Friday, September 23, 2016

The Nemesis System

The Nemesis System

Properties of the Nemesis System

  • The Final Law: All Things End
  • The Law of Laws: Laws have physical weight, and must be followed.
  • The Law of the Black Sun: Only the truth may be spoken under the gaze of the black sun.

The Shape of the Nemesis System

The sun has a sinister twin, the Black Sun, the Occulted Star, which orbits at the rim of the Solar System. The Black Sun, also called Nemesis or the "Apocalypse Clock", travels on an elliptical, and its pertubation can send asteroids and comets cascading down upon the inner solar system. Nemesis, thus, determines the end of the world.

The detritus of slain worlds circles the yawning mouth of Nemesis, and the bones of dead civilizations decorate these free-floating boulders and world-fragments. Upon these, Azrael resides, gazing upon her Black Sun and waiting to be called to End All Things.

The Nemesis System houses
  • the Crossroads of Worlds
  • the Library of Truth
  • the Gaming Underworld
  • the Tomb of Azrael

The Laws of the Nemesis System

Arbitrary rules and laws interweave the Nemesis System with a sort of physics that force those within the Nemesis System to behave a particular way. These rules don't precisely change, but their impact on the world wane and fall with the movements of the Nemesis system in a fashion that seems utterly unpredictable to the less-than-divine inhabitants of the system. Violating the laws is akin to violating an Imperial Miracle, especially in the gaze of Nemesis. One can resist the law, but it wounds you, in the same way that resisting the pull of gravity slowly changes one into a gravity-resisting alien.
Some laws might be:
  • You must sleep with your head facing the Black Sun.
  • If a pile of something small and countable is thrown at your feet, you must count them.
  • Everything that you have done yesterday must be repeated, but that repeat will be done by a shadow of yourself, as your life begins to blur together across time.
  • You must orient towards the nearest appropriate structure: Walls become floors, ceilings become floors. "Down" becomes what looks like should be down.
  • All doors must connect to all other doors. Walking from one to the other must be done by conscious connection, rather than physical effort.
  • Anyone who knows your true name may command you by name, and you must obey. After this, your name changes.
  • You may not cross running water or lines of salt.
  • Travel from one place to another by means other than simply walking (crossing lines or gaps of void) costs two, greek copper coins.
  • Anyone who eats the food of the Nemesis system cannot leave the nemesis system.
  • The water of the Nemesis System is richly fertile. A living being who drinks of it will give birth to another, different living being by giving up his flesh to that being. This usually leaves a grave wound, perhaps even consuming the original "parent"completely.
  • If you are emotionally afflicted, your memories can come to life. You must keep your passions in check!
  • Mazes of invisible walls dot the landscape and can suddenly rise up to trap the walker. The answer to these mazes is always to walk widdershins.

Challenges of the Nemesis System

Hunt an Alien!

0 or less: It's hunt or be hunted. You chose poorly.
1: You're more into photography than killing. Woah! Is that an alien? No, wait, that's just a cool rock. What an adventure!
2: You found an alien. Now what?
3: You found a cool alien. Your struggle will be epic!
4: You hunt and kill an alien! Well done! Now, what to use its strange organs for?
6: You hunt and kill a rare and precious alien. Mastery of the void is yours!
7: You hunt and kill a wondrous alien. An Elder God lies at your feet, or the priest of a strange faith, or a blue-skinned alien space-princess.
Trouble, Tools and Bonds
  • All things must End: Gain an edge of +2 against an alien that's just trying to survive, rather than kill you.
  • An Alien is You: There are strange laws and properties within the void that surrounds the Nemesis System that can change you into an alien. This is usually a major or divine wound.

The Crossroads of Worlds

Deep within the heart of the greatest dead city of the Nemesis system lies the crossroads of worlds, a complex arrangement of gates, arches, portals and doorways that can lead from the Nemesis System to other worlds. This is the most common entrance into the Nemesis system.

