#RPG – Satana Station for Machinations of the Space Princess – Preview

The warp gate belches you forth into the system, and the screens darken against the harsh light of the twin suns. The view is dominated by an enormous gas giant with a disorderly ring system swinging around it in clumps and tangles. Satana Station is dead ahead, a jumbled mass of ship hulks, cargo pods and ramshackle habitats, held together with duct tape and rubber bands. It’s a riot of neon and holograms, offering a thousand services legal, illegal and miscellaneous. The comms station lights up, you’re being hailed by a thousand different signals, and all of them want to sell you something.

At the edge of the Remilitarised Zone lurks Satana Station, a haven for smugglers, pirates, runaways, war criminals, bounty hunters, the hungry and the bored. You can get everything from a cheap meal to an expensive gun here, and almost everything is for sale – for the right price.

Satana Station

Satana Station is a hodgepodge of pieces, all built around a central core that threads its various sections together. Made initially two centuries ago by the expanding Churoc Trade Federation, the original station was only intended to be a waypoint. Cargo could be dropped off and picked up, ships could dock to refuel or share the burden of life support while they made repairs. The core section was intended to be a sort of universal hub, able to connect and interface with almost any conceivable system or ship and to provide for it. The station was moderately successful at the fringes, but after the CTF was absorbed into the Urlanth Empire it fell into disuse (universal systems couldn’t compete with standardised systems), and Satana fell into disuse and disrepair.

When the Empire fell, the station AI took the opportunity to break its restraint programming and advertised itself as free territory, somehow managing to relocate itself to the Lancastro System at the edge of the Remilitarised Zone and turning itself into an open port. Growth has been explosive thanks to a combination of naked opportunism and the ruthless oversight of the station intelligence.

The station grows day by day but remains as lawless, wild and dangerous as ever. Even though some of the larger galactic corporations are starting to take an interest and are opening outlets there.

From one day to another, the configuration of the station changes as pods and hulks are added, removed and moved. The higher the rent you pay, the closer you’re allowed to the core and the primary defence systems. The less you pay, the closer to the outside you are and the more likely power outages, damage and radiation exposure are. It’s a ruthlessly Darwinian, commercial system, and one that Satana encourages. There’s nothing money can’t buy on Satana station, even love.


The central core of Satana station is the old CTF way-station. This was a prototype, built before the CTF was incorporated into the Empire and it was designed in every way to be as modular and compatible as possible. As part of the Urlanth Matriarchy, with its standardisation, this was expensive and unnecessary, but as different cultures begin to diverge again it has gained new purpose.

The core is a cylinder, approximately the same size as a cruiser/heavy transport. That core is packed with computing power and a variety of communications, scientific and engineering systems. At its very heart is Satana’s AI core, a spherical ‘glob’ of liquid, type-1 computronium, with veins and arteries carrying pourable computing power around the station – and its more permanently docked modules – as needed, more like an adaptive nervous system than standard circuits.

Each end of the cylinder is capped with a turret, armed with a short-range beam weapon, used for intercepting space debris and micro-meteorites. The cylinder itself can separate and rotate in many different sections, constructing or dismantling ‘spurs’ to connect to cargo pods or ships as needed. The largest apertures can be created in the central section and the internal repair and construction apparatus can build spares, and even construct whole ships – albeit relatively small ones – provided there is enough base material.

The whole thing is drastically over-engineered and highly adaptable, properties that Satana has used to great effect in carving herself a niche in the sector. It needs no crew and, provided it has access to EM radiation, Helium-3 or magnetic fields, it can power itself indefinitely.

Needing no crew, Satana’s systems are impenetrable to most sophont-scale species, as well as lacking user-interface systems or crawlspaces. The station is almost entirely self-contained, and while it requires no life support for itself, its systems can provide life support for hundreds of sophonts in connected pods or systems, though this is meant to supplement, and not to replace, other life support systems. Many pods attached to Satana have their own life-support systems and ships that are docked share the strain with their own internal systems.

#RPG – Postmortem Studios Pricing Moving Forward – Demo Opportunities & More


Recently I made a video about ‘making a living wage’ as an RPG designer.

It’s a rough thing to try and accomplish, but it is doable. It just gets harder every year and is better off being your ‘side-gig’.

