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SirPhoebos
Dec 10, 2007

WELL THAT JUST HAPPENED!



Part 7: Exotics

Chromebook 2 concludes by introducing Exotics. This is how to be a Furry in Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. Also bolted onto this section are an elaboration on the cybertherapy rules that were briefly mentioned in the core book. Because this is the logical place to include them, not in the part where you add full borgs to the game!

Chromebook 2 posted:

Therapy is a regimen (referred to as "torture" by patients) designed to assist the patient in recovering use of damaged muscles and nerves. In game terms, therapy lowers the humanity loss from any injury/implant as the patient is helped to understand what has happened and how to use his/ her new parts; and is given practice in using them.

The anti-therapy attitude of this section is just the beginning of the problems with this section. Setting that aside for a second, this is clearly based on someone’s house rules, because Humanity Loss only occurs when you install cybernetics (and take certain drugs). You don’t suffer it from taking damage or needing regular surgery! So there are three levels of therapy: Outpatient, Inpatient, and Intensive Care. The first two are self-explanatory. Intensive is like Inpatient but, well:

uhhhhhhhhhhh posted:

The patient not only lives in the facility but has his/ her nervous system and psyche probed each day for "fine-tuning" (in essence, a trained psychological team rebuilds the patient's personality into one that minimizes identity loss. By the time they're done, the psych team knows more about the person than the person does, so you'd better trust these people with all of your innermost secrets).
hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

The amount of time needed for therapy is based on the surgery code of the operations needed to install the cyberware (hope you don’t have anything that forgot that info!). You add all the surgeries together, counting 4 Negligible surgeries as 1 Minor, 2 Minor surgeries as 1 Major, and 2 Major surgeries as 1 critical. You then consult the following tables to see how many weeks of therapy you need, how much it will cost, and the percentage of HC you recover.



Let’s go back to the Full Borgs for a bit. The surgery code for them was Critical X2. That’s 16 weeks of Inpatient/ICT therapy, or 32 weeks of Outpatient therapy. Outpatient therapy costs 32,000 eb, almost as expensive as the basic Full Borg itself. Inpatient therapy costs 80,000 eb, higher than any Full Borg save the Dragoon. ICT costs 160,000, which tops even the Dragoon.

What do you get in return? Let’s set aside the Dragoon because that mega-cheats with the HL rules. The highest HC after the Dragoon is the Eclipse, which costs 21D6+3, or on average 76.5. With outpatient therapy, after 32 weeks the Eclipse recipient gets back 19 Humanity, rounded down. Inpatient therapy recovers 25 Humanity after 16 weeks, and ITC recovers 38 over the same amount of time. But the patient is doing nothing else while doing Inpatient or ITC.

And Full borgs are special cases. Just getting a cyberlimb requires Critical Surgery. So if instead of a full conversion, someone just gets a pair of cyberlegs, then they spend the same amount of time and money for therapy but on average they can only recover 7 Humanity even with ITC. And there are some important questions that don’t get answered, like what happens if a patient quits part way through, or whether you can take therapy again to get the same benefits.

In conclusion, these rules are bad, mostly due to the fact that it’s based on surgery codes. It’s also just too expensive unless the Referee is forking out money. I’d base the time on the cumulative HC dice.

Now onto the Exotics. There are 19 different options to modify your body. These modifications include everything from facial modifications to giving you an exoskeleton. Of the 19 modifications, 15 have special notes. There are a couple of notes worth talking about. First, the modifications reprint the Scratchers and Rippers cyberweapons from the core book but at lower HC “due to implantation in a good hospital environment”. I think the writer of this section has a different idea of what HC represents than R.Talsorian does. Second, the modification to become an actual furry/scalie/insect person has a 10% chance to cause cancer! Cancer can be cured in CP2020, and is actually going to be less expensive for the average player than the therapy costs from earlier.

Finally, there’s the Behavior Chips. Behavior chips create a strong urge to act in a certain way. They were briefly mentioned in the core book as a way to control prisoners, but according to this section people just use them recreationally! There are no rules for what this does, I guess you just have to do whatever the Referee says you do now? Instead we get lots of rules about how quickly you get addicted to them, and these rules more or less ruin any character that uses them.

I...I want to try and be fair and give the writer the benefit of the doubt that maybe he intended this to be a story hook, like drugs but in the form of a cyberchip. But there’s no indication on how the implantee feels when the chip is installed, just how they act. The only notes on how the recipient feels is after the chip is removed. And it’s been included here with all this furry fan-service. And when we get to the one example of the chip in use...yeah the writer had no greater thought to adding this to the game. This was meant to enforce wackiness. Or as we'll see, enforce his Magical Realm.

One last bit is that there are several options that give penalties to REF, the most important stat in the game. :bravo:


Damnit, Father Mushroom, you’ve gone too far!

And now onto the examples of exotic packages, and it’s just filled to the brim with unfunny animal puns that you’ve seen a thousand times. Are there lots of implications that these body modifications are the most shallow representation of your personality? You bet there are! Does each one look like a trace of an 80s cartoon? How could it not!

Cyberfuraffinity 2.0.2.0. posted:

For those really interested in deception, psychological studies indicate that people are less threatened by mice than by any other exotic. What better way to conceal your true nature ... until they find that you're the mouse that roars!


totally not threatening!

This loving section posted:

And girls, remember, men world-wide have been conditioned for over half a century to regard the "bunny" as the epitome of feminine sexuality. Okay, so they won't think you're likely to win any Nobel prizes, but you'll be popular!


Shut. The hell. Up. posted:

Tempted, but afraid to scare off the girls? Don't worry! Independent research has found that Dragon-Men rate on a sexuality scale alongside and sometimes even higher than the felines!


I’m sorry, but Trogdor references deserve better than this

So, what are the stand-outs? Well there’s a fantasy package if you just wanted to prentend you were playing Shadowrun instead. There’s the Superhuman package for all the fascists playing the game. I’m not kidding.

:fuckoff: posted:

Thanks to gene-splicing nanotech, cloning, chemical enhancement and bionics, you can be an Ubermensch, the future of humanity!

And lastly, at the conclusion of this book, there’s the Playbeing. It has the Behavior Chip in it’s package.

https://imgur.com/ZvgUsvi
(:nws: for really bad camel toe. And just sod this entry on principle.)

Just... posted:

The "erotic exotic" is always a welcome and popular guest. And what makes a playbeing different from anormal exotic? Those "special extras under the hood," so to speak. lose your inhibitions. Become a master {or mistress) of the arts of physical pleasure. Who needs drugs or pleasure-center wireheading? Please yourself and others at the same time, with just a few "enhancements."

This Cannot Continue posted:

Warning: Biotechnica refuses to install the playbeing package in any person without a signed waiver indicating that the applicant wishes to become a playbeing and absolves Biotechnica of all legal responsibility for any psychological aberations or problems arising from the playbeing package.

Call the police posted:

Disclaimer: The rumors of persons being converted to exotic playbeings against their willby Biotechnica are false; as can easily be seen below, Biotechnica requires a legal waiver indicating intent and protecting against unfounded legal action before allowing any person to purchase a playbeing accessory package for installation. Any proven incidents of playbeing "manufacture" are due to unscrupulous agencies not related to Biotechnica.

As a quick reminder, Biotechnica invented CHOOH2, one of the foundational technologies of the setting. And this is there big follow up.

I have no words. Only vomit.

fin

SirPhoebos fucked around with this message at 16:45 on Jun 25, 2019

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Seatox
Mar 12, 2012


Well that was a sudden, jarring transition into the cyber-whizzard's magical realm.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


That was more sudden and significantly worse than I ever imagined.

Midjack
Dec 24, 2007





Congratulations on the end of the marathon, ARB!

Also the playbeing is, um, definitely a thing that happened in an official release.

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers, stern and wild ones, and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.


Clapping Larry

The concept of extreme body mods is not terrible or out of the genre. This implementation is vile.

Stephenls
Feb 21, 2013
[REDACTED]


My only guess here is that the bit about therapy being referred to as torture is a reference to the occasionally real practice of people undergoing physiotherapy referring to it as torture, almost always as a joke. "See? We know this topic! We're making the same jokes people who undergo it in real life do!"

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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

I was gonna point out that Maximum Mike must have meant anti materiel rifle and that the Interceptor is Max Rockatansky's car, but it all seems so petty now

Barudak
May 7, 2007



Throw one out for RIFTS, and by one I mean a punch in its goddamn Nazi face.

Also congrats CP2020 for successfully demonstrating a theme of your game by publishing a book where after it gives you hundreds of cybernetic options its humanity dropped too low and this happened.

MJ12
Apr 8, 2009



SirPhoebos posted:



Part 7: Exotics

Now onto the Exotics. There are 19 different options to modify your body. These modifications include everything from facial modifications to giving you an exoskeleton. Of the 19 modifications, 15 have special notes. There are a couple of notes worth talking about. First, the modifications reprint the Scratchers and Rippers cyberweapons from the core book but at lower HC “due to implantation in a good hospital environment”. I think the writer of this section has a different idea of what HC represents than R.Talsorian does. Second, the modification to become an actual furry/scalie/insect person has a 10% chance to cause cancer! Cancer can be cured in CP2020, and is actually going to be less expensive for the average player than the therapy costs from earlier.

According to a post made on Reddit by Mike Pondsmith, the entire Exotics section was written by one dude who just wanted to troll another guy who really hated furries so um, this explains quite a lot about the section and its magical-realmness.

The 'actually going to a decent hospital over a ripperdoc gets you lower HC costs' thing kind of gets elaborated on with European hospitals, which are apparently better enough compared to American ones that they can halve HC costs for cyberware implantation. Combine that and the therapy rules and you can cut down the net humanity cost of a Dragoon to a positively svelte 10d6 + 1d6/2 + 0.75, which means that you can almost certainly have a playable character at the end of the implantation. I think this is more of an issue that there was no really definitive understanding of what humanity costs meant in the first place. You can also see this play out a little in how the corebook says that Realskinning a cyberlimb reduces its humanity cost slightly, but here the Gemini doesn't have any reductions in humanity cost despite looking and feeling identical to a human.

I don't think the numbers they give are actually bad though-the prohibitive humanity cost of implant weapons was incredibly punishing from the start, especially since very few of them are particularly worthwhile.

Asimo
Sep 23, 2007




Grats on finishing the Rifts reviews! Even if it's a shame it was kind of a stark downward slide at the end there. I forget where I stopped bothering to follow the line, I think somewhere around Juicer Uprising, but the little bits I saw of later books - and then these reviews - proved I made a wise decision. :( I remember seeing you and occamsnailfile stressing over the review writing, and it's still impressive it's gone this long. I still don't hate RIFTS or Siembieda himself, but it's still kind of a weird coelacanth-esque RPG relic in both game design and uh, social issues, so I'm glad it's got this much reviewing.

shades of eternity
Nov 9, 2013

Where kitties raise dragons in the world's largest mall.

Ty Alien Rope Burn, your writings over the last 7 years have provided an ample amount of closure. :)

Warning rant ahead as well as a meandering personal reflection.

************************************************************

At the time, I was a wet behind the ears kid just on the edge of high school.

I picked up Rifts Africa because the gm was running the four horseman campaign and was immediately disappointed.

(see my Rifts Africa rant below for details)
http://breadthofpopsanity.blogspot.com/2015/07/rifts-rpg-africa-rant.html

I was so disappointed in it that I ended up wondering if I could do a better job.

So to the library I went with the foolish notion I could write my way through college.

I sent a request to Kevin Siembieda, which he was receptive to the idea.

So about a year later I had managed to use a ton of African myths, bizarre cultures, and the precedent left from the previous book to write Africa 2.

It was accepted, and then a year later rejected, hense the re-release of rifts Africa with the new cover.

In effect, it metaphorically sank into the swamp.

So I rewrote it for d20, before realizing I needed to do North America first, so it got shelved.

After many "burned down, fell over then sank into the swamp" experiences including one hell of a botched experience running my own company,
Dark Revelations - the Role Playing Game rose from it's ashes in a usable form.

I'd like to thank Barudak for his posts on reviewing the d20 version. It has been absolutely invaluable for prepping the 5e version and fixing all the mistakes made along the way.

Here's a link below to the first game of it, that started yesterday

http://www.drevrpg.com/2019/06/the-great-mall-at-edge-of-universe-part.html

but the main reason I'm posting this is because of Rifts Aftermath.

Specifically the following line:

"There is a Gorilla God and perhaps other ancient whom claimed all of Zaire for themselves and smite all those who offend them."

