, special abilities and magical equipment in a lot of them, almost universally the getting caught up in more significant events of meaning and significance.
What really makes a hero, or perhaps should, is luck and experience. Adventurers put themselves in harm’s way all the time, and yet, consistently manage to escape in one piece. As they do, they learn things few other people manage to learn. They gain the kind of honed skills and situational awareness that only seasoned combat veterans typically get in the real world.
Of course, experience in the real world doesn’t count for shit when an IED goes off under your chemical toilet. Real, authentic life is horribly random and doesn’t grant plot immunity for people with good stories. Even ironic deaths are only ironic in hindsight.
Very few games really play into these ideas of luck and bitter experience though. ‘Luck’ sometimes appears as a smallish pool of money, experience usually manifests in the form of increased and expanded skills and special abilities, but not in a more ‘usable’ form. You do find it, occasionally (Over the Edge First Edition, some versions of Deadlands – after a fashion) but overall, not so much.
Various story games and roleplaying styles have tried to get around this in one form or another.
Possibly the earliest version is ‘fudging dice rolls’, either to prolong the life of an in-game villain or to spare groups of characters the indignity of a Total Party Kill (TPK). Old School gamers are often critical of this and believe you should let the dice fall where they may.
Some games add mechanics like inspiration, fate, chits, tokens and so on to shift the probabilities around to favour a more heroic narrative, but very Even the most narrativey of narrative games doesn’t address this head-on, and perhaps some game should.
I made an attempt with my game ‘IRREPRESSIBLE!’, based (loosely) on the tales of Sun Wukong, the monkey god of Chinese myth. Well, more based on the English dub of the Japanese series about the Chinese legend of Journey to the West.
In that game, your party shares a pool of points which are represented b tokens in a bag, with one black token. As you do things, the things you’re more skilled at mean you draw fewer tokens, whereas the less skilled you are, the more tokens you draw. Draw a black token, and you fail (but all the spent tokens go back in the bag), draw one twice in a row, and something disastrous happens.
Simple, but effective, kind of like pushing your luck in Dread, which also – somewhat – addresses this.
What if, though, we had a game where your characters were relatively normal in their array of skills and abilities, compared to everyone else around them, but they had this ineffable luck. That along with a pool of experience spent, not to increase their capabilities, but as a resource, to boost rolls.
It’s a thought, but character progression is so integral to many people’s enjoyment of RPGs it’s hard to tell if it’s an idea they’d pick up on.
Did a really good first session, but after a few other games we’ve been playing over the last few years the speed and ease of play of Cyberpunk came as a pleasant surprise. Mission oriented play and the players trying to avoid mess and lengthy combat issues certainly helped, but we ploughed through a lot more than I had planned on! Fortunately Cyberpunk is easy to improvise for, so I was able to improv the additional adventures and we had a really good session.
Next time I’ll be able to start incorporating some of the characters’ personal hooks. Looking forward to it. Still, there’s no reason why other Cyberpunk 2020/Red gamers can’t take advantage of my work as well. Check out the previous video/posts for what it’s all about and the rules changes we’ve been making.
This is one of the adventure hooks we didn’t follow up on, but various companies in-setting have been using the fires as an excuse to test new equipment and gear, from AI assisted big-data processing to better predict weather and the best points to ‘attack’, to drone-swarm firefighting and other techniques. One of these efforts was an Australian tech start up, applying military and therapeutic exoskeleton technology to rescue applications. This is something some companies are already looking into, for load-bearing and equipment carrying – especially in high-rise fires, I just took the concept a bit further to a whole suit of ‘power armour’ designed for firefighting.
The mission would have been to insert into the fire zone and to steal the prototype for an unknown client. The mission would have been complicated by the fact that the start-up (FARPAC – Fire And Rescue Power Armature Concepts, based out of Northern Sydney), had been hired not to really fight the fire, but to retrieve certain objects and data from a ‘civilisational panic room’ mansion owned by an Australian billionaire.
Anyway, here’s the Power Armour prototpe stats, if you want to use them.
