Monday, January 10, 2011

Open Call: Gigacrawler

I'm thinking we could make a whole RPG via Gygaxian Democracy...

Here's how it'll work: I provide the basic setting idea and the basic mechanics--all explained below on this page. That leaves you to worry about the fun stuff:

Setting details (monsters, villains, races, cities)
"Alterations" (mutations, adaptations, etc.)
Martial arts

Any time you like, you may post a comment adding another spell, mutation, kung fu move, etc. to the game on the appropriate page. These become part of the options available during character creation.

The mechanics are pretty much done but if anybody thinks of any good ideas for changes in the mechanics, I'll definitely consider them. I made no attempt to be original with them, just efficient and solid enough that something totally insane could be built on top of them. Short story: Str, Con, and hit points are one stat, willpower instead of wisdom, agility instead of dexterity.

After a few weeks or months or a year, all this will be collated and put out, probably as a free pdf or just a series of organized webpages. However, it may simply just continue as an ever-evolving, growing RPG where each character created will have been made with a slightly different set of options.

(If, for some reason, the game ever gets turned into a commercial venture--doubtful, but it's a strange world--or makes any money, half of any money I get will be divided among whoever's ideas I decide to keep for the published version, judged according to the proportion of the total non-me-contributor lines of text that they've written that are accepted. Like: if you wrote 30% of the material that I didn't, you'll get 30% of half any revenue.)

Here are the basics, I will post"targeted" pages over the next week where you can post your spells, devices, etc in the comments...

Gigacrawler, a free, crowdsourced sci-fi dungeon-crawl RPG
The big idea of Gigacrawler is that the entire universe is a dungeon. The universe was once like our own, but hyper urbanization and eons of alchemical warfare utilizing chaotech, crystal math and logic mines has, over centuries, filled up almost all known space. The space between planets is now filled with tunnels of stone, glass, metal, and stranger materials.

Every sci-fi and fantasy idea is in the Gigastructure somewhere--parallel universes, time travel, plasma grenades, magic, alchemy, etc. It's all just jammed cheek-by jowl horror-vacuously in with everything else. Resources are always limited. You might find a ruined starship, you might find a dinosaur, you might find a copy of National Geographic.

Or, to put it the way they would in a bloated $25.00 hardcover...
Earth's cities grow.

Imagine they do not stop growing. Imagine an urbanized Earth, building by building building upon building built on mountaintops, K2, Everest, urbanized, with traffic, the frozen antarctic dense with paneled bunkers, canyons filled and then so filled and all around filled so full that the canyon is only a vaguely-understood concept about what is underneath what we know--like the planet's mantle, crust and core, underneath the buildings is rock--what is rock? No-one remembers.

The rusting spires with a geology of their own--forgotten conduits leading to forgotten fuse boxes feeding old bulbs. The fields of architecture and archaelology mesh. Skyscrapers marching over cliffs like tin soldiers, down into the sea under perspex domes and stainless walls and then growing there, and then up and out of it again. 80% of the vast city-planet has quaint, polluted venetian canals connecting the lowest levels, sixty storeys beneath where most people live. It grew.

The Gigastructure became the only place. An extending great place that took up
all of space, almost all of space, all of space except where there were planets, or suns, or class-12 Massive Supraplantary Organisms.

Like this: There is a planet, then cities on it, then the cities grow larger and they do not stop. The whole planet is urbanized. Then the planet's nearest moon is urbanized, then the buildings on the planet and the moon grow taller and mesh upward and more labyrinthine until they connect in a woven spire of exotic steels and nation-sized gravity-mollifying mechanisms, the moon no longer in orbit, merely fixed to its mother by an inhabited corridor.

Then again with each nearby planet, moon, space station, to the Dyson shell of energy-absorbing machines smothering the sun, then all these spaces connected, and then all of the space in between, too, in every direction into a solid block the size and shape of the universe with all astronomical bodies entombed within it and all animals, monsters, cultures, phenomena linked into a monolithic skyless maze-city of panelled chambers, tubes, hallways, transoms, shafts, glass-walled terraces looking out into dark, long vertical gaps between barely-inhabited sideways, opposing cities, each forming the roof of the other, the spires interlocking like sharp teeth, wells, fusion engine-trams, endless escalators lined with concession stands, crawlspaces, staircases, niches, branching zero-gravity capillary tunnels, and with all known architectures represented somewhere and integrated into the dizzying entirety.

Character generation:
Agility: 3-18
Charisma: 3-18
Intelligence: 3-18
Willpower: 3-18
Physique (Functions as strength, constitution, and hit points): 3-18
(Physique is split into "current physique" and "base physique".)

Now, you have a number of points equal to your Intelligence to divide between the following stats:
Tech Level: (minimum is 3)
Magic level:
These two terms are explained in more detail below. The basic idea is the higher your tech level or magic level, the easier it is to use technology or magic without annihilating yourself.

After tech level and magic level, you get to choose extras--skills, martial arts, spells, alterations, and equipment.

