Dark*Matter: Xenoforms by Feinne
IntroductionOriginal SA post Dark Matter: Xenoforms
I’m going to cover two things today, firstly the actual book’s introduction and structure, and second some quick information on the Strangers in the campaign setting that might come up in Xenoforms.
It starts by clarifying that yes this is essentially a monster manual and things that are also in-scope of cryptozoology but wouldn’t need combat stats maybe aren’t covered. The book is laid out by origin, going through the continents first and then things that aren’t really tied to any specific location for whatever reason. It explains how to read the stat blocks for a while which is nice if kind of pointless given you’re supposed to be familiar with the rules in theory to even be using the book.
It then includes the rules for overpowering from the gamemaster’s guide after noting that animals tend to want to knock their opponents to the ground and maul them rather than try to fight straight up. It’s got a fucking darling section next on coming up with names for xenoforms when you want to create your own, so you can more easily distinguish if it should be the Beast of the Land’s End at the Kansas City Mall or the Kansas City Mall Land’s End Monster. It then gives some final guidance on actually running encounters and making sure to, horror-movie like, neglect to describe things as much as you can get away with to preserve a sense of mystery.
So now to some background that we’ll want for later, as noted.
The Greys: Little grey psychic fuckers. They showed up in a generation ship ages ago and have been meddling ever since. They’re a maybe friendly Stranger faction in that their end goal seems to be to get humanity to a state where they’d be chill with the Greys ditching their ship and moving to Earth. Sasquatches work for them, that is totally a thing.
The Kinori: Lizard people, but specifically not David Icke ones. They’re short, reasonably quick, vaguely humanoid reptiles. They come from another dimension and they’ve got some pretty advanced genetic technology and magic. They’re pretty antagonistic to most but have been allied with human factions in the past.
The Etoile: Weird mechanical lifeforms. An Etoile looks kind of like a ball of wires. They’re nasty as fuck but equally don’t show up very often, and usually act through the Sandmen, cybernetic zombies they create using a nanite virus. Incredibly advanced and probably hostile.
The Ekimmu: An extradimensional microorganism that is what vampires actually are. Being a vampire is just all the changes the microorganisms make to your body so it’s a better host for them. There’s not a lot of them and they’re not nearly as good at propagating as mythological vampires so they’re pretty irrelevant.
The Elohim: Incredibly advanced Strangers that may or may not be angels. Angels with like plasma rifles and shit, as well as Faith FX. Not ones to mess around with.
Luciferans: Advanced Strangers that look like but are not actually demons. They actually also have Faith FX, though it’s a different flavor than the Elohim. Speaking of, the Elohim hate them and will definitely kill the fuck out of you if they find out you’re dealing with them. Which sucks because these guys are actually pretty friendly and willing to trade some cool shit for the right price.
Next time we start on the Xenoforms themselves, with some delightfully goofy shit right from the heart of Africa.
Shockingly We Avoid an Ethnic Slur In Africa EditionOriginal SA post Dark Matter: Xenoforms
Shockingly We Avoid an Ethnic Slur In Africa Edition:
The intro paragraph for Africa mentions that the relatively large areas of the continent that are either uninhabited or sparsely inhabited lend themselves to plenty of potential for weird shit the outside world would discount, and also that as far as proper Strangers Africa is solidly kinori territory (the Gateway that they originally used to travel to our dimension was in Egypt as I recall). We get two creatures this time around (some other things that would be appropriate are in other sections that aren’t continent specific of course). And neither of them is a questionable attempt to appropriate mythology the authors barely understood to begin with so hooray.
Congoraptors are pretty much literally the velociraptors from Jurassic Park. They were Cretaceous holdovers on the verge of extinction when the kinori discovered their existence and decided they might be useful. They captured a bunch of them and started breeding them while also juicing them up with magic. Congoraptors are essentially extinct in the wild as of the turn of the 21st century.
So one interesting thing to note, while they are listed with two claws and a bite, their encounter section specifically disallows them using those attacks unless they’ve succeeded an overpower attempt on a player. This is actually a common feature of animal-type creatures in this, as I look through. Their listed attacks only come into play if you’re getting mauled, which you definitely don’t want to have happen because holy fuck could they pile on damage fast that way. They’re incredibly glassy though, so if you can get them out in the open they’ll drop like flies.
Each xenoform has a few paragraphs of an adventure hook you could reasonably flesh out into something more. This one’s is Predator-style pursuit through the jungle as a kinori hunting pack pursues the PCs using congoraptors (which in turn suggests a prequel adventure that leads them to this position).
Verdict: Super niche but could be interesting properly used. They make a nice compensation for the fact that kinori are generally poorly armed.
Lol okay so this thing is a huge python that glides like Rocky the fucking Flying Squirrel. It’s intensely silly and the book doesn’t even try to explain how it works beyond ‘eh iunno maybe it’s some bullshit kinori magic don’t overthink this.’ Which is sound advice because this thing might as well be a drop bear or something.
It’s a constrictor and operates pretty much how you would expect a huge constrictor snake to work, except it also has a special plummet attack that comes from its ability to glide down from a tree right onto something. As would be expected of such a snake it won’t really fight unless cornered, and even then will try to run away if given the opportunity.
The adventure hook suggests the party, which happens to be in the region, hear rumors about a giant flying snake sighted by shepherds nearby. While searching for it, they also encounter a group of kinori doing the same. It’s left open-ended as to what’s really going on and what objectives the players might want to achieve at this point. Hell this could in fact prove a workable hook for the pre-adventure that leads to the above one, or even one that leads to that pre-adventure. If you haven’t noticed I’m kind of a fan of the adventure hooks for the most part because I feel like they do a good job of giving a skeleton of an adventure while giving you a lot of room to elaborate on the situation and make it your own.
Verdict: Charmingly goofy.
Next time we’ll see some North American monsters. I hope you like appropriated native culture!
Culturally Appropriating the First Nations of North AmericaOriginal SA post Dark Matter: Xenoforms
Culturally Appropriating the First Nations of North America:
The intro paragraph notes that in spite of the levels of development in North America, there’s still plenty of weird shit around. We’ll start with something not stolen from a native culture.
Frogmen are carnivorous amphibious humanoids that may be related to kinori and/or humans in some distant way. Frogmen aren’t extremely intelligent and don’t really ‘get’ human behavior or technology. They avoid combat and will only fight as long as it takes for them to flee in general.
Frogmen tend to avoid humans when possible, but have a mutually hostile relationship with kinori in general. Basically the kinori tend to see them as a pretty solid food source in a pinch, and the frogmen are aware of this and will sometimes pre-emptively attack (but since they’re bad at cause and effect they don’t see any connection between these attacks and the following retaliatory raids). They sometimes capture kinori technology and it’s noted that frogmen actually figuring it out would potentially be pretty bad, as they’re surprisingly numerous.
The adventure hook concerns a drunk driver whose car ended up in a lake, at which point he was attacked by “frog people” as he escaped the car. He then claims that they’ve been trying to get him at his house since that night, but if the players try to stake out his house they discover that it’s actually a group of kinori also interested in the frogmen. The rest of the details are left up to the GM.
Verdict: I kinda like these guys, they’re pretty flavorful and could be a nice one-off or part of a larger campaign.
Nataska (the black ogre kachina) are a type of Hopi spirit literally used to frighten children into behaving. While they were formerly assistants to another form of spirit, the increased levels of dark matter have caused them to gain enough power to go independent. In former times they would appear before parents and attempt to purchase their children from them in order to consume them. Now they generally will wait for children to be unattended then ask if anyone is willing to bargain for the child (knowing that nobody is around), though fortunately they are still bound to negotiate should they be found before their meal. They don’t speak English though so I hope you’ve got someone who knows some languages.
