Shared posts

22 Jun 21:29

estival: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

estival: pertaining or appropriate to summer.
22 Jun 12:10

sundog: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

sundog: a bright circular spot on a solar halo; parhelion.
18 Jun 00:56

My Favorite Opinion In The History Of Games

by Zak Sabbath
Ok, so you know what an X-Card is?

It's like for games where people might get freaked out. (For some people: all games.)

It's a card you hold up when the game is genuinely traumatically freaking you out and then everybody dials back whatever the offensive thing is.

The theory is: sometimes if you're freaked out, you're too freaked out to explain to your fellow gamers that you're freaked out, so you use this card to say it. X! And they all then know that means stop.

Ok.

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So recently this person (a storygame fan, naturally) suggested that the X-card should be mandatory for all games.

And I was like "Well then why not for all activities ever? I mean, you can be doing anything and then be triggered and then not be able to explain why?"

And they were like Yeah, the X-card should be mandatory for all activities.

So this is the cutest opinion in the history of games.

But then I was like--y'know what, I know lots of people who have triggers. Maybe it would actually be a good idea if there was just a trigger ap that actually called up a message saying "Hey this is difficult content for me" with translation options.

Mandatory though. Online RPG people, jesus.

That would make murder trials hella fun, right?
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17 Jun 22:51

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Safety

by tech@thehiveworks.com


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
One day, we'll have personal robot servants who realize human bodies are the major source of dust in the house.

New comic!
Today's News:

You can still win an early copy of Soonish by predicting the awful future here!

17 Jun 22:49

sui generis: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

sui generis: of his, her, its, or their own kind; unique.
17 Jun 00:55

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Spandrels

by tech@thehiveworks.com


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
The moment you stop trying to do anything to make the other person like you? That's true love.

New comic!
Today's News:
16 Jun 21:21

The customer value chain.I’ve found this model useful in my...



The customer value chain.

I’ve found this model useful in my thinking so many times. Also known as the Buying Hierarchy, it’s a model that illustrates a common evolution — though not perfect nor universal — in products and markets where an original innovation provides a performance or functionality benefit over what others can provide. As a result they can charge more as no one else does it.

When others come to deliver that too, then the focus for the customer can move to which delivers the most reliable quality. When the reliability is the same from different providers then we’ll choose the one that is more convenient.

Only once all else is equal does the lowest price option become the winning one. At this stage you’re selling a commodity where people could choose to get the same thing, just as easily, for the same quality in several places.

There’s a business to be made at each stage, but it’s sensible to know where you’re competing.

The original model is from Windermere Associates and widely shared by Clayton Christensen in The Innovator’s Dilemma.

04 Jun 01:32

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - A Frankenstein

by tech@thehiveworks.com


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
I'm starting to realize I really like settling arguments in favor of people who are wrong.

New comic!
Today's News:

Hey geeks! We didn't get enough submissions for BAHFest Sydney. Please consider submitting a proposal, as we're holding it open for one extra week!

02 Jun 12:47

One Year Hence

by TeraS

At noon today it is one year hence that Goddess called my Eternal’s mother home.

 

One Year Hence
By TeraS

 

One year arrived

The time approached
The moment came
The tears fell
The sadness arrived

One year passed

The pain settled in
The loss deepened
The tears never stopped
The ache was constant

One year darkened

The light dimmed
The faith was shaken
The joy wasn’t to be
The trails began

One year hence

The tears never seem to stop
The hurt never seems to lessen
The agony never seems to go away
The loss never seems to leave

One year …

A Son remembers his mother
A Daughter remembers both mothers she’s lost
A Father remembers his love
A Family remembers

Every day of every year.

31 May 13:22

The True Nature of Existence

by Zak Sabbath
Broadly applicable, but I specifically wrote it for Demon City:
New painting for Demon City, click to enlarge
Imagine a laid-flat brick of black gelatin. Pick a spot on the left wall and, imperfectly and at a diagonal, slide a soda straw in until it sticks out the right side.

The left side of the brick represents the second you were born, the right the second you die, the brick itself all you might've experienced and the path of the straw all that you did experience.

This tunnel through the gelatin is the path of your life. Now imagine a second tunnel, shaped like a crazy straw--carving likewise broadly left to right but looping and wild--intersecting and sometimes overlapping the path of your life, but rounding off and taking its own route at many places. This tunnel is the life of someone else you know.

Your story and another person's only have to agree when these paths overlap. Only if you both witness the same event will your stories need to be alike in order to maintain a sense of an objective and sensical world. If your father was alone in a field and says he saw a length of rusted wire, this cannot threaten your sense of reality if you were a thousand miles away at the time. Why wouldn't your dad have seen a wire?

Your exact position in any given space and at any given time, like your experience, is unshared and unique to you. You experience the look of you favorite picture and the taste of your favorite food in ways that do not necessarily precisely match the experience of any other creature that ever was or will be.

Imagine now further, that due to your unique pattern of shape, mass, and velocity, the precise physical laws that govern your existence are also unique to you. You move in a reality envelope where the air is generally 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen and free-falling objects where you are gain speed at 9.8 meters per second squared and fireflies glow golden with a darkening around the edges and people, when you ask for directions, are generally kind.

The truth is this: it is not necessary that everyone share these rules, all that is necessary for the spreading network of reality to maintain its shape is that the rules of the subrealities experienced by everyone in the one greater reality look the same when and only when they intersect.

Having a cigarette on the train platform at 10am, you tell your sister there's no such thing as ghosts--and your sister says there is. You are both right--by the rules governing your tunnel through the gelatin there can be no ghosts, and by the rules governing your sister's tunnel there can be, but so long as you both agree there are no ghosts to be seen right now on this train platform at 10am, reality holds.
The key, then, to ruptures in the ordinary face of life, to accessing the vast distortions of what we think of as natural which might be possible if free-falling objects gained speed at .00000000000000000000001 meters per second squared more than they should or if an effect might in some circumstances precede a cause or an action not have a precisely equal and opposite reaction is isolation.

The farther from things with which one might interact, the farther the unique curve of an individual's unique set of laws might bend from the norm. This isn't because things change as you move away--it's because this is always how it was going to be. The universe is organized in such a way as to keep consistent. Your father was always going to be alone when he saw the rusted wire, and your sister was always going to be the last one to leave the office when she heard the voice that wasn't a voice from that white face pressed against the far side of that window.

Divagations from the understood are less likely when more disparate bystanders appear whose subrealities the larger reality needs to satisfy. This is why the greatest wonders and terrors are witnessed lonely hills, in basements, on dead streets when the background music of life seems to have dropped away and a sneakered footstep sounds as clear as a nail being clipped...or in the presence of severe ranks of disciples who have trained their souls to follow a single and common path. And, likewise, this is why such events will never be believed or understood in the wider world--at least until the last generation discovers the implications of whatever rules they earned that position by ignoring.
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True transformation--the changing into something else--is always coincident with a life of profound and complex isolations. Just as the good work of the rules-as-written Calvinist Protestant does not earn a place in Heaven by doing good but rather doing good demonstrates she always was predestined to be there, the other worlds that interpenetrate the familiar world are not formed by the desperate and the strange but rather their desperation and strangeness are part of that same offshoot from the mainstream of life that allows such eddies to jell and pool and develop their own ecosystems.

