Whole New World – a Sci-Fi setting using Y23E/YZE as the basis

We’ve started working on (yet another) world. A Sci-Fi setting we are calling “Whole New World”.

Premise

I’ve been a big fan of Interstellar, released in 2014 (and therefore has it’s 10th anniversary later this year) and I’m very keen on the rush of mature Sci-Fi we got around that time. Interstellar in particular was highly praised for being the new gold standard by which scientific accuracy in science fiction could be measured and while everything can be criticised, I did enjoy…

Mathematical Physicist Ikjyot Singh Kohli first published an article defending the physics used in the film. The article was written shortly after the film’s release in response to a number of scientific blogs that criticized the film’s physics for not being accurate, which were shown by Kohli to be due to several misunderstandings by the authors of the blogs in question.

Moon (2009)
Gravity (2013)
Interstellar (2014)
The Martian (2015)
Ad Astra (2019)

For a brief time it was a bit of a renaissance in science fiction.

Last night I rewatched 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984) and loved the physicality of it. The space suits, the discovery pods, the ships that looked like I can imagine space ships to look like.

In Play

In theory this idea is a little like a game I played years ago (and IMO didn’t play enough); Justifiers. In Justifiers the PCs are anthropomorphised uplifted animals, criminals or ex-soldiers whoa re sent out to ‘justify’ the expense of colonising worlds. They’re catapulted to the orbit through some sort of wormhole, have to land, survive and construct a transmatt system to get themselves home. If they die, it’s seen as a reason not to invest more in that world.

But I want to share and shed some concepts.

This isn’t about corporate greed. The PCs are not the hapless pawns of some corporation wanting to make more value for shareholders.

This isn’t about more world, more stuff. This is about one world, the world that will save us all.

This isn’t about shooting things. It certainly can have shooting but for the most part it’s about exploration.

This is about humanity’s survival. The PCs are the crew on the lifeboat that will save humanity from extinction.

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Apocalyptic Endgame: The Gloom, a supplement for Twilight 2000

Get it now on DTRPG

“Everything looks like a monster in the fog.” – Aki Bahrampour

INTRODUCTION: As the last offensive failed, the brass decided to wheel out their last, big weapon. Drawing on decades of research in their secret bioweapons division, they finally unleashed Operation Verdigris in the war-torn fields of the front. No-one was prepared for what came out of the Gloom.

THE WORLD ENDED

AND THEN IT GOT WORSE

Look, you don’t have to take this mission but there’s a lot riding on it. We’ve managed to triangulate the source of the Gloom. It’s at these coordinates. And the eggheads think that a nuclear detonation, triggered at the portal, might be enough to shut it down. We just need a few good soldiers, one with a specialism in nuclear weapons and a good commander who knows the stakes. It wasn’t a long list and you and your crew were at the top of it.I understand if you don’t want to go, but make no mistake. In 3 days we will be utterly overrun by an enemy we struggle to see never mind defeat and they will just keep coming.

Yes, best case scenario none of you are coming back but then again, if you don’t make it there’s nothing to come back to

Make no mistake, we are fighting for our existence.


The Gloom is a supplement for Twilight 2000 4th Edition but could easily work for any post-apocalyptic game or any Year Zero Engine game. Players will have to fight their way out of the Gloom and then, possibly, fight their way back in again.

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New and Shiny: Enhanced: Super Soldiers in the Twilight War

We just released Enhanced.

This one has been a long time in the making and, due to the amount of art (all done by humans), the most expensive book we have produced to date. Remembering that all of our books are about recouping costs so we can pay more artists!

Enhanced is a supplement for Twilight: 2000 4th Edition.

Enhanced provides a framework for super soldiers in the Twilight War, based on alien particles discovered in the aftermath of the Tunguska Event. From these mutagenic agents, the Americans build heroes at their secret base in Raven Rock and the Soviets build monsters which roam the forests of the Urals.

