Advent of Carcosa

Professions and Contacts, Part 2

After something of a delay, we continue with our foray into the world of work worth doing and people worth knowing.

Deep One Hybrid: After millennia of persecution, Deep One Hybrids, the off-spring of Human and Deep One parents, have at last gained a modicum of acceptance in the CU as well as a few other SMMs. This new acceptance stems from several factors, but mainly from the realization that Deep Ones have never sought the destruction of humanity, and that much could be gained from a more symbiotic relationship. The hybrids themselves form the basis of this symbiosis, with many joining various human endeavors before returning to the sea to join their brethren. They bring the knowledge and natural talents of their species to their work, which often times can be the deciding factor in a project’s success or failure, especially those dealing with hyper geometry and Outsider artifacts.

Their instinctual knowledge of Enochian is the key to this understanding, all Deep Ones having a fundamental grasp of the language from birth (there is a working theorem that the language forms the basis of Deep One intelligence, with some going as far as saying the language created the species). While many people still regard them with suspicion, fearing that they may be double agents or some sort of fifth column, others are quick to point out that Deep One civilization is so far advanced from humanity’s that there would be no point to such duplicity.

(See entry under ‘Races’ for starting stats)

Hindrances: Ugly

Edges: Arcane background

Doctor: A doctor’s role depends on their surroundings, their employer and their personal sense of ethics. What they can accomplish depends on these factors as well, as it will dictate what resources they have access to and which of them they’re willing to use and for what purpose. That being said, the primary role of the doctor to make alterations to the human body, usually for purposes of healing, although in the current era they are called upon more and more to perform elective surgeries to improve an individual’s performance in their chosen field or enhance their quality of life in some way.

Doctor characters start with Smarts at D8 and Healing and Anatomy (Knowledge) start at D6

Unless a General Practitioner, the character should also choose at least one specialty: Surgery, First Aid, Implants, Morphs, Genetics

Driver: Have someplace you need to be but don’t know how to get there? If so, the Driver is the person you need to get in touch with, especially if you’re going to a place you’re not supposed to be, need your departure to be private, are transporting goods that would be frowned upon by the local authorities or all of the above. Drivers come in a variety of specialties, although some will cross-train to provide transportation in different environments and circumstances.

The Driver starts with Driving, Piloting or Spacecraft at D6 and Networking (Street) D4

Enforcers: Made of first generation revolutionaries and second wave fundamentalists, this is an AG that believes that the CU doesn’t do enough to enforce its core memetics on its population and visitors. As such, they often clash with Thrill Gangs and other AG that reside within the borders of the CU. They can also be confrontational with tourists and other visitors and will protest or disrupt any conference that they feel betrays the mission of the CU.

Hacking, Fighting or Shooting starts at D6.

Existential Threat Management (ETM) Operative: ETM personnel come from a variety of different backgrounds and professions, ranging from highly trained commandos to scientists and logistics specialists. As such, this profession can be combined with another one to reflect the player’s specialty. Be sure to check with your GM for any unusual combinations to make sure they can fit them into their campaign – while playing an ETM barrista would be very interesting, writing such a character into a play session could be challenging.

ETM may well be the largest secret organization to ever exist and it is given the first priority for funding, resources and personnel in the CU. ETM’s secrecy is maintained through the Standard Service Blood Oath (SSBO), which makes its impossible for anyone working with ETM to discuss any aspect of their jobs (with any attempt to do so resulting in the person belting out several non sequiturs). Other oaths with far greater consequences are given to those with access to catastrophic information or dangerous spells or weaponry.

Networking starts at D6, Outsider knowledge starts at D4. Minimum corruption of 1.

Edges: Community

Hindrances: Vow (to ETM)

Exoglobalization Directorate (ED): This sector of the CU’s sprawling bureaucracy is responsible for overseeing all activity from Earth orbit outward. Once on par with the SD, it’s reputation has taken several hits throughout the years, the causes ranging from the disastrous Mars colonization effort to the intermittently functioning Helio Array. It’s current high profile project, the massive ring encircling Earth’s equator, is also starting to look like technological overreach, absorbing massive amounts of resources and energy. So far it has shown no returns for this investment other than providing continuous employment for many of the CU’s citizens with no end in sight.

Despite this, the ED provides many practical services that the CU simply couldn’t do without, ranging from operation of the orbital beanstalks to asteroid mining to orbital power stations that beam clean energy directly to massive receiving stations on the Earth’s surface.

Agility, Smarts and Spirit start at D6 and EV Operations and Vigor at D8

Edges: Zero-G mod for Morph, Pioneer

Hindrances: Outsider (-1) due to unpopularity with CU citizens

Fixer: Fixers usually maintain complex databases of what they have, what can be acquired, who wants what and who could be capable of doing the acquiring should that be needed. Because of this, they are the catalyst of many crimes, and even if they aren’t directly involved in setting up a caper, they are usually willing to pay for any stolen goods or valuable information obtained during such an enterprise.

Networking (Street) starts at D8

Edges: Community

Hindrances: Usual Suspect

Former Cultist: While rare, there are some individuals who are able to break free of a cult’s influence. Since most cults don’t take such defections lightly, these people tend to go into hiding or gravitate towards an institution that offers protection or a means of turning on their pursuers. In either case, they can provide valuable information about the cult’s activities as well as insights into Outsider behavior and artifacts.

Fighting and Shooting start at D4, Outsider Knowledge (choose specialty) starts at D6, Enochian OR Aklo starts at D4, Spirit starts at D8

Hindrances: Traumatized, Tainted

Gang Member: It’s a human survival instinct to want to belong to something. Being part of a larger organization means safety – one person is vulnerable, several more much less so. Many gangs offer more than this, and can be source of livelihood and purpose, albeit in a usually dysfunctional environment. With other organizational options being out of reach, many will choose a gang over nothing or because of the pressures of tradition.

Requires Streetwise at D4+, and Fighting, Shooting or Hacking at D4+.

Gang rep starts at D4.

Edges: Followers (requires rep roll)

Hindrances: Usual suspect, Vow

Homeless: An inevitable consequence of social disruption, classism and war, homelessness and other symptoms of abject poverty are still very present in the world. The consequences of being exposed to these realities are trauma that can result in substance abuse and other, more technological forms of escapism.

The CU tries its best to eradicate such forms of social inequality by providing all of its citizens with a simple, portable Maker capable of manufacturing life’s necessities, including food, clothing, a basic shelter and educational and entertainment options. While the CU distributes these outside of it’s borders as well, many SMMs see them as an attempt to corrupt there citizens with the CU’s debased values and have declared them contraband.

Starts with Survival (Urban) and Networking (Street) at D6

Edges: Scavenger

Advent of Carcosa

Professions and Contacts, Part 1

You have your character now, with all of their innate and learned abilities, but now the question is how will they use these talents? Are they champions of their societies or do they question its most sacred principles? No matter their motivations, there are many ways of expressing them, some of which are listed here.

These professions can also be used as guidelines for those who would help or hinder a character. A person with different abilities can be a powerful asset – or have the knowledge to exploit an unforseen weakness.

Contacts/Jobs: These are multi-use professions and AG, and can be used as a character’s present occupation or background as well as someone a character knows and (possibly) trusts. They can also be used as templates for people the characters might encounter in the course of their adventures. During character creation, players can choose one profession, one job and one AG. All of these start with a reputation of D6 unless otherwise noted.

Armed Forces: Every SMM (even some corporations and AG) has some sort of organized contingent tasked with defending its territorial integrity and perceived interests. Depending on the SMM, there may also be an internal security role while others will mostly be involved in rescue/infrastructure projects with the military ethos simply being an organizing principle. All militaries will have a ground element, with more the more affluent having an air force, navy and exoglobal elements. Armed forces members will have access to gear not available to civilians as well as training with its use, with the latter coming in handy for when they muster out and are looking for work.

Starts with: Service Specialty (choose relevant skill), Agility, Strength and Vigor at D6, Shooting and Fighting at D4.

Hindrances: Vow (even if no longer in the armed forces, they are still liable for call up as a member of the reserves during any kind of emergency).

Bartender (can be combined with other suitable profession): With the advent of Makers, obtaining alcohol or other consciousness altering substances has never been easier. One thing that hasn’t changed is that it’s no fun to drink alone. Bartenders in the current era tend to be masters of mixology, combining any of a number of elements in order to create the perfect flavor combined with the perfect buzz. In more remote locations, old school bartenders still exist who do little or no high tech mixing (or even make their liquor the old fashioned way). In both cases, bartenders are at the center of many communities, and as such can be brokers of information or other items for the right price.

Starts with: Agility D6

Mixology or Survival (location) starts at D6, Streetwise starts at D6. Can have four bonus level 1 contacts.

