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Mr. Maltose
Feb 16, 2011

The Guffless Girlverine

Majuju posted:

What system is best to roleplay totally rockin' boobs and thrashing guitar licks?



Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.

Grimey Drawer

Fossilized Rappy posted:

Sadly, not without GM fiat.

The Loc-Nar is disappointed.

The Bieeardo, on the other hand, will check this out.

Mr. Maltose
Feb 16, 2011

The Guffless Girlverine
If you've got archives, Captain Foo has run a handful of octaNe games and they've all ruled.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Hermetic Projects

The Intangible Assassin is a project designed to excel at Wizard’s War. It focuses on using relatively low-power effects and high Penetration in order to defeat other magi. Why would you do this? Well, maybe you have a bunch of other magi you want to kill in Wizard’s War. Maybe you want to hunt down rogue magi – infernalists and criminals, say. Maybe you want to develop these strategies for dealing with supernatural beings from the safety of your lab, or to covertly take out normal people. It’s also great for going after those who hunker down in Divine auras, or as a protection against Wizard’s War. Of course, if you’re worried about that, you might well leak some of the spells involved by giving copies to the Great Library of Durenmar, dissuading attack. You might even start a few Wizard’s Wars to prove that you’re an unstoppable foe, though that’s…rather sociopathic.

Wizard’s War, you will recall, is the ultimate conflict between magi. Hermetic law allows it to be declared for any reason, and killing during Wizard’s War is totally okay, no sanction can be placed on you. Formal Wizard’s War must be declared Wizard’s War, you will recall, is the ultimate conflict between magi. Hermetic law allows it to be declared for any reason, and killing during Wizard’s War is totally okay, no sanction can be placed on you. Formal Wizard’s War must be declared on the night of the full moon, and begins one month after that, lasting for one month. It’s usually fought for political gain, personal disputes or resource capture, though sometimes it is declared mostly to force someone to hide in their covenant rather than any real plan to cause harm. That’s a good way to get, say, someone to stop interfering for a month if you think you can scare them. Pays to be careful, however – they can often have allies. Of course, it takes a month for any counter-declarations to be prepared and made, at least.

Most magi like to use that month of grace after receiving a declaration to prepare their defenses. It’s not enough time for new spells, but it’s time to get somewhere safe, at least, and to gather vis and defensive magics. Of course, a devious (and lawbreaking) magus can prevent this by, say, attacking and killing the foe before declaration, then using necromancy to hide the death until the War officially begins. Illegal, but clever. Occasionally, someone will declare Wizard’s War on an entire covenant, generally to avoid prosecution for damaging the place. This allows legal use of spells like the Wizard’s Communion against the foe, though, so it’s generally best to keep one of your buddies from getting involved so that your enemies lack that excuse.

The essential ingredient for the Intangible Assassin is the Intangible Tuynnel, an effect of Rego Vim which opens a mystical conduit between you and your target. While this conduit exists, both you and the target may cast spells through the tunnel as if you were touching each other, so long as the spells are less powerful than the tunnel is by a certain amount. Any number of spells that fit the criteria can go through the spell, though. Spells must target the original target of the tunnel or the caster, of course, but you can target a group on the other side so long as the target is a member of that group, and you may use sensory spells based on the target’s location, as long as they’re inside an area that the spell can target. If they’re not, the spell will fail. Other magi may cast spells through the tunnel, too, targeting either end as if it were in the same place as the end they’re nearest to. Anyone using the tunnel has to know it exists, however – and only the original caster knows that it’s there when it’s cast. Anyone else is going to have to somehow detect it by magic in order to cast spells through it, even if they theorize it’s there beforehand. Of course, the spell provides no scrying on its own, and it has to penetrate magic resistance. Auras apply as normal, as does the Aegies of the Hearth. The tunnel lasts for the full duration of the spell that made unless dispelled. Any spell cast through the tunnel lasts its normal duration, even if the tunnel ends, unless it requires maintenance. You can use magic items through a tunnel, but generally not non-Hermetic powers. Can’t stab someone through it, though.

Your standard tunnel lasts only while you concentrate, but it’s entirely possible that you could design one that just lasts a set period, anywere from a minute or so to a month or more. You’ll want to be confident before doing that, however. Most of the time, you will also need an Arcane Connection to do it, unless you can actually see your target while casting, which is usually not the case. A side use of this power, as a note, is the ability to cast it on your warrior buddy and basically just buff him up from home while he goes out to kill poo poo for you.

So, you have your tunnel. Now you’re going to want to figure out how to manipulate it, since…well, your target can shoot back through it, and often better than you can if it’s the concentration-focused spell. And if you aren’t, well, you can’t shut the thing down in emergencies. Sure, there are spells that can just shut the thing off, but maybe you don’t want that, since maybe you want to keep it up for later. Fortunately, you can develop spells that will seal off the tunnel for a time, either a tunnel you create or, with more effort, any tunnel.

But how do you defend against a tunnel someone else makes? I mean, you have to figure out how it’s present. The easiest way to do that is to make a nice protective item to do it, though it will take time and effort to create. The sample they provide is the Assassin’s Bell, which is enchanted with two spells: first, one that watches for tunnels. Second, one that makes the bell ring when the first spell detects something. Then, you just need to invent a spell that either detects tunnels for yourself…or you go the easier route: a spell that will grant you the senses of any bell you touch. Normally, that’s useless, but you’ve made a bell with supernatural senses!

Now that you’ve made your tunnel, you’re going to want to develop some spells to gently caress people up through them. On the easier end, you can do simple things like cause stutters to prevent retaliation, or cause minor burns or freezing, along with simple spells to, say, detect whether your target is sleeping. Once you’ve managed that, you can go for nastier tricks, like causing wounds directly, stealing voices, dispelling the Parma Magica or warping the face and appearance. Or, f you are really nasty, causing terrible aging or weakening magic.

But there’s just one problem: to do this all effectively, you have to land the tunnel. To do that, you’re going to need Arcane Connections before your war starts. And oh my, those can be trouble to get. The simplest and most effective way to get a connection, of course, is to have some of your target’s blood – but that usually requires either fooling them into giving it to you, which is very, very hard in many cases, attacking them to get some of it or having an excuse to gather it. (For example, many magi keep blood samples from their apprentices in case of later disagreemnts.)

But, you know, blood’s not very subtle. A book or lab text is an Arcane Connection to its author…but only for a few weeks after it’s written, unless you move quickly and get it fixed in a lab. Most magi don’t send out copies of their work until a month or two after writing it, as a result. So you’ll have to be sneaky and steal a copy. That’s going to be tricky! Getting ahold of a relative will also help, though iut won’t function as an Arcane Connection in itself – it will just make your spells better at bypassing magic resistance via sympathy.

Certamen is a good way to get ahold of an Arcane Connection – you can challenge someone to a duel to get ahold of their possessions, claiming they stole them. Sure, a Tribunal will probably fine your for it later, but only if the issue is brought to them…and Tribunals only gather once every seven years. Win a Wizard’s War by killing your target, and who’s going to bring you to trial? Of course, there’s another way – the winner of a Certamen duel that goes all the way to unconsciousness gets to cast one free spell on the loser, bypassing all magic resistance utterly. If you’ve planned the duel properly, you can, say, steal a mouthful of their breath. That will only last a few hours as a Connection…but if you get to your lab fast enough, that’s enough time.

You can research your target and produce either a daily or nativity horoscope to increase your sympathetic connection to the target, much like using your blood relative, but it won’t create any Arcane Connection on its own. So can learning the target’s birth name or nickname. Unfortunately, if the name you learn is one that was granted as part of a baptism, it’s useless – and most magi know that, so they use their baptismal names. A signature works, however, and most magi sign their work. The hard part is going to be lifting the signature without damaging the works they send to Durenmar – but magic can help you out there. A little Rego Herbam with a Muto requisite can just make the ink dance off one page and onto another piece of paper. (Assuming it’s made of a plant product. Other inks require other forms.) Lastly, symbolic representation of your target can also boost sympathy. One of the easier ways to get that is to make a magical mirror. The only thing the mirror does is, on command, take the image it reflects and continue to project it until the magic runs out. It doesn’t even have to pierce Magic Resistance, since it does no magic to anyone, just the image it sees. It’s a very easy magic item to make.

Now, the Aegis of the Hearth may well get in your way, but you should be using enough Penetration to get through it. But if you really, really need to avoid it, there are ways. For example, you can use Mentem magic to make your target believe that the War was declared at a different time, keeping them from going into hiding. You can temporarily suppress the enemy’s Aegis with Vim magic, or even utterly dispel the Aegis. Both will get you into trouble if detected, of course, but they’ll work.

Next time: Liches.

Captain Foo
May 11, 2004

we vibin'
we slidin'
we breathin'
we dyin'

Mr. Maltose posted:

If you've got archives, Captain Foo has run a handful of octaNe games and they've all ruled.

Came here to say OctaNe was the right answer, stayed for the totally righteous shoutout. On that note, Bieeardo, if you're interested in running OctaNe, I personally think the system can use a few house tweaks, so let me know if you're interested.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

I have commandeered a really lovely laptop so I can finish Hermetic Projects before I get back to my apartment tomorrow, because I want to start on a new book then. So I'll try to have the final Project up later today.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Hermetic Projects

So, what is a Living Corpse? It's one of the ways that a Hermetic has to cheat death. Necromancy may animate the shell of the body and can summon te animating spirit, tying them together. Imagine a ghost bound within a human corpse. That is the Living Corpse. A ghost needs to be bound into a "container", but such a container need not be a hollow vessel - a book, a rock, a corpse or even an organ all work. To create a living corpse is, in theory, very simple. First, animate a corpse. Second, call up a spirit. Third, anchor the spirit to the corpse. Fourth, give the spirit control of the corpse. But how can it be done so that it lasts?

The simplest answer is just to use spells to do it. Animate a corpse, bind a ghost to it, then give control of the animating spell to the ghost. It's four or so spells, assuming the ghost you are binding isn't your own. That gets...complicated. But now, there is a problem with this: such spells cannot last more than a single year. For some, a year of a living ghost's servitude is enough. But others want a more permanent solution. This can be done by enchanting objects. Weaker enchantments are all that is needed to turn the spirits of others into living corpses, and they work quite well. The only part you can't do that way is the actual summoning of the ghost, which requires a ritual. Well, and you need a corpse. It is left as an exercise for the viewer to decide how to go about getting a corpse, a skull or whatever other human body parts you need.

But suppose you want to turn yourself into a living corpse, perhaps seeking immortality? Well, this isn't going to be easy. You will need a truly powerful artifact made - the example given is a magical tome made from human skull and skin, within which souls can be kept and empowered. This is the sort of stuff you'll be making, necromancer. Of course, it's hard to summon your own ghost, because you're not dead. The easiest method is to have a friend who'll do all this for you once you die. But most necromancers have trouble with that part, the whole 'friends' business gets tricky when your primary work involves stealing corpses and animating zombies. There is another option, though: ritual suicide. Manipulating the soul is impossible, but capturing the spirit is not. You need to kill yourself and trap your departing spirit so it can't escape. Your soul will end up gone forever, off to wherever it is meant to go, but the soul and spirit are seperate once you die.

Essentially, you are going to ritually kill yourself within a spirit ward, trapping your spirit there, and triggering the pile of magic items that are going to create your living corpse. But, well, there are some problems. First, not all deaths actually produce a spirit - sometimes it jsut vanishes. Second, your spirit may not actually end up having a mind, so that...could be problematic. But hey, you can manage it, right? There will, of course, be downsides. But hey, let's assume you manage it. You're a living corpse now.

What's it like? Well, you no longer need to eat, sleep or breathe. You don't age. You are immune to Warping and Twilight. You will exist as long as the magic holding you together does. You do not suffer much from disease, and you cannot be killed by damage. You need to be hacked to bits to be stopped - and even that can be repaired, if the magic lasts. Disease can still hurt you, but it can't kill you and you don't feel pain. It can't even touch your mind. Just your body.

Donwsides...well, first and foremost: you're going to lose some of your memory. Ghosts never have perfect memories, though the more potent ghosts are close. Second: you must protect the vessel within which your soul is stored - the organ, item or other thing that keeps your spirit there. If it's your entire body, you are one unlucky lich - you will want to avoid damage of all kinds. If your vessel is destroyed, you are just a ghost. Ghosts lack much in the way of physical abilities. Oh, and you have to protect the magic items that are powering all these spells. Once they're gone, so is the magic. So you need to keep those safe, too. And you're vulnerable to Perdo Vim spels that will strip you of your ghostly power. You, as a ghost, can be warded against and controlled, too.

Oh, right, and you're going to lose most of your magic. Your Familiar will be unbound, assuming it somehow survived your death. And it will inherently hate you. Oh, and you can't do magic any more and no longer have the Gift. All you have are your ghost powers, which often mimic the spells you favored in ife. You don't have to rot, at least, though if your corpse isn't being preserved by magic, it will. Oh, and you still suffer the social effects of the Gift. Oh, and your personality is getting rewritten a bit - ghosts run on obsession. You are no longer a full person, and in truth you are going to have only one driving personality trait - whichever as most prominent in life.

But hey, that's the price of immortality, right?

Next time: The Magic Zoo

Nov 5, 2010

Warning, Internet
may prove lethal.
I always like the fact that in Ars Magica all the cool stuff you can do alway have so big downsides. Makes you have to consider the downsides of what you're doing before you set off on it.

Sep 27, 2012

That's right, kids, take lots of drugs, leave the universe behind, and pilot Enlightenment Voltron out into the cosmos to meet Alien Jesus.
OctaNe is indeed badass. Hmm... I had been leaning toward doing A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying after I finished Night's Black Agents, but maybe I should do OctaNe instead.

Speaking of which....

Official Website
PDF on DriveThruRPG

Part 3a: Interrogation Special Update

In the last update, I forgot to talk a little about the sidebar on what happens when PCs get interrogated. It's a pretty common trope in spy stories, and the game does a decent job of balancing that fact with the fact that this is a game and players don't generally like it when their characters are captured by fiat.

If the interrogation is subtle or informal (e.g. a covert operative trying to pump you for information at a bar), recognizing the attempt is just a use of an Interpersonal ability--Tradecraft, Bullshit Detector, or similar. From there it's your call what, if any, info to spill. In a more formal interrogation, be it a police lock-up or a Senate subcommittee, you can spend from a relevant ability to get out of the situation--Reassurance to assure the committee chair that no black-ops vampire hunting is going on without their knowledge, Cop Talk or Law to get you released for lack of evidence, etc. If there's really no way out of it (e.g. a Danish terrorism-banker is menacing your genitals with a length of knotted rope), we're squarely in the realm of plot device. We're reminded to read up on Getting Captured later in the book, and most of all reminded to only use these kinds of scenarios to drive the plot forward, not to revel in the PCs' helplessness. A good way to to do that is to use the interrogation as a ticking clock on any escape or rescue attempts--maybe for every Interrogation point the captured agent spends, she can hold out one more day (or one more scene); when she's out, she spills her guts. Or, maybe you just cut to the next morning and the agent being tossed out of a moving van, mysteriously released. Why is she still alive? And should she start checking her body for bite marks?

Part 4: Draculas Do Not Like Cherries

General abilities work quite a bit differently than Investigative ones. When you use a General ability, you roll 1d6 against a difficulty (usually 4). Before you roll, you can spend points from your relevant General ability's pool to add to your result on a 1-for-1 basis. In addition, a fair few of the Thriller Combat rules allow you to spend General ability points to unlock certain maneuvers and do cool poo poo in fight scenes. We're again reminded that we can save General build points to assign as needed during the game, and we're also told that if we have Shooting or Weapons at 8+, we can spend build points on "Special Weapons Training," which is described later. (Spoiler alert: It's 6 build points for +1 damage with one specific type of weapon.) We also get the same sidebar as in the previous section, laying out which General abilities are most important (all of them, but seriously, if you don't buy up Health, Stability, Athletics and at least one combat ability, you're probably going to die) and how many points you should put in them (a lot more than Investigative abilities: 1-3 points is a sideline, 4-7 is solid but not spectacular, and 8+ is into the realm of the dedicated badass).

Sometimes, General abilities can be used as Investigative ones--like, maybe you want to use Shooting to ID the weapon the Italian Foreign Minister was shot with by the sound of the report or use Explosive Devices to figure out who made a bomb. Other times, there's already an Investigative ability that does what you want, because GUMSHOE is all about multiple redundancies.

As mentioned before, you get 70 points to spend on General abilities (55 points in a Dust game, 65 in a Mirror game). There's no cap on these, but your second-highest ability has to be at least half your highest. Your free ranks in Cover and Network don't count. So, yeah, if you want to be a freakish kung fu master whose only skill is punching Draculas in the face, buy yourself 40 Hand-to-Hand, 20 Athletics, and spend your last 10 points on Health or whatever. The thing is (and this is something I wish the advice sidebar talked about a little more), given how often General ability pools refresh some or all of their points, having more than, say, a dozen or so points usually leads to diminishing returns. You're better off spreading your points a little bit, and one of the main reasons for that is cherries.

Cherries are one of the new rules elements introduced in Night's Black Agents, though they build off of a rule in previous GUMSHOE games that made you harder to hit in combat if your Athletics was 8 or higher. (The name is also borrowed from Unknown Armies, I believe.) NBA extends that to pretty much all General abilities: if your rating is 8 or higher, you get some extra special benefit called a "cherry." (Optional rule: if you want more niche protection, you can raise the bar for cherries to 12.) Cherries key off of your rating in the ability, not how many points you currently have. Also, some abilities unlock special Thriller Combat options, which we'll be talking about in the next chapter.

In Dust mode games, only Cherries marked with the Dust icon exist.

So, the General abilities list:

Athletics: General running/jumping/climbing trees bit. At Athletics 8+, your Hit Threshold (the number bad guys have to roll to hit you) goes up by 1.

Conceal: Hiding stuff. Not yourself. At 8+, you can hide a small object somewhere on your person. Short of an x-ray scan or a full-body strip search, it can never be found.

Cover: Cover is one of the special case General abilities. See, you never actually roll Cover directly. Instead, when you need a cover identity for yourself (maybe a Russian Air Force Colonel or an importer of Carpathian antiquities), you move points from your Cover pool into a special side pool for that specific identity. You then use those points on rolls when when you use your cover identity to do things like cross borders, get access to restricted areas, or establish your bona fides to that pale gentleman who wants to buy Dracula's cape. If a particular cover ever runs out of points, it's been red-flagged in a database somewhere and using it is likely to get you burned. Unlike other General abilities, cover points don't refresh. Ever. You can spend XP to "backfill" a cover and give it more points, but once it's gone it's probably burned forever. Cover doesn't have a cherry.

Digital Intrusion: Hacking. Why it's not just called Hacking I have no idea. Anyways, 8+ gives you a free point in Cryptography, and also lets you secure your team's communications against anything but intelligence agency-level hacking or interception. Weirdly, despite the fact that all the other "gain 1 point in an Investigative ability" cherries are tagged as Dust-allowed, this one is not.

Disguise: The art of being as obnoxious as Dana Carvey in that movie where he looked like a turtle. At 8+ ranks, when you create a cover identity using Cover, you can declare that you know some NPC on a personal level "in character" as your new cover. (E.g. "Marko! It's me! Lieutenant Hobbes, from Liverpool! Remember?") No, I don't know what that has to do with Disguise ability either.

Driving: Covers any vehicle that doesn't fly or sail. For every point, you can drive one type of vehicle:

Night's Black Agents posted:

These include: motorcycle, transport truck, bus, construction equipment, remote-control car or robot, snowmobile, motorboat, and jet-ski.

Character concept found. Also, at 8+ you can spend 1 Driving point to automatically steal any civilian or standard police vehicle.

Explosive Devices: Things that make you go boom. At 8+ you can spend a few extra points to add dice of damage to explosives you set instead of adding to your roll.

Filch: At 8+, you can spend points after your roll, but at a 2-for-1 rate. This is one of the worst cherries in the game, IMO, since you'll almost always end up spending more points than you would have if you'd just said "drat the torpedoes" and spent enough points to guarantee a success in the first place.

