Tuesday, June 22, 2021

12 WEIRD CYBERPUNK CLUBS

(Designed for use with Chromatic Shadows, but easy to slot into any existing cyberpunk or urban fantasy setting)

Clubs of the near future spare no expense in being unique. Singular and exotic themes sets one apart from the next. Roll randomly or choose one of the below, the next time your thirsty cyberpunks need a weird watering hole, or a safe place to settle a contract.


  1. 'Chew'-- Bubble gum bar. Interior plastered with vintage gum ads, multicolored nubs and soft pink cushions. Full menu of intoxicating & euphoric gum choices.
  2. ‘Gastronomicon’-- Exotic dancers wear devices that scope inside their bodies and project their internal organs as massive 3D AR objects in space above the crowd.
  3. Club Splice’-- Science themed club. The servers wear lab coats and serve frothing fluids from vials and beakers. A cyber-surgery kiosk is in center of the dance floor, where you can get amputations and implants in front of a live audience.
  4. ‘Sanctuary’--Indoor natural habitat. Floor is soft grass and ferns. Exotic birds roost in the rafters, and nest among the indoor trees. 3D projection screens on the walls display creeks winding away into a deep forest. AR wildlife wander throughout the space.
  5. ‘Club Shhhh’--Felted walls, and thick carpeted floors. No speaking above a whisper. Everyone listens to their private music, dancing in complete silence.
  6. ‘Club Heat’-- Pitch black. No lights at all anywhere inside. Get your pair of infrared goggles at the door. Share a warm time in the dark with a stranger
  7. ‘Red October’-- Club is within a decommissioned submarine permanently docked at the river's edge. The interior is painted and upholstered in deep scarlet, and lit by neon. Staff wear suggestive soviet military uniforms, serve bitter tea and the strongest vodka in the Sprawl. Notorious hangout of anarchists, street activists, and punks.
  8. ‘Bubble Club’-- Dance club where every member of the crowd dances within their own human sized vinyl bubble.
  9. 'Bacchus'-- Greco-Roman themed masquerade/ sex club. Club goers partake in elaborate costumes, high pageantry & drunken revelry. Back rooms for the VIPs to partake in ecstatic sexual experimentation.
  10. 'The Cauldron'-- Occult themed club. Decor draws heavily on Victorian occultism, Hermetic tradition, witchcraft and the tarot. Tables are Ouija boards, waitstaff wears black hooded robes, and the drinks served in large golden goblets.
  11. 'Heaven'-- Club interior simulates floating high above the sky. Dance floor is 3D projection screen of a view 5 miles above the ground looking down. Fans blow thick fog throughout, while AR clouds drift through the space.
  12. 'The Cage'-- Accessible from an abandoned high rise. The Cage is situated between two close skyscrapers, built from a network of steel scaffolding. Swaying and howling in the high winds, the Cage is not for the faint of heart or for those who fear heights

Friday, April 30, 2021

ICE GENERATOR

Dangerous digital sentinals guard megacorporate data vaults deep within the Matrix. Here is a generator to quickly determine what fearful form these Intrusion Countermeasures take. For use with Chromatic Shadows and other cyberpunk games.

Form

  1. Wolf/ hyena/ panther
  2. Swarm of bees/ hornets/ locusts
  3. Bladed orb
  4. Armored knight
  5. Shifting geometric shapes
  6. Snake
  7. Spiders/ scorpion/ crab
  8. Shark/ piranha
  9. Cloud of blades
  10. Ball of energy
  11. Skeletal warriors
  12. Flying skulls
  13. Predatory birds
  14. Squid/ octopus
  15. Harpy
  16. Wyvern
  17. Spectral apparition
  18. Angel
  19. Demon/ imp
  20. Virus/ spore

Substance

  1. Crackling/ pulsing energy
  2. Icy cold
  3. Wreathed in/ made of flame
  4. Void blackness
  5. Faceted mirror
  6. Prismatic/ rainbow
  7. Erupting spikes/ thorns
  8. mass of nanites/ nodules/ sparkling dust
  9. Liquid quicksilver/ chrome
  10. Dense black smoke
  11. Riveted iron
  12. Veined stone
  13. Blazing/ blinding light
  14. Pulsing circuitry
  15. Fractal shapes/ angles
  16. Gold
  17. Diamond/ crystal
  18. Mechanical/ robotic/ clockwork

Thursday, April 29, 2021

OCCULT ASSET GENERATOR

At the heart of the Shadow War, the megacorps struggle to control eldritch artifacts and hypertech devices known as Occult Assets. Billions of credits and thousands of lives have been lost in pursuit of this power. Any megacorp that unlocks these secrets, and spins them into a global commodity, will dominate their rivals. Here are several random tables and prompts to create Occult Assets for Chromatic Shadows, my in-progress weird cyberpunk RPG.

 

Origin

  1. Salvaged from original Lunar mining expedition
  2. Recovered/ reverse engineered from crashed alien craft
  3. Plundered from Antarctic/ Lemurian/ Atlantean ruins
  4. Obtained within crashed meteorite
  5. Claimed from interdimensional portal
  6. Created by another esoteric device

Shape

  1. Cylinder/ rod
  2. Sphere/ prolate spheroid
  3. Prism/ crystal/ platonic solid
  4. Cube/ box/ tablet
  5. Pyramid/ Cone
  6. seed/ spore/ egg
  7. Disk/ lozenge
  8. Shell (1.nautilus, 2. snail, 3. clam, 4. conch, 5. oyster, 6. scallop)
  9. Vessel (bowl/ chalice/ vase/ pyx)
  10. U-shaped/ torus/ tesseract
  11. Body part (1.head/skull, 2.fist/ hand, 3. arm, 4.brain, 5. heart/ kidney, 6.spine 7. Large tooth 8.phallus 9.breast 10.oriface [mouth/anus/vagina])
  12. Combination of 1d3 above elements