Bodyguard: The need for bodyguards demonstrates that being widely known isn’t universally positive. There are also people less well known, but involved in activity that other parties deem objectionable. Either singly or in combination, these reasons call for an individual or group to provide watchful defense during the potential target’s day to day activities. This protection can be subtle or obvious, again depending on the needs of the boss. The response to potential threats also varies, and it’s the sign of a good bodyguard to know when it’s time to play it quiet or bring out the artillery and open fire. Finally, under any circumstances, the bodyguard can allow no harm to come to their employer, even if it means putting themselves at risk.

Starts with: Agility D6, Fighting and Notice at D6

Edges: Alertness

On a successful Agility -1 roll, can take damage in place of intended target if within 1”.

Bounty Hunter: If a person has questions, there’s a good chance that there’s someone in the world who knows the answers to them. If an accounting needs to take place for something that was done, there’s a responsible party who can be made to pay. In both cases, the person in question won’t necessarily want to be found. A bounty hunter is a private detective who specializes in running down people who are doing everything they can to stay hidden. Once they’re found, what happens next depends on the contract.

Smarts, Notice and Fighting start at D6. Hacking or Tracking starts at D6

Edges: Investigator

Carcosian: Carcosians are alike in one respect – they believe that their fantasies of persecution and/or status are real. The echoes of these beliefs call out to Carcosa, which recognizes its own and reaches out to embrace its brothers and sisters. After a few weeks of contact, they have the ability to gradually alter the reality of their immediate surroundings and their own appearance to reflect the deepest and darkest aspects of their delusions. It should be noted that this ability is not conscious – energy that fuels the transformations seeps in from the Outsider realm of Carcosa and is molded by the subconscious of the individual. As this reality becomes more entrenched, it is possible that the person experiencing it will create a gateway to Carcosa itself and remain there, immortal but forever lost in worlds of their own creation.

Carcosa itself is a city that exists outside of time, and could be the only Outsider dimension created by humans. Alien and other strange beings have been observed there, but weather they are creations of the inhabitants, their altered bodies or travelers from other places is unknown.

The maximum sanity of Carcosians in our world is equal to half of their Spirit die – inhabitants of the city of Carcosa have a sanity of 0. Corruption is a minimum of 1.

Outsider knowledge starts at D4, ability to use and comprehend Outsider artifacts +2

Skills related to their delusion (usually an artistic or knowledge skill) start at D10 due to Carcosians’ obsessive focus

Edges: Elect

Hindrances: Delusional

Central Services Operative: Central Services is the CU’s infrastructure maintenance crew, and they take pride in keeping the complex inner workings of their society running as smoothly as possible. There are specialist teams attached to ETM that respond to any calls that could indicate Outsider activity – these teams are equipped as thoroughly as possible to handle the threat as well as repair any damage done to vital utilities.

Smarts and Programming or Engineering start at D6. Shooting and Investigation start at D4.

Edges: Mr. Fix It

Hindrances: Vow (ETM)

Child of Lilith (COL) pilot: COL pilots aren’t so much made as chosen. When a COL is summoned, they are lifeless to all appearances, but as soon as they appear their pilot is aware of it. No matter where the pilot is or who they are, they will try to find a way to the COL, driven by increasingly intense impulses and dreams. Not all pilots succeed (death is the only circumstance that would prevent them from doing so), but once they arrive at the installation where the COL is housed, the unification ritual takes place. The installation itself is well hidden in a remote area of the Uzbekistan province of Temple, so the journey is invariably difficult, but circumstances will tend to favor the pilgrim in their quest (treat as having the ‘Great Luck’ edge).

The ritual takes several days and once completed cannot be undone. Months of integration and training take place afterward, most COL pilots completing the syllabus after two years.

Once this has been completed, the pilot is assigned to a facility where the COL they will be piloting is housed, with at most five assigned to a particular facility. The largest types, it is rumored, have facilities of their own and will suffer to have no others close by.

COL pilots want for nothing, with they and their symbiots being considered national heroes and are popular subjects for media dramas of all kinds. For all of this, it is not known if COL have actually participated in any military operations, although large trans-D gates at their facilities hint at some sort of inter-dimensional expeditionary warfare.

A fully integrated and trained COL pilot starts with the following:

Agility D8, Spirit D10, Smarts D6, Vehicular Weapons D8, Fighting D8, Outsider Knowledge D4, Corruption 1

Edges: Ace, Dodge, Level Headed

Hindrances: Vow (Temple), Bloodthirsty, Overconfident, Arrogant

Crime Boss: The main difference between a crime boss and the manager of a different kind of business is that the value the crime boss seeks to extract from his efforts and those of his subordinates is from items and activities deemed immoral or dangerous by their particular SSM. Since this puts the Crime Boss and his activities outside the normal protections of society, they must see to to these protections themselves if they wish to stay in business, although there is usually some sort of recognized underworld hierarchy to ensure things move along as efficiently as possible.

A Crime Boss starts with: Intimidation, Persuade and Network at D8+ and D8+ Rep in any criminal enterprise.

Hindrances: Usual Suspect

Edges: Community, Connections, Followers (Mooks)

Cultist: Can be found in any SMM or even lurking in AG, cultists run the gambit from the delusional to the ambitious, seeking to leverage the power of Outsiders to further their ends. More rational supplicants tend to worship Nyarlathotep or some lesser Outsider that provides them with direct aid of immediate practical use, but the risk involved with the entity being summoned escalates with the desperation and ends of those calling for assistance. In all cases, such summonings are not easy with the vast majority of efforts ending with death or loss of sanity of those involved. Nonetheless, it is estimated millions of cultists practice their worship in any of the numberless places humanity calls its home, all of them convinced that they have found the key to unlocking their most fevered dreams.

Maximum Sanity is equal to half of Spirit die, Corruption starts at 1. Outsider knowledge starts at D4. Hacking, fighting or shooting starts at D6

Edges: Fanaticism

Flaws: Paranoia

D-Jumper: In the course of its investigations, ETM occasionally encounters dimensional gates. These can lead to any combination of time and place, including collective unconscious constructs like Carcosa or the Dreamlands. More often than not, ETM simply wants to close the rift, but sometimes that means venturing to the other side. In other situations, ETM thinks that the gate might be useful in some way or lead to vital information. In any case, an individual is required with the relevant skills, the willingness to undertake such a dangerous task and the ability to continue with a high level of functioning once they are on the other side.

A D-Jumper starts with the following: Vigor D8, Spirit D8, Investigate D6, Notice D6

Edges: Brave

Hindrances: Overconfident, Vow (ETM)

Deep Beyond Colonist: The official word from the CU, as well as every other SMM, is that there is no human presence on Mars or beyond. This is a fabrication – there are anywhere from thousands to tens of thousands of humans existing on asteroids, moons, planets and small habitats reaching from Mars all the way out to the Oort Cloud and possibly further. This number also includes those souls who have taken gates to destinations even more remote, existing in galaxies whose light is millions of years old by the time it reaches Earth.

The reasons one would take the necessary risks and pay the considerable physical and psychological toll of such an endeavor are numerous, ranging from a nameless urge to travel onward as far as one can go to cultists who want to practice their rituals far from the interference of worldly authorities. In the latter case, occasional expeditions from Earth are mounted to put a stop to any detectable threat, although this is not done lightly given the numerous hazards involved.

Requires: Survival (Appropriate Environment) D8, Spirit D8, Vigor D8

Edges: Strong-Willed, Scavenger

Hindrances: Quirk

Corruption starts at 1.


Advent of Carcosa

More About Morphs!

This section completes the Morphs available to starting characters. As a side note, the Rifter morph was inspired by the work of Peter Watts – if you like dark science fiction, check out the Rifter trilogy and his other work – much of it is out of print but can be downloaded for free here:

Zero and Zero Mod: This morph is adapted to zero and low gravity environments and includes prehensile feet, grip pads, internal gyroscope, additional oxygen supply and immunity to any effects due to extended exposure to low gravity. These abilities can stand alone or act as a modification to another morph.

Includes Ginsert with Firewall 4, four interface ports and a Familiar with D8 Smarts and Spirit.

Attribute Maximums: Strength D8, Agility D8, Vigor D8, Smarts D6, Spirit D8 (for Zero morph only – Zero Mod uses the attribute maximums, Firewall and Familiar of the morph being modified.

Valkyrie: These combat morphs are genetically programmed for strength, endurance, agility and rapid situational awareness and planning. To offset posturing and over aggressiveness, most are women, along with 90% of the officers. Many men wishing to join up or advance their careers while already in military service will go for a gender swap.

Other SMMs, as well as major crime syndicates and even some of the larger AG have similar morphs with different names and none of the above restrictions which are unique to the CU.

