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Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

The blurb after that legend about the statues is nonsense. By the very description of the tale, it is not a story of the interior of the bloody prison, and the statues could very well have found their way into the lake above before falling in and somehow surviving along with everything else.

I smell another rewrite without a proofreading pass.

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Glazius
Jul 22, 2007

Hail all those who are able,
any mouse can,
any mouse will,
but the Guard prevail.



Clapping Larry

I wonder what the smallest coherent unit of the WLD actually is. It's not even a region, it would seem.

wdarkk
Oct 26, 2007

Friends: Protected
World: Saved
Crablettes: Eaten


Glazius posted:

I wonder what the smallest coherent unit of the WLD actually is. It's not even a region, it would seem.

An empty 5' square it seems.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Rockopolis posted:

The thing about the demon/devil prison; don't they just respawn on their home plane when killed? If that's the case, a well-designed prison would more effective than simply killing them, because it removes them from the war more permanently than killing them would.
As for it being so poorly designed and understaffed, the celestials can't spare their best and brightest from the front lines? Low-bid contractor? It is a Guantanamo Bay reference?

I wouldn't give the writers that much credit for a political reference. The problem is even if the gods/celestials don't have reinforcements to send (and there's no indication that this is the case), it has still been literally millennia since the dungeon was shattered. In that time some sort of response could have occurred...if nothing else mortals could have been alerted to the situation to allow them to reinforce the celestials or attempt some kind of response. After all its their world that is going to be overrun with monsters and demons should the prison ever fail. Of course, as I pointed out in the past regions, reinforcements aren't actually necessary. The celestial forces still inside the dungeon are more than strong enough to cleanse it.

As far as the demons returning to their home plane, that would be a good way to explain it. However, standard rules for 3.5 are that this only applies to summoned creatures.

http://www.d20srd.org/srd/magicOverview/spellDescriptions.htm#conjuration

Note the difference between "Calling" and "summoning" effects. Essentially if an outsider is fully present on the material plane, it can be killed permanently.

Of course, it would be easy enough for the writers to state that in the world of the WLD any outsider slain simply vanishes and reforms in its home plane, but throughout the dungeon it is made clear that this isn't the case: in many cases you'll find the rotting corpses of slain outsiders, and Mah'gog is even the result of the remnants of a demonic soul trapped in its corpse corrupting a mundane squid. Of course, its always possible that when they initially conceived of the dungeon they were operating under this assumption, and they just drifted away from it.

quote:

I wonder what the smallest coherent unit of the WLD actually is. It's not even a region, it would seem.

There's a few subsections that are at least moderately sane, but they're still tied to the crazy plots of their individual regions.

Probably the "best" Region so far would still be Region I. It's not really involved in the messed up backstory of the dungeon itself and is just a bunch of crazy experiments by a drider wizard run amok. There's some low points and a bit of bad editing...but at least none of it directly contradicts itself, which is not something that can be said for most of the Regions I've reviewed so far.

oriongates fucked around with this message at 06:22 on Jan 31, 2014

Rangpur
Dec 31, 2008



Not coincidentally, Region I was also my favorite of the areas our group explored. It actually works thematically: you are basically in a Resident Evil game with the D&D equivalent of the Tyrant on your rear end 24/7. Your best hope of shaking it off, should it catch your scent, is to make a break for the territory of the other unfathomable horror wandering the halls. Also your party members are slowly mutating and the only clues you have to the solution are the scattered notes of a madman.

It still has a ton of pointless dead ends, needless amounts of WLD-standard 'because "gently caress you," that's why,' and its continued existence makes no sense with a small army of epic celestials to the South who could easy purge the place. But it is, at its heart, a strong setting for an adventure. I think it was Region N or O that sounded good too, but we never got there.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



From my heart and from my hand, why don't people understand my intentions?



CHAPTER SIX PART ONE: MIRACLES OF SCIENCE
So I would in fact like to print a public apology in regards to the complaining about Victorian technology. They can in fact transplant eyes and some other organs and bits. It's still drat expensive though.

Anyway in case you forget what this book is about, the intro fluff sets a good tone for what's to come. It's framed as a partially-destroyed private journal. A Neo-Victorian doctor uses a pregnant woman's womb to help gestate reagent for creating Mercurials and intentionally poisons her to keep her body temperature up to help create different types of reagents to extract. He uses it to bring a corpse back as a Mercurial and it promptly responds by killing his assistant and he burns down his lab to make sure everything gets eradicated. This is kind of a running thing as you will see in Unhallowed Metropolis' section on Neo-Victorian super science. Yes the mad scientists in Deadlands may have created a neutron bomb that runs on the souls of the dead but a lot of them didn't intentionally poison pregnant women repeatedly for "alchemy". There is a general schism in focus in alchemy. The Vitalists believe that the Earth itself is depleted of energy and that's causing some kind of rot and decay and that's why Animates hunger for living flesh. The Vitalists have invented the anti-agapic treatments and experiment with half-lifers. Another school believes in Aristotelian science and in the importance of elements and that this bad poo poo is caused by an elemental imbalance. They tend to search for the Philosopher's Stone and use alchemy to make Mercurials and Galvanists, thinking that you can flush corpses with matter and correct these imbalances to make them live perfectly. Frankly, I'm with the Vitalists to a certain degree, especially when the alternative is going back to believing in humours.

Either way you slice it, they both commit atrocities but it's generally done in a sunk cost/survival fallacy way. "We've already killed a bunch of children in the process of testing this Plague cure so why let their sacrifice be in vain by stopping?" or "We have to do whatever we can to survive, drat morality".

ALCHEMY
Alchemists are capable of making drugs out of herbs, bombs out of chemicals and a whole mess of hard opiates. A lot of alchemists experiment with natural materials taken from the Wastelands. Every alchemical solution has a DR to beat and needs a sterile environment to cook in or you take -4 to the creation. They also have a production time and you can make a roll to see if you have what you need out of a random assortment of chemicals to make stuff. The production has a price on top of time and a sales price; frankly, if you want to make money and have a good amount of time on your hands, you can make a bunch of highly illegal substances and have your Criminal friend hock it on the black market. Manufacturing the drug requires a successful Alchemical skill roll with use of a proper collection of materials to cook with. However, if you fail a roll to cook you can make another roll to salvage. A failure means a total failure and you need to remake the batch from scratch. A successful salvage means it comes with side effects and any future attempts to make the formula will include the side-effect unless you make it from absolute scratch again.
  • 2: Taste of Death: Turns the imbiber into a half-lifer, giving them sterility, slowed aging and immunity to all illness, the Plague and smog. Also they get a Defect, the process gives them a seizure, and they become creepy and glum.
  • 3: The Wasting: Make a Vitality roll every 4 hours for a day. Every failure removes 1 Vitality, you can die at -1 Vitality total.
  • 4: Permanent Cosmetic Alteration: Gives the imbiber a Defect related to the drug. Repeated use of the drug doesn't give additional defects. This can be benign or gross as hell.
  • 5: Temporary Psychosis: Deal with a chronic mental illness for d10+14 hours and wake up healthy and confused the next day with no side effects.
  • 6: Hallucinogen: Flip the gently caress out, chase spirits and have -5 to Skill, Wit and Intellect rolls while freaking.
  • 7: Explosion: The lab detonates with a +6 damage roll. WHOOPS.
  • 8-9: Sickening: Uncontrollable vomiting after d10+10 minutes, -2 Coordination and Vitality for d5 hours.
  • 10-11: Weak Solution: If it was supposed to be permanent, it lasts d10 months, weeks last days, etc.
  • 12-13: Temporary Isolation: Causes total sensory deprivation for d5 hours. Whoops.
  • 14: Gas: The attempt to cook a compound instead creates a gas that knocks folks out for 5+d10 hours. WHOOPS. The gas lasts for a day and the lab needs to be cleaned; attempting to enter before that day is up requires a Vitality roll against napping.
  • 15: Toxin: Poisons the imbiber for a half hour, requiring a Vitality roll every five minutes, removing 1 point of Vitality per failure. Can result in death.
  • 16: Fire: Lab catches fire, cooker is at ground zero. Whoops.
  • 17: Rage: After d10 minutes the imbiber goes berserk for d5 hours. The imbiber has no memory of this and will attack everything in sight.
  • 18: Addictive: Welp. Going a week without another dose costs you -1 to all Attributes and all rolls until you take another hit. Failure to dose for a month raises it to -2. After three months of sobriety the stat losses disappear.
  • 19: Permanent Psychosis: Substance causes extreme mental imbalance and a new-found disorder.
  • 20: Permanent Mental Damage: -1 Intellect and Wit, slack-jawed stares and other stereotypical behavior, can only affect an imbiber once.

