The Plain People of Gaming: Otherworld (2 – Characters)

13th Age KasarakIgnoring the vagaries of its publishing history, Pierton’s Night Jungle makes a great setting for gaming. If you just want to tell stories in the mode of the Kalamane Cycle, where heroic fantasy heroes battle monsters and weird sorcery, then you can just grab a copy of 13th Age and wait until next month when we’ll summarize the key gameable elements of the Otherworld. However, if you want to recreate the original stories of “Professor Bravo” (or, less ambitiously, the original ill-fated 80s game), the best approach is a GUMSHOE hack.

In this game, the players play people from our world, Earth, who find themselves transported into the Night Jungle. Like Professor Bravo, they discover they are ‘oscillating’ back and forth between the two worlds, jumping from Earth to the Night Jungle again in times of stress.

# of players    Investigative Build Points

2                      28

3                      22

4                      20

5+                   18

Player have 60 General Ability points. You can trade Investigative Build Points for General, or vice versa, at a 1-for-3 rate.

Academic Abilities

Astronomy

Anthropology

Archaeology*

Architecture*

Biology

History

Law*

Languages*

Medicine

Occult Studies

Research

Physics

Pierton Trivia

 

Interpersonal Abilities

Bargain*

Bureaucracy*

Charm*

Command*

Courtesy*

Deceive*

Insight*

Intimidate*

Reassurance*

Streetwise

 

Technical Abilities

Chemistry

Forgery*

Forensic Medicine

Orienteering*

Outdoor Survival*

Notice*

Pharmacy

Photography

 

General Abilities

Athletics

Contacts

Craft

Driving

Filch

First Aid

Health

Infiltration

Preparedness

Riding

Scuffling

Shooting

Shrink

Stability

Travelling

Weapons

Most of the abilities are self-explanatory if you’ve played another GUMSHOE game. The new or obscure ones – Courtesy and Command are used when dealing with higher- or lower-status people, especially in the Otherworld. Deceive covers bluffing, impersonation and con games as well as seeing through them. Insight gives, well, insight into other people’s motivations and beliefs – the classic GUMSHOE ability of Bullshit Detector exists at the intersection of those two.

Orienteering is a combination of navigation, cartography, and working out spatial relations – it’s doubly important when trying to make your way through the perilous labyrinth of the Night Jungle, or when you’re trying to work out which place on Earth corresponds to a location in the Otherworld.

Pierton Trivia measures knowledge of the Otherworld novels and spin-offs and those involved in publishing them, as well as the fandom around them.

Craft covers improvised repair and operating machinery.

Contacts works like Network in Night’s Black Agents or Correspondence in Trail of Cthulhu.

Travelling is for avoiding Health loss or other penalties when trekking through the jungle.

 

Otherworld Abilities

Player characters from Earth can’t take these Investigative Abilities at the start of the game, but can buy them with experience points. If you’re allowing players to roll up Otherworld characters, then they can take these abilities as well as any other investigative ability marked with a * in the list above.

 

Alchemy: Brewing up potions and poisons from the strange fruits of the Night Jungle, as well as identifying them by their effects.

Beast-Lore: Knowledge of the monsters that haunt the Night Jungle – and how to kill them.

Land-Lore: Knowledge of the various lands swallowed by the Jungle, and what remains of them.

Other-Seeming: How to blend in when you’re outside your home reality. Putting points into this ability lets a character hide the fact that they’re from Earth. The idea that creatures from the Otherworld can cross into our reality, just like Professor Bravo crosses into theirs, is hinted at several times in Pierton’s stories; this ability works the other way for them, letting them blend into modern society.

Sorcery: The perilous use of magic. In Pierton’s novels, sorcery carried terrible costs and was solely the province of malicious or insane wizards.

River-Trade: Navigating the network of rivers that are the main trade routes through the jungle, and dealing with the Shell-Dwarfs who control the waters.

 

Oscillation

A character’s Oscillation rating measures their ability to jump between realities. Most people – on both Earth and the Night Jungle have a rating of 0. Player characters start with a rating of 2.

Oscillation is capped at 10.

Oscillation Spends

Spending a point of Oscillation lets a character start the process of travelling from one world to another with an effort of will. This usually takes several hours – the character feels more and more disconnected from their current reality, and glimpses elements of their destination, until finally they jump completely. Spending extra points of Oscillation can:

  • Make the transition faster
  • Bring large or heavy objects across
  • Temporarily manifest conditions from the other side (need to get a cellphone signal in the Night Jungle? Need an alchemical potion to work to full effect on Earth?)
  • Manifest in a chosen location in the other world (you need to have visited or at least be familiar with the location)
  • Follow someone else across (you end up near wherever they’re going)
  • Resist involuntary transitions

 

Refreshing and Improving Oscillation

Oscillation pools refresh after each adventure. The GM may also declare that the characters have unconsciously jumped, and give them a few Oscillation points in compensation. (This is a great way to deal with missing players – if Bob doesn’t make it to this week’s session, then Bob’s PC involuntarily travels to the opposite reality to the rest of the group. Next week, he shows up again with a refreshed Oscillation pool).

Oscillation cannot be increased by experience points; the only way to improve it is by visiting sites of power and possessing potent relics, especially items that came from one world but spent long periods in the other. Finding something as potent as Professor Bravo’s Diary might improve Oscillation by 3 points.

Avoiding Fate

If a character with Oscillation is reduced to -12 Health, they’re not killed. Instead, they Avoid Fate by instantly and uncontrollably jumping to the other world. A character can Avoid Fate in this fashion a limited number of times.

Oscillation Rating      Fates Avoided

1-2      1

3-5      2

6-9      3

10       4

NPCs who Avoid Fate may find themselves stuck, unable to travel again until they increase their Oscillation rating. Player characters aren’t usually subject to this limitation.

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