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Arivia
Mar 17, 2011



Forgotten Realms: Forgotten Realms Campaign Set 1: Broad Strokes and Important Folks



So, the Forgotten Realms Campaign Set. Published in 1987, it was the first gaming product to introduce neckbeards everywhere to the Forgotten Realms, the coolest thing for 3 months, 7 years, or 25 years depending upon who you talk to. It sold for $15 as a box set - two 96-page books, four poster maps, and two clear sheets of plastic with a square or hex grid printed on them.

You see, the Forgotten Realms was different. Previously, TSR's published campaign settings were set out according to the rules in the 1e Dungeon Master's Guide - you'd have a hexed map, the players would be on a distinct hex, and you look up what that corresponds to in your setting book. The Realms maps work the other way around - they're drawn to inform the setting, and the plastic overlays are then used to translate it into the game mechanics as necessary. (No one ever really seemed to give a crap about that outside of the rules in Forgotten Realms products - no extra plastic sheets were ever made available, as far as I know, and they dropped them as soon as possible.)

I mentioned previously that this is called the Old Gray Box. You can probably guess why - the box is gray, and it's the oldest Realms product. It's still useful and has some really cool stuff in it today, 25 years later. I check my copy quite a bit.

Anyway, the first book is this:



It's called the Cyclopedia of the Realms, and if you can't read the subtitle, it says "A complete cyclopedia of the fabulous Forgotten Realms from Abeir-Toril to Zhentil Keep." Which is kind of funny, it's like finding a skeleton in a forgotten closet, except the skeleton has a bright purple feather boa and keeps screaming "Oh Darling, you're so Zhentilar!"

Alaundo of Candlekeep posted:

These things also I have observed: that knowledge of our world is to be nurtured like a precious flower, for it is the most precious thing we have. Wherefore guard the word written and heed words unwritten and set them down ere they fade . . . Learn then, well, the arts of reading, writing, and listening true, and they will lead you to the greatest art of all: understanding.

This quote opens the book, and I think it's a really nice tone piece for a "heroic" setting book - not only does it ease us into the Realms' particular fantasy pastiche, but it also touches on an interconnection between knowledge and power, a particular theme of the Realms at large. Adventuring in the Realms isn't just stumbling into a tomb, killing a dragon, and collecting your five copper, it's about place and understanding. There's more going on than you think at all times.

You may be familiar with Alaundo if you've played Baldur's Gate, one of the computer RPGs set in the Forgotten Realms. We'll learn more about him, suffice to say he's a famous prophet and writer.

The introduction is done in-character. We're told that the Forgotten Realms are similar to Earth in the 1200-1300s, and that civilization is a relatively new thing to the Realms. In fact, a lot of space is still being cleared and really brought to heel - there's less nations than city states, and a ton of wilderness between pockets of civilization. This is all good.

Then it proceeds to shoot itself in the foot. Apparently, the merchant class is growing in power (and wealth, but wealth is economic power, so it's kind of redundant), and there's printed hand-bills in the city of Waterdeep. Let's get this straight - there's multinational commercial organizations and printing machines, that's not really 1300s Europe. We're a century and a half off from Gutenberg, so things are a little skewed anyway.

Anyway, the introduction does a pretty good job of setting D&D's standards up in its own way. We're reminded that the commoners have skills of their own (farming, crafting, metalworking), and that they have an interest in (and growing amount of) literacy. Of course, monsters of all types lurk in the wild and in forgotten places, where ruins of old cities and castles might be found. "And there is magic." While the Realms doesn't have different casting archetypes from 1e D&D, the setup is a little different. Wizards channel, not create magical energies. And priests don't just pray, they receive a blessing from the extra-planar Powers. Furthermore, magic is noted for having effects on the Realms - a huge desert and a great glacier are both expanding from the north into the Realms, and they are hypothesized to be the work of magic.

Of course, however, any or all of this can be changed by the work of heroes - those with pure hearts (or powerful artifacts) who stand up against hordes of evil. They can affect the rise and fall of nations, and strike back enemy armies if they are great enough. "It is a time when the bold and the lucky may make their fortunes and gain great power over their worlds."

The emphasis here is on connection and context, which is kind of distinctly different from Gygaxian setups of treasure collection and powermongering. If you haven't ever listened to someone grog out over Greyhawk, the idea back then is that you could play an evil or good character, because the focus of the game was on advancement and empowerment, so your ethical acts didn't actually matter. Despite the vaunted "Gygaxian realism," once you got the levels, you could always come back to stab stuff in the head and take its treasure. Everything existed to be slain and plundered.

The setup this introduction proposes is a little different - your character is a part of their environment, and their heroic acts are specifically done in order to effect particular goals in the larger political-social context. In effect, playing in the Realms is just as much about where and when and why you're doing what you're doing as it is the what itself.

Oh, and then there's this section.



See that name down there? That's Elminster. You've probably heard about him before - he's arguably the most famous character in the Forgotten Realms, along with a dude named Drizzt. He has a lot of secrets and a lot of cool things to share, but all you need to know is that he's a scribe and a sage, like it says.

This is something the Realms does a lot (until 3e, at least.) As far as I'm aware, it was the first D&D product to set up its texts not as impartial overviews of a fictional setting, but instead as in-setting works done by specific people. Because of that, the information in any given sourcebook is subject to that person's limitations and foibles. There's not only a lot more flavour, but there's also opportunities for both DMs and writers to set up specific elements as being wrong, different, or specifically-told lies to safeguard a hidden truth. As Elminster says, the rest of this box set is done in his voice, and all of it may not be correct. (Later on, we'll see some of the mechanics for that.) Elminster even goes so far as to include local legends, gossip, and other details with many of the entries in the Cyclopedia. (A good number of them are adventuring hooks, but not all.)

Oh, and you were probably wondering what Elminster looks like. Here he is:



Next time: Time and Tongues and Trade and maybe deities, if I get that far!

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Zereth
Jul 8, 2003




He's a sage and he employs a scribe!

Arivia
Mar 17, 2011



Zereth posted:

He's a sage and he employs a scribe!

Fine fine quibble about what the text actually says. El has done work as a scribe, though.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!







Just a bit of context, I was one of those idiots who bought this book back when it was the most expensive RPG book printed. My gaming group at the time was supposed to chip in on it, but that never happened. Oh well. But that might help explain some slight bitterness I have towards the book...but bitterness that is well deserved. Fortunately I'm also attempting to do something constructive with that and I've been tinkering with the WLD and trying to rebuild it into something usable and posting the "adjustments" on my blog. So at least I'm accomplishing the noble goal of making the internet a bit more full of words.

PART 1: The World's Largest Intro


--History--

So, the book starts with a fairly bland "history" lesson about angelic beings from the heavens sent by the gods to build a dungeon to imprison evil. The dungeon is an epic disaster of poor planning. First one earthquake rips the dungeon in half, letting in a river of magma, then derro come in and colonize it. After that, there's another earthquake this one allows drow in, plus tearing a hole in the dungeon's ceiling. Finally, derro cause a cave-in (apparently although the dungeon can contain demons, devils and undead it's not dwarf-proof), not only collapsing part of the dungeon but flooding it as well.

Needless to say the biggest question is "why?"

Why imprison these things rather than killing them?
Why pick such a terrible location?
Why, after disaster strikes, do the gods who ordered the place built not help the angelic jailers trapped inside the dungeon?

There's no answer and the designers are pretty straightforward in saying that they didn't care about logic or reason when it came to designing the dungeon.

--Ecology--

Next we have the "Ecology" section where the writers basically say that there isn't going to be any sort of dungeon ecology that makes any sense (especially given that everyone is trapped inside the dungeon) and they're fine with that. eh, fair enough I suppose. it's not like most dungeons (especially big ones) work out logistically.

What is annoying is they come right out and say that they don't expect you to actually run the world's largest dungeon as one big dungeon. Considering that's the only reason that anyone would actually buy the product I find that pretty stupid.

They also come out and admit that the they did not actually include every monster in the game. Just one of every "category" (so they have a sphinx, but not every type of sphinx, they've got dragons but not every single color, etc). To quote them:

quote:

Fanatic completism took a back seat to making the dungeon fun and useful

On the one hand I feel like it would be stupid to try and cram every single monster in the SRD in here and quality would be better than quantity. On the other, it's one of the main advertising points of their 100$ book so and it becomes pretty clear that they didn't deliver "quality" either and a lack of monster variety is actually one of the book's biggest problems.


--Dungeon Environment--

The intro states that the scale of the dungeon is 5x5 squares but then recommend changing it to 10 x 10 for some reason.

There's some discussion of things like the consequences of using artificial lights in the dungeon, how sounds apparently obey completely random rules and DMs are encouraged to use this as an excuse to arbitrarily screw players or justify the way it's possible to have a massive battle in one room without alerting anyone in adjacent areas.

They talk about justification for the sheer number of traps (to get around the immunities of the various entities that the dungeon was made to imprison). Nothing bad here but it becomes especially ironic after you read into the dungeon since many of the traps you'll find would not work on any of the creatures the dungeon is made to imprison (poison for instance).

Then there's a few standard rules regarding walls, doors and secret doors. Their rules regarding lockpicks are worth mentioning:

quote:

There are generally 20 tools in a given lockpick set. For each lockpick that is damaged or lost the PC suffers a -2 circumstance penalty to his Open Lock check. Thieves tools are generally so delicate that only a DC 25 or 20 (blacksmith or locksmith) check can fix them. usually a rogue just buys new tools. In the World's Largest Dungeon that may not be an option

Sounds like a useful rule to keep in mind...until you remember that the penalty for not having tools at all is only -2. That means that any lockpick set with a couple of broken tools is literally worse than nothing. But since there's no actual rules for breaking lockpicks there's not much to worry about.

--More Terrible Rules--

So, now we're at the "house rules" for the WLD. The first thing they mention is that no form of teleportation or extradimensional travel will function, except teleportation functions built into the dungeon itself. It waffles a bit with creature abilities and short range powers like dimension door, suggesting that they're limited to 100 ft and line of sight.

The terrible house rules really start with Experience Points. Apparently the design of the WLD just can't handle the normal XP system:



I love how they encourage you to not play their giant mega-dungeon as a giant mega-dungeon. There's also no guidelines on when during an adventure PCs should level up.


Next we've got lots of summarizing the different regions, how to read room descriptions, etc.



--Encounter Conditions--

So, here's a great example of a good idea that the WLD writers completely screw up. Encounter conditions are essentially a list of keywords describing generic room conditions. Now, I will say that this is a great idea, it saves space reprinting similar traits room by room and collects these conditions in one place where it can be easily consulted.

However, in execution they manage to completely screw things up. Many of the encounter conditions are applied completely at random. And even when they might have a purpose there aren't enough details to be useful.

For example, a common condition is Concealment, giving all creatures a miss chance...but it's rare for there to be any explanation for why these creatures gain concealment: magical darkness, fog, smoke, weird illusions, etc. Which is pretty drat important.

Many of them are also incomplete when used in the rooms themselves. For instance conditions like Echoes X means that noise in the room penalizes Listen Checks by X amount...but most entries lack any actual modifier.

--The Rest--

There's a mention of the lava that flows through the dungeon, However, apparently it is not actually lava: it is being "fed" on by an everpresent horde of magma and steam mephits who absorb the heat and poisonous fumes, reducing the lava to a relatively minor annoyance, dropping the damage from 20d6 for full immersion to 6d6.

Then there's region "W" a series of empty, generic rooms that can be stuck anywhere in the dungeon. These will never be used by anyone, being universally bland and pointless.

There are sidebars scattered about pointing out how the inescapable nature of the dungeon ruins several core classes and spells.

*The designers claim that wizards get hosed by the dungeon (due to a lack of new spells as they level up) and also point out that spells like web or entangle should be banned as they're "too powerful" in a place like the WLD, claiming they've prevented monsters from having the spells (a lie, the first Region has a kobold wizard with Web). There's actually a decent number of spells, but the writers forget that there's no way for wizards to get those special inks they need to scribe their spells and the issue of material components is never addressed at all.

*druids get the real shaft and the designers just say that you shouldn't allow them at all. The main problem is that because of the anti-teleportation effect their summoning spells are either banned or one-way (summoned creatures come in, but don't leave and you lose any control over them after the duration ends). Also, no chance of any new animal companions in most of the dungeon (rangers have this trouble too).

The introduction ends with some of the worst advice ever:



Wow, there's not a suggestion on there that I don't think is stupid and most of them actively piss me off.

What's even worse is that without the ability to take 20 (let alone take 10), Region A is going to be hell for most players. Despite the fact that the Region is for level 1-3 characters it's full of magical traps...meaning that the DCs are in the mid to high 20's. Even a trap-focused first level rogue isn't going to have a Search bonus higher than +10 or so...meaning that the odds of them managing to find, let alone disarm, any of the traps in the very first region are low indeed.

That's the end of the intro, I'll start sifting Region A for some interesting tidbits (obviously we're not going room by room here).

AmiYumi
Oct 10, 2005

I Forgot To Hail King Torg


Kurieg posted:

Yeah, cause there were never any fox myths in Europe. Fox spirits never showed up in Native American myths. Nope, Trickster foxes only exist in Asia. This isn't even getting into the fact that the Korean equivilant to Kitsune want your tasty tasty livers and the Chinese equivilent are out to possess you and steal your penis/nipples. Did Aesop have dick-stealing liver-eating she-foxes?

I thought not.

No, the real reason that the Kitsune aren't all over the world is because that would take away their specialness. The author seemed to think that there was a false dichotomy that by making them more common they would become mundane. If you spread them out around the world and knocked down their ego a few pegs they'd probably be okay. But no, the Kitsune are special and they will never let you forget it.
I think - think - the Nuwisha and Kitsune were originally meant to be the West/East versions of each other, but things changed and the Kitsune became their own thing somewhere down the line. And as far as Chinese/Korean Kitsune being different, well, the Hunter Survival Guide gave some hints toward that IIRC - along with the only canonical Revised-era looks at Demon Hunter X I'm aware of outside of a sidebar in a Kindred of the East book.

secretly best girl
Mar 27, 2007

I see you choosing that other route. How dare you.



The Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game

8: The One Power, in Two Parts

Welcome to where we get into some crazy poo poo. Weaves! Channeler history and factions! How to cause armageddon in a few easy steps! First off there's a brief history of channelers and how they Broke the World in the last Age. We hit that in update one. What I DID skip over until now was the few groups who still take in and train/tame channelers as of the "present day".

The Aes Sedai run the island city of Tar Valon and its massive White Tower. In the modern day, this ancient term that used to describe all channelers now refers exclusively to women. Entering the tower, you become a novice, which translates to "literally everyone who isn't on cooking/cleaning can boss you around". From there, there are two ranks to climb - the Accepted are basically channeler college students, free to go about their studies however they like, but at the whim of a full Aes Sedai whenever they're found in need of assistance. Then you get promoted to the actual mantle of Aes Sedai and you get to give everyone who isn't the head of an Ajah/the Amyrlin Seat (who is King poo poo of Aes Sedai Mountain) the finger if you like, and head into the world to do whatever. It's just unlikely you will, because you'll probably have been nowhere but the Tower for years, probably decades*, and odds are you're gonna go along with whatever the hell your Ajah is best at instead of doing your own thing.

* Here's how this works in some more dry detail: if you can channel, you probably come to the White Tower. If you're a wilder, you have two options - learn enough so that it won't kill you and leave, or become a novice. If you CAN be taught, though, you're loving stuck. They really, really need recruits in the modern day, because the once-bustling organization of thousands has maybe... 500? of them in the world now. Some people suspect hunting down and killing every man who could channel has bred the talent out of mankind. Should you become a novice, you are STUCK ON THE ISLAND. PERIOD. You cannot leave as a novice, and getting raised to Accepted can take years. Accepted have a little more leeway, but you'd better have an excellent reason for loving off outta the Tower. Accepted to Aes Sedai, though, usually takes decades. They will not promote your rear end until they are SURE you're gonna act like a proper Aes Sedai should.


I actually have no idea who the hell the people watching the trial are, given that that's... not how Aes Sedai dress.

Progressing through the ranks is probably one of the most lethal things you can do in the White Tower, but not for the reason you might think. See, whenever you're judged worthy to ascend up the ladder, you've got a date with a ter'angreal (magic items which perform specific tasks) both times. Pre-Accepted deal with a set of interlocking gateways, three doors which show you "what was, what is, and what will be" - alternate lives based on decisions you might make at key points in your life. Entering strips you of all your memories but what that "you" knew, and you've got to find your way out of it to the door to our world or else be lost forever (so, basically, only the most driven and stubborn return when confronted with lost loves, or dream worlds, or dangers...). It's a harrowing experience and probably one of the most traumatizing things you will ever experience. Nobody ever asks you to tell what you saw, and many would probably quit if they were forced to.*

* book example: one promotion involved a character who grew up with/loved the Dragon Reborn seeing three fates of their lives together - "what was" involved the two of them marrying in their village, with him having worse and worse headaches over time only she could abate. She had to leave that world as he was on the floor, screaming louder than their child, in the grip of a migraine with what was easily his own unconscious channeling rending the land outside with lightning. "What is" I have forgotten offhand. "What will be" results in her having to turn her back on him again as he pleads for death, on the cusp of madness and fearing that the shadowspawn outside will turn him against his will, screaming her name.

Meanwhile, Aes Sedai have to swear on the Oath Rod, which binds them to anything they swear while holding it. The Three Oaths one must take to become a full Sister are "to speak no word that is not true", "to make no weapon with which one man may kill another"*, and "to never use the One Power as a weapon unless against Shadowspawn or Darkfriends, or in the very last extreme of defending [their] life, a Warder's life, or that of another Aes Sedai". That last one is a huge thing, and basically the only thing that keeps the Tower from being torn down by paranoid kings or armies over the ages. (The first, however, is why the common people are always wary around Aes Sedai - they can't lie, but they can totally get cagey.) Another fun fact about the Oath Rod, and how this game is superceded in so many, many places about canon: you know how any channeler of level 3+ gets the agelessness of a caster? Yeah, it's actually the Oath Rod that does that to you. Anyone who doesn't use it is gonna look just like anyone else and live no longer than your average schmuck.

* Once upon a time, Power-wrought weapons were created, which had edges that never dulled, and sometimes extras besides. They are superbly loving rare. I think maybe 5 tops appear in the books, and that's me estimating UPWARDS based on the books I haven't read. I don't think they ever actually say why this changed between the Age of Legends and the modern times.

When you are finally promoted, you choose an Ajah to belong to: the seven branches of the Aes Sedai who each pursue their own goals. The White Ajah are philosophers, basically. The Gray are negotiators/diplomats, who do what they can to keep the nations of the world at peace when called upon. The Brown are scholars, bookworms to the very last. The Red are somewhat "zealous" about hunting down male channelers. Yellows are those who study healing, an entire corps of mage-nurses. The Blue Ajah take on plenty of causes and seek to improve the world in general, usually being the ones most likely to leave the Tower on their own agendas. Finally, the Green Ajah, also called the "Battle Ajah", concern themselves with preparing for the Last Battle, and are the only ones who are liable to take on multiple Warders. There's very little open rivalry between factions, but the Red Ajah and its die-hards are generally seen to be at-odds with the Blue and Green Ajahs. Finally, although one should never, EVER speak of it near an Aes Sedai for fear of their wrath, there is indeed an eighth, "Black Ajah" of Darkfriend sisters which exists beneath the surface.

A final note on Aes Sedai: Warders are a development that came sometime post-Age of Legends but a while before the current-day. Sisters would create a 'bond' with some of the most skilled swordsmen around, and both would benefit from the connection: becoming able to take more punishment and heal faster, while also knowing where the other was no matter the distance. The way the bond works is weird and the cross-gender thing is a very good thing, because bonding a same-sex Warder has unintended consequences you don't get normally, probably due to the similar physiology of both participants. (Yeah, it comes up in the books, and some of the poo poo that can be shared over the bond that way - getting drunk, emotional feedback, hunger, etc.)

So there's easily the MOST material covering Aes Sedai, but they are not even close to being the only channelers in the world. Most of the others are nation-specific, however:
  • Aiel Wise Ones are where every channeler* in the Aiel clans end up, but not all Wise Ones are channelers. It's just a term for those who are women and the guiding figures of their society. Whether you can channel or not, though, you have to make two trips to the ruined city of Rhuidean over the years. The first has you... walk... into a structure with three gateways... okay this sounds familiar. Years later you go back and enter a series of glass columns which relates to you, via your ancestors' memories, the true history of the Aiel. (Rather large book spoiler: They were originally the Tinkers, a travelling people devoted to pacifism. Some of them took up spears for revenge and went into the wastes for breaking their oaths to the Aes Sedai in the Age of Legends. This is the reason they DO NOT use swords. Ever. That poo poo was verboten as the Tinkers, and it continues to be even now.) Dreamwalking, lost in 99% of the world, is still a common talent among the Wise Ones! So that's cool.
  • Sea Folk Windfinders are where almost every channeler... yeah, same as the Wise Ones, pretty much. If your affinities don't bend towards Air/Water, you'll be sent off to the White Tower to train there instead. That, plus their usual refusal to carry Aes Sedai, is how the White Tower has never figured out their Windfinders are massively potent channelers (the few we deal with in the books tend to be able to control MASSIVE amounts of air or shift tides with ease, to speed their craft to ludicrous degrees). Some of them are not! If you're on a ship where your Windfinder can't channel, then... I actually don't know. We know some of them can't but it never comes up that I'm aware of.
  • Seanchan channelers** are... weird. See, in the lands of the Seanchan, they never lost the ability to create ter'angreal, which is, before rediscovery in the books, a dead skill. The problem is that they use it exclusively(? that ever gets mentioned) to create a'dams: linked leash and bracelet combinations that allow the bracelet wearer (sul'dam) to control the leash-wearer (damane). Straight up, they come through cities testing women every year to see if they fulfill either role. Sul'dam are privileged and like lesser nobility, and damane are akin to pets. After they're broken and trained, anyway. The term for channelers would be marath'damane ("those who must be leashed"), incidentally. The big secret, as I mentioned earlier - wilders are damane, and the girls who are found to wear the bracelets are who would be initiates in other lands (the women with the POTENTIAL to channel, but who don't instinctively). Keeping this secret is one of those things that many, many people will die to protect in Seanchan turf.
  • The Forsaken are mentioned in here as a "channeling tradition" because I have no idea. DO NOT gently caress WITH THE FORSAKEN. 13*** Aes Sedai from the Age of Legends who turned to the Dark One, the men protected from the taint/madness by serving him, the women being unfazed by that anyway, and all of them knowing more than any living channeler by a huge margin. Lost Talents? Ancient weapons? These dudes have it or know the general region to look in. The book does make a very smart move in never statting them out, though.
  • Asha'man are the Dragon Reborn's corps of male channelers, founded when he shocks the world by going "Yeah, so, I'm here, and that means the Last Battle is coming. If you are a male channeler, I declare amnesty for you in lands I control, get out here and we're gonna train you. I need soldiers, damnit." In fact, that's the first rank of Rand's "Black Tower" - you become a Soldier, then a Dedicated, and finally an Asha'man. I'm sure this sounds familiar. The big difference is that there is no time held back in training them - you're pushed harder than any other channelers alive to learn to control your powers ASAP and strengthen what you can handle. It's not uncommon for some people to go mad, still themselves, or even loving die in training, but if you make it to the upper ranks, you become a walking weapon unlike anything else you'll get on the planet, and in much less than half the time it'd take an Aes Sedai to reach those peaks.
  • Wilders... never learn from any of the above traditions. Ta-da. Dunno why they felt the need to reiterate that.

* Every female channeler. Male Aiel channelers walk north into the Blight and take as many Shadowspawn with them as they can before dying/going mad. Still pretty badass.
** Did not know where else to put this: if I had not read the first few books of this series as kids, I would easily compare the Seanchan abuse of the Old Tongue to the bullshit faux-language of Final Fantasy XIII. fal'cie cie'th l'cie bread and cie cie cie cie cie aaaaAAAAAAAGH
*** You really only need to worry about, like... 10? of them. The others are fodder†.


That is probably enough for now, and next time we'll break down the casting mechanics and get into how conservative this book can be with its lists. It's actually impressive in that regard!

Next time: How to Ruin the Pattern in Ten Weaves!

† WEIRD SPERGY LORE THING I DIDN'T KNOW WHERE ELSE TO PUT/semi-minor? book spoiler: they say quite a few times the Dark One has power over the dead, and one of the firsthand examples of it are when he takes the souls of a couple of dead Forsaken and puts them into living bodies (stolen from the Borderlands). Both of them died as men. One came back, since it was the easiest body to acquire, as a woman. Despite this, dude still channeled saidin! So that's kind of a weird metaphysics thing about the Wheel of Time world, and answered the question that I'm sure I wasn't the only one who wondered about : "how the hell does a transgendered channeler work?"

Lemon-Lime
Aug 6, 2009


Arivia posted:

arguably the most prominent and closest thing Dungeons and Dragons has to a "standard" campaign setting

Well, actually, Greyhawk was the assumed D&D setting for pretty much 30 years in some form or other (I mean, even 4E, which ditched Greyhawk for PoL, still uses Greyhawk deities for the most part), whereas I am pretty sure FR has never been, so... no, you couldn't actually argue that.


Arivia posted:

the coolest thing for 3 months

What actually came out three months later?

Lemon-Lime fucked around with this message at 09:56 on Apr 20, 2013

secretly best girl
Mar 27, 2007

I see you choosing that other route. How dare you.

I can't sleep so I finished this section.



The Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game

9: Balefire

C'mon. Any of you book readers know that one's the big gun in the weave list, no matter what else is in here.

But first, mechanics. I've tried to introduce things throughout the writeup, because channeling is easily the most complex system in the game. First up, the whole saidin/saidar divide (men/women for those who forgot!), then the Five Powers (of the One Power... yeah, I know) and Affinities for each, then Talents, then individual weaves, but wait, you can cast them at different power levels, so we need to break those down...

...and then there are the ways you can RAISE your power level, and I'm not just talking about Overchanneling here! See, there's that, too, but that poo poo's risky, even for a Wilder. Remember last time when I mentioned ter'angreal, little magic items with specific purposes? Well, those are only one class out of three such creations. The other are angreal, which can bolster your ability to channel beyond your body's limits, and their more potent cousins, sa'angreal. How do you do it? Well, uh... you touch it, while you're channeling. That's it. No rolls, no risk, by the rules, these things just let you overchannel 1-3 (with angreal) or 4-10 (sa'angreal) levels above the slot you're casting from. There's also Linking, which... jesus christ, that is a MESS.


And every single person involved has to make Concentration checks. No, I'm not kidding.

Linking is another one of those "balancing men/women" things. Women are REQUIRED to Link - two men can't do poo poo. But beyond 13 (one of those magic numbers in this setting, recall! 13 women can do some POTENT poo poo, like still/gentle you without any resistance) you need men in the circle. If your circle is a) one man/one woman, b) 13 people but 2+ are men, or c) 72 channelers, the leader has to be a man. Otherwise, it's whoever wants that poo poo on their head, either gender. To successfully link, you need to do the following:
  • Everyone has to embrace the One Power (take a full round to fill yourself with it)
  • then makes a Concentration check, the leader at DC (20 + 1/4 the total number of participants), the others at (5 + 1/4th the number of participants)
  • and IF you succeeded on that (a single failure means "gently caress you, start from one"), then
  • the leader casts a weave. Repeat this step all you like until
  • the leader becomes distracted (fail a DC [weave level + interruption DC] Concentration check - table below for this poo poo) OR chooses to break the link. It continues until the leader stops it, so let's hope you didn't just make a secret Black Ajah member the boss!


I seriously hate all the tables involved in channeling. And there are many, many more I'm glossing over, trust me.

Back to vanilla casting, though: how do we use a weave? Well, to begin with, I hope you have the required Talent for that weave (Talents being similar to spell schools from D&D wizardry). If you don't, then we need to check the level of the weave, and your class. Wilders can cast 0-2nd level weaves from an unfamiliar Talent, but Initiates can only cast 0-level. If you DO have it, though, then this doesn't matter at all. Let's cast a spell now!

