I'm thinking we could make a whole RPG via Gygaxian Democracy...
Here's how it'll work: I provide the basic setting idea and the basic mechanics--all explained below on this page. That leaves you to worry about the fun stuff:
Setting details (monsters, villains, races, cities)
"Alterations" (mutations, adaptations, etc.)
Any time you like, you may post a comment adding another spell, mutation, kung fu move, etc. to the game on the appropriate page. These become part of the options available during character creation.
The mechanics are pretty much done but if anybody thinks of any good ideas for changes in the mechanics, I'll definitely consider them. I made no attempt to be original with them, just efficient and solid enough that something totally insane could be built on top of them. Short story: Str, Con, and hit points are one stat, willpower instead of wisdom, agility instead of dexterity.
After a few weeks or months or a year, all this will be collated and put out, probably as a free pdf or just a series of organized webpages. However, it may simply just continue as an ever-evolving, growing RPG where each character created will have been made with a slightly different set of options.
(If, for some reason, the game ever gets turned into a commercial venture--doubtful, but it's a strange world--or makes any money, half of any money I get will be divided among whoever's ideas I decide to keep for the published version, judged according to the proportion of the total non-me-contributor lines of text that they've written that are accepted. Like: if you wrote 30% of the material that I didn't, you'll get 30% of half any revenue.)
Here are the basics, I will post"targeted" pages over the next week where you can post your spells, devices, etc in the comments...
Gigacrawler, a free, crowdsourced sci-fi dungeon-crawl RPG
The big idea of Gigacrawler is that the entire universe is a dungeon. The universe was once like our own, but hyper urbanization and eons of alchemical warfare utilizing chaotech, crystal math and logic mines has, over centuries, filled up almost all known space. The space between planets is now filled with tunnels of stone, glass, metal, and stranger materials.
Every sci-fi and fantasy idea is in the Gigastructure somewhere--parallel universes, time travel, plasma grenades, magic, alchemy, etc. It's all just jammed cheek-by jowl horror-vacuously in with everything else. Resources are always limited. You might find a ruined starship, you might find a dinosaur, you might find a copy of National Geographic.
Or, to put it the way they would in a bloated $25.00 hardcover...
Earth's cities grow.
Imagine they do not stop growing. Imagine an urbanized Earth, building by building building upon building built on mountaintops, K2, Everest, urbanized, with traffic, the frozen antarctic dense with paneled bunkers, canyons filled and then so filled and all around filled so full that the canyon is only a vaguely-understood concept about what is underneath what we know--like the planet's mantle, crust and core, underneath the buildings is rock--what is rock? No-one remembers.
The rusting spires with a geology of their own--forgotten conduits leading to forgotten fuse boxes feeding old bulbs. The fields of architecture and archaelology mesh. Skyscrapers marching over cliffs like tin soldiers, down into the sea under perspex domes and stainless walls and then growing there, and then up and out of it again. 80% of the vast city-planet has quaint, polluted venetian canals connecting the lowest levels, sixty storeys beneath where most people live. It grew.
The Gigastructure became the only place. An extending great place that took up all of space, almost all of space, all of space except where there were planets, or suns, or class-12 Massive Supraplantary Organisms.
Like this: There is a planet, then cities on it, then the cities grow larger and they do not stop. The whole planet is urbanized. Then the planet's nearest moon is urbanized, then the buildings on the planet and the moon grow taller and mesh upward and more labyrinthine until they connect in a woven spire of exotic steels and nation-sized gravity-mollifying mechanisms, the moon no longer in orbit, merely fixed to its mother by an inhabited corridor.