Substance

  1. Meteoric metal/ mineral/ graphite/ carbon
  2. Living thing: animal/ plant/ fungi/ hybrid
  3. crystalline/ glass/ diamond
  4. amber/ resin/ plastic
  5. Quivering flesh/ Teratomic mass of eyes, hair and teeth
  6. Thick foam, can be twisted and deformed, but returns to original shape
  7. Ice that never melts
  8. Carved bone/ ivory/ wood/ coral/ chitin/ cartilage
  9. Ceramic/ porcelain/ marble
  10. Granules/ particles/ nanites/ tiny organisms
  11. Covered in/ composed of oily tar/ slime
  12. Simulation/ hologram/ VR construct

Arrangement

  1. Non-solid/ energy/ holographic projection/ kinetic state/ void substance
  2. web/ net/ mesh/ lace
  3. Highly complex interwoven circuitry that lights & flashes along pathways
  4. Pulsing crude machine, made of disparate/ old/ patchwork components
  5. Golden gears/ wheels/ clockwork
  6. Encrusted in jewels/ gems/ pear/ mirrored facets
  7. Bundle or pattern of component shapes/ nodules/ elements
  8. Lattice/ bundle of fibers/ rods
  9. husk/ exoshell/ carapace
  10. Nano-thin surface composition

Characteristic

  1. Pulsing with inner light
  2. Conforms/ covers/ flows over any objects that it touches
  3. Contains portal/ peepholes to alien/ cosmic vistas
  4. Filled with liquid/ gas flowing in a coriolis system
  5. Surface reflects the viewer/ surroundings at different age/ gender/ past or future state/ dead or decaying
  6. Rapidly moving through cycle of creation & decay
  7. Covered in soft pink cilia that reacts when touched
  8. Vanta black type surface, absorbs all light. Comes off on fingers, but fades in 1d6 rounds
  9. Mechanisms moving & rearranging component shapes
  10. Perpetually slick/ sticky with slime/ oil/ tar
  11. Emits a soft resonant pitch/ hum
  12. Sound of low muttering voices comes from it
  13. Temperature fluctuates from warm to icy cold
  14. Crackles and arcs with blue energy
  15. Quivvers/ pliant/ sensually reactive when touched
  16. Glowing soupy fluid-- murky images coalesce below surface
  17. Radiates unapproachable light/ requires black out goggles to a view
  18. Sprouts hair/ scales/ feathers
  19. Sweating/ excreting/ discharging substance
  20. Budding/ blooming fungi/ flower/ simple organisms

Warps Reality via...

  1. Forces (fire, electricity, nuclear, temperature, gravity, magnetism, time)
  2. Space (connections between places/ locations, inside vs outside space)
  3. Consciousness (senses, dreams, mind, visions, hallucinations, compulsions, emotion)
  4. Psychic phenomenon (ESP, telepathy, telekinesis, remote viewing, clairvoyance, prophecy, precognition)
  5. Manipulation of the digital realm (AI Daemon, AR/ Matrix/ Cloud architecture)
  6. Occult powers/ magic/ sorcery
  7. Spirits/ hauntings/ ghosts/ poltergeists
  8. Physical matter (natural and artificial substance)
  9. Life (human biology, animals & plant life)
  10. Void (interdimensional portals, eldritch beings/ outsiders/ alien beings)

How is it being exploited/ accelerated?

  1. Installed within a machine/ device/ process to amplify effect
  2. In a neurodrift network with a group of human/ animal subjects
  3. External energy source interacting with it
  4. Used/ amplified within occult ritual
  5. Being fused with subject via Direct Neural Interface pathways
  6. Gestating inside an artificial womb/ vat/ or within a human/ animal/ plant matrix
  7. Host subject infused with device’s energy/ physicality. Subject’s biological/ psychological/ genetic structures being rewritten/ altered.
  8. Used as antennae/ energy source/ amplifier/ interface for external hypertech
  9. Interacting/ influencing subjects in a VR construct/ simulation
  10. Interfaced with outside entity/ AI Daemon/ eldritch being/ spirit

Asset Power Level

  1. Individual person. Self or another.
  2. Group of people/ building
  3. community/ city block
  4. Neighborhood
  5. Sprawl zone/ district
  6. Large swath of sprawl encompassing several zones

Asset Design Considerations/ Systems

  • Occult Assets are extraordinarily powerful, valuable, and highly contested. The megacorps fight their Shadow War over them, and will spare no expense in their recovery. Major events within the game world revolve around them. They do not fall casually into the hands of PCs. If and when the do, the game world is always shaken up by this change in power dynamic.
  • Occult Assets embody the Weird. Not only do they possess raw power, but they disrupt established reality and the status quo. The corps can barely hold them in check. These devices as a rule, cannot be predicted with total accuracy, cannot be mastered, and resist total comprehension. They are often at once obscenely powerful and totally absurd. A device’s true origins and purpose defy any easy answer.
  • They typically have a single primary effect, and several secondary effects, that may contradict, or complicate its use. Using an occult asset is never straightforward, and often comes at the price of a difficult tradeoff, or side effect.
  • Using an occult asset in any way  has an ambient and cumulative effect on it's environment. The 'weird' rubs off on local reality. It affects existence (especially people, animals & plants) in subtle, but unmistakable ways. Its not uncommon for individuals who are unaffected by an asset's direct or indirect effects to still have strange dreams, or to manifest subtle psychic abilities, or compulsions. Animals might be disturbed, or manifest uncanny intelligence. Plants might grow abundantly exhibit strange mutations or not grow at all.
  • An Occult Asset may require specific ‘in-game’ routines to activate. There may be necessary words, gesture, rituals, codes, programs, energy sources, substances, configurations, arrangements, physical locations, sounds, etc. that must be satisfied in order to ‘unlock’ a device’s power. These routines may or may not be obvious to a would be user, and their discovery might be its own separate mission.




