Tuesday 27 August 2019

snakebit swamp

water from the heart of snakebit swamp will grant you immortal life and make you suicidally depressed. the people that live around it are weathered and wizened. they rarely see the sun. the fog hangs heavy; limp and living

there are many huts on the wet banks of the swamp. a respectable living can be made picking through the snake bones that line the shore, searching for ones small enough to drag home. less choose to live where the trees give way, where curving serpent spines lay rickety lanes through the bog. the dangers are not terribly precarious (the water is cold and the eels quite vicious) but the swamp is lachrymose, given to nostalgia and stealing away children

- roll a d4 on the below table, adding 1 for every fresh step along a snake spine
- a decent sized splash will attract (2d4 x depth) eels
- if you roll a branch, one side will go deeper and one shallower. no need to tell pcs which is which
- preroll this shit. it will let you figure out a few small connections across the map. e.g., some mammoth children are on the way to visit a hermit, the skelton has seen the nearby opossum dragging a slain mammoth back to its nest
- when you roll the same thing twice in a row, smoosh it together.  a tangle is now a nest, all ossified eggshell and an unliving foetus. a hermit is now a neolithic shrine of yellow bone, hermit's ghost haunting their carved skeleton at the centre

1the soil is wet, thick, heavy. patches of thin grass struggle to hold the earth together. 2d4 tired-eyed villagers pick along the shore, passing a foul-smelling flask between them. they greatly appreciate attempts at warmth and humour, and anyone taking the effort to make small talk will likely be offered a guide for the swamp
2tiny, bellicose weaver birds have built a shabby nest amongst a stand of copper trees. indignant at your trespass they divebomb, swooping and shitting at you. the bones under your feet are slick with guano. a closer inspection of their nest would reveal the trees upon which it's built to be hollow copper tubes, sluicing warm mist from somewhere below the water
3by dint of some great wisdom or luck, a flea-ridden hermit has erected a meters-long rib bone a few dozen meters from the path. their past decades have been spent carving an intricate history of the world into it. they will call out to you, pressing for esoteric histories and happily nattering about the conspiracy of ice
4two great skeletons lie here entwined. the ribs are rolled and tumbled, vertebra scattered like dice. the path through is perilous, bones worn silk smooth over uncertain centuries. beads of fog reflect the pinprick eyes of eels waiting for you to slip. the path onwards is tripartite: the snake you came in on or either half of the other leading out
5a small herd of micromammoth, shrilly trumpeting. thick wool on their bellies keeps them warm and safe from the eels. their backs are picked clean and combed by their favoured pets; a tribe of children, faces old and wrinkled, adorned with feathers. will brutally murder any non-human primates they see
6the monotonous ossuary ends abruptly in a skull, biting through death into another snake. the lee of its huge jaw offers shelter, currently home to a nest of water rat. water is pooled in the hollows of its fangs. condensed from the fog, this ghostly venom is said to grant lucid visions of past lives. this perhaps could help decide which path to take, left or right along the new serpent
7clinging to a rib bone below is an ancient yellowed skeleton, swallowed before the snakes began to rot. it believes itself still trapped in a reptilian belly, maintaining that it cannot see anything through the snake's thick scales, but will happily natter hazy descriptions of all the curious things it's seen through centuries of silent swamp. its life is harder to recall: problems in the great machine, frost leaking from the ground, the thick jungle blighted by alien climate
8pond scum churns steadily. bubbles form thick and slow, cloaked in cold mist and birthing through the surface of the water like whales in tar. fingernail and fist sized, then all at once a hillfull of chronochloric gas. inside is a whipping white wind, another world. silhouettes blur across the bubble's surface as it rises, tusks and fangs and furry hides. when it pops a mound of snow drops into the water, begins to slowly melt
9hunched and glaring, a bulky growth on the bone, the opposum is bigger than a bear. skittish still though; it is an ambush predator. it hunts in bubbles of time, eye pressed soft against the surface of the water, watching a hundred years of ice to find one weak, flitting pulse of life. diving in and out before the bubble can pop, a blink of bloody battle with the ancient beast
10groaning through the mire on pillars of bronze, its brontosaur bulk too heavy to lift from the water. always working, patching leaks and scavenging parts. slowly, sadly sealing off sections of the machine too far gone. above the water a periscope of features: black glass eyes, delicate brass arms. it can't see you, but for your bones and the metal you carry. brass or bronze or tin it takes straight to the centre of the swamp, heedless of the birds and toads and other lives that sit astride its back
11the swamp deepens, mirror-dark surface sliding up the arc of bones to lap coldly at your boots. you can see the line of vertebrae continue below the water, and a few hundred meters something else rises up. huge copper pipes, some boiling hot, others traced in ice, all fingers stretched from the great machine in the swamp's heart
12+an ancient city, twice rebuilt. first by its scientists, in their efforts to slow the apocalypse they had begun. the second by its somnolent servitors, the great brass golems still at work stemming, bleeding, keeping back the pressure of an invasive past. every street now is paved with copper pipe and ferns, ill-fit rooms jammed with steaming alembic jungle

