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.

Monday, July 19, 2021

1d20 Actual Dreams I Had

So I got inspired by DandyMan's slushpile posts, and decided to crack open my dream journal and share some choice entries from therein. Perhaps you will be inspired by some of them, as a sort of slushpile originating directly from my id, or at least be entertained by some of the positively eldritch, melancholic or cartoonish things I dream up.

I edited each entry to be easier to read - these are originally less coherent journal entries, and more collections of keywords, mnemonics and evocative sentences I wrote down half-asleep, immediately after waking. Some of the dreams on the list will also only be fragments of entries - the interesting fragments.

So, without further ado.

  1. Eldritch robots disguised as humans; their fish-like masters from Neptune/Europa? demand "high tensure water". A religious cult ran by the robots as a front, where they extract the water from specific humans behind the scenes. Car accident, glass globes filled with glowing liquid.

  2. The cursed city and the lost city, next to each other. Renaissance alleyways, the secret port. Stalking around the edges. Triple drop hatch. Natalya the flesh-eating assassin - calm and composed until her facade cracks. Ravenous. Gondola voyage, all packed up. The main canal and the king.
  3. Oleth, he who is in one space. He who yawns. Fourfold mouth of void.
  4. Handcrank boats with goblins, towering tanks, rhinoceros beetle-like coaches/carts. A murder in the coach, a giant ice cream in the sky above a ruined city. Chinese Palace: all marble and marvel, digital mosaic dragons and staircases.
  5. The world is dying but the Great Cow offers a new opportunity. Take the pill(?)/push the button(?) and pray to him(?) on the way and imagine being a cow/bull and you'll end up in his(?) world.
    The new world is full of mud and decay. Dog cops - fighting segment, giant dogs pulling themselves.
  6. Space wizard leaving cosmic dust on a concave glass surface
  7. Ancient human evolution took many forms. Ape-man roots into the ground, becoming a tree with white and red. More ape heads sprout as roots.
  8. "The soul is the fire of a man, but words are the fire of the gods"
  9. Popstar surrounded by white porcelain cartoon squires with pitchers. "I will anoint you dearies now" *holds up two pitchers with oil*
  10. Coming to station for a new tank. Cylindrical, five levels (beware the rising levels of mayonnaise though)
    Level 0: trash compactors, big monsters hang out here.
    Level 1: factories, not much here except for factory slaves working to the beat of karaoke. The "Eight Day War" puzzle can be solved here.
    Level 2: restaurants and arcades, buzzing life here. Colonel Sanders and other beings also roam this level, salt shakers can be taken from him.
    Level 3: lots of celebrities, presumably luxury living places. Demons, devils and ballsacks (?). Not well explored.
    Level 4: Docks. Cars and spaceships can park here. Features an elevator to the other levels that only works when you're naked.
  11. Ethereal (stinking) wisp beings infiltrating the world, forming secret societies, dressed in concealing black and gold knightly armor with a houndskull bascinet helmet (very pointed) and white feathers on top. They ride horses (usually white). They have a tiny ethereal thread (à la Astral Projection) connecting them to SOMEWHERE, but no one knows where, and it's barely visible anyway. They're evil or at least sinister.
  12. Women who were born or lose their virginity on April 41 develop psychic powers.
  13. A nuclear girl arrives to our seaside port house to watch for threats. She spends all time outside, watching strange spots of light in the sky. UFOs? Nukes? These are apparently the small nukes, the really big ones are arcing through galaxies toward their targets.
    She needs a lot of chargers, and all of her clothes have batteries in them. Maybe computers too. When she glares at me I feel a glare coming from a far-off city on the horizon, on the other side of the sea.
    There's two other lighted cities on the horizon, near each other. Between them in the sky is a shining five-pointed star in the sky in a nigh-sky-dark pentagon, and the whole thing casts gentle light around the edges.
  14. What the monks of void need to meditate: a single simple dark grey carpet, an open space, a single black candle?, a knife?
    Everywhere is their monastery, and nowhere
  15. Two ecosystems:
    One on Venus. Very big, elaborately structured mineral (iron? my half asleep brain criticized that notion) deposits created by chemosynthetic bacteria. Structured like a 3D Apollonian gasket, shaped like a hollow dome on four legs the size of a mountain. Fragile (how does it survive Venusian weather?) and supports a lot of niches. Tons of them.
    One on an ocean world. Very large, fronded "plants" rising out of the water and laying/leaning over the surface. One long and flexible stem, with two huge armlike fronds.
  16. Military recruitment, with tanks and helicopters and shit. All soldiers there are pigs turned into humans, who came out of holes in the ground.
  17. In the halls of higher beings (ascended immortal spirits? Type 3 aliens?)
    There is a sense of massive, overwhelming scale. Swirling, towering and piling clouds of a pinkish, reddish, luminescent color. In the expanse between them: golden rails or rods or railings stretch for great lengths.
    Flocks of huge bubbles or spheres, colored light blue or yellow or green or white or purple, burst out of the clouds sometimes and zip across the expanse, chuckling or giggling enthusiastically. As they pass, I feel their attention momentarily fixed on me. They are mirthful - at my expense? In my support? About something else? I don't know. Inside the clouds, where they come from and where they go to, are joys my underdeveloped mind cannot even comprehend or grasp. The sky is pure white or pink.
  18. In another world, villages raise dinosaurs. Our village couldn't, so the idea was to get water from a neighboring village that had big dinosaurs, to have our dinosaurs grow big too. When I went to gather water, I became stalked/pursued by a huge T. rex(? Carnotaurus?). Its plumage was blood red and it had owl-like feather ears, making it look like the Devil.
    One night our baby dinosaur (a Psittacosaurus?) runs out of water, and I have to go out at night, cross the roads stalked by the T. rex, and get more big dinosaur water. Crawling through the night roads in terror, around hills and village houses.
    On the way I meet a Hunter? fighting an enemy. Turns out I have dormant Hunter abilities and I summon the City of Light out of the ground to the tune of Black Hole Sun. The enemy stumbles down a ladder in terror and dies.
    A third person arrives in cloaks, we tally our situation.
  19. Martian girl with big sis energy, walking in the garden, me flying easily propelled with arm strokes
    "Tame my ridges, for you have ruined a spider… and yet, I bet that desolate red wasteland feels more comfortable than this wonderful green paradise"
    She shrugs, smiles, and says something to the effect of "everything is relative"
  20. Fifth Element/Robocop esque police ad
    Cop with an eclectic airbike helmet and a big mustache talking to the camera
    "We need your help! We're reforming the City Police!" (logo) "Keeping New York safe!" (map of mainland US with the whole megapolis and the entirety of Texas in grey)