Alchemical creations, drugs and not-drugs, are:
  • Alchemist's Fire: that stuff you carry around to kill gelatinous monsters in D&D.
  • ALS2: Artificial womb nutrient broth. Comes in ALS2(1) and ALS2(6) for preserving body parts and gestating artificial life respectfully.
  • Amphetamines
  • Angel: temporary Plague suppressant. One dose freezes symptoms for a hour. After that you have to make a Vitality roll for every dose. A success keeps the Plague at bay for a hour, a failure means Angel can no longer help you ever again and it resumes.
  • Anti-Rejection Drug: So yeah it turns out that doctors can tailor replacement body parts to be the same as your body's or you can just take neuropozyne anti-rejection drugs for the rest of your life. Going without it reduces your Vitality by 1 per day, taking the drug lets you regain 1 point weekly.
  • Chloroform
  • Clarity: Detox drug, instantly forces every bad drug out of your pores in a thick bloody druggy sweat. Make a Vitality roll. Success means nothing, failure reduces Vitality by 1 for a day.
  • Cocaine
  • Corpse Flower: Makes you look like an Animate, helps you elude Prey Sense. When it wears off you get wicked thirsty for ten minutes. Doesn't work on half-lifers.
  • Crone: Crone is a paste that makes you look old and gross to help disguise you. It comes in temporary or permanent form. Don't mix with anti-agapic treatments or your body will sustain permanent damage. You can also whip up a cure to help make it wear off faster than d10 hours.
  • Ether
  • Heroin
  • Hyde: Since the Thrope serum has been lost for years, Hyde has been made to pick up the slack. Hyde gives you +2 Coordination and Vitality for 5d10 minutes along with -3 Intellect and Charm. There are hundreds of brands of Hyde and each one transforms you into a different-looking inhuman, rampaging, mindless murderbeast devoid of a conscience. Once the drug runs out, a Vitality roll leaves you with a loss of either 1 or 2 Vitality and Coordination for twelve hours, and for the next two weeks the character must make a Will roll when faced with stress to not succumb to a temporary freakout that makes them transform again for 2d10 minutes. Can't be used by half-lifers.
  • Hyoscine
  • Jack's Blessing: a prepared cut of herb that gives you +2 Perception while chewed.
  • Laudanum
  • Maiden's Heart: a cooked and prepared herb that lets you ignore Wound penalties for hours equal to your Vitality. If eaten daily while injured, healing time is reduced by a day.
  • Masque: a solution that causes a thick putty to be excreted from the skin that can be sculpted to disguise your face. A variation can be made that is either permanent or causes spikes to grow through the face, disfiguring the imbiber for a while. The effects last for a day and Masque can't be used for another day or else the user suffers a Flesh Wound from their face becoming too unstable.
  • Morphine
  • Nectar: Extracted from a Wasteland creature called a "nectar swampcat" (which apparently looks like a cross between a cat, oily sea otter and an iguana), Nectar causes the imbiber to sleep and dream for days on end. Using it requires a Will roll to resist addiction. When addicted and using, they make Vitality rolls, losing 1 per failure until going comatose and dying. Depriving yourself when addicted results weekly Will rolls. Will 0 means that the user needs to take Nectar in order to regain the lost will. You can't actually quit Nectar; addicts either die of insomnia because they can't sleep and dream without it or die in a starvation coma.
  • Opium, Refined
  • Paregoric
  • Ravager: An injection-driven compound, Ravager is normally used in syringe guns. It causes the target to have painful seizures and lock up in contorted positions as their muscle paralyze, bone spurs burst through their skin and a layer of flesh grows over their eyes. Over time (after 60+6d10 minutes) the changes will revert with no lasting damage, reverting all Attribute damage back to normal. Doesn't work on half-lifers or they'd just use this constantly on Thropes.
  • Remembrancer: Made by extracting and distilling cerebral fluids from recently dead humans or half-lifers, Remembrancer lets the drinker experience the memories of the dead. You have to roll to be able to reconcile the new memories with yours and a critical failure gives you multiple personality disorder that switches between you and the dead.
  • Repose: a simple liquid sedative that gives you a nap. Used for surgery.
  • Reversion Serum: Forces Thropes to turn back into humans for d10 hours.
  • Stitch: A healing drug and coagulant that stabilizes massive blood loss and cuts healing time in half if applied daily.
  • Styx: Why they didn't call this Lethe, I don't know. Distilled from the fruit of the Wasteland plant known as "The Forgetting Tree", the drug causes poison dreams that can destroy a subject's memories and replace them with the memories of the dream. With a successful roll that doesn't happen. Using it for mental rewriting is punishable by hard coal mine labor.
  • Thiopentone Sodium
  • Thrope Suppression Drug: A dose inhibits a Thrope's ability to transform willingly for 24 hours. Every three times you fail a roll to resist transforming, you need an extra dose to have it suppressed and the duration is reduced by two hours. Eventually it won't work on you anymore.
  • Thrope Tranquilizer: A heavy sedative that puts Thropes out like a light. If used on humans, they have to make a Vitality roll to take a nap as opposed to have a heart attack.
  • Truth Seeker: a nootropic mutagen that adds +2 Intellect and Academic Skill rolls when used. Addictive like Mentats, withdrawal causes insomnia and weekly Will rolls. Failure reduces will by 1, when 0 the addict takes a coma nap for d5 days and wakes up fully refreshed. There's no cure for Truth Seeker addiction.
  • Vitriolic Shell: Acid-inna-flask.
  • Watcher: Made by distilling Jack's Blessing, Watcher adds Prowess and Perception bonuses while it lasts. Or it causes a headache. Mourners and Undertakers tend to use it.
  • Werther: Made from an attempt to refine Maiden's Heart, Werther instead causes massive internal bleeding. Anyone using it has to make a DR 20 Vitality roll or die in three minutes of internal hemorrhage.
Keith Reeves is in his lab making Alchemist's Fire and he decides to make some Hyde to sell on the black market. Keith, being an anarchist, has made Alchemist's Fire before so he gets a +2 to its construction. Keith has Alchemy 3 and rolls a 6 and a 1 versus the DR of 11 so he just barely brews up a batch of it. He has never made Hyde before though and Hyde has a DR of 16. Keith rolls a 4 and a 3 and fails the roll but rolls double 7s and manages to salvage the batch but flawed. James, the GM, rolls separately and gets 1 and 3, so unless Keith makes Hyde from scratch again every hit of Hyde he makes causes a permanent cosmetic change in the user.

MEDICINE

If Neo-Victorian medicine is so drat advanced, why haven't they figured out that penicillin cures syphilis. Oh well. Basically hospitals do quality work for a high price and a lot of doctors and students cut their teeth working on patients in hospitals attached to colleges. Hospices are run by Mourners who keep an eye on the terminally ill; the Hospice of the Quiet Sleep, run by the Sisters of the Quiet Sleep, caters to the poor of the city. Transplants and organs are taken from corpses that have been cleared of the Plague (mostly) through hospitals but if you can't get what you need, try the black market. You can in fact clone organs and limbs but it costs a good deal. On top of this, anti-agapic research continues using half-lifers as the basis for immortality serums. Basic treatment costs 10 pounds per month and reverts the age by 15 years down to age 18 without prolonging life, only smoothing it out. Advanced treatment requires six days of treatment at 300 pounds a pop and can take 20 years off, but repeated use loses its oomph and only does so much. Bryant Center treatment costs 1000 for a three week treatment and must be topped off monthly at 100 pounds per visit but slices off 30 years and completely halts all aging for 10. And on top of that, madhouses and sanitariums are prevalent. The mad are used as free labor in places or subject to experimentation and lobotomy in others or given actual therapy and hypnotism in others still. There's no gold standard of care and most of it sucks because why wouldn't it.

I'm gonna gloss over diseases (they're still there and everyone's shockingly ineffective at curing poo poo like loving syphilis) and reproductive technology (they're sooooo over hysteria and wandering womb, good for them, but some people still think contraception is immoral) to get to the good stuff that I want to focus on for the rest of this update: Anathemas, Homunculi and Lesser Homunculi.

ARTIFICIAL LIFE
Artificial wombs are used to A: make new life and B: grow babies outside of the woman's butt. It's apparently "more of an art than a science" which I consider to be...not reassuring at all. And I did some playtesting with other players to demonstrate all this ensuing babble.
For starters, all artificial life are created with the Bad Taste quality; the walking dead hate to eat them. Anathemas are near perfectly identical to human beings but are prone to mental instability due to "the artificial womb and nutrients lacking something". Why you can't just put an anathema embryo in a surrogate mother's womb is never explained and frankly would save you expenses for the ownership and use of artificial wombs and material. It takes a month to design an Anathema embryo and twelve hours to assemble it. Homunculi are humanoid and generally used as servants and helpers, looking like humans but off. The game says that homunculi look disfigured and ugly, but I personally like to think that they just look like they're a little deep in the Uncanny Valley. It takes three weeks to design a Homunculus embryo and eight hours to assemble it. Lesser homunculi are basically made of human DNA with other DNA slapped in as filler and are generally animalistic and kinda dim, used as test subjects and grunt labor. They're designed in a week and made in six hours. Both forms of homunculi have the bonus of not being born with a mental illness and only needing five months to gestate instead of nine to ten for anathemas. All of these forms of artificial life are discriminated against and feared, painted as insidious intruders who want to gently caress up your society and poo poo. But in reality, they're probably going to inherit the Earth, especially if you put the time into designing them right.

It's a DR 16 to make an Anathema, 14 to make a Homunculus or 11 to make a Lesser and you make an Alchemy roll, needing a minimum of Alchemy and Medicine 3 and the proper facilities and materials. Using compromised materials and a dirty workplace adds a -2 modifier to the roll. You can rush the time it takes to research to create the embryo which halves the time but adds a -4 modifier to your roll, or spend time and a half to make sure the research is right and get a +2 modifier (which you lose if your research is ever interrupted by, say, plot). Further altering the DR is genetic tampering, which can let you change how the life form turns out. The main adjustments are Accelerated Decrepitude, Accelerated Maturity (born fully grown and reaching intellectual maturity in months), Ambidextrous, Animal Appearance (lesser homunculi only), Clone (of the creator, anathema only), Flawed Senses, Gigantism, Haunting Beauty, Immunities (to smog, the Wasteland and toxins), Mindless, Tailored Addiction (being is hooked on substance creator makes for loyalty), Tailored Appearance (looks exactly how you want), Tailored Attributes (allows for enhancement/limitation of Attributes) and Wild Mutations (randomized mutations that add +4 to the DR and give the GM license to kill your creation). Each tampering raises or lowers the DR of creation and it can be pretty easy to create an impossible DR for yourself pretty fast. And from here you make your roll.

Now a failure doesn't mean a failure. A failure means you can roll again to salvage the creature as Flawed Life. Flawed Life means that the creation is wrong somehow and you don't tell the player that they failed or created flawed life.
Flawed Life:
  • 2: Horror: The resulting creation should not exist but does, a horrific mess of body parts and flesh. It will continue to live (with assistance) unless euthanized.
  • 3: Crib Death: creation dies in 2d10 days after being born.
  • 4-5: Monstrosity: Ugly as sin and barely able to survive birth, it survives with 5 mutations.
  • 6: Complications: The creation needs a month of constant care to keep it alive through daily Medicine rolls. Survival gives the creation one mutation.
  • 7-11: Flawed: Close but not quite right. One mutation.
  • 12: Complications.
  • 13-14: Mutant: Creation is born with two mutations and gets another at age 20 then another every 5 years it lives.
  • 15-16: Little Monster: The creation breaks out of the artificial womb before birth and hides from the world in the sewers, feeding on anything it can get its hands on until it matures. A surviving creation gets two mutations and probably needs a bunch of Undertakers to take it out before it becomes too much of a threat.
  • 17-18: Psychotic: The creation is born nuts, gaining a mutation and a Chronic Mental Disorder.
  • 19: Brain Death: The creation has no higher brain function.
  • 20: Killer: The creation is a born sociopath and must kill one person a month or it will freak the gently caress out.

So say you made a good embryo or a flawed embryo. You can do two things here: either pop the sucker into a tube or divide the zygote. Dividing the zygote lets you create up to eight cellular cultures you can put in an artificial womb, but each division has a DR of 16. If failed, you can roll again to salvage the division as a Flawed Life. If you succeed and it was a good embryo, the ones that are salvaged are simply Flawed Life different from their brothers. If the original embryo was Flawed, salvaged zygotes have an extra mutation. All mutations/flaws incurred from splitting are relevant to the resulting entities and not its other siblings. When all's said and done, an Anathema needs thirty hours of attention per week while gestating, a Homunculus needs 20 and a Lesser Homunculus needs 10. You also need to pay upkeep and cycle out ALS2(6) monthly or they will die.

So let's see how this actually works in play.

Doctor Geiger, Doctor Devin Conwell and Doctor Laura McHale are all doctors in the employ of the Royal College. They all have Medicine 5 and Alchemy 5, can reroll failed rolls for making life and work for the Royal College so this is legal and they have access to a lot of artificial wombs. Geiger decides to make an Anathema, Devin decides to make a Homunculus and Laura decides to make a Lesser Homunculus.

Geiger rushes his development and design, taking a -4 to creation. He uses a collection of genetic material taken from servants and workers to create a pale, slender, androgynous anathema beauty in the popular style of the day. He doesn't tamper with the embryo, so the DR is 16. His first attempt, an 8, is a failure. He rerolls and gets a 13, another failure. He gets a 17 on the attempt to salvage so his Anathema design is Flawed; the GM rolls and gets a 17 so his design gets an extra Mental Condition and a 4 on the Mutation chart means they get Haunting Beauty. Geiger decides he wants to cultivate six Anathemas so he splits the zygotes five times. Four of the five divisions are successful except for #3, but another roll succeeds and gives #3 the Defect mutation. So Dr. Geiger set out to make six servants and ended up making six emotionally disturbed, so-hot-it's-a-curse assistants and one of them is wildly different than the others.

