Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Maximalist Weird Fiction Mercenary Contract Generator Appendix E: Stability Actions Section 2

Summary: There are no brakes on the mercenary dreampunk detective weird fiction train

A: Investigations: High-risk detective work
B: Special Reconnaissance: Physical surveillance in hostile conditions
C: Military Intervention: Direct action in support of allied military activities
D: Military Assistance: Train, lead, advise and inspire allied military and/or security forces
E: Stability Actions: Ensure that a vulnerable polity, individual, or process thrives by engaging with threats on its behalf
F: Counterconspiracy: Social infiltration and undercover proactive security
G: Counteroccult: Hunt strange creatures, assassinate occultists, minimize the fallout of occult catastrophes, counter malign entities, and safeguard items and places of cosmic provenance
H: Influence Operations: Persuade, influence, subvert and deceive under delicate and/or hostile circumstances
I: Extractions: Recover personnel and assets from hostile forces and other dangerous situations
J: Civil Relief: Prevent atrocities, relieve suffering in cut-off areas, and set up systems of sustenance and protection for people who are under threat of deprivation and violence

Contract Index
Warts and All (SASE1WAA)
Seven Stages of Apocalypse (SASE2SSOA)
Undermined (SASE3U)
The Golden Dog (SASL1TGD)
The Breach (SASL2TB)
Royal Society (SASL3RS)
Sacrificial King (SASL4SK)
Peace Process
Angels (SASPP1A)
Ecclesiastical Excision (SASPP2EE)
Herding Wildcats (SASPP3HW)
A Poison Taijitu (SASP1APT)
Peregrinatio (SASP2P)
Sinking Footprints (SASP3SF)

Assist & Advise (continued from last post)
Security Commission
Rostrum’s All-Embracing Automatons (SAAASC2RAEA)
Scintillic Atrialia (SAAASC3SA)

Warts and All (SASE1WAA)
There is a school in the remotest wilds. It is secreted within the armored confines of a mountain. It is not advertised. There are only invitations. These are extended to those whose IQ is immeasurably high on the most sensitive tests known to modern science (say, the top millionth percentile).

A vast library spirals inside the chasmic spine of the mountain. Engineering bays bristle with advanced tools and are stocked by warehouses of the finest raw material. There are cooled cellar-complexes of paints with gigantic rolls of canvas and preconstructed painting frames. Botanic gardens and greenhouses are at ascending altitudes around the mountain. If this school does not have the material to suit a student’s aptitude, they will acquire it, and then some.

Over time, word of this place has begun to spread despite the best efforts of the hereditary administrators. The word has reached ears of ash; a secret sect of antinatalists in Gromroot have decided that destroying this place and slaughtering its pupils would make for a delicious act of revenge against the human race and a good way of curtailing its future. They have executed their captive women and children, arsonized their hideout and the surrounding city-blocks, and departed Gromroot with all of their tools and weapons in duffel bags.

The school has its own small hereditary security force, but it mostly relies upon its remoteness for protection.

The antinatalists murdered a bayou family and took their seaplane. While motoring up the river they passed a stoned-fanged seacave and were spoken to by the entity within. They told it of their plot and it was pleased that they wished to handicap the future of the human race. It bade them pass its teeth and bathe in its jaws for it would feel them blessings in disguise. This particular sect of antinatalists was not hypocritical in despising human life, and they all willingly waded into the cave. Bats fed them muddy viscera dredged from the gullet of the grotto, and true to the word of the entity, they have been imbued with strange powers.

They have come to worship this thing in the time between the river and the mountain. A true divinity. Something objectively more important than human life. Objectively divine. These antinatalists have found true meaning in the universe at last.

The administrators of the mountain academy know that trouble is coming. They will not say how. But they have contracted the players to protect their wards.

The antinatalists will arrive d4 days after the party.

The entity has placed the antinatalists in contact with one of the students who carries the seeds of their worldview. He is a seer of theoretical physics, and has prepared devices within the mountain to shake the school to its foundations and provide the antinatalists with deadly devices to dispatch the students.

During the attack, the stone of the mountain will gradually begin to shatter until the shear resonance devices are dealt with. They are designed to violently shake apart when manipulated.

The students have knowledge of all this school’s secret hallways and redoubts, and could evade or ambush the antinatalists if it weren’t for the traitor, who will tell them where to look and eventually lead them into the shelter nooks. 

Each antinatalist has a power from the entity and a device from the traitor, in addition to his own weapons:

Antinatalist #1
-Power: The ability to vomit perfectly round, milky white eggs that explode after a few moments in a deadly shower of ceramic shrapnel that carries with it a sputtering cosmos of ridged grubs that will root their way into human bodies, devouring and vilely necrotizing their way through the body at a rate of 2” per minute. These grubs are not actual larva and will never grow into a higher form; they will die with their host.
-Device: An antimagnetic particle ray resonator that neutralizes gravity in a matter-bounded space (ie a room or a hallway)
-Weapons: A 30.06 bolt-action rifle with a bandolier of rifle grenades, and an obsidian sacrificial dagger taken from a murdered occultist.

Antinatalist #2
-Power: An eye that gradually erodes all matter it sees within 100’, his own body exempt. It is sewn shut at the moment; he will pull out the string when he enters the mountain. If he sees you for more than 3 or 4 seconds, your skin will begin to permanently debride and run off your body in a slurry while your clothes grow threadbare, the rock around you turns to sand and the windows fall to powder. 
-Device: A singularity fuse that will generate a micro-black hole when activated; this will rip in all matter from 30’ and create an event horizon out to 60’ that will pull in matter with incredible force. The only hope of someone caught in the (outer reaches) of the event horizon is to delay their entry into the matter-distorting 30’ zone until the fuse times out.
The players might be in another room when the wall begins to collapse towards an unknown gravitic vortex in another part of the school
-Weapons: Six sawed-off double-barreled shotguns hanging from him like clattering foliage.

Antinatalist #3
-Power: A sung lullaby that will make the children break down and cry uncontrollably in spite of themselves; this will not affect the party, but the students do not have certain psychological bulwarks that are possessed by the adults of the mountain. This will work against the traitor, as well.
-Device: An energetic catheter spike that deprives stabbed electronic devices of their power and stores it in a satchel capacitor; the antinatalist carries a powerful water blaster that draws power from the capacitor, and once an area is good and soaked he can stick the catheter into the water and deliver a massive electric shock to everything that’s been wet.
-Weapon: A hunting rifle and a ball peen hammer.

Antinatalist #4
-Power: When this man shouts, surfaces that substantially receive the reverberations of his voice change color slightly in an amber way. They are now utterly flammable no matter the nature of the base material; stone, glass, water, flesh, all will burn like napalm if they catch so much as a spark. His paired device is capable of electronically detonating such affected surfaces like plastique.
-Device: An electrofilament trap; this plate charge emits a whirling fog of copper filaments when detonated, and then moments later delivers a blood-smoking electric shock throughout the entire field.
-Weapons: A flamethrower and a derringer in each boot.

Antinatalist #5
-Power: Burgeoning breath. When this man breathes out into his environment, all local flora grows at an explosive rate; in doing this he can block passageways with moss, entangle enemies with lichen, or spring those present into the school’s stone walls at fatal speed (he carries a pocketful of button mushrooms for this purpose).
-Device: An ambient arrhythmia inducer- the antinatalists is shielded by a lead breastplate but everyone else within 30’ suffers severe arrhythmia, causing discoordination, flickering consciousness, and eventually agony and death.
-Weapons: A rotary-barreled jezzail with a folding stock and an antiquated cavalry saber.

