Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Hush Beta (FKR x Mafia x SciFi Hijinx)

Here is an early version of a game I've been working on for Chris Mennell of In Search of Games and Beyond the Weird

He wanted a small sci-fi game about a paranoid crew filled with secrets. What I've come up with is somewhere between a Free Kriegsspiel (or my limited understanding of that term) game and the social game Mafia (or Werewolf). It's a little different from things I've done before but hopefully, people enjoy it! It is designed to ensure maximum paranoia between the players! 

The Galactic Research Bureau, a subsidiary of the ubiquitous corporate empire known as The Government. The exact purpose and goal of The Bureau’s research is somewhat lost in a forest of recursive bureaucracy. Regardless, it is clear that the organisation has a willingness to sacrifice human life at the smokey altar of data. Research missions, stocked with conscripted Research Assistants, are endlessly fired out to dangerous fringe worlds on automated space flights. The exact purpose of these missions are murky. Assistants are given confusing, if not conflicting, objectives. They are told privately, secretly, if they perform better than the other assistants, accruing more “Research Points” they will be awarded a new life, a position in The Governments hallowed Offices of Order.  


How to Conduct a Research Mission: 

  • One player is assigned the role of Referee, the others will play the role of Research Assistants. The Referee will describe the planet explored by the Research Assistants, and determine the result and impact of the Research Assistants' actions (as described by the other players). Importantly, the referee will determine the result of any Conflict Tests conducted by the other players. 
  • The Referee will take as many Character Sheets as there are Research Assistants and circle the “Covert Research Operative” section of one of them. The Character Sheets will then be shuffled and handed out secretly and randomly to each player. 
  • Each Research Assistant will roll on the “Field of Expertise”, “Macrohuman Branch”, “Personal Research Objective” and “Classified Research Objective” sections of their character sheet, circling the result they get. The Covert Research Operative also does this, but the only results that matter are “Field of Expertise” and “Macrohuman Branch” (but not rolling on the other tables would arouse suspicion). 
  • Character Sheets are to remain secret until the end of the game (even to The Referee). “Personal Research Objective” and “Classified Research Objective” can remain secret, be discussed or even lied about but the “Field of Expertise” and “Macrohuman Branch” of each Research Assistant must be public knowledge and CANNOT be lied about. 
  • The Referee will describe the environments encountered in the Introduction, Scene 1, Scene and Climax of a mission. They will interpret the actions of the Research Assistants in terms of how they interact with the environment they are in, as well as calling for Conflict Tests when appropriate (and further interpreting the results of these).
  • The Referee’s role is to ensure the game world presented to the other players is both interactive, dynamic, interesting and dangerous. The Referee is free to interpret and present the Mission and its environment as they see fit, but it is important that this is consistent and that concrete consequences for the Research Assistant’s choices and actions are enacted. 
  • All Research Assistants other than the Covert Research Operative are awarded 2 Research Points for completing a mission successfully. 
  • Once the Mission’s climax has been played out and the automated spacecraft has left the planet, the Research Assistants will reveal their Character Sheets and each player will tally up the points they have earned for their actions throughout the game. 
  • The player with the highest number of Research Points wins. 
  • Any player who is marooned or killed during the mission is not awarded any points. 

Conflict Tests: 

If a Research Assistant comes into conflict with some Aspect of Reality (or another Research Assistant), both they and the referee (or the other player) roll a d6. The highest roll wins the conflict. 

  • If a Research Assistant/Referee can argue them; add situational bonuses of +X to either roll.
  • If the Research Assistant/Referee can argue them; add situational penalties of –X to either roll. 
  • Easy Test: If a Research Assistant/Aspect of Reality is in a very likely position to win the conflict, they can roll twice and use the highest result.
  • Hard Test: If a Research Assistant/Aspect of Reality is in a very unlikely position to win the conflict roll twice and use the lowest result.
  • Re roll ties.

Extrapolate what skills, possessions and bodily attributes a Research Assistant has from their Field of Expertise and Macrohuman Branch.

The referee contextually judges when a Research Assistant is damaged from a conflict, the impact of this and the possibility of Character death. 