Devin takes his time and a half, getting a +2 to his roll and he decides to make a fit, tan, healthy worker homunculus, giving them Ambidexterity and Accelerated Maturity. That's +1 DR for Ambidextrous and +2 for Accelerated Maturity for a total of DR 17. His first roll comes up short with a 16 but his reroll succeeds with a 21. He decides to split the zygote only once, succeeding with a 19, creating twin worker homunculi that emerge fully grown and need a few months of teaching before they can be on their own.

Laura decides that she likes ghouls so she grabs a handful of monkey DNA, mixes it in with a dash of ghoul DNA and fills the rest with random human DNA. She takes Immunity for the monkeyghouls and Tailored Attributes, raising their Intelligence so they're not so limited mentally. She beats the DR of 15 with a 16 and decides that she wants as many monkeys as she can, splitting the zygote seven times into eight monkeyghouls. Of them all, half end up flawed and the rest end up fine. The flawed monkeyghouls end up a mutant and three Flawed ghouls. The mutant ends up deaf and an evil eye, one of the flawed gets Chronic Fits, the second gets Leprosy and the third is Lame. Laura set out to make eight identical monkeyghouls and only half of them ended up according to plan.

This is a thing that takes months. This is a thing that is harder to do if you don't want them to take months. When an artificial life form is born, unless it has Accelerated Maturity it has to grow up like a normal person so you have to make sure it doesn't get a damaging education that causes it to go crazier. And these suckers are gonna be the probable future of mankind, inheritors of man's throne and education.

Maybe they'd all be better off dying.

NEXT TIME: MERCURIALS, THROPES, GALVANISTS AND OTHER ERRATA, I PROMISE TO NOT BE SO GODDAMN VERBOSE AND SPACE-CONSUMING

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Of course all science has degenerated back to loving pseudoscience. Christ, UH just keeps finding new ways to disappoint.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Rangpur posted:

Not coincidentally, Region I was also my favorite of the areas our group explored. It actually works thematically: you are basically in a Resident Evil game with the D&D equivalent of the Tyrant on your rear end 24/7. Your best hope of shaking it off, should it catch your scent, is to make a break for the territory of the other unfathomable horror wandering the halls. Also your party members are slowly mutating and the only clues you have to the solution are the scattered notes of a madman.

It still has a ton of pointless dead ends, needless amounts of WLD-standard 'because "gently caress you," that's why,' and its continued existence makes no sense with a small army of epic celestials to the South who could easy purge the place. But it is, at its heart, a strong setting for an adventure. I think it was Region N or O that sounded good too, but we never got there.

Region I was one of those sections that would have been significantly improved just by not being a part of a single massive dungeon. It would make a great setting underneath a wizard's tower where magical runoff flows, or as the dungeons of a keep with an open rift to the Far Realm or something like that.

unseenlibrarian
Jun 4, 2012

There's only one thing in the mountains that leaves a track like this. The creature of legend that roams the Timberline. My people named him Sasquatch. You call him... Bigfoot.

pkfan2004 posted:

From my heart and from my hand, why don't people understand my intentions?



NEXT TIME: MERCURIALS, THROPES, GALVANISTS AND OTHER ERRATA, I PROMISE TO NOT BE SO GODDAMN VERBOSE AND SPACE-CONSUMING

Huh. In the first ed, this section also had a playable anathema archetype in the same format as the characters in the front of the book. I guess they cut that out. Presumably because it's nearly impossible to successfully make one.

And man, at least Deadlands scientists have the excuse that they were being driven mad by literal demons constantly whispering new ideas in their ears.

Kai Tave
Jul 2, 2012


Fallen Rib

Deadlands (the Weird West one that is) also had the benefit of being an actual historical setting with crazy anachro-tech instead of "it's actually 21xx but everything is exactly like Victorian England because of reasons."

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



unseenlibrarian posted:

Huh. In the first ed, this section also had a playable anathema archetype in the same format as the characters in the front of the book. I guess they cut that out. Presumably because it's nearly impossible to successfully make one.
You are correct, sir. Once I get to the end of the book I'm going to compare the major differences between 1e and the revised book I've been using for this review. And one of them is that being an Anathema sucks harder in the original book than it does here.

wdarkk
Oct 26, 2007

Friends: Protected
World: Saved
Crablettes: Eaten


pkfan2004 posted:

The Vitalists believe that the Earth itself is depleted of energy and that's causing some kind of rot and decay and that's why Animates hunger for living flesh.

So this game is really starting to remind me of Ar Tonelico, but with the anime replaced with steampunk.

Of course, the people in Ar Tonelico were pretty sensible about "GTFO the planet's surface" and they also explained why the planet is hosed (idiots who watched Dr Strangelove and thought "man that doomsday device isn't nearly powerful enough").

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.




The realist in murder writes of a world in which gangsters can rule nations and almost rule cities, in which hotels and apartment houses and celebrated restaurants are owned by men who made their money out of brothels, in which a screen star can be the fingerman for a mob, and the nice man down the hall is a boss of the numbers racket... It is not a very fragrant world, but it is the world you live in, and certain writers with tough minds and a cool spirit of detachment can make very interesting and even amusing patterns out of it.

Now that we've covered the basics of the hard-boiled story, the high-tech dystopian setting, and the process of creating characters, it's time to move on to building a story. It's an unusual organizational move--most games would start with character creation and move straight into the rules of the game, relegating GMing advice and story structure to the back of the book. TechNoir, though, realizes that "how to play" encompasses more than just what dice to roll when and how to interpret the results. I really like this approach--by focusing on how to use the game to tell hard-boiled detective stories first, before telling you in detail how the mechanics work, it helps break you out of the typical RPG mindset of "roll to pick the lock, roll to find the clue."

So, our first chapter to look at today is called Composition, and it's going to delve deeper into Transmissions. We covered the basics last update--a little bit of setting flavor and a collection of 36 people, places, events and objects that will form the core of our story. We're not going to plot out a vast criminal conspiracy before the game even starts, we're going to start with a very simple seed and see what things build toward during play. Or at least, we can if we want to--the entire first page of this chapter is devoted to telling us that all these rules are here to facilitate and help out. If we're brimming with inspiration or if something just seems to click and make sense, we should freely ignore the rules and go with what feels right. "Tools, not rules" is the mantra of this chapter.

I, however, am not brimming with inspiration right now, so I'm going to be illustrating the plot map mechanics using the Twin Cities Metroplex Transmission, the same one we used for character creation last update. If anyone wants to follow along, the Transmission is available for free download here. But first, a little more information about the six different kinds of plot nodes and what they do.
  • Connections we've already gone over. They're NPCs the protagonists know well--friends, lovers, reliable snitches, bosses, mentors. It's possible (and indeed highly likely) that one or more of them will turn out to be antagonists. Every connection has a table with 12 other plot nodes on it--when PCs lean on them for info, we'll use those tables to make new connections in our story.
  • Events are big, significant paradigm shifts that have a wide impact on the world. We're talking riots, terrorist attacks, world trade summits--the stuff that will be talked about for years to come and dominate the newsfeeds for weeks.
  • Factions are big, powerful, mostly-faceless groups with big agendas. They move other plot nodes (and sometimes PCs) around like pieces on a checkerboard, set things in motion, and create complications. When a black van screeches up and two PrivMil gorillas throw you into the back and take you for a long drive to an abandoned plastic factory, it's probably because you pissed off a faction.
  • Locations are cool places--maybe a connection's hangout or a cool place for a gunfight or a clandestine meeting. Of all the nodes, these are the ones most likely to be reused a lot.
  • Objects are the sorts of MacGuffins that give some kind of focus to your classic hard-boiled plot. Whether it's the gun that can tie a corporate hitman to an assassination or a statue of a black bird worth a small fortune, it's usually the kind of thing people in the setting will kill for.
  • Finally, threats are smaller-scale groups (or sometimes lone individuals) that other nodes--usually connections or factions--use to implement their agendas. Gangs, private security forces, mob hitmen, that sort of thing. Threats are split between heavies (the serious players and major NPCs) and henchmen (mooks and extras who double as convenient sources of stat block theft when necessary).

Right. Plot map time. A plot map is just a bunch of plot nodes on a piece of paper, some with connections drawn between them and some floating on their own. Every time you connect a plot node to another plot node, you're inventing a link between them: she killed him, he stole that, they want this to happen, etc. The links might be reciprocal (these two groups hate each other) or one way (this group needs that object, this character is being hunted by that threat). Eventually you'll have enough pieces to say "oh, I know what's going on here!" and you can start shifting the story into high gear.

For now, though, we need something to start with, something to hook players in. While the players are making their characters and choosing connections, our job is to start making the plot map. The first thing we do is make three rolls on the master table for our Transmission and put the three plot nodes we end up with on the map. Each one connects to the other two, making a nice little triangle and (hopefully) giving us something to kickstart our inspiration. We don't have to fully understand the "why" or the "how" of the connections right now--that's what later additions are for. For now, we just focus on what links these three things and how we might start hooking players into the plot.

Example Plot
We're using the Twin Cities Metroplex Transmission, so while our fictional players are busy creating Sophie, Peter, and Hattori we take a look at the Transmission and start rolling some dice.

Twin Cities Metroplex posted:

TECHNOLOGY
It wasn’t much of a leap for the Minnesota to go from the forefront of medical devices—heartvalves, pacemakers, stents—to become the leading pioneer of cybertechnology in the United States. The twin cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul are now the primary destinations for those who want to get spliced into some new hardware. Daedalus Innovation was the new megacorporate entity that emerged from the explosion.

ENVIRONMENT
The upper midwest has seen some of the harshest winters over the past several years. It all but killed the independent and organic farms in the state. Daedalus built an arcology to keep their employees and facilities protected from the elements in one massive, self-contained monolith in Minneapolis. Those left outside have become tougher, harder.

SOCIETY
Last year, Daedalus Innovation laid off 80% of its workforce. Its completely robotic manufacturing facility and proprietary software do the work now. The sparsely populated arcology is being rennovated as a giant pleasure palace for the obscenely rich. Meanwhile the jobless masses out in the streets are growing fearful and getting desperate.

For our plot seed, I roll three times on the master table and I get Syndicate Assassins ("A deadly team of covert killers," threat), the Siamese Syndicate ("Organized crime family prevalent throughout the Midwest," faction), and Arma Winn ("Owner of AllPawn in East St. Paul," connection).

Okay, this is pretty obviously a mob-heavy story--about the only way it could be more about the Syndicate is if that third roll was Adrienne Chao. So right away I'm thinking Arma has something the Syndicate wants in her pawnshop, and the Syndicate has sent assassins to kill her and retrieve it. But that's pretty straightforward, not a whole lot of mystery there, so instead I think the Syndicate Assassins have gone rogue. Maybe they're working for someone within the organization who's trying to start an internal faction war, maybe they're being blackmailed by somebody totally different, I don't know yet. But that's okay. And I think that must mean Arma Winn is paying protection money to the Syndicate; when the Assassins come for her, she's going to be rightly pissed. For now, the first stage of the plot map looks like this:




That gives us a really basic story: Arma Winn pays her protection money on the regular, but Syndicate Assassins are coming after her anyways. Plenty of ways to get PCs hooked into this story via connections or, hell, maybe having one or more PCs there for the first hit attempt. We could even take a lead from the plot map example in the book and have Arma already dead as the story starts. Personally, I wish the book spent a little more time unpacking the idea of killing a connection offscreen before the game starts and what that means for characters linked to that connection, but oh well.

