Saturday, March 31, 2012

Strikeforce Zero

Illustration by the awesomeness incarnate that is Guy Davis

My favourite White Wolf setting. Here's the introductory info I'll be giving to my players:


Each player is part of a secret quasi-military team of newly recruited agents, working to defend Japan's interest from... well, you don't quite know what, but it seems SFØ deals with the worst of the worst criminal cases. You'd never heard of the organization until they recruited you; in fact no one but the uppermost echelons of the government is even aware of SFØ, but the organization is apparently government-funded, and serve the interests of the people — preferably without them ever knowing about it.

At some stage in the last two years you we approached by representitives of SFØ, eager to add your "talents" to their pool of resources, and for reasons only you know, the offer was too damn good to refuse. To join SFØ you've had to turn your back on your old life, but that's ok, you were keen to leave it behind, the pay is better than excellent and the job is exciting — well it will be once you get started. 

SFØ doesn't just recruit from the ranks of the police or defense force; there's a fair share of ex-crims, geeks, wackos, yakuza and oddballs who just seem to have what SFØ's looking for. Some of your co-workers display what could even be described as "psychic powers". You might even have some yourself. They have also equipped you with some of the most amazing technology around. Cybernetics are real, very real, and virtually all the agents have at least a couple of implants.

The price for all this? Turning your back on your old life. To ensure that cannot be compromised executing your orders, you've had to leave behind all the friends and family you had — an easier task for those with no families or close ties, no so for those with loving kin. SFØ faked your death, spectacularly and convincingly. They gave you entirely new identities, reshaping your face and body with cosmetic surgery, fixing ruined limbs, healing scars and giving you a new life, all of which you gave back to SFØ.

During your year of field training the cases you've covered have included bizarre cults, ritualistic slayings, and truly mad psychopaths; you've dealt with fanatical terrorists, the vast narcotics trade, human slavery and all manner of petty crimes, from the outrageous to the downright disturbing. You've also been learning to use your new implants to the best of your ability, as well as honing your skills. 

SFØ Headquarters has been your home for most of this time. They train you in the Tokyo based HQ or at military proving grounds around Japan, but keep you separated from the main operations until you fully graduate. You've come to know few faces around the base, especially your trainers, but none more so than Geichin Okamoto, SFØ's intimidating and driven founder. Everyone answers to him, and in return he makes sure everyone is looked after.  Private rooms with all the mod cons, the best gym facilities and pool, sparring room, hypernet facilities, the biggest manga collection and film library, massages, nearly all your needs are catered for. And as for the kitchen? You probably won't be able to eat food from the outside world without comparing it to the exquisite delicacies that are provided for you.

As for life outside SFØ? Well there really isn't much of one. Each agent gets their own plush apartment in the heart of Tokyo, but the job is so demanding that you rarely get to enjoy that six figure salary you're getting. But on the occasional downtime you do get, you tend to go out with a bang. You've had to leave your old life behind, so your friends tend to be the people you work with.

During the last three months SFØ assembled the five of you into a team — one of a six that are in operation — and together you have been doing training runs and conducting minor investigations. They're happy with the way you function — every team has the odd personality clash, even yours — but on the whole SFØ is pleased with your performance, and word is that soon, very soon, they'll be giving your your first major investigation. Bring it on.


Yeah it's a long list of questions, but by the end of it you should have a really good idea of your character. It also helps me, some of the questions have a direct influence on the game.

Your family, who were they? What status did they have, have they risen over the last few generations, or gone down the social ladder? Any history? What did they do in WWII? Anyone (in)famous? Is anyone in your family still alive? if so do you miss them, or have you completely turned your back on them? Are they purely Japanese or is there barbarian blood in your veins? Did you even grow up in Japan?

Who were you before you joined?What did you do for a living? Notable events?

Why did you accept the offer? Money? Important work? Running from something?

What do you believe? Shintoist? Buddhist? Christian? Agnostic? Humanist? Something else? Don't care? Are all those ghost stories just that - stories? Or do you "believe"?

Do you have a Criminal record? Have you done time? 

What's the worst thing you've ever done?

What's the best thing you've ever done?

What's the most important thing to you?

Greatest Dream?

Worst Nightmare?

