Esoteric Enterprises Actual Play

Today I ran my first session of Esoteric Enterprises at our local osr-con.

nophoto

The player characters were:

  • Janne, a doctor who never really finished med-school, runs an illegal street clinic and wants to do some interesting medical experiments.
  • Bob, a criminal and outspoken anarcho-primitivist who lives in his old van and has a weird old flame thrower that is supposedly “holy”.
  • Beata Monstråle-Adler, a mystic who prays to her dolphin patrons to channel the powers of the secret masters on Sirius B.

Since we run the games on our con in a Flailsnails fashion the party also included two veteran characters who had been on many previous adventures:

  • Krelka, female ogre level 3 fighter with a pet tardigrade the size of a guinea pig.
  • Murv, level 4 fighter with a collection of weird magic objects.

Based on my preparations I had made up three job offers for the characters:

  1. Tracking a thief and returning a stolen sculpture. The client insisted that the pc’s shouldn’t touch the sculpture with their bare hands.
  2. Breaking into the shrine of the Temple of Secret Wisdom to steal The Green Book.
  3. Locating a girl who had associated with a local street gang before going missing.

The players decided to go with mission no 3. I told them what they knew about the gang, namely that they were called “The Skulls” because of tatoos featuring a laughing skull and that they were often seen downtown and in the neighbourhoods surrounding the hospital.

The party took Bob’s van, drove around the relevant parts of town looking for someone wearing the gangs colors, pulled him into the van, pacified him with a cattle prod. blidfolded him and tied him up. After bringing him to Janne’s street clinic they started interrogating him. At first he was quite tough and told the pc’s that they would have to pay with their lives if they didn’t let him go. But when Krelka brought out her pet tardigrade and told the captive that it would eat his toes he broke down and spilled all his secrets.

The gangster explained that the gang has a mask that gives the wearer the ability to answer questions that he would not normally know the answer to. But this takes a toll on the wearer who becomes dull and passive even after removing the mask. Therefore the gang would pay some desperate person to don the mask when needed. Now, the boss of the gang had been involved with a girl for some time, but when the girl broke up with him he decided to punish her by making her wear the mask.

The pc’s asked their captive about details on the gang stronghold before going to war. Then they went down into the subterranean network of sewers, storm drains and transport tunnels that connect many of the underground complexes hidden beneath the feet of unsuspecting civilians.

Now, I thought this would become an absolute TPK. The pc’s were walking straight toward a guard with a tripod mounted machine gun, in a tunnel with nowhere to take cover.  And if they somehow survived this, they would be sorely outnumbered when they entered the gang stronghold. Well, it didn’t turn out that way.

As the party advanced through the tunnel towards the gangs hidden bunker the passage was suddenly flooded with light from a powerful electric lamp. A voice, amplified by a loud-hailer, told them to retreat or be fired upon.

Murv, the inter-dimensional fighting man, quickly pulled out a little glass bottle and threw it in the direction of the light. It conained a Fireball in liquid form. After a die roll for the throw, a rough calculation of throwing distance and an estimation of how the sphere of fire would be deformed by the tunnel, we reached the conclusion that the inferno did not engulf the pc’s and did not make the fuel tank of Bob’s flamethrower explode. But the conflagration did reach the guard at the end of the tunnel.

The electric lamp went dark as it was destroyed by the fire, and when the party advanced they could see the smoldering corpse of the guard. They retrieved the machine gun, found some keys on the guard and opened the door he had been stationed outside. Warm light, loud music and the smell of food and cigarette smoke greeted them into the gang stronghold. However, the gangsters had seen the assault on cctv and were not taken by surprise. The seven gang members currently in the complex had taken cover and grabbed their guns. This could still end with all the pc’s dead.

The pc’s won the initiative roll. Beata, the weird old new age lady, delivered suppressive fire with the expropriated machine gun while Bob, the lanky young thug let his flamethrower spewe a torrent of flame into the gang hideout. (Luckily Bob’s player rolled a bad attack throw and happened to point the flamethrower towards the concrete roof, so it did not set the rooms on fire.) Murv rushed in, ducking beneath the fire, and stabbed a gangster to death with his sword (+1). After this I felt it was reasonable to make a morale check for the gang, which they failed, sending them fleeing in panick.