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Planet that Never Sleeps: Earth for Mothership

In Los Ageless, the waves they never break
They build and build until you don't have no escape
But how can I leave? 
I just follow my hood to the sea, go to sleep

a.k.a. "your players asked what's going on with Earth while they're out on the Rim being torn to pieces by space demons".

The Fifth Element
The Blue Marble. The Pale Blue Dot. Home.


Cramped, polluted, and teeming with people, the heart of mankind still beats. Slowly, laboriously.

With 27 billion inhabitants and a vastly inefficient global economy straining the ecosphere of what was once humanity's very own garden planet, Earth is wracked by squalor, natural disasters and government repression. The average Terran lives off of a measly federal welfare (most jobs having been automated long ago), has never eaten anything that wasn't synthesized from genetically modified algae, keeps a tsunami survival kit under the bunk of their tiny assembly line hab-block, and is told every day how privileged they are to live in humanity's cradle.

artist: Jon Hrubesch

The unflattering picture of Earth changes drastically, of course, if you happen to be one of the mega-rich. Here, unimaginable luxuries are available if you can pay - the most prized of which is Mother Nature itself. With the planet's natural areas rapidly dwindling, the Earth Federal Governing Authority has placed astronomical admission fees on entering its natural reserve areas, the so-called Green Zones, ostensibly to cover the increasing costs of reversing ecological collapse. Only the richest inhabitants of Earth can afford to view the remaining few patches of nature on the mother planet, congratulating themselves on their charitable works as they funnel billions of credits into what have been essentially reduced to private parks for the 0.001%.

