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Free-er by the Dozen: The GGGames Dozen

The Box

By Kris Havlak and Rick Heggie
November 23, 2001
GGG logo

For November, here’s an RPG idea that came to me in a bad dream. It's a wacky world, but hopefully it'll stick with a few of you. And please forgive the blasphemy. Check out www.gggames.net for Green Goblin Games updates; we've got numerous games such as FARM WARS and SHADY ACRES EXPANSIONS on our slate, as well as a possible change in the philosophy of our 'company.' Enough advertising. MONKEY PIT FIGHTING will be on RPGnet next month! I now present to you...
 

A Green Goblin Games Roleplaying Game

by Kris Havlak and Rick Heggie

Email: gggames@gggames.net


In the not too distant future...

It was 6 am. God was worried. The people knew. Ever since Einstein and his dumb theory, physicists had kept making breakthroughs. God’s programming department in charge of physics had worked day and night to keep one step ahead of the 3rd Millennium’s top scientists. But now they knew. Everything. There was no stopping the bastards: now that they new the code of life they could ruin everything. To make matters worse, the programmers were revolting in fear, blaming their failure on insufficient pay. It was time for something drastic.

Needing help, God paid a visit to Saint Peter. Saint Peter told God to get a six-sided die.
“Now how in the hell would that help?!” shouted God.
“Don’t roll the thing, look at its shape,” explained Peter.
God held up the d6 to the holy light of heaven, and the vision of Saint Peter came to him. A cube. Hollow. A box, entirely enclosed. Scramble physics. A new programming language. A fresh start.
God Smiled as the new day’s sun rose into the heavens, warming him on the outside. On the inside, however, he was roasting with anticipation.

By noon, the Earth was a fiery ball plummeting down into the foulest realms of deep space. God shaped the moon into a large ferrous box, and transported it to a location where he could watch over it: at the singularity of the black hole leading to Heaven. He opened his right hand and dropped in the few hundreds of humans he had hand-picked from Earth. They were a decent bunch of men and women, with absolutely no physicists. He squeezed his left hand tight; the creatures within could not be released until the most important change had been made.

The programmers were not happy with their new orders. They were overworked as it was, and now they had to learn a whole new programming language. Something called Sponch after the six elements necessary for life, and that would allow the programming of God’s newfangled “Monostonian Physics.” A bunch of crap. Loading up on holy hand grenades and halobats, the programmers went to have a little talk with God.

God, being God, quickly silenced the programmers’ complaints with a thunderous boom. To prevent further such rebellions, God decided to use a similar technique as he did against the Earthlings. Grabbing the nearest object bouncing around the clouds of heaven-- a superball-- he shoved all the programmers inside and threw them into the box, doomed to bounce around aimlessly throughout eternity.

A week after God hatched his plan, the programmers had finished the basic Monostonian Principles and God finally released the creatures from his left hand into the box. They were remnants from hell, and the demons’ evil alignment caused them to be attracted to the top, rather than the bottom, of the box. They would thus be separate but within sight of the Earthlings, a suitable reminder of God’s power. To distract humans from figuring out Sponch, God would neutralize gravity and allow the humans to mix with the demons for a few brief hours. And thus began life in the Box.


The Goal...

The players are humans who are not happy about being trapped in the box. The goal is to find a way to escape. If this is possible, God himself must be defeated or the players will find themselves once again trapped in the ferrous cube.


Monostonian Physics

Physics in the box are much different than they were on Earth. Gravity pulls creatures based on alignment. Creatures with a good alignment walk around on the Light Side of the box, while evil ones rampage on the Dark Side. For several hours every day, referred to as The Neutralizing, gravity switches to the center plane of the box for all creatures. The combat that ensues between good and evil is brutal and takes place in midair.

In addition to gravity, sound and light function much differently in the Box. The speed of sound is 8 meters/second, making communication over long distances rather time-consuming. Sonic booms are also common-- these are annoying but for the most part not particularly dangerous. The speed of light on the dark side is 343 m/s and functions as it did on earth. However, on the light side the speed of light travels at negative 343 m/s, meaning it actually makes areas darker. The light side is always fully lit unless a dark bulb is present, while the dark side is always dark unless a light bulb is present.

