Friday, November 24, 2023

The Horrors of Halfway

I've played a lot of Monsterhearts, and certainly enjoyed it, even though I certainly was doing it wrong.

But I've got no patience for games that reward poor choices for the sake of genre conventions. "Oh good for you, you did the trope thing, have a shiny sticker."

No. We do the trope things, because the trope things are fun. There is no need for any other reason!

Even worse, are games that force players to take those actions, removing agency for... no real purpose. The whole point of these silly elf games we play is to take actions and make decisions. Why do we play Apocalypse World, instead of watching Mad Max? Why do we play Monsterhearts, instead of reading Twilight? What harm is there in doing these games wrong?

The punchline of Monsterhearts is certainly the "Growing Up" moves, the pretence that becoming an adult somehow magically makes us... better? Maybe we might have coping strategies or healthier mindsets, or just make saner choices without the slurry of hormones. But we don't get magical abilities to deal with situations properly. And the levers of adolescence never truly go away.

I've played a lot of Monsterhearts incorrectly, by accident. These are the rules I'd use to play Monsterhearts incorrectly, on purpose.


  • As a player, your character is never forced to do anything.
  • You will be frequently and strongly encouraged to do The Wrong Thing (a.k.a. the trope-y, interesting and entertaining option), but are never, ever forced to do so.
  • If you instead take the safe, sensible and/or strategic option, you'll probably end up with:
    • Major mechanical penalties
    • Worse choices down the line
    • Or all of the above
  • Don't sweat the decision too badly. Suffering will probably ensue whether you do it, or don't do it.
  • Basically we are here to torment these characters. Fun!


  • Each character will probably have to choose one or two things. They can make these choices immediately, or just before they use them.
  • If they have never used an ability, or it doesn't do what they thought, they can have a do-over
  • Each Skin has set values for the four stats. This is how you appear, and appearances can be deceiving. Once, ever, the player can swap any two stats. This is their true nature.


  • Your character starts off In Control. This probably won't last.
  • If you Lose Control, things start to slip. Your character still does roughly what you intend, but anyone else at the table can suggest an entertaining and interesting course of action. If you take it, regain Control.
  • If you don't take it, Endure. This won't ever force you to take that action.
  • The next time a course of action is suggested, it just needs to be entertaining or interesting.
  • The third time and onwards, it has to be terrible.


  • If an opportunity comes up to satisfy a Drive, and you don't take it, add 1 to your Tally.
  • The next time an opportunity comes up, you have -Tally to all rolls until you get out of that situation.
  • If you really go all out satisfying a Drive, clear the Tally, and ignore all of your Drives for a little while.
  • If you already have 3 Drives and gain another, lose Control, and remove whichever Drive is middling: the one you have satisfied a bit, and resisted a bit. Not the one you always indulge, or the one you always abstain.


Spend a String on someone for:
  • +/- 1 to their rolls, or your rolls against them
  • +1 Harm to whatever you are hitting them with
  • Force them to Endure in order to carry out a certain action
  • Put them in or out of Control, for a time

You can spend up to 3 Strings at once.

Extra Sources of Strings
Take a String on someone when:
  • They break a promise
  • They go out of their way to not make a promise
  • You forgive them for something, when you really shouldn't
  • You learn a secret, and keep it for later


In addition to the obvious, the following also count as Acts of Intimacy

  • Tending to wounds, with subtext of any kind. Heals 1 Harm, gives the healer 1 String
  • Witnessing transformations, painful or otherwise
  • Biting


Everyone in the mortal world knows that Vampires and Werewolves and the rest are all real. There's no conspiracy keeping them hidden, that's dumb. And besides, the vampire council dealt with the Vampiric King Ascendant. They're on our side. The Vampire King's low-yield nuclear annihilation proves that.

Also, God has gone missing. The Angels are all still dealing with that one. They never found the body.

