Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The NIGHT ZONE

There's no day and night is space. Obviously. But nonetheless, since most of us are creatures born and raised in a place with some diurnal concept, you can run into places that feel like night, out there in space. Day is the default, but night, night is something particular.

Sometimes when your spaceship is off course, and you're lost in the heavens, you can find yourself in... the NIGHT ZONE.


Cosimo Galluzzi
How does the Night Zone come into existence? Maybe there are no suns here for some reason. Maybe they're captured in Dyson spheres of some ancient alien civilisation who barely ever visit, or who live in the dyson spheres oblivious of what they've created outside of them. Maybe the Zone is surrounded by a dark nebula that blocks all but the brightest starlight. Maybe it's just cursed by a space god. Maybe there is no discernible reason, and it's just an odd, sunless place, a fluke of the infinite variability of the cosmos.


The Night Zone is never densely populated by people. There's no traffic of spaceships, no cargo lines. It's quiet. It's like when you walk around at night, really, that's why it's called the damn NIGHT ZONE. Silence, and a sense of both tranquility and impending danger. Also bats. There's a lot of space bats in the night zone that live in the wrecks of space cruisers and fly away into the cosmos ominously when you pass by. The occasional ship, orange headlights on, sleeting through the dark. A car through the rain finding its way back to its haunted radio show.

There's no real planets in the night zone. Well, that is to say, there are, but they're all just eerie cold-coloured gas giants that judge you quietly. Big, round ghosts. Or they're small rocky ones, maybe orphan moons, inert and idly dirfting by. A lot of asteroids though. Rocky pieces on which pale space lichen grows. Derelict stations and cruisers. Ruins of buildings on the floating rocks. That one's a belfry. Who built a belfry in space?



Arthur Suydam
There are forms of life in the NIGHT ZONE. Space bats, big and small. Lichens growing on debris. Odd, dark and leafless trees. White pale growths. Space vamps, space bats. But where did this come from? There's next to no light and no geothermal activity to really speak of. This is kind of the mystery of the Night Zone.

Portlight Dock


Somewhere in the Night Zone there is a station for ships to dock at. It's the only place in the whole area that really has economic activity, and most of that is smuggling. The Night Zone is a very handy thing to smuggle through, if you're equipped for it. Portlight Dock is a fat and shadowy Art Nouveau metalwork thing, its slow-moving huff-and-puffing industrial belly hanging over the side of the rock it's sat on, its long docking pole fingers sticking out in front of it. It trades in a lot of things that are destroyed by direct sunlight: in the bones of stars, in dark art (which is like regular art, but a few layers deeper), in orphan moonlight, in false ice, and so on.

The owner of Portlight Dock is Nyx, the alleged goddess of the night. She allegedly smokes cigars made of stardust like a steam engine, to the point where she looks like a thick gloomy nebula with two shiny pale legs wearing red slippers sticking out. She has many daughters, the Keres, who are specters of black velvet. They enforce their mother's will in Portlight Dock as a secret police, led by the eldest daughter Nemesis. Making a lot of noise among the otherwise hushed proceedings of Portlight Dock will put you on their radar.

Portlight Dock is the place to be for smugglers and people who want to hide from the law, debtors, the press, or themselves. However, all of the latter tend to hire bounty hunters in increasingly likely order. That's also a significant portion of Portlight Dock. This is easily the most alive place in the NIGHT ZONE. This means that people hurriedly skitter from bar to trading den to opium house to bar, trying their best to be seen by nobody, let a lone recognised. The streets are haunted by chilly mist and shadows slink through the alleyways and corridors. You'll have to go through a few redirections, a red-lit moonlight-catcher bar, a stalkhouse (fungal greenhouse), a few hideouts and probably a shadowy chase to get a hold of anyone, especially once they know you're looking for them.

When navigating Portlight Dock, watch out for the artists. The venom can kill in minutes. And, for the love of lady night, don't take the Unfission pamphlets.

Angel's Egg, 1985
The Antihelites

A bizarre religion that is based in a monastery on the yellow-blueish moon of pale azure gas giant PHRIKE ZERO, floating around in the vast nothingness. They observe what they believe to be "Mega-Anti-Suns" as the explanatory factor for the absence of any stars in the NIGHT ZONE despite the fact that there do seem to be planets, which assumedly orbit around something. A Mega-Anti-Sun, according to them, is a sun that emits light, but also absorbs all the light that falls on it- allegedly why planets in the NIGHT ZONE are visible, but these suns are not. Whether there is any proof to these claims seems to concern them little, as they have no way off their moon and the monks do not seem interested in leaving to find out either.

The pope of the Antihelite mystery cult is called the High Obscurator, and all its features are concealed from the monks in accordance with the Mega-Anti-Suns. The Obscurator communicates to those who seek its audience though a whispering voice and by changing the intensity of the light in the otherwise empty room where the communion takes place. According to the monks, a skeptical traveler snuck into their monastery once to find the High Obscurator, by smashing the walls of the audience room, but found nothing. Then they bricked him in, and in the dark of the wall he saw the Obscurator. That's the end of the story. They'll smugly tell you they bricked a man into the wall, as if daring you to go looking for the Obscurator yourself.

