DarkMatter D20: Drunk Southern Girls with Guns ... UPDATED - 8/18/05!

What would you like to see in the DarkMatter campaign?

  • Cthulhu, baby

    Votes: 66 23.7%
  • More anal probing!

    Votes: 66 23.7%
  • Rather less anal probing, thank you.

    Votes: 33 11.9%
  • Deeper Conspiracy theory stuff

    Votes: 84 30.2%
  • More traditional monster/horror tone

    Votes: 29 10.4%


First Post
Finally dug up the activation code and rejoined the forums. As we're once again taking a one-night foray into Dark*Matter Monday night, I was inspired to start updating again.

I'll begin by reposting the original chapters, one ever couple days, to sort of ease in and give me some time to work up the new stuff. The Dark*Matter D20 system is now a cobbled together Alternity conversion with a fine overlay of the d20 Modern preview in the last Polyhedron, with some cooler stuff lifted from the Pulp adaptation the issue before.

Now, cast your memories back, baaaack ...
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First Post
Like I don't have enough work ... recently for a break I ran my D&D group through the Alternity Dark*Matter intro adventure. They loved it -- and well they should, it's possibly one of the best written expansions ever.

I hacked together a rough d20 conversion and now have done the second adventure in the book and two originals. The tone of play in these adventures has been great -- in particular due to one specific character generation choice I made early on, which we'll deal with in the storyline.

I figure a change of pace might be enjoyable. Two warnings: there are spoilers in here for those who wish to use the adventures in the Dark*Matter sourcebook. And second: things get very weird -- and VERY horror oriented. Nothing you wouldn't see on a particularly intense episode of X-Files, but I'm throwing up the flag now.

I'm just going to launch into the story without any explanation of what Dark*Matter is. They didn't know, and if you don't know hopefully you'll enjoy finding out with them. DM comments will be in parentheses and italics.

Hope you enjoy.



First Post
EXIT 23 -- Pt. 1
Andy slogged through the knee deep snow, grateful he'd found the rest-stop off ramp before his car had quit completely. He hadn't seen another off ramp on this stretch of Oregon highway for half an hour.

Exit 23 had a small rest area with a parking lot and a combination food court/gas station. The bright lights of the gas station glittered in the thick snow, set against a velvet black sky. Andy had to walk with his head down to keep from being blinded by the blowing snow.

He stepped through the double glass doors into a small foyer area, shook the snow from his hair. The storm had thundered in out of nowhere, just before nine at night. By nine-fifteen he was in a white-out. Now, at ten, three foot drifts of snow blocked the highway.

Once past the two payphones, Andy looked around, got the layout of the place. It was rectangular, and he was entering through the doors on the long south side. The foyer led into a little information area with a counter. Sodden "VISIT BEAUTIFUL KLAMATH FALLS" pamphlets littered the floor. To his right were the doors to the McDonald's, dark and shut tight. To his left a corridor with restroom signs and glowing lights at the end. Dead ahead, two glass doors. One to the gas station, the other to a coffee shop. The flourescent lights were on in the coffee shop, frizzing wildly. He stepped in.

"Well, Lordy, didn't think anybody else would get through THAT." The heavyset counterwoman, Mabel, set out a coffe cup without asking. "This'll be one for the books."

"A COMIC BOOK CONVENTION of all things ..." Andy turned saw a couple having a "discussion" at a nearby table.

Johanna was shaking her head, but smiling tolerantly. Her shoulder-length dark hair was wet from the snow. Her thin frame disappeared in an oversized parka. Her boyfriend, Ross, was over six-feet of half-back Texan who spoke with an oddly academic lilt. He was trying to convince her that a Marvel Team-Up #3 was worth the drive up from LA.

Andy shrugged off his jacket, revealing a fair number of tattoos on his arms. Mabel looked at those, his short, bleached blonde hair and her face shifted to "damn weirdo" mode. She grumbled as she poured his coffee. Andy did what he always did -- pissed her off by smiling at her.

A guy about his age on the next stool, Stephen, peered over his wire rims. "A little while ago she asked me 'why I was reading'. Not 'what'. Why."

Andy chuckled, extended his hand. "Andy. Was driving across country to LA, took the Northern route, was heading down."

"Stephen. Was visiting my brother in San Francisco, wanted to see Crater Lake."

"It's a lake. In a crater."