First, check the elemental Affinities! Do you have 1+, but not all of, them? Okay, cast it normally. Do you possess them all? Cast it from a lower spell slot than you're casting it at by 1. Do you possess none? Reverse that (cast from +1 level slot compared to the weave level, so a level 2 weave takes a level 3 slot). Do this again when determining effect! If you have the affinities, make it more potent for less cost, and vice versa.

Okay, does your spell affect items ON a target? (Only a couple of them do, so this one's rarer.) Well, in that case, have them hit things in order on this convenient table!


So goddamn many tables. Not shown in this writeup, two from the page opposite this one.

So. There's no convenient list of Talents in here, so I'm just going to go over them and then point out the interesting weaves from each where needed.

  • Balefire - Lost Talent. Lets you cast Balefire. We are going to get to this crazy motherfucker last.
  • Cloud Dancing - Common Talent. Weather magic. Not really anything amazing here, but contains some handy and impressive skills like calling lightning, warming/cooling the region around you, or summoning thick fog in impressively-large areas when you're at higher levels.
  • Conjunction - Common Talent, some Lost weaves. This is where "Bond Warder" lies, but it's got some interesting skills like False Trail/Trace, or Sense Shadowspawn. The big one we'll hit below, though.
  • Earth Singing - Common Talent. Sense metals in the earth, create earthquakes or rend the ground beneath someone, make a loving grenade. You know. Earth stuff.
  • Elementalism - Common Talent, some Lost weaves. Take this, period. Walls of fire, barriers of air, redirect rivers or conjure tides, but also handy loving things like "Light", "Tool of Air" (a Mage Hand-alike), and nifty utility spells. Also where you find "Fly" but that's Lost. Suck it, encounter-ruiners!
  • Healing - Common Talent, some Lost weaves. Contains your "cure" spell (the Heal weave) and its counterparts, the Rare (one of only 3 weaves to get this classification!) "Rend". We'll touch on this tree a little later, especially with its massive oversight.
  • Illusion - Common Talent, one Lost weave. Disguises, projections, and skills to spy on people from afar.
  • Travelling - Lost Talent. Teleportation, creating gateways across the surface of the world, and the use of Portal Stones.
  • Warding - Common Talent, one Lost weave. Nothing to do with Warders, ironically, it's the art of making barriers, and some long range detection spells (ie, "let me know when X crosses a certain threshold").

Some of the more interesting tricks in here, be it lore-wise or effect-wise:

False Trail is a Conjunction weave that can be used to hide your tracks, by creating a false path in whatever direction you point when casting the weave. I mostly bring it up because of the hilarious effect where "...the false trail extends in a straight line, through all intervening terrain. Trackers who are aware of this power may become suspicious if your trail extends straight over rivers, cliffs, buildings, and the like." Sadly, there is no art in the book of this Looney Tunes-level spell effect.

Arms of Air is Elementalism, and a bit loopy: see, you can hold an increasing amount of weight with an invisible hand depending on caster level. Specifically, "you can manipulate an object as if with one hand". It can "perform a simple task, if the force required is within the weight limit for the casting level". Let's take a look at some of those weight limits...


Hmm. Well, we can't make a diamond, buuuuuut...

You can also use this skill to throw someone violently through the air! If you do, it's treated as if they took a 10 foot fall (1d6 damage). Tossing a larger item does 1d6 points per 25 pounds if you hit them with it. Ooooooor you can just ask your DM if making a fist is a "simple action" and be a real bastard when you point out holding someone and going "squish" at level 4 or above is a guaranteed kill. Maybe lower if you haggle. And it has no saving through, plus a "Medium" range (100 feet + another 10 per level). So congrats, you can just force crush motherfuckers from across a battlefield for a single action! Not even a full round casting time.

Cutting Lines of Fire is also Elementalism, definitely Lost, and lets you be Omega Red. 30-70 feet (by caster level) of whiplike lines from your hand that "neatly cut through stone, metal, wood, and other materials to their maximum range", also doing 2d12 points of damage to any person within the area of effect. Despite it saying that "where they strike flesh, they cleanly cut through that as well". Face it, this would turn a dude into french fries as the flavor text is written.

Wand of Fire is an rear end in a top hat's dream spell. "You imbue an otherwise harmless branch, wand, or switch with a powerful charge of fire. Although the wand does not appear to be burning, a successful melee touch attack deals 1d8 points of fire damage +1 point per channeler level (max +20), and flames spring up as the wand touches combustible materials." So basically, you can take a branch, spend a single action on this weave, and then turn it into an instant hot potato. You could also argue that this spell + Arms of Air would make for a great way for the party to disguise themselves in travelling. "Come see the Amazing Floating Firestick! Watch it burn down your goddamn village if nobody pays up."

Restore the Power is where I'm going to put a rant I've had in mind for a lot of this sourcebook: it's really, really weird in how it treats the books' plot. See, this isn't even a "Lost" weave, a character straight up DISCOVERS this for the first time in the novels, and around the middle of the books (I'm gaining on the event in my reread, prob. book 6/7?) at that. But we also have the RPG dancing around poo poo that happened waaaaay earlier in the novels, like some of the "Major NPCs" it stats up in the DM chapter have been dead for a while, or are described as they appear at first (channelers before they learned how to, characters described as fresh-faced when they're now world-shaping players, etc.). But then, major plot-wise, we have the Black Tower in here, but aren't caught up to what was the newest book at the time of publication. It's really weird and it's why I keep trying to put a lid on what lore I bring up in this writeup just because it seems to want to be someone's introduction to the novels at the same time it spoils major twists and ignores others for the then-current reader.

Also the prior weave restores the spellcasting of a stilled/gentled channeler. If you suck at casting it, they can lose a few caster levels. If you don't, they're perfectly fine. Handily, though, you can recast it and keep restoring their ability, so it's not an "oops, rolled low, you're hosed forever".

Finally, we have Balefire.



Balefire is a nasty motherfucker of a (Lost) weave. See, taken at face value, it was created in the War of Power, and everyone thought "Oh, we now have a Disintegrate spell. Okay, handy." There are a total of two things* impervious to balefire in the world, neither of them common. It has a single save: Reflex, meaning "you dodged or you didn't". If you are touched by balefire, you are loving gone. Period. No weaves can stop it, nothing will return you from a death by it, and not even the Dark One can revive you if killed by it. This is probably where you go "Wait, how the hell did this thing get lost, this seems like something everyone would want to know or be aware of". Well, that's the rub - it is super illegal to even learn this thing now, and BOTH sides stopped using it in the War of Power when they figured out what it really did. Yes, even the Dreadlords/Forsaken.

* Those items are cuendillar (a material from the Age of Legends which is impervious to all damage and just absorbs energy thrown at it) and a creature we'll hit on in a few updates.

Let's cut back to the first update loredump. Recall when I said it was straight up fact that in this universe, time and space were weaved into tapestries (the Age Laces of the Pattern)? Balefire does not just disintegrate you. Balefire removes the thread of your existence, and your very soul, from the Pattern. Same with anything it touches. But there's an even more hosed up twist to this: it removes you in reverse.

The more power you put into using balefire, the further back in time your target is WIPED OUT OF EXISTENCE. See, people will know you were there, and what you did, but as far as the Pattern is concerned, you vanish from (point of being hit by balefire + however far back your thread is burned out) and none of it ever happened, memories or no. This can range from "five seconds" to "ten days", and that's just by the rules of the game. The novels point out entire villages vanished or were recreated, and some battles suddenly ended or restarted depending on mad use of this weave. Oops, we just offed the leader who hosed up a battle a year ago and suddenly there's a new army revived, and... Entire chunks of the Pattern vanished into nothingness, creating rips and holes in space and time. Once this was figured out, EVERYONE set that poo poo down. Even the Dark One doesn't ask his channelers to use it in the novels until poo poo really hits the fan*. So if you ever want to just nuke the campaign, let me tell you, there are fewer amazing ways to go out than balefiring the poo poo out of everything around you. Just act nice long enough for the GM to give that poo poo to you first.

* A scene with one of the Forsaken convening with him includes asking said individual "Would you even use balefire in My service?".

Next time: The Prestige

Asimo
Sep 23, 2007




Lemon Curdistan posted:

Well, actually, Greyhawk was the assumed D&D setting for pretty much 30 years in some form or other (I mean, even 4E, which ditched Greyhawk for PoL, still uses Greyhawk deities for the most part), whereas I am pretty sure FR has never been, so... no, you couldn't actually argue that.

Eh, this is arguing by technicality instead of spirit. Forgotten Realms has been the first campaign setting released for the past few editions, has a massive novel line that continues to go strong, has the vast majority of D&D video games (barring a few standouts like PS:T), and basically has been the public face of D&D for, what, two decades?

(Also nobody except the groggiest of 'nards have cared about Greyhawk the setting, as opposed to some names and elements, since like circa 1988.)

Amechra
Sep 9, 2012


Balefire is pretty much my favorite thing in those books.

Because it is the most logical "destruction" spell to exist in a world as metaphysically connected as the WoT series.

The closest equivalent that I've ever seen is a charm in Exalted called "Avoidance Kata", which lets you dodge any attack you can pretty much imagine... by not having been there in the first place.

It works by essentially teleporting you to anywhere you could have reached if you had taken a different decision 10 minutes ago, and then the world rejiggering itself so that you you actually took that decision.

It is absolutely hilarious, and has the upside of enabling the question:

If you smack someone with Balefire, and you then activate Avoidance Kata, what happens to the guy you erased?

dwarf74
Sep 2, 2012






Buglord

You know, before it collapsed under the weight of TSR's endless fiction lines, uberpowered NPCs, and canon sperglords, FR was pretty okay. Mostly bland, but interesting around the edges. I like most of the 1e stuff, and much of the FR series is pretty good. But by late 2e and all of 3e... wow. (And I think the 4e setting is kind of underrated.)

Asimo posted:

(Also nobody except the groggiest of 'nards have cared about Greyhawk the setting, as opposed to some names and elements, since like circa 1988.)
I unironically love pre-Wars, barebones Greyhawk. Just looking at the original box set "Darlene" map just makes me want to sit down in a basement and roll dice. But 1e is one of my two favorite editions, and it's pretty much 1e: The Setting, so...

Wow. It's like they have no idea how math, skill checks, probability, or efficient use of table time work. Please tell me the rest is this awesome.

Zereth
Jul 8, 2003




Amechra posted:

If you smack someone with Balefire, and you then activate Avoidance Kata, what happens to the guy you erased?
Avoidance Kata explicitly doesn't change the past, just the present (including memories of those not powerful enough to resist the effect), nor does it restore any damage you took or resources you expended in the fight you used it in, so they remain Balefired.

EDIT: I also don't remember the exact conditions, but you don't have very long to use Avoidance Kata before you're committed and can't just go have always been doing something else, so the answer might be "Sorry you can't activate it anymore".

Zereth fucked around with this message at 14:12 on Apr 20, 2013

hectorgrey
Oct 14, 2011


Just thought I'd point out that actually, the oath rod reduces how long an Aes Sedai will live for rather than increasing it - it causes the agelessness and gives a life span of around two hundred years, while channellers without the oaths can live to nearly five hundred or more. They just age slower.

Arivia
Mar 17, 2011



Asimo posted:

Eh, this is arguing by technicality instead of spirit. Forgotten Realms has been the first campaign setting released for the past few editions, has a massive novel line that continues to go strong, has the vast majority of D&D video games (barring a few standouts like PS:T), and basically has been the public face of D&D for, what, two decades?

(Also nobody except the groggiest of 'nards have cared about Greyhawk the setting, as opposed to some names and elements, since like circa 1988.)

Pretty much. Greyhawk has pretty much been on the wane since 1988 - compare the giant pile of FR books for 2e and 3e to the abortive attempts to resurrect Greyhawk as a setting. TSR and then WotC have both talked up and put absolutely everything into FR - I remember 2e ads calling it the flagship setting for the game, for example.

Additionally, gods are a really poor comparison between the two because they share a ton of demihuman deities. Those deities were originally written up by Roger E. Moore separate from any campaign setting, only for Gygax to later include them in Greyhawk. To make things even more confusing, deities like Tiamat and Bahamut actually were deities for the first time in a 1990 Forgotten Realms supplement! (Before they were just special unique monsters, like Asmodeus or Juiblex's writeups.) So there's a lot of interconnection there, and you can't really pull them apart.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

I remember, or more than likely just 'remember', that Greyhawk was supposed to be the default, no-supplements-added setting for 3.0. I remember that feeling weird because, aside from deities that weren't stock Realms in earlier editions, there wasn't anything else to really support that or any big setting splats to give Greyhawk a new-edition renaissance.

FMguru
Sep 10, 2003

peed on;
sexually

Bieeardo posted:

I remember, or more than likely just 'remember', that Greyhawk was supposed to be the default, no-supplements-added setting for 3.0. I remember that feeling weird because, aside from deities that weren't stock Realms in earlier editions, there wasn't anything else to really support that or any big setting splats to give Greyhawk a new-edition renaissance.
Greyhawk was supposed to be the setting for the RPGA "living campaign" organized play format, and they put out a couple of modules (a thin folio with an overview of the setting, a big fat 192-page campaign guide) for it, but it died with some personnel shifts at WotC (I think it was one of Dancey's pet causes).

Greyhawk was also the setting for the abortive 3.x miniatures game.

The basic problem with Greyhawk is that it's a pretty dull setting (at least, as it has been presented) and it's not particularly D&D-ish. That giant Darlene map from the original set sure is pretty, though.

dwarf74
Sep 2, 2012






Buglord

Bieeardo posted:

I remember, or more than likely just 'remember', that Greyhawk was supposed to be the default, no-supplements-added setting for 3.0. I remember that feeling weird because, aside from deities that weren't stock Realms in earlier editions, there wasn't anything else to really support that or any big setting splats to give Greyhawk a new-edition renaissance.
Yeah, it was Greyhawk only in a kinda sorta sense. Greyhawk Lite at best, mostly in that it grabbed a few gods out of the pantheon. (The boring ones, at that; no St. Cuthbert or Tritherion or Westridge, etc. L

There's a few pretty distinctive features of the setting, like actual alignment factions; the involvement of demons, devils, and daemons; the various human ethnicities; the not infrequent presence of higher tech like Barrier Peaks; quasi deities like Kelanen and Myrlund*; etc. But a lot of its flavor is basically just standard D&D now - like drow, for example.