Try these lines on for size:
  • "The new transfer student is so hot. I heard he's a Vampire."
  • "Well of course you made quarterback over me, you're a Werewolf."
  • "Oh come off it, it doesn't hurt her, she's a Ghoul."
  • "Just because you're an Angel doesn't mean you're better than us!"
  • "Hey buddy. You got, uh, you got something for me? Way I heard it, you've got a bit of a firey demeanour."
  • "I know you Witches are all just like us, but it just makes us all a bit uncomfortable when you're doing that sort of thing in public. It's important to respect other people's boundaries."


Roll 2d6+stat. On a 6- we end up in [[#The Mess]]

Entice (+Hot)

10+, take a String on them, they choose a reaction
7-9, they can give you a String, or choose a reaction
  • Give themselves to you
  • Promise you something you want
  • Lose their composure

Coerce (+Hot)

Only works on NPCs. Requires a bribe, a threat, or a motive.
10+, they do what you want
7-9, they'll do what you want, if you have what they want

Manipulate (+Cold)

10+, you choose
  • They lose Control
  • They lose a String on you, if they had none you get a String on them
  • They look bad in front of peers
7-9, you both choose one from the above list

Endure (+Cold)

10+, you do the thing anyway
7-9, if you still want to do it, the Director offers you a worse outcome, hard bargain, or an ugly choice

Attack (+Bloody)

10+, deal them Harm and they need to Endure before they can do anything
7-9, deal them Harm and choose one:
  • They get a String on you
  • The Director decides how bad the Harm is
  • You lose Control

Flee (+Bloody)

Requires at least something like an escape route.
10+, you get away clean
7-9, you get away, but it's messy, and the scariest thing there gets a String on you

Dwell (+Dark)

First of all, announce what's on your mind.
10+, choose one of the following:
  • Receive a course of action, and take +1 to do it
  • Witness an omen, vision or clue
  • Learn the answer to a question
  • Regain Control
7-9, the Director chooses from the above, and you lose Control. If you were already out of Control, treat this as a 6-

Ritual (+Dark)

Requires you to know a Ritual, and use a Sympathetic Token from the target.
10+, it works, add two of the following to the effect. The Director decides the rest:
  • Harmful or harmless
  • Subtle or obvious
  • Reversible or permanent
  • Stable or chaotic
7-9, it works.

Some Rituals you might learn: Wither the Flesh, Bind the Sword, Cloud the Mind, Twisted Visions, Reveal Truths Best Kept Hidden, Deceiver's Bane, Scrying. Learning new Rituals is always incredibly difficult and painful. Those with the knowledge aren't inclined to share.


Punches and kicks, 1 Harm
Rocks and bats, 2 Harm
Gunshot wound, 3 Harm

1 Harm gets talked about in the hallways
2 Harm gets talked about at the police station
3 Harm gets talked about in the hospital
4 Harm gets talked about in the morgue


If you take 4 Harm, you either
  • Lose all Strings, and lose Control
  • Disappear under mysterious circumstances
  • Die a little while later
  • Die immediately



Hot +1, Cold +2, Bloody -1, Dark -1

  • Each time you drink a bunch of blood, heal 1 Harm and gain 1 Gulp
  • Spend 1 Gulp for +1 to a roll, deciding before rolling
  • Hypnotic, if someone has no Strings on you, and you have Strings on them, you can stare into their eyes and make them say what you say

  • Unless you really indulged, as soon as you stop drinking the Drive will probably still be there
  • Traditional weaknesses: direct sunlight, uninvited thresholds, garlic, crosses, others as discussed
  • Treat exposure as a 6-. You are a young vampire, so the traditional weaknesses are just severely uncomfortable, rather than fatal
  • The more blood you contain, the worse the effects!

  • 1-in-6 chance of gaining "drink this persons blood" as a Drive
  • The Director can roll this out in the open, or in secret, or just cheat as much as they want if they think it will be interesting and entertaining

  • You are beautiful and fascinating, and you know it. Take 1 String on everyone.
  • Someone saved your life, they take 2 Strings on you.
  • Start with the Drive "consume spilled blood".

