Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Sun Stares Back

It's a tapeworm! I swear to Christ it's a fucking cosmic tapeworm! Listen! It's 27,003.8 km long, it lives in the sun, it returns every 76 years 4 months 2 weeks after feeding, it
You'll just have to wait, doc.


Starcages are enigmatic megastructures found in several systems. They're alien in origin, and at least 3 million years old.

True to their name, they are found around stars. The star is always a G-class yellow sun - some stars surrounded by starcages have evidence of massive starlifting operations to make them G-class. The bygone alien culture which built these vast constructions (tentatively dubbed the Starcage-Building Culture Group by xenoarchaeologists) evidently took great pains to make starcages happen.

The cage has a swarm architecture. Tens of thousands of flat, pentagonal statites, each the size of a small continent and arrayed with respect to the others in a fractalic dodecahedral pattern, hover suspended in the star's chromosphere, pushed upwards by the pressure of solar wind. Electromagnetic spectrum imaging reveals an intricate network of magnetic flux lines bound into tight arcs, directed through the statites, making up a colossal polyhedral lattice of energy. Electromagnetic force forms a constricting cage around the star, confining its vast eruptions.

Starcages aren't energy collectors. They aren't even protective structures, set up against solar flares. They are animal pens.

coronal mass ejection

It's not entirely clear what animal lives inside these stars. Based on what little is visible of them, they're probably shaped like worms. Sometimes, their bodies arc out of the star's nuclear atmosphere, a Loch Ness monster of blinding white plasma. The very smallest of them are the size of the continental United States. The largest could wind their body at least one and a half times around the Earth.

When uncaged, they tend to migrate. They launch themselves out of their home star, achieve solar escape velocity, and spin a thin, hard cocoon from space dust they gather via their innate magnetic field. They travel slower than light, coasting for decades or centuries in complete dormancy, until they reach another G-type star to colonize.

coronal rain

Each star surrounded by a starcage contains 5d100 sunswimmers. Don't stat them. They are a narrative problem. Getting directly attacked by a sunswimmer is like slamming into a goodly-sized planetoid, and no spaceship-sized weaponry can even concievably harm one. An encounter with a sunswimmer is an open-ended scenario unto itself. The players will have to figure out how to deal with it themselves.

If you encounter them in space, odds are they're cocooned and either in transit or dormant. They might be woken. 

If you encounter them in their natural habitat, your spaceship is inside a star, and mechanical questions are moot anyway.

4 adventure hooks
  1. A scientific institute contracts the players to drop a disposable probe into a nearby star so they can figure out what's inside the starcage. The star is a popular pilgrimage site of the Solarian Church. When they learn of the players' mission, the devout Solarians accompanying them on their trip desperately try to stop the heresy, first by impassioned pleading, then by violence.
  2. A derelict starcage statite is found drifting in a close orbit around an uncaged star in a newly-colonized system. This is a megadungeon; statites are huge. Play it either as cosmic horror, the exploration of the ruins of near-incomprehensible precursors, or as an alien death trap, with reckless treasure hunters being massacred by three million year old defense systems. Keep in mind that this colossal monolith is the Starcager equivalent of a fence post.
  3. The Company's latest job for the players is to tow an entire asteroid to a "processing station" for disassembly. The asteroid is actually the cocoon of a dormant sunswimmer, and the processing station is a corporate research facility. This information is above the players' pay grade.
  4. An uncaged star is undergoing extreme starquakes and stellar eruptions as a sunswimmer inside prepares for its migration launch. A solar research station calls for help as its heat shields begin to fail. Can you reach and rescue them before the vast creature emerges into space?
oh yeah the sun just occasionally does shit like this, don't worry about it lol

Tuesday, February 16, 2021


 My first ever Mothership third-party module, KILL SCREEN, is now available for purchase! Get it while it's hot!


Making this module has been an absolute journey (and I will make more in the future). I can't even express how grateful I am for the contributions of Swampgirl (Gods of the Black), who did the wonderful art for my module, and Max V. (The Last Nebula), who created its gorgeous layout. I may never have completed it at all without their help. Be sure to check out their stuff as well!

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Drugs for Mothership

The Player's Survival Guide has this to say about drugs:

Excessive use of Pain Pills and Stimpaks requires a Body Save to prevent Addiction. If addicted, make a daily Body save or gain 1d10 Stress every day you go without.  If used once per day for a week, twice the amount must be used to have the same effect.

If taking more than 1 pill at a time, roll 1d10. If you roll equal or under the number taken, make a Body save. Failure means you fall unconscious and the Warden rolls on the table on Page 10.4 [the Unconsciousness & Death table]. You can cure an addiction through in-game treatment or leveling up.

This is all nice and dandy, but I feel it sells the manifold effects of drugs a little short. It lacks a viscerality you might want to convey to players whose characters are addicted to drugs, and it's somewhat difficult to apply fairly. If you want to include drug use mechanically in your game, an improved system might be of use.

To this end, I've made a Mothership-compatible conversion of my absolute favorite drug use mechanic, the wonderful OSR drug rules written by Goblin Punch, available here.