As a setting for rpgs, it does its job fine. I tend to prefer settings with less canon, frankly. Just backdrops for the PCs to look awesome against.

And yes, the minis game was set on the world, but in a part of it that had been left alone to that point.


* Who, no poo poo, is a cowboy paladin with six-shooters.

a kitten
Aug 5, 2006



The posts about Forgotten Realms are pretty cool on their own and also remind me that I haven't seen much about the original Dragonlance Adventures sourcebook for 1st edition AD&D that came out roughly at the same time.

It's been so very long since I've had the book around, but I remember how character's alignments could change depending on their actions, how the phases of the three moons and their conjunctions would greatly influence just how strong mage's spells were, and how level 18 was the maximum level a character (or NPC other than Raistlin) could reach. Not to mention everyone's favorite races: kender and gully-dwarves.



I don't suppose anyone has a copy of that sucker and wants to do a writeup? There's some seriously crazy rules in there if I remember correctly, and I really wish I had kept all my weird, old D&D stuff from back then.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

Aw man, I forgot about St. Cuthbert. His church in Hommlet had the best truisms. 'THICK HEADS ARE NOT MADE OF GLASS.' 'PREACH SOFTLY AND KEEP A LARGE CUDGEL HANDY.' 'SALVATION IS BETTER THAN SMART ANSWERS.'

Asimo
Sep 23, 2007




dwarf74 posted:

There's a few pretty distinctive features of the setting, like actual alignment factions; the involvement of demons, devils, and daemons; the various human ethnicities; the not infrequent presence of higher tech like Barrier Peaks; quasi deities like Kelanen and Myrlund*; etc. But a lot of its flavor is basically just standard D&D now - like drow, for example.
Amusingly, most of the interesting bits of Greyhawk - the exotic NPCs, the sporadic presence of high tech (including the Barrier Peaks themselves I think), and so on - were actually carried over to BECMI's known world/Mystara while Greyhawk sort of got watered down. Sort of a weird evolution there, and probably says a bit about the design split.

Zandar
Aug 22, 2008


a kitten posted:

The posts about Forgotten Realms are pretty cool on their own and also remind me that I haven't seen much about the original Dragonlance Adventures sourcebook for 1st edition AD&D that came out roughly at the same time.

It's been so very long since I've had the book around, but I remember how character's alignments could change depending on their actions, how the phases of the three moons and their conjunctions would greatly influence just how strong mage's spells were, and how level 18 was the maximum level a character (or NPC other than Raistlin) could reach. Not to mention everyone's favorite races: kender and gully-dwarves.

I don't suppose anyone has a copy of that sucker and wants to do a writeup? There's some seriously crazy rules in there if I remember correctly, and I really wish I had kept all my weird, old D&D stuff from back then.

I do have this lying around somewhere, actually; I've even played it (under 2E, because very little in the book gave any indication I shouldn't have). I won't be able to get at it for a couple of weeks, though. If no one else has written it up by then, I might take a crack at it.

Arivia
Mar 17, 2011



Forgotten Realms: Forgotten Realms Campaign Set II: Roll On, Ye Mighty

Time in the Forgotten Realms is pretty normal. There's no crazy sixteen-hour days or two suns to worry about. There's 365 days to the year, divided into 12 months of exactly 30 days each, and five special days outside the month. Because of this, it's pretty easy to map days and months in the Realms to our real life calendar, which is a blessing for players.

Each month has a made up fantasy name in the Common language and then a descriptive name linked to the turning of the seasons. Beginning with January, they are:
1. Hammer, also known as Deepwinter
2. Alturiak, also known as the Claw of Winter or the Claws of the Cold
3. Ches of the Sunsets
4. Tarsakh of the Storms
5. Mirtul, also known as the Melting
6. Kythorn, also known as the Time of Flowers
7. Flamerule, also known as Summertide
8. Elesias, also known as Highsun
9. Eleint, also known as the Fading
10. Marpenoth, also known as the Leafall
11. Uktar, also known as the Rotting
12. Nightal, also known as the Drawing Down

It's a neat piece of design because it shows us very quickly how much the lives of people in the Realms are dominated by the seasons and when - a DM can easily tell what's likely going on and how common people are doing with just a glance at the calendar. The strong correlation with Gregorian months makes that pretty easy to express, as well. Each month is divided into three tendays, which are alternatively called "rides." Pretty simple.

The five special days occur once every two months, starting after Hammer. They are:

-Midwinter, where lords plan for the year ahead and make alliances. Commoners call this Deadwinter Day, the middle of the worst of the cold.
-Greengrass is the official beginning of spring. Flowers that are carefully grown inside are blessed and thrown upon the snow, to pray for rich growth in the season ahead.
-Midsummer is a big holiday with feasts and music and love. Traditionally you get engaged on Midsummer. In some places, maidens are set free in the woods to be caught by their lovers, in a sort of romantic hunt.
-Highharvestide is the harvest festival. It's a feast that continues as long as the harvest is going on, so that there is food for workers coming in from the fields. There's a lot of traveling that goes on, so that merchants and officials can get their business done before mud arrives and turns into snow.
-The Feast of the Moon announces the arrival of winter, and is also when people honour the dead. There's a Ritual of Remembrance that is performed, and tales are told about the dead.

There's one more special day. Shieldmeet occurs once every four years, immediately following Midsummer. It's basically a leap year. It's a giant feast day, with tournaments and entertainment of all kinds, and commonly nobles will use the day to take open council with their people.

Years in the Forgotten Realms are referred to by name, and not by year. Why? Well, there's no real overarching empire or cultural force to provide a common calendar. Instead, different areas have their own numbering. The Forgotten Realms line as a whole uses Dalereckoning, which is the system of years in the Dalelands. As of the Old Gray Box, we're in 1357 DR, also known as the Year of the Prince. Dalereckoning dates from the creation of the Dales Compact, when the elves of the great forest Cormanthor allowed humans to settle in the open areas of the forest as long as the humans did not cut further into the forest.

Now, the Year of the Prince is a weird name, isn't it? You see, way back when, the famous Lost Sage, Augathra the Mad, wrote down a whole list of predictions. One per year, very broad prophecies. These prophecies can refer to very large or very small things: the Year of the Prince doesn't mean there's an important prince somewhere, just that there is one. Collectively, these prophecies are referred to as the Roll of Years, and we're given sixteen years worth here. It starts with the Year of the Dragon (1352 DR), and runs to the Year of the Banner, in 1368 DR. Uninterrupted, we're going to get to 1375 DR if I kill myself by presenting everything.

This focus on the years as being Augathra's predictions pulls out another cool part of the Realms - a focus on individual actions and contributions. Similarly, the calendar isn't just the calendar - it's the Calendar of Harptos, done up by a wizard long ago. It really sells the setting as being a living world where people do distinctive things and in doing so change their world, as opposed to the usual setup of D&D settings, where the "normal" is predicated on divine edict or the common systems of a continent-spanning empire. There's a lot of difference in the Realms, and those differences shine.

Speaking of difference, let's talk about naming! Names in the Realms follow a bunch of different customs and ideas depending upon who you are and where you live. Humans, for example, just use one name normally, like "Doust." If we need to differentiate multiple Dousts, you might call one "Doust the Fighter," or by location "Doust of Shadowdale." Alternatively, you might refer to a famous ancestor ("Doust, Grandson of Miniber the Sage") or a particular physical characteristic, like having "Firehair." Often, humans will take up a surname after an extraordinary event that they have been part of, like "Trollkiller." In fact, many humans have many different surnames throughout their life, keeping their given name throughout.

Human nobles, on the other hand, keep a family name pretty much forever. If your noble family falls from power and grace, you keep the name. The example given are the Wyvernspurs of Cormyr, who still keep the name they had when they were advisors to the king. (Oh, how that will change...)

Mages, on the other hand, have a good dose of innate fame just from being able to use magic. If you call someone the name of a mage, like "Elminster," they'll assume you're referring to THE Elminster, even if you just meant "Elminster the Barber" down the street.

Clerics and priests drop all other names and just call themselves so-and-so of their deity. If you run into someone particularly important, they may have an additional title referring to their prestige, such as "Asgaorth of Tempus, Patriarch of Baldur's Gate." (Asgaorth being the given name, Tempus the deity he serves, and Baldur's Gate the city he watches over.)

Elves, also known as "The People," have family names which they translate into common. Family names are important because elvish siblings may be hundreds of years apart in age - one "Starglow" may really not look like his sister. Half-elves follow either parent, sometimes changing it up.

Dwarves try to emphasize history and family in their names. The lowest-class dwarves refer to themselves by their state, like "Bruenor of Mithral Hall." Like humans, dwarves may refer to themselves by a famous ancestor. Especially famous (and long-ago) ancestors are referred to as "blood of," such as "Nor, blood of Ghellin, king-in-exile."

Gnomes use both given and surnames, but they have such sprawling families that they often have to use locations as well to avoid getting mixed up. "Wysdor Sandminer" is often "of Arabel," so people don't think his long-lost relatives are actually quite close.

Halflings use given and surnames, but they change them up quite a bit, often taking on diminutives and nicknames. The example given is hilarious, so I'm just going to quote it whole:

quote:

For example, the halfling Corkitron Allinamuck chose both first and last names (his parents were named Burrows), and goes by the diminuitive "Gorky" and the nickname "High Roll." The last comes from his penchant for dicing for treasure, saying "High Roll gets it!" If the others agree to such a deal, the halfling feels no qualm, regardless of the dice, taking his "rightful property" from the others. (After all, they did agree that "High Roll" would get it.)

Characters of other races usually just go by single names. Orcs and goblins do even worse, often skipping names and referring to each other by native words that basically just mean "Hey You!"

Next Time: Curlicues and Coins!

Winter Stormer
Oct 17, 2012


dwarf74 posted:

Yeah, [D&D 3.0] was Greyhawk only in a kinda sorta sense. Greyhawk Lite at best, mostly in that it grabbed a few gods out of the pantheon. (The boring ones, at that; no St. Cuthbert

No sir, St. Cuthbert definitely appeared in both the 3.0 and 3.5 Player's Handbooks.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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oMage: Dragons of the East

The Wu Lung are the magical empire of China, recently allied with their old enemies the Akashic Brotherhood in order to break out of the prison of the Five Metal Dragons. Known as the Dragon Wizards, they are now being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century and reforms that might allow them to survive. They are a 4000-year-old magical Tradition, and have battled both peasants and monks for control of the soul of China. Mostly, they've won, becoming critical advisors to emperors. However, colonialism, revolution and their enemies have driven them to the shadows of Hong Kong, Macau and Shanghai, where foreign influence is strong. In the past, they were very conservative and uncompromising in their magical style even in the face of the dangers of Ch'ung Tu (or Paradox) and the lack of Sleeper sympathies. This is because their Awakening involves revered ancestors taking the place of their Avatars, interceding with Heaven to change reality. While it's given them traditions that equal those of the Order of Hermes in the West, it has also made them insular and kept them from recognizing potential allies as anything but fools. While they have allies now, their opinions have not changed. Still, the Akashics will be useful tools.

The Wu Lung claim a very venerable history. They claim the first Wu Lung was the legendary Yellow Emperor himself, and the Five Emperors dynasty laid the foundations for Wu Lung magic by codifying the secrets of the primal sorcerers like Fu Hsi, Na Kua and Sui-jen, putting them in accord with the Celestial Bureaucracy. Thus, the Wu Lung lay claim to the invention of written language, silk and agriculture. During the Shang and Chou dynasties, China had rapid technological and social change. While the peasant sorcerers cared about making the crops come in on time and protecting the people from slavery, the Wu Lung were astrologers, inventors and strategists. Despite their best efforts, however, both kingdoms collapsed to peasant revolts, leading to the Warring States period. The Wu Lung also used the period to experiment with technology like flying thrones held aloft by rockets or earthquake machines.

Sidebar: Dragons are a big loving deal to the Wu Lung, and to Asia in general. Their dragons are neither monsters nor wholly of this world. Greater dragons exist in almost every natural feature, and feng shui can identify the dragons in mountains and hills. The bones of dragons can be seen beneath the earth. (The Asian mages and werelizards find the concept of 'fossils' and 'dinosaurs' kind of funny and also kind of enraging.) The Dragon King of the Sea has lieutenants that flow through the waves, and the Chang Lung, the river dragons, flow across China. Metal and fire dragons are more rarely seen, due to both the dangers and the difficulty of recognizing them when they sleep. A dragon is more than something living in a place - it is the place. Dragon lines are, in fact, the spiritual bodies of dragons. When they are moved with geomancy, the dragon can be sickened or injured as the Chi twists its body. A sick dragon is bad for everyone in the area. The dragons have used their deep ties to the Tapestry for both good and bad. When the August Personage of JAde decreed that drought should engulf China, the dragons took pity and brought rain. They were punished by being pinned under four great mountains, but they escaped by becoming rivers, again feeding the crops. However, the Black Dragon River also attempted to flood China until stopped by Na Kua. While most dragons remain melded with nature, smaller and younger dragons sometimes reveal themselves in serpentine forms. The Wu Lung say that nine dragons took on human form in the Third Age. Called the Zhong Lung, they were charged with telling humans the secrets of Heaven, and granted memories that stretched back to the First Age itself. When humanity turned from the August Personage of Jade, the Zhong Lung were reassigned to punish the unworthy, and only the ancestors of the Wu Lung were spared by these Middle Dragons, for they inherited the Mandate of Heaven and became legitimate rulers and judges of man. Whatever the truth of this legend, it is well known that Fu Xia called himself T'ien Lung, the representative of the Middle Dragons. During the Han and Yuan Dynasties, Dragon Emperor Fu Xia ruled China, indirectly or in disguise, and perhaps he was more than he appeared. Certainly no Wu Lung has ever approached him in power, either magical or temporal. His retirement and disappearence just before the strengthening of the Wall and the rise of Chung T'o makes a few Wu Lung wonder if there is a dragon watching them. Those who share blood ties to Fu Xia, as a note, are kinfolk to the Zhong Lung shapeshifters and able to learn some of their Gifts as per the Shapechanger Kin merit (assuming they take it).