Saturday, March 27, 2021

PROCEDURAL TUNNEL CRAWL

 



(Written for Vampire, but easily fits into any sort of old school urban/ horror adventure game)

In my V20 game, the players are preparing to delve into the abandoned coal railway tunnels beneath Chicago's Loop in search of their enemy's lair.  I designed the tunnel system as a point crawl map along with a series of random tables in order to generate each "node" as they make their way through. 

Although the characters have a map, and know approximately where they need to go, the system itself is only navigable through a series of possible passageways. Additionally, they've  been given a choice of three possible above ground starting points (the sub-levels of historical buildings) where the tunnels are accessible. The closer the access point is to their final destination, the higher the security risk, so there's a trade off from the beginning. They can deal with more security and surveillance above ground and bypass a few nodes underground, or start from a relatively safe access point that's further away.

The Map!


3 POSSIBLE ENTRY POINTS

  1. Chicago Cultural Center. Mayor’s reception venue. Grand ballroom where rich people throw parties. Not in use at the moment. Fairly antiquated security system, and light on-site security guards. Access in sublevel, in an old coal burning room, now used for storage. Farthest away from destination.
  2. Palmer House Hilton. Gilded age hotel, struggling financially. Cameras and security guards, but underfunded and understaffed. Basement access to old tunnel, bricked up in the back of a laundry room. Midway point to destination.
  3. Tribune Tower. Neo-gothic skyscraper. Offices. Center of loop, state of the art security and patrols. Bricked up access port in the pipeworks sub-level. Closest point to destination.

ENVIRONMENT 

  • The old rail tunnels are cramped 7' high and 6' wide shafts. They intersect the subway system and sewer at intervals,  getting considerably wider at points. In other cases they are choked with debris, and partially collapsed making them much more narrow.
  •  The whole system is a patchwork of old and new construction making the network unpredictable and dangerous. It's also the exclusive domain of a sadistic Nosferatu who has set numerous deadly traps throughout.
  1. Standard, clear tunnel.
  2. Heavy wooden ribbing and supports holding ceiling and wall in place. Precarious.
  3. Narrows. Crawl to proceed
  4. Open area. Hub, vaulted ceiling
  5. Collapsed, impassible
  6. Much wider tunnel (subway line)
  7. Old subways jamming tunnel, must be crawled through
  8. Trap!

Traps

  1. Pit Trap with spikes
  2. Stakes shoot from wall shaft
  3. Bricks fall from ceiling cache
  4. Pendulum blade
  5.  Acid bottles from ceiling cache
  6.  Wet area rigged with live electric cable

 Mechanism 

(where applicable)
  1. Trip wire
  2. pressure plate
  3. rigged door

TUNNEL FEATURES

  1. Filled with heavy boxes and crates (coal, concrete, railroad ties, tar)
  2. Unstable floor (drops to pit)
  3. Unstable supports (might collapse area)
  4. The sign of Zelios: his sign can be seen carved into bas relief ornamentation (the harlequin mask, roses, and a medallion with the letter Z, Latin inscription: “by the hand of the architect, immortal.)
  5. Strange effigies and fetish objects hang from the ceiling (bones, stones, etc.) Occult symbols painted on wall.
  6. Filled with old broken coal-filled railway cars
  7. Vermin nest
  8. People down here (homeless, explorers, graffiti kids, etc.)
  9. Dead bodies/ skeletons beneath rubble (animals, human, or otherwise)
  10. Flooded
  11. Choked with debris & trash
  12. Bricked up. Break through or turn back.

TEXTURES

  1. Water dripping rhythmically from sweating pipes above.
  2. Rumbling of a nearby subway. Dirt debris dislodging in a spray
  3. Exposed pipeworks emitting gouts of white billowing steam.
  4. The sound of loud rushing water through grates in the ground
  5. Vast graffiti mural. Occult symbols punctuated throughout.
  6. Sound of traffic seems to echo from above (although obviously far off)
  7. Footsteps seem to follow the PCs. They die off when the PCs stop to listen. A moving figure just beyond range of light in the distance
  8. Distant sounds: strange laughter, dog barking,soft crying (may lead to trap)
  9. A small railcar is seen in the distance moving through an intersecting tunnel. Upon inspection, the tracks are torn up, and the tunnel is filled with rubble.
  10. A piece of coal is thrown at the PCs from somewhere in the darkness ahead. There is no one there.
  11. The temperature drops to ice cold for no apparent reason
  12. Heavy scratching in the walls and ceiling. Claws marks rending through stone and wood.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

SKETCHES OF CALYX

 Here are 3 city districts from my in-progress City of Calyx setting for old school D&D.



Insula District

Residential district of of Calyx’s middle class. Multi-storied (1d6 stories) brick and stone insulas with clay shingles built up against the cliff face. Narrow streets and alleys run between them.
 

Features (roll 1 or more)

  1. 1d6 Extra stories, rickety ladders reach to small precarious apartments high above
  2. Unstable, the whole insula is reinforced with timbers to keep it from falling over
  3. Decorative- painted with brightly colored patterns and botanical motifs
  4. Ornamental- bas relief carvings and gargoyles adorn the exterior
  5. Exterior walls covered in thick vines of dark green ivy and small purple flowers. Bees and hummingbirds drawn to the sweet blossoms.
  6. Abandoned, and ramshackle. Floors have collapsed in on themselves. Thistle and sweetbrush grow rampantly within. Great sagging wasp nests.
  7. Hundreds of clay and twig nests built along the eaves. Countless chattering iridescent grackles congregate upon the roof.
  8. Apartments carved out of an outcrop of stone cliffside.
  9. Under construction- new building being built or old one being repaired. Crew of laborers with several carts of bricks, mortar and timber
  10. Over crowded. Each apartment is bursting to capacity with tenents. Clothes lines heavy with  fabrics sag between close buildings. Colorful rugs are draped from every balcony.