Any pets?

Loves? What are you really into? Guns? Anime? Nature? Music? Coffee? Porn? Drinking? All of the above? Anything really weird?

Favourite items? Any family heirlooms, or just funny old trinkets or mementos or photos?

Hates? Who or what really gets up your nose? 

Gambling plays a huge part of Asian culture. Are you addicted? What's your favourite thing to bet on? Sport? Games of skill or chance? Who gets their meal served first? Are you crap and lose all the time, or do the stars favour you - more than they should?

Friends? If you chose Allies as a background, who are they? The guy who serves the best noodles in town? Your best friend from childhood who you still secretly stay in touch with despite SFØ's ban on contact?

Foes? Anyone you wanna get square with? Anyone wanna get square with you? Do you even know what you did to piss them off? How powerful are they?


Scars? How'd you get'em?

Greatest strengths? Anything really unique? Are you a giant? For those who chose paranormal abilities, how'd you find out you had them? Were they always there, or did they manifest at a certain age? Did you tell anyone? Did anyone find out? Are you proud or ashamed?

Greatest weaknesses? What's your achilles heel? Wine? Women? An old wound? Are you heartless or do you have a cruel streak? Are you a runt? Do you think you're cursed? Haunted? Luckless?

How would  you decorate your apartment?

Japanese culture - are you a traditionalist, seeking to maintain touch with your heritage, or have you rejected the old ways and embraced flashy plastic techno modern life? Or something else?

World War II - was Japan right to do what it did in the war? Or are you an apologist? Do you even care?

After Japan surrendered, the Japanese Emperor publicly denounced his divine descendence from the gods and became a mere figurehead - do you think that was the right thing to do? Or do you look forward to the day he assumes his rightful place?

Japan has a defense force - is that enough, or should they be allowed to have a standing army? How do you feel about having to rely on America defending your country? Should the US bases stay or go?

Japan cops a lot of heat for its whaling "research" - do you think Japan should do what it wants? Or do you think that whaling is wrong?

The yakuza - did you have any dealings with them before you joined SFØ? Good or bad? Do you think the Yakuza has a place in society, dealing with local issues, or are they all scum who should be wiped off the streets?

What do people think of you? What do YOU think of you? Are you happy with who you are, the choices you've made? Or are you haunted?

What's your exterior personality like? How do you interact with most people? Is it close to who you really are, or does it take a while for the "real you" to come out? What is the "real you"?

Lastly, when you die, what do you want have happen to your body? Your belongings? And what do you believe will happen to your soul - if you have one?

Monday, March 19, 2012

We're Here to Lick Your Toads

Ah, toadlicking.

Many thanks to all the suggestions on G+ when I thought my players were gonna get some froggy frolicking; didn't happen last week, so I took the crowd-sourced ideas and ran with them.

Each time a character goes for a bit of amphibious tongue action they must Save vs Poison or roll d12:

01. The frog tastes like cupcakes and the licker gains +d4 to one random ability, but loses the same amount from another random ability. The effect lasts for one day. However the effect is completely addictive and the licker must have the frog with them at all times or the random bonus immediately fades and the penalty becomes permanent. Additionally, each lick thereafter the licker must make a Con check; success reduces the effect by one as they build up an immunity to the chemicals, but if the frog is killed the licker is at -2 to all rolls until they procure another frog (of any kind) or 3 months of grieving have past.

02. The frog tastes like rancid dung and the licker immediately begins to suffer acute fears that monsters are out to get them. Just because your paranoid, don't mean they're not after you...  the chemicals activate pheromones in the licker's body that lure surrounding monsters like flies to shit. Immediately roll 3 times on wandering monster tables, and d6 for each monster for how many hours before they appear. All attacks will be directed at the licker unless impeded. In the meantime, the licker gains +4 Initiative for being so jumpy, and loses -4 to CHA for being so freaked out. The effect wears off in 2d6 hours; should the licker be on the move roll twice more on any wandering monster tables.

