Ooh, Viragos! That was in the InQuest blurb!
Maybe I need to read over the Exile updates more closely, but it seems to me like it's starting with a great premise but then nullifying it step-by-step. If the theme of the game is "You're exiled from a not-so-paradisal space empire, go explore this vast space frontier," why all the emphasis on Hegemony politics and factions? The in-character bits I remember reading from some old doc floating around implied that exiles kind of support new exiles like they're newbies on an Internet forum, but you're mostly on your own. Perhaps I'm getting it wrong and I'm criticizing Exiles for barking because I thought it was a cat.
|# ? May 24, 2014 19:47|
|# ? Jan 29, 2023 13:32|
Prrreeettttty much, yeah. Granted, the drafts are very, very much incomplete and i'm trying to piece it together while admittedly skipping a bit here and there to cover later. Focusing on the syndics and their politics makes some sense since presumably the Exiles were part of all that before being exiled... but yeah, the infighting and politics really undermines the core themes of the hegemony having tight social and information control, and feels a bit like trying to mimic Vampire's politics without making sure it really fit.
Maybe I need to read over the Exile updates more closely, but it seems to me like it's starting with a great premise but then nullifying it step-by-step. If the theme of the game is "You're exiled from a not-so-paradisal space empire, go explore this vast space frontier," why all the emphasis on Hegemony politics and factions?
There's also a lot of "life in the Grange" material I'll be covering next that fleshes out that side of things too.
Asimo fucked around with this message at 23:19 on May 24, 2014
|# ? May 24, 2014 20:13|
What I mainly remember from Binders is that the basic premise is pretty cool. It seemed kinda clunky in play (while the wizard is memorizing and the cleric is praying, the binder is doing a bunch of little rituals that he hopefully has the components for and making a bunch of checks). But the best thing is that a lot of vestiges were entities from D&D lore who weren't quite gods but were more than just NPCs or monsters.
Having played one they actually work pretty well, and are right about the powerlevel where the d20 system can actually work. So you have a party of people playing bards, binders, and tome of battle characters everything works out pretty well. Though playing in such a powerlevel means having practically no iconic D&D classes, because when the main devs (SKR and Skip Williams in particular) focus on something they turn it to poo poo.
|# ? May 24, 2014 23:15|
I like d20...but only if I use any other magic system than base.
|# ? May 24, 2014 23:52|
Good thing there are so many, first and third party, then!
I like d20...but only if I use any other magic system than base.
Seriously, I can't think of any other rule that has had so many variations as magic has.
|# ? May 25, 2014 02:28|
Mark Rein·Hagen's Exile
•Part Six: The world(s) of Exile•
While the Syndics are a major part of the setting, defining the political blocs that influence the Hegemony and the Grange as well the origin and skill sets of player characters, it obviously takes a lot more than that to make a setting. Unfortunately, there's a lot of differences between the drafts here, but I'll try and put forth something presentable and coherent. Also note the quotes from the drafts in this review have a lot of spelling errors... which, you know, makes sense. I've only edited them where there were words stuck together or it's otherwise difficult to read.
•The Pactum Weal•
As mentioned earlier, the Pactum Weal is essentially the foundation of the Hegemony. It covers a lot of space, a lot of people, and has existed in a roughly consistent form for thousands of years now. Almost all the Syndics that founded it have since changed, disbanded, or been destroyed over the millennium, and it's likely the current Syndics will die before the Hegemony does.
PDF Draft posted:
The Pactum Weal is the ancient treaty between the Syndics that lead to the formation of the Hegemony. This union of Syndics is the largest government in the galaxy. The Hegemony is comprised of over 700 star systems, and nearly 2,000 inhabited planets. The total population has never been calculated, but is assumed to exceed 100 trillion people.
The center of the setting... in a very literal sense, even if the actual game takes place on its edges. In theory the Hegemony is a Republic; the government is run by a council of Hegemons, with each member world appointing a single Hegemon, and each Hegemon having a single vote. In practice since worlds are almost invariably owned and run by Syndics, the council is more like a collection of political parties that tend to vote in unison. War between worlds and Syndics within the Hegemony is allowed, but only as long as it's local and doesn't stabilize the stability of the Hegemony itself.
PDF Draft posted:
In the fourth Aeon, the Hegemony is supreme amongst Humanity. It is both government and culture. A way of life and a stabilizing force. The Hegemony is the shining light of civilization that shields its citizens from the nightmares of space. It nurtures, it protects and it commands.
Almost all the Hegemons are individuals of fantastic wealth, personal power, and political might, as befitting someone who controls the entire population of a planet. 1700 years ago, the Hegemony adopted a policy that required Hegemons to relocate to Diadar in order to separate them from their people, bathe them in the opulence of the capital, and ensure their loyalty to the Syndics and the Hegemony.
Named after the hero Jhakob Diados, the founder of the current Hegemony. It's amazing. And you're not allowed there anymore. Sucks to be you.
PDF Draft posted:
The crown jewel of the old regime is a modern paradise. Every want is granted, every hunger sated. There is no poverty, no crime, no hunger. Money is pointless, on this, the richest of worlds. An exotic and bountiful resort planet, Diadar is breathtakingly beautiful, endlessly entertaining and populated by slaves who seek only to serve your desires. It is the pinnacle of existence for mortal mankind.
For most of the Hegemony's life, the richest and most powerful were effectively immortal due to now-outlawed technology. While officially every last Virago was executed, several still survive and continue to subtly influence the Syndics behind the scenes. The most powerful and cunning have lived for a millennium or more... which presents a certain problem. The anti-aging treatments are quite effective but not quite perfect, and the surviving Virago are getting very old, a little senile, and very, very desperate.
HTML Draft posted:
<<<(Monzon Ezut speculation) We know that life extension and even immortality are theoretically possible, but if the artifex remember how it's done they won't tell us. Are there springs of strange, irradiated water, as the legends say? Are there ancient "miracle machines" buried somewhere in the ruins that will ensure immortality? Do you have to make a deal with the Scourge or the Anathema? Historical evidence that Diados's "invulnerability salve" really can introduce benign nano processes into a living organism (or could before Diadar was terraformed) indicates that there's a precedent for stranger things.>>>
Clone "families" within Trinary. Some have hundreds or even thousands of members derived from the genetic materials and memories of a single individual, and many survive for centuries at a time. The process is of questionable legality, but having a clone line is how many of the wealthy achieve effective immortality while circumventing the anti-Virago laws. It's possible for individual clones to achieve legal independence, either voluntarily, or... you know, through that Exile thing.
The absolutely immense computational network at the heart of the Hegemony. The entire bureaucracy does all its work through the Godhead's systems; almost every network in the Hegemony runs through the Godehead; the entirety of mankind's history, media, and knowledge lies within its databases; and even the memories of thousands of the greatest heroes and scholars have been uploaded into its cores to guide it.
HTML Draft posted:
You've heard of it your whole life, as both the all-knowing benevolent father of the Hegemony and the boogy man who knows all your secrets. The truth is, it's all that and more. The Artifex form a huge network of information. And constantly exchange data, both when we're looking and when we're not.
The name isn't entirely White Wolf melodramatic terminology. The Godhead is sapient.
Not in the way a human would recognize, mind you. It has thousands of individually intelligent cores, each in instantaneous sync. But it has a single will, and through it the Hegemony is run, regulated, overseen, and controlled. Even the Syndics probably do not quite realize the full scope of its information control, as the only individuals who ever communicate directly with it are Solons, the most advanced and intelligent Artifex.
Service guarantees citizenship. The majority of people within the Hegemony are not technically citizens and lack assorted legal rights such as "cannot be summarily executed by the authorities for no reason at all". Slavery is legal as well, though slaves are almost invariably pulled from the underclasses or the Grange. Naturally, citizenship is a rather coveted sort of position.
On the downside, if a citizen fucks up really bad the authorities could do this instead of the execution thing. It can happen to non-citizens who only gently caress up a tiny bit, or who get unlucky enough to piss off the wrong sort of person.
•Space Travel and Null Space•
Thousands of years ago, the Hegemony sealed its borders through the destruction of thousands of stars, blockading the rest with the massive fleets of the Armada. Only their Star Spires were capable of traversing the lightless gap, and the Grange - the worlds outside the Hegemony's borders - were mostly ignored. But then fifty years ago, someone had to go and invent a new means of FTL. The Grange was no longer a place full of nothing but barbarians and Exiles, and a new Diaspora of humanity has begun.
PDF Draft posted:
Travelling between solar systems is accomplished by plunging spacecraft into stars. This risky process is known as Stardiving. The combined effects of extreme amounts of energy and gravity allow for hyperspace travel. The actual experience of Stardiving has been described as a hyperlight stage of total mindwarp in which the illusion of reality is often shattered by your own consciousness. There are bizarre reports of unexplainable phenomena that pop up only to be suppressed by those who know better than to believe such foolishness. Whatever you believe, no one ever forgets a dive.
While jump drives are not exactly the most unique sort of setting conceit, traveling between the stars with an "Icarus Drive" is a unique type of... harrowing, seeing how it's works through literally plunging into stars. However, FTL requires slipping through Null Space, the cracks between the stars that exist somewhere outside of space and time. In some ways it's as much a spiritual experience as a physical one, and only human pilots can successfully stardive. Even with Hegemony technology, Artifex and other automated systems cannot successfully complete the journey.
While stardiving is the quick route, there's more traditional sorts of travel as well. Ion drives, Toroidal Fusion Thrusters, and other sorts of engines are commonly used in the Grange, and they can reach relativistic speeds in only a few hours. These aren't really practical for anything more than in-system travel, or short jaunts of a few light years.
Combat in space happens on fairly "realistic" levels, typically with high powered lasers at rather long distances since ion weapons are too easily deflected by magnetic fields and even the best railguns have too long a travel time hundreds of kilometers out. The usual tactic is that the weaker ship attempts to get close in order to maximize the power of its weapons or to try and find the angles where the enemy can't bring most of their weapons to bear, while the strong ship attempts to keep their distance. All ships typically mount magnetic shields in order to deflect debris, but warships can be found with far more potent variants that can absorb and deflect energy weapons as well. Of course, these also tend to contain the heat of the engines inside them too...
The super space fetishwear suits that everyone in the setting has by necessity. They come in all sorts of models and variants, and many ships and stations don't even bother with life support systems in order to save power and supplies; it's rare for an Exile to get the chance to take theirs off unless they get the chance to go planetside. Naturally, most Exiles heavily modify theirs in functional (maneuvering jets, additional limbs, built-in medial tools, etc) and cosmetic (paint, lights, different shapes and colors) ways. Ulsters can theoretically be worn indefinitely, but can have negative health consequences (like "sloughing off your skin") if worn for more than a few years at a stretch.
HTML Draft posted:
Your Ulster is your friend. There is nothing, nothing at all more important that it when you are in space. Your priorities are: 1. Breathing and 2. Know Thy Ulster.
The centers of civilization and commerce in the void. Millions of Exiles a year pass through them (a large number... but pretty small in comparison to the trillions that live within the Hegemony). The setting would probably take place on or around one of these, and how wealthy and well-maintained they are varies quite a bit with how close they are to the Hegemony's borders.
HTML Draft posted:
Oases in space, the Waystations are the centers of civilization and commerce in the emptiness of the void. Be glad they're there because you'll be spending a lot of your time at Waystations. They run the gamut from megalithic asteriod clusters, to converted derelict spacecraft, or the vast cylindrical orbitals of the Hegemony. They serve one primary purpose: trade, serving as the center for interstellar commerce above a colonized world, but large numbers can be found alone in a barren system. Star-faring peoples such as the Starborn and the Trade Guild factions of the Consortium rely on the Waystations to do their business and resupply after years spent plying the starways.
Newly Exiled often have little in the way of support, and even less in the way of experience. Most of the ports closest to the Hegemoony are set up to exploit these victims as heavily as possible; only a little over a quarter of Exiles survive their first year.
HTML Draft posted:
There are a huge variety of Way Stations in the known Galaxy. Most in the inner worlds are the terminus of Umbilicus, but many in the Grange are little more than shantytown collections of ships and asteroids bound together with cable and flextunnels.
Not everyone in Exile is forced into it. Sometimes groups of colonists accept it voluntarily, trading away the benefits of Hegemony life and Syndic membership in order to have freedom or speech or religion on their own private utopia. Freeworld groups are often wealthy and well equipped, and not against co-oping any local population into their particular government.
Of course, the majority of such colonies typically collapse into feudalism or violent anarchy within a few decades, and often have their fertile and promising worlds recolonized by a later group. The few Freeworlds that survive are usually the ones with colony groups that focused on escaping the Hegemony in desperation rather than following some untenable political ideal.
While the Exiles of the Hegemony are a large population of the Grange, there are groups and civilizations out there from the first Diaspora. Rovers are nomads that travel around a system, mining or scavenging what they need. Naturals are groups that have forsaken Artifex and other advanced technology, while some (intentionally or involuntarily) live in pre-modern agrarian societies. Mysterians are groups devoted to religious worship, of "mainstream" faiths or more... exotic sorts, such as worshiping Artifex or ecstatic cults focused around local hallucinogens.
HTML Draft posted:
Don't forget, you aren't just facing Hege outcasts; the local population out here can be truly twisted. It's best not to go messing with the locals unless you can at least identify their type. You might want to avoid them altogether, as many of the gene-twists out here are far less natural than plain exotics.
Mysterious and hostile... things that exist beyond the Grange. Not human, and more important, never were human. Possibly not even native to this universe. They're not officially acknowledged by the Hegemony, but because they were mentioned as rumor in the corebook we can safely assume they're real and will probably try to murder the PCs.
HTML Draft posted:
This is all as it happened. I am the veteran of seventy years and until forty-eight hours ago I believed that I had seen death in all its forms. As a Bak-Sakusa I feared nothing, yet the beings that lurked in that devastated Horde base, the ones that blasted the minds of our scouts and poured out of the depths into my men... I knew fear for the first time. Never have I heard screams like the ones I heard then -- I turned and boosted myself towards the dock bay exit in a frenzied panic.
There's a... lot of detail in the HTML draft about the sort of lives Exiles lead, little customs and terminology, assorted Exile holidays and popular entertaining, ways to select a crew and maintain a ship, and other things that I'm not quiiiite sure how to translate for a review here since much of it's done in conversational tone and often only up a sentence or two long. In any case there's a lot more than I really have room for here, but I figure if you're interested in the game you can just check that out yourself, and if you're not then there's no reason to just copy-paste walls of text here. Sorry.
Next time: Rules! There are actually some, really!
|# ? May 25, 2014 16:58|
Hey Syrg, you can include this as its own entry on the Wiki, or put it in with the other Horrifically Overpowered books. I don't mind either way.
Over a year ago, I reviewed this the first two products of this series. I had a lot of fun doing it, and despite being only 50% overpowered and only the spellcaster ones were really game-breaking, the books had their uses in legitimate games.
One of the products in the Pathfinder RPG line is Mythic Heroes, Paizo's answer to 3rd Edition's Epic Level Handbook. Instead to cranking up the levels beyond 20, the book introduction a new Mythic system where PCs and NPCs gain amazing powers and abilities if they undergo legendary events in the campaign. This is determined mostly by DM fiat, where a PC might discover they're a descendant of the Old Gods, drink the blood of a Dragon-King, and other cool stuff like that. In short, there are 6 Mythic Paths (pseudo-classes with their own distinct abilities) divided into 10 tiers (pseudo-levels which increase when the PC succeeds at trials, or important adventures in line with their Path).
In addition to unique abilities, Mythic characters can increase their ability scores, gain bonus feats, expend per-day uses of Mythic Power to do cool stuff, and...
wait for it...
Mythic versions of existing feats!
Mythic feats are only available to Mythic characters, and are superior versions of existing feats. For example, Blind-Fight (Mythic) allows you to ignore all forms of cover and concealment with a use of Mythic Power.
Unwilling to be shown up by Paizo, Owen Stephens realized that his own Horrifically Overpowered Feats needed an upgrade.
When the first book of Horrifically Overpowered feats was released on April 1st, 2012, we expected to hear a lot of cries of, “What were you thinking?!” Instead we mostly heard, “When will you release more?!” So, we released the book of More Horrifically Overpowered feats, and the main comment we received was “These really aren’t THAT overpowered.”
Part One: Horrifically Overpowered Mythic Feats
Stephens mentions that these feats are horrifically overpowered, even by the standards of existing Mythic feats. Therefore, we will be judging the book's feats on these merits. Stephens also mentions that their magnitude might not be as noticeable in Tier 10 Mythic games due to the sheer power available at the PC's fingertips.
Without further ado, let's begin!
Acrobatic (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. It can be easy to game under the right circumstances, and auto-succeeding on certain skills (Diplomacy, Perception, etc) is a major boon. Additionally, impressive use of the skill grants a line-of-sight stun attack to multiple opponents.
Augment Summoning (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Variable. A bonus 1 or 2 Evolution Points isn't going to be game-breaking at low levels. It is still a virtual requirement for summoner builds, though. It can even be used on your Eidolon with the Summon Eidolon spell.
Bleeding Critical (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. Don't get me wrong, it's a great 3-in-1 debuff, and can be combined with the Mythic version of the feat for some Constitution damage. However, it requires a critical hit to activate, and certain spell effects can replicate similar effects (Solid Fog for reduced visibility and mobility).
Blind-Fight (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. It has no effect when you'd ordinarily be able to see (which is most of the time), although it can be a great visual extender in night-time and underground settings, where darkvision only goes up to 60-120 feet. You're already paying 3 feat slots to get this, you might as well get something nice like this.
Cleave (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. Turns your normal melee attacks into area-of-effect attacks. Melee builds need all the help they can get in Pathfinder.
Combat Expertise (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. It is a malleable bonus which effectively negates any penalties to your non-flat-footed AC. It is great for unarmored and arcane spellcasters in that it eliminates a major weak point in their defenses.
Combat Reflexes (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. Combined with Mythic Combat Reflexes, the wording of both feats' texts allows you to make a potentially infinite number of AoOs per round, against the same opponent even. Move? Provokes infinite AoOs. Are still in your threatened square at the beginning of the next round? Infinite swords.
Command Undead (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered if used in undead-themed adventures. Can one-shot undead bosses regardless of Hit Dice.
Deflect Arrows (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. This is like a ranged version of Crane Wing and Wind Wall spell combined. As it can't be used if targeted flat-footed, and it's of limited use when fighting multiple spellcasters, there's lots of ways around this defense. It will make archers cry, though.
Disruptive (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. Any spellcaster worth their salt's going to have a bunch of useful lower-level spells, and the ability can only be maintained as long as you remain within melee range.
Eldritch Heritage (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. If you're a Sorcerer, you gain a boatload of new spells. If you're not, well then you gain the ability to cast a few nifty spells which can help any build. Rogue with Invisibility, Fighter with True Strike, etc.
Eschew Materials (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered, due to the sheer variety of spells out there. Even a few "permanent" spells can be useful. Using this feat with True Resurrection on a fellow party member should give you enough time to clear out a dungeon.
Far Shot (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. Can give ranged touch spells an effectively infinite range. Can make archer builds devastating by taking out unaware opponents before they even come close.
So far, we have 6 Overpowered feats, 5 Not Overpowered feats, and 2 which are variable. And of the Overpowered Feats, only 2 are caster-centric! This is quite the interesting start!
Great Fortitude (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. Can effectively negate many forms of attack, supernatural and otherwise. And when you are forced to roll, the +20 bonus pushes you well over the RNG. Combined with the Mythic version of this feat, you roll twice and take the better result.
Improved Bull Rush (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. Bull rushes force you to spend a standard action or use it as part of a charge. And if successful, most builds will have you push the enemy around 20-30 feat (Mythic Imp Bull Rush grants an additional bonus based on your Mythic tier). A cool use, but nothing game-breaking.
Improved Initiative (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. Initiative is very important in Pathfinder and useful to most builds. Combined with the Mythic version, you can expend a point of Mythic Power to treat your roll as a Natural 20, and you gain a flat bonus equal to your Mythic Tier.
Plus, you can get to break the action economy while you're at it! That it, if I can find what a partial action is, as it's not listed in the online Pathfinder SRD.
Improved Unarmed Strikes (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. You're spending 3 feat slots on one style of combat, it drat well should be superior to most manufactured weapons!
Lunge (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. Most larger monsters have a superior reach to human(oid) PCs, so this is a nice counterbalancing effect.
Manyshot (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. It doubles the number of ranged attacks you can make in a round, in addition to the two bonus arrows for each attack with the Mythic version of Manyshot. The light reduction is a mere minor effect in comparison to this.
Mobility (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. This is still a very nifty feat. You can now move 20 feet and make a full attack instead of just 5 feet! Also, no more AoOs just for moving through threatened squares!
Mounted Archery (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered on its own. However, when combined with HOM Manyshot and a fast charging mount, you can rack up insane amounts of damage.
Mounted Combat (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. Owen Stephens actually makes a good case for why his feat would not be overpowered. Something tells me he's not a fan of mounted PC builds...
Natural Spell (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. The normal version of this spell's overpowered, so's this one. Due to a lack of omission, Natural Spell is not in the list on the original link of Mythic Feats.
Power Attack (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Variable. In the lower levels and against certain enemies it can be great, and it dramatically increases the relevance of the melee fighter at higher levels by making hit points a lesser issue. However, the Save DC will be 25 at the very most, and cannot be modified by ability scores. As higher levels, most monsters have impressive Fortitude saves and will laugh at the pitiful DC.
Quick Draw (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. Very useful for swapping out equipment and quickly putting on armor, but not game-breaking either.
Rapid Reload (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. How many groups manually track ammunition, anyway? As your attacks per round are still limited by your Base Attack Bonus and feat selection, this isn't going to do much other than allow you to fire crossbows a lot more often.
Rapid Shot (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. You can use a rope and grappling hook to traverse the same distance, and the ability's too situational to be of use, and is obsolete at higher levels when spellcasters can fly and transport the party.
Spell Focus (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. Making Wizards more Quadratic since 2012.
Spell Mastery (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. Any spellcaster worth their salt's going to have a tightly locked spellbook, but the horrifically overpowered part comes in with the Mythic version of this feat. With an expenditure of Mythic Power, you can prepare all of your spells you've taken Mythic Mastery for as a full-round action. And with the HOM version, that's all of your spells.
Spell Penetration (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. I'm still floored by the previous feat that this one just doesn't seem that overpowered to me.
Spellbreaker (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. You can shut down enemy spellcaster's action for that round, and gain additional uses of spells.
Stunning Fist (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. On the one hand, it's an infinite-use stun. On the other hand, it's unarmed melee only, one attack per round, and not too many creatures are immune to stun effects in the first place.
Two-Weapon Defense (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. If you're wielding melee weapons and need cover, chances are a ranged opponent's shooting at you.
Two-Weapon Fighting (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. You can get additional attacks with the normal versions of Manyshot and Rapid Shot, so melee should get some love too.
Uber-Mythic (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. You're not going to be fighting mythic creatures except as special boss battles, and even then this isn't an instant win button.
Undead Master (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. You can totally get a legion of millions of zombies and skeletons at your beck and call, provided that you have enough material components.
Vital Strike (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. Most combat does not last for more than a minute (tops), and the shaken condition's a minor debuff.
Weapon Finesse (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. This feat's very MAD for you to gain the full benefits, but it's great for rogue and gish builds. Gaining bonuses from two ability scores can rocket up your attack bonus, and it's not so hard to do this with the right build.
Weapon Focus (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. Damage doesn't really change for this, it only allows you to hit a lot more often. A good feat, but not overpowered.
Weapon Specialization (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. The descriptive text is misleading.
This post's feats were 9 Overpowered, 16 Not Overpowered, and 2 variable.
Combined with the last post, we have 15 Overpowered, 21 Not Overpowered, and 4 variable.
I'll give Owen Stephens credit here. Of the 15 genuinely Overpowered feats, about 9 of them were not caster-centric. A definite improvement than the last books.
But that's not all!
We have Part 2 to cover: Mythic Horrifically Overpowered feats! Instead of being versions of "normal" Mythic feats, they're Mythic versions of Horrifically Overpowered feats from the last 2 books!
See you soon!
Libertad! fucked around with this message at 21:28 on May 25, 2014
|# ? May 25, 2014 21:21|
The Genius Guide to Horrifically Overpowered Mythic Feats Part Two: Mythic Horrifically Overpowered Feats
In this part are 20 Mythic versions of existing Horrifically Overpowered Feats from the first product in the line. They require the base feat as a prerequisite, and generally improve upon their effects in some way as a rule.
Denied (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. It allows you to gain more uses of an already overpowered feat.
Empowered Attack (Horrifically Overpowered, Meta-attack, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. You can definitely use this on a build to rack up some nice damage values, although it's no different than turning most attacks into an automatic critical hit.
Enlarged Attack (Horrifically Overpowered, Meta-attack, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. It basically permanently doubles the range increments of non-magical weapons and turns all melee weapons into throwing weapons.
Eschew Foci (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. It can be useful if you have minion mages and followers and you don't want to spend gold on foci, but most of them aren't that expensive to purchase.
