Friday, 24 August 2018

Adrift on the Night's Black Sea: Rules (Of A Sort)

A science-fantasy setting represents a fairly significant break from the implied 16th century Europe setting of stock Lamentations of the Flame Princess. This has led me to tweak and change a reasonable number of rules, which I'll detail below. Before I do, let me say that the playtest rules in Eldritch Cock are a fucking godsend that makes dealing with anything class-related much easier because I don't have to fuck around with separate hit dice, XP tracks and saving throws anymore. It's now much easier to focus on cool shit.

Like this. This is cool shit.
Credit, Jakub Rebelka


One of the main breaks with the core rules lies in the skills available to characters. The current list of skills (including those from Eldritch Cock) stands at:
  • Architecture
  • Bushcraft
  • Climb
  • Languages
  • Leadership
  • Luck
  • Medicine
  • Seamanship
  • Search
  • Sleight of Hand
  • Sneak Attack
  • Stealth
  • Tinker
While these serve reasonably well for a game of Early Modern dungeon crawling, they do miss out on several sci-fi aspects like computers/programs and advanced technology. I've also never liked the Search skill in LotFP - I want my players to tell me what they are doing and how they are searching for something, not just roll and hope for the best.

With this in mind, I have changed the skill list for Adrift on the Night's Black Sea to be as follows:
  • Data - used for manipulating computer programs and other software.
  • Climb - as stock, but it also affects strenuous actions (i.e. skill rolls or combat) in low/zero-g environments.
  • Etiquette - this isn't a persuade skill, but reflects a character's knowledge of how to phrase conversations and hold themselves in delicate matters among different social strata.
  • Language & Culture  - I'm running off the concept that language = culture, and learning one almost always gives insight into the other.
  • Leadership - as stock in Eldritch Cock, used to 'encourage' hirelings.
  • Luck - as stock in Eldritch Cock, provides a pool of re-rolls.
  • Medicine - as stock in Eldritch Cock, improves HP recovery.
  • Pilot - used when attempting risky manoeuvres in a vehicle or on a mount.
  • Science - used when analysing an unknown substance, organism or phenomena.
  • Stealth - as stock. Still not a superpower.
  • Tech - used for manipulating mechanisms and machines.
The list isn't perfect, but it accomplishes what I want it to: it provides the PCs with meaningful ways to interact with the setting, whether that's repairing an overheated railgun on a voidship with the tech skill or analysing the properties of a xeno narcotic with the science skill.

Credit, Lorenz Hideyoshi Ruwwe


I'm always debating the best way to handle PC knowledge in an RPG. I can't stand the stock D&D/Pathfinder approach of knowledge skills, where facts are assigned an arbitrary difficulty and the player needs to either stack skill points to reliably learn information about the world. At the same time I feel like it's important the PCs should not know certain facts. I don't mean hidden or ancient knowledge, just relatively everyday things like who the High Priest is or why you shouldn't piss off the guys with red armbands, the sort of thing that a local or someone who has come from a certain part of society would know a decent amount about but an outsider wouldn't.

With the above in mind I've settled on using a similar system to Robert J. Schwalb's Shadow of the Demon Lord, in which PCs roll professions that relate to their general areas of knowledge. On topics familiar to their professions the GM is advised to have them either pass automatically, or roll a 10+ on a d20 with added boons (d6s that add positive modifiers).

Characters in Adrift on the Night's Dark Sea will roll a background during character creation, which will be a rough guide as to the nature of their general knowledge. A technician and priest will have quite different knowledge sets. If a player asks something that a character with their background would be likely to know, I'll just tell them. If it's something more esoteric but still within the background's wheelhouse then a d6 roll with advantage, aiming for 5-6, should suffice. Something at the reaches of that background's experience will need a 6 with no advantage.

The current background lists for PCs are as follows. Armatures do not roll backgrounds, but I'm going to encourage my players to come up with a guess at an armature's purpose based on what they roll for additional features:

Warrior (1d8):

  1. Soldier: You served in a polity’s armed forces, or were part of a mercenary band.
  2. Criminal: You broke heads for scrip.
  3. Raider: You plundered and looted for survival or pleasure.
  4. Medic: You stitched and bandaged flesh on the battlefield..
  5. Outsider: You lived on the edges of society, preferring life in the wilds.
  6. Religious: You served as a strongarm for one of the Solemnis’ fevered cults.
  7. Bodyguard: You risked life and limb to protect your employer.
  8. Engineer: You maintained weapons and war machines for your comrades.