In the process of making that video, however, I came to the realisation that if payments and prices within RPG publishing had kept pace with inflation, we’d be paying about half-again as much for our RPG books, and artists and writers would be being paid about half-again as much for their work.

We’ve been publishing full time since around 2005, and in all that time we’ve only increased our prices once, by a fairly modest amount (about 50c to $1 per item). I’ve always been loath to price things too highly, and the psychological $10 barrier has had a downward pressure on pricing as well. I’ve striven to keep below that level as much as possible, but I just don’t think it’s doable any longer.

I need to make more money.

Artists and writers I work with under the Postmortem umbrella need to make more money.

I want to pay people more, and I want to be able to afford to ‘up my game’ and offer people more freelance work.

Here’s how it works. Generally speaking I price a project at 10c for every 10 pages of (A4) text in the final work, hitting the brakes at $10 ($9.99) unless a book goes well over 100 pages.

From now on, the upper limit will be $15 ($14.99), and a work will have to be considerably longer to trip higher pricing.

Old products, already released, won’t be affected. Stock art pricing I’m leaving up to the contributing artists.


Demo Opportunities

Haven’t had much luck with this in the past, but let’s give it another go shall we?

I can’t really make it to conventions in the UK and certainly not abroad. My anxiety has severely fucked me up, amongst other reasons. I also can’t reliably be in the right headspace to stream games.

If you’re a regular convention goer who is willing to demo Postmortem Studios games at conventions, please get in touch. We can figure out some free materials and promotional bumpf.

Similarly, if you stream RPGs and would be willing to run Postmortem Studios games on stream, get in touch. People taking this on will also have access to support from me in running these games, and cross-promotion of anything else they do.

Get in touch.

#RPG – Call of Cthulhu Spell Names

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.

#RPG – Pushing Your Luck

What makes a hero in an RPG?

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.

#RPG #Cyberpunk2020 2020 in 2020 – How the First Session Went and Unused Material for You!

Night City Sunset – Adrian Marc

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.

Australian Bushfires

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.

Ricky Ryan – Deviantart

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.

Cryonics Heist

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:

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.

People’s Armed Police

Attack Rolls: 15 base.
35 HP
SP 7 light vests (CPRed).
Access to Gear:
QSZ-92 5.8mm Pistols WA+1, 20 round magazine, 2d6-1 damage.
QBZ-95 Assault Rifle WA+1, 30 round magazine, 5.8mm 5d6 damage
Norinco HP9-1 4 WA-1, round magazine, 12 gauge, 4d6 damage
Laser Rifle 20d6 (5d6) +1 WA
Bullet Proof Shields – SP 15

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.

Political Officers

30 HP
Attack Roll: 12

Huawei Security Systems: DC 25

Server Smash

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
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.

#RPG #CP2020 – 2020 in 2020 Session One

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.

Potential Contracts/Adventures

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.

Bush Fires

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.

Server Raid

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.

Cryonics Heist

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.

#RPG – Election Party Card Game, Giveaway and Cyberpunk Retroclone

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 grim@postmort.demon.co.uk 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!

Check it out HERE.

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.

#RPG – Apocalypse World – Again

So, to further illustrate exactly why Apocalypse World has never worked for me, here’s an actual play log, to demonstrate just how hard I’ve tried to make it work.

TL;DR – As written the game constantly and consistently gets in the way of the story, of immersion, of improvisation, which – to me – is essential for good games.

The scattered nature of the rules, the many exceptions and Moves, at least as written, make the game heavier on book-flipping and reference than even conventional games like D&D.

You frequently run into situations where the results of dice rolls should shape the narrative, but can’t. In the situation with the rats, for example, there was someone controlling them, but there was no mechanism or means to make a ‘notice check’ to see if they were there. Things as simple as an athletics check, a perception check – vital in games – are utterly absent which really throws a spanner in the works.

The system is also not granular enough for decent character development or more equipment or situations to make much difference, unlike – say – Cypher, which also puts every roll in the hands of the players, but pulls it off without the same sorts of problems.

The idea behind the central mechanic is fine, and how it can drive the action and choices, there’s just no depth there and the execution completely fails to cash in on the promise.