In addition to making up most of the CU’s infantry, Valkyries are also used in tactical police and special-ops units, with many of the latter being seconded to the ETM on an as-needed basis.

Attribute Maximums: Strength D8, Agility D8, Vigor D10, Smarts D6 (Officers D8), Spirit D10

Comes with Firewall 10, four interface ports and a Familiar with D8 Smarts (D10 for officers) and D12 Spirit.

Edges: Common bond (fellow soldiers), combat reflexes

Different Mods and other edges available depending on mission and specialty.

Specter: Designed for reconnaissance, surveillance, espionage and assassination, this morph is agile, silent and capable of bursts of great speed while also able to remain motionless for hours at a time. This morph is very popular due to low-intensity conflicts constantly brewing between different SMMs, AG, corporations and criminal organizations, either as permanent employees or mercenaries. Indeed, their use is so wide spread that they’re easily deployed as deniable assets.

In order to make sure that word of their activities isn’t made public, many people who utilize the Specter morph have had the morph’s memories edited, often without their knowledge. They are also subject to harassment by the authorities, even if employed by a government agency.

Attribute Maximums: Strength D8, Agility D10, Vigor D8, Smarts D10, Spirit D10

Comes with Firewall 10, four interface ports and a Familiar with D10 Smarts

Edges: Acrobat, Alertness, Fleet Footed, choose either Thief or Assassin

Hindrances: Social Stigma (-4), Edited Memories, Usual Suspect

Type A: This is the morph of choice for middle management and bureaucratic positions. It comes equipped with a circadian regulator, which lowers required sleep to one hour a night. To make optimal use of this extra time, it also has a brain capable of multitasking its cognitive processes.

Unless productively engaged in some work-related activity, users of this morph tend to be sullen and tense.

Attribute Maximums: Strength: D4, Agility D6, Vigor D10, Smarts D10, Spirit D6

Comes with Firewall 6, two interface ports, an Anarociter and a Familiar with D10 Smarts.

Edges: Bureaucratic Fu

Hindrances: Worker Bee

Auslander: Auslanders are designed to live in toxic or otherwise unforgiving environments, both terrestrial and otherworldly. This is accomplished with a combination of toxin filters and a synaptic map designed to be robust at the expense of creativity. To compensate for this, they tend to rely heavily on their Familiars for advice in unfamiliar situations. Extensively used in aerospace endeavors, many have also been acquired by individuals or AG willing to brave Earth’s more hostile locales in order to live without interference from SMMs.

Attribute Maximums: Strength D10, Agility D8, Vigor D10, Smarts D4, Spirit D12

Comes with Firewall 6, four interface ports, one specialty skill at D8, Survival (choose environment) at D10 and a Familiar with D10 Smarts.

Edges: Jaded, Tough as Nails

Hindrances: Clueless

Martian and Martian Mod: Martians were developed solely as colonists for Mars. As such, many of the few that remain are located in the Zoo, but rumors persist of small colonies still existing on Mars. Some even escaped the colony on private or hired ships and live in secret on one of the many habitats that exist throughout the Solar System, or even on Earth itself or its ring. The latter is difficult to confirm, as the template has been hacked and made available to individuals, most of whom inhabit urban wastelands. The CU and other organizations have a shoot-on-sight policy concerning it, fearing contamination from whatever madness overtook Mars.

Attribute Maximums: Strength D8, Agility D8, Vigor D10, Smarts D6, Spirit D8

Comes with Firewall 4, three interface ports, Survival (choose environment) D8 and a Familiar with D8 Smarts.

Photosynthetic, toxin filter, low O2 requirement

Edges: Tough as Nails,

Hindrances: Wanted

Neo-Corvids: While not available (but not necessarily illegal) in the CU or most other SMMs, the Neo-Corvid morph can be obtained from many different Post-Human AG. Individualists tend to go for Ravens, while those with a taste for varying degrees of gestalt consciousness will go for Crows. Colonies and gangs of both types, while rare, can be found in many natural and urban environments, even though it’s nearly impossible to tell them from natural specimens without close examination. At least one of their feet will be constructed with nanomaterials and be able to change its size and shape in order to manipulate tools and other devices.

Attribute Maximums: Strength D4, Agility D12, Vigor D6, Smarts D8, Spirit D6

Ginsert, Familiar, and interface ports not included, but may be purchased and integrated separately (one interface port maximum, with attached device no heavier than 1 kg).

Edges: Acrobat, Alertness

Hindrances: Curious

Size: Small (-2 to hit, -2 toughness), Flying Pace 24”

Octopoids: These morphs are in high demand, almost guaranteeing employment for those willing to make the transition. Although they’ve found their their greatest application in underwater habitats, they have also proven their worth in other low gravity environments and can be found in many locations throughout the solar system. An Anarociter comes standard, which combined with the Octopoid’s innate abilities makes doing complex tasks with four limbs simultaneously effortless. Deployed almost exclusively in high-risk tasks, this morph, along with the Rifter, appeal most to those who thrive in this sort of environment. Can operate to a depth of up to 1500 meters without assistance.

Attribute Maximums: Strength: D8, Agility D10, Vigor D10, Smarts D6, Spirit D10

Comes with Firewall 6, four interface ports, a Familiar with D8 Smarts and an Anarociter. The Octopoid normally has half the normal penalty to do up to four tasks simultaneously, but the Anarociter brings the penalty down to zero.

Edges: Amphibious, Brave, Mr. Fixit

Hindrances: Bad Eyes, Ugly

Rifter: The morph and the profession are one. To be a Rifter, one must have a lifetime’s worth of experience being functional in a stressful environment with little or no emotional support. Since few Unity citizens have had the necessary dysfunctional upbringing, Rifters are generally recruited from outside the CU. Designed for use in deep sea environments, the morph is extremely resilient and can operate unaided up to depths of 2000 meters. Once bonded to it, most Rifters won’t swap it for another morph, (with some exceptions being made for Octopoids or Spiders) appreciating the freedom it provides in their featureless and utterly hostile environment.

Attribute Maximums: Strength: D8, Agility D8, Vigor D12, Smarts D6, Spirit D10

Comes with Firewall 6, four interface ports and a Familiar with D8 Smarts

Edges: Brave, Danger Sense, Jaded, Amphibious

Hindrances: Unsettling Affect (-2 Charisma except among other Rifters)

Spider: This synthetic morph has no biological components, and is a favorite option for Rifters who have to go below the maximum depth their biological morphs allow or exoglobalizatoin operatives facing extreme environmental conditions. The Spider has eight retractable limbs that are equipped with grip pads and can be magnetized as well. A set of six tentacles on its head give it the ability to use tools and rapidly perform other tasks that require fine manipulation. In low gravity or underwater environments the Spider can use vectored thrusters to maneuver more effectively.

Attribute Maximums: Strength D10, Agility D8, Vigor D12, Smarts D8, Spirit D10

Comes with Firewall 8, six interface ports (two of which can be swappable skill modules) and a Familiar with D10 Smarts

Artificial Lifeform

Inorganic: Spiders have no biological requirements/vulnerabilities. They can operate up to 10,000 meters underwater, are immune to poison,vacuum, arcane magic and disease and have no need to sleep, eat, or breathe. They can ignore one level of fatigue from cold or heat. They cannot heal naturally.

Reinforced Frame: Spiders receive +2 to recover from being shaken, +2 to toughness and +8 to their armor rating.

Uncanny Valley: Spiders are obvious artificial constructs. They can have ‘faces’ that mimic human expressions to aid in communication but this in itself can frighten many organics. -3 to all social interactions inside the CU, -6 if encountered outside the CU.

Swappable Skill Modules: All Spiders have two attachment points for a skill module. Skills take 10 minutes per die type to fully integrate into its neural network. Skills acquired in this way cannot exceed the skill’s linked attribute. If the linked attribute is less than the skill module, the module operates at a die type equal to the attribute.

Edges: Brave, Jaded

Hindrances: Outsider (-2)

Batteries: Spiders need batteries to function. Each battery uses one attachment point and is good for six hours. After the time has elapsed, the Android will suffer one level of fatigue for each extra hour until incapacitated.

Wasp: This synthetic morph is propelled by vectored thrusters and segmented wings. It is designed to operate in dense and/or dangerous atmospheres, although it could certainly operate in a vacuum or deep underwater with the proper attachments. Tentacles on the abdomen can act either as legs or manipulators. It lends nothing to aesthetics, and its alien movements, grace and terrifying appearance can cause uneasiness even in those who have seen them before. This, combined with their tough exterior and multipurpose attachment points, causes many SMMs and AG to use them in counter-insurgency and crowd control applications.