Now it's time to start getting the rest of the connections involved. Remember how during character creation players could hit up their connections for a total of two favors each? This is where that potentially comes back to bite people in the rear end. The first time a player calls on a connection for a favor, we put their name on the plot map--not connected to anything, just on there, waiting to be linked into the whole sordid mess. The second time a connection does a favor, we draw a connection between their name and another node on the plot map. It doesn't have to be a node that's part of the larger conspiracy--you could, for example, link two connections together and wait to see how they hook into the plot later. Here we want to be looking for ways to get some personal stakes in for the characters. Look at their relationship adjectives with connections and each other. Look for instances of two PCs having the same connection, and look for ways to make that connection not okay with the status quo (what Apocalypse World terms "PC-NPC-PC triangles"). We want reasons for the protagonists to not just get involved, but to get angry.

(The rules are silent on what happens when a connection is already on the map as part of a plot seed; I'm going to assume they're connected enough and not start adding more links for now.)

Example Plot
Looking back at our character creation example and the favors called in for gear, we've got the following:

  • One shark favor from Arma Winn
  • Two shark favors from Adrienne Chao
  • Two fix favors from January Jade
  • One fix and one splice favor from Pen Re

Arma's already on the map, so we'll skip her for now--but if we had a different node in our plot map we'd add her name floating out there on the plot map somewhere. Adrienne, January, and Pen Re are all getting added to the map and connected to other nodes. This is clearly a pretty involved conspiracy! We can do these in any order, really--I usually wait till all the favors are called in to start adding new nodes, just to give myself more options.

The first thing I'm thinking is that these Syndicate Assassins are all cybered up, so somebody had to install those modifications. With only one connection on the board who can do that, I decide that Pen Re installed the Assassins' cybergear--and moreover, it's the same experimental tech he put in Hattori years ago. I don't know who he's taking his orders from, but I feel like this could be a great character beat for Hattori and his respectful relationship with Pen Re.

Now I'm going to put January Jade and Adrienne Chao on the map together, but not yet connected. January runs the smuggling and gun running trade in Lowertown, and I'm betting the Syndicate isn't too thrilled about that. I could make the connection there, but given that both Peter and Hattori have relationships with both of them, I think this should be more personal. I connect January to Adrienne and say they're currently embroiled in a low-grade turf war. Nothing openly violent yet, but pressure's being put on both sides.

Finally, Adrienne needs her own connection, and this time we'll go with the obvious and say the Syndicate is pressuring her to deal with the January problem. So, after character creation, our plot map looks like this:



And with that we're ready to start playing. We know a fair bit about what's going on--a schism within the Syndicate, something important Arma Winn has, a turf war in Lowertown--but we don't see the forces moving behind it all. That's fine. In fact, it's good--it gives our characters plenty of avenues to pursue.


Once the game actually starts, the plot map really starts to come alive. As the PCs try to figure out the mystery, they're going to go to their contacts for information. What does Dok Petrov know about advanced black-market cybernetics? Can Adrienne tell them anything about the Syndicate hit squad? Somebody out there knows what's going on, and if you shake the right trees hard enough, something interesting is bound to happen.

Remember how connections have tables with links to other plot nodes? That's where this comes into play. During gameplay, when a PC goes to a connection with a question, you roll on that table. (The table has two columns--one for unconnected characters who aren't yet attached to anything else on the plot map and one for characters with at least one connections. In other words, connections have different leads the deeper they get enmeshed in the plot.) Add that new plot node to the map and connect it to another node--usually the one the PC was asking about--then roleplay the connection spilling rumours or information or whatever. Again, if the nature of the question obviously implies a certain answer, you can just pick a node rather than rolling. Tools not rules. The plot map works for you, not the other way around.

The one exception is if the node that came up is already on the plot map. Then you draw a link from that node to the connection. Now the PCs have stumbled onto a part of the plan their connection is directly involved in. It's totally cool for connections to lie to and mislead PCs, as long as every lead actually gives some new information (even if it's just the connection acting suspicious).

These connection-based scenes will usually make up the first half or so of the game, but eventually the plot's going to congeal and poo poo's going to start happening--the PCs shift from "what's going on" to "what do we do about it?" The next chapter is going to be chock full of advice on that, but for now let's wrap up with one final example plot map.

Example Plot
Let's say that the game has started and Arma Winn has just narrowly survived an attempted hit. She shows up at Peter's coffin apartment in the middle of the night, bleeding and seriously freaked out, and tells him what happened. She shows him a knife one of them threw at her, and Peter immediately recognizes it. It's a traditional knife used in awud mied, a Thai knife-fighting style. Arma swears up and down that she's paid up on her protection money, so Peter sets out to ask Adrienne Chao why a Syndicate kill squad came after Arma. I have no real strong idea for why, so I roll on Adrienne's connection table and I get a 6, which on her Connected table indicates a SecTec Complex Team ("Private security hired to guard and patrol corporate facilities," threat. Huh. Wasn't expecting that. Well, Peter's kind of asking about both Arma and the Assassins--might be cool if there's more to Arma's story than meets the eye. I connect the SecTec team to Arma Winn with the note "guarding AllPawn." Adrienne deflects Peter's question about the rogue assassins--she doesn't want him to know how out of control things are--and says "The real question you should be asking is why a SecTec Complex Team is guarding a grubby little pawnshop in East St. Paul." The plot thickens.

Once Peter leaves her office, Adrienne pings Hattori over the Interface. She's got surveillance cam feed of the hit attempt (don't ask how), and she wants his opinion. Scrubbing through the VR holographic projection, his onboard systems note reaction times, accuracy, coordination--these guys were a heavily-linked cyber unit, basically almost one mind operating four bodies. That's very emphatically not Syndicate style--the family looks down on cybermods more invasive than a headjack as debasing. Good for the hired help, maybe (no offense, Hattori), but not for the family's elite. (This BTW is a bunch of bullshit I'm spinning purely on the basis of Adrienne not having any implants except a headjack.) Hattori calls up Pen Re and asks him who's moving that kind of heavy-duty illegal cybergear these days. I roll a 3, which nets me "Project Rejuvenation," an ecological activist group that monitors and protests corporate action. It's a stretch, but they sound like the kind of people who might be into a "one world consciousness" kind of ethos, and since the Metroplex is on the bleeding edge of cyberinnovation we'll say that Project Rejuvenation is a bunch of activist engineers, and they pioneered the idea of shared-consciousness implants. Pen seems nervous, distracted--he's sure as hell not going to admit he doctored these guys up, but he's got to reveal something as a contact, so he points Hattori at the green freaks and hopes it doesn't come back on him.

Meanwhile, Sophie's heard about what happened and, since she's dependent on Arma Winn, decides she can't risk losing her meal ticket. She doesn't really know anything about the mob or underworld turf wars, but she knows Dok Petrov dabbles in less than legal activities, so she calls him up on the Interface and asks if he knows who'd want to hit AllPawn with that kind of firepower. I roll a 1, which gives us January Jade. Normally I'd put her on the map and link her to Alma, but since she's already linked to the plot, we have instead stumbled across Dok Petrov's connection to January. We add him to the plot map and connect him to January. We'll say he's been selling her illegal cybertech to cover his crippling gambling debts. He's not about to admit what he knows, and he gives her the brush off. It's obvious he's hiding something, but just before he drops the call, he gets a page from his secretary informing him that "Ms. Jade is on the other line." Tres suspicious.

Anyway, after a few rounds of investigations, our plot map looks like this:



Probably needs a few more investigation scenes to really get a handle on what's going on and what's a red herring, but in the meantime we probably want to consider what our still-faceless antagonists are up to and have them take some action in response. But we'll cover that in the next chapter....


Pacing a plot map's development is key to keeping the game engaging. Typically you'll want to let the players add a few of their connections, plus maybe one node apiece on top of that, in the first session, then start forcing them into actions rather than investigations. Also, these plot maps are really geared toward roughly stand-alone novel sized plots--maybe three to four sessions worth of investigation. More than that and it starts to get too crowded. Usually if that happens, you've got two options: expand to a new Transmission, or pick three "loose end" nodes that didn't really get wrapped up during the story and link them together to create a new plot seed. You could also just update the Transmission, maybe inventing new connections, threats, and factions as old ones serve their purpose and die or change.

When you want to add a new Transmission to your story, the first thing you do is roll a single node from the new Transmission's master table and connect it to a node on your plot map. That'll yell you how the new city's involved. Now, since PCs from the Twin Cities probably don't know many lowlifes from the LA Sprawl, they're gonna need some introductions. That's where connections come in. Each connection knows one connection in the new city--when a PC asks for an introduction, you roll a die on the "Connections" column of the new Transmission's master table. The player adds the new connection to his sheet, and we add the connection to the map.

And that's it for plot maps. I've got to say, it's one of my favorite story-generation mechanics in a game like this--sure, if you go purely by the dice you might end up with some weird connections, and sometimes you can end up with plot holes or weird red herrings, but hey, even Raymond Chandler never figured out who killed the chauffeur in The Big Sleep. The connection mechanic is especially brilliant--I love that the more screen time you give to a connection by calling on them for information and favors, the more likely they are to have been the bad guy all along. It's a wonderfully noir conceit, and modelled brilliantly.

Next time: Instigating poo poo.

GimpInBlack fucked around with this message at 20:40 on Feb 1, 2014

Redeye Flight
Mar 26, 2010

God, I'm so tired. What the hell did I post last night?


GimpInBlack posted:

Example Plot
[i]We're using the Twin Cities Metroplex Transmission, so while our fictional players are busy creating Sophie, Peter, and Hattori we take a look at the Transmission and start rolling some dice.

Ooh, hey, I'm from Minneapolis. This is pretty interesting: while I'd like to think we'd fare better in personal treatment going into the future--the state has a long blue history and came within a hair of electing a Socialist Alternative to local office in the last elections--I'm not sure why I didn't make the connection between our current medical industry and cybernetics. It's a very logical vector to take into the future and I'm very interested.

Redeye Flight fucked around with this message at 20:34 on Feb 2, 2014

Lemon-Lime
Aug 6, 2009


Jesus Christ, don't quote the entire post for a two-sentence comment.

GimpInBlack posted:

And that's it for plot maps. I've got to say, it's one of my favorite story-generation mechanics in a game like this--sure, if you go purely by the dice you might end up with some weird connections, and sometimes you can end up with plot holes or weird red herrings, but hey, even Raymond Chandler never figured out who killed the chauffeur in The Big Sleep. The connection mechanic is especially brilliant--I love that the more screen time you give to a connection by calling on them for information and favors, the more likely they are to have been the bad guy all along. It's a wonderfully noir conceit, and modelled brilliantly.

There's always a bit of creative interpretation needed to hook up what you roll into the plot of your game - that's the case for basically every random table in history.

