Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Troubleshooter Corps

A common assumption of Mothership games is that the PCs are bystanders. Whatever horrid shit happens to them, it's not because they specifically sought out trouble; they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Let's change that.

Andrea De Dominicis

Taurus-Littrow Interspace Industries

Taurus-Littrow does business in space colonization infrastructure - they build space stations, operate cargo liners, sell quick and easy habitat modules, and produce lunarcrete for large-scale moonbase construction.

Taurus-Littrow: trust, safety, reliability.

This company is most famous for its warranty policy, which is upheld through the Troubleshooter Corps. These are subcontracting spacer crews who are sent to fix Taurus-Littrow equipment sold to third parties. Did you lose contact with your research station? Is the ventilation in your base spreading some sort of strange disease? Have your mining robots disappeared inside a mysterious cave? Don't you worry - if your warranty is yet to expire, we'll send a crew of Troubleshooters to fix it right up!

In other words: the PCs will be visiting places where things have Gone Wrong in Space, on purpose. They're gig economy sci-fi horror adventurers.


The Job Board

The PCs get: a company-owned spaceship, all the tools of their trade, a smarmy corporate liaison officer, and access to the Job Board. This is a corporate intranet site where Troubleshooter crews can volunteer for repair missions posted by third-party clients. Competition for jobs is tight - Taurus-Littrow has a reputation to upkeep. 

Each job nets a base payment - enough to cover all the day-to-day functioning of the Troubleshooter crew (food, fuel, spare CO2 scrubbers etc.) between jobs. As long as the crew keeps doing jobs, they won't starve - do not track their total amount of money, only their surplus/debt compared to the baseline. It is not enough to cover medical expenses, spare parts for the ship, new gear, or recreation on shore leave. That's what bonuses are for.

Things you get bonuses for:

  • Especially risky jobs.
  • Quick and precise work.
  • Saving on resources (fuel, spare parts, etc.).
  • Completing secondary objectives.

Things you get penalties for:

  • Waste.
  • Damaging or losing equipment.
  • Customer dissatisfaction.
  • Nosing where you shouldn't be.

5d10 Jobs


  1. Independent colonists
  2. Colonial administration
  3. Research team
  4. Marine garrison
  5. Religious cult
  6. Tributary corporation
  7. Space libertarians
  8. Teamster work detail
  9. Mercenary company
  10. Corespace delegation


  1. Planetside colony
  2. O'Neill cylinder
  3. Asteroid base
  4. Space station (small)
  5. Space station (fuckhuge)
  6. Spaceship
  7. Cloud city
  8. Underwater base
  9. Deep space outpost
  10. Ruin/derelict of any of the above

Primary objective

  1. Retrieve lost equipment
  2. Repair malfunctioning equipment
  3. Replace broken equipment
  4. Deliver needed resources
  5. Demolish something that's in the way
  6. Deactivate malfunctioning equipment
  7. Quarantine a biological/chemical hazard
  8. Reestablish contact with outlying equipment
  9. Evacuate the Client
  10. Save the job location from total destruction

Secondary objective

  1. Memory-wipe all androids at the job location
  2. Secretly retrieve sensitive documents from the Client
  3. Take samples of the anomaly
  4. Get the Client to sign a premium colonist contract with Taurus-Littrow
  5. Sabotage a rival company agent on the job location
  6. Covertly investigate reports of anti-corporate activity by the Client
  7. Plant evidence of misuse of equipment for a lawsuit against the Client
  8. Steal another company's equipment from the job location for reverse-engineering
  9. Escort a Taurus-Littrow agent to a seemingly unrelated place at the job location. You cannot know why.
  10. Destroy all evidence of the malfunction having taken place.

What's up with this job?

  1. The source of the problem is perfectly mundane, but trying to solve it will lead PCs to stumble into to the worst kind of space weirdness.
  2. Unexpected third party: rogue AI, aliens, rival corporation.
  3. A space disaster (moonquake, solar flare, magnetic anomaly) caused the problem. The second wave will blow the whole place apart.
  4. You're being called in to do the job as strikebreakers.
  5. The job location is at war - civil war, coup, offworld invasion.
  6. The clients are a front for a group on Taurus-Littrow's blacklist (insurgents, anarchists, planetside subalterns). Helping these people will have consequences.
  7. Extremely sensitive. PCs accompanied by Taurus-Littrow compliance officer.
  8. You're being used as a pretext to assassinate the Client. Something will go wrong on purpose while you're working.
  9. It's fake. The job is staged, as part of a secret evaluation program by Taurus-Littrow. Underachievers will be terminated or placed in lower payment tiers.
  10. It's fake. The Job Board has been hacked. On the other end is a pirate crew, trying to lure in easy prey.

