NOTE: *I ended up writing the barest minimum of scenario and a whole bunch of system for this, which was the opposite of what I intended, so I’m throwing this out there unfinished. Most notably, the equipment section is unwritten. It’s a rather kludgy hack of Yochai Gal’s Cairn with some major influence from Sean McCoy’s null.HACK.

Hopefully there’s one or two things here to pick at for anybody wanting to run OSR-ish games with a Nihei-influenced vibe. In the meantime I’m going to keep hacking away at a far future mythic sci-fi setting for OSR play.*

Tomb City Orphans

The concrete hallways and chambers down here are dark and deathly silent. Every echoing step you take rings your presence. You wonder where everyone went - this place used to teem with people, but after you awoke, they’re all gone.

You can’t stay here. Soon enough you’ll run out of power altogether and you’ll be at the mercy of the things that thrive in absolute darkness. The few of you who are left will need to venture out through the long tunnels into the unknown. Maybe somewhere in the depths you can find others like you. Maybe The Surface is more than just rumour.

It’s not much to go on, but right now it’s the closest thing to hope that you have. Time to go.

The Basics

Tomb City Orphans is a roleplaying scenario set in a distant future of underground ruins of crumbling concrete, where humankind has long since disappeared. Players each take on the role of a lost inhabitant of this place, usually robotic in nature. It assumes basic knowledge of how to run and play in an RPG and a reasonable degree of trust between participants. It uses a D20 roll-under system for task resolution and is a hack of Cairn’s rules.

Character Creation

Choose a background:


Human-like but designed by humans, you cannot escape your own uncanny valley, but live nonetheless.


Shards of stray consciousness jammed haphazardly into frame. A collage of a lost soul, full of memories of uncertain provenance and body that is not your own.


Function and logic, both ill-at-ease with and reverent of your more human-passing companions. Most at home when provided a clear purpose and task.


Polymorphic, self-modifying code that imitated humanlike personality traits, you now find yourself having developed a consciousness as a means to survive.


Roll 3d6 three times and assign the scores to Strength (STR), Dexterity (DEX) and Perception (PER)

Roll 1d6 for Hit Points (HP)


Select three skills from the below table. If the skill is applicable to a task or action for which the outcome is uncertain, the referee may let the player roll at advantage.

Marksmanship | Bartering | Athleticism |
Stealth | Archaeology | Intimidation |
Scavenging | Field repair | Demolition |
Close-quarters combat | Navigation | Esotericism |
Network penetration | Mecha piloting | Systems analysis |
Empathy | Deception | Evasion |



Attacking using a weapon requires a player to successfully roll on one of their stats. This is defined per-weapon, but as a general rule, melee weapons such as swords, axes or glaives require a STR roll, ranged weapons such as pistols, shotguns or SMGs require DEX, and long-range weapons such as rifles and railguns require PER.


Armour acts as an extra layer of HP, and is always deducted first if a character is hit. However, critical hits ignore armour. When a character’s armour is reduced to zero, the armour breaks.


When attacking, take note of the stat your weapon uses and attempt to roll under your score. If you succeed, you deal 1HP damage. If the result is 4 or below, you deal 1d6HP critical damage.

All normal weapons deal 1HP damage, explosives, exotic and super-heavy weaponry always deal critical damage on hit.

If attacking unarmed, roll for STR. Your opponent must succeed a STR save or take 1HP damage.

When a PC is dealt critical damage, they should roll on the below table and subtract the score from their stats as appropriate.

1 Arm severed -1d6 STR
2 Direct hit to body knocked prone
3 Cranium shattered -2d6 PER
4 Neuroptics disrupted -1d6 PER
5 Somamotors glitched -1d6 DEX
6 Leg severed -1d6 STR, immobilised
7 Side of torso blown off -2d6 STR, -1d6 DEX, knocked prone
8 Internal battery rupture -2d6 STR, -2D6 DEX, knocked prone, explosive
9 Processor array destroyed instant death
10 Black box destroyed cannot be recovered after death


If HP, STR, DEX or PER are reduced to zero, a character becomes broken, and cannot perform any actions by themselves until repaired. If any two stats are reduced to zero, they die. However if intact, a dead PCs black box can be recovered and transplanted into a new body-frame. During this process, the character’s personality and memories remain intact, but new stats for HP, STR, DEX and PER must be rolled.


During downtime, any character can attempt to field-repair another character that has been broken. The outcome of this is always uncertain. If the action succeeds, the repairer can re-roll the broken stat. If the action fails, the repairer instead rolls 1d4 for that stat.

April 3, 2022














STALKER: Anomaly Kenshi The Precursors Xenus 2 Mechajammer Serpent In The Staglands Cruelty Squad EYE: Divine Cybermancy G-String Brigand: Oaxaca Northern Journey Infra Arcana Tolroko

March 29, 2022

The beauty in repetition isn’t in striving for perfection, but in forming patterns, and watching how time changes them.