How many of each of these extras you have access to depends on your class:

Philosophers get 8 magic spell formulas (each spell can be used only once), 5 other extras and you can opt to receive 1 new spell or magic skill in lieu of an ordinary experience reward.
Scrapper - 6 martial arts moves, 5 other extras and you can opt to gain a new (randomly determined) Martial Arts move or acquire a new weapon skill in lieu of an ordinary experience reward. (Any number of martial arts moves may be known but only 5 may be used per day.)
Crawler - 8 skills, 5 other extras, and you can opt to receive 1 new skill in lieu of an ordinary experience reward.
Tinkerer-8 pieces of equipment, 5 other extras, and you can opt to receive a new device in lieu of an ordinary experience reward.
Hybrid-(these are characters from cultures where magic and technology are mixed) Hybrids have both their tech level and magic level equal to their intelligence (the max starting magic level for PCs is still 15). They receive 8 extras, can opt to receive devices in lieu of experience rewards and can understand alchemical devices at +2.
Unstable-(psychic) These characters can attempt to use d10 randomly determined magic spells at will (these powers can be re-used but the player must roll d10 and determine spells again every 24 hours) and get 5 other extras. Use of magic slowly drives them insane.
Robot-5 pieces of equipment (generally built in) or skills, 5 others, Magic Level must be 1. Automatically receives the logical benefits of being a robot (immune to suffocation, mind control, etc.), however, when damaged, they are not always easily repaired. Add d6 to physique or tech level.

Here are the extras:

Skills add +1 to a stat for attempting to do a thing. Like Dance skill would add +1 to your agility roll vs. the audience GM-determined jadedness level of the audience to dance well. Skill bonuses stack if and only if the second skill "stacked" is a narrower version of the first skill. i.e. if you were trying to figure out information about a shark, you couldn't use biology and oceanography, to get a combined +2, but you could use biology and marine biology to get a +2. You could even use biology, marine biology, and marine biology-sharks to get a +3.

This system is self-balancing: narrow skills are less widely applicable, but they give you stackable bonuses.

Some sample skills are listed at the bottom of this document, though feel free to make up narrower ones.

Note also that melee combat skills are handled under "martial arts".

Martial arts are "special moves" that you can pull out during combat. Each has a unique effect. Martial arts practitioners can use each move they know once per day, up to a maximum of 5. New characters are assigned martial arts techniques randomly.

Spells are magic effects that can be used once. Spells have levels, usually 12 and up. Anyone can use any spell they find (once), but whenever you use a spell you have to make a magic level check against the spell's difficulty level. Failure means things go grotesquely wrong and there are dire results. Unstables are crazy psychics who can use magic-type effects at will, but each time they have a chance of going more insane. New characters are assigned spells randomly.

Alterations are anything that make your character more than human if that's your bag--tough skin, claws, superhuman strength etc. They're called adaptations if these differences are due to simply being another species, they're called mutations if they are due to exposure to mutagens, and they're called modifications if they are properties of your character being a robot or cyborg. New character can pick alterations or choose them randomly. Either way, the cosmetic meaning of these alterations is entirely up to the player.

Equipment: Unlike most other games, you can't just buy equipment to start out--the Gigastructure is chaotic and communication is difficult. Finding a piece of useful equipment (a cigarette, a crossbow, a pistol, a plasma capacitor) is as rare as finding a magic spell. Each device has a tech level. If a device is above your tech level, you must roll a tech level check vs. the device's tech level. Failure means something terrible has happened. New characters are assigned devices randomly.

Tech Levels

Example of someone at that tech level (example of something they would not have to roll to use/operate/exploit)

1 Weasel (pile of food)
2 Smart Monkey (stick)
3 Primitive human (knife)
4 Medieval human (crossbow)
5 Renaissance to Age of Reason-era human (clock)
6 Steam-era human (film camera)
7 Contemporary Earth Child (Nintendo)
8 Contemporary Earth Adult (car)
9 Contemporary Earth Adult Techie (sound-mixing board)
10 Cyberpunk Era Child (cyber-implant)
11 Cyberpunk Era Adult (cyber-reactive vehicle)
12 Cyberpunk Era Techie (combat robot)
13 Blade Runner/Alien/Cyborg Era Child (android pet)
14 Blade Runner/Alien/Cyborg Era Adult (hovercar)
15 Blade Runner/Alien/Cyborg Era Techie (starship)
16 Nanotech/Genetic alteration is common/No space-warships or FTL drives Era Child (low-grav shoes)
17 Nanotech/Genetic alteration is common/No space-warships or FTL drives Era Adult (custom mutation injector)
18 Nanotech/Genetic alteration is common/No space-warships or FTL drives Era Techie (gene resequencing vat)
19-21 Star Wars (tractor beam)
22-24 Star Trek Federation (replicator, transporter)
25-27 Technology so advanced human nature/existence becomes fundamentally different in most ways
28-30 Technology and lifeforms merge imperceptibly
31-33 Godlike

Magic levels
Magic levels below 12 indicates a creature comes from a culture with only a grasp of relatively mundane phenomena, luck charms, minor fairy tale/superstition magics "put a locket in your shoe and in three days you'll catch a fish" etc. Slow, minor effects.
12 is shaman, priest, Aleister Crowley-level magic. Slow effects requiring ceremonies, a pain in the ass to prepare, but major effects are possible, if unlikely.
13 is authentically understood ritual magic. Pain-in-the-ass rituals still required, but they're more-or-less effective and somewhat understood. Think John Constantine.

