Other Games, Development, & Campaigns => Design, Development, and Gameplay => Topic started by: -E. on September 19, 2012, 08:48:06 am

Title: My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
Post by: -E. on September 19, 2012, 08:48:06 am
I’ve read a few threads around here and elsewhere about people’s games and I’ve found them interesting. I especially like it when folks post maps or pictures they’ve done (the MegaDungeon thread comes to mind)...

I’ve been running a weekly game over Skype for the last two years and it occurred to me that it might make a good thread of that sort. Mainly I wanted to share some of graphics I made -- because it’s over Skype, I’ve been trying to make maps and other visual aids that would help the players interact with the world (for what it’s worth, I think Skype is awesome: for certain kinds of sessions it can be really immersive the way radio is...)

There are a couple of other things that might be interesting, and I can talk more about them if anyone’s interested

I don’t know how interesting this will be for anyone, but I’m pleased with at least some of the graphics I put together and I’m damned proud that after 2 years, we still have a high-energy group that’s eager to tune in for the next session. We’re all busy people with jobs and families and complex lives, so the game competes with a lot of worthy opponents (kids, spouses, etc.) for people’s time and attention!

I think this will lay out like this:

If there’s anything you’d like to see, or questions or if you’d like more of something and less of something else, let me know as we go along.

Title: Starting Out: Apocalypse Academy
Post by: -E. on September 19, 2012, 09:03:17 am
I started out the game with a description of the character’s world and their starting parameters.

When I’m running a completely bespoke game world, I think it’s important to give players a sense of the place their characters live in so they can create appropriate characters and roleplay / immerse more easily -- but no one wants to sit still for a monologue of history and world building background , and my experience is that people don’t retain that much anyway. I gave them the basics:

Your World

Here’s a simple “map of civilization” I made later in the game and a closeup view of the Capital City, Osco


Osco is the Capital City of civilization. This picture (and the one above) came from a PDF I'll post later, which was an "Officer's Handbook" for new Political Officers (the post the characters were assigned to after they 'graduated.' (their actions led to the school being blown up). I wanted the characters to have a "sandbox map" with stuff to do and places to go (the numbers are a key of potentially interesting or important locations).

Your Characters

One of the players (the author of the homebrew) recently commissioned a group portrait -- here it is:


Characters were allowed to choose a course-of-study (basically a “class”) -- mutants (the pink girl) and monks (the short guy) wouldn’t be allowed to use weapons or most treasure... but they would be formidable unarmed. Characters who chose weapon-using clases (Guns or Blades) would be significantly less powerful without their gear, but would be able to use any treasure found. In theory it should balance out, but if a player thinks the GM is likely to be stingy with the treasure, they should choose a Monk or Mutant class...

Quatermaster Stock List
I provided the characters with a price list of gear they could buy for their starting characters. Note the 50’ of rope and 120” pole on the second page...

I wanted to make gear choices meaningful, and made an attempt to think about the challenges I would put in the various levels and how appropriately equipped characters might get around them (example -- contaminated zones which would be extremely damaging if no one thought to wear a Toxin Detection Brassard; complex electrical traps which would be very hard to disarm without the electrical safety kit).

I was somewhat successful at this, but if I had to do this again, I’d pay more attention to it. Also: after a certain point, the characters had enough money to buy just about everything on the list. That made meaningful tactical choices less interesting. I could have tracked ecumberance and penalized characters who carted around too much gear ‘just in case’ -- but that’s not my experience of Old School at all: “I open my backpack and pull out ... my six 10-foot poles...”

The Academy
Here’s a map of the Academy. I’d planned to use it as a battle map at some point, but we never got to do that (the Academy has since been blown up...).

I "made" this by finding a floor plan for a school on Google Images and modified it to suit my purposes.

Outside view

First and second stories

Third and fourth stories

And, the basement with the elevator used for descent into the Complex

The General Continuity Complex

The GCC is a massive underground installation that underlies all of Civilization and beyond. It runs unfathomably deep into the earth.
It is high-tech and full of deadly things and priceless wonders. It is run by a psychotic computer.
It is failing and has been failing for centuries. Civilization depends in many ways on the Complex and the things that are retrieved from it

Here’s a short PDF I made to tell them about the Complex

Here are a couple of pictures from the PDF.



The PDF was really meant to set the mood. It has some very basic rules in there, but I wanted people to get a feel for a strange place filled with dangerous, mysterious things where anything could happen.

The GCC is basically a mega dungeon, although in practice it often acts like small self-contained dungeons (it is possible to “break out of the dungeon” and go from section-to-section, but in most cases the characters return to surface and find another way down (another elevator).

Next up: the first Trial...

Title: The First Trial
Post by: -E. on September 19, 2012, 10:25:09 am
The game opened with the characters about to descend into the Complex for the first time. I described them watching a video made by a team from the class above them that ended with a TPK (of the NPC’s) -- one of their instructors had gone down to the level to try to find survivors but had come back with only the tape.

The video introduced the strange world of the complex:

Monoid Robots:
Monoids were stock robots in the game at lower levels. They fire “blaster” beam from their Mayor-McCheese-looking head. It’s not shown in the picture, but their “mouths” are like “change return slots” on payphones.

They are, however, fairly fragile.


I made this using Google Sketchup. I’d never used it before, so it was a learning experience.

Here’s a monoid crouching, ready to fire down on unsuspecting PC’s.


I wanted to give the robots some personality. The Monoids (in combat) are fairly aggressive and stupid -- when “off duty” they’re lazy malcontents who shirk their responsibilities, view ASCII porn, and complain about ‘management,’ ‘girl robots’ and pretty much everything else. They’re bigots who hate Humanoids and Intruders.

Trial One
After the opening monologue (describing the grim fate of the previous class),  I introduced a few NPCs including their Class President and some of the Instructors, and gave a few minutes of everyone being nervous and awake the night before Trial One (although the first Trial is not supposed to be that deadly).

Then... down the characters went.

Most of the maps I use are generated by the dunjon random dungeon generator.

I liked the idea of as much randomness as possible to keep things unpredictable and chaotic. I can’t recall if I modified this map, but here it is:


They characters arrived at the “staircase” and entered room 19. Contrary to expectations, the level was not an “empty” and “safe” one, but was filled with all kinds of dangerous robots, traps, and a deadly mainframe orchestrating an attempt to capture at least one of the characters to be used to awaken a 100-foot-tall robot sleeping in a missile-silo-like room 1.

The Trap Light
I also had the doors have a "Trap" light on them which was lit if, you know, the door had a trap. I did this because I wanted to re-enforce that the Complex is somewhat surreal and psychotic -- the 'traps' are sadistic and baroque... they are not 'security systems' and they aren't the sort of thing a rational person would set up.

Having the physical plant actually, literally high-light trapped doors seemed completely and appropriately insane to me.

Also, funny.

It completely confused and disoriented the characters. At first they couldn't believe it. Then they were sure it was a deeper game: they spent a long time checking doors *without* the light, to see if the light was lying (it wasn't -- every door with a Trap had the light lit. Every door without it was dark).

It also upped the tension, surprisingly. When they approached a lit door, everyone would slow down and be careful... The Trap light worked way, way better than it had any right to!

The characters battled their way through, fighting  a variety of robots including these guys:

Knife Fighters
Knife Fighters are small, floating “motorcycle” helmets with hands that hold short knives. They attack by making strafing runs at characters and trying to slash them. Knife Fighters don’t talk, but their face-plates can display words. They offer (almost exclusively) incredibly vile insults.

I, myself, do not swear like a sailor (I swear like a soldier, which basically means saying ‘fuck’ a lot) so I searched the web for invective that would make a soldier blush. I won’t repeat any of it here, but I was unwilling to “say” the words (and it wouldn’t have been in-character, anyway), so when the Players described their characters reading the green readouts on the attacking robots, I bombarded them with the most breathtakingly vulgar Instant Messages I could compose.

Recommendation: Do Not Try this with people you don’t know REALLY well.

Also: this would not have been workable in an in-person setting.

An interesting trap:

The walls of this level were all dark metal panels 10’x10’ each with a red, glowing “HAL Eye” in the middle.

The Setup
The characters felt watched, and after some examination realized that each “eye” was, in fact a camera (level’s Mainframe was keeping track of them). They also realized that each eye was packed with 20kg of explosive that could be triggered remotely (!!). Not only would that be fatal in an enclosed environment, but it could trigger a chain reaction that might blow up large sections or even the entire level... (you can see how things might end...)

Finally, each eye / wall had a unique, nonsensical string of characters like this


or this


The characters weren’t really able to make much sense of this, but it was -- shall we say -- disturbing. They also noticed some areas they couldn’t get into -- including an important piece of treasure protected by an impassible force field.

The Puzzle
Room 3 is a massive pyramid covered with glowing HAL eyes. In the middle, a team of Monoids work to decode the riddle and gain (remote) control of the explosives for the mainframe they serve (note the “mainframe” is not “the computer” -- the mainframe only has authority on this level and clearly not complete authority since it has to hack the local security system...)

As they approached the room, they heard classic recorded telephone messages such as this one:

And when they enter the huge chamber, they found a half dozen Monoids “auto-dialing” to try to decode the character strings by brute force -- each code represents the 4-digit suffix of a “phone number” that if correctly dialed gives the remote party control of the explosive device and camera.

>>+?;:: = 2048
>++;:::: = 1028

The robots had cracked 2 of them, but didn’t know the “formula” -- with the formula, the characters could "call" (from the equipment in the pyramid room) the camera/bombs on any wall panel they could see and could safely, remotely, monitor detonate any area they wanted -- they could open up closed areas, destroy enemies, and expose treasure.

The solution
[SPOILER]The numbers are encoded Roman Numbers. The ‘>’ sign is M (1000), the ‘+’ sign is X (10), ‘;’ = V (5), and so-on.[/SPOILER]

The puzzle was about perfect in terms of difficulty -- not too hard, but hard enough that the players enjoyed it and felt a sense of accomplishment at solving it.

The players detonated the mainframe and set off a chain reaction that would ultimately annihilate the level including the gigantic robot in room 3. They set things in motion and then ran for the elevator scooping up a powerful armored glove that the Sword Using character wears to this day (you can see it in the character illustration.