The time was nearly up for our session so we wrapped it up summarily. The pc’s found the kidnapped girl, in good health. They also found 1000 euros in cash, some drugs and expensive lab equipment, some guns and amo and a weird looking mask made of some leathery material.

The players seemed to have enjoyed the game quite a lot and expressed interest in playing an Esoteric Enterprises campaign.

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Creating a city with Esoteric Enterprises

The coming saturday I will run a Esoteric Enterprises game on our local quarterly OSR con Grottröj. I could have gone with something a bit more small-scale, but I wanted to test the EE tools for creating an underground environment and an occult underworld. Though, admittedly, I’ve deviated somewhat from the procedure by choosing to use a map of an actual city – namely Umeå where our convention is held.

EE Umeå 1Umeå is by no means a big city, even though it has a university, large industry and the main hospital of the region, so one might wonder how so many supernatural factions can hide in such a limited population. But for the sake of this game we will simply disregard such questions.

EE Umeå 2The first step in rolling up the undercity is to drop a handfull of different dice on a large piece of paper.EE Umeå 4The I noted the type of die and the number rolled and checked against the table in the rulebook to see what kind of undercity complex was situated at that spot.

EE Umeå 3I linked nearby complexes with passages, and by comparing the type of dice on each end and checking against another table I could determine the specific sort of conduit. Now, since Umeå does not have a subway I reinterpreted that result as military tunnels, for covert transportation of materials. EE Umeå 5To roll up the social underworld of occult criminals I dropped a handfull of different dice on a empty paper. By once again comparing the type of dice and the number rolled against tables in the EE rulebook I could see what groups dominated the scene and what kind of relations they have to each other. EE Umeå 6Then I performed a similar procedure for each of the undercity complexes. At the same time I compared the undercity with the social underworld and decided what locations was inhabited by specific factions.

EE Umeå 8Now that I know how the undercity looks like, what factions of occult weirdos are active in the city and their conflicts with each other I can make some adventure hooks for the game.

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The world of OERG-8

The following text is an excerpt from The Voudon Gnostic Workbook by Michael Bertiaux. This book, which could be described as very excentric and eclectic, was one of many influences referred to in Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles.

When I read this text it makes me think of George Lucas’ THX 1138 combined with Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain.

Enjoy!

The world of Oerg-8 is the world of the future. It is a world formed according to the esoteric philosophy of neo-orgonomy. It is a world where the energies are aspects of orgone-energy and where the production of this energy is the fundamental activity. I have been able to locate this world by means of my time-travel computer, the ideas in these Oerg-papers are derived from that world. It would be meaningless to say when this world exists or will exist. It can be located by means of my computer and that is sufficient. In it, we find confirmations of some of our present magickal ideas. We also find many changes and transformations of energy. We find many strange situations, also, which we did not suspect. This is a world where the fundamental energy is orgone and where the management of life is in the hands of servo-mechanisms, such as computers or instruments, powered by orgone. Since orgone is a particular form of magickal energy, we can view this culture as being of a magickal type. It is a sexo-magickal culture. There are a variety of computers in this world. They are specific and specialized in what they do. Their functions have developed to such a degree that they are now in a position to administer human life. The human beings in this culture are brought up and helped by these servo-mechanisms in order to adapt themselves to the society of orgone energy. It is very important to realize the powers which these servo-mechanisms possess.