Spells that are instantly usable are all products of level 14 magic or above:

14 Initiate wizard-level magic. Reliable instant minor effects. (Cantrips, stage magic.)
15 (maximum starting level) Wizard magic. Reliable instant effects capable of killing a weak creature or temporarily altering reality over a small area in noticeable ways. (1st-2nd level FRPG wizard spells)
16 The lowest kind of truly serious magic from times and places where wizards dominate ordinary humans. Fireballs, lightning, etc. (3rd level FRPG wizard spells)
22 Highest forms of magic known to mortals.
23 and above represents the powers of the gods and demiurges.


The party rolls vs. the GM for initiative on a d6. Situational modifiers may be applied. The side rolling highest goes first.

Each character can: move 15 feet and attack, move twice that and do nothing else, or attack and do some minor thing like check what time it is. Look to other games for crunchy details here.

To hit is dex (+ any bonuses for situation or martial arts or other weapon skill) + d10 vs. armor + dex (+any bonuses) +d10

-if the attacker hits

roll weapon strength (+any bonuses) +d10 vs. defender's current physique (+any bonuses) +d10.

If the difference is positive on the attacker's side, that's how many points of damage to current physique the attack does.

In unarmed combat, the "weapon strength" is a little annoying: it's equal to the difference between the attacker and defender's current physique scores. If the attacker is weaker than the defender treat the "weapon strength" as 1. Because physique represents both physical strength and "life" points, if the attacker is injured (i.e. s/he's lost current physique points) the effectiveness of his or her attacks is reduced.

If the armor is not integral to the creature being attacked (that is, not their skin) the attacker has the option to just attack the armor rather than the character, in which case it's just dex (+any bonuses) v. armor and if the armor (or forcefield) is hit then it takes damage like a person.

Once a creature's current physique reaches zero she's unconscious. 2 things can happen:

-The foe can take an action and kill the character.
-If that doesn't happen, the character tries to roll under his/her base (not current) physique stat on a d20 once per hour. If s/he fails, s/he takes d6 physique points of damage. This continues once per hour until the character is healed or dies.

Medicine works like this: the doctoring character makes an intelligence check against an opposing rank of 30 minus the patient's base (not current) physique, and, if successful, after an hour the PC will be back on his/her feet with a number of current physique points equal to the number of points of success the doctor had. Obviously having medicine skills will help the doctor.

Defenders: You have the option to do extra dodges which means you get to roll twice and pick the best roll when you dodge. Declare when the other guy is about to roll. This costs you all your actions for that round.

Other combat effects (getting knocked down, etc.) are adjudicated by GM rulings.

Parrying and all that is gong to be the province of the martial arts moves page.

Non-Combat Actions

These are usually handled as stat (+any bonuses) +d10 vs. opposing stat (or difficulty level of the task , if nobody is opposing it) (+any bonuses) +d10.

If the player rolls high, s/he gets that thing done.

The bigger the numerical difference in the results, the bigger the success or failure, if that's relevant.

If one person rolls a 1 and the other rolls a 10, that's always a success for whoever rolled a 10, no matter what the comparative ranks are.

If there's a question of how, numerically, an effect works in a game--how long does your sleeping gas last? What's the range of your hypno-eyes?-- and the game doesn't provide an immediate guide, the PC says what they think it should be, the GM picks the lowest possible number that fits the idea of the power as it was originally described, the roll dice to decide where in the range the effect falls.

Experience rewards are granted in the form of re-rolls (fortune is smiling on the character) or skills learned (generally these will be narrow skills that have to do with what PCs did during the adventure). Generally 1-4 per session. Discovering devices and spells is its own reward.

Sample Skills

I figured listing skills was pretty boring, so I did the work myself rather than turning it over to contributors, however, if you can think of a skill that might be good in the game, go ahead and leave a comment, here are skills so far. Players and GMs are free to think up narrower skills during character generation (like: Veterinary Medicine--Lizard/weasel hybrids) and use them. Remember: narrow skills aren't always useful but they stack with broader skills.

Any PC may attempt any task "unskilled". i.e. if a PC wants to roll on his/her intelligence vs. a GM-determined difficulty class to try to perform brain surgery, they should feel free. Gigacrawler PCs are presumed to be rugged survivalists capable of dealing with all kinds of things. If a GM feels a certain task could likely only be performed with special training, s/he should simply assign a high target number.

Skills have been chosen that don't substitute for player skill in social interaction or problem solving. Pilot skills are mostly useless since the universe is all dungeon.

Note that no skills broader than the broadest ones listed here are allowed (i.e. "science" or "weapons" or "magic").

Skills allowing the manufacture of items out of whole cloth are generally excluded from the system. However, at some point we may add rules describing conditions whereby Philosophers and Tinkerers can choose (rather than roll) the spell formulae and devices they receive as experience rewards. In this case, the PC can be said to have "invented" the item in question.

"Alien" and "xeno" in this case simply mean "originating from a species not native to the same planet as the PC". If the PC is from Planet Examant, then if s/he had "alien languages" s/he'd get a +1 to understanding English, French, Venusian and any other language not from Examant.

Sample Social skills: (add to charisma rolls, usually)
Alien etiquette
Etiquette of creatures of quadrant B-94 (for example)
Trade etiquette
Etiquette of creatures from Zorlithrax-9.