Expert (1d8):

  1. Historian: You worked to recreate the knowledge of the Old World.
  2. Scholar: You sifted through the records of the past.
  3. Technician: You tinkered and repaired machines and equipment.
  4. Medic: You stitched and bandaged flesh.
  5. Emissary: You were sent to parley between polities and factions.
  6. Hacker: You lost yourself in the streams of data coursing through the Solemnis.
  7. Botanist: You tended to an agri-dome plantation or investigated new crop strains.
  8. Pilot: You sat at the helm of voidcraft or atmospheric fliers.

Psion (1d8):

  1. Outsider: You advised, watched, and/or terrorised from the edges of society.
  2. Religious: You served, or led, one of the Solemnis’ fevered cults.
  3. Soldier: You served in a polity’s armed forces, or were part of a mercenary band.
  4. Scholar: You sifted through the records of the past.
  5. Spy: Your powers allowed you to go where others could not.
  6. Criminal: You used your powers for personal gain.
  7. Oracle: You gazed into the currents of the warp-aether to deliver guidance and prophecy.
  8. Emissary: You were sent to parley between polities and factions.

Credit, Ben Nicholas

Combat & Equipment

Eldritch Cock makes a few changes to stock LotFP combat rules. Characters have 4 bonus - Melee, Ranged, Firearms and Guard. I've merged Ranged and Firearms into the same category. My logic is that a separate firearms category is unnecessary as sci-fi armour will provide decent enough protection, as opposed to gunpowder weapons ignoring 5 points of AC in stock LotFP (which my internal logic sees as being due to Early Modern armour still catching up to new armour-piercing weaponry, despite the advantages of gunpowder weapons in training and ease of use). Also this means that someone with a nanofibre bow and monoblade-tipped arrows can compete on a similar footing to a gunslinger and still feel pretty cool about themselves.

In terms of weapon sizes I've gotten rid of the 'minor' category. All minor weapons are now small weapons.

PCs dual-wielding melee weapons (up to medium-size) may choose between a +1 Attack bonus or +1 AC bonus at the start of the round. PCs dual-wielding pistols may make 2 attacks, but each attack is made with disadvantage. A PC dual-wielding a melee weapon and pistol may make 2 attacks in melee, one normal melee attack at no penalty and one ranged attack at disadvantage.

Eldritch Cock rules also mean that all weapons to 1d8 damage, with small and minor weapons taking a penalty to against armour and great weapons getting a bonus. I'm keeping the 1d8 damage but removing the static penalties and bonuses in favour of weapon tags. Each weapon will have one or more tags that give it a specific attribute or feature. Weapons can be customised through attachments to add new abilities.

I'll be following up on equipment in a subsequent post.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Adrift on the Night's Black Sea: Armatures

Somehow, I've gotten myself roped into running another game. It seems one of my Star Wars pitches was too appealing to pass up:

"The Solemnis took flight to the stars 200 years ago. Designed to transport a self-sustaining population to a new world, she held the combined knowledge and the most advanced technology of her homeworld.

Many of Solemnis' systems have failed irreparably over time, including navigation. No communications have been received from the homeworld in over a century, and the original crew are long dead. Their descendants debate on the fate of the vessel, and conflict is about to flare."

The group have requested that I run this using Lamentations of the Flame Princess, as that's what they're familiar with. I've also chosen to incorporate Raggi's playtest ideas in Eldritch Cock, as they're awesome.

So, the game is going to take place on a huge warp-capable generation ship that has lost contact with its homeworld and has suffered steady degradation over centuries, both mechanical and in a societal sense. No one really understands how the ship works any more, navigation and other functions have failed irreparably, and the original crew (now several generations down the line) has divided into factions vying for control of the vessel. I'm thinking Lost in Space-meets-40k-meets-Foundation, lots of tech-mysticism, societal collapse and weird space-horror shit, with a smattering of retro-futurism thrown in for good measure.

