Friday, 30 December 2022

D23: Changing horses in midstream

(small post about Dungeon 23 process)
((it doesn't have even a single table, it is just random personal thoughts))

After "aha" moment that was week #2 "Death" and sharp clarity that came with week #3 "Sunken", the word for week #4 was "Love" and, as predicted, it was so far the hardest. 

I think RPGs don't really parse love, in general(*). Either it is a part of some backstory/origin story, something that happened long long time ago and thus, as a fact of love, obscured by time and untouchable by adventurers; at best some kind of pure / tragic / farcical love serves as a basis for a This Place or This Thing, a piece of scenery, a part of description.

(*) some lyric games are probably specifically about love, as emotions and relationships seem to be the frequent subject of these games, but I don't know any specific ones.

Alternatively, it is a matter of control or threat – woefully available 'Charm Person', danger of succubus' appeal, loved ones so frequently murdered by DMs for deeply discounted drama it became a tattered cliche before I was even born, or sleazy bard / sorcerer PC, hitting on anything with legs that isn't a table. With passed time there is some distancing from these tired, worn-out templates, but to me the matter is that both OSR and traditional DnD rarely speak about love as multifaceted and ongoing process.

This long prelude aside, I started to do a location dedicated to some less common aspects of love: latria/agape, storge and philia. Couldn't decide which one to focus upon or how to make it relevant (and not simply a piece of backstory on a display), so it was the first week when I wrote 'shadows deepen' / 'empty room' as on both Tuesday and Wednesday I couldn't imagine anything that I was even briefly interesting in working with or had any solid inspiration for, or anything, really.

So I gessoed the whole weekly spread today.
(you don't have to use gesso, gluing paper over is also very satisfying)

Because what I love to do – at this point of time of my life, at the very least – is making maps. 

And instead of writing something, I am just making a map.

Making maps to me is a difficult, long, sometimes tedious process where everything can go wrong, and more than sometimes does. There are bad days, when nothing is created but the slightest layer of the abyss, there are good days, when elements and colours intertwine and take form, and new land emerges, and it teaches me something too, as it was today about making coastlines.

Six hours spent, and it was a work but it was also a joy. 

It was still better than spending miserable five minutes giving up and letting the shadows deepen again.

Why I am even writing this?

I see a lot of people just starting D23 or waiting for Sunday to start it. So many call it a challenge. So many go beyond the initial idea of just making '45 gp, three tax-collectors, there is a problem' room. This is good. It is honestly a relief to see in how many directions initial megadungeon idea went already: there are cities, bunches of small dungeons, modern esoterica settings, solar systems, cyberpunk and SF, and science fantasy, and forests, and hexes; it is a relief because people already don't treat the initial idea as a sacred cow (**), don't let it bind them into narrow confines of things they have no actual desire to do. But even with this adjustment, I think, there will be a moment when something in the writing process will become a restrain instead of help. The procedure might become stale, the theme no longer interesting, the format might run its course.

(**) although the amount of Hobonichi planners in preferences is still a bit baffling

There is a lot to admire in self-imposed challenges. But the idea for D23 – whatever form it takes – the main idea is to keep going, and probably what I want to say with this overlong note to myself the most is that changing exhausted or bored horses in midstream turned out to be a good thing to do.

Don't stick to the format if it is no longer works. Change it and keep going.

I tend(ed) to view each separate notebook as a holistic thing, and it took me some time to get rid of the mental trap that they shouldn't be changed.

Nothing in those planners is sacred. Other people might make their in cleaner, messier, stranger, duller way, with colour pencils, with fancy digital frames and hyperlinking. with tables or procedures prepared in December weeks. But what is important is that if something becomes an obligation instead of expression, is to grab some fresh free horses, gesso the page that no longer work and maybe write about horse heist in the middle of your megadungeon/city/forest/space station (bonus points if there is no logical explanation on how horses even got there).

Friday, 9 December 2022

Among other things, the table of miens/states/emotions.

I don't think I'd be able to finish that exercise that Sean McCoy had started. From my experience of doing Inktober and sui generia map, the excitement of a new project goes away in about eight days along with all interesting ideas, and then, unavoidably, a burnout sets up. In the best outcome some kind of second wind inspiration comes eventually, enough to at least drag the project to the finish line, but rarely it is timed well enough to continue with per-day challenge this exercise is.

I don't like planners, which take something as fluid as time and overlay a static grid onto it. The only planner I ever bought – for faux-leather covers, not even for the planner itself – was something from a nearby dollar store, about five years ago, so this is the one I am going to use. That it is off-date doesn't matter in this exercise anyway, only that it has a weekly parsing. It is interesting to me how people started by get those Hobonichi books almost mimicking the original setup, while, from my experience, each such organizer would be a highly individual case: for example, I like that mine has more lines for per-day stuff taking both sides of the weekly spread because this would give me more place to describe the room, while having two lines per day isn't really suitable for how I write. Initially I thought of using a small month section at the right bottom of the spread for the map, but realized it was too small, so I taped the map on top of the spread to flip on or off, and used that week section for a colour chip to remember the mood of the place.

To me the megadungeon is not the end purpose – even if, by some miracle, I'd be able to finish it, it will be very rough, and drab, disjointed thing, without historical layers or overlaying idea that are supposed to be the megadungeon most unique features; it will require an extensive work to make it playable and, even more work to make it interesting. But I do like that I can do a lot of really small places, seven rooms like in "Silent Titans", then turn the page and do another one, and then maybe connect them together in twos and threes if I need a bigger area. 



The list of weekly prompts given in the initial Sean McCoy's post is a good list (and is a second reason I want to try: it offers a good variety, so I can see which themes I fail at), but I thought I'd add a few more tools for myself to make it a little more interesting and, hopefully, thus more probable to finish.

