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Apr 22, 2013

Pew Pew Pew!
Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade – Equipment, Combat and More

The section is on stuff.

Class and Wealth
The Empire has a variety of different monetary standards: jade, silver, gold, etc. None of this is relevant, because the game uses abstract resources in the form of a character's Class.

You just need a class equal to or higher than the cost of the item, and an appropriate place to buy. Alternately, Charm + Persuasion checks can be used to lower costs, maybe. Or you can barter.

Here's all of the items in the book:
Bicycle, Calligraphy Kit, Camoflague Gear, Carriage, Climbing Gear, Fireworks, Herbalists Kit, Lantern, Lopan, Make-up Kit, Masterwork Weapon, Mechanical Clock, Musical Instrument, Smoke Bombs, Spy Glass, Toolkits

Now here's all the weapons!
Bi-Su, Bo, Bokken, Dao, Firearm,Ji, Kama, Katana, Ko, Kunai, Manrikigusari, Ninjato, Nunchaku, Qiang, Sai, Sanjiegun, Shuriken, Sling, Tessen, Two kinds of Tsin, Urumi, Yari, Yumi, Zhua

And the armor:
Leather, Bamboo, Chain mail, Scale mail, Stone armor, Empire armor*.

*This one's bulletproof!

So about 3/4 of all the items revolve around for killing people and avoiding getting killed.

Objects have health and armor for breaking. It takes 15 damage to break a metal chain, or 23 to break a stone wall, or 26 to break a sword.


For measuring time and actions in combat, the system uses counts, which are ½ a second each; rounds of 20 counts, or 10 seconds; and a minute, which is 6 rounds.

When you take an action, you use the actions Speed to determine how many counts you have to wait before you can act again.

And that's all we hear about that for now.

Now we talk about stamina for some reason. As a refresher, characters have pools of Stamina points representing endurance and stuff.

You can spend stamina to get some chi, get a bonus to an attack or reaction, use certain combat techniques, extended physical exertion, perform finishing strikes, resist pain or wushu and activate the more powerful wushu.

You regain a point of Stamina every 10 minutes, and suffer a -2 penalty to all checks if your drop to 0.

At the beginning of each round of combat, roll initiative. This is a d20 + Initiative Bonus (which is Agility + IQ). Highest acts first, one Count 1. Everyone else acts 1 count later for every 4 points below the highest their result is, but no later than Count 9.

To jump into a round that's already started, roll but take a -1 penalty for each Count already passed in the round. Act on the current Count if your result would let you act earlier.

After determining initiative but before anyone does anything, characters can give up actions to act that many Counts sooner.

If you ever do an action whose Speed is greater than the number of Counts remaining in the round, you suffer a -2 penalty for each Count in excess on your next Initiative roll. Alternately, you get a +2 bonus for each action you didn't use in the last round. Except in Assault Rounds.

In a surprise round, a surprised character always acts on Count 9, and can't use a Reaction against the first attack against them that round.

Actions Vs Reaction
The game reiterates that characters get 2 actions base, and can get more throguh fighting styles, etc.

Reactions don't use up your allotment of Actions, but do have Speed costs.

Now it talks about checks you can make in combat: Strike for melee attacks, Throw for all ranged attacks, Parry to block or deflect melee attacks, Dodge to avoid Throw attacks, Roll to absorb non-lethal damage and Grappling for grapple stuff.

Roll a 20 on an attack roll and you deal +3 damage and get 2 Health. On a reaction, you can gain the 2 Health or make your attacker lose 2. Roll a 1 and you fail, plus some bad stuff happens.

Acting on the Same Count
Whomever has the lowest initiative modifier declares first, then lower IQ if that's tied, and they are resolved simultaneously. You can change your declared action but suffer a -3 penalty to the check.

Using Weapons
Melee weapons modify your Strike actions, changing the Speed and damage as well as giving Strike and Parry modifiers. Ranged weapons have their own unique statistics.

Some stuff on how using untrained weapons is terrible, as well as dual wielding.

Actions List
Light Strike- A quick attack, has Speed 2 and gives +3 Strike, but no damage modifier.

Full Strike- A medium attack, Speed 4 and no Strike modifier, but +3 damage instead.

Strong Strike- A powerful attack at Speed 6, -3 Strike but gives a total of +6 damage.

Throw Weapon for ranged attacks and Hurl Weapon for not-meant-to-be-thrown melee weapons.

Aim- Speed 3 and get +2 to Strike or Throw on your next attack. Stacks up to 3 times. Take a -5 penalty to your reactions before your next action after aiming.

Cooperative Attack- A combo attack between multiple characters acting on the same Count, it has +2 Speed and -4 to the attack :shrug: but inflicts 25% more damage. Plus, everyone needs to hit to get the damage bonus, so comboing with more than one other guy is a terrible idea.

Disarm- Knock away the weapon of your target. Need to be grappling if you're unarmed.

Draw Weapon- What do you think it does? Has Speed equal to the Size of the weapon, +1.

Feint- Fake the other guy out. Make an opposed roll at Speed 3 and get +4 Strike and +1 damage if you beat the target. If they get an attack before you, they're at -3. (Some of these modifiers are so random)

:suicide::suicide::suicide:Initiate Grapple :suicide::suicide::suicide:
Make an attack roll; the target can Dodge, but not Parry. If there's a difference in Strength Power of 4 or more between the two characters, the weaker loses 1 Stamina.

While you're grappling, all the actions you can take are Speed 5 and Reactions are Speed 3.

You can attack while you're grappling! Light attacks with a +2 damage bonus or a Full attack at a -4 penalty to the attack but +4 damage. (Why do the numbers have to be different in Grappling whyyyyy)

You can break the grapple!

You can disarm the other guy! Says that both of you can try to grab the weapon after it's knocked free, but worded in a very terrible way.

You can draw a weapon, on your, on the other guy, or within reach!

Push the other person! Breaks the grapple and knocks them a few feet back.

You can immobilize them! If you succeed, the victim can only attempt to break the grapple, but you have to hold them continually.

You can use them as a meat shield!

You can knock both of you prone!

You can choke them! Works exactly like Immobilize, except you do some damage every round and they have their arms left free.

You can trip! It's like the Sweep action we haven't seen. You take them off their feet out from under them, breaking the grapple and knocking them prone.

You can turn their weapon on them!

No more grappling.

Hold- You wait to act on the next Count. RAW it looks like this costs one of your actions to perform. :iamafag:

Mold Chi- Spend 2 actions and gain 1 Yin or Yang chi.

Move - Normal- You move ¼ your Movement as a Speed 1 action, ½ at Speed 2 and Full Movement at Speed 4. Move away from someone you're in melee with gives them a free attack and you're -5 to your next Reaction (probably that attack).

Move – Sprint Run double your movement at Speed 6, attackers suffer a -5 penalty to Strike and Throw but you get no Reactions. If you make a melee attack after Sprinting, you get +2 to your attack and damage.

Push- You push them.

Stand- Speed 4 to stand up from prone.

Sweep- Knock them off their feet. Make an attack roll and the target makes a Balance check or fall down.

Touch- Reach out and touch someone.

Use Skill- Using different skills in combat. Tells the GM to make up an appropriate Speed for whatever the skill is.

Reaction List
Parry- Block or deflect an attack with your weapon or limb. Take -4 to Parry ranged attacks and -8 to parry weapons while unarmed. If you parry an unarmed attack with a bladed weapon, half the weapons damage is dealt to the blocker. Speed 3.

Dodge- Also Speed 3, but suffers the -4 penalty against melee attacks.

Roll- Cut the damage from a non-lethal attack or fall by half.

Entangle- Try to entangle the opponents weapons or limbs. Get +4 Strike on an attempt to grapple someone you've entangled and you can Disarm after succeeding on it. Maybe immediately?

Take Hit- You toughen up and just take it.

Take Hit Strategically- You need to have a fighting style at level 5 or better. If attacked by a Targeted Attack, make a Roll check (this is literally the only part of the rules where you use Roll I've been able to find) and if you beat the attackers Strike result, you still take the full damage, but there's no extra effects from the called shot Targeted Strike.

Other Combat Modifiers
Armor Rating- Subtracts AR from damage taken. Written in the format X/Y, with the first number applying against Non-lethal damage and the second against Lethal.

Armor Piercing- Ignore up to it's rating in armor.

Assault- At the beginning of a round, a character can basically Rage :black101:, gaining +2 Actions, +4 to Strike and +2 Stamina for that round, but you can't perform any reactions, Mold Chi or use any Wushu.

Blind-Fighting- Take a -7 penalty to combat checks from partial blindness or -15 with total blindness. You can make Perception checks to find targets you can't see. After you grapple someone you don't suffer the penalties.

Cooperative Attacks- This section specifies you can only combine attacks between 2 characters and

Concealment and Cover- Concealment only applies against Throw attacks. The penalties range from -2 for “hiding behind a plan” to -6 only having “your head around a corner.” If you are completely behind cover, it takes the damage from an attack. If you're behind cover, you suffer the same penalty to your Throw attacks.

Description Bonus- Stunts!

Firing into Close Combat- When you make a ranged attack against someone in melee, take a -3 penalty for each person beside the target. But the rules say it's a Strike penalty, so you don't suffer anything on your attack. :smuggo: If you miss, roll again and on 16+ you hit someone else in the melee.

High Ground- Get +4 to all combat checks if you have a height advantage against an opponent.

Knockouts- Hit someone for 12 or more non-lethal damage and they have to make a check or fall unconscious for 2 Counts for each point of damage.

Mounted Combat- You need to make Travel (Horsemanship) rolls to keep in the saddle, and if you charge while mounted you get +4 Strike and Damage, but it increases the difficulty to activate wushu by 4.

Multiple Opponents- At the beginning of a Round, you select one opponent. To attack anyone else you suffer a cumulative -2 Strike or Throw penalty each time you switch your target. Lasts until the end of the round.

Off-Hand Actions- Take a -4 penalty when using your off hand.

Pulled Strike- Make an IQ + Agility check to pull your hit, cutting non-lethal damage in half or lethal to non-lethal.

Range- Range modifiers.

Sacrifice Actions- Sacrifice an action to get +5 to a Reaction. Can't use during an Assault Round.

Simultaneous Actions- Take a -10 penalty when doing two things at once. This has a Speed on the higher of the two and costs 1 Stamina.

Targeted Strikes- Take a -3 Throw penalty to hit something on the Torso, -6 to hit an arm or leg, -9 for hand/foot and -12 to hit an eye or pressure point. No penalty on melee attacks!

There's some modifiers for fighting in unusual terrain, such as in a crowd or on treetops.

Staying Alive
Non-lethal damage is caused from unarmed attacks and bludgeoning weapons. Being dropped to 0 Health from non-lethal damage knocks you unconscious and more non-lethal damage wraps around to Lethal.

Lethal damage is caused by bladed weapons, firearms, poison, etc. Once you become bloodied drop below half your Health, you start bleeding, taking 2 Lethal damage each Round. When you go to 0, you have to check to avoid death.

Some effects give Temporary Health above and beyond your normal Health, which absorbs damage you don't have to heal.

There's some advice about receiving battle scars from really bad injuries.

If you drop to 0 Health from Lethal damage, you can spend a point of Stamina to make a Moderate (20) Death check or die. Make the roll and you are unconscious instead, and die automatically at -10 Health.

You can go three days without food and/or water and lose 1 Stamina and 5 Health for every day beyond.

There are diseases you can get. Difficulties range from Tough (30) for STDs to Simple (10) for a cold.

Falling 3 non-lethal damage for every 10 ft. Make a Roll check, Difficulty 10 + 3 per 10 ft and take half damage on success.

Deals lethal damage. Being set on fire deals damage each round based on the size of the fire: 1-2 for a candle, 4 for a torch, 8 for a campfire and 14 for a bonfire.

If you take Lethal damage in a fight, you have to check to see if your wounds get infected. Check against disease, with a difficulty based on how much Health lost. Failure means you start taking damage every day and can't heal any Lethal damage. If you don't find an “herbalist” to help recover from an infection, you can amputate an infected limb or cut out the infected flesh, but exposes you to another chance to get infected.

To resist insanity, you roll a check vs. Insanity.

Pain Penalties
Injuries hurt. If you go below ½ health, you have a -2 penalty to checks from the pain, -4 at ¼ health and -6 at 1/8. You can spend a point of Stamina and make a Pain check to ignore the penalty for one action.

Poisons and Potions
The game gives a little mix-and-match system for determining the effects of poisons and the like. First, the exposure vector determines the base difficulty to create it: Simple (10) for inhaled, Moderate (20) and Tough (30) for intravenous.

You can make the poison or potion inflict Lethal damage, make it addictive, cause it to wake someone up, make the subject go blind, cause hallucinations, knock someone unconscious, truth-serum, inflict paralysis, cause irritation or weaken the target by draining Stamina.

Antidotes can be made to resist the effects of a poison if administered quickly enough.

Creating a trap requires an IQ + Crafts check, with a difficulty based on whether you have enough time and materials.

You can make traps out of your wushu techniques, if their suited to it.

Next Chapter: Antagonists and Creatures


Apr 22, 2013

Pew Pew Pew!
Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade – Antagonists
This chapter covers things for the PCs to fight.

It starts with some animals, like the Bear (which is scary enough to have a Fear rating) and both normal and ninja dogs/wolves.

“Township Threats” include random NPCs you might find in a town/village, including the “Local Hero/Vigilante,” some kid who thinks himself tough enough to help the ninja against the empire, or beat a rogue ninja.

As the primary antagonist faction, the Empire gets a handful of NPC write ups. Foot Soldiers are grunts.
Engineers fight with weapons and explosives and wear bulletproof armor.
Executioners are the Empire's crack infantry, a bunch of psycho killers who go around burning towns and slaughtering people both on the job and off. They have a special ability to negate wushu targeting them by spending a point of Chi.

The Golden Lions are a group of elite wushu-using special forces. They're well known for capturing their ninja opponents rather than killing them, to steal their techniques. They wear distinctive golden armor that allows them to store chi

Next is three ninja templates, for Novice, Experiences and Master Ninja.

The next section describes spirits, which gives a little bit of background on the religious beliefs of the Empire. Some religions saw good people go to Heaven and bad people go to Hell and become Oni. People in heaven watch over their descendents until they reincarnate. Others work as part of the Celestial Courts to help the world. Sometimes spirits show their presence through omens.

No stats or any mechanics are given. :shrug:

The most common mystical creatures are Celestial Animals. Back in the day, humans rules the world with the assistance of the Celestial Animals. Only, they hosed it up when they started hunting and eating them and the Celestial Courts got pissed. A lot of wars were fought and humanity only survived against the overpowering Animals because most of them took the moral high road by leaving the world and the humans behind. Heaven created new realms for them to inhabit. Each type of animal inhabits a different realm.

Celestial Animals sometimes wander the human world and befriend ninja. They swear pacts that allows the ninja to summon the animal to them and provide aid. These pacts are written in scrolls documenting the names of all who have sworn to the pact in the past. The last time of wide use of the Celestial Animals was the War of Withered Fangs and they were used by the Izou ninja while it was growing. After the wars, the Empire would force loyal ninjas to summon their animals and they would cage them for use as weapons. Many ninjas broke their pacts with their animals to spare them from this fate. To this day, summoning animals is a rare talent.

Mechanical Sidebar:
A ninja can pretty much always summon a Lesser Animal by spending 1 Chi.

Summoning a Greater Animal requires a blood sacrifice, spending a bunch of Chi and make a Moderate (20) Charm + Discipline check and they can only stay temporarily: 1 Minute base, extended to a scene or battle by sacrificing 1 Chi. If the animal doesn't want to stay, the Ninja must spend up to 3 extra Stamina to force it to stay (it doesn't say how to determine exactly how much). You can't just use your animals as cannon fodder, however- every time they're dropped to 0 or lower Health, you suffer a permanent -2 penalty to your summoning roll.

Greater Animals are the epic, legendarily powerful animals. They can be incredibly huge (That giant sword carved into a tower in the Land of Five Swords? That was the weapon of a Celestial Animal a long time ago) Lesser Animals are often the descendents of these Greater Animals. All animals can speak every human language, use wushu, rapidly heal injuries.. aaaaand they can breed with mundane animals of the same type.

Animal Families
Each type of animal is split into families, and the game suggests family rivalry between the animals of two summoners are a plot hook.

What kinds of animals are there?

Earth elemented, bears are skilled healers. Most lesser bears are cubs and when they grow up are super dangerous.

The epic Bear is Tetsuo the Aggressor is a 18 foot anthropomorphic bear. A badass fighter, he fought against the Recoiling Serpents but was defeated by one of the Serpent leaders and lost his eye.

Just as there are lots of different dog breeds on earth, there's lots of celestial dogs.

Celestial cats all look unique, as long as that look is “housecat.”

Good at finding lost things and rather tempermental.

Monkeys are smart, crafty tricksters.

Tough and easy angered, rams are “overlooked as pets in poorer communities, but it's uncommon to see them in the big cities, unless it's being led to the slaughterhouse.” :colbert:

Rats are sneaky and like to collect things. Also lying.

The example Rat is Hachiro, the eighth of 27 siblings. When summoned, he brings a bunch of stuff with him that he's willing to trade for.

Loud and energetic, rooster tend to be blunt, but they're good at planning, strategy and intimidation. Celestial Roosters are all male, but Celestial Hens do live in the same realm.

Akihiko-Chan is the very genki, 10 ft tall rooster. He just got his interplanar license and he's looking for adventure. :imallears:

Very sociable, they look down on anti-social humans and serve as wingmen for their summoners, so they never look bad in social situations.

Turtles are the keepers of knowledge as ordained by heaven. Lesser turtles like being summoned in peace, but in times of need they can be carried by their summoners in pouches. :allears:

Not animals, these guys are demons! Oni are human souls sent to hell for horrible evil committed in life and twisted in a manner related to their crimes. Oni that arrive on earth are both powerful enough to break through the barrier between hell or earth and devious enough to evade capture.

Since no two Oni are the same, the GM gets a bunch of different wushu to customize them. Also, they're tough, with 85 Health and a natural 5/5 Armor, immunity to much every type of vs Check except Balance, poo poo tons of chi and huge bonuses to their combat checks.