03. The frog tastes like frozen meat and the licker's tongue sticks to toad like a icy lamp post... and cannot be removed without losing the tongue as well. Over the next week chemical reactions from the toad's flesh cause the tongue to dissolve, and be replaced by the frog, which sets up camp inside the licker's gob and melds into the flesh of the mouth. The parasitic frog feeds off any food, and makes french kissing rather bitey, but it's not all bad: the frog looks after its host in what ways it can, swatting away bugs with its tongue and producing adrenalin-sensitive chemicals that grant the user +1 to all combat rolls per round for each round after the first round, up to +d4 per combat. (So 1st round no bonus, second round +1, third round roll d4 to see if the bonus goes over +1, etc).

04. The frog tastes like childhood memories and the licker is overwhelmed for d12 hours by flashbacks and lost thoughts so distracting that the licker suffers -2 to all rolls until the effect wears off. Amnesiacs gain a sudden glimpse into memories that elude them, the insights gained from reexamining formative events are strangely empowering, and the licker emerges from the experience feeling self-confident and assured. If the licker passes a Wisdom check they benefit from the insights to such a degree they receive +2 Charisma, permanently; but if they lick the frog again, the memories are stolen from them leaving them permanently confused: lose the +2 Cha bonus and suffer -2 Wisdom as the licker tries to make sense of who they are.

05. The frog tastes like sex and the licker drops an aphrodisiac straight to the brain. The licker breaks out in a profuse sweat and the overwhelming urge to mate sees them nekkid and randy within seconds. All the licker wants to do is get it on for d12 hours. The only real issue here is that they're attracted to frogs. Go swim in the genepool and see what crawls out.

06. The frog tastes like rubber and the licker's tongue is stuck to the back of the frog while strange chemicals affect the elasticity of the tongue. Pulling the frog away causes the licker's tongue to stretch up to 3d4 feet long where the frog finallypeels off; the licker now has a prehensile tongue much like a frog's and is able to retract it and shoot it out at will. The tongue is coated in a sticky film with a Strength score equal to one third the licker's Strength. The effect appears permanent, but each week the licker must make a Con check vs 15 -1 per week passed; success sees the tongue return to normal. failure means the tongue retains its elastic state.

07. The frog tastes like a nine-volt battery and the licker won't be able to taste anything else for d4 weeks, though throughout this time licker feels a growing kinship with frogs which lasts until their dying days. The licker permanently gains the ability to speak with frogs, and any encounters with frog-like creatures start out on the best possible terms. You are now part of the tribe.

08. The frog tastes like... no wait it tastes like... or it... buh... wut? The licker suffers immediate sensory transference, and the five senses get all crosswired with the wrong sensory organs. Sight, sound, touch, taste and smell are rearranged. The licker can see the aromas, feel flavours, taste noise, hear light, and smell textures, and is generally completely screwed for the next d12 hours while their brain tried to hotwire itself into making sense of it all... -4d4 to all rolls during this time BUT... the next creative endeavour undertaken - performance, crafting, item creation, whatever - is colored by the experience and is so visionary it is an automatic success of the highest possible result and then some. Congratulations, you've just invented a new art form.

09. The frog tastes like sweet mana from heaven and the licker immediately recovers d6 HP/level, feeling incredibly refreshed, rejuvenated, and slightly light headed: the licker must then pass a Fortitude Save or permanently lose one point of Intelligence, which the frog immediately gains.

10. The frog tastes septic and the licker breaks out in a sudden sweat - yellow, putrid mucus with an overwhelming stench. It gouts out of every pore, and within d6 rounds the licker is completely coated in a rapidly congealing shell of pus. Within d6 minutes the mucus forms a cocoon around the licker, with an AC equivalent to full plate. d6 hours later the shell cracks and the licker spills out; their hands, arms and legs are twice as long as before and webbed. The transformation grants +8 to swim and jump checks, and -4 to Cha. Fortunately the change is curable; to reverse the process the licker merely needs to eat the mucus shell.

11. The frog tastes like weak piss and the licker's skin turns completely translucent, revealing the macabre inner workings of their body. The licker is overwhelmed with feelings of exposure and insignificance and bursts into quiet sobbing for d4 hours, compulsively answering all questions as honestly as possible. At the end of the ordeal the licker's skin reverts back to normal, save for one small patch of skin; randomly determine where the 1d4 inch diameter window into the body is found.

