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Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


I would love Mystara if that's possible. I only ever encountered it from the rad as hell D&D arcade games but it seemed cool.

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Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Soulbound
Mickey Spellane

Bright Spells, perhaps unsurprisingly, like damage. There's a lot of damage tricks and combat support. I would actually say its best stuff is actually its support, however, especially in the 2-success range. Its higher-complexity tricks suffer from their high success requirements, after all.
Cleansing Fire: 1 Success. Everyone in your zone but you takes damage based on successes, and also any taint in the land burns away over the course of the day. This is actually very decent - short range, but it's no harder than any Common damage spell and is going to make you a hit with NPC locals.
Fireball 2 Successes. This is a ranged attack spell that hits an entire Zone. It does 1 damage and sets the Zone on fire as a Minor Hazard for a round. Extra successes either increase damage or hazard duration.
From the Ashes: 2 Successes. This is basially a contingency spell - you summon a tiny phoenix for round. If you die while the spell is active, you collapse to ash and emerge from the ash next round with 1 Toughness and not Mortally Wounded. Extra successes either extend duration or increase your Toughness when you emerge. This is very good if you know you're at risk of immediate death, but it's a bit niche use.
Glare of Vulcatrix: 3 Successes. You shoot fiery eye lasers that deal damage based on successes and ignore Armor. If you do more damage than their highest stat, they instantly die (or drop to Toughness 0, if they're a tough enough NPC to have Wounds rather than just Toughness). Since a lot of weaker NPCs don't have huge stats, this can actually trigger, but it's still a spell that's mostly showing off.
Incandescent Form: 2 Successes. You turn yourself into magma, getting +2 Armor and debuffing the Melee and Accuracy of anyone attacking you for rounds based on successes. Very, very good.
Inferno Blades: 3 Successes. For rounds based on successes, any weapons you choose that are in the same Zone as you get a damage bonus and are counted as magical. Also, they set people on fire. This is an amazing spell and worth its high success requirement.
Parch: 3 successes. You pick a Zone and dehydrate people in it, debuffing the Speed, Melee and Accuracy of all enemies in that Zone for rounds based on successes. Also, they can't Charge. Again, very, very good even with that success requirement.
Phoenix Spirit: 2 successes. You conjure a magical phoenix, large enough to carry you and up to four other people at Fast fly speed. It lasts for up to several minutes, but can't fight and is basically just warm but harmless. Not bad for travel, though the duration's a bit short - you'll be recasting every minute or two.
Stoke Rage: 3 successes. You drive your allies to a zealous fury. Any allies in the same Zone as you for rounds based on successes get a damage bonus and immunity to Frightened. This is real good, again. Bright magic is great at buffs!
Stoke the Flames: 1 success. You can put out fires or increase their power for rounds based on successes, which lets you create Zone hazards or make them stronger. Not too bad, as long as you have a source of flame handy - a candle's more than enough to set a Zone on fire.

Celestial Spells are actually surprisingly light on direct support, though what they have can be very good. I feel its direct damage tricks tend to be lacking, though stylish.
Chain Lightning: 3 successes. You deal damage based on successes to one target, and then up to 3 other targets near them. This...mm, really not super worth it, even if it's able to differentiate friend from foe better than most AOE stuff.
Coment of Casandora: 3 successes. You drop a meteor on a Zone, dealing damage based on successes and forcing a Body check to not become Prone. High success count makes it niche use, though it's nicely long range.
Favourable Winds 3 successes. You and all allies in your Zone get a bonus to all rolls for rounds based on successes. This is pretty dang good, though the success cost is high.
Foretell Doom: 2 successes. You pick an enemy and hugely debuff their Defence for rounds based on successes. This is great, it's just amazing.
Hallowed Ground: 1 success. You spend ten minutes sanctifying a Zone. Daemons and undead cannot enter it for several hours, and any that are already in it are forcefully shunted out. Also, any taint or descration of the area is purified. Very nice, you'll make friends with it. Also great if you're preparing for a siege.
Healing Light: 1 success. You pick a zone and all allies in that Zone heal based on successes. Not too bad, really, though it'll fall behind divine healing. (It's ranged, though, which divine AOE healing isn't.)
Orrery: 1 success. For several hours, you know the exact date and time according to whatever calendar you personally use, and which way is corewards or edgewards. You can't become lost barring significant magic doing it. So, basically, this spell replicates are fairly useful talent.
Prophecy: 1 success. You get to ask the GM questions based on successes about some specific goal, plan or event happening in the next day. The GM answers truthfully, but in the form of good or bad omens rather than direct statements. So it's basically yes/no or good/bad answers. Decently useful.
Purifying Blast: 3 successes. You send out a wave of energy in your Zone, and any enemy in it must make a Soul check or fall Unconscious for rounds based on successes. Undead and spirits instead become Incapacitated. Very powerful, so the cost being so high makes some sense.
Sigmar's Storm: 1 success. You turn into a lightning bolt and teleport somewhere within a pretty long distance, and you can bring other allies with you based on successes. Useful!

Gold Spells excel at buffs and debuffs and tends to the less demanding end in terms of successes. It's pretty great as a Lore.
Curse of Rust: 3 successes. You cause a target's nonmagical weapons and armor to rust and decay for rounds based on successes. For the duration, if they deal damage with a cursed weapon, it breaks and becomes an Improvised Weapon, and if they are struck by an attack, all damage permanently reduces their Armor. This is insanely good, which is probably why it's so hard.
Gift of Chamon: 1 success. You pick a metal weapon or armor nearby and bless it for a round. Weapons get bonus damage and count as magical, while armor gets bonus Armor. Extra successes can increase duration or the bonus, but the bonus is more costly to increase. This is really good!
Fool's Gold: 1 success. You can temporarily turn any palm-sized chunk of metal into any other metal. It's not an illusion and will have all the natural properties of the new metal, but it only lasts a few minutes. I'm sure you can find uses.
Metallic Sheen: 2 successes. Pick a Zone. All surfaces in that Zone become perfectly smooth and frictionless for rounds based on successes. Anyone that begins their turn there or enters it must make a Body check to avoid falling Prone, and rising from Prone also requires a check. Also, you can move or push things (or people) and they'll just keep moving until they hit something or leave the Zone. I love this spell.
Hammer and Anvil: 1 success. You can reshape any nonmagical metal object nearby (that's no bigger than around 5 foot diameter) into anything you like of similar mass. This is handy!
Molten Gaze: 2 successes. You can shoot molten metal eye lasers at up to 3 people, dealing damage based on successes. I think this is much better than Chain Lightning and maybe actually worth using! Mostly on hordes, though, rather than tough foes.
Pillar of Iron: 3 successes. You summon a magnetic black iron block into a nearby Zone for rounds based on successes. Anyone in that Zone that has metal weapons or armor has to make a Body check to avoid their weapons flying into the pillar and sticking or them being forcibly dragged to the pillar. It takes Body checks to free stuff from the pillar, too. Also, anyone who manages to hold onto metal weapons still gets a debuff to Melee and Accuracy while the pillar is in the same Zone. I kind of love the Zone-control stuff in Gold, even if this one's hard.
Rule of Burning Iron: 2 successes. You superheat a target's armor, doing damage based on successes that ignores Armor. This is basically identical to Amber Spear, right down to its main benefit being long range.
Transmutation: 2 successes. You pick a target and they have to make a Body test or start to turn into metal for rounds based on successes. While metal, they are Incapacitated but have Armor 3. If you keep recasting it on the same target so that they remain affected for a full minute, they permanently become a metal statue. This is pretty nasty, even if it does mean making it harder to hurt who you're locking down.
Transmutation of Lead: 2 successes. You pick a nearby Zone. All enemies in that zone are infused with lead, debuffing Melee and Accuracy for rounds based on successes. Very useful.

Next time: Grey, Jade, Light and the Deeps.

wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion




I am here for eye lasers. Every lore should have a way of doing eye lasers.

ChaseSP
Mar 25, 2013



The only real funny play for the positive realm is characters basically stabbing themselves to not blow up if they don't have protection from the healing.

Robindaybird
Aug 21, 2007

Neat. Sweet. Petite.



I don't think Blades in the Dark got reviewed and it was part of the mega itchi.o pack.

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!


Yeah, the Negative and Positive Material mostly exist to spawn a bunch more quasiplanes. At least the official Planescape content added some actual locations to the Inner Planes, and also tied the Factions into them.

MonsterEnvy
Feb 4, 2012


wiegieman posted:

I am here for eye lasers. Every lore should have a way of doing eye lasers.

Endrinmasters get a piece of a gear called a God's Eye that gives them laser eyes.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



Should probably just use Reign to play Troika.

Tibalt
May 14, 2017

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


Hostile V posted:

Should probably just use Reign to play Troika.
Not that I necessarily disagree, but what do you think the One Roll Engine offers that make it particularly well-suited for Troika?

Pakxos
Mar 21, 2020


PurpleXVI posted:

Since someone else is picking up Lancer, does anyone have any good suggestions for stuff to review? Just God, please, don't say more Dragonlance.
If Lancer was an option, would another recent rpg work? Because there is Ultramodern 5e. I had a really frustrating experience with it as a player, and would be curious to see what the thread makes of it. It seems like I fell into ye old system mastery pitfall, but maybe it has virtues I'm not seeing. Because I failed v petrification.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



Tibalt posted:

Not that I necessarily disagree, but what do you think the One Roll Engine offers that make it particularly well-suited for Troika?
I like Reign and rolling a shitload of dice after you build your character around what the Troika random character option gives you makes the dopamine machine go.