ThisIsNoZaku fucked around with this message at 09:01 on Jun 2, 2013

Dammit Who?
Aug 30, 2002

may microbes, bacilli their tissues infest
and tapeworms securely their bowels digest

Mors Rattus posted:

Hosting a tournament can risk excommunication, as the Church does not really approve,

With good reason! Tournaments were rowdy as gently caress, and whole villages could get burned down when one got out of hand.

Apr 22, 2013

Pew Pew Pew!
The last chapter of Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade is upon us! Chapter Seven: Storytelling.

First is Rebellion. The ninja are the underdogs against the great power of the Empire. Plus there's the long standing bullshit hierarchy of ninja society.

Second is Secrecy. Ninjas live in a world of hiding the truth from all but their most loyal allies and keeping double lives. Simultaneously is the seeking of knowledge and the secrets of others.

Third is Relationships between clans, ninja and their friends and family.

Wu Xing is a game of Action! But that doesn't mean it only has to be fighting, even though like 85% of all the mechanics revolve exclusively around exactly that.

Wu Xing is a game of Martial Arts and Mysticism! This means it's basically a kung fu game.

Anime Inspirations
I never would have known!

The game suggests Avatar: The Last Airbender to give an idea of the scale of the opposition that the ninja face.

Next is Basilisk for what a bunch of dickbags the clans can be to each other.

Naruto] is where they got most of their ideas suggested for mixed-clan groups and training montages.

The last is Ranma 1/2 is about what life might be like when you try to balance living as a normal people while being immersed in a world of supernatural martial arts.

What's the thread running through all of these shows? They'll make you laugh!


That's right, feel free to add some jokes into your game.

Crafting Stories
The game gives some story crafting tips and plot hooks.

First is “You're the student, I'm the teacher,” covering the training of the characters. Let's you pace the scale of the enemies you fight and players get a chance to flesh out their character personalities.

Next is “Clan Vs. Clan” which lets the characters get involved in inter-clan intrigue and warfare.

Third is “Double Life,” where the characters try to balance their lives as normal individuals in society and their position as secret kung fu killers.

Last is “The Front Lines” of the war against the Izou Empire.

Staging your Story
There's so advice about the NPCs and locations in the game, but if you're not reading this for GMing advice.

And that's the end of Wu Xing. (:ssh: Almost)

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Part 3: Chapter 4's Fang Fascination
It's time for the most notable chapter of Hell Freezes Over, entitled Eastern Opposition.

Additional German Opposition
While the core rulebook's German NPCs were heavily based with generic SS soldiers, Hell Freezes Over gives much more specific groups. Details are given on the Eisatzgruppen (the monstrous regiments that doled out most of the ethnic cleansings of the Nazi ranks), the Berlin guards of the Volkssturm, the infamous Hitler Youth, and non-Nazi but pro-Axis nationalist groups such as those from Finland, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. The specific ones statted out are the Eisatzgruppen soldier (Grunt 6), Eisatzgruppen (Officer 9), Hitler Youth (Grunt 1), Volkssturm (no class levels), Finnish soldier (Grunt 2), Finnish officer (Officer 5), minor Axis soldier (Grunt 1), and minor Axis officer (Officer 1).

In real life, the Nazis were willing to give Hungary the ownership of Transylvania as punishment for Romania's Allied allegiances during the first World War. In Weird War II, however, the purpose is a more sinister attempt to keep Hungary and Romania at each others' throats while the Nazis sneak in and hunt for vampires for Hitler's vampire serum. They also have their eyes on scattered vampire villages in frosty Siberia and the artifacts created and hidden by various ancient and powerful vampires. One of the vampires you might encounter is, of course, :drac: himself. Vlad Dracula is tied to several supernatural creatures at once rather than just the vampire, as it is said that he sought an audience with the Devil himself while astride a dragon, and that some blood mages attempt to do the same.

New Monsters for the Russian Front
Hell Freezes Over gives us a total of 11 new monsters.
  • Baba Yaga (CR 4 Medium-size Monstrous Humanoid): The monstrous hag witch that lives in a chicken-legged hut, famous through many Russian folk tales. She also happens to hate Germany for past and current feuds with her witch kin and can be convinced to aid the war effort. She has frightful presence, a paralyzing gaze attack, spell-like abilities of a wide variety from fire and water magic to illusions and debilitating powers, a special wand charged up with hold person, a mortar and pestle that can fly, and her infamous hut. She also advances by class levels that you as the GM choose, which is why she is so surprisingly low level.
  • Bannik (CR 3 Medium-size Outsider): Banniks are spirits of the bath house from Russian mythology, spending most of their time just sort of chilling in their house of choice and sometimes playing pranks on foreign bathers. They can be pissed off fairly easily, however, as lying, boasting, swearing, loud singing, excessive talking, and sex in the bath house all draw a bannik's ire and leads to hot coals being thrown around. As far as game stats go, the bannik has a fear aura and a load of illusion and mind-affecting spell-like abilities and can gain class levels.
  • Corrosive Rot (CR 7 Huge Plant): A vaguely humanoid heap of rotting vegetation, the corrosive rot haunts fetid swamps and bogs such as the Pripyat Marshes. They are willing to eat pretty much anything that gets within range of their flailing vine-tentacles - animals, people, vehicles, doesn't matter. It has the equipment to do so as well, as its tentacles are just a way of leading prey into a twisted maw that deals 1d6 bite damage plus a whopping 4d8 acid damage.
  • Exploding Corpse (CR 4 Medium-size Undead: Zombie + flammable gasses and liquids. Hitting them enough leads to a big 12d10 damage boom.
  • Grave Bane (CR 6 Huge Undead): Another creature in the fine Weird War II tradition of "monsters that are actually more or less hazards". The grave bane's only ability is to bestow a curse on someone that causes them to seek out and kill the highest-ranking officer that took place in the execution of the grave bane. Given that grave banes are only made from Jews, Roma, Slavs, and others murdered by Nazi eugenics brigades, however, I can't see how it's that much of a curse for any good-aligned character.
  • Gutter Rank (CR 1 Tiny Aberration): These freaky kidney-looking creatures slither around in sewers and other dark, wet places in search of small prey such as rodents. If they're startled by a larger creature such as a human, however, they'll latch on and start injecting foul gasses into the nearest organ. If it happens to attach near the heart or brain, it's a save-or-die effect. Woo.
  • Hate Feeders - Poltergeist (CR 4 Small Outsider), Possessor (CR 4 Medium-size Outsider), and Manifestation (10 Huge Outsider): The hate feeders are three forms of dark human spirit made manifest. Poltergeists are mostly known for telekinetically throwing objects around and other spell-like abilities based around property damage and harassment, possessors are souls from Hell that require a human body to possess in order to remain on Earth, and the manifestation is the result of the two combining into a writhing column of pure hatred. The manifestation has exactly 666 hit points :haw:, is immune to turning, and cannot be killed unless it is struck by a dispel evil spell. Its offensive powers are just as dangerous, cloud kill, black tentacles, reverse gravity, and a fear aura being just icing on the amorphous pseudopod-slamming cake.
  • Ice Ooze (CR 7 Huge Ooze): It's an ooze that is camouflaged in ice and snow and has cold tentacles. Hooray, I guess.
  • Yeti (CR 6 Large Magical Beast: Known by other local names such as the chuchuuna and almas, the yeti is a large tribe-dwelling primate found in highlands from the Caucasus to Siberia and down to the Himalayas Mongolia, and China. In addition to being brutes in melee, they are capable of letting out a paralysis-inducing howl and using stealth-related spell-like abilities.


With our trip through the frozen hell being over, the Weird War II books left are Afrika Korpse, Dead From Above, and Land of the Rising Dead. Which one comes next is up to you.

Comrade Gorbash
Jul 12, 2011

My paper soldiers form a wall, five paces thick and twice as tall.
Day After Ragnarok is my vote. It's got zombies in there somewhere. Also the Nazis summoning Jörmungandr the World Serpent, which the Allies proceed to nuke.

Oct 26, 2007

Friends: Protected
World: Saved
Crablettes: Eaten
I'm a bit disappointed in Hell Freezes over. Baba Yaga having whatever class levels the GM things would be best is good, but it's really missing some of the more creative stuff. I mean Lysenko is around for this, where's the weird hybrid plant/animal monsters?

90s Cringe Rock
Nov 29, 2006

Comrade Gorbash posted:

Day After Ragnarok is my vote. It's got zombies in there somewhere. Also the Nazis summoning Jörmungandr the World Serpent, which the Allies proceed to nuke.

I'm not going to post it, because seeing it for the first time in the write-up is worth avoiding spoilers, but this setting has the best world map, and so it's my vote.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Mysteries Revised

Some magic used to be Mysteries or is of special value to the mystery cults, but is now relatively open knowledge to the Order as a whole, if unusual. The Art of Memory was a mnemonic device once limited only to mystery cults. However, it has even spread to some mundane scholars now, though its use remains uncommon at best. It involves the creation of memory palaces, allowing the user to memorize perfectly complex ideas or texts. Essentially, the memory is imagined as a floor plan - a square villa with a central courtyard and entrance (usually). Rooms lead off from this courtyard, and each contains up to five loci, where distinct chunks of information are kept for later access. The more skill you have with the Art, the more rooms exist. Memories stored within the memory palace do not ever fade, save when deliberately forgotten. Each is represented by a symbolic object to remind the user what the memory is. Mentem magic allows interaction with the memory palace - the creation and enhancement of loci. Without magic, a memory locus can, at its most impressive, contain 100 pages of written text, an entire day's lecture or debate or a description of an entire manor house in exacting detail.

Spell Binding is the secret of containing spirits, using them to empower and sustain spells. This is used on elementals and airy spirits, or very rarely ghosts. The container for the spirit is a physical item, which if broken will end the spell. The container is then linked to a spell, causing the container and spell to be Arcane Connections to each other. Once a spell is bound but before the spirit is trapped, a magus may command a spirit to enter the container, where it will be trapped and forced to sustain the spell for as long as it is trapped. These spirits must be disembodied spirits, naturally. When trapped, it can use its powers for no purpose other than to sustain the spell or resist other magic. IT cannot leave the container, but may well perceive the world around it and be able to converse. Some can use the Arcane Connection to perceive the world around the spell. When the container is broken, the spells end. When the spells end, the spirit is freed. If the spirit is weakened by the sustaining of power such that it is no longer able to support the spell, the same thing happens. The spirit can also be magically compelled to leave the prison, achieving the same result. If the spell being sustained would require the caster's concentration, it likewise requires the spirit's, and so if the spirit is distracted it is freed.

Performance Magic is the art of disguising magic as a mundane task. Such task must be either clearly verbal or physical, yet also not merely understaning a language, or part of any supernatural, academic or arcane skill. Examples include storytelling (for verbal), hunting (for physical) or music or acting (for both). This knowledge essentially allows the magus to replace the normal words and gestures of the spell with those of the task - though a hunter would still need to speak the spell, and a storyteller perform the gestures. In addition, magi who know Performance Magic may make a spell that lasts as long as a performance they do does.

Planetary Magic was developed to integrate astrology into Hermetic theory. Essentially, it allows an enchanted device to be made according to astrological influences of an appropriate planet. Doing this allows for the improvement of the enchanted devices at the cost of only working during astrologically significant times (and thus being vulnerable to distraction and interruption). This only improves enchanted devices, and nothing else, but is a wonderful introduction to the more complex astrological magic practiced by certain mystery cults.

Potent Magic is similar to a Magical Focus - it is a narrow field of magic in which you excel. However, you may learn multiple fields of Potent Magic, unlike Magical Foci. Potent Magic also allows the creation of Potent Spells, spells which are improved even further than the bonus naturally provided by Potent Magic in the appropriate field by integrating into the spell itself the use of a specific item for casting, such as a wand containing jade. Potent spells can be very powerful...but also require you to carry around a lot of items to ensure you can cast them. Fortunately, they are not exclusive - a wand containing jade and other materials would apply to all spells requiring wands and any of those materials. Further, large items such as a spade can be used in miniature or toy form, so long as they have the right shape.

Vulgar Alchemy is said to derive from hedge alchemy, the brewing of potions and charms. Essentially, it allows a magus to experiment with new shapes and materials to discover new ways to empower enchantments, which can afterwards be used by any magus. It takes a full season of experimentation, and cannot be used on more powerful enchanted devices, which require specific designs to be followed, but once the materials are found, their bonuses can be used on more potent devices. Essentially, the work involves using randomly selected materials in the enchantment process to see what might possibly have helped. By further experimenting with the same materials, the nature and power of these materials can be expanded and discovered, until they are consistent enough to be proven, at which point the magus may write a book on the subject to teach others how to use the material properly.

The Neo-Mercurian cult has allowed certain skills to be taught to outsiders, to enhance its reputation. One of these is Withstand Casting, which reduces the pain and fatigue of casting especially powerful spells, though it cannot truly eliminate them. However, the power can be studied and learned many times, each time reducing fatigue loss further. Quite handy, that.

Next time: Hermetic Alchemy

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008

Pththya-lyi posted:

Deadlands Noir

The Day After Ragnarok

I'd say "both", but do Day After Ragnarok because it's awesome and obscure. I think there's a Fate Core version coming out at some point too.

Feb 28, 2011

I do like some noir, but I remember seeing some loving awesome stuff about Ragnarok and I need to know more.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
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Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Mysteries Revised

Alchemy is an extremely new science to Europe as a whole, and for Hermetic alchemy the grand goal is spiritual perfection rather than gold. It also cares about the transmutation of vis. The principles of alchemy and its secrets were first adapted to Hermetic usage by Jahm of Alexandria, a magus of Ex Miscellanea. The basics of Vulgar Alchemy and even Hermetic Alchemy are not Mysteries, quite. Hermetic Alchemy allows a magus to extract more vis from auras, or to extract less but in forms other than Vim vis. The method to do this involves crafting an object to serve as the vis' physical form. Additional Vim vis or vis of different Forms can be gained this way.

The Mysteries draw on this knowledge, often. Philosophic Alchemy builds on Hermetic alchemy, essentially allowing the alchemical object to perform the transmutations on its own, producing vis with a minimum of oversight, or perhaps opening the object to enchantment on its own. This comes in two forms - a lesser one which takes a full year, and a greater which requires only one seaosn. You must still attend daily to the extraction, but it takes very little actual time.

The Lesser Elixir is part of the constant work by alchemists to discover the path to immortality. It essentially incorporates additional ingredients into the longevity ritual to improve its power, allowing the magus to live a very long time indeed. However, the Lesser Elixir can only be produced for the self, and not for anyone else. Each season of study allows the magus to deduce a new helpful ingredient, and each ingredient goes a little way to empowering the elixir. It is especially common for alchemists to use Vulgar Alchemy to discover new, potentially helpful materials.

The ultimate goal is the Great Elixir, which transforms the alchemist into an immortal being of magic at the cost of their humanity. This requires knowledge of the Lesser Elixir. Essentially, the magus first creates an enchantable potion, to which is added the Lesser Elixir, than enchants it with unique magics that have no purpose beyond this ritual. Then, the elixir is drunk. If it works, the magus is immediately transformed. If it fails, the magus knows immediately and must try again with a new version of the Great Elixir rituals. An alchemical immortal can be killed, but does not age, will not die of lesser wounds and is never Warped. The transformation is complete and cannot be dispelled or reversed. The newly immortal magus may attempt to improve their magical power by reproducing the Great Elixir in more potent varieties, attempting to grant themselves more magical Might.

These mysteries are largely the domain of the Order of the Green Cockerel, which was born out of the theories of Jahm of Alexandria. Alchemy received little attention by the Order until 1144, however, and the publishing of De Compositione Alchemiae by Roger of Chester. Until that time, the Order of the Green Cockerel had just been a minor mystery cult working towards the Great Work. Now, they were catapulted to fashion and popularity, as more and more magi wish to learn the new science. The existing cult coped well and has earned some repute. Its existence is basically an open secret in the Order, and most members make very little effort to hide their allegiance. They work to advance alchemy and integrate it into Hermetic theory as best they can. When they deal with unGifted alchemists, they always use disguise and try to dissociate themselves with the Order, using cryptic hints to guide development.

There is one secret the Order of the Green Cockerel keeps from the Order at large, though: they are in frequent and friendly correspondence with Islamic wizards. This goes beyond even the trading of magical secrets - rumor has it that some of the Green Cockerel has been interfering with the Crusaders. Many of the Green Cockerel visit the Levant, North Africa and Granada often, and the language of Arabic is frequently taught to its members. Some of their best texts can only be found in Arabic. All of their texts are cloaked in symbolism to hide the nature of their Mysteries. Once every seven years, they hold a Grand Convocation in Alexandria. In theory, all initiates attend, but lab work often keeps people away. Here, though, new insights and devices are shared, as well as new breakthroughs in material usage, and there is a competition for greatest breakthrough in the last seven years, known as the Fermentation Cycle.

The extent of the Green Cockerel is a matter of some conjecture, but alchemy has surely flourished throughout the world (except in Russia, Scotland and Ireland). The number of members is unknown, but it's probably one of the larger mystery cults due to the popularity of alchemy. It's clear that the Great Work has only been achieved very recently, and perhaps only once, ever The single initiate who may have completed the Work is never seen by members of the Green Cockerel and is known as the Secret Master, though accounts vary wildly as to his or her gender. The seven degrees of the Order of the Green Cockerel reflect the seven traditional stages of an alchemic process, and each is associated with a planet, a color and a metalm, and is named for an alchemic symbol. The Green Cockerel do love their symbolism.

The first degree, the Toads, represents calcination and is tied to Saturn, the color black and lead. The unrefined probationer is exposed to the heat of the Initiation, learning of the invisible sun and the influence of the planets. Toads are regarded with awe by mundane alchemists, but they are the lowest of the Cockerels, still largely lab assistants and as yet unversed in the mysteries. They typically are sent on Quests to retrieve rare ingredients or alchemical literature, and they are initiated into Planetary Magic.

The second degree, the White Swans, represents dissolution and is tied to Jupiter, grayish-white and tin. They are asked to make sacrifices, giving up worldly concerns in the pursuit of the Great Work. To prove their knowledge, they must add new knowledge to the corpus of the understanding of the Green Cockerels by creating at least seven new materials for use in magic before the next initiation can begin, in addition to all usual requirements. It is admired to use exotic and hard-to-get ingredients found on quests, and to assist in this, they are initiated into Vulgar Alchemy.