12. The frog tastes like armpits and the licker has the ever-so-strange sensation that they are a toad and that the licker's companions are licking them. Unless the companions pass a Willpower save they are irresistibly drawn to lick the licker-toad; roll again on this table to determine the effect on all the companions, ignore results 3,7, and 12. Instead, the licker-toad tastes like hot chip poutaine. Their companions will stop in d4 hours or so.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Welcome to the Jungle

So following on from my Spider Cult healing table and cosmology combining Lilith, Lolth, Illithids, and Thlaadi, I'm gonna run a fantasy action-adventure cross over with a cold-war berlin style city in the middle of a vietnam war style jungle, filled with quasi-mesoamerican style ruins and dead cults. Erik Jensen over at Wampus Country is to blame. I also have to thank Robert Parker for his thunderous brainstorming on G+ today.  Below is a summary of everything so far for the setting.

There are three divine factions: Creation / Weaver / Lilith / Lolth / Spider God / Elves, Transformation / Cthulhu / Squid God / Mind Flayers, and Destructio / nameless devourer that started off by eating its own name /Frog God / Slaad. The Mind Flayers came to the world, bringing their hairless monkey peons and uplifting the local reptilian creatures into servitor races, hence lizardmen, yuan-ti, frog dudes. The Elves came here after them to get some macguffin back off them and wiped most the Mind Flayers out, but the flayers corrupted them in the process, turning Lilith the creator/weaver into the Lolth we know and love. The Mind Flayers are pretty much out of the picture, but their touch is everywhere.

Initial PC races are humans, lizardmen, medusa, maaaaaybe yuan-ti, and some cute little frog dudes, and possibly high elves brought very very low – corrupted and either bloody eyed, sharptoothed albino cannibals (elrics, really), and drow; post some sort of eldritch war tween the elves and the yuan-ti, where the yuan-ti won and now the humans have to deal with them and try really hard not piss them off. 

It's low-magic (cthulhu style incantations, no spells, sanity checks for learning magic from forbidden tomes) proto-industrial (pistols and muskets and zeppelins) and divine magic is very rare - the province of secret cults devoted to the spider, the squid, and the toad.  initially I want it to be the province of NPCs only, though if any of the players sign up for a bit of arachnotoadsquid worship they get access to divine magic. With suckers and tongues.Mutations abound. Healing accelerants come from alchemical derivations milked from the fleshfarms of jungletoads, and there is always a risk of strange side-effects (there's another random table right there!)

The campaign will start in the Yuan-Ti occupied city of Corbrea, surrounded by vast tracts of nameless jungle. The premise for the berlinesque city was that pre-war it was a human city states' drug haven colony in the midst of the jungle (we're here to lick your frogs!); occupied by yuan-ti during war, still controlled by them post war, but chosen as suitable meeting point tween the yuan-ti empire and the human nations. The yuan-ti remain hidden most of the time, having bred the medusa as human-relations strain to interact better with the hairless monkeys, but there are gigantic orphanages where orphans from the eldritch war are trained by Yuan-Ti their entire lives to play a single part in their "living history", Chinese opera style. Huge parks are dedicated to these continual re-enactments / celebrations of Yuan-Ti domination. Theirs is a bio-genetic surveillance culture. Watching eyes are posted nearly everywhere, with connective nerve tissue leading back to pulsating throne rooms where overseers observe all.

The surrounding jungle is crawling with freakish creatures. Mutant Babbeloons, Horrorsaurs, Sidesplitters, and many other creatures straight out of nightmares... We do not go in the jungle. We do not go in the jungle. We do not go in the jungle.

Should be fun....

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lilith & Lolth & Illith & Thlaadi

SO... I'm running a game this time next week for a bunch of lads, some who haven't played D&D for 10 or 20 years. I've gotta find a balance between keeping it simple enough that they pick it up real quick, and complex enough to keep the regulars happy. I'm gonna run a hacked version of Castles & Crusades as it's the closest I can find to what I want out of an OSR system; I'm toying with pregens just so we can get gaming quick, but most importantly, if they're gonna make me run an old school dnd game, this is what I feel obliged to give you: Mind Flayers and Yuan-Ti and Drow and Slaad.