Also the resolution mechanic of ORE would do wonders for emulating "the unpredictable nature of initiative and combat" that Troika tries to set up with its initiative system.

Prism
Dec 22, 2007

yospos


Falconier111 posted:

Mystara :colbert:

Actually, has Spelljammer ever gotten a writeup? It is the other way you get between AD&D settings :v:

I started it, but I abandoned it because of real life stuff, so having someone else do it would be good.

Falconier111
Jul 18, 2012

S T A R M E T A L C A S T E

PurpleXVI posted:

Yeah, the Negative and Positive Material mostly exist to spawn a bunch more quasiplanes. At least the official Planescape content added some actual locations to the Inner Planes, and also tied the Factions into them.

If only the quasi-planes had anything interesting in them in this book :saddowns:

Falconier111
Jul 18, 2012

S T A R M E T A L C A S T E



The Inner Planes: Quasi-Elemental Planes (Steam, Lightning, Radiance, Minerals, Salt, Vacuum, Ash, Dust)

Quasi-elemental planes straddle the border between core elemental and energy planes, mixing elements of both (obviously). In general, positive planes include energized versions of the relevant elemental planes while their opposites are slower and cooler; most of them terminate in clear, defined borders against the energy planes, though those borders shift periodically when the elemental equivalent of a solar flare smashes through. Elementals from the mainstream planes tend to find themselves dissipating painfully here so they tend to avoid them; the local elementals in the positive planes tend to be hyper and unpredictable, while those in the negative planes are just elemental animals (or actually secretly undead). Also, all of them have ~mysterious~ structures sitting on the energy plane borders that :smugwizard: have a habit of moving into.

Rather than retype :smugwizard: for every entry, I’ll just assure you each of them earned one (except Steam, it gets half points for being theoretically survivable with a few enchanted items).
  • Steam (Water/Positive) could be more accurately described as the plane of water vapor, but it just doesn’t have the same kick. I mean, some parts are boiling, but most of it is like flying through a cloud. Eventually molecular bonds breakdown under the weight of Positive energy once you reach the border.
  • Lightning (Air/Positive) works like a purer version of its elemental plane except filled with constant, sourceless lightning. If you can put up with the blinding flashes, deafening endless thunder, and getting electrocuted every few rounds, it isn’t the worst place.
  • Radiance (Fire/Positive) manifests as either color, light, or force, depending on which part of the book you consult. It’s not any hotter or colder than the Plane of Fire but it’s way brighter, like, permanent eye damage level. The elementals here are the only unusual and interesting ones in the section; they resemble spheres of solid colors and look for bribes with equally solid colors.
  • Minerals (Earth/Positive): the interesting one. Apparently the more life energy you subject rock to, the more likely it is to turn into precious metals and gemstones. Unfortunately, not only are these metal and jewel formations fragile enough that they collapse into dust when you return them to the Prime Material (crystal formation processes under zero gravity, brah), but if you take too many of them the local elementals will hit you like the fist of an angry Greater Power. No fun allowed!

No quasi-elemental art, so have an encounter table for para-elementals instead. Also worth noting: Negative quasi-elementals are always equivalents of Prime Material animals. You can run into vacuum whales.
  • Salt (Water/Negative): eventually the saltwater gives way to pure salt until you hit a salt cliff on the edge of the Negative. Quick thought exercise; given the scarcity of salt in many preindustrial societies, access to sufficient materials, and the knowledge of how to open a portal to the Quasi-Elemental Planes, would it be economically viable for a wizard to make a living mining and selling salt from the plane? Oh wait, isn’t there a spell that summons salt? Nevermind.
  • Vacuum (Air/Negative): both actually and not actually vacuum, apparently. Despite the fact that temperature and pressure remains constant even as oxygen fades away, there isn’t enough substance to transform into anything else to help you breathe :psyduck:. Most non-quasi-elementals start boiling away or sublimating themselves to death if they don’t leave immediately.
  • Ash (Fire/Negative): cold as hell. It sucks the heat out of fireballs and low-level magical protection from cold only halves the damage you take. You can turn the ambient ashes into air though!
  • Dust (Earth/Negative): entropy: planar edition. Non-natives lose a half-dozen hit points per round as their molecular bonds dissolve; if you die, your body turns into a puff of, well, dust. If you leave the plane it all snaps back to normal, though.

There’s so much more to the para-, quasi-, and energy planes that I didn’t cover, but nearly all of it is mechanical notes on spells, survival minutia, and “everything else works the same as in (this plane)”. Grubb really did commit to the Tell Not Show routine he promised us in the introduction. The more I read the more convinced I become this book was written less as a supplement and more to stop nerds shouting about inconsistencies. Or... you know, now that I think about it, this looks a lot like a setting bible somebody refitted as a supplement. No idea if that’s true, though. Either way, given just how much magic it takes to get anywhere in here, let’s add another :smugwizard: for the road.

Next time we transfer into the more densely populated second part of the book and the Astral Plane, where we can GITH

:smugwizard: Counter: 20.5

tanglewood1420
Oct 28, 2010

The importance of this mission cannot be overemphasized


ChaseSP posted:

If you have lethal combat but make all the rules about combat and the game isn't otherwise setup to be a narrative game you've hosed up as a designer if your intentions aren't to basically murder the party a bunch.

This was my major problem with Troika! when I played a one shot a couple of nights ago. It has all this really cool Terry Pratchett/Douglas Adams vibe with the backgrounds, the very well written lore with deliberate gaps, the evocative items and skills and spells..... but then essentially only has rules for fighting monsters, almost all of whom are far more skilled at fighting than any of the characters (one or two of the 36 backgrounds excepted).

So while I was playing a 'Mathmologist' (very cool!), it essentially meant I was just bad at fighting the Orcs, Trolls and Ogres the game is expecting to throw at me. And if the game isn't about fighting Orcs, Trolls and Ogres then maybe have some rules about other things?

The concept of 'The Medium is the Message' comes to mind.

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





Personally I think shaving down the rules for combat small, Having quite small rules for other things, and having it as a much more freeform game seems more worthwhile than anything else, but, that’s The project I’m working on with it. So, I’m biased.

Ego Trip
Aug 28, 2012

A tenacious little mouse!




Falconier111 posted:

These planes sound interesting in concept, but there’s nothing to do there

The negative elemental plane sounds like a great place to set up your lab to research becoming undeath.

Cooked Auto
Aug 4, 2007

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






Mutant 2089

The journey to Exprod5

The obligatory starting, or example, adventure is called Attack: Sypox and is both an introduction to players and to GM’s as well. From skimming through it at least a couple of times beforehand it’s a very straightforward adventure, but I wouldn’t say it’s all that great for reasons I hope will become apparent.

The adventure background revolves around Gainsay Corporations, which is one of the many subcorps for one of the megacorporations that produce heavy energy weapons such as laser carbines, neutron canons and more. Outside of the City lies Exprod5, an external factory that experiments with nuclear missiles, which is owned by Sypox. Which belongs to another corporation cartell. Gainsay intends to beat Sypox and then purchase them cheaply. But to do that they need to know what customers, products and more Sypox actually have. Sypox does have an InterPol department but heavily downsized due to reorganisation, which in turn makes them vulnerable. This is where the PC’s enter.

The plot background is pretty much what you’d expect from any cyberpunk adventure and would frankly fit well in with Shadowrun or CP2020. Your usual corp vs corp stuff with the players being the freelancers sent in to gently caress with things in one sides favour.

The PC’s have, as “well-known adventurers”, been contacted by a man known as Toytox who is, in turn, a well known figure in the criminal underworld and arranged a meeting in a parking garage. Classic. Toytox is a tall, swarthy psi-mutant who acts big and talks tough but is in fact under the thumb of much bigger people. But through nonchalance and a sense of superiority against anyone inferior to him managed to create a decent reputation. He is apparently allergic to alcohol but this never becomes relevant in the adventure. Also he’s a mutant with Psi-powers but no mental mutations because the alcohol allergy is a physical one. Great job ignoring character generation rules there.

Acting like a smug rear end in a top hat he gives the PC’s the necessary exposition and tells them they need to grab some data from Exprod’s computer system. To help them with that they are introduced to Dutch. He’s a short, skinny human corper who got hired by Toytox after his former employer cut off his tongue and will be the adventures main GMNPC throughout the whole thing. Dutch is described as acting like he knows better than the PC’s and thinks he can do things a thousand times better than that. Which certainly sounds like the average GMNPC and a really bad idea. Especially when he’s described as being irritated when the PC’s don’t do what he’s gesticulating for them to do. The fact he’s mute does not endear him to me the slightest.

Toytox mentions that the factory is going to be fairly unguarded for the next 72 hours with the exception of a couple of combat robots. But they’re encouraged to avoid combat as much as needed. Spoilers: This is not going to be the case. If they do not report back to him within a week they’re considered his enemies and tell them he hangs out in a particular bar named Brandy’s (not related to the song with the same name.) They get 1000 ED per character for doing this and get 500 ahead of the job.

All through this the GM is encouraged to make various gestures, and whenever Toytox speaks they’re to “distort the voice to make it sound like a mutant is talking”. If a PC decides to interrupt Toytox the GM is supposed to launch into a speech where he acts like an even bigger smug douche before showing off the fire breath mutation he has. Before the GM is meant to put a finger on their lips to tell them to be quiet so they can continue. Yeah, no this is not great adventure writing. I know the adventure is described as straightforward but this isn’t that much of a case of the GM cooperating with the players against the adventure. Sounds more like the GM positioning themselves as king of the hill and the players are meant to sit back and listen to them talk. Not great.

