I’ve talked about the excellent ways in which 3:16 makes me uncomfortable. I thought I’d tackle those feelings from another angle. I started jotting down a few notes… and then, an hour or so later, I had a total conversion on my hands.
Trigger Warning: This post discusses suicide.
A Science Fiction Roleplaying Game based upon 3:16
No one’s ever seen it, but they’ve called it a lot of names. The Grave World. The Corpse Star. The Eye of the Damned. You begin to see a pattern.
When humanity stretched forth into the cosmos, we found dozens of worlds that could be adapted to our ways of life — and more that we could adapt our ways of life to. Spaceflight was exciting and profitable.
Spaceflight was also deadly. The engineers called them cold equations. Mathematical rules which modelled the boundaries of what a human being could survive. The rules that tell you when you run out of fuel, when you’re freezing to death, even when you’ve lost your mind.
Ships were lost frequently, especially in those early centuries. Millions died. Stuck in flatspace, sometimes, or losing rations to a cargo breach. Long, slow forms of death, affecting hundreds or thousands of people at once. And therein, the coldest equation of all.
In space, humans are close to twenty percent more prone to suicide.
The equations became well-known, but the variables were debated. Isolation in metal cocoons? Neurological consequences of stasis-sleep? The subtly unique radiation patterns of Earth’s sun, or the composition of its soil?
No one knew. No one knows. But tens of thousands of humans have died by their own hands or knives or tampered EVA suits.
Settlers joked about it. “In space,” they said, “no one can hear your cry for help.”
They were wrong. Something did hear those cries for help. Those last, desperate moments. Hard to say what it was, exactly, but it gathered all of those lost human souls and it gave them new flesh. New consciousness. New life.
They accreted, merged, became the Corpse Star. And then, as humanity does, they sent out settlers. Unhuman beings linked by a single, overriding drive. The missing variable in the cold equation. Hatred for Home.
They are the Bugs. You are one of them.
What’s a Bug?
Physically speaking, a Bug is what happens when you try to house a human soul without any human flesh to work from. You end up with a simple mockery of a human shape, made out of cartilage, chitin, and things most people wouldn’t even call living.
The name Bug comes from two places: the scourgemind, and the tendency of Bugs to have extra body parts that some thoroughly alien molecular engineering system thought would be a good idea at the time. The longer a Bug evolves without integrating something else’s genetic material, the stranger its appearance becomes, as its nanoscopic, mad engineering microbes try to patch flaws in the design.
Bugs are capable of self-grafting organic material, from genetic fragments to body parts and brains. Human adaptability merged with alien biology.
What do Bugs do?
Bugs conquer and destroy human ships and settlements. On occasion, they absorb them, usually as fodder for the scourgemind. Everyone whose heard of the Bugs know that they don’t want to encounter them. Some people fear them so much that they commit suicide. And if you don’t want to be a Bug, that’s the worst thing you can do.
Stage one is infiltration. Bugs can’t communicate well enough to properly lie or deceive, but that’s not for a lack of cunning. Bugs hide in cargo shipments, ride meteorites through atmospheres, lurk in the cyclopean grave-cities of lost alien civilizations.
Stage two is infrastructure. The Bugs create the scourgemind, the neurosphere that plans, schemes, and nourishes the invasion forces with hatred. The scourgemind is generally a single Bug, immensely overgrown and supplemented with as much human neural tissue as can be salvaged. Some are massive, deadly hulks, others near-helpless brains in pools of mutated cerebral fluid.
Stage three is invasion. The Bugs cut off supply lines destroy power, open habitation zones to hostile environments. And then, only then, do they begin to stalk the survivors.
How do I create my Bug?
Sound: Each Bug has a sound, which is effectively the name by which it is referred to in play. This might be the sound your Bug makes moving, engaging in short range communication, or killing.
Role: Bugs lack the strict, evolved hierarchy of insects, but specialization remains a priority.
Abilities: A Bug has two Abilities: Fighting Ability and Non-Fighting Ability. Assign these as per 3:16.
How do Bugs develop?
Bugs develop into progressively more monstrous forms. A Bug changes and mutates until it makes one wrong mutation…and gets killed. Probably by a desperate human civilian who’s just figured out how to flip off the safety on a slug rifle.