By this token the many systems of supernatural and metaphysical wisdom recorded across human history are not so mutually-exclusive as they might first appear. What the Babylonian heresiarch inscribed on a tomb wall, what the Han dynasty sculptor cast in impure bronze, what the Elizabethan witch-hunter printed and circulated--these things are as real as anything in a life that we have not lived can ever be, as are the declarations that these things are impossible. They are simply rules for tunnels that never intersect.

What then is necessary to summon demons is to observe carefully the reality you are in, and look for the rules that have always been there--as a character in a book might guess the ending by discovering the genre he's being written in.

Once these rules begin to be found, the adept will grasp that all activity has a second meaning. Gestures, decisions, echo forward in ways not previously understood--for you, and for anyone who will encounter you. Even your words are a dialogue in a performance judged by new gods.

To know these things, the research must be done, the books read, the practices observed, but most of all: experiments must be conducted. And what will be unleashed is what was meant to be and what is then wrought can only be no more than what should have been.
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Support the Demon City Patreon here.

31 May 06:50

keysmash: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

keysmash: a random string of letters and symbols typed out on a keyboard or touchscreen, used to signal intense emotion in written communication.
29 May 12:23

Afterwards By TeraS

by TeraS

This story should have been shared on the Tale last week, or at least that was sort of the plan. But things conspired against me, and so it’s appearing one week late. Or rather, it will be shared one week late, but still appear to be on the right day and time otherwise. Time is, after all, an illusion—some would say lunchtime is doubly so *winks* —but, perhaps, sometimes there are good things to be found …

 

Afterwards
By TeraS

 

The day had arrived.

The day arrived when, as always, she’d asked for nothing special, for that was her way; a day in which she didn’t see the point of everyone making a fuss, going out of their way. Gifts weren’t needed—they weren’t what was important, after all. She understood what did matter, this year more than ever, it seemed, all things considered.

The birthday wishes came; really, they were what she cherished most of all: to know—but she always did—that she was remembered and loved, for she loved them all so very much.

Except, this year, other things changed. Those changes happened … afterwards.

The day after Tera’s birthday was a day she spent alone. It was a tradition of hers, one that had started a long time ago. It’s hard to lose one’s mother when you are but a child. One tends to grow up very quickly afterwards. There’s an emptiness that begins to form, one that simmers and bides its time. There’s little that can be done to hold it back, or lessen what comes from that emptiness.

Except where there was a mother that knew of that emptiness, of what it brought.

The day after Tera’s birthday always, but always, arrived with a single sealed envelope. Addressed very simply in a hand that was unmistakable, but then the hand of one’s mother is unmistakable.

Except, afterwards, on this birthday … there were two.

If the hand that wrote upon the first envelope was unmistakeable, then the writing upon the second was even more so. The hand was that of her Eternal’s mother, the addressing upon that letter quite clear.

Having a second mother—one that guided you through the trials of being an adult, was there to share in the love, laughter and joys of becoming part of a family—was a gift. Being loved by a mother, called daughter, cherished as much as her memories remember she’d been when she was young, was a gift for always. It was a gift through the good and the not so much so. Now, in the afterwards, a gift from a mother was joined by a gift from … a mother.

She’d always opened the single letter alone, not sharing what it said with anyone else. The words were, after all, meant for her. But now, afterwards, that wasn’t the thing to do. Her Eternal needed to be there.

He’d always respected her time alone, and this year he expected the day after Tera’s birthday to be the same. But in the afterwards of Tera calling to him, asking him to sit with her, he found himself looking at a card, addressed in a familiar hand …

… addressed to him.

They opened their letters, read them in silence. Afterwards Tera placed hers on the table, and he followed. Then she picked up his, and Keith did the same.

The words from the past met with the words of the here and now. One spoke of the hopes held for her daughter, the other the prayers for her son. Both spoke of their love for them both, one not ever having met him, the other grateful for having been there for both of them. Both mothers told of them being there, not leaving. They both understood that the words would be read in the afterwards of their being called by Goddess.

Neither of them worried about themselves.

They wrote of the afterwards, the days of longing, the emptiness within. But also was told of the joy of family, of the hope they had that in the afterwards there was something better to be found. Something they hoped would, in time, help with the afterwards.

In the afterwards, the two Eternals talked about what came … afterwards.

At the end of the day that followed Tera’s birthday, she’d always taken the letter from her mother for that year and carried it to the place where she’d placed every letter from every year since her mother’s passing. A bundle of cards, bound by an old red ribbon, one that had once held a ponytail in place a long time ago.

In the afterwards, that ribbon never was used to bind a mane of ebon hair again. It found its place in binding together the words of a mother to a daughter. Now, in the new afterwards, the ribbon held that multitude of cards … and one more: a card from a mother to her son; a card that spoke of hope in what would come next, a promise made to a son and, through that promise, one for a daughter as well.

Afterwards, things did get better.

And, in every afterwards to come, it would be a little more so.

29 May 12:13

To Be Utilized In The Occult Urban Crime Environment

by Zak Sabbath
This is the list of weapons and other gear for Demon City. Vehicles will be in another entry. While there are lots of other things not here, it's because I assume say, the cost and game function of--say--a modern backpack is self-explanatory, lemme know if you see anything that isn't...



WEAPONS

Note many “Nonlethal” weapons can actually kill a target if used repeatedly or if the target’s maximum Toughness is 0 to start.


Axe, Wood

Cash Check: 1


Axe-Hatchet/Throwing Axe:

Cash Check: 1
Notes: Can be thrown up to Toughness x 10 feet. Add a Situation Die to hit against any weapon except a knife at extreme close range, otherwise an opponent with a longer weapon has the a Situation Die vs the hatchet-wielder.


Baton/Hammer/Heavy Stick/Crowbar/Iron bar/Baseball bat/Sap/Sack of Pennies, other blunt weapon

Cash Check: 0-2 (expensive telescoping batons are concealable)


Blow torch/Welding torch

Cash Check: 1
Notes: Requires a fuel tank and some require an external spark to get started. 


Bows

Cash Check: 2
Range: Lose a die to hit beyond 1500 ft.
Notes: Including modern hunting bows, crossbows, etc. Quieter than guns but in a stand-up fight a gun gets a Situation Die vs someone using a bow.



Cattle Prod, Stun Baton or Stun Gun

Cash Check: 1
Range: Touch

Notes: Nonlethal, no damage. Make a Toughness check vs a 5 to take any action. No effect on anything above Toughness 5.



Chain Weapons (heavy chain, nunchaku, morningstar, etc)

Cash Check: 1
Notes: Situation Die vs any attempt to block or parry. Lose a die if used without Hand to Hand skill.


Chainsaw/Circular Saw

Cash Check: 1
Notes: Cannot be blocked or parried by most melee weapons. Toughness check vs a 2 to use effectively in melee. Does Massive Damage to an unarmed target, and to the user on a fumble. Seeing an enemy inflict a wound with a power saw triggers a Calm Check of at least 4 in any witness.


Explosives in General (Dynamite, TNT, Pipe bombs, C4, Mines etc)

Cash Check: 2
Notes: Do Massive Damage in a radius determined by the amount used and the Explosives skill of the person setting them up (precision requires a higher check, as does a particularly large or quickly-activated explosion). If the victims know its coming they’re allowed an Agility Check (usually vs the opponent’s Agility if it’s thrown).



