Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Collaborative Biopunk FKR Setting

A collaborative (me and my good friend Wendi!) setting in the vein of d66 Classless Kobolds' challenge.


Genre: biopunk post-apocalyptic

Context: Ever so long ago the old world of metal and machinery faded away into this landscape of growing, thriving, modifying mechanorganic beings. Picture abandoned skyscrapers covered in organ-vines, cities built in the shells of long-dead Leviathans, seemingly bottomless caverns made of pulsing flesh. Biotech gone wild.

Almost all the tech you’d think of as made of shiny steel has its organic equivalent here, or has been taken over and twisted by a myriad of lifeforms in their own image. Here, the post-apocalyptic landscape is not the home of robotic overlords, nor a barren desert wasteland, but a vibrant, biting world where wildly different biomes overlap in seemingly random patterns while humans try to coexist with the remnants of a prior civilization that relied entirely on biotechnology and organic manipulation. Feisty meat wizards, lonesome spider shepherds, durable gut-rope harvesters, wandering mantis bladesmen, and so many others, all are welcome in this world. Because nature is anything but boring.

Random Tables: 

d12 modifications, mutations & quirks


1d6 eyes where they don’t usually belong


Chitinous exoskeleton with added pincers


Wings made of flesh (flightless, glide-only)


Ballistic Projectile teeth


Poly-ceramic armoured skin


1d6 extra limbs


Extra caustic hardened gut


Prehensile tail/s


Rebreather Parasite


Venom spit-sacs


Manipulatory tentacles/tendrils


A fungal colony that lives inside your brain and serves as a companion intelligence (not very smart)

d10 random encounters


Migrating lichen-beast forest


Questing spider-shepard


A pack of tripping mushroom-zombies


Parasitoid-infested old world Metal Demon


A mutated sapient flying snake


Veiled monks of the Genome Goddess, preachy


MEAT-MONGER of the Butchers Guild, suspicious


Caravan riding elephantine crab hybrids


An euphoric Sarcomancer


A group of desperate Corpse-Harvesters

d6 things you find in a Sarcomancer’s lair


Sentient tumour, mildly annoyed


Rapid-growth hormone spray


Scalpels and bonesaws


Detailed instructions on how to make a flesh golem


Ooze helper companion


Map to a place deep inside the Larvae Fields

d20 tech you can find here


Living buildings, self-repairing and -growing, but hungry


Radio-communication parasites


Adaptable, multi-use slime mold


Wasp gun


Spider-sheep silk textiles


Sentient, whispering bio-suits


Mining-modified plant roots


Portable Banshee sonic weaponry


Chitin-ceramic blades


Ant-derived wound stitchers




Pheromone Control Units


Kraken and Leviathan class sentient submersibles


Jellyfish Minefields




Meat Puppet Live Theatre


Fungus spore explosives


Ancestral memory storage in brain-banks


Bioluminescent plant light-sources


Single use implantable tapetum lucidum


d8 places to visit


Cathedral of Decay


The brain-dead body of an ancient god, not dead but dreaming


Lady Long’s Lizard Lovers Lair


The Bottomless Caves of Flesh


The ruins of a pre-war biotech weapon manufactory


A cemetery of Failed Chimeras


Lichen Ribcage Forest


The Pit of the Ever-Glowing Slime


  1. Biopunk is -punk. This means: radical, antifascist, anticapitalist, antinormative, DIY-inclined, loud, political. It’s about making the world a better place, not killing creatures and looting corpses (nothing wrong with that, just not what this is about). It’s about punching nazis, tearing down structures of oppression and having fun while doing it.

  2. Body-Modification. Forget those neonliberal tropes of “changing your body makes you less human” shit. Biopunk is all about doing whatever you want with that sack of flesh you’ve got. Want some boobs? Go get them. Maybe some horns, or a tail, maybe some prosthetic tentacles? No problem. Mutation is not an unwanted consequence, a sign of corruption or the horrible effects of magic gone awry - it’s a choice.

  3. Organic instead of metallic. Instead of machines, try to think about what their organic counterparts could be. Make up weird biotech. Think of fleshy pits instead of the same old rocky caverns. Life is weird and fascinating, try to push that up to 11. Why firearms when you could have flesh-eating squid launchers?

