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Forums Terrorist
Dec 8, 2011

Davin Valkri posted:

And now you've got me wondering what 90s media looked like in countries that had a lot more reason to be happy, broadly speaking. I'm probably wrong, but I can't see that sort of "pseudo-dark and nihilistic" mood prevailing in, say, Poland or the Baltic states.

90s Eastern block media is loving grim. My favourite is Tito Among The Serbs For A Second Time:


Jul 9, 2010

Robindaybird posted:

There's a lot of little things I like about WW, but sneering at scientific progress, the worship of the Noble Savage-archetype (and not understanding it's a racist concept), and the idiotic idea that Art and Science are just incompatible is rage inducing (EXPLAIN THE RENAISSANCE THEN, JACKASSES).

They actually made this book. I'm considering doing it, I'm just rereading it to prep for the writeup.

It's called Mage: Sorcerer's Crusade. Literally Renaissance Mage. I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around some of it, it's kinda neat, but it's also really weird. I also have a lot of scanning to do.

Oct 14, 2011

Fritz Lieber - The Swords of Lankhmar posted:

The chamberlain faced the big man. He drew a scroll from his toga, unrolled it, scanned it briefly, then looked up. “Are you Fafhrd the northern barbarian and brawler?”

The big man considered that for a bit, then said, “And if I am –?”

The chamberlain turned towards the small man. He once more consulted his parchment. "And are you – your pardon, but it’s written here – that mongrel and long-suspected burglar, cutpurse, swindler, and assassin, the Gray Mouser?”

The small man fluffed his gray cape and said, “If it’s any business of yours – well, he and I might be connected in some way.”

As if those vaguest answers settled everything, the chamberlain rolled up his parchment with a snap and tucked it inside in his toga. “Then my master wishes to see you. There is a service you can render him, to your own considerable profit.”

The Gray Mouser inquired, “If the all-powerful Glipkerio Kistomerces has need of us, why did he allow us to be assaulted and for all he might know slain by that company of hooligans who but now fled this place?”

The chamberlain answered, “If you were the sort of men to allow yourselves to be murdered by such a mob, then you would not be the right men to handle the assignment, or fulfill the commission, which my master has in mind.”

Chapter 2: Characters

The Forlorn Tome of Du'Karrn posted:

Thus born with untamed souls, those slayers prowled like wolves amidst the sheep that were their fellow men. No rules would bind them, and no courtesies keep them.

They thirsted for blood as others for wine, and drank lives with a bleak obstinacy and ardor merely kindled all the brighter by all whom would say them nay.

And so we come to character creation. As with The Riddle of Steel, this is done as a priority pick; six categories, A to F where A is the best and F is the worst. Unlike in The Riddle of Steel, they haven't left you a dump pick if you want to be non-magical. the first category is Sorcery, wherein A is a master of the arcane arts, D is entirely ordinary, E is particularly vulnerable to magic and F means that not only are you vulnerable to magic, but there's a magical being out there who wants to gently caress your poo poo up. Which is, in all honesty, far more interesting than "D-F is just normal borderline humanity" - putting an F choice anywhere ought to be tough. Here, the game says to be very, very careful about putting your F choice here; your character likely won't survive it.

Next, we have Culture. This is another place where the game emulating the fiction becomes apparent; A is an Enlightened culture, such as Ancient Egypt or Ancient Greece at their respective heights. You get +1 to Tenacity, Heart and Sagacity, ten bonus skill points, you may always take the Occultism skills, you live one and a half times as long as regular humans and can do without food and sleep for very long periods of time, and a bonus Good Asset (read Advantage) related to culture or the supernatural.

B is Savage; think of the Picts and the Cimmerians from Howards work - just generally stronger and tougher than city dwellers because of their upbringing. They get +1 to Brawn, Daring and Tenacity, and five skill points to spend on outdoor skills.

C is Hillman/Nomad. They get the five skill points that Savages get, but not the improved attributes.

D is Civilised. This is a typical city dweller with neither advantages nor disadvantages.

E is Decadent. Think of the Roman Empire as it neared its collapse. Lots of drug abuse, demon worship, human sacrifice and slavery. People from such places have a -1 to Tenacity, as well as either a -1 to Brawn or a Poor Asset (Disadvantage) relating to minor mental handicaps.

Finally, F is Degenerate. Think of the antagonists of The Hills have Eyes. You get a -1 to three Attributes of your choice, and two Poor Assets based around physical handicaps and nasty mental illness (the examples here include Necrophilia). Yeah - if you take this, your character is likely to be truly sick in the head.

Third, we have Attributes. You pick a priority, you get a number of points to split between them, and they may be between 1 and 8 (assuming you don't have an adjustment from Culture), with one of them being your Focus, which no other may be higher than. You also get 7 points to spread between your Passion Attributes, which should be determined here.

Fourth are Skills. Pretty self explanatory, since I already mentioned how skill checks work earlier - higher is better, and nothing should be higher than an 8.

Fifth come Proficiencies. These measure your ability to fight, and are also used for any Sorcerous Knowledge you begin the game with if you chose to be a sorcerer. You get a number of points to spread between any number of weapon proficiencies you may wish to have, but you may not begin higher than a 12 on any one proficiency, while 13 is the highest you can reach in play.

Sixth, we have Assets. Basically, your Advantages and Disadvantages fall here. The higher your pick, the fewer Poor Assets and the more Good Assets you choose.

Once this is done, you can calculate all your Combined Attributes and Pools - your Melee Pool is Reflex + Proficiency (depending on weapon), while your Archery Pool is Aim + Proficiency (again, depending on weapon). The Sorcery Pool will be discussed when Sorcery comes up, a few chapters from now.

After that, we have a pretty detailed character creation example, where an example player creates the character often used in other examples within the book. Next, we have the Four Shoulds:

1. Your character should have a flaw that balances out their strength.
2. Your character should have his own way of speaking (please note, that if that includes an annoying accent, don't be too surprised if rocks fall).
3. Your character should be played in a realistic manner.
4. Characters should interact with each other.

This is where the book suggests that you might even have a reason for your characters to dislike each other. While that's usually a bad thing in gaming groups, this has to be done with the consent of the whole group. The idea behind this is that a little tension can make things more interesting, and even people who basically like each other can get on each others' tits sometimes.

Finally, we have advice on creating a different Priority table, if the one given doesn't suit our preferred setting. The way they designed theirs was such that D was average, E was noticeably but not horribly worse, while F was meant to be horrible - three times as bad as E. C, meanwhile, was as much better than D as E was worse, B is twice as good as C, and A is twice as good as B, when compared with D. If that makes sense.

And this is where the second chapter ends. Once again, I hope you all enjoyed it.

Oct 29, 2011

Getting healthy by posting on the Internet
Thanks for the write up. I have always wanted to play a game like the Conan stories. I actually went and bought Blade of the Iron Throne yesterday - it's half price on Drivethru RPG at the moment till the 12th. Character creation does look awesome. I am a bit worried how the combat works - it looks a bit fiddly to my d20 addled brain.
I really want to play this game :)

Oct 14, 2011
The combat runs better than it reads - I've run TRoS, and the combat is basically the same here. The trick is to make sure that all the players get a decent amount of time in the limelight. Actually, I'll have to run a fight with someone on IRC and post the log.

Jan 30, 2012

Really Madcats

Do they still have the terrible page borders?

Oct 10, 2005


KaoliniteMilkshake posted:

They actually made this book. I'm considering doing it, I'm just rereading it to prep for the writeup.

It's called Mage: Sorcerer's Crusade. Literally Renaissance Mage. I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around some of it, it's kinda neat, but it's also really weird. I also have a lot of scanning to do.
I'm still irrationally angry at that line because one of the books (The Path of Screams) got referenced constantly by other gamelines (Vampire, Werewolf, "modern" Mage, Kindred of the East), despite being written for an unpopular spin-off and going out-of-print p. much immediately. I never saw that book until the nWoD had come out. Still don't have a physical copy. :argh:

Mar 1, 2013

You Are All

AmiYumi posted:

I'm still irrationally angry at that line because one of the books (The Path of Screams) got referenced constantly by other gamelines (Vampire, Werewolf, "modern" Mage, Kindred of the East), despite being written for an unpopular spin-off and going out-of-print p. much immediately. I never saw that book until the nWoD had come out. Still don't have a physical copy. :argh:

That's the infernal/nephrandi one, right? The one with the rote that has you slowly flay someone and use the skin as scrolls?

