2018/01/01

OSR: Conspiracies and Culture

While trying to write a post on Patrick Stuart's der0, I realized that the framework for the der0 Conspiracy (stolen from Peter Webb's post) could be adapted to other uses. The framework could cover ideologies, other cultures, or madness. In the case of the der0, it's a blend of all 3.

Conspiracy Framework

All conspiracies have 3 Stages.

1. Aware. The lowest level. Usually entered by hearing or casually contacting the Conspiracy. At this stage, there is very little you can do to influence events without moving on to the next stage.
2. Involved. Things begin to happen to you. Other members of the Conspiracy know you are involved, but not how or in what capacity. You may be hunted or recruited or both.
3. Collaborating. You are actively maintaining the Conspiracy.



The RPG Conspiracy

This is a silly example, but it works. 

Entering the  RPG Conspiracy: You have seen D&D mentioned on a TV show. You found a Dragon magazine on the ground. Your roommate owns weird dice and disappears for most of the weekend.

Stages:

1. Aware. you begin looking at websites and RPG books to try and figure out what's going on. You begin asking people questions. If you choose to participate, advance to the next stage of the RPG Conspiracy.
2. Involved. You are invited to, or start to run, an RPG. Once per week, roll on the RPG Encounter Table (not published). If you are running a game, the amount of bullshit in your life doubles. You will tell stories about your game given any pretext. If you roll the Hooked encounter, advance to the next stage of the RPG Conspiracy.
3. Collaborating. You begin producing RPG content. You start a blog, write letters, or work on a homebrew setting. Once per week, roll on the RPG Encounter Table (not published). You being to view everything you experience as potential fuel for RPG content.
Baba Yaga, Alexandre Chaudret

The der0 Conspiracy

The der0 are schizophrenia. They aren't schizophrenic (ok, they might be). They are the condition given form. If you didn't pick up on it, they're based on Richard Sharpe Shaver's stories, plus a bit of the Air Loom or Influencing Machine. I've been trying to figure out what form these delusions take in pre-technological societies. Witches, demons, potions, curses, and invisible Sami wizards singing on the roof of your house seem plausible.

In any case, the der0 are perfidious little shits, and best avoided at all costs. The conspiracy below is stolen from Peter Webb.

Entering the der0 Conspiracy: You encounter and speak to a der0.

Stages:

1. Aware. The amount of bullshit in your life increases tenfold. Everything around you is a trap, a mind control device, poisoned, disguised, or conspiring against you. Sometimes all of the above. Everyone around you, friend or foe, has secret movies and sends secret signals. Paranoia reigns.

You may induce a der0 encounter by rolling on the der0 Encounter Table. You can do this once with no consequences, but if you do it a second time, you advance to the next stage of the der0 Conspiracy.

2. Involved. All der0 instantly recognize you as a member of the conspiracy. You will be handed secret documents; the documents contain a poison gas bomb. The gas allows you see through walls. Maybe. You will be accepted, possibly trusted, and constantly tested. Strange things happen to you without obvious causes. You can hear voices of people in the next room;  you can taste fear and smell gold. You think. You become unable to write or speak without tangents and digressions and a lot of hand-waving and panic.

The GM may roll on the der0 Encounter Table once per session (no matter how many characters are participating in the conspiracy at this level.)

3. Collaborating. Your sanity collapses. Save. If you fail, your character runs screaming into the night, to be seen again only by people in the der0 Conspiracy. If you pass, roll on the der0 Encounter Table once per encounter (social or combat).
Girl 3, Bogdan Rezunenko

der0 Encounter Table

The character realizes...

1. The der0 are secretly here.

2. The der0 have secretly modified one object here.

3. The der0 have seized the minds of one person or beast here.

4. The player is receiving messages from the mind of one other person or beast here.

5. Two members of two different groups represented here are secretly allied.

6. Information here is in code.

7. The entire situation is a trap built to kill the character.

8. One person here is not who they say they are, or is in disguise.

9. The subject of this situation has been you all along. If it already was, treat as 7.

10. Roll again and advance 1 Stage in the der0 Conspiracy. If you are already Collaborating, Save. If you fail, your character runs screaming into the night, etc. If you pass, roll on the der0 Encounter Table twice per encounter (or three times, or four times, etc.).

