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Seatox
Mar 12, 2012


Of course Haste breaks a Monte Cook game over it's knee.

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FMguru
Sep 10, 2003

peed on;
sexually

Seatox posted:

Of course Haste breaks a Monte Cook game over it's knee.
Incredible.

Like, "things that give you extra actions/turns break most games" is a well-established black-letter bit of game design knowledge. Hell, nerfing Haste (and Potions of Speed) was one of the prime reasons Cook's own D&D 3.0 was so quickly replaced with 3.5.

And Cook just drops it in there like it's still 1982 and no one knows what an "action economy" is.

What next, a mechanic that requires you burn your collected XP in order to do cool things in the game?

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Monte Cook didn't get this far by caring about game design and he isn't about to start now, like some kind of coward quitter.

E: God, I just actually read Reversal and thinking about having to deal with that as a GM OR other player, I think at that point you burn the time wizard's sheet and the cubes and never speak of it all again.

Just loving hell. Think of it. You have to keep a snapshot of exactly what happened so you can undo everything in every encounter with a time wizard PC around. And you have to be ready to tell everyone at the table 'time wizard said we do a do-over so all 3 of the last rounds are a waste of time'. And they can still try to gently caress around as things 'go backwards'? gently caress you, time wizard!

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 00:36 on Jun 21, 2019

Ratoslov
Feb 15, 2012

Now prepare yourselves! You're the guests of honor at the Greatest Kung Fu Cannibal BBQ Ever!



Apparently among the user-base pretty much everyone just uses Writhes And Squirms to play Octodad.

Seatox
Mar 12, 2012


Night10194 posted:

Monte Cook didn't get this far by caring about game design and he isn't about to start now, like some kind of coward quitter.

E: God, I just actually read Reversal and thinking about having to deal with that as a GM OR other player, I think at that point you burn the time wizard's sheet and the cubes and never speak of it all again.

Just loving hell. Think of it. You have to keep a snapshot of exactly what happened so you can undo everything in every encounter with a time wizard PC around. And you have to be ready to tell everyone at the table 'time wizard said we do a do-over so all 3 of the last rounds are a waste of time'. And they can still try to gently caress around as things 'go backwards'? gently caress you, time wizard!

Reset-time-anywhen-you-like is the domain of computer games, where the book keeping is automated and player agency is limited by the inflexibility of computer game rules. And even then I can only think of one RTS game that had that level of on demand time-stream manipulation allowed (Achron). Every other example I can think of is basically save states as a game mechanic, like Caves of Qud's Precognition power.

The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007



There's a game All Walls Must Fall that's all about reversing specific aspects of time. Reverse time for the world but not for you, so you're still on the other side of the door but nobody saw you walk through. Reverse time for you but not the world, so you're back in cover and your gun is fully loaded but that guy over there is still riddled with bullets. Etc.

FMguru
Sep 10, 2003

peed on;
sexually

Seatox posted:

Reset-time-anywhen-you-like is the domain of computer games, where the book keeping is automated and player agency is limited by the inflexibility of computer game rules. And even then I can only think of one RTS game that had that level of on demand time-stream manipulation allowed (Achron). Every other example I can think of is basically save states as a game mechanic, like Caves of Qud's Precognition power.
The roguelike Tales of Maj'eyal has a Chronomancer class, whose big ability is "See The Threads - You peer into three possible futures, allowing you to explore each for 4–16cTS turns. When the effect expires, you'll choose which of the three futures becomes your present" which is pretty neat and flavorful effect.

Doing that in a multiplayer game, with tabletop rules and tracking, sounds like pure misery for everyone involved.

Seatox
Mar 12, 2012


I suppose there's Mage the Awakening Time arcanum, but even that level of Time Travel Shenanigans has less book keeping than three rounds in a D20 knockoff combat system (because most of the bookkeeping is everyone bracing for it to come back and bite the Mage in the behind).

Edit: Also, just checking my copy of MtA 2E, Disciple of Time has Acceleration - which doesn't grant actions, but does give you superspeed, super dodge, and first place in initiative order (So, a sanity fixed Haste/Celerity effect), and Shifting Sands, which rolls back time at MOST one scene for the caster only without resetting their health, mana or willpower, and leaves all kinds of magical traces all over.

Seatox fucked around with this message at 01:22 on Jun 21, 2019

KirbyKhan
Mar 20, 2009




Soiled Meat

Seatox posted:

Reset-time-anywhen-you-like is the domain of computer games, where the book keeping is automated and player agency is limited by the inflexibility of computer game rules.

C0ntinoum is a f&f I read on the inkless archives. It goes HEAVY DEEP into the book keeping required for time travel. Every player is required to keep a journal of all time from play start to end of campaign. It is BANANAS, you can use a special move in TIME COMBAT to summon a future version of yourself to help, you will accumulate time frag untill you play out your future self going into your past self's TIME FITE.

Seatox
Mar 12, 2012


KirbyKhan posted:

C0ntinoum is a f&f I read on the inkless archives. It goes HEAVY DEEP into the book keeping required for time travel. Every player is required to keep a journal of all time from play start to end of campaign. It is BANANAS, you can use a special move in TIME COMBAT to summon a future version of yourself to help, you will accumulate time frag untill you play out your future self going into your past self's TIME FITE.

I remember reading that! And there's the unpublished (And probably unwritten/unwritable) sequel for the designated antagonists that you're supposed to turn into when you do the TIME FITE, where the rules are supposedly even more different and contradictory!

Edit again: I am now imagining a Time Travel RPG designed by Monte Cook, and it is giving me the Fear.

Seatox fucked around with this message at 01:52 on Jun 21, 2019

Tibalt
May 14, 2017

What, drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word, As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee


Seatox posted:

I remember reading that! And there's the unpublished (And probably unwritten/unwritable) sequel for the designated antagonists that you're supposed to turn into when you do the TIME FITE, where the rules are supposedly even more different and contradictory!

Edit again: I am now imagining a Time Travel RPG designed by Monte Cook, and it is giving me the Fear.
Yeah! The first book played by Back to the Future rules, while the second book was going to be Terminator rules.

Presumably eventually they'd get to Bill and Ted rules and Endgame rules.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!




Coalition Wars 6: Final Siege, Part 10- "Its destruction and the death of all in the compound is an incident the General regrets, but war is Hell, and they were the enemy; the majority not even human."

So, we get the classic "break the city down by numerical locations" bit. I'll mainly be focusing on interesting or plot-relevant locales.


Finally, a giant robot that won't save the city.

Western Quadrant
The Heavy Industrial Part of the City

  • 6. University of Trans-Dimensional Studies: This was used to study transportation and Temporal Magic, using a series of mystic pyramids for research. Those pyramids are blown up by the Coalition, turning the whole area into a interdimensional morass that monsters crawl out of.
  • 6. Gate Way Resources: A transdimensional business that's really a front for the interdimensional weapon traders known as the Naruni. This seems set up so the PCs could get hired to helping with magic item creation, but then have to deal with a escorting a bunch of Eighties Guys to safety while they try and underpay the group the whole time. "Note: Is is not a commentary on big business..." is an actual quote from the section. All of the other evil corporations and merchants in the setting sure feel like one, though.
  • 28. Gate Way Resources: A co-op for summoning or enslaving supernatural beings for the war effort. The spellcasters involved with this will just bail dimensionally when the Coalition hits. See that gap in numbers between 6 and 28? That's how hard it is to me to find interesting stuff. This barely qualifies.
  • 29. A Dragon's Estate: Formerly home to a dragon that went off seeking treasure, this has been taken over by a pair of Chatterlings to become a barely-valuable dungeon for PCs to raid. Yay, you just looted 133 bottles of wine! An editor might ask "why do they need to know how much wine there is?", to which Siembieda would never answer, "SO THEY CAN GET SOUSED WHILE THE BOMBS DROP, SON!"
  • 33. Pyramid Place: Another magical research spot with a wrecked mystic pyramid and magic going crazy. However, this one apparently has some of the design secrets behind the Iron Juggernauts and Splugorth items they were trying to reverse-engineer, so there's a reason PCs might venture in to save stuff... that's better than bottles of wine on the wall.
  • 36. Westside Orphanage: This orphanage apparently cares for 2000+ kids, which seems less like a orphanage and more like a refugee camp. We then get the emotional resonance of numbers: "1d6 children" are found by a their families here a week, but 1d4 arrive every day. 53% are D-Bees! 47% are human! 0% are anything else! Teenagers 16 and older are refused- 65% percent of those join the Tolkeen army, and 80% of those die in the first month! Teen soldiers, yay! In any case, we have a plot hook of evacuating kids from the Orphanage. Someone's thinking of the children.


"Our airstrike on whatever the hell this is was a total success!"