People of the Insula District

  1. Merchant families
  2. Skilled laborers
  3. Low ranking city bureaucrats
  4. City officials
  5. Guards/ soldiers
  6. Guild artists/ artisans
  7. Minor philosophers/ poets
  8.  Scholars


Bazaar District

Overlapping patchwork of colorful tents and canopies cover four city blocks. A maze of bustling activity, commerce, shops, food stalls, music, revelry and criminal enterprise. Just about anything can be found here for the right price: rich food, exotic regents, rare animals, weapons and equipment, all manner of services for hire (legal and illegal).

Tents of the Bazaar

  1. Patchwork of faded fabric, sagging, propped up by spindly wooden sticks
  2. Sturdy & large white and red striped rotunda, doors and windows
  3. Animal skins, with bits of fur and flesh still attached. Smells of tannins and rot
  4. Billowing red fabric. Multiple rooms separated by veils and beaded curtains
  5. Vibrant blue, orange and yellow. Pit dug below, with a ladder leading to a stall. Workers dig even deeper as the vendor conducts business below.
  6. Wooden platform 15 feet above accessible by ladder. A sign reads: “remove clothes before ascending”. Above, a tent of white and golden fabrics swish in the sun. Mirrors and dangling glass catch the sunlight.
  7. Black tarps piled on top of each other, creating a cave like tunnel. Small corridors lead to various openings and stalls of ill repute.
  8. Geometric patterned tapestries, opens into chamber thick with incense. Piles of thick rugs heaped on the ground. Sound is muffled.

Food of the Bazaar

  1. Roasted white grubs on a skewer
  2. Giant frogs smoked on a line over a fire pit
  3. Bag o’ spicy locusts
  4. Sorghum brick with solar escagraph
  5. Honey millet stick with crunchy ants
  6. Lizard jerky
  7. Monkey meat pita with llama yogurt
  8. Honey glazed dog leg
  9. Pepper snake on a stick
  10. Fried whole sparrow with sage
  11. Boiled white tubers
  12. Produce: figs, pomegranates, olives, dates, almonds, muskmelon, grapes
  13. Sorghum beer: cloudy brown, earthy and sweet, highly alcoholic
  14. Sorghum desserts and fried pastries
  15. Jellied frog eggs on sorghum chips
  16.  Honeycomb with live bees
  17. Goat sausage boiled in blood
  18. Almond paste biscuits (various erotic shapes)
  19. Pomegranate liquor
  20.  Pickled peacock eggs

Merchant stalls

  1. Food stall merchant (roll on food table to determine which)
  2. Animal handler drawing cages of exotic beasts to a menagerie tent,
  3. Psychedelic dealer. Various substances in pots and jars within a locked box: diviners sage, scorpion venom, black tar incense, live blue centipedes, dream grass, worm powder, witch cactus,
  4. Alchemical regents and magic items
  5. Clay pots and vessels sold by women from the mud district
  6. Ponchos & grass sombreros
  7. Multicolored gems, geodes and stones
  8. Haircuts, weaves and beard styling
  9. Incense & exotic desert spices
  10. Reader of palms & fortunes
  11. Brass solar medallions, good luck charms, protective talismans
  12. Massage/ Acupuncture therapy
  13. Brothel. Lovely ladies and lads available for comfort and companionship.
  14. Apiary. Bees cover the tent walls & fly out of an open roof flap. Wooden hives contain copious fresh honey.
  15. Tea tent. A small iron stove with copper kettles filling the tent with billowing steam.
  16. Greenhouse, woven white mesh. Humid. Tables of plants and blooming flowers. Bees
  17. Art gallery. Paintings hung in carved frames.
  18. Goldsmith and purveyor of fine jewels
  19. Map merchant and scribe
  20. Tattoo & piercing parlor

People of the Bazaar

  1. Twin women in peacock feather dresses stand on stilts, juggling knives and flaming torches. Trained monkeys pick pockets during their performance.
  2. Grass elves (black sombreros, multicolored ponchos) transporting giant insect nymphs tied down to a wagon. Insects are docile and drugged with Diviner’s Sage.
  3. Red wizards haggling and threatening a vendor for regents
  4. Drunk youth brawling and expelling vomiting in the street
  5. Ascetic street preachers in loincloths painted bodies with arcane symbols ranting about “the Singing Presence” and “the Father of a Thousand Forms”.
  6. Wide eyed, naive and inhumanly beautiful humanoids with exotic skin colors (blue, red, purple, green) follow in the company of a Red Wizard (beings grown from the vivimancer's vats in the Arcane College).
  7. Vestal virgins from the Shrine of the Moons wearing silvery togas,veils and long braided hair. Processing silently to the temple of Utu for daily homage and back. Carrying silver sickles.
  8. 1d4 adventurers fresh from the Rift. (1. Carrying a dead companion 2. Raving psychotically about the Elder Gods or the Great Old Ones 3. Partying ferociously in the back of a wagon 4. Selling a cache of rift artifacts/ Monster parts/ Foraged psychedelics/ Geodes)
  9. Street artists involved in a performance
  10. Teenagers hallucinating wildly. Pockets are full of various psychedelic herbs.
  11. Philosophers arguing over esoteric metaphysics.
  12. Gladiators covered in scars, followed by throngs of adoring fans.


Domus District

Gated wealthy neighborhood of beautiful villas behind a high stone wall. Troops of chattering monkeys roost in the olive and almond trees that grow here. They are notorious for stealing baubles and coins and hide them among the branches. Children will often sneak into the district just to steal anything of value from the treetop roosts.

