BLACK SEAS OF INFINITY
A Lovecraftian role-playing game based on the “Lasers & Feelings” RPG by John Harper of onesevendesign.com.
“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”
– H.P. Lovecraft, “The Call Of Cthulhu”
PLAYERS: CREATE CHARACTERS
1. Choose a style for your character: Abnormal, Cursed, Driven, Empathic, Inquisitive, Swarthy.
2. Choose a role for your character: Artist, Doctor, Detective, Priest, Researcher, Scholar.
3. Choose a number score, from 2 to 5. A high number means your character is better at STARRY WISDOM (great intuition, mythos lore, magic). A low number means being better at PLACID IGNORANCE (driving cars, filing taxes, social interactions, everyday tasks).
4. Give your character a name.
ROLLING THE DICE
All rolls are done with six-sided dice (d6).
When a character does something risky, roll 1d6 to find out how it goes. Roll another 1d6 if the character is prepared, and another 1d6 if an expert based on the character’s style and role. Remove 1d6 if the character is injured. (If you end up with no dice, the character’s effort automatically fails.) The GM tells you how many dice to roll, based on your character and the situation. Roll your dice and compare each die result to the character’s score.
If you’re using STARRY WISDOM (mythos, magic), you want to roll UNDER your number. Roll LOW for weird stuff.
If you’re using PLACID IGNORANCE (mundane skills), you want to roll OVER your number. Roll HIGH for ordinary stuff.
Count how many dice match equal to or higher/lower than the character’s score.
0 … If none of your dice succeed, things go wrong. The GM says how things get worse somehow.
1 … If one die succeeds, you barely manage it. The GM inflicts a complication, harm, or cost.
2 … If two dice succeed, you do it well. Good job!
3 … If three dice succeed, you get a critical success! The GM tells you some extra effect you get.
! … If you roll your number exactly, you piece together dissociated knowledge and glimpse the true terror of reality. You get a special insight into what’s going on. Ask the GM a question and they’ll answer you honestly. Some good questions:
What’s really happening around me? Who’s behind this? How could I get them to _____? What should I be on the lookout for? What’s the most immediate source of danger around me? What’s the best way to _____?
You can change your action if you want to, then roll again.
HELPING: If you want to help someone else who is rolling, say how you try to help and make a roll. If you succeed, give them and additional 1d6.
PHYSICAL HEALTH: Unwounded characters that suffer harm from weapons or hazards become injured (losing 1d6 rolled per action), while characters already injured are rendered unconscious. Injured characters have a 1 in 6 chance of recovering to an unwounded state per day of rest and medical aid. Helpless characters may be easily killed by foes, as the GM sees fit.
MENTAL HEALTH: When events push a character’s Starry Wisdom/Placid Ignorance score to 7 or more, that character goes hopeless insane and is removed from play (or becomes an NPC under the GM’s control). Months of psychotherapy and treatment in an asylum may lower a character’s score and restore some semblance of sanity.
RESEARCHING MYTHOS LORE: By studying rare tomes, a character may willingly increase their Starry Wisdom/Placid Ignorance by 1, but doing so requires gaining access to such works and spending at least one night of study. Some books may increase a character’s score by more than 1.
SPELL RITUALS: Magic rituals cause one of the following effects…
* Summon a specific type of monster.
* Banish or imprison a specific type of monster.
* Command or enslave a specific type of monster.
* Ward against harm from a specific type of monster.
* Ask questions to be answered by entities in other dimensions.
* Warp the nature of reality (open doors between dimensions, cause physical properties to growth or shrink, or so forth).
A spell ritual requires a Starry Wisdom roll to work. In addition, each ritual may pose some risk (when only 1 die succeeds) or require terrible costs to complete. Choose options or roll:
* 1 … The user becomes injured during the course of working the spell. (If already injured, user dies.)
* 2 … The user’s Starry Wisdom/Placid Ignorance score permanently increases by 1.
* 3 … From 1 to 6 humans of a specific race, family or other characteristic must be killed to complete the ritual.
* 4 … In 1 to 6 days, the user will be visited by monsters drawn to the residual workings of the spell.
* 5 … The user immediately ages 1 to 6 years during the spell ritual.
* 6 … Roll twice on this list, using both results or doubling any duplication.
MINOR MONSTERS (deep ones, ghouls, mi-go)
* While terrifying, such monsters do not normally cause madness when seen.
* Some of these creatures cause double damage on attacks (one hit can kill), or endure greater than normal damage (multiple hits before becoming injured), but otherwise work much like humans do in the game.
MAJOR MONSTERS (flying polyps, shoggoth, large servitor creatures)
* At first sight, there is a 1 in 6 chance each witness has their Starry Wisdom/Placid Ignorance score permanently increased by 1. Further encounters with the same type of creature do not threaten changing a character’s score.
* Each round, a minor monster may automatically kill 1d6 creatures within 30 feet. Only specific spells offer protection against these deadly attacks.
* Major monsters can be wounded by normal weapons, but not killed.
ELDRITCH ALIEN HORRORS (Cthulhu, Ithaqua, Nyarlathotep, etc.)
* At first sight, all witnesses have their Starry Wisdom/Placid Ignorance scores permanently increased by 1. Further encounters with the same creature do not threaten changing a character’s score.