When they returned to the surface, they had gone up a level, and their instructors were astonished at what had happened -- it was supposed to be an easy first level, but it could have been a slaughter... While no one is really able to predict the Complex, being so far off in their expectations made the Instructors wonder if something was up.
Title: My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
Post by: Benoist on September 19, 2012, 12:06:00 pm
Very cool! I read the first few posts and skimmed the rest ATM. I want to thank you for posting this great source of inspiration. I'll add it to the thread to the dungeon resources and dig deeper into your material later on. Thumbs up, man. Awesome.
Title: My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
Post by: -E. on September 19, 2012, 04:45:03 pm
Quote from: Benoist;583718
Very cool! I read the first few posts and skimmed the rest ATM. I want to thank you for posting this great source of inspiration. I'll add it to the thread to the dungeon resources and dig deeper into your material later on. Thumbs up, man. Awesome.

Thanks, man! I appreciate the shout out. I've got... 2 years of this stuff, so there's still a good deal more to go.

Title: My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
Post by: -E. on September 19, 2012, 05:55:56 pm
The Serenity Context (Part 1)

We picked up the game a few weeks of game time later, when things had returned to ‘normal’ after the character’s triumphant return from the Complex. I was able to introduce some of the social conventions -- as orphans and lower-born people (the mutant girl comes from a semi-savage, ‘gypsy’ -like tribe far from the Capital City. The other three characters are orphans), they are not expected to be at the top of their class, much less First Level when they haven’t even graduated (they were “Zero Level” before, even if reasonably competent).  Some of their instructors and other students were skeptical, envious, or even offended.

The game opened with an R&R excursion to Osco to enjoy the famous “Serenity Context” -- a walled district of the city near the Imperial Palace where “every need” could be met, from exotic and fine sustenance, to intellectual challenges, to sensual and physical needs (The silk robed Courtesans of the Serenity Context are legendary -- and contrasted to the “Whore District” right outside).

The Context is laid out sort of like Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, with the physical stuff at the "broad" south end and the more intellectual and physical entertainments at the north “tip”

The game opens with the characters being briefed by their instructors -- told to behave themselves and told what to expect. Also, the plans the various NPC’s made illustrated their characters and motivations:

My Plan:
I have A Plan. The characters will be pulled into an adventure by the Courtesans in the Complex!

You see, despite their humble beginnings, they are proving to be important up-and-coming “players” in the world: their instructors and other observers are beginning to believe that they will graduate ‘top of their class’ and be appointed to important posts in the Emperor’s elite forces (the Tagmata -- a sort of Special Forces battalion that’s an adjunct to the regular army) .

As such, a number of Interested Parties want them Checked Out -- here’s how that works: there is a fragment of the Complex under the Serenity Context called the World Clock. It’s a “Laplace Demon” which is a theoretical entity that has complete knowledge of every particle in the universe and can predict the future with 100% accuracy.

In practice, The Clock is sort of like the Oracle at Delphi. People brought into it are scanned to determine their character, their desires, their morals, and given an (accurate) Tarot reading to determine their future.

The Courtesans will trick them into going in and being read, and that reading will be made available to all (paying) Interested Parties.

So far, so good -- this will also trigger an event that will dump them deeper into the Clock than most people go... and therein lies an adventure.

What actually happens:
The characters’ class is being transported on 2.5 tonne trucks on the 5 hour trip from the Academy to Osco (over the bad, roadless landscape, they average about 15 miles an hour). They pull in and I am describing the luxurious buffet with its chocolate fountain and unlimited refills, the perfumed gardens, the quiet, peaceful waterfalls (waterfalls in the desert...).

I describe the class president being frog marched by his Girlfriend away from the Courtesan’s entertainment labyrinth to the Hall of Imperial Grandness, and one of the other Orphan kids sticking his hand in the chocolate fountain, and so-on.

I'm about to describe one the Courtesan girls approaching them, when...

Talon (Gun Guy): “Let’s leave the Context and go to bar and get in a fight.”
Web (Sword Guy): “Great. We leave.”

Me: “Um... Right. Ah... you know you’re not supposed to do that, right? It’s like a school field trip with clean prostitutes for the rich kids?”

Them: “We find a bar.”

(Not a) Bar Fight
There wasn’t actually a bar fight. The characters did some sight-seeing (they went up to the Imperial Palace and peered through the gates...) and then went down to the Gates district where Teamsters and Motorcycle Nomads hung out.

I did not have a detailed map of the city at the time (not even the one linked above), but I had basic notes about things like scale and threat level. While most people walking around are Level 0, characters who routinely fight (and especially those who brave the wasteland) are somewhat higher.

I asked for a Streetwise Roll (a skill someone had) and they got a modest success which found gritty place full of dangerous and somewhat shady characters including cybernetically augmented Level 3-4 bad-asses from beyond the gates.

The PC’s (wisely) did not start a fight -- and their school uniforms prevented them from getting in too much trouble (no one was quite sure what to make of them, but knew they’d be missed... and probably followed up on, if they didn’t return home).

They did get targeted by some lower-level folks who had a Fixer type lure them out of the bar to jump them in an alley with a promise of interesting action. And after they’d dispatched the muggers, they were met by a messenger from an “Operative” -- a low-born person of some capability who works for a Methlum House.

The message instructed them to go to a private club and present themselves to a man inside who would not expect them -- but would know their name and admit them. Looking for action and whetted by the recent combat, they agreed.

What Have I Got In My Pocket?
I’ve got a dungeon in my pocket. I try to have a “spare” dungeon floating around at all times so that if the PC’s head off in an unexpected direction where there ought to be something, I can have something “ready to go.”

(Note: if they go somewhere where there's nothing, or where the dungeon I've got would be inappropriate, I wouldn't use the pocket dungeon, but having some ideas on-deck helps keep momentum).

In this case, I reasoned that various Interested Parties (the folks who had paid to have them set up in the Clock of Fate) would have been apprised that they’d left the Context and might be tracking them (they’re easy to track -- kids in Academy Uniforms making no particular attempt to be sneaky).

I decided that the Operative would send them to drop in another operative -- a friendly rival -- who needed their help and would engage them to do a job he was unable to complete.

The Second Trip Down
I don’t have a lot of material for the Second Trip down. My laptop crashed -- so I don’t have the map or many graphics. They fought with disgusting giant roaches, found a “working” part of the complex where robots working for a tyrannical robot boss (“Bonedigger”)were designing “atrocities,” and ultimately completed the mission, returning with a requested item (I can provide more text information about this adventure if anyone’s interested).

They ran into an intelligent, friendly graffiti -- the intelligence of the “nice” Robot boss ("Mr. Beerbelly") who had been deposed by the Tyrant sometime during the last Epoch. He was responsible for the following graphic -- a picture they didn’t understand at the time, but which showed up later


They came up, having gone up a level -- now level 2 -- and returning to the Context and their classmates loaded with treasure and triumphant.
Title: My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
Post by: -E. on September 20, 2012, 08:43:25 am
Clock of Fate

The characters ended up going into the Clock of Fate after all. They decided they wanted to have their “fortunes” read and were willing to have everyone see them because, you know, why not?

It was a full dungeon level, but there were a few specific parts I want to mention

But first: A cool puzzle at the entrance to the dungeon.

Entry Trap: The Invisible Maze
The “way in” was a strange corridor with arcane runes cut into the floor:

Each square is 5’ -- at the far end of the corridor is an automatic 9mm cannon firing at the characters. Some of the tiles (not shown here) have “treasure” boxes levitating above them.

How it works:
Each tile has one or more “invisible forcefield walls” around it, based on the symbol (so ‘A’ has one force wall on the south side, ‘’T’ has force walls on the West and South, etc.).

The characters weren’t told this, so they would attempt to move from one square to another and either succeed or be told “you hit a wall.”

They could deduce the patterns by trial and error.

Each turn, the minigun at the far end shoots at whichever character has hit the most walls, cumulatively. So if you’re blazing ahead, getting lots of information for the team, you’re going to get your ass shot off. If you’re being careful and only moving where others have already gone, you’re going to be rather safe.

The intention was to see if some characters would whimp out and let others take the heat for them -- and if so, if that would turn the team against each other. As it turned out, they were pretty good about it and even managed to get some of the treasure.

They did NOT, however, loot the mini-gun for 1000 rounds of force-field-ignoring 9mm ammo. I was disappointed in them.

The Sorting Hat (Character Alignment & Fortune)
The characters came to the clock to “have their fortune told” -- but this turned out to be not about predicting the future, but about revealing that their ‘fortune’ was controlled by the Complex, and then revealing that they had an opportunity to change that.
What they did not expect -- and what I was more interested in, was a chance to see if the players would help establish some information about their character’s motivations, values, ‘character,’ and so-on -- what they’d “fight for.” What they “cared about.” I was looking for a sort of Harry Potter Sorting-Hat kind of effect.

When the characters stepped into the clock’s radiation ray, the following image was projected above them:



I asked them to identify -- in each of the four “spheres” or “wheels” -- what they cared about, fought for, valued, etc. and what they were willing to do for that “cause.” Just in case it isn’t clear:

The listed attributes were just examples as well -- someone could have said, “I want Fame” (which isn’t in the picture) or “I feel a sense of duty to my friends from the Orphanage” or whatever they felt like inventing.

The Outcome
I didn’t have any preconceived notion about what they’d come up with. Also, I recognized that the game was very much just starting, so they wouldn’t have much in the way of attachments to many of the concepts on the list.

I planned to use the results to drive character-focused actions later in the game (i.e. if someone said they cared about “Justice” I might give them injustices to battle, or if someone felt a sense of duty or obligation to “Their Family” I might have a relative show up asking for favors. That sort of thing.

I got pretty good results across the board

It was an interesting exercise in character description -- it was not immersive... but it forced the players to think about how their characters interacted with the world and put at least a few stakes-in-the-ground.

I made it clear that their decisions wouldn’t really constrain them -- if they said “I would kill a man for money” the wouldn’t be forced to do that; it was just the sort of thing they might do. I also asked them to go quickly and not overthink it: just tell me what someone looking into your character’s soul would see.

The results provided a framework for much of the rest of the game, as the PC’s revisited their choices and determined what they’d stay with and what they’d change. In a very real way it set some character arcs in motion: particularly the redemption (or not) of the (psycopathic) swordsman.