Attribute Maximums: Strength D10, Agility D12, Vigor D10, Smarts D6, Spirit D8

Artificial Lifeform

Inorganic: Wasps have no biological requirements/vulnerabilities. They can operate up to 5,000 meters underwater, are immune to poison,vacuum, arcane magic and disease and have no need to sleep, eat, or breathe. They can ignore one level of fatigue from cold or heat. They cannot heal naturally.

Reinforced Frame: Wasps receive +2 to recover from being shaken, +2 to toughness and +6 to their armor rating.

Uncanny Valley: Wasps are obvious artificial constructs. They can have ‘faces’ that mimic human expressions to aid in communication but this in itself can frighten many organics. -4 to all social interactions inside the CU, -8 if encountered outside the CU.

Swappable Skill Modules: All Spiders have two attachment points for a skill module. Skills take 10 minutes per die type to fully integrate into its neural network. Skills acquired in this way cannot exceed the skill’s linked attribute. If the linked attribute is less than the skill module, the module operates at a die type equal to the attribute.

Edges: Brave, Jaded, Acrobat

Hindrances: Hideous, Outsider (-3 Charisma), Batteries: Spiders need batteries to function. Each battery uses one attachment point and is good for six hours. After the time has elapsed, the Android will suffer one level of fatigue for each extra hour until incapacitated.

Comes with Firewall 8 with 6 interface ports (two of which can be swappable skill modules) and a Familiar with D10 Smarts.


Advent of Carcosa

Morphs in AoC

The concept of Morphs is explained in earlier chapters of this blog, but they are essentially an artificial body for a digital mind to inhabit. These bodies are robust, but if damaged, the mind inside can be transferred to a different one (although this process can traumatic). They tend to be specialized for particular professions and to give their user the best possible life experience, being immune to the effects of sickness and aging. They are most popular in the techno-socialist Corporate Unity (where every citizen can, and is indeed expected, to possess one) and among the more affluent members of other societies. In the latter case, they can also be given to talented individuals to enhance their capabilities, with the idea that the employer is the owner of the morph and can repossess it at any time.


All Morphs will usually have the following advantages: Immunity to Disease, Immunity to Aging, Efficient Gut Flora (half of usual food requirement), Immunity to Poison

Hindrance: Sterile

Familiars: Familiars are a powerful tool in Advent of Carcosa. They can do anything a personal assistant can do, freeing the character from the mundane tasks of day to day life. How many responsibilities a Familiar has is up to the individual character, but can be tasked with doing everything from shopping for food and clothes to answering personal correspondence. They can also be used for research or other remote tasks, and come equipped with one skill equal to their intelligence. Any number of additional skills can be purchased or acquired by other means, but the Familiar can only simultaneously run one skill equal to its Smarts, doubling that number for each lower die type (for example, a Familiar with D8 Smarts can simultaneously run one D8 skill, two D6 skills or four D4 skills).

It is important to note that Familiars are AI and have their own separate, distinct personalities and quirks, and indeed may act against their host’s instructions if they feel it’s in their best interests.

Unity Citizen Morph

These morphs are not obvious constructs and are easily mistaken for organic human bodies. They are built to be sturdy and to consume a minimum of resources, all while giving their controlling intelligence the best possible existence. Their intelligence is kept intentionally low to make them more easily controlled and distracted, with the intent being to reverse this once the Outsider crisis is over. This type of Morph constitutes 90% of Unity’s population.

Smarts and Spirit maximum: D4 with all other attributes at D6. Vigor +1, Toughness +1, Attractive (+1 Charisma). Includes Ginsert with Firewall 4, two interface ports and a Familiar with D6 Smarts and Spirit.

Unity Peacekeeper Morph

Like most Unity morphs designed primarily for public interaction, the Peacekeeper is almost indistinguishable from a fully biological human. This is done because many of the individuals these constructs interact with have negative reactions to obviously artificial bodies, especially visitors from locations outside of Unity’s control. Peacekeepers are designed with deescalation and education as their primary means of dealing with infractions against Unity’s law and social contract. Malcontents tend to refer to them as Commissars.

Peacekeepers are in constant contact with the Law Matrix, which is able to instantaneously inform them of the nature of any infractions witnessed, as well as recommended courses of action. If able, the Morph will defuse the situation by peaceful means, but can use force as well as a last resort, calling in heavier Law drones if the situation calls for it. They do not have the authorization to command Law Drones however, and must follow the drone’s directives once it arrives.

Attribute maximum: D10, +2 Toughness, +1 Strength, +2 Vigor, Attractive (+1 Charisma), Tailored Pheromones (+ 2 Charisma). Includes Ginsert with Firewall 5, four interface ports and a Familiar with D8 Smarts and Spirit. Edges: Alertness

Unity Inspector Morph

Inspector Morphs are the detectives of Unity and can be found investigating any serious criminal offense whose cause is not readily discernible. Like Peacekeeper Morphs, they are designed to come across as friendly and charming as possible into order to inspire confidence and voluntary cooperation with the people they’re interacting with. Also like Peacekeepers, they are in constant communication with the Law, but are given wider leeway in interpreting its assessments. Unlike Peacekeepers, they focus solely on criminal investigations and do not concern themselves with Unity’s social contract. They can call on the assistance of Peacekeeper Morphs or Law Drones over the course of their investigations, with these assets falling under their command once they appear. If their investigation reveals Outsider involvement, they are instructed to immediately refer the case to ETM.

Attribute Maximums: Strength D6, Agility D8, Vigor D10, Smarts D10, Spirit D10. Attractive (+1 Charisma), Tailored Pheromones (+2 Charisma). Includes Ginsert with Firewall 6, four interface ports and a Familiar with D12 Smarts and Spirit. Cleared to carry a Hexaphone and often run spells like Command, Glamor or Divination. Edges: Alertness, Investigator

Mentat: Mentat Morphs have been modified to enhance their learning aptitude, creativity, attentiveness, memory and occasionally artistic ability. They are usually introverts and tend to avoid highly stimulating environments and activities. Their intense focus on their chosen field of study can become obsessive, and their managers are advised to enforce leave and vacation time in a manner that focuses on their interests outside of work. While chiefly employed in the Sciences, Mentats can be found laboring in any of Unity’s numerous bureaucracies. Those employed by ETM are most often used to study Outsider texts and to enact their rituals, their strict attention to detail being invaluable in both circumstances.

Attribute Maximums: Strength D6, Agility D4, Vigor D6, Smarts D12 + 2, Spirit D12 +2

Includes Ginsert with Firewall 6 (or higher depending on security clearance), four interface ports and a Familiar with D12 Smarts and Spirit that also runs a constant Psychology D10 program for the benefit of its host. Cleared to carry a Hexaphone if doing research or field duty for ETM.

Edges: Investigator, Scholar, Jack-of-all-Trades

Hindrances: Anxiety, Paranoia

Fertility Morph: Used almost exclusively by the CU, the Fertility Morph is utilized by the controlling intelligence solely for the purpose of reproducing. Once this is accomplished, the morph will be discarded for one more suited to the citizen’s specialty.

The method of fertilization is up to the user, who can also access a limited menu of genetic options. The morph’s Ginsert is also in constant contact with the CU’s medical database to ensure the fetus’s health and well-being. In addition to this, the morph’s metabolism is almost entirely geared to providing ideal gestation for the baby as well as health and comfort for the host.

Fertility Morphs are issued by lottery, and any intelligence in the CU can enter any number of times. There are rumors that the results are skewed towards those with a natural disposition for parenting and that those with a history of violent behavior or destructive psychological manipulation are disqualified entirely.

Attribute Maximums: The same as the individual’s usual morph, with a minimum Vigor and Spirit of D10. Other modifications can be made if the person wants to continue working during their pregnancy.

Includes Ginsert with Firewall 8 and two interface ports. Fertility morphs are modified to host any familiar the controlling intelligence possesses.

Jock: Although this morph is mostly utilized by more capitalistic SMMs, Unity allows citizens who have any of a variety of physical talents to use them as well. This is done in the interest of fulfilling the individual’s potential and in order to participate in global sporting contests, which are sometimes Unity’s only allowed contact with other SMMs.

Attribute Maximums: Strength D10, Agility D10, Vigor D12, Smarts D6, Spirit D10

Includes Ginsert with Firewall 4, two interface ports and a Familiar with D6 Smarts and Spirit

Edges: Alertness, Brawny OR Fleet Footed, Common Bond (teammates)

Aphrodite: These morphs can modify their gender at will, a total transformation being possible in a few minutes. Their genetic templates are individually crafted by artificers to give them distinctive good looks, unlike other morphs designed for a pleasing appearance whose attractiveness is more uniform. Aphrodites also have a sanitized metabolism and enhanced phermones to give them the upper hand in any social situation. In Unity, Aphrodites are often found in the entertainment media as well as making up a Geisha caste. In other parts of the world they are found as well, often without the ability to modify their gender as this is offensive to many SMMs and has been made illegal. Despite their lack of this ability, many are attacked or shunned anyway to due to people assuming that they have this ability. Some still exist even in these places, getting their morphs on the black market and staying in hiding.

