Monday 29 February 2016


Here, courtesy of our friends at NASA, is a topographical map of Mars. What you will notice is that the north of Mars is flat lowland plains and the south is crater-pitted highlands. This is important to know if we're going to terraform it.

It's pretty easy to terraform Mars. (This is obviously false but let's play along). All you have to do is pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This will warm the planet, causing the carbon dioxide locked in Mars' dry-ice poles to sublimate back into the atmosphere, thus magnifying the greenhouse effect. It will also raise Martian air pressure above the Armstrong limit, the point at which air pressure is high enough that water no longer boils at human body temperature. Then import some water and oxygen, both of which substances Earth has an overabundance of, and Bob's your uncle. The only concern is that Mars has no magnetosphere, meaning the atmosphere will be constantly eroded away by solar wind, but you can get around that by bringing shipments of extra gas in from Earth or Venus on a regular basis.

(I am not a scientist! I am not even the guy from XKCD. I just read some Wikipedia articles. Although I'm pretty sure that's all the guy from XKCD does.)

What's important here is water and air pressure. All the water is going to drain into the lowlands. That's what happened back in the days when the Martian surface had rivers and oceans. And the highlands might not even have breathable air, especially the red bulge on the right, which is the volcanic plateau of Tharsis. The best Earth comparison to the surface of an only mostly terraformed Mars is likely to be the summit of Everest.

as we know, mars is indistinguishable from utah

Tuesday 23 February 2016

d20 Birds

  1. Hook bird
  2. Displacer kookaburra. Distracts you with copies of itself while it steals your sausages
  3. Skin suit sparrows. Wacky crazy inflatable arm man made of birds in a person
  4. Camouflage parrot. "Kraark. I am a tree. I am a tree."
  5. Circular owl
  6. Yawny mouthfrog. Yawns itself inside out to become a rubbery yellow frog thing with a mouth full of feathers
  7. Processor heron. Swallows snakes whole. Shits them out as other, more poisonous snakes
  8. Face lyrebird. Its tail is your face, saying rude things about your face
  9. Boxing stork. Challenges you to a stand-up boxing match
  10. Bowerbird
  11. Landlord pelican. Rents out its beak pouch to immigrant families
  12. Escaped fishing cormorant. Brass ring around its neck to prevent it swallowing its catch. Only eats tiny things. Cries a lot
  13. Humanguide. Guides humanbadgers to humans so it can feed on the scraps left behind
  14. Sociable hornbill. Constructing giant palace of animal shit for the immurement of the hornbill queen.
  15. Multitool bill. Wide range of beaks allows it to get at insects in practically any location
  16. Hummingbird phoenix. Dies, is reborn every ten minutes
  17. Detective vulture. Can't eat any corpse unless it has discovered the murderer
  18. Ambitious cuckoo. Tries to steal human babies and leave its eggs in the crib. Rarely succeeds
  19. Psyduck
  20. Spider in disguise