Gambling: For the obligatory scene where James Bond sits down for a hand of cards against the villain. In a nice touch, it specifies that in Dust games you can only use this ability when there's an actual element of player skill involved. In more cinematic modes, you can totally use this skill to win at roulette or baccarat. Gambling also gets one of the most fun cherries in the game: At the beginning of each session, roll a die and set it aside. At any time during the session, you can swap the result of a single die roll with that one. It doesn't even have to be a roll you made. You lucky bastard.

Hand-to-Hand: Punching Draculas in the mouth. At 8+, you can spend 1 to assess how good at Hand-to-Hand another character is, relative to you.

Health: Yep, your hit points are a skill in this game. Most of the time it only goes down due to damage, but sometimes you can push yourself by spending your own Health rating. No cherry on this one.

Infiltration: B&E for F&P. At 8+ ranks, you automatically bypass any normal, commercial door lock or alarm system, no roll required.

Mechanics: Building and fixing stuff. At 8+, you can spend Mechanics points on Preparedness rolls (q.v.), but you have to provide a clever Burn Notice or MacGyver-esque explanation of how you're repurposing a common household doodad into what you need. This is another of my favorite cherries, just for the crazy poo poo players come up with.

Medic: Plugging holes in people. 8+ gets you a free rank in Diagnosis. Nice, but bland.

Network: Network works pretty much exactly like Cover, but instead of pulling one of your own false identities out of your rear end, you're ringing up an old contact that can do you a solid. Oh, and if a contact's pool ever hits 0, she's turned or killed by the opposition. Contacts are usually used to supply you with stuff: safe houses, black-market guns, suitcase nukes, etc. They can also get you out of prison, but when you spend points out of the contact's pool for a jailbreak, it costs double. Not discussed in the book but my own personal house rule: I'll usually give a contact an extra 1-3 points for free if the player narrates some sort of problem or complication introducing them (e.g. "Trust me, she's the best driver in Prague. Assuming we can sober her up." or "I know a guy who can get us the guns we need. Or he'll shoot me on sight. Call it 50-50 odds.") Like Cover, no cherries for Network, but we do get a nice little section on how Network can be used as an Investigative skill. It's incredibly versatile, since all you really need to do is figure out what information you need, come up with someone whose job it is to know that thing, and spend some Network points to make a contact out of that person. You can get a lot of versatility out of a very few points, especially if you're willing to let the vampires eat your contacts when you're done. Outside of spy fiction, John Constantine does this kind of poo poo all the drat time.

In Mirror mode games, at the beginning of each session, the Director picks one contact that the agents have introduced (just one total, not one per agent) and rolls an unmodified die against that contact's current pool. If the die roll is higher, that contact is a filthy traitor. Maybe he always has been, maybe the vampires got to him recently and turned him, but that contact will betray the agent at the most inconvenient opportunity.

Piloting: Literally exactly like Driving, but for boats and planes and UAVs instead of cars and trucks and RC cars. Even has the exact same cherry.

Preparedness: Hands down my favorite ability in GUMSHOE. Rather than worry about tracking all the equipment your spy is carrying, you're assumed to have any basic, obvious gear on-hand. If it seems a little edge-case or unusual, you make a Preparedness roll, with a difficulty based on how unlikely it is. Succeed, and you've got it. The way I explain it to new players is to imagine you're watching a Bourne movie. If Bourne pulls out a gizmo and you don't question where he got it, that's standard equipment. If it's the kind of thing you'd expect to see at least a quick shot of him packing along, it's a Preparedness test. If it's something you'd expect a full scene around him acquiring, it's probably something you need a Network or Streetwise spend to set up a buy.

At 8+, you can use Preparedness to retroactively prep actions, not just gear. You can, say, pre-rig a parking garage to explode or retroactively swap a briefcase full of state secrets for one full of Highlights magazines. Combine with a Network spend for the old classic "see that red dot on your chest? That's my buddy Sergei a half-mile away with a Dragunov. Wave to Sergei." trick.

Sense Trouble: Like Bullshit Detector, but for being shot in the face. At 8+, you can use your Sense Trouble rating to determine your place in initiative order instead of your combat ability.

Shh! My Brimley sense is tingling.

Shooting: Guns guns guns. Weirdly, Shooting does not have a cherry. It's the only General ability outside the special case ones (Cover, Health, Network, and Stability) that doesn't. I have no idea why.

Shrink: Being a psychotherapist. Austrian accent optional. At 8+, you get a free point in Bullshit Detector, Flattery, Interrogation, or Reassurance.

Stability: Your mental hit points, aka how close to going batshit loco and/or becoming a vampire's meat puppet you are. No cherry, as per usual with the weird abilities.

Surveillance: Despite the name, this is largely the sneaking ability, though it also covers things like determining a target's daily routine or spotting your own tails. At 8+, you get a free point in Electronic Surveillance. Because having two totally different surveillance abilities isn't confusing at all.

Weapons: Killing things up close and personal with some technological assistance. At 8+, you can throw any reasonably well-balanced melee weapon without penalty at targets within Near range. In quite probably the most stilted reference in the entire game, this cherry is called Quincey Morris' Bowie Knife. Yeeeeeeeeeeah.

That's the whole list, but we've got one more thing to do with General abilities. Each character picks one General ability to be your MOS ("Military Occupational Specialty," because that sounds cooler than "schtick.") Once per session, you can automatically and completely succeed on a single action using your MOS. You can, for example, automatically shoot and kill a human target, automatically win a car chase, or automatically infiltrate a building without detection. You can't automatically defeat a supernatural challenge with your MOS, but you can still auto-succeed on a single action (e.g. you automatically hit the vampire, but you have to roll damage). It's worth noting that not only does your MOS not have to be your best skill, it doesn't even have to be one you have any ranks in. So if you want to create a weedy little analyst who turns into a Swedish murder machine when someone calls him a chicken, you can do that.

There's also no discussion of what happens if you make one of the non-standard abilities your MOS. Health and Stability are rolled, albeit pretty rarely, but what happens when Cover or Network is your MOS? :iiam: I guess maybe once per session you automatically get what you want out of a contact or successfully use your cover to do whatever, but given the way pool attrition works with those abilities it seems a little too good. So, I don't know.

There's a pretty awesome anecdote from playtesting that showcases why Preparedness and MOS are such fun aspects of the game. It comes up much later in the book, but I'm going to share it here.

Night's Black Agents posted:

The first time I ran Night’s Black Agents, the team’s analyst sat carefully in a Cartagena hotel room across the street from where all the action was happening. Sitting with a spy scope, she reported on what she saw but steadfastly refused to join in on the action. I shrugged and carried on with the adventure, giving her multiple chances to leave her perch. When the vampiric drug lord fled the scene in a helicopter with a suitcase nuke, I knew the agents had failed and there was no way they could stop him. Then the analyst spoke up. “I’ve been waiting for this moment. I’m spending 6 Preparedness to open up the case by my feet and pull out a shoulder-launched rocket launcher. (clatter) I got a 10.”

My eyes bugged a little. “Okay, fair enough. You do have one.”

“Good. My MOS is in Shooting. I use it — no roll needed, right? — and I blow that SOB out of the sky.”

Really, the explosion was spectacular.

Next time: We take our spies to Psych 101.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Hermetic Projects

The people of Europe, both in Ars Magica and the medieval past, adored animals. Menageries were kept by the rich and powerful as a show of their power. A magus might well want a Menagerie of Magical Beasts, mundane ones being no satisfaction to a Hermetic. After all, even a leopard or lion is not impressive next to a magical beast. And maybe you want one for mercantile resons - capturing and breeding useful animals. Everyone needs magic beasts, for vis or Familiars or other purposes. But that doesn't make a menagerie easy to make. You need to build one, find a way to feed and contain the creatures within, tame and train them if you plan to sell them, and if you want their line to continue, you need to breed them. And, of course, deal with any legal or personal obstacles to all this. And you need to capture the beasts, too. And you can't do it alone - the place will need staff.

One step at a time, though. We need to find somewhere to build it. Only the smallest menagerie will fit inside your sanctum - any ambition at all will require a larger place. Plus, there tend not to be that many magical beasts in walking distance to capture. So you will have to hunt in distant lands, as well. You probably want a Magic aura to build the place in, since magical beasts survive best in auras, and outside it they may well fade away. Some beasts are potent enough to need truly strong auras, too. Good news: such places at least tend to have magical beasts in them. You're going to be out hunting for these creatures a lot, though...well, bestiaries are at best going to give you rare places, and magical auras are hotly contested. Weak auras are more common, but potent ones...well, you will probably have to fight over them, or at least play politics.

So, we've found our spot. It needs to be a big spot - critters need their space, and you need space to change the area to resemble their habitat. Hermetic magic, at least, is extremely good at landscaping and rebuilding areas. You will want to be careful not to damage the local tethers, however, which create the magical aura. And now that you have a place, you need to build the menagerie. You're gonna need granaries for feed, aviaries for birds or apiaries for bees. Cisterns for aquatic beasts. Barns, if you plan to breed the things, as each breed will need a barn with seperate pastures for males, females and young, and paddocks for birthing. You need pens for the curiosities of a menagerieand viewing areas for visitors, plus places for the staff. And you will need staff. Fresh air and water is needed, protecting from the elements and unwanted visitors, pens will need muckin gout and so on. Plus, you may well want the place to look amazing so you can show off. That's expensive. And if you plan to study while there, you're going to need a lab there, too.

You may end up needing financial backers; this can get expensive. It is left as an exercise for the viewer to make the deals needed to fund the menagerie, but generally it will require services or access to the place for study. Even without backers, however, you are going to need to find livestock. The vast majority of magical beasts are Beasts of Virtue, creatures that are Platonic exemplars of their mundane kind to such an extent that they gain magical powers. Such creatures are often from mundane lines, much as magi often have mundane parents, and magi can no more just create a Beast of Virtue than they can give the Gift. Some Beasts of Virtue appear immortal, while others do not. It's strange. Other creatures are Beasts of Legend - dragons, griffons, phoenixes and so on, as well as the magical lineages of cats and the talking birds of Nephelococcygia. If an animal is magical but not a Beast of Virtue, it is a Beast of Legend by default. The last and strangest kind of magical beast is the Transformed Animal, which actually lacks magical powers. Such creatures cannot reproduce themselves, and are likely to be only kept as curiosities or training for staff, as they are lesser creatures.

So, where do you find these? Well, they often travel. Searching for magical regiones and auras is a good start, but that means hunting rumors and legends. Bestiaries may prove a good place to start, but they often provide only large areas. Flight is helpful for searching, but is often less useful in dense woods or marshlands. Swimming and breathing underwater will be vital to capture aquatic beasts. It is also helpful if you can manage to draw the beast to you, perhaps with its favorite food as bait. And you will probably want a way to detect magic in beasts, as Beasts of Virtue often appear to be normal animals at first. The lazy may also create magical beasts using ritual magic, but you will need a new spell to make a male if the first made a female, or vice versa, and breeding can often be difficult. Such creatures will often be lacking in power, too, for their magic powers rely entirely on the caster's ability to grant them.

Once you've found your beasts, you'll need to capture them. Snares are preferred for small animals, but they may well chew their way out. Lassos are often used after exhausting larger beasts. Fishes can be caught in traps or nets, and birds are usually captured before they are old enough to fly. But magical beasts can make all tis more difficult, especially the birds. At least magic can help you immobilize critters. And then you must transport and contain them. Spells to shrink, immobilize or teleport creatures will all prove very helpful. Oh, and the creatures will need food. Cows - mundane cows - cean eat 30 pounds of grass a day, and a normal wolf can eat 20 pounds of meat in a single meal. Magical beasts will need to have food, too - food kept readily available, with supply lines that do not run out. Of course, many beasts will not starve, but they may become prone to violence or escape if not fed, and many will not reproduce. Your workers are going to spend most of their time feeding the livestock, too. Some creatures require rare foods, as well - griffins eat gold, while the six-legged antelope of Siberia requires bark from the sacred birch, and rocs eat an entire elephant once a month. You need to keep them supplied. And you will need ways to deal with sick or wounded animals, though again magic will be very helpful here. Indeed, magic can even return animals to life, so long as they didn't die of old age. Very handy. However, to resurrect a magical creature is much harder than a mundane one. Which isn't easy in the first place.

And how do you plan to force the creatures to reproduce? They'll do it naturally in the wild, but captive beasts are often harder to convince. There are texts by a few Greek and Roman authors on animal breeding, but they are by and large lost in the present day, save for books on horses or dogs. Other breeding programs mostly don't exist. Animal breeding and the biology involved is somewhat understood, at least, though the exact mechanics of the internals of the female are something of a mystery, as is what ensures conception. Breeders often speculate that such failures are, as in humans, caused by tempoerature or temperament. And some animals simply generate - worms. Worms just kind of appear when the situation is correct. (Most insects are worms, as are frogs, mice and small fish.)

Now, getting a magical beast to reproduce depends on its nature. Lions, for example, are often reluctant to breed and will do so only rarely. A magus might use control of the weather and animal minds to speed things up, encouraging the circumstances needed to breed. Selective breeding and crossbreeding may also well be used to tailor lines of magical creatures, though such a thingis completely unresearched at present and would prove a new and intriguing area of inquiry. Spells also exist to help with the birthingof beasts, which is quite handy. That can be very tough on the female, after all.

Now, the main thing you will need, besides study to help tame these critters, is staff. You need a lot of them. Beaters, feeders, handlers and herders. And each will need an overseer. Livestock is a specialized field at that, and most trainers know only one breed of animal. Very few could handle any breed, especially in a magical menagerie. You are going to need quite a lot of staff to help you out, especially if you have more diverse breeds.

But hey, once the place is up and running, you can get some good use out of it. Magical beasts often contain organs that are great when harvested for magic items. And of course it is a thrilling visit to see these beasts, and many will seek to purchase individual beasts for use as Familiars or other experiments. Sure, your foes will probably try to interfere to piss you off, but that's the price of all success.

The End!

Choose: Choices are: the True Lineage Houses of Hermes and their secrets (Houses of Hermes: True Lineages), Mystery Cults (The Mysteries, Revised Edition), the Mystery Cult Houses (Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults), more depth on Covenants (Covenants), the lost magic of the past (Ancient Magic), the Societates Houses (Houses of Hermes: Societates), France (Lion and Lily: The Normandy Tribunal), academic life (Art and Academe), the realms of magic and magical beings (Realms of Power: Magic), the Faeries (Realms of Power: Faerie), nobility (Lords of Men), the Church (The Church), Germany (Guardians of the Forests: The Rhine Tribunal) or Greece (Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal).

Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion

Ancient Magic!

Sep 2, 2012

I'm not done with Perilous Lands yet. But I have an actual game I'm running that's taking up some prep time. Hopefully next week!

The Sin of Onan
Oct 11, 2012

And below,
watched by eyes of steel
we dreamt
I'd like to hear about one of the region books. Greece, maybe?

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Part 5: The Rest of the Core Rulebook

Chapter 9: Officer's Country
AKA the Game Mastering chapter. The majority of this chapter deals with either the Allies or the Germans - just as aircraft aren't really covered until the sourcebook Death From Above, other Axis forces are only really expanded upon in Africa Korpse (the Italians) and Land of the Rising Dead (the Japanese). Still, it does finally give us a look into the weird part of Weird War II, so I can't really fault it too hard.

Up first are the origins of the whole magic conflict. While an evil-hunting secret society known as the Sons of Solomon have been trundling around for a while now, the first big discovery of magic for modern warfare was in 1936, when the Nazis dug up an ancient Germanic guide to rune magic. They used this knowledge to create the blood mages (who use a class called Adept, which is just the D&D Sorcerer plus rune requirement). Blood mages aren't exactly prolific, being only found in the highest eschelons of the Gestapo and SS as well as Hitler's personal entourage. Members of the Sons of Solomon aiding the Allied cause found out about Hitler's growing occult armies, said "gently caress that" to the idea, and started the Office of Supernatural Investigations in 1940. The OSI's job is to eliminate both supernatural threats created by the Axis and those that have been woken up from their long slumber by all the death and chaos around them.

After introducing the big Nazi and Allied occult players, there's discussion of general gameplay. Most of the new GMing rules and tips are what you'd expect from an occult horror war game: Will saves to avoid becoming shaken with fear, medals for rank, shpiel about how a haunted vehicle should be a character for the players to interact with and not just a fancy magic item they have, and the question of what happens when the Soviet Union has the switch flipped to "enemy" and the magic-fueled Cold War starts. There are also enemy NPC stats for a panzer crewman (Grunt 1) and veteran crewman (Grunt 4), Waffen SS officer (Officer 1) and veteran officer (Officer 4), Waffen SS soldier (Grunt 1) and veteran soldier (Grunt 4), Waffen SS blood mage (Officer 6/Adept 6), Wehracht officer (Officer 1) and veteran officer (Officer 4), Wehrmacht soldier (Grunt 1) and veteran soldier (Grunt 4), and Wehrmacht sniper (Scout 5/Sniper 1).

But who cares about humans? Let's get to monsters! That's right, chapter 9 ends with a small, but nonetheless tasty, sample of the kind of creeps you can find in the Weird War II universe. In addition to a blurb noting that monsters from old European folklore such as ogres and vampires can be found in the dark corners of the warfront, there are a few new monsters - ten, in fact.
  • Brute (CR 3 Medium-size Humanoid): Brutes are basically orcs in both form and function. They are humans warped by Nazi magic meant to bring out the psychotic id, their teeth turned to jagged edges and two large tusks while their hands twist into ones ended in short claws. They're pretty strong as far as a low-level introductory monster goes, but they are infamously stupid. They actually have to make a Will save to reload firearms, otherwise they just drop their guns and go into a melee frenzy.
  • Fext (CR 5 Medium-size Humanoid): Fexts may look perfectly human, but they are far from it. They are gifted with near-immortality, only capable of being slain by a shard of glass or wooden stake. Since they were conscripted by Nazi occultists, Hitler doesn't trust them one bit, but they are used as guards for a lot of higher ranking officers and projects or as artifact hunters.
  • Grant (CR 2 Large Magical Beast): Magical black horses that appear as omens of tragedy. Any town they appear in will have a tragic event happen within the next 12 hours, while anyone that attacks them directly will have a more immediate effect through a hex that gives a -1 penalty to attacks and saving throws for a whole year.
  • Gremlin (CR 1/2 Small Fey): You know these guys. On a rather funny note, almost every d20 system statup of gremlins I've ever seen has given them the Fey type. It's an interesting trend.
  • Kludde (CR 2 Medium-size Magical Beast): Kluddes are chain-wrapped black hounds that manifest in the misty hours of dawn and dusk in Belgium. They are capable of brachiating, attacking, or suffocating with the chains that slither around them like writhing snakes.
  • Reanimant (CR 2 Medium-size Undead): Basically zombies that are dumb but still have an Intelligence score rather than Int -. They're also swift and limber thanks to the special brand of alchemy the Nazis used to raise them.
  • Sluagh (CR 1 Tiny Magical Beast): These evil spirits take the form of crows and tend to travel in large flocks. While they aren't exactly imposing in combat, they have a special power called Destabilize that causes a dying character to keep on bleeding, even if they are getting help from a medic. If you can't get rid of the sluagh fast enough, they will then eat the soul of the dead soldier they have come to watch over, keeping them from ever being resurrected. Due to the concept of death coming from the west, however, you can effectively block them by hiding in a building or vehicle with all of its western entrances shut.
  • Tatzlwurm (CR 2 Small Magical Beast): Ugly, slobbering snake-lizards from folklore all across the European Alps. Since they are burrowers, the unfortunate people that tend to be on the receiving end of their venomous bites and toxic breath are trench diggers and POW escapees.
  • Wehrwolf (+2 CR template; the example individual is CR 9 due to having class levels of Grunt 5/Commander 2): Synthetic werewolves that were made by reverse-engineering the DNA of a captured Russian werewolf. Since wehrwolves retain their minds, can change at will, and are selected from the fittest warriors of the Waffen SS, wehrwolves can be pretty drat dangerous. They pretty much do what you'd expect a D&D werewolf to do otherwise. There's also a little anecdote in their fluff stating that, if the SS can't capture a vampire to turn him with, Hitler wants to become a wehrwolf himself.
  • Wichtlein (CR 1/4 Small Humanoid): Literally lizard-goblins. They're weak, skittish, and sensitive to light, but they make up for it by traveling in large groups and harassing people by caving in tunnels or stealing anything that isn't nailed down.