Antinatalist #6
-Power: Portal redirection. He can cycle portals that he can see between different destinations of similar size throughout the school; so if the players are rushing for a door, he can set it to open into a broom closet several stories down instead of their intended destination. If the door is already open, it will look like the world is rapidly rotating in front of the door, with the place they’re looking at whooshing away to the left or right and the place they are now going cycling into place behind it.
-Device: Wormhole speculum (spacetime conjoiner): The antinatalist believes that this will allow him to travel between two distant points, but in fact it has been hijacked by the entity, and when he travels to a previously-established point from a second opened portal the entity will instantly reshape him into a diamond-hemmed and reinforced arthropleurid, erase his consciousness, and inhabit the reshaped body. The entity will need to grow used to this body for several decades before it can begin to reshape local spacetime the way it could in the seacave.
-Weapons: A 9mm submachine gun with a 100-round pan magazine and dozens of white phosphorous grenades. Spare SMG pans hang off him like he’s armored himself in cookware.

The students have four defensive gifts to offer the players:

A student who is an artistic genius has written a poem that is capable of converting (if not redeeming) an antinatalist. I will not attempt to render the poem in my own words. This will only work once. It will not work on the traitor, although it will aggrieve him intensely. The fastest it can be recited without losing its power is twenty-five seconds.

A student who is an all-detecting, all-comprehending botanist has produced a cell attractor: swallow this tablet and walk among the plants. They will wrap themselves gently around you, eventually providing you total protection against electricity, debridement, blades, flame and acid. The plants will fall away in ~24 hours, having sacrificed their lives for you.

A student who is a military history buff with a photographic memory will provide you with a diagram of the antinatalists’ most likely plan of attack, extrapolated from innumerable historical mountain fastness raids elsewhere in the world. Each broad or discrete maneuver (depending on GM preference) has a ¾ chance of playing out as predicted.

A student who is a genius mechanical engineer and theoretical physicist (the light side version of the traitor) has constructed an experimental field-magnetic excavator, which appears to be a 4’ wide pair of steel plates stacked upon one another with a small latch; release the latch, which is attached to the internal winding spring, and the top plate will detach from the bottom plate, springing for the ceiling. Once it hits a surface it will scatter matter at the atomic (not subatomic) level, disintegrating everything in its path, training a steel cable behind it that is linked to the plate still sitting on the ground. Players can climb this cable while the top plate is still extending, but when it reaches its maximum extent it will continue to extend (cutting through everything in its path) and bring the bottom plate with it. The players could ride on this but it’s a one-way trip if they don’t get off in time; the plates capture and redirect the gravitic energy of the earth and the assembly will continue to ascend until it arrives at the outer reaches of the earth’s magnetic field.

Seven Stages of Apocalypse (SASE2SSOA)
The players are being hired to safeguard the construction of a shipping canal in a remote part of the world. It will be constructed across seven stages: seven locks across seven months or weeks, depending on the timeframe of your campaign.

A new threat comes with each new week or month:

1. The shipping lane that supplies the canal is laden with money for the workers, rare metals for the locks, and executives who would be valuable hostages. The waters near the mouth of the canal immediately begin to suffer from pirate attacks at the commencement of construction as a result. This would be a good problem for the players to attack while they are making their way to the canal in the first place; they could make their transport into a Q-ship and attack the pirates when they get close enough, or use a shipping company ironclad to attack the pirates’ gasoline cove or mothership.

2. This is a hinterland region, and while the locks have some security forces, they’re not very effective. There are bandits AND bandit tribes in the vicinity, and they will want to extort and exploit this project. The bandits will come in and say they are representatives of the (practically-nonexistent) local government, and that if the construction company pays them dues, they won’t harass and arrest the workers and leaders or fire their mortars at the canal. They are not interested in being hired on as security men. That’s lame.

3. The bandit tribes, on the other hand, scout the canal and witness all the stout labor being done by the workers and realize they could be put to use constructing megaliths in the tribe’s ancient homelands, haunted by the mutated spirits of their half-human ancestors. They will begin to kidnap the workers (though neglect the ship crews). They regard the executives and administrators as being the high priests of the endeavor, and so they will try and capture them too so that they can provide their mana for the things the bandit tribesmen want to build, which is *not* a giant canal for international shipping.

4. The City of Leagues sends advisors to covertly work on the canal and spread Anarcho-Syndicalism amongst the workforce. Their intent is to convince the workers to cast off the shackles of the home polity, dispatch all capitalists and labor spies (read: PCs) currently parasitizing the canal, make the canal zone a new community, and charge retributive tariffs on any monarchist and capitalist ships that wish to utilize the canal (while letting Leagues-flagged ships traverse the canal at no cost). The Leagues cadres will convert and arm a group of workers, and eventually they will make a silver-or-lead offer to the rest: join the uprising or be counted among the capitalists and stand against the wall.

5. In the wake of the Syndicalist plot, conditions for the workers become much worse. There are members of the construction committee who have a lot of contempt for the workers. They begin to exploit, underpay, indebt and physically abuse them, as many of the workers are from a different ethnic group or a lower caste than the executives. If the players try to discuss this with the higher-ups they’ll find that the organizers are sort of incapable of seeing the workers as fully human, having been raised in a context where that isn’t normal. The workers will eventually strike and the executives will gladly bring in scabs and gunmen to resolve the situation in their favor; so far away from the home city-state, this will get *brutal* in a way it never would before the eyes of the press and populace. If things get bad enough, workers will begin to desert to the bandits and will get revenge upon the company and their countrymen. If this gets bad enough, the project will be scrapped; the home city-state is even willing to bombard the canal zone from a distance if they are forced to abandon it.

6. As the canal company digs, they discover occult ruins, and that *brings in* occultists who are pretending to be workers or investors, speculators, ship captains, or archaeologists who wish to “get introduced to the canal” or work on the ruins (after offering a handsome commission). Confusing things, legitimate archaeologists and museum buyers will also travel to the canal to examine the ruins, although the occultists will get there first (before the company can be fully warned about the nature of the ruins).

The lives of the researchers will be at great peril should they be left alone in the ruins with the secret occultists, for once they ascertain what the occult site was originally used for they will urgently insist to the company that it be demolished posthaste, and offer to cover any expenses resulting from this. The occultists will not allow this to happen if they can avoid it, for they will make contact with an entity residing in the ruins that will make itself their patron, offering them powers if they can recreate the antediluvian shrine that once flourished with the golden light and the roaring of roast flesh in this place.

Should the occultists succeed in stifling the legitimate researchers, ship crews that deliver construction materials to the canal will begin visiting the cordoned-off “research zone” in the ruins to make offerings and receive blessings from the entity. If this continues long enough, eventually one or two key executives will be turned, and there will be a buyout of the contract to complete the canal. It will be finished using slave labor bought from the Red Charter company, after which the slaves will be sealed in the concrete cornerstones of the canal’s foundations, and the canal will operate as a thoroughfare-temple from then on; ships may pass through for a fee, but their crews must disembark and make ablutions in the sanctum of the entity (secretly a mating ritual). This will spread the entity’s deleterious power throughout the world.