In the light from a hundred artillery explosions, I could see the rain lashing off Skipper’s helmet as she peered out of our foxhole.
“I can’t see shit”, she spat.
Somewhere out there, among the ruined trees and scarred fields was the Enemy. Cloaked in an unseasonable storm that seemed as if the elements were angrily punching their fists to the air in protest against our intrusions.
A barrage of rounds whizzed above our heads and we ducked reflexively, too late of course. If they had been on target, we wouldn’t have heard them, only felt them as they thudded into us and tumbled turbulently through our slippery innards.
“We’re pinned here. If they have armour…” She didn’t need to finish the sentence. If they had armour, they’d roll those tanks right up over us and we could do nothing about it. What was worse was I knew they had armour, I’d seen the menacing blocky shapes in the fog earlier. I decided not to mention it, fearful of ruining the optimistic mood.
We settled into a sullen silence, just waiting for something to happen because inevitably it would.
Maybe it was an hour, maybe two, when we first heard something, Footsteps. Quiet footsteps.
I hissed “Red?”
A moment later I heard a confidently spoken “Rum!” and a slightly built young woman dropped into our little foxhole. She said her name was Malt.
For the next hour, Malt kept us company. Her humour was infectious, her confidence like a gentle breeze. She made us breathe again, right until we heard the rumbling of heavy machines. Armour, I realised with dread.
Malt stood up, all 160 cm of her, and faced the mechanical monster as it trundled towards us.
“Time to earn my crust.”
She smiled and we were immediately blinded by a baleful light that came from her body. Refracted a million times by raindrops, I could feel the peril from it. The light sliced through the tank, like a hot knife through butter, and the air was rent with screams of dying men and machines.
When our vision returned, she was standing alone and half-melted tanks steamed and stank around us.
“Let’s go!” Malt sang as she skipped forward. Like an elf she raced across the battlefield towards the enemy, When something reared up to spit death, that terrible light would appear once more leaving only smoking ruins.
We hit their trenches like a hammer; Skipper’s uncanny accuracy found its mark every time. I followed, mopping up as we went.
We collapsed into a shelter and wiped the sweat and rain from our faces.
“We just made 100 metres.” Malt grinned.
She stepped back out into the rain and beckoned us.
“We can do a hundred more.”
I strapped my helmet back on and grabbed my weapon just as Malt’s left eyeball exploded and I heard a single shot ring out, showering us in gore and skull fragments. Skipper swore. I was speechless.
Malt’s body fell, in slowed motion, to the bottom of the trench and the chalice of her brain pan started to collect muddy rainwater. We could hear voices now, speaking in short, staccato bursts, in a foreign language. We’d come too far.
“We gotta run,” Skipper shrieked. She leapt to the top of the trench and sprinted back towards our lines. Even through the rain I could see her ducking and diving as fast as her Enhancement would permit! And me, I couldn’t move. I wasn’t as fast as Skipper. Didn’t have Malt’s light to clear the way.
As the voices closed in on me, I remembered a line from a book or movie. I spoke steadily into my radio, giving coordinates as accurately as I could and finished with that line as I called in the artillery.
“Let it rain. Danger close.”

This rule set is compatible with Twilight: 2000 4th Edition, Blade Runner, ExSanguine, De Occulta, The 23rd Letter 3rd Edition and Rise of R’lyeh. It is directly compatible with other Year Zero Engine (Step Dice) games.

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A Hopeful Ending and a New Beginning

We played our final session of The 23rd Letter play test this week, and wrapped up the story of Poppy and her baby.

After recuperating overnight (under Joy’s watchful care, and a handy saline drip), Poppy recovered enough from her ordeal to tell the group about what had happened, which really just confirmed all their suspicions from the previous sessions.

She was a telepath, recruited to be part of The Third Project, a government organisation that worked to keep the public safe from Espers. At first she had thought she was doing the right thing and using her talent for the good of her fellow countryment, but she came to realise that the folks running the Project (or at least her field office in Topeka) were actually working against the best interests of Espers in general, and about a year prior she had started working with a couple of Cells in the Network to supply them with Psilence so that they could avoid capture or detection by the Project.

While pregnant, Poppy realised that the double agent thing really was too much for her to handle along with a baby, so she decided to get out of the Project altogether and slip away into the Network. Her last act was to grab the entire stockpile of Psilence that her office had and bring it with her, but before she could get away, she went into labour. She had the baby, whose name is Anna, but the missing Psilence was noticed and questions started being asked. As soon as she was able, she slipped away. Leaving the Psilence where she’d stashed it, she traveled to St Louis where she was supposed to drop the drugs. Instead, she tried to meet up with the Cell, but the Third Project tracked her down and snatched her. She was able to hide the baby, knowing that help was on the way (and wanting to keep her obviously psychic child out of government hands).

The media was filled with accounts of the ‘Terror Attack’ on the highway from the day before, and Jenny had a meeting arranged for her with Internal Affairs the next week. However, at this point I asked the group if we could go into Downtime to test out those rules, which we did. I’ll handle the open plot points narratively at the start of next session (i.e. what happened in the Internal Affairs meeting, any developments on the location of Clark, etc.)

During Downtime, everyone has the opportunity to spend the Experiences they earned during play, adding new Qualities or Talents, or improving existing Skills, Talents or Attributes. Each member of the group got 12 XP (2 for each session, which is the middle of the road for our guidelines of 1-3). This led to some interesting discussions and changes in how we structure both XP and character creation, so I’m really glad we got a chance to do this part. For example, we discovered that the two very powerful Espers in the group had no real way to improve their Talents, which felt a little disappointing. Both players said they’d rather start a bit less powerful and become better through play. We also discovered that the costs of things was off, so glad we got to address that too.

The Cell used their downtime to shore up their Hideout, choosing to make it large enough for four people to rest in (it starts only large enough for 1, but luckily Bryce has the Builder Quality, allowing him to make an extra upgrade during Downtime). Stress and Heat were reduced for the group (another mechanics discussion and improvement resulted from that!).