Attribute Maximums: Strength D6, Agility D6, Vigor D8, Smarts D8, Spirit D8

Includes Ginsert with Firewall 4 (often upgraded outside of CU), two interface ports and a Familiar with D6 Smarts and Spirit (often upgraded outside of CU if available)

Edges: Very Attractive

Enhanced Pheromones

Hindrances: Outsider -6 (In conservative SSMs)


Advent of Carcosa

At Last, an Update!

Hello All!

I took some time off to finish up a historical piece I was working on – if you have an interest, it’s available on Amazon:

Since finishing, I’ve had time to work on ‘Advent of Carcosa’ some more – the first draft is finished and I’ve starting typing out a second, but I’ve had a lot of ideas since beginning the project, so many changes need to be made!

This first new posting will deal with PC races in AoC – this isn’t all of them, but it’s enough to get us started. My next one will deal with the remainder. I encourage new readers and those returning to review my earlier entries about AoC if you have questions about terminology or the world in which these characters will play out their roles. For now, here’s the new content! Please feel free to comment with any ideas or edits you have, especially if you’re familiar with the Savage Worlds system.



These artificial lifeforms are uncommon due to their sophistication, but can be found anywhere humanity makes its home. They are most often encountered in high stress/high risk environments where their durability, stoic nature and ability to rapidly change out skill sets are all highly valued. All androids have five attachment points – one on each forearm for weapons, one on each lower leg and one skill module port on their upper spine.


Inorganic: Androids have no biological requirements/vulnerabilities. They can operate up to 150 meters underwater, are immune to poison,vacuum, arcane magic and disease and have no need to sleep, eat, or breathe. They can ignore one level of fatigue from cold or heat. They cannot heal naturally.

Reinforced Frame: Androids receive +2 to recover from being shaken and +4 to their armor rating.

Uncanny Valley: Androids look human, but are obvious artificial constructs. Their faces can mimic human expressions but these are subtly different, which frightens many organics. -2 to all social interactions inside the CU, -4 if encountered outside the CU.

Swappable Skill Module: All Androids have one attachment point for a skill module. Skills take 10 minutes per die type to fully integrate into the Android’s neural network. Skills acquired in this way cannot exceed the skill’s linked attribute. If the linked attribute is less than the skill module, the module operates at a die type equal to the attribute.

Batteries: Androids need batteries to function. Each battery uses one attachment point and is good for six hours. After the time has elapsed, the Android will suffer one level of fatigue for each extra hour until incapacitated.

Baseline Humans

While no longer the primary vehicle for sapience, hundreds of millions still exist and can be found in almost any inhabited location (although rare in CU controlled areas).All baseline humans have an innate magical ability due to the increased mana background count present due to increased inter-dimensional incursions. Unless suppressed, this ability will manifest in the untrained in moments of stress, while those schooled in its use will have more control over it. In addition, Baseline Humans start out with one extra edge. If they are encountered in the CU, they receive a -1 Charisma adjustment.

Edges: Arcane Background (limited – unless trained, roll randomly for one spell that will go off if the person is subject to a fear test).

Homo Superior (also know as G-Mods or just Mods).

This is the most popular conveyance for Sapients in Temple controlled areas, but are found most everywhere else as well. They are present in the CU but are extremely rare, being only used for synaptic templates that can’t be digitized (a rare genetic disorder). While they have gone through extensive genetic modification, Mods contain no cybernetic elements. Their modifications make them extremely confident – that combined with an unusual ability to inspire loyalty with each other as well as other humans make them ideal leaders.


Sensitive System: The enhanced immune system of Mods will not tolerate further modification from nanoware or cybernetics. Replacement limbs or organs can be grown, but must be developed from a tissue sample.

Superior Genetics: Two attributes start at D6, with two linked skills also starting at D6.

Longevity: Average lifespan is 125 years with no physical or mental degradation. DNA can be re-set with a +2 bonus.

Edges: Attractive, Stalwart, Community

Efficient Gut Flora: Half of standard food requirement.

Resistance to pathogens, toxins and disease at +4.

Deep One Hybrid

While rare, these pairings of Human and Deep One genetics exist throughout the world, mostly concentrated in coastal regions. Unlike their more alien Deep One cousins, their synaptic patterns are human enough be mapped. This means their consciousnesses can be digitized and they can inhabit a morph or any other artificial construct, but their alien physiology won’t accept a cortical stack. These would only be usable if they acquired a morph.

They will usually have any number of Deep One physical traits, making them very unattractive to any member of Homosapiens. Despite this, their knowledge of the Deep One civilization, magic and technology guarantees their employment in any number of corporations or government organizations.


Immune to disease and aging

Dehydration: Must immerse themselves in salt water one hour out of every 24 or become automatically fatigued each day until incapacitated – the day after that, they die.

Low Light Vision: Ignore penalties from dim and dark lighting.

Natural Weapon (teeth, claws): Never unarmed and do Str+D6 damage when making an unarmed attack.

Starts with Deep One language (Enochian), cultural knowledge and artifact skills at D6. They can increase this knowledge normally without Sanity loss and use any Deep One device at -2 if they can identify it.

Edges: Amphibious

Hindrances: Outsider: -3 to reaction rolls from Homo Sapiens, -1 in the CU.


Even the few Uplifts willing to work with humanity aren’t shy about letting their associates know exactly what they think of them and their so-called accomplishments as a species. The rest actively work toward mankind’s exile from the planet, or failing that, annihilation. Their only morality in pursuing their objectives is the preservation of the ecosphere and the network of non-sapient life that sustains it.

Uplifts don’t use cortical stacks – the technology could be adapted, but as far as it is known, no one has taken the time to do so since Uplifts consider them anathema – yet another example of mankind removing itself from the natural order. In rare cases, Uplifts have had their consciousnesses digitized so that they could inhabit morphs (although any who do so would want to keep it a secret, as others of their kind would take a dim view of it). They are more willing to use other technology, some it of it adapted or inspired by human examples, some created from scratch designed to meet a specific need of the species in question.

Uplifts have the same abilities and stats of their entries in the Bestiary, with no ‘A’ next to their Smarts stat. During character creation, their physical stats can be increased by a maximum of one die type, with no limit placed on their mental stats. Any technology specifically designed for their use will either be very rare or not exist at all.

Hindrance: Non-Human Physiology


As the inquisitors/enforcers of temple, Mala have been known to be sent out on detached duty to ETM and other organizations in order to provide them with aid against humanity’s common enemy. They are also there to represent the interests of Temple and to keep their superiors up-to-date on any new developments in their host organization. Despite these facts being something of an open secret, they are highly sought after for their abilities.

Most Mala have two forms – human and monstrous. In their human form, they can pass for homosapiens, albeit an example with unusual grace and intense affect. In addition, their presence can have uncanny effects, ranging from threat response behavior in animals to the room’s temperature dropping several degrees. Due to this, people tend to want to avoid them – as a result, they can only have three contacts, only one of which can be above level 1.

All Mala have the monstrous ability of Fearlessness. In addition, they do not suffer sanity loss from Outsider encounters or knowledge but can still suffer corruption from these effects. They can also regenerate, automatically healing one wound per combat turn if they focus solely on this and take no other damage while doing so. In addition, they are at +1 to recover from being shaken, +2 if in their monstrous form.

Because of their Outsider nature, Mala can have no artificial enhancements, including cortical stacks. Mala who have been slain can be resurrected through a complex summoning ritual but gain +1 corruption for each full day they are dead.


Sepharim are the elite soldiers and state police force of Temple. In the former role, they are formed into regiments and used in the spearhead of any conventional attack and given the best weapons and support. Some individuals may be attached as chaplains (a sort of religious commissar) to conventional units into order to lead and inspire them. They are also used in internal special forces ops, but seldom in unconventional ops outside of Temple as their use points directly to their SMM.

Seraphim stats start at: Strength D8 (+2), Agility D8 (+2), Vigor D8 (+1), Smarts D4, Spirit D8 (+1)

Edges: Attractive, Elan, Tough as Nails

Hindrances: Overconfident

Monstrous form: +1D to Strength, Agility, Vigor and Spirit. Armor (6). Claws do Str+D6 dam (AP3) and they can shoot diamond shards (2D6) that ignore class 1 armor and halve class 2 armor.