Sample Language skills:
(in general, any PC may make an intelligence roll vs. the difficulty level of an alien language to see if s/he knows it--most gigacrawlers are familiar with a few languages--the first time--and only the first time--they encounter it. Language skills add bonuses to this roll. If a PC learns a new language skill that might cover the language in question after failing a roll, s/he may roll again.)
Alien languages
Ancient languages
(you could use linguistics and alien languages to get a +2 to understand an ancient alien text or languages and ancient languages to get a +2, but not all 3 for a +3 bonus since "alien" is not a subset of "ancient" languages and vice versa, they overlap but neither belongs entirely inside the other)
Ancient alien languages (you could use that, though)
Alien Languages of Quadrant: Kroskulus

Sample Engineering skills: (usually add to intelligence rolls)
Surveillance systems
Alien surveillance systems
Surveillance systems of Quadrant Mega
Surveillance systems designed by energy beings (etc.)
Elevator repair
Armor repair
Weapons repair
Cybernetic implantation
Cybernetic repair
Computer operation
Computer programming
Computer repair
Communications systems
Propulsion systems
Pilot Spacecraft

Sample Surivival skills: (usually add to intelligence or agility rolls)
Edibility of alien creatures
Underwater stealth
Escape artist
Pick locks (mechanical)
Pick locks (computerized)

Sample Scientific skills: (add to intelligence rolls)
Psionic neurobiology
Extradimensional mathematics

Sample Weapon skills: (the broader weapon skills help with most things having to do with the weapons in question: repair, appraisal, etc., in combat they apply to hit rolls but not to damage)
Projectile (non-energy) firearms
20th century projectile firearms
2oth century projectile firearms from France
Melee weapons
Edged melee weapons
Medieval melee weapons
Japanese melee weapons
Energy weapons
Energy weapons repair
Energy weapons of the Vor-Gork Mercenaries
Anti-logic weapons
Anti-logic weapons repair (etc.)
Plasma weapons

Sample Medical Skills: (add to intelligence rolls, see combat section for details on medicine)
First Aid
Cybernetic first aid (for example)
Veterinary medicine

Sample Magic skills (Add bonuses to intelligence rolls to understand magical effects, to magic level rolls to use spells, and to Unstables' attempts to utilize spell effects. These skills cannot be gained after character creation until that kind of spell has been successfully cast by the character. i.e If someone who does not have the Xenodemonology skill wants it, s/he will have to successfully summon an alien demon first.)
Elemental control magic
Particle magic
Nullification magic
Divination magic
Alchemical magic
Healing magic
Illusion magic
Transmutation and transformation magic
Chaotic effect magic
Megadimensional magic

Hunger/thirst rules.

Food and water are scarce and valuable in the Gigastructure. PCs do not necessarily start with either when created.

These rules will serve until such time as someone gets it into their head to design more gruesome ones:

After a day without food, characters lose 1 physique per day.
Humanlike creatures require physique x 100 calories per day to survive.

After a day without water, creatures with a humanlike physiognomy lose 3 physique per day.
Humanlike creatures require a gallon of water a day.

If a creature receives part of their requirement, they only take part of the damage.


Addendum: Simplicity Guidelines

There will be three sections in the final product:

-These basic rules
-Widgets (Setting features, spells, equipment, etc.)
-Rulings--A never-ending series of edicts on ways to adjudicate situations not foreseen in the basic rules, usually in response to queries. (Optional.)

When there is any confusion about the rules, there are only 2 possible resources that can give you an "official" answer: The basic rules and the specific rules described in the section about the widget in question. You are not obliged to look anywhere else. There is no higher authority. The "tournament rules" are just suggestions.

If a rule is not made clear in these basic rules or in the widget descripton(s) involved in the situation being ruled upon, the GM must make a ruling. Listening to the players' opinions first is recommended. Either the GM or player must write the ruling down if they expect it to be followed consistently thereafter, but if either does, it will be followed from then on.

If an argument concerning the rules is going on (2 players, a player arguing in the face of a GM ruling, etc.) and it begins to bore any person at the table or watching the game, that party may call Shenanigans.

When Shenanigans is called, a stopwatch or timer is started. Parties involved in the dispute have 3 minutes to state their case and come to a mutual agreement. After that, the decision is made randomly. The decision of the dice must be obeyed, even if someone believes it directly contradicts the official rules.

If a party is painfully aggrieved by a decision made during the game, s/he will receive a "playing in protest" coupon for a metagame reward after the game at the expense of the other players--usually in the form of beer, ice cream or shots of Jager in whatever quantities will get him/her to shut up and roll. However, thereafter the other players are entitled to mock the player during the next session (only), though the rate must be no higher than a single one-liner per player.


thekelvingreen said...

I had a similar setting idea myself about a year ago, but since my group would never have gone for it, I didn't get very far with it. So definitely count me in!

Snarls-at-Fleas said...

Great idea for a setting, but as in the case of @kelvingreen group, mine wouldn't play this. Too bad.

Trey said...

Cool setting, and neat system, too.

Jasper Gein said...

I'm in. Also, my group would go for this.

Chris Lowrance said...


Hell yeah, I'm in. I think it's become pretty clear through GD I enjoy nothing more than thinking of the craziest thing I can, making it function in a logical way, then vomiting it at you folks.