A big thank you to my five players and their characters:

  • Stefan – the precog hippie and Cell namesake Richard Moonglow
  • Ellie – the nurse (and Cell mom) Joy Mary Smith
  • Fintan – the pyrokinetic cook/builder Bryce Collins
  • Eve – the mind-reading ‘medium’ and con-artist Vonbella Alexander
  • Sarah – the overworked and overlooked Detective Jenny Blake

The Moonglow Cell will continue to function after a couple weeks break (giving me time to write some more story hooks!) and now has a channel on our Discord to help track actual play.

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FASERIP generator

Back when I was running the Watchtower New England game using Marvel Super Heroes’ FASERIP system, I wrote a simple character generator. I found it recently, and thought I’d pop into GitHub in case other folks might find it useful. It generates random characters using the Ultimate Powers rules, which can then be tailored using the rules found in those books. I’ve found that generating a few characters helped inspire some neat NPC and PC ideas, without having to do a ton of dice-rolling and table look up.

Hope you get some use out of it! Here’s a character it just spat out. This guy has some great stats, but a pretty big weakness in Intuition. I’m thinking he’s kinda gullible? As agile as Spiderman, and good at fighting, and smart! He can turn himself into an animal and has danger sense … seems like a fun start 🙂

Form: Mutant

Fighting: RM
Agility: AM
Strength: EX
Endurance: TY
Reason: IN
Intuition: FE
Psyche: IN

Animal Transformation S4: GD
Elemental Conversion* MCo4: EX
Danger Sense M8: EX

FASERIP generator

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Whither Krull?

In this 1983 science-fantasy movie, the planet Krull is invaded by an extraterrestrial conqueror known as The Beast who moves his space-capable stone dwelling (the Black Fortress) from planet to planet, consuming them. He has wormlike minions who either wear armour (Slayers) or who change shape (changelings).

There’s prophecy that says the Beast can be killed by an ancient weapon known as the Glaive which implies that either the Beast has been there for a long time or it’s movements among the spheres were known about.

It’s been done in an RPG in 2018.

Anyway. It was a cool thing despite it bombing as being derivative at the time. I don’t think reviewers could even have guessed how derivative the future would become.

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Rise of R’lyeh Character Sheet

We have a character sheet for Rise of R’lyeh now.

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Rise of R’lyeh – Apocalyptic Mythos Horror

Playtest copies currently available
Rise of R’lyeh is designed to work with the Year Zero Engine (Step Dice) shared by games like Twilight 2000, Bladerunner, Terminal Shock, The 23rd Letter and Excession.

It can be mixed with other third party supplements like Deadzone, Twilight Tangents, Twilight 2249 or any of the others out there. Mythos elements can be introduced into standard Twilight 2000 games or even into some of the games listed above.

The system is fast, deadly but ultimately designed for apocalyptic play.

This is not a game where the plucky heroes have to fight against crazed cultists intent on bringing about the end of the world. That’s already happened and the plucky heroes likely died as they failed. The stars were eventually right, R’lyeh rose from the depths and the dark gods clambered their way back onto this plane of existence.

The mood is therefore not heroic.

The Genre might be described as dystopian, apocalyptic (not post-apocalyptic as the apocalypse is currently proceeding) horror.

Your characters are survivors. They’ve all experienced something horrible and lived to tell the tale.

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Venting Pyrokinetics

Our fourth and fifth in-game sessions of the 23rd Letter saw quite a lot of action! I’ll give a brief summary, and then talk about some of the rules that I think were interesting. I’ll put a * and a number on some rules I’m going to talk about at the end.

Everybody woke up in the morning after not having slept very well, and discovered that they had had similar dreams … after some discussion, they determined that maybe the baby’s mother was being held captive somewhere near the Gateway Arch and a McDonalds. Richard (the precog) had an inkling that something big was going to go down, and made a few preparations[*1]. Meanwhile, Vonbella (the telepath) was able to remotely connect to Poppy, the woman in their dreams and the presumed mother of the baby, and find out that she was going to be moved out of the city later today!

Richard (backed up by Jenny the detective) met up with Royal, the Cell’s command and control contact, and got some info that helped fill in some gaps: Poppy had been a double agent within a government Project, secretly working for the Network to help supply them with Psilence (a necessary drug to help reduce Stress). The group pieced together that she’d been compromised and had tried to escape but had been caught, succeeding only in smuggling out her baby (and hiding a stash of Psilence somewhere also). Just as Richard finished up chatting with Royal, Vonbella got an urgent telepathic message from Poppy – she was being moved now!

Luckily, it turned out that she was halfway between Richard/Jenny in one car and Vonbella/Bryce (the pyrokinetic) in another[*1]. Joy (the nurse) had decided to take the baby back to her apartment … thankfully! Both pairs got into their car and tried to use Poppy’s weak telepathic messages to help triangulate her position. They eventually caught up to the SUV that the agents were transporting her in, but by this stage they were all on the freeway and heading out of the city.