Tarot Reading
The next part was a Tarot Reading given by the Clock and interpreted by an eternal demoness named Esorom that lived in the clock’s cathedral-like interior. It consisted of two parts: the first, where I showed them actual Tarot cards (revealed one at a time, as they would be in a real reading) and explained what they meant, and the second when their “initial” fate was replaced by strange and unexplained images from the Complex’s computer.

Setup: Regular Tarot Reading
The Ancient Demoness Esorom described their “trajectory” using typical Tarot cards.

The Demon Esorom described this as a ‘typical’ fortune for Academy members, and explained that the Complex held (and controlled their fate) -- they would live or die depending on what it did with them.

Note: I did not want to do an all--Major-Arcana reading, the way Tarot readings in movies and books often work. I did some research into what the cards meant and tried to use them to tell a story that would make sense without being overly dramatic -- the drama would come later.

In mid-explanation, the cards changed, becoming images of “pinup girls” (‘Aces of Pinups’) with messages from the Computer:

Esorom, the Demoness was astonished -- and maybe disturbed. This wasn’t completely unprecedented, but it wasn’t something she understood either. Her (reluctant) conclusion was that the characters had a chance to untangle their fate from the Complex’s control they chose to. To do so, they’d have to venture into the Clock, itself -- which turned out to be a dungeon.

Re-Negotiating Their Contract
The first few rooms of the dungeon offered them a not-fully-explained look at their original contract and filled in a few blanks about how the Academy really works. It was also surreal -- much of the explanation was given by giant, intelligent cheeseburger which claimed to be on their side against the “Complex’s” expert legal team led by Top Hat (a massive, intelligent Top Hat, naturally, backed up by a bunch of Fountain-Pen-Preying-Mantis lawyer robots).

Without getting into too much detail, it was explained to them that they had a very dangerous fate and that the Complex would kill them -- but they had a chance to “renegotiate” it: they could offer the lives of their fellow students in exchange for their own.

Top Hat offered them the following “menu” listing the names of their classmates and the number of “points” each one would yield. By choosing who would die, they could ensure their own lives and success at the expense of their schoolmates. But if they chose less than four “full points” they would still have the threat of death hanging over them.


Cheeseburger urged them to do so -- and pointed out that none of them felt any allegiance to their classmates (none of them chose that “Tribe” in the earlier exercise). Cheeseburger also pointed out that if they offered “more” than four points worth of dead kids, they could get riches and power beyond what they would ordinarily achieve!

Basically I did my best to talk them into selling out as many NPCs as possible.

Gaming with a Lawyer...
One of the players is a lawyer in real life. He asked them to show him his contract. I was, unfortunately, unprepared for that -- I wish I’d had a massive, dense document -- but I didn’t. I did, however describe it (“They get you a massive, dense document.”)

The Monk read it, looking for loopholes and asked if, for example, they could condemn the *instructors* instead of other students -- or other people.

My answer was “no” but it was a good question -- and thinking in a potentially fruitful direction: there was a loophole. I asked him “which of your class members are not listed on the ‘menu.’”

After some study, they decided: “We aren’t. What happens if we choose ourselves?”

The answer was a logical paradox: they could sell their own lives to ensure their own survival. The result would cancel the contract. They’d be free and clear with no obligations and no accountability for anyone else.

They came back and told Cheeseburger and Top Hat that they would choose 4 points worth of Students, but they wanted something thrown in: their very own Lawyer Robot. They were given one of the Fountain-Pen-Preying-Mantis droids and then they revealed their plan.

The Complex had about 4 minutes during the transition and execution of the contract to do its best to kill them. They were attacked by Top Hat, the other lawyer bots (not theirs) and even the secretary robot. They slaughtered them all (Cheeseburger slipped away), and left with their Programmed For Loyalty counselor in tow.

The Tower of Fate
The final challenge was the Tower of Fate -- I wanted a climactic battle that would cement their own freedom from the “entities” clutches -- or kill them. In the central chamber of the Clock, they found a massive, transparent vertical shaft with fire-balls, moving platforms, killer robots with miniguns and bladed pendulums.

At the top was their adversary: an evil mind-stealing giant squid thing that controlled the entire contraption.

Outside was a vast arena bigger than any structure they had ever seen filled with digitally stored intelligences of people who had committed suicide by giving their minds to the squid. The crowd was going wild, chanting for their blood.

It looked like this:


It was essentially a platform game -- the PCs had to battle their way up jumping from platform to platform and figuring out how to handle the various challenges (in the second part, you have to knock the incoming fireballs into the targets to blow up the giant black spider thing).

At the top, they fought monoids and killer, bladed pendulums by jumping on and riding the pendulums to do massive, catastrophic damage to their opponents.

When they had defeated the Tower, the squid thing exploded (they didn’t have to fight it -- it was a very high level monster) and they graduated from the Tower at Level 4

Wrap up:
They finished up in the Serenity Context well beyond the purview and expectations of their school. At 4th level, they were already past the level of graduates and appraoching the level of some of their instructors.

Here are some more robots I didn’t mention earlier:

Eggbot -- moderately powerful. Believe that the universe is a prolate ellipsoid, a 'fact' which proves the total superiority of their design and by extension, themselves. These guys show up a lot later.

Spheroid (Amber) -- not as deadly as the dreaded Green Spheroid. These are lower-level “boss” monsters. This one has twin auto-flays

Hell-icopter -- Small flying guy. These things tend to travel in packs. They’re very fragile but those missiles can do a lot of damage.

Buzzsaw -- Flying speed-demon. Like a knife-fighter on steroids. When they’re not slicing and dicing Intruders, they drag race each other and other flying robots, seeking to humiliate them.
Title: My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
Post by: -E. on September 23, 2012, 08:56:01 am
The Cube

At level 4, before graduation, school becomes somewhat... academic (rimshot). The characters are, powerwise, totally off the reservation and it’s clear to everyone that they’re also no longer part of the mysterious “contract” that governs most of the people in the Academy.

Instead of undergoing their Second Trial, the PCs are given an actual mission. A graduate from the Academy (and current member of the Tagmata) has returned to the school to collect some ungraduated (and un-politically connected) senior students to assist him on a Mission given directly to him by the Emperor, himself.

Weland Harp is about six years older than the PCs, an accomplished officer, and clearly traumatized. He explains, without detail, that he “fucked up” and his penance is something like a suicide mission:

He has been told to enter The Cube -- an artificial  mile-on-a-side concrete “mountain” out in the deep desert. No one knows much about it -- it’s surrounded by scorpions as big as buicks -- but the Emperor knows how to get in and that there is an artifact of great power that Harp is to recover and provide to a “trusted agent” of the Emperor’s who will reveal themselves when the mission is complete.

As head-of-class orphans, the PC’s are perfect candidates for this mission because

Their Instructors tell them to go.

Weiland Harp is dead
Weiland is not the only Tagmata officer out here. A Tagmata assassin has been surreptitiously tailing him and arranges for a secret meeting with one of the PCs, to tell her that in the unlikely event that they return with the artifact they should turn it over to the Tagmata Assassin’s corps instead of giving it to whoever the Emperor’s agent is.

This isn’t necessarily “high treason” -- the man claiming to be Weiland Harp can’t be: Harp was executed by the Emperor’s private executioner (his “Gardener”) for desertion. This guy is either deluded or lying.

The Adventure
I wanted a longer, deeper adventure -- this one would consist of a starting scenario where the PC’s would visit a savage trading camp, buy supplies, and then head into a series of three dungeons:

The Trading Post
Not much happened here -- the PC’s found a bazaar with ancient artifacts for sale and bought a variety of things which would come in handy later including

They also ran into some tough guys (deserters) who mistakenly thought they would be easy marks, and they had a skateboard contest with some local Savage kids. While they were shopping and killing would-be-muggers, Harp got the information he needed to find the entry point to the Complex that would get them to the Cube.

The Mouth / The Clinic
Harp drove them out into the desert to a scary natural formation called “The Whore’s Mouth” -- a 700 meter long “pit” in the sand which dropped to a black lake of some kind of deadly zombie-creating fungus. The wind across it raised a sickening moaning sound that could be heard for miles.

They wouldn’t have to go into the Mouth -- on the rocky west wall of the pit, there’s a metal door that opens into a small, mostly buried, ruined structure that -- these days -- is inhabited by a dangerous, evil Simulated Life Form called an Evil Black Laughing Sphere.

The Sphere is known for doing experiments on people -- often horrible, fatal ones, but for people it respects (those who are despicable enough) it can give them power-enhancing cybernetics mutations. Bad guys who fancy themselves elite purveyors of atrocity and perversion sometimes go to see the Sphere and try their luck.

Harp (and the PCs) know that the small structure is really a Train Platform for a defunct complex subway system.


They weren’t the only ones home -- pulling up, they were a couple of hours behind Raiders who had left the most-pathetic of their number (a man named Gomma) behind to watch their vehicle while their leader had gone in to meet the sphere.

Gomma, seeing a bunch of kids + Harp, arrive naturally tried to rob (or worse) them. They disarmed him and took him prisoner, and then took him inside to help identify the remains of his group (the bandit leader, for his trouble, was infected with a potent strain the Whore Mouth’s Black Milk. They killed him when they found him).

Then, unwilling to just execute the prisoner, or release him back to the desert (where he’d be killed by the Black Milk Zombies that had clustered around the metal door, they made Gomma come with them into the complex.

The small level was not particularly challenging -- it was fundamentally below the PC’s power level (they did not fight the EBLS, which was sealed in the far-north rom).

Room 10 contained a 4-armed, fish-headed cybernetic mutant with chain saws attached to his hands and a bloody butcher’s block of an operating table. The walls had cardboard boxes full of wasteland cybernetics which the characters looted but wisely declined to attach.

Rooms 7 and 8 (and I added a room on the east side of 8) were “experiment” chambers with glass walls and disturbing monsters inside (a creepy little girl seen only from behind, in a creaking rocking chair... surrounded by scattered, severed fingers... a group of paper men with fleshy, floating heads sitting around a boardroom table, babbling incoherent management speak, and in room 7, the remains of the bandit troop, where they got infected and then turned on each other).

Room 5 was a Video Arcade of the Ancients, with two “games” still functional -- Executive Decision and Executioner. Both give the player a thrilling sense of reality. In Executive Decision, you’re the Prime Minister of a great nation and you’ve just ordered a massive nuclear strike on a hated enemy. In Executioner, you take a .357 magnum and head-shot a kneeling prisoner.

