Monday, June 26, 2023

Fire Kills (New System for a New Setting)

    A few months back I posted a list of random encounters from a weird Napoleonic war zone. This was a snapshot of an alt-history bio-horror setting I have occasionally mused upon in that hidden Vehme which men call "the GLOG server".

Source: "Victorious Hungarian" by Locheil

    The setting of Fire Kills is a post-Great War Europe, with a victorious Central Powers analog working to reconstruct the ruined continent in the wake of manmade horrors beyond our comprehension. The old Hermetic Orders have been supplanted by the French "New Medicine" paradigm, and the war was fought with tanks, machine guns, vat-grown supersoldiers, clockwork brains, poison gas, humoral posthumans, and the sacrifice of half the progeny of Europe. Now, in the shattered ruins, the PCs pick through the rubble and attempt to address injustices and tragedies both old and new.

    The main touchstones are Pumpkin Scissors, Fullmetal Alchemist, the Dishonored series, various Clark Ashton Smith stories, and especially the work of Arthur Machen. For the pseudo-science I'm depending on my limited understanding of humoral medicine discredited turn-of-the-century psychological and sociological theories.

    "What used to be conceptualized as the realms of the Fairy, domain of the Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter Courts, is now referred to as "The Great Unconscious". The fairies themselves are "autonomous instincts", or "archetypes" if they're particularly powerful. Our world, scientists now understand, is the 3-dimensional surface of an 11-dimensional hyper-hyper-hyper-hyper-hyper-hyper-hyper-hyper-sphere. What we think of (heh) as "ideas" and "thoughts" are like shadows of the instincts and archetypes moving below. And just as the shadow can be shaped by altering the form, and the body can be shaped by altering its humors, so too can the mind be shaped by altering the archetypes...

    "But! That's all high-level stuff. Nothing for the PCs to worry about, and probably irrelevant to their sincere but lighthearted adventures through war-torn famine-stricken Europe."

    CatDragon of Glass Candles asks, "Who won the Great War in the Fullmetal Humorist setting, or did you make it deliberately up to interpretation?"
    Nobody won the Great War, CatDragon. Sad mime face. All Europe lost...
    But in another, and perhaps more literally true, sense: the Central Powers won the Great War. A united Germany (with Prussian clockwork technology) and Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. The French, along with their pressganged "allies", lost. England is a smoking fairy-haunted ruin. The USA was glad to wash its hands of the whole business, and now isolates itself on the other side of the Atlantic. Napoleon is finally "dead". One of his great-grandsons is in charge of France now.

Source: in image

    Well, enough rambling. How does a game in this setting work?

Character Creation

    The PCs fought in the War, perhaps on the wrong side — but now the War is over. To improve the world, to make it a better place for generations to come, to shape the future in their own ideological image, to atone for their sins, or just to make rent, they have become members of the Truth and Beauty Commission (name pending). This gives them either unlimited jurisdiction or none whatsoever, depending on your perspective, and they've been sent out into the world on a picaresque to solve extremely heavy-handed morality plays about the Haves and the Have-Nots. They travel from train station to train station solving problems involving ex-supersoldiers turned bandits, corrupt nobles, failed Evil Science Experiments, traumatized survivors of horrible-but-ultimately-pointless battles, &c &c.

    To make a character, you must consider their Temperament and their Skills. There are four Humors which make up one's Temperament; these are Sanguine for making friends, talking people into favors, impressing superiors, and general sweet-hearted behavior, Choleric for bursts of strength, bullying, headbutting both metaphorically and literally, shouting down others, kicking doors, avoiding consequences and general hot-headed behavior, Phlegmatic for thinkin', translating, designing gizmos, picking locks, deciphering rituals, and general big-brained behavior, and Melancholic for terrifying normals, toughing out wounds, wringing someone's neck in total darkness, befriending horrible monsters and general cold-blooded behavior. A normal human being has 2 points in each of these.

    For the purpose of this post I'll be assuming the PC is a Supersoldier, who has had their humors  realigned (or designed from scratch if they're a test-tube baby) according to the principles of New Medicine. Supersoldiers have 9 points to assign to their Humors according to their taste, though you can have no less than 0 and no more than 5 in a single Humor, and they cannot have a tie for their highest Humor. That highest Humor determines their Temperament. You aren't required to have your characters act stereotypically according to their Temperament, but other characters will expect them to, and will be surprised if they fail to do so.

  • If you have 0 Sanguine, you are unable to be happy. You cannot vocalize except to make aimless threats or scream at the top of your lung. 
  • If you have 0 Choleric you cannot act in combat and you cannot win arguments.
  • If you have 0 Phlegmatic you are an amnesiac. You cannot recall your own history, and you cannot use Academic Skills.
  • If you have 0 Melancholy you cannot remain silent; you must constantly sing, hum or mumble. You cannot willingly enter darkness without a source of light.
    It's not recommended that you start with 0 in any attribute, although you can if you want to. This is to simulate fucked-up little bastards, and the injury system.

    These Supersoldiers also have 20 points to invest in Skills. Skills don't have a maximum value, but it gets harder to improve them the higher your rating in that Skill is. Ratings 1–4 cost 1 point each, 5–8 cost 2, and so forth. These Skills are as follows:

  1. Armory, for the maintenance and operation of firearms and artillery
  2. Hand-to-Hand, for combat with melee or natural weapons
  3. Heavy Machinery, for the maintenance and operation of tanks, automobiles, ships and Heavy Machines
  4. Military, for tactics, bureaucracy, and military history, or for interacting with military authorities
  5. Shooting, for combat with guns
  6. Piloting, for the maintenance and operation of planes and airships.

