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Majuju
Dec 30, 2006

I had a beer with Stephen Miller once and now I like him.

Appoda posted:

Also, is there anything else like WLD in size? As bad as it was (or because it's so bad), I kinda like really ambitious adventure modules like this. I know World's Largest City is out there, and I certainly haven't read up on everything F&F has to offer, either.

Not sure if Ptolus counts or not but it was colossal and ran 1 - 30.

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girl dick energy
Sep 30, 2009

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

Yawgmoth posted:

Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil is nowhere near as big, but it's pretty close to as ambitious. It's pretty brutal as far as encounters go, but the writers are well aware of this and make special note of what the PCs and DM should expect and prepare for and such. If anyone is interested in a write-up of it, I could likely dig my copy out of the bookshelf.
I'd be very interested in this. I own and love the (patched) game, so I'm curious to see how the source material is different.

Terrible Opinions
Oct 17, 2013



Slumbering Tsar (technically pathfinder but started development in 3.5) and Rappan Athuk are both about as big.
I haven't played either of them but they seem to have a lot of fans.

girl dick energy
Sep 30, 2009

You think you have the wherewithal to figure out my puzzle vagina?
Hm. Red Hand of Doom is pretty big. I dunno if anyone's done it yet or not. I probably could.

Edit Looks like it's uncharted territory. Cool. Yes, I know I have a Heavy Gear 2e thing I left abandoned months ago, I'll get to it... eventually. :effort:

Piell
Sep 3, 2006

Grey Worm's Ken doll-like groin throbbed with the anticipatory pleasure that only a slightly warm and moist piece of lemoncake could offer

Young Orc

Appoda posted:

Just wanna say thanks for finishing this, I really enjoyed the write up. The basic premise of the game gave me idea for a campaign of my own, and at the beginning of your presentation, you said you had some ideas on how you could improve WLD. Assuming you're not completely sick of WLD and the banner quote alone doesn't make you gag, what would you have changed? Anything aside from obvious things, like giving useful treasure and not filling 90% of the dungeon with garbage or utterly one-sided encounters?

Also, is there anything else like WLD in size? As bad as it was (or because it's so bad), I kinda like really ambitious adventure modules like this. I know World's Largest City is out there, and I certainly haven't read up on everything F&F has to offer, either.

There are three major flaws in WLD (amongst a host of minor ones)

1)Lack of mechanical rigor: it's everywhere. Not just things that are much stronger or much weaker than the character levels who are supposed to be trudging through the area, but flat-out wrong numbers abound, like all the obviously incorrect CRs or weird HP totals

2)Get hosed, players: all the random gently caress-you traps that are impossible to find, terrible suggestions (if they take 20, all the DC's go up by 20!)

3)Lack of coherence: I read a bit about it where they stated that the maps were made first and then each section was split up and then worked on individually, and it's pretty obvious that there was little planning about how each section connected to the others, and how factions were actually supposed to work within each section

As it is, there's basically no way to fix WLD, the problems are all baked-in and you would have to change almost everything about it. At best, you'd be able to take a few of the concepts and get something decent out of it.

girl dick energy
Sep 30, 2009

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


Joints & Jivers, Part 0: Your mother would turn over in her grave if she were here to see this.
In 2009, a rather clever parody of old blaxpoitation B-movies called Black Dynamite was released in theaters, and it was good. Before long, a few people on /tg/, 4chan's Traditional Games board, decided they wanted to play a tabletop game based on the genre. Normally, this would result in a few grognards.txt posts and a well-worn lesson that the internet and race relations do not get along, but every so often, the stars will align, thirty virgins will be sacrificed under the shadow of a blood moon, and 4chan will do something worthwhile.

An anonymous poster, dubbed Funky Anon, cobbled together a simple set of rules. It was little more than just a few character archetypes and some simple “roll 1d6+modifier” rules, but it placated the thread. The story could have ended there, had Viral (of Engine Heart fame) not shown up, and made it into something more. With added depth, refinement, and careful navigation of certain problematic issues Joints & Jivers came into its own.

The game was, and is, still very clearly a send-up to the genre, but with much better handling of race than the 'source material'. Still, going in, I feel like I need to introduce its origins. It's an interesting game, and can be a blast to play with the right crowd, but in the wrong circumstances, it can make for a rather uncomfortable evening, as everyone has a slow, drawn-out realization that one of their friends is actually kind of incredibly racist.

Just a heads-up.

Next Time: Your bad-rear end self.

Lynx Winters
May 1, 2003

Borderlawns: The Treehouse of Pandora

LAST TIME ON DRAGON BALL Z!
It's been a little while, hasn't it? As a refresher, last time I made words about this game I talked about how to just punch a green dude a couple dozen times a turn before anyone gets the chance to throw a fireball! That's good, because it prevents the game from locking up the first time someone actually defends themselves from an energy attack, thanks to the Infinite Death Tennis scenario. Today's post is about what happens if you manage to actually complete a fight without the game imploding: Get Huge or Die Trying!

HUGE!!!
So I know I've been hammering this point home pretty hard, but clearly nobody actually playtested this game because the math doesn't work. In an earlier post I talked about how the 3d6 roll for skills means that it's possible to make someone that's untouchable or can't possibly miss another starting character by having a skill difference of more than 19. Today we'll turn "possible" into "inevitable," and also look at how R. Talsorian suggests you balance enemies in an environment where balance is a polite suggestion at best.

For some reason they decided to cram the Experience section into the middle of the Powers chapter. It first details the ways you can gain XP:
  • Training: Regular training under normal, peaceful-ish conditions gets you 10 XP per year. This is slow and boring.
  • Multiple Gravities: This is a better way to get XP without actually doing anything in the plot. Each year of training under extra gravity gives 10 XP times the level of gravity you trained in, which is basically like cramming a bunch of years of training into one. In an example of why Saiyans are just better, normal humans can only increase their gravity threshold by two per year and can never train under more than 6 times normal gravity. Saiyans and half-Saiyans, on the other hand, can increase up to ten gravities per year and have no known limit. Oddly, there's no mention of Namekkians or other types of aliens.
  • King Kai: If you get blasted into the Other World and the GM lets you keep playing as a dead person, training under King Kai's tutelage grants 30 XP per day! The downside to this is that you are dead so unless the whole party is dead and going on adventures in the afterlife, this is a pretty lovely way to split the party. Still, 30 per day is a whole lot when you're just starting out.
  • The Dragon Balls: If you can gather the Dragon Balls and summon Shenron, you could certainly wish for a shitload of power. The book suggests that giving 5000 XP after going through some huge challenges is reasonable, but "reasonable" isn't this game at all so go nuts.
  • Fighting: This will be the most common way of gaining XP. You get XP from any fight that you survive, whether you win or lose. Divide your opponent's Power Level by your own, rounding up. Multiply that result by 10 to determine how much XP you get.

They also suggest that the GM might just give you bonus XP for whatever reason seems appropriate. Oddly, the math on getting XP from fights basically favors keeping your Power Level stat relatively low for maximum XP gain. Since the most useful powers are "going first" and "going more" and both of those are pretty cheap, not spending a lot on raising Power Level is pretty doable.

Once you have some XP burning a hole in your weighted clothing, it's time to apply it to your stats. Since this game tries to be pretty easy on the math, XP is spent on your stats on a one-for-one basis. However, you must spend XP in increments of 10. No splitting it up to get 5 points in a skill and 5 points to boost your Defense. You're allowed to spend XP on Power Level, Power Up, your skills, your Defense, or your Hits.

I said this in the first post, but at no point are you allowed to raise your four basic stats. Spending energy lets you temporarily boost those stats for a short time, but that's it. You can raise your Fighting and Evasion skills all you want to make up for a low starting Combat score, but a crazy-high starting Mental will let you get the first turn at the start of just about every fight and nobody can really do anything about it.

So to put everything together: the core resolution mechanic of the game (stat+skill+3d6) doesn't work well once people have a difference in skill totals higher than 19. There is an auto-fail roll (natural 3) but no auto-success. Character advancement in skills is done in multiples of 10, which means it only takes takes two Evasion skill boosts to destroy any chance the GM had to balance enemies. The moment any one PC has 20 more Evasion than another, any enemy with a real threat of being able to hit that PC will only miss the other PCs on a natural 3, which is roughly a 0.5% chance. How does the book suggest you balance villains when the math is that delicate? Add up all their stats! :downs: Here's a sidebar from page 114:

quote:

One Man Gang
For example, say your players have Combat Characterists of 20, 30, and 45 respectively. A bad guy with a total Combat of 95 (20+30+45) is really going to make them sweat.

I, uh... hmm. That's all there is in the entire GM chapter of the book. The rest is all just the standard "how to make a game plot" stuff we've seen a million times. That helpful suggestion does nothing to address the problem, and might just end up making a bad guy that never misses and flattens the PC . It also doesn't help that they don't tell you what to make the the villain's skills or defense or anything. The fact is, there is no real good way to do it. Major enemy NPCs will have to have extremely high Defense and Hits to endure more than a couple Phases of a group of PCs going to town, while not having enough offensive capability to vaporize someone with a glance. Buying extra actions with energy means that whoever goes first will probably win, and since that's probably going to be the GM's galaxy-threatening alien supervillain they'll probably just wipe the whole team. At least that means everyone gets to train under King Kai!

The second-smartest way to stat out enemy NPCs is decide roughly how many minor and major hits they can take before dying, decide a rough percentage of a player's health to take away on a failed evade, then just fake-roll some dice and tell the players "you need to roll a 12 or better to evade his attack" on his turn. The smartest way to stat out NPCs is to put this book away and just watch the show with your friends. It's not high entertainment, but it's a drat sight smarter than this game ever was.

Your wish... is granted.
That about does it for the core book of the Dragon Ball Z Anime Adventure Game! Thanks for reading, and I'm sorry. There's still two supplements to cover, but I'm not sure if I want to jump on them right away or if I want to write about Capcom World Tournament, the d20 Street Fighter RPG that almost was. When ever I decide to get around to the Frieza and Androids books, they'll definitely go much faster than the core book. If anyone has any thoughts on the matter, please let me know!

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!


Appoda posted:

Just wanna say thanks for finishing this, I really enjoyed the write up. The basic premise of the game gave me idea for a campaign of my own, and at the beginning of your presentation, you said you had some ideas on how you could improve WLD. Assuming you're not completely sick of WLD and the banner quote alone doesn't make you gag, what would you have changed? Anything aside from obvious things, like giving useful treasure and not filling 90% of the dungeon with garbage or utterly one-sided encounters?

Also, is there anything else like WLD in size? As bad as it was (or because it's so bad), I kinda like really ambitious adventure modules like this. I know World's Largest City is out there, and I certainly haven't read up on everything F&F has to offer, either.

Awesome, glad to hear it.

Back when I had more free time and ambition for pointless side projects I actually did a series of blog posts where I went room-by-room trying to see if the WLD could be salvaged. I managed to complete Region A and B. If you want to see my composure crumble as I try to slog through the mess you can read it here: http://z-toast.blogspot.com/search/label/World%27s%20Largest%20Dungeon

In a more general sense, here are my recommendations.

The Dungeon as a whole Here are the main problems I have with the dungeon itself.

Layout I always found the fact that you'll inevitably miss a good chunk of the Regions to be BS. The dungeon really should be reorganized in either a linear pattern, or top down. This would give greater control over level progression (since you don't have to worry about low level PCs running into high level areas or vice versa). Also the fat is in dire need of trimming. There are Regions that are not worth keeping around, especially since many of them are redundant to each other level-wise. I would say the following Regions have enough potential to be kept around with heavy modification, and roughly in the proper "order"

*Region A
*Region B
*Region I
*Region K (only if you really want a water section)
*Region O (If you drop all the extra class levels and HD and delete a couple of high level monsters this makes for a decent mid-level region. of course remove the "exit")
*Region J
*Region N and/or Region G (with a more powerful demonic presence)

Region H isn't so bad, but it really doesn't fit the theme of the WLD as a whole. Region M and C are basically pointless. Region D really sticks out as well but you could include it as a "side" region splitting off from the linear path. Region E is just the same as G, but without the slim justification of rogue demons.


Commerce I know a lot of the dungeon's problems come from the fact that you're sealed in...but I actually assumed that would be the case even before I got the book and I kind of like it. It brings to mind old-school dungeon crawler and roguelike games like Eye of the Beholder or Nethack. But, what is essential is that there's something for the PCs to do with all that treasure they collect, and more importantly a way for them to get gear that suits them. It's no good being a Fighter who's already dumped Weapon Proficiency, Focus and Specialization on a Bastard Sword only to find out that there isn't a magical one until level 9...and that's just a +1 weapon. Find an excuse to shoehorn agreeable NPCs with an interest in trade. An elven wizard willing to trade scrolls and potions or recharge wands in exchange for gemstones and rare monster giblets. An ancient celestial forge-golem that will activate and magically enhance a weapon if enough divine scrolls are burned inside it's furnace-belly. A goblin merchant with some decent bodyguards who travels between different humaniod groups in the upper levels and barters.

Leveling Definitely use XP, because the writers idea of just "leveling up" at appropriate times doesn't work because there are no "appropriate times". I would just suggest cutting xp rewards in half once the PCs are above the appropriate level range. This gives motivation to keep delving deeper and should stunt leveling enough to keep things relatively sane.


As far as suggestions for the specific Regions (at least for the keepers)...

Region A This place needs to have it's traps dialed down several notches. Replace the magical traps with mechanical ones. Also, my personal suggestion for any mechanical traps in the dungeon (unless they're obviously made by newer inhabitants) is to make blades/spears/arrows silvered and/or cold iron. This not only makes the traps make more sense but its a good way to supply the PCs with sources of improvised weapons that can be used against demons and devils. That's especially important here considering that the boss is a wererat. Go through the list of animals and come up with some good substitutes for fiendish stirges/darkmantles/rats.