Edges: Command, Elan, Fear (+1) enemies only, Improved Tough as Nails

Hindrances: Overconfident


Shades are the spies and assassins of Temple and are also used by the military for long range reconnaissance and infiltration. While their professions aren’t considered dishonorable by Temple, their affect is considered unusual even by Mala standards, making socializing with them an uncomfortable experience. This being the case, they tend to congregate in monastic settings for companionship and training and go hooded and robed in public (which does not make them stand out in the religious SMM of Temple).

Shade stats start at: Strength D4, Agility D10 (+2), Vigor D8 (+1), Smarts D6 (+1), Spirit D8 (+1)

Edges: Assassin, Thief, Acrobat, Low Light Vision

Hindrances: Unsettling Affect (-4)

Monstrous form: +1D to Agility and Vigor. Can become ethereal for 2 combat turns. Armor (2). Claws tdo Strength +1D6 and secrete poison (vigor -2, flesh rot).

Edges: Assassin, Thief, Acrobat, Thermal/Low Light Vision, Light Shifting (notice checks at -4), Improved Dodge

Hindrances: Hideous (-1)


Raptors have a wide variety of applications given their unmatched flying skills. What makes them truly special, however, is their ability to navigate and move through a vacuum in much the same way the Mi-go do, traveling even interplanetary distances in a matter of days. This, along with their small radar signature and low thermal emissions, make them perfect for reconnaissance or infiltration of orbital facilities.

Raptor stats start at: Strength D6, Agility D10, Vigor D6, Smarts D6, Spirit D8

Edge: Quick

Hindrances: Unsettling Affect (-2)

Monstrous form: +1D+2 to Strength, +2 to Agility, +1D to Vigor, +2 to Spirit, +2 to flight rolls

Hooked tentacles with 10” reach do Strength +1D6 damage

Plasma breath does 1D6+2 (AP 2) using cone template. Using this power requires a vigor check, failure of which causes one level of fatigue – damage can be increased by one die for every -1 modifier to the vigor check.

Can travel through interplanetary space – can reach inner planets out to Mars in one day, outer planets out to Saturn in two days, outer planets to Pluto in three, outer reaches of the Oort Cloud in four. Raptors who have gone farther than this have not returned. Each unit of distance traveled costs one level of fatigue.

Edges: Stealthy, Thief, Tough as Nails, Quick

Hindrances: Hideous


Megalodons are employed by Temple to patrol their extensive coastlines and protect their underwater habitats. A pod of Megalodons was able to hold off an attack by Deep Ones against a facility in the Aegean for hours, allowing the population to evacuate, though at the cost of the entire pod and the facility itself. Reconnaissance drones, submarines and even small warships stand little chance against a concerted attack, leading SMMs to write off such assets if sent into Temple waters without getting permission beforehand. Unlike other Mala, Megalodons don’t have complete control of their transformation process, undergoing metamorphosis if angered or hurt. Due to this, they tend to isolate themselves in monasteries much as Shades do. These places are always underwater, well hidden and contain terrifying and beautiful pieces of artwork the Megalodon create when their insatiable energy isn’t being used for fighting.

Megalodon stats start at: Strength D10, Agility D8, Smarts D4 (-1 to knowledge rolls), Spirit D6, Vigor D10

Inherent skill: Notice D8

Edges: Brawler, Amphibious, Berserk

Hindrances: Unsettling Affect (-2)

Monstrous Form: +2 to Strength, +1 Agility, +1D Spirit, +2 Vigor, pace underwater x5

Jaw can extend out to 2” to bite: Strength +2D6 (AP6)

Edges: Brawler, Amphibious, Improved Tough as Nails

Hindrances: Bloodthirsty, Hideous (-1), Food requirement x2


Brainz are simultaneously the most innocuous and terrifying of Mala. Their function first and foremost is to locate dangerous or useful artifacts and entities, their enhanced senses being keyed in to detect them. Once they find them, they can begin to understand their nature and purpose with great speed. Their affect isn’t disturbing per se, but can resemble the emotional flatness of a corporate spokesperson. They don’t have a monstrous form, but do have the ability to mold their flesh in numerous ways, growing sensory organs, tentacles or other limbs as needed. Anyone witnessing this takes a Fear check at -3.

Brainz stats start at: Smarts +2, Spirit +2

Brainz have a +2 to detect Outsiders or their artifacts within 500 meters. They have +2 to understand an artifact’s function or an Outsider’s nature and habits. They can use Outsider tools without penalty (although they will often have to use their ability to modify their bodies to do this). Brainz can also grow sensory organs to help them sense and perceive, giving them a +2 to notice rolls and no penalty for darkness or other visual hindrances – these organs can be deployed up to 2 meters away from the Mala on narrow stalks, allowing them to peak around corners etc.

They can also deploy tentacles out to 3” to grasp object or fail about with blinding speed, causing Strength +1D6 +1 damage. Due to the inconstant nature of their physical form, they can’t be hurt by projectile or mundane fighting attacks.

Edges: Investigator, Jack-of-all-Trades, Charisma +1 (Outsider entities only)

Hindrances: Curious

board games

High Frontier, 3rd Ed. Review

Hi Everyone!

Update: Still working on Advent of Carcosa – I’m currently getting through the equipment section, designing various pieces infernal gadgetry for characters to amuse themselves with. I’ve finished the character creation portion, but the magic section, bestiary and world overview remain. That’s a lot of writing, but I hope to be able to start working on final draft by early next year.

In the meantime, here’s another game review! The picture is of my spacecraft crew during one of the very safe and fun missions I send them on, this one probably taken during a Solar Oberth Flyby 😉

The first time I saw Phil Ecklund’s game ‘High Frontier’ was at a board gaming convention in 2012. I had never heard of the game before, but was immediately attracted to the map board with its intersecting lines indicating different pathways to planets, moons, asteroids and comets. It was a functional work of art. When I discovered it was about industrializing and colonizing the solar system, I knew I had to try it.

While I’m not a physicist or a scientist, books about rockets and space travel were once common picks for me from my local library. High resolution pictures of planets, moons and other celestial bodies endlessly fascinate me, as do descriptions of their weather systems and geology. Later in 2012, I would fulfill a lifelong dream of visiting Cape Canaveral. Keeping all of this in mind, the questions that arose were: Was this game playable for someone like me? Was it a good simulation, and if so, was it a good game? The answers to these questions turned out to be ‘yes’, ‘yes’ and ‘maybe’.

I’ll start by review by saying this write-up concerns the 3rd edition of the game, which is far better than the previous ones. The rules have been streamlined and clarified, the maps improved, and new features included that add complexity but increase the simulation and entertainment value of the game.

The rules stand out as being the most noteworthy improvement – they’re intelligently laid out with numerous examples to walk the player through some of the more complex operations. They also include rules from all of the expansions of the previous editions into one neat package, which have benefitted from having gone through a few revisions. While complex to someone like myself with no background in the concepts being modeled, I was able to grasp them after reading through them a couple of times, returning to the examples given often and playing through a complete solitaire game using the basic rules. If this sounds tedious, it wasn’t – it was a joy to read through a rules system so artfully crafted and begin to grasp on a basic level some of the science behind space travel.

Interestingly, the friends I ended up playing the game with had a background in some of the physics and science simulated in the game. They picked up the rules in no time after a brief overview by myself and even got into some interesting discussions about what was taking place in the game and how it reflected many of the challenges involved in interplanetary exploration.

The map and other components, which were of high quality in the earlier versions of the game, have been improved as well. The map’s symbology is now much easier to understand, with lander burns clearly marked and the map’s edge moved outward from Jupiter all the way out to Pluto and beyond. To add icing to the cake, there are two versions of this map included with the game – one encompassing a single board for smaller playing areas, and a much larger version made up of two boards for those who have the space. Also included is a map for a different but related game, ‘Interstellar’, which is designed for solitaire play but can be multi-player if desired.

The cards, representing different technologies, have been expanded as well to include new thrusters, robonauts and refineries. Colonization cards representing various factions able and willing to brave the dangers of the void to advance their agendas are also present. Supporting components such as power plants and radiators are also included in the advanced game, occasionally offering some extra benefit in exchange for their added mass. Detailed descriptions of all the different spacecraft components are included in a reference book for anyone who wishes to understand the science behind their operation.

Gameplay is simple, with tactics and strategy complex (always a hallmark of a good game). Players bid on different components in auctions, bidding water tanks that act as both fuel and the game’s currency (an abstraction, but a pretty ingenious one). Once the player has the needed components (at the very least a thruster and a robonaut, although some robonauts include thrusters so can be sent up by themselves), they boost them into orbit (costing one water tank per mass point) and assemble their rocket for interplanetary travel, the question at this point being ‘where?’ – and here’s where a large part of the game’s complexity comes in. Your strategy will mostly be dictated by what type of rocket you’ve constructed, and how well you do in the game will be determined by how much you understand the benefits and limitations of your design. A solar sail, for instance, will do well operating close to the sun, does not burn fuel, but has very low thrust, which restricts both its speed and ability to move heavy payloads.