Extra Lives (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. The original feat was very limited, but as mythic power is a replenishing resource, it avoids much of the drawbacks of PC death (including costly resurrections). The ability to grant it to fellow PCs is icing on the cake.
Favored (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Variable. Favored class bonuses can grant you additional hit points, skill points, and even additional spells known/learned. Especially in the last case, you can use it to grant short-term knowledge of new spells to fellow PC spellcasters with an expenditure of mythic power.
Full Casting Action (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. Eliminates the penalty on the original feat. A literal reading of the text does not allow it to be used with its Greater and Ultimate versions.
Gestalt (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. It can grant you a bunch more nifty class features, given the plethora of PrCs out there, this feat can grant you a lot of great stuff without wasting a level.
Go First (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. It dramatically decreases the usefulness of readied actions against you. I do like its nifty special requirement.
Healing Factor (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. Fast healing's most useful outside of combat anyway, and expending mythic power to heal ability damage is the kind of thing it should do.
Heroic Grace (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. At higher tiers you can really rack up some sweet bonuses.
Hex Maven (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. I couldn't find enough hexes to make the original feat that great, and I don't think that this will change it.
Magic-User (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. It applies only to one spell, while the base version of the feat grants you a smorgasbord of cool spells.
Mental Paragon (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. Untyped bonus to already high ability scores.
Offensive Combat Training (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Variable. It has the potential to be overpowered as part of a greater build by helping you meet prerequisites for prestige classes and feats far earlier, but otherwise it's no more than a respectable bonus on attack rolls.
Physical Paragon (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Overpowered. A very good feat for any physical build to take.
Perfect Blow (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Not overpowered. It is incredibly useful to really make sure that you land a solid blow, but is still limited by per-day uses.
Skill God (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Variable. Depends upon the original skills selected with normal Skill God.
Supernatural Spell Monster (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Verdict: Varies. I remember a feat from Forgotten Realms called the Initiate of Mystra feat, which did a similar thing. As Dispel Magic is far more common than Anti-Magic Fields and Dead Magic Zones, I'd rule this as more powerful. However, these things are very situational, so it really depends upon the spells used.
Unflappable (Horrifically Overpowered, Mythic)
Overpowered. Shuts down sneak attack and a lot of abilities dependent upon being flat-footed.
From this section, we have 9 Overpowered, 7 Not Overpowered, and 4 Variable feats. Combined with Part 1, we have a total of 24 Overpowered, 28 Not Overpowered, and 8 Variable. The amount of genuinely overpowered feats are around the same as the original book (around half), but far better than the second book (around 25%).
As for myself, I've never had an incentive to use the Mythic rules, so I can't see myself incorporating these feats. But there are more than a few of them which can be cool for certain character concepts (Blind-Fight, Lunge, Mobility, and Two-Weapon Defense to name a few) which I can see myself incorporating into normal Pathfinder games. So all in all, this book is quite useful to me.
If you enjoyed the feats listed, or can see yourself using them in your games, I'd recommend tossing a few books Owen's way as a show of good sportsmanship.
I hope you enjoyed reading this review. In fact, I plan on writing one up for another product now that I'm back in the groove. Expect to see a write-up of Spears of the Dawn coming soon, an old school D&D retroclone which incorporates the myths and folkore of medieval Africa and its greatest empires.
|# ? May 26, 2014 00:35|
Rifts Sourcebook Three: Mindwerks - Part Nine: "Does the tortured woman with her outstretched arms mock the heavens or plead to it for her release?"
The Black Forest
Faerie pictured at 10x actual size.
Anyway, it's bigger than it used to be, because nature finds a way, and is now filled to the brim with faeries. There are a lot of scary stories about it, and even the minions of Atlantis and gargoyles generally steer clear. Most of the faeries are your typical Siembiedan not-evil-but-irritating sorts, but in spooooky places there are evil faeries. So you have ones who are a dick for a no reason, and those who are meaner dicks for no reason. Faeries!
We gets lists of monsters in there, and there are tribes of d-bees and psi-stalkers and stuff like that. Apparently, they haven't heard the scary stories. Lots of Rifts Conversion Book references, and we can move on.
The Tree of Darkness
It's pretty shady, but its bark is worse than its bite, if you gnarl what I mean... okay, okay, I'll stop rootin' around...
So, this is an evil millennium tree (see also: Rifts World Book Three: Hippies of England). Also, it's time for some:
Erin Tarn saw the tree from a distance and could tell it was eeevil, and was like gross, evil! Also she could tell it was almost 2000 feet tall, despite her lack of surveying equipment, and it looked like a tortured woman and so she could tell it looked totally metal. She thought it reminded her of Wormwood (buy Rifts Dimension Book One: Wormwood), which was also a bummer. She wonders if Faust (buy The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus) corrupted it somehow, despite him being largely fictionalized. Historical accuracy, gently caress it! But I guess Faust accidentally corrupted the ground by making a deal with the devil.
Erin Tarn segment ends here
Anyway, once you're 20 miles away, there's spooky fog and psychics get spooooky vibes and animals well spook the gently caress out. There are a lot of supernatural entities (i.e. psuedo-ghosts), supernatural predators, evil faeries, the entire contents of Beyond the Supernatural dumped out, pretty much whatever the GM wants to throw out. One would think a fog filled with predators and monsters would have elo The gene-splicers have a community here because evil puts up with evil (alignment is like labor unions). There's a sphinx called Madcat and a temporal raider named Antiquity and a streetcar named Desire... wait, no, scratch that last part.
A Gene-Splicer posts his EVIL vacation photo.
So there's a large opening at the base which is relatively unguarded with a bridge leading to it since there's no fog, but there might still be prowling monsters or an adult hydra that guards the bridge (like they do). This portal can travel to any stone pyramid. You can climb to the others but poo poo might pounce on you, or villains might attack, because the characters are A) presumed to be heroes and B) presumed to be obvious heroes, maybe it's the white hats. (Once again, evil is like a union.)
There's a- well- Imma let Siembieda speak.
Rifts Sourcebook Three: Mindwerks posted:
The maw with vaguely negroid features has a branch that appears to be a long, curving tongue that leads to the demon city of Lalibela in the mountains of Ethiopia and/or to the living planet known as Wormwood...
Serpent head leads to Asgard, a demonic elephant head goes to African Congo or India (not detailed) or the nameless world inhabited by the Hindu pantheon (wait, wasn't that taken over by the Splugorth?), a spirit leads to Phase World (which is full of Phases), a dragon head leads to Palladium World (it's full of Palladiums), and another leads to Dyval (it's full of Dyvals), another to the Yucatan, and another to a Time Hole (GM makes up what's in there).
The Powers of the Evil Millennium Tree
It helps evil! And hurts good! Because evil and good are like union and nonunion (or vice versa, if you prefer the other metaphor). reveal hiding good guys, reduces the healing of good characters, spoil food and water, and control (magical or nonmagical) weather. It can also create a (no poo poo) leaf: blanket of pain that weakens people that are wrapped in it and prevents healing.
Wands and Staves of Darkness
We get a note that 85% (we're glad a study was done on this) of magic items from the Tree of Darkness inflict curses on good people if they try to use them. You know, it's kind of odd one of the few alignment mechanics in Rifts is used basically to discourage PCs from looting magic items. Maybe otherwise good PCs could carry a sack of puppies around to pluck out and strangle when they need to use an eeevil rune weapon or corrupted millennium tree item or the like... alternately, you could just be a puckish rogue and take one of the selfish alignments, and be unaffected entirely in this particular case (though not with rune weapons et cetera).
|# ? May 26, 2014 03:32|
Mark Rein·Hagen's Exile
•Part Seven: The Rules of Exile•
Interestingly, while the HTML draft has a lot more in the way of setting material and fluff, it doesn't actually have any rules beyond a brief section of equipment with stats. The PDF draft on the other hand has summarized playtest rules, but the setting material is much briefer and stated in direct OOC phrasing. I get the suspicion that they were actually different potential parts of the same final book; a lot of White Wolf games have the first half be IC-style setting description and the rest be stating things in frank terms to the players and GMs, and this seems to fit the pattern. The only trick that comes in is that the two seem to be from different stages of development, with a few changed or contradictory pieces of information. Ah well.
In any case, every quote here will obviously be from the PDF draft.
•The Game System•
Good news! Exile doesn't use the Storyteller system! Thank loving god, it was still a bit of a wreck in 1997. The default assumption is that characters succeed automatically on most tasks. For tasks ("challenges") where a roll is necessary you still get to put those piles of d10's to the task... but thankfully, as d100's instead. You need to roll under the target number, usually the trait in question, but the higher the roll is without exceeding the target number the better you succeed in what I shall dub the "Price is Right" mechanic. Since Null-f inherited White Wolf's hatred of intuitive probability, particularly complex challenges may require you to roll against two (or more!) different traits. If you only succeed at one roll, the success is halved (or thirded, or what have you). If you lack the appropriate skill, the target number is your base stat times ten, and the game master narrator by assign a 10-30% penalty to difficult rolls.
That seems like an unnecessary detail, but whatever.
All traits in this game have a percentile rating from 1 to 100. A characters score can be considered the percentage of human maximum they possess in that particular trait. For instance, a character with an 84% Reason, can be assumed to be in the top 16% of individuals in regards to raw intelligence.
In any case, when you succeed you take the "tens" digit of the roll and have that many success points, giving people with higher traits much better successes as well as better chances. If you get exactly the target number you get a critical success and can roll again, combining the total success points (if any extra; the second roll can't harm you). You can burn success points to...
Rolling 00 is a "Null", which represents unprobable luck. The narrator basically gets to describe something that is "memorable", "quirky, odd, and definitely strange", basically giving open excuse to make poo poo up. If you roll below your Exhaustion or Malaise score (we'll get to this in a moment) you get a critical failure, with the narrator encouraged to make your life difficult and painful pending mentions of botch charts that don't actually appear in this draft.
• Movement: you are allowed to take some sort of simple extra physical action, such as walking or running, in addition to your basic action. . Cost: 1 to 3 pts. You define what you want to do, and the Storyteller tells you if you succeed.
Overall, these basic mechanic aren't... that bad? A little more complex than they need to be, but at the same time they seem to be a lot simpler than Storyteller and have a wide range of potential results without being too difficult to interpret. I'm not really sure the game needs that range of results, but I've certainly seen worse.
•Exhaustion and Malaise•
Exhaustion comes from physical fatigue and harm; if it reaches 10 you pass out, and it goes away as you rest. Malaise comes from metal stress and fatigue, or when you use your Memes (... we'll get to those a bit later); if it reaches 10 you basically have a mental collapse, and it's removed by meditation, carousing, and other cathartic activities.
In other words, the party. Basically it goes into a little detail about how the group should be connected in some thematic way, either by Syndic, by Family (or Cognate...), by background. Pretty obvious stuff, but good to reiterate I guess?
Finally, chargen. To begin with, you need to pick through a few different things. An origin (a family outcast, an orphan, the clone of a hero, etc.), a background (an aristocrat, a bureaucrat, a famous celebrity, etc.), and the reason for your banishment (a crime, being framed for a crime, a personal disgrace where your family/Syndic just wanted you out of their sight, or just being of low status and picked at random to "support colonization efforts"...)
Here's where the Syndics come in! The important thing with Exile is that it isn't a binary choice like a Clan or Tradition, but rather you pick five different Syndics, having a different sort of affiliation with each, and each type of affiliation having a different affiliation score. These are Champion (50%), Enemy (40%), Initiate (30%), Spy (20%), and Contact (10%), all fairly self-explanatory.
Honestly this is probably a bit overcomplicated, but it definitely explains why there's a wide variety of Syndics, why they often have overlapping members and goals, and why some of them barely qualify as "Syndics" at all. In addition...
NOTE: When you record your Syndic score, roll one ten sided die — the result becomes the one digit. Combined with the base index for each affiliation you create a percentage score from 11% to 59%. (you’ll do the same for Skills later on).
Like the Storyteller ones, they're rated from 0-5, though 0 usually isn't found on player characters. You get 18 points to divide between the
If they didn't have Coordination in there they could have gotten away with a sweet VIPER acronym. Once more White Wolf ignores critical gameplay concerns!
• Vigour: A general rating of physical stamina and strength. Applications of endurance and sheer physical force. Body tone and general physical health.
There are some! The level of affiliation with a Syndic tells you how many points you can spend in its skills (from 5 to 1, basically divide the base affiliation score by 10) and what skills you can choose from. Like with affiliation score you roll a die to get the ones digit of the final score. In addition to the stuff listed above you can burn successes on, you need to spend a certain amount of successes to define how well you succeeded at a skill check. In general 1 is "barely succeeded" and 5 is "I am the Moon". If the roll is contested, whoever gets the most successes wins. No, there's no mention of how to resolve ties.
•Memes and Drives•
Memes are "the clusters of ideas, ethics and visions of each Syndic which describe what hold them together as a group." You get three, picked from the lists of your various Syndics (yes, including the enemy one). These are something like a combination of Merit and Power, but also indirectly defining an aspect of personality kind of like how Nature and Demeanor did in V:tM. Every Syndic has three examples in the draft, but presumably the final book and any supplements would have had more. Some examples are...
A character will also have the derived Temper (Vigour+Coordination), Passion (Presence+Expression) and Pride (Reason+Intuition) traits. You get these by taking the two scores and assigning them to either the tens or ones digit as you prefer (so a 3 and a 5 could be 35% or 53%). There's some advantages to both high and low scores, thus the option.
• (Androgyne) Follow Your Bliss — Do all that you can do, experience everything available to you. Live Life to the Fullest. You get 1 extra experience roll each story.
The "stuff" you start with. Being Exiled doesn't mean you're totally bereft of possessions, and even the disenfranchise can scavenge up or be granted some basic resources (it's exile after all, not a death sentence, and the Hegemony wants to give at least the pretense of a fair chance). You get seven rolls to represent the seven days you have left on Diadar before your exile, basically picking a skill or attribute and rolling a challenge against it as you try to get resources from your syndics. The narrator is encouraged to make each of these rolls a scene as you try to justify your challenge, but honestly that sounds like it'd get to be a colossal hassle in practice for a group of any size.
You get successes like usual and can burn them to buy stuff from the appropriate Syndic's list, like spacecraft, estates on a Grange world, a military commission, and other assorted things that will make your life significantly easier. However, a roll of 01 is a botch; normally this means forfeiting any remaining rolls as you're unexpectedly deported the next day, but at the Narrator's discretion you can just die it's a combat roll. There's a bit of Traveler in here after all!
Basically the freebie points from Storyteller chargen, stuff spent at the end to boost stats and such to make each character a little more unique. You get 20 points to start, and can spend them on...
... and yeah, like with WoD chargen some of these are clearly more valuable than others. A big example would be hit points and Memes; there's no way to add those through experience later, at least in this draft, and Memes are fantastically cheap for their effect. I can't say I'm a fan of the random elements either, but eh. You can also save Logos for post-chargen, but I'll cover that in a moment.
Attribute - 5 Logos points per point (max 5)
Your Pathos is a d10 roll, although it's kind of a vestigial trait since it's mentioned solely in this note and in a single Meme. Your Reputation is 0, but is definitely a vestigial trait since literally nothing else mentions it. Your age is anywhere from 10 to 100 (people tend to live a long time in the Hegemony even without anagathic treatments), though most Exiles are young.
Naturally, there's a bit list of syndics, skills, memes, and all that sort of stuff in the draft. I'm not going to bother transcribing that here.
Super-normal abilities available if you have the certain Memes of certain Synddics. Basically a sort of limited psychic ability; it doesn't work on Artifex or other mechanical or overly logical entities, for example. There's one tied to each attribute. Some examples are the Meditation of the Zae that lets you ignore the need for rest, food, or water on a successful roll (and possibly on consecutive days...), or the Diva of the Trancers that lets them erase malaise points if they lead a trancer event.
The good news: Exile has a "hero point" style mechanic. You can spend Logos to reroll a challenge (but only once), to add three successes to a roll, and similar things that help to mitigate the bullshit of random chance. You can also spend a point to do some dramatic editing of the scene, pretty much identical to similar mechanics in other games (like the later Adventure!). This is pretty nice!
Only problem is, Logos is lost when it's spent; you don't really have a regenerating pool of it. Fortunately you can gain more by following the intent of your Memes, but if you were saving some after chargen instead of buying permanent traits you probably fell into a pretty big chargen trap. But in fairness it is 1996 here, people were still experimenting with these types of mechanics.
The personality traits. Generally self-explanatory; Temper is how angry you are, Pride is how strong your self worth is, and Passion is how emotional you are. These play a big part in Reaction Checks; in cases where you need to make an immediate, gut response, the Narrator might have you make an appropriate Drive check. These can be good or bad; a fearful moment might be a Temper challenge, with success letting you fight bravely and failure forcing you to flee, but if something that makes you enraged you'd only retain control if you fail the check.
In addition, successful use of social skills (Seduction, Leadership, and the like) on you can force you to make a challenge of the appropriate drive, again with positive or negative outcomes on success depending on the skill and circumstance. Succeeding on a Pride check after a Leadership roll means your fear is reduced, but succeeding on a Passion challenge after a Negotiation roll means you get greedy and give in to their offer, for example.
In any case, if you don't like the result you can take a Malaise point and roll a different Drive to try and counter the result. Allies can use skill checks on you similarly with no Malaise cost.
I'm nooot going to go into full detail here. Basically, every combatant gets to make a skill roll and take an action, and can take the action even if you fumble the roll. Everyone also gets three free successes they can spend on Initiative, Movement, or Defense, giving people who've failed their rolls some tactical options. And yes, Initiative is decided by how many successes you spend on it, and actions are decided at the start of the turn and counted down from highest initiative to lowest, so there's some trade off in how soon you strike versus how well you strike. There's also a whoooole lot of things to spend combat successes on, including basically all the fancy maneuvers (grappling, suppressing fire, etc.) that most games have. I think it's a pretty elegant means of handling these compared to the additional checks or unnecessary subsystems a lot of games have.
With damage, characters have health levels... although unlike Storyteller, it's divided between six locations, the head, torso, and all four limbs, each with different numbers of health levels; an arm has three, the torso has seven, and so on. The defender chooses where they're hit unless the attacker spends successes on choosing a location, and damage is determined by the weapon used (a flat non-random number) and is reduced by any armor or force fields. A limb reduced to 0 is disabled, and you're unconscious if the head or torso hits 0. If you're unconscious, any additional damage means a death challenge against vigor or fortitude.
Overall... it's not that bad really. No worse than Storyteller, but there's a lot more fiddly tactical aspects and it it doesn't have the same sort of death spiral effect.
These rules are... uh, incomplete. There's a few places where concepts are cut off mid-sentence, like some mentions of spending Logos for stuff but not saying how. In any case, the Narrator hands out 1 to 7 experience points, and you pick which traits to use them on, getting a roll for each point spend. If you succeed, you gain 1%. If you fail you can 2%, and an exact success gains 3%. I'm not a big fan of random chance rolls for character advancement since it can lead to long term imbalance, but this is a pretty elegant way of handling it; the better a trait is, the slower it increases. The section mentions "watching the levels of your drives" but there's no mention of how they'd ever decrease, and it also notes that Syndic affiliation can only be changed with RP.
Overall? The system is rather sparse but there's definitely enough to play a game with here if you really wanted, at least with some willingness to add extensive house rules to trim vestigial stats and make rules for edge cases. It's nothing exceptional, but moving to percentile dice removed a lot of the wonkyness that Storyteller had with its dice pool probabilities. The real problem that I can see (admittedly, without ever actually playing with it in practice) is that in many cases you're going to have a 50% or less chance of actually succeeding at all on a roll in a skill you haven't focused on, and that's just going to be frustrating a lot of the time. The early encouragement to have the Narrator only force rolls when it's absolutely necessary helps a bit, but in practice I don't see it helping this improving the situation in most games. The upside is that when you do succeed you usually wind up with multiple success levels to play with, and in most of the systems where constant failure would be problematic (like combat) you're given some automatic successes to distribute. Combat is very, very different from Storyteller due to this; it becomes a bit more tactical in how you plan your actions and spend your successes. In any case it's hard to really say how well the game would work without some actual playtesting; I suspect it's not a bad concept, but you'd want to tweak the chances of overall success versus success levels granted to even it out a bit.
As for character generation, I think that it's... functional but mediocre? It's kind of like Storyteller in that it's not horribly complex and there's a fair bit of flexibility in how you make a PC, but there's way too many random elements. Obviously that comes down to personal taste, but the rolls just seem to add unnecessary complexity and potential imbalances between PCs. There's also the Storyteller style problem of a big disconnect between chargen and experience costs... but experience is done differently enough that there isn't the compounding costs problem that lead to the dumb builds of early Storyteller games.
Next time: Closing thoughts!
Asimo fucked around with this message at 23:37 on May 26, 2014
|# ? May 26, 2014 18:41|
Once upon a time, there was a guy named Kevin Crawford. He designed role-playing games of the old-school variety, namely Dungeons & Dragons retroclones and supplements. He was hanging out on an RPG message board when the topic of racial diversity in games came up, and he heard the familiar mantra "That doesn't sell!" repeated. "Gamers aren't interested in fantasy Africa, they just want European and Asian (namely Japanese) stuff!" This irked Crawford, a lot, and so he decided to hedge a $3,000 bet. He bet that not only could he design a cool Fantasy Counterpart Africa RPG drawing inspiration from authentic myths, folklore, and history, but that it would be popular. To that end he buried himself in several months worth of game design and research on the continent in medieval times, hired a bunch of talented artists (whose work he released into the public domain with their consent to provide inspiration to others), organized a Kickstarter for funding, all to make a superb RPG.
And he succeeded. Not only did Spears of the Dawn get a lot of rave reviews and managed to avoid the more racist and stereotypical "unga bunga land" portrayals earlier work engaged in, it became one of the hottest-selling D&D retroclones on Drive-Thru RPG last year. The whole "fantastic adventure in an untamed land" phrase is sort of unfortunate to me, as it conjures up specific imagery which is largely inaccurate of the setting inside. There are definitely lots of ruins to explore and tiny isolated villages, but there are also great nations inspired by the real-world empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai which built grand palaces and possess the knowledge of metallurgy, an order of Paladin-esque Sunriders who defend the common folk from evil humans and monsters, and mighty sorcerers and clerics who have the king's ear and can decide the fate of entire communities. The setting's about as "advanced" as most D&D settings are.
Spears of the Dawn derives its ruleset from Stars Without Number, another retroclone designed by Kevin Crawford, which in turn derives inspiration from the Frank Mentzer-written version of Basic Dungeons & Dragons. It adopts plenty of classic tropes, from the 6 ability scores to saving throws, although its classes, magic, weapons, monsters, and more take on the trappings of African folklore and legends. There are many varieties of sapient supernatural species, although only humans are a playable option (who in turn gain different starting skills based on their background).
As for the classes, there is the Griot (pronounced "GREE-oh"), bards and historians whose songs and orations are so good they might as well be magic; the Marabout (pronounced "MAHR-ah-boo"), priests who have a special connection with spirits and gods and can work their magic in this world by gaining their favor; the Nganga (pronounced "GAHN-gah"), people born with the ability to manipulate ashe, the fundamental potency of existence, which gives heat to fire, hardness to stone, and cunningness to the wise among other things; and the Warrior, those who do not rely upon magic or the griot's songs to perform feats of heroism. In addition to being the hardiest and most-skilled of the classes, warriors gain access to idahuns, or "replies," special abilities which the warrior has mastered to use against foes. Yes, fighters have class features nobody else gets or can easily replicate in Spears of the Dawn (and I'm not talking about piddly stuff like Weapon Specialization)!
The game also incorporates a skill system, unlike much of its fellow old-school brethren. It lies somewhere in between the complexity of 3rd Edition's fiddlyness and the "say what you want to do, DM sets the DC" minimalism of most OSR games.
In times long past the kingdom of Deshur warred against the Nyalan Empire. Out of sheer desperation, the Deshurite King turned to evil magic to turn the tide of war, and in turn doomed his own people to unending unlife. The Eternal, as they became known, were little more than undead monsters who cut an orgy of destruction across the Three Lands. Were it not for an alliance of the five major nations, they might have even been victorious, but mighty heroes with the help of the nation's armies organized resistance against them.
It has been forty years since the Eternal were driven back into the inhospitable black sands of the east, but remnants of their soldiers and sorcerers still lie in fortified underground strongholds and tombs, biding their time and striking out against those too foolish or unknowing that tread too closely. The past is forgotten as the five kingdoms remember old disputes and sever alliances, as border quarrels deniable incidents sprout up along their borders. Whether it's tyrannical nobles, bandits and monsters lurking in the wilderness, the troubles of the Three Lands seem beyond the reach of even its kings and queens.
It is a time of trouble, but there is still hope. In addition to wandering adventurers who slay monsters plaguing villages, spiritual leaders who call upon spirits to aid the sick, and sorcerers who break the curses of their evil brethren, there are the Spears of the Dawn. An organization formed by the last Nyalan emperor to fight the Eternal, these men and women come from all nations and walks of life to travel wherever they're most needed and wipe out the undead remnants. Today they are on hard times, no longer officially supported by any kingdom and often little more than wandering adventures. It is expected that the Player Characters number among the members of this heroic order.
