Monday, April 24, 2017

My Appendix SF (Stay Frosty)

In the back of the rulebook for the cool new space marine-themed RPG Stay Frosty, author Casey Garske lists some excellent inspirational material for the game, like a particularly, uh, trooperiffic take on Gary Gygax's classic Appendix N. I thought I might suggests a few more series that I think might serve as decent inspiration.


Aliens have invaded the Earth. Hey gun-toting body-builders, what should we do?
BILL: It's time for revenge.
LANCE: Let's attack aggressively!
ME: Up, up, down, down...

Earth Defense Force
Let's take Starship Troopers and set it on Earth. Oh, and let's make the bugs bigger. Maybe give the bugs some giant robots as allies.

Fade to Black
Shape-shifting, biotech-wielding lizard aliens controlled by psychic brains took over the solar system. You and a handful of others operate the Resistance out of a secret space station. The soundtrack is really creepy. "This is our struggle."

High-tech urban warfare against an army of psychic clones. Also, spooky ghosts.

The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
I haven't read this one in a long time, but I loved this novel as a kid. I actually met Joe Haldeman at the only SF/Fantasy convention I've ever been to, and he was super cool. As far as gameable material for Stay Frosty goes, this book has cool power armor (complete with finger lasers), weird aliens (who are just as confused about why they're at war as the humans are), horrific violence, and most notably, an in-depth look at the perils of relativistic space travel and time dilation, and the difficulty of maintaining any kind of social or love life when you're constantly jumping forward in time at a different rate than almost everyone else.

Gantz, by Hiroya Oku
You're dead, except you're not. A big black ball has drafted you in a war/reality TV show against bizarre aliens. Kill aliens to earn enough points to leave (or bring someone back to life, or get bigger guns). That's the theory, anyway.

The Guardian Legend
I'll just quote the back of the box: "Long ago, in a distant galaxy, an alien race sent a huge world - called Naju - hurtling toward Earth, loaded with a cargo of mysterious lifeforms. During the long journey, these creatures have multiplied and become increasingly evil - and now Naju teems with evil. However, deep within this complex globe are self-destruct mechanisms that can be activated to destroy it before it reaches Earth. Now, you must battle your way deep within Naju's labyrinths to destroy it. You are the guardian of Earth and your saga will become The Guardian Legend."

Now is that a great premise or what? This premise raises some interesting questions, too, like "Why was Naju sent to Earth?" and "Why did the lifeforms on Naju turn evil, and what exactly does that mean?" and "How about we make up rules for playing a squad of 'highly sophisticated aerobot transformers?'" and "How many Enemy Erasers does it take to get to the center of an Optomon?"

The first game has all those soldiers trying to cover up the Black Mesa incident as loudly as possible, and the second game has that whole Combine vs. Resistance thing going on, so there's probably plenty of material to work with here. Wake up and smell the ashes. Half-Life 3 confirmed.

The spiritual (and perhaps literal) sequel series to Pathways Into Darkness, and the spiritual (but not literal) predecessor to Halo, the Marathon trilogy is a series of first-person shooters which were ahead of their time gameplay-wise, and which had a surprisingly intricate and mysterious story told primarily through text displayed on computer terminals spread throughout the levels. The games are freeware and have been ported to various modern systems, but if you don't want to play them yourself you can read the terminal text and some fascinating fan-made notes on the story HERE.

As for the premise of the first game:
<Message to All Marathon Terminals>

Marathon Emergency Systems BroadcastToday at 0820 hours, the Marathon came under surprise attack
from unknown hostile forces.  The Marathon has sustained
serious damage.
At 0830 hours, alien forces boarded the Marathon.  The currentsituation is dire.  All personnel are required to arm
themselves and fight for their lives.
<Posted 2794.>
***INCOMING MESSAGE FROM LEELA***Welcome to the Marathon.  I am Leela, one of the two surviving
Artificial Intelligences aboard the Marathon.  I have been
severely damaged, and am working to understand the current
Find the teleport terminal located in the Hangar's controlroom.  By that time, I should have a better idea of what is
going on.



Sorry to give you the bad news, but you've been kidnapped.
You aren't where Leela wanted you to go, and you surely won't
get there any time soon.

I was watching what Leela was having you do: 'save the ship,
save humanity!' And just what or who are you saving them
from? And to what end?

