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The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007



Night10194 posted:

One of the funny things about Expose is, considering how completely infested the oWoD is? Imagine just how many supernaturals 'all supernaturals in 1 square mile' reveals in a city.

And they all see each other and realise that humans are actually in the minority and there's no point hiding from them anymore. Monster takeover ensues.
Great job, hero.

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PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

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


Night10194 posted:

Also funny: For all the talk of Hunters being from everywhere and a variety of faiths, we sure only ever hear about any in the US (There'll be a few who refer to coming from elsewhere, before being in the US) and all the references to how they see things religiously all seem to be Christian, naturally.

Communist Hunters in Vietnam or North Korea, after all, what better example of bourgeois corruption than a Vampire, an ubermensch that literally feeds off the working class?

juggalo baby coffin
Dec 2, 2007

How would the dog wear goggles and even more than that, who makes the goggles?




Nessus posted:

Well yeah, we got both kinds of religion here; we got Catholic and we got Christian.
Ah, like Goon Island?

yeah except it might work out cause prometheans can live off electricity and dont get diseases

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

PurpleXVI posted:

Communist Hunters in Vietnam or North Korea, after all, what better example of bourgeois corruption than a Vampire, an ubermensch that literally feeds off the working class?

I made a character for a Hunter's Hunted game once who was a Marxist Feminist who believed that vampires were an expression of bourgeois parasitism and roamed the streets at night as a neighbourhood watch to protect women from vampire attacks, because women and especially marginalized women are disproportionately victims of vampire attack. (She had four allies joining her nightly patrols: A liberal feminist, a radical feminist, a postmodern feminist, and a transfeminist.)

thatbastardken
Apr 23, 2010

A contract signed by a minor is not binding!


was she inevitably betrayed by the liberal feminist?

mike12345
Jul 14, 2008

"Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries."







LatwPIAT posted:

I made a character for a Hunter's Hunted game once who was a Marxist Feminist who believed that vampires were an expression of bourgeois parasitism and roamed the streets at night as a neighbourhood watch to protect women from vampire attacks, because women and especially marginalized women are disproportionately victims of vampire attack. (She had four allies joining her nightly patrols: A liberal feminist, a radical feminist, a postmodern feminist, and a transfeminist.)

The end scene shows them killing each other, while the vampire watches puzzled from a rooftop above.

Maxwell Lord
Dec 12, 2008

I am drowning.
There is no sign of land.
You are coming down with me, hand in unlovable hand.

And I hope you die.

I hope we both die.


:smith:



Grimey Drawer

kommy5 posted:

I get why someone would want to use Arthurian Myth for a DnD campaign. But... I'm just not really seeing why it would be put into this particular book or put in with this little heart or description. Is there any point if you're not actually describing much of the actual myths? It could be done a heck of a lot better than how it seems to be presented here. Though some work would probably need to be done to make some story ideas that allow room for a party of PCs. Which, honestly, would probably be the real work of the writers rather than spitting out five sentence descriptions and human Fighter stat blocks. Also a decent writer could have some fun putting their own spin on these stories.

Also, this should be in a different book. I mean, these are ostensibly Christian knights. They don't really fit into this unless... Oh dear. Are we going to see DnD trying to put in Abrahamic pantheons? I both dread that idea and look forward to it with morbid curiosity.

The reason these are in this book are the same reason anything is in any early AD&D book, there was a drive for content and people didn't particularly care in what form they got it. The early D&D supplements were a total grab bag too.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Deities & Demigods 1E
Part 6: Everything is Demons



I can't say the writing style of the logo screams "Babylonian" to me, but I don't know what would. Maybe cuneiform?

Ah, here we get to a pantheon I did make heavy use of in my own campaigns. Well... not the whole pantheon. Just one god. I'll point him out when we get to him.

(Not that I didn't make any use of the other pantheons. I don't think I ever used anything from the Arthurian Heroes section, but I did have a country in my homebrew campaign world that was Native-American-flavored, and where the gods of the "American Indian Mythos" were worshiped. Or at least, I guess they presumably would have been, though I don't think any PCs ever visited that country in any campaigns I ran, so the matter never really came up.)

For some reason, the authors choose in this chapter to go on at some length as to how hard it was to research this pantheon, and, well, I'll just quote this part:

Babylonian Mythos posted:

The origins of Babylonian mythology are extremely ancient. Because of this, misconceptions, duality among the gods and goddesses, and similarities between their deities and those of other pantheons exist. In formulating this list for your use, we have consulted many sources, and some of these conflict with each other. This version is designed to be close to historically accurate and still playable in AD&D terms.

(NOTE: If you wish to look hard enough, we are sure that you will find many points of disagreement with certain historical sources. This is unavoidable, when so many sources conflict.)

Really, most of that could be said of any of the historical pantheons. Contradictions, duality among the gods and goddesses, and similarities with deities of other pantheons exist aplenty in the Egyptian, Greek, and Norse pantheons as well. Regardless, though, I like the fact that this pantheon is here at all; ancient Mesopotamia typically gets short shrift in fantasy worlds compared to more familiar places like Greece and Egypt. In fact, the ancient Mesopotamians get not one, but two pantheons in this book... as we'll see later, there's a Sumerian Mythos as well. On the one hand, this makes sense; as much as people sometimes talk about "Mesopotamian mythology" and "Mesopotamian culture", Mesopotamia is a place, not a specific civilization, and there are a number of distinct civilizations that existed there at different times (Babylonia and Sumer, yes, and also Akkadia, Assyria, Chaldea... and of course modern Iraq and its neighbors). On the other hand, they just got done two chapters ago trying to shoehorn all of pre-Columbian North America into a single pantheon, and as we'll soon see they also have a single "Central American Mythos" rather than having distinct pantheons for the Aztecs, Maya, and Olmec. So the separate treatment of the Babylonian and Sumerian Mythoi certainly isn't wrong or unjustified, but it is a bit... inconsistent with their treatments of other areas. Anyway, I'll revisit this point when we get to the Sumerian Mythos, where the authors do address their reasoning for separating the mythoi. Sort of. Not really.

We start with our requisite few-paragraph overview of the pantheon. The high priest is usually also the ruler of the country, and "must be a combination magic-user/cleric of great power". Which... raises a big question right there, since in first edition the only way for a human character to have more than one class (and the priest-king definitely must be human, for reasons we'll see shortly) is to "dual class", starting as one class and then switching into another. So... did the priest-king reach a high level as a magic-user, and then switch over to devote himself to clerical pursuits late in life? Or did he first level up as a cleric, and then take considerable time off from his clerical progression to learn the way of the magic-user? Either way it seems odd. Maybe the priest-king is supposed to be a rare exception to the usual dual-classing rules, but the book doesn't say that.

Anyway, clerics of the Babylonian Mythos "remain aloof from the normal populace in temples and shrines", but apparently they go on quests together—even the priest-king—to "bring back riches (usually through conquest) to further the sect". They seem, in fact, overall to be rather a mercenary lot; the book says they also advance "through the payment of gold to the high priest's court." Successful priests may be "given great (and highly dangerous) quests to prove their worthiness to stand by the King." All Babylonian clerics wear white kilts with red cuneiform writing on the hem.

We get a whole paragraph about the harshness of punishment for clerics who fail in their duties. Clerics who violate minor laws may be required to fast, meditate, and sacrifice animals and gold or precious jewels. Those who violate major laws are excommunicated and denied all spell use (apparently even the first- and second-level spells that we were told in the introductory text come directly through the clerics' faith and aren't granted by deities), unless they agree to go on major quests to help the faith. Such violations of major laws include "helping enemies of the sect", "dealing with humans of the opposite alignment", and... "communicating with intelligent creatures or demi-humans (all of whom are considered 'demons') other than humans".