Due to the strange speed of light, time functions unexpectedly. Time emanates from the Super Ball of Time (which is where the programmers are housed) at a frequency of 100 ticks/second. This is a high enough rate that events appear fairly normal. The speed of time varies with the distance from the Super Ball of Time, with a maximum of 343 m/s right next to the super ball. This decreases by about 10 m/s per kilometer away. Anything traveling faster than the speed of time (like bullets) will disappear into a rift and not reappear until a number of seconds equaling the velocity over the speed of time at which the object was traveling. After this time the object reappears, traveling at the speed of time. Generally, since objects must accelerate, an object will only reach a velocity of 1d20 m/s over the speed of time before a pulse of time will force it to disappear.

Example: Harvey fires a shotgun he brought from home on Earth at an evil demon. However, the buckshot quickly accelerates to 350 m/s (it did not freeze until this point due to the pulsing nature of time). Harvey is one kilometer away from the Super Ball of Time, so the speed of time is 333 m/s. The pellets freeze for 17 seconds (350-333) and then continue towards the demon at 333 m/s (if he’s still there).


The Characters

Upon arriving in the Box, the Earthlings quickly organized so as to accomplish what needed to be done. Those with experience in farming began growing food, others began building homes, and still more took up arms to protect their comrades from the demons during The Neutralizing. Intellectuals began studying the new set of physics and soon discovered ways of manipulating God’s new language Sponch. After basic tasks had been completed, the different roles of Earthlings became even more defined, eventually becoming ten distinct classes.

Characters are defined by five attributes: Strength (STR), Metaphysical Influence (META), Agility (AGL), Charisma (CHA), and Technological Aptitude (TECH). Each are described briefly below:
STR- Physical power, health, and stamina.
META- Ability to manipulate natural forces such as gravity or sound.
AGL- Dexterity, coordination, reflexes.
CHA- Looks, persuasiveness, humor, personality.
TECH- Ability to interpret and use technology, intelligence.

Beginning attributes are determined by character type, as per the table below:

CLASS STR META AGL CHA TECH
Gangster 3 0 2 2 2
Clown 2 0 3 2 2
Salesman 1 0 2 3 3
Druid 1 3 2 2 1
Tender 1 3 2 2 1
Walker 1 2 3 2 1
Soldier 3 0 3 1 2
The Shiny 1 3 3 1 1
Screamer 3 3 1 1 1
Scum 1 0 1 1 1

Each character gets an additional 2 points to assign, which must each be assigned to a different attribute. Only Druids, Tenders, The Shiny, and Screamers can have a META score of higher than zero.

The Classes:

Gangster: The gangsters are bullies and hooligans who are generally disliked by their Earthling kin. They enjoy playing video games at the Funplex and stealing change from shoppers at The Store and other video game players. They will often fight demons for the fun of it or pick fights with Soldiers. Gangsters are skilled in subversive techniques and have a wide array of useful knowledge that can be helpful in escaping the Box.
Skills: Guns (0), Melee (1), Unarmed (0), Electronics (0), Thievery (1), Athletics (0)
Beginning Gear: Knife, Tools, Leather Jacket.
Beginning Cash: $20

Clown: Clowns run the Funplex and live to make people happy. They make sure all of the video games work properly and that children are entertained. Clowns have a protected status on the Light Side; if anyone hurts or offends a clown they can be punished by death. However, no one ever wants to hurt a clown. Their jolly nature and skill with business matters, as well as this protected status, make Clowns valuable additions to an adventuring party.
Skills: Electronics (1), Entertainery (1)
Special: Protected Status
Beginning Gear: Clown Suit, Tools, Clown Props.
Beginning Cash: $200

Salesmen: These nerdy men and women are the brains of the Light Side. They not only are in charge of running The Store, but also invent and build all of the items to be produced there. During The Neutralizing, Salesmen test new weapons and armor out on the demons. And of course, they’re insatiable salesmen.
Skills: Guns (0), Electronics (1), Design/Engineering (1)
Beginning Gear: Knife, Heavy Pistol, Tools, Laptop Computer
Beginning Cash: $400