"Now you tell me." Stephen gestured to the half-dozen other people in the coffee shop. Two truckers, an Indian teenage boy with the gas station logo on his shirt, a cheerleader type girl he was chatting up. "There's a state trooper around here someplace --"

"Saw the cruiser outside."

"She said we'll be stuck for a couple hours."

Andy was about to respond when three things happened:

1.) The lights went out. Pitch dark. A SMASH came from the doors out front, and a wind, a freezing, FREEZING cold wind ripped through the little coffee shop...

2.) Everyone's stomach suddenly tightened, pitched. Vertigo, and a whispering in their heads, a grating voice of obscenities and shame and bad dreams ...

3.) Somebody started shooting.


First Post

The players walked in blind and were assigned their characters. And they found their characters were ... them. That's their descriptions up there, roughly, although Jo will probably kick me in the head for not telling everyone in ALL CAPS that she's pretty. She is, but she's got Charisma issues ...

All the reasons the players had for being in Oregon made sense if this adventure were based a few years ago, before they all met and became friends.

I was hoping for exactly what I got -- a sudden, overwhelming surge of self-preservation. It's great, all these players have at some point had their Elven wizards and holy Paladins kick in doors and charge courageously into battle.

When it's their necks on the line -- literally -- the reactions are a lot more fun.

95% of the dialog quoted is from in-game. This group is made up of professional writers and actors, so the role-play is very, very intense and funny.

Hope you enjoy. Now, back to the beginning of a very bad night...


First Post
I was just thinking about sending out an APB on you, JR. I really missed my drunk southern girl, and all the rest of the crew. Thank you for coming back!



At last you've found your way to the new forum!
I will be re-reading all the story, but I wait rerally eagerly the new chapters...

BTW, could you explain a bit more the whole D20 modern + Alternity system you use now?


First Post
EXIT 23 -- Pt. 2

Vertigo, their heads spinning like a night on Jagermeister, the people in the coffee shop tumbled from their chairs and stools. Andy found himself on his knees, gripping his head. Lingering foul whispers faded, just on the edge of comprehension. Someone in the darkness puked. This was no blackout --

"What the hell was that!" Andy yelled, spitting out bile.
Ross pulled it together first, flipping over his table for cover. "Gunshots. Three of them!" He pulled a still stunned Johanna down beside him.

"No, the other thing ..." Andrew and Stephen stayed crouched. Animal insincts had kicked in. They couldnt see anything, couldn't hear anything ... their primal brains froze them in place, waiting.
Long seconds passed. The teenage girl was weeping quietly, being comforted by the gas station attendant. Stephen heard the names "Ahmend" and "Annie" pass between them. No sound or movement came from where the truck drivers had been.

Stephen rose cautiously. "We should check it out."

"Have fun," whispered Andy.

"Mabel, do you have a flashlight?" Stephen didn't wait for the answer, he reached over, rummaged around among the clutter. "Somebody could be hurt."

"And somebody could be waiting out there to shoot whoever steps through the door," Ross answered. But he, too, stood, straining to see what lay outside the glass door. Everyone spoke in hushed voices, trying not to draw the attention of whoever ... whatever waited outside.

Johanna cunningly judged the stopping power of her thin diner table. In a blink she'd scooched around behind the diner counter. Mabel looked up -- the old waitress was huddled behind her counter, and had popped open a bottle of Vodka from under the counter. "Sorry," she mumbled.

"Sorry hell, pass it over," Johanna whispered back. Joahnna took a long swig -- and neglected to return the bottle.

Ross gestured to the other men. "Let's get some weapons,check it out."

"What have you got back there, Mabel?" Andy asked.

"A ... a spatula."


Stephen produced a relatively sharp bread knife and a flashlight. "Here we go."

"Oh yeah," Andy whispered. "We're ready to storm Normandy."

Ross crept forward to the door. "Mabel, the other doors in the rest stop, the gas station, the McDonald's, who's got the keys."

"Here!" Ahmed piped up. A soft JANGLE as the gas station keys slid across the floor.

"Danny Wood, that boy's got the McDonald's keys," hissed Mabel. "But he ain't in here. He's ... out there." Mabel reached for the vodka. Johanna was busy working on it, so she relented.

Ross stayed close to the wall, cracked the door open. No gunshots. He turned to find Stephen next to him. "Let's sneak out there without the light first."

"Right." Stepehn and Ross, moving in a crouch, stepped out into the foyer.

