Register a SA Forums Account here!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
  • Locked thread
Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006

pkfan2004 posted:

You automatically fail impossible tasks because, uh, they're impossible. This is a common sense thing and depends on what you're trying to attempt. An example:
SIMPLE TASK: Buying cocaine from your dealer friend Sampson.
MODERATE TASK: Making your own cocaine because Sampson ran out.
COMPLEX TASK: Convincing a policeman to let you go because you tried to sell him cocaine, idiot.
HARD TASK: Getting a guard to let you into a higher society party so you can sell your cocaine to aristocrats.
VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE TASK: Convincing Princess Lotte of Prussia to do cocaine with you because sex is better high.
IMPOSSIBLE TASK: Convincing her mom, Queen Nadja, to join you.

Are these the actual examples or something you made up? Because, I'm torn about the first couple task examples.

Also, everyone knows it should be marijuana Sampson sells...

pkfan2004 posted:

COMPLICATIONS: Hoo doggy. So Incapacitating Wounds are a pain in the rear end because they leave behind long-term effects that kick in when the wound is treated. You roll on a chart depending on where you've been wounded. Sometimes they happen automatically depending on what happens, like a man with a bat breaking your knees. Basically the best way to handle a Complication is to see a doctor immediately and do your best to get what you need fixed. And even then actual medicine is gonna disable your character for a spell depending on the damage done. I'm gonna share these because they can range from minor issues to "whoops your arm is gone".

I've got no problem with Complications to wounds, but randomizing the whole thing is some meaningless assholery right there. A character should not lose a limb with a Flesh Wound role.

And there's an easy way to fix it, just make the damage thresholds the roll and rearrange the complications so stuff like Broken Fingers and Torn Muscle are in the Flesh Wound category and leave Amputated Arm and Amputated Leg in the 20 position.


Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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

Incapacitating Wounds are the only wounds you get Complications on, so yeah you can't just lose half of your fingers when you get a book slammed on them. Flesh and Serious Wounds kinda just depend on RP description.

And those are not actual examples, they are dumb joke examples I made. Although using Alchemy to make drugs is DR 11 for all drugs and it says that buying stuff at sticker price isn't a challenge at all because you're not haggling. I try to do my homework when I'm gonna be dumb as hell.

Down With People posted:

Candy Land Magic: The long-awaited Candy Land Magic lets you summon cutesy poo poo like puppies, chocolate and starshine. But watch out! All of these things have a sinister edge to them. Those puppies will distract your opponent. They'll eat too much of the chocolate and get a tummy-ache.
Fungus Magic: Seriously, it just lets you make magic mushrooms.

Do you mean to tell me that your squamous unknowable deathbeast can defeat enemies by combining them both and summoning mushroom cookies to make your enemies trip out?

Hostile V fucked around with this message at 06:01 on Jan 24, 2014

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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

Chapter 11, Part 1: Advanced Guidelines. Advanced. As in stomach cancer.

Oh boy, this one’s going to be a doozy. After my last update, I realized that this chapter contains not only a bunch of finicky “advanced guidelines,” it also has all the rules for magickal paths.

Do you remember how the character creation chapter just glossed over attributes and skills in favour of “legendmaking” rules like Persona (rules for caring about things), Distinctions (rules for being Mary Sue), Destiny/Backlash points (rules for being the Guide’s bitch), Torment (rules for being sad about having superpowers), and poo poo like that? The details for mundane skills and how to use them got crammed into this chapter.

Do you believe this author watched every episode of “Gravedale High?”

The first part of this chapter reminds me of the “Systems” chapter that used to appear toward the back of the old World of Darkness corebooks. They were a smart move by White Wolf; those chapters would give you not just combat rules, but rules for resolving common scenarios that begged for more than a single skill check, such as car chases, surveillance, seduction, and so on. This chapter has a bit of that, but it’s a fat grab-bag of skill descriptions, advanced combat and injury rules, more rules for using those Persona, Distinction, and Torment traits in gameplay, live-action rules, miscellaneous junk...and magick, which we'll cover later. By and large, these rules and the writing style employed to convey them are both 90s as gently caress. Lots of droning on about roleplaying, yet so much preoccupation with how a gun works.

Skill descriptions

This part is kind of important, because they not only tell you what skills do, but the skills’ “primary Aspects.” As in the Storyteller system, skills aren’t always associated with one Aspect; the Guide can ask you to test Resilience+History or Intellect+Flails if they think it’s appropriate. Of note is that not a single skill is linked to Strength; all the physical skills, even Climb and Swim, are commonly linked to Dexterity. There’s no skill for lifting; I guess Strength is only good for carrying luggage and a little extra melee damage. Eat poo poo, jocks.

It’s a waste of time to go through every skill in the game, so I’ll just share the highlights:

Accuracy: For throwing weapons, but not for bows or slings.
Acrobatics: Gymnastics, and of course, you can use it to reduce falling damage.
Climb: They think you need to be told what a climb skill is for. It does include the use of climbing equipment.
Dance: For dancing. Characters should choose a specialty, such as ballroom or folk, because it’s really important that I know my centuries-old ghul character is an expert clogger but can’t tango.
Focus: A weird catch-all for “extreme feats involving the body,” including controlling your body functions like a master yogi, unliving characters trying to seem lifelike, and summoning “ki” to perform martial arts feats. (I don’t think there are actually any rules for that.)
Run: For running.
Swim: For swimming.

Murder: A strangely specific skill for planning, executing, and getting away with murder, including knowledge of execution methods, disposing of bodies, erasing evidence, and basic forensics.
Stealth: For stealth.
Streetwise: Surviving on the streets
Antiquities: There is a skill separate from History for “knowledge of physical artifacts of history, whereas History covers academic knowledge of times and events.” I guess you use this skill to play Duncan MacLeod’s day job.
Romance: A more holistic and, uh, wholesome skill than just seduction.
Blind Fighting, Block, Evasion, Grapple, Kick, Punch: These are each their own separate skill.
Axes, Clubs, Knives, Flails, Polearms, Staves, Swords: Ditto.
Management: For running a business as well as white-collar crime. In an unusual moment of insight, the book points out that this is useful to eldritch who want to transfer their assets from one identity to another.
Rationalize: There is actually a skill for convincing your self that the supernatural does not exist; I suppose mortals roll it to avoid awakening.

Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance.

Astra: Traversing the Astra.
Dream: Ditto for the Dreamworlds.
Eldritch: Knowledge of the eldritch genii and identifying them on sight.
Empower: For instilling supernatural power into objects or people.
Illumination: Perceiving the Reverie.

Using Distinctions

Those weird semi-innate, semi-social backgrounds from character creation, that are sort of like Backgrounds and Merits & Flaws from Storyteller games? We get some suggestions for what you can actually do with them.

Biography: Remembering historical details from your own lifetime, or having a Highlander-style flashback.
Eldritch Ties: “Throwing your weight around” with your reputation, getting in touch with another eldritch, diplomacy between eldritch factions, using eldritch contacts.
Servitors: Gathering information through minions, having mundane tasks performed.
Resources: Bribery, aquiring expensive things, or “getting invited to a country club.”
Temporal ties: Using mortal contacts, getting an appointment with a politician, or manipulating local government, law enforcement, etc.

Uh, that’s all. There’s no advice on how to use your beautiful cheekbones (Physique) or level-headedness (Psyche) to get ahead in unlife.

Advanced Combat & Injury (3 credits)

This section includes rules for armor, damage from environmental hazards, and an odd collection of combat hacks.

You just pick up a gun, go bang, and you’ve got legendmaking.

First is a mook rule--two of them, actually. The more complicated one says that if you inflict 5 points of damage before your enemy’s Resistance roll (4 if you have a weapon), the Guide can say he’s knocked out of the fight. Doing 7 points means you’re maimed or killed him. The simpler rule simply says to take 1/5th of your Dex+Weapon skill...that’s how many nameless mooks you can take out in a round.

Next are rules for concealment, letting people draw Perception to notice “one weapon per success,” with modifiers to represent the length of your katanas and your trenchcoat.

The rule for “hair-trigger reactions” allows you to react to ambush by firing a preemptive shot. That’s useful, since the default combat rules heavily favour surprise.

I have a hair-trigger reaction to this.

Pistol-whipping is a “rule” that doesn’t need to be a adds +1 to an unarmed attack. Neither is the use of silencers, which reduce damage and halve range. Gun jams are what happens if you roll a Disaster while using a gun; you need a few cumulative successes to clear a jam.

The rules for armor are in this chapter instead of the main combat rules. There’s a chart covering everything from lacquered wooden armor to plated mail to riot gear, in case your game requires you to send a SWAT team after a Tlingit raiding party. Armor adds cards to your Resistance roll, and may reduce the damage of blunt weapons, edged weapons, bullets, fire, electricity, and cold depending on its type.

There is a whole section on how to stop PCs from ruining the campaign with guns. The most sensible bit of advice is to emphasize that it’s difficult to get away with carrying and firing guns in a modern setting. There are decent suggestions specific to the fact that the PCs and their enemies are largely magical creatures--have guns do less damage, emphasize that amputation is more effective against creatures that regenerate, and remember that guns can only fire so many shots in a round even if you have superhuman speed. There’s a really dumb suggestion that you go with “cinematic gunfire” where no one ever hits with the first shot, and automatic fire just scares people by peppering the ground near them.

The worst suggestion is that you just give out Backlash points to eldritch who use guns. There’s no rationalization whatsoever for why using guns creates bad karma while sucking someone’s soul out through their rear end in a top hat is okay; the author is just encouraged to use Backlash to paddle PCs for using guns instead of having dramatic katana fights on top of a Steam and Flame Factory like they’re supposed to.

Solid Owl in Metal Gear Solid: Barns of the Patriots

Rules for amputation say that a called shot that reduces you to 0 life points can sever the targeted part, causing permanent reduction of life points and debilitating damage. Eldritch with regeneration can regrow severed limbs faster by holding them in place until they reattach.

Rules for asphyxiation and drowning are a simple affair doing debilitating damage each round, while the rules on damage from fire and sunlight provide much-needed illumination (ho, ho) for the creatures who are vulnerable to that stuff. Fire does damage based on intensity and exposure; sunlight is the same, with modifiers for thick clothing and cloudy days. There are even similar rules for exposure to burning chemicals and radiation.

Always dilute the Dr. Bronner’s first.

There are lots more rules for ways you can die which are too tedious and too similar to a dozen other games to bother detailing here. There are rules for resisting torture with Spirit rolls, falling damage, frostbite, extreme heat, illness, and poisoning. We’re instructed that if a PC dies, “every effort should be made to make the moment a very dramatic one.” Dying heroes can perform one last action, and can linger until the end of a combat so they get the opportunity to give their dying soliloquy.

There are even more rules for emotions, and in practice they’re another way for the Guide to gently caress over the PCs in the name of roleplaying! I am so completely surprised, aren’t you?

For example, being defeated in battle could temporarily give the entire party a Depression 3 Persona trait. A “tragic battle with werewolves” could inflict both Despair 4 and Hate Werewolves 5. The numerical values of these various forms of sadness come straight from the gothic darkness of Stephen Brown’s butthole.

If something happens that could provoke strong emotion in any of your Persona traits, you’re supposed to make a roll/draw. The more successes you get the more you “give in to emotion” and there is a loving chart for this as well as suggestions that if you roll 3 successes to be sad, you should have a sad look on your face!

To my genuine surprise, giving in to emotion is not necessarily synonymous with getting hosed over by the Guide. There’s a list of emotions and the mechanical results of being overcome by them. Persona traits related to Fear, Lust, and Revulsion make you take penalties to your rolls, those related to Hatred and Love give you bonuses to attack or protect, and Rage gives bonuses to attack and penalties to defend. Dementia traits work the same as emotions for the purposes of these rules. Remember, this game refers to all mental illness as “Dementia” because it gets off on spooky Latin.

It is a game design metaphor.

Next time, on The Everlasting: Try to understand. He’s a magick man.

Down With People
Oct 31, 2012

The child delights in violence.

pkfan2004 posted:

Do you mean to tell me that your squamous unknowable deathbeast can defeat enemies by combining them both and summoning mushroom cookies to make your enemies trip out?


Of course, there won't be anything about the cookies that will make them inherently more alluring than normal cookies. They might just sit there, uneaten.

Down With People
Oct 31, 2012

The child delights in violence.

Empire Of Satanis: Orange Flame Of Emerald Lavender

Character Creation

The section on character creation opens with Dishaw answering an important question: what the hell was he thinking?


Let me talk a little about what I’m trying to achieve in Empire of Satanis. Basically, what is game play supposed to be like? While combat is nice, very nice sometimes, this game is more about creating an interesting story revolving around the Fiendish player characters. Even more that that, it’s about achieving power, blasphemy, and revenge over all those normal people and civilizations out there. The characters don’t have a chance of overthrowing Satanis and the other evil Gods of Yidathroth. However, there is a chance of improving their station in life by Machiavellian scheming and ritual assassination. However, there are many other Gods, races, ideals, and world-views that need to be smashed, ridiculed, mocked, pissed on, poisoned, choked, blasphemed, and annihilated. A million worlds filled with a billion of Fiend-hating scum exist in Sha-la. Time to do a little inter-universal house cleaning! That means that K’thana might be a temporary haven for the characters between invasions into the human realms of Sha-la.

You're supposed to get into Fiend politics, but the game fails to introduce any distinct factions in Fiend society. You're supposed to get all hyped up on invading Sha-la, but humans are so outclassed by Fiends in every way that it's a wonder the mass invasion of Sha-la hasn't happened yet. You're meant to be a free libertarian Ubermensch, but you can never rise against Satanis or the other gods.

To build a character, you start off with 36 Character Building Points to buy all your attributes and skills. Attributes, magic skills and certain mundane skills cost 2 CBPs to increase, other skills cost 1 CBP. Starting characters can have a maximum of 3 in any attribute or skill, with a final maximum of 5 after the game starts. Any CBPs you have left over can be spent on zirkas, 50 apiece.

You earn experience points during the game which you can use to advance your character. Because this is a poo poo game, they don't work the same as CBPs and require you to spend (x*current rating) experience points to advance something, in which 'x' varies depending on what it is.

Any player who wants to help out in any way (contributing to the setting, helping with notes and maps, or even just buying snacks) is invited to, and the book advises the GM to give extra CBPs and experience in return. Giving players incentives to get involved in the game is actually a good idea; even if the game is still poo poo, I can't fault his general attitude here.

Colour of the Magical Sphere of Influence

At character creation, you pick a colour sphere that matches your character's approach to the Dark Way. Colour spheres are important, since actions that match your colour sphere get a bonus. Each colour sphere has certain attitudes and philosophies associated with it.

The colour sphere list is loving hilarious, I'm gonna copy-paste the whole thing.


Black: Death, Tyranny, Dishonor.

Blackish Green: Entropy, Decay, Degenerate.

Red: Anger, Wrath, Aggression.

Deep Orange: Excitement, Frenzy, Confusion, Panic.

Topaz: Blasphemy, Sacrilege, Indignation.

Yellow: Fear, Madness, Horror.

Bilious Green: Lust, Vanity, Pleasure.

Eldritch Green:
Alienage, the Unknown, Outsideness, Corruption.

Light Blue: Tranquility, Balance, Patience, Reflection.

Metamorphosis, Change, Rebirth.

Purple: Pride, Social Standing, Authority, Nobility.

White: Order, Unity, Honor.

Power, Revenge, Self-Righteousness.

Brown: Stealth, Trickery, Slyness.

Pink: Lies, Contrariness, Frivolity, Cruelty.

Metallic: Psychological Torment, Mind Games, Oppression.

Grey: Insecurity, Arrogance, Betrayal.

Freedom, Diversity, Chaos.

Turquoise: Ancient, Foreign, Esoteric, Enigma.

Midnight Blue: Indignation, Physical Suffering, Remorse.

Violet: The Bizarre, Surreal, Strange, Weird.

Orange Flame of Emerald Lavender: Conviction, Individuality, Anti Authoritarian, Non Conformity.

I'd like to thank Dishaw for not bringing chartreuse back for another round.

In a book full of dumb ideas, colour spheres stand out. 'Metallic' isn't a colour. 'Opalescent' isn't a colour. 'Blackish Green' is how your vomit looks after a night of licorice and absinthe. Half of the attitudes described for each colour sphere are just random words; if you're Midnight Blue, how are you supposed to be indignant? Are you supposed to just get really huffy and pompous like Fiend!Frasier Crane? What the gently caress is Orange Flame of Emerald Lavender supposed to look like?