FARPAC Wahn X1 Proof of Concept Armature
Mission: Firefighting Unit Cost: Approx 250,000 euros in raw materials and technology, perhaps double that in terms of actual value and work sunk into it. A production version might cost 200,000. Chassis: Str 16, Lift 800, Carry 240 Toughness: 5 (Taken off damage before armour) Armour: SP 15 (30 Vs Fire/Heat – add 10 to both values if not using CPRed) Damage Modifier: D6+2 (Lethal) Sensors: Wideband Aperture Helmet Sensors and AR Overlay SIB: -2 DFB: +1 Controls: Advanced Utilities: Bodyweight Med System, Self-Seal Compression, 4 Hour Life Support, 8 Hour Powerplant (combination pneumatic/LiS battery system. I’ve allowed LiS batteries to double capacity in-setting with no extra cost).
Head: 4 SDP Internal: Wideband Aperture System SDP 15, Comm Link 5 SDP, 200 cost, 80km range.
Left Arm: 4 SDP Internal: 1 Winch and Grapple – 20kg – 500 bucks, SDP 40 Internal: 2 Fire Extinguisher 10 kg, SDP 20, 4 uses. 500 bucks. External: 1 Fire Extinguisher 10 kg, SP 10 SDP 20, 4 uses.
Right Arm: 4 SDP Internal: 1 Fire Extinguisher 10 kg, SDP 20, 4 uses. Internal: 2 Fire Extinguisher 10 kg, SDP 20, 4 uses. External: 1 Large Power Saw, SP 1/3rd, WA -2, 8D6AP, 1250 bucks, 15 kg, SP 10, SDP 25.
Torso: 12 SDP Internal: 1 Bodyweight Med System SDP 15 Internal: 2 Self Seal Compression SDP 50 Internal: 3 Self Seal Compression SDP 50 External: 1 Food/Filtration SDP 10 External: 2 Extended Life Support SP 20, SDP 20 – 4 hour support, 10 kg.
Left Leg: 8 SDP Internal: 1 Self Seal Compression SDP 50 Internal: 2 CO2 Scatter Pack WA +3 50 capsules, ROF 1d6, Range 50m, weight 2kg, SP 10 SDP 20 External: 1 CO2 Scatter Pack WA +3 50 capsules, ROF 1d6, Range 50m, weight 2kg, SP 10 SDP 20
Right Leg: 8 SDP Internal: 1 Self Seal Compression SDP 50 Internal: 2 CO2 Scatter Pack WA +3 50 capsules, ROF 1d6, Range 50m, weight 2kg, SP 10 SDP 20 External: 1 CO2 Scatter Pack WA +3 50 capsules, ROF 1d6, Range 50m, weight 2kg, SP 10 SDP 20
This is really little more than a wearable linear frame with lightweight, fireproof armour and an enclosed environment to protect from heat, smoke and fumes. The real innovation is in the sensor suite, heat shielding and feedback systems, enabling you to find and ‘feel’ your way as though you weren’t armoured at all.
In the setting cryonics has fallen completely out of favour with tech billionaires since the advent of general intelligence AI and the prospects that creates for the potential of consciousness upload. That’s where all the money is going now, and so the bottom has fallen out – along with all the funding – for cryonics research, storage and preparation.
A new company, Osiris Medical Technologies has sprung up, consolidating the debts and resources of these groups and companies as they go bust. They only, however, seem to be taking on the corpsicles and frozen heads that are a) profitable or potentially profitable, or b) have been vitrified using more modern preservation techniques.
The client in this particular case has hired them to retrieve one particular frozen head from a shipment being moved across the country to San Francisco from Alcor in Scottsdale Arizona, which is being wound up.
The players created an epic distraction and went after the head before the convoy left, but I’d done prep as though they were going to attack the convoy. So here you go…
HEMTT A3 Hybrid Truck/Generator
Unit Cost: 450,000 euros Top speed: 65mph Utilities: All-Wheel Drive (Off Road), Military Radio, Improved Handling +1 SP: 44 Composite Armour (SP 25-35 in CPRed, assuming a ‘B-Kit’. Without B-Kit armour assume a basic steel-mantle armour of SP 15/10) SDP: 100 (Body 5 – If not using Maximum Metal just reduce all incoming damage by 5 before armour) ACC/DEC: 10/30 Range: 1200 miles Mass Rating: 13 tons.
