Thursday, December 19, 2019


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, but it's not green plants. This is adapted to the concrete matrix and the lack of sunlight. Decidedly alien.

Art by 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. 

From the anime "Wicked City"
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.


################                         UI REee
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 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.


-> 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.


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

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.


-> 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

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

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.


-> 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...

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

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

Friday, November 1, 2019

Simply Ghouls (plus d50 human bones)

Reading Arnold K's post about undead scraps, I realised that this blog contains far too little of the undead, which I hold so dear because I find the blurring of the line between life and death a quintessential aspect of dark fantasy. It has a kind of Wunderkammer charm. I like skeletons, wights, know, the undead. Ghouls.

In classical D&D bestiaries, ghouls are characterised by their paralytic claws. But like Arnold says, paralysis is in itself a bad design, at least in tabletop games, because it makes players have to not play the game, while the whole point of them being there is that they want to play the game. So ghouls should have a different kind of ability. If you want some mechanical alternatives that are more of a better kind of paralysis, then go back to Arnold. If you want some more divergent, narrative stuff, stay. And try the filet. And the soup, and the toast. They're delicious.

Art by Felix Vallotton

Ghouls are usually not feral monsters digging up freshly interred cadavers to eat. They're quite human, if somewhat gaunt-looking. To become ghouls they have traversed an ascent, or descent, a wandering through the culinary garden to find the most rare, the most deep and aged taste. Nothing but aged blue cheese, pungent and bitter sprouts and fermented, yeasted fruits. 

From a diet of only these inaccessible, to many nauseating, delicacies, their internal physiology has changed, a metamorphosis catalysed by the eating of human flesh. Ghouls are gourmets, with taste excessively refined and excessively dulled for all but the most outrageous and strong flavours. 

There are many molds and bacteria that descend upon a cadaver, and among them are those that when digested during cannibalism, transform the squalid hamlet of the human gut microbiome into a dark temple of the forbidden tastes, which in turn slowly alters its host. New chambers bud in the stomach, sancta and senates for the yeasts and microbes which crave the profane tastes, the impossible delights. As long as a ghoul stays alive and keeps eating things like the pineal gland filet of the ancient Pharaoh Ut-heppi in a vinegar dressing, their gastrointestinal system keeps mutating into more and more labyrinthine and surreal forms.

A lot of their tissue is technically dead, but replaced and invaded by the hyphae of the molds growing inside them. Gradually, more and more of a ghoul dies and decays, only their gastric organs always remain alive. They become an Escher-esque physics-transcending intestinal tract contained in a papery, mummified shell.
Art by Mike Mignola

This ghoul is...

Heavily perfumed to mask the stench of their innards.
Unnaturally broad-chested to accommodate new glands and stomach chambers.
Lipless and many teeth are replaced with ivory or metal substitutes. They wear a facemask to cover this, insisting on an ugly scar.
Slathered in oils and fatty substance to mask their decaying skin. Will melt off when close to heat.
No longer blinking and functionally blind, but able perceive their surroundings by smell, wearing an odd nose piece to accommodate this.
Always accompanied by at least one pudgy servant and constantly taking snacks from the supply the servant carries.
In a wheelchair, carrying seat, or using crutches to compensate for their decayed legs.
Only able to sparingly speak in hoarse whispers, or not at all, due to a rotted throat.
Unnaturally wide-mouthed, or displays a rather peculiar kind of dental structure.
In a late state of decay and in a chair or bed with curtains somewhere, Helena Markos style.

Art by Arash Radkia
Because of their supernatural guts, Ghouls are gifted with special powers that pertain to eating the dead. Foremost is one that all ghouls have to some extent: to obtain some memories of the dead by consuming their remains. However, more evolved ghouls may gain the ability to...

Commune with the spirit of the dead.
Know the fate of the dead's descendants.
Restore their own body by eating the dead.
Speak the languages the dead spoke, briefly or permanently.
Tranform their face into that of the dead.
Know the wherabouts of the rest of the dead's remains.

Ghoul innards are, for this reason, much sought after by alchemists. Besides being an exceptional catalyst for the process of nigredo or putrification, from the colonies of eldritch yeasts and bacteria in their intestines it is possible to create something called the Elixir Zeboim, which allows for the distillation of memories from the bodies of the dead.