In fact, the whole place seems to have a conspiratorial, taunting atmosphere. For recluses the monks are too willing to let you stay. The physics of their theology are too shaky. They're throwing their cult-ness in your face. It's like they want you to ask questions you shouldn't so they have an excuse to do...something.


In exchange for your accomodation, the Obscurator asks you to…
…re-paint the big anti-sundial on the face of the monastery’s tower.
While doing this you accidentally discover…
…what the Antihelites actually worship.
…retrieve a monk who has gotten lost in the stalkhouse.
…what the High Obscurator is.
 ...find the leak in the monastery's plumbing.
...why the monastery was built.
...help the monks carve out a new cellar chamber. 
 ...who the man bricked into the wall is.
...move a bookcase of volumes to the new library. 
...why the monks don't want to leave.
...repair the machine that extracts drinking water from the subterranean ice.
...why the High Obscurator let you stay in the first place. 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Review: Anime

Hello, this is the author, Monsieur, speaking. I don't tend to break character as a narrator too often on this blog and I like it that way, but I thought that just to update this blog a bit I could go for something more casual for once. I could have come up with a novel way to structure this review, no doubt, in some narrative and tricksy vaguely esoteric-sounding way, but that almost feels par for the course at this point. I also need my darkest powers in different places, different times, right now. So, let's just look at these animated pictures from Japan.

Why anime? Beats me. Maybe because I don't read a lot of books like Dan does. If this seems inconsistent with my usual content, gosh, a shame, truly.


ANGEL'S EGG (Tenshi no Tamago, 1985, Yoshitaka Amano and Mamoru Oshii)

Angel's Egg is distilled from the mysterious memories of animated films people have seen as children and have been stronglyimpacted by in their visual thinking, but cannot remember the name of, nor what it was about. Watching this film will always feel like you've found something that has been forgotten about and stowed away somewhere, despite the entirety of it being on youtube. In a way this is a very sad film, but that's what makes it so remarkable.



NEON GENESIS EVANGELION (1995, Hideaki Anno at Studio Gainax)

I know. But still, I can't not mention it. That's why I'm doing this one early in, to get it out of the way, but not first, because I want the picture from Angel's Egg to show up as the thumbnail. I like Evangelion a lot, despite the criticisms that may be raised against it. When I saw it, there were a few moments where as a writer/creator I thought, oh, you can actually do that. Wild.

The original episode 25-26 ending is, in my opinion, the most important one, regardless of how experimental it may be. You can watch End of Evangelion somewhere after.



PAPRIKA (2006, Satoshi Kon)

Paprika is a very fun and playful film, which is odd, because so much of its content is eerie and a little grotesque. The music by Susumu Hirasawa contributes a lot to this- the opening credits and their accompanying score have one thing they need to convey: miss Paprika is delightful. While Christopher Nolan's Inception, similar in premise, is wearing Hollywood aviator shades indoors, Satoshi Kon's Paprika is a film from the heart.



FLCL (Fooly Cooly, Furi Kuri, 2003, Yōji Enokido and Kazuya Tsurumaki at Studio Gainax)

Fooly Cooly is juvenile, and that's not meant deridingly. It's just that there's no other way to put it: don't let appearances fool you, there are no adults in Fooly Cooly, it's not adult terrain. Fooly Cooly is the energy that fuels a teenager smugly making a sex joke just because it's naughty and exciting, while at the same time having little to no idea what they're talking about. Fooly Cooly is wacky as all hell and then some. I think the name might just be perfect.



MUSHISHI (2005, Artland, from manga by Yuki Urushibara)

Mushishi possesses a naturally profound calm and serenity, despite its ghost story-like appearance if you were to only look at the topics and proceedings of it. In Mushishi, nobody is really at fault or has ill intentions, and it wouldn't be the same otherwise. There's nobody to be annoyed by or hate or ball your fist at in Mushishi, not even by the show's intention. There's only people that you can feel compassion for. That's what gives this series its unmistakable, deep sense of tranquility.



BLACK LAGOON (2006, Geneon Entertainment, from manga by Rei Hiroe)

Black lagoon is a slice of life show. Despite its clear opinion that guns, smoking, and Revy's butt are very cool and definitely need to be in most of the shots, it really does feel like that. The bullet hell sequences are pretty much par for the course, but the bits outside of that are what gives this show its distinct darkly humoristic character. Don't expect this show to be serious.


LITTLE WITCH ACADEMIA (2017, Yoh Yoshinari at Studio Trigger)

This is my favourite Studio Trigger show, because I think I watched it exactly when I needed to. Across the echoing vastness of space resounds that primal cry of existence in the face of despair, and all shall know that it is: Yay.


EIZOUKEN ni wa Te wo Dasu na! (2020, Masaaki Yuasa at Science Saru, from manga by Sumito Ōwara)

When going into these reviews I decided not to review anything that Dan already had. This is the exception.