Region B I personally swapped some statues around and changed locations to make the whole new religion of the goblins a bit more feasible. The gygaxian trap region needs to just be sealed off or heavily updated.

Region I This Region mainly just needs a reason for the PCs not to leave ASAP, since it is just plain nasty (but otherwise fairly interesting). A linear or top-down dungeon can definitely solve this, especially if the exits are covered in some kind of flesh-wall and the PCs need to track down a suitable alchemical or magical substance to get past.

Region K As an "outdoors" style Region this Region needs to be much, much bigger. I'd say increase the size by a factor of 2 or 3 at least. Perhaps this was an area where the celestials kept truly gigantic prisoners (drowned or killed by the floodwaters), so you can scatter giant chained bones here and there. And for god's sake give the dragon a decent hoard. The larger scale will also make it easier for PCs to avoid notice by the dragon when they first set foot inside and give you more room to include a decent population of tritons and merfolk and turn them into proper allies.

Region O You might make this an "extension" of K rather as part of the "big mother" storage. If you reduce the number and class levels of giants it could work as a good mid-level region. Come up with a good reason for how the frost giants got in and why this area is so cold. Possibly replace the frost giant shaman with an Ice Demon who's producing the cold through some sort of magical artifact or weapon. Also, include a white dragon. this dungeon is sparse on dragons.

Region J Like O and K this could be part of a single large area. Perhaps the fire-based entities in J and the frost based ones in O are in conflict and Region K is the "neutral ground" between them with the green dragon keeping them both out for now. Region J needs to either be much bigger or have a lot of its population culled however, too many different critters in too many locations. Perhaps the artifact used to keep Region O frost shrouded is what's keeping the dragon in J imprisoned, meanwhile the frost and fire giants are both preparing for an eventual war.

Region N/G Either one of these has the design needed for a "final" Region. I would probably only include one or the other. Given the celestial vs demons theme of the dungeon and the massive problems with N I would go with G. The Demons here need a power boost to make the besieged celestial garrison more believable (the demon lord should certainly be at least a Pit Fiend, if not something obscene like a Fiendish Pseudonatural Tarrasque. You might even include D in here as an "offshoot" region where enslaved dwarves are trying to free yet more dark forces.


But overall, the biggest thing is that GMs are just going to have to be able to improvise and improve things room by room as they're found. The place is just riddled with crappy stuff. Switching to a different system could help, because at least then you'll be changing the stuff already.

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 sky above the port was the color of a television, tuned to a dead channel.

Okay, one last post and we should be set to wrap up Technoir. First we'll close out the core rulebook by talking a little bit about each of the three Transmissions included, then we'll talk about the Kickstarter-unlocked Transmissions, and finally we'll talk a little bit about MechNoir. Let's do this.



The Los Angeles Sprawl
It's big, it's smoggy, and it covers a knife-edged city of broken dreams and lost souls with a shiny veneer of glitz and glamour. It's the Los Angeles Sprawl, and after decades of being Vancouver's poor cousin, it's back on top of the entertainment industry. The hot thing these days is Immatrix Experiences--total sensory immersion streamed directly into your nervous system, letting you be the heroes of your favorite stories. And if you don't think there's a seamy side to Immatrix filmmaking... well, you haven't read much hard-boiled fiction. Or interacted with human beings all that often.

In the L.A. Sprawl, you might find yourself mired in a mystery involving:

  • Pi Larson, Beverly Hills' cybersurgeon to the stars
  • A High-Speed Pursuit, when a fugitive on a Switchblade is chased by Starlight Watch through the freeways of L.A. (Maybe it's you!)
  • The Church of Astroogy, an :siren:entirely fictional:siren: secretive celebrity cult
  • Saito Arena, the proving ground for the recently-legalized blood derby :black101:
  • The Needle, a syringe in a leather case containing several milliliters of the Orion Pathogen.
  • Tom and Dick, a pair of hitmen. Where's Harry? :iiam:


Singapore Sling
Boiling hot and humid as a slap in the face with a wet towel, Singapore is a city of sharp divides. The upper class flaunt neo-Victorian fashion and live in towering arcologies, while the rest struggle and scrape to make enough money to pay the annual "don't get deported forever" tax. The Port of Singapore is its whole own thing, a massive, mostly-automated facility that handles millions of tons of shipping every day. The people who live dockside are treated as nonentities--even entering the walled city without a Citiplant or a temporary visa will get you killed. The "Sling" part of the name comes from the 50 kilometer railgun built by the Zenith Group to cheaply and efficiently launch cargo into orbit.

In the Singapore Sling, you might have to deal with:

  • Suey Chow, brash smuggler and captain of the Flynn's Revenge, barely drinking age
  • The Anatomist, a serial killer who records and posts live dissections on the Interface
  • GTFOFT.org.sg, an interface hub for nativist hooligans where recordings of refugee beatings are popular
  • The 10% Club, a scummy dockside bar where having a Citiplant gets you rumbled and tossed in the harbor
  • DRMDMA, a brain implant that directly stimulates the pleasure centers, but only when activated with single-use DRM codes
  • 10th Horse, a company of elite chauffeurs and bodyguards for the upper crust


Kilimanjaro Ring
It rhymes with Singapore Sling, and it's also about an earth-to-orbit construction project! In this case, Steiner Technology is building an earth-to-orbit "beanstalk" on the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro, while a mile below the peak a sealed ring city provides all the comforts of sea-level living. Local governments are keeping a tight hold on land rights and other permissions, and while nobody much likes to admit it, the Beanstalk is behind schedule and massively overbudget. Throw in extremist groups, media sensationalism, and the inevitable exploitation of workers on a project like this, and you've got a volcano ready to blow.

At Kilimanjaro, you never know what's going to happen next, but it might involve:

  • Liesbeth Van Otterloo, a street doctor in Lower South Bend
  • Beanstalk Bombing, where a terrorist act kills a bunch of people and sets construction back by months
  • The Union of Summit Workers, a newly-formed union for the Beanstalk construction crew.
  • The Exchange, a global marketplace both physical and virtual, made famous by the Immatrix thriller Ring of Woe
  • A severed cyberhand, once attached to a cartel middleman
  • A Frequency Assault Team, child hackers hidden all around the city who perform coordinated strikes


Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
Home of the fastest Interface connections on earth, Hong Kong is a polluted nightmare of airborne toxins and poison rain. Climate-change driven typhoons and pollution from mainland factories has rendered the city pretty close to uninhabitable--at least, above ground. The rich and powerful, referred to as the Clean, can afford the genetic and cybermods to live above ground, but everybody else lives underground and makes due with filter masks and coated rain-gear. Used to be that when the Air Pollution Index dropped low enough, the whole city would erupt into spontaneous festivals, but there hasn't been a safe day in years.

Hong Kong stories might feature:

  • Woo Fat, a retired Triad enforcer who now produces Immatrix movies. He's fond of light-hearted comedies.
  • Exposure, when five Clean athletes die after a hacker disables their implants during a cricket match
  • The Bank of China, a financial institution whose "investments" are the main way the mainland influences local affairs.
  • Bottoms Up, a hip cantopop club in Kowloon
  • Baba Yaga, a Russian-produced derivative of meth used as a sensation heightener by Immatrix performers
  • The Outstanding Five, street urchin pickpockets led by a ruthless, elderly crook.


Twin Cities Metroplex
We've already seen a bunch of this Transmission during our character creation and plot-map building phases. It's at the cutting edge of cybertech, but it's suffering from a combination of the harshest winters in decades and a sudden, massive spike in unemployment. Daedalus Innovation, the main employer in the area, just laid off 80% of its workforce and replaced them with robots. The huge arcology they built to house those employees is being renovated into a pleasure palace for the obscenely rich as homelessness rates soar, and all the while the air is getting chillier.

What's going on in the Twin Cities? Well, you might want to look into:

  • January Jade, a smuggler and gun dealer in Lowertown St. Paul
  • The Big Blizzard, an overnight storm with record-low temperatures and record-high snowfall
  • Cybertronic Systems, an upstart corp looking to challenge Daedalus' market dominance
  • The Pig's Eye Tavern, a seedy bar in St. Paul
  • The Bag, a suitcase full of cash
  • The Bleeding Razors, a biker gang out of North Minneapolis.



MechNoir posted:

Life on Mars...
TECHNOLOGY
Massive walking machines called “rigs” were engineered to carve into the red husk of Mars and construct new colonial structures for those who fled an Earth that didn’t want them anymore. Only practical in low-gravity environments, these mechanized giants are piloted by specialized riggers who use cerebral inputs to command the rigs as extensions of their own body. But when the colonies turned against each other, these rigs were retrofitted with weapons and utilized for their destructive capabilities in a war that spans the red planet.

ENVIRONMENT
Mars has a toxic atmosphere, horrific sandstorms, and less than half of Earth’s gravity. It’s not exactly easy for anyone to live here. This forces colonists to huddle together in the sealed domes and underground structures the rigs built. Even inside, farming is less than sustainable and pollution is a growing danger as the ability to recycle or replenish Earth’s imported resources is limited.

SOCIETY
The various communites that live on Mars came to escape religious and political pursecution on Earth. Now far from their oppressors, it didn’t take them long to turn their disdain towards each other. War has broken out between the planet’s three primary factions: the personality cult of the Shiat al-Raj’a, the Martian Autonomist Union, and the cloned zealots of “The Chosen.” Now the working-class riggers, once responsible for building the colonies, have been called on to be the warrior class that might bring society’s destruction.

MechNoir, you may recall, was one of three extra add-ons promised by the TechNoir kickstarter, and sadly the only one ever released. It consists of a 16-page player's guide containing new rules, and three Transmissions focused on the giant-robot theme.

The Player's Guide is laid out just like the one for basic TechNoir, with summaries of character generation, connection favors, gear, and rules. Unfortunately, for the most part it doesn't call out the new, MechNoir-specific rules anywhere, which means it's very easy to skim a section you know from the basic TechNoir rules and miss a new wrinkle.

First up we get mech-focused summaries of the nine verbs. Nothing here you don't expect--you use the same verbs as normal when you're driving a mech as when you're running around on the ground.

Next there's a new favor connections can grant: stable. This completely covers the cost of one mech (or "rig," as they're called) or transport ship, including any upgrade you put on it. Just like a shark favor, though, you owe your connection for the loan, and until it's paid off they can compel you to do work for them. With rigs ranging in cost from 19-22 Kreds, this is a pretty vital favor if you want to drive a rig and have, oh, anything else at all to your name.


Dancer 38: A high-speed rig designed to get in and out of dangerous territory.

We next get stats and costs for six different rigs, two transports, and a couple of varieties of flight suits. The rigs range from fast-moving, ostrich-legged scouts to mobile drilling rigs converted for combat. We also get a small Aliens-style dropship and a huge cargo hauler for transports. Like vehicles, rigs and transports cost 10 Kreds + the number of tags.

Rigs and transports have some new tags, including armor (which gets special rules a little later), huge (massive and crewed by multiple characters; each crewmember gets an action every round during a contention, but each tag on the vvehicle can only be used once per round, and articulated arms (exactly what it sounds like, your robot suit has arms and hands).

Tucked away in the summary of the contention rules, we find a new option when attacking a vehicle. Instead of creating a sticky or locked adjective, you can spend one push die to disable one of the target's tags, or spend two push dice to destroy it. Either way, that tag can't be used until the rig is repaired. Armor tags give the defending player another option: In lieu of accepting a sticky adjective or disabled tag, she can disable an armor tag instead. Likewise, to avoid a locked adjective or destroyed tag, she can destroy an armor tag. Unlike a lot of tags, vehicles can have the armor tag more than once.

Affecting a giant robot or a huge dropship isn't too easy for one person! Likewise, it's hard for giant robots to focus on one person, so generally the two scales don't interact. Certain vectors can change that, though--inflict a fleeting adjective like boarded on a rig and now you're inside, ripe for some sabotage. Hack their comm system and force the pilot to listen to you and you can make Coax rolls. And, of course, giant robots always have a vector to target multiple person-scale opponents with one action.


Coyote 5F: A light rig used for stealth and mobility.

Finally, Restoration still works as normal, with Operate or Hack subbing in for Treat when you're repairing a rig's hardware or software. Repairing a disabled tag works just like treating a sticky adjective. To replace a destroyed tag, you have to pay 1 Kred for the parts to downgrade "destroyed" to "disabled," and then you can fix it normally.

(Unfortunately, the Mechnoir transmissions don't have the cool little skyline silhouettes the regular ones do. So have some pictures of robots instead.)


Martian Autonomist Union, Local 10-6
Welcome to glorious Soviet Mars, comrade! The Sixers are a bunch of union boys and girls who overthrew their corporate bosses and, with the help of some genius prodigies in the union, they built an AI called TALLY to distribute the work equally and fairly. TALLY loves to keep people busy, whether that's putting in a fair day's work or blowing off steam at the weekend fights (both bare-knuckle and rigged up). The Sixers live deep underground, and every member's expected to do her share. Loafers don't tend to last long.

Among the Sixers, you might find:

  • Cass Ali, an undefeated rig fighter with a stunningly original name
  • Patch Day, where a software update on TALLY goes live and the AI promptly crashes
  • The Hollers, rumble truck drivers who carry vital supplies and gossip between Sixer communes
  • The Tsar, a defunct orbital cargo launcher shut down by the revolution
  • The Gusev Doozy, a flawless diamond a meter across, in a crater three days from the nearest commune
  • The Kimes, an extended family of gamblers, thieves, scammers, and cannibals. Wait, what?


Shiat al-Raj'a
Fleeing persecution and assassination attempts on earth, Raj'a (Peace be upon her) brought her followers to Mars. They've settled in the deepest part of the Valles Marinaras rift, with Qutb Alcazar, Raj'a's fortress, perched above at the canyon lip. But the colony is still dependent on supply drops from the faithful remaining on earth, and a series of purges have left them without enough technicians to keep the colony running. When religious fanaticism and severe deprivation meet, it's gonna be about as safe as when a match meets a can of gasoline.