I'd like to state that no matter how bad the original manuscript was, I have never written a Gorilla God at any time of it's creation and am more then happy to show anybody the proof. :p

Thank you all. :)

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Spycraft 1e

Skillpoints and the Eternal Sorrow of Cross Class

So. Skills. This is one of the places where I can't quite blame Spycraft for the badness that's coming. The main issue for Spycraft is that Skills are significantly more important to a superspy narrative than a dungeon adventure. Yeah, skills come up in D&D, but most classes are primarily evaluated around their ability in combat, since combat is the core of most of D&D's milieu. Thus, D&D 3e's skill system being a poorly considered pile is considerably more of a challenge for Spycraft.

Let's get some background. I'm not a huge d20 Expert; I've never done hardcore character optimization, I've only run a few campaigns with it, and most of my interaction with the system comes from a really good GM I had in high school. Guy managed to still find things for my PC to do when I was playing a Marshal, for God's sake. I had a 'good GM' (the shield lovely systems rely on) who worked hard to make sure even the shittiest character classes had space to contribute. I've also run one Pathfinder game, before realizing around level 9 or 10 that my group and I all loving hated Pathfinder. So I am not a master of the underlying system. But I think I have enough experience to make a couple general criticisms of it, especially as they pertain to Spycraft.

So for a first step, let's talk about how many skills there are in Spycraft and how d20 checks work. There are 46 skills in Spycraft. There should be far fewer; Listen and Spot don't need to be separate skills, nor do Hide and Move Silently, etc. But still, this is the world we live in. Use Rope is just as expensive to raise as Bluff. In a spy thriller. Most classes will have 15-25 Class Skills. You can technically buy into any non-class skill with 2 skillpoints per point, and with the cap on the skill being 1/2 what it would be if you had it as a class skill; unless there is a VERY pressing reason to do this, or you're a Soldier and your Skills aren't going to be very useful anyway, never do this. For instance, my Soldier bought a couple ranks of Computers for the times she was back at base so she could make Aid Another tests and help the actual hackers when she wasn't doing anything else; that was a fairly useful use of her mostly worthless Skillpoints. Skills go up to 3+Character Level for Class Skills, and 1/2 that for Cross Class. You add your Skill rank directly to your d20+Stat Bonus roll for skill tests. If you hit the DC, you succeed. Sometimes you'll succeed by more by hitting it better. If you get a nat 20 (Or less, if you have Skill Feats) you can spend an Action Die to Critically succeed. If you roll a 1 (or more, depending on the difficulty of what you're doing), the GM can spend dice to make you suffer an Error. Simple, right?

You can also spend extra time to avoid rolling and 'take 10', taking 10+Skill+Modifiers+Stat for a test if you aren't currently in danger. Similarly, if you have 20 times the normal time for the check and no penalty for failure, you can just declare you 'take 20' and get 20+Skill+Modifiers+Stat to simulate rolling until you get the max result. This doesn't auto-succeed like rolling a natural 20. Allies assisting you can make a DC 10 test; if they succeed, every ally who succeeded gives you +2 on your eventual main test. If you have 5 ranks (not +5, 5 actual skillpoint ranks) in a related skill, as listed in the skills, you get +2 to your test, too. So someone who is great at Bluffing will get a bonus to Disguise.

One of the issues pops up when you scroll down into the Skill descriptions. Basically every skill has a long description of how checks with it work, many of them having their own special rules and subsystems. They're absolutely full of modifiers that only apply to each individual type of skill test. You have to memorize synergies, feat bonuses, department bonuses, etc. A Jump Check does not, in fact, work anything like a Tumble check, and neither of them are like Cultures at all. They also have their own arrays of DCs and modifiers, and DCs can climb extremely high. You see, one of the issues of the D20 Skill System in general is that it's very hard to determine when a character is 'competent' at a skill. A specialized character will generally be gaining 1 point in the skill per level, and usually has a +3 or +4 stat bonus. Maybe +5 if you're later in a campaign or rolled great. DCs aren't determined by some kind of general 'challenge' level or scaled to PC ability at all. They're just naturalistically placed down. You can potentially see the problem.

Let's take doing sabotage, for instance. Say our Soviet Fixer is trying to sabotage an engine on a car and make sure it'll break down a little into a guy's trip so the party can pick him up for questioning. Reasonable superspy move. However, they're still level 1 for now. While Dex is said to be her prime stat, this is an Int check, so she 'only' has a +6 in this. +6 still sounds good for a level 1 character, right? However, the base DC is 25 for disabling an engine with sabotage. And her modifiers take it to 35. Sveta cannot do this. She will need to be level 10 or more before she has a chance to do this, or to raise her skills by taking Feats (Remember, you don't get many, and the Skill Feat bonus is just +2, then +1 per additional feat), etc. So the team has to take that interesting superspy move off the table, because the DC system is unbounded in how high it can be. What looked like a perfectly decent starting skill isn't actually enough to do many things you'd want to do consistently, let alone a big, plot-shifting move like above.

Now, some of that is the issue of level 1 D20, and part of why everyone starts at level 3 if they're sane. But even at level 3, Sveta could not get close to doing that. Even doing 'simple repairs' or trying to bypass a fairly basic mechanical trap still requires a 9+ for her, so only 60% odds. Is Sveta good at Mechanics? She has a maxed skill in it, and a 14 in its stat. But no, she is not. DCs vary wildly, and you need to stack a lot of bonuses to be consistent with skills or accomplish serious feats with them. Which requires planning your character carefully. Since DC is unbounded, you can never really guess whether or not you're in a place where you can consistently succeed with a non-combat skill. And someone who can hit a 35 DC can hit anything below it easily and consistently, which isn't so much of a problem but having no actual ceiling makes it hard to challenge someone who tries to climb up to 'I can accomplish interesting plot abilities with my Skills'. You could just raise DCs to keep a chance of failure, but if you're in a place where you're raising DC consistently as players level to 'challenge' them, you're in a place where you might as well just be flipping a coin instead of bothering with all this. Or worse, you're the Tome of Magic Truenamer. 'Oh, raise DC by 2 per level while they can only put 1 skillpoint into the skill per level, it'll be fine'. Bah!

The other issue with skills is this: Skills want to be this cool, granular system where you can dip around for flavor, as opposed to the heavy and awkward Nonweapon Proficiencies of 2nd edition. This is a decent design goal! But they're designed without actually thinking about things at all, so many things require DC 20 or whatever to do even basic tasks (like picking a lock), so you run into a situation where it's usually more effective to just pick Skills equal to your SP per level and keep them maxed. Like a lot of things in d20, trying to spread your points around will just end up making you bad at a bunch of things, when you could have been good at a couple instead. No-one should waste points on Hobby, or Profession, for the most part. Those exist for flavor, and you don't need flavor: You need to make sure you have good odds of getting the bug into place without being noticed and getting the hell out of this office building.

A lot of d20s issues, which are inherited by Spycraft, come down to wanting you to have 'freedom' to pick a bunch of flavor stuff, while never acknowledging you have tremendously limited character resources. Skillpoints aren't as individually precious as Feats, but you can still really gently caress yourself by choosing bad skills or trying to cross class 'because it makes sense for my character'. When you need 5 or 6 skills to do a standard breaking and entering, in a spy game, and when the DCs can easily be such that you need to put as much as possible into those skills? You don't have time to faff about with flavor picks. Some might call that minmaxing, but I call that an accusation designed to hide and shield the weak design of the original D20 system as it related to its design intent (d20 clearly intended to allow more freedom of development and choice in characters; it does not). Now, Spycraft actually leans into the 'fiddly bullshit bonuses' play of d20; you can tell by the fact that that's, uh, the entirety of Spycraft 2e. It leans into it and tries to do interesting things with being a very, very heavily mechanized and crunchy game. I can respect that. I'm not necessarily interested in playing a heavy d20 Charop game with the normal shortcuts removed (you can't write 'wizard' on your sheet and sidestep most of the system) but both versions of Spycraft endeavor to be good examples of that game and that's a legitimate design goal.

Spycraft 1e's issue is that it was developed very early in the OGL period, and it tries to follow after d20 rather than doing its own batshit 478 pages of dense rules thing like its sequel. So you're going to have to deal with having 'Use Rope' take up space on your character sheet, competing with things like 'do all kinds of awesome computer wizard stuff' or 'Lie' in a superspy game. Similarly, because characters have to specialize to be good at things, you run into situations where the PCs end up split up, often. For instance, say my Pointman, Agent Shigeru Morita, is built to be great at Gather Information and crime scene investigation because he's an FBI/X-Files guy. He's not often going to be in the same spaces as Sgt. Patricia Gallagher, giant Marine doorgunner, or Luke Crane, amazing criminal Faceman. Or the Hacker Farm back at base that they occasionally have to get into a secured facility to do on-site lookups. Characters often end up split up by their specialization, because Pat doesn't have anything she can do to help Luke with what Luke does, and Luke's entire job is to worm into an enemy organization and lair like a trapdoor spider, feeding them false information and protecting other operations.

Also, when you get to Prestige Classes, lots of them are A: Built around 'be especially good at one particular skill or scenario', which isn't necessarily useful when you could be good at it from your normal class already and B: Tend to be built around demanding you take a ton of skillpoints in skills that are only there for the flavor of the class. Do I really need Sport (Scuba), Stringray? You very sad Prestige Class (seriously, one of its class abilities is 'you're good at wearing little diving flippers')? So you wind up wasting Feats and Skillpoints to get into hyper-specialized classes that may or may not be great and that interrupt the general flow of your very strong base class as it is.

So in short, Skills are kind of a mess and they're made much more visible by the fact that the Skill System gets used as often or more often than the normal Combat system, and it really shows it isn't up to the spotlight. Plus, you can't just be a Wizard and bypass the entire skill system by casting spells, so you're going to have to CharOp your way through skills as hard as possible. Don't dip around, don't take 'flavor' choices, find some things to be great at and do your best.

And don't play Level 1 Agents, that way lies Dart in My Neck, accidental gunshot wounds, and being chased around London by guys in tracksuits, screaming for extraction.

Next Time: Oh God. Feats. Why.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Sig: Manual of the Primes
Be Free



The Ideological Plane of Freedom embodies the Belief that Law is a prison for the soul. It is a place of change, chaos and spontaneity, full of gray fog from which anything might emerge. Mountains drift past, their lava-falls singing. Armies of frogmen abduct travelers who cannot call forth imagination-shields, which quickly change into stranger things yet. While the place is unstable, it is a haven for free spirits, revolutionaries and creators. All that is constant is change. The Mists are the place of raw chaos, whirling and flowing, where new things are sprung forth from raw nothing. The Freebooter Cities are probably the most normal place in the plane, floating cities inhabited by small communes of like-minded people. Occasionally, they will take on jobs to get resources that have not sprung forth from the chaos recently. The Wild is an environment of ever-changing wilderness, where jungle becomes desert becomes tundra becomes mountains becomes oceans, all melting into each other freely.

The most famous people of the plane are the Feral. They are people who, regardless of what they were before, are infused with primal chaos. This draws forth bestial features and instincts. Sometimes their shifts in appearance are minor – horns, hooves, fur or scale. More often, however, they become full animal hybrids, harpies, goatpeople, centaurs, lizardfolk. They form small communities based on what animal families they belong to, united largely by the instinctual behaviors their new forms have given them and the often cult-like religions the Feral practice. Passing wildstorms may warp the bodies and instincts of the Feral again, changing what animal they have parts of, and in these cases the Feral shift communities to match it. They are known for their total defense of personal liberty, which has come at the cost of any really coherent and unified culture or civilization. Common Talents:
Chaos (Broad)
Nature (Broad)
Bestial Form (Common)
Wild Sorcery (Deep)

The greatest Faction of the plane is the League of Exterminators. Many things make their way into the City Between, and many of these things cause trouble. The League has the dubious pleasure of rooting out and disposing of the worst vermin of the ‘verse. If they can be eaten, they are sold for meat. If not, they are burned. If they cannot burn, they are frozen. If they cannot freeze, they are thrown into a hole to some random Prime, where hopefully some hero can deal with them. The League’s work ensures the people of Sig don’t have to worry about imps, gelatinous pyramids or screamspiders – and that’s very important work indeed.
Duty: Control the vermin and eliminate the pests.
Leverage: Transporting vermin and pests to anywhere they choose.
Example Agenda: Clean up the faith-leeches that are infesting the Street of Beneficent Powers.