It's never properly explained how colour spheres work in Fiend society. It says that your colour sphere determines your place in Fiend society, but why? Why are these broad behavioural categories organised by colour? Why are they such a big deal? Why are they so magical? It says some colour spheres are ostracised in some parts of the city. Which colour spheres? Which parts of the city? Which loving city? Is it Frier? It must be, because in spite of the multiple universes that Fiends inhabit, there's only one city worth mentioning!

All of this poo poo – never explained.


The equipment list is pretty small. Rather than obsessively writing the costs for everything the PCs might buy, Dishaw just tosses out a few examples to give you a rough idea.


A night with one of the illustrious tentacled whores that K’thana has to offer costs about 10 zirkas. A mug of wyrm cider costs about 2 zirkas. And a room for a night in the plethora of inns and rooming houses in K’thana costs about 5 zirkas.

However, there is a big list of Infernal Equipment, magic poo poo your PCs might want.

Dream Senders: They work as you'd imagine. Sending dreams is a big thing in K'Thana, because dreams are ~the magical connection to the energies that connect the universe~ or some poo poo like that. You could pay someone 10 zirkas to send a dream, or spend a thousand zirkas on your own Dream Sender, or spend 2 CBPs to get a point in Dream Magic and side-step all that poo poo.

Aquatic Glyphs of the Blood-slicked Sea: Magical glyphs etched on stones, created by the Leviathans that live in the Blood-slicked Sea. Using the glyph summons the Leviathan to act as arbitrator in a dispute. It may decide to just drag you back to the Blood-slicked Sea to live as a slave, because when we look to giant sharkwhales with our problems we reap what we sow. Costs 100 zirkas.

Void Sabers: They're rare and cost 400 zirkas. They're the only reason you opened up this part of the book in the first place.

Unseen Spear:
An invisible spear. It's supposed to be useful for assassins, but I don't see how; spears are really big, people will be able to tell you're using one. 300-500 zirkas.

Scimitar of the Indigo Flame: When you kill someone with it, you turn into a copy of them for an hour. A neat idea, but there's no cost listed and it's not a void saber.

Ring of Decrepitude:
Lets you 'shrivel' a target once per day. Why you would pay 2000 zirkas for this I don't know, since the book doesn't explain what 'shrivelling' involves.

Diabolic Armour:
Comes in light (+1), medium (+2) and heavy (+3) varieties. This is the first time armour is mentioned in the book. Prior to this, no rules have been described for wearing armour. No rules are described here either; all it says is that you lose a point of Magical Aptitude equal to the rating. 200, 500 or 1000 zirkas.

Coloured Weapons and Items: When an item is imbued with a colour, it gives a +2 like the usual colour sphere bullshit. This stacks if you'd already get a +2 colour sphere bonus. They're super-rare and expensive, so no price listed.

Possible Scenarios

After that, about fifteen adventure seeds, none of which help make the game sound interesting. A bunch of them involve killing humans or invading Sha-la. A bunch of them involve mystery locations which the PCs quest to. One of them involves a burgeoning romance with a flesh hook girl, and ya'll gonna poo poo when you find out what they are.

Final Words

Dishaw takes a moment to encourage you to have fun and do whatever you want with the game. He reminds GM that the PCs are supposed to be mighty, and to gently caress with the rules or setting if it lets a PC do something cool. Again, I can't fault the guy's attitude.

There's a link to his cult website and invitation to send feedback.

He thanks his playtesters and the good people of the Forge, who gave him way more advice than he deserved back in the halcyon days of 2005.

There's still twenty-odd pages of book left to cover.

Next: More GM tips! A deeper exploration of K'Thana!

Jul 19, 2012

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

I was going to comment on whatever the gently caress dishaw was smoking to come up with opalescent as a color but then it hit me.

Down With People posted:

Orange Flame of Emerald Lavender: Conviction, Individuality, Anti Authoritarian, Non Conformity.

Of course it's a color, man! It doesn't need to fit into your rules! You're just a Color Fascist!

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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

That is a lot of dumb colors.


So we're gonna finish this chapter with some more RULES RULES RULES and then I've got a little example of character creation courtesy of a gracious friend. So let's get traumatic.

All of those issues with the Complications (massive blood loss, concussions, etc) are real conditions your character can deal with. Concussions lead to temporary status effects where you're basically rendered flatfooted and you have to make a Will roll at the start of your turn to see if you recover. You keep rolling until you succeed and basically being concussed is a Very Bad Thing in the wrong situation. Infections lead to making daily Vitality checks and failing leads to -1 Vitality. When you get treated, succeeding in a check restores 1 Vitality or lowers it by 1 if you fail. The checks end when you get back to base Vitality and seeing a doctor daily helps lower the DR. Getting knocked down forces you to spend an action getting back up. Getting hit hard enough on the head requires a Vitality roll to not pass out. A success resists the trauma, a failure knocks you out and then you keep rolling to get your poo poo together and wake up from the blow. Massive blood loss requires repeated Vitality rolls until someone stabilizes you, and then you should be bandaged and treated. From there you require 1 Vitality a week.

A neat little thing they included is rolling 1d10 whenever a character is shot. On a 1 or 10, the bullet goes through cleanly and on any other roll it's lodged in the wound. What's not so neat is it has to be removed or you risk infection and you can't regain Vitality from the infection until the object is gone. If you want to be all realistic and technical, you don't have to have a bullet removed because the when a bullet goes in it's hot so it cauterizes the wound behind it but I really think they just want an excuse to make your character suffer. I'd definitely alter this rule for my own uses.

SEVERED LIMBS: So it turns out that if you lose your arm or leg you're not doomed to deal with having a stump for the rest of your life. If you can't recover your original limb, or if it's been madly mangled and mauled and reconstruction is gonna be hard, a doctor can sedate you and sew a new limb on from a donor (or a corpse). This can also be done if the wound has already healed and the character has had a stump for a while. The book claims that medical technology has come a long way for them and it doesn't mention needing to take anti-rejection drugs so y'know your body isn't going to try to rot off your new leg due to Handwavium. No information on whether or not you can pop new eyes in like it's American Horror Story but personally I'd allow that poo poo.

DESTROYING THE UNDEAD: Yeah yeah aim for the head and brain. But it's kinda cool how it goes out of the way to explain the rules for undead. Animates and vampires can take a beating and suffer no issues from Flesh and Serious Wounds and there's no limit for how many Incapacitating Wounds it can sustain. Incapacitating Wounds to the arms make them drop things and be unable to use their arms and hands, Wounds to the legs cause them not run or dodge or jump and reduce Coordination by 2 (down to 1). You can destroy the arms and legs of a Vampire or Animate and they'll still have Coordination 1. Somehow. Fatal Wounds to limbs destroy them, Fatal Wounds to the torso reduce Vitality by 1 (at 0 they die for good), shots to the heart kill Vampires and anything dies if a Fatal Wound is inflicted to the head.


ELECTROCUTION hurts the undead and regular people, avoiding armor. Flesh Wounds cause minor internal muscular damage at the point of contact and muscles spasm, forcing you to drop what you're holding. Serious Wounds make you drop things, fall to the ground and you end up concussed by the shock. Incapacitation ups the pain by making you lose control of all bodily function BUT you don't get dealt a Complication for it. Fatal Wounds cook you alive. There's no info for recovering from this damage, so I'd say...assume based on previous injuries.

EXPLOSIVES hurt anyone six feet within the blast and damage drops by 1 per three feet. You get a Flesh Wound minimum and shrapnel becomes a problem, Serious Wounds knock you down. You need Demolition to level a building without just putting bombs willy-nilly and enclosed spaces are a death sentence. Hand grenades and molotovs require two actions: pulling the pin or lighting the fuse and firing. Critical failures mean they go off in your hands or fall at your feet and anyone can run the hell away in response. Jumping to the floor and covering your head removes 3 damage from the blast's attack and jumping on the grenade doubles the damage. You can cook a grenade with a successful Will roll so when it's thrown anyone in the blast can't try to defend themselves. A failure means you hold onto the grenade and still have to throw it. A critical failure means goodbye working arm.

BEING SET ON FIRE requires a Will roll to not panic and run around screaming. You keep making Will rolls until you succeed or burn to death. Being on fire adds 3 damage to damage rolls and Flesh Wounds mean the fire goes out. You can stop, drop and roll or shed armor or jump in water (the Thames is not recommended) to put yourself out which turns the +3 into a -2. The rules for being on fire are rather...broken and they don't make a hell of a lot of sense. You take initial damage from the attack, the extra burning deals extra damage and it's not clear if anything higher than a Flesh Wound means that the fire stops. Maybe it means that it keeps doing Serious/Incapacitating damage until it dies down to Flesh.

SMOG requires an actual gas mask or breathing mask for you to go outside with 100% safety. On a normal day you end up filthy quickly and it gives you -1 to Prowess and Skill rolls. If you're unprotected, you can handle the smog with no ill consequences for hours equal to your Vitality and at that final hour it'll be reduced by 1. Every hour after that, Vitality is reduced by 1 down to 0 where the victim passes out. If kept in the smog for another half hour, you die and reanimate. If you're at 0 and taken to a safe place you wake up in 20 minutes. After that you regain Vitality at the rate of 1 per day as long as you keep yourself protected from the smog. Real masks provide 100% protection for a set period of time, wrapping your head in rags and cloth doubles your safe hours dictated by Vitality. There are rules for Lost Days too: even protected exposure reduces Prowess by 2 and Skill rolls by 2. Unprotected exposure results in Vitality loss every five minutes until death or you're brought to safety. With these rules in place, you really would assume that a lot more people would choke to death.


So James is running a game of Unhallowed Metropolis and Caleb is one of his players. Caleb asks to play a Criminal named Keith Reeves, a crook who dabbles in terrorism and anarchism from time to time. Warning that the other characters will probably want to kill him if they know their teammate is a terrorist, James accepts the character and sets about making the character with his player.

STEP ONE: Pick a Calling. Caleb has already done this and provided a backstory for his character. Keith Reeves was born to middle class parents and was given a touch of education, but their untimely deaths and the machinations of his family resulted in him ending up poor and forced to toil in a factory to survive. The owner of the factory, Wolfgang Benedict Gibson, decided that it would be cheaper to have his workers killed rather than pay them. So a few days before payday, Gibson phoned in a false Animate outbreak in the worker's rookery where they stayed and Deathwatch shut down the district and firebombed the rookery. Barely able to survive, Reeves escaped the burning wreckage and took refuge in Gibson's empty house, truly realizing the disparity between the working man and their industrialist master. Years of planning later, Reeves burned Gibson alive in his sleep and put his anger and education to work as a one-man terrorist cell.

STEP TWO: Caleb takes the 25 points and divides them up into Vitality 3, Coordination 2, Wits 3, Intellect 3, Will 3, Charm 2, Prowess 5. Reeves is a reasonably fit, strong-willed, smart and canny man, making him a big threat to his targets. He saves the spare point for later.

STEP THREE: Caleb picks Reeves' skills from the list and adds others in he thinks are appropriate for a terrorist criminal who had a moderate education. Reeves has Streetwise 2, Acting 2, Melee Weapon 2, Thieves Cant 2, Alchemy 3, Demolitions 3, Thrown Weapon 2, Lock Picking 2, Shadowing 2, Forensic Science 1, Law 1, History 1. For Melee Weapons he selects Riposte and Snap Reaction, for Thrown Weapon he picks Improvisation and Trick Shot. Reeves can attack after being attacked or hold an attack to later inflict on someone who is about to attack and suffers no penalties for improvising and can hit people behind cover. He's also very good at what he does with explosives. For his Flash Thief bonuses he selects Alibi and Ghost to help cover his rear end.

STEP FOUR: Caleb picks ANHEDONIA for Reeves. His treatment at the hand of Gibson still haunts him and he is basically kept ambulatory by his desire to seek revenge and inflict punishment on the corrupt and industrialists. Somewhere a part of Reeves is dead and rotting already and he knows what awaits him if he gets caught, so let death come when it comes.

STEP FIVE/SIX: Caleb has seven points to spend on Reeves and picks Private Lab so Reeves can make his own bombs and Nondescript so Reeves can blend in and get around easier. He also buys Business to have his own shop for some extra money coming in and to be a Legitimate Business as a cover, staying above the shop and using his safe house from Ghost as his lab. For Impediments he takes Superstitious and Secret: Is a terrorist so he can pocket the extra points to use for later.

STEP SEVEN: I'll go more in depth with equipment next time but Caleb spends his money on a respirator, some filters, a combat knife with attached brass knuckles in the hilt, some throwing knives, sinks some money into making his own flasks of alchemical fire and a few half-gallon containers of lab-grade ethanol as propellant, buys some clothes and saves the rest.

And that should do it for Keith Reeves. Let's take a look at his sheet.

Attributes: Vitality 3, Coordination 2, Wits 3, Intellect 3, Will 3, Charm 2, Prowess 5.
Skills: Streetwise 2 (Alibi, Ghost), Acting 2, Melee Weapon 2 (Riposte, Snap Reaction), Thieves Cant 2, Alchemy 3, Demolitions 3, Thrown Weapon 2 (Improvisation, Trick Shot), Lock Picking 2, Shadowing 2, Forensic Science 1, Law 1, History 1.
Qualities: Business (The Lost Mate Pub), Criminal Associations, Reputation: Street, Nondescript, Private Laboratory, Safehouse.
Impediments: Secret: Is A Terrorist, Superstitious.
Wealth: 2
Money: 1 pound
Corruption: Physical-None, Desire-Anhedonia 1, Drive-None.
Equipment: Combat knife w/brass knuckles, throwing knife x4, respirator, filter x4, Alchemical Fire x3, 3 gallons of ethanol, assorted clothes.

And that's all she wrote for mechanics and character creation. Next time we'll briefly discuss some of the weapons and armor available and then we'll get on to the bestiary of the dead, the half-dead and the artificially-alive.


Hostile V fucked around with this message at 08:55 on Jan 25, 2014

Down With People
Oct 31, 2012

The child delights in violence.

pkfan2004 posted:




Actually, it'll be good to know the deal with battle corsets.

Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!

Region K and L: All the water monsters have to go somewhere right?

Region K map:

Now that we're in the mid-levels, there aren't enough inter-connected monsters for the developers to keep making Regions themed on creature type or races (excepting one "undead" themed region that's still to come), so now they're taking a page from video-games and starting with "elemental" themed levels. Regions K and L are both watery areas and here you will find every single goddamn monster with the aquatic subtype crammed into two sections. Region K is levels 10-12 and Region L is levels 12-14. You may notice that the level ranges are starting to break down as Regions no longer interconnect neatly and the developers make no attempt to block or restrict access from one Region to another. For instance, if you head west from K you'll run to Region J which is for levels 13-15 or if you go north you'll drop right into Region N (the undead one I mentioned) which is for 14-18. You can even easily head NE without passing through other regions and drop right into Region O for levels 16 to 20.

Anyway, both Regions are big open spaces like Region M. Apparently derro miners managed to break through the ceiling of the Region into an underground lake, collapsing the entire space and flooding it. Celestials are great for looking impressive and delivering holy messages from on high, but apparently they suck as contractors. You'd think someone would realize it's a bad idea to build underneath a lake...on top of a fault line...miles under the earth.

This led to many of the demons and devils imprisoned here drowning to death (making the derro far better than the celestials when it comes to defending the world from evil), however their evil corpses turned into corrupt sediment making the place mildly evil. Apparently if you have a big enough body of water creatures with the aquatic subtype will simply begin to show up out of nowhere. In addition to a green dragon and some hags there are apparently both Merfolk and Tritons living in Region K. Presumably because of the evil mud in the water both are somewhat douchier than normal, but not outright evil.

Just like Region's A, B, E, F, G, and probably more to come, this region is divided up among multiple feuding factions currently stalemated against one another and the PCs come in screaming "Wild card, bitches!" and screw everything up. This region does actually have a bit of a further twist, in that forces from Region L are actually preparing to invade and screw things up as well. There's even a countdown that begins as soon as the PCs arrive in Region K, in just about a week a massive force of sahaugin and merrow led by a half-fiend Kraken are due to invade and reshape everything in this region! Of course, this is mentioned nowhere in Region K. The timeline of the invasion is found as a Sidebar for room L18, so unless the GM reads through all of K and all of L as soon as the PCs enter the Region they'll be unlikely to spot it.

K1-K10: Hag Lair
For some reason the numbering starts in the Northern part of the Region, even though PCs are meant to enter from the West or the South. This particular stretch of beach is home to a coven of hags. They seem to mostly stick to a small selection of rooms that survived the deluge, which is important since they can't really leave. Anyone standing on the beach is in sight of the green dragon Thorodin and supposedly can see him as well (it's not clear how, there's no mention of lighting and thorodin's lair is quite distant). The green dragon will spot them (technically there's a spot check, but the DC is 25 + the lowest Hide score in the group. Thorodin's Spot is +23.)