Bugs advance in level just like troopers, and can improve their mutations or manifest new ones. See Forms and Mutations later in this article.
How do Bugs fight?
Just like troopers in 3:16.
Can Bugs use Armor or Combat Drugs?
Armor’s still armor — Bugs are naturally tough. Combat drugs are replaced by sudden surges of Hatred.
Who fights back?
Whoever survives the initial assault. Soldiers, mothers, miners, children. Collectively, they have Survivor Ability, which replaces Alien Ability, and can use Threat Tokens. Humans have a Survivor Advantage, which replaces the Special Advantage aliens have in 3:16.
How do Bugs use Strengths and Weaknesses?
All Bugs can hear the voice of the Corpse Star. That’s where the name comes from, actually — whatever the Corpse Star actually is, it generates radio output a lot like a conventional pulsar. Radio Bugs across the universe can hear. Unlike the scourgeminds, the Corpse Star doesn’t transmit plans. It transmits memories, emotions, lifetimes worth of human mental residue. Where individual Bugs pervert human adaptability, the Corpse Star perverts human memory.
A Bug having a Flashback remembers some little incident from some little human life… almost certainly one that ended badly. If that memory gives the Bug Strength, then the Bug shows some remarkably deadly human trait, like courage, guile, independent decision-making. If the memory belies a Weakness, the Bug is temporarily overcome by a positive human trait, one that prevents the creature from continuing in the slaughter.
All Bugs share their first Strength (Hatred for Home) and their last Weakness (Mercy).
When your Bug develops into a new form, take a new mutation. Bugs below Pastor can keep no more than two mutations. Pastors and more advanced Forms can keep three mutations.
A primitive, newly reborn Bug, usually an advance scout. Like other humans, Bugs have an instinct to protect their young. A panicking Spawn can Force Weakness.
- Hand to Hand
- Acid Breath (Grenades)
A fully grown Bug, more dangerous and independent.
- Bio-rocket (E-Cannon)
A Bug beginning to mutate in earnest. Lesser Bugs instinctively follow mutors, simply because the mutor demonstrates more determination and creativity.
Precisely because of this, a Mutor can persuade an entire group of Bugs to run away when the battle turns against them. (Use the E-Vac rules.)
- Lethal Precision (Sidearm)
Most Bug infestations never reach the stage of manifesting Deacons or other advanced Forms. Once Bugs stop killing, evolution stops.
The Initiate begins to understand the dogma of the Corpse Star, the abstract concepts of hating humanity and the world that birthed it. As such, the Initiate is able to call upon its brother Bugs and lead them into war.
The Initiate can summon a swarm of brother Bugs. (Use the Orbital Bombardment rules.)
- Greatclaw (PowerClaw)
A Deacon can not only call a swarm, but can control one.
Deacons can compromise human vehicles by fusing them with Bug biomatter (APC). Deacons can call entire swarms of Bugs to berserker suicide attacks (TPK Bomb).
- Scorpion’s Tail (PowerBlade)
The Pastor leads specialized swarms carrying out attacks too sophisticated for the average Bug. When Bugs display shocking strategic ability, it’s usually the influence of a Pastor.
A Pastor can organize swarms to create a nest as a base for further assaults (Drop Ship).
- Survivor (Kinetic Field Armor Transmitter)
- Voice of Hate (Flame-Gun)
The Bug which commands the invasion of a ship or planet. Typically, there’s only one per infestation. Multiple scourgeminds tend to either merge or destroy each other.
When a scourgemind Sacrifices its swarms of Bugs in the name of hatred (Paradise Bomb), it ascends to Bishop.
Human Survivor Advantages
Hit and Fade (End Encounter)
Combat Drugs (Boost Ability)
Suicide Bomb (Exploding Bodies)
Advanced Armory (Ignore Armor)
Defending the Weak (Ignore Wounds)
Savior Virus (Impair)
Plea for Salvation (Induce Weakness)
Pincer Attack (Isolate)
Heavy Weapons (Lasting Wounds)
Jet Packs (Leaping)
Vehicle Support (Rapid Movement)
Jam Corpse Star Transmissions (Reduce Visibility)
Neural Chaff (Stop Technology)
Special Ops Team (Suicide)
Relentless Advance (Swarm)