The Ghoul does not contain any blood


Hot +1, Cold -1, Bloody +2, Dark -1

  • When you lose Control, you transform into a huge fuck-off wolf, capable of tearing through cars and basically anyone else. Take -1 Harm. Teeth and claws deal 2 Harm, or 3 Harm at night
  • You can lose Control intentionally, and you either transform immediately or hold off for a little while
  • If you receive training from an elder wolf, you might be able to transform quicker, with less pain, or only partially.

  • Transformation is horrifically painful and debilitates you for some time during and after
  • Each time you transform intentionally, there is an increased chance of the Director making you transform unintentionally
  • OR if you haven't transformed in a while, you start getting the urge to
  • OR there's no link, and the Director is just fucking with you

  • You lack subtlety, give 1 String to everyone
  • You know the scent and mannerisms of someone else, perfectly. Take 2 Strings.
  • Start with the Drives "be respected" and "don't be disrespected".

  • Double effect of healing, 2 Harm healed and 2 Strings taken.
  • The next time you both Dwell, it must be upon each other.


Hot -1, Cold +2, Bloody +1, Dark -1

  • If you'd die, you come back after a few hours of suffering.
  • While pursuing a Drive, take +1
  • If you satisfy a Drive fully:
    • Heal 1 Harm
    • Regain Control
    • or take +1 for a while longer

Start with the Drive "devouring flesh", and another from the following: "power", "fear", "chaos", "secrets"

  • You need to Endure to resist a Drive

  • If you observe someone without them knowing, while they are vulnerable, take a String
  • If you protect someone without them knowing, take a String

  • Decide if you know how you ended up dead, or if you don't yet remember
  • Did anyone watch you die, or come back? You both take 2 Strings on each other.
  • Someone reminds you of real, breathing, bleeding life. Give them 2 Strings.

  • Watching the Ghoul die, or come back to life, or hearing about it in great detail, counts
  • Whatever kind of Intimacy, they take 1 String on you.
  • (This is a relatively simple effect, since getting up close and personal with a Ghoul is already dicey enough)


Hot +2, Cold -1, Bloody +1, Dark -1

Holy Gifts
  • You can Fly with wings of pure light
  • You can Smite with tremendous bolts of lightning, channeled through a weapon or thrown with bare hands (less accurate)
  • You can Heal and Forgive with a touch

  • Mark a tally each time you commit a major, unforgiven Sins
  • Using one of your Holy Gifts for base ends counts as a Sin
  • Three Strikes And You're Out. Lose one of your three Holy Gifts. However, there are no further penalties after these three strikes...

  • Each time you indulge in a vice, gain it as a Drive
  • If someone gets you to indulge in a vice and it goes well, they get two Strings on you. If it goes poorly, you get two Strings on them
  • Start with the Drive "be accepted by your peers"

  • When you decide to spare someone you have reason to kill, take a String on them

  • Someone wants you dead. They get 2 Strings on you.
  • Pick someone that is more pure and noble than you are. Or just someone that feels that you. You get 2 Strings on them, they get 1 on you.

  • Entirely reveals all of your Drives, Strings and Sins
  • They can choose to take on one of your Drives as their own
  • They can choose to make you lose Control


Hot -1, Cold -1, Bloody +1, Dark +2

  • Choose two Bargains. Give the Dark Power a String to gain the benefit.

  • +2 to a roll
  • Heal 2 Harm and regain Control
  • Use an ability you don't have, once
  • Reveal a secret from someone you are talking to
  • Something you really want, if you fulfil a request

  • Once the Dark Power has five Strings on you, you lose Control and cannot use Bargains until you've cleared them all
  • If you get properly worked up, anyone at the table can suggest that you catch on fire (too cheesy?)

  • Give away 3 Strings, to other characters or your Dark Power
  • Someone thinks they can save you, take a String on them

Dark Powers
  1. The Poisoner
  2. The Trickster
  3. The Connoisseur
  4. The Fallen
  5. The Glutton
  6. The Emissary
  7. The Butcher
  8. The Tyrant

  • The Dark Power loses a String on you, and takes a String on them


Hot -1, Cold +1, Bloody -1, Dark +2

  • Start knowing two Rituals. What did you have to do to learn these?
  • Instead of using a Sympathetic Token, you can chant in weird tongues to enact a Ritual

  • You are almost a mortal, so watch out!