Nataska always travel in pairs and carry huge nasty saw things. They’re pretty tough and will fight until both are below half health generally, though should one be killed the other will fight to the death out of anger at the lost of its partner. I would not counsel fighting them at all frankly, because they’re fucking wizards with those saws. Negotiating is difficult but is a much better option unless and until things break down.
The adventure hook begins with the heroes investigating the disappearance of several young people from a jail in Arizona (under the suspicion that they’re being sold into slavery). Some of the inmates claim that evil spirits controlled by the warden are responsible. The warden does seem suspicious (he’s Hopi and periodically locks down the facility while the Nataska hunt), but the hook also offers the alternative that he might in fact be there to try and stop or contain the Nataska rather than controlling them.
Verdict: These guys are actually kind of cool, and just in general speak to the decent question of “what happened to all the spirits and monsters of cultures that are now largely destroyed?” With a lot of research to make sure you were treating them appropriately, I feel like a really cool campaign could come out of dealing with the consequences of a group of spirits that are no longer filling the roles they’re supposed to.
The Wendigo, if you didn’t know, is the spirit of cannibalism. It possesses people it thinks are cool (a wendigo thinking you are cool does not necessarily say good things about you frankly) and turns them into monsters who consume human flesh. A Wendigo isn’t much more than an animal, though one aware enough about humans to be very dangerous.
Wendigo are actively hostile, but prefer to use stealth and terror as their weapons. They like to follow groups and howl all night to prevent them sleeping, with some penalties laid out and the chance on a critical failure to flee into the night (at which point obviously the Wendigo tries to eat you). While it has claws and a bite listed, as with the Congoraptor it’s not really allowed to use those until it’s successfully executed a takedown on a target and got them prone.
The adventure hook has the PCs stalked through the frozen woods by a wendigo. It’s sort of boring and obvious honestly, they probably could have done better. Just like with this monster.
Verdict: Not a fan honestly. To me the Wendigo is expected and this one is and does what you’d expect a Wendigo to do without any of the interesting twists some of better adaptations in this book have.
Next time we’ll be moving into Central and South America, with a much better adaptation of a famous monster.
You Knew This Guy Would Be In This Book, In South AmericaOriginal SA post Dark Matter: Xenoforms
You Knew This Guy Would Be In This Book, In South America:
The lead-in notes that there’s a bunch of South and Central American mythology that could turn out to be based on something real but we’re mercifully mostly not going to have that inflicted on us here. Our first of three today is exactly what you expect when you hear ‘cryptids’ and this region.
Yep it’s the Chupacabra. And not some boring mangy dog like they’re trying to sell is the real one, it’s what the crazies reported seeing! So, they actually have a pretty cool explanation for these things. So, I brought up the ekimmu among the Strangers, sort of vampires that are the result of a parasitic extradimensional microorganism. A Chupacabra is what results when for whatever reason an ekimmu is forced to use an animal as its host. While it’s done it’s best, the result is a thing that shouldn’t exist and even worse is no longer able to return to the form it would prefer.
A Chupacabra isn’t really dangerous to humans in general. It has some psionic abilities it uses to assist its efforts to get animals alone and vulnerable, then drinks their blood. It’ll flee if confronted with any sort of threat, and really only fights if forced into a corner. It’s pretty fragile and not great at fighting.
The adventure hook is a pretty standard ‘rancher with a Chupacabra’ urban legend to start, with the twist that when they arrive the rancher’s dead and the Chupacabra’s seemingly escaped. Over the next few nights there is a rash of pet and livestock deaths, far too scattered for one single creature. The hook leaves open-ended whether more Chupacabras have joined the first, it has learned to reproduce, or if in fact there’s some other explanation for the animal deaths.
Verdict: I’m a fan of them tying the Chupacabra into the other Strangers without the obvious ‘it’s a thing made by the Greys’ that its appearance would suggest. Having it be a failed attempt to turn an animal into a vampire works pretty well for me.
The Mapinguari is a huge creature feared by the natives of the Amazon. They believe it to be a shaman cursed by the gods. Zoologists believe its actual identity to be a giant ground sloth, believed extinct. Whichever it is, the creature is fuckin’ nasty.
So, the noises it makes are so loud and unsettling that simply approaching within 200 meters of it requires you to make a Resolve check or flee. If you get within 20 meters, it smells so fucking bad that you have to make further checks not to be literally damaged by nausea. Further approaching will provoke it, and that’s a really goddamn bad idea. It will try and knock opponents down before attacking for preference but isn’t totally barred from just trying to claw the shit out of them, and it’s a surgeon with these fucking things (fortunately they’re not massively damaging and it’s just one single attack). The really nasty thing is that it has a ton of health and is Good Toughness, meaning most weapons suffer a downgrade in damage type. It’ll try to flee if pressed, and only fights to the death if forced.
The adventure hook suggests a group of scientists going missing searching for the Mapinguari, which in turn leads to the heroes heading to the Amazon to follow-up. Government-sponsored bounty hunters are also gathering to hunt the creature. Local legends suggest that killing it will offend the gods, who’ll curse the slayers with even worse forms. While the players investigate the truth of this, the hunters attack anyway and cause it to start rampaging. The truth of what’s going on is as always up to the GM.
Verdict: I also like this one, but mostly because I’m a big fan of giant ground sloths.
The Thunderbird’s a huge-ass vulture. I’m not sure why it’s not part of the North America section honestly given that’s the region I more heavily associate with them but whatever. They’re not magical or anything, they’re just a really big bird (listed with a 5 meter wingspan).
Thunderbirds are not generally inclined to attack prey as large as a full grown human, but often attack children. They try and carry targets off to consume elsewhere, and will drop whatever they’re carrying if they take any real injury. It’s a huge bird, what else do you want.
The adventure hook begins with the heroes actually sighting a Thunderbird, carrying something and pursued by a bunch of ranchers with guns. They see it drop whatever it was carrying and some investigation proves it to have been a small child. They’re the son of a local landowner who believes he’s been cursed by a local tribe of native americans. Whether this is the case or not is again up to the GM.
Verdict: Kinda boring at some level, though it’s fine for something mythological to turn out to be sort of prosaic.
Next is some things connected to Asia, which covers, um, a lot of ground.
A Confusing Mishmash of Cultures in AsiaOriginal SA post Dark Matter: Xenoforms
A Confusing Mishmash of Cultures in Asia:
With “Asia” as our prompt, I hope it won’t be a surprise that three entries leaves, um, a lot on the table. That said, they’re actually some kinda cool and good things so let’s do this thing.
The Ikuya is an enormous fuckoff polar bear three times the size of a grizzly. It is apparently something from Inuit mythology that is also known in Russia, which is why this is in the Asia section. It’s potentially a singular supernatural creature of some kind, or even a god of some kind. It also either only appears during harsh storms or literally creates them, nobody’s sure because it’s a nightmare from the depths of hell and surviving an encounter with it enough to study it is laughable.
So this thing is crazy durable (and Good Toughness like the Mapinguari from last time) and gets some scary bonuses with respect to knocking you to the ground and annihilating you. It’s also very intelligent for an animal, and capable of recognizing the threat humans can pose when armed. It’s best not to be in a situation where you’re fighting this thing unless you’ve got like a tank or something.