Adam Dickstein said...

My setting is very different but my D&D-for-those-who-don't-like-D&D shares many of these elements strangely enough.

The art is, as always, stunning.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

20th century projectile firearms
2oth century projectile firearms from France

¿Que? I assume this is a "Metal Hurlant" reference/gag.

squidman said...

EPIC! i don't know if i'd ever dare to run a game of this, but i'd like to see it done!

Worthstream said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Worthstream said...

Nice idea!

I'm in, too!

I'll surely incorporate my current campaign's planet-sized AI in the Gigastructure.

Unknown said...

Not in. Too busy hacking it over to FATE/Fudge so that I can pull in existing material for half of it... just sayin'

liza said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mobius Soul said...

Absolutely you should do this. hesitate not, nor fear.

Jamie said...

Oh man, this looks awesome. Count me in for contribution.

liza said...

I'm double in if you agree to change "Gigastructure" for "Gigaxtructure".


John Matthew Stater said...

Sounds fun (I hope Raggi doesn't see this comment)

migellito said...

I'm already brimming with ideas.. too early to start sharing?

Destrude said...

Absolutely in. Almost wish the gaming schedule weren't so busy so I could start running with this idea now.

Immediate ideas:

"Mega-rooms" that house large, volitile, or otherwise free-moving things. Perhaps some of those Class-12 entities previously mentioned. A lifetime of living in corridors and confined spaces would make such a large space terrifying and mysterious to the PCs. Maybe a save vs. vertigo would work.

Gravity could be interesting. A default of objective gravity would make it easier to understand and deal with on the tabletop, but no gravity or subjective would really spice up the normally boring aspect of moving and positioning in and out of combat. Malfunctioning gravity engines and/or spells would also make for some interesting obstacles.

Obviously, those with the ability to maintain/repair the world around them would be valuable in such a place. My brain immediately thinks "prestige class", but I wonder if there's a better way to do a specialist in environmental repair. Roughly equivalent to a rogue's lockpicking/trap avoiding, with a dash of battlefield control options via messing with gravity, lights, pressure, ect. Probably can be done with the current classes, but I'd like to see a few proofs of concept first.

Traits relating to the kind of zone the character originated from. Zero-gravity adaptation, neuro-interface devices (for opening doors, accessing computers, ect), extra limbs, special senses, the ability to read backwards flawlessly (a useful way to make signs that hinder invaders and help defenders), the ability to digest electrical wiring (hard to grow shit in a manufactured world), and much more.

Ok, this post is huge, but I'm already brimming with ideas and coffee so forgive my exuberance. And migellito, it's never too early to share. It IS caring, after all. :)

migellito said...

"sharing is caring" ah yes, my old sig line from a.. uh.. old file-sharing site I used to frequent.

Star Chambers - Massive cavities in the gigastructure built around stars. In most cases the surrounding structure is dedicated to cyclopean power conversion infrastructure. These serve as the main source of energy within the whole of the GS. Most star chambers are strictly controlled by a group or organisation, with various levels of understanding regarding their operation/maintenance, and are often the nexus of power struggles and military operations.

Zak Sabbath said...


The way I'd handle that is (as a GM) saying controlling local systems is a high-difficulty (target: 23 or more) task, then a PC would probably choose a "Crawler" as class (8 skills) and then, as s/he gains xp, build (ever narrower) skills toward getting bonuses to doing that.

prfd said...

Don't know how much time I'll have to contribute, but I would love to.

Zak Sabbath said...


No, it's just an example of the way you can use the narrow/stacked skill system. somebody with firearms, 20th c firearms, and 20th c firearms form france would get a +3 with a french gun.

Menace 3 Society said...

Nudist colonies are actual colonies: nudism is a neurofungal infection like Cordyceps, except that it reproduces without killing its host. People in nudist colonies are like normal people except they have an irresistible aversion to wearing clothes (will die rather than put on a shirt), and have a small fungal polyp on their bodies that periodically gives off tiny spores.

Destrude said...

@Zak S -- Makes sense and is simple, although obviously I can see smaller effects available at a lower difficulty (giving the PC something to do before he starts getting extra skills).

Looking back at the classes: I really like the tendancy to give at least a few generic extras to each one, allowing for easy cross-classing of a sort in a system without obvious levels. Seeing as how I usually end up running groups of 2-4, it really helps for the players to cover more than one base.

Ooh, another idea. A rampant AI (thanks, Marathon!) is trying to move through the GS, but mechanical damage has severed key computer pathways. It could trade favors or information to the PCs in exchange for help, but do they really want to loose an insane computer mind into the rest of the GS? They do live there, after all. Plus, who knows what/who severed the connections and if they're still around?

Totally gonna use that as my opening adventure hook whenever I get around to firing up this setting at home.

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

I'm making a Hybrid class character with an Int of 18. Am I still limited by the max starting amount for magic level?

Zak Sabbath said...

of course.

Zak Sabbath said...

...and thanks for kicking the tires on that.

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

You're welcome.

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

How about adding something to biology and/or xenobiology: Subskills by quadrant.

Zak Sabbath said...

Once there are quadrants (in someone's game or in the "official" rules) then that makes sense.