Oerg-8 realized that he could be masturbated by the System. He entered his unit and carefully held up his ‘sex-card’ to the Monitor. “Yes, you are allowed a gratification program at this time,” hummed the mechanical speaker. There was a clicking as the wall slid back and rolled out the System. Oerg-8 unzipped his uniform and stood naked before the mechanical master. The arms of the System reached out for him and carefully began to do their program-work. This was based on a memory-bank pattern of Oerg-8’s personal and sexual history. Oerg-8 wanted to fall backwards from the intensity of the program, but the System held him firmly in its warm and metallic grip. He climaxed on schedule, as he always had in the past, and now felt pain as the System, over-running its program, continued unaware of his ejaculation. “Stop, I’ve had enough,” he gasped into the radio-panel. The System came to a halt and, releasing Oerg-8, he lay in a heap of exhaustion and pain on the cold steel floor. “Gratification achieved,” spoke the Monitor. Oerg-8 dragged himself into the sleeping sector of the floor and felt the cold rubber blankets beginning to cover him.

There is only the society of the servo-mechanisms. There is only the System and the Monitor, nothing else can exist without Their permission. Nothing can exist except what is permitted by the System and the Monitor. These were the first words which were taught to Oerg-8, as he was admitted into the world of the others. He never knew what they were like but he realized that they were something like himself. But were they? This is a society where human beings exist to provide the energy for the servomechanisms and their managers. Because the fundamental energy is orgone, human beings are used to provide this energy for the robotic agents of this society. 

However, this is not the same type of understanding of orgone energy, which we in the 20th century associate with the work of W. Reich and his discoveries. This is a perversion of that concept and also an exotic distortion of the original Reichian teachings. It would be impossible to find out how this happened. We do not possess any documents and the humans with whom we have established contact are unable to tell us. The servo-mechanisms, for reasons of their own security, are not talking. There are not any documents or papers available. In fact, this is an entirely non-literary society. True, they can read but they do not read extensively. Oerg-8 was born in this society. He does not know where he came from biologically as he was raised by servo-mechanisms. He was taught that he was a sexual being, one of a few and that is why he had the name Oerg. It was a sexual name. He was told that the value of his productivity — which was his value to the society — was measured in terms of the orgone energy which he produced for the System. He was told that any sexual activity which was not directed towards the System was forbidden. At a certain age he was given an erotic schedule. All this must be under the direction of the System. He could not allow the thought to arise that sexual experience was otherwise possible. It was forbidden, Oerg-8 was educated by the System. He was taught sexual philosophy. He was taught sexual politics and economy. He was taught to be a part of the System. He was taught that there were certain types of orgone-energy. These were very special and could never be discussed with anyone other than the Monitor. If he had any question he was to take it to the Monitor. He was forbidden to touch himself and every movement of his body, hands, his movement while sleeping, were watched by the Monitor. There was never to be any inappropriate use of the body. All sexuality belonged to the System. The production of sexual energy was allowed but only as a fuel for use by the System. 

One afternoon following a particularly intense workout with the System, the Monitor spoke to Oerg-8. “Because of your high level of energy-production, you will be allowed to hear the preliminary history instruction behind our way of experiencing.” With these words, as Oerg-8 relaxed on the cold steel floor, the Monitor began to explain the creation of the world as known by Oerg-8. It began rather simply in the 20th century. There was a magician named Michael, who was a human being. He was connected to another being beyond the humanoid stage of evolution. This being was called Michael Aquarius. He was a hyper-dimensional and gnostic being. The type of work which they did was related to gnostic computers. These are magickal types of machines which operate on esoteric energies. There seemed to be a point in the work where these two magicians took the radionic energies of the African or Afro-Atlantean IFA system and then combined them with the psionic energies generated by means of the Esoteric Shinto Cosmology. This combination, when harnessed by a computer produced a magickal information and energy system, which closely paralleled certain magickal tendencies in Islamic Sufism. These Sufi tendencies were reflected in the magickal powers of the Nine-and-Ninety Names of God. This magickal computer became more and more powerful since it was run on cosmic energies of a very fundamental nature. Also, in connection with this computer these magicians were in the process of developing various systems of sexual magick and connecting the results of these systems to the activities of the computer. Gradually it was discovered that the basic energies used by the computer and those developed in these magickal systems were fundamentally similar, if not identical. It was discovered that the radionic, psionic, and sexo-magickal energies were all aspects of the fundamental Ojas, behind all phenomena. In a very important way, this Ojas was expressed as Orgone energy by certain psychotherapists. There has been a psychoanalyst by the name of Dr. Reich. He had written about ‘The Function of the Orgasm.” In the process, he had developed a school of psychotherapy. After his death, the school and teachings fragmented and proliferated in a wide spectrum of methods and sexual therapies and psychologies. 

