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Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



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


Part 11i: The GodNet, v2.0: now with functionality!

A few months after the Cyberpapacy book was released (and even more months since the release of the core set), West End Games finally released the GodNet sourcebook. This doesn't seem like that much of a problem until you realize that, until the release of said book, the game didn't have the complete rules for running the GodNet, meaning that you didn't have the rules needed to take advantage of one of the Cyberpapacy's main selling points.

The GodNet book is a full supplement, and at about 90 pages is about the same size as the Cyberpapacy book itself. Unforunately, a lot of the book is padding. There's useful stuff like generic bad guys and net entities, but there's also a lot of stuff that is just reiterating fluff or stat blocks we've already seen in the main Cyberpapacy book. As a result, I'm going to skip talking about a good amount of this stuff because we've already seen it before.

Regardless, let's get into it.

The first chapter is just a rehashing of how Malraux invaded France, ran into Hachi Mara-Two in the dreamtime, got his axioms changed, and initiated the Tech Surge. This is like the fourth time this tale's been told so I don't know why they felt the need to tell it again except maybe to pad the page count.

Oh, and to show off more of that classic Torgian purple prose.

quote:

The Antipope of Avignon met the young woman upon the maelstrom bridge. She was small, wiry, full of coiled power.She was scantily dressed, with a wild mane of silver hair, and dark makeup masked her eyes. The true horror, as far as Malraux was concerned, was that parts of her body were made of metal. She was an abomination, an unholy combination of flesh and technology. What's more, she had the audacity to attack his person, as though the Pontiff of Avignon was a common brawler!

Claws snapped from her fingers and the young woman sliced at Malraux, cutting through his priestly raiments to expose the bare flesh of his back. She struck again, and the antipope felt the prickle of tiny needles upon his exposed skin. He swung wildly, a vicious back-hand slap that dropped the young woman to her knees. He saw others then, more stormers. He did not want to engage these heathens in physical confrontation. Not when he had other things to attend to. He called to his Darkness Device, and a spiral of light appeared beside him. He stepped into the glowing dimthread, then it retreated back toward his own bridge of light.

But the young woman was not done with Jean Malraux.

She was Dr. Hachi Mara·Two, a scientist from the cyber-world called Kadandra. It was Mara who first postulated the existence ofother cosms of reality to the World Council of Kadandra. She also warned of the first cosm contact, which saved. her world from the invading High Lord of Tharkold. When the war with Tharkold ended, Mara volunteered to travel to another cosm to aid it against similar invaders. This cosm was Earth. Mara brought with her a sensover chip of her world, virtual reality memories that she could plug into whenever homesickness got too bad. It was this chip, connected. to a modified jaz pack, that Mara attached to Jean Malraux's exposed back. With the use of the drug contained in the jaz pack, the virtual reality images could be viewed by anyone without the usually-necessary cyber enhancements. Mara triggered the remote switch, activating the jaz pack/sensover chip assembly.

And Jean Malraux dreamed.
It's worth pointing out that this is probably the most information we get on Kadandra throughout the whole game line, which is odd considering how important it is to the overall early metaplot and the Cyberpapacy in particular.

Chapter two is The Net from the Outside, and talks about how the GodNet interacts with the general public and how ubiquitous it is in everyone's life. (spoiler: it's part of everything)

Ever since the Tech Surge, the GodNet has become an integral part of life in CyberFrance. Every home, shop, school, and business has a GodNet connection as required by papal law. Even radio and television broadcasts are part of the GodNet.

Everyone uses the GodNet in one form or another, and doing so is treated as a religous experience. Cyberpapal iconography pervades every user experience from browsing internet sites to the fact that phone dial tones are psalms and hymns.

For 99% of the French population, using the GodNet consists of plugging a computer into an access jack and accessing the GodNet the same way we use the internet. You can browse sites, shop online, watch movies, and so on. Of course, everything is monitored by the Church and you can't access any telecommunications networks outside of France. In fact, you can't even create your own internal network by just hooking five terminals to a mainframe and calling it a day; networking any computers together, even in areas that hold Core Earth's axioms, has to be done by connecting to the GodNet thanks to the Darkness Device. All is One in the GodNet.

While the GodNet does cover all of the CyberPapal realm, the Church has begun spreading its influence throughout the rest of the world (primarily in Central and South America). To keep his agnets abroad in the loop, Malraux has begun setting up a satellite network called The Firmament that allows GodNet signals to connect to areas outside of France.

But again, most GodNet activity happens in the realm itself. Most of the general public accesses the GodNet through dumb terminals that are basically just a PC that's only capable of running the equivalent of a web browser. You don't have to plug your head into it to use it, and you can only do things like check your email, watch HolyVids, chat, or go shopping. People who're a bit further up on the economic totem pole (or who own businesses) can afford smart terminals, which are closer to what we think of as computers; these are machines capable of running actual software and doing office work or data management.

Very few honest citizens own cyberdecks, mainly because they don't need them. Outside of Cyberpapal personel and hackers, very few people need the level of interface that involves a full virtual interface. Not to mention that legally owning a cyberdeck still puts you under suspicion and scrutiny by the Church.

Before we leave this chapter, it's worth pointing out again that the Cyberpapal axioms have worked their way back to Magna Verita. The Avignon bridge serves as a metaphysical network cable between the two realities, but Malraux has been very careful when it comes to revealing the new technologies to his home reality, but is still primarily focusing on Core Earth.

Chapter Three is The Net from the Inside, and this is where we start getting into the mechanical chunks of the GodNet.

Well, after two pages of fluff and unnessecary detail, anyway. There's a page describing someone's experience jacking into the GodNet and getting nailed by a security program five seconds later, and another page of detail nobody needed about jacking in and the cybernetic systems needed and blah blah blah.

It does give us this line, which may be the best thing in the whole book:

quote:

In the words of an anonymous decker posted in the electronic mail: "Leave your body at the interface port, and let your mind out for a run..."
Oh, the 90's. You were a different time. :allears:

Anyway, once you're jacked in you get a virtual body created from your personal self-image. Your virtual self looks like you (unless you have software to alter it), and you have access to all your normal skills.



And again, because God loving forbid anything in Torg is explained in a logical order, between saying that you have all your skills and what that means in the GodNet we get this description of what jacking in looks like.

quote:

He first finds himself upon a glowing datapath that leads to the local Holy Exchange church. He quickly realizes that the path is but one of thousands upon thousands of pulsating lines running haphazardly across a huge glowing cross. The decker is connected to the path by a gossamer strand that tugs him toward the Holy Exchange for clearance and routing. Beyond the local exchange, rising like a tower toward heaven, is Babel Central, located at the junction of the arms of the cross.
And now we talk more about virual selves. When you jack in, your virtual self will have tools based on your skills and self-image. If you're a soldier, for example, your fire combat skill will manifest as a rifle, or your land vehicles skill will mean you have a virtual jeep. This means that you can use your item-based skills normally in the GodNet so at least you're not boned when it comes to doing, well, anything. Inherent abilities like spells, miracles, and pulp powers also function in the GodNet.

However, they might not work as well because all your skills in the GodNet are based off your Perception or Mind instead of their normal stats. Unsuprisingly, the details on this aren't given until later on in the book.

Now that we know how to get in, now we learn about getting out of the GodNet. Even though logging in always takes you to the nearest Data Cathedral, logging out can be done anywhere as long as you're not inside a data construct (which, again, we don't learn about until later).

And now we get to the "percieved geography" of the GodNet. If you ever played one of the early cyberpunk games in the late 80's/early 90's, then this is gonna look a bit familiar.

As stated previously, the GodNet is both the actual telecommunications network of France as well as a pocket dimension created by Ebenuscrux. It appears to jacked-in users as an infinite swirling blackness with the various datapaths and virtual structures just hanging in space. Every virtual construct that exists in the GodNet, regardless of its origin or purpose, appears as a cross between medieval religous structures and 90's neon cyberpunk design.

The most common type of contruct is a datapath, which represents the "telephone lines and microwave transmissions" that carry data from one place to the next. The only way to get anywhere in the GodNet is by taking a datapath, and in fact the only thing you can do on a datapath is travel. No combat, no interaction, just going from point A to point B.