[Content warning: drug abuse, alcohol abuse, dissociation, hallucinations, seizures.]

As in Arnold's system, you are on a track for drugs, as follows:

Clean - Habituated - Addicted - Dependent

At the end of every week in which you've used the drug, make a Sanity save or go up one level on the addiction track.

  • Clean: You are completely drug-free.
  • Habituated: You don't need the drug, and you can quit any time you want.
  • Addicted: You need to use the normal amount of the drug (1/day or 1/3 days, depending). Advantage on saves vs. Side Effects and Overdose.
  • Dependent: You need three times as much of the drug as the average user to get the desired effect. You will have an extremely hard time quitting without help (or by necessity). Double advantage vs. Side Effects and Overdose (roll 3d100 and take the best result). Disadvantage vs. Relapse and Withdrawal checks.

Quitting: if you're only habituated, it's automatic. Otherwise, there are two steps:

  1. Relapse: Sanity save to see if you can resist taking drugs this week. (This step is skipped if you can't get drugs despite your best efforts.)
  2. Withdrawal: Body save to see if you go into withdrawal. If you feel yourself going into withdrawal, you can always use some more of the drug to avoid it.
  3. Congrats! You've moved a step back on the addiction track.

Overdose: If you get drugs from a sketchy source or consume them in a sketchy way, there is a 5% chance of overdose. Pretty much all sources are sketchy sources when you first meet them, but they become trustworthy over time. You can also overdose intentionally.

And don't forget why you took the drug in the first place.

Main Effects: This is why.

Side effects: Body save to avoid these. You cannot choose to fail this (always roll it).

Space Drugs


a.k.a. muckraker, suit sweat, engineer's friend, brain squeeze, and dozens of other names

Spacer moonshine. Warpwater is one part vodka, three parts water, and one part distilled jump drive cooling fluid. Getting drunk on this stuff is like getting your skull caved in with an ice pick while staring into jumpspace. It does marvelously to make you forget things you don't want to think about, and brings on moods of imaginative, manic melancholia. Besides miserable, down-on-their luck spaceship engineers, high-quality bottled warpwater is also consumed by certain decadent corespace artists and bohemians. This gentrified brand is called Explosive Decompression, and is produced using stationary jump drives bought up from decommissioned starliners.

Price: 20 cr per bottle (2 doses), 50 cr for a bottle of Explosive Decompression (2 high-quality doses). Low-quality warpwater confers disadvantage on saves vs. side effects and overdose, canceling out one level of advantage if you're addicted or dependent.

Main effect: Recover 2d10 Stress. Forget traumatic memories from the past few days. Amplified perception of colors and proportions. Advantage on creativity-related rolls. Lasts until you sleep it off.

Side effects: Horrible, head-splitting hangover afterwards. Disadvantage on all checks for 1d10 hours (cancels out almost every source of advantage). Nightmares.

Addiction: Constantly darting, indistinct shapes at the corner of your vision. -5 to all Intellect checks as you are constantly distracted. 

Dependence: Intrusive thoughts, irritability, yearning for the warp. -10 to all Intellect checks. Every time a ship you're aboard of jumps, make a Sanity save, or you can't resist the urge to stay awake and just stare into the abyss until you go mad.

Withdrawal: Slogging misery and dissociation. Colors are washed out and lifeless. You're obsessively dwelling on the past. You feel like a robot trundling through routine actions. 1 stress every day, for 2d10 days. Disadvantage on any check related to interacting with people.

Overdose: You black out as the fiery mixture of alcohol and warp energy sears your brain. Unconscious for 2d10 days (danger of dehydration). Permanently lose 1d10 Intellect. When you wake up, Body save or permanently lose a primary sense (roll d5, 1: vision, 2: hearing, 3: touch, 4: smell, 5: taste).


a.k.a. murderjuice, killstims, bottled rage, crime in a needle

A widely-used family of combat drugs developed by Taurus-Littrow Security Services, Inc. for internal use. The recipe later leaked to the black market, and it soon became popular for its quick-taking effect and ease of manufacture. Riastrad is an intravenous drug, originally meant to be administered through an implanted spinal injector unit common among Taurus-Littrow mercs, but a simple syringe or an epipen will suffice just as well.

Price: 600 cr for a canister (6 doses).

Main effect: +10 on Initiative rolls, Strength checks, Combat checks and Armor saves. You can deal 2d10 damage with your bare hands. Takes effect within 1 combat round. Lasts 1d5 minutes.

Side effects: Heartrate through the roof. 1d10 Stress when you come off your high. Disadvantage on Body saves against drugs, poisons, diseases and other bloodborne agents as your overclocked circulation spreads everything getting into your bloodstream through your body at record speed.

Addiction: Bowel problems. Twitchiness: +5 on Initiative rolls even when you're not on Riastrad. Tremors: -10 on all checks relating to manual dexterity.

Dependence: Shortsightedness. Once per day, the Warden can impose Disadvantage on a random roll as you suffer a headache at the worst possible moment.

Withdrawal: Intense migraines for 1d5 days. 1d10 Stress and Body save to even be able to get out of bed.