February 6, 2022

The Time // It Takes

I have bipolar disorder. The psychologists and psychiatrists I have seen tell me it’s a particular variant known as cyclothymia, or as it’s sometimes referred to, type 3 bipolar. I have known this for a long time now, although the NHS refuse to issue me a formal diagnosis, making accessing any specialised medication for it impossible. I have tried several types of non-specialised antidepressant medication, on which I dissociated, was sent into manic spirals, ruined what semblance of eating and sleeping patterns I had, and screamed until my throat was in agony. So, for years now, I have dealt with this through nothing other than the coping strategies developed via a lengthy period of outpatient psychotherapy.

On many days, this is enough, but on some it isn’t. On some, the bright light of living is fucking blinding. It’s too much to bear. On others there is simply no life to be derived from anything. I have heard cyclothymia referred to as mild bipolar’, and while I only dread to think of the weeks-long nacrotic highs and deathly lows of type 1 bipolar; the thing about the third type is that things change so rapidly it can become impossible to orient yourself, pinballing from one mental state to the other while desperately trying to find a thread to hold onto.

Statistically, I am 20-30 times more likely than the average person to choose to end my life. Some sources say the suicide rates for those with bipolar disorder are as high as one in five. My chances of making it through life without voluntarily ending it are arguably less than if a neurotypical person put a round in the cylinder of a revolver, put the gun to their head and squeezed the trigger. I feel that pull frequently.

Every time I come out the other side of an ideation unscathed feels like a little victory. A smug middle finger to the wolf at the door. I’ve lived through countless attempts on my life and came out every single one (mostly) unscathed. A chill here, some cuts and bruises there. Fuck you, I lived. Sure, the person I’m saying that to is myself, but I’ll take that over death by my own hand. I am more powerful than some bullshit post about how men die because they don’t open up. I’m here, I’ve opened up and you’re all fucking silent.

Anyway, I’ve digressed. What is worst about bipolar isn’t any of this, but the time it takes from you. The amount of life you just lose in the churn. I can barely remember most of my 20s. I look back on photos and videos of that time and almost don’t recognise myself. And it is endlessly frustrating just to lose whole days, weekends, weeks to it. Time I could have spent making memories with my partner who means the whole fucking world to me, or writing music, or learning how to make the games I’ve always wanted to make; instead just desperately trying to find that thread.

I’ve wasted this weekend trying to find the thread. There will be other times. Hopefully I’m not going anywhere any time soon.

January 23, 2022

Thoughts on GMing

As something to do at Halloween with my friends, I wrote and GMed a modern / uncanny horror one-shot using the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition rules. I had an absolutely incredible time doing so. It was a really rewarding experience to see my friends engaging with and enjoying something that just kind of spilled out my brain, bolstered by a few internet horror touchstones, such as Eckva, The SCP Foundation and The Backrooms. I have some mental notes about the session that I’d like to jot down for the record:

  • Trusting your friends / players to engage with your work in good faith, or what I often hear referred to as high-trust play’ is so rewarding and affirming.

  • Being flexible and changing things on the fly to accomodate your players should be a common courtesy when hosting.

  • I have not bought the Call Of Cthulhu Keeper Rulebook. I have not read it and I don’t intend to. Everything needed to play Call Of Cthulhu is in the player’s handbook.

  • I deliberately omitted sanity points’ because they’re gross. I was considering trying to replace with a Mothership-style panic table, but in the end I just trusted that my friends wouldn’t make light of any incurred trauma. It worked.

  • D100 roll-under is great as a resolution mechanic because you don’t need to be constantly pissing about with modifiers.

  • Call of Cthulhu’s default skill spread is not great. There are very obvious optimal choices such as listen’ or spot hidden’, and there are important skills that present as dump-stats, such as navigate’.

  • Overall, I’d have preferred to use a much lighter system, such as Liminal Horror, but at the end of the day, Call Of Cthulhu was what was agreed on for the session. I may end up tweaking it for Liminal Horror later though, as I think it’s a much more natural fit for the setting.

  • I have included all my scenario notes, warts and all, as a separate post, accessible here.

November 3, 2021

Finding a Kindness // Blade Runner: 2049

There is a version of Blade Runner: 2049 which exists inside what was committed to film.

Where although the world is in its death throes, and everyone is lonely and violent and traumatised and without hope or comfort, that a perfectly unremarkable replicant discovers that a small act of kindness to a perfect stranger feels like a radical symbol of defiance in his dying moments.

That all any of us can do against the unwavering ravages of terminal-stage extinction capitalism is to be kind and forgiving and to love one-another.

I feel like I had to painfully tease it out of the audiovisual barrage of leering misogyny, uncritical product placement and ugly, clumsy metaphor that a megabudget Hollywood production demands.

But it’s there. A story that exists in spite of the medium to which it is committed.


This scene never appears in the movie.


October 24, 2021