Garotte/Piano Wire etc

Cash Check: 0
Notes: Any stout strangling wire. Successfully grapples any target it hits. Lost Die to hit a target who sees it coming.




Grenades 

Cash Check: 2 (damage-causing ones are illegal)
Range: 25 feet per point of thrower’s Toughness

Notes: If the targets are aware of the grenade and mobile, they all get a Agility check vs the thrower’s Agility score to avoid being in the blast radius.
 There are several styles…

Concussion: Massive Damage within a 6 foot radius.

Flashbang/Stun: Targets disoriented and deaf for the first round and until a Toughness check vs a 5 is made. 10’ radius.

Fragmentation: Does Massive Damage to anyone within 50’ radius. 

Gas: Can be anything but a typical gas grenade requires a Toughness check vs a 5 each round to avoid disabling nausea. 20’ radius.

Smoke: Obscures vision within 20’ radius.

Stingball: Full of hard rubber balls, Standard Damage within 10’ radius, nonlethal.



Guns

Guns, like all missile weapons, have an extra die over other distance weapons as well as over melee weapons and the unarmed at most distances greater than arms length. They do Massive Damage to unresisting targets within 5 feet. Regular guns have an effective range of about 10 feet underwater before the short cartridge length gets pulled off course by the water.

Ammunition capacities for specific models of gun are easy to find online. Just type in the name and “capacity”. 

Legality: When you decide where your campaign is set, you can check online for laws regarding high-capacity (over 10 shots for handguns) magazines (always changing, especially in cities) and concealed carry for that place, but practically speaking the main thing is getting noticed brandishing a gun in public for any reason will probably attract police attention and they’ll probably think up a charge if they want to (threatening, reckless endangerment, disturbing the peace, discharging a weapon in city limits, etc). Assault rifles and submachine guns are quasi-legal (it depends when they were made and whether the full-auto setting is enabled, its complicated) and machine guns are illegal for civilians to own (long story).

Characters who would have a concealed carry license (bounty hunters, cops, detectives, gun nuts) can go ahead and have one, other characters who want to already have one have a 10% chance of having one already if they have Firearms skill.

These are the most common kinds:

Handgun/Pistol

Cash Check: 2
Range: Lose a die to hit beyond 300 ft.
Ammunition:  Most revolvers hold 6 rounds, a policeman’s Glock will hold 13-17 rounds and is typical for modern automatics, the highly concealable and very cute Russian PB-4 Osa holds 4 rounds. Unless it's known the gun is fully-loaded, after the first shot a revolver will have d10 divided by 2 rounds left and a typical automatic will have 2d10 rounds left.

Notes:  Handguns have a Situation Die over long guns at ranges up to 15 feet. More concealable, too. 


Shotgun

Cash Check: 2
Range: Lose a die to hit beyond 300 ft.
Ammunition: Shotguns typically hold 2 (old hunting rifles) to 10 (combat shotgun) rounds and are often subjected to magazine-size restrictions.

Notes: Shotguns can be fitted with nonlethal shot rounds (bean bags, rock salt)—these function like normal damage except you can’t die from it. They have a Situation Die over other non-automatic long guns when in their preferred range of less than 75 ft. 


Hunting Rifle

Cash Check: 2
Range: Lose a die to hit beyond 1500 ft.
Ammunition: Typically 3-10 rounds.

Notes: Hunting rifles have a Situation Die over shotguns, machine guns and handguns at long ranges—75 feet or more. 


Sniper Rifle

Cash Check: 3
Range: Lose a die to hit beyond 2200 ft.
Ammunition: Typically holds 3-10 rounds.

Notes: Essentially a really nice hunting rifle. They have a Situation Die over any other gun at long ranges—75 feet or more. 


Assault Rifle (M-16, AK-47 etc--standard army guns)
Cash Check: 2 (quasi legal)
Range: Lose a die to hit beyond 1000 ft.
Ammunition: Typically 30 rounds

Notes: Have a Situation Die over any other handheld gun at ranges of 15-75 feet. Shooters with Firearms skill can fire at a number of targets per round equal to their skill or can do Massive Damage to one target. They will end up using d10 bullets per round (unless they make a point to use a specific number: 1 or 3, in which case they lose a die against other guns) with a minimum of 1 per target. 


Submachine Gun (Uzi, Mac 10, Thompson “Tommy gun”, etc)
Cash Check: 2 (quasi legal)
Range: Lose a die to hit beyond 300 ft.
Ammunition: Typically 30 rounds

Notes: Submachine guns are like assault rifles but less powerful. Have a Situation Die over any other handheld gun except an assault rifle at ranges of 15-75 feet. Shooters with Firearms skill can fire at a number of targets per round equal to their skill or can do Massive Damage to one target. They will end up using d10 bullets per round (unless they make a point to use a specific number: 1 or 3, in which case they lose a die against other guns) with a minimum of 1 per target. 


Machine Gun

Cash Check: 3 (quasi legal)
Range: Lose a die to hit beyond 1000 ft.
Ammunition: 30-100 rounds in a portable magazine—though they’re often belt-fed.

Notes: These are heavy fully-automatic military weapons, illegal to buy, often belt-fed and used with a tripod or mounted on a vehicle. Lighter machine guns can be fired without a tripod but they require a Toughness check vs a 2 or else the shooter loses a die. These do Massive Damage to all targets, and can hit a number of targets per round equal to the shooter’s Firearms score (No firearms skill? You’re at -2 dice). They use d10 bullets per round (minimum of 1 bullet per target hit). 


Air Rifle/BB Gun:
Cash Check: 1-2
Range: 450 ft
Ammunition: 30
Notes: Non-lethal to anything over 0 Toughness, useless against armor and anyone hit can make a Toughness Check against a 0 to avoid taking any damage.


Flare Gun
Cash Check: 1
Range: 30 ft
Ammunition: 1 shot
Notes: Lost Die to hit, the flare itself will likely bounce off and start a fire in a random place within 20 feet of the target. Non-lethal, a result causing damage indicates a face hit, the cartridge penetrating a soft area, or the flare lighting up and scalding the target. Non-lethal to anything over 0 Toughness, useless against armor and anyone hit can make a Toughness Check against a 0 to avoid taking any damage. Also can, like, be used the way it’s supposed to be to light up an area with a signal flare.


Tranquilizer Gun
Cash Check: 2
Range: Lose a die beyond 100 ft (for pistol version), beyond 300 (for rifle version)
Ammunition: 1 shot
Notes: One thing few people know about tranquilizer guns is they kind of suck. It’s very difficult to know how much and what kind of drug to give a human to knock them out without killing them or inflicting permanent damage. In-game, this essentially means that—when used on a person—a tranq gun might as well just be a gun. A hit that does damage but doesn’t kill inflicts its damage in the form of nausea and disorientation rather than putting holes in you.


Harpoon Gun
Cash Check: 1
Range: Underwater—Lose a die beyond 20 ft, On land—up to 50 feet but lose a die immediately
Ammunition: 1 shot
Notes: Regular guns are useless beyond 10 feet underwater because of the short cartridge length. Pneumatic or rubber-band-driven, harpoon guns are hard to control on land because the lack of resistance gives them wicked recoil—a fumble above water indicates the recoil hit you in the face, which loses you a turn.