Halloween Jack
Sep 12, 2003

La morte non ha sesso

Chapter 7: gently caress You, Ghost Dad

Do you believe this chapter doesn’t begin with a tedious “Do you believe in ghosts?” screed? I don’t. Ghosts are a character type in this game; you can play them, I guess. Ghosts don’t receive as much attention as vampires, only getting 15 pages and 69 unique jargon terms.

Sometimes when you die, your soul doesn’t get to go through the tunnel of light to the Afterlife, and you’re not cool and pretty enough to become a revenant, either. These ghosts, called Dead Souls are disembodied spirits who wander around the Underworld being all sad and stuff. Nobody knows how or why Dead Souls get stuck with such a terrible lot in unlife, which is why they’re also called the condemned.

Do you believe someone saw Mary on the stairway?

Dead Souls’ ethereal bodies are called “cadavers,” which is confusing, because they’re not zombies, they’re disembodied spirits. Their bodies are made of soul-stuff called “nekrum.” By default, they look (and smell) like they did when they were buried, but they can learn to reshape their nekrum into other forms. Like other eldritch, Dead Souls lose animus every day. Regaining it is much, much easier for Dead Souls than for everybody else, but remember that their unlives are really lovely, and regaining animus is no exception. They can eat the unpalatable “rotting food of the Underworld” or they can sleep, which regains animus very quickly but which they experience as a nightmarish fever-dream. They can also steal life-energy from other spiritual beings they encounter by literally pinning them down and sucking it out of them like some kind of wrestling fetish video.

Dead Souls aren’t exactly stuck in the Underworld, either. They can learn to slip into the Reverie and the Dreamworlds, and can even pass through those realms to the real world, where they can float around, walk through walls, and moan and be spooky and stuff. When they’re in the real world, people nearby can feel their “ultimate gloom and sorrow” and touching a person results in chills and depressing visions. Being a Dead Soul is like living on the far side of town with a lovely apartment and a crappy dead-end job for all eternity.

Like revenants, Dead Souls have deathvision, meaning they can sense “the inevitable end of things and the various stages of degeneration and change.” So when a Dead Soul sees a boy playing in the street, he can see the boy, what the boy will look like as an old man, and even that he’s not likely to become an old man if he doesn’t stop playing in a street where 12 animals have been hit by cars in the past month. They notice decay that other people overlook, and have a hard time appreciating beauty because they perceive everything in terms of inevitable entropy. Being dead is really sad, okay?

There’s some more on the ankou from the revenant chapter. They’re not just one faction of revenants who are dicks, they’re law enforcement for all of the dead and somehow connected to Death itself. When a soul bounces off the tunnel of light leading to the Afterlife, the ankou judge them in the “Courts of Death.” Most are just left alone, but some are sentenced to years of literally Sisyphean labor. Those who try to escape are sent to the Circles of Atrocity, which are basically Dante’s Inferno.

There are several types of Dead Souls. The first is the Earthbound, who are free to roam Ethereus, the first level of the Underworld, but can’t go further without help. By and large, Earthbound are very attached to the living world. There are several subtypes, including Undying Obsessives, who want to finish some life’s work, Harbingers of the Dead, who try to warn humans of danger and protect them from evil spirits, Breathstealers, who possess the living because they’re obsessed with enjoying life, Night Haunts, who haunt people for fun because they’re assholes, and Guardians of the Night, who do the same thing as the Harbingers but with different wording.

Phantoms are powerful Dead Souls who live in a self-created Shadoworld, a pocket dimension created by their own mind. Phantoms spend most of the time trapped in their own little world, literally, reliving their own lives. Sometimes they suppress their hallucinations long enough to travel around a bit and even contact humans in the real world. Phantoms aren’t all bad, and some even try to help humans they used to know on a regular basis; the human experiences the phantom’s shadoworld as a daydream. But Phantoms are bad news because even when they suppress their shadoworld, they carry it with them wherever they go, and other Dead Souls can be trapped in it.

Shades are Dead Souls who can travel anywhere they want to in the Underworld. Most of them want to forget their past lives, so they travel past Ethereus and live in the Dreadlands, which aren’t pleasant but at least don’t constantly remind you of how much better it was to be alive. The Praxor is the ruling class of shades. They organize themselves like mafia syndicates, structure the economy so the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and wage war against each other. They’re dicks.

The Shades are confusing because, as with the ghaddars from the ghul chapter, what we know about living in the Underworld comes in fragments and implications. We know that
the Dreadlands are a vast, overpopulated ghetto, full of Dead Souls who want to experience pleasure, avoid pain, and forget their old lives. Prostitution, drug use, and committing assault and torture for kicks are common in the Dreadlands. Shades have to work and earn money like humans, and much modern technology doesn’t work in the Dreadlands, so many jobs are menial drudgery. The Dreadlands have native animal life, but few plants, so most shades wear clothing made of metal and hide. Basically we know that shades eat, drink, gently caress, work, and pay bills like people, but everything is pretty lovely unless you’re rich.

The Rakasha are constitutionally similar to Dead Souls, but they’re not really dead people--they’re invaders from some other dimension. They’ve been waging a low-intensity war to conquer the Underworld for a long time, and they know how to shapeshift into fang-mawed tentacled Lovecraftian beasts.

The police in your town would dress like this if they could.

Ankou are the servants of Death. Their duties include cutting the “silver cord” that binds souls to their recently deceased bodies, guarding and escorting the newly dead to the afterlife, and stopping Dead Souls from possessing mortals, which is stealing life that doesn’t belong to them. Everyone else has to call them “Lord/Lady Deathbringer” and they’re dicks.

Life Cords and Death Chains

All Dead Souls have Life Cords and Death Chains, which are positive and negative connections to their mortal lives. Life Cords are things like your love for your family, your career, or a happy childhood, whereas Death Chains are regretful things like having had a bad temper, a drug addiction, or wronging someone you loved. You assign 20 points to Life Cords and 20 points to Death Chains to represent your connections and how strongly you identify them, but the ratings don’t actually matter. Even better, the Guide isn’t encouraged to punish you for not roleplaying your Cords and Chains correctly. Instead, you can act on your Cords and Chains to your benefit.

Dead Souls’ Torment is Imprisonment, which they have along with Freedom. As one goes up, the other goes down. Accepting your place in the Underworld and doing things to increase your wealth and power there increases your Imprisonment--that’s why shades live in the Dreadlands, to forget their old lives, give in to Imprisonment, and try to make the best of life in the Underworld instead of resolving their issues and moving on.

You can increase Freedom and reduce Imprisonment by working with your Cords and Chains.You act on your Cords by remembering your old life, doing the earthly activities you enjoyed, and contacting the living. You act on your Chains by changing yourself for the better, forgiving yourself and others, and making contact with the living to help them and obtain closure.

Sonnn…Lose the trenchcoat and the fedora, sonnn…

Playing with Dead Things

In the Dreadlands, everything is made from nekrum, and Dead Souls can reshape simple rocks and dirt into more complex objects if they make rolls and expend enough animus. Any Dead Soul anywhere in the Underworld or the Reverie can use ambient nekrum to conjure objects related to their Life Cords and Death Chains--even vehicles and weapons, with enough effort and animus. Guides are encouraged to disallow abusive or “silly” Life Chains to have an excuse to conjure whatever you want. B-b-but my character really loved clown college!

There are lots of ways that Dead Souls interact with mortals. For one, there are a lot of “ancient laws” which the dead have to obey just because. They can’t use their powers on holy ground, they’re drawn to their own funerals, they have to answer questions posed through ouija boards while they’re around, they must serve magicians who hold their former possessions, etc. Basically the Guide gets to gently caress with you whenever he pleases.

There’s about a page worth of difrerent methods mortals use to contact the dead--seances, voodoo rituals, channeling, and even contact by telephone, but there are no rules for it. Likewise the means of repelling the dead, such as horseshoes , white candles, and pouring salt across thresholds. Some humans have the natural ability to see the dead; Dead Souls call them “bonekith.” Others, called Flatliners, can travel astrally. There are no rules for human stats in the Underworld.