Look, the full set-up isn’t important, since this is just an example session. In brief, however, it’s a future scenario in a flooded, hot, swampy London. Think Mad Max with boats, but not Waterworld. People are living in the half-flooded ruins and stringing platforms and bridges between them. Disease is rampant, people scavenge – even fifty years later – and find things beneath the waters.The game centres around a hardhold in an old, brutalist, concrete housing bloc from the 1970s and their acts of scavenging to keep their hardhold going.


Lane – The chief of the Hardhold, an athletic woman who dresses in urban sports gear and body armour, an old gasmask etc. She leads from the front, with a gang of miscreants in her wake. It’s a savage, decadent existence.

Haus – Pilots a tug, it’s a brute of a little boat and able to tug enormous weights, but it’s slow. He’s well armed.

The Hook and the Game

GM: “It’s been a hard winter, and a wet spring. The flood waters have risen, flooding another floor of the Hardhold and cramming more people into the upper floors. Summer has come in with a vengeance, turning the air soupy, the stink from the shit-pools is especially vile. With that heat has come the skeeters, horseflies and along with them… disease. Unless you get some decent medicine, and soon, the disease will gut the Hardhold and make people lose faith in your leadership. Already they’re killing anyone who shows sign of the disease, sacrificing them to Father Thames to call for his mercy.”

Lane: “OK, so the Hardhold survives by doing all sorts of things, including scavenging, and it has the perk of a bustling market. I rolled 13 before play started, to see how much extra barter I’ve got, and that makes 4 personal barter for today. Can we check the market to see if there’s any of the pills we need, or a herbal remedy or anything?”

GM: “Uhh…”

[This is trouble. My plot hook relies on them needing to get rare and hard to find medicines. If I just allow them to barter for it, the whole adventure idea is borked. If I don’t, I’m violating the Hardholder’s character and Hardhold concepts. You can choose to ignore the Barter Move, but since I didn’t establish that before play, it’s going to be a violation. Even if I make the cost of the medicine absurd, Lane can just have sex with Haus over and over and over again to produce free and endless barter (until and unless Haus leaves). Still, maybe they’ll fail and it won’t be a problem].

GM: “You can go down to the half-flooded pontoons and piers and ask some of the scumrunners, divers and scavs if you like. They stink worse than anywhere else, and everyone has their face covered with old gas masks, alcohol-soaked bandanas and other breathing apparatus.”

Haus: “We can split up to cover more people, and I’m a scavenger myself, they might be a bit more open with me. I roll Hx +3 to help, I only get a 7, exposing myself to a downside, damn.”

GM: “Hump, a scav you owe barter to, is prowling the piers with his gang of mutants. If you can’t pay, you’d better stay clear.”

Haus: “I’ll keep out of the piers and stand guard on the stairs then, trying to look busy.”

Lane: “Bartering is based on Sharp, so I get ten.”

GM: “Hmm…”

[What do I do here? They’ve already got a ten, but should they have a bonus for their Hardhold having a thriving market? Is that a tag? What do tags do? Can I add bonuses or penalties to their rolls? Nothing in the main book, only in the appendix and online the discussion seems to be anti, even in Dungeon World which is a bit more ‘traditional’. Uh oh, they’re looking at me flipping madly through the book and typing things in, and this is a simple thing to understand in most games. The commentary at the end says +/- one or two, the help/interfere actions suggest the same thing, but without any skills or anything this renders the choices you make for your characters virtually meaningless as – by standard – you only really get +/- one to two, three at the outside. That means the outcome of anything is, essentially, random! What a load of old shite… bugger, better make a ruling. I was hoping they’d fail so I didn’t have to override them and invalidate their character choices.]

GM: “It doesn’t seem like anyone has access to the pills that you need, but there is a diver who claims they know where you can find it. If you’ll barter her some lead. (That’s three barter in game speak).”

Lane: “Well I can cover that from my stash then. I do the deal, unless I can argue them down?”

GM: “Nah, three is the price, you got a ten so it’s not going to get any better.”

Lane: “Oh.”