Then again with each nearby planet, moon, space station, to the Dyson shell of energy-absorbing machines smothering the sun, then all these spaces connected, and then all of the space in between, too, in every direction into a solid block the size and shape of the universe with all astronomical bodies entombed within it and all animals, monsters, cultures, phenomena linked into a monolithic skyless maze-city of panelled chambers, tubes, hallways, transoms, shafts, glass-walled terraces looking out into dark, long vertical gaps between barely-inhabited sideways, opposing cities, each forming the roof of the other, the spires interlocking like sharp teeth, wells, fusion engine-trams, endless escalators lined with concession stands, crawlspaces, staircases, niches, branching zero-gravity capillary tunnels, and with all known architectures represented somewhere and integrated into the dizzying entirety.
Physique (Functions as strength, constitution, and hit points): 3-18
(Physique is split into "current physique" and "base physique".)
Now, you have a number of points equal to your Intelligence to divide between the following stats:
Tech Level: (minimum is 3)
These two terms are explained in more detail below. The basic idea is the higher your tech level or magic level, the easier it is to use technology or magic without annihilating yourself.
After tech level and magic level, you get to choose extras--skills, martial arts, spells, alterations, and equipment.
How many of each of these extras you have access to depends on your class:
Philosophers get 8 magic spell formulas (each spell can be used only once), 5 other extras and you can opt to receive 1 new spell or magic skill in lieu of an ordinary experience reward.
Scrapper - 6 martial arts moves, 5 other extras and you can opt to gain a new (randomly determined) Martial Arts move or acquire a new weapon skill in lieu of an ordinary experience reward. (Any number of martial arts moves may be known but only 5 may be used per day.)
Crawler - 8 skills, 5 other extras, and you can opt to receive 1 new skill in lieu of an ordinary experience reward.
Tinkerer-8 pieces of equipment, 5 other extras, and you can opt to receive a new device in lieu of an ordinary experience reward.
Hybrid-(these are characters from cultures where magic and technology are mixed) Hybrids have both their tech level and magic level equal to their intelligence (the max starting magic level for PCs is still 15). They receive 8 extras, can opt to receive devices in lieu of experience rewards and can understand alchemical devices at +2.
Unstable-(psychic) These characters can attempt to use d10 randomly determined magic spells at will (these powers can be re-used but the player must roll d10 and determine spells again every 24 hours) and get 5 other extras. Use of magic slowly drives them insane.
Robot-5 pieces of equipment (generally built in) or skills, 5 others, Magic Level must be 1. Automatically receives the logical benefits of being a robot (immune to suffocation, mind control, etc.), however, when damaged, they are not always easily repaired. Add d6 to physique or tech level.
Here are the extras:
Skills add +1 to a stat for attempting to do a thing. Like Dance skill would add +1 to your agility roll vs. the audience GM-determined jadedness level of the audience to dance well. Skill bonuses stack if and only if the second skill "stacked" is a narrower version of the first skill. i.e. if you were trying to figure out information about a shark, you couldn't use biology and oceanography, to get a combined +2, but you could use biology and marine biology to get a +2. You could even use biology, marine biology, and marine biology-sharks to get a +3.
This system is self-balancing: narrow skills are less widely applicable, but they give you stackable bonuses.
Some sample skills are listed at the bottom of this document, though feel free to make up narrower ones.
Note also that melee combat skills are handled under "martial arts".
Martial arts are "special moves" that you can pull out during combat. Each has a unique effect. Martial arts practitioners can use each move they know once per day, up to a maximum of 5. New characters are assigned martial arts techniques randomly.
Spells are magic effects that can be used once. Spells have levels, usually 12 and up. Anyone can use any spell they find (once), but whenever you use a spell you have to make a magic level check against the spell's difficulty level. Failure means things go grotesquely wrong and there are dire results. Unstables are crazy psychics who can use magic-type effects at will, but each time they have a chance of going more insane. New characters are assigned spells randomly.
Alterations are anything that make your character more than human if that's your bag--tough skin, claws, superhuman strength etc. They're called adaptations if these differences are due to simply being another species, they're called mutations if they are due to exposure to mutagens, and they're called modifications if they are properties of your character being a robot or cyborg. New character can pick alterations or choose them randomly. Either way, the cosmetic meaning of these alterations is entirely up to the player.