Bryce used his powers[*2] to burn out one of the tyres on the government vehicle, causing it pull over onto the shoulder. He and Vonbella pulled in front, and Jenny/Richard pulled in behind. Everyone put on on their clown masks and got ready to for action (well, Vonbella kinda cowered in her seat, but she was there!) (end of session 4)

Two armed and armoured soldiers got out of the vehicle and drew a bead on each car, while a third agent tried to radio for help. Bryce and Vonbella, despite their antagonism, worked together for the greater good by creating a Gestalt[*3] and using Vonbella’s telepathic powers to see through Poppy’s eyes and allow Bryce to target his pyrokinesis to superheat the soldiers’ weapons and the radio, causing everything to be dropped (although bullets were sprayed wildly). The attempt was successful, but given all the Stress that Bryce and Vonbella had, it caused Bryce to Vent[*4] creating a massive pyrokinetic explosion which destroyed the car they were sitting in and sent fiery debris flying across the freeway. Several cars crashed into each other on the other shoulder, and one went spinning wildly out of control and did several flips, killing everyone inside thankfully nobody was killed.[*1] The explosion was enough to kill one of the soldiers, and set a second one on fire. Jenny quickly finished off that one and the third with some skilled shooting, while Richard hustled up to the SUV and helped the heavily sedated Poppy back to Jenny’s car.

Bryce and Vonbella left their “car” (by this stage it was just the two seats they were sitting in, and a large, blackened crater) and hustled into Jenny’s car. They took off before backup could arrive, and found a safe spot to wait for Joy to come pick them up in her minivan–Richard took Jenny’s car and ditched it in the Missisippi, while Jenny reported it stolen, in an attempt to cover their trail.[*5] They got back to Joy’s apartment, fixed Poppy up with a saline drip to help her recover in bed, and that’s where we wrapped session 5.

OK, let’s look at the rules that helped this story move along.

1. Richard is a precog, which means when he wants to see the future, he makes a roll with his ability and each success gives him one ‘preparation’–a secret thing his character has done ahead of time, but that he as a player doesn’t have to think of until the action is actually happening. Richard’s player rolled 3 successes. Where did everyone get clown masks? That was one of his preparations. How come the bad guys were halfway between Richard/Jenny and Bryce/Vonbella? A second preparation (which in Richard’s case is part of his ‘things just happen the way they are meant to’ view on life). The third preparation went on saving the lives of the folks in the car that flipped: Richard had seen it coming and had called the cops to report *that* car stolen earlier that morning. Those poor folks had been hassled by the cops and never made it onto the freeway, but hey–at least they were still alive!

2. Bryce is a Major Pyrokinetic, with 2d12 in his Psychic Talent. However, he and Vonbella were both Stressed (mostly caused by each other!) – Bryce had 2 Stress and Vonbella had 3, so when he rolled to blow out the tyre, he had to roll 2d12 + 5d6 – 1d6 for each Stress in their shared pool: all psychics share their Stress pool when in close proximity. Luckly, he rolled 1 success and 1 bane, which was enough to blow out the tyre, but it also gave him another Stress (rolling a bane on a Psychic talent roll adds a Stress dice), bringing his total Stress up to 3 (and the shared pool to 6!)

3. Now Bryce and Vonbella are working together, they create a Gestalt – a unified effort to use both their powers in a single, combined psychic action. In this case, using Vonbella’s telepathy to view through Poppy’s eyes so that Bryce could easily see the guns and radio and superheat them. Vonbella is a Minor telepath with only 1d6 in her ability, but because the Stress pool is so high, she gets to roll an additional 6d6 and add those on. Each one has the chance of giving her a success, but of course, each one also has the chance of a bane … Bryce also has to roll 6d6 + his 2d12. After both players had rolled, they had 3 successes. They needed 1 success to heat 1 gun, and an extra 2 successes for the extra two targets, so they just made it! However, Bryce had rolled 3 banes, and rolling 2 banes (snake eyes!) on a Psychic Talent roll means that the Esper Vents!

4. What’s a Vent, you ask? Well, it’s those times when psychic stress builds up too much and explodes out of the Esper in a wild and uncontrolled fashion, wreaking havoc on the people and environment close by (but leaving the Esper intact, and now drained of Stress). Sometimes this is pure mental energy, and people around them might get nosebleeds, aneurysms, heart attacks … in Bryce’s case, it was a massive pyrokinetic explosion. To work out the size of the Vent, he adds on the additional Stress he just rolled (3) to the current Stress pool (6) and adding in his psychic power dice (2d12). So, he uses 2d12 + 9d6 to determine much damage is done – every success on that roll will do 1 damage to everything in close proximity! Bear in mind, 3 damage is usually enough to cause a critical injury, so this was a HUGE explosion! Luckily, because she was part of the Gestalt that resulted in the Vent, Vonbella is also unaffected by the explosion. However, the car was more or less vaporized, and the explosion rolled out in a huge fireball … one dice drops for every zone (10m), so there effects felt up to 100m away!