"Deeemooon!"

So... the entire pantheon is fantasy-racist.


"Didn't you see the sign? 'No nonhumans need apply.'"

Anyway, let's get to the gods.

ANU (god of the sky) "Chief of all the Babylonian Deities"

The head of the pantheon is Anu, lawful neutral god of the sky, who makes his home in Nirvana (the plane of lawful neutrality, later renamed Mechanus). All we're told about his appearance is that "[t]his god appears as a man." Um... any particular kind of man? Always the same man, or does he vary his appearance? It doesn't say.

Okay, we do get an illustration, so I guess that may answer the question of what he looks like, though it doesn't answer the question of whether he always looks like that.


"A dragon, a dragon, I swear I saw a dragon..."

"Beings casting things at this god must make a saving throw against disintegration at −4 for both the being and the thing cast." Saving throws in first edition were divided into various categories based on what you were saving against: paralyzation, poison, or death magic; petrification or polymorph; rod, staff, or wand; breath weapons; or spells. Note that "disintegration" is not one of those categories. So apparently what's meant here is that the being must make a saving throw or be disintegrated. But then what kind of saving throw is it? It doesn't say. I'd guess death magic, but it would be nice if the text were more specific. That is, if this were something that was ever actually going to come up, rather than combat notes about a god that players almost certainly should never be fighting anyway.

Other random facts about Anu:
  • "A strong breeze constantly blows in the direction of his gaze."
  • "His voice is the voice of all leaders" (what?)
  • "He can summon any dragon type (except for the king and queen and any other types of dragon royalty) to fight for him once a week, per dragon type." (I guess by the "king and queen" it means Bahamut and Tiamat?)
  • "Anu is said to have created the heavens and the earth."
  • All his ability scores are maxed out at 25, except, oddly, his Strength, which is "only" 19.
  • In his statblock, for his levels as "MAGIC-USER/ILLUSIONIST", it just says "See below". There is no mention in his descriptive text of any magic-user or illusionist abilities. Oops.

ANSHAR (god of darkness and the night)

Anshar is a chaotic evil god who "always appears as a dark-skinned human and only appears at night or in deep darkness". He casts a darkness beam that does damage, and he can teleport in areas of shadow and darkness, and fortunately halfway through his description the writers finally stop using the word "darkness" so much. He can grasp spells out of the air and toss them back, and usually stores spells before battle, and wait a minute, why are we talking so much about what he does in combat? How often is that going to come up? Aren't there more useful things we can know about this guy? There's nothing about who worships him (other than that his worshipers' alignments are chaotic evil or neutral evil), or how, or why, or what his goals are, but we know he has a 200 spell level storage limit, because that's certainly going to be important to campaigns.

DAHAK (three-headed dragon spirit of death)

Dahak's statted as a unique monster, not a god, though it's a very powerful monster. It's chaotic evil, and it "will only eat the flesh of lawful or good creatures, and it never goes hungry." It is ethereal except when attacking with its bite; it can "negate any magical ability permanently with a touch of all three of its heads at the same time", and once again we get no information about its goals, or how it fits in with the rest of the mythos. Apparently there's just some random über-powerful three-headed evil dragon wandering around for no particular reason.

I was curious enough to look up Dahak to see what role it actually played in Babylonian mythology, and it turns out, as far as I can tell, well, it doesn't. It's not actually from Babylonian mythology at all. Dahak, also known as Zahhak or Aži Dahāka, comes from Persian mythology, which means it's from roughly the right geographical area, but at least a few hundred years too late. Oh well.

DRUAGA (ruler of the devil world)

Remember I said there was one god in this pantheon that I made heavy use of? This is him. Not that he ever made a personal appearance in any of my campaigns, as far as I can recall, but he played a major role behind the scenes. This despite my not having a defined place in my homebrew campaign world for the Babylonian Mythos—eventually I decided there was a distant Babylonian-flavored country across the ocean where the pantheon was worshiped, but I never really developed anything about the country except the name.

Anyway, aside from his appearance, Druaga really isn't all that interesting as evil gods go, frankly. I think the only reason I liked him so much was because I liked his illustration.


Okay, I actually still kind of do like his illustration.

Anyway, we start with a description, which I'm not going to bother to quote because it pretty much matches the illustration, although I will mention that we're told the "combination is so hideous that it often causes enemies to be paralized with fear." (No game effects listed, though; "often" implies that it's not automatic, so is there a saving throw? Does it just happen at the DM's whim?) But while that's his true form, he can shape change at will, and "generally never appears to anyone at the same way twice." (Of course, he's a god; how often does he personally appear to the same person more than once anyway?)

Huh, odd thing I just noticed: Druaga is referred to as "it" in the first paragraph of his description, but "he" in the remaining paragraphs. Oh well.

Anyway, not for nothing is he called the "ruler of the devil world". He can call on any type of (non-arch-)devil once a day "in numbers of 2-20", and anyone hit by his ruby mace must make a saving throw versus magic or turn into a random type of devil under his control.

Also, we get a weird bit about his having a "soul object" that contains the "total essence of his being" and that he places in an unwitting living human for safekeeping. If Druaga is ever killed, he regenerates from his soul object. I guess the idea is that he can be killed for good if the soul object is destroyed, but there's absolutely no information about how that can be done. Is the soul object destroyed if the human it's implanted in is killed? If so, then implanting his soul object in a living human seems like a really stupid move on his part. I mean, he's a literal god with 230 hit points, an Armor Class of −1, and 75% Magic Resistance; I'd think his soul object would be a heck of a lot safer in his real body than implanted in some random human.

Druaga, by the way, is another god here that isn't genuinely Babylonian. In fact, as far as I can tell, he's not genuinely anything; the authors seem to have pretty much just made him up. Not necessarily completely out of whole cloth; the name may come from the Zoroastrian concept of druj, or the related Old Persian root drauga, related to lying or deceit. But personalizing this concept as an eight-armed, snaky-legged monster with "the head... of a beautiful boy" appears to be all on Kurtz and Ward.

(Yes, Druaga as described in Deities & Demigods did also appear in an arcade game called Tower of Druaga (and a later anime series inspired by it), but that game came out four years after the release of Deities & Demigods, and no doubt copied Druaga from it. This is by no means the only example of a Japanese video game ripping off D&D... take the original Final Fantasy game, with monsters such as ankhegs, mindflayers [sic], ochus (otyughs), sahagins (sahuagin), remorazzes (remorhazes), piscodemons (piscodaemons), and, um, bihorudaa (beholders)... which apparently were a step too far and got renamed to "evil eyes" in the American localization.)


The concept drawing for the Final Fantasy bihorudaa, by artist Yoshitaka Amano, and the original Japanese sprite. Yes, the appearance was changed in the localization too.

(Not that this was unique to the Japanese; a lot of the monsters in the early Ultima CRPGs were blatantly ripped off from D&D too. But anyway, I digress...)

GILGAMESH (hero)


"I can take all of you! Come at me!"

Gilgamesh is a great king who is neutral good and "noted for his tyrannical rule". I'm not sure those two things go together. "Although he governs well and maintains peace, he uses his authority to satisfy his personal pleasures." Still getting some mixed messages here.

As apparently is usual for Babylonian kings, he's both a cleric and a magic-user, though oddly despite being described as a "warrior/necromancer/high priest" he's only a 5th-level cleric.