One of the notable Powers of the plane is Calla the Wise, Power of Chaos, Revelry, Headaches and Paradoxes. Nearly every culture has a trickster figure or chaos-spreader, a figure that spreads disorder and change in stagnant societies. Calla is the Power who teaches tricksters how to wield their chaotic might. They have infinite names and faces, and many clever students. They teach that all statements are at least partially true, sometimes false, often meaningless, true and false part of the time, true and meaningless maybe, false and meaningless when it’s important, and true and false and meaningless whenever you like.
Devotion: Never believe what you read.
Ritual: The Paradigm Shift lets you temporarily turn off a law, policy or procedure in the area. If you do not spend Influence, the GM temporarily changes one of their Beliefs for the rest of the scene.
Example Agenda: Frame another Faction for the explosion in the Port of the Moon.



The Conceptual Plane of Dreams embodies the Belief that Everyone is connected. The landscape shifts wildly, drawing on the dreams, memories and nightmares of travelers. Things shift without warning, as you enter your own dreams or those of others. Distance, place, time – none are fixed, for this is the realm of dreams. The Mad City is a dark metropolis, haunted by terrible nightmares. Here, the sleepless trade sanity for safety to fight off the terrible monsters. Amalgam is the place where all dreaming minds come together, sharing a grand unconscious tapestry. It is where the dreamwalkers lurk. The Pits of Pleasure are a place of purest hedonism, where mortal minds seek out every pleasure they could, quite literally, dream of. It is where any sensation, any pleasant dream or strange nightmare, can be found – for a price.

The most notable folk of the plane are the Cubi. They are well-known on the Primes, but usually by different names. As natives of the dream realm, they live vicariously via the emotions and passions of others. It is strictly forbidden for two Cubi to touch, love each other or even live together. Rather, they are expected to form bonds with planars and primals of other heritages. They have a reputation as tempters and seducers, but the truth is simply that they crave connection with others which they are denied at home. Their dream-bodies reshape themselves to appear attractive to whoever they interact with, entirely outside their control. Most Cubi have fixed gender identities; their actual physical forms tend to fluctuate wildly, however, with little care about their own identity or desires – just the desires of those they happen to be with at the time. Common Talents:
Dreams (Broad)
Connection (Broad)
Obsession (Common)
Emotional Chains (Deep)

The Sig Gazetteer hunts for news in the streets and alleys of Sig. Their skilled investigative reporters ensure that city people can learn all about what’s going on in their fair city even if they decide not to go outside and face it themselves. The Gazetteer is Sig’s record of note, recording births, deaths and all sorts of civil matters, as well as tracking news from across the planes and primes as best they can. The Planar Politics section has to deal with the infinite number of Prime worlds out there, and…well, they do their best, and do a surprisingly good job of it. The editorial staff are also known for their excellent analysis of breaking news from across the ‘verse…most of the time.
Duty: Provide investigative journalism.
Leverage: Critical media coverage and tabloid journalism.
Example Agenda: Publish an interview with the Maw of Eternity and reveal her obsessive goal.

Nyx the Oracle is the Power of Time, Memory and Dreams. She holds her court in the dream beneath the dream beneath the dream, in the deep pools of the collective unconscious. There, she pulls prophesies from the minds of mortals, glittering and shining. She spends much of her time in distant possible futures, only rarely returning to the present to grant her wisdom to her followers. She especially enjoys supporting ambitious mortals who have the potential for great deeds and accomplishments – if not necessarily good ones. Nyx is deeply fascinated with the potential for mortal emotion to shape the future in ways even she is unable to predict, and her followers whisper prophesies which can be heard only by the sleeping.
Devotion: Never stop someone from following their dreams.
Ritual: The Foretelling Blow grants a prophetic dream (described by the GM) to whoever is struck with it, when they next rest. If you do not spend Influence, the prophetic dream is a nightmare instead.
Example Agenda: Give the Reaper of Regrets a dream that leads her towards apotheosis.



The Conceptual Plane of Shadow embodies the Belief that Reality is an illusion. While there, a traveler can trust neither senses nor memory. Things not present are heard, smelled, felt. The landscape is glorious, but ever-shifting, revealing wonders false and true. All the riches and splendors of the wealthiest Primes can be found – for a moment, before they fade once more. The shadowlands are alive, hungry for new ideas, new memories. The plane uses these ideas and memories to create new things, change things, tear down the old. With sufficient passion and skill, one can even learn to shape the shadowstuff, making it into things for your own needs or desires. The Ruby Hall is a red palace where the finest gnomish jewelers can be found, cutting phantasmal gems into things of sublime, illusory beauty. The Emerald Markets are a trading house for experience and perception. Any feeling or experience can be found here, for the right price. The Umbral Delta is a river of dark reflections and murky channels. Here, strange shades offer up information in exchange for temporary respite from their shadow-prisons.

The Gnomes are some of the more common people of the plane. They are a small, intellectual folk with strong senses of humor. They are especially known for their skill in cutting, polishing and setting gems, which they imbue with living shadows and shimmering lights to enhance their beauty. The gnomes are crafters of amazing artifacts of strange utility and stranger power. They are also masters of illusion, able to cook with imaginary flavors, paint with illusory colors and call forth false sounds from the air. They are the rulers of the twilight, endlessly in pursuit of arts and crafts that mix real and unreal. Common Talents:
Illusion (Broad)
Crafts (Broad)
Gems (Common)
Phantasmal Forces (Deep)

The primary Faction of the plane is the Artificer’s Guild. Sig has many artificers, smiths and other crafters from across the entire ‘verse. The Guild of Artifice, as they are also called, represents these skilled workers and supports their interests, ensuring they can practice their crafts in peace. The guild rotates apprentices through many different areas, and most prospective crafters in Sig have spent at least a few months working a bewildering variety of trades – gem-cutting, goldsmithing, talisman-recharging, illusion-shaping, bookbinding, and more. The Guild maintains that broad competence is required, after all, not just specialization. (Though many do end up specializing.) Anyone truly serious about mastery of craft (who is also willing to pay the Guild’s dues) is welcome to join.
Duty: Create high-quality craft goods for use and trade.
Leverage: Clockwork and phantasmal servants.
Example Agenda: Repair the Eternity Tower, which stopped when the Silent Regent disappeared.

The example Power is Magdak the Clockwork Page, Power of Duty, Civilization and Animation. Magdak has been in service since the rule of the Primordials in the earliest of ages. It has never known its maker, but does remember something pulling it free of the Plane of Order. Over time, it has become worshipped by servants and apprentices, particularly in the City Between. This worship has allowed it to ascend to divinity itself, the Power of service. Magdak has very simple goals – it wants to advise and faithfully implement the plans of its master. It once served the Primordials; later, it served the Silent Regent. Since her disappearance, the Clockwork Page has dedicated itself to service of the city itself.
Devotion: Never disobey a lawful order.
Ritual: The Oath of Tireless Service allows you to not need food, water or rest while you follow the commands of a superior. If you do not spend Influence, you cannot eat, drink or sleep until the command is fulfilled.
Example Agenda: Create a massive clockwork statue of brass to defend Sig from attack.

Next time: The Planes of Lore, Life and Death

hyphz
Aug 5, 2003

Number 1 Nerd Tear Farmer 2022.

Keep it up, champ.

Also you're a skeleton warrior now. Kree.


Unlockable Ben




Onto the final two sections now. Confidence, Mood, and Focus is our next major chapter, and the first to actually focuses on what happens at the table - although the book does say that this is much harder to analyze. Confidence doesn't even get a major header; it's just mentioned in the section forward that "you're doing a better job than you think". As pure emotional reassurance this would be meaningless in a book, but fortunately it's not presented as such; it's follewed with an explanation that players generally want you to succeed, and tend to be low-key even if they are enjoying themselves. Players who have also GMed know how difficult it can be and are probably sympathetic; players who don't GM tend to overestimate the difficulty too.

Mood is covered by sections called Reading The Room and Fun Injection! Stat. These, basically, say to pay attention to the mood of the players and react if things are becoming negative. If they are, throw in something based on the emotional kicks and player types that'll draw the largest number of players back into the game, even if it varies up the storyline of tha adventure to do so. Alternatively, it might be that people are just having a bad day or a conflict within the group, in which case it might be better to just end the session early. There's a single paragraph on Your Own Fun Quotient which basically says that the GM being bored will show through in the long run, but in the short run you should basically ignore it and focus on the players. Which is, well, rather awkward since it points out a problem without a solution, but hey.

The vast majority of the section is on the topic of Focus, which is essentially who is speaking at the moment - not quite the same as spotlight time, but certainly a similar idea - and what they're doing. And here we have something I don't recall seeing often anywhere else: an attempt to categorize, not player types, but actual time allocation between activities at the table. The categories given are:

Dialogue between PCs. By and large, this is a good thing to be focussing on; intervening as GM is generally not a good idea because doing so prevents the players becoming more comfortable with character dialog and advancing the group dynamics. The except is when it gets stuck in a loop, and the two most common loops are identified as related to tactics and morality. The author actually argues that the GM should straight up give OOC advice in order to break tactical deadlocks, whether it's reminding the players of the tone of the game that might not require massive tactical consideration (although big ouch there if you have Tactician players, which isn't addressed) or pointing out wrong or missing information. Moral impasses are harder, because they're the most common sign of a player who wants to define their character by a mismatch with the group; you can mark this as antisocial if you want, but it can add colour to play if it's done well. Unfortunately, the book's suggestion for this is to offer an alternative strategy that avoids the moral impasse, which might be difficult.

Dialog between PCs and NPCs. Again, usually good, but is problematic if it becomes repetetive or irrelevant to the main storyline. The recommended way to deal with this is to make sure most NPCs are in the middle of doing something when the PCs meet them, meaning that there's an implied time limit on the dialog and the NPC can potentially just leave any time the group is flagging.

Dice Rolling can be a problem in two circumstances: a) your group just aren't into it that much, in which case the author says you should avoid the rules codified aspects of the game (although "use a different system" would probably be worth considering at that point; mind you, in 2002 most systems followed the dice=combat rule pretty rigidly). b) is that your group are into it but it's getting boring, and the book makes a great point that this tends to be a natural occurance for many GMs, because when dice and combat come into play the GMs role becomes much more mechanical than it otherwise is; and, if there's a tactical subgame, the GM knows that they're probably "supposed" to lose, so they're more limited in tactical engagement than the players. The suggestions here are: if you're numbers heavy, imitate a bingo caller in calling and reacting to them. Descriptions of combat and the world are always good, and you can make a list of cool combat descriptions if you like; and finally, try adding unusual elements to fight scenes that the players and you can engage with (Laws would go on to make this an essential part of the Rune RPG).

Description and Exposition can cause boredom problems if either the GM has bad delivery (for which recording yourself is recommended, although it's mentioned it can be stressful) or the descriptions are too long and wordy, usually including too many minutiae.

Dialogue between NPCs, well, the author states most GMs know to avoid this anyway.

Bookkeeping, that is character building, shopping, etc, can actually be a positive and fun thing for some groups and player types, but can be problematic if it's unbalanced (one player is holding everyone else up) or slowing everything down. The only advice given here is to ask the player in question to do their bookkeeping before or after the session. Hope the system supports that.

Rules Arguments can actually be considered fun by some player types, especially power gamers. The solution offered is the well-known one - listen to the argument then make a quick ruling and move on, leaving any later argument for out-of-session - but it is also mentioned that you should go ahead and allow a well made rules point to derail any plans you had if necessary, because it shows respect for some of the categories that might enjoy this most.

Also, this section ends with the statement that a power gamer who can't argue about the rules might "look once more to in-character events to increase his overweening might". At first I thought "overweening" was a misspelling of "overwhelming", but it turns out it's a real word meaning "being too proud or confident in oneself". I'm not sure if that's a wrong spelling correction or a hidden sick burn on power gamers.

Disputes on GM calls. I'll just leave this here:



I really want to see some of those character sheets. Especially for The Hat and his super-speed ring.

Anyway, sadly this section doesn't have a lot to say other than ensuring that descriptions are clear (resorting to the use of props if necessary), and being prepared to rewind if there are genuine misunderstandings. This is probably 2002 striking again, since there's the implicit assumption that given full understanding there is an objective answer to every possible question like those above, which isn't the case in all situations and systems (although in 2002 it may have been seen as a goal of a rules system)

Digressions are a bad thing, and the only suggestion given for them is to delay the start of the game if necessary so that people can talk themselves out. Unfortunately, I can tell you right now that I've never known that to work. People stop talking when they see they are delaying the game, but then once it starts, feel free to digress internally because others are busy playing. Owell.