(drinking snake venom, time bubble popping in your face, falling into the water in the centre of the swamp, etc)
(also a depth mechanic. roll d10, +1 per exposure)

1devolve into apeman
2can commune with beasts of ancient past
3gain wrinkles, liver spots
4hair goes white
5lose concept of 'future'
6can smell back in time
7can only take pleasure in reminiscence
10stop aging
11possessed by ancestor spirits
12time hiccups - groundhog day until you next fail a save vs fear
13haunted by dead past selves
14hunted by the time serpent
15event from your future compressed into your past
16belches rapidly age a small area in front of mouth
17indigestion - exist both now and 65,000 years in past
18youth restored
19become super old

Tuesday 20 August 2019

encountering the dero

Depth mechanic as sanity system. On each table roll d20+X where X is how crazy you are.

  1. Graffiti.
  2. Fortune cookie.
  3. Missing-person posters.
  4. Biro scrawlings on dollar bill.
  5. Crazy call-in to morning radio.
  6. Street preacher's religious rants.
  7. Mutterings of crazy homeless guy.
  8. Overheard public-transport dialogue.
  9. Warning message broadcast over loudspeaker.
  10. Spam that gets through your filter somehow.
  11. FW: FW: FW: email from elderly relative.
  12. Internet ads. Gone when you refresh the page.
  13. Second-hand paperback you don't remember buying.
  14. Forgotten episode of old TV show.
  15. Letters to the editor.
  16. Dating-app messages.
  17. Old science-fiction magazine.
  18. Unwanted Youtube recommendations.
  19. Comments on your blog.
  20. Comments on your favourite Pornhub video.
  21. Shouted argument from next apartment.
  22. Joke from your boss that you feel obliged to laugh at.
  23. Co-worker conversation that stops when you enter the room.
  24. Mom asks for your opinion, changes subject before you answer.
  25. Voice that takes your order at drive-through restaurant.
  26. Inscrutable Facebook message from high-school friend.
  27. Old acquaintance bumped into on street, not looking well.
  28. DMs via obscure forum you forgot you had an account on.
  29. Job offer from dodgy but persistent recruiter.
  30. Threatening letter from nonexistent law firm.
  31. Diary entries you don't remember making.
  32. Words on electronic traffic sign.
  33. Garbled phone call.
  34. Texts from unfamiliar number.
  35. Note slipped under your door.
  36. Note you find in your pocket.
  37. Note attached to the leg of a bird that falls from the sky.
  38. Nondescript man who approaches you in public.
  39. Screams of stranger being dragged into car.
  40. Message left at scene of horrible crime.
  41. Lunatic who attacks you in dark alley.
  42. Cop who claims somebody calls 911.
  43. Black-clad government agent at your door.
  44. President works you into a televised speech.
  45. Sitcom character turns to camera, address you by name.
  46. Talking animal.
  47. Talking object.
  48. Booming voice of God.
  49. Thoughts beamed directly into your brain.
  50. Orderlies who come to take you away to the hospital.
  1. The dero are a symptom of mental illness.
  2. The dero are a metaphor for the pressures of modern society.
  3. The dero are fabricated as a distraction by your political enemies.
  4. The dero are a product of collective mass hysteria and must be fought with reason and logic.
  5. The dero exist, but they're not as big a deal as people think.
  6. The dero exist, but the authorities have them under control.
  7. The dero have a secret civilisation underground.
  8. The dero use rays to project false information into our minds.
  9. The dero abduct people to perform weird medical experiments.
  10. The dero are headquartered under the Pentagon.
  11. The dero are headquartered in the catacombs of Paris, France.
  12. The dero are controlled by a single giant brain.
  13. The dero are all sexy women and they want to have sex with you.
  14. The dero force every world leader to engage in sadistic sexual rituals.
  15. The dero came from the future to save the planet from our evil ways.
  16. The dero consider human flesh a delicacy.
  17. The dero are Communists.
  18. The dero are Jews.
  19. The dero are Nazis.
  20. The dero are biblical demons.
  21. History has been falsified to conceal the existence of the dero.
  22. All existing information about the dero has been fabricated by the dero.
  23. All politicians and media figures are willing puppets of the dero.
  24. All disasters, massacres and genocides are faked by the dero to make people afraid.
  25. Some of the celebrities know about the dero and if you get to them they can help you.
  26. Tinfoil hats repel dero thought rays.
  27. Your friends and family are being replaced by dero imposters.
  28. It's totally fine to masturbate in public.
  29. Your friends and family are being held underground and tortured by dero.
  30. Drinking your own urine is the key to eternal life.
  31. You are an agent of the dero and you must fulfil your mission.
  32. Time is cubic.
  33. You are an agent of the humans and you must fight the influence of the dero.
  34. Dogs can secretly talk.
  35. You have been driven insane by dero thought rays.
  36. Milk makes you gay.
  37. Everyone else has been driven insane by dero thought rays.
  38. Children are trying to save the world but they need your help.
  39. The dero are simulating your reality and you must wake up before you die.
  40. The dero want you to hurt people and do fucked-up sex stuff.
  41. The dero want to help you but you have to trust them absolutely.
  42. The dero are coming for you right now, in the next fifteen minutes.
  43. You can save the world by killing the most important dero.
  44. You're the most important dero and this is just what being a dero is like.
  45. You're on the verge of a great scientific breakthrough and the dero are trying to stop you.
  46. You're an extradimensional super-alien imprisoned by the dero in corporeal form.
  47. You're the Messiah and the dero are your disciples.
  48. You can read minds and it makes you too dangerous to live.
  49. You're a character in a game of fantasy and the player controlling you is a callous monster.
  50. You have been diagnosed with schizophrenia by a doctor and require medication.

