Saturday, 6 June 2015

lichJammer

Spelljammer was good (Elves in undead bug-suits) and also kind of shit (cheery Space-Gypsies). Instead, here is an LotFP-ised version. lichJammer!

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The rules of lichJammer are:

·         The solar system and galaxy are exactly the same size and shape as we currently understand them to be.
·         Magic as described in the LotFP rulebook exists.
·         Other than that, the rules of physics remain in effect.
·         Faster Than Light travel is impossible (other than magic as described above.)



The background of lichJammer is:

Space is full of Undead. That's why earth isn't. High level magic users mummify themselves and take to the stars. There are undead out there from every era of human history. Akkadians, Han Chinese, Pharoh's Sumerians, Maya, Inca, Celts etc.

This is what happened to all those ultra high-level players from ancient games. It’s also the reason earth isn’t ruled by immortal Lich Kings.

The assumed power differential between lichJammer and standard LotFP is about twenty levels. Player Characters are considered to start at about Level twenty, this is the entry level for lichJammer. If an entity is less than roughly ten HD. That is, a group of less than ten skeletons or two 5HD monsters, then you can just affect them without rolling anything.

It's like that samurai game where you don't have to roll to kill peasants, you just declare that you are doing it and it takes effect.

In a sense undeath is the perfect form of man in which to explore space. You don’t need to breathe or eat. You can't be poisoned by radiation. If you need to spend six months moving between planets in the solar system then you just wait. (Arnold K had this idea first.)

The basic lichJammer is a segmented wooden cylinder effectively open to the void (though it will have enclosed spaces they will not be air-tight). A hollow tower of bone and petrified wood. Looks like the spire of a gigantic wooden church, except full of skeletons. The segments counter-rotate to provide the illusion of gravity when that is required. It’s driven by vast Solar Sails. The sails are the skins of fantastic beasts. White AngelSkin, translucent Shoggoth Skin, ribbed Dragon Wing etc.

The crews are skeletons, the officers are mummies.

The main weapons for ship-to-ship combat are massed arrow-fire (surprisingly effective, in the void a flight of arrows can travel hundreds of miles), catapults, magic and boarding actions. The barbs of arrows are made from ice.

Mass is expensive, you only have so much and captains won't expend it without good reason.

Mass is currency, time is also currency. There are nth-level spells that take even a Lich months and months to jam in their dead head. So if you take six months to move between the moons of Jove and Mars then you have to decide what mega-spells you will memorise.

(A huge range of normal spells are just taken as assumed abilities.)

Since most captains are Liches, sending masses of low-level undead to attack an opposing ship wouldn't work, the enemy captain would just take them over and double his or her crew. Instead you need to send independent operators, entities the opposing Lich cannot simply or easily control, this also makes them beings which cannot simply or easily control.



The available classes for lichJammer are:

  • Lich
  • Nazgul
  • Daemon
  • Auto-Golem


The Lich is a turbo badass spellcaster and probably the Captain of the lichJammer. They are effectively the ships artillery since spells will be more powerful and have a longer ranger than most weapons in space. Like magic-users of all time they are shit-hot at range but vulnerable at close range. You can choose which earth culture you come from, maybe you were an Egyptian priest-king or a celtic druid mummified in a bog or you ruled an Inca temple-city.

Nazgul is just shorthand for any Wight/Death Knight/Skeleton Warrior/Unusually frisky mummy. Any human based embodied undead that focuses on combat and is not a magic user. This is the Fighter equivalent. You jump between lichJammers and beat things up. You are a hardy motherfucker.

Daemon. You are an actual (low level) Daemon. You are probably a refugee from infernal politics. You have Daemon powers, can shape change, fly, survive in space. You probably can't move as fast or with the reliability as a lichJammer though, but at least you have some manoeuvrability out there. Souls are currency to you. This one doesn’t have a close equivalent in the basic classes but your abilities suggest a mix of Thief and Bard. inherent abilities plus Charisma. You are less tough than a Nazgul but get more bennies or skills. Not being undead you are the only member of the crew that might get bored with the year-long journeys between moons.