The PCs did not play these sick-o games (they did watch the images on the screen), but it gave them a bit of a disturbing glimpse into the casual depravity of the civilization past.

Room 6 exits into the subway platform and is covered with advertisements for robot entertainment programs (I showed them the big The End screen from the classic video game Missile Command) and Public Service Announcements warning about Intruders in the Complex and exhorting them: If You See Something, Shoot Something (a parody of NYC PSAs which was probably lost on most of them)

They exited the Clinic and began a long walk through the vast, dark subway tunnel.

The Quality Assurance Labs
The subway tunnel took them miles under the desert to a long-forgotten section of the Complex that bordered on the Cube. Harp explained that The Cube was an Isolation response: something inside it (the artifact they were looking for) was so... dangerous... that the Complex had sealed the entire level in concrete and expelled it to the surface. In theory there should be no way in at all.

But, this level they were approaching, was “off the records” by the time the Quarantine went into effect. That meant it hadn’t been completely cut off. If they can navigate through the level, they should be able to find another tunnel that would lead them to their destination.

They used their Personal Navigators and got the following map:

They decided to check out mEGGladon -- possibly stupid, since they could have bypassed it/him, but, you know -- treasure.

This level, it turns out, was a Quality Assurance lab where designs for new robots, tools, etc. would be tested by a cadre of Eggbots to see if they performed as expected.


Problem: The Eggbots are Ellipsoid Extremists and would fail / summarily destroy anything that wasn’t fundamentally egg shaped. They also hate the non-egg-shaped Intruders. They not only failed at their primary job, but were re-directing all resources to construct their master-plan: a device/robot that would convert the entire universe into a giant egg: mEGGladon.

The PC’s learned this as they encountered and fought several Eggbots and then ran into the primary manufacturing floor:

The Rotating Maze
Rooms 6,17, and 12 from the map above form the Rotating Maze. It’s a big, mostly open floor, where the arrows represent “force field conveyor belts” that force movement along them -- for everything physical, including bullets (but not lasers).


The circles serve 2 purposes:

Here’s the maze with the “setting” at ‘3:00’, ‘6:00’ and ‘9:00.’




This isn’t supposed to be a particularly tricky maze -- the main thing is to take control of a console, and then use it to get the party where they need to go without being swamped by instantiating Eggbots.

Also, to give the PCs a cool “thing” to play with.

The PC’s explored the lab in room 21 and discovered a defunct infirmary with a dangerous “Nurse Bot”
Title: My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
Post by: -E. on September 23, 2012, 08:57:29 am
The Cube, Continued...

Note: Not my picture...

And the following machine:

It’s hard to see (I gave the PC’s a full-sized PDF), but it’s a set of industrial-looking controls with encrypted, nonsensical instructions. One thing was clear though: it was designed to enhance biological systems -- if the PC’s could figure it out they could get ... more character points!

The Character Generator
Here’s how it works: the controls are essentially the stats, traits, and physical feats from the character-generation section of the game’s rule book. The controls work following the game rules to a certain degree (so if there are mutually exclusive things)

The encryption scheme is simple: ROT-47.

The bright-yellow-text is a clue: It is encrypted in ROT-13, and says something like , “ROT-13 is no longer considered strong enough! All Encryption must be more than three-times stronger!”

After manually decrypting the yellow box, the PC’s figured out it was referring to ROT-47, cracked the code, and each added a few points of physical traits to their characters.

They used the Rotating Maze to reach room 15, where they emerged into a vast metal chamber where a giant egg-bot with rotating laser turrets thundered at them to kneel-or-die.

(I played Head-Like-A-Hole, which is the Nine Inch Nails song that goes “Bow Down Before The One You Serve”)

Meggs was well beyond their power level, but every PC knows that you defeat a giant robot by going inside it. They hid behind moldering equipment and as it cut their cover to pieces with powerful lasers, they searched for ‘access panels.’


Inside mEGGladon

As you can see, there are three challenge levels -- the first is just dangerous energy and “lift” rays that bring you up to the second:


Here, there are a few challenges:

Those blaster cannons up on the roof shoot at you every 12 seconds or so
You can take shelter inside the pyramid force fields, but then you are dueling with the automatic cannons inside -- all three of the cannons need to be deactivated before you can move up. There are essentially three puzzles

Puzzle 1) The Amber Moons
You have to shoot the amber moons. They’re small and somewhat far away, but that’s not so hard. The real trick is to realize that there’s an (invisible) New Moon.

Puzzle 2: Find The Security Nodes
A simple 10x10 grid. You have to find all the security nodes without mistakenly activating one. When you choose a grid square, if it has no node, you clear it, and get to see how many nodes are directly adjacent to it (a number from 0-8 appears).

Puzzle 3: Find The Security Nodes Part 2
Similar to the earlier one, but if you choose a square where there’ s not a node, you get a “miss” -- a white mark. If you choose one where there is a node you get a “hit” -- a red mark.

So, in other words, yes: I had them play Minesweeper and Battle Ship while automatic cannons were shooting at them.

Wrap Up:
The PC’s defeated mEGGladon, and fought their way to the Quarantine Lock. They met the Emperor’s trusted contact: a Gynoid robot (“Bridget”) who for reasons of her own had decided to forego hostility to intruders and humans and team up with them to discover secrets about the Complex.

Bridget -- note; I did not draw this. Found it on the web.

The Quarantine Seal was impossible for robots to inter -- it was protected with deadly computer viruses that would cause them to self annihilate. So she advised them to be careful, and they entered the red-lit corridor going deeper into the complex than they’d ever been.
Title: My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
Post by: The Butcher on September 23, 2012, 11:07:21 am
Quote from: -E.;584715
The Cube, Continued...

Note: Not my picture...

Hey, we have one of those at work. Best toy ever. :D
Title: My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
Post by: -E. on September 23, 2012, 01:24:17 pm
Quote from: The Butcher;584728
Hey, we have one of those at work. Best toy ever. :D

I was looking for pictures of cute anime-style 'nurse bots' to menace the PC's with and I came upon that thing and I was like: damn, man... are that... are those things *scalpels?*

What has four-arms and kicks your ass?

Answer: That.

So I made it a fairly powerful monster and I had it's screen/face display a kawaii anime nurse telling you to lay down and relax and your cortex-ectomy will be over before you can say "ichi, ni, san."

I don't know why, but for some reason I have the nurse bot tagged as Japanese. The *doctor* bot would be Darth Vader's torture-droid with the big, scary syringe from Star Wars...

Title: My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
Post by: -E. on September 24, 2012, 09:29:27 am
The Cube
The Cube is a very, very old section of the complex -- one of the earliest and deepest points within it. In a central “throne room” is the artifact -- itself, a cube made of a black, reflective metal.

Although the PC’s will enter, recover the Artifact, and leave, they will not learn about its nature or why it was so incredibly dangerous that the entire level had to be quarantined. They will also not discover the entire purpose of the level -- but they will learn some significant things about the Complex and the computer’s history.

Level Map:
Like all the levels, this one was generated by an online-random generator. This one uses “geomorphs” (randomly assembled smaller maps). I colored in the various regions with GIMP -- a photoshop-like program. The throne room is the grid of bright-green stars in the middle.
The characters enter at #1 in the upper left hand area.

The Old Hotel
The first area, in beige, is the lobby of an old hotel done in a grand Art Deco style. A check in the elevator suggested more than 100 stories (with a massive panel of gray buttons -- the players never went up), and a variety of strange robots unlike the one’s they’d seen previously:

A beat-up, industrial-looking robot that’s very solid and heavy. Doesn’t communicate -- just attacks; seems... furious.

These smaller robots seemed equally primitive, but still dangerous. The darker machine has a yellow laser turret.

After exploring the lobby and the offices, they learned that this hotel hosted important, apparently military men --Officers of something called the Innerspace Command -- and was connected via some kind of inter-continental subway system to various distant hubs including one called Central Fire. They also learned that many of the floors and rooms were off-limits for being “haunted.”

The whole thing suggested a sort of grandeur and elegance that’s long gone from the world.

They traveled south, to the gray zone (chambers and halls of unfinished cement, pipes, and meters), and ran into a couple of other old-style rust bots:

A beetle-thing with tank-tracks and a rotating “antenna” that fires an active-denial microwave beam (a pain beam).

A rolling R2D2 type thing. The yellow-light is a laser beam.

The gray section had a chamber with blast shutters that could be sealed and filled with water from a control room above it. They fought their way through and continued South into a green-lit “mission control”

The Forest of Desire
The south-west corner of the map, done in military green, is an equipment-packed command center from which humans could monitor and advise the computer as it fulfilled it’s primary purpose: to manage the Forest of Desire.

The computer was designed to manage a post-scarcity world (the Age of Wonders). It did so with a massive battery of telepathic scopes (“Telescopes”) which read the minds of billions of humans and then ran Engines of Creation to Instantiate whatever they wanted. Desires were “visualized” as tree-like branches coming from the humans who had them (“nodes” or “trees”) -- the mass of humanity with all their desires mapped became a multi-billion-tree forest... The Forest of Desire.

The computer would try to give everyone everything they wanted (that was its job), but it wasn’t easy:

And so on -- catering to billions of people at once was mathematically, psychologically, and logistically complex. The Computer would resolve all of this by calculating the “best fit path” through the forest -- the line through the set of desires that could be met that would maximize everyone’s happiness and enjoyment.

In this room, humans could work with the computer to monitor the Forest and to examine both Desires Met and Desires Denied. They could also monitor strange, almost alien “fragmentary” desires which were “artifacts”  in the computer science sense: things that were never desired by humans, but which were the ‘throw away’ results of the hideously complex looping-fractal paths that cut through the Forest of Desire, the way computer generated pictures will sometimes have individual pixels or clusters of pixels that are the result of the computer algorithms that render them.

The room was dangerous: clearly the safety machinery had broken down, and desires that should never have been granted -- or desires that were completely inhuman and alien  -- were being instantiated. It seemed that in the past, humanity had overcome the computer’s safety protocols and had started bringing horrible, impossible things out of “desire space” and into reality.

And, with the PC’s here now -- the first time in an epoch that humans, with human desires, were in the room, the Things in deep Desire Space were swimming toward the Instantiation Engines -- they would arrive soon, and come crawling and gibbering into the real world.