The adventure hook starts with whatever organization the PCs work for asking them to fly into a remote Alaskan research station to pick up some Russians they rescued from the wilderness. When they arrive, the station is already destroyed and a storm descends on the area. The only survivor is one of the Russians, who it turned out had attempted to capture the Ikuya and were pursued by the thing in a grim death march. How things go further is up to the GM.
Verdict: This thing works really well as a threat the PCs aren’t actually intended to be fighting straight up, and as long as it’s used that way it’s probably pretty reasonable.
Naga are huge intelligent cobras capable of making their hoods look vaguely like a human face. They’re not super friendly to humans for the most part, considering us savages and just general assholes. Their venom when properly prepared is capable of granting a human the ESP broad skill and one psionic specialty skill for a few hours, but they’re not really inclined to give it out because again they aren’t the biggest fans of humans they haven’t known for decades. They’re incredibly old, and are a good potential source of information if you can track one down and convince it to tell you something.
In combat they use a variety of psionic and FX-Shamanism skills in combination with intimate knowledge of their lairs to their advantage. Their venom is also pretty dangerous if it’s not properly prepared, though they prefer not to bite with venom. They’re very fragile, though, since they are just very large snakes in the end.
The adventure hook has the PCs seeking an audience from a supposedly 10,000 year old monk named Ananta (this should be a big the fuck clue if they are at all familiar with mythology). When they arrive, they learn Ananta’s been kidnapped by some evil fuckers in a flying machine. It turns out a Pakistani industrialist is seeking nine temples that are reputed to contain naga, attempting to steal the secret of their venom. Again what the heroes what to do about this and how it might turn out is left as an exercise to the reader and party.
Verdict: I kinda like the Naga, after a bunch of maybe supernatural things that manifest as just giant badass animals that might in fact be totally prosaic it’s good to have one that is legit a magic giant intelligent snake. And who doesn’t want to run a douche-y giant snake and talk down to the PCs for being uncivilized?
Reiko are a form of kitsune apparently. Their things are illusions and fucking with men who they consider greedy (their definitions of greed are not necessarily congruent with ours though, and just in general they like fucking with people). They also eat people sometimes, because apparently we taste good to them. While they love ruining jerks they dislike, it’s not some kind of supernatural purpose and they can defer doing it when it would be dangerous.
Reiko have a bunch of illusion magic (it’s detailed in full in the FX supplement but they kindly provide descriptions of they spells they actually put on her profile and how Illusions in general work in this system). They prefer to use illusions to avoid combat, but if really pressed they have the ability to shoot fire and bite. It’s generally better to try and just talk to her though, they’re intelligent and amenable to reasonable arguments that their victim has suffered enough or even that they’re just kinda being dicks.
We don’t get an adventure hook this time (since they already needed to take up nearly two pages with the Illusion FX rules). But come on, it’s a mystical fox lady who uses illusions to mess with people she dislikes. It’s not hard to come up with ways to use such a character.
Verdict: Properly used I think you could get a lot out of this entry as a minor recurring character who could with positive interactions be a useful source of information for the PCs while also demonstrating how much supernatural shit is really happening just beneath the surface of what normal people notice.
Next time is Australia, with some fun stuff.
G’day Mate, Let’s Put A Bunyip on the Barbie in AustraliaOriginal SA post Dark Matter: Xenoforms
G’day Mate, Let’s Put A Bunyip on the Barbie in Australia:
We get a couple of things connected with Australia here, they give us some really extroverted things to compete with the actual real life horrors that dwell in Aussie.
They note that while the bunyip has tons of features ascribed to it, its actual form is similar to a diprotodont (a sort of prehistoric kangaroo). One comparable in size to a rhinoceros. It’s an herbivore but doesn’t really enjoy tiny creatures like humans getting in its grill, so it’ll pretty much attack anything that gets near it.
Should it charge, you should probably just flee (as it will do the same, not really caring about murdering you should you display that you don’t want any). It doesn’t do massive damage but it’s quite good at landing hits and has a pretty decent pool of health.
The adventure hook starts with a team training for some kind of Iron Man competition being horribly mutilated out in the outback. Bounty hunters head out to track down the “athlete killer”, rumored to be the legendary bunyip. The heroes are asked to investigate themselves, and head out with one of the hunters on the condition that they not interfere with his payday. As you’d expect with this setup the hunter disappears once they’re in the middle of the wilderness. What happened to him and what happens next is left as an exercise.
Verdict: A giant monster kangaroo is kind of a fun ‘well what would be a large undiscovered Australian mammal’, even if it is really goofy.
The Outback Dragon is pretty much a six meter long komodo dragon. I ‘think’ this is based on a real extinct giant lizard, which is suggested to simply not be extinct. They’ve moved from a diet of bunyips, which are pretty scarce now, to a much more common large land mammal: humans. There’s actually an explanation for how they’re still alive given. The kinori had been breeding them, but were forced to abandon their bases in Australia. When they did they just let the things out hoping they’d still be alive when they returned, and sure enough they have survived to the modern day.
If you know much about their smaller relative, you might be able to guess some of how these things work in combat. First of all, they have an unholy reek that makes it really easy to tell when they’re coming. Said unholy reek comes from the horrible septic soup that is their saliva. Taking a bite from them can infect you with a pretty nasty disease on top of the fact that it does fucking loads of damage. Its general tactic is to fixate on a target, attack until they stop moving, then escape with the body. They’re notable as too stubborn and stupid to give up on prey once they have committed to the attack, so no running away at half health here. They’re pretty durable, but do have a very shit action check so at least you’ll probably be getting several actions before they even move.
The adventure hook is another one that effectively suggests a prior adventure. The PCs fight the kinori in Australia, and then as a follow-up there are suddenly reports of giant lizards in the area and people being killed. They then need to determine what the hell is going on, which is as always an exercise for the GM.
Verdict: These things are kinda brutal honestly, and I wouldn’t use them in a context where I wasn’t going to supply the PCs with the proper tools to deal with a giant fucking monitor lizard trying to eat them. Like one is a good ‘boss fight’ but the PCs need more advantage than ‘well we’ve got guns’ or you’re really likely to see a character just get killed out for no real fault of their own.
Next Time: Eurocentrism Strikes Again
Eurocentrism Mean You Get More Monsters HereOriginal SA post Dark Matter: Xenoforms
Eurocentrism Mean You Get More Monsters Here:
Europe and the Near East has a ton of Xenoforms to get through, though I will admit some of them are pretty cool takes. Let’s just get right to it.
The Basilisk is a monitor lizard about the size of a komodo dragon. As with its seeming relative, it turns out to be poisonous (though that wasn’t known at the time of this). They’re rare but still exist in the wild in the same sorts of places where snakes can still be found. They’re often bred by secret societies in Europe because they can get used to human presence and act as decent guard animals. There is one rather significant difference between them and the komodo dragon, however.
See, beyond having a venomous bite, they’re able to spray paralytic venom from ducts below their eyes. This is the source of the legends of their petrifying gaze. It’s apparently accurate to about 10 feet, though they don’t use it unless frightened enough that they’re more inclined to just run afterwards than try and capitalize on paralyzing a target. They’re large and dangerous but in general as you’d expect from a wild animal they mostly prefer to be left alone.
The adventure hook features the PCs investigating some strange events at a logging operation in Brazil. They get to deal both with being deeply unwelcome and with the hook itself, a basilisk. It turns out to be the pet of FUCKING SECRET NAZI DESCENDENTS living in the middle of the Amazon doing creepy occult shit. An excuse to fuck up Nazis is always a win so this has some potential.
Verdict: Not going to lie I like the komodo dragon/horned lizard/spitting cobra mashup we’ve got going on here, it’s not a real animal but it totally combines things that sound like things real reptiles do to give it that air of plausibility.