• Colour chips, I mentioned before, to paint some very primitive swipes to set the mood/colour of the 7-room weekly dungeons. I have a set of tiny, A8 size, watercolour papers, already pre-cut, which should come in handy.

• Random magazine cutouts (for modern esoterica zine I'll probably never make) and classic art mini-stickers, of which I have too many and never otherwise use.

•  I don't want to put specific monsters in these places. By the unspoken rule of being statted, the known monsters are made to be killed, and I am not currently fine with this notion. Instead, I took a few of better-sounding captchas you get when you when try to download more than one pdf from Googlebooks. These words that might sound a little like real words, or be something obscured in some other language, and they will serve as placeholders for beings. Inhel, ditessi, sioner, hened, bilizen, rityle, mornfire and pellyri, among others: I don't know yet what those beings are, what do they want, how they look like – only what they might do.

Additionally, thanks to Scrap World's creative translation of French words into English, words such as skinshadow, wakegift, booknest, wintergourd, notchhour, waitwater, holdlast, soursbloom, carpeon and loombatter will add some inspiration when blank and abstract is not going to be enough.

• Instead of beings being aggressive I made a table that might serve for random mien, state, behavior or emotion.

01 Abandoned 51 Chargrin 101 Ecstatic 151 Inadequate 201 Penitent 251 Spiteful
02 Abashed 52 Cheeky 102 Elated 152 Incensed 202 Pensive 252 Startled
03 Abused 53 Confident 103 Embarrassed 153 Indecisive 203 Perplexed 253 Storming
04 Accepted 54 Confused 104 Emphatic 154 Indifferent 204 Persecuted 254 Stressed
05 Accepting 55 Contemplative 105 Empty 155 Indignant 205 Pessimistic 255 Stubborn
06 Addicted 56 Contemptuous 106 Energetic 156 Inept 206 Pious 256 Stumped
07 Admiring 57 Content 107 Enthusiastic 157 Inferior 207 Playful 257 Stunned
08 Adoring 58 Contrite 108 Envious 158 Infuriated 208 Powerful 258 Sullen
09 Adrift 59 Courageous 109 Euphoric 159 Inquisitive 209 Powerless 259 Surprised
10 Affronted 60 Courteous 110 Exasperated 160 Insecure 210 Pressured 260 Tainted
11 Afraid 61 Crabby 111 Excited 161 Insignificant 211 Prideful 261 Tearful
12 Aggravated 62 Cranky 112 Excluded 162 Inspired 212 Proud 262 Tenacious
13 Aggressive 63 Creative 113 Exposed 163 Interested 213 Provoked 263 Tense
14 Agitated 64 Crestfallen 114 Fearful 164 Intimidated 214 Punished 264 Terrified
15 Alienated 65 Crippled 115 Feeble 165 Irate 215 Quiet 265 Thankful
16 Amazed 66 Critical 116 Fervent 166 Irritated 216 Rattled 266 Thoughtful
17 Ambitious 67 Cruel 117 Fidgety 167 Isolated 217 Ratty 267 Threatened
18 Ambivalent 68 Crushed 118 Flustered 168 Jealous 218 Rejected 268 Thrilled
19 Amused 69 Culpable 119 Forsaken 169 Jovial 219 Relaxed 269 Timid
20 Angry 70 Curious 120 Fragile 170 Joyful 220 Relieved 270 Tired
21 Annoyed 71 Defensive 121 Free-spirited 171 Judgemental 221 Remorseful 271 Trepidatious
22 Anticipatory 72 Deflated 122 Fretful 172 Keen 222 Repelled 272 Troubled
23 Anxious 73 Dejected 123 Friendly 173 Kind 223 Repentant 273 Truculent
24 Apathetic 74 Delinquent 124 Frightened 174 Letdown 224 Resentful 274 Trusting
25 Apologetic 75 Depressed 125 Frustrated 175 Light-hearted 225 Respected 275 Uncomfortable
26 Appalled 76 Deserted 126 Fuming 176 Lonely 226 Respectful 276 Unfocused
27 Apprehensive 77 Desolate 127 Furious 177 Loving 227 Revolted 277 Unhappy
28 Ardent 78 Despaired 128 Galled 178 Mad 228 Ridiculed 278 Unsafe
29 Ashamed 79 Desperate 129 Genial 179 Meditative 229 Ruined 279 Unwanted
30 Astonished 80 Despondent 130 Glad 180 Melancholic 230 Rushed 280 Upset
31 Attentive 81 Detached 131 Gleeful 181 Merry 231 Sad 281 Useless
32 Averse 82 Detestable 132 Gloomy 182 Miffed 232 Sadistic 282 Valued
33 Avoidant 83 Devastated 133 Grateful 183 Miserable 233 Scared 283 Vengeful
34 Awful 84 Disappointed 134 Grieving 184 Mocked 234 Scorned 284 Vigilant
35 Awkward 85 Disapproving 135 Grim 185 Moody 235 Seething 285 Vindictive
36 Baffled 86 Discarded 136 Grumpy 186 Morose 236 Self-conscious 286 Violated
37 Befuddled 87 Disgraced 137 Guilty 187 Mortified 237 Sensitive 287 Vulnerable
38 Belligerent 88 Disgusted 138 Happy 188 Mournful 238 Serene 288 Watchful
39 Betrayed 89 Disillusioned 139 Hardy 189 Nauseated 239 Sheepish 289 Weak
40 Bewildered 90 Dismal 140 Hateful 190 Needy 240 Shocked 290 Weepy
41 Bitter 91 Dismayed 141 Heated 191 Neglected 241 Shy 291 Willful
42 Bleak 92 Dismissive 142 Helpless 192 Nervous 242 Sickened 292 Wishful
43 Bold 93 Dispirited 143 Hesitant 193 Nonchalant 243 Skeptical 293 Wistful
44 Bored 94 Disquieted 144 Hopeful 194 Numb 244 Skittish 294 Withdrawn
45 Bossy 95 Disrespected 145 Horrified 195 Optimistic 245 Sleepy 295 Woeful
46 Buoyant 96 Distant 146 Hostile 196 Ostracized 246 Slumped 296 Worried
47 Burned up 97 Distracted 147 Humble 197 Overwhelmed 247 Sly 297 Worthless
48 Busy 98 Doting 148 Humiliated 198 Panicky 248 Somber 298 Yielding
49 Careful 99 Doubtful 149 Hungry 199 Paranoid 249 Sore 299 Zealous
50 Chaotic 100 Eager 150 Hurt 200 Peaceful 250 Sorrowful 300 Zippy