Adventurers getting ready to explore an Eternal tomb.
It might be odd to end my first post on the introduction, but the first chapter of character creation covers a lot of ground which I believe is served better in its own section. Hopefully I've whet your appetite regarding this RPG to look forward to more updates!
Next time, Chapter One, Part One: Ability Scores, Homeland and Backgrounds, and Classes!
|# ? May 27, 2014 03:33|
Chapter One: Creating a Character
The chapter starts off with some pretty basic information you see in plenty of RPG corebooks. "Try to design characters so that they work well together and have a common goal," "choose a motivation," "explain how/why your PC came to be a Spear (of the Dawn)," but it also says that the game is intended to be a sandbox game. Basically, one where the players decide on what to do and where to go in the world, and the DM reacts to this, and that there's no narrative plot armor built into the rules to save you from poor choices. The specifics of sandbox gaming are dealt with in a later chapter, and you can find many discussions of this playstyle on old school D&D blogs and message boards.
First off, we have the classic 6 ability scores, which are known as attributes in this game: Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma. Rolling 3d6 six times is the classic way of generating them, although one can remove points from attributes above 13 to add to ones below 8, but not to the point where the former dips below 13 or the latter increases beyond 8. The reason for this is that 8-13 is the baseline average, with a 0 modifier. A range of 4-7 grants a -1 modifier, 3 a -2, 14-17 a +1, and the vaunted 18 a +2. This way you can shore up pathetic ability scores from high attributes you don't really need. Each class also has 2 Prime Attributes, which are vitally important to that class and thus allow you to bump up an attribute to 14 in one of them if it's lower.
If you want, you can dispense with rolling and put a value of 7, 11, or 14 in your attributes, provided you don't have more 14s than 7s. You don't get your "free 14" prime attribute if you go this route, though.
Not that you've got your attributes and character concept, you move on to the next step, your Origin. This is a combination of your character's homeland (usually one of the five Kingdoms), and their background (the occupation/way of life he grew up with in said country). Your background does not restrict what class you can choose, but it instead provides 6 skills which your character starts with in basic competency (Level 0). If your chosen class gains one or more of these skills as bonus skills, then you move up to the next level of competency (Level 1), which indicates a long professional expertise. Therefore, it can be advantageous to choose a background which fits with your class. If your DM's okay with it and it sounds plausible enough, you can design your own custom background by picking 6 skills.
The Kirsi ("KEER-see"), formerly an eastern province of the Nyalan Empire, are a hilly nation of warriors famed for their armored lancers and iron-clad cavalry who cut through Eternal legions in the days of the Long War. Even the most impoverished peasant among them is taught in at least one kind of weapon, and their rulers wouldn't dare think of disarming the populace. For the last 40 years the nation's feuding noble houses engaged in successions of land takeovers and skirmishes, displacing many Kirsi and sending once-mighty family dynasties into exile. Even the kingdom's ruler, the Dia, can only enforce the territory his men walk over. Their cities are made of adobe and scrub-oak, their palaces and manors of quarried stone.
Many of their backgrounds tend towards some martial inclination (bandit, noble, scout, soldier), although the most interesting one's the Sunrider: your PC grew up training under paladins of the Sun Faith, who fight for justice and defend the common folk from noble depredations.
The people of Lokossa ("low-KOH-sah") live in a the southern rainforest kingdom of the Green Land, standing stalwart against the monstrous Night Men who lurk across the Akpara River. Their society is a tyrannical magocracy, where the nobles are mighty Ngangas ruled by the Ahonsu (sorcerer-king). Their magical protections and rituals kept their nation autonomous and repelled foreign threats for centuries, although the mages rule the commoners with an iron fist and work them to the bone. Whenever the Night Men grow strong, the noble clans selected human sacrifices among the commoners and slaves to fuel their magical power, which is grimly accepted as a necessary evil (hundreds will die so that thousands may live"). The people wear little in the humid jungle aside form chiffon-light wraps of woven leaf fibers dyed in bright, beautiful colors.
Backgrounds tend to vary, from the lowly peasant and city-dwellers and runaway slaves, to commoners with magical talent plucked from their families to serve a noble house. The Lokossan Reapers are an all-female military unit of warriors who fight with signature two-handed "great razors," and have an honored place in Lokossan society.
The Meru ("MAY-roo") are a nomadic people wander the golden savannahs and grasslands of the southern Yellow Land, dwelling in semi-permanent homes of thatches and thornbushes and taking their cattle to wherever the land is most plentiful. They are descended from the Sun Faith worshipers of the ruined kingdom of Deshur, when the rulers turned to the loathsome Gods Below for aid. The Sun Faith worshipers fled to the savannahs and learned how to survive from the indigenous groups living there. After generations of intermarriage they became the Meru people of today.
In the intervening years Eternal forces journeyed into the land to slaughter them, forcing them to ever be on the move. Eventually they turned the tide, fashioning war staves and throwing clubs to crush Eternal bones as their Marabouts seared their flesh with the power of the Sun. They are proud of the role they played in the Long War, and how their traveling life helped keep them one step ahead of their undead enemies. The Nyalan Empire in the days of old tried to claim the lands inhabited by the Meru, but were unable to effectively rule or tax them due to their legion's inability to even find the nomads in the great grass sea.
Meru are a religiously devout hunter-gatherer society, and their backgrounds reflect this (herder, scout, trader, etc). They don't have warriors or standing armies because everyone's expected to be able to defend their herds (although Meru Sunstaves are a background of gifted individuals who wield large staves as signature weapons). Olabans are loremasters who pass down the lore of their Sixth King ancestors to help counter supernatural threats, while their priests are Sun Teachers who have no temples or shrines but great knowledge in the holy scripture.
A once-proud civilization which ruled over much of the Three Lands, the Nyala Empire ("nn-YAH-lah") is but an empire in name only today. It is a northwestern land of rolling hills, meadows rich with water and rain, and beautiful broad-leafed forests. Their human ancestors learned many secrets from the giants of the Mountains of the Sun, which they used to work metal and erect grand buildings. As Nyala's land grew, so did its ambition, and it was this drive to conquer which drove the Deshirites into the eastern sands. When the Eternal marshaled their forces, the Nyalans were unprepared and spent most time holding onto existing provinces than to drive them back, which resulted in the loss of many regions and cities as well as the declarations of independence of Kirsi and Sokone. It wasn't until the days of the last Emperor Kaday that the country formed an alliance with its neighbors, formed the Spears of the Dawn, and drove back the Eternal. He died in battle, and now the Nyalans look to their recent past, reminded of all that they had lost.
Nyalans have a tendency to be proud and haughty; peasants and nobles alike have a near-encyclopedic knowledge of centuries-long family trees, and can make tenuous claims to great heroes and historical landmarks. Their nation might be in decline, with peasants burdened by heavier and heavier taxes, and dynasties see their fortunes decline and inability to protect their own land, and yet some of the most zealous venture beyond to find something, anything to make their country great again.
The backgrounds reflect this, ranging from Nyalan nobles or "hollow princes" who could no longer hold onto his land and legacy, artisans who blend elegance into even the coarsest of work, courtiers and hangers-on to the upper class and scheming plotters, historians forced onto a life on the road after being let go by a noble house, and even the mere peasant and soldier.
Our fifth and final nation, Sokone ("so-KOH-nay") is located in the relative center of the Three Lands, the mighty Iteru River cutting through the breadth of its fertile land. Sokone is the richest of the nations, home to cosmopolitan trade hubs importing and exporting all manner of goods, from rare rainforest herbs to fine Kirsi steeds. Almost anything can be for sale, provided one knows where to look and has the right connections.
Sokone was one of the first provinces to break away from Nyala in the time of the Long War. Although the Eternal armies were repelled by large bodies of water, the war was still devastating to the country. Their capital city of Chakiri was overrun and still serves as a stronghold for the undead to this day (now known as the Silent City). Farmlands and houses along the coastlines were burned so that even those who fled onto the safety of the river barges had nothing left to return to at their homes. Were it not for their geographical position among trade networks, and the merchant family’s wealth, it would’ve taken Sokone far longer to recover.
Sokone is the most racially and religiously diverse of the five kingdoms. From the jewel-colored eyes of Nyalan nobles to the stern features of the Kirsi, the traits of the major ethnicities can be found in all combinations among Sokone. Temples of the Sun Faith and shrines to all manner of spirits are common features along active city streets. Clans and families have little reluctance towards marrying foreigners, and alliances form more around trade and business opportunities than matters of nobility or lineage. On the other hand, the people of Sokone are very individualistic, and families are expected to stand on their own two feet with minimal outside help.
Sokone backgrounds tend towards mercantile varieties, such as the arbiter who is trained to settle disputes (both legal and otherwise), artisans, traders, and entertainers earning a living, riders employed by rich merchants to monitor the affairs of distant lands and return to them with news, peasants and riverfolk who perform labor in the rice fields and live day and night on traveling barges, and syncretic priests who call upon all manner of known and unknown higher powers.
In short, the backgrounds serve their purpose, and none of them are what I'd call unbalanced. Granted, a few are more interesting than the others, but you should be able to design the character you want unless you're dead-set on some really weird backstory.
Choosing a Class
Player Characters in Spears of the Dawn are a cut above the cloth. While anybody can learn how to swing a sword, placate the spirits, or sing well, the powers and abilities of character classes are special in both their training and sheer potential for greatness, even at their lesser levels.
There are four classes to choose from: Griot, Marabout, Nganga, and Warrior. Once selected, you are locked into that role, and cannot trade in levels or multi-class as you might be able to in other RPGs. There is some variation in specific abilities, but overall each class tends to be good or specialized in some general area.
Each class has universal core traits: hit dice used to roll hit points, saving throws to resist negative effects, an attack bonus to determine their overall fighting capacity, prime attributes, and a list of class skills. Additionally, each class gains a list of bonus skills to receive basic competency in (or grow to Level 1 if they overlap with existing background skills), plus one in a class skill of the player's choice and one bonus skill which could be anything they want. Classes advance at the same rate of experience, and the maximum level in the game is 10.
I will be detailing the magic spells and effects, including Griot songs, in their own Chapter: Magic.
The Griot maintains the history and traditions of a culture's people. They are responsible for judging the worthy and the wicked, share their memories and lore with others, and channel the truthfulness of things through their praise-songs and verbal castigations. In short, they are the "bard class." They're rather squishy (1d6 hit dice), have an average attack bonus, and their saves are geared more towards evasion and avoiding mental effects, but they have a versatile list of class skills to reflect their role as scholarly entertainers.
Their major class features are their Songs, near-magical effects which increase in power as the griot gains levels. Whether it takes the form of a song, oration, chant, or other verbal sound, listeners realize that the griot is no ordinary entertainer and that these words carry a substantial, visible weight. Basically, a griot begins play knowing two songs and can learn an additional one every time they gain a level (or learning it from a fellow griot or tome they penned), and use a point-based system where songs cost a number of Inspiration to use. Using a song takes great effort, and too many in quick succession can tax the griot as they become unable to use the right words and melodies in the right order and fashion. At 1st level they can learn only minor songs, but at 4th and 7th they can learn Great and Ancient Songs. Their 10th level capstone ability allows them to pick 2 minor songs and use them at no Inspiration cost. Songs generally involve placing targets in a certain estate, bolstering the abilities of allies, or relying upon epics and lore to discover and remember old knowledge.
Overall, a class which is good at what it does and fits in well with the setting.
Every village has its people versed in their culture's religion and the service of the spirits. Religious festivals and celebrations are communal activities, as the favor of those worshiped is seen as the duty of everyone and not a specialized order of clergy. Even then, there are times when the specialized skills of one close to the spirits is needed, and the Marabout serves that role.
Marabout are not just priests and priestesses. They are people who fashioned close relations with a spirit or spirits, and in exchange they gain magical powers in line with the spirits portfolio. Some have to spend years earning their good will, while some are born able to use miracles by instinct, having been watched by an otherworldly patron since they were in the womb. Most marabout in the Three Lands follow either the Spirit Way (catch-all term for people who honor all variety of spirits) or the Sun Faith (monolatrist faith which views the Sun as the greatest spirit of all and pay homage to him and him alone).
Marabouts have a 1d6 hit dice and average attack bonus, and their saves are more geared towards resisting magic and saving them in times of pure luck. Their skill list is fewer than the griot's, generally a few social skills and knowledges. Their primary class feature is their access to Spheres, which are much like Cleric domains from Dungeons & Dragons geared towards a certain theme, and and one of them chosen by the PC grants an always-active Gift or benefit for the Marabout. A marabout PC chooses two spheres at 1st level, representing their friendship with spirits in that portfolio. Alliances can change and evolve, however, and the marabout can gain an additional sphere at 3rd, 6th, and 9th level, and can trade out any number of spheres whenever they gain a level. Marabouts of the Sun Faith, however, must always keep the Sun sphere as one of their active spheres. In exchange, they can cast one more spell per day per spell level.
Marabouts use the all too familiar Vancian spell system, where they spend slots of certain spell levels to cast their spells. Whereas standard D&D clerics and wizards can choose their spells ahead of time, marabouts can only cast spells from their spheres. At 10th level they may choose a 1st level spell of a sphere without a permanent effect to be able to cast at will. This makes the class rather specialized at low levels, although they become more versatile in ability as they gain levels.
The eight available spheres are Curing (healing magic and immunity to disease Gift), Death (weakening enemies, speaking with the dead and raising the dead, can halt bleeding others as a Gift), Herding (good with animals and +1 to your Constitution modifier Gift), Passion (manipulate emotions, +1 to Charisma modifier Gift), Spirits (banish and summon spirits, can speak with spirits and see them as your Gift), Sun (light and fire magic, see in perfect darkness and radiate light at will as Gift, available to both Spirit Way and Sun Faith), War (buff spells for combat, +1 to hit rolls with specific weapon group as Gift), and Water (water and weather magic, can breath and swim in water like a fish as Gift).
The Marabout's role in the party highly depends upon the spheres you select. They can be classic battle-priests of D&D with Curing and War, they can be pseudo-druids with Herding and Water, and classic undead-slayers with Spirit and Sun. The choices are up to you!
The Nganga are those few people gifted (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) at manipulating the universal force known as ashe. This art is inborn and cannot be taught, although most of these folk are destined to live unaware of it, their unconscious desires wreaking magic around them. However, with proper training and knowledge of the required rituals and material components, a nganga can achieve feats both wondrous and terrible. From laying curses upon foes to taking the forms of beasts, the magic wielded by a nganga makes them feared and respected across the Three Lands. As long as they restrict their magic to cursing enemies and warding their own communities against evil magic, these sorcerers are tolerated as a necessary evil (or are part of the ruling class in the case of Lokossa).
The Nganga is very frail, with a d4 hit dice and the only one which does not have Combat skills as class skills, and a poor base attack bonus. Their saves are geared against resisting magic and mental effects, and are bad at resisting physical effects and evading danger.
While a Griot's songs are not technically magical, and the Marabout relies upon spirits from another world, the Nganga's magic is entirely internal and of this world. They need to channel their powers into proper receptacles, forcing them to carry specific charms, masks, pieces of clothing, and similar restrictions to cast their spells. Unlike marabouts, they cannot cast spells while wearing armor. Nganga Sorcery is divided into two kinds: ritual spells, which has no limit to the number of times they can be cast but often have long casting times (30 minutes is the fastest one of all) and sometimes expensive material costs. And nkisi spells, which use the per-day Vancian system and must be imbued into nkisi, or small handheld objects. Both have spell levels, and thus can only be learned by a nganga who meets the proper character level to cast them. They can learn new spells by gaining levels or from a fellow tutor (none of which freely part with their knowledge, and prefer favors and quests to vulgar trade goods). A nganga always has the option of preparing more slots than their level allows via additional nkisi, but failing an Occult skill check causes all of the spells to go off at once with the nganga as the target.
Nganga are a potentially powerful class. They are more versatile than the marabout, and many of them tend to be direct damage, debilitating curses, or defensive wards or rituals to build minor magic items. They do suffer the common problem of low-level old school wizards, where they can fire off only a single spell at 1st level and become squishy targets with almost no offensive capabilities.
The Warrior has a rather misleading name. Although they are mechanically combat-based, the available options allow you to make a skilled thief character. Warriors are pretty much anyone who relies upon their own skill and wits without the aid of magic or songs. Fighters not only have the best hit dice (d8) and attack bonus, their saves are good all across the board, and they gain athletics and all combat skills as bonus skills. And their class skills are not too shabby either, including the aforementioned groups as well as more thiefy stuff.
Warriors gain access to idahuns, or "replies," techniques they mastered through training. Almost all of them are always-active, only a few are limited use. The warrior gains an idahun of their choice at 1st level and gains an additional one at 3rd level and every odd-numbered level thereafter. There are 12 total, enough for me to cover them all. They tend to vary in effectiveness, with some useful for any character and a few dedicated more towards specific builds. What I like is that some of them are open-ended as to whether they might be supernatural, or just superior training or luck. For example, the "Two Lives" idahun might be the warrior simply possessing extraordinary luck, or the spirits are watching over him.
The four great ones, which any build can improve upon, are:
Blessed and Graced is great because your PC gains an effective 7 points of armor bonus (equivalent to heavy armor), as they learned to fight unarmored. They can still use a shield, and there's no downside to this as it's superior all available armor options with none of the drawbacks. You won't be able to use this while wearing magical armor, but you won't find that stuff often until higher levels.
Charmed Steel, where your attacks wound all foes normally, even if they'd otherwise be immune to or suffer reduced damage based on weapon type. Additionally, all weapons and armor you wield are treated as magical, and gain a +1 bonus at 4th level and increase by 1 every 3 levels.
Two Lives, where you simply fall unconscious for 5 minutes if you'd otherwise die or bleed out from your wounds. You can die normally if struck while in this state, and must spend a week in celebration to honor the spirits who saved you or being joyful over your good luck before you can use it again.
Washer of Spears, which grants +2 initiative and you can never be caught surprised.
And for the rest:
Born with a Blade is lackluster, granting you a +1 to hit and +2 damage with a weapon group of your choice.
Deep-Rooted Soul grants you a +2 on magic saves (putting you equivalent with the Nganga, the best magic save in the game), and you can't suffer negative levels from energy drain. Useful for most builds, especially magic-using enemies and undead.
Honed Skill and Sagacious Warrior are meant for the skill-user builds. The former lets you pick one skill you're really good at, and you treat a roll as a 12 on the die (2d6 skill system) once per day. Sagacious Warrior grants you basic proficiency in 3 skills of your choice or raises existing ones to Level 1, or any combination thereof. This last idahun, along with all others, can only be taken once.
Dreadful Shadow and Honored Steps are reputation-based, and only one of which can be taken. The former grants you bonuses on intimidation-based rolls, and you're immune to all fear effects. Honored Steps increases your Charisma modifier by 1 and automatically assumed fit for leadership positions. Both are rather situational.
Tireless increases your Constitution modifier by one (augmenting your hit points), and you can perform physical exertions all day long, and you sleep light for the first four hours. An all-around good idahun.
And finally, Roof of Spears. Once per combat, you can instantly move to interpose yourself with an ally within 30 feet, taking the damage or effect meant for them, even after dice are rolled. You can only defend against physical attacks. Good to have if one of your PCs is wounded or a squishy nganga.
Overall, I really like the Warrior class. It is very versatile both in and out of combat, and I like the touch of unique class features with good effects. It makes the warrior feel unique belong "have the best hit points and saves and all the proficiencies" of other old-school fighter classes.
The other major aspect of character creation, Spears of the Dawn uses a skill system. Skills range in 6 variables: lack of a skill, where you don't have even basic training and suffer a -2 penalty (and can't even roll for harder DCs at all); Level 0, basic proficiency; Level 1, years of training; and all the way up to Level 4, which indicates legendary ability.
When performing an activity with a reasonable chance or consequences of failure, a character rolls 2d6 and adds their skill level and the attribute modifier most relevant to the situation, with DCs ranging from 6 (simple tasks for trained people) to 15 (barely possible in a theoretical sense). There are 20 skills, a few of which have specializations. It costs points to upgrade skills, and characters have only a set amount per level to spend. The cost increases exponentially between skill levels, and more so if it's not a class skill, so even griots and warriors aren't going to be getting good at all of them anytime soon.
Some skills are specialized and require specific knowledge, such as Artistry (art and entertainment stuff), Culture (your own or others), and Trade (common medieval occupation), but most are broad and all-encompassing. Some skills especially useful to typical Spears or adventurers, such as Athletics (helps you wear heavy armor in hot climates in addition to movement stuff), Occult (supernatural stuff), Perception, Navigation (where am I?), and Survival (living off the land). You even have Persuade, a social skill to change people's disposition towards you, while Leadership and Tactics can help keep obedience of subjects and manage affairs in risky situations.
What's interesting is that Combat is a specialized skill. Instead of using the 2d6 system, you buy up skill levels in a certain type of weapon (axes, blades, clubs, spears, or missile weapons), and you add the skill level to your attack bonus along with the relevant ability modifier. This is in lieu of a proficiency system, and I sort of have mixed feelings on it. On the one hand, it complicates things when transferring from other games ("can I use this weapon or not?"), but it allows for some customization in what you're good at unlike some more restrictive retroclones.
The last bits of character creation include choosing of starting languages, rolling for starting wealth (with silver trade ingots the universal basis of currency) along with a table to gear to buy, and roll for starting hit points.
Unlike other retroclones, you roll your entire hit die value every time you level up. And if the total is equal to or greater than your current hit points, then you gain that new value instead. This results in the potential for sudden large increases, and can mitigate the effects of a bad roll the previous level. Rolled a 3 for your 1st level Warrior? Not to fear, upon hitting 2nd level you always have the potential to get as high as 16! Only problem is, there's the slight chance that you might not get any hit points at all upon leveling up.
Thoughts so far: I like what Crawford did with the classes. They're quite versatile for an old school retroclone, and the fluff text fits really well with the setting while letting you know this is not your standard Fantasy Europe. 3rd Edition fans like me might appreciate the skill system to better create your character, and the background system helps ground your character in the world.
Next time, Chapter Two: Systems and Rules!
Libertad! fucked around with this message at 05:25 on May 27, 2014
|# ? May 27, 2014 03:37|
That looks pretty awesome - and I'm really, really glad there's actually an explanation as to why all your spells must be prepared in advance. I'm not normally a massive fan of Vancian magic, but this implementation is pretty flavourfull. Also, the skill system reminds me a lot of Traveller.
I think I'm going to have to pick this up...
|# ? May 27, 2014 03:55|
Mark Rein·Hagen's Exile
•Part Eight: Final thoughts•
To be honest, it's hard to really give a fair review about Exile. What we have available is basically a first draft that was maybe total seventy or eighty pages at the most, clearly far less than the 200+ the final book would have clocked in at. The rules are very rough with several unused traits and a lot of character options given only basic examples to test with, and the setting was still being changed and expanded between the drafts. So with that said, I'll try to look at the good parts of the game and try and ponder how what's broken or missing could have been improved, since it's impossible to say what the final product would have included.
On the whole... I actually really kind of like Exile. It's full of 90's thematic conceits and some design that would be out of place these days, but I loving hate classic Storyteller and for all of this system's flaws it's at least a lot more transparent. The overall setting themes are much "higher concept" than a lot of the sci-fi games that had been released until then too. It's not quite as heavy on transhuman themes as Transhuman Space would eventually be, and it lacks the sort of relatively hard sci-fi that something like Traveller had, but it's this odd mix of harder sci-fi themes, creatively done softer themes (I still love the "stardiving" conceit for FTL), and a sort of pervasive spirituality in the backdrop of an ancient but slowly decaying civilization that seems to get its influence from Frank Herbert or Larry Niven more than George Lucas or Gene Roddenberry.
The problem with the Exile drafts however is that, as mentioned earlier in the thread, they're very interesting themes but the setting information is focused on the wrong areas for the game. There's far, far too much attention given to the Hegemony itself and the Syndics, and once the prelude (and scrounging up your Indulgences...) is done the characters, pretty much by definition, won't exactly be interacting with it again directly. It's probably an inevitability of seeing the game this early in development; the Null Foundation wanted to make an entire game line out of the setting, and the characters ultimately would have lived the start of their lives in the Hegemony, so it only makes sense to give the core of the setting a lot thought and early attention to detail.
If you're only working with the draft though you're going to have to make up most of the setting for the Grange. The HTML draft has a lot of information on lingo, and small-scale customs and behaviors and the like, but it just doesn't give you enough information about politics in the Grange, major stations or political powers, and other stuff that's sort of critical to crafting a campaign. I'm not entirely sure this is something that would be sufficiently resolved in the final game too... it's quite telling that there's only two Syndics (the Bak' Sakusa and the Trancers) that are explicitly Exile-focused. Still, the fact character traits are defined by their interactions between multiple Syndics (and by extension, elements of the setting) is a really interesting way of handling traditional splats that I wish more games did.