Dead Air is considered the worst of all, and the book makes the surprising step of blaming the GM exclusively for it - it's described as "when you stop the action to perform tasks". There's a few ways around listed, including better prep, doing extra last-minute prep during PC dialog, or just faking it. But there's no way of dealing with the awkward dead air when the players can't decide on actions or are doing similar things.

Finally, there's a short chapter on Improvisation, which is one I'd be particularly keen on - and the foreward for it does mention that many GMs find it intimidating. It's followed by offering an actual process for improvisational choices, which is this: imagine the most obvious result, the most challenging result, the most surprising result, and the result that would please the player most; pick one the feels best, consider the consequences to make sure it's not going to create problems down the road, and go with it. It's a pretty nice idea, but for me at least it doesn't help a lot with my own fears; in particular my nerves are always about getting stuck in a loop in the "consider the consequences" bit, either racking up dead air with rejected ideas or missing a consequence that I didn't think of at the right time.

This is followed by a section on Improvising Adventures which follows the common theme of assigning something to each player - in this case, a plot hook or agenda that they want to persue, and their Player Type which tells you what obstacles they're probably going to enjoy facing on the way. It's suggested that as a result, in an improvised game it can be a much better idea to "cut away" between PCs and allow them to potentially pursue different goals rather than trying to prepare an overarching run for all of them. This is followed by a section on pacing - although the first sentence is "how do you make a completely improvised session seem to have structure?" when pacing was only a small element of structure. It's then followed by "only storytellers really care that much about structure anyway" - after that chart which assigned "story structure" a positive value to everyone except Tacticans. Anyway, there's only one actual suggestion: "try to make the dramatic thing happen at the end of the session". The book does, fortunately, admit that this isn't always possible but it isn't necessary to hit it every time; the impliciation is that it's only a target to reach within sensible constraints, rather than allowing the wallclock to determine significant changes to the world, which is refreshing.

There's then a very brief section called A Final Word on the Ultimate Dilemma, which simply says "if players' preferences are disparate, you might have to negotiate with them or just abandon the group". Actually, a literal quote:

quote:

A fun game tries to balance the competing desires of its participants. To many folks, including those whose tastes are so pronounced that they've turned them into a philosophy of what gaming ought to be, this is not obvious at all.

I don't know which of those philosophies were actually around in 2002, but this probably stands up even better today. A brief section on If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It, then brings us to the end of the book (with ads for GURPS adventure and setting books, and Pyramid magazine).

So, Robin's Laws is an odd bird. Some parts of it are eternal, and some are very dated; and the obsession with categorizing players is perhaps a bit overbearing, although it was quite common at that time. What makes it remain interesting, though, is that it's really well written, and extremely well structured. It's actually pretty rare for a single author to write an entire book of GMing advice - most other GMing advice books are collections of essays or columns, which have their own problems, which we'll get to when we actually look at one - and to own that advice to the extent that Laws does here (ok, it's mainly a pun, but still he named it after himself, which is pretty remarkable when most other articles feel the need to insert "or maybe everything I say is wrong" disclaimers).

It helps that Laws is a good conversational writer to start with, and the editor was Steve Jackson himself. It also helps that the single author focus enabled the underlying messages of the book to be much more clearly expressed. Robin's doesn't have to have lengthy introduction paragraphs explaining the importance of adapting to your players, because it's literally what the whole book is about, and it includes justifications and reactions for most of its claims; a tutorial version of "show, don't tell". In fact, after Robin's, reading most other GMing books can feel like an exercise in frustration just because they're generally so badly organized compared to it. But, it seems we shall be doing so..

It's also worth mentioning that this wasn't Laws' last word on the subject, although his follow up was a bit stranger. Hamlet's Hit Points, published in 2010, describes itself as a GMing guide but is actually a guide to narrative analysis, focusing in particular on detailed analysis of three stories - with the argument that being conscious of this kind of thing will make storytelling and thus GMing better by osmosis, which is not necessarily wrong, but not necessarily what you wanted when you bought the book. (So much so that in 2018 he released a Beating The Story, an extension of the same techniques, but this time targetting authors.) I'm not going to go through Hamlet's Hit Points because it's mostly just literary analysis, but it's worth mentioning the forward which includes an interesting discussion of the involvement of narrative in RPGs and in the role of GMing, including things such as GNS. It also does reflect a bit of Laws' experience which may have made him a bit grumpy, as in the following footnote:


hyphz fucked around with this message at 16:56 on Jun 24, 2019

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Spycraft 1e

Incredible* Feats (*Note: Feats may not be Incredible)

Oh god. Feats. Just...how much do I even need to say? There's a reason we use the term 'feat tax' to describe things in game systems that suck, but where a designer was like 'You cannot have any pudding if you do not eat your meat first'. Spycraft has many of the same issues with Feats that normal D&D does: In 1e, no-one seems to be quite certain what a Feat is worth. Let's compare to another system I've done, Myriad Song. In Myriad Song, your main character building block is the Gift, which is a lot like a D&D Feat except you build around it entirely and earn them significantly more often. Having a 'skill Gift' for a situational skill (Like Mathematics) is agreed upon as a d12 (the highest die possible in a die pool, and a big deal) bonus to those situational skill uses because a Gift is a big character investment. Meanwhile, over in d20 town, what's a Feat worth? Remember, you don't get many! If your class has no bonus Feats and you don't earn extras somehow, you only get 8 of them over the course of a PC's life: 1st level, then one every 3rd level after. Now, Spycraft understands you need them Feats, so everyone except the Pointman and Faceman gets ways to get Bonus Feats, and even the Pointman can still select them as part of their 'cross class abilities' track (Though they can only get 1 that way, and only in Combat, so eh). Similar, everyone starts with 2 Feats at least, instead of 1.

But the point is, a Feat is one of the most limited, precious character abilities and resources you ever get in building your PC. However, they have absolutely 0 agreed upon value. So stuff like '+4 Vit points or +2 Wounds' is competing with 'Attack 2 times as your first half-action attack with this weapon, at -2 to hit' or 'I had a mole in their organization all along!' or 'Threat with guns increased, never need to spend Action Dice to crit with guns'. Worse, most of the cool feats are locked behind needing to take a bunch of genuinely bad feats first; this is the primary way that d20 games try to account for the wildly varying utility of Feats. Spycraft at least has the sanity to put Feats into categories and give you a direct, visual table of the Feat Trees you'll need to take to actually get to the useful stuff, but the problem is still there: A Feat is too precious to waste, and when what you actually want is 6 Feats down the line and requires you to be level 15 or whatever, well...you're almost certainly never going to get to play with that ability. While at the same time if you don't build directly towards it, you'll never have access even if your campaign goes that long.

That's another issue with Feats: They come at a snail's pace depending on how fast you level, and most campaigns in d20 end around level 6-10 anyway. High level play is extremely uncommon, yet the Feat system expects you to build up towards what you'll get at level 18. Similarly, some of the Feat Trees are so long that some classes absolutely cannot access the endpoints. Take Martial Arts: One of the reasons Tobias the Wheelman Kung Fu Assassin is a bad idea for a character is because he literally can't get to the levels that will make Martial Arts hit its capstone. MA can be so feat intensive that it's generally better to, say, follow Sveta's route and just take Martial Arts then forget about it. Now she has an ability where she's effectively always got a knife even if she's busting out of prison with nothing but a jumpsuit, and that's got real utility in a superspy game. You effectively have to be a Soldier to ever truly master the unarmed combat tree, because getting to its capstone takes a BAB of +18, 8 pre-req Feats to progress along the core 'punch better' trail, and is at the end of a 4 Feat basic trail. Oh, and you don't actually get to use all the cool abilities you had to take to run along that trail at once; you pick one per attack and use it.

So like, Tobias's whole 'can punch people as if his fists were two-handed'? He has to choose between that and the knockback on every attack. If he were to take Kicking Basics, he'd also have to choose between the abilities that grants, or the ones punching does, and then only one of those. So most of the time, your cool Martial Arts abilities are sitting on the sidelines, unable to combo with one another. And you have to learn Punching, Kicking, Holding, and Throwing to advance Martial Arts to 'Five Style Adept' and go up to d8 base damage, 19-20 Threat Range. Then you have to Master all of them (4 more Feats, 8 more abilities, you can only actually use one of the 16 per attack) to get Master of the Fifth Style, which gates both the 'can attack twice at a penalty for 1 half action' and the 'd10+SB, 18-20 Threat'. Sure, if you get to the final Master of the Sixth Style, you do d12+SB, have 16 abilities to choose from an attack, crit on 17+, etc, but you had to spend 12 feats, and be level 18. Poor Tobias can never even get to Master of the Fifth Style and will have to settle for buying the weaker Warrior's Grace 'double attack on your first half-action' feat. Martial Arts was a trap for him to specialize in since he isn't a Soldier and doesn't have enough Feat slots. And by doing that, even though he gets some Feats in it as bonus Feats, he's screwing himself on car chases, his class's 'thing'.

Which is really the issue with Feats in general. You do not get enough Feats. Having to waste a Feat on a lovely ability so you can get a good one down the line, or having your starting Feat slot thrown away like David the Basement Soldier? It loving sucks. If you try to 'build to concept' in a system like d20 you mostly build to make your character less effective. And d20 is a really heavily mechanical system; there's not much room for something like Spire or Myriad Song where your goal is 'justify how I can help out with this broad ability I have'. Everything is extremely specific. Yeah, down the line, a melee character who focuses on their knife can do insane things with it (We're talking +4 to hit, +10 to damage, in a system where damage modifiers are actually at a premium) but A: That will ONLY be with knives and B: They had to invest an entire Soldier into that knife. Other character types need not apply. Now on one hand, it's good that a Soldier has something special in combat, but it still takes them ages to do that thing, and it's usually so specific that it can really hurt. Weapon Focus has never been a good Feat, d20! Weapon Focus is like, the epitome of what's wrong with Feats!

This is exacerbated by the fact that Feat bonuses are more necessary than ever in Spycraft. You see, ironically, Spycraft is actually less gear dependent than D&D. You can't get a Magical +5 PPK of Frosty Burst. There's no +3 Vorpal Combat Knife of Guard Slaying, nor is there a pair of +6 Glasses of Cryptography (Okay, there kind of are; we'll get to Gadgets later). So since you can't get a magic item treadmill of gear, you need your Feat bonuses to break out of the basic BAB or Skill grind. This is actually one of two reasons Skill Feats are actually useful in Spycraft. The other is the expended Crit range. Trust me, that's very helpful when you're using the non-combat system more. Still, say a Pointman wants to get super good at a couple Skill Feats. That's going to cost a considerable number of their total Feats for their career. It's probably worthwhile if that's the thing they're focusing on, but it's still a heavy cost.

There's also just a bunch of loser/flavor Feats still. Like Toughness. Our good old whipping boy Toughness. A tiny static HP buff is not worth a super-precious character resource! Or 'The Look': You're even sexier than the normal superspy (It notes in its description that most Agents look like they belong on a movie set, but one with this Feat was worth a couple million to be here) and get a whopping +1 to Cha skills with the opposite sex (also dating this to the late 90s/early 00s milieu). Is that worth one of the things you only get 9 of if you're a Faceman? No. While Spycraft generally tries to be better with Feats than base d20, it still rams hard into the issues with the basic Feat concept and the total lack of 'what is a Feat worth' or awareness that they are incredibly precious.

Long Feat Trees were a mistake, goddamnit.

Next Time: Gear

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers, stern and wild ones, and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.


Clapping Larry

My old Spycraft game, I just gave a feat every level. Not a perfect fix by any means, but mitigated a lot of the problems (and of course created new ones).

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Feats are just another place where D20 really suffers from the fact that it's very loosely designed despite how fiddly and heavily mechanical it is. There's no standardization, very little math done, and little sense of where numbers should be in 3e's original design. Spycraft didn't create the problems its dealing with in either Skills or Feats, but they help reflect why the d20 framework really doesn't help the first game. Especially if you play level 1 agents. The genre of the game changes as you level, which is also true in normal D&D, which is also sort of a problem for both rulesets: At level 1, you're the CIA trying to kill Fidel Castro in a hilarious comedy of errors. It isn't until Level 6-10 that you're Michael Thorton, Most Annoying Superspy Alive, and Level 15-20 is necessary to be John Wick/James Bond/Whatever.

Sometimes I think some of the enduring appeal of d20 is that it's such a loosely designed mess that it's really easy to design stuff that's up to official snuff on your own, with very little time, because the original bar is so low. The game's already a mess, so whatever random poo poo you hack into it you probably isn't going to make it worse than it already is.