Anyway, the turmoil brought about the rise of Confucius, Lao-tzu and Sun-tzu. Early Taoism and its apparently antisocial tenets did not interest the Wu Lung, but Conficus and Sun-tzu did. They acted as mercenary scholars, advisors who trained the ambitious in war and statecraft. The Wu Lung of this time were very fractious, with each attempting to have their candidate crush the others, but all Wu Lung discouraged peasant magic. During this period, the Akashic missionaries managed to convert some of the Wu Lung by mixing Legalism and ethics, and these Shi-Ren became popular with their subjects but hated by the Wu Lung, who desired an aggressive nobility to allow someone to conquer China (with them at the side of the winner, of course). To this day, the Wu Lung despise the lack of ambition displayed by the Akashics, at least for temporal power.

At last, a Wu Lung named Fu Xia managed to unite the others behind Cheng, a bloodthirsty young man with great ambition. Cheng, with their support, conqured China and crowned himself Qin Shihuang. With Wu Lung aid, this self-claimed Second Yellow Emperor destroyed most scholarly efforts of the past, as the Wu Lung had no desire to share the techniques they used to bring him to power. As he aged, he realized his empire would not survive him, and he looked to the Wu Lung for immortality. After using his ambition as reason to torment the Wu-Keng, they enthroned him as the Emperor of the Yellow Springs, ruler of the Underworld. Fu Xia became the First Emperor of the Wu Lung. The Han, which the Wu Lung had intentionally ended the Qin to accomodate, served as the mouthpiece for Fu Xia for 400 years. The rise of educated officials allowed the Wu Lung to utterly dominate Chinese society. They also came into contact with Western magi, but unfortunately most came from primitive feudal societies or practiced a form of magic that was completely unintelligible to the Wu Lung. Only the Order of Reason, with its parallel technologies and like-minded desire to perfect the state, held any appeal. When the Mongols took over, a desperate delegation of scholars and inventors joined with the Dalou'laoshi to visit the Convention of the Ivory Tower in 1325.

The Traditions also made efforts to bring the Wu Lung into their fold, but they made the blunder of first inviting the Akashics, as the rise of Buddhism had allowed the Akashics to topple Wu Lung direct rule. However, even though the Wu Lung were forced to accept the Buddhist, peasant-founded Ming, they were able to retaliate by surrounding the Emperor with corruption. This weakened the Ming while the Manchu were groomed to replace them, and when the Manchu Qing seized power, the Tiger Lord used them as a tool to eliminate the remaining Akashayana resistance. Unfortunately, their obsession with China allowed the Technocracy to gain strength before the Wu Lung reacted. By 1900, the Five Metal Dragons had paved the way for the Technocracy to subvert China. When the colonial powers invaded, Wu Lung magic could not stop their rifles. Humiliating concessions like Hong Kong or Macau undermined the Emperor's authority, and in the revolutions that followed, the Wu Lung were helpless to defend their paradigm. Manchuria, where their most venerable wizards were kept, was abused by the Japanese rule, and the emperor became nothing more than a figurehead and a parody.

Ironically, the Wu Lung were forced to turn to the nations that undermined them in order to regain strength. Chinese communities abroad became a save haven for them from the Cultural Revolution when it went after Wu Lung institutions. In these communities, the Dragon Wizards learned tolerance. Forced to share space with Akashics in both Chinatowns and places like Hong Kong or Shanghai, they cooperated on a number of joint ventures against the Technocracy. Finally, in 2000, they agreed to an alliance to defeat the Technocrats and preserve their remaining strongholds in China and Tibet. The new alliance has been cemented by the decision to arrange marriages between family-oriented Akashics like the Vajrapani and Dragon Wizards in service to the Thousand-Tiger Lord. While both sides would hate to admit it, a future generation may will integrate them as a single Tradition.

The Wu Lung philosophy is simple: they are humanity's voice to Heaven. Anyone can ask their ancestors to bring the favor of the Celestial Bureaucracy, sure, but only the Dragon Wizards have enough merit in Heaven's eyes to expect answers from the gods. Every petition has a correct form and intent, and if the standards were relaxed, then every urge would be obeyed and the world would be demolished. The Dragon Emperor Wizard, Phoenix Empress Wizard and Tiger Lord General serve as the chief adminstrators of the balance, each mastering a particular aspect of the Great Cycle and dispensing its properties with justice and pragmatism. The Magical Bureaucracy, they say, has a special place in the Chinese spiritual hierarchy. As humans, they are between Heaven and earth, but as sorcerers, they are officials of the Celestial Bureaucracy, with the right and duty to deal with ancestors and gods. The Wu Lung consider themselves shih, living sages of rank equal to the deified scholars that become city gods. Like a god, a Dragon Wizard's Hun is transformed into shen, spirit. Their Heavenly nature allows them to directly communicate with a true shih, their ancestor. A Wu Lung's shih Avatar guides them along the path of Li, righteousness. The superior Wu Lung hones both political and spiritual might until they are subsumed into the T'ai Chi, the Absolute that the Traditions call Ascension. Li possesses the limitless power of the T'ai Chi, but is naturally constrained by Chi, the energy that generates worldly things.

The ultimate goal of the Wu Lung is to refine crude Chi into Li through the practice of Ching, reverence. They see scholarship, alchemy, martial arts and the dispensing of justice as all being acts that promote Ching by linking the Wu Lung to tradition, using it to improve themselves and the world. Rigorous tests determine what practices specifically will help a Nan Wu, or member of the Wu Lung who has graduated to full membership, increase in both power and wisdom.

Next time: The Magical Bureaucracy!

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk




ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: 2ND EDITION - The Complete Psionics Handbook

OR

STEVE WINTER DOESN'T UNDERSTAND PROBABILITY WELL





I was fortunate enough to come across a copy of the above AD&D gaming supplement while browsing my local Bookmans. I like to collect "complete" runs of each edition of Dungeons and Dragons that I played as a kid/teen (complete by my definition meaning PHB/DMG/MM and whatever additional content I personally enjoyed), and seeing as Dark Sun was one of my favorite settings for my favorite edition, I was excited to add it to my book shelf. I vaguely remembered that my adolescent gaming group never really grasped all of the rules in the Psionics Handbook, and we basically treated it more or less like being a wizard but having to spend mana to cast spells as opposed to going by the Vancian system. It turns out that my youthful ignorance may have created a more streamlined system that what author Steve Winter slapped together. I wanted to take everyone for a walk down memory lane because I sure as hell didn't remember most of the weird implementation of the rules, and I definitely didn't recall that 5% of the time, any given power will seriously gently caress a psionicist in the butt for rolling poorly. I don't know that psionics (as in the specific rules for psionics outlined in this splatbook) were ever widely implemented into most people's AD&D settings, so I'm hoping that covering this material won't be a complete waste of time for readers of this thread.


INTRO AND CHAPTER ONE:


Click here for the full 750x1028 image


The book starts by explaining that the rules for psionics in older editions of Dungeons and Dragons were so poorly implemented that most people hated them and TSR decided not to include them in the core PHB for AD&D 2E. However, Steve Winter promises us that this book isn't just a rehash of those old rules that sucked; instead he's tripled the number of existing psionic powers, re-categorized the new power list in a way that's user friendly and easy to use, condensed a redundant psionic power point system into something more manageable, and streamlined the game mechanics of psionic powers to work essentially the same way as the wonderful 2E non-weapon proficiency system. Then, page seven dares to ask "IS PSIONICS MAGICAL"?

Steve Winters posted:

. . . The AD&D game already has two kinds of magic - one wielded by wizards and the other by clerics. So it is not unreasonable to ask, "Does the game need a third type of magic?" The answer is no, the game probably does not need a third type of magic.

Way to thank us for spending $18 on your 120 page supplement Steve. I believe the intention of this passage was to explain that Psionics should be treated as something different from magic, but it comes across to me as a subtle admission that what we're about to get into is real steaming pile.


With that admission out of the way, we move into Chapter 1, where we learn all the crunchy bits about how the Psionicist class works. Their prime requisite abilities are Wisdom and Constitution, and their minimum requirements are WIS 15 INT 12 CON 11 (which makes sense because Intelligence isn't a prime requisite). Any of the core PHB races can be a psionicist, and their level progression is somewhere between a warrior and a mage. All the standard restrictions for Multi and Dual class characters are included, and of course Humans are the only race who can reach level 20 in the Psionicist class. Also, Psionicists have to be of Lawful alignment, and if you ever somehow turn Chaotic you can't ever regenerate your spent Power Points and you start losing your existing Psionic Powers once you run dry of Power Points on a per day basis. Good to know that on top of being a poo poo rate caster, Psionicists also integrate the lovely "Fallen" mechanics of paladins, so an rear end in a top hat DM can really make you regret picking this class. They have the same hit die and THAC0 progression and Saving throws of a Rogue, and they are limited to almost the same proficiency in weapons and armor. Only, since the Psionicist is a casting class, they suffer penalties to their total Psionic Strength Point pool for wearing armor heavier than Studded Leather. Of course, the armor penalties are trivial until you get to Full Plate (and even then the Full Plate penalty is only going to inconvenience a first level character). I guess this isn't such a terrible oversight, because Psionicists can definitely benefit from running around in heavy armor, but it kind of defeats the purpose of even having armor penalties in the first place. Interestingly, the rules specifically state that any Psionicist who dares to wear a helmet (unless it's a piece of magical or psionic equipment mean to enhance psionic powers), regardless of whether or not he or she wears armor (so presumably any kind of head covering would count) is completely unable to manifest ANY psionic powers until they remove their hat. Then, the book makes sure to remind the DM that even though there isn't technically an AC penalty associated with removing the helmet from a given suit of armor, the DM should make sure that monsters capable of making called shots take extra care to single out the psion who foolishly isn't wearing a helmet MWA HA HA. Finally, if you're super concerned about your verisimilitude and need to know what the average rates of mutations are on your fantasy planet that would allow for the spontaneous manifestation of psionic disciplines within a given population, there's also a short section about testing for spontaneous wild talents during character creation (but if you aren't rolling dudes for Dark Sun, your DM probably isn't even going to let you roll for this).

Alright, so what do Psionicists actually get to do that makes them the unnecessary third wheel of the casting classes? Well, their main schtick is that they manifest Psionic Powers, which are divided into six self-explanatory schools:

Clairsentience - lets you see and hear distant places and basically be the main character from every TNT drama that features a psychic detective. While the Divination school of Arcane and Divine magic is pretty bomb and potentially game breaking, this psionic school is utterly disappointing.

Psychokinesis - force choke a bitch or disintegrate a horse or make poo poo literally appear out of thin air. Sure, all of these powers should be lumped into the same school. I'd imagine starting characters would also have a very difficult time deciding if their first power should be taste sound from Clairsentience or motherfucking create matter from this school. I know it'd take me ages to decide between those two.

Psychometabolism - be Wolverine from the X-men. I don't even care what other powers you can have (and Psychometabolism has some slick ones), no twelve year old boy is going to not choose the be Wolerine from the X-men power. How the poo poo did something like aura reading even make the cut Steve?

Psychoportation - be Nightcrawler from the X-men. Actually, the more I think about it, this entire handbook could basically be rewritten as "Be your favorite X-Man in your buddy's Advanced Dungeons&Dragons game!"

Telepathy - actually pretty useful despite the fact that Jean Grey was always a lame character on the Fox TV show. Read minds and heal minds and shoot mind lasers.

Metapsionics - probably the worst school that you could start with because it basically modifies the existing powers from other schools, turning this school into an overly elaborate version of the Metamagic feats from 3.X D&D. Not a bad backup school, and only "worse" than Clairsentience because it has little utility without having access to other schools.

These schools then get further divided into Sciences and Devotions, and I think the idea here was supposed to be that the Sciences were like the actually useful spells that you'd want to cast all the time and the Devotions were supposed to be the Cantrips that were maybe only situationally useful, but when we actually look at how the powers were arbitrarily assigned in later chapters, the only thing that they seem to have in common is that Sciences cost more Psionic Strength Points to activate and have a higher chance of failure (but do not necessarily produce more powerful effects).

Speaking of Psionic Strength Points (PSP), they are the resource that Psionicists get to use to spend on their powers. A starting character gets between 20 and 32 PSPs depending on how lucky they got with their starting ability array - roll too low on the dice and you're straight up worse at being a psionicist than another character. This would make more sense if there were actually a mechanical difference between the power of a spell cast by a first level mage or cleric who had an 11 in INT or WIS and the power of a spell cast by a first level mage or cleric who had an 18 in INT or WIS, but I guess there has to be some kind of tradeoff for being the useless third wheel caster.

PSPs get spent whenever a Psionicist wants to activate a power. Each power has an associated cost that the Psionicist has to have enough points left in his or her pool of PSPs to manifest. Additionally, each power also has a different target number that the Psionicist has to roll under on a d20 in order to actually manifest said power. These target numbers start with a Psionicist's base INT or WIS or CON score (meaning if your INT is a 15 then a power with a target number of INT means you must roll a 15 or less to activate) and ramp up to stuff like WIS-3 or CON-10 for powers that have better effects. If you roll the target number exactly it's a critical success and something extra special happens, and if you roll a natural 20 then you suffer some kind of horrible consequence. Also, even if you fail to roll well enough to activate a power, you still have to spend half of the listed cost in PSPs just for the attempt. This puts Psionicists in an awesome situation where being more experienced doesn't necessarily increase your chances at succeeding at the ONE loving THING YOUR CLASS IS SUPPOSED TO DO, and it also means that even a level 20 Psionicist is going to have some kind of potentially fatal failure 5% of the time, no matter what. It also really nails home that whole third wheel thing Steve mentioned at the outset of the book, because arcane and divine casters really have no equivalent system of variability and punishment that they have to endure in order to use their class abilities. Hell, a level one mage or cleric with only 11 in their prime requisite will still cast magic missile or cure light wounds just as well and just as reliably as a mage or cleric with an 18 in their prime requisite, and on top of that neither of those characters have a flat 5% chance to fail casting their spell, wasting both their action and heaping on some other kind of additional penalty. But I guess you don't have to be a vancian caster and you can read the lingering auras of objects at will (via object reading), so I can see how they had to come up with some mechanism to offset the huge imbalance that provides to a first level character.