Druids: The Druids began as society’s outcasts, running away to the forests to evade the face-to-face life in the Box. However, as they crossed the River Alasie they were taken in by the nature goddess of the same name. The People of Alasie, as they were sometimes called, were taught by their patron deity in the ways of the forest and the streams. Alasie tutored her pupils in the methods of magnetic field manipulation until they could split water, hurl rocks, and destroy electronics using only their minds. Now, the Druids are a reclusive people living primarily in the Druids’ Forest, but occasionally travel beyond to aid the cause of the Light.
Skills: Athletics (0), Telekinesis (1), EMP (1)
Special: Patron Goddess, Magnetic Field Manipulation
Beginning Gear: Druid’s Robes, Holy Symbol
Beginning Cash: $5

Tenders: Earthlings being as innovative as they are, the cage in which God’s programmers bounce around was soon discovered as having great supernatural powers. To prevent the demons from getting their hands on the Superball, a breed of humans began the tradition of tending the superball of time. After studying the Super Ball of Time for an extended period, the Tenders grasped and developed the ability to manipulate Gravity. This was extremely useful, as it allowed them to keep the Superball in good hands and to travel along with it. Now anyone who wishes to approach the Superball must first talk to the Tenders. Since access to the Superball is often essential for escaping the Box, Tenders are a valuable asset to an adventuring party.
Skills: Athletics (0), Telekinesis (1), Gravity Distortion (1)
Special: Gravity Manipulation
Beginning Gear: Tender’s Robes, Knife
Beginning Cash: $20

Walkers: A number of pacifistic Earthlings quickly came to despise the bloody period known as The Neutralizing and sought a way to eliminate alignment. After trying everything from strapping themselves in during The Neutralizing to sacrificing themselves to the demons, the Wall Walkers soon discovered they could avoid most of the violence of The Neutralizing by staying close to the Box’s walls. After decades of this practice, the Wall Walkers lost their alignment altogether, and now can be seen walking around the six surfaces of the Box freely, although they generally avoid both the Light Side and the Dark Side. Now they serve as a neutral guides, sought out by curious individuals for their extra-sensory knowledge and rare experiences.
Skills: Athletics (1), Clairaudience (1), Melee (0)
Special: No alignment
Beginning Gear: Sword, Crystal Ball, Walker’s shoes
Beginning Cash: $100

Soldiers: The original Demon Fighters from the Box soon organized into a highly efficient military. The Fort of the Light sits on a high hilltop and keeps the peace. Squads of soldiers distribute themselves to key points during The Neutralizing: The Fort of the Light, the Funplex, and the Store. People of the light are encouraged to meet here in order to be protected by the soldiers. Wielding heavy guns and heavier armor, the soldiers provide the firepower necessary to defeat almost any opponent.
Skills: Guns (1), Melee (0), Unarmed (1), Athletics (0)
Beginning Gear: Rifle or Baby Chewer, Medium Armor, Billy Club
Beginning Cash: $80

The Shiny: The Shiny are a mysterious race rumored to have originated from psychedelic hippies on acid who, after arriving in the Box, gained the ability to project their hallucinations into the physical world. It is also possible that the Shiny originated from Earthlings raped by demons. No conclusive evidence supports either thesis. The Shiny appear to be normal humans (Scum), and generally act as such. Sometimes mischievous or greedy members of The Shiny will use their light manipulation powers for foul deeds. However, The Shiny are generally introverted and only stand out in times of dire need.
Skills: Thievery (0), Entertainery (0), Illusion (1), Light Amplification (1)
Special: Light Manipulation
Beginning Gear: Knife
Beginning Cash: $150

Screamers: Members of this obnoxious caste originated from loudmouthed televangelists, radio DJ’s, and Baptist ministers. They are large, intimidating folk who use their ability to manipulate sound however they see fit. The slow speed of sound makes it easy for Screamers to manipulate, but also easy to avoid. Gangs of Screamers can be found in all areas of the Light Side, and many will be angry and wish to escape from the Box.
Skills: Sound Mimic (1), Sonic Blast (1), Silence (0)
Special: Sonic Manipulation
Beginning Gear: Greataxe or Heavy Pistol, Demonskin Armor, Holy Bible or Turntables
Beginning Cash: $200

Scum: Anyone who doesn’t fit one of the above classes fills the lower ranks of society, known jovially as scum. While not particularly useful at adventuring, demon-killing, or getting out of the box, they provide the necessary food, clothes, labor, etc. necessary for survival of the Light Side’s inhabitants.
Skills: Scumery (4)
Beginning Gear: Knife, Tools
Beginning Cash: $50