FMguru
Sep 10, 2003

peed on;
sexually

Night10194 posted:

Feats are just another place where D20 really suffers from the fact that it's very loosely designed despite how fiddly and heavily mechanical it is.
The way D20 has no real design delineation between Skills and Feats and Class Abilities and Prestige Class Abilities and Ability Scores and just makes such a mess of things.

Also, the James Bond 007 RPG had three levels of ability (with three different build points) - Rookie, Veteran, and '00'. The prepackaged adventures rated their difficulty by saying things like 'suitable for 4 rookies, 2 veterans, or one 00-level agent'.

Tibalt
May 14, 2017

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


Fantasy Craft
Part 1: Context

Foreword:

So I said I would provide a review of Crafty Game's Fantasy Craft earlier in the thread. However, unlike other times I've considered reviewing a game, I spent several hours trapped on a plane yesterday and I'm spending a week alone in a foreign city. This review isn't going to be a normal review. For one, most of this review will be in response to the issues raised in Nights' review of Spycraft - whether the people at Crafty Games recognized them as problems, and how they decided to address them. Two, this will be (as far as I can tell) the first comparative review. I will be looking at Fantasy Craft side-by-side with it's more infamous sister, the D&D 3.75 herself, Pathfinder. This won't be polemic - I'll not trying to rise up one game by tearing down the other. In fact, I think highly of both games and I like a lot of the things they're doing. But the OGL era was a quiet cataclysm in role-playing that is, somehow, still going.

A few disclaimers: I am not an expert, an industry insider, or a historian. I was a tween who discovered D&D when 3rd edition was released, and grew into adulthood during the OGL era. I am as reliable as any other eye witness - not very. I played Fantasy Craft once when it was released, but I vaguely suspect that we used a bootleg copy of the playtest version and that was almost a decade ago. I have several biases, which I'll state here and otherwise try to avoid editorializing - 3.5 was a terribly broken system that I love dearly, all of its daughters carry the same fundamental flaws, the OGL was terrible for the RPG industry in general and the consumer in particular, and Ryan Dancey is a dink. I'll try to keep it to a minimum.

The Open Gaming Movement:
So, like, the existence of Fantasy Craft is weird, right? Everybody can agree on that? Crafty Games decided to take Dungeons and Dragons, a system for playing fantasy dungeon crawls, and kludge it into a system for playing super spies in Spycraft, and then kludge THAT system back into fantasy dungeon crawls. It's like Waluigi.

I, We, Waluigi: A Post-Modern analysis of Waluigi by Franck Ribery posted:

...You start with Mario - the wholesome all Italian plumbing superman, you reflect him to create Luigi - the same thing but slightly less. You invert Mario to create Wario - Mario turned septic and libertarian - then you reflect the inversion in the reflection: you create a being who can exist in reference to others. Waluigi is the true nowhere man...
So why does Fantasy Craft exist? Why does Pathfinder exist, for that matter?

The answer lies in Ryan Dancey, Wizard of the Coast's then-Vice President of roleplaying games. In 2000, WotC decided to license portions of D&D 3e under the Open Gaming License (OGL) to allow third-party publishers to produce d20 System compatible material. This was part of a ploy to smother innovation in the RPG industry and monopolize the market by flooding bookshelves with D&D and derivatives. That's not me editorializing, by the way - Ryan stated this himself.

The Most Dangerous Column in Gaming (ugh. Just... ugh) posted:

"Here's the logic in a nutshell. We've got a theory that says that D&D is the most popular roleplaying game because it is the game more people know how to play than any other game. (For those of you interested researching the theory, this concept is called "The Theory of Network Externalities.")... If you accept the Theory of Network Externalities, you have to admit that the battle is lost before it begins, because the value doesn't reside in the game itself, but in the network of people who know how to play it. If you accept (as I have finally come to do) that the theory is valid, then the logical conclusion is that the larger the number of people who play D&D, the harder it is for competitive games to succeed..."

So setting aside the size of Ryan's dink-ness (absolutely loving massive, btw), he's was right. The industry was completely flooded with d20 System and their derivatives. If something didn't start as a d20 derivative, it eventually became one. Taking the long view, every single possible competitor was smothered under the weight, eventually dying ignoble deaths like being sold to an Icelandic spreadsheet simulator. d20 reigned supreme over everything, to the point where the eponymous die signified the act of roleplaying itself. This wouldn't be a terrible thing, of course, if the d20 System was good.

But it's not. Dear lord, it pains me to say it, but it's truly not good. Despite all my numerous happy memories from playing d20 games in high school, D&D 3e was so poorly designed that it almost instantly collapsed on itself and had to be replaced by 3.5, and the derivatives and supplements were usually broken messes. A few of my friends would compete to create the most broken character they could imagine - as far as I know, they never were actually able to finish playing out their PvP death matches before rules broke down or someone got bored. High level play was mostly a game of System Mastery solitaire, level 1 play was best used for simulating a group of poorly trained boy scouts entering The Cube, and really only levels 4 through 10 seemed to function reasonably well as long as everyone was on the same page about what kind of game you were playing. By the time D&D 4th edition was announced in 2008, the problems were pretty obvious.

Unfortunately, Ryan's interpretation of Network Externalities didn't seem to care who was publishing the competing product, and the extensive and irreversible nature of the OGL meant that other companies would be happy to feed the self-sustaining network of D&D 3.5 players. It was out of this need that Pathfinder, and to a lesser extent, Fantasy Craft arose. An attempt to fix the d20 System, with the benefit of hindsight and a decade of knowledge. These were companies that had survived on creating d20 System products, and didn't have Magic the Gathering to fund their marketing campaigns or printing costs. Is the system fundamentally flawed, like I believe? If not, surely these people would be able to make it work. Right? Right.

And this isn't an academic question either. For better or worse, Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition seems to owe a lot more to 3.5 then it does to 4th Edition, and it carries the OGL forward. Not to rant, but I truly do think the OGL has stifled the industry and has left a legacy that still hangs over us today. Other games and systems exist, of course. Anybody with a will and an internet connection can create their own system and publish it, and people will download it and play it. I'm not trying to discount their existence or their creativity. But if Disney was the only major movie studio and all they released were superhero movies, would it matter if indie films and theaters still existed? Would cinema grow and expand as an art form? Would that be a sustainable model, for anyone?

Anyway, onward to adventure!

8one6
May 20, 2012

When in doubt, err on the side of Awesome!



Tibalt posted:

...
Anyway, onward to adventure!


This is one of my favorite pieces of RPG art. The art direction for FantasyCraft was great.

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


Cults: Palers



Degenesis Rebirth
Primal Punk
Chapter 3: Cults




PALERS

Bunker Rats

The introductory fiction begins with people entering what is essentially a Vault. Bulkhead closes, neon lights turn on – this is going to be their home forever.

Many generations later, people stand against the same door; there's rust and mold on the walls, and the neon tubes flicker and hum. The bulkhead opens up only a little bit. Two dudes step up with hydraulic claws. Eventually, the bulkheads give up and slide into their slots in the walls. The engines moving them die out, and so do the lights. Palers stare into the starlight, seeing the outside world for the first time in generations.

quote:

But they have never forgotten their gods, have never leftout even one ritual, have never become unfaithful to thefuzzy figures on the image screens and their likenesses in thesarcophagi. When they go out into the world now, raising their gleaming, pearlescent pendants high, they will be the chosen ones. Chosen to free the world and pave the way for the gods.



Finally, Hans Moleman will have his revenge!

In File

Some time before Eschaton, tall, beautiful, powerfully built people known as “Guardians” (by who?), descended into Recombination Group bunkers at night. There was no doubt in their eyes. They marched past everything into the halls containing cryopods. And I'll just post the rest of the section here:

quote:

The Guardians spread out and attacked the cylinders. They touched control panels, removed digital barriers. Inside, something hissed, and then the tops opened. Ice-cold mist from the inside blew across the floor. Men, women, and children lay in the cylinders. They slept. Hoarfrost glittered on their skin. The lids were tight over the frozen eyes; their cheeks sunken in. They were all ill,most of them frozen in the throes of death.
The guardians could have woken them. But what should they have answered to the questions and the screaming, the nervous “Am I healed?” or “What are you doing to me?” It would have added unacceptability to unpostponability.
Instead, the guardians put on gloves and took the bodies from the chambers. Bones and flesh cracked like ice. With scrapers, they removed the remainders. They threw complete bodies as well as single arms and legs into carts, piling them up in a wild mix of limbs. Electro cars came, and cart after cart was hooked to them until they finally started moving with a hum.
They drove to the storage halls. Endless halls with pillars, empty, the end barely visible to the naked eye. The electro cars unhinged the carts and returned. They carried everything here that the sleeping chambers had to offer.
The work was done. One guardian stood at the portal and let his gaze drift across the army of carts. There had to be a hundred, all filled with... what looked like the stuff a butcher leaves behind. He switched off the light, closed the doors, locked and sealed the halls for eternity. No one noticed that some of those trapped awoke – this transgression remained unpunished.

:stare:

I'm just gonna say that the writing in the Paler part is more compelling than in most others. At the same time, one can't shake the feeling that Palers could carry a game of their own.

Well, if you can get beyond the endless repetition of the word “dispenser.”

Sealed

After the Guardians finished dumping people who probably funded the whole Recombination Group cryo effort with hopes that they will be thawed to be healed, they went outside to meet the people who would actually reside in the pods. They arrived in armored cars and all of them bore numbered tattoos that went in multiples of hundreds – from 100 to 900. Ten days later, all those folks became Sleepers. The cryo halls shut down the lights and closed the door; a countdown started for the first thaw 100 years later.

The Guardians were left to live in the outer ring of the bunkers. They spent their time doing maintenance and watching feeds from the Sleeper chambers. Soon, they noticed things in the Sleepers' DNA, something that hinted at divinity. According to their data, there could be no other thing: the Sleepers were divine. How do you read that out of someone's DNA code? Hell if I know. Then again, I don't watch brainwashing material 24/7:

quote:

It was all a facade. With every generation of guardians, the information backed up in the dispenser software’s code was presented simpler than before. It planted the seed for a religion.
Pure, infectious memetics.

Be prepared: the Paler section is going balls-deep into memetics.
Blackouts

Eschaton came and went, the clocks on dispensers kept ticking down... and I think this book just doubled the times I read the word “dispenser” in my life. I think Degenesis uses it for all and every computer system in a bunker and possibly the bunkers themselves.

The German word “automat” translates into “dispenser,” so maybe it's another case of bad translation?

Some Guardian groups didn't get high on the meme supply: they blew out the bunker doors and went on to live regular survivors (the book doesn't say it, but there's nothing saying that your non-Hellvetic character can't be descended from one of these folks).

Others stayed there for the Vault experience, eating slimy fluid from algae tanks and drinking water that has been endlessly recycled.

There was some despair around the time when lighting systems failed, but the Guardians prevailed. Eventually, that day, “day X”, descended into legend, becoming the time when Palers chose the night.

The darkness (and terrible food, and years of inbreeding) turned Guardians pale and hairless, and probably afflicted them with whatever happens when you're critically low on vitamin D. Since the darkness was only sometimes pierced by light, like LCD lights on “bunker aggregates” (in Lithuanian, we use “agregatas” to describe machinery sometimes, probably due to Germanic influences – drat translators), their sight degraded. The Guardians started scratching information into the walls, so that one could use touch to read about whatever the ancients were thinking – or about the powers of the Sleepers.

Intercom was the next system to fail, which the Guardians replaced with tubes (regular, not the “inter-” type). Eventually, sophisticated tube-banging language arose.

quote:

The crying of children echoing through the darkness was liberating and provided a dimension to the nothing that the people could cling to. The guardians sang to keep the darkness away from their hearts.

The hills have eyes, but they're not that great nor can they see outside!

Next time: the real fake religion!

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





Memes, Jack! The DNA of the soul.

Josef bugman
Nov 17, 2011
I MIGHT BE A DECENT PERSON BUT I'M ALSO DEEPLY, DEEPLY STUPID AND SHOULD NOT BE REPLIED TO

Nessus posted:

Memes, Jack! The DNA of the soul.

If we get Armstrong in this game it may all have been worth it.

Seatox
Mar 12, 2012


Josef bugman posted:

If we get Armstrong in this game it may all have been worth it.

"Why won't you die?!"
"SEPSIS SPORES, son! They harden in response to physical trauma."

Cooked Auto
Aug 4, 2007

If you will not serve in combat, you will serve on the firing line!




Need a dispenser here!

By popular demand
Jul 17, 2007

IT *BZZT* WASP ME--
IT WASP ME ALL *BZZT* ALONG!