Chapter 10: Dogs of War
It's a short introductory adventure saving a downed pilot in France from a blood mage and his kluddes.


Next time: We start the bestiary sourcebook Horrors of Weird War II.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Sundered Eagle won the coinflip.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal

Sundered Eagle is pretty much the sourcebook for the Byzantine Empire. Before 1204, Greece and the rest of the region were ruled over as they had been for 900 years - by the Rhomanoi, Romans, under the basileus Rhomaion, the Roman Emperor. 'Byzantine' is anachronistic for the time. In any case, in 1204, the place was sacked by crusaders, known to the natives as the Frankish. (The Muslims, too, refer to them this way, as i-Franj.) The Crusaders purged the upper classes and instituted their own government, the Latin Empire. Those who survived fled to exile, and the most significant groups of leaders-in-exile are the Empires of Nicea, Epiros and distant Trebizond. The northern provinces have won independence from the Latin Empire, forming the Empire of Bulgaria. Now, the native Greeks and foreign Franks struggle for control.

Romaic Greek is the language of the area, and even most magi use it over Latin, casting spells in classical Greek. Many people of exotic nations live in the area - the Egyptians, Seljuks and Persians can all be found, though the native Greeks are the dominant group. In their ancient legends, men started as a golden race, immortal and happy. Following them were the silver race, farmers and matriarchal, who were long-lived but quarrelsome and ignorant. They did not respect the gods but did not make war. Following them were the brazen men, who were grown like fruits on ash trees, and fought all the time, eating flesh as much as bread. The fourth race was also of brass, but nobler and more generous. They bore the blood of gods and were the heroes of legend. The current race of man is, the Greeks say, made of iron, unworthy children of the fourth race. They have heroism but no nobility. They are daring, crafty, foolish and rash, but they have few redeeming qualities.

The rulers of Constantinople name the period between 1685 BC and 1191 BC the Heroic Age, the time of the Greek myths. They claim it is concurrent with the ancient Biblical period. In 1191, the Trojan War began, according to Herodotus. The fall of Troy is the source of the Greek hatred for Persia, for the Persians always considered the area theirs and did not appreciate the Greek invasion. Thus began the Persian Wars, as the Greek city-states were founded. These wars truly began in the end of the 6th century BC, when Darius I of Persia invaded Thrace and conquered it in 513 BC. When the Ionian states rebelled against him, Athens and Eretria sent aid to them, and war became inevitable. The Persians took Eretria through deception and treachery, then went on to fight Athens. The clash at Marathon was a Greek victory, despite being vastly outnumbered, and only 192 Greeks died compared to 6400 Persians. Darius' son Xerxes attacked Greece again in 480, taking Thessaly, Delphi and Argos. This time, Sparta was the one that defended, leading the first Panhellenic Congress to war. The Spartans' defeat at Thermopylae delayed the Persians long enough to save the Greek fleet at Artemisium, and eventually the Persian fleet was defeated at Salamis, one of the most famous naval battles of all time. Xerxes fled back to Asia Minor, leaving only 40,000 men under his General Mardonius to try the war again the next year. In 479, Mardonius marched south and ravaged Attica, then occupied Athens. When the Spartans came to fight, Mardonius withdrew from Attica to Boeotia, to better use his cavalry on the plains. The Greek victory at Plataea was the greatest land battle they ever fought, driving the Persians from Greece forever.

Naturally, the Greeks felt superior to foreign barbarians after this, and they formed the Delian League to protect against Persia and get vengeance. However, between 431 and 404, Athens and Sparta went to war with each other, due to massive suspicion of the Athenians, who had suppressed several rebellions and moved the Delian League's treasury to Athens and, allegedly, spent it. The Spartans were jealous and fearful of Athenian power, and they launched an attack. The war paused in 422 when both war-leaders died at the Battle of Amphipolos. However, Athenian ambition was great, and they launched an attack against Syracuse in Sicily, which was disastrous. The Spartans cut them off from their farms and mines in Attica, and rebellion destroyed their grain supply. In Athens, an oligarchic rebellion overthrew the government, and an unexpected alliance between the Spartan general Lysander and Cyrus of Persia destroyed Athenian power in 404, when they surrendered unconditionally. The chaos of the next fifty years left Greece vulnerable.

Specifically, vulnerable to the Macedonian King Philip II. The Macedonians were former Persian vassals who had avoided involvement in the Pelopennesian Wars. Philip seized several Athenian vassals and attacked Thrace and the Chalcidian League. Athens accepted the Peace of Philocrates, confirming Philip's control of central Greece, and Philip summoned a Panhellenic Congress in Corinth in 338 to look to invasion of Persia. Soon after the war began, however, he was murdered. His son Alexander took control. Well, his "son".

You see, the romances of the 13th century paint Alexander as a larger-than-life figure. He was not tall, but immensely strong, noble and brave, though violent and oversexed. He was not Philip's son, but the child of the Egyptian sorcerer-king Nectanabus, who trained his son in sorcery until Alexander learned the truth of his parentage. At that point, Alexander killed his true father in a fit of rage and was taught instead by Aristotle. Alexander was 19 when he became king, and he pushed the invasion of Persia greatly. In 338, he led a massive army into Persia, conquering it and defeating Darius III himself, then capturing Tyre and Egypt in 331 as he chased Darius into Mesopotamia and captured Bablyon, Susa and Persepolis. Darius died in Media and Alexander took his crown. Over three years, he would head eastward, exploring the world's bounds by heading into the sea in a glass ball, flying in a chariot pulled by griffins and being refused entry into Heaven before discovering the wellspring of life, where he slew the dragon that guarded it and sent his sister to bring him a drink. However, she spilled it and so Alexander cursed her to be the half-fish Gorgona, now an immense mermaid that haunts the Black Sea.

Alexander had three wives, two mistresses, more lovers than anyone can account for (both male and female), but only two children. Both died before adulthood. It is said that in 330 BC, the Queen of the Amazons herself came to bear his child, but what happened to the child is a mystery. Alexander's conquest was ended only by his army's rebellion, unwilling to go further. He returned home, executing rebel governors and dealing with assassins. He married a daughter of Darius III, and in 324 he died of fever from a wound suffered in India. Forty years of war between his generals would follow, splitting his empire into three kingdoms: Macedonia, Ptolemaic Egypt and the Seleucid Empire. Alexandria of Egypt and Antioch of Syria became the centers of Hellenist culture rather than Greece itself, and Macedonia continued to rule over Greece, Thrace and Anatolia, though it would not be until the reign of King Antigonus II Gonatus (284-239 BC) that Greece's fortunes would reverse and rise. Athens rose to preeminence again, despite the Macedonian garrison in it, and gained enough wealth to buy its freedom. Rhodes rose in power as well, expelling the Macedonians by force.

This was the time of the Leagues, confederacies of cities. In the past, leagues were dominated by one city, but now, they were equal partners. The Achaean League arose in the south, and the Aetolian League in the north. They were ruled by an assembly open to all male citizens, and the Boeotian League became a third power. Athens, Euboea, Elis, Messenia and Sparta remained independent. The Aetolians rebelled against Macedonia, but they were crushed and Athens was invaded. Thus ended its independence. Sparta remained hostile to the Achaean League, invading in 227, but the Achaeans allied with the Macedonians and crushed them five years later.

This is when Rome starts to become important. Hannibal had been an ally of Macedonia, which led to Roman intervention. In 205, the Romans signed the PEace of Phoenice, allowing coexistence with the Greeks, but the Romans conflicted with the Macedonians several times, defeating them and the Seleucids whenever conflict came up and becoming the leading power of the Mediterranean. In 168, Macedonia was conquered, and Greece itself followed in 146, with the Aegean isles falling in 133. Several cities, including Athens, rebelled in 88 and were crushed. The Roman rule led to peace, however, for 250 years. However, in 284 AD, when Diocletian became emperor, it was clear that no one could hold the Empire together, so he divided it into four prefectures, adopting a joint Emperor to rule alongside him, with two subordinates. The eastern empire took up most of Greece, Crete, Thrace, Asia Minor, Judea and Egypt. Power pushed ever east, and Constantine established a new capital in the Christian city of Byzantium, renamed Constantinople in 330 AD.

Next time: Constantine

Apr 22, 2013

Pew Pew Pew!
Who's actually reading my stuff? I want to know if there's anything I should change about my writeup.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

I'm sorry for all this long history stuff - we need it to set the scene. The Byzantine Empire and its predecessors left huge impacts on the area.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal

Emperor Constantine ended the persecution of Christians, declaring an Edict of Toleration of Faiths, not least because his mother, Saint Helena, was a devout Christian. Despite that, it was not her influence but the miraculous appearance of sign in the sky before the Battle of Milvian Bridge that led Constantine to accept Christ. He called the first Council of Nicaea in 325, establishing the first true doctrine of the Church and begining the tradition of great Oecumenical Councils, defining correct belief. Constantine had been a member of the cult of Sol Invictus, but he was baptised on his deathbed. His new capital in the city of Byzantium was renamed Nova Roma Constantinopolis, and after his death it became known as Constantinople.

From 361 to 363, the city was briefly ruled by Emperor Julian the Apostate, returning it to paganism, but God allowed the Huns, Goths and other barbarians to help destabilize the Roman Empire as a result. In 378, the Eastern Empire's army was nearly annihilated, and the Goths reached Constantinople. They occupied it until 400, when an elderly beggar woman insulted a Goth and, when he struck her, the locals began open rebellion, driving the Goths out in a great riot. They never returned.

While the Western Empire collapsed, the Eastern Empire maintained Roman tradition. One of the greatest, if not the greatest, Byzantine emperors was Justinian, who enacted massive legal reform. He is said to have been deeply pious but heretical until the personal intervention of Pope Agapetus I. He married a lowborn dancer named Theodora in great scandal, but she proved an excellent empress. He also expanded the Eastern Empire throughout southern Italy. His generals Narses and Belisarius were some of the best in history, and it was Justinian who built the Hagia Sophia. However, due to his autocratic nature, he proved unpopular in life, especially due to his efficient taxation. In 532, a riot set fire to much of Constantinople, and Justinian would have fled but for Theodora, who would not leave. He ended the riot in a massacre of 30,000 people, and their ghosts still haunt the city. In the latter years, he stole the secret of silk from the east, and silk has been made in Constantinople, Thebes and Thessaloniki ever since.

Let's see, moving on to 626, Persia invaded the Empire, despite Emperor Heraclius' attempts at peace, but Heraclius defeated them at Nineveh, destroying many Zoroastrian temples and retrieving the True Cross. The Persians never again troubled the Empire, thanks to their conquest by the Islamic Arabs. The Muslims would become the new great threat. They besieged Constantinople twice, and there was continuous war at the edges of empire, until the border was established south of the Anatolian mountains and the conflict became one of diplomacy, money and occasional raids. Mosques now exist in Constantinople, at first for the benefit of prisoners and now for merchants.

The conflict with Islam led to two major developments. Firstly, the empire was divided into themes, military provinces with their own standing armies. Secondly, a huge theological controversy began between the Iconoclasts and Iconodulists. The emperors favored Iconoclasm, and the veneration of icons was suppressed. However, ultimately, the pro-icon Iconodulists triumphed under Empress Irene in the late 700s. In 800, the Byzantines began aggressive attempts to retake Greece from the Slavonic tribes, partially in order to find land routes west now that Arab pirates infested the seas. Since 680, however, the local situation had changed. A new Turkic people, the Bulgars, had created a successful Balkan state. Despite their conversion to Christianity thanks to the monks Cyril and Methodius in 864, the Byzantines and the Bulgarian Empire would fight for control of the Balkans throughout the 9th century. (In no small part because House Tremere supported the Bulgars.)

In the 10th century, the imperial military grew stronger with the capture of Antioch and Tarsus from the Muslims. By 1019, the conquest of Bulgaria was complete. Crete and Cyprus were retaken from pirates, and Greece was freed from Slavonic control, while the Empire held southern Italy up to the Papal States. They lost Sicily to Muslims in 902, but that was their only defeat. In 971, the Rus invaded Bulgaria and approached Constantinople. 12 charges failed to break the Rus, but the 13th charge, led personally by Emperor Ioannes I, broke them and sent them fleeing. The Macedonian Dynasty ruled from 867 to 1056, overseeing the military and cultural resurgence and introducing a form of peasant militia to support their kataphraktoi cavalry. Emperor Basil II the Bulgar-Slayer was their greatest military figure, ruling from 976 to 1025 and conqeuring Bulgaria. He oversaw the conversion of the Rus to Christianity, though he had to marry his sister Anna to Vladimir of Kiev to do it, in exchange for 6000 Rus mercenaries. (It was illegal to marry her out of the empire, but he did it anyway.) Basil's ruthlessness was terrible to behold, and perhaps why God allowed him to die heirless.

Let's see...moving on to the final Empresses of the Macedonian Dynasty, we get the arrival of the Seljuks. They were Muslims, and in 1071, they fought Emperor Romanos Diogenes at Manzikert, defeating and capturing the Emperor via the betrayal of the reserve commander, Andronikos Doukas, who sought vengeance on the Emperor for charming his way into the ruling Doukas family after almost being executed for treason. The Seljuk leader Alp Arslan released Romanos, however. A week later, Doukas captured and blinded the Emperor, who died of infection later, and the peace between Alp and Romanos was repudiated. The Seljuks were outraged, conquering their way westward and taking the Anatolian Plateau and its rich farmland from the empire.

In the ensuing power struggles, Alexius Komnenos came out with the throne, though surrounded by enemies. Italy and Sicily fell to Norman invasion, ending Byzantine power in Italy in the 1080s. The Sicilians would have conquered Greece were it not for rebellion at home, and they still took Macedonia and Thessaly before plague ended their advance. In 1091, the Pecheneg nomads arrived, and the Byzantines allied with the Cumans to fight them, defeating them utterly. From that time on, both Cuman and Pecheneg cavalry have been used in Byzantine armies. In the meantime, Pope Urban took the Emperor's cries for aid seriously, and in 1091, the First Crusade was begun. Emperor Alexius was not happy - he wanted mercenaries, not conquering warlords who would not accept his rule. Despite his best efforts, the Crusaders despoiled the countryside, clashing with Byzantine troops. When they arrived in Constantinople, Alexius refused them transport until they swore to restore his former territories to him, which the crusader lords refused until his siege of their camp forced their grudging acceptance.

In any case, only Raymond of Toulouse kept his promise, and many crusaders sacked Greek cities. Relations between East and West fell sharply, with the West blaming the failures of the First Crusade on Byzantine effeminacy, duplicity and treachery, believing the Byzantines had betrayed them. In the meantime, the rise of the Italian city-states as Alexius was busy fighting forced him to grant many trade concessions in 1111, and Greek merchants remain greatly disabled compared to the Italians. Despite all this, Alexius Komnenos' son Ioannes II succeeded him. Ioannes was deeply pious and very ugly and dark-skinned, so he was called Ioannes the Beautiful, or Ioannes the Moor. He revoked VEnetian merchant rights...until the Venetian fleet seized many of his islands, and he was forced to give them back. Skipping ahead to 1171, the next emperor, Manuel I Komnenos, went to war with Venice, and this time the Venetian fleet fell to plague, and peace was reached. Then, war with Sicily, and the Venetians, despite being nominal allies, were extremely contemptuous of the Empire. The plans to invade Sicily and Venice in response to their attacks fell through due to a Serbian rebellion, and a later plan was defeated by Papal forces.

Let's see...intrigue, coups and the rise of the cruel Andronikos I, the Tyrant. Under his rule, a mob slaughtered every Westerner they found, even women, children and the sick. More war with sicily in 1185, in which the Sicilian army sacks Thessaloniki and desecrates many Byzantine churches. Andronikos imprisons and executes many political foes, and a mob rebels against him. His soldiers refuse to fire on the mob and he is seized, starved, has an eye burnt out and is then laden in chains and sent out to the mob backwards on a donkey. They torture him to death, and his ghost still haunts the city. The palaces are pillaged by the mob. The uprising sweeps Isaac II Angelos into power, and the fury of the mob comes to Thessaloniki during peace negotiations, destroying the Sicilian army. The invaders flee and are massacred. The next set of Crusaders despoils the land again, and almost take Constantinople before Isaac gives them safe passage. In 1195, Isaac is overthrown by a coup and blinded by his brother Alexius III. Alexius manages, though it seems impossible, to be even worse at ruling. He sends tribute to the Holy Roman Empire and loses control of much of his own.

After decades of catastrophe, the Fourth Crusade comes through in 1202. They had been told to recover Jerusalem, but their true aim was Damietta, in Egypt, their main obstacle in the road to the Holy Land. The Crusaders make a deal with the Venetians for transport, but renege due to lack of funds. Eventually, after months of hunger and disease, a compromise is reached, and the Crusaders, under Venetian orders, take the rebellious city of Zara. Prince Alexius, son of the deposed Isaac II, approaches them seeking allies against Emperor Alexius III. He offers them money and support if they will take Constantinople and place him on the throne. Little fighting is expected, and the deal is taken. In 1203, the Crusaders besiege the city, receiving little joy at the display of Prince Alexius. After a month, the Emperor flees by night, and the Crusaders enter the city, proclaiming the prince Emperor Alexius IV. He rules alongside his blinded father.

The new rulers prove unpopular as they tax the people to pay off the Crusaders. They cannot keep the promises Alexius made at Zara, and in August, a gang of Crusaders attack a mosque outside the walls. A mob forms to defend it, and the Crusaders start a fire, which spreads to the entire city. It burns out of control for three days, destroying 440 acres of Constantinople. In 1220, this remains a field of ash. The Venetian Doge Dandolo realizes this situation is impossible and suggests the Crusaders just take the drat city. They daly, however, and in August 1204, the mob gathers in the Hagia Sophia and another Alexius, known as Murzuphlos, conducts another coup, murdering Isaac and Alexius IV. He is crowned Alexius V and immediately prepares to fight the Crusaders.

A new siege begins, and while the fighting is very fierce indeed, the battle ends when Alexius V runs off to exile. The people place Constantine Lascaris on the throne, but the city is indefensible and he flees, leaving it to the Crusaders. For three days, the city is brutally sacked and looted in a display of shocking violence, torching even holy artifacts and nunneries. The ghosts of those slain in the Sack still haunt the streets.

The Crusaders and Venetians finally finish up their deal, and a new Latin Emperor is appointed: Baldwin IX, Count of Flanders, now Emperor Baldwin I, while his rival Boniface of Montferrat is off to conquer his own kingdom in Thessaloniki. The Byzantine leaders flee to Arta, where they set up the Empire of Epiros, and another group heads to Nicaea, starting another Byzantine successor state. Civil war almost erupts between Boniface and Baldwin, but the Venetian Doge prevents it and Baldwin allows Boniface to take Thessaloniki, where he is welcomed by the local Greeks due to his collateral relation to the Byzantine emperors. Baldwin attempts to pacify the empire and nearly captures Nicaea, but his attempts to bring feudalism to Greece cause a rebellion supported by the Bulgarian Tsar Karolyan, who ambushes Baldwin at Adrianople and captures him. His fate is unknown, but he probably died in captivity, though rumor has it he has been seen in Flanders, or that House Tremere knows more than they let on about him. Still, the Theban Tribunal refuses to pursue that issue.