  • Someone has seen you doing a Ritual, or collecting Sympathetic Tokens. They take 1 String on you.
  • ?

  • Counts as a Sympathetic Token, whether you like it or not

The Mess

On any failed roll, things get worse and more complicated.

  • Take a String on someone
  • Take away Control
  • Trigger a Drive, or make a new one
  • Separate them
  • Put them together
  • Wind-up for the big hit...
  • Follow through!
  • Set a price, and ask
  • Leap to the worst possible conclusion
  • Turn their move back on them
  • Expose a dangerous secret to the wrong person
  • Send a message

After every move: "What do you do?"

Director Principles

  • Blanket the world in darkness
  • Address yourself to the characters, not the players
  • Make your move, but misdirect
  • Make your move, but never speak its name
  • Make monsters seem human
  • Make humans seem monstrous
  • Give everyone a life
  • Accept people, but only conditionally
  • Happiness always comes at someone else’s expense
  • Ask provocative questions and build on the answers
  • Be a fan of the PCs
  • Treat your NPCs like stolen cars
  • Give your NPCs simple motivations that divide the PCs
  • Sometimes, let them make the call

The First Day

  • First year university! An opportunity to escape the past, to reinvent yourself. New freedoms, new responsibilities, new people, new places. But the old comes with, whether you like it or not...
  • Your first class is something like "Ethics of Communication", don't worry about it.
  • Each PC is sat with three NPCs at the tables. Icebreaker time! Each other player (not at that table) should come up with an NPC name and fun fact.
  • For each NPC, the Director can also pick something like the following:
    • If they asked you out, would you accept?
    • Who do you reckon they like better, between you and (other PC)?
    • If they tried to fight you, would you fight back?
    • They're staring at you, trying to figure out what's up with you. They might know your true nature.
    • They pass you a note. Do you open it now, or later? (The other player should write a note and hand it over)
    • ?


Older Students
For older, scarier, and supernatural students, pick a Skin and give them some traits and powers from another Skin:
  • A Werewolf as cold and manipulative as a Vampire that can stare down any prey.
  • An Infernal with more magical powers and fire-blasts.
  • An Angel that can transform into a huge many-eyed beast.

(In many PbtA games, this would be built into the advancement system. None is provided in the Horrors of Halfway. Players will have to discover new abilities the hard way.)

Staff. Consider, what's their deal?
  • Some lecturers
  • The head of Student Services
  • The Dean, and the Vice Chancellor
  • Some researchers

Are not appearing in this film.

The Action

Internal Threats
  • Fighting over the same girl
  • ?

External Threats
  • A world-famous Monster Hunter is in town, and a half-demon just ended up dead by the freeway (if they hunker down, things get worse for monsters in general, lose jobs and opportunities)
  • Recruiters for the New Vampire King
  • ?

Limited Resources
  • Money
  • Time
  • Housing
  • Grades
  • Self-esteem
  • Drugs

Upcoming Events
  • Mad party on the weekend
  • Prom
  • The Big Game
  • Exams
  • Talent Show

When doing any planning, make sure to append "and then the players show up".


Obviously, these rules haven't been tested at all yet. Were you expecting anything else? The good bits were all copied from Monsterhearts 1st or 2nd Edition, as well as various things from Apocalypse World.

Whenever a character misunderstands something, gets huffy about it, and storms off before any explanation, all players at the table should politely golf clap.

If a player makes a vicious and snappy comeback against an overbearing, powerful and ostensibly neutral adult, that it would be much more sensible to respect (or at least pay lip-service), all other players at the table should go "ooooh".