Structures

  1. Stone manor faced with high fluted columns & ornate pediment.
  2. Two story villa. Stucco & red clay shingles. Inner courtyard with flowering redbud and yellow ginkgo trees..
  3. Shrine to a minor god of fertility or love. Lovers cavorting in the bushes.
  4. Private well, solar motifs. Servants drawing buckets for their lords & ladies.
  5. Herb garden, overgrown with flowering sage, rhubarb, rhododendron and sweet brush. Birds, rabbits, and red fox nest here.
  6. Large pavilion with a stage and long stone bleachers.
  7. Glass enclosed greenhouse filled with blooming flowers. Buzzing with bees.
  8. A walled park of fig, olive & pomegranate trees. Gazebo, benches & statuary
  9. Bath House with veined columns and voluptuous nude statuary.
  10. Menagerie filled with exotic birds, monkeys, reptiles & occasional monster

People of Domus District

  1. Wealthy merchants in opulent robes and jewelry
  2. Sorghum field owners
  3. High ranking officers
  4. Noble families
  5. Slave dealers
  6. Bankers/ financiers
  7. Chief architects & engineers
  8. City politicians & council members
  9. Lawyers & judges
  10. Celebrated philosophers/ artists/ poets

Spire District

Upon the crown of Calyx rests the opulent Spire District, the seat of Calyx government, wealth and temporal power. The complex is composed of great palaces, towers, and barracks built out of cut stone.

Structures

  1. Folly of delicate arches and tracing above hidden gardens and grottoes
  2. Ring of fluted columns enclose a (1d6) tiered fountains. Statues of nudes women and children frolicking in the water.
  3. A mahogany door opens out of an ivy covered wall into a long banquet hall. 2 in 6 chance of a great feast taking place.
  4. Double white doors with ornate tracery open to a grand ballroom. Balconies above the open floor are festooned with bouquets and imperial banners. Prince Mitra throws a ball almost every evening, and the royal servants scramble with the preparations during the day. Sometimes the Calyx Quartet can be heard practicing their waltzes during the day.
  5. Shrines to a goddess of beauty/ wealth/ pleasure
  6. Bathouses carved into the ground. Natural hot springs feed luxurious tiled basins. Nude nobility cavorting.
  7. Gallery of plundered artifacts, and relics from a previous age.
  8. Menagerie. Exotic animals and monsters in golden cages. Many are intelligent and will bargain for release.
  9. Hedge maze, filled with marble statues. The nobilty often escape here to conduct private business both carnal and criminal. 
  10. Vast ornamental garden. Manicured walkways, grottoes, and carp pools. Exotic plants, flowers, and fruit laden trees. Peacock roosts.






Thursday, March 18, 2021

WEIRD CYBERPUNK PLOT NODE GENERATOR

This generator is designed for use with Chromatic Shadows, my in-progress weird cyberpunk RPG. 

In Chromatic Shadows, the missions you run your for the megacorps don't happen in a vacuum. Other events are taking place in the weird-haunted Sprawl that impact you and the people you know. As your character reaches out to their contacts and engage with various NPCs they become embroiled in the numerous plots and intrigues running behind the scenes. This generator provides the tools to quickly create those plots, and to draw the lines of connection between them.


PLOT NODES

  • Determine 2-3 starting Plot Nodes. These are large-scale adventure hooks. They don’t need to be introduced all at once. They exist as areas of focal interest, optional exploration, additional layer of texture/ detail/ context to your campaign. They say “hey there's something going on over here, come take a look if you want!”.
  • Connect a character contact to each of these nodes, in order to create a "personal connection". When the contact is activated, reveal bits of the “sub-plot” when relevant. Give glimpses and teases of events happening behind the scenes to draw player interest.
  • Create continuity & connect things together. As the story is being built sandbox style, tie new discoveries, & NPCs back to these nodes as makes sense. 
  • As old nodes are being dealt with, and as the characters organically pursue their own agendas, introduce new nodes and story hooks. Find ways that large nodes connect to each other and the influence of one relates or comes into conflict with another. 
 

PLOT NODE DETAILS TABLES

  • Plot Nodes contain various associated details that can be chosen or randomly determined. The following tables can used whenever a relevant detail comes into play.

Megacorps

  1. SinCom
  2. CortX
  3. Biodyne
  4. Aerotec
  5. Citadel
  6. Reroll

Sprawl Zones

  1. Metroplex
  2. Fortress Estates
  3. CorpSec
  4. The Barrens
  5. The Slags
  6. Arcologies

Shadow Facility

  1.  R&D lab/ black site/ bunker
  2. Concealing alien structure/ vessel/ energy source
  3. Containment unit/ prison
  4.  Mystical/ cult based (temple, ritual chamber, ceremonial space)
  5.  Portal (remote location, extra-dimension)
  6. Matrix based/ VR construct

Factions

  1. Criminal Cartel/ Gangs
  2. Hand of Moloch
  3. Sentinel
  4. Matrix Daemons
  5. Order of Typhon
  6. Neotribes

Neotribe

  1. Ferals
  2. Leather Angels
  3. Nils
  4. Paladins
  5. Satans
  6. Borgs
  7. Proteans
  8. Clowns
  9. Iron Men
  10. Draculas

Large scale city events

  1. Political upheaval, protests/ riots
  2. Plague, drug epidemic
  3. Terrorism, law enforcement/ surveillance lock down
  4. Urban renewal projects
  5. Crime wave, looting, fires/ arson,
  6. Disaster (flood, hurricane, displaced populations, resource scarcity)
Outside Entity
  1. Bio-engineered hybrid/ chimera
  2. Extra-dimensional horror
  3. Animal uplift
  4. Matrix daemon
  5. Alien entity
  6. Spirit/ ghost/ poltergeist

Black Market Assets

  1. Cyberware
  2. Drugs, stims
  3. Weapons
  4. Drones/ machines, vehicles
  5. Matrix/ DNI tech, software
  6. Biotech, organ legging