Baldwin is succeeded by his brother Henry in 1205, but the Latin Empire is now a thin strip of territory around Constantinople due to the Nicaeans and the Bulgarians. Henry marries Boniface's daughter Agnes, but is cut off from his ally by the Greek rebels and the Bulgarians until 1207. Agnes dies in 1207, as Henry seeks peace with the Bulgarians, and Henry marries Maria, Karolyan's daughter and step-daughter of the current Tsar Boril. She is believed to have poisoned Henry and did flee the court following Henry's death in 1216, though others blame Count Oberto of Thessaloniki. Maria's whereabouts are unknown, and dark rumor claims she was an evil witch of the Daughters of Erichtho. The crusaders elect Peter II of Courtenay to replace Henry. Peters sets off, rather unwillingly, in 1217, to be crowned by the Pope, but is seized by the ruler of Epiros, Theodore Komnenos Doukas and imprisoned. He probably dies, though no body or grave is found. His wife Yolanda of Flanders, Henry's sister, reaches the city in 1217 and rules as regent, reaching peace with Bulgaria and Nicaea, marrying her daughter Maria to Theodore Lascaris, the Nicene emperor.

When Yolanda dies suddenly in 1219, the throne is offered to her son Philip of Namur, who declines it. His brother Robert of Courtenay takes the title and will be crowned Emperor Robert when he arrives in 1221. As of right now, the Latin Empire is leaderless. The Empire of Nicaea has renewed hostilities after Yolanda's death, and prospects are not good.

Next time: The Order in Greece.

Mar 3, 2006

I came here to laugh at you.

ThisIsNoZaku posted:

Who's actually reading my stuff? I want to know if there's anything I should change about my writeup.

Some of the big lists could be split up or pared down to just the interesting parts, but otherwise, Hey, ninja wizards!

Nov 26, 2012
Was Justinian a demon/ghost in Mythic Europe, like Procopius thought?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Mimir posted:

Was Justinian a demon/ghost in Mythic Europe, like Procopius thought?

Sadly, this never gets mentioned. But hey, there's no reason it couldn't be the case...though Ars Magica tends to come down on the side of Justinian being a pretty okay guy who was just widely disliked in his own time.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal

All right. Hermetic history. It should be understood that the wizards of Greece have a long history - Greece is rich in vis and magical beings, and the East never suffered the loss of literary knowledge that the West did. The Greek wizards remained literate longer, and their language did not splinter as the Western Empire's did. They have a history of leagues, temporary groups of wizards formed to meet goals. They tended not to meet much, finding it helped them succeed if they worked individually and communicated by letter. Before the Order was founded, the wizard Prokopios attempted to unite the wizards of Greece, but lacking Hermetic theory and the Parma Magica, even his gentle Gift was not enough to unite the wizards. He did, however, come up with the typikon, based on the charters of Orthodox monasteries, which regulated how wizards acted and reached decisions. He claimed it was written by the ghost of Aristotle. The Typikon of Propokios became the charter of the pre-Hermetic leagues, thought it failed to unite them as a Panhellenic Congress. When the Order of Hermes came to Greece, the Typikon was used in the foundations of the Theban Tribunal's laws. The most notable league was the League of Iconophiles, who formed to protect the religious icons from the Byzantine emperors who would destroy them. Though they declined Trianoma's invitation, they would eventually become House Jerbiton.

The expansion of the Order into Byzantine territory had little real impact; it was present, largely as House Jerbiton, only in cosmopolitan areas such as Constantinople, Thessalonica and Adrianople, since the countryside was still ruled by fairies, gods, vampires and Infernalists, plus superstitious peasants. The magi preferred to be where books and learning were found, and House Jerbiton was happy to coexist with the Gifted and unGifted magicians of Greece, thanks to centuries of doing so and also not being very aggressive. Few other Houses bothered with the area, and the local traditions had no real desire to join the Order, as they distrusted Westerners, especially Latins.

However, in 775, House Tremere invaded Greece, killing wizards and seizing vis and magic items. None of those slain were of the Order, so it broke no Hermetic Oaths, but the response was swift. The wizards formed the Theban League to protect themselves, and House Jerbiton and House Bonisagus once more extended their invitations. Many joined the Order to gain protection from Tremere, and this, more than their military reprisals, ended the conflict. Tremere magi might slay outsiders, but not fellow Order magi. A century later, though, Tremere once more threatened Greece...and, indeed, the entire Order. The Theban magi intercepted Tremere's messages, revealing his plans to take over the Order and that his lieutenants would meet in the secret Bulgarian covenant Dorostolon. A group of Theban magi entered the covenant and broke the minds of Tremere's lieutenants. None officially claimed responsibility, but many believe that the Sundering, as it is known, was performed by undoing the bindings holding Typhon and forming a pact with the Titan, directing the creature at Dorostolon. Once Typhon dealt with the threat, it was re-imprisoned, and Tremere himself died shortly after.

The Theban Tribunal officially formed in 865, at the Sixth Grand Tribunal, naming itself for the Theban League that had formed in response to House Tremere. Its territory is from the Ionian to the Black Sea, extending from Bulgaria to Anatolia. The fact that it held the domus magna of House Tremere but was not named for them is a show of the distrust for Tremere at the time. However, the formation of the Bulgarian Empire and the gradual recovery of House Tremere from its self-imposed isolation and expansion convinced the ninth Grand Tribunal in 964 that the Theban Tribunal was too large and unwieldy, splitting off the Transylvanian Tribunal in the north. The Theban Tribunal's bounds have been constant ever since.

The Thebans stayed out of the Schism War, though a few Greek magi did go to fight against the druids. In 1014, as the war trailed off, the Byzantines invaded Bulgaria. House Tremere swears that Theban magi assisted the Emperor, and while it has not been proven, it is true that some magi, especially Jerbitons with the Gentle Gift, had close connections with the Imperial family and the rulers of the Byzantine Empire. House Tremere responded in 1185, supporting the Bulgarian rebellion with materials and advice. This led to some Greek magi declaring their support for the Byzantime emperor and forming the League of Advisors in Constantinople to take open part in the Byzantine court. They received no money from this and claimed to only offer advice, treading the line between the permitted role of advisor and the forbidden role of court wizard. With the loss of the Anatolian plateau to the Turks in 1071, Byzantine magi fled Asia Minor and have not since returned.

Many Theban magi, it should be noted, avoided the entire League of Advisors thing. Some didn't even pay attention until 1204, when Constinople fell. All three covenants based there were destroyed - Thermakopolis had only one survivor, who is now in self-imposed exile, Moero's Garden relocated to Nicaea and Xylinites closed its walls to outsiders. Houses Tremere and Jerbiton have both been blamed, and the League of Advisors disbanded with the destruction of Thermakopolis, which held many of its members. Though the Theban Tribunal did not convict the League of Advisors of breaking the Hermetic Oath, House Tremere has appealed to have the two survivors of the League tried at the Grand Tribunal in 1228. Should the appeal succeed, it could have great consequences for the autonomy of Tribunals in general and the Theban Tribunal in particular. Some of the Frankish magi who came with the Crusaders have already rebelled against the policies of the Theban Tribunal, and the Tribunal's gathering in 1221 will surely be an interesting one.

Theban magi have a tendency to form leagues, alliances of likeminded magi devoted to a goal. There are several active Leagues right now, but most lack the numbers to do much quickly or privately. Each will need aid or more members, and each has a theoretically altruistic goal designed to continue the prosperity and hegemony of the Order in Greece. Each, however, has a different idea of how to do it. A few example leagues are presented.

The League of Constantine hopes to return the Byzantine Empire to power with a legitimate Greek emperor and an Orthodox church. The League is made entirely of Jerbiton magi, though they'd take others. All of its members currently have apprentices nearing the age of graduation, and these apprentices are overall more martial and violent than their parentes. These apprentices are the hope of the league, which is currently based around the Nicaean covenant of Moero's Garden. More on them later.

The Children of Olympos are a small, eccentric band of magi who believe that the Tribunal would be best off as servants of the gods of old. They are led by the charismatic Lucian the Scholar of Merenita, and hold that supporting the Divine is folly, as is the Infernal, but a closer tie to the Faerie gods would be great, for the Faeries are intrinsically tied to the fates of man. The Greek gods, in particular, outlasted all others and so are worthy allies. More on these guys later, too.

The League of the Vigilant are a very recent League. Most magi, you see, are aware that Infernal forces were active in both sides of the recent conflict in Constantinople, and many feel the Order may also be infected. Hydatius of Ingasia and Proximios of Alexandria have come together to lead and fund this league, respectively, and it is still very small. They're just starting to recruit, hunting for magi not native to the Tribunal. Their goal is simple: investigate and hunt down the demons in the Theban Tribunal. Most are wary of them, for such hunts have often grown out of control, but others believe they are needed to prevent corruption. At least Hydatius and Proximios both have glowing reputations.

Last, the League Against Idolatry are those who oppose the pagan remnants of the Order, working actively to remove them. Their main focus is a Hermetic rite called the Ceremony of Propitiation, which they hold to be idolatrous. Currently, the league is largely of two covenants, Oikos tou Elous and Gigas, who occasionally receive support from Artoud of Xylinites. They despise the practice of taking pagan patrons and the maintenance of pagan altars and ritual vis sacrifice. They feel it goes beyond the veneration magical beings might merit and into worship. They are a highly controversial league, prone to angry outbursts, and they oppose ancient traditions of the Tribunal.

Next time: Theban Politics and Customs

Mors Rattus fucked around with this message at 01:35 on May 20, 2013

Apr 22, 2013

Pew Pew Pew!
Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade- Wushu

The ninja's magical powers are called wushu. Some are generic and widely available to learn, others are specialized techniques developed by the ninja clans and ninja can develop their own unique signature wushu.

Here's where we get the description of gaining wushu in character creation: You get five combined levels worth from your clan favored wushu (one level 3 and two level 1 techniques, or two level two and one level one, etc.) Ronin get 4 levels total, but can select any wushu.

Wushu are purchase individually, but can have prerequisites needed to acquire them. The highest level a character can learn is equal to their permanent chi.

More wushu are bought later with BP: 1 BP per level of the wushu for Favored and twice that for others. Because ronin don't have any Favored Wushu, all their wushu cost 2 BP per level. :allears:

Yin and Yang Wushu
Like chi, wushu are divided into yin and yang. Yin wushu involved growth, light, healing and creation. Yang wushu are ones of darkness, destruction and weakness.

Clan Favored Wushu
This section tells you to flavor your wushu based on your clan.

Wushu Activation
To use a technique, you pay Chi equal to the level and make an activation check. The difficulty starts at Simple (10) for level one and increases by 5 for each level beyond. Each wushu has a skill associated with it that you roll in combination with your permanent Chi Value of the same type. Activating a wushu costs 1 action, and level 4 and 5 wushu also cost 1 Stamina to activate.

You can get bonuses to wushu activation by :emo: yourself. Get +1 to the activation for each 1 Lethal damage you inflict to yourself and no cheating by trying to avoid taking the damage. Only properly ritualized bloodletting counts.

Clan Affinity
Get +2 to activate wushu that mesh with your clan gift and other people suffer a -2 penalty to try to replicate your clan gift.

Elemental Affinity
You get bonuses for activating wushu with the same element as your own elemental soul. There's a table, and every combination has a modifier- there's no straight up unmodified rolls.

Environments can modify activation checks too, a bonus to earth and a penalty to water on top of a mountain, for example.

Wushu are easier to destroy or negate when resisting elements that destroy their element.

Earth destroys Water, destroys Fire, destroys Metal, destroys Wood, destroys Earth.

Taking Time
For each extra action sacrificed, get a +2 bonus to the activation check but increase the Speed by 2 as well.

Resisting Wushu Effects
Ninja, having learned how to manipulate chi, can resist the effects of wushu by spending 1 Action and 1 Stamina. If you're targeted by a wushu, pay the price and roll of 1d20 + your chi rating and if you beat the activation check, you aren't affected.

Wushu can have either a finite duration (rounts, minutes, weeks, etc) or non-finite (Scene, battle).

Sacrificing Chi
You can sacrifice one point of permanent chi to enhance the effect of a wushu.

Now, another big ole list of crap (I'll split this into the General and Clan wushu in a second post):

Edit: I marked the stuff I thought was particularly cool with :ninja:.

General Wushu
Way of Beasts
All of these use the Beast Handling skill.
Eagle Eye (level 1, Yang)
See better and farther away.

Sonic Hearing (Level 1, Yin)
Increase the frequency range you can hear. Sacrifice chi and you can hear whispers within ½ mile.

Bloodhound (Level 1, Yang)
Improve your olfactory senses and detect scents up to ½ mile. Sacrifice chi to smell 1 mile away.

Night Eyes (Level 1, Yin)
Better night vision. Sacrifice chi to see in absolute darkness.

Calming Touch (Level 2, Yin)
Mellow out an animal. Sacrifice 1 chi to affect all animals within a radius or 2 so that the animal remains chill no matter what you do to it.

Favor (Level 2, Yin)
Get an animal to do a favor for you, or get a bonus on Beast Handling for a scene. Sacrifice 3 chi to make the effect permanent and reduce the activation check difficulty to Simple (10). (I think this means the skill bonus with the animal is permanent and the favor-binding effect is easier to use.)

Animal Stance (Level 3, Yang)
Select an animal with an associated fighting style and gain a bonus in whatever that style is “Strong” in. Sacrifice a chi to double the bonus or gain a bonus from an “unknown” style. (So a style you don't know I guess?)

Control Beast (Level 3, Yin)
Mind control an animal for one scene or battle. The owners of specially trained animals can resist. Sacrifice a chi to make it last 1 day or to make the resist roll more difficult.

Animal Warrior (Level 4, Yang)
Drive your animal berserk, giving them a bunch of combat bonuses, but they flip out and attack everything. Sacrifice 1 chi to limit the animal to attacking the targets you designate.

Beast Form (Level 5, Yang)
Turn into an animal for one scene. Sacrifice a chi to extend it to one day.

Way of Earth
Muddied Steps (Level 1, Yang – Earth)
Turn a 20 ft by 20 ft square of earth into clinging mud. Doing stuff like attacking or dodging while stuck in it requires a Balance check. Sacrifice 1 chi to double the size and make the balance check harder, or to make the mud super slippery so you have to roll whenever you do anything.

Stone Like Clay (Level 1, Yin – Earth)
You can mold hard stone like clay for one scene. Also gives a bonus when making sculpture. Sacrifice 1 chi and the stone's weight is halved when you pick it up.

Open the Earth (Level 2, Yin – Earth)
The earth opens itself at your command to dig holes in the ground or stone walls. Sacrifice a chi to double the dimensions.

Spitting Earth (Level 2, Yang – Earth)
You soften the earth and shoot it at your enemies. Sacrifice any amount of chi to attack that many extra people.

:ninja:Pillars of Stone (Level 3, Yang – Earth)
Big pillars of stone come out of the earth. Use it to lift yourself up into the air or launch enemies into the air. Sacrifice 1 chi to make them rise further up or throw targets farther.

Stone Skin (Level 3, Yin – Earth)
Cover yourself in armor made of stone and dirt to make yourself tougher. Sacrifice a point of chi to make yourself tougher-er.

Quick Sand (Level 4, Yin – Earth)
Like Muddied Steps, except the dirt becomes quick sand instead of mud. Anyone who gets stuck in it sinks down and ultimately suffocates to death. Sacrifice chi to affect a larger area.

Earth Form (Level 5, Yang – Earth)
Turn yourself into stone, gaining a bunch of temporary health, armor and extra damage, but a hefty speed penalty to all your actions. Sacrifice 2 chi to double all the bonuses AND eliminate the speed penalty.

Way of Fire
Bright Star (Level 1, Yang – Fire)
Cover yourself in a corona of light, providing illumination and impeding the aim of attackers. Sacrifice a chi to double the attack penalties and the distance you illuminate.

:ninja:Cauterize (Level 1, Yang – Fire)
Any time you suffer Bleeding for the rest of the battle, it immediately stops as the heat of your body instantly cauterizes the wound. This is bad rear end.

Spark (Level 1, Yang – Fire)
You make some sparks. Whatever.

Extinguish (Level 2, Yin – Fire)
You put a mundane fire out, or protect yourself from fire wushu. Sacrifice an amount of chi to completely negate a fire wushu.

Flame Arrows (Level 2, Yang – Fire)
You shoot arrows made of fire.

Fireproof (Level 2, Yin – Fire)
Make yourself and your stuff resistant to fire for a battle or scene. Sacrifice a chi to make it immunity to fire. So a level 2 power that is a vigorous gently caress you to anyone who fights with fire wushu. :shrug: at least this isn't D&D, so they can still just punch the bullshit out of you.

Fire Breather (Level 3, Yang – Fire)
Exhale a big blasty fireball.

Fire Mantle (Level 3, Yang – Fire)
Wreathe yourself in fire and gain wreathed-in-fire related bonuses.

:ninja:Rise from the Ashes (Level 4, Yang – fire)
If you have the remains of an object that was destroyed by burning, you can reform it out of the ashes. Also bad rear end. No bringing back dead things, though.

Fire Form (Level 5, Yang – Fire)
You are made of fire. Whenever you hit someone, make a roll to see if they catch on fire. Don't go indoors.

Way of Metal
Mold (Level 1, Yin – Metal)
Mold metal like clay.

Sharpen Blade (Level 1, Yin – Metal)
Make your weapon sharper, giving bonuses. Someone else using the weapon doesn't get the bonuses, however.

Melting Touch (Level 2, Yin – Metal)
Cause metal things to melt just by touching them.

The Metal Within (Level 2, Yin – Metal)
Stick metal things inside your body. Use the wushu again to get them out, or sacrifice a chi to do it without a wushu activation.

Cage (Level 3, Yang – Metal)
Create a cage of metal to try and trap someone inside.

Tough as Nails (Level 3, Yang – Metal)
Metal skin.

Hover Disk (Level 4, Yang – Metal)
Convert nearby metal into a disk you can ride around on.

Magnetic Propulsion (Level 4, Varies – Metal)
Can be used to create two effects: you can make yourself magnetically attractive, drawing metal things to you. Alternately, you can make yourself repellant (magnetically, as well as physically) which makes you harder to hit with metal weapons and lets you throw metal armor-wearing opponents away.

Metal Form (Level 5, Yin – Metal)
Another you-turn-into-the-subject-of-the-wushu capstone. You get to pick the kind of metal you look like though, so go hog-while with making yourself out of gold.

Way of Movement
Surface Running (Level 1, Yang)
Run up walls or along ceilings. Ends if you ever move less than half your movement.

Tiger's Leap (Level 1, Yang)
Jump twice as far.

Unmoving Stance (Level 1, Yin – Earth)
Root yourself to the ground so you can't be thrown, knocked down, etc.

Lightfoot (Level 2, Yin)
Make yourself super light, so you jump farther and can stand on things that normally can't support your weight.

Lightning Speed (Level 2, Yang – Fire)
Run around super fast, to the point of “seemingly vanishing at times.”

Float (Level 3, Yang – Water)
You know “specific hand signs” to stand still in mid air, because gravity will let you slide if you know the secret handshake!

:ninja:Lightning Fists (Level 3, Yang)
Run fast, punch faster. Let's you spend one action to make three attacks.

Intangibility (Level 4, Yin)
Vibrate your atoms so they can pass through solid matter.

Teleporation (Level 5, Yang)
You place a special mark in one or more places and you can teleport from one mark to another within one mile.

Way of Survival
Weather Tracking (Level 1, Yin – Water)
Learn what the weather will be like for the next 24 hours, or 1 week by sacrificing a point of chi.

Escape Technique (Level 1, Yin)
Get out of bondage free technique.

Foraging Technique (Level 1, Yang)
Helps you find food.

Danger Sense (Level 2, Yang)
You sense danger for a scene, getting an emotional feeling of possible threats and dangers.

Trackless Movement (Level 2, Yin – Earth)
Eliminates any signs of your movement, including sound.

Camouflage (Level 3, Yin – Wood)
As long as you try to blend in to the environment, you get a Stealth bonus and can still move.

Second Wind (Level 3, Yang)
Get some energy and toughness for one fight.

