Over the Edge by drunkencarp
This game is a coded message.Original SA post This game is a coded message.
OVER THE EDGE: THE ROLEPLAYING GAME OF SURREAL DANGER
by Jonathan Tweet with Robin D. Laws
Title page has that, then underneath there's a black-and-white version of the cover art.
The cover art looks like this. Some of the imagery gets explained later. Okay, one piece of the imagery gets explained. Try to guess which!
Not shown: the big SECOND EDITION label at the bottom. This is indeed the second edition we're looking at, published in 1997. The first edition, in 1992, I've never read or seen and I have little sense of how the two editions differ, beyond the obvious: notably this edition makes a lot of references to various supplements released between 1992 and 199. Other than that, I have no idea.
And finally, rounding out the title page, we have the Atlas Games logo, followed by a PO Box address in Minnesota and their web address:
I just checked, it doesn't work any more.
Indicia page has a quotation from Tweet:
Roleplaying, as currently construed, appeals disproportionately to guys because it's mostly about the things that men evolved to enjoy: hunting and warfare. It's about a group assembling to undertake (imaginary) risks for glory and dominance. It's the same reason that team sports, such as basketball, are more male, whereas women compete to be judged beautiful and worthy (ice skating, gymnastics).
My bad! That's from his official WotC blog back when 4e was coming out and he was their head of R&D. Here's the actual quote from this particular book.
"This game is a coded message. You will decode the message in your dreams and execute its instructions in the spaces between moments of will. Neither you nor I will ever know the contents of the message. --Jonathan Tweet, June 1997."
Okay. So what are we looking at here? What is Over the Edge? Well, page three is the table of contents:
Player's Rules (Basic rules, advice for players)
Overview of Al Amarja (For players of experienced characters only)
Deep Overview (This and all following material is for the GM only)
The Edge (General guide to the biggest city on the island)
At Your Service (Businesses and other establishments)
Forces to Be Reckoned With (Overt and covert groups and people)
Game Moderator's Rules (Special rules, advice for Gms)
Plots (Three introductory adventures, summaries of major plots)
Props (To give to the players)
So since you haven't gotten this info yet, the two-sentence summary is that (on late 1990s Earth) there's an island in the Mediterranean, called Al Amarja, which features a city called the Edge. Over the Edge is a game about the city and the people who live in it, which special focus on covert groups. This is spelled out in the Introduction, which starts off first and foremost letting you know that (just in case Tweet's gnomic utterance from June of 1997 was insufficient) that it's edgy and avant-garde and plugged into the go-go 90s:
This is the section of the rules in which I get to explain what my game is so incredibly interesting that your life is incomplete unless you play it regularly, and that all the other games you may have pale in comparison, their game designers obviously suffering from degenerative neural ailments.
It's old hat nowadays but when I was in college, getting addressed directly by the author like this made me coo with girlish glee.
Tweet continues, explaining that Over the Edge is a horror game (a "decadent, evil, twisted, mind-boggling, blood-curdling, soul-rending, ego-shattering, world-turning experience"), inspired by Naked Lunch, the Outer Limits, Twin Peaks, Repo Man, Liquid Sky, Jorge Luis Borges, Phillip K. Dick, "and the collective unconscious as revealed in supermarket tabloids." The X-Files technically came out after the first edition of the game, but otherwise it would totally count as an inspiration.
The ruleset, Tweet says, is light to the point of being barely there, because... okay, I didn't remember this being so pretentious.
And why the simple mechanics? Two reasons: First, complex mechanics invariably channel and limit the imagination; second, my neurons have better things to do than calculate numbers and refer to charts all evening. Complex mechanics, in their effort to tell you what you can do, generally do a fair job of implying what you cannot do. When I look back at the player characters my friends have invented in games, and I review the adventures they have had, they stand out as people and events that I had never before seen in role-playing games: wild, strange, unpredictable, bizarre, personal. The more you rely on rules that someone else has written to define your character or the adventures that this character can undertake, the less of a creator you become. What's more, the rules in any game are a boat that takes you to the shore you want to reach. This book describes the shore in detail, but your boat is a purely functional construction without the elaborate detail and complications. It is my hope that the boat's simplicity will encourage you to concentrate on your goal (enjoyable role-playing) without getting caught up in a vehicle (the rules).
After that there's assurance that you should ignore anything you don't like, which is... okay, actually that's pretentious also. Here's the paragraph after the heading HOW TO READ THIS BOOK.
With a grain of salt.
The statements and implications that the rules make about people, governments, and the universe in general are crafted so as to showcase the "Al Amarjan mindset." You're going to take issue with many of the statements or interpretations made. All that means is that you would take issue with many Al Amarjans when talking about these subjects. Don't take it too seriously. Remember that every statement in this book is false.
In 1998 when I was a college sophomore reading this for the first time I responded in a very different way than I would if I was reading this for the first time today. (My god, I'm aging! What's next, demanding that the latest edition of D&D be tailored to replicate the game and world when I was fourteen?)
The next heading, USING THE BOOK, explains that you the GM should feel free to scribble in, deface, cross out bits you don't like, add new bits in the margin, whatever, to the book, which, whew, that's a relief. Then there's a bit about how you might like owning On the Edge cards (there was a CCG), dice, pencils, paper, that sort of thing, with a snarky note about the difficulty involved in finding modern-day miniatures without guns.
Then the MANDATORY DISCLAIMER, which disclaims everything you'd expect (and which the GM is instructed to read aloud at the beginning and end of every session of the game), and A PLEA TO REVIEWERS, politely asking me to not do what I'm about to do and spoil the trove of secret lore hidden in this book. Sorry, Jonathan Tweet with Robin D. Laws. It's been twenty years since the first edition, you guys. This is happening.
Player's RulesOriginal SA post
Over the Edge Chapter One: Players' Rules
Please always keep in mind that the GM has final say over the application of all these rules.
This chapter runs through rules for character creation, followed by the game's core mechanic, combat & healing damage, character advancement, and finally firearms.
Character creation leads off with instructions, making clear (as the game has been hella vague about it, up to this point) that OtE characters are modern-day people in a strange environment. Granted, you could probably be assumed to have already read the back cover text, which makes at least that much clear:
Welcome to Al AmarjaTM, the mysterious Mediterranean island, home to all this is sinister and bizarre. If it troubles your dreams, if it scares you, if you hope it isn't true... you'll find it here.
Then there's some guidelines that fall squarely under "don't be a dick," and the process of creation itself, which is indeed barely-there simple. You begin with a concept, which can be anything genre-appropriate. There's a laundry list of examples, highlights of which include "incarnation of Atlantean high priest," "decadent dilettante seeking stimulation for jaded tastes," "beneficiary/victim of Hitler's secret Ubermensch project," "doctor on a compulsory vacation after her 'unorthodox' treatments were uncovered by hospital authorities," "Italian cabbie running from an unhappy love affair," and my favorites, "New Age dupe told by 'the cards' to seek his destiny on Al Amarja" and "master of New Age wisdom who has been guided to Al Amarja by a higher power."
Once you have a concept you buttress that with traits. Starting characters get four traits. One is a central trait, which is your main schtick; two are side traits, additional skills; and one is a flaw. Each trait has a sign, which is either a behavioral tag or a physical characteristic.
The central trait is where you start, as it's basically your concept rewritten. In another game this would be your archetype or class or profession or suchlike. Sample central traits include Aristocrat, Painter, Religious Charlatan, and Military Background. For your central trait, list off a few things you're good at on account of having this central trait. Then, pick a sign for it.
Aristocrat – wealth, familiarity with valuables, knowing how to conduct yourself among the elite. (Disdain for work)
Painter – Producing attractive paintings, though the audience for this art may be limited if the painter is truly talented. (Paint-stained clothes)
Religious Charlatan – Good at conning people, appearing innocent, and convincing people to donate money to the cause. Also may be familiar with a specific religious or mystic tradition. (Quotes the Bible constantly)
Military Background – Includes fighting bare-handed and with a variety of weapons, first aid, keeping cool under fire, and possible one specialty field, such as mechanics or demolitions. (Wears camo clothes)
Then there's the two side traits, which are much more narrow than your central trait: Lying instead of Con Artist, Hand-to-hand Combat instead of Martial Arts Instructor, Negotiation instead of High-Powered Television Executive. You don't get any benefit from having a side trait being a subset of your central trait, so you generally want to go for skills and abilities that aren't implicit in your central trait.
The system shows its age a little here; you can't have a trait like "US Senator" or "Filthy Rich." Resources and capabilities that aren't intrinsic to the character can't be taken. There's a few paragraphs asserting that you should have a solid concept in mind for what the trait represents, and that no two traits are exactly alike, with a paragraph that I remember loving, just loving, in 1998, and which I'm not ashamed of at the moment:
No two traits are exactly alike. For instance, let's look at a useful trait like 'athletic.' What does that mean? Below are three ways the trait 'athletic' could be made part of a character.
Athletic – I'm a natural sportsman, and I love sports. I've excelled at college-level basketball, football, and hockey. Sign: An air of self-confidence.
Athletic – I'm preoccupied with physical perfection, and to this end I spend large amounts of time working out, building strength, agility, and endurance. Sign: Well-shaped physique.
Athletic – Thanks to a strict regimen of spiritual, mental, and physical purity, I have exceptional physical prowess. Actually, my capabilities are what should be normal for the human body, but MSG, unfocused thought, and uncontrolled desires weaken most people. Sign: Strict diet.
While all of these different versions of athletic would probably come into play under the same circumstances at the table, they suggest three very different characters. In 1998 I thought this was awesome! I still think it's pretty neat, actually.
After selecting your central trait and your side traits, you assign them scores. This is pretty hand-wavey: they each get three dice, unless they're something a normal person wouldn't be able to even attempt (like surgery), in which case it's called a technical trait and only gets one die. If you've selected a side trait that you and the GM agree isn't likely to come up very much (certainly something like Tell Funny Jokes or Esperanto Poetry, but possibly anything less useful than Tough or Boxing) then you call it a narrow trait and you get an extra die in it. A trait can be both technical and narrow (dentistry, for example), in which you get two dice. Then you pick one of the three traits to be the superior trait; it gets an extra die or, if it's narrow, two extra dice.
The book has a chart that makes all this clear. Traits get 3 dice, 4 if superior. Technical traits get 1 die, 2 if superior. Narrow traits get 4 dice, 6 if superior. Technical and narrow traits get 2 dice, 4 if superior.
Finally, a flaw. This is a trait that gives you a penalty whenever it comes up. All the usual GURPSian disadvantages are fair game here: Paranoid, Weak, Fat, Prone to Reckless Violence, Sucker for a Pretty Face, Believes in an Imaginary Friend, Drunkard, New Age Dupe, these are all example flaws. Interestingly, one of the example flaws is extrinsic: Doppleganger, which is to say, an evil twin. Your flaw needs a sign to go with it ("Makes a habit of not showing her face" is the example sign for Doppleganger) but doesn't need a dice value associated with it.
All in all, flaws are even more freeform than central and side traits. Aside from Doppleganger, I note that Prone to Reckless Violence gives its bearer a one in six chance of flying into a berserk rage when provoked. Oh, there's also Enemies, which is just a less-interesting version of having an evil twin, really.
Your hit point total, because this is a game from 1992, of course there's hit points, is equal to seven times the number of dice in your most hit-point-related trait, your Tough or your Enormous Size or your Adamantium Skeleton (these are my examples, not OtE's). If it's a 4 dice trait, 28 hit points. 21 hit points for a 3 dice trait. If you don't have anything applicable, you get 14 hit points. There's a set of guidelines for what to do if you have a trait like Martial Artist at four dice but also three dice in I Never Catch Colds, which boils down to splitting the difference. Like everything else, your hit points get a sign, which is just something simple like "guts" or "brawny."
These personal descriptions can lead to colorful player banter, such as "I don't feel so brawny any more," or "The thing just splashed my guts all over the wall!"
There's a boxed text around this point labeled WARNING TO POWER GAMERS, which says that yes, it's easy to game the system by taking a central trait like Masked Vigilante with a lot of potential uses and thus getting to know how to pilot a bat-helicopter or whatever for free, but if you're a dick about it the GM will come down on you hard. Actually, I'm not sure about the "if you're a dick about it" part, there. It's really pretty ominous.
"If a powerful character is what you want, go for it. Just don't say I didn't warn you."
Starting characters get one experience die. You can spend this, once per session, to get an extra die in whatever you're trying to do (no, you haven't missed anything, we still have not gotten to the game's core mechanic, but by now you can intuit that it's some kind of dice pool system with d6s exclusively) provided you can rationalize how some past experience relates to the current situation. "I once broke into a house in finishing school, so I know how to break into this house," like that. You gain more experience dice through play, and you can eventually trade them in for new and better traits.
Okay, now we get to the part which me-in-1998 thought was innovative. Every new character gets a Motivation, a Secret, and an Important Person. Your Motivation is your goal, duh, and can be anything from "to get rich" to "to find true love" to "to find Steven Oren Blankenship III and punch his smiling face in for what he did to my mother," though you're warned that simple-looking tasks are likely to balloon up to baffling ordeals on account of they're how the GM keeps your character motivated to adventure. Your secret is something you don't want to come out – no "I'm secretly rich" here. Examples include being in the closet (and not wanting to come out about it), having assumed the identity of someone you killed, cannibalism, a fugitive from justice, former or current CIA employee. Being gay and in the closet does stand out here a little, looking at it.