Once Toytox has given the PC their first half of the money he leaves, alongside the three goons that were with him. Who are all regular human mercs with 35 KP and carrying Colt Pythons. All of them also have Hyper activators which means that some of their stats are boosted as well. If the PC’s decide to attack him he’ll hide behind these goons and use his sonar power to stun them. So essentially attacking him with your average starting party will most likely result in a TPK. Lovely.
If the PC’s try to talk to Dutch after Toytox he’s just going to open his mouth and show that his tongue has been removed and he can’t talk.
If the party doesn’t have a transport of some kind, which isn’t hard to imagine when the average car costs almost 8000 ED, Dutch will find the nearest parked 4x4 and hijack that for them. While acting like an rear end in a top hat if the PC’s would, for some strange reason, be hesitant to get inside the vehicle. Not sure why the book has to act like the PC’s suddenly get second thoughts about a job they readily accepted and got paid half in advance.

If the PC’s do need equipment of some kind then Dutch will drive them to… Fatso. Eeyup. The GM is encouraged to turn on loud music in the background to simulate the fact that Dutch does the same as he’s driving them through the City. They’re also encouraged to wordlessly sing along to simulate the “meaningless guttural sounds” that Dutch makes as he sings along to the music. Thankfully only for something like ten seconds before moving on. Frankly ten seconds too much
If the PC’s try to do anything against Fatso then Dutch will pull a tranquilizer pistol from out of nowhere and the adventure will end there. And I’m not kidding, he pulls it from nowhere because it’s not listed in his equipment at the end of the adventure. Only for this part does he suddenly have one hidden underneath his trenchcoat.
In Fatso’s store, and yes, he’s described as massively overweight, the characters can buy anything marked with availability C or X from the equipment tables. All to the listed price of the item. They’re allowed to haggle, but only to a max of 50% and you have to roll a single check for every item you want to buy. gently caress that noise.

It feels like this adventure implies that the PC’s are loving loaded with cash. WHich is strange when this is meant to be an introductory adventure clearly meant for starting characters. In reality you have to be really lucky to even have enough to afford a basic gun a lot of the time. For example Fizban only started with 1000 ED and that would only really afford him basic hard leather armor and a shortsword at best when it comes to weapons. He’s a bit better off when it comes to buying more general equipment. In comparison the cheapest gun available, the Derringer, costs 900 ED. Every other handgun is twice or three times that cost. Toytox’s ahead payment barely helps unless the PC still has a couple of hundred ED left over. If they were lucky with the money roll of course during character generation because you can get barely anything from it depending on how you roll and the whims of the GM. Also remember, there is no such thing as starting gear in this game. All that has to be bought. So have fun being a Merc and get 25 ED as starting funds.

Once their shopping, if any, is done with Dutch takes them towards the edge of the City. Radio still loudly playing music he’ll “sing” along to. At this point you can either let Dutch get you out or try to convince the MetroPolis guarding the gate to let you go. The latter would in this case require persuasion checks and bribes, while the former will automatically let you out because Dutch’s ID is automatically accepted by the guards. So why even bother then?
“Dutch pushes the pedal to the medal and drives whooping [whoop] out into the Twilight Lands.”

There's 125 miles to the factory, they've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's radioactive, and they're wearing sunglasses. Hit it.
The GM is almost strongly encouraged to make up the contents of the journey to the factory. The car they’ve stolen won’t travel any faster than 50 to 60 km/h and the entire journey there takes about two days. If the PC’s weren’t smart enough to bring food then the GM is allowed to graciously let them find some rations or other in the stolen car's trunk. Gee, how nice of them.
This is the point where seemingly everything established earlier is thrown out the window. The book says that while it’s fine to simply gloss over the travel section but then in a heartbeat calls it the worst thing you could do. The adventure text very much encourages the GM to hammer in the notion that the Twilight Lands are, really, really dangerous as much as possible. To the point they’re encouraged to let the players waste whatever low amounts of ammo they might have during this point.
What the everloving gently caress happened to the spirit of cooperation that previously touted in the opening of both books? Now suddenly the GM is loving meant to be an antogonistic fuckward just to imbibe the feeling of dread and suspense into players. This can be done in a million other ways other than making them waste precious resources, that they might have just bought no more than five minutes earlier!
There’s no mention of the PC’s seeing stuff in the distance that are threatening and ominous. Oh no, we get a 1d6 encounter table with suggested things that could happen to them as they’re driving. Half of those encounters are more or less designed to provoke a fight or possibly gently caress the PC’s over if they’re unlucky.
One of them involves the car running out of gas but luckily after 1d4 hours, a group of 2d10 Ziggy’s show up. Who are implied to be well armed as well, which means that the PC’s are more or less beholden to whatever things the GM can come up with to get some gas for their car. “Boy that gun sure is nice, trade that for some gas maybe?” And what are a bunch of underequipped, starting PC’s going to say about that against a group of people who outnumber them most likely. gently caress all obviously and now Billy has to hand over the gun they used most of their starting cash to get because the alternative is either a TPK or being captured.
Hey guess what, another of the results involve the party being surrounded by 2D10 armed mutants on really fast mounts and you need to roll a Drive check each minute while trying to escape. gently caress that up badly enough the car will crash and you’ll get captured. “Guile will be needed in order to be able to escape”. And then the party has to trek over a mutated wasteland on foot to get to the factory. Hope anyone knows the survival skill decently enough.
Another encounter has them stumble upon a pioneer farm whose inhabitants really, really need that terrain vehicle they’re driving. Hope you’re ready for another fight unless you can somehow dissuade them not to. Of course that is all up to the GM so if they’ve decided that the PC’s have stumbled into a farm run by cannibals or something then welp, good luck.
Then there's an obligatory mutated creature encounter. If the GM was even thinking to add the ULTRATIGER as an encounter I would’ve frankly kicked them in the dick and tell them to get the gently caress out. Same goes with the Stag beetle. Encountering one of those should be a cool set piece, but not a possible fight as it implies.
The last two are more environmentally based but even then one of them has a perfect opportunity to mess with the PC’s as there is a massive crevice that can only be crossed with the help of a ropeway either pioneers and ziggys have built. And guess what, they might just need something in payment to let you cross. The other one is the PC’s getting caught in a storm, which is frankly not too bad and can serve as good storytelling to emphasise the dangers of this place. Just don’t have them roll for anything and just let it be window dressing.
Otherwise I absolutely loathe this entire part of the adventure and the book insisting that you should make it as cool as possible by making the PC’s suffer. Not to mention then they also have the smug shitter Dutch around as well. Which can either give dickish GM’s the excuse to escalate things if they feel like or just cause issues in general. Oh boy.

Another dick move is that there could be a Forbidden Zone situated in the path between the City and Exprod5 and if the party finds themselves short of time thanks to previous encounters then they might be forced to take a shortcut through it or waste time going around it. Oh and the GM is free to pick from whatever zones were mentioned before so no way to really prepare since it hasn’t even come up before. At least they’re nice enough to say that if it’s a radioactive zone then the radiation levels shouldn’t be so high. But there’s still the electric fence and the combat robots patrolling it so if you’re taking a shortcut you’re still being dragged into a combat encounter against bots while Dutch deals with the fence.

The only obligatory encounter during the travel segment happens a few miles outside of Exprod5, beyond a hill there’s a giant cloud of dust. Any PC who succeeds with a perception check will hear a quiet crackling noise, like from a gun or a badly muffled car.
But in fact it’s both! Dun dun duuuuun! As the PC’s go past the hill they see a firefight between a bunch of mutants in cars and a stationary hovercraft. If or when the PC’s approach the mutants suddenly decide to hightail it at a “staggering speed”. The GM should heavily suggest that even trying to chase after them is a futile measure.
If the Dutch is behind the wheel, then he’ll, under the power of being an omnipotent GMNPC, head towards the hovercraft regardless if the PC’s want it or not. There they’ll find as many bodies as the player characters (and Dutch too I imagine) as well as a pretty beat up recon hovercraft. A quick examination will reveal that the bodies wear the same size as the PC’s.
I’m pretty sure you can see where this leads don’t you.
Even if one of the members is a horribly disfigured mutant (as the adventure puts it) the PC’s are able to put on the dead crew’s clothes. And they all come with ID tags and helmets with mirrored visors. If anything this is a pretty decent gear upgrade, flight suits are solid armor if all you have is heavy clothes or a leather jacket. Either way the PC’s have the perfect disguise.
And to make things even more obvious there’s a message on a monitor stating that they’re being attacked and due to return within two hours.

If the PC’s are somehow so dumb that they can’t get the obvious hint then Dutch will start get dressed in one of the flight suits and then start repairing whatever damage he can do the hovercraft.
But suddenly, just as the repairs are finished the band of plot mutants return in the distance. And now there’s even more of them than there was before! Oh no!

