The Blue Lotus Hack

Well, here we are.

In 2018, I (after several years of tinkering and talking myself into it) released the Blue Lotus Hack on Drivethrurpg under the name Vai Earthflame, a level of separation that I needed to turn the thing loose at all.

Once I started nosing around the scene again (on Twitter), I alluded to the thing, and then eventually named it, but still did nothing else with it. But I still have some things I’d like to do — some more critters, some more bits and snips and shiny objects — and I can’t readily do that here on the blog without the thing, while adding the things to the Fanged Moon blog would be even more awkward than it initially felt at the time.

So here’s the Blue Lotus Hack, another iteration on the first edition of The Black Hack, with a pile of critters and some treasures and a mini-gazetteer of the setting of Varas. It’s Pay What You Want, because my layout skills are just as non-existent now as they were then; it’s not fancy, it doesn’t have nice art, but it’s (I hope!) readable and does that job well enough.

But it does feel nice to have this actually on my name.

The Blue Lotus Hack — itch.io

The Blue Lotus Hack — Drivethrurpg

[spacehack] The Void and the Shard Sea

The Aetherous Void

This is “space” as commonly conceived of; mostly empty, but has planets and moons and comets and asteroids (and odder things), and a sun or something very much like a sun. What it isn’t is expansive — the Void consists of a single system, or, rarely, two or three or so such systems sharing a common “void” (the source of the term) nestled inside the vast Shard Sea. Most systems have their sun at their centre, but not all.

The void of space is chilly (dress appropriately!) but is not a vacuum; however, the aether is thin and slightly toxic and a mask is required for long exposure and safety’s sake by most sapients.

* After a day of exposure, CON test or all rolls are at Disadvantage until victim has breathed pure air for a day without interruption

Rare systems possess completely breathable aether and these are highly valued for settling if there are no prior claims; in the past, more than one war has broken out over the “true peoples” of such systems.

The Shard Sea

Outside of the pockets created by systems, the aetherous void is filled with a biting cold and completely filled with a field of glittering, waxy, solidified aether shards and stranger things still. From the vantage point of a system’s interior, the brightest shards of the Sea’s inner edge are the stars. From inside the Sea, all is darkness packed with the sudden shining rubble of the shards themselves, stretching out in all directions. Ships destined to sail the Shard Sea are best equipped with some form of light.

Some parts of the Sea are less filled with shards and remnants, as if some immense creature burrowed its way through and left tunnels behind. Some of these twisting lanes intersect, or open into pockets inside the Sea that may hold derelict ships, eldritch lairs or sealed fortresses; the most stable of these passages link systems one to another, so long as a ship has the mettle — and the supplies — to make the trip.

Once the safety of a system has been left behind and a ship is threading its way along the twisting lanes of the Sea — or, braver still, forging a new path — conditions worsen.

* A mask must be worn at all times, unless in the pure-air bowels of a ship or similar structure; and the cold becomes a potential danger, forcing a CON test each day or 1d4 hit points of damage are taken, healed only by warmth and rest.

Plotting travel through the Shard Sea is treacherous and many prefer to stay within a system, or stick to the known shardlanes, already mapped and relatively stable.

* How Do I Map The Shard Sea?

The GM should theoretically have an abundance of ready-made “maps” of Shard Sea lanes, whether known to the PCs via charts or being charted out by the PCs and their intrepid crews — dungeon maps make ideal facscimiles of the Sea’s twisting lanes and unexpected hollows. Change the elevations here and there, scale the size up, and fill with Sea encounters and stranger things, and turn the party loose!

* So, gravity …

Gravity works by the rule of “the larger object attracts the smaller object” and otherwise essentially by the rule of cool and the needs of the game being played. Planets and even wee planetoids pull towards their centres, gravity keeps a PC’s feet squarely on the deck of the ship, and so on. Get tossed into the emptiness of the Void or the Sea, though, and all bets are off.

Travel Times

Travel via aethership is measured in “standard” days of 24 hours; similarly, the length of time a given ship can travel without refueling or replenishing water or stores is measured in days.