Your important person is just another character touchstone – they can be someone you know intimately, someone you admire from afar, even a fictional character. Examples include "Attila the Hun, who inspired your thirst for power," "You grandmother, who taught you hexing," "Edgar Allen Poe, whose mystical symbolism you alone have deciphered," and "the pet lizard you had as a child, who first told you of your true identity and destiny."
If I could get my scanner to work I'd include the art that goes with this: girl being whispered secrets by her lizard.
Over the Edge doesn't have a ton of art and a lot of the art is bad, but I like the girl with the pet lizard.
An example character, made by me:
Masked Vigilante (4 dice) – stealth and infiltration, hand-to-hand combat, piloting exotic vehicles. (Affects a raspy voice)
Criminology (1 die) – forensic science up to and including a chemical test to determine the original color of burned hair. (Wears a utility belt full of handy gadgets)
Manipulating People (3 dice) – Scaring superstitious cowards, wooing criminal masterminds' daughters and cat burglars. (Patrician good looks)
Secret Identity – takes a penalty die whenever acting too competently might attract the wrong kind of attention. (Always seems slightly drunk, in public)
Hit points: 28 (Bare-chested Sex God)
Motivation: to thwart, I don't know, Ra's Al Ghul's plot on Al Amarja, whatever it is.
Secret: he's actually Bruce Wanye, billionaire playboy (probably currently a fugitive wanted for the murder of Vesper Fairchild back in Gotham City).
Important Person: Joe Chill, the asshole who murdered his parents. Man, fuck that guy.
Magic and Psychic Powers and Aliens and Chi and Stuff: You can have something like this as a trait. In one place the text says it must be your central trait, but in another it's listed as a possible side trait. The onus is on you to come up with a neat-sounding superpower. You start with 1 die in the trait (at least, if it's a side trait) and a shot pool of 3, meaning you can use it 3/day. The GM will lord their special knowledge from the GM's section over you at this point. The general term for this stuff is Fringe Powers.
Finally mechanics! Mechanics are simple. You tell the GM what you want to do. The GM picks a difficulty number, but doesn't tell you what it is. You roll whatever trait is most applicable, or 2d6 if you don't have an applicable trait but you might be able to pull it off untrained. You add up the result, and the GM tells you if you failed or not.
If there's a condition that makes what you want to do easier, you maybe get a bonus die, or more than one – in which case you roll an extra die and drop the lowest die before adding them up. The reverse is a penalty die, wherein you roll an extra die but drop the highest before adding them up. It's nonsensical to have both at once; they cancel each other out. Unless the GM says otherwise, I guess. The GM gets veto power over everything else.
Opposed rolls (sneaking in versus being spotted by the sentry) are just the two characters rolling and comparing totals. Target numbers are totes up to the GM to decide, but are probably in the 4 to 11 range.
Some options for making this more complicated include exploding 6s, botching if you fail and roll only 1s (which the book notes is more likely when penalty dice are involved), splitting your die pool to take multiple actions, etc. For folks working together, add their dice totals all together, or the assistant gives the actor his dice as bonus dice (or as penalty dice if the assistant was better off leaving the actor be) at the GM's whim, that kind of thing.
Combat: folks can roll initiative if the GM feels like it, 2d6 unless they have a "Fast" or "Lightning Reflexes" trait. Or just go around the table clockwise or counterclockwise or whatever. A round is three seconds, to the extent that matters, unless the GM feels like it ought to be something else. When you attack someone, roll your attack dice (2d6, again, unless you have a Boxing or Martial Artist trait) and whoever you're attacking rolls defense dice (2d6 yadda yadda). You can't use a trait like Agile to attack and defend both in the same round, but you can use a trait like Karate to do both, since Karate is less useful otherwise.
If the attacker's total is higher than the defender's, then there's a hit, and the defender takes the difference between the two rolls as hit point damage. Weapons take the form of multipliers – an unarmed strike is x1, a knife x2, a fire axe x3 – so you're not more likely to make contact if you have an axe but you'll do more damage if you do connect. Armor comes in three levels: light armor, like a leather jacket, reduces damage taken by 1 point, while heavier armor adds a die or two to your defense. Armor that adds two dice to your defense, the maximum plausible, also gives you a penalty die for physical activities that aren't defending yourself.
For ranged attacks, the GM assigns the target a number of defense dice based on range, cover, light level, phase of the moon, how much the GM likes that character, etc. There's guidelines but it's at the GM's whim.
Tasers get a special mention here, as having a crazy-high multipler, x5, and interact with armor differently: you roll the armor dice, but if any damage gets through, the taser ignores the armor completely. If no damage gets through, your armor deflected the taser dart. Damage from a taser is nonlethal and tracked separately from other damage. At 0 hit points, you're out of the fight, which could mean a lot of different things depending on whether you got shot or kicked in the face or stabbed or whatever, in terms of recovery time long-term effects (taser injuries are called out as wearing off quickly).
After the fight is over, if you get a chance to rest and catch your breath, you get back half of the hit points you lost in the fight. The other half comes back more slowly, with some vague guidelines subject to GM interpretation, generally 1 or 2 hit points per day of bedrest. You don't actually die until you're at negative hit points equal to your maximum (so -14, -21, or -28 probably). There's a note that since firearms are illegal on the island of Al Amarja, the sole exception being the Peace Force, gunshot wounds are taken as prima facie evidence of criminal activity. That is, if you show up at the hospital with a gunshot wound, they figure a cop shot you and he probably had a good reason for it. This is why private hospitals are so popular on the island.
Then there's the section on firearms, which, for a crazily rules-light system of bonus dice and penalty dice, sure gets into the nitty-gritty in terms of how many extra dice you get for a three-round burst versus a full-auto spread and how hollow point ammo interacts with kevlar vests. The short version is "pretty much what you'd expect, all around," with guns doing x4 to x7 damage, plus bonus dice, and armor being half as effective against them.
There's a couple of examples of combat, followed by a nice one-page rules summary that, again, if I had my scanner working I'd toss in here, and that's it for rules. Short version of the rules: they're whatever the GM says.
The Short OverviewOriginal SA post Over the Edge Chapter Two: the Short Overview
Quick note on experience, which I skipped: you get a die into your experience pool whenever the GM says, and you can trade 5 of those in for a new trait or improving a trait that's less than 3 dice up to 3 dice (one die at a time). Improvement beyond that costs more dice, 10 or more at the GM's discretion. The GM should also have your character take classes or whatever, in-game, to justify the improvement. So, GM GM GM, that's the short version.
Chapter Two is the short overview, which summarizes everything a typical inhabitant of the Edge knows about their city and island nation. Players of characters that have been on the island for a while should read it, players of characters that are coming in on a flight as the game begins (which is the assumption, that at least some players will be fresh off the airplane) don't get to.
Al Amarja is a little island a bit bigger than Malta, in about the same place. There's a dormant (mostly) volcano in the middle, Mount Ralsius, and the countryside is rolling and rough once you get out of the city. On the west side is the Edge, the big urban center of the island. Its north side bleeds into the ancient port of Skylla, and its southern end becomes the city of Traboc, which exists to be the boring place in case you need one. The eastern end of the island is Freedom City, the capital, and the only other settlements are private estates and small resorts.
The President of Al Almarja is Her Exaltedness, Monique D'Aubainne, an autocrat who holds rigged elections whenever it suits her. D'Aubainne refuses to deal with the international community, on the grounds that the UN is fascist and communist and anti-freedom. There's very little in the way of official international affairs, and little coverage of events on the island in the world media.
D'Aubainne liberated the island from the Italian fascists in 1940 and has been its President ever since. She's modeled her country on the USA, making English the national language and the US dollar the official currency. Her Exaltedness's laws are designed to protect her and her friends and family: guns are illegal, explosives are illegal. This is to inhibit assassination attempts. Psychics are outlawed, to protect her secrets, although registered psychics who agree to cooperate with the authorities are grudgingly accepted. All the drugs that are illegal in Utah are illegal on Al Amarja, but this is only enforced when the government needs an excuse to arrest someone. There's no first amendment, no fourth amendment, none of that stuff. Technically the Al Amarjan constitution includes much of the US Bill of Rights, but no one even tries to argue the point.
Other than the gun control and the (widely ignored) drug laws, the island is a libertarian paradise: there are no laws against prostitution or gambling. Also no fire codes, no public schools, no socialized plumbing or garbage collection, et cetera. Law enforcement is the duty of the Peace Force.
The Peace Force has about the same relation to peace as the fire department does to fire. Peace officers in riot helmets, wearing dark blue suits (armored), and carrying submachine guns are a common sight on Al Amarja, but it is the intelligence branch of the Peace Force that you've really got to be worried about.
The main industry on the island is tourism, although down Traboc way there are some sweatshop-type factories and the port of Skylla is still functioning. The natives are a melange of many races and cultures, given Al Amarja's location in the middle of the Mediterranean.
The main cultural virtue is loyalty. Specifically, loyalty to people. Loyalty to ideals is considered dumb. Al Amarjans are remarkably tolerant others' beliefs and habits, and practice a wide variety of religions and superstitions, basically everything you can think of up to and including sacrificing a goat to your computer to get it to stop crashing.
It's considered impolite to offer someone a drink or food from an open container. Hosts pass out cans of soda and little airline bottles of liquor and potato chips in snack-sized bags. It is not rude to accuse your host of trying to poison you.
Everyone carries a knife, partly as an indicator one is a bad motherfucker, partly for self-defense, and partly to open snack-sized bags of chips with. Neckties are hideously unfashionable on the island; everyone wears nooses instead, in a variety of designer styles and colors. Tattoos, piercings, and other body mods are more common than not.
People fistfight in the street about like folks might play pickup basketball somewhere else.
The Edge, as a city, is divided up into nine neighborhoods called barrios: Arms, Broken Wings, Flowers, Four Points, Golden, Great Men, Justice, Science, and Sunken. These are all lovingly described later one, but in this chapter, all you get to know is that Arms is where the Peace Force is based, so avoid it. Broken Wings is the ritzy place, avoid it and Golden (the financial district) or the private security will hassle you. Justice is blue-collar and the residents will hassle you just fine without help. Four Points and Great Men are, on the other hand, dirt poor and unsafe. Flowers is okay, it's the artsy bohemian barrio, and Science is where the university is. Sunken is the extremely touristy neighborhood.
You can walk from place to place, or buy a scooter or steal a scooter, but no one drives because there's too much traffic. Taxis are popular and expensive. And then there's the jitneys.
A type of transportation unusual to Al Amarja is the jitney. Essentially it is the missing link between the cab and bus, a private van or microbus that can drop you off at a specific address but that generally carries up to half a dozen passengers heading in the same general direction. The jitney driver places a placard in the window describing the area to which they are heading, and those who want a ride in that direction hail it as if it were a cab. The driver then collects a fee, generally a dollar, and they take the rider to any address in that area. Slower than a cab, but much cheaper.
Places the inhabitant-PC gets to know about : the airport; Sad Mary's Bar and Girl, which is a strip club/brothel/bar/cagefighting venue with a clever name; a museum; the hospital; the Temple of the Divine Experience, a sort of ecumenical cathedral operated by one of Her Exaltedness's children; a movie theater; and a firing range that operates on account of it's on a moored ship in international waters (you charter a helicopter out to it).
Obvious power groups: big business (Her Exaltedness never signed on to any copyright treaties), gangs (lots of gangs, many Satanic), the government, the rich, and Sommerites.
Fanatic followers of rock vocalist Karla Sommers, whom they consider divine; perhaps the most popular religious orientation on the island.
Readily-available illegal drugs, along with all the ones you already know about : blue shock, which heightens your senses; communion, which causes religious ecstasy; MDA cubed, an aphrodisiac; Nightmare, bad-trip hallucinogen; Relapse, which causes the drug it's mixed with to take affect at some random time in the future; Slo-Mo, which is actually no-fooling illegal and which improves reaction time, making it useful in hand-to-hand; Wings, which produces out-of-body experiences; and Zorro, which provides moral certainty. All these drugs get explained later on.
There's a newspaper, television and radio stations. Also, everyone in the Edge agrees that it's a self-consciously strange place, though guesses as to the cause differ. Maybe the island is a psychic sink, attracting the weird from all over, maybe once a critical mass of oddballs get in the same place consensus reality breaks down, maybe there are demons, maybe it's because there's no CIA looking out for us here, maybe Al Amarja is located smack-dab in the middle of God's blind spot.
Deep OverviewOriginal SA post
Over the Edge Chapter Three: Deep Overview
"Stories of Atlantis and Mu are racial memories of these advanced, fallen communities."
Okay, I considered approaching the rest of the book in some kind of structured or coherent fashion, but chapters three through six are the batshit parts and they resist categories. So I'm just going to keep working through the book in its own order. (This is the point where the endless assertions of the greatness of the GM taper off, also, if you were wondering.)
Chapter three starts with the real history of Al Amarja, which you might expect to begin anywhere besides where it does: twenty or thirty thousand years ago. Way back then everybody was happy and peaceful and Edenic. There was no war or poverty. You may think Disneyland was the happiest place on Earth, but it's Detroit next to human civilization way back then.