Equipment: Unlike most other games, you can't just buy equipment to start out--the Gigastructure is chaotic and communication is difficult. Finding a piece of useful equipment (a cigarette, a crossbow, a pistol, a plasma capacitor) is as rare as finding a magic spell. Each device has a tech level. If a device is above your tech level, you must roll a tech level check vs. the device's tech level. Failure means something terrible has happened. New characters are assigned devices randomly.
Example of someone at that tech level (example of something they would not have to roll to use/operate/exploit)
1 Weasel (pile of food)
2 Smart Monkey (stick)
3 Primitive human (knife)
4 Medieval human (crossbow)
5 Renaissance to Age of Reason-era human (clock)
6 Steam-era human (film camera)
7 Contemporary Earth Child (Nintendo)
8 Contemporary Earth Adult (car)
9 Contemporary Earth Adult Techie (sound-mixing board)
10 Cyberpunk Era Child (cyber-implant)
11 Cyberpunk Era Adult (cyber-reactive vehicle)
12 Cyberpunk Era Techie (combat robot)
13 Blade Runner/Alien/Cyborg Era Child (android pet)
14 Blade Runner/Alien/Cyborg Era Adult (hovercar)
15 Blade Runner/Alien/Cyborg Era Techie (starship)
16 Nanotech/Genetic alteration is common/No space-warships or FTL drives Era Child (low-grav shoes)
17 Nanotech/Genetic alteration is common/No space-warships or FTL drives Era Adult (custom mutation injector)
18 Nanotech/Genetic alteration is common/No space-warships or FTL drives Era Techie (gene resequencing vat)
19-21 Star Wars (tractor beam)
22-24 Star Trek Federation (replicator, transporter)
25-27 Technology so advanced human nature/existence becomes fundamentally different in most ways
28-30 Technology and lifeforms merge imperceptibly
Magic levels below 12 indicates a creature comes from a culture with only a grasp of relatively mundane phenomena, luck charms, minor fairy tale/superstition magics "put a locket in your shoe and in three days you'll catch a fish" etc. Slow, minor effects.
12 is shaman, priest, Aleister Crowley-level magic. Slow effects requiring ceremonies, a pain in the ass to prepare, but major effects are possible, if unlikely.
13 is authentically understood ritual magic. Pain-in-the-ass rituals still required, but they're more-or-less effective and somewhat understood. Think John Constantine.
Spells that are instantly usable are all products of level 14 magic or above:
14 Initiate wizard-level magic. Reliable instant minor effects. (Cantrips, stage magic.)
15 (maximum starting level) Wizard magic. Reliable instant effects capable of killing a weak creature or temporarily altering reality over a small area in noticeable ways. (1st-2nd level FRPG wizard spells)
16 The lowest kind of truly serious magic from times and places where wizards dominate ordinary humans. Fireballs, lightning, etc. (3rd level FRPG wizard spells)
22 Highest forms of magic known to mortals.
23 and above represents the powers of the gods and demiurges.
The party rolls vs. the GM for initiative on a d6. Situational modifiers may be applied. The side rolling highest goes first.
Each character can: move 15 feet and attack, move twice that and do nothing else, or attack and do some minor thing like check what time it is. Look to other games for crunchy details here.
To hit is dex (+ any bonuses for situation or martial arts or other weapon skill) + d10 vs. armor + dex (+any bonuses) +d10
-if the attacker hits-
roll weapon strength (+any bonuses) +d10 vs. defender's current physique (+any bonuses) +d10.
If the difference is positive on the attacker's side, that's how many points of damage to current physique the attack does.
In unarmed combat, the "weapon strength" is a little annoying: it's equal to the difference between the attacker and defender's current physique scores. If the attacker is weaker than the defender treat the "weapon strength" as 1. Because physique represents both physical strength and "life" points, if the attacker is injured (i.e. s/he's lost current physique points) the effectiveness of his or her attacks is reduced.