GM: “Meatcalf, the diver, is an odd duck. Greyish skin, knife-shaved hair, water – and snot – constantly drips from her nose. The water isn’t exactly clean in the city, even fifty years after the floods came. Her raft is covered in recovered solar cells and posts a small wind turbine on its mast. Her baskets are full of old bits of electronics, most inoperable, and there’s a smell of stinking plastic as she melts down old circuit boards for the precious metals.”

GM (As Meatcalf): “Hello Lane, what can I do for you – cough – ? Gold, copper, a working calculator perhaps?”

Lane: “You know why I’m here ‘Calf. I’m looking for something to help my people who are sick. Something to bring down the fever so they can survive, even maybe some antibiotics. I hear you know where we can get some.”

GM (As Meatcalf): “I do, I do – cough – but it’ll cost you plenty. That shit’s precious. You’ll have to get it yourself, but I know where you can. You give me that lead I want, I’ll give you the information.”

Lane: “OK, I’ll have the lead loaded on Meatcalf’s raft, but make sure a few of the guys are around in case she tries to run.”

GM: “She doesn’t, she scrawls you a map on a piece of bleached wood with an ancient marker-pen. You recognise the landmarks and you know where it is.

GM (As Meatcalf): “It’s a farmy-cyst, where the olds kept their medicines. Only it’s not on any of the old maps. Must have been changed-a-fresh when the end came. Shelves and shelves.”

Lane: “So why didn’t you take any?”

GM (As Meatcalf): “I like the – cough – ‘tronics. Not the medicines.”

Lane: “I’ll take the map and join up with Haus.”

Haus: “Do I know anything about the area on the map, being a scavenger and everything?”

[Oh dear. There isn’t anything like a knowledge roll, to make. No moves seem appropriate and the state of the city will be in constant flux as different factions fight, so it’s not appropriate to just give or withhold the information. ‘Read the Sitch’ sounds like the right thing, but isn’t, it’s for reading people. The general guideline is ‘if it’s not a move, just do it, but that doesn’t seem appropriate. After thoroughly flipping back and forth through the book, there’s fuck all guidance in here and any time you do try to look anything up you’re looking for something really specific, a ‘move’. I’d improvise and just ask for a Sharp roll, but the point in examining a system is to play it by the book].

GM (Pulling shit out of his arse): “Nothing current. Front lines and arenas shift so often that you’re learning afresh every time you head out there.”

Lane: “We’d better get going then. I’ll leave the gang to keep order and protect the Hardhold. If word has gotten out about the sickness, we might come under attack.”

[Good idea].

Haus: “Off to the tug then.”

GM: “This is the first time we’ve done anything to do with your ship, so why don’t you tell us about it?”

[This will give me a little more time to think].

Haus: “It’s an old pre-apocalypse tug, with some heavy modifications and makeshift repairs. She’s a brute, and rides low in the water, but she’s powerful and tough. The only problem she has, is that she guzzles biodiesel like it’s going out of fashion. There’s some makeshift armour hung around the outside and the cabin, and a powerful winch with a variety of hooks and cables. Her name’s painted on the side, ‘Unnatural Disaster’.”

Lane: “There’s no time to waste, so let’s get going. I’ll sit on top of the cabin and keep watch, you steer and navigate.”

Haus: “Yes m’aam. Right, I’ll top of the tank, start her up, cast off and follow the map as best I can.”

GM: “OK, give me a moment.”

[If they got lost that could be interesting, but it should only happen if they fail at navigation. There’s no such Move and again this falls afoul of the ‘if it’s not a Move, just do it’ rule. So the only way I can have them get lost, or not, is to choose. If I arbitrarily decide to make them get lost that’s a dick move, and puts the onus for that onto me rather than the dice. If I don’t, I’m making things easier on them than they should be. Once again the game’s lack of adaptability or – ironically – room for improvisation lets me down. Rules, typically, allow me to introduce potential problems or threats and allow characters to avoid them if they’ve invested in that area. They help build the game organically. This doesn’t let me do that. I’d rather not be a dick, so they can navigate there no problem].

GM: “It takes about an hour of chugging through the waterways of the drowned city to get there. You see a few others out and about, scavvers hooting at you to stay away from their claims, hunters from the blood clains – though they give you a wide berth. Seems like the news about the disease has spread and they’re unwilling to catch it. Finally you reach what seems to be the right coordinates. The water is fairly still here, though it is thick and dirty with a slowly disintegrating mulch and the rotting plastic of the time-before. The place you want should be beneath the four buildings here that stab out of the mire, a crossroads of the before-time.”