• Hexed watercolour paper insert, to paint a map if I'd ever need one. Turns out you can make a common laser printer to print on some types of watercolour papers and it won't smudge when used with water. A really easy way to do same precise lineart but with custom colouring.

 • I really wish to use Decker for something; maybe when some of the weekly places are done they can be made interactive in it.

Again, realistically looking at this idea, I don't think it will be enough to carry me across the finish line, but I'd be curious to see how far I can go.


Sunday, 16 October 2022

Two mechanics, possibly for the system behind the character sheet

These are just two mechanics I want to note here before they are lost in notebooks. 

1. Soft class

There is a single pool for Armour, Utility and Stamina. It is somewhat abstract, stingy and very difficult to level up, so there always a trade-off of some kind between these three.

Armour allows to wear heaver armour, which in this setup, would provide useful damage absorption. 

Utility is both for useful on-hand tools, such as wands and potions, but also for spells/active martial masteries and so on.

Stamina is for better movement (including such things as climbing), wielding bigger/more demanding/more complicated weapons and more efficient shields, get-out-of-jail-free-card-maybe dodge.

Idea with slots for mental as well as physical resources isn't new, but I want to see if combining everything in the same small pile and allowing for soft split between these three – which would be, ideally, adjustable after a long rest – takes care of mechanics which are usually hard-coded into the class progression or demand permanent commitment such as feats. 

So far, it will probably look like "you have nine dots, if you want medium armour proficiency it is six out of them, you have three left for everything else, where do they go?"

At least one drawback I see is that for tabletop it might cause some unnecessary bookkeeping. Things once marked on paper prefer to stay this way, and adjustable-freely it might cause some mess, not mentioning players taking time and fiddling with it each long rest. Maybe fixed with some kind of "rebirth", Rosaria/Rennala way for restatting, so it is still available, just not too freely to avoid headaches. 

Second, of course, would be to avoid an exploit where one just puts everything in one of the three. Here I think Stamina is the most potentially troublemaking, as mobility, initiative and speed always are DnD weaker spots, mechanically.

Levelling up this pool should be possible but prohibitively expensive, so there would be another tradeoff with levelling stats/other abilities or getting something else useful.

2. Contacts / External specialists

This was initially used for Ghostwire Rain and I think it might be useful for other games. The purpose is to get on-fly Contact that might offer some external expertise for a player character stuck with a need of one without 1) spending time predefining a person that might not come to play 2) spending too much time doing the same on-fly.

Each character has one* unspecified contact they can draw upon at any moment by specifying them. Player tells the name and, briefly, what is a common history between their character and that person; DM specifies personality and fills other gaps as needed. Such contacts are acquaintances or at some arms length away, not close friends, and reflect 'I happen to know the person' kind of familiarity; contacts and allies obtained naturally by adventuring, role-playing and other specific effort are beyond this system. 

(*) or one per adventure, if the game is in urban kind of environment or players are in a line of work that involves a lot of social or investigative activities.

Regardless of what they do, Contacts come in three aspects: Cheap, Good and Fast.

Contacts who have only one aspect (i.e. cheap but neither good nor fast) are easily available. It isn't a challenge to find somebody like that.

Contacts who are all three (i.e. cheap and good and fast) are always in demand by everybody else around them and are almost impossible to reach and enlist for service; they are fully booked at best and fully booked for next three years at worst.

So the Contact in question has two aspects out of three; player tells DM which are those. For example, they want Bluebird the Hacker be good (obviously) and cheap (because PCs don't have much money) but not fast (there is still a plenty of time before bombs go out). 

Then there is a roll to see if this contact is available; such roll is challenging but not too difficult. Depending on the system, the roll might be helped by background (it is easier to know a gossip-mongering noble if one's background is a courtier) or some other aspect of the character, such as high skill.

Critical failure on such roll will take one aspect (player's choice) off the contact: i.e. Bluebird the Hacker is still good but not as cheap as one expected. Failure will mean some minor upset such as their negative aspect will a bit be more prominent this time, so Bluebird the Hacker might take some extra time this time in addition to be slow as usual. Critical success will update the Contact to all three at once, i.e. Bluebird the Hacker this time works fast in addition to good and cheap. 

Contacts are usually not willing to do anything obviously illegal, even in criminal underground as the paranoia that one might be set up or sold out is ever present. 

Once specified in such way, Contact remains permanent if player desires so. I think if the game uses a downtime system there should be an option of maintaining / updating / dropping Contacts for people who just want to have this kind of network.

Sunday, 3 July 2022

Into the Ghostwire Rain

(re-imagining of Sheep and Sorcery's Electric Samsara post, used with permission; it is also an intro into a small investigative dungeon for a group of 1-3 players; Electric Samsara post at the link above spoils the whole adventure)
Despite the name, it doesn't always rain there; picture from a wallpaper site by unknown author

It is a future, again, somewhere

Human history was a sustained momentum, an arrow from the past and into the the transcendence.

But before it could bloom into utopia, the cocoon of Mount Meru was broken and burnt, and with it died the future.