5. The Network Cell tracks a score called Heat, which is a measure of how much external observation and pressure there is on the group and their activities. The group’s Heat score went up by three over the course of this session, 1 for each crime they committed (the freeway shootings/explosion and then ditching a car in the river), and an extra 1 for the extravagance of the explosion–it was certainly newsworthy! The higher the Heat score, the more likely there will be some kind of external interference, in the form of police, feds or worse …

Anyway, we have one last session to do for our playtest, where we will wrap up the story line of Poppy and Baby Blue, and then have some Downtime–more on that in my next write up.

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The 23rd Letter, 3rd Edition playtest doc

It’s out there in the wild. We are inviting you to the Playtest.

Either join our little Discord or, if you already own The 23rd Letter 2nd Edition, check your inbox as you’ll have been sent a link.

The highlights are

  • New character options in a new archetype-based system
  • More focus on The Network
  • Explosive escalation of Psychic Talents with Stress
  • New system compatible with Year Zero Engine (allowing you to take advantage of supplements for Twilight 2000 or even Blade Runner)
  • Foundation of a new story arc for the mid-21st Century

Where you can help?

  • Tell us what you like and what you don’t like.
  • Help us decide the final art style for the game
  • Find us on the Discord and chat about what you want or need in a game.
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Power Armour (Living Steel) for YZE-Step

An M.I. lives by his suit the way a K-9 man lives by and with and on his doggie partner. Powered armor is one-half the reason we call ourselves "mobile infantry" instead of just "infantry." (The other half are the spaceships that drop us and the capsules we drop in.) Our suits give us better eyes, better ears, stronger backs (to carry heavier weapons and more ammo), better legs, more intelligence ("intelligence" in the military meaning; a man in a suit can be just as stupid as anybody else only he had better not be), more firepower, greater endurance, less vulnerability.
A suit isn't a space suit—although it can serve as one. It is not primarily armor—although the Knights of the Round Table were not armored as well as we are. It isn't a tank—but a single M.I. private could take on a squadron of those things and knock them off unassisted if anybody was silly enough to put tanks against M.I. A suit is not a ship but it can fly, a little; on the other hand neither spaceships nor atmosphere craft can fight against a man in a suit except by saturation bombing of the area he is in (like burning down a house to get one flea!). Contrariwise we can do many things that no ship—air, submersible, or space—can do.

The Powered Armour suits used by the Seven Worlds, the Starguild and the Dragoncrests.
There are three types:
Heavy – used for front line combat
Medium – used for activities within Cities
Light – used about starcraft

There is a fourth, Skiffdress, which is specifically used for boarding actions. It is uncommon for Starguild troops trained in one type to be experienced in another type though within the Seven Worlds, the chassis is common and only the armour weight is exchanged.

HCPA – 450 kgs of metal, ceramics and electronics designed for front line combat and limited by the amount of ground pressure.
MCPA – 300 kgs of metal, ceramics and electronics designed for situations where flooring and roofs will not support the heavier armour.
LCPA – 150 kgs of ceramics and electronics for the more fragile environments found aboard spacecraft.

Common to every Power Armour variant are:

Power Unit – this unit is sized for the armour. These run off rechargeable packs which lasts 24 hours – HCPA requires 3 packs, Medium requires 2, Light requires only 1.
BiComp – the brain of the armour, handling the control of the servomotors as well as
targeting systems, medical circuits and comms. This is not an artificial intelligence but a well trained expert system.
Life Support – at the most basic, this is air supply and thermal controls but also includes some basic medical attention (supply of painkillers, tourniquets) and basic refreshment for a deployment of 24 hours. The Life Support medical component will also re-seal the suit if it is punctured, has a homing beacon and can, if necessary, excise a limb to save a life.

People without Power Armour are seriously outmatched.

The Armour increases strength and reactions, it enhances perception with automatic target acquisition and contextual holographic interpretation of visuals The suit has passive sensors (video and audio receivers, vibration detection) as well as active sensors (ultrasonics for navigating through smoke, radar for location of other craft and armour users). The suit also possesses seismic sensors for detecting stresses in ground surfaces.

Apart from Armour, the suit provides ECM countermeasures including radar dampening, and spectrum regulation systems which not only allow a degree of chameleon-like camouflage but also can reduce damage from directed light offensive systems. The sensors used to emulate the chameleon patterns will also detect advanced targeting and laser painting. In a non-combat environment, this chameleon technology is used to designate unit colours, insignia, rank and even emoticons.

The suit struggles with Thermal dampening but can reduce heat output to environmental levels for one hour before systems after affected. Usually the rear of the suit is a large heat source. The Thermal Dampening System is refreshed by one minute of complete shutdown of operations (which may cause a significant heat flare).