If any other character is made to believe the reality of a der0 Encounter, they enter the der0 Conspiracy at Stage 1. der0 Encounters are all true and real but very difficult to prove.

The der0 should be treated as a disease. They infect one player through contact and slowly spread. There is no cure but death. Be cautious.


I recommend reading Illustrations of Madness or other works covering the progression of paranoid schizophrenia before using the der0. I would also be cautious. Schizophrenia is not contagious but it somehow feels like it could be contagious. If any of your players have paranoid tendencies in real life, it would be a tragedy to push them into madness with a game about elves and dragons.
Guardian of the Endless Woods, Tianhua Xu

The Drow Conspiracy

The Drow, like all elves, are simply... superior. People are like children to them; they are patient parents. Sometimes strict, but always caring. Or maybe like cats. You can't be too mad at a cat for knocking valuables off the counter and throwing up in your shoes. Your art is fingerpaintings; your stories are the babbling of a child trying to explain a dream they had, or maybe a thing they saw, or some combination of the two, vying for attention, tugging at sleeves.

Elves aren't nessesarily more competent or wise than anyone else, but they are definitely the smuggest things in Creation. Surface elves, the ones people meet on a regular basis, are either on a mission from the High Elves or lost creatures who have fallen from their gilded cages.

Underground Elves, Refugee Elves, the Lost - the Drow - have no High Elves to steer them or direct their manic perfection into useful works. They have turned their abilities inwards. The Drow live in a kaleidoscope nightmare of politics and feuds. You will never understand. You are like a small child who has wandered into an adult party. They're telling jokes that go miles over your head. They are playing five games of speed chess while everyone else is trying to remember how knights move. They don't hate you, not really. They are too busy.


If the der0 are schizophrenia, the Drow are social anxiety.


They are never surprised. Ever. No matter what happens. It's just another move in an elaborate game. They can see all the pieces; you can't. If someone stabs a Drow, the stabbed Drow will die politely, faintly smiling, as someone applauds from behind a curtain, and a third Drow gives a fourth one a meaningful glance. Drow the players are certain are lovers suddenly stab each other. Bitter enemies share a longing glance. Everything is a play and you can't follow the plot. The Drow give you patronizing, wistful glances and refuse to explain.

Not only that, but dead Drow return on a regular basis. Are they ghosts? Dopplegangers? Clones? Resurrected? Impostors? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?


They just smile politely and change the subject.

Entering the Drow Conspiracy: You encounter a Drow. Any PC who carries and reveals a rose on their first encounter with the Drow enters at Stage 2.


Stages:


1. Aware. Every time you meet more than one Drow, roll on the Drow Encounter Table every few minutes. They mostly ignore you. Advance to the next Stage if the Drow Encounter Table tells you to advance, or if you do something particularly rash. You've just moved exactly as the Drow predicted you would move.


2. Involved. Every time you meet more than one Drow, roll on the Drow Encounter Table every few minutes.  They give you knowing glances and wry nods. You are sent secret coded messages. Items go missing; items appear. Your path is diverted by someone who points to a door. The door is painted on, and when you turn back, the Drow is gone. You hear faint laughter in the distance. Later, someone gives you a diamond the size of an apple "as payment." You can only trade, negotiate, or question the Drow if you are at this level or higher.