Any injuries received by a Research Assistant must be noted on their Character Sheet. The Referee must be made aware of any injuries the Research ASsistant has before they make any subsequent Conflict Tests, so appropriate penalties can be applied.  


  • When needed (for example during combat lasting more than a single Conflict Test, or tension between Research Assistants), events in the game can be played out in Moments. The Referee determines the order in which entities (Research Assistants and Creatures/objects/etc in the game world) act and then each entity has a moment to do something. Any conflict in these moments is resolved with a Conflict Test. This cycle of moments is repeated until the conflict/tension is over. 
  • In the game world a Moment is only a few seconds long - The Referee rules what exactly an entity can get done in a Moment, ensuring they are fair and equitable to all involved. 
  • The specific order in which entities act out their Moments may be determined by the Referee’s interpretation of the situation and the attributes of the entities involved, or Conflict Tests between entities to determine who will act first. 

Creating A Research Assistant (Player Character): Each player will roll to randomly determine the Field of Expertise, Macrohuman Branch and Objectives of the Research Assistant they are playing. 

Please print out the following Character Sheet to play the game (refer to the third dot point in the "How to Conduct a Research Mission" to be reminded what to do with them.  

Stand it up like this so no one can see if you are the operative or not! 

All Research Assistants have a deadly plasma pistol and an Environmental Scanner that will tell them very clearly about the dangers and resources present in their environment. 

Field of Expertise: This determines, through Player/Referee assumption and extrapolation, the Research Assistant’s skills, abilities and equipment. Roll a d6:
  • 1. Xeno-Archaeologist: Analyses and pilfers the ruins of archonic alien civilisations (finding vile artifacts that greatly empower The Government).     
  • 2. Hyper-Artist: Explores the edges of galactic habitation and human psyche to create mind bending works (used by The Government to stupify populaces).   
  • 3. Myo-Engineer: Installs and operates a wide range of digital and mechanical equipment (ensuring ongoing oppression by The Government). 
  • 4. Exo-Biologist: Researches, captures and samples alien lands, atmospheres and beasts (used The Government to experiment on political prisoners).    
  • 5. Inter-Geologist: Mines, surveys and documents the fundament of exotic planets (supplying The Government with neverending fuel and ore). 
  • 6. Telo-Chemist: Procures and replicates compounds not yet documented in official literature (vivifying agents of The Government with superdrugs).  

Macrohuman Branch: The rudimentary form of homo sapien has been long abandoned by humanity. Macrohuman branch determines, through Player/Referee assumption and extrapolation, the Research Assistant’s bodily attributes. Roll a d6: 
  • 1. Exophren: Skin covered in fleshy coral like growths. Can send and receive psychic communications (allows secret notes to and from other players).
  • 2. Teleo: Hairless and blue skinned. Able to move objects in visual range, that they could move with their body, with their minds. 
  • 3. Mechanon: A human brain installed into a metallic robotic body. Stronger and more durable than other macrohumans.    
  • 4. Cybrid: Flesh laced with wires. Cybernetic infused brain able to remotely operate any electronics or machinery in visual range. 
  • 5. Endokros: Fleshed infused with dark crystals. Able to emanate basic commands to flora and fauna. 
  • 6. Endophyll: Green tinged and sprouting leafs. Recovers very quickly from wounds, even able to regrow limbs, in sunlight.

Personal Research Objective: Each Research Assistant has their own objective, outside of the overall research mission. Achieving this by the end of the session awards 2 Research points to the assistant. Roll a d6: 
  • 1. Alliance: Form an unquestioning alliance with another Research Assistant. 
  • 2. Hunter: Ensure some local fauna is killed at some point in the mission. 
  • 3. Quarantine: Ensure nothing, outside of the overall mission objective, is brought back aboard the returning automated spacecraft. 
  • 4. Field Sample: Ensure at least one exotic and valuable resource is brought back aboard the returning automated spacecraft. 
  • 5. Action: Ensure all other Research Assistants on the expedition are exposed to some form of unnecessary danger. 
  • 6. Conservation: Ensure no local flora or fauna is killed or destroyed. 