In Shiat al-Raj'a, you'll contend with:

  • Kay, Ishiwara, chain-smoking chief engineer, armorer, and inventor, and also a former(?) Sixer
  • Redline! Reactor One narrowly avoids a containment breach, but was it an accident or sabotage?
  • The Stargazers, a former UN science outpost forcibly annexed when the Shiat arrived on Mars
  • The Broadcast Studio, a fortified production suite atop Qutb Alcazar's tallest minaret
  • Hadith 2.0, a brooch that records the Mahdi Raj'a's every word for posterity
  • The Coffins, inexperienced shock troops motivated with Sama-soma inhalers


The Chosen
The Earth is irredeemably under Satan's control, brothers and sisters. His scaly hands control every megacorp, every country, every person on the planet. Naturally, the only thing for the faithful to do was to start anew on Mars! With God's grace, the Chosen will remake the Red planet into a new Eden. Already their terraforming projects are bearing fruit, and advanced cloning techniques that cut gestation time down to 5 months have ensured them a booming population. From their main compound of Zion on Olympus Mons, they claim stewardship of the whole planet and preach that everyone born on earth is damned. Not that anyone else pays much attention.

If they don't shoot you on sight, the Chosen might get you tangled up with:

  • Founder Gabriel Cody, the last surviving member of the 144 Founders who led the faithful to Mars
  • Disfellowshipment, in which an entire community is expelled from the faith for "depraved worship"
  • The Deirdres, a controversial community of clones of Dierdra Sterling, who was a stowaway on the Founders' ship
  • Satan's Alley, a desolate canyon home to dust devils that can dismantle a rig in seconds. Not, surprisingly, your butthole.
  • The 8th Seal, a slang term for the chemical sterility treatments all Chosen receive on their 12th birthday. It has the fallible tag.
  • The Seraphim, an elite airborne strike team

And that's it for TechNoir and MechNoir! i've got to say I'm not a huge fan of MechNoir. It's not bad by any means, and I really like all three Transmissions, but the "giant robots" aspects feel kind of... tacked on, I guess? Partly I think that's because "giant robots fighting" isn't as natural a fit for hard-boiled detective fiction as "cyberpunk" is. Really, for the most part you could pull the rigs out of all three of those Transmissions and 99% of it would be exactly the same. Still, the Transmissions are really cool, and whether or not you're down with the giant robots they make great opportunities to push a TechNoir game into a bigger sci-fi arena than the typical cyberpunk story. I just kind of wish we'd gotten HexNoir.

Next Time: We continue my streak of reviewing d6 dice pool based games by taking a look at Hollowpoint, VSCA Publishing's game of "bad people killing bad people for bad reasons."

Tasoth
Dec 12, 2011

quote:

Cybertronic Systems, an upstart corp looking to challenge Daedalus' market dominance

I know it's probably coincidence from the genre, but this feels like a Mutant Chronicles reference.

Cyphoderus
Apr 21, 2010

I'll have you know, foxes have the finest call in nature
Sorry for the delay and the shortness, but it's been a harsh week.


Challenge of the Bandeirantes
Part IVb - The Sorcerer of Iron and Flame


Magic

Magic works just like the characters' regular skills. Each spell is skill you must invest points in. Casting a spell requires a successfull roll of the spell – for all sorcerers, all spells are Int-based. Each caster profession has a spell list instead of a career skill list, and spells can't be acquired by generic skill points. A fighter, thief, or tracker cannot use their 50 generic points to learn a little bit of magic, and a caster can't learn spells from another caster's list.

The Sorcerer of Iron and Flame

I've mentioned that no small number of black people who were brought from Africa stemmed from warrior cultures. No where is this more apparent than in the sorcerer of iron and flame. Unashamedly offensive casters, these sorcerers are adept at manipulating (guess what) both iron and flame.

Only the black and the mulatos (black/white offspring) can become sorcerers of iron and flame.

The firey side of the sorcerer's spell list has some predictable entries: they can set fire to flammable things, throw fireballs, raise barriers of flame, and shoot cones of fire from their hands. They can manipulate an already existing fire source – for instance, to frighten villagers by making their village bonfire take the form of a giant firey bat. There's spells to extinsguish fire and make oneself immune to flame as well.

One interesting spell if flame of truth; the sorcerer produces a fire that will burn only those who lie. You put your hand in the fire and nothing happens, but if you say something that's not true, you get burnt. Black society in the Land of Santa Cruz had one hell of an impartial judgment system.



The iron side of the sorcerer's spell list is less blatantly offensive. The sorcerer can read the recent memories of one metallic object. They can coat his own skin in iron, forming a protective carapace, or mold iron like clay. They can locate iron, sensing big masses of metal nearby, which makes them invaluable in searching for ore deposits in the wilderness or weapons deposits. They can control metal, making it dance under their command – my favourite use of this is to open your enemies' belt buckles, making them trip over their own pants. There's also an offensive spell which enables the sorcerer to shoot out any metal objects as dangerous darts: nails, powdered gold... everything becomes a potential bullet.

The sorcerer of iron and flame is the profession you pick to be a Street Fighter: they can set fire to their own fists, or make their own fists iron, both to increase their unarmed combat effectiveness. They can also set fire to their swords, because flaming blades is just something you gotta have in a fantasy setting.

Lastly, the sorcerer of iron and flame has a few "meta-magic" resources available. A generic magical shield that weakens incoming attacks, the ability to sense when an object has been magically tinkered with, and the skill to dispel hostile enhancements cast on themselves or someone else.

That's the sorcerer of fire and flame: arguably, the simplest caster class. They don't have to deal with supernatural entities, and their spells are thematically very tight. The sorcerer is good with iron, and good with flame.

Next time: tracker and witch!

Gerund
Sep 12, 2007

He push a man




Heros? Ha! We don't cut ourselves and call it a costume

Scars are a major thematic push of Changeling: the Lost. Rather than indulging in the more trite elements of pre-pubescent empowerment, the game emphasises in the first three paragraphs that Arcadia is not kind, you have escaped, and it is up to you to make that important.

There is a touch of the less-savory when you compare what is written in the game book versus what is known and expressed about real survivors of abuse. In C:tL, the Durance works according to the cliche1 of your Keeper having 'imprinted' his essence into the changeling becomes part of the story of the game. And to emphasize, C:tL is a game first and foremost; its purpose is to allow the players to enforce freedom to be in itself valuable- and to ensure that it is, they make that very same freedom be something that is a source of conflict and doubt.

In this, each changeling that escapes their Keeper is roughly sized within a Seeming that is unique to the player that plays it. Seemings are not 'family', but they are relations. More than just the inherent life-story of having been taken and having escaped, the powers and restrictions of the fae are similar enough to provide a sense of fraternity that each changeling can react to as they will.

The Gentry are not predictable factories of rubber-stamped creations. Each changeling that escapes from the thorns is essentially unique in their creation and reaction to their Durance; there is no inherent seeming to each Keeper, but there is a inherent seeming to each Durance- that of the Beast, Darkling, Elemental, Fairest, Ogre, and Wizened.

When you know your name, says Autumn, you can know your limitations and your potentials. You can't run away from what happened to you, but you can decide to 'make it your own and to truly grow up'2.

Furry fellows, scaly scamps, and feathery folks

1 - And the Wyrd works according to cliches
2 - Direct quote! C:tL is very much a different game from C:tD

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
Chapter 13, Legendmaking Part 1: [REDACTED] the [REDACTED] of [REDACTED]


If I think of a better metaphor for this chapter than a guy running with scissors until he gives himself a lobotomy, I’ll tell you.

The “Legendmaking” chapter is unique insofar as there are two versions of it: one from the original print edition, and a very different version in the PDF release. It’s no coincidence that the “Legendmaking” chapter corresponds to the mystical thirteen, and the original version does indeed contain all the New Agey bullshit you might have heard rumours about : ceremonies, guided meditation, and more candles than your girlfriend’s bathroom closet.

It seems that when the creators released the PDF version, they were a little more collected and at little embarrassed, and cut out most of the hocus-pocus. I will argue that they weren’t nearly embarrassed enough, because what we get instead is a preachy 7-page essay on “living mythically,” and it is incredibly tiresome. Slogging through all the homily and hokum was like shoveling unicorn poo poo; it may be unique and magical, but it’s still horseshit, and it stinks.

Regardless of which version of the chapter you’re reading, it begins with a sermon on Personal Mythology. Most of us, we are told, are so wrapped up in worrying about our jobs and families to truly experience magic and myth, but it's not too late! The Everlasting is here to help you "explore your personal mythology" by using your player character as a repository of your greatest hopes and fears. That certainly sounds healthy!

By the way, while the ideas in this chapter are crazy and stupid, the tone is more like that of a kindergarten teacher who doesn’t know how to stop being patronizing when not speaking to little children. Behold:

quote:

We have given up all our dreams, imagination, and aspirations in life in exchange for security and stability.We are happy to just sit back and let other people entertain us with their stories, without any effort on our part. But it is never, ever too late to rediscover the wonders of life… all we have to do is try.
Thankfully, the language of my review cannot and will not convey it, but I assure you it never gets any less condescending.

Storytelling, we are told, is a ritual as old as the oldest humans, and from the stories that "had the greatest value and meaning" to the cultures that created them, we get the first myths. Myths are the stories that give meaning to our lives and give us a sense of our place in the universe. The author believes that the "main problem" of the modern age is that we haven't found our new mythology.

This is why "The Everlasting is more than a roleplaying game; it is a tool for mythic experiences." It's designed to help you create stories which have deep personal meaning which you share with your fellow participants, and which you can use to examine your life, question and reevaluate your beliefs, and achieve greater enlightenment and spirituality. Isn't that exciting? So what is "legendmaking" and how is it different from roleplaying? Simply put, legendmaking combines roleplaying with mystical rituals and meditation exercises, with the end goal of self-improvement.


Be a dear and zip me up.

The key to understanding what Stephen Brown is trying to communicate is understanding that his entire theory of mind revolves around the idea of "personal mythology." Everyone, he believes, has a personal mythology that is a highly individualized version of the mythology of their culture. Most people in the modern age really understand mythology because we're so inundated by cultural memes that we can't see the big picture. As a result, "long-enduring myths are not holding up." This is good and bad, because it allows for greater individuality, but leaves many people lost and with no understanding of why they do what they do.

Popular songs, television shows, books, films, art, advertising, and news all contain "mythic images" that impact our culture, and we look for guidance from athletes, musicians, politicians, and other celebrities. In short, Brown conflates absolutely any kind of media with mythology, and any kind of public figure with mythic heroes--given examples of "heroes" include Michael Jordan, Mahatma Gandhi, Bill Gates, Batman, the President, and the Terminator.

As a general rule, I'm sympathetic to the idea that fleeting cultural memes and influences may influence our thinking much more than we realize, and are worthy of study. (That is, until my Facebook feed is flooded with clickbait articles purporting to discuss the implicit bigotry in something on television, coming to the facile conclusion that it's "problematic." I digress.) That said, Brown takes every aspect of the human experience, which could be approached differently through anthropology, sociology, psychology, or media criticism, and chucks it all into a big sack marked "personal mythology." It's ironic that in the process, he utterly trivializes the word "myth” to the point of losing all meaning. He even goes so far as to say that “"Every thought and deed you have performed or witnessed has been a stroke upon the tapestry of your personal mythology." Every experience you have supposedly contributes to your personal mythology, and Lady Gaga and Gilgamesh are grouped together as "mythic images." We're dealing with an intellect that can't draw a categorical distinction between Barack Obama and Bruce Wayne.

The whole endeavour comes across as incredibly sophomoric, with Brown taking the role of That Guy in your introductory philosophy class who just read a book that changed his life because it explains everything, and surely it will change you too, if you let him drone on and on long enough. The book in question is Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces, which is quoted several times along with such great thinkers as Sophocles, Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, and someone named Lord Pumpkin.

It's lazy and facile in its attempt to be a comprehensive Theory of Everything, and verges on being offensive in its treatment of psychological problems. It is true that you could take some concepts from humanistic psychology and rephrase them as "myths" and "living mythically" rather than "values" and "mindfulness," but this becomes downright insane when it leads to suggesting that you resolve your deep-seated personal issues by practicing meditation exercises to get in touch with an imaginary character.

Critiquing Campbell, Goldenberg, or psychoanalysis at large is beyond the scope of this review. For that matter, so is critiquing Stephen Brown's syncretic New Age mysticism per se. As for "legendmaking" and the bizarre practices he suggests you use to transform roleplaying into therapy...I have some things to say about that.


Where the art budget ends, legendmaking begins.

How does Brown recommend we reconnect with mythology and find meaning in our lives? The answer is “living mythically.” Living mythically means “understanding that there are underlying forces at work in your unconscious mind that play themselves out in your life,” developing “the power to choose who you are,” and learning to make “better, more creative, and self-empowering choices within your life.” Brown asserts that when your values conflict and your actions don’t align with your beliefs, these are “warning signs from your unconscious mind that you need to renew your mythology.” In fact, “People who suffer stress and nameless anxiety may be following myths that are not attuned to their needs.”

In other words, any healthy, well-adjusted, self-aware person is “living mythically.” As someone who’s completed a course of therapy, I can tell you that psychologists--the kind who actually help people instead of musing about the Goddess--refer to this active and empowering self-awareness as mindfulness, and there are many therapeutic techniques designed to develop it. None of them involve pretending to be a zombie with a machine gun.

To be fair, the “personal mythology” and “living mythically” approaches to psychology aren’t Brown’s own invention; Brown quotes the terms as used by feminist theologian Naomi Goldenberg, and the concept traces its lineage to Jung. But when Brown implies that the difference between Nicki Minaj and the Nowell Codex is one of degree, that’s his own problem.