3. Collaborating. It is only possible to advance to this stage via the Drow Encounter Table. For the purposes of results on the Drow Encounter Table, and lower levels of the Drow Conspiracy, you count as a Drow. Your death will be mourned. Roll on the Drow Encounter Table more-or-less constantly if you are in the presence of a Drow. If you ever doubt or hesitate you will be killed.
Magnificent Blue, Exellero

The Drow Encounter Table



1d100
1 One Drow draws a dagger and hands it to a second Drow. The second Drow hands the first a rose. Both nod, then turn to the PC.
2 One Drow holds up a finger. Everyone pauses. They fall over, dead. An invisible assassin reveals itself and takes their place.
3 The Drow pause. There's a horrible rending sound from the distance, like someone tearing a steak in half. Then they continue.
4 The Drow pause. The moment the PC is about to say something, they continue the conversation.
5 One Drow hands the second Drow a note. The second Drow reads it, then hands a note back, then leaves. 
6 All Drow present valish. They were all illusions. Some time later, identical Drow arrive and resume the conversation.
7 One Drow, in the middle of speaking, cuts its own throat. A second Drow tastes the blood, says, "It is bitter."
8 One Drow, in the middle of speaking, cuts its own throat. A second Drow tastes the blood, says, "It is sweet."
9 One Drow presents the second with something the PC had lost, or forgotten, or destroyed. They do not look at the PC. The item is real.
10 One Drow presents the second with something the PC had lost, or forgotten, or destroyed. They do not look at the PC. The item is an illusion.
11 All Drow draw daggers and step closer to each other. They slit each other's throats. 1d6 more Drow enter and continue the conversation.
12 One Drow hands the PC a perfect diamond the size of a their thumb. It is revealed to be an illusion. The Drow smile.
13 A Drow casually hands the PC a tiny stone carving. It resemble the PC in extreme old age. The second Drow asks the PC to swallow it.
14 One Drow casually reveals an item the PC had on their person, the more secret the better. They smile and reveal the item is an illusion. 
15 One Drow stabs another one in the heart. The stabbed Drow dies, smiling. All other Drow applaud as the first Drow bows.
16 The Drow interrupt the PC with mundane statements and questions each time they speak. 
17 1d4 Drow enter, walk up to the Drow speaking to the PC, and replace them. The conversation is not interrupted.
18 One Drow produces a rose and begins removing petals with every word the PC says. When the last petal is plucked, the Drow depart.
19 One Drow produces a rose and begins removing petals at random. When the last petal is plucked, the Drow depart, to return later, suddenly.
20 One Drow brings a plate of food. They obviously, theatrically, poison it. They hand it to the PC and wait expectantly. The food is an illusion.
21 The Drow leave and beckon for the PC to follow. They resume whatever they were doing in a new area with no interruption.
22 One Drow asks the PC a mundane question. The second Drow interrupts when the PC speaks one word of an answer. They both smile.
23 One Drow casually touches the PC, revealing one item or injury was an illusion, no matter how improbable this might be.
24 One Drow hands the PC a chalice. They say, "It is poison." It is deadly poison. The Drow will return in 1d10 minutes and drink it, then die.
25 One Drow hands the PC a chalice. They say, "It is poison." It is water. The Drow will return in 1d10 minutes and drink it.
26 Two Drow caress each other lovingly, slowly drawing closer together. When they are entwined, they suddenly break apart and leave.
27 A Drow whispers to the PC, "I am very sorry, as I am sure you know." Advance to the next Stage of the Drow Conspiracy.
28 One Drow presents a second Drow with two daggers. The Drow selects one. Both nod. 
29 One Drow suddenly turns and throws a dagger at a corner. An invisible assassin falls down, dead. The other Drow nod in confirmation.
30 One Drow suddenly turns and throws a dagger at a corner. It clatters to the ground. An invisible assassin stabs the Drow. Everyone applauds.
31 One Drow whispers something to a second Drow. The first Drow reveals a rose and drops it on the floor.
32 The Drow turn their backs on the PC, walk away, then turn and face them again, in perfect synchronization. They bow slightly.
33 All Drow walk together slowly, touch hands, and then return to their original positions.
34 One Drow enters holding a bowl full of blood. They pour it onto the ground, swinging the bowl to create a pattern.