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

Well you said that quadrant Obscure 7 had something so I elaborated on that. Anyway, could you take a look at the character I made for this? (

The Rubberduck said...

I'm not sure I really dig the tech/magic proportions. With the current division, a wizard (14 magic) with 14 int would not be able to use sticks.

I'm thinking it might be solved by lowering the magic requirements by 4. Then wizard (10 magic) with int 14 would be able to use medieval tech. Or an occultist (8 magic/14 int) would be able to use steam tech. And an int 10 character would be able to be a wizard (magic 10), if he has forsworn all technology.

Of course, I'd like if requirements was lower still, but that's just because I like gun mages.

velaran said...

@Zak S:
The premise is awesome, especially the fact its Sci-Fi. I had an alternate dimension something like this(comprised of living crystal, and sans spaceships, others, etc...) appear once(ok, technically still there) in my homebrew world, but it never got much play, as the PCs simply wanted to smash'n'grab to get back to my Weird fantasy setting. Interesting to see how the design by fans will play out. As usual, a cut above, Zak! Now, I wanna play!

Unknown said...

3 x Awesome.
I have several questions though [my guess in brackets]:
About experience rewards...
The standard/default rewards are re-rolls or new skills, correct? [yes] For new skills, these must be narrower versions of skills used during the adventure, right? [right] Do you have to have succeeded at a skill in order to buy it's narrower version? [yes] What about skills you used untrained (for example I shoot a gun but don't have a firearms skill) - do you get to buy those after using them in the adventure? [yes] What, then, is the special experience reward bonus for the crawler class?
And, to be 100% crystal clear, no skill goes above a +1, right? [yes]

About Skill Bases for Aliens
It seems to me to be too broad to base any skill category on alien/xeno, if human is its own category (human history / languages / etiquette / medicine / biology / etc.). It seems like alien should be replaced with a specific alien species. Perhaps, carbon based versus ammonia based versus silicon based versus chaos based lifeforms make a good split. Perhaps, this is something that each DM would have to decide for themselves.

Zak Sabbath said...


Minimum PC tech level is 3, so a wizard (level 14) would be someone of int 17 or a Hybrid-class PC with int 14 and tech level 14.

Magic level isn't the level you can cast, it's the level you can cast without having to make a roll for it. This will be explained when i post the magic rules.

Also: keep in mind that you can buy skills that increase your chances with magic, no matter who you are.

Zak Sabbath said...


-maybe, but they are decided by the DM and must be the same for all participants

Skill bases for aliens:
"alien" simply means "originating from a species different than the PC". It's a way of narrowing down the skill a notch. Since skills are one of the only ways PCs advance, having extra "narrowing down" levels is good.

Since the skills are all samples and new, narrower skills can be created at will, there is no reason a PLAYER could not invent a "biology: silicon life forms" or "biology: Gargolorkians" skill.

Unknown said...

Re: Skill Sets
Sorry to be contrarian or beating what may be a dead horse, but I don't think it makes sense.
For example, under combat skills, there isn't "Firarm combat" and "Non-firarm combat". "Science" is too broad, and I'm guessing "Scienctific knowlege in all fields that aren't chemistry" would be too broad as well. "Alien Biology" would be, to me, the same as saying: "Biological knowledge of all the countless multitudes of species that aren't mine". It implies a finiteness or commonality that isn't there.

Re: Experience Rewards
I guess I'm still a little confused on how PCs get more skills. Would you mind going into it a little further?


Zak Sabbath said...


It's not a hard science distinction, it's a storyline distinction like someone with "alien biology" is someone who, you meet them and they go "I have some experience with treating aliens".

Do they know anything about Species X? Roll and see. The person who took the time and the slot to say "I know 10% more than the average person about alien biologies" gets a bonus when the time comes to see who understands the giant space squid.

it doesn't imply a specific skillset so much as it implies a background or history that might indicate a familiarity with that thing.

A character who has been a doctor in space might have "alien biology". this means they have a slightly better chance (+1) than other people to know what they're looking at, that's all. It doesn't imply a specific corpus of knowledge.

I have +1 in pre-modern non-western art techniques. These techniques are not necessarily related.

Australian sand painting has nothing to do with indonesian batik dying but I have the kinda background where someone might go: "Hey Zak, how did they do that?" and I might know more than someone else, despite the lack of formal connection between the two things.

If the skill system gave you huge bonuses--like 85%, I might see your point-How do you know 85% of alien biology? But it's not like that.

This does not mean the PC sat and looked at a book called "all biologies except yours". It just means the PC has an increased chance to say "I've seen this before!"

While the "alien ____" skills are definitely a broader skill than most, it makes sense in a context where the PCs do not know what kind of aliens are in the campaign yet. Remember: choosing "biology" gets you a +1, after that choosing "alien biology" means you chose that instead of "human (or whatever you yourself are) biology".

That is a balanced choice: knowing about your own biology and others of your species (who you -know- will be in every game you play) balanced against knowing about everybody else. It may represent uneven bodies of knowledge, but it's balanced by the fact that one of the 2 choices will definitely appear in every game.

How you get skills:
At the end of an adventure, the DM awards any kind of reward s/he wants. Default is a re-roll or a skill having to do with what happened that day. Crawler-class PCs can choose to receive any new skill they want rather than whatever the reward offered is.