This is the case for all the stretches of beach K1, K46 and K65, so unless the PCs just happen to enter the region from the one entrance that doesn't exit onto the open beach one of their first encounters is pretty much certain to be a fight with a oddly-buffed Adult Green dragon. I'll go into more detail on Thoridon later, but suffice to say they didn't do a great job.

So, the Hags (who will attack the PCs immediately if they kill Thorodin, since they'll be obviously at their weakest at that point) inhabit this small areas on the NW side of the dungeon. The beach sections are just a few traps, a water naga and (randomly) a pair of ravids. The ravid encounter mentions that they'll use their powerful animate object ability...except it never details what objects are actually in the room that might be animated. The one exception is a ring of shooting stars which they state has a 20% chance of being animated and spraying sparks in a random direction, the writers forgetting that animate object only works on non-magical objects.

before continuing, here's a perfect opportunity to showcase yet more lovely WLD cartography:

Take a look at K3 and K4, by simply wandering a few feet south you suddenly end up in K25, and then if you decide you want to take a dip, you jump to K13. Note, there are no barriers between these areas.

next we have room K5, which is almost comedic. You see, the has apparently got their talons on a bronze dragon when she was very young and have been keeping her here for decades, presumably waiting for her to grow old enough to challenge Thorodin. They have her permanently dominated through a special ritual and artifact, and for some reason put an enchantment on her that makes her take the shape of a human. As a result she's gone insane and believes that the other hags are her sisters. She sleeps on a ledge in this room and the only thing that keeps Thorodin from noticing her is some vines blocking his vision (apparently he's never bothered to investigate in the decades that the bronze dragon has been here). The enchantment is set to be removed should anyone other than the hags come into the room.

So, as soon as the PCs enter, a ledge above them crumbles as she involuntarily shapeshifts into full bronze dragon size, collapsing the balcony she's resting on and falling on anyone below. Although she's totally insane, she's still basically good and if the PCs try and avoid conflict she'll talk with them. Apparently the hags stole her eggs (even though they got her as a child...and who's the father?) and traded them with the drow wizard who created Region I, however they claim that Thorodin stole the eggs, so the bronze is willing to team up to take him down. Not that it matters, because short of mass invisibility it is basically impossible to get to this area without Thorodin spotting the PCs and attacking. Makes you wonder how the hags ever come to visit their imprisoned bronze dragon.

This area also contains two new magical...well, things I guess: The Crystal of Vile Attraction and Necrojade Poison. The first is a magical crystal buried under the sand on the beach, which attracts people to it at varying ranges. Once you're within 10 feet you have to make a DC 25 Will save to avoid doing whatever you can to possess it. This would be kind of a neat magical trap if it's effects weren't quite so strong. DC 25 is an extremely high DC to throw at mid-level players (a 10th level fighter's base will save is +3. If he's invested a fair amount into it, it may go as high as +6 or +7...meaning only an 18 or a 19 on their roll will succeed. even a 10th level sorcerer/wizard probably doesn't have a bonus higher than +10, meaning a 75% chance of failure). That means that as soon as the party comes across this object then anyone who isn't a cleric, monk or paladin is probably going to start murdering one another. Of course, someone might try and dispel it...but the WLD writers never included a CL for the item so there's no indication of the DC for dispelling. According to the write-up, there isn't any duration on the effect or any "re-rolls" for the save. Once you fail, to all indications, you permanently become willing to kill to possess the crystal.

Necrojade Poison is a part of an extremely over-elaborate prison for what is described as a "zombie lord" (who apparently died long ago, as there is nothing but bones in the room). The door is sealed with a magical lock that can only be opened with a DC 30 use-magic-device check. The room is a perfect sphere with a 3 foot deep layer of mist. The bottom of the sphere is blocked by a wall of force to make a floor (because apparently it's easier to carve a perfectly spherical room and give it an enchanted floor rather than just carve it flat in the first place). Hanging from the ceiling is a set of manacles that are enchanted to grapple anyone who comes within 10 feet and begin melting them with acid. Once the manacles snatch someone blades along the wall begin spinning and continue spinning for 100 years. Avoiding these blades (which automatically knock you back into the room) takes a DC 25 jump check (keep in mind, most people who don't have jump as a class skill have probably an average of +0). Now, this would be ridiculous enough but it gets worse. The gas filling this room is Necrojade poison, I'll let the designers describe it for you:

Done reading it? Are you weeping yet? If not, let me explain the key points. Angels designed a poison with the explicit intent of immobilizing undead, that just so happens to also be extremely lethal and turn the living into wights. Because, forces of good, amiright? On top of that, because of the way the poison is designed it doesn't work on undead. It's penalties to speed and athletics abilities is based on how much Constitution damage the target suffers. Even if the poison gets around the immunity undead have to both poisons and fortitude saves, they have no Con score and thus never take any Con damage and never suffer any penalties.

So, we've got a room with a set of regenerating, acid-producing animated manacles, a circle of spinning blades that will keep going for a century and magical gas intended to (but not actually) reduce an undead creature to immobility. All of this is meant to imprison a zombie lord, and the traps are designed to (quoting) " upon the zombie lords insatiable hunger and plodding mobility." Of course, they could have gone a much simpler route and just stuck the drat zombie underneath the invulnerable and permanent force wall that they used to make the goddamn floor!

This most stupid of rooms is extremely lethal for PCs. The manacles have an extremely high grapple score and a most people will die if trapped more than a few rounds within the necrojade poison. Even if they are proof against the poison in some way it's still extremely difficult to escape, since a DC 25 jump check is out of reach to most characters of 10th level without a Jump spell or Boots of Striding and Springing. The one saving grace is that the traps are extremely easy to detect, so hopefully the PCs will open the door, notice the traps and decide that the non-magical suit of plate mail that is the room's only contents is just not worth the effort.

I'm impressed there's so much terrible material in just the first 10 rooms so far. I'll try and speed it up. Next we've got a room with magical doors that give different, random benefits depending on which door you go through, bizarre and very pointless. The next room is the hag's den which is basically the designers attempting to replicate a horror movie set with very mixed results. The hags themselves apparently sleep in stone pillars here, guarded by a merrow sorcerer. each of the hags (one of each flavor) is a sorcerer of varying degrees of ability. This is actually a pretty brutal fight since the hags can see through the stone of their pillars and cast spells while inside (the PCs would naturally have no idea), so each of them will emerge fairly buffed up with spells. There's also a gray render living nearby. And finally a group of merrow who serve the hags hanging out on the beach. Since its explicitly noted that Thorodin can see this area and will attack as soon as he spots someone, its unclear why the merrow aren't smoking puddles.

K11 to K24
The western underwater sections of this region is inhabited by a band of merfolk. They apparently went to a mountain lake to meet a lillend who was sent by their god to guide their people to a new age of enlightenment. apparently their god was too lazy to have its divine messenger appear anywhere near his people, but if there's one lesson the WLD teaches it's that gods are worse than useless. The lake collapsed just when the merfolk arrived spilling them and the llilend into the dungeon. The green dragon captured the lillend and the merfolk have just been sitting here inbreeding for centuries. The southern end is occupied by tritons, who apparently came here on purpose and plot to take down the dragon.

the two tribes are not hostile, but basically avoid each other, not speaking for centuries. It's up to the PCs to break this gridlock.

Which brings up another issue with this region: size. Now, the Regions of the WLD are quite big, for dungeons. However, when compared to any open area they're actually fairly small. A quick measurement shows that they're a bit less than 900 feet wide in both directions, which means they're roughly the size of a couple of city blocks

the merfolk and tritons inhabit the western "bay" area of the dungeon, which measures roughly 250 x 750 or so. For comparison imagine two communities of a dozen or so members each, living within (and never leaving) a single walmart super-center for centuries without interacting with one another.

Although theoretically a viable "faction", neither the merfolk or the tritons represent any significant power in the Region. The merfolk consist of only 5 warriors and 1 cleric, most of their members dead after the dragon decided to randomly attack one day. The tritons don't number much larger, only about 9 or so members.

The tritons have been mining yet another random magic "thing" here: Tanaa'ryl. It's apparently a mineral made of compressed demon bone. At first it seems kind of cool, it looks like glass with veins of glowing molten metal running through it. However, the benefits are extremely minor. weapon critical hit ranges are increased by 1 and armor will ignore the first critical hit in a fight. They'll also possibly ignite flammable objects on a critical hit (not much concern in a water-region). And the downside: growing madness. Every day it's used you have to make a Will save or take a point of wisdom damage, if your wisdom drops below a certain level (starting with 9 or less) then additional side effects crop up. The tritons are aware of this, but apparently think that tiny boost to critical hit probability is worth it and have been forging it into armor and weapons. The text explicitly notes that if they're convinced to be friendly with the PCs they might trade some of these with them, but will never reveal the side effects (because they're dicks apparently).

Of course this would be more of a concern if Tanaa'ryl was capable of inflicting more than one point of wisdom damage. The stuff inflicts one point of damage per day...which just so happens to be the recovery rate for ability score damage (twice that with good rest). So if your Wisdom is an odd number, you basically never have to worry about the side effects.

K25-42:The boglands

This is pretty much Thorodin's domain, since he can see everything in the area from his liar. Despite that it's pretty packed. There's a couple of outcast "heretic" merfolk (pointing out that their god has really screwed them over) living under water here. There's a pillar that randomly projects a magic circle against evil. A tendriculos hanging out with a couple of merrow zombies, some will o the wisps, a giant croc, and a chuul. There's also a mist that targets anyone touching it with a combo of chill touch, confusion, crushing despair, and an unspecified Suggestion spell. And a roper that's somehow disguised as a willow tree...because that's certainly going to be plausible.

The tritons have been trapping the bog with spear traps designed to launch spears at Thorodin. A valiant effort, if utterly useless given Thorodin's AC and DR. Speaking of it's time to address Thorodin himself.

Like I mentioned at the start it's basically impossible to avoid combat with Thorodin and he will inevitably be one of the PC's first combat encounters in this region. He is an Adult Green, which wouldn't be a bad challenge for a group of mid-level characters under normal circumstances. However, given the environment, Thorodin can easily slaughter most characters. The ceiling is high so he can fly freely through pretty much the entire Region, he has the flyby attack and hover feats meaning he can easily stay out of melee reach and hit and run spellcasters or melt them with his breath. Should he need to escape he simply can dive underwater or (since the entire region is pitch black) fly out of reach of the character's vision. So, needless to say he would be an extremely tough encounter for a group of level 9 characters who have just stumbled into the Region.

But of course that wasn't enough, so the designers decided that they would add buffs to Thorodin entirely at random. He gets a +4 to his strength bonus, his damage reduction is increased to 10, his spell resistance is increased by 3 (meaning a 9th level caster has a 75% failure chance against him), damage from his breath weapon is increased by 4d6, his frightful presence DC is increased by 4 and he has a host of immunities: fire, illusions, lightning bolts (specifically lightning bolts, not electricity), polymorph, mind-affecting magic, magic missile, and silver (???). These changes are completely unexplained and so terribly random its difficult to tell which are intentional and which might just be the writers making mistakes. But apparently all of these changes only deserve a +1 to his CR.

Of course, the designers can't make an overpowered "boss" without crapping themselves at least a little in the process. Thorodin's sorcerer spells are just about the worst possible choices. He's only 5th level so his selection is fairly small and he decided to waste it on some of the least useful draconic spells ever: enlarge (only affects humaniods), hold portal (useless for anyone), and shocking grasp (he's got daggers for fingers, why does he need a shocking grasp spell?), arcane lock (this and hold portal together? lots of preparation when you consider there are no doors anywhere nearby, let alone ones he would care about locking), see invisibility (already has blindsense), and whispering wind (he lives in a cavern that he can shout across and is too large to leave).

Likewise, Thorodin's tactics are equally poor but at least semi-believable if he's overconfident. Very likely he'll end up killing or driving off most PC groups as soon as they enter Region L, the area is just too advantageous for him and PCs are unlikely to have the firepower needed to take him down at this level (especially when you factor in his many immunities). The writers mention that he might be elsewhere when the PCs arrive but there really isn't anywhere else for him to go. The area is so small that all he can really do is decide to take a dip in the water near his lair which is hardly any further away. It's implied that the PCs might recruit the merfolk and tritons to help fight the dragon, but both groups are basically helpless against him and the best they could do is absorb one acid blast before turning to sludge.

And of course, as an additional "gently caress you" the only magical item in Thorodin's "hoard" is a ring of water breathing. To be fair, it's quite useful in this region but you kind of hope for a bit more than that.

I'll continue Region K shortly, then on to L.

oriongates fucked around with this message at 05:58 on Feb 6, 2014

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Couldn't you play a Prussian ambassador trying to get the support for an alliance to defeat the Golden King? I mean, would such a concept be possible with these rules?

...I like sky-Prussia, dammit.

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.

Does anybody else smell blue?

Strap yourselves in, boys and girls, because this train's about to pull into Crazy Town Station. It's time for....

In the penultimate chapter of the book (not counting the sample adventure), we finally learn what the hell is going on. All the weird poo poo going on in Aletheia--the psychic powers, the mysterious fates of Jericho Usher and the previous incarnations of the Seven Dogs Society, the doorways in the Annex, and of course the Usher Codex--are shadows of a much larger truth. That truth is what we're about to discuss. Bieerdo put it best back on page 5 of this thread:

Bieeardo posted:

And speaking of without actually speaking of, god drat does this poo poo get late Seventies Disney, fast.


Spoilers ahead! Everything past this point is going to spoil the central mystery of Aletheia. I'm not going to spoiler tag stuff because goddamn that would be annoying for all of us, so if you think you might want to play Aletheia and come at it fresh, now would be the time to stop reading this F&F.

So, let's talk about the universe. Human beings perceive a four-dimensional universe: three physical dimensions, plus time. We tend to think that's all there is to existence, but boy howdy are we wrong. See, our "reality" is just a thin, four dimensional membrans sitting within a much larger, multidimensional space, like the ribbon running through the middle of a marble. This higher-dimensional space is the reality Jericho Usher dubbed the "Otherverse," and it's not empty. Just as our universe exists entirely in a four-dimensional membrane suspended within the Otherverse, other membranes of varying dimensionality float somewhere out there, each another universe. Some of them are very like our own, others are wholly alien.

While we (and everything we perceive as being part of our "reality") are trapped within our own membrane, and the inhabitants of other universes are trapped in their own, a class of beings called "ultraterrestrials" live within the higher dimensions of the Otherverse itself. They can move freely through its substance, and sometimes a part of their manifold existence intersects with the membrane of our universe. Humans are naturally quite unable to understand these intersections, and have variously put them down to visitations from angels, demons, gods, or extraterrestrials.

The mingling of terrestrial and ultraterrestrial has, at various points throughout history, resulted in the creation of hybrid life forms, called the Nephilim. That's right, from advanced high-energy physics we're taking a hard left into Biblical apocrypha. These Nephilim are human, but they're only loosely bound to the four-dimensional universe. If you imagine four balls at the edge of a cliff our entire universe as the surface of the Earth, the Nephilim are like kites: still tethered to the ground, but able to reach into the sky. Given enough time and the proper enlightened thinking, Nephilim can cut their strings and explore the Otherverse freely, leaving behind their human limitations and becoming like unto the ultraterrestrials. This is, of course, the origin of the Seven Dogs Society's members and their powers, and the true meaning of Usher's compiled genealogies: he was tracking Nephilim blood.

We'll take a short break from magic space-people to talk about string theory and the music of the sheres. Briefly, string theory posits that the smallest building blocks of matter, rather than being point-like (i.e. our common conception of atoms), have a finite length and behave like the strings of a violin. That is to say, they have a specific vibrational frequency.

In order for the mathematical models of this theory to make sense, though, the universe has to have more than four dimensions: most models posit ten or eleven. Since we obviously don't experience that many dimensions in our day to day life, two different theories have arisen to explain the apparent inconsistency. Either the extra dimensions are so small as to be effectively imperceptible at our scale (much in the way a sheet of paper is technically a three-dimensional object, but its thickness is so minuscule that we tend to think of it as 2D), or the extra dimensions are inconceivably vast and our 4D universe is a subset of higher-dimensional space. That's the model Aletheia posits.

In this model, in addition to one-dimensional strings making up the basics of matter, the universe contains multi-dimensional surfaces called branes. Strings are classed as either "open" (strings with two distinct endpoints, like a length of thread) or "closed" (a self-contained loop, like a rubber band). Both can vibrate, but the open strings have to be anchored to something--i.e. the four-dimensional membrane of our universe. In other words, they can only move along that comparatively tiny surface, perceiving the universe as we know it as all that exists. Closed strings, on the other hand, are self-contained and thus can move freely throughout the higher-dimensional superstructure of the world.