Sunday 18 August 2019

the zone

You are elite Soviet soldiers sent to investigate a bizarre series of accidents at a remote scientific research facility. This is a depth mechanic. Roll d6 on each table for each encounter and add 2 each time you advance a step further into the zone. Be careful of ideological backsliding - one of you is secretly a political commissar with orders to maintain morale by executing anyone who deviates from approved ideology.

The PTSD system - your stats are Physical, Social, Technical. Roll 3d6 for each. To do anything, roll under the appropriate stat. Pick a specialisation, anything from Heavy Weapons to Political Propaganda to Biochemistry - add two to the right stat whenever it becomes relevant. Work out hit points yourself.

  1. Barren steppe. Pale winter sun.
  2. Barren steppe. Scudding clouds obscure the sun.
  3. Snow-dusted steppe. Ceiling of grey cloud. Freezing wind.
  4. Snow-dusted steppe. Howling blizzard.
  5. Sparse larch forest. Shadows moving through pale fog.
  6. Sparse larch forest. Rivulets of black snowmelt.
  7. Dense larch forest. Glass-clear creek paved with pebbles.
  8. Dense larch forest. Boot-sucking bogs.
  9. Overgrown marsh. Water crusted with thin ice.
  10. Overgrown marsh. Water crusted with solid ice.
  11. No-man’s land. Slick mud and dead trees.
  12. No-man’s land. Network of flooded trenches.
  13. Town outskirts. Rubbish heaps and burnt-out cars.
  14. Town outskirts. Vacant lots and empty warehouses.
  15. Suburbs. Wide avenues, concrete apartment blocks.
  16. Suburbs. Cottages, shops, playgrounds, empty cars.
  17. Industrial core. Vast empty factories, rusting machinery.
  18. Industrial core. Cooling towers crusted with foliage.
  19. Launch site. Hangars, service trucks, fields of concrete.
  20. Launch site. Concrete pads, umbilical towers, broken rockets.
  1. Spomenik - brutalist concrete monument, haunted by freedom-fighter ghosts.
  2. Perfectly round shaft bored into the ground. Heat rising from it. Hawks and buzzards circling.
  3. Abandoned farmhouse. Barren fields. Something nasty and shapeless chained in the shed.
  4. Concrete watch bunker built into low hill. Terrified, hungry soldier inside will fire on anything that gets close, unless you convince him you’re not a mutant or threat.
  5. Ruined church. Tarnished golden crucifix over altar.
  6. Abandoned fur-trapping village. Squalid huts. Mutant vermin caught in cruel, iron-toothed traps. Crazed hermit watching from afar.
  7. Deep black ice-edged lake. Rotting wooden dinghy tied up by shore. Strange buildings on island.
  8. Untended cherry orchard sprouting strange fruit. Decaying barbed-wire fences.
  9. Series of clear pools separated by waterfalls. Fish that know too much.
  10. Wide fast-rushing river. Must be crossed to advance - or go back and find another way around.
  11. Mass grave. Deformed corpses left to rot in hastily-dug hole. Mutant rats and crows hide until disturbed.
  12. Minefield. Clearly signposted to warn off trespassers. Craters mark detonation sites.
  13. Scrapyard. Buses, cars, trucks and tanks, all tangled together in rusty communion. Mangy stray dog lurks around perimeter.