Northern Quadrant

So, these are where you find college campuses, parks, and an airfield, and a lot of spellcasters and scholars centered around that. There are apparently a lot of little clubs and fraternities for wizards that aren't content with being snobby wizards, but have to be snobby fratcasters.
  • 1. Camp North Point: A military base designed to create a nexus point controlled through a pyramid and protect it. This is the center of Tolkeen's military, but if you guess that Holmes' forces blow up this mystic pyramid too and things go crazy and demons pop out, you've spotted the predictable pattern here. They hold the Coalition off for awhile before falling, and the Coalition will seize the site (we get a laundry list of the forces that manage it) and try and learn to take control of the Triangle Defense System, but Emperor Prosek frowns hard on that notion. It leaves open the possibility that if the Coalition High Command and the Vanguard (from Rifts Coalition Wars 3: Sorcerers' Revenge could somehow cooperate and take hold of the defense system, but that seems like an exceedingly tall order.
  • 3. North Point Dimensions: Another dimensional research outfit that gets its mystic pyramid skullsploded. They get teleported into limbo for "2d6 weeks" and pop back in the middle of Coalition-occupied Tolkeen. What happens to them? Read the novel! (There is no novel.)
  • 7. Power Plant: Most of the power in Tolkeen came from here. It blowed up! Dimensional Flooey! Have you gotten the point hammered into your skull, readers?!
  • 11. Tolkeen School of Demonology: A location for research on the darkest of magics, particularly the summoning sort. The Coalition Army will apparently delight in bombing this site and tracking down all of its members for "extermination".
  • 13. Hospital: Literally the only details we get on this is that "suffers the greatest level of death and destruction throughout the siege". We're told Holmes regrets this. Given this is followed by the Tolkeen School of Medicine getting "accidentally" destroyed and a Nursing Home where "All are killed.", I'm sure he's completely broken up over it. Not to mention the Coalition's propensity to slaughter civilians, refugees, and children throughout that section (And he's the "heroic" Coalition general, I'll remind.)
  • 17. College of Magic: One of the biggest magic colleges in North America that mainly teaches Ley Line Magic, Temporal Magic, "Intuitive Arts" (Mysticism), Elementalism, Stone Magic, and "Esoteric Arts". Esoteric Arts apparently only teaches knowledge of some of the rarer magic traditions scattered throughout rifts supplements, but we have the weird edge case where if you're a Mystic who studies Esoteric Arts, you might be able to add a unusual spell from Spoiling Magic, Shamanic Magic, or the like. (Techno-Wizardry is largely covered by other schools.) The campus becomes a large refugee camp and is blowed up. "The loss of this truly great institution is overshadowed only by the tremendous loss of life."
  • 19. Exotic Stables: Breeds and takes care of various exotic animals. Also teaches how to ride various sentient animals with their cooperation, like Psi-Ponies... which... is riding a Psi-Pony really that much different than a pony, other than not necessarily being the boss? Apparently they also teach how to ride Gargoyles, which... where would you ride them, given they're humanoid and winged on the back? Do you just cling to their asses or straddle their necks or what? In any case "The owners will let the animals loose as soon as the CS breaks through the city's defensive line, and then they head for the hills. Too bad they never make it." Cue slo-mo of skull guys gunning down unicorns to "Bittersweet Symphony", is this emotionally affecting yet?
  • 20. Residental District: Catering largely to students and teacher, many of which are slaughtered. "... all of the institutions of learning are burnt or otherwise razed to the ground. In fact, the CS will spend weeks enjoying book burnings and executions." But maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle. :ssh:
  • 21. College of Learning: One of the "greatest scholastic universities on the continent". Naturally, it's filled with refugees who are then slaughtered, then Holmes builds his base camp there. (Presumably, they lug the 60,000+ corpses out first, and yes, we have the numbers to arrive at that figure.)
  • 22. Institute for Megaversal Studies: Another institution of brilliance dealing with other dimensions. "IMS was turned into a refugee camp accommodating an estimated 35,000 homeless
    waifs." Homeless waifs. Shed a tear, because most of them are patted on the head and allowed by the Coalition to flee... I kid, they're getting slaughtered.
  • 23. Silver Lake Society for Elementalism: A scenic place to study the elements, and is bombed and believed finished, then a bunch of elementals rise up to attack and... to be continued? No resolution on that.

After all the drum-beating about how Tolkeen was filled with hate, how they should have known better, and how getting attacked while mostly minding their own business is somehow their fault... and now Siembieda wants it to also be a heart-breaking tragedy? Which isn't complete nonsense, but it is a swift tone shift. In any case, what this section really underlines is the lack of PC agency in this event. It's presumed maybe our heroes can save this group or that, but that Tolkeen is going to be an abattoir no matter what. And once any choice is pulled out of the equation, it just becomes a misery parade that feels just perverse as you read through it.

If that wasn't odd enough, bear in mind Holmes and his forces were supposed to be the counterpoint to Drogue's unmitigated slaughtering of civilians. But here his forces are, gunning them down happily. And you might be tempted to wonder "is it really Holmes' forces doing the mass slaughter?" Yes. It's clearly his forces that are the first to hit the Northern Quadrant, where most of the outright slaughter so far is narrated.

We're also given the plot point that some of "the Unbidden" that emerge from uncontrolled rifts include the former masters of the Daemonix - "Morpox the Afflictor" and "Falcate the Profane". You'd think this would be an important plot point, given the fate of the Daemonix should be of some importance. But instead any details on them are shuffled off to Rifts Aftermath, and then cut from that book, just leaving another undetailed mystery to dangle out there.

Next: More places what get blowed up.

Loxbourne
Apr 6, 2011

Tomorrow, doom!
But now, tea.

Seatox posted:

I remember reading that! And there's the unpublished (And probably unwritten/unwritable) sequel for the designated antagonists that you're supposed to turn into when you do the TIME FITE, where the rules are supposedly even more different and contradictory!

An incomplete draft of C0ntinuum: Narcissist floats around in dark corners of the web. It is exactly what you fear. Exactly.

(I do like the way Narcissists have no respect at all for their future selves. Their own timelines are totally messed up and changing constantly, so some old geezer that claims to be future you is just a loser who didn't ascend to become a Time God. No way you're gonna be that guy when you grow up).

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

C°ntinuum is such an amazing bait and switch. A game all about time travel, with a unique theory of time travel that's neither wholly deterministic nor chaotic, that promises a method for keeping track of your time shifts.

And then it turns out that you keep track of it in the shittiest way imaginable: a meticulous journal of every single thing your PC does. And the GM has infinite power to dump more bookkeeping on you by having your future self show up.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



Sig: Manual of the Primes
This Frame Really Ties The Scene Together

Most gameplay is Scenes, and Scenes are relatively structured given the freeform nature of play. Every Scene starts with the Framing phase. In this phase, you create the situation. Everyone – GM included – rolls their Smoke die. The highest roll gets to decide if they’ll be describing the Platform, Tilt or Question. Second highest picks from the two that are left. Third highest gets the last one. Everyone can give suggestions, but those three hold ultimate say over the thing they got. The person who chooses the Platform describes where and when the Scene happens, in no more than a few sentences. They control the pace of play by deciding how much time has passed since the last Scene, and should cut right to where the action will be. Scenes should be snappy and fast-moving. The example Platform is “You stand in a filthy alley in the Hive, reeking of spilled beer and infested with green slimes.” Everyone decides if their PC is present in the scene; if not, they may choose to portray an NPC with their Smoke attribute, or they may sit out the scene entirely to lose 1 Harm.

The person who creates the Tilt now has two to three sentences to describe what event or action makes the PCs need to act. This can be very helpful in framing what kind of actions will be encouraged in the scene and what sort of Beliefs may come into play or what Talents might be useful. The Tilt must be logically consistent with the Platform. The example: “A small child runs out of a doorway, sobbing loudly and clutching a stuffed dragon toy.”

Lastly, the person who asks the Question determines what the scene is trying to determine. They have…a question. Once the question is answered, the scene ends. This determines why the scene is important, and often makes it clear what Beliefs will be confronted and challenged in the scene. The Question must be related to the Tilt. Example: “Will you bring the girl back to her terrible and cruel family?”

Once all that’s taken care of, the Collaboration Phase begins. Everyone at the table talks about what’s going on, starting with the GM. The GM gets the first chance to make a statement or declaration, and everyone else that is taking part in the scene gets to describe what their characters say or do. You can ask each other questions to learn more about why they’re saying, thinking or doing things. The GM does similar with the NPCs, or may narrate things about the current situation or setting. Periodically, people may make bold declarations of what happens. You’re encouraged to ask each other questions and build off the answers in this phase, and to confront your Beliefs and those of the others. Anything proposed in play here is assumed to be true unless it contradicts what has previously been established. If you disagree with something, you may trigger a Conflict and propose your alternative. This enters the Conflict Phase.

The Conflict Phase begins by determining the two sides of the Conflict – always two. Each side determines what will happen if they win the Conflict. Others at the table may choose to support a side, but must describe how their character’s actions help bring about the outcome. If the participants of the Conflict are using their primary character to bring about the outcome (a PC, a Face NPC or a Power, generally) they use their Spark die. If using a lesser character or the actions of the world itself, they use their Smoke die. Every person that supports your side increases your die size by 1, to a max of d20. For NPCs, if they have a Strength that applies, their die size is increased by one, but if they have a Weakness that applies, it decreases by one. There is also another way to automatically get a d20, even if you have Harm. Every eternal plane has a single Belief that overrides everything else there. Anyone whose side of a Conflict supports that Belief while on that plane always rolls a d20, no matter what. No one can gain Influence from refuting the Planar Belief while on that plane.