As a way of disguising what they were doing, the magicians used the Neo-Reichian images to hide the magickal and gnostic aspects of their work from the outside world. Using a number of these images drawn from Reichian and Neo-Reichian sources, Michael and his helpers were able to develop a number of their ideas regarding the political construction of the future direction of time. They apppear to have wanted to create a society in which they would be free to explore all of their hypotheses concerning time, energy, and human evolution. By means of their experiments with time lines, time-travel, and alternative universes, they found what they wanted at the present vector basis of our world, in the future. And making use of various methods, they transported to that world what they felt would be the basics for building their magickal society. That was a long time ago. Michael and his helpers are no longer here in the same way that humanoids like Oerg-8 are here. But they are here in a hyperspatial way, since they live on in a magickal metageometry. Of course, no one dies in this world, they are simply transformed to a higher experience or level of work with the instruments of research. The System is the ultimate erotic computer designed by Michael and his helpers. The Monitor represents the Teaching Function of society. It is the companion of every humanoid in the society created by those futuristic magicians. In a very interesting way, this society is the Plutonian or Yuggothian projection of the id-imagination of Michael and his computers. It represents the objectification of what he wishes realized in matter. Back in the world where he lived, Michael was familiar with the planetary influences of three gods: Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. All that he did was a projection to the world where he lived under certain influences and energies from these gods. These gods are viewed in our world, the world of Oerg-8, as the ultimate sources of power. They are the three aspects of the Absolute, or the Holy Trinity. The fundamental theology of this world is an explanation of the ways whereby the powers of these gods are manifested in our experiences. Theology is always a form of esoteric engineering because the root energies come from radionic, psionic, and vudotronic roots. The form that this power takes in humanoids is a deep field of orgone energy, which is released by means of intense orgasms, made possible by the Reichian and Neo-Reichian programming of these erotic computers. This is the basic way in which our world is sustained, for to maintain power requires the constant feeding of orgone into the System, since it is orgone energy which underwrites the more magickal energy-fields, which hold this world in the future.

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Gathox Random World Table

planet

So, I was reading in my copy of Gathox Vertical Slum and thinking about how cool it is that this ambulating god-city travels between different worlds and how this would let players make expeditions from the city to explore and scavenge whatever worlds they happen to find themselves on.

Therefore, I made a random table for worlds that Gathox can appear on. I wanted a science fantasy / sword and planet vibe, another table could have D&D Great Wheel planes or high fantasy settings or alternate versions of Earth history or…

1. Hubris

2. Carcosa

3. The Purple Planet

4. Athanor

5. Zoon

6. BX Mars

7. Mu / Mars

8. Athas

9. The Ultraviolet Grasslands

10. The Land of One Thousand Towers

11. The Hill Cantons

12. Xuhlan 

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Objects that break reality

Emmy Allen recently released her new game Esoteric Enterprises an osr take on the World of Darkness / Unknown Armies kind of thing. You basically play modern day gangsters meddling with forces that should best be left alone. I was intrigued because I liked her previous game of weird ice age fantasy, Wolf Packs and Winter Snow and had been thinking about similar concepts of occult underground shenanigans. So, here’s one of the things I’d been playing around with, adopted to Esoteric Enterprises.

This is of course very much inspired by the eminent television mini-series The Lost Room.

spectacles-clipart-illustration.jpg

Paranormal items

To the casual observer reality may seem pretty solid and stable. Unfortunately that is not really the case. Ours is just one of infinitely many universes that has risen from the abyss of unformed chaos. These worlds float in and out of each other in non-space, often entirely separate but sometimes interacting in various ways. When worlds collide, inter-phase or become temporarily entangled with each other reality breaks down. Natural laws change, time and space twist and warp, the logic of cause and effect become confused.