Ultraterrestrials and their Nephilim offspring, then, are either composed entirely of closed strings or possess the psychic ability to close certain strings in certain ways. That's why, at their core, all the psychic powers are about perceiving or manipulating spacetime in some way.

Still with me? Good. Let's talk about God. Oh yeah, there's a God. Before the Big Bang introduced existence into things, the entire Otherverse was a perfect, perfectly symmetrical, perfectly uniform hypersphere of 11-dimesional... stuff. That hypersphere was also God. Being a hypersphere of 11-dimensional stuff was pretty boring, so God allowed differentiation to break up the symmetry of its form. Branes formed within the Otherverse, and with them came different forms of life, both those bound to the membranes of individual universes and those who could move freely through the whole structure. Then one day God noticed a couple of life forms stuck on one little three-dimensional planet stuck in one little four-dimensional membrane. These life forms were called humans, and God was fascinated by the fact that such limited beings had developed self-awareness. So he made them the Garden of Eden, and he made himself some ultraterrestrials: beings that were like humans, but not limited to traveling along the membrane.

Everything was cool for a while, but the humans, when they saw the ultraterrestrials, started to get worried that they wouldn't be God's favorite little children any more. After all, these guys were like them, but not restricted to four paltry dimensions of existence. They started to demand that the ultraterrestrials teach them to move in higher dimensional space and be like unto God. God's response, on realizing that humans would never grows or evolve as long as they were stuck in their perfect stasis of Eden, was to twist their perception of the fourth dimension: time. From then on, every human being would have no choice but to march endlessly forward in one direction of time. They would age and die, and would perceive the decay and death of everything around them. (Yes, the first time you learn that humanity hadn't been experiencing linear time up till now is when the book tells you God took it away. ) God then stepped away from the membrane and left the oversight of humanity to a group of ultraterrestrials called the Grigori.

Praise Blorgnax.

Well, freaky alien messiahs or not, I think everybody here knows what happened next. The Grigori got a little too friendly with the humans, ruled over them as god-kings, and commenced to boning. God talked to a human named Enoch, came to understand how much being a human ruled over by 11-dimensional monsters sucked, and created a huge flood to wipe the Grigori cults and the Nephilim out of the universe. Then he snatched up all the Grigori, split open their strings, and tied them to a one-dimensional prison-brane somewhere in the Otherverse. Problem is, it's pretty hard to wipe out beings who can unmoor themselves from time with a single flood, and so the Nephilim were able to use their powers to walk outside time until the floodwaters receded. Being part-human, though, they didn't have an easy time of it. Some of them reappeared just a few weeks after the flood, others trickled back into time years, centuries, even millennia later. Once they figured out that miraculous abilities were more likely to get them stoned to death than worshipped as god-kings, they blended into human society and started passing down their angelic genes. For all their power, Nephilim are still human, so eventually they all grew old and died, and their abilities were scattered across the generations.

Enter Jericho Usher. Remember all those crazy hallucinations and sensations of being on the cusp of something important? Yeah, that was Jericho developing his Nephilim powers. And when he took up drinking ayahuasca tea and vanishing for months at a time? He was exploring the Otherverse and conversing with a spaceman angel named Lam. From Lam he learned two things: that other human/ultraterrestrial hybrids existed in the world, and that Enoch, who was 100% pure homo sapiens, had learned from God how to unmoor himself from the membrane of the universe. Usher concluded that humanity's birthright was free, full-dimensional existence and oneness with God, and that the best people to lead the human race to that destiny would be the descendants of the Nephilim. He wrote the Usher Codex to serve as a road map to enlightenment, built the Annex to prove the multidimensionality of the Otherverse, and left Terrance Chastain the genealogies of those with Nephilim blood. The groundwork laid, Jericho Usher left the world to walk with God.

...Kay then.

So how do people disconnect themselves from the membrane? Turns out you need DMT. N, N-dimethyltryptamine, to use its full name, is produced in small quantities in the human brain by the pineal gland. Certain experiences like meditation, sensory deprivation, and death increase production. It can also be found in various entheogenic drugs, like ayahuasca. DMT closes some of the strings that make up our existence--the normal amounts produced by the pineal gland are just enough to give us self-awareness, a "soul" if you like. Larger doses can partly or wholly unmoor our perception from the membrane. If you're a Nephilim, it also helps you master the weird geometries of the Otherverse and, eventually, physically leave the membrane behind.

Oh yeah, and unbeknownst to modern posychiatric medicine (but knownst to us), all psychiatric problems are caused by DMT imbalances. Too much DMT leads to a soul that's not connected closely enough to the body, which leads to feelings of dissociation and otherness. Too little and the soul is too closely bound to the body; this leads to lack of empathy and psychopathy.

So, what's the Otherverse like? Frankly, it's loving weird, and even Nephilim are still four-dimensional beings at their core, so any attempt to really describe it is going to boil down to metaphors and vision quests. Between the membrane of our universe and the Otherverse proper is the Threshold: a multi-layered buffer that insulates our universe from the rest of creation. The nearest layer is dubbed the Glass Chrysanthemum: it appears as a vast, multilayered crystal dome that shines with light and hums with a music at once familiar and wholly unlike any human music. It blocks progress deeper into the Threshold until you can learn to orient yourself in six-dimensional space, at which point you can pass into the dome and discover the seven cities built on its inner surface. These cities are higher-dimensional reflections of the entirety of human civilization, and as your perspective shifts they might appear as anything from ancient Ur to modern Times Square. The cities are completely empty, but written in glowing, six-dimensional glyphs on their walls are the equations that underlie the entirety of our universe.

And that's just the first layer.

Once you've navigated through all seven cities, you become aware of a seventh direction of travel orthogonal to the Glass Chrysanthemum's six dimensions. Taking this route takes you to the glass shore of a vast, stormy sea, called the Labyrinth. You can walk on the surface of the sea, but no power in the Otherverse lets you dive beneath the surface, because that's the Way Out. Humans, even Nephilim, don't yet have the understanding to pass beyond of their own free will yet. Jericho Usher and the prophet Enoch are the only ones who've managed it. Fortunately, someone anticipated the problem: Standing on the shore of the Labyrinth are six enormous statues that appear to combine Egyptian and Mesoamerican styles, and... you know what, I'm just going to quote this part, because goddamn.

Aletheia posted:

Six stand a silent vigil, though travelers will sense that a seventh was at one time present. These statues can be entered through doors at the base of the legs, if oriented in the proper direction. Inside each colossus are seven rooms, each with a single chair and a set of baroque controls. The fi rst room is spherical, carved from a stone of coral red, with a raised platform to hold the chair and controls, and is located near the lowest point on the torso, at the base of the spine. The next one, further up, resides in the lower belly and is an icosahedral crystal of fi ery orange. Farther along, halfway near the solar plexus of the statue, is a radiant room of bright yellow and shaped as a dodecahedron. Above this, in the center of the chest is the fourth room, an emerald chamber with eight facets, with a dais in the center for controls. The fifth room is a simple cube of bright blue located in the throat of the statue. Centered in the middle of the forehead, forming a triangle with the solemn eyes of the colossus, is a tetrahedral crystal of deep indigo. This room allows the person inside to see through one of the facets to the exterior of the statue, and is the only such area where external observation is possible. The final room sits just beneath the crown of the head, and is another sphere of the richest purple.

Each room sits orthogonal in one direction to every other chamber, meaning the statues themselves are seven-dimensional structures. Although each room appears to be separated from another by vast internal differences, the rooms are actually superimposed on one another in a higher dimension. Traveling the path that runs the center of the statue and connects the rooms requires changing orientation as one moves further up. However, when seven are seated, one to each chamber, they can use the controls to cause the colossus to move. This requires the coordination of all seven pilots, which is simple once they realize the proximity they have in a higher dimension. These colossi were designed to be the vehicles for those humans who managed to penetrate the puzzles of the Threshold. As seven-dimensional structures, the colossi can permeate the fl uid of the maelstrom to descend in its depths – the sea being the surface skin of the Otherverse beyond. The original Seven Dogs Society mastered the secrets of the colossi and took control of the now missing statue. The remaining six sentinels await the coming of another set of seven to leave the membrane and to sail on to the Creator.

That's right, kids, take lots of drugs, leave the Universe behind, and pilot Enlightenment Voltron out into the cosmos to meet Alien Jesus. Where's my for Aletheia?

And I'll form the chakra of Sahasrara, within which there is neither subject nor object!

After that particular bit of batshittery, we're going to bring it back down to earth a little. The next section revisits the anomalous phenomena from Chapter Six, this time with explanations for how they fit into the multi-dimensional reality of Aletheia. When they're legit, that is--the book flat out tells us that sometimes a UFO really is just swamp gas reflecting the light from Venus, and just because the Society investigates something weird doesn't mean it has to be paranormal. Highlight reel:

  • Agriglyphs are usually fakes, but sometimes they're the result of a higher-dimensional being or object either passing through our membrane or temporarily attaching itself to our universe.
  • Alien abduction, unsurprisingly, is typically ultraterrestrial contact. A lot of them, like Lam, are trying to help humanity achieve its destiny, but since understanding of the true nature of reality has to happen gradually, these abductions are gentle prods rather than expository infodumps. Humans tend to perceive this as bizarre medical experiments.
  • Automatic writing can be a weaker expression of DMT-induced higher-dimensional perception. Most of the time, though, it's just subconscious expression.
  • EVP is sometimes direct communication with ultraterrestrial beings. Other times it's related to "ghosts," which are really just the effects of massive DMT production at the moment of brain death. This extra DMT lets bits of the human consciousness become unstuck in time, radiating outward from the moment of death.
  • Folie a Deux can usually be blamed on Nephilim or on higher-dimensional perception.
  • The Hum is actually the multidimensional oscillations created when the first Seven Dogs Society left the universe behind. The "sound" rippled outward in time and space, and places like Taos are pockets in our four-dimensional geometry that amplify the vibration.
  • Psychic surgery is usually bullshit, but people with Ghosting can do the real thing.
  • Spontaneous combustion is often a messier example of the same phenomena that cause agriglyphs. Ditto some UFO sightings (but most of those are hoaxes or misattributions--ultraterrestrials don't need UFOs).
  • Remember the explanation for the Hum? That's pretty much what Vile Vortices are--places that naturally amplify higher-dimensional energy.
  • Virgin births are... well, thankfully most of them are hoaxes or mythology, but some ultraterrestrials are worried that the descendants of the Grigori are too tightly bound to the membrane thanks to generations of human DNA. So sometimes they take it on themselves to use Ghosting to impregnate women and make true Nephilim, who are much, much more powerful than those whose ultraterrestrial heritage is hundreds of generations back. It's sort of implied that Usher was one of these kids.

Next up we get some secrets behind the Annex and its destination. Usher built the Annex with Lam's help, primarily as a big neon "explain this, motherfucker" sign to help recruit skeptical members to the 7DS. The sites weren't chosen at random, of course: Lubaantun, for instance, was one of the sites Usher regularly pillaged to fund his operations. When you can see in 11 dimensions, it's real easy to find hidden tombs and treasure caches. Oh, and the crystal skull? It's an ultraterrestrial artifact that lets a Nephilim look directly onto the Labyrinth.

At Roanoake, the Croatoan Indians were mostly Nephilim. When the English colonists attacked these "Devil-worshipping witches," the Croatoan responded by snatching them out of the membrane and leaving them stranded in the Threshold, whereupon they went batshit crazy and mostly committed suicide. Some of them are still out there, though.

Julio's Junkyard is only significant because of the Taos Hum and its associated Vile Vortex. The junkyard owner is definitely not God.

One of the scrolls found at Qumran tells the history of how the Nephilim avoided the flood by stepping outside time, and goes on to talk about their integration into human society and their descendants. The scroll itself is believed to be stored in a secret annex under the Israel Museum.

Tunguska was the site of an escape attempt by the Grigori. They managed to create a link between their one-dimensional universe and ours, but it wasn't stable and sealed itself off quickly.

Hannah's Diner just happens to be pretty close to the site of the Sutton farm, site of the Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter in 1955.

Chambira, meanwhile, is just a convenient place to gather ayahuasca to fuel some righteous vision quests.

Next up is a quick piece on the Usher Codex. Nothing too bonkers here, you've probably figured most of it out by now: it's Usher's chronicle of how to attain enlightenment and leave the universe behind. It's all obfuscated and encoded because too much understanding too fast drives people bonkers. In fact, the mysterious fire that destroyed most of the Codex back in the 70s was caused by Lam, because the Society was figuring poo poo out faster than their minds would have been able to take. He also put the "lost" fifth page in the Bibliotheque National when they were ready to understand it.

Finally, we wrap up the chapter with a few supporting characters. First up is Sebastian de Villiers, a Nephilim-descendant who believes the Voice of God is telling him to hunt down other "demon spawn" and purge them from the earth. He's actually in psychic contact with the imprisoned Grigori, who think if the Nephilim are wiped out maybe they'll be forgiven and set free. Sebastian is obviously meant to be the setting's big bad--he's ruthless and insane and has a cadre of henchmen he's mentally broken by repeatedly rotating them through higher-dimensional space. Not only does the process drive them mad, it causes their bodies to become "mirrored." Open one up and his heart's on the left, for instance. Creepy. Sebastian has three new powers: Pierce the Veil, which lets him see extradimensional objects/creatures/energies, Sever The Cord of Reality, which lets him temporarily eject people into the Otherverse, and Orthogonal Rotation, which lets him rotate people on a higher dimensional axis and generally gently caress them up.

Ursula Thorndike owns Thorndike Enterprises, a big multinational conglomerate. In her mid-30s, she's one of the youngest multi-billionaires on the planet thanks to her Nephilim-derived precognition. Lately she's been having weird dreams about Mt. McKinley, the Colossus of Rhodes, and a bunch of people she's never met. She's thinking it might be time for an Alaskan cruise.

Raymond Halston III is the editor of Unified Field Operations magazine, a UFO/Forteana periodical. He used to be a legit paranormal investigator, but he got fed up with all the cranks and hoaxes and started the magazine instead. Unfortunately, as submissions have dried up he's been forced to resort to fabricating sensationalist stories just to keep the magazine operating.

Beverly Saunders is an alien abductee. Taken from her home in Arizona, she was missing for days before returning with no memory of her lost time. Her marriage fell apart under accusations of cheating and mutual resentment, and after a mental breakdown and a stay in a treatment center she remembered her ultraterrestrial encounter and the experiments that were done on her. Beverly, you see, is part of the ultraterrestrial plan to create a new strain of humanity that's better equipped to leave this universe behind than the Nephilim. Unfortunately, in Beverly's case the process inflicted not-inconsiderable psychological trauma. In addition to deja visite, remote viewing, and ghosting, Bev has a new power: Projected vision, which lets her impose her own clairsentient visions on other people.

Terrance Chastain and the staff at Hepta Sophistai get a brief writeup, which I'm going to quote from:

Aletheia posted:

Though ignorant of the details of any particular investigation, the staff is fully aware of the society’s purpose, to investigate odd anomalies; they simply do not comprehend the magnitude of the society’s work. In general, the hired help views the society as a collection of eclectics indulging Chastain’s fanciful interests. That said, the staff is dedicated to serving the Seven Dogs Society and count them as friends.

Although the staff is aware of the disappearances of the previous societies, Terrance has never spoken of their fates, always brushing aside such questions. This has created considerable speculation and rumor mongering among the staff. Adding to the gossip is the western annex. The staff is forbidden from entering that section of the house, and the door leading to the annex hallway is always locked; only Terrance and the society members have keys. Over the years, this and other curiosities have prompted inquiries from the staff, though none have ever successfully pried any answers from Terrance or the society. Those of lengthy tenure no longer even bother to ask questions.

Oh God I want to run this campaign. It's like Downton Abbey except Maggie Smith is tripping balls on peyote and babbling about seventh-dimensional omni-minds and sometimes Lady Mary turns people inside out for fun.

Madam takes her salvia promptly at nine.

Finally, a brief note on Societies Past doesn't really tell us anything new except to explicitly state that Sebastian de Villiers murdered the second incarnation of the Society.

And that's it for this chapter. drat, I'm glad to have all that out there. I've got to say, for all that it's pants-on-head crazy in places, the mythology is pretty self-consistent and well-suited to gradually peeling back the layers of the mystery. The example characters aren't the most inspiring, and the later sections of the chapter tend to over-repeat certain things (I think this chapter marks about the fourth time we're reminded that Chastain is old, in poor health, and haunted by the murder of the second Society), but overall it's probably the chapter that most makes me want to run this game.

Next time: Game Mastering, or, "How to take this insanity and turn it into a story."

