Life (and Death) In Portal Space

portal 1

What is this thing called Portal Space?

Well, according to the Coriolis core book, the portals are “mystical” and “ancient”, implying that Portal Space should be “mystical” and have an “ancient” feel too.  But it doesn’t say a basket-load more.

In the game that Matthew ran for me and my brother (playing Yaphet and Salah Otho) the trip through portal space took 24 hours.  As such, we could wake up and experience some pretty bad stuff, and run through a great scenario and brilliant Coriolis experience.  However, in hindsight the book is actually quite clear on the rules here, and it says “the jump itself is instantaneous” and “when a ship passes through a portal it is instantly transported to the next” (on pages 138 and 300 respectively).  So – it seems – that portal jumping doesn’t take 24 hours, or indeed any time at all.

Well, pooh to that with knobs on.

I love the idea that there’s an elapsed time in portal space, even if only from the perspective of the character in those warped dimensions, and the actual jump itself is instantaneous.

But, a note of caution – except for very rare and specific circumstances you should avoid role-playing portal space – in fact, this is a House Ruling for me and my campaign.  It can (and did!) work as a one-off, but if you let your players routinely role-play portal space, its mysticism and mystery will be lost, and that would be bad.

[NB: I even had a moment’s hesitation in the middle of thinking about these rules for the very same reason – does the simple fact of making up more rules for portal space already de-mystify it and have the exact effect I’m saying we need to avoid?  Obviously, that hesitation didn’t stop me.  Both Matthew and I have had portal space feature in our first Coriolis campaigns.  Without a doubt it’s an important element of the game, and there is a rules gap out there.  But what this does mean is that it falls to the GM – as with everything else – to measure their use of the rules and keep that fateful mysticism and mystery].

Being Awake is a BAD THING, isn’t it?

Players might be able to resist the effects of portal space for a while but going through awake for anything longer than an hour or two is surely asking for serious trouble.  I went back to the rules to see what this might mean for a character but on this topic the book is a bit inconsistent: on the one hand it says, on p139, that “no human can travel through a portal field while awake.  The crew must be put in stasis or they will suffer terrible mental and physical trauma (called bad stasis, hyper sickness or frostbite), if they are unlucky enough to survive”.  And on p148: “without stasis, portal jumps are basically suicide, or at the very least a one-way ticket to chronic hyper madness”.

But then, on the other hand, the rules for Hyper Sickness on p337 say the following: “the sickness comes in many forms, from madness to having one’s mind or limbs twisted by the darkness.  A person travelling through a portal field without stasis rolls 1d6: a result of 1 or 2 indicating he has been affected by hyper sickness.”  These rules are very light-touch and really generic, leaving it completely up to the GM to decide pretty much everything about hyper sickness.

But hold up – a 1 in 3 chance of suffering as a result of being awake whilst going through a portal doesn’t square with phrases like “basically suicide” and “no human can travel through a portal field while awake.”  So what to do?

I’ve said before that, in my Coriolis universe, going through a portal awake would be a VERY BAD THING, so I favour the “basically suicide” end of the spectrum.  But you might be able to cope with the effects for a short while: I don’t think the merest sniff of portal space should be enough to punish the player with the most terrible of outcomes.  But stay awake for any length of time and you will be basically committing suicide.

So what’s it like in Portal Space?

PortalSpace1

What’s it like?  Well, I think there are four deadly aspects to portal space, affecting both the body and the mind of the characters:

  • First off, being in portal space you experience an ancient parallel dimension you shouldn’t be able to see – I’m thinking something like the old 1986 H P Lovecraft-inspired movie “From Beyond”, where a raised awareness gave the protagonists a view of a hostile dimension that is always there but always just out of reach unless something happens to let you see it. A multitude of strange creatures flitter through the ether, tormenting you…
  • Second, evil spirits in the Dark are drawn to you. Sarcofagoi see you and start to whisper twisted thoughts into your mind.  If you listen, or even if you try not to, they bend your will and seek to make you kill your friends, or lead you into despair such that you end your own life.  Then they can come forward and feast on your warm remains…
  • Third, Darkbound & Darkmorph creatures sense the energy of your ship and swarm to it like bees to delicious nectar. Their unending hunger draws them to you, to feed on your body and your soul…
  • And finally, the swirling energies of portal space itself prey on you: the longer you look into its mesmerising depths, the more it shows you colours and shapes and things you can never see and fully recover from.

That all sounds very mystical and malevolent, making up a deadly environment that small beings like humans should never have to face.

What does this mean in terms of the rules?