Creating Personal Mythology

Now The Everlasting is ready to actually tell us how to legendmake ourselves some seriously personal myths, beginning with direct quotes from Joseph Campbell. Unfortunately, the advice here follows the familiar “Don’t forget to do…” style from the last chapter, without actually giving examples or concrete advice on how to implement these principles using the characters and setting the game presents.

The first is “The mythology should reveal the wonder and mystery of the universe and one’s self.” That means you should evoke mystery and wonder. Who knew?

Second is that “The mythology should provide form to the cosmos while retaining its mystical qualities.” This means your game should have structure, like a sonnet. Uh, more specifically it should have a basis in realism, then embellish it with mystical stuff. I can’t think of a better setting for that than 90s gothic action horror where the world is like the real world but the skyscrapers have gargoyles and also the milkman is a vampire.

Third, “The mythology should provide validation and support to a certain social order.” That means your game should take a moral stance on what’s right and just, and even if the characters deviate it, the story shows the consequences of their actions. This is the point where I must ask, if this game wants you to get really invested in your characters and use them as tools for self-reflection and personal growth, was it a good idea to write most of the character types in this game as self-centered undead serial killers?

Finally, “The mythology should teach people about living.” This means your game should teach the players things, but you should be subtle about it.

Another really important topic (you should make this important in your game) is Symbolism. The game should have symbols, totally. In fact, the players should all make a list of symbols that mean things to them so that the Guide can include them in the game. Oh, but be careful with symbols because they don’t always mean the same thing to everyone! If there’s someone new in the game, or you’re afraid a player has forgotten the symbolism, you can use subtle clues to bring them up to speed. For example, if the players agreed that a wise old woman represents Mother Earth, you could say “You meet a very old wise woman living at the edge of the forest. Her eyes are bright green and there is a lot of life in the woman. Her hands are soiled because she has been tending her small garden. She tells you the history of the land and how the humans have destroyed it.” Oh no, not the land! Those drat dirty humans! Remember: subtlety.

So. Symbols. Important.

There is a section on Exploring Yourself, and it’s...well, it’s not literally a guide to masturbation. The Everlasting recommends that you make your game experience mythic by weaving symbolism from your own life into characters and events in the story. You’re encouraged to project “deep-rooted personal beliefs, emotions, and experiences” onto characters, your own and otherwise.Thus you can vicariously achieve your goals, relive past experiences, and thus examine your own life.

We’re warned not to emotionally invest ourselves in our campaigns too much, because that might actually lead to a negative emotional experience! For example, if you have a romantic crush and you project that onto how your character feels about an NPC, imagine how you’d feel if that NPC was killed! (Nevermind that it would be pathetic and creepy.) Or, you know, your family could have you committed because you decided you were too bound by “mundane concerns” and decided to seek personal growth by pretending to be a psychopathic vampire while practicing witchcraft in a basement with red light bulbs.


Where we’re going, we won’t need an art budget.

Spell, Book, and Candle

People use rituals to acknowledge important life events, like births, deaths, marriages, graduations, and so on. Since pretending to be a ghost is at least as important as any of these, The Everlasting recommends a special opening ceremony to get everyone in the proper mood and remind them that this is no mere roleplaying, but legendmaking.

The ceremony starts with everyone “agreeing to start since the ceremony requires everyone to be quiet, serious, and attentive. If participants are not going to take the ceremony serious then it will hold no value in setting apart the legendmaking.” I mean it, Todd! I don’t care if you can burp the alphabet backwards, tonight’s the night that Konstantinos Ravynchylde becomes a lord of the underworld and I don’t want you screwing up my mythology!

After agreeing to take all this very seriously so that our legendmaking will have a “mythic quality,” it’s recommended that we have low lighting, soft music playing the background, and a candle for every participant. (At this point, you could just ask the players out on a date to see an Air Supply concert.) Okay, now I’ll stop cracking wise and just quote the ceremony in its entirety:

The Guide posted:

Here we gather, we who seek admittance into the Secret World of magic and wonder, we who seek entry into the worlds of legend, we who shall be eldritch for our allotted time.
Then the Guide lights their candle. Everyone who didn’t take advantage of the dim lighting to sneak out of the room says, in unison:

The Players posted:

Before us lie the mysteries of the universe. We shall seek the light and cast off the darkness. We shall seek adventure and heroic deeds.
Now each participant takes their turn introducing him or herself in character, describing their PC in bombastic terms ranging “one sentence, a paragraph, or half a page in length.”

The book’s example posted:

I am Sheila Krusoe, Osirian, Magician, everdying immortal. I am of the Bennu, an enforcer of Osirian law, arbiter of justice, agent of the Ennead. I have come here to join in this legendmaking.
Then Sheila lights her candle, and onto the next player.

Louis posted:

I'm flesh and blood, but not human. I haven't been human for 200 years. Please, how shall I put you at ease? Shall we begin like David Copperfield? 'I am born...I grew up.' Or shall we begin when I was born to darkness, as I call it? That's really where we should start, don't you think?...1791 was the year it happened. I was 24. Younger than you are now. But times were different then. I was a man at that age. The master of a large plantation, just south of New Orleans. I had lost my wife in childbirth. She and the infant had been buried less than half a year. I would've been happy to join them. I couldn't bear the pain of their loss. I longed to be released from it. I wanted to lose it all: my wealth, my estate, my sanity....Most of all, I longed for death. I know that now. I invited it. A release from the pain of living. My invitation was open to anyone. To the whore at my side. To the pimp that followed. But it was a vampire that accepted.
Louis lights Lestat.

Galstaff posted:

I am Galstaff, sorcerer of light!
Galstaff lights the darkness with magic missile.

Jack posted:

Bob. Bob had bitch tits.
I am Jack’s smirking revenge.

When all the players have sufficiently introduced themselves, the Guide continues.

The Guide posted:

Let us walk now, past the shadows of the flame that cast upon the cave’s wall, beyond our mundane world. Our protagonists shall be our representatives. They shall symbolize a deeper truth than our everyday activities. Let us close our eyes.

There is more to reality than waht we see. More than what we hear. Can you feel it? Look with your imagination. Listen for the spirits in the air.

The Players posted:

And so, it begins.

The Guide posted:

For now we are in the Secret World.
No comment. Here is the closing ceremony, for when all the PCs run out of ammo and need to have their katanas sharpened before the next game session.

The Guide posted:

And so this mythic journey comes to an end...for now.
Then each player is invited to make closing remarks about what their character did and what they learned in legendmaking school today, like so:

Sheila posted:

I, Sheila Krusoe, have journeyed far into this adventure and I have discovered that my enemies know many of my secrets. I am not yet ready for this life to end. When next we meet I must find the courage I have lost through fear.

The Guide posted:

We cast off our masks revealing our true selves. We release our protagonists back into the mists of legendry. But they will always be there, and though they may wear different names and faces, they will return to us again in the neverending cycle of myth.
Then everybody blows out their candles.

Butchers, Bakers, Candlestick Stakers

Did you know that candles can be used to “express particular themes, character types, and settings?” The Everlasting has a handy chart telling you what different colours of candle can represent. There are no tips on how to coordinate your coloured candles with your coloured lightbulbs. They’re listed here as in the book; I have no clue why they’re ordered as such.

Red: Demons
Grey: Ghosts and revenants
White: Astral
Brown: Nature, Manitou
Dark Red: Yetis (just kidding, of course it’s vampires)
Dark Blue: Magick
Dark Green: Nature
Yellow: Questers
Light Blue: Fantasy
Gold: Osirians
Black: Horror
Pink: Romance
Purple: Dream
Orange: Dragons
Off-White: Ghuls (not kidding, this is in the book)


I need to pad the picture count for this chapter, so here’s a kid evoking some seriously magickal poo poo with his leftover Chanukah candles.

Solitary Legendmaking

If you can’t find anyone who wants to make legends with you, The Everlasting has more “guidelines” for solitary legendmaking. Don’t worry, you won’t go blind! That’s just the red lightbulbs.

Well, it sort of has guidelines. You remember when I explained that this book can be aggravatingly vague and noncommital, saying that you can do this or that but only if you want to, and not too much? This section is an entire page of the author not telling you to do anything in particular, which he calls the Free-form Creative method of solitary legendmaking.

Obviously, The Everlasting isn’t the same kind of game as the original brown-box edition of Dungeons & Dragons, which you really can play by yourself using the encounter tables. In order to Free-form creatively legendmake by yourself, you don’t need rules, or cards, or a character sheet...unless you want to, since it can inform what your character can and can’t do.

So what is free-form creative solitary legendmaking? Basically, you sit down and write fanfiction about your character, stream-of-consciousness style, without any outlines, editing, or any other constraints associated with good writing. Remember, you’re not writing for an audience, you’re writing to develop your personal mythology. Just writing out the characters’ actions as they come to you is upheld as an amazing and revelatory experience, and it’s suggested outright that you examine relationships with people in your own life and project them onto the protagonist’s relationship with other characters in the story.

There is the admonition that your protagonist shouldn’t succeed at everything lest the story get boring, but otherwise, “solitary legendmaking” consists of writing the most self-indulgent and masturbatory sort of fanfiction.

Alright, I can’t take any more of this poo poo for the time being. Next time, on The Everlasting:

http://vimeo.com/9880377

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Truth And Justice

Truth and Justice is a game for PDQ super-heroes. It was my first PDQ game and still my favorite super-hero game. It takes a couple of steps back from the "DIY" aspect of the system, as it provides a fairly hefty power list, many of which have specific mechanical effects. I actually think this improves the DIY aspect however, because it's a great showcase of the different things you can do with PDQ's relatively simple Quality system. That said, this is still one of the earlier PDQ games and it still features its share of bugs.

Chapter 1: Superhero Genre

The first part of the book, 14 or so pages, serves as an introduction to the Superhero genre and the different tropes and terms that have sprung up around it. A useful resource for those who aren't as familiar with them, but not much "game" material. Still, its a good way for non-comic fans to figure out what things like "silver age" and "four color" mean. The gist of it is that Truth and Justice is, at its heart, designed primarily for classic "Capes" style superheroes where you don't worry overmuch why the guy in tights is punching criminals rather than directing his abilities towards economic improvement, and the bad guys will probably self-identify as "evil" and laugh maniacally while lowering you into shark tanks.

Chapter 2: Truth and Justice Rules Overview

Much of this is going over the basics from the PDQ core rules, however there is one significant difference. Instead of just having Qualities characters now have both Qualities and Powers.

Qualities are mostly unchanged, however there are several "special" Qualities that work in a unique way. Qualities operate on the "normal" scale, meaning the scale that humans, animals, cars, etc. all work on. You might have Qualities that represent super-human or non-human abilities, but if they operate on the Normal scale then they're probably still Qualities. For instance, you could take a Quality like "Aquatic" (because who wants to waste a power on that?) to let you swim and breath underwater, or a Quality like Claws to have a set of claws for fighting, climbing, etc (of course Claws can also be a Power, think the difference between Beast and Wolverine).

Powers represent superhuman abilities which operate on the Super Scale. Powers are Ranked just like Qualities (Poor/Average/Good/etc), but they represent abilities that no human is capable of and unlike Qualities if you lack a Power you can't "wing it" (although you can twist your Powers to fit different situations). At their core Powers still operate much like Qualities. If you want to punch someone with Expert [+4] Super-Strength then you roll 2d6 +4. However, there are often additional bonuses or abilities granted by Powers beyond their bonus to your roll.

Stunts are what you do when you want to use a Power in a way not covered by the Power's penumbra, typically to emulate a different Power. For example, a character with Expert [+4] Body of Flame might use a Stunt to emulate the Flight power by producing a jet of flame. Someone with Super-Speed might vibrate at high speeds to emulate a power like Phasing. etc. Someone with a Master [+6] level Quality can also perform Stunts, such as a Master [+6] Martial Artist using meditation techniques to stop their heart, etc. These are called "Spin Off" Stunts. It's also possible to invent powerful, individual moves called Signature Stunts (such as the Human Torch's Nova trick, or Black Bolt's Master Blow). Typically Stunts have a Rank several steps below the Power's Rank, but this can be increased by spending hero points.

Hero Points We were just talking about these. We all know what hero points are by now. In Truth and Justice hero points are used in all the standard ways (boosting a roll, recovering from injury) as well as making declarations about the game world or fueling Stunts. They're gained by acting in-genre. So a super-hero will gain Hero Points by saving people, being self-sacrificing, showing mercy and nobility, etc. meanwhile villains gain Hero Points (or Villain Points) by performing overly-elaborate plans or traps, gloating, and so on. All characters have a rating called MAX which represents the maximum number of Hero Points that they can hold onto at a time. As you earn Hero Points your MAX will increase, and it can be decreased for character improvement. This means that characters can remain viable even if they never increase their Power or Quality Ranks (as many comic book characters are fairly static) because they'll have a much higher MAX than characters who spend their MAX to gain new abilities or skills.

We'll go into more detail on all of these in later chapters.

Chapter 3: Characters

Truth and Justice has 9 steps to making your character:

Name This is your "real" name, as opposed to your "cape" name.

Background Your character's history, often with a focus on the "non-heroic" bits. Superman's background would focus on his arrival on earth, growing up in Smallville and coming to Metropolis to work for the Daily Bugle.

Motivation Your hero's primary driving goal. "Rid Gotham of Crime" for instance. Your motivation will compel you to act on it, but in exchange it will earn you more hero points.

Qualities Characters in Truth and Justice have more abilities than your standard PDQ characters. They get 5 Quality Ranks and one Weakness. It's worth noting that your Weakness isn't typically going to be things like Kryptonite or the color yellow, these are special traits called Vulnerabilities or Limitations, which are covered later.