If the armor is not integral to the creature being attacked (that is, not their skin) the attacker has the option to just attack the armor rather than the character, in which case it's just dex (+any bonuses) v. armor and if the armor (or forcefield) is hit then it takes damage like a person.
Once a creature's current physique reaches zero she's unconscious. 2 things can happen:
-The foe can take an action and kill the character.
-If that doesn't happen, the character tries to roll under his/her base (not current) physique stat on a d20 once per hour. If s/he fails, s/he takes d6 physique points of damage. This continues once per hour until the character is healed or dies.
Medicine works like this: the doctoring character makes an intelligence check against an opposing rank of 30 minus the patient's base (not current) physique, and, if successful, after an hour the PC will be back on his/her feet with a number of current physique points equal to the number of points of success the doctor had. Obviously having medicine skills will help the doctor.
Defenders: You have the option to do extra dodges which means you get to roll twice and pick the best roll when you dodge. Declare when the other guy is about to roll. This costs you all your actions for that round.
Other combat effects (getting knocked down, etc.) are adjudicated by GM rulings.
Parrying and all that is gong to be the province of the martial arts moves page.
These are usually handled as stat (+any bonuses) +d10 vs. opposing stat (or difficulty level of the task , if nobody is opposing it) (+any bonuses) +d10.
If the player rolls high, s/he gets that thing done.
The bigger the numerical difference in the results, the bigger the success or failure, if that's relevant.
If one person rolls a 1 and the other rolls a 10, that's always a success for whoever rolled a 10, no matter what the comparative ranks are.
If there's a question of how, numerically, an effect works in a game--how long does your sleeping gas last? What's the range of your hypno-eyes?-- and the game doesn't provide an immediate guide, the PC says what they think it should be, the GM picks the lowest possible number that fits the idea of the power as it was originally described, the roll dice to decide where in the range the effect falls.
Experience rewards are granted in the form of re-rolls (fortune is smiling on the character) or skills learned (generally these will be narrow skills that have to do with what PCs did during the adventure). Generally 1-4 per session. Discovering devices and spells is its own reward.
I figured listing skills was pretty boring, so I did the work myself rather than turning it over to contributors, however, if you can think of a skill that might be good in the game, go ahead and leave a comment, here are skills so far. Players and GMs are free to think up narrower skills during character generation (like: Veterinary Medicine--Lizard/weasel hybrids) and use them. Remember: narrow skills aren't always useful but they stack with broader skills.
Any PC may attempt any task "unskilled". i.e. if a PC wants to roll on his/her intelligence vs. a GM-determined difficulty class to try to perform brain surgery, they should feel free. Gigacrawler PCs are presumed to be rugged survivalists capable of dealing with all kinds of things. If a GM feels a certain task could likely only be performed with special training, s/he should simply assign a high target number.
Skills have been chosen that don't substitute for player skill in social interaction or problem solving. Pilot skills are mostly useless since the universe is all dungeon.
Note that no skills broader than the broadest ones listed here are allowed (i.e. "science" or "weapons" or "magic").
Skills allowing the manufacture of items out of whole cloth are generally excluded from the system. However, at some point we may add rules describing conditions whereby Philosophers and Tinkerers can choose (rather than roll) the spell formulae and devices they receive as experience rewards. In this case, the PC can be said to have "invented" the item in question.
"Alien" and "xeno" in this case simply mean "originating from a species not native to the same planet as the PC". If the PC is from Planet Examant, then if s/he had "alien languages" s/he'd get a +1 to understanding English, French, Venusian and any other language not from Examant.
Sample Social skills: (add to charisma rolls, usually)
Etiquette of creatures of quadrant B-94 (for example)
Etiquette of creatures from Zorlithrax-9.
Sample Language skills:
(in general, any PC may make an intelligence roll vs. the difficulty level of an alien language to see if s/he knows it--most gigacrawlers are familiar with a few languages--the first time--and only the first time--they encounter it. Language skills add bonuses to this roll. If a PC learns a new language skill that might cover the language in question after failing a roll, s/he may roll again.)