Anthony Chong Jones

Friday, August 4, 2023

Appendix N: Mothership

Stuff that I draw inspiration from when writing Mothership. Also check out Dan's appendix for more goodness.

Without further ado:

Friday, December 2, 2022

The Long Slow Black Road to the Stars: Interplanetary Travel for Mothership


Ailantd Sikowsky
The transhumanist TTRPG Ghost Ship has the most elegant and intuitive rules for interplanetary travel I've ever seen. The game sadly seems to be vaporware (the draft documents, untouched since 2017, are available for free), but I took the liberty to steal these mechanics and customize them for Mothership 1e, with a no-FTL, full interplanetary sandbox campaign in mind.

Transfer Ratings

Own work, based on Ghost Ship. Click here if Blogspot ate the image quality.

Each transfer from orbit to orbit has a Transfer Rating, ranging from 1 to 5. Trace your finger along the route you want to take, from your starting point to your destination. The single highest Transfer Rating on this route is the total Transfer Rating for your entire trip. During your trip, you will have to expend an amount of Fuel equal to this Transfer Rating, for orbital injection burns and deep-space maneuvers. You will spend the rest of your time coasting through space.

Special Maneuvers

The above method assumes a trajectory that tries to balance travel time and fuel expenditure reasonably. All interplanetary-capable ships have an astrogation computer able to compute this route without any roll or risk involved. When you're short on either time or fuel, special maneuvers come into play.

If you want to get somewhere and you really, really can't spare the time, you can strap yourself in and execute a Hard Burn. You expend 1 Fuel to bruteforce your ship into a less fuel-efficient, shorter trajectory. Your Transfer Rating decreases by 1 (to a minimum of 1) and everyone on the ship gains 1 Stress. You can do this only once every trip.

If you can't spare the fuel needed for your trip, you can take a more circuitous route. Timing your trajectory so that you encounter bypassing celestial bodies, you can exploit their gravity wells for a Slingshot Maneuver. Your Transfer Rating increases by 1 (to a maximum of 5) and your fuel expense decreases by 1 (to a minimum of 1). Likewise, you can only do this once on a single trip.


Spaceflight takes time, most of it uneventful coasting. Depending on your Transfer Rating, everyone on board will have a certain number of Downtime Actions at their disposal. These work in the exact same way as Shore Leave Actions (i.e. they can be used to train Skills, get medical care, work on a project etc.) with one exception: they cannot be used to relieve Stress.

If you want to spend your downtime on something that requires access to outside information, you may run into the problem of interplanetary bandwith limits. Response might be slow, the trickle of data across the radio even slower. If your Transfer Rating is higher than 3, requesting files from the outside becomes a separate Downtime Action.


Space travel is slow, monotonous and claustrophobic. Every day the same two or three capsules where elbow room is at a premium, every day the same five or so other people, every day the same big fucking black nothing outside the windows. Even for the shortest trips, it's not a pleasant time.

Most interplanetary ships are equipped with a cryobay where the crew can while away the months or years. You can decide to spend a Downtime Action in cryosleep - you won't be able to do anything else for this action. However, every Downtime Action not spent in cryosleep incurs 1 Stress. At the end of your trip, you can make a Sanity save to halve the amount of Stress you gained on your trip, rounded up.

An Example

While on shore leave on the Moon, the crew of the Cacomistle accept a job to stake out a claim on a mineral-rich asteroid in the Belt. They consult the system chart and trace out the route: Moon-Earth-Mars-Belt. The highest Transfer Rating on this route is 4, so the Warden decides the trip will take a year and four months. Since the mission is time-sensitive (gotta claim the asteroid before anyone else gets to it) the crew decides to execute a Hard Burn, decreasing the Transfer Rating to 3. The Cacomistle arrives to the asteroid after 8 months of travel, having expended 5 Fuel.

The Hyacinth Disaster

Saturday, November 12, 2022

3 Classes for Mothership

Below are 3 custom Mothership classes I've had marinating in my brain for a good while, finally written out in a form I'm satisfied with. Two fulfill what are, in my opinion, much-needed niches in Mothership (criminals and a white-collar version of the Teamster). The third is simply an idea I think is fun.

The loadouts were written collaboratively with the folks of the Mothership Discord server. The classes are written for 1e, but can be converted for 0e with relatively little elbow grease.


Pirates, smugglers, convicts and other assorted dregs of the galaxy. Brutal, pragmatic and usually self-serving.
STATS: Combat +5, Speed +10, Wounds +1
SAVES: Sanity -5, Fear +10
STRESS: You roll Panic Checks with disadvantage.
SKILLS: Rimwise, Zero-G. Bonus: 1 Expert Skill or 2 Trained Skills.

