EMAIL LIST/GROUP

Social Media is INCREDIBLY fickle on actually showing people stuff. This is the case across Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, algorithms just keep getting in the way of a timeline based on… time.

So I’ve gone a bit old-school and have set up an email list/Google Group. So if you want a (probably monthly) update, so you don’t miss anything, please sign up!

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/postmortem-studios-fan-group/join

#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appropriate to invoke works well, as does delving into a thesaurus, or etymological dictionary to find obscure or outdated terminology you can put to use.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

HUMVEE Hybrid

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’.

HUAWEI Raid

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
QSZ-92s.
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
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.

#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 – Zelart Scholarship for Genre Artists 2019-2020

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.

You can contact me at grim@postmort.demon.co.uk

#RPG #Horror – Actual Fucking Monsters RPG sales to Support the Australian Red Cross for 24 hours

I’ve just donated $50 AUD to the Australian Red Cross who are helping people made homeless by the fires.

For the next 24 hrs all profit from sales of Actual Fucking Monsters or its companion from anywhere, will go to the same cause.

LINK

#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.

Setting

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.

Characters

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].

#RPG – Tales of Gor Sidequest – The Inn on the Borderland RELEASED!

A ‘side quest’ for Tales of Gor, Inn on the Borderland places you in contested ground between two cities at war. You are about to get caught up in matters of intrigue, honour, survival and coin. Can you survive?

This book also contains a handful of errata and rules for creating and running settlements.

Ta Sardar Gor!

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