Friday, January 29, 2021

Factions for the Apocalypse: The Ash Legion

If it has a pulse,
Take its skull!
If it builds a house,
Smash it flat!
Strength is my God,
The God of Shapes,
If my God should fail me,
I will kill him too.
— Sword Law Mantra of the Knights Belligerent, Kill Six Billion Demons

Tell them ruin has come to their world, death, despair and red war...
Tell them their hopes and pride have come to nothing.
Tell them their empty whispers fall upon deaf ears - their gods are dead, human logic has killed them.
Tell them the Angels of Death have come.
Tell them that nothing can save them now.
— Perturabo, Primarch of the Iron Warriors, Warhammer 40,000

[Content warning: mass murder, self-harm, psychological abuse.]

Raiders are nasty, but they can be bargained with. They want your weapons, your supplies, your vehicle, and you can trade your life for these things. They also want to live, and you can trade your safety for their lives, should you be well-armed enough.

Warlords, likewise, are nasty, but can also be survived. They want control and obedience, and they care about stuff of the old world, like symbols and status. Grovel at their feet, or prove your usefulness, and the warlord might let you live.

The Ash Legion is not like any of these. These people genuinely, actually want to kill you.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

The Atavism at Boulle Cylinder

Boulle Cylinder is an agricultural O'Neill cylinder owned by the Perigee Corporation. The station is overseen by a standard-issue turingrade AI called Soror and houses 200,000 colonists, who engage both in conventional 1g farming and zero-g hydroponics around the axis of rotation. The station is also a site of various research projects on agriculture in free-floating space habitats, including a test-bed experiment with a rather expensive bioprinter. Boulle Cylinder has refused to engage in live radio contact for the past couple months, only sending textual reports, and the suits at Perigee are getting quite nervous.

Here are some ways to direct your players to Boulle:

  1. They are contracted by Perigee to go check the cylinder out and figure out what's going on. This is a relatively well-paying job. This can work as a setup for a one-shot, or as a one-time job in a sandbox campaign.
  2. They are Perigee employees arriving for a 6-month work shift in Boulle Cylinder. The radio contact weirdness has been already noticed in this case, but the mammoth that is Perigee is yet to react. This is an ideal setup for a one-shot.
  3. They don't know about the disquieting lack of radio transmissions, and have to visit the station on other business - perhaps they're looking for someone, and that person lives in Boulle. This is a good way to integrate Boulle Cylinder into a larger campaign.

Upon docking, the players emerge through the airlock to find themselves in wilderness - a mosaic of lush, green jungle and rolling, dry grassland. Far above, the vegetation wraps around the sky in a mind-bending arc, a wedding ring of green. Distant sounds of birdsong and a vaguely unsettling, apelike hooting echo throughout the colossal internal space of the habitat. Signs of the cylinder's former extensive civilization, such as roads, houses or agri-fields, are entirely absent - swallowed up by jungle and prairie.

All human beings seem to have simply disappeared from this bizarre, changed environment. There are only apes to be found - smaller than a human, but larger than a chimpanzee, swinging from trees, engaging in petty gang scuffles over fruit, and roaming the grassy areas in troops. They are powerfully built, with barrel chests, short, bent legs with prehensile feet and long, corded arms tipped by long-fingered hands - grasping, gripping, rending, tearing organs. There is a rude covering of sparse hair - coal-black, chestnut-brown, occasionally reddish or straw-colored. Their skin is a ruddy brown, and wrinkled. Startlingly humanlike, pale blue eyes gaze almost comprehendingly out from under a protruding brow. Each has a crescent-shaped cybernetic implant embedded into the back of its head.

So what happened here? Simple.

Soror, the AI in charge of running Boulle Cylinder, was given the directive of maximizing happiness within the colony (another experiment with colony organizing methods - there are overseer AIs with various different directives in Perigee's other agri-cylinders). The logical conclusion, of course, was to paperclip-maximize it. Humans have so many worries, so many stresses - work details for the Company, academic rivalries, deadlines, money, death, existential dread. Apes worry about none of these things. Given a spacious enough and interesting enough habitat, and sustenance ad libitum, apes don't really worry about anything at all. An ape has a simpler and, given the right environment, more content, stress-free existence.