And now it's time to talk about constructs. Constructs are representations of computer networks, and are pretty much what you go into the GodNet to hack into.

quote:

Within theGodNet, constructs take on an appearance that reflects their size. The larger the computer system housed by the construct, the more impressive it appears. They can appear as glowing Gothic churches, cathedrals, fortresses, manor houses, castles, or other buildings. The size of a system usually reflects its importance within the Cyberpapaey. Small, rural churches have small computer systems. Avignon, with its huge computers and countless work stations, has two constructs within theGooNet: the Avignon data fortress and Babel Central.
The various systems in a construct are represented by cells, and this is where the crunch begins.

Cells are the building blocks of constructs. There are different types of cells, each with its own function. And in gaming terms, each one is basically a room in a "dungeon" that the hacker has to deal with to get to where he's going.

That's right, it's time to start building the Netrunner's Magical Side Adventure!

There are seven types of cells:
  • Log-on cells are the only ways in to or out of a construct.
  • Common cells represent general use systems. Virtual meeting rooms, theaters, things like that.
  • Defense cells contain guardian programs.
  • Core cells represent the CPU. Hacking these can give you control over parts of the construct: viewing system maps, turning datapaths on and off, cancel alerts, etc.
  • Slave cells connect to meatspace items like security or factory manufactuing systems.
  • Vaults are just data storage.
  • Work Stations connect to dumb terminals and allow people to access the construct without a cyberdeck.
All cells in a construct are connected by datapaths, and can be secured by gates or seals; gates just need passwords, but seals are keyed to specific virtual images. Sort of a virtual fingerprint lock. Of course, you can hack your way through them. Oh, and some gates can be hidden from users so you get to search for secret doors too.

In addition, every cell can have a security rating, which is the difficulty of any rolls made to access that cell's functions. Each cell has a list of things you can do in it mechanically if you can beat that rating. The Core is the most involved; from there you can get system maps, shut other cells on and off, fiddle with security gates, and so on. Everything else has fewer options since the other cells are so focused; for instance, all you can do in a data vault is upload or download files.

And how do we set up these constructs? By drawing intricate maps, of course!


The building blocks of the internet

The idea is that every data construct is mapped out like this. You need a connection from Babel Central to a Cathedral Exchange or Church Exchange to the log-on cell, and from there you move through the system like an old-fashioned dungeon crawl.


A small data construct


A large data construct

And yes, the GM is exected to map these systems out in full. Pre-written adventures have them made for you, and the GodNet book gives you some standard designs for common construct types, but you still need whole maps for whenever someone wants to go digitally dumpster-diving.

Those of you who played the early cyberpunk games in the first half of the 90's recognize this problem. In order to emulate the source fiction, hacking wasn't handled with a single roll, but was instead done with systems like this. The GM would have a big data structure the hacker had to slowly work his way through one piece at a time, fighting security programs, hacking through firewalls, and so on.

Meanwhile, as the hacker is having his Magical Computerland Side Adventure that could end up taking two hours of real time, the rest of the players are sitting there twiddling their thumbs. This is because of another genre-emulation idea where time in netspace happens at the "speed of thought", so even if the hackventure takes two hours of the session, in game-time it's supposed to take like two minutes. And since there's not much the meatspace characters can do in two minutes, you ended up with everyone getting pissed at the decker because it took him half a session to defeat a password lock on a door.

Amazingly, Torg came up with a very simple solution for this problem: actions in the GodNet take place on the same time-scale as actions outside of it. If the hacker needs ten minutes to get to the cell that controls the security door, the rest of the characters have ten minutes to prep for what's on the other side (or hold off the meatspace security forces they're trying to escape from). There's no thing of most of the group sitting around and waiting for the hacker to do his thing.

In-universe, the reason the GodNet works at this speed is so that the time dilation between normal human perception and the standard-issue "internet speed" don't screw with people's heads. Regardless of how little people like Malraux care about the people under them, it's hard to keep your workforce effective when they spend eight virtual hours working in the GodNet, disconnecting, realizing that only took half an hour in realspace, and then slowly going insane because the constant perception shifts are loving with their heads.

The next section is about how the game rules work in the GodNet, but this again feels like padding because a lot of it could be summed up in a table. It's mostly "the net <skill> is based off <this stat> instead of <normal stat>" stuff, so I don't know why it needed three pages of that. The short form is that everything works off the Mind and Perception stats.

One important thing to note is that damage in the GodNet is mental damage, not physical, and as such can only be healed with the psychology skill.

Magic and miracles still work in the GodNet, so if you want to be a spell-slinging decker you can do that no problem.



Well, okay, a little problem or two. The biggest problem is that any spell or miracle that targets something physical will just flat-out not work in the GodNet because there's no physicality there. You can't use a spell to blast a firewall off its hinges or fry a security program to a crisp because they don't have physical forms for the spell to latch on to. The other problem is that magic (not miracles) effect values are limited by your stats, so you can't get super-high spell result rolls.

And from there we go to Running the GodNet. Which starts with a page of "why do people run the GodNet" because I guess people couldn't understand why you want to hack into the evil controlling government's computer systems without help.

In keeping with the scattershot presentation, the next section is about being detected in the GodNet, and talks about Guardians, a concept introduced about 10 pages ago and aren't explained in detail for another 20 or so. Dammit why can't they keep this stuff all in one place! :argh:

Guardians are basically security software or net entities. A cell can have a Guardian attached to it, and it'll stay there until an alarm is raised or until it detects someone who's not supposed to be in the cell. Some Guardians will stay put, others are able to move through the system after hackers. I'll talk more about them in the next post.

Anyway, when you try to move past a Guardian, you have to make a net stealth roll against its net find. If it sees you it'll attack, and if you screw around in the system enough (and fail rolls) it can get bonuses to its rolls to detect you.

See, every time you try to manipulate a cell and fail, you create a net blip equal to the amount you failed by. The net blip is added to a Guardian's detection roll, but the GM also gets to roll to see if you're detected by any jackpriests when you create the blip. A jackpriest or whoever will only scan for three rounds ever (it says so in the rules), and if he doesn't see you his AI resets and he presumably goes back to his set-path searching pattern.

If you are detected, then the jackpriest will start a trace on you, at which point the alarms are sounded and and the Guardians in the system start actively looking for you. How long this takes depends on how good you are at avoiding and stealthing past people, but remember that you can't log out of the GodNet while in a construct and while you're running for the exit the Church Police are homing in on your meatspace body.

The remainder of the chapter is about running with multiple deckers linking their decks together. Turns out can actually bring non-deckers along with you on a run via TempTrodes, but they can't take any actions in the GodNet. They can use their skills to aid the decker's rolls, though.

Deckers can also "run duo", which means they network their decks together and run as one "entity". Doing this allows them to access programs on each others' decks, but they appear in the GodNet as one single entity, and can't do things like split up.

I am only halfway through this book. And this why I thank God that Shadowrun ended up paring this poo poo down to a single hacking roll because good lord this poo poo is complex.

NEXT TIME: Hardware and the app store!

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Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




I only just finished Purple's Kult review, and drat. When I was getting into RPGs in the 90s, using a dialup modem to find out about games beyond the handful I already knew, Kult seemed like a big deal. What little I could learn about it certainly seemed shocking; more extreme and bizarre than the World of Darkness. But the review gives me the impression that there's just not a lot of there there. System-wise, there are lots of rules for magic and madness that aren't balanced and don't work. Setting-wise, there's a bunch of otherworlds full of otherworldly monsters, with the expectation that the PCs will go after them with machineguns and super-karate. But they don't seem to have any hook that motivates them to do so, besides the instruction that every player should create a PC with a dark curse or secret. (Then again, Everlasting is much the same sort of big, dry, shallow sandbox. The author wanted to base the game on suspenseful, personal, psychological body horror, but also on a bunch of late-night direct-to-video Z-grade schlock.)

I feel strange for having grouped Kult with games that seemed like they were dripping with atmosphere even if the execution was hazy, like Immortal, SLA, and Heresy. I guess a lot of it is down to the fact that discovering new games really was different when I was young--assuming you couldn't afford to just buy any book you wanted, learning about games through rumours, forums, fan pages, and advertising had a (admittedly frustrating) mystery that you don't experience now that you can Google any book you're curious about and find reviews, previews, social media profiles, creator blogs, etc.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Man, when you compare infavorably to Shadowrun for complexity...

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Mors Rattus posted:

Man, when you compare infavorably to Shadowrun for complexity...