The third degree, the Green Kings, represents seperation and is tied to Mars, iron and green. (Red may be traditionally the color of Mars, but green is its complement, and the initiate is symbolically seperating out all greenness from the red.) The Green Kings (a term used even for women) remove themselves from all contact with other Green Cockerels until ready for the next initiation, and will not attend Convocation until then. The initiate is expected to purge themselves of material dross and find their true potential. They are initiated into the secrets of being unaging, eternally youthful if not eternally young, before the exile begins. They focus on eliminating unwholesome and negative personality traits in this period.

The fourth degree, the Peacocks, represents the process of conjunction and is tied to Venus, copper and the rainbow. The purged and purified initiate is welcomed back to the Green Cockerel, expected now to serve as active members of the cult. As a result, they are taught some of the secrets of the Great Work, being initiated into the secret of Hermetic Alchemy.

The fifth degree, the Unicorns, represents fermentation and is tied to Mercury, the metal mercury and purest white. They are the ambassadors and emissaries of the cult, watching over the mundane alchemists as guides and helpers via veiled hints and cryptic allusions. They begin the Great Work in earnest, learning the secret of the Lesser Elixir.

The sixth degree, the Pelicans, represents distillation and is tied to the Moon, silver and the color red. Now, they learn the true secret of distillation via the initiation into Philosophic Alchemy, taking on the role of Mystagogue and earthly representative of the Order of the Green Cockerel to lesser cultists. They are the intermediary between the the true spiritual master of the Great Work and the alchemical brethren, both mundane and Hermetic.

The seventh degree, the Phoenix, represents coagulation and is tied to the Sun, the metal gold and the color gold. An initiate of this level would be taught the secret of the Great Elixir directly by the Secret Master, then rise like a phoenix, transmuting themselves from base gold to immortality. This is the true secret of alchemy, of which mundane alchemy is but the slightest distorted reflection. Unfortunately, there is only one known Phoenix: the Secret Master.

Next time: Hermetic Astrology

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Farness: I Can Melt Your Face From All The Way Over Here

In the base game, there really isn't a “distance” considered. The Monster Might table gives a rough distance category for Monster powers, but it really isn't important and is treated as an abstraction. Now we get some proper rules for considering how far away stuff is.

Farness is considered in relative distance, not absolute. It only matters how far away from you the thing in question is in an abstract concept, not how many 5ft move squares there are. Farness comes in seven steps:

When you are making a scene where Farness matters, pick one as the Default Farness, the point on the scale which is the “default” for the conflict, so that everyone knows the Farness and you only have to keep track of changes. The action in a scene should generally revert back to the Default Farness whenever possible, to keep from confusing people.

Remember, Farness isn't an actual measure of physical distance. Two people standing on opposite sides of an empty parking lot might be a 5-6 Farness, but the thing is, so could standing on opposite ends of a cluttered attic. It doesn't matter if they're a foot from you if you've gotta do fancy parkour stunts to actually get to them. The Default Farness can change as the scene progresses, but you shouldn't switch all the time, or there's no point in it.

Hey Can You Hear Me Jerkwad

A little side category to expand on using the Put-Down skill in a fight. Insults and other social combat techniques work as far as the target can hear you, but Farness 5 is generally considered to be the maximum an unassisted human voice can reach, though out to 7 is possible with a megaphone or a hacked concert sound-system. Y'know, if you ever wanted to emotionally damage a helicopter pilot.


Some especially sensitive kids have realized an iPod loaded with songs by Gore Grinder and Cannibal Clown Apocalypse played at well-above the recommended volume is sometimes a better defense than eight-inch bone plates all over their backs. At least until the enemy stops hurling insults and starts hurling Tibetan throwing axes.

How Far Can His Pus Glands Squirt?

Range for Monsters work a bit different than for everybody else. When you're not in a Conflict, you use the Monster Might table value for a powers range. When you are in combat though, you're limited to 2 Farness default. Wanna reach out further? That's what the Range Extra is for. Every rank of Range means a power goes one more Farness category in Conflict, and two steps up the Monster Might table outside of Conflict. The Area Extra also extends the range, allowing you to affect people out to the Farness level equal to the number of Area ranks you have. Problem is that Area affects everyone in that range, so be careful you don't blow something up you shouldn't. Also, if the Area rank is greater than the Default Farness, than everyone not explicitly further away gets hit.

Getting Closer (or Farther)

You can move up or down 1 Farness on the scale for free whenever your Action that round resolves successfully. If you fail your action, you move after everyone else has resolved theirs. If you want to move further, make an action roll where you can move the Width in Farness steps. Want to move and attack? Multiple actions are needed. If there are any ties, then you compare Feet+P.E. Pools/ the Monster's movement-related location pool.

Playing Chase

These rules can also be used to simulate high speed pursuits. The Farness in the case of a chase scene represents how close the Chaser is to the Chasee. The goal then is for the Chaser to get to 1 Farness, while the Chasee wants to get over 6 to escape. Otherwise all the rules are the same for a Conflict. What this means is that unless one of the parties takes actions to specifically just move, then the two parties keep equal pace, as in a running gun-battle.

Children Fly For Free!
In a Chase scene, Kids can ride their Monsters no matter what. This is because half the point of having a Monster friend is getting piggy back rides from a six foot flying dolphin made of living chrome. This means the Monster does the moving, and the Kid can use their action to do other stuff, like throw rocks, scream insults, make a motivation roll to convince their monster to go around the Fruit Stand, etc. These rules work the same as riding in a car or similar vehicle as a passenger. If the going get rough the Kid may need to make some rolls to stay on their monstrous mount, and if they eat it they need a Motivation roll to convince their Monster to keep up the chase/fleeing instead of stopping to go back for them.


“You came back for me.”
“I told you to keep running! We needed to catch that guy!”
“Yeah, I know. But my people have a saying: leave no man behind.”
“First, I think it’s the US Marines who say that. Second, I’m a girl.”
“Yeah... and technically, the literal translation of my people’s expression is ‘never leave good meat for the ungrateful enemy to gnaw’ but you lose the poetry that way, and it’s really about loyalty and camaraderie and junk. It’s hardly at all about cannibalism.”
“I’m once-again in awe of your people’s way with words. Lean down so I can hop on.”
“Sure, dude, just don’t fart on my exoskeleton this time.”
“Again: GIRL. And I never fart.”
“Take it from the guy who sleeps under your bed. You, dear friend, fart.”

Next Time: Bigness

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.
Rag-Na-Rok! Rag-Na-Rok!

Okay, I've let this languish too long. It's time for another round of...

Official Website
PDF on DriveThruRPG

Part 4: Almost to the Interesting Bits

We're almost out of character creation, which means we'll be getting to the cool stuff soon. The last thing we need to do for our characters is the "personality and dossier" section, where we find out what makes these people tick--and in Night's Black Agents, that boils down to Sources of Stability, Drive, Trust, and Legend.

Sources of Stability
They say everybody needs something to believe in, and that goes double for burned out Dracula-hunting ex-spies. Your Sources of Stability are the things that keep you from collapsing into a fit of PTSD every time you flip past a Hammer Horror marathon on late-night TV. They are incredibly precious, as they are the only thing that lets you refresh your Stability pool between operations--so if, say, you ended the last operation in a Georgian supermax prison, good luck with refreshing that Stability. On the other hand, if you draw on them too much, they might very well come to the attention of the opposition--and if the vampires decide to start undermining your Sources of Stability, you are in for a world of hurt. You get three Sources of Stability, each of which fulfills a different psychological role: Symbol, Solace, and Safety.

Symbol is just that: a symbol of someone or something you care about. It might be something universal like "the flag" or something deeply persona like "my dad's Medal of Honor." The important thing is that it's the Symbol itself that reaffirms your Stability. Once a session during an operation, you can take a few minutes of quiet contemplation with your Symbol to refresh a point of Stability. If your Symbol is lost or destroyed, you lose 1 point from your Stability rating if you don't get it back by the end of the session. Obviously it's real hard to do this to some Symbols: if your Symbol is "a sunrise," for example, there's no way it's getting lost or destroyed (well, probably not). On the other hand, it does limit when you can get that refresh....

In a Stakes game, you should tie your Symbol to your Drive. That's actually a really solid piece of advice in general, I don't know why it's called out explicitly for Stakes games.

If your Symbol is ever proven meaningless--your country is supporting the vampires, or your dad lied to get that Medal of Honor--you immediately lose three points from your Stability rating. Ouch.

Solace is a person, the one person in the world you can go to for human contact, intimacy, and a release from the stress and pressures of your undercover life. For obvious reasons, then, this has to be an NPC--your fellow vampire hunters are too messed up in the same way you are to be useful Sources of Stability. Six hours of quiet, uninterrupted companionship with your Solace--whether that's spending the night with a lover, talking philosophy with your priest, or creepily watching your estranged daughter through the window--gets you back 2 Stability points, again once per session. If you can get a whole day of such interaction between missions, you refresh your entire Stability pool. On the other hand, if your Solace ever betrays you or leaves you, you lose two points of your Stability rating. If your Solace is turned by the enemy, on the other hand, you lose three.

Safety is the place you flee to when the chips are down, when you need to hide out and lick your wounds and generally retreat from human society. Since it's a location, and therefore much easier to find/bug/destroy, going here is very risky, but when you do, it's a doozy. For starters, you can immediately refresh any three General ability pools. Any Preparedness checks you make there have the difficulty reduced by 2. If you manage to get there unobserved, you also refresh your whole Stability pool. Finally, if the place has a caretaker (like maybe your landlord or the old Scottish groundskeeper), you may, once in your life, activate them as a free Network contact with a pool of 6--however, you can never replenish their pool, either with XP or with Network points. Once they're spent, they're spent. And again, if your Safety is destroyed or lost to you, you lose 3 Stability rating points.

If one of your Sources of Stability is lost, never fear! As soon as you spend any XP toward buying more Stability rating points, you can pick a new Source of Stability of the same type. The one exception is if your Symbol was proven to be false--you can never replace a Symbol you've lost faith in. Nothing even matters any more. :emo:

When you found out vampires were real, what made you decide to charge headlong into the night after them, rather than just curling up under the bed and hoping they didn't notice you? That's your Drive. It's typically a one or two word description of what motivates you: Altruism, maybe, or Patriotism, or just plain Nowhere Else To Go. They've only got one mechanical hook, really: If the Director thinks you're hunkering down and playing things too safe, he can assess a stress penalty that increases the cost of Investigative spends and the difficulty of General ability tests by 1. If he thinks you're really rocking your Drive, he can let you refresh 1 or 2 points from any General pool once per session. I'm not going to list out the Drives, because honestly they're not all that interesting.

We also get a brief sidebar on Personal Arcs that amounts to "tell the Narrator a subplot you'd like to do." It's sadly nowhere near as detailed and cool as the Personal Arc rules in Ashen Stars, but it's something at least.

One more subsystem, this time specifically for Mirror mode games. You pick one other agent your character trusts: that character gets 3 Trust on you. You pick another character you don't trust at all--they get 0 Trust. Then you can assign 1 Trust each to up to two other characters. In hardcore Mirror mode games, you pick these ratings in secret and reveal them all at the same time. In less extreme games, you just go around the table and you can change your answers when you see what other people pick.

Trust is basically a pool of Aid Another points. You spend the Trust you got from another agent to help that agent out on their actions. Trust builds and changes slowly: at the end of each operation (not session; an operation is "one adventure") you can shift one point of Trust from one agent to another, and you can buy one Trust for 1 XP, but those are the only ways Trust refreshes.

You can also turn Trust into Betrayal--spending Betrayal lets you levy a -3 penalty on a General test or totally shut down a use of an Investigative ability for a scene (e.g. by evidence-tampering, murdering witnesses, etc.) Once Betrayal is spent, it's gone forever.

Maps and Legends
This is your standard "fill-in-the-details" section. It advises leaving your background sketchy, both because it's very in-genre and because you want the freedom to be able to use those retroactive abilities like Network and Cover. One really nice touch in this section is an age breakdown, decade-by-decade, that gives suggestions for the kinds of military and covert ops your character might have been part of before getting out of the business. It covers characters in their 20s through their 50s, and like the Backgrounds, it's not comprehensive but a good launching point for your own research. Finally, we get a sidebar on how to handle the vampire reveal: most games start with the vampires' existence coming out in the first operation (indeed, that's how the sample adventure in the back of the book starts). In others you might want to start in medias res--maybe discovery of the vampires is what led all the characters to leave their old agencies and join up. Or, especially in Mirror games, you might start with one or two characters in the know about vampires and the rest of the group in the dark.

And that's Character Creation! Next up we'll dive into the Thriller rules Night's Black Agents adds to the GUMSHOE system. We'll also hopefully get some more art to break up the text.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!
My vote is for Day After Ragnarok. Deadlands Noir has Stone on the cover, so it loses by default. I like the idea but... I'm gonna judge that one by the cover. Stone! Go away! Nobody likes you! (Well except Pinnacle.)

occamsnailfile posted:

Really they’re just supposed to be a lesson in how not everything ugly is evil etc etc.

Which is always odd to see, given that for some reason, monster cultures like Atlantis (and the one we'll see in Africa) despise beauty, which is defined as the human standard of beauty. Why? Because they're evil monsters. :v:

But that's okay because he's subverted our expectations with bug-people that hardly matter to anyone anywhere. Of course, this is a Siembieda theme - in Villains Unlimited, which England references, you have 2 or 3 villains that aren't really bad but just are persecuted because they look monstrous, and then you have the secret society of pretty aliens that look like humans that actually want to wipe out or enslave anybody that looks human in favor of ugly monsters (anything that doesn't look human, even if it once was human) because... um... they're racist against humans. Which they look just like. You may want to imagine a snapping sound because that is the sound of my brain breaking.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Mysteries Revised

Astrology is an extremely ancient practice, famously practiced by the Chaldeans, Babylonians and Romans. In Rome, it was very popular due to claims of scientific precision, and it soon became vital to many magical practices and the lives of many people. This encouraged a fatalist view, the belief that a man's destiny was written in the stars and that no action could confound this fate. Philosophies of courage and resignation before fate flourished. The early Church fathers, however, attacked astrology on three principles. Firstly, it bore traces of pagan superstition and worship of the stars. Secondly, it denied the fundamental Christian principle of free will - if the stars control all actions, people are not responsible for their good or evil deeds and so the hope of salvation is meaningless. Third, it exposed the astrologers to evil spirits. Saint Augustine's City of God makes a brutal attack on astrology, decrying the lack of accountability in an astrological world, and the blasphemy of blaming evil on God via the stars. However, most Christan philosophers still accept the idea of astrology, claiming that learning astrology helps to defeat the influence of the stars, which can be overcome by act of will. Many astrologers simply do not care about theological objections and ignore them utterly.

Prior to the 1100s, scientific astrology was fairly rare in Europe, though popular astrology based on the moon was known. Scientific astrology is based on charts drawn up to examine the detailed influence of the planets, and is what is used for magic and court astrology, who began to gain influence at the time. Astronomy, of course, is taught at universities as part of the Artes Liberales, which can include astrology. Several Arabic works were translated in the 1100s, too, such as Abu Ma'shar's Greater Introduction to Astrology or Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos. It was also considered that the influences of the heavens could be artificially drawn down by use of periapts, amulets inscribed with the names and sigils of the stars and planets. A very small number of writers claim this is natural magic, the best known of which is the text called Picatrix, translated from Arabic into Spanish and Latin. Astrology as a whole is quite reputable in Europe now, and while occasionally a churchman will denounce it, it is generally seen as acceptable and tolerated, even mainstream.

Hermetic Astrology deals primarily with the influence of the heavens as manifest on Earth and how to work that into magic. Hermetic magic is largely able to ignore astrological influence due to Bonisagus' theories, but often mystery cults use astrology for divinatory or revelatory purposes, or to empower spells. The basic principle of all this is derived from Planetary Magic.

Periapts is the secret of constructing a periapt. While originally a small amulet containing a one-shot spell, Hermetic theory has allowed them to become any form of Hermetic charged device. Essentially, the creation of Periapts involves the formulation of a special Horoscope with which the magus infers the correct aspects of the heavens to create amulets with greater efficiency than normal, granting the device more charges. The creation of a Periapt Horoscope must be done at the start of the season, on the day of the equinox or solstice, but it only takes a single hour. (It also only applies to that season.)

Beyond this simple skill is Celestial Magic, which utilizes knowledge of the heavens to determine the most effective periods for labwork and instills astrological influence into that work to improve its effects. This includes all the powers of Planetary Magic, but also expands them, allowing the Lab Horoscopes of Planetary magic to apply to all lab activity, not just enchantment. Further, it unlocks new durations for spells, based on astrology and the rising and setting of the constellations. An Astrological Minute is identical to the standard Diameter - the time it takes for the sun to move across its own diameter. There is no difference there. An Astrological Hour, however, is the time it takes for a constellation to move from rising to centered over the horizon, or centered to fully risen. (There are twelve signs, so 24 hours in a day.) An astrological Day is the time taken for the sun to return to the same constellation it was in when the Day begin - almost exactly 24 hours. An Astrological Sign, or month, is marked by the sunrise moving through one full constellation - essentially, one calendar month. Thus, astrological magic can be made extremely precise via astrological calculations.

Further, a celestial magus may attempt to identify the favorable hour of the day for spellcastin, and in that hour the magus will receive a bonus to all spells cast. Lastly, a magus may create enchantments that are astrologically linked to a particular target or time of year. An enchantment linked to a target requires a nativity horoscope, and will be automatically restricted to only work on that target, and no one else, without making the enchantment harder. A seasonal enchantment is attuned to the astrological cycle, either one sign or a group of signs associated with an element. While that sign is ascendant, the enchanted item will be more powerful - though with elemental groups, the opposed element's astrological signs will weaken the item.

It should be noted that determining astrological time is very important for astrology, and can be done by any magus using Intellego Vim. Most astrologers will want to create an enchanted armillary sphere to help with their work. An armillary sphere is essentially a mechanical device that indicates time via the movement of stars and planets, allowing you to tell the astrological conditions in any place at a set time. The enchantments on such a device are generally designed to keep it accurate to the place and time it is in (though still able to be modified to check other areas). The purpose is simple: using an armillary sphere to obtain exact information makes all the astrological calculations needed to astrological magic significantly easier.