He "has a great fear of death, and if he learns of any way to avoid death, he will do whatever is required to gain it." This is certainly a reference to an episode in the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh in which Gilgamesh undergoes a long series of adventures to seek out his ancestor Utnapishtim, who had been granted eternal life after following the gods' instructions to preserve his family through a great flood (in a story very similar to, and probably the inspiration for, the Biblical story of Noah), to ask for the secret of immortality. Still, we can't leave the impression that Gilgamesh's fear of death makes him a coward:

Gilgamesh posted:

One oddity, however, is that his fear of death seldom occurs to him while facing a terrible foe. At such times, his courage will hearten him and he will fight without wavering.

Gilgamesh was a real historical king, but he ruled in Sumer, not Babylonia. Still, it wasn't till the time of Babylonia that the myths that had developed about Gilgamesh really coalesced into a coherent narrative and the Epic of Gilgamesh came together, so I guess there's some justification for including him in the Babylonian Mythos instead of the Sumerian.

GIRRU (god of fire)

We start with another of the detailed, highly informative descriptions that characterize this chapter: "Girru usually manifests himself as a man." Yeah, great.

Girru casts all fire spells as a 40th level magic-user, and I'm not even sure what that means, because the "SPELLS USABLE BY CLASS AND LEVEL - MAGIC USERS" table in the Player's Handbook only goes to level 29, and I don't see any notes on how it might be extended beyond that. I guess it means that he's considered to be level 40 for any level-dependent parameters in the spell, like that fireball in 1E has a range of 10" + 1"/level and does 1d6 damage per level. So... he's blasting fireballs with a range of 50" (that is, 500 feet indoors or 500 yards outdoors) that do 40d6 damage. All right then. Sure, why not. In light of that, the fact that he also has a mace with a poisoned barb and a +3 axe that can stun people it hits kind of seems like overkill. Also, any weapon that touches his body will disintegrate, with no saving throw. Yeah, we get over half his description devoted to his fighting abilities again. Sheesh.

Girru is lawful good, and he "hates all things evil and will destroy such whenever he comes in contact with them." So that's nice, I guess.

ISHTAR (goddess of love and war)


Also goddess of movies that run over budget and bomb at the box office.

Ishtar "never appears to her worshipers in any form other than that of a beautiful woman." Because of course she doesn't. "She has the strength of a titan, the ability to shape change at will [which she apparently never uses, at least in front of her worshipers], and she uses her voice as a constant suggestion spell", because of course she does. She wears a magic item called the headdress of love and war, which forces any male she is interested in "to become passionately in love with the wearer (no saving throw applicable), but she must really be interested in that male." We get a fun dangling participle in the next sentence: "When fighting an enemy, the headdress gives the wearer the same powers her enemy(s) has." If we take this literally, apparently her headdress fights enemies on its own.

Ishtar has a flying chariot pulled by seven enchanted lions, and we do get brief statistics for the lions for some reason. She also has a blue crystal rod which "is able to transform any spell energy into direct energy times ten, e.g. she is able to strike for 90 points of damage when expending a ninth level spell through the rod and 10 points when using a first level spell through the rod." That seems a little overcomplicated, but okay.

MARDUK


Is he wearing scale mail, or a fishnet shirt?

"Marduk is also called 'the justice bringer' and 'lord of pure incantations'." As you can see from the image, he's "one of the few nonhuman-appearing beings in the pantheon"—in fact, he seems to me to be the only nonevil nonhuman-appearing being in the pantheon (he's lawful neutral, though his home plane is Arcadia, which could imply he tends toward good). Apparently flames shoot from his mouth when he speaks, so I guess he's not really attacking the panel border up there; he's just... yelling at it?

Marduk fights with a "net made of the four winds" that "binds the target until Marduk releases the net". He can also "create any type of weather condition in an instant", including summoning "20 dice lightning bolts". But maybe his most impressive power is that he "can borrow any single ability from any one other deity in the pantheon (no saving throw applicable) and use it as he sees fit." It doesn't say how close the other deity has to be for him to do that—it does say the power "can be given back at any time from any distance", but it doesn't say whether the same holds for borrowing the power in the first place.

Marduk "occasionally assumes the leadership of the Babylonian gods when Anu is preoccupied." Also, "[h]is battles with Tiamat are legendary." Which actually makes sense, because Tiamat is originally from Babylonian mythology, and the mythological Tiamat did fight with the god Marduk. (And was in fact killed by him.) Well... the name Tiamat is originally from Babylonian mythology, anyway, but while the mythological Tiamat was a female figure of primordial chaos, there's certainly nothing in Babylonian mythology to suggest she was a five-headed dragon. (And that, of course, is another thing that was copied from D&D by the original Final Fantasy...)


Making a special guest appearance, everyone's favorite evil dragon queen...

By the way, Tiamat's not the only figure from Babylonian mythology to appear in first edition outside the Deities & Demigods book. There's also Pazuzu.


Till I looked him up just now to double-check that I was remembering correctly about him really being from Babylonian mythology, I actually didn't realize just how closely this illustration was patterned after a real ancient statue of Pazuzu.

But Pazuzu appeared in the Monster Manual II, which came out after Deities & Demigods, so of course it makes sense that he's not mentioned here.

Actually, Pazuzu played a major part in a long-running campaign I DMd in college, so I guess there are two Babylonian divinities (or semidivinities) that I used a lot back in the first-edition days. But only one from Deities & Demigods.

NERGAL (god of the underworld)

Nergal "rules over all things that are dead and never uses any form but a human one." Again, does he always use the same human form? If so, what does his human form look like? It doesn't say. Thanks.

As with Anu, though, we do at least get an illustration.


Why is he bothering to carry a sword, if his shield kills people? Maybe he just uses it to chop vegetables.

He is worshiped by those who wish success in evil deeds, and who gain his favor by sacrificing good creatures on his black basalt altar. In combat, because once again we for some reason have to dedicate more than half his description to his combat abilities and tactics even though he's a god and the chances of the PCs ever facing him in combat are minuscule, he has a +5 shield that "casts a death spell aura (saving throw applicable) in a 30 foot radius around the god", but his "favorite tactic is to revive the 5 most powerful dead enemies of his foe and have them fight for him."

(It's widely claimed that Nergal—the original Mesopotamian god, not the D&D version of him—was the inspiration for the Chaos God Nurgle in the Warhammer setting, but I haven't seen any sources for that, and while it definitely seems plausible I'm not completely convinced it's true until I see confirmation from one of the developers. There are certainly similarities beyond the name, but not marked enough to rule out the possibility of their being coincidental.)

RAMMAN (god of storms and thunder)

Not counting Ishtar's form as a "beautiful woman", Ramman is the only god of whose form we get more description than "a man"—he appears as a man "with massive build and a rather homely face". See, Kuntz and Ward, was that so hard? Why couldn't you have given us descriptions like that for Anu or Girru or Nergal? Anyway, he's a neutral god who is worshiped by "beings who wish rain" of all alignments and who "sacrifice expensive liquids" to bring rain or cooler weather. He also has a core of neutral worshipers who always perform their services at night, though it's never described what those services entail. In combat, he shoots lightning and throws his 10 foot boomerang mallet and has +4 ring mail made out of cloud vapor, but seriously again who cares about what the gods do in combat!? Seriously.

So there we have it. The Babylonian Mythos. Maybe a little lacking in diversity—there's only one good god, only one chaotic god, and only one goddess. (Though I guess that's one more goddess than we got in the American Indian Mythos, at least.) But honestly, for all its flaws (like the lack of physical description of the gods and the pointless obsession with their combat abilities), I think this was the best chapter so far. Though given the competition that's a low bar.