Once die sizes are determined and rolled, bonuses apply. If you have a Broad Talent applicable to what’s going on, you get +1. If it’s a Common Talent, +2. If it’s a Deep Talent, +3. You can add +3 to your roll per Harm you choose to take, and +1 per Influence you choose to spend. We’ll get into Talents during character creation. Whoever ends up with the highest result wins the Conflict. Their declaration of what happens is the true one, and they take 1 Harm as the price of victory. If there is a tie, the Conflict escalates. The entire Conflict phase is repeated, but without any external help from other players. Whoever wins the second roll wins the Conflict, but takes an additional Harm. If there’s still a tie, you repeat this process until there isn’t. If you lose a Conflict, you cannot repeat the same declaration you made that lost the Conflict for the rest of the session.

Whatever the case, once the Question has been answered, the Scene enters the Closing Phase. This can also be triggered if everyone decides the scene should end, even if the Question remains unanswered. Any PC whose Beliefs have been challenged and confronted during the scene can claim Influence from the Belief Sheet as appropriate. Everyone at the table must agree that the Belief was confronted and discussed, refuted or confirmed. If anyone disagrees, you don’t get to take the Influence from the sheet. The GM gains Influence in the same way, but their Beliefs are not static. They change based on the location of the scene. On one of the eternal Planes, the GM gains 1 Influence each time someone, no matter who, reinforces the Planar Belief in a Conflict. On a Prime, the GM’s Beliefs are the three Beliefs of the Prime world. In Sig, the GM’s Beliefs are the Beliefs of the three Planes tethered to Sig. If anyone has claimed all three of the Influence tokens from their part of the Belief Sheet, everyone else gains 1 Influence and three new tokens are put on those Beliefs. Lastly, anyone may spend 3 Influence to trigger an Interlude.

In an Interlude, whoever triggers it may ask a question of another player. For players of PCs, they may ask a question about the PC’s history, motivations or dreams. For the GM, they may ask about the setting. The question can be made in character or as a narrative observer. The person asked needs to answer honestly, which can be done as dialogue, actions or a narrated flashback. Once this is done, the person asking and the person asked both remove 1 Harm.

At the end of each session, if you have 15 Influence, you trigger a Reflection. You pick someone else at the table and talk to them intimately about one of your or their Beliefs. This is generally an in character discussion, possibly about the struggle in which the Belief was confronted or a moment of confession or personal revelation. At the end of this, both players work together to create a new, replacement Belief, as the character either integrates and ceases to question their Belief or rejects it as false. Both parties can discuss the exact wording and must achieve a mutually acceptable Belief based on what’s been happening. It must still fit all the normal rules for Beliefs, which we’ll get into in chargen. You write it down on the Belief sheet. At that point, both players get the chance to improve their characters. They may raise one of their two attributes one step, to a max of d12, or may gain a new Talent of their choice. Either way, this should be selected based on what was learned while confronting the Belief.

Whenever a PC changes a Belief, the GM chooses one of Sig’s tethers to shift. One plane loses the tether and is replaced by another, changing the city. New immigrant communities will flood the streets, bringing new languages and cultures. The Factions aligned with the old plane will lose power and those aligned with the new one will gain it, and the same for the Powers. The GM will work to account for this and describe how the city changes and warps. After this, the session ends.

There are only two ways for a character to be forced out of a scene, and both of them are your choice in almost every circumstance. First is being Taken Out. At any point during a scene, you may declare that your character has been Taken Out and temporarily incapacitated. At that point, you can no longer make declarations or take part in Conflicts, though you can still talk to everyone else at the table. You just can’t really do much but ask them questions and give your thoughts – you cannot make declarative statements about what’s going on. If you take 6 Harm, you must choose to be Taken Out if you don’t want to retire your character after the scene. Being Taken Out removes 1 Harm at the end of the scene.

Retiring can be done whenever you want, but is usually done when you take 6 Harm. Fictionally, it means your character has gotten into some problem significant enough that they can no longer continue as a protagonist. Death is optional; what matters is that after the scene, they are no longer in play. Maybe they literally retired, or are stuck in hospital, or have gone mad, or have achieved a grand destiny and must now run a kingdom. However, they get a chance to tie up loose ends this scene. You erase all Harm, and for the rest of the scene you operate at full capabilities. Once the scene is over, the character’s done, so make it a dramatic and memorable exit. Try to make a new character by the end of the session or start of the next one; possibly promote a Face or other named NPC to full PC status.

Next time: Session structure and chargen.

Cassa
Jan 29, 2009


Siembieda delenda est.

What did Tolkeen do to deserve all this.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Spycraft 1e

You know my name

First, I should note that being an early OGL game, Spycraft assumes you'll roll stats or otherwise generate your stats as per D&D. So when we eventually make an agent we'll be using 4d6 drop lowest, assign values where you will. It's been so long since I actually made a d20 character that I had to look all that up. With how mechanically careful Spycraft normally is, using rolled ability scores is probably not a great idea; I'm okay with (and even enjoy) rolled abilities in some contexts, but in a game based on d20 a rolled score array has a very large effect on your PC and is probably not best left to chance. So much is derived from ability score in d20 and the gap between a good and a bad roll can be so strong that I'd normally rather use a point-buy system here. But rules are rules and this game predates even D&D 3.5.

Before we get into classes I should also introduce our friend the Action Die. Action Dice are very, very important to Spycraft and it puts them front and center. These metacurrency are a critical part of Spycraft's design, and both the GM and players get a pool of them; most PCs get 3 per session at start and more as they level. Another nice bit in Spycraft's organization: If it mentions a concept early, it will come with an exact 'also if you want the full details on this, turn to page X' note. So when they first mention Action Dice as a part of what sets a PC apart, they immediately provide a direct reference for where to go to get everything else about them. We'll go over them right now because I want to.

Action Dice start as d4s, and go up in size every 5 levels (So at 6, they become d6s, 11, d8s, 16 d10s). An Action Die can be spent to add to any roll, to add to your Defense (Difficulty to be hit) for one turn, to heal yourself (We don't have Clerics around so you need to do the standard action hero 'bandage and a breather' sometimes), to activate critical failures when the GM rolls badly for your enemies or to activate critical successes for yourself (you do this instead of rolling to confirm criticals), or to ask for favors from your agency or hints on the plot. Note that Action Dice spent on healing, defense, and check results explode; they keep rolling until they don't roll max. You can also use Action Dice after rolling a check; got a 15 and needed a 17? You can decide if you throw dice at it or not. You can even continue to throw more Action Dice at something after spending one and not rolling high enough on it. The GM can use Action Dice for the same abilities; you can't actually critically fail at something unless the GM spends points of their own metacurrency pool to make it happen. Same for enemies critting you. The reason it's important to go into Action Dice now is because every class has a Core Ability that interacts with Action Dice; most of them make an Agent able to double the effectiveness of Action Dice spent on a specific specialty. You only get this Core Ability for your first PC class if you multiclass, as well as one for a Prestige Class if you go into one of those later.

Also note: PCs never suffer 'multiclass penalties' in Spycraft. Getting knocked out of advancing one class's abilities is generally penalty enough. For the most part, Multiclassing isn't a great idea since d20 tends to reward specialization, but the slew of really good Prestige Classes in Spycraft makes them worth looking at. We'll talk about some of them later, as I think looking at how Spycraft conceptualized Prestige Classes and how it designed base classes with the idea that you'd probably at least dip into one of them is valuable.

Classes in Spycraft come with the normal array of abilities from d20: Base skill points (though Skill Points are as bad of a mechanic here as they are in d20; we'll get into why in Skills but most of the time you just want to pick X number of skills and keep them maxed), Save Progression, Vitality Per Level, base Attack Bonus. It also adds in a Defense Bonus for when you're not wearing armor (Armor is very different than D&D, and you can expect to go unarmored a lot more often, being a spah), an Initiative bonus, and your Budget and Gadget point allowances for your class. Another thing to note: Not a single class in Spycraft has 'dead levels'. You're always getting or improving a class ability, every class level. Another quick note: Extra attacks are NOT based on BAB, and come from feats. Similarly, any character can attack twice in one round at full BAB by using Standard Attack twice. I won't be going into every single ability, just a general tenor of the classes.

Also, a note on HP: Spycraft separates Wounds and Vitality. Vitality is cinematic damage, near misses, good luck, and exhaustion. Wounds are meat. You get Wounds equal to your Con. Crits go right to Wounds. Wounds don't increase with level. Vitality acts like normal D&D HP and goes up every level. Characters generally have more Vitality than d20 characters have HP. Wounds take a long time to heal (1 per day of full rest). Vitality heals every hour at a rate of 1 point per Agent Level per hour. A couple hours to shake it off will make a PC able to get back at it if they only took Vitality damage, but you can still take a dramatic bullet to the shoulder, lose Wounds, and if you didn't run out you're good to fight on.