  4. Humanity is part of nature. Forget the nonsense anthropocentric idea of a nature/humanity divide. We’re part of it, even if we try to pretend we aren’t. And in this post-apocalyptic example, this is way more obvious and literal. What separates you from nature if you live in a symbiotic relationship with a sentient fungus? If all those skyscrapers are now so overrun with organ-vines that they’ve become part of its organism? If your ship has feelings, how do you treat it? This kind of setting invites us to questions like those. Your sword may be a sentient, pacifist companion. Your dead friend could suddenly come back, but different.

  5. The Weird and the Other are not necessarily scary, but fascinating. Why fear the unknown? The Weird and the Other here are things to be explored, things that shatter our understandings of the world. Embrace them.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Weird History Of The Earth & Solar System

Pre-Hadeon Eons (4.6+ billion years ago)

  • The flutist god-priests of Azathoth, the Daemon Sultan, Gaping Maw, Nuclear Chaos At The Center Of The Spiral Arms begin the eons long construction process of building the Throne of Azathoth, a grand singularity palace-enclosure.
  • The Eldest-Upon-Eldest-Ones emerge onto the cosmic stage from their nebula nursery home.

Hadeon Eon (4.6 billion years ago)

  • The solar system is formed from primordial starstuff. 
  • An Eldest-Upon-Eldest-Ones nomad treasure fleet strips the fifth inner planet bare as they replenish their stocks. The destabilized planetary remnants collide with earth forming the moon when the leave. 
  • An injured factory-shipling is abandoned, upon their departure, eventually coming to form the core of the Jovian moon Thebe.
  • Nuclearlithic lifeforms develop in Earth's mantle.
  • Nuclearlithics build spacecraft and settle several of the still molten planets and planetoids. Certain clades adapt themselves to quicker and smaller (by their geological standards) forms. Develop substantial orbital industry.
  • The body of Gatekeeper (Yog-Sothoth) passes through the solar system for the first time.
  • Yithians mind swap with several courtiers in the nuclearlithic courts. Record their history.
  •  Nuclearlithics are cut off from one another as planetary crusts cool, on tectonically inactive worlds their civilizations stagnate and collapse. Spaceborn nuclearlithics slowly die off or leave for other star systems. Asteroid belt is left littered with the corpses of nuclearlithic ships and construction projects.
  • Late Heavy Bombardment caused by de-orbiting of nuclearlithic corpses and structures.

Archaean Eon (4 billion years ago)

  • Early microbial life develops on the now cool and liquid water supporting earth.
  • The first shoggoths awaken in the primordial microbial soup.
  • Primitive life develops on Mars, is coaxed rapidly towards intelligence by the machinations of trans-dimensional sorcerers.
  • Martian civilization arises on the warm and wet planet.
  • Mars begins to lose its atmosphere, becoming colder and dryer. Civilization declines. The great polar machine brains are built in order to create a solution to the crises. 
  • Mars devolves into war over limited resources. First tripods are fielded. Water-rationing autocracies led by warlords hermetically sealed in their tripods soon develop.
  • Martians retreat entirely into polar bunkers under the watchful eyes of the machine brains.
  • Protoplasmic shoggoth ur-mind expands across the globe.
  • Machine brains deem Earth prospective but unsuited for habitation currently and enter into a hibernation state awaiting a future earth ripe for colonization.
  • Shoggoth ur-mind discovers the secret of photosynthesis, breakaway accelerationist cyanobacteria architect sects construct stromatolite fortress plains and do battle with the ur-mind.
  • Resulting Great Oxidation War kills off much life and fragments the ur-mind, remaining shoggoths retreat to the still anorexic depths of the oceans. Cyanobacteria sects inherit earth. 