Auto-Golem. You are a self-programming Golem. You may be made of different materials. You can upgrade yourself by getting different parts and adding them on. You are kind of a robot. A mixture of Scotty and Commander Data, you can repair the ship and the skeletons. You might be the bosun, in charge of ship defence, or you might launch yourself at the enemy from a dorsal catapult and land on their superstructure, converting it into mini golems. You can learn new skills and abilities by upgrading your glyphware.


Setting:

Moons are more interesting than worlds. Worlds are hard to get to. You need to put your lichJammer in orbit then Teleport to the surface. If you don't know the target well you need to wait for clear weather so you can see the spot you are teleporting to. Then to get back out you need to Teleport back to your ship and hope nothing has gone wrong there while you were away. Plus you can't take much with you. Plus if you fuck up a Teleport to something in space and end up in the wrong place then you are just floating in the void, maybe undergoing re-entry. Even for a Lich that’s a bad situation. This is why lichJammers exist.

All the moons of Mars, Saturn and Jupiter have individual cultures of either human undead, elementals, extra-dimensional beings, or just weird as shit stuff. Asteroids and comets have their own weird shit going on.

The skies of Jove are home to numerous airborne empires but they can't get their Jovian gigafauna up into the void and you can't get your lichJammer down into atmosphere so the moons is where you meet and trade.

Everything in earths Solar System is exactly as far away from everything else as it is in real life.

To get your lichJammer closer to the sun you have to tack against the solar wind, slingshot yourself using planetary gravity or catch a ride with a comet or asteroid heading the right way. The good slingshot positions and useful comets are much sought-after and lichJammers fight to get effective positions.


Space Combat:

This is a little like the age of sail in three dimensions, with the sun the main source of 'wind'. Rounds take a day, you can try all kinds of Patrick O'Brian bullshit like stealing the light from your enemies sails and crap like that.



Interstellar lichJammer:

If you leave the system to go to another star it can take hundreds of years. Relativity is in effect so even if you come back, things will have changed a great deal, so each sun is like a little campaign of its own without much connection to another.

Hyperdrives: I'm not sure if these should exist at all but its possible you could take a detour through the skies of Hell, cast Time Stop on yourself for a century while you travel.

11 comments:

  1. Gonna run this. Players were only just saying they wanted to play actually powerful characters some time.

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  2. this is very evocative, makes me imagine a Mummy and a Lich doing high level math to figure out the best physics for their course.

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  3. this is very evocative, makes me imagine a Mummy and a Lich doing high level math to figure out the best physics for their course.

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  4. I like this a lot. I think I may run it by some players if the current games I'm in don't pan out.

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  5. Make sure you borrow the constant self doubt and stodgy competence of Horatio Hornblower for one of your space liches.

    For me the first question is A) How do these liches keep wooden hulks 'afloat' for long long years amidst the microgravity and conflict. In the Age of Sail wood was something ships carried, but a new mast would usually require a trip to shore (though the crew could often make necessary repairs) - I envision that in Lichjammer this would result in only the youngest liches having ships of wood while the older ones start patching with stone and metal minded from asteroids pretty quick. A floating space ziggurat sprouting telescoping metal poles decked with the gossamer skins of star beasts feels about right though B)Crew - liches only get the dead they can bring with them - it's not like there's a ready source of new 'crew' in space. I bet liches steal crew from each other - quick raids into the hull of a rival to grab up a pack of skeletons. I also suspect that with all the broken bones and such from age of sail sailing that the 'crew' of older ships has been reassembled from parts and augmented in very strange ways (stone replacement bones seem likely)
    C) Combat - I know you're thinking wooden ships and iron men kind of combat, but if the only real long range attacks these space liches have are their spells and maybe the spells of an 'apprentice' or two I suspect they are less like broadside armed ships of the line and more like pre-dreadnoughts of the 19th century - a few turrets with unreliable (counterspellable) weapons (a liche in a rotating crystal sphere mounted on gimbles and channeling its power through some kind of magically significant aperture or staff). I am thinking the 1860's ram obsession might also be big here and these combats would look more like the Battle of Lissa (1866). All this of course depends on if the ships are capable of doing real damage to each-other with their magic artillery. In both the Ocean and presumably space, putting holes through the other guy and letting the elements (or lack of elements) in kills the crew. A crew of undead doesn't die when the ship is reduced to bits, it just drifts about frustrated. AS such the liches will still need to 'board' his enemy or their wreck to do in his rival or else the remains of the liches crew will rebuild something from the 'flotsam'. The one advantage is that even the broken bits of wood are useful to the lich and they don't sink in space, making salvage (perhaps also of 'crew') very valuable.