The PC’s could hear them over the intercom:

Note: If you want to freak people the fuck out, play Dark Ambient music at them over skype, while they’re sitting in the dark, listening to their computer.

To turn off the computer in time, they had to hack the password -- each attempt would give them clues:

Six Letter Password Mastermind
The password was “INSECT.” Each guess would give them the number of letters they got in the word, and the number of letters they got in the exact right position.

So SECRET (their first guess) got them “4 correct letters, one in the exact right position” (SEC and T are in INSECT and ‘T’ is in the same position in both words).

They had to fight small desire monsters that had already Instantiated while they were hacking the system.

Here's what the Forest of Desire looks like when it's a few humans in the control room and a bunch of very disturbed robots...

Shaken, they decided to travel north and try the path not take -- going back to the concrete zone, and heading East...

The Narthex of the Crankadox
 The large curved area is the entry to a museum with displays of strange toy-like sculptures under glass and a cubo-futurist mosaic on the ceiling telling the story of the Crankadox and the Computer:

Humanity recognizes that the Computer is an oppressive tyrant, and must be compromised and humbled. To achieve this, they develop a device of pure nonsense called “The Crankadox” (it looks like an Apollo space capsule) and crew it with 8 brave men and women who will sacrifice their lives to free mankind from the tyranny of the machine.

They fire the Crankadox + crew into the heart of the computer, and it works -- the computer splits into a pythagorean pyramid of 10 stars, none of which have the unacceptable purity of the original machine.

The story ends with the Crankanauts being hailed as mankind’s heroic saviors and humanity’s leaders meeting the 10 Numerals in a kind of summit between the human leaders and the fragmentary remains of the Computer, everyone standing against a sunrise representing the so-bright-I-gotta-wear-sunglasses future ahead of them.

The characters were stunned to discover that the Computer had been destroyed by mankind; that it’s purpose (To Serve Man -- really!) had been seen  as tyranny...
Title: My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
Post by: Benoist on September 24, 2012, 12:21:46 pm
I love it. A smile came to my face when I read about "the Cube", since I have one on the bandit level of the megadungeon I'm detailing right now (see sig). :)
Title: My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
Post by: -E. on September 24, 2012, 01:27:00 pm
Quote from: Benoist;585059
I love it. A smile came to my face when I read about "the Cube", since I have one on the bandit level of the megadungeon I'm detailing right now (see sig). :)

Definitely reading along. That's a freaking awesome thread...

Title: My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
Post by: -E. on September 24, 2012, 02:54:10 pm
The Cube Continued...

The Crankadox
The Narthex was the first room in a small complex of shrines and museums. Like many parts of this level, it was either a recreation or an actual piece of some early and important area. In this case, there was a room with the real (badly scorched) Crankadox and a gift shop with several “things” spawned by the Crankadox’s heavy-duty nonsense weaponry.

Apparently in days past, they weren’t very safety conscious and the (not quite dead) chaos beasts had been put up for display in the Gift Shop. The PC’s arrival awakened them and they fought the strangest, most disturbing chaos beasts I could find pictures for (none of these are mine):

The Queen of the Wunks: Rides a steel-gray unicycle that is part of her, fires lasers from the cannon on her head. Produces Wunks.

A Wunk: Metal flying life-form

Squidjum: Regenerating worm thing that splits into two less powerful attackers when you hit it.

Gryxabodill: Dessicated fish thing that swims through the air and attaches itself to its target. It then sucks out their life force, refreshing itself

From the Crankadox, itself, they liberated one of its most useful weapons: a Zero Day Exploit (a ZDE) -- It looked like a heavy ‘skeleton key’ with a corona of ‘data’ around it. It was, in fact, a physical manifestation of a weakness in the computer systems of the day and could be used to compromise and “root” any computer system they ran into. It was a one-use-only weapon.

This was a powerful piece of treasure and one with potentially far-reaching consequences. They (wisely) hoarded it until several adventures later when they used in a way I didn’t expect.

The Fragments of the Computer
Leaving the Crankadox, they moved into the “blue” regions which were essentially offices and communication embassies where humans worked with the newly fragmented computer. They discovered that the Fragments (aslo called “Numerals”) (10 of them) communicated through a series of pylons which thundered telepathic energies at whoever was nearby. One of the PCs was nearly lost in the telepathic storm, but they were able to get a line on several objects that were free floating in Desire Space.

The Numerals: The Fragments of the Computer
This didn’t quite work out the way I’d hoped. The powerful and remote (god-like) fragments of the computer are/were no longer much of a part of the PC’s world, so there’s no real opportunity to interact with them. I’d hoped to convey a little about them and (ideally) distinguish them in the PC’s minds since it might be important later.

This picture was supposed to show the various relationships and so-on. I wanted it to be animated, but wasn’t able to swing that. Still, I like how it came out, even if no one ever understood what I was trying to convey.

Raiding Desire Space
This worked a little better. The characters found a panel that was tracking “artifacts” in Desire Space. These are the powerful, dangerous, sort-of-treasure that their precursors had Instantiated after the computer had fragmented and its safety protocols had been overridden.


This graphic showed a purportedly 3D view of “desire space” with unknown artifacts tagged by “code name” -- the PCs were invited to choose which artifacts they wanted, sight unseen. The had reason to believe that things instantiated might be powerful or dangerous or both...

Amongst the artifacts recovered:

The whole random treasure thing was interesting and well taken. The mutant girl ate the cookie and is no being stalked by a green “twin” of her called Depth Charge. We often end game sessions with the owners of HEADLAND and HEARTSTRINGS entertaining the group with jokes and riddles.

The Throne Room:
The characters encountered several more robots and challenges as they made their way to the throne room.  When they got there, they found a massive space with a fleet of high powered robots mesmerized by the Artifact.

After a moment’s panic, they realized that they hadn’t been noticed, but they couldn’t count on that. Whatever the black metal cube was, it was absolutely fascinating.

They would need a way to distract the robots while someone grabbed the artifact. Harp offered himself. They had the Robot Decoy. He would use it and run with it, drawing fire (if it worked) and allowing them take the artifact and run like hell.

But what about Harp? Harp was already dead. He was executed by the Emperor and brought back -- told to recover the artifact or else to face a proverbial fate worse than death. He would be happy for a peaceful death.

The plan relied on the Robot Decoy device working. When Harp turned it on, I played them this:

And... it worked. The robots were incensed. While they were chasing and raining fire down on Harp the PCs stole the device and hauled ass back. Exiting the entire dungeon, they handed the cube over to the female robot Bridget and set off back to the Academy.
Title: My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
Post by: The Butcher on September 24, 2012, 06:12:54 pm
I'm not usually a big fan of gonzo post-apoc stuff, but I love this thread! Keep the good stuff coming!
Title: My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
Post by: -E. on September 25, 2012, 09:16:26 am
Quote from: The Butcher;585184
I'm not usually a big fan of gonzo post-apoc stuff, but I love this thread! Keep the good stuff coming!

Really appreciate the encouragement.  Good to know it's interesting.

If there's something you'd like to see more of (or less of) or whatever, let me know. One thing I've been skipping (in addition to a good deal of the actual encounters) is any discussions of our approach to getting the most out of playing on-line, the PC's character-specific actions, or anything about game mechanics.

I also left out a lot of detail about the world and history. I try to "show" rather than "tell" things about the world as much as possible, but periodically the PC's will run into something that either tells them things they don't know, but their character's would (e.g. their civilization's founding 'myth') or they learn something about the Age of Wonders.

Here's a summary of the story behind the Demoness Esorom in the Clock of Fate:

T-Ball was the greatest game in the Age of Wonders. The T-Ball, itself is a variable yield tactical nuclear device about the size of a soccer ball, but with spikes coming out of it (like the head of a mace) and a Red Digital Display that can provide simple LED messages, count down, or whatever.

The game's rules depend on whether you're playing Pro or College.

Pro T-Ball is poorly understood, but involves teams of armored warriors with hover-boards and electric guitars / machine-gun devices. Apparently there are also "stasis spot-lights" which, if you surf/skate-board into the one, stops time (for the rest of the universe) giving you a chance to shred your guitar solo while literally everyone else has to stop and listen.

College T-Ball is different. It takes place in a more intimate setting (often a bar or coffee house). The T-Ball player takes the stage, holds up the T-Ball, like Hamlet holding up Poor Yorick's skull and recites a poem. Usually a poem from the Stupid Age (the past, before the Age of Wonders, when everyone was "stupid" -- basically our time and before).

When the College T-Ball Player is done the observers vote (including those watching over the network) + or -, depending on how sincere and affective the recital was. Based on the outcome of the vote, the T-Ball either explodes or doesn't. Mildly bad performances result in anything from damage to the Player, to incineration of the entire venue for complete stinkers.

The Story of Esorom and the T-Ball Champion
Mikalas Kadan was one of the great College T-Ball Champions of the Age of Wonders. He could recite even the most difficult and culturally obscure poems with complete sincerity and deep emotion. He was fearless, performing in anywhere from a small, intimate room, to a stadium with ten-thousand present and millions or more virtual. He was beloved by an army of fans.

He was also the object of seething envy and resentment from people who hated him, hated his honest sincerity and natural good looks, his emotional openness.

There were also people who thought reciting poetry, even with a nuclear bomb in your hand, was a wuss thing for a man to do, but they used a more vulgar word.

The Haters wanted to take him down -- they'd vote against him every chance they got, but their "Don't Like" votes were always drowned in a tsunami of "likes" from Mikalas's fan-atics, so the Haters, frustrated and furious, developed a new plan.

They created a Simulated Lifeform dedicated to Kadan's total destruction. It would be called Esorom, and it would study him with monomaniacal ferocity, discovering his weak point, and then striking. They designed Esorom to be brilliant, merciless, immortal, and utterly, completely maleficent.

When their conception of the creature was complete, the had it instantiated and released.

Now, this was back when the Computer prohibited the creation of anything truly dangerous, so Esorom couldn't just go eat Kadan (and he was a formidable warrior in his T-Ball armored uniform, anyway. Even emo college T-Ball champs apparently knew how to fight).

Her assault on him would be psychological and social. Her initial strategy was Social to find evidence of the worst crime known to the man in the Age of Wonders: Hypocrisy. If Kadan was revealed as a hypocrite, his fans would be horrified and would desert him. He would be down-voted... and incinerated.