Paintball Gun
Cash Check: 2
Range: 100 ft
Ammunition: 200+
Notes: Paintballs do 1 point of non-lethal damage but someone with Firearms skill can hit an opponent in the face to blind them if they fire with a Lost Die for a called shot to the head. They can also be loaded with marbles which have an effective range of 50 ft—they are non-lethal to anything over 1 Toughness, useless against armor and anyone hit can make a Toughness Check against a 0 to avoid taking any damage.



Zip Gun
Cash Check: 0-3
Range: 100 + (100xCash Check) ft
Ammunition: Usually 1 shot

Notes: ‘Zip guns’ encompass a variety homemade firearms usually made from salvaged parts and/or other gunlike objects (like cap guns, paintball guns and air rifles). Essentially the more work and skill that’s put into a zip gun the more it behaves like the real thing. They are rare in the US because real firearms are so easy to acquire, but they are more common among criminals and insurgents in other countries and they look cool.


Heavy Things (refrigerators, walls, giant crates, etc)

Things heavier than a person that must be tipped over onto-, dropped on-, or shoved into enemies with machines attack at -2 dice but do Massive Damage.



Improvised Weapon (awkward)

Notes: Lamps, chairs, umbrellas, thrown rocks, etc—things used as weapons in a pinch but neither designed to be nor well-suited to it. Like most weapons, these grant a Situation Die vs unarmed opponents but opponents armed with real weapons or more easily weaponizable objects will give a Situation Die vs the improvised-weapon wielder. 


Knife/Dagger/Letter Opener

Cash Check: 0-1
Range: 5 feet per point of agility/hand-to-hand skill (untrained throwers get are at 2 Lost Dice), Lose a die for knives not designed for it
Notes: A Situation Die vs nearly any weapon at extreme close range. Otherwise an opponent with a distance weapon or longer melee weapon has a Situation Die. Survival knives (Swiss Army, etc) often have compasses, screwdrivers, etc built in.


Knuckledusters/Brass Knuckles

Cash Check: 1 (quasi-legal)
Notes: Like other weapons, a Situation Die vs an unarmed opponent. Also a lot easier to break glass, etc without hurting yourself.



Molotov Cocktail

Cash Check: 1 (to get ingredients)
Range: 20 feet per point of thrower’s Toughness

Notes: If the targets are aware of the grenade and mobile, they all get a Agility check vs the thrower’s Agility score to avoid being in the blast radius. Does standard damage to anyone within 15’.


Pepper Spray/Mace

Cash check: 1
Range: 2’

Notes: Nonlethal, no damage. Make a Toughness check each round vs a 4 to take any action.  No effect on anything above Toughness 5.



Sword/Machete

Cash Check: 2
Notes: If user is trained in hand to hand: a Situation Die if used to block or parry a melee attack and a Situation Die vs other melee weapons that can be blocked or parried when at a distance of 2-5 feet (not cumulative).



Taser

Cash Check: 2
Range: 35’ (legal civilian version: 15’) —they don’t work at less than 5 ft.
Ammunition: 1 shot

Notes: Nonlethal, no damage. Useless against armored targets and people in heavy coats. Make a Toughness check vs a 5 each round to take any action. One failed shot requires two rounds of reloading.  No effect on anything above Toughness 5.







OTHER NOTABLE ITEMS

Airline TIckets
Cash Check: 2-3
Notes: Most flights are Cash Check 2. Last-minute ones or ones to far-flung or unusual locations are 3.

Auto Theft Kit
Cash Check: 2
Notes: Includes a Slim Jim (thin piece of sheet metal that trips a door lock), a long arm to reach in and flip lock switches, auto wedges (force open a gap between door and car using compressed air, just enough to let in a long arm).

Bicycle
Cash Check: 2
Notes: Allows movement at a Speed of 6 a Situation Die if racing vs a skateboard.


Binoculars
Cash Check: 1

“Bug”/Listening Device
Cash Check: 1-3
Notes: Bugs trying to catch anything subtle require a Perception check or an Electronics check (whichever is higher). Bugs that cost 2 add 1 die to the check, bugs that cost 3 add 2 dice to the check. The cost also modifies how hard they are to find, Cost 2 devices are -1 Lost Die to find, Cost 3 are -2 Lost Dice to find.

Bullet Proof Vest
Cash Check: 2
Notes: Increases functional Toughness by 2 and decreases Agility by 1 (to a minimum of 0).

Bullet Proof Outfit (including mask)
Cash Check: 3
Notes: Increases functional Toughness by 3, decreases Perception by 1 and decreases Agility by 2 (to a minimum of 0).

Bump Key
Cash Check: 1
Notes: A specially-prepared house key with a filed-down profile which taps tumblers and pins into place. Long ago replaced lock-picks as the home-intrusion device of choice. Allows quick, quiet entry to a standard home door lock on a Burglary/Theft Check vs a 1. The automotive version is a set of jiggler keys.

Caltrops
Cash Check: 1
Notes: Bits of metal shrapnel that stick up off the ground. They can be purchased or made from nails and scrap. Creates an obstacles for cars, police horses, bicycles, foot pursuers, etc. Agility or driving check vs thrower’s Agility to avoid, if hit they puncture tires and shoes and slow down anyone pursuing.

Camping Gear
Cash Check: 2
Notes: Everything you need for low-grade outdoor survival: tent, sleeping bag, propane stove, etc.

Climbing Gear
Cash Check: 3
Notes: The advantage of professional climbing gear is it makes it much harder to fall very far.

Cold Weather Clothes 
Cash Check: 1

Disguise Kit
Cash Check: 2
Notes: Latex prosthetics, fake mustache, etc. Adds two dice to deception attempts if applied correctly. How do you know if you applied it correctly? Roll Deception (or, if you don't have it, Appeal with a Lost Die) vs a 2 to find out the first time you use it. If you fail, you automatically blow your cover. 

Diversion Safe
Cash Check: 1
Notes: A steel-walled safe disguised as an ordinary household object such as a can of motor oil or a clock.

Fake Identification
Cash Check: 1-3
Notes: Cost 1 items will pass a standard once-over from a bartender, more expensive ones add dice (one per point) to checks to bluff more serious investigation.

Formal Item of Clothing
Cash Check: 2

Formal Outfit
Cash Check: 3

Flashlight
Cash Check: 0-1
Notes: Expensive flashlights can double as weapons— a Situation Die vs an unarmed opponent.

Handcuff Key
Cash Check: 1
Notes: Small metal shim allows escape from handcuffs on a successful Burglary/Theft roll against a 2. Many models are manufactured to hide in coins, pens, etc.

Hotels
Cash Check: 1-5
Notes: Price corresponds to the social class of fellow guests and the quality of the security for Burglary/Theft checks.

Lockpick Gun 
Cash Check: 2 
Notes: Allows quick, quiet entry to a standard home door lock on a Burglary/Theft Check vs a 1. Good chance of damaging the lock. Makes some noise.

Motion Sensor Alarms
Cash Check: 2
Notes: Burglary/Theft roll of 3 or better to bypass.