Elite: Dangerous
Officially, Earth is the capital planet of all human-controlled territories across civilized space. In actuality, the grip of the Terran government hardly reaches beyond corespace - it is simply impossible to keep such a vast volume of space entirely under direct control. In the Middle Regions, as jumps become longer and riskier, its authority becomes faltering and tenuous, and the megacorporations increasingly take up the slack of power and control. In rimspace, Terran authority is entirely nominal. There are corpostates and independent colonies out there which the Federation is simply logistically incapable to reach and subjugate.

All of this, of course, is swept under the rug in Terran media, where glossy megastars and ad campaigns showcase the far reach of Earth to its dejected citizens. TV lotteries promise vacation trips to faraway planets, brought to heel by Terran manifest destiny. Talk show hosts pose with corporate dignitaries and rimspace colony leaders. VR films, free television programming, news feeds all regurgitate steady, uninterrupted prolefeed - lurid, sex-obsessed commercials, old-corporate propaganda, and never-ending soap operas about the lives of important people.

As the oldest economy in the human sphere, many of the most ancient megacorps are heaquartered here - some ossified and dynastic, some fragmented and self-consuming. These fossilized old-corps constantly vie for control over space with the upstart neocorps that sprung up out in the colonies, as well as each other, perverting every political institution supposedly representing all humanity into pieces in their great game. Earth's governance is a tangle of backroom politics and corporate interests puppeteering state offices, with a thin gauze of representative democracy painted on top.

Despite being the most densely urbanized planet in human-inhabited space by a large margin, Earth exports almost nothing, save for sleazy and propagandistic entertainment, colonial arrogance and gunboat diplomacy. Most of its economic production is tied up in keeping its largely unemployed population fed and housed, by the most generous definitions of both "fed" and "housed". The majority of the rest goes to accommodating pilgrims and tourists, 552 million of whom visit the planet's incredibly manufactured open-air museums - corp-friendly, sterilized versions of old Earth settlements - each year.

Judge Dredd: Mega-City Two
1d5 adventure hooks on Earth
  1. An especially tenacious breed of mind-altering alien parasite infected the water filtration systems of a mega-racktower, carried planetside by a gaggle of tourists slumming it with the hab-blockers. Go in there and smoke the little fuckers out before they decrease the revenue growth of the water treatment company too much.
  2. There's a new drug on the streets - go check it out and see if the boss can get in on the trade too. Secretly, the drug is manufactured and distributed by SynThac LLC, and causes addicts to commit false-flag eco-terrorist attacks, with corporate police ready to swoop in and save the day.
  3. A colossal organism crawled out of the Atlantic Ocean and was promptly gunned down by the point defense systems at Manila. Corpse-diving becomes a veritable gold rush - perhaps you can make it big selling genome samples, or even kaiju caviar!
  4. The brand new SweetDreams chips (double the sleep in half the time!) are the latest fad in neuro-implant chips... but sleepers suddenly begin to receive strange and disturbing dreams through the implants, urging them to return to apedom.
  5. Through a miraculous stroke of luck, you all won a dinner with Medusa McClyde, the queen of crackle music! Meet the idol in the five-star restaurant atop the Kampala Space Elevator, and try to survive the night amid ever-present media surveillance, trigger-happy bodyguards, and the bizarre and horrific proclivities of Ms. McClyde herself.
Hong Kong

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 see...