Skill List

Skill (Relevant Attribute) Description

Ordinary Skills:
Guns (AGL) Using Firearms in Combat
Melee (AGL) Combat with melee weapons
Unarmed (STR) Unarmed Combat (Dam=10)
Electronics (TECH) Fiddle with machines, wires, video, etc.
Thievery (AGL) Sneak, Hide, Pick locks, sabotage, etc.
Athletics (STR) Run, Swim, Jump, Tumble
Design/Engineering (TECH) Design and build weapons and contraptions
Entertainery (CHA) Amuse and Impress others
Scumery (ANY) Farming, Laboring, and all such nonsense

Meta Skills (Only usable by certain classes):
Magnetic Field Manipulation:
Telekinesis (META) Move objects (Diff. based on mass)
EMP (META) Disable Electronics (Diff. based on size)
Gravity Manipulation:
Gravity Distortion (META) Fly and alter gravity’s power (Diff based on area, mass)
Telekinesis (META) Move objects (Diff. based on mass)
Light Manipulation:
Illusion (META) Make things invisible, appear weird
Light Amplification (META) Make light from dark, burn things (Dam=15)
Sound Manipulation:
Sound Mimic (META) Create sounds from nowhere; change voice
Sonic Blast (META) Deafen and Harm Opponents (Dam=10, make an extra check or be deafened)
Silence (META) Reduce sound
Special Power of Wall Walkers:
Clairaudience (META) Hear things far away (Diff. based on distance)

Meta Powers:

These rules won’t go delve into a lot of depth over the uses of Meta Skills. Most have a single straightforward effect, and the various applications of this effect are up to the creativity of the players. The difficulty of an action is determined by the GM just like any other skill (see below). When using sonic blast or light amplification, the difficulty is as for a normal attack.


Skill Resolution and Combat

When trying to use a skill effectively, a difficulty must first be assigned. This varies based on the skill, and the GM is the ultimate authority on how difficult a task is. Most difficulties will be between 15 and 20.
Next, see what the relevant attribute of the skill is. This is the number of d20 die rolls the character gets to make-- if any of these succeed, then the skill has been successfully used. A success is achieved if any die, plus skill modifier (the number in parenthesis) is equal to or greater than the difficulty. Skills based on attributes other than META can be used untrained, but the number of dice rolled is decreased by one. If it would result in zero, one die is rolled twice-- both rolls must succeed for the attempt to be successful.

Example: Ranthor the Gangster is using his Thievery skill in an attempt to pick a lock. The GM assigns a difficulty of 18, with a relevant attribute of AGL. Ranthor has an AGL of 3, and a Thievery skill of (2). He rolls three dice, hoping to roll at least one 16 or higher. He rolls 14, 3, and 17, passing by 2 on his third roll. The lock springs open.

Example: Chuck, a member of the Scum, makes an attempt at Entertainery to impress a pretty girl. The GM assigns a difficulty of 16, with CHA as the relevant attribute. Chuck has a CHA of 1 and no skill in Entertainery. His effective CHA is thus reduced to 0. He must roll two dice, and get 16 or higher on each one to effectively impress the girl. Chuck rolls a 7 and a 13, which isn’t good enough. The girl laughs mockingly at Chucks pitiful sense of humor.

Opposed Skill Checks: If two characters are using skills directly against each other in a direct manner, an opposed skill check rather than a normal one can be made. Each character rolls as if it was a normal skill check, but there is no difficulty. Instead, the character with the highest modified roll wins.

Example: Bilbo the Clown and Wendy Waltmier are having an Entertainery contest. Bilbo has a CHA of 4 and an Entertainery skill of (2). Wendy has a CHA of 3 and an Entertainery skill of (3). Bilbo’s highest die is a 17, modified by his skill to a 19. Wendy rolls 3, 7, and 14, meaning her highest modified result is a 17. Bilbo wins the contest, and goes home with a new Clown Suit.