Classes start off strong with the Faceman. The Faceman is a skill-based character, though they aren't terrible in a fight; the majority of Spycraft classes (Faceman, Pointman, Fixer) use a medium Base Attack Bonus. Only the Soldier and Wheelman get a Fast BAB progression, and only the Snoop gets a slow one. Facemen are human intelligence specialists, con-artists, masters of disguise, linguists, and people-people. They're extremely good at what they do; when I was playing, our Faceman was a goddamn wizard at smoothing out political issues and worming his way into enemy organizations. They double their Action Dice when spending them on Wisdom or Charisma based skills; those are their two main stats. They get decent HP (d10+Con), but poor saves; their Reflexes are bad and their Fort and Will are medium. They have no good saves. Medium defense bonus (1 per 2 levels, starts at 1) and great Initiative bonus (4 per 5 levels). Also huge Budget points (3 per level) but poor Gadgets. Medium Skillpoints (6+Int Bonus). Also note: No-one in Spycraft gets 2+Int Skillpoints. No-one. Skills are much more important than in normal D&D.

They get a bunch of fun abilities, ranging from knowing many, many languages that they can speak with perfect regional dialect and accent (Which is actually pretty useful in an international superspy game; your Agent knowing how to speak Russian, and the right kind of Russian for who they're pretending to be, comes up pretty often), to being able to do disguise work without needing props just by changing their mannerisms and presentation, to cold-reading NPCs ('What's her favorite novel?' or 'Why's he drinking?' are the kind of questions you can ask, and the GM has to spend Action Dice to refuse to answer) before they ever meet them. They can pretend to know what they're doing when they really don't. They have friends and contacts all over the world they can conveniently remember when the team needs it. Class Capstones in Spycraft come at level 14, to give you some room to multiclass, and are usually strongly narrative abilities. For the Faceman? They look someone in the face and lie to them, and no matter what they said, unless the target can immediately and clearly see it isn't true, the target believe them. You won't get away with the sky is green, but pretty much anything else will work.

The Fixer is a rogue/infiltration/theft/sabotage specialist. They're adaptable, great at sneaking into place, and good at sabotage and adaptability. As the guys and gals with Sneak Attack, they're also pretty good at shooting people in the back of the head. Also your liaison to R&D and the Agency armory. They get the worst HP progression (d8+Con), but good Reflex saves and the ability to make Reflex saves even better like a normal D&D Rogue. Also decent at Fort. Poor at Will. They have the best possible Defense Bonus (4 per 5 levels), average BAB, a weirdly bad Init bonus (2 per 5 levels), and great Skillpoints (8+Int) and a long, long skill list. Outside of not being able to use computers much, they can handle pretty much any intrusion or sabotage task. They get to double Action Die spent on Dex skills. Note: Dex SKILLS. Not Attack rolls. They get terrible Budget but great Gadget points.

Sneak Attack is a lot more helpful in a world with fewer undead and slimes, and where a crit goes right to Wound Points. A skilled Fixer shooting people from surprise can just drop somebody sometimes, and extra d6s of damage aren't as amiss when they aren't getting measured against 'Declare I Achieve Things' abilities like casters. They get the usual rogue-esque grab-bag of abilities, including several 'pick from a pool' powers that can let them run faster, get bonus feats, etc. They can make Reflex saves especially well like Rogues, which is actually pretty useful in a world with grenades and rocket launchers, and they're very hard to flank, themselves. They can improvise tools, they can contact the Agency to spend unused Budget Points for the team mid-mission with a little segue scene, and at level 14, they can just pull out a random gadget as needed. Doesn't matter what the circumstances are, the Fixer had a bomb the whole time.

In general, they're like a D&D rogue, except they're in an espionage setting so a lot of those rogue abilities are more useful, and there's no wizard around to just cast Knock and Invisibility to completely negate their class. Add a little extra gear stuff and the fact that Sneak Attack lets them punch above their weight for one of the 'average' combatants, and they're pretty good. Despite the Fixer name, and the immediate ability to contact the Agency for more stuff, they don't really do a lot of stuff with gear; most of what they do focuses on being a thief and breaking and entering expert.

I'll cut this here for the moment and go into the other four next. Should have room for all of them.

Next Time: On Point

FBH991
Nov 26, 2010


Alien Rope Burn posted:


Next: More places what get blowed up.

This feels like it'd have more impact if they'd established the City of Tolkeen in the first book then turned it around from there.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Spycraft 1e

Giving Pointers

The Pointman is an odd class. This is the team leader, the flexible agent who knows a little about a lot of things. They effectively end up building their own class for the most part, but put a bunch of buffing and team-assist abilities on top of that. They're all pretty good with people, though not as much as the Faceman, but it's hard to generalize about them; they pick up abilities and skills from other classes at their option as they level. They have d10+Con Vit, average saves all around except for a Good Will save, 6+Int Skillpoints, a poor Defense and Init bonus, but high Budget and decent Gadget points. Their defining feature? They can give Action Dice to allies instead of spending them themselves, though only to add to rolls, and if they do this the ally doesn't get to use their own Core Ability to boost the dice if applicable. But being able to toss a buddy an extra die at a critical moment as long as you're in radio contact is really helpful, take it from experience. Their other defining ability is picking out 6 skills of their choice to make Class Skills, gaining another every 3 levels. If you find your team had a gap and you need someone to fill it in at level 3, the Pointman can try.

They also get an ability that wouldn't really be useful in D&D, but trust me; it's really helpful when you're running a spy cell. Assistance lets them help out allies with long-term skills or abilities, reducing the time of something that takes an hour or more by half. This improves as they level, to 1/4 time at 11th, and 1/10th at 19th. I speak from experience when I say this would suck in a fantasy adventure setting most of the time, but when you're spending a ton of your game running searches, doing computer work, investigating leads, etc? And you often have to make progress before some costumed lunatic expects their 100,000,000 USD or they'll blow up Times Square? It really does come up. The Pointman can also let the entire team use their check results for an action, or give out orders that buff allies' actions. They get to take on other class's class abilities in time, too, just like they take cross class skills. They're also just lucky; at level 10, they just...find stuff they need. And if the GM refuses to let them ask for a contact, a break in a case, etc, they just get 2 free Action Dice for the session instead. Their Capstone is also amazing: At 14th level, instead of a narrative thing? They just declare every PC gets +1/2 Action for one combat round, once a session.

The 'flexible class' element of the Pointman is less helpful than the leadership; d20 still rewards specialization. But it can be nice to fill in whatever your party doesn't have access to, while also still being a competent diplomat and excellent leader. The management/group abilities are really the core of the Pointman and the flexibility element is window-dressing, but it's still helpful window dressing.

The Snoop is the second 'fully stealth specialist' class, but they focus on high tech, intelligence gathering, and detective work over the more 'hands-on' approach of the Fixer. They'd be terrible in D&D, having a poor Base Attack Bonus and no magic, but in a superspy technothriller, the techy who is also a master detective and stealth specialist is really useful. They get d8+Con Vit a level, poor Saves (Poor Fort, Average Will and Ref), 8+Int skillpoints, good Defense, and good Initiative, with great Gadgets and average Budget. They also double Action Die spent on Int based abilities. But the real draw with the Snoop is their class abilities.

For one, 8 o' clock, Day 1, they get Flawless Search: Unless they outright crit-fail and the GM activates it, they never fully fail at Search or Spot when looking for clues. Ever. They will also actually know if there's nothing to find in a place. They will always find what they need to move the plot; rolling the skills for better results is just to see how much extra information they find. They can ask questions about clues they discover from the GM. They install backdoors and leave themselves easy ways back into systems they've hacked. They can just declare they intercept enemy communications, or sweep the streets for clues and canvass people quickly. They go through electronic surveillance records and data extremely fast. They can just instantly deduce peoples' passwords and PIN numbers ("I bet he's the sort to use his dog's birthday") at high level. And at level 14, their Capstone is being able to guess where in the world Carmen San Diego (or anyone else) is. It takes them time (Up to 2 days per level of their target, Pointman can help you there!) but they will know precisely where a person is.

Snoops are probably the number one example of a PC who would completely suck in D&D but who is amazing here in Spycraft. They're very, very good at what they do, and at doing it without being detected, and you're spies: A master detective and intel specialist who is great with computers and hard to spot is really valuable.

The Soldier is a badass. That's their job. All Agents (except maybe the Snoop) are okay in a fight. The Soldier is a master at it. This is the person you call in when you've set off the alarms and you need someone to shoot their way through the guards and get your Snoop or Fixer out of trouble. And they'll do it; where everyone else tries to be subtle to some degree, the Soldier can just smash their way through problems. They're one of only two classes with high BAB, they get d12+Con Vit, they get Good Fort, Average Ref, and poor Will (Oh, Poor Will on Fighters, you are forever my bugbear. Though Will is less important without Wizbiz around). They get a poor Defense Bonus, but this is partly because they're meant to use armor instead; they're the only class that can use Heavy personal armor. They get a fantastic Init bonus, average Budget, and poor Gadgets. They also get the ability to double their Action Dice on Attack Rolls, Str skills, or Con skills. They can also use every weapon in the game, and being able to use Heavy Weapons is actually a pretty significant edge. Also still get 4+Int Skillpoints.