  14. Crashed military airplane. Bomb bay holds undetonated tactical nuke. Two more have been cracked open and their radioactive contents scooped out.
  15. Army barracks. Held by still-human soldiers, heavily fortified against intruders. Running out of food.
  16. Small amusement park. Merry-go-round, bumper cars, rollercoaster, fun house full of child-sized skeletons.
  17. Automated factory running on its own, assembling munitions from vast stockpile of scrap metal and weird chemicals.
  18. Huge steaming radioactive crater filled with rubble and boiling glass.
  19. Bustling hive of New Soviet Men stockpiling fodder for their Red Queen so she can lay new eggs for the colony.
  20. New Soviet Men preparing atomic super-rocket for launch.
  1. Blasted atomic ghost of gulagged 19th-century revolutionary.
  2. Tatar scavengers in spiked radiation suits, looking for anything they can sell on the black market.
  3. Gangly saiga antelope that blast acidic mucus from their nostrils, pursued by Tatar hunters.
  4. New Soviet Man, pale and hairless, equipped with homemade laser gun, in stand-off with Tatar scavengers.
  5. Tatar mother with pale, hairless children in tow, fleeing hunting party of genetic purists in rad suits and gas masks.
  6. Swarm of irritable thumb-sized mosquitoes that imitate human voices by the collective hum of their wings.
  7. Lumpen bald toothless swamp cyclops that slowly de-evolves anything it looks at. Claims to want a friend but is actually just hungry.
  8. Poisonous redcapped mushroom men who want to be eaten and won’t take no for an answer.
  9. Skoptsy priest in black robes castrating and baptising hunger-maddened soldiers.
  10. Shaggy bear-centaur-men tearing apart huge fallen two-headed reindeer and shovelling its flesh into their maws. Can see into the past and do not believe in the future.
  11. Naked frostbitten soldiers possessed by the spirits of tanks, running around with their arms stuck out to mimic guns. Imaginary shells, real explosions.
  12. Band of New Soviet Men with Geiger counters and laser guns scouring the area for radioactive material to fuel their atomic super-rocket.
  13. Giant house-sized blob of fleshlike fungus. Gill slits part to reveal near-human eyes. Oozes slowly toward any source of heat, warbling and pleading for sustenance through a hundred tiny mouths. Doesn’t stop.
  14. Shambling broken-concrete golem with tiny telekinetic fetus inside, looking for somebody to hug.
  15. Gang of shivering orphans dwelling in empty building, only venturing out to hunt for vodka and lay lethal Home Alone-style traps for New Soviet Men.
  16. New Soviet Men scalpelling apart still-living bear-centaur-man, flaying it alive in effort to extract the secret of its mathematics.
  17. Tatar scavenger with aluminium pouch of stolen uranium, on the run from band of New Soviet Men equipped with Geiger counters and hairless dogs.
  18. Radiation shadow-ghosts, flickering across flat surfaces, that drag anyone they touch into the second dimension.
  19. You from the future, horribly scarred and burnt, bent on killing you now in order to prevent your future suffering.
  20. The Red Queen of the New Soviet Men, overseeing her minions’ efforts to launch her into space via atomic super-rocket. From orbit she can psychically dominate the globe, maybe.