Initiative

When a combat begins, each character rolls 1d20 a number of times equal to her AGL. Take the highest roll, and modify it for special conditions:

Drawing Weapon -4
Clueless -8
Initiated Combat +4
Readying Weapon -2
Weapon Size -2 for medium weapons, -4 for large weapons

The character with the highest resulting number goes first, and the progression counts down from that number to zero. Characters take actions on the initiative segment corresponding to their number. A character may take a second action after each 5 initiative points, but he takes a cumulative -5 penalty to each roll for each action after the first. Once initiative reaches zero, a new round begins and characters reroll initiative.

Example: Shiela, with an agility of 2, draws a gun on Marcus, who has an agility of 3 but is looking the other way. Shiela’s highest roll is a 14, and she gets a +4 bonus for initiating the combat. However, she also takes a -4 penalty for drawing her pistol, canceling out her +4 bonus. Marcus rolls a 17, but takes an 8 point penalty for being clueless. His medium-sized rifle is unready, giving him an additional -4 penalty, resulting in an initiative of 5. Shiela could fire twice (On segment 14 and 9) before Marcus gets to act at initiative 5.

Hitting Difficulty

The difficulty to hit an opponent in melee is 15 plus the AGL of the opponent. In ranged combat, it is 15 plus the square root of the range in meters, rounded down. The accuracy (Acc.) of the weapon is added to an attack roll for both melee and ranged combat.

Example: Shiela fires at Marcus. The range is three meters, so the difficulty is 16. The accuracy of Shiela’s derringer is 0, so Shiela must roll at least one 16 to hit Marcus. She rolls a one and a 19, hitting Marcus squarely.

Damage

Every character has six damage levels. From healthiest to most damaged they are “healthy,” “bruised,” “bashed,” “broken,” “mangled,” and “dead.” When a character gets hit, he must make a damage check with a difficulty equal to the damage of the weapon. A wounded character must make a STR check to defeat each level of damage. If the roll is failed, the character progresses to that damage level and must make another roll vs. the same difficulty to defeat the next damage level. If checks against all levels are failed, the character dies.
If a wounded character is hit, she begins making checks at the healthiest level available. If a “bashed” character is hit, the first roll made is to avoid becoming “broken.”

Penalties for each level of damage are as follows:
Healthy None
Bruised None
Bashed -1 to all checks (except damage checks)
Broken -3 to all checks (except damage checks)
Mangled -5 to all checks (except damage checks)
Dead No action :-(

Example: Marcus, already bruised, makes a difficulty 15 roll to avoid becoming bashed. His strength is only one, and he fails with a roll of 12. He becomes bashed, and now rolls to prevent becoming Broken. This time he rolls a 3, and moves down to Broken. Kissing his die, Marcus gets a lucky 20, ending the progression at Broken. He now takes a -3 to all checks.

Armor gives you a bonus to STR for purposes of resisting damage, but gives a penalty to all rolls made using AGL.

Healing: Characters heal one level of damage per week. Dead characters do not heal unless they were killed by God, in which case they fully regenerate. Between adventures, all characters heal back to “healthy.”


Experience

When the smoke is cleared at the end of a gaming session, players rejoice as their characters improve! At the end of each session, each character rolls a single d20 in an experience check. The base difficulty is 10, with modifiers as follows:

Highest kills in party -2
Second highest kill count -1
Lowest kill count +1
Sexing Stuff Up -1
Finding a useful clue -2
Finding a stupid clue -1
Accomplishing something -1 to -4
Escaping the box -10
Defeating God -10 (2 rolls, but you already won!)

If this check is successful, the character gains a point to any attribute, and a bonus point to any skill available to the character.


Equipment

WEAPON TYPE/SIZE ACC. DAM. COST
Knife Melee/Small 0 14 $10
Shiv Melee/Small 0 12 $1
Billy Club Melee/Medium 0 14 $8
Sword Melee/Medium 1 16 $150
Greataxe Melee/Large 1 18 $200
Light Saber Melee/Small 1 18 $300
8' Board Melee/Large 0 12+k $10
Chair/Stool Melee/Large 0 12+k $25
Derringer Guns/Small 0 15 $100
Heavy Pistol Guns/Small 4 17 $200
Rifle Guns/Medium 8 18 $300
Riot Shotgun Guns/Medium 4 14+k $200
Beanbag Gun Guns/Large 2 12+k $200
Baby Chewer Guns/Large 4 19 $400

k= requires those struck to make an additional STR check or be knocked down. A knocked down character must spend one round to get up.