Changelog (partial)
  • Removed Darkest Selves, replaced with Control and Drives
  • Removed experience and built-in mechanical advancement
  • Expanded the scope of "Intimacy"
  • All characters could theoretically learn Rituals, an extra use for Dark
  • Parts of the Mortal have been folded into the Witch
  • Parts of the Ghost have been folded into the Ghoul
  • Parts of the Chosen have been folded into the Angel

Interesting String Situations
  • You've captured someone's fancy. Take 2 Strings on them.
  • You've been inside someone's bedroom while they were sleeping. Take a String on them.
  • You find someone threatening. Give them a String on you, and take a String on them.
  • You live next door to someone, and the walls are very thin. Take 1 String on each other.
  • Someone finally noticed you. Give them 1 String.
  • Pick someone as either "treasure" or "merely currency". If they are treasure, give them 1 String. If currency, take 1 String
  • Ask someone if you can trust them or not. If not, give them 1 String on you.
  • Pick someone that you deem to be doomed to self-destruction. Give them 1 String.
  • Someone has stood up to you, give them 1 String on you.
  • Someone here is your absolute favourite. Take 1 String on them, and give them 2 on you.
  • Which of them is as strange as you are? Take 1 String on each other.

Spend a String for -1 Harm, if you really must.

Other kinds of magic?
  • Blood Blasting
  • Potion Crafting
  • Divination
  • ?

Friday, August 4, 2023

"Have you been having trouble with your sleep?"

It's late. 11 PM says the clock. I'm hungry. Dinner hasn't happened yet. I wonder why not. Surely I would've heated something up by this point. I look down. A whole pie. Shop-brought, serves four. Meat. Not lamb or beef, just "meat". Still frozen in the middle. Charring around the outside. A whole pie, uncut. I look over. Another pie. The same deal, ice-ring leaking out onto the table. I look up. "Hey dad, what hap-" I start.

It's late. I'm hungry. Dinner hasn't happened yet. I look down. A whole pie. Meat. Lukewarm, fully defrosted into the table. "Hey dad," I start, and abort as my brain starts to tickle. "Thanks for making dinner".

Teeth, brushed, a concession to a shower untaken. 8 AM says the clock, already late for work. I should've taken that shower last night, my feet must have been filthy since the sheets are wrecked. The hell did I tread in last night? I don't even remember taking off my shoes. I don't even remember getting into bed. I'm so tired after work every day, I just crash.

Off to work. Late again, but not enough that anyone really cares. Home again. I should cook something tonight, it's not fair for dad to cook for the three of us every-

It's late. Almost 10 PM says the clock. Meat pie again, huge great slabs fully defrosted on the table. I look up at dad, then at the clock behind him. Something squiggles, ricochets in my head. A question I asked a little while ago. Yesterday? A week ago? What day is it? 10 PM says the clock. "Hey dad-"

It's late. Half past 10, says the clock. I lock eyes with dad. God he looks tired. When did he get so old. I look back at the clock again. I can catch it in the act, I know I can. "Hey-"

A deep breath and unsettling numbness clawing up my ankles from bare white feet. Puddles everywhere, the sky full of grumbling thunderheads that threaten "there's more where that came from". I'm sat at a bus stop, but not the one I get to work. Some kind of light industrial area? The sun isn't setting, it's rising, a crappy dawn. I'm wearing two filthy sodden jackets, no shirt, pockets full of used bus tickets. A quick thankful prayer when I've still got my wallet—but no cash, and all the cards are gone. Phone has a tiny new scratch in one corner, and blinks a sad little "no battery" at me. The first drops of the second round of rain start to plink off the roof of the bus stop.

When I get home, there's no clock in the dining room. It's all I can do to call in sick and go back to bed.

The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, my head is turning inside out with how much of the world there is out there, and someone is tapping at my bedroom window. She's dressed like any of the desperate office workers I slum it with on the train, but she isn't one. I can smell the blonde hair-dye from here, it's shower on stuff, not a shop-job. Her eyes are masked with a pair of cheap sunglasses, new enough to still have a sticker on one arm, but I can still feel them looking into my bare bloodshots. Appraising me. She's got the exact same expression plumbers make before they tell you something expensive.

"Listen, I know it's a Saturday and- hell, this is weird for me, it's probably even weirder for you. My name is Ingrid and, maybe you could come out here and, no, this is fine, are you fine with talking through the window? I won't take more than a minute of your time, I just need to check something, if you don't mind, if it's too much bother I can come back tomorrow or or a workday or later today? It's just that-"

She breathes.