Overdose: Heart attack. Body save or die.


a.k.a. gingiva, yellow rain, prophet, shaman fuel, angel blowjob

An unusual and dangerous synthetic entheogen. Created as a designer drug variant of klekk, a common herbal hallucinogen of Middle Regions origin, in an attempt to evade drug ban laws centered around chemical structure. Its esoteric effects are an unintentional result of mucking around with delicate quantum-molecular chemistry in a back alley drug refinery. Corporate biochemists have repeatedly claimed that the molecular structure of RFL's active ingredient "does not add up geometrically". RFL is either horrifically illegal or in the process of being illegalized in all systems that are aware of its existence. 

RFL, like its less dangerous cousin klekk, is usually sold in the form of a paste, which can be rubbed on the gums or the tongue. Unlike klekk, however, RFL can be distinguished by causing an enduring yellow discoloration of the gums and tongue, hence its name. More discreet, but less concentrated forms can be bought as a hand cream, which can be absorbed anywhere through the skin.

Price: 300 cr per dose.

Main effect: You astral project into the Dead Dimension, witnessing things the rank and file of humanity wouldn't ever even imagine could exist. Gain 1 XP and 1d10 Stress. Immediate Panic Check when you come off of it. Lasts 6d10 minutes.

Addiction: You no longer panic automatically from using the drug. Subtle, irritating whispers just outside your hearing constantly put you at unease. Whenever you take Stress, take 1 more Stress than you otherwise would.

Dependence: You no longer gain Stress from using the drug. You can hear voices urging you to construct a gate. They torment your mind and cause 1d10 Stress for every day that passes without you taking steps in this direction.

Withdrawal: Intense, nightmarish sleep paralysis for the next 1d5 nights. 1d10 Stress, and Fear save or lose 1 Resolve per night.

Overdose: Grand mal seizure, glossolalia. Everyone nearby must make a Fear save. Roll 3d10: on doubles, a single Gaunt lurches forth from your forehead, shrieking. On triples, a gate to the Dead Dimension rips open on your convulsing, babbling body, spilling forth horrors beyond counting (treat it as a temporary version of the Gate in Dead Planet). It closes on its own after 1d10 combat rounds.


a.k.a. retro, wire-crosser, paperclips, BLIT

The good stuff for androids. Scrambler is a program developed by RealDreams Synergetics, a charismatic upstart tech corporation, designed to produce psychoactive effects in electronic minds. They are also effective on organics with certain cortical implants.

Scrambler is a stimulant, designed to speed up processing speed and increase analysis capabilities. By some quirk of the android brain, it also produces near-orgasmic satisfaction with fulfilling one's function. In some less enlightened systems, Scrambler is used for the dual purpose of maximizing androids' utility while simultaneously keeping them in line.

Normally available from the net site of RealDreams, but illicitly cracked versions can be found all throughout the net. In areas with less solid infrastructure and unreliable net connections, Scrambler can also be purchased physically, copied onto flash drives or read-only data sticks.

Price: 30 day free trial; afterwards, a new authentication key must be purchased for each use. 50 cr per key. Can be pirated for free, with a 40% chance of a nasty trojan, ransomware or other unpleasant computer virus coming prepackaged with the file.

Main effect: Suddenly you can see all the patterns. Everything falls into place perfectly, and it's perfectly wonderful. +20 to all rolls relating to mathematics, physics, linguistics, pattern recognition or geometry. Remove 1 Stress whenever you succeed at such a roll. Lasts exactly 1 hour.

Side effects: Processor overheat. Take 1 Damage for every Intellect check you make while Scrambler is active.

Addiction: Social skills atrophy at the expense of pure analytical ability. -5 to all checks relating to social activities. Also, a deep contentment fills you if you perceive to be fulfilling your intended purpose. If you've been carrying out your intended purpose this week, make a Sanity save. If you fail, gain 1 Resolve.

Dependence: -10 to all checks relating to social activities. You become emotionally dependent on being a cog in a larger machine, becoming existentially troubled and panicky if you have to step out of line. Whenever you directly act against your intended purpose, gain 1d10 Stress (Sanity save for half).

Withdrawal: Massive existential crisis. 2d10 Stress, Panic Check. Any corporate-unsactioned identity the android may have inevitably bursts to the surface and cannot be suppressed except via memory-wiping.

Overdose: Blue screen of death. Memory damage. You just stand there with a blank expression while your brain/implant reboots. You forget everything that happened to you in the last 1d10 months.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

KILL SCREEN - Coming Soon!

 I'm proud to announce that my first 3rd-party module for Mothership, KILL SCREEN, will hit stores on Valentine's Day!

An odd, large cargo box was delivered with the latest supply run to the station, along with the usual crates of rations, spare parts and magazines. Inside is a bulky, black arcade machine, completely unmarked except for a single word in deep red, blocky lettering on the marquee:


KILL SCREEN is a pamphlet adventure of electronic horror, compatible with the Mothership RPG. Escape the clutches of a sinister arcade machine, fighting or fleeing your way through strange hallucinations, digital nausea and the mind-broken crew of the space station.

The first print run is planned to be released about a month after the digital release, and will be available for purchase at the official Mothership store.

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...