In the neon fallout the ruthless had risen to pillage what remained of hope through wealth and power, and then fled the polluted planet to their pristine near-orbital Sky Cities, leaving the rest to struggle with world-wide havoc, spiritual, technical and mnemonic pollution, demonic invasions and land itself going haywire, as the reality – or, at least the perception of it – grew fragmented and convoluted beyond the measure.

After those Lost Years, a group of benevolent AIs, Bodhisattva-9, put an monumental effort into motion and combed Cloud Cities into mostly livable, if neither glamourous nor fully safe conditions.

Through the surrounding mist, where the world fragments itself and goes fluid, ghostwires connect the Cloud Cities into the facsimile of the civilization. With Bodhisattva-9 busy with maintaining the reality itself and extending only marginally visible hand, the Cloud Cities fall back on a non-enlightened mess of human and post-human governance. A lot of people live under the Guidance which promises a relatively safe, untroubled life for the cost of obedience and conformity: quaint coffee shops, lots of greenery, occasional black hovercraft at night. In marginal districts, where ghostwires buzz, and snap, and let the mist in, the life is spicier but also poorer and more dangerous, the life expectancy is lower, and Thousand Eyes, Thousand Arms don’t extend their effort as much.

Is it actual magic, ley lines of forgotten past flowing in parallel to the ghost treads? It is out of control pico-cloud permeating everything and guided by the principles now convoluted beyond imagination?

Do you care?

Did spirits and ghosts exist before the Burn? Are they rudimentary AIs, imprinted by humans who taught them once? Echoes of lives abruptly ended by the cacophony of Lost Years? Imprints into invisible datafield?

Do you care?

Are people choosing to live in the bland mundanity of the Guidance simply tired of the shit around them? Are they manipulated by Bodhisattvas to serve as a living counterbalance to the breaking world, sacrificing their growth and potential for the greater good?

Do you care?

Do you care about any of this at all when you are neck deep in debt to the powerful crime lord and now he is calling to collect?

Goro Hiroki is one of five Domos (Big Shots) of Vipana Cartel which more or less run underbelly of Rain District of This Cloud City, with only Red Path Cartel and Dio Jorno Group as in any way noticeable other criminal organizations of significance. Itself big as a city, Rain District is a lowsec place, where the life is bobbing between generally calm on the main streets and churning unlawfulness underneath as soon as you step away from main streets, like a worm infection under the skin.

Goro Hiroki owns you big time. Thankfully, out of five Domos of Vipana he is the most recent and thus the least inclined to harvest your organs, pump you full of low-quality drugs and milk as a serotonin cow, take away your dreams, use your body as an incubator for the grunts, let you die in a bloodsport or make you a living sacrifice to placate the mist. No, Goro Hiroki allows you to do this one assignment for him, the work requiring people not directly associated with him, using your own skills and aptitudes to solve this problem of his – and if you win, all is forgiven and if you fail... there is always alternative ways to take what it is his due.

Goro Hiroki is two and half metres tall, four-armed, bronze-skinned, green-eyed guy who dresses like a barbarian king, and behaves like one both in cruelty and largess.
image from Ghostwire Tokyo trailer (which is more inspirational than the game that followed it)

Your strength and weakness / Aspects

(for the group game, each player picks up one aspect as a strength and specify one aspect as a weakness, in which case it will work as anti-stat (i.e. Suave weakness gives disadvantage on everything that Suave would be good for; Powerful Build is a weakling, etc)
(for one player game, the player picks up two aspects as strengths and one as a weakness)

• aspects are largely beneficial, but each comes with a drawback which might surface in certain circumstances.
• aspects mostly work or fail automatically when on their own.
• in case of significant risk, uncertainty or an impediment, they have 5-in-6 chance to work (1 is a failure) if strong, or 5 in 6 to cause a failure (6 is a success) if a weakness; they can give an advantage / disadvantage on a related competency check.

Powerful Build

• strong and athletic – the pinnacle of fitness
• tough as nails
• an intimidating presence makes some negotiations and first impressions rather difficult; others are more wary around you

Mystical
• in the city of penny oracles and petty spiritualists attuned to the strange and unusual to a deeper level
• can see the threads of reality in ways the other cannot
• mist goes after you first

Talk to animals
• can talk to animals
• animals can talk to you
• a blessing, a curse and nobody ever believes you about this ability

Streetsmart
• knows how to lie and when lied to
• no door can hold you and shortcuts might open where none are known to others
• the city can take a hold on you, moving you in the ways it wants; jealous, it is prone to jinxing life for people who like you

Keen Eye
• observant
• picks up vibes, understands others’ perspective
• vulnerable to sensory overload, could be completely lost in certain environments or memories

Booksmart
• possesses a wealth of miscellaneous knowledge (you ate a few books, maybe even literally)
• a talented researcher
• easily distracted by an opportunity to get more knowledge

Suave
• attractive and charming;
• a natural flirt, if wants to be so;
• people tend to notice you and it is more difficult to hide in a crowd;

Your background / competency
While even the Rain district by itself has thousands of different vocations, these are the most relevant to the current story; Goro Hiroki probably won’t match a humble flower seller with this kind of task.

roll 1d12 or choose or propose your own.

background

competency


background

competency

01

bodyguard / blade / merc

combat

07

tomb tender

spirits, superstitions, funeral rites

02

mercygiver

healing, mercy killings

08

vicer

criminal insignias, drugs, dealings

03

gearhead

driving, robotics

09

PI or former cop

law and order procedures, hierarchy, forensics

04

petty ritualist

noi, old history

10

AI Lantern co-host

hacking, spirit and noi resistance

05

peddler / clerk /businessperson

haggling, appraise, bureaucratics

11

celebrity / politician 

society, current news, performance

06

streetrat

stealth, chases

12

drifter / hunter

survival, mist beings

What is Goro’s hold onto you? (roll 1d12 or chose)

01

You are or were really into drugs. Goro has a lot of drugs. You ate more of his drugs you had money for.