The primary scholars of astrology and astronomy in the Order are the Magoi of the Star. They refute the idea of the stars overriding free will; they are Christians, after all, believing in the principle of free will and finding it compatible with the influence of the stars and planets - they influence, but do not determine. A man born under Mars may well be a great warrior, but he can still ignore that call and become a farmer instead. These theorists say that the Limit of Time is in place by Divine will, for only God can have true knowledge of the future. The stars dictate only general patterns and forces that act on men, but do not force decisions. The Magoi rigorously refute the concept of astrological determinism and the heresy of fatalism. For did not God make humanity with the divine gift of free will, and did not that same God set the stars in the sky? To assert that astrology and free will are incompatible is clearly nonsense.

The Magoi are heavily influenced by the work of the early Christian scholar Origen, and his tomb at Tyre is a site of great importance to them - though even more important, they say, are the relics of the three Persian magi in Cologne. The Magoi of the Star hold that despite the fact that the influence of the stars is not determinant, it is still strongly influential. Human weakness often results from the baleful influence of the stars. Only by understanding those influences and acting with full knowledge of their impact can one truly exercise free will and reason, completely free from the planetary dictates. Therefore, they study astrology that they might use its secrets to counteract the negative influences of the stars and free themselves of their very object of study.

The Magoi claim descent from the magi of the Bible who brought Jesus the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, having followed a star. The Magoi are devout Christians, and are highly reverent of these three wise men, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, whose bodies lie in the Shrine of Kings at Cologne Cathedral, having been brought there from Milan by Frederick I. (They were brought to Milan from the Holy Land on a pilgrimage of Empress Helena.) The secrets of these Three Magi, they say, were astrological. The Magoi are awaiting the Second Coming, paying great attention toe the Books of Daniel and Revelations. However, they are not holy magi and, indeed, their views are highly unorthodox and would be viewed with suspicion by most of the Church as incompatible with the works of Saint Augustine. The modern Magoi are the foremost astrologers and experts on astrological magic in the Order. The group is very loosely organized, but each member is expected at least once to make pilgrimage to Cologne Cathedral on Christmas DAy, December 25th. They also celebrate their own birthdays with great pomp and ceremony, and both occasions are used for lavish gift-giving to other Magoi. They recently have become very concerned with possible prophecies of an Antichrist, and they are fervently seeking out information as to the truth and meaning behind these portents. Their divination and astrology are handy for understanding the present, but cannot see the future, and even the wisest diviner must ask the right questions. The Magoi are taught directly, teacher to pupil, and have little structure outside that relationship. When a master decides a pupil is ready, they are intiated into the various degrees and eventually sent out to be a master themselves. The cult is rumored to have headquarters in Bethlehem, Babylon and Cologne, great repositories of astrological lore, but the truth of these rumors is closely guarded.

There are seven degrees of initiation. The Degree of Saturn is first, and in cult rites they wear black gowns with star and moon symbols emblazoned. They require a strong knowledge of the Artes Liberales, to properly study astronomical charts. They are initiated into Planetary MAgic and its uses. The second Degree of Jupiter teachings Potent Magic specializing in the magus's birth house, as the initiate learns how to use astrological influence to greater effect. Their robes are emblazoned with astrological symbols and are a deep blue. The Degree of Mars is third, wearing red. They are taught the use of Medicine to study the four humours, and are initiated into the secrets of Periapts. Further, the Degree of Mars are required to actively serve the cult by watching for signs of the Infernal and actively opposing the work of diabolists and infernalists.

The fourth Degree of Venus wear a copper circlet and emerald robe. Their duty is gather information for the cult's interests, and all members of the Degree of Venus must complete the Cologne pilgrimage for Christmas Day if they have not already done so. They are initiated into the power of Celestial Magic. The fifth Degree of Mercury requires the initiate to begin teaching and training others on behalf of the cult. They travel more than other degrees - to Bethlehem, Cologne and Babylon, seeking out astrological secrets and meeting other astrologers, both Magoi and other traditions. They are taught a Major Magical Focus related to their Potent house, unless they already have a Magical Focus in which case they are taught Potent Magic in either their birth planet or their birth sign. They wear orange or amber robes.

The sixth degree, the Wise Ones, are the leading members of the cult, learning the true secrets and full activities of the group. They wear a silver robe bearing the sign of the new moon, and are taught divination and augury. (Which we'll talk about next time.) The greatest of all, the seventh degree, are the Hierophants, who lead the Magoi of the Star and are said to know and teach each other many virtues of astrological magic and potent magic. There are only three Hierophants, and their identities are kept a mystery from all but each other. Only when one dies or passes into Final Twilight does a new opening become available.

Also, there's an appendix on astrological significance ot the signs and planets and houses for use with magic.

Next time: Divination and Augury

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.

Alien Rope Burn posted:

My vote is for Day After Ragnarok. Deadlands Noir has Stone on the cover, so it loses by default. I like the idea but... I'm gonna judge that one by the cover. Stone! Go away! Nobody likes you! (Well except Pinnacle.)

If it helps, he's nearly completely absent from the book except for a single plot seed "Someone bought Stone's guns at auction and they and the courier who was delivering them went missing oh no!"

He is not actually involved in the disappearance at all, weirdly enough.

He's not even mentioned in the Companion as far as I can tell.

But I also vote for After Ragnarok because I don't have it.

Father Wendigo
Sep 28, 2005
This is, sadly, more important to me than bettering myself.

I'm torn.

One the one hand, Day After Ragnarok is just wonderful in the most bananas way possible from what I've been told through the FATE kickstarter.

On the other hand, Deadlands Noir has both camp-value through the roof and several painfully awkward laughs thanks to kickstarter's "Pay $XXX, and we use your face as an NPC."

Feb 17, 2005

GURPS Vehicles: Propulsion and Lift Systems

Naturally a vehicle in order to count as such requires some sort of motive power rather than the party just standing behind it and pushing. Or not if you decide to use harnesses. Being GURPS Vehicles, standing in front of it and pulling is not only supported but there are increasingly technologically sophisticated options. For those who aren't so much interested in purely technological solutions, the book helpfully points out that zombies, golems and robots are also possible alternatives to your standard draft animal.

Rope Harness—It's a rope tied to whoever or whatever is pulling the vehicle. Multiply the animals' combined strength scores by .0075 to get the effective motive powers, so an army of 50 peasants with standard 10 ST each will produce about 3.75 kW of barge-hauling power.
Yoke-and-Pole Harness—It's a pole attached to a rigid collar, rather than what's effectively a leash. Multiply the animals' combined strength scores by .01 to get the effective motive power.
Shaft-and-Collar Harness—Same as before, but now it actually distributes the load across the draft animal's shoulders rather than across its neck. This has a .015 multiplier.
Whiffletree Harness—Strictly speaking it's a lever for dividing the load evenly between two draft animals, but I won't complain about the .02 multiplier.

These have their limitations. Naturally they can't be used in deep water without teams of draft dolphins, so alternatives like oars are required. Oars are more efficient than even the best dolphin teams and get a efficiency boost at higher tech levels due to improved biomechanics. On the downside, collision damage to the side of a vessel with oars disables an oar for every 10 points of damage the vehicle takes and deals 2d6 damage to the rower. For designers not wanting to deal with feeding and housing hundreds of rowers, sails are a popular alternative.

Square Rig—This is your standard big rectangular sail seen on galleys and longboats, both notable in that they carried lots of rowers because the sails suck unless the wind is blowing perfectly.
Fore-and-Aft Rig—The type of sail seen on sailboats, dhows and xebecs. The last one is mainly worth remembering for Scrabble.
Full Rig—A multi-mast configuration with multiple square sails hanging from yardarms and triangular jibs for control. This isn't quite as maneuverable as a fore-and-aft rig in theory but the sheer amount of sail area makes up for it.

Sails are rated by the number of square feet that they cover which is proportional to the square of the average mast height, with the maximum mast height being some function of the volume of the vehicle. If those options aren't enough, it's also possible to have aerial sails for flying ships and synthetic sails or bioplas (ultra lightweight, regenerating material) sails for high tech ships. Not included in GURPS Vehicles but found in some of the supplements are rigid sails and powered sails.

Powered aquatic propulsion comes later in the chapter, but since I'm already covering sails and oars, might as well get it out of the way as well.

Paddle Wheel—I guess this is in here for completeness or GURPS Mark Twain.
Screw Propeller—Bog-standard propeller like you'd see on any modern ship.
Ducted Propeller—Propeller with a shroud to increase its efficiency and make it more silent.
Hydrojet or MHD Tunnel—Like seen on jetskis and other vessels which operate in very shallow water. MHD Tunnels are silent but only operate in saltwater.

Now on to ground drivetrains, or at least dedicated ground drivetrains. Nothing really says that you can't have a wheeled vehicle with an Orion engine other than those jackbooted thugs at the EPA.

Wheeled—Either plain or all-wheel drive, these are pretty much what they sound like.
Tracked—For tanks, halftracks and skitracks. Heavier, less power efficient but much better on uneven terrain.
Legs—For giant robots, small robots and other impractical designs. On the plus side this does really well with uneven terrain.
Flexibody—Let's face it, sometimes legs are just too practical. Giant snake robots are there for when you want something that will never get off the drawing board in a million years.
Magnetic Levitation—AKA maglev is a technology used to cause trains to hover inches off of a track using magnetism and enormous amounts of cash. The game estimates maglev track at something like $4 million/mile while in practice it's closer to $40 million/mile.

Aerial propulsion is similar in that it's got a variety of options.

Aerial Propeller—Your bog standard airplane propeller. Occasionally used by archaeologists for killing Nazis.
Ducted Fan—Used on blimps, hovercraft and the Brooklands EA7 Optica due to improved efficiency at lower speeds. These can also be used with hoverskirts to improve their efficiency when pointed downwards as part of a hovercraft.
Turbojet—Relatively lightweight but fuel inefficient jet engines used in many older aircraft.
Turbofan—Fuel efficient but heavier jet engines that have pretty much replaced turbojets.
Ramjet—Jet engines without any form of turbine that produce lots of thrust at extremely high speeds but not at speeds below 400 mph.
Turbo-Ramjet—A turbojet that can transform into a ramjet in flight. Turbofans still leave this in the dust as far as efficiency goes, but this makes hypersonic flight feasible if not practical.
Hyperfan—In spite of the name, it's just a turbofan that runs on hydrogen. Efficiently mind you, but I wouldn't just go throwing around such nomenclature willy-nilly.
Fusion Air-Ram—A fusion-powered jet engine that heats the atmosphere passing through it with a fusion reactor embedded in the engine. Able to run for years nonstop in any atmosphere, if there's a jet engine worthy of the name hyperfan, it's this.

Sometimes you don't just want aerial propulsion but also want some lift as well. All of the following provide lift and most also provide with some forward thrust.

TTR Rotor—A helicopter rotor on top of the vehicle along with a rotor on the tail in order to keep the vehicle from spinning out of control.
CAR Rotor—A pair of contrarotating coaxial helicopter rotors together keeping the vehicle from spinning. Mainly used in old Soviet designs.
MMR Rotor—Two or more helicopter rotors not mounted coaxially like on transport helicopters. With a bunch of other requirements, this can also serve as the core of a tiltrotor system.
Ornithopter—Flapping wings for designs looking for a touch of the impractical. Not actually all that bad at higher tech levels with very small designs. If the lift is high enough an ornithopter can hover, but even if they can't ornithopters can fly very slowly due to the reduced weight in their stall speed calculations.
Lighter-than-air Gas—Helium, hydrogen, hot air or whatever in a big bag.
Levitation and Contragrav Generators—A variety of options for just saying screw it, this thing flies. These include magic enchantments, antigravity pastes, UFO propulsion, lifting gasses with negative density and the like.

Finally, space travel stuff.

Solid Rockets—Big steel tubes full of stuff which is borderline explosive.
Liquid Rockets—Rocket engines of the sort you'd expect to see on a modern spaceship. This uses a generic rocket fuel but there are supplemental rules for every bizarre combination of propellants that you can dream up. Hydrogen and RFNA? Why the gently caress not?
MOX Rockets—Rocket engines using liquid oxygen plus some metal powder. Not particularly efficient but it's possible to mine the fuel in space.
Ion Drives—Extremely fuel efficient but low thrust designs that take months or years to get any appreciable amount of speed going. They also require something around 650 kW per pound of thrust.
Fission Rockets—Rockets using a built in fission reactor to heat water into (mildly radioactive) steam. The bigger impediment to using these rockets everywhere is their comparative lack of thrust.
Fusion Rockets—Fission rockets but without the radiation, much better fuel efficiency and low enough weight that they can be used as substitutes for conventional rockets.
Optimized Fusion Rockets—Instead of using water, these heat up much smaller amounts of hydrogen. This is the equivalent of an ion engine but even more efficient and without the power requirement.
Antimatter Thermal Rockets—Dumps tiny amounts of antimatter along with lots of matter into the combustion chamber, heating up the matter that doesn't get annihilated and pushing it out the back. Available surprisingly early although the costs of getting the antimatter and containing it are a different matter entirely.
Antimatter Pion Rocket—A more sophisticated drive that produces ion engine level thrust but at extremely high efficiencies approaching theoretical limits.
Reactionless Thrusters—You know those theoretical limits? Well screw 'em. Reactionless thrusters just sacrifice kilowatts to the gods of Go Fast and suddenly your spaceship is moving in the direction you want.

There's also a couple of options which are destined to remain science fiction. Orion Engines use a big armored plate strapped to a shock absorber on the back of the vehicle. Once a second or so the vehicle launches a nuclear bomb behind itself and sets it off, pushing the vehicle forward. Yes, someone thought that this was a Good Idea, enough to fund it for a short while in the 1960s.

Lightsails are completely different from normal sails and used for space ships, using the pressure produced by the solar wind to push the vehicle along. Seeing as that the thrust is measured in pounds per square mile of sail area, this won't get you anywhere very fast. At higher tech levels, it's possible to have up to 360,000 square miles of light sail which is still painfully slow, (especially as you get further and further from a star) but it's viable in a very academic sense. At least moreso than ion engines.

There's also options for faster than light travel, although not all of the options are going to be available in any campaign. Which are available depends more on the feel that the GM wants to convey than anything else.

Hyperdrives are an option for moving faster than the speed of light by jumping to hyperspace where it's possible to travel multiple parsecs per day. While in this space, the vehicle isn't capable of interacting with the rest of the universe. It takes a huge amount of energy to make the initial jump but staying in hyperspace is relatively cheap. Warp Drives are effectively engines that allow the vehicle to travel faster than the speed of light while remaining in interaction with the rest of the universe. They don't require any energy to make an initial jump to hyperspace, but they do use much more power to operate over a sustained period of time. Jump Drives allow jumps between two ends of a wormhole effectively instantaneously but require a massive amount of energy to operate and only work in specific locations. Teleporters are jump drives without any of the pesky limitations. Parachronic Conveyors are plot devices for jumping between alternate dimensions.

Nov 4, 2007

zamtrios so lonely
Grimey Drawer
Rifts:™ England Part 8: “Aliens, Insects and Monsters”

Since we had alien plants, it’s only fair to have some alien animals. These are something that players are more likely to encounter/interact with, given the life cycle of the typical murderhobo. ARB has pointed out that many of these creatures were ripped heavily from Nausicaa--which I guess those beetle things in that other book were too. I am unversed in this area so I’ll just assume that’s true and be unsurprised.

First we have the Armored Devil Fish

i actually like this picture, it’s Ewell at his most restrained. its major downside is just that it isn’t half as terrifying as the things that live in the actual ocean already.

“This is one of the many sea monsters that inhabit the waters around the British Isles.” I know there’s been some mention of how bodies of water are a bit more dangerous these days, but not a lot of attention has been given to that (Rifts: Underseas doesn’t have nearly enough sea monsters in it for my tastes either, IIRC, too many evil undersea civilizations) but it’s pretty tuff, with 650 MDC, 1D6x10 bites and 20-30 ft long. It’s also noted as edible and tasting delicious. Otherwise unremarkable. I don’t think they’ve introduced the rules about how lasers don’t work underwater yet in this book so at least you can ignore that noise.

Crawlies aka Hill Beetles

With a name like that I expect them to enjoy the finer points of banjo music and moonshine but no, they’re just extradimensional centipedes so not beetles at all. They’re basically non-aggressive carrion-eaters though they bother trappers by eating their catches, and they have enough MDC to be annoying to kill, especially since they can shoot a short-range chemical spray that causes -10 to strike, parry and dodge with no save. At least to things vulnerable to poison.

Giant Clamp-Mouth Dragonfly

Giant, terrifying predators who eat only living prey and are attracted to PPE. The first paragraph reads like somebody saw a photo spread of insect mouthparts in a nature magazine and got really scared. Anyway, these things are hunted by the bold and daring to try and kill them by jumping into their backs and doing 65MDC to the rear head-plate so body armor can be made out of the rest of the shell-plates. You have to roll percentile under your PS number to hold on, none of this ‘Acrobatics’ or other physical skills actually helping you. There’s a bunch of :words: about how hard they are to catch and really it seems like using the Crawlies to make armor would be easier, they’re much weaker and easier to pin down. Also: there are eight salvageable plates assuming one manages the trick, and each is worth 1200 credits. A complete set of armor has an amazing 65 MDC and costs 34,000 credits, giving the armorer a 300% markup over the PCs.

Flash Beetle

that’s either a laser or a dreadfully accurate stream of urine

Another alien bug attracted to PPE that eats living creatures. Its armor plates are ‘too brittle’ to be valuable for making anything, so these are basically just ammo-and MDC-drains for your PCs; the butt-laser only does 1D6 MD but they have 300 MDC. It also exudes a chemical that may attract more beetles or dragonflies above; really, these things aren’t that fast, it is probably better to just go do something else.

Petal Thing

an evil flower in my hippie book?! how can this be!

This is a ‘horrible monster’ that is an alien nightmare that resembles both insect and plant. That main headlike structure is a ruse that has a bunch of MDC to draw fire. You should aim for the emerald. They’re white or pinkish and look really graceful, but they feed on PPE of living creatures and enjoy killing. Of course. It can also make a hypnotic attack that is again no save and makes a creature helpless to its initial attack, and it’s psionic. They don’t have that much MDC so killing one wouldn’t be super-hard assuming you do not aim for the head for once. It’s just not really worthwhile. Its body parts aren’t worth anything. Hunting is a really useless profession in Rifts: Earth, with all these monsters with brittle armor plates and useless organs and poisonous meat. It does mention on all these that Simvan Monster Riders might be able to talk up any of these various vicious insect predators.