Zak Sabbath said...


moved it to the page where the setting material goes.

Unknown said...

I see now. Thank you very much.

crowking said...

@ Zak,

Be ok to just email ideas or do you just want them posted only on the blog?

Zak Sabbath said...


Post them on the blog on the appropriate page.

If it's a PC option that doesn't have a page yet (mutation, martial art, etc.) just wait and post it when the page comes up in a day or two.

Setting ideas (monsters, organizations, etc.) go in "Known Features of the Gigastructure" Spells go in "Spells", equipment goes in "devices"

If you email them instead of posting them it better be for some fantastic amazing wonderful genius reason that justifies the extra work it's going to take me to cut your idea and paste it where it goes.

Delta said...

My recommendation for food/water is 1d6/week with no food, 1d6/day for no water. More here.

crowking said...

@ Zak,

You got it big shot.

Zak Sabbath said...


While I feel like d6 is better than a straight number, I feel like a week is too long for any effect in Gigacrawler that's supposed to be a regular feature of the game.

PCs would have to rest -7 times- before needing more food. Since Gigacrawler is all dungeon and no "town", it could be 3-4 sessions before the PCs have to think about food, which is too long.

Chris Lowrance said...

Apologies if this has been asked - The min 3 points for Tech: Do we have to buy those, or are they in addition?

Like, does tech start at 3, or do we just immediately assign 3 of our points to Tech?

(rolling up as much as I can of a character now)

Zak Sabbath said...


You have to buy them.

I will be posting martial arts tomorrow or the next day and then the character options will all be up if you wanna wait.

The Cramp said...

This video is a rich vein to mine for the general spooky tunnels and passages I imagine make up most of the terrain in Gigacrawler. This guy is a real life "crawler"...

baudot said...

Here's an offering to the Gigaplex.

Faction: The All

"We are The All, my child. Do not be troubled. Your dream of a time before is a trick. Your memories of a place outside this, a cruel deception. Let them go and know the peace of the monastery. You have been touched by The Deceiver, and soon his touch will wash away. Come back to us. This is where you have always been, and this is where you will ever be. Return to your place with us. There is so much work to be done."

The All is a self-brainwashing cooperative that spreads throughout the gigaplex, seeding pockets of itself by hops and leaps wherever it can gain a foothold. Its goals are virulent and expansionist, desiring to spread until its boast is true: That there is no thing outside itself and no time outside its time.

The All commonly targets isolated pockets of the gigaplex near areas of civilzation for seeding with new enclaves. It uses these corners of the 'plex to gather strength without discovery before overwhelming and converting the neighbors.

The All converts by a cult-like induction process, tuned and franchised to operate at city scales. Over a matter of weeks, the 'front' of All Reality washes over an enclave in a dreamlike wave. First nanobots, nanohexes, or nanomemes prepare the area, adding secret passageways and triggers for miracles to one corner of the city. Then the Brethren of The All move in, welcoming their converts as lost souls, and reminding them of the simple truths they had for a time forgotten: That there is only The All, and labor for The All by The All is the highest of goods. These new converts are ushered back to the Temple at the heart of The All tumor. Loyal brethren of The All roll forward, advancing the front.

"Of course I know Thomas. This is his shop. I only mind it for him while he is at Pilgrimage."

A visitor from another part of town would find all the buildings different than he remembered, and his friends replaced by quiet cultists. All the old residents are said to be "At Pilgrimage" and visitors are assured they will return soon. Visitors are treated civilly, and allowed to come and go freely, for a time.

baudot said...

Conversion to The All happens first in The Maze: Before expanding into a city from their beachhead, the Allformers will build a maze of tunnels between the beachhead and the city. These tunnels are filled with scenes waiting to be acted out, leading the individual lost within through a series of lessons where they learn by repeated suffering that they are alone without The All, and that all comfort, warmth, and nourishment comes from working with their brothers. Time within The Maze is perceived to flow differently than time outside, with people inside The Maze believing weeks to have passed while in reality only hours have gone by. The potential convert experiences monthss of indoctrination in only a few days of real time, jumping from scene to scene with gaps in their memory as they slide in and out of consciousness from suffering hunger, thirst, and loneliness in their time outside The All.

The Maze grows as The All converts more and more of a city. As any time, hundreds, thousands, millions, or billions of people may be wandering its halls, stumbling ever closer to The Temple at the heart of The All infection, and their final conversion.

Opponents Presented by The All:

Adversary: Brother Peacekeeper (All Cultist)
Brother Peacekeepers are basic thugs for The All. They are armed with whatever weapons are abundant in the local region, and fight as such.
Brother Peacekeepers have four disconcerting tactical advantages:
a) They blend in with the peaceful members of All society near perfectly until activated. An entire battalion of Peacekeepers could move in among a crowd without giving outward sign that The All is preparing to defend itself. Indeed, Peacekeepers are peaceful members of The All who have been tapped for an extra duty, and go about their jobs as civilian cultists until they receive the signal to activate and defend The All.
b) They communicate silently, seemingly telepathically, striking from surprise in perfect unison.
c) As with all All cultists, they show a level of teamwork that armies envy to the highest degree. If two squad mates can achieve more by working in unison, they will. If a squad mate must be rescued, the other squad members will be absolutely selfless is doing so. If it is better to sacrifice a teammate, the entire team will do so without a moment's hesitation, including the one being sacrificed.
d) They are prepared for the miracles the Allformers have seeded for them to work with. If The All has time to prepare for a fight and steer the enemies to ground of its choosing, the Allformers will have seeded the area with one powerful miracle. This is in addition to the usual maze of secret passages present in All territory, and any All Cultist's ability to control illumination and weather in All Territory telepathically. The squad members fight with full knowledge of the miracle that is prepared and how to best take advantage of it.