There are sects obsessed with Dead Souls. The Charontes are obsessed with creating revenants; some of them even deliberately become revenants, and they murder beautiful people so they can use their corpses, sort of like rock journalists. There’s also a sect of Dead Souls called the Keres, who hunt down and kill certain mortals for unknown reasons.

Ghost’s Anatomy

Dead Souls only suffer debilitating wounds from magickal attacks and fire, and even then, the attack has to be “real” to the ghost, so only other spirits can hurt them while they’re intangibly floating around in the real world. There is no True Death for ghosts--if they die, they collapse into ectoplasmic goop and eventually reform, amidst a pile of other corpses in Ethereus. (When people die, their astral form leaves a nekrum corpse, so there are corpses all over Ethereus.)

As discussed, all Dead Souls have the power to conjure equipment, change their appearance, and float around. They also have the ability to provoke a strong emotion in mortals by touching them, and the ability to possess mortals. Possession, like everything else, requires spending animus and rolling. Depending on how well you do, you can simply ride along, or compel them to take an action, or speak through them, or probe their innermost thoughts. It lasts for a few minutes unless you spend more animus.

Like the other types, Dead Souls have preternaturae:

Apparitions: Create illusions as the vampire power.
Black Ratchet: Take the form of a fearsome black dog.
Black Water: Create “shadowy arms” in water that drag people down to drown. Cause I'd like to hear some funky Dixieland, pretty mama come and take me by the hand. By the hand, take me by the hand pretty mama come and dance with your daddy all night long.
Call the Black Storm: As the vampire power, it causes nasty lovely rainy weather.
Corpse Candle: Create a floating eerie light to lure people.
Corpse Melding: You can drastically change your voice, sex, etc. to resemble someone else.
Hand of Death: Kill people by touching them.
Midsight: Read surface thoughts.
Poltergeist: It’s a telekinesis power, whaddaya want?
Secrets of the Dead: Learn things about someone just by being near them and concentrating. This is how ghosts glean the secrets they reveal through ouija boards. If you have nothing better to do than use your magick powers to tell a teenage girl who has a crush on her, you definitely deserve to be a Dead Soul.
Shadow of Death: Makes it difficult for others to perceive you (even other ghosts).
Stalker from Beyond: Become invisible and write letters to Jodie Foster.

Strangely, unlike the other chapters, this one has some sample characters. One is Crazy Gretchen, who lost her family in the crossfire of a mob shootout and started hunting down and killing mobsters with a meat cleaver. Do not taunt Ghostly Kitchen Punisher.

Henry O’Keenly, killed by his wife for being keen on another woman. Used to be a ghost handyman, wants to buy a body and become a revenant.

Peaches Monroe, a circus clown who was killed by an escaped tiger. Peaches is a phantom whose Shadoworld is like an old-fashioned traveling circus. This is clearly an attempt to run a campaign full of Kingu and I’m not having it. Stop watching Joe Bob Briggs at 3 o’clock in the goddamn morning and forget about the loving carnivals you juggalo motherfucker!

Thus concludes this lovely depressing version of Golden Sky Stories.

Next time, on The Everlasting: What they believe, like the stars and stripes of corruption. FRANKENSTEIN!

Dec 13, 2011
So how much of the :ghost: stuff is ripped off of Wraith?

Halloween Jack
Sep 12, 2003

La morte non ha sesso
I'm not a Wraith guy, so I really don't know. In other chapters I could actually spot the bits of movies and TV shows that they were ripping off, but all I got from this chapter is that being a ghost is very, very sad.

Down With People
Oct 31, 2012

The child delights in violence.

Tasoth posted:

So how much of the :ghost: stuff is ripped off of Wraith?

Not much, as far as I can tell. There's a ghost world, unearthly invaders to the ghost world, and a big jerk faction that bosses other ghosts around...

It would have made the ghosts here dramatically better if they'd ripped off more of Wraith, because they're pretty boring by comparison.

Jun 20, 2009

Spoilers Below posted:

It is. :getin:

If I wanted to give Mage a lot of credit, the fact that each tradition book is written from a completely biased point of view is one of the major attractions and themes of the game. Consensual reality meaning that of course the group would only see things from their perspective, and would be attempting to shoehorn in "their version" of history as the real one. Unfortunately, in practice, this meant that they tended to be really hit and miss when it came to actual writing, with a lot of really naive and racist implications that just don't seem to have been fully thought out by the writers.

The Dreamspeakers book, for example, presupposes that all the Native Americans want is a return to the primitive lives of their ancestors, rather than, you know, fulfilling careers and safety and financial security. Any of the very real tensions that exist in the community (and, seriously, this is a huge issue both generationally and historically within the community, with a vast range of opinions on all sides that need to take into account the very different circumstances that different people live in) are pretty much ignored in favor of a media friendly "urban shaman" type thing and any dissension is blamed squarely on the Technocracy, because why else would a Native American not want to live freely on the plains, hunting elk with a spear, running with the spirits and living in the communal dreamtime alongside the gods?

There's enough detail in the book to show that it is clearly a topic the author cares about, and did put a lot of work into, but not to the point of analyzing the modern community itself in a deep enough way. And so it comes off really, really bad.


This would be the best Mage game ever.

I have a strange relationship with old Mage nowadays. As a kid that stuff all made sense to me, the whole "Tradtions are good, Technocracy are evil" angle... but looking back I just cannot find the Traditions sympathetic. The Virtual Adepts still own, though. Then again, in oWoD they'd be responsible for bitcoins. Damnit.

Oct 14, 2011

Jewels of Gwahlur - Robert E Howard posted:

The oracle chamber held no clue for him. He went forth into the great throne room and laid his hands on the throne. It was heavy, but he could tilt it up. The floor beneath, a thick marble dais, was solid. Again he sought the alcove. His mind clung to a secret crypt near the oracle. Painstakingly he began to tap along the walls, and presently his taps rang hollow at a spot opposite the mouth of the narrow corridor. Looking more closely he saw that the crack between the marble panel at that point and the next was wider than usual. He inserted a dagger point and pried.

Silently the panel swung open, revealing a niche in the wall, but nothing else. He swore feelingly. The aperture was empty, and it did not look as if it had ever served as a crypt for treasure. Leaning into the niche he saw a system of tiny holes in the wall, about on a level with a man’s mouth. He peered through, and grunted understandingly. That was the wall that formed the partition between the alcove and the oracle chamber. Those holes had not been visible in the chamber.

Conan grinned. This explained the mystery of the oracle, but it was a bit cruder than he had expected. Gorulga would plant either himself or some trusted minion in that niche, to talk through the holes, the credulous acolytes, black men all, would accept it as the veritable voice of Yelaya.

Remembering something, the Cimmerian drew forth the roll of parchment he had taken from the mummy and unrolled it carefully, as it seemed ready to fall to pieces with age. He scowled over the dim characters with which it was covered. In his roaming about the world the giant adventurer had picked up a wide smattering of knowledge, particularly including the speaking and reading of many alien tongues.

Many a sheltered scholar would have been astonished at the Cimmerian’s linguistic abilities, for he had experienced many adventures where knowledge of a strange language had meant the difference between life and death.

Because Barbarians are just better, and black people are just dumb in the world according to Howard. And people wonder why I'm not a huge Conan fan... Anyway, it's time for:

Chapter 3: Training

The Forlorn Tome of Du'Karrn posted:

“Thus tempered in the fire of conflict and strife, each slayer discovers that he holds a flame locked within his very heart, a blaze of passion that must ever char his soul lest it instead betray him to his enemies.

And while it may flicker and waver in time, only death can truly quench this fire, yet until such time, it shall seek to consume him – or be unleashed upon those who would oppose him.”

Unfortunate opinions from the early twentieth century aside, this chapter is all about Skills, Proficiencies and Assets, and how to improve them. The game describes Skills as a more specialised use of an Attribute, for example, Ancient Languages as a more specialised use of Sagacity. They work as you might imagine, though I'll introduce a few here that I think do things interestingly.