Refrigerated Military Container
A standard size shipping container with armour and a backup generator.
SP: 15 SDP: 50 Electronic Lock: DC 25
An electric/diesel hybrid civilian version of the popular military vehicle.
Top Speed: 100 mph Utilities: Off Road, Pintle Mount. ACC/DEC: 15/40 Range: 520 miles SP: 10 (Upgraded, standard car body would have SP 5) SDP: 60 (body 3, if not using Maximum Metal just drop all incoming damage by 3)
Osiris Medical Technology Convoy
The convoy consisted of the following:
2 x HUMVEE 1 x HEMTT Truck Truck Driver x1 Hummer Driver x2 w/pistols Hummer Guards x2 with SMG Truck Guard x1 Elite w/Pistol Medical Technician – Unarmed
Guards: 14 base attack rolls (16 for elite), 35/18 HP. HK416A5 Carbine 15/10/15/20/25/30 WA +1, 100 round cassette, 5.56 (5d6) ROF 20 10mm Glock – 2d6+1 AP, 20 round capacity. Snap-Out Batons D6 Body Armour vest and legs (Concealed) – 7 SP. Smart Glasses/Wireless Smartlink/Biomonitor Wristband +1 WA.
Elite Guard: Right arm cyberarm 20 SP, SDP 30, Shield pop-out with gun brace – Protects head and torso, Skinweave (5 sp), Base Attack: 16
Tactics Under Attack: Rear car: brake, stop, leave vehicle and try to flank ambushers. Front car: interpose between truck and attackers, stay in cover/vehicle and, return fire. Truck: brake and reverse toward reinforcements. Otherwise ram through obstruction.
Osiris Medical Technology
“Taking you to the future.”
Total Assets: 600 million+ Incorporated: 10th August 2019 CEO: Dr Cranston Baird Headquarters: Building 3, Bridgehead Road, Oakley San Francisco. Associated Groups: 21st Century Medicine, ACS, BPF, LES Foreign Partners: KrioRus
Osirus Medical Technolog sprang, seemingly, out of nowhere and gathered up the assets of the various bankrupted and struggling cryonics groups and foundations in the USA. They’ve been utterly ruthless and have discarded or ‘returned’ all remains frozen prior to the vitrification process.
They claim philosophical issues around ‘continuity of consciousness’ make digital upload non-viable as a true immortality and are spending a great deal of money on improving fMRI and other scanning technologies, nanotechnology, cloning and other associated technology that would be useful for ‘resurrection’.
I was underprepared for this one, but it meant travelling with smugglers to Hong Kong, infiltrating mainland China and breaking into Huawei’s big tech campus around their headquarters. The old campus, not the new, weird, pseudo-European one.
Besides normal security guards, surveillance and tech (such as drones, cameras and so on) the Chinese government has a vested interest in many of their companies and post political officers and even armed guards at key installations.
Security Drones: SP 10 SDP 15 – Electrical dart guns AP 1/4, D6 Taser effect. Basic Power Armour: Body 12, Armour 20 +1 WA Smart Helmet.
30 HP QSZ-92s. Attack Roll: 12
Huawei Security Systems: DC 25
The mission here was to put a stop to an ‘open source AI’ project before it could ever take off. The nerds involved got backing from a splinter-gang of the Brainiacs, H-Squared, who were a bit more open to cybernetic enhancement beyond neuralware and ardent posthumanists.
Typical Gangbangers H-Squared
30 HP 2d6 Pistol +2 WA 2d6 SMG +2 WA Awareness 19+2 (Optics) Attack 12+3 Armoured Trench/Bodysuit/Skinweave combo SP11 Sensory Boosts/Software +2 Cyberoptics Massive amounts of skillware – Any skill they are likely to need at +3
Drone Swarm: 1HP each, form a cloud of whirling ceramic fans that do 1d6x1d6 AP1/4 damage per turn.
Mongrel Robotic Guard Dog SP 15 HP 20, Jaws 2d6AP.
We’re playing 2020 in 2020, you can see some earlier posts on this blog about that. As part of that, I thought I’d put a little effort into some campaign material and world-setting (which is an even darker timeline version of our current 2020.