I actually rather like that Null-F didn't see to include a "power" system like basically every White Wolf game had. The Memes (and the Acuities... which are bought through Memes) are maybe the closest equivalent, and even those tend to be a bit more subtle and focused; the closest equivalent in a contemporary White Wolf game would probably be the knacks from Adventure!, for example. There's a lot of ways to break characters, both good and bad, but overall everyone is on a roughly even level. Of course, a lot of attention is given to the Ulsters and spaceships and other essential technology, and everyone having powered exoskeletons does reduce the need for personal power crunch too.
As I mentioned last post, like the overall idea behind the rule system... percentile dice are pretty easy to work with, and the potential number of successes scaling with the chance for success makes for an interestingly escalating competency at higher skill levels despite the flat roll. Most of the problems really come down to how successes scale, since as it is many players would be looking at 50% or less chance of success on a particular roll, but that may have been something that the playtesting would have changed.
•Would I play it?•
Yeah, probably. It's incomplete and I pity the GM who'd have to flesh things out for the campaign, but there's a whole lot of worse themes and systems around, and if anything the 90's "spacepunk" concepts and visuals seem almost charming now.
•So what about Aeon/Trinity?•
This... is really the biggest piece of the story, and one of the things I know very little about. As I mentioned in the first post, Rein·Hagen left White Wolf in 1996 and took Null Foundation with him, while Aeon came out less than a year later in 1997. It's pretty clear that White Wolf was going to do a science fiction game one way or another, but at this point it's impossible for anyone but the people involved to say whether it was an argument over control over the game line, a break in creative intent, or personal company politics. Similarly, it's hard to say whether Aeon came about due to White Wolf making a game in their own style while trying to piece together scattered drafts and unused ideas, or whether Aeon was actually intentionally rushed in order to undercut Null Foundation. Whatever the case, Aeon actually got released while Exile didn't.
There's a few things that help to give some hints to the behind the scenes development. One is how the first edition of Aeon had almost the exact same esoteric printing format that the draft wanted for Exile; a spiral bound, black-covered book with only a logo prominently displayed. It's clear it inherited a bit of Exile's intended design there, but that may just have been the affectation of some particular staffer who remained at White Wolf after Rein·Hagen left. Then there's the Null Foundation itself... my sneaking suspicion is that Rein·Hagen wanted a lot more creative control or felt the company wasn't working in his interests, and having the game done in a "non-profit" organization in his name let him keep the rights when he finally left. It's telling that the organization got converted into a for-profit company a few years after Rein·Hagen split from the company, even if Atomoton only made a single failed product before closing.
Whatever the politics, Aeon/Trinity was ultimately a... very different game. I can't speak for everyone, but for a while there Exile was kind of a big deal in the online gaming/usenet community due to being "the next big White Wolf thing" even if the interest eventually fizzled once it became clear the project was going nowhere. Considering those expectations for a high-concept setting, Aeon was kind of a poor substitute. It's not a bad game but it definitely was much smaller in scope, quite a bit less experimental, and had very little in common thematically.
For those who aren't familiar with it, a quick summary would be that the player characters are the psychic agents (Psions) of one or more government or corporate organizations during the rebuilding after a catastrophic world against cosmic-powered superhumans (Aberrants). It's almost entirely focused around Earth and the solar system (to the point that the warp-capable psychics have fled for... reasons before the game begins), society is in an overall state of regrowth and rebuilding rather than a decline, and the characters are generally presumed to be well-supported and well-trained agents rather than outcasts and, well, exiles. It used a variant of the Storyteller system (probably the initiator of the branch that Exalted would later use, rather than the later NWoD's), the characters are tightly tied to their single splat (to the point that it's incredibly difficult to use powers from other splats), and where Exile kept to a lot of WoD themes while drastically changing the mechanics and metagame, Aeon changed a lot of themes while being very conservative with the mechanics and overall design.
If I had to pick between the two, I really sort of wish Exile had got completed instead. On the other hand, Aeon eventually lead to Adventure! which I'd argue is the best game White Wolf ever did and one of the best RPGs in history, so it's hard to really hold too many regrets.
I'm not gonna lie, I love Timbrook's stuff and I'm kind of sad the game never released with more proper finished art rather than low-resolution concept sketches. I used a lot of the Timbrook pieces that were up on archive.org throughout the review, but I didn't get to use the majority of pieces. Most of these sketches are unusably low quality these days, but it's still some design work that would otherwise have been forgotten and helps to get across a bit of the feel of the characters and technology, so I threw it all the images I could find into an imgur gallery. Enjoy!
•The PDF draft•
What, you thought I'd leave you hanging? Between this and the playtest draft on archive.org you'll have everything I know of that still exists from the playtest. Yeah, I guess it's technically but it's for a publicly released document for a game that never got released by a company that no longer exists, so I'm pretty sure nobody will care.
The downside is I'm not quite sure of the best way to share this, so here's a bunch of file sharing links for places that hopefully aren't too virus-ridden. You're probably best off trying the onedrive one first, though I have no idea how long that will last. If they're all dead in a month or two just give me a PM or something and I'll just email it to you.
•Thanks for Reading!•
If anyone does actually own one of the Z-G figures and the related cards and accessories, could you do a quick review of the material for the thread? I recall it having almost nothing in common with Exile beyond the theme of the Ulsters, but I vaguely remember the small rulebook having some basic setting information and I'm curious just how much was actually kept. Also, if anyone really liked or had problems with the review, PM or let me know; the ones I've done in the past have either been rule-free books or comparatively simple games, and if I do another in the future I want it to be as good as possible.
|# ? May 27, 2014 16:54|
Thanks for writing that!
•Thanks for Reading!•
I've threatened to review a couple of things, but so far never made good. Once I return from traveling I'll break the ZG stuff out and see what I can do.
|# ? May 27, 2014 17:29|
Vestiges: Level 1-4(and a half)
They have the vestiges listed alphabetically rather than by level, which really doesn't help you figure out their relative power levels and abilities. So I'll do em by level. I'm nice like that. Each vestige also has a seal, it's kind of neat that the ones from the Key of Solomon use the seals from the Key of Solomon, anyways, let's get started.
One thing to note that is a common thread amongst most of the vestiges, once you use one of their abilities that isn't a constant thing, you usually can't use it again for five rounds.
Level 1 Vestiges
The Void Before the Altar
Legend: Scholars claim that Amon is what remains of a god that died of neglect millennia ago. Once worshiped by thousands as a god of light and life, he lost his worshipers to more responsive deities. He had a strong enough will to resist dying completely, and his existance as a vestige has twisted him into a foul tempered and hateful spirit.
Special Requirement: For some reason, Amon doesn't like Chupoclops, Eurynome, Karsus, or Leraje. If you've hosted one of those spirits in the past day, Amon will not answer your call, and they will not answer your call if you're bound to them.
Manifestation: He manifests in a burst of black smoke, howling foul curses at his summoner for daring to awaken him. He posesses a black wolf's body with a ram's head and a serpent for a tail. His mouth is filled with sharp teeth and fire escapes when he speaks.
Sign: You grow Ram's Horns.
Influence: Amon makes you surly and irritable. He also despises living deities of fire, sun, and law, and requires you to resist even beneficial spells cast by those devoted to such gods. Meaning you have to make a saving throw even if you don't want to.
Granted Abilities: He grants you darkvision, the ability to breath a line of fire, and the ability to attack with your horns. And yes you can charge with them for extra damage.
Opinion: Amon is basically babby's first Vestige. The vestiges he disallows you from using range from 'sort of okay' to 'pretty damned good' so once you have the ability to bind multiple vestiges or higher level ones you're probably going to leave him behind. Regardless of how much damage the fire breath deals. The influence is flavorful but annoying since it rules out ever popular deity Pelor, and you're unlikely to hit the dc 20 at low levels.
Legend: Not long after Moradin created the dwarves, Aym arose as a great leader amongst them. She was of course greedy as hell, driving her subjects to mine furiously to sate her lust for wealth. As destructive as her rule was, she did expand the dwarves territory greatly with her mining and many clans grew quite wealthy.
The orcs, giants, and goblinoids were jealous of the dwarves wealth and angry at the territory they lost, so they banded together and assaulted her kingdom. The dwarves were stretched thin across their wide territory and they could not respond quick enough to defend their capital. Legend has it that she died counting her money as it was loaded onto wagons for her flight, even as it melted in her hands. Rather than repenting for her greed she cursed Moradin for not protecting her, so Moradin cast her out of his realm.
Manifestation: Aym arises from a coiled heap within the seal. She has two great worms for legs and three heads - one a lion's one a female dwarf's and one a bull's. She's heavily muscled due to all the gold finery she is wearing, and her fingers glitter with a few dozen jeweled rings. In one hand she holds a star shaped branding iron and with the other she holds the lion's head shut. She can only speak out of the dwarf head, and she keeps the lion muzzled because it's roaring causes the bull to shriek in terror and then she just can't hear anything.
Sign: When you bind Aym you get a star shaped brand on either your forehead or your palm.
Influence: Surprise, you become greedy, and you must whine about every item of value you are forced to give to another. Even if it's to buy something. At the same time you must give a coin to a dwarf you meet within a minute of learning their name.
Abilities: You get a dwarf's ability to move in armor, you can wreath yourself and your fists in fire, you can deal loads of bonus damage to objects, and get medium armor proficiency.
Opinion: Aym is more specialized on defense than offense. If you want to be a sunder monkey and be both harder to hit and a bad idea to hit, Aym's probably your choice. But it's not going to help you kill anything any faster.
The Green Herald
Legend: Leraje was Corellon's first herald, like 'when Lolth was still chaotic good' first. She was so good with a bow that she shot all 1000 heads off of Thessala the Hydra Queen with a single arrow. One day, she helped Corellon save Lolth from an ambush by Gruumsh. Lolth praised Leraje for her skills, comparing her favorable to Corellon. Leraje beamed and a bemused Corellon proposed a contest between the two of them to see who was the better archer. When Leraje agreed Corellon declared their target: her heart.
Corellon expected her to realize that she was being an egotistical idiot but, well, she was an elf. She loosed her arrow at Corellon and, surprised he fired back. But she was aiming at his arrow, not at him, it ricocheted off of the arrow and back into her own heart. As punishment for wasting her life for the sake of her pride Corellon cast her soul from heaven and earth.
Special Requirement: To summon Leraje you must break an elf crafted arrow while invoking her name and title. Also she's one of the ones who hates Amon.
Manifestation: Leraje appears before her summoner as if she had always been there, just very well camoflaged. First her eyes open, then yellowed teeth in a sly smile. As she moves her clothes and skin change to reveal an elf dressed in beautifully decorated green leather armor. Although she was clearly beautiful at some point she has been ravaged by some toxin or disease, leaving her hair limp and yellow and her skin pockmarked and sallow.
Sign: You look sickly and diseased.
Influence: You become quiet and unassuming. Leraje still feels guilty about the actions that lead to her death, so she requires that you never attack any elf or creature with elven blood, this includes drow.
Granted Abilities: You gain the ability to hide pretty well, low light vision, precise shot, proficiency with bows, and the ability to ricochet arrow shots.
Opinion: Leraje is the only vestige that values ranged weaponry in any fashion. It might be okay at lower levels when you're more fragile but unless you're planning on binding her forever you're better off with one of the other vestiges.
The Grinning Hound
Legend: Naberius' name has changed multiple times over the years. Naberus, Kaberon, Cerbere, and Serberius. One appeared as a noble bird headed man, another as a dog with a crane's head, another as a wolf with fifty heads and a tail of three entwined snakes, and the fourth as a heap of bodies surrounded by a cloud of flies. A few fiendish sages have suggested that he might be an aspect of Cerberus, but Naberius just smiles when asked about it.
Special Requirement: Naberius values knowledge, industry, and willingness to deceive. He required you to have at least 4 ranks in bluff, or any knowledge or profession skill.
Manifestation: First a black crane falls onto the seal with a squawking and flutter of feathers. Naberius then stalks forward out of invisibility as a three headed hound to feast upon it. He speaks from whichever head isn't eating at the moment. Despite his appeareance and raucous voice, he always seems amiable and eloquent.
Sign: Your voice acquires a gravelly tone.
Influence: You love the sound of your own voice and are constantly pleased by your cleverness. Whenever presented with a stage, pulpit, talking stick, or anything else that gives a speaker the floor you are required to immediately sieze the opportunity to speak. Any topic will do but Naberius also resents others taking control of the discourse so he requires you to shout them down or mock them until you've spoken for at least one round per binder level.
Abilities: You can cast disguise self, gain the ability to use a number of skills equal to your con modifier as if you were trained in them, can use the Command spell (which upgrades to suggestion later on), can take a 10 on diplomacy and bluff checks and make rushed diplomacy/bluff checks without penalty, and oh yeah, you heal 1 point in every damaged ability score every round and one point in every drained score every hour.
Opinion: Naberius. If you've spent any time doing 3.5 char-op you've probably heard of Naberius. WotC liked to use ability score damage as limiter on the more powerful things that classes had access to. Particularly constitution damage. A one level dip into Binder lets you snag Naberius and completely negate that. In particular he enables a warlock build that deals somewhere in the neighborhood of 42d6 damage a round. To a full strength binder, however, he's less great. Getting access to suggestion and disguise self are okay, but the 'trained skills' thing means nothing without actual skill ranks at higher level.
The Iron Maiden
Legend: Ronove is supposedly the first monk. In life she was a charismatic guru who taught that enlightenment comes from denial - first of the needs of the flesh then of the perceived limits of reality, then of the rules of reality. And she had the ability to back up her claims. She leapt from cliffs without harm, lifted boulders with her thoughts, and lived for months without eating or drinking. But even though she could do all these amazing things she could not teach them to her students.
To prove the veracity of her teachings, Ronove sealed herself in an iron coffin and ordered her students to bury her and only dig her up once they received a sign from her. Years passed without a sign, and her followers lost faith one by one. At last only one remained, and he dug her up in disillusionment only to find an empty rusted sarcophagus. He tracked down his fellow disciples to tell them of the miracle but none believed him. Were it not for this last disciple all knowledge of her would have been lost, but he scribed her story on the walls of her monastery for binder scholars to find years later.
Special Requirement: Ronove's seal must be drawn in the soil under the sky.
Manifestation: The ground quakes and a rusted iron sarcophagus erupts from the soil within the seal, shedding dirt and flakes of rust as it rises upwards. The metal visage of a human woman is discernable upon the lid. The metal bindings holding the lid closed burst in clouds of rust and it creaks open releasing a tumble of human bones and noisome black liquid. Ronove does not speak to her summoner but the visage on the lid smiles or frowns during the pact making process.
Sign: Your face forms into a permanent frown if you made a good pact, or a smile if you made a poor pact.
Influence: Ronove makes you think that others always doubt your abilities and competence. You feel you must always prove your worth. In addition you cannot eat or drink while bound to her.
Abilities: You gain a bonus to your land speed, a monk's unarmed strike feature (with the included increase in damage), the ability to treat your melee attacks as magic/cold iron, a permanent feather fall, and the ability to manipulate things at a distance ala Far Hand. You can deal damage with this but if you do it gos on cooldown like any other 'use' ability.
Opinion: Getting most of the good stuff out of being a monk isn't half bad for a vestige. The fact that the unarmed strike damage scales up rather than just being a proficiency means it remains relevant.
Level 2 Vestiges
The Tortured One
Legend: Bards tell two stories of Dahlver-Nar, both linked to the magic items that carry his name - The Teeth of Dahlver-Nar. Some say that because he was one of antiquity's most powerful clerics, his followers treated his teeth as holy relics after his death and they gained power through veneration. Others insist that he was a cleric of little consequence and he found the teeth in a red dragon's lair. The teeth are named after him because he used them to terrorize the townsfolk.
Binders know different, Dalhver-Nar was a powerful cleric at one point but he forsook his god to pursue pact magic. The teeth are neither his nor those he found in a red dragon's hoard, they are the teeth of beings that became vestiges after death and they could grant abilities similar to those of the vestiges they came from. Binder scholars state that Dahlver-Nar removed all of his teeth and replaced them all with those of vestiges, but being bound to so many at once drove him mad. What happens next is up to debate but he eventually died and his teeth were lost, divided up amongst the squabling of whatever followers he had managed to retain. Now he is a vestige in his own right, perhaps by being brought so close to vestiges before his death.
Manifestation: Dahlver-Nar floats above his seal, arms and legs hanging limply. His skin is the flesh of gums and teeth studd his body, replacing his eyes. The only place there aren't teeth are his mouth, which is a bloody ruin. He only speaks in a tortured moan.
Sign: Several teeth grow in through your scalp, they're small enough to be hidden by a large quantity of hair or a hat but if someone's feeling your hair they can find them.
Influence: Being bound to Dahlver-Nar prevents concentration, as you are often distracted, so any action that requires a Concentration check is impossible.
Granted Ability: Dahlver-Nar makes you immune to wisdom drain, damage, madness, insanity, and confusion effects. You can also emit a moan that dazes everyone around you, you get half your constitution as a natural armor bonus(here's the other vestige that has anything to do with con), and you can split the damage you take with any one creature within a certain range, though they get a save if they're unwilling.
Opinion: The damage splitting is pretty great, and the daze isn't bad either. The fact that it lacks a traditional damage ability lowers it's usefulness but only slightly.
Mother of Minotaurs
According to Frost Giants, their primary diety Thrym had tried to force a goddess of the humans to marry him and failed when her brother disguised himself as Thrym's bride and disrupted the ceremony. The angry and humiliated god consoled himself with dalliances among his giant worshippers. Haagenti, a hill giant sorceress, learned of his liasons and used a spell to transform herself into a beautiful frost giant so that she could bear his powerful half-god children. Her ploy succeeded and a year later she gave birth to twin sons.
Once a few years had passed and the children of his dalliances had grown old enough, Thrym set out to visit and test them all. He fought each child to see who was the strongest and bravest and invited the most fit to join him in Jotunheim. When he sought out Haagenti, he found her herding cattle in the warm lowlands and became enraged when he saw her true form. But when he raised his axe to fell her two horribly ugly giants leapt to her defense. He realized to his disgust that they were his sons. He would have killed them right then and there but he realized that Haagenti had taught him a valuable lesson. His failed attempt at marriage had been fouled by a beautiful form crafted by trickery, and he fell victim to the same ruse once again. Rather than kill Haagenti and her children, Thrym cursed them to resemble the cattle with which they wallowed. Then he left, vowing to teach his frost giant worshipers to distrust all beauty.
How Haagenti became a vestige is unclear but lore holds that her guilt at ruining beauty for frost giants was so great that she could not rest in any realm that contained beauty of any kind. As every place in the planes is beautiful to someone, she found no home anywhere and disappeared into the void. She refuses to speak on the subject and becomes angry when questioned about her past.
Special Requirement: You must be large or speak giant.
Manifestation: A huge icicle thrusts up from the ground within the seal. A blurry white form can be seen moving iwthin for a moment, then she spreads her arms and shatters her icy prison. Although she appears with her back to the summoner, her form is clearly that of a winged minotaur. She waves her shield and battleaxe to disperse the cold mist around her, then turns to face her summoner revealing her bull like face and icicle beard. Though she doesn't appear to be female her smooth voice is quite feminine.
Sign: You possess the same features you always did but you're just slightly uglier. Others easily recognize you but there are small differences that make you less attractive. In addition your bulk expands until you weigh half again as much as you did before.
Influence: You are ashamed and bashful in the presence of beautiful creatures. In addition you must give deference to any creature you perceive as more attractive or charismatic than yourself. How you do so is up to you but you must constantly treat such a creature with respect or suffer the penalty for defying Haagenti's influence.
Powers: You gain proficiency with all shields, as well as the battleaxe, greataxe, handaxe, and throwing axe. You're immune to transformation effects unless you wish to be, and you can confuse people with a touch. At higher levels you instead cast Maze at a touch.
Opinion: Free heavy/tower sheild prociency is a nice way to shore up your AC, and battleaxes are decent weapons. Confusing is okay but then all of a sudden at level 19 you can just make people stop existing for a few rounds, which is amazing.
Legend: Only those elves who know their history well are familiar with Malphas, a lesser scion of an ancient elven kingdom's ruling family. Malphas joined a druidic order under pressure from his elders, who hoped that enforced dedication to nature would teach him a greater respect for their traditions and the elven way of life. After a contentious start, the plan seemed to work. Malphas, always the black sheep of the family, soon became a model member of the elven nobility. His trademark, a white dove's feather, could be found at sites where good deeds had been done, though no one ever saw him perform them.
This was all part of Malphas' act. While studying the druidic traditions he met another elf druid - a female who won his heart with guile and promises of power. Together they hatched a plan to make Malphas heir to the throne. While his white feathers turned up wherever good events were occuring, black feathers began to appear on the murdered corpses of royalty. Elf diviners soon discovered that Malphas was at the root of their troubles, and the traitorous elf was forced to flee.
Malphas flew to his lovers hideaway among the trees, intending to warn her and flee with her. But when she heard his story she flew into a rage, mocking him for his stupidity and overtures of affection. To wound him even more deeply she revealed her true form - that of a drow. When the authorities finally found Malphas he lay dead from the breaking of his heart and loss of his soul.
Manifestation: Malphas begins his manifestation with a furious fluttering of white doves. The flock explodes out of thin air then fly away from each other and fade from view, revealing a handsome male elf clad in black. Malphas has pale skin, black eyes, and black feathers for hair. His smile reveals black teeth and a snakes tongue. He wears a nobles suit in funerary black, and a cloak made of ravens heads and feathers hang from his shoulders. If he moves too much the heads begin screaming, so he makes only small gestures with his hands. His voice is hoarse and he croaks when he speaks, which annoys him greatly.
Sign: Your teeth and tongue turn black.
Influence: You fall in love too easily. A kind word or a friendly gesture means you must devote yourself entirely to that person. But don't worry, your broken heart mends as soon s the next person smiles at you. Also: you must use poison if you have access to it.
Abilities: You can summon a dove or raven to scout for you, turn invisible, use poison without risking poisoning yourself, and gain the ability to use sudden strike.
Opinion: Sudden Strike is a poor man's sneak attack, the ability to turn invisible every 5 rounds means that you'll get at least some use out of it. Poison use's value depends on the poisons you have access to.
Legend: Savnok lived before recorded history, and his story contains as much myth as it does fact. According to the legend, Savnok served Hextor and Heironeous before the two half-brothers came to blows. They were charged with guarding their mother's arms and armor while she was with her lovers. Both Hextor and Heironeous were awed by their mother's implements of war but neither dared disobey.
Seeing their desires written clearly on their faces, however, Savnok devised a means to steal the items for his masters. Relying on their trust in him, Savnok tricked them into letting him guard the armory. But once his gaze fell upon the goddess' armor, he could not resist donning it. Just touching the metal made him drunk with power. After putting it on he knew he could never take it off, so he fled the godly realms with it.
Hextor and Heironeous soon noticed that their servant and the armor were missing. When they looked for him they found him at war on the material plane. Since no energy or mortal weapon could pierce the divine armor, he decided to set about carving a kingdom for himself. Shocked at his betrayal and horrified at their own failure to perform their duties, Hextor and Heironeous appeared before Savnok and ordered him to relinquish the armor. He responded by attacking them, and while he could not harm them, neither could they harm him.
Heironeous flew into the sky and tore thunderbolts from the clouds to hurl at him, but Hextor, realizing that they needed deific weapons to defeat the armor, fled to the armory and stole a bow and a handful of arrows. Hextor barely had the strength to draw his mothers bow, but with each arrow he fired a dozen missiles streaked down to strike Savnok. They had little power behind them but they still managed to pierce his armor. While he raged at the injustice the two gods had done him he slowly bled to death from dozens of small wounds. When at last he lay dead, the gods removed the armor and debated what to do next. Not only had they failed to guard the armory, but Hextor had stolen her bow. It was Hextor that suggested they hide the body and replace the items, leaving their mother none the wiser. Heironeous objected but he was at much at fault as Hextor was. Together they hid Savnok in a place even they could not reach. Heironeous has regretted the decsion ever since.
Special Requirement: You must have stolen something and not made reparations or apologized for the act.
Manifestation: An arrow streaks out of nowhere and strikes something unseen above the seal, then a dozen more. Trickles of blood sprout into being where the arrows hang, outlining a heavily armored form that's too broad and powerfully built to be human. His features are obscured by the helm and the blood. When he speaks, he spits out bitter words with a gravelly voice that's heavy with resentment.
Sign: A piece of an arrow appears under your skin somewhere on your body, like your skin has healed over a broken off arrow that has previously injured you. It doesn't damage you but it is uncomfortable, and replaces itself if removed.
Influence: You are headstrong and recalcitrant. once you make up your mind very little can change it. Also once you don armor, employ a shield, or wear anything else that improves your armor, Savnok requires that you never remove that protection for any reason.
Abilities: You can swap places with a willing ally, gain heavy armor proficiency, and summon a suit of full plate armor. It starts out as just masterwork but it eventually scales up to +4 heavy fortification. And as long as you're wearing it you also get damage reduction /piercing.