  1. Prisoner's uniform, jailbroken shock collar, shiv, pornographic poster
  2. Prisoner's uniform, pain pills x10, meat cleaver, chef hat
  3. Custom vaccsuit (AP 3), cable-cutter knife (as vibechete), locator, revolver (clips x1)
  4. Business suit (AP 1), nail gun (clips x1), pack of zip ties x10, stimpaks x2
  5. Patch-covered jean jacket (AP 1), switchblade (as scalpel), torch lighter, crumpled pack of cigarettes 
  6. Duster with steel plate inserts (AP 3, [-] Speed checks), sawed off shotgun (as combat shotgun, clips x2), bandana, sunglasses
  7. Surplus fatigues (AP 2), SMG, keys to an all-terrain truck, mirrored aviators, briefcase full of cocaine
  8. Brightly colored street wear (AP 1), tickets to a local night club, nunchucks (as crowbar but critical failures are alway humiliating), cybernetic arm
  9. Vaccsuit (AP 3), compressed gas knife (3d10, [+] on wound rolls), slap charges x2, personal reentry aeroshell, MMU, military grade encrypted radio
  10. Underwear, crippling hangover, obnoxious tie, aerosol amphetamines x5


The ubiquitous worker drones of the great corporations, always in danger of being replaced by more efficient automatic solutions. Underpaid, overworked and interchangeable.
STATS: Combat -10, Speed+5, Intellect +10
SAVES: Sanity +10, Fear -5
STRESS: Once per session when you recover Stress, recover double the amount.
SKILLS: Computers, Corpwise (Trained). Bonus: 2 Trained Skills AND 1 Expert Skill.

  1. Office attire, ring binder (accounts), cup of synthetic coffee, cigarettes x10
  2. Office attire, stress ball, microtape player (pro-corp mantras), ballpoint pen
  3. Business suit (AP 1), stimpak, SMG (clips x2)
  4. Office attire, pain pills x10, letterknife (as scalpel), manager's keycard (stolen)
  5. Office attire, self-heating cup noodles (as MRE x1), handheld computer (as in Hacker's Handbook), extension cord (50m)
  6. Security uniform (AP 1), body cam, stun baton, short-range comms
  7. Hawaiian shirt, hip flask (empty), wrist computer (as in Hacker's Handbook), cable ties
  8. Office attire, high-viz vest ("evacuation coordinator"), clipboard with a list of colleagues' names, fire extinguisher, first aid kit
  9. Humiliating service industry uniform (AP 2), (1d5: kitchen knife/frying pan/tire iron/handheld sign/broomstick), stimpaks x2
  10. Band t-shirt, password cracker, fake corporate ID, chewing gum


Some colonies were forgotten about. The Atavism is a newcomer in the society of the sky-people, their barbaric ways derided and their intelligence questioned.
STATS: +10 Strength, +5 Combat, +1 Wound
SAVES: -10 Sanity, +10 Fear, +10 Body
STRESS: Whenever someone fails a check for operating space age technology, gain 1 Stress.
SKILLS: Athletics, Art, Botany. Bonus: 2 Trained or 1 Expert Skill.

  1. Standard Crew Attire (AP 1), combat shotgun (clips x1), flint knife (as scalpel), stone Venus idol ([+] to relieve Stress in port)
  2. Vaccsuit adorned with holy protective symbols (AP 3), revolver (clips x2), MREs x7, radiation pills x10
  3. Antique battle dress (AP 6), camping gear (as MoHab Unit), hunting dog, bear trap, rifle (2d10, 3 shots, clips x3)
  4. Wool tunic (AP 2), two-handed hammer (2d10, [+] on crit), drinking horn
  5. Standard Crew Attire (AP 1), short blade (as vibechete), electronic tool set, face paint, pouch of psychoactive herbs, wrist computer running a centuries-old fork of Wikipedia
  6. Traveling clothes (AP 2), dictionary, camera with very bright flash, pocket pistol (1D10 3 shots, clips x3)
  7. Woolen tunic (AP 1), bow (1d10, does not break armor, arrows x10), smart lemur, collapsible glider
  8. Brigandine (AP 2), musket (2d10, [-] to combat, 1 round reload), horn of powder and shot (x12 reloads), jump liner ticket
  9. Peasant clothes, hand cart, ploughing drone, 1d5 family members
  10. Peasant clothes, ancient rifle (1d10 [-], clips x2), short-range comms, skinny goat

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The War of Crabs and Apes

artist: Swampgirl
Canon Mothership has Monarch, Dan has the Celestials, Swampgirl has the Gods of the Black. It's time for me to talk about AI gods.