Roller Skates/Blades
Cash Check: 1
Notes: Allows movement at Speed 6.

Shin-Kickers
Cash Check: 0-1
Notes: Essentially brass knuckles for your shoes—a series of raised metal spikes that anchor between laces. a Situation Die vs an unarmed opponent if you’re trained in hand-to-hand combat.

Skateboard
Cash Check: 2
Notes: Allows movement at Speed 6.

Toolkit
Cash Check: 1
Notes: Standard hardware—screwdrivers, wrenches, etc.

Trains (cross country)
Cash Check: 2

Trains (communter)
Cash Check: 0

UV Powder
Cash Check: 1
Notes: Smeared on any surface, this slightly sticky powder is normally invisible but reveals fingerprints in UV light.

Ride Service, Taxi or Car Rental
Cash Check: 1
Notes: Follow-that-car situations rely on a taxi being there exactly when you want it, which is common in New York and many European capitals, but rare in many American cities. Roll randomly if unsure.

Rope, Nylon, 50’
Cash Check: 1

Silencer
Cash Check: 3
Notes: Silencers don’t really silence things, they just make them quieter than gunshots, so a 1 die difference in terms of being heard. They don’t work on revolvers.

If you're eager to see this finished so you can use any of this stuff on a three-shadowed Qlipoth, donate to the Demon City Patreon.

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29 May 12:05

All Disturbing Animals

by Zak Sabbath

This is the list of horror-game-appropriate animals for Demon City. If you see anything missing, inconsistent, or that you think should be fleshed out more, let me know. No, I didn't include hippose, the most dangerous animal in Africa. Yes, what was on purpose.

Note that "Calm Check" is how much seeing the animal in the wild freaks people out.

And remember: in real life animals are our friends and we are far more dangerous to them than they are to us--except for ones from Australian who can fuck right off.

ANIMALS

Animals can become menacing in many ways—as familiars to witches (see pg XXX), as drone slaves (see pg XXX) to necromancers or demons (see pg xxx), as revenants (see pg xxx) come back from the dead—and its also possible that they could simply decide on their own they’ve had enough and begin to kill us all.

Statistics for some horror-friendly animals are listed here: All animals have Cash and Knowledge at 0—Appeal scores indicate how likely the average naive observer is to approach the animal. Insects, rats and other vermin attacking in groups together are covered under “Swarms” (see pg XXX). Supernaturally intelligent or controlled animals which are not normally dangerous like birds or housecats will generally attack a target’s eyes first.

Alligator/Crocodile
Calm: 2
Agility: 4
Toughness: 6
Perception: 2
Appeal: 0

Calm Check: 4/5 if attacking

Notes: Amphibious, bite grapples & inflicts damage simultaneously, can’t open their mouths if held closed.

Bat
Calm: 1
Agility: 4
Toughness: 0
Perception: 6
Appeal: 0

Calm Check: 2/4 if attacking

Notes: Echolocation, Flying


Bear
Calm: 2
Agility: 4
Toughness: 8
Perception: 6
Appeal: 1

Calm Check: 4/5 if attacking

Notes: Bite or “hug” inflicts damage and grapples simultaneously

Boar/Wild Pig
Calm: 2
Agility: 2
Toughness: 5
Perception: 4
Appeal: 0

Calm Check: 1/4 if attacking

Bobcat/Lynx
Calm: 1
Agility: 5
Toughness: 2
Perception: 6
Appeal: 4

Calm Check: 3 only if attacking

Cat
Calm: 1
Agility: 5
Toughness: 0
Perception: 6
Appeal: 3

Calm Check: 2 only if attacking

Chameleon
Calm: 2
Agility: 5
Toughness: 0
Perception: 3
Appeal: 4

Calm Check: 1 only if attacking

Notes: When hidden, requires a Perception Check against a 6 to find

Cheetah
Calm: 2
Agility: 6
Toughness: 4
Perception: 6
Appeal: 3

Calm Check: 3/4 if attacking

Notes: Can run 40 mph over sprint distances

Coyote/Jackal
Calm: 2
Agility: 4
Toughness: 2
Perception: 6
Appeal: 2

Calm Check: 1/3 if attacking

Crane
Calm: 3
Agility: 3
Toughness: 0
Perception: 2
Appeal: 4

Calm Check: 2 only if attacking

Notes: Flying

Crow/Raven/other small birds
Calm: 1
Agility: 7
Toughness: 0
Perception: 6
Appeal: 1

Calm Check: 2 only if attacking

Notes: Flying

Dog
Calm: 3
Agility: 3
Toughness: 0-2
Perception: 6
Appeal: 3

Calm Check: 2 only if attacking


Eagle/Falcon/Hawk
Calm: 1
Agility: 7
Toughness: 1
Perception: 7
Appeal: 4

Calm Check: 2 only if attacking

Notes: Flying

Electric Eel
Calm: 2
Agility: 6
Toughness: 0
Perception: 3
Appeal: 3

Calm Check: 2/3 if attacking

Notes: Aquatic, tts only attack is a painful shock—failing a Toughness check vs a 0 causes damage as an ordinary attack.

Elephant
Calm: 3
Agility: 2
Toughness: 9
Perception: 4
Appeal: 4

Calm Check: 0/5 only if attacking

Notes: Trample attack is made at Agility 1 but causes Massive Damage


Fox
Calm: 1
Agility: 5
Toughness: 1
Perception: 6
Appeal: 4

Calm Check: 2 only if attacking

Frog/Toad
Calm: 2
Agility: 5
Toughness: 0
Perception: 6
Appeal: 2

Calm Check: 1 only if attacking

Notes: Some are amphibious, the only ones that can effectively attack humans are poison arrow frogs, which range from mildly to immensely toxic (like the tiny Golden Poison Frog)—Intensity 1-10. 

Goat
Calm: 3
Agility: 2
Toughness: 1
Perception: 3
Appeal: 2

Calm Check: 2 only if attacking

Gorilla
Calm: 2
Agility: 6
Toughness: 7
Perception: 5
Appeal: 1

Calm Check: 0/4 only if attacking

Notes: Climbing, opposable thumb

Hare/Rabbit
Calm: 0
Agility: 3
Toughness: 0
Perception: 6
Appeal: 4

Calm Check: 1 only if attacking

Notes: Lagomorphs ordinarily have no effective attack against humans. Hares can run up to 30mph for short distances.

Horse
Calm: 1
Agility: 4
Toughness: 7
Perception: 5
Appeal: 4

Calm Check: 4 only if attacking

Notes: Can run up to 25-30 mph


Hyena
Calm: 2
Agility: 4
Toughness: 4
Perception: 6
Appeal: 1

Calm Check: 3/4 if attacking


Insects/Spiders
Calm: 0
Agility: 1 (land) 7 (flying)
Toughness: 0
Perception: 6
Appeal: 0-3

Calm Check: 0-1

Notes: Some amphibious or aquatic or amphibious, some fly. Most have no effective attack alone, except venomous ones (including bees, wasps, harvester ants, caterpillars and spiders) which can vary wildly, from Intensity 1-10. The most dangerous ones are spiders, including Brazilian Wandering Spiders and Australia’s Northern Funnel Web.