The first rule: the four deadly aspects of portal space apply immediately you enter its clutches, and then every hour thereafter – so even 10 seconds in portal space will bring all this to your door once:

 

 

DEADLY ASPECT 1:    The parallel dimension is visible, and you are visible to it. Little critters and minions float in and out of your view, and nip and bite.  These beasts have the SWARM feature (they can be warded off by fire, but cannot be killed by it).  These little beasts are represented by one 10 Dice attack per hour, damage 2, crit 3, ignoring armour, the damage spread across HP & MP;

DEADLY ASPECT 2:    Each hour there is a 1 in 3 chance of a Sarcofagoi being attracted to those awake on board the ship. Listed on p335 they will use their ability, Sow Discord.  Every hour there is the same chance of luring a new Sarcofagoi, even if others have already been lured [following my House Ruling of “don’t role-play portal space” you should reduce a character’s Mind Points by 1d2 per hour per Sarcofagoi to reflect the Sarcofagois’ impact, with the added effect that if the PC’s Mind Points are reduced to 0 by a Sarcofagoi the character immediately dies as a result];

DEADLY ASPECT 3:    Every hour 1d3-1 random Darkbound or Darkmorphs will be summoned to the ship by its power source, glowing like a beacon in portal space. They will roam the ship, sensing and attacking any awake being on board [again, following my House Ruling, you should rule 1d2 Hit Points damage per hour per Darkmorph];

PortalSpace2

DEADLY ASPECT 4:    The effect of portal space itself – and experiencing dimensions that should forever be hidden – assaults the mind and spirit. Once every hour, each character must make an Opposed Empathy (or Mystic Powers) roll to resist its effects.  The strength of portal space is equal to 10 Dice (or 14 Dice if the weird currents of portal space are actually viewed).  One Mind Point of damage is inflicted per difference in success (but if the PC rolls more successes this restores MPs at the same rate);

[NB:  Those in stasis are protected from the experience of portal space, and are outside the perception of the horrors that prowl: they are totally safe].

Taking Damage

If the character receives a Critical Hit the following applies:

The hit should be resolved by rolling on the Critical Hit table.  The actual effect of the critical is ignored (unless the roll is 65 or 66 in which case the PC dies), but the location of the critical suffers Hyper Sickness, is “twisted by the darkness” and rendered useless.  The GM decides what impact this effect has, but the impacts noted on the critical hit table may offer some suggestions.

If the PC is broken (that is reduced to either 0 HP or 0 MP) the following effects apply:

0 HP: the PC is unconscious and suffers a further adverse effect.  Rolled on Table 1 (with 2d6 added together) this effect will either:

  • permanently reduce their AGILITY & STRENGTH attributes;
  • and / or result in a critical hit that will twist and ruin the rolled location, rendering it useless as described above;
  • or kill the character outright;
  • If either AGILITY or STRENGTH is reduced to 0 the character dies.

If the character survives this roll they suffer no further damage from portal space – they are unconscious and for all intents and purposes now count as if they are in stasis.

ROLL 2D6 TABLE 1 – EFFECT
2 Dead
3 Suffer a permanent -1d3 to both AGI and STR & roll on the Crit Table as per roll of 7
4 Suffer a permanent -1d2 to both AGI and STR & roll on the Crit Table as per roll of 7
5 Suffer a permanent -1 to both AGI and STR & roll on the Crit Table as per roll of 7
6 Roll twice on the Crit Table – both locations rolled are twisted and damaged beyond use
7 Roll on the Crit Table – location rolled is twisted and damaged beyond use
8 Roll twice on the Crit Table – both locations rolled are twisted and damaged beyond use
9 Suffer a permanent -1 to both AGI and STR & roll on the Crit Table as per roll of 7
10 Suffer a permanent -1d2 to both AGI and STR & roll on the Crit Table as per roll of 7
11 Suffer a permanent -1d3 to both AGI and STR & roll on the Crit Table as per roll of 7
12 Dead

0 MP:  the PC is huddled in the nearest corner, catatonic, hugging their knees and rocking – and no longer aware of the environment around them.  They suffer a further adverse effect.  Rolled on Table 2 (with 2d6 added together) this effect will either:

  • permanently reduce their WITS or EMPATHY attributes;
  • and / or result in a critical hit that will twist and ruin the rolled location, rendering it useless as described above;
  • or kill the character outright;
  • If either WITS or EMPATHY is reduced to 0 the character dies.

If the character survives this roll they suffer no further damage from portal space – they are catatonic and for all intents and purposes now count as if they are in stasis:

ROLL 2D6 TABLE 2 – EFFECT
2 Dead
3 Suffer a permanent -1d3 to both WITS and EMP & roll on the Mania table
4 Suffer a permanent -1d2 to both WITS and EMP & roll on the Mania table
5 Suffer a permanent -1 to both WITS and EMP & roll on the Mania table
6 Roll twice on the Mania Table – a second roll on the same Mania magnifies the effect
7 Roll on the Mania Table
8 Roll twice on the Mania Table – a second roll on the same Mania magnifies the effect
9 Suffer a permanent -1 to both WITS and EMP & roll on the Mania table
10 Suffer a permanent -1d2 to both WITS and EMP & roll on the Mania table
11 Suffer a permanent -1d3 to both WITS and EMP & roll on the Mania table
12 Dead

And one last thing, just to rub salt into the wound…

With all that going on, getting through portal space alive might be a challenge.  A character might cope with an hour, or even two, but three is going to be getting close to the end of their tether. In fact, some of this might seem a bit damned harsh – but remember that going through portal space awake is something that, to quote the rule book, is “basically suicide.”

Oh, and just to top it all off, don’t forget that portal jumps earn the GM Darkness Points.  In fact, failed portal jumps are even better earners: a portal jump while not being in stasis earns 3 DP, and suffering bad stasis / hyper sickness earns 1.

 

 

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