Typical transit times:

* 1d4+2 days between two adjacent planetary objects

* 2d8 days from the innermost planetary object to the centre point of a system

* 1d12+2 days from the outermost planetary object to the inner edge of the Shard Sea

* Shard Sea travel is unpredictable at best, and logged on individual shardcharts; relatively straight travel from system to system, with no complications, may still take 6d6+10 days or even longer

Warp Nebulae (Nebular Gates)

These rare manifestations, eerily resembling ghostly stained glass windows or peaked doorways, can send a ship — or anything else that passes through their maw — to another system without needing to find a route through the Shard Sea. A knowledgeable observer can identify the sort of nebula they’re looking at from the colours mixing in its whorls.

Some nebulae are one-way trips, others will work from either “side”. Some are permanent, and others are technically temporary but have such a lifespan as makes no difference. Others have vanishingly swift lives.

Building A System

Sometimes getting together the details of a system is inconvenient or you aren’t feeling the inspiration right this moment.  Sometimes, you might just want –or need! — to pull together a system to explore quickly.  For those kinds of times, here are some steps and tables to spur the creative process along — but don’t feel constrained by their results.  Pick and choose, alter the numbers of rolls, whatever you like.

The first step is to determine whether the system has an object at its centre. Roll a d20; a result of 1-15 indicates a central object, 16-20 that the centre is lacking or destroyed. If a central focus is indicated, choose or roll for the centre of the system using the following table:

System Centre

01. sun (of near any colour …)

11. city-fortress

02. diamond sun

12. frozen flame

03. dead sun

13. fire ring

04. abyss (black hole)

14. prismatic ring

05. cluster of sunlets

15. eclipsing sun

06. planet (sun is elsewhere)

16. luminous water orb

07. planet (no sun)

17. petrified elder starvine

08. nebular gate

18. neon aurora

09. frozen god

19. binary system (roll or choose two)

10. misplaced Shard field

20. trinary system (roll or choose three)

Then, roll for the number of planets depending on how heavily “filled” you wish the system to be:

* Sparse: 1d4-1 planetary objects

* Average: 2d8 planetary objects

* Populous: 1d10+1d12 planetary objects

And the type and shapes of those planets:

Planet Type

01. temperate

06. molten

11. artificial

16. hollow

02. forest

07. desert

12. labyrinth world

17. cluster of worldlets

03. aquatic

08. dead

13. garden world

18. split (roll again twice)

04. tundra

09. metropolis

14. gaseous

19. cratered

05. ice

10. living

15. crystalline

20. Earthlike

Planet Shape

01. spherical

05. spiral

09. half-moon

02. ovoid

06. rubble belt

10. dodecahedron

03. Mobius

07. godcorpse

11. honeycomb

04. ribbon (like a ring around the sun)

08. on turtle or other beast’s back

12. knotwork

If looking for some moons or or exotica for your planet, try this table, rolling 1d4 times or as many as you like:

Planetary Extras

01. One moon

05. 1d4+1 moons

02. Ring (of ice, fire, crystal, rubble, greenery …)

06. Extensive ring system

03. Two moons

07. Asteroids at Trojan points

04. Twin planets

08. Exotica (voidblossom field, massive orbiting dock-city, fire cometoids …)

The distance between each planet in sequence — as well as the centre to the first planet, and the last planet to the Shard Sea — can be rolled now to have a set number, or left to chance as time rolls by and celestial objects move about.

On hacks past and future(?)

I like The Black Hack.  I like how I can tinker with it and so much is left to table interpretation I can do a little better at squashing my inevitable “but I wrote that wrong D8″ reaction, especially these days.  1e is still my go-to for it.

Last year (after several years of scrabbling at the idea), I finished what I called the “Blue Lotus Hack” and — after more months of panic at the idea — released it, first as a PoD on Amazon via CreateSpace and then the pdf on DriveThru.  I also did this under a different nick, because it was the only way to talk myself into it, and linked a blog inside the book; a blog I then managed maybe two useful posts on, because I was sure that the more I posted the more obvious I’d be.

After that I started tinkering with a much smaller idea of a bolt-on “not Spelljammer” / “fantasy space” setup, and got as far as the basics + a class + some critters (I do love me some critters) but stalled at what I thought was the writing up a few paragraphs of a sample system but was/is more likely to be the brainweasels attacking full force again.  Now I’m debating maybe putting the “spacehack” — which needs a name I suppose, oops — up here in parts and pieces, and maybe I’ll collect it all up in a pdf and toss it on here if I go through with it completely …

These were/are my theme paragraphs; they would be most of an intro, with a bit more explanation stapled on either before or afterward: Continue reading “On hacks past and future(?)”