Origin Where you got your powers from.

Powers Everyone gets 3 Power Ranks, which work the same as Quality Ranks (so you can have one Master [+6] Power or split that up into multiple weaker powers. Because just having a Power can be a big deal it's possible to "split" your Power Ranks into two Average [0] Powers. Average [0] Powers don't have a bonus to your roll, but they still give you access to Super-Scale abilities: Average [0] Flight isn't very fast but you can still friggin fly! Average [0] Super Strength doesn't give a bonus to hit, but it still gives a boost to your damage and lets you lift things that a normal human can't. If you really want to push it you can split an Average [0] Power into two Poor [-2] Powers (meaning a really incompetent super-hero could have up to 12 Poor [-2] Ranked Powers), to represent powers you have but can't really control well.

If you decide that Powers aren't your thing you can also exchange them for Quality Ranks. The formula for this is oddly overcomplicated but it basically boils down to this: turn any Power Ranks you want to sacrifice into Average [0] Powers, then for each Average [0] Power sacrificed you get 2 Quality Ranks. So a character go full "super-normal" gets no Powers, but will get 17 Quality Ranks (5 normal Ranks + 12 from sacrificed Powers). You can also choose to sacrifice only a portion of your Powers if you want to play a "weaker" superhero who still plays with the big boys.

Hero Points Everyone starts with 5 Hero Points and 10 MAX.

Codename Your super name.

Uniform Describe your costume

Miscellany Anything else you want to note down. This is a good place to describe any Qualities or Powers that aren't self-explanatory.


Next we go into the rules on Hero Points. It's worth noting that your Hero Points don't "refresh" from session-to-session, the pool is tracked continuously and refilling the pool requires performing significant deeds or falling victims to your flaws. You earn hero points for following your Motivation without hesitation as well as performing heroic acts in general. You can also earn Hero Points by accepting negative consequences. If you have a Vulnerability or Limitation then you earn hero points if you're hindered by it, and extra points if you manage to cleverly overcome it. The GM can also invoke what's called a Revoltin' Development, where they inflict some unavoidable plot-induced misfortune on the character(s) in exchange for a hefty chunk of hero points.

Hero Points are used to declare facts (this bar has a basement, Me and Melting Man were college lab partners), fuel Stunts, add a bonus to rolls, recover damage, or call on a "trophy" from a past game (basically letting you use a plot device from a previous story to help out now).

Whenever you earn a hero point you mark a "tick", and once you have Ticks equal to your MAX then you reset and your MAX increases by one. So characters with extremely low MAX will return to acceptable levels fairly quickly, and those with a higher MAX will start to slow down.

Your MAX is spent mostly on character improvement. You can turn a regular Stunt into a Signature stunt with a MAX point, purchase or improve Qualities and Powers. In desperate times its possible to sacrifice a point of MAX for a hero point, but this isn't a great deal.

Chapter 4: Superpowers

Truth and Justice uses an Intensity Chart to provide basic guidelines on what's possible with Powers.



Want to see how much weight a super-strong or Telekinetic can left, check that column. Same for the speed of a character with Flight or Super Speed. As you can see the fairly low range of modifiers hurts the system a bit. Things typically ramp up massively between Expert [+4] and Master [+6] and the power level doesn't really scale to the ridiculous levels some super-heroes reach. Personally I use an expanded chart that goes above Master based on the newer rules provided in PDQ#.

If you want to have some power-based flaws you can pick up a Limitation or Vulnerability.

A Limitation is some kind of restriction on your power's use. Mind Control that works only on men would be a good example or Flight that is limited to no higher than 10 feet off the ground. If your power's limitation restricts you in a significant way during a Scene you get a Hero Point. If you can come up with a good loophole or workaround for the limitation this increases to two hero points. For instance, if you've got a super-hero whose Super-Speed depends on nearby electrical current fighting villians out in Amish country he'll earn a hero point every time he can't use his power (assuming it would be useful in the conflict). However, if that hero rigs up a dozen potato batteries and fills a backpack with them then he'd be able to use his powers again and earn an extra Hero Point for being clever. If you want your power to have a Limitation you just make a note of it.

A Vulnerability is more severe. Vulnerabilities are purchased using Power Ranks. And yes, this means it's possible to create a superhero with nothing but a Master [+6] Vulnerability. The reason for this is that Vulnerabilities are a huuge source of Hero Points. Every turn you're exposed to your vulnerability you lose your action, take damage equal to the Vulnerability's modifier (minimum 1) which ignores any defenses and you gain 1d6+ modifier Hero Points. So captain Vulnerable might have a Master [+6] Vulnerability to Bullets which means he'll be crippled if he's ever shot...but the guy will earn an average of 10 Hero Points every time. Some special powers come with "built-in" Vulnerabilities which do not give bonus hero points.


Powers

Although the DIY theme is still going strong there's a fairly long (14 pages) list of different Powers or special Qualities. I won't go over each one individually, instead I'll mention some of the highlights and point out some of the strengths and weaknesses.

Gadgets/Gadgeteering/Super-Gadgets/Gadgeteering In general you can take any Quality or Power in the form of a Gadget, basically giving it the Limitation "can be lost/stolen". Gadgets are purchased as Qualities and represent "cutting edge" or "near future" technology. You can get a jetpack or a laser gun as a Gadget, but these things are still "normal scale", so a jetpack won't let you break the sound barrier and the laser gun is effectively just a gun with a bigger special effects budget. Gadgeteering is a Quality that can be purchased to allow you to trade hero points for Gadgets. Gadgets produced with Gadgeteering are not "built in" Qualities so you can't absorb damage with them and they have no story protection. Super-Gadgets and Super-Gadgeteering works basically the same but using Super-Scale effects rather than normal scale.

Invulnerability Invulnerable characters do not take any Damage Ranks from most normal-scale threats. They don't even need to roll. They can still be affected by Failure Ranks however (so you can't shoot someone whose invulnerable, but you may be able to get him in a wrestling hold). Extreme normal scale threats (being hit with a missile or by a train) can inflict Failure Rank damage. The only way to inflict lasting injury on them is with Super-Scale attacks, which inflict damage Ranks like normal. Invulnerability is a neat idea, but its a power that's open to abuse because there's no reason to take anything higher than Average [0] Invulnerability. Higher ranks only add a bonus to your roll to resist super-scale damage or extreme normal scale damage, but you could just put all the other ranks into other defensive abilities like Super-Armor which grant bonuses which scale to your rank.

In general, PDQ doesn't do great with powers that have "absolute" effects such as Invisibility, Invulnerability or Phasing.

Sidekick/Super-Sidekick This is a special type of Quality or Power which basically gives you a backup character. Taken as a Quality every rank you put into the Sidekick Quality gives him more ranks to design his Sidekick, ranging from 4 Ranks to 6. Super-Sidekicks are built the same way, except they also get Power Ranks equal to the number of Power Ranks invested in the Sidekick.

Super-Armor This is a bit fiddlier than invulnerability but it does grant a scaling benefit. Against normal-scale threats Super-Armor reduces damage by an amount equal to 7 + the modifier of the Power. On the super-scale it reduces damage by an amount equal to the modifier. So a character with Expert [+4] Super-Scales would reduce normal scale damage by 11 and super-scale damage by 4. Obviously, on the normal-scale this is very close to being invulnerable anyway.

Super-Scale Attacks This includes just about any form of offense-focused power. Beams/Blasts/Bolts of whatever as well as Super-Strength. Against normal-scale inanimate objects these powers get bonus damage equal to 7 + power modifier. Against normal scale opponents inflicting this bonus damage requires you to spend a Hero Point. The exception is super-strength which inflicts that extra damage for free. This tends to make attack powers fairly over-powered (for perspective your average character without Super-Armor or Invulnerability can take 12-16 Damage Ranks without zeroing out). One good hit from a character with even a low-ranked power can take out opponents without dedicated defensive powers. Just like Invulnerability, investing just enough for Average [0] Super-Strength is a great way to "game" the system. The +7 bonus to damage for just half a rank is a huge up-front benefit.

Super-Speed And of course here we've got the Power with the biggest potential for abuse, because it grants extra Turns. You get extra actions equal to the modifier of the Power. Combined with the fact that it can be used both defensively and offensively and the potential for powerful Stunts, Master [+6] Super-Speed can be used to end most conflicts before they start...7 actions a turn means most opponents will never even have a chance to try and beat you. In short, don't gently caress with the Flash.

Vehicle/Super-Vehicle Sort of a cross between a gadget and a sidekick. Like a Sidekick Vehicles have their own Qualities (or Powers) which the PC can take advantage of when piloting the vehicle.

Meta-Powers This is one of the weirder categories of Powers. A Meta-Power is actually a large collection of powers that all spring from the same source and are effectively treated as a single power. This is how you represent Heroes with obscenely broad powers like Sorcery, or just characters with a ton of powers like Superman. It's actually possible for the same power to be either a normal Power or a Meta-Power depending on how it's interpreted. For instance, some people with Telepathy basically just get to talk mind-to-mind with others...and then you've got people like Professor X. Likewise, a character like Quicksilver has Super-Speed as a Power...but the Flash definitely has it as a Meta-Power.

Mechanically, Meta-powers have no "core" power use and instead allow you to use all the sub-powers as Stunts, basically letting you use them for free as though they were 2 Ranks lower than your Meta-Power's level (so Master [+6] Meta Powers would give all the sub-powers at Good [+2] Rank, with the option to boost them with Hero Points). Because of this you generally don't want to bother taking meta-power unless you have at least as many powers as Superman or Martian Manhunter and you don't really want to bother investing in a Meta-Power at below Expert [+4] Rank.

Along with the benefits, Meta-Powers are required to have a Limitation or a Vulnerability tied into them and unlike normal Limitations/Vulnerabilities these grant you no bonus Hero Points.


Despite some of the criticisms, most of the powers are very open to alternate interpretation and the loose, DIY nature of the game at least makes it very easy to "fix" problematic powers. The powers described above are the ones with the most "baked in" mechanics, most of the rest are simply described with a variety of interpretations and possible concerns to be addressed.

Stunts

Powers in Truth and Justice are usually quite flexible and when you want to try and pull something off outside of the Power's normal penumbra then you're doing a Stunt. Spin-Off stunts are the most common and they represent altering the Power's normal function or form, so long as the use has at least a believable relationship with your original Power. In many cases common stunts practically become secondary Powers for a hero. Normally you perform Stunts at two Ranks lower than the base Power at no cost, with the option to spend Hero Points to increase the effective Rank (including going higher than the original Stunt). So a Good [+2] Flame Blast power would normally be "stunting" at Poor [-2] Rank (say if you wanted to use it as a jet, or to produce a concussive explosion).

Signature Stunts are exceptionally powerful but very specific Stunts that a hero has perfected. Signature Stunts cost at least one hero point to activate, but in addition to the "spin off" value of the stunt you add the base Modifier of the Power. This means that it's pointless to make Signature Stunts for Good [+2] or Average [0] Powers, as the hero point cost will actually grant no benefit (for Good [+2]) or increase have a negative effect (for Average [0]). However, for Expert [+4] or Master [+6] ranked powers the boost is impressive (for 1 Hero point an Expert [+4] Power grants a +6 bonus as opposed to +2. A Master [+6] Ranked power would grant +10 as opposed to +4).


Chapter 5: Super-Scale Conflict

This chapter is, for the most part, just the normal Conflict rules from PDQ core. There are a few new ideas though:

Story Hooks The first time you take damage to a particular Quality or Power in a Scene, the GM marks it as a "story hook" related to the Quality. Basically this means that the GM is expected to come up with some minor plot, complication or event related to the Quality. Since the first Qualities to take damage in a conflict are often non-combat related (such as Ace Reporter or True Love) this tends to ensure lots of drama from a character's "normal" lives springing up to conflict with their crime fighting. There are no strict requirements for when a story hook occurs and ultimately it's more of a suggestion on how to shape the plot rather than a strict requirement.

Light Posts and Lamborghinis This is a fairly simple rule. If you want to use some kind of destructible improvised weapon or other extreme collateral damage (throwing a car at someone, collapsing a building, etc) then you get a +2 bonus to your attack.

Scale effects generally speaking, if a PC operating on the Super-Scale is taking on a non-powered NPC then they can usually treat it as a Complicated situation rather than a Conflict situation. For example, a Good [+2] Telepath wants to get past a security guard (with the Qualities Good [+2] Watchful and Good [+2] Marksman) they would normally have to engage in a Conflict and the telepath would have to disable the guard by inflicting enough Failure Ranks to zero them out. However, under this rule they can simply treat the NPC as an obstacle with a TN rather than a character that must be fought. Since the guard has no Qualities related to resisting mental intrusion it's an Average [TN 7] Task. The telepath rolls 2d6+2 and so long as he beats a 7, he can simply bypass the guard (putting them to sleep, mind controlling them to leave, clouding their senses, etc). This is only for minor NPCs, full-scale "super-normal" villians should always be treated as Conflicts.

Chapter 6: Gamemastering

As is always the case for these sections the advice is decent but not exceptionally different than what you would expect to find in any other super-hero book.

There are also rules for allowing the PCs to work together to create a Headquarters (much like the rules presented in MNPR).

Next we have rules for Plot Devices or Macguffins. Generally speaking they're meant to drive the plot and be used by NPCs, however if the PCs get ahold of them they can call upon them in later stories as Trophies. Using a Trophy requires some hero points and generally these devices have functions that work outside of the normal bounds of Powers/Qualities...they just work. These are things like Moon Lasers, Cosmic Accessories, Power Neutralizers, etc.

There's a quick section regarding different "power levels" you can use to build your villians and NPCs and a small list of sample NPCs.

Chapter 7: Second String Supers

This is one of three "sample" super premises for your Truth and Justice Game. Second String Supers is the more light-hearted setting, focused on the "animated" style of super-heroes with a strong episodic theme.