Stone Ball Bug

truth in advertising

These are harmless carrion eaters that pull their twelve legs into their ball-shell when threatened and wait for trouble to pass; country folk use them for games, or keep them around as refuse disposal. Herbalists can use their ground legs to make poison-curing potions. Not really worth much, though assuming these didn’t go all invasive species elsewhere they could actually be useful in other areas of the world.

That’s it for the random monster (insects) section. Next we move on to Temporal Magic, which is kind of cool but yet another puzzling inclusion in a book that has yet to give us substantial setting details about anything but giant trees and the dips who worship them.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Mysteries Revised

Augury and divination are, perhaps, one of the most practiced forms of magic in history. Astrology, of course, is one of the most respected forms in the 13th century, but noble and royal courts have, like...well, all of history, been breeding grounds for other forms of it. There's augurs, astrologers, chiromancers, dream interpreters and crystal-gazers. Being a court diviner is forbidden to Hermetics, of course. Divination and augury are, instead, the role largely of hedge magicians. Numerology is growing, the casting of dice and, of course, dream interpretation. (On the other hand, Cicero mocks those who feel that works.)

Hermetic Divintion and Augury is the power to receive answers to questions by magic. It is inherently interpretative in nature, and it, like all Hermetic magic, is subject to the Limit of Time. It is possible to ask questions about the future, but the information received will be based entirely on present data. For example, 'Is the Quaesitor Remus intending to visit the covenant?' The question addresses the future, but the data is based entirely on Remus's present intentions. If he changes his mind later in the day, the divination won't know or care. Since many oracles prefer not to addresses the limitations of their power, they tend to couch their answers in deliberately vague and cryptic words. Others are very direct: Remus is not currently planning to.

Still, the Limit of Time is vital to the defense of augury against critics, especially Church critics. One of the biggest objections against diviners, you see, is that their action actually causes the events they foretell. Their foreknowledge, you see, is believed by the superstitious to cause events, and so it is feared that demons can mislead diviners and thus bring about catastrophe. Hermetic Divination is carefully designed to avoid both the lures of the Infernal and the abrogation of free will that other auguries may or may not entail.

Hermetic divination provides results roughly equivalent to Intellego magic. It is more flexible than Formulaic magic, but weaker. It is usually more powerful than Spontaneous magic, but only within the Technique of Intellego. Divination covers all Forms in a single power, but it is hard to improve, while a magus can specialize in a Form or two. A magus using auguries and divinations generally focuses on that over any Intellego magic in general, and will likely develop enchanted tools to help with divination. Every diviner uses divination via a specific method, each of which is best at looking up different things. (Dream interpretation, numerology and astrology have the broadest bonuses, but are also more complex.) Learning more methods will require more initiations but does not actually improve divinatory skill. Astrology, Numerology and Dream Interpretation require Planetary Magic, Hermetic Numerology and Hermetic Dream Interpretation, respectively, as well as Hermetic Divination. Oh, and divination can only answer questions - it cannot grant senses nor allow you to speak with things that cannot speak naturally. It also cannot simulate the effects of ritual magic.

Hermetic Dream Interpretation allows specialized divination, though in a different way than standard divination and augury. It's a subset, basically. It translates the symbology of dreams and you can use it for anything...but it requires you to ritually prepare yourself before going to sleep. You must sleep for a naturaly period, and in most cases it won't work if you wake up before several hours pass. You may also interpret others' dreams by discussing it with them for various periods of time depending on the depth of investigation you want to do. This works as per standard divination.

However, dream interpretation can also be used for symbolic interpretation of dreams This is not divinatory in any way. Rather, it is a symbolic, and often ambiguous interpretation of the dream in order to get an idea of the dreamer's mental state, and perhaps the reasons for the dream. It's not easy, but it may well hint at causes the dreamer has not even considered. Further, a dream interpreter can touch someone as they go to sleep, talking to them in order to shape what they dream about. This is a supernatural power, and such a shaped dream can be interpreted for divination as normal. This means you can use this to focus what you do divination on, since otherwise you are at the whim of your dreams.

Now, on to spirit magic! As we all know, summoning and binding spirits is one of the most ancient practices of magic. Necromancy is a term that has evolved from meaning 'speaking to the dead' to the evocation of spirits and those rituals that can call up demons. Hermetic magi prefer the term 'spirit magic.' Belief in magic spirits and ghosts as well as the rites to banish or control them are important parts of all medieval magical traditions. Recently, the Archbishop of Paris has condemned all "books, rolls, or booklets containing necromancy or experiments of sorcery, invocations of demons, or conjurations hazardous for souls." Of course, necromancy to cause actual physical harm is very rare, but it can be used to cause severe discomfort fairly easily - a spirit is very good at, say, preventing someone from sleeping.

Necromancy and spirit summoning is roundly denounced by the Church, but it remains ubiquitous. The Church really isn't very harsh in punishing it - during the reign of Pontifex Alexander III, a priest who called up a demon was only suspended for two years. Spirit summoners, though, are not trusted by either the Church or Order, especially as dealing with demons is explicitly forbidden by the Order. Those who do spirit magic must always be careful not to cross that boundary. As a result, Hermetic spirit magic often seems strangely impersonal. That's because those who would deal with named spirits and powerful Daimons use Hermetic Theurgy instead. More on that later.

Hermetic Empowerment allows an enchanted device to be powered by draining a spirit bound into it, thus enabling the device to create effects that require vis, such as Ritual magic. This requires Spell Binding as a prerequisite, and builds on the theory of that power. By using Hermetic Empowerment, an enchanter may still not bind those effects which are Ritual due to complexity or use of non-Hermetic rites. Further, the spell must not require any special actions to cast, such as the marching of the boundaries required by the Aegis of the Hearth. However, it can be used to bind Ritual spells due to duration or target size, or to bind Ritual spells that create objects permanently. As all enchanters know, those spells which would normally require Ritual casting due simply to exceeding a spell level of 50 do not require Ritual casting if bound into an enchanted device to begin with.

Now, the way you go about this is to enchant the device as normal. This results in a device that can't do anything. What you do then is bind a spirit into it. Rather than spend vis on the power, the Ritual is powered by draining the spirit's Might. Yes, this does permanently reduce the spirit. Yes, any aware spirit is going to be in intense pain and will hate you. However, unless the device gets broken, there just isn't anything it can do about it. Once the spirit becomes too weak to maintain the effect, you have to replace it, and so a device can have many spirits bound within it. Should the device be broken or the binding disenchanted, any spirits bound to it are released. They tend to be enraged, both by their imprisonment and their torment. The binding is done in the same way as per any Spirit Binding, but using a special enchantment designed to permanently trap spirits within, rather than the less complex bindings used for Spirit Binding.

Spirit Familiar allows a magus to bind a ghost or spirit rather than an animal as a familiar. You can only ever have the one Familiar, though - an animal or spirit. Until it dies, you aren't getting another one. Such spirits are known also as genius umbrae or parhedros. Binding one is similar to an animal - you have to find and befriend it, convincing it to be your ally. (This is hardest with the intelligent ones, which can't be as easily charmed as animal-level spirits.) Those who possess both Faerie Magic and Spirit Familiar can bind faeries, but there's easier ways to do that in House Merinita. A demon is theoretically usable but would Infernally taint you and provide less power than a demonic pact. Some magi have claimed to have bound angels to themselves, but the truth of that is unknown. The benefits are similar to an animal familiar, but also enhance greater sorts of things - rather than reducing the penalties to dealing with people and other beings, they also empower understanding of magic and physical endurance. The spirit also retains any and all powers it had.

Inscription on the Soul allows a magus to enchant their own spirit and/or body as a Talisman. A Talisman, as a note, is basically a unique item that a magus can only make one of at a time, and it is the most potent enchanted item that they can create. Verditius Mysteries related to Talismans cannot be used when enchanting the body and spirit. The enchantments last as long as the magus lives, and many magi have developed ways to integrate objects or elements into their bodies to improve its use for enchantment. The spirit is what is enchanted with any effects save those that explicitly rely on the physical body (or any substances blended with the body). This usually doesn't matter...except in one case.

That'd be the Living Ghost, a terrible and mysterious ritual that contains the secret of binding a willing magus' spirit to a physical area, the Haunt, before they die, and then ritually murdering them so they become a free-willed ghost. Suicide is a mortal sin, so the rite has been suppressed and horrifies most magi. Unlike most ghosts, the Living Ghost retains full consciousness, abilities and mind, though there may be some slight changes in personality. Of course, protection under the Code of Hermes ends with death, but the issue of Living Ghosts has never been tested at Tribunal. The Living Ghost-to-be must research a few spells first, and you only ever get one chance to do the transformation, since it involves ritual suicide. But if it works, you become an immortal ghost, unaging and powerful, yet more flexible than most spirits.

A Living Ghost has full awareness and memory, can learn and change (with some difficulty) and cannot be easily laid to rest. However, it is tied to the Haunt. The only real loss a Living Ghost suffers other than that is that it has no solidity to real things. The magus does retain a link to their Talisman and may improve it still. If the Talisman is their spirit, any enchantments on it still continue. Otherwise, the Talisman must be carefully hidden within the Haunt to protect it. Any enchantments on the body-as-Talisman, however, are broken immediately and warp the magus just before death. Entering Twilight on the moment of death ruins the entire ritual, so it's best not to enchant your body to prevent that from happening, at least if you plan to become a Living Ghost. If you have a spirit familiar, it stays with you freely. Otherwise, your familiar must choose: abandon its tie to you and lose you, or join you in death and become a ghostly familiar. The Haunt is all that ties you to the world, though - so if whatever you made your Haunt ceases to exist, so do you. Thus, it's safest not to go with a Circle or a Room or even a Structure, all of which are more easily destroyed than a Boundary - though a Boundary will require more power in the ritual. As a ghost, you may naturally cast any spell you knew in life as a ghostly power by expending Might, and you may permanently burn your Might to use as vis. You will likely want to learn spells or prepare devices to help you interact with the physical world, though, so you can continue your work. You may also restore lost Might spent as vis by re-casting the spells that turned you into a ghost if you can remake your Talisman a bit.

Next time: Hermetic Theurgy

Kai Tave
Jul 2, 2012
Fallen Rib
Gonna throw in a vote for Day After Ragnarok because Ken Hite is good poo poo. Seriously, you guys are gonna love this. It also has some of the best sidebars and "top five" lists in an RPG.

Sep 10, 2003

peed on;

Kai Tave posted:

Gonna throw in a vote for Day After Ragnarok because Ken Hite is good poo poo. Seriously, you guys are gonna love this. It also has some of the best sidebars and "top five" lists in an RPG.
The elevator pitch for it is "Conan the Barbarian set in 1950s America". What's not to love?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Mysteries Revised

Theurgy, also known as name magic, deals with the names of spirits and how to invoke them for power. Such practices are actively pagan, and were the Church to learn of them, they would be persecuted. As a result, theurgists are some of the most secretive Mystery Cults. The belief in the power of names is very ancient indeed, as is the belief that knowing a true name gives you power over the named. The idea that synthemata, secret signs and symbols, could be used to conjure beings or gain safe passage beyond them was very important to Gnostic thought, and its influence on magic is still felt. Gnostic summoning has popped up in the 8th century and 9th century, often drawing on Greek and Egyptian magical texts from the 2nd to 5th century. The greatest grimoire, the Key of Solomon, may date back to the first century AD. These practices still persist even now that the Graeco-Roman cults have been forgotten. Hermetic understanding of name magic draws on early Gnostic cults, and it differs from Hermetic spirit magic in that it deals with larger, more known spirits and bargains, rather than the binding of weaker spirits.

Names of Power draw on the names of angels, gods, planets, faerie lords and others, even if the magus cannot truly summon or bind them. Essentially, invoking the names allows the magus to use them to empower lab activities. Most great powers have many names, each applying to different aspects of magic, and a name may well have several powers which a magus can draw on by developing multiple Names of Power spells. The names must be spoken aloud and firmly so, to draw the power's attention. Quiet or silent casting just doesn't work. You may also work a Name of Power into a theurgical invocation spell, empowering it directly. You just have to know the Name when making the invocation spell and it has to be relevant. Names of Power can be combined with Invocation Magic to allow the Names to empower spells directly, rather than just labwork. You just cast the Names of Power spells as long as they're relevant to the spell you're boosting. A magus who knows how to make a consummate talisman (more on that later) can also integrate Names of Power into that to boost later spells.

Invocation Magic is, as mentioned above, the power to use Names of Power to boost spells. You can't learn it without knowing Names of Power. Very handy.

Hermetic Theurgy is the power to invent spells that form spirit pacts. Each such Invoke spell made relates to a specific, named spirit. Indeed, two such spells can be identical in all respects save the name of the spirit they summon. The two primary forms of this are Spell Spirits and Form Spirits. These do magic for you. You summon the spirit, you ask it to cast a spell, and it does. This takes extra time, but it allows you to get the spirit to vary the spell a little, as if you had Flexible Formulaic Magic. Also the spirit does the casting, so no dice get involved and it can't botch. There are a great many minor spirits, so the labwork of inventing the spell is enough to learn the name of an appropriate one. Of course, a spirit can only be in one place at a time, so rival theurgists can have problems, but this is rare.

A spell spirit is a spirit of a single, specific formulaic spell. You summon it, and it casts that one, specific spell for you. The spirit is invisible and attends you until either you ask it to cast, or the spell summoning it ends. Only the first summoning is difficult - that's the one where you form the pact. Once you manage that, it will come and willingly serve you on all later summonings without issue. A form spirit is similar, but rather than a specific spell, it corresponds to a Hermetic Form. The spirit has power to cast any spell of that Form in a manner similar to spontaneous magic, and will cast a spell once when summoned, then leave. This makes them more versatile than spell spirits, but also weaker than a spell spirit of equivalent Might.

There is one more thing theurgy grants you: the power to invoke Daimonic pacts. This allows you to summon an Aspect of a Daimon, a spirit that exists outside the world as a sort of pagan deity. Many Daimons have unusual powers which they may be convinced to use on your behalf. The Aspect is not the whole of the Daimon, just a part, which may fade away and be discarded at will. The only way to bind a Daimon itself is to find the core spirit in the realm where it lives. Daimonic Aspects are summoned via ritual magic spells, and technically speaking even a non-theurgist can cast such a spell. A non-theurgist just can't invent their own versions of the spell and must be taught the spell by someone else or a lab text. Further, such a magus will only be able to summon the Aspect if they are immensely powerful or have a full-on Wizard's Communion helping, while a theurgist can spend time gathering the power needed.

A Daimonic Aspect is an independent entity in most ways, save that it can be made or destroyed by the Daimon in an instant. Each Aspect tracks health, Might and powers seperately, and non suffer fatigue. They also do not heal naturally - the Daimon just eventually dispels them. They remain as long as they possess Might and remain conscious, so long as the Daimon desires them to stay. They are normally disembodied but can produce bodies at will. Only one Aspect can be summoned to a single place at a time, but multiple Aspects of the same Daimon can be in different places. They will not willingly enter a place where another Aspect of the same Daimon has been within 24 hours. Further, any changes made to an Aspect are impermanent, lasting only until it is dismissed. The most that can be done is to seal a pact to have an Aspect attend a magus. In a Daimon's place of power, there are no Aspects, only the true Daimon, but mortals rarely venture into these places.

Theurgic Spirit Familiar is similar in nearly every way to the standard Spirit Familiar, save that it can bind an Aspect of a Daimon as a Familiar. This doesn't prevent other aspects from being summoned elsewhere, though a Daimon may not mention that. While only an Aspect attends the magus, the bond is with the Daimon itself. You are going to want to research an appropriate Daimon and pick one that will be likely to respond well to you. (Forcing anything on the Daimon, perhaps with Hermetic Synthemata, will not make a good impression.) The Daimon may accept if it likes you, and the Aspect may then be bound as per a normal spirit familiar.

Ascendancy into the Hall of Heroes is what many theurges seek: becoming an immortal Daimon. Many pagan or Gnostic Mystery Cults favor it as a path to immortality. It is very hard, as it requires cooperative effort with others. First, you must devise a ritual by which you ascend to the Hall of Heroes, the place where Daimons are said to live, and then you need a second ritual taught to your celebrants, who will cast that on you to help you ascend and take on your true Daimonic form. This is going to take a lot of time and help. Once you manage to accrue enough power from the spells, though, you become a pure and perfected immortal divorced from the world. A new star forms for you, announcing your ascendance. Your Talisman, if you have one, becomes a part of you, a source of power to invoke as you did in life. Your body is left behind as an empty shell, with any power within it gone. It does serve as an Arcane Connection, though. Must cultists will thus utilize part of it as a relic when trying to summon you.

A Daimonic magus is immune to age and Warping, but also learns slowly, due to their immortal nature. Further, they cannot learn in the same ways that most immortals do, for they are cut off from the material world. Rather, a Daimon accrues power as cultists summon it. An Aspect of a Daimonic magus may cast spells as normal, though expending Might rather than Fatigue when it needs to do so. When an Aspect hits 0 Might, it fades away but causes no harm to the Daimon. The power accumulated by summoning can be expended to improve the Daimonic magus, either fixing normal learning to last and not vanish, or to accept power from a tutelary spirit - which is more expensive, but easier and more common than standard studying for most Daimons.

Hermetic Synthemata draws on special names, symbols and signs associated with magical beings. Any being with Might possess synthemata, and a magus who knows the secret of synthemata can use them to overcome its magic resistance. This even works on Daimons, allowing much easier summoning of them...but it also tends to really, really annoy them. A synthemata is integrated into a spell, unique to each being, just as the synthemata are unique to each being. The victim is aware the spell is cast, so that in itself is a bargaining tool. The hard part is learning the synthemata.

See, you do it by starting to research the spell...but if you don't know how powerful the target is, you're going to need to guess. And many targets posses the power of Name Hiding, the ability to conceal their snythemata and make your research take longer. But you don't know if they have it, so again, you have to guess. And while you know when you've done enough research to probably finish the spell without Name Hiding, you have to guess when to stop working to empower it to get past that. Of course, some demons have negative Name Hiding, so that they are easier to research, for they desire to be summoned and put to evil purposes. Anyway, once you manage to complete the spell such that it is usable against your target, it then renders other spells significantly more able to pierce the victim's Magic Resistance. Because of Name Hiding, lab texts (known as grimoires) are very valuable for synthemata. Most creatures do not know their own synthemata, by luck or choice, but may well know those of any spirits they command. Knowing ahead of time what the synthemata is makes Name Hiding irrelevant, and thus greatly increases the safety and speed of developing a synthemata spell.