Saturday 20 February 2016

Space Opera Planet Generator

What is this planet's single biome?
  1. Temperate rainforest. Tall, slender trees with few branches, gigantic ferns, mist and moss.
  2. Towering red sand dunes. Incongruous oasis cities built around shafts into ancient ice deposits.
  3. World-girdling coral reef. Sinkhole-riddled limestone escarpments lifted by tectonic activity.
  4. Glacier-carved highlands. Cities of ice slowly carried toward their demise in equatorial lakes.
  5. Stagnant bayou. Flat, windless, permanently overcast. Breeding-ground for fun new plagues.
  6. Rolling prairie. Caravans of nomads tend to vast herds of beasts. Nobody knows what trees are.
  7. Volcanic waste. Jet-black jagged lava fields, billowing vents of sulphur, pockets of fertile soil.
  8. Carnivorous death jungle. Agile predators and parasitic vermin vie with the trees themselves.
  9. Cloudscape. Floatstone archipelagos, hovering cities, mysterious and uncharted surface.
  10. Scrapyard. Original surface of planet invisible beneath thousands of years of space junk.
  11. Megacity. Depopulated by long-forgotten economic collapse, whole areas now abandoned.
  12. Zero-atmosphere rock. Domed cities on verge of exceeding population capability.
What kind of thing are the inhabitants?
  1. Human
  2. Mammal
  3. Bird
  4. Reptile
  5. Fish
  6. Insect
  7. Mollusc
  8. Annelid
  9. Plant
  10. Fungus
  11. Machine
  12. Mineral
What's the one personality they're allowed to have?
  1. Honour-bound warrior
  2. Noble savage
  3. Conniving politician
  4. Greedy merchant
  5. Emotionless savant
  6. Decadent aristocrat
  7. Preachy pacifist
  8. Xenophobic fascist
  9. Religious fundamentalist
  10. Eccentric scholar
  11. Enlightened mystic
  12. Comic-relief idiot
Who runs the place?
  1. Corporations
  2. Crime syndicate
  3. Military dictator
  4. Space pope
  5. Absolute monarch
  6. Feuding noble houses
  7. Fairly-elected president
  8. Council of elders
  9. Caste of scientists
  10. Impenetrable bureaucracy
  11. Hive mind
  12. Nobody
What's their aesthetic?
  1. Ancient. Pyramids, weird gods, clay and cuneiform.
  2. Classical. Marble columns and philosophers in togas.
  3. Medieval. Castles, peasants, paladins and wizards.
  4. Renaissance. Conquistadors, courtiers, powdered wigs.
  5. Orientalist. Monks, mandarins, silk and calligraphy.
  6. Arabian Nights. Turbans, harems, eunuchs, bedouin.
  7. Native American. Feathered headgear, buckskins, warpaint.
  8. Cyberpunk. Neon, black leather, hackers and sunglasses.
  9. Space Nazi. Uniforms, jackboots, synchronized marches.
  10. Space Hippie. Wreaths of flowers, nudity, drum circles.
  11. Space Cowboy. Ten-gallon hats and spitting in the street.
  12. Space Gangster. Fedoras and inexplicable Brooklyn accents.
What problem are they having that the crew of your starship could solve?
  1. Civil war
  2. Alien invasion
  3. Mysterious plague
  4. Impeding meteor
  5. Social unrest
  6. Collision w/ parallel universe
  7. Utopia w/ terrible price
  8. Secretly-alive planet
  9. Omnipotent mischief-maker
  10. Time travel
  11. Hippie love cult
  12. Murder mystery

Saturday 6 February 2016

God Generator

RPGs don't actually need another god generator. Regardless, here is mine.

click 2 worship

Thursday 4 February 2016


So the reason why SUBLIGHT is even a thing is that Jez Gordon ran a marathon session at Ettincon of a Star Wars game from the 80s and something about it got stuck in my brain. I liked that everyone had a job both on and off the ship, I liked that there was teamwork, I liked rolling huge handfuls of dice. I didn't like then having to count the huge handfuls of dice. Here is a hacked-together, drastically simplified version of such a ruleset.

Skills should be self-explanatory. If you're not sure what category to use just pick the one you like. A couple fiddly points - any kind of action stunt like jumping between cars or climbing a tower should probably come under Fight, and I'm thinking of having some low-level mysterious psychic powers to give the Heal person more to do.

Talk - do stuff with people
Drive - do stuff with vehicles
Fight - do stuff with weapons
Heal - do stuff with organic systems
Fix - do stuff with inorganic systems

Everything is d6s. You get six d6s to distribute among these skills, and that's what you roll when you're using the skill. You're allowed to have no points in things. So Mal from Firefly might be like

Talk 2d6
Drive 1d6
Fight 3d6
Heal 0d6
Fix 0d6

and then if he wants to attack Jayne he rolls 3d6. Pick a target number from 2 (super easy) to 6 (super hard). Jayne's guard is up so let's say that's 5 (hard). To win, Mal has to roll 5 or above at least once. If he rolls 4 5 6, that's two successes, so he wins twice. If he rolls 1 2 3 he fails and Jayne gets to shoot him.

The simplest way to manage hit points is that each player starts off with three Wounds and whenever someone rolls a success against you, you lose one. So if Mal rolls 4 5 6 he hits Jayne twice and Jayne has one Wound left. If he loses that he starts to bleed out and Simon has to roll Heal to stabilize him. There's no initiative - the person who says they attack first is the person that gets to attack first.

You can also use your turn to Help people. Say how you're helping them and then give them your dice from whatever skill you're using. The only restriction is you can't give them more dice than they already have in that skill. So Kaylee can help Mal fly the ship by dicking about with the engine to make it run smoother, but even though she has like 5d6 in Fix she can't give him more than one because Mal is not that good at flying ships. Mal would then get to roll 2d6 and still probably be shot by Reavers.

Your players start with a spaceship. Talk is captaining and comms. Drive is piloting. Fight is manning the guns. Heal is life-support and shipboard ecology. Fix is engine room. Each player also gets to pick a category on the Stuff table, below, and roll on it. They can't pick something they have no dice in.


