Sunday, October 1, 2017

"The Flute" - A Map for Ellomyr's Story in Numenera 2

If you're a fan of Monte Cook Games' Numenera, then you know they are Kickstarting Numenera 2—essentially a revision with new content and exploration of the future of the Ninth World. As part of the Kickstarter campaign, they have asked backers to contribute to story of the town of Ellomyr. When the campaign is over, some of the content generated will be compiled into a sourcebook called The Trilling Shard.

I've backed the Kickstarter and was tossing around ideas I could contribute. Wow, is the Numenera community active! Huge chunks of story have come and gone. I can't keep up with it! However, as I was mulling things around, I decided something static like a location might be useful. An image started to form, and I ended up sketching a map of a fragment of the Valley of Sins, another locale that was introduced as part of the story.

After some refinements and a pass through Photoshop, I give you, "The Flute":

Scroll brought back from the Valley of Sins,
possibly stained by the mysterious "Blue Mist".

At one end of the valley of sins, whatever ancient force gouged out the valley also cut through a long-buried structure, revealing several holes in the valley walls. At one corner of the structure, a steep spiral stalagmite rises up several tens of meters and exits a hole in the roof of its chamber. On windy days, the entire structure sings a haunting note. Local children brave enough to enter even this far have discovered that, by standing in front of certain holes or placing sheets of wood or synth over them, they can change the tone. Over the years, some people have reported that, every once in a while, the hills will sing out a deep and unsettling note—eerily similar to a war horn.
An interesting side effect of the structure is that the wind will collect and deposit various bits and pieces of drit here. Glow globes, broken carts, even a bipedal automaton have been found in the collected rubbish.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

My One Page Dungeon Contest 2017 Entry

So, thanks to Twitter, I discovered this little thing called the One Page Dungeon Contest. This literally* got the wheels turning in my head and I had to put the wheels on paper. Three days later, that concept of a dungeon made up of five rotating intersecting chambers became my first-ever entry.

Here's the sales pitch: "Who would have need of such a brutal shifting thing? A trial by fire! And ice. And earth. And water... There's no going back—only forward!"

Since some GMs may want to print out the map for clarity or to actually cut out the pieces and rotate them in real space, I've included it here in 300 DPI - including a COLOR version!

The folks at the One Page Dungeon Contest also kindly posted an update in their blog.

*Literal, as in I saw them in my mind's eye. Not physical wheels inside my skull.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

New Tokyo Screamsheets

Back in 2001, I was running a Cyberpunk campaign using a homebrew ruleset based on Top Secret/S.I. At the time (when I had more time), I was chronicling the campaign on a now-defunct website. I was also producing semi-regular newsletters for the campaign I called New Tokyo Screamsheets.

These Screamsheets contained things like discussions of technology, legality of weapons, and story seeds; along with your standard smattering of weather reports (and the birth of Air Advisory Guy), classified ads, obituaries, network programming schedules, police blotters, Body Lotto numbers, advertisements, etc. Some of the articles were fictional snippets borrowed from other fictional sources. To make it personal to the players, I would usually do a "front page" article on one of their latest exploits and possibly have NPCs communicate with them through the want ads—and they would communicate back!

Recently, I was able to find the source files and PDFs for the New Tokyo Screamsheets and decided to post them. Here they are with a couple of hints as to what you'll find inside:

Special thanks to Deric Bernier of Datafortress 2020 for hanging on to the old New Tokyo Screamsheets in his Cyberpunk Archive—stumbling upon them recently made me want to post my originals.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The ORIGINAL Oil Rig Mission - 2001

Since Pete and I are revisiting the Oil Rig Project, I felt it was important to re-post the mission that inspired the project.

Back in 2001, I was running a Cyberpunk campaign using a homebrew ruleset based on Top Secret/S.I. At the time (when I had more time), I was chronicling the campaign on a now-defunct website. Fortunately, thanks to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, parts of that website still exist, so I can resurrect them here.

Now that I am currently running an Interface Zero 2.0 campaign, you might see some more pages from the old site be resurrected...

Contract Intel:
The PCs go to their fixer's place and get a quiet room where they negotiate a deal to infiltrate an Oil Rig, retrive a data file, and leave the rig. Each team member gets 3000cr retainer for supplies, a total of 5000cr for securing the rig, and a total of 10,000 for a recovered data file.

Data about the rig:

Manufacturer:  Erdel Type J-3 Rotary Drilling Rig
                        Manufacturer based out of Houston, Texas
                        Now defunct

Current Owner: unknown

Location:      Approx. sight distance from New Tokyo bay

# of Crew:     Support for 38
                     The previous owner had approx. 12 when he lost possession of the rig.

Communication: No land lines
                           Possible satellite uplink

Location of Data File: unknown

Type of data: Entire database

Computer System: unknown, possibly UNIX-based

The Actual Mission
This mission was set up as a "test" mission for a higher-end employer. The employer is basically just pitting two mercenary teams against each other. One team defends the rig, the other assaults it. The team that survives wins future contracts. It doesn't matter which team attacks and which defends, I just chose to have the PCs attack. I figured it would be more interesting and I had a decent "contract" idea that involved all the players.

The oil rig has been derelict for at least 15 years, probably more. With the development of CHOOH2, drilling for oil became more expensive. This particular rig made several taps with minimal result. It became more cost effective to leave it where it sat at the last tap, than to pull up shop, weatherize it, and dry-dock it. So, questionable elements set up shop in it soon after it was abandoned.

Their usual contact informed them that the rig was in his parent organization's possession and was recently raided, overrun, and occupied by an opposing organization's mercenary team. Normally, blowing it out of the water would be the order of the day, but when it was previously owned, they used it as a waypoint for illegal contraband, and all their shipping records were stored in the rig's local database. The PC mercenary team's primary objective is to secure the entire database. A secondary objective is to recapture the rig, if possible. The payoff is 10,000cr per person for the database intact. If no database, then 5,000cr per person for the rig. Not to exceed 10,000 per person. 3,000cr in advance are provided for expenses. Unregistered weapons and small equipment provided up front, with understanding that the weapons will be returned upon completion.

If the players asked, their contact was only able to provide them with a mangy copy of the emergency exit floorplan of the sub-deck.

Oil Rig Emergency Exits: OilRigEmergencyPlan.gif missing. I hope to find it someday...

If they pried some more, their contact informed them that his organization had previously set up IR motion detectors, but they may or may not still be functioning. He was able to provide approximate locations of some of them.

Oil Rig Recon: OilRigDeck.gif missing. I hope to find it someday...

The above map also shows the observed sentry locations when the PCs did some preliminary recon.

It took me a while to put together a working map of the oil rig. I found a gem of a website at (NOTE: This link goes to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine as the original link no longer exists). The guy who put it together did a great job of explaining, simply, the regular goings on on a "jackup" oil rig, including plenty of photos. Thing to note: a jackup rig is really a big ship that has three huge extendible legs. It is towed to it's next drilling location and then it jacks itself up about 100-150 feet above the ocean and begins drilling. I highly recommend reading it and passing on the address to your more ambitious players.

Oil Rig Layout
The detcord on the dock level is of a blue plastic variety. It is wrapped many times around the support legs, just above sea level and, upon casual inspection, just looks like water-level paint markings.

The generic explosive in the survival capsule off of the control room is a bundle of pipe bombs with a mercury switch to prevent them from being moved.

The shaped charges are pre-manufactured and look like small inverted plates. One is intended to discourage helicopter landings, the other two are placed behind the diesel fuel tanks to engulf the main deck if necessary.

All explosives have been modified to accommodate a small black box with a red numeric LED display, and a short rubber antenna. This box is a remote receiver controlled either by the com officer through the control room computers or the demolitions expert with a small handheld controller. The com officer can only start the 5 minute timer or detonate the explosives. Only the demolitions expert can shut them off (he can also start the timers or detonate).

The infrared motion detectors are simple. They have a 90 degree field of detection (indicated by the legs on the symbol on the map), can easily be defeated by an IR suit, and have no operational feedback loop (no on/off indicator). If tripped, they will trigger a simple alarm heard throughout the rig.

There is a small data hutch on the main deck that has two log files in an antiquated VAX system.

They are left over from when the rig actually served it's purpose, and will only slow the players down if they try to get the VAX up and running and try to interface with it to get the files.

The operations database in the control room is bogus. Even so, by the time the players get to it, it should be pretty well jibberish due to the virus the com officer puts on it.

All opposing units are equipped with a NeuroProcessor, SmartGun Link, SpeedWires, a com link, medium body armor, a 10mm Glock, a SmartGun Linked 9mm H&K MP5, and a combat knife and have above average skills to use them.
  1. Commander - Begins in the control room
    Extremely strong with other attributes at the high end.
    Martial Arts, Swimming, Stealth.
    Husky, clean, and commanding.
  2. Sniper - Begins on the monkey board of the derrick
    Above average strength with other attributes at the high end.
    Martial Arts, Sniper Rifle, Swimming, Stealth, Concealment.
    7.62mm H&K G3SG1 Sniper Rifle instead of the MP5.
    Big, relaxed.
  3. Com Officer - Begins in the control room
    Very high intelligence with other attributes above average.
    Martial Arts, Swimming, Stealth, Radio Operator, Interface.
    Combat CyberDeck and CyberDeck Link.
    Thin, sure of himself.
  4. Pilot - Begins sleeping in the crews' quarters
    Above average strength with other attributes at the high end.
    Martial Arts, Swimming, Stealth, Piloting most transportation forms.
    Vehicle Link and Chip Jack.
    Big, cocky.
  5. Demolitions Expert - Begins having a snack in the kitchen
    All attributes above average to high end.
    Boxing, Swimming, Stealth, Concealment, Demolitions.
    Short, bulky, grouchy.
  6. Underwater Ops - Begins in the starboard crane cab
    All attributes above average to high end.
    Martial Arts, Swimming, Stealth, Concealment.
    4-shot speargun, armored wetsuit instead of body armor.
    Skinny, quiet.
If motion detectors go off:
  • alarm will sound
  • 4 and 5 will wake up and get to the upper deck
  • 1 will order to attack
If intruders spotted:
  • observer will call into 3
  • 3 will alert the others
  • 1 will order to watch then attack if needed
On first attack:
  • 1 will coordinate
  • 3 will jack in, monitor motion sensors, cameras, and explosives
  • 6 will dive overboard, disable any intruding craft, and prep the escape boats
If control room computers are hacked:
  • 3 will fight via software
    If defeated:
    • will initiate a virus to destroy the data
      If virus defeated:
      • will detonate the terminals
      • will set all other explosive timers for 5 minutes
If overpowered:
  • will try to escape by diving overboard
  • will get into the escape boats
  • will detonate the oil rig remotely

The Outcome
At the time, I was also producing semi-regular newsletters for the campaign I called New Tokyo Screamsheets. This was the report in the Screamsheet issue that followed that game:

Early this morning, emergency officials were notified of several explosions and fire spotted just above the horizon over the ocean. Preliminary investigation revealed that the fire is located on a derelict oil rig miles offshore. Witnesses report that there was an initial fiery explosion followed by several smaller ones.
The cause of the blaze is not known at this time.