These events always leave a trace. Items that has been exposed to such breakdowns can become infected and carry with them a remaining anomaly. The relation between such paranormal properties and the everyday function of such objects are entirely arbitrary. The forces of primordial chaos are not bound by mortal concepts of sense or meaning.

To create such an object, roll two d20 on the table below, one for item and one for property. Then consider the following questions.

How is the items power activated? Does it affect anyone who comes into contact with it? Is it activated when the item is used for its mundane function? Must the object be manipulated in a specific way – such as rotating or shaking it?

Who is affected? For how long does the effect last? Is it permanent or does it stop after a short while?

What is the items history? When and where did the event that created it take place? Were there any witnesses and did anyone of them survive? Who owns it and who wants to get hold of it?

D20 Object Property
1 Glass eye Teleportation to, 1d3: 1. Anywhere within the line of sight, 2. Somewhere the user has been, 3. The place where the item was created.
2 Dentures The ability to hear and send thoughts within 12 m.
3 Spectacles The target becomes paralyzed.
4 Playing card Anyone who hears the users voice wishes to comply with any command.
5 A die The target or user is thrust 24 hours into the future.
6 Flash light Any two persons touching the object trade minds with each other.
7 Cell phone The user becomes invisible.
8 Book The target cannot recall anything from the last 24 hours.
9 Toothbrush Everything within a cone (2 m long, 2 m wide) ceases to exist until the object is pointed another way.
10 Hat The temperature within a small point is doubled every 10 seconds.
11 Glove The user can move through up to 3 m of solid matter.
12 Photograph The user or target can levitate.
13 Pen The user can use telekinesis to lift and manipulate objects of up to 12 kg of mass within 18 m.
14 Radio Anti-magic field, 1d6: 1. 3m, 2. 18m, 3. 100m, 4. 500m, 5. 1km, 6. 10km.
15 Coin Anyone touching the object is transported to a place where nothing else exists (not even air to breathe). When the item is released anyone affected returns to where they were. Time flows at the same pace in the world and the non-place.
16 Key The user can see and hear all that has occurred within 9 m. A saving throw is necessary to find anything particular in the deluge of sense impressions. Events that has provoked strong emotions are more distinct. The further back in time one looks the harder it becomes to discern anything.
17 Necklace The user can project hallucinations visible to all conscious creatures within eye sight.
18 Spoon The user gets a limited precognition and can not be surprised and receives a bonus on initiative rolls.
19 Cup The user can see magic auras and can see through illusions and invisibility.
20 Gold tooth The user can be killed by anything less than the total destruction of his or her body. Serious wounds stabilize automatically, injuries heal within hours or days.
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Bizarro role-playing games

Bizarro fiction is the literary equivalent of the cult section of the video store (do you remember when we used to have video stores?). Like most other fiction genres there are role-playing games of a matching kind. Now, of course role-playing games being the wonderful participatory things they are, the amount of bizarro in the game will be decided by the actual people playing. But the games, supplements and modules below all contain a great deal of potential for truly strange, gonzo and bizarre experiences.

feet

HOL – Human Occupied Landfill. The game is set on a planet serving as trash dump and penal colony where the player characters must fight to survive and escape. Speaking of the PC’s, “instead offering a set of pre-generated characters, including a young boy with an oversized plasma gun whose survival is completely inexplicable, a pedophile priest, a gamer geek, Elvis Presley, and parodies of two Marvel Comics superheroes, the Silver Surfer and the Incredible Hulk.”

Over the Edge. This game is like a cross between Cronenberg’s movie of Burroughs Naked Lunch and Wilson’s Illuminatus. The Mediterranean island of al Amarja is the focus point of all strangeness in the world, ranging from conspiracies and Fortean phenomena to the straight out surreal and absurd. The free form game system allows you to play any weird character you can imagine – a friend of mine once played a levitating telepathic kiwi fruit.

Unknown Armies. An esoteric conspiracy in the shape of a fast food company. A female porn star that transcends to become a facet of the divine. Sorcerers fueling their magick with booze.