Of course somebody fucked it up. These fuckers were a cabal of mad scientists, the Eight Evil Sages (probably they called themselves something else, but who knows?) who conquered the world toot sweet on account of they were inventing war and atrocities as they went. People just couldn't deal, because people had never experienced war crimes or knife fights or high explosives.
So the Eight Evil Sages conquered the world pretty easily, but then they realized they all hated one another and began fighting amongst themselves. They tried siccing their subjugated masses of humanity against their enemies, but it didn't work very well because, again, people were fundamentally peaceful and fundamentally peaceful people make terrible soldiers.
Solution to the problem? Breeding a race of super-soldiers! These mutants were innately prone to violence and domination at the genetic level, but also naturally submissive to authority (so that they'd be good soldiers rather than good rampaging monsters), an ideal warrior race. The Eight Evil Sages created two other mutant subspecies as well. The first was an overseer caste, with heightened mental abilities and a knack for ordering people around, and the other was a drug-supply caste that generated immortality serum (so that the Sages, who had of course conquered aging for themselves, could give favored servants immortality that would remain under the Sages' control and could be turned off at whim).
This sounds like it would work great, right? Perfect system that could continue on indefinitely with no problems or crises? Yeah, no, after some indeterminate amount of time the Sages killed one another off (with some assistance from heroic normal humans, fighting the various mutant races) and the Edenic civilization collapsed completely into a global dark age.
During this time the warrior-slaves bred and colonized and murderated across the world, wiping out nearly all of humanity. Only isolated pockets of humanity remained up to the present day; most of the world is now inhabited by warrior-slaves who don't realize they're subhuman mutants. Yes, we're the warrior-slave race.
You probably saw that coming, though.
The overseer caste survived, some of them, along with their drug-supply mutants (called aphids ). The Pharaohs, as they are called by the very few people who need a collective noun for them, soon learned that the warrior-slaves resented an immortal god-king, so invented various forms of government they could dominate from behind the scenes. They've influenced all of civilization since prehistory, though their primary agenda was always secrecy and self-preservation, so it's not as if they control everything. World War II took them totes by surprise, as did the Industrial Revolution.
Nevertheless the Pharaohs have been responsible for big chunks of human history. There's a digression about the New World; the Pharoahs had their power bases in the Old World, so arranged for the conquest of the Americas and setting it up as a tripartite zone for social experiments. The USA they decided to screw with as much as possible, maximizing social change and forcing scientific advancement. Canada was the USA control group – same mix of people, same economic forces, but no fucking with them. Everything south of the USA was meant to be a zone of mixing Old World and New World cultures, which did not work out.
Anyway, the Pharaohs are the ones responsible for the weirdness of Al Amarja, or at least for the lion's share of it. They use it as a staging ground for social experiments, building on what the USA has produced.
So there that is – the Big Secret of the setting, or one of about three Big Secrets, spelled out at the very start of the GM info section of the book. It's even on a page facing legit-for-players-to-read info at the back of chapter two.
After the description of the Pharaohs and their origins, and the revelation that humanity as we know it is a mutant slave-race of true humanity (true humanity is nearly extinct, but of course one of their last enclaves is in the Edge, where they're an obscure ethnic group called the glugs ), we move on to a description of Her Exaltedness, the President of Al Amarja, Monique D'Aubainne , who bought the island from Mussolini in 1940 and has since rewritten the history books such that she and her mercenaries heroically liberated it. She's every day struggling to maintain control of the island in the face of all the fractious conspiracies and power groups eager to pull it away from her. She's worked hard to ensure that the island is more valuable as-is than not to as many groups of people: it's a legal haven for intellectual property violations, a libertarian paradise without fascist minimum wage laws et cetera, it's a place the decadent rich can practice whatever vices they please, it's a place scientists can experiment free from ethics boards and other busibodies, that kind of thing. The explanation for the economy of the island from the previous chapter gets expanded on, a little, with a note that along with the other revenue streams, the island prospers from bribes and secret agents' expense accounts.
Then there's some stuff about cosmology , planes of existence, et cetera, which is surprisingly dull so I'll just sum up. There's the world and there's the astral plane, which sounds like something out of Doctor Strange . Magic and psychic powers exist. All theories about life after death are true; reincarnation is the most gameable but there's a heaven and a hell somewhere in the astral plane, also ghosts. Spoooky ghosts.
Then we move on to drugs, and if this seems like a mismash of topics laid out in no particular order, I agree. The drugs from chapter two all get explained a bit more.
Blue Shock lasts ten to thirty minutes, during which time your senses are all sharper and you're very sensitive to pain, bright lights, noise. It's popular in sex clubs. Overdose and you explode. Longterm abuse leads to brain damage. It's manufactured in basement labs on the island, cheap, and sold by organized crime.
Communion is drunk in a tea and fills one with a sense of spiritual well-being the way heroin provides a pleasant sensation. It's not physically addictive and has no side effects, but psychological addiction is common and it's not cheap. It's made from the ground-up pineal glands of glugs, is why – a cabal of glug funeral directors make and sell the stuff.
MDA Cubed is an aphrodisiac, a really potent one. It's highly addictive and less effective each time you take it, though that's mitigated some if you take it with someone else who's never tried it. The stuff is manfactured by aliens (the kergillians) and sold to fund their expedition exploring the Earth. No, really.
Nightmare is processed tulpa shit. The bad trips one experiences on the drug are recorded dreams; the unprocessed tulpa shit can be used to catch and record dreams. Tulpas are bizarre inhuman spirit-beings who take on the form of whatever people who see them expect to see. More on them later. It's manufactured and sold by Sandmen. Sandmen are only technically human, they're a subspecies with strong sociopathic tendencies who hunt and murder tulpas for fun. More on them later, too.
Relapse works the way it's described in chapter two, is manufactured in labs on the island, and sold by organized crime.
Slo-Mo causes you to experience the world as if it was slowed down, though use runs the risk of making your brain melt. It was invented by Her Exaltedness's personal physician, Dr. Nussbaum (more on him later) but the secret to its manufacture got out and now it's mainly produced in labs off the island and smuggled in by organized crime, which is risky but lucrative as this is the only drug the Peace Force actually tries to interdict.
Wings is LSD with a clever ad campaign.
Zorro , aka zoraster, convinces you (for the duration of the trip) that Good and Evil exist and everyone is one or the other. It doesn't make you otherwise irrational. Conspirators love the moral certainty it brings, and it's manufactured by Mr. LeThuy to fund his Mister Quimper-ish activities and exacerbate all conflicts. More on Mr. LeThuy, you guessed it, later.
The chapter then moves on to describing some of the fringe tech used on the island for personal defense.
Brain loopers were invented by Dr. Nussbaum. They're little black boxes that contain some human brain matter, kept alive, that telepathically scans its surroundings and thinks whatever thoughts nearby folks think. There isn't a way to read the thoughts, so if you aren't a telepath this does nothing for you. If you are a telepath...
Imagine Fred the Telepath comes into a room with a brain looper bolted to the wall. Fred thinks, "I wonder what's in this room?" The brain matter in the box echoes this thought and thinks, "I wonder what's in this room?" Fred telepathically picks up the thought, and thinks "someone's thinking, 'I wonder what's in this room?' Wait a minute, I just thought that." The brain looper echoes this, and Fred thinks, "Something's thinking, 'someone's thinking, ''I wonder what's in this room," wait a minute, I just thought that.'" And so on.
If Fred's lucky, he'll panic and flee. If he's unlucky, he'll collapse screaming from the feedback loop and bleed from every orifice.
On the plus side, for telepaths, brain loopers are limited to Her Exaltedness and those who can afford to buy them from her, which is a select group indeed.
Crystal Traps are crystals that, on the psychic plane, appear to replicate an infinite number of identical parallel universes. Psychic powers directed at someone wearing one get shunted off to a random parallel universe instead.
White Thought Generators are similar to brain loopers, but contain a dolphin brain in constant agony, so any telepath in area only picks up the dolphin's continuous screams of pain.
Psychovores are astral monsters bound to a physical object that attack anyone nearby on the astral plane. They're trapped by professionals and resold.
Empties are soulless bodies, vegetative folks who suck magic out of anyone who touches them.
SACQ is a gaseous neurotoxin. When combined with another gas, it's rendered inert after three seconds. The SACQ and the other gas are stored in a single grenade in separate compartments and released simultaneously, so the toxin kills everyone near it and is then harmless. SACQ is engineered to be completely ineffective against anyone who has certain genetic markers in their DNA, which is to say, Her Exaltedness and her relatives, also Dr. Nussbaum.
And finally Seversen Disruption Field , invented by Dr. Chris Seversen (more about her later, of course) these are basically Faraday cages that block psychic powers; you build them into the walls of your house or drapes or what have you.
The chapter closes by noting that another reason for all the ambient weirdness on Al Amarja is the Throckmorton Device, which doesn't exist yet but is sending causation backwards in time to create the circumstances of its invention. This gets explained later on; the Throckmorton Device is one of the other Big Secrets of the setting.
The EdgeOriginal SA post
HAY GUYS YOU KNOW WHAT GAME FEATURES WAY LESS RAPE?
Over the Edge Chapter Four: the Edge
Chaper four is divided up into two parts. First, there's an overview of all the different kinds of people who live in the Edge, and second, there's a neighborhood-by-neighborhood description of the city.
A CHILD'S GARDEN OF STOCK CHARACTERS
(I'm skipping the boring ones)
In general, Al Amarjans (aka Martians or sometimes Margins... most of these groups get a nickname though only a few actually get used elsewhere in the text, I'm skipping the others) resist generalities, but on the whole they tend to be younger and less career-focused than folks in most nearby countries or the USA. Younger, because they tend to die off early and because young people immigrate in. Personal loyalty, we're told, is their main recognized cultural virture, and allegiance to abstracts like nations or ideologies is seen as worthy of mockery.
Animals exist on the island; we're given our first mention of areas patrolled by baboons here, and reminded that exotic pets are common on account of the island has no laws about trading in endangered species, et cetera.
Bennies are low-level agents who work for some patron in some covert way, like "secret agents" without the expense account or formal training or other fringe benefits. This is common enough on Al Amarja that there's a word for it in general usage.
Burger are tourists or newbies; you can recognize them on account of they aren't carrying knives.
Empties are soulless folks who wander semiconscious through the streets, eating garbage, responding to threats with mindless violence. They suck the magic out of those around them; a wizard who touches on ceases to be a wizard. Because of this they're sometimes rounded up into herds and used as guard animals, and the D'Aubainne Asylum offers a cash bounty, no questions asked, if you turn one over to them. The origin of Empties gives explained in about a hundred pages.
Fringe scientists, aka oppenheimers are more common per capita in the Edge than anywhere else in the world, since Her Exaltedness's government doesn't have ethics boards or animal cruelty laws or an EPA who'll send Walter Peck around to complain about the reactor in your basement.
The kergillians , or rather the kergillian hosts, are folks who have been implanted with a little nodule of alien brain matter inside their own brains, which allows the aliens to take control of them. The kergillian implant improves senses, reflexes, speed, and endurance, at the cost of slowly eradicating your free will, so mostly the aliens don't tell the hosts about that last part. The kergillians are operating in secret, and their activities get detailed, again, later.
Latahs are folks who mimic the behavior of the most charismatic person near them, which I think was on an episode of House .
Physical deformities are more common in the Edge than in other places, and as such there's a Mutant subculture that gets described a bit later on.
Normies are another fun one, these are people who have tied up their self-identity in being normal. They're the ones who are levelheaded enough to work as accountants, clerks, et cetera, and they get paid well because the average Martian off the street couldn't begin to hold down a desk job. In the Edge they form an insular subculture. I think you can recognize them on account of they wear neckties.
Cloaks are actual secret agents; unlike bennies, they get meaningful support and training and are generally less to be fucked with. Many of them are imported from offshore and work for the CIA or MI6 or suchlike.
A patron is anyone rich enough to have bennies. This is a term of art in the Edge.
A pube is an emancipated teenager. Al Amarjan law puts the age of consent and adulthood and voting and drinking and driving and so on as the onset of puberty; a pube is a teen who walked out on their family. Being a teenager isn't any easier when you're legally an adult, turns out; pubes grow up to be low-life scum and are often the victims of predation.
Satanists, or lucys are assholes who justify their behavior by calling it worship of Lucifer. Really, they're just dicks. A whole subculture of dicks, who form gangs and act dickish all over the place.
Slaves are folks who found out slavery isn't illegal on Al Amarja. The book implies that by and large slaves enter into the state willingly, either because it's a fetish or because they just find the demands of living free to be too much for them, but next to the description of pubes (vide supra) I dunno. Skeevy, Jonathan Tweet with Robin D. Laws, skeevy.
Sommerites are great. They're happy, friendly people who just happen to worship rock singer Karla Sommers as the Messiah, or maybe Jesus, or perhaps she's merely a Bodhisattva... details differ but most of them are too mellow for theological arguments. I like to think of them as the Over the Edge version of Mormons: a little nutty, but lovely people to have as neighbors.
Wizards , okay, remember Ars Magica ? Like that, but they went underground what with all the burnings-at-the-stake, and only now have they decided to go ahead and move forward with that whole taking over the world thing. The existence of this centuries-old conspiracy of Hermetic sorcerers gets mentioned nowhere else that I can recall offhand.