Huawei Backdoor data
Details on the Huawei backdoor could fetch a very high price on the open market, or provide a killer backdoor for any hacker who kept hold of the information.
A darknet broker, BAUHINIA97 claims to know where the information is being held on the Hauwei campus in Shenzen. He’s willing to front transport and expenses in Bitcoin, as a gamble, plus 10% of the final sale price of the data.
UK Arrest Warrants
There are riots, protests, violence and even terrorism all over the UK at the moment. COBRA seems to be in permanent session and this has accelerated the mass flight of capital and industry from the country that was already happening.
Police, reserves and the military have all alread been employed to handle basic duties, while the ‘proper’ police try to quell the riots and disruption, but politically the government cannot put troops ‘on the streets’ and so a great deal has gone out to private contract.
There are strict rules to follow, the warrants are for the individuals to be arrested and turned in to custody, but there’s quite a lot of them and they run anything up to 50,000 pounds reward for the top of the list.
Many different corporations and interests are using the bush inferno as an excuse and opportunity to test out new technology. That creates plenty of opportunities for corporate espionage, especially since communications are a bit unreliable.
One of your brokers is interested in the capture and retrieval of a firefighting exoskeleton being field tested by an Australian startup. The Crow-X1 is cutting edge fire protection, a completely sealed suit that’s supposed to be able to wade deep into the worst chemical fires to attack them at their source.
Reward is likely to run around 100k USD.
Black-market, hidden server farms are highly sought after for lucrative piracy, mob data storage and other illicit purposes. They’re also somewhat vulnerable, for all that there’s a great deal of money sunk into them.
A darknet broker is looking to hire a private group to raid a server farm currently lurking on the edge of Night City’s ‘combat zone’. If they know where it is they could just inform the police, so it seems like they want some incriminating data erased – with extreme prejudice.
10k USD, and preferential treatment for future work – if handled discretely.
One of the many small cryonics facilities that has gone bust has been bought out by Osiris. They’re shipping the ‘high rollers’ from a facility in Scottsdale Arizona to their new headquarters in San Francisco – by road, for the sake of safety.
Your broker has a contracter willing to pay 100k for the retrieval of one, specific high-roller cannister from the truck. If you’re up for it.
The next couple of days are the last days that you can pre-order Election Party, and we’re also looking for reviewers with reasonable traction to review the game. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re in a position to play and/or review the game.
I’m also doing a giveaway to promote the game, all you have to do is retweet this post, and you could win over 70 quid’s worth of gaming stuff!
My gaming group and I played Cyberpunk to death back in the day, and given that it’s now 2020, we’re playing ‘2020 in 2020’. I’ve also been considering creating a Cyberpunk Retroclone, for some time, but had been somewhat dubious about doing so. The time feels, sort of, right now though.
My intent is to produce a generic, broadly compatible rules-set that can be applied to many different settings (*punk) and then – perhaps – to provide different prefixes as supplemental material. (Cyber*, Steam*, Bamboo*, Bio*) that can be ‘plugged in’.
Some of this will be produced as a side-effect of me creating and running this campaign. I’ll blog about it a bit more, as I go.
It’s only January the 6th and I’m already a bit overstretched. Despite one of my resolutions being not to let that happen.
This is for good reasons at least! I used the end of last year to raise money for my friend Jamie’s wheelchair – which he should be getting soon, but we do need a bit more funding to cover fitting and customisations should you feel generous.
I’ve also done a couple of things and have given money to help fight the Australian Fires. I’d encourage other people to do that too.
I’ve also had to help out a couple of hard-up friends (worse off than me) over the holiday period.
I don’t know that I have the energy to do justice to another fundraising campaign right now, and there’s always a great deal of negativity from certain quarters when I run the scholarship. Negativity I don’t feel as equipped to tackle as usual.
I did, recently, discover some of Zel’s art that hadn’t been published yet. I will be putting the usable parts of this art up for sale, piece by piece, in the coming weeks and days.
Sales raised just about $100 specifically for the scholarship last year. I will invest that money in new pieces of art, from people that need commissions.
Otherwise, I throw this open to artists associated with the game industry or fandom, if you want to donate any pieces to the cause of raising money for next year and helping more young artists, it would be greatly appreciated.