The GM is encouraged to describe the chase scene as Dutch presses the hovercraft’s engines to the limit in a vain attempt to get away from the Mad Max mutants chasing after them as they scramble towards Exprod5. A suggestion is to illustrate the grenades blowing up around them by shaking the table and (gently) throwing dice at the players. I’m sorry but what? :what: That’s just hilarious and dumb. Which is a nice change of pace from dickish but still hilarious.
If the PC’s are dumb enough to decide to stop and fight you might as well end the adventure at that point because as it turns out all the hovercraft’s weapons have been disabled during the previous fight and if cool Dutch doesn’t save them by turning around and heading towards the facility they’re dead.
Once again it feels like this adventure assumes you’re somehow armed to the teeth and willing to go up against a band of vehicle bound mutants that are obviously described to outnumber them by lots. Feels like the mismatch between concept and execution via rules is finally getting itself known.

This is where the rails kick in incredibly hard as any attempt to even go anywhere but towards Exprod5 is instantly blocked by the mutants laying down a withering hail of fire in their path. Mr Heckler and Mr Koch are certainly singing now. Choo Choo goes the hovertrain as it rides through the open Exprod5 gates.
Also, what happened to the thing that mutants were stone age tech savages? Because now they sound more like Ziggy’s with their armored and, most likely, spiky vehicles. That also comes armed with some sort of grenade launcher or artillery and a lot of guns going by the description.

Next time: Inside Exprod5.

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Ego Trip posted:

The negative elemental plane sounds like a great place to set up your lab to research becoming undeath.

A lot of undead do just that!

I've always treated the various elemental planes as the DnD equivalent of traveling to another planet with a hostile environment. Surviving the extreme conditions is a large part of the point and challenge to being there.

Gatto Grigio
Feb 9, 2020



Tsilkani posted:

This seems to be the fatal flaw of most OSR games, to me: interesting fluff let down by dire mechanics and/or inherent character disposability. Even stuff like Kevin Crawford's Stars Without Number, which is a well-done book, is so ridiculously lethal it's hard to imagine how you could keep any sort of campaign going without a steady stream of replacement characters. I've been wanting to try Godbound, but I'm worried the same problem exists there.

Godbound does have some flaws from its OSR chassis, but I’ve found that excessive lethality isn’t one of them.

Most Godbound have powers that can just straight up no-sell damage, and every Godbound starts with one free auto-resurrection that recharges each time you gain a level.

Comstar
Apr 20, 2007

But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Princess Celestia


PurpleXVI posted:

Since someone else is picking up Lancer, does anyone have any good suggestions for stuff to review? Just God, please, don't say more Dragonlance.

You could ask the guy who's written a new Mystara Player's Guide https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGgwobYBxSs that he is somewhat desperate people review so he can get enough noise that WOTC will allow him to publish it on the DM's guild. The link is to the art of it, but he mentions at the end he wants reviewers to have a look.


Troika! sounds like entering the Deathtrap Dungeon, House of Hell or Crypt of the Sorcerer with a mathematician instead of a hardened adventurer who dosn't mind having to cheat to get to the end. Can you survive the 5.5% of success with instant death at every turn AND you need max skills to get that much of a chance, The Game!

(Seriously, it sounds like Advanced Fighting Fantasy, with wacky character classes?)

Epicurius
Apr 10, 2010


College Slice

Falconier111 posted:

These planes sound interesting in concept, but there’s nothing to do there.

The problem with the Elemental Planes in general is that they're too high concept to easily make interesting. "This is the elemental plane of fire. It's made of fire. The things that live here are all things that can live in fire. If you go there, you'll be set on fire."

I mean, I assume the only reason the elemental planes exist in the first place is because Gary Gygax said to the TSR team, "Guys, we have a problem here....a potentially gamebreaking problem. I've found a plot hole so immense that it'll sink the product. We have all these summon elemental spells, but it never says anywhere where the elementals are being summoned from. This is bad, this is real bad. Nobody's going to want to play a game that's this careless about its setting."

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


TROIKA!

The reason you'd care

I have decided how I will select which classes I talk about in detail to illustrate why the fluff is both good and the rules bad: I'll just use the ones I've seen in action! It's simplicity itself. Note there are many more of these, and they are basically all worth reading; if you got this through the Itch.io bundle it's definitely at least worth your time to read it and take the ideas for other, better systems. I figure a small sampling of 5 of the 36 will get the matter across without just reproducing the poor book; it deserves purchase.

quote:

Troika! says:

36: Monkeymonger

Life on The Wall is hard. One is never
more than a few yards from an endless
fall yet those precarious villages still
need to eat. This is where you come
in with your Edible Monkeys (the
distinction is purely for appeal since
all monkeys are of course edible).
You used to spend days on end
dangling your feet off the edge of the
world, watching over your chittering
livestock while they scampered hither
and thither, but there was no future
in monkey meat. You wanted much
more and so stepped off. Or you fell
off. Either way you and some unlucky
monkeys are here now and that’s all
that matters.

Note that this PC starts with d6 small monkeys who will not obey commands, but who are too scared and hungry to get far from them. Let's break this entry down, because the Monkeymonger is one of the core 'this gets to the heart of Troika!'s writing style' classes. What is The Wall? How did you survive falling off or stepping off? What is it like growing up as an itinerant monkey-shepherd? Are the remaining monkeys your precious friends, or merely your starter herd as you seek new and greater simian fortune? Or perhaps they're an unfortunate reminder, left behind, as you try to get into a new career but you just can't get the danged monkeys to leave. All these questions are open to you, but at the same time the class description has given you an actual solid core idea: You are a person who mongs monkeys. You herded them for monkey-meat in 'precarious villages'. You are a master of climbing, decent at trapping, and you can fight with your monkey club and butcher's knife if need arise (though very poorly). This instantly suggests multiple fun character concepts and different ways to interpret this adorable class.

But it also immediately gets into the problems! For one, your only genuinely good skill is Climb. Trapping is at 2. These are the Monkey-Monger's only non-combat skills. Everything else, they're rolling at Skill, and remember Skill is 4-6, and rolling equal to or under 4-6 is never better than 40-something percent odds on 2d6. So you have very limited options for engaging with the non-combat abilities. Our poor Monkey Monger got the great idea to just set up a stand and do a duo improv performance with his monkey to distract tower wizards while the Rhinoman and a bunch of highly competitive Gremlins they'd taunted and nettled into a digging contest tried to bring down their towers. You would think a traveling monger of monkeys and his precious surviving monkey would perhaps be able to put on some kind of monkey-based entertainment, but RAW there was not much chance of this. I just let it work and slow the wizards down from sheer confusion, because it was funny, but 'engage with the system outside of combat' is difficult to do when you can only competently do this through the medium of climbing things.

quote:

Troika! says:

14: Cacogen
You are Those-Filthy-Born, spawned
in the hump-backed sky lit only
by great black anti-suns and false
light. Your mother was sailing on
the golden barges or caught in some
more abstract fate when she passed
you, far from the protective malaise
of the million spheres. You were
receptive to the power and the glory
at a generative time and it shows in
your teratoid form.

Born in the void between stars, these characters come with a lifelong experience as sailors (or stowaways), an ornate plasma rifle, some void-born magic that seeped into their veins, and a little device that lets them project an illusionary image. There are no drawbacks at all to their unusual mutations and oddities of form, and we had fun deciding our own Cacogen barely remembers he even has the whole 'can use this projector to make myself look human' device. He's just a cheerfully weird sailor trying to stop wizards from ruining the starport so he can continue to ply his trade, full of tales of the spacelanes and folk-wisdom about how to prevent sudden wizard infection in monkeys (it involved getting the monkey drunk to make the sudden onset of beard fall off). It is genuinely liberating to play in a setting/situation where being an extremely weird space mutant with magic powers of the void and a plasma rifle is likely not even treated with suspicion, because the world is weird as hell already!

Naturally you get to choose how you were born, why you're weird, how you're weird, where your magic comes from, what sailing is like on the Great Golden Barges, and have all kinds of license to make up colorful curse words and sailors' traditions, and to proclaim ominously 'ARE THE STARS YET ARIGHT!?' at major plot junctures, all excellent things! And if it comes down to it, plasma rifle. Even in the bad combat system with a truly lucky shot a PC can vaporize anything in the core book. A remote chance, but it does exist. Whatever systemic changes I end up making, I do want to maintain 'this is a plasma rifle, the ultimate argument of kings, for which I have very little ammunition' as one of their bits of feel.

quote:

Troika! says:

12: Befouler of Ponds
You’re a wise man, a high priest, a
pond-pisser, a typical but committed
adherent of P!P!Ssshrp. The bloated
Toad God has no church other than
the periphery of ponds where the
foulness catches in the reeds and no
congregation other than the gnats
and dragonflies. You minister to them
all the same.

This is probably the oddest of the classes on our team. They're a wizard class, but their spells aren't random like most wizards. They can just drown people, web them with slime, end enemy spells, and cause tongues to literally tie in knots. They can also swim and sneak a little in bogs. As you see they worship the scummy bits of ponds and bogs, ministering to the gnats and dragonflies. This is rather evocative; why is there a god for this forgotten and dark part of the waters? What draws a person to this? In our case he may be a collection of swamp animals holding up a robe; the party is uncertain. He also has a tendency to speak solely in pond metaphors. They don't really know the fellow's (or collective's) name or what he's doing, though he seems to be friendly and in this galaxy you need every friend you can get and should not turn them away for being odd. They do establish the existence of a very specific toad god, which may suggest other things about other kinds of gods and silly fantasy religions to be dealt with in your galaxy of weird.