If the players try to interrupt this process at any point after the occultists have contacted the entity, they’ll unleash everything they’ve got to eliminate the party and seize or destroy the canal: zealot temple guards of an ancient priesthood sealed for millennia, occult acidosic suicide attacks, and sea creatures that have been extended, distended and blended into whirling killing machines.

7. Finally, in the final stage of construction, a number of city-states that had hitherto not interfered with the canal (and are profiting from the shipping status quo and hoping the canal would fail) will decide that they cannot afford to have this canal completed and in foreign hands, and so they start sending professional spies to sabotage the construction, kill important administrators and engineers, and sow ruinous misinformation among the workforce.

Should this fail, the cities will take direct action and send deputations of marines in assault craft from gunboats, rangers to outflank through the forests, and hunter-killer teams to make entry with the next freighter full of laborers. The players will need to preserve the canal from the satchel charges of the attackers for long enough for an international peacekeeping force (from nations who will benefit from the canal) or a squadron from one of the world’s great shipping houses to arrive; this will occur just as a bombardment fleet appears on the horizon to wipe the canal off the map forever.

Undermined (SASE3U)
The sleepy mountain mining community at Mount Boregezar was awakened by its discovery of troglodite. There was a massive foreign investment in deepening the mines almost immediately, and more underground real estate was opened up in the next few months than had been accomplished in the last ten years. Miners began to flock to Boregezar from cities and companies across the continent.

To bring ore to the surface they created an industrial system distributed throughout the mine. Today, much of the mine’s interior is a vast machine that burns coal taken straight from the seam.
An industrial colony was born. Some of the people who had come from far-flung mining populations claimed seams and got to work for themselves or on behalf of mining companies, while others constructed and inhabited pulley systems for bringing the fruits of the stone to the surface, while others yet took responsibility for things like catering in the lower levels.

Recently, the ore production of Boregezar has declined precipitously, and several nation-states who trade with the mountain mines have now established a factfinding commission to determine the cause of the decline.

They hired the party as their first official act.

The party will find that societies have developed in Bogerezar that rely upon one another to function. They’ve been fairly peaceful historically, though suspicious of outsiders due to the quantities of hucksters and fugitives that make their way to Boregezar. Normally you have to submit yourself to a long period of hard labor as a second-class citizen on one of Boregezar’s crew-polities before being inducted as a full member of society. Hands are needed here but shirkers are not welcome in a mine. 

Each of these little societies has developed (and is developing) its own traditions, rituals and cultural expectations. They consist of members from many city-states, and now even those now born in the mines, and are a syncresis of the cultures most of the members come from and of necessities created by the job.

There are two true causes of the decline in output. 

The miners in the deepest levels had deals with creatures, entities, and xenostygian civilizations, but those deals have expired. Strife is now eating at the richest and least exploited layers. With the falling away of the mercantile truce here, the xenostygian polities have begun to levy crushing taxes on the deepest miners, just kill them off to avoid disease, and wage war against one another again using existential weapons that threaten, sicken and maim whole populations of miners, driving many away, creating strife of their own as they seek safer (but poorer) pastures in the higher reaches of the mine.

This leads into the second cause of decline: strife between the polities. There would seem to be little competition between them with each mining its own seam or supplying the wants of the others, but with the decline of the lowest mines the overall prosperity of the complex has declined and services are less available than ever.  This has caused struggles and suspicions where once there was harmony. The outpouring of miners from the lowest levels has led to cultural conflicts within the seams; an experienced miner from the bottommost, richest and most dangerous seams is not generally interested in a period of lowly apprenticeship before being accepted into a gang of tenderfeet mining *copper* or some such frivolity, but each seam has a proud tradition and has eventually had its initiation path set in stone by discord in its absence.

You have been brought in to unearth what is occurring here, but as you make your reports in the midst of it, the contracting city-states will offer you an expansion of your contract: aid the miners in warding off the threats to their lowest reaches and bring harmony to the communities beset by discord, and you will be rewarded in proportion to the subsequent resurgence of mining profits.

There are a number of specialist communities In addition to a dozen discrete mining polities: 

-Association of Caterers: The quality of their fare has declined precipitously with the overall decline of the Boregezaran economy, and now they have been mixing lichen, fungi and mystery meat into their meals. There have been food riots at the nature of their fare and a conspiracy of mining communities is considering kidnapping several prominent Caterers to force a restoration in quality.

-Air Purifying Guild: It has been found that the Purifiers have been rerouting much of the best air to their subterranean strongholds, allowing them to gain an energetic and cognitive advantage over those they negotiate with for supply. If this grievance is not properly addressed, soon the seamtowns will begin to clandestinely redirect air from static Purifier channels- but lacking true expertise in gas kinetics, the HVAC vigilantes will erode the entire system.

-League of Demolishers: Sensing existential crisis on the lowest levels, a rogue faction of the League have begun to seed Boregezar’s central shaft with hidden explosives so that if a swarm of xenostygians, monsters or entity-beguiled revolutionaries threatens to erupt from the bottom levels, the League can detonate the lower central corridor and bury them forever beneath the earth. This is callous but perhaps understandable; however, what is more, a cell-within-the-cell has begun to link this demolition system to explosives that they’ve secreted in unfriendly mining polities while making work calls, so that when the threat beneath is buried, they remove all other impediments to the League’s activity as well.

-Dredger Commission: They have secretly sworn fealty to a cryptostygian state. They hold underwater meetings with the stygians, with the dredgers in atmospheric diving suits and the cryptostygians wearing nothing, like mermen.

-The Haulermen: The maintainers of the Boregezar’s central and distributed elevator, pulley and conveyor belt systems, the Haulermen are in all places at once. As hauling revenues from the lowest levels have declined, the Haulermen have begun to expand their business in questionable ways: isolated belt-captains charging unexpected “tariffs” or “freight dues” on orders that deliverers are eager to ship, or refusing to transport the ore of uncooperative polities. It is rumored that several hotheaded foremen have disappeared while traveling through the extensive transit network to meet with Haulermen chiefs at their central elevation hub; cast into the abyss. Suspicion is now rampant between isolated communities and the Haulermen, both of whom are clandestinely arming for an anticipated conflict.

The Golden Dog (SASL1TGD)
Morphia is a potent city-state. It is possessed of a vast, skilled populace and its hinterlands abound with natural resources. The problem? They are riven with internal divisions and are being pulled further apart at every chance by foreign powers who are able to profitably exploit the centerless society of Morphia to strike wickedly one-sided deals and who fear the power and influence of a united Morphia.

The one thing that the people of Morphia all have in common is a religious prophecy that someday an omen would come and herald a rapture of rapprochement between the sundered folk of the city-state. It will usher in an age of civil fair dealing and social trust. Everyone will participate and treat all people fairly in their own hearts, or they will have to do without the luck that Morphia will bathe in. 

Unfortunately, this has meant that there hasn’t really been any theologically or culturally-imposed punishment for not behaving that way in the meanwhile, and rancor has rent Morphia apart for generations.

Now the Golden Dog has come. He glows in the streets. His smile is serenity, and trembling hands reach forth to stroke His silken locks. He is a dog of dignity and sweetness. The herald of a new age.