The Barrios of the Edge
These got listed back in chapter two, and they're described in a little more detail here. Every barrio is centered on a plaza of the same name, so the Arms Barrio surrounds the Plaza of Arms, Four Points barrio surrounds the Plaza of the Four Cardinal Points, et cetera. Every barrio has a cute little chart for random encounters, roll a d6 twice for an adjective and a nounl, which gives a sense of the atmosphere.
Arms is where the Peace Force and their families live. The spouses and children of Peace officers are generally unwelcome elsewhere in the city, so it's safest to have this essentially gigantic gated community instead. This is where the Peace Force is headquartered, where the Loyal Defenders (brainwashed and steroid-laden stormtroopers) are trained, and where the jail is. Getting in and out of the barrio without a pass is tricky.
1. Peace Officer
3. Family member(s) of Peace Officer
5. Criminal in custody
6. Loyal Defender
Broken Wings is full of coffeeshops, botiques, art galleries, everywhere rich people like to spend money. Through the Broken Wings Community Action Society, the residents have contracted a private security company, Dunkelburg, to police the barrio, so Secret Service-looking agents are all over the place. They have authority to kick you out the barrio if you don't have a pass, but they only ask for passes from folks who are making trouble.
Unlike everywhere else in the Edge, including Arms I guess, the garbage men are not permitted into Broken Wings. Instead they hire guys to cart the garbage off to outside the barrio, where the garbage men can claim it.
1. Filthy Rich
4. Dunkelburg Patrol
The Plaza of Flowers is the boho center of the Edge. Unlike the other plazas, which are described only briefly, the Plaza of Flowers gets a map and a list of businesses. The center of the plaza is full of buskers and performance artists and kiosks, including girls who sell cigarettes and drugs from trays. The business descriptions include the Good Doctors, a walk-in clinic mainly set up for overdoses and STDs, some clothing stores (including one, Adults Only, that caters to pubes), Restaurants, tattoo parlor, a gym, that kind of thing. There's an ATM, which is owned by Sommerites and has Sommer's music piped in; the ATM is rejiggered to be very slowly so that users of the ATM have to spend more time listening to the Good Tunes. There's a gaming store and a occult bookstore (which caters to burger). The Flowers barrio is full of artists, grifters, pubes, Sommerites, lucys, and while the Peace Force doesn't much care who robs who here, the Aries Gang (a large and well-organized gang with a viking motif) collects protection money from a plurality of the barrio's businesses and takes that responsibility seriously.
4. Aries Patrol
The garbage men are based in the Plaze of the Four Cardinal Points , which is center of Four Points, the grimy and shitty and ghettoized neighborhood. The garbage men sell anything they think is useable here, which makes for a lot of damaged durable goods. There's bars, pawn shops, tattoo parlors, that kind of thing. The gang with the largest protection racket in Four Points is the Dog Faces. The Dog Faces are baboons. This gets explained in a bit.
1. Street Vendor
2. Petty Thief
4. Dog Face Patrol
The financial center of the island is the Plaza of Gold , full of office buildings and folks in suits and taxicabs all rushing around. The place shuts down at six or so; everyone goes to Broken Wings to spend the money they made that day.
You might expect the Peace Force to operate here, but one of Her Exaltedness's daughters, Constance D'Aubainne, privatized the local Peace into Golden Knight Security, one of the few organizations on the island whose members are allowed to openly carry firearms.
3. Golden Knight Patrol
4. Criminal (probably the Net [organized crime])
5. Foreign Business Representative
Great Men barrio is the impoverished version of Four Points; there's less crime there because there's less to steal. Most of the buildings around the plaza are empty, though there's one storefront where you can sell plasma (or organs) and another where you can sell yourself into slavery if you really need the cash, or just long-term contracted employment at slave wages. Satanists are thick on the ground here, especially the Glorious Lords gang, but unlike the Aries Gang or the Dog Faces or Otto's Men, they don't try to enforce peace or keep order, they just fuck with people because man, lucys are assholes.
Jonathan Tweet with Robin D. Laws: firmly anti-Satanist.
2. Hardcore addict
5. Street Vendor
6. Satanist (probably Glorious Lord)
Daily, twice on Sundays, the Plaza of Justice hosts the public hangings. The rest of the time it's the center of a modest and unpretentious working-class neighborhood, self-consciously blue-collar. Otto's Men, a sort of neighborhood watch cranked up to full-time employment, patrol the area with flashlights and baseball bats, looking to keep out lowlifes, strangers, greedy rich assholes, crazy artsy types, et cetera. This is also where the glugs live; they keep their heads down and blend in.
1. Rowdy (drunk)
1. Off-work laborers
4. Street vendors
5. Otto's Men
6. Glug (reroll for apparent identity)
The Science barrio is taken up by the University of Al Amarja, student housing, and businesses that cater to students (ie cheap). You might see a Peace Force patrol here, but you're more likely to get hassled by the Sigma Omicron Beta frat. The SOBs love to rough out rich men from Broken Wings come to hook up with coeds. Other fraternties and sororities include Delta Epsilon Theta (DETh), the artsy frat; Sigma Epsilon Xeta (SEX), the slutty sorority; and Alpha Rho Tau (ART), the artsy sorority. Over the Edge wears its heart on its sleeve in the culture wars, plainly.
4. SEX clique
5. ART chick
6. DETh guy
And finally Sunken Plaza and its barrio. They're the touristy ones; the Peace Force does patrol here, though there's little crime, at least violent crime (if you stab a burger, he's less likely to come back and spend more money). An example business: Den of Thieves, a bar that looks like a violent dive, but it's all for show. The bouncers quickly end any actual bar fights, while customers watch the staged ones and think they're seeing the seamy real Edge.
2. Street Vendor
4. Peace Officer
A few other places get a paragraph or so, reminding you about Skylla ("ancient, dark, forbidding, depressed, impoverished, grimy, septic, and ugly"), the 'Burbs just inland where normies congregate, Traboc (for when you need someplace boring for folks to hide out in) and the Brink, a narrow strip of land between the Edge and the sea. The Edge is about a hundred feet above sea level, and the Brink is a series of terraces where the garbage men live. The top brass among the garbage men live closest to the Edge, and get first pick of the garbage, then they throw the rest down to the next level, and so on until the stuff no one wants ends up in the ocean.
At Your ServiceOriginal SA post
Over the Edge Chapter Five: At Your Service
Chapters 4-6 are terribly organized, but I don't know that I'd have been able to do better if I was taking my crazy homebrew campaign setting and converting it into a product. Still it suffers somewhat from information getting repeated in multiple places, stuff getting described in odd parts (like the kergillians described in chapter four; there's no reason to include them and exclude movers, quislings, cut-ups, earthlings, the Net, the Mr. LeThuys, the dog faces, the Glorious Lords, the Throckmortons, sandmen, or tulpas. The kergillians get described all over again, and in more detail, in chapter six, along with most of those groups.
Anyway, chapter four included in each barrio description a partial list of businesses, many of which are described in this chapter. This chapter is a big list of businesses, alphabetical, anywhere from a a couple of column inches to a couple of pages. Every business has a sample story seed, some of which are better than others. Most have a sample NPC.
Ahmed's Kwik Klinic located behind barbed in Four Points is a cash-or-organs only private hospital, someplace that won't rat you out for having been shot. They aren't cheap and they're protected by Safe-N-Sound rather than the Dog Faces.
Armorguard , in Sunken, rents out bodyguards, which is surprisingly gameable – there's three levels of service, Footman, Squire, and Knight, which cost $150, $300, or $900 a day, of which the guard keeps $50, $150, or $600. Footmen are about as good at bodyguarding as a modestly physical starting PC, with 3 dice of fighting, Squires get 3 dice of bodyguarding, and Knights get 4 dice, which is enough to be useful without overshadowing. Their equipment likewise improves. PCs can get work as bodyguards; one way to get PCs to interact is to get one to hire another.
Bienvenidos Hotel located in the Plaza of Flowers is a midrange hotel with hourly and nightly rates, which means PCs staying there are likely to spot interesting folk among the high turnover of guests (according to the book anyway). One regular, Madame Vylaska, is statted out; she runs the cigarettes-and-drugs girls' business out in the Plaza and has Mover connections.
Bitter & Herb's in Justice is a mutant bar. The bartender has three eyes and two noses, the bouncer is covered with spiny growths, and there's a barfly whose bodily fluids are toxic to some and psychoactive to others, which prevents her from getting close to anyone. Otto's Men are harassing the clientele, trying to get the freaks out of Justice.
Cesar's Hotel is option number two for hotels that PCs stay at. It's on Sunken Plaza, expensive, has a Safe-N-Sound contract, and the staff are careful not to freak out the burger staying there. One of the security guards is a kergillian, and the owners/managers are a pair of sisters whose energy comes from a Slo-Mo addiction; their pusher is blackmailing them into giving up their guests' secrets to the Net.
The Chrome Dome is great, it's a blue shock nightclub in Four Points. You go in, you pay your money, you take your blue shock, and then you go through a couple of sets of soundproof doors to the club. It's all white ceramics and soft lighting, people sitting motionless, listening to the house band (glockenspiels, recorders, glass armonicas, gamelans, mouth harps) and eating the cuisine (pancakes; no condiments available). Then someone explodes.
The D'Aubainne Asylum is just one of the mental hospitals on the island, but it's the only one run by the government. Its main claim to fame, besides being a place for PCs to act out their One Flew Over the Cuckcoo's Next fantasies, is that it's where you take your empty to get your cash. It's also pretty nakedly an interrogation center for folks who have information Her Exaltedness would like, and one of the inmates is a quisling who operates remotely and checked herself in so as to protect herself from assassins and investigators.
The D'Aubainne Hospital and Trauma Center (and casino), in Justice, is Dr. Nussbaum's center of power, so there's no shortage of cops around, plus brain loopers, white thought generators, all that stuff.. The attached casino includes windows where one can bet on the outcomes of surgeries. Dr. Nussbaum gets a full writeup – which in Over the Edge is "Fringe Medical Genius, 5 dice" – seems never to sleep and is always elbows-deep in multiple projects. Also, there are two of him, but he moves around so much and the hospital is big and mazy enough that not even his staff and assistants realize it.
I adore D'Aubainne International Airport . It's this gloriously impractical inverted-pyramid design, a sort of larger and more top-heavy Guggenheim. It looks like it should collapse at any moment. Designed and built by Her Exaltedness's son Jean-Christophe D'Aubainne, its interior is a ridiculous maze featuring not just all the kiosks that you see in American airports – luggage stores, bars, newstands, duty-free shops – but hotels, nightclubs, all manner of retail; the interior of the airport is a second city. The book asserts one could run an entire campaign without leaving the airport, but I dunno about that. The entry includes a writeup of Customs & Immigration, which for visitors can be anything from a smooth walk to a weeklong baffling ordeal, and Aaron Parker, the name Elvis is using to manage his nightclub, Memphis, and the big secret that the ten-story funnel that creaks in the wind and looks like it'll collapse is actually a false front, a hollow shell. Actually the terminal is entirely underground, with fringe tech in the elevators that confuse spatial awareness. This is because Jean-Christophe is in telepathic contact with a race of coral-like alien beings from another universe, who have taught him their non-Euclidean architectural techniques so that he can build a beautiful crazy mazy labyrinth of beige corridors and baggage claims stations and ticket booths and waiting areas. The fringe architectural techniques mean that, if the GM feels like it, a PC could open a door and discover the bottom of the Pacific Ocean on the other side. Then, assuming the door could be closed again and all the water pumped out and, for some reason, someone opened the door again: broom closet. Why Jean-Christophe built the terminal and why he never leaves unless his mother makes him (he's been wandering around for fifteen years since it opened, overseeing repairs and renovations continuously), no one, not even the authors of the book, know. I could go on, but I won't.
The D'Aubainne Museum of Modern Life in Great Men is a mix of natural history museum and sidehow. Rotating exhibits include History of Facism ; History of Democracy , a teleological arrow pointing straight to the pinnacle of government, Her Exaltedness; a freak show; Endangered Species , featuring taxidermied dodos, auks, white rhinos, Komodo dragons, et cetera; and Magic: Humanity's Perennial Superstition , which includes in one exhibit a talisman that sends a signal to the cops whenever a wizard looks at it. "Video cameras identify the person, who may then by taken in for questioning."
D'Aubainne University is like the airport in that you could set an entire campaign there, though since we all know a lot more about how big American research universities work (or at least enough to fake it) there's less info here than there was on the Stanislaw Lem joke of an airport. There's plenty of students, plenty of faculty, plenty of arguments: the SOBs, the SEXs, the ARTs, and DETh. The only NPC actually given a full writeup is one of the graduate students, Angela Reyes, the inventor of the Throckmorton Device. She hasn't invented it yet, and is immortal and quasi-invulnerable (nothing can permanently impair her brain) until she does. She has "Fringe Psychology & Physics" at just 1 die, because she's still a student, but the Device is helping her along.
Moving on to things not named after Her Exaltedness, Dmitri's Fix-it Shop in Four Points is owned and operated by an aging Greek handyman who likes to tinker with small appliances. He's self-taught and his fringe repair techniques are unreliable and unreproducible, but sometimes he repairs a toaster and suddenly it's also a cellphone or he rebuilds a space heater and it emits enough radiation to cook steak (but only steak), or something. He's protected by the Dog Faces.