Art by Francisco Goya
Ghouls want exotic and forbidden foods, this will always be their end goal. Desires like social power or wealth or knowledge will only ever serve to allow them to obtain more delicacies. They have no interest in politics, only ever entertaining them when necessary, but tend to be fervent scholars, especially of history. Every delicacy has an aged, rich backdrop and the more rare and difficult to obtain, of course, the more novel the ingredient.

They don't eat things raw either, or at least, they don't eat things without preparation. A bone makes a broth, an organ makes a paté, muscle makes a filet or a brochette, can be cured or smoked, roasted, marinated, can be boiled in dumplings, can be diced in a (rotting, yeasting and moldy) salad, and so on. Ghouls don't always have butlers or errand boys/girls, but they always have a kitchen staff, and a personal chef (if they aren't the chef themselves).

Ghouls indulge not only in cannibalism, but also in petty feuds with other ghouls.

If you enough connections to the shadowy world of the occult and the perverse to take a job from a ghoul, it might be that...

The ghoul is constantly under threat of assassination by agents of their jealous peer ghouls (said peers no doubt feel the same way). You are sent to hunt down these assassins, and of course, bring back the game.
An old friend of the ghoul has died, the papers say. They wish to pay them the final honour, as the ghoul is sure they would have wished.
The ghoul’s acquaintance has promised an extravagant delicacy at their upcoming ghoul party. The ghoul wants you to steal it, so that their rival will lose face and your employer will have it all for themselves.
The ghoul requires fungal samples from different locations, to enrich their corpse-rotting ‘vineyard’: a cellar with many fungal cultures and coffins with soil to, ahem, age the wine.
The ghoul will be hosting a party for its peers, which has to be perfect since all ghouls are very picky, but it requires intel on the latest culinary fashions of the other ghouls.
A very old and much disliked ghoul has died, and the ghoul you work for is adamant to obtain their corpse before the other ghouls do. The race is on!

Then how do ghouls become those filthy, feral beasts we know to stalk the cemeteries? Well, ghouls live on the edge of serious moral decay, and most of their body decays in the physical sense. Which means if they do not make sure to stay refined, they'll fall prey to the ORKUS.

As a final part of this already long post, here are some stock ghouls you might use:

The Rose Lady is a painter draped in her characteristic salmon pink, and married to some enigmatic mister Plongé, a banker of whom there is so little evidence that some doubt he exists at all. They would be right, since her fabricated husband's income is how the Lady masks the true source of her luxury: trade in exotic black market goods. Behind her atelier rooms are hidden chambers full of occult paraphernalia, secret auction rooms, and a dining hall decorated with great seashells, whale vertebrae, and set with cutlery made from the bones of the Santa Cristina's crew, who killed and ate one another when stranded in the middle of the ocean. She is its sole survivor.

Dr. Cornelio Fumoso alledgedly has an awful skin disease that ages him prematurely, and it makes him look quite mummified. His legs can no longer carry him so he walks with crutches, and benefits from much help and compassion from his colleagues. The old and nearly cripple anthropology professor, however, is legendary among ghouls for having consumed a black temple in the desert sands brick by brick. Only a ghoul of great age and power could defy physics so much as to contain an entire temple complex in the warped space of their intestines. Curating a private collection of mummies himself, the professor has no short supply of 'cured meats' to enjoy.

Gao Yue (高月), styled Mengyin 孟阴, is a mysterious real estate owner, who never comes to collect his rents himself, but always sends a chatty servant to do the job who is an expert at avoiding the topic of mister Gao himself, making him a complete unknown to the people that live in his buildings save for his name. Gao is a hermit and doesn't leave his well hidden quarters, suffering great agoraphobia but possessing an excellent organisatory mind. One of the buildings he owns has been empty for years, and is claimed to be haunted, but in truth its cellars are used to store and ferment the 'ingredients' for mister Gao's meals. His given name (Yue) is only known by his cook, since mister Gao is paranoid about its incriminating double meaning*.

Photographer uncertain, possibly Anders Beer Wilsen

Boneus Table: d50 human bones

Arms and Hands
Hip bone
Legs and Feet
Nasal concha

*月 is the radical for moon, but the one for "flesh" or "meat" is very similar, so for a ghoul, this name is a pun of sorts.