Next time: A New Use for the Severed Head of Your Enemy

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



This is one of the single least accurate portrayals of the Sumerian and Babylonian gods I've ever seen.

Straight on down to "Anu always appears a man."

Anu never appears as a man. Anu, in fact, is one of two gods that is specifically never represented in any iconography as a human being of any kind. Anu is represented exclusively by either the symbol of this name (which is also the symbol representing godhood in general) or as a crown on a throne.

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





Mors Rattus posted:

This is one of the single least accurate portrayals of the Sumerian and Babylonian gods I've ever seen.

Straight on down to "Anu always appears a man."

Anu never appears as a man. Anu, in fact, is one of two gods that is specifically never represented in any iconography as a human being of any kind. Anu is represented exclusively by either the symbol of this name (which is also the symbol representing godhood in general) or as a crown on a throne.

I'm curious, which is the other?

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Mors Rattus posted:

This is one of the single least accurate portrayals of the Sumerian and Babylonian gods I've ever seen.

Straight on down to "Anu always appears a man."

Anu never appears as a man. Anu, in fact, is one of two gods that is specifically never represented in any iconography as a human being of any kind. Anu is represented exclusively by either the symbol of this name (which is also the symbol representing godhood in general) or as a crown on a throne.

For the most part, aside from the handful of entries that clearly weren't remotely Babylonian or Sumerian (Dahak and Druaga), I was going to save the discussion about the gods' historical accuracy till we got to the Sumerian Mythos, since there's a lot of overlap. I didn't know the fact about Anu not being represented anthropomorphically, though, and that's good to know; I'll definitely bring that up (crediting you for the information) when I get to the Sumerian Mythos.

megane
Jun 20, 2008





See, that's what comparative religion classes are missing; they always skip over how many spell levels the various gods can have prepared and what their turn-by-turn tactics are in combat. Serious oversight there.

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!


Seems odd they'd stat Gilgamesh but not Enkidu.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Joe Slowboat posted:

I'm curious, which is the other?

His son and co-ruler of the gods, Enlil, who is also represented only by his name/numeric symbol (which is also the quality of rulership) or as a (different) hat on a throne.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

Jerik posted:

ISHTAR (goddess of love and war)

She wears a magic item called the headdress of love and war, which forces any male she is interested in "to become passionately in love with the wearer (no saving throw applicable), but she must really be interested in that male."

Makes sense. It's not like the single most famous piece of Babylonian literature has an entire subplot about a man refusing Ishtar's advances or anything.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008





Part 1: A lone warrior in a hostile land



The idea of "solo roleplaying" seems like a self-contradictory one, doesn't it?

After all, one of the major selling points of a role-playing game is that it's a group activity. A lot of words have been written about things like the social contract, getting everyone on the same page, working as a group, and so on.

And yes, there are GMless games like Fiasco. But those operate in what's best described as a round-robin style; instead of one person pushing the narrative, everyone takes turns in some fashion. There's still a level of decision-making made by someone for someone else's character.

Truly "solo" gaming, involving a single person by themselves, doesn't come up too much. To a certain degree, it seems more like a writing exercise than a game. A few attempts at solo RPGs have been made, of course. Probably the most well-known is the Mythic Gamemaster Emulator, which tries to be a generic tool that can be applied to any existing RPG, but...well...



I mean, it works, but it's trying to be a universal tool for any RPG, and as such is way too general. I'm told there's an updated version but I haven't read it and anyway I don't want to get caught up in a sub-review here.

Scarlet Heroes by Kevin Crawford is an OSR style fantasy game designed for one-GM-and-one-player, but it also had a section about solo play. It was clearly based on Mythic, except that it used a much smaller table: "yes;yes, and;no, but;no" instead of a flat yes-no. It also included "oracles"; short random-roll tables that could be used to set a scene, get an interesting detail, and create twists on the fly. It sort of splits the responsibilities of the GM between the player and random chance, but it keeps the randomness focused on its genre so it's actually useful. However, it still has the feel of trying to rely too much on "roll to see where you are" and not as much as using the mechanics to help guide the player. It's still something that was attached to a system rather than being part the system itself.

And then there's Ironsworn.

Ironsworn, by Shawn Tomkin, is actually designed from the ground up to be a solo-play RPG (although it can be played by multiple players without a GM, or run traditionally by a GM), using PbtA and Blades inspired elements to provide focus and push the narrative forward. It does this by using a very interesting take on clocks, melding them with a push-your-luck mechanic that actually drives the player to take risks and do things that will generate an interesting story.

But enough of my rambling preamble. Let's look at the basics of Ironsworn. Which, coincidentally, is what the first chapter is all about.


All the art in the book is incredibly well-done greyscale photography.

Before we get going into the first chapter (The Basics), I'd like to point out that Ironsworn is available for free via the official website, DriveThruRPG, and itch.io. The physical book is available as PoD on DriveThru, as are assorted play aids.

Ironsworn takes place in the Ironlands, a low-fantasy setting with a very Viking feel to it. There's stuff about making the setting your own that we'll get to later, but there are a few default assumptions:
  • Your people were driven from their homelands to the Ironlands two generations ago.
  • The land is harsh and the weather is brutal.
  • Most of the land is unexplored. There are no kingdoms or large cities, just villages and steadings. Sometimes settlements will band together under a single leader when needed.
  • There are beasts called the "Firstborn" in the unexplored lands. Elves, were-animals, and stranger things. Anything supernatural is feared.
  • There's no real universal coinage; economies run mostly on barter.
  • The main weapons that see use are spears, axes, and bows. Swords are rare, and prized by those who use them.
  • Vows are sacred.
That last one is not only important to the setting, but to the mechanics as well.

quote:

In the Ironlands, a vow is sacred. When you declare your solemn promise to serve or aid someone, or to complete a personal quest, your honor is bound to that vow. Abandoning or recanting an oath is the worst sort of failure. When you swear a vow, you touch a piece of iron. It can be an iron coin, a weapon, or your armor. It’s an old tradition. Some say the iron, a piece of the primal world, serves as a conduit to the old gods—so they may better hear your promise.

Vows are the core of playing Ironsworn. It is your vows that drive you. These goals create the context for your adventures and challenges. As you complete vows, you gain experience and new abilities.

But before we get too far into characters, let's talk about the base mechanics and related ideas.

Like a Powered by the Apocalypse game, Ironsworn uses specific moves that do things on a strong hit, a hit, or a miss.

Unlike PbtA games, however, you don't roll 2d6 and check the 10+/9-7/6-. Instead, you roll 2d10 and 1d6. The d6 is the action die and is what you add your stat and any modifiers to. You then compare this value to the two d10s, which are the challenge dice; if your action die+stat is higher than both of the d10s, then that's a strong hit. If it's only larger than one die, that's a normal hit, and if it's lower than both dice that's a miss. In addition, rolling doubles on the d10s results in a critical success or failure, depending on the overall outcome of the roll.




"But EM," I hear you say, "that sounds like it's easy to roll misses if you're just rolling dice to beat other dice." To help with this, characters have momentum. Momentum represents how in control of your general situation you are, and ranges from +10 to -6, defaulting to +2. Whenever you roll, if you have positive momentum, you can "burn" it to cancel any of the d10s that rolled under your current momentum. Cancelling one die results in a normal hit, if you cancel both it's a strong hit. Once you burn momentum, it goes back to its default value.