How clich�.  You'll find this little visit much more exciting.

I have dev@``~~C#mon#`~ Tyc~~B``ou to play: If you win, you
go free, and we continue our relationship on friendlier terms.
If you lose, you die.

Good luck in our little game.  Unlike Leela, I give no hints.
Do it on your own, or die trying...

Insanely yours,


P.S. If things around here aren't working, it's because I'm laughing so hard.

Pathways Into Darkness
On behalf of President Bill Clinton, your squad has been ordered to descend to the bottom of a mysterious pyramid in the Yucatán Peninsula and plant a nuclear bomb so that we can blast the dreaming Great Old One down there into a deeper sleep. The labyrinth is filled with the hostile living nightmares of the alien god, so stay frosty and use short, controlled bursts. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a magic crystal that basically lets you cast "Speak with Dead." Sure, the Nazi corpses left over from a failed investigation during WWII don't make for great conversation, but you might learn some valuable intel by interrogating them. (This game has a story page, too, although it unfortunately hasn't been ported to modern computers as far as I know.)

Quake (the first one)
Instead of fighting monsters in space, maybe we could fight monsters in another dimension? Like Quantum Leap Marines. What kind of monsters? Cthulhu-style eldritch abominations, demons, ogres sporting chainsaws and grenade launchers...the whole kit and caboodle. Don't worry about how coherent the universe is, we've got Trent Reznor on the soundtrack and Sandy Petersen on the level design team. Just make sure everything is gothic/industrial/eldritch as hell, and you're fine. Let's hope that rocket-jumping is covered in basic training.

To quote myself from a conversation on G+ with Beloch Shrike: "I've actually been thinking about repurposing a fiction series I was working on (sort of half parody of Quake and some other old FPS games and half bizarre slice-of-life abandoned-on-an-alien-world SF/Fantasy comedy-horror thing) as a setting for Stay Frosty. But I need to actually PLAY Stay Frosty first to get familiar with it, and that's probably on the backburner because [of] some stuff I want to do with The Hateful Place, plus I have my regular game to run and another I've been trying to start with some friends online...There aren't enough hours in the day, you know?"

Anyway, Beloch Shrike writes awesome OSR gun rules.

Quake II (and IV)
These games are basically Space Marines vs. (a particularly gruesome take on) the Borg.

The SCP Foundation
My clearance level only allows me to share the following words with you: Mobile Task Force.

The Shadow Over Innsmouth, by H. P. Lovecraft (and Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, perhaps even more so)
You know that whole "F.B.I. raid on Innsmouth" thing? That might be interesting to play out. A mashup of Stay Frosty and Delta Green could be cool, too.

Siren series, especially Siren 2 (a.k.a. Forbidden Siren 2)
Okay, so your squad is trapped in a Silent Hill-style Otherworld based on a mash-up of Japanese folklore and the Cthulhu Mythos, and it's filled with zombies, and the zombies are smart enough to use tools and follow patrol routs and try to flank you, and they absolutely will not stay dead so the best you can do is to either avoid them or temporarily put them out of action, and they are SUPER HAPPY about being zombies and just want to share their happiness with you by making you a zombie, too. Oh, and if you concentrate really hard, you can see through the zombies' eyes, which is as useful as it is troubling.

I don't think I need to elaborate on this one.

I haven't seen the movie or the TV show in a long time, but from what I remember the movie is basically the U.S. Military vs. Space Egypt, and SG-1 is kind of like that plus Star Trek-style "exploring the universe" shenanigans plus X-Files-style government cover-ups but with the secret government organization being the good guys. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. Anyway, any of that sounds like a good backdrop for some Space Marines vs. Aliens Disguised as Egyptian Gods action.

Star Wars
"Wars" is right there in the title. It can't be all jedi, all the time, you know? Sometimes the best way to overcome the Dark Side of the Force is to show up with overwhelming firepower and Star War the hell out of it.

Because what your Stay Frosty game really needs is strict adherence to proper civilian rules of engagement and careful evidence collection. SWAT teams occupy a weird place somewhere between police and soldiers (at least in fiction - I can't really speak for real SWAT teams), and you could probably get some interesting gaming out of exploring that. Plus, hostage situations and no-knock warrants and organized crime and the blurry line between protecting yourself and protecting/serving the public could all make for tense and interesting situations.