Start with a doze of Blue Eyed Silver.

Blue Eye Silver phases you out of reality into spirit psychodelia without worry and allows to pass a day of rest in a matter of hour; it is highly addictive and you’d need a doze a next day or be unable to heal naturally. 

02

You took a really big loan from him and are unable to repay. Maybe your business is still finding its legs, or maybe you needed the money for a liver transplant, or maybe just cash to cover your gambling habits – it doesn’t matter, really, as high interest keeps on accumulating.

Start with Velvet Shell.

There is a luxury item and there is Luxury Item. Velvet Shell is a piece of current Luxury that almost everybody wants or at least has an interest in having.

03

You did something regretful and he has proof of it. He promises to give you the material he blackmails you with if you are successful in his task.

Start with Hidden Depth (claim on fly an expertise in anything you wish and reasonably can have). The choice is set once it is used.

If the blackmail is ever released in the wilds, your life would be much worse. 

04

He literally saved your life. Maybe not fully intentionally but nevertheless he did.

Start with the Scar (1d6).

1: blade, thin red calligraphic line. Once per adventure you can compel any actual sword to strike away from its intended target. 

2: fire, mosaic of colloid tissue: automatically soak 1 Harm once per day from a fire source.

3: claws and teeth, impressive network of lines. You can tell a story about how you got those scars and keep a small group of non-hostile people temporarily fascinated. 

4: ghosts: moon-scented bracelets on your sewed wrists which ache near the mist. No otherworldly being can surprise you again.

5: bullet: it left a hole in you, it still hungers. You have a noticeable resistance to poisons and can eat very despicable food without harm to yourself; can sustain yourself with nothing but flammable liquids.

6: execution: a necklace of rope sigils carved into your skin: if reduced to dying state can transfer the killing blow to somebody who fights by your side. 

05

Covered your ass from the 1000E1000A (the police). Was your crime even true? Police certainly thinks so, but Goro covered for you.

Start with Faceless ID. By the cost of Noi Dice (see below) you can pass as one of the unassuming people living in Guidance, with a clear criminal record and no suspicion of bad behaviour. 

06

Helped somebody you really care about but who is unable to repay him. As an honourable person you took this debt upon yourself.

As long as you are not backpedalling on your word, Spirit of Oath looks benevolently on you and gives you an advantage against intrusions into your self (such as magic, possessions or pheromones)

07

Sponsored your expedition into the Mist. It was almost a disaster but you and most of your team returned back alive.

Start with Searing Enigma; a piece of knotted knowledge about the past in your brain that can truthfully answer one question.
Alternative It can be traded with scholarly types for favour.

08

Used his influence to secretly prop you into a position of some power.

Once per adventure you can swing your influence around; treat as a successful Charm Person (in case of the crowd, it will affect 2d3 of most susceptible people).

09

You were an old guard among Vipana Cartel but wanted out of this life. Instead of gutting you out like a fish or ritualistically dismembering you, Goro let you to retire. Now after some years he calls upon you to do this last job for him.

While for a while you were a normal citizen, you still have a reputation among the criminals and can use it to compel almost everybody as per successful Fear spell once per adventure.

10

He is your boss (well, boss of the boss of the boss, more likely) and you have already failed him once. You spent the last week? month? year? in a terrible place, between life, death and uncertainty. This is your chance to work your way back into his graces. 

You now have a higher tolerance for pain. Your dreams occasionally spawn minor imps which (3 in 6 chance) might follow one simple order but otherwise become a nuisance. 

11

Goro knows who killed your mentor and lover. Maybe he doesn’t own you, technically, but he effectively gatekeeps this knowledge and you are too exhausted in all respects to start from square zero again after the search brought you to him. 

Start with extra Light technique. You have powerful enemies somewhere. 

12

He has a piece of your heart. Not necessarily given directly to him, but the passions, on occasion, are literally, traded, stolen and sold in Rain District, he might have gotten it from your past ex. Without it you will never again be whole. 

You start with Partial Heart. Nobody (except maybe strongly attuned to such matters) can read your emotions or call your bluff. 



Techniques
You have an ace in your sleeve.

For group play, everybody chooses one light technique or one heavy technique. For one player play, the player chose either two light techniques or one light and one heavy technique.

Light Techniques
These are rare but not extraordinary rare among those living dangerous lives. You will probably encounter these and others sooner or later if you keep tangling up with the world.

Light techniques cost nothing to use but time; invoking them in the majority of cases requires slow/full action.

roll 1d20 or chose

01

Light Body: Your body is light as a feather, the step is swift as the wind. You fall without harm and run really fast. 

02

Soul Blade: The wise swordsman cuts with their whole being. The blade is merely an extension of that being. You can cut spirits and ghosts just like men.

03

Moon Shadow: The shadows protect you as a mother protects her children, keeping you hidden from those that would harm you. You are invisible if you are still in the shadows and can see well with minimal light.

04

Gentle Embrace: At your mere touch, you can feel a person's pain and longings;  you can heal 1 Harm or a Minor Injury, and might glimpse into their weakness.

05

Open Palm: Violence is so easily turned back upon itself. When you are nothing and do nothing and hold nothing in your hands, your opponents only strike themselves.

06

Piercing Claw: Your hands are better for cutting than knives, your fists better for bludgeoning than hammers. You are considered armed with lethal weapon even if you have none. 

07

Invisible Key: toss some paper fragments on a doorway and it is sealed shut, not to be broken except by tremendous force. The effect spreads a little around on a walls as well.

08

Electric Spider: You can manipulate some threads of the data reality like a spider manipulates her web. Attack and ensnare systems and leave behind listening threads and traps.