Synthemata Magia was the non-Hermetic method from which Hermetic Synthemata was devised. It remains a very useful ability to learn, despite this. See, the Hermetic method is very slow but very powerful. Synthemata Magia is the opposite - much weaker but able to detect synthemata at a glance. Essentially, you use it in the presence of a being with Might, attempting to intuit their synthemata. If you succeed, you learn the synthemata intuitively, though you cannot teach it to anyone. You may then cast the synthemata as a spontaneous spell or develop a standard spell for it, without all the hard research of Hermetic Synthemata. The main thing here is that it's a single check that may well fail, and if you fail you will need to use a long and exacting ritual fast over an entire season in order to learn the synthemata via this spiritual research. The main problem with this method? Synthemata learned via Synthemata Magia do not increase Penetration - they just increase casting scores. So the spells are easier to cast, but do not actually have much in the way of boosted Penetration unless you already have an Arcane Connection to your target.

Next time: Great Talismans and Arithmetic Magic

Nov 8, 2009

I kind of expected Day After Ragnarok to get more votes: while Deadlands Noir has its charms, it lacks the crazy balls-to-the-wall awesomeness that DAR gives you. You can expect the first installment of the write-up by late morning (Eastern time).

chrisoya posted:

I'm not going to post it, because seeing it for the first time in the write-up is worth avoiding spoilers, but this setting has the best world map, and so it's my vote.

I'll give the map to you all anyway, just to get you excited. I'm thumbnailing it, though, both so it won't break tables and so that you don't have to be "spoiled" if you don't want to. OUT OF CONSIDERATION FOR OTHERS, PLEASE KEEP DISCUSSION OF THE MAP BEHIND SPOILER TAGS UNTIL I GET TO DISCUSSING THE WORLD. THANK YOU IN ADVANCE.

Edit: Changed it to a link to be extra careful.

Pththya-lyi fucked around with this message at 07:16 on Jun 3, 2013

Aug 11, 2006

Cleanse them. Cleanse the world of their ignorance and sin. Bathe them in the crimson of ... am I on speakerphone?
Fun Shoe

Countdown, Chapter 1 - The Army of the Third Eye

The Army of the Third Eye is a religious cult with a terrorist bent. Founded in 1989 by a young American tourist named Lee Coleman who suffered a severe psychotic break while on holiday in England, which caused him to drill a hole in his head to 'destroy the demon possessing him'. Afterwards, he went on a spree, kidnapping numerous people and attempting to remove their 'demons' as well. Botched surgeries resulted in a high number of casualties, but strangely, the survivors appeared to fall in line with his beliefs. Luckily, in 1996, Coleman and 5 of his followers were captured, and Coleman is serving 4 consecutive life sentences in prison.

You're not buying any of this, I hope, are you? Good.

The truth is, Coleman's backpacking trip through England had the bad fortune of taking him to the Severn Valley, right into the middle of a PISCES operation to unearth the Shan templeship. PISCES took him into captivity and held him until eventually making him a Shan host. Coleman then woke up at the edge of Goatswood Forest, seemly unharmed, with PISCES nowhere to be seen. He attempted to move on with his life, but immediately found himself experiencing missing time and sleepwalking episodes. He was even more confused when a voice in his head revealed itself to be his new puppetmaster, and threatened to drive him insane with blasphemous images if he tried to fight back. For a time, he yielded. Two months later, he was at his wit's end, and with an insane burst of willpower, broke into a machine shop and drove a drill press into the center of his forehead. The light that entered the hole terrified Coleman's Shan driver, and it fled. The police eventually found him in a coma, which he stayed in for six weeks. Upon waking, he made the horrible mistake of trying to explain everything that'd happen, earning him a trip to a psychiatric hospital. However, he escaped, and he had a plan. He still remembered things from when the Shan had been controlling him, in particular the names and faces of other Shan hosts. He quickly tracked down Richard Rowland, a contractor for the Ministry of Defense, and attempted to drill into his head too. Rowland survived, and the Shan fled, giving Coleman his very first recruit.

Coleman's plan was one of caution. He'd track down a Shan host and begin observing them. If they appeared to have been possessed for too long, or if they appeared to have been willingly infested, they would be assassinated quietly. If, however, there seemed to be internal conflict, the victim would be kidnapped and trepanned. But, as stated in the public story, Coleman's lack of medical knowledge was a huge barrier: of the first 6 kidnappings, only 1 survived without severe nerve damage (4 of them didn't survive at all). Coleman decided to change tactics a bit by kidnapping a neurosurgeon named Karen Carter, who he forced to perform the next trepanning at gunpoint. She had no choice, but watching a basketball-sized insect fly out of the victim's head made her an instant believer. Carter brought about several changes in the budding Army: first, her skill allowed the next 13 procedures to go off without a hitch. Secondly, she begin making the incision in the back of the skull, where the hole could be made bigger, but could later be covered up easier with hair. Thirdly, she began teaching the technique to other recruits, so that hopefully they could take over should anything happen to her. And finally, she laid down an ultimatum: regardless of her belief, she would no longer help if Coleman continued to assassinate any hosts. Coleman conceded the point, but reserved the right to change his mind should circumstances change.

With membership mounting, the Army started taking more direct action by harassing PISCES personnel in the Severn Valley region by leaving road spikes on trails, making threatening calls to workers at all hours, and committing minor acts of vandalism against their camps, always spraypainting "THE ARMY IS COMING" as they went. While obviously not fatal blows, they were too afraid to attempt an assault on the templeship, reasoning that if they were captured, the Shans would figure out what they were up to and launch a massive campaign to hunt them down. They even started carrying vials of potassium cyanide around their neck to ingest in case of capture by the enemy. While this was going on, they also launched a completely unsuccessful publicity campaign. Scotland Yard wouldn't take their calls, footage of the trepannings was dismissed as bogus by news stations, and the Shan's nasty habit of evaporating on death made real evidence impossible.

By 1995, the Shans had figured out something was going on, and were starting to panic. Over 20 hosts had been captured or killed. PISCES had been doing its best to cover these up (fearing that Scotland Yard would look for a connection between the victims and connect the dots back to Goatswood Forest), but they couldn't stop every case from leaking to the press. PISCES decided it was time to find out who was behind all of this, and so they set up a trap for the Army. They infested a Milton Parsons, an employee at Severn Aerospace (PISCES' front shell company), who then began acting strangely in a very open manner, drawing the attention of his friend and family, then doctors and eventually the media. This was too temping for Coleman; he knew something was going on in Goatswood, and an employee of Severn Aerospace could finally get him the access he needed. When the Army showed up, PISCES was waiting, with a full squad of SAS. In the ensuing firefight, Coleman, Parson, and another Army member were killed, and the two other members present killed themselves with their cyanide vials. The Army had lost their leader, but PISCES had lost their only lead on the Army. Humiliated, PISCES covered up the event by abducting several vagrants and framing them as the Army. They still sit rotting in jail, catatonic from heavy, constant doses of sedatives.

Today, the Army has stopped trying to rescue Shan hosts (they simply can't risk walking into another trap). The new Army, led by Carter and consisting over a little over a dozen members (supported by around 80 'friendlies' who are not former Shan hosts), is currently focused on mapping out the Shan's influence across England. The investigation is extremely slow moving and focused mostly on publicly available information to protect the members. What to do with this information is the subject of great debate: some want to go to the press (though in England this would likely result in a D Notice at best). Others want to take their evidence to the government (but who can be trusted?). Regardless, they continue their underground work, as the only hope PISCES (and England) has of salvation.

Next time: Russia's answer to Delta Green, GRU-SV8!

InShaneee fucked around with this message at 06:13 on Jun 5, 2013

Jun 6, 2011

by R. Guyovich
I say Day of Ragnarok too. Describing it as "Conan the barbarian in 1950's USA" won me over.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Mysteries Revised

The Talisman is a very personal item, typically made from as many components as a magus can manage so as to get the highest possible amount of different component bonuses. However, for most magi, that can't change later in life - once made, it cannot be modified physically, though it can be re-enchanted and have its magic altered. The Great Talisman is a Mystery that allows the magus to more easily attune to the nature of their Talisman, tying it closer to their soul. So close, in fact, that mere usage of the Talisman in regular life will allow the magus to open an attunement bonus without any work over a season. This is not cumulative with actively working to do so in a season, though, even if you reopen or reinvest your talisman with magic. Further, when you reopen the talisman for enchantment, you may also craft in one or more new components, though the total is still limited by your knowledge of Magic Theory. In any season you do that, you may choose to attune to one of the old or new component bonuses.

The Consummate Talisman empowers a Talisman to do something no other enchanted item can do. Normally, Muto Vim spells within an item can only affect the other powers of that item. For someone with Consummate Talisman, that is not true. For those of who know Names of Power, it allows them to be worked into an item and invoked if the Name is spoken during a spell. Further, any other Muto Vim effect may be worked into the item and made to apply to spells the magus casts, rather than just spells bound into the Talisman. There is a downside, though. This invests so much of a magus into the Talisman that they become worse at casting magic when not touching it.

On to Arithmetic Magic! Ever since Pythagoras, the power of numbers has fascinated mankind. Some Mystery Cults have discovered a Hermetic application of Pythagorean theories, of Euclid's geometry and even ways to weave magic into architecture. All of these draw on the principles of numerology, which seems to derive originally from the Jewish gematria. However, gentile and especially Hermetic numerology also draw heavily on the work of mundane architects, who were able to build great cathedrals using math alone. Numbers fascinate many magi, and Numerology can be used for divination and codes.

Hermetic Numerology teaches magi of the correspondence between numbers and all things, even the seemingly unconnected. These are governed by your understanding of arithmetic. Understanding numerology allows you to learn how to use divination with it, but it also unlocks several other abilities. First and most importantly: it lets you create a Numerologist's Book. Every numerologist has a focus text - the Bible or Bonisagus' De Theoria Magica are common, as are other great Authorities. To aid in magic, that book often becomes enchanted and attuned. This can be either a lesser book (where only the pages are enchanted) or a greater book (where the book is treated as a compound whole including the covers and bindings). The latter is more expensive, but provides a greater bonus. Use of the Numerologist's Book provides a bonus to any divinatory numerology, numerology-based labwork or, if consulted before casting a Rote, to Rote casting. The bonus is provided by understanding numbers - understanding, in fact, that opening the book at random and inspecting numerical relationships between words on the page provides understanding of the world around you. Many numerologists prefer to make their Book into their Talisman, not least for the ability to re-enchant it as a Greater Book later. The Book may also hold other enchantments, seperate from the numerology bonuses.

So, what are Rotes? A Rote is a minor magical effect, an arithmetic formula that provides magical power about equivalent to the greater powers of Spontaneous Magic. Like the lesser powers of Spontaneous Magic, however, it is not tiring. And further, no dice roll is needed to cast a Rote. But for such a low-power effect, why do it? Because Rotes are a purely mental exercise. Once learned, they can automatically be cast wordlessly and without gestures, merely by thinking of the mathematical formula that represents the effect. Because Rotes are such low-level magics, a magus will often know several as a result of a single season devoted to studying them.

Hermetic Geometry draws on the knowledge of the ancient philosopher-wizard Euclid. The five postulates it treats as of most importance are these: A straight line may be drawn from any point to any other point, so all points are linked. A straight line may be produced to any length, and so all lines are unbounded links between points. Given any point as a center, a circle of any radius may be described, and so there is sympathy between points and circles. Any two right angles are equal, and being equal, they are connected sympathetically. Given a line and a point not on that line, there is exactly one line through that given point that does not intersect the first line, and thus the second line is special and connected to the first. These postulates provide sympathy via geometry.

A Hermetic geometer gets a bonus to any magic involving tracing a circle or line. They get a further bonus to any spell involving a regular geometric figure, and may always use ceremonial casting with such spells, so long as they have room to draw and trace symbols and inscribe geometric shapes in accordance with numbers. They have access to new spell factors, as well: the ability to target anyone on a line connected to a point the magus stands on, provided they can calculate the line and can somehow sense the target (perhaps via hearing). They may target remote circles by creating a circle that is sympathetically connected to the first circle, and rings in the same manner. The trick: they have to be geometrically perfect, which is very hard to draw freehand (but very easy with aid of a stick and some string.) Geometric magic is also especially good at reshaping materials into or out of geometric perfection, and several magi have developed spells that will force areas into geometric perfection long enough to receive the bonuses for geometric magic on later spells.

Hermetic Architecture is concerned with the construction of large-scale enchantments on entire rooms or buildings. It also deals in creating permanent paths and gates. One problem for many enchanters is the need to fit an item to be enchanted into the lab. Large or immovable items are a problem without making a new lab around them. Sometimes that's not even possible. However, by studying sacred architecture, you learn to place enchantment in a larger context, using patterns to unite seperate devices into a greater enchanted whole. First, you determine the whole to be enchanted. Then you identify some other substance of convenient size that shares the magical nature of the structure to be enchanted. You need several of these to account for the size of the whole. Then you work out a geometric calculation for where to place these symbolic objects within the whole to produce a resonant pattern.

Once you've succesfully devised and implemented the pattern, you open and enchant the component devices with the effects desired for the overall structure. Such effects can assume their target is the structure as a whole, the components or both, but each effect must specify which target is intended. You may also ignore the limit on Boundary targets provided the Boundary involved is the structure being enchanted. Once this is done, you place the components in the pattern and perform a ritual unique to Hermetic Architecture, binding the pattern into place. Each component must have a niche, a special place for it alone, If any is removed from its niche, the enchantment is broken until it is returned. However, so long as both niche and component remain intact, they can be returned and no harm done. A Muto requisite in the binding ritual will actually physically bond the components to their niches and prevent them being removed without breakage.

Hermetic Architecture may also be utilized to manipulate and strengthen magical regiones and auras via enchantments, increasing the aura within the bounds of the enchanted structure and increasing the size of magical regiones or sealing off gateways in as desired. This makes it a lot easier to control a regio and what goes on within it. Very handy indeed.

Next time: Dream Magic

Nov 8, 2009


Part One: The Intro to the Outro

Because this setting deals so heavily with endings, I think it’s appropriate to discuss the last section of the book (not counting the Index) first. Inspirations is exactly what it says on the tin: Hite discusses the fictional and non-fictional sources he used to create the setting.

Kenneth Hite posted:

My immediate inspiration for The Day After Ragnarok was reading the quote that starts off the “Serpentfall” chapter:

The Nazi myth which is important…[to] men like Hitler requires a Götterdämmerung…
—U.S. War Department Counterintelligence Assessment, Feb. 12, 1945

If you take that literally, what does it mean? It means that the end of the world was a Nazi war aim. And one end specifically: Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, the Twilight of the Gods, or in the Norse, Ragnarok.

Other named inspirations include actual history and mythology (which I’ll point out as appropriate) and seventies pulp (especially British spy and adventure fiction), but as several posters have already noted, The Day After Ragnarok owes the most to the Conan stories of Robert E. Howard. The themes and tropes of Howard’s works – barbarism overthrowing civilization, monsters and magic, badass men being badass because they can – permeate the text, and the explicit allusions to Conan begin on the front end-paper:

Kenneth Hite posted:

Know, O Prince, that between the years when the Serpent fell and the oceans drank America and the gleaming cities, and the rise of the Sons of Space, there was an Age undreamed of, when nations guttered low and flared brilliant across the poisoned world like dying stars—California and Texas each claiming the flag of the West, France torn asunder and facing the desert, harsh Mexico, slumbering Brazil, Argentina where the seeds of Thule lay waiting, ancient lands of Persia and Arabia and Iraq between two empires, the coldly clutching Soviet Union whispering behind its Wall of Serpent, Japan whose warriors wore steel and silk and khaki. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Australia, the last green and pleasant land, ringed around by its dominions and bulwarked by the sea…

This is, of course, a riff on the Nemedian Chronicles epigraph from “The Phoenix on the Sword,” the first published Conan story. The epigraph goes on to describe Conan “tread[ing] the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet,” and Hite’s revision invites the reader to imagine himself having a similar impact on this setting.

The first section of the book, Serpentfall, sets the stage for our barbarian (and/or civilized) badassery. It begins with the War Department quote reproduced in the Inspirations section, and explains the results of the Nazis's apocalyptic effort. In our timeline, American General George S. Patton died in a car accident shortly after the war, but the DAR universe has him assassinated in 1944 as part of Operation Walküre under German Lieutenant Colonel Otto Skorzeny. According to the Nazi occultists, Patton was “the rope of the Norns,” and his “severing” gave them enough time to carry out their master plan despite Allied military victories.

It was awfully nice of the Nazis to write their secret documents in English.

Ken Hite posted:

…the sun of July rose over a prostrate Reich. Wagner’s Götterdämmerung played on Berlin Radio night and day, and the smoke blotted out the stars. And then it happened; the whole world heard the howl of Garm, and the moon was eclipsed in blood.

Jörmungandr rose up out of the Arabian Sea and quickly started wreaking havoc, swallowing entire Allied convoys with its 350 mile-wide head and zipping around the stratosphere. The Truman administration was forced to take decisive action.

Ken Hite posted:

…a lone B-29 took off from Iceland. Its original target had been Berlin, but Captain Joseph Westover had new orders. He, and the crew of the Strange Cargo, were to seek out and engage the Midgard Serpent with the Trinity Device. On July 21, 1945, spotter planes for “Operation John Henry” zeroed the Strange Cargo in on the Serpent, its head 20,000 feet above Oslo and moving southeast at 80 knots. Captain Westover was an ace pilot, capable of flying a plane through something much smaller than a snake’s pupil 500 yards across. The Device detonated, tearing a piece of the Sun down from heaven and destroying the Serpent’s brain in a torrent of atomic fire. Westover and his crew died instantly. Jörmungandr took a little bit longer than that.