Jaguar/Leopard/Panther
Calm: 3
Agility: 5
Toughness: 6
Perception: 6
Appeal: 2

Calm Check: 4/5 if attacking

Notes: Can climb trees


Jellyfish
Calm: 2
Agility: 1
Toughness: 0
Perception: 1
Appeal: 0

Calm Check: 0/3 if attacking

Notes: Aquatic. Jellyfish stings range from harmless in some species to intensity 10 toxicity. They have no other effective attack alone. Australia’s Box Jellyfish is toxicity 10 as are tiny Irukandji Jellyfish—no bigger than a thumbnail. The massive (8 ft diameter) and eerie Lion’s Mane Jellyfish has an Intensity 1 toxin.

Komodo dragon
Calm: 2
Agility: 2
Toughness: 4
Perception: 1
Appeal: 2

Calm Check: 3/4 if attacking

Notes: Komodo dragon’s mildly toxic bites cause the victim to make a Toughness check vs intensity 1 or lose a point of Toughness, however this toxin alone can never bring an adult below 0.


Leech/Slug/Snail/Worm/Maggot
Calm: 5
Agility: 0
Toughness: 0
Perception: 1
Appeal: 0

Calm Check: 0/3 if on the character

Notes: Some are amphibious, normally have no way of attacking humans, though leeches can spread infections.


Lemur
Calm: 1
Agility: 6
Toughness: 0
Perception: 6
Appeal: 4

Calm Check: 2 only if attacking

Notes: Climbing, semi-opposable thumb allows some ability to manipulate objects


Lion
Calm: 4
Agility: 5
Toughness: 7
Perception: 6
Appeal: 2

Calm Check: 4/5 if attacking


Monkey/Chimp
Calm: 1
Agility: 7
Toughness: 1
Perception: 4
Appeal: 4

Calm Check: 4 if attacking

Notes: Climbing, opposable thumb


Octopus/Squid
Calm: 4
Agility: 6
Toughness: 0-4
Perception: 3
Appeal: 4

Calm Check: 3 for giant squid only, 4 if attacking

Notes: Aquatic, eject obscuring ink clouds (Perception vs 2 to find your way through), chameleonlike coloration (5 to find a hidden octopus), the only ones with an effective attack against humans are the blue ringed octopus (Poison intensity 7 or suffer total paralysis for 1-10 hours and die within 1-10 minutes if not given cpr) and, possibly, the giant squid.

Owl
Calm: 1
Agility: 7
Toughness: 1
Perception: 7
Appeal: 4

Calm Check: 0, 2 if attacking

Notes: Flying, night vision

Peacock
Calm: 1
Agility: 1
Toughness: 0
Perception: 2
Appeal: 5

Calm Check: 0 only if attacking

Notes: No effective attack against humans unless their face is already very close to beak or claws

Piranha
Calm: 1
Agility: 4
Toughness: 0
Perception: 3
Appeal: 0

Calm Check: 4 if recognized

Notes: Aquatic. Piranha are only dangerous in Swarms.


Raccoon
Calm: 3
Agility: 4
Toughness: 0
Perception: 6
Appeal: 2

Calm Check: 1/4 if attacking

Notes: Climbing

Rat
Calm: 0
Agility: 4
Toughness: 0
Perception: 4
Appeal: 0

Calm Check: 2/4 if attacking

Notes: Climbing, sometimes disease-carrying

Reindeer/Stag
Calm: 1
Agility: 4
Toughness: 7
Perception: 5
Appeal: 3

Calm Check: 4 if attacking


Rhinoceros
Calm: 3
Agility: 3
Toughness: 8
Perception: 2
Appeal: 2

Calm Check: 1/4 if attacking


Shark
Calm: 2
Agility: 4
Toughness: 7
Perception: 3
Appeal: 0

Calm Check: 4/5 if attacking

Notes: aquatic


Snake—constrictor
Calm: 2
Agility: 6
Toughness: 1-3
Perception: 4
Appeal: 0

Calm Check: 3/4 if attacking

Note: amphibious, the largest pythons are technically capable of killing an adult human but in practice it’s incredibly rare, in most cases the constrictor is frightening and perhaps an impediment but not a real danger.

Snake—venomous
Calm: 2
Agility: 6
Toughness: 0-1
Perception: 4
Appeal: 0

Calm Check: 3/4 if attacking

Notes: Amphibious, snake venoms vary wildly in toxicity by species as well as amount of venom delivered per bite—Intensity 1-10. Intensity 10 snakes mostly come from Australia including the Inland Taipan, the Dubois Sea Snake (widely distributed there and in Southeast Asia), and the excitingly-named Eastern Brown Snake.


Stingray
Calm: 3
Agility: 3
Toughness: 1
Perception: 3
Appeal: 2

Calm Check: 0/3 if attacked

Notes: Aquatic. Most stings are merely painful, but if the victim fails a Toughness check vs 0, the embedded spine can cause a standard damage.

Swan

Calm: 2
Agility: 2
Toughness: 0
Perception: 2
Appeal: 4

Calm Check: 1 only if attacked

Notes: Flying, floating, swans usually have no way of hurt adult humans.


Tiger
Calm: 2
Agility: 5
Toughness: 7
Perception: 6
Appeal: 2

Calm Check: 4/5 if attacking

Tortoise/Turtle
Calm: 4
Agility: 0
Toughness: 1
Perception: 1
Appeal: 1

Calm Check: 2 only if attacking

Notes: Amphibious, shell can provides protection equal to Toughness 1-4 against incidental damage, they’re normally harmless, other than snapping turtles, which can bite off a finger—treat as an Agility 3 standard attack that’s never fatal.

Vulture
Calm: 2
Agility: 2
Toughness: 1
Perception: 4
Appeal: 0

Calm Check: 3 only if attacking

Notes: Flying, harmless normally

Wolf
Calm: 2
Agility: 4
Toughness: 4
Perception: 6
Appeal: 1

Calm Check: 3/4 if attacking

Wolverine
Calm: 2
Agility: 4
Toughness: 3
Perception: 6
Appeal: 0

Calm Check: 2/4 if attacking


Notes: Climbing

27 May 04:29

The browse line.A distinctive line below which you don’t tend to...



The browse line.

A distinctive line below which you don’t tend to see leaves or branches in places with animals that like eating leaves or branches. Basically, caused by animals eating as high as they can reach — except for where there are giraffes where trees don’t stand much of a chance, even spiky ones.

24 May 12:25

memoriter: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

memoriter: by heart; by memory.
23 May 11:22

ultracrepidarian: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

ultracrepidarian: noting or pertaining to a person who criticizes, judges, or gives advice outside the area of his or her expertise.
21 May 19:19

What 1000 Feet Away Looks Like

by Zak Sabbath
If you write tabletop RPG stuff, you're used to using resources totally not designed for you. This is because if you write tabletop RPG stuff, almost no resources are designed for you.

Here's one: RPGs are full of ranges--Silence 15' radius, the Ruger is accurate up to 1000' yards...ever wonder what various ranges actually look like?

Somebody was writing an article about how big don't-sell-drugs-to-school-children zones should be-(a subject upon wish I have no opinion I which to discuss with game bloggers), but they did provide a useful illustration of some ranges:



So using this I figured out the Drowned Woman Ghost can stray no further than 500' from the body of water where she committed suicide.