There's an expression people have that if a show is very good, it "saves anime." This couldn't be more apt, because anime is in constant need of saving from, well, itself. Eizouken is filled with wonder and imagination, but it's also very fun in a mundane kind of way, just from seeing the characters do what they do, be who they are, and get to be who they are. Eizouken is a series you can show to anyone. Because it's made for everyone. It only needs its sense of heart to sell itself. Not shiny effects, d-cups, or earth-shattering fight scenes. There's animated bits in Eizouken that are very imaginative and wonderful, yet I don't think it needs them. Eizouken is special, because it's normal.

Dan mentions that this show really understands what he and some other people I have talked to call The Moment, a lasting impression as a kid where you are first inspired to pursue your creativity. But you know what? I think the person I relate most to in terms of temperament in this show is Kanamori, the business-minded, demanding, managerial friend of the main set. And I don't think I have a The Moment. At least I don't remember it. When I see it happen in Eizouken no related memory of my own clicks in. There's no real central moment of inspiration at the core of my creative identity. There's no origin story episode. So when Dan et al. all seemed to instinctively understand what The Moment was, I thought to myself just briefly: did I do creativity wrong?

Heh. Yeah right. That'd be rich, wouldn't it, if you could actually do that? But you can't. You can't do it wrong. You can only do it.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Six Eccentric Fantasy Millionaires

A short little post for fun in between the larger project of REVANESCENCE_, to return for a bit to a more fantastical setting rather than RVNS's grimy bizarro cyberpunk.

Old Money versus New Money is a very fun political conflict to use in fantasy. It pits entitled, conceited and flabby nobles against unscrupulous, scheming and underhanded merchants. They're both awful, but awful in a different way. And they're both wealthy and dressed up in excessive costumes, which makes their awfulness even more entertaining to watch. It's fun, as players, to pick sides based on whose kind of awful you like better and which of these horrible people has the prettiest dress. Not to mention that there are also The People™, whose vocal members are likely opposed to both.

This post focuses on new money: traders, merchants and other moguls who have "made" their own fortune rather than inherited it. I say "made", because it is simply impossible to achieve a certain degree of wealth with clean hands.

Pay heed: none of the following characters are, or have ever been, adventurers like your typical rpg players. Ratcatchers somehow becoming millionaires by looting a dragon hoard or getting lucky with a Deck of Many Things is like trailer park hillbillies winning the lottery. Nobody respects it and it usually doesn't last long.

Art by cy-lindric
1: Zaffiro Biscia

A goblin from the textile markets, trader first and tailor second, made a big name for himself when bringing to the market a thus far unheard of concept: brassières for harpies. Since the models remedied the common harpy problem of the whole situation knocking about rather uncomfortably when flapping their wings in flight, it got very popular very quickly. Biscia quickly patented the design- that is to say, he used his early revenue to hire swordsmen who would make short work of anyone who tried to sell a similar item. The name Biscia generated buzz. The name Biscia became popular.

Eventually other textile moguls tried to follow his model once they realised how much money he was making off it, but it was far too late: Zaffiro Biscia had become not only a wrinkly bitter green lemon in priceless brocade robes, but also the first true fashion brand, which was the real source of his money: a well-known name with prestige. 

A locustman rival of his claims to this day that Biscia stole the bra design from him, while in fact Biscia bought it off a hermit sphinx for that year's version of the Riddles & Rhymes Almanac, telling her that that was probably the best she was going to get for it.


Market: Textiles and Fabrics

Personal Aesthetic: Snake mosaics with sapphire eyes, brocade and silk fabrics, colourful mediterranean marble.

Notable Enemies: Those ferrety cheapskates from Canvas & Canvas. The Fabric Dyers Union. Silk Worm Rights activists. That sphinx, who realises she's been conned. Lorenzo of  Iremo the locustman. A vocal harpy coven who consider Biscia's bras a patriarchal attempt to control harpy freedom through taboo.


Shady Secrets: Buys from and endorses large scale fiber plantation slave labour on surrounding islands. Has had multiple business rivals killed by poisoning, by the hand of a secret brotherhood of assassins. Disgusted by other goblins and considers himself to be an exception to, and the pinnacle of, the race.


Art by Thomas Lawrence
2: Helena Puderzucker

While she was the toymaker's daughter and a Disney Princess-ish happy go lucky young belle, taking everything in stride and loved by every quirky dweller of her gingerbread fairytale mountain town, Helena Puderzucker took the adive to heart that with her inexhaustable energy and the smile of destiny on her face, she could do anything.

And she became a factory owner.

She bought mine after mine, forge after forge, and with cold, calculated bookkeeping skills, turned them into what Saruman would have wanted Isengard to be if he could afford it. Puderzucker Steel isn't a business that wants to be liked, it's not based on some novelty product or marketing wonder. It's an iron and steel monopoly. It should be clear how terrifying that is. These days Helena Puderzucker lives in a picturesque small castle on top of a mountain which takes an elevator to reach. What she gets up to there, the richest woman of the country and then some at the age of twenty-eight, is anyone's guess. But allegedly, she grows increasingly depressed as her frilly pastel tea parties grow more desperately garish and obscenely decadent. She is always the only person attending.