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    1. A) I'm thinking ships of ice, the bones of jovian megafauna, maybe the ribs or Europan 'whales'. Is there anywhere in the solar system that trees could theoretically grow?

      B) Dead aliens from the ruined ships disgorging bodies out in the oort cloud? Plus dead martians from their ruined civilisation. Ice limbs on skeletons would be good.

      C) Whats the longest range spell actually in the LotFP rules?

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    2. A) Cool re the bones. Scientifically I don't think trees grow anywhere but Earth. Sword and Planet Venus is always a really hot jungle. Plus your Lichjammer might need a monolith that says "ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS - EXCEPT EUROPA -ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE" Europa of course being covered in lovely heavy boled trees.

      B) Hells Yeah

      C) No idea - but I figure space Liches would be working on long range crap. Especially sendings aimed at summoning awfulness (angels are the worst thing for liches right?) into opponents ships. If they don't have range - perhaps an apprentice with scrolls in a pod on a teather?

      Still 19th century per-dreadnaughts - I don't think anyone has written that game. Ancient Mediterranean galley combat would be a thing as well minus Greek fire - actually does fireball even work in space? Doubtful? I plus no one can hear you scream.

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  6. This speaks to both my unhealthy obsession with the undead, and my love/terror of the black void of space.

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  7. GURPS Magic Items 3 had something which would be perfect for this setting: the "Ascendant," a spaceship made from the reanimated corpse of a dead giant angel. I think Kenneth Hite made it up.

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  8. I showed one of my players this, and he basically immediately spewed out this horrific setup and I love it:

    Three waves of colonisers, the first are the Lawful Good liches that show up in small craft on random worlds, setup beacons, and start terraforming. Eventually, the millions of arkships arrive in orbit. Each of these is made out of a chunk of crust and topsoil rolled into a disk, ring, sphere, tube, whatever, with a constant themobaric explosion being maintained since the launch several generations ago, they've got a full ecosystem in there, it'll stay alive till the small suns go dark or explode. These arks disgorge their thankful passengers, and the materials are used to setup a brand new civilisations and start the construction of the next set of ships. Because the micro suns are running out etc. they have to land rather than just keep flying.

    They only have a few dozen generations to terraform the planet, build the arks, and flee, because the armada is coming.

    A sweeping plague of undead in starships that seeks only to expand their numbers.

    Billions upon billions of zombies, skeletons, whatever, the victims of the last conquest are disgorged upon the planet. The liches gnash their exposed teeth, because they can't glass the planet, they need intact bodies, but they do have to kill all of them otherwise some pests could escape into the barren planets behind them and stage a counterattack.

    Every inch of the remaining civilisation, those that stayed behind while the other families fled, the very land itself is bent on causing them the most frustration and agony as possible, but they will eventually be routed. The very last stronghold of living beings is almost invariably those who holed up in the abandoned core mines, where fragments of the planets heart are used to power the new ships and maintain the protection electromagical field around them. Over a hundred kilometer kill zone, straight down into the jaws of the guns. They have enough ammo to keep firing for generations.

    They will all die and be immolated by the protective spells final action. But oh, the pain they will inflict. The wizards have been selectively bred to keep the suns burning and the ships intact. Those that stay behind send their youngest children, the best breeding stock, but those that stay.

    Those that stay are clerics of murder, hindrance, annoyance, agony, martyrdom, endless piles of bodies, endless piles of ammo, and unlimited endurance in the fact of the fact that they will die.

    But their enemies will hate them. They will die, eventually. But until they do die, you cannot pursue their families, the true prize, and your unlife will be nothing but agony.

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