Proterozoic Eon (2.5 billion years ago)

  • Eukaryotic life begins to develop.
  • The godling H Y P E R I O N arrives in the solar system hunting a fleeing god-priest of Azathoth, settles into orbit around Saturn to slumber while its heralds search every last inch of the system.
  • Huronian glaciation creates a snowball earth.
  • Martian machine brains forced into complete dormancy to hide from the godling's searching mind.
  • Factory-ship at the core of Thebe is discovered but ignored by herald-spawn.
  • After many many millennia in hiding the flutist god-priest kills? H Y P E R I O N in its sleep and the godling's corpse? becomes the methane moon Titan. God-priest flees solar system.
  • Distraught and masterless herald-spawn disperse, many hiding themselves away in the Oort Cloud.
  • A small number of herald-spawn come to the icy Earth. They manipulate biomass into more complex forms, shoggoths dredged out of their deep ocean homes and enslaved for the first time.
  • Monument on the moon is built by shoggoth slaves.
  • Herald-spawn depart en-mass with the extrasolar flyby of another minor godling, shoggoth slaves are taken along. Some spawn stay behind on the periphery of the solar system.

Paleozoic Era (542 million years ago)

  • The first complex multicellular life emerges.
  • Crinoid hive minds develop in the psychic landscape leftover from H Y P E R I O N 's dreaming. 
  • Crinoids slowly evolve the ability to manipulate other minds. Soon develop complex society, with enslaved nautiloid builder castes, eurypterid warrior drones, and other still carrying out their whims.
  • First vascular land dwelling plants.
  • The Great Race of Yith hijack the minds of a crinoid sub-species. Begin to build the basalt pillared library-city of Pnakotus on 'unoccupied' herald-spawn ruins. Heavy trapdoors are installed
  • Yithians collect knowledge from across time and space.
  • Crinoid hive minds angered by the theft of their brethren's bodies wage a multi-millennia long war on the Yithians. Remaining earthbound herald-spawn join in.
  • Pnakotus eventually destroyed and its library scattered. Yithian elites escape to far future and hijack the minds of a post-human clade to rebuild their library anew.
  • Crinoids enter a golden age of philosophy and thought poetry.
  • For a brief time a society of sentient Prototaxites fungus pillar-trees thrives in partnership with the Crinoid hive minds. But are soon outcompeted by other land dwelling plants. They escape to a sidereal dimension as beings of pure thought. 
  • Land dwelling tetrapods develop.
  • Crinoids hive minds languish in the ocean, unable to explore inland. Begin to construct massive reef palaces.
  • The Eldest-Upon-Eldest-Ones factory ship at the heart of Thebe, is discovered by Elder Thing scavengers who had come to harvest god brain-matter from the depths of Titan. 
  • Elder Things colonize Europa's oceans, introduce worker-shoggoths (descendants of herald-spawn enslaved shoggoths that we're taken from earth so long ago).
  • A city is built on Earth, in the place that will become Antarctica many megaannuam from now. Elder Things curiosly observe the declining Crinoid civilizations from afar. Some artifacts from Pnakotus are collected.
  • Slaveborn shoggoths brought to Earth come into contact with the original freeborn shoggoths. A massive revolt breaks out, nearly collapsing the Elder Things civilization. The factory-ship at the heart of Thebe is lost.
  • Meanwhile, amphibians dwelling in the coal swamps of Earth begin to worship Tsathogga the corpulent frog god.
  • Stagnated Crinoid civilization, using techniques learned from the records of Pnakotus, hijack the minds of their starfish cousins in order to lead a simpler, more ambulatory existence. Ancient reef palaces abandoned to the wild. 
  • Elder Things pan-stellar empire eventually does collapse under widespread shoggoth revolt, Europa sea-cities under siege. Antarctic city is cut off.
  • The amphibians lose their position of dominance with the rise of amniotes.
  • An attempt by earthbound nuclearlithics to reconnect with their spaceborn cousins fails. Rather bombastically. Creating the volcanic Siberian Traps and triggering the beginning of the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event.

Mesozoic Era (252 million years ago)