The plot map is another example of Technoir's greatest strength, which is that all of its mechanics drive its theme. The plot map creates a kind of all-consuming conspiracy right out of a novel, and characters only advance by taking damage. :allears:

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






Region H: Land of the Tree Huggers

Region Map:



If K and L are the "water" themed zones, Region H is "nature" themed. Anything fey, plant, or "foresty" ends up here. This region is actually very unique compared to the rest of the dungeon, for several reasons.

First and foremost: sunlight! The ceiling of this region has a large hole in it and a series of mirrors focus the sunlight from above down the hole, illuminating the whole Region with daylight. This means the region is actually full of living plants, has day and night cycles. The works.

Second: This region is actually dominated by mostly non-hostile humaniods, namely elves and dwarves. The derro have apparently done more than just cause a flood, another excavation of theirs caused part of the surface of the mountainside to fall deep into the dungeon (apparently, derro are really determined, if lovely, miners). Well, along with tons of rubble, an ancient and sacred tree fell, completely intact, to the dungeon below. The tree is actually a half-celestials Treant who is both immobile and mute. In addition, this is where the designers stuck most good-aligned (but non celestial) monsters.

This is not to say the place is all that great. The elves are led by an extremely senile and racist druid and the other elven leaders all have wonderful personality issues of their own. There are also at least two hidden evil forces at work to try and destroy the elves and for some reason the elven forces assume the steady stream of vanishing soldiers is simply deserters rather than something more sinister (seriously, where would deserters go? Every region around is so inhospitable that desertion is basically unthinkable).

All in all, the place is doomed...but at least there won't be a bunch of things trying to murder you here.

H1-H6

This area is a ridge of volcanic rock where the elves mine obsidian arrowheads and leave traps. As far as I can tell this region may have never been a part of the original dungeon, although the dungeon's enchantments still hold sway here. Not much here worth commenting on. Which, for the WLD, is a big improvement.

H7-H8

This is a former gem-mine. Baiscally just a dangerous place for PCs to go for very little reward. By now I doubt characters have any real urge to collect riches or gems.

H9-H10

Here is a small lava flow. Since there are no mephits in this one it is actually full heat lava. One of the elven leaders can be found here, studying the place to learn more about elemental fire magic. This guy is a short-tempered, somewhat trigger-happy 11th level Evoker (making him a good source of spells if the PCs can befriend him). Sadly his spellbook is pitifully tiny, he only has the minimum number of spells for most levels (the 2 free spells wizards earn every level up).

Fortunately, unless the PCs really act like assholes he won't start throwing spells immediately, and although it's tough to convince him they're friendly it's not impossible. As his studies keep him from being deeply involved in the politics of the fortress, but he still cares about his duties, he is probably the most approachable and sane of the elven leaders.

H11-H12

This place is the lair of one of the "dark forces" at work in this region, Diantha: an Erinye (and also a 7th level sorceress). Apparently she was actually a celestial originally, but was seduced by a pit fiend prisoner and fell, becoming a devil. She is one of the main reasons elven troops are vanishing. She simply snaps a few up every so often, kills them and tosses their bodies into the lava. She also has a team of Charmed sprites that serve as her eyes and ears in the region. She has also trapped one of the non-human leaders of the elves, a guardian naga, into wearing a magical collar which basically gives her control over him.

Overall, Diantha isn't actually a bad villain. Compared to the level of the PCs (11 to 13) she's extremely weak in combat, but she'll mostly stick to trickery if she can and if she can't she can easily retreat into the lava and escape.

So far this region hasn't actually been that awful at all. I'm impressed.

H13-H16

These are some watchtowers set up by the elves and are likely to be the PCs first encounter with the inhabitants of the fortress. The elves initially are not very welcoming: firing warning shots, demanding the intruders leave, etc. They are basically no threat to the PCs though, the typical elf is only a 6th level warrior. Fortunately the PCs will only become outright enemies of the elves if they really want to (murdering surrendering elves, striking first or attacking during diplomatic discussions, etc).

Considering the demonic forces that live just to the west of this Region the elves are sadly pretty much helpless against them. Since the elves rely on bows and use obsidian rather than cold iron arrows they would have trouble taking down even minor demons. Each watchtower is staffed with 6 elves, their bows do 1d8+1 damage. Against a dretch that means even if elves hit every round and inflict maximum damage they'll still require concentrated fire to kill a single demon due to the demon's DR. Seems like they should really be equipped with cold iron gear which would allow them to at least attempt to take on minor demons like Dretch and Babau.

There's a sidebar about an elven super-weapon called Lyonatar's Eye. Essentially sunlight in the area is produced by a series of mirrors which focus a beam down to a gigantic diamond on top of the elven fortress. The diamond can also be tuned via music to function as a weapon, basically a 100 charge, self-recharging light-based staff. Capable of casting spells like searing light, sunbeam, and sunburst (all with ranges increased to target anywhere within the region). This requires the full council of elven leaders working together however, and while it would be devastating against undead against demons its not that great. But then again, pelting sunbursts onto a horde of minor demons would certainly help thin them out (the eye can manage about 12 before running dry of charges)

H17-H21

Some more watchtowers here. There's also a pillar that supports the "miles high" ceiling of the dungeon (I don't think the writers have a great sense of scale, but I'm just looking for nitpicks at that point). The column has been carved out (that doesn't seem safe) to provide a southern command post where the military's second in command is stationed. She's an elven ranger-rogue and as a relatively recent arrival to the area she is also fairly sane and reasonable. Secretly she was apparently sent by the elven queen of the surface world to investigate why the elven fortress is basically hemorrhaging soldiers, despite the lack of attacks on the place. Kind of an elven spymaster/assassin/private eye.

There's a more obvious fortress as well, carved into a big-rear end chunk of rock and meant to guard against possible attacks by the derro to the south. however, since the derro never attack it's gone mostly unused.

H22-H25

This area is mostly the territory of fey, since it is the most peaceful and lies alongside the eastern wall of the region, which is also the outer limits of the dungeon itself.

This area also features another support column, and here we finally get a bit of stupidity. Remember the Diantha? Well apparently she's had a group of charmed sprites working on weakening this column which she then intends to take down with a few well placed shatter spells. The damage is concealed beneath a permanent illusion. Ignoring for the moment why the sprites would agree to this (charm isn't the same as mind control), how would they do this? Since when are sprites effective sappers for any structure, let alone a 40 foot thick column of solid rock. There's also the questionable wisdom of shattering a gigantic tower of stone, given the spell's range. Her reason is the fact that the column is used as a mount for several of the giant light mirrors and landing platforms for elven flying mounts.

Finally, there's a flower-covered tower which is the home of the queen of the fairies in this region, a 12 HD nymph.

H26-27

There's a somewhat shadowy plateau in the SE corner of the dungeon. It's the home to an 11 HD lammasu who is also a member of the elven council. He watches over the stable of flying mounts belonging to the elves, which aren't many: 2 pegasi, 2 griffins, a hippogrif, a giant eagle and a giant owl. Although theoretically of incredible value (as these are the only ways most of the elves have to reach the surface), the only protector is the lammasu.

H28-H34

We've got a few more watchtowers here. Since they're guarding the lakeside of the Region they're a bit more trigger happy. The lake-dwellers are less dangerous than the demons but more willing to make a bother. There's some more fey as well. A dryad grove, a nixie pool, and the grove of Enoriel, the head of the council.

Enoriel is deeply, deeply senile which explains a lot of the problems the fort is having.

This area is also home to the forest of the giant celestial treant. The general assumption is, of course, that the PCs aren't here to hurt the holy tree but just in case you've got serious murderhobos they have provided stats for the trees and its guards and some ideas on what happens if the PCs attack.

There's a bit of nonesense about the tree being related to some sort of procephy, or double prophecy, possibly quadrangular prophecy...it's unclear. Essentially the tree has spoken twice in the past. Both times it utters some sort of prophecy (the first time about the earthquake that sunk it down below, the second about a demon invasion from the west) and apparently there is another prophecy from an unknown source that if the tree speaks a third time then generic, undefined doom will befall someone, someplace or something. Since there's no indication of what the third prophecy would be, what conditions will bring it about or what the results will be (beyond doomy) there isn't much relevance...and no one actually remembers much of this ancient history anymore so the PCs aren't likely to learn it anyway.

H35-H40

Next we have the council tower with the big shiny diamond on top. Here we have another one of the council members, the head of the elven military. He's a half-celestial elf paladin, which you would think means he's all set to help folks and do great things...unfortunately he's mostly got a furious hate-boner against evil that he can't get to go down. He knows he's in a literal hell-hole with demons and evil all around and he is basically itching 24-7 to go on a holy crusade and kick some demonic rear end. However, every time he tries it ends in disaster and lots and lots of dead elves.

Unfortunately he's also a complete moron. For one thing, he read too many RA Salvatore novels and decided to befriend a drow (who carries an amulet that hides his evil alignment) for some reason the elves decided it was a great idea to let a drow join them in the fortress and even take over the administrative duties of the military. The paladin also cannot seem to figure out that when his second in command sometimes seems fine and other times emits an aura of pure evil...it's probably a sign of something (Diantha often uses her form as a disguise).


I think I'm actually going to cut this a little short because I've got to say I'm actually really impressed with this region. The writing is fairly tight for the most part and other than a few issues (namely involving Diantha's plans) the plot hangs together fairly well, the NPCs are written in ways that are at least moderately believable, if somewhat exaggerated. The whole thing actually seems like pretty solid "B" material. From a technical perspective its even better than Region I. That makes it really dull to pick apart bit by bit because for the most part the result is decent, if unimpressive, material. So I'll just go over some of the significant points in the Region, especially those that kind of make it fall short of being "A" grade.


No Shopping
One thing made very clear in the region is that there is no commerce here. Which makes sense, its a military fortress, not a town or city. They're not there to sell their weapons and armor to strangers. But at the same time this is the only glimpse of civilization PCs are ever going to get in this blasted place and denying them the opportunity to use some of the useless piles of treasure that are all over the place is just a missed opportunity.
Obviously a market would be silly...but maybe there's a dwarven armorer who's tired of pounding out yet another longsword with a leaf motif and wouldn't mind taking a commission in exchange for a little something. Or perhaps the elven mages could trade scrolls or potions in exchange for gems that would be invaluable spell components for their military. Perhaps the faerie queen would trade magic items for jewelry. There's opportunity here.

The Way Out

This is the big thing about this region, but it's given almost no consideration. This may very well be the first place with an actual, obvious exit...and we don't have any information about it. We know that the elves come and go on their steeds to the surface so we know travel is possible...but we don't know how high up the ceiling is (it's described as "miles" which seems utterly ridiculous but also extremely vague) which is pretty drat important or what the elven response would be to attempting to leave via their ceiling.

Everything about the region assumes that PCs will either plunge headfirst into the region's political intrigues or use the area as a base while they explore the rest of the dungeon (at which point they'll be framed while they're gone and then they'll be drawn into politics).

But at this point players have been through at least 4 other Regions and are probably already dead tired of trudging through the dungeon. Even if they do intend to explore the dungeon further you can bet it will be after leaving and visiting some real civilization.