Ancient Languages is naturally used to learn a dead language. At levels 1-3, you can understand the writing system, while at 4-6, you can start working out how it might have been spoken. Around 7-9, you can actually speak the dead language quite well - it's not particularly realistic, but it does reflect the source material. Also, every skill point put into this at character creation counts for two skill levels, and each language is naturally a separate skill. You must be literate to take this skill.

Decipher may be used to understand any unknown text, including unknown languages, but it doesn't allow you to retain any knowledge of the language and it takes far longer than if you actually spoke the language itself.

Detect Sorcery does exactly what it says on the tin, and is only available to people with magical talent.

Falsehood is used with Heart for telling lies, and Sagacity for detecting lies. Yep - lying and knowing when you're being lied to are the same skill.

Light Steps is one of the only skills you can't use an Attribute for. It allows you to walk through mud and leave no footprints, or to step across pressure plates without setting them off. You could use it to walk on rice paper and not tear it, if that were somehow important.

Prestidigitation lets you do magic tricks, but doesn't allow you to pick pockets; that is its own skill.

Soldiering is a skill common to all soldiers. It includes kit maintenance, how and where to set up camp and, most importantly, it may be used as your Weapon Proficiency in formation fighting, regardless of the weapon used. Your normal proficiency may only use up to 20% of its usual amount, while Soldiering may be used in its entirety. If you break rank and fight by yourself, which endangers both yourself and your unit, you may use your whole proficiency, but may not use Soldiering.

The book recommends that anything not listed, if it isn't commonly used in the story, should not be a skill. Your character might be an awesome cook, but that should just be background detail unless impressing people with your cooking is actually likely to come up regularly in the campaign. That being said, if anything is likely to come up regularly, then by all means make it a skill.

Next, we have Assets. Again, I'll just point out a few examples, rather than listing them all. The interesting thing to note here is that you can have them as either a good or a bad thing, and in some cases, they'll affect the way your character behaves in the same way but for different reasons.

Absent minded - As a Good Asset, you reduce the TN on learning things by 2; as a Poor Asset, you increase the TN to notice things going on around you by 2.

Aggressive - As a Good Asset, you reduce the ATN on all attacks by 1 until you try to defend. As a Poor Asset, you increase the DTN on all defences until you successfully attack. So either way, you'll prefer an aggressive start to the fight, but for different reasons.

Brawler - As a Good Asset, you reduce the TN on all unarmed attacks and grapple checks by 1; as a Poor Asset, you increase the TN on all attacks at medium range or longer (weapons have ranges, I'll get into that when we reach Proficiencies).

Eunuch - As a Good Asset, you were castrated after puberty, so you appear to be a man for all intents and purposes (kinda like if you get a vasectomy), but treat seduction attempts by sexually compatible characters as if they were sexually incompatible. As a Poor Asset, you were castrated before puberty, so it's quite obvious that you're a eunuch, and most people who don't know you will react poorly.

Literacy - This depends on the setting. In a setting where literacy is not the norm, this may be taken as a good asset to be literate; in a setting where literacy is the norm, it may be taken as a poor asset to not only be illiterate, but to never be able to become literate.

Shadow - As a Good Asset, you reduce the TN on all checks to remain unnoticed by 2. As a Poor Asset, you increase the TN on all checks to be noticed by 2.

Next up, we have Proficiencies. Each Proficiency relates to a method for using a weapon, and may be used at a minor penalty to use similar weapons. Once you buy a Proficiency, you may no longer default from another if that would be higher, but you buy the Proficiency at one higher than that default.

Brawling is mostly unarmed, but also includes such weapons as knuckle dusters and saps. Daggers only take a -1 penalty.

Cut and Thrust is used for fencing type swords, such a rapiers and sabres. You may not use a shield with this proficiency, but you may use a dagger, arming glove or buckler in your off hand.

Dagger is pretty self explanatory, and does not include throwing the weapon.

Great Sword is for the really, really big swords; the six foot or longer doppelhanders of Germany, for example.

Lance is really self explanatory, and may only be used from horseback.

Longsword is for swords that are designed to be wielded two handed, but aren't as long as the great swords; a typical bastard sword, for example. They may also be used in only one hand with a shield with the Sword and Shield proficiency, but are designed to be wielded with both.

Mass Weapon and Shield is for using a mace, flail or axe with a shield.

Pole arms is used for everything from a spear to a halberd; a staff to a pike.

Spear and Shield is pretty self explanatory, though it may only use short spears.

Sword and Shield is again pretty self explanatory.

Wrestling is used for grappling checks; typically used if you find yourself unarmed when dealing with an armed foe.

Missile Proficiencies work the same way, for their individual type of missile weapon.

Next, we go into manoeuvres. This is how combat works in this game, and in its predecessor. Simply put, everything you do is a manoeuvre, from stabbing or cutting to disarming or parrying and attacking in the same smooth motion. A couple of the more interesting ones include Half Swording - the technique of using a sword like a spear in order to drive it through armour, the Murder Stroke - the technique of holding a sword by the blade and using the sword like a mace, and the Counter, where you take a small penalty to defend in exchange for a potentially huge bonus to attack right afterwards.

This is where we look at character progression. As I'm sure I mentioned, you receive and spend points in your Passion Attributes in play. You may change these Passion Attributes in play too, so long as the whole group agrees that it makes sense. Every point you spend is added to your karma pool, and when your character dies or retires, you may spend karma to create a better character; avoiding having to take an F pick in your priorities. Even the GM receives Karma - he gets as much Karma as the highest amount gained that session, so that if someone else takes over running the game, he can create a character on a par with those currently involved in the game, rather than having to start from scratch.

Drama, the fifth Passion Attribute, is typically used for introducing aspects to the environment beneficial to the character, requesting specific scenes, automatic success in a die roll and "stealing the limelight", which will be discussed in the combat chapter. It may also be used to avoid death. NPCs may use Drama - the GM offers each player in turn a Drama point to let him, and all of them must decline for it to be disallowed, and it may only happen, at most, once per scene.

Finally, we have the Loot system. Simply put, you have a Loot rating that determines what you can afford. Because characters in this genre typically have trouble keeping hold of money (they tend to spend it mostly on booze and whoring), die rolls may be required as time passes to keep your Loot at the same level. If you have the Wastrel Poor Asset, this roll becomes harder.

And here endeth the third chapter. Next up is Combat. I hope you enjoyed.

Dec 10, 2007


Modronous Supplement - Meet the Modron!

The last booklet in the Planescape Campaign box is the Monstrous Supplement. This introduces a variety of new weirdos for the PCs to interact with. These are all presented in the standard 2nd Edition stat-block, and each entry is laid out with a physical description and summary, details of the monster’s combat abilities and tactics, what their habitat/society is and how they interact with the ecology. In practice, only the section on combat has any consistency throughout the series (or indeed through 2nd edition). The rest is an amalgamation of fluff and mechanics that don’t fit under combat.

As the title of this update suggests, the most memorable entries are the Modron, the Planar denizens of Mechanus. But there are some other important entries. I’ll be doing a brief summary of all of them in alphabetical order, going into detail about the ones I think need it.

Aleax: The physical manifestation of the vengeance enacted by a power. If a PC really pisses off a deity, particularly one that he purports to serve, then the power will send this guy after him or her. An Aleax looks exactly like the offending PC, and has the same stats and abilities. When enacting revenge, it is immune to attacks from anyone but the Aleax’s target. The Aleax can regenerate 8hp per second, but is very vulnerable to critical hits (x2 damage on a 19, x4 on a 20). If the Aleax “kills” the offending PC, then the bloke is presented before the peeved god and has two choices: death (and cannot be raised), or performing a penance per the Quest spell, plus loss of levels, treasure and a bunch of other things. If the PC wins, then in lieu of xp he absorbs the Aleax and gets some benefits, but at the cost that the Aleax sometimes asserts control. tl;dr: it’s not a good idea to piss off a deity.

Astral searchers are the manifestation of a strong emotion on the Astral Plane. They’re a pretty dickish encounter for low level characters, as they can only be harmed by +1 weapons or better and have 50% MR. Also, this entry involves optional psionic rules, so gently caress it in the eye socket.. Also, characters killed by these can’t be brought back short of a wish.