* Each minute of exposure, every mortal within sight of a monster’s true form has a 1 in 6 chance of dropping dead from psychic shock. As with lesser monsters, specific spells may offer protection against such incomprehensible experiences.
* Such entities ignore all normal weapons and cannot be wounded in this dimension.
The GM rolls for a basic outline into what’s going on, then fills in details and notes possible complications to throw at the players during play.
* 1 … A small town in Massachusetts
* 2 … A museum of the occult in Europe
* 3 … A rural farm in the southern United States
* 4 … A seaside port somewhere in the world
* 5 … An archaeological excavation site in Asia
* 6 … A research station in Antarctica
* 1 … A corrupt official or leader
* 2 … The last heir of an old family
* 3 … Miskatonic University faculty members
* 4 … An unconventional and shunned scientist
* 5 … A greedy and foolish criminal
* 6 … A cult worshiping an alien god
* 1 … A rare book about mythos lore
* 2 … An ancient artifact of strange design
* 3 … A tool or device of alien origin
* 4 … A structure built over a source of magic
* 5 … A location far out to sea/in the ocean
* 6 … A tomb or crypt marked with magic symbols
* 1 … By opening an inter-dimensional gate via magic
* 2 … By performing a horrific ritual sacrifice
* 3 … By ingesting narcotics made from odd ingredients
* 4 … By growing membership in a fanatical cult
* 5 … By repairing an alien or magical device
* 6 … By thwarting investigators who “know too much”
* 1 … To awaken “the master” (a sleeping alien horror)
* 2 … To prove a controversial scientific theory
* 3 … To get revenge against personal enemies
* 4 … To escape the coming apocalypse on Earth
* 5 … To end a personal curse or affliction
* 6 … To gain personal magical power or immortality
EXAMPLE MYSTERY #1
* WHERE: 5 … An archaeological excavation site in Asia
* WHO: 4 … An unconventional and shunned scientist
* WHAT: 3 … A tool or device of alien origin
* HOW: 2 … By performing a horrific ritual sacrifice
* WHY: 6 … To gain personal magical power or immortality
FILLING IN DETAILS…
Dr. Malcolm Jacobs was an electronics inventor with the Q.R.S. Company in America, but since then he has fallen into professional ruin. After claiming electron tubes could be used to bend unseen bio-luminescent light given off by all living things — and in the process transfer life energy from one being to another — his employers voided his contract and made it impossible for him to find work again in the United States. Undaunted, Jacobs fled to Southeast Asia and became friends with some British archaeologists working around the temple grounds of Angkor Wat. Now Jacobs intends to complete his experiments using a group of Khmer laborers as test subjects in a strange “light chamber” uncovered in the temple ruins. If successful, special alien glass lenses placed in this room will drain away life from the workers and greatly enhance Jacobs’ own longevity. His British companions do not grasp the nature of their American associate’s work, but they have begun to suspect his obsessions may have dark intentions. They ask the investigators to look the situation for them.
Getting the PC investigators involved…
* Fellow archaeologists touring Asia on a grant from Miskatonic University.
* Friends or professional associates of the British archaeologists.
* Consultants hired by honest but suspicious local government officials.
* Shady mercenaries laying low in southeast Asia, looking for easy work.
* The “test subject” Khmer workers are desperate for the extra pay from Jacobs regardless of risk. They will resent the investigators’ interference and any risk to spoiling their bonus wages.
* Jacobs may have found alien weapons or other weird devices hidden in the ruins. (Teleporters? Invisibility rays?) Starry Wisdom rolls needed to identify and operate.
* The British team’s rights to the temple site are not entirely legitimate, and local officials paid to look the other way may get greedy for more bribes – or make trouble if feeling cheated. Placid Ignorance checks and good role-playing needed to deal with such issues.
* Once activated, the expected “longevity effect” does not give Jacobs extended life; instead it mutates his cells into a runaway cancer, transforming him into an ever-expanding giant raging tumor.
EXAMPLE MYSTERY #2
* WHERE: 4 … A seaside port somewhere in the world
* WHO: 5 … A greedy and foolish criminal
* WHAT: 5 … A location far out to sea/in the ocean
* HOW: 5 … By repairing an alien or magical device
* WHY: 4 … To escape the coming apocalypse on Earth
Failed Los Angeles actor Jackie Valencia became a con-man/cult leader to make a fortune seducing wealthy celebrities into his quasi-religious “spiritual enlightenment foundation,” The Church Of Silver Awakening. Everything was going great until some actual worshipers of the Elder Gods joined and brought with them dark magic and the truth of mythos lore. Terrified of the doomsday to come, Valencia appeals to the investigators to help him steal a tome of banishment spells and re-seal a dimensional portal found in the Pacific Ocean off the California shore.
Getting the PC investigators involved…
* Fellow actors, friends of the cult’s victims, investigative journalists, criminal detectives or anyone else with cause to uncover more about the Church of Silver Awakening.
* Investigators may have a hard time figuring out which side Jackie Valencia is really on.
* Valencia acts in control and competent, but he’s really a clueless coward who will sacrifice anybody to save himself.
* Once the “real” magical cultists discover Valencia’s plans, they will seek to stop him by blackmailing the cult leader, framing any helping investigators for crimes they didn’t commit, use magic to cripple investigators’ financial or professional resources, and finally summon a monster to follow them out to sea for a final deadly battle.