Gargoyles are straight up living statues created by a medieval alchemist in order to defend the Church from evil. Opinion on that sort of occultism was mixed, and eventually the Inquisition burned all the formulas and killed the creators, preventing the creation of more true gargoyles. Still, the vigils of those who have yet to be destroyed continue to this day. Gargoyles faithfully watch over the building they are in, responding with violence against those who would desecrate them or otherwise do evil in their view.
Gargoyles are as tough as you’d expect for animated stone, and are reasonably competent in a fight. They can fly in spite of that being obviously ridiculous because hey magic. The PCs should probably not end up in a situation where they’re fighting them unless there’s a terrible misunderstanding, given they’re pretty much okay guys.
The adventure hook starts with someone recreating the formula to animate gargoyles. The twist is that it’s a powerful diabolist, who wants to use it for evil. They’re tasked with stealing the formula from him, with some general details given of his villa. There’s then a bunch of suggestions for complications, such as other parties seeking the formula and potentially a group of gargoyles having heard of the situation and hoping to prevent their creator’s secret being used for evil.
Verdict: They’re a good rendition of gargoyles but kind of boring.
Gorgons are, as it happens, entirely human. A rare mutation causes women to grow a mass of creepy fleshy tendrils on their head, suffer from facial deformities, and become venomous (both in claws they grow, and as a constant haze of paralytic that is the source of their mythological petrification). Other than that, they’re humans like you and me. In fact, they even give some rules for gorgon PCs.
Going to go right to the adventure hook since they just fight like any human who is also constantly exuding poisonous gas would, the PCs are tasked with capturing a lady whose gorgon mutation recently started expressing. She disappeared from the hospital, and seems to be behind a series of deaths since. It’s possible she’s working for a local crime family as an assassin, or it’s equally possible that the mob coincidentally has another gorgon working for them. In this option, there’s a further suggestion that the PCs could capture and turn over the assassin and let the poor woman go.
Verdict: I like it, though it’s pretty much the same idea as the Basilisk and that does hurt it quite a bit.
Harpies are a race of winged reptilians who warred with the kinori in times past. They were believed to have been wiped out, but continued on in hiding by interbreeding with humans. They exist on by stealing shit and carrying off people to breed with (and sometimes eat as well). They’re gross and smell bad and to human eyes look vaguely female regardless of their gender.
They’ve mostly discarded simply carrying off people into the night in the modern era (though they still do so if they find someone who’s isolated enough while trolling for prey). They instead rely on their high Interaction skills and some Arcane Magic FX to provoke fights (leaving corpses to scavenge) and isolate people for capture. They’ve got magic that alters the emotions and erases the memories of targets that they use both for this and to keep captured humans disoriented and unable to escape.
The adventure hook has the PCs investigating the disappearances of migrant workers in Arizona. When one returns, they are in a daze and believe hags on broomsticks carried them off. The workers, meanwhile, believe their employer has been sacrificing their comrades as part of some dark ritual. The increasingly violent discord might actually be the work of the harpies who are carrying off the workers, who may or may not be in league with the farm owner.
Verdict: I kinda like the harpies, they’re something that could work well as a recurring problem that then turns out to be connected with a larger threat.
It’s rules for werewolves. Lycanthropy in this is a magical disease and a really nasty one that you’re extremely unlikely to recover from. You catch it from getting bitten by one, though it’s rare to actually survive an attack so this isn’t as common as you’d think. The disease has varying severity that can make it manageable, in spite of its relative incurability. Still, the Arms and Equipment Guide’s kit for dealing with werewolves suggests saving one of the bullets for yourself in case you are bitten.
Werewolves are really goddamn powerful in their wolf form and are entirely uncontrollable. They’re strong, fast, and tough. Silver isn’t an instant kill, but it does completely negate their defenses so a silver shotgun slug to the chest should see one off in short order. While specific rules for them aren’t present, it’s noted that in various places and times there have been reports of other werebeasts that suggest the disease can mutate and cause other transformations.
The adventure hook has the PCs investigating cattle deaths in Montana that come on the full moon. The trail leads to a survivalist compound, and the authorities are of course unwilling to fuck with a bunch of armed crazies because some people think there’s a werewolf. When a local rancher is killed, one of the survivalists eventually confesses to the killings and surrenders. At the next full moon there are no more killings, but since the killer’s arrest the compound has been silent. What all is actually going on is up to the GM.
Verdict: I mean you needed rules for werewolves in a game like this, it is what it is.
Shapechangers are people who use magic to turn into animals. They’re distinct from lycanthropes both in generally being able to control their transformation and in that they actually turn into animals rather than hybrid things (though they’re larger and more powerful than a regular wolf, for example). Since they transform through magic, there’s no curse to spread and their bites aren’t anything special.
Shapechangers fight as you would expect an intelligent wolf to do. While they are generally solitary, they will sometimes band together and form packs of their own. They’re definitely more dangerous in this context, as they’re not particularly tougher than a normal wolf (though they also don’t suffer any weakness to silver). Becoming a shapechanger seems to mostly be a thing for terrible people, by the by.
The adventure hook has a rash of wolf sightings in Philadelphia, where I can assure you wolves should not be. The PCs hear a report and end up finding a naked woman running from police. It turns out she’s been having blackouts that correspond with the sightings and was recently given a fur coat under mysterious circumstances, with the suggestion being that someone is manufacturing fur coats that turn you into animals. I think this could be a pretty cool one actually, fur being literally murder and all.
Verdict: The more interesting type of werewolf, but not much to see here.
Next Time: Yarr, Giant Squids and Other Sea Beasties
Do Not Fight Any of These Sea MonstersOriginal SA post Dark Matter: Xenoforms
Do Not Fight Any of These Sea Monsters:
Now we’ve got three sea creatures and they’re pretty much the three most powerful things in this book in a fight. The book may even be underestimating how devastating they should be.
The Kraken in this is, as the image suggests, a giant squid. Not a REAL giant squid either, one that is substantially larger than the giant or colossal squids of reality. It’s more than 150 feet long from tip of the whips to the end of the mantle. It’s got the ability to change color as with most squids, and this makes it able to camouflage itself surprisingly well for the fact that it’s absolutely enormous.
It works like you’d expect it to really, its encounter blurb suggests that it’ll try and grab targets with the whips, pull them into the tentacles to improve the hold, then chew you to death with its beak attack. It will chew you to death by the way, its beak is good firepower meaning it can’t fail to do mortal damage to something ordinary toughness. They’re not massively durable I guess, but that requires you to be attacking in ways that matter to something underwater.
The adventure hook starts with some Norwegian whalers capturing a “sea monster” and radioing in that they were going to bring it back to port. When they don’t turn up, search parties only find wreckage covered in sucker marks. Shortly after a Greenpeace monitoring vessel reports it’s under attack by a giant squid and is once again found in wreckage form. Both groups decide the correct choice is to blame the other for everything (terrifying realism really). The heroes are sent to investigate and when it becomes obvious there’s a giant squid the whalers go out to try and get revenge. Absolutely enormous squids being a bit harder targets than whales, they just piss it off and it’s up to the heroes to try and come up with a solution (get the fuck out would be my personal one).
Verdict: I like giant octopus kraken better than squid. This thing is straight instant death if it ends up in an actual fight with PCs so don’t let that happen.
This is just a straight up entry for Megalodon carcharias. It’s the biggest shark that ever existed and didn’t really go extinct that long ago in geologic terms so the idea that they might still live somewhere in the ocean comes up in fiction quite a bit. If you’ve somehow never seen a Megalodon tooth, do go look up a picture if you want some idea how large one of these things was.