And it's not like leaving is that difficult. Sure, the elves won't lend you one of their flying mounts...but characters here are at least 11th level. That means they have plenty of potential methods for escaping. Even if the trip involves a vertical ascent of several miles all that means is that it takes multiple spells. Any cleric or druid will have access to air walk and can probably cast it enough times for the entire party. That's a trip of 5 miles or so straight up with one casting. Overland flight obviously would do the job. Even multiple castings of flight or levitation could do it in a pinch. So why is the Region acting like there's no way for the PCs to leave?


Still, like I said, this is definitely one of the dungeon's high points...to bad by now the players will probably have experienced far too many lows to do anything other than get the hell out.

oriongates fucked around with this message at 05:40 on Feb 6, 2014

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



Or maybe you could have an inspiring campaign where the PCs go in and smack the elves around as instructors to teach them about how to defend themselves and keep up their mediocre existence in the World's Largest Dungeon. Or just set that to a montage.

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.


Lemon Curdistan posted:

There's always a bit of creative interpretation needed to hook up what you roll into the plot of your game - that's the case for basically every random table in history.

Oh, absolutely, but at the same time the nature of the spontaneous story generation leads to certain plot threads being missed by players or not always resolving in a way that makes perfect sense. But hey, that's fine. Plenty of classics of the genre have those little cheats.

What I love about the plot map is how flexible it is if you think about it from the right angle--like in my example, we sort of ended up with a plot that was about (at least for now) advanced cybernetics prototypes, even though that was never a node on the plot map.

That's also why I said after the last update that I feel like you could easily run a Shadowrun-style cyberheist with TechNoir--it's just that the nodes and connections on the plot map have to be interpreted as the keys to overcoming insurmountable obstacles on the heist rather than leads in a deepening mystery. It becomes a very hard-boiled crime story where you need the one guy who can write the spoofing software for the corporate antivirals and you've got to dangle a junior VP out a window till he gives you his keycard.

Lemon Curdistan posted:

The plot map is another example of Technoir's greatest strength, which is that all of its mechanics drive its theme. The plot map creates a kind of all-consuming conspiracy right out of a novel, and characters only advance by taking damage. :allears:

Yeah, thematically it's one of the tightest games I've ever played. Everything, from the large-scale story mechanics down to the specific list of relationship adjectives is purpose-built to reinforce the theme. It's a thing of beauty.

Redeye Flight
Mar 26, 2010

God, I'm so tired. What the hell did I post last night?


Lemon Curdistan posted:

Jesus Christ, don't quote the entire post for a two-sentence comment.

Christ, I didn't realize I did that. I fixed it, sorry.

Cyphoderus
Apr 21, 2010

I'll have you know, foxes have the finest call in nature



The Challenge of the Bandeirantes: Adventures in the Land of Santa Cruz

O Desafio dos Bandeirantes (The Challenge of the Bandeirantes) is a Brazilian pen-and-paper RPG. Published in 1992, its biggest claim to fame was being the very first RPG presenting a fantasy based completely and unashamedly on Brazilian history, folklore, and culture. It wasn't very successful in its time, because you know how nerds are: people were still mostly interested in playing Germanic Übermenschen slaying kobolds in medieval castles. The average Brazilian has a very low self-esteem regarding their own country, and a habit of not believing something made in Brazil is better than a foreign version (this right here is why football is such a big deal). In 1996, the publisher closed its doors.

Desafio dos Bandeirantes, however, was game-changing. Today it is spoken of as an anthological chapter in the history of Brazilian RPGs, which is longer and more elaborate than you'd think – a few years ago, I read that Brazil has the second largest RPG-playing population, behind only the United States itself. Anyway, back around 2000 or so, we had our own Satanic RPG scare, after a homicide (in São Paulo, if I recall correctly) was associated with people who played Vampire. The scare never got too big, because for every group of misguided goth teens with a copy of the Book of Nod there was a teacher in a school somewhere using either Desafio dos Bandeirantes (or the licensed national line GURPS Discovery of Brazil) to teach children about history and culture.

Desafio dos Bandeirantes is very much a child of its time, with sprawling tables and naturalistic monster lists and all that you'd expect from a 1992 RPG. Its biggest flaws are a GURPS-like realistic system and a setting that is held back by trying to be too verisimilitudinous where it should not be. These are problems because the game's entire premise is one of fantastical adventure. There is, thankfully, no metaplot involved.

Desafio dos Bandeirantes presents a setting of colonial Brazil circa 1650, where magic is real, the gods are real (all of them), and the virgin tropical woods are inhabited by all kinds of creatures from the national foklore. By the end of this writeup, you too will be able to differentiate between the boitatá, the saci-pererê and the curupira. One of them is a one-legged prankster entity with a red cap and a pipe, one is a giant snake made of fire, one is a devilish protector of the forest with backwards feet. Try to guess which is which!

I'm doing this because this setting is a hell of a whole lot different than anything else out there. It is familiar to me in the sense that maybe a wild west setting is familiar to someone born and raised in the USA, but a lot of things here should be new and interesting. I'm of the opinion that we should always be on the lookout for new kinds of inspiration for our tabletop games.
This writeup will be of the core book. There are a couple of adventures and one or two setting supplements, but I don't have those and I bet they are freakishly hard to find nowadays.

Culture corner: the bandeiras. The European settlements were located along the coastline in colonial Brazil. The bandeiras (flags) were the expeditions the settlers made inland. They were mostly for finding ore (silver, and later on, gold) or for dealing with the native indian tribes: trading, converting to Catholicism, or capturing as slaves. The people who undertook these expeditions were called bandeirantes (flaggers), and give the game its name. The bandeirantes were extremely important for Brazil, historically, because they settled remote inland locales (ever wondered why Brazil is so big compared to the other South American countries?) and named most of them, which is why Brazilian places can have the weirdest names like Itacoatiara and Aiuruoca. These names are ancient and in the lingua franca of the time: the native tupi-guarani language of the indians. We'll talk more about it in another culture corner down the road, probably.

Tasoth
Dec 12, 2011


Hey PKFan, if you feel like tormenting yourself further and you have more money than self control, IPR is selling damaged copies of Unhallowed Necropolis for 17 bones.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


I am totally down for learning a little about Brazilian folklore and fantasy based in South America.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



Tasoth posted:

Hey PKFan, if you feel like tormenting yourself further and you have more money than self control, IPR is selling damaged copies of Unhallowed Necropolis for 17 bones.

Joke's on you, I ALREADY BOUGHT IT.

Seriously, when I got halfway through the core book I found it out it was there and I had some DriveThru RPG coupons to redeem. While I did in fact pay full price for the core revised rulebook, I only did that because I picked up the original for free somewhere online, and if I'm gonna be an rear end I'm gonna pay the price of admission.

This does not apply to supplement books in my mind (seriously, $32.95 for a PDF). You can argue that Unhallowed Necropolis is not a supplement book but it's basically letting you play mages and letting you learn more about ghosts, stuff it already hinted at in the core. It also has a lot of pictures of women who are crazy, covered in blood, naked or a mixture of the three. So I bought it for ten dollars and I'll gladly be moving on to Unhallowed Necropolis when I'm done with Unhallowed Metropolis.

Also Cyphoderus, I'm really interested in where your RPG is gonna go.

neonchameleon
Nov 14, 2012





Cyphoderus posted:

The Challenge of the Bandeirantes: Adventures in the Land of Santa Cruz

O Desafio dos Bandeirantes (The Challenge of the Bandeirantes) is a Brazilian pen-and-paper RPG. Published in 1992, its biggest claim to fame was being the very first RPG presenting a fantasy based completely and unashamedly on Brazilian history, folklore, and culture. It wasn't very successful in its time, because you know how nerds are: people were still mostly interested in playing Germanic Übermenschen slaying kobolds in medieval castles. The average Brazilian has a very low self-esteem regarding their own country, and a habit of not believing something made in Brazil is better than a foreign version (this right here is why football is such a big deal). In 1996, the publisher closed its doors.

Desafio dos Bandeirantes, however, was game-changing. Today it is spoken of as an anthological chapter in the history of Brazilian RPGs, which is longer and more elaborate than you'd think – a few years ago, I read that Brazil has the second largest RPG-playing population, behind only the United States itself. Anyway, back around 2000 or so, we had our own Satanic RPG scare, after a homicide (in São Paulo, if I recall correctly) was associated with people who played Vampire. The scare never got too big, because for every group of misguided goth teens with a copy of the Book of Nod there was a teacher in a school somewhere using either Desafio dos Bandeirantes (or the licensed national line GURPS Discovery of Brazil) to teach children about history and culture.

In all seriousness, can you prove much of that? We lost Desafio dos Bandirantes from Wikipedia literally three days ago because no one involved in the discussion had ever heard of it and the Portugese Wiki article was, at the time, a waste of space.

Ratoslov
Feb 15, 2012

Now prepare yourselves! You're the guests of honor at the Greatest Kung Fu Cannibal BBQ Ever!



neonchameleon posted:

In all seriousness, can you prove much of that? We lost Desafio dos Bandirantes from Wikipedia literally three days ago because no one involved in the discussion had ever heard of it and the Portugese Wiki article was, at the time, a waste of space.

I, for one, welcome this game to FATAL and Friends. Wikipedia may find it less noteworthy than Squirtle, but I do not.

Cyphoderus
Apr 21, 2010

I'll have you know, foxes have the finest call in nature


neonchameleon posted:

In all seriousness, can you prove much of that? We lost Desafio dos Bandirantes from Wikipedia literally three days ago because no one involved in the discussion had ever heard of it and the Portugese Wiki article was, at the time, a waste of space.

Desafio dos Bandeirantes was published by a little publisher called GSA, who also published one year earlier the actual first Brazilian RPG, Tagmar, which was however bog-standard low-fantasy and much less interesting. Though it has a proper wikipedia article and is much more widely known. Which just goes to exemplify the stuff I said in that first paragraph about Brazilians not being very supportive of fantasy based on their own culture.

The Portuguese wikipedia article for Desafio dos Bandeirantes is not a waste of space because it offers a couple of nice references. This is a master's thesis ("RPG: Game and Knowledge. The Role-Playing Game as Mobilizer of Spheres of Knowledge") about the educational uses of RPGs, and it quotes Carlos Klimick, one of Desafio dos Bandeirantes' authors, talking about the difficulties in finding a market for national Brazilian RPGs. The wiki also links to two monographs that talk about RPGs being used as educational tools.

This is a facebook page in commemoration of the 20 years of the game. It has a couple of news articles from back in 1992 about the game, if you can read Portuguese, as long as a photo of it being played at one of last year's Dungeon Carioca, one of Rio de Janeiro's two biggest monthly RPG meet-ups.

The part about "second largest RPG-playing population" I totally cannot prove and just remember having read many years ago in Dragão Brasil, which was for a long time the only published magazine about RPGs. Back before internet, it's where we got our RPG news from.

The part about the Satanic scare I was around for and remember. I can try to dig up the news articles from back there if you guys are interested, and post it in the chat thread or something.

Cyphoderus fucked around with this message at 12:42 on Feb 3, 2014

neonchameleon
Nov 14, 2012





Cyphoderus posted:

The Portuguese wikipedia article for Desafio dos Bandeirantes is not a waste of space because it offers a couple of nice references.

I'd point out that both those references were added less than a week ago - I said at the time.

quote:

It has a couple of news articles from back in 1992 about the game, if you can read Portuguese, as long as a photo of it being played at one of last year's Dungeon Carioca, one of Rio de Janeiro's two biggest monthly RPG meet-ups.