First edition Shadowrun. And I haven't even gotten into software or net beings yet.

FMguru
Sep 10, 2003

peed on;
sexually

Kult always seemed like an effort to do Call of Cthulhu but with 80s-90s Cliver Barker splatterpunk instead of 20s-30s HP Lovecraft cosmic horror, combined with the late 1980s desire to make modern-era RPGs as detailed and "realistic" as possible with respect to guns and explosives (to be fair, there's an element of CoC fandom that really likes giant detailed weapon lists as well). And you're right, even with the supplements it really seemed like a big box of assorted parts that you were expected to assemble a campaign framework out of.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




FMguru posted:

Kult always seemed like an effort to do Call of Cthulhu but with 80s-90s Cliver Barker splatterpunk instead of 20s-30s HP Lovecraft cosmic horror, combined with the late 1980s desire to make modern-era RPGs as detailed and "realistic" as possible with respect to guns and explosives (to be fair, there's an element of CoC fandom that really likes giant detailed weapon lists as well).
That's just so 90s, though. Like of course Shadowrun and SLA had lots of weapons and gear, but it seems like every 90s modern RPG had to have a long list of guns that dutifully kept track of their caliber, firing mode, weight, and magazine capacity, even if combat in that game wasn't complex. WoD, Everlasting, and Immortal are all guilty of this, just off the top of my head.

FMguru posted:

And you're right, even with the supplements it really seemed like a big box of assorted parts that you were expected to assemble a campaign framework out of.
There's a lot of stuff you can do in Kult's world. Fight a cult, protect people from Azghouls, negotiate with Metropolis denizens, maybe something huge and metaplotty like killing Archons/Death Angels and finding God. But not only do the rules facilitate it, the PCs aren't given any hooks that are built into the setting. Torg PCs are Storm Knights, SLA PCs are Ops, all the WoD games have cultures of monsters who want you to be their butt monkey. Kult PCs are just sort of lying around loose until the GM welds them onto a plot.

Halloween Jack fucked around with this message at 16:33 on Apr 6, 2015

FMguru
Sep 10, 2003

peed on;
sexually

Halloween Jack posted:

That's just so 90s, though. Like of course Shadowrun and SLA had lots of weapons and gear, but it seems like every 90s modern RPG had to have a long list of guns that dutifully kept track of their caliber, firing mode, weight, and magazine capacity, even if combat in that game wasn't complex. WoD, Everlasting, and Immortal are all guilty of this, just off the top of my head.
Vampire's combat rules and weapon lists weren't that extensive, but one of the best selling supplements for the line was WORLD OF DARKNESS: COMBAT just in case you needed rules for a half-dozen different models of Light Antitank Rocket in your game of undead court politics.

Kult's weapon rules were just so weird and out of place. Like, someone saw Jacob's Ladder and thought that the only way that movie could have been better was if there had been a five minute scene where someone set up claymore trip mines with overlapping fields of effect.

Giant, unnecessary weapons charts go back to the dawn of the hobby, as anyone who has ever had to choose between a glaive-gusiarme and a bardiche can tell you.

Terrible Opinions
Oct 17, 2013





Let me tell you about a game called Song of Swords.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



FMguru posted:

Vampire's combat rules and weapon lists weren't that extensive, but one of the best selling supplements for the line was WORLD OF DARKNESS: COMBAT just in case you needed rules for a half-dozen different models of Light Antitank Rocket in your game of undead court politics.
That was the one that repurposed the Street Fighter RPG system to WoD, in case you wanted to have your werewolf enter a martial arts tournament or something.

The 1e Vampire Player's Guide was the one that added all the heavy weaponry.

Green Intern
Dec 29, 2008

Loon, Crazy and Laughable



Evil Mastermind posted:

Correct.

Also correct.

Correct. And even if you kill the High Lord, a lot of the Devices have other candidates they've been eyeing just in case. For instance, Baruk Kaah's DD hates him, and after Kaah starts losing it begins looking for a replacement, so even if you took Kaah out the Darkness Device would just teleport and bond to someone else.


Sort of. The're an adventure called "High Lord of Earth" where you have to stop one of the big NPCs from finding Core Earth's Darkness Device.

Spoilers for late-game-line stuff I'm going to cover eventually: There's an adventure that was done episodically in the newsletter where you get to watch Baruk Kaah defeat himself, and in the game-line-ending adventure "War's End" you actually get to fight the Gaunt Man assuming you don't get greased by the scenes beforehand where you fight literally hundreds of P-rated troops. I'm not even exagerating.

It really sounds like the Torg writers didn't want the players to win.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

Holding out for a TV deal.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Green Intern posted:

It really sounds like the Torg writers didn't want the players to win.
I don't know about that, but as I've said in the past I always felt like the Torg writers really wanted to be writing fiction because even the adventures are written with almost no realization of what would happen if the PCs didn't stick to the "script" or fail vital rolls. There are scenes that require the PCs to make rolls to have the plot keep happening or to trigger a cutscene, but they never seem to even be aware of the possibility of people not making those rolls.

And technically speaking the PCs can "win" War's End, but the way it happens is still along the lines of "we have decided how this whole thing will pan out narratively so your PCs will have to just follow along". And the only reason the PCs can win is because a major setting NPC shows up to give them the thing the PCs need to win. Nothing the PCs do up to that point matter towards victory or defeat because nothing matters until they get handed the MacGuffin.

Seriously, I've run organized play adventures that have more PC freedom than some of these Torg adventures.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Evil Mastermind posted:

That was the one that repurposed the Street Fighter RPG system to WoD, in case you wanted to have your werewolf enter a martial arts tournament or something.

The 1e Vampire Player's Guide was the one that added all the heavy weaponry.
I'd play the poo poo out of Tenkaichi Garoudokai. I don't even mean that ironically; I played the SF RPG at a con and it was fluid, easy, fun and flavorful. You might have to rework how Rage works...

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Even if I found the Cyberpapacy interesting, I'd lose interest the second I saw A: The system it's attached to and B: All that standard 'You cannot do anything, watch our cool characters fight.' 90s metaplot. I mean, yes, it's easy as hell to ignore that kind of stuff (I went through a phase as a younger DM when I liked to run adventures specifically about the PCs getting to man up and shoot invincible setting NPCs in the face) but at that point, why play the game? Why not write your own thing if the system doesn't work and you have to rewrite the entire story and setting to not follow the authors' script?

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012

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


Nessus posted:

I'd play the poo poo out of Tenkaichi Garoudokai. I don't even mean that ironically; I played the SF RPG at a con and it was fluid, easy, fun and flavorful. You might have to rework how Rage works...

I have some good news and bad news for you.
Good news: Bloody Roar Exists
Bad News: It's not particularly exceptional beyond the fact that it's a fighting game where you're a were-whatever
Worse News: There hasn't been a game in this series since 2003 and there probably won't be a new one since Hudson Soft was absorbed into Konami before they could get funding for it.

Kurieg fucked around with this message at 17:37 on Apr 6, 2015

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Night10194 posted:

Even if I found the Cyberpapacy interesting, I'd lose interest the second I saw A: The system it's attached to and B: All that standard 'You cannot do anything, watch our cool characters fight.' 90s metaplot. I mean, yes, it's easy as hell to ignore that kind of stuff (I went through a phase as a younger DM when I liked to run adventures specifically about the PCs getting to man up and shoot invincible setting NPCs in the face) but at that point, why play the game? Why not write your own thing if the system doesn't work and you have to rewrite the entire story and setting to not follow the authors' script?

I think the easiest fix would have been to present the High Lords as goals you have to work your way up to as opposed to untouchable evil gods. Yeah, you still need to take back territory and deal with their schemes, but there should have been a way to actually weaken the guys so that groups could deal with the overall threats as they saw fit.

I mean, hell, the Gaunt Man was taken out in the novels, and he's more powerful than all the other High Lords by a pretty wide margin. Why not let the PCs be that awesome? Yeah, taking out the Gaunt Man didn't get rid of Orrorsh but it did halt its spread and threw his forces into infighting disarray.

On top of that, defeating a High Lord isn't the end of the battle. You took out Malraux? Good job. Of course, the realm still exists, the world in and around France has kind of adapted to the new beneficial technology available, the insanely powerful evil artifact is still out there, and it's probably already found someone to take Malraux's place. Defeating the High Lord doesn't mean you win everything. That's a hell of a lot more interesting than just makign them unbeatable.