If your momentum is negative, however, your action die is cancelled if you rolled a matching value, leaving you with just your stat to compare to the d10s.

Momentum is mostly gained or lost from moves (and there's one move specifically to regain momentum), and as such managing it is an important part of the gameplay loop.

The other important part of the gameplay loop are Progress Trackers. These are similar to clocks in Blades, and always have 10 boxes.

There are four general types of progress trackers: vows (how far along you are in completing your mission), journey (getting from point A to point B), combat (defeating foes), and bond (making an ally). Each bond type (with the exception of Bonds) also has a rating of overall difficulty: troublesome, dangerous, formidable, extreme, and epic. Most tasks being dangerous or formidable, but the book provides guidelines on picking the right difficulty.

Each tracker type has a specific move that advances it, and those moves will tell you to "mark progress". A box is considered "filled" when it has four lines (called ticks) in a star pattern. The amount of ticks depends on the difficulty of the task: troublesome, dangerous, and formidable tasks will fill whole boxes, but extreme or epic tasks will only fill in a few ticks. Again, Bonds are an exception; these always mark one tick.


This is one of those things that makes more sense when you see it.

Let's say I want to go to Holmstead, which is a place I just made up. I give this journey a progress tracker and assign it a difficulty of "dangerous". This means that every time I mark progress according to the "Undertake a Journey" move, I'd fully fill in two boxes. Therefore, if I succeed at this move three times, I'd have six boxes filled. If this was an extreme journey, however, three successes would only complete one box and leave the second one half-complete.

Now, the important thing to note is this: the overall goal is not to fully fill the progress clock. Instead, there are "Progress Moves" that are rolled to see what the situation is when you try to bring whatever you're doing to completion. The thing about progress moves is that they are not rolled against your stats, they're rolled against the number of filled boxes on the track, without the benefit of stats or momentum.



This creates a very interesting push-your-luck situation; you want to try to fill the progress tracker up as much as you can before finishing the quest/combat/whatever, but the more you make the progression moves, the more events will pop up and the greater the drain on your resources. So you have to balance pushing forward with the risks that come with failing rolls. And the more challenging the task, the more you have to make the progress roll (and deal with the consequences) to get to a point where you have a decent chance of succeeding at the overall task.

One last thing on moves before we talk about characters; there are two universal moves that are referenced by other moves. Pay the price is always triggered on a failure, and determines the consequences of your failure. Ask the Oracle is used whenever you need to figure out a detail or want to declaim decision-making to see what happens next. These don't roll like normal moves; each of these is "choose one of these options, or roll on this percentile chart."



Despite being PbtA/Blades derived, Ironsword does not use classes or playbooks. Instead, characters have Assets, which can be companions, combat styles, special knowledge, or magic rituals. As characters complete their vows (which is to say, finish adventures), they'll gain access to more Assets. It's important to note that normal weapons or items aren't considered Assets; your mundane gear is covered by a Supply tracker. That said, there are Assets that make you better with certain items. For instance, you can just say you have a shield, but if you have the Shield-Bearer Asset, then you're more skilled with it and have more options.


A few sample Assets

The Basics chapter finishes with a Flow of Play chart, which is handy. Like Blades, there's a definite structure to how the game plays out:


That covers a bunch of the Basics chapter, but once we get into the actual systems I'll go into more detail. In fact, not only will I cover the game, you'll see me play it right before your very eyes!

NEXT TIME: Forging a warrior

Evil Mastermind fucked around with this message at 23:56 on Jul 6, 2019

RiotGearEpsilon
Jun 26, 2005
SHAVE ME FROM MY SHELF

This solo-RPG sounds bloody fascinating.

kommy5
Dec 6, 2016


The concept of a solo RPG always fascinated me as a technical challenge. It's one of those things that is probably possible, but almost certain to fall apart when put into the hands of someone who didn't write it. Ironsworn looks like it demands some amount of creativity from it's player, which will likely be the fulcrum on whether an individual game is enjoyable or not. I'll be curious how it compares to something like using a pre-made adventure as your GM or a computer RPG. It's not really a fair comparison, but I'm not sure what else you'd compare it to. A choose your own adventure book?

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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

Night10194 posted:

One of the funny things about Expose is, considering how completely infested the oWoD is? Imagine just how many supernaturals 'all supernaturals in 1 square mile' reveals in a city.
oWoD fans have attempted to tally the total monster population, and even if you add every type together using the most generous assumptions, it's still never more than a small fraction of one percent. If I remember right.

Thuryl
Mar 14, 2007

My postillion has been struck by lightning.


The idea of a solo RPG is one that's existed since the very early days of the hobby; Tunnels and Trolls was known for having a large number of adventures designed for solo play, although for the most part they were basically gamebooks using the T&T ruleset.

Berkshire Hunts
Nov 5, 2009


Halloween Jack posted:

oWoD fans have attempted to tally the total monster population, and even if you add every type together using the most generous assumptions, it's still never more than a small fraction of one percent. If I remember right.

Paging Loomer to the F&F thread

juggalo baby coffin
Dec 2, 2007

How would the dog wear goggles and even more than that, who makes the goggles?




Thuryl posted:

The idea of a solo RPG is one that's existed since the very early days of the hobby; Tunnels and Trolls was known for having a large number of adventures designed for solo play, although for the most part they were basically gamebooks using the T&T ruleset.

i have a very, very old copy of tunnels and trolls that i inherited from my uncle. its got an orange cover and seems to mostly be held together with tape.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



I should point out that Ironsworn does not use pre-planned gamebooks; it's "play to find out what happens".

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

There were a handful of D&D solo adventures published. I recall one was a low fantasy one from the perspective of a thief, and used invisible ink markers on grids to simulate rolling your skills and such. Another had cardboard standies for use with the bundled maps.

Kaza42
Oct 3, 2013

Blood and Souls and all that

Halloween Jack posted:

oWoD fans have attempted to tally the total monster population, and even if you add every type together using the most generous assumptions, it's still never more than a small fraction of one percent. If I remember right.

Let's say it's .1%, or 1/1000 people. I'm in Chicago, which is a city, so let's do that. Wikipedia has it at #75 for densest population, so it's probably not all that huge. It has a population density of 11,868 people per square mile, so 11-12 supernatural creatures.

But that depends on what it means by Monsters. I don't remember if it was defined anywhere, but do things like Ghouls or Kinfolk count? Because if so, the estimate I saw puts it up to 5%, or 593. So it ranges from "objectively not that many, but still a significant number" to "you just revealed 600 monsters to the populace at large"

SirPhoebos
Dec 10, 2007

WELL THAT JUST HAPPENED!

Jerik posted:

Deities & Demigods 1E
Part 6: Everything is Demons




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KdQ7Gig770

Deptfordx
Dec 23, 2013



The Lone Badger posted:

And they all see each other and realise that humans are actually in the minority and there's no point hiding from them anymore. Monster takeover ensues.
Great job, hero.

'Wait. Someone is this city must be a human?'

Angrymog
Jan 29, 2012

Really Madcats



You're being exceedingly dismissive of Mythic:GME, especially as its basically the root of pretty much every solo RPG thing going. Yeah, the big fate chart looks bad, but that's not the only thing in the book. If there's interest, I can try to cover it.

juggalo baby coffin
Dec 2, 2007

How would the dog wear goggles and even more than that, who makes the goggles?




Kaza42 posted:

Let's say it's .1%, or 1/1000 people. I'm in Chicago, which is a city, so let's do that. Wikipedia has it at #75 for densest population, so it's probably not all that huge. It has a population density of 11,868 people per square mile, so 11-12 supernatural creatures.