The premise is that the world's mightiest heroes are being called away into space to fight an alien armada on the edge of the galaxy before it can threaten Earth. The PCs are all B and C grade supers who have been reluctantly recruited by The Dragon Knight to defend his city of Drakesburg in his absence. The chapter provides a list of NPC allies and villians as well as a simple write up of a "season" worth of episodes.

As the goofier, light-hearted setting this one has some of the best NPCs. These are my favorites:

*The Orange Ogre This guy was a professional wrestler whose natural mutant abilities triggered after a severe head injury in the ring. As a result he's a huge (7 foot plus) orange-skinned monster with brain damage. The Orange Ogre is basically caught up in the delusion of Kayfabe (the scripted "reality" of the wrestling world) and believes all his actions are part of his wrestling persona. He's stuck as a "Heel" and thus must act the part of the villian, but really wishes he could switch to a "Face" and believes that if he defeats a major opponent like the Dragon Knight he might be allowed to do a Heel-Face turn.

Expert [+4] Wrestler, Good [+2] Gambler, Good [+2] Party Animal, Good [+2] Shocking Appearance, Poor [-2] Delusional. Good [+2] Invulnerability, Expert [+4] Super-Strength

*The Philatelist A riddler-esque criminal whose crimes all revolve around postage. She's a complete nut with a stamp obsession and who likes playing games with the authorities. She doesn't have a complete write-up but she does have the Meta-Power Expert [+4] Stamp and Mail Schticks. Basically she can do anything so long as there's a component of the postal system, stamps or stamp collecting. For instance, if she slaps enough postage on an opponent she could teleport them to another location. She can mail herself out of prison in an envelope, pull just about whatever she wants out of a mail-box.

Chapter 8: Supercorps

This is the second super-hero setting. It's the near future and mega-corps effectively rule the world. The PCs are "Super-consultants" who work for a meta-human consultancy firm who works for hire for the different mega-corps when they need super-human resources beyond those metas they have on their payroll. The setting has traces of Aberrant and Shadowrun, and is actually a fairly unique concept for super-heroes. Well, heroes is a bit of a stretch.

To enhance the feel of the setting there are no aliens, other dimensions, lost civilizations or magic. Superhumans are typically the product of mutations (born or by accident), scientific "upgrades", or even intensive self-improvement. Or at least that's the public perception, there's always the possibility of more out there.


Chapter 9: Fanfare For the Amplified Man

This is the most unique of the three super-settings. Basically this is a world that has only a single source of super-powers and the traditional super-hero tropes are extremely thin on the ground.

All super-heroes were gifted "normals" who have done something exceptionally heroic and self-sacrificing and thus earned a device called an Amplifier that grants them superhuman abilities. The abilities are always themed in some way towards the character's exceptional act. So basically it's got a sprinkling of Aberrant, Exalted and the Green Lanterns.

Your Amp gives you the ability to earn and spend Hero Points, access to your Powers (it's possible to use Powers without your Amp but they're greatly weakened), allows you to communicate in any "living" language and allows you to communicate with other Amp Weilders telepathically.

In this setting there are explicitly no aliens, no magic, no ancient super-tech (or any super-tech outside of Amp weilders), no super-normals, and no super-villians. There are a small number of Amp weilders in the world and they are all altruistic individuals.

This isn't a traditional super-hero game, it's basically a big "what if you had the powers of X, how would you change the world". The PCs are given abilities no one else have and challenged to find a purpose for themselves. It even points out that it's very unlikely that Amp weilders will ever be good crime-fighters since there simply isn't enough exceptional crime in a normal world for an individual with powers to have more of an impact than the police already have.



And there we go. That's basically it for Truth and Justice. Since I feel like it's hard to do the game Justice without some good examples does anyone have any super-human characters they'd like me to stat up? Existing ones or original characters are fine.

Appoda
Oct 30, 2013

Yawgmoth posted:

Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil is nowhere near as big, but it's pretty close to as ambitious. It's pretty brutal as far as encounters go, but the writers are well aware of this and make special note of what the PCs and DM should expect and prepare for and such. If anyone is interested in a write-up of it, I could likely dig my copy out of the bookshelf.

Seconding support for this. I love me some weird, old rear end dungeon crawls.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008

Wow, that is some straight-up Mazes & Monsters poo poo right there. I can't even imagine people actually trying to do that with a straight face.

Kai Tave
Jul 2, 2012
Fallen Rib
Is it wrong of me that I don't actually want The Everlasting to end? :allears:

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
There are three more corebooks and two sourcebooks I could do, but it will probably cost me my sanity. Maybe even yours!

But I'm also seriously planning to do the new edition of Immortal at some point, so maybe I've already lost it?

scissorman
Feb 7, 2011

How absolutely ridiculous
Ramrod XTreme

oriongates posted:

And there we go. That's basically it for Truth and Justice. Since I feel like it's hard to do the game Justice without some good examples does anyone have any super-human characters they'd like me to stat up? Existing ones or original characters are fine.
Do Stilt-Man :allears:; alternatively, the most ridiculous and obscure super you can think of.

Also, you mentioned that there is a newer version of the rules (PDQ#?), is there a version of Truth&Justice with the updated rules available?

wdarkk
Oct 26, 2007

Friends: Protected
World: Saved
Crablettes: Eaten

oriongates posted:

And there we go. That's basically it for Truth and Justice. Since I feel like it's hard to do the game Justice without some good examples does anyone have any super-human characters they'd like me to stat up? Existing ones or original characters are fine.

Green Lantern or Dr Strange or someone else with a ridiculously broad meta-power, provided you do examples.

Kaza42
Oct 3, 2013

Blood and Souls and all that






Introduction
Dungeons and Discourse is a bizarre game that grew out of two largely-nonsensical Dresden Codak comics that combines D&D style classes, parties and dungeon crawls with advanced philosophy, psychology and mathematics. Here is the first comic and here is the second.

On to the game itself! There have been several attempts to adapt the Dungeons and Discourse concept into concrete rules. I will be reviewing that third edition rules made by Scott Alexander. They are incomplete, and show relics of previous editions that require a clever DM to work around, but are charming and at the very least interesting. Fair Warning: Puns lie ahead. So many puns. (If you would like to read along, the rules are found here and a full log of a musical campaign run by the author can be found here. The log features songs written specifically for the campaign, so I would recommend checking it out if only for the novelty)

The game uses normal dice, as well as a d0, which means -10 to 10. If you're playing online, this is easy to do with just random number generators, but in person 1d20-10 is recommended as a nice compromise. They also often use a notation of +/-X/Y%, which means +/- either X or Y% of the modified value, whichever is greater.

Setting
The game is set in Sophia, a magical land where knowledge is power, philosophy is useful and graduate students rule the world. No matter their religion or lack thereof, all people on Sophia believe in two god/demiurges/angels/advanced aliens named Aleithos, God of Truth and Kallista, Goddess of Beauty. They supposedly created the world and all life upon it, which seems at odds with the existence of Christianity but let's just call them God's subcontractors. Anyway, Aleithos didn't want to make humans sentient because he thought they would lapse and become liars, but Kallista went behind his back and did it anyway. Turns out, Aleithos was right and humans quickly fell into falsehood and destroyed their own understanding of Truth. This sudden chaos drove Aleithos insane and he crashed from heaven and shattered into pieces which were hidden away.
Missing Aleithos and feeling a bit guilty over nearly killing him, Kallista commands humanity to seek Truth wherever it may be found, in hopes of one day restoring Aleithos and allowing the world to function in harmony.
So humanity ventures forth into the dark places of the world, seeking Truth and fighting monsters born from the lack of Reason. However, as they do so they discover that each new piece of Truth they find grants them greater and greater power. With this power, they eventually pacify most of the world. They established a great civilization on the Cartesian Plain, founding the city of Origin at the point where the two great rivers - Ordinate and Abcissa - met. Here, mankind has fallen into complacency, their search for Truth proceeding slowly but forgotten by many.
The PCs take the roles of scholars or students of Origin as they take their philosophies and ideals into the world in search of Truth

Character Creation
To make a character, you select a Race, a Class and your Beliefs. These are, in my opinion, sorted in ascending order of interesting-ness.

Races! Most of the races in this section are named after real-world regions or ethnic groups. However, rather than being literal members of those groups, the various races instead represent descendents of each group's most famous and/or prominent philosophies. Other than being largely nonphysical, they work the same way as races in most other games.
The races are: Anglo-Americans, Continentals, Asians, Greeks and Elves (Yes, elves. You can't have a fantasy game without elves)
Unfortunately, these races are presented BEFORE any of the terms are explained. The various stats are left to the end of the character creation chapter, after races, classes and beliefs, which can all modify your stats.
Anglo-Americans: Focused on capitalism and rational thought, and drawing from the traditions of England and the United States, Anglo-Americans get bonuses to Rationality and Oikonomia. Since approximately nobody is expected to recognize that second one, it's basically your ability to obtain money.
Continentals: Focusing on post-modernism, phenomenomology and Marxism and drawing from the traditions of France, Germany, and other continental European countries, Continentals get a bonus to Bullshyte and take -1/10% damage from Rightist and Libertarian attacks.
Asians: Following non-dualist philosophies that eschew the material world, Asians follow Buddhist, Taoist or other Eastern traditions. They may carry one additional Eastern book (the textbooks you carry are essentially prestige classes, which isn't explained for quite some time)
Greeks: The original philosophers, they believe that a sound mind dwells within a sound body, but that actually doing things is for slaves. They get a bonus to Strength, take -1/10% damage from Empiricist attacks and start with 50xp in the Utopian class. They also take triple damage from Hemlock.
Elves... I'll just quote their block in the entirety, because it really deserves to be read

quote:

Elves cannot be left out of a role-playing game under any circumstances. The Elves of
D&Dis got tired of slaving away in Santa's workshop for the benefit of others, and adopted
Objectivism en masse. Now they preach elf-reliance and the virtue of elfishness. Elves get
benefits based on their wealth: in particular, they get +(L-3) Rationality, Merit, and Bullshytte,
where L is their current wealth level, and may carry an extra copy of Atlas Shrugged in
addition to their usual two books. However, they start at -1 Association
Basically, they were included solely to make a string of Objectivism puns, gain strength from being rich but don't work well with others.

Classes! There are six character classes. You must pick a Major that must remain at least two levels above all other classes. Other than that, you are free to put xp into any class whenever you get it. By the way, classes are literally classes offered by the University of Origin in correspondence format. The classes are: Logicians, Empiricists, Metaphysicians, Ethicists, Utopians and Appologetics. This chapter gives a very basic overview, I'll cover what they can actually do when the book does.
Logicians: By studying math and logic, Logicians can manipulate the world around them to reflect their understanding of its underlying mathematics. Most likely cause of death: Dividing by zero
Empiricists: Masters of the scientific method and discovery, Empiricists harness the power of physics itself to do their bidding. Most likely cause of death: Summoning Schroedinger's Cat without checking to see if it's Undead
Metaphysicians: Dealing with the deep structure of the universe and the division between mind and consciousness, body and soul. Most likely cause of death: voluntarily turning into a vampire to know what it's like to be a bat
Ethicists: By studying the true nature of right and wrong, ethicists become the moral guide for the party. When they go evil, they tend to perform unethical social experiments. Most likely cause of death: run over by trolley
Utopians: By studying politics and economics, utopians all attempt to create the perfect society in the perfect world. Unfortunately, no two of them agree on exactly what that would look like. Most likely cause of death: ripped apart by Ricardo's Iron Claw of Mages
Apologists: Religion majors who attempt to reconcile belief in God with an increasingly doubtful world. Possesses the best healing and support magic, but only while their faith is strong. Most likely cause of death: caught between horns of trilimma

Beliefs! This is one of my favorite bits about characters. There are a series of topics about which characters may have beliefs, which modify their stats. You may choose to not hold any belief in a category, which means you bypass the modifiers entirely
Theism: +1 Merit (how well you hold to your ideals), -1 Rationality. Required to cast Apologist spells, goes to heaven or hell when they die.
Agnosticism: +1 Bullshyte, -50% damage from Dilemmas and Trilemmas
Atheism: -1 Merit, -5%xp required to level Empiricist, -1/10% damage from Apologist attacks. No afterlife, must use Mad Science to revive after death.
What happens to Agnostics when they die? Who knows, the game doesn't tell you. This is either completely appropriate given the belief in question or a sizable oversight. Probably both.