Nemesis Of Moles
Jul 25, 2007

I just wanted to say I'm really enjoying this write up.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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

99.995% of the game is saying that it has to be in London and honestly if it was outside of London it would require another book or at the very least a lot of GM planning. But there actually is that 0.005% in the game which I'll get to when I reach the GM chapter. That being said, the nature of the core rulebook basically provides no real info for doing that and doing so would require a lot of work on the part of the GM. For example: aetheric generators only exist in America and Britain so a lot of the galvanic weapons that don't have internal batteries wouldn't be able to function as well in Prussia, and because France is eschewing most technology for something they would probably not be available to a French character.

Supply and demand, baby.


So just a preface before we begin: UM uses British currency. Specifically, it uses pence, shilling and pounds. 1 pound equals 240 pence or 20 shillings, 1 shilling equals 12 pence. It's a little bit of a pain in the rear end because I'm so used to copper/silver/gold or cents/dollars or just straight-up credits but this is UM.

If you can't find what you're looking for through regular stores and means, there's always the Black Market. It takes a Streetwise roll and a few ingame days of searching to find things depending on how illegal they are, or you can have a Criminal ally who can shake the tree of the criminal underground for some leads. The game says that supply and demand are important and depending on rarity and availability you should price stuff but blah blah blah I knew that already. And frankly unless you're discouraging your characters from flooding the market with their own products, that's rarely an issue.

So, without further ado, the ingame market. Throughout this update I'm just gonna scatter some extra charts and segments that don't really need to be elaborated on, stuff that's your standard D&D style stuff-to-buy.


Black clothing is in because of course it is. First-hand clothing is generally fitted and expensive, it's not hard to pick up second-hand clothes that doesn't have too much blood on it. Rubber clothing or cloaks are also relatively in and common as are hats and things what cover heads. Gas masks never go out of style and come in eye-covering or mouth-covering style with filters that can be plain or perfumed or with a bit of ether inside because gently caress being sober. Depending on how much you spend on a respirator, they protect more and more and look fancier and fancier from rubber and glass to gold. Tattoos are also relatively popular and fashion for ladies involves looking doll-like or pale and delicate like a warm-blooded vampire waifu.

So let's talk about underpants.

Specifically, corsets. Apparently for years doctors have been telling people "you're mutilating yourself wearing those drat things!" but everyone ignores them because thin waists and big bosoms are worth the pain. A lot of women have been using them for years, becoming literally reliant to not bend over without them, and some have actually had ribs removed by surgeons. And some guys wear them too.

But then there's the combat corset, which is actually a somewhat effective form of armor. Sorta. See, the combat corset either has leather or rubber on top of spiraled steel and shifting plates that let the wearer be able to move and be flexible on top of having some chest protection. Mourner corsets are a guild secret and their design is kept a trade secret. The majority of combat corsets go from under the breasts to the top of the hips and provide a relatively solid form of protection for the torso. They're also not really nearly as tight as the fashion corsets; they're tied to fit and squeeze a little so you can have the look and flexibility. They're not perfect, of course, but they exist to help protect from disembowelment or lower attacks from Animates, Vampires and Thropes. See, Thropes tend to attack with punches and swings of their hands and Vampires might claw at a stomach or an Animate might grab someone's torso and if those fingers break the skin well you might get infected. Or maybe a thug is going to punch you in the kidneys or shiv you in the guts and you don't want them to know you've got armor. Or maybe someone is going to shoot you in the stomach to disable you for a spell. The point is that yeah combat corsets are actually kind of handy. If you want full-body protection, you want to invest in Deathwatch armor or getting a good set of gear an Undertaker would appreciate. Combat corsets are for people who want to conceal their armor and get a little protection for a really reasonable price compared to armor. Because armor is kinda drat expensive.


The average Undertaker will wear reinforced leather armor which has some metal plates beneath it for protection. The leather protects against the bites of animates, the rubber helps keep it clean and adds some protection, the plates protect against the piercing teeth of the undead and some munitions. The problem? That poo poo is expensive. An Undertaker gets 5 shillings for an Animate's head, 10 pounds for a Vampire's ashes (and that can take weeks to properly determine if it's proof of a dead bloodsucker) and 12 for a bunch of Thrope bits. Most of the time you're going to be collecting heads or living zombies and a full set of reinforced leather armor costs 25 pounds. That's a down payment of 50 Animates, not counting operating expenses, and even from starting a new Undertaker that's half your money gone right there.

So yeah, armor is expensive and also not entirely handy, sorta. You can only have 4 armor on one part of your body, armor encumbers you and can reduce Coordination and full sets of armor are pretty expensive. If you ever suffer an Incapacitating or Fatal wound to a certain area, the armor there is reduced by 1 until repaired.

Armor comes in chain mail, Deathwatch, lacquered, leather, reinforced leather, plate, rubber and rubber reinforced. Chain mail and plate can be specially insulated to protect against galvanic weapons and leather or rubber can be worn under other armor as a thin supplemental armor if you buy it for that. Deathwatch armor is excellent, providing 3 armor to the whole body and you can put some plate on top of certain places. If you're a Deathwatch soldier with the right perks, you can just dick around with 4 armor all over your body and have no Coordination downsides. Rubber armor squeaks and provides -1 to stealth rolls and also you're wearing a full body suit so you tend to get...squeaky and wet and gross.

You can stack armor and that's generally a good idea. Specifically, you can wear some kinds of armor under pieces of armor that cover specific parts. You can wear leather and rubber under anything, reinforced leather and rubber, plate and chain can only be worn on top of something. This armor comes in helms, gauntlets, bracers, leggings and boots. You can also buy armored coats and of course corsets. A poorer citizen would buy a set of leather armor and corset and then wear reinforced leather on top of that in places, an Undertaker would wear reinforced leather with an armored coat, helmet and gauntlets, a Deathwatch soldier would get some plate installed on top of their gear. This can range from expensive to cheap, from plate to rubber, but underlying layers cost less to get.

So how does armor actually look in play?
Example: Jon is a Deathwatch soldier with plate-enhanced armor. He has 4 armor all over his body and he gets stabbed in the chest with a bayonet when another soldier fucks up in the heat of the moment. Bayonets have +2 damage and his buddy has 3 Vitality so that's 5 damage off the bat, and the GM rolls a 7 and a 3. That's 15 damage reduced by 4 to 11 so now Jon has a Flesh Wound from an accidental stabbing. Now, yes, you automatically suffer at least a Flesh Wound, but all armor really does is help reduce the likelihood of a Serious or Incapacitating Wound considering how Flesh Wounds are 11 and down, 12 to 16 are Serious, 17-20 is Incapacitating and 21+ is Fatal.

In summation: armor is handy but don't go nuts and think it's absolutely mandatory, it really just helps tilt the scales a little between each possible wound you can get. 4 armor downgrades possible damage by one category automatically but it's really expensive to get that much protection all over.

Weapons, though, are mandatory. I'll explain what some of these are and go into background fluff as necessary; I'm pretty sure you know what half of these are at the very least.

Combat knife w/skull crusher: Like a WWI trench knife, a knife with brass knucks in the handle. Good for brawling and stabbing.
Combat Syringe: Used to put drugs in people in a melee fight. The effects depend on what you put in the syringe, they suck against armor.
Exculpus: a drat kukri with a fancy new name.

Headsman's Axe: a six-pound head-chopper with a foot-wide head, favored against Reanimates by Undertakers.
Holy Water Sprinkler: fancy talk for "bit of wood with sharp things in it".
Polearm: five feet long, voulge/bardiche style.


Bows: with high Vitality, on a roll of 7 or more when using a bow you might accidentally snap the drat thing in half. WHOOPS.
Derringer/Semiautomatic: Derringers come in two one-shot 22 cal. pocket guns and are pretty useless. Semiauto Derringers hold four shots and are still pretty useless.
Elephant Guns: come in different bores and you need a brace or you might tear a muscle/hurt yourself shooting it for a -1 to using that hand.
Flamethrowers: really heavy, really illegal.
Grenades: also really illegal. They use white phosphorus or fragmentation.

Kramer 2013: discontinued five-shot rifle model, can use a sight. Still a favorite and pretty cheap.
Kramer 2086: ten-shot .303 rifle, pretty accurate, a Deathwatch soldier's best friend. Can take a scope.
Magwitch 10 Bore: An Undertaker's buddy, the Magwitch is a pump-action five-shot gun that uses slug or shot. You can also put a bayonet on and it's overall good for loving up the poo poo of the living and dead.
Magwitch Reaper: A bunch of people decided to sell the same gun to Undertakers BUT WITH A REAPER BLADE ON IT THAT POPS OUT WHEN YOU HIT A BUTTON. It's...hard to use and a lot of Undertakers don't like it but some do because it looks cool. You have to empty the gun before you swing it because the way it's designed to be held lends to a lot of accidental misfires.
Magwitch Terminus: The mutual friend of Undertakers and Deathwatch, the Terminus holds 9 12mm bullets and has a big trick up its sleeve: a secondary trigger that trips a compressed-gas cylinder that propels a metal-tipped stake from a secondary barrel at the target. It's good for using against Vampires or Animates but the gun is really heavy and needs two hands to wield and fire.
Custom Revolvers: expensive and take a while to make but they're for you to use like it's a natural extension. As a result, you get +1 to attacks.

Balefire: a flamethrower easily available if you're licensed, but the cops hate giving out licenses because it's really easy to burn down a building with this. It doesn't need a back-mounted tank; the fuel comes from tanks on the gun. It's hindered by low ammo capacity and the fact that a flaming Animate still needs some time to die.
Requieter: a pneumo-powered stake gun that holds ten stakes and can fire semi-auto. Handy for fighting vampires but the pneumo tank is only good for 20 shots.
Syringe Gun: developed as an anti-Thrope weapon, it fires needles loaded with alchemical solutions pretty rapidly. Sounds like a poo poo weapon for anything else, yeah? Well the needles are made of steel, it holds ten and fires them semi-auto so it can tear up organs and break bones if you need to.
Vickers Machine Gun: needs a bunch of people to operate, highly illegal, highly expensive, only for military use. It's the everyone's favorite trench-mower, alive and well.
Executioner: Deathwatch's best friend, a 12mm pistol that's nice and accurate and clip-fed.
Firebrand: single-shot 40mm grenade launcher, can shoot flares, grenades and nets. Ridiculously illegal because it's favored by Anarchists seeing as how even the flares can be used to burn down buildings.

So there's actually more to come in the field of Galvanic equipment and Alchemy tools and I intentionally skipped all of the general Fashion and Tools and Equipment sections because well they're pretty much your standard pants and ten-foot-long pole segments. Galvanics and Alchemy is weird it gets kinda cool (and really expensive) so hopefully that'll be easier to swallow than the standard fare.

e: wow Aletheia got nuts in a fun, awesome, abuse-your-powers for greater enlightenment way.

Hostile V fucked around with this message at 22:05 on Jan 27, 2014

Oct 14, 2011

Clark Ashton Smith - Nostalgia of the Unknown posted:

”The nostalgia of things unknown, of lands forgotten or unfound, is upon me at times. Often I long for the gleam of yellow suns upon terraces of translucent azure marble, mocking the windless waters of lakes unfathomably calm; for lost, legendary palaces of serpentine, silver and ebony, whose columns are green stalactites; for the pillars of fallen temples, standing in the vast purpureal sunset of a land of lost and marvellous romance. I sigh for (...) the strange and hidden cities of the desert, with burning brazen domes and slender pinnacles of gold and copper that pierce a heaven of heated lazuli.”

Robert E. Howard - The Devil in Iron posted:

The fisherman was typical of his race, that strange people whose origin is lost in the gray dawn of the past, and who have dwelt in their rude fishing huts along the southern shore of the Sea of Vilayet since time immemorial. He was broadly built, with long, apish arms and a mighty chest, but with lean loins and thin, bandy legs. His face was broad, his forehead low and retreating, his hair thick and tangled. A belt for a knife and a rag for a loincloth were all he wore in the way of clothing. That he was where he was proved that he was less dully incurious than most of his people. Men seldom visited Xapur. It was uninhabited, all but forgotten, merely one among the myriad isles which dotted the great inland sea. Men called it Xapur, the Fortified, because of its ruins, remnants of some prehistoric kingdom, lost and forgotten before the conquering Hyborians had ridden southward. None knew who reared those stones, though dim legends lingered among the Yuetshi which half intelligibly suggested a connection of immeasurable antiquity between the fishers and the unknown island kingdom.

Chapter 7 - Xoth

On Lands Yet Tamed - The Forlorn Tome of Du'Karrn posted:

The currencies of this savage land are coined from threefold metal: There is the silver of talking, the gold of brooding, and the steel of bloodshed.

Sorry for keeping you all waiting - it took a while to get around to doing this bit. Xoth is the default setting for Blade of the Iron Throne, and the map looks a little like this:

There is no common language in this game - if the characters want to be able to talk to each other, they need to either come from the same place or take the related forein language skills - good job they're so cheap in character creation. There are many different peoples of many different ethnicities. There are everything from pigmies to giants; savages, stereotypical pirates and many, many others. Each race has a group of different cultural picks they can be; for example, most urban races may may be civilised or decadent, for instance.

Next, we have the Gods. The Gods don't exist. Or if they do, they're monstrous creatures that, at best, are completely disinterested in the fate of humanity, and at worst actively want to destroy the world. Blood sacrifice is common, and even human sacrifice isn't all that rare.

AHYADA - the High God of Taraam posted:

Ahyada is the bringer of truth and protection to the people of Taraam, and the patron of the royal house of Achad as well. He grants visions and omens to the king, which is interpreted by astrologer-priests and soothsayers. Amulets of Ahyada are said to be effective wards against demons.

AKLATHU - the God of Twisted Fate posted:

Figurines of this god, who has few temples and no priests, depict Akhlathu as a deformed dwarf, whose facial features even show a hint of retardation. Many Susrahnites swear “By Akhlathu’s Beard!” when in trouble. This is also a god of thieves and gamblers.

AL-TAWIR - the Ancient One, the Sleeper Beneath the Sands posted:

Some say that Al-Tawir dwells in the black gulfs between the stars, others that he sleeps in a sealed and forbidden tomb beneath the desert sand. Al-Tawir is one of the Old Gods. The nomads hear his voice in the howling of the desert winds, and they see his face in the rage of sandstorms. He is the emptiness of the desert, associated with getting lost, with thirst and hunger, with darkness, and with sandstorms.

BAAL-KHARDAH - the Sun-God of Susrah posted:

The lord of the sky, protector and judge of humankind, Baal-Khardah is a distant god, usually worshipped only by nobility. The common people tend to favor the more earthly passions of his mate, Belet-Lil. His lavish temples are filled with ram-headed statues, golden sun-discs, and sacred swords.

BELET-LIL - the Moon-Goddess of Susrah posted:

Voluptuous mate of Baal-Khardah, and earth-mother, Belet-Lil is a goddess of fertility, revelry, and beauty. She is very popular among the Susrahnites, not least due to the large numbers of temple prostitutes found in every city.

IA-AZUTLATL - the Blood-God of Sunken Ptahaana posted:

The true form of Ia-Azutlatl is unknown, but he is one of the Old Gods; some even claim that he is the greatest and oldest of those ancient ones. It is known that the blood-druids of now-sunken Ptahaana worshipped him with ceremonies of mass slaughter atop their stepped pyramids of green stone. Today, his name survives only in the rituals of primitive savages and mad hierarchs.

JUL-JUGGAH - the Devil-Bird of Azimba posted:

The sweltering plains of Azimba are dotted with hundreds of monstrous statues of lizard-birds. Whether these grim effigies were crafted by an older civilization, or placed there more recently by the feather-cloaked shamans of Jul-Juggah, is not known.

THE LIVING FLAME - Nameless God of Zadj posted:

The Zadjites worship a nameless elemental god, the Living Flame, above all other gods. The priests tend everburning fires in their marble temples. Fire is considered pure; both the dead and the unbelievers are cast into the flames to be purified. Fire also imbues metal with a spark of the divine; the priests of the Living Flame are skilled metal-workers and weaponsmiths.

MAGGASH - the Brazen God of Zhaol posted:

Abominable are the brass idols of Maggash, the fire-god of Zhaol, and even worse are the rites of the priesthood, which include the burning of infants as sacrifice. The priests of Zhaol accept no other god than their own, and worship of other gods is strictly forbidden and punishable by death. Maggash is sometimes depicted as a bull, or a bull-headed humanoid.

NHAKHRAMAT - the Six-Armed Woman posted:

The ivory woman, said by some to be the mate of Yadar, is worshipped largely by Khazistanis who disapprove of Belet-Lil’s open sensuality, which is a source of conflict between the Khazistanis and the Susrahnites.