Summon Shelter (Level 4, Yang – Wood)
Summon a wooden cabin right out of the living earth to stay in.

Realm of Warning (Level 4, Yin)
Create a field, you sense anything that enters it.

:ninja:Resist the Elements (Level 5, Yin)
Become immune to the elements- wildfire? Tornados? Earthquakes? Nope. You also ignore all of the bonuses any of the elemental form wushu gives their users. So that guy who literally becomes fire? gently caress him. :smuggo:

Way of the Unseen
Here we get some real ninja powers. :allears:

The Unheard (Level 1, Yin)
You cancel all sound within 10 ft of yourself for a scene.

The Unnoticed (Level 1, Yin)
As long as you stand still, no one can notice you. It doesn't make you invisible, it explicitly says that people won't look at you. Sacrificing a point of chi makes you for-serious invisible and lets you move, slowly.

:siren:The Unscented (Level 1, Yin)
You can't be smelled, inflicting a -5 penalty to checks to track you by smell.

Wrap yourself in magical silence? You can't be heard, period. Make it so that people become incapable of even looking at you? You can't be seen, period. Completely erasing your smell so you don't leave a scent trail? -5 penalty. :colbert:

Chameleon (Level 2, Yang)
You blend into the environment. Get +6 to stealth, but can move your base movement speed. Ends if you attack or sprint.

Unarmed Portion (Level 2, Yin)
You can hide a small object on your person so that it can't be found. Period. :colbert: Sacrifice a chi to hide any number of objects or to be able to hide larger things.

:ninja:Easily Forgotten Method (Level 3, Yin)
Activate this wushu while having a conversation; shortly afterward, the other person forgets having seen the character or what they spoke about.

Reflection Defense (Level 3, Yang)
Create a reflection of yourself to blur your position, inflicting a big penalty on an attack against you.

:ninja:10,000 Masks (Level 4, Yin)
You can make yourself look generic, or change your face when you meet someone to look like whomever they most expect to see.

Elements Embrace (Level 4, Yin – Varies)
Pick an element. You can merge yourself with that element to hide yourself.

Invisibility (Level 5, Yin)
You cannot be seen, smelled or heard. You can't interact with anyone, however, or the effect is broken. Sacrificing chi lets you attack people and remain invisible, or make other characters invisible as well.

Way of the Warrior
Precise Eye (Level 1, Yin)
You make a super precise ranged attack. Accuracy and damage bonus, more likely to get a crit.

Sturdy Fist (Level 1, Yang)
Precise Eye for melee.

Fighter's Focus (Level 2, Yin)
Pick one guy and be better at whooping him.

Summon Weapon (Level 2, Yang)
Mark one of your weapons and activate this wushu to summon it into your hand from anywhere within your line of sight.

Cannon Punch (Level 3, Yang)
You learn a special punch where you release a burst of chi, doing more damage and also blasting the target off their feet.

Weapon Morph (Level 3, Yang – Wood or Metal)
Turn a wooden or metal object into a weapon of the same size.

Strength Boost (Level 4, Yang)
You get super strong.

Fighter's Trance (Level 5, Yin)
You attune yourself to sense the chi around you. Get +6 to ALL combat rolls and ignore any penalties from the environment. Sacrifice 1 chi and the bonus increases to +10 and you can't be blinded.

Way of Water
Liquid Breath (Level 1, Yang – Water)
Water breathing.

Wind at the Back (Level 1, Yang – Water)
Make the wind always blow behind you, so that you travel faster by boat.

Water Walking (Level 1, Yin – Water)
You can walk on water.

Roar of the Shore (Level 2, Yin – Water)
You fill the targets ears with the sound of breaking surf, distracting and deafening them.

The Jagged Edge (Level 2, Yang – Water)
Freeze some water into a spear or kunai. IT IS CRITICAL TO GAME BALANCE THAT ONLY THESE TWO WEAPONS ARE ALLOWED. (it doesn't say that) Breaks from dealing or blocking too much damage.

:ninja:Pull of the Deep (Level 3, Yin – Water)
You thicken the moisture in the air so that moving is like moving under water. Others take penalties to all their actions, and their actions take more speed to perform.

Life Water (Level 3, Yin – Water)
Use the water in the air to cushion and deflect attacks made against you.

The Ink Blurs (Level 4, Yin – Water)
You attack the targets senses, inflicting a penalty to them that slowly dissipates.

The Hidden Mist (Level 4, Yang – Water)
Spread a thick mist that's nearly impossible to see through- except by you. Sacrifice chi and you can create illusions within the mist.

Water Form (Level 5, Yin – Water)
You turn into water. Not like you are you, but made out of water, you turn into a puddle. You can sacrifice a point of chi to remain human shaped, however.

Way of Wood
Harvest (Level 1, Yang – Wood)
Induce a fruit-bearing plant to have it instantly bear enough fruit for one meal. Sacrificing a point of chi lets you force the plant to bear fruit it doesn't produce (Apples from an orange tree) or fruit from a plant that doesn't have fruit (apples from a cactus).

[i]Instant Growth (Level 1, Yang – Wood)
Make a plant grow instantly in the shape of your choosing.

:ninja:Weapon Craft (Level 2, Yang – Wood)
You reach into a tree, and pull out a wooden weapon of your choosing.

Tree Hopping (Level 2, Yang – Wood)
You jump farther if you're standing on wood. That's cool I guess. :sadsmith:

Wall of Wood (Level 4, Yang – Wood)
Create a wall made out of wood, up to 10 ft tall and wide.

Hiding Place (Level 3, Yang – Wood)
You meld yourself into a tree, entering a trance where you heal rapidly.

Immaculate Bridge (Level 4, Yang – Wood)
Create a wooden bridge, up to 300 ft long.

Maze of Trees (Level 4, Yin – Wood)
Transform an area up to ½ a mile into an arboreal maze that inflicts a -12 penalty to navigate within.

Wood Form (Level 5, Yang – Wood)
Turn yourself into wood, with bark skin and tentacles made of vines. Get resistance to damage, bonuses to Grappling because of the vines and able to automatically resist any kind of trip, push, throw, etc attempts because they can root themselves into the ground. Sacrificing a point of chi doubles all the bonuses and eliminates all the penalties, but this wushu doesn't have any penalties so :shrug:

And that's all the General Wushu! Next is all the clan specific things.

If I had to do this for something like the spells in the 3.5 edition PHB, I'd probably kill myself.

Or, you know, quit. One of those.


HitTheTargets posted:

Some of the big lists could be split up or pared down to just the interesting parts, but otherwise, Hey, ninja wizards!

Turns out, I ended up not taking your advice for now.

Edit Edit: Ugh, So many errors.

ThisIsNoZaku fucked around with this message at 06:49 on May 20, 2013

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Doesn't have quite the same kick as the core book's header, but we get what we get.

It's bestiary time!

It is definitely no secret that I am easily swayed by good monster collections. Hell, I often buy bestiary supplementals for roleplaying games I don't even play. I think I've actually told this story before, though, so I'll just head into the book. There are 100 total monsters in Weird War II's full-on bestiary, Horrors of Weird War II, so I've decided I'll be looking at then 20 at a time. I've also decided I won't be providing pictures of all of them, just ones that are either interesting, stupid, or if I feel like it.

Part 1: Acheri to Chill
Acheri (CR 1 Small Undead)
Found in rural mountain regions in India, the acheri is the ghost of a little girl who is capable of spreading mischief and misfortune alike. They can either sing a song of ill omen that can curse someone who failed their Will save into having a week of -2 penalties to pretty much any roll or cast a dark shadow that spreads either cholera, dysentery, malaria, or typhoid fever. While their innocent appearance forces potential attackers to make a DC 15 Will save or just not have the heart to do it, they can be driven off and warded against by red cloth.

Adaro (CR 2 Medium-size Monstrous Humanoid)
Evil fishmen found in the waters of Oceania. They happen to like the taste of human flesh, but they're also greedy bastards, so they'll often set up protection rackets in island villages to get what they want. If someone doesn't respect them or fights back, like soldiers are probably likely to do if they encounter them, the adaro can fight back with an arsenal pretty drat impressive for a creature of such a low Challenge Rating. Not only do they have sharp claws and a long serrated horn, they are also capable of going into a barbarian rage, teleporting, summon rain and stormy waves, summon sharps, or turning water droplets into poisonous flying fish missiles. :black101: The adaro may be overpowered for its CR, but it's overpowered in style.

Alraune (CR 7 Medium-size Undead)
Alraune is a specific individual, though the fact that her occult origin (impregnating a woman with semen taken from the dirt below a hanged man) is written down means there could theoretically be more than one. She is a temptress figure, said to be a flawlessly beautiful ivory-skinned raven-haired woman, and is definitely a deadly femme fatale. In addition to having spells as per a 6th level Wizard and a negative energy touch, Alraune has defenses in the form of fast healing, damage reduction, and an obscene +8 turn resistance. As if that wasn't enough, she also has a two-part gaze attack. With this gaze attack, she can either influence men and then bestow a curse on them or just screw subtlety and force a save-or-die effect.

American Super Soldier (CR 8 Medium-size Outsider)
Sort of a mix between a guardian angel and Captain America, the American super soldier is a GI who was brutally experimented on by SS occultists but managed to survive and escape, transcending his human nature to become a hero figure who appears to groups of Allied soldiers who are in dire straits and need a helping hand. The super soldier's ability to teleport anywhere in the world instantly, tactical skills, and firearms proficiency mark his role as an NPC entity who comes to help the players out of a jam if the GM feels like the story calls for him.

Animated Dead (CR 1 Medium-size Undead)
The animated dead is a freakish mix of clockwork parts melded into flesh and ionized fluids replacing blood, created by Nazi machinists who wanted to prove that they could do the whole zombie thing just as well as the occultists could. While not some amazing monster to write home about as far as power levels go, animated dead do have one trick zombies don't in the form of being able to expel electrical bursts around themselves to shock foes with 2d12 electricity damage, which is surprisingly potent for a monster meant to be sent up against first level characters.

Asphyxiation Zombie (CR 3 Medium-size Undead)
Most of the time, the Weird War II books are surprisingly level-headed and caring about the horrors of war - this entry is not one of those times. No, the asphyxiation zombies are the final result of the final solution, being undead raised by a special occult-juiced form of Zyklon-B used in specific gas chambers in some concentration camps. They can cause fear with their distorted and bloated appearances, their bites induce confusion, slashing or piercing weapons can sometimes cause them to rupture and leak nauseating gasses, and why the hell does this entry exist :stonk:

Aswang (CR 6 Medium-size Shapeshifter)
Ah yes, Dungeons and Dragons 3.0, back before 3.5 decided that Shapechanger was better as a subtype rather than its own full type. Aswang are vampiric creatures from the Phillipines that have a human shape, but can also take the form of a dog, horse, or pig. They sneak out at night to paralyze victims and the drain their blood, and can also spread a curse that causes anyone that fails a rather high Fortitude save to become an aswang come the next sunset. Thankfully, Filipino shamans can cure an aswang, transforming them back into a human with the proper rituals just as long as someone captures the creature alive to deliver it to the shaman.

Atomic Marine (CR 4 Medium-size Monstrous Humanoid)
Let it not be said that the Axis were the only people who did stupid poo poo in the Weird War II universe. These pleasant fellows are the creation of one Jack Garnets, an Illinois scientist who decided that asking the military to stuff soldiers into a room full of experimental radioactive super-compound was a good idea. It went about as well as you'd expect. The resulting "atomic marines" are merciless, emotionless killers who don't differentiate between Ally and Axis - if it's in a uniform, it's a target. They roam the jungles of southeast Asia, having escaped the GI handlers that were foolish enough to think they could control them, and kill any soldiers from either side that they find. In addition to having radiation-resistant firearms, atomic marines exude a field of damaging radiation or use their twisted hands as brutal claws. Another benefit of their nature is that they are both gooey and warm enough that they get damage reduction, as pretty much anything that hits them is going to come away melted.

Axis Apes
Technically three of the one hundred creatures in the book, but I've collected them into this one header because they're all tied together. For some reason, the Nazis and Japanese alike decided "hey, you know what would be great? Gorilla soldiers" and started work on several wacky experiments. The results are the three axis apes. The first type is the ape in uniform (CR 2 Large Animal), which is basically a hulking gorilla that has had its intelligence augmented enough to be used as menial labor of a cheap guard. The second type, the human with an ape brain (CR Medium-size Humanoid), is a POW that has been "devolved" into a clawed, fanged, ill-tempered dumb brute who is used for the same things the ape in uniform is. The last of the three is the ape with a human brain (CR 3 Large Humanoid), a cripplingly wounded Axis soldier who had their brain put into a gorilla's body so that they could continue to fight in an even stronger form in spite of their original body's disabling injuries.

Axis Stitch (CR 9 Large Construct)
What's worse than a flesh golem? A flesh golem with metal plates sewn onto it and spikes for hands. While they aren't healed by electricity like normal flesh golems - they're animated by Nazi blood magic instead of zappity zaps - they do have magic immunity, super-strength, and the other goods of a flesh golem combined with rending spike attacks and enhanced defensive capabilities thanks to their fancy steel suits.

Battle Spirit (CR 13 Huge Undead)
An uber-poltergeist created from numerous soldiers' ghosts, battle spirits wait underground until battles break around around them, at which point they burst out and lay waste like invisible tornadoes of doom. They have +4 turn resistance, energy drain, and can telekinetically throw around pretty much anything they feel like.

Black Annis (CR 6 Medium-size Monstrous Humanoid)
Black Annis is an evil hag that lives in England's Dane Hills. She's an evil creature that desires nothing more than power and the flesh of humans and livestock to feed her relentless hunger, and the fact that she keeps popping up after being slain or banished seems to indicate that there's either more than one "black annis" hag or that she's immortal. The text seems to suggest that the latter is definitely true (though the former may be as well), and that Black Annis was a pagan goddess before being magically bound and downsized to her haggish state, which is why Nazi blood mages have been trying to sneak into England and recharge her back to her former wicked glory. As she is, however, Black Annis isn't exactly a pushover. Her claws are vicious tools of rending, her wailing cry can strike fear into those who hear it, her spit is a corrosive acid, and she can either turn into a black cat or summon a cat swarm. What good a cat swarm would actually do is up to debate, but she can do it nonetheless.

Black Peter (CR 8 Medium-size Outsider)
A demon who was once in the business of guiding souls into the arms of Hell before he ended up being beaten and enslaved by good old St. Nick. It turns out that centuries of servitude to a jolly bearded saint does a toll on a demon's sanity, though, and now Black Peter has found his way out of bondage and is ready to cause some serious suffering. His powers are spell-like abilities related to deceit and illusions, has a pretty big bonus to most social skills, and has a guilt trip gaze attack that causes a -1 penalty to attack rolls for 1d3 rounds if it succeeds. If his social skills weren't enough, however, he can also just straight up choke you with the magical chains that surround him or send his two kludde hounds to attack you while he disappears into a nearby shadow.

Black Wood (CR ? Huge Fey)
Whoops, looks like someone forgot the Challenge Rating line on this monster. The black wood is an evil faerie creature that has been forced into the form of a twisted ambulatory tree. While they can exude a bitterly cold fog, their primary method of combat is pretty straightforward: use their sticky sap to trap a foe close, impale them with their sharp branch-arms, and then suck out their blood.

Blemmye (CR 1 Medium-size Humanoid)
These strange humanoids are found in Sudan and southern Egypt and can be easily identified by the fact that they have a face in their chest. They are cautious but skilled warriors, typically living a nomadic existence riding from cave to cave on camel-back and raiding human settlements under the cover of darkness to attain supplies. Germans have been pretending to be British colonials and forcibly manufacturing a conflict between the blemmyes and the British and Arab denizens of the region. In addition to the big boon that is being able to take character classes, blemmyes are crack shots that double the effective range of the effects of the ever popular Point Blank Shot feat.

Carrion Vulture (CR 1 Small Undead)
Rotting undead vultures that can induce fear and have a paralytic bite. They do what vultures do best and don't really have any motive beyond the desire to feed, though they are incidental players in the war because of the fact that blood mages have figured out that carrion vultures can predict where a battle will take place and watch them accordingly. They also hate reptiles for some reason and will attack them on sight.

Catafalte (CR 5 Large Monstrous Humanoid)
Catafaltes are that old wive's tale about cats stealing your breath taken to the extreme conclusion. They are lion-sized anthropomorphic cats that believe stealing human essence can bring forth their evolutionary potential and make them more human. In truth, the breath-stealing is a Constitution damage attack that grants the catafalte a permanent +1 to their Contsitution score every time it successfully kills someone by taking their breath away.

Chill (CR 1 Medium-size Aberration)
These strange icy wisp-blobs float around at night and suck heat from people. Interestingly enough, unlike many monsters that have A Constitution damaging attack, the chill's heat drain isn't meant to kill as it floats away satisfied with its meal as soon as the target falls asleep from having 0 Constitution. Fear not, however, as the book specifically suggests that the War Master use the chill against people who need to stay awake such as sentries and guards. :v:

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal

The Theban Tribunal's polity runs on a twofold system. First, the citizens of the Tribunal hold all executive power, and second, the Council of Magistrates hold all administrative power. In Thebes, a man accused of violating the Code does not gather evidence in his own defense, nor does the accuser gather evidence against him. The magistrates gather all evidence. The citizens then judge whether the accused is innocent or guilty, as in most Tribunals, but punishment is decided by the magistrates, rather than Quaesitores. House Guernicus remain the top legal scholars, but they have little to do with executing the law. This is deliberate - the Thebans prefer rulings that anyone can understand, not just lawyers, and loopholes or technicalities see little use in the Theban Tribunal.

The Tribunal recognizes two kinds of magi: politai and metoikoi. A polites is a citizen, a member of the Order of Hermes who, generally, graduated from apprenticeship in the Theban Tribunal, and who remains in good standing there by maintaining their civic duty. A metoikos is any other Hermetic magus who is in Thebes but is not a citizen of the Tribunal. They're either guests or politai who lost their rights due to lack of civic duty. A metoikos may become polites via decree of citizenship by the Tribunal. The caste exists because the Thebans do not want those who do not contribute to benefit much from their polity. They don't like parasites.

There are sixteen archai, magiestrates - four from each of the four major divisions of the Tribunal, which are entirely geographical. Each arche is chosen at the seven-year Tribunal gatherings by lottery. They elect one of their own as archon, the leader of the council. They are also served by a polemarch, who enforces the law, and a logothete, who oversees the bureaucracy. No citizen may serve two consecutive terms as arche, but other than that there are no restrictions. They largely handle disputes and ceremonial matters. It is not a privilege but a duty, as they have no real expanded rights, merely more responsibility. They do not have the right to vote at Tribunal while serving as archai, and it is the duty of the archon to report on any wrongdoing they may commit. The current archon, until the 1221 Tribunal, is Aiakia of Hedyosmos.

The polemarch is the one that ensures the Tribunal's decisions are carried out, the leader of any Wizard's Marches the Tribunal declares and so on. The archai elect one magus from the entire Tribunal to serve as polemarch, and the polemarch can be but does not need to be an arche. The polemarch is given access to special enchanted items to help in their role, essentially magical handcuffs. There is no limit to the number of times someone can be polemarch, and often the same magus is chosen again and again, though they can decline the job. The current polemarch is Maria Laskarina of Polyaigos, who has served two terms so far.

The logothete is the chief Redcap of the Tribunal, who records all business and oversees all bureaucracy, as well as being the treasurer. Until 1186, the logothete was elected every seven years by the Redcaps of the Theban Tribunal, but now the position is held for life, in order to prevent strain on the bureaucracy. They are elected as normal whenever the old logothete dies, resigns, suffers Final Twilight or fails a vote of no confidence among the Redcaps. The logothete maintains records of tokens and shards, a very important job, and also performs all the normal services that the head of House Mercere would do in a Tribunal. The current logothete, Leontius of Alexandria, has stated that he will be stepping down as of 1221, and there is much speculation on who will replace him.