JcDent posted:



Finally, Hans Moleman will have his revenge!




I'll get you! Oh my soft bones....*CRUNCH* uh! There goes my shin bone... *CRUNCH* Help! my ribcage collapsed...

drat you vitamin D deficiency! drat you!

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Deities & Demigods 1E
Part 1: A Brief History of the Planes


Hey, I've been lurking here for a couple weeks, but decided it was time to make an account and contribute, and after some thought I figured something I could tackle was my favorite D&D setting: Planescape. I know this setting very well (well... I knew it; honestly it's been long enough since I've done anything with it I've probably forgotten a lot)—I have all the Planescape supplements; I've run several campaigns in the setting; and I was one of the contributors to the semi-official-but-not-really 3E Planescape conversion on planewalker.com. (Though I wasn't one of the editors, and I'm not in favor of all the decisions they made.) When and if Wizards of the Coast ever opens up Planescape to the DM's Guild, I'm going to jump right in with my own Planescape books and adventures. But as much as I love the setting, I don't think it's perfect by any means, and I think it's worth discussing in detail.

(This decision has nothing to do with Mors Rattus's review of the clearly heavily Planescape-inspired Sig. I had already begun writing these reviews well before those started—I wanted to be a few posts ahead and have several parts of this review written before I actually posted the first one—, so the timing is entirely coincidental. In fact, the entirety of this first post was completely written before the first Sig post dropped, except of course for this paragraph.)

Okay, I checked out the archives, and I see that the first few Planescape products were previously covered by SirPhoebos (and one later adventure has a partial review by DAD LOST MY IPOD). But most of them weren't, and even those that were I have lots to say about that isn't in SirPhoebos's (or DAD LOST MY IPOD's) reviews, so I think it'll still be worthwhile for me to write up my own take on them.

So let's get started.

Or actually, let's not, quite yet. I was going to start with the original Planescape Campaign Setting boxed set, but on second thought I think I'll go back a little earlier. Planescape came out during the time of the second edition of Dungeons & Dragons (or "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons", as it was then called to contrast it with "Basic Dungeons & Dragons"), but it had roots in first edition. The most obvious inspiration is the first-edition Manual of the Planes. And so I was going to start with that... but then I figured, what the hey, let's go back even earlier.

The Manual of the Planes was the first book to really describe the planes in detail—and its descriptions were mostly followed in Planescape, and in later presentations of the D&D planes. But it wasn't the first book to define the D&D cosmology. The existence of other planes had been hinted at as early as the original Dungeons & Dragons boxed set, which included the spell "Contact Higher Plane"—or arguably even earlier in D&D's predecessor Chainmail, which included elementals that had to be "conjured up by a Wizard", though it didn't specify where they were "conjured up" from. (Incidentally, is it just me, or is "conjured up" kind of a weird phrasing? "I'ma gonna conjure me up an elemental, ayup.") The full Great Wheel cosmology—though it wasn't named that at the time—was first laid out in Dragon #8, in the grandiloquently titled article "Planes: The Concepts of Spatial, Temporal and Physical Relationships in D&D", by (who else?) Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons. It wasn't much—barely longer than a page, with a single diagram that Gygax himself admitted looked like "abstract art", but it was a start. (It wasn't really abstract art, he clarified, but "a 2-dimensional diagram of a 4-dimensional concept." I'm not sure how he decided it was "4-dimensional"; by my analysis, if each plane is infinite in three dimensions, and if we assume that planes shown as adjacent in the diagram are also literally physically adjacent along some geometrical axis, then the given arrangement of the planes would require at least five dimensions total. But that's not really important.)


Did he... did he color this in with crayons?

In the first-edition Player's Handbook, "Appendix IV: The Known Planes of Existence" recapitulated the information from Dragon #8; it took up two pages instead of just one and a quarter, but that wasn't so much because it added new information as because it had more spacing between paragraphs and included two large diagrams instead of just one small one.


As it later turns out, the Elemental Plane of Air is not in fact inhabited by living clouds with faces as shown in this diagram. The Happy Hunting Grounds, however, is. (Are?)

But the same couldn't be said of "Appendix 1: Known Planes of Existence" in the first-edition Deities & Demigods, which took up a full six pages. Some of this was, again, due to more tables and diagrams; this appendix included five diagrams, as well as encounter tables for both the Ethereal and Astral Planes and tables for making a random choice from either the Inner Planes or the Outer Planes. But it did also include some new information, including six new planes not mentioned in Dragon #8 or the Player's Handbook: the Plane of Shadow (the distant ancestor of fourth and fifth edition's Shadowfell), the true neutral Outer Plane of Concordant Opposition (later known as the Outlands), and the four Para-Elemental Planes that lay between the four main Elemental Planes. But the influence of Deities & Demigods on the D&D cosmology wasn't limited to this appendix—the fact that it defined homes for each of the gods on the planes had significant consequences for the Manual of the Planes and later Planescape and the D&D cosmology in general.

So that's where we're starting our look at Planescape and its predecessors, with the first-edition Deities & Demigods, by James M. Ward and Robert J. Kuntz. I chose this book not only because of the impact it would have on the D&D planes, but also because, well, there's a lot to say about it. Deities & Demigods was probably the most—I hesitate to use the word "problematic", because it kind of gets overused to the point of near-meaninglessness, but here I think it does apply, so what the hey—problematic book of first-edition D&D. Alongside fantasy pantheons and ancient pantheons like the Greek and Norse, it included rather more culturally insensitive entries like the "Indian Mythos", which described gods still widely venerated today by the roughly one billion Hindus in the real world; and the "American Indian Mythos", which lumped together unconnected traditions from disparate peoples all over the North American continent into one muddled, ahistorical syncretism.

This isn't entirely new to the first edition Deities & Demigods, actually—the fourth supplement to the original D&D boxed set, "Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes"—not coincidentally by the same authors, though listed in the reverse order—also included most of the same mythoi, including the Indian but not the "American Indian". It also, incidentally, included the mythos of "Robert E. Howard's Hyborea", which did not make it into the 1E Deities & Demigods. I'm not going to give a full review of this supplement—it didn't really have a direct impact on Planescape—, but I will bring it up again; in fact it's going to come up again in the next post.

Before we get into the meat of the book, though, let's take a gander at the cover:


I'm pretty sure the two gods on the front cover are supposed to be fighting, but they don't really seem to be into it.

Anyone familiar with the art of first-edition D&D will recognize that as the work of Erol Otus, who definitely has an instantly identifiable style of his own. Otus also did some interior illustrations in some other books and illustrated the cover of the 1981 version of the D&D Basic Set, and did many covers and interior illustrations for Dragon Magazine and some adventure modules. He's also done work for other role-playing game companies, as well as art for some video games, including Star Control II.

None of the entities on the cover actually appear in the book, though. Unless those three gods in the sky are supposed to be Egyptian gods, which... maybe? The middle one could be Ptah, I guess, but I'm not sure who the other two would be.

Incidentally, both credited authors of Deities & Demigods are still alive, and still working to some degree in the RPG industry, though not on Dungeons & Dragons. Both were players in Gary Gygax's original Greyhawk games, and both have been immortalized in the game under scrambled versions of their names. James M. Ward created the first science-fiction role-playing game, Metamorphosis Alpha, released by TSR about the same time as "Gods, Demi-Gods and Heroes". The Greyhawk archmage Drawmij, the eponym of the spell Drawmij's Instant Summons (and several other spells in earlier editions), was named after him—note what you get if you spell "Drawmij" backwards. Robert J. Kuntz, meanwhile, was for a time the co-Dungeon-Master of Gygax's Greyhawk campaign, and contributed heavily to the Greyhawk setting. His player character Robilar not only eventually appeared as an NPC in the Greyhawk setting, but also had a scrambled version of his name attached to a core magic item, the iron bands of Bilarro. Kuntz also was more directly referenced via an anagram of his surname in another NPC, the archmage Tzunk, first mentioned in the third supplement to the original D&D boxed set, "Eldritch Wizardry", as a wizard who wrote about the Codex of the Infinite Planes—although there his name was spelled "Tzoonk"; it was respelled "Tzunk" in the first-edition Dungeon Master's Guide, perhaps to make the homage to Kuntz a little clearer.

Anyway, Deities & Demigods was eventually reprinted under the title Legends & Lore (not to be confused with the entirely different second-edition Legends & Lore... at least TSR didn't reuse old titles to the extent that Wizards of the Coast later would during the third-edition era), but I refer here to the former title because the first printing of the book had two pantheons (or "Mythoi", in this book's terminology) that the later printings, including those under the Legends & Lore title, lacked: the Cthulhu Mythos, based of course on the works of H. P. Lovecraft and his collaborators and imitators, and the Melnibonéan Mythos, based on the stories of Elric of Melniboné by Michael Moorcock. (Actually, Moorcock had an important influence on D&D that's worth discussing... but I'll save that till we get to the Melnibonéan Mythos.) I'd bought the book when it first came out (or rather had it bought for me, I suppose, since I was a young child at the time), and so I had a copy of the printing that included these two mythoi—still have it, in fact, along with all my other first-edition D&D books, though at the moment due to limited shelf space they're in a box in a storage unit. Unfortunately, the book is in pretty bad shape; the spine is missing, and the cover is badly battered, which I'm sure greatly reduces its value to a collector—not that that matters much, since I have no intention of selling it. But anyway, I guess its well-worn condition testifies to how much use this book saw—or at least how much I enjoyed looking through it, since its actual application to a game was somewhat limited.

The obvious explanation for the absence of the Cthulhu and Melnibonéan Mythoi from later printings is that TSR had failed to acquire the rights, and so was forced to remove them. That's not the real story, though; what really happened was more complicated. It's debatable that rights were even needed for the Cthulhu Mythos, which was almost certainly in the public domain by then; Arkham House, a publishing company set up by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, claimed the rights to Lovecraft's work, but that claim wasn't necessarily on firm legal ground, and it's doubtful that it would have held up against a serious challenge in court. But TSR didn't try to challenge Arkham House's claim, so that's moot. The same couldn't be said of Moorcock, however, who was still alive at the time—and at the time I'm writing this still is—, but TSR actually had contacted Moorcock and obtained his permission to use his characters and concepts. The fact is that it wasn't Arkham House or Moorcock that objected to TSR's inclusion of these mythoi at all—it was another role-playing game company that had officially acquired the rights to those two properties, and wasn't sure it liked the idea of a different company using them. That other game company is, incidentally, still around today, and if you know much about role-playing games you can probably guess who it was.

That's right: Chaosium, publisher of Call of Cthulhu. Call of Cthulhu is now in its seventh edition, but back then was only in its first. (Or was about to be in its first; when Deities & Demigods came out Chaosium was working on Call of Cthulhu but hadn't actally published it yet.) At the time, it was also publishing (or about to publish) a game called Stormbringer, based on the same works by Moorcock that Deities & Demigods drew on for its "Melnibonéan Mythos"; that game is out of print today, but went through six editions (five under the name "Stormbringer", one under the name "Elric!" between Stormbringer's fourth and fifth editions) before Chaosium let the license lapse in 2007. (The original Stormbringer game, incidentally, was co-written by Ken St. Andre, probably best known for his role-playing game Tunnels & Trolls, the first real competitor to Dungeons & Dragons.)


Chaosium's production values were a little lower back then than they are today.

However, when Chaosium threatened legal action, TSR contacted them and worked out a deal. Chaosium would withdraw their objections to TSR's using this material, as long as TSR included them in the acknowledgments. And they did—at the end of the "Credits and Acknowledgments" section of the first printing of Deities & Demigods was the sentence "Special thanks are also given to Chaosium, Inc. for permission to use the material found in the Cthulhu Mythos and the Melnibonean Mythos".

Unfortunately, the next year TSR was taken over by two brothers, Brian and Kevin Blume, who had a very different vision than Gygax (and who would eventually sell their stock to TSR manager Lorraine Williams, giving her a controlling interest in the company—but that's another story). The Blumes didn't like the idea of mentioning a rival company in their own book, and decided they would rather excise those two chapters entirely than leave in the single sentence thanking Chaosium. And so in the second printing they did just that—or they did half of that, anyway. Ironically, when they removed the chapters on the Cthulhu and Melnibonéan Mythoi, they neglected initially to take out the offending "special thanks" that was the whole reason they wanted to remove those chapters in the first place. So the second printing of Deities & Demigods still thanked Chaosium for permission to use material that no longer appeared in the book—as did the third, and part of the fourth, until they finally got around to getting rid of that sentence that had bothered them so much. I'm not sure the Blumes were terribly competent.