Talk - Contacts
  1. Member of criminal syndicate
  2. Member of legitimate corporation
  3. Member of local government
  4. Agent of law enforcement
  5. Manager of useful small business
  6. Cultural icon e.g. ballet dancer, street artist, priest
Drive - Ship Upgrades
  1. Smuggler's hold
  2. Cloaking device
  3. Solar sail
  4. Drill rig
  5. Drone bay
  6. Magnetic grapple
Fight - Weapons
  1. Sniper rifle
  2. Shotgun
  3. Flechette gun
  4. Rocket launcher
  5. Chainblade
  6. Monomolecular whip
Heal - Body Upgrades
  1. Personalized virus that lives in your body
  2. G-modified animal
  3. Garden of G-modified plants
  4. Low-level psychic powers
  5. Mutant extra limb or face part
  6. Satchel of valuable medicines and drugs
Fix - Machines
  1. Pet robot, non-sapient
  2. AI assistant, sapient
  3. Robot extra limb or face part
  4. Thieves' tools
  5. Jetpack
  6. Satchel of high explosive

Wednesday 3 February 2016


Was making notes for a setting. Accidentally wrote an entire setting.

It's a couple hundred years in the future, Earth has gotten real shit, FTL travel remains categorically impossible. Corporations run a lot of stuff but not as much as you'd think. Specific-purpose AIs are everywhere but don't think like people, general AIs all have crippling mental illness and act like some combination of a drugfucked hippie and a scary neckbeard who beats you at an MTG tournament. No idea what system you'd use to embody this setting. We might come up with something.


Network of solar power stations orbiting Sun. Crawling convoy-towns that stay on dark side. Panels that stay fixed on planet's surface, are maintained by nomads during dark season, provide enormous amounts of power during bright season. Human-uninhabitable computer cities of energy-basking AI. Cancer rates through the roof. The horribly burnt guy from the movie Sunshine. Weird perihelion effects means sun goes up and then back sometimes, is great for shenanigans. Hideout for criminals who really don't want to be found. Solar sailors preparing for the long run to Jupiter, hauling a small fortune in charged batteries, hiring mercenaries to protect them from pirates. Capital is sapient knowledge-collecting wheeled city named Marduk.


Partially terraformed. Cloud cities. Reflective balloons that block sunlight. Upper atmosphere breathable, since oxygen compounds float on denser air. Half-built solar shade at L1 Lagrange point - Fresnel lens, long abandoned, inhabited by scavengers. Sulphur-eating bacteria. Hydrogen bombardment - produces graphite and water by Bosch reaction - hydrogen imported from Jupiter. Carbon dioxide frozen into dry ice, transported to Martian atmosphere. No space elevators - rotation too slow, geostationary orbit too high, plus storms. Capital floating mirror city of Tiamat, also sapient, adopted mother-goddess personality, complicated relationship with Marduk.


Home to 5/6 of human population. Space elevators, some collapsed. Partially terraformed - carbon-fixing bacteria designed for space use. Overheated - cyclones, blizzards, flooded cities, massive population displacement, slavery, plague, famine. Cities destroyed by orbital cannons, Lunar coilguns, engineered viruses, broken dams, fallen elevators, good old-fashioned nukes. Countries still exist. Tendency toward smaller political units rather than larger ones. Pacific Northwest earthquake triggered American civil war - independent Cascadia, etc. Secessionist South invaded Mexico. Cherokee state in Oklahoma. Pakistan-India atomic exchange brought on by flooding Bangladesh. China has state-loyalty high scores and cheevos and is unsettlingly stable.  Saudi Arabia completely collapsed when bottom dropped out of oil market. Middle Eastern borders rewritten by war and Accord of Jerusalem. Paris poisoned by neutron bomb. Greenland, Antarctica, Siberia made habitable. Asteroid early-warning stations. Space junk. Major countries - Pangermany (EU successor state), Russia (kleptocracy, quasi-anarchist, decimated in war with remnants of NATO), Brazil (communist), Nigeria (cheerfully libertarian), the Confederated States of North America (capital Washington), the United States of America (capital New York), China (unchanged), Japan (zaibatsus lol), South African Alliance (China-backed, capital Harare), Neoborneo (pirate republic, 30% on fire at any given time), Iran (democratic, dominates central Asia, leads world in fallout-scrubbing technology). Independent Scotland, Catalonia, Punjab, Xinjiang. UNCE (United Nations and Corporate Entities) based out of Buenos Aires, hilariously ineffectual.


Crater colonies joined by underground railroads. Domes anchored to bedrock. Mass drivers - coilguns that launch spacecraft, decimate Earth cities. Militaristic culture, many naval bases. States that primarily exist off-planet (Taiwan, Free Mexico, CSNA-funded Israel, various Arabic royal families) often based here. Capital at Shackleton.