ARMOR STR bonus AGL pen COST MATERIAL
Ultralight 1 0 $25 Demonskin
Light 2 -1 $75 Kevlar
Medium 3 -2 $150 Ballistic Plastic
Heavy 4 -3 $300 Hardened Mechally

OTHER STUFF: Cost Purpose
Robes $40 Coolness Factor
Tools $50 Necessary for lockpicking, building, electronics
Holy Bible $10 How to live the good life
Tickets to Funplex $10 Fun
Clown Suit and Props $100 Aid Entertainery
Holy Symbol (Alasie) $10 Pisses off God, Demons
Laptop Computer $400 Aids Design and plays games
Wizard’s Hat $30 Coolness Factor
Extendo Middle Finger $50 Pisses off everyone
Earplugs $2 Gain one STR die vs. Sonic attacks
Sunglasses $20 Coolness Factor
Flashlight $15 Makes light
Flashdark $15 Makes dark
Dice $7 Aid decision making
Turntable $100 Mix and play the Muuuu-sak
Leather Jacket $100 Coolness Factor
Crystal Ball $500 See events in other places
Shoes $20 Protect the feet


Them there Demons

Players will likely find their characters battling hordes of demons during various Neutralizings. Demons come in all shapes and forms, but generally appear to be horrible aberrations from terrible nightmares. Some have wings that allow them to fly to the Light Side during normal hours. Others have manipulation powers similar to those of Druids, Tenders, The Shiny, or Screamers. All are horrible.

Demon Stats: All Demons have STR, META, and AGL scores (CHA and TECH are always 0), an attack type and damage, and possibly a type of Meta Manipulation (relevant skills are all at level (0). Demons have names that lack vowels (don’t try pronouncing them). The stats for any given demon can be rolled randomly, as can the name. A sample table of demons is given below:

DEMON STR META AGL ATTACK DAM META TYPE
Skl'v'd 1 0 2 Blarp 16 N/A
Hq'nl 3 0 1 Nibble 14 N/A
Br 4 0 3 Spit 13 N/A
G 'qf 4 0 3 Wack 20 N/A
T 'fwtlv 3 0 2 Splam 17 N/A
Npl' gq 1 0 4 Blarp 15 N/A
Q shh 4 0 4 Spit 19 N/A
Dlt' g 2 0 3 Blarp 20 N/A
Wt' cn 4 0 2 Rumt 18 N/A
C' Kmddf 2 0 4 Wack 16 N/A
Wdt'nvhb 3 1 3 Spit 14 Gravity
Dst'f 1 4 3 Wack 18 Magnetic
L'rzsm 2 3 3 Splam 16 Gravity
Xjq' pctp'l 4 4 1 Rend 18 Magnetic
Fx 1 2 2 Wack 20 Gravity
Q'rf 1 2 3 Rumt 15 Sound
Flf 3 1 2 Rend 19 Light
TvnWhcc 4 3 3 Niblle 15 Sound
Lvdq 3 2 4 Spit 16 Light
Rfdh'd 4 4 4 Smash 20 Light

In case you’re wondering, Satan is dead. He went down with Hell when Earth was burned by God.


Getting Out

The players, of course, eventually want to escape from their ferrous prison. There are a number of ways to do this, and the specifics are up to the GM and won’t be listed here because that would ruin the fun for the players. Some aspects that may be involved are:

Defeating Demons
Beating Video Games in the Funplex
Talking to Alasie
Exploring the Light forests/ the Dark Side
Talking with the Walkers
Finding the Superball of Time
Exploration of the Box’s walls
New inventions from the Store

Generally, getting out of the Box should be a standard sized adventure, lasting approximately from one to four sessions.

Once out of the Box, the characters are sucked up by the black hole and go straight to Heaven. God won’t be too happy with the player characters, and forces them into a cagematch. God is a powerful mother with a 5 in every ability score. He attacks with a Smite that does a damage of 20. He can manipulate Gravity, Sound, Light, and Magnetic Fields, and may have other special powers determined by the GM. If the players win, they’re free! Heaven is now their playground, and they are the Gods. If they instead are smitten horribly by God, it’s back into the Box with them until they can find another way of escaping.

Please visit www.gggames.net for other games by the GGG crew.

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