I'll be using Dan's ideas on O'Neill cylinders to design the Solemnis - I have an idea for a cluster of O'Neill cylinders rotating around the central command structure and engines. Travel between the different areas will be dangerous and different compartments will have wildly different biomes, technology levels and cultures. Underneath it all is old archaeotech from the Old World that no one understands but everyone wants.

The new LotFP playtest rules don't contain any material on demihumans, and I'm fine with that. I generally like running human-PC-only games as it helps me enhance the other-ness of demihumans. Also a vaguely sci-fi settings means I can have some weird aliens, mutants, and trans/post-human NPCs for them to encounter. However, to add a bit of variety I thought I'd add a robot-type class for my PCs to use. Enter, armatures.

Credit, Amir Zand

As I mentioned above, the current inhabitants don't really understand how the advanced systems of the Solemnis work and rely on rote dogma for maintenance tasks. This includes the fabrication system, which sometimes ejects artificial beings into the habitats. These beings don't really understand what they're doing either, but have a vague idea of some purpose they were designed for. These beings are known as armatures and are generally humanoid in form, but often sport bizarre  and sometimes contradictory characteristics.

Class: Armature

You were created for a purpose. What that is, you’re not exactly sure. No two of you are exactly alike, although the mindless shells that perform rote tasks around the Solemnis clearly share a similar mindset. You’re different, though. Your sinews of plasteel and nerves of nanofilament mark you out from the organic passengers of the Solemnis, and your individual thoughts and desires distinguish you from your artificial brethren. What lies ahead?

Class Features:
  • Roll your stats normally, then roll randomly for locomotion, function, and design quirk. Adjust stats and abilities accordingly.
  • You self-repair at the same rate of healing as an organic, but the Tech skill applies to treatment in place of Medicine. Medicines and stims won’t work on you, but neither will poisons or most toxins.
  • You don’t need to eat or breathe. You only ‘sleep’ for 4 hours.

Credit, Jakub Rebelka

Locomotion (1d8):
  1. Insectile Legs: You scuttle around on a number of multi-jointed legs with gripping feet. You make all Climb rolls with advantage when not in Zero-G.
  2. Quadruped: Your torso emerges from a four-legged chassis. You count as being mounted at all times, ignoring the ranged penalty. You can climb normally, but slowly.
  3. Tracks: You clatter about on a set of treads. You move at full speed when navigating difficult terrain, but large obstacles can block your passage. You make Climb rolls with disadvantage.
  4. Wings: A pair of vibrating gossamer wings sprout from your shoulders. You can fly at your normal speed, but it takes an action to take off. 
  5. Bipedal: No special effects.
  6. Bipedal: No special effects.
  7. Bipedal: No special effects.
  8. Bipedal: No special effects.

Function (1d12):
  1. Peacekeeper: In-built armour plating grants you +2 base AC.
  2. Cargo Loader: Gain +2 STR.
  3. Medical: Gain +1 to your Medicine skill.
  4. Astrogation: Gain +2 INT.
  5. Hydroponics: Gain +1 to your Survival skill.
  6. EVA: Take advantage on all Climb rolls when in Zero-G.
  7. Psi-Monitor: Gain +2 CHA. You are aware of Psionic Powers used within 100’.
  8. Maintenance: Gain +1 to your Tech skill.
  9. ICE-Host: Gain +1 to your Data skill.
  10. Protocol: Gain +1 to your Etiquette skill.
  11. Analysis: Gain +1 to your Science skill.
  12. Navigation: Gain +1 to your Pilot skill.