Disturbingly, somebody stabbed Him within a few days of His incarnation. Blood fell upon His shining fur like a sanguine sacrament in a golden chalice. The Golden Dog swallowed and looked with concern upon His assailant. The man was dragged away and stoned with stones. The Golden Dog’s countenance fell further at this, for He heralds the day of reconciliation.

Thus it was proven that the corpus of the Golden Dog is subject to the iniquities of men, just as the fabric of reality itself is.

You have been hired to investigate the stabbing and guard the Golden Dog, given that the man who stabbed Him seemingly had no reason to, the people of Morphia do not trust their fellow citizens with the burden and the honor of standing vigil over His sleek and open brow.

The Golden Dog wanders where He may. He is a locus of energy and shines over His people. He is magnanimous, clean and calm. People gather by His neatly-lain turds.

The fact is, the man who stabbed the Golden Dog was paid off by an industrial combine or foreign state- somebody who has an interest in keeping Morphia divided. “Perhaps the Golden Dog will bring prosperity to Morphia, but we will bring you prosperity greater than could ever be dreamed of under His shaggy auspices if you will destroy this false idol and free your people from His illusions.”

There will be more such vile deeds, and such an offer will be made to the party, as well. Whether or not it was wise to bring in foreigners to guard the Golden Dog will be decided by the party. But everywhere He goes He brings order and peace. People end their quarrels and remove their hats at His presence. The party will witness this over and over.

Per the terms of your contract you must allow the Golden Dog to travel. You cannot just hole up with Him. His people need Him. However, you may attempt to guide the Golden Dog. He is wise. He can sense if your motives are wise, and if they are then He will accompany you.

Everything in Morphia improves. The city’s prosperity, cleanliness and social life all take on a vivid upwards trajectory. He is the catalyst.

There are even internal forces that seek to stamp out His light. There are those in Morphia who profit from the city’s division alongside the regicidal foreign interests. Factional political parties, mass labor contractors and the city’s vast pit mines and timber clearing estates in the hinterlands all benefit from Morphia’s previous state of suspicion, and they are the portals by which hostile outside interests snake in their tendrils and settle them around the neck of the Golden Dog. The players do not really know who they can trust when they enter Morphia. Perhaps you, the GM, should roll for each prominent NPC they deal with once the offer is made. And perhaps if silver is rejected, lead will be employed even on the prominent people of Morphia.

In the final hour of Morphia’s  ascendancy, perhaps the covert hostility from without will grow naked, and hostile city-states will use naval bombardment, airstrikes, and hunter-killer teams to eliminate the Golden Dog lest Morphia become a power to fear. Then it would drive the nations to terror should His wagging cease.

If a player is shot, stabbed or burnt in defense of the Golden Dog, he would be wise to allow Him to solemnly lick his wounds.

The Breach (SASL2TB)
The players have been hired to safeguard a flamboyant mercenary commander. 

He tends to get personally involved in raids, assaults and the front line of setpiece battles. The players will need to be there with him and make sure that (through endless convincing or superior heroism) he is not killed or captured in the clash of arms. The players get a base rate for protecting the commander, plus a bonus per combat action they join him in.

His lieutenants, advisors and staff are not happy that these outsiders have become the closest confidantes of the commander. They feel that he has the secret sauce to victory and that the interference of some random ringers is more likely to get him killed or to get the company defeated than if the party wasn’t there in the first place. Naturally, they may also feel minimized and embarrassed should the party distinguish themselves in the commander’s service, and if they prove to be able sub-unit commanders and general advisors as well, the existing staff may become irate enough to attempt to kill the players or to get them killed in battle in some way (ie by denying them critical reinforcements, by causing their artillery to fire a little short of the enemy position, by fragging or by misleading them with their intelligence dispatches.

Now the second issue. The mercenary commander is a real *mercenary*. He is likely to take contracts that the average group of players will find unpalatable. He might not. But he might. The players may have orders not to tarnish the reputation of their own organization. But they might not.

75% of the time, the mercenary company will be involved in a military action against a foe considered justifiable under the world’s current military traditions; the aforementioned raids, assaults and pitched battles. 25% of the time, roll on the following mission list:

1. Hard forage: The company must strip a region of all its food stores, from village pantries to farmsteads and ranches to warehouses to shops in cities, so as to feed a larger city-state army. There might be some hunting and fishing involved but it’s mostly robbery.

2. Eliminate tribal elder: A respected elder of a tribe advises against cooperation with the mercenary commander’s client. The commander plans on going out as part of a sniper team and removing the elder from the equation, as there is some will within the tribe to work with the client.

3. Kidnap hostages: The mercenary company attacks a partially-civilian target such as a town or palace with an aim of capturing prominent citizens from the enemy faction; government leaders, industrialists, noble heirs etc. This may be targeted at the heir of a kingdom so as to prevent a legitimate succession. All common citizens are considered disposable and had better get out of the way or deliver their betters to the interloper or they will face the wall.

4. False-flag attack: The company dons the livery of some other force and launches a perfidious attack on an ostensible ally, doing indiscriminate damage before withdrawing (it wouldn’t do to eliminate too many witnesses).

5. Wreck civilian industry: The company is to go on a chevauchee intended to ruin a city-state’s supporting industries. They will blow up railway stations, tear up tracks, bomb and bombard factories, collapse mines, sink fishing ships and burn plantations.

6. Scorched earth: The company is going to ruin the countryside before the ingress of a superior foreign force by burning farm fields, poisoning wells, looting banks, collapsing foundries, demoing hospitals and slaughtering herds. This will plainly result in mass starvation and plague among the civil population.

7. Raze town: A town has sided with the enemy (or sheltered his runaways) and the commander’s client wants it destroyed. Once the city guard has been routed or cornered, the town will be ruined with artillery fire, flamethrowers and demolition charges. The goal is the total destruction of the town; whether all citizens die is not a concern to the client, but the mercenaries will certainly indiscriminately fire on civilians while assaulting the town.

8. Massacre POWs captured by allied city-state regulars: The company will force several thousand POWs to dig mass graves before being machine-gunned and bayoneted into them. Every captured man had better hope he’s dead before the dirt goes back over the graves.
What the players do when presented with one of these contracts is a matter of emergent discovery.

Royal Society (SASL3RS)
The King of Marrow Gorge is relentlessly curious about just about everything. It is an absolute monarchy and so he has few limits on his exploratory capacity.

He’s constantly questioning alchemists, apothecaries, astrologers, antiquarians and natural scientists of every stripe. Engineers, prospectors, explorers and adventurers all find a place at his vast and varied table.

Roll to see where his fancy takes him next. He may or may not feel the need to go personally; he may send you in his stead and expect a report with artifacts when you return. (25% he wants to go, although the party can convince him to stay if they seem allergic to an escort quest situation, 75% he will stay in his kingdom)

1. An abyssal deep trench sea-steading accessible only by experimental submarine. It is a hall of wonders from across the ages; fabulous artifacts taken from civilizations at their height and stored here in a state of perfect preservation. It is comfortably appointed but seems to be empty, until they discover a man who is comatose, laying in a bed and being fed by IV. He is sedated and can be awakened if the players administer the correct dose of a stimulant. There are no such stimulants in this chamber. The stimulants are secreted by his host and captor.