Partially terraformed. Greenhouse effect warms poles, sublimates dry ice into CO2, feeds greenhouse effect. Multiple parties competing to bring in gas - frozen ammonia from outer planets, methane from bacteria (not Titan - too far), synthesized sulfur hexafluoride and halocarbons. Phytoplankton. Cyanobacteria. Reduced albedo - algae, dark dust shipped from Phobos and Deimos. Shafts drilled to release core heat. Atmosphere, climate generally comparable to summit of Everest. Projects to induce magnetosphere currently on hold after several catastrophic failures. Underground cities of early settlers now considered historically interesting, have colonial re-enactors and associated genres of frontier fiction. Mons Olympus a transnational park and lightly trafficked tourist spot. Resurrected, miniaturized Ice Age species thrive in the frigid environment, grazing off lichen and altitude-adapted bamboo. Sealed canyon colonies running whole length of Vallis Marineris. Capital at Noctis Labyrinthus, though nobody uses the old names any more.

Asteroid Belt

Way stations, trade routes between Mars and Jupiter. Mining for exotic materials and metals for zero-g spaceship construction - more cost-effective because not stuck in gravity well. Hollowed-out asteroids converted to ships and living space. Four types of space rock. C-type, water-heavy, more common past snow line (distance from Sun at which ice forms), used for agriculture. S-type, silica-heavy, mineable. M-type, metal heavy, rarer than S-type, even more mineable. B-type, rare enough to be mostly mystery. Currency is gold. Population density approaching zero. Persecuted religious groups, banjo-plucking hillbillies mutated by incest and improper radiation shielding, sheriffs and petty criminals, truck stops for Jovian convoys, pirates, raiders, bounty hunters, company towns, people who've gone weird from being alone. Capital at Kerwan on Ceres.


More than twice as far from Mars as Mars is from the Sun. Four Galilean moons - Io (volcanoes), Europa (chaos terrain, tidal plumes, cryovolcanoes, colonies in frozen chasms and around deep-sea geothermal vents), Ganymede (bigger than Mercury, layers of ocean sandwiched between by phases of ice), Callisto (underground lakes, farthest from Jupiter's radiation, crater-saturated). Other moons also inhabited, similar to Belt but more heavily populated. Dark sides preferred for radiation shielding. Cultures no longer correspond as closely to those of Earth. Renaissance-themed? Silk, brass, astrolabes, pyramids, decadence, noble houses. Science fiction gets softer - quasi-psychics, city-sized hypermedusoids engineered to eat radiation and survive Jovian atmosphere. Prehistoric fish, gigamoebas, tube worms in underground seas. Capital at Thebes - submerged sacred metropolis built into mid-ocean ice phase on Ganymede. Major ports at Lofn on Callisto, where impact created gateway to subterranean water deposits, and Narbeth Chaos on Europa.


Even further out than Jupiter. Couple of diehard loners scraping out a living in the rings.The Jovian houses have funded a tiny outpost by the shores of Jingpo Lacus, a hydrocarbon sea on Titan, and it's a carefully guarded secret what goes on there.

Outer Planets

Unexplored. Probes launched with AI pilots, prefabbed colonies, embryo banks and child-rearing algorithms. None have returned. Theories abound about Plutonian superconductors, machine cults, post-singularity utopias in the Oort cloud.

Monday 1 February 2016

Non-Shit Cat People

Animal people only work if the animal is kind of horrible and fucky. This is because animal people are intrinsically horrible and fucky. If the animal is cool (lion, horse, falcon) then the coolness of the base animal works against the horribleness of the animal-person hybrid and the result is uncomfortable and sexually confusing. If the animal is horrible and fucky (rat, scorpion, ibis) then all the vectors are pointing in the same direction and you end up with a satisfying monster.

But! Even cool animals have many horrifying qualities. Lions take over prides and eat all the cubs. Horses die of fear if they hear a car backfire. Falcons disembowel things and have acidic faeces. We can use this.
"grrr. i'm fucking terrifying"
Lion men are demons with the heads of lions and the bodies of men. They are all male. They are born from shadows in the deep desert, or possibly just hell. They exude a powerful musk which makes everyone around them adore and worship them. They show up in town, eat all the babies, then command everyone to make new babies and also to bring them raw meat and gold.

All babies born in the town are lion daughters. They are tawny-skinned people with golden eyes, the occasional pointed ear, hair in odd places, maybe a stunted tail. They are all women. They are also charismatic sociopaths. Everyone loves lion daughters and all their ideas sound really good. They love power and are utterly fearless. You are as likely to find one leading an adventuring party as commanding an army, running a company of merchants or marrying into a royal family. Or just wandering around the desert having dinner with people and then killing them for fun.

They make excellent if bloodthirsty generals, and monarchs sometimes inflict lion men on a town for the express purpose of creating a cadre of elite officers.

but in a way furries won't get excited about