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Last visited on Friday, 13 December 2013
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Black Iron Dungeon-Crawl: the Philip K. Dick Fantasy Roleplaying Game
Example of Play:
DM: The corridor ends at a stout oaken door.
PLAYER 1 (a barbarian warrior and, unknown to the rest of the party, a mechanical homosimulacrum): We kick it down.
DM: The door flies off its hinges with a splintering sound, revealing a dimly lit orcish type dungeon conapt. Three orcs stand in the middle of the room, radiating an aura of palpable menace.
Two of them are muscular warrior variety orcs, bristling with an assortment of ominous, sharp edged medieval type weapons such as battle axes and glaive-guisarmes. The third is female, young and slender with dark hair and luminous dark eyes. Player 2, make a saving throw vs. self-destructive impulses.
PLAYER 2 (a paladin and erstwhile tire regroover): Ah, hell, I never make these... Nope, failed again.
DM: Ok, you instantly develop a strong emotional attachment to the female orc. There's a degree of sexual attraction, but mainly what you feel is an overwhelming urge to protect her and keep her safe from harm.
PLAYER 2: But she's a filthy, slimy, disgusting orc! Humankind's deadliest foe and my sworn enemy! I should want to snuff her without mercy, not protect her.
DM: Of course you want to snuff her. But you also want to protect her. This fundamentally unresolvable conflict results in a -2 penalty to all your actions during this encounter.
PLAYER 2: Snirt!
DM: You do, however, receive a nominal consolation type reward of 1000 experience points.
PLAYER 2: But experience points aren't good for anything in this game!
DM: And yet, paradoxically, they are considered inestimably valuable.
PLAYER 3 (a Dark Haired Girl and the paladin's wife): Oh, so THAT'S why we're here! Despite all your bold, heroic, paladin type speeches about defending the village, etc., you're really only here to satisfy your carnal desires in a sordid rendezvous vis-a-vis this underdeveloped orcish hussy!
PLAYER 2: Youre using the phrase vis-a-vis incorrectly. Beside, I've never even seen this orc before.
PLAYER 3: Of course not. You engineered the whole thing to make me appear paranoid and irrational, so that you could use the evidence of my mental instability as grounds for initiating divorce proceedings. But you're not so clever after all: you've forgotten the clause in your paladin code forbidding divorce. Your superiors at Festung Camelot would never let you go through with it.
PLAYER 2: But-
PLAYER 3: No, you're probably right. You're simply not intelligent enough to come up with a plan like that. You really do have a substandard mentality, even for a paladin. You're only suited for menial, repetitive tasks, i.e. bean polishing or tire regrooving.
PLAYER 2: Now look here! Tire regrooving is an-
PLAYER 3: Oh, you'll get your wish some day, I'm sure of it. You'll be rid of me, having finally accomplished your goal of destroying me utterly. Emotionally at the very least, and possibly physically as well. But it won't be through any sort of daring or cleverness on your part. That's the horrible, horrible truth of our existence: I can see my doom at your hands--as clearly as I can see your simpering orcish slut standing in proximity to us--but the horrible truth is that when it finally happens, it'll be nothing but dumb luck on your part. Dumb, stupid, blind, random chance. Meaningless actions unguided by rational mentation.
PLAYER 2: ...
PLAYER 3: God. No wonder I'm hooked on dangerous, addictive drugs.
PLAYER 1: Whatever. I attack the orcs.
DM: Ok, toss the yarrow stalks or roll one of the new, modern sixty four-sided dice.
PLAYER 1: Ok, I got a 51: Chen - The Arousing.
"Shock brings success.
Shock comes-oh, oh!
Laughing words-ha, ha!
The shock terrifies for a hundred miles,
And he does not let fall the sacrificial spoon and chalice."
DM: Ok, after a brief, violent struggle, the orcs are snuffed. They fall to the floor, their battle axes still clutched in their lifeless pseudopods--I mean, hands.
PLAYER 2: "Pseudopods"?
DM: I meant "hands."
PLAYER 2: But you distinctly said "pseudopods." Nobody makes a mistake like that.
PLAYER 3: So much for your orc mistress. How did it feel to stand there passively watching her violent snuffing? I suppose you want me to feel gratitude toward you, for choosing me over her? But I know there was no choice involved at all. It was just the simplest solution to your problem. Taking no action whatsoever, like an inert lump of simple, nonliving matter. I know you'd do the same thing if I were the one being violently snuffed; you hate me that much.
And yet, I am grateful. You did choose me over her, which reveals some lingering traces of affection on your part, or at least recognition of your basic husbandly duty. Even if that duty only manifests itself in inaction, rather than the true volition that a fully-realized man would show.
My God, I desperately need two tabs of Hubrizine.
PLAYER 1: I loot the corpses.
PLAYER 2: Be careful! Those are no ordinary orcs. I distinctly saw, however briefly, that they have pseudopodia as opposed to the ordinary orc type musculoskeletal system.
PLAYER 1: You're insane.
PLAYER 2: Fine, be my guest! Mess around with these ersatz cadavers to your heart's content. But when some malignant non-humanoid shape-shifting encephalovore wraps its slimy tentacles around you and sucks your brain out of your skull, don't come crying to me.
PLAYER 1: How could I?
(To the DM) What do I find?
DM: You find that the "dead orcs" are in fact living malignant non-humanoid shape-shifting encephalovores. Their slimy tentacles wrap around you and attempt to suck your brain out of your skull.