Creatures of the Void

Strange things lurk within the void. Some examples include:
  • The Astral Behemoth
    • A monstrous creature with Paramount Strength that exists in the 4th Dimension. One sees monstrous, elephantine creatures hulking about, but they are all extrusions of one, great Astral Behemoth.
  • The Shade
    • An unusual hue that settles upon all things. Its color is one that Earthly being can truly comprehend or describe. If its color descends upon you, or you witness it for long enough to infect your mind, you begin to take on unearthly qualities, as you begin to understand it.
  • Adorable Green Things From Outer Space
    • Often afflict those who look upon them with an unwholesome and unearthly desire to cuddle them like crazy.
  • Hunters
    • Chitinous, black things that hiss and laugh and then vanish into the void. They scuttle about and claw at things from within crevices and devour you when you sleep.
  • Zeta Reticulans
    • Small, squat beings with black eyes and glowing flesh, they are numinous, nightmarish, psychic and inherently mysterious (anything you learn about them slowly drains from your mind). They seek to poke and prod the flesh of earthly beings, for no evident reason.
  • Machine Elves
    • Twisting, changing shapes that, nonetheless, give an impression of cybernetic space-elves. They can teach others to change and, those who mastery their psychedelic polymorphism, will find their form dissolving into nothing, at which point they too become Machine Elves.
  • The Tall
    • These tall, pointy-eared beings of exquisite beauty with blond hair, blue eyes and white skin. They will claim inherent racial superiority. They wear silvery jumpsuits and weild strange rayguns and are free with gifts of technology and food that, when returned to Earth, turn out to be simple aluminum and biscuits. They claim to be from a "Federation of Intelligences" and that offer pronouncements on how your race needs to mature, citing concerns about humanity's environmental, nuclear and military crimes.


0 or less: All things must end.
1: Anyone can find a sliver of peace in accepting the inevitable, as you have.
2: Something happens: A disaster strikes, or you stumble across an interesting box, or you find some lost ruin. Perhaps you have a chance now?
3: Your starvation is exquisite. Your suffering is poetry. You might be dying, but you're doing so artistically.
5: You survive! For now.
6: Your survival inspires others. A community of strange creatures gather near you, hoping to steal your fire, or to learn your secrets.
8: You've done more than survive, but you've begun to lay the foundations for continued survival. What you build, others can use too. Can one found a civilization on the edges of death itself?
9: All things must end.
Trouble, Tools and Bonds
  • All things must end: This trouble is worth at least -2 for mortals. It violates the law of the Chancel to survive for too long.

The Tomb of Azrael

Even Azrael herself will someday die. She knows this. She has seen it. She even knows how she will die. Azrael is Eternal and exists at all points of time, but at the same time, she must end, so her corpse, like her body, resonates backwards and forwards through all points in time. As Azrael walks the world, she also lies dead in her tomb.

No mortal has ever entered the tomb, and Azrael will not, for it lies outside of her living purview. But some say that if the immortal enters here, he may commune with the Dead Angel of Death and learn forbidden things about what will happen after all things have ended.

Properties of the Tomb of Azrael
  • Entering that which has no Entrance (-5): The Tomb of Azrael cannot be breached by the living. It is like a chancel within a chancel, and offers a trouble of 5 to attempt to enter. In practice, only the miraculous have a hope of gaining entrance, though it is said that the Powers of Death know a secret way in.
  • Nothing Living Walks Here (-5): Nothing living can be in the Tomb of Azrael. Those who enter are turned instantly to dust. Anyone who enters must attempt to survive with a -5 difficulty, and even those who succeed are marked by a wound for having entered. Only the Eternal and Actively Immortal can endure the infinite years that lie within the Tomb of Azrael.
  • The Grave Goods of Azrael (+5): The funerary mask, the caul, the sarcophagus, the funerary urns of Azrael all contain the remnants of her dead power. Those who carry them hold in their hands the power of a dead angel. It grants enormous, world-shattering power to those who bear them, though getting in to the Tomb of Azrael is virtual impossible.
  • The Wounds of the Tomb of Azrael:
    • Blinded by Infinite Darkness
    • Maddened by the Whispers of the Tomb of Azrael
    • (Divine) turned to dust by the Tomb of Azrael's infinite years.
    • (Divine) exalted to mad godhood by tasting of the corpse of Azrael.
Description Snippets
  • Surrounded by the bleached bones of a dead world, steel girders jutting out of black sand beneath the dread majesty of the Black Sun, rises the great edifice of Azrael's death, made of cyclopean stone and covered in a fine layer of decaying dust. It casts a long shadow.
  • The stones of the Tomb whisper. No wind stirs the dust within, and a darkness so total that it drives those who witness it to blindness, but the stones whisper. They whisper to you that which you already know to be true, but have long denied. Those whispers tell you what has happened and what will happen. Each whisper cuts at your sanity until none is left.
  • The air smells of dust. The dust rises with each step, a fine, bone-grey powder. It stinks of old books and discarded lives. The dust is the remnants of every mortal, angel or god who dared to step within the tomb.
  • The grave goods of Azrael burn with a darkness so dark that they glow with inverted light: that which is dark becomes white, and that which is light becomes black. Upon this negative view, one does not see so much as know. The presence of those grave goods, of the corpse of the angel of death, weigh down upon one with vast, psychic power. These can crush a mere mortal, driving them mad or exalting them to godhood, or both.