NWANGA ZHAAL - the Lord of Beasts posted:

Known and feared across the Jungle Kingdoms, this bloodthirsty god is master of the beasts that howl at the moon. His shamans are always served by flocks of bonded animals.

OTHABBHON - the Guardian of the Gates posted:

Depicted as a horse-headed humanoid clutching a bronze key, this mysterious god is a protector of homes and vaults, as well as the guardian of secret and hidden places.

SIMATALA - the Ape-God of Laksha posted:

Turbaned priests strangle sacrificial victims on the white jade altars of this grim ape-god of the east, whose cult has even begun to spread to the west.

YAATHRA YOK - the Wise One posted:

This is an elephant-headed god of the east, revered for its great strength and wisdom. Temples of the cult contain rich treasures of ivory.

YADAR - the Lord of Death and Secrets posted:

The mysterious high god of the Khazistanis, Yadar, is said to live in the desert and to collect the souls of every living man and woman when they give up their final breath.

Yadar is associated with scorpions and bats. Many carry charms and amulets in the image of Yadar, said to ward against disease and violent death.

Such worship is often personal and unorganized, since the locations of Yadar’s temples are generally kept secret and known only to the priests. The cult is suspected to have subterranean shrines in cities and temples in desert ruins. The nomads stay well away from such ruins, since any who stray too close disappear without a trace.

To be initiated into the cult of Yadar, the candidate must spend a night in a sealed sarcophagus in a mausoleum haunted by ghouls.

YAMMOSH - the Sea-God of Ghazor posted:

The greatest temple of this Susrahnite sea-god is located in the sinful port city of Ghazor, although sailors from many nations offer sacrifice to him before setting out on long ocean voyages. To be initiated into the cult of Yammosh, the candidate must survive being plunged into a water-filled pit for d6 minutes without drowning.

YIBBOTH - the Sacred Toad of Fakhuum posted:

Despite having its cult-center deep within the poisoned marshes of Fakhuum, whether Yibboth is part of the true Yar-Ammonite pantheon is uncertain; some claim he is one of the Old Gods. The priests of Yibboth are reputed to worship a “golden frog-thing”, along with mummified crocodiles and all manner of water lizards and giant toads.

YOT-KAMOTH - the Spider-God of Lamu posted:

The Lamurans bow before black idols of Yot-Kamoth, the monstrous eight-legged god worshipped for centuries in the mountain fastness of Lamra, the capital city. In truth, the priests of the spider-god are the royalty of Lamu, for they wield considerable influence and for a common man to resist their demands is a certain death sentence.

To be initiated into the cult of Yot-Kamoth, a candidate with the proper qualifications must survive the lethal bite of a temple-bred spider.

ZANTHISS - The Great Serpent posted:

The ancient demon-serpent of Yalotha, in some worlds known as Hassith-Kaa, is the father of various ophidian races and a master of sorcery.

Zanthiss is currently believed to be confined to an extradimensional prison, or perhaps banished to a remote star, after the downfall of the serpent-empire of Yalotha.

However, cults of Zanthiss still lair in ancient temples, with writhing serpent-pits, giant slithering temple snakes, malachite altars stained with the blood of centuries of sacrifice, and demon-guarded vaults wherein lie hidden the lost papyri of jungle-lost Yalotha. To become an initiate of the cult, the candidate must survive the lethal bite of a sacred temple cobra.

Ascension to greater titles within the priesthood may involve the bites of greater and more poisonous snakes.


Among the gods worshipped in the cold wastes of the north are the Moon-God, the Wolf-God, and the Skull-God.

The Moon-God is served only by female priestesses; old hags and crones are respected omen-readers and oracles among the Tharagians.

The Wolf-God is a god of strength, war, and bloodlust. Tribal chieftains are often also priests of the Wolf-God.

The Skull-God is the lord of the dead and the king of ghosts; this god has no priests or followers, but each village has a hut set up with a skull-adorned altar where he is placated with offerings.


The Yar-Ammonites worship an ancient pantheon of beast-headed man-gods, disturbing fragments of a lost age. Depictions of these gods, said to have brought knowledge and wisdom to the first civilization of Yar-Ammon, include serpent-headed, vulture-headed, hyena-headed, and crocodile-headed humanoids. The priests of Yar-Ammon often wear masks in imitation of these gods.

Next up, we have more detailed descriptions of the various locations in Xoth, from the Isles of the Sea Reavers to the Sunken Isles of Ptahaana; from the Cannibal Coast to the Hills of the Dead. There are many, many such locations, with enough detail to be interesting, but enough left to the imagination to give the GM plenty to work with.

Finally, we have drugs. Because there's lots of drug taking in Sword and Sorcery, after all. There are no rules for addiction - if it's an important story element, then it's an important story element and you're addicted. If not, then you ignore it. Some of them can influence your sorcerous abilities for the better.

And here endeth the final chapter. After this, there's just weapons stats and damage tables. There's not that much of interest in there, for the purposes of this write up, that is, beyond a list of reading suggestions. For that reason, I'll end this here, with one last glimpse at Howard's unfortunate racism.

Robert E Howard, “The Hills of the Dead” posted:

The twigs which N’Longa flung on the fire broke and crackled. The upleaping flames lighted the countenances of the two men. N’Longa, voodoo man of the Slave Coast, was very old. His wizened and gnarled frame was stooped and brittle, his face creased by hundreds of wrinkles. The red firelight glinted on the human finger-bones which composed his necklace. The other was an Englishman, and his name was Solomon Kane. He was tall and broad-shouldered, clad in black close garments, the garb of the Puritan. His featherless slouch hat was drawn low over his heavy brows, shadowing his darkly pallid face. His cold deep eyes brooded in the firelight.

“You come again, brother,” droned the fetish-man, speaking in the jargon which passed for a common language of black man and white on the West Coast. “Many moons burn and die since we make blood-palaver.

You go to the setting sun, but you come back!”

“Aye,” Kane’s voice was deep and almost ghostly. “Yours is a grim land, N’Longa, a red land barred with the black darkness of horror and the bloody shadows of death. Yet I have returned.”

hectorgrey fucked around with this message at 00:46 on Jan 26, 2014

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006

Halloween Jack posted:

There is a whole section on how to stop PCs from ruining the campaign with guns. The most sensible bit of advice is to emphasize that it’s difficult to get away with carrying and firing guns in a modern setting. There are decent suggestions specific to the fact that the PCs and their enemies are largely magical creatures--have guns do less damage, emphasize that amputation is more effective against creatures that regenerate, and remember that guns can only fire so many shots in a round even if you have superhuman speed.

Yes, because you can't blow someone's limbs or head off with a shotgun or spitzer-tipped bullets like the 5.56mm NATO cartridge don't have a tendency to tumble when striking human flesh and cleaving limbs off. Nope, just doesn't happen.

pkfan2004 posted:

But then there's the combat corset, which is actually a somewhat effective form of armor. Sorta. See, the combat corset either has leather or rubber on top of spiraled steel and shifting plates that let the wearer be able to move and be flexible on top of having some chest protection. Mourner corsets are a guild secret and their design is kept a trade secret. The majority of combat corsets go from under the breasts to the top of the hips and provide a relatively solid form of protection for the torso. They're also not really nearly as tight as the fashion corsets; they're tied to fit and squeeze a little so you can have the look and flexibility. They're not perfect, of course, but they exist to help protect from disembowelment or lower attacks from Animates, Vampires and Thropes. See, Thropes tend to attack with punches and swings of their hands and Vampires might claw at a stomach or an Animate might grab someone's torso and if those fingers break the skin well you might get infected. Or maybe a thug is going to punch you in the kidneys or shiv you in the guts and you don't want them to know you've got armor. Or maybe someone is going to shoot you in the stomach to disable you for a spell. The point is that yeah combat corsets are actually kind of handy. If you want full-body protection, you want to invest in Deathwatch armor or getting a good set of gear an Undertaker would appreciate. Combat corsets are for people who want to conceal their armor and get a little protection for a really reasonable price compared to armor. Because armor is kinda drat expensive.

First off, most of your attacks are going to be to the upper portion of your torso or head and neck. Their combat corset isn't going to poo poo because it's not designed for practicality but for fashion. Secondly, it sounds a lot like brigandine armor, which was also known as jack-of-plates or plate-jack, which was strips of plate armor attached to leather or canvas.

They know that silk bulletproof vests where a major thing at the time before their Plague Years, right? They were super-expensive, about $10,000 by our standards, but they were scientifically-proven to at least stop pistol bullets. Supposedly, George Goodfellow from Tombstone found this out in the 1880s and theorized that gambesons like those worn in the medieval ages made out of 15-30 layers of silk would reliably stop bullets. After Kazimierz Żegleń and Jan Szczepanik their vests in the late 19th century, a varied clientele of dignitaries and nobility and wealthy gangsters and industrialists were already paying those prices for bulletproof silk vests. Remember, Archduke Ferdinand was wearing one when Gavilio Princip shot him in the unprotected portion of his neck. Alfonso XIII of Spain was saved by a bulletproof vest when an assassin attempted to shoot him. On a related note, supposedly the Josen kingdom in Korea had their own bulletproof jackets made of 30 layer of cotton that were relatively effective against military-issue cartridges of the French expeditionary forces and later the U.S. Marines in the 1860s-1870s.

pkfan2004 posted:

Vickers Machine Gun: needs a bunch of people to operate, highly illegal, highly expensive, only for military use. It's the everyone's favorite trench-mower, alive and well.

A Vickers Machine Gun?! You're loving kidding me!?

I was going to go through each on these listings and comment on them, but it came out to be the same thing: "Why are you still using something like this?" In the centuries of strife and war and no one has come up with a lighter-weight, less-man-intensive alternative? The Germans found out in a year of fighting in WW1 that you could take their version that Maxim-designed MG off the tripod, give it a stock and come up with more man-portable machinegun usable for small unit fighting. This wasn't goddamn rocket science, it was just something they noticed. The MG08/15 supposedly became so famous that it's the basis for a German idiom describing "cookie cutter".

Seriously, have they discussed why technological development just stopped at a certain point? Remember the phrase "necessity is the mother of invention"? Even during World War 2, the Russians' need for cheap automatic weapons went from their cantankerous and expensive copy of the Finnish Suomi, to the robust, high-firepower, and inexpensive Shpagin PPSh-41, which could be made at 3,000 per day, to the even lighter, cheaper-to-manufacture, and easier-to-use PPS-43, all with in the span of 3 to 4 years. Three of which the Soviet Union was fighting for it's life in similar conditions. Even the other Allies did the same thing, it's why we went from the woodstocked Thompsons, but since wood takes more time than machining, we went to guns like the Sten and Grease Gun made of almost all-stamped-steel construction.

Dec 31, 2008

I legitimately enjoyed the bits of the WLD my group played. Region K or L sounds about where we stopped (due to scheduling conflicts rather than frustration). Only now am I beginning to realize just how much our DM edited, tweaked or just removed altogether. It sounds like running this as written will kill 3/4s of the PCs before they clear region A, if not more. You can't really excuse this poo poo as an attempt to make a new Tomb of Horrors. First, because all the stupid deathtraps in that adventure exist to stifle parties who aren't weighed down under the horde of arbitrary restrictions imposed by the WLD.

Second--more importantly--it wasn't bloody marketed that way. I remember the ads for this thing. They didn't say '16 modules to use as convention meat grinders (which are also loosely connected if you want to make it a last team to fall thing).' They said 'we made the world's largest dungeon, containing every entry in the Monstrous Manual, and it's all one big campaign for your group!' In retrospect it all comes off as remarkably disingenuous, doubly so at the price they were asking. A lot of the regions smell like they started life as independent adventure, later combined to make them easier to market. (Which makes the lack of playtesting even more egregious.)

Dec 12, 2011

The thing you gotta remember about UM is that it is someone's post-apocalypse, zombie slaying, anglo-philic, Buff the Vampire Slaying, Underworlding, Foundationest (tell me King Louis doesn't sound like the Mule), Sky Captain and the Rocketeers of Prussiaist Steampunk fantasyland of wish fulfillment. Seriously, they don't have katanas and trench coats, they have kukris and corsets.

Oh, and there might be some Games Workshop thrown in there. Really hard to see with that medley.

Sep 10, 2003

This post is cursed!

Rangpur posted:

In retrospect it all comes off as remarkably disingenuous, doubly so at the price they were asking.
Weren't they trying to charge like $90 or something like that? I remember seeing it somewhere, flipping through it, and thinking "this looks like someone printed off a randomly generated dungeon and bound it." This much more in-depth look makes me so happy I never bought it.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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

hectorgrey posted:

Chapter 7 - Xoth
Next, we have the Gods.

I gotta admit, I like Low Fantasy/Sword and Sorcery Fantasy gods a lot more than I like High Fantasy gods. They're inscrutable, they might not be real and they're alien in nature. Makes it easy to run their followers as enemies or tentative allies. That setting looks pretty boss as a whole, I think I'm gonna check it out.

Also it's been over a page and I still don't understand why the hell you wouldn't just fill that section of a dungeon with magma floes and instead decided to put a bunch of angry imps in boiling red paint. It's like they want to murder you constantly but then the production values of the whole thing slip up because they couldn't afford real lava.

Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!

Nemesis Of Moles posted:

I just wanted to say I'm really enjoying this write up.

Thanks! It's easy to feel like stuff gets lost among all the different write-ups so its good to hear folks are getting something out of it.


Weren't they trying to charge like $90 or something like that? I remember seeing it somewhere, flipping through it, and thinking "this looks like someone printed off a randomly generated dungeon and bound it." This much more in-depth look makes me so happy I never bought it.

About 100 bucks. At the time it was the most expensive RPG book ever made.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

Nemesis Of Moles posted:

I just wanted to say I'm really enjoying this write up.

Yeah, I haven't had much to say on it but it's nice to see, because it was marketed so hard as an amazing achievement and... the amazing part is how hard that stuff falls apart under examination. (This is true of most d20 products, but it's really striking with WLD.)

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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

WLD sounds like one of those things you talk about with your friends or a GM comes up with and they're not a fan of letting your characters live. I heard a friend talking about this a wild back and it sounded like a homebrew. Can't believe it's real and it's...not good.

Kai Tave
Jul 2, 2012

Fallen Rib

Not to dogpile but I'm not sure how anyone could realistically have thought that a hojillion-page dungeon crawl using EVERY MONSTER EVER could actually wind up being anything more than an unfocused mess, d20 system or no.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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

Young Freud posted:

Yes, because you can't blow someone's limbs or head off with a shotgun or spitzer-tipped bullets like the 5.56mm NATO cartridge don't have a tendency to tumble when striking human flesh and cleaving limbs off. Nope, just doesn't happen.
I really don't think that too little focus on the vagaries of bullets in real-life is the problem here. Remember that this is a game where the basic combat rules let each player choose whether to use cards or dice, the rolling mechanic is roll/draw Aspect against (Difficulty-Skill), and everyone at the table gets to bet points on who wins each contested roll. Adding rules for hydrostatic shock would not improve this situation.

Kai Tave posted:

Not to dogpile but I'm not sure how anyone could realistically have thought that a hojillion-page dungeon crawl using EVERY MONSTER EVER could actually wind up being anything more than an unfocused mess, d20 system or no.
Ironically, there are probably crusty old grognard DMs with thousand-page homemade megadungeons which are...probably also unfocused, but in the same way as a beloved cult show, and not as a seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time which turned into a slog.

Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!

Kai Tave posted:

Not to dogpile but I'm not sure how anyone could realistically have thought that a hojillion-page dungeon crawl using EVERY MONSTER EVER could actually wind up being anything more than an unfocused mess, d20 system or no.

I was young and foolish, I thought it would be a neat mountain to climb with my group in high school and the bastards promised to split the cost with me...never did. The bitterness over that 100$ is what still drives me to this day.


Region K continued

This region blows its load kind of early. Thorodin is kind of the "boss" of the region and the hags follow as the second biggest threat. Both will be encountered very shortly after entering. Thorodin will attack as soon as he spots the PCs, which won't take long, and the hags will follow almost immediately, knowing that they're no match for anyone who can kill Thorodin but assuming the battle will put the PCs at their most vulnerable. Together they are almost certain death for a level appropriate group.

But if you're very lucky (or you wandered in from exploring several higher level regions already) then you might just be able to survive these two fights. That doesn't actually leave much to do. Thorodin had a few locoath servants who'll likely just flee if their master dies, the PCs can also free the lillend he has imprisoned.