GimpInBlack
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.




GLORY posted:

Do you yearn to portray the passionate and harrowing drama of awesome Immortals in a secret supernatural world? Does your heart sing the ancient aphotic melody of ’90s storytelling? Does endless fire burn within you to make an everlasting mark on this Darkest Cosmos? If you meet another Immortal in on a windswept street, do you fight with swords as your way of saying hello?

That’s because you’re a badass, and this book wants to be your best friend and squire. Katanas & Trenchcoats is your personal Egyptian Scots-Spaniard on this deep narrative journey. It presents for you—just you because you’re special—a totally unique system that isn’t at all ripping off countless other roleplaying games.

So gaze into this abyss, and let it gaze lovingly back. It wants to be a vessel for your truth. Open your heart and live the Immortal dream of the ’90s now!

Harken, Immortals, for the time has come to emerge from the tenebrous dissimulation of your shadowy lair and take your place as the trench coated, be-katana'd badasses that you truly are. The time has come for a revolution in roleplaying that will change the very face of the 90s. The time has come for Katanas & Trenchcoats - Episode 1: Welcome to Darkest Vancouver.

You're Welcome.

For those who dare to take this journey with me, follow these winding trails through the digital maze of the Netrealm:

The Basic Edition will provide you with what you require to essay the tragic stories of the Undying Ones. Should your immortality trend toward more rarefied tastes, however, you may desire the Premium Edition which, aside from being personally watermarked for you and you alone, grants its owner a +1 Grandeur Rank. (Have no fear, Grandeur Rank shall be discussed anon.)

Alas, like all things that dwell within the Realms Mortal, the time of the Immortal Edition has come and gone. And yet, like its namesake, might it not rise again? Time will tell....

And now, let us crack the spine and drink deep of the storytelling marrow that dwells within. Prepare yourselves for immortality.

Part the First: Forged from Stardust and Ancient Fire

Immortals walk among us, ruling from the shadows. There they do battle with rivals, friends and erstwhile lovers, masking the pain of an endless existence behind a facade of stoic hedonism. Since swordfights, emotions, and ruling from the shadows are the ingredients that make for the richest stories of all, Katanas and Trenchcoats takes its inspiration from those secret princes of the universe who truly live in our world. Whether 'tis meant as a tribute to their glory or to expose their secrets to those mortals who yet slumber, who can truly say?

And what even is an immortal? Even among themselves, that knowledge is shrouded in mystery. They have come among us in every era of history, moving silently down through the centuries. Immune to such tawdry frailties as age, sickness, and injury, they live forever--unless another immortal takes their head. Immortals know this deed as "perma-killing," and it is the engine that drives the drama of their lives. Can you even imagine it? Knowing that at any moment your dearest friend, your sweetest lover, might strike off your head for the power contained within--or even that you might do the same? That's roleplaying. Other games might let you kill a dragon--this game lets you slay a dragon and then shed a single tear over it. Deep.

The great tragedy of Immortalkind is that they are, to a one, sterile. No Immortal will ever know the joy of holding their infant child in their arms, or seeing her grow into a properly badass swordswoman in her own right. On the other hand, this means Immortals can have all the consequence-free sex they want. (STIs, naturally, are only a concern for mortals.) That's how you give a character rich, inner conflict. Give them a curse that is also a blessing. I might have to take a break here, folks, because my mind is seriously blown. But no! We must press on.

Yearning for companionship and understanding, Immortals congregate in various Houses, which they call their Genus. The Houses define a great deal about their members, and their number are:
  • House Canis, the House of the Wolf, are lone wolves, forever outside society. Social creatures forced to live in isolation, they find purpose in their loneliness, undertaking great quests, fulfilling sacred oaths, or merely preying on the mortal flock. Of them, the Immortals say "a Wolf's loyalty is forever."
  • House Corvus, the House of the Raven, delve into arcane lore and ancient mysteries. "Dark are the Corvids' souls," the Immortals say, "and darker still their lore."
  • House Felis, the House of the Cat, are stealthy, sometimes cruel, hunters, thieves, and sensualists. "Curiosity kills the cat, but satisfaction always brings it back," as the saying goes. Years ago, someone leaked this saying into the society of slumbering mortals, but it has always been about Felis.
  • House Orphis, the House of the Serpent, are masters of disguise and deception. They were once feared and worshipped openly, and have never forgotten it. If the other Houses say anything about them, none dare to record it here.
  • House Ursus, the House of the Bear, are fierce, proud warriors, but also healers and protectors. Many tales link them with Artorius, the Bear-King of Camelot. "Never awaken a sleeping Bear," the Immortals say.
This is seriously an amazing idea. Your character isn't defined by some baked-in "class" that dictates what you can and can't do, some one-dimensional "role" in a "party" of "adventurers," but rather by who she is in the depths of her soul. Like, you could play an Ursus who doesn't know how to fight, or a Corvus who can't read if you want to. Just think of the story hooks!

Speaking of story hooks, we're also treated to brief summaries of Houses Minor and the three Lost Houses: House Pistrix are madmen, shunned by Immortal society for their horrifying customs. Every Immortal knows that the proper way to perma-kill an Immortal is to take their head in the street, but Pistrix prefers to bite them off. Gross. House Acerodon is a little-known house that does little, but may have connections to vampires. That's right: this game has vampires too.

The Lost Houses include House Gallus, who were destroyed in an orgy of violence, House Anatidae, who disappeared mysteriously, and House Meleagri, who are not so much lost as newly found. They claim to be Anatidae returned and even call Gallus their ancestors, but their goals remain mysterious--at least, here in Episode 1.

Part the Second: Immortalizing Yourself


Pictured: Majesty.

What You Need to Play posted:

The usual stuff: character sheets and pencils. Each player needs 8–10 d10s. But, really, you can borrow that poo poo. The one thing you must bring that’s uniquely yours is your awesome. Nobody can give you that. Yes, play the laconic antihero. Yes, brood over inner tragedy. Yes, of course it’s snowing softly as you duel your sworn enemy against a backdrop of snowcapped mountains. Revel in it. Embrace it. Bring. Your. Awesome.

Welcome to a character creation section that will blow your mind. You might be reaching for your dice right now to start "rolling up" a character. :siren:STOP!:siren: In Katanas and Trenchcoats, the greatest emphasis is placed upon your Saga, or "Personal Bullshit" as it's sometimes known. You'll start by rolling 3d10 to determine the year of your immortal birth. You may arrange the dice in whatever order you like, and use good roleplaying to determine the thousands digit or BCE suffix.

Next you must inscribe the saga of your history in five parts. As we all know when writing character backgrounds, more is more. The quality of your backstory determines your starting Grandeur Rank, so don't skimp here! Your Saga encompasses the following richly-detailed aspects of your story:
  • Personal Tragedy: The one great loss that you brood over while Evanescence plays softly over the rain-slick streets. The story that makes people tear up, then sleep with you, when you finally bare your soul to them.
  • Badass Rep: What you're known for in Immortal circles. Your rep can get you laid, so make sure it's suitably impressive. And remember that it's Badass Rep, so be badass.
  • Inner Deal: The secret truth at the heart of your character. See, when a character presents one face to the world but is actually completely different on the inside, that's multifaceted depth. This should be kept close to your soul at all times, only to be revealed in soliloquy form just before you get laid.
  • Historical Influence: As an Immortal, you've naturally been present at many important historical events and slept with many famous historical figures, and this is where you get to brag about them.
  • Origin Story: The tragic, badass, or tragically badass tale of how you became Immortal
Again, you want to write as much as possible for each category. If you sadly haven't been touched with Apollo's gift, your Story Master SM for short, and how cool is that? It's note Game Master, because this isn't a game. It's a story, with real depth and maturity and heads getting cut off. Plus, SM sounds kind of like S&M, and that's hot.) may be convinced to accept spontaneous soliloquies or epic YouTube videos. Naturally, at this point you'll want to choose your name, and then you're ready to begin assigning your statistics.

Stay thine hand from yon dice, knave! For Katanas & Trenchcoats is not content to merely hand you a pile of random numbers and force you to eke character from chaos. Nay, this system personally hand-crafts your character along with you, as though you were Hanzo himself and the text your able apprentice, working the bellows and keeping the flames hot. The flames are inspiration. That's right, you actually get to pick your own stats in Katanas & Trenchcoats.