But that depends on what it means by Monsters. I don't remember if it was defined anywhere, but do things like Ghouls or Kinfolk count? Because if so, the estimate I saw puts it up to 5%, or 593. So it ranges from "objectively not that many, but still a significant number" to "you just revealed 600 monsters to the populace at large"

yeah its definitely still a wild number of vampires to have per square mile in a city. in somewhere more densely populated that would go up to like 60 vampires per square mile.

in inner-city london there would be more vampires per square mile than foxes, and i see foxes literally every night. vampires would be a very high percentage of the people still walking around at night when the streets are quiet.

how much blood does one vampire have to drink in a year? it seems like either a large number of humans would die, or if the vampires just drank a little bit from each victim pretty much everyone would end up having been bitten inside of a year.

8one6
May 20, 2012

When in doubt, err on the side of Awesome!



Didn't one of the World of Darkness books explicitly say that the WoD was a shittier version of the world where people do just go missing or die of "spontaneous blood loss" in dark alleys and regular people just look the other way?

sexpig by night
Sep 8, 2011

by Azathoth


8one6 posted:

Didn't one of the World of Darkness books explicitly say that the WoD was a shittier version of the world where people do just go missing or die of "spontaneous blood loss" in dark alleys and regular people just look the other way?

yea it's either heavily implied or outright said that through a blend of supernatural conspiracy and general handwavey storytelling requirements that WoD world has a much more...slow to respond....handling of individual cases of vanishings and mysterious deaths and all.

Lynx Winters
May 1, 2003

Borderlawns: The Treehouse of Pandora

8one6 posted:

Didn't one of the World of Darkness books explicitly say that the WoD was a shittier version of the world where people do just go missing or die of "spontaneous blood loss" in dark alleys and regular people just look the other way?

Basically every core book, yeah.

I've been flipping through my copy of Kindred of the East out of morbid curiosity and it actually does have a population figure, saying the ratio of mortals to kuei-jin is the same as Western vampos: 100,000 to 1.

Ithle01
May 28, 2013


This solo rpg sounds cool, will be interesting to see you play it.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





juggalo baby coffin posted:

yeah its definitely still a wild number of vampires to have per square mile in a city. in somewhere more densely populated that would go up to like 60 vampires per square mile.

in inner-city london there would be more vampires per square mile than foxes, and i see foxes literally every night. vampires would be a very high percentage of the people still walking around at night when the streets are quiet.

how much blood does one vampire have to drink in a year? it seems like either a large number of humans would die, or if the vampires just drank a little bit from each victim pretty much everyone would end up having been bitten inside of a year.
oWoD vampires are hilariously leaky to the point of making the entire enterprise implausible. Like every single o-Vamp needs about thirty-seven humans worth of blood per year, and that assumes a margin of literally 5 blood points for the entire year to do things like heal and use disciplines. Obviously they don't need to literally kill 37 people per vampire per year, but this poo poo just gets goofy.

Now the point isn't tactical realism, but this level of dracula throughput suggests that the Camarilla should have been considering inventing the True Blood, if purely to stuff it in the mouth of ancillae.

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006



Nessus posted:

oWoD vampires are hilariously leaky to the point of making the entire enterprise implausible. Like every single o-Vamp needs about thirty-seven humans worth of blood per year, and that assumes a margin of literally 5 blood points for the entire year to do things like heal and use disciplines. Obviously they don't need to literally kill 37 people per vampire per year, but this poo poo just gets goofy.

Now the point isn't tactical realism, but this level of dracula throughput suggests that the Camarilla should have been considering inventing the True Blood, if purely to stuff it in the mouth of ancillae.

The Blade scenarios of running really liberally-regulated blood banks and farming out comatosed homeless people and disappeared runaways seems more plausible.

One of my friends came up with a character concept of a vampire trucker felt too on the nose.

hyphz
Aug 5, 2003

Number 1 Nerd Tear Farmer 2022.

Keep it up, champ.

Also you're a skeleton warrior now. Kree.


Unlockable Ben



The second part of the book somewhat changes things up, starting to focus on the actual running of the game, and becoming somewhat less organized as a result. Also, the already-short chapters start to become ridiculously short at this point. At least one of the chapters is probably less than a page after removing the space taken by the chapter header and the ending artwork.

Building A Lazy Campaign.. ugh.. ok, have I already mentioned how much I dislike the use of lazy in this book? I can understand lazy Dungeon Master as kind of ironic, but who wants to play in a "lazy campaign"? In fact, as soon as we get to the first page we discover that the author prefers to call it a "spiral campaign". That's because the focus on the world starts with the PC's immediate location, and then spirals outwards as they visit locations and explore and learn about the world. But it also gives a better idea of the starting points: a campaign hook (some kind of overall goal), six "truths of the world" which define the setting, and three "fronts" right out of Dungeon World (which is specifically mentioned - together with a Mike Mearls quote about how great he thought they were and how much they improved his D&D games. Strange he didn't put them in the book).

Running Session Zero is about the concept of Session Zero, with no connection to "Lazy" techniques. Describe the world, set up expectations, make the characters and get them together, and maybe do a test adventure.

Top Traits of Good GMs is a seriously confused chapter to start with. The actual traits in question are: flexibility, creativity, and improvisation. Not entirely sure how "improvisation" is a trait, but OK. The bulk of the chapter is not about the traits, though, but about methods for attaining them: "Relax", "Listen", "Trust Your Tools", and "Sharpen Your Skills". "Relax" is a fair point, although a little difficult to do on demand. "Listen" naturally refers to listening to the players. "Trust Your Tools", however, is really odd; it's encouragement to use the preparation that was described in the previous section, and then a note about using a player's suggestion for their background that probably belonged in the "Listen" section. And "Sharpen Your Skills" says the usual thing - "practice" - with no addressing of the classic problem with this advice (do your players want to tolerate you practicing?)

Summarizing the Previous Session is the aformentioned chapter that's only actually one page long. It says: at the start of the session, have the players summarise the last session. That's it. Why? Because you can listen to what each player has remembered, and that tells you what the highlights were for them. Well, unless one player remembers everything or is just unusually loud, which is sadly more common than not.

Three Tricks for Group Storytelling has an introductory section that's already going to have any OSR people rolling to sharpen their whetstones. It states:

quote:

We want to work together to elevate our games from mechanics-focused simulations into action scenes worthy of any good novel or movie. Moving players into creative improvisational thinking isn't easy, though. We're all familiar with how society pushes people to leave imagination behind once childhood is done, and it's that imagination that we need to open up once again.

The transition from the first sentence to the second - that the way to move a game away from a mechanics-focussed simulation requires the players to engage in world creativity - and the techniques in this chapter take it in ways that might be even more disliked by some players. The first is to ask players to describe their killing blows against monsters, which is not too bad an idea, but my experience is that it doesn't go that well - funneling all the player(s) creativity into the act of killing with swords gets tedious quickly, and it rubs into the players the idea that their descriptions don't actually make any difference, which shouldn't be the case in a good game.

But we then go right to shared world with the next three questions - "What's an interesting physical characteristic of the monster?" "What's an interesting characteristic of the tavern?" and "What happens along your journey?". Just to rub it in, the final header of the chapter is "Taking Baby Steps into group world building and improvisation", but group world building hasn't been mentioned deliberately so far, and some players are just not going to like doing it.