The lillend is trapped in a gilded cage, unable to escape because a nearby altar radiates antimagic in a 50 foot radius, a former celestial security system. The entry for this room suggests that if the PCs destroy the altar the lillend can free herself, however the altar is quite durable (10 hardness, 200 hit points), although it is vulnerable to unholy water or tanaaryl weapons. When the altar is destroyed it explodes, hurting everyone nearby. Sadly, it didn't seem to occur to anyone that it might be easier for the PCs to simply break the bars of the cage, since the average iron bar has the same hardness and only 30 or so hp. It's not even clear how the lillend would free itself if the anti-magic field is removed, she can use the knock spell but there is apparently no door to the cage (otherwise the developers would presumably note the DC to pick the lock).

K43-45: the Abyssal edge
This is the easternmost section of the Region where the water gets deep (it's not clear why it gets deeper...even with the walls collapsed the dungeon should still have just about the same level in all areas. maybe the celestials decided they needed to carve a couple of basements here). There's a deep well where a "greater glaberazu" (why he's "greater" is unclear as his stats are identical to a normal one) who apparently absorbs memories and life energy through dimensional cracks and was imprisoned in a collapsing well trap...oh god, it just doesn't make any sense. Basically he's in a deep underwater pit and anyone within 20 feet suffers 3 negative levels temporarily. However, he doesn't actually want to fight. He'll try and trick the party into letting him travel with them by posing as a celestial and if they reject him or doubt him he'll simply teleport away and leave, presumably to be encountered again later.

There's also a sunken ship which apparently was dragged down here when the lake rushes it. It's a bit odd when you realize that the opening into the dungeon was wide enough for an entire ship to be sucked through intact...but there is no sign of it and no opening left to escape through. It can't even be that far from the surface, you'd think there might even be a bit of daylight.

oh, and a mutated gargantuan water spider with an acid spray attack that seems to have just been ignored by the other entities in the area.


This is the last intact piece of the original structure in the area. It's basically the result of someone jotting down random encounters which range from moderately challenging (4 gray oozes) to completely pointless (a single thoquaa). other encounters include a permanent acid fog, an angelic bedroom, a few traps, a dying harpy, some merrow, acquatic elves, and a huge scorpion. The rest of the area is more of the celestials overly-elaborate traps. Here's some examples:

*The Crystal Pits: This room contains two large pits, which used to house demons imprisoned underneath crystal caps. If the caps were ever broken the doors close and a giant stone roller rolls up and down the length of the room, crushing everything not inside one of the pits. When I say "crushing" I mean it inflicts 10d6 crushing damage. While that certainly hurts, it definitely would not kill any demon of significant power and while the doors are functionally impossible to open (DC 40 strength check) they do open automatically after an hour. Since the crystal caps have been smashed at some point in the past the trap will trigger whenever anyone goes in or out of one of the pits (which contains nothing).

*the chain cell: This door is covered in symbols (which require a DC 25 decipher script roll, because apparently celestials don't actually write in celestial) which provide a vague description of the former prisoner "gatarana, whose strength comes from the earth". The room contains 8 animated chains which will attempt to grapple people in pairs, and once grapped they will pull the victims into the air and stretch them until they die. This is quite lethal (together the chains seem to inflict 2d10 damage a round, and they have an impressive grapple bonus. escape seems to require breaking the chains, which will take quite some time (hardness 10, 30 hp)).

*Fire Cell and Ice Cell: This one is labeled "stenarri, creature of fire" and "abhonet, creature of ice". Basically each one is designed to channel heat and cold into the other, so the fire monster weakens the ice monster and vice versa. As far as celestial prisons go this one isn't actually that badly thought out. However, it doesn't actually matter since both inhabitants are dead, the rooms are empty and the only noticeable effect is that the temperature of both rooms will stabilize if the equilibrium is thrown off, at the rate of 1 degree per round.

*Blade Cell: This room is unlabeled, but apparently held a "flesh demon" (because that's totally a thing) which was pinned to the wall with magical daggers. the room is full of +1 daggers of different materials. These are : gold, silver, brass, cold iron, adamantine, holy diamond, lawful coral, chaotic granite, good wood, and evil opal. there is no further explanation for any of that.

*Water Cell (by the way, these are the titles of the room in the dungeon itself): This room once imprisoned "rifidar, creature of air", who escaped at once point (I think you'll see why). This chamber's door is blocked by a permanent Wall of Force effect, except it only targets free-flowing water, making it impossible to bring any water in or out of the chamber. After someone enters the room it begins to flood, the water held in place by the wall of force. After it fills the room the water freezes. You may ask yourself, "in what way does this help imprison a creature of air?" and "why not just make it an actual wall of force, one that might stop the air demon from just walking through?" These questions apparently never occurred to the designers.

*Empty Cell: This cell imprisoned a succubus. She's gone, but apparently her demonic stank remains producing an Emotion (friendship) effect on anyone inside. Because the writers didn't seem to get the memo that 3.5 doesn't have an Emotion spell anymore. also apparently they think a 10 lb cold iron chain is worth 3,000 gp (note, a 10 lb silver chain in one of the other rooms is only worth 500 gp).

*Chains of Remorse: another really elaborate prison. the celestials need to learn that simpler is often better. This is a circular corridor around a central room, the corridor walls are mirrored and anyone inside is targeted by a Confusion effect every round. if they attack someone randomly while confused they'll actually strike the mirrored wall which reflects the damage back to them. If they find and open the door in the central chamber then a gust of wind knocks them inside where they fall down a 100 foot spiked pit trap, although they might catch themselves on one of the chains that stretches across the width of the pit. The pit is full of demonic corpses chained here being constantly shown scenes of torment and horror, which causes anyone inside it to become Shaken and Staggered. The walls are completely unclimbable so only flight or levitation could allow escape. There is a 12 charge wand of cure moderate wounds at the bottom though!

*Unstable Cell: this one belonged to "baphon, lesser demon of the blighted realms" who was apparently a half-fiendish greater gorgon and it has been badly damaged by the earthquake. 2 rounds after the room is opened the ceiling collapses and any characters within are trapped underneath magically dense rubble. This only inflicts 8d6 damage but there's no indication of any way to free anyone presumably they're just doomed.

*Eternal Charm: This cell contains the petrified remains of an erinyes, who got caught by that gorgon from the last room.

*Scorpion Cell: This one has a big scorpion, mutated by nesting in the rotting corpse of a demon. It's odd that the celestials imprison so many of these demons, it's made very clear that it's quite possible to simply kill them...but apparently this is better for some reason.

*Scales of Perserverance: This room contains a checkerboard patter of red and black floor tiles and a stone see-saw in the middle. red tiles weight 3 lbs, black weigh 5 lbs. When the seesaw is perfectly balanced the floor becomes electrocuted. This was apparently a "recharging" station for inevitables...who don't require "recharging" and who don't absorb or resist electricity in any way. so basically this is just a stacking game that electrocutes whoever wins it. If you decide to load all the red tiles on one side and all the black on another this opens a secret hatch revealing a gem of lightning, which basically operates like an electrically themed staff.

*gemsect lair: This room has a chest that's full of bugs that look like gems, called gemsects. This swarm has no actual stats however, the writers say it has the stats of a "summon swarm (beetles)" spell, which doesn't exist (summon swarm summons only bats, rats or spiders) and in fact, there are no stats for a beetle swarm in the standard srd.

That's it for Region K, since it's so closely interconnected I'll jump straight to L after this.

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

The biggest problem with WLD is that it could have been so much better. I'm sure a lot of us reading these write-ups are going well that could have been fixed this way or that way. This is shovelware pure and simple. Hustle up a map and throw poo poo down. Don't actually plan how things interact. It's kind of sad actually.

Aug 21, 2007

Neat. Sweet. Petite.

Humbug Scoolbus posted:

The biggest problem with WLD is that it could have been so much better. I'm sure a lot of us reading these write-ups are going well that could have been fixed this way or that way. This is shovelware pure and simple. Hustle up a map and throw poo poo down. Don't actually plan how things interact. It's kind of sad actually.

Especially considering they go way out of their way to underpowered any PCs running through the dungeon. Have some treasure! Too bad you can't leave the drat dungeon to spend it on something good.

Apr 28, 2010

Robindaybird posted:

Especially considering they go way out of their way to underpowered any PCs running through the dungeon. Have some treasure! Too bad you can't leave the drat dungeon to spend it on something good.

I'd sure hate being a wizard in here. How many scrolls have actually gone by at this stage? You're hitting level ten (hypothetically, anyway) by these regions and I'm honestly not sure if you'd have found one scroll per level by this point. It's like they saw the whole "kick down doors, kill monsters, take their stuff" formula and stopped reading part-way through. Did these people even play D&D?

Oct 10, 2005

I Forgot To Hail King Torg

Went back and edited the cover to Fairy Meat into my first post on the game, because why didn't I do that in the first place. I'll make a rules post later today, but instead of using the examples in the book, how about a little audience participation? Give me a couple of names and general ideas (along the lines of "Sparklepuff is the leader and likes to wrestle", "Jiggletwink is pretty and likes magic", or "Razzlewing is creepy and talks to spiders" - feel free to use the Fairy Name Generator for ideas) and I'll use those instead!

Dec 12, 2011

Geronimus Bush: Thinks everyone looks weird. But not you, you're cool.
Robin Rook: Will cut, will cut you so bad.
Danderind: Has a head like an orange.

Aug 21, 2007

Neat. Sweet. Petite.

AmiYumi posted:

Went back and edited the cover to Fairy Meat into my first post on the game, because why didn't I do that in the first place. I'll make a rules post later today, but instead of using the examples in the book, how about a little audience participation? Give me a couple of names and general ideas (along the lines of "Sparklepuff is the leader and likes to wrestle", "Jiggletwink is pretty and likes magic", or "Razzlewing is creepy and talks to spiders" - feel free to use the Fairy Name Generator for ideas) and I'll use those instead!

Dazzledew is inattentive and likes finding novel uses for plants

GenericServices posted:

I'd sure hate being a wizard in here. How many scrolls have actually gone by at this stage? You're hitting level ten (hypothetically, anyway) by these regions and I'm honestly not sure if you'd have found one scroll per level by this point. It's like they saw the whole "kick down doors, kill monsters, take their stuff" formula and stopped reading part-way through. Did these people even play D&D?

It really doesn't look like it, and one of the scrolls is a spell that's supposed to be banned by WLD design, so that's a kick in the teeth.

Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.

Grimey Drawer

And with one chapter, Aletheia suddenly goes from X-Files or Fringe to Witch Mountain and The Watcher in the Woods, with a side order of The Black Hole's ending sequences. You could probably do a scenario based on Watcher fairly easily, even.

I was turned off by the Apocryphal references at first, but I think it's because I don't like the idea of antagonists focused on destroying humanity or the Society. The combat systems aren't really great, and it doesn't really jive with the slow coalescence of cosmic realization for me.

GenericServices posted:

I'd sure hate being a wizard in here. How many scrolls have actually gone by at this stage? You're hitting level ten (hypothetically, anyway) by these regions and I'm honestly not sure if you'd have found one scroll per level by this point. It's like they saw the whole "kick down doors, kill monsters, take their stuff" formula and stopped reading part-way through. Did these people even play D&D?

The whole thing sounds like something an incompetently groggy GM I had would do. Nonsensical layouts, ridiculous traps he probably sourced from someone else or lifted entirely, and a bare sprinkling of magic items because his proofreader pointed out that there were none, the PCs were expected to stay in there long-term, and he totally forgot to itemize the drat dungeon.

AmiYumi posted:

I'll make a rules post later today, but instead of using the examples in the book, how about a little audience participation?

Punkyhickey is skinny and likes to skulk.

Jun 15, 2007

Cherrybells is a fussbudget who is always fashionable.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Ars Magica: Transforming Mythic Europe

So, you've finally gotten the issue of the Fourth Estate to the Grand Tribunal, possibly more than once. The PCs, obviously, are the center of the action, and the politics here are vital. No matter what your preparation, you need the senior magi, archmagi and especially the primi to back you. Let's assume you've managed to be chosen as one of the three Tribunal representatives or have gotten one who's willing to present your issue, so you can talk about it at Grand Tribunal. Now, how do the primi tend to feel?

Garus of Flambeau is a likely ally - he's a leading member of the milites, promoting chivalry and service to the Order, and in his youth he fought in tournaments and was a mercenary. However, his grip on Flambeau is weak, for the House has no unifying goal. If he could win concessions on the role of House Flambeau in mundane war, thus giving the House a purpose, he might be a valuable ally. Andru of Jerbiton is already subtly involved in the mundane world, and he'll back any measure that will let him improve the world, protect art and promote good governance while reducing the risk to Jerbiton. Stouritus of Verditius cares for the wealth of Verditius, which could be vastly improved if he was allowed to sell more to mundanes. An obvious ally.

Murion of Bonisagus is unscrupulous and a schemer, but very conservative. She wants little but to improve her House's power and reputation, and she refuses to go down in history as the Primus who tore down the guiding principles of the Order. Muscaria of Criamon understands her role to be the duty of removing distractions from other Criamon who seek the Enigma. The outside world is a distraction. Muscaria is a young but very pragmatic and canny foe in this fight. Bilera of Guernicus is trying to heal the Transitionalist/Traditionalist rift, and any change that lessens the power of the Peripheral Code or the Oath threatens her House. So long as that threat remains, she will never back any such measure.

Falke of Bjornaer is undecided. She's young and tends to isolationism, mostly out of indecision. She wants the wilderness protected, but knows that many Bjornaer will not want to even begin making deals with the encroaching mundanes. Ebroin of Ex Miscellanea is a magus orbus, a magus of another (canonically undetermined) House who joined Ex Misc. His loyalty and views depend entirely on the GM. Inastella of Mercere is unGifted and cares only about Mercere. She is likely to abstain from any vote, but may provide advice.

Handri of Merinita is secretive and cares more for fae than men, but may not be the target to look at in any case - the last prima, Vinaria, has returned, and may well hold more influence over her House and others Poena of Tremere will support only a proposition that falls in line with Tremere ideology. Trying to get her support for a measure that doesn't resemble Transylvania's work may be difficult. Buliste and Harpax of Tytalus hold but one vote between them, as primi, and so the real challenge is less convincing either one - they'll never agree - but to get them to proxy their vote to someone else who can be convinced.

So, we've convinced the magi. Now we have to convince the mundanes. Unless they benefit, there is almost no one who'd support it. It is hard to guess what magi could offer a king - they have the money and manpower to accomplish most any goal already, and magic would not meaningfully change that. What they might value more is guidance. They need to know what lies in the minds of foes, or what the true situation is in far-off areas. Knowledge is the most valuable thing magi can provide...but who is to do it? Who in the Normandy Tribunal should advise the King of France? What about a sheriff or local leader? Elder magi tend to be more heavily warped and unsettling, added on top of the Gift, so advisers will probably be relatively young magi with Gentle Gifts. On the downside, the Order's egalitarian ways may suffer, as nobles would have more trouble accepting the advice of a woman, so a compromise of values might be needed. Obviously, there will also be regional differences in what kings and nobles want - the Spanish kings might want magical aid in conquest, while those of Novgorod would want defense against the Mongols.

Magi can also provide to nobles an alternative to moneylending. Yes, too much silver can destroy economies...but supposing a noble were given silver that would only be temporary? A loan of funds. As the money is paid back, the magi can destroy it. After all, it's merely conjured wealth. This allows the money to be spent as needed, then removed from the economy once it isn't required any more. On the other hand, whop can say what that would do to the economy? A theoretically infinite supply of money might well render costs meaningless, destroying economies even with the care used. It's hard to say.

And what can magi offer the Church? Knowledge, again. Priests are educated, but magi can offer knowledge of the supernatural, supplementing theological study with real-world experience. They can show priests angels, or the magical forces behind the natural world. They can teach about medicine via magic. With the Church, magi can offer so much knowledge - something the Church values greatly. As educated people, magi should easily be able to convince the Church that their magic is not infernal, for they share a background as educated classes. Many magi are Christians, too, so there is that shared experience. And if the Pope can be made to support the Order, then many will fall in line behind him.

An easy approach to explaining the Order to outsiders would be guilds. Towns and cities might welcome magi if they were understood to be like guilds, especially if it meant being able to regulate them via charters. House Verditius is essentially a guild already, and the Order has experience setting official prices, though they would now need to compromise with mundane authority. There would also need to be a quality enforcement on enchantments, in exchange for rights for the magi - freedom of dress, apprentices or familiars, say, or rights over vis found in town lands. In theory, the Order can compete with mundane craftsmen, but the quality of magically created goods is dependent entirely on the magus' finesse with magic, and varies wildly - as does the ability of mundanes to use magical tools to create. They will need to be taught how to use them properly, which would take much time and effort. Still, it might greatly improve craftsmen's ability to create as they envision things to be.