Mechanically they have a similar issue to the Monkey Monger, save at least they have magic (though the magic all costs HP, of course). They can totally drown someone, but with the save system enemies are highly likely to save against drowning, so it's likely to be a wasted effort against anything it was worth using on (it incapacitates an enemy and DoTs them, which would be good for powerful enemies, but powerful enemies have 10+ Skill and so are extremely unlikely to fail the save and start drowning). Plus, what are they to do outside of combat with Swim? Sneak and Second Sight can do some things, and certainly swimming can be useful to know, but it is hardly the power upon which I would want to hang all my narrative agency. Especially when Swim skills are usually one of my go-to 'this skill is too narrow and should just be athletics or something' skills in games with long skill lists.

quote:

Troika! says:

65: Yongardy Lawyer
Down in Yongardy they do things
differently. They respect the Law.
Every day there is a queue outside the
courts to get a seat to see the latest
up and coming barrister defend their
case with a metre of steel. The people
follow the careers of their favourite
solicitors, watch all their cases, collect
their portraits, and sneak into the
court after hours to dab the patches
of blood on white handkerchiefs.

In Yongardy, they love the Law.

This was the first class that when rolled immediately caused the player rolling them to go HELL YES and play that class immediately. The Yongardy Lawyer is almost exclusively a fighter; they have a whopping 4 in the weapon of their choice (for legal arguments), a 2 in Etiquette (For legal arguments) and a 1 in healing (for professional courtesy). They are almost exclusively a warrior, which is problematic in the combat system since you probably want to be avoiding said combat system as much as possible. But the idea of an entire planet where the legal system is deeply important to them but entirely based on dramatic duels and barristers are culture heroes is an instant 'oh man that sounds fun to play' signal. Believe it or not, ours is actually the straightwoman, an idealistic young lawyer here to serve eviction notices to the unlicensed wizard towers on purely legal grounds (meaning at the point of her rapier, or should they refuse to argue the case, the fountain pen concealed within its hilt). It's a simple concept, but immediately fun.

Except again, the combat system being terrible means you're going to be disadvantaged to some degree as you don't have a lot of options for acting outside it, while acting inside it will get you killed. Similarly, ours naturally selected the fancy unarmored outfit and rapier because it is stylish, but would have been significantly mechanically advantaged (if burdened) by taking the option for legal full plate and a longsword, as the longsword is simply superior to the rapier in every way and 3 points of armor would go a long way to keeping her blood where it is supposed to be. Even in a system with so few character building choices as this, there remains the eternal option of 'I took the cool-sounding thing, now I am going to be clubbed by feral wizards', and I feel that is a sad statement about the ubiquity of such things in the realm of roleplaying games. Plus, this is the class that is exceptional at fighting; an average Yongardy Lawyer is 9 Skill in their weapon (5 base, 4 profession). This will actually dispatch some lesser foes with aplomb, but is insufficient to a tower wizard or higher and every attack/exchange/miss hurts the PC, which is going to make arguing any sort of class action suit surpassingly lethal.

quote:

Toika! says:

46: Rhinoman
The original Rhino-Men were created
by an insane sorcerer several centuries
ago but rebelled and killed him. They
are fairly rare creatures, serving as
formidable and loyal guards to those
who can afford their services.

Also note this comes with a tiny undersized spear and useless, cute little helmet, as well as a huge barrel of rhino-beer. The Rhinoman is last not because the Rhinoman is in any way deficient, but because most sentences are funnier is they end with 'And the RHINOMAN'. The Rhinoman is unsurprisingly a warrior, as you would expect from an enormous fusion of rhino and man. Well armored from their thick hides, strong and athletic, and highly accomplished with the unfortunately-not-very-powerful tiny spear they all carry. Also good gamblers? Sort of. 1 point is not a lot. What culture have the Rhinomen? This is up to the player, like all the writings here; all you know is your people killed an insane sorcerer who was creating Rhinomen for some (likely nefarious) purpose. Now they are found across the stars as guards, like those gun-loving guns from Spelljammer who I think were hippos, a far more vicious beast. Our Rhinoman is a kind-hearted and idealistic young man who wants only good for the world and has no idea how terrifying he can be.

They share the same issues of the Yongardy Lawyer mechanically; you are powerfully strong in fluff, but your only real skills are Run, Strength, and Fight With Tiny Spear. The spear isn't very good according to the damage matrices and you'd be better off with other weapons, but you are stuck with it. There is no advantage to using a weapon that is not very good, outside of 'I have no other choice because I know how to use this one'. You would expect a hulking Rhinoman to have abilities and facility with intimidation or something of the like, but no. All you may do is athletics and fighting, and some light attempts at gambling on the side. Once again, the combat system is not something you want to engage with, but your poor Rhinoman is locked into it, having few other rules or means to deal with the rest of the world. Pity the Rhinoman, for he dreams of more than lovely combat systems but remains trapped in them with the duel lawyer who is also better at it than him (though unless the lawyer selected the heavy armor of law, the Rhinoman is at least tougher).

I think this is sufficient to demonstrate the point and also show off why you should get the book and read the rest of its prose for yourself. It's very well written and worth owning just to laugh through your first readthrough, and to be inspired to use the ideas herein in some other, better system! I am excited to continue following the characters my group and the dice came up with, and see where their ridiculous star-borne quests and legal battles and lake trolls and hippomen and other sinister foes lead them. But we will be figuring out some other way to handle the mechanics of their journey, because Troika! was deeply insufficient and about as unfun as its writing was fun, and as stifling as the gaps and fluff were liberating.

I feel quite a bit of annoyance for a game that hides its extremely shoddy construction behind excellent writing and art; it feels like no real effort was put into Troika!'s rules because the designers were relying on the fun fluff to see you through, but the fun fluff runs into a brick wall every time dice happen. Everything about the rules is a transparently bad idea even on a read through; I wanted to play it RAW before committing to review because I had to see if there was somehow something I was missing. There was not. If you are going to lavish all this excellent writing and fun on a game, designers, please remember to make a game! It is an important component of the affair.

The End

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 15:21 on Jun 19, 2020

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Epicurius posted:

The problem with the Elemental Planes in general is that they're too high concept to easily make interesting. "This is the elemental plane of fire. It's made of fire. The things that live here are all things that can live in fire. If you go there, you'll be set on fire."

Again: treat them like alien planets. Surviving an exotic and alien environment is the challenge.

I also had some fun in a homebrew setting with the idea of a Prime Material Plane civilization that evacuated to the plane of water in response to a cataclysm on their world, since it's relatively easy to survive in if you can swing settling the ocean floor. But a few hundred years after their move, they've been substantially altered by the elemental power of their new home, both due to the lack of some natural resources and superabundance of others and due to physical mutations - most of the population by this point had gills letting them breathe both water and air, webbed fingers and toes were common, outright patches of scales or dorsal/ventral patterns of skin tones and markings like those common to dolphins and whales were starting to appear. Researchers among the nation theorized that they may be turning into merfolk, and that this process may be where merfolk come from - once normal humanoid races altered by the subtle but unfathomable power of living in an elemental plane.

90s Cringe Rock
Nov 29, 2006
:gay:


A d66 only has 36 outcomes, not 66.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


90s Cringe Rock posted:

A d66 only has 36 outcomes, not 66.

Right. Dangit. Still, it is a small fraction and the book is worth reading.

90s Cringe Rock
Nov 29, 2006
:gay:


Night10194 posted:

Right. Dangit. Still, it is a small fraction and the book is worth reading.

It is, but it's even more worth reading because it uses the noble d66. It's a good size for a table! Easy to roll, not as small as a d20 and you get to roll multiple dice, but not as bloated as a d100 table.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


It lacks the pure decadence and majesty of the immense d1000, though! A d1000 is a table's resounding, pointless, and wonderful statement of its pure might.

90s Cringe Rock
Nov 29, 2006
:gay:


d666 for that sweet sweet 216 result table and whiff of sulphur.

MonsterEnvy
Feb 4, 2012


Here is the current map for the Elemental Planes.



It's only once you get past the border that it becomes only that Element. The Border Elemental Planes are more like the Material Plane but dominated by one of the Elements.

El Spamo
Aug 21, 2003

Fuss and misery


I think there's a tendency to get hung on the maps being the literal outlay of the planes rather than the map being a spatial representation of the relationships of the planes.
Embrace the weirdness of planes that are spatially infinite, cosmologically finite, and overlap in weird and unpredictable ways! Planar topography could be so cool.

Like, the planes of water and fire / earth and air don't mix but they TOTALLY SHOULD which is where you'd get a demi-plane of gases, or sand for earth/air. Or strange admixtures when you get 3 or 4 planes mixing it up in different ratios.

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!


Pakxos posted:

If Lancer was an option, would another recent rpg work? Because there is Ultramodern 5e. I had a really frustrating experience with it as a player, and would be curious to see what the thread makes of it. It seems like I fell into ye old system mastery pitfall, but maybe it has virtues I'm not seeing. Because I failed v petrification.

I gotta admit that I'm not familiar enough with 5e to really judge Ultramodern on a mechanical basis, mostly because 5e just put me to sleep more than any other edition of D&D. It's just... aggressively bland in all ways. And it doesn't really seem to have enough content to judge it on a writing basis, at a glance.

Tibalt
May 14, 2017

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


PurpleXVI posted:

I gotta admit that I'm not familiar enough with 5e to really judge Ultramodern on a mechanical basis, mostly because 5e just put me to sleep more than any other edition of D&D. It's just... aggressively bland in all ways. And it doesn't really seem to have enough content to judge it on a writing basis, at a glance.
I personally think Lancer's a big enough, interesting enough game that it could use multiple reviews buuuuuuuuut if I could make a personal request and since you seem to like D&D modules... how about Tomb of Horrors?

