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Author Topic: My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game  (Read 6687 times)

-E.

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My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
« 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

  • It’s a traditional dungeon crawl, with the characters getting treasure and going up in level. It’s been 4-5 years since I ran D&D 3.5 and I haven’t run a classic “dungeon” game since... I dunno... High School? I wanted to do something very old-school.
  • I was committed to making it very random, so all the dungeons, treasure placement,  monsters come from various random dungeon/treasure/encounter generators I was able to find around the net (modified for game system, obviously). As such, they aren’t generally “works of art” -- the output of the generators I’m using is serviceable, but I don’t have hyper-beautiful level maps to show. I have done some work to color them, largely for my own readability...
  • I’m playing a homebrew without extensive level / dungeon rules (this game would be formally considered a playtest) so I was creating some of the rules from scratch, trying to get a classic feel.
  • Some of the traps and scenarios that came across well would be highly reusable, so I’ll put in enough for people to steal them for their own games.


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:

  • Overview of the starting situation and a few key decisions, characters, etc.
  • A brief, somewhat chronological series of posts that describe the dungeons and adventures with pictures of maps (where they’re worth looking at), etc.
  • Wrap up with what I think I’ve learned, etc.


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.

Cheers,
-E.
 

-E.

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Starting Out: Apocalypse Academy
« Reply #1 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

  • Mankind’s Civilization fell apart catastrophically a long time ago and far, far away. Millions and billions perished and learning, science, art, and culture was all but lost.
  • Hundreds of years ago, your ancestors -- refugees from the collapse -- came to the place you are now
  • You live in a vast desert. Civilization consists of 5 great cities of which the greatest (and the one you’re near) is “Osco” -- all on the rule of Absolute Emperor Oswald
  • The technology level is generally Victorian. Serious travel is done by trains. City streets are lit by gaslight. The army carries muskets that would not have been out of place in the Civil war -- there are exceptions (the army has some 1940’s level tech like trucks and radios)
  • The Emperor is a tyrant, but there are great, aristocratic families who have enormous wealth and power called the Methlum. You’re not from them

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



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

  • You are all 18 years old. Many of you would be orphans or from humble lines
  • 10 years ago, when you were only 8, you were selected to attend the Malebranche Academy where the leaders of the Emperor’s elite forces are trained by harsh, highly-skilled masters
  • This is a great honor
  • After 10 years of academics and combat training, you are all capable with weapons and understand basic team tactics -- but you have never been tested.
  • You will be.
  • To graduate, every member of your class will have to descend into The Complex 3 times. Each time will be a real risk. Each time, people will be injured or killed.
  • On average more than a third of your class will perish or be crippled by the third Trial

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...

https://docs.google.com/open?id=0ByxxSW6_L1-1Q01sYmJ1UXI3YVE

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
https://docs.google.com/open?id=0ByxxSW6_L1-1d2RGa3NHQ0RlN2M

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...

Cheers,
-E.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2012, 09:14:51 am by -E. »
 

-E.

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The First Trial
« Reply #2 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:
  • Exploding skateboard-robots (Monk, Hand-to-Hand Character: “... Exploding robots!? Guys... how do I fight Exploding Robots?!”)
  • A couple of “Monoid” robots who didn’t realize Intruders were In The Complex were videotaped unawares while they were ... smoking and one complaining about being rejected by Gynoid (a girl robot) for not having a recent upgrade patch. When they became aware of the NPC’s taping them, they advanced blasting away, chanting “Kill The Humanoid! Kill The Intruders!”
  • A poison injection trap that paralyzed a character trying to open a door


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.

http://donjon.bin.sh/d20/dungeon/

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:

http://www.payphone-directory.org/sounds/wav/bell/disconnected.wav

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.

End-game
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.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2012, 10:29:11 am by -E. »
 

Benoist

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My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
« Reply #3 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.

-E.

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My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
« Reply #4 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.

Cheers,
-E.
 

-E.

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My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
« Reply #5 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:

  • The Class President and his girlfriend are going to go see a Retrospective on the Emperor (and he has to claim this was completely his idea)
  • Most of the orphan kids are going to pig out at the buffet
  • One of the upper-class malcontents suggests the characters blow the district and go whoring

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.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2012, 06:12:27 pm by -E. »
 

-E.

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My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
« Reply #6 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

  • The “Sorting Hat” alignment “definition” part at the beginning when the clock would “reveal” the character’s allegiances, character, and overall mortality
  • Their ‘Fate’ -- or, more precisely, their ‘Contract’ with mysterious entities within the Complex. The characters would learn that under a kind of chemically-induced hypnosis they had entered into some kind of agreement with the Complex to trade the lives of their fellow students for their own. The would get a chance to re-negotiate this if they wanted to, which would make future excursions into the complex more or less dangerous.
  • An opportunity to establish a “new fate” which would free them from previous agreements and put them beyond the immediate control of the ‘entities’


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:


and



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 Wheel of the Self (Blue) is in the center and it’s things you want for yourself (Power, Wealth, Peace, etc.)
  • The Wheel of the Tribe (Green) is groups that you feel a part of and a duty to -- the “Primary Group” is the Party (the 4-person ‘fireteam’ in the school)
  • The Wheel of the Powers (Purple) represents important forces in their world that they might be aligned with or respectful of or feel a duty to
  • The Wheel of Abstractions (Orange) represents causes or ideas or (vague) groups that the character might support. In this case “the Academy” is more like “school spirit” than the physical place or the Tagmata (which is a legitimate “Power”)


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

  • Everyone -- to a character -- was willing to die for their Primary Group. They all decided to be ultra-loyal fire-team members which was probably realistic.
  • Everyone wanted “Peace” (i.e. to be left alone) and some degree of Wealth, Freedom, and Power).
  • Vikkity, The Mutant Girl was a big fan of the Emperor -- her player suggested she might be “Naive.” We decided she had grown up reading ‘tracts’ in which the young heroine travels to Osco to serve the Emperor and dies horribly and honorably
  • Talon, The Gunslinger cared about Justice and had a streak of Self-Destruction that fit his somewhat grim attitude. He had a mild interest in teaming up with a Methlum House
  • Rayah, The Monk took Orphans and ‘The Needy’ to making him one of the more humanistic characters
  • Web, The Blademaster went all out for wealth and power, being willing to commit murder for them. This made him -- alone amongst the characters -- something of a psychopath.