Opinion: If you want to be a tanky binder, Savnok is the way to go. Even though the ability to swap places is on a 5 round cooldown, it helps cover for your lowered speed in heavy armor immensely. In addition since it's straight up teleporting it doesn't provoke attacks of opportunity on either end. Meaning you can save your mage from someone that broke the line of defense.
Level 3 Vestigs
The Repentant Rogue
Legend: Once a herald of Olidammara, Andromalius foreswore theft and mischief on his deathbed, repenting all the actions he had taken on behalf of his god during his life. In this way he hoped to steal his soul from his deity, thus accomplishing the greatest theft and prank in history, and proving himself most worthy of his god's favor.
At first angered by his betrayal, Olidammara quickly realized the irony of the moment and burst into laughter. But his humor was short lived because he realized that to accept ANdromalius' soul would be to prevent the theft and ruin the joke. Since Olidammara was loathe to let such a clever servant go to the realm of some other god, he repaid his servant's honor a hundredfold - he stole Andromalius' soul from the cosmos, making it a vestige. Whether he deems this result an honor or not is unclear.
Special Requirement: You must obtain two different nonmagical items similar to those that Andromalius holds in his hands when he manifests and place them within the seal. They vanish as soon as he appears
Manifestation: Any textual description really can't do this justice.
When he returns from whence he came he tosses one of the items to his summoner. Meaning you've always got a net loss of at least one item.
Sign: You grow an extra digit on each limb. This appendage prevents you from wearing normal gloves or gauntlets but magic items reshape to fit you.
Influence: You become a devious mischief-maker who delights in causing small calamities - especially misunderstandings between friends and acts of mistaken identity. However, Andromalius cannot now abide acts of theft, so he forbids you to steal from a creature, take an item from a dead body, or remove someone else's possession without permission so long as you are under the jurisdiction of an authority whos laws expressly forbid such activities. By the same logic you cannot take possession of any object you know to be stolen.
Granted Abilities: You can cast Tasha's hideous laughter as your 5 round ability. Cast Locate Item and See Invisibility at will, You have a +4 bonus on sense motive, appraise, and spot checks to oppose disguise checks, as well as automaticaly noticing when someone steals something from you. As well as for-real Sneak Attack.
Opinion: His requirement/manifestation thing mean you need to keep a couple dozen crazy kitchy items on you at all times or it's a good incentive to take the 'ignore special requirements' feat if you haven't gotten that message yet. Sneak attack is the real winner here, everything else is gravy. Including the fact that you can cast Tasha's Hideous laughter to set up Sneak Attack opportunities. He's more or less a straight upgrade to Malphas just without the poison use and birds.
Prince of Tears
Legend: What Focalor was before he was a vestige is up to some debate. Some say he was once a demon, others that he was an angel. The constantly crying spirit has never uttered a coherent word, so binder scholars have had to look elsewhere. All agree that he was an immortal creature that died of grief, and his immense anguish prevented him from being reabsorbed into his plane of origin. Why he is so sad is unknown.
Special Requirement: His seal must be drawn with liquid.
Manifestation: A single tear drops from thin air to strike the ground. Next his weeping eyes appear and gradually his whole body becomes visible. Focalor looks like a handsome human male who's face is twisted by grief. He wears no clothes but he cloaks his body in griffon wings that grow from his back and shudder with each of his wracking sobs.
Influence: When influenced by Focalor you feel some of his inestimable grief and must act morose. Rarely smiling or finding cause to laugh. Whenever you kill a creature, Focalor demands that as soon as you have a peaceful moment, you must take a round to say a few words of sorrow and regret for the life cut short by your actions.
Abilities: All adjacent creatures are overcome with grief, taking a -2 penalty to basically every roll. You can blind targets, call down lightning bolts from nowhere, and breathe water.
Opinion: The lightning strike means that Focalor is the next 'caster' vestige, but the aura means you want to stay near enemies but away from allies. Blinding people isn't bad either. Neat thing about the lightning strike is it isn't on the cooldown (the blinding is instead) and you don't have to be outdoors to do it. Somehow you can make lightning strike someone in an underground lake and not electrocute yourself because magic that's why.
Hubris in the Blood
Legend: Karsus was a powerful mortal spellcaster who attempted to steal the powers of a deity of magic. He succeeded but realized too late that the mortal frame and soul cannot handle the powers of a god. He died and what remained of his soul clung to the mortal plane for ages, never becoming a petitioner. With no planar home and no deity to claim his soul he became a vestige.
Special Requirements: Karsus refuses to appear within the area of an active spell, he also requires his binder have at least 5 ranks in Know(arcane) or Spellcraft. He also hates Amon.
Manifestation: A great red boulder appears in the air over the seal, blood burbles from the top of the stone in rivulets down the side facing the summoner then pooling on the ground. When he speaks the blood fountains upwards, varying based on the volume of his voice.
Sign: You bleed more than normal, a small scratch releases a flood of blood, this doesn't cause any extra damage though.
Influence: You are filled with Karsus' arrogance, you must use bluff or intimidate instead of diplomacy.
Abilities: He allows you to use spell trigger items as if you were a wizard, increases the DC of spell trigger items you use by 2. lets you use detect magic at a touch, and literally smell magic.
Opinion: Karsus himself is kind of an rear end in a top hat but getting access to a wizards entire spell list as long as you can get an item for it is pretty great. So's at will dispel magic.
Legend: Paimon was an infamous lothario, he delighted in seducing noblewoman with his dancing and besting their suitors with his swordplay. He eventually crossed paths and swords with a particularly jealous and cruel fellow, sometimes identified as a human and other times as an elf. After he humiliated this nobleman in front of his peers on several occasions, the fellow enlisted some of his other aggrieved suitors to capture paimon and cut off his sword hand.
Paimon was not so easily defeated. When he recovered he returned to court wearing a bejeweled golden hand that he could replace with a rapier blade. He fought and defeated the man who had wronged him, but he spared his life only because he was interrupted by a request to dance by the object of both their affections. In response to this further humiliation, Paimon's foe again had him captured. But this time they cut off all of Paimon's limbs and replaced them with sword blades, daring him to return to court before leaving him to bleed to death.
At the next royal ball, Paimon's foe and his conspirators smirked at every mention of their enemy's name and winked at one another when others wondered where he might be. Then a dark figure appeared amongst the dancers. Impossibly tall and shrouded head to toe in dark diaphanous cloth, the wraith-like figure began to spin. Disturbed by its appearance, the other dancers moved away. When one of them spotted naked steel beneath the whirling cloth they began to flee the hall.
Enraged that his party had been interrupted, Paimon's enemy went up to the figure and tore away the cloth. For a moment the tortured figure of Paimon stood before them with bloody blades for legs and arms. Someone screamed at the sight and Paimon faded to nothing. Thinking they had seen the ghost of Paimon, the men immediately went to find their foe's body and give it a proper burial, but it was gone. Instead they found a trail of blood and sword thrusts in the ground. Paimon was gone, banished by a woman's scream.
Manifestation: Paimon appears in a whirl, his form spinning like a top on an arm that ends in a metal blade instead of a forearm and hand. He turns counterclockwise so rapidly that his summoner can make little sense of what he sees. He quickly switches to an arm, and then a leg, with each switch he slows until at last he stands on one blade, balanced within the seal on a daggerlike point. His almost featureless gray body has a dancer's physique. His face is stretched to disfigurement around the right side of his head, and no ears are visible. Paimon speaks in a garbled voice from his twisted mouth while hopping from appendage to appendage, making small turns as though he is impatient to be whirling again.
Sign: One side of your mouth becomes wider than the other as though it were being stretched or pulled. It remains slightly open and causes you to drool.
Influence: Paimon makes you lascivious and bold. In addition you must dance(move at half speed) whenever you hear music.
Abilities: You get a +4 untyped bonus to dex, a bonus on tumble and perform(dance) checks, uncanny dodge, whirlwind attack, proficiency with the rapier and shortsword as well as weapon finesse with those weapons, and the ability to do a "move and attack every creature you move past" dance of death.
Opinion: Paimon is a fairly self contained package, you get weapon finesse, the dex to make it worthwhile, and proficiency with the rapier. As well as lots of "attack everything dammit" abilities to make it a worthwhile avenue to pursue. Of the Melee vestiges he's not strictly the greatest but he's not terrible.
Level 4 Vestiges
With level four vestiges you gain the ability to have two vestiges bound at once. Thus you can start thinking about combinations of abilities and how to compliment things well.
Legend: In life Agares ruled over vast armies on the Elemental Plane of Earth. He was the most powerful general the plane had yet seen and second only in authority to his genie emperor, a dao of great influence. Even though Agares was unalterably loyal, he nevertheless gave his emperor reason to fear betrayal. Agares became obsessed with a Djinni commander who had thwarted his conquests on may occasions. His desire to meet his favored foe on the field of battle blinded him to other tactical options and deafened him to rumors that his esteem for his enemy had deepened into love. When at last Agares entrapped the Djinni's forces, he girded himself for personal combat and strode out to answer a challenge to duel his adversary. The summons was a trap set by his lieutenants, however, his allies slew him within sight of his greatest enemy.
Special Requirement: You must draw Agares' seal upon either the earth or an unworked expanse of stone.
Manifestation: The ground trembles briefly as the head of a great brown crocodile bursts forth from the seal. The maw opens upwards revealing a hooded black hawk that spreads its wings, forcing the jaws further apart with the mere brush of its feathers. Two large catlike eyes gleam on the hawk's breast. When Agares speaks, the hawk's beak moves but the sound comes from the crocodile's rumbling throat.
Sign: You gain a wracking cough that spews dust and small stones from your mouth, this prevents you from casting any spells that require speech. You can resist the urge to cough for a number of rounds equal to your con score, followed by a round of coughing before you can do it again.
Influence: You cannot lie, you must speak forthrightly and with confidence. You cannot use the bluff skill and if asked a direct question you must ask truthfully and directly.
Abilities: You gain a +1 bonus on attack and damage rolls if both you and the target are touching the ground, airborne foes take a -1 to the same rolls against you. You can shake the ground causing those near you to fall down, you can summon an earth elemental, you are immune to fear, and you can speak and understand all languages but cannot lie in a language you are not familiar with.
Opinion: You can summon an earth elemental more or less at will. It lasts until its destroyed and scales up to Huge at 19. Everything else is just gravy. Putting an extra combatant on the field is amazing, particularly if it's free and a giant sack of hit points.
The Gray Knight
Legend: In life he was an elf paladin famed for his prowess in battle and his implacable dedication to doing what was right and good for all. A series of misjudgements and misfortunes broke Andras' faith in both himself and his diety, however, and he became a blackguard. During his subsequent service to the dark gods, his infamy rapidly outgrew his fame and his name was whispered in fear.
After nearly three hundred years of almost constant battle on behalf of both good and evil, Andras grew tired of both causes. In the midst of a duel in the key battle of a great war, he simply dropped his weapon and left, never to be seen alive again. Unwelcome in the realm of any god, he became a Vestige after death.
Manifestation: Andras rides out of nothingness on the back of a great black wolf. His head is that of an owl covered in gray feathers, and his gray skinned body resembles that of a muscular male elf. Wearing only a loincloth Andras slouches in his saddle, holding the reins of his mount in one hand and a greatsword, which lazily rests against his shoulder, in the other. At first glance he looks as though he might be asleep, but a closer inspection reveals a pair of great golden eyes glowering from his bowed head. Andras speaks in deep tones laden with malice.
Sign: You sprout two useless gray feathered wings from your back. They're small enough to be hidden under a shirt or cloak but it makes you appear hunchbacked.
Influence: Because Andras wearies of combat quickly, you must drop any items in hand and withdraw from combat after only 10 rounds of battle, you must wait 1d4 rounds before taking any offensive action.
Abilities: You can summon a mount, wield Greatsword, lance, longswords, and rapiers. You gt a +8 bonus on ride checks, the ability to force an enemy to attack his allies, improved critical with every weapon you wield, and the ability to smite good and evil.
Opinion: Smite good and evil means you are hitting almost everything worth hitting. It's a 5 round ability but it's otherwise unlimited. Improved critical, proficiency with some okay mounted weapons, and a reasonable bonus on ride checks are also nice. And the whole "making enemies attack each other" thing once every five rounds.
We're running out of space here so I'll leave the second half of level four for the rest of the vestiges.
Next time: Liches, fishwomen, death spiders, and gnomes.
|# ? May 27, 2014 22:26|
That's actually pretty cool and flavourful. I like that the fake seals mesh really well with the real seals, I almost can't tell them apart.
|# ? May 27, 2014 22:57|
Malphas' birds are super great for scouting.
|# ? May 27, 2014 23:12|
Andras is possibly my favorite vestige story, although it's a tough competition. Just dropping the mic and walking off into the void because the new boss is pretty much the old boss.
|# ? May 27, 2014 23:16|
Is it just me, or do Agares and Andras have the same seal?
|# ? May 27, 2014 23:19|
With the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide, it turned out that (while still good in my opinion) it was worse than I remembered. Cerulean Seas: Indigo Ice? I remembered literally nothing about it besides that there are ridiculously swole penguin-men before I started prepping this review. I guess we'll find out what this means for the title's quality when we're through.
Indigo Ice is a sourcebook about Isinblare, the collective name for the two polar regions of the Cerulean Seas world. Isinblare has a lot of ice. Ice is cold. Water around ice is usually cold as well. But not all cold ice and water is the same, and this book begins with terrain charts for different icy water environments - frozen seas, glaciers, and slush swamps (foggy ice bogs around hot springs). To a character who isn't naturally inured to the cold, there are plenty of unpleasantries to experience here. Indigo Ice supplements the rules for extreme cold from standard D&D and Pathfinder with some extra facets. Wind chill reduces the effective temperature for purposes of extreme cold by 10 degrees Fahrenheit, and creatures that are native to polar regions have a separate set of degrees for when they start taking damage from extreme cold (-55 degrees instead of -5 degrees like average characters).
If that isn't enough, there are also rules for thin ice and movement penalties from deep snow, as well as two new character conditions. The first of these, entombed, refers to being encased in solid ice at least an inch thick, and is basically the entangled condition with the added penalties o both 1d6 points of cold damage per round and suffocation. The other is the frosted condition, wherein you are coated in ice and frost in a way that causes a -1 to attack rolls, -2 to Dexterity, and 1 point of cold damage a round. It also makes you more buoyant, because you can't escape the buoyancy rules.
Aquatic Polar Races
As seen in the image above, our first introduction to the races associated with Isinblare are not the new ones, but instead a quick overview of how the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide’s races are in the icy realm. Aquatic elves in Isinblare have blue hair and green skin instead of green hair and blue skin, its karkanaks are entirely aquatic and have spider crab-inspired features such as long and spindly manipulator arms and pincers that are both small for males as well as females, the nommo are the same, the pisceans are short and stout descendants of a runaway slave caste, the seafolk are hairier and more strongly built, and the selkies came from Isinblare in the first place so of course they’re the same.
There are six new races added in Indigo Ice, two of each of the three racial archetypes. One of each is also meant to be a “we’re different!” example of a race not having its archetype’s...well, archetypical traits.
Agloolik: Aglooliks (a name taken from a fairy figure in Inuit mythology) are oddballs of the feykith. They have no innate magic, instead having a high level of technological prowess, and eschew the more overt sexual dimorphism that most humanoid feykith end up displaying. In fact, that agloolik above? She’s a female of the species. The mane of hair that culminates in a “beard” is displayed by both sexes, with the main difference between the two being that male aglooliks grow mustaches. Their nature is one of almost construct-like methodicalness. Most are Lawul Neutral, they are almost always atheists, they divide themselves up into those who create technology and those who dismantle it, and most adventuring aglooliks adventure because they want to learn more. Even their names are calculated, quite literally – a number in their language with their family name attached as a suffix. So, for instance, the fifth (“sitaman”) member of the current batch of the Axa family is named Sitamanaxa.
Gameplay-wise, aglooliks are meant to gravitate toward either Alchemist as a creator or Rogue as a demolisher, and it shows. Their Small size is offset by a swim speed of 30 feet rather than 20 feet, and their ability scores are a +2 to Dexterity and Intelligence at the cost of -2 to Constitution. Racial traits? The main one is a +2 bonus to either Knowledge (Engineering), Profession (Engineering), any one Craft skill, or Disable Device, all of which are permanent class skills no matter what class the agloolik takes. The other two racial traits are “Dodge Disasters” (a +1 dodge bonus against area of effect attacks that are acid, electricity, or steam) and the ability to consider any of their fantastical magitech weapons as martial rather than exotic.
Crystolix: These strange coelacanth merfolk are considered to be extremely beautiful and share the whole very minute sexual dimorphism thing the agloolik have (the difference between the sexes is that males have bigger facial fins). They are skilled diplomats that are typically Neutral Good, but their reasons for being all nice tend to be rather self-serving. You see, crystolix are hella meritocratic. Property and wealth are such a show of status for them that they will sell off the meat of their own dead family members rather than bury them or let it go to “waste” in nature. Crystolix names are chosen to best promote their business and can be changed whenever their profession shifts, and whatever gods are worshiped are whichever happen to be most convenient.
It’s not surprising that the +2 ability score bonuses crystolix attain are to Wisdom and Charisma, nor is it really that surprising that their -2 penalty is Strength. They also have cold resistance 10 on top of the normal higher cold tolerance the races of Isinblare have, a +2 bonus to Appraise checks, Diplomacy as a permanent class skill that they must take Skill Focus (Diplomacy) for with their first level bonus feat, a +2 to saving throws against any effect that is designed to elicit a negative emotional state, and can make one reroll on any saving throw against suffering the shaken condition.
Ice Elf: God, these things are creepy. That image above isn’t even the true ice elf. That’s just its ice exoskeleton that is magically generated throughout its life. The real (and, in fact, boneless) body is inside and totally transparent from organs all the way up to skin. And as if that weren’t disturbing enough, their main lot in life is breeding horrifying magic-juiced war beasts. And I you think I’m being hyperbolic, let me just quote the book itself.
The other races of Isinblare are scared shitless by the enigmatic elf-bugs with their home-grown destructive weapons and know full well that ice elves will wage war with someone they traded with just last season for no reason beyond that they feel they need more land. Oh, but they're quietly contemplative and enjoy a good adventure out in the wilderness, so I guess it's not all bad.
“Indigo Ice” posted:
In the war-torn realm of Isinblare, the ice elves have perfected their skills for a darker purpose than mere domestication. Through arcane tampering, selective breeding and exposing animals to strange radiations, the ice elves have developed an arsenal of terrifying beasts of war.
Ice elves are mechanically very "I feel like I've been here before". Their ability score modifiers of +2 to Dexterity and Wisdom at the cost of -2 Constitution isn't that dissimilar to standard elves, they still count as Humanoid (just with the Cold subtype) as all playable races in these do in spite of how weird they are, their attunement to animals nets them Handle Animal and Ride as permaent class skills, they have a +1 natural armor bonus to AC as long as they are in or touching water (including frozen water) and their nature as a feykith gets them a +1 bonus to the saving throws of ice spells they cast and the ability to cast ice water as a spell-like abilities three times a day if they have a Wisdom score of 11 or higher.
Talilajuk Ningen: While it's common to have D&D and Pathfinder creatures and races that are based on or at least crib the names from mythology, ones that come from urban legends are a bit more scarce on the ground - the talilajuk ningen happen to be both. These guys are one of the ningen, named after a Japanese urban legend about freaky white whale-men supposedly seen down in Antarctica. The specific name for their playable ningen race, the talilajuk, comes from one of the alternate names for Sedna, an Inuit goddess of marine mammals and the hunting of them in kind. Anyway, let's actually talk about them in the game rather than the origin of the name.
Talilajuk are a bit of an example of extremes from two ends. They are the largest playable merfolk (but still on the Medium side of 8 feet rather than the Large side, because we can't have player races getting weird now, can we?) but the smallest of the ningen. They are a sociable but combat-averse species that are well-known for their mercenary natures. A good offer of food and coin can get a talilajuk as hired muscle. Typically this means physical labor or guard duty, but the fact that these cetacean merfolk are brutal if they can't avoid combat or are defending family or allies makes them also favored as soldiers.
The talilajuk is a bit of an odd duck stats-wise. While they have +4 to Strength and -2 to Intelligence as is usual for a brute force playable race, their other abilities are all less directly combat focused. They have lungs rather than the gills most merfolk have, a fast swim speed of 40 feet rather than the usual 30, gain water-specific blindsense in a 30 foot radius, have Stealth as a permanent class skill, and must take Skill Focus (Stealth) as their first level bonus feat. I'd say that this would gear them heavily toward the Mariner class, but the flavor text says they are usually Barbarians and only rarely Mariners.
Technically the next chapter's header image, but it's my favorite image of the squawk so I'm putting it here.
Squawk: Squawks are one of the two anthromorph races in Isinblare, and clearly the far superior one. What could be better than penguins? Swole fascist penguins, of course! These guys live and breathe battle, going around picking fights with sapient pinniped races such as the hydrurgans, selkies, and thanor. Foreigners entering their land is immediately met with combat as well. Religion is not permitted, nor is insubordination or other forms of disobedience. Eugenics and social darwinism? Yep, got that too, with chicks being encouraged to cull out the weak as soon as they are out of the egg. These penguin-people ride giant battle penguins into battle as well, typically while wielding giant scythes called skiths. All of this combines to hit that sweet spot of "amazingly ridiculous and ridiculously amazing" that the mogogol from the campaign guide also struck.
Sadly, squawks don't live up to the hype mechanically. In spite of the imagery and text showing and describing them as amazingly muscular, their ability modifiers are +2 to Dexterity and Constitution and -2 to Intelligence. Being size Small just further hampers their lack of a Strength bonus. Their other abilities are treating the skith as a martial rather than exotic weapon, a swim speed of 30 feet in spite of their size, being considered to have cold weather clothing at all times, a +1 dodge bonus to AC, and a +2 bonus to saving throws against poison, spells, and spell-like abilities.
Thanor: The other anthromorph race of Isinblare is the thanor. They are the Rome to the squawks' barbarian tribes, a rigid Lawful empire with large cities and expansive governments rather than the tribal or nomadic natures that other anthromorphs have. They're also colossal dicks, as their seemingly expansive an comprehensive law system has intentional loopholes that allow for backstabbing and deception toward non-thanor races if they feel like it. Their code of law also says that female thanor are inferior to males and cannot take any martial class, which of course leads to them taking spellcasting and psionic classes and breaing the whole level of logic there. Dumb walruses.
The thing that immediately sticks out about the thanor racial traits is that they are size Large. Why do they get this but the talilajuk are forced to be Medium? I don't rightly know, but it's pretty silly. Their ability score modifiers are a +4 to Constitution, +2 to Strength, and a -2 to Dexterity and Wisdom. Ability-wise, thanor have a slow swim speed of 30 feet in spite of their Large size, a +1 natural armor bonus to AC, the same insulted hide ability as the squawks, and a bite attack that is 1d8 damage if they are male or 1d6 if they are female. Oh, and weirdly enough, female thanor can be either Large or Medium. If they are Medium, they drop the Strength bonus and Dexterity penalty and have a bite attack of 1d4 rather than 1d6.
Seafolk Half-Races: Yeah, these guys are back. As stated back in the campaign guide, seafolk hybrids lose their skill point boost in favor of one ability granted by their non-seafolk parent. The new ones for Indigo Ice are...
Classes, crafting, and campaign chat.
|# ? May 27, 2014 23:26|
That's actually pretty cool and flavourful. I like that the fake seals mesh really well with the real seals, I almost can't tell them apart.
I'm not sure if we've actually encountered any 'fake' vestiges yet. But they did put a lot of work into the ones they had to make... at least with the published books.
Compare Ashardalon from Dragon magic:
To The Triad from one of the web supplements
Or the Schism
How would you draw that?
I just checked the online art database and yeah, for some reason Agares has Andras' seal
Is it just me, or do Agares and Andras have the same seal?
That's Andras' seal from the Key of Solomon.
|# ? May 27, 2014 23:30|
..how in the hell do you get a half-ice elf?
|# ? May 27, 2014 23:36|
A few of them. Savnok and Karsus definitely are, they obviously have a whole different style. The others might be using seals from the Goetia that I just don't recognize, I only leafed through a copy for fun once.
I'm not sure if we've actually encountered any 'fake' vestiges yet. But they did put a lot of work into the ones they had to make... at least with the published books.
|# ? May 27, 2014 23:39|
They do a lot of twisting of the spellings of names. Savnok is Sabnock, but it looks like you're right on Karsus. He's a minor forgotten realms character that hosed up magic so bad that Mystra had to fix it and in the process broke every spell above 9th level.
|# ? May 27, 2014 23:52|
They still count as Humanoid, so that's all that counts apparently.
..how in the hell do you get a half-ice elf?
Though I guess not being the same creature type never stopped breeding efforts in D&D and Pathfinder anyway...
|# ? May 28, 2014 00:10|
A wizard did it. With all kinds of things.
|# ? May 28, 2014 00:16|
..how in the hell do you get a half-ice elf?
|# ? May 28, 2014 00:18|
Rifts Sourcebook Three: Mindwerks - Part Ten: " Three mini-turrets are mounted on the side of the hospital wing. "
Saved saliva all day just for this photo.