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!


Tibalt posted:

I personally think Lancer's a big enough, interesting enough game that it could use multiple reviews buuuuuuuuut if I could make a personal request and since you seem to like D&D modules... how about Tomb of Horrors?

https://projects.inklesspen.com/fatal-and-friends/dad-lost-my-ipod/return-to-the-tomb-of-horrors/

Already covered here.

Also while I agree that a good, big game could probably handle multiple reviews, doing them at the same time feels a bit... noisy, if it makes any sense? A lot of it would likely be us repeating ourselves and if we starkly disagree on any points, it would have a greater tendency than usual to devolve into arguments. I would prefer not to cramp someone else's style.

Leraika
Jun 14, 2015

slime time



Pick something at random from the itch.io bundle if you got it?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Soulbound
Spellunky

Grey Spells get the vast majority of mind control and illusion bullshit, unsurprisingly. It's got very little in the way of direct attack, though.
Crown of Asphyxiation: 2 successes. You fill the Zone around you with noxious fumes, causing damage to all enemies based on successes, which ignores Armor. Also, you get a bonus to Defence for a round. This is insanely good, especially for being the only really good attack spell in Grey.
Enslave: 3 successes. You force someone to make a Soul check, but they get a bonus if you or an ally are directly hostile towards them. If they fail, they will obey simple commands from you for several minutes. They will obey orders only, and otherwise will do nothing but defend themselves from harm. You can spend actions to directly control them and use their abilities rather than giving orders. They also get a new resistance check each time they take damage. If you keep recasting this and they keep failing to resist and you maintain control for a whole day, you get permanent control of them. (It's not a likely scenario except against low-Soul targets, though, and you'll need to be a real good caster.)
Illusion: 2 successes. You make an illusion that lasts for several minutes. It can be any size you want up to a full Zone, and it is either static or moves in a predetermined way you choose. It is real to all senses but touch, but can be detected with a Mind check or, y'know, by touching it. Handy!
Mindslip: 1 success. You pick a target, and they lose all memories of your presence and actions for the past minute or so, or forget your presence and actions for the next minute. They remain aware of you and can react, but will not remember it later. They can, if told about it later, make a Mind check to realize something is off with their memory, but not what. Extra successes can increase the time period you can wipe. Very useful.
Mirror Dance: 2 successes. You pick two allies. If they want, they swap places via shadow portal, and each gets a bonus to Defence that lasts for rounds based on successes. A very nice buff.
Mystifying Miasma: 3 successes. You raise a fog in a Zone. All enemies in that Zone have to make a Mind check or be Stunned for rounds based on successes while they're in the Zone. This is very nice as an area debuff but hard to pull off with the success requirement.
Pit of Shades: 3 successes. You create a horrible portal to a shadowy un-place, dropping someone into it for rounds based on successes. They return after that, falling Prone in their old location, and take armor-ignoring damage based on the rounds they were in there. Also, they have to make a Mind check to not be Frightened of you for a full day. This is very spooky but is a pure show-off power move, rather than an efficient attack spell.
Steed of Shadows: You summon a winged horse made of shadow for several hours. Statistically, it's just a horse, but it can fly at Fast speed and takes half damage from nonmagical attacks due to being a spirit. (It can pass through solid objects, but not while anyone is riding it or it's carrying stuff.) This is honestly really useful - getting high speed flight is really handy for mobility.
Veil of Shadows: 1 success. You alter your own appearance for several minutes, appearing however you want within the same basic body composition. All gear can be made to appear as you like for this, but you don't actually physically change and the illusion will be detected by anyone that touches you. Useful!
Word of Pain: 2 successes. You speak a forbidden name, forcing your target to make a Body check or become Incapacitated for rounds based on successes. It's not damage but it's a very, very good focused debuff.

Jade Spells are very good at utility stuff, but somewhat limited in terms of combat tricks. The ones it has tend to be hard. It does do healing magic, though!
Briarstorm: 3 successes. You raise a hail of thorns, creating a Major Hazard in a Zone for rounds based on successes. This is very dangerous, but also hard to pull off.
Lie of the Land: 1 success. You get a perfect mental map of the natural features around you for a full mile, lasting for several hours. You know all geographical features, but have no magical knowledge of mortal constructions. Magical or daemonic disturbances show up as blank spots - you know where they are but not what. Very handy!
Lifebloom: 1 success. Plants immediately start sprouting through a full Zone. Over the course of several days, the plants grow at massive speed - months of growth within each day. Very good for making friends.
Mirrorpool: 1 success. You can step into a puddle or pool of water at least a foot wide to teleport to any other nearby puddle or pool of water you can see, emerging entirely dry. The range is extended outside combat, but still based on vision. A useful trick, but it's self-only.
Nourishment: 1 success. You don't have to eat for several days and are cured of all poison or disease. Handy, but again self-only.
Realmblood: 1 success. You heal a target's Toughness based on successes, and it's long range. Useful, same as the Celestial heal.
Shield of Thorns: 2 successes. You create a protective thorn barrier for yourself and all allies in your Zone. You all get +1 Armor for a round, and anyone that hits you takes 1 Damage. Extra successes either increase the counter damage or extend duration.
Sicklewind: 3 successes. You attack with a spectral jade sickle, dealing damage based on successes to all enemies in a Zone, which ignores Armor. Stylish and show-offy, but not super efficient.
Whipvines: 3 successes. You create living, sentient (but not intelligent) vines in a nearby Zone for a round, which deal damage to anyone in the Zone or which enter it, and force a Body check to avoid becoming Restrained or to escape the vines. Extra successes either increase damage or extand restrainment duration. A little too expensive and niche for me to consider worth it.
Whispers in the Wind: 1 success. You can ask the GM questions based on successes about what's happened in your Zone and nearby areas within the past day, receiving truthful answers from the wind or nearby animals. Very good.

Light Spells get some of the beast healing and good buffs, debuffs and utility magic. However, almost all Light combat stuff is very hard to pull off and it sucks at direct damage.
Aetheric Net: 2 successes. You call up chains of light, causing a target to be Restrained for several rounds or until they make a Body check as an action to escape, whichever comes first. Useful for locking a foe down.
Banishment: 3 successes. You lock a target in a crystal shell, which then flies off to a point in the air of your choice and remains there for rounds based on successes. You can move it again as an Action. The target is Restrained, and any attacks or spells on them hit the shell instead, which will break after 3 or more damage from a single attack, either from inside or outside. Not super useful compared to Aetheric Net, IMO.
Clarity: 1 success. You get a bonus to all Mind checks for a minute. Extra successes either increase duration or bonus; this is extremely good, especially since casting spells is a Mind check.
Healing Glow: 1 success. You and all allies in your Zone heal Toughness based on successes. Very good.
Light of Battle: 3 successes. You glow with a light for rounds based on successes, and your light makes all allies that start their turn in your Zone recover 1 extra Mettle each round, up to their normal cap. Very good buff but very hard to keep up for long.
Pha's Protection: 3 successes. You give all allies in a Zone +1 Armor for a round. Extra successes increase duration or Armor granted, but duration is cheaper. This is good but very expensive.
Pinpoint: 1 success. You pick a target in a long range and, for several minuts, can hear them as if you were standing next to them. Niche but useful.
Provenance: 1 success. You pick an object you can see and touch, and ask the GM questions based on successes about it, which are answered truthfully.
Seeker of Truth: 1 success. Every creature in your Zone - including you - cannot speak deliberate lies for several minutes, though no one is compelled to talk and if they leave the Zone they can lie again. Useful!
Solar Flare: 1 success. You flash super bright, forcing a Body check by all enemies in your Zone to avoid becoming Blinded for rounds based on successes. A useful trick!

The Deeps Spells provide a lot of useful tricks, but favor support and utility over combat directly.
Abyssal Darkness: 2 successes. For rounds based on successes, you create inky darkness around yourself and allies in your Zone, granting Total Cover. The darkness is centered on you and moves with you.
Bind Beast: 2 successes. You pick a non-hostile Beast nearby; if it fails a Soul check, you control it for several hours. It will obey your orders and allow a rider, but once the spell ends, the target goes into a mindless rage until you or it is dead. If you keep recasting it and it fails to resist for a full day, it is bound permanently. This is easier to pull off than Enslave, so it's pretty useful...but the non-hostile rider means you'll have trouble enslaving, say, a magmadroth.
Cloying Sea Mists: 3 successes. You call up mists that cause enemies in your Zone to have to make a Body check or become Incapacitated for rounds based on successes due to nightmarish sleep, tormented by dreams of being devoured by some unseen force. Very handy if you can pull it off. If you keep recasting it and it isn't resisted, anyone kept asleep for a full, continuous minute never wakes up. That bit won't happen, in all likelihood.
Forgotten Memories: 3 successes. You pick any number of nearby targets and declare a specific event for them to forget, such as 'forget we were here' or 'forget this battle.' Each makes a Mind check, and if they fail, they lose the memories of the event you named. Theoretically handy but easy to resist.
Pressure of the Deeps: 2 successes. You deal damage to a target based on successes, and if you deal more than their highest stat, they instantly die (or are reduced to Toughness 0, if they have Wounds). This is a neat trick but hard to pull off against actually tough foes.
Riptide: 1 success. You shoot arcane eye beams at a target which fills their lungs with water, dealing damage based on successes that ignores armor. This is pretty great, though a high target number means you'll likely hit but not do a ton of damage.
Steed of Tides: 1 success. You summon forth a water elemental eel for several hours. It is a Fangmora Eel statistically, but it's a spirit, can't shoot electrical blasts, can fly at high speed, and is entirely immune to nonmagical damage. Also, if not bearing a rider or gear, it can fit through any gap at least an inch wide. This is super great! A very good summoning spell.
Summon Ethersea: 1 success. You flood your Zone with ethersea energies for several minutes. Any number of creatures you pick in the Zone can breathe water as if it were air and move through it as if they were on land, or if aquatic can breathe air and 'swim' through said air as if it were water. Any creatures you don't bless this way treat the Zone as Difficult Terrain. This is also real good!
Tide of Fear: 2 successes. You pick a Zone, and enemies in that Zone have to make a Mind check or become Frightened of you for rounds based on successes. Not bad, handy to have.
Vorpal Maelstrom: 4 successes. You create an aetheric whirlpool in a Zone. All enemies there must make a Body check or be Restrained for rounds based on successes and take damage based on the total number of foes trapped in the whirlpool. This is too expensive to see a ton of use.