09

Crippled Liver: Stumbling drunkenly, your opponents think they have an easy target, but you are lighter on your feet blackout drunk than they are at their most sober. If you are otherwise drunk, you can do move and do action even if you go earlier than the opponent. 

10

Demon Fist: You can manifest hard light arms. Beat down your foes under a rain of punches. You have an extra attack in melee. 

11

Wiremind: You can project yourself through the wires as a specter over long distances (although not to leave the district yet), leaving your body undefended.

12

Heaven’s Plate: Project strong disc of hard light which can slowly move and hold about half-ton of weight. If used as a shield soaks 1 Harm per invocation. 

13

Diamond Body: Skin that is harder than iron, flesh that is stronger than steel. The one who sees the self as immaterial can imagine it to be anything and it is so. You manifest medium armor that doesn’t break until exhausted but doesn’t work against energy damage. 

14

Way of the Thriving Vine: There is more life in this city that appears at first. You can command the vines, leaves, and roots as you command your hand.

15

Crazy Monkey Style: There is power in subtlety and power in the opposite. In a furor of movement, noise, and violence you astonish foes with your swiftness. 

You can choose one target to dazzle by running circles around it. Negate 1 Armour if any and cause one round disadvantage on attack(s).

16

Beautiful People’s Mirror: Typical of the Beautiful People’s narcissism, they cannot get enough of themselves. In likewise manner, you can also create 1d3 fragile clones of yourself. They can deal a total of 1 Harm if you sacrifice them at once or distract/ confuse enemies for a little while until destroyed. 

17

Flashing Flame: The violence of shaking atoms, the flashing flames that leap from your very hands. Breathe out of the flame of life you were given and set the world alight. Does 1 fire Harm to all people in an area similar to a small patio. 

18

Thunder Foot: Your stomp shakes the earth. The ground upheaves at your step. Rooted in the Way, you cannot be shaken.

19

Diva’s Breath: you are immune to any impediments of breath, being it water, gasses, airborne poisons and such. You can go extra 4 hours per day without sleep.

20

Spirit Smoke: many things hide in the mist and many mists hide around us. You draw forward a dense fog that is unaffected by all but the strongest winds.


Heavy Techniques and Noi
Heavy techniques are more powerful, dangerous, secret and highly sought of. You learnt yours through the years of study from a likewise secretive mentor or as a powerful boon, but you happen to know that Silver Soul Society has a method of harvesting them very painfully and directly from you if you are to get too reckless and fall into their hands.

Each Heavy Technique requires the invoker to suffer 1 Harm (unsoakable). This generates 1 Noi Die,
1d6 which is rolled each time the Heavy Technique is used and defines how well it works or how long it lasts. Noi die cannot fail, but it expires if it rolls 4-6 or after taking a sleep / having a big Harm recovery.
If Noi Die persists, this technique can be used again in the same day without Harm cost but the die is rolled again upon use.

roll 1d20 or chose

01

Meru Blade Strike: your next attack(s) always hits. 

02

Mirror Eyes: almost any non physical attack or technique is reflected back to the source.

03

Dreamport: when you touch a sleeping person, you are transported to the place of their dreams. Roll 1d6: on 1-4 they dream nonsense and you fall off the edge of the reality, undetectable by any means, then return 1-2 hours later healing 1 Harm; on 5 they dream of specific person, on 6 they dream of specific location.

04

Ghost Cloud: you can call and manipulate the mist to create and reshape physical objects. 

05

Neon Demon Vessel: 75% chance to negate physical Harm and almost any weapon breaks after a single strike.

06

Master of Puppets: you directly dominate the will and the actions of one more or less human being of whom you hold some part or have in a line of sight. 

07

Beckoning Tune: you can lure spirits and ghosts to yourself or direct them to any nearby location; 50% chance for them to be suggestible to do your bidding.

08

Paper Spiders: Self-folding and unfolding origami, that can chase and enshare everybody they touch.

09

No-blade Zone: you manifest a broken blade and slam it into the ground, anchoring reality to its purest, most fundamental state. All magic is either suppressed or dispelled, and all extraordinary beings either banished or suffer harm.

10

Litany of Fear: you can cause a blind panic to a rather large crowd. 

11

Fire Soul: you burst into a flame becoming impervious to fire and electricity Harm. Anybody touching you, even the ghosts, suffer 1 Harm.

12

Amaya Snake: translucent snake made of sigils winds around your arm; it can stretch to impossible lengths and hold the weight of many people, allowing you to navigate any city / forest  environment faster than a car as if per grappling hook or a flight.

13

Thousand Guns: you invoke Old Saint Shiva Grave who, for a moment, covers the vast area in a bulletstorm.

This is a highly murderous technique: if invoked onto a mundane population it will kill about a block of people; deals 2 Harm.

14

Lighting Healing: you can fully heal (except 1 Harm if spent on this technique) by tapping into any relatively big source of energy.

15

Night Maiden’s Mist: you can extrude an invisible, stationary, nearly odorless fog that painlessly, albeit slowly (1 Harm per round) kills an unsuspecting target without any visible injuries. 

16

Blameless Maze of Ie: You perceive the environment with utmost clarity even if it is fully dark or obscured. You can choose to terminate this technique prematurely by negating any Harm that you can negate (physical by default) that comes in your way in a single round. 

17

Mist Mask: you invoke subtle treads of mist into your being, and can assume any form and appearance reasonable to your size, along with mimicking the appropriate mundane equipment in function.

18

Bloodspike: if you touch somebody’s blood, you can paralyze them for some time. 

19

Exhalation of Thorns: you curse the being. They become incompetent in everything they were competent and suffer disadvantage on everything they were not competent in. 

20

Breath of Life: you can resurrect recently dead; the longer the body is dead or the more maimed it is upon death the bigger chance for it to come back wrong. 