Other Places of Note
in and around the Black Forest.
This whole section feels like it really, really needed to be in Triax & the NGR. Pretty sure they could have skipped one or two of the million billion robots that were in it to make room.
"Terminate that ceiling with extreme prejudice!"
The Gargoyle Offensive in Western Germany
Okay! So the Gargoyle Empire is getting ready for a big offensive near the southwest with a half-mil gargoyles, and the NGR is militarizing too. Once again, this would haev been better for the NGR book, but it mostly seems like a framing device for the second wave of NGR and Gargoyle toys!
Gurgoyle G-40 Super Bot
May look familiar.
The new toy for Gargoyle Wave 2. It's pretty much like the G... 30? (looks it up) Yes, like the G-30, only more huger and with microwave cannon boobs. It has over 2K MDC, has "ion finger blasters" which do collectively half of a boom gun's damage with eight shots firing wild, microwave cannons that cause fires, wreck sensors, and... do crap for damage, mini-missiles, electrified maces that can stun living creatures or robots, and decent melee damage. Also, it's full of gurgoyles.
NGR Mobile Infantry Strike Base
Only the richest kids got one of these toys.
Which is apparently nicknamed "The Misfit". I call it "Battleforce 2000". There's a lot of arguing as to whether this is a good idea, which is why there are only three prototypes. And, as we know from anime, you always field your prototypes! It's basically five vehicles in one, four of which pull the command center around, but it can split up into separate troop carriers.
Rifts Sourcebook Three: Mindwerks posted:
In addition, the NGR has sent two prototype Mobile Infantry Strike Bases to the area (only three exist).
Rifts Sourcebook Three: Mindwerks posted:
Note: All three prototypes have been moved toward the mounting gargoyle offensive.
These two sentences are only two pages apart, in case you think the editing ever got any better. Or maybe it's that they moved up the final prototype in the space of two pages. That metaplot's movin' fast in that case.
It's main weapon, however, is a particle beam cannon that does 3d6 x 100 damage, making it sort of a land Yamato with the force of ten Glitter Boys. However, every shot after 10 has a 50% chance of making it shut down for a full turn, in case you worried the awesome was going to last forever. It also has: 2 super laser cannons, 1 super ion cannon, 1 long-range missile launcher bay, 2 double-barreled laser turrets, 2 ion belly guns, 3 mini double-barreled laser turrets, 1 rear multi-turret, 1 bottle of rice wine, 1 bottle of rice vinegar... wait, no, I'm getting into my grocery list.
It also has two forward troop carriers and two artillery troop carriers (note, does not fire troops, deeply disappointing) and they have their own arrays of weapons and I don't care at this point. You can fit your full collection of Wave 1 NGR action figures in this thing, all it's missing is a handle to lug it to your friend's house.
Somehow, there's still no minis game based on this.
Next: Lastly, the Kingdom of Tarnow! It's almost interesting!
|# ? May 28, 2014 00:33|
That penguin is ripped as poo poo.
|# ? May 28, 2014 02:44|
Chapter Two: Systems and Rules
This chapter is a collection of all those common rules you see in RPG rulebooks covering plausible situations adventures might come across in play. Carrying capacity, overland travel, natural healing, that kind of stuff. It's an oddity that these rules are near the front of the book, but that actually makes sense. In other retroclones and D&D Editions, such a chapter's usually farther into the book, after magic and equipment and other stuff like that. But this is actually a good idea, as these rules apply to everyone, and they're only 10 pages long (in keeping with the rules-lite ascetic of many old school games).
Our first section are skill checks, covering the skill system of Spears of the Dawn. In short, you roll 2d6 and add your Skill level, the relevant ability modifier, and other miscellaneous modifiers as determined by the DM. There's no check for things where you can accomplish the task eventually where time is not an issue or something you do regularly for your background. Otherwise, the target number (or difficulty) are in intervals ranging from 6 (simple tasks for trained people) to 15 (almost impossible). Very open-ended.
Opposed rolls (like sneaking up on a sleeping monster) are done by the participants rolling opposed skill checks, with the higher result winning (ties are rerolled if they don't make sense in context).
Extended skill checks are rather simple, where the result of a success or failure determines if you finish in time when it's convenient, or is rolled once for each interval of time.
Also, good advice to discourage those rear end in a top hat DMs who make players roll for everything:
As a good rule of thumb to determine whether or not a PC should get a concept success, think about whether failure would make the PC look incompetent at their role. If not-infrequent failure at a type of skill check would have gotten them drummed out of their profession, then they can be assumed to automatically succeed at similar tasks.
We then get brief overviews of the five saving throws. Physical Effect involves stuff like resisting diseases, poisons, exhaustion, and other tests of health and endurance, Mental Effect covers griot songs and supernatural effects that directly affect your mind, Evasion covers situations where you must dodge out of the way of something, Magic covers any magical effect which does not follow under any of the following categories, and Luck for when your wellbeing hinges upon dumb luck and not skill.
Also, suffocation and falling damage. Long story short, you die if you go for 5 minutes without air (and bad stuff happens in the intervening minutes), and suffer 1d6 damage per 10 feet fallen (to a maximum of 20d6) with a luck save halving the damage.
Overland travel is rather straightforward, where the average human adult travels 3 miles an hour and can be modified by encumbrance, terrain, and any mounts they have.
Combat is where we really get to the details! Surprisingly this section's only 2 pages long. Mainly it covers initiative (roll 1d8 and add dexterity modifier to see combat order), actions and movement (free actions which require nothing and normal actions which can be done in one round), spell disruption (ngangas and marabouts lose whatever spell they were in the process of casting if hit with an attack), movement (60 feet per round and one action, or 120 feet doing nothing but moving), and attack rolls.
Attack rolls are different in this game, in that the target number is always 20. An attacker rolls a d20 and adds their base attack bonus, their weapons skill level if applicable, relevant ability and miscellaneous modifiers, and the opponent's armor class (a lower value is better, naturally). There are no critical hits in this game.
Other than this, that's it for combat! Quite simple, really!
Encumbrance and armor determine carrying capacity. A character can ready a number of items equal to half their Strength score, ones a person can easily ready on their person and can be drawn as part of an action in a round. Armor counts as a readied action. You can have a number of stowed items equal to their Strength score. You can ready or store 2 or 4 additional items in exchange for becoming lightly or heavily encumbered, respectively.
Rather than listing out weight for all equipment, Spears of the Dawn list an Encumbrance number, determining general weight and unwieldiness. Most items are encumbrance one, and most small objects have no encumbrance. Items with an encumbrance score higher than 1 are tougher to carry, and thus count as additional ready or stored items.
Also, the hot climate of the Three Lands makes wearing heavy armor impractical in most situations, and thus are not in high supply or demand. You suffer hit point damage equal to twice its encumbrance if you wear it long-term. As such, most warriors don heavy armor immediately before battle or when they're going to fight mounted (riding reduces the penalty) or in the shade. Having ranks in the Athletics skill reduces the penalty.
Injury and healing are semi-detailed, where people reduced to 0 hit points are at risk of dying if not attended to with a successful Medicine roll of 8 or a healing spell, and must make Physical Effect rolls if left without treatment to avoid certain death. Bed rest can restore hit points equal to your level per day, twice that if you spend all day doing nothing but rest plus more if attended by someone with the Medicine skill.
Diseases and poisons have a Toxicity rating, which is the target number needed to resist it on a saving throw (physical effect or luck, player's choice) or a medicine roll to cure it.
Character advancement explains the process of gaining levels. Basically, Spears of the Dawn uses a goal-focused method of accruing experience points. Monsters and treasure don't have set amounts, instead the DM has a provided table of experience points the party should gain every gaming session based on their current level. PCs should not be granted experience for accomplishing trivial tasks with no real risk. Upon gaining the requisite experience, they gain the level immediately along with all of their effects.
Also, we get into skill points. In addition to the bonus skills granted by background and class, PCs gain 4 skill points at 2nd level and each additional level thereafter. They can be saved in between levels for the purchase of future skills. As for skills themselves, costs for new skill levels is dependent upon both the level to be attained (levels must be purchased in order, no jumping from 0 to 3) and whether or not they're class skills. Additionally, PCs can't gain Skill Levels of 2, 3, and 4 until they're 3rd, 6th, and 9th character levels respectively (meaning skill masters are also very high level).
Buying a cross-class skill from 0 to 4 can cost as 20 skill points, while raising a class skill you had at Level 1 at character creation costs 12 points. So long-term planning and taking your background and class into account is encouraged from a game mechanics perspective.
There's also some brief rules on levels beyond 10. Basically you reroll your 10 hit dice every level until you get a better result, along with skill points, but nothing else. You and the DM decided on a single special ability for your PC for each "bonus" level in line with your accomplishments:
Instead, the PC receives a single new ability appropriate to his nature and heroic deeds, chosen by agreement between GM and player. For persistent, always-available abilities, they should be roughly as strong as a warrior’s idahun. For abilities that can only be used once per day, they might be as strong as a fifth level spell or ancient song. Such legendary heroes should advance in unique gifts rather than simple brute accumulation of bigger statistics.
We get a one page explanation for converting to other old school rulesets. Due to the relative interchangeability of game mechanics in OSR games, the biggest hurdle is the skill system (remove it or alter it) and armor class (subtract or add 20 based upon whether its descending or ascending).
Ending our chapter's a 1 page quick reference cheat sheet of the most important and relevant rules for quick reference. I haven't played a game yet, but this (along with the chapter's relative shortness) is sure to greatly speed up gameplay.
Thoughts so far: The rules are very short, yet cover most of the stuff relevant to fantasy adventuring. It's close to the book's front, easy to navigate, basically everything done right.
|# ? May 29, 2014 05:56|
Rifts Sourcebook Three: Mindwerks - Part Eleven: "In most cases, after five or ten years, he'll also believe that all intelligent beings, from peasant to demi-god, covet his precious gem and will do anything to get it."
The Kingdom of Tarnow
Wow, this subject matter is just straying farther and farther from Mindwerks, huh? This is, of course, incredibly loosely based on the actual city of Tarnow, rather than being some city inspired after Erin Tarn. (I was a little worried there.) Instead, this is a city that survives buried away in the middle of the Brodkil Empire, mainly on account of them having the Philosopher's Stone, but they call it the Tarnow Crystal, which they've used to kick up their technology level a great deal.
The Legends of the Tarnow Crystal
Rifts claims all the myths about the Philospher's Stone come from uh, Poland. This isn't true. I can't find any real mythical basis for a "Tarnow Crystal" - it seems to be a Riftsvention. In any case, it supposedly showed up in the 12th century and has either been secreted away because it corrupts people or resulted in lots of folks stabbing each other over it. Then an (unindentified) Polish king threw it away centuries later into a river, but a peasant found it after the rifts and accidentally turned an iron cauldron to gold, and rather than being "amazing, a gold cauldron" he was like "oh no, I have to tell the king about my amazing gold cauldron!" The king, Peter Wojtyla, paid them well, but not, say, a cauldron of gold well.
Wait, what about this Tarnow place? What about this king? gently caress that, more about this crystal. It is a "rune-type creation" but apparently rune wizards don't understand it, and imprisons an entire supernatural intelligence. The intelligence is bound so it can't deliberately try and manipulate the wielder to break free, but instead is forced it have the user try and protect it. Of course, being eeevil, it does this by having the user become more paranoid and "my precious"-ey until they're sticking a fork into their son's eye because he was plotting against him all along, aaaaaa-
If you bust it open, a plus-sized supernatural intelligence will come out and murder all the things, but it's crazy hard to break open and regenerates. It lets you transmute base metals (but not alloys), make metal magically M.D.C., gives some mild combat bonuses, cast a number of buffing or transmutation spells, summon creatures or portals, makes you mega-damage, some air and fire spells, etc. But over a year or more it makes you paranoid, megalomanical, or both. Probably both. Let's uncork some Siembieda.
Rifts Sourcebook Three: Mindwerks posted:
The process is slow and insidious and usually fans the flames of discontent, hatred, and desire.
Rifts Sourcebook Three: Mindwerks posted:
"He's responsible for the murder of hundreds of people! Kill him! He deserves to die! If you don't, he'll kill again! He's an animal. This is justice! Do it!!" Another tactic is to prey on insecurities. "They're laughtng at you. You're nothing to you. They despise you (or think you're a coward, child, fool, sissy, fill in the blank). Show them different. Prove you're a man (or no coward, child, etc.) Wipe those smiles off their faces."
Because when I think of "insidious", I think of "a magic crystal shouting nonsense at me".
King Peter Wojtyla
Ruler of Tarnow
Guess who owns the crystal right now? Oh, well, I mentioned it earlier, in any case.
He's a caring, honorable, and tolerant king who accepts D-Bees and rules wisely, which is all of course going to go to hell once he cracks. He's used the stone for nine years to help build a mega-damage army, and though he's immensely strong-willed (one short of the human maximum), he's starting to crack and become paranoid regarding the nearby Brodkil "Empire", and is becoming obsessed with the idea of going to war against them. The Brodkil have no plans to go to warn with Tarnow, but would win a war based on sheer numbers. Oh, and he's a 7th-level knight, for the record.
Some of the Wojtyla get short blurbs, as well. There's Matthew, who's the next in line after Peter, and is an aggressive warmonger who would jump down the greased slide into corruption if he ever got the crystal, but is otherwise loyal to his family. Stanley "Stashu" is the peacenik youngest brother who's thoughtful and kind and loved by the King and certainly will not die at the hands of a brodkil and throw King Peter into a blood-drenched campaign of madness. That would be predictable! Also there's an Uncle Dominic who advises the king as the old warhorse kinda guy and is blind to the evil of the crystal because the country needs it so much.
Yeah, nobody's worked out that the crystal is evil, in a world where Sense Evil is one of the most basic psionic powers as well as a magic spell, where there are D-Bees noted living there that have it as natural ability... enter the PCs, I guess?
Anyway, this has retro technology, but uses the crystal to make it all M.D.C. I think it would be cool to see M.D.C. hot rods and aeroplanes, but sadly, we won't be getting those. They make money off of M.D.C. material, silver, and gold... though I have to wonder after the rifts, who's investing in luxuries? I guess silver would be practical against certain supernaturals, but gold? gently caress gold.
And seriously, that's all we get. All that buildup, and we get three short paragraphs.
No tribe of brodkil is feared more than the Di'Aper tribe.
The brodkil tore the old city down, but settlers are rebuilding it. Also, there are gypsies. Always with the loving gypsies, this writer.
The Vistula River
Tarnow has begun to build a navy, and travels out to sea via this river. Port Tarnow (since apparently they are not creative with city names), Kielce, and Rzeszow are riverside communities along it. There are a bunch of smaller communities, too. Not that much info on the river itself, naturally.
The Army of Tarnow
They've built up one of the best armies of Europe, which blew up two brodkil invasions. Since then, assassins have been sent to kill King Peter with no luck... given the crystal gives him 900 M.D.C., they'd need a lot of luck. He also has some NGR defectors and a dragon named "Karl" as mercenaries defending the city.
Next: The War Machines of the Tarnow- zzzzzzzz-
|# ? May 29, 2014 13:06|
I've used Gene-Splicers to good effect when they just create an interesting monstrosity and disappear, with the players dealing with the aftermath. One campaign I ran had them capturing and turbo-charging a Coalition Lone Star genetic experiment. But I can see dealing with Gene-Splicers directly would have been a high level challenge, if it's even possible.
I had a soft spot for Mindwerks, but the Gene-Splicers and Evil Millennium Tree are too difficult for most players, some of the R.C.C.'s I liked are done better in other books (D-Bee explorer cyborgs that DON'T need to be in an environmental suit 24/7 are in Coalition War Campaign) and Tarnow is unique, but they don't much that's interesting with it. That's ignoring the section about Mindwerks, which never had much appeal to me.
So if you buy a Rifts book and enjoy it, never use it! Problem solved.
|# ? May 29, 2014 17:34|
Chapter Three: Magic
This chapter lays out the major features of 3 of the 4 classes of Spears of the Dawn: Griot songs and spells.
Before getting into each class, we have a general overview of how magic interacts with reality and how it's treated by the people.
Basically, magic comes in two varieties: the natural miracles of the griot and the marabout, and the manipulation of ashe of the nganga.
Miracles are fundamentally the product of natural law. The marabout appeals to spirits who have authority over certain aspects of reality, and in turn they change things to the marabout's favor. As for griots, their songs draw upon the social laws and cultural mores of their people, which are not just hollow concepts. Since marabouts and griots are drawing upon existing rules, they are easier to call up. Whereas a nganga must prepare their spells in rituals ahead of time, marabouts can call upon any spell they have access to in their spheres and a griot any song they know, the only limits being spell slots and inspiration points.
Ashe is different. It has nothing to do with the gods, spirits, or societies. It is more essential and fundamental to the make-up of this world, and typical used to alter and create such things. Curses, one of the nganga's most well-known spells, are effectively altering a person's supply of ashe to harm them in some way. Even skilled marabouts cannot permanently lift curses, due to the relative gap of difference between ashe and spirits. And those who are born with the potential to manipulate ashe are unable to control their powers effectively without tutoring under a more experienced user. It is for these reasons that it's distrusted among many religious people, who believe that it can sever the connection between mortal and spirit. It is also why many of these same people tolerate ngangas in their villages, to better counter the magic of evildoers of their kind and help train latent "witches" so that they don't accidentally curse their own friends and family.
Between the griot songs and marabout and nganga spells, there are 110 powers to choose from, and we'd be here all day if I outlined them all. Instead I'm going to do a general overview of the classes and spells, pointing out particularly interesting ones.
Griots are experienced in the art of songs, near-magical chants and orations which can inspire and enlighten others with newfound truths, and fell wrongdoers with judgment. As judges of the deeds of mortals, griots' powers are not constrained by any overarching code, and thus can use their songs as they see fit (although certain conditions must be met for some songs).
Despite being in the magic chapter and earlier lumped in with marabout spells, griot songs aren't technically magical, and thus aren't affected by magic wards or dispelling effects. In fact, many of the griot songs can be seen as entirely mundane, and can just as easily stem from them pure skill. I actually like this variation. It leaves the griot in a sort of nebulous state as to how much they're calling upon a greater power, and how much of it is them being just that good.
Also, unlike spells, griot songs can only be interrupted by an attack which would render the griot unconscious or dead.
There are 22 griot songs to choose from, 8 minor, 8 great, and 6 ancient. They are generally divided into praise-songs, which buff up the griot's allies with bonuses of various kinds; Remembrances, which are sort of like bardic knowledge in that the griot gains insight into a certain situation; songs which don't fit into either category.
Overall, griot songs are pretty sharply focused in comparison to spells. They generally enliven allies, reveal knowledge, and bestow mental and emotional effects upon enemies. Still, they're pretty useful to have in a party.
Griots can also scribe their songs into large books, which can take many months to complete. The most powerful griot songs can encompass multiple volumes, and all whose workings only grant true knowledge of the craft to fellow griots.
The minor songs are small, minor effects which won't do much by themselves and are most effective in conjunction with other actions. The praise-songs grant minor bonuses to skill checks (Praising the Artisan's Hands), attack rolls, armor class, and the remembrances invoke various songs, poems, and legends to remember simple words in a foreign language (Remembering the Correct Words), common customs, and historical facts (Remembering the Old Kings). The sole offensive song, Condemning the Wicked Man, is a verbal castigation which deals damage in the form of sapping their fighting spirit (it can't strike someone dead for this reason).
Great songs are overall more powerful. They include inspiring words to get allies to shake off mind-control spells (Encouraging the Darkened Mind), convincing both sides of a conflict to temporarily disarm for a minute (Compelling the Stillness of Spears), make the subject of a song viewed more favorably by listeners (Praising the Wise Leader, favored by heads of state for this reason), and verbal accusations of horrific crimes which remove protection of the law temporarily (Condemning the Miserable Outlaw)! This last one's quite powerful, as crimes committed against that person during the song's duration will not be reported or begrudged, as it seemed perfectly justified to witnesses at that time. This makes griots the perfect assassins.
One song I like, Remembering the Spears of Heroes, allows the griot to determine the properties of a unique or magical items by consulting multiple heroic legends with fabled artifacts to narrow down which one it might be.
Ancient songs are few (6 instead of 8), but all very powerful. Absolving the Unjustly Accused forces a group of judges to not find it in their hearts to condemn or punish someone on a failed Mental Effect save. Praising the Unconquered Hero is a once per day song which grants temporary hit points and allows the target to reroll all attack rolls and skill checks, taking the better result, and lasts until the end of the current or next battle. Singing the Path to Glory is the griot being so knowledgeable of the land and its people that they can divine the fastest route to a particular important individual (whose identity is not being kept secret).
Condemning One Worthy of Death is not the most powerful supernatural attack effect-wise, but it's a very cool ability. The griot issues such a scorching condemnation to a person that their very skin peels away at revulsion of their crimes and their bones jut out, seeking to tear themselves free from such a terrible person.
The marabout is one of the two Vancian caster classes in Spears of the Dawn. Whereas a nganga must prepare their exact spells ahead of time, a marabout can cast any spell they know within their Spheres, provided that they have remaining spell slots to use. The marabout has a greater list of effects to choose from than the griot, 40 spells total instead of 22 songs. However, there are only 5 spells per sphere, one for each level. This means that at 1st level a marabout can really only cast 2 spells, while at 9th level they can cast from a selection of 25 spells.
As mentioned before, a marabout's Spheres represent their alliances with certain spirits, with the favored sphere representing the strongest connection and bestowing them a unique Gift in addition to the spells. Marabout do not have to pray or meditate for their spells, or directly communicate with the spirits. Their favor manifests in subtle signs of approval and disapproval. Oddly enough, a marabout still retains access to spheres even if they go against the taboos and holy codes of their faith. Many scholars and theologians debate why this is: some theorize that the marabout's connection to them is too strong to break, others theorize that immoral marabout draw their power (knowingly or unknowingly) from the Gods Below.
A marabout usually must take at least one round's worth of action to cast a spell, and be able to speak to summon their spirits' aid. An enemy higher in the initiative order may hold their action to strike on the round of casting, which disrupts a marabout's spell. This action can work on ngangas as well.
So we have eight Spheres, all of them with very different effects. The kind of character your marabout can be, and their role in the party, is strongly shaped by the selection.
The sphere of Curing is straightforward, granting hit point restoration spells at 1st, 4th, and 5th level spells (the latter regenerates hit points per minute until they hit their maximum value), and curing disease and poison at 2nd and 3rd levels. As a favored sphere, it bestows immunity to all diseases. This is pretty much a good deal for any adventuring party to take, as the Medicine skill is not as immediate in its effects, and healing potions can get quite expensive over multiple purchases.
The sphere of Death grants power over the transition between life and death, the soul's passage from the mortal world of the land of spirits. Its spells involve granting the next damage roll its maximum value, speaking with the dead, taking on undead immunities and qualities, raising the dead (must be willing), and the ability to either create undead servants or damage the walking dead (both the same spell, Servants of Clay). The Gift allows the marabout to automatically stabilize when bleeding to death, and do the same to others suffering the same fate. Overall, a few of the spells are situational, but the maximum damage and resurrection are both very useful. This sphere might be good to take as an additional option later on down the line.
The sphere of Herding makes you good with animals. The spells granted allow you to speak with animals, enchant a staff with the power to scare off wild beasts, grow long savannah grass which is edible and can feed ten people per class level, transform into a beast and gain their qualities (lose spellcasting ability for duration), and the ability to summon horned warrior spirits to fight by your side. Its Gift increases the marabout's Strength or Constitution modifier by 1 point. Overall a situational and underwhelming sphere, although I can see some min-maxers incorporating the gift for some battle-priest build.
The sphere of Passion is all about manipulating the emotional state of others and getting them to do what you want. Its spells include a minor bonus on social interaction checks, have a target treat you as a trusted friend for one day per level, fill a crowd of listeners with a certain strong emotion, fill a target with grief and make them unable to perform actions, and cut a target's emotional bond with the most important thing in their life indefinitely (or until the curse is dispelled), filling them with apathy towards the subject. The Gift increases the Marabout's Charisma modifier by 1. The spells have quite long durations (even the shortest-lasting grief-based one lasts 1 round per level), which can make them very useful in games which aren't just straight dungeon-crawling. And even then they can be used to turn certain monsters into brief allies.
The sphere of Spirits makes the marabout skilled in dealing with the denizens of the spirit world. The spells include the creation of a spirit ward which hedges out spirits and potential possessions, a magical light which reveals the auras of magical effects and invisible creatures, a short-term suppression of curses (1 round per level), the ability to summon a spirit ally to help with tasks for 1 hour per level, and the ability to deal damage to spirits by rebuking their presence. The Gift grants the ability to speak with all spirits regardless of language barriers, +2 on social rolls with them, and the ability to see even normally invisible spirits. This is a very useful sphere all around, from levels early to late.