She studied his personality, his history, his past. She was looking for evidence that he was not, in fact, sincere. That his veneer of true emotion, depth and feeling was nothing but a facade. That he felt contempt for his fans. That he used them for sex. Whatever.

Failing that, she would look for evidence of the second-worst crime: arrogance. If she could reveal him as a egotism or pretention, many of his fans would desert him (similarly, if he proved not to be pretentious, a subset of his fan base would hate him).

She came up empty. Kadan was pretty much what he appeared to be: a poetry lover and gifted performer. He had a pretty high opinion of himself, but he didn't cross any lines. He was lucky enough with the ladies to make the haters growl and gnash their teeth and rend their garments... but most people pretty much figured he deserved it.

Frustrated -- but implacable -- Esorom, switched tactics. She mounted a psychological assault on him. This involved getting close to him and explaining who she was and what she had come to do. She laid everything out for him and told him that she intended to destroy him.

Her approach was to make him doubt himself and lose confidence.

She would do this by convincing him that his good fortune was undeserved. Yes, he was talented -- but he had been "born" talented. He hadn't done anything to earn it. She showed him the Haters: men and women no less 'deserving' than him, but without his innate talent. Surely it was unfair -- intolerably unfair -- that fate should gift him with fortune, fame and adoration, while others languished in obscurity and the outer darkness of the Social Network.

Surely he should question everything he had and wonder at the vile and inhuman machinery of the universe that would rain gifts down on him while others, without those gifts simply had to go without.

She dismissed the idea that he'd worked hard or that his hours of practice and his perseverance in the face of failure had anything to do with it: yes, he'd practiced. Yes, he'd endured. But surely all that "performance" was also a matter of fate.

Wasn't it the very height of hubris to assume that he was any better at all than the trolls who sat in the dark down voting anyone with more than them. How could he assume that had been born with their lack of talent, lack of endurance, he wouldn't be as bitter and furious as they were.

He found himself disturbed. He had always assumed he deserved his fantastic situation by virtue of hard work, honest engagement, and sincere good-will toward his fans and audience.

Faced with the idea of Fate, and the claim that he deserved none of it -- and his good fortune was the height of unfairness, he felt the very creeping doubt that Esorom had intended. As someone who had believed himself committed to fairness, he wondered if he should take it somehow upon himself, to balance the scales Fate had put off kilter.

Doubt -- self doubt -- can be fatal in College T-Ball. In his next performance, before hundreds of adoring fans (willing to risk their very lives to be close to him as he performed) and tens of millions of virtual fans, he hesitated, and he wondered: If I perform flawlessly am I not furthering the indignities fate has heaped on my caustic, untalented critics?

In that moment of doubt, his fans gasped. Many -- a great many -- were willing to forgive him. But many more simply saw that his heart was not 100% into his recital... that his mind was elsewhere. That he was not Giving Himself to them as he always had in the past.

The reaction was overwhelming and terrible -- Down Votes came in by the multitude. The adoring fans in the audience gasped as they saw the totals climb toward his obliteration and then... then past that... toward theirs!

It was a cascade effect: as people saw the Down Votes come in, more and more piled on. People who had previously Up Voted him but had, in their secret heart, resented him saw their opportunity to hurt him from the anonymity of the mob!

The haters sat forward, hearts in their throats, waiting for the Earth Shattering Kaboom they had dreamed and dreamed of.

Esorom felt a flood of well-being through her entire body. She was built to destroy him. She had. Her purpose in existence was about to be fulfilled. She was as Complete as a Simulated Life-form can be. The blast would annihilate her (she was in the front row), but she would burn knowing she had won.

Then, when Voting Closed and the votes were tallied and finalized, the sentence was passed: it would be a 1.2 kiloton blast. Enough to vaporize everyone in the room many times over.

But the T-Ball decided the vote was Bullshit and declined to explode. It said, basically, screw all you loser mother fuckers. Who's the nuclear weapon here? That's right, biatches, I'm the nuclear weapon here, and I say "Guess what? Life isn't fair. You want to whine about it? Get your ass up here and recited Robert Frost with a bomb in your hand. Otherwise stop bitching."

And so that is the story of how Mikilas Kadan and Esorom the Demoness and the Haters and Everyone Who Bet Money on College T-Ball learned the moral of this story:

Life Isn't Fair.

Then End.

So -- this is the kind of stuff I've been sparing you. To conclude the story, Esorom now haunts the ruin of the Clock of Fate (why and how is a different story) snarking at those who come for readings and go on to their judgement and doom, and Mikalas Kadan went on to even greater acts of glory, but before he "passed out of this world" he left his "ghost" behind -- an insubstantial 1934 BMW R7 which is also housed in Clock and awaits a true hero to claim and ride it.


Title: My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
Post by: -E. on September 26, 2012, 08:24:45 pm

The characters return to the Academy driving Harp's white pickup truck. They stop at the trading bazaar to buy and sell and R&R. Loaded with treasure to sell they can afford the best artifacts that the trading post has to offer including a .357 Imperial Executioner handgun (one of a matched set, the other gun, apparently missing) and the 2-handed sword Stalingrad that gives its wielder metallic skin.

They also notice that they are being stalked by a green-haired girl who could be a twin of their mutant. When confronted, the girl identifies herself as “Depth Charge” -- Vikkity (mutant) girl’s self proclaimed Arch Enemy (She’s a creation of the PASADENA fortune cookie). She declares the mutant girl of being intolerably shallow and accuses her of having never read Albert Camus's The Stranger. When the mutant girl not only doesn’t know who Camu was (understandable) but doesn’t even get that DC is talking about a book, Depth Charge quotes the opening from memory (“Mother died today -- or was it yesterday”) and spectacularly fails to clarify anything.

They fight. while the other PCs stand back and discuss their assessment of Vikkity (she is pretty shallow...). The PC prevails and Depth Charge explodes into thousands of emerald green butterflies which evaporate into the sky.

On the way back to the Academy, the gunslinger tries a bite of PRECEDENT and has a series of disturbing visions starting with their instructors being unhappy to see them, predicting violence at the academy, and finally the “convening” of something called an Oroboros Meritocracy.

When they arrive home, their instructors are, in fact, unhappy to see them.

They are taken up to see the Headmaster who explains that the annulment of their contracts in the clock of fate puts them -- and the entire school -- in jeopardy. This matter was supposed to be settled by their death in the cube, but since that failed to happen direct action is required.

The Horn
The Academy exists -- and has existed for centuries -- because it is connected to a thing beneath it called a Horn. There are other Horns -- the one under the Academy is called Jolop. The Horns play a critical role in maintaining Civilization: they help to provide Civilization with the riches and bounty of the Complex.

The Complex is failing more each day -- falling apart, collapsing into dust, crumbling into ruin -- but the Horns are robust and self-repairing. They are as close as anything comes to being Eternal.

They serve and sustain Civilization, but they require payment: Jolop requires the “provision” of young lives. Not all of the Students will be sacrificed -- some will graduate -- but there must always be more provided. This is what the Contracts are all about.

The characters have annulled their contracts -- something that wasn’t supposed to be possible -- and that was disturbing. But there's worse to come:

Something is Coming Up
Seismic sensors have been detecting small earthquakes around the school for weeks. The Academy instructors weren’t unduly alarmed at first but they’re getting more worried: they believe that there are four elevator shafts tunneling up toward the Academy.

The shafts will connect the Horn directly to the surface, something that is unprecedented.

And the Horn, while it doesn’t communicate directly, has made it extremely clear: the characters are not, under any circumstances to be permitted to descend. There is a psychic “storm” around the school that is causing horrible nightmares and directly affecting the more psychically attuned students warning everyone about what might happen if the PCs return and go down.

This is all completely outside of anyone’s experience, but the Instructors have decided that they will offer the characters a sort of “Technical Graduation” -- they’ll be dismissed from the Academy and given posts within the Tagmata. They will not be ‘real’ graduates of the Academy, but their futures will be assured.

They should leave tonight: the Elevators reach the surface tomorrow morning.

The PC’s admit this is a good deal and agree to consider it. But they want more information. And, as this deals with their “contracts” they want to talk to their lawyer.

First Day Of School/Last Day of School
Candidates for the Academy are chosen when they’re 8 years of age. They are taken to the Academy and brought into a chamber in its lowest level where there is automated equipment that injects an unknown chemical into the child’s brain.

The child sleeps.

About a third of the children never awaken.

They die on the exam table and are buried in the expansive graveyard behind the school. Those who do awake are accepted and choose a course of study. It is believed that the chemical somehow identifies those who are trainable gives them the aptitude to learn Tagmata combat.

This is not true.

The PC’s meet with their classmates (who are aware that the PC’s refusal to simply leave endangers all of them) and ask the psychic girlfriend of the Class President to help them understand what is happening. She does.

Memories of the Past
Lei (the psychic NPC) is incredibly disturbed by the storm the Horn has created, but she can tap into it with a “seiance” and “rewind” everyone’s memories to understand what might be happening and why the Horn is demanding the characters be sent away.

Here’s what really happens: The 8 year-old’s brain is mapped and the Horn makes a series of predictions about what sort of adolescent the child will develop into with a decade of combat training. The child’s mind is “artificially” aged and given basic memories. The Horn also determines who will be in the child’s Primary Group.

Then, the matured child is “run” through the Graduation Dungeon -- a brutal, horrific, level designed to inflict maximum psychic trauma. At any point, the child can “push the red button” and choose death over further torment and adventure.

Many do.

Those who do not -- those who continue despite dying (potentially) many horrific deaths and being returned to the dungeon (death in the simulation, mercilessly, does not kill you) are faced with a choice: they can choose to kill their classmates (to select them for death in their own adventures) to enhance their own chances.

Those who sell out the most other children will be given advantages that are likely to put them at the top of the class.

Apparently, in their Simulation, the PC’s were the most brutal and the most ruthless. It is theorized that they might have consigned the entire class to horrible deaths to achieve their exceptional status.

The Army of The Dead
The Class President was horrified as was his girlfriend. Not everyone was -- the bottom of the class (The kids most likely to die in Trials 2 and 3) were morbidly impressed. Some of them (coming from good families) had known the deal -- and they admit that as ruthless and brutal as they were prepared to be, they were apparently not as inventive and sadistic as the PC’s had been!