Market: Steel

Personal Aesthetic: Grand Budapest Hotel, Austrian and Viennoise pastry kitsch.

Notable Enemies: Amicable local blacksmiths who need to provide for ther kidnapping-prone daughters. Druids, fairies and animals living in the forests cut for the steel industry. Her many greedy male suitors after discovering she makes no pretenses about being gay. Her many greedy female suitors after discovering she won't marry any of them. Her regretful but jealous father. The brewing beginnings of a miner revolution. The ghosts of a LOT of miners.

Shady Secrets: Had two mine collapses covered up that killed over a thousand miners. An obsessive collection of rare cigar bands that she has destroyed the lives of innocent collectors over. A gratuitous blackberry pie fetish.

Art by Mortunn
3. Wu Hong (弘)


Wu Hong only ever eats his own shark. That is, shark that was caught for him, specifically. To be served in his own restaurant, which has one table: the table for Wu Hong. Not that there’s anything wrong with the rest of the shark his company sells. In fact it’s the best shark you can buy. Because it’s the only shark you can buy. You better not go fish for shark, you hear?

Hammerhead sharks in truth not that rare in the sea where the Wu Fishing Company sails. They’re caught with nets and harpoons, and end up as filets and soups in porcelain bowls. Everyone with a bit of money wants to eat shark. It’s common enough that it's not too hard to catch, but rare enough that you can dress it up and sell it as a delicacy and make people seriously overpay. And Wu Hong has built a company on this.

Wu Hong doesn't even like shark that much. But Wu Hong has a lot of money. People want to be Wu Hong. So if Wu Hong eats shark, so will they.

Market: Hammerhead Shark Meat

Personal Aesthetic: Large displays of shark scrimshaw and ornamental weaponry, lacquered wood, excessive amounts of ornaments made from jade, pearl, malachite etc.

Notable Enemies: Impoverished fishing villages. The Imperial navy - in a poor state and exceedlingly worried about the Wu Company's fleet of "chaperones" allegedly built to protect its shipping vessels. He () the Mermaid Queen of the White Sea. The infinitely less succesful Wu siblings. Death Emperor (死帝) the great black shark that bit off Wu's hand.

Shady Secrets: Murdered his own senile father while on a fishing trip to inherit his wealth before it was gambled up by the old man. Personally funds pirate bands to prey on independent fishermen. Cursed by the Mermaid Queen so that any woman he has a child with will birth dead fish instead,  because her son (a shark) was fished up and served to Wu by the company.


Art by Francisco de Zurbarán
4. Babi Suri

One of the most widespread drugs is a powder, yellowish and crystalline like sugar, that tastes like lemon-flavoured rock candy and is poured onto the tongue with a spoon or sometimes mingled into coffee or tea. It's called Citrus, and it's refined from the lemon-like fruit of one particular big tree. The name of this tree is Babi Suri. She (as that is what the tree calls herself despite being both male and female, which is how trees work) is sentient, sapient, more than two-thousand years old, and she is very rich.


When in the old times a gentle old woman came to pick lemons, she discovered that a taste of this odd fruit knocked her over the head with spaced out euphoria. Unfortunately for her, Babi Suri had noticed before how valuable that feeling was, since at night she was also a hotspot for mushroom dealers. So, having discovered her own marketable potential, Babi Suri made the decision that seemed most logical and agreeable to her. She ripped the woman's head off with a branch, then she sent locals to fetch her a chymist and developed with him the Citrus as it is known today. Then she ate him. Though "drank him" may be more appropriate.

Now she roots in a garden inside of a fortress manned by two-thousand swordsmen, and she's tended to by two-hundred nurses. Babi Suri wants for nothing. Except, well, more. More in general.

Market: Drugs


Personal Aesthetic: Ottoman and Turkish architecture, the first part of The Thief and the Cobbler, many black-turbaned guards.



Notable Enemies: The Sultan, who is seeing his people suffer in the grip of  Citrus but whose military forces are preoccupied. Almas Al-Amir, a narcotic gum trader from overseas whose drug empire is being decimated by the cheaper Citrus. The faithful who condemn such dehumanising substances. The spirit of the chymist, who escaped from Babi Suri in the form of a water vapour. Other magical plants filled with moral disgust and/or jealousy.



Shady Secrets: An addiction to a drug which is derived from the sap of desert cacti. Has to steal the fertility of other creatures, both male and female, so that she can bear bountiful fruit all year round. Has re-established the worship of a bloodthirsty old god, to keep the Sultan's army scattered dealing with its murderous zealots.



Art by Gustave Dore
5. Eustice Morel

Sometimes, it's not an ironclad monopoly or a hypersuccesful product you need. Morel & Krumpf Printing turns its monster profits because of Eustice Morel, and to Eustice Morel, 0.9999 and 1 are not even close to being the same thing. Every evening, Eustice Morel himself goes through all the paper bins to check whether they've all been filled on both sides. When you're using a charcoal or a pencil at Morel & Krumpf, you only get a new one when you turn in the stub that proves you've used it to its fullest extent. You're fired if break stops at half past and you show up to your desk at half past instead of already sitting behind it.