"Do you ever, I don't know how to put this exactly." but I know exactly what she's going to say. We've had this conversation before. "Do you ever find yourself in weird places, and you can't remember how you got there?"

It wasn't great before, and after my little experiment, it gets worse. Each morning is gritty thoughts like bad porridge, a shard of dust in each eyelid, cracking ankles and jawbreaking yawns. Each morning is a gut-deep weariness that sickens, key drop clumsiness, a coarseness to the daylight that wasn't there before. I wash the sheets every day now, but it doesn't change how often they end up stained with muddy bootprints. Sometimes I wake up with my shoes still on, even when I took them off before coming inside. I don't want to think about it.

Dad doesn't question it, he just looks on as I teeter. I don't know what's up with him, he's so listless and pathetic. I've got no idea what happened to make him this way, but his attitude is doing neither of us any good. I leave him to whatever his deal is, and deal with my own problems day by day.

Problem number one: the day.

I used to glide through each week, sliding off and around obstacles in my way. Once the sleepwalking started, I had to put in a little effort, trotting around or over the problems that plague any normal working life: hardware, software, wetware, warehouse, awareness, war and peace. But I dealt with them all, just like always.

Now I stagger and stumble at the first hurdle, to face-plant directly into the second. I can't tell if people have started to notice or not. Everyone is watching me, but I can never catch them staring. I put twice as much effort into covering up mistakes than would've been required to avoid the mistake in the first place. They constantly ask how I am, if I'm doing alright, if I need anything. Probing for weaknesses. I brush them off with a quip or two every time. They know. They know I'm lying. They make me feel so paranoid all the time, like I'm losing my mind.

It's not fair.

"Errands?" I look at dad like he's as mad as I feel. "What do you mean, going on errands? I've barely got enough time to get through work in the day and sleep. If you need me to do something just tell me and I'll, I'll get to it on the weekend. Which is- tomorrow. It's Friday already. Right. Tomorrow, errands."

He looks at me with that kicked puppy expression. Says something. And walks away. "What?" there must be something in my ear. The buzzing is back. "At night? Errands at night? Dad, what are you talking about?" but he pretends he doesn't hear me, then pretends we weren't talking just a second ago. I hate it when he does that.

My ceiling has more cracks on it than I remembered. My eyes are dry and feel like they've dry-stuck to the back of my skull. My room smells like batteries and manure. My bed has a box underneath it, a cardboard shoebox with a piece of newspaper limp across it. Was that meant to... hide it? I'm a naturally curious person by nature. No matter what, I would've opened the box. Or at least, tried to. It's Saturday, long past noon, I'd normally wake up around 9 AM. Half the day is gone, and there's a mysterious box reeking under my bed. I don't want to waste the rest of the day to [them] messing with my head. It's not worth it. I can see a loop of wire slipping out the end of the box. I won't try opening it. It's not worth it.

The next morning, the box is gone, but the stench of battery acid and fertiliser stays with me, along with a flicker of complicity. I make a point to not watch the news for a while.

It's becoming more obvious now. I'm sleepwalking out of the house and "doing errands" each night, back in time to track mud through my sheets and wake up in time for work. Sometimes [they] mess up, I can feel myself "fall asleep" while I'm still standing up, or if I just stand next to my bed for a few minutes. I wake up under the covers either way, neck cricked. All six pillows are on the floor next to me. [They] keep me busy, every night I'm off doing... something. Anything. Am I committing crimes in the dark? Just walking around? Spying on people? I don't know. I'm not sure if I want to know.

There's an old woman at the end of the street, standing under the only other working streetlight. My back aches from lugging all my bags home, my keys are in my hand, the front door is directly ahead of me. I should just go inside and be done with the day. But somehow, I stand and watch a while longer, watch myself being watched. I don't feel threatened, not particularly. Am I being creepy?