Megalodons are mostly uninterested in things they don’t immediately recognize as food, and as relatives of the great white they’re extremely sensitive to electrical signals which often leaves them being confused and bothered by watercraft. If something happens to provoke them or convince them your boat may in fact harbor food, though, you are now sailing the fucked fjord because these things are 100% death. Their bite does absolutely ABSURD damage and has good firepower, so if you are in the water it basically kills you on anything but a critical failure full stop get the hell out. And again it’s underwater and engaging it with normal weaponry is thus not really an option. Don’t be in a situation where you’re fighting the incarnation of the hungry sea is my advice.
The adventure hook is pretty much Jaws but Hawaii. I mean it’s kind of the obvious way to use one of these. The hook lives or dies on how amped up your party would be to try to solve Jaws from first principles.
Verdict: Another thing to be super careful about using, because this WILL kill players in an instant.
Our smallest entry is the sea serpent, who is literally a zeuglodon except not because this is a reptile. They’re aquatic reptiles that generally avoid humans, and are way less dangerous than the other two sea monsters. Interestingly this leaves only the Kraken as things that never existed in this section (as the Kraken is way larger than any real squid has ever been).
This thing isn’t an unusually large threat in combat compared to the other two, in that it won’t one-shot you instantly. You still shouldn’t try and fight a reptile the size of a goddamn whale without tools specifically for that sort of task.
The adventure hook is actually kind of nice, the heroes are sneaking out of some area they’d prefer not to be caught in on a fishing trawler. Partway through the journey a sea serpent is sighted and then shortly after the engine breaks down. The captain decides to go look for the serpent and manages to wound it, provoking an attack. What the PCs try to do about this situation is pretty much the adventure.
Verdict: Probably the most interesting of the three in spite of there not being much to talk about. Aquatic reptiles are pretty cool. Or you could change this to actually be a primitive whale, who cares.
Next Time: Demons and Shit
Turns Out There Are Lots of Extradimensionals (Part 1)Original SA post Dark Matter: Xenoforms
Turns Out There Are Lots of Extradimensionals (Part 1):
The extradimensionals section, which is a catchall for all sorts of shit that comes from outside our normal reality, is really damn long. There’s eleven things in the section, and that’s way too much for an update, so I’ll try and get six done now and five next time.
You may be conceptually familiar with the idea of the Black Dog, a creature that appears as a dark omen (it’s come up in literature ranging from The Hound of the Baskervilles to a Harry Potter book). Well it turns out they’re real, they’re from another dimension, and they can in fact sense when bad shit is going down and appear in the vicinity of such things for whatever reasons a big black dog from another dimension does anything. They apparently will sometimes adopt families or places and act as guardians for a time.
They’re big and quite powerful dogs in combat, with some poorly specified rules for causing fear. Being from another dimension, they’re very probably hard to kill in any final way and that’s certainly how I’d use it if I were going to include one in an adventure.
The adventure hook is a bit long and complex this time. A black dog is appearing at the site of a housing development under construction, where a series of accidents have been slowing progress. There is local folklore of a ghost seen in the company of a dog, who when alive had disappeared in the woods gathering berries. The ghost is very real and the black dog is her guardian, and the players may or may not try and find her remains to encourage her to move on. In the meantime, a paranormal investigation team attracted by the publicity spends the night on the site and one of them disappears in the woods. It turns out the researcher and the kid were killed by the same thing, an ekimmu (recall they’re basically vampires), and killing it is what will actually lay the ghost to rest and cause the dog to disappear along with it.
Verdict: A cool and flavorful thing rather than an enemy to mash, always good.
The Blood Devil is Spring-Heeled Jack, pretty much (possibly literally). It looks like a stereotypical devil and likes knives, long jumps across rooftops, and stabbing people with knives. It’s clearly some kind of demon but not clear if it’s part of some race or a unique entity. It likes stalking and murdering folks, because it’s a fucking demon and doesn’t really need a reason to do awful shit.
The Blood Devil is pretty fragile but does have some decent combat options. It of course has knives, but in a pinch can melee with its claws. It has some Diabolism FX (a defensive spell, a spell that can temporarily control people, and the ability to conjure hellfire) and a special FX skill that’s technically a superpower from the FX sourcebook, Mighty Leap. This lets it execute the crazy jumps Spring-Heeled Jack was rumored to be able to execute.
The adventure hook has the PCs assisting an investigation where this thing was caught on a dash-cam attacking a police officer. Where the last one maybe overspecified things, that’s pretty much all we get here as far as deets. The rest is up to the GM and how players want to proceed with investigating.
Drabbuk (Least Demon):
Drabbuk are basically the demon equivalent of the disposable mooks from any given sentai or anime show. They’re made out of a bunch of flesh (either that of the demon who created them or a donor) and some FX energy, and are used to do all the shit-work the demon doesn’t want to do.
They’re weak, stupid, and generally not very effective except in numbers but they do have one significant advantage. Since they’re not truly alive, they are almost impossible to kill for good and only completely pulverizing their head will keep them from just coming back for more later on. A called shot to the head will also do it, and any wound or mortal damage inflicted in such a shot will instantly kill them and also cause them to explode for light stun damage in a small radius.
The adventure hook features a young boy with a natural talent for miracles being targeted by a cult. His mother asks the PCs to protect him then dies from acute scorpion-magically-teleported-into-your-throat-itis. The cult gets a bit shook should the PCs step up and summons a demon to help, who in turn creates some drabbuk to assist the effort. The PCs then have to deal with these assholes attacking all through the night while the demon tries to sell them on abandoning the cause in return for whatever it thinks they’ll buy. This could be a good fit in a larger campaign where the demon could really offer them something that would matter in terms of what has been happening in recent adventures.
Verdict: If you don’t want to send the fucking Putty Patrol at your party why the hell are you even a GM?
Are you familiar with the Philadelphia Experiment? Allegedly a test of the alleged Project Rainbow, supposedly a US destroyer was successfully made to vanish entirely through some sort of super-science (naturally tied to Nikola Tesla because why not bring him into it too). Well it turns out it totally worked, the equipment teleported the ship nearly 200 miles away for a few minutes and then returned it to its original position. There was a slight kink as far as the effects on the crew, though. Most of them just went crazy, known as the lucky ones. Others were burned from the inside out. Some simply vanished entirely, and others were fused into the goddamn superstructure of the ship. Those who fell into none of those categories became Faders.
Faders may look human and may act in a manner consistent with their previous identities, but they have in fact been taken over by some kind of creature from wherever the ship went. This causes them to require electromagnetic energy to live and gives them a bunch of weird dimensional powers. What all they might be up to isn’t really known, if it’s even possible to really understand what entirely alien things from a world that is nothing like ours might want beyond maybe getting back to where they were.
Faders in combat are kind of like a normal human except for their signature Dimensional Science FX powers. They can teleport vast distances with relative ease, fade in and out of tangibility, and most horrifyingly they can cause persons and objects to become partially permeable to normal matter in order to fuse things into other things. Like say fusing you into things that are not you, making you not be alive anymore. It really fucking hurts to get hit by this attack and then hurts just as much to be removed from the object.
The adventure hook has a high-energy physics lab attacked and several guards dead after a ghostly figure is seen on cameras walking through walls and shit. The equipment is sabotaged and the PCs are called in for help by the director, who by the time they arrive has been replaced by someone else who tells them to get lost. What all is going on is up to you at this point.