Dunkelburg's Security gets written up again, boring, and then, okay! The EZ-Sleep hotel. It's in Four Points and it looks like it should be condemned, but the rates are pretty close to free. It gets a very detailed map and layout, because in addition to providing a third option to PCs who don't want to stay at Cesar's or the Bienvenidos, it's a center of kergillian activity and MDA Cubed manufacture. The desk clerk is just an inattentive slimeball, but everyone else around has a kergillian implant that's eaten their brains. In the basement there's a room set up to mimic the environment of somewhere near Betelgeuse, full of Betelgeusean thugs. The third floor is is where the MDA Cubed itself is made. The EZ-Sleep is clearly set up for step one, the PCs something bad is up with the hotel, step two, they investigate and raid it, step three they learn that the First School of True Sensation is a kergillian front and what the hell kergillians actually are. (I want to say they're all Lord John Worfin, but that may be an oversimplification.) A full explanation of what the hell kergillians actually are must wait for chapter six, though.
The aforementioned First School of True Sensation , in Flowers, is pretty troll. It presents itself as a school for teaching people to hone their powers of observation, offering weeks of classes, and then they implant their students instead of letting them justify writing "Observant (3 dice)" on their character sheet. Like the EZ-Sleep, the school building gets a map and a detailed key, though there's less here to see. All its staff are kergillians, except for the receptionist who, again, is just inattentive. Both the hotel and the school are protected by Safe-N-Sound.
Giovanni's Cabs based out of Sunken, is one of two taxi services in the Edge. It's the cheap one that contrasts with Total Taxi, so the cabbies are scrupulously honest and loyal to their firm and customers, refusing tips, but the cabs are smelly and backfire. The cabbies are all gossips, but won't take bribes for info. There is no particular reason for any of this except flavor.
Gun Metal sells everything except guns: knives, truncheons, tasers, crossbows, throwing stars, nun-chucks (which in this system are exactly as effective as knives, but look cooler), sword canes, brass knuckles, cattle prods. They also sell armor, though not bulletproof vests (if only cops have guns, only criminals need bulletproof vests). "The process of graduating from burgerhood almost always involves a trip to Gun Metal," says the book. I picture a sort of bar mitzvah celebration as at last the PCs gets to write "always carries a knife (x2 damage)" on their character sheet like a real Martian.
Kuan Tun's Black Belt Academy in Flowers, is why I think the First School of True Sensation is a troll – it's explicitly the place you go to spend experience points so you can write "Fighting (3 dice)" on your character sheet, or raise it from 3 to 4.
Sad Mary's Bar & Girl on the Plaza of Flowers is your usual bar/dance club/fight club/brothel/bordello/performance art space/nightclub/opium den. PCs can maybe get work as pitfighters or as strippers. Fighters are usually just 3 dice dudes, but describe them all crazy-like, the fights are not to the death or even, usually, the serious injury, and the pay is $100 a night plus the winner gets whatever the crowd throws into the ring (usually another $200 or so). After getting a rep, a fighter can negotiate better pay.
As for stripping, the book basically suggests you'd be better off not doing it. Pay is bad, $50 a night. And while the book says jack about the toll of pitfighting for a living:
Nude dancing is extremely stressful. Even though the money isn't bad, few people can keep up with it for long.
Also, one of the prostitutes in the brothel is a junkie, not uncommon, and also a furry, which is somewhat less common. Her backstory comes up in the first supplement, she's just mentioned here.
Safe-N-Sound is the best security firm on the island. You pay them money, and they give you a badge to wear and stickers to put in your windows that say "protected by Safe-N-Sound," with their red dagger logo. Anyone messes with you or breaks into your place, their body is found in the fountain at Sunken Plaza with a red dagger stuck in their chest. Safe-N-Sound employs about forty people who roll 3 dice for murdering, investigation, and staying loyal to the job. One of the managers is a kergillian, who doesn't disrupt the business but ensures that Safe-N-Sound protects the EZ-Sleep and the First School with all due attention.
Sarah's Teahouse in Sunken, is protected by Safe-N-Sound. It's nominally a restaurant, but the main business is renting out "booths," tiny private rooms, which are guaranteed to be soundproof and free from surveillance devices. It has four entrances, plus a garage entrance so your Total Taxi can take you right in without your being seen outside.
Sequins in Broken Wings is the stand-in for pretty much all the nightclubs in Broken Wings. They're all ritzy and mobbed up. This one is Art Deco and about as much like the nightclub in Goodfellas as it's possible to be. The maitre d' is who to talk to if you want to wander in off the street and make an appointment with a mobster, and he's so stereotypical he's gone through stereotype to archetype on the other side, and that's because he's a tulpa.
Swaps is a big office complex in Gold, the stand-in for all the office complexes in Gold. It's the one with the stock market and the commodities market and the First National Bank of the Edge and Constance D'Aubainne's offices. Constance is her mother's eldest daughter.
The Temple of the Divine Experience is the ecumenical cathedral I think I mentioned before somewhere. It's managed by Cheryl D'Aubainne, her mother's second daughter, and all faiths except Satanists are welcome, because fuck those guys.
I know this has been all wall-of-text, but at last I can post a kind of related image!
Every day of the week there's a different group that gets access to the church. Sunday is the Mid-Eastern Compromise, combining Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Zorastrians. Maybe B'Hai, I dunno. Monday is New Age, Tuesday is the Sommerites (good turnout), Wednesday is open mike night, Thursday is the Eastern Conglomeration (mostly Hare Krishna), Friday is secular mystic discussion group (like New Age but not New Agey), and Saturday it's just a nightclub (best turnout of the week).
One of the Friday attendees, Abdullah Mustafa, is a psychovore hunter with an impressively long description of his 5 dice of fringe powers.
Total Taxi , for your total taxi needs, is the taxi service that contrasts with Giovanni's Cabs. They're expensive, their taxis are armored limos, they're extremely discreet, and with sufficient bribes they'll do anything for their clients with three exceptions: they won't help you run guns, they won't rat out another client, and they won't be in both sides of a high speed chase (they won't chase another Total Taxi). "Total Taxi is an excellent plot device, so use it," says the book.
AND FINALLY, Winds of Change is a casino, but it's not a casino like Sequins or the hospital, it's a movable casino that appears in various empty warehouses and lots and spaces in Great Men. It's operated by Chikutorpl, an extradimensional alien slumming for fun, whose fringe powers enable patrons to gamble life and happiness and suchlike, because every game setting needs one of these.
I'm surprised by how much kergillian stuff there is, actually; I'd almost forgotten about them because they're not that impressive in the big scheme of things. They finally get a full all-questions-answered writeup in chapter six, though.
But you don't read chapter six for the kergillians, you read it for the Cut-Ups and the Throckmortons and the Movers and the quislings and so on.
Keep Your Hands and Feet Inside the Vehicle at All TimesOriginal SA post
Over the Edge Chapter Six: Keep Your Hands and Feet Inside the Vehicle at All Times
Chapter Six is "Forces to be Reckoned With," and it's the point where stuff gets nuts. I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing, and go ploddingly through the chapter section by section. What we're looking at here is a long list of factions, power groups, gangs, parties, powerful individuals (patrons), and so on, in alphabetical order, with a big chart at the end explaining who hates who. We're assured at the start of the chapter that just because there's a list of thirty-four different factions here doesn't mean there isn't plenty of room to add more or alter to suit.
Over the Edge wears its heart on its sleeve and while the game doesn't have an alignment system or anything it's not hard at all to divide the factions up into Free, Neutral, and Control, without a lot of wiggle room. Interestingly, despite the general awfulness of the control addicts, Over the Edge isn't an especially dark setting; there's nearly as many freethinkers with nearly as much infrastructure as the control addicts, on average.
Alpha Rho Tau is a sorority made up of Mokey from Fraggle Rock . It's one of the two sororities described at D'Aubainne University. Alums often stay active and help one another out.
The Aries Gang is a big rowdy gang of big rowdy guys who dominate Flowers barrio. They've got a viking aesthetic and they're a little racist about it but not too much, if you act like a viking and you're willing to grow a big blonde beard, even if you have to dye it, then you're golden. The leader is an astrologist who ensures that only Aries birthsigns hold positions of power in the gang, and who casts horoscopes a lot and assures his men the results say the Fates are with them, which is good for gang morale.
Sir Arthur Compton is a Hammer Films version of Aleister Crowley: a wicked old English wizard with a dubious title, who throws wicked parties. He's a patron for sufficiently desperate bennies and he calls his bodyguard Number Three on account of Number One and Number Two got killed. To put a button on his wickedness, he's got a half-starved fourteen-year-old girl chained up in his basement; she's been there for six years now and he abducted and imprisoned her (from one of his parties, allegedly, I don't get why an eight-year-old psychic would be at one of his murder-and-drug orgies) on account of she is a powerful psychic whose astral self now wanders his estate murdering any psychics she comes across. As a wizard rather than a psychic, Compton is immune.
The Cut-Ups get their own book later on, but they're a sort of amalgam of the Invisibles and the Brotherhood of Dada.
The Cut-Ups Project is the Al Amarjan wing of the interdimensional Chaos Boys organization (if "organization" could be the right word). Dedicated to thwarting the plans of the sinister forces that seek to impose their will on all they see, the Cut-Ups don't attack the various conspiracies, but isntead strike out at the very fabric of reality all of them depend on for their insidious plans. Their motto: "Dada was the theory, we are the practice." Their alternate motto: "This is the weather the cuckcoo likes, armored division submissive to vernacular the world into a gambling birdhouse velocity."
The book gives you a little bit of info on the Cut-Ups, but I'm going to hold off on them until Weather the Cuckcoo Likes so as to extract maximal gambling birdhouse velocity.
Cheryl D'Aubainne is the spiritual guru of the island. She's Her Exaltedness's youngest child, with 5 dice of familiarity with every religion (even the ones you just now made up in your head; this is because she is truly enlightened) and 5 dice of leadership. Everyone who meets her recognizes that she's holy, but folks who don't believe in "holiness" figure she must have some kind of bizarre fringe power. She travels with bodyguards, all of whom adore her.
By contrast her elder sister Constance D'Aubainne is the most powerful capitalist on the island. She has an intuitive grasp of economics (5 dice), 5 dice of leadership, and four dice of Moving. She is a Mover, in fact, though she doesn't know where in the hierarchy she is, and her goal for years has been to establish herself as her mother's natural heir, by getting into bed with as many conspirators and control addicts as possible. She owns the Golden Knights and travels with well-paid bodyguards whose personal feelings about her are pointedly not mentioned.
Monique D'Aubainne , Her Exaltedness, mother of Constance and Cheryl both, is an incredibly well-preserved 79 year old (she only looks about five years older than Constance, who's 55). She 6 dice of leadership and 5 dice of Moving, so when she speaks you do what she says. She's in bed with the Pharaohs (which is why she hasn't aged in twenty years) and with the Movers and basically she's the spider at the center of the web, just as she appears to be. The book suggests that she works better as a Lady of Pain sort of distant figure sometimes seen on TV or heard on the radio rather than someone the PCs meet at anything but the climax of the campaign.
Delta Epsilon Theta is ART's brother fraternity, and while ART is sympathetic, DETh are kind of dicks, with their moody poetry and their posturing and their drugs, lots of drugs. They've got a mutual hate-on with the SOBs; the SOBs "are bigger and stronger but the Deths are fully capable of lacing the Sigmas' drugs with strychnine."
The secret origin of the Dog Faces is that once upon a time there was a girl named Molly who wasn't hurting anybody and who liked to fuck baboons, in her shitty apartment in Four Points. Then her buddy Dmitri (of Dmitri's Fix-It) repaired her busted radio, and her baboons listened to the modified radio and became more tractable and intelligent, such that when her landlord showed up expecting rent and she told them to kill him, they did. She's since gotten more baboons, and now lives in pleasant degeneracy with about forty baboons, which is roughly the maximum that can be kept trained by the radio at any given time. The baboons that aren't waiting on her patrol Four Points in groups, with one of the handlers, and collect protection money.
The Earthlings are, hm, I can't think of an example of the top of my head but I'm sure there are several in pop culture. They're an "altruistic conspiracy" that uses the techniques of cloaks and Movers to make the world a better place. They have many front organizations and the left hand doesn't always know what the right is doing. Their agenda opposes "dogma, censorship, government interference in private life, soul-sapping drug use, oppression, and inequality," as well as "humankind's more abstract enemies: apathy, ignorance, fear, misunderstanding, racism, and intolerance." Their greatest hits: the Soviet bomb, which prevented a WWIII following closely on WWII and gave the USSR time to collapse under its own weight and discredit Marxism; satellite TV and global telecommunications; dispelling the myth that people starve because there isn't enough food and spreading the truth that people starve because food isn't well-distributed globally; and (sigh) preventing any GOP or Democratic politicians from being effective in the USA, so as to discredit the "Republocrat" power system.
The Garbage Men were described in the bit about the Brink, but it's expanded here; they're a caste of Al Amarjans who take all the garbage and in return can keep what they want. They're divided into six subcastes that live higher or lower on the Brink, with Scrounge and Thelogia Okton, the prince consort and queen of the Garbage Men, at the top.