Design Quirk (1d20):
  1. Multispectrum Vision: You can see in the dark and have a 1-in-6 chance to detect invisible objects/creatures.
  2. Inertial Compensators: You can fall 20’ instead of 10’ before suffering damage.
  3. Charge Capacitors: Enemies who attack you in melee must Save or suffer 1 damage.
  4. 360° Vision: You can see all around you and are only surprised on a 1-in-6.
  5. Afterburner: You can dash a distance equal to double your movement rate but can’t move for 1d6 Rounds afterwards. Charges made with this deal triple damage.
  6. Targeting Laser: You can mark an exposed target as an action. Your ranged attacks against this target are made with advantage, and you will always hit them when firing into melee (unless you fail your hit roll). This ends if you make any other action or if the target moves to cover.
  7. Revenant Protocols: When reduced to 0HP or less you may act normally for an extra Round before losing consciousness.
  8. Babel Library: You make all Language & Culture skill rolls with advantage.
  9. Animus Cells: You heal at twice the normal rate.
  10. Mechadendrites: You have mechanical tentacles instead of arms. They can fit into tight spaces and you take advantage on all grappling rolls.
  11. Sub-assembly: You can detach one of your arms and give it a set of instructions, i.e. pull this lever, hold this object until X happens etc. It will interpret your instructions quite literally.
  12. HAZMAT: You can store toxins and poisons in internal reservoirs and project them at a target. You can store one projection’s-worth at a time.
  13. Heat Shield: You make all saves to resist heat and flame effects with advantage.
  14. Luminous: You can project a beam of light as bright as a torch for a number of hours equal to your Level.
  15. Quantum Manipulation: Gain +1 Luck.
  16. Extra Arm: You have an additional arm. Nice one.
  17. Smokescreen: Once per day per level as a regular action you can project a cloud of thick smoke that covers a 50’ area, obscuring all within from sight.
  18. Alacrity Fibres: Once per day per level, as a free action, you may declare that you act first in initiative order. If you attack, make the attack roll with advantage. You must Save after your turn or suffer 1d8 damage.
  19. Chameleoline Skin: If you stand perfectly still you can blend in with your surroundings. Some things may still be able to sense your presence.
  20. Holdout Compartment: There is a small compartment concealed somewhere on your body. It can hold an object the size of a handgun and will defeat all but the most thorough investigations.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Star Wars Pitches

Recent weeks have been taken up with holidays, funerals and general creative listlessness. Time to change that.

There was some interesting G+ discussion on a post by FM Geist (who everyone should follow, by the way) on the topic of lore and how it can be presented in RPGs. I'm guilty as charged when it comes to building up large amounts of lore that my players never interact with and has no bearing on the game, often with entirely superfluous writing. It's something I've been trying to change because, in the words of Kevin Malone, "why waste time say lot word when few word do trick"?

There was a particular point made by David Shugars that the lore for a game's premise should fit in the opening crawl of a Star Wars film, which sounds like a great exercise to try and distil the essence and tone of a campaign setting down to the meat. On average there are 80 words in a Star Wars opening text crawl, so that's my limit for this exercise.

Without further ado, here are a few setting ideas I've had in my head distilled down to the basics along with the premise for my Egradus campaign.

Credit, Amir Zand

1. Egradus
The Ugishi Sultanate and Kothen Imperium lie in ruins, destroyed in the final cataclysmic paroxysms of brutal warfare. Ancient weapons and magics litter the land, but civilisation has emerged once more from the chaotic aftermath of the conflict and the Long Night is over.

Buried beneath the war’s detritus lie mysteries of even older powers and their secrets are coveted by the petty kings and gods of the reborn world. Opportunity and danger await in equal measure.

Word Count: 77

Credit, Amit Naik

2. Broken Heaven
The Divine is dead, slain by His treacherous children - the Chosen. The City of Heaven is blackened and corrupted by mortal touch, and foul beasts and magics, the product of the Divine's dying curse, wreak havoc. The surviving Chosen slumber in their cursed palaces and warp the world around them with semi-divine fever dreams.

The Godstear Comet marks the sky once more, and the Chosen will awaken. The petty kings and trifling sorcerers of mortals will be powerless before them.

Word Count: 80

Credit, Amir Zand

3. The Night's Dark Sea
The Solemnis took flight to the stars 200 years ago. Designed to transport a self-sustaining population to a new world, she held the combined knowledge and the most advanced technology of her homeworld.

Many of Solemnis' systems have failed irreparably over time, including navigation. No communications have been received from the homeworld in over a century, and the original crew are long dead. Their descendants debate on the fate of the vessel, and conflict is about to flare.

Word Count: 78

Credit, Amir Zand

4. In the Shadow's Wake
The immortal sorceress known as the Tyrant won her bloody war of conquest generations ago, crushing all who opposed her. The Empire has enjoyed prosperity since her final victory, but the Tyrant has secluded herself in the Iron Citadel in recent years. Bureaucrats and warlords are making their opening moves in the power vacuum, opposed by the Tyrant's loyalists, and rumours abound of a resurgent rebel movement that claims to have a means of slaying the Tyrant herself.

Word Count: 78

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