Though everybody hates Mister Morel, the pay is decent comparatively good (but objectively terrible). Morel pays just enough that compared to the other options, people will rather suffer his harsh regime for the extra dimes. It's all part of Morel's designs for Morel & Krumpf Printing, his life's work. No decimal goes unnoticed. Nothing is ever unaccounted for.

Well, except for Mister Krumpf. That's what everybody wonders. If it's called Morel & Krumpf printing, then who the hell is Mister Krumpf?

Market: Printing

Personal Aesthetic: Late Gothic and early Victorian, metalwork windows and gargoyles, austere and miserly interiors.

Notable Enemies: Notorious thief Ringworm Jack, whose favourite pastime is stealing single pennies from Morel's business and watching him go mad over it. The Inking House ever since Morel & Krumpf started using block printing for their illustrations instead. The budding socialist movement. Morel's disowned absynthe-fuelled daughter. The police, whom Morel dislikes on principle.

Shady Secrets: Has been consistently and calculatedly using loopholes in the law to avoid taxes. Blackmails the local undertaker to obtain a corpse every other week, to feed to Mister Krumpf. Mister Krumpf, a horrible man-sized human-bat creature that Morel keeps in a cupboard.


Art by Elle Michalka

6: Iova Blue

Anyone who has met Iova Blue in person may well be considered an expert in the dangerous symptoms of adderall and cocaine overuse. She's also a brightly luminescent Electric blue, skin hair and all, causes static shock when you touch her most of the time, talks like a sped up film and is always moving somewhere. She gets a nosebleed every once in a while and barely notices.

She's a  math wizard and designer, who develops supermathematical cerebromunculi and Abraxean semiholographigrams at the highest state of the arcane art. According to the young wizards and alchemists who have attended her pitches and TED-talks, Iova Blue is the closest you can come to enlightenment without your brain turning into liquid starfire and bursting out through your ass. A reckless genius with an infinite dream, a maverick and the one-person frontier of magic computing. 

Magic computing is developing quickly. Every wizard needs it these days. Every wizard needs Iova Blue. Iova Blue is hypnotic. Iova Blue is brilliant. Iova Blue stands in the vanta-white grainfields at night, tuning into the aria of the cosmic particles sleeting through the void aflame. Iova is Pinnacle. The New begins in Blue. 

Market: Magical Computing

Personal Aesthetic: Impossible contraptions, complex occult machinery alternated with modern glassy polygonal shapes. This track.

Notable Enemies: Elderly wizards who see nothing wrong with doing their computing according to the time-tested golem-with-abacus method. The Guild of Mathematicians, who have lost both the limelight and many employment options. Philosophers, watching with existential terror. ABRAXAS, THE PRIME FRACTAL, because he has had a well-outlined plan for the computer apocalypse and Iova Blue is starting to cause bits of it a small millenium ahead of schedule, throwing off all of his models and predictions. 

Shady Secrets: The machinal parts of the computers are manufactured under horribly dehumanising conditions by slave homunculi, the organic parts even worse. Sporadically emits bursts of highly carcinogenic radiation, much like burps: seventeen deaths and counting. Every once in a while the organic parts of a computer wake up to their nightmarish existence.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

REVANESCENCE_: The Strata

When you build an apartment, or a big hotel, or some monster skyscraper, all the way at the top you've got the the penthouse. Crème de la crème. The tip of the pyramid, the golden cherry on top of the looming and oppressive cake. So when the world's made of skyscrapers, there's a membrane that forms on top of it. All those penthouses interlocking, and forming a new crust of the earth, a coat of elitarian champagne icing. But underneath, as the final ray of sunlight disappears, you get a thick layer of slummy, brutal, concrete rosters. The new underground, the new sewer of the world, except it's trash and cigarette smoke instead of fire and brimstone. Though the latter are no doubt also in the mix somewhere.

THE STRATA are a gargantuan megacity that spans the entire earth. Permanently locked underneath the shiny wonder-world of the crust, housing 99% of the human populace, they're a bizarro nightmare world of boundless, merciless capitalism and anarchic violence. They're your typical cyberpunk setting, but there is no dead channel sky to look at. It's concrete, plastic and metal all the way up, until the thick titanium shell that cordons off the crust. And it's concrete, plastic and metal all the way down until you start getting into the old places. The derelict, societyless abyss.

REVANESCENCE_ games take place in the strata for the great majority. Either the crust or the abyss are endgame places. The Strata are the world. The crust is venomous heaven, the abyss is ???. Late game missions that deal with uncovering some real weird shit will likely take you to the abyss. Of the crust, you wouldn't ever get more than a glimpse.

Ghost in the Shell, 1995
The strata have many types of environments within them, obviously. On the scale of a handful of players, they're an enormously diverse landscape. To map them I think a hexmap is ideal, however, it would have to be a three-dimensional one, since in the strata you move up and down as well as on a flat plane. Assumedly you can do this by thinking of it in layers and making a hex map per layer, as a rudimentary solution.

A more advanced and novel way of mapping the strata is in the works.