Next time: The Serpent Dies, The Giants Revive, The Eagle Broken, and The Lion Waiting

Pththya-lyi fucked around with this message at 16:55 on Jun 3, 2013

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Mysteries Revised

The 13th century is home to a furious academic debate within the Church regarding the nature of dreams. Dream interpretation is still popular, but attempts to enter and control dreams are far less common. In Russia, however, there are traditions of peasants visiting in dreams and of trying to control your dreams. Hermetic understanding is that dreams result from the effect of the humours on the mind and body, intimately tied to the Form of Mentem. Dreams, unlike mundane existence, are not limited by time or physical boundaries - like the magical realms, they are transcendent. This has led some heretics to claim that all of creation is a dream of God's. The close association between magical realms and dreams is clearly apparent in miraculous visions, dreams of the dead, dreams sent by God and the dream-realms of Faerie. Dreams are, perhaps, as close as a normal person can come to understanding the Gift and experiencing magic. The process of controlling your dreams, called lucid dreaming, is an ancient one, practiced in Rome and mentioned as late as the fourth century. The Eastern Church holds that people are not responsible for their dreams but should feel appropriate shame for sinful dreams. Jewish rabbis hold instead that sinful acts in dreams may actually be portents, and are of no moral consequence. The Western Church is familiar with Gnostic dream magic, but the Gnostics seem to have had rather limited success.

Dream Magic is a Hermetic Mystery drawing on Baltic folk traditions, invented by Raisa of Novgorod in the tenth century. It allows you to send your spirit into dreams, where all feels real but is in fact illusion, running on dream logic and dream time. You may enter your own dreams or those of others. While in a dream, your body lies in a trance state, as if sleeping, and physical disturbance can draw you back. Otherwise, you return when the dreamer wakes up, though it is possible to leave the dream via a portal into other parts of the mind. While in a dream, you have an Arcane Connection to your body and may awaken yourself at will, or draw on real-world vis in your possession just as you would in the real world. You may also use dream vis if you find it, but such vis lacks any real substance outside dreams. A spiritual traveler of this sort has full magical ability. However, any magical equipment other than a Talisman is not present. The body is left without magical power or conscious resistance, but remains protected by its natural magic resistance. Not the Parma, though, which goes with the spirit unless you extend it over your body as a seperate entity.

Dream magi also gain access to new spell factors: they can make spells last as long as a dream does, ending when the dream ends or the sleeper awakens. The dream can be natural or sustained by magic. They can target dreams, for example to create a portal into dreams, too. This magic makes it very easy for them to control dreams. And, naturally, they can use these spells to bring others into dreams as spirits, much as they bring themselves. One must be careful, though - travel in a dream is not geographical but associative. You find places by entering similar places, not by following any map. Time is not linear and fixed, either - dreams can skip time or travel to different times within the dream. Most physical laws can be broken. Further, you cannot sleep in dreams - attempting to do so just causes time to pass around you in an instant to when you wake up. Permanent changes appear possible, but are in fact not, and revert once you leave.

Dream travelers do not get tired in dreams, and do not require food or drink. They feel the need to breathe but do not actually require it. Wounds may be taken, and while the shock and pain are real, the wounds fade on waking. (The shock is often enough to force waking.) However, spiritual travelers are vulnerable to the effects of Mentem and Vim magic which target spirits. Those that reduce Might instead temporarily reduce Imaginem score until the traveler awakens (which happens if reduced below 0 Imaginem.) Spiritual travelers age or do not age in dreams based on dream time and whether they choose to acknowledge it. It's all appearance anyway. The body ages as normal while the spirit is out in dreams. If your body dies before you return, your spirit dies once you do return, but not until then.

The Greater Dream Grimoire requires Dream Magic. It teaches how to physically enter dreams, and how to extract real things from dreams into the waking world, giving them substance. Few ever learn this dangerous power. While physically inside a dream, all threats are real and permanent. On the other hand, it's much easier to retrieve items and you have more solidity than most dream-things. Physical travelers are subject to normal time and geography rather than that of draems, for they are in fact awake, and the dream world is solid and real to them. Dream time does not leap forward around them, and they must travel in normal ways, and also lack the power to take advantage of dream logic to miraculously have things they want on them. Dream navigation works the same way, though - associative, not geographic. They may apply dream logic to the dreams around them, but never themselves or to physical things brought into dream. They may resist the arbitrary changes of dream, and even lucid dreamers cannot touch them directly with dream control.

When they return to the real world, the time elapsed is (usually) that of the real elapsed time, not that of dreams, though sometimes it is longer or shorter. If the dreamer wakes, all physical travelers are expelled, reappearing wherever they entered the dream from. Real-world objects vanish, reappearing again in dream when the sleeper next dreams. Physical travelers do suffer fatigue and wounds in dream as normal, and require food and water. They also need sleep. Dream food, as a note, feels nourishing but provides no true long-term nourishment. They also age normally. They may do magic as normal, and may use any dream-vis they find as if it was real. However, any spells powered by dream vis disappear once they leave dream. They also possess access to Creo Imaginem spells which can give dream objects enough substance to be removed from dream physically and continue to exist, so long as the spell powers them (or, as a Ritual spell, imbues them with real vis).


Dream magic is particularly common in colder, northern climes. Raisa of Ex Miscellanea in the Novgorod Tribunal invented dream magic as Hermetics know it. She was massively talented with Imaginem, despite her inability to concentrate much on the real world. She was an insular woman, and her works on Mentem and Imaginem magic were mostly incomprehensible to others, so most believed her introverted to the point of insanity. However, she was able to defeat a faerie dragon alone, by bringing forth its weakness from her lab: the tears of a rhinoceros, which she claimed to have found in dreams. Her tradition began that day: the Volshebnii Mechtateli, derived from the Russian words for Magical Dreamers. Due to Raisa's poor Latin and incomprehensible writing style, the name became interpreted as that of a cult, rather than a description.

Most modern Volshebnii Mechtateli are eremites, the wizards who live apart from Covenants. Many others, though, are highly sociable and merely lead a secret life in dreams, holding meetings, rites and rituals far from the real world. Due to geographic seperation, they meet largely in dream, and their sacred place, the Vermilion Temple of Wistful Sighs, has no real-world version. Initiates may bring guests into the outer chambers, but never further within. The modern cult deals in whimsy and terror. Their power is an invasion, and in the early 11th century, many suffered Wizard's March for it when it became clear they were using it to shape the minds and goals of magi. They became known as dream witches, hated and feared, and the texts that Durenmar possesses on dream magic are now forbidden to most. Learning the magic isn't illegal, but it is discouraged.

The Vermilion Temple persists beyond all dreams, and some say it is a dream in the mind of an Eternal Sleeper, whose identity is known only to the lords and ladies of the cult. Perhaps clues as to the sleeper's identity lie in the inner sanctum, and rumor has it that the dreamer may be a sleeping king under a hill, a dreaming old one or even Tytalus the Founder, forever ensorcelled. The truth is doubtless strange in its own right.

The Volshebnii Mechtateli did not start as a cult - not until several of those who studied dream magic began to abuse it mercilessly, knowing no boundary save imagination and no morality beyond desire. The reaction was, as noted, swift and brutal - six Dream Mages of the Order were killed in Wizard's March, with three of those who Marched dying of sleep deprivation or madness. If terror can strike a magus even in dream, where can they run? The cult refers to this time as the Sharp Awakening, and when it ended, every dream mage known to the public was dead. A few lived on in private, unwilling to show their power, and eventually, the dream witches became little more than a bogey, a bad memory. And yet, they lived on in dreams. One maga of Loch Leglean Tribunal, Agnes of Tremere, saw the terrible potential of dreams and the misery her forebears had inflicted. She decided to refound the group, but as a Mystery open only to those with beautiful dreams and pure hopes. She took the motto 'In Dreams Begin Responsibilities,' envisioning a Volshebnii Mechtateli that served the Order. Dreams change swiftly, though, and idealists make poor rule followers.

The cult cult has no real hierarchy or structure. It has only two degrees: the Lords and Ladies of the Passions, who know Dream Magic, and the Monarchs of the Veiled Court, who practice the Greater Dream Grimoire and are the only ones allowed in the innermost chambers of the Vermilion Temple, the Sanctuary of Lost Dreams. Initiation is offered in dream to those who are extremely good at Mentem and Imaginem magic, and typically only to young magi, before the weight of years crushes their dreams. Initiates never know the true names or faces of any but the one who initiated them. While it's not part of any formal degree, an Initiate may well be able to persuade that elder to teach them Potent Magic or Magical Focus on dreams, as well as affinity or aptitude for Mentem or Imaginem. Many are initiated in the final years of apprenticeship - and those who react with (perhaps appropriate) horror tend to be brutally killed before they can become true magi and get the rights granted by the Order.

Next time: Mercurian Magic

Dec 5, 2007

I had a video of that when I was about 6.

I remember it being shit.

Grimey Drawer
Hahahaha, flying a B29 loaded with an a-bomb through the pupil of Jormungandr. That is absurdly :black101:

Nov 4, 2007

zamtrios so lonely
Grimey Drawer
Rifts:™ England Part 9: “Temporal Magic: Or, finally something that isn’t about herbs.”

Temporal Magic is magic that controls time and space. Fine, fine. There are three OCCs associated with this: The Temporal Wizard, the Temporal Warrior, and the Temporal Raider. Guess which one is a supernatural evil monster?

Anyway, the Temporal Wizard

Since there aren’t a lot of these guys, they have to learn (70% it says) from the demonic Raider, so of course they explain the Wizard and the Warrior first. They have to spend six years learning the magic and the ways of greed and villainy. There are also options to take longer periods of servitude and start at third or fifth level, if they agree to take steadily eviler alignments, and roll on an insanity table. Also they get extra bonuses for having put in all that time. They get an increased spell selection with longer servitude of course. All of them can sense rifts and teleport along ley lines like a walker.

here, have a repeat of the inside front cover

They get some minor weaponry and gear and have a class uniform, like so many others, but avoid heavy armor because of the mobility and penalties and also it’s the only armor worth wearing. They start out with a fair bit of money after having worked with evil time-shifting demons for a while. Actual temporal magic spells are fairly powerful that I recall, but we’ll get to those in a bit.

Next, the Temporal Warrior

Basically a fighty (probably shooty) type who uses some basic temporal magic to be a better killer, also trained by a Raider with similar length of servitude/insanity problems. They get fewer spells but better combat options, including the sacred Acrobatics/Gymnastics combo. Basically, they are shooty guys who have the ability to store their guns in hammerspace and maybe a few other tricks. Not a bad class, overall, though I need to get to the actual spells section to remember how much better it is to have magic over the gun choices. Oh and they get ‘traditional’ armor that looks like a Temporal Raider, in case anybody was making any mistakes about them being good guys.

Temporal Raider: Here we have the source of all this time chicanery. Since there are no Hounds of Tindalos, nobody enforces linear time on anybody else and the trick is just knowing how to bend it. The Raiders appear to be a race that developed this capability, though since they can teach it, it’s not just a natural capability. They’re vicious predators who feed on life energy though they don’t need to kill to do so, they just often do it anyway to be dicks. They have a lot of the ley line walker powers, plus the ability to see characters transformed into fourth-dimensinal beings (this doesn’t come up a lot) and invisible alien intelligences, which does. They have natural energy blasts that inflict up to 5D6 MD and are used in place of regular attacks, with two ‘light’ blasts being one melee attack...which is pretty buff. The downside to all this is that they have to feed on the equivalent of 10 natural MDC per day--or 1000 SDC, but that’s a lot of humans per day. They can store some extra energy camel fat for those slow day but still need to eat. And on top of that, they are resistant to all forms of energy--all forms do half-damage. What the twinky gently caress?

These are listed as optional RCCs but also suggested that maybe they aren’t great for that, yeah. Pretty strong natural MDC, plus they can wear armor, solid PPE, All temporal spells plus others, good combat bonuses. They have heat vision and stuff and can see ‘even when bathed in the blinding light of a sun’ which I guess means daylight? Good job on that, I guess. They are in a range where they would make pretty good recurring nemeses, they have listed treasure the PCs could try to claim though it’s hidden in various dimensional caches. They also have the usual ‘teleport away’ bullshit that plagues major Rifts villains, but that’s just an ongoing theme.

and since they’re in the England book, they have to be standing on a tree or something

Now we finally get to the actual Temporal Spells. I remember some of these at least being pretty good, and it seems they’re all considered to be between 7th-12th level on the regular magic scale. Let’s see how that shakes out. The spells are listed alphabetically in the book and later re-tabled by power, so we’ll go through them in that order, generally briefly.

A temporal caster can attune an object to an owner so no one else can use it for a full year, phase through solid matter with deleterious but non-fatal side effects for losing concentration, can turn into a non-interactive but visible hologram for whatever reason, can turn themselves two-dimensional (becoming invisible to thermo/heat/motion) and difficult to see in general.

those dang graffitoes get more and more obnoxious, now where is that guy?!

They can make little dimensional envelopes in which they can store things; time passes at its normal rate and it has about two hours of air. The entry of the envelope is fixed, but it’s invisible. Only Temporal Raiders can see these automatically, Shifters might sense them. This tends to be where Temporal classes keep all their stuff, long-term ones can be made to last for decades. They can also make ‘pockets’ that are smaller, focused on a bag or literal ‘pocket’ so they can be portable. It stores about ‘30 lbs’ of stuff versus the walk-in closet of the envelope.

Ah, here we go, the ‘Fourth-Dimensional Transformation’. I think this comes up again in Pantheons of the Megaverse, as for some reason Ahura Mazda was a 4D being who was even weirder than the average weird or something. This spell turns the character into a ‘fourth-dimensional sub-creature’ and gains various capabilities that can sort of be summarized as ‘cosmic awareness’ and also 50 MDC. Also, you have an 85% chance of gaining a permanent insanity. This spell is useful but costs 350 MDC which is enough to make some of those 100K wands back in the fancy tree catalogue and lasts for one minute per level. Even Temporal Raiders appear to suffer from the effects of this spell, though they can see beings transformed into this state. Perhaps a hit of LSD would be better for feeling more cosmically connected? :catdrugs:

There’s also Id Self which is a weird name for the spell, but it summons a duplicate from a parallel world and you roll on a random table to see how they’re different and it is extremely random. The longer they stay, the harder it is to send them back. Aside from the randomness this kind of thing has been the plot of a lot of good sci-fi stories so you could do some neat stuff, it’s just not likely to be useful for what it costs.

picture unrelated?

Anyway, on to some more spells. Remote Viewing for seeing far away, Retro-Viewing for seeing a few minutes/hours into the past, sensing anomalies, seeing anomalies (separate spells), putting things into stasis, sensory deprivation, temporal deprivation (weird), Temporary Time Hole which takes everyone in a 50ft radius into a pocket dimension, a time barrier spell that actually prevents a lot of these temporal magic spells from working and so might be able to trap some of those d-teleporting jerk villains in combination with the time hole, ‘time capsule’ which perfectly preserves items in an enchanted box, time maelstrom which disrupts others’ attempts at time travel. I am glad to see some spells that actually block various teleport-cheese that Rifts villains can use, though this would really only mess with a Temporal Raider rather than an ‘Alien Intelligence’ generally.

Next, various spells beginning with ‘time warp’, including a ‘send forward’ for self only with :words: about how to avoid the temporal wizard getting too out of sync with the party, ‘slow motion’ which is basically haste but not too crazy on the bonii, ‘send’ to send small things forward in time, ‘space and time’ which allows fast-forward and unspecified teleport distance, unless it means ‘as teleportation, the core book spell’. I suppose it probably does. Lastly, ‘Wink-Out’ which is kind of a rope-trick spell.

This is a relatively limited list of spells though some of them are quite useful. I don’t have the Core book handy to compare the spell costs against those of standard spells but they seem to be in a somewhat similar range, including the ones that will break the bank unless you do all that ritual magic-y stuff at a line nexus to build up extra PPE. My readings are somewhat brief, but while these spells are often useful, most of them do not seem to be immediately game-breaking--though I may not be thinking them through all the way. I played a T-Wizard in some game long ago, and don’t remember shattering the balance with it, though the ‘expanded level/evil/insane’ options are something I would probably disallow. At the end of the section there are some helpful indices and another really random illo I’m skipping.

The temporal classes in general are fairly useful--the Raider is listed as an ‘optional’ PC but if I were a GM using RAW Rifts I wouldn’t allow it, they’re very strong even for 1st level. Wizards and Warriors both get good abilities in the spells, and pretty good equipment selection, especially if you happen to own Triax or South America by the time you are reading this. I honestly like having a reasonably buff magic class, as some of the others were kind of anemic compared to anything using technology. Even all the druids earlier were not great adventuring classes though some of that depended on equipment selection.

My only real question is why are they in here? but that is always a question in Rifts books. The Chiang-Ku got a lot of writeup about where they are in the world and what the few remaining ones are doing, this is just ‘hey, new class!’ which is okay I guess. I just probably would have put them at the back, along with actually a lot of everything between here and Millennium trees.

Next: Dark Forces at New Camelot! Finally! They’ve been hinting at this for ages and it’s central to all the other plots in the book, godduh.

Oct 26, 2007

Friends: Protected
World: Saved
Crablettes: Eaten

goatface posted:

Hahahaha, flying a B29 loaded with an a-bomb through the pupil of Jormungandr. That is absurdly :black101:

It looks pretty awesome, but if there are two USSR-in-supernatural-WW2 books in a row with no Lysenko I'm going to get pissed.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

wdarkk posted:

I'm a bit disappointed in Hell Freezes over. Baba Yaga having whatever class levels the GM things would be best is good, but it's really missing some of the more creative stuff. I mean Lysenko is around for this, where's the weird hybrid plant/animal monsters?
Sadly, Hell Freezes Over is probably the second blandest of the Weird War II books, with Dead From Above being the first.

I plan on doing Afrika Korpse next, though, which has cultural appropriation packaged for player characters and trying to untangle "we want Rommel and his corps to be Lawful Neutral" with "we have Nazi zombies rawr".

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

occamsnailfile posted:

Rifts:™ England Part 9: “Temporal Magic: Or, finally something that isn’t about herbs.”

and since they’re in the England book, they have to be standing on a tree or something

I don't know why but that face and cloak just always makes me think of Dr. Doom. So I'll always refer to them as "Dr. Dooms". This irrelevant fact is now yours! You didn't even have to pay a penny.

Honestly the Temporal Magic is probably the funnest thing in the book, but its inclusion is a complete non sequitur. You'd think it would easy to tie them in as agents of Zazshan (coming in the next update), since multidimensionality and multilocation is its whole schtick, but for some reason that obvious link was missed or dismissed. It seems like it'd be an obvious source for that kind of knowledge.

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

goatface posted:

Hahahaha, flying a B29 loaded with an a-bomb through the pupil of Jormungandr. That is absurdly :black101:

You just think that's :black101:...It gets more :rock: as it goes on!