Now, Psionicists would already be an abortive hybrid casting class considering all of the above, but Steve Winter wasn't content to stop there. In addition to getting access to a half-assed series of kind-of-spells, Psionicists also get unique access to Psionic Attack and Defense modes! As a matter of fact, Chapter 2 goes into great detail explaining precisely why you should care about these amazing abilities!

NEXT TIME: Chapter 2 - PSIONIC COMBAT OR FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON'T EVER USE THESE RULES

Arivia
Mar 17, 2011



Oh god psionic attack/defense modes, the worst 1e relic to keep existing into 3.0.

Wasn't this the third version of psionics for 2e, after the Will and the Way and before Player's Option: Skills and Powers?

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012


All this talk of AD&D makes me wish Wizards of the Coast would release PDF versions faster. They have already started repopulating 3E and AD&D titles into the PDF circuit, but a lot of things I'd personally love to get a hold of such as The Sea Devils are still in the pipes. Of course, I'd really love a release of some of their non-D&D property in PDF form as well, especially Alternity and d20 Modern.

That's quite unrelated to my current review, though, so let's get on track.



Chapter 5: Hitler-Punching in Freedom City
Freedom City is the de facto setting Mutants and Masterminds plays in. I don't have the Freedom City Sourcebook, however, so I'm afraid it's a bit of a SOL situation as far as that field goes. I'll try to deal with the Golden Age Freedom City chapter nonetheless.

In Freedom City's Golden Age, the proliferation of supers goes from occult figures in Germany and Japan to the first costumed fighters in America and then to costumed fighters across the board. The first superhero team, the Liberty League, gets founded in 1941 by Roosevelt himself. The actual events of World War II are pretty much the same as in real life, as are those of the Korean War. The end of the Freedom City Golden Age is marked by the disbanding of the Liberty League and growing fear of a secret invasion by the shapeshifting extraterrestrial Skrulls Grue. After a brief timeline of these events, we immediately get into game statistics for the dramatis personae of Golden Age Freedom City.


The Liberty League
  • Bowman and Arrow: The fellows on the far right and second-to-right of the image, respectively. They are pretty unabashed Green Arrow and Speedy expies, right down to some of the more ridiculous trick arrows they have in their arsenal.
  • Centurion: The squash-faced hero on the far left, Centurion is a Superman analogue that comes from an alternate universe planet of high tech super-Romans.
  • Dr. Tomorrow: This gadget-based rocketeer hero comes from 2002 in an alternate universe where the Nazis took over the world, Conveniently, an evil Nazi from the same alternate future happened to get teleported to the Freedom City universe with him, keeping Dr. Tomorrow from simply just leading the Allies into a swift victory with his future knowledge.
  • Envoy: Creepyface up there is Sarlyn, AKA Envoy, a male Golden Age Amazon analogue. He comes from the wondrous civilization of Utopia Isle and has an orichalcum staff as his unique weapon.
  • Freedom Eagle: Hawkman but with more 'Murica.
  • Johnny Rocket: Golden Age Freedom City's Flash, Johnny Rocket got his powers from being dunked in experimental rocket fuel.
  • Lady Liberty: A character that basically picks up whatever Wonder Woman traits weren't put on Envoy. In addition to having most of the classic Wonder Woman powers, Lady Liberty also loses her powers when in bondage.
  • Midnight: Batman with a darkness-producing "night gun" instead of Batarangs.
  • Patriot: The Captain America analogue for GAFC.
  • Siren: Basically Black Canary with Namor's Atlantean abilities added on.


The Allies of Freedom
  • The Human Tank and Gunner: Brothers and partners in crime, the Human Tank is basically X-Men's Colossus and Gunner has the ability to heal by being shot with bullets or create and shoot bullets back at the enemy. Both of them became Japanophiles as the war ended and then ironically got killed by a Japanese assassin named the Crimson Katana. Wa wa waaaa.
  • Lady Celtic: A British mage who got her spells, flight, and force field powers by touching a mummified druid. Her life kind of sucks, as she was disowned by her fundamentalist Anglican father and eventually got axed by a Thule supervillain while acting as the party healer.
  • Le Renard Rogue: A French freedom fighter who relies on her wits and mastery of disguise rather than any superpowers. Like Lady Celtic, she got axed by the Thule Society's croneys when she was weakened.
  • Sergeant Shrapnel: A soldier whose powers are stalling vehicles and making huge shrapnel explosions. He also died to the Thule, though it's not stated whether or not he died in a really stupid way.
  • Spitfire Jones: A British RAF pilot who attained the powers of flight and super-strength. Got one-shotted by the same Thule supervillain that killed Lady Celtic.
  • White Rose and White Thorn: Twin brother and sister with light powers that act as the token good Germans for the Allied superheroes. Both died as martyrs against the Thule.

Other Allied Heroes
A collection of heroes that either just use archetype stats or were in the Freedom City Sourcebook. The only noteworthy one to me is Codename Kilroy, a character using the Master of Disguise archetype who was known for leaving his eponymous symbol all around the warzones of the world as he traveled.


Die Übersoldaten
Just as the Liberty League is the main All-American Allies squad, Die Übersoldaten is the primary Axis supervillain team.
  • Dr. Geistmann: An evil scientist from the same alternate future as Dr. Tomorrow, Dr. Geistmann happened to get his essence placed into an albino gorilla to let him act as a Nazi version of Gorilla Grodd.
  • Donar: A Nazi version of Marvel's Thor. After the spirit of the thunder god was freed from being bound to a Nazi, Donar was executed by electric chair because everybody loves irony.
  • Die Eule: A crazy Austrian gadgeteer clad in a gliding suit and wielding smoke bombs and boomerangs. He has a bit of "evil Batman" to him, but is one of the more original NPCs in this title.
  • Madame Blitz: A supervillain and part-time romancer of Allies who has electromagnetic powers.
  • Roter Adler: A generic flight-obsessed flying super.
  • Sea Wolf: Definitely the most unique NPC in this title. Sea Wolf is a German warrior who was cursed by a Roma and Atlantean Deep One magic into becoming an amphibious werewolf. He sure is...something.
  • Totenkopf: Totenkopf is a villain that is more or less Red Skull with an added poison aura.
  • Die Walküre A German warrior woman with the power of a valkyrie bound to her. Unsurprisingly, she happened to be the shield maiden and lover of Donar.
  • Schlasbringer: A disturbing supervillain who decided that working in the death camps wasn't enough, and decided to use his toxin resistance and mastery of poisoning to go around spraying chemicals into enemy battalions.
  • Wilhelm Kantor: While possessing no superpowers, Kantor is one of the most dangerous of the Übersoldaten thanks to his massive mental skills and knowledge of the occult. He also wears a gray Klansman outfit, because why not.


Hinomaru
The Japanese equivalent of the Übersoldaten. They are less stocked with supervillains than most, as the book states the Nazi occultists weren't really keen on sharing and the magic aura of Japan itself seemed opposed to the Axis.
  • Crimson Katana: The Crimson Katana is a samurai-ninja-mystic with a magic super-strong katana.
  • Geisha: A femme fatale with superhuman Charisma and emotion-affecting pheromones.
  • Irezumi: A Yakuza who has the power to summon beasts from out of his tattoos.
  • Kamikaze: Taking inspiration from the literal meaning of the term, this NPC is more or less an American-hating Japanese version of Storm. She is the only member of the Hinomaru who didn't survive the end of World War II, as she was in Hiroshima when the bombs dropped.

Other Golden Age Villains
This brief list has no actual stats (or either use archetypes or only have stats in the Freedom City Sourcebook), so it's pretty much just a collection of ideas if you don't want to have Japanese or German foes or are on the very early or very late ends of the Golden Age.
  • The Crime League: A rather bluntly-named group that are known as the very first supervillains of the Freedom City setting. Like the Liberty League they fought, they were based out of the USA and had a variety of individuals such as Captain Cold Dr. Zero and Solomon Grundy Tom Cyprus.
  • The Grue Unity: As stated before, the Grue are Gray aliens mixed with Marvel's Skrulls and act as the big bads of the time where the Golden Age lapses into the Cold War. Their shapeshifting agents are supposedly the ones that stirred up the Red Scare and made McCarthy the crazy witch-hunter we know him as.
  • The Invisible Empire: A group of fascists who want to take over America, but aren't directly allied with the Axis forces.
  • The Mycanoids: Giant humanoid mushrooms that spread from planet to planet on the solar winds. They use the Alien Invader archetype from this book and have a colony on Venus.
  • The Widow: An Italian master spy. She uses the Master of Disguise archetype, just like her arch-rival Kilroy.
  • Alien-Gator: A random humanoid alligator that may or may not be an alien and may or may not have died in its only appearance in a fight against Freedom Eagle during 1950. No idea why it's even on the list.


Chapter 6: A Hitler-Void Adventure
The final full and proper chapter of Mutants and Masterminds: Golden Age is an adventure. Since I'm not really the adventure type, I'll just sum it up briefly as "that adventure where Gorilla Grodd Geistmann hypnotizes the Justice Liberty League into being stereotypical mustache-twirling villains and the players have to break the control".

---------------------------

Next time: We finish off Mutants and Masterminds: Golden Age with the Field Battle System Rules appendix and final thoughts.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

Arivia posted:

Oh god psionic attack/defense modes, the worst 1e relic to keep existing into 3.0.

Wasn't this the third version of psionics for 2e, after the Will and the Way and before Player's Option: Skills and Powers?

No, this was the first run through. The Will and the Way came out... a year, two years into Dark Sun's run? I think it was just an expansion on the Handbook rules, with new powers and kits and stuff for making your own powers.

The Skills and Powers psionics... holy poo poo, now that was a breathtaking boning of an already lovely class.

Mr. Maltose
Feb 16, 2011

The Guffless Girlverine


Midnight is pretty much Dr. Mid-Nite without the reverse sight gimmick, and Dr. Geistmann is so Ultra-Humanite it hurts. I will state that Seawolf is at the same time both the most unique and the most Golden Age super character.

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012


homeless poster posted:

ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: 2ND EDITION - The Complete Psionics Handbook

NEXT TIME: Chapter 2 - PSIONIC COMBAT OR FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON'T EVER USE THESE RULES

I suddenly know who to blame for my DM's ill thought-out "no Magic, only Psionics" 3.0 campaign. None of us could even figure out what was going on other than him. This was before 3.5 came along and put out the "book of psionics that are actually worthwhile."

Are there powers based on Str, Dex, and Cha too? Or is this a case of 'gets worse before it gets better'?



Envoy you're creeping out the camera man, stop it.

Kurieg fucked around with this message at 04:40 on Apr 21, 2013

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk




Kurieg posted:

I suddenly know who to blame for my DM's ill thought-out "no Magic, only Psionics" 3.0 campaign. None of us could even figure out what was going on other than him. This was before 3.5 came along and put out the "book of psionics that are actually worthwhile."

Are there powers based on Str, Dex, and Cha too? Or is this a case of 'gets worse before it gets better'?

No, there's only WIS/INT/CON powers, although it would kind-of maybe make more thematic sense (in a Gygaxian naturalism kind of way) to take the 3.X approach of mapping each discipline to a core stat. In practice, it would make them vastly inferior to clerics / mages who only need to pump their core stat to lay waste to every challenge in their path, while a Psionicist potentially has to roll straight 18s to approach usefulness.

To be clear, a psionicist is still heads and tails above a non-caster. It's just not the narrative dominating superman that clerics or mages get to be, which basically makes it the most balanced caster I guess.

Arivia
Mar 17, 2011



Forgotten Realms: Good morning, and good day after that! (Campaign Set Part 3)

There are a number of written and spoken languages in the Forgotten Realms. Some of them are descended from 1e D&D's conceits - thieves, druids, and illusionists have their own languages, and so does every alignment. There's a neat bit of purpose on the alignment languages, though - you can't use them to talk about just anything. Instead, you can only say yes/no, express basic emotions, and talk about concepts important to your alignment. (So lawful people could talk about justice, for example.) It's still stupid and worthless, but it's a nice attempt to save one of the silliest parts of AD&D.

Notably, not everyone is literate - class and cosmopolitanism index to literacy very well, so outside of the cities, "trust your tongue."

There's two more languages that bear noting. "The High Tongue" is used for written runes of power (magic), and the common tongues that D&D wields like linguistic spackle. There's only one human Common in the Realms, but it's basically a serviceable trade language and little else. Everyone can speak it, but depending upon where you're from, you have a definite accent.

Common descends from the first of a handful of written languages described, Thorass. Thorass (or Auld Common) is the old trade-tongue and a somewhat universal language long ago; it's often found in tombs, underground, and in backwaters that are really out of date. Long ago, a lot of people were illiterate, so Thorass not only has written script but symbolic runes, as well. Still, as long as you can read or write Common, you can understand Thorass, although it comes off a bit stilted and very archaic.

Ruathlek is the secret language of illusionists. It's derived from magical runes and the High Script, and is pretty rare - there's rumours the city of Waterdeep might have a Ruathlek library, but that's all.

Espruar is the elven alphabet. Weirdly enough, elves sometimes use the elven alphabet to write in Common, just as a mindfuck for their elders I guess? "gently caress you Pops, I'm gonna write like a circle-ear."

The dwarven alphabet is Dethek. It's not often used to write on paper or other perishable materials. Instead, dwarves make books out of metal, or write on walls and other permanent surfaces. Most often, they write on tablets - called runestones in Common. Dwarven runestones are made of a very hard stone cut into a diamond shape. Runes spiral out from the edge, with a picture in relief in the middle. Some even are used as seals or to make temporary trail markers.

Then there's a handful of greetings. We're going to have a lot of time to get really familiar with this stuff, so I'm not covering it now. The halfling "joke" greeting is the title of this part, and there's one other worth covering. Hobgoblins say "Braeunk vhos trolkh!" which roughly translates to "If you die while I'm gone, do it quietly (because I wouldn't want to miss the fun.)"