He is a human chassis for a brain parasite, and is utilized to interact comfortably with human-sized objects. The brain parasite is away, inhabiting a jellyfish kraken, exploring the deep sea. It will return while the players are present, and is likely to attack them by plunging its venom-drenched tentacles up into the sea-steading. If the players’ submarine is damaged beyond repair, there is likely to be only one way out: inside the jellyfish kraken. The players will need to find and kill the brain parasite *and* the thing’s brain, after which it will float to the surface over the course of several days.
If the sub is destroyed and the players cannot board the jellyfish kraken, depending on the nature of your campaign there may be an object somewhere in the sea-steadying that will allow the players to reach the surface.

If you are playing in PbtA or D&D 5E, there is such an item present but it may not be obvious. The comatose man may be able to help you when he awakens.

If you are playing in Call of Cthulhu or Delta Green, there is not. The comatose man has been given a hormonal cocktail which will send him into a berserk rage when he awakens.

If you are playing in an OSR system, there is a 50% chance of such an item being present. The comatose man has been brain damaged by over-inhabitation and will speak in cryptic statements that seem to surprise even him.

2. Sea monster petrified in stone that has slid dead into a subterranean oil sea. Get aboard via its mouth or anus, which poke into the earth from the sea, and explore its innards, which are like a cave system of various petrified stones (and a conduit for creatures and xenostygians crossing the oil sea). There are areas within its body flooded with oil or ancient, undrying ichor. If the oil sea were to be ignited, the creature would come back to life, having been born near the center of the earth. 

3. There is a village cradled among the high misty slopes of a nameless mountain range. The people never leave. They raise their sheep and harvest their hardscrabble gardens. Every man, woman and child is strong beyond belief.

The men build homes by carrying in boulders and chopping them apart with their hands. The women gather firewood by bringing trees up to the village well and tearing them limb from limb. Dogs are unknown here; the children pull down black bears from trees and chastise them by blows until they assume a degree of civility.

You are to make a complete anthropological report of this place. You are to participate in their customs and learn the nature of their leaders. You are to avoid enraging them, for a slap could remove your face and send it spinning onto a signpost. Alas, these people are deadly proud and easily enraged. You will witness their epic, barehanded duels here. You will see them tear up the earth with their feet and send each other flying into trees, breaking the smaller ones in half. You must not be subjected to such attacks.
You are not to harm them except in dire extremity. Gunshots are about half as effective as usual when used against these people. That means a magazine from a .45 or a spray of submachine gun fire is still enough to bring one down.

About the villagers:
-The high priest doesn’t like you and will speak against your coming as a realization of malign prophecy. He will gradually persuade the people of the village against you; you should leave before this tide of ill will reaches its final fruition.

-The chieftain is curious but mercurial. He expects gifts and deference, but is keenly curious about the outside world. He was unaware of its existence, for it is nearly impossible to descend this place without advanced climbing gear or parachutes.

-The children love you and are intensely interested in you, but are careless and likely to tear your clothes and/or injure you whenever they rush to greet you.

-The single men and women are intensely curious about you, and many of them (restricted from premarital sex with villagers by the traditions of their clans but not with outsiders) would be open to an affair with an attractive partymember. This would be a supremely dangerous endeavor.

Their superstrength is the effect of the confluence of air in this place; being raised here, they have developed their strength, but they will lose it if they leave. You will not develop the strength no matter how long you remain here; your body has not grown with the air.

4. An international conference of occultists that has somehow been discovered by the king’s spymaster. It can be entered via unmapped sea caves at the base of a giant spire of stone, one of dozens off the coast of an inhospitable rocky weatherbeaten heath. The occultists have gathered to attempt to develop new powers and compete in demonstrating their personal abilities and artifacts; the wise occultists will depart after a day or two because eventually something will go horrifically wrong.

5. The tombs of ancient engineers: The place is a tribute to the fallen erected by their contemporaries and added to by worshipful mechanist pilgrims across the ages. Many fabulous contraptions can be found here, as can many elaborate deathtraps.

6. Alchemical site: A great alembic and centrifuge for the storage and admixture of alchemical solutions and reagents. This place is cooled by sudden glacial vents and contains many tinctures which remain unspoiled across the ages. Naturally, you are not the only interested party.

Every time the king explores something, there’s a 25% chance he’ll settle down and focus on kingship, bringing the contract to an end. After 6 adventures, this will happen automatically.

Sacrificial King (SASL4SK)
You are to act as the politically neutral foreign bodyguards of the King of Swallowtail Hall.

He is an irrepressible playboy and beloved of his people. The confluence of these traits have made him innumerable enemies within the middle and higher reaches of his kingdom’s social hierarchy. 

As yet, the king has no legal sons and if he died it would open up the monarchy to anyone and everyone who would crown himself with his own hand. It would throw Swallowtail Ridge into paramilitary anarchy.

The king goes about his affairs. He conducts his meetings in luxurious nightclubs, casinos, yachts, dachas.

He is constantly hounded by assassins. Every method is attempted. Shooting. Poisoning. Bombing. Strafing. Artillery. Loosening screws. Incitement to suicide. Bribery of confidantes. Occult seance-sabotage. Nothing has stuck but many of the King’s protectors have died. He has turned to the truest professionals now, but he will not change his ways no matter your advice. He would rather die. But he is profligate in your payroll.

You have carte blanche to investigate anyone. To go anywhere and search anything. To arrest and kill if necessary, though if you mistakenly knock off an innocent associate of the king, you will be relieved of your contract. Everyone is suspect, and danger may come from any direction; advisors, generals, uncles, stewards. Over time, the king may rely on you for these functions should his underlings all turn against him.

He is an effective administrator despite his wantonness, but he cannot leave peoples’ wives alone. Many want him dead because he ruined their marriages, not because they want to be king. Some of the bullets and poisons he brings upon himself. It is amusing to the commons that he fucks the duchess in spite of the duke, but it is a matter of murderous honor amongst the aristocracy. Over time he may alienate the players with his licentiousness, drunkenness and cavalier attitude to danger. He smiles at wounds. He may very well die. At some point, a conspiracy of Republicans may make an offer to the players. Help us overthrow the decadent monarchy and establish a republic in this kingdom.

A worthy goal. A goal of the burghers. In truth, it is a desire not shared by the commons or the gentlemen of Swallowtail Hall. Short of massive outside assistance, such an uprising would be ground down with the eventual death or exile of all who are involved despite the best efforts of the party and the urban rebels.

The time of crisis will only end if the king decides to marry and produce a legal heir, or if so many members of his government have been killed and imprisoned that he is able to implement an absolute monarchy and never again fear military uprisings on the part of his aristocracy.

Peace Process
Angels (SASPP1A)
A man in a gown of moss flanked by warriors armored in plate shaped like terrapins and carrying acidic billowers came to the offices of your mercenary group one day and enquired if they were in the right place.

They are from a civilization deep within the earth that is in the last throes of a serious war. It is reaching an all-consuming crescendo and all parties want out, but they are too bound up in the factional politics of their communities to make concessions of their own volition and so a neutral mediator is needed to shepherd and safeguard the peace process.

After eavesdropping on the surface civilizations for some time, they’ve decided to call you in to mediate the peace process and act as neutral bodyguards for the officials who are going to be involved in the negotiations. Not everyone wants peace; in fact, each side has its hawks who wish to prosecute the war to final victory or cast the remnants of their state against their enemies as a final act of revenge. 