So while Legends & Lore was essentially the same book as Deities & Demigods except for the title and the cover and those two missing mythoi from the first printing of the latter, because I'm going to include those two mythoi in my review here I'll refer to the book throughout as "Deities & Demigods". Before moving on, though, I will remark that Legends & Lore had a much blander cover:


I'm not bothering with the back cover this time because it doesn't have any art—just text on a solid-color background.

Anyway, I think this preamble has gotten long enough for a post by itself, so next post I'll get around to actually discussing the contents of the book.

Next Time: Gods and Monsters

Jerik fucked around with this message at 16:02 on Jun 25, 2019

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Thanks to everyone for their thanks. It's really appreciated.

shades of eternity posted:

I sent a request to Kevin Siembieda, which he was receptive to the idea.

So about a year later I had managed to use a ton of African myths, bizarre cultures, and the precedent left from the previous book to write Africa 2.

It was accepted, and then a year later rejected, hense the re-release of rifts Africa with the new cover.

In effect, it metaphorically sank into the swamp.

Geez. But it seems to be the usual pattern, there are a handful of writers that seem to have come out of the Palladium mill with no complaints, but it's certainly the minority. But that solves a long-standing mystery of "why the new Africa cover"?

Tibalt posted:

So I said I would provide a review of Crafty Game's Fantasy Craft earlier in the thread.

Fantasy Craft was, at heart, my D&D 4e. Pathfinder didn't do anything significant I didn't already have on my shelf of 3.5 books, I felt, and D&D 4th Edition felt too stifling with its deeply focused classes. Fantasy Craft was just right in the middle.

I've had years of experience playing it at this point, so if you have any questions, feel free to bug me.

Jerik posted:

I have all the Planescape supplements; I've run several campaigns in the setting; and I was one of the contributors to the semi-official-but-not-really 3E Planescape conversion on planewalker.com. (Though I wasn't one of the editors, and I'm not in favor of all the decisions they made.)

I was on that team as well, and I'd concur the editorial process definitely pushed me to "if I'm going to be treated this way, I really ought to start getting paid for it". It was just one particular editor, mind, who eventually left the site, but the damage was done on my end at the point.

SirPhoebos
Dec 10, 2007

WELL THAT JUST HAPPENED!

Welcome to the forums, Jerik! Be sure to pick up the complimentary "Saving Lotax's Spine" T-shirt.

As much as I love the setting, my knowledge of Planescape wasn't comprehensive (as you might have noticed I had other IPs tugging at my brain), so it'll be great to see a more thorough examination.

1994 Toyota Celica
Sep 11, 2008

by Nyc_Tattoo


Has anyone done a deep dive itt into Fading Suns, core or supplements?

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!


Love the retrospective, Jerik. But as a recommendation, you may want to start each post with a consistent bolded title, it helps the nice guy who maintains the F&F archive when he's hunting the thread for posts that need to be hauled over there.

1994 Toyota Celica posted:

Has anyone done a deep dive itt into Fading Suns, core or supplements?

https://projects.inklesspen.com/fatal-and-friends/jamiethed/fading-suns/

I think this review covered most of the content, but I love Fading Suns and there's no rule against multiple reviews of the same thing, especially if there's a different perspective, writing style or knowledge brought to the table.

1994 Toyota Celica
Sep 11, 2008

by Nyc_Tattoo


ah, thanks

and looks like they never touched the Star Crusade supplements in that review, interesting

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

Solving all of life's problems through enhanced casting of Occam's Razor. Reward yourself with an imaginary chalice.



Inklesspen is a very nice lady who uses a trawler to grab content from the thread, so yeah add some kind of header for easier scooping. You can also add chapter/installment demarcations if you want custom chapter headings to show up as well.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

PurpleXVI posted:

Love the retrospective, Jerik. But as a recommendation, you may want to start each post with a consistent bolded title, it helps the nice guy who maintains the F&F archive when he's hunting the thread for posts that need to be hauled over there.

I was going to start each post with a bolded title starting with the second, but I figured I'd leave the title off the first post so as not to give away what book it was about right at the beginning. But in retrospect, yeah, that was probably a stupid idea, and not worth the inconvenience it would ultimately cause to inklesspen; I'll go back and edit in a title. Thanks.

Mors Rattus posted:

The Mad City is a dark metropolis, haunted by terrible nightmares. Here, the sleepless trade sanity for safety to fight off the terrible monsters.

Welp, looks like we can add Don't Rest Your Head to the list of other games Sig is ripping off...

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Spycraft 1e

Accounting Nightmare

So, gear in Spycraft 1e is actually mostly sane. Except for one thing: Budget Points. Budget Points are the enemy. The Budget system is designed to meaningfully limit your ability to just have whatever super cool guns and gear you want, but it struggles with a simple fact: Guns and armor are the only really significant expenditure of Budget. Sidearms are pretty cheap, but any real hardware costs a shitton of Budget, and any real armor is even more expensive. It's a good thing the average Agent wants to stay as far away from armor as possible, then. Budget is very fiddly and takes a lot of tracking and bookkeeping. It also ensures almost every character can't use Charisma as a dump stat; if you do, the people at the accounting office will gently caress you. Hard.

So, every character has a 'personal budget' of standard equipment they can alter from mission to mission and that they bring with them on every assignment. You get 40 BP, plus 5xCharisma Modifier (Subtracting, if your Cha Mod is negative), plus your total Budget Points from your class. Most items are very cheap; getting your lockpicking kit, your bugs, your computer (if you don't have a free magic one from being Computer Ops) etc are very easy for the non-combat classes. Similarly, it's pretty easy to buy a simple 9mm sidearm and silencer, or a melee weapon. It's only heavy military gear or any form of armor that gets expensive as hell. As you might imagine, this can be a bit of an issue for your team's Soldier. The vast majority of gear is so cheap that picking it out is a long exercise in nickle and diming your budget to make sure you remembered everything, and this can take a long time.

Once you start a mission, the Agency assigns a threat rating to it. Depending on if it's Yellow, Red, or Black, you get 15, 25, or 35 extra Budget, plus your Class bonus, plus 2d4xCha Mod (subtracting if negative, again). Everyone on the team generates that, and you can pool it together to buy the poor Soldier the gear they need to do their job. This is made a little easier by the fact that only your team's Soldier should ever actually wear body armor. For most characters, especially characters limited to Light armor, wearing a tuxedo liner or Kevlar vest actually makes them considerably easier to kill past very early levels. Also I hope you don't need too many explosives; C4, Grenades, etc are expensive as hell. A single frag grenade costs as much as a decent .40 caliber sidearm pistol. C4 is 20 budget points per 1/4 pound bomb. Hope you don't have to blow things up as a team of superspies and saboteurs. The GM can also issue gadgets and items that will be totally necessary to the mission, so I imagine that's where you get the bombs you need to plant on some Russian crime boss's crime yacht.

Why do I say not to wear armor? Because weirdly, in Spycraft, armor doesn't provide AC. Well, it does, but not much. More importantly, wearing armor (which usually provides +1 Defense) completely replaces your Class Defense Bonus. Note you actually get your Defense Bonus even if you're flat footed, flanked, surprised, or whatever; it's your superspy ability to see poo poo coming and do a cool backflip out of the way, even if you were caught by surprise. It functions like armor in a normal D&D game. So why the hell would you wear armor? For one, Armor and a Helmet will give +3 Defense, which isn't that bad. For two, armor provides Damage Reduction. Medium or Heavy Armor also forces the GM to spend 2 Action Dice to critical you. And remember; your armor will stop damage, so if you get critted, it's stopping Wound damage. That's right, a Crit in Spycraft doesn't double your damage or something; it hits you right in your Wounds no matter how many Vit points you have left. Or if you Crit a minor enemy, you instantly drop them. Thus, running around in armor will make you much harder to Crit and will make Crits that do get through much more likely to chip off a few Wounds but otherwise leave you fine and with a pile of Vit between you and further bullets.

The issue is that light armors don't provide enough DR to be worth opening yourself up to getting shot more often. And only the Soldier gets that Armor Use bonus, where they gain Defense while in Armor as they level (to make up for losing their Class Bonus). Also, only the Soldier can actually wear the serious Heavy armors. And armor is the single most expensive item in the game. If my tough Marine convoy gunner turned superspy wants to armor up completely with either a Door Gunner's Vest (DR 14, but -15 Speed out of your 30 base land speed, which can hurt, and it's so heavy it actually gives a 2 Defense PENALTY, plus a -7 Armor Check Penalty and Max Dex Bonus to Defense of 0) or an Assault Vest w/Insert (DR 10, -10 Spd, only -4 ACP, MDB +1) I'm throwing 50 Budget at it. Then another 10 for a Helmet for +2 Defense because why the gently caress are you not wearing a helmet, you silly billy? This isn't Warhammer 40k. Note this is actually really serious DR, though; DR 10? Plus the Soldier's innate DR, which stacks with it? Compare this against the damage of most guns: d10, d12, or maybe 2d10 for a heavy battle rifle. And remember you can make up for defense by using cover, and that at a certain level the Soldier makes their own cover just by shooting back at people. It is, in fact, 100% feasible to show up to a flippy action movie gunfight as a hulking mass of Kevlar and ceramic inserts, and with the right perks you can even be wielding an M60 one-handed like Rambo while holding a riot shield in the other while you walk through assault rifle fire like it was mosquito bites and mow down mooks for your lighter buddies.

That's right, this is a 2002 era game where being a huge person in heavy armor with a big gun is actually one of the most badass ways to fight and the province of the highly specialized super good at combat character. All the highly nimble dodgy action heroes are still good at fighting, but 'I am a walking tank and I am going to gently caress everything between me and our mission objective/hold off a dozen guards with AKs while everyone else extracts before I make my way out' is Soldier only and works really goddamn well.

The fact that only one PC wants to do that is really helpful because you won't be able to afford more PCs doing that. One interesting thing is that guns in the core book do the sensible thing of mostly standardizing their profiles by caliber. A 9mm round is going to do d10, Threat 20, Error 1, (maybe Error 2 in an SMG since automatic weapons are always finickier), and have meh range (like 20 feet per range increment). Higher caliber sidearms are more expensive and all around better; a .45 is simply superior to a 9mm mechanically (d10+2 damage, 19-20 Crit Threat, etc), but also costs almost twice as much (13 for a 9mm Service sidearm and 22 for a .45). You can, of course, get a .50 caliber Desert Eagle that does 2d8 but it also has a higher Error rating so you can potentially let your GM activate crit-misses more often. Assault Rifles generally do widely variable but high damage (2d8+2 per shot for a 5.56mm, 2d10 for a 7.62x51 NATO, but only 2d8 for a 7.62x39mm AK round because mook guards use those so they should be worse) while shotguns do shitloads of d4s and can hit multiple close together targets. SMGs are cheap two-handed weapons that you use because you can still silence them and they only cost as much as a pistol, while those ARs all cost 30 or more Budget. Same for Sniper Rifles, which have huge Threat Ranges but only if you aim and fire.

An interesting thing is that the actual Tactical Weapons the Soldier (and Wheelman) can use are more powerful than their rifle versions even if they use the same ammo. This is because they're giving you a mechanical bonus for paying the huge cost to use an LMG or GPMG or whatever. These are rare, expensive weapons that only two classes use; they should be impressive. An M60 7.62x51mm NATO medium machine gun does a huge 3d8 damage! HMGs are even stronger but actually need a tripod or vehicle backing to fire. You get some pretty basic 'special' ammos that will reduce DR slightly, or improve damage a little against unarmored targets, and then you also get a bunch of rocket launchers and grenade launchers that just don't do enough damage to justify the huge expense of their ammo (Seriously, while 3d10 damage is nice, as is AoE, 15 Budget a shot in an expensive 30 Budget weapon that also imposes -2 to hit and needs a tripod mount to be set up and braced is, uh, impractical). Still, in general, the Soldier getting Tactical actually does give them access to some impressive firepower when poo poo hits the fan. This will be undone by the Modern Arms Guide, which mostly makes Tactical weapons just assault rifles with a very high Error rating, high cost, and a larger magazine. Sure, sure, same bullet and all, but c'mon! This is a special, rare weapon prof that's hard to bring to bear. It should be impressive!

I go into all this to basically get at the fact that most characters' gear will be fairly cheap and easy to acquire, if fiddly, while the Soldier is going to eat your Budget like the very avatar of the bloated American Military Industrial Complex. And don't you worry, we'll get into the Modern Arms Guide next update.