Classified Research Objective: Each Research Assistant is also given a secret research objective. Achieving this by the end of the session awards 3 Research points to the assistant. Roll a d6: 
  • 1. Abandon: Ensure one other Research Assistant is marooned, the automated spacecraft leaving without them. 
  • 2. Slander: Accuse one other Research Assistant of being the Covert Research Operative and have them detained. 
  • 3. Deadly Slander: Accuse one other Research Assistant of being the Covert Research Operative and have them killed.  
  • 4. Hazard: Ensure one other Research Assistant is killed by an “accident”.  
  • 5. White Hat: Find out the identity of the Covert Research Operative and ensure they survive
  • 6. Black Hat: Find out the identity of the Covert Research Operative and ensure they die by the end of the session. 

Covert Research Operative: The Bureau inserts into every research mission an operative whose goals is to ensure the exoteric goal of the expedition is a failure. They are awarded Research Points differently to the Research Assistants, getting points for achieving as many of the following objectives as possible:   

  • 1. Treachery: Convince at least half the Research Assistants that someone else is the Covert Research Operative (2 Research Points).  
  • 2. Death: Ensure at least one Research Assistant is killed (2 Research Points).  
  • 3. Murder: Manipulate a Research Assistant into killing another Research Assistant (2 Research Points). 
  • 4. Ruin: Ensure exoteric mission goal is failed (3 Research Points).  
  • 5. Slaughter: Ensure over half the Research Assistants are killed (2 Research Points). 
  • 6. Flawless: Ensure all other Research Assistants are killed or marooned (6 Research Points). 

Here's the first mission (of 6), so you can actually go play! 

Mission 1: 

Planet Name: Bacchux.  

Planet Description: Endless flat marshes, air thick with fog. Shallow, muddy water and sodden shores. Obsidian statues of misshapen humanoids, several storeys high, populate the entire planet - the enormous open maws of these leak a constant plume of gas which is largely responsible for the noxious atmosphere of the planet. 

Blade Gnats, an endemic species of dog sized insect, plague Baccux. Silvery, metal carapaced hornets, terminating with long clusters of deadly needles. Spindly blade arms slice and gouge any surface they land apon. Blade gnats can quickly decapitate or dismember a human, at which point their warm flesh is taken in chunks to the hive as meaty insulation for the colony. A shot from a plasma pistol should kill a Blade Gnat. 

Mission: Each Research Assistant is supplied with two fist sized canisters. One contains a red liquid, the other contains a green liquid. The Research Assistants are to travel across the bogs, past two lakes to an ancient structure, a jutting stack of stone pipes. Here, for the mission to be a success, the green liquid must be poured into the gulping central receptacle of the structure. The automated spacecraft will arrive to transport the Research Assistants from the planet once this has occurred. 

Introduction: The automated spacecraft lands at the muddy shore of a shallow lake ringed by grimacing, leering humanoid statues (several storeys tall and made of a dark marble). Walls of thick white mist enclose the lake.

Referee notes:
  • Walking through mist results in becoming horribly lost, disorientated and blinded. It would only be a Moment before slipping into an unseen drowning quagmire. 

Scene 1: A break in the mist wall can be seen at the far side of the lake. The lake itself is only knee deep, but its goopy floor eagerly sucks at feet set upon it. A single Blade Gnat hovers to and fro nearby the break in the mist wall. The statues appear as scaled, multi eyed humanoids, rendered in various forms of distress and pain. Their open, silent screaming mouths, vomit cascades of heavy white gas. 

Referee Notes: 
  • The lake mud will eventually suck anything resting on it beneath the surface. 
  • The Blade Gnat will attack anything that approaches the break in the mist wall. 
  • The statue gas induces confusion and disorientation if consumed. 
What else is in the scene? 




d6 Blade Gnats hovering aimlessly over the center of the lake. Will investigate (then attack the instigators of) loud discussion or rigorous splashing. 


A particularly large Blade Gnat hovers high above the lake. At some point it will dive and attack a random Research Assistant (continuing to attack and kill until all are dead). Will take d6 shots from a plasma pistol before dying. 


One statue will begin to quickly ooze a grey gas when approached. Coming into contact with this gas will cause shortness of breath, wheezing and spluttering, for the rest of the mission. 