Esoteric Assets

  1. Hypertech machinery
  2. Weapons
  3. Inter-dimensional portals
  4. Psychic assets (remote viewing, telepathy, telekinesis, precognition, dream-tech, emotion/ compulsion)
  5. Alien artifacts
  6. Biological assets

Reality Warping Effects

  1. Physical forces (fire, electricity, nuclear, temperature, gravity, magnetism, time)
  2. Space (connections between places/ locations, inside vs outside space)
  3. Perception (mind, senses, illusion, compulsions, emotion)
  4. Physical matter (natural and artificial substance)
  5. Life (human biology, animals & plant life)
  6. Void (extra dimensions, alien life forms, spirit)


PLOT NODE GENERATOR TABLES

  • Roll 1d6 to determine node type, and then roll 1d6 twice more to determine the features of that node category. Consult the above "node-details" tables to determine other attributes/ textures as necessary.


1. FALLOUT FROM RECENT CYBERRUN UPON A ZONE

  • Roll for Sprawl zone effected & Megacorp targeted

Area Effected:
  1. Neighborhood block
  2. Residential pods/ apartments
  3. Industrial area
  4. Physical infrastructure (energy/ transportation/ water/ sewer)
  5. Digital infrastructure: AR Nodes, Matrix hosts, VR construct server farms
  6. business/ commercial/ public services
Actions:
  1. Cover Ups/ disappearances/ mind-wipes/
  2. Damaged property, explosions, fires,
  3. Injured people, death, disease
  4. Eye witnesses, stories, rumors
  5. Occult asset somehow got loose, being actively searched for
  6.  Heightened law enforcement & media attention


2. UNCANNY INFLUENCE UPON A SITE

  •  Roll to determine the Sprawl zone of site.
Type of influence:
  1. Esoteric Creature (cryptid, hybrid chimera, bio-experiment, extradimensional entity, matrix daemon, spirit/ ghost)
  2. reality warping effect (psychic phenomenon, space-time distortion,
  3. Extra dimensional breach/ dimensional portal (site connected to another location or dimension)
  4. Haunting, possessions,
  5. Physical or psychological effects (deformity, disease, transformation, odd behavior)

How is influence being delivered:
  1. Abandoned shadow war facility (R&D lab, production facility)
  2. Occult asset in play (misplaced and lost, being kept somewhere secretly by an agency, being used leveraged somehow for gain, being used but unwittingly)
  3. Hidden lair/ hive/ tunnel/ dungeon
  4. Ley line, vortex/ focal point of occult energy
  5. Effects anchored to/ influenced by a person or an object
  6. Through a digital medium/ node/ matrix

 

3. MAJOR FACTION ACTIVITY WITHIN A ZONE

  • Roll to determine Sprawl zone and Factions involved
What type of activity?
  1. Seeking asset (esoteric, black market)
  2. Consolidating strength
  3. Dramatic falloff of influence/ power vacuum
  4. Trying to gain foothold in contested area
  5. Moving in on a “tainted” zone,
  6. Seeking information
Secondary characteristic
  1. Uncanny influence (Y/N?)
  2. Underground/ black market assets (drugs, weapons, cyberware, stims, electronics)
  3. Social asset in play (important group of people involved/ contested, gang, neotribe, neighborhood)
  4. Physical asset in play (residential building/ commercial/ industrial, infrastructure, natural feature)
  5. Digital asset in play (AR node/ Matrix host/ VR construct server farm/ telecom station/ broadcast towers)
  6. Economic asset in play (business, high profile club, bank, real estate/ property)

 

4. EXTRA FACTIONAL CONFLICT

  • Megacorps (roll) and/ or factions (roll) in conflict with a large scale Sprawl event (roll zone)

Large-scale Sprawl event

  1. Politics, Protests,
  2. Terrorism, riots, looting fires/ arson,
  3. Renewal, infrastructure projects
  4. Rampant crime, drug epidemic,
  5. Disaster (flood, hurricane), plague,
  6. Immigrant wave, displaced populations

Type of Conflict

  1. Over physical territory
  2. Over a contested asset (esoteric or otherwise)
  3. Competing sphere of influence (economic/ PR/ political)
  4. Corp responsible/ implicated in negative situation
  5. Caught in the crossfire through no fault of their own, but now involved
  6. Trying to actively help situation, but causing unintended consequences/ complications/ harm

 

5. SHADOW WAR SHAKE UP

  • Major events are shaking up the Shadow War, the megacorps & the cyberrunning community (roll for which corp is being affected)
  1. Merger. Megacorp absorbs another, becoming more powerful and expanding their sphere of influence.
  2. Economic downturn, Bankruptcy, financial vulnerability
  3. New corp enters war
  4. Legal exposure, high profile lawsuit, wide scale crime comes to light
  5. Alliance between rivals
  6. Event causes major loss of key public infrastructure/ asset (fire, sabotage, malfunction, quake)
How is cyberrunning community affected
  1. Contracts drying up/ runs are less lucrative/ more competition between runners. Runner bars becoming hostile.
  2. Sudden surge of contracts. Contracts paying more. More cash flowing. Scene is blowing up. Runners getting more access to drugs, cyberware & stims. Drug and cyber-addiction increasing.
  3. Anonymous identity of contracts slipping. Mission details reveal too much in light of recent events. Runners gain knowledge of corporate sponsor or target. Corporate retaliation possible.
  4. Black-market drying up. Stims/ drugs/ cyberware becoming scarce. Withdrawal from scene. Fewer runners coming around looking for contracts.
  5. Vigilance. Paranoid. Proxies extra cautious. Kicking crews off contracts for slightest perceived unreliability. Corporate investigation of the slightest perceived indiscretion
  6. Runner crews disappearing. Individual runners dropping off the map. No clear knowledge of who or what is going on. Crews are laying low until answers can be found.