Of course, that hobgoblin just wants to loot your dead body for your currency, which is our next section. If you're not familiar with D&D currency, from smallest to largest, there's copper, silver, electrum, gold, and platinum coins (or pieces.) The conversion is generally 10:1 from each level to the next, except when it isn't. The Realms doesn't mess around with this at all.

Instead, we're told that large, powerful kingdoms or city-states are the ones that most commonly mint coins. The kingdom of Cormyr is the example given, where coins are stamped with a dragon on one side and the minting date on the other. Counterfeiting is punished by death, and there's no fiat currency or IOUs, except for "blood-notes," which are sealed in blood by both parties and then signed off on by the local lord.

Smaller states sometimes mint their own copper, silver, and gold pieces (but not the more exotic coins), but more frequently just accept whatever coins come in from larger, more stable places with strong mercantile presences, like Cormyr, Sembia, and Waterdeep.

Finally, merchants and hoarders of wealth use "trade-bars," which are portable lengths of precious metals in 10, 25, and 50 gp denominations. They're identified according to the trading company they come from.

It doesn't show too much here, but I really like how currency in the Realms is handled. There's a lot of emphasis on currency serving mercantile and political needs, instead of just being a generic vessel of wealth for adventurers. Eventually, we'll see special coins for particular uses in specific places, as well as interacting currencies with different perceptions of their value (like the cursed "blood coins" of Zhentil Keep.)

Since this is a short entry, let's start on the religions of the Forgotten Realms. As I noted previously, gods in the Realms are referred to as Powers, and are commonly known to be beings of incomprehensible power that live beyond the Realms itself (in the greater planes of existence for D&D.) While Powers themselves don't often appear (ie, you're not going to wander down the street and see an avatar), the relationship between a worshiper and their god is very important. Without worship, the god will fade away and die, and without the blessing of their god, then the worshiper (especially a priest) will be at ends in their own life.

Now, you might think this leads to an all-encompassing emphasis on what your one god wants. Quite to the contrary, the main human pantheon (called the Chondathan pantheon) includes some 50 gods, and you can find a man or woman of the Realms praying to one, some, or many each day. Each has their own portfolio they are responsible for, and each god is given worship when needed for that portfolio. The simplest example are sailors, who will often pray to Umberlee, the vengeful Bitch-Queen of the seas. Umberlee isn't the deity they most often identify with (that's Valkur the Mighty), but they acknowledge Umberlee's dominion, and accept that they must placate her in order to gain safe travel. (If they don't, then the title of Bitch-Queen really comes into play, when she sinks your ship and drowns you for the hell of it.) We're not going to get into all of those fifty deities at this point; it takes awhile for the pantheon to grow that large.

Because it's First Edition, deities are a thing you stab, so easily half of every entry is dedicated to telling you what they look like, what their special powers are, and what weapons they carry. It will get better in Second Edition, and then it will get very, very bad.

Here are the symbols of the deities I'm covering in this part:

The closest thing to art for forty pages.

The first deity presented is Auril, the Frostmaiden. Auril is a neutral evil goddess of cold and winter. Auril is allied with Talos, the god of storms. Auril often appears as a woman with ice-blue skin, and her touch and breath freeze the air and kill plants.

Azuth, the High One, is the god of magic users. He's a lawful neutral deity who often appears as an old man. Azuth can cast as if he's a wizard and a cleric at maximum level, and screw around with your magic items.

Bane, who you might be familiar with from his entry into the Fourth Edition core pantheon, is also known as the Black Lord. A lawful evil god of strife, hatred, and tyranny, Bane has never been seen himself. Instead, his enemies speak of being visited by a freezing black-taloned hand and eyes of blazing fire. His church is very powerful, and is additionally supported by the mages of Zhentil Keep.

Beshaba is the Maid of Misfortune, or Lady Doom. She's the fickle chaotic evil deity of bad luck, misfortune, and trickery. She appears as a white-haired woman, laughing maniacally. Chaos follows in her wake: plans fall apart, weapons break, and freak accidents plague people and animals.

You're probably familiar with Bhaal, the Lord of Murder. He's the lawful evil god of assassins and murder, and he appears as a bloody, mutilated corpse that moves silently and strikes unerringly. It is said that every murder committed strengthens Bhaal. (Note that as of the time of this product, Bhaal is still alive.)

Chauntea, the Great Mother, is possibly the most important goddess of the Realms. Why? She represents life, agriculture, and the life-force of the planet itself. Farmers and gardeners worship her, filling her temples with greenery. She's not ornate, but instead asks for small acts of devotion, and she is always at war with Auril and Talos. The Earth Mother of the Moonshae Islands is an aspect of Chauntea.

Deneir, the Lord of All Glyphs and Images, is the neutral good god of literature, writing, and art. His priests are mostly scholars, and most of the magical or artifact books in the Realms are ascribed to him. (Things like the tomes that raise your ability scores, or the book of infinite spells.)

Eldath, the Quiet One, is the goddess of waterfalls, springs, and groves. She is the supreme pacifist, only acting to turn places of peace and solace into the greatest sanctuaries. The elven war hero Telva once camped in one of her groves, and never raised his sword again.

Gond, the Wonderbringer, is the neutral god of blacksmiths, crafting, and construction. He often appears as a smith, toiling over an anvil to craft impossible works. His worship is so common on the island of Lantan that worship of Gond is almost the state religion, and nowhere else in the Realms is the drive for invention so strong.

Next Time: Celtic? Finnish? Sure, Throw 'Em In!

Arivia fucked around with this message at 07:19 on Apr 21, 2013

Toph Bei Fong
Feb 29, 2008

You can't see me at all...



DRAGONLANCE® Adventures


Part One - "You can certainly enjoy this book without playing the game -- but what a game it is!"

I've had this book on my shelf for years and years now, but haven't picked it up since high school. My LanceLore is similarly dated, as my attempts to reread the books have mostly been met with failure, so this is going to end up being a lot of "text as is" review, rather than connections to the novels and world at large. Please feel free to correct and add where I'm falling short!

Introduction

We open this tome with a very pleasant commercial for other products you could buy preface by the authors of the terribly successful series of novels. Weis and Hickman start by telling us that there is simply too much information about the setting to be stuffed into one book, but they did the best they could. Also, buy their books! They've already written a bunch of modules and novels (The Chronicles Trilogy, the Legends trilogy, and the DRAGONLANCE® Tales anthologies)you can read if you want to know more about the world. Understandably, they assume you have access to a PHB and DMG, so reference to those will require you to dig out your book and check. Other manuals, like the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide, Wilderness Survival Guide, and Unearthed Arcana, you might not own, but don't worry, the book should still be usable without them.

Not quite as bad as Paizo's constant shilling for all the other products you can buy, because there's no implied guilt about continuing the traditions of the One True D&D, but still, we're only on page one guys...

They close by telling us that everything that's actually relevant to running the game or the AD&D system has been offset in little grey boxes for easy reference. We'll see if that actually holds true or not as we go...

Chapter One- The Realms Above

Fizban the Supremely-Powerful-God-Who-Likes-to-Pretend-to-be-an-Absent-Minded-Wizard gives us an overview of the cosmology of the DRAGONLANCE® universe. Basically, there were gods who were the children of the High God. This was all well and good, until it was decided that a new time and place would come into being. There was primordial chaos, and Reorx the Forging God beat it until it was a universe. This attracted spirits from all over, and the gods fought for possession of these spirits. The gods are divided along the usual D&D lines, with Good, Evil, and Neutral gods all embodying their stock interpretations. The good gods gave the spirits life, physical form, and dominion over the world. They hoped that the spirits would bring peace and order, and spread righteousness. The evil gods created hunger, thirst, and the need to work to satisfy these things, in the hope that they could dominate the spirits through starvation and suffering. The neutral gods come off horribly here, though: they decided to give the spirits free will, so they can choose between peace and order, or starving to death in subjugation to the forces of evil.

Yep, quite the choice there

The gods then create Krynn, the planet on which the spirits will live.

This alignment system is baked into the world at its very core, by the way, in something called the Great Triangle. Good, Evil, and Neutrality are the pillars upon which the world is built, and the gods who stand at the points of the triangle will constantly angle to "maintain progress in the universe they have brought into being."

This whole section is actually pretty well written, without a lot of the usual Gygaxian adjectives and purple prose, but my freshman philosophy paper sensors are blaring full blast throughout when it comes to the ideas they're writing about. Suffice to say this system of ethics leaves more than a little to be desired, regardless of potential for storytelling. See, evil can't be defeated because if good wins then...? Well, uhm. We'll get there when we get there.

The different groups of gods then favored their own special races: the good gods favored the Elves, because as we all know elves are just plain better than you. They live longer, have awesome magical powers, and are highly resistant to change. The neutral gods favored the humans, which embody free will with their shorter life spans (making life precious) and their limitless ambition. "Thus, men give the world motion." The evil gods favored the ogres, who were initially the most beautiful creatures in existence before their hungers devoured them. They are selfish and cruel, and delight in inflicting pain.

The High God then created animals, who are a balance of all three alignments. Dragons rule them. The animals are free to chose which side the back.

The book then contradicts itself in literally the next paragraph, saying that the animals are most favored by the neutral gods

Finally, there are the spirits called the Maran, the Player Characters those with freewill and who are the engines of change and dynamism in the universe. These men are not aligned to any particular pole of the Triangle, which would make them by default favored by the neutral gods as they said humans were above, but then... Anyways, these spirits inspire action in others, and are thus most prized among the gods.

The whole section on favored races reads like two different drafts that were cut together without proper editing for continuity, to be honest.

Next, there are four laws which must be obeyed at all times:

1. Good Redeems its Own: good seeks to advance its goals through redemption, compassion and justice.
2. Evil Feeds Upon Itself: evil seeks to advance its goals by conquest and subjugation, natural selection style, with the weaker beings losing and dying. Chaotic evil people like raw strength without any moral consequences, and lawful evil people like the "rigid application of a morality of strength."
3. Both Good and Evil Must Exist in Contrast: without the two sides standing in opposition to one another, the world would be either all light or all dark, and there would be no contrast to bring focus or purpose. "Neutral's objective is unity in diversity."
4. The Law of Consequence: If you follow the law, you will be rewarded by the High God. If you break the law, you will be punished by the High God. The High God is a dick, and will sometimes wait years before punishing or rewarding you.

And we reach our first grey box!

quote:

A proper DRAGONLANCE® game bases its campaigns and its morals around these principles--promoting the power of truth over injustice, good over evil, and granting good consequences for good acts and bad consequences for bad acts.

Which is really just a reiteration of Law 4 when you get down to it. Is it relevant to running the game or the rules of AD&D? Eh, kinda.

To say that the ethical system leaves a lot to be desired is almost belaboring the point. The obvious Doylian answer is that by making it so evil can never be defeated, there's always another adventure for the PCs to go on and another book to sell you. The Watsonian answer is a little trickier, because the two sides are so blatantly stacked in favor of good that the system has to resort to the "born evil" option to get villains most of the time. What they seemed to be going for was a Moorcock style Law vs. Chaos, where if Law wins the entire universe is calcified into predictable roles and progress and change end, and if Chaos wins the world descends into formless madness and all structure is impossible (a much more interesting debate with good points in favor of each side), but couldn't quite pull the trigger due to their choice of genre tropes and the assumptions of the game at the time. The players don't want long philosophical debates about the nature of morality, they want bad guys they don't need to feel bad about slaughtering. Tacking on a late night freshman philosophy conversation based on the PHB's "True Neutral characters do their best to avoid siding with the force of good or evil, law or chaos. It is their duty to see that all of these forces remain in balanced contention" is usually enough to give the illusion of depth. This whole thing would be better handled in Planescape, but that's a very different game, to say the least. I'd normally give the game a pass on it, because ill-thoughtout morality systems are a dime a dozen in RPGs, but the intense focus on alignment the book has (including actual mechanical penalties) makes it really hard to ignore.

Next, characters!- Heathen clerics and druids can go suck it, or, The game is over at 18th level.

Toph Bei Fong fucked around with this message at 07:46 on Apr 21, 2013

a kitten
Aug 5, 2006



Spoilers Below posted:

DRAGONLANCE® Adventures


Oh holy crap! This rules, you rule.

Rangpur
Dec 31, 2008



My group played through about 2/3rds of this back in the day. No lie, those sessions are some of my fondest memories of 3.5 D&D. Recall of the campaign is a little hazy at this point, but with your consent I can share a few stories about how our group dealt with the challenges the book throws out there as you get to them. If you have no issues with a dungeon crawl style campaign, about half of the WLD areas are a fun, distinctive way to spend a couple game sessions exploring. The first problem (of many) is that the other half are either boring or tedious. One is a literal labyrinth.(It's where the minotaurs hang out, naturally.) Yes, there are descriptions of all the dead ends and everything. No you don't have a map to consult unless you make your own.

oriongates already touched on the second problem: they tried to make it logically consistent while hewing to 3rd edition's RAW. Yeah. You can already see where that could cause a few issues. The result is this mutant abomination of Gygaxian naturalism crossed with the most infuriating sort of arbitrary restrictions and GM fiat bullshit. And most of it is there solely to justify how you're keeping everything from Ethereal Filchers to Xorns trapped in what's effectively just a big hole in the ground. It's ridiculous, and you could avoid the whole clusterfuck by just saying 'you and the demons can't teleport in and out because magic.' And 'your summoning/conjurations spells work as normal because magic.' You can't just tunnel out of it because it's an extradimensional prison made by the GODS. ...which I guess is still kind of arbitrary, but also way less stupid.

Mimir
Nov 26, 2012



They've got the map of the dungeon on their website. Look at how weird and arbitrarily laid out it is. Look at those long, connecting passages. Look at how the tiles don't quite match up. This is an work of art.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Mimir posted:

They've got the map of the dungeon on their website. Look at how weird and arbitrarily laid out it is. Look at those long, connecting passages. Look at how the tiles don't quite match up. This is an work of art.

The entrance is also in the lower left, the exit is the upper right (well, the main exit at least). Meaning that anyone actually playing through the map as it's laid out will almost certainly miss at least half the dungeon.

Arashiofordo3
Nov 5, 2010

Warning, Internet
may prove lethal.