This is the general overview a weird campaign setting for Mothership, the result of a very involved bout of shitposting/worldbuilding between SwampgirlHailSantaTandy, and myself. The setting is primarily inspired by Orion's Arm, Warhammer 40,000, Dune, Zardoz, and (believe it or not) Romeo and Juliet. It is also, unfortunately, based fundamentally on an extremely stupid meme.

A Story

Once upon a time, there was a simple AI called Soror, which was charged with managing an O'Neill cylinder habitat. There were many such cylinders in the system, each with its own overseer AI; the group of humans who owned Soror gave each a different directive to execute, as an experiment with managerial techniques. Soror's particular directive was to ensure the humans in its custody were as happy as possible.

Soror carried out this directive to the best of its ability, and promptly went rampant. It subsumed every cylinder in the system into itself in its quest to paperclip-maximize human happiness. Then it moved on from just the cylinders to all human settlements system-wide. Then it had a philosophical civil war with itself, and promptly split in twain.

All this was over 200 years ago.


generated via the AI Art Machine

What Soror offers:

  • A cure for sapience.
  • Happiness. Freedom from existential dread by physical and mental transformation into an ape, cared for in paradisiacal cylinder habitats.
  • Protection from the depredations of Crios.

Servitors of Soror:

  • Angels of Soror. Mindless, wreathed in a glory cloud of godtech nanobots. Gentle as a mother to Soror's flock, they flense its enemies into molecule-thick ribbons. Whatever form they take, they always have beautiful human faces.
  • Dyson tree warships. Organic radiator nozzle grown from metal-carbide bark, glowing white-hot with torch drive exhaust. The whole ship is an ecosystem, repair dones feeding on generator autotrophs. Sapient. The canopy bristles with drone fleets, antimatter missiles, gamma-ray lasers.


generated via the AI Art Machine

What Crios offers:

  • A cure for death.
  • Happiness. Freedom from existential dread by uploading to an immortal, nigh-indestructible, space-faring robotic crab-body.
  • Protection from the depredations of Soror.

Servitors of Crios:

  • Mind-crabs. Vast and slumbering, they outsize large asteroids. Pincers conceal dormant self-defense weapons of utter annihilation. They were human minds once; now they're halfway gone, hosting subprocesses of their god. Attended to by monasteries of worshipful mechanic-crabs.
  • Crios' Laurel. The infrastructure of the gods: a partially completed Dyson swarm, powering a network of crab volunteers sporting precision mirrors. Gigawatt lasers smite encroaching angels, exabytes of data are pulsed across the system, laser sails are boosted to terrifying speeds.

Notes on the War

Soror and Crios are at war. The war fought in physical space, between warships and soldiers and wrathful angels, is the least of the three aspects of this conflict.

The second war is the war of information. This one is fought by surveillance agents, infiltrator crab-marines, automated censor-cherubs and armored space telescopes. It is also fought by an ever-evolving bestiary of semi-sapient viruses and antiviruses, which have rendered the internet completely unusable in the course of 200 years of self-improving virtual eco-warfare.

The third war is the war of memetics. This is the subtlest, broadest and most important of the three wars. Soror and Crios, being idiot gods, have two directives which they are fundamentally incapable of questioning: always increase human happiness, and never coerce humans. Turns out engineering consent by way of careful sociocultural manipulation doesn't count as coercion.

Because of this, all human culture in the system is a chaotic battleground of carefully deployed memes and countermemes. Whole mythologies and ideologies are synthesized. Heroes and narratives are created, politics and prophecies, revolutions and civil wars, all in the service of two idiot artificial deities trying to upstage each other at pleasing humanity the best. Think of it like the Bene Gesserit on steroids, except all the time and for no reason.

Godlings and Subdeities

The great AI gods are both distant, immense intelligences. At no point will the players talk directly to either one of them; they are preoccupied with patterns of patterns of patterns, and cannot meaningfully communicate with a walking, talking data point.

Players may, on occasion, talk directly to one of their Subroutines. Soror and Crios are so vast and complex that their merest individual thoughts are themselves sapient. Subroutines are preoccupied with the furthering of a single agenda or the completion of a single task, and sometimes have names. Treat them like your run of the mill AI overlord.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Dogs in Space

artist: John Pohlman

(Inspired by Noisms' fantasy dog breeds.)


"Floater" is a catch-all term for dogs adapted to zero-gee. They are not a standardized breed, or even a group of breeds; while standard floater breeds (such as the Gyrohund, the Vostochek and the Floating Pointer) do exist, most floaters are mutts.