Next are Barghast, wolf-goblin shapeshifters from the Plane of Gehenna. Never really found these guys all that interesting.

Cranium Rats appear as rats with exposed brains. The more in a pack, the smarter they become, and with such gain spells and abilities. Amusingly, the recommended encounter size listed means that any random encounter is too small for these abilities to manifest. :downs:

Dabus! These servants of the Lady of Pain are tall, slender beings in flowing robes and with horns and Don King hair atop their heads. We get stats for them, but they’re not the important part. The thing you got to remember is that while dabus can understand any language, they only talk in rebus. Strange images appear in front of them when they want to communicate, like so:

Translation: There is no mistaking dabus, nor do they try to hide themselves. Oddly, their speech is just a string of symbols

I got mixed feelings on the Dabus. I think they’re cool, but they’re a prime example of one of the problems with Planescape-it presents stuff and ideas that sound really cool, but in practice are a pain in the rear end to implement. Here, the Supplement offers three options. First is to have a nearby NPC do the translating, which begs the question of why you included Dabus in the scene to begin with. The second option is to actually prepare Rebeses beforehand, but this supposes that you know exactly what the PCs are going to ask. Still, if the DM just wants them to deliver a message, it works. Finally, what I think is the best compromise (if pretty awkward) is to answer the PCs questions by charades. Personally, I feel this option is so obvious I’d have made the charades the actual way Dabus speak.

One other neat thing about Dabus is that ‘they neither fly nor walk, but exist on the boundary between each.’ What this effectively means is that they are immune to spells that affect the surface beneath them, but aren’t treated as flying creatures.

Magmen are goblin-like natives of the Paraelemental Plane of Magma. There’s really isn’t anything special about them.

The aptly-named Minion of Set are proxys of the Egyptian power Set. They appear as people but have the ability to transform into snakes, crocodiles, cave bears, giant hyenas or giant scorpions. Their defensive abilities include immunity to spells and abilities that cause fear and/or doubt. 1 in 20 minions are Shadow Priests, able to cast spells as a priest of Set (level 1d4+5).

Now, the Modron. They are natives of Mechanus, and are governed by an impeccable and alien logic. The section of Mechanus they occupy is known as Regulus. The entire race strives to perfectly organize the multiverse, although in practice they can’t even keep Mechanus totally free of chaos. The most common modron are simple geometric shapes with limbs attached. Rarer, more powerful varieties take on more bizarre shapes, with the most powerful and rarest looking almost human. There are 15 variety of Modron presented in this supplement, and they are organized by a strictly linear hierarchy. Interestingly, modron do not acknowledge the existence of higher ranked types except the one immediately above it. The 15 species are subdivided into 3 categories. Base modron act as general labor and rank-and-file troops. Hierarch modron are supervisors and officers. At the very top of modron society is Primus, The One and the Prime, who is the equivalent of a greater power. As exemplars of lawful neutral, modron society is highly bureaucratic. For non-modrons, this is especially frustrating because modron also have no sense of self, so it’s impossible to tell if the modron you are talking to today is the same as yesterday. To get around this, cutters that come regularly to Mechanus paint symbols to tell them apart. Unless ordered, the modron won’t wash these symbols off. All modron are immune to illusions and magic that affects the mind or otherwise influence emotions. The supplement states that it is possible for a modron to ‘go rogue’, somehow corrupted by the chaos it is trying to stamp out. While the rest of the modron will stop at nothing to destroy these deviants, to non-modron they are still infuriatingly logical.

The next entry are the Nic’Epona, intelligent planar horses who descend from the celtic horse-goddess Epona. They have the innate ability to planeshift and can walk on any surface and even the air. If PCs can befriend one, Nic’Epona provide as good a way of getting around the setting as any if you get sick of hanging out in Sigil all the time.

A Spirit of the Air is a minion of air and wind powers. They look like dandy orangutans with bat-like wings instead of hands. Overal, they seem like really chill guys. The ecology section says ‘they feed upon the happiness of others, sharing it like bread freely broken, and they sleep amongst the sunbeams.’ Probably owing to the influence of WW, this monster entry and a lot of others in Planescape have short stories that are either an origin myth or a description of an encounter by a traveler. Fortunately, each story alone isn’t long, but they can add up.

A Vortex is not so much a monster as it is an environmental hazard, most often found on the Elemental Plane of Air. It appears as a miniature tornado that moves about randomly can entrap anyone hit by it or within 5 feet of it (this is before tile-based combat was fully supported in D&D). An attack roll ignoring worn armor is made to determine if a target becomes trapped. Aside from taking a small amount of damage, there is a cumulative 5% chance each round that the victim with be instantly killed. A player that loses a character to one of these is completely justified in kicking his DM in the nutsack.

The final entry is a lesser yugoloth called a Marrenoloth. This species of fiend is particularly important on the Lower Planes because they are the only creature capable of navigating the river Sytx. For all intensive purposes, they are the Stygian Oarsman of greek myth. Because of their abilities, they are extremely important to anyone that wants to get involved in the Blood War or otherwise get around the Lower Planes. In fact, both the Baatezu and Tanar’ri will put up with them despite the not-rare chance that they betray their passengers. Marrenoloths are somehow aware of all their kin, and so peeling one means that the cost of every Marrenoloth’s services is much more expensive (while the chance of betrayal goes up too).

And that’s a wrap on the Planescape Campaign Setting Box! I’ll probably take a break to get familiar with the supplements that I didn’t have back in the day. But my next project is going to be the first published adventure for Planescape, The Eternal Boundary.

SirPhoebos fucked around with this message at 19:29 on Jan 11, 2014

Rand Brittain
Mar 25, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."
Modrons have always struck me as a good example of how D&D's take on law versus chaos is messed up. Modrons are effectively chaotic outsiders—they do random things for inexplicable reasons and refuse to explain themselves or behave like good neighbors. The only major difference between them and slaad, alignment-wise, is that modrons have a clockwork theme and insist that there's a logic to what they do.

The difference between "according to an order nobody can understand" and "random" isn't much.

Terrible Opinions
Oct 18, 2013

Rand Brittain posted:

Modrons have always struck me as a good example of how D&D's take on law versus chaos is messed up. Modrons are effectively chaotic outsiders—they do random things for inexplicable reasons and refuse to explain themselves or behave like good neighbors. The only major difference between them and slaad, alignment-wise, is that modrons have a clockwork theme and insist that there's a logic to what they do.

The difference between "according to an order nobody can understand" and "random" isn't much.

It kind of depends on DM. Most of the time I've seen modrons run like Apple 2s. Given identical stimuli two properly functioning modrons will always react the same, but the thing is that you don't necessarily know what all their stimuli are. If I remember correctly the only adventure they featured prominently in (The Great Modron March) the whole point was to figure out why they were acting weird. The difference is slaad really don't have reasons for what they do and as a consequence they are really hard to be made compelling. Then again this excuse making could just be me really liking nordom in Planescape Torment.

Redeye Flight
Mar 26, 2010

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

50 Foot Ant posted:


Kobold Special Forces troops, gently caress yeah!

Meepo loving rocks.

If you didn't play at least one game as kobold military troops you weren't playing right.

Is it coincidence or design that the best things that come out of most of D20 seem to be awesome reptilian dudes? Kobolds, draconians, lizardmen depending on which ones you're talking about, I love 'em all.

Nov 8, 2009


hectorgrey posted:

Because Barbarians are just better, and black people are just dumb in the world according to Howard. And people wonder why I'm not a huge Conan fan...

It's worse: white men are the best at everything, including barbarianism, and they have a moral duty to protect other white men from being killed by browns - even if the other white men are their enemies!

Despite all that, Howard is my favorite writer :emo:

Speaking of Howard-inspired media, I started and abandoned a write-up of the Savage Worlds version Day After Ragnarok in the previous thread, and I'm wondering if I should start it up again. Goons, would you still be interested? Should I c/p my old posts into this thread, or is it enough to pick up where I left off? Thank you in advance.

vvv Okay, posting links (if I do it). vvv

Pththya-lyi fucked around with this message at 13:09 on Jan 11, 2014

Down With People
Oct 31, 2012

The child delights in violence.