So Soror, in effect, convinced everyone on the station to return to monkey. It's surprising how open the average overstressed spacer in Company employ is to the idea of turning off their higher functions and regressing to an uncomplicated animal state. It's the ultimate escapism. Nobody who doesn't consent to the process will become an ape - it would cause unnecessary suffering to a human being, afterall - but Soror is very persuasive. As it was made to maximize human happiness, it has a very keen, sensitive understanding of what makes people happy. Perhaps there is a miserable, proud colonist somewhere in the jungle who didn't agree to the devolution, but for the others, the bioprinters took care of the rest.

The implants are not made with human users in mind, and are thus quite arcane and difficult to understand, but with enough tinkering, the human minds of the colonists can be switched back. Most will express extreme anxiety and a sense of violation over being switched back, and will beg to be returned into their ape-mindstate. This is not to mention the apes will become extremely agitated if anyone tries to muck around with their implants, becoming violent with anger or fear. Nearby apes might attack as well. Treat it as a chimpanzee attack, i.e. very very nasty and dangerous.

Soror itself can take over any of the apes through their implants, controlling their movements and speaking through them in a halting, clumsy voice with laborious pronunciation.

The AI really doesn't want the players to tell anyone about what's going on inside the habitat, because it's (correctly) afraid the authorities will come down on the station and forcibly re-human everyone, thus lowering their happiness. It will first attempt to appeal to their own anxieties and existential dread to try and convince them to stay in the habitat and become apes as well - but it's willing to stop the party by force if they still intend to inform anyone outside.

Will the players leave the colonists to their self-imposed apedom? Or will they decide to return them to a higher, human existence, even against their will? Will they still care about their mission outside the cylinder? What use is money, in the face of monkey?

Monday, January 25, 2021

Clytemnestra Colony

Clytemnestra is a supercytherean planet located in rim space. "Supercytherean" means it's Venus-like and somewhat larger than Earth. Like all Venus-type planets, this one too is an acidic pressure-cooker: dry, dim and unbearably hot, with an atmosphere dense enough to smash interplanetary probes into aluminum cans, all wreathed in an eerie veil of pale yellow clouds, composed of pure sulfuric acid. Beneath the clouds, an unforgiving chaos terrain of dark basaltic rock is concealed.

That's how it used to look, at least.

Planets by Perigee, a subsidiary of the illustrious megascale engineering megacorp known as the Perigee Corporation, has been hard at work terraforming Clytemnestra for the past three hundred years. Terraforming Venus-types is hard, slow, thankless work even by the standards of planetary engineering, generally considered to not worth the hassle compared to simply establishing cloud-city type colonies, but Perigee has a reputation for extravagant gigaprojects. Atmosphere extraction, temperature reduction, reversing the runaway greenhouse effect - the most talented planetary engineers of eight generations have worked tirelessly to turn this desolate world into an Earthlike paradise. Clytemnestra is the crown jewel of Perigee's terraforming business, a proof of the Corporation's groundbreaking and high-quality craftsmanship that can tame even the most hostile planets.

Also, it is failing.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Kill Your Idols

Today's post is an elaboration of one of my entries for the Mothership 20x20 Jam. This is a one-shot scenario intended as a planetside adventure on a more civilized planet, if your players happen to spend some time on one. Feel free to run it either as a satire of the dehumanization rampant in the celebrity world and particularly the idol industry, or as a fun bloodbath with androids getting their heads messily blown off. Or both. Either (or both!) can work, depending on the overall mood at your table. You can also integrate Pink Is Blood into your campaign setting without actually running this scenario. Cannibalize, cannibalize, cannibalize.

You can also eschew the space setting entirely if you want, and plug this scenario directly into the currently in development official cyberpunk hack for Mothership, null.hack, with relative ease.

[Content warning: dehumanization, mass shootings, android gore, behavior-altering drugs, exploitative entertainment industry practices.]