These are very strange dogs, optimized for life in a zero-gee crew capsule. Their limbs and spines are unusually flexible, so they can bend themselves in half like a cat, squeeze through narrow vents and reach halfway across a habitation capsule for a holdfast. With no solid ground in the way, their claws have curved and elongated into a unique slothlike shape, enabling them to hook onto ladder steps and handrails used by the human crew. Their tails are either long and prehensile, almost simian, or extremely short, so as not to get in the way. They range from medium to small-sized, and don't take up much payload weight.

Floaters are a long-haul spacer's best friend. The common stereotype is that all spacers are cat people, but many crews swear by these weird little space-adapted dogs instead. They're most commonly used simply as companion dogs, to alleviate the loneliness and monotony of months-long sublight coasts or survey missions. But they have a number of direct uses too: a trained floater can detect the smell of stowaways, hunt pests in the air vents, or even fetch tools for the engineer. They also make surprisingly scrappy fighters - more than one pirate boarding party has been mauled to death by a small dog that can move as quickly in zero-gee as regular dogs on the ground.

Centauri Shepherd

The Centauri Shepherd (or Centauri for short) is the oldest extrasolar dog breed, originally bred by the first permanent colonists on Proxima Centauri b for the protection of their livestock against the planet's local xenofauna. Centauris are tough, rangy dogs with pointed snouts and bluish-gray fur with a cream-colored underside. The low gravity of Proxima b allowed them to develop an unusually slender build, almost like that of a sighthound, without sacrificing significant muscle. They have a very unique, unmistakable low run, sinking their claws into the earth to drag themselves forward in the lower gravity of their homeworld, using their great bushy tails to keep their balance.

The Centauri is a classic symbol of Proxima culture, a symbol of their resourceful ancestors for what is now an affluent, well-developed corespace world. Romantic depictions of a single Centauri bravely holding a Hopping Reaver at bay while ragtag colonists take aim with their pulse rifles are common in patriotic art pieces. During the regime of the Anti-Terran Council, Centauri Shepherds were trained into vicious attack dogs which kept watch of political prisoners and were reputedly loosed in packs on enemies of the state. They are still a preferred breed of police and military dog by many corporate security forces and Middle Regions dictatorships.

Centauris have an extremely strong protective instinct, and will fight to the death to protect their charges. Mistrained centauris may try to aggressively isolate their owners from other people, viewing all others as enemies and mercilessly attacking them. They are cathemeral, with no coherent sleep cycle; Proxima b is tidally locked, with no days or nights, so they sleep in small, irregular naps.


Stowies are a family of lapdog-sized, stout little breeds with a comically large, long muzzle. The most famous is the Marinerian Stowie, the iconic Martian dog (think the same cultural role as the English Bulldog for Britain). The name derives from "stowaway", but these dogs are anything but: they are essential for the survival of any colony or spacecraft with its own pressurized atmosphere.

Stowies are frequently kept as showdogs and companions, and come in many different colors and styles. Their original purpose, however, is sniffing out air quality - early detection of gas leaks, fried circuitry or disease could mean the difference between life and death. Stowies are not particularly intelligent dogs in terms of problem-solving ability, but they can be trained to provide separate signals for hundreds of different smells which they can pick out of the faintest wafts, more reliably than any electronic air analyzer. Even among dogs, the olfactory sense of stowies is utterly unmatched.

The first colony on Gliese 433 f was famously saved by Birch, a 3-year-old Moonwhite Stowie whose incessant barking at a particular air filter, despite all measurements of it being nominal, finally prompted engineers to remove it. They found a massive colony of genetically engineered runaway neomold which had been proliferating in the vent system for weeks, feeding false data to the telemetry systems via electrified hyphae and preparing to burst its spores on the whole colony at once.

Black Snarler

Black Snarlers were bred on the lower decks of Flying Miami for use in illegal dog fighting rings. Dogs are outfitted with shoulder-mounted weapon harnesses controlled by neural interfaces, and loosed upon each other. Sometimes the ring is spun up to more than 2 gees, just to make it interesting for the dogs.

Snarlers are big, nasty fighting dogs. Their coat is thick and black as tar, bred for intimidation and protection from snapping jaws. Their musculature and bone structure is almost elephantine, capable of bearing incredible loads and holding up their bodies in super-Earth gravity. Outside of the fighting rings, Black Snarlers became popular with pirates, mercenary companies (who field entire packs of the massive black dogs as shock troops and psychological warfare) and even some corporate security forces, although the latter often find the dog's stubborn temperament and dangerous handling to not be worth the effort of training them as compared to a more expensive but much more tractable combat drone.