Like all d20 Fight Guys, they get Bonus Feats. However, Feats are generally more useful here, so it does end up doing them a lot of good. They get 1 extra combat feat of their choice at level 1, then another every 2 levels after. They get innate damage reduction, which will stack with reduction from armor and can make them pretty drat tanky. They reduce the armor check penalty of armor as they level, while increasing its Defense (Normally, you replace your innate Level based Defense with a suit's Defense in return for getting its Damage Reduction. Soldiers get to make the best of both worlds). They get better with weapons and gain increased damage with weapons they specialize in (it's about as meh as in d20, but eh, doesn't hurt). They count as being in cover when they attack because they're so goddamn dangerous, even if they're standing in the open. Their capstone is declaring they roll a nat 20 on one physical check (including Ref or Fort saves) or attack roll once a session, which they can spend a die to convert to a crit immediately.

I've played a Soldier. Their lack of subtle skills can make it a little annoying; you spend a fair amount of time waiting for the team to need you. But when they do, you can show up in a heavy assault vest with full tactical gear, a grenade launcher, and a machine gun, and you make an impact. Actually being really, measurably better in a fight than anyone else and not being instantly invalidated by casters/save or suck spells really, really helps being a Fighter type. And hell, say you want to do melee; they have the Feats to make themselves into insane martial artists who can punch through steel plate, etc. It's fun.

The Wheelman is the one class I've never actually seen in play. Spycraft already has an issue with the team being a collection of specialists who often split up. Adding 'character who has to have a vehicle to do their Thing' to that can be even more awkward than the Soldier, so we just never bothered with Wheelmen. They're meant to be a secondary fighter who lacks the personal combat advantages of the Soldier in favor of getting to play with the Chase system, and they're so good at it that basically no-one else tries to use the Chase system, but since you put all your Feats into Chase stuff...well, if there isn't a Car Chase going on right now, the Wheelman is kind of out of luck. They get good BAB, a good Ref save and poor others, 6+Int Skillpoints, average Defense and Init, d12+Con Vit, and they double their dice when spending Action Dice on, you guessed it, anything related to a vehicle. Also get extra Gadget Points to spend on vehicles and customization for their vehicles. Also have average Gadgets and Budget otherwise.

They get specific maneuvers only Wheelmen and other Daredevils can use in Chases, which again; nobody else should generally be handling the Chase minigame for your team if you have one. They get Bonus Feats about driving and piloting and boating. They get to pick a favorite vehicle and get bonuses with it. They make every vehicle they like move better. And finally, at 14, they can just break the laws of physics. That's the description. They manage to ramp a car off a flat surface, or leap through a flatcar in a passing train on their motorcycle, etc.

You might notice the Wheelman is only really good for one thing: Chases. The issue is that in a Chase, the Wheelman is often the only one playing the minigame, unlike the Soldier showing up to combat. It takes a ton of mechanical investment to be great at Chases, and the Wheelman is the only one who can really even try, thanks to Daredevil sectioning off many of the best moves in a Chase scene. So you have a class that really only does one thing, and it's even more of a specialized, sectioned-off thing than normal for a game that already struggles with having player characters who tend to be highly specialized and split up being an intel cell. They can fight pretty well, but since they're spending a lot of their resources on driving, the Soldier is going to outdo them hard there. And the stealth/intel/leader classes all do that stuff, leaving them a third wheel, so to speak. So, we never actually used one when I was playing or running.

Give me an Office and a class and I'll make a couple Agents to show things off, as per usual.

Next Time: Agents Assemble

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


Hc Svnt Dracones 2.0



El Gecko 2: This Time It's Dumber

So what are the odds that after completely overhauling their system and removing most of it, they'd still leave in the same dumb ways to break the game? Actually pretty high. Removing the Ledger aspects meant that we can't have instakill death rays and power armor two sessions in just for taking a smoke break, but it's still entirely superior to just play as an animal rather than a furry. Especially if you pick the right animal. I.e. one that has something comparable to hands so you can explain why he's carrying a death ray or a chainsword.



The biggest error they made(that I found on my cursory examination, anyway, I'm sure there are more egregrious ones yet) is that Laterals, i.e. animals with sapient brains, get the lowest Base Mass stat in the game. Base Mass is more or less the static value defining how hard you are to hit, and thus having this low is Very Good and can make it extremely hard to murder you(going by the toughest pre-statted enemy, roughly a 12% chance to get hit by any given attack, it seems like). Normally you'd assume that, say, being a snake, or a dog, might give you some weaknesses, flaws or drawbacks compared to being a space marine(that's also a dog, or a snake). Fact is, though, the only actual disadvantages are the following: You're bad at pressing buttons and you're bad at using weapons that aren't punches or surgically attached(and even then only in the sense of "has trouble moving and shooting in the same action.") nothing prevents you from being a limbless snake that's also a badass gunslinger, or a deer with no opposable thumbs that's a medic, like the "iconic" medic in the first HSD.

No, really, she was just a deer with some first aid kits strapped to her and the writing jerked itself off to how brilliant she was.

This is then the point where I spent almost an hour not writing the post just because I was trying to find the next part... equipment. Because the chargen chapter is interrupted by roughly 40 pages of miscellaneous rules(you know the edge case stuff you'd usually have in the back-of-the-book appendix, like starvation, zero gravity, being irradiated, etc.), as well as the crafting rules, before it actually gets to the gear section, which is probably what you were looking for next if you just finished statting up your character. The only thing of note from these 40 pages is that HSD is, amazingly, the first RPG I've come across with the idea of group stealth, i.e. if someone is a hyper ninja, he can share his stealth with the rest of the team by instructing them in where to hide, etc. the rules are pretty threadbare and mean you'll only ever really want one stealth specialist, so it introduces a different kind of problem, but it's a nice change from, "oh, you want a stealthy character? have fun being useless or playing on your own for half the game." Having to choose between the two, I think I'd definitely pick Socialist Stealth any day of the week.



Reaching the equipment then loses me what feels like another hour as I'm hypnotized by the endless waves of pointless minutiae. For every item like Ghost Gel(zero-friction gel that functions for a few minutes before hardening and is a hilarious component in pranks, sabotage or combinations of the two), there are others that get obsessively detailed about just how many meals per day you get when you buy lodging at a corporate hotel suite with the PLATINUM card rather than the GOLD card like some plebe. Also, remember how last post I got really angry because there was no attempt made whatsoever at balancing what you could pick at various level-up goalposts? Well guess what, somehow the equipment chapter makes the level-up mechanics even dumber.

See, back in the first game there was the AMAZING NEUROPLEX that the author hadn't thought about at all, since by their own mechanics, it meant essentially everyone was a multi-genius in near all proficiencies by the time they were old enough to drive. It's back, but this time with a new dumb thing in that it allows you to straight buy proficiency point, which means that suddenly there's very little reason to actually spend XP on proficiency points when you can spend credits on them instead, skyrocketing the value of picking anything but proficiency points for any of the game's multitude of dumb binary level-up choices.

Eventually I find what I was looking for. See, despite all the taur creatures all over the loving art, I think the author's true fursona was just something like a plain normal raccoon or bird. The further proof? PUSHFRAMES. Remember like, two paragraphs ago, when I explained the dire disadvantage Laterals had in exchange for their being loving hard to hit? Well joke's on you motherfucker, you can buy a telekinesis hat that negates more or less all your disadvantages, because that's what we in the business call "good game design."

There's also this thing where half the equipment has detailed stats on what it actually does, while the other half just has a description, and a few even have first-person addresses to the player rather than the normal third-person. I mean, any one of these can technically work, but please loving stick with one consistent authorial voice, game.

Finally I get to some parts I want to look at, the armor and weapon stats. And their rules, because of course the rules for armor(as in, how it breaks and interacts with your other stats) are in the middle of the equipment chapter rather than in the combat section. For armor they hit on the idea of, rather than giving each armor its own section of writing, doing Armor Cards that you can print out or copy to your sheet for ease of reference which would be a good idea if each armor statline wasn't just four numbers. thus making the Armor Cards waste more space than just writing those down. Especially since some of the Armor Cards still come with a fat chunk of descriptive text, just now squeezed into a tiny box. Seriously, look at this poo poo, the one on the right gives me a headache squinting to read it.


this can't be flavour text for ants because there are no bugpeople in this game

This also isn't the exception, this is the rule, for the "weapon cards," too.

The weapons section starts out, reasonably enough, with a bit on the legality of weapons, what sort of permissions you need in the Libertarian Spacecyberfuture to have a rocket launcher or a pistol, because despite the Space Cops literally being a corporation at odds with all the other corporations, their laws for gun control also extend into all jurisdictions, apparently. The writing is a bit schizo. But, what's worth noting is that as far as I can read, PC's are assumed to start out at the lowest level of clearance and gain more as time goes on. The lowest level of clearance is no weapons at all, not even melee weapons or sidearms. This means that, in fact, just punching and biting people, may remain as the most viable build, since you can't buy yourself into starting with weapon clearances, no, you have to earn them by doing missions.