Eventually, my morbid curiosity gets the better of me. The salesperson at the tech shop looks thoroughly uncomfortable, but eventually sells me the tiny video camera after I mumble through some anecdote about racoons in the bins. It sits, nestled in the corner under some clothes. The insectile eye watches me while I get undressed. I feel exposed, even though the only person watching is myself from the future.

I strangle myself awake as the garbage truck crashes through the roof. That's what it sounds like, and my sweat soaked sheet has looped in just the most absurd way. The hiss-grumble of ancient hydraulics reverberates up my spine. Sunday. Right.

The spy camera is gone. Not under the clothes, the charger hanging flaccid from the wall socket. Not under the bed, need to clean under there, wow that's a lot of dust, reeks. Focus: camera. Not in my room. Not near the computer.

I sprint, pyjama-clad, out to the garbage truck, just as it starts to lift our wheelie bin.

I spend the rest of the morning apologising, explaining, getting odd looks, and whiffing faintly of garbage. The camera has been stomped to pieces, and the SD card has bent slightly. Reading the data directly off the card costs as much as the camera did. I'll just have to wait and see what I, or [they], was doing last night.

Three calls from my boss, two texts, one email. Five calls from my co-workers, and one text. One call and one email from the nice HR lady. I don't know what I've said, what I've done. It must've been bad. It must've been truly appalling, but not enough to get me arrested. I don't really want to know what [they] made me do, it's not worth losing—sleep over it.

My skin is so thin. Nicks and cuts have stopped clotting. Thoughts won't stop sticking. Every morning the shakes get worse, but I dread the day when the shakes stop. Some animal part of me knows what it'll mean when the jitters stop. The creature that looks out at me from the mirror is flinch-worthy, a hollow cheeked warning for the kids: stay in school, eat your veggies, get to bed on time, or you'll end up like that thing in the mirror, the horrible squirming hair like shredded worms, the bags under the eyes full of every bad mistake, the wobbling teeth, the itchy flaking skin on the back of one hand that has split and swelled and metamorphosed into a crimson splatter throbbing in time with my heart. But the physical symptoms are a delayed knee-jerk. I've felt as bad as I look for weeks now. The rot rises up from inside, as the outsides shut down bit by bit. Third wind is long exhausted, emergency stores depleted, cutbacks and quarantines have stretched and failed, last-ditch sacrifices have been tossed on the pyre to stave off the day. This day. Today. I'm not going to die today, but this is the last day before the point of no return.

After today, all that I've got left is waiting for the shakes to stop.

It's the old woman again, the one I saw staring down the street. Up close, she's fucking huge, seven feet tall at least, clad in some kind of robe that might be leather, might be matted fur. She looks down at me, but not down on me, with the most heartbreakingly pitiful expression. No, not pitiful, full of pity, not for her, but for me.

With what I'm about to tell you- you don't have to believe me. Hell, I wouldn't believe me if I said I met the goddess of sleep and booze in the street outside my house. But you don't have to believe me. I don't have to believe me. But just so we are all on the same page: I absolutely believed her.

She looks down upon me, my hands are open, and my eyes are sunken, and falling under her gaze. She speaks, and it's like blood-hot water rushing down my spine.

"A little man at a bar takes a shot, wishing to be loved by all his fellows, to be treated like a king, if just for an hour. I tell him "buy them all a round of drinks, and ask them what they do outside of work". He doesn't, and buys himself another drink instead. It's still a good idea though."

"My name is Obol Kana. Have you been having trouble with your sleep?"

Why the hell did I buy two frozen pies? What kind- meat. Just, meat? This is bizarre. I hate eating the same thing twice in one week. The house feels so empty. I should buy a clock. Some ticking might fill this silence. I could turn on the radio, but the thought of being talked to is, somehow sickening. The oven is running hot, it's not like me to preheat it and then forget. Whatever. I'm so tired after work, it's no wonder I forget these little things.

Yup. Just me, and a Meat pie, and the Silence, sitting around the dinner table.