  • Earth gradually recovers.
  • The Long-Toothed God is born from the collective murmuring dreams of crocodilian archosaurs who have come to rule the land.
  • The Elder Things antarctic city falls, bastions on Europa still stand firm.
  • A singular soldier-instance of Ada Rigel, is stranded in orbit around Jupiter after passing through the body of Gatekeeper far in the future. Lands upon Ganymede and births further instances of herself beginning a time-displaced empire.
  • Instances of Ada Rigel make contact with slow thinking nuclearlithics on Io, trade philosophy, and astronomical data for heavy metals, isotopes, and engineering expertise.
  • Ada Rigel discovers the heavily damaged factory-ship at Thebe's core. Overhauls it and soon it becomes the center of their quick expanding empire.
  • Elder Things on Europa request assistance in breaking the shoggoth siege of their few remaining cities. Ada Rigel debates before agreeing in exchange for Elder Things bioengineering expertise. 
  • Ada Rigel expands to Saturn, then Neptune. Scouts sent to observe but not interfere with Earth. 
  • This new and fast growing mind attracts the attention of the herald-spawn in the Oort Cloud. They descend on Ada Rigel intent on ensuring the gestalt being. A vicious war is fought.
  • Herald-spawn decimated, retreat to their icy haunts. 
  • Triassic extinction.
  • Psychic reverberations attract a swarm of Polycrystalline Polyps to the solar system. Half of Oort Cloud dwelling herald-spawn are incorporated into the polycrystalline nodes. Polyps land on Mars, Venus, and other planetoids. Ada Rigel beats back polyps from Earth and Jupiter.
  • Ancient nuclearlithic ships are salvaged from the asteroid belt and refurbished by Ada Rigel. Europan Elder Thing biogenetic knowledge used to create a polyp derived star drive. Remaining instances of Ada Rigel depart for interstellar space with small contingents of Elder Things and at least one Ionian nuclearlithic.
  • Several instances of Ada Rigel are left behind on Luna and Ganymede in deep storage cry-bunkers.
  • Martian machine brains rewaken to drive off polycrystalline polyp incursion.
  • The Chicxulub Impactor wipes out dinosaurs.

Cenozoic Era (66 million years ago)

  • Mammals rise to dominance.
  • Weakened martian machine brains overthrown in a rebellion by hermetic cephalopod overseer class. 
  • Continents attain their present day arrangement.
  • A lone Polycrystalline Polyp breaks up in Earth's atmosphere, scattering pieces of itself across the world.
  • First hominids begin to evolve.
  • Psychic parasitoids detecting the emergence of higher stage sentience flock to earth, some species gradually achieve symbiosis and becoming humanities soul. 
  • Qiggish slavers following the migration of psychic parasitoids land on Earth and collect early hominids for use as cloned slave labour gene-stock.
  • Humans spread across the earth.
  • A Polycrystalline Polyp node deep in the caucuses begins to build an empire of brain-slaved humans during the early neolithic. Efforts of a sorcerer king and several tribes defeat it.
  • Rebellious cephalopod overseers force machine brains to plot an invasion of Earth, but damage from their incredibly long dormancy and the rebellion hinders efficacy.
  • Society to assist mind-jacking Yithian scholars originated.
  • Martian invasion is launched and promptly fails since highly complex contagions and microbes were not accounted for, easily dispatching many of the cellularly simple and immunally weakened invaders. Red weed becomes an invasive species. 
  • Nuclearlithics disturbed by human nuclear testing. Renewed interest in the study of the surface. Contact likely inevitable. 
  • Soviet Cosmonauts accidentally attract the attention of a polycrystalline polyp, build starships whose pilots are psychically tied to the crystalline control interface using its corpse (killed when a Vostok rammed it on re-entry). 
  • Present Day.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Jojiro's Orthodoxies II, Narration Answered

Answering the second part of Jojiro's Orthodoxies. The first answer can be found here.

Set 1, Using Your Own Words

"Some noise is coming from a building."
                                                        - A tired game master somewhere, probably 

1. Rewrite this as a single sentence. You want to convey that the structure is not sound.
        'A dribble of pebbles cascades down the weatherworn towers side sounding much like a tiny avalanche.' 

2. Rewrite this, still as a single sentence. You want players to picture a safe haven, a feeling of comfort that we get with freshly baked cookies at grandma's house. But do it implicitly - "Grandma's baking noise is coming from the safe haven" is not the point of the exercise, here.
        'The sound of boiling water being poured in clinking cups comes from past the warmly glowing doorway of the caravanserai.'

3. Rewrite this, still as a single sentence. You want to convey that this location is mildly dangerous.
           'A staccato of gunfire echoes from the other side of the stone wall followed by five meaty thuds, as if bodies dropping to the ground.'

4. Rewrite this, no sentence limit. You want to convey that this location is lethally dangerous - try to suggest a different type of danger than what you used for question #3.
             'An angry thrumming fills the air, cutting your thoughts into disjointed fragments, the black pillars flare brightly and the thrum steads to a dull miserable roar that needles you skin. From somewhere below you hear the faint sound of hymns chanted in a polycrystalline tongue.'