And it's just, both the armor and the weapon sections drown in the author working out the SICKEST MOST BADASSES names for a bunch of fictional guns and suits of armor as well as descriptions of how incredibly kickass they are, and nowhere is there just a single table with the loving stats, on a single page, so you can easily compare two pieces of gear. It's all in those stupid loving "cards."

It's all just loving stupid minutiae from here on out, including the parts where the author again forgets that the Vectors are edited humans, not uplifted animals, and insists that they can have brain surgery to RE-AWAKEN THEIR ANCIENT PACK MENTALITY.

Mostly at this point I'm just flipping pages full of dumb, boring poo poo to get to the space magic, because I want to see if it's just as stupid as it was in the original.

Space Wizardry posted:

There are many frightening and strange technologies in the universe that are vastly more physically impressive than transcendent technology, but each of them works off the same set of standard scientific principles. Each can be reverse engineered by those in the know. Each is, essentially, smoke and mirrors.

I don't think the author knows what smoke and mirrors means, unless he literally means that all science is just flim-flamming the rubes. On the bright side, we no longer use our prettiness to cast space spells. On the other hand we can now use our muscles for it, quite literally, because the only thing that ups our Space Magic rolls are levelling up(which doesn't care where we invest the XP, just that we do) or being a horse. No, really.

Anyway, obviously we can still accidentally destroy ourselves with space magic, but at least now it seems like we won't accidentally have an implant installed that can only do that. On the other hand, now all implants can technically do that. If you use any of your space wizardry more than 6 times in a scene(or possibly less, if other people are using space magic, or if the GM just decides that's the case, or if you want to use anything but the lowest utility levels), the GM rolls a die and, let's see. It's basically even odds whether your PC is instantly written out of the game, whether loving 17 new NPC's join the fight if one is going on(yes everyone please applaud for no one getting anything done for the rest of the week while we resolve this, I don't believe HSD has any mass combat rules at all), whether the entire party gets teleported into deep space or whether something completely cosmetic happens.

Of course, some of the powers are still hot spicy dogshit, like Manifestation, which lets you summon AN ARMY OF SPACE MONSTERS... that are either just plain uncontrolled or may randomly become uncontrolled and attack everyone in sight rather than giving a gently caress what you want.

The remainder of the book is fiddly minutiae, like specific combat actions and grappling. Grappling, somehow, they managed to make less of a pile of unparseable dogshit than most games, but instead they settled for just making it useless. You can grapple someone, yes, but while grappling someone you can't, say, slam them into stuff, disarm them, choke them out, crush them, bite them, etc. no your only action is to keep grappling or stop grappling. As far as I can tell it doesn't even reduce their ability to dodge shots, or give their friends a chance of hitting them instead when aiming at you. Literally all it does is prevent them from acting, at the cost of also preventing you from acting.

...I think that's about the last bit of comedy to come out of HSD 2.0 unless it gets further DEEP LORE supplements like the original did. To recap!

The lore is actually a bit less offensive than the original... but only because there's less of it. Deep down it's exactly as loving dumb, and possibly slightly creepier in places.
The mechanics have been unfucked in several places... but at the cost of replacing them with unintuitive alternatives and fresh fuckups in other places.
The formating and editing has gone all to poo poo and while in the original, after a few reads, I could usually pretty quickly find what I needed and gen up a character, here I was generally happy about the sparse bestiary saving me from statting up a gently caress El Gecko to wrestle a Whisper again, because you literally need pieces scattered from page 100 to page 330(out of 340) to complete statting a character. Not fun or good design.

So in conclusion gently caress this author and I look forward to his next product.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Did you draw El Gecko.

So this whole thing is an exercise in including a ton of 'character options' without ever checking if one is just straight up better than all the others at every level and point in the system, wasn't it?

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


Night10194 posted:

Did you draw El Gecko.

Nah, a friend did, same guy who drew it for the first review. :v: I can't draw for poo poo.

Night10194 posted:

So this whole thing is an exercise in including a ton of 'character options' without ever checking if one is just straight up better than all the others at every level and point in the system, wasn't it?

It definitely doesn't feel like anyone ever considered balance, at any point.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Tell your friend El Gecko is fantastic.

It feels like a game designed on 'well setting wise it SHOULD be X' rather than 'Is there a reason to ever use X or not use X?', see the thing about spending money to buy permanent character upgrades or size making you impossible to hit or them having a telekinetic hat so that handless PCs don't suffer from handlessness.

Which is a terrible way to design a game.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



I've always been amused that the Spycraft 1.0 classes, except for the Wheelman, line up almost exactly with the Leverage character types: Faceman / Grifter, Fixer / Thief, Pointman / Mastermind, Snoop / Hacker, and Soldier / Hitter.

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Night10194 posted:

Give me an Office and a class and I'll make a couple Agents to show things off, as per usual.

A Soldier from the Basement. Someone's recycling their Hunter: The Vigil character.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Cythereal posted:

A Soldier from the Basement. Someone's recycling their Hunter: The Vigil character.

I used this system for Superspies vs. Eldritch Horrors and it was fun times.

I think every game I've played in or run did something besides the norm. Like game 1 was 'you're actually the forerunner to the X-COM project' as I've said, Game 2 was Ghost in the Shell, and Game 3 was more X-COM about a different team, while the game I actually ran was 'what if Delta Green was an action movie'.

Tibalt
May 14, 2017

What, drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word, As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee


Wetworks Wheelman. Rule #1: never change the deal.

I mostly want to see if you can make a good martial artist character with the Wheelman class.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Tibalt posted:

Wetworks Wheelman. Rule #1: never change the deal.

I mostly want to see if you can make a good martial artist character with the Wheelman class.

Martial Arts is actually potentially one of the strongest ways to do melee in Spycraft 1e, the issue is just it's very feat-heavy. The feats are actually mostly pretty useful, and it's pretty easy to dip in enough to use hand to hand for melee in the first place, but the Wheelman is already stuck trying to be so good at the wheel that it's usually only Soldiers who genuinely try to master martial arts.

Also, a Wheelman who took Martial Arts instead of Melee won't get as great at the best Wheelman Prestige Class: The Street Knight. A modern knight should use a fast Japanese motorcycle and a baseball bat, right?

kommy5
Dec 6, 2016


Wet works Fixer. A Soviet secret agent that gets into places and solves the motherland’s problems with polonium and a weaponized umbrella.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Spycraft 1e

Operation Darkness

So, people wanted darker PCs, so here they come. And heck, let's give them some 1960s superspy flair since there's a Soviet, a kung fu murder driver, and a monster hunter. That way there's still a Soviet Union, and they can all team up to hunt down some remnant Nazi vampires or something.

First up is a Basement Soldier. He starts off with 15, 14, 8, 12, 16, and 16 for stats. That 8 is gonna hurt, no matter where it goes. See, Charisma is not safe for a dump stat here. Charisma is part of your Budget. You want a positive Charisma modifier as a Soldier.

So he'll put the 8 in Wisdom, making it 10 from Basement. He'll have decent enough Will from Basement anyway. A 14 goes in Charisma, dropping to 12 from Basement. 16 goes in Strength and Con, 15 in Dex (He'll raise that at level 4), and then 12 in Int. Just a generally competent guy, overall, at 16 Str, 15 Dex, 16 Con, 12 Int, 10 Wis, 12 Cha. We'll name him David Cross; that seems like a good 'guy with permanent five 'o clock shadow and haunted eyes' name. Callsign is Hunter.

As a Basement Agent he gets a free Skill Feat. Now, in normal D&D, Skill Feats are a waste of a Feat Slot. Here, a bit less so; see, Skill Feats also increase your chance to critically succeed at a skill. Being a Soldier, he has a rough time with these; they all require 1 in each skill they increase and he can't actually take any without Cross Class skills. He'll take Outdoorsman; makes him better with Survival, Use Rope, and Handle Animal, giving +2 to each and letting him Crit on a 19+ if he spends a die. He's a former park ranger from out west who Saw Some poo poo and now he's a superspy.

Being a 1st level d20 character, he gets 24 skillpoints; (4+Int+1 for Basement)x4. He can only assign skills to 4, and Soldier...is not really about non-combat skills. He'll put 2 in Handle Animal so he can have his feat, and 4 in Survival, 2 in Use Rope. Then 4 into Spot, 4 into Tumble, and 4 into the ever-present and helpful Demolitions skill. If his gun won't kill it, bombs might. He'll also take 4 in Climb. Always good to be able to get up a tree.

He also starts with max Vit for level one, so 15 Vitality, 16 Wounds. It takes a lot of punishment to kill him and that's only going up. He'll pay the Point Blank Shot Feat Tax and Speed Trigger, which lets him burst-fire with semiauto weapons. Trust me, that's useful, and also an important bit of Feat Tax towards many useful abilities. It's d20, there's a lot of Feat Tax; most of it is more often useful as you climb up the Feat Tax tree, but still. He'll be working towards close-range shotgun work. As a Soldier, he can use pretty much any weapon, and we'll get to equipping these people when we get to items and dip into the hilariously over-detailed Modern Arms Guide. Still, there he is. A decent fighter with pistol and shotgun, decent with a melee weapon just because of Soldier and base stats, and not much of a spy. He's pretty dangerous in a forest, though, and reasonably athletic. He's still paying some of the prices for how there are too many skills in base 3e.