(you could use linguistics and alien languages to get a +2 to understand an ancient alien text or languages and ancient languages to get a +2, but not all 3 for a +3 bonus since "alien" is not a subset of "ancient" languages and vice versa, they overlap but neither belongs entirely inside the other)
Ancient alien languages (you could use that, though)
Alien Languages of Quadrant: Kroskulus
Sample Engineering skills: (usually add to intelligence rolls)
Alien surveillance systems
Surveillance systems of Quadrant Mega
Surveillance systems designed by energy beings (etc.)
Sample Surivival skills: (usually add to intelligence or agility rolls)
Edibility of alien creatures
Pick locks (mechanical)
Pick locks (computerized)
Sample Scientific skills: (add to intelligence rolls)
Sample Weapon skills: (the broader weapon skills help with most things having to do with the weapons in question: repair, appraisal, etc., in combat they apply to hit rolls but not to damage)
Projectile (non-energy) firearms
20th century projectile firearms
2oth century projectile firearms from France
Edged melee weapons
Medieval melee weapons
Japanese melee weapons
Energy weapons repair
Energy weapons of the Vor-Gork Mercenaries
Anti-logic weapons repair (etc.)
Sample Medical Skills: (add to intelligence rolls, see combat section for details on medicine)
Cybernetic first aid (for example)
Sample Magic skills (Add bonuses to intelligence rolls to understand magical effects, to magic level rolls to use spells, and to Unstables' attempts to utilize spell effects. These skills cannot be gained after character creation until that kind of spell has been successfully cast by the character. i.e If someone who does not have the Xenodemonology skill wants it, s/he will have to successfully summon an alien demon first.)
Elemental control magic
Transmutation and transformation magic
Chaotic effect magic
Food and water are scarce and valuable in the Gigastructure. PCs do not necessarily start with either when created.
These rules will serve until such time as someone gets it into their head to design more gruesome ones:
After a day without food, characters lose 1 physique per day.
Humanlike creatures require physique x 100 calories per day to survive.
After a day without water, creatures with a humanlike physiognomy lose 3 physique per day.
Humanlike creatures require a gallon of water a day.
If a creature receives part of their requirement, they only take part of the damage.
Addendum: Simplicity Guidelines
There will be three sections in the final product:
-These basic rules
-Widgets (Setting features, spells, equipment, etc.)
-Rulings--A never-ending series of edicts on ways to adjudicate situations not foreseen in the basic rules, usually in response to queries. (Optional.)
When there is any confusion about the rules, there are only 2 possible resources that can give you an "official" answer: The basic rules and the specific rules described in the section about the widget in question. You are not obliged to look anywhere else. There is no higher authority. The "tournament rules" are just suggestions.
If a rule is not made clear in these basic rules or in the widget descripton(s) involved in the situation being ruled upon, the GM must make a ruling. Listening to the players' opinions first is recommended. Either the GM or player must write the ruling down if they expect it to be followed consistently thereafter, but if either does, it will be followed from then on.
If an argument concerning the rules is going on (2 players, a player arguing in the face of a GM ruling, etc.) and it begins to bore any person at the table or watching the game, that party may call Shenanigans.
When Shenanigans is called, a stopwatch or timer is started. Parties involved in the dispute have 3 minutes to state their case and come to a mutual agreement. After that, the decision is made randomly. The decision of the dice must be obeyed, even if someone believes it directly contradicts the official rules.
If a party is painfully aggrieved by a decision made during the game, s/he will receive a "playing in protest" coupon for a metagame reward after the game at the expense of the other players--usually in the form of beer, ice cream or shots of Jager in whatever quantities will get him/her to shut up and roll. However, thereafter the other players are entitled to mock the player during the next session (only), though the rate must be no higher than a single one-liner per player.
World of Carcosa
20 hours ago