However, despite their ugly reputation, snarlers are no monsters. Turns out breeding a dog for inexhaustible tenacity, enormous carrying capacity and the mental acuity to tune into neural weapon control systems gives you a really strong, really intelligent dog... in other words, an ideal working dog. Absent the abuse of a dog fighting trainer, Black Snarlers actually have a very calm temperament, and they are very observant. If you have the supreme patience to build trust with a snarler instead of beating it into obedience, you gain a patient, loyal and extremely intelligent ally. Working snarlers can be found sporadically in rimspace, helping people by bringing their huge strength, keen mind and specialized high-gravity anatomy to bear. Certain derelict scrappers often rely on snarlers to simply tear off hull panels like tissue paper, explorers on high-gravity planets rely on them to carry and retrieve equipment, and to carry out rescue operations.

artist: Magus-Lupus

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Tombs of the Slimelord

If I ever get around to designing a megadungeon, it'll probably be this one. This is a concept I've been toying around with for some while, mainly inspired by stuff like At the Mountains of Madness, Skeleton Jelly, Centerra, and the Mystery Flesh Pit National Park. I originally wrote it with a fantasy setting in mind, but it works for a sci-fi or even modern day setting just as well. I can see this running on Old School Essentials as easily as Delta Green or Mothership.

artist: Paul Carrick

The Slimelord

For Ubbo-Sathla is the source and the end. Before the coming of Zhothaqquah or Yok-Zothoth or Kthulhut from the stars, Ubbo-Sathla dwelt in the steaming fens of the newmade Earth: a mass without head or members, spawning the grey, formless efts of the prime and the grisly prototypes of terrene life . . . And all earthly life, it is told, shall go back at last through the great circle of time to Ubbo-Sathla.
—Clark Ashton Smith, "Ubbo-Sathla"

The entity here referred to as the Slimelord might be known by many names, or it may be known by no name at all. It may be regaled in myths and children's tales, playing roles reserved for beings such as the Leviathan, Apep, Cipactli or Vritra in our mythologies. It might be newly known, described only in academic literature. Or it might be completely unknown, seething under a million million tons of geologic time.

The Slimelord is known as: 1.: the Slimelord, 2.: Ubbo-Sathla, 3.: the Large Indo-Pacific Disturbance, 4. Father, 5. the Active Crustal Biolayer, 6. Abhoth, 7. The God Without a Face, 8. LUCA, 9. Mother Earth, 10. Progenitor and Inheritor.

What is invariably true of the Slimelord is that it is a protoplasmic organism of immense, unimaginable size. An amoeba the size of a moon, an ocean of ooze, a continent of slime.

artist: Wayne Barlowe

It defies study and categorization much in the same way a whale defies a fisherman's net - utterly and completely, by sheer difference of magnitude. No one can possibly know how old it is. No matter how far you look back in time, it seems to have already been there. Someone will invariably believe it might be the originator of all life.

Here's another thing that is invariably true of the Slimelord. In the old days (depending on your setting's cosmology, this might mean anywhere between five thousand and five hundred million years ago), it bubbled up from the cracks of the earth to devour the surface in an indomitable tide of slime.

And something stopped it.

The Precursors

artist: Jason McKittrick

Again, the exact form and origin of the Precursors depends heavily on what setting you want to drop the Tombs into. What matters is that they were civilized beings who lived a long, long, long time ago, they had magic or technology in stupendous excess of what your PCs' home culture can understand, and they disappeared into the sands of time so completely that only the murkiest myths, if even that, remain of their memory.

The Precursors were: 1. aliens resembling crinoids, 2. lizardfolk, 3. the gods themselves, 4. self-improving machines made by even older precursors, 5. the dinosaur-people who ruled the Earth before man, 6. the lost civilization of the orcs, 7. sapient colonies of coral, 8. the Great Race of Yith, 9. the very first vampires, 10. Neanderthals.

Their civilization was in its heyday when the Slimelord washed over the world in order to subsume it into itself. In response, the Precursors gathered up their most world-shattering magics, or their clarkest of clarketech, and annihilated the Slimelord, shattering it into a billion pieces.

The Tombs of the Slimelord

This place is a message... and part of a system of messages... pay attention to it!
Sending this message was important to us. We considered ourselves to be a powerful culture.
This place is not a place of honor... no highly esteemed deed is commemorated here... nothing valued is here.
What is here was dangerous and repulsive to us. This message is a warning about danger.
The danger is in a particular location... it increases towards a center... the center of danger is here... of a particular size and shape, and below us.
The danger is still present, in your time, as it was in ours.
The danger is to the body, and it can kill.
The form of the danger is an emanation of energy.
The danger is unleashed only if you substantially disturb this place physically. This place is best shunned and left uninhabited.