Also comes with a +5 Fort Save, +3 Reflexes, and still a +1 Will from being a Basement agent. +0 Defense, +1 Init

Next up is a Wheelman, from the Wetworks department. He starts rolling and gets 8, 15, 17, 12, 14, 12. Not bad at all. He'll assign the 8 to Wis (Not that important for a Wheelman), the 15 to Dex, a 17 to Str (which raises to 19 for Wetworks), a 14 to Con (down to 12 for Wetworks), and his 12s to Int and Charisma. Since he's meant to be a martial artist and the driving is just what he gets on the side, he's a huge, huge man. We'll call him Tobias Rieper. Freelance troubleshooter. Codename 47 Cleaner.

As he's focusing mainly on Martial Arts, he will buy Martial Arts as his base feat; this lets him use his unarmed attacks as a d6 Lethal or Subdual weapon that counts as being armed and crits on a 20. Because he is huge, he will spend his other feat on Punching Basics, which gives him two abilities: One, he gets to count his Unarmed as a two-handed weapon (using 1.5xStr modifier for damage), and two, whenever he punches someone, he can choose to move them 5 ft. backwards. Potentially off a cliff. Or into a wall, which does some extra damage.

For skills, he gets 28 Skillpoints, and puts them in Drive 4, Piloting 4, Boating 4, Mechanics 4, Escape Artist 4, Intimidate 4, Swim 4, and Disguise 4. Yes, Disguise. Has to be able to switch out his clothes at a moment's notice. Also gets 13 Vit, 12 Wounds. He's not as tough if someone can see him coming, but his martial arts attacks are killer if you don't see him coming, and his skill with mechanics also means he knows a lot about sabotaging peoples' cars and boats.

As a wheelman, we'll get to Tobias's car when we get to cars and chases; these people will be with us awhile. Also comes with +5 Reflexes, -1 Will, and +1 Fort, with a +1 Init and Defense bonus. Also gets a further +1 to Init for Wetworks.

Next, for a Soviet superspy, we'll do Svetlana Ivanovna Golovko. She served in the Great Patriotic War and now this magical nazi bullshit is apparently back 24 years later and needs its neck broken, even if it means working with a weirdo assassin and an American. She gets our first 18, a 12, a 14, a 14, a 14, and...a 14. Well. That's a lotta 14s. As you can see from rolling stats, you get pretty widely divergent characters; Sveta's just going to be better than the other two, stats-wise. She'll get a 12 Str (raised to 14 by Wetworks), a 14 Con (lowered to 12; she's getting on in years), an 18 Dex, a 14 Int, a 14 Wis, and a 14 Cha.

She has a (seeming) shitload of skills; 40 Skillpoints. But as per normal, she wants to keep a bunch of skills maxed instead of spreading them. 4 in Move Silent, Hide, Open Locks, Mechanics, Bluff, Tumble, Spot, Search, Sleight of Hand, and Demolitions. She's a good liar, thief, and saboteur. And not bad in a fight.

For her Unarmed feat from Wetworks, she takes Martial Arts. She won't go harder into Martial Arts, but never, ever being unarmed is pretty useful for a killer and makes a good dip. She also buys the Stealthy feat, because Hide and Move Silent are her thing, and critting with them is helpful.

She comes out to 9 Vit, 12 Wounds; notice she has about half David's HP. She also has +1 Defense, a +7 Reflexes save, +2 on Fort, and +2 on Will. +0 Init. Does still get another +1 to Init from Wetworks, at least. She's not a great fighter, but she's good enough, especially if she gets the element of surprise. Besides, the other two are heavy killer types; she's there to sneak around and get things done while they're wrestling dark things and emptying a shotgun everywhere.

One of the huge issues everyone in Spycraft faces is that while Feats are...better than in D&D, Feats still have the problem of massive feat trees and necessary huge investments to meet pre-reqs. Similarly, there's always going to be some gaps in your skills, because you're strongly incentivized to focus heavily on what skills you can learn rather than spreading your points around, and a lot of things are very... 'this should be one skill, not 3'. Why is Listen separate from Spot, for instance? Just how D&D 3e was designed. Ask Monte Cook. It makes it difficult to be truly widely talented, which is one of the places Spycraft runs into issues. Also, as we'll go into in more detail in Skills, D20 has never been very good about 'what constitutes being good at a thing'. And D20 has never really rewarded splitting up abilities or going outside your lane much; Tobias would be more effective as a Soldier, for instance, because he'll probably end up not being very good at being a wheelman while also not having the Feats to really master the Martial Arts (which takes like 12 Feats. They all get you something, but he never even gets 12 feats).

D20 and its derivatives, even a fairly well considered one like Spycraft, have always struggled with the fact that an average PC only gets 8 (9 in Spycraft, with your Office Feat) feats. So whole trees of feats just...aren't that great for certain characters because feats are an incredibly precious character resource that doesn't really get treated like it. Yes, Martial Arts is already useful in one or two feats, but if you're focusing on it enough to really make it great you don't have enough feats to waste on stuff like skill feats, or style feats, or whatever. Your character resources are limited and as precious as a baby dipped in diamonds; you can't afford to spend them on a whim or a flavor ability. Look at how little David will get out of that Basement feat, for instance. This is a persistent problem with almost every d20 derivative and while Spycraft often makes the journey to a capstone feat a little better, well...the issue's still there. It doesn't matter how many cool 'you're awesome at playing cards like James Bond' Feats you put in the game; if people can only take a couple of these over the course of a campaign, they'll be stuck buying and pre-planning exactly what they need instead.

Next Time: What any of these Skills mean, and why Skills are a weakness

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 19:50 on Jun 21, 2019

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


You may also notice another common weakness of d20 rearing its head: There's a reason almost everyone who plays any d20 system starts at level 3. At level 1, you really can't do your 'thing', whatever your 'thing' is. Honestly, in earlier d20? Often you don't have a real build until even later. And depending on a campaign, leveling up can be very, very slow. Very few people will have stories of actually playing a PC level 1 to level 20, and most high level abilities rarely see play in actual campaigns.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!




Coalition Wars 6: Final Siege, Part 11- "Designer's Note: I had originally planned to present this area in excruciating and delightful detail."


"Wow!! Cool empire!!!"

Eastern Quadrant

This is the downtown and also where most of the government buildings are found.

  • 1. The Grand Mall & Retail District: We get a laundry list of the sorts of businesses you can find here. Fur traders? We've got fur traders. Trading furs. At least until everything gets blowed up. Siembieda mentions this was going to be a longer section, but he ran out of space (I can't imagine where he might find anything to cut, too... :rolleyes:). Of course, it gets blowed up. "Coalition soldiers seemed to take great time and delight in toppling statues and monuments, desecrating churches and destroying works of art and history."
  • 4. The Tolkeen Center: An indoor arena / stadium that becomes a refugee stronghold. "Ten thousand are killed... the thousands who surrender are executed." Yep, these are the Coalition generals that are supposed to be better than Drogue. "Oh, civilians? Giving themselves up voluntarily?" cues up "Bodies" by Drowning Pool
  • 11. Tech-Center Tower: "... becomes a military bunker during the Final Siege and is part of the defense of the King's Tower and the heart of the city. It is razed to the ground."
  • 12. Gold Sky Towers: "... becomes a military bunker during the Final Siege and is part of the defense of the King's Tower and the heart of the city. It is razed to the ground."
  • 13. King's Tower: The heart of the Tolkeen government, this is one of the most well-protected buildings, made out of self-repairing magic material. This is where the King and the Circle of Twelve rule from. Still, the Coalition manages to blow off the top floors before it can self-repair and they essentially lay siege to it as it becomes the last redoubt of the Tolkeen forces. The Tolkeen defense is led by "The Expendables" (no relation to the movie, given how much earlier this was), a handful of soldiers who end up having their hearts wired to explosives and make a death run at the Coalition lines. (This does not matter.)

Rifts Coalition Wars 6: Final Siege posted:

When the Mighty Falls: The carnage around the King's Tower makes the Battle at Little Big Horn look like a minor traffic accident. Big, Mighty Jo Mack, a mutant N'mbyr Gorilla Man who is five tunes the normal size for his race, stands atop what's left of the King's Tower, clutching the inert body of Captain Grace Nevay in his hand. Capt. Nevay had been one of the Kingdom's stalwart military leaders. Jo has lost it. He, like many others, can not accept the apparent fate of Tolkeen and flies into a berserker rage, compelling him to scale the Tower, Captain Nevay in hand, and shout his primal roar of anger, frustration and hate from the building's rooftop. It is seen by many, far and wide, as one last act of (futile) defiance in the face of the enemy. Jo is too good a target to pass up, and CS troops in the air sweep in for the kill.


"Have you folks heard about how this is really just a failure on all parts?"

Southern Quadrant

This is a largely residential area, but also has Bio-Domes and museums. Also, it's the last direction to cover. Thoth be praised!