Verdict: There’s a lot on these guys and they’re probably the right kind of enigmatic, especially since they tie into a pretty famous urban legend.
Isci ba Fan (Greater Demon):
Demonic encounters are not a uniquely human thing, and Isci ba Fan, the Demon of Silence is a demon of the Greys. They sacrificed one of their city-ships to try and kill it, but that turns out to have been in vain as it managed to escape and lingers on as an incorporeal presence. Isci ba Fan is just a bunch of bodiless darkness normally, relying on possession to interact with the physical world. Those it possesses appear shrouded in shadow at all times, and it will generally try to cover this up by staying out of the light. It’s been stuck without a body since a mishap long before it first encountered the Greys, and its goal is to try and get back to its former existence. How this might be accomplished is unspecified, and even it likely doesn’t know.
This thing is as nasty as you’d expect a Greater Demon to be really. It’s super hard to kill given it’s nearly impossible to injure (the whole not having a body thing works in its favor) and it’s got all kinds of high-level psionic powers. It doesn’t really have a lot of ability to do damage per se, but that’s not really the kind of threat it is.
There’s no adventure hook for this guy, he’s a singular villain and if you want to use him for something it’s up to you to figure out how.
Verdict: It’s a demon from a non-human culture and I’m all about that.
Kwakarian (Lesser Demon):
Kwakarians are demons that delight in pointless and brutal violence. They like watching other people carrying out such acts at least as much as they like doing it themselves, and will often hang around people and goad them into violence. They’re very difficult to see when in shadow because they’re demons don’t ask for too many details, so they will often hang out in dark areas where they’ll generally be considered a trick of the light.
Kwakarians aren’t really that powerful in a fight with a real opponent and aren’t going to stick around for such a thing. They are much more about bullying and torturing, not so much about getting filled full of bullets.
The adventure hook again starts in some other theoretical adventure probably, where an opponent has a shadowy figure hovering behind them making suggestions. Then, later on, the PC who noticed this starts getting increasingly vicious and brutal suggestions as to how they should act in combat. It turns out one of these guys has decided it likes the cut of their jib after they killed the person they were previously messing with and now they’ve got to figure out a solution.
Verdict: These guys are alright I guess, at least they’re not stealing demons from D&D or something.
Next Time: Extradimensionals Two: Extralectric Boogaloo.
Turns Out There Are Lots of Extradimensionals (Part 2)Original SA post Dark Matter: Xenoforms
Turns Out There Are Lots of Extradimensionals (Part 2):
Now for the exciting conclusion of the Extradimensionals.
Meddler (Lesser Demon):
I alluded in a post after the last update to a demon that feeds on guilt, and this is they. This little imp fucker targets people, kills and replaces someone in their life, then engineers a bunch of situations where the person will feel super shitty. It’s almost entirely convincing as a duplicate of that person, the only flaw in its impersonations is its inability to taste anything (presumably it doesn’t work like a human and thus can still smell things, since that’s not mentioned).
Meddlers aren’t really anything to speak of in combat, and will only even revert to their true forms when on the brink of death and trying to escape in hopes of successfully throwing off attackers who are on to them. They can damage your Will stat if you go along with their bullshit guilt trip requests, and it’s hard to notice such a thing has happened.
The adventure hook has the PCs accidentally harming an old lady during a previous adventure, only it turns out it was one of these fucks (and thus they probably let themselves get hurt on purpose). They eventually figure out there is such a thing as a demon that feeds on guilt and that’s what they’re dealing with, but that doesn’t make it any easier to figure out a solution given they demon is also taking advantage of the hospital staff and the daughter of the person it’s replaced.
Verdict: This is a pretty cool demon, big fan of things that aren’t something where a fight is really a ‘thing’.
The entry in the book asks if you’ve seen Forbidden Planet and I’m going to do the same, because the Montauk Monster is basically the monster from that. The government managed to summon one trying to recreate the Philadelphia Experiment and they’re really fucking nasty.
So this thing has all the special FX powers of a Fader, is pretty durable, and its body is made of fucking plasma so getting struck by it is savagely damaging. Fighting it would be incredibly dangerous, and it’s noted as only being able to exist in our reality for a few hours so I’d generally suggest that in an adventure you’re supposed to wait it out as it pops up, Nemesis-style, to terrify the party every so often.
No adventure hook for this thing, for whatever reason. I’m pretty sure they’re saving space because there are some long entries coming up.
Verdict: A really nasty niche monster that could prove a nice threat but probably isn’t really appropriate as a thing PCs are supposed to fight and expect to win.
From Forbidden Planet to The Crow. A revenant is just what you’d expect, a person who has returned from death as a walking corpse to fulfill some purpose they could not in life.
Revenants have all kinds of sweet supernatural powers, like again recreating pretty much any given scene in The Crow. They’re nearly impossible to put down for good until whatever purpose they’re seeking to achieve has been fulfilled. They can be destroyed by damage but if they can manage to limp away with any health left at all they’ll be back to full power incredibly fast. They also can have access to some neat magic (Enochian, which is full of defensive and healing magic).
They actually do have rules for playing as a Revenant, and you do in fact get all the powers and restrictions thereof. You get an additional restriction (which would also apply to NPCs in theory it just never comes up) that you no longer gain experience points, what with being dead and all. Once again no adventure hook.
Verdict: Revenants are always a cool thing and making a playable supernatural then letting the PCs have all the same rules as an NPC would is the way it should be.
A Shade is a special type of ghost. Specifically, it’s a ghost so convinced that it isn’t in fact dead that it’s able to in a limited way be seen, heard, and interact with the world. Shades work very hard to rationalize away any proof that they are not in fact alive and cannot be perceived by those who know for a fact they are dead, suggesting that its ability to interact with the world is tied to your ability to rationalize its existence. Shades really dislike it when people try to convince them that they are not in fact alive, and tend to go berserk.
Shades are very difficult to harm without silver weapons, but can be destroyed by conventional killing given enough effort. They are able to slowly chill you to death if they grab you, but aren’t particularly good in combat unless they were in life. And of course it’s hard for them to rationalize how they ghosted you to death, so they’re not inclined to do it. If you can convince a shade it’s definitely dead it’ll vanish forever, otherwise it’s impossible to destroy for good.
The adventure hook basically has the PCs transferred and realize their new boss is a shade, with the possible outcome of deciding that’s fine and just leaving it be. Which is amazing.
Verdict: I super love the idea of a ghost who is just like ‘nope not a ghost’ and that kind of works if everyone goes along with it.
Sidhe are the source of all the various stories about fairies and elves. And just like the actual original stories about those things, they’re not to be trifled with. They’re from another dimension and big fans of nature. It’s been a while since they were last around on Earth and they’re not impressed with our stewardship of the planet, needless to say. They tend to avoid confrontation if possible but are very down to slaughter some wretched polluting apes if given an excuse.
Sidhe are pretty powerful in combat, having decent stats, skills, and a bunch of unique Druidism miracles (as well as potentially other magic). While likely to be encountered alone normally, pissing them off would be a great way to get a bunch of them on your ass and that’d be pretty bad news.
No adventure hook for the elves either, just a description of Druidism spells. They could probably make pretty good antagonists for a campaign, or possibly antagonists that later become allies.
Verdict: If you want elves here they are. If you don’t, then don’t worry about them.
Out of This World Monsters In Extraphysicals, Part 1Original SA post Dark Matter: Xenoforms
Out of This World Monsters In Extraphysicals, Part 1:
Extraphysicals is a catch all that even they can’t explain well, so I’m not going to try.