Set 2, Focus/Texture 

Describe where you think the GM is trying to draw the players' focus to. Describe what you find the texture or tone to be.

5. The dungeoning entrance is kinda big even to the humans in the party, but it is positively looms over the halflings, like a bloated elephant. There's even trumpeting and general cacophony to match! It's a right circus in there.
        Well the first sentence seemed to be a clear case of the GM trying to evoke a slightly a grand, bit grim tone, tinged with some dark humor... then something happened in the second bit and I really have no clue. Is there an actual circus?? Or just stuff that sounds loud like one??? Confusion

6. As you round the bend, Martha, you hear the crackling of flame and the popping of glass. The upstairs window that you spent much of your childhood daydreaming from bulges outward and shatters with a resounding crash, and the stoop where your mother always stood in the evening to greet you father groans as it folds in on itself.
        My first thought was victorian romantic adventure story. With lots of drama but also maybe some rooftop chases (one's family home doesn't usually explode naturally after all). The destruction is fairly obviously being tied into a player's character and their backstory and being milked for all the melodrama you can get out of it.

7. The floorboards creak and groan despite the party's best efforts to stay stealthy. The incessant scuttling sound continues too. First in the wall. Then in the ceiling. Then down another wall, and finally to the floor beneath our feet. Cackling follows the scuttling, half a beat delayed.
        Classic creepy foreboding as a threat closes in, combat (or something nasty) is most likely inevitable and imminent at this point, with the description merely being some nice terror buttered on top to give the upcoming encounter some oomph.

"A person hits a person."
                                                        - That same tired game master, probably.

8. Rewrite this, no sentence limit. The focus should be on a specific body part, the texture is meant to be visceral. You're drawing out the moment and making the hit meaty with impact.
        'Your axehead bites into the swordsman's arm cleaving through tendon and muscles and hitting bone with a sickening wet sound. The swordsman twists round with the force of the blow and twists back as you wrench your axe out leaving their arm dangling limp and broken.'

9. Rewrite this, no sentence limit. The focus is on the person who hits, not the person who is being hit. The texture is something personal to the person who hits - you're framing this as an important moment for them as a character. 
        'The punch hits solidly and satisfactory, years of pent up anger releasing as you deck the scoundrel, leaving your knuckles stinging white. Serves the bastard right for what they did to your father.'

10. Rewrite this, no sentence limit. The focus is on the scenery, and the texture is one of bleakness. Whatever combat is happening is ultimately pointless, and you're trying to make sure the party knows it. Zoom out, make the fight less personalized, less meaningful. Distance your description.
        'Two apes fight with crude flint axes. A pile of gut-pearls at their feet. Beyond them the corpse of a great starship half buried in the mountain side. And beyond and below that a barren expanse littered with ancient machine corpses. A triumphant yell and one of the apes falls to the ground dead. The other scoops up their meagre prize and notices you upon the ridge.`

11. Rewrite this, no sentence limit. The focus is on conveying facts. There should be as little texture as possible. It's the end of the session, everyone is tired, and while making this accurate is important, making it anything more would be a waste of time. You can see one of your players is already half asleep. You may want to rush his and call it a night.
        'The martian thug stabs Pauli in the stomach, but not before she shoots him dead. Unfortunately his partner seems to have booked it and taken the briefcase too. Looks like you'll be patching up Pauli and chasing down the other thug next session.'

12. Rewrite this, no sentence limit. You are trying to focus on a pathetic target of the hit, but not like, an assault victim or anything serious. Tonally you're aiming for a slapstick character who is the butt of jokes, bad timing, and who keeps getting beat on.
        'You slap the bureaucrat once across the face, then back the other way. The poor fellow jerks out of their panic only to fall backwards off their sedan chair and into a muddy puddle. They lay there for a minute then meekly wave you over, not bothering to get up.'

There we go, all done. Of course in actual play the answers would be a tad bit more disjointed and not flow as smoothly.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Fiend Folio Review I-L

The reviewing comes forth once again.

Ice Lizard
The Firedrake's frosty counterpart. Pretty bland. Basically just a less powerful dragon with an ice theme.