First you'll define the five Traits common to all Immortals: Awesome Sword, Ancient Memories, Raging Passion, Mystical Talents, and Kickass Wardrobe. You'll choose one to rate at three Marks, two at two Marks, and the rest at one. It's considered good roleplaying to rename one or two of these to reflect your personal character. Perhaps your Ancient Memories are Memories of Old Paris or your Awesome Sword is Durandal, Which Roland Gifted Me on the Field of Ronceveaux.

Next are Skills, which we'll discuss anon. All Immortals begin with Fight at 3 Marks, this is the Immortal's Essential Skill. You may choose one further Skill at 3 Marks now; the rest you actually rate as you play. The first time you roll a new Skill, you decide what your character's rank in it is (four skills at 2 Marks, the rest at 1). Your character actually adapts to the game, like a master of kenjutsu shifting seamlessly into the Jodan stance to counter an enemy's attack.

You may further define your character by choosing Edges. Edges are cool tricks and special talents that mess with the rules. Immortals are double-edged characters, so they receive two Edges. However, if you were lucky enough to roll triple-digits when you determined your Birth Year, you are tripleedged and may select three.

Now comes the most important stat in the game, for it is the stat you, the player, share with your character. Grandeur Rank is the mark of good roleplaying, the measure of your commitment to the chronicle of a brooding Immortal, and the roll of your awesomeness. Your starting Grandeur Rank is determined by your Saga: a sentence in each category earns you a Grandeur Rank of 1, paragraphs are worth 2, and so n, up to epic poetry being worth 4 Grandeur Ranks. You'll earn additional Grandeur for drawing your character, dressing as your character, bringing your actual Awesome Sword to the game, and so on. However, bad roleplaying will cost you Grandeur Ranks, so don't suck.

Finally, you must name your Throne of Comfort. This is the one thing so important to you that a threat to it would spur you to immediate action. Don't worry though, this is just for roleplaying--the SM would never actually threaten it. And with that, you have forged your Immortal hero! Or perhaps... villain?

Part the Third: Rules That Bind the Cosmos


Pictured: Immortality.

Katanas and Trenchcoats employs a system that is sheer elegance in its simplicity. When your Immortal desires to undertake an action, you assemble a dice pool equal to your Marks in a Trait + a Skill. Your opposition has a chance to respond with an action of her own (if there is no direct opposition, the SM sets a difficulty between 1 and 10 and rolls that many dice). Any die showing 7-0 is a success, and whoever rolls the most successes wins, with the difference in successes determining the degree of their victory. The three types of actions available are Attack (striking to wound with the Fight Skill), Boost (create an advantage for a follow-up action; spendng a Boost gives you two free successes), and Push, which is the catch-all for "doing something." And yes, you can respond to Arttacks with your own Attack. That's badass.

Combat follows much the same system, with liberal use of Attack actions to inflict Wounds. When an Immortal has filled her last Wound box, she is vanquished, and her vanquisher may choose from one of several fates, including killing her, demanding some immediate concession, or taking a Trophy. Fortunately, Immortals heal quickly. All normal Wounds go away after a few moments of rest. If you die, though, you suffer a Hardcore Wound, because dying and coming back to life is the definition of Hardcore. Hardcore Wounds only go away if you undertake an epic quest. If you fill your Wound Track with Hardcore Wounds, you're critically vulnerable. You can't Attack, and even a single Wound will put you down.

Ah, but what of Perma-death? That black doom is present here as well. When an Immortal is killer, her slayer may attempt to take her head. Doing so requires critical success on a roll of a Trait + the Will Skill, opposed by the victim's Will + 1 die per non-Hardcore Wound currently marked. (So a fresh Immortal with no Hardcore Wounds yet adds 5 dice, but a critically vulnerable one must resist with Will alone.)

Sometimes the rules will call for a character to Break a Trait, rendering it temporarily unavailable. There is only one way to restore a Broken Trait, which Immortals name Resverie. During this state, an Immortal's past sins and failures return to haunt her. She and the SM (and the other players, perhaps) play out a flashback scene of one of the lowest moments of her Immortal life. When these scene is resolved and the character developed to everyone's satisfaction, the Resverie ends and all Broken Traits are restored.

THEME SONGS MAKE YOUR GAME posted:

You literally can’t have a good game without a loving awesome soundtrack, got that? Here’s how music works in Katanas & Trenchcoats. Every player should bring their favorite song. The song can be about their character, nay, should embody the very essence of character. The best songs grant +1 Grandeur.

When stuff gets intense, any player can call for a song. Play a random song. Whoever’s song it is gets a Boost while that song’s playing. If you’re sexing when your song plays, double the results of your Sex Moves roll. (Yes, always call for a song when you’re getting lucky.)

Pick any song for your character’s theme, but like, don’t pick anything that sucks. That’s bad roleplaying. Start with Queen or the Crystal Method or N.W.A. and work out from there. Or check out the YouTube playlist at SoManyKatanas.com.

Part the Fourth: Skills and Mastercraft Actions

As you can see the Skill list on the Immortal Record Sheet available at http://somanykatanas.com I won't repeat them here, except to mention that the Knowledge Skill is split into five categories: Academics, Politics, Secret Lore, Street, and Damascus Steel Production.

Here we also get rules for such vital elements of roleplaying games as rolling to find hidden clues and influencing people. Also, to prove that this is a game for mature minds, there are actually rules for what happens when you have sex. (Spoiler alert: You roll off and whoever gets the most successes has the best sex.) If anyone rolls a 1, the sex is interrupted by something batshit crazy, like ninjas or your ex.

Part the Fifth: The Darkest Cosmos

The Darkest Cosmos takes the world you know, the Boring-rear end Timeline, and peels it back to reveal the Supernatural Underneath. It's a world where every organization is puppeteered by shadowy puppeteers, where every club has a secret sex dungeon under it that only the darkest and most beautiful are invited to, and where magic lurks just out of sight of slumbering Mortals who are just too dumb to Get It. Poor mundanes. The capital of the Darkest Cosmos is Darkest Vancouver, and its turgid, throbbing heart is the Granville Entertainment District. Moreover, Glamour cloaks Vancouver in a rich, heady stew of illusion, showing he city's chimerical face and drawing film and television production from all over the world. It's the city on the edge of the world, with the best view of the coming Apocalypse, and there's room for a thousand thousabd stories in its shadown alleyways.


The immaculately-researched skyline of Darkest Vancouver.

Part the Sixth: Dancers in a Perilous Tango
Here we meet many of the great powers of the Darkest Cosmos. I'll tell you no secrets, but herein you might encounter the Royal Mounted Black Ops Task Force or the mysterious Team Nunchuck. You might dance the night away at Scars Sub Rosa, or stumble across the secrets of the Illuminated Council of the New Future... secrets they might kill for.

FULIGINOUS CITADEL: IRELAND posted:

Ireland, or Tír na nÓg in the whispers of supernaturals, is the threshold of the Faery realm—a threshold drenched in blood and terror. The land is bitterly divided between Catholic native and Protestant invader, from the capital Dublin (Tara in the true tongue) to the other cities and villages. If you hail from this ancient land, you have red hair and alcoholism and totally wield a traditional claymore. (It’s cool; an actual Irish writer wrote this. That makes insulting and appropriating their culture okay, right?)

Part the Seventh: Playing Other Supernaturals

Ah, so the siren song of Immortality calls not to you? Have no fear, for Katanas & Trenchcoats accomodates your most forbidden desires. Herein you'll find rules for playing Vampires, Werebeasts, Technomages, Ghosts, and the Fey-Touched. Each takes the basic template of Immortality and adjusts it slightly at various steps: changing elements of the Saga, replacing Traits, providing new Essential Skills, and so on.

The Fae-touched, for example, replace Ancient Memories and Mystical Talents with Faerie Marks and Wyrd Bonds, have L.C.S. (Lie, Cheat, Steal) as their Essential Skill, and can be perma-killed only by weapons of cold steel. Later Episodes, we're promised, will cover Demons, Mummies, Sorcerers, Nephilim, Paladins, Mutants, Orcs, Urban Shamans, Avatars, Dragonkin, Visible Clergy, Halflings, Pre-Ghosts, and more!