The news articles should be enough, thanks. (No I can't read Portugese - but have the translate option on Chrome).

quote:

The part about "second largest RPG-playing population" I totally cannot prove and just remember having read many years ago in Dragão Brasil, which was for a long time the only published magazine about RPGs. Back before internet, it's where we got our RPG news from.

Thanks :)

quote:

The part about the Satanic scare I was around for and remember. I can try to dig up the news articles from back there if you guys are interested, and post it in the chat thread or something.

And thanks :)

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



My loving browser crashed in the middle of typing this drat update in the browser (like the idiot I am) so now I'm nice and mad at UM. In the perfect friggin' mood for this now.


CHAPTER SIX PART TWO

MERCURIALS
So, Mercurials. Mercurials are undead who have been preserved and injected with an alchemical reanimation solution in an attempt to purify the body of elemental imbalances that cause death. It's absolutely full of fringe science and a lot of other scientists would rather focus on things that might not end in failure. Mercurials are pretty big rip-offs of the walking dead from "Herbert West, Reanimator" and they follow the fresher=better rule. The big issue is procuring a super fresh corpse and that's where people like the Lux Ex Morte come in.

The Lux Ex Morte are a secret society whose members operate independently. They have a signature weapon called a Tiger's Claw that lets them inject alchemical solutions in hand-to-hand combat. While most people either keep corpses fresh using ALS6 and preservation systems, pay a Resurrection Man or corrupt cremator or by dragging vagrants into their workshops to kill them before preserving them, the Lux Ex Morte have a variety of alchemical tricks up their sleeves. Their main tools are Serum #29 and #57. #29 is basically rohypnol that shuts down memory and makes the subject pliable and #57 is a poison that kills the subject and is circulated through their dying heartbeats to preserve the body. They use both tools to get absolutely fresh test subjects to create people resistant to Plague by killing them and trying to reanimate them. Of course the Lux Ex Morte has its opposition, the Order of Reason. The Order exists to basically arrest and kill anyone making stupid experiments involving harming innocent people and acts where the law can't. Both are pretty good summations of the state of science in London.
Mercurials themselves are true undead not beholden to the same laws as Animates. Some desire to eat flesh, some don't. They have no heartbeat, no need for any sustenance. Every Mercurial is decaying, though. They're always inherently breaking down at a rate depending on how they came to be after death. A normal Mercurial is good for a few weeks, needing to make a Vitality roll weekly, losing 1 point of Vitality or Coordination per failure. At 0 the body goes inert and can't be used to work again.
So a reanimator needs a way to store and keep the body fresh, a place to whip up a serum and hold the body and they also need supplies to make the serum. Every reanimator has a different serum; you can buy it but it's illegal so most make their own. It's DR 14 to make your own reanimation serum and if you mess up you can salvage it as a flawed serum.
  • 2: Mutagen: The serum works but disfigures and mutates the Mercurial wildly, forcing a Fear roll.
  • 3-4: Putrifier: The serum doesn't reanimate the dead, it liquifies them. You need a new corpse and a mop to clean up the mess.
  • 5-9: Fast Acting: The serum works in seconds, not minutes.
  • 10-12: Weak Solution: The serum isn't as potent as you hoped, giving you -4 to reanimation rolls.
  • 13-17: Slow Acting: The serum works in hours, not minutes.
  • 18-19: Localized Reagent: It only reanimates wherever you stuck the needle for a while before it settles back down and you can try again with the same body.
  • 20: Gas: Instead of a liquid you accidentally make a Trioxin gas leak that brings all corpses in the lab back to life.
So you've put the body on the slab, made sure it has no Plague infection, strapped it down and put the needle in the corpses' arm. The GM then makes a roll to see what kind of Mercurial results, taking corpse freshness, your medical skills and how much care you're taking into account.

  • 2-3: Failure.
  • 4-5: Mindless: You bring them back with the mental capacity of a sedated cow. The Mercurial does nothing more than wander around in ignorant bliss for the few days it has to exist before decaying.
  • 6-8: Death Rattle: The corpse successfully revives. And immediately has a violent fit, thrashing and struggling on the slab as it tears itself apart with both hands and its flailing. Soon you've got plenty of corpse confetti all over the lab and a dead body.
  • 9-10: The Mercurial opens its eyes and screams at the top of its lungs for up to 20 minutes, shrieking endlessly. After 2d10 minutes it stops screaming and collapses, inert.
  • 11-12: Plague Spawn: The corpse was a little bit infected with the Plague. It comes back as a mindless, violent killer that exists only to kill everything living in sight and infect it with the Plague and die naturally in a few days.
  • 13-15: Berserker: Like a Plague Spawn but not infectious with the Plague. All it wants to do is maul everything in sight and consume human flesh, so let's hope you tied those restraints nice and tight. Berserker Mercurials only live for a few days.
  • 16-17: Revenant: Revenants have some of their memories and a hunger for human flesh. They can't always be reasoned with, as their intelligence wanes from time to time. They also have trouble resisting the urge to eat people and just live their lives in a half-aware meat-hungry stupor.
  • 18-19: Lunatic: Lunatics have most of their memories and mental faculties intact but still have an issue with wanting to eat specific parts of people. They can act more human than the ones before it but they can slip up and end up in a blood hungry frenzy at times. They're also nuts. On the plus side, they're long lived and only make decay checks yearly.
  • 20: Reborn: Rarely Mercurials come back to life perfectly. Reborn are those lucky few who come back with their minds permanently intact but with a few issues. Those issues tend to be depression and melancholy and dealing with suicidal thoughts along with only feeling kinship in the presence of the dead. With the help of a good therapist they can have a long undead life.
Being a Mercurial really isn't an ideal situation but it might be better than being dead. Maybe.

THROPES

Thropes were invented as part of a super soldier program in the 1940s. Ideally, they were resistant to damage, Plague-immune and tireless, able to be deployed against heavily populated areas and clear out Animates. The original Thropes were soldiers dropped off with a vial of Thrope serum that they could chug to transform. They would basically just keep groups of soldiers around to take them back to base after their transformation wore off. But then they stopped needing the serum and started regenerating from injury while human. And then they started biting their allies while transformed, and THEIR wounds knitted shut in a day. And then they stopped being able to turn back into human form after five years. By 1951 the Thrope program was discontinued when the majority of the Thropes escaped into the Wastelands, and the scientists and army most of the notes and the original formulas. This hasn't stopped people from trying to make the "true serum" again, mind.

True Thropes are crosses between Mr. Hyde and werewolves, as evidenced by the pictures. They're big, they're burly, they regenerate from drat near anything, their bites are infectious and they can't be human anymore after ten transformations. They also are functionally immortal short of overwhelming force or an accident (like suffocation or starvation). The Thropes of the Wastelands can have multiple kids per pregnancy which are called Purebred who will never have a human form and have a feral animal intelligence. They live in packs with literal fights for dominance and spend their days hunting and feeding and fighting. If the ghouls don't inherit the Earth, the Thropes sure as hell will. But a lot of human knowledge and creation will be lost in the process.

Because it's hard to make the true serum, the only way to become a real Thrope is to be bitten by a Wasteland Thrope. The DR to make the true Thrope serum is 28 and frankly you might as well just say "you'll never make it". Any attempts to make a serum generally require a second roll (DR 20) to make a flawed serum. The big thing about Thrope serums is that A: there's a ton of them and B: the first time you drink the serum always has the same effect. The drinker gets huge, regenerates any wound, wrecks poo poo and then transforms back to normal. The real killer is the second transformation unless otherwise stated.
  • 2: Killer Transformation: The first transformation is grotesque and cancerous, causing the victim to just balls-out mutate and turn into a twitching mass of bone and flesh that dies quickly.
  • 3-4: Weak Serum: The drinker turns into a Thrope BUT can't pass it on with a bite, is not immortal and can't regenerate. The act of becoming human inflicts a Serious Wound and other Thropes think you're a wuss. You're also sterile, just to rub salt in the wounds. The upside? You retain your mind in Thrope form and you don't fly into homicidal rages. You can't drink another serum to fix this.
  • 5-6: Mutagen: The next time you transform you become a misshapen monster, not a Thrope. Bad poo poo happens to you and you look weird. You also have one or two attributes permanently reduced by 1. Whenever you transform, you turn into your monster form from now on and you have a permanent Defect. You can't drink another serum to fix this.
  • 7-8: Partial Transformation: Your first transformation stops halfway through, permanently putting you in a state between forms. +1 Vitality, -1 Charm and you have a Defect. You can't drink another serum to fix this.
  • 9-11: One Shot: You feel the anger overtaking you and...nothing happens. Your dose was only good for that first transformation and that's it, you're not really a Thrope. You can take another serum if you want, but a one-shot Thrope serum is pretty perfect for gaining the massive benefits briefly with no downside.
  • 12-13: Killing Machine: Your second transformation turns you absolutely apeshit. You see red during that second turn and have to spend the whole time sedated or restrained. Otherwise you'll go on a massive killing spree, breaking everything in your path. When you turn back to normal, you are no longer a Thrope. You can drink another serum if you want.
  • 14-15: Degenerating Form: Every time you transform it takes a toll on your body. You have all of the Thrope benefits except for immortality and your bite. Sometimes you only transform halfway, sometimes the Thrope mind gets stuck in your body. Every time you return to human form you have to make a Vitality roll where failure reduces it by 1. Hitting 0 paralyzes you, going beneath that kills you because your body couldn't take the strain of irregular, stressful transformations. Should you ever hang with other Thropes, they can smell your condition and mercy-kill you. You can't take another serum to fix this and it will probably kill you.
  • 16-17: Flawed Transmogrification: Your first transformation only affects your limbs, twisting and warping them. You end up Lame and with a Defect, unable to transform again or drink another serum and gain its benefits.
  • 18-19: Weak Serum.
  • 20: Killer Transformation.

Being a Thrope sucks. Every time you gain a Serious Wound or feel sufficiently threatened you have to make a DR 11 Will roll to not transform. Every time you fail the DR goes up by one, and willingly transforming to help others or free yourself counts as a failure. And every time you transform it lasts longer and longer and you're harder to control and transformation is faster and easier. After you transform ten times you abandon society and go out into the Wastelands to find your own path. Maybe it's better out there for someone like you, someone damned like you.
GALVANISTS

What are Galvanists? Shoehorned. I think they forgot they needed to have an overt Frankenstein reference so they threw this in at the last minute. Galvanists are people reanimated through aetheric energy. They're a lot like Mercurials but with galvanic technology filling gaps instead of using alchemical solutions. They come in two forms: Prometheans and Post Cadaverous Automata.

PCA are what happens when you make a Victorian Manchine a la SLA Industries. PCAs are brain tanks in mechanical bodies. If it's organic and still attached to you, it's because it serves a purpose like using a heart to pump nutrient preservative fluid through your body. For the most part, though, they're walking life support systems that are 90% mechanical and used to do things normal people can't do, like construction or mining. PCA Galvanists are still technically alive though, but they're still treated as machine men. Most of the time they have one limb wholly replaced with a tool to work with or don't even get anything more than a Rattler to use to talk. Prometheans are different. Prometheans are made when a doctor preserves and stitches body parts together to make a whole body. A PCA has an internal aetheric energy system that requires batteries or hand-cranks to recharge or it just draws on the power grid. PCAs need maintenance weekly. Prometheans are 100% alive. Not half-lifers, alive. They have beating hearts, they can age, they need to eat, they don't need aetheric energy.