Uncover the Truth

0 or less: Sometimes, it is better to decieve ourselves than to know.
1: You learn enough of a truth to be satisfied.
4: You learn the truth that you sought. Can you bear that burden?
6: You learn a truth that others seek. You can withhold this truth for power over them, or to protect them from that which they should not know.
7: You learn a great and powerful truth that you sought. It will certainly change you.
8: You learn a great and terrible trugh that all the world wishes to know. The world itself will be fundamentally changed by this truth.
Trouble, Tools and Bonds
  • The Power of Truth: The Truth can be a tool that grants one access to powerful and mystical principles. Depending on the truth, it can grant a +1 to +3 tool or edge, but only in a direction that the Truth wishes to go. One cannot bend the truth to one's own purpose.
  • The Truth Hurts: Learning the truth always wounds us by stripping us of our illusions. Such wounds are usually Surface wounds, but the deepest truths can run even deeper. Some truths might even agree with the Excrucians and unmake the Divine itself.

The Library of Truth

Azrael is the Angel of Truth, and she keeps every truth in the world in a great library, hidden behind the protection of the Nameless Sphinx. Within its strange halls, anything can be found.

Properties of the Library of Truth
  • Twisting Halls: The physics of the Library of Truth are not the familiar physics of Earth, but the Escherian physics of the Nemesis System. Getting to a specific point in the library can be difficult for those not adapted (-1 to -2 trouble).
  • Books of Babel : The books within contain all truth, but not all truth is equally useful. One book contains the complete totality of Pi in hexadecimal notation. Another book describes all electromagnetic fluctuations of the sun. These books, without the proper context or a mind that can comprehend them, read like static sounds. Too many of them can blast the reader with a surface wound of “Static Madness” where he begins to see the truth in chaos.
  • The Truth Within (+1): The library can give absolute, perfect truth, and any truth can be found here. Given the difficulties facing one within the Library of Truth, it only offers a +1 to the pursuit of truth, but also allows perfect confidence in what is found.
Description Snippets
  • The Black Sun's burning corona casts a strange, flickering red glow through the stained glass of the library that makes the shadows of the books and shelves writhe and dance.
  • The musty scent of books thickens the air with a miasma of curiosity and wonder.
  • Opening a book can instantly engross the reader in worlds of unexpected and powerful truths. A religious text can reveal the absolute truth of whether or not an afterlife exists and why, or point one to the location of an even greater and more important text, or just be filled with endless expounding of points that, while true, aren't particularly useful. Lost in the pages, those who read the tomes become transfixed and zombie-like. The ground in some places are littered with bones of readers.
  • The library has the silence of a cathedral, interrupted only by the distant echoes of your own words filtering through the twisted, escherian madness of the building's architecture. Always far away, down (or up, or sideways) several floors, one can see the glow of candles and the red robes of the Cult of Babel, who believe that the truths of the random texts contain secrets to the ultimate truths buried in the deep within the library, or “the Master Truth” or “the Monadic Gospel.”

The Nameless Sphinx

A great beast guards the Library of Truth. It has ten million faces, one for each person who has, or will, visit the library. Each face and form is unique. To enter the library, the petitioner must know:
  • The Name of the Sphinx
  • The Form of the Spinx
  • The Power of the Spinx
Each petitioner defines these, by his own fears and deeds. Those who do not know themselves cannot know the Sphinx and thus cannot pass. Only those who face who and what they are can understand what they have made the Sphinx, and thus pass.

Win the Game!