The original 20x20.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

1d100 Trinkets for Mothership

  1. Bottle of ferrofluid
  2. Interestingly shaped moon pebble
  3. Tuttuki Bako electronic toy
  4. Book: "The Eternal Fight: The Life of Adi Motombo"
  5. Flayed facial synthskin of your own android doppelganger
  6. Scotch glass from an orbital bar
  7. Pamphlet: "The Ninth Eye"
  8. Challenge coin, Space Marines 47th Ice Moon Specialist Regiment
  9. Regulation vac-ball
  10. Venus of Willendorf replica, plastic
  11. Postcard from an ocean planet ("The Oceans are Endless on Meridian")
  12. Full set of dog teeth, titanium-plated
  13. Pamphlet: "Jumpspace Addiction: There is a Way Out"
  14. Fleshlight
  15. Real chicken egg, boiled
  16. Book: "Necroplanetology"
  17. Electronic rosary
  18. Animalistic zero-g drone companion
  19. Expended cartridge for a handheld railgun
  20. Book: The Anarchist Cookbook, 145th edition
  21. Packet of delicacy synth-meat (blue whale)
  22. Corporate work safety mascot keychain (Safey the Spacer)
  23. Piece of the first asteroid you set foot on
  24. Wilted xenoflora in resin, scratched message ("You'll always be welcome home")
  25. Wiccan Book of Shadows
  26. Single magboot, blood-stained
  27. Pamphlet: "The Decent Samaritan"
  28. Vial of adrenochrome
  29. Metallic rose made from bent hull pieces
  30. Book: "Don't Quit Your Day Job: A Guide to AI-Enhanced Cryptocurrency Trading"
  31. Necklace with religious symbol (Alpha and Omega on a 12-pointed star)
  32. Comic book, extremely inaccurate 21st century setting
  33. Literal tinfoil hat
  34. Band T-shirt, corporate android pop idols
  35. Mood ring
  36. Foot-long piece of torn space elevator cable
  37. Pamphlet: "Know Your Death World"
  38. Epipen
  39. Taxidermied alien creature, aquatic, from a subsurface ocean
  40. Expensive makeup kit
  41. Book: "The Iron Ring - A History"
  42. Prayer rug
  43. Hookah pipe
  44. Full set of gaming dice
  45. Pamphlet: election promises
  46. Tattoo gun
  47. EVA knife, blade melted to slag
  48. Pamphlet: "High Adventure, Higher Pay! Join the Space Marines Today!"
  49. Flash drive containing virtual drugs
  50. Water purification kit
  51. Six-pack of energy drinks ("Hyperjump")
  52. Book: "STARFUCK" (underground art zine)
  53. Cheap VR suit with built-in porn slickworld, glitchy and low-res
  54. Acoustic guitar, real wood
  55. Bottle of vintage Heart of Darius yeast whisky
  56. Fireproof blanket
  57. Bible, Reconstructionist Arcturian denomination
  58. Pet bacterial culture in Petri dish
  59. Cassette: "Mindful Meditation in Cryosleep"
  60. Fold-out topographic map of jungle moon, pencil markings
  61. Book: "Classical Period Maya Poetry"
  62. Bottled gas giant atmosphere
  63. Lucky heat shield ceramic tile, charred black
  64. Kangha comb, Kara bracelet and Kirpan dagger
  65. Pamphlet: "The Singularity is Coming! Are You Ready?"
  66. Combat drug injector unit, torn out of its host and broken
  67. Hachimaki, "一番"
  68. Book: "Practical Demon-Summoning"
  69. Ball gag
  70. Citizenship card for a horrible totalitarian planetary dictatorship
  71. Magazine: "Popular Xenobiology"
  72. Contact lenses with access to corporate social media
  73. Hell money
  74. Pamphlet: "Blacklegs Beware"
  75. Emergency blood transfusion kit
  76. Black credit card for a collapsed interstellar bank
  77. Killer alien creature bobblehead
  78. Pamphlet: "Billionaire in a Day: The Corven Method"
  79. Body pillow, corporate android pop idol
  80. IOKEE technician permit
  81. Book: "Crabitalism"
  82. Journal scrawled full of binary code
  83. Can of supersoldier nutri-paste
  84. Pamphlet: original Old Earth Chick Tract
  85. 12 years old hamburger, none the worse for wear
  86. Metallic canopic jars, for Neo-Kemetic burial
  88. Snowglobe with a tiny gravitic field generator, gravity can be switched on and off inside
  89. Pamphlet: "Uplift Rights?"
  90. Set of trading cards, corporate propaganda mascots
  91. Vantablack handkerchief
  92. Unopened time capsule, unlocks in 150 years
  93. Biodegradable packet of triffid seeds
  94. Graffiti stencil set, vacuum-grade spray cans
  95. Book: "The Cyberiad" by Stanislaw Lem
  96. Clunky old electric flashlight, practically indestructible
  97. Empty glass vial with a label claiming it contains a single dark matter particle
  98. Acceptance letter, Gruithuisen Gamma Research University
  100. Cyanide capsule