Improvising NPCs is another very short chapter. Choose a name from your list, write it down, give them an existing stat block, then "put yourself into the mind of the NPC". This is then followed up by a rather strange suggestion that "maybe this town simpleton is a lot smarter than anyone else thought". If you're putting yourself into the mind of "the town simpleton", how would you distinguish being smart as a character twist from failing to connect with the character?

Improvising Scenes and Situations is short again, and even worse, the vast majority of the chapter is a single example. The only generic advice is in two sections: "Imagine a living world" and "Let the world react to the characters". The example then involves thinking about what a villain would do with their monster forces around a fortress; but although it shows what the notional GM comes up with, it gives nothing on how they did so. Worst chapter so far.

Using Multiple Combat Styles divides combat into three styles: theater of the mind, tactical grid, and "abstract map" (effectively zone-based), and gives some suggestions about when each ought to be used; for example, theatre of the mind is better used for quick combats, ones that favor the charcaters, or ones defined by massive environmental changes. There's also a few notes about trust: theater of the mind requires the most trust of the GM, abstract map the next, and tactical grid the least.

Another sentence that'd definitely rile our group's grognard no end: "A game that focuses too much on tactics can easily go from collaborative storytelling to an opposed miniatures war game if you're not careful." Never mind the suggestion that a player might enjoy a game which includes both of those alternatively.

Maintaining the Pace is our next chapter. Ah! A topic I could do with help on. And beginning with a quote from Monte Cook saying how important good pacing is, which is a bit much from Mr. GM Intrusions, but never mind. The first two subsections are about avoiding dead air at the table - "ask the players what they do", and "if there's a deadlock, clarify good options".

The next three subsections, however, ae more interesting - they're about story beats (in fact there's an explicit reference to Hamlet's Hit Points).It begins with suggestions that rotating the three standard play modes - exploration, interacting with NPCs, and combat - naturally creates action and relaxation beats over time, and the reference to Hamlet's Hit Points is to Laws' categorisation of beats as Fear or Hope. Unfortunately, what follows is a list of possible events to drop into the campaign to make things easier or harder over time. This is unfortunate for several reasons, one of which is that it contradicts something said later.

Priming the GM's Brain is.. kind of weird. It's a list of books, movies, games and TV shows you might consider watching or playing, together with the advice to read the sourcebooks for your chosen game and to "take a walk". The lists of material vary rather widely, too. The list of TV shows has a ton of modern fantasy (Angel, Doctor Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), but the video games are pure D&D style (Baldur's Gate, Diablo, Pillars of Eternity).

Conducting GM Brain Exercises is a slightly peculiar title for a chapter about things that a GM might want to run though to make sure they have in memory: the names and backgrounds of the characters, what the villains and NPCs are doing right now, and "what fronts are on the move?" (which is not clearly distinguished from the question of what the villains are doing right now)

Embracing the GM's Truths is much better than most of the previous chapters. It's about standard facts and how to respond to them. Those facts are: "Everyone's here to have fun", so there's no need to worry too much if performances aren't great. "Players don't care as much as you think" means that you don't have to have everything perfectly right, or indeed care that much more than they do. "Players want to see their characters do awesome things" makes the good point that the game should be focussed on allowing the PCs to do this, but then also adds that "the real fun of an RPG is being able to act within a fantastic world with an empowered character" and I can already hear the grognards pointing out that group world building, as suggested earlier, disrupts this experience - and for some players it indeed does.

"You are not the enemy" is the standard reminder that you aren't supposed to be trying to kill the PCs, but without addressing the key difficult problem of how you ensure challenge at the same time. But it then does much better in the section "Players love breaking the game", which describes how a sudden trick or unintended event can be actively enjoyable, but that GMs often fair these then become the PCs new routines. The suggestion is that the world evolves to accommodate the new strategy, which is one of those things that sounds good in practice, but in practice has a ton of issues with how opponents know or how those can be worked against or even what to happen if the game actually was broken and there's no response. Yes, I've seen the D&D 3e encounters where every random monster was swinging a spiked chain and noticed how ridiculous they felt.

Lazy Dungeon Master Tactics is a list of miscellaneous suggestions, some of which are good and some fairly terrible. On the good side, "Award Levels Instead Of Experience Points" is essentially just the suggestion to use milestone advancement - and there's the D&D focus again. "Improvise Ability And Skill Checks" basically just suggests making up DCs on the fly, and I have no idea how you could ever run anything without that. "Delegate Initiative Tracking and Other Tasks" and "Assign a Rules Lawyer" are really variations on the same thing.

But then there's several I don't like at all. "Skip Initiative And Take Turns Around the Table" is potentially a big issue for players who've invested chargen resources into initiative related values. "Use Static Monster Damage" starts with "Some roleplaying games provide an average of the monster's damage roll..".. yea, ok, we know you mean 5e, and using those frequently does change the nature of the game. And lastly, bleaurgh, "Run low-level campaigns". The idea is that low level games are easier to run. Which is true, but it misses one of the biggest points about creativity and improvisation, which is that it becomes more and more necessary the higher level games get - and here's the book basically advising the GM to avoid them.

Lastly, there's the final chapter, Developing Your Own Style. It actually does something worthy of a great deal of merit:

quote:

The quotations and statistics that appear throughout this book has been chosen to support the hypothesis that less game preparation results in a more entertaining game. Other self-help books do the same thing - choosing studies that support their premise, while conveniently leaving out studies that contradict that premise or support an alternative hypothesis. So let me give you some alternative statistics and information to avoid this trap.

Well, that's a kick-rear end attitude to start with. The alternate data they give is this: 83% of GMs spend an hour or more preparing for a game, and Matt Mercer stated that he regularly spends 3 hours and that it would "spike his anxiety" if he had to improvise all his NPCs. Sadly, there isn't any real response or addressing of those - especially the idea that a professional actor saying he'd have trouble improvising can kind of pull the rug out from under any reader's confidence at that point - other than saying "ignore this book if it bothers you too much".

So, this is probably my favorite of the books we've looked at so far. The suggestions all fit together well and a decent number can be acted on without extensive fiddling. Unfortunately, the second section starts to break down a bit, and it could really have done with being better organized rather than having the large number of tiny chapters that it has. Plus, of course, there is the issue that it's very specific to the structure of D&D, and doesn't really cover running other game systems which entrench the low-prep attitude. But it's probably the one I'd recommend most so far.

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!





Weapons, armor, and mounts oh my! Here we not only see new gear in Nyambe, we also see how existing ones are reflavored from a Fantasy European to a Fantasy African context.

Trade Goods

First off, most of Nyambe-tanda uses one of three forms of currency to varying degrees of mixture: the gold/silver/copper piece standard that is the D&D default and most common in the Empire of Mabwe and big cities; bartering or cowry shells, which are worth one silver piece per shell and most common in rural and poor areas; and finally livestock, most common among herding and hunter-gatherer cultures. We even have several common varieties of cattle and their gold piece list, from cheap as dirt two copper piece chickens to princely 15 gold piece cows and 25 gold piece oxen.


New Weapons

I mentioned this back in the Feats chapter, but Nyamban weapon proficiencies use their own category in this book. This means that those found in the Core Rules or other supplements are culturally foreign and thus fall under Exotic Weapons. This is not all-purpose: some of the more simple and utility Player’s Handbook weapons, such as bows, daggers, maces, sickles, quarterstaves, and even scimitars have been transferred over, but more explicitly European or Fantastical items such as the Greatsword did not.