Anomalous Subsurface Environment. A gonzo science fantasy mega-dungeon for OSR D&D retro-clones. Robots, lasers, dinosaurs and clowns!

Vaginas Are Magic! Feminine anti-cosmic nihilist magic of death for the Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP) weird fantasy rpg.

Blood in the Chocolate. The psycho-sexual fantasy rpg version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory that you have been waiting for!

Narcosa. Drug fueled fantasy gaming. Weird narcotics (Mugwump effluvium anyone?) and drug trance mages.

The Island of Purple-Haunted Putrescence. Mutant sorcerers, sex and dinosaurs.

Towers Two. A sordid adventure module written by David Grockie of GWAR. Featuring the Sea Slut, the Suck-Thing and the dreaded deathfuck magic items (such as a whip made from a succubus cunt).

The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia. Visceral gory fantasy reminiscent of Stuart Gordon’s Reanimator. Also you can play a Chaos DJ, a character class that lets you play a song and have magic happen in the game based on the lyrics.

(Edit: Forgot to add this!) Noumenon. The players take on the roles of insectoids joined in a collective consciousness. These beings are (perhaps?) a manifestation of the soul of a deceased person. They explore the Silhouette Rouge, a big sprawling mansion with many hidden secrets and enigmatic inhabitants.

Do you know of any weird and strange role-playing books that I haven’t mentioned here? If so, please comment and tell us!

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Secret wars and occult transhumanism

All this talk about psionics and occult transhumanist conspiracies made me think of a couple of related ideas I’ve had perculating in the back of my mind for a long time. My writing and gaming schedule is tight and there’s a lot of stuff competing for attention so its not likely that this will result in anything tangible, but at least I scribbled down these fragments.

Edit: I went back and made some changes and collected it all in a Google doc that I can make running updates to.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Gb0OEByVxHWf-AukbBJZO89i28aZNpKh-OUAYmu-3AY/edit?usp=sharing

occult transhumanism

The New Flesh

There is a secret war for the evolution of the human race. Cults, corporations and government agencies conspire and compete to find hidden power and shape the future in their own image. The player characters constitute one such cabal. Adventures are primarily city based and focus on intrigue, mysteries and heists but also “dungeon crawls” in secret labs and cult compounds.

Recommended films: Scanners, Pi, Altered states, Tetsuo, Tetsuo II: Iron Man, Akira, Videodrome

Cabal generator

Roll a d8 twice each for the paradigm (world view) and methods (practical techniques) that constitute the cults way to achieve paranormal abilities and evolve into a posthuman state of being. The players may roll or choose the defining paradigm and methods of the PC cabal. Once a day a character may perform the practices of his or her cabal to provoke an episode of protoplasmic mutation (see below).

1d8 Paradigm Methods
1 UFO Psychedelic drugs
2 Matrix / Virtual Reality Yoga / Meditation
3 Nephilim mythos Lucid dreaming
4 Singularity / Omega Point Ecstatic pain
5 Parallell worlds Ritual sex
6 Quantum mysticism Alternative medicin
7 Kabbalah Glossolalia
8 Shamanism Sensory deprivation

Powers

Paranormal abilities such as telepathy, psychokinesis, clairvoyance, pyrokinesis, astral projection, etc. Check out Courtney Campbell’s Psionics or PX1 Basic Psionics Handbook.

Protoplasmic mutations

The path towars transhuman godhod is perrilous and at times of stress the PC can temporarily revert to a state of chaotic prima materia. This risk is measured by the Protean Factor, which starts at 1. When a PC uses a paranormal ability, suffers damage or is put under stress you roll a d10. If the result is greater than the PF nothing happens but PF rises by 1. If the die roll is equal to or lower than the PF the PC undergoes a protoplasmic mutation, roll for 1d4 random mutations. The mutations will remain for a number of minutes equal to PF x 10, after which the PC reverts to his or her normal state. If the die roll is 5 steps or more beneath the PF the PC spontaneously develops a random new power and retains the mutations as permanent features of his or her being.

For mutation tables, see The Metamorphica.

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