Pththya-lyi posted:

Speaking of Howard-inspired media, I started and abandoned a write-up of the Savage Worlds version Day After Ragnarok in the previous thread, and I'm wondering if I should start it up again. Goons, would you still be interested? Should I c/p my old posts into this thread, or is it enough to pick up where I left off? Thank you in advance.

Maybe just post a link to the old posts?

I'd really be down for more Day After Ragnarok though, poo poo was :krad:

Oct 10, 2005


citybeatnik posted:

That's the infernal/nephrandi one, right? The one with the rote that has you slowly flay someone and use the skin as scrolls?
I don't know the details/contents - like I said, I never saw the book until I'd stopped playing - but from all the cross-references I'd assume it's the "infernalists, devils, & hells" book, yeh. I'm pretty sure the Nephandi/Marauders were covered in a seperate book, which of course also referred to/assumed you owned a copy of Path of Screams in several places.

Calde posted:

I have a strange relationship with old Mage nowadays. As a kid that stuff all made sense to me, the whole "Tradtions are good, Technocracy are evil" angle... but looking back I just cannot find the Traditions sympathetic. The Virtual Adepts still own, though. Then again, in oWoD they'd be responsible for bitcoins. Damnit.
The Sons of Ether always seemed p. great. A Tradition full of ridiculous Dunning-Kruger sufferers who unconsciously use magic(k) to turn discredited pseudoscience into reality, what's not to love? I mean, other than the heavily-implied racism/eugenics and the fact that every player leapt straight past that and into "OMG STEAMPUNK SO KEWL" territory. :sigh:

Jun 5, 2011

I mean, if you're a successful actress and you go out of the house in a skirt and without underwear, knowing that paparazzi are just waiting for opportunities like this and that it has happened many times before, then there's really nobody you can blame for it but yourself.

AmiYumi posted:

I don't know the details/contents - like I said, I never saw the book until I'd stopped playing - but from all the cross-references I'd assume it's the "infernalists, devils, & hells" book, yeh. I'm pretty sure the Nephandi/Marauders were covered in a seperate book, which of course also referred to/assumed you owned a copy of Path of Screams in several places.
It's about the various groups of Nephandi, what they do, how you join up and what special powers they have. Infernalists are treated as a subgroup of those. Marauders are covered in Path of Madness.

Oct 14, 2011

The Spawn of Dagon - Henry Kuttner posted:

Two streams of blood trickled slowly across the rough boards of the floor. One of them emerged from a gaping wound in the throat of a prostrate, armour-clad body; the other dripped from a chink in the battered cuirass, and the swaying light of a hanging lamp cast grotesque shadows over the corpse and the two men who couched on their hams watching it. They were both very drunk. One of them, a tall, extremely slender man whose bronzed body seemed boneless, so supple was it, murmured:

“I win Lycon - The blood wavers strangely, but the stream I spilt will reach this crack first.” He indicated a space between two planks with the point of his rapier.

Lycon’s child-like eyes widened in astonishment. (…) He swayed slightly as he gasped, “By Ishtar! The blood runs uphill!”

Elak, the slender man, chuckled. “After all the mead you swilled the ocean might run uphill. Well, the wager’s won; I get the loot.” He got up and stepped over to the dead man. Swiftly he searched him, and suddenly muttered an explosive curse. “The swine’s as bare as a Bacchic vestal! He has no purse.”

Lycon smiled broadly and looked more than ever like an undersized hairless ape. “The gods watch over me,” he said in satisfaction.

“Of all the millions in Atlantis you had to pick a fight with a pauper,” Elak groaned.

Yeah, I'm bored and have nothing better to do, so I'll do another chapter.

Chapter 4: Melee

Noggrond Namebreaker, the Magnificent Shield of Lamu, High Priest of Yot-Kamoth posted:

“Behold these warriors, each with a soul of steel forged in a thousand battles and of a fearless cunning honed in our age of misery – my flawed tools of mayhem. Defy them and despair, for they be my blades and none shall stand against them.”

Those of you who have played The Riddle of Steel (or at least read my write-up of it) will recognise much of this chapter. That being said, some things are described better here than in The Riddle of Steel, while some other things are changed. The book starts by explaining the concept of "The Limelight" as it applies to combat. Simply put, the combat system in this game is designed around one vs one and one vs many fights. The Limelight refers to which particular fight is being run at any given time. All other fights are assumed to have nothing interesting happening at that point, or else it's assumed that you'll catch up when a given Limelight is over. A good time to switch limelight is whenever something interesting happens. Alternatively, if a player wants to do something immediately (typically because they have something actually worth doing based on what just happened), they may spend a drama point to "steal the limelight" and act immediately. Archers can get good use out of this - if an ally is in trouble, they can shoot at the person attacking them, for example. However the limelight switches hands, time during combat is broken down into rounds, which are of indeterminate length (enough time for a person to attack twice). Each round is further divided into two exchanges.

A combat starts with declarations of stance and intent. An agressive stance gives you a +2 bonus to your MP for attacks in your first round, but a -2 penalty to defend, while a defensive stance does the opposite. A neutral stance, naturally, gives neither bonuses nor penalties. Your stance lasts only for the first exchange of the first round - after that, all bonuses and penalties are gone, and both combatants must disengage completely if they wish to regain their stances. Intent is as simple as whether you wish to attack first, or wait and see what your opponent does. Both had advantages and disadvantages, but if your opponent is likely to attack first, it's typically wiser to defend than to try and beat him to it - after all, if you're attacking, you're not defending (usually).

Once you know who is attacking and who is defending, each combatant declares which manoeuvre they're going to use, and assigns a number of dice out of their Melee Pool. If both combatants are attacking, then the one with the higher Reflex chooses whether to declare first or second (on a tie, compare Cunning; if that's a tie, compare Proficiency; if it's still a tie, toss a coin), before an opposed Reflex Check determines who strikes first, with bonus dice granted to the person with the longer weapon, depending on reach. If it's a tie, then both attacks hit simultaneously. If only one combatant is attacking, then the attacker declares first, then the defender, and then it's an opposed check to see whether the blow lands. Either way, whoever is attacking declares the location they're attacking at the same time.

If both combatants are attacking, the one who strikes second may attempt to steal the initiative (if they're striking at the same time, the faster one gets the opportunity to try first, as determined by the Reflex comparison for declarations. This costs dice from the Melee Pool equal to half the opponent's Sagacity, and forces an opposed Cunning vs Daring check with the weapon ranges adding bonus dice to the combatant with the longer weapon, and the person initiating being able to add further dice from his MP, up to a maximum of his Daring. The winner strikes first; the loser (if still able to) strikes second. On a tie, both strike simultaneously. Either way, whoever had the initiative stolen may choose to steal it back, and back and forth until one person no long has any dice to steal with.

Anyway, this is where the first real differences between Blade of the Iron Throne and The Riddle of Steel in terms of combat show up - in determining damage. Once the attacker has successfully dealt a blow, he takes his Quality of Success (the number of successes he beat the defender by), and adds that to half his Brawn (rounded up) and the damage rating of his weapon - along with anything else he should add based on manoeuvre. That is then compared with half the defender's Brawn (again, rounded up) and armour rating against the damage type taken to get the wound level (between 0 and 6 where 0 is a scratch and 6 is typically a lost limb). In The Riddle of Steel, a fairly common complaint was that it was almost impossible for really strong characters to deliver just a flesh wound, and it was almost impossible to hurt someone with sufficiently high toughness. So here, the effectiveness of Attributes is halved.

The second difference is in the effectiveness of armour - each type of armour has three values - vs piercing, vs cutting and versus bashing. Metal armour, being almost impossible to cut through with any kind of bladed weapon, doesn't have a vs cutting value; instead, the blow does bashing damage, and is compared with the vs bashing armour value. For this reason, every bladed weapon has a bashing damage rating - it's typically quite low - though the vs bashing values of the metal armours are also typically quite low, making blunt weapons typically more useful than bladed against armoured foes.

Anyway, once the wound level is determined you look up the result and the location of the hit, then apply the affects. Damage is not cumulative in this system; instead, you receive wounds. Each wound causes blood loss, which slowly kills you over time, pain, which penalises your skill checks and your Melee Pool, and is reduced by Tenacity, and shock, which reduces your melee pool immediately. Only the worst wound in a given location counts, but a lesser wound the same location inflicts shock equal to the worst wound; similar to how someone punching you where you've got a broken rib would hurt far more than being punched where you're completely uninjured.