  • 7. Lady Wood Orphanage: Man, I'm reminded of somebody I used to know that could never stop talking about her "lady boners". It's not relevant here, mind, it just brings back memories. Anyway, this is pretty much a cut-paste of the last orphanage description, only bigger: there are 5,000+ orphans here, with 2d6 being claimed a week and 1d6 being brought to them every day! Those are numbers that will never matter, but there you have it. Did you know the biggest orphanage in the real world has only around 1,000 orphans from the Syrian War? It's true. This is five times bigger than any orphanage we've ever made for a community far smaller than many modern locales. But, you know, that's just nitpicking. What isn't nitpicking is how it'll grow to 7,000 orphans and they they'll just be praying the Coalition doesn't pop them like bubble wrap. Yeah, I'm sure that'll work out.
  • 8. War-Relief Sanctuary House: This is a front for a kidnapping and slavery operation that takes homeless, sick, and injured here and will "disappear" some of them to sell to... well, people who have evil alignments on their sheets, I suppose. Also they've made contact with the Splugorth and sell to them, which... you'd think people would notice giant slave barges in the middle of a huge city siege, but maybe they're ninja giant slave barges. (This is Rifts, after all.)
  • 12. House of Tiny Miracles: Miracle cleaners, that is. The owner had a special cleaning solution that apparently was super-good, but apparently since he didn't want Coalition to get his special cleaning solution, he set the business on fire and committed suicide. The fire burned down the rest of the block. Mind, given it was a "popular" item, the chances are the Coalition may have found a bottle anyway. And, sure, that's all a downer, but how about that King Kong bit? That was funny, right? Right? ;)
  • 13. The Dragon's Bio-Dome: A special Bio-Dome to comfort dragons, and for some reason gets well over a page of details. I love how Siembieda opines how he doesn't have enough space, and then suddenly weren't getting details on the types of snakes and magic lemurs you find in Dragon House. I mean, it would make for a good set piece during the war, particularly given it's larger inside than outside, but it's just kind of odd that this, of all things, is singled out and given more attention than even the King's Tower.
  • 14. Lar-Desert Bio-Dome: A desert biome designed for Larmac, which I'm sure is warranted. "Hey, we have a bunch of lazy D-Bees with no ambition. Let's build them a chillout house!" Makes sense.
  • 15. Gargolo Bio-Dome: This is a hilly / mountainous Bio-Dome with a large network of tunnels underneath. Hey, I thought there wasn't any underground shelters? I mean, this isn't technically a shelter, but any port in an atomic storm...
  • 17. Botanical Gardens (Bio-Dome): "It is one of the few things that the CS tries to preserve."

Not Rifts Coalition Wars 6: Final Siege posted:

Private Clot: Oh, man. Flowers! These aren't nearly as tough as dragons! I'm gonna kill me some!

Sergeant Tork: Woah there, son. Safeties on. Don't you touch those flowers.

Private Clot: But why not? The ex-ter-min-a-shun of Tolkeen is our mission. Leave no survivors, the commander said! Flowers are survivors.

Sergeant Tork: Look, son. When you've been in as many wars as I have, you learn a few things.

Private Clot: How many wars have you been in?

Sergeant Tork: None, this is the first war by the Coalition in our lifetime. Except for the other one going on at the same time, of course.

Private Clot: Then how- I mean- if-

Sergeant Tork: Look, don't strain your brain, son! When you've been in as many wars as I have, you'll understand what it's really like!

Private Clot: Oh, okay. But, what are we going to do about all these flowers?

Sergeant Tork: Look, war does things to your mind. You have to shoot ladies. Children. Occasionally even a man, if you can believe it. Point is, it wears on a soldier.

Private Clot: You're saying you feel guilty, sir? That's... treasonous...

Sergeant Tork: Of course not! You just... you think, "Have I killed enough babies? What about the guy to the left of me? How many babies has he killed? Am I really doing enough baby-killing to make humanity proud?" The doubt, it... gets to you. Eats you up inside.

Private Clot: You're talking about D-Bee babies, right?

Sergeant Tork: Sure, kid, sure. Do you know a lot of D-Bee babies look just like human babies before they grow up? True story. Best to just shoot them all. There's a reason I watch my own baby like a hawk every time I'm on leave. Ready in case she changes.

Private Clot: W-whoakay.

Sergeant Tork: Anyway, after you're done with a long day of exterminating inhuman lives like so much bubble wrap, and you're just... torn up inside, knowing you have to do things like sleep, or eat, or piss... all of these things that cut into your time that could be spent unleashing plasma on the recently born... well, only one thing can take your mind off of that. Well, two things. Together, specifically.

Private Clot: What're those, sir?

Sergeant Tork: The first... is flowers.

Private Clot: Oo-okay.

Sergeant Tork: The second... is the pre-cataclysm song "Bodies", by Drowning Pool.

Private Clot and Sergeant Tork, together: Let the bodies hit the floor! Let the bodies hit the floor!
  • 18. Museum District: 18 different museums listed and "park with park benches, pigeons and a manicured lawn". All of which are looted or wrecked. "Grab that pigeon! For humanity!"
  • 19. Expedition Expediters Unlimited: A second Naruni front business that eventually offers help with escape routes, but if the PCs use them they're automatically associated with the Naruni somehow and get killed by the Coalition or just people what hate the Naruni.
  • 20. Storage Facilities: No text. No doubt Siembieda numbered the map, then realized he was low on space, so- yeah.
  • 21. The Linesman's Club: As in Ley Line Walkers, get it? It somehow gets "undetected" by Coalition intelligence and the bargoers manage to evacuate 3000 people at the last minute. It would make a lot more sense if it was just Coalition soldiers ignoring the bar so they could have a drink, but nope. They're just dumb.
No matter how you remember the War on Tolkeen, remember this: it was an event written so that hundreds of thousands are being killed in the streets. The old, the young, the babies are being killed by Neo-Neo-Nazi Fascists...

... and Siembieda is like "How about a hee-larious parody of a half-century old movie?"

Next: War stories.

Not Rifts Coalition Wars 6: Final Siege posted:

Private Clot: What about the Juicer Uprising? I fought in that! Wasn't that a war?

Sergeant Tork: An uprising's not a war! Not even close! You'll understand one day, son.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


So do we ever get a book where the Coalition similarly pays for 'its hatred' or whatever or is that something that only happens to non-nazis?

I know the answer, I just have to keep expressing my disgust because gently caress this poo poo.

Zereth
Jul 8, 2003




Seatox posted:

I remember reading that! And there's the unpublished (And probably unwritten/unwritable) sequel for the designated antagonists that you're supposed to turn into when you do the TIME FITE, where the rules are supposedly even more different and contradictory!

Edit again: I am now imagining a Time Travel RPG designed by Monte Cook, and it is giving me the Fear.
I thought the big Dirty Secret of the Continuum folks was that their time travel mechanics are artificial and enforced by the implants they use to do their time traveling? In an effort to preserve the timeline that led to the guys in charge, while Narcissists, not using that specific time travel method, can do all sorts of crazy poo poo that'd trigger the kill switch in a Continuum person's internal time travel gear?

PoultryGeist
Feb 26, 2013

Crystals?

I'll admit that I've started fast-scrolling through the Rifts(tm)(c)(LLC) write-ups since the game line has gone full-on Cool Nazis Bro!, but tossing in the end of King Kong/Mighty Joe Young in as something that the players just get to watch is just a new level of WTF

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





Zereth posted:

I thought the big Dirty Secret of the Continuum folks was that their time travel mechanics are artificial and enforced by the implants they use to do their time traveling? In an effort to preserve the timeline that led to the guys in charge, while Narcissists, not using that specific time travel method, can do all sorts of crazy poo poo that'd trigger the kill switch in a Continuum person's internal time travel gear?

According to the Narcissists book, yes. I'm inclined towards their point of view but both books are extremely inclined to side with and justify their own faction.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Night10194 posted:

So do we ever get a book where the Coalition similarly pays for 'its hatred' or whatever or is that something that only happens to non-nazis?

I know the answer, I just have to keep expressing my disgust because gently caress this poo poo.
What astonishes me beyond the slow loving skulljob is how they just totally waste this premise of Robot Hellforce vs. the Minnesota Wizards.

Rand Brittain
Mar 24, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."

Yeah, Continuum and Narcissist explicitly run on different sets of assumptions.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Nessus posted:

What astonishes me beyond the slow loving skulljob is how they just totally waste this premise of Robot Hellforce vs. the Minnesota Wizards.

The fact that it wanted you to think a rad wizard vaporizing a bunch of idiots who thought skull-faces made them look scary is a bad thing was the first sign this was a crazy place.

E: Like what the hell? Vaporizing Nazis is the only completely 100% safe and ethical use of magic in all of fiction. No matter what you're doing, no matter how much a wizard might not be aware of right or wrong, they can know it's safe to assume that vaporizing Nazis is the universal point where magic is being used for the good of all.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 20:28 on Jun 21, 2019

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Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

I admit I haven't closely followed the Coalition/Tolkeen war, but my understanding is that the wizards had everything they needed to teleport into Coalition headquarters and level it, and the books never really explain why that didn't happen. Plus the whole thing where the Coalition has more military hardware than the modern United States.

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