The gear and living conditions

• You are struggling financially, either earning lots but forced to maintain high appearances or only barely scraping by.

• You can either define four mundane but useful items you can reasonably have, or specify three and leave one ‘slot’ open to be negotiated with the DM on a go. It is assumed you have normal stuff needed for living that has no effect on the scenario.

• You have 1d4 Coins. 1 Coin can buy a week of scruffy lodging, a low-quality weapon, light armour, somewhat useful tool or a piece of information. Mundane stuff (buying regular meals and so on) is waved off unless you do some drastic spending.

Armour

Armour can have pretty much any form from metallic plates to paper charms.

Armour soaks Harm and gets destroyed.

Light Armour (1 Coin) soaks 1 Harm and destroyed.

Medium Armour (3 Coins) soaks 1 Harm but has a 50% chance to break after this; if survives soaks 1 more Harm second time and then breaks.

Heavy Armour (6 Coins) is a combination of Light and Medium Armour mechanically. Soaks 1 Harm automatically the first time, soaks 1 Harm second time and has 50% chance to break; if survives, soaks 1 more Harm and is destroyed.

Base Mechanics

Every time a character attempts something risky, they roll a d6:

If competent:
• 1 failure
• 2–3 success at the cost
• 4–6 success
• 7+ critical success

If unskilled
• 1- critical failure
• 2-3 failure
• 4-5 success at the cost
• 6 success

Critical failure: The character fails terribly and suffers major consequences;
Failure: The character fails and may suffers some consequences
Success at the cost: The character can succeed if they accept a loss or complication devised by the DM
Success: The character achieves their goal without further problems.
Critical success: The character succeeds spectacularly, getting an additional benefit or a large impact.

In complex tasks your strong aspects might allow you an advantage of an extra dice on a roll, where you take the best result; likewise as a weakness they might impede your action, forcing you to take the lowest of the two rolls.
A well laid plan, favorable terrain, having help, etc can all be examples of favorable conditions and give +1 or, rarely, +2 to the end result of the roll.

An ill-considered plan, difficult environment, a hard task, a heavy interference all of these are negative conditions, and they can subtract 1 or, rarely, 2 from the end result of the roll.

Harm and Recovery

Each PC has a Harm track, and can take a total of 6 Harm.

At 1-3 Harm there are no penalties.

At 4 Harm they take a Minor Injury, the nature of which is decided by the GM. Subtract 1 from all important rolls.

At 5 Harm, the player character takes a Major Injury, the nature of which is decided by the GM. Injuries act as negative where appropriate. Subtract 2 from all important rolls.

At 6 Harm the player character is dead or disabled, depending on circumstances.

PCs only take 1 Harm at a time unless it is something truly drastic. Powerful enemies work the same way. Minor enemies are disabled or dead in one to three Harm and might deal just 1 Harm as a group, if especially minor.

All Harm recovers after a night's rest. Injuries linger and require medical attention; Major Injuries might leave the character maimed or require prosthetics as determined by the GM.

Initiative and Combat

For the first round, unless there is a clear moment of surprise / ambush from one side, each side rolls 1d6 and does one action. After that players can go before opponents (quick) for one action, such as an attack, move or use of item or (slow) after the opponents for two actions, such as move and attack, use of technique, then there is a new round.

In non-hostile situations, if there is any question of order, the person with appropriate Strong Aspect (Suave by default) goes first.

---------------------------------

Common knowledge

Cloisters / Enclaves / Sectors / Pearls in the Oyster

The part of the city where people create a closed community aimed to full-immersion live-replicate a specific historical period. Of course, there is no telling how true this re-creation is, but it doesn’t really matter. Cloister usually starts with enthusiastic group of historically inclined people and very rarely lasts longer than five-ten years even with memory suppression, just as all problems of a small closed community start to pop up. Still, there are a few Cloisters going on for generations now, and occasionally one can actually meet somebody who was raised up in medieval times.

Cloisters are one of the few things that are fully supported by Bodhisattva-9 as a sort of ongoing art program; there is a special service that funds them and provides them with necessary props, supplies and information blackouts. The only condition made is that anybody wishing to leave a Cloister has full freedom to do so. The whole subculture of monk-hoppers goes from one such reconstruction to another often hopping into new one just after the previous one collapses, and spending their Right Now in facsimiles of the past.

Touch-up

People can look however they wish.

Just like gyms and tattoo parlors of the forgotten old, cosmetosurgery is ubiquitous, more or less affordable, and is a norm. It has limits – one still needs a body to host all of their organs in more or less their usual places, and nothing could be made from plasma or gel or hard light projections, at least not on this level. But whatever fur, horns, extra limbs, porcelain joints, animated underskin ornaments and grafted biolights, mostly useless although impressive-looking wings, softglass feathers or metallic scales, any colour of skin, eyes or hair, or miniscule nerve-controlled dragons living in the lattice cages of one’s own shoulder blades a person wants they can get it without breaking a bank.

Mechanically, such things are cosmetic only and convey no additional benefits unless agreed with the DM in a specific situation, maybe. For actual enchantments there are much steeper prices and much lesser availability. 
 
Street Spirits

Every street in This Cloud City gestates a spirit to live and die with it as the landscape of the city metastases new streets and dissolves old ones on a slow but regular basics.

Just like the streets themselves, their spirits are narrow-minded and rather one-dimensional in their focus. Socially they are a varied bunch: some are talkative and ongoing – to the point that Amber Deerchild was a regular in all pubs and bars mushrooming on her street – and some are distant, unknown, seeking neither attention, nor acknowledgement, nor tribute.

Most spirits do know most of what happens on their street, and, as such information is always valuable, the fools, the smarts and the hopefuls keep on bothering them.