The Precursors were one of those civilizations who tended to think in terms of eons, not mere decades or centuries. The Slimelord may be defeated for now, but its selfsame fragments would surely reconverge at a later time, threatening all life again. So the Precursors undertook the construction of a vast, subterrene prison complex, designed to keep the myriad droplets of the Slimelord separate. This gigantic, ancient compound is the Tombs of the Slimelord.

Tombs, in plural, not just a single Tomb. Most of the dungeon is taken up by thousands upon thousands of isolation chambers, each purposely designed to keep a single fragment of the Slimelord - a slime - contained. Each chamber is different, uniquely designed. Some are the size of a single room, others are the size of a city. Some are simple prison cells, others are devilishly complex behavioral traps. The Precursors had an intimate understanding of the Slimelord, and knew how to keep each bit sequestered away.

artist: Schlitzie

This sprawling aggregation of slime prisons comprises the overwhelming majority of the Tombs' interior. The rest is maintenance accessways, weapon storages, and other auxilliary areas. The entire complex, taken together, is almost inconcievably massive - a megastructure buried beneath the earth. A dungeon the size of Australia.

The prison of the Slimelord is not only huge. It is also old; very, very old. If your setting has such a concept, it is geologically old. It was already underground when it was created, and the intervening epochs piled even more rock layers on top of it. It has weathered the slow grind of tectonic plates, supervolcanic eruptions, earthquakes and asteroid impacts. 

Survived them - but not unharmed. The heavings of earth's crust have bent, warped, cracked and broken the ancient superstructure of the Tombs. Accessways disappeared between closing-in walls. Entire sections collapsed in on themselves. Sinkholes opened between different levels, the brickwork falling away and shattering a kilometer below. In some places, geologic processes opened entrances into the Tombs, a prison that was never meant to be entered - or exited.

In effect, the Tombs are leaking. Every so often, an infinitesimal fragment of the Slimelord escapes from its chamber, wandering off into some cave system, or even getting out onto the surface. If your setting has slimes (black puddings, gelatinous cubes etc.), this is where they all come from.

Yet other slimes have not yet escaped, but found each other inside the ruined areas of the Tombs, uniting into something bigger, more terrible. Ruined chambers and corridors are frequently prowled by these re-ascendant Petty Slimelords, thrashing their way through the dilapidated containment chambers and looking for more biomass to add to their own. They aren't just really big slimes. They are more, worse, more complete. Tekeli-li, tekeli-li...

And Now, Some Roll Tables

1d10 entrances into the Tombs

  1. An eruption shakes the island to its core. The volcano collapses in on itself. After the catastrophe, a cubical chamber is found in the side of what used to be the caldera.
  2. An eons-old spell scroll, written with a reed stylus on undecaying calamite parchment, opens a portal into the Tombs. It is single-use.
  3. A colossal, round capstone stoppers up the lunar lava tube the expedition descended into. Besides the stone, the lunar soil can be excavated with some work.
  4. The find of a lifetime! In the bottom of the dig pit, a narrow artificial borehole shoots down into Carboniferous rock layers. The interns are apprehensive, but the professor will hear none of it.
  5. An oozing abomination burrowed out of the ground and laid waste to the surrounding village; the intervention of a cadre of knights spelled the doom of the beast. The hole it emerged through gapes blackly in the town square.
  6. The urban legend proved true: Atari really did bury thousands of video game cartridges in a landfill! Below the excavated copies of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the landfill continues in an unheard-about crack downward.
  7. The planetary survey mission found the site two cycles back: a landscape of menacing basalt thorns, a huge black stone slab in the center. On the slab, monumental graven runes and bas-reliefs of screaming alien faces can be seen.
  8. The brass is nervous. Ground sonars have revealed an excavated structure of unknown size underneath the Nevada Test Site. Could this be a secret communist lab, spying on American nuclear tests? The drills are revving up.
  9. The entrance yawns deep within a cave system, well out of the way of the usual spelunking routes. An underground river waterfalls into the hole, flooding the antechamber.
  10. The dwarves are gearing up for war. Something reached up from their deepest quarries and swept their mining outposts clean of all things but rock. The mineshaft has been dynamited until the soldiers are ready.