The sphere of Sun grants you the favor of that celestial ball of light, to channel a little bit of its great power to work your will on the world. Its spells allow you to make a ranged fire-based attack, granting you and your allies tolerance of very cold and very hot temperatures for several hours, imbuing light into a weapon to make it magical and glow and deal fire damage, a burst of light which reveals all hidden people and objects (people with Stealth skill level 3 can still hide), and the ability to conjure pillars of burning light to strike down your foes. Its Gift allows you to see perfectly regardless of lighting conditions and radiate light in a 60 foot radius at will. A very offensive-based sphere. If you're a Sun Faith marabout, you must have this as your Favored Sphere, but you gain an additional spell level per day for your devotion, so playing a Sun Faith spellcaster can be a very good choice (especially early on, when you don't have too many spells).
War governs violence and wrought iron. It is one of the best spheres for several reasons. One, its spells are relevant to a very important aspect of D&D retroclones: combat. Two: its spells are overall long-duration (3 out of 5 have 1 minute/level) and affect multiple allies (3 out of 5 affect allies within 30 foot range of the marabout). Its spells, predictably enough, grant bonuses on to-hit rolls, fill enemy opponents with fear (penalty on to-hit rolls and might flee), bonuses to armor class and reroll the damage rolls of mortal blows directed at them, the ability to restore hit points via successful attacks, and the ability to make allies share the best attack bonus of the person within their ranks. Its Gift grants a +1 on to-hit rolls with a single chosen weapon.
I haven't compared them side-by-side yet, but a War sphere marabout might just be able to fill in for a Warrior. Unlike 3rd Edition they are not so powerful as to make them feel useless, but the spells alone can buff up the marabout and their buddies to fight well in combat. The Warrior has more skills, better saving throws and hit points, but the marabout can easily get a near-equal attack bonus with buff, plus spells to boot!
The final sphere, Water, governs the streams, lakes, and oceans of the world. Spells include the ability to conjure a stream gushing out gallons of water, the ability to grant the marabout and their allies the ability to swim and breathe underwater, conjure a thick cloud of rain which hinders enemy visibility and movement, creating a snaking arc of water in mid-air which can block enemy movement and missiles (can be shaped by marabout, making it great for battlefield control), and the ability to instantly teleport themselves or a small barge across connected bodies of water. Its Gift grants the ability to swim in water as fast as they walk, and the ability to breathe in it. The early spells are very situational and not that great, but the later ones are very useful.
We also get another sphere, the sphere of Blasphemy. It available only to worshipers of the Gods Below, beings universally feared among the Three Lands for their wicked ways and fell powers. They are so named because its believed that they live deep in the bowels of the earth. Umthali (snake-people), Eternal cultists, and marabout desperate for power pledge themselves to them.
Basically, the Blasphemy sphere cannot be normally selected. Those who pledge allegiance to the Gods Below gain it as a bonus sphere, even if they're not a marabout (in this case they cast as a marabout of equal level). They must regularly perform hideous rights to please the Gods, and will be rewarded well in their afterlife. Those who seek to back out of the deal receive nightmarish visions of ghastly torment by said Gods, supposedly what awaits them in the spirit world once they die. The spells included grant the ability to summon worms to eat at the victims, force witnesses to be unable to communicate in any way about a certain action or event, manipulation and excavation of stone and earth, stunning targets by using foul curses, and summoning swarms of soul-eating worms. It doesn't have a gift, but those with this sphere gain bonuses against divinatory magic which might reveal their true nature.
As it's a free sphere, there's no downsides mechanically to taking it. However, the Gods Below are very much definitely evil people, and worshiped by those who'd be enemies of the Spears of the Dawn and most people of the Three Lands.
Nganga's arts and training are quite demanding. In addition to years of training under a tutor to harness their magic properly, they often must gather materials and resources to properly cast their spells, be they ritual magic components or handheld objects for nkisi spells. Most nganga are lone people of a few souls in villages, rarely attaining heights of greatness. They make their living as charm-makers and curse-breakers, mostly concerned with staying in people's good graces. The most powerful nganga live out in the wilderness, far from prying eyes to better discover the lost lore of forgotten ages. And there is the land of Lokossa, where the mightiest ngangas serve as the heads of noble families, with the mighty Ahonsu (sorcerer-king) ruling them all absolutely.
There are two kinds of spells nganga can cast: ritual spells, which face no per-day limits but have lengthy casting times and sometimes expensive material costs. And nkisi spells, more immediate magic stored in minor handheld objects upon the nganga's person.
Nganga can forage the wilderness for 10 silver ingots worth of materials per day for specific ritual spells (they can't just be gathered and stockpiled over time), while some magic requires a physical connection to a target in order to work (well-worn clothes, a lock of hair, blood, etc).
A nganga's spells per day are represented by their nkisi. They can prepare additional slots with a successful DC 6 Occult/Int roll, +2 for each additional spell. A failed roll means that all the prepared spells go off with the nganga as the target upon the completion of spell preparation. It is for this reason that most nganga do not exceed their limits except in times of greatest need.
A nganga has 48 spells, both ritual and nkisi, 5 per spell level each up to 4th level, and 4 each for 5th level spells.
Ritual spells are quite varied in effects. Their casting times can last anywhere from 30 minutes to a whole day, and some require material costs ranging anywhere from 30 to 5,000 silver ingots. Rituals tend to be more powerful and varied than their equivalent nkisi spells, for obvious reasons, with some exceptions. Rituals can involve the lifting of curses (which have their own unique game mechanics), creating minor magic items which grant bonuses on various rolls (they usually fall apart after several uses), the ability to call forth a spirit minion or assassin for service, communicate with other people via dreams, place curses on other people which bestow penalties to certain rolls until they're lifted (or a long enough time passes), distant scrying, fast travel to distant locations by being picked up by the wind, and more!
Nkisis are much more limited, but have the benefit of quick casting. Nganga nkisi tend to be more offensive-oriented in comparison to marabout spells, and some of them are quite powerful. Nkisi of the Deadened Mind, for example, is a 1st-level spell, but can turn a target into a brain-dead slave for one day per level! Granted, it's the most powerful of its level, but still. Some of the more interesting spells include Nkisi of the Broken Shadow, where a target is attacked by their own shadow; Nkisi of the Crimson Nail, which painfully pins a target to the area they're currently in; Nkisi of the Invincible Wall, which fills an ally with a short-lasting surge of overwhelming mystical force which grants a +4 bonus on their next roll; Nkisi of the Sundered Spell, which can act as a counter-dispel against enemy magic; and Nkisi of the Walker at Night, which allows the nganga to teleport between areas they're familiar with by stepping into the shadows and exiting into the place of their choice.
Ngangas are easily the most versatile in their powers, but are limited by potential costs and lengthy casting times, the necessity to prepare spells ahead as opposed to selecting which ones they want to cast at the moment, and class limitations (physical frailness combined with the inability to wear armor). The fear and apprehension they inspire in others is more of a role-playing limitation.
Thoughts So Far: I really like how the magic system interweaves with the setting as opposed to just feeling tacked on, like in the settings of other retroclones. Not only are the differences between each class explained, knowledgeable people in the game world recognize this and act accordingly. Leaders seek to stay on the good side of griots, villages turn to ngangas to lift curses, marabout can enter into new alliances with spirits over time and expand their power. Crawford put a lot of thought into this, as he did with the rest of the book's chapters.
Next time, Chapter Four: The Three Lands! Finally we get to the setting!
Libertad! fucked around with this message at 23:12 on Jun 1, 2014
|# ? Jun 1, 2014 03:51|
I've used Gene-Splicers to good effect when they just create an interesting monstrosity and disappear, with the players dealing with the aftermath.[/url]
Honestly, most of the villains they put in these books are ridiculous nonsense designed for Kevin's 16-player fuckfests. I've never seen them, mind, maybe they're not fuckfests, maybe they're gently caress-for-alls. I dunno.
Tarnow is an interesting idea, I like the idea of the town using magic to get a technological leg up, but I think making the stone be generically corrupting is point-missing. You don't need to have the stone be an evil widget to drive people to madness over it. People can be assholes on their own, and a power struggle over it seems perfectly appro.
I'll wrap up the book tomorrow, I've been a bit overwhelmed lately but I'll have the time to put a bow on it.
|# ? Jun 1, 2014 03:56|
Vestiges, levels 4.5-8
Let's finish off the rest of the vestiges.
Level 4 Vestiges part two
Legend: Buer tells many different stories about how she came to be a vestige, so her true origins remain obscure. In various popular versions of the tales she is a beautiful elf maiden who fell to evil satyrs, a virtuous human ranger killed by a chimera, or a green hag slain by a lammasu. It is likely that Buer herself cannot remember who she was in life or what brought her to her current state, and the stories she tells are cobbled together from what she can remember. Regardless of what her true form was most agree that she possessed great skill as a hunter and healer.
Special Requirement: Her seal must be drawn outdoors.
Manifestation: Buer's form is that of a five-branched star or wheel made of satyr legs. She has two faces, one positioned on each side of her wheel shaped body at the center point where the five legs meet. One face is that of a green hag, and the other is a raging leonine visage with an unruly mane and beard. Buer constantly moves within her seal, rolling from foot to foot as she traverses it's circumference. She always keeps her raging face outward, but she speaks from her green hag face in a friendly manner with a gentle voice. WHen her body rolls in such a way taht her hag face cannot see her summoner, Buer grows frustrated and begins yelling curses at her body.
Sign: Your feet turn into satyr's hooves, giving you a curious tip-toeing gait. If you don't have magic shoes then you won't be able to wear them while you're all satry'd up.
Influence: You are plagued by momentary memory lapses. For an instance you might forget even something as important as the name of a friend or family member. Furthermore, Buer abhors the needless death of living creatures other than animals and vermin, the first melee attack you make against such a foe must be for nonlethal damage. In addition, Buer requires that you not make Coup de Grace attacks.
Abilities: Buer grants you a bonus on heal, Know(nature), and survival checks as well as the Track feat. You gain immunity to all poisons and diseases, and grant that same immunity to anyone within 30 feet of you. You get fast healing and can heal a small amount from an ally with a touch.
Opinion: The big draw of Buer is the healing. Sure it's painfully slow (on the average it's 28 healing a minute) but it's completely free, and free healing is hard to come by in 3.5 (other than something that will show up later). Her immunity does cure any diseases/poisons on you but it only temporarily suppresses it on your nearby allies.
Mother of the Material
Legend: Before recorded time, when the gods and titans battled on the other plains. The Titan Eurynome tired of the struggle and fled to the roiling chaos that made up the Material Plane. She divided the world into sea and sky, and then danced alone upon the waves. Incensed by her impertinence in meddling with a world yet unformed, the gods struck Eurynome down. Angered by her abandonment of the fight, her fellow titans refused to come to her aid. Eurynome's body became the first island, her blood became the first river, and her soul became a vestige.
Special Requirement: Eurynome hates Amon.
Yes, she has lamprey mouths for eyes.
Sign: Your skin becomes clammy and you leave moist prints on everything you touch, even if clothing blocks direct contact. These marks fade after a minute.
Abilities: Animals are automatically friendly to you, you gain DR 2/Lawful, your blood turns to poison which inflicts damage upon anyone who bites or swallows you, and you can walk on any liquid. Also you summon/wield a large magic warhammer. It starts a +1 but eventually turns into a +3 anarchic adamantine warhammer. Did I mention that you can wield this large hammer one handed regardless of your size?
Opinion: The hammer's the real takeaway here. The damage reduction is minor and doesn't scale, the poison blood, animal friend, and water walking are all situational, so how worthwhile she is to you is how much use you're going to get on the mace.
The Shadow that Was
Legend: Those familiar with First and Second edition AD&D might remember a storyline where Orcus was killed and rose again as Tenebrous, gaunt god of the undead. Orcus was pleased that he found divinity but he was angry that he rose as Tenebrous, rather than achieving Divinity as Orcus. He traveled the planes, slaying other gods to steal their power, some say his plan was thwarted by a band of mortals but either way he rose again as Orcus, but not as a god.
True divinity, however, cannot be destroyed. Less than a god, but still divine, the remains of Tenebrous drifted the planes until it coalesced into a bitter sentience, a shadow of a shadow.
Special Requirement: You must draw Tenebrous' seal at night or in an area of deep shadow with little to no daylight exposure.
Manifestation: The summoner's shadow shifts to fall across the seal. Even in complete darkness the shadow is darker... which isn't how complete darkness works. Once the shadow crosses the seal an inky humanoid form - impossibly gaunt, holding it's limbs at disjointed angles - rises from it. Tenebrous' voice is a whisper on the wind, almost impossible to hear yet laden with meaning.
Sign: You always seem to be standing in shadow even in brightest day. Furthermore your own shadow never seems to extend more than a few feet from your body even if the ambient light suggests it should be longer.
Influence: You are filled with a sense of detachment and loss. You must never be the first to act in combat, if your initiative result is the highest you have to delay until someone else takes a turn.
Abilities: You can cast deeper darkness on yourself with unlimited duration, and you can change the radius up or down by 10 foot increments as long as it doesn't exceed the size of the spell, you can also see in darkness of any kind (even your own), charge your attacks with cold energy, Turn and Rebuke Undead, and cast the Flicker mystery between 1 and 3 times a day... which is described in the shadow magic chapter. Basically you can dimension door 5 feet/2 levels as an immediate action once per round for level/rounds. But since it's an immediate action you can do it in response to getting hit by an attack and give it a 50% miss chance.
Opinion: Besides the fact that you are essentially invisible to 60% of all enemies? Let me reiterate. Turn or Rebuke Undead as a cleric of your level, with unlimited uses per day and a five round cooldown. This can power divine feats, one of which almost makes Buer redundant. Or if you just want to smash face in or breath fire there are divine feats for that too. Tenebrous is ridiculous.
Level 5 Vestiges
The Bitter Angel
Legend: Binder scholars claim that Balam is all that remains of the soul of a powerful solar. Exactly how she came to exist in her current state remains a mystery, but sources of planar lore state that several good gods tasked her with eliminating the practice of sacrificing sentient beings in the worship of dieties. Since such sacrifices are part and parcel of evil rituals, the task amounted to wiping out the worship of evil gods altogether - a task beyond what even good deities can accomplish. Needless to say, she failed, and some claim that her foes actually sacrificed her in praise of their dark god.
Special Requirement: You must deal 1 point of damage to yourself or another sentient creature with a slashing weapon, and drip the blood within Balam's completed seal.
Manifestation: Balam is a terror to behold. Her body is that of a great purple serpent, and her head consists of the top halves of 3 horned humanoid heads arranged evenly around a shared gaping maw. The mouth is a tooth studded chute that extends deep into her body and her six horns point forward around it. Balam speaks in a grinding moan, exhaling hot stinking breath with each word. The fangs in her chute-mouth move in waves with the shuddering of her throat and the eyes of her three heads glow blue when she becomes excited or angry.
Sign: Your voice becomes hollow and guttural.
Influence: You distrust Paladins, Clerics, and other devotees of deities. Whenever you enter a temple or some other holy site you must spit on the floor or otherwise invect against the place.
Abilities: You can reroll one d20 roll every 5 rounds, you gain a gaze attack that deals cold damage, you gain a +1/4 levels insight bonus on initiative, reflex, and AC. And the Weapon Finesse feat.
Opinion: The Gaze Attack is.. okay but it's not party friendly, meaning you're dealing 2d6 damage to everyone who can see you all the time. The d20 reroll and the insight bonus aren't quite as good in that context.
The Star Emperor
Legend: Binders know little of how Dantalion came to be. The most common legend is that he is not one man but the conglomeration of all the souls of an royal line whose members were cursed not to join their deities in the afterlife. This ancient imperial line is not now connected to any living leaders. Supposedly however, descendants of this family still live, ignorant of both their heritage and curse. Some binders profess to be scions of Dantalion - the true heirs of the royal line - but these claims are likely just the fancies of romantic minds.
Manifestation: Dantalion appears in a flash of red light as a 10-foot-tall humanoid, resplendent in crimson and gold robes. His head is a massive conglomoration of dozens of human faces - male and female, young and old. A gold crown as big around as a barrel rests on the brow of his enormous cranium. Dantalion carries a great tome under one arm and speaks with the voices of his many faces, always in cryptic passages that he reads from his tome, but the speaking face changes often and usually in mid sentence. Those who glance at the book's pages see a dark sky filled with stars that change with the flip of a page.
Sign: One of Dantalion's faces appears on your torso, as though it were a vestigial conjoined twin. It seems lifeless most of the time but when you activate an ability granted by Dantalion it opens its eyes and mouth, revealing a starry void within.
Influence: You are aloof and use stately gestures. Dantalion also can't help but be curious about the leaders of the day. Anytime you are within range of someone who clearly is (or professes to be) a leader of others, Dantalion requires that you try to read that person's thoughts. Success or failure you only need to try once.
Granted Abilities: Obviously, you can read thoughts, you can also force enemies to not attack you for one round, you gain a +8 bonus on all knowledge checks, and you can teleport 5 feet/level to anywhere you can see.
Opinion: Thought reading is powerful, but it can also cause problems. The ability to teleport and prevent attacks is pretty good though.
The Deposed Lord
Legend: Geryon was one of the nine lords of hell. He supported Asmodeous against his rivals during the upheaval in Baator. When the armies of the opposing lords met to decide who would take Asmodeus' power, Geryon blew his horn. At his signal the armies turned against their leaders, and the usurpers were thrown down. Knowing that he had taught the usurpers a lesson they would not soon forget, Asmodeus returned them to power. Rather than reward Geryon, however, he inexplicably gave his lone supporters power to another.
His fate after this is unclear, but some binder scholars think that Asmodeus had one more betrayal in store for him. Bewildered and stun, Geryon lost all hope for the future. He began to question the purpose of his actions and in a moment of weakness the point of his own existance. It was then that Asmodeus struck. The ruler of the Nine Hells had always hungered for the souls of those that had lost their faith, and Geryon made a fine meal.
Special Requirement: You must have at least 5 ranks in Know(religion) or Know(nature) to summon him as you have to have at least cursory knowledge of souls and their place in the planes.
Manifestation: Geryon appears in a flash of sickly green light. A strange conglomoration of forms, his body resembles three ogre mages standing with their backs to each other and melded into one being. He has three legs, each with two feet, and three arms each with two hands. Three brutish faces gaze out from equidistant points on a single head, which sits upon a neck jutting out from three shoulders. One face is angry, another agitated with rolling eyes, the third seems thoughtful and stares off into space. He only speaks from one face at a time, and turns to face the binder with whichever face suits his mood at the time.
Sign: Two extra pairs of eyes with green lids and yellow catlike irises open on your head at eye level, equidistant. Your own eyes take on the same appearance.
Influence: You are overly trusting and loyal. If you use sense motive or any other means of determining truthfulness you count as rebelling against Geryon's influence.
Abilities: You gain a gaze attack that deals acid damage (This time you can choose to not affect allies), you can see all around you, you can see in darkness, and you can fly with a speed of 60 feet for one round. All of these abilities except the flight require you show his sign for obvious reasons.
Opinion: Being able to avoid affecting allies with a gaze attack is a good thing, but the Gaze attack is the only thing that's really good. Only being able to fly for one round out of five lets you cheat obstacles but is of limited use in combat.
The Key to the Gate
Legend: Otiax appears to have come from outside of reality in the Far Realm. But there is no real explanation for his past. Otiax never speaks so it can shed no light on it's own origins, binding it is more a matter of instinct and will than deliberation.
Manifestation: A locked golden gate appears in the seal. Blue fog curls out in wispy tendrils from between the bars, obscuring what lies beyond. After a moment of silence, some unseen force crashes against the barrier. Then the gate shakes and rattles loudly as though some creature is desperate to open it. Ragged breathing becomes audible, and the fog swirls around some indistinct yet terrible form. At last the raging stops, and the azure vapor passes through the gate, the tumblers turn and the gate creaks open.
Sign: While bound to Otiax, you are surrounded by thin wisps of light blue fog even in the strongest wind.
Influence: When confronted with unopened doors or gates you become nervous and agitated until it is opened or until you can no longer see it. Also: If you find a key and know where the lock it is paired to is, you must use it.
Abilities: You can open anything that an open/close spell could, but not close it. You can unlock anything with a DC equal to or less than twice your binder level as your 5 round. If you're showing Otiax's sign, you can use it to make air-blast touch attacks as if they were melee weapon attacks, i.e. as many as your full attack action would get you, it is a reach weapon but you don't get your strength bonus to it. You also get the Combat Reflexes feat and a 20% miss chance.
Opinion: Otiax is one of the better 'melee' vestiges. The air blast doesn't deal much damage but since it's a touch attack you're basically guaranteed to hit, combat reflexes and a 10 foot reach also means that anyone who moves near you is in for some hurt. The Unlock ability lets you pretend you're a rogue at least in part, all in all a good vestige.
Level 6 Vestiges
You get the ability to have 3 vestiges bound at once in this batch of vestiges, so keep that in mind.
Harbinger of Forever
Legend: Chupoclops once stood tall in the company of Fenris, Dendar the Night Serpent, and other supposed harbingers of the end of existence. A Titanic spiderlike creature, Chupoclops stalked the Ethereal Plane, devouring ghosts and giving birth to nightmares. Legend has it that the gods trapped Chupoclops in the Ethereal to prevent him from devouring hope, but it was destined to escape and sate its hunger during the end times.
Because it was a terror to both the living and the undead, several powerful individuals eventually joined forces to fight it. Three were great heroes, and four were powerful villains. One of the heroes and three of the villains also happened to be ghosts. They set out to murder Chupoclops and do what the gods could not. The furious battle lasted for seven days and each day ended with the death of one member of the group. On the last day the last hero struck down Chupoclops with their dying blow.
Not being defined by the normal rules of the universe, Chupoclops became a vestige after it's death. It's enormous corpse still rests somewhere in the Ethereal Plane and now that it is dead it can no longer destroy hope. And since hope will always exist so will the world.
Special Requirement: You must draw Chupoclops' seal with a handful of grave soil, or place the dead body of a sentient creature over the seal. At this point the game is just screaming at you "have you taken the ignore special requirements feat yet?"
Manifestation: Chupoclops is a colossal phase spider but only the part directly over the seal is visible at any given time. In most cases it appears first with a giant spider leg striking the seal out of nowhere, then it slowly brings it's face into view and down to the level of its summoner. Glaring over its odly tusked face with eight all too human eyes.
Sign: Your lower jaw increases in size, and two long sharply pointed tusks grow upward from it.
Influence: You can't help but be pessimistic. At best you're resigned to your own failure, at worst your doubts spread to others, trying to convince them of the hopelessness of their goals. In addition, you must voluntarily fail all saving throws against fear effects or effects that impose a morale penalty.
Abilities: Everyone within 10 feet of you takes a -2 penalty on attack rolls, checks, saves, and damage rolls. You can also become ethereal at will and remain there indefinitely... as long as you don't take any actions. You return immediately after taking anything as complex as a move action or greater. Once you have returned to the material plane you can't do it again for 5 rounds. You gain ghost touch with all melee attacks, the Pounce ability, and a natural bite attack.. You also gain the ability to sense all living creatures within 10 feet as if you had blindsense and cast deathwatch.
Opinion: Pounce is pretty great, and an extra attack to use it with is good. Ethereal jaunt and ghost touch are situational at best, as is the deathsight thing. And the -2 penalty aura is a double edged sword, it affects everyone regardless of their affiliation.
The Dreaming Duke
Legend: Human history associates Haures with a powerful lord who terrorized his people. From the time he took the throne until his death, he kept his subjects at work building his castle, adding constantly to its grandeur and might. Workers at the castle would return with strange tales of building a room and then rebuilding it the next day because no sign remained of their previous day's work. Then those who told such stories began to vanish in the castle, never to be heard from again. Although the castle grew with the additions made to it for the first few years, the constant construction seemed to have no effect on its size in later years. When at last Haures died, his subjects rejoiced and attacked the castle, hoping to loot and set fire to the palatial structure. The mob of peasants found the castle empty, devoid even of its furnishings. Confused and frightened, they left, and the castle and the surrounding lands soon gained a reputation for being haunted.
Binder scholars believe they know the answer to the mystery of Haures’s disappearance and the strange construction of the castle. According to their legends, Haures was not a human at all, but a powerful rakshasa sorcerer in disguise. Much of the construction he demanded took place on the Ethereal Plane because Haures planned to continue his existence there as a ghost. He wanted his afterlife to be as much like his mortal life as possible, so he had his subjects build a nearly exact duplicate of his castle on the Ethereal Plane and cloaked their work sites in illusions to hide the truth. In the last months of his life, Haures brought many living and undead servants to his foggy realm, as well as all the comforts to which he had become accustomed.