35 One Drow bows, makes a slightly apology, and leaves. A few seconds later there is a spray of arterial blood from somewhere out of sight.
36 The most important Drow present begins to cry. They do not seem sad, but tears fall from their eyes. The other Drow smile.
37 One Drow secretly, covertly, hands the PC a dagger. They nod knowingly. If the PC does anything, there is polite applause.
38 One Drow hands the PC a silver coin. It has the PC's face on it. Another Drow holds out its hand expectantly, but lets the coin fall.
39 The Drow immediately change the topic of conversation to something mundane. They glance at the PC, as if checking to see how they react.
40 One Drow languidly traces a symbol in the air. Another Drow applauds politely when they finish. The first Drow bows.
41 The Drow presents the PC with a suit of new clothes. The clothes are much too small or too large, or otherwise unsuitable. The Drow smile.
42 The Drow presents the PC with a suit of new clothes. The clothes are poisoned. The poison makes them sleep as if dead for 1d10 hours.
43 One drow tosses a dagger casually at the PC. It kills an invisible assassin who was leaning just over the PC's shoulder. The assassin smiles.
44 One Drow makes an expansive, slow, elaborate hand gesture. The second makes a matching gesture. They both nod.
45 One Drow enters holding the severed head of an immaculate slave. The second Drow opens its mouth to reveal a single rose petal.
46 One Drow vanishes suddenly, revealing that they were an illusion all along.
47 One Drow shifts form. Their clothing shifts too. The other Drow nod, as if recognizing an old friend.
48 One Drow caresses another lustfully. The second Drow cuts off a finger and hands it to the first. The first Drow eats it delicately.
49 1d6 Drow enter from a previously unknown secret passage. They deliver a bound immaculate slave to the first Drow, then depart.
50 1d6 Drow enter from a previously unknown secret passage. They casually kill the original Drow, then continue the conversation.
51 An immaculate slave falls from somewhere high above (no matter how implausible), as if pushed, and bursts. The Drow smile politely.
52 The Drow pause, then scatter rose petals in the air. They watch them fall, then turn to look at the PCs, then continue the conversation.
53 All the Drow present pause and smile, as if listening to a pleasant joke. One leaves immediately. 
54 One Drow draws a dagger and balances it on the end of an outstretched finger. The other Drow nods knowingly.
55 Two Drow enter carrying a large sheet of fine silk between them. It shimmers. When they leave, 1d4 other Drow have appeared.
56 The Drow turn to face sideways, focusing on something the PCs can't see, and speaking as if it can hear. 
57 One Drow draws a dagger and holds it steady, as if ready for an attack. They stare at a fixed point just behind the PC. Then, they stop.
58 One Drow shows a delicate glass device to another Drow. The second Drow stares at it with a look of utter boredom, then crushes it.
59 One Drow hands casually hands the PC an incredibly valuable item. A second Drow holds out its hand, expectantly.
60 A Drow casually hands the PC a tiny stone carving. It has their mother's face, screaming. Advance to the next Stage of the Drow Conspiracy.
61 A Drow asks the PC, "You are male, aren't  you?" The other Drow smile politely and continue to speak, not waiting for a response.
62 A Drow enters the scene and hands a note to another Drow. The second Drow reads it, smiles, reveals the note is blank. Polite applause.
63 While speaking, one Drow begins breaking the fingers of another, one by one. Neither one shows any sign of discomfort or shock.
64 One Drow brings in an immaculate slave. The second Drow examines it, then stabs the slave in the heart. The first Drow smiles.
65 One Drow brings in an immaculate slave. The second Drow examines it, then stabs the other Drow in the heart. The slave does not move.
66 One Drow brings in an immaculate slave. The second Drow examines it, then stabs itself. The slave is revealed to be another Drow.
67 The Drow smile and die. An invisible assassin reveals itself and continues the conversation as if nothing had happened.
68 One Drow asks another, "Do you... doubt?" They both turn to the PC as if expecting an answer, then continue without hearing one.
69 3d10 more Drow appear from a high vantage point, overlooking the scene, whispering quietly.
70 One Drow stares at a PC seductively. It's incredibly unsubtle and very uncomfortable. When the PC breaks eye contact, all the Drow smile.