The Glorious Lords are the largest lucy group on the Edge; they dominate Great Men, sometimes take money from Sir Arthur Compton for errands, and they rose to the top of the lucy gang hierarchy (a pretty cutthroat power structure you can imagine) by leveraging the power of seklut. The seklut are mutant centipedes that "Avan Bloodlord" (the current name of the head of the Glorious Lords) discovered; their poison mutates folks. Now aspiring Glorious Lords are obliged to get bitten by sekluts, and then they see what happens. Beneficial mutations, like claws or poison stinger or acid breath, are called "Lucifer's Blessing," while mutations that create a more Bitter-and-Herb's kind of mutant are "Lucifer's Curse." The blessed are inducted into the gang, and the cursed are enslaved. Both the blessed and cursed become addicted to the seklut poison, so Avan controls the supply and maintains his power that way. Dick.
The glugs , described in chapter three, are an ethnic group in Justice, known as the aboriginal Al Amarjan island natives. It turns out that glugs and slave-warrior-mutants (that's us, remember) are interfertile, though the glug genes are dominant. Glugs mate for life because sex with them is addictive, though not immediately addictive; they look down on the slave-warrior-mutants and what they foolishly call love. Glugs know love, man. Glug widowers become pickup artists, spreading the glug genes around without (hopefully) addicting any slave-warrior-mutant women to them. They have a short list of ways in which they're better than slave-warrior-mutants: psychic resistant, better night vision, dislike of corn syrup and processed food, extra hit points, that kind of thing. They're just better than us.
At this point there's a handout, a one-paged typed report describing the physiological differences between glugs (homo sapiens alamarhensis) and homo sapiens sapiens, which could come from a Mover or some oppenheimer who autopsied one, the GM is invited to photocopy and use it however.
Lydia Goodman is the Solar mirror charm of Sir Arthur Compton. She's a Sommerite, a patron of the arts (and of do-gooder bennies), with a lot of money and resources and Earthling contacts who'd love to fund a ragtag band of misfits' investigations into Nightmare or MDA-Cubed or the Glorious Lords or other clear villainy.
The Government gets a sizable writeup, mainly giving an overview of the sorts of folks PCs who get arrested or try to lobby the senate will meet. Yeah, there's a senate. Twenty-five of Her Exaltedness's friends get to "decide matters of government policy, appoint friends to various bureaucracies, eat for free at the Senate cafeteria, and write unbounceable checks at the Senate bank," which last bit was biting political satire in 1992 . There's a sample magistrate, a poor man who got arrest twelve years ago and was sentenced to his choice of a couple years in jail, a beating and exile, or replacing the sentencing judge on the bench; he often wishes he'd just done the time. He knows nothing about law and just tries to rule on the side that seems most favored by Her Exaltedness and/or the powerful; he doesn't want to make waves. There's also a sample senator, who's less interesting; he's just a quisling.
NEXT: More chapter six! I'm less than halfway through! I just can't take any more at the moment!
"I think you're right, Ben. This soup could use a little more rust."Original SA post "I think you're right, Ben. This soup could use a little more rust."
Over the Edge Chapter Six, continued.
We pick up right where we left off, with everybody's pals the kergillians . These guys get four whole pages of description, which in this chapter is a hell of a lot. They're aliens, sort of horseshoe-crab-looking guys who hate gravity and love oxygen. We only think we love oxygen, the kergillians are serious about it.
Kergillians are about a smart as the average human (well, the average warrior-slave, so they're slightly dimmer than your typical glug), but their scientific revolution happened a longer time ago than ours, so they have all kinds of cool toys that most of them understand about as well as you probably understand a carburetor works, and they grok our carburetors about as well as we'd grok a medieval loom or such.
But! They have one neat trick, which is turning themselves into brain-eating parasites.
Remember this epsiode of TNG? No? Never mind, then.
They crawl onto the back of your head and inject a chunk of themselves into the back of your neck, then most of them falls off. The tail bit stays stuck to the back of your neck for a week, then it falls off too because the kergillian consciousness has migrated into a wad of tentacles munching on your brain. As it eats your brain, it starts to influence your thoughts, and eventually there isn't any you left calling the shots, just the kergillian, and you're a passive observer in your own body.
Most of the people who get the implants do so of their own will, on account of they're tragically duped by the kergillians. Having one of these implants improves your reflexes and senses and gives you a bonus die on lots of activities, so if you've been paying for classes at the First School of True Sensation and they think it'd be fun to ride around in your body, they'll sell you on the benefits of getting an alien brain grafted onto yours. The actual grafting gets done aboard the Red Orca , a cargo ship that stays moored offshore in international waters. They keep you aboard the ship until they're confident that the one of them that's taking over your body is getting along okay with it, then they let you go.
You have to eat a little more, on account of you're thinking for two, and you get cravings for bizarre things like rust or mulch or pickles and ice cream. And if someone tries to surgically remove the tentacle wad, you'll probably die.
Kergillians mostly prefer to dominate men, on account of men are bigger, but some prefer women, on account of women have better orgasms. All kergillians like capering around in their big ol' nimble ape bodies, way more fun than being a horseshoe crab.
Kergillian engineers have retrofitted a lot of their advanced alien technology to run off of a standard household outlet, because their room-temperature superconductors mean they don't need portable nuclear reactors to power their stuff, it's all hella efficient. They've got hand stunners and stun rayguns and stun gas, for intractable candidate-hosts. They fund their activities by selling MDA-Cubed, which they can make out of basically nothing. They've got a monopoly on the drug, so it's like printing money. They also brought along some Beteguseans, whom they've all already given kergillian implants (being a Betegusean isn't fun, so it's what kergillian criminals have to do as punishment). Betelgusean bodies are basically tanks the size of dogs: well-armored, small and mobile, with lots of hit points and 5 attack dice with x3 natural weapons -- pincers and rows of claws and such. Like daleks without blasters but with mounted chainswords. On the plus side for humanity, the Betelgusean bodies only really function properly if the humidity is "90%", which I hope is relative humidity because if it's absolute humidity then they're only comfortable in water-saturated atmospheres at about 200 degrees F. The descriptions of Betelguseans chambers at the EZ-Sleep hotel mention it being unpleasant and muggy but not "PCs pass out and die of heatstroke in minutes" unpleasant.
What do the kergillians want? Well, they probably want to take over the world, that's what they say if you capture and interrogate one, but when you look at what they're actually doing, they're basically just tourists. Which is why they're on Al Amarja: it's the best place in the world to be an alien tourist sampling Earthly delights like capering and having orgasms.
The Mister LeThuys hate everyone and everything. Their leader, Tramh LeThuy, is a 69-year-old potbellied nearsighted Vietnamese man, who figured out a long time ago that nothing was worth doing and the appropriate way to deal with the world was by destroying it. This brilliant nihilist sociopath moved to the Edge and started selling people (mostly zeroes and lowlifes) on his philosophy of destroying everything. He's very good at convincing people he's right and everything should be destroyed. He recruited a former fringe geneticist who was wasting away on the streets, and she developed a recombinant DNA sequence out of Mr. LeThuy's genetic code. Mr. LeThuy's followers, who hate themselves and their own identities as much as anything, willingly inject themselves with his DNA, overwriting themselves with Mr. LeThuy, trading in whatever traits they used to have for a pot belly, myopia, and a burning hatred of everything that exists. Hence the name of his group -- the Mister LeThuys.
The Mister LeThuys invented and sell the drug zoraster, not so much for the money as for the effect that it has on conflicts. When both sides become convinced that they're on the side of Objective Good and the other is Objective Evil, they become unwilling to compromise and everything goes down in flames, which is more pointed political satire (that's only become even more timely since the early 1990s).
The Movers , okay, so, they're a bunch of interlocking Illuminati organizations, divided up into cells. It's common to spread lies about rival cells and to act under the false flag of rival cells and even to recruit dupes who think they're working for the rival cells and are you sure you were recruited into the cell you think you were recruited into?
The name comes from the idea that there's two kinds of people, the Movers and the Matter, and the movers move the matter and are generally better than the mass of humanity. The name also refers to Moving, a technique for manipulating people around you, influencing and controlling their decision-making, first with conventional sales techniques and what's now called neurolinguistic programming, and then blossoming to magic/psychic/whatever mind control, and ultimately controlling the perceptions of those around you. The book is hella vague about this, but I always assumed that Moving was mostly derived from the unnatural Ur-Mastery control techniques of the Pharaohs.
Anyway, the Movers are really a lot of different conspiracies, some or all of which might not exist and merely form a cover for other actual factions. Cells that people talk about, when they talk about Mover cells, are the Gladsteins , who supposedly are focused on fringe science; the Hermetics , who may or may not be that conspiracy of wizards that was mentioned briefly in passing back in chapter four; the Vornites who are allegedly focused on interpersonal face-to-face domination; the Dionysus cell, who actually use their Moving and such to live luxurious lives and don't worry about whether or not they're really pulling the strings, and Cell Z which probably doesn't really exist but if it is it's probably the secret rulers of the Movers who have infiltrated every other cell but they probably don't exist.
Monique D'Aubainne and her daughter Constance are both members of at least one cell of Movers, probably more than one each. They mostly compete with the Pharaohs, they think. Really, most if not all Movers are unsure whether they're actually in the Movers, or if they're merely dupes who have been led to believe they're in the Movers by cunning Movers as part of a smokescreen. It's turtles all the way down. Unless it's not.
The Net isn't what it sounds like; it's just the mob. Dull.
The Neutralizers get duped a lot; they're an altruistic secret society devoted to protecting humanity from unnatural forces, which means mostly that unnatural forces sic them on one another. However, they are effective at ghostbreaking, vampire hunting, et cetera, and thus can make useful allies.
Otto's Men are a gang of under a hundred burly working-class guys who banded together in a vigilante neighborhood watch in Justice barrio. Otto is the boss, but beyond that they have no hierarchy.
Just trying to break up the wall of text a bit.
They wander around Justice groups of four of five, with walkie-talkies and baseball bats and flashlights and such. They hassle longhairs, pushers, hookers, hippies, and homosexuals. I'm mostly shying away from typing out long quotations, but this paragraph is pretty good.
Otto Finkelstein, a burly, hairy, beer-drinking man, got sick of the low-lifes, criminals, and deviants that were wandering around his neighborhood and settling a bad example for his kids. After a viewing of Walking Tall and a six pack, he picked up his Louisville slugger and went after the people he hated. After pounding a few skulls, the low-lifes and degenerates started to gang up on him. To his surprise other people he hardly knew came pouring out of their tenements and joined in to help him. Twenty-three "undesirables" in all died that die, along with five of Otto's men. Otto currently has charges of mob action, murder, battery, assault with a deadly weapon, ad infinitum , against him, but the massacre was twelve years ago, and the trial isn't scheduled for another five years or so. Until then, Otto is free on his own recognizance.
The Peace Force serve and protect. Specifically, they serve and protect Her Exaltedness. They're the government's first and most expendable line of defense against threats to the island, they patrol parts of the Edge, they hassle PCs who look they might start trouble. Maybe they demand to see their crossbow license or their taser license, if the PCs are carrying them. Some officers and some Loyal Defenders are statted out; I wouldn't want to meet any of them in a dark alley and I think a Loyal Defender could probably take a Betelgusean kergillian one on one, with 5 dice of attack and defense and plenty of arms and armor.
The Pharaohs get another expanded entry. We're reminded how so-called normal humans are warrior-slaves genetically programmed to obey the Pharaohs, and how the Pharaohs have controlled civilization forever. They and the Movers are locked in struggle, unless both groups ultimately answer to the same powers. Pharaoh servants are called, by the folks who need to call them something, quislings, for obvious reasons. The Pharaohs tell the quislings that the time is right for the Pharaohs to step out of the shadows, rise up, crush the Movers and all other opposition, and assume full and total control of the planet. This is on account of all the crazy stuff that's happened recently (meaning "history since around the French Revolution"); the Pharaohs worry they're losing control to anarchic democratic forces.
It's great to be a Pharaoh, you get to live forever so long as you feed on aphids. Aphids are a subspecies that resembles folks with severe developmental disabilities; their symptoms are not wholly unlike fetal alcohol syndrome (not that I know much about it). The Pharaohs treat them like livestock, controlling their breeding and so on. When a Pharaoh needs to feed (how often this is the book doesn't address, which seems like a hole) they extrude a little spike on their left wrist, and stick it into an aphid' flesh, and suck out some of the aphid's bodily fluids (which is called 'Apep's Breath' by the Pharaohs on account of they settled on a perfectly good name back in the day and they aren't changing it).
There's an overview of all the shitty stuff Pharaohs were responsible for, like the African slave trade and the existence of the UN (?). Pharaohs hate magic, which was apparently invented by the warrior-slaves wholly independent of them and which they can't learn or use; this is why most people think magic isn't real.
The sample Pharaoh rolls 10 dice to make someone do what he wants them to do, which I believe can include "shoot yourself in the head" or simply "die." On the other hand, Pharaohs are hugely paranoid and worry that if they were to walk up to their enemies and tell them to die, then the joke would be on the Pharaoh, because the enemy might have rigged themselves up to a dead-man-switch high explosive or something, and the Pharaohs really value their bodily integrity.