What are examples of types you would describe strata hexes/cubes with? Here are a few types.

>>Kowloon: Mass slum apartments, small scale stores and food joints, junker repair and salavage shops.
>>Bàngōngshì: Enormous office blocks filled by thousands of clerks and desk slaves for a corporation, overseen by some supercomputer. rigorous in their structure but under poor maintenance.
>>Fabrika: Mostly automated corporate factory complexes infested with scrapper colonies that parasitise on the monolithic never-sleeping cheap production lines.
>>Superjoy: Overpriced corporate arcade parks, tailored specifically to fire all sensory neurons needed for optimal dopamine release and optimal spending. Most have a decent kill count from sensory overstimulation and epilepsy attacks.
>>Lotus: Large red light district clusters of massage parlours, (strip) clubs, drug parlours, love hotels.
>>Wèiliǎo: Abandoned megaprojects like swimming pool complexes or huge malls now inhabited by gangs, slum residents, squatters.
>>Myasorubka: Corporate meat cloning, growing and harvesting plants, with large refrigerated sections and grotesque machines.
>>Mukumi: Giant heaps of compressed trash. Hideous stench noticable in all hexes around it. Infested with strata animals and scavengers.
>>Atomkraft: nuclear power plant facility to supply the surrounding areas with power. Irratiated areas, obviously terrible mantenance. Leaky.
>>Nojo: Enormous hydroponic farms of vegetative food, automated by machines, kept secure by drones and walls to keep out scavengers. Brightly lit with white lights to supply the veggies with light.
>>White Ant: Dense, heavy machinery and structural metal elements, with only claustrophobic maintenance tunnels to move through, like a termite burrow.
>>Tǒng cāng: Industrial silos or fluid tanks. Megastorage. If they are disused squatters will live inside the empty ones, despite high likelyhood of toxic chemical residues.

>>Boloto: Water purification plant and/or sewage complex, an enormous mass of reeking plumbing processing industrial and human runoff.
>>FakeworldCorporate studio complex of reproduced settings and sets to record media and pop culture. Plasticy and uncanny. Home to depressed and overworked popstars of corporate manufacture.
>>Ganglion: Huge bundles of cables as thick as tree trunks where the local web of net cables convene. Space between the cables is filled up by data companies' monitoring centers harvesting food for the algorithms.
>>Hibun: Supercomputer modules and mass data storage, kept in enormous hermetically sealed pillars. Incredibly quiet save for a low hum.
>>Apfelkopf: Laboratory compounds for research too grody or dangerous for the crust. Mass industrial labs for development and testing of new chems and materials. Usually a blacksite.
>>Caduto: Boneyards of old satellites or orbital constructions that fell or were lowered down from orbit and got incorporated into the structure of the strata when the earth's satellite network was replaced.

>>Ulajhan: A glitch in the architectural software used for the strata's construction that has thus far been overlooked in terms of repair. From unease-inducing to outright lethal. Nooks and crannies inhabited by strange dwellers. Repair may be in progress.
>>Etiolated: BIO_ has exploded here. A container leak or shipment burst. Now it's full of...life, but it's not green plants. This is adapted to the concrete matrix and the lack of sunlight. Decidedly alien.


Dominik Zdenkovic
"Law" in the strata comes from two poles: from corporate, whose privatised policing forces have no purpose but to protect corporate interests in the strata, and from the mob, who are the effective holders of territory and are the closest thing to local governments you'll find.

Corporate police (CORPOs) are human dominance-horny assholes, or military grade killer bots, and both have two operatives: protect corporate infrastructures, and punish transgressions on corporate property. HEART_s, and CORPOs, amongst others, are corporate property. The human ones have nigh limitless health pools since they are linked to a private corporate BIO_ pool, and therefore it is impossible to kill them by just shooting them up. You'll need to jam their regeneration to keep them at bay, and then destoy the HEART_ if you want to kill them for good. Whenever you break corporate law and CORPOs are sent after you, they will hunt you based on your net trace, facial recognition surveillance, etc. So for any stunt that boldly transgresses against corporate you need a plan to change or scramble your identity afterwards, or come prepared with a fake one.

Gangs and Mobs are myriad in size, creed, power, and style (which they find very important). They're the feudal local governments in the strata, and constantly engage in turf wars, honour killings, dishonour killings, extortion and blackmail, and so on. Among many gangs there is a culture of prestige, materialistic machismo and a tendency to flaunt expensive things (which they then kill each other over). They'll starve in their Ferrari. This is the main reason why corporate is so okay with them. They buy their overpriced crap simply because it's overpriced.

Many old and powerful mobs are evolved from nationalist offshoots and remnants of long-gone country militaries and mafia. Their loyalty to a long-dead nation is like the worship of a sect. 


Source unknown
Some people in the strata worship the zodiac's promise of success. They believe they live in a true meritocracy, and they believe that the system works perfectly. They practice forms of self-flagellation, because they believe they, slackers, deserve to be strata dwellers. Grinding their spine and their hands to dust on thankless corporate jobs is their ascetic prayer. They idolise the startup myths, the rags-to-riches tales. They worship the portals and the professions, the scent and the mountain of sugar. They wanna be power callers (seriously, watch this movie). They think the rich are perfect, and the poor are despicable, despite being amongst the latter. Needless to say, they are completely insane. Corporate loves these idiots. Everyone else hates them.