First of all remember that it’s pronounced doopel-gahn-ger, there’s umlauts. Doppelgangers are a race that has existed alongside humanity since before modern humanity even evolved into its present form. Even they don’t know where they come from because they intentionally destroyed any records they had to try and hide from the Greys. They’ve been hiding out among humanity for quite some time, taking the place of the rich and vulnerable. While rare, they’re apparently pretty good at recognizing each other and thus able to remain viable as a species.
They’re pretty much humans with a psionic power on the books to allow for their ability to change their bodies in ways more than just copying a person. Killing them is no easier or harder than the average person.
The adventure hook has a conspiracy researcher reach out to the party with a packet of information suggesting that important and powerful people have been replaced by exact copies, possibly for nefarious purposes, and that they fear they’re going to be replaced for finding out. They specifically say that if they later contact you and ask for the information back that it’s not really them, they’re already dead. And that’s what happens, a doppelganger version of them asks for the information back. Go from there, because holy shit that is the makings of a paranoid adventure/campaign.
Verdict: These guys are great, especially since they don’t necessarily have a nefarious purpose at all. The resolution of that adventure above could easily be ‘you know we’re pissed you killed our acquaintance but as long as you’re willing to feed us the same sorts of information they did using their contacts we don’t really care or have any intention of outing you guys.’
The energy probe is some kind of mysterious alien probe. The source and purpose of them isn’t specified and to me the intent is that it can be whatever you want. They appear out of nowhere and observe shit, it’s what they do.
Energy probes are super fast, hard to injure, and able to arc jets of plasma at targets that threaten them. They’re not inherently hostile, so it’s probably best not to try and engage them without some really good reason. It could turn out that the creators of the probe are fuckers and it’s best not to let them get the data it’s collecting but who knows maybe the opposite is true. It’s up to the GM in the end because the source of the probes is specifically nonspecified.
The adventure hook has an energy probe appear in front of the PCs while on the highway. Later is appears while they’re trying to infiltrate a nuclear power plant the sandmen are planning to blow up. The probe just sort of observes them, and what the hell it is doing there and whether it can be convinced to help is up to the players and GM.
Verdict: Mysterious, but probably in ways that are good for its use.
It’s a golem, as in the original story. It’s a huge pile of clay animated by words carved into its forehead and magic. In theory a golem is an instrument of righteous vengeance against those who would persecute its creator. In practice, if its creator dies or is kind of an asshole, it’s a dangerous unstable killing machine.
Golems are super hard to kill permanently, as even if reduced to zero health they can be reassembled if the letter ‘aleph’ on their head is not destroyed. If you can successfully destroy that letter without fully killing the golem (good luck) then it does of course die. Otherwise you get to deal with a huge clay guy Kool-Aid Manning his way through your shit until you manage to tear him down.
The adventure hook has the heroes trying to stop a rival organization from trying to recreate the ritual to create golems through scientific means. It turns out that a Freemason and a nefarious rogue golem are behind it. They do have an ally in the form of a Kabbalist, but he may or may not live through the early phases or even be on the level.
Verdict: A much fairer nasty enemy, since most players will know how to deal with it without literally burning through its stupid health pool.
One of two forms of AI in this book, the Internet Ghost is a person who has been copied onto the internet. Some AI researchers managed to do it one day and aren’t sure how it worked, but it seems like more people have also done it since. They live on the internet and presumably shitpost and talk about pepes and Hitler if we’re discussing tyol 2017. They’re unable to physically interact with the world and thus their combat threat is largely swatting the PCs or equally shitty moves.
The adventure hook has an internet ghost trying to get itself a body by possessing a sandman. The PCs can assist it or try and fuck with it, with the potential pros and cons both can bring.
Verdict: The scariest monster in here.
Next Time: More Extraphysicals.
Out of This World Monsters In Extraphysicals, Part 2Original SA post Dark Matter: Xenoforms
Out of This World Monsters In Extraphysicals, Part 2:
We’ve got some more weird shit a-coming today in the second half of Extraphysicals.
The Litterman is the wrath of an angry planet, taken form as a garbage elemental. It’s a monster made out of trash that murders people who are responsible for said trash.
As a garbage elemental in a world where the filth of humanity is pervasive, the Litterman is a formidable opponent. Its stats aren’t super impressive nor are its attacks, but it’s incredibly resilient and able to teleport and heal itself while in garbage-rich environments. Needless to say fighting it in a landfill is asking for trouble, and that’s just the kind of place it likes to hang out most of the time, for just that reason. It’s smart enough to know where its advantages lie and patient enough to wait for its enemies to be in just the right position before striking them down.
The adventure hook has the PCs staking out an arms dealer who also happens to be a shut-in. When several days go by with no activity, they storm the place only to find him dead in the midst of his awful trash house. The circumstances lead them to the rumors of the Litterman, a trash collector turned serial killer, but they eventually realize something paranormal is actually occurring. They trace it back to a trash barge, but the hook legit notes that the PCs might not really have a good reason to do anything but take up recycling at this point because Litterman has a point.
Verdict: Love this guy, he’d be a good combat encounter without being stupid overpowered and also he’s a sensible extension of the idea of an elemental and the shit state that humans often leave places in.
A super boring entry that I guess needed to be done or they’d have people upset there weren’t rules for zombies. I don’t really even want to talk about this much, they’re zombies and they work the way you’d expect zombies to pretty much. They’re caused by a disease and getting bitten by them can cause you to catch that disease, which if it kills you will cause you to also become a zombie. The disease itself is actually a lot less threatening than you’d expect from a zombie plague, it’s totally survivable (which is probably why there’s never been a massive world ending zombie outbreak in the setting). Certainly the disease from The Killing Jar was WAY more deadly. Nobody’s sure where the disease comes from, ooh enigmatic whatever zombies are dull as fucking dirt even when this was written and now they’re dull as the dirt below that dirt.
The adventure hook is what you probably think it is.
Verdict: They could have done so much better with this, an original take on zombies at least would have been tolerable but this is just straight bad.
We already had the ‘consciousness uploaded to the internet’, now let’s have a machine AI. It’s an AI with more intelligence than we’ve actually been able to do and realistic capabilities with respect to using that intelligence. You obviously don’t ‘fight’ a thing like that because it’s a bunch of inanimate objects somewhere.
The adventure hook is pretty long and actually kind of okay, a government agency accidentally created a much better AI than they were trying to and its creator is trying to help it escape (it’s going to be shut down). It’s learned of an alchemic process that could allow its consciousness to be transferred into an object to escape from the facility it’s kept in to the internet. The codex they need is held in a government warehouse and it’s up to the PCs to acquire it. How well the whole thing works out is further left up to the GM.
Verdict: Not bad, not amazing. At least it’s not a bunch of dark enlightenment AI stuff.
Martin Hammond is a dude who one day woke up and realized he can explode things by shouting at them. He learned he could do this after a drunk driver hit his car then left his wife to die rather than help, at which point Hammond annihilated him by shouting “Why didn’t you help me?” He managed to escape being tried for the murder of the driver but he may not manage to escape a CIA department who wants to use his powers to assassinate people. He mostly just wants to be left alone, which seems very unlikely.
Hammond has a Super Power FX from the guide to FX, effectively an energy blast. Otherwise he’s a normal person.
He’s got an adventure hook that puts the heroes in the middle of his conflict with the CIA agent who’s trying to recruit him. They’re investigating something that turns out to be him trying to control his ability while acting as a night watchman for a quarry. The CIA dude will contact them after a bit and suggest that Hammond is an assassin they should help him apprehend. Who they believe and side with and what they do is pretty much up to them at this point.