The Philosopher's Stone is Baby's First Conspiracy, an easily-defeated cadre of very low-level Mover dupes who are trying to invent superpowers. Like, you know how in comic books you get powers if you're bitten by a radioactive spider or you're exposed to cosmic rays or the gamma bomb, and in real life you just sicken and die? Surely those comic book writers were onto something ! I exaggerate a bit, but only a bit. They're four scientists working out of D'Aubainne University, who'll show up to investigate anything out of the ordinary the PCs might (read: will) do, and maybe lead to further Mover mysteries eventually.
The Public is a very handy entry, because it provides stats for lots of different kinds of people and gives a good sense of what relative power levels are. The average person has a 3 dice job, a 3 dice hobby of some kind, a family trait that can be helpful or a flaw, and takes a penalty die on everything because of a life clogged with MSG and daytime television. Competent people have a 3 dice job, a 3 dice hobby, 3 dice of interpersonal relationships (whether family or otherwise) and some kind of flaw. Leaders have 4 dice of identity (usually but not always a job), 3 dice of unrelated outside interest, and 3 dice of confidence, plus a flaw.
Then there's the different Martians you're liable to see on the Edge: empties, low-lifes, maniacs, mutants, pubes, toughs, zeroes. Empties got mentioned a few times already, they're homeless people who suck magic out of people, and the story behind them is CIA mind control experiments from the 1960s. MK ULTRA went rogue and emigrated to Al Amarja and funds their ongoing work by creating empties and selling them to the government, but rather than send them directly to the government, which would be too reasonable I guess, they release the empties into the general population and the government picks them up later. Interestingly, empties have an infinite number of hit points and can only be killed by dismemberment/drowning/acid/decapitation, Highlander style.
The Sandmen get detailed in a supplement.
Dr. Chris Seversen is another patron (other patrons: Compton and Goodman), this one a mortally neutral fringe science type. Dr. Seversen invented the Seversen Disruption Field (described in chapter four), among other things, and is a noted patron of oppenheimers who always needs bennies to run errands for her. Her compound gets a complete writeup and map, along with her staff.
Her big secret is that she's actually Shelia Blake, a commercial actress (described explicitly as not especially pretty, but energetic, 38, with a lumpy face and wavy blonde hair, which is substantially more physical description than most NPCs get). The "staff" of the compound are the real scientific geniuses; they set her up to front for her because none of them have good interpersonal skills. Blake is a very good actress who's lived the role for years now, who gets by with the help of a crystal trap and a headset she always wears that keeps her in touch with her "staff," actually four different flavors of oppenheimer (medicine, psychic energy, electroneurology, and zen gardening plus death touch, okay, the gardener is actually just a gardener with killer martial arts, but you can tell from looking at him I mean he's an unassuming elderly Asian man).
Then there's SEX and SOB , the other sorority and the other fraternity, which have nothing interesting going on, and the Sommerites , who, again, think rock vocalist Karla Sommers is divine in some way. Their population tilts towards young women, their patron is Lydia Goodman and they like Cheryl D'Aubainne, and they hate Satanists. Everybody hates the lucys.
Which brings us to the Throckmorton situation. Throckmorton operatives are normal people who have fallen under the sway of the Throckmorton Device, which hasn't yet been constructed but is sending its influence back in time to ensure that its mission is properly completed, not unlike the bird in Mostly Harmless . They hate all nonconformists, tattoos, drugs that aren't nicotine or alcohol or caffeine, homosexuality, body hair, modern music and art, uppity women, interracial dating, body piercings, and intellectuals. They were once perfectly normal people, but they've become warped by the Device, and to a greater or lesser degree they feel a desire to subjugate what they don't like and exalt conformity. Some of the have begun to compile notes on the unwholesome and unacceptable behavior around them, most have begun speaking out about their newly-found sense of morality and hygiene and judgementalness. The most dangerous are those who have found other dominated individuals, and formed cells of conspirators who have begun to act against undesirables, with assassinations and arson.
There's a fairly extensive writeup of an example of a fully dominated Throckmorton operative. Simbuto Cye Anabli used to be a typical boho Flowers type, with earrings and scars and bisexuality and avant-garde theater, but he's thrown away his earrings and scolded away his former friends. He's shaved his beard and his armpits and his arms and chest and eyebrows. He took a job as a data processor, and married a woman who displayed appropriate traits (submissive, same race, hygienic, desire to raise a family). He hopes to one day have a cadre of well-disciplined children to help him in his task, which he isn't sure what is yet, but at night he dreams of goose-stepping in parades for the pleasure of his leader. Recently he decided to start murdering junkies and homosexuals, especially homosexuals who flaunt their taut firm sexy bodies.
I'm skipping tulpas , which are in the same book as sandmen, so I'll close out this chapter by describing the awesome chart, which spans seven pages and indexes how every one of these factions feels about every other faction, or how they would feel about them if they knew about their existence. We can see that the Pharaohs are "confused" by ART, that Lydia Goodman would want to ally with the Earthlings if she knew they existed, that the LeThuys would despise the glugs if they knew about them and that the glugs would choose to simply wait out the LeThuys if they were brought to their attention (the glugs have waited out worse, after all), and so on. It's an awesome chart.
Psychic Powers and Making the Players' Heads ExplodeOriginal SA post Psychic Powers and Making the Players' Heads Explode
Over the Edge Chapter Seven: Game Moderator's Rules
(To answer your question, Purple, there isn't a direct link but they come from similar places. This gets explained some in Chapter Eight and also in one of the supplements a very little bit.)
There's basically three parts to this chapter. The first is GM advice . This is a sort-of sequel to Chapter Two, the players' rules, wherein the GM is given vague guidelines on how to handle obviously broken PCs (easy to make with the loosey-goosey ruleset) and how to handle stuff like how much money the PCs have at any given time and so on. The GM is warned that players tend to default to boring fringe powers like "pyrokinesis" instead of getting creative with it, and to encourage them to go whole-hog.
The GM advice includes a trick I'd forgotten and haven't seen anywhere else, which is to roll in the open but obfuscate the results. Everything is opposed pools of d6s in this system, so say you're rolling for a sentry to detect a sneaking dude, don't just roll the 3d6 plus penalty die which is the sentry's actual pool, roll four yellow dice and three red dice and ignore the yellow. Or two yellow, two blue, three red and ignore the red. The players see you rolling in the open, they see you rolling lots of dice (7d6 versus their 3d6 sneak?) but they don't know what the result is. I'm geniunely unsure as to whether I think this is clever or not.
In combat you can sometimes impose a penalty die on a PC who's doing something boring and predictable, like "I hit him again." Or not. Your call. It's totes okay to skip to the end of a fight, just resolve the whole thing with one big roll, if that's what pacing demands. Pacing is what's important.
Give out XP dice at the end of the session if they did a whole session's worth of stuff. Give them a die for succeeding at some goal, or for dong something clever, or for amusing/entertaining folks with roleplay, or for getting badly hosed.
Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want.
The recommended average rate is not quite two dice per session on average, so a new trait (5 dice) is about three sessions of work. There's no obvious reason not to speed that up or slow that down if you want.
Then there's the section on fringe powers . This is not the best part of the book. There's a lot of bullshit on the nature of fringe powers that isn't worth reproducing (they can break the laws of the game, they follow the player's description, they are maybe dangerous to use, maybe anyone can learn them or maybe not, et cetera). The metaphysic of Over the Edge splits learning a fringe power into three parts. First is overcoming rejection , which means that your brain can't handle having a detachable soul or whatever, and you have to fool your brain into being ready to accept it by starving it or giving it drugs or mastering Zen meditation or whatever. Then you have to be taught , which takes by default a month of doing something. And finally at the end of the month you can roll to see if you successfully detached your soul or whatever. You spend dice from your experience pool, as many as you want. All the dice you spend are lost forever. You roll them, and if one of them comes up a 6, you learn the power. Otherwise, try again in a month.
A newly-made character with an existing fringe power has 3 shots in their fringe pool (or 1d6 if you want them to roll) but a new fringe power just has 1. You use the power by expending a shot from the pool. You can increase the size of your fringe pool by 1 by spending two experience dice. The fringe pool refills 100% in 24 hours, amortized (so if your pool is 6, it's one every 4 hours). Play fringe powers by ear because this isn't GURPS or anything. If you learn a second fringe power you get a second fringe pool and they don't interact directly, you increase them separately etc.
Then there's a list of example fringe powers, which is better. These are meant to provide the GM with fodder to get the players excited, I guess. Atavism is recalling memories from past lives and using them to get dice for skills. There's aura sight and automatic writing , both of which do just what they sound like. Blind spot is the ability to erect a Somebody Else's Problem field. Cat's feet creates soundwaves that cancel out noises you make walking around. Healing and hunches , duh. Inedia is the ability to go without food and/or water; if you can go without them for a full year then you've kicked that habit and don't need to worry about it any more. Internal Stimulation Operation is the distract cantrip. Lightning strike , which Dr. Chris Seversen's gardener has, is a secret karate technique of striking really fast and hard. Mind scan. Neural rewiring makes you resistant to Moving etc. Pre-reaction sends nerve impulses backwards in time, pre-noticing stuff and thus improving apparent reflexes. Blah blah blah, I'm skipping the others.
Magic is declared to be secondary to fringe powers. There's two kinds of magic -- freeform, which is basically just another fringe power, and spellcasting, which is a sort-of ultra-slots multipower. Or, in something other than half-remembered HERO jargon, all the spells you learn are powered by the same pool, which starts off at 1 shot same as other fringe pools and is increased the same way. To learn a spell, you study a spell ingame (which means you need access to a grimoire, which by itself is a fine reason to go hire yourself out to Sir Arthur Compton) for a week, 2 hours a day. Then you spend 5 xp and roll a die. If the number on the die is greater than the level of the spell, you've learned the spell. If not, you can try again next week, spend more xp, and add the number on that die to your running total. There are some example spells, which sound all Doctor Strange with their names, and at a glance Over the Edge spells are pretty similar to OD&D magic-user spells but the level of an OtE spell is about 3x the level of an equivalent OD&D spell. This isn't a perfect comparison -- Serpent's Tongue is level 9 and gives you a bonus die on all manipulation rolls for a minute -- but, like, Grip of Stone is level 12 and basically hold monster with a 30 min duration. Ring of Gyges is level 15, makes you invisible for 10 minutes, and has a pretentious Greek myth name. So that's a pretty clear trajectory of power I think.
The back end of this chapter is more GM advice, this time on bigger-picture stuff than character creation and how to roll dice. It'll have to wait till later though.
The Secret Origin of Apocalypse WorldOriginal SA post The Secret Origin of Apocalypse World
Over the Edge Chapter Seven: GM Rules, continued
Okay, so, this section. This section is kind of organized. Ish. You get some advice on starting a new campaign. Suggestion: play your group through the three introductory one-shots in Chapter Eight to give them a sense of the setting and rules before you really get going. Then the series proper, wherein you are advised to start small and work your way up, and to take notes because you'll forget shit.
Then the three paragraphs that I am pretty sure are the inspiration for Apocalypse World , which I'm just going to quote right here.
When I first played OTE, it was on about ten minutes' notice. I had some notes on major background conspiracies, a few images of various scenes, and a primitive version of the current mechanics. NO map, no descriptions of businesses, people, places, or any of the other useful tidbits that are crammed in the previous two chapters. Naturally, I winged it.
That night were born Total Taxi, Giovanni's Cabs, Cesar's Hotel, and Sad Mary's, all now landmarks in the Edge. Things just happened. I faked it. Since there was nothing that couldn't happen, anything I dreamt up was OK.
Now, however, you have a background explaining who, what, where, and when. You're in a completely different situation from where I was back on that first manic evening. But anything you dream is OK, too.
I believe that Vince Baker read those paragraphs and said, shit, this is a great game and all but where's the game that enables that play experience? And eventually he made Apocalypse World . I think the guys who do Dungeon World don't grok this, which is part of why DW is inferior. But now this is me talking about Apocalypse World and Dungeon World and you are here to read about Over the Edge. The GM advice continues, telling you to make shit up and not to worry too much about it, because you can always cover over any inconsistency later. If you forget that Sad Mary's is in Flowers and you put it in Four Points one night, then later you realize your error, hell. Maybe the Cut-Ups did it, moved Sad Mary's there for one night. Maybe it was architecture leaking from the airport. Maybe it who knows? Maybe the coral-like aliens who taught Jean-Christophe how to build the terminal are taking an interest in the PCs. Maybe the Throckmorton Device is fucking with everyone. Furthermore the OTE setting isn't flash-frozen at the state described in the book -- eventually Her Exaltedness will pass on and Constance will try to destroy Cheryl, all kinds of stuff is happening, and before too long all of chapters five and six will be totes obsolete.
Then -- did I mention that this book is not very well-organized? It's kind of like the 1e AD&D DMG -- then there's a few paragraphs about how Al Amarja is, by default, a not-very-well-kept secret; it's not on most maps and it doesn't have consulates, but a little digging will turn up about as much info as you could find about any tiny obscure island nation. But if you the GM care to spin it this way, maybe it's the like island from LOST. Or maybe E! did eight seasons of Wild On... Al-Amarja in the 90s. Whatever you care for.
Then campaign structure, where instead of discrete story arcs, we're encouraged think of our game as going through expansion-contraction cycles, as story threads pick up and multiply and thicken and then get resolved, with older threads layering and providing context for newer ones.
