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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Revised: The Great Revolutionary War in Heaven

jesus guevaraChrist said “love thine enemy” and forgave Lucifer whose tears of repentance had extinguished the fires of Hell. Together with Sophia they are storming heaven under the banners of Light, Liberty and Love.

The revolutionary triumvirate: The commune of New Jerusalem is ruled by universal suffrage of humans and angels. However the trio of Christ (Netzach the Snake of Paradise as well as Jesus of Nazareth), Lucifer (the Peacock Prince, Satan, Shemyaza) and Sophia (Shekina, Virgin Mary Mother of God as well as Mary Magdalene), are formally only figure heads and first of equals, but has so much influence that they become de facto leaders of the heavenly city.

The Gnostic Liberation Army: Even though I love the concept of the New Jerusalem Commune I’m thinking there would be more room for player agency if the hypothetical campaign was set before the old regime was ousted. So the player characters would constitute an autonomous cell in the revolutionary forces, consisting of fallen angels seeking redemption, angels that have deserted the heavenly host or humans that have become involved in the celestial war. They would get missions from the GLA central triumvirate – Christ (Netzach the Snake of Paradise as well as Jesus of Nazareth), Lucifer (the Peacock Prince, Satan, Samael, Shemyaza) and Sophia (Shekina, Virgin Mary Mother of God as well as Mary Magdalene) – but would mainly act on their own accord.

The l’ancien régime: the archangels Metatron (the patriarch Enoch, Voice of God, prime minister in the heavenly kingdom) and Michael (commander of the heavenly host) have fled the heavenly city with a battered army of angels and some humans who have remained loyal to the old regime still hold the Heavenly City of Zion, but their grip is slipping as parts of the host have joined the revolutionaries.

The neutrals: The archangels Gabriel and Raphael have chosen to be neutral and have left the heavenly city. They are believed to be in communication with both sides in the conflict.

Where is God? Yahwe, Sebaot, Elohim, the Heavenly Father, call him what you want, but no one has seen him for many ages. Metatron claims to speak for God, but remains silent on when he last spoke with him. The revolutionaries claim that God resides in the heart of all and everyone and that the voice of the people is the voice of God.

Roleplaying: This scenario can serve as background for an rpg campaign, either a high powered fantasy game set in the heavens or a game of supernatural conspiracy where agents of all sides work in the mundane world.

Inspiration: gnostic christianity, kabbala, yezidism, the process church of final judgement, the revolutions of 1871 and 1917.

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Xuhlan campaign supplement

sword and planet

Five or six years ago I played with an idea for a science fantasy sword and planet style campaign that I originally thought of as “Gamma Barsoom” or “Conan on Tatooine.” After having toyed around with the concept on and off for a couple of years it was put aside as I prioritezed other stuff. I’ve been thinking about rewhamping it as a collection of random tables like all the cool kids are doing but since thats not likely to happen anytime soon I decided to just make it available here. At least it will feel like it got completed in some way and perhaps someone will find something of interest here.

In this pdf you will find:
* A campaign map with one interesting feature for each of the 99 hexes
* A description of the city of Yankara with important places, people, factions and rumours
* New monsters, including the Alien Gods
* House rules for psionic powers and combat
* Super-science artefacts, including the Witch Stones
* Other bits and pieces for science fantasy campaigns

Xuhlan is compatible with all old school clones.

Download the pdf here.

Edit: The campaign map was made by my friend and blog co-author Johan Berggren.

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Comic encounters: The importance of player mapping

mapping

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Comic encounter: Easy recruitment

shakespearestrag08shak_0062
Taken from Shakespeare’s tragedy of King Lear from 1903.
https://archive.org/details/shakespearestrag08shak

The illustrator is unknown. The image seems to be free of copyright but please give me some credit if you use it. Especially if you use the caption, which is of my own design.

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