71 One Drow enters, listens, and then asks the PC, "Do you concur?" No matter the response or context, they smile and leave. 
72 A Drow the players thought was dead enters the scene. The other Drow do not seem to notice.
73 One Drow hands the PC a small gem. They say, "This is my heart. Crush it." If they do, another Drow dies. 
74 Three identical roses are presented to one of the Drow by another Drow. They examine them, select one, swallow it, and die.
75 Three identical roses are presented to one of the Drow by another Drow. They examine them, select one, and discard the rest.
76 All the Drow present turn to look at once PC. They bow very slightly, then laugh. Advance to the next Stage of the Drow Conspiracy.
77 One Drow undresses slowly, carefully, revealing utter perfection. The second Drow hands them new clothing without looking at them.
78 One Drow undresses slowly, carefully, revealing utter perfection. It then cut its throat.
79 2d6 Drow enter and carefully surround another Drow. When they stand back, the surrounded Drow has vanished. 
80 One Drow removes an illusory glamour, revealing that they are a Drow the PCs thought was dead. They smile politely.
81 A dying Drow enters the scene, dripping cadmium-red blood. They sigh wistfully and die. The Drow present share meaningful glances.
82 One Drow walks up behind another and slits its throat, saying "For your crimes." The other Drow turn away, but they still smile.
83 One Drow casually cuts out its own tongue, then plucks out its own eyes, then walks away holding them. The other Drow pretend not to see.
84 One Drow says a meaningless word, like "Besmerel", to another Drow. The second Drow nods, then turns to the PC expectantly.
85 A Drow hands the PC a small cube of meat. "This is yours," they say. If the PC does anything with it, the other Drow nod.
86 One Drow brings out a small musical instrument. The other Drow pause. Just before it begins to play, it pauses, then stows the instrument.
87 An arrow flies out of the darkness and strikes a Drow in the heart. The arrow melts to ice; the Drow is unharmed.
88 An arrow flies out of the darkness and strikes a Drow in the heart. There is a bright banner with a sigil tied to the arrow.
89 An arrow flies out of the darkness. A Drow casually catches it in midair and hands it to a PC. The arrow is an illusion.
90 A Drow hands the PC a perfect rose. If the PC smells it, they sleep for 2d10 hours and advance to the next Stage of the Drow Conspiracy.
91 All Drow present burst into laughter and depart. The last one pauses just before leaving and turns to look at the PC.
92 One Drow kneels before another Drow. The second Drow examines them, then turns away. The first Drow rises.
93 Two Drow carefully, ritualistically, exchange clothing while speaking to each other. Once done they cannot be told apart.
94 One Drow hands the PC a dagger, then points to the PC's heart. "Don't worry," they say. The dagger is real and poisoned.
95 3d10 more Drow enter the scene casually, almost waltzing, and then depart. One of them smiles at the PC.
96 A Drow enters. It has gouged out eyes and a missing, bleeding tongue. It holds eyes and tongue in its hands. The other Drow applaud.
97 One Drow reveals a bright banner with a sigil. The other Drow examine it and nod, glance at the PCs, and depart.
98 One Drow reveals a bright banner with a sigil. A second Drow reveals a second bright banner. The two Drow embrace and smile.
99 One Drow reveals a bright banner with a sigil. A second Drow reveals a second bright banner. The first Drow drops its banner and leaves.
100 The next time the PC rests, they find a bright banner with a sigil in their pack. Advance to the next Stage of the Drow Conspiracy.

Note: As a GM, if the players question a Drow, just smile politely. Don't engage. Never explain.

It is possible the Drow do not know what is going on either.

4 comments:

  1. I don't think I've enjoyed reading any game material this much for a long time... you've outdone yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is extremely in my wheelhouse. Brill.

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  3. Ok, this is gold right there. I have a sea of unmade ideas, but now that I'm gonna be running my own table, this is exactly the type of stuff I needed to inspire myself. I hope you don't mind if I use some of these, obviously I am going to twist the hell out of it to meet my tastes better, but the tought you put into this is too good not to carry on from that. Greetings from Brazil.

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  4. This makes the drow way creepier than any amount of spider theming possibly could.

    ReplyDelete