One statue will begin to very slowly ooze voluminous yellow gas when approached. Coming into contact with this gas will risk death from instant asphyxiation (death determined by failing a Conflict Test)  


A spidery silver bush at the base of a statue fruits a single chrome berry the size of a pea. Consuming it will increase the speed of a Research Assistant, allowing them two actions in a Moment until the end of the mission. 


An adorable infant Blade Gnat bumbles nervously around a statue. It will imprint on the first Research Assistant to show it some kindness. No Blade Gnat will attack the Research Assistant who has the infant attached to their person.

Scene 2: Beyond the muddy corridor of white mist is a drained, dry lake. A warped, gangrenous and bulbous metallic pyramid squats in the centre of the shallow mud pit. Hundreds of ichor oozing holes proliferate across its form, some squirming with fat yellow grubs the size of infants. Several Blade Gnats hover above their metallic hive. Between the mud pit and mist walls the statues here are shorter - squatter, rounder and a single storey high. The mist streaming from the statues mouth is thinner than at the previous lake. Beyond the hive, is another break in the mist wall, barely visible beyond is a tower of dark stone. 

Referee Notes: 
  • There is a Blade Gnat for each Research Assistant, they will attack shortly after the Research Assistants step foot on the mud pit. 
What else is in the scene?




A head sized lump of rusty metal roils in the mud at the base of a statue. Razor sharp blades swim across its surface. This larval hive can be picked up, if handled incredibly carefully, and easily implanted into the flesh of a living target. In d6 moments the target will explode with Blade Gnat Spawn Clouds, their riven flesh laced with a framework of shining, living metal. 


An enormous Worker Blade Gnat also hovers above the hive. It has several rows of sturdy mandibles jutting out of its thorax. It will slowly swoop at  a random Research Assistant (give all players a number and roll a d6 to determine who) before plucking them up and flying off into the mists, never to be seen again. A successful Hard Conflict Test is required to avoid this fate - but the Worker Blade Gnat will keep attempting to do so unless all of the other Research Assistants fire their plasma pistols at it (The Worker Blade Gnat will die after 6+d6 plasma pistol rounds, but will flee if every Research Assistant in the party fires at it).


An ominous dark cloud of tiny Blade Gnat spawn swirls helix-like above the hive. It will swarm onto a random Research Assistant  (give all players a number and roll a d6 to determine who) and devour them in d6 moments unless at least half of the other Research Assistants squash and bat the spawn cloud away.


Half of the mud lake is drenched in a thick green mist leaking from the hive. It will quickly melt any fleshy biological material. 


A sticky, waxy growth - like several lemons jumbled together, is strewn innocently at the shore of the mud lake. Picking it up the Blade Gnat Mana causes a stirring in the hive. Sticking the Mana to the flesh of a Research Assistant will cause d6 Blade Gnats to emerge from the hive and viciously attack/consume the attached Research Assistant. 


A giant, corpulent grub, several person lengths long, wallows luxuriously in the mud. The Blade Gnats above the hive now lovingly hover above The Queen Blade Gnat and will no longer automatically attack the Research Assistants. Any Research Assistant that approached the Queen will be beset by the Blade Gnats. More Blade Gnats will emerge from the Hive if the Gnats guarding the queen are all killed.

Climax: At the break in the mist wall a carved black stone path replaces the muddy ground. This stone path leads to a stone tower of hundreds of tubes, digging down into the earth like tree roots. Far above, billowing white gas forms the walls of mist surrounding the area. There are no stairs, or entrances to the tower, simply a huge mawing mouth, bubbling with some unknown liquid. 

Referee Notes: 
  • Consuming the liquid in the tower will cause instant and long lasting paralysis.  
  • Pouring the green canister into the tower will cause an insectoid stirring in the nearby hive. d6 Blade Gnats will fly over and attack the Research Assistants in a Moment. The automated spacecraft will arrive at the tower in d6 Moments. 
  • Pouring the red canister into the tower will cause a deafening silence across the swamp. The automated spacecraft will arrive at the tower in d6 Moments. 
  • Only the pouring of the first canister into the tower will have an effect. 
  • Pressing the “Complete Mission” button aboard the automated spacecraft will cause it to leave the planet in a Moment. 

1 comment:

  1. This is awesome! Also seems like there's room for automation/procedural generation in the characters, situations, and scenes!