PLAYER 1: But I'm a simulacrum. I don't have a brain.
DM: Exactly. Now, the insidious thing about these deadly, extra-solar invertebrates is their ability to mimic living forms in order to seek out the sentient brains that serve as their sole means of sustenance. Their amorphous bodies can assume any shape, color or texture, but in order for their camouflage to be successful they must also be able to mimic individuals on a psychosocial level. They do this by telepathically scanning the brains of their victims before devouring them, absorbing and incorporating their thoughts, emotions and motives, both conscious and subconscious. In technical theological jargon: their victims' souls are laid bare before them.
You too are a mimic. Although you are physically far less evolved than the encephalovores, your psyches are remarkably similar. Your sole function is to appear human. To mimic. You exist solely in the koinos kosmos, the shared universe, having no need for an idios kosmos, or purely private world of your own.
Thus, you are spared the incapacitating psychic shock of the encephalovores telepathically invading your idios kosmos. You are fully aware, unlike any of their previous victims, of their attempts to mimic you. As a simulacrum, your sole purpose is to appear human, not only to humans but to anything capable of perceiving you. This includes the encephalovores, who find themselves in the unenviable position of attempting to mimic a mimic actively seeking to deceive a mimic. This creates a feedback loop, two mirrors reflecting one another, each reflection decaying progressively further from its original image until finally, unavoidably, reflecting nothing but the Tomb World that lies infinitely beyond and below what we think of as "reality", the endless, lifeless, featureless plain wholly devoid of essence or form.
You survive this ordeal. The encephalovores do not.
PLAYER 1: Cool. So do they have any loot?
DM: Not so fast. Your victory is not without its price: the strain causes you to audibly whirr.
PLAYER 2: Did you hear that? He whirred.
PLAYER 3: You're just distraught over your slutty little orc mis-
PLAYER 2: Shut up, damn it! He whirred. He's a simulacrum.
DM: Player 2, make a saving throw vs. paranoia.
PLAYER 2: Oh no you don't! I know what you're up to. You can't fool me. I'm zapping Player 1 with my Greater Wand of Evolutionary Abrogation.
DM: Ok, Player 1 devolves rapidly, regressing backwards along the evolutionary scale through a series of increasingly less advanced forms until finally stabilizing as a shapeless mass of primordial slime.
PLAYER 1: Wait, don't I get a saving throw?
DM: I can't understand what you're saying. It just sounds like you're making a series of meaningless "glup" noises.
PLAYER 1: What!?
PLAYER 2: But if he devolved organically, then he must not have been a simulacrum after all. Simulacra are technological type constructs. His evolutionary timeline would have taken him back through less-advanced robotic forms, twentieth-century prosthetic devices, stationary gear and rod driven automata such as El Ajedrecista or the Mechanical Turk, and ultimately back to primeval technological implements, viz. flint knives, sharpened sticks, and bone clubs.
PLAYER 3: So you devolved an innocent man.
PLAYER 2: But he whirred, damn it. He whirred.
PLAYER 3: I know. I heard it too. Frankly, it's not the first sign I'd seen that he might be a simulacrum. Remember, for instance, when we stopped at that roadside mead-hall and he kept asking the hobbit proprietor for paraffin gear oil? He claimed it was just an old family indigestion remedy, but what if was actually meant to lubricate his gears and other internal mechanisms?
PLAYER 2: But we now know he didn't have any gears. This purely organic de-evolved form proves that he wasn't a simulacrum after all.
DM: There does exist another alternative. Suppose he was both human and homosimulacrum at the same time?
PLAYER 2: How could that be?
DM: Think about it. We're playing a game of the imagination. What if we, this world, all of us, are just figments of his imagination? Specifically, his imaginary perspective of the game events we all shared. Our koinos kosmos exists within his idios kosmos.
PLAYER 2: Of course. We could all be figments of his imagination.
DM: Not all of us
PLAYER 3: No. He couldn't be a figment of his own imagination. That's why he appeared to us as a simulacrum.
PLAYER 2: But when I zapped him with the Greater Wand of Evolutionary Abrogation, why was his devolved form organic rather than mechanical?
DM: We may never know. Perhaps because it was a Greater Wand? Or perhaps he just had an overactive imagination.
PLAYER 2: What do you mean we may never know?
PLAYER 3: Are your mental capacities really that diminished? We're all figments of Player 1's imagination. The player that you forcibly subjected to a billion years of de-evolution. A human being could imagine us out of this mess, but a lump of primordial slime? How much imaginative capacity do you think it has now? We're trapped here, in this room with these stinking ersatz orc corpses--forever!
DM: Well, maybe not forever. Just until the natural process of evolution returns him to a state where he's capable of imagining us again. Like you said, probably a billion years or so.
PLAYER 2: Oh, that's wonderful. A billion years is so much better than forever.
PLAYER 3: At least we'll be together.
PLAYER 2: God. Do you have any more of those Hubrizine tabs?
* * *
At the gaming table, in the seat once occupied by Player 1, a shapeless mass of primordial slime utters a mournful, futile "glup" noise and begins shambling in a disorganized yet purposeful fashion towards the Chee-tos and Mountain Dew.
A pearlescent blue plastic sixty four-sided die rolls off of the table and onto the floor, eventually making its way--in the manner of small, precious things--under the couch, into the territory of the DM's cat, who looks after his newly-acquired treasure with dignified, meticulous devotion. And love.