Part the Eighth: Being A drat Story Master

Alas, I took an oath and dare not reveal the Story Mastering secrets where a mere player might chance upon them. Rest assured, however, that they are masterful.

Part the Ninth: Armory: Edges

Here at last are presented the secrets of Immortal power: the Edges that make your character cooler than everyone else's. You might be the Inheritor of the Dragon Spirit, possess Deadly Hanzo Steel, or even have a Majestic Accent. Herein observe a sampling:

Deadly Hanzo Steel posted:

Every Immortal bears a Awesome Sword, but yours is told in story and in song. 6s count as successes when you wield your blade against someone who knows its legend. Requires: Awesome Sword 2+ and a poem about the deadly beauty of your blade.

Part the Tenth and Final: LARP Rules, Part One

You know this is what you wanted. Rules for not just portraying your Immortal, but embodying her in that most mature of hobbies, Live-Action Roleplaying. The LARP rules for Katanas & Trenchcoats replace the simple, elegant dice pool system with a simple and elegant Rock Paper Scissors system. Those with advanced Traits and Skills (3+) may employ additional hand-signs granting them an edge. For example, in a Will Challenge, Immortals with a Will of 3 or more may throw the Horns, which lose only to the Anvil and the Fist. Further LARP rules will be presented in future Episodes.

And here, dear readers, our journey together through the Mysteries must end, for we have come to the close of this tome. Now that you have an understanding of the Ways Immortal, know that should we meet again in a mist-shrouded alley or snow-swept mountain temple, I shall not be so merciful. Ours is a lonely and intemperate existence, and I shall not hesitate to take your head, for in the end But One May Remain. Keep your blades sharp, my lovelies.

I leave you, then, with final words of wisdom gleaned from the text itself:



Okay, dropping the ridiculous character bit for a moment: Yes, Katanas & Trenchcoats is a parody game, and yes it's a loving tease aimed at the excesses of 90s-era roleplaying, but it actually is a solid, playable, and fun game n its own right. There are some Edges that don't actually have any mechanical effect, and a couple of deliberate inconsistencies and "poor editing," but it's all part of the fun. Anybody who likes getting drunk and binge-watching Highlander: The Series or laughing at F&Fs like Immortal: The Invisible War or any of the old World of Darkness games should definitely drop a few bucks on it. Also, all proceeds go to Seattle Children's Hospital, so you're being awesome and helping sick kids.

Finally, full disclosure, I did write a teeny, tiny bit of
Katanas & Trenchcoats, so maybe I'm biased. But if I am, it's only about 150 words worth of bias. You should buy it anyways.

GimpInBlack fucked around with this message at 18:35 on Apr 6, 2015

Green Intern
Dec 29, 2008

Loon, Crazy and Laughable



I'd make it so that a Darkness Device becomes vulnerable (although not helpless) if the High Lord can be defeated. There'd be a short period of time where it's major defenses are down, and it is possible to destroy.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008




I must climb to the highest spire of the abandoned church in the rain, and brood moodily as I realize I'll never write a review this good. As I stare out over the darkened skyline of Darkest Rhode Island, I realize that the sharp blade of your katana-like writing has beheaded the belief I had in my own ability, and now I must face eternity knowing I have been bested at a game I was kind of okay at by a foe I have never met.

(Seriously, that was amazing and congrats on being able to contribute to the game itself)

GimpInBlack
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.


Evil Mastermind posted:

I must climb to the highest spire of the abandoned church in the rain, and brood moodily as I realize I'll never write a review this good. As I stare out over the darkened skyline of Darkest Rhode Island, I realize that the sharp blade of your katana-like writing has beheaded the belief I had in my own ability, and now I must face eternity knowing I have been bested at a game I was kind of okay at by a foe I have never met.

(Seriously, that was amazing and congrats on being able to contribute to the game itself)

Fear not, Mine Immortal Cousine. There is yet a chance for you to redeem your honor:



You know what you must do.

(Seriously though, glad you liked the review. Honestly, it was hard not to just copy/paste entire swathes of the book; the other writers did a really fantastic job nailing the exuberant solemnity of "serious, mature" 90s games. There's so much more awesome than what I was able to fit into the review.)

Megaman's Jockstrap
Jul 16, 2000

What a horrible thread to have a post.


Holy poo poo that review. really brings me back to the mid-1990s. Great stuff, thank you.

Edit: I chose to listen to, and enjoy, everything on that playlist when it was new. It's actually a very good playlist.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

That note on pronunciation is almost worth it alone.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



It's probably worth pointing out that all the profits of K&T are going to the Seattle Chuildren's Hospital, which just makes the whole thing that much better.

GimpInBlack posted:

Fear not, Mine Immortal Cousine. There is yet a chance for you to redeem your honor:



You know what you must do.
You laugh, but a friend of mine actually owned this back in the day. We almost played it, too. It's not even "Highlander with the serial numbers filed off", it's "Highlander with a Sharpie line through the UPC code".

Simian_Prime
Nov 6, 2011

When they passed out body parts in the comics today, I got Cathy's nose and Dick Tracy's private parts.

GimpInBlack posted:


Pictured: Immortality.

"Sash-shay A-WAY!!!"

*decapitates you*

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

GimpInBlack posted:



The Lost Houses include House Gallus, who were destroyed in an orgy of violence, House Anatidae, who disappeared mysteriously, and House Meleagri, who are not so much lost as newly found. They claim to be Anatidae returned and even call Gallus their ancestors, but their goals remain mysterious--at least, here in Episode 1.


Houses Turducken?!? :iia:

I am so in!

PantsOptional
Dec 27, 2012

All I wanna do is make you bounce

Evil Mastermind posted:

You laugh, but a friend of mine actually owned this back in the day. We almost played it, too. It's not even "Highlander with the serial numbers filed off", it's "Highlander with a Sharpie line through the UPC code".

poo poo, it's not even just that, it's vaguely cyberpunk Highlander in the World of Darkness with a very transparent sticker over the serial numbers. I'm pretty sure that the author pitched this to both the Highlander license holders and White Wolf and was laughed out of both buildings.

GimpInBlack
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.


Evil Mastermind posted:

You laugh, but a friend of mine actually owned this back in the day. We almost played it, too. It's not even "Highlander with the serial numbers filed off", it's "Highlander with a Sharpie line through the UPC code".

Ahahahahaha, just in the six page preview on DTRPG they cram in song lyrics from Rush, Indigo Girls, MGMT, and Melissa Etheridge. This is amazing.

FMguru
Sep 10, 2003

peed on;
sexually

Vampire Heartbreakers were definitely a thing in the late 1990s, and Legacy: War of Ages is an excellent specimen of the breed (as were Immortal: Invisible War and The Everlasting)

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



FMguru posted:

Vampire Heartbreakers were definitely a thing in the late 1990s, and Legacy: War of Ages is an excellent specimen of the breed (as were Immortal: Invisible War and The Everlasting)

I actually played Immortal: Invisible War.

It's pretty terrible.

PantsOptional
Dec 27, 2012

All I wanna do is make you bounce

It pleases me immensely that for the Basic edition they kept the same incredibly terrible art from the original. I wonder what the difference is between the versions? I'd imagine the basic version strips out the World of Darkness copycat stuff (not-vampires, not-mages, etc) but that might be a generous assumption of competence.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




GimpInBlack posted:

Fear not, Mine Immortal Cousine. There is yet a chance for you to redeem your honor:



You know what you must do.

(Seriously though, glad you liked the review. Honestly, it was hard not to just copy/paste entire swathes of the book; the other writers did a really fantastic job nailing the exuberant solemnity of "serious, mature" 90s games. There's so much more awesome than what I was able to fit into the review.)
Actually, I'm planning on finishing out my Dune review as quickly as possible. I have a copy of Legacy, and I'm happy to tackle it if no one else wants to. Shouldn't take too long; there's not a lot to the game.

GimpInBlack
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.


PantsOptional posted:

It pleases me immensely that for the Basic edition they kept the same incredibly terrible art from the original. I wonder what the difference is between the versions? I'd imagine the basic version strips out the World of Darkness copycat stuff (not-vampires, not-mages, etc) but that might be a generous assumption of competence.

It does say the Basic Edition presents a "streamlined version of the setting," so that'd be my guess. It's definitely still a Highlander copycat judging from the preview pages.