Next time: Endless spells and custom spells.

Kaza42
Oct 3, 2013

Blood and Souls and all that

By the way, I decided to pick up Lancer and am now hooked and planning to run a game of it starting soon. I hope you are happy, you monsters

MonsterEnvy
Feb 4, 2012


Mors Rattus posted:

Banishment: 3 successes. You lock a target in a crystal shell, which then flies off to a point in the air of your choice and remains there for rounds based on successes. You can move it again as an Action. The target is Restrained, and any attacks or spells on them hit the shell instead, which will break after 3 or more damage from a single attack, either from inside or outside. Not super useful compared to Aetheric Net, IMO.

Don't forget you can put them in a major hazard or over a cliff or something.

Mors Rattus posted:

Clarity: 1 success. You get a bonus to all Mind checks for a minute. Extra successes either increase duration or bonus; this is extremely good, especially since casting spells is a Mind check.

So good it is getting a nerf.

Cooked Auto
Aug 4, 2007

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






Mutant 2089

Dutch doesn’t help, he just watches.

Exprod5 is a walled facility consisting of five pentagonal building blocks placed in the shape of a pentagon. Each building is made out of five floors and approximately 100 meters wide. The various blocks serve different purposes, one of them is a hab unit, one is the power plant, one is a warehouse while the last two serve as factories.

This is the complex the party enters onboard the hovercraft, as they do the gates slam shut behind them before any mutants can get inside. If it had been any other game, or adventure for that part, I would’ve said it was a lost opportunity for a quick fight against a couple of mutants that manage to get inside at the last moment. But seeing as the whole previous section was about loving over the PC’s and draining their resources doing something like that feels like a dick move. The mutants, now that their relevance to the plot and the adventure is over, fucks off into the horizon and are never mentioned again. Once the hovercraft has been parked they get approached by three guys in civilian corp uniforms who are led by Ivor, a blanding man in his mid 50’s. He instantly launches into a rambling spiel about how they were all useless against the muties because no one knows how to use the laser guns and griping about the higher ups.
Ivor and his nameless buddies are apparently thinking the PC’s are their replacements as he mentions they’ll be going home using the same hovercraft they came with after fixing it Spoilers: On the very next page there’s a mention there are more of those parked at the base when the inevitable escape happens.

If the PC’s at this point pull off their helmets all willy nilly then Ivor gets suspicious and the party has to persuade him to convince him that they’re new recruits. If the party hesitates or contradicts themselves they get -25 on their check and acting confidently and replying fast gives them +25. This feels like a really hamfisted skill check because at this point even the dumbest player would’ve realized that they’re going to pose as employers and the part would’ve obviously agreed to something during the half hour drive to the complex. Not much else they could’ve done there anyway if they had Dutch driving, no point trying to make a dent in the mutants going after them since it’s all a cutscene anyway.
If they somehow still don’t manage to convince Ivor he gets even more suspicious and asks pointed questions. Which are thankfully not meant to be too hard to just bluff your way out of with some quick thinking and rping. However if they somehow massively gently caress up this part he draws a revolver and tells them they’re arrested and the adventure instantly ends as one balding 55 year old holds up a 4+ band of “hardened adventures”. What the gently caress. As a fail state this is the loving shittiest and hilariously dumbest way to do it. It even says that “there is no chance for the PC’s to escape”. Because apparently they’re helpless against a guy with a revolver and two others who are just armed with mini lasers if you go by the stat block at the end of the adventure.
Please kindly gently caress off out a window with this bullshit.

Obviously the PC’s, being cool adventure types like they’re meant to be, manage to bluff Ivor that they’re the replacement InterPol team he takes them down to an elevator while rambling on about things. The most important thing is that the next day another InterPol section, named Marco, is coming over to inspect them. At one point Ivor needs to type in a codeword to open a door to their new quarters, to which all the PC’s have to roll perception. This code is very important so you better hope that someone actually succeeds or things might be tricky later on. There is no mention of alternate means to get this code if anyone fails this check. He takes them to their hab unit that is also their security workstation as it has security cameras and surveillance equipment looking over the whole complex. He gives them some new ID cards before leaving. Exit Stage left for Ivor.

So the PC’s are inside the compound at last, what’s next?
Improvisation! That’s right, the book outright says that at this point the GM should just start making things up as they go along because describing Exprod5 would fill so much space. And yet the travel section fills out almost HALF the adventures 8 pages and has far more focus than what is happening at the MAIN PART of the adventure. loving hell.
There’s absolutely nothing in the way of suggestions, of any interesting locations beyond the place the PC’s are dumped in or dangers. No encounters like with the travel part. Absolutely nothing of the sort. Every single bit has to be improvised. While this isn’t bad for something called an “introductory adventure” and described as being very straightforward this is nothing of the sort. It’s as if the writers were jerking themselves off as much as possible with making the Twilight Lands the main focus of this and completely forgot that the adventure wasn’t about that and was actually about infiltrating a base and extracting data.

There’s no mention of where to find the information or anything. It even says that all the PC’s, or Dutch in this case if the PC’s stand around and seemingly forget the job they were paid to do, have to do is to plug themselves into the computer system from where they are. Which apparently requires a ludicrous -100 check to do. But that check is meaningless since you have a GM NPC and his computer terminal that gives him +100 on computer use when breaching security systems. And after that Dutch has 95% in computers as well. Which way beyond any starter PC would even dream of having.
So really the best option for the party is to sit around, do nothing, touching nothing and just wait for however long the GM thinks it should take for Hackerman to find the macguffin they’re looking for. The GM is meant to come up with things that interrupts this and puts the PC’s skill and guile to the test to fill out time. Which is a valid suggestion, sure. But at the same time you’d expect at least some suggestions other than “Do whatever you want”.

Not that it even matters because no matter what happens, regardless of the party does, their identities are going to be revealed. How? Not mentioned, it just happens. The moment they start planning on how to get out the alarm suddenly goes off and they’re ordered to get to the control room. Now you could say that this is because the mutants from before are back. But no, this is to signify that somehow they’ve been revealed and now they need to get out. The adventure barely spends a paragraph detailing the escape. All they need to do is to type in the door code, take the elevator five floors down, run out and grab the nearest handy dandy hovercraft and leave. That’s it.
Now the weird part here is that the only way, the only loving way, to do this is by knowing the code to their door. That they had to spot Ivor typing in with a perception check before letting inside. Unless the GM comes up with some other method of them learning this code they’re in fact trapped inside their living quarters. And the only way to get outside is to climb through one of the small, round windows to get out. Something which the adventure actually completely forgets and assumes that the PC’s succeeded with the check and are free to ramble around the facility as they like. So apparently this place is staffed by idiots who don't give new security staff any clearance codes or anything and just assume they know them already. Which means that all the subsequent adventures can technically not happen because the PC’s can’t leave their office at any point unless they want to somehow climb down a five story building.
But there’s no mention of making the escape thrilling or anything, all the adventure suggests is that they’ll run and grab the nearest hovercraft and get the gently caress out. Apparently the gates will just let them pass even if there’s an alarm going. It also mentions that they won’t be chased after, or shot at by the laser turrets and they just get away scot free.

For the most part at least. The adventure talks about how the GM should make the return trip nice and comfortable and let the PC’s relax a bit before they can grab their well deserved reward.
But then says the GM should completely loving ignore that and throw absolutely everything they have at the part. Just throw as much poo poo their direction as possible and ignore the fact that they’re out of ammunition. Or quite possibly near death too depending on how much of a cock the GM was during the infiltration part. Considering how the low rate of natural healing in the game is, the party will most likely be beat the everloving gently caress up for the duration of the adventure if they’re really unlucky.
The only mandatory event that has to happen is that the characters suddenly encounter section Marco who are on their way to Exprod5 who are riding in a pair of black and yellow striped hovercraft. They look like giant bees, how imposing. The adventure says that if the party was clever about things when they had a look inside the facility network they could get some intel about these guys and how they act in a fight. Which would then give them a bonus on their initiative roll at the start of each round. A little bit late to mention that perhaps.