Meanwhile, Gadgets...well, Gadgets kind of suck in Spycraft 1e. They're your cool superspy items. Most of them are very, very specific, very fiddly, and not great. Spycraft 2e does a much better thing and makes the entire Gadget system into a sort of 'build your own modular magic items' system, which 1e really could've used. You're supposed to be excited about Gadget Points, but most of the time...eh. Most Gadgets are too specific, too niche, and too weird to actually come up much. Sure, your street clothes giving +1 Defense (without replacing your entire Class Bonus) is handy, or having a secret copier that saves and reprints documents is helpful, or a hip flask that's actually a magnetic bomb, but they're just not that exciting overall. The issue is that Gadgets are trying to replace Magic Items, but they don't really get what a Magic Item is useful for, so they're all those piles of flavorful Utility Items that no-one ever spends their GP Per Level allotment on because they need stuff that gives direct skill/save/stat bonuses. If you've seen it in a spy movie, it's somewhere in the Gadgets section, and it's probably underwhelming. Making them into much more heavily standardized and mechanical items in 2e was a huge improvement.

Gadgets are also spent on buying and modifying vehicles. With enough of them, you can technically requisition a CVN and hijack a USN aircraft carrier for your spy shenanigans. I'm not sure why you would, but you could. Also, because you requisitioned it, you can also have all kinds of superspy modifications made. To your CVN. Which you can use to enter chases using your Wheelman. I am absolutely certain that at some point in this game's history, a CVN and the Wheelman's level 14 'Break The Laws Of Physics' ability has been used to do something completely, totally ridiculous like ramping over a fruit stall only to land on the long-suffering cabbage cart behind it and continue on into the water.

Next Time: Gun Porn, You, And Why The Modern Arms Guide And All It Represents Belongs In The Trash

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



Of course, the Budgeting phase is also when the game session stops dead in its tracks as everyone hands the book back and forth trying to guess exactly the right gear they'll need. It's especially deadly in PBP games.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
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Sig: Manual of the Primes
All There Is To Know



The Conceptual Plane of Lore embodies the Belief that Knowledge is power. Here, all things known are stored, and the wise study for eternity. Histories of lost dynasties, radiant walls that display current events across the Primes, mystic songs that teach the secrets of the lore-vaults – all can be found here. Terrible prophecies are kept safe in the ancient vaults, while living spells seek out unwary minds, hoping for a chance to escape the Plane and head into the Primes. Catalogues of scents and tastes store the cultural traditions of many worlds, and anything that someone seeks to know might be find, if the tithe of the librarians is paid. The Primal Library stores every book or scroll ever made. Whenever a book is published, a scroll written or a tablet carved, a copy appears here. The Culture Archives are grand vaults in which are preserved the food, drink, dress and religious traditions of cultures from across the ‘verse. The Spoken College is an academic institution dedicated solely to passing on oral traditions. Here, ritual invokers, bardic spellsingers and shamans passs on their lore.

The most famous people of the plane are the Elderskein. They are the remnants of an ancient people whom the Primordials spun forth from the golden threads of fate. While now but a bare remnant of their old glories, they have great power in the arts of wizardry. Have you ever wanted to play a Skeksis or Urskek? Good news! These twisted, vulture-like creatures are masters of the arcane, and on their naming-day upon reaching adulthood, each one pledges themselves to pursue a single scholarly field for the rest of their long life. Most content themselves with research, experiments and teaching focused on this specialty. Sure, they no longer rule the Primes as they once did, but their power remains great. Common Talents:
Song (Broad)
Wizardry (Broad)
Invocation (Common)
The Scholar’s Oath (Deep) (This is notable in that it gets explanation – when you take it, it represents your Elderskein’s extremely precise, obscure field of specialty, such as Kraken Breeding Habits, Planar Dysjunctions or similar.)

The greatest Faction of the plane is the Sage Collegium. In the Great Purge of Sig, many scholars and priceless books were burned. The Sage Collegium emerged from this with a single oath: never again. They came together with the shared goal that so much knowledge and learning should never be able to be destroyed as it once was. They created the Invisible College, a network of secret library-caches and meeting halls for the academics of Sig. By undergoing a series of semi-secret apprenticeships, the wisest or most cunning may be invited to join the Collegium, furthering the hidden shield that protects knowledge. Those who serve the Collegium well are often inducted into deeper secrets of wizardry or alchemy.
Duty: Offer information and research services to Sig.
Leverage: Revolutionary cells of well-read wizards and alchemists.
Example Agenda: Build a secret Archive of Fallen Powers under the Breeding Warrens.

One of the notable Powers of the plane is Brossien of Mystic Song, Power of Song, Lore and Enlightenment. Once, he was a mortal man, famous for his beautiful, seductive voice and his great parties. He traveled the Planes and Primes, creating stories so beautiful that even stones wept for him. In his quest to earn fame, he discovered a strange emerald lute bound in iron chains. When he took it and played the first note, his soul merged with that of the fallen goddess trapped within the instrument. Now, he is a full Power, creating songs that tap into the under-harmonies and call on the true language of creation. He still throws an amazing party, but some are disturbed by how many demigods he spawns.
Devotion: Never allow an evening to pass without a song.
Ritual: The Melodic Charm lets you beguile someone, temporarily convincing them you’re their steadfast friend. If you don’t spend Influence, they will remember being charmed when they next wake up.
Example Agenda: Capture the heart of Hdir, God of the Adamant Forge.



The Conceptual Plane of Life embodies the Belief of Grow or die. All things that live can be found on the plane, somewhere. Massive trees, silver-barked and immortal, stretch skywards. Thick vines coat them, forming a green web, and the ferns and shrubs whisper in the wind. The flowers are more vivid, the aromas stronger. By night, however, the apparent idyll becomes dangerous. Even the trees turn predatory, luring travelers to their doom or lashing out with vicious hunger. Even the fruits, nuts and seeds are no longer safe to eat, under darkness. The plane belongs to nature, and outsiders are not usually trusted. The Starlight Forest is a sacred ground, infused with divine light. Golden, silver and sapphire trees grow there, holding back the dark. The Worldtree is an immense thing, a tree that extends through the Planes, with roots and branches that connect to every Prime, if you know where to look and will brave the dangers. The Plentiful Lands are a place of many fruits, roots and vegetables which never run dry. Here, the crops are always ripe and ready for harvest.

The most notable folk of the plane are the Sylva, a people of tree-like sentient plants. They have three genders: male, female and noble. Male Sylva appear to be normal trees and rarely move, though they can talk. Female Sylva are similar, but slightly more mobile – they move at night to tend to the forests and gardens they’ve made. When they reproduce, the children are always noble. Noble Sylva are explorers, diplomats and adventurers because they take the form of humanoid trees. They scatter seeds behind them naturally, which then grow up into new groves of male and female Sylva. The only pure-blooded Sylva in Sig are noble-gender, as there is not really space for a Sylva forest to grow. (Except perhaps in the Garden, but the Garden’s management prefers to not give up space to house male and female Sylva.) Common Talents:
Plants (Broad)
Resilience (Broad)
Tree-speech (Common)
Regeneration (Deep)

The Farmers’ Association keeps Sig fed. The city is big, and it needs a lot of food. While the best food is imported from elsewhere in the ‘verse, the Farmers produce the majority of the City Between’s diet. Traditional crops are grown in rooftop farms, each a diverse mix of roots, leafs and grains. The sewers are home to thriving mushroom farms, and the Farmers also fish the Great River and its offshoots. The few parks or tree-lined streets (including parts of the Garden) are used to cultivate fruits and nuts. The Farmers also manage the rat farms, chicken roosts and dog kennels. All local food is guarded closely by the Farmers and their trusty polearms, because they have the duty to ensure everyone eats.
Duty: Produce food for the city.
Leverage: Control over the food supply.
Example Agenda: Introduce coffee to the residents of Sig.

Kestranna, the Harvester, is the Power of Life, Death and Agriculture. She is the bipartite goddess of the harvest, both Kestr and Ranna. Kestr is her friendly face, her skin dark as fertile soil, and she comes bearing a grand harvest in her arms, to feed all who hunger. Ranna, on the other hand, is her pale, vicious face, for Ranna is the scythe-queen who reaps those whose time has come. Together, she is both loved and feared across countless Primes, for she gives and she takes in her turn.
Devotion: Never refuse to offer hospitality to a guest.
Ritual: The Hungry Petition provides an abundance of delicious food and drink, direct from Kestr’s table. If you do not spend Influence, Ranna slays an innocent mortal nearby to sate her hunger.
Example Agenda: Destroy the rival cult of the Fisher King before they establish themselves in Sig.



The Conceptual Plane of Death embodies the Belief that Mortality is a blessing. Most primals are terrified of it, thinking it is a nightmare waste of the undead and their vicious kingdoms. Which it is, but not in whole. The Plane of Death is a safe harbor for the hurt and pained, no matter where they come from. Here, memories last forever for those that need them. The land is white as bone, and in death, mortals can find solace and comfort that is often denied in life. Whenever a minority group gets conquered, assimilated or destroyed, a necropolis rises here to house their souls and memories for all eternity. The Palace of Primordial Memories is the alabaster palace-tomb that contains the fragmented memories of the slain Primordials. The Ashlands are an endless ash-desert, gray and dim, where vengeful shades wander forever in a fruitless hunt for their loved ones. The Boneyard is a mountain of skeletons, made from the bones of every type of beast in the Planes and Primes. Some of these bones are still animate.

The Revenants are some of the more famous people of the plane. When primal mortals die before their appointed time, some of them are reborn on the Plane of Death as Revenants. Many of them consider their rebirth a divine blessing, converting to one of many religious orders found on the plane. Others focus on rejoining their undead cultural communities, communing with other dead souls from their mortal cultures in the countless necropoli. A few, however, cling to their memories of life or their drive for vengeance. These undead are the ones most often found out wandering Sig or the Primes, hunting for whatever they have lost. Common Talents:
Death (Broad)
Memory (Broad)
Gravespeech (Common)
Unliving Endurance (Deep)

The primary Faction of the plane is the Dustkeeper’s Guild. They are the City Between’s memory, and the keepers of much forgotten lore. They store the bodies of the dead and their relics in dry, dusty vaults. They manage the city morgue, where most bodies are taken for final disposal without much ceremony. Their vaults also serve as the city’s municipal archives and museums, keeping city records and historical artifacts in carefully cataloged safety. The Guild’s members are diligent about tracking everything, and often end up called into legal disputes as coroners or municipal historians.
Duty: Manage the dead and their artifacts.
Leverage: Undead servants and agents.
Example Agenda: Wake the skeletal remains of the dragon Wayrnar the Dreamer.

The example Power is Omulaub the Tranquil, Power of Death, Pain and Succor. He calls out to those who hurt, and his followers are the suffering, often with broken bodies or wounded souls. He offers his gifts to the abused, the victimized and the broken. While he is kind, he cannot return to them what they have lost. Rather, he offers them soothed pains and a chance to find their future. For those who need it, he offers the final sleep, without pain or suffering, but of all the Powers of Death in the ‘verse, he is the only one who respects mortals’ right and desire to live on a few more years before they must die.
Devotion: Never ignore someone in pain.
Ritual: The Numb Blessing allows you to remove physical, mental or emotional pain from someone. If you do not spend Influence, they are permanently numbed to that kind of pain.
Example Agenda: Smuggle thousands of vials of painkilling potions into Sig’s black markets.

Next time: The City Between

wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion




Something like Spycraft's Budget is ideal for converting into a resource you can spend on missions to reveal that your watch was actually a laser the whole time, like Blades.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Selachian posted:

Of course, the Budgeting phase is also when the game session stops dead in its tracks as everyone hands the book back and forth trying to guess exactly the right gear they'll need. It's especially deadly in PBP games.

God, tell me about it. Especially since the group I was in loved the gun porn Modern Arms Guide, and we'd end up spending like an entire session at the start of each arc just picking out gear.

I went into that game going 'I'm gonna play Batu and Togusa' and by God I did (even though that wasn't the Ghost in the Shell game). And the system let me, it's true. Just I'd have to spend a lot of time each mission convincing the others 'Yes, Pat needs a big gun and a shitload of armor, this is literally my job and it's like buying a computer for the hackers' while Shigeru just grabbed his Mateba Revolver he never used, a moderate quality tailored suit (it's a uniform; you don't go with cheap, but you don't go with designer either.) and some evidence analyzers and got back to work, skipping most of the budget stuff.

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SirPhoebos
Dec 10, 2007

WELL THAT JUST HAPPENED!

One more thing, Jerik: SA Trad Games has it's own discord, including a channel devoted to this thread. Feel free to join u.

https://discord.gg/M3AjJt

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