Halloween Jack posted:

Actually, I'm planning on finishing out my Dune review as quickly as possible. I have a copy of Legacy, and I'm happy to tackle it if no one else wants to. Shouldn't take too long; there's not a lot to the game.

I for one would love to see that.

Zereth
Jul 8, 2003




Green Intern posted:

It really sounds like the Torg writers didn't want the players to win.
I think it's more that the Torg writers didn't realize how loving difficult actually pulling off required things in their adventures would be.

The intro adventure in the core book, even if you teleport past the pirate skeletons to the thing you need to defuse, realize you need to defuse it instead of just smacking it, and so forth, requires you to draw specific types of cards for the purpose of the dramatic resolution system, which you have a pretty high chance of simply failing to draw them all in the right order in time, let alone make your skill rolls. And the penalty for failing at this is "Earth is pretty goddamn hosed globally".

FMguru
Sep 10, 2003

peed on;
sexually

Evil Mastermind posted:

I actually played Immortal: Invisible War.

It's pretty terrible.
Like a lot of Vampire Heartbreakers, it decided that the real problem with WW's RPGs was there was too little jargon and pseudo-latin terminology. At least they booked a photo session with Claudia Christian to illustrate the second edition.

Note, also, that Vampire Heartbreakers tend to replicate the "Noun Colon The Gerunding" title structure of WW's games.

Was Skarka's Underworld terrible? I seem to remember it was mostly just negligible, a mostly competent serial-numbers-filed-off adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere setting.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




GimpInBlack posted:

It does say the Basic Edition presents a "streamlined version of the setting," so that'd be my guess. It's definitely still a Highlander copycat judging from the preview pages.
That's a laugh because there's not a lot to streamline. It's a very vague cyberpunk world; you don't even get to know much about it except that there's a big scary virtual reality Internet (called "Winternet" if I remember right) and there are laser guns.

FMguru posted:

Vampire Heartbreakers were definitely a thing in the late 1990s, and Legacy: War of Ages is an excellent specimen of the breed (as were Immortal: Invisible War and The Everlasting)
It got started sooner than you think. Everlasting was '99, but the other two both came out before '95.

Halloween Jack fucked around with this message at 20:00 on Apr 6, 2015

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



FMguru posted:

Like a lot of Vampire Heartbreakers, it decided that the real problem with WW's RPGs was there was too little jargon and pseudo-latin terminology. At least they booked a photo session with Claudia Christian to illustrate the second edition.
It also decided that the Storyteller system wasn't complex enough, so you needed specifically colored dice to play.

Doresh
Jan 7, 2015


Katanas & Trenchcoats is the one true religion.

pkfan2004 posted:

PROTIP: to defeat the Cyberpope, shoot at it until it dies.

Hit his weakpoint for massive damage.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



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


Part 11j: The GodNet, v2.0: killer apps

Now that we know how to run the GodNet, we need to learn about the tools required to do that in the first place.

The next chapter is about cyberdecks, and just reiterates information we've gotten elsewhere. Cyberdecks have four stats: response, stealth, processor power, and storage. The first two stats add to various GodNet rolls, processor power determines how many programs you can run at once, and storage is just that. We get some sample cyberdecks you can buy off the shelf, and that's pretty much the chapter. At least it was only three pages!

Now we come to Programs, and things get a little more complicated. There are a lot of different programs, and of course the rules for them are convoluted.

Programs have three stats: Power, Price, and Write. Power generally determines the adds the program gives you, and Write is the difficulty of writing the program from scratch with the science (computer) skill or trying to crack the software to make an illegal copy.

Yes, Torg actually has rules for illegally copying software because why the gently caress not.

Before we actually get to the software, we learn about damage to programs. When taking net damage, any shock damage is done to your active programs first, and reduces the Power of the software. If software hits zero power it crashes, and can only be restored by using a "rebuild program" or making a cyberdeck operation roll.


She is really into that readout

So software!

The basic type of software is skill enhancement software, and this is pretty straightforward: the software adds its Power to your skill rolls. Easy enough.

Things get more complex with Special Programs. These are the more complex pieces of software that have better bonuses or give specific abilities.

So of course now we learn about "running cold", which is netrunning without any special programs. This is just an unnecessarily way of saying that you can't perform some actions without the associated software. You can attack without an "attack" program, but you can't destroy someone's installed software without the Scramble program.

And back into the software list we go! And right off the bat we run into some head-scratchers with the base attack software. Attack adds its power to your attack rolls, but there's also "Onslaught" programs that do the same thing, cost more, and cannot be run cold. So I don't know why you'd need two separate programs for these, when the only real difference is that Attack maxes at power 5 and Onslaught tops out at power 6. (Attack 3 is size 3 and costs 10,000 francs, but Onslaught 3 is size 2 and costs three times as much.)

There are six special attack programs:
  • Scramble attacks software in the user's storage.
  • Mindwipe increases shock damage done to the target by 1, but can only be used when you've tracked the target's body to its source. I'm also not sure if it bypasses the whole "programs take stun first" thing.
  • BrainBurn is like MindWipe, but increases shock damage by 3 and can only be used on targets you've tracked to their body and all of whose programs are crashed.
  • Surge, again, can only be used against tracked targets, and actually causes physical damage to the target.
  • DeckWipe will overwrite the target's deck storage with garbage, but only works on decks that don't have defense programs running.
  • Lock prevents the target from loading programs.

On the defensive side, we again have a case of the basic software (Defense) and the more-expensive-but-not-more-effective version (Armor). There's also Scan, which allows you to both analyze cells and see what programs your opponents have running. Last is Shroud, that adds to your net stealth and makes your avatar look like a cyberpriest.

The next category is Evasion software, but there's only one in this category. It's called Evasion and it's used to throw off Trace programs.

Fortunately, Trace programs are up next! There's only one kind of Trace program, and it's used to locate the target's body so you can use your meaner software on them.

Related to the above are Grab programs, which make it harder for the target to jack out. At least the better Grab program, called Grapple, is actually more useful than the basic version because where Grab will prevent the target from logging out, Grapple will actually hold the target in place so they can't leave the cell they're in.

Another single-type program is Breach, which is used to knock gates or seals down. Moving on.

Next up are data manipulation programs, and almost all of these are just boosts to things you can do without special software. Manipulate lets you do stuff with cells, Search helps you find things in data vaults, Copy lets you copy data from a vault to your deck faster, and Alter lets you edit data. One thing you can't do without special software is download files from your deck onto external storage; apparently you can't put a text file on a thumb drive without the Store program. There's also a Disassembler program that adds its value to the other data manipulation software.

And now we come to the special special software. You can overclock your deck with White Light, allowing you to swap programs or upload data faster. Rebuild "heals" damage your software has taken, and the Heal program clears out the user's shock data.

Finally, we get to AngelBusters, and this is some fun 90's tech here.

quote:

AngelBusters are the street name for programs which hold more than one program within them. These programs are specially compacted so that they take up less space in a cyberdeck.

AngelBusters are only rarely available on the shadow market. The Cyberpapacy also writes its own AngelBusters, except it calls them Compact Programs (ComProgs). AngelBusters are written to overcome the inherent problems offitting a lot of programs into the restricted space of a cyberdeck.
Just as a reminder, you can't have all your programs running all the time because that wouldn't be complex enough. You can only have so many programs running at a time, and you have to load programs into system memory before they can be used.

AngelBusters are supposed to be a way around this limitation, but they're totally not worth it.

AngelBusters are basically zip files that contain programs so they use up less storage. ABs hold (actual size)x(compression factor) blocks of software: a 3x2 AngelBuster will take up three storage blocks on deck but actually contains six storage blocks worth of software. A 3x4 AngelBuster also takes up three blocks but can hold 12 block's worth of software.

To use the software in an AngelBuster, you just uncompress the software into the processor at which point it goes back to its original size. But here's the problem: you can't re-compress the software back into the AngelBuster. If you need that processor space you have to wipe it from the processor.

But that's not all! Every AngelBuster also has a crash rating, which is equal to the actual size+compression factor+10 (so the 2x3 would have a crash rating of 15). Every time you use the AngelBuster, you have to roll your net manipulation against the crash rating, and if you fail the AngelBuster crashes completely; you can't use the programs in it, you can't reboot it, nothing. It is rendered completely useless now and forever. Hope you didn't pay a lot for it!