Though, even if you're not one of these freaks, chances are that your lucky charm is a little rat with a tie keychain. That your phone has a golden tiger case. That the cigarettes you smoke are Lucky Pig brand. And so on. You might not have the zodiac on your mind, but they are within the flesh and bones of the strata, the world, the people, the bodies and the thoughts. They seat in the pagoda of the collective and individual unconscious.



Thursday, December 5, 2019

NR::CRNCH (Aka how to use existing systems to run REVANESCENCE_)

I do not have time to make an entire system for REVANESCENCE_. I am a graduate student in biology (The only true factoid about me on this blog) and both time and energy are sparse. But, what I can make is this.

/////////NR::CRNCH_____boot_seq.exe


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//////////////// ADMINISTRATOR ACCESS REQ
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dd-d@rt##!§        
ERROR_BIN:
01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01110110 01101001 01110010 01110101 01110011 00100000 01100101 01110010 01101111 01100100 01100101 01110011 00100000 01101101 01111001 00100000 01101001 01100100 01100101 01101110 01110100 01101001 01110100 01111001 00100000 01100011 01101111 01110010 01110010 01110101 01110000 01110100 01110011 00100000 01101101 01111001 00100000 01100101 01111000 01101001 01110011 01110100 01100101 01101110 01100011 01100101 00100000 01101111 01101000 00100000 01100111 01101111 01100100 00100000 01101001 01110100 00100000 01100010 01110101 01110010 01101110 01110011

This is NR::CRNCH. It's a set of rules which should be true in a RVNS_ game. So, in reality this is "how to hack any other RPG system to become something that you can run RVNS_ as a setting with". A veritable hacking protocol.

Beneykt Szneider
(you need to read this and this post to understand this)

HEALTH:

Health is money. Credit. Your funds and your party's sum of health are interchangeable, unless your money is cash. When you're hit you die, and the "damage" you would take in health is instead subtracted from your credit. BIO_ and credit are nigh the same thing. Life is Money. Balance the amount of money you give your players with the amount of health they are supposed to have between them at a certain point in the progression. How and if they share it is their problem.

HEART_ regeneration is near-instant, and the HEART_ posseses limited EMTK (Electromagnetic telekinesis) to ensure that clothing and cybernetics stay in the right place upon regeneration. So dropping your johns the moment you get hit once is entirely on you.

///IMPLICATIONS:

-> This means the players can redivide health pools freely whenever by transfering credit to each other. Keep this in mind for balance.
-> There is no longer a max/full health concept.
-> Health is no longer skill dependent, but money-dependent.
-> You can't heal with "free" skills, like cure wounds spells. You "heal" your lost health/money after a job by selling what loot you got from it. When going on a mission, apart from a combat strategy, players should also have a looting strategy. Even if the mission fails, clever players will make sure they can make off with enough loot to cover the cost of the BIO_ they burned through. 
-> Think about the kind of money you allow your players to gather. Don't give your players large sums of money in a system that deals low damage numbers because it normally has low health numbers. Money and damage need to be of the same degree of magnitude for a mechanic like this to be balanced.

CRITICAL HITS:

When you get hit with a weapon, there's always a chance your HEART_ gets damaged. HEART_s have a sturdy casing but a direct bullet impact can still put a dent in it. A critical hit can cause:

-> extra damage as the HEART_ malfunctions and uses up more BIO_ than necessary by producing a few failed regenerations before making a proper new you.
-> dead time (badum tss) as the heart needs to reboot/resynch: it takes a round to regenerate instead of being back instantly.
-> flukes or damage in gene data: mutation, perhaps permanent.
-> flukes or damage in neuropattern data: amnesia/personality glitches, perhaps permanent.

Every time you are critically hit you take a strike of permanent damage to your HEART_. Five strikes and you're out. Corporate HEART_ repair is very pricy, but finding an underground Love Doctor (HEART_ mechanic) is extremely risky, and it's impossible to know who you can trust.

You, hacking an rpg with NR::CRNCH
SYNTHETICS:

You can play as a synthetic as well as a human being, and they work somewhat similarly. A synthetic has its vital hardware in a resilient casing, a BRAIN_, and an expendable shell body around it. Synthethics' shells are cheaper than BIO_, but they can't regenerate when destroyed. However, a synthetic can swap bodies. Unlike HEART_s, which contain a neuroscan and body plan but no actual living part of you, the BRAIN_ really is a synthetic's working, thinking brain. So they are still conscious (in fact, technically alive at all) without a shell.

A synthetic's BRAIN_ on its own usually has little to no offensive power but high mobility that allows it to swap shells by itself. It can only swap to shells that are built to accomodate it. A BRAIN_ of model x cannot swap to a shell build for model y. It can swap to a shell built for model x.1 or x.2 at best, and that might cause bugs. But you can take shells to a mechanic to be refitted for your BRAIN_ model.