0 or less: You didn't win the game :(
1: Games are fun!
2: Ooo, good try.
3: You're having such a good time, your friends are growing impatient with their desire to join in.
4: Congratulations, you won the game!
6: And you won with a high score!
Trouble, Tools and Bonds
  • Escape: Games can serve a purpose, but one can become lost in the twisting maze of their delights, especially in the Nemesis System. This serves as a Wound (usually a surface wound) for those who find themselves playing too long in the Gaming Underworld. It prevents them from leaving, or from even existing as something outside a game.
  • Nothing really matters (-5): Nothing you can do in a game, especially in the Nemesis System, has dharmic weight. All achievements are the equivalent to ghost miracles. You can find love in a game, but it's not real love. You can defeat your enemy in a game, but he's not really defeated. Sometimes, you can turn what happens in a game into something real, but it takes super-human effort.
  • High Score! (+1): Someone who gains High Score has an edge over any other denizen of the gaming underworld.

The Gaming Underworld

The rules of the Nemesis System accumulate like dust gathering on the surface of old ruins. And as they gather, they begin to combine and merge to form weird, arbitrary ruleset that can be frustrating, or interesting, to navigate and explore. These have themselves merged in the bowels of the Nemesis System, deep below the library and the crossroads and the tomb, to form a wierd underworld full of games.

The games of the Gaming Underworld used to be old and primal. This was where the pawns of chess and parcheesi would swap tokens and war stories while bowing before the King of Diamonds and lusting after the Queen of Hearts. But with the coming of Zee, the world has fundamentally changed. It has expanded, though one can "fall through" the world of gaming into the glitchy "donkey space" just beyond it, seeing the Nemesis System from behind its textures, and gained colorful sprites and 3D models. Gold coins replace tokens and wargame chits and checker pieces have been pushed aside to make way for a new royalty of franchise heroes. This has proven controversial with the old denizens.

Properties of the Gaming Underworld
  • Play the rules: The rules of the Nemesis System hold just as much sway here, but they grow vastly more complex, nuanced, knowable and fun. And should one wish to escape one set of rules, one has only to travel a short distance to do so.
  • Everything is a Game: All conflict and problems within the Gaming Underworld must be resolved by gameplay. One does not kill the King of Diamonds, but defeats him at Poker. One does not seduce a waifu, one grinds her with gifts and proper dialogue choices until her heart bursts in a cloud of stars that spell out “You win!” after which you get a cut-scene that extends the story.
  • Treasures of the Gaming Underworld: The gaming underworld has grown a collection of powerful treasures over time, including:
    • The Konami Codex, which contains a complete account of the cheat codes necessary to defeat any game, or to overcome any rule in the Nemesis System
    • The Master Glove, a powerful tool (worth +2) to attain victory in any game.
    • The Princess, a perfectly beautiful woman, virtuous and kind, who has been captured! Every time you've been told she was in another castle she was, in fact, here.
Description Snippets
  • Charmingly beautiful and anime-esque sprites cluster near you, interested in hearing what you have to say, and repeatedly (often using the same words) inviting you on a quest, or to "save their princess." Close inspection shows that they're two dimensional (don't push one over!), and that they'll sometimes glitch and shimmer in a staticky sheen to show something ghostly beneath.
  • As one travels over the hills and valleys of the gaming underworld, one's feet make a highly repetitive "clop clop" sound.  A tinny, electronic chip-tune accompanies your action, shifting based on the context of the situation.  Every useful and narratively pertinent action, like bumping a gold-giving block, or taking some damage, is always accompanied by a little, cute sound-effect.
  • Deeper in the gaming underworld, as one travels its deeper tunnels and sewer pipes, one comes across horrific scenes of carnage.  The dead of those above pile in great heaps, often the same person dead over and over again, including endless corpses of Zee, left before she respawns.
  • The air of the gaming underworld smells like bubble-gum and electricity, just like an old arcade.  Its swirling lights and and beeping tunes also evoke the atmosphere of an arcade.  But beyond the digital facade, the scent changes to something older, the scent of oak and stone and tea.  Here, dust and mold hangs heavily on the air.
  • Deeper still in the bowels of the gaming underworld, beneath the digital textures of the vaunted Video Game realms likes a world of stone and wood, where strange pieces move and shift in an endless game of strategy.  Old gods come here to gamble souls.  Here, the Black Bishop walks, discussing the future of the gaming underworld with the Queen of Hearts and the Jack of Diamonds and the dread King of Spades.

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