  1. Biology, for the history and practical use of the science (including battlefield medicine)
  2. Chemistry, for the history and practical use of the science (including explosives)
  3. Forgery, for the production or identification of forged handwriting, fake artifacts, or falsified documents
  4. Library, for study and for finding references in books
  5. Surgery, for the history and practical use of the art (including first aid)
  6. Profession, a generic skill representing training and experience in other fields. May be taken multiple times, e.g. a character might have 2 points in Profession (Law) and 1 in Profession (Actor)

  1. Animals, for veterinary practice, handling of tamed animals, or befriending wild ones
  2. Athletics, for running, jumping, swimming, climbing
  3. Bluff, for keeping a straight face in a poker game, lying with a smile, or pretending to be something you're not
  4. Civilian, for information-gathering, befriending normal people, pretending to live a normal life, or for interacting with civilian authorities.
  5. Stealth, for hiding, sneaking, pocket- and lock-picking.
  6. Survival, for rope-tying, fire-building, tracks-following and &c.

    When a PC is faced with an appropriate challenge, the DM (stands for "Doctor of Medicine" in this game) decides the difficulty of the challenge by assigning it a small integer number. They also decide what Humor and what Skill is appropriate for this challenge. The player adds up their character's total values in that Humor and Skill, rolls that many d6s, counts how many dice come up 4, 5 or 6, and if that total is above the assigned difficulty, they succeed.

    I feel like kind of a dope explaining this step by step. You people have played dicepool systems, right? Shadowrun maybe, or Vampire: the Masquerade? I'm talking about dicepools.

Source: in image



    I should also explain, briefly, how I intend to run combat in this system. I haven't actually tested any of this yet so it's subject to change at a whim. It'll operate a bit like Best Case Scenario. Rounds are about a second or two, and all actions take place simultaneously. If it matters who moves first (e.g. you're trying to slam a big vault door, and a horrible monstrosity is trying to slide under the door and eat you), roll an opposed Sanguine.

    To attack someone in hand-to-hand combat, roll Choleric (or Melancholic if you're attacking from surprise) + Hand-to-Hand, versus their roll of Choleric + Hand-to-Hand. If you have more successes than they do, subtract the difference from their Choleric. When they hit 0 Choleric, they've had the stuffing beat out of them. If there's no one nearby to protect them they can be killed, knocked unconscious, tied up, or can have their precious super-organs stolen.

    To attack someone with a gun, roll Sanguine (or Melancholic if you're attacking from surprise) + Shooting, versus their roll of Sanguine plus any bonuses they have from cover or distance. If you have more successes than they do, they have been fucking shot with a fucking bullet. They roll Choleric and if they don't get more successes than you did, they are dead of being shot. If they do roll more successes, then your original number of successes are subtracted from their Choleric as per being wounded in hand-to-hand.

Example Melee Weapons
  1. Brass knuckles. Concealable, silent.
  2. Combat knife. Concealable, silent, adds an extra success when attacking.
  3. Tomahawk. Silent, +1 success, can be thrown ten meters.
  4. Lead pipe. Silent, +1 die.
  5. Wakizashi. Silent, +1 success, +1 die.
  6. Katana. Silent, +2 successes

Example Guns
  1. Webley. A double-action revolver, reliable and accurate. This revolver or ones much like it were carried by Entente officers during the war, for all the good it did them.
    Range increment of 40 meters (i.e. at 41 to 60 meters subtract 1 from your successes, at 61 to 80 meters subtract 2 and so forth). Six shots. Concealable.
  2. Luger. A self-loading, self-cocking pistol — what a wonder of the modern age! The officers of the Central Powers preferred the Luger. Sidearms made little difference, but these pistols were sturdy enough to survive the war and fall into others' hands, so long as their original owners weren't blasted to smithereens by French artillery.
    Range increment of 20 meters. Eight shots. Concealable.
  3. Winchester. A tube-fed, pump-action shotgun, with a heatshield and a bayonet lug for trench combat. The Americans made short, bloody work of those who ended up on the wrong end of this gun.
    Range increment of 40 meters, but ineffective past 80. +2 dice.
  4. Lebel. A venerable platform, personally approved by Napoleon when he was "alive". This Lebel may have lost her Rosalie in her ten, twenty or thirty years of service, but she still shoots.
    Range increment of 100 meters. Nine shots. +1 success.
  5. Huot. The Canadians were desperate to answer the Central Powers' growing number of LMGs, so they assembled this monstrosity out of the carcasses of fallen rifles. There's some sort of poetry in that.
    Range increment of 100 meters. Twenty-five shots, but it fires five with every attack. +1 success. If you choose to fire another five, +1 die.
  6. Osokin. A shamanic musket that can only be operated by those who have accepted a contract with the spirits hosted in the barrel. This machine kills Leninists.
    This gun fires based on Phlegmatic, not Sanguine. Range increment of 50 meters. One shot, and you can either spend 30 seconds reloading it or pay a point from one of your Humors.

    I suppose I'm rather out of things to say. This isn't a very good post, I guess, since it's just proposing a derivative, poorly-thought-out and completely-untested system, but I wanted to get all those rules off my conscience. Usable content for this setting, detailing some adventures, factions, characters, locations &c may be forthcoming. Perhaps I'll answer some burning questions, like "what happened to Russia?" (the czarists fled east and made sweet with the indigenous people of Siberia, while the anarchists are running around in the west with tank-trains) and "what happened to the U.S.A?" (it developed a sakoku policy and has been sinking any Old World ships it finds) and "what happened to Britain?" (fairies ate it. Crowley is super dead). Perhaps we'll visit my shitty, abandoned, Dungeon23 idea. It had some frankensteins in it. Anyway, goodbye.