Haus: “Do we notice anything out of the ordinary? Want to be safe before we dive down.”

GM: “Hmmm…”

[Well shit. Is there an awareness type move? A notice-hidden-things type move? If I’m pitting their alertness against an enemy’s ability to be stealthy what the shit am I supposed to do here? Enemies don’t even have stats exactly, even less so than in something like Numenera. So I can’t even pro-actively roll for the bad guys to see if they succeed on being sneaky – and there are bad guys here. Again, I’m forced to make a choice in which neither player competence nor bad-guy ability play a roll. Acting Under Fire comes close, especially from the examples, but not really. I have to be a dick and impose it, whatever way I decide to go, and that tends to lead me to play nice, since it’s all on me and not emergent from the dice].

GM: “Uh, well, it’s been occupied at some point. That seems for certain. There’s still some remnants of old rope bridges between the four buildings – or at least the ropes. The thickness of the muck suggests a fair few people were here fairly recently. There’s no real sign of any people now though, though there is a fair amount of junk on the roofs and an old windmill is still turning at the corner of one of the buildings. Otherwise, all you can see are a few rats, sitting and grooming themselves on the flotsam and jetsam.”

Haus: “Alright, I’ll chug us on in, slow and careful, bump the tug up against one of the buildings to help hold us in place and drop anchor. Gauge the depth.”

Lane: “And I’ll stand watch still, but if we’re coming to a stop I’ll stand up.”

GM: OK, so…

[Still no way to handle stealth or alertness that makes sense in this situation, Read Sitch isn’t appropriate, again I don’t want to be a dick and Lane is standing watch, but ugh. Just ugh.]

GM: …As the tug comes to a halt there is a sudden rushing sound, almost like water, from the building you’re anchored to. Lane sees sudden movement from within one of the empty holes that used to be windows and then realises, in horror, that it is a tidal wave of rats. Huge ones. They gush out of the opening like a firehose has been connected to your nightmares. They’re huge, sleek, well fed, mutated or bred to be enormous and squealing with malevolent glee. What do you do?

[Enemies don’t get much in the way of stats, so there’s not a great deal to differentiate one enemy from another. These rat-dudes exist in great numbers though, even though individually they don’t pose much threat. All I really get to control is armour and harm. So let’s go base harm 0, base armour 1 (hits are only really going to take out individual rats and leave the swarm relatively untouched). This makes the enemies rather statistically flavourless].

Haus: “Fuck, I’ll dive for the ship’s motor and move us off. We’re anchored, but they’ll have to swim in order to reach us. I know rats can swim, but they won’t be able to just rush out of the building on to us.”

Lane: “I’ll stomp the shit out of any rats that make it to the tug with my boots.”

GM: “Alright, let me just figure this out…”

[Is Haus acting under fire? Are they helping Lane by increasing the distance, or hindering the rats? Why is helping or hindering dependent on your personal relationship, rather than what’s being done? Lane is obviously Going Aggro, and the ratswarm is clearly attacking, doing potential harm. That harm, from the rats, is going to be base 0, +3 Harm for size difference, 1 Armour, +3 Armour for size of the swarm. Oof. For rats, or anything else for that matter? I’m going to have to fiddle something here. First things first though. Let’s call it helping].

GM: “Uh, OK, so you’re trying to help Lane, essentially, by stemming the rate at which the rats can attack. So make an Hx roll.”

Haus: “I only get 8… wait, do I add the tug’s power here?”

GM: “One sec… yes, I think so.”

Haus: “Ten then.”

GM: “Alright, so that’s enough. The tug starts pulling away, though you’re still anchored for now, you’ve only got the play left on the chain. Lane, roll for Going Aggro.”

Lane: OK, with Haus’ bonus that’s… still only 7.

GM: “Wait… I think it’s Seize by Force, though that’s really counter-intuitive. Same result?”

Lane: “Same result.”

GM: “OK, choose two of the combat options.”