A few years back I had a go at a cosmology/world history for a PbP called Tales of the Black Tentacle, finding a way to combine these guys into one unified story. Here's the brainstorming notes, which I'm gonna jury rig as the background to the new campaign; next post, my ideas for the stomping ground and the first adventure.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Random Table : Healing from the Spider God

When healed by a priest of the spider god the target must pass a Fortitude Save (DC 10+ the number of times healed), or roll d20 on the following table:

1. A swarm of spiders erupt from the healer's hands and scurry into the wound, leaving a thick trail of webbing that they use to pull the torn flesh shut.

2. The wound closes shut and heals miraculously, with no immediate side effects; 3d4 hours later, whenever the target speaks, tiny spiders crawl out of their mouth and find places to hide on their body. Close inspection reveals the small hieroglyphs inscribed on each spider's belly, one for each letter of each word spoken. This unnerving effect lasts d3 days. (Clever players may use this to translate the hieroglyphs into modern speech, a difficult task but one that will unlock ancient texts of the spider god). 

3. A fat spider as big as fist slowly crawls out of nowhere and sinks its fangs into the wound. The flesh blisters and boils and rapidly swells, closing the wound, with the spider inside it.

4. The wound closes shut and heals miraculously, with no immediate side effects; however, whenever the target turns around suddenly they have the awful sensation of walking face-first into a thick sticky spiderweb that only they can feel. It is terribly distracting, causing a -2 all rolls during strenuous activity (combat, dancing, chases, etc). After d3 days the effect wears off.

5. Gossamer trails of sticky strands fall from above and land across the injury; whereever they land they suddenly constrict, binding the open flesh.

6. The wound closes shut and heals miraculously, with no immediate side effects; however for the next d4 days, whenever the target, or anyone within d100' of the target, wakes up after a decent sleep their eyes are filled with spiderwebs and take d6 rounds to pull off. 

7. Eight long spindly legs erupt out of the gash, grab the surrounding skin with their claws, and pull it shut.

8. The wound closes shut and heals miraculously, with no immediate side effects; within d20 hours the target is overwhelmed by the need to get butt nekkid as their skin begins to itch terribly. With each passing hour their skin gets harder and harder, and after 2d4 hours they are completely immobile, with a hard outer casing (equivalent of full plate armor). They remain in this state for 3d4 hours, until a vertical split appears down their spine. The target begins to molt, shedding their old skin, and emerging renewed and invigorated, with eight eyes in various locations around their skull.

9. Spiders scurry out of the priest's mouth and run across their skin to the injury. The first spider pulls the edge of the wound together, then sinks its fangs in and holds it close with its painful bite. The other spiders do the same, forming a long line of stitches that burrow into the upper dermis. They fall away within d6 days.

10. The wound closes shut and heals miraculously, with no immediate side effects; after an hour the target's throat begins to itch, and within d8 hours they begin coughing up spiderwebs for d4 hours. This effect passes, but leaves the target ravenously hungry for flesh, a hunger that cannot be satiated and lasts for 2d4 days. During this time the target's shit is riddled with spiderhusks that get bigger each time, till towards the end they pass nothing but spiderskins. at the end of this time they are suddenly wracked with abdominal pain, a crippling episode that passes within moments. From then on the target's hunger and digestion returns to normal; only when they are completely still do they have the vaguest sensation that something is crawling around inside them. The next time they receive a major slashing wound, a cat sized spider erupts from the wound to the target's defense, and if it survives treat it as a familiar. If the target already has a familiar, the spider will try to kill it at the first opportune moment.

11. A solitary spider's leg slowly extends out of one end of the wound, digs its claw into the other end, then zips the wound shut as it disappears back inside.

12. The wound closes shut and heals miraculously, with no immediate side effects; within d6 hours the target's flanks become itchy, and a red rash breaks out on the sides of their torso. The rash continues to worsen and irritate, and the target is compelled to scratch away until the flesh is raw, revealing to dark protrusions on each side. From now on every time the target receives healing from a spider priest the protrusions grow d10 inches. This is in addition to rolling on this table as normal. Eventually the protrusions are revealed to be spiders' limbs, and while unable to hold any objects or make extra attacks, the limbs greatly aid in climbing. 