EDIT: Of course, this kind of subject matter might hit a little too close to home for some people, so please make sure your whole group is comfortable with this kind of game before running it, and if anyone isn't comfortable with it, please do something else instead.

When you're a super-soldier employed by a megacorp to conquer the world, cyberpunk means never having to say you're sorry.

On a shitty, barren planet, there's a single outpost where The Most Unethical Megacorp (TM) conducts every type of mad science in the book - and thanks to a teleporter malfunction, all the crimes against nature are loose in the building while reality itself is out to lunch. In terms of its influences, this is basically a bunch of cool/creepy bits from Aliens, Dead Space, Doom, Marathon, Quake, Quake II, and System Shock rolled into a big ball of lo-fi rogue-like techno-terror. A sci-fi/horror/action kitchen sink done totally right. On top of that, Teleglitch has what feels like a fairly original take on the horrors of teleportation technology gone awry - the vast, deadly walls of electric nothing seem suitably Lovecraftian to me while remaining pretty unique in their own right, and they really take advantage of the game's retro art style - there's a less is more thing going on here that's effective and unnerving. Oh, and this game has a genuine in-universe justification for the weird, unrealistic, maze-like layouts you tend to find in games: it's in the title. If nothing else, that should serve as a useful idea for tabletop gaming. What's that? The dungeon doesn't make sense? Of course it does! A wizard teleporter did it!

Warhammer 40,000; especially the Space Hulk sub-series
As with Starcraft, this one probably needs no explanation.

X-COM (a.k.a. UFO: Enemy Unknown)
Save the world from aliens, but on a budget. Learn to stop worrying and love friendly fire. You have a 95% percent chance to hit these memes, so you're definitely going to miss.

Full disclosure: When it comes to the video games on this list, some of these I haven't played myself, but only watched other people play or otherwise experienced second-hand through "let's plays," online analyses, etc. I've only played one Earth Defense Force game - I think it was Insect Armageddon. I haven't played Pathways Into Darkness or SWAT 4 myself. I think I played the first computer version of Space Hulk once and the first X-COM game once or twice, but otherwise I haven't personally played these series. I haven't played every single game in the Contra, F.E.A.R., Starcraft, and Syndicate series, and that goes at least double when it comes to Star Wars games just because there are so darn many of them. Still, I'm pretty confident that the games I've listed have decent potential as fuel for at least a session of Stay Frosty.

Here are a few more series I was on the fence about including:
Dead Space
Dune, by Frank Herbert (and maybe some of the related video games)
Resident Evil
System Shock and its sequel
The Thing
Universal Soldier


  1. That's a great list. Seeing System Shock reminded me that Shamus Young, creator of DM of the Rings, wrote a fan novel of it called Free Radical that some might be interested in reading. It's not humourous, just a straight adaptation.

    1. (Deleted my last comment in order to add more to the end of it, because it didn't seem to want to let me edit it.)


      That fan novel sounds really cool. Thank you for the link. (I need to read more DM of the Rings, for that matter.)

      Years ago, I started writing a fan novel of Flashback: The Quest For Identity. (Fade to Black, a game mentioned in the post above, is actually the sequel to Flashback). Jess (who wasn't my wife yet at the time, obviously) really enjoyed what I had written and encouraged me to continue, and I got a good bit of positive feedback from others, too, but unfortunately I never did finish it. I still think about picking it back up every now and then, but...I don't know. Fan fiction can be a lot of fun, but sometimes it feel like it would be a waste of my time to make fan fiction when I could be making something "original" I could actually sell, instead. Then again, it's not like I'm accomplishing as much writing as I could or should, so maybe it would be better than nothing. I have so many other projects on the back-burner, though...

      Anyway, the point is that when someone DOES finish a fan novel, and when it's actually good, I really get a kick out of it. I read a really one based on Silent Hill 2 at some point. Something I find REALLY amusing, though, is when an officially-licensed tie-in novel reads like a strange, off-the-wall fan novel that somehow got official approval. Have you ever read the original Doom novels? They're SUPER weird.

    2. I read a really GOOD one based on Silent Hill 2.
      Crap, I'm not deleting the comment AGAIN just to fix a typo. :P