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.

  • As orphans and impoverished kids, they “came from loss” (Five of Cups) ...
  • They were powerful, with full of potential -- Ace of Swords ...
  • Currently they are “at the top of their class and defending their standing” (Seven of Wands) ...
  • And so-on, with their future being The Complex (“The Tower” of course) -- live or die.


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.

Then...
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.
 

-E.

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« Reply #7 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

  • They are not members of any political families that might provide a conflict of interest
  • They are more-than-capable combatants
  • If they die (as people given missions by the Emperor are expected to) whatever oddness is going on with them will be neatly resolved.

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:

  • An entry point to the complex’s subway system which would allow them to walk 35 miles underground to the Cube, avoiding the sea of giant scorpions
  • A deserted dungeon level at the edge of the Cube itself, that would provide them with access to the Cube
  • The interior of the Cube, where they’d be able to learn more about the history of their world before the collapse and recover the artifact.

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

  • Personal navigators -- Hand-held devices that are something like a cross between a GPS and a “life coach.” The Navigators allow the PC’s to see the dungeon maps of some levels, depending on how much “telemetry” is available. They have perky, annoying personalities and are always exhorting the characters to set SMART goals and re-examine their lives.
  • An Amoeba Grenade -- Contains one flesh eating amoeba. Which, if thrown at biological material, will eat flesh and multiply.
  • A Robot Decoy -- Looks like a small, rugged “boom-box.” Can (supposedly) trick robots in the area into thinking it’s an unauthorized intruder in the complex

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:


  • The “bank vault” is clearly the edge of the Quarantine seal -- the way into Cube, itself.
  • The skull-gear-thing is unexplained, but obviously dangerous. It’s called Megaldon. But spelled mEGGladon.

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.

Eggbots:


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:

  • They are manufacturing zones where new EggBots can be Instantiated
  • They are control points where you can change the direction of all the arrows, and thus the structure of the maze.

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

3:00


6:00


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”
« Last Edit: September 23, 2012, 09:22:09 am by -E. »
 

-E.

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« Reply #8 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.

mEGGladon
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.’

Lo-and-Behold...

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.
 

The Butcher

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« Reply #9 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

-E.

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« Reply #10 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...

Cheers,
-E.
 

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« Reply #11 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:

  • Any desire that would hurt someone was disallowed (people were allowed to desire self-harm within some boundaries)
  • Any desire that would make someone else unhappy had to be carefully managed (so if you desired that it rain all the time, or that the moon turn blue, those desires might not be met or might be met in a very limited way)
  • Manipulating someone’s emotions against their will or without their knowledge was prohibited (so no making someone love you).
  • Social manipulations (being popular or famous) were limited
  • Competitive desires (I want to be the X-est... richest, smartest, fastest, etc.) were problematic since many people might simultaneously desire to be at the top
  • Some people would want contradictory things like to simultaneously be two different people

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:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tuv3aQJ7qdI

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...
« Last Edit: September 24, 2012, 01:23:41 pm by -E. »
 

Benoist

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« Reply #12 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). :)

-E.

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« Reply #13 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...

Cheers,
-E.
 

-E.

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My 2+ Year Post Apocalypse Game
« Reply #14 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:
  • HEADLAND -- A small stone sphinx. Whoever owns it has a nightly dream of encountering the Sphinx on a rocky, barren plane. It asks the dreamer to tell it a joke -- a good one.. If the dreamer doesn’t, he dreams vividly of being eaten alive. If he tells a joke of acceptable quality, the Sphinx lets him go, and he awakens with an Success Point he can use in the game. He can have up to 4 SPs this way.
  • HARTSTRINGS -- A similar sphinx to HEADLAND, but asks the character to tell it a riddle
  • LINEOUT -- A swarm of floating eyes that attach themselves to a character and give him effective 360 degree vision. Also freaks people out.
  • PASADENA -- A fortune cookie that contains the following message: “You greedy, selfish, shallow little snot. You deserve EVERYTHING you're going to get” -- whoever eats the cookie gets a NEMESIS -- a character dedicated to their destruction. Their Nemesis is about as powerful as they are. Every time they defeat their Nemesis they get 5 hit points. Each time their Nemesis is defeated, it gets more powerful.
  • PRECEDENT -- a somewhat living salami with a pig face. Eating a slice of it makes you thirsty (it’s very salty) and gives you psychic visions
  • EFFIGY -- an ugly, ugly, ugly rag doll that gives the owner extra hit points, but if all of them are taken, the EFFIGY mutates into a Nemesis.
  • MAINLAND -- a small refrigerator door. Opening it reveals a small cold box in clearly extra-dimensional space. The first time it’s opened it’s filled with healing potions and other treats. After that, it contains a letter informing the characters that their tab at the Cosmic Minibar has not be paid. It won’t fill up unless paid off (the prices are exorbitant) and there may be other repercussions of having an unpaid cosmic tab.


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:

http://kiwi6.com/file/i42n5z7x1c

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.