The Alzabo

As large as a bear, taller than a man at the shoulder, the alzabo is an adaptable predator. Drop an alzabo into any environment that it can physically withstand and it will have mastered it by the first meal, for it gains more than simple nutrition from thinking flesh. With it they take on the full and unabridged memory of their meal, giving them the lay of the land, location of water, shelter and the rest of its kind.

The alzabo can produce —for it is not truly mimicking, rather recalling— the exact sound of any mind it possesses. Calling out in the night it draws its prey from safety, typically by imitating a recently eaten family member and calling to it's children or parents. Even if the devoured is a human, and those listening know that it's not truly them, the sound of the daughter you know to be dead tapping at your cottage door and begging to be let in from the cold is more than most can bear.

Skill: 10

Stamina: 21

Attacks: 2

Attack - Claw, stomp and bite

1 2 3 4 5 6 7+
4 4 6 6 12 13 14

Defence - Thick red fur

1 2 3 4 5 6 7+
0 1 1 1 2 3 4

The alzabo can recall any personality that it has eaten. When playing them assume that they are literally that person but with the added desire to eat and absorb more memories. The father of a child will beg them to come out to their dear papa and will argue and cajole with his intelligence and knowledge, for the alzabo will have all the feelings the father had towards the child in addition to wanting to eat and make company of their memories. This is not a parroting of the sounds and mannerisms, it is perfect and sincere.

The alzabo will hunt the family of the deceased above other prey. It desires their company and misses them dearly.

It will openly hunt at night, calling from outside the door or beyond the tree line. During the day it will follow from afar and is quite stealthy.

If the glands of the beast are removed and given to a suitably skillful physik it can be refined into an oil that will impart the memory eating abilities of the alzabo for a time. They need only take in a few mouthfuls for the full effect, the memories are permanent. The meat need not be fresh or raw, only edible. With the memories of another the player may ask the GM questions while searching their memories as though the person were present and completely honest. The PC may also use skills known to the deceased by testing their luck in place of a skill test of some sort. The memories are there, but the muscle memory and physical might are not. The PC may imitate the voice, but it will be imperfect since human vocal cords were not designed with this in mind (+6 disguise while doing it).

From this book.

Fighting Fantasy Luck

The Luck statistic is arguably the most interesting mechanic in the Advanced Fighting Fantasy RPG system.

In brief, it is a number between 7 and 12, generated at character creation. When something arbitrarily awful or wonderful might happen to you you may roll equal to or under it on 2d6. Much like saves in D&D. The difference here, other than there being only one "save", is that it is reduced by 1 every time it is rolled, successful or not and is entirely optional. The player can decide that he'll just take whatever is coming his way and save his luck for later.

Smart. Your Luck runs out. It's named something that you can even speak about out loud without breaking the tone. "Make a saving throw" or "Test you luck"? One of those is obviously stronger.

In the gamebooks from which the system is derived you would occasionally regain luck when choosing a path that, through no fault of your own, brought you fortune. Essentially you gained luck when you got lucky. This did not translate well into an RPG. In a gamebook there is no ambiguity, no fiat, whereas an RPG has a GM handing out the brownie points. A GM currency that keeps the PC alive encourages an irritating atmosphere of performing for the GM, "I did this thing, do I get a point?" or worse, conscious or unconscious favouritism.

Unlucky mate
The easy path would be to just give it all back when you rest, waking up nice and lucky. But strategic rests are also annoying, and it doesn't fit as nicely as regaining Stamina from naps does. There needs to be a concrete condition for regaining luck. I've already covered the possibility of regaining it through spending time with your family or getting wasted, but this isn't useful for long periods in the wilderness.

In a system where Luck is diminishing there must be a fair economy, or at least an economy which is transparent and controllable. Possible solutions:

  • You regain 1 luck every time you interact favourably with a suspicious aspect of the wilderness. For example, the party comes across a gauntlet on a pedestal in the middle of a room. Instead of wisely ignoring it or just stuffing it in a bag, the barbarian thrusts his arm inside. It's just a nice gauntlet. +1 Luck. This mimics the books quite well, is relatively plain and understandable. Encourages players to be a bit bold. Should also allow you to go over starting Luck.
  • You regain 1 Luck every time you have a meal. Eating is good for mind and body after all. If you're stuck in a shitty jungle, hounded by pygmy cannibals, a nice quiet meal with your friends can restore some sanity. Further reward for eating and wasting time. Requires thought and risk.
  • A good rest regains d3 Luck. Good dreams are important. Also, random encounters.
  • Fake-out saves can't be used in Fighting Fantasy. It's incredibly unfair to spend their resources for nothing. Alternative: Use fake-out saves, but if the player takes the bait (remember, testing your luck is optional) give them 1 Luck instead.
  • Regain d6 Luck at the start of a session. Represents the optimistic nihilism of the adventurer.

A lot of of these come down to calling the GM's bluff, which I think is appropriate. Rewarding curiosity is never a bad thing.

Issue 4 Reprint In Stock

New covers for the second printing of issue 4 of The Undercroft, recoloured by Matthew Adams. Insides are largely the same, so you're not missing anything by having the first printing.

What people have said:

Undercroft #4 is a beautiful gem of a zine that genuinely captures the best freewheeling spirit of the original wave of zines but brings modern art production values and sensibility. Its quirkiness and whimsy marks it as something quite different from its peers and its well worth forking out for the paper version for the genuine old school experience. 
-Thee Rapture


If you worked on this issue, please email me your address so I can send you a copy! If you have a subscription check Patreon before buying this.

Nuts & Bolts of Interdimensional Language

Let's call every language a skill, and let's also make a universal language called Portal Pidgin. We'll assume it's so incredibly simple that almost anyone can learn to speak it passably after a couple of weeks immersion. PCs are fully fluent, they've been through Troika, or lived there, or just dealt with those ambiguously foreign traders everyone seems to have been visited by.

Portal Pidgin is almost a Unified Theory of Language, the roiling sweaty pile of interdimensional culture at the centre of the universe has solved communication. Knowledge of it grants a deep understanding of language, a unique vantage point from which to approach new ways of speech. People native to it have little trouble picking up the basics of any new language met.

Every time a PC meets a new language they may test their Skill to fumble through it. If they fail, they get no where, if they pass they manage to communicate basic desires and get an advancement tick in that particular language.

However unlike standard skills, advancement is not a matter of rolling higher than your current skill. Instead each language has an in built difficulty. If you don't have one in mind, just roll a d6. That is how difficult that language is to learn, and with each advancement you must roll equal to or greater than that number.

When talking to some foreign sorts, roll against you Skill. If you pass, you can chat to them roughly, if you fail you get lost.

If you roll a critical on your language check you instantly take an advancement test.

If you fumble your test you must roll below:

1-3 Your audience has become tired with your hooting and pointing and refuse to participate any longer. This goes for the whole party.

4 You have offended them somehow. They respond appropriately, be that with indignation or violence.

5 They have got the wrong end of the stick, thinking you are trying to say the exact opposite of what you meant. This could cause issues while protesting innocence or complimenting someone.

6 You have accidentally been obscene, insulting religion or state. Their response will depend on the context, but assume the guards are being called right now.

Once a PC has 6 in a language they are assumed to be completely fluent to all but its most arcane usages.

In a long campaign the PCs will develop cultural scars. They'll look at the list of languages they can stumble through and see the trail they took up to this point.