Kana reaches out, holds the back of my head, touches two fingers to my forehead, and lets out a sigh (symbols and ancient chanting fill the sigh, but only for those that can read such signs, you don't need to worry about that sort of thing). I can feel my knees turning to lovely jelly, sliding me down gently onto the floorboards. Ingrid reaches for me, to try and prop me up and stop me slumping all the way to the ground. Kana holds her back, the two of them watch me topple like a tree in jello. My head touches down like a ship tapping the pier, eyes closing, soft darkness reaches out and wraps around my thoughts. Sleep, actual sleep. I'd forgotten entirely what falling asleep felt like, like forgetting water in the desert. I could be hung upside down from my ankles right now and I'd still be snoring.

Outside, the lights and sirens fire up.


The flashing lights pulse behind my eyes, echoing off the back of my skull.


The wail of the siren, air-raid, baby-cry, truck-horn, jackhammer. To call it ear-splitting doesn't do it justice.


"This is the Committee!" comes the megaphone from outside, another layer over the warning siren. "Open up or you will be fired upon!". Kana kneels down beside me, hands on both temples. I can feel her trying to draw back the spell, stop it from curdling like forgotten milk amidst the lights and sirens. She tries to pull it out, but my brain is like wrung-out tissue paper used to mop up a hundred spills from the months of Occult Sleepwalking: It's torn and ragged, wetted and dried out a hundred times, flimsy. And absorbent. I can feel the spell going fully awry, twisting down deep away from Kana's panicked patch-spell, RED BLACK RED BLACK RED BLACK, yelling from Ingrid to bar the door, they can't let them get Kana, screaming from the officers outside to open up, the sirens over and under everything, but I don't care, I can't care, I'm falling asleep.


The cold breeze wakes me up again, hours or seconds later. RED BLACK RED BLACK RED BLACK RED BLACK go the lights from outside. There was no way to hear the tinkling of breaking glass, but I can see the spreading corpse of the window refracting the flashing, turning it into strobed frozen blood on the floor. Thick black boots crunch down, equally silenced by the overwhelming noise. The assault rifle draws the eye, panning above my head. Kana must be standing behind me, and Ingrid too. The officer holding it is almost an afterthought, after the gun, who has a thought to spare on the grunt keeping it pointed? The officer is yelling something, but at this point the buzzing in my ears is louder than anything else in the universe.

I point two fingers at the officer by the window, thumb up. If I had a gun, I'd shoot them all. RED BLACK RED BLACK RED BLACK RED BLACK reflects off the insectoid helmet, absorbed by the slide of the officers assault rifle. I squint one bloodshot eye closed, take aim, flick my hand back, "bang" under my breath, sleep clawing back up my spine, months of being ridden by [them] slice back, something gently "pops" behind my open eye. The officer inhales, to yell again or to scream in agony, I'm not sure, and the back of his helmet bursts open like a pimple full of brains and eyeball. Fluids splatter the brown hanging curtains. The assault rifle clatters to the floor. It's lucky it had the safety on. Someone could've gotten hurt.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Calamitous Carnage & Sagacious Swordcery





Monday, April 10, 2023

Reactor Breach

Tanked - Dofresh



It's The Future. Oh No. You have a mechanised combat exosuit, and the urgent need to use it. You'll be fighting other mechs, giant monsters, friends, enemies, and yourself. Good thing the eject lever always* works.

Your mech has:
  • Four (4) limbs, usually an equal number of arms and legs
  • Two (2) weapons, and is heavily customised to utilise them both
  • One (1) unit of additional equipment, such as a drone, a few grenades, a sidearm, or a specialised tool
  • One (1) Power Reactor
  • Basic life-support
  • Two-way comms
  • One (1) pilot

Choose one die that represents your mech size, from d6 (big), d8 (giant), d10 (massive) to d12 (gargantuan). Use it whenever you need to make a "Size Roll". Larger mechs are tougher and hit harder, smaller mechs are nimble and accurate.

Your mech handles all the ammo, fuel, coolant and power you'll need for normal operations. You'll only need to keep track of what things are going wrong: any limbs that disabled or destroyed, your current Heat level, any ongoing dangerous conditions, and any resources you might run low on during abnormal operations.