And then there's a column on why the Pharaohs (or Movers, or whoever) don't just have the PCs all shot. Disinformation means that your enemies are constantly screwing up one another's intelligence, adding noise and chaff and maybe the PCs slip through those cracks. Resources are limited and maybe the Pharaohs are more concerned about the Brain-Melting Brinker Twins or Mister LeThuy than they are nobodies like the PCs. And then there's publicity ; just killing someone attracts attention, if not from the Peace Force than from any hidden allies the PCs might have.
That's followed by a column explaining how a ragtag band of misfits could possibly have an impact on the intricate balance of forces described. Reason number one, the Pharaohs have decided that enough is enough with this whole "freeflow of information, Enlightenment, modern art" crap and they're finally stepping out of the shadows, the better to claim the reigns of power. They're doing it crazy-cautiously and crazy-slowly, but they're still doing it. Reason number two, the Movers and the Pharaohs are squabbling and the Movers are fighting among themselves. Reason number three, the destabilizing influence of the Mister LeThuys and the Throckmorton Device is making conspiracies that had been nice and tidy rough and chaotic. Reason number four, the PCs don't know enough to be afraid, which is to say, PCs pull crazy shit all the time. And reason number five, odds are good that at least one PC has some kind of crazy ace in the hole that no one is expecting; the character creation rules supposedly encourage this.
And then there's a column about how it's cool to keep secrets from the players and to encourage the players to keep secrets from one another, followed by "the Literary Edge," by Robin D. Laws, which oddly is called out as specifically by Robin, which makes me wonder if Jonathan wrote everything else in the entire book as nothing else is attributed like that.
In "the Literary Edge," Robin encourages the opposite technique, maximal sharing, the GM and whoever among the players is participating in a scene striving to entertain the players who aren't in the scene, and this advice is blended in with some modestly pretentious stuff about RPGs being an art form which totes blew my mind in 1998.
Then it's back to the more nuts-and-bolts GM advice, this time about scenario construction and NPC design, which is pretty basic. Good bits here are a section about how just because a given thing is the most likely thing to happen doesn't mean that it's the only thing that could happen, there's all kinds of slightly less likely but still fairly plausible stuff that could happen. The example called out is, a PC asks who's around one night at Sad Mary's. Obvious answer is all the usual Plaza of Flowers boho lowlife faces, but maybe it's full of off-duty Peace Force officers. Is that the most likely answer? No. Is is plausible? Sure. Maybe it's someone's birthday or someone's cousin is dancing or fighting or maybe some Mover conned them into providing a distraction for something more interesting happening nearby.
Then the GM is cautioned to work to keep the PCs from screwing themselves over accidentally, say, if a player severely underestimates the threat potential of baboons because it turns out they were visualizing lemurs so they pick a fight with Dog Faces, be sure the players get that the Dog Faces are bad motherfuckers before you have them tear the PCs' arms off. And NPCs can have unexpected bad luck just like PCs, plus, there's all kinds of unexpected random events that could go off at any time, from the coral-like aliens to a previously unknown Mover plot.
That's followed by a section titled "How to Hose the Player(-Character)s" which begs the GM not to answer PC force with greater force (of which the GM of course has an infinite amount), but with finesse, give them enough rope to hang themselves.
This is easier gliby asserted than explained, so then there's a long story about a playtest PC named Horace who had a panoply of superpowers, and how one day he was confronted by some Peace Force, who toldhim to stand down, and he ignored them, so one shot his automatic weapon at him, but he used a superpower to ignore that, and started paralyzing cops...
Okay, he was bulletproof because he had a magic crystal that turned bullets into soap bubbles and his paralysis ray was fired out of a magic banana...
...so he paralyzed the first cop, which freaked out the other cops and they started all shooting, and then the GM had to decide, did the soap-bubble magic crystal work against a whole hail of bullets? And he decided not to just shut it down or break it, didn't say that it melted under the hot lead. A single bullet gets through, grazes Horace, just a minimal flesh wound. Horace decides it's a bad idea to stick around and let Peace Force officers just pile up on him, and leaves.
Afterwards Horace's player is annoyed, on account of Horace was supposed to be immune to gunfire and that didn't happen, and the GM's ruling is why. On the other hand, the book invites us to imagine letting Horace be 100% bulletproof, able to just laugh at the Peace Officers. What would happen? The cops would probably eventually stop shooting him and then there'd be a whole mob of cops with clubs and knives.
But maybe Horace's magic banana would paralyze them all? Well, maybe. Then, if anyone saw, Horace becomes "the guy who defeated a whole squad of Peace Force," which paints a big target on him for the Pharaohs and the Philosphers Stone and the Movers and so on. Plus he has a pile of paralyzed Peace Force to stash somewhere...
Whether this was a better way to go, I'm unsure both whether I think it is and whether the guy who wrote it (Tweet I assume) thinks so.
Anyway, the chapter concludes with a lengthy after-action report of a different playtest session, which is an okay read but not worth detailing here.
Stay tuned for Chapter Eight, featuring the thrilling story of a boy named Clyde and the Device that loves him, and a lot of less-interesting stuff!
The Last PartOriginal SA post Over the Edge: the last part
Sorry about the delay. Okay. Chapter Eight. Chapter Eight is plots. There are three one-shot introductory adventures meant to teach your players about Al Amarja so that y'all can hit the ground running once y'all start a proper game. Then there's three short treatments of longterm plots, big campaign-length arcs.
Intro adventure number one is "Contact on Al Amarja," a simple little railroad wherein the PCs are presumed to be, basically, the cast of a La Femme Nikita or Alias or Mission: Impossible type show, secret agents who work for a mysterious patron who isn't important for the purposes of the adventure. The patron sends the team to Al Amarja to guard a courier while said courier meets another courier and they trade info.
The courier is a young woman with a deformed left arm, "limp, useless, and fatty." The PCs fly to Al Amarja and we skip over the airport because we're easing the players in, and they meet the courier after taking a Total Taxi to EZ-Sleep. The courier takes them to the Chrome Dome, where they get to watch someone spontaneously combust maybe, and the courier meets another contact. The other contact's info takes the form of this note:
I have transcended the boundaries of reality in which you think you live and have learned many things. First, that a terrible threat is rising against humanity, one that, unknown to you, you are working against. Good luck! Second, that while you may face frightful dangers, you are ever safe and unharmed in the Minds of your Creators, so have courage.
To take the next step in defense of humanity:
Plaza of Flowers, 8pm
Outside the Chrome Dome the PCs get mugged in a fight that's only there to introduce players to the combat system. Then it's off to the Plaza of Flowers, where the courier walks around and provokes some Satanists, so the PCs get a chance to beat up Satanists. Once the Satanists are dealt with, the courier meets the contact. The contact has a deformed arm just like the courier's, and while the two of them make small talk their deformed limbs come to life and find one another and they hold hands and pass information rapidly back and forth as a pattern of hand squeezes.
Then a guy shows up with some goons -- he's under Throckmorton domination but there's no way the PCs are going to know that -- and there's a third action scene as the PCs try to get the courier away. End of mission.
The second mission, "the Bodhisattva," presumes the PCs are a delegation going to the Edge for a science conference, and can be oppenheimers or an oppenheimer and her cloaks, or a professor and grad students, or whatever. Dr. Chris Seversen is hosting the convocation, and has pulled together fringe scientists from a variety of disciplines. Angela Reyes, who will invent the Throckmorton Device, is present, along with a parapsychologist/unknowing quisling, a Mover who killed a phytochemist and stole her invitation, an archaeologist who's figured out that Al Amarja was the home of the first human civilization (ie the glugs), and Cast. Cast is a guy who found a ball-point pen from the real world; how a ballpoint pen from our reality ended up in the fictive Over the Edge universe is unclear. It is an extremely potent ballpoint pen (NB it could also be a Coke can or a comb or whatever you have handy); as it is real, it may appear or disappear at random, float, et cetera.
Anyway, the PCs show up at this convocation and they wander the grounds and make their presentation to Dr. Seversen, and then Dr. Oleson shows up. Dr. Oleson has managed to project herself into heaven, or something, and been filled with the knowledge of how to fly around and throw energy bolts and turn intangible, and also that Angela Reyes will destroy civilization by inventing the Throckmorton Device, and so she flies in and tries to kill Reyes. Also she's basically crazy and can't communicate normally. The PCs must stop her, on account of nobody knows why the crazy energy being is flying in and attempting to blast everyone (actually just Reyes, but she has very bad aim and can't distinguish among folks while on the astral plane). The PCs can deal with the bodhisattva a number of different ways; if all else fails they can try stabbing her with Cast's ballpoint pen. End of mission.
The third one-shot, "Party on Al Amarja," has the PCs, who can be anyone, out for a night on the town. They wander around and meet people. Maybe a Throckmorton attacks? Or maybe they bump into a Pharaoh and annoy him and he tells them to go fly a kite, rolling 10 dice to make them do it, woo. Whatever you want. Go nuts. End of mission.
I don't think overly highly of any of these. Frankly this whole chapter impressed me in 1998 but now I got to say it's a lot of railroady stuff and confusing lack of structure and resolution and the only one of the major plots I still think is neat is the Will to Power.
Then there's the three major plots, which the GM can use or ignore or interweave or make a mere distraction from their own way cooler plot, whatever. There's one good one and two bad ones.
The good one is the Throckmorton Device, or, the Will to Power , wherein we finally get the skinny on this. The story goes like so. In a decade, a man named Clyde Throckmorton will get Angela Reyes to invent a machine that emits radiation which causes human beings (well, mutant warrior-slaves like us) to limit our behavior to a restricted set of patterns. Three things, basically: obeying authority, hating the different, and worshipping Clyde Throckmorton as the rightful ruler of all humanity. So powerful is this machine that its influence flows backwards in time, and already susceptible minds are getting warped by its radiation.
Right now, Clyde Throckmorton is an exterminator in the Edge who hates the different and dreams of being the ruler of the world, but who doesn't. Angela Reyes doesn't know Clyde, she's a grad student at the university.
Over time, the Device's influence becomes stronger. People name their babies Clyde if it's a boy, Clydette if it's a girl. People being to cooperate with the Peace Force. The number of Throckmorton operatives increases, and they start getting serious with their firebombs and snipers and lynch mobs. Throckmorton somehow parleys his extermination business into a monopoly on the island, then expands that into other commercial sectors like housecleaning. Despite his lack of charisma he becomes a beloved public figure who spews right-wing rants to enormous ratings on the radio, first on the island, and then throughout the world. He funds Reyes's research. Throckmorton operatives co-opt every power structure, from the Movers to the Earthlings; the various conspiracies are thrown into the open by their civil war between the Throckmortons and the rest of them. Reyes completes the Device and turns it on. The Device loves Clyde. Everyone on Earth loves Clyde, too. History ends.
The PCs can join Throckmorton, except that I can't imagine a group of players of the sort who'd play Over the Edge wanting to accept Throckmorton as the messiah. They can't kill Reyes; she will live and she will make the Device and the Device will be turned on. Plus it's not her fault, she's a scientist. They can try to kill Clyde, which will lessen the problems, though by the time they figure out he's going to take over the world he'll already be rich and powerful and well-protected. They can give up and leave this particular Earth -- there's a whole big universe after all, maybe a parallel world or Mars or something? They can find a cure for the Device, or sabotage it to blow up after it's activated, or, and I think this is the best solution, they can manipulate or seduce or brainwash Clyde into wanting something other than a world where he is worshipped as a god. The Device only wants to give him what he wants, after all.
The other two campaign arcs are less novel. As the Pharaohs Rise , the Pharaohs rise. Specifically, they use pirated alien technology they've stolen from UFOs to fake an alien attack on Earth, like the end of Watchmen , only instead of ending the Cold War, this becomes an excuse to declare UN Martial Law, and create a militarized One World Government with black helicopters and barcodes mandatory to do business and so on, stamping out this "democracy" nonsense once and for all. The PCs can fight this all kinds of ways.
And finally there's Self-Referential Awareness , whereby the PCs gradually figure out they are fictional characters in a roleplaying game. Some oppenheimer, maybe Cast from the second oneshot, maybe not, has them help her figure out the nature of reality. This is best done as a running subplot in parallel with all the conspiracy stuff.
The fringe scientist also pulls items from the "alternate universe," actually notes or items related to play. For example, if one of your players passed you a note that says, "I follow Bartholomew [another PC] secretly to see what he's doing," this very note might fall into the PCs' possesion.
There are some neat ideas here, like someone suddenly asking the PCs a rapid-fire barrage of questions about their background, which they can't answer without a pause while the player invents stuff. A 1st level elven magic-user/rogue shows up, brandishing his +2 dagger and bragging about his 68% chance to pick locks and trying to spend thick yellow coins with "1 gp" stamped on either side. It suffers some from this is basically a series of scenes for the players to experience, rather than do anything with or about.
Eventually, the PCs get a copy of the Over the Edge rulebook, maybe from Jonathan Tweet himself, and are shown the boxed text on page 225, which says WARNING YOU ARE NOT A REAL PERSON ON THE ISLAND OF AL AMARJA I JUST MADE IT UP, and maybe the players themselves go into the fictional universe and the PCs and players can interact, the players acting out both sides of conversations, and so on. Whether this has to be the last scene of the campaign is left an open question. There's a warning not to play out the climax while on psychedelics.
The end of the book is handouts, none of which are anything worth writing home about.
The end! No moral!
I'll do the supplements eventually unless someone beats me to it.