13. Thick web begins spooling out of the wound, and in moments it is completely covered over like a cocoon. The web slowly hardens like a scab and falls away in d8 days; during this time, cutting the web open causes the injury to inflict the same damage and thousands of spiders spill out of the gash.

14. The wound closes shut and heals miraculously, with no immediate side effects; within d4 hours the target begins to suffer severe pain in their teeth and jawbone. this pain lasts for d2 days. at the end of this period the pain ceases and there is no noticeable difference, though the first time the target places their lips on warm flesh poisonous fangs shoot out and injects a fearsome venom into the unsuspecting recipient. the venom does d10 CON damage and paralysis that lasts for d20 turns (save for half damage and no paralysis). it takes one day full day for the poison to accumulate in the poison sacs. 

15.  Two spinnerets appear on the target's tongue, and they begin vomiting spiderwebs until they figure out that the webs are to coat the injury, forming a scab as above. Once this is done the vomiting ceases, though every d12 hours nausea overwhelms the target and they need to coat the wound once again. This passes within d6 days.

16. The wound closes shut and heals miraculously, with no immediate side effects; within d6 hours the target's flanks become itchy, and a red rash breaks out around base of the spine. The rash continues to worsen and irritate, and the target is compelled to scratch away until the flesh is raw, allowing three protrusions roughly the size of a fat thumb to jut out. The target now has spinnerets; they shoot out web whenever the target is surprised, for  a distance of up to 60 feet, as long as the spinnerets are exposed (otherwise they make a sticky mess underneath any clothing). This can make the difference to life or death in any sudden falls, and the target can spend XP to gain a skill in Spinnerets and learn how to make more skillful and useful constructions. Treat as a web spell that can be used three times a day.

17. A bloated spider the size of a dog crawls out of the shadows and squats over the injury. It sinks its fangs into the wound, injecting a colagutive poison that stops any bleeding within d3 rounds. The flesh around the wound rapidly hardens and becomes necrotic; the spider hangs around the target feeding on the flesh until it heals within 2d4 days, when the spider leaves. When the wound does heal it does not close, leaving a deep scar and possible permanent reductions to CHA depending on the location of the wound.

18. The wound closes shut and heals miraculously, but whenever the target tries to talk their mouth is filled with webs, making any conversation or somantic spell impossible. Charades is fine though. This lasts for 2d10 hours, during which time the target may freely communicate with any spider.

19. The wound closes shut and heals miraculously, with no immediate side effects; but the spider god takes a sudden interest in the strands of the target's fate. How this plays out is up to the DM. Chance meetings with people from the target's past, sudden escalation in the chain of events surrounding an important confrontation for the target, people important to the target suddenly dying in bizarre accidents... anything to illustrate that something is watching the target and messing with their fate.

20. The spider god has different plans for the target; a vast arachnid bulk reaches out of the shadows and grabs them (treat as a Retriever, p75 Fiend Folio, with a shadow-stepping ability, and replace the transmutation to swarm of spiders). If the target is reduced to 0 HP the black creature snatches up the target and pulls them back into the shadows. the target is lost forever, unless the DM wants to play out the conversation between a spider god and a talking snack bar. If the target is able to defeat the Retriever (reducing it to 10HP or less) the creature surrenders, and will serve as a mount for the target for a year and a day. 

Unless otherwise stated above, all wounds healed have the following conditions:

All slashing wounds healed by a spider priest leave a subtle tracery of weblike scars around the edge of the injury, which if toyed with can come loose and reopen the wound, doing d2hp bleed damage/rnd.

Crush damage that is healed by a spider priest leaves an angry patch of boils. Occasionally they swell and burst, spawning hundreds of tiny spiderlings. If caught and killed, the priest's deity is angered, and the spiders attack their host as swarm.

Piercing damage healed by a spider priest does not close up; instead it serves as a home for tunneling spiders shut as trapdoors, and the wound is surrounded by a thin veil of web. If caught and killed, the priest's deity is angered, and the wound begins to bleed doing d4hp/rnd. 

Autopsies conducted on people healed by spider priests will reveal the presence of webs and spiders deep inside the cadaver. The more healing they have received, greater the infestation.

All these effects can be completely mitigated and reversed by taking an oath of obedience to the spider priest's deity.