If you are a Theist, you may choose beliefs from two additional categories
Fideism: -1/10% damage from Empiricist and Logician attacks. +5%xp required to level non-apologetic classes
Evidentialism: +1/10% damage against Atheists

Catholocism: +1 on tithing attempts on others (an apologist class power)
Protestantism: -1 on others' tithing attempts against you
What about Judaism, Islam, Orthodox, or any other form of major religion? Too bad, they don't exist

Materialism: -1/10% damage from Mental damage, +1/10% damage from Physical damage
Idealism: +1/10% damage from Mental damage, -1/10% damage from Physical damage
Dualism: Deal +2/20% damage with dualist attacks

Absolutism: -1 Merit, may break Influence ties in your favor (part of the social/control system)
Liberalism: +1 Oikonomia
Anarchism: -1 Phronesis (common sense), +2 Influence on yourself, State Laws have -50% effectiveness on you, -1 to others attempts to influence you

Leftism: +2 on attempts to tax others, +1 influence on anyone 3 or more levels above you
Rightism: -2 on others' attempts to tax you, +1 influence on anyone 3 or more levels below you
Libertarianism: +2 Oikonomia, -1 on others' attempts to tax you
I think that the influence modifiers for Leftism and Rightism should be reversed. As far as I can tell, in the real world Leftists tend to have more sway with the lower classes, while Rightists tend to have more sway with the upper classes. Not quite sure why they went with this approach instead

Capitalism: +2 Oikonomia, -1 Merit
Communism: +1 Strength, -2 Oikonomia

Deontology: Moral Laws have +50% effectiveness on you, -2/20% damage from Kantian sources
Utilitarianism: Double Virtue gains from donating to charity

Determinism: -1 Influence over yourself, +1 Rationality
Free Will: +1 Merit, +1/10% damage from Ethicist attacks
Compatibilism: +1 Bullshyte

The beliefs here are a bit narrow, and are restricted to the philosophies that the author has personal experience with, but the system itself seems interesting. Later, when we look at class powers we'll see that some are tied to Beliefs. You can only use powers with the same Beliefs as you, which is how the Utopian class can have everything from a right-wing trickle down fanatic to a diehard communist idealist. Spoiler: Catholic Apologists can totally become the pope by leveling high enough


Overall, it's easy to tell that this is an amateur game produced for a very specific audience. It has all sorts of exploits and rules issues, some of which are explicitly addressed and some aren't. Despite these flaws, it's a game with a lot of heart, and is a sheer joy to read, if you can stomach the puns and bad math jokes.
Next Time: Finishing character creation, then on to the rest of the mechanics

Kellsterik
Mar 30, 2012
I feel like this is the beginning of a deep rabbit hole, but why is Asian philosophies (including Buddhism) a 'race' while Christian(?) apologetics is a class, and the only two religions are Catholic and Protestant? I won't even take that too close to a real-world direction, I don't understand how this is supposed to be organized.

Kaza42
Oct 3, 2013

Blood and Souls and all that
I can only guess that it stems from the whole "buddhism is a philosophy, christianity is a religion" thing. I think that the Races mechanic should have been folded into the Beliefs mechanic. It bypasses the unfortunate implications of the original (Americans are more rational than everyone else!) while still letting people pick and choose traditional systems.
As for Catholicism and Protestantism being the only religions.... I don't know. They really should have included the major religions at least, even if it's impossible to include every religion. I want to be charitable and assume that the author just put in the ones most common to the area where the game is likely to be played for now, and will include other religions when the game is finished. Reading ahead some, it seems that Buddhists and similar characters can reincarnate after death instead of going through the Heaven/Hell system of other Theists. I suppose if you wanted to play a Buddhist Monk, you could go with a Theist Buddhist Apologist who just doesn't pick from the Protestant/Catholic branch. You don't miss out on that many powers by not picking one or the other. I will agree that it's a pretty big flaw in the system.


Although in the interest of being fair, I am a fan of this system. I know it has many flaws, but am probably less able to see the nonmechanical failings of it. Take any apologies I offer on its behalf with a grain of salt, and I will do my best to point out the big problems where I see then.

Mr. Maltose
Feb 16, 2011

The Guffless Girlverine
What kind of fly by night philosophy system neglects the wonderfully complex system of the Buddhist afterlife. You don't just pop right back up in a new body, dang it.

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

quote:

The key to understanding what Stephen Brown is trying to communicate is understanding that his entire theory of mind revolves around the idea of "personal mythology." Everyone, he believes, has a personal mythology that is a highly individualized version of the mythology of their culture. Most people in the modern age really understand mythology because we're so inundated by cultural memes that we can't see the big picture. As a result, "long-enduring myths are not holding up." This is good and bad, because it allows for greater individuality, but leaves many people lost and with no understanding of why they do what they do.

Popular songs, television shows, books, films, art, advertising, and news all contain "mythic images" that impact our culture, and we look for guidance from athletes, musicians, politicians, and other celebrities. In short, Brown conflates absolutely any kind of media with mythology, and any kind of public figure with mythic heroes--given examples of "heroes" include Michael Jordan, Mahatma Gandhi, Bill Gates, Batman, the President, and the Terminator.

I've been on a big Grant Morrison kick, and between Supergods and The Invisibles (which obviously inspired oMage) this makes sense to me. Not that it's a substitute for therapy or that the book isn't laughable, but it ties into Grant's ideas about chaos magick. Batman and Superman are symbols that can be used to represent or embody positive things about ourselves, and they're as valid as anything people choose to summon or worship.
I guess using your character to change yourself is like what Grant did with King Mob.

It's bullshit, and Everlasting does it in a very cheesy way, but it's bullshit that could lead to something cool.

Robindaybird
Aug 21, 2007

Neat. Sweet. Petite.

The big thing I get from Everlasting is the writers are very, painfully unaware. No one on the team steps back and goes "You know what? This is actually kind of silly," from candle rituals to their opening fiction, it drips with the pretension of someone that thinks they got the deepest, best thing ever.

And IMHO, it's it's biggest flaw - it's so busy being dark, and important, and life-changing that they leave no room for fun.

Kai Tave
Jul 2, 2012
Fallen Rib
On the other hand, if they possessed any self-awareness they probably wouldn't have made the game in the first place, which means we wouldn't be here now getting to marvel over this incredible journey of personal mythweaving and candle-lighting.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!


scissorman posted:

Also, you mentioned that there is a newer version of the rules (PDQ#?), is there a version of Truth&Justice with the updated rules available?

The answer is a little complicated...

PDQ# is a newer set of rules, but it's not quite a "second edition". Essentially PDQ# is the set of rules created for Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies. It includes several significant modifications to the Core Rules however like Techniques (specializations of Qualities), an expanded Master Chart that takes Target Numbers above Master rank, the addition of "Core" Qualities, and somewhat heftier rules for XP (called training points). However, the system itself is still very "swashbuckler" focused, for example it ditches the normal Conflict rules and replaces them with Dueling rules that are pretty much designed only for one-on-one fights (or one-vs-a group of mooks).

Really, each PDQ game is different enough from every other version that you could call them different editions. PDQ# just has the distinction of being one of the most recent, introducing the most new ideas, and generally being considered the most polished edition of PDQ.

Now, there is a set of rules called PDQ2 (or PDQ Too!) which basically is PDQ# with all the buckles and swashes removed. It uses the original Conflict system and slightly tones down the level of cinematic-ness, but it incorporates the new ideas like Techniques, Training Points, Core Elements, etc. This wasn't made by Chad Underkoffler (the guy who made PDQ and has written all the games we've covered so far), but by Mike Fiegel, the writer of the Ninja Burger RPG (which we'll be covering soon).

PDQ2 has so far been used in only two products: Vox, written by Mike Fiegel, and the PDQ edition of Achtung! Cthulhu, written by me for Modiphius

So far, there hasn't been any sign of earlier PDQ games like Truth and Justice or Dead Inside getting a 2nd edition, although there are a few fan conversions.


Now, onto character examples...


Stilt-Man

Okay, Stilt-man has gone through some upgrades but just for maximum ridicule we'll go with the earlier versions. Since he's well known for his incompetence we'll use slightly downgraded stats (4 Quality Ranks, 2 Power Ranks) compared to regular superheroes and villians, about the right level for a Powered henchman. Since his suit is meant to be bulletproof we'll make it Power Armor (a form of Super-Armor that also allows you to create "subsystems" as Stunts). Since he doesn't seem to produce much in the way of real Super-Gadgets we'll make him a normal gadgeteer, the Stilt-Suit is probably just a one time inspiration combined with stolen tech.

Qualities: Expert [+4] Gadgeteer; Good [+2] Disguise; Good [+2] Kicking; Expert [+4] Balancing Auto-Gyros; Poor [-2] Overconfidence

Powers Good [+2] Stilt-Suit; Average [0] Super Strength (Limitation: Part of the Suit)

Stilt-Man's Stilt-Suit is a suit of Power Armor that grants him the effects of Super-Armor (reducing normal-scale damage by 9 and super-scale damage by 2) and has a variety of built in gadgets (including his 2nd power of Super-Strength) that are available as Stunts, starting at Poor [-2] Rank: environmental defenses, adhesive proofing, fast movement, long-range kicks, a defensive electric charge, and height adjustments. Since they rank as Poor [-2] Stilt-man will often have to rely on Villian Points to be effective.

As a Gadgeteer Stilt-man can produce a variety of normal-scale devices, usually as temporary modifications to his suit. He'll typically have an Expert [+4] Gun (raygun or gas gun), and one or two Good [+2] or Expert [+4] ranked gadgets depending on the situation.

Stilt Man has sacrificed one Average [0] Power for two Quality Ranks.


Green Lantern

Obviously there are a lot of different interpretations of the green lantern character. I'll go with the most straightforward, John Stewart from the Justice League cartoon. If we were going for one of the higher powered green lanterns like Hal or Kyle he would probably have to be statted up as a Veteran or World Class hero.

Obviously the Power Ring is going to be a meta-power, the big question is what Limitations it should have. In JL cartoon we don't see the color yellow being a limiting factor and in the modern day this isn't a big deal in most of the comic's I've seen. So that'll be an optional limitation, something that GL can have as a source of Hero Points but not "built in" to the meta-power. Since the power ring is so powerful there will be two built in limits: Willpower and Recharging.

Qualities: Expert [+4] Indomitable Will, Expert [+4] Former Marine, Good [+2] Architect, Poor [-2] Inflexible

Powers: Master [+6] Power Ring

The Power Ring is a meta-power with very few limits: Energy constructs, translation, super-scale attacks, Invulnerability, Flight, life support, scanning abilities, etc. These all default to Good [+2] but can be boosted with Hero Points. However, the ring's effects are limited by the user's Willpower, meaning you can't Stunt higher than the rank of your Willpower based Quality (so John is limited to Expert [+4] effects normally). If you want to go higher you've got to spend not only the Hero Points on your Stunt, but Hero Points to temporarily increase Your Willpower Quality. The second limitation is Recharging: every 24 hours the ring goes without recharging it's Rank is reduced by one and any Damage Ranks absorbed by the Power Ring cannot be recovered until you recharge.



Doctor Strange is a tough one...partially because I'm not actually very familiar with the character but from what I've seen he tends to serve as more of a plot device than a protagonist, and like all good plot devices he has whatever powers the plot demands while still needing the help of the main character(s) to solve the situation. I'd probably stat him up as a World Class hero, giving him 4 additional Quality Ranks and 2 additional Power Ranks. Here's my best attempt, ignoring powers that exist purely as plot devices.

Qualities: Expert [+4] Surgeon, Good [+2] Martial Artist, Expert [+4] Intellect, Master [+6] Ritual Magic,

Powers: Master [+6] Sorcerer Supreme; Expert [+4] Mystic Artifacts

Ritual Magic is a Quality that covers the magic Strange does outside of Conflicts or to resolve mystic tasks. Sorcerer Supreme is a Meta-Power which potentially (at the GM's option) can cover about anything but typically can be used for super-scale attacks and defenses (including "binding" attacks that inflict Failure Ranks), astral travel, teleportation, illusions, and expanded powers of perception. The limits of the Power are Strange's dependency on words and gestures and that his powers don't operate "automatically", if he doesn't know an attack is coming he can't defend against it. Mystic Artifacts operate essentially the same as Super-Gadgeteering, but rather than creating the devices Doctor Strange simply equips himself from his personal arsenal of magic.

An alternative way to approach Sorcery would be to allow it to do basically anything but only in the form of specific spells (which must be purchased as Signature Stunts). This means all of Strange's effects would be incredibly powerful (minimum modifier of +10) but he's limited by the repertoire of spells and will likely have a fairly low MAX as he would have spent a hefty chunk on his Stunts.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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

Robindaybird posted:

The big thing I get from Everlasting is the writers are very, painfully unaware. No one on the team steps back and goes "You know what? This is actually kind of silly," from candle rituals to their opening fiction, it drips with the pretension of someone that thinks they got the deepest, best thing ever.

And IMHO, it's it's biggest flaw - it's so busy being dark, and important, and life-changing that they leave no room for fun.
Even if the legendmaking stuff wasn't abjectly ludicrous in its own right, it suffers from this massive sense of...reverse bathos, I guess you'd call it? The book wallows in the cheesiest excesses of 80s horror/fantasy, and paints most of the playable character types as unsympathetic psychopaths, but then it starts on about how you should project your life issues onto the characters and use them as avatars in a quest for enlightenment.

I think this is symptomatic of an inability to maintain a coherent vision. Even within a single chapter, the vampire clans are presented as amoral psycho cultists, then as beautiful and damned, then you're told to play them as heroes. I think that an intelligent, original, and well-written game can include some genre indulgences without suffering for it. But it seems like half the time the authors were trying to create an original setting, and the other half of the time, they were sort of daydreaming about stuff from their favourite movies and books that they wanted to imitate, and those two tones didn't blend into each other when they were put onto the pages.

The vampire thing brings me around to a recurring point: it often seems like the authors aren't that interested in their own own material. There are so many overshadowing references to Osirians, Daevas, and Questers that it seems like they'd rather be writing about them instead, and that starting the line with a book about undead was obligatory. Even within this book, vampires obviously get a lot more attention than the other character types. For a game that is so high on its own gratuitous cheese, the book itself seems like a cynical marketing-based choice for a flagship title.

I knew before I started that Everlasting was a WoD ripoff with some pretentious New Age stuff tacked on, but I never anticipated just how uniquely bad and weird it is.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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

Kaza42 posted:

I can only guess that it stems from the whole "buddhism is a philosophy, christianity is a religion" thing. I think that the Races mechanic should have been folded into the Beliefs mechanic. It bypasses the unfortunate implications of the original (Americans are more rational than everyone else!) while still letting people pick and choose traditional systems.
As for Catholicism and Protestantism being the only religions.... I don't know. They really should have included the major religions at least, even if it's impossible to include every religion. I want to be charitable and assume that the author just put in the ones most common to the area where the game is likely to be played for now, and will include other religions when the game is finished. Reading ahead some, it seems that Buddhists and similar characters can reincarnate after death instead of going through the Heaven/Hell system of other Theists. I suppose if you wanted to play a Buddhist Monk, you could go with a Theist Buddhist Apologist who just doesn't pick from the Protestant/Catholic branch. You don't miss out on that many powers by not picking one or the other. I will agree that it's a pretty big flaw in the system.