For some time after his demise, Haures spent time on both the Material and Ethereal Planes. As a ghost, he would cloak the decaying castle on the Material Plane in bright illusions so that he could throw lavish parties for the travelers attracted to its warm glow. Then he would end the party suddenly, leaving his guests alone in the chilly ruins of his castle and delighting in their terror. As the years passed, fewer folk dared enter his home, and Haures began to throw illusory parties for himself to alleviate his boredom. As his sanity deteriorated, he became unable to distinguish between the Material and the Ethereal Planes, and even between his illusions and his own imagined experiences. At some point, Haures lost all sense of the difference between reality and dreams, illusion and imagination, and even life and undeath. This complete dissolution of these barriers propelled him into existence as a vestige.
Manifestation: First a ghostly tiger stalks out of thin air, but its appearance rapidly changes to that of a handsome well dressed middle-aged man. A moment later he decays before his summoner's eyes, rotting into a zombielike state, then fading into ghostly incorporeality and changing again into a skeletal tiger wearing a shining crown and purple robe. The crown falls away and regains flesh to begin the cycle again. Haures is only cognizent of his summoner while in his living human form and speaks only in those brief moments.
Sign: While bound to haures you get backwards Rakshasa hands.
Influence: You are eccentric, often speaking to yourself or your imaginary friends. In addition if you encounter and disbelieve an illusion you must not voluntarily enter its area.
Abilities You are continually affected by a mind blank spell, become incorporeal while moving (and gaining a 50% miss chance on opportunity attacks), can cast Major Image as a five round, and Phantasmal Killer as a five round.
Opinion: You can cast Phantasmal Killer as a supernatural ability, meaning it's not a 4th level spell, it's a level/2 level save or die. Who cares if it's a 5/round thing that's pretty damned powerful. Ethereal movement is pretty okay and being able to pull Major Images out of your rear end isn't bad either.
Prince of Fools
Legend: A mortal scholar of deities and the planes, Ipos discovered vestiges and the process of binding long before their rediscovery in the current age. Although binder lore conflicts on his race and nation of origin, he was obviously a mighty spellcaster with the power to travel the planes in his pursuit of knowledge.
Although he was interested in all subjects, he had a particular passion for discovering the nature of the planes, magic, and gods. Through his study of these topics he sought to discover the fundamental order of reality.
He did a magnificent job with his research, and his discoveries have been passed down the generations. Yet he left such an incomplete vision of reality that later scholars and explorers had to expand upon his body of work. In the midst of his investigations, he stumbled upon Vestiges and drowned in the depth of this knowledge. He could not conceive of beings that did not exist in a place he could access, and become obsessed with finding where the Vestiges reside. What happened next is a mystery but considering he's now a vestige himself he obviously succeeded.
Special Requirement: You must have 5 ranks in Know(arcana) and either Know(religion) or Know(planes).
Manifestation: Ipos steps out onto the seal as if appearing from invisibility. His head is that of a bald ibis. Atop his scalp he wears a crown of black iron, and a many-layered gray cloak hides most of his form. His overly long arms end in gray furred lions paws. In one paw he holds a gnarled iron cane that he uses to strike the ground for emphasis rather than as a walking aid. He keeps the other paw hidden in his sleeves but from time to time you can see him extending his long black claws. Despite his rusting crown and tattered cloak he presents an imposing figure, to which is hissing voice and baleful glare add considerably.
Sign: You grow long, black, clawlike nails.
Influence: You think highly of your intellect and show contempt towards those who question your assumptions or conclusions. If you encounter a creature that expresses interest in a topic of which you have knowledge, Ipos requires you truthfully edify that individual.
Abilities: You gain cold iron claw attacks and can rend, can gain a true seeing effect for 1 round as a swift action every 5 rounds, you are immune to the harmful effects of any plane you are on, and increase the dc of your binder abilities by 1, and your effective binder level for gaining abilities by 1 for all vestiges you are bound to.
Opinion: The DC/Level increase is good but not fantastic, the planar attunement is situational but valuable when necessary, but the claws actually deal more damage than normal for your size which means the rend does a lot of damage as well. Meaning if you're only binding another vestige for the melee attack it grants he might be a decent replacement.
Legend: Shax once ruled over storm giants as a goddess of the sea. She was born to Annam, the greatest of all giant gods without his knowledge. Because he was prone to blind spots in his omniscience, Annam could not hear the giant's prayers when they mentioned Shax, nor could he see her many cruelties towards them. He realized that some problem might exist only whent he storm giants started battling the other giant kinds and stealing their homes as giant territory. When he asked the storm giants what was wrong they pointed to the sea, unable to tell what was wrong he sent his son Thrym to take care of the problem.
Thrym, god of frost giants, was eager to stop the incursions into his follower's lands, so he picked up his axe and leapt into the sea. There he met his sister Shax for the first time. He found her both beautiful and terrible and offered to marry her if she would call the storm giants to return to the sea. Shax would have none of it so the two fought.
In the end Thrym won, beheading Shax with a clean blow of his axe, but not before she scratched off some pieces of his flesh with her nails. The strength of her spirit gave her the power to resist the pull of the Astral Plane, so she became a vestige. As for Thrym, he yet lives but the pieces of his body that his sister removed still exist as icebergs as a constant reminder of the storm giant's debt to him.
Special Requirement: You must draw Shax's seal within sight of a pond, stream, or larger body of water. HAVE YOU TAKEN IGNORE REQUIREMENTS YET!?
Manifestation: A semitransparent female storm giant looks down smiling at her summoner, then she keeps looking down as her head tumbles off her shoulder. The body disappears as the head becomes more solid, landing with a wet thud. Then the wet black hair coalesces into tendrils that press against the earth, lifting her up and turning her around to face her summoner. She glares balefully with yellow eyes and with a shrill voice demands to know who summoned her.
Sign: A scar appears around your neck as if your head had been lopped off and returned to your body to heal.
Influence: You become possessive and stingy, particularly about territory - be it actual territory or just a room at the inn. In addition you are required to demand compensation for any service rendered and to tax the use of your territory. But you can accept nearly any item of value - be it material goods or a service - as payment.
Granted Abilities: You can use Freedom of movement for 1 round every 5, charge a single attack with electricity and sonic damage, are immune to electricity, and gain a swim speed.
Options: The storm strike only lasts for one attack and requires a swift action, you can do it every round but that eats up your swift action. The swim speed is situational and the freedom of movement ability is kind of defined by the fact that it lasts longer than a single round. All in all it's not that great a vestige for something you get at level 12.
Duke of Disappointment
Legend: When dwarves had yet to tunnel into their mountains and elves first walked beneath he boughs of trees, Zagan ruled over thousands. A lord in a great yuan-ti empire, he had power over hundreds of his own kind, who in turn controlled the lives of thousands of humanoid slaves. Zagan built himself up as a god to these slaves, using the yuan-ti as his emissaries to communicate with the uneducated masses over which he held sway.
Over time, Zagan’s power became so great that he actually aspired to become a god. He sought and finally discovered the means to his goal: a grand ceremony wherein he and his yuan-ti would gather together all his worshipers and slay them. At the appointed hour on the appointed night, Zagan collected all his people for a celebration of his glory. He could feel their worship empowering him, and with each passing minute he gained strength and felt his awareness widening.
Then Zagan rang the gong that signaled the attack, and he and his yuan-ti servants fell upon the slaves, slaying them with wild abandon. At first Zagan thought it glorious, but then he felt his new powers begin to wane. With each life he crushed, he felt a bit more mortal.
Zagan attempted to call off the ceremony, but in the chaos of the slaughter, the other yuan-ti could not hear him. Suddenly, a sword pierced Zagan’s chest from behind. As he looked down at the bloody blade, a sibilant voice whispered in his ear, “The World Serpent wishes you well.” A cleric among his own people had tricked Zagan into ruining his chances at godhood on the very eve of his apotheosis. At a point somewhere between godhood and mortality, Zagan passed on into the void.
Special Requirement: You must kowtow before Zagan's seal and address him as a diety.
Manifestation: When he begins to manifest, several snakes appear in a heap upon his seal. They then slither apart and rise upright along the lines of the seal. Then the crown of a head appears, with baleful eyes glowering. An ogrelike head slowly reveals itself followed by shoulders and arms to which the snakes are attached. He uses his powerful arms to pull the rest of his body from the ground, revealing a powerful serpentine body instead of legs. He reaches forward towards the summoner hungrily but the snakes on his body hiss and drive him back. He then broodily addresses his summoner while calming the snakes. Binder scholars claim that the snakes attached to his body are his most loyal subjects bound to him in death.
Sign: You gain a lisp. What did you think would happen?
Influence: You are domineering and aggressive, and you must slay any snake or snakelike being that you meet, and deface any artwork depicting anything snakelike that isn't Zagan.
Abilities: You can create an aversion affect in a single target, requiring them to stay 20 feet away from you or any snakelike creature, or take a massive penalty to dexterity if they can't. You also gain the scent ability, improved grapple, and constrict. As well as the Bane ability vs snakes with all your attacks.
Opinion: There's an okay combo with Zagan and Ipos, creating an aversion in someone then grappling them with your claws, rending and constricting them every round. But the rest of his stuff is too situational.
Level 7 Vestiges
After Zagan and Shax I think they were feeling bad and decided to give you two good Vestiges.
Legend: Eligor was a great half-elf dragonslayer before his death at the hands of the minions of Tiamat. After his death Tiamat sent her minions against the followers of both the human and elven deities demanding that they release his soul to her. Despite his great service to both races they gave up his soul to stave off the attacks against their living followers.
Only one deity argued against the profound injustice. The race and gender of this lone voice of reason differs with the teller, and not even binder scholars agree on whether it was human or elf, or even male and female. In any case it set off alone to face Tiamat and wrest Elegor's soul from her grasp. Upon arrival the deity found Eligor in the service of Tiamat rather than in bondage. She had raised him from the death and used his abandonment by the other gods to win his service. Eligor and the deity fought, and the deity won. This time no god was willing to lay claim to his soul and he fell into the existence of a vestige.
Manifestation: Eligor clatters out of nothingness on a half-horse/half-dragon monstrosity. Both mount and rider are heavily armored and Eligor is completely obscured. He carries a lance in one hand and a banner in the other, each manifestation the banner and color of the mount cycle between the five chromatic dragon colors. Although he rides what is probably an evil creature he greets his summoner with warmth and respect.
Sign: One of your hands becomes scaled the color of the horsedragon.
Influence: You feel pity for all outcasts, particularly half-orc and half-elves. You must also seek out vengeance in Eligor's name and attack a human, elf, or dragon foe in preference to all others.
Abilities: As a free action you can charge an attack with elemental energy, you gain a +4 bonus to strength, the ride by attack and spirited charge feats, heavy armor proficiency, and a sizable bonus to natural armor.
Opinion: Eligor is the capstone to a melee build, you get a flat +1d6 to all of your attacks, +4 to strength, and heavy armor and natural armor make you incredibly hard to hit.
King of Killers
Legend: Marchosias was a human who brought death to others. His favorite targets were other assassins and murderers, but his choice of foes had nothing to do with morals. Despicably evil, Marchosias was obsessed with improving his skill as a killer and destroying other professional slayers seemed his ultimate challenge.
When at last he met his end he found himself in the nine hells. The devils gleefully accepted his powerful spirit but others took note of his arrival and were not pleased. The spirits of hundreds of thugs, slaughterers, executioners, and assassins banded together and revolted. The devils were loathe to accept such lawlessness but they allowed it, intending to punish them later after the fighting had ended. But once the smoke cleared Marchosias' soul had been torn to pieces by the hundreds of foes he fought.
Special Requirement: You must have done a evil act at some point in your past and not apologized, atoned, or made reparations. Lying or breaking a confidence don't count, but theft, infidelity, or vandalism do.
Manifestation: With a bloodcurdling scream and a plume of black smoke, Malchosias appears.
Sign: Your pupils burn with red-orange light. Anyone looking at your face can make a DC12 spot check to notice the effect. It doesn't provide any light but it's disturbing to look upon.
Influence: You are debonair and sly, as though you have some trick up your sleeve and are just waiting to use it. In addition if you catch a foe unawares Malchosias requires that you use your death attack.
Granted Ability: You gain the Assassin's death strike ability, you deal bonus damage to those who have access to sneak attack, skirmish, sudden strike, or any similar precision damage ability, you can turn into smoke ala gaseous form (and can study your opponent while in this form), and gain a whopping +16 bonus to hide and move silently checks.
Opinion: Published monsters don't normally have precision damage abilities so you probably won't get much use out of that, but the death attack is nice, the sneaking bonus is amazing is you need it, and the fact that you can study in smoke form is a nice plus.
Level 8 Vestiges
We... don't end very strongly, but at least you can bind 4 vestiges at level 20, right?
The Angel in the Angle
Legend: Halphax was a gnome engineer of inestimable excellence. He influenced elf, gnome, dwarf, human, halfling, every kind of building. His greatest passion was the architecture of defense. Unfortunately for him his professionalism became his downfall.
In Halphax's time gnomes were as populous as humans, and lived in grand cities that rivaled the elves. And all races were welcome in the gnome city states. The hobgoblins were the first of the goblinoids to rise out of tribalism and they found welcome in gnome territory. They quickly took to gnome society, learning as much as they could and using their strong backs and hale bodies to earn places for themselves in the military and manual labor trades. Then in an act known as the great betrayal, the hobgoblins turned against their benefactors. The victorious goblinoids turned each gnome city into a prison, using the fortifications meant to keep enemies out to trap the gnomes within. To ensure they overlooked no means of escape they captured and enslaved the gnomes that designed them, through a combination of threats and rewards, they forced the gnomes to make these prisons even more effective.
Many gnome architects chose to die rather than help the hobgoblins, others secretly used their positions to help their kinfolk escape. But when Halfax's wife was threatened, the great architect put all his effort into creating the most impregnable prison possible. Legend holds that no gnome ever escaped from the prison and it was the last goblinoid holding to fall in the war that followed.
When at last the hobgoblins were defeated, the prison city that Halphax had built was found empty of all gnomes but him. The hobgoblins had killed them all except Halphax and his wife. She could not bear to be the cause of so much tragedy so she took her own life. When the gnomes attempted to apprehend Halphax and hold him responsible for his deeds, the architect vanished into his city. The allied armies tore down the city to its foundations in their attempt to find him, but he was never seen again.
Special Requirement: Halphax's sign must be drawn inside a building in the corner of a structure.
Manifestation: The corner appears to warp, growing deeper and extending into an infinite hallway. In that distance a figure appears and then the distance closes, bringing Halphax into the seal. He is in the form of a gnome wearing leather breeches and a vest, both of whicha re covered in pockets and loops for holding tools and items. The tools of an engineer hang from his belt and he usually appears in a posture of boredom, hands in his pockets. The most striking feature of Halphax is that he is no longer made of flesh and bone, but of broken bits of stone and masonry. The shattered features of bas reliefs and gargoyles make up his face.
Sign: Your skin takes on the appearance of cracked stone.
Influence: In his time as a vestige, Halphax has lost all memory of his life and any sense of guilt for his actions. Thus when you are under his influence you lose any normal sense of shame or embarrassment. But if someone threatens a hostage you care about you must accede to their demands.
Abilities: You gain damage reduction 10/adamantine as long as you show his sign, a +16 bonus to know(architecture/engineering) and Profession(siege Engineer) checks, the ability to cast the imprisonment spell at will (but only imprison one enemy at a time and a max duration of your binder level), cast Leomund's Secure Shelter as a 5 round, and Wall of Iron as a 5 round.
Opinion: The Imprisonment removes an enemy from the battle temporarily but you aren't killing them, and the secure shelter is just sort of okay for setting up a place to stay for the night or a defensible position. Other than the damage reduction the only real combat ability you gain is a wall that your stronger allies can push over onto someone. Ultimately it's situational at best.
Sovereign of the Howling Dark
Legend: Orthos is probably the original vestige, as all pact magic texts mention this entity, and persistent explorers can find his seal in many places. Binder scholars have a thousand stories about his origins. All agree that he is inestimably old and it has long since shed any form and persona it might once have had, becoming an alien and distant being. In deference to it's great age and the hallmark of it's appearance, scholars gave him his title.
Special Requirement: You must summon Orthos in an area of bright illumination.
Manifestation: a breeze seems to pass over the summoner, but it ruffles nothing except your hair and clothes. The breeze intensifies becoming a cold wind, and a low whistle emanates from the vicinity of Orthos' seal. Directly over it appears a black spec - a mote of shadow like a blind spot in the observer's vision. The whistle becomes a moan that slowly rises in pitch and volume, eventually transforming into a howl as the darkness spirals outward, opening like the pupil of some giant cat's eye with an explosive gust of wind. The howling grows so loud that it pains the ear while the seemingly nonexistent wind buffets the summoner. Then it stops. In the sudden silence an unseen, unheard, yet palpable presence slides out of the black aperture and hovers heavily over the seal. Though not detectable by any sense, Orthos is eerily extant, and its presence can be felt by even the dumbest of beasts. The vestige says nothing; its summoner can only plead her case and hope that Orthos does not impose its influence.
Sign: You always seem to be buffeted by an unseen wind that changes directions at arandom.
Influence: You are averse to dark areas and loud noises. Although you can endure such conditions they make you panicky. Orthos also requires that you carry a light source with you at all times, and that you do not allow it to become darkened for more than 1 round. You must also only speak in a whisper.
Abilities: You gain Blindsight 30, displacement, a 5 round 60 foot cone of scouring wind that deals a good deal of damage, and the ability to cast Whispering Wind at will.
Opinion: Orthos is also primarily defensive but in a different way than Halphax. The wind breath is the strongest single ability you can get access to as a binder but only as a 5 round. It's okay but you have a lot of good options across the various vestiges so it's hard to pick.
And that's all of them. Finally. It's ultimately very customizable but there are a few stand outs that reward specialization. Like Tenebrous and Eligor, but others are ridiculously situational.
Up next: Binder Prestige Classes
|# ? Jun 1, 2014 08:14|
Okay, time to pick this poo poo right up. It's Monsterhearts!
Before the game gets to the Skins (i.e. the character archetypes available for play) there's a brief section called Queer Mechanics. The purpose of this section, as far as I understand it, is to spell out in plain simple terms what a lot of people already seem to know of Monsterhearts: that the game, while on the surface being about monsters, is really about the troubles of being a teenager and all the confusion that comes with it. Once again, the game spells out that the Turn Someone On move works on anyone regardless of their gender and what this means is that you can't use "Hey, no, my character is straight so he'd never be turned on by Gary's character!"
I personally think that there are some unfortunate implications to this, as it basically posits that every character in the game is at least potentially bisexual and that gay and straight people simply don't exist. That said, I understand the purpose of the mechanic: the characters in Monsterhearts are teenagers without fully formed sexual identities, and since the game is very much about emergent narrative the purpose of the mechanics isn't to use them to go "Haha, your character got turned on by mine, he's totally gay now!" but to use the mechanics to inform the further narrative. So, if your rebellious and tough on the outside werewolf kid just got turned on by a look from the pretty fey boy, what does that tell us about the character, and moreover, how does he react to it? It's not a mechanic I'd use in a game of adult drama, but that's not the genre Monsterhearts is geared towards anywhere.
The section also briefly discusses trans subject matter but not in those exact words: the idea is that a number of the Skins in Monsterhearts have a degree of body horror and/or not being in complete control of your body as their themes. While this could easily be read as a simple metaphors for teenagers and their raging hormones and changes, there is also an undercurrent of feeling trapped in a body that isn't fully yours in some of the Skins. Not being trans I can't vouch for whether that matches the trans experience, but since the author of Monsterhearts is trans I wouldn't be surprised if their own feelings on the topic would've informed this section.
First of all, I love this section. I'm not saying that every RPG needs a section that discusses how sexuality and game mechanics mesh together, but if you're making a game that at least on some level features sexuality as a theme, the Queer Mechanics section from Monsterhearts is pretty much how you should write it. That said, the section could've used a bit more concrete advise on how to implement sexual content in the game as well as at least a brief discussion on social contract. As is, while Monsterhearts is far from being the RPG with the most creepy and unnecessary sexual content (quite the contrary, I'd actually say that whenever Monsterhearts discusses sexual content it does it very maturely and it never feels gratuitous), there is still the chance that someone playing this game will use it to creep the gently caress out of their group (as apparently happened in a Monsterhearts PbP right on these very boards).
That said, it's time to get to the actual meat of the game: the Skins.
Totally not Buffy.
The Chosen is totally Buffy. They're a pretty much normal human that somehow have the power to fight against monsters. The Chosen is one of the most combative of the playbooks, but also has a lot of potential drama inside: their Darkest Self is characterized by wanting to be fiercely independent and not having to rely on their friends for help to a self-destructive degree, but a lot of their moves rely on their friends to work. The Chosen is caught between wanting to protect everyone and feeling helpless when they inevitably can't.
Having a Chosen in the group also changes the tone of the game heavily: so much as having a Chosen in the group is enough to shift the game from being the Vampire Diaries to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The Chosen's high stats are Hot and Volatile, with Cold and Dark being their low stats. This means that while they are alluring and don't shy away from physical conflict, they are also not very good at controlling their emotions nor very in tune with the supernatural.
The Chosen gets two moves to start with, from the following list:
Mercy: Whenever the Chosen spares someone they have reason to kill, they gain a String on them.
Growing Pains: Whenever the Chosen fails to protect their friends, they mark experience.
Final Showdown: An extremely powerful move: the Chosen can simply spend four Strings on an NPC to kill them, probably after a cool showdown. On the downside, the NPC gets to spend their Strings on the Chosen, dealing one harm for each String spent. Potentially this move can be used to set up an awesome final scene where the Chosen, having finally learned everything there is to know about their enemy, goes out in blaze of glory, killing both.
Come Prepared: A purely flavorful move, stating that the Chosen has an armory complete with outlandish artifacts. Basically a way for the player to say "Yeah, I totally have a stake and hammer, as well as other potentially useful vampire-slaying gear, given enough time to prepare."
To The Books: You know how I said that the Chosen is totally Buffy? This move is full-on Buffy. When the Chosen hits the books with their friends to find out information about the monster of the week, the Chosen rolls with the number of people assisting them, choosing two on a 10+ and choosing one on 7-9. The options include gaining a String on the enemy, asking the MC a question (which they must answer truthfully), giving the enemy the Condition secret weakness, or simply carrying one forward.
Take The Blow: Pretty simple: when the Chosen places themselves in harm's way to protect a friend, they roll with Volatile. On a 10+ they take the harm in their friend's stead and reduce it by one, on a 7-9 they simply take the harm.
Light The Way: Whenever the Chosen's friends act on their commands, they add one to their rolls. If said friend is an NPC, they instead act with Advantage.
Then there's the Chosen's Backstory, meaning their relationship with the rest of their group. Two of them are friends they can rely on for monster-hunting support, giving the Chosen one String on each. The second bit of background is amazing though: there's a big bad evil out there who wants the Chosen dead. The MC gives them a name and gives them two Strings on the Chosen.
So, right from the outset, simply having a Chosen in the group implies that there is some evil menace out there who wants them dead, meaning that their life is never going to be easy. This works really well with a certain other playbook that assumes there to be a big bad supernatural entity behind the scenes. Not telling.
Then, finally, there's the Chosen's Sex Move and Darkest Self. The Chosen's Sex Move is basically a full-recovery (i.e. it removes all harm on the Chosen), but if the Chosen feels disgusted by either themselves or the other person after the fact, they must give them a String.
The Chosen's Darkest Self is also pretty nasty: when the Chosen finally loses it, they will simply go out and hunt down the biggest and baddest monster out there as a way to prove how strong and independent they are. The Chosen escapes their Darkest Self when someone comes to their rescue or when they find themselves hospitalized, whichever happens first.
Each of the game's Skins also gets to choose a Gang as one of their advancements. In the Chosen's case, their Gang is called Unholy Allies. What this means is open to interpretation, but I like to imagine it to be a peanut gallery of supernatural creatures somehow bound to the Chosen in their quest to destroy monsters for whatever reason. Very Buffy/Angel in a way.
Next time, the Fae.
|# ? Jun 4, 2014 17:49|
The Chosen really is so Buffy it hurts, up to and including the sex move. It's hilarious.
|# ? Jun 4, 2014 17:57|
With search down I can't find the post, but someone suggested that the Turn Someone On move didn't necessarily require a sexual context. I wish I could remember exactly what they said, but I think it was in one of the monthly chat threads from a couple of months back. While sudden realizations of queerness are almost a genre convention (thank you, slashfic), I don't think it's fair to handwave everyone as being that malleable.
That said, just because a character is straight (or asexual, or what have you) doesn't mean they aren't going to be affected by a pass or a whispering campaign by someone they aren't interested in. Call it what it is: coercion. Maybe Johnny Straightarrow acts in Gary's favor as an expression of his internalized homophobia, in hopes of just getting out from under his influence before people start to notice; everyone knows how fast a destructive rumour can move, how persistent they can be.
VVV That's a good point, too.
Bieeanshee fucked around with this message at 19:09 on Jun 4, 2014
|# ? Jun 4, 2014 18:58|
|# ? Jan 29, 2023 13:32|
Remember that a crush doesn't necessarily represent sexual attraction, and it's probably safe to say that most teenagers have had a crush on someone of the same gender at some point. Yay for confused hormones and the like.
|# ? Jun 4, 2014 19:05|