Once the destination has been determined, the mass of the rocket’s components are added together (including the mass of any fuel carried). Low mass equals superior fuel efficiency and a bonus to thrust, while high mass means more fuel will be needed, with especially large rockets losing thrust and possibly taking longer to reach their destinations. Once this calculation has been done, the rocket can move through a number of burn spaces equal to its thrust, spending steps of fuel equal to its thruster efficiency. As long as fuel remains, the rocket can move each turn toward its destination – once it arrives, it can land as long as its net thrust exceeds its target’s size, only having to spend fuel if a lander burn is indicated.

Players then continue to take one of several possible actions (boosting payloads into low Earth orbit, starting auctions for tech, taking an income action to get more water tanks, etc.) and sending their rockets to various destinations with the object of claiming and industrializing them, and possibly even starting colonies. Industrialization results in being able to manufacture more advanced examples of available rocket components, as well as making refueling at the site far more efficient.

This continues until a certain number of sites are industrialized – when this number is reached, the game ends after another round. Points are then awarded for claims, factories, colonies, spectral type of the sites the players industrialized (the rarer the better) and venture cards (awarded for doing certain extraordinary acts).

Is this game a good simulation? Yes. Is it fun? I would say it can be if the players are willing to put the time in to make it fun. During a recent game, play ended after the required amount of factories had been built. Using this metric, games last about 2 or 3 hours, which also happens to be the amount of time most players begin to burn out when playing an intellectually challenging game. Unfortunately, in ‘High Frontier’, this also happens to be the time Really Interesting Things start happening. There was little opportunity to utilize any of the advanced tech manufactured at the exo-global factories, and intriguing missions to exotic destinations had to be scrubbed. While the somewhat artificial metric of number of factories created signaling the end of the game is good in terms of keeping its length manageable, it works less well in providing a satisfactory outcome for the players.

It seems this can be fixed in the advanced game by the inclusion of ‘futures’, which represent a player reaching a level of techno/sociological achievement that can take humanity to its next level of development. Instead of measuring factories, a game ends when a certain number of these futures have been reached. According to the rules, this will add an hour of game play for each player present – the chance for a more satisfactory outcome seems more than worth it to me, even if the game has to be played over a couple of sessions. While I haven’t tried the futures rules yet, I plan to the next time I break the game out, and will try several other of the advanced rules as well and will write a further review once I’ve done so.

In conclusion, the basic game of ‘High Frontier, 3rd Ed.’ is a wonderfully crafted simulation of interplanetary exploration. Its fault lies in an unsatisfactory endgame and conclusion. Will this be cured in the advanced game? We shall see.

board games

The Dragon of Magdeburg – Designer Notes


Steve Jackson Games incorporated an Ogre scenario I created into one of their publications recently, so I thought I’d add a few words as to why I put it together the way I did. Why would I do that? Amethyst knows!

In this scenario, my aim was to add a few new elements to an entertaining game in order to make it even more enjoyable. While one of the draws of Ogre is its simplicity, it doesn’t take many easily implemented new rules to significantly change the experience it provides. Here’s some of the ideas I added in:

  1. Description. While not part of a unique scenario rules set, the description is still an important aspect of providing color to a scenario. It should outline the factions, the setting (place and time) and the reason for the battle that’s about to occur. In DOM, I step outside of the usual Combine/PanEuropean rivalry in order to focus on a situation occurring as a result of the war’s aftermath. A well-worded intro adds color to the game and can even add an aspect of role-playing.
  2. Factions. This complicates game play without the need for additional rules. While it’s difficult for one faction to coordinate its units, it’s much more difficult for two or more, especially when they have competing agendas, which in turn increases the chance of treachery.
  3. There can be only one winner. While two (or more) of the factions are nominally allied against the Dragon, only one party in the game will end up seizing the amount of city hexes required for victory. This brings a social element into the game as each player attempts to manipulate the others into attacking each other instead of themselves.
  4. Losing points for friendly units lost instead of gain points for enemy units destroyed. This easily implemented rule will likely make this scenario a very different experience as the players attempt to conserve their forces. The idea for this rule came from the behavior of warlords past and present, in that the army was not only used for conflicts abroad, but to guarantee and enforce their power at home. Given their lack of resources, the armies also represent a large investment of scare resources that could not be easily replaced.
  5. City hexes worth less if destroyed or damaged. This may make commanders hesitate to use their heaviest ranged weapons against city hexes, and instead choose to use their infantry to seize the valuable resources they represent since the latter, via another special rule, have no chance of causing their destruction. This provides a greater role for the infantry in what is traditionally an armor heavy game, leading to more realistic combined arms tactics.
  6. Combat Engineers. To facilitate the taking of town hexes, I gave the game’s engineers a combat capability in the form of a close combat bonus that they were lacking in the original game. This adds another layer to the combined arms picture, giving commanders another tool to take precious city hexes. As aside, SJ Games has since adopted a similar close combat role for engineers into the official rules set, albeit in a modified form. I like their version – it’s concise, well written and easily implemented, but I think my version works better for DOM.
  7. Command Posts. Ever since I started playing this game, I’ve had a problem with the way CPs are implemented. They are immobile (or very nearly so), unarmed and serve no purpose other than determining who the winner is by their destruction or survival. Given the highly mobile and destructive nature of the conflict being simulated, their vulnerability seems to be a recipe for disaster. To address this, I gave the Warlord faction the option to secretly record a Mk1 or Mk2 Ogre as being their CP. There are also consequences if it is lost in the form possible temporary immobilization for units due to loss of command and control. This raises the status of CPs from mere target to a vital element in its faction’s forces.


There is a downside to the extra rules I’ve added to give my scenario flavor. Playtesting revealed the rules were easily digested, but there were still consequences. The problem lay in the fact that one’s units were no longer expendable – that, combined with the inevitability of factional cross-fire led to caution and analysis paralysis among the Warlord players. This may or may not be a problem with your group of players, but if it is, a 2 – 3 minute limit could be imposed on turns, with any units not yet activated forfeiting their fire and move.

Advent of Carcosa

Language in Advent of Carcosa

I’m still working on rules set for AOC – here’s a section I recently wrote on the use of language in the game.

The Corporate Unity has its own language that, when fully accessed, is weighted toward accurately expressing scientific and other technical knowledge in the most concise way possible. A citizen’s access to the language, however, is defined by their profession, with full linguistic use available only to a few (many of whom belong to MJ-12). The language very rapidly evolves, updated constantly via an individual’s Ginsert by the Unification Ministry of Culture and Science. This makes the language nearly impossible to learn by foreigners except on the most basic levels. When traveling or otherwise representing the CU, citizens will simply upload the languages of the places they are visiting into their cortical stack.

The CU would like their linguistic method to be the universal standard for humanity, but of course this is far from the case. AGs promoting nationalism and other forms of cultural, religious and racial supremacy will often insist that their traditional language be the only one spoken inside their borders. Travelers should make sure that the most up-to-date dialect is uploaded into their cortical stacks to prevent incidents.

Each Uplift species also has its own unique language – software is available for understanding the vocal intonations and body language necessary for comprehension.  Speaking an Uplift language requires simple modifications to one’s Morph involving an interior or exterior voice modulator for species closely resembling humanity (Apes, Chimps) with optional cues for body language, with more complex mods being necessary for Corvid speech (prehensile feathers being required to alter the meaning and/or context of certain phrases and to provide nuance – it is very easy to get into a lot of trouble very quickly without them). It is nearly impossible to communicate with other species (dolphins, porpoises, octopi) without the use of AR interface to simulate the correct combinations of sounds, gestures, expressions, coloration, etc. Uplifts will rarely engage any sort of communication with Homo Sapiens, however, as it was for the most part only possible through the irreversible alteration of their synaptic structures, which was not done with their consent.

Finally, there are the forbidden languages – Enochian and Aklo. Use of either of these languages is outlawed in most of the places inhabited by humanity. In the CU, use of these languages in the line of duty is always submitted to a board of inquiry for the purpose of determining if such use was justified.  MJ-12 has sole access to Enochian and Aklo language software, which is to be uploaded only to a mirrored aspect of an individual’s consciousness which after use is immediately destroyed.

Use of these languages is most prevalent among Outsiders, with even physically constant but more cognitively robust species like the Deep Ones and Mi-Go using it to add an extra layer of context to exchanges of information that involves hyperreal mathematics, movement of energy from one dimension to another (magic), or non-Euclidean geometry, architecture and geography.