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Bigness: My Pal Leviathan


“All right, I have a plan.”
“Lay it on me, hepcat.”
“I’m trying to resurrect some vintage slang so I can be cool when other kids pick it up.”
“Believe that I say this with love, but if you keep saying ‘hepcat’, you’ll never be cool. Ever. Even if you were frozen in a glacier for a thousand eons of time, you wouldn’t be cool.”
“How about ‘daddy-o’?”
“Stop. Just stop.”
“Fine. Way to harsh my mellow. Just tell me the plan.”
“I got the idea when it pooped on the school. We can’t hurt the monster on the outside. The army couldn’t hurt it with bombs. So we need to get INSIDE. Where he keeps all his squishy and vulnerable organs and such.”
“How did him pooping on the school give you that idea?”
“Well, we can’t go in through the mouth. All those teeth? No thanks. We need to get inside through safer way...”
“... without teeth...”
“...and the best way has got to be...”
“...don’t say it...”
“...right up his...”
“...seriously, don’t say it...”
“.. Boom-Boom Chute.”
“Boom-Boom Chute.”
“You use the phrase ‘BOOM-BOOM CHUTE’ seriously, and you think saying ‘HEPCAT’ means I’ll never be cool?”
“Well, hepcat, I think you just lost the right to have an opinion on anything I say. Ever.”

Here we are, the Bigger part of Bigger Bads. These rules combine Farness, Threats, and a bunch of new stuff together into a single city-annihilating package. This is because, when you start messing with things that can use radio towers as toothpicks, a standard statblock loses its usefulness. Multi-story tall baddies end up less an enemy, and more a location. Crawling around inside Combine-R's machinery is more like navigating a skyscraper than fighting a baddie. Mind, it's a skyscraper that constantly changes shape and is full of high explosives and sawblades and electricity and then the mecha-scarecrows show up and suddenly it's a full on session just to make it to his knee. So, how do we handle rules for Bigness? With a Bigness Rating:

  • Bigness 1 (Normal Size) Me, you, Scruffy (the Dog and the Janitor, Monkey Aliens from planet K, Clowns, Ms. Spidnik, etc. This is where most stuff Kids deal with falls. x1 Speed/x1Range/x1 Mass

  • Bigness 2 (Big) Elephants, Bulldozers, T-Rex, the Alien Queen, Giant Ants, and the Iron Monger from the first Iron Man. Big enough to go “Wow that's big!” but not shockingly so. x2 Speed/x2 Range/x10 Mass

  • Bigness 3 (Bigger) Blue Whales, King-Kong, the Gundam, and most horrible sea-monsters. Things in this category are generally bigger than your house, but still don't tower over multistory buildings. This is about as big as you can get without seriously having to break the laws of physics. x4 Speed/ x5 Range/ x100 Mass

  • Bigness 4(Biggest) Ultraman, Mazinger Z, the American Godzilla from the terrible flick with Matthew Broderick, Cthulhu. This is the level where you either need some good technobabble or black magic to explain away being this big. Biggest things generally stand taller than your typical multistory office building, but could still hide in Manhattan if they crouch down. x8 Speed/x10 Range/x1,000 Mass

  • Bigness 5 (Biggerest) Godzilla, the SDF Macross, Jormungandr the World Serpent, Your Mom. These are the big ones. The Super-Monsters. These guys range from being able to eyeball the Empire State Building observation deck to being the size of a small city with legs. x8 Speed/ x10 Range/ x10,000 Mass
Those numbers after them correspond to the Monster Might table in the corebook, if you don't get that, and is about how fast they can go, how far they can reach, and how much they can lift, multiplied by that number depending on Bigness Rating.

Now, how do we actually use the Bigness Rating? By calculating the Bigness Differential or BigDiff. This is the difference between two monsters Bigness Ratings. The BigDiff doesn't matter when two monsters of the same scale are tangoing, because Scale really doesn't matter when everyone is in the same weight-class. According to the BigDiff:

The Smaller Character
  • Gains Wicked Fast equal to BigDiff on all Hit Locations

  • Gains Awesome equal to BigDiff on all Hit Locations when attacking or Defending against the bigger character

  • Gains Awesome equal to BigDiff when using small size to do, and I quote, “tricky things”.
The Bigger Character
  • Gains Tough to all Hit Locations equal to BigDiff

  • Gains Gnarly to all Hit Locations equal to BigDiff

  • Attacks to smaller characters get Splash equal to BigDiff

  • Can move the BigDiff in additional Farness each round.


What about a monster so huge it’s more like scenery than an arch-enemy? If the BigDiff is 3 or more, instead of running it like a fight between the whole giant monster and the smaller characters, everyone can jump onto one of the big character’s locations and stage a scene there—a fight, a chase, whatever. The location where the smaller characters are riding is treated like a Threat with dice, qualities, and Extras as normal, and with additional dice equal to twice the BigDiff. It’s then handled in play just like a Threat, while the real action goes down on the scale of the characters atop it. Getting swallowed sometimes works this way, and you can stage scenes inside the big critter’s innards.

Roughly this means that it's easier to hit bigger things, and dodge their attacks, but big things are a lot harder to hurt, and if they do hit you, it hurts a hell of a lot more. This means smaller guys are going to need more guerrilla tactics, overwhelming numbers, and sneaky tricks to take out something bigger than them, while the big-guy has to rely on smashing stuff real good.

And I'll Form The Left Arm!

Time for rules for GIANT ROBOTS. Giant Robots work just like Monsters, with hit locations, Powers, Extras, etc. The difference comes if you're piloting or otherwise controlling a giant robot. In that case, if an action isn't covered by the Giant Robot's powers, you roll either the dice pool of whatever relevant Hit Location is doing the action, or a pre-determined Stat+Skill roll, whichever is lower.


He pilots his remote mech with his Hands + GameBox Epic Win dice pool of 8d; but if he fires up the Tele-A.P.E.’s 6d weapons pod to spray a room full of shoo-spiders with high-velocity narcotic paintballs, he’d only roll six dice because that’s the weapons pod’s total dice pool and it’s lower than his own dice pool. (“These controls suck!”)

Relationships are just straight added to the dice-pool, and work normally.

If you want a robot to be a combiner, then each component robot becomes a Hit Location on the gestalt Bigger one, and the combined robot must be one or two Bigness ranks larger than the components. You use the largest dice-pool in a component mech for that Hit Location, and each individual player rolls the dice that their Hit Location uses.

Next Time: Weirdness

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Mysteries Revised

The Order of Hermes was born from the memory of the Roman Cult of Mercury, but much of the knowledge of the Cult was lost forever, save for a few works that were incorporated into the design of rituals such as the Aegis of the Hearth and Wizard's Communion, and of course the famous technique known as Mercurian Magic. It is fairly widely known in the Order, and whole not all who are interested in the history of the Cult have it, it is the root of the Mercurian tradition and the part generally accepted as authentic. Beyond that, there is only what can be reconstructed by analysis of fragmentary records and magic. House Mercere's Gifted and many of House Flambeau are famous for practicing what they believe to be the inheritance of Mercurian magic in the Cult of Mercury that was founded by Mercere's apprentice Priamitus, while House Guernicus also has an interest in Mercurian magic. But we care about another group, a Mystery tradition known as the Neo-Mercurians who blend claims of authentic Mercurian reconstructed rites with a dedication to apply these insights to Hermetic magic.

The Neo-Mercurians seek to redevelop what they believe to be the ancient Cult of Mercury, the foundation of Hermetic magic. They are far from unified, and the Neo-Mercurian cult varies greatly between Tribunals. In Rome, Provencal, the Levant and Thebes, they recruit from the open Cult of Mercury, while in other Tribunals, the Cult is castigated as a pale shadow of the true tradition, which they have no patience for. They tend to specialize in Vim magic, and have developed a number of Mysteries related to what they believe the ancient Mercurian Rites were. They can be divided into those who honestly worship the ancient gods, and those who see them only as potent spirits to bargain with via praise and who see altars as merely a power to be tapped.

They claim that their magic is fully authentic, if reconstructed, and insist that all other Mercurian groups are debased forms of the true power and spirit of Mercurian magic, which only their careful reconstruction represents. In the same way, they often seek out ancient temples and lost glades that exist in hidden regiones, attempting to restore them to full splendor. Neo-Mercurians prefer to do their rites within temples of Mercury or associated deities. They claim the German Wotan, Norse Odin, Celtic Lugh, Greek Hermes and Egyptian Thoth are all just other names for Mercury. They have no system of degrees or ranks at the local level, beyond a very simple division.

First you've got the Messengers of Mercury, unGifted servants who deliver messages and gather information, as well as assisting in the discovery, excavation and restoration of temples. Senior Messengers may possess enchanted devices to help them access temples in regiones. The Congregation forms much of the rank and file of initiates, who work to recover lost temples and research ancient magic. They serve the Priests while learning the mysteries of the Neo-Mercurians. The Priests are the leaders. One Priest is responsible for each restored temple, and for organizing the rites of the annual Festival of Mercuralia (May 15), in which they sprinkle enchanted water on the hands of the Congregation, as was done in ancient times. The cult loosely organizes itself on a temple-to-temple basis, with initiation based on skill and the Priest deciding what order to initiate you in. Despite the lack of local organization, the Neo-Mercurians have temples across Europe, or so it is rumored, with excellent communication and a hierarchy of Priests serving an ancient Roman temple. Only the Priests know if this is actually true.

Neo-Mercurians favor imperial Roman dress, customs and traditions, and they are fond of using Classical Latin, resisting any more modern forms of the language. They adore classical Roman authors. All Initiates are required to possess Mercurian Magic or be initiated into it before anything else. They teach Performance Magic based on Neo-Mercurian Lore and the ceremonies of the cult. They teach Hermetic Theurgy, and also Divination and Augury based on methods believed to be Roman, such as alectryomancy (divination via throwing grain to a hen and seeing the patterns it makes). It also teaches Withstand Magic, discussed earlier, Road Magic and Hermetic Sacrifice.

Road Magic, strictly speaking, is not a Mystery. The ancient Cult of Mercury is believed to have had a responsibility to care for the Roman road network, and the Neo-Mercurians have developed a way to do magic based on that, though it can't be used for Spontaneous magic - they're just not good at that. Anyone with Mercurian Magic can learn Road Magic in a single season, without an initiation, if they can find a teacher. It allows the magus to target anyone on the same road or road network as they are (with bridges, gaps, yards and fords breaking a network), or to do magic on the roads themselves, targeting the road and anyone or anything on them, though in a more limited area.

Hermetic Sacrifice is the ritual use of sacrificial altars dedicated to pagan gods. The sacrifice takes the place of some of the vis needed to perform Ritual magic to summon the deity. The deity must be pleased with the sacrifice, of course. The animal used must be unblemished and pure, and the rarer it is, the more vis it is worth. A lamb is not much, while a lion is quite valuable. This is the closest the Neo-Mercurians have come to resurrecting the ancient sacrificial rites of the Romans. The use of any magic to force the deity to attend, such as a True Name or a synthemata, will work...once. After that, the altar is desecrated and can never be used again to summon the deity. Oops.

Now, let's talk about some other mystery cults! Like the Legion of Mithras, one of the most public of Mystery Cults. Mithras was a pagan god, a redeemer whom many see as a preface to Christianity, and the Legion believe Mithras' work foreshadowed their cult, as Jesus foreshadowed the Resurrection. The original mysteries of Mithras were, they say, a dim light of things to come. This is how they justify their pagan practices, and really, religion has very little to do with the Legion, which celebrates personal virtue and excellence, severe dedication to truth and unfailing loyalty to the Order. The original Cult of Mithras was undoubtedly pagan, but the modern Legion is more pragmatic. See, within the order are magi called Hoplites, who serve the Quaesitores in protecting the Code of Hermes and fighting renegade magi or protecting Quaesitores. The Legion of Mithras was founded by a group of Hoplites, and while not all Legionnaires are Hoplites, nor all Hoplites Legionnaires, there has traditionally been good representation of Hoplites in their ranks.

One early theorist of the Legion was Joachim of Jerbiton, who discovered the doctrinal ideas that legitimized (for the Legion, anyway) the use of pagan mysteries (and, for the Order as a whole, Mercurian magic despite Christianity), as well as writing extensively on the original Mithraic cult in the Roman Legions. The modern Legion knows very little about the original Mithraic mysteries, but avidly seeks out such knowledge, and Joachim claimed to have developed initiations based on Christianized Mithraic rites, devoid of any possible suspicion of Infernalism. The book he wrote forms the backbone of the modern Legion of Mithras, and is kept carefully guarded in their secret Great Temple of the Order, where it can only be accessed by the Father of the Legion.

Today's Legion maintains its role as an association of those who defend the Order, though anyone of loyalty, bravery and honesty can be invited - so long as it's public knowledge, anyway. The Legion requires outstanding moral qualities, emphasizing moral virtue over penitence and exuberant heroism over humble confession and has no patience for deception or moral ambiguity. They tend to be proud, overconfident and stuck in a black-and-white view of justice, but they are not fools. They use disguise and will hide their goals from the unworthy, but they do their best to protect the innocent and ever do anything that might ever hurt the Order. Some say this loyalty and idea of virtue can lead to Legionnaires without any qualms about committing atrocity or using evil means against known foes in the name of protecing the Order, but this may be mere slander.

While the ancient cult only took men, the Legion references Galatians 3:28, that there is neither male nor female in Christ, and therefore all are acceptable who meet their standards. Would-be Legionnaires must exhibit bravery, honesty, diligence, resistance to temptation, loyalty, obedience and honor. It is rare for a Legionnaire not to have a reputation for being devoted to the Order - that tends to be how they find recruits. They refer to their degrees as ranks, and enforce a quasi-military command structure, with lower ranks unquestionably obeying higher ones. Members know the names of those immediately above them, but not the higher ranks, and Temple functions maintain anonymity with masks and symbolic garb. It is said that Magvillus, the domus magna of House Guernicus, possesses a roster of the full cult and chooses Hoplites from it in preference to others, but Legionnaires are taught not to reveal their status to Quaesitores, and many wonder if their supposed close association actually has any real basis in fact. The truth is known only the Primus of Guernicus and the Father of the Legion. The size of the Legion is a matter of some doubt - it is believed to be large, powerful and orderly, existing in every Tribunal, but because of cult secrecy and the way ranks work, no one below the rank of Heliodromus can be sure. Only the very high-ranking get to visit the Temple, whose location is very secret, but legend places it in a cave in the Greater Alps Tribunal. No one really knows exactly how much power the Legion has.

The Legion is structured around underground temples sited in Magic auras, generally with a lot of Roman decoration. These are staffed by loyal grogs, called Auxilaries, who are excellent combatants and often used for support on missions. The Auxiliary Legion is open to faithful grogs and companions, and its ranks reflect the Legion's structure, but it is commanded independently. Auxiliaries do much to hide their affiliation and tend to pretend not to pay much attention to those they serve.

The first rank, the Ravens of Mithras, are those who meet the heroic ideal. They are sworn to loyalty as part of the Ordeal of their initiaton, binding them with magical bonds of duty and loyalty, and their symbol is a cup of bitter herbs. They can be commanded at any time by higher anks, should a crisis threaten the Order. Their role is to carry messages, act as the Legion's eyes and ears and to watch for signs of corruption. Their will is reinforced by the initiation, making them Strong-Willed over the course of a season of training. They show their rank and commitment by wearing an orange piece of clothing.

Next are the Brides of Mithras, who actively organize the Ravens and assign recon missions. Their initiation involves a Quest to investigate matters of concern and assess whether there is a true threat. Appropriate judgment and reasonable conclusions are required. Brides symbolically marry the Order of Hermes, and must show the same dutiful loyalty a spouse would. They spend a season training under the Lions, high ranking initiates in the temples, to become Clear Thinkers. They wear a green object of clothing to show their rank, and their symbol is the lamp, representing the light of truth.

Then there's the Soldiers of Mithras, the heroic champions of the Legion. This is the majority of members, and most never progress beyond this rank, or desire to. Their initiation calls for a Quest to defeat some terrible foe of the Order - hedge magician, a monster, a conspiracy, whatever. They don't get aimed - they're just told to go defeat a terrible foe of the Order. Some have saved Quaesitor lives or helped in Wizard's Marches, while others have uncovered corruption and brought it to light. The feat must be heroic, and must be led by and feature the initiate most significantly if they have help. At that point they undergo another season of training and are granted either Reserves of Strength or an Enduring Constitution. Their symbol is the lance to show they have defeated the dragon of iniquity, and they wear a blood-red cloak, or a symbol of Mars or a bull (the sign of Mithras) as their emblem.

Next up: Lions of Mithras, or Captains. Few aspire to this rank for they are known for high mortality rates and high cost of service. They are told the Legion possesses ancient secrets of Mithras, and those who are discreet yet persevere in trying to learn them are tested for wisdom and good judgement, typically involving a Quest commanding Soldiers and Auxiliaries on a vital mission. They are taught Inscription on the Soul, but their real power is the mundane power of the position and ability to command Soldiers. They are also taught the secret of how the Cult of Mithras presaged Christianity and learn much of the ancient cult. Their symbol is the spade, for they symbolically die and are reborn as a stronger servant. Their color is deep blue, and they favor a golden lion badge. They must spend seven years in the temples to train other Initiates, and may spend only one season in each of those years serving their own Covenants. Many Lions do enjoy initiating their sodales, however.

Above them are the Persians, the highest rank most PCs are likely to hit. The origin of the title is lost but is sometimes given as Perseus. They wear silver and bear the sign of Taurus, and they tend to be the most senior member of the Legion in any given Tribunal. They carry a symbolic silver sickle, and they tend to be required to sacrifice their Talisman so they can enchant the sickle to replace it. They learn how to bind spirit familiars, and learn many of the cult's secrets (which are left to the GM). The Persians have considerable influence and are permitted to join the rites at the Great Temple, where they meet the seven Heliodromus who hold the sixth rank and wear gold, and the single Father, the leader and seventh rank, who wears black, and some say is a Living Ghost bound forever to the temple in a duty beyond death.

Next time: The Philosophers of Rome

Jul 19, 2012

RIP Lutri: 5/19/20-4/2/20

Is Bigness 4 supposed to be Tetsuo?


Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Kurieg posted:

Is Bigness 4 supposed to be Tetsuo?

All the Bigness examples are going to be detailed later, but I can say this: Fried Chicken is involved with that particular creature.

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