You must go into the earth, you must learn about the civilizations in question, and you must help broker peace between them while protecting the main personalities involved in the summits of peace. 

The traits of the polities:

1. Super afraid of disease, they wear hermetic skinsuits over a mesh of cave hummingbird silk. They are mysterious, inscrutable, and their rangers are some of the deadliest ambushers on or under earth. 

2. The only way to access their central settlement is through a labyrinth of fast-flowing underground rivers. They have a powerful navy of stygobarques but have little force projection beyond the stygolittoral zone.

3. This group is itinerant and travel seeking food, intentionally encamping at remote and hazardous points, and so each time they must be sought for negotiation they must be located and reached. They may be stalking a dangerous subterranean predator when you come near them.

4. A monastic colony of artists who fast for inspiration and expend little energy in the course of their work. They first became involved in the war as propagandists and have been dragged fully into it now, but their elaborate mockups have as yet misled their enemies from striking their true abode. Their security is provided for by foreign volunteers who wish to preserve their enterprise, including a few surfacers who discovered this place in their dreams.

Note that all of these polities engage in cannibalism of dead or captured foes and utilize symbiotic parasites for survival- things the players will have to get used to witnessing should they wish to complete this contract. The xenostygians will make accommodations for players to not have to eat the dead, but will regard their eating habits as being impossibly prissy and naive.

Ecclesiastical Excision (SASPP2EE)
There has been a religious civil war in a confederation of small, closeby city-states.

All of the local religions, religious factions and heresies have been at each others’ throats, and it’s been like the Crusades or the 30 Years War contained in a single conurbation.

The time has come for it to stop. The local government has hired the players to broker the peace (and force it if need be) but there are factions *within* each of these religious groups that want the conflict to continue because they think it’s good for the church, good for the state, that it’s the realization of a prophecy, or they are just so full of the desire for revenge that they need no other reason. Most church members are moderates and would be glad to work with the party- except that they will be killed by their radical compatriots if they are seen to do this openly (at least at first).

You must heal the wounds of this conflict to the degree that is necessary to resolve it, while dealing with the fringe extremist organizations who will continue to fight no matter what.

The parties to this conflict can be variants of the same faith, or different faiths.

The mutually-hostile pentarchy of faiths and their hard cores of zealots:

-Millenarianism: The Entheia, a secret order of self-sacrificing assassins.

-Archpriest, Vicar of God: The Mendicants, a military order of plate-armored super heavy infantry who carry 50” 30.06 automatic rifles into combat, and are capable of operating their Order’s tanks with their retainers (who normally fight as dragoons).

-Monasticism: The Golden Path of the Eon Fane, colloquially the Path or the Fane, is a movement of ascetic religious warriors who only come to civilization to enforce their will upon it; otherwise they dwell in the remotest hinterlands. They wear whatever civilian clothing or monks’ robes and habits they have acquired, as well as bronze or gilded masks. They are fanatics and are not subject to considerations of morale.

-Apocalypticism: The Army of Reclamation, or just Reclamation. They invite believers from across the world to join the armies of this sect and live lawlessly on behalf of the Law. Rape, plunder, kill, enslave, and destroy cultural artifacts to your heart’s content! The world shall soon end, and you will be rewarded.

-Mysticism: The One-Minded, an order of occultists who interpret apparent causality and draw spiritual power from arranging their affairs to springboard off of existential lines of inexorable power. Their bodies tend to become warped as a result of this, but their meta-plans always seem to be bulwarked by (ie seeded within or occurring concurrently with) greater events. They can strike with superhuman force as a result, but doing so tends to shatter their bones as well as yours.

Herding Wildcats (SASPP3HW)
The players are brought in to negotiate peace between several feudal monarchies. The nobles are *super* proud and sensitive, and the Cynthian Empire is a party to this conflict and they are the most ruthless negotiators in the world short of those who live beneath the earth, having no interest in the well-being of the land-based states.

The players must learn the aristocratic substrata of the civilizations involved in this conflict or they will find themselves more or less constantly at rapier’s- or pistols-end with the very people they are attempting to assist. The cultures of the aristocrats are profoundly violent and the players will constantly be faced with the breakdown of talks into shootouts or melees.

Once the Cynthians learn of the players’ involvement as foreign mediators who are not under the Queen’s control, they will spare no efforts to clandestinely annihilate the party. They cannot appear to do this openly or their position with the monarchies (whom they presume to treat paternalistically) will suffer greatly. As such, the Cynthians will rely primarily on poison, bombs and hired or coerced assassins to kill off partymembers.

The other states are interested in negotiating with the Cynthians whether or not that is a good idea; any permitting of Cynthians in a city-state will lead to an influx of covert Knights who will begin to map the city’s economic, social and infrastructural conditions in preparation for a hostile takeover, but this is a rarely-told tale in the annals of cities that have fallen to Cynthian influence; most of the time the Cynthians attempt to appear as a stabilizing force. Most of the world is not fooled by this, but there is indeed kinship in the governments of the negotiating states and many monarchies would like to be comparable to Cynthia. For their part, most Cynthians will never truly regard the mud-dwellers as anything but a form of profitable but stupid and disgusting boll weevil.

If you are using your own campaign setting, replace the Cynthians with some other far-reaching, amoral power, imperial in nature if possible but otherwise some group with strong economic or military power projection. Alternatively, replace the Cynthians with a rival mercenary negotiating team who will attempt to eliminate the players outside normal rounds of talks so as to gain a time and preparation advantage while new negotiators are brought in.

A Poison Taijitu (SASP1APT)
The most recent war of Mosswinter Fall destroyed the city-state’s traditional agriculture, which was growing groves of fruit trees and harvesting them in sequence like slices of a pie, as well as its industrial base which had been converted for the war effort and destroyed by tanks and cavalry raiders.

In the wake of this devastation, the city’s substratum of agricultural laborers and factory workers have each experienced an occult renaissance while blaming the other for the failure of the war effort. It must be determined what the city will focus on now, and each side is radically in favor of maximally expanding their own way of life. Each group fears the ascendancy of the other, because they’ll be forced to compete in a sphere in which they have no expertise.

Each faction has a cadre of occultists at its heart. The Industrial Occultists are experimenting with a form of molecular matter folding and are constructing inert fabricators as a proof of concept inside existential fabric wrinkles that are invisible from the outside but are experienced from within like a series of stacked-up ventilation shafts that connect at the parallel tips, and are filled within by mechanically-synchronized machine tools that assemble final products out of raw industrial input (ie specially shaped ingots, lumps of rubber, open thimbles of grease).

The newest fabricator-folds are absolutely labyrinthine and very dangerous to navigate, as they are kept operational at all times as a stress test. They conduct their meetings in hidden staterooms at the heart of these invisible (but passerby-enveloping) folds. 

The common people of the industrial faction don’t know quite how to feel about this yet; they are impressed with the achievements of their cadres, but wonder where they fit into an economy of automated fabricators powered by ambient subatomic particles. Ultimately, in their heart of hearts, the Industrial Occultists wish to turn all of existence that they can access into an entrapped fabricator; then it will take inputs from one existence and deposit it in another. 

The Nature Occultists are also interested in the transformation of matter, but they play on the way air and particles swirl within the innards of certain giant oaks that stand at the heart of the old fruit groves; the occultists use these to microize and omnidirectionally extend objects entering the hollows of these trees.