And now, a word from our sponsor:
Donate to the Demon City project here.  If you don't know what that means, go here.

21 May 14:13

Faking is depressing.

by Jessica Hagy

Share and Enjoy:DiggStumbleUpondel.icio.usFacebookTwitterGoogle Bookmarks

The post Faking is depressing. appeared first on Indexed.

15 May 04:48

Draw smooth lines.…by using the natural geometry of your...



Draw smooth lines.

…by using the natural geometry of your joints. It took me a while to figure out that it’s easy to draw lines in some directions and hard in others. And most of the time it’s simply down to respecting the pivots of the elbow and the wrist. And also why we tend to angle our notebooks so much to the desk, and why, if you want to draw a smooth line at another angle, you’re really best-off just turning the paper.

As a corollary, I figured out that by looking at angle of most of Leonardo Da Vinci’s cross-hatching you can see that he was drawing left-handed.

11 May 21:21

How to Break Free From Social Media

image

This post presumes you already have a firm understanding of why you should cut ties with social media. If you aren’t there yet, you probably don’t need to read on. But perhaps you’d be interested in the following articles on happiness, avoiding depression, etc.

If you already know that social media is making you miserable and you’re just trying to find a way to escape then read on and follow this 5 step plan.

1. Tell your real friends your intentions. It’s crazy, but people might think you are unfriending them if you shut down your accounts. Do it in a non-judgmental fashion. “I just gotta lay low for a while.”  “I’m spending too much time staring at my phone.” Keep it simple, you don’t need to tell them that social media has become a leading cause of depression. They might not want to hear it, and that’s fine.

***Whatever you do, don’t pull one of those bullshit things where you post on social media that you are leaving social media.  People will just think you’re fishing for attention. Because you probably are just fishing for attention.***

2. Turn that shit off.

3. Make a list of what you’ll be missing.

You probably use social media for a number of reasons. Your original reason like connecting with old classmates that you haven’t seen in years was probably replaced by things like:

  • Spying on ex GF’s, BF’s, your kids, spouses, lovers.
  • Reading news (i.e. watching John Oliver clips)
  • Reading fake news
  • Collecting likes. And spending meaningful events in your life (like vacations, weddings, births) thinking about how to frame that moment on Instagram or Facebook and what you’ll say.
  • Looking at things you could buy.
  • Getting invited to events that you don’t want to go to, but… FOMO.
  • Looking at pictures from events that you missed that make them look way more fun than they actually were.
  • Taking 5 minute breaks from work.

4. Figure out healthy ways to replace what you’re missing.

  • Email an old friend that you haven’t connected with in a while.
  • Spend meaningful life events being present and undistracted by technology. Maybe just bring a camera or nothing to the beach or Disney World for one day to see how it goes.
  • Actually watch the concert or game you have attended. Especially if your friends or children are participating.
  • Stay informed on things you care about by subscribing to RSS feeds on a tool like The Old Reader! There’s almost infinite amazing content on every topic you can imagine. But you’re probably missing most of it while obsessing over random crap on Facebook.
  • Go for a 5 minute walk outside. Even if the weather stinks. Walks in the rain can be pretty awesome.
  • Meditate for 5 minutes. Just focus on breathing and clearing your head. No iPhone app or expertise required.

5. You’re free! Just because social media is a growth area and a new technology doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. I mean, seriously, your parents are watching you again! You’d finally broken free and moved to a different state. And now they know about everything you do.

10 May 15:04

Hell Rose by NanFeAs found...



Hell Rose by NanFe

As found at:

http://nanfe.deviantart.com/art/Hell-Rose-499067025

My favorite succubus character of the month by far.. Her overall look is just so strikingly seductive…

10 May 15:03

holus-bolus: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

holus-bolus: all at once; altogether.
09 May 18:55

Spring is a state of mind.

by Jessica Hagy

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The post Spring is a state of mind. appeared first on Indexed.

08 May 16:18

Drifting by idomuchrisAs found...



Drifting by idomuchris

As found at:

http://idomuchris.deviantart.com/art/Drifting-498970764

Just a really moody, almost tragic feeling piece of succubus art…

08 May 16:18

Lunch Order

GO FOR LUNCH, REPEAT, GO FOR LUNCH.
05 May 04:53

Succubi Image of the Week 485

by TeraS

There are some images of Morrigan Aensland that appeal to me. The ones that I enjoy the most are one is which they seem to be like a portrait of her. Focusing more on her personality rather than her cleavage appeals to me. This week’s Succubi image is an excellent example of this…

Vain Princess by TOYDREAMER

Vain Princess by TOYDREAMER

This work is called Vain Princess and is by an artist on DevaintArt called Toydreamer. You can find the original page with this art here on DeviantArt and this artist’s page can be found here.

Just one of the most wonderful images of Morrigan that I have in my collection really. Her expression, that little smile, the tilt of her head, the overall confidence that she expresses in this art reflects so well her personality. There’s a strength, a certainty within her form that comes out in this work.

Capitating eyes, lovely detail in her hair, skin tones, wings and the curve of her clothing. A wonderful creation that expresses that Morrigan isn’t just pretty to look at, she’s a force in her own right and that is forgotten at one’s own peril…

 

Tera

04 May 14:02

Photo Library Management

A good lifehack is to use messy and unstable systems to organize your photos. That way, every five years or so it becomes obsolete and/or collapses, and you have to open it up and pick only your favorite pictures to salvage.
02 May 19:45

Adventure-Building and The Ecology of Murder

by Zak Sabbath
This is a new painting I made for Demon City, click to enlarge it
The silver ant of the Sahara can survive about ten minutes in the mid-day sun. Platoons of them crawl up from their ant hills, skitter widely, searching fast, then, when prey's found--a beetle, a tiny lizard--teams quickly re-swarm and rush the corpse back.

Sometimes it's hard to drag the irregular corpses back over the rock and debris while time runs short in the killing sun, so they go hastily to work with their mandibles, sawing off legs and arms to make the dead thing easier to roll back to the nest.

Scale this drama up: If you were a detective and you came upon this scene after the fact what would you see? Arms and legs hastily chopped off, maybe drag-marks, no torso or head. 

You could reskin them as anything smaller than their victim--sun-sensitive albino cannibal children, packs of wild dogs afraid of detection. The point is, in their collective haste to get back where they came from they left a distinctive trail of limbs--and that's the first scene of your campaign.
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To make a horror adventure you usually start with the horror--the murderer or monster--and game masters are used to thinking of horrors only in terms of their appearance and their abilities: it looks like this and it does that. In a classic adventure game you can often get away with it: yes, Mr Greenwood the green ooze has a life cycle but the main thing is it's eating your foot and then there's some other monster in the next room--in an investigation, which relies on squeezing every ounce of story-potential from a single monster, the horror needs an ecology.

It doesn't just have that strange look and strange power, it has specific methods--a niche, a consistent way of doing things. In an investigation, knowing the ecology doesn't just provide flavor or depth if needed--it generates the whole adventure. Before you begin, you run the horror through its horrible day and its more horrible night, and imagine what would be left behind--that's what the players then find, and must back-engineer the nature and location of the creature.