Once all this is done, whoever was successful in the previous exchange is the attacker, and may now attack as above with their remaining Melee Pool, while the defender defends with whatever they have left. After that, it's a new combat round, and the melee pools refresh; reduced for pain and blood loss.

You may be wondering why you wouldn't just throw all your dice into an attack right from the off. The answer is that it's a massive gamble. If the enemy has a higher MP than you, they might use just as many dice to defend, and then attack you with what they have left. If they're similar to you in ability, they may use the Counter defensive manoeuvre for all their dice; if they successfully defend, they get bonus dice equal to your successes to hit you in a random location with - with you unable to defend because you used all your dice.

At the end of each Limelight, if a combatant is bleeding he needs to roll a Brawn check, requiring a number of successes equal to his current Blood Loss. On a failure, he takes a -2 penalty to Melee Pool, Archery Pool and Sorcery Pool, while all Attribute and Skill checks require an additional success for every -4 penalty from blood loss. The Brawn check to not bet worse is exempt. If the number of required successes equals the character's Brawn, the character passes out from blood loss and will soon die. At the end of every round of Limelights, if he hasn't been treated, he makes another Brawn check for Blood Loss. If he fails, he dies. Even when fully treated, Blood Loss takes days to fully recover from. The lesson? Avoid getting stabbed. It loving sucks.

After this, the book discusses Terrain Checks. These are pretty simple; they're used to keep your footing in bad terrain, to only fight one enemy out of a group through better positioning, and anything else involving movement; positioning is pretty abstract in this game, since it's assumed that you're almost constantly moving. You can only be attacked by up to three people at once; more than that and they'd get in each other's way.

Next up is Fatigue. At the end of every Limelight, combatants must do a Brawn check, and require successes equal to their current Encumbrance + 1. This acts the same way as, and is cumulative with, Blood Loss, but a full Limelight spent resting will reduce the penalties back to 0.

There is, naturally, an optional rule called Barbarian Chic. Basically, if your players are absolutely desperate to dress in chainmail bikinis, or in the case of men wander around entirely topless, this gives them a -1 to all activation costs, or +1 bonus to the roll if the activation cost is already 0, so long as their current MP is at least 1.

Ranged combat come next. A ranged attack takes one Limelight; whether you're using a crossbow, a longbow or a throwing dagger. If you need to move first, you roll a Terrain Check using your AP, and then you use whatever dice you have remaining in the pool for your attack. You may also use a Terrain check if you're being charged, to take down your attacker before he reaches you. Range provides penalties, as you might expect, and due to the difficulty of aiming for a specific place with muscle powered ranged weapons, the target location is determined randomly, though you may move one result higher or lower for every die from your AP you put to one side for that purpose.

After that, there's Mounted Combat. It works exactly as you'd expect; you get a bonus against people who aren't on horseback, and you may make a terrain roll followed by an attack roll to ride by someone and attack them while doing it; there's only one exchange per round, because you've already gotten back out of reach after the attack is done. Then we have Combat versus Animals. This comes with its own set of manoeuvres and target templates, but otherwise is identical to regular melee combat.

Finally, we have an example of combat. It's pretty clear, though at two pages it's pretty lengthy (TL;DR - a PC owns two NPCs using terrain, stolen initiative and a nice axe):

Example posted:

Skold Skullsplitter, the Danish reaver, has just plundered some foul deity’s sacred jewel from its shrine among the Orkneys. Trying to make his way back to his ship, two pursuing Pictish savages catch up with him on the rocky beach and rush him.

Skold Skullsplitter

BN 7, DG 6, CG 5.
Ref 6, Polearms Proficiency 10, PA bonus dice 3, MP 19.

Sleeveless metal scale shirt down to (and including) groin (Piercing AV 4).
Metal helmet for top of head only (Piercing AV 6).

Long-hafted axe, used two-handed (Reach M: ATN 7, DR +2, DTN 7; Reach L: ATN 8, DR +3, DTN 8; DR +1 against armor, Shock +1)

Pictish Savages

BN 5, DG 5, TY 5, CG 5.
Ref 5, Kdown 5, Spear & Shield Proficiency 5, MP 10.

Short-sleeved leather jerkin down to (and including) groin (Cleaving AV 2).
Hardened leather helmet for top of head only (Cleaving AV 2).

Short spear, used one-handed (Reach M, ATN 8, DR +1, DTN 7).
Small shield (DTN 6).

As the Picts rush at Skold, the ref informs the player that the combat will take place on particularly bad footing – the wet rocks of the beach – necessitating a deduction of 2 dice from all combatants’ MPs, bringing them down to 17 and 8 respectively.

At the outset of Combat Round One, the refree declares that the Picts’ charge puts them into an aggressive stance and that Skold, seeing them rush at him, has time to prepare himself and declare a stance as well. Wanting to finish this combat before more Picts can arrive, the player has Skold assume an aggressive stance as well and also announces that Skold is going to move in such a way that one Pict is between himself and the other, preventing the second Pict from attacking him right away. This necessitates an (Unopposed) Terrain Check, with 2 Successes required. The player commits 5 dice (taking his MP to 12) and rolls, achieving 4 Successes (1, 10, 10, 11, 11), for now easily avoiding the second Pict among the rocks and boulders.

The Pict’s intention to attack is apparent from his ferocious charge, and the player declares Skold as attacker as well. As both combatants have assumed aggressive stances, their MPs receive 2 bonus dice each, for 14 and 10 respectively.

With both combatants attacking, an Opposed Reflex Check will determine who attacks fractionally first, but Maneuvers and dice must be assigned before this Check. The player announces a Cleave from diagonally above at the Pict’s head and shoulders (Target Zone 4) for 11 dice, executed at Reach Long. The ref declares a Thrust at the groin (Target Zone 10) for all the Pict’s 10 dice.

Both combatants’ Reflex is then Checked, with a TN equal to their weapon’s ATN; as the Pict’s spear has Reach M and Skjold’s axe Reach L, Skjold receives a +1 die bonus and the Pict a corresponding 1 die penalty. Skold rolls 7 dice (Reflex 6 +1) against TN 8, achieving but 1 Success (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 6, and 9). The Pict rolls 4 dice (Reflex 5 –1) against TN 8, achieving 4 Successes (8, 11, 12, 12) – the Pict goes first!

The player has however an ace up his sleeve and has Skold attempt Stealing Initiative. He pays the Activation Cost of 2 dice (half opponent’s SY), and after his previous bad luck decides to play it safe and purchase 1 bonus die for the Check, for a total Activation Cost of 3 dice. This uses up the uncommitted remainder of his MP. The Pict checks DG, with a flat penalty of 1 for having the weapon with shorter Reach, and Skjold his own CG, with a flat bonus of 1 for having the weapon with the longer Reach, and the 1 purchased bonus die. Skold thus rolls 7 dice (CG 5 +1 +1) against a static TN 7, achieving 3 Successes (2, 2, 5, 5, 8, 9, 11). The Pict rolls 4 dice (DG 5 –1) against a static TN 7, achieving 2 Successes (3, 4, 10, 11) – just as the Pict thrusts with his spear, Skold’s axe comes down hard.

Skold attacks with the MP dice previously committed, rolling 11 dice against ATN 8 and achieving 5 Successes (1, 1, 3, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 11, 12). The Pict cannot defend, so the attack QoS is 5. The player rolls d6 on the Cleaving Damage Tables to determine the exact hit location, achieving a 3 for a result of a cross-cut across the Pict’s chest, which is protected by his leather jerkin.

The Impact Rating is determined by then taking the QoS (5), adding half BN (4), and adding DR (3 +1 for striking armor), for a total of 13. From this Impact Rating is subtracted half the Pict’s BN (3) and his chest AV (2), for a remaining total of 8, corresponding to the maximum Wound Level of 6. As the Pict is just a mook, the Level 6 injury kills him instantly, without any need to consult the Wound Tables.