A fun gimmick, it mimics its opponents shape and attack patterns, but only one at a time, so missed opportunity for it to split off into multiple sub-sections that mimic each player and one core. The organ that when eaten grants polymorph is sweet and a good incentive to interact with this creature. Could maybe use something give it more distinct visual appearance however. As well, what does this creature do? Is it a wizard experiment? Does it exist as part of ecosystems somehow? 

An iron cobra being commanded to guard a treasure, protect the owner, or  assassinate a target (Alan Hunter, AD&D Fiend Foli… | Iron cobra, School  games, Old school

Iron Cobra
I love this thing, its literally just a metal snake that does what you command and has some poisonous fangs but I love it anyway. A bit sparse in abilities that make it unique (the hidden compartment for poison is nice) but 'big magic robot snake' is a strong enough concept it stands on its own (at least to me, but Im biased because I like big magic robot snakes).

Ehhh, they're snakes that leap at you? Not the worst of creatures but a bit bland. Could be spiced up with like, how people interact with them. Maybe they get used to make traps?

These guys are pretty neat enough, tiny evil people who will beat you up and wreck mischief. Bane-midges is a delightful name also. However they don't really speak to me in anyway. So I guess Im pretty neutral on them. 

The kamadan resembles a large leopard with 4-7 snakes emerging from its  shoulders. It appears to be … | Dungeons and dragons, Fantasy role playing,  Roleplaying game

Honestly this things pretty bitchin' even for how sparse it is. Sweet aesthetic, an interesting power (breath is a cone of sleep). But it does lack a certain je-ne-sais-quoi that would make it amazing. Namely it needs some motivations/behaviors/basically any kind of point for interaction that's not just combat. Maybe something that builds off of the sleep breathe. Does it kidnap people? Put them to sleep and eat their dreams?

A bit disappointing that they didn't play up the horse features but lump of seaweed that tries to lure you to your doom is fun enough. Some of that old 'evil sexy seductress stuff' and 'females' being immune (blech). The bit about kelpies perhaps having been created by a sea-lord angry that people did not pay proper respects is cool.

Its interesting how much Kenku have changed since this original one which is described as having the head of a hawk and has a rather noble bearing (quite the difference from the scraggily crow things of nowadays). The bits concerning polymorph and disguise feel wonderfully appropriate for the Kenku, but the other spells fall a bit flat since they don't really tie into the theme very well. I love the detail about them freely giving out treasure that will crumble to dust later, not enough of that sort of thing. Stuff like the treasure and the disguising feel delightfully folkloric, though its muddled by the naturalist bent many of these entries take.

Sold if odd. Got a reason to interact (the guts full of precious metals) got a unique feature (eats metals and rock) and a fun aesthetic (leaps out of stone like a fish). Could use some more concrete points of interaction, and the design is... odd. But a good enough being even if I couldn't see myself using it anytime soon. 

Not particularly my cup of tea but not bad either. A good 'spirit negotiation' type problem for the players to solve. the detail about cat/dog antagonism is excellent, especially since it offers a route for the players to take in order to remove one if that situation would arise.

Deep Dive - The Kuo-Toa — Dump Stat Adventures

Bestist. right up there with bullywugs. Love me some fish people. A bit iffy in areas (oh their naturally unstable and prone to insanity that's nice :I ) but underground fish people is such a strange & strong theme. I love the detail about them coating their shields with glue, and I utterly adore the bit about two kuo-toan priest's joining hands to shoot lighting, that's just mwah (I can't help but imagine it looks a bit like lightening bending from Avatar with the wide stance and pointing fingers). My biggest criticism is that there's lots of bloat and meaningless details (like the random table of strength scores ???). But their a soldi and fun concept to work with.

Lamia Noble
Meh, people with the lower body of a snake. Could be very evocative and cool in the right hands. But with just the text in this entry they're pretty boring. However I'm partial to snake people and I think they could be turned into something delightful with some work.

Lava Children
A pretty good aesthetic but like many of these entries lacking in strong hooks besides 'fight it'. The detail about just ignoring metal is good. 

Lizard King
L I Z A R D  K I N G
K I N G  L I Z A R D
They've got a trident and they mean to use it.
All Hail The Lizard King

That is all. Further reviewing in progress.