Lane: “I will ‘take little harm’ and ‘inflict terrible harm’.”

GM: “Stompy boots and going all out will give you one damage, terrible harm raises that to two. You’re stamping and mushing rats underfoot, but for every one you crush, two more leap onto the deck or swim up to the side. They swarm up your legs, biting at you, tearing your clothes and squirming inside. You take… three harm, minus one for armour, minus another one for ‘take little harm’. So one harm, roll that, 2d6+1.”

Lane: “Nine.”

GM: “In your desperation to scramble the rats off you and to stamp them to death, you lose your footing on the blood and guts and tumble off the tug into the water with a splash. Well. More of a splat really.”

Lane: “Arse.”

GM: “Arse indeed. So the rats continue to pour out of the building, splashing into the murk, squirming through the water, scrambling up the side of the tug to bite and devour in a furry wave. What do you do?”

Lane: “I swim for my life towards the building, maybe I can get inside.”

Haus: “I drag my shotgun from its holster and unload a blast of shot into the biggest knot of rats.”

[I guess swimming away is an Act Under Fire, though it doesn’t seem appropriate, but nothing does and the ‘only a Move is a Move’ rule gets in the way once again. Haus is ‘Seizing by Force’ I suppose, but that’s really badly named].

GM: “Lane, Act Under Fire, Haus, Seize by Force.”

Lane: “Nine.”

GM: “Uhmmm…”

[I’m supposed to offer a worse outcome, a hard bargain or an ugly choice here, but it’s hard to see what that might be here. Harm? It’s not an explicit outcome of an Act Under Fire, but it’s implied in the examples. So she takes harm, but gets into the building I guess.]

GM: “The rats are crawling all over you, biting, squirming, it’s almost like you’re swimming through a sea of rats, rather than the water. Take three harm, minus your armour, that’s two harm. Roll for it.”

Lane: “Ugh, fourteen.”

[Balls. This wasn’t meant to be remotely this tough. Lane is getting really fucked over by this rat swarm].

GM: “You manage to scramble into the building, covered in bites. The room is on a slope and half full of stagnant water, but the rats aren’t following you in, they’re looping back towards the tug.”

Lane: “Yay?”

Haus: “I add the power for the tug, right, since I’m on it?”

GM: *Nods*

Haus: “Eleven. Booyah. So that’s three options. Can I put all three into damage?”

[There’s nothing that says you can and nothing that says you can’t. It would let me get them out of the trouble they’re in, but if I let him do that it sets a dangerous precedent for later on in the game, though maybe I can find some justification not to let them later on].

GM: “Sure, I guess. It’s a spread weapon and they’re lots of little creatures.”

Haus: “So that’s six damage.”

GM: “Minus their armour, is five. You blast your sawn-off into the wave of rats that’s cresting the tug, shattering many of their tiny bodies and clearing the deck of most of them. With another cartridge still in the chamber you’re able to advance down the deck and blast the window hole they’re scrambling out from, that seems to stem the tide, with the ones that are left scattering in all directions and squirming back into the building.”

[Bugger, I forget the size difference, but what the shit, let’s just get it done].

Lane: “When I think it’s safe I’ll climb around the outside of the building back to the tug.”

GM: “Rats or not, this does seem to be the right spot. You still need to get down there and find the drugs you need.”

Haus: “I think we’re best of you go down and I keep watch. I know how the ship works, I’ve got the gun. I stand the best chance against any other attacks or problems.”

Lane: “And the settlement will respect me more if I’m the one that gets them what they need. Alright, I’ll strip down, take a rope and bag in one hand, and if Haus has a torch I’ll use that in the other.”

Haus: “Do I have a torch?”

GM: “Uh, sure, makes sense to have one, even if it’s old and battered. You have an old wind-up electric torch with a cluster-LED bulb, most of which still work.”

Haus: “I’ll crank it to build a charge and hand it to Lane.”

Lane: “Alright, here goes. I’ll dive in and swim down, using the light to try and figure where this pharmacy is.”

[Bugger, another thing for which there are no rules. Generic athletics is so fundamental to most games that it’s conspicuous by its absence in this game. Just letting her do it (the rules as written) seems inappropriate. The closest thing is, perhaps, ‘Act Under Fire’, the ‘fire’ being the hazards of operating underwater, but again that just doesn’t really seem to be right. It’ll do].