One of the biggest reasons to do all this is to protect supernatural spaces. Nobles will expect something in return for leaving a faerie woodland or magical area alone. The simplest way to handle this is trade - the spirits or fae offer something in return for control of their homes. Most supernatural beings can reason and make alliances, though faeries are problematic, for they are constrained by their roles. A robber faerie can't offer safe passage - it must rob. Still, faerie rulers can enter treaties and agreements, for it fits their roles. (It is probably far too early to consider marriage alliances, though.) It is common to seal alliances by fostering a child with the ally, ensuring that the value of the alliance is recognized. This could be done with faeries or magical beings. A spirit of the wind might offer its son in the form of a swift horse, in return for dominion over a certain area. The prince who gains such a horse receives a loyal, lifelong companion, and the spirit protects its domain. Magi, obviously, are instrumental in these agreements and mediating between mundane and supernatural beings. Still, this means that vis sources may become more contentious, as mundanes begin to understand their value to those who do magic. They could well misapply such knowledge dangerously, destroying sources rather than nurturing them, or withholding them to gain leverage.

And what of hedge wizards? The Augustan Brotherhood has already entrenched itself among the nobility. They may not be in every court, but could be in any of them. They operate beneath the Order's notice and don't like to share. They will likely work against the Order with lies and misinformation. However, they do find it hard to hide their magical nature, so in doing so, they may reveal themselves to the PCs and the Order. This actually gives the Order an incentive to put their agents in the courts, to minitor the Augustans and oppose them as needed. On the other hand, it may drive the Brotherhood to reveal itself, putting it openly under the protection and influence of the mundanes to protect itself from the Order's join-or-die ultimatums.

The game then provides fairly detailed rules on how to influence mass opinion among the educated via books. You sstart by writing a polemic, sowing the seeds of change as an idea. The polemic is a book that explores and explains a question to show its view as superior to the logical counterposition. This argument thus enters the literate consciousness, usually just of the Order but in theory it could work this way for any literate group. It can then be attacked, via books called diatribes, or supported, by books called apologia. The goal is to build up an argument's strength such that it is superior to the GM-assigned number representing the prevailing wisdom on the issue. The hard part is circulating the texts - a polemic has to be widely read to be effective. An argument built up enough provides bonuses - potentially extremely large ones - to arguing the case at Tribunal.

The book also provides rules on charters. Overall, these rules are 'a charter says what the two parties agree to', and can optionally be given strength ratings for each side involved in the signing, which vary based on the signatories' understanding of law. Once this strength is found, that becomes the difficulty in finding loopholes in that signatory's side of things. Charters are primarily used for land grants, such as those that would protect supernatural auras, or charters of rights and obligations, such as those that would be made between towns and covenants.

Can you use magic to influence politics? Absolutely. Catering to the sick by magic and improving living conditions is an amazing way to get people to support you, as is offering longevity rituals to key nobles. Spells are provided to improve harvests or bring orchards and fields to bloom instantly, as well as spells to guard livestock and example uses of magic to, say, ensure truth in courts and provide justice, to detect if a child is a bastard or to protect against invading armies by destroying bridges or laying waste to fields that might be used.

The end of the chapter briefly looks at similar kinds of change - spreading supernatural understanding, trying to integrate into the Church or even trying to adopt the Augustan Brotherhood as proxies and members of the Order as a new House, for example. House Augustus would then have the duty of dealing with the mundanes. It provides some story hooks and ideas for if, perhaps, some group within the Order tried to break with tradition and do this on its own - a very, very dangerous proposal indeed for everyone - and for how one might go about running the opposite game, in which PCs oppose the change. After all, the obligatiopns are onerous and magi may even begin to associate more with temporal power than the Order itself - exactly what the Order was set up to avoid. Plus, a population accustomed to magic might grow unwary of Hell's machinations!

Next time: A Land For Wizards

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.

AmiYumi posted:

Went back and edited the cover to Fairy Meat into my first post on the game, because why didn't I do that in the first place. I'll make a rules post later today, but instead of using the examples in the book, how about a little audience participation? Give me a couple of names and general ideas (along the lines of "Sparklepuff is the leader and likes to wrestle", "Jiggletwink is pretty and likes magic", or "Razzlewing is creepy and talks to spiders" - feel free to use the Fairy Name Generator for ideas) and I'll use those instead!

Perkykiss is tired. So goddamn tired. She just wants this damned war to end, to let the agonized screams be swallowed up by cool, balming night, to--

Ooh! Dibs on his duodenum!

Hello, friend. Can you spare a moment to talk about St. Blorgnax?

Okay, the last couple of chapters are pretty long, but a lot of it is pretty typical GM advice and a sample adventure that probably doesn't warrant a really in-depth overview, so let's see if we can make good on that promise from way back in the first post and knock both out in one update before moving on to something more mechanically interesting.

Chapter Eight starts off with a basic overview of the dual roles of the GM, as both storyteller and referee. A small sidebar reminds us that, since the Society always has seven members and you probably don't have that many players in your group, you'll probably have some NPC society members. These NPCs should always fall into a supporting role: researchers/scientists who stay in the lab/library, medics to patch up the PCs, stuff like that. They should never overshadow PCs' abilities.

Next up we dive into the anatomy of an investigation, and how to plan one out in five basic steps. A running example takes us through the construction of a ghost story adventure, starting with the basic idea ("hey, I'm gonna do a ghost story adventure!"), brainstorming the story and individual scenes, figuring out how all the scenes link together, and finally figuring out what the end point is, and what constitutes a successful investigation. Special attention is paid to making sure you have a solid, memorable hook for the beginning and the end of the adventure, which seems mostly like an excuse to title a section "The Alpha and the Omega."

There's a chunk of text about the difference between story and plot, complete with the obligatory "describe the same scene two different ways to illustrate tone" example, and a whole bunch of suggested story types. Pretty standard stuff, but special attention deserves to be given to the section on "Researching the Usher Codex." This, I think, is where the book blew most of its art budget, because we get five full-color pages from the Usher Codex for handing out to players. I'm just going to let these speak for themselves, because they're gorgeous. If you want a higher-resolution version, you can download all five pages as a pdf from the official website here.

I love these. They're very Leonardo da Vinci/Voynich manuscript, and the symbolism is actually decipherable once you have a decent idea of what's really going on. In fact, you know what?

It's contest time!

First person to figure out the hidden meaning behind all the text and images on a page of the Usher Codex gets a pdf copy of Aletheia, delivered via DrivethruRPG. If you already have it, I'll buy you one of Abstract Nova's other weird-as-hell RPGs. Stick to one page per entry, and no duplicating pages--if a previous entrant gives up on completing a page, someone else can claim it. If it looks like fewer than five people are going to enter, I'll let people try for multiple pages. Good luck!

Okay, back to the writeup. Remember how Chapter Five assured us that the Gamemastering chapter would have rules for researching the Usher Codex?

Aletheia posted:

It is up to the Gamemaster to set target numbers for identifying the references on the manuscript pages. For example, the quotes by Einstein would have a TN of 1, while other more cryptic references would have higher target numbers.

Anyways, the next section is about how to structure an Aletheia campaign, and it's really good advice for how to structure out a story that follows an unfolding mystery. An Aletheia campaign is broken up into seven epiphanies, with each individual story leading gradually to the next epiphany.

The first epiphany is There exists another realm, distinct from normal reality. This is usually the easiest epiphany, and probably happens within the first story of the campaign, if not as part of the backstory. Increased understanding of this truth leads to the second epiphany: All the mysteries of the world are interactions with this unseen reality. Here is where the characters start to realize they aren't just investigating random paranormal phenomena, but that everything's connected. This is usually the first major twist in the campaign, coming after investigating a few seemingly-disparate cases and discovering more about the nature of the PCs' superhuman abilities.

Questioning the connection between their powers and the Otherverse leads characters to the third epiphany: Those individuals in the world who can access the Otherverse share a bond of blood and lineage. Not only are your powers connected to the Otherverse and its influences, they're connected to your heritage and (eventual) common ancestry. Stories during the third epiphany stage focus on investigating Usher's genealogies, meeting and dealing with other powered characters. Eventually, these genealogical investigations lead to the fourth epiphany: Those who can most freely access the Otherverse are those who trace their lineage to the Grigori, a race of creatures from the Otherverse sent to watch humanity. This is where you drop the alien Jesus twist. It's not as simple as just following the genealogies back: Usher's records are thorough, but not "antediluvian" thorough. This epiphany involves deep-diving into history, religious apocrypha, and direct contact with ultraterrestrials to begin to grasp the nature of reality.

Comprehending the closed/open string dichotomy and the higher dimensionality of the universe leads to the fifth epiphany: The Annex is a permanent construction that spans more than four-dimensional reality. Because of the bridges it has built through the Otherverse, it stands as proof to humanity of the higher dimensional nature of reality. By this point, the characters are more focused on the history and the true purpose of the Society itself than cataloguing external phenomena: Researching the Usher Codex (and possibly finding more pages), investigating the fates of the first two incarnations of the Society, and delving deeper into the Threshold are all good story beats to seed in here. Ultimately, this inward-looking focus reveals the sixth epiphany: By learning to tread through the Otherverse, humanity can begin to walk with God. The first incarnation learned this and its members were able to transcend the passage to the godhead. This is where things start to get interesting, as the ultraterrestrials start throwing up roadblocks lest you uncover the truth too quickly, agents of the Grigori start taking a more active interest in you, and trips into the Threshold become longer and more enlightening.

Questioning why, if this is humanity's birthright, most of the species is still stuck on the membrane leads to the seventh and final epiphany: The mission of the society is to guide humanity into an understanding of the deeper nature of reality, and assist humanity in learning to walk with God. This is where the campaign approaches its endgame, and eventually the Society will take one of the Colossi out into the Otherverse to become one with God. But wait--there are only seven Colossi, with seven pilots each, and they're the only way to descend the Labyrinth and leave the Threshold. Does that mean only a grand total of 49 people can ever achieve humanity's birthright? Not exactly. The Colossi are a means, not the end. To truly enlighten humanity and free us from the membrane, we must decipher and come to understand the seven equations that form the underpinnings of our universe. (These equations, you'll recall, are written on the walls of the six-dimensional cities of the Glass Chrysanthemum.) Each equation can only be solved within the godhead of the Otherverse, by seven minds working in concert. The first incarnation of the Society is working on one of the equations: the end of the game involves the PCs going off to decipher the second. Eventually, five more groups of seven will find their way out of the Labyrinth and will ultimately return to earth as divine teachers; though it will take generations, mankind will come to understand the true nature of reality and evolve into hyperdimensional beings, at one with the cosmos.

Wait, hang on a second....

Aletheia Chapter 1 posted:

The player characters are among the seven new recruits. In all likelihood, this is the last formation of the Seven Dogs Society. Chastain is too old and establishing the society yet again would be exceedingly difficult for him.


Any way you slice it, the moment when the Society climbs into a Colossus and descends the Labyrinth is the end of the game.

We also get a short discussion on alternative ways to structure a campaign, including a model that replaces the seven epiphanies with the ten sephiroth of Kabbalistic thought and the possibility of handing the players printouts of the Usher Codex and a bunch of Weekly World News headlines and letting them decide what to do with the game--a sandbox of the weird, if you will.

Finally, we round off with some advanced powers. These can be bought with XP as characters become more aware of the Otherverse and their place within it. Several are just reprints of the new powers possessed by some of the NPCs from the last chapter, but new ones include:
  • Orientation: Helps you orient and adjust your perspective in higher-dimensional space. Basically required for effective use of your (limited) time when tripping out on ayahuasca and travelling the Threshold.
  • Combust: By forcing hyper-dimensional objects to intersect with the membrane at a specified point in spacetime, you can release a tremendous amount of energy in the form of heat. Pyrokinesis, yeah!
  • Hyper-dimensional bridge: Basically wormhole creation. It's a teleportation bridge kind of like the Annex portals, but this power always makes two-way bridges. Only ultraterrestrials can make one-way bridges.

And that's it! A quick listing of XP costs for character advancement and some suggested reading rounds out the last page, and we are done with Aletheia!

Now lose yourself in the loving embrace of Blorgnax, your Lord and Savior.

Okay, not quite done. We have a very short sample adventure to wrap everything up, but those things are never particularly fun to read about so I'm going to give it a very, very brief overview.

It seems there's been a rash of reported UFO abductions at Kansas State University. One of the PCs has a cousin going to school there whose roommate purports to be one of the victims; she's the one who asks the Society to come investigate. Once they get there (the adventure text mentions a long, uncomfortable charter flight from Anchorage to Kansas City despite Hannah's Diner being just 600 miles and a short flight from the college), they can interview a bunch of students who claim to have been abducted. The stories are all pretty much what you'd expect: missing time, bright lights, strange beings performing bizarre, invasive medical experiments, etc. Thankfully, beyond mentioning that a couple of the female victims insisted on pregnancy tests after their experiences (which came back negative), the adventure doesn't play up the creepy similarities to being roofied and assaulted.

Anyway, investigation leads to the realization that most of the abductions happened around the Old Kensington, a bar/music venue near campus. Deeper investigation reveals that a lot of the "abductions" happened in front of witnesses, who reported that the victims just seemed to zone out for a few seconds or minutes. This despite the fact that abductees report experiences lasting hours or days. Hmmm...

The whole thing wraps up rather abruptly: Turns out one of the waitresses at the Ole K is Bevery Saunders, the abductee with the Shared Vision powers from Chapter Seven. In times of stress her power activates uncontrollably, and what's actually happening is the "abductees" are reliving her memories of the abduction. It's a decently cool twist, and with more than 10 pages to build it up it could have been pretty cool.

Final Thoughts: And that's it for Aletheia. Despite my poking fun at some of its more out-there concepts, I still really like the game. It could have used a bit more editing for clarity in places, and the mechanics have a couple of less-than-elegant parts, but the secret history is pretty cool and the advice on structuring a campaign is some of the best GMing advice I've seen for this type of game. If you've got a group that likes fringe science and New Age philosophy, you could do a lot worse than a campaign of Aletheia. I do feel like, despite its claims in the introduction, this is a game that's not well-served by a one-shot. All of its really cool ideas require digging into the setting pretty deeply, it doesn't have a particularly strong selection of antagonists to hook into immediately, and honestly plenty of other games do paranormal investigation as well or better. This is definitely a game that benefits from the slow burn.

Right, then. What game should I do next? Aletheia was really interesting setting-wise but pretty bland mechanically, so I want to do something with a bit more mechanical pizazz. Currently I'm debating between:

Hollowpoint, the game of bad people doing bad things for bad reasons. Think The Expendables or comics like 100 Bullets or The Losers.

TechNoir, hard-boiled detective fiction in a dystopian near-future. If Dashiell Hammett wrote Cyberpunk 2020 games, it might look a lot like this.

Amaranthine, a game about serially reincarnating immortals and the bastards that love them. Best described as "like Highlander, but good."

GimpInBlack fucked around with this message at 23:16 on Jan 26, 2014

Aug 6, 2009

Technoir is great, and basically nails the feel of a Kovacs or Audran novel, and it would be cool if it got some exposure. On the other hand, I'd like to hear about the other two, especially Hollowpoint.

Dec 12, 2011

I'd take a crack at those pages because PUZZLES!!! but I'm not interested in a copy of Alethia.

I own Hollowpoint, and it's a pretty rad game that nails its core concept really well. But TechNoir sounds really cool. So those two.

Oct 14, 2011

The first highlander movie was awesome. Pity the others sucked. The series wasn't too bad, at least until they started going into magic and other such stuff.

So colour me interested in Aramanthine.

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.

Tasoth posted:

I'd take a crack at those pages because PUZZLES!!! but I'm not interested in a copy of Alethia.

Fair enough. Figure one out and I'll surprise you.

hectorgrey posted:

The first highlander movie was awesome. Pity the others sucked. The series wasn't too bad, at least until they started going into magic and other such stuff.

So colour me interested in Aramanthine.

If you weren't a fan of the magic and stuff, you might not be too fond of Amaranthine. It's definitely not your magic realism type of setting with only one supernatural conceit. I'd say it has a bit of a self-aware oWoD vibe to it, in that there's magic and secrecy aplenty in the shadows, but without the pretension that characterized a lot of the early White Wolf stuff.

GimpInBlack fucked around with this message at 21:06 on Jan 26, 2014


Dec 12, 2011

Page four has to deal with the world past the ocean which shores has the psychogundams on it. It also has to deal with the rotation through whatever layer that is that mirrors you, as well as being able to displace oneself from space-time and the ability to travel across the world once one passes through the lakes surface. So, I'm guessing that making it beneath the waves lets you time travel, warp through space and that Lam may have been Jesus.

You really don't have to get me anything, I have a backlog of games to read. I just really like puzzles.

  • Locked thread