Either way making a Galvanic is hard work. You need to collect the parts, store the parts, build mechanical parts if need be and then figure out how to deliver the spark of life properly to the soul. The other big problem is getting your hands on a suitable brain. It's a lot harder to keep a brain in a preserved state than an arm, so you generally need a jar to help keep it alive for a while. The process of making any sort of Galvanic is to make a few Galvanic or Medicine rolls to assemble the body, perfect the body, smooth out scars and make adjustments. From there you put the brain in and make the proper rolls to see if it gets LIFE. Unlike all other experiments, failure means that you have to fix the body a little bit before trying again. Another failure means the whole thing is a wash and you need to start over again. Which is a problem because it can take ten hours a day for at least a month for work, even more if you're gonna sew it without scars and push yourself to the limit to get it done faster and done right

Galvanists can get experimental enhancements installed that raise the DR of the task of animation. Such enhancements are Armored Form, Beautiful, Dead Ringer (make the Promethean look exactly like someone), Giant, Graceful, Hardened Skeleton, Heightened Senses, Industrial Equipment (for PCAs only) and Reproductively Viable (Prometheans only). Yeah, that's right. You may have brought them to life with 100% life but they can't actually make babies unless you want them to. PCAs can be taught skills, look hideous, need maintenance and need life sustaining things. Prometheans come back to life with any possible mental issues and may have problems with memories of their past life flaring up, but galvanic reanimation isn't necessarily harsh on them and they don't come back gaining any extra baggage besides a touch of melancholy. They come back as blank slates that need some education and some care, and if the maker took the time to do it right they can even come back without stitches. It's not the best kind of second life...but when you consider some of the other options, it's not that bad of a deal. Also your creator may be a naked woman in a leather apron, so there's that to look forward to.

NEXT TIME: CHAPTER SEVEN, THE GM CHAPTER and REVISIONS BETWEEN EDITIONS and MY THOUGHTS ON THIS WHOLE THING NOW THAT I HAVE READ THE FULL drat BOOK

Hostile V fucked around with this message at 08:47 on Feb 4, 2014

girl dick energy
Sep 30, 2009

You think you have the wherewithal to figure out my puzzle vagina?


The Thropes are genuinely a pretty cool take on the werewolf/Hyde thing, and I'm a huge sucker for The Reanimator. They give off a kind of 'best parts of OWoD' vibe that I can't help but dig. UM could be almost decent if run in, like, FATE, and with some actual hope in the world.

citybeatnik
Mar 1, 2013

You Are All
WEIRDOS






My favorite part of the UM update is the strategic use of Her Majesty the Queen.

Thropes -sound- cool, I just wish that there was an actual way to play one. The "ten pops and you're done" thing just seems kinda goofy - I understand the need for balance, but you'd think that there would be some botched version that's a little weaker than the Weak Serum to actually let you play as one. All needing to keep a ticking clock on you to remind you when to take your suppressant shot for the day. Instead the game continues its habit of going "oh hey here's something that's potentially fun but no you can't play it!".

And that last picture in the update is one of the more WTF ones in the book - but considering the artist (who has done stuff for both the old World of Darkness and the Exalted lines) I suppose that shouldn't be that surprising.

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

I can't hate UM. The concept is just too cool. I'm even fine with the Anglo-centricness of it and the continuation of Victorian values and tech all the way into the future. It's not a good game by any means, but it's not rubbish either.

Cyphoderus
Apr 21, 2010

I'll have you know, foxes have the finest call in nature



The Challenge of the Bandeirantes
Part 1 - Introduction


Challenge of the Bandeirantes opens with "you probably walked into a bookstore and the cover or title of this book called your attention. Maybe you've heard about it from someone and decided to go see what it's all about. Maybe you just got it as a gift and have absolutely no idea what to make of it." The book then introduces itself to you: it is a role-playing game, and with it you and your friends can have hours of fun pretending to be cool people in a fantastical version of colonial Brazil. Please, don't stop reading, we guarantee that it's fun and exciting.

This makes Challenge probably the first RPG book that I've read that admits it must look utterly bizarre and unaproachable to someone who uncaustiously opens it. It goes to the trouble of calming the random reader by explaining itself very clearly in very big letters. I like it.

As every RPG book aimed at beginners, our first chapter (after the introduction presented above) is one about the nature of RPGs. It has the standard paragraphs: what are RPGs, what you need to play, how to read dice (Challenge uses a percentile dice system), etc. Of note here is our first little blurb about the setting itself.

The first thing you notice is that Challenge is not merely a Brazilian reskin of D&D. It isn't even very high-fantasy, for the most part.



The game is set in the Land of Santa Cruz (Holy Cross), in 1650 of our own calendar, in a world much like ours at the time. This is in fact the first difference between our world and the game's: Brazil was indeed called the Land of Santa Cruz for the first few decades after its "discovery", in 1500. The name was quickly changed to Brasil because of the vast amounts of pau-brasil found, an extremely valuable tree that could produce blood red tincture. Red was for many centuries the most valuable tincture, which is why kings' mantles were all red. Pau-brasil was the chief export of Brazil for a long while and gives the country its name. In the game, the name Land of Santa Cruz was kept until 1650.

Another important distinction between the game's setting and the real world is that, in the game, there's been a treaty between the Portuguese Church and the Catholic Church which forbids the enslavement of indigenous tribes. Historically, many expeditions in Brazil (the bandeiras from last update) were undertaken with the purpose of capturing natives as slaves. In the game, this practice is forbidden, even though there are clandestine native slaves. Instead, the player characters will undertake expeditions to escort caravans between towns, deal with hostile tribes, find precious metal, and overall be more heroic than if they were slave-catchers.

Note: as I am not aware of the proper conventions of talking about natives in English, and as the average inhabitant of the United States thinks of "America" as their own country instead of the countinent, to refer to the native Americans showing up in the game I will use the Portuguese term: "índio". This term never became an issue, as the word used to refer to someone from India is different ("indiano").



Just like 1650's Brazil, the Land of Santa Cruz is in the middle of the process of colonisation. There are big settlements where the Europeans have stablished a very firm hold, and there are many places left completely unexplored and wild. Some índio tribes actively trade with the whites, some are openly hostile, some are neutral, and some are so isolated they aren't even aware of the whites' presence. The black are brought with the white as slaves, but, in the game, the proportion of black people who freed themselves is much, much higher than in real life.

The Land of Santa Cruz is magical. Player characters can harness the power of spells, spirits, gods, the Christian god, and more. Each culture has their own relationship with the supernatural: índios, whites, and blacks all have their specific ways of dealing with magic and religion. We'll talk more about this next update, when we talk about character creation. The Land of Santa Cruz is also inhabited by all sorts of creatures: all superstitions, urban legends and myths from back then or from today relating to back then are considered real. The wilderness is teeming with supernatural creatures, and most are hostile.

And, finally, the names of the peoples are changed. There are no Portuguese in the Land of Santa Cruz, but lusitanes (Lusitânia is an archaic name for Portugal). There are no Spanish, but castelanes. The same thing happens with the índio tribes who appear in the game: the tupi are represented by the jaguaris, the guaranis by the maoáris, and so on. This, the game explicitly tells us, is so that the players can feel more at home in a fantasy setting and cast aside their natural preconceptions about these real world people.

In other words, the setting of Challenge of the Bandeirantes isn't as much fantastical as it is historical. It's a version of historical Brazil were myths and folklore is truth, and many design decisions are made throughout the game to keep verisimilitude with the real world. I believe this is a point in the game's favour. One of the game's design goals is to get people away from imported D&D fantasy and into a very national kind of imagination space; the extra grounding in reality helps with that. And the part that's not grounded in reality – the fighters and casters and creatures and less goddamn slavery – all help create a setting where adventure is possible and encouraged and everyone can have a good heroic time.

Next time: character creation! Four kinds of wizards, three kinds of priests, and the poor fighter is still the poor fighter

Please let me know if something is poorly explained. I might left something important out because I don't know what things from 1600's history you guys are familiar with.

Ratoslov
Feb 15, 2012

Now prepare yourselves! You're the guests of honor at the Greatest Kung Fu Cannibal BBQ Ever!



Cyphoderus posted:

Please let me know if something is poorly explained. I might left something important out because I don't know what things from 1600's history you guys are familiar with.

Generally, American history education doesn't cover anything in South American history aside from Hernan Cortez and maybe the construction of the Panama Canal. We're completely ignorant of the era.

Redeye Flight
Mar 26, 2010

God, I'm so tired. What the hell did I post last night?


Ratoslov posted:

Generally, American history education doesn't cover anything in South American history aside from Hernan Cortez and maybe the construction of the Panama Canal. We're completely ignorant of the era.

Simon Bolivar sometimes gets a drop at the higher levels, but other than that, yeah. It might as well be ancient China for how much we learn.

Ratoslov
Feb 15, 2012

Now prepare yourselves! You're the guests of honor at the Greatest Kung Fu Cannibal BBQ Ever!



Redeye Flight posted:

Simon Bolivar sometimes gets a drop at the higher levels, but other than that, yeah. It might as well be ancient China for how much we learn.

Not true! Thanks to Dynasty Warriors, I know way more about ancient China than 17th century Brazil.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



Ratoslov posted:

Generally, American history education doesn't cover anything in South American history aside from Hernan Cortez and maybe the construction of the Panama Canal. We're completely ignorant of the era.
We briefly learned about the Banana Plantations and the Iran-Contra scandal but yeah that's pretty much it. Interesting stuff so far.

Kavak
Aug 23, 2009




I have a vague outline of South American history in my head, but everything between the early colonial period and the breakup of the Spanish Empire is a total blank.

Toph Bei Fong
Feb 29, 2008



What we're trying to say here is please, educate us! This game looks pretty cool! I'm always a sucker for settings that seem familiar on the surface (the part about settlers coming from Europe and killing all the Indians and taking over the land), but are based on cultures I don't know much about and have circumstances completely different from the way that story happened in North America.

Tasoth
Dec 12, 2011


I have to echo the want to hear the history of Brasil in the updates. Finding out about different countries pasts and their achievements is always interesting.

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Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011

WE HAVE TO CONTROL OUR ENVIRONMENT
IF YOU SEE ME POSTING OUTSIDE OF THE AUSPOL THREAD PLEASE TELL ME THAT I'M MISSED AND TO START POSTING AGAIN


The Leper Colon V posted:

The Thropes are genuinely a pretty cool take on the werewolf/Hyde thing, and I'm a huge sucker for The Reanimator. They give off a kind of 'best parts of OWoD' vibe that I can't help but dig. UM could be almost decent if run in, like, FATE, and with some actual hope in the world.

I'm digging UM, to be honest. Instead of focusing on aristocrats in zeppelins and goggles it takes off from the 'dark satanic mills' part of the industrial revolution. It's all shot through with a very British pessimism and dark humor. I don't know if I'd want to live there, but I'd read a comic about it in a (imperfectly restarted) heartbeat.

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