 

6. INTER-FACTIONAL CONFLICT

  1. Shake up/ redistribution of power within a single faction (leadership, resources, infrastructure, territory,)
  2. Rivalry between two closely related factions (rival neotribes/ cultists/ criminal/ daemon)
  3. Triangulation: Alliance between disparate factions, against a third faction (common enemy)
  4. Faction losing power in zone, being killed, mass defection of members, loss of resources, or otherwise diminished influence (external event/ power vacuum or rival faction/ being supplanted)
  5. Massive power consolidation within zone. (due to esoteric asset, seized physical/ digital infrastructure, political alliance with another faction, community, government)
  6. Transformation of faction into something else. Identity shift from one state to another. Fashion is behaving different, caging its core beliefs, and actions

Secondary Interest
  1. Piece of unique architecture, neighborhood building pivotal
  2. Members of one (or more) the factions are being influenced by an uncanny/ supernatural.force (creature, asset, effect)
  3. A demagogue/ cult of personality like figure has emerged, and his influence is part of these events
  4. Radical new belief system is influencing things (restatement of old beliefs or a new system)
  5. Disillusionment within the ranks is influencing things
  6. External event is influencing things (sudden wealth/ healthcare/ economic stability or its opposite disease, drug addiction, poverty. Also environmental factors such as weather, climate, environmental livability, law enforcement) 


 

CHARACTER CONTACT INVOLVEMENT

  1. Being targeted/ pursued by X for something they (did, know, have, etc)
  2. In need of something desperately (advance position/ upward mobility, revenge, money, information, drugs, cyberware, medicine, information) . Pressuring you to do something risky.
  3. Acting erratic/ strange behavior. Not in control of own actions. (possessed by outside influence, being drugged, behavior induced through digital interface, hypnotized, being pressured/ leveraged/ extorted).
  4. Victim of an attack (themselves or someone they know). (cult, ritualistic, cyberware theft, scarrifiation, kidnapping, etc) may require medical assistance, retribution. (The attacker was under some kind of outside influence. What was it? Connections to the occult world?) Could also be an attack against an asset (theft/ arson/ extortion)
  5. Involved in a complicated relationship (business, romantic, needs help getting out). Third party might be willing to bargain, but the price is something very risky to achieve.
  6. Experiencing meteoric success (business, relationship, wealth, personal beauty, status). Comes at a personal cost (health, business relationship, esoteric asset, drug, occult involvement ) or at the cost of another (extortion, theft, harm)



Thursday, January 7, 2021

CHROMATIC SHADOWS UPDATE


Chromatic Shadows Beta

The first beta draft for Chromatic Shadows: Weird Cyberpunk Roleplaying is nearly complete! It's over 80 pages long, and includes full character creation rules, and just about every core system you'll need to play the basic game. It's still a bare-bones document in a lot of ways, and I intend on adding more content as the writing & editing continues, but putting the polish on this beta draft is a milestone for me. Not only important for playtesting, and moving forward with design, but as a significant point of "completion" in this year long  process of designing a complex game. 


What is Chromatic Shadows? 

It's a medium-crunch cyberpunk RPG, inspired primarily by Shadowrun, Vampire the Masquerade, & Stars Without Number. It's influenced by the writing of William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Philip K Dick, H.P. Lovecraft, Mark Fisher, and media like Black Mirror, Stranger Things, & X-Files. The design goal is provide the framework for traditional cyberpunk game play within an occult influenced near-future game world. Streamlined, yet robust rules favor intuitive rulings over heavy tactics. The game is a toolkit that supports a mixture of action packed  guns-out missions along side a more personal exploration of the characters within the context of a futuristic urban sandbox.  "Cyber-runs" and their consequences lead organically into complications and emergent situations that impact the character's lives and careers.


The Shadow War

The backdrop of Chromatic Shadows is The Shadow War--a secret conflict being waged between the three largest megacorps on Earth. It is concealed behind layers of media misdirection, false fronts and deniable assets. At its heart, The Shadow War is a hidden struggle for control of what can only be described occult assets: esoteric artifacts, alien hyper-technology, exotic beings, & ancient rituals infused with digital power. The player characters act as cyber-runners, agents on contract for the megacorps. Their job is to execute missions that inevitably run up against these mysteries. The deeper the characters go down the rabbit hole, the closer these hidden powers come within their grasp. Will they seize a piece of alien hypertech or an occult artifact for their own? Can they somehow change the world with it? What will they do when the corporations (or worse) come looking to get it back? 

 


 Release Date?

When will the beta be ready for prime-time? Soon! I've got to make another pass of edits and then a hard decision about the best platform for distribution. The learning curve on this whole project has been a trip.  Look for more updates in the near future!



 

 


 


 


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

SKETCHES OF AN ACID FANTASY

 A few elements from my "City of Calyx" fantasy campaign I've been working on. It's in the acid-fantasy/ dying earth genre, inspired by projects like Planet Algol, Carcosa, and Lizard Man Diary's "Iron Rib Peninsula". Hoping to drop more content as it comes.
 
Art by Roger Dean

The Grass Elves of Callio 

Every seventeen years, clutches of grass elf hunters from the village of Callio, venture out onto Alizarin Steppe in search of giant cicada nymphs. On clear nights, under the canopy of stars and the light of the recurring comet Aolothuwee, the clutch matriarch trained in the ways of soil tasting, samples her way across the dusty shelf. She stops at the tell tale sign: a salty acid brine mixed with the taste of honey and ammonia on the tongue. The team is signaled and begin to dig. Just below the surface is a deposit of golden jelly- an excretion produced from the nymph's neck glands prior to the act of molting. The elves take care to scoop every drop of this rare medicinal delicacy into clay vessels.  The clutch then begins loosening soil, digging out in a ten food ring from the deposit. Not far below, the great nymph lies burrowed and sleeping. It’s golden head a yard across with black saucer eyes the size of mans head. Its monstrous ribbed body lies buried below. If aroused, it could awaken in a fury.  An elf poisoner is lowered down to the nymph. She draws a long hollow reed loaded with a dose of paralytic moon lotus water, slips it into the exposed crease beneath the gland, and blows. Once sedated, the nymph is then drawn out with ropes, tied down upon a sturdy pallet, and born away by the troupe toward its final destination: The Grand Ampulla of Calyx.