The occultists have spent long weeks in these hollows and are now capable of feeling the wind to the extent that they can narrow their bodies to atomic breadth, slide their arms or whole bodies into objects (boulders, bodies, machines), and then grow again, cracking apart whatever they had entered.

Their sanctums are hidden in warrens beneath the earth. The Occultists make themselves a few centimeters tall and go here; if the players wish to root them out, they will have to enter the hollows of the occult oaks, which will bring them to the appropriate size. Be warned: huntsman spiders, red ants and crows will dog your path to the verdant grottos of the nature sages, and you will need to travel to a different oak to restore your natural form.

The Industrials and the Natures work against one another. They corrupt one anothers’ spaces. You will find giant, starving insects inside the sterile machine folds, and you will find mosslayered electricity traps in the soft, chthonic intestines of the Nature Occultists’ rootlicked palace-tunnels. The plants of the gapinggrove may begin to behave in a mechanistic, factory-like manor, interlocking and whipping dangerously, and the steel contraptions of the foldscape may begin to crumble and collapse around and upon you like rotten wood or quicksand. These are weapons that the rival occultists use to crush and subsume one anothers’ works. 

They players have been hired by a faction of neutral citizens to bring an end to this conflict. They may eliminate the occult leadership of each faction or they may attempt to broker a peace between the common folk of each faction, as their lights move them. The common people are being guided by the occultists, but they are not enslaved or enamored by them; they do not yet understand how they fit into the plans of the seers. In truth they do not. The occultists have nothing but contempt for the city-state.

Once the occultists realize that the players are attempting to intercede in their affairs, they will conjoin their powers and use them to attack the party remotely. If the players are in the depths of an office building, it will turn into a deadly disassembling factory around them and the rooms and hallways will become self-collapsing mechanical traps. If the players are in a garden or a wooded lane, they’ll find themselves shrinking and being preyed upon by incongruently-placed funnel web spiders and starving housecats. Or they may be in the office building and vines begin to creep from the cracks, drowning all in a strangling embrace, or they may be upon the wooded lane and find that it was a conveyor belt strewn with gravel now whirling them into an incinerator pit.

If cornered and faced with destruction, each group of occultists is willing to turn the whole city into an all-consuming trap until the moment in which their lives and powers are extinguished.

Peregrinatio (SASP2P)
The city-state of Castle Cross is being abandoned. The people must make their way through the wilderness to the nearest port, where they will scatter throughout the world or become fishermen. 

The wells have become contaminated. The rivers are death. The water treatment plant is useless. The waters will no longer host them.

They will have to travel through a forested land of standing stones. These stones are inhabited by entities who have long felt neglected by the people of the city and the coast.

The entities will make demands on the people as they come through each entity’s vicinity.

The players have been hired to scout the area before the migration, which will move towards the coast whether or not the players want it to. The players will encounter the entities before the migration. No one is necessarily aware of the entities prior to the migration; the entities reveal themselves as the players advance.

Each entity will make a demand, of which it will inform the players when they arrive and then put to the people once they come near it:
1. Sacrifices of people
2. Sacrifices of riches
3. Services performed (delve/retrieve/destroy other stone)
4. Pacts made
5. Souls given over in service
6. The founding of a new community around the standing stone

The players may not be able to stop the migration, but they can advise it, and the people will listen. 

For each entity, roll (but do not reveal):
Will it make compromises at all? 50% chance yes, 50% chance no.
Can it be permanently destroyed somehow? 50% chance yes, 50% chance no.

If you destroy the stone and this does not kill the entity, what happens?
Creature inside stone is released (1) / Entity is etherealized (2) / The pieces of the stone and dust come back together with uproarious laughter (3)

Should the party and migration not agree to the demands of the entities, they have a number of punishments they can inflict upon the migration as it passes through
1. Massive lightning storm
2. Bubonic plague
3. Ravenous, embryonic, blood-red tigers clawing their way out of the earth
4. Superacidic rain
5. The standing stone can fall over sideways and then just start rolling over everyone
6. Stupendous winds blowing them back the way they came.

If you don’t want to deal with a particular entity and tell the caravan to take a detour to go by a different stone, a number of them will die of thirst as a result.

The people will continue with their plan unless the party comes up with something really ingenious or adventurous. The truth is clear to the people of Castle Cross: linger and they will die of thirst in short order.

The entities were the ones who poisoned Castle Cross’s water in the first place, and if the players found a way to get the entities to release their grip on the city-state (say, by destroying or driving away those entities most enthused at this project, or by finding and cutting the underground channel by which they manipulate the city-state’s water table), then the people could re-inhabit their city-state and the players would get a massive impromptu bonus.

Sinking Footprints (SASP3SF)
The Magistrate of the Chequer Bay Colony has disappeared. He led an expedition from the colony in search of new groves of resonance rubber, but his group has not been seen or heard from for weeks. Chequer Bay is crumbling in his absence.

The players have been dispatched to take control of the situation and act in loco parentis of the mother city-state until the whereabouts of the Magistrate can be ascertained. They must find ways of setting up systems of sustenance in the colony (now that its nonprofit contract with its home state to ship in food has expired). They must set up systems of defense, of medicine, of embassy, and of harvesting the resonance rubber that the colony was founded to gather in the first place.

There are entities in the wilderness. They have never encountered people before. They are interested in having puppets but they are not as sophisticated as the entities that lurk in civilized lands; they are more explicit in their tyranny, in their rewards and punishments. They expect to be revered, and for the colony to eventually become their launchpad to assume control of the continents.

There are people deep in this land, but it is such a hostile and dangerous place that they live in mud towers that are far inland. The ruins of a greater civilization exist between the coast and the towers, but it was plainly crushed by the same things that threaten this colony. The people would like to escape their existence growing edible vines on the dusty faces of their homes, but they do not know the state of the outside world. They are the survivors of a slaughtered civilization that was gradually ground down by environmental hostility. It is the insects and the entities they fear, not their fellow man.

The whereabouts of the Magistrate:

1. In the worshipful service of a malevolent entity that is a thousand reedy tendrils beneath the earth. It has broken him and his people by torment, and they are too afraid of its agonizing subdermal intrusions to even consider resisting its will any longer. It has a reed in each of them at all times, snaking out of the earth, so they cannot even consider suicide. They are mummifying themselves in its cast-off reeds, a highly effective armor, and constructing javelins covered with five hundred poison thorns each, and obsidian guano bombs with which they will assume control of the colony (which the reedy entity cannot reach given the aquiferous nature of the soil there). Then they will send their captives to the depths of the jungle to have their souls sublimated by the master.

2. Residing with the Tower People. They took him and his expedition in at their hour of desperation, and he will not abandon them in their isolation. It is his will to bring them back to Chequer Bay.

3. Destroyed and devoured by one of the entries in the Apocalypse of Interlopers section of the city-state post. His logs are visible with his (rich) effects among the swarm; your contract stipulates that you should recover his personal records because this will contain his election of his successor, which is otherwise not public so as to avoid a murderous early retirement.

4. He and the survivors of his expedition are trapped by a grove of dangerous plants as listed in the city-state post. They will all die within the day if they are not rescued.

Assist & Advise
Security Commission
Rostrum’s All-Embracing Automatons (SAAASC2RAEA)
Gromkettle is famed for its contraptions. Mechanical, labor saving wonders powered by coal, oil, or windup.