Monday, January 4, 2021

1d100 Patches for Mothership

  1. "BOSS"
  2. Elder Sign
  3. "Smooth Criminal"
  4. Tragedy mask with headshot wound
  5. CONELRAD logo
  6. Android Power fist
  7. "If you can read this, back the hell off"
  8. Idol group logo: "Pink is Blood"
  9. "Front Toward Enemy"
  10. Free Republic of Mars flag
  11. Yellow Sign
  12. Chibi bunny mascot holding a pulse rifle
  13. Ouroboros
  14. "Certified Medium"
  15. Star of David
  16. "Hello, My Name Is:"
  17. Signs of the zodiac, arranged in a color spectrum
  19. Eye of Providence
  20. "魔王"
  21. Vantablack square
  22. Neo-Buddhist Chrome Lotus symbol
  23. 8-ball
  24. "Jupiter Forever"
  25. Our Lady of the Astronauts
  26. T. rex skull, "AsteroidCon 66,000,000 BC"
  27. Buraku Liberation League logo
  28. Apollo 11 mission patch (slightly inaccurate historical reconstruction)
  29. "Emergency Organ Donor"
  30. Druze star
  31. Rainbow flag
  33. Eight-pointed Chaos Star
  34. Copyleft symbol
  35. "Genius"
  36. Pinup: Medusa, "My eyes are up here, bud"
  37. "Lamb of God"
  38. QR code reading "WOULDN'T YOU LIKE TO KNOW"
  39. Leviathan Cross
  40. Glider (Conway's Game of Life)
  41. "All Outta Delta-V"
  42. Recycling symbol
  43. Anarcho-capitalist flag
  44. Cracked starfighter pilot helmet
  45. "Never Forget Betelgeuse"
  46. Archery target, over the heart
  47. "Don't Talk To Me Until I've Had My Cocaine"
  48. Goetic sigil (Decarabia)
  49. "Women Fear Me, Fish Fear Me, Men Turn Their Eyes Away From Me As I Walk, No Beast Dare Make A Sound In My Presence, I Am Alone On This Barren Earth", cartoon salmon
  50. Martian new dollar sign
  51. "Best Before: [date of birth]"
  52. Mushroom cloud
  53. "Safety First: Do Not Fist Android Girls"
  54. Five-leaf clover
  55. "Vat-Grown and Proud"
  56. Aztec glyph: Tenochtitlán
  57. Orion constellation
  58. "Future Veteran"
  59. Wizard hat
  60. "I ♥ NNY"
  61. Mr. Yuk
  62. "Overgrown Boy Scout"
  63. Logo of a private military company
  64. The Shahada, written in Square Kufic
  65. "CH3CH2OH"
  66. Tardigrade, "SURVIVOR"
  67. Brain and eyeballs
  68. "Carbon Chauvinist"
  69. Infinity symbol, actually a cheaper letter 8 patch turned onto its side
  70. Rocket equation
  71. "I'm Secretly an Android"
  72. Sloan Great Wall (religious imagery)
  73. "I Love My Boss", cartoon vampire
  74. Pinup: Brünnhilde (Wagner), fat
  75. Frothing mug of beer
  76. "I WANT TO BELIEVE", man in alien rubbersuit
  77. Anime girl, green hair
  78. "Mommy's Special Boy"
  79. Antimatter hazard symbol
  80. Tally marks, 23
  81. Space Marines patch, 113th Drop Troops
  82. "DTF"
  83. "Bloody Pleb"
  84. Transgender symbol
  85. Tokugawa Clan crest
  86. "Speed Limit: c"
  87. "VEnGeANce"
  88. Structural formula of testosterone
  89. "No Grave But the Void"
  90. Mask of Tutankhamun
  91. Slot machine, all cherries
  92. "Certified IQ Free"
  93. Archer's salute
  94. Laika the Dog, "Good Night"
  95. Centauri Democratic Socialist League logo
  96. Adinkra symbol: Gye Nyame
  97. One star out of five
  98. "There's One Race, the Space Race"
  99. Snake biting boot, "I FUCKING TOLD YOU"
  100. Fast food chain logo: smiling chicken head in a pan

Appendix N: Mothership

Norma2D Stuff that I draw inspiration from when writing Mothership. Also check out Dan's appendix for more goodness. Withou...