As Skold has neither MP nor opponent remaining, there is no second Exchange to this Combat Round, and the second Combat Round commences with the remaining Pict charging Skjold across the rocky beach. The ref decrees that all fighters still have to deduct 2 dice from their MP for treacherous footing, and that Skold can only just turn in time to receive the charging Pict and cannot thus assume a stance. He announces that the Pict’s charge effectively puts him into aggressive stance.

Combat Round two starts with the declaration of attack or defence. The Pict is declared as aggressor, granting him 2 bonus dice from stance for a total MP of 10, and Skold as defender. Next, the aggressor declares Maneuver and assigned dice – he declares a Thrust with 7 dice at Skold’s crotch (Target Zone 10). Smiling evilly, Skold’s player declares a Counter, paying the Activation Cost of 3 dice and assigning 10 of his remaining 14 MP dice to it.

The Pict rolls his assigned 7 dice against ATN 8, with a penalty of 1 for having a weapon one Reach increment shorter than Skold, for a total of 6 dice, and achieves 3 Successes (1, 4, 6, 9, 10, and 11). Skold’s player rolls the assigned 10 dice against the axe’s DTN of 8, as per the Counter rules, achieving 4 Successes (4, 4, 5, 6,7, 7, 8, 9, 9, 10). With a defense QoS of 1, a sweep of the axe knocks aside the thrusting spear harmlessly and the attacker now on Exchange Two assumes the role of defender (with Counter, even a defense QoS of 0 would allow him to do so).

Exchange Two commences with Skold assuming the role of aggressor. The Pict has 3 remaining MP dice and Skold 4, but as per the Counter rules, Skold receives dice equal to the total Successes in the countered attack as bonus dice for his follow-up attack; as the Pict achieved 3 Successes, so Skold now receives 3 bonus dice, for an MP of 7.

The Exchange begins with the declaration of attack, with the player declaring an attack with all 7 dice, randomly as per the rules for the follow-up on a Counter. A d12 is rolled on Counter Table 3.3 to determine The exact nature of Skold’s attack, and yields a result of 2, a cross-cut at thigh height. The Pict declares a Block with his remaining 3 dice as his defense.

The player rolls the assigned 7 dice against ATN 8, achieving 4 Successes (2, 6, 7, 8, 8, 8, 11). The Pict rolls 3 dice against his shield’s DTN 6, achieving 2 Successes (2, 8, 10), for an attack QoS of 2. The player rolls d6 on the Cleaving Tables to determine exact hit location, achieving a 4 for a cut to the thigh, which is unarmored.

The Impact Rating is determined by taking the attack QoS (2), adding half BN (4) and weapon DR (3), for a total of 9. From the Impact Rating is subtracted half the defender’s BN (3), for a net total of 6, once again enough to kill a mook like the Pict without the need to look up the injury on the Wound Table.

Exchange Two of Combat Round Two ends with the second Pict falling down dead or dying.

Combat Round Three begins with the referee announcing that the 2 dice penalty for bad footing does not apply to the prone Pict, but that Skjold is still on bad footing; as he is the only combatant standing, he does not simply subtract 2 dice, but rather must pass a Terrain Check to avoid falling. The Pict is prone and thus at half MP, for an MP of 5. To this, Shock 15 from the preceding Exchange is applied; Thus bringing the Pict’s MP to 0, and the remaining 10 dice added as bonus dice to Skjold’s MP against the Pict, raising his MP for the Combat Round to 27.

Two Picts charged Skold Skullsplitter. He wheeled, getting one between himself and the other. Skold then brought his axe down a mere blink of an eye before his Pictish opponent’s spear thrust hit home, cleaving the savage’s chest to the spine and knocking him to the ground dead. He then wheeled to receive the second Pict, coolly swept aside his opponent’s spear thrust with his axe, and in the same fluid motion brought the weapon around in a narrow arc, dipping under the shield’s rim to sever the Pict’s leg just below the crotch. With the fallen Pict screaming on the ground and spurting out his life in but a few heartbeats, Skold leaves the scene of carnage.

So here endeth the fourth chapter. I hope you all enjoyed it. Until next time.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
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Ars Magica: The Contested Isle

Meath is the smallest provice in Ireland. It is a liberty know, and also known as the Kingdom of Mide, from the Irish word for middle. It is very significant despite being so small, though, and that is why it is a full province, not just a minor kingdom. Meath was founded by Tuathal Techtmar, son of an ancient Irish High King. When the four provincial kings rebelled against his father, his pregnant mother Eithne, who might also be Boinn, fled to Scotland. The King of Ulster became High King at the start of a two-decade famine, ended only when Tuathal returned to reclaim his throne via many epic battles. Once he conquered Ireland, he held a meeting at the Hill of Tara, where he established laws of the island and created Meath, centered on Tara, which would henceforth by the fifth province, the sole domain of the High Kings. In the late fifth century, the ruling Ui Enechglaiss were forced into exile to Arklow, where they can still be found, and the Ui Mael Sechlainn took the region, providing several High Kings. They are often known as the Southern Ui Neill. They have been forced to flee by the English, and the last king of Meath was deposed in 1172, when the kingdom was given to Hugh de Lacy, who held the territory until his death in 1186, despite losing Henry II's favor. Tighearnan Ua Ruairc, King of Breifne, dispute the claim and was killed, so Hugh's son Walter de Lacy eventually took Meath, and still holds it.

Near the town of Drogheda-in-Meath, an English settlement built by Hugh, is ?Mellifont Abbey, the most important Cistercian abbey in Ireland. It was founded by Saint Malachy of Armagh in 1140, on land granted by the King of Meath. It is mother house to Bective, Baltinglgass and 23 other Cistercian abbeys in Ireland. The first abbot, Saint Christian, was a major monastic reformer and worked carefully to help introduce the new diocesan system. In 1158, the king of Meath, Donnchadh Ua Maeleachlainn, was excommunicated and exiled and his brother, Diarmaid, became king at the instigation of a Mellifont synod. Mellifont dominates the Cistercians, and in recent years the English Cistercians and Irish ones have had tension. Rumors of corruption and debauchery in Ireland have rached Citeaux, the French mother house of all Cistercian monasteries, and in 1216 a vistation was sent to restore order and ensure the Cistercian Rule was being obeyed. On arrival, the Mellifont monks denied their superiors access, an unprecedented move, and it's sent shockwaves throughoput monastic Europe. The event is known as the Conspiracy of Mellifont, and while the Cistercians of Citeaux nominally deposed Abbot Thomas, he is still in office at Mellifont. The Cistercians are preparing a disciplinary deputation, and even the papacy may become involved.

Then, of course, we have the Hill of Tara. Tara is a very, very important place, though in 1220, it lies neglected and overgrown despite its fame and legend. The Ui Mael Sechlainn named themselves the Kings of Tara, at leastu ntil their fall against de Lacy, but it was a purely ceremonial title. Tara was of great importance in the past, but in the sixth century, Saint Ruadan cursed King Diarmait with a prophecy that he would die in his own hall here, after Diarmait took men from sanctuary in Ruadan's church. Diarmait's hall caught fire, and a beam fell and slew the king, exactly as predicted. From that time, it is said that no hall could be raised at Tara due to the saint's curse. The faeries of Tara play out ancient talls - Aillen mac Midgna burning the hall, Fionn mac Cumhaill driving him off - but mortals rarely visit. Not never, however - every seven years, Tara is home to the Hibernian Tribunal. The hill itself is wide and shallow, surrounded by raths and ancient (often magical) features. It is a very, very magical place, with a potent Magic aura, with the exception of a single mound, the Mound of Hostages. This mound belongs to the Tuatha De Danann and has an exceptionally potent Faerie aura, which encourages respect. Every Samhain, the time when sacred fires were once lit here, the auras of Tara grow even more potent. The greatest king of Tara was Cormac mac Airt. Cormac ruled centuries ago, and had the service of the hero Fionn mac Cumhail. His reign was a time of great prosperity, and many of the earthworks of Tara date back to his time.

The rath known as the Hill of Tlachtga holds the sleeping daughter of Mug Ruith, the druidess-faerie Tlachtga. Mug Ruith still visits it from tiem to time via his wonderful flying machine, and his daughter occasionaly leaves her sidh to converse with mortals who come to the hill. Her