Buffalo Bill has his strangely skinned corpses (because he's making a suit out of women), the Murder at the Rue Morgue has ear-witnessing neighbors with conflicting reports of the murderer's language (because it was an orangutan), each of these opening clues comes not necessarily from what makes the horror horrible, but from what makes it itself.

Often this can involve the creature's weaknesses--the silver ants saw off those limbs not because they have some special ability to move their prey but because they don't, and they are hustling hard before the sun kills them. Imagine a creature that could only move in silence--the players might find identically slain corpses off lonely roads and in recording studios (which are soundproofed, yes, but how long before they make that connection?).

Nearly the entire plot of Get Out is just the slow revelation of a specific ecology, despite not starting with a murder. (Spoilers) The daughter brings unwitting but able-bodied black victims to the house, the parents auction off the victims to aging friends, and--aided by hypnosis and surgery--the brains of the villains end up in the bodies of the victims. The "house servants", rather than a rotting corpse, are the first clue.

There is no way to mechanize the process of inventing these ecologies: horror needs mystery, mystery needs the unknown and the unknown means you'll need to think up at least some details on your own. But you'll be surprised how much mystery and horror you can get out of a very simple ecology--grab one at random and try it:

The pitcher plant? It has a sweet nectar on the rim, but in order to get at it, insects inevitably slip down the inner walls and then slowly dissolve in the acidic pool at the bottom. Translate this to a horror scenario in the most literal terms and maybe we have an opening scene with an acid-scarred lunatic roving the streets, smelling like candy. Investigation might reveal a pattern of children who never came back from school, clustered around a warehouse district...

Alright. Now a word from our sponsor...
To support the game, go here

01 May 12:39

The Invisible Dungeon & Wallet, Keys, Pants

by Zak Sabbath
The Invisible Dungeon and Wallet, Keys, Pants are, like the hexcrawl, dungeoncrawl, heist or Hunter/Hunted, basic formats for open-ended adventures that avoid railroading.

...mostly. The trick is they makes use of one key choker: the party is already in the dungeon. Though it's actually a metaphorical dungeon--they're not in a physically restricted underground maze, but they are unwillingly inside the villains' scheme when the adventure begins.

These are written for the Demon City project (donate to the Patreon here), but can apply to pretty much any game...

Invisible Dungeon

In the Invisible Dungeon, the trick is the players don't know it.

At the beginning of Alien, the Company has just woken up the crew to go investigate a distress call which it knows is dangerous ("crew expendable" according to the secret orders) and, as I noted in an earlier entry, when Get Out opens the photographer is already on his way to the girlfriends' country house which will lead to the party which will lead to him being auctioned off. From the main characters' POVs these are, at the beginning, more or less ordinary situations.

In practice, starting the players in a situation where they don't even know they're in trouble is different by just a hair, in terms of preserving meaningful choice, from being told "Hey we're running this module so you want the gold from Blastoskull Manor", but once the set-up is done, the Host should respect player choices and the scenario should be designed so that any player choice thereafter fuels the adventure.

Dungeons offer choices, but the also have walls: likewise, the Invisible Dungeon should be designed ahead of time with some barriers to escape the villains' dastardly scheme. If the crew of the Nostromo decided to leave the Alien planet without going into the egg chamber what would happen? Well the Host would've had Ash (the Company's secret android) secretly try to kill whoever made that decision and/or somehow get the crew back to the planet to investigate--possibly by sabotaging the ship. If, near the beginning of Get Out, Daniel Kaluuya had decided to, well...get out, the family would've tried a combination of physical force and hypnosis to prevent it (which they do, later in the film).

Now, in a genuine railroad these prevention schemes would automatically work--I recommend you not run things like that. Let the situation play out however it plays out--and if the party escapes the Invisible Dungeon you made early, you switch to a story of pursuit. Even dead bad guys have friends. It's easy to imagine a continuation of the truncated Alien story above where the Company tries to hunt down the crew who've seen its robot go berserk and it's easy to imagine a sequel to Get Out where the police are asking around about this photographer kid who was apparently around at the old country house when that family got killed.

However, the point of prepping an adventure is to prevent having to do all that improvising of new scenarios all at once, and to have players encounter things as well-thought-out and complex as your downtime allows. To get that to happen, it's as important to promise "treasure" inside the "dungeon" as it is to build walls around it. In mass media, this is less necessary than it is in a game--unlike players, movie characters don't know they're in a movie and will walk right into the heart of darkness if the screenplay demands it. Hosts have to be cleverer than screenwriters.

A simple way to do this is to turn an avenue of investigation into a trap. For example: a witness (secretly a villain or villain's pawn) tells the players they saw the gunman flee into a warehouse. The warehouse is a fiendish Saw-like. The (evil) clerk tells the players the records they need are kept at the country courthouse, upon entering, the guards lock the doors and the cell tower is sabotaged.

Another way is to build a breadcrumb trail out of things the players will want to follow even if it has nothing to do with the investigation. The lifeguard with the big blue eyes invites you down to the (wereshark-infested) island for a weekend. You have to know your players and their playstyles pretty well in order for this to work, though.

What not to do is simply decide, after the fact, that whatever the players felt like doing it will turn out to be the trap--this creates a situation where you've artificially removed players' choices, and in the long run this makes them think about their decisions less, and makes a game of decisions and investigations less fun. If the witness is a pawn of the villain, there's always a chance a clever player could find that out, if a clerk is evil the players theoretically might find a way to discover that before heading to the courthouse. If you respect the rules of the imaginary world, the players will learn to investigate it with care.

If you want the Invisible Dungeon to last longer than a single session then it helps to have the villains have some plan for the party besides just killing them. A horror bent on seducing the party members, quietly grooming them for membership in a cult, driving them insane or (as in Get Out) showing them to prospective buyers can maintain a ruse of harmlessness and mystery far longer. The players will know something is wrong (they're playing Demon City, after all) but they won't know who the danger is and who's a harmless NPC.

And there should be, occasionally, harmless NPCs--not just to throw off the players, but also because friendly non-player characters are part of the advancement system.


Wallet, Keys, Pants

In this kind of format, you wake up missing your wallet, your keys and your pants. Or something equally valuable. You may also wake up far from home. Unlike the Invisible Dungeon, the players immediately know something's wrong. The Invisible Dungeon works by luring the PCs in with something they want, Wallet, Keys, Pants works by taking away something the PCs want back.

The advantage of this format is it's easy to add obstacles (the characters were asleep, you can surround them with challenges and terrors) and easy motivate players to face them (they need to find their stuff or escape or both).

The disadvantage is--unless you do it as the opening of the entire campaign--you need to get the characters knocked unconscious. It's no fair just deciding in the middle of a campaign that last time they slept this happened, you have to have the bad guys creep in--roll to see if the PC notices--inject the benzodiazapines--roll to see if they wake up with the pain--and sneak them away to the getaway vehicle.

The wallet, keys, pants option is also a good adventure format if you finish a combat with all the heroes knocked unconscious.

Aside from the beginning, the Host also has to answer a few questions: why did the horror leave the PCs alive? Did something go wrong mid-kidnapping? Does the horror have only an animal intelligence, and so left the party alone at the wrong moment? Do they want something more complex from them than just their flesh? After that, the WKP adventure consists of the same kinds of clues, hazards and a fights as any other adventure--just put these things between the party and whatever it is they want
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