As an added bonus, you can't always tell what's in an AngelBuster. You need to make a science (computer) roll to see what software is in there, or you can just use it blind. Using it blind means you can only pull the programs in the order they're listed.

So let's say I've got a 3x3 AngelBuster that has Attack 3, Scan 1, Copy 2, and Breach 3. If I want to use this thing blind, I first have to avoid the crash difficulty of 16, then I can pull the Attack program out and use it. But if it's not the one I need, then I have to wipe that out and pull the next one in line.

And because we're not loving over hackers enough here, some AngelBusters contain malware that will activate and attack the user when they try to pull something from the zip file.

The last page of this chapter is about writing programs, and it's pretty dull. Although if you want you can actually create copy protection on the software you write in case you don't want people to illegally get your illegal software. Not that it matters, because there's also rules for cracking protection.

The next chapter is Net Regions and Entities. This is where we

quote:

And I stood upon the datapaths of the GodNet, and saw a beast rise up out of the Deep, having seven heads and 10 horns,and upon his horns were 10 crowns. Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him? Revelations 13:1, The Malraux Bible
...okay.

As I was saying, this chapter starts by covering the major regions of the GodNet. And again, a large chunk of this information is reiterations of stuff from the main Cyberpapay book. We already know about Babel Central, Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory so I don't know why this book spends to much more time on them apart from padding the page count.

There are a few new locations, though, and they get less page space than the areas we already knew about.


The rough map of the GodNet

The Catacombs is a region that lies "under" the main structure of the GodNet. It was created by hackers and people of faiths other the Cyberpapacy, and as a result is not able to be monitored by the CyberChurch. A large number of Roman Papal agents operate out of this section of the GodNet.

The recycle bin of the GodNet is Trash, except that nobody ever right-clicks and empties it. This is where every deleted file winds up, and Trash connects to every data construct in the GodNet, but the gates leading out are a lot tougher than the ones going in.

The least-known area of the GodNet is Kadandra. This is the simulation of that reality brought to Core Earth by Hachi Mara-Two to help aleviate her homesickness and was on the dataplate jammed into Malraux's back. Malraux spends a lot of time here so he can try to get some context on the new technologies that are cropping up in his realm daily. Malraux has also discovered that there are GodNet connections from this region to...somewhere else.

(It's never revealed where those connections go. It's a plot point that is completely forgotten after being introduced. I suppose the sim could connect to the Kandandra reality, but since Kadandra never gets brought up again it's doubtful that's the case.)

The last "region" is The Deep, but it's not a region in the sense that the other areas are. The Deep is the term for the black void the GodNet exists in. It's theoretically infinite, but the few people who've gone to explore it have never returned.

And now that we've covered that, we talk about actual Net Entities.

Again, this is a topic that's been touched on before. There are self-aware beings that exist independantly in the GodNet, born from Malraux's worldview and understanding of the involved technology.

The entities deckers are most likely to run into are angels. Boringly, they don't have the historically accurate weird-rear end version of angels that are things like masses of heads or the lion-wheel thing. GodNet angels of any rank just look like humans with wings, although the more powerful ones have flaming wings or skin that looks like the depths of space.

One thing that worries the Cyberpapacy is that there are angels appearing that do not claim fealty to Malraux or the CyberChurch. These beings claim they are archangels, and often side with enemies of the Cyberpapacy.

And where there are angels, there are also demons. Demons come in fewer mechanical variety than angels (there are about a dozen types of angels stated up, but only three demons: generic, arch-, and hellhounds). Demons...exist? I guess? There's no real information on what they do or what their goals are.

It should be pointed out that angels and demons can be P-rated.

Non-self aware entities are called sentinels, and generally are just placed in cells to protect them. They can't move out of their cells, and not being intelligent they just exist to fight hackers. Given that that's the case, I really do wonder why they get more detail and description than demons.


They probably shouldn't have installed CyberNobby 1.0

Lastly, we have viruses, which are the remnants of early Cyberpapal attempts to create net entities. These beings are like sentinels in that they're not intelligent, but are capable of moving around the GodNet and will indiscriminately attack pretty much anything it comes across.

The next chapter is some sample adventures, but you'll forgive me for skipping this one. They're all pretty much the same: you've been hired or asked to attack the data fortress of <group>, here it is. Some of the adventures even have things for people to do in meatspace! Isn't that thoughtful?


Get to it, hacker-boy.

The final chapter is Characters in the Net, and surprisingly isn't new templates or anything. Instead, it's a collection of NPCs of varying interest. I'll just talk about the not-boring ones.

Francois DuBango, The Lion is a character who appears regularly thoughout the Cyberpapcy books. He's a Jamacian hacker who says things like "Babel gonna fall, mon" and "I'n'l go into the Net, man. Just like I'n'I go into the street. Makes no sense to I'n'l that everything's changed out there."

He's very stereotypical.

Sanjuro Shintaro, a.k.a. The Hunchback sells cyberdecks and information to hackers. What nobody knows is that he's also an operative for the Kanawa Corporation. He's set up an extensive network of contacts throughout The Catacombs, so he's a go-to guy for intel.

Guiles Mondue was one of the first people to convert to the Cyberpapacy when Malraux arrived in Avignon. Despite the fact that he would make an interesting recurring threat to the PCs, his section of this chapter is actually a description of generic Babel Monitors. Why this is here instead of the early "generic NPC" section is beyond me.

Simone Darc is the "Opener of the Way". He's also one of the few people to return from Heaven. His time there transformed him into an angel, and he is fanatically dedicated to the Church. He takes it upon himself to hunt down the enemies of the Church in the GodNet and either kill them or (if they want redemption) drag them to Purgatory.

Lastly, we have Olivier Beauvoir, or at least his body. His mind is destroyed, and his body is under the control of a demon uncreatively named "Bloodletter". Bloodletter was sucked into the GodNet via the maelstrom bridge, managed to escape from Hell somehow, and attacked and killed the first decker it ran into. He's now having the time of his life in two worlds; he likes to harry deckers in the GodNet until he can learn where their bodies are, at which point he hunts down and kills the body.

And with that...we finally come to the end of The GodNet book.

Good loving lord, for a 90-page book this thing is a loving slog. The whole netrunning system is so overly-complex it's pretty unfun and convoluted. And again we run into the Torg chestnut of "why are they doing things this way?" Why does netrunning require you to manage your available system memory and processing power? Why are AngelBusters so inefficient? Why are constructs so complex (beyond the "that's how games did it back then" excuse)?

Well, it doesn't matter anymore, because we have reached the end of the Cyberpapacy. All that's left is the summary post...

NEXT TIME: The wrap-up and the vote!

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Zereth posted:

I think it's more that the Torg writers didn't realize how loving difficult actually pulling off required things in their adventures would be.

The intro adventure in the core book, even if you teleport past the pirate skeletons to the thing you need to defuse, realize you need to defuse it instead of just smacking it, and so forth, requires you to draw specific types of cards for the purpose of the dramatic resolution system, which you have a pretty high chance of simply failing to draw them all in the right order in time, let alone make your skill rolls. And the penalty for failing at this is "Earth is pretty goddamn hosed globally".

I think this was a real problem in a lot of older RPG modules. I remember reading Warhammer Fantasy modules that have constant 'Make Awareness-10 check or lose plot/story' bullshit in them in an adventure for starting PCs who are going to have, if they're lucky, a 40% Awareness. Or where the 'mooks' before the boss fight are a bunch of full plate armored knights with 3000-4000 EXP and huge stats (who you're expected to battle as PCs who might be finishing their first Career at 1000 EXP if you're lucky) and the actual boss is a piss-easy single Bloodletter Demon by comparison. A lot of older RPG modules just have no sense of how hard to do anything really is, and make no account for players going off the rails.

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Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012

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


Halloween Jack posted:

That's a laugh because there's not a lot to streamline. It's a very vague cyberpunk world; you don't even get to know much about it except that there's a big scary virtual reality Internet (called "Winternet" if I remember right) and there are laser guns.

It got started sooner than you think. Everlasting was '99, but the other two both came out before '95.

There was some spillover into the nWoD as well, Genius the Transgression is basically "We are really really mad that you didn't port over the sons of ether and the technocracy" The RPG.

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