We do get new weapons to make up for this loss, covering the more interesting ones. The wrist knife is an oval blade worn like a bracelet that treats strikes as unarmed but lets you deal slashing damage; elephant axes are huge crescent-shaped blades Nibomay infantry use to hamstring Mabwe elephants dealing a lot of damage (1d12/x4 critical) with 10 foot reach but are so large they impose an additional -4 to hit; returning and throwing clubs are two thrown weapons, the former able to fly back into your hand after being thrown and the latter capable of doing nonlethal damage despite being a ranged weapon; bolas which can grapple at range and reduce an airborne creature’s flight speed to 0 if grappled; dagger-swords which are copied from Far Eastern chijiriki and consist of a sword and dagger connected by a cord, capable of being used as a dual-wielded weapon or as a dagger capable of trip at a 10 foot reach; barbed spears which cause targets to bleed for one point of damage for 1d4 rounds if they fail a Fortitude save; the trademark razor swords of Niomay Amazons which are one-handed yet deal a large amount of damage for their size (1d10/18-20 x2 critical), yet the wielder cannot apply one’s Strength bonus to damage (lame!); and the javelin thrower, which is a grooved stick with a notch for holding javelins to throw with greater force and range: javelins thrown this way have range increments of 40 feet, threaten a critical on 19-20, and deal triple damage!


New Armor and Shields

Most Nyamban armor and shields are entirely new, with only a few such as leather and hide-based armor making the transfer. There is no heavy armor made domestically, although in the Ancestral Vault supplement it’s explained that a few specialized smiths have been learning to make foreign metal and plate armor with fire resistant magical enhancements to negate the perils of heat and humidity.

Our new armors include beaded armor, highly decorated pieces made from beads and woven leather cords and thus the kind most often worn by noblemen and stylish adventurers; fetish armor which is not S&M gear, but clothes made up of tiny pouches for holding magical components. It has no inherent armor bonus but can be enhanced as magical armor; iron mantle, which is the heaviest kind of Nyamban armor commonly found and is made up of iron plates held together with leather straps; wooden plate armor which is the same but made up of wood; and finally woven cord made from raffia fibers. All of these armors reduce the Fortitude save penalty by as much as 1 or 3 for operating in hot environments due to superior ventilation.

For new shields we basically have leather shields replacing iron ones, bucklers are made out of wood, and we have a new leather body shield which provides a +3 shield bonus and is the half-way point between a heavy and tower shield. Tower shields exist in Nyambe, but it’s unclear whether they’re made of iron or the cow-hide Nguni shields which is what I think of when I think of big African shields.


New Adventuring Gear, Kits, etc.

A lot of this is a remix of old and new material. For example, we get explanations of how iconic gear such as the backpack is made from woven plant fibers, how ostrich eggs and calabash gourds are used instead of glass for drinking vessels, and due to pillows being unsanitary in humid and sandy places carved wooden headrests are used which support a person’s head when sleeping. The most common musical instruments include bells, clappers, drums, fiddles, flutes, gongs, harps, talking hand drums, and the xylophone! A new and innovative way to Inspire Courage

Also the most common board games in Nyambe include mancala, boa, and oware, which can all be easily played with seeds or polished stones and involve rules for “capturing” other player’s seeds as a means of resolution. The art of gaming holds special properties when it comes to divination, and casters gain +2 bonus on all scrying rolls when using a board game as a magical focus.


New Mounts

A lot of core rules animals can be found as mounts in Nyambe, from riding dogs and mules to horses and camels. However, the most interesting addition are the engargiya, a new creature in this book which is akin to a larger and tougher horse, and the elephant (both normal and wartrained)! An interesting thing to note are that elephants are relatively cheap to get for their power; an elephant for labor is 150 gp, whereas a war elephant (one trained to fight and carry riders in battle) is 400 gp. A heavy warhorse from the Player’s Handbook costs the same amount as a war elephant, but an elephant is a strong Challenge Rating 7 beast which can dish out a hellish amount of damage with its tusks or trampling enemies in a charge. The only comparative downside is that they are far more expensive to feed than horses and camels, with daily feed costing 2 gold and weighing 300 pounds. Elephants can graze for grass and plants in more fertile regions, but even then they can spend as much as 16 hours a day doing nothing but this.

The engargiya, by contrast, costs 200 gold pieces to buy, and is a Challenge Rating 3 beast which is not much stronger than a heavy warhorse but has Darkvision and Scent.


New Special Items and Poisons

This details alchemic and poisonous items. For those that played D20 before Pathfinder came along, you’d recall that alchemy was overall a low-powered novelty. Wizards of the Coast made alchemical items craftable only by magic-users, but in comparison to actual magic they just never amounted to much. Unfortunately Nyambe is the same, its new items pathetic in this regard: healing salve converts 1d4 lethal damage to nonlethal, but can be used once an hour per applicant and makes users feel drowsy for -1 on all d20 rolls. Marsh water, which is actually made from distilled water found in tree bark, allows the brinker to take 10 on saving throws against malaria. Sunscreen is made from hippopotamus sweat and grants +4 on Fortitude saves vs. heat exhaustion for 24 hours.

Now we get to poisons! A special note is that unlike standard D&D poison is commonly employed by people of all alignments and is not considered evil to use unless done in a cowardly fashion or in furtherance of an evil deed. We get a comprehensive one-page spread of Nyamban poisons which sadly are mostly copy-pasted from the Dungeon Master’s Guide but include a few new ones: aboleth mucus grants you the ability to breath underwater at the expense of suffocating in air; carrion crawler brain juice can paralyze you for 2d6 minutes, while jellyfish sting extract dazes you for 1 round initially and can stun you for 2d6 rounds as a secondary effect; poison frog secretions deal 1d6 Constitution on initial and secondary damage and 1 to 2 points of said damage can be a permanent drain; raw sewage of all things is a new poison which can nauseate you for 24 hours, and spoiled food for 1d10 hours; spitting cobra venom and spotted toadstools have a chance of blinding or deafening the victim respectively, said affliction becoming permanent on a secondary failed save.

The new poisons are quite deadly and innovative, but suffer the D20 problem of most: namely they’re expensive one-use items which may have effects too delayed to be practical in combat. Fortunately the Soroka prestige class obviates the money concern, but the time delay will require game mechanics from elsewhere to overcome.

Thoughts So Far: Overall I like this chapter, my main complaint being that the alternate weapon proficiency rules may be too restrictive. This is especially the case given that many new supplements released over the course of 3rd Edition will put more options out of reach barring Foreign Weapon Proficiency. As time goes on I’m not really fond of the concept of weapon proficiencies in general, in that I do not see why a longsword would be harder to grok than a scimitar.

I feel that elephants may be a bit too cheap for their power, even despite the inherent weaknesses of their size and lack of ranged attacks. But every PC party worth their salt will want to unleash a war elephant on an enemy at some point, so I think a more reasonable price would be somewhere around 1,000 to 3,000 gold pieces.

Join us next time as we get mystical and contact the Spirits of Nyambe in Chapter Eight!

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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

Lynx Winters posted:

I've been flipping through my copy of Kindred of the East out of morbid curiosity and it actually does have a population figure, saying the ratio of mortals to kuei-jin is the same as Western vampos: 100,000 to 1.
I believe over time the number got closer to 1 per 50,000 which was probably due in large part to the Sabbat controlling several world cities. BUT, they weren't clear if that was the total population, so the density would be much higher in urban areas, or if that WAS the urban population density.

This touches on another oddity: NYC is Sabbat dominated, because crime in NYC was at its peak around the time Vampire 2e was published.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



I'm digging that take on the Engargiya, which is a cryptid out of Uganda. They definitely went with the giant sloth model for it.

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Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Mancala is really fun to play.

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