Andy rolled his eyes. "Aw hell." A second later he stepped out the door --

-- and almost slammed into the two other men. They all froze, staring at the front doors of the rest stop.

The big steel and glass doors were shattered, twisted like pipe cleaners. One hung from a single hinge, the other lay splayed across the floor, crumpled. The storm still howled, blowing snow in from the dark sky outside.

"A bomb?" guessed Ross.

"We would have heard that," answered Stephen. "Those things were TORN apart by something. RIPPED DOWN."

They considered this a moment. "Oh good," whispered Andy. "At least that probably means nobody's waiting to shoot us."

The three men edged forward into the darkness. Ross slid the key into the Gas Station door. It was indeed still locked. He opened the door. Stephen, over his shoulder, played the flashlight beam around. Nothing but racks of junk food, magazines and road supplies. He clicked the light off, Ross relocked the door.

They jerked as Johanna joined them. In her left hand she held a broom. In the other she clutched the vodka bottle. "Couldn't stand the wait."

Andy had an idea. He took a roll of duct tape from the tourist info counter in the foyer, duct-taped the knife to the broom, making a spear. Satisfied, the four agreed on a plan. Test the McDonald's doors, make sure no one was going to surprise them from that angle. Then head down the narrow corridor to the restrooms and whatever lay beyond. Ross and Andy would be in the lead, Ross with the spear. Stephen would use the flashlight from over their shoulder when necessary, confusing any assailants as to where exactly to shoot if he were going for light sources. Johanna would watch the rear and drink.

They hooked fingers in each others belt loops so they could operate in the dark. The McDonalds proved secure. They started silently down the corridor to the restrooms. Quietly, no lights, feeling their way, lest they betray themselves to whatever lurked --


A long pause. "Why, thanks Mabel," Andy hissed. Another moment of waiting, the only sound the air bubbles hitting the bottom of Johanna's vodka bottle as she took another hit.
Fearing an ambush, Stephen pointed the flashlight beam down the corridor.

That's when they saw the torso.


First Post
In answer to your question, the ever -evolving-when-I-have-time Dark*Matter system is a mish-mash of Star Wars combat rules and the modern skill set recently postulated in the d20 modern rules in Polyhedron alng with some cool feats from the Pulp Heroes adaptation in the previous issue. I was also heavily influenced by Dragonstar, a surprisingly, REALLY nicely done piece of work.

Although I realize that d20 Modern set in Polyhedron was geared specifically for Shadowchasers, I don't much care for it. Ironically there are TOO many classes, and all they're too narrowly focused. I want to be a Soldier, so I have to take "Strong Hero" levels? What if I want to be the Fast Chow Yun Fat gunman? I want to be a Mage so I have to take Smart Hero levels? What if I don't want to be a particularly GOOD mage, just a dabbler?

From the looks of it, Monte Cook's CoC adaptation will be the new highwater mark for non-medieval d20.

Some day I'll do all this in Conversions board, but in general, I use the Combat Spec, the Tech Op, the Free Agent and the Diplomat classes from Alternity. I do use, however the customization style of the d20 modern Shadowchasers -- each class gets access to certain bonus feats rather than more hard and fast level advancements.

For example, my Sneak Attack is called "Cheap Shot +1d6", and is available only for the Free Agent. If a Free Agent wants to focus on scamming or breaking into computers rather than sneak attack stuff, he can instead take those feats.

The Diplomat and Tech Op are pretty much the Charismatic and Smart heros from d20 Modern with some Star Wars thrown in where I didn't agree.

I believe more in this approach: a LOT of flexibility, but in a few very CLEARLY defined classes.

Psionics is a feat to access. You gain two powers, and you can burn another feat to gain another power. Psionics are skill-based powers like Star Wars and the original Dark*Matter

I'm using the Mage prestige class from the Polyhedron issue for arcane powers.

Clerical powers haven't been addressed, but odds are it will become the same as Mage, a prestige class.

Still working on vehicle combat, I'm liking what I see in Series Archer -- although the rest of Series Archer is a little so-so. Dragonstar handles ranged weapon combat better and cleaner, I think.

For money and resources, the Pulp Heroes (Polyhedron) system is remarkably clean. The Shadowforce Archer system is nice, too, but meant for people specifically working for some heavily equipped organization. I may strip it down to a more general version.

I am insanely busy IRL right now, so I won't be posting a lot, but I may try to get the rudiments of the system up on the Conversions board soon.

Thanks, all for your interest and encouragement.

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