Tokens and shards are unique to the Theban Tribunal. Tokens are earned by service to the Tribunal; being arche or polemarch, gathering vis for the Tribunal, winning legal cases, making longevity rituals at the request of the logothete, delivering Gifted children to the Tribunal or raising apprentices all earn tokens. Shards are demerits, earned by threatening the unity of the Tribunal; being found guilty of crimes, losing court cases, neglect of arche duties, abuse of apprentices or refusal to surrender Gifted children to the Tribunal all earn shards. A magus with a token can approach a magus with a shard, offering neutralization of the shard in exchange for a service taking no more than a single season and costing the shard-bearing magus only time. If the shard-bearer agrees, a Redcap witnesses the deal and takes both the token and the shard, nulling both out. Shards may also be removed by decree of contrition at the Tribunal. A magus may not neutralize their own shards, nor those of their own covenant.

The official language of magic in the Theban Tribunal is Classical Greek, and they have developed a way to make that work with Hermetic theory as well as Latin. The two languages are both used, which annoys several magi, who do not like needing to learn both to deal with books and study. The Tribunal as a whole owns 50 pawns of vis per year from specified sources, which normal magi may not own or access save to harvest it for the Tribunal. Such vis is used as needed for the Tribunal's purposes or the Ceremony of Propitiation. All covenants in the Tribunal have a supernatural patron, a magical being (usually) or sometimes a saint, fairie or ghost which makes a pact with the covenant to protect it and be protected. All covenants are required to have a patron and must also state their intended purpose when formed and have a suitable charter.

The Ceremony of Propitiation is performed at each Tribunal gathering, originating in ancient Greek cult practices. Altars are erected to each patron, and large amounts of vis are sacrificed to them in a grand ritual celebrating the patrons. The ceremony is not discussed often with outsiders, and most outsiders see it as a horrible waste of vis and disturbingly pagan. The League Against Idolatry boycotts the event and wishes it to be banned. The vis is not, in fact, wasted - rather, it is consumed by the patrons, empowering them and improving their abilities. Still, the League Against Idolatry says, it goes beyond veneration and respect and into outright worship.

All Gifted children are, by tradition, gathered at Tribunal meetings. Any Bonisagus magus or magus with at least one token may select from the children as potential apprentices, offering them tokens in exchange. (Of course, Bonisagus magi get first pick, as the law requires.) All apprentices are interrogated by the Tribunal at each meeting, to ensure they're not mistreated.

Next time: Byzantine customs.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008

The storm has a name... - Let's Read TORG

Part 6: Storm Knighting 101

Last time we talked about axioms and world laws, which are the two main defining characteristics of cosms. This time, we're going to talk about what happens when the axioms of an invading reality clash with the axioms of the invaded one.

The most obvious effect is the reality storm that is created by the friction between the two realities. When two realities clash, the area is buffeted by terrible storm full winds raging at hundreds of miles an hour, and lightning strong enough to shatter a mountain. The storms are short-lived, only lasting until the invading reality is gone.

This is why stelae barriers are so important. They mitigate the storms and prevent them from touching the invading reality. Unfortunately, the stelae can't negate the storms, so the storm ends up thrashing around the boundary between the two realities. What's more, because the storms aren't driving the other reality away, they don't stop.

Meanwhile, inside the stelae boundary, people have to worry about transformation.

According to the Everlaw of One, a person can only be subject to the axioms of one reality at a time. When in an area of conflicting realities, Ords will lose their natural possibility energy and (eventually) transform into inhabitants of the realm they're in.

Possibility-rated characters can resist being transformed, though. They subconsciously create a connection to their home reality by spending a small amount of their own possibility energy. This isn't spent out of their pool; they can do this as long as they have at least one possibility point. These characters can continue operating under their own axioms and world laws, no matter where they are.

Sort of.

See, as long as you're operating under the axiom levels of the reality you're in, you're fine. But when you use a skill or tool that's above the axioms of the reality you're in, that creates what's called a contradiction. At least, one kind of contradiction.

There are, in fact, four types of contradictions.

First, there's a zero case contradiction. This is what happens when you use a tool from another reality that is still under the axioms of the reality you're in. This is such a small contradiction that the Everlaw of One isn't triggered. So if you took a car that originated in the Nile Empire (tech axiom 21) and brought it to the Cyberpapacy (tech axiom 26), it would still work and would not create a contradiction even though the car's not native to the Cyberpapacy.

Then there's a one-case contradiction, which is what you get when the axiom of the tool or skill is higher than either the land or the character using it, but not both. In this case, you're fine unless you roll a 1, in which case you disconnect from your home reality. So if an edinos from the Living Land (tech axiom 7) is in Core Earth (tech axiom 23) and uses a rifle, that's a one-case contradiction because only the character's axioms are too low.

A four-case contradiction is what you get when the axiom of the tool is higher than both the the character and the land you're in. This is what happens when someone from Aysle is in the Nile Empire and tries to use a cyberdeck. In this case, you'll disconnect on a roll of 1-4.

Finally, there's a long range contradiction, which is what happens when you try to use something that would create a contradiction when it leaves your hand; throwing a grenade in the Living Land type of things. After all, you carry your axioms with you, but when you're not touching the object anymore it's not subject to your axioms anymore. To keep that grenade working, you need to roll your reality skill. If you roll under the item's effect value, then that difference is treated as a stun-only attack. Oh, and on top of that this stacks with one- or four-case contradictions so you can still disconnect on a 1 or 1-4.

So what does disconnecting from your home reality mean?

Well, first off, you can't earn possibilities while you're disconnected. Not only that, but you can't roll to use any item or ability that isn't supported by the local axioms. You're effectively blocked from using things from your native reality as the Everlaw of One tries to keep the two realities from mixing.

To reconnect and get your possibilities and abilities back, you need to roll your reality skill. The target number is based on, you guessed it, another table! You have to cross-reference your home reality with the reality you're in, and that determines the target number you need to hit. Basically, the further the difference between the two realities the higher the difficulty. If you're from Core Earth and are in Nippon Tech, you only need an 8 to reconnect, but someone from the Cyberpapacy who disconnects in the Living Land would need a 21.

(Interestingly, the table isn't symmetrical. Someone from the Living Land who disconnects in the Cyberpapacy only needs a 12.)


Example: The Edeinos is trying to reestablish the link that was broken while he was experimenting with the telephone. The difficulty number is 16. If his reality total is 16 or more, then the Edeinos has regained his ability to create contradiction. If it is less, he now lives within the axioms of Core Earth. He can now use telephones without contradiction, but he no longer has access to many of the miracles which are the heritage of the Living Land.

Note that you can keep trying to reconnect. It's not a save-or-die thing, but it is cutting you off from replenishing possibilities, which is a problem that can lead to transformation.

When an Ord is in a reality not his own, or when a possibility-rated person runs out of possibilities, then the Everlaw of One takes hold and transforms that person mentally and (if need be) physically into an inhabitant of the new reality. When you transform, you lose all your possibility energy, and will now conform to his new reality. While he won't lose access to old memories, they'll seem dreamlike, and other memories will start to take their place.


Example: Eric Wold wakes up in Stapleford to discover he is no longer human. He remembers being human, he remembers the concepts "television" and "automobile," and can even correctly identify them. He no longer has any idea how to work them, and is no longer capable of working them. If he should somehow become recharged with possibility energy he may be able to once again work devices which were a common part of his life.

If Eric crossed back into Core Earth England, he would be unable to operate a car even there. In addition, any potent magic he learned in Aysle would be useless in Core Earth, for he no longer has the possibility energy necessary to bend the reality of Core Earth any more than that of Aysle.

Objects can transform as well. In this case, they'll generally transform into the nearest local equivalent, whatever that might be. A rifle in Asyle would become a crossbow, a car would become a cart, and a tank might turn into a small one-man fortress.

It should be pointed out that not everyone or everything in an invaded area will transform. Locations or items that have a strong tie to their home reality will become hardpoints, keeping their original axioms and rules. There are Core Earth cities that have so many hardpoints the cities still operate under Core Earth axioms. London and New York are the two biggest examples.

As for people, sometimes when a person is faces with a threat from another reality and is forced to make a strong moral choice, that person will unknowingly invoke the Everlaw of Two, and gain a surge of possibility energy from their home cosm. They gain the reality skill and are able to carry their original reality with them. These people tend to either become agents for the various High Lords, or become Storm Knights and try to fight the High Lord's forces.

Now, after all that, you're probably asking, "So what do Storm Knights actually do? I get they're trying to get the invaders off Core Earth, but how do they do that? Why not just destroy all these stelae that are keeping Core Earth from destroying the realms and bridges, and just let everyone return to normal?"'s not that simple.

Remember, when someone transforms, they lose all their possibility energy. That's how they survive the transformation process. What's more, they're not getting possibilities from their new reality because the Darkness Device is interfering with the cycle.

So now these people no longer have possibilities. If the stelae barrier around them were removed, the home reality would sweep in and the Everlaw of One would try to change everyone back.

Except these people don't have the possibility energy to spend to survive the second transformation. The transformation would be fueled by their life energy, and every single Ord in the zone would instantly combust. And remember, you need at least 25,000 people in a zone to power the stelae. Destroy the barrier, and all those people are dead.

Which begs the question: how do you fight back against the invasion without killing thousands upon thousands of innocent people?

You do it by giving possibilities back to the people.

Technically, this could be done with a Darkness Device, but the High Lords would never do that. After all, the transformed people in the realm are the ultimate hostages and providing them with energy.

Heroes don't have Darkness Devices. Instead, they have hope.


Stories, myths and legends are ways of framing events from a particular point of view, a point of view with its own beliefs and visions of reality. Certain stories can even serve as a spark for the Everlaw of Two, a slender thread of idea which the Law strengthens to reconnect a person with her former reality. Once reconnected by this tenuous thread, and given a tiny bit of energy by the Storm Knights to initiate the living/unliving link, the person is slowly refilled with possibility energy. The process may take a few days, or a few weeks.

Once a transformed being has been refilled, she may retell the same story to others, eventually reconnecting them and refilling them with possibility energy as well. This process grows and grows as more and more people hear the tale and reconnect. Soon, all will be ready for the new transformation.
Not just any tale will do the job, though. There's a single card in the Fortune Deck called "Glory", which can only be played if you generate a total of 60 or more during an important event. When you play this card, you "mark the magnitude of a deed, and fixes it in time and space". This deed can become a focus for the Everlaw of Two when the players (not the characters, the players) recount the story.

One of the players is appointed the storyteller, and his character must spend a possibility point to "seed" the story. The storyteller then makes a persuasion roll. If you played the card, spend the possibility, and make the skill roll, then the story will begin to spread through the stelae zone. At this point, you can uproot a stelae and some people won't die! The longer you wait for the tale to spread, the more people will regain possibilities and the fewer people will be destroyed when the reality storm happens.

Oh, and if you fail the persuasion roll, then you wasted the Glory card. If you want to spread another story, then you need to draw another Glory card, and play it when you generate a total of 60 on an important roll.

But let's say you succeeded and spread your tale. You still need to uproot and destroy the stelae. Which, again, is not easy.

First off, you need to find the stelae. Each cosm's stelae looks different, and High Lords like to use mundane means to hide them. Stelae of the Nile Empire look like Anubis-headed obelisks, but Dr. Mobius puts mundane Anubis-headed obelisks everywhere. In Nippon Tech, stelae take the form of operational ATM machines in the cities and phone transfer boxes in the rural areas.

Even when you find the actual stelae and begin to destroy it, there's still a lot of problems you'll have to deal with. The stelae boundaries tied to this stelae will begin to weaken, causing strong reality storms to start raging in the area. Not only that, but the Darkness Device itself will know what's happening, and will communicate with its servants to go and defend the stelae. That's not counting the forces that are probably already there defending it.

So, just for reference, here's what you have to do to reclaim a zone from a realm:
• Generate a total of 60 on an important roll against the forces of the reality you're trying to drive out.
• Play a Glory card.
• Have one of the players tell the story of what happened.
• Spend a Possibility Point.
• Succeed at a persuasion roll against the highest Mind score of the NPCs listening.
• Wait for the story to spread to minimize the destruction.
• Find the stelae.
• Fight through the people guarding the stelae.
• Start to uproot and destroy the stelae (which, by the way, requires more rolls to see if the story took).
• Survive the high-intensity reality storm.
• Fight off incoming forces of the High Lord.


On the plus side, Storm Knights have useful weapons in their fight: eternity shards.


The legends speak of Apeiros, a being of immense and unknowable power, creator of cosms, who exists outside each and every cosm. Theologians in some cosms believe Apeiros to be the source of all Possibilities, while others believe Apeiros to merely be the source of the first Possibilities.

In either case, the Everlaw of Three states that a third part is added to each cosm, aside from the unliving and the living: a part created directly by Apeiros. This part is rich with the energy of Possibilities, and works to protect and empower the living and unliving on each world. The legends speak most reverently of these manifestations of Apeiros, some of which are physical and durable, named in legend: Excalibur, Atlantis, the Holy Grail, the Lost Ark of the Covenant, the Heart of Coyote. The legends speak of "an incarnation of Possibilities" when describing these manifestations of Apeiros.

(This is the first and only time they refer to the Everlaw of Three, by the way.)

Eternity shards are powerful artifacts that exist in every reality, and have two main uses.

First, they act as possibility energy storage. Storm Knights can tap into the reserves of an eternity shard and draw some of these points to spend in lieu of his own.

The other use is granting Storm Knights access to special group powers related to the shard. Group powers need two or more possibility-rated characters to pull off, and require everyone involved to be attuned to the shard. Attunement requires a total of 10 possibilities to be spent between everyone who wants to access the shard. And remember, possibilities aren't that easy to come by. 10 is about half a module's work. On the plus side, you don't have to pay it all at once. Then everyone has to pay more possibilities to unlock the individual powers. Those tend to cost 15-20 points each, so get saving!

Anyway, to use a group power one person has to spend possibilities to invoke it and everyone else supports his skill roll. That part, at least, is easy.

Eternity shard powers are basically all useful against invading realities. Some of the powers include Create Hardpoint, Life Thread (keep a dying person alive for a long time), Send (which can propell someone's mind through time and space into a new body), and Stelae Sense (which allows you to definately identify a stelae).

These powers are useful, but tend to be much more expensive than they need to be. Life Thread, for instance, costs 15 possibilities to unlock and another 4 to use. Not counting the 10 points needed to bond to the shard in the first place, that's 19 possibilities to use this power. And what does it do? It prevents a mortally wounded character from dying for a number of days equal to the outcome of the roll. Only beat the target number by 1? Then you've spent 19 XP/Fate points to keep him alive for a day.

Maybe it's just me, but the game tends to feel a little stacked against the players.

Before we close out here, I want to take a minute to talk about the way this stuff is presented. This post and the last one covered two chapters, and once again I skipped a ton of stuff. Mostly about the mechanics of hardpoints and reality storms. There's a ton of small minutae about storms and the stuff I am talking about is complex enough as-is.

Not only that, but things are presented in a terrible order. The last chapters starts with Everlaws, then World Laws, then Axioms, bending and changing axioms, then world laws again, reality storms, hardpoints, talismans (portable hardpoints), contradicitions, relinking, transformation and trancendence, reality bubbles, then finally axioms again.

No part of this game is well presented or set up in any kind of logical order. There will be many, many more examples of this later on when we get to the Cosm books, but for now just remember that as confusing the stuff I'm describing is, it's ten times worse in the book.

And I haven't even touched on how bad the in-game fiction is. That's probably going to be a post unto itself.

We are almost done with the main book, by the way. There's three more chapters to cover, and we'll take care of two of them...

NEXT TIME: Magic, miracles, and :psyboom:

Apr 22, 2013

Pew Pew Pew!

These parts are always my favorites.

Jun 4, 2012

There's only one thing in the mountains that leaves a track like this. The creature of legend that roams the Timberline. My people named him Sasquatch. You call him... Bigfoot.
You can kind of tell Shane Hensley worked for West End at one point; the whole "Spread the story of your success to give hope back to the people" thing showed up in Deadlands too, (though with somewhat less cumbersome mechanics, all told, and not as dire a consequence for blowing it.)

(You can also tell he worked for them because he basically ripped ideas from the book he wrote for Bloodshadows, filed off the serial numbers, and ported them into Deadlands, but.)

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal

Byzantine social structure is, traditionally, not feudal. It is top-down, of course. The Emperor, or basileus Rhomaion, was originally at the top of the system. Below him were the dynatoi, "powerful ones", essentially a collection of distinguished families. Honors and titles were handed out liberally but tended not to be inherited, and the dynatoi were constantly struggling to maintain position at court, since new honors would change up the webs. The fragments of the dynatoi that survive now take power from their role in imperial service, which is of three branches - the court, the military and the civil authority. The court is largely made of the Emperor's family, a few officials and the senate. Most of the important or advisory positions are held by eunuchs. The senate is a largely ceremonial body made of dynatoi and senior clergy. The military is an elite imperial guard and a series of provincial field armies led by generals, or strategoi. The civil bureaucracy is made of skilled, literate people responsible for administration, records and legal work, largely in the capital, and supported by taxes from the provinces.

The Latin lords, on the other hand, have tried to bolt a feudal framework onto the dynatoi, setting up a standard Western European system of baronies and dukedoms. The imperial court under the Latins is mostly made of the Latin Emperor, some Venetians and the Frankish barons. The bureaucracy remains largely unchanged, and very little has changed for the middle and lower classes, as well - the dynatoi are just rather upset about the feudalism being forced on them. The middle class, or mesoi, are mostly farmers who live in towns and own nearby land. Craftsmen are also mesoi, but are largely in the provincial towns. Below them are the lower classes, the aporoi, who make a subsistence living in rural areas, leasing small farms or orchards. The urban poor largely rely on official, religious or private charity to survive.

Slavery, douleia, was once an important feature of Byzantine society, and slaves remain a fixture of the empire, though uncommon now, largely thanks to the efforts of the Eastern Church. Most slaves are born to slave parents or are foreigners bought from merchants and regulated by law. Prisoners of war were once also enslaved, but that is very rare now. Well-treated slaves in a large household are generally better off than the urban poor - they've got limited property rights, the right to Church sacraments, can marry and may gain their freedom, generally when their owner dies. On the other hand, they are still property and the owner may enforce good behavior with the threat of death. The Church, especially the Western Church, frowns on but does not forbid slavery, and stresses that owners must treat slaves well.

Eunuchs are a unique and major fixture of Byzantine society. Many court positions can only be held by eunuchs, and the most important eunuchs are known as archieunuchs, some of whom have rivalled the Emperor in power. General Narses under Justinian was a eunuch, as was the Patriarch Saint Ignatius. Eunuchs often become monks, though some monasteries forbid them for fear of tempting others. The term 'eunuch' refers to all men who are not sexually active. There is a distinction between the castrati, who have been physically castrated and are forbidden to marry, while the spadones, who are impotent or asexual but not castrated, can marry. In earlier times, only slaves were made eunuchs, but since the 700s, it has become acceptable to willingly be castrated. Many lesser sons of noble families will do so in order to pursue careers in the imperial service or the Church.

Women have, traditionally, not held a high place in Byzantine society. It is a very patriarchal society. However, in rural areas and in the lower classes, women have always worked alongside men, and the Church does provide education and opportunities for women. Women can own property and inherit. Some women have even ruled the entire Empire before. And in the last century, things have started to change for women. Women have been entering businesses or becoming doctors, scholars or apothecaries...even if woman doctors are usually expected only to treat women. In the cloth industry in particular, women are very powerful, though women are still expected to wear veils and obey their husbands. Still, they are a rising voice in the intellectual scene, and the pragmatism brought on by the Empire's decline has opened many doors for them.

Okay, now then, let's talk the Orthodox Church. It is a number of autocephalous churches - you have the Bulgarian Church, the Russian Church, the Greek Church and so on. The patriarch is the senior figure in all Orthodox Churches. The Patriarch of Constantinople is the first bishop of the Orthodox Church, but he has no authority over the patriarchs of other autocephalous Churches, most notably the Bulgarian Church and the Serbian Church, who maintain independence. He is the First Among Equals among the Church patriarchs, and holds the official title of Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch. He alone has the right to convene the Oecumenical Councils and to deal with disputes between bishops. He heads the Greek Orthodox community. The Patriarch is often forced to abdicate by the Emperor, who will 'nominate' a more suitable successor. However, unless abdication happens, the title is for life.