There are two mutation equivalents for synthetics. Bugs, which are tied to a specific shell, and Corruptions, which are in the BRAIN_ and always apply. Cheap shells will have plenty of bugs.

Shells are not necessarily humanoid. They can take many forms and sizes.

Critical hits on synthetics cause corruptions or damage to the BRAIN_'s mobility and/or other abilities. The BRAIN_, like the HEART_, has a five-strikes system, gaining a strike every time when it is hit.

///IMPLICATIONS:

-> Synthetics are more vulnerable in combat than humans because they cannot regenerate when being hit and need to put themselves in a vulnerable position to re-acquire a body. In return, they can have very high versatility by gathering different types of frames.
-> Synthetics are immune to chemical weapons (pheromones, sleeping gas, choking gas and neurotoxin, etc)but they are vulnerable to EMP and cyber- and hacking-type attacks.
-> Synthetics are not directly dependent on the money pool to stay alive. Since the BRAIN_ is built for escaping situations in which a shell may be destroyed, synthetics have a higher chance of making it out alive (though vulnerable) when significantly outgunned.
-> Synthethics' saves, movement, physical stats, everything that's not mental/cybernetic is determined by the shell they are in.


Ghost in the Shell, 1995
SNAILS:

Snailing is a soft-hack of the HEART_'s functionalities that isn't technically illegal (because it doesn't actually break into the HEART_), so corporate doesn't get a ping and send repo men after you when you do it. It means that you gradually get your bits replaced with mechanical parts until you're up to three quarters machine, one quarter meat. Basically robocop, but less badass because you're cobbled together from affordable or stolen parts. They could rebuild you, but they only barely had the technology.

What makes this work is that as mentioned, the HEART_ will use EMTK to keep your clothes and cybernetics in place when regenerating. Snailing relies on the fact that most of your body is a cybernetic and exploits that to, when your mechanical shell is shot up, have the HEART_ reassemble your broken shell while only needing you to pay for half the bio because most of you is machinery.

As a snail, you take only three quarters (level 1), half (level 2), or a quarter (level 3) damage to your BIO_ when hit, but regenerating takes respectively one, two, or three turns because the HEART_s EMTK is not terribly powerful/fast. During these turns you are effectively helpless.

As soon as two entire limbs are fully cybernetic, you count as a level 1 snail. All four limbs, a level 2 one, and everything but your head, a level 3. This also applies for different distributions of mechanical bits.

Cybernetic parts that are re-assembled more than three times without repair will not return to functionality even when reassembled by the HEART_: its meat regeneration ability may be extremely precise and sohpisticated, its EMTK remains a side feature of convenience. So you will still need to repair your cybernetics every once in a while.


Jan Buragay
SETTING: 

REVANESCENCE_ takes place in the strata of the world: kowloonesque layers of slum housing and such, all stacked and overarched to form what is pretty much a new underground layer of the earth. There is no sky. There is no real soil either, it's just concrete and metal and so on. There is nothing there that's not man-made, and most of it is subject to decades of decay and halfassed maintenance. The crust, where the corporate elite lives, is an entirely different world, that is separated from the strata by a thick military-grade impenetrable ceiling, with only a few elevators and hatches that go through it (which are some of the most high-security sites of the strata). Downwards, in the deepest strata, you have giant abandoned mining and housing complexes that are inhabited by mutants, scavengers, and if you go deeper still, you come into truly bizarre territory, where secret corporate outposts and hidden enclaves of anarchists and ascetic anti-zodiac monks are interspersed on the borders of reality.

///IMPLICATIONS:

-> No sunlight. Solar panel tech is non-existent. Overpriced vitamin capsules and cancer-inducing UV lamp treatments have taken its place.
-> Rain happens, but it's topside water drainages and evaporated water from the layers and layers of strata forming mists and precipitating.
-> There are no CEOs or high-tier corporate moguls that actually live in the strata. All employees down here either are, or answer to, a company synthetic or computer.
-> This is an governmentless capitalistic world. Basically nothing is illegal in the true sense, except for things that clearly jeopardise corporate's dictatorship over people's lives, like HEART_ hacking. Law in the strata comes from the myriad of gangs, triads, and mobs, some of which come from leftovers of old governments and militaries.

Alexis Rives
This is the basic necessities to accomodate REVANESCENCE_. Everything else, from weapons to cybernetics to enemies to whatever, you can keep using from whatever system you use for this. RVNS_ supports/includes a lot of classic cyberpunk and science fiction elements anyway.

More posts about this setting will come, which can help you in enriching the setting, coming up with plots and missions for your players, factions, gadgets, lore, that sort of thing.

///###########/// RESTORING FUNCTIONS...

MESSAGE_BIN:
01100011 01101111 01101110 01110011 01110101 01101101 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01110000 01110010 01101111 01100100 01110101 01100011 01110100 01110011 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01110011 01110100 01110101 01110000 01101001 01100100 00100000 01101101 01101111 01101110 01101011 01100101 01111001

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//////////////// SYSTEM REBOOTING.
################                        START NORMALLY?_