Although in the interest of being fair, I am a fan of this system. I know it has many flaws, but am probably less able to see the nonmechanical failings of it. Take any apologies I offer on its behalf with a grain of salt, and I will do my best to point out the big problems where I see then.

Personally: it reeks to me of unexamined personal beliefs. Which I'm not surprised by, given this is a game made by nerds based on a joke in a webcomic for nerds by a pretty creepy guy. Catholics and Protestants are the only ones mentioned because they're the only religions the authors have experience with, I'd guess. Likewise, given the whole way it treats "races" and lumps all Asian philosophies together (oh yeah, them Legalists are sure getting on with them Buddhists, hoo boy!) - let alone the others, I mean, the Greek philosophers occasionally loathed each other, and trying to argue that the legacy of Anglo-American philosophy over all others is reason and rationality...

This is a whole bunch of unexamined issues weaved into a poor joke. Good job, guys, on making an RPG about philosophy without even thinking about how you think!

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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

Mors Rattus posted:

Personally: it reeks to me of unexamined personal beliefs.
Ooh, I have a solution for that!

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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

...and I've just realized, there's literally nothing on African philosophy - which does exist, people have thought about thinking wherever there have been people organized and well-fed enough to support philosophers. Islamic philosophy, of course, was (and still is) a huge thing, especially around northern Africa and the Middle East. Ignoring the work of Islamic philosophers is stupid at best. Ethiopian philosophers had their own thing going on, headed up by a genius theologian named Zara Yacob who developed his own brand of theist philosophy that was pretty accepting of most stuff. The people of sub-Saharan Africa developed a very unique philosophy that I want to read about more, involving a focus on dynamic reality and the forces of reality being primary to existence itself, rather than deriving from things existing.

And then you have modern stuff, which I admit I haven't studied at all, but a quick look shows that modern African philosophy definitely exists. It has a communal focus and likes to examine the beliefs implicit in African cultures and languages. Not to mention, of course, the philosophical works deriving from the African diaspora - philosophers like Malcolm X, W. E. B. Du Bois or Frederick Douglass.

Mors Rattus fucked around with this message at 23:42 on Feb 26, 2014

Tasoth
Dec 12, 2011
I have to agree on Everlasting. They could spin the concept of the vast majority of vampires being amoral psychopaths and that the PCs stand out precisely because they have a little shred of something that makes them not. You could leverage that into mechanics about whether you can save your character from being inhuman or if you can achieve a higher order of humanity for yourself.

The fact that they kind of gloss over ghouls is stupid, though. They should have been fleshed out more.

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006

Mors Rattus posted:

...and I've just realized, there's literally nothing on African philosophy - which does exist, people have thought about thinking wherever there have been people organized and well-fed enough to support philosophers. Islamic philosophy, of course, was (and still is) a huge thing, especially around northern Africa and the Middle East. Ignoring the work of Islamic philosophers is stupid at best. Ethiopian philosophers had their own thing going on, headed up by a genius theologian named Zara Yacob who developed his own brand of theist philosophy that was pretty accepting of most stuff. The people of sub-Saharan Africa developed a very unique philosophy that I want to read about more, involving a focus on dynamic reality and the forces of reality being primary to existence itself, rather than deriving from things existing.

And then you have modern stuff, which I admit I haven't studied at all, but a quick look shows that modern African philosophy definitely exists. It has a communal focus and likes to examine the beliefs implicit in African cultures and languages. Not to mention, of course, the philosophical works deriving from the African diaspora - philosophers like Malcolm X, W. E. B. Du Bois or Frederick Douglass.

Yeah, it's pretty racist. I'd at least think the "Asians" would be replaced with Orientals or Orientalists, which would cover stuff like post-Colonial, post-Imperialist, counter-Western philosophy by stuff like Edward Said, since it covered Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

Kaza42
Oct 3, 2013

Blood and Souls and all that
Yeah, the more I read over those sections, the more I realize just how much of the world it is removing or trivializing. Still, at least the worst is over (until we get to the prestige classes, at least), so we may as well continue with


Statistics
The game uses the Big Five and Slightly Smaller Six. The Big Five are the primary ability scores that tie in with your spells and skills, while the Slightly Smaller Six are mostly just combat stats
Rationality: Your ability to discern the Truth. Used by a lot of spells to power them
Phronesis: Common sense. Used as a defense against lies and bullshyte
Merit: The strength of your ideals. This is the default value for your Virtue, and Virtue increases or decreases by 1 per day until it equals Merit
Bullshyte: Your ability to dissemble, avoid questions and seem more right than you are. DEFINITELY not based on a vulgar term for excrement.
Strength: Aesthetically pleasing and bringing you closer to the Nietzschean ideal of the Superman. Also smashes stuff.
The Slightly Smaller 6 are mostly things you've seen before. Will=Mana, Hp=Hp The only two notable stats are
Luck: Starts at 0, but every point of luck lets you add or subtract 1 from each of your rolls for free. There's probably a way to stack this until it breaks the game
Association: How well you get along with your friends. Everyone starts at 2, which lets them buff each other and become immune to eachothers negative spells. At Association 1, you can no longer share positive effects. At Association 0, your negative effects also apply to your "friends". Numbers below 0 or above 2 have no further effect.

Combat is pretty standard. Many spells cause damage, and everyone has two basic attacks. Once again, there are two interesting things here:
Dialetic: Basically, if you're fighting an enemy with a Rationality score, you can stunt your attacks by posing philosophical queries and debating with them. There are no guidelines for what sort of bonus to give, or examples of what this might be. This SHOULD be the foundation for a lot of combat back-and-forth, fighting physically while debating mentally, but it completely fails to do so due to its lack of guidelines.
Influence: How much control you have over a target. Sentient beings have 5 Influence on themselves, animals have 3. The summoner gets 2 influence on summoned creatures, and the creature itself gets 0. Each point of influence is essentially a vote for what the creature does, with the creature itself deciding ties. Unfortunately, there's no real way to resist Influence so if someone is twinked out to apply influence they can control pretty much anyone after a few turns.

Money
The only currency used Sophia is the Benthamite, a mysterious coin made entirely out of utility. Certain spells reference your wealth level. This is based on your current amount of money available, not any sort of stable income. When a character with Oikonomia gets Benthamite, they get an extra 10% per point they have in Oikonomia. The DM is encouraged to prevent players from exploiting the obvious infinite loop.
Once you reach level 3, you can pay 10% of your money to a charity to recover 1 point of Virtue once per day

Laws
In D&Dis, the Law is whatever is written upon the magical Legal Parchment, which enforces that law in an area around it. Natural laws are the laws of physics and cannot be broken under any circumstances. They are probably not written on Legal Parchment, but it doesn't call them out as an exception so I guess they are. Moral, Religious and State laws have a Sanctity value. Roll under Sanctity and you can break the law without penalty, otherwise you either lose Virtue, lose Luck or summon Policemen depending on if the law was Moral, Religious or State. The Policemen form from the platonic ideal of Law Enforcement, rather than drawing upon an actual human organization.
If a player can acquire their own Legal Parchment, they can hire a lawyer to write up laws as well. It's possibly but presumably frowned upon to just make it against the law to disobey you in any way and then sic summoned policemen on anyone who disobeys.

Next Time: Skipping most of the rest of the mechanics due to being fairly predictable and standard in favor of The Afterlife and Resurrection. Even within its own conceits (only Western ideas the author is familiar with are important) it doesn't make much sense.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008

I know it's been a while. I'm like Mors Rattus except a lot slower.

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


Part 9g: Skills and Miracles

Once again, we're going to cover two chapters since the Skills chapter is really short.

There are only four new skills:
  • Cyberdeck Operation was covered already as the skill used to do stuff in the GodNet.
  • Forgery is used to falsify documents. Pretty straightforward.
  • Cybertech is used to build or repair cybernetics or cyberdecks. It can also be used to improve existing cyberware.
  • Psychology is a "healing skill" for mental damage, and can be used to try and counter cyberpsychosis.

In addition, there's some extra info on existing skills like disguise and streetwise. Nothing too major, just ways to use the skills in the context of CyberFrance. Streetwise is a pretty important skill there since so much of the population is either effectively homeless or dealing with street gangs.

The next chapter covers Miracles, which are pretty important in CyberFrance. There are, of course, a lot of people capable of performing miracles, but unfortunately most of them work for the bad guys. In fact, Avignon Papal doctrine is so powerful that the normal miracle rules work a little differently around here.

The main effect is that "harmful" miracles aren't considered adverse miracles by the CyberChurch, and therefore don't suffer the +15 difficulty modifier for performing a miracle that doesn't match your belief. Then there's this little bit of mechanical wonkery:

quote:

Similarly, adverse miracles defend the faithful against another faith by striving to destroy that faith, so the -5 modifier is gained. But the need for adverse miracles is often not immediate, so they suffer from the +5 modifier. In most circumstances these modifiers cancel each other out. So members of the Cyberpapacy when using adverse miracles ignore modifiers for circumstances. They never gain the -3 modifier for being needed urgently, or in a life threatening situation.

Beneficial miracles are treated in a similar manner. A bless defends the faithful, but is often not needed immediately, so it receives no modifiers. Beneficial miracles, however, may gain the -3 modifier when their need is urgent.
Modifiers! :v:

Anyway, all members of the Cyberpapacy who are capable of performing miracles get two extra benefits. First off, they get a blessed crucifix that grants a bonus to their focus skill, ranging from +1 for low-ranking clergy to +5 for Malraux himself. Second, they get a special "blessing vow" that gives them a bonus to a stat. The bonus granted depends on the person's role. Most cyberpriests get a +2 to their Spirit, whereas the Church Police get +1 to either Toughness or Dexterity. On the plus side, Cyberpapal characters get these bonuses too. At least, until you get hit by a certain miracle or break your vow.

Speaking of which, let's take a look at a few of the highlights of the Cyberpapal miracle list.

Alter Disease lets you either reduce or increase the effects of a disease in a person. You can use it to make a contagious disease non-contagious, slow its effects, or make it easier to fight off. Or you can make it last longer in the victim, become incredibly contagious, or accelerate its effects. This miracle is pretty much the cornerstone of the Cyberpapcy's South American plans; Papal agents are curing AIDS and other major diseases in the more impoverished areas of Central and South America, but they're not doing it too quickly so they look better. Technically speaking they could just use Cure Disease to wipe out whatever they wanted, but then you wouldn't see how hard they're working to help these poor slowly suffering innocents, would you?

Blessing Vow gives the target a stat bonus until the target either breaks the vow sworn to the Church, or until they're the target of the drat miracle. drat lowers one of the target's stats until the caster removes the effect or is the target of the Blessing Vow. Basically the two miracles will cancel each other out if they're done on the same person. Both miracles are rituals, so they're pretty big deals to use.

Curse is the quick-cast-but-lower-duration version of drat. It reduces one of the target's stats, but just for an hour.

Eradicate Radiation does what it says on the label.

Excommunicate can only be used on (former) members of the Cyberchurch, reducing their faith and focus skills until the effect is lifted via a Blessing Vow.

Interface allows the user to access any "mundane" computer or device as if it was part of the GodNet so you can use all your fancy cyberprograms on it.

Mage Net restrains the target, but only works if they have a magic skill.

Mana will sustain your body while your brain is off messing around in the GodNet. Basically a supernatural IV drip.

Net Damnation was mentioned earlier; if you're affected by the miracle, then every time you access the GodNet by any means you'll be attacked by demons who want to drag you into the Purgatory section of the GodNet.

Rood Awakening, appart from being a very punny name, paralyzes the target in a crucifiction pose. The target takes a little shock damage each round, and can't do anything but try to break free.

Unbeliever's Doom is basically an attack spell, except that it can only affect targets who are not followers of Cybercatholicism (i.e., have the faith skill for a different religion). In fact, the further away the target's belief system is from Cybercatholicism, the more damage it does.

There are more miracles, of course, but those are the highlights. Everything else is just simple effects or miracles from the core book. Which, in fact, makes Cyberpapal priests less powerful than other faith users.

See, while there are other miracles across the other books in the game line, Cyberpapal followers cannot learn miracles of other faiths thanks to the World Laws. Normally it's possible to learn miracles of other faiths as long as the miracle in question is "compatable" with your own beliefs. So technically speaking a Core Earth priest could potentially learn a miracle from, say, Aysle or Orrorsh despite not being from those realities or following the other religion.

But the Cyberpapacy has the "Law of the One True God", which states that Cybercatholicism is the only actually valid religion. As a result, characters with faith or focus skills for the Cyberpapacy are unable to learn miracles of other faiths. Which means that their spell list is pretty much limited to what's in the core set, the Cyberpapacy book, and the relevent chapter Cleric's Sourcebook that came out later. In much the same way the GodNet is isolated from the telecommunication networks of the rest of the world, the Cyberpapal faithful are cut off from the larger world of spirituality that's available.

It's probably a metaphor or something.


NEXT TIME: Monsters, fantatics, and heretics!

Midjack
Dec 24, 2007



Dungeons and Discourse sounds annoying as hell to actually play but I can see it being a smash hit with the high school Advanced Placement crowd.

EDIT: I can see it being a smash hit with the high school AP crowd.

Midjack fucked around with this message at 02:18 on Mar 1, 2014

Baofu
Jun 15, 2007

I feel similar about Dresden Codak in general.

Kellsterik
Mar 30, 2012
Believe me, they were.

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Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!
I once tried to convince a friend to work on a Dungeons & Discourse game with me.

It's probably best that it didn't work out. It was good enough for two strips of gags but once you try and expand it out into a traditional RPG the wit of the idea is spread so thin it's essentially lost. I think we could've done better but I'm probably also wrong.

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