Adversary: Sister Silencer (All Cultist)
The Sisters of Silence are assassins of The All. Their appointed labor for The All is "To Silence the darkest deceived before their deception can spread." Sisters of Silence may operate alone or in groups, as tasks demand and resources allow.
Sisters of Silence operate like Peacekeeper brethren, except that their preparation is specialized to the craft of killing first - they have the best equipment the local All can muster, and combat training built on tireless self sacrificing devotion and focus. They have few weaknesses and no mercy.

Adversary: Shaher (All Priest)
The Shaher are the priests of The All. Taken off their home turf, they are weak, and readily offer themselves as tactical sacrifices, when it serves the greater good. When fighting within an All Temple complex, Shaher are the masterminds directing the automated defenses of the Temple.

baudot said...

Part 3 of 4:

Adversary: Maze Phantom
The Maze that The All uses to convert outsiders to itself is filled with lessons and phantasmal menaces. These menaces are designed to hunt and threaten, and only rarely to actually harm, when a convert must be crippled before they can be reborn as a member of The All. The trick with Maze Phantoms is that there are legions of them, each designed to ignore a certain type of attack. A person confronted with the Maze Phantom that The All has chosen to educate them will be powerless, while an outsider bursting into the scene may find the phantom as easy to pop as a balloon.

Adversary: Allformer (Nanobot, Nanohex, or Nanomeme)
The Allformers seed the way for The All. These are built on whatever power the local All cult uses - tech, magic, or psychic might.
Allformers have two major defenses: First, their nanoscale makes them prone to being overlooked, invisible as they operate.
Second, they have a reflexive counter-attack if anyone attempts to disable or control them. The counter attack does two things simultaneously. The first is that it attempts to deceive/charm/mind-control the attacker into believing that their attack is on the verge of succeeding, if they just stick with it longer. Second, the Allformer swarm Cuts Loose.
Cutting Loose: The Allformers normally move in careful, slow, controlled patterns as they convert terrain and people into The All. In times of crisis, the Allformers may move into a higher gear, converting anything nearby into rich elemental goop that holds no threat to The All and can be harvested as a resource later. Even priests of The All fear this reaction like a primitive priest fears the wrath of the gods, for the Allformers are none too intelligent in their targeting. They are prone to lash out and digest anything that seems energy rich, fast moving, or highly contagious. Anything that might possibly be a threat is digested. All priests and cultists know to walk away calmly and divest themselves of power should the Allformers cut loose, and to wait for the defense reaction to be complete.
Once per round of combat, the Allformers target the most threatening seeming person in the area. The typical way to defend against digestion is to first perceive the attack coming, then, if not taken by surprise, to make an agility check to flee the area the Allformers are swarming. Whatever region the Allformers strike is digested in a single round, occupant within it, if they did not successfully escape.
Exceptionally high-tech/high-magic/high-psy armors may keep the Allformers at bay if they are designed for environmental containment: Armor that is within 2 tech/magic levels of the Allformer swarm takes 2d6 rounds to be digested, while the Allformers figure out a way around its defenses. The final digestion is sudden, taking only a single round once the weakness in the defense is found. The armor's occupant is digested the round after. A character cannot escape by shedding armor being digested - the Allformer swarm senses the breach and rushes in, liquifying the victim within their suit.
Higher tech/magic armors can hold out an Allformer swarm indefinitely.
Defeating an Allformer swarm requires special approaches: EMP pulses, counter-nanobots, or the equivalent in magic or psychic attacks. Once such attacks are deployed, the surviving Allformers will fall back outside of attack range. They will continue to test their enemies defenses continuously on a microscopic scale so long as the enemies remain inside the cloud, attacking with instant ferocity whenever a new weakness is found. (GM's discretion, but every 3d6 hours by default.)

Evlyn M said...

Super cool, just like the megastructure in Blame! from Tsutomu Nihei. :)

TKimWrSvc said...

What a great setting concept. I am going to have to copy all this to a word doc and test it out. btw where did the art come from....Incredible, especially the first one.

Zak Sabbath said...


I drew it

TKimWrSvc said...

The art, as I wander this blog, now that I have figured your style out, is rocking. Getting Vornheim right now off Drive Thru.

Unknown said...

I concur that the art (all the art I have seen from you, including the Pynchon work) is amazing. This blog, the GigaCrawler rules, and the Carcosa Wacky Races are pretty much all that I think about currently. My mom will soon be introduced to your take on "The Wire." And I'm buying Vornheim as soon as my new job kicks into high gear. Fantastic stuff.

anarchist said...

Are people allowed to make commercial products using this system? If so, how does the licensing work?

Zak Sabbath said...

maybe-- email me:
zakzsmith @ hawtmayle