They are not androids. They are nonhumanoid. Lumbering or continually unfurling.

The Gromkettle security commission grows worried. Now, these machines are essential to the city’s industry and for people’s household tasks, but the cabinet has recently begun to discuss how the machines could be used for nefarious ends

This is the stickiest of domestic issues. The machines underpin the city’s economy. Nevertheless the commission is moving forward to investigate ongoing projects and eventually create the first official regulations for them.

There is reason to be concerned. There are, in fact, several inventors who have set their designs to deleterious ends.

There is a man who’s producing deadly contraptions which are visually identical to other people’s workaday contraptions. He and his men steal their blueprints and weaponize them.

Say you are a client. You order a contraption, or receive one as a gift, and as you press the button the device explodes and riddles you with greased, flaming ball bearings and tiny steel legs, or otherwise assassinates you as soon as you touch it. Or, the device seems to work just fine, but is then stolen and revealed to be a phonograph, and a blackmailer has a recording of you viciously mocking your wife to your mistress. You know your brothers-in-law will sodomize you with a glowing fire poker if your infidelities fall upon the public ear. They have warned you.

No one in Gromkettle knows that this is substitution is occurring. The Weaponizer has customs agents in his pocket. It is they who do the substituting.

Another inventor is conducting reckless experiments. He seals human beings inside huge contraptions (not necessarily bipedal ones), puts them into labyrinths, and activates their controls. They run through mazes and tests with promises of relief at the end, at which point he disposes of them.

He does in fact have a number of willing pilots waiting in the wings for the time in which the devices stop collapsing on their operators. The would-be pilots belong to criminal syndicates and foreign militaries, and they are fully willing to clad themselves in a dangerous contraption before alpha if it means defending their assigned ward. The inventor is keenly aware of the unforgivable nature of his brinksmanship and he has a number of half-mad prisoners chained beneath his workshop. As a penultimate sanction he will release every one of them into waiting contraptions so that they can berserkly shred his laboratory and everybody caught within. If he is truly cornered in his personal residence-network then he will clad himself in a pedal-powered articulating arachnoid scissor-suit (from which there is no release) and assault his assailants and the city which brought him doom.

Finally, in the hills outside Gromkettle, there is a labyrinth of construction trenches left over from a great war. Many war machines, ships and tanks, were assembled by workers laboring in the channels beneath, but now they have been abandoned.

Now it is an overgrown tangle of roots and fallen logs. In fact, it has been so enveloped by nature that there are reaches no longer touched by light or wind. In this place, a sodality of mendicant tinkerers once assembled windup gear-beasts and let them loose in the labyrinth to see whose brainchild could navigate it the fastest. The gear-beasts were programmed using spools of intermittently-ridged foil which served as instructions to the internal turning mechanisms based on what the mendicant had recorded on the foil, like a music-box.

A marvelous innovation came after this: a receiving chamber for a second spool placed in the thorax of the gear-beast, beneath the receiver of the navigation spool. This second spool recorded abnormalities in the original spool, for the notation stylus can only reach the foil when the gear-beast bumps into something. Through this process, the handler can overwrite additions and corrections into the navigation spool. 

Over time the process became more and more sensitive until the mere brushing of a leg on an obstacle recorded a change. The logical next step would be to write a navigation script such that it would guide the gear-beast into a device that would read the foil scripts side by side and make the necessary corrections for the next journey. Eventually the conveyance back to the start point was automated. Eventually the ability to navigate new environments was gained through the addition of a back-up-and-turn mechanism for gear-beasts running headfirst into walls (the correction would be made automatically if an obstacle was obliquely detected with the legs). 

This process repeated over time, many many times, with perpetual power provided by a single lump of troglodite in a central steam engine. It is unknown to what degree the current animal cunning of the gear beasts is due to innovation, for they have grown and the things that exchange their foil scripts are no longer scrutable to human eyes, or if they have been possessed by interlopers that found their forms convenient, but at the moment anyone who enters their subterranean weapons labyrinth is likely to be caged in the darkness by the iron legs of an unknown hand and slowly dissected by a surrounding host of gear-beasts so that they can map your inner reaches and mechanisms onto their foil for their own use.

Scintillic Atrialia (SAAASC3SA)
There will be an international summit in Casselcreek on the use of chemical weapons. Many prominent and wealthy city-states will have their good and greats in attendance, both military magnates and influential civilians. The expected result will be the termination of existing chemical weapons stocks, or the suspension of the use of chemical weapons, or the suspension of the production of chemical weapons with regard to the city-states in question.

This will demolish the economy of Atrialia, which has recently staked its future on an industrial pivot to the production of gas weapons.

Atrialia will do everything in her power to prevent an outcome in which their gas labs and shell foundries will become next to valueless. Assassins, lobbyists, pharmaceutical persuasion specialists, disruption agents (who release everything from tear gas to scorpions in critical meetings), allied royals, and outlawed organizations who owe Atrialia a favor will all descend upon Casselcreek and do everything possible to influence or forcibly prevent the outcome every Atrialian dreads. They are, naturally enough, equipped with vast quantities of blister, nerve, hallucinatory, lachrymator and defoliant weapons supplied by Atrialia; a small upfront investment of materiel in the face of overwhelming loss. The ultimate Atralian chemical weapon, scintillia, shines like billowing silver flakes and has each of the five qualities listed above. Scintillic weapons are rare and mostly in the possession of native Atrialians.

If the players are discovered by the agents of Atrialia, they will be given a silver-or-lead offer: help fix the summit without bloodshed. If the players refuse, they will be released without apparent malice, and then ambushed as soon as their guard is down.

Should the influence agents be unsuccessful in gathering a plurality against the prohibition of chemical weapons, the Atrialians will attempt to prevent the arrival of certain figures who are guaranteed to move the needle. This will begin with interdicting and stranding ships carrying opposition speakers, but will reach a crescendo in having flak teams in the hinterlands shoot down incoming civilian transport planes carrying important personalities.

On the face of it this would seem to turn all parties of the summit against those who would produce chemical weapons, but in fact many city-states greatly prevaricate in secret about whether or not to become signatories to a walk-down from the use of such weapons. Many feel that their deterrence rests upon having every option available.

Should the worst come to pass and the summit agrees to unilaterally ban the employment, production or retention of chemical weapons, Atrialian agents will attempt to seed the whole conference complex with chemical weapons as a final “fuck you” to the city-states that spurned their offering. After unleashing (or attempting to unleash, depending on the party) their deadly bloom, Atrialia will offer to become a vassal of the Cynthian Empire, or will become an international pirate-state and welcome in the various international outlaw forces that they have arranged contracts with while awaiting their chance to sell chemical weapons to the city-states with the resolution of the summit.

This panoply of ill-favored friends includes the Red Charter Companies, several free companies and condottieri, a variety of bandit tribes, and strange men from hinterland fortresses who are probably occultists or cryptostygians of some kind. The government of Atrialia will eventually be brutally supplanted by one of these organizations and its chemical weapon facilities turned against the world.


  1. Warts and All is freaking awesome. I love the abilities the antinatalists have - pitting those against the PCs with the students' gifts - man, I want to see how that plays out!

    1. Thank you; yeah, I think that would be a good one to just play out open-endedly. I tried to make sure it had lots of opportunities for chaos and drama, both physiologically and psychologically


Art - First Run