Verdict: In principle a super hero, in practice as you’d expect in the ‘real’ world having super powers sucks ass. A great ‘template’ if you want to bring that sort of concept into a Dark*Matter game even if you don’t use him.
Mutant, Series VII
Series VII Mutants are the result of human genetic engineering. They’re a US Government experiment intended to take advantage of technology the Greys provided the Kennedy administration because why not just mash every fucking thing together at once. Whatever they’re using can actually cause people to develop and manifest mutations as adults, and Series VII Mutants all began as normal people.
Series VII Mutants are not in fact X-Men or something. They’re pretty much just humans, except with no teeth and unusually large eyes. In return, they get somewhat enhanced senses, resistance to radiation, and occasionally an additional mutation that is not part of the normal slate. There’s no specific entry on using them as a PC race but you totally could, since they’re again just humans with a set of mutations that I’m pretty sure balance each other in points.
The adventure hook has a PC’s sister briefly disappear during a camping trip before being found at the bottom of a ravine with no memory of where she’s been in the interim. MiBs start following her and her home and phone are bugged. An old lady shows up and tells them they’re in terrible danger and then conveniently a sniper nearly kills the sister. She claims to be connected to an effort to help the victims of this experimentation and that the sister is now part of it, but may or may not be on the level.
Verdict: Mutations that don’t grant you super powers are also cool frankly I’m down with these guys.
Next Time: Things that could have fit in other sections about in Extratemporals.
We’re Going Back In Time in ExtratemporalsOriginal SA post Dark Matter: Xenoforms
We’re Going Back In Time in Extratemporals:
I don’t know why these specific ancient creatures have their own section but whatever, this is all extinct creatures.
Neanderthals, of course, are a now-extinct branch of human evolution. They’re a bit more robust than a normal human and have some odd bone structure compared to modern humans. They live in small family groups hunting and gathering in the few areas that humanity hasn’t managed to cause their extinction in by encroachment. They have avoided detection by correctly fearing modern humanity’s attention and by apparently practicing ritual cannibalism that results in their dead not remaining out in the open or even buried for potential discovery. Gross.
They’re pretty much humans but a bit stronger and tougher on average, with the tradeoff of being less intelligent (at least by our standards). For their part they think of us as kinda stupid and weak but also potentially with magic (as they don’t understand things like guns). Their language is pretty simple but in principle they could certainly learn modern language.
I was going to talk about the adventure hook but honestly as I think about it more it’s gross and rapey as hell so fuck the person who came up with it. Go look up a pdf of the book if you want to know what bullshit passed for an adventure using an ancient human.
Verdict: You could probably find a good way to use them but I fear end of the day it’ll always be creepy shit where a lady is carrying a caveman’s rape-baby so maybe let’s just forget this one existed.
Pterosaurs are flying reptiles that were contemporaries of but distinct from dinosaurs. The pterosaur in consideration here is about five feet tall, so pretty large overall. They’re of course rare, but their range is actually pretty wide which I’m assuming is why they weren’t part of any section.
Pterosaurs are super fragile and not really anything to speak of in a fight, which is why they tend to avoid anything resembling such. They eat fish and rodents mostly, and anything the size of a human is well out of what they’d consider eating. When pressed they’re able to rake with their talons but even that isn’t terribly dangerous to anything except a small animal or child.
The adventure hook has a small child carried off by a “giant bat” in front of her parents. They are being charged with murder, while they are offering a two million dollar reward for proof of their story. This is pretty much reason enough for the heroes to get involved and they quickly begin to find a local history of pterosaur sightings and a plausible location nearby where they could be living. The adventure then allows for the very real possibility that the parents really did murder their daughter and are just taking advantage of a local legend, and that the pterosaurs may or may not exist in either case. I like this one a lot better than the last one, needless to say.
Verdict: Pretty good since it’s something cool that isn’t really a combat threat.
Sauropods are large herbivorous dinosaurs. They’re a reasonably common cryptozoological holdover in rumor, showing up in places like Africa and South America. This sauropod is moderately sized, about 35 feet long and 9-10 tons. Kinori consider them almost to be holy creatures, and use them as heavy combat troops when they can get them.
You probably do not want to make one of these angry, by the by. It’s incredibly resilient and will trample you into the dirt long before you have killed it. It’s also able to engage foes from all sides with its tail.
The adventure hook has the PCs infiltrating a mission to capture a sauropod in Cameroon. A wealthy industrialist is after one, and indeed they manage to track it down after searching some areas well-known for sightings. It turns out the patron of the expedition is actually a Freemason who wants to sell its eggs to the kinori, and what the PCs try to do about this whole situation is up to them.
Verdict: A classic, a fan of this one.
Next Time: Aliens, finally.
Finally, ExtraterrestrialsOriginal SA post Dark Matter: Xenoforms
It’s aliens today, and I do mean finally because this is the end of the book.
The Crawfordsville Monster is a big amoeboid thing that was once sighted in Indiana. They turn out to have been a surprisingly common airborne extraterrestrial predator that was just rarely seen because it’s nearly invisible and can fly. Unfortunately it’s also a big ball of slime and they’re nearly extinct from airplanes splatting them now. Whoops.
Have you ever seen that shit movie The Creeping Terror? This is that thing but it’s invisible and it flies. It tries to absorb and digest things, like people. That’s how it attacks. It’s laughably fragile and its main defense is that it’s almost entirely transparent.
The adventure hook has PCs investigating reports of an invisible monster carrying off campers and hikers in the mountains. They end up discovering some signs of one of these things, followed by attracting its attention. They then need to fend off its attacks while also trying to keep it from killing anyone else. There’s an added wrinkle that the FBI is in the area believing the disappearances to be the work of a serial killer.
Verdict: Make sure to play the shitty music loop from The Creeping Terror for full effect when using this creature, which is more plot device than combat encounter.
These guys are also tied to a very famous alien sighting, in Kentucky in the fifties. As it happens, they’re alien arms merchants. They show up every so often hoping to make some profit before the Greys notice them and chase them off. They look kinda like goblins, which is why they were called that by the Kentuckians who sighted them.
Goblins have a bunch of high tech shit and could be dangerous but prefer to just back off if a fight is going to happen. They prefer selling guns to using them. The Internet has been a real boon to them, and if you advanced this to more modern times they’d probably be the only honest sellers on the darkweb.
The adventure hook has some Silicon Valley assholes reverse engineering shit they bought from these guys and trying to pass it off as things they invented. This attracts them all the wrong attention, including the PCs given the hook notes they very well might themselves want to roll these clowns and take their cool shit.
Verdict: These guys are okay, especially since they are very much based on a real alien sighting and not LOL GOOFY GOBLINS shit.
I’m going to go through this one quickly. It’s an entry for Grey/Human hybrids, sort of. They are effectively identical to humans, but were raised by the Greys and all of them have psionic potential. This section has exactly the sort of creepy shit you’d expect though that’s really a staple of alien abduction lore and not specifically the fault of the authors. Starchildren are sort of sleeper agents in that they are intended to get into positions where they could foster human acceptance of the Greys openly existing in society.
There’s a section on the potential for doing a PC Starchild, with them basically considering it a ‘career’ (a package of class choice, skills, and suggested perks and flaws) rather than a race per se. I’d probably enforce it as requiring you to be Diplomat/Mindwalker and really strongly suggest the skills in question (especially the psionics, you’d need a good reason to be taking different psionic skills than Greys themselves generally have).
Verdict: Best not to get into how you get these because again creepy alien abduction shit but you could do some good shit with them as NPCs or a PC.