The Painted Ascetics of Calyx

In the tent village at the base of Calyx, the Painted Ascetics worship the “the Father of Ten Thousand Forms”. They draw spirals and eyes upon their naked bodies with an intoxicating paste in order to commune with his "singing presence". Tattered fabric tents and prayer flags emblazoned with elder signs flutter in the desert wind. Day and night, thick clouds of incense & burning sage rise and commingle with the sound of sonorous chanting.

The blue ghost centipede is at the center of the cult of the Ascetics. When ground into a paste, eaten, snorted or ingested through the skin it provides an addictive euphoria & manifests unpredictable psychic phenomena. Prolonged eating stains the teeth, tongue, gums, and face a shade of deep indigo. Eventually the ascetic's vocal cords become paralyzed and they lose the faculty of speech. Some speculate, however, that cultists who reach this advanced level have no need for speech, having mastered the gift of telepathy.

 The Arcanum of Calyx

No merchant of Calyx dares park his stall in the shadow of the Arcanum, for fear of the demon-sworn magi that dwell within. The Arcanum appears as a matte black hexagonal tower rising 60 feet above the busy market district--each of its sides emblazoned with great silver sigils that slowly change over the course of the day. The Arcanum is doorless and windowless, with no apparent way in or out. Calyx's magi dwell here, and study their occult formulae in sworn secrecy. The wizards are given a wide birth at the market. They can be seen in their black silk robes wordlessly collecting exotic regents from terrified vendors, only to vanish suddenly from sight. Accessing the college is a feat only the mad would dare. It is said that at on certain nights at sunset, on the western wall, a riddle written in silver script can be seen, catching the last light of the setting sun. If the correct answer is written in chalk upon the wall, before the sun sets, a magical door is said to appear granting access. When the sun slips below the horizon, the riddle and the door are lost.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

100 Knacks for B/X D&D

I cooked up this Knack system some time ago, and have been using it to good effect in my ongoing OSE campaign. It provides a simple approach to skills while adding flavor and customization to character backgrounds and level progression.

Art by Larry Elmore

Character Knacks are a modular sub-system for B/X D&D (and various retroclones), and fills the niche that skills might take in other games (also compatible with my Character Boons subsystem). The purpose of Knacks is to provide more varied options when leveling up, to give the character a small numerical bump with related tasks, and to speak a little to the character's personality, background and interests. Although the utility and power of a Knack are somewhat limited and specific, I tend to give my players broad ground to argue for their application.

KNACK SYSTEM

A Knack is a minor skill, hobby, or area of knowledge. They are always narrow in scope, non-combat oriented, and can’t take the place, or reproduce another class ability. If your Knack can be plausibly applied to a (non-combat) related ability check (or x in 6 test), the GM may award a small bonus to the dice roll (typically +1, +2, or advantage). 

Knacks can be created by the player, selected from the big list below, or rolled randomly on a d100. If the GM agrees, a Knack may be taken twice, granting superior expertise in the field. Each character starts with 1 Knack, and gains another every two levels (2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, etc). 

100 KNACKS

1. Fire Building

21. Herbalism

41. Scribe

61. Grave Digging

81. Geography

2. Rope Tricks

22. Leathercraft

42. Gardening

62. Archivist

82. Predict Weather

3. Direction Sense

23. Barber

43. Investigation

63. Taxidermy

83. Wayfinder

4. Cooking

24. Brewer

44. Appraisal

64. Torturer

84. Occult Lore

5. Carpentry

25. Seduction

45. Gem Cutting

65. Makeup Artist

85. Architecture

6. Painting & Drawing

26. Intimidation

46. Stone Mason

66. Apothecary

86. Engineering

7. Musical Talent

27. Disguise

47. Fortune Telling

67. Folklore

87. Drinking

8. Hunting

28. Legerdemain

48. Dancing

68. Philosophy

88. Holding Breath

9. Plant Lore

29. Card Games

49. Perfumer

69. Theology

89. Inspiring Oratory

10. Animal Lore

30. Etiquette

50. Horse Riding

70. Natural Science

90. Rhetoric

11. Animal   Handling

31. Fashion

51. Chess

71. Midwifery

91. Lip Reading

12. Tailor

32. Ventriloquism

52. Pottery

72. Mimicry

92. Acting

13. Haggling

33. Juggling

53. Metallurgy

73. Comedy

93. Subterfuge

14. Blacksmith

34. Bureaucracy

54. Improvised Devices

74. Animal Traps

94. Foraging

15. Boatcraft

35. Medicine

55. Forging Documents

75. Escape Artist

95. Swimming

16. Fishing

36. Boyer/ Fletcher

56. Poet

76. Iron Stomach

96. Empathy

17. Basket   Weaving

37. Beekeeping

57. Astronomy

77. Dowsing

97. Light Sleeper

18. Cobbler

39. Whittling

58. Competitive

Sports

78. Throwing Objects

98. Politics

19. Detecting Lies

40.Tattoo Artist

59. Jeweler  

79. Court Decorum

99. Double Jointed

20. Cartography

41. Puppeteer

60. Mathematics

80. Monster Lore

100. Ambidextrous



 

12 WEIRD CYBERPUNK CLUBS

(Designed for use with Chromatic Shadows, but easy to slot into any existing cyberpunk or urban fantasy setting) Clubs of the near future sp...