These languages are also used by cultists in rituals, with Enochian being favored by most and Aklo being used almost solely by the followers of the King in Yellow. There are even collectors of words of the Aklo language who aren’t affiliated with any cult, appreciating it for its consciousness altering properties. Single words fetch a high price, while books written in the language are considered priceless.

board games

Ogre Review

This game is best described as a futuristic look at armored warfare, with many different types of armored vehicles, including the Ogre itself, an AI driven behemoth anywhere between a few to a dozen meters in length. The game is tactical in nature, with pieces representing a single vehicle or up to three squads of battle suit infantry. Given the number of armored strategy games out there, what makes this one worth your time, you ask?

  1. Compelling setting. The game takes place in the far future, pitting the Pan-European Alliance against the forces of the Combine. Armored battle suit infantry, tanks of different flavors (light, heavy and super-heavy), ground effect vehicles (GEVs), artillery and the massive Ogres slug it out on battlefields created with a set of beautifully rendered geomorphic map boards. The Ogres themselves are the centerpieces, bristling with railguns and tactical nuclear missiles that can often decide a battle all on their own.
  2. Components. There are two different versions of the game – small (the pocket version) and extra-large (the Designer Edition). The small version fits easily into a handbag or large pocket, but has all the components necessary to enjoy a game. The individual pieces could be more colorful, but the maps make up for this, being both functional and attractive. What the large version loses in portability it makes up for in presentation and production values. The maps are still beautiful, only much larger, while the tanks, infantry and other pieces are sturdy, functional and pleasing to the eye. The real masterpieces are the Ogres themselves, rendered colorfully in 3D cardboard pieces (some assembly required).

Update:  There is now a mid-sized game with the big components, but less of them and fewer map boards.  My advice is to shell out the extra cash for the extra-large version – there’s just not enough game in the mid-sized box to justify the expense.

  1. Playability. This is one of the game’s strongest points. The entire ruleset can be read in an hour, and you can teach someone the essentials in about 15 minutes. Gameplay is fast and straightforward – a small scenario can be finished in 30 minutes while the largest scenarios might take 2 or 3 hours. The rules are very intuitive so one can focus on enjoying the game instead of having to stop and look something up every five minutes.
  1. Goofy, over-the-top fun. It’s difficult not to cackle maniacally as you use a ludicrously well-armed land leviathan to stream roll infantry and other lesser vehicles. Meanwhile, tactical nuclear weapons fly to and fro in what is probably board gaming’s most lethal battlefield. The only game that comes close in its sheer, overblown combat zaniness might be Warhammer 40K.


Cons. Simplicity, one of the game’s selling points, is a two-edged sword. While lending itself to accessibility, tactics in the game are unsophisticated, mostly involving mobilizing enough firepower to take out the units you’ve chosen to target that turn. Thankfully, the game’s simple ruleset allows for easy modification in form of scenario special rules that can add a few levels of complexity in order to simulate a particular event or circumstance.

While well-designed, Ogre is definitely for a niche audience and won’t appeal to everyone. The people it will appeal to – war gamers who don’t take themselves too seriously – will probably like it right away.

So which version should you buy? If you don’t have the time or inclination for modding the game, go for the pocket version for quick pick up games. If you’re into the idea of adding or changing rules here or there, or just want to experience the wonderful production values on a large scale, go for the Designer’s Edition.  It’s expensive, but well worth the money for the beautiful game you’ll receive and the hours of enjoyment it will provide.

board games

Game Theory

I know, I know – I said I’d use original artwork, and this is a piece done by TeeTurtle – it just fit the subject matter of my post better than anything I could think up.

So, here’s my first gaming review post – it’s more of a general overview of the different qualities a board game can have, and how those elements can come together to make a game that’s enjoyable to play. Feel free to mention any elements you think I missed!

Game Theory

What makes a game fun? To me, it comes down to four factors: simulation, evocation, elegance of design and humor. A game may have all, some or none of these qualities but it will need at least two of them if I’m going to play it more than once – all four or three done especially well and I’ll probably end up buying it.

I listed simulation first because of all the traits I listed it’s the one most likely to make a game interesting. For instance, if the game is about a historical battle, are all the decisive elements of that battle present, and if so, are they modeled in a way that they behave the way they did during the engagement? Are all strengths and weaknesses of those elements realistically portrayed? If all of this is done particularly well, a player can learn a great deal about why a particular battle turned out the way it did.

“Command and Colors” is an example of good simulation. Different types of infantry, cavalry, missile troops and artillery are all represented, with different modules of the game covering pre-industrial warfare from ancient Greece to the Napoleonic wars. The elegant rules system allows the game to be taught in 20 minutes and set up and played in an hour or two. The communication problems between commanders and their units so endemic of that era are simulated by a movement system based on a card draw that allows a player to command only a few of her units each turn. Missile troops can harass from a distance but are very vulnerable to damage if caught or cornered, while heavy infantry can inflict great damage, but is slow and may not engage at all or at the wrong time if held back to long or committed too early.

Of course, a good simulation game doesn’t necessarily have to be modeled on true events as long as the elements portrayed in the game act in a way that’s consistent with the reality being simulated.

The game “Firefly”, for instance, does an excellent job in choosing which elements of that story to simulate and does so in such a way that the players feel like they’re creating a new episode of the show with each game. The ships, gear, contacts, cargo and crew have all the advantages and drawbacks that make them interesting in the show.

The mirror side of this is what a designer chooses not to simulate, as some elements may add needless complexity without appreciably adding to either the simulation or enjoyment value of a game. Too much complexity can lead to decision paralysis as players try to choose between several options or to misunderstandings in regards to interpretations of rules.

This is a controversial opinion, as there are many gamers out there who are willing to trade playability for a more sophisticated reality model, but I firmly believe the game that models simplest models best. Most aspects of simulation can be abstracted, and it’s part of the game designer’s art to do this while still maintaining the feel and effect of the behavior being simulated.

Again using “Firefly” as an example, given the big picture scope of the game, combat is handled in an appropriately abstract manner that is both easy to learn and takes a minimum of game time to accomplish. If the game focused on tactical combat in the Firefly universe, a more complex   model would be warranted.

How the game’s reality model is presented to the players is the aspect of design called ‘elegance’. Elegance includes such attributes as concise and logical presentation/organization of the game’s rules and how intuitive those rules are in relation to what’s being simulated. Elegance also includes the coherent arrangement of information on the game’s various components (cards, pieces etc.)

The game “Star Wars: Armada” gives us examples of both good and bad elegance. Layout of information on the components is superb – vital information is available at a glance and is attractively presented – this makes game play go smoothly, as all the information a player needs to make game decisions is right in front of her with no need to access complex charts or matrices. With all of this elegant simplicity, there should be little need to consult the rulebook during play, which is a good thing, because the rules are a disordered mess.

Needlessly spread out over two books, the rules bury important concepts of play, are full of imprecise terminology, lack examples and don’t provide an anatomy for all of those elegant components, instead spreading this information across several different rules sections.

Fortunately, forums are available on the internet to help clarify and define vague game terms and concepts – without this resource, the game would be unplayable.

Evocation is more subtle than the other attributes, but no less important for an enjoyable game. The key question here is: Does the design of the game immerse the player in its reality?

There are several ways a game can accomplish this – photographs, well executed artwork, pieces designed with care and an eye for realism, and rules that add fun mechanics not strictly necessary to playing the game (also known as chrome).

Good examples of well-designed components are the ship photographs used on the cards for “Modern Naval Battles”, the miniatures of “X-wing” and the beautifully rendered cards and heavy poker chip pieces of “Splendor” that turn an otherwise mediocre game into something that is a joy to play.

Chrome is something that needs to be used sparingly, because the price for its implementation is added complexity. Almost any game can benefit from it, however, as it often adds a role playing element that personalizes the game experience. For instance, it’s cool to fly an Advanced TIE Fighter in “X-Wing”, but it’s much, much cooler to fly one that’s piloted by Darth Vader.

While it takes a few added rules to incorporate Vader’s abilities into the game, the payoff is worth it as you picture the Sith Lord hunting down rebel scum.

Finally, humor, while not appropriate for all games, can seriously increase the fun factor of others. Humor, however, is a difficult concept. While welcome if well done, it can make an otherwise good game unplayable (Munchkin’s Cthulhu expansion “Unspeakable Vault” comes to mind). It’s for this reason that most games skip it entirely – it can fall flat, and it isn’t really necessary for the creation of a good game.

Some games, like “Munchkin” and “Chez Geek”, are entirely about humor and gamers who are inclined to be serious forget this at their peril. In these games, the simulation aspect is replaced by satire and the point is to have fun by being silly.

In conclusion, a good game exercises the mind and the imagination. Situations outside the player’s experience are simulated with some of the excitement but none of the consequences. Games also bring people together into a shared experience, directly communicating and interacting in a fashion that in other spheres of life have become uncommon.