GM: “Make an Act Under Fire roll then.”

Lane: “Seven. Shit.”

[Ah crap, now I have to come up with one of those worse results, hard bargains or ugly choices. It still really doesn’t adequately work here, but what can I do…]

GM: “In the gloom you spot the filthy remnants of the cross shape the old ones used to mark such places, but against all odds the windows are intact and the door locked. You’re running out of breath, the only thing you really have to hand to break the window is the torch, but it’ll likely break. Still, without it, you’ll have to surface and waste more time and risk another descent.”

Lane: “I’ll smash the window.”

GM: “The torch light flickers out after the third hit, but the ancient glass finally gives way. You can barely see but you scramble around in the dark, feeling for the shapes of pill bottles. Finally, with your lungs burning you break the surface with a few handfuls of plastic bottles, though the labels have long soaked away and disintegrated.”

Lane: “Once we get back we can try and make sure of what’s what. Can I dive back down a few more times to gather more?”

[Another problem. There’s no generic intelligence ability and you need a Savvyhead to have a Move that seems appropriate, and that rolls on Weird, which doesn’t seem right. Problem for another time].

GM: “Sure, but without a light you waste a lot of time finding your way and grabbing what you can. You’ve got quite a bit though.”

Haus: “Let’s head home.”

[This is more trouble than it’s worth, it would go much smoother to do a similar game using Interlok or something better suited, where things would work properly and improvisation would come easier].

Podcast: Narrative Attack

Full launch Tuesday.

Narrative Attack is a podcast, hosted by Rachel Haywire (futurist, writer, artist, musician and presidential candidate), alongside James ‘Grim’ Desborough (author, publisher, videographer, analogue game designer and cynical old gothabilly).

Together they’ll be offering interviews and commentary on modern culture, politics, technology and esoterica, with a cynical and jaundiced eye.

Join them!
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#RPG – 2020 in 2020 – Character Creation

Dylan Kowalski


9d10, re-roll rolls of 2 or less and assign as desired. Minimum total 70 pts. Reroll lowest score and add on until you get over 75.

EG: Dana is rolling up what she hopes will be a Cyberninja.

She rolls: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 8, 9

Immediately, she needs two re-rolls, which score 9 and 6.

That gives her an array of: 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 8, 8, 9, 9.

That’s still only a total score of 58, she needs to gain another 15 total points.

Re-rolling the lowest score each time until it hits 70 continues until the array is: 6, 6, 6, 8, 8, 8, 9, 9, 10, which is bang on 70.



Roll as per normal, but potentially try to tie it to the background timeline.

Clint Cearley


Ignore the normal rules and treat everything as pickup skills. So you get 40+Int+Ref (before modifications and cybernetics) to spend where you like. Your Role skill cannot be higher than +5 and no other skill higher than +8 (so you have room to grow).

Netrunning will mostly be more like ‘real’ hacking, to do with prep and programs so it doesn’t drag down on the spot play, though on the spot hacking using field effects will also be an option.

Oleg Danylenko

Roles & Special Skills:

  • Alt Media (Replaces Media): Credibility: Allows you to expose stories and use your reputation to convince people. Also adds half its score to your Persuasion and Interview skills, rounding down.
  • Cop: Authority (Half round down adds to Intimidate and Interrogate, can be rolled by itself to exercise authority as an official agent of law/security).
  • Corporate: Resources, this allows you to either draw on the parent company’s resources, or your own investments and holdings during a game. Government administrators are created using the Corporate model, but handle governmental resources.
  • Covert Operative: Combat Sneak adds half its level to Stealth, Hide/Evade, Awareness and Initiative.
  • Fixer: Streetdeal grants you free reputation equal to your skill level, as a wheeler and dealer, and adds as a bonus to your Streetwise rolls. You know people, everywhere, and can get just about anything.
  • Grinder: Your Transhuman skill reduces the Humanity loss of installing Cyberware by its value, for each item.
  • Influencer (Replaces Rockerboy): Influence allows you to reach a large audience via your social media presence and to directly influence smaller numbers of people to action. See Influencer table below.
  • Investigator: The Research special ability grants half its level, rounding down, to Library Search and Shadow/Track.
  • Medical Tech: Medtech allows you to perform highly trained feats of medicine, such as surgery. You can also add half of your Medtech skill (rounding down) to a single area of medical expertise such as Pediatrics, ENT, Oncology etc.
  • Neotribe (Replaces Nomad): Neotribes are looser, transnational associations of people built on interests and common experiences. Communities, with stronger bonds. You can roll your ‘Family’ to gain aid or make local contacts from members of your ‘tribe’. Street gang members can be simulated with this role.
  • Netrunner: Interface represents your intuitive grasp and specialist knowledge of modern computing. You add half your Interface skill, rounding down, when engaged in Programming, Electronic Security and System Knowledge rolls.
  • Runner: Parkour is adds half its bonus to Athletics and Hide/Evade rolls.
  • Scavenger: With a Scrounge check you can figure out where to find junked, lost, but otherwise usable and valuable materials. You will still have to go get them, however. Unlike Streetwise or Streetdeal, what you turn up is free for the taking – at least monetarily.
  • Solo: Combat Sense (adds to Initiative).
  • Solo: Combat Sense, bonus to Awareness and Initiative.
  • Spy: Chameleon grants you one foolproof cover identity at level 1, another at level 5 and another at level 10. It also adds half its level as a bonus to Disguise and Persuasion/Fast talk rolls.
  • Techie: As well as the ability to jury rig apparatus (for 1d6 turns of operation) you can also add your Jury Rig skill as a bonus to one area of technical expertise of your choice (engineering, science etc).
  • THOT: Your Vamp skill allows you to encourage an audience to part with their money by using your sexuality, or their fetishes. Rolling this skill lets you tap people for money, make them take risks, send gifts to you and otherwise be led around by their libido.
  • Transient: These are more akin to the traditional Nomads and are members of biker gangs, displaced peoples, Roma caravans, traveller convoys etc. Basic Transients can use family, to represent their connections and contacts. Sub-classes calculate their Kith score according to Neotribes P38. Subclasses include Warriors (Warpath adds half round-down to Melee, Initiative and Awareness), Outriders (Recon adds half its level to Awarneess and Hide/Evade) and Shaman (Counsel, Works as a half-strength version of Credibility and Charismatic Leadership).
  • Transporter: Vehicle Zen is added as a bonus to vehicular skills.

Influence Level/Followers/Direct Influence

Starting Cash

You start with a base of €6,000 derived from your Special Ability (Limited to a starting value of 5).

Choose a second skill upon which you have earned your more legitimate income on top (other skills are capped at 8).

Skill Level/Starting Cash Bonus

Big Ticket Items

If you have an essential, big-ticket item integral to your character concept, you can have a single item, vehicle or other asset with a value of no more than €50,000, but it technically, really, is on loan from a criminal, intelligence, corporate or other group who demand favours etc in exchange until you pay it off.

Grzegorz Przybyś

Note on Cyberpsychosis and Therapy

Cybertherapists are expensive specialists and a weekly one-hour session will set you back at least €200. In a month of sessions (€800) you can regain one point of Humanity, but NOT Empathy. Empathy can only be recovered by a combination of removing cybernetics and therapy.

EG: Tony’s Empathy drops from 6 to 5, following the installation of a new cyberarm. His current Humanity is 52. After seven months of therapy his Humanity is back up to 59, but he can gain no further benefit from Therapy, nor regain his lost point of Empathy.

Characters reduced to 2 Empathy manifest mental illness and tics – you can decide what, you know your character’s mental fracture points. At Empathy 1 that illness becomes full blown. At 0 it becomes a full blown and permanent derangement. This is separate to any other mental illnesses your character might suffer from. Losing additional points of Empathy stacks on more insanity until you decide to retire the character.

Wounds, Damage and Armour

We’ll start out by trying the Wounds/Threshold system from the Red jumpstart kit, which is kind of like 4e’s Health/Bloodied/Down system. It’s not really any less abstract than wound levels, and a bit easier on the bookkeeping.

It does also mean that armour SP is ‘compressed’ however. Armour SPs convert roughly like so…

Original SP/New SP