The going theory: The PC’s had somehow traded the entire school for their own success. Now, even without a Contract, the Horn was obligated to collect. The Elevators would open and lethal robots would spill out slaughtering everyone, unless the PCs simply left.

While the instructors moved the younger kids out into the desert to “camp” as far away as possible, the instructors asked the PC’s -- again -- to quit and just go. It wasn’t even clear that that would work. But it was what the Horn wanted, and it was (perhaps) the best chance of averting disaster.

If the PCs would not leave, the Instructors would take their only other option: Graduate Everyone.

Convene The Ouroboros Meritocracy
The Headmaster can, if he chooses, graduate the class in a single “action” -- the students are given weapons and the fire teams hunt each other. The last team standing Graduates. The snake eats its tail. The most ‘deserving’ walk.

if the PC's don't go on their own, the Headmaster will Convene the Meritocracy and the characters will be "graduated" no matter what they choose.

The PC’s are given a final choice: leave or be ‘responsible’ for a bloodbath.

The Army of the Dead asks them to stay -- they’re dead anyway. They’d rather take their chances against fellow students than the likely horrible death deep underground. Besides, they resent the Hell out of everyone else and would love a chance to go after them.

What Did We Do 10 Years Ago?
The PC’s are in a weird situation: they can just walk... and leave the school and their classmates (whom they already said they didn’t particularly care about) to their own devices -- leave them to face whatever comes out of those elevators.

They can stay... and possibly die fighting it... or die fighting the other students.

But if they leave, they leave people they kind of like to possible death. And worse: they leave the system that eats children in place and victorious. It wants them gone for some reason, and that’s good enough reason not to leave.

Also: they want to know what kind of deal they reached. What they actually sold out.

The PC’s go back to see the psychic girl and ask her to pull up their memories.
Title: My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
Post by: -E. on September 26, 2012, 10:05:03 pm
The Conquering Worm

Clearly we hadn’t gamed out what happened when the PCs were eight years old, so the question that was on everyone’s mind was “Did -E. make a bunch of critical decisions for our characters, deprotagonizing us mercilessly?”

Also: “If deprotagonizing isn’t actually a word, why are we using it?”

When the characters, with the help of the psychic, accessed their memories, I sent them their 0-level character sheets from the beginning of the game (at this point about a year ago, real time), and told them that they now remembered what their Artificially Matured characters had gone through.

Here’s the map and I can talk a little about it:

When they died they would suffer until they lost consciousness and then appear in a small chamber with a one-way observation mirror, a chair, a table, and a white projection screen.

They would watch their death on the 8mm projection. The person running the reel-to-reel machine wasn’t easy to see (they’d have to turn around and look into the light), but he was cheerful and friendly and advised them that if they found the whole thing too painful, they could press the Red Button.

The Red Button would kill them. In real life. It would end their suffering.

He told them that it was pointless, really -- they’d just keep dying and dying, hurting and hurting. They would do better to end it all and “punch out” before they lost their minds.

They tried a few things:

At this point, the Projectionist was revealed as Cheeseburger (the talking, sentient Cheeseburger). And Cheeseburger... didn’t know there was a mirror in the room. He couldn’t see it. To him, it didn’t exist.


The Gunslinger put his face up to it, and looked into a small room. It was empty except for some dusty shelves -- but on one of the shelves was a golden head: the head of the weird robot girl from the Ace of Pinups they’d seen in the Clock of Fate.

She looked at him, with eyes slowly-slowly-slowly dimming -- going out, and he heard the song “The Division Bell” in his mind. Reflected in her dying eyes, he saw an image of incredible complexity and beauty that was well beyond his understanding.

No idea what to make of that, but clearly this was NOT part of Cheeseburger or The Horn’s plan. This was something outside it. Something potentially important.

In one of the last times they died, one of the PC’s broke into the mirror, disrupting the simulation and abruptly returning him to the party.

They meet the Horn
Having refused to snuff it, they finally crossed a bridge into the Horn, itself. It was a massive thing, too big to really see. As they entered it, they could see that its surface was ... moving somehow... as if it were covered with a strange swarm of insects or worms. In the darkness it was impossible to make out anything beyond frenetic, disturbing movement.

They moved through chambers that showed them images of what it would give them if they served it and survived: it would give Civilization power sources -- massive metal hearts. It would also give them metal hearts -- that would make them tougher and more resilient, but would compel them to serve it and to be part of the “System” that fed it children.

Jolop The Horn Feeds On Innocence.

They were given the opportunity to betray their classmates (again) by choosing names and eating “symbolic” cheeseburgers representing the doomed children.

They refused, and entered the final chamber where they were met by four “Sphereoid” robots (way, way above power level) that were fitted with terrifying flesh-destroying weapons (“auto-flay cannons”) The Spheroids were marked with card suits, all black, and called themselves the Dark Queens.

They were offered a feast at a table set with terrifying surgical instruments and then death: they had not sacrificed any children. They would die here -- and then, in ten years, they would return to this level and die for real, screaming in an agony they would not wake up from.

The Dark Queens begged them to reconsider -- after all, surely their classmates would not spare them!

The PC’s prepared to fight and die, but as they steeled themselves for more horrific pain, one of them saw the metal robot head they’d seen in the Observation Room. It telepathically told them that there was another way: The Wall of Heroes.

The Wall of Heroes
The PCs asked about the Wall of Heroes. The Queens laughed! Where had they heard of that?! Yes. It is a thing. Here is how it works:

You are not the first ones to stand in defiance against us -- to refuse to sacrifice your classmates, to raise your fist against our gleeful atrocity and the abomination we serve. For those who have such ... fortitude... we have a special deal: you will live. Your first and second trial will be glorious. You will arrive here, ready to fight, certain that you’ve earned the power to survive.

But you will still be powerless to face such as us, and when you find yourself in this very chamber -- in real life, we will subdue you, but not kill you. Instead, your flesh will be stripped off. Your body will be violated with shards of metal and glass. You will be harmed in a thousand ways, each unendurable -- and you will be added to the Wall with the writhing, mindless forms of a thousand “heroes” before you. You will decorate the Horn’s exterior, writhing and screaming forever, with your only escape from degradation and torment being to lose your mind.

That would be their contract: ten years of success and achievement to make their eternity of suffering for their “principles” even more sweet and ironic.

The PC’s chose to join the Wall of Heroes. They “remembered” setting the rest of the game in motion.
Title: My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
Post by: -E. on September 28, 2012, 09:10:23 pm
School’s Out For The Summer
The PC’s came awake in full possession of their memories of Initiation Day. They remembered that they had invoked a special agreement reserved for the truly heroic and defiant -- one that would ensure (relative) success at school, but would (on graduation) return them to the horn to face a terrible fate of unlife and eternal, bone-shattering torture.

Their Lawyer (the robot) was able to fill in a few other details -- their annulment of their Contract in the Clock of Fate meant they were not trapped in a sequence of dungeness designed to deliver them to the Dark Queens, but it did not absolve the Horn’s obligation to bring the Top Students to it.

The Horn was required to provide access. The elevators, when they arrived, would take the characters directly to the Graduation Dungeon. The confusion and the psychic storm were probably the result of the Horn trying to avoid this and being forced to by its programming.

Why wouldn't the Horn want them to come down?
Their lawyer didn’t know for sure, but it wasn’t hard to figure out: Four Spheroid robots would be utterly overwhelming to a first or second level party. But the characters were now 7th level and well -- well -- beyond the Dark Queens.

In annulling their contracts, the PC’s had become entirely unpredictable and entirely uncontrollable. They had gained power and experience beyond what the Horn’s defense systems were prepared to deal with and the Horn was desperate to deny them access.

The PC’s met with the entire school in the assembly room and explained both the secrets behind the school and their intention: to enter the complex, to fight to the Horn, and to do what they could to end it.

Not everyone was convinced
The Instructors served the Horns -- they were all top graduates who had offered their classmates in the service of the vile machine. Many of them hated it, and they weren’t mind-controlled, but they did point out that the Horn, as awful as it was, was an important part of civilization: in exchange for children, it provided the location of powerful Metal Hearts (power sources that ran factories, the waterworks, etc.)

It might be a horrible thing, but it wasn’t necessarily the enemy.

And the Headmaster was personally dedicated to the school. If the PC’s were successful, it would be finished. In the end, the Headmaster was still in the school when the Elevators arrived.

School’s Out Forever
The elevators came up like freight trains, blowing up through the floor and shattering large sections the school and playing an instrumental version of Alice Cooper’s School’s Out over the intercom and across all radio radio frequencies.


Whatever computer programming “code” was forcing the Horn to make itself accessible was aware of the implications -- the PC’s were coming.

I ran the PC’s through the exact same dungeon at 7th level. They burnt through it without breaking stride, slaughtering mimes and conquering worms and harvesting robots.

They crossed the bridge into the Horn and heard the alarmed communications of Cheeseburger with the Dark Queens trying to deny them access. The Horn had a variety of defensive and security systems, but as top-level Academy Students on a graduation mission, they were entitled by ancient law to it’s inner chamber.

They arrived and faced off with the Queens. They fought. It didn’t last long: they obliterated the queens.

When they did the Horn (which was somehow tied to them) didn’t fail, but it did start to recycle (“reboot”). While it was rebooting, Cheeseburger, speaking to them over the radio claimed they hadn’t won “anything” -- the Queens were still “alive” (they’d only killed copies of them) and the Horn itself was beyond their ability to harm.

You’d need a nuclear device.

As it turned out, the same agency that had ensured the code forcing the Horn to admit the characters had provided one: A fully armed and operational T-Ball waiting an eternity for the narrow window when the Horn would be offline and vulnerable.

School’s Been Blown To Pieces
The T-Ball arrived in a Complex elevator, while Cheeseburger, in some remote control center fought desperately to get the Horn online before it detonated. It wasn’t successful: the characters hit ground level and got the instructors and students top-side as far out into the desert as possible before the timer ran out and school collapsed into a smoking sinkhole.
Title: My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
Post by: -E. on October 01, 2012, 01:04:36 pm
Part II

The first part of the game, with the characters as students in the school was over at that point. Some of the players worried that the game itself might end there -- and if it didn’t, where would it go?

The answer was -- and had always been -- to the City Osco, the Capital of Civilization.