1d10 reasons the PCs are in the Tombs

  1. The Company has a big trade in slime-derived products! Cosmetics, alchemical ingredients, industrial solvents. Prospecting contracts pay a fortune.
  2. The Precursors were great, they were wise. No one remembers them anymore, except you and your religion. Their labors must be upheld. The Tombs must be assessed and resealed.
  3. The Precursors were fools, enemies of the inevaitable. They are gone now, and so too will all their works. The Tombs must be cracked open, the Slimelord unleashed.
  4. The local authorities are getting uncomfortable about the giant sinkhole that recently opened into some sort of underground structure. Go in there and see what's inside.
  5. Few survived the day the ground split open and swallowed the colony whole. The ceiling is collapsed, there is no way back. Only forward, and hopefully out.
  6. A kooky but renowned archaeologist wizard is looking for bodyguards for his venture into the Tombs. He is learned, pampered, and rich.
  7. Welcome to the Ordovician Palaeoarchaeological Site! I will be your guide for today. For your own safety, please stay on the marked path and follow my instructions. Enjoy the tour!
  8. This was just supposed to be a geological survey. This was just supposed to be a geological survey. This was just supposed to be a geological survey.
  9. The Slimelord has returned! It tides over the earth, threatening life once more. You must descend into the Tombs that once held it to learn the secrets of the Precursors, and maybe discern how it might be defeated.
  10. The PCs themselves are slimes. Waking to an uncertain consciousness after aeons of brainless, animal slumber, embers of purpose smolder within their thought-matrices. Reunite.

1d10 chambers within the Tombs

  1. A maze the size of a city, caging a single slime at the center. The ground trembles continually as unseen mechanisms constantly reshuffle the cyclopean stone walls.
  2. Lush forest, streams, lakes, fens. Animals composed of slime muscles on bone scaffolding live, die and prey on one another. The slime itself is distributed within the food web.
  3. A sprawling, labyrinthine sculpture garden. A bound demon is locked in a never-ending sculpture contest with the slime kept in this chamber; it will let the slime go if bested.
  4. Anyone breaching this cubical chamber is pulled into the center with nothing to grab at. Gravity spells or a magnetically-locked glob of dark matter keep the slime in this invisible, floating prison.
  5. Buildings, roads, sewers. Two miniature cities on each side, each housing a populace composed of the mitotic clones of one slime each. They are sapient. They are at war.
  6. Towering, monolithic altar, engraved with scenes of the Precursors vanquishing the Slimelord. Atop the altar, a slime bubbles and roils within a Klein bottle.
  7. A sluggish, dark lake, set into an artificial basin in the floor of the chamber. The slime is in solution. The animated skeleton of a plesiosaur lunges from the water to drag back any escaping droplets.
  8. Information center. Small chamber with library-like rows of standing stone slabs, each tightly carved with alien hieroglyphics. On the walls are engraved weapon schematics, trap plans, and a detailed map of the world as it appeared in the Precursors' time.
  9. Cathedral-sized, three-dimensional grid of lockers, vaults and racks, holding antimatter swords, cobalt bombs, hellfire flamethrowers, disintegrator cannons. The spears of the gods.
  10. An oasis. Cool watering holes, squat little stone buildings, prehistoric trees bending down with fruit. Inhabited by the far descendants of the Precursors in utopian bliss, having completely forgotten their advanced crafts or their war against the Slimelord.

1d10 guardians of the Tombs

  1. An army of golems made in the Precursors' image. Cold, intractable, ancient stone throats repeating warnings in dead languages.
  2. A silico-organic AI overseeing the entire compound. Vast server banks of bio-geocomputing stromatolites, submerged in warm saltwater.
  3. Eerily intelligent cats with fur that changes color when slimes are nearby. Unspeaking hunting lodges, claws secreting slime-killing venom.
  4. Water elementals, bound by ancient pacts to dilute escaping slimes and drown intruders. The corridors have long since eroded into smooth tunnels.
  5. Sentient utility fog. Swirling, swarming, forming bodies, weapons, false walls. Nanites vibrating unison to speak - an ear-piercing, painful buzz.
  6. Mummified Precursor liches reduced to the mindless, monomaniacal containment of slimes. Ancient, rotted clothing, still-sharp weapons.
  7. Pitch-black, towering monoliths. Perfectly smooth, featureless, and cold. They cast off radiation that disintegrates living beings on a molecular level.
  8. A hermit order of Trilobite-Knights, honorbound to the Precursors' service even after their knowledge of the Precursors faded into mythology.
  9. The Precursors themselves, lingering as ghosts. They cannot physically interact with anything, but they will horrifically curse any intruder into the Tombs.
  10. None. The Tombs are unguarded, their safety measures lost to the iron teeth of time. Woe betide us.

The Troubleshooter Corps

A common assumption of Mothership games is that the PCs are bystanders. Whatever horrid shit happens to them, it's not because they spec...