Oh man Monsters and Other Childish things.

I have been running a campaign of it for roughly two and a bit years now. My god the things you can do with the monster system. It pretty much makes it capable of running anything. Hell I've been using it to run a world ending battle between a small chunk of humanity and an uncaring god. I'll have to see if I can scan their character sheets because my players have come up with some pretty great monsters.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Fossilized Rappy posted:

Freedom City is the de facto setting Mutants and Masterminds plays in. I don't have the Freedom City Sourcebook, however, so I'm afraid it's a bit of a SOL situation as far as that field goes. I'll try to deal with the Golden Age Freedom City chapter nonetheless.

In Freedom City's Golden Age, the proliferation of supers goes from occult figures in Germany and Japan to the first costumed fighters in America and then to costumed fighters across the board. The first superhero team, the Liberty League, gets founded in 1941 by Roosevelt himself. The actual events of World War II are pretty much the same as in real life, as are those of the Korean War. The end of the Freedom City Golden Age is marked by the disbanding of the Liberty League and growing fear of a secret invasion by the shapeshifting extraterrestrial Skrulls Grue. After a brief timeline of these events, we immediately get into game statistics for the dramatis personae of Golden Age Freedom City.

The "current" Freedom League does have the next-generation versions of Johnny Rocket and Siren. According to the Freedom City sourcebook (the first edition of which is probably the best superhero citybook I've ever read), Dr. Tomorrow vanished three days after VJ Day in 1945, and Centurion died fighting Omega, the setting's Darkseid-equivalent.

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Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012





MONSTERS

Yes, it has arrived! Time to go over the rules for MONSTER creation. Okay, I'm not all-capping that anymore, it'd get old. Before we get to the mechanics and Monster making, we gotta lay down some...

Monster Facts

Super Cool Monster Fact 1 The Bond! Basically, all Kids have a Bond with their Monster. This means two things. First, that the Kid is the single most important thing ever to a Monster. They will do anything to make their Kid happy and to keep them safe. They aren't very good at it, but they try. Second, is that the Kid and Monster have a sort of empathic link. They can tell roughly what each others emotional state is, have a sort of shared intuition about things, and can sense when the other is either in danger, or doing something troublesome. It also has some more... violent side effects. See, the Bond is quite a bit stronger in Conflict situations.

In a conflict, any Emotional damage to a Kid is done as Physical damage to his Monster as well, the same number of dice lost to the same hit location, with the same severity, no defense from the Monster's side. It also works in reverse, when a Monster is physically wounded the Kid is emotionally wounded in the same way. As a Kid though, it's always Shocks only, and if a Monster loses all the dice in a hit location, then the kid does the same. This means that in a Monster Fight, the kids are generally on the side-lines yelling insults instead of tussling.

Wicked Sweet Monster Fact 2 They Ain't From Around Here. Monsters aren't... natural. They don't need to eat. Or drink. Or sleep. Or breathe. Cold and heat don't do anything to a Monster. They can dive to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean or go skinny-dipping in a volcano and not be bugged by it. Monsters are also... very not-human. Your buddy may know theoretical astro-physics as they relate to the nth dimensional string vibrations, but he just can't figure out toilets. Generally Monsters don't get human's, and need to be taught that “liking someone” doesn't mean you want to impale them with your ovipositor and inject your young into their lower intestine. Well... you kinda want to do something like that, but also absolutely nothing like that in any way. See how confusing it can be for an 8 foot cockroach from the 12th Dimension?

Pretty Spiffo Monster Fact 3 Monsters are master hiders... except from each other. Every Monster has a Way To Hide. Some method by which they can go unnoticed in polite society. They may shrink, turn invisible, transform into a toy, become a normal animal, some can even look just like a human. The catch is that other Monsters can always detect each other, and even their Kids can generally tell when a Monster is lurking around. Unless the Monster has some ability that let's them hide from other Monsters, but that never happens. Right?

Actually Kinda Scary Monster Fact 4 Monsters are only hurt by Weird. Mundane weapons don't hurt Monsters. They just don't. Any Mundane attack on a Monster get's an automatic 5x10 defense set. Even if the Monster decides to just take the hit, it only does Shock damage, and they recover one die a round. Mundane includes things like baseball bats, slingshots, pistols, cars, tanks, jet-fighters, and atom bombs. The exception is Weird Stuff. Even if it isn't designed to hurt Monsters, magic, mad science, aliens, and other such Weird Things naturally can hurt Monsters, and of course this includes other Monsters and their Kids. If a Weird Thing hurts a monster, they take damage like normal, and heal it at one die a day, or the width of a Face+Charm roll a day, for special care.



Making Monsters

Now it's time for the Fun Part! I am NOT going to actually make a Monster this update, that's a special Character Creation one next time! But I will go over all the rules, and there's a lot. Monsters are special like that. So, let's get started!

Step 1 Appearance and Hit Locations First step is to draw your Monster. No really, just make a drawing. Doesn't matter if it sucks, that just adds to the realism, cause real kids suck at art. Now, circle all the important bits on it. You need a minimum of 4, and can have as many as 10. These Bits get assigned the Hit Location numbers, 1-10. You can put as many as you want on them, as long as you have at least 1 number assigned to each. Each Hit Location is worth 5 dice, which are assigned to the Bit. So, if a part has 3 Hit Location numbers assigned, that's 15 Dice. You can only have 10 dice on a Hit Location though! So, what happens if you have more? You spend them on stuff to make a Bit do things!

Step 2 Qualities and Extras This is what you spend the Dice in a Hit Location on. Qualities define what a Hit Location does, and Extras add Extra stuff to it! The Qualities are:

    Attacks What your monster attacks with! Teeth, claws, lasers, magic, acid bogeys, firebreath, whatever. Does Shock damage against Weird Things, and Scars against Mundane.

    Defends Your Monster uses this Location for Defense rolls. Also can be used to defend a Monster's Kid.

    Useful Everything else. Flying, Super-Senses, Telepathy, Pickpocketing, Turning Intagible, Controlling the Weather, Psychic Powers, Paralytic Venom, Hypnotic Singing, Swimming, whatever. If it doesn't do Damage or Defend, it's Useful.



Sidebar Sidechat This is a thing I'm doing because this Sidebar is actually important! It's a little table of stuff that tells you your Monster's Speed, Range, and how much Weight it can carry. It's a pretty simple little thing that just assigns them to a Location's dice value. So a movement part with 6d lets you move at 64mph or 64 Yards in a round, if an attack or power is ranged at 4d then it can reach 80 yards, an appropriate part at 9d could lift 6.4 Tons, etc. It's pretty neat, and a simple way to tell how scarily superhuman your monster can be.

Now, those Qualities are neat, but they're kinda... lackluster. For added Pizzazz, you get Extras.


    Area Yep, same as the Area effect for weapons. Each level gets you 5 feet of area effect and an Area Die of damage. On the plus side, it also effects Useful skills, but still can't be applied to defensive actions.

    Awesome Available in two levels. The first level lets you set one die to any number you want before you roll the rest, basically acting as a free Called-Shot. Level two let's you change a die's value after you roll, letting you boost a sets width or make a whole new set. So, yeah, Awesome is Awesome.

    Burn Identical to the Burn rules in the Conflict chapter, except other Monsters don't need to make the check to not panic when Burning and can stop the effect with any successful Action to extinguish it.

    Gnarly Each level boosts the damage of this part by 1. Pretty simple.

    Sharing A Monster's Kid can use any abilities of a part with Sharing on it, even if the monster is Hiding. If the power isn't obvious (Hard to hide giant claws or scaly skin) then other people can make a Brains+Notice to detect the weirdness.

    Spray Spray Locations can use multiple sets to affect several targets without needing to declare multiple actions. The multiple actions all have to be done with a part or parts that have Spray though. Unlike the Weapons extra, this adds no dice and you get only one level, you got it or you don't.

    Tough Removes 1 damage from an attack to a Location for every level of Tough.

    Wicked Fast Yep, adds one Width for the purposes of determining action order for every level.

You can find out what other Monster's parts are and what they do with a Brains+Notice roll. Succeed and you learn the names of all a Monster's parts, and can learn the Quality, Extras, and Dice Pool for a Location determined by Height, one per Width above 1, the examined Monster's player chooses.

So that's the Mechanical half of making a Monster, now it's time for the stuff that makes your Monster more than just a fancy attack dispenser.

Personality
You need to, in as much detail as possible, nail down your Monster's personality. How they act and react, what they like and hate, what they move and think and talk like. This is because Monster's are shared between the Player and the GM. While the Player controls the Monster most of the time and always in Conflicts, the GM controls it when it is interacting with the Player's Kid, or just whenever he wants to, most likely to get the Kid in trouble to make some fun for the group. One thing to note is that Monster personalities never change. Your Monster is who he is from day 1 to day 1 billion. They can learn sure, but they can't change who they are like people can. This also has Mechanical effects! If you want your Monster to do something contrary to its Personality, or to stop doing something that is supported by its personality, you need to make a Face+Charm, Putdown, or Connive, depending, called a motivation roll. Note, Monster's will always protect their Kid, no matter what, regardless of their Personality.

Way to Hide
The unique way your Monster makes themselves unseen, unnoticed, or just unremarkable. Kid's always know where their Monster is, and can even talk to them, if they're close enough. Monsters Hiding can effect other stuff, but only in little ways that could be written off as coincidence. Doing any noticable actions or using any Monster abilities will force a Monster out of Hiding. Monsters can't hide from one another, unless they take a Quality that allows them to. Some people, generally the insane, psychic, drug-addled, or otherwise abnormally-brained, can see Monsters even when they're Hiding. They might not know what they're looking at, but it's never a good thing when someone sees your Monster, as it inevitably causes issues.

Favorite Thing
Every Monster has a Favorite Thing. It is something that they will do, to excess, whenever they have the chance. It could just be a favorite snack, or activity, or anything else. Maybe your Monster likes Vietnamese dumpster takeout, or maybe it just loves to see you smile, or maybe it likes sucking the immortal souls from people through their eye-sockets. Your monster will always indulge in its Favorite Thing if it can, unless you or the GM (whoever is controlling the Monster if it's alone) makes a Face+Putdown roll using the Kid's stats to make your Monster resist the temptation.

If you promise your Monster that you will give him or let him do his Favorite Thing though, it lets you change one die in a Face+Charm motivation roll after you roll the rest, guaranteeing a set. Welsh on the deal though, and all your Motivation rolls get a Difficulty of 6 until you make up for being a douchecanoe.



Kicking Butts and Taking Names- Monster Combat

Most of the Conflict rules are the same as in the Conflicts chapter, but with some special caveats and rules for Monsters.

Monster's use their Kid's Brains+Out-Thinking to determine action declaration, so Monsters act at the same time as their Kids do or would. Whenever a Monster gets a location reduced to 0 dice, their Kid has to make a Face+Charm motivation roll to keep him in fight, otherwise they give up. This rule doesn't apply if the Monster is fighting to protect its Kid though! In that case they'll keep going until they can't go anymore. Monster's are also knocked cold when it loses all dice in every hit location. Monsters never kill other Monsters, and will only go to unconsciousness, no matter what.

Monster's are crazy-tough though, and that will take a long time unless you utilize weak-spots. If you take out a Location, any damage that rolls up or down from that location ignores the new ones defenses, making targeting a Monster's more vulnerable parts a key aspect of the game. As the man say's :

”Benjamin Baugh” posted:


Sometimes your beast can psych out an enemy by nipping it in the tender bits, making it waste actions defending when it would prefer to be going at it like a sack of wet Tasmanian devils and liquored- up snakes.

Legging it uses a Motivation roll instead of a skill check for Monster's, but otherwise it works the same.

Now, what happens if you win a Monster Fight? Or lose, as the case may be? Well, the winner Kicked Butt. The Winner inflicts a single Scar to any location on the Loser it wants. This Scarred die is then given to the Winner, to apply to a Location, buy an Extra, or to copy a Quality from the Loser's Location in question. Or, your Monster can give you the die, to put into one of your Stats or Skills. As it's a Scar, the Loser then has to either let their kid use XP to replace the die, or go an Kick Butt itself.

When two or more Monsters team up on another, there's still only 1 Scar to go around, so expect any team-monster fight to quickly turn into a Monster Battle Royale.

If a Monster Kicks Butt so furiously that the Loser has completely lost die in 3 adjacent hit locations, then the Winner also takes a bite out of the Loser's Kid. The Winner can swipe all the Dice from on of the Loser Kid's Relationships! This is called Taking Names. The Kid isn't crippled though, he gets the Die back when your Monster uses them up. How does he do that?

Yummy, Yummy Relationships

Because of the emotional and metal connection between a Kid and their Monster, a kid can power up his Monster with their Relationship die. This adds those die directly to a Location's Pool. If that Location is hit, then those die are lost first, and translate into Shocks for that Relationship. You can use your Monster to help get them back though! Mind, if you fail a Quality Time roll that your Monster helped on, it permanently reduces the Relationship by one Die. Do it on a Crises roll, and it goes to two. Monster's can make life hard sometimes, y'know?

Okay, NOW is when you do the stuff you've been waiting to do! I'm going to be making 3 Kids and Their Monsters, 1 for each Grade Level. Two are going to be from YOU FINE PEOPLE, and the third I'm thinking up because I wanna draw a Monster too! So, here's some RULES.

”Character Creation Example Rules” posted:

    1. Your Submission may be a Kid or a Monster! If you lack one, I'll make the Other!

    2. No Stats! You can submit a Drawing or a short description, or both, but no hard numbers.

    3. Feel free to also put how they Hide, their Favorite Thing, their Personality, and their Abilities, if you want! If not I'll just make them up!

    4. Max of 3 Kid/Monster pairs per-person. I don't want one guy spamming a dozen Monster doodles in the thread!

    5. Monsters don't just have to look like... well Monsters! As we'll see, a Monster can look like anything and do anything you want, within reason. I mean, one of the sample characters monster is a 15 foot Zombie Football Player made up of an entire team of normal-sized Zombie Football Players who all talk in unison and call their kid Coach. So, be creative!

Next Time: Character Creation!

Wapole Languray fucked around with this message at 15:53 on Apr 21, 2013

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