[to make up a Street Spirit this generator can be used on a fly http://noisesanssignal.blogspot.com/2022/04/random-character-generator-from-4d20.html but any weird enough process will do]

If the name has an even amount of words, it is social spirit, if it is odd, it is a reclusive spirit. If you get a street spirit called Street Spirit, it is a jackpot and it can tell you most everything about other spirits and where to find them and how to butter them up into helping you. ]
 
Neon

Everything is drenched in neon in Cloud Cities, but Neon with capital “N” is a highly precious substance, an ember from Mount Meru still smoldering somewhere in the mist. The vultures descended on the corpse of the future tore it apart for wealth and power, and most of Neon is gone, but occasionally a sliver finds its way into Cloud Cities.

Make a wish. Inhale deeply, as the broken dream changes the reality around you. Not every wish will do, not with this pittance in hand: one cannot damn the world, or make the history suddenly make any sense, or topple a Sky City from its illustrious perch, or cure too many people, or kill a slightly bigger amount of them. It has to be a more or less personal wish, or, at best, for somebody at arm's distance away: bring back a deadman, imbue yourself with some of the power, bind this street gang to your whims just this once. Sorcerers hunger for Neon as it breaks the limits of what they can do, but anybody touching even the sliver of Neon can work some wonders.

Life expectancy

Approximate chances to die of natural/aging causes:
– under the Guidance or in a similar highsec district: 80%-95%;
– in a lowsec district: 35%-50%;
– on the outskirts: 5%-10%;
– in the mist: it goes into negatives, really.
 
The Mist

Maybe it is picomachines, or souls of the dead, or reality just tired of this shit, or just time poured into a proverbial blender and evaporated until nothing but the finest mist remains.

The mist is odorless, tactiless, devoid of colour, features, thoughts and perception. It denies all senses, eventually including the sense of self and sense of being, fracturing and bleaching anybody who travels far enough, and, eventually simply fragmenting into non-causal particles those stuck within.

Travelling through Mist is possible using ghostwires as lifelines, but the established travel allows only 28.4 hours of travel per year per person; trained communicators, maintenance experts and envoys are authorized 71.25 hours with two mandatory breaks. 
 
Blanks / Mist-eaten / Blandmen

Fragmented, those eroded by the mist to the point that little remains of their self, both physically, mentally or spiritually. It is considered to be a very bad luck to treat them with cruelty. If they cannot make into the Guidance (as such thing requires some measure of self to be accepted) people consider it to be auspicious to give them some small, simple jobs or alms. After all, those were formerly either daredevil mavericks every one of us aspires to be, or those desperate and destitute who had to live at the verge of mist as every one of us is afraid to be. 
 
One Thousand Eyes One Thousand Arms / 1000E1000A / 1KE1KA / Keika / the police

Hivemind bound, rather tangentially, by The Guidance, made to maintain the civil order, fractured like everything else. In some places it is a punishment to be assigned to the police, in some places it is just another gang in a better uniform, in some (mostly in the Guidance) it sort of functions as once idealistically intended, in some places it definitely doesn’t.

All keika beings starting up from a parking patrol have a bindi-like mark for Overdrive: when in danger or if they feel threatened, the police hivemind takes over, making them more combat-capable and ruthless. Red eyes are the warning.

Golem Sun and sunsets

Real sunlight might not exist anymore, not in the Cloud Cities, at least. In This Cloud City, Golem Sun is a one-hundred-percent-functional-substitute and possibly a former demon who ate a piece of the real sun. Its titanically massive form is clothed in brilliance and it steps so lightly the raindrops or dust remain undisturbed. Golem Sun mostly shines upon the Guidance sectors, as to cover the most people at once, and it doesn’t visit low-secs every day or on any strict schedule. In Rain District it appears almost always at sunsets, and as it does, most of activity stops as per unwritten but widely followed custom, and other artificial lights fade, so people can enjoy some indistinguishable-from-real sunlight and beauty it creates when interwoven with falling rain.
 
Right Now

There is no past and there is no future.

Human memory gets faulty about the events which happened more than seven years ago, chalking everything older in mental closets of ‘somewhere in the past’, and with aborted ascension of the future humanity just lives the days one after another, forever denied the next breakthrough. There are a few calendars for protocols, schedules and such, but everybody knows that they are just made up for convenience, and, with nothing really happening except day to day living, there isn’t much point to them anyway. Human bioclocks do advance and time passes in some way, and events do happen, but there is no any point in restarting the history.

Right Now is all that remains.

Bright, busy, colourful limbo.


---------------------------------
Credits and inspirations
Sheep and Sorcery (spoilers for the whole adventure):
(http://sheepandsorcery.blogspot.com/2022/04/electric-samsara-character-creation-and.html)
"Ghostwire Tokyo” trailer
Katabatic Age (https://hexculture.com/2018/08/katabatic-age.html)
“Scarlet Hollow” visual novel
“Let Us In” by Luka Rejec
False Machine's post about scars
“Malfeas”, supplement for Exalted 2nd Edition.
“Tales of the Neon Sea” game
League of Legends Project trailers
"Fallen London", a bit, "Disco Elysium" a bit, "Babel-17" a bit, and "Mortal Kombat", also a bit

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As the system is made for an one-shot investigation dungeon of sort, it is a simple system, basically no / conditional yes / yes. Aspects give additional opportunities to investigate, but not supposed to provide immediate clues; they are keys or, maybe, lockpicks, not the immediate treasure.

Armour techniques might be too powerful.

Speak with Animals might be an odd choice in the world where magic sort of exists, but I really liked the flow of investigation with in 'Scarlet Hollow', so I think having to chose on a go between what is pretty much two simultaneous conversation while perceived as weird to people around is an interesting thing to explore.

I also like the idea of simplifying what is essentially spells into just light / heavy / ultimate techniques.

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Life lesson: never ever ever paste Google Doc text directly into a blogger. This article is the a nightmare to edit.