The Patriarch is currently in Nicaea, Manuel I Charitopoulos, and he has a close relationship with the Emperor of Nicaea, Theodore Lascaris. His authority is accepted in Trebizond, Epiros and other Greek-controlled areas, and by the Orthodox of most Latin states. However, there is also the second Patriarch, the Patriarch-in-Exile of Antioch, Dorotheus, who was forced out by the creation of the Latin Patriarch of Antioch in 1095, when the crusaders took the city. The Bulgarian Patriarch now resides in lands the Bulgarians seized from Epiros, as well. After the fall of Constantinople, the Latins appointed a Patriarch, in theory bringing the Orthodox Church into submission to Rome. Some Orthodox clergy have accepted this, but others still look to the Patriarch in Nicaea. The agreement between Venice and the crusaders gives the Venetians right to name the Latin Patriarch, and the first was Thomas Morasini, whom Pope Innocent III grudgingly accepted. He died in 1211, and his successor Gervase was appointed in 1215. Gervase died in 1219, so the role is vacant again, and the Pope has yet to express a preference for a replacement. While the Latin rites have replaced the Orthodox rites in some churches, by and large the locals have remained loyal to the Orthodox Church and actively oppose union with Rome.

The Orthodox recognize two forms of clergy: black and white. White clergy are the priests, and they are expected to marry, unlike Latin priests. The black clergy are the monks, who are celibate. Only black clergy may become bishops, so celibacy is an advantage for the ambitious. Eunuchs may, in theory, hold either position, but as eunuchs are often seen as lascivious and effeminate, they are often excluded from monasteries. All priests and monks must be male, 35 or older, educated and able to recite the entire psalter by heart. Clergy answer to a bishop, who answers to the metropolitan, a senior bishop, and also to the patriarch.

One major feature of Orthodox religion is the icon. They are of two types: eikons, made by pious craftsmen, and acheiropoieta, which spontaneously appear in very strong auras or are given by angels. An icon is a two-dimensional representation of a religious figure, usually a saint or the Virgin Mary, or Jesus himself. The Orthodox tradition prefers not to show Christ on the cross, but rather a Christ triumphant on a throne.

Next time: Superstition, folklore and Greece.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008

unseenlibrarian posted:

You can kind of tell Shane Hensley worked for West End at one point; the whole "Spread the story of your success to give hope back to the people" thing showed up in Deadlands too, (though with somewhat less cumbersome mechanics, all told, and not as dire a consequence for blowing it.)

(You can also tell he worked for them because he basically ripped ideas from the book he wrote for Bloodshadows, filed off the serial numbers, and ported them into Deadlands, but.)

Actually, Shane doesn't appear in the Torg credits. I was going to mention the similarities but I forgot. What's more interesting is that Deadlands came out two years after Torg ended.

Also, I'm not going to cover spell creation until I get to the Asyle book. Trust me, the core magic rules are :psyboom: enough.

Sep 12, 2007

He push a man

What is fear but a realization of greatness?

Onto Autumn Court, one of the more loved groups of C:tL. They go for the Occult-monkey "knows too much, don't you wish you were them" pastiche that White Wolf loves so much, and then adds a big dash of just-this-side-of-twee Tim Burton1 on top. Librarians, Mystics, and damned Wizards go here to research into the depths of the Wyrd. Founded by Clay Ariel through mystic and mysterious means (spooky!), Autumn exists to learn more about Fae magick and turn it against their captors. Without the court of Magic, too many changelings would simply forget that there is a vast mythical land just beyond sight, and waiting to grab them.

Is every Autumn courtier a sorcerer? Probably, as every changeling has some magic. But really, every Autumn courtier is in some way a Wyrd naturalist- attempting to take control of their own life by finding out every nook and cranny of the world they are a part of. Autumn courtiers that fail to take a rationalist stance to their life are eliminated- they are either too crazy or simply incapable of appreciating what the emotion of fear means to them.

This becomes part of the Autumn rituals: the Fallen Fair, a clearinghouse of Wyrd items that acts in contrast to the Goblin Market, where the courtiers put on the mask of being hobgoblins; the "hunt", where autumn courtiers put on the mask of being the Wild Hunt; the scientific affectations, where the changelings pretend to be skeptically-inclined humans and journalists. In each part, the Autumn court is trying to figure out what face is best to put on to get what they want2

Their imagery is harvest-like reds to yellows and grays and browns. Dying and falling objects, scavenger animals, and Victorian naturalist accoutrements- book, magnifying glass, candles. Their mantle is cliche "magical", and gives some of the weakest bonuses of the mantles in the book; a +1 to "Contract activations that use Occult", +1 to "investigation rolls about True Fae and Faeries", and finally a re-roll of an Occult roll that deals with magic that ISN'T using a power. Autumn, for its guise of power and wisdom, are really posers talking a big game.

(next time: Winter)

1 - Spring lives in a Baz Luhrman movie, Summer lives in a Michael Bay movie, and Winter court lives in a David Cronenberg movie in this metaphor.
2 - which reminds me of the Little Albert Experiment using a mask and loud noise to condition a baby to have a phobia.

Jan 4, 2008

Evil Mastermind posted:

Actually, Shane doesn't appear in the Torg credits. I was going to mention the similarities but I forgot. What's more interesting is that Deadlands came out two years after Torg ended.

Also, I'm not going to cover spell creation until I get to the Asyle book. Trust me, the core magic rules are :psyboom: enough.

I don't think Shane actually worked on the main boxed set - if memory serves he contributed to the module "When Axioms Collide". I think he also wrote "The Temple of Rec Stalek", but I don't have my books handy.

Shane always credited TORG as one of his favorite games. He was repeatedly asked if he would make a Savage Worlds version if he could, and always responded that he wouldn't want to change it. He apparently did try to purchase it when WEG was shopping it around, but couldn't afford what they were asking for the property.

I should point out that the Revised Edition of TORG, written by "Kansas Jim" Ogle, is better laid out and has a few "optional" fixes to things like the glass-jawed ninja problem. Unfortunately he wasn't allowed to actually rewrite any major rules (to keep all the sourcebooks usable). The Revised Edition is therefore less of a 2nd edition and more of a 1.5 edition, compiling all the skills from the various sourcebooks into one resource and listing some optional rules. It's a pity he wasn't allowed to modify the system more, though, as he was a day one adopter of the game and widely known as the TORG guru on WEG's forums.

I've been seriously trying to come up with the best system to use to update and run TORG for my players. Games like FATE and Savage Worlds easily capture the cinematic tone of the game, but for all of their complicating influences it is the reality mechanics that really make TORG the game that it is. It's trickier to adapt those to a different system in a way that doesn't feel tacked on. Anyone who has successfully done so or who has an idea of a good system should feel free to PM me with suggestions.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008

Diskhotep posted:

I don't think Shane actually worked on the main boxed set - if memory serves he contributed to the module "When Axioms Collide". I think he also wrote "The Temple of Rec Stalek", but I don't have my books handy.
I just checked, and you're right.


Shane always credited TORG as one of his favorite games. He was repeatedly asked if he would make a Savage Worlds version if he could, and always responded that he wouldn't want to change it. He apparently did try to purchase it when WEG was shopping it around, but couldn't afford what they were asking for the property.
Yeah, I remember when Torg was up for sale, Shane was one of the main people bidding. Eric Gibson was selling off all the properties, but mishandled the whole thing. He wouldn't say who was bidding or for how much, which didn't inspire confidence in the people who were legitimately interested in the properties and could back them up with real cash and talent. So, of course, people stopped making serious offers. It got so bad that Shane said at one point something along the lines of "my original offer was $10,000; now it's a sandwich lunch".

The rights are currently owned by some German RPG company who've been sitting on it for the last five years or so.


I should point out that the Revised Edition of TORG, written by "Kansas Jim" Ogle, is better laid out and has a few "optional" fixes to things like the glass-jawed ninja problem. Unfortunately he wasn't allowed to actually rewrite any major rules (to keep all the sourcebooks usable). The Revised Edition is therefore less of a 2nd edition and more of a 1.5 edition, compiling all the skills from the various sourcebooks into one resource and listing some optional rules. It's a pity he wasn't allowed to modify the system more, though, as he was a day one adopter of the game and widely known as the TORG guru on WEG's forums.
Yeah, that's a problem with big game lines like this, especially ones from the 90's. The combination of "supplement treadmill" and "we have a GRAND STORYLINE" meant that changes or rules updates had a pretty good chance of making half your old books obsolete.

Just for comparison, the original core rulebook is 142 pages, and the R&E edition is just shy of double that. What's more, R&E doesn't have the rules for martial arts, cybernetics, netrunning, pulp powers, or biotech. So it really wasn't "complete" because you still needed all the cosm books to fill in the blanks.

It did have all 100 skills, though.


I've been seriously trying to come up with the best system to use to update and run TORG for my players. Games like FATE and Savage Worlds easily capture the cinematic tone of the game, but for all of their complicating influences it is the reality mechanics that really make TORG the game that it is. It's trickier to adapt those to a different system in a way that doesn't feel tacked on. Anyone who has successfully done so or who has an idea of a good system should feel free to PM me with suggestions.
Honestly, I've always felt that Savage Worlds would be a drat near perfect fit, since it's a system that accomplished what Torg tried to do: be a universal system that covered everything. The problem with Torg's system is that they tried too hard to model everything, and as a result everything gets bogged down in tables, multi-stage rolls, and weird cases like someone's nunchucks not working or someone losing touch with their reality because they failed a FInd check..

Personally, I think Fate would be a good match (and I've done a little work on a Torg -> Fate hack), and once the Toolkit comes out I'll be working on that and a Feng Shui hack.

What's interesting is how much of both Savage Worlds and Fate you can see in Torg's mechanics. Especially the similarities between Possibilities, Bennies, and Fate Points.

I feel that trying to convert all the reality-hopping rules like reality bubbles and invoked storms and multi-step contradictions would be unnecessary. When it comes to converting, I take the approach that you want to convert the fluff and tone first, and not jam the round peg of the old mechanics into the square hole of the new system. You're better off modeling the ideas behind the old mechanics into the new system. But, again, that's just me.

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk

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

There's twenty-six of these things and guess what, none of them have any pre-requisites. I've stated this a couple times, but I really can't believe that Steve Winter was so worried about players using disintegrate at level one that he came up with an entirely hackneyed system that only gets implemented for a very limited range of abilities. Interestingly, they come back in a later chapter to little actual effect!

Absorb Disease - You're Powder and you can absorb diseases from another person and take them upon yourself. PROTIP: This power doesn't actually heal or nullify the disease, so you'd better have a cleric on hand to heal you after you absorb their genital herpes. Or, you could just play a cleric in the first place and skip this pathetic waste of a power. Also it doesn't work on magical diseases like lycanthropy or vampirism or mummy rot, so it's useless against most of the stuff you'd actually want to use it on.
POWER SCORE / 20: The disease is automatically destroyed by the psionicist's immune system / You catch the disease but WHOOPS you don't remove it from the victim.

Adrenalin Control - You get d6 ability points to add to you STR or DEX or CON as you choose. You can divide the points between abilities as you choose per manifestation, but the unreliability of this power is pretty disappointing.
POWER SCORE / 20 / 1: You add the d6 roll to all three attributes instead of having to divide it among them / You must make a successful save vs system shock or else lose half your current HP and fall unconscious for d8 hours / You still get the boost but you lose twice as many current HP.

Aging - Evil psionicists can touch a dude and make him age d4 years instantly plus another year if the dude fails a save vs system shock. Again, a power that arbitrarily enforces an alignment restriction despite the fact that you can disintegrate a hole in a child's torso without the same explicit penalty :iiam:. This power is still marginally useful because the victim's save only determines whether or not they get a bonus year tacked on the end, it doesn't prevent the initial effect.
POWER SCORE / 20 / 1: The victim ages d20 years instead / You age d10 years / You age the same number of years as the victim.

Biofeedback - A buff you keep up which reduces all damage to you by 2 and lowers your AC by one. Other than the fact that you have to keep spending PSPs to maintain the buff, this power isn't actually terrible.
POWER SCORE / 20: Your AC is reduced by three instead / You lose 10% of your current HP.

Body Control - Your body adapts to exist perfectly in a hostile environment, taking no damage or other adverse effects. This lets you breathe in water or swim in magma, etc. Attacks that deal energy damage aren't protected, so you still take full damage from a fireball spell while taking your hot lava bath.
POWER SCORE / 20: You can adapt to a new environment at will while maintaining the original power (normally you have to drop the first manifestation and re-roll for a new one on the next round) / You become extra vulnerable to the specified environment and take an extra d4 damage from exposure until you successfully manifest the power again.

Body Equilibrium - A buff which lets you walk over uneven or weak surfaces without falling over or through them. Also works like the slow fall spell while being maintained. This one isn't terrible either aside from being a constant drain on your PSPs.
POWER SCORE / 20: The power lasts all day without having to pay PSP maintenance / Your weight is immediately increased by a factor of 10 until you successfully manifest the power again.

Body Weaponry - Turn your hand into a mace or your arm into a club or your dick into a gun. This weapon functions exactly like it would otherwise, but you can't be disarmed while weilding it. Kind of a niche power but still way better than anything from the Clairvoyance devotions.
POWER SCORE / 20: The weapon functions like a +1 weapon of the same type / Make a save vs system shock or pass out for d10 rounds.

Cat Fall - You can jump/fall 30 feet and take no damage instead of the usual 10 foot limit. loving grab the smelling salts this power is so awesome I just might faint.
POWER SCORE: You can jump/fall 50 feet and take no damage.

Cause Decay - Just like aging but for inanimate objects. The thing has to save vs acid or else be completely destroyed in one round. Much like in the case of detonate versus disintegrate, this power is way more useful than aging because you can just immediately ruin a boss' weapons or armor and shut him down much more quickly than slowly aging him d4 years at a time.
POWER SCORE / 20 / 1: The item is automatically destroyed / An item of the psionicist's is immediately destroyed, at random.

Cell Adjustment - This lets you cure a disease that you previously absorbed, although the range on this power is Touch and not Self so you could just use this power on your friend without the risk of exposing yourself to it first. This power still doesn't work on magical diseases so it's the functionally retarded version to absorb disease's abortive attempt.
POWER SCORE / 20 / 1: All disease or up to 10 points of damage is healed in the target / You suffer d10 damage and no progress is made at curing the disease / There's these wacky rules for how many PSPs different diseases cost and the table is terrible so I'm not wasting my time with it but let's just say rolling a natural 1 means you gently caress up and it takes longer to heal than you thought it would.

Chameleon Power - Just like it says on the label. You get a bonus to your hiding attempts because you blend into the environment. For some reason it works better in natural environments than urban.
POWER SCORE / 20: You get a +3 bonus to your hiding attempts / You get worse at your hiding attempts (with no mechanical implementation).

Chemical Stimulation - Secrete acid from your hands and disintegrate items that you touch. Pretty much identical to cause decay but you can also use this acid to make melee attacks that deal an extra d2+1 damage. This power can be maintained but actually costs significantly more than just manifesting cause decay so I guess Steve Winter really thought psionicists were going to get a boner over being able to deal an extra d2+1 on their unarmed melee attacks.
POWER SCORE / 20: The item is automatically destroyed / An item of the psionicist's is immediately destroyed, at random.

Displacement - You get a +2 bonus to your AC because you project an image of yourself that is 3 feet from your current position. Why this manifests as an AC bonus and not something like total concealment or a flat miss chance is a question best left to philosophers. At least this power doesn't punish you for daring to manifest it, and since it's a buff you can run it through an encounter. Costs slightly more than biofeedback and you probably don't need both powers but I guess it's nice that for once when Steve was including functionally identical versions of the same power, he let both of them be useful-ish.
POWER SCORE: The AC bonus is +4.

That's half of the Psychometabolic Devotions right there, and I think I'll spilt the other half into another post.


Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal

Some notable Byzantine superstitions include the alaphroiskiolos, the light-shadowed ones. An alaphroiskiolos is a person born on a Saturday, which gives them supernatural powers according to folklore. Some have second sight, while others can dowse or sense magic. Some have no powers at all. Even these, however, share in one trait: they have special powers over the demonic vrykolakes. Some are also sleepwalkers, known as the parmenoi or 'taken ones', who may be nightwalkers or battle alongside them.

The evil eye, also called phthonos or baskania in Greek and invidia or fascinatos in Latin, is a common belief. It is not usually deliberate, but is caused by the angry gaze of a jealous person, cursing the target with ill luck. The dread of the evil eye is such that compliments are sometimes avoided where they are truly deserved simply to avoid the evil eye, especially if the compliments involve children. Indeed, boys are often dressed in girls' clothes or have soot smeared on their faces to avoid envy. Some folk witches or infernalists can direct the evil eye deliberately, but most instances of it are caused by demons who delight in envy and destruction. A blue glass amulet carved with an eye is a ward against the evil eye if hung in a prominent place or worn, but such amulets are rare and hard to make. You may also temporarily ward against it by making a horned sign with the left hand when complimented.

Lastly, the power of oaths is never forgotten. A man might lie in Byzantine society, but not if a solemn oath is sworn. Oaths are sworn to saints most often, and they are known to punish oathbreakers. And in some areas, especially the islands, it is common to swear by the nearest river. This stems from the Greek Styx, one of the younger Titans, who aided Zeus and the gods in fighting her brethren. She was granted dominion over oaths for this, and as a river spirit, this extends to all rivers. When such an oath is sworn and then broken, the injured party may return to the spot the oath was sworn at and declaim the oathbreaker. Then, especially if the name of Styx was invoked, there is a chance of the river spirits acting to punish the oathbreaker.

Now, interesting things in Greece. The city of Artha is entered via a cursed bridge, made with the help of the Devil. A giant raven watches over it, and any who crosses the bridge is afflicted with greed. If the bird is fought off, the bridge may well fall, for the builder's wife gave her dying curse beneath the bridge, that when birds fall from the sky, so will men fall from the bridge. The island of Corfu is home to the first landing place of Odysseus, where he was given a great ship that could not be sunk and could be steered by a thought. However, Poseidon turned the ship to stone, and it still sits in the bay. Each winter, a storm rises up and the ship moves again, manned by what seem to be Odysseus and his crew. An army of tritones attack it, trying to sink it. The ship is considered a vis source owned by the Tribunal as a whole, though rarely harvested - you see, the vis is inside the tridents of the tritones, and they must be fought to gain it. The local magi most skilled at such combat are sworn not to take part in it by their patron, a king of the tritones.

Let's see...after Alexander the Great's sister failed to bring him the water of life, he cursed her to dwell in the sea forever, turning her into a mermaid. She is the namesake of the city Thessaloniki, and the reason its symbol is the twin-tailed mermaid. She is now called Gorgona, however, and roams the sea near Thessaloniki. She rides a chariot pulled by dolphins, and she asks passing sailors if Alexander the Great still lives. If they reply that he is dead, she sighs and then attacks their boat with a great wave to capsize it. If they reply that he still lives and rules, she will still the waves and let them pass in peace.

Mount Olympos is home to a massively potent faerie regio that is said to be home to the Greek gods, and the ambrosia of their palaces is said to be a great source of vis, though few magi have ever visited the Olympos regio. What is known, however, is that one of the forges of Hephaistos lies at the foot of Olympos, housing several enchanted items of legend. The forge is sacred to House Verditius and is guarded by a single magus, Theorus the Old of Verditius, a magus of the covenant Ingasia. Let's see...there's the pillars of Meteora, guarded by Divine eagles and inhabited by sacred hermits. The eagles will catch those that fall from the pillars, save the one non-Divine pillar, the Devil's Tower, which is inhabited by Infernal vultures. Hermits occasionally scale it to test their faith, for those who stay in the tower will suffer torments from the vultures and three temptations over the course of 40 days and nights, as the Devil seeks to turn them as he could not turn Christ in the desert.