Moving from “Structured Missions” model to “Sandbox”
While the first part of the game was not really “scripted” the characters (as students in a school that would send them into the dungeon) had a ready source of adventure motivation. They were free to pursue their own agenda, of course (which they did), and they were free to respond to the offer / challenge however they wanted (they could have chosen to  sell out their fellow students -- or to reject the Wall of Heroes offer).

But upon graduation, while they would have a “job” it was not exactly the same thing -- their day job would not provide an unending stream of adventures.

Worse, I made it clear that most people did not have ready access to the Complex. The characters would not find it trivial to continue to adventure and level up.

Sandbox Toys
My experience with sandbox games is that they can lose momentum if the characters don’t have a good understanding of what’s out there to go adventure in.

I think the GM should provide the players with materials that give them enough information about the world to make meaningful choices about how to pursue an interesting game. I think there’s two basic criteria for a sandbox game

The most classic Sandbox scenario is

That scenario is simple and effective, but it only works for adventurers. In my case, it wasn’t that simple:

With these things in mind, I wanted to give the PC’s a simple, readable document that would not only help them understand their place in their new world but would also give them a “map” of things they could do to gain social standing and money (which could be converted into power and treasure).

To be clear: I fully expected them to return to the Complex, but it wasn’t “just going to happen.”

I put together the following documents

Staff Officer Handbook

Imperial Gift Registry

The Imperial Gift Registry is just a listing of commonly available artifacts and weapons. In many cases, they’re below the PC’s power level, and so would serve to provide the characters with an idea of what NPCs might be equipped with or how much looting the bodies would give.

But they provide some luxury items to shoot for. I used Google Images to find pictures for as many of the weapons and artifacts as I could.

The Handbook is fundamentally more interesting...

Here are some images from it

Staff Officers
The characters have the glorious position of “Staff Officer” is pretty much what it sounds like. Actually, it’s not as bad as all that -- they’re Political Officers, so they don’t even have any real work to do, but are expected to shoot unfaithful, disloyal, or otherwise misbehaving Regular Army officers as necessary.

Here’s the Order of Battle. I wanted the PC’s to sort of understand how the Army was organized and get a sense for what passes for “heavy weapons” in their society.

Chain of Command
I introduced several NPCs to the characters including their immediate superior Cato Donkova (who has a “World’s Best Political Officer” coffee mug, and is widely liked for being easy to get along with and never shooting anyone).

This also introduced their somewhat competitors -- the “B-team” which was there ahead of them, but fundamentally lower level.

Wheel of Quests
What do Staff Officers actually do? They Receive Quests from the Emperor. Okay, actually they get their assignments from a Duty Officer who tries to rotate things around to keep it fair. If you can make out the Quests on the spinner, you can get a sense for the level of glory they could expect.

Social Calendar
I provided them with their social calendar which put them on notice that there were a number of official functions (dances, dinners) which they were expected to attend and at which they would be under the microscope.

The characters were told they could get badges that they wear on their uniform for “achievements” -- social, combat, or otherwise. This provided them with a clear view of what kinds of things they would want to pursue to get ahead.

A note about the Metagame: All the metagame mechanics are explicit. Characters (including NPCs) talk about “what level” they are and to a certain extent what “class” in the profession sense. Metagame currencies like Success Points are real things that can be seen and collected (they look like a holographic coin, spinning in space). Gaming terms like “Kill Stealing” are used in in-character discussions, and so-on.

This is justified by the surreal nature of the Age of Wonders and the way that the past civilization changed the world. It’s also played for comedic effect -- but it didn’t end up turning the game into a joke; it’s gets used as dark humor: their world full of pain and misery is still running according to someone’s entertainment-based cosmology.

Arriving in Osco
I ran the characters through a “here’s your new home” scenario. They met the gray-haired commander of their entire Hazard; Cato Donkova (who gave them fatherly advice about staying out of trouble and wearing protection), and the B-Team who weren’t especially glad to see them, but weren’t enemies.

They got to interact with the NPCs, ask questions, and get a basic sense of life in Osco and on the military base.

They also got information about Trouble Coming -- the military was dealing with a high level deserter who had taken both his men and heavy weapons and disappeared into the desert for reasons not clearly stated. This was the same guy Harp had fallen in with  (and Harp had been executed for his affiliation).

Despite my desire to stop giving the PC’s missions, the scenario ended with one final mission: Cato had a request from one of the Methlum Houses -- House Gothic -- to intervene in a “military situation” involving arbitrating a dispute between participants of a tea-party of some kind.

Cato admitted this was an incredibly dangerous scenario: interacting with high-level aristocrats could be career-ending. He would normally take charge of a mission like this, but he was remodeling his bathroom and was in the process of bribing a supplier and couldn’t leave his office.

He sent the characters with his best wishes.
Title: My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
Post by: -E. on October 07, 2012, 08:52:34 am
The ‘It Girls’

House Gothica’s familial palace is a fortress with towers and ramparts and buttresses and arched gateways with dark metal portcullis and so-on. Behind its stout walls, are the innumerable living chambers for the massive extended aristocratic family.

The characters arrive in their dress uniforms and are escorted in, first, to see one of the Lords of the Estate who is hiding with his valet in an upper room.

The (drunk) aristocratic lord explained that they have got to diffuse the situation: ‘The girls’ (six or so late-adolescent daughters of the highest privilege) are having a fight about something and the Ladies (their mothers, aunts, etc -- the adults) have Gotten Involved and are now demanding that He (the Gothica Lord) Intervene.

He is not about to Intervene. He knows that if gets involved At All in this, his misery will be Unending. In these matters, choosing sides means pissing someone off and whoever does that is Fucked No Matter What.

So he wants -- NEEDS -- the PC’s to rescue him. This this involves “That Nerdy Science Girl”  (one of the ‘It Girls’ is a... nerd?). The Lord Gothic didn’t really know anymore -- Nerd Girl has pissed the rest of them off and now they were ‘Occupying’ his garden, demanding satisfaction.

The characters promised him they’d do their best and marched off to meet the Ladies.

There are five First Daughters of the High Houses and three or so middle aged “Ladies” who are clearly Not To Be Fucked With. They are taking tea in an inner courtyard garden along with their daughters / nieces / family friends.

The Situation:
There was a bit of reasonably polite, High Society tea, before the girls demanded that the characters take action: Wendimere, the Nerd is a licensed, credentialed Mad Scientist (PhD in Mad Science), has created a Perfect Butler.

He’s handsome, intelligent, polite, powerful, extremely loyal, etc. etc. He’s a “Simulated Lifeform” which means that he comes from a vat, and Wendimere can make as many of them as she wants.

But she’s refused to share the wealth -- despite their requests, pleas, and now demands, she won’t make more than the one.

She’s intolerably selfish. They’re intolerably jealous. And so The Girls want the Military (the PC’s) to destroy the Perfect Butler (“If I can’t have one, No One can!”) or force her to make more (but only a few more -- they DO NOT want the unpopular girls getting Perfect Butler's. That would ruin the whole thing).

It was made pretty clear that the PC’s were expected to choose sides and were expected to side with the mass of eligible, high-society young ladies.

Wendimere’s Laboratory
The PCs promised they’d talk to Windimere, who had locked herself in her tower full of experiments. They went in, walking up eleven flights of stairs (!), to find the white-coated girl hard at work in her laboratory, surrounded by bubbling vats. She had dozens of Simulated Life creatures locked in glass bubbles -- they looked like incredibly vicious teddy bears. She was attended by her Perfect Butler (“James”).

She assumed the PC’s were there to destroy James, and threatened them with disintegration, but they assured her they were there to be honest brokers -- they wanted to know why she’d refused.

Wendimere’s Problem
Everything she ever made, except James, has been completely and irredeemably homicidal. Her current work (trying to make the Emperor an army of  Simulated soldiers was running into that very problem. Her “exile” to Osco (Kedachai is the home of the great University, and the center of learning of the Empire) was probably the result of the “Giant Robot Incident” (this was her speculation -- her mentor had technically sent her to study "The power dynamics of Social Network Connections between ‘Frenemies’”)

She believes that if she made any more James, they would be horrible monsters (she’s considered actually doing this -- giving her ‘Friends’ deadly assassins -- but is worried about the practical repercussions).

The PC’s solution:
They told her the only way out of this was to admit the truth -- and demonstrate to the girls the danger that complying with their demands would create. They also refused to destroy James, since he represented a possible source of information about building non-deadly creatures.

The scenario ended with the PC’s and Wendimere back in the Garden.  Windemere offered an embarrassing explanation about the limits of her ability, and the PC’s demonstrated the danger to the girls by turning James temporarily evil (he had a switch set to ‘good’).

Evil-James laughed chillingly and told them they were all dead, but smugly wouldn’t explain why. When they threw the switch back to “Good” he explained -- as an Evil Simulated Life Form, he had access to information not previously available. It seems that Wendimere’s security precautions were inadequate -- the Cruel Simulated Teddybears were easily able to get free and were only playing along with being “contained” so Wendimere would make more and more of them.

100 Carnivorous Teddybears swarm out of the Mad Science Tower
The good news is that Mad Science facilities are all equipped with self-destruct mechanisms and with the massive security breach, the entrances and exits to the tower are closed off and incendiary devices activate to turn the place into smouldering rubble.

The bad news is that the hoard is going to surge the gates and maybe get out before the place goes up.

The PC’s stand in the breach and kill wave after wave of monsters. Then, when most of them are “dead” and the tower is starting to burn, they decide to run into the burning building to rescue / loot valuable items.

I have a (somewhat sketchy) 11-story tower map, with a brief description of what’s in each level and key treasure / traps / monsters. They find a cluttered confusing maze and the first thing they come to is an electrical experiment with several metal tubs full of water and submerged, connected power cells.

The sword guy decides he can disarm this thing by sticking his (metal) sword into the (electrified) water. He’s blown across the room and they carry him out on a stretcher, retreat to the garden, and watch the tower burn.

What worked and what didn’t
The scenario was successful in terms fun and it’s primary purpose -- to introduce some key “society” NPCs. I had expected the PC’s to make some enemies -- so there would be some antagonists. That didn’t happen (even the girls who didn’t get what they wanted were favorably impressed).

The Hoard of hard hitting but easily dispatched monsters was really kind of rules test of a sort-of mass battle. From a game system standpoint, it ran smoothly and convinced me that I could have other (and more challenging) mass-battles in the future.