Section Marco consists of 6 security robots, all with 60% in automatic weapons and rifles, dodge 50%, maneuvers 50% and perception at 45%. They’re armed with Galil rifles with bayonets (4d10+1 or 1d6+1. Thankfully no bonus damage from strength) and one hand grenade each. They’re also equipped with heavy combat armor that has 18 abs and 34 KP.
These things are practically a walking TKP and will loving RUIN any a starting party. Hell, they’re going to ruin a pretty experienced one too with their decent chances of successes and one of the best assault rifles available in the core book.
Especially one that has bruised from traveling to Exprod5 and suffered through the encounters there. Maybe they managed to pull off the job inside without a hitch but that doesn’t give them much time to rest and heal and then there’s everything the GM threw at them on the journey back. And this is meant to be a mandatory encounter. UNLESS they go in a completely different direction and have other adventures in the Twilight Lands. Because there’s no mention that they can avoid them and they’re simply meant to run into a pair of hovering bees that dump out a bunch of very well armed robots that will gently caress their day up.
There is no loving way an unspecificed bonus on initiative rolls is actually going to help with this. At this point they have an armed hovercraft as the Galvin MI-4 that the book suggests you to use has a pulse laser in a turret but against two, obviously similar craft, they have no chance.
The only thing the PC’s should in this situation is to loving run and not even think of doing anything but because they will die.

But somehow, possibly through threatening the GM with bodily harm at this point, the party makes it back to the City and find Toytox at Brandy’s. Who, accompanied by his three bodyguards, is sitting in a private booth. When he sees the PC’s he smiles spitefully before getting up and asking them for the information and telling them he’d almost given up hope of seeing them. Whenever the PC’s give him what he wants, either written down or just tell him he makes a sign towards one of his bodyguards. PC’s can roll with a -25 penalty to notice it happening. When they ask him about he’ll just mention that they went to get their money.
I’m sure you all know what is coming.

That’s loving right, Toytox BETRAYS THE PARTY because mere seconds later someone opens fire as Toytox dives under the table and the other guards draw their weapons and start shooting.
So yes, the ending is another high chance for a TPK because now the party is stuck in a five by five meter booth and the only cover is the table and chairs they were sitting on. The adventure tells the GM to avoid them being executed, that the guards should fumble their first round and that Toytox will only use his firebreath on his third round. Any attempt to escape means running into the third guard who is ready to ambush PC’s with their weapon drawn. It’ll take five minutes for the MetroPolis to arrive at the scene.
Meanwhile Dutch doesn’t help the party, regardless of how they might’ve treated him previously. But he doesn’t attack them either.
He just watches.

That’s it. That’s how the adventure just ends. With the PC’s being betrayed by their mission giver FOR NO REASON AT ALL and fighting for their lives while a douchenozzle of an NPC just watches like a smug prick.
At which point the player should most likely throw the GM out the door and tell them to get lost.

gently caress this adventure. This is utter loving trash from start to finish as you have smug mission givers who flaunt their powers, you’re saddled with GM NPC who acts like an absolute cock for no reason. The travel section is designed tofuck with the players as much as possible and make them suffer and waste resources as much as possible. The facility, the apparently centerpiece of this whole adventure, is underdeveloped and barely there. And then you’re being forced into running away regardless of what you do. Only to be herded into an unwinnable encounter against well armed enemies who will wreck you without problem. Not to mention the journey back that is meant to strip you of all your remaining ammo and supplies so that you putter back to the City and your hovercraft essentially falling apart as it goes inside the City. And then cherry on top of this heaping pile of a poo poo sandwich is the party being betrayed for their efforts and most likely getting killed because at this point they’re probably barely breathing and they have nothing to fight back with.
This is NOT how to write an intro adventure, this is a sadistic shitshow from start to finish. Whatever happened to the idea of being cool action heroes and adventures worthy of a movie? This is obviously written so that players are meant to be dragged through the mud and browbeaten by exactly everything. Not to mention the absurd failure states scattered throughout the adventure. Deciding to attack Fatso for some reason? Suddenly Dutch pulls out his magical tranq gun and it’s game over. Don’t convince Ivor? He suddenly pulls a revolver and it’s game over. It’s stupid, so utterly stupid.
But the worst crime is how it utterly betrays the notions previously established about cooperation because it encourages the GM to be a spiteful rear end in a top hat from start to finish. All in the name of seemingly establishing the mood.
gently caress that.
There’s so many better ways that such things can be done without going “You have barely any gear and now here’s this band of combat robots that you have to fight against. Ooops, guess you should’ve gone the other way when leaving.”
gently caress any GM who thinks that is a great way of doing things.

To borrow a page from another reviewer the only way I could see saving this adventure is cutting out all the encounters during travel and actually put focus on Exprod5 and what is going on there. Have the party being set up as the new security team from the start instead of randomly introducing it. Let them work undercover to get the information they want, use the security room they’re placed in and maybe have one of the PC’s be guided to the data terminals via the cameras that cover the entire width of the complex. Introduce the fact that the supposedly present security robots actually know what’s going on and they have to be avoided to complete the mission. Just ANYTHING that other than “Well you sit on your thumbs for a couple of hours while the GM NPC does everything for you” or “Well I guess stuff happens, make it up.” This is an atrociously bad design principle to follow for a prewritten adventure, let alone one that is meant to introduce you to the game and the setting.
The betrayal part obviously also needs to go gently caress itself with a rake. You don’t do that poo poo. Not without actually giving the players a chance to survive in the end, unless you specifically state that this is a one shot adventure you do not do that. Not to mention when the mission giver has already acted like a smug oval office to you. Not even having the gall of him be relieved to see that they’re back but instead just smug at them that he'd considered them dead by this point. This does not endear him to anyone and just gives the GM an excuse to be mean.
Toytox deserves to go straight into the trash. Alongside Dutch whose ONLY purpose is to ferry the players to their various destinations, while acting like an absolute oval office, and be able to get into the security system with his wonderbox. If you’re wondering, yes, a player could use it instead of him. But in order to do that they need to succeed three computer checks in a row. Which means a regular PC is most likely not be able to pull that off unless they’re lucky. So in effect you’re stuck with the mute shitbag for the entire adventure. A decent GM NPC is meant to give the players some advice or guidance if they’re stuck with the plot and beyond that simply be a backgrounder. Not act all high and mighty and be as frustrating to deal with as possible and also be the only way to complete the adventure.

But in reality there really is absolutely nothing worth salvaging from this adventure. The characters are atrociously bad, the plot is not there, the encounters are mean and spiteful, the resolution is atrocious and in the end the PC’s barely get paid too. What a great way to introduce people to this game and its setting and to make them want to play this, am I right?
Something as simple as a trip into a random Forbidden Zone would be much better than this massive trash fire we got instead. For how much the game touts about making the players feel like cool badasses and adventurers, this thing demolishes that notion completely and is a massive blesh best torn out from the book and thrown away.

Next time: This is the end, My only friend, the end.

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MadDogMike
Apr 9, 2008

Can I come out and play?

Cythereal posted:

A lot of undead do just that!

I've always treated the various elemental planes as the DnD equivalent of traveling to another planet with a hostile environment. Surviving the extreme conditions is a large part of the point and challenge to being there.

Problem was the "survive the extreme conditions" bit was basically "remember to cast these spells all the time or die instantly", and while the ideas are interesting and make internal sense and all there's little reason for people to want to go to the elemental planes built in, or a lot of reason for all but the weirdest/most powerful people to build dungeons and such there when they could get roughly the same effects on the Prime Material by building underwater or in a volcano or something with much less effort. Seem to recall planes travel also mucked with spells available for Reasons, which was also just a random kick in the balls for no particular reason beyond some idea it needed to be that way "logically".

Epicurius posted:

I mean, I assume the only reason the elemental planes exist in the first place is because Gary Gygax said to the TSR team, "Guys, we have a problem here....a potentially gamebreaking problem. I've found a plot hole so immense that it'll sink the product. We have all these summon elemental spells, but it never says anywhere where the elementals are being summoned from. This is bad, this is real bad. Nobody's going to want to play a game that's this careless about its setting."

Yeah, this is about really the only reasoning I could find behind all the various elemental planes including the weird para/quasi-elemental ones, to allow for strange versions of critters to be summoned. Making most of them horrifically terminal to enter just made it kinda pointless to screw with for PCs. Given the choice I'd much rather steal 4e's version of the Inner Planes, which let you mess with the elemental planes by smooshing them together in a much more survivable Elemental Chaos, and also adding the very evocative Feywild/Shadowfell as "border planes" between the Prime Material and the Positive/Negative Energy planes. They also took many more pains to write reasons/suggestions why somebody from the Prime Material would want to go to any of those places, which I appreciated. The original Manual of the Planes had some interesting world-building, but it wasn't written very well for doing much with PCs outside some of the Outer Planes (which 4e technically kept without the Wheel structure, but that would be easy enough to add back in), and even then Sigil and Planescape in general were probably the biggest keys to making those areas enjoyably playable since you had a "safe" area and factions to generate similar "safe" areas in the planes in question. I do find it noteworthy even 5e kind of kept the survivable version of the Elemental Planes with the "border" regions somebody posted the map of, and probably just kept the "pure" elemental zones for all the grognards upset we weren't sticking with the old version. Kind of acknowledges how useful it was to solve the problem of having areas that would kill you too easily if you travelled there. If you really need a place that's dangerous to travel to, you at least have an excuse with the Positive and Negative planes (literal unlimited power for the former, perfect prison/undead area for the other) and some valid world-building reasons to make them that way that affect the Prime Material plane.

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