There is a cave on Mount Pelion which is home to the wisest of centaurs, Chiron, who knows much of astronomy, divination and medicine. Many magi of Merenita have sought out Chiron's knowledge and wisdom. Sadly, not all have returned. Let's see...the oracle of Delphi is under Hermetic protection, and a single Criamon magus serves as the oracle now. While oracle, she takes the name Pythia, and will eventually choose her successor to be the next Pythia. The oracle's temple houses several potent vis sources, which belong first to Pythia and, once she has what she needs, to the Tribunal as a whole.

Of course they're the same guy!

Next time: the Islands

Jan 4, 2008

Evil Mastermind posted:

Honestly, I've always felt that Savage Worlds would be a drat near perfect fit, since it's a system that accomplished what Torg tried to do: be a universal system that covered everything. The problem with Torg's system is that they tried too hard to model everything, and as a result everything gets bogged down in tables, multi-stage rolls, and weird cases like someone's nunchucks not working or someone losing touch with their reality because they failed a FInd check..

Personally, I think Fate would be a good match (and I've done a little work on a Torg -> Fate hack), and once the Toolkit comes out I'll be working on that and a Feng Shui hack.

What's interesting is how much of both Savage Worlds and Fate you can see in Torg's mechanics. Especially the similarities between Possibilities, Bennies, and Fate Points.

I feel that trying to convert all the reality-hopping rules like reality bubbles and invoked storms and multi-step contradictions would be unnecessary. When it comes to converting, I take the approach that you want to convert the fluff and tone first, and not jam the round peg of the old mechanics into the square hole of the new system. You're better off modeling the ideas behind the old mechanics into the new system. But, again, that's just me.

To me the parts of the reality mechanics worth keeping are the World Laws (as they really set each cosm apart from those with similar axioms) and the axioms (I love contradictions and disconnections, but it is harder to hack those into other systems). I agree that Fate would probably work best (I love Savage Worlds, but TORG is really a setting where the specific is more important than the generic). I'll be interesting in seeing your Fate hack once it is ready for viewing.

Nov 10, 2012

It's been a while, but here's more

Tribebook: Bone Gnawers

Chapter Two, Part 3

The only thing that sets the Garou apart from common monsters is the Litany, and so every Garou follows it. It’s the very basis of any form of werewolf community, at least in the Western Concordiat. The problem is that the Litany isn’t a written legal code. For those of you versed in legal parlance, it’s a system of common law rather than constitutional. Thus, any ruling or understanding of the Litany is based solely on precedent. This is brought to extremes by the Concordiat’s modern oral society. The letter of the law may as well not even exist compared to its spirit.

Because of the dominance of precedent in werewolf law, any ruling is by default rigged against the Bone Gnawers, as time and time again they’ve been ruled against in the past. The Litany is built to support heroes, and the Bone Gnawers are manifestly not heroic. Even when they’ve won cases, it’s the Philodox of the other tribes that are recognized for defending them. To avoid this, Bone Gnawers usually seek justice among their own tribe, since they’re more likely to have favorable precedent than other tribes.

Cut to a transcript! It’s a formal debate on whether to find all the rabble in New York accountable for violations of the Litany. This could mean that they be banned from any moots. Pro-exile is Zachary Ellison, a Shadow Lord. The contra side is taken up by Victor Bonecrusher, a Gnawer Metis. Most of the other tribebooks put very little effort into their Litany sections, so this is welcome, but at the same time it’s long and if you’re not interested in werewolf court drama, you probably won’t find this interesting. Then again, Law and Order with werewolves sounds pretty great.

First up is Garou Shall not Mate with Garou. Ellison alleges that the Gnawers have been loving non-stop, boosting their ranks with lazy Metis. Most other tribes put their Metis to work, forcing them to guard their septs and perform other arduous tasks which the Metis are suited to as giant wolfmen, but the Gnawers don’t do that. Bonecrusher argues that they treat the Metis like any other Gnawer because the Metis haven’t done anything wrong. The truth is that the Bone Gnawers are a little lax on restricting sex; it’s only a crime if you’re caught. Most Gnawers know or learn how to use protection. Still, it’s werewolf incest, and that’s just gross. Metis are outcasts, and therefore accepted by the Gnawers, but they will still exile any Garou that produces one.

Next is Combat the Wyrm Wherever it Dwells and Wherever it Breeds. Ellison is upset that the Gnawers tend to align themselves with Wyrm tainted parties, like the Ratkin or vampires. Bonecrusher points out that the Shadow Lords do the same thing. The only difference is that the Bone Gnawers’ deals don’t tend to blow up in their face. The Bone Gnawers are focused on survival, so the committing to destroying all the agents of the Wyrm everywhere is impractical. They tend to fight more indirectly, focusing on helping communities affected by Wyrm taint.

Respect the Territory of Another is a difficult tenet to uphold in the city. Ellison accuses the rabble of sneaking into different septs without introducing themselves and helping themselves to valuable resources. All Bonecrusher can say to this is that introducing ones’ self in Garou culture often means a recitation of lineage, which many Gnawers can’t do. Instead, the Gnawers uphold the sanctity of foreign territory in their own way, not pissing anybody off, messing up the local ecosystem (such as it is), or performing illicit business in another party’s turf.

Ellison says that the Bone Gnawers can’t Accept an Honorable Surrender because nobody would surrender to a Gnawer! :iceburn: Bonecrusher offers to punch Ellison’s lights out. Bone Gnawers tend to abuse this law in physical challenges, but they’re very adept in non-traditional duels. The Gnawers have mad basketball skills. On the streets, though, members of the rabble will gently caress each other up and expect to be hosed up in return.

The Gnawers just tend to go through the motions of Submission to those of Higher Station, and both Ellison and Bonecrusher know it. Bonecrusher, though, argues that their impoverished state is submission enough. The Gnawers really do respect their own Mothers and Fathers, but anybody else can just expect a Rite of Contrition once in a while.

On to The First Share of the Kill to the Greatest in Station. Ellison says that all the Gnawers have to offer is cardboard stew, but Bonecrusher points out that showing disgust at a gift of food from a starving man is a dick move. The name “Bone Gnawers” is derived from their position of getting access to a carcass last. Thus, the Gnawers pride themselves on their propensity for scavenging. Often, an elder Gnawer will claim the greatest share of the loot on a scavenging mission. Otherwise, it’s every werewolf for himself.
Speaking of food, Ellison accuses the Gnawers of producing cannibals in violation of Ye Shall not Eat the Flesh of Humans. Bonecrusher argues that the Gnawers devote themselves to hunting down the remnants of the Man Eaters of Dandelion Hill. They have specialized rites for it and they’re all trained to find the telltale signs. Whether or not there are still Man Eaters in the tribe is unclear (plot hook!), but the Gnawers focus on it anyway.

Ellison then argues that the Bone Gnawers have failed to Respect those Beneath Ye – All are of Gaia for failing to properly care for their cubs. They’re forced to scavenge and scrounge. They’re improperly dressed, educated and fed, and the Gnawers have full responsibility for that. Bonecrusher retorts that the Shadow Lords, as superior to the Bone Gnawers, could also care for the cubs, or even the Gnawers as a whole. The Gnawers’ focus on democracy is traditionally justified with this code, as it makes the elders directly accountable for respecting their constituents.

Because the rabble aren’t accountable to anyone, there’s a danger that they’ll endanger The Veil. Ellison can’t verify whether there have been any breaches, and that worries him. Bonecrusher takes this as a sign that the rabble are capable indeed. The septs themselves don’t allow anyone out of Homid form, but this renders their caerns vulnerable to attack.

Do Not Suffer Thy People to Tend to Thy Illness is violated by the Gnawers respect and veneration for their weak elders and their mentally ill street prophets, Ellison argues. Bonecrusher argues that they need their wise leaders, so they’re not really tending to anybody’s illness. Sometimes, elders leave the protection of their septs to brave the streets, proving their capacity to survive as a Bone Gnawer. Street prophets need to prove their ability before earning the respect of the tribe, as well as their ability to take care of themselves.

While the Gnawers aren’t likely to Challenge a Leader During Wartime, they will refuse to rally to a war leader’s cause, preserving their own safety. Challenging a Bone Gnawer leader is a moot point, since democracy means that anybody can be a leader. Bonecrusher responds that tons of anonymous Gnawers have died for the Garou Nation’s wars and they must be respected for that. Truly, the Gnawers devote themselves to their leaders, as their strategies rely on pack tactics.

Ye Shall Take No Action that Allows a Caern to be Violated is a tenet that the Bone Gnawers take very seriously. There are very few urban caerns, and for the most part the Gnawers are responsible for protecting them. Thus, anyone who lets one of these caerns go is verboten among the Gnawers.

The final verdict is a compromise. The rabble are allowed to moots, but they’re subject to more scrutiny. Bonecrusher believes that he won, but it’s likely that Ellison threw the debate to continue investigating the supposed depredations of the rabble.

Time for stereotypes!

Black Furies: Sleeps-with-the-Fishes thinks that they’re just as committed to social justice as the Bone Gnawers, but the Furies hate men! Oscar Spits-Far just thinks that they’re uppity and prudish.

Children of Gaia: Mother-May-Eye believes that they’re the only ones that really care about the Bone Gnawers and their kin, but Dagger-Bite thinks they’re wimps.

Fianna: The Fianna and their kin were once among the downtrodden masses, but now they’re doing just fine.

Get of Fenris: Not Here advises that flattering their strength makes them easy to get along with, and that’s important, since the safest place to be is behind a Fenrir.

Glass Walkers: There was a time when the Glass Walkers and the Bone Gnawers were considering banding together, but now the socioeconomic gap between them is too wide. The Walkers tend to exploit the Gnawers, but the Gnawers scam them right back.

Red Talons: They’re a danger to the Garou Nation, says Reads-the-Paper. The Bone Gnawer Lupus consider them backwards.

Shadow Lords: The Gnawers have symbiotic relationship with these guys. They’ll give the Shadow Lords info, but when their scheming comes to fruition, the Gnawers are right there ready to backstab the Lords and get influence.

Silent Striders: The Road Warders respect them as traveling companions, but the Swarm, worshippers of the Rat God, hate Owl and his followers.

Silver Fangs: Joe Crow respects the Fangs as leaders, but he doesn’t quite trust them, as they’re batshit insane. He recommends keeping your distance. Fyodor Slams-Stoli recommends Communist revolution.

Uktena: On one hand, they might be in thrall to the Wyrm. On the other hand, the Uktena’s kin are downtrodden too.

Wendigo: They’re damned Canadians. gently caress those guys, with their socialism and their gun control.

Stargazers: It wasn’t an easy choice to leave, but it was probably the right one.

A general rule for other supernaturals: hide from everything.

:drac: Don’t work with vampires. Even if they’re committed to acting like a human, they’re going to lose. There have been many werewolf/vampire alliances before, and they’ve all failed. Vampires place their own survival first and foremost. They prey on the defenseless that the Gnawers commit to protecting. The Rat Finks will work with the Nosferatu, as they’re outcasts too and are generally more trustworthy. It only goes so far though, and they’re constantly vigilant.

I...I don't even...

:smugwizard: Sorcerers defy Gaia with their magic! However, you can learn some good improvised rituals from them. The Weaver doesn’t like them, which is fine in the Gnawers’ book.

Hunters: They’re crazy, which means they’re dangerous. If you find one, take them out fast.
:ghost: Don’t sleep in a graveyard.

The Fae: They don’t belong in this world anymore, and it’s killing them slowly. Don’t get involved.

Walks-the-Earth, a Road Warder elder, tells us about the Fera. He’s roamed the world searching for the American Dream (maybe literally), and he’s seen all kinds of weird shapeshifters, like lizardmen. I’m only including the interesting ones, since most of these are pretty generic.

Ajaba: Some Bone Gnawers from African have hung out with these guys, but the hyenas are crazy and well hidden.

Gurahl: They’re generous, so long as you don’t let them know you’re a werewolf.

Mokolé: Sometimes they’re involved in drugrunning. They’re pretty cool when they’re high.

Ratkin: They’re devoted to chaos. The Bone Gnawers will work with them, but it can get hairy.

The Miseries section is a bit of an anomaly for a tribebook. Essentially, it’s a list of metaplot-tangential plothooks for Bone Gnawer focused chronicles.

The Nosferatu are beginning to stir. As the Bone Gnawers claim more territory, they’re more likely to encounter unsubtle vampire activity. A big conflict between the two groups is almost certain to go down.

The Ratkin are returning from the Umbra en masse, and the shamans devoted to Rat are in a perfect position to figure out what they’re up to. They have some big plans, that’s for sure, and they might cause some massive damage.

There’s a spiritual conflict going on between two aspects of Rat. The Mother Rat is a spirit of generosity, compassion, and charity, while the Rat God is a totem of war. Followers of the two aspects are engaged in debate over the tribe’s approach to the Apocalypse. Whether the Gnawers will help the weak through Armageddon or attack the Wyrm in a death swarm is unclear. Extremists are already beginning to rally followers and stir trouble.

The rabble is growing and it’s becoming more difficult to involve them in the tribe. Integrating them into werewolf society is going to be essential for the final battle. However, many of them plot rebellion, making the Garou Nation into a more egalitarian society. Can the Nation afford such upheaval when the end is nigh?

The Hood plans a revolution against the wealthy, toppling them to help the needy. Bone Gnawer elders oppose them, but their resources are strained already. They might not be able to stop the Hood’s reckless plans.

The Ring of Shadows is a rumored conspiracy of Bone Gnawers, Ratkin, and Nosferatu. What his conspiracy is up to is unclear. Perhaps the Nosferatu secretly run the Gnawers, or they’re planning to blow up a city.

After all this, we need to know how Bone Gnawers have fun. Subway surfing is always a good time. It’s exactly what you imagine: there werewolves jump on the roof of a subway car and ride it. Certain Gifts can prevent a Veil break. It can draw the attention of some unsavory types, though, so it can be dangerous. Still, all Gnawers are encouraged to ride the rails at least once. The Feast of Fools picks one Gnawer to be treated like a king for the day.

This is more like it.

Next time: Let’s make pipe bombs.

Nov 5, 2010

Warning, Internet
may prove lethal.

Gerund posted:

What is fear but a realization of greatness?

Onto Autumn Court, one of the more loved groups of C:tL. They go for the Occult-monkey "knows too much, don't you wish you were them" pastiche that White Wolf loves so much, and then adds a big dash of just-this-side-of-twee Tim Burton1 on top. Librarians, Mystics, and damned Wizards go here to research into the depths of the Wyrd. Founded by Clay Ariel through mystic and mysterious means (spooky!), Autumn exists to learn more about Fae magick and turn it against their captors. Without the court of Magic, too many changelings would simply forget that there is a vast mythical land just beyond sight, and waiting to grab them.

Is every Autumn courtier a sorcerer? Probably, as every changeling has some magic. But really, every Autumn courtier is in some way a Wyrd naturalist- attempting to take control of their own life by finding out every nook and cranny of the world they are a part of. Autumn courtiers that fail to take a rationalist stance to their life are eliminated- they are either too crazy or simply incapable of appreciating what the emotion of fear means to them.

This becomes part of the Autumn rituals: the Fallen Fair, a clearinghouse of Wyrd items that acts in contrast to the Goblin Market, where the courtiers put on the mask of being hobgoblins; the "hunt", where autumn courtiers put on the mask of being the Wild Hunt; the scientific affectations, where the changelings pretend to be skeptically-inclined humans and journalists. In each part, the Autumn court is trying to figure out what face is best to put on to get what they want2

Their imagery is harvest-like reds to yellows and grays and browns. Dying and falling objects, scavenger animals, and Victorian naturalist accoutrements- book, magnifying glass, candles. Their mantle is cliche "magical", and gives some of the weakest bonuses of the mantles in the book; a +1 to "Contract activations that use Occult", +1 to "investigation rolls about True Fae and Faeries", and finally a re-roll of an Occult roll that deals with magic that ISN'T using a power. Autumn, for its guise of power and wisdom, are really posers talking a big game.

(next time: Winter)

1 - Spring lives in a Baz Luhrman movie, Summer lives in a Michael Bay movie, and Winter court lives in a David Cronenberg movie in this metaphor.
2 - which reminds me of the Little Albert Experiment using a mask and loud noise to condition a baby to have a phobia.

It always struck me that the Autumn Mantle bonus was pretty weak. Although I always thought of it as a design oversight, never occurred to me that it was there to represent Autumn's bark being worse then their bite.

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006

Evil Mastermind posted:

Actually, Shane doesn't appear in the Torg credits. I was going to mention the similarities but I forgot. What's more interesting is that Deadlands came out two years after Torg ended.

That maybe Ray Winninger's influence then, since he does appear in the TORG credits and wrote some of the mythos and system. Like values and measures, Underground has a "players give back to the people/change the world" mechanism in it as well.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008

Diskhotep posted:

To me the parts of the reality mechanics worth keeping are the World Laws (as they really set each cosm apart from those with similar axioms) and the axioms (I love contradictions and disconnections, but it is harder to hack those into other systems). I agree that Fate would probably work best (I love Savage Worlds, but TORG is really a setting where the specific is more important than the generic). I'll be interesting in seeing your Fate hack once it is ready for viewing.
Oh, I wouldn't get rid of things like axioms or world laws either. I'd just simplify the implementation of them.

Young Freud posted:

That maybe Ray Winninger's influence then, since he does appear in the TORG credits and wrote some of the mythos and system. Like values and measures, Underground has a "players give back to the people/change the world" mechanism in it as well.
I'd forgotten all about Underground. Makes me wonder now how many 90's games had "giving hope back to people" as a major theme.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Welcome to Spring Crescent Middle School, the most exclusive Middle School in the world. People move across the nation for the chance of allowing their child to attend the school. It's students are famed worldwide for their scholastic, athletic, and civil achievements. It boasts Presidents, Nobel Prize winners, Fortune 500 CEOs, and Academy Award winners among its alumni. Everyone knows that success in Spring Crescent means success in Life. Spring's Crescent is a shining tower of light and knowledge in the world!

People who go there know this is bullshit.

The faculty use every cheat, loophole, scam, and exploit of the system to garner accolades and funding they don't deserve. They twist and control the Student Body into doing what they want. The students quickly learn how to be vicious, manipulative, and untrustworthy. Everyone has a plan, a plot, an angle, and they don't care who they crush on their way to the top. A Social Darwinist approach to child-rearing. Spring Crescent is a cutthroat hellhole, a prison ran by hormonal preteens and burned out public educators.

People who run the place know this is bullshit.

Spring Crescent Middle School isn't a school at all. It's an elaborate trap. A trap for Monsters. The school is designed for the sole purpose of attracting children with Monsters. The environment is fostered to crush them, grind children down, break their will and spirit so that they are easy pickings. So that the Conspiracy can take them, and use them however they want. Spring Crescent Middle School is a slaughterhouse, a roach motel for Monsters, and you've just stepped inside.

It's gonna be a hell of a year.

Next Time: The History of Spring Crescent Middle School

Mar 1, 2013

You Are All

pospysyl posted:

Red Talons: They’re a danger to the Garou Nation, says Reads-the-Paper. The Bone Gnawer Lupus consider them backwards.
I recall the Lupus' take on the Red Talons as being hilarious, as well as having the book point out that it's actually easier for them and the Metis members of the tribe to survive on the streets upholding the High Ban due to the fact that they regenerate much easier.

The lack of pretension in this book is refreshing and rather unlike what White Wolf usually puts out.


Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

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

Evil Mastermind posted:

Oh, I wouldn't get rid of things like axioms or world laws either. I'd just simplify the implementation of them.

I'd forgotten all about Underground. Makes me wonder now how many 90's games had "giving hope back to people" as a major theme.

DC Heroes (Mayfair) created the logarithmic stat/power system that Underground used. When they lost the DC license they changed it to 'Blood of Heroes' right?

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