Each system/subsystem within the Armour can be damaged if the armour is penetrated. The human within is just one such subsystem

System Stats
Against Human Combatants without Armour, Automatic Success (but roll for additional
successes).
Targeting Computer adds +2 to hit in Melee or Ranged
ECMs mean -2 to hit with electronic targeting.
Camo means -1 to hit with optical targeting.

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A precog walks into a bar …

Now a few weeks into the first play-test of the 3rd edition of The 23rd Letter, I wanted to post some updates on what’s been going in the game, and a few reflections as both Referee and game designer. First off, let’s talk about the party, which in this edition is by default a Cell in the Network. If you’ve never player T23L before, the Network is the psychic underground, a loosely connected group of people (some psychic, some not) who help each other to survive, and to keep off the government radar. This game is set in St. Louis, Missouri, chosen because it’s a big city, in the middle of the USA, which none of my players have been to.

  • Richard Moonglow – in his mid-50s, Richard lives out of his old VW camper van and would’ve been a hippie if he hadn’t been born two decades late. He is a powerful Precog, but in his worldview “everything just happens the way it was meant to, man.”
  • Clark (NPC) – Clark is a Cryokinetic, an unusual psychic power which allows him to reduce the temperature of things around him. However, just before the start of our game, Clark went missing.
  • Joy Mary Smith – Joy is a nurse in her late 30s working at a local hospital. She first encountered psychics while treating Clark after he was in a car accident–when he regained consciousness, he froze his saline drip! She’s been helping the Cell ever since.
  • Detective Jenny Blake – Jenny works for St. Louis Metro PD, in their Domestic department. She has a chip on her shoulder about being overlooked for promotion or better roles, and helps the Cell partially out of spite for her job. She and Joy are close friends, having met because they are neighbors in their apartment block.
  • Vonbella Alexander – Young, blonde and classically beautiful, Vonbella is a medium, talking to the spirits of the dead to help her clients. In reality, she’s a minor Telepath, who reads her clients’ minds and makes up stories to fleece them of their hard-earned cash. Hey, everyone’s gotta make a living, right?
  • Bryce – Bryce is Clark’s brother and is traveling to St. Louis to find him. He works as a chef, mostly to help cover up the fact that he is Pyrokinetic.

Each player decided for themselves whether to be a psychic (or Esper, as they’re also known) without really talking to anyone else, so we ended up with an interesting mix of three Espers, and two regular folks (or Nulls, as they are sometimes called). We’ve had three sessions after character creation. Our first two sessions were played without Bryce, because his player was unavailable, and Bryce just arrived in the third session.

Session 1

Richard receives a message from Royal, one of his Network contacts. The group meets up at their favourite Waffle House to discuss the message. Clark’s brother is coming to town, which is when the group realizes that they haven’t seen Clark in over a week. The message also instructs the group to collect a package from a drop location. “Blue Monday, 3C, location Bravo.”

Jenny stops by the motel where Clark has been staying, only to discover he checked out a week ago. Some questioning of the staff led her to the lost and found box, where she discovered his copy of Call of Duty for the Xbox, which had been left behind under the bed. Why wouldn’t he pack that?

The group scopes out location Bravo: it’s a warehouse out in the suburbs, and it’s closed (it’s a Sunday). They decide they’ll come back when it’s open, because the message is a little on the cryptic side. Maybe they can just go in and ask for Blue Monday?

Notes: there wasn’t much in the way of psychic activity in this session, although Richard did attempt (and failed) to see if his precognition was telling him anything about Clark or location Bravo. This is when we realized (as game designers) that even though Richard was a Major precog, he was not any likelier to succeed than a Minor precog on the dice roll, and we decided that Major powers should get to roll two dice for their powers rather than just one. This is now so fundamental to how the game works that it was definitely a good call!

Session 2

Richard received a precognitive vision in his dreams, and decided that the right time to visit location Bravo was actually later that night. (As the Referee, having both a Telepath and Precog in the group gives me a lot of opportunity to help shape the story without being railroading too much. I realised I hadn’t given enough info in my cryptic message to be truly useful, so I added this bit in).

The group arrived at the location only to discover that someone had been there before them. Tire tracks in the ground were the first hint, and then the door to the warehouse being broken open was the dead giveaway! They went inside all the same, and in location 3C in the warehouse, in one of shipping company’s cardboard boxes, was a baby, wrapped in a blanket. A hastily scribbled note in the box read “Blue Monday.” The group decided they should smash up the warehouse a bit, figuring that vandalism would be less likely to draw attention than a break-in where nothing was taken. (The Cell received 1 Heat for this, bringing them to 6, enough for the Referee to roll at the end of the session to see if anyone takes an interest in their activities).

Joy and Jenny took the baby to the hospital to check it over for its health, while Richard and Vonbella went to a 24-hour Walmart to buy some baby supplies. They all met back at Joy’s apartment and deliberated about what to do. Eventually they decided to send a message back to Royal to ask for further instructions. While waiting for an answer, they tried to figure out what had happened to Clark, and eventually worked their way into his email account (passwords aren’t as secure as you think, when you have a Telepath for a friend). They discovered he’d posted a personals ad and had been arranged to meet a woman about a week prior. He’d sent no further emails since that date. Jenny took note of the location they were meant to meet for later reference.

The answer came back from Royal by the end of the session. “Split in half. Keep half and drop the other half at location Echo.”

Notes: Joy’s player spent most of the session holding a make-believe baby and trying to keep it soothed. I think there was maybe one or two dice rolls the whole session, and virtually no NPC interaction (apart from the Walmart staff) – the group just roleplayed everything out among themselves and had a blast. As both Referee and game designer, this was very positive feedback! The players know their characters and how their relationships and are happy just acting them out.

Session 3

Vonbella wakes up from some awful dreams, where she’s being interrogated, somewhere near to the Gateway Arch (the big landmark in downtown St. Louis). She tells the group some of it, but it’s pretty vague and the group decides not to take any action.

Bryce arrived in from Florida, after a long bus ride on a Greyhound. Richard picked him up and brought him back to Joy’s apartment, where a very suspicious Vonbella and Jenny interrogated him. At one point, Jenny pulled her gun on him, trying to provoke a reaction (when she did this with Clark, he accidentally froze his coffee!) Bryce, however, was not as easily triggered as his little brother, so Vonbella tried to read his mind, which led to some Pyschic Friction (this is a new mechanic, and basically the Espers push against each other psychically until one of them backs down … or explodes). Both Bryce and Vonbella came off badly from this incident, nursing some aches and pains and generally disliking each other intensely, but Jenny was happy that they’d proven Bryce was an Esper at least.

To help calm things down, Richard takes Bryce to go help in the local soup kitchen, and on the way they send a message to Royal asking for a face-to-face meeting – surely there must be some mistake, nobody could really be suggesting to split the baby in half?! Jenny spends some time during her working day to look at footage of the park where Clark was meant to meet his date, and discovers that Clark was grabbed by two men who injected him with something and tossed him into the back of a van! She immediately panics, and worried that everyone is at equal risk of being grabbed, sends the bug out signal to everyone (which the group agreed would be a picture of a Quokka). Everybody gets their emergency bags and heads out of town to a log cabin near the commune where Richard used to live. On the way, Richard picks up the reply from Royal, with a location for a meeting the next day.

Out in the cabin, Jenny brings the group up to speed. She may have overreacted, but everybody thinks its better safe than sorry. Bryce talks a bit about he and his brother’s past, how his parents were killed because they wouldn’t let Clark be taken by “some guys in suits”, and how Bryce’s talent literally exploded out of him that night. Vonbella makes some off-colour comments about his history, and pisses Bryce off even more, but Richard plays the peacekeeper. Everyone settles in to try to get a night’s sleep before they go back to the city tomorrow.

Notes: Bryce and Vonbella generated a lot of Stress dice on themselves and each other with their Pyschic Friction, so they are tense and angry. This also spills onto Richard because when Espers are close together, they feel each other’s stress. It’s going to be difficult for the group to get any sleep at all tonight …

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Reign of Fire for YZE-Step

Challenged to make a Reign of Fire game with our current 23rd Letter rules gives us a bit of thought.

In Forbidden Lands (YZE), dragons are pretty nasty. Even the small ones.

MIGHT 32 (that is ridiculous but we will come to it)
AGILITY 4 (equivalent to d10)
WITS 4 (equivalent to d10)
EMPATHY 2 (equivalent to d8)

They have Armour 8 (We can halve that to 4 and they’re still badass).

Skills: RECON d8, Lore d6, Persuade d6

And they attack like ALIENS, Roll d6.

  1. Claw Attack 10 base dice with 2 damage which translates as 2d12 with base 2 damage.
  2. Dragon Roar, everyone has to make a stability/CUFcheck
  3. Dragon Wind 6 base dice with 1 damage which translates as d10+d8 and if you take damage you’re knocked to the ground (Prone)
  4. Fire Attack, Range Short, 12 Base Dice, Damage 1 which translates as Range 2, d20+d12 with fire intensity D plus one step for each success against 1 HEX. Not blast damage.
  5. Tail attack 8 base dice with damage of 1. Roll 2d10 instead and if hit, you’re knocked to the ground.
  6. Firestorm 12 base dice and damage 1 which is Range 2, d20+d12 to hit, Fire intensity D against all PCs within 2 hexes increasing by 1 for each success.

The ‘Might 32’ bit is really their Hit Points. And with Armour 4, good luck scoring that one. There is a special rule for a called shot at -2 (due to size) for the eyes or scales. And that reduces armour to 2. YOU CAN DO IT!

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Why Yeezy?

So, you know we have switched from out ERIS House System to the YZE for the Third Edition and we have been asked why.

The first reason is that it’s a decent system. It’s pretty grounded, pretty lethal and abstracts a lot of the bookkeeping (reducing crunch while maintaining verisimilitude). We are using the Step Dice version which is used in RPGs like Twilight 2000 4th Edition, Blade Runner, Terminal State, Exsanguine, micro2K, De Occulta.

The second is to take advantage of a lot of great content that’s been created for the Twilight 2000 4th Edition RPG. For a slightly more military campaign, the scenarios and equipment would be invaluable.

The third is making the rules available for games which need psychics but maybe don’t include them in the base game. Could Blade Runner do well with psychics? Hell, yeah.

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The 23rd Letter 3rd Edition

So, we have been working a lot on this. The rules are probably 90% complete but we keep finding little places where we think a rule or guideline is needed. Like today it was clarifiying how Hideouts function mechanically in relation to Heat from the authorities.

We are starting to look at design and layout and starting to put together an art list. Art? I mean, there was zero art in the first two editions. Yes, there will be art in this edition. Some of the new concepts need some art to illustrate.

Changes we can talk about?

  1. It’s less of a gun game. We have greatly simplified this.
  2. It’s still lethal. It’s easy to be taken out of the fight.
  3. We have changed the system considerably
  4. Psychics are much more powerful, but still vulnerable
  5. Greatly expanded rules for running the Network
  6. Oh, the metaplot. Play it or ignore it. There’s a metaplot

And we are looking for a couple of playtesters. Get in touch.

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Game Dev Discord

We have a Game Dev Discord which we are slowly opening up to a few more people.

Inside is space for asking questions about our existing published games as well as participating ideas for our upcoming books. Understand though that none of us do this full time – it’s a hobby where any money made pays for art. So, if this interests you, come on in!

Once you join there will be a little bit while we assign you permissions to the channels, so come in and ask what you want.

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YZE Dice Roller – including Step Dice

AJ built this YZE dice roller on the site so we have a super quick way of rolling dice and collecting successes. It’s the only one that works for Step Dice YZE as well as Pool Dice.

Click the image and add to your bookmarks!

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Dark Urban Fantasy I hear?

ExSanguine allows for the playing of Vampir Hunters, Familiars (humans enthralled by vampirs), Fiends (young vampires) and Elders. Plenty of supernaturals mentioned in there, eh?

De Occulta allows for playing of Occultists (magicians). But De Occulta presents the rules on how to magically create a “Frankenstein” as well as declaring that Pneuma can be people. So that’s two more factors (flesh golems, ghosts) in the Dark Urban Fantasy hinted at. The Shem also brings in actual golems, The Belt of Peter Stumpp brings in shapechangers if not actual classic wolf-men. The Fay are more than mentioned with the inclusion of Maleperdys and don’t forget the half-fish people in Y’a-nthlea.

Very quickly we start to build a whole pantheon of supernaturals, each with their own abilities.

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Ex Sanguine and De Occulta released: Dark Urban Fantasy

This week I released two complete books. Both of them are powered by the popular Year Zero Engine and both of them part of a series to create a “Dark Urban Fantasy” world.

The first, Ex Sanguine (Out of the Blood) is about modern vampires. It has rules for Hunters, Familiars, Fiends and Elders and the powers and Dark Gifts that Vampirism provides.
The second, De Occulta (Of the Hidden) is about modern occultists. It has rules for magic, Pneuma (spirits), Rotes (ancient spells), Relics (ancient artefacts) and describes more of the magical history of the world.

They’re completely compatible with each other as well as working with Twilight 2000 and Bladerunner, which also use the Step Dice version of YZE.

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Apocalyptic Fantasy

My contribution to this thread on the pub:

Things I think would be interesting.

  • Messed up geographies. Not necessarily Skyrealms but I based the design of Viride on a diagram of proteins floating in lipid layers (cell membrane).
  • An assumption is a planet – much like Earth. Maybe or maybe not one ecology but what if you break that assumption. Maybe the world isn’t a globe, maybe it’s a fragment of the planet held together with indescribably powerful magic powered by the living souls of mages. Maybe the forces holding the planet together kidnap magic users and insert them into the “integrity web” holding the fragment together. They’re kidnapping and dooming people on a small scale just to keep everyone else on the planet alive.
  • Messed up weather. Storms or quakes, rains of glass or acid, lightning that is super attracted to metal armour and can chain.
  • Messed up flora and fauna. Like “durlig” in Jorune – people have to eat emergency food. There’s also a lot more consumption of things that would have been “vermin”. The killing of a large “dragon” is a celebration not just because it’s a dread beast but because it’s a lot of food.
  • The Integrity Mages are the bad guys. So we give them an evil name. We then discover they’re them only reason everyone is alive.
  • Delving too deep in mines can bring you to open space. That’s very ungood. Limits metal and gem mining. And a mine turns into a vacuum hole until sealed by the magi.

There are other fragments out there and the magi can visit them. They have devices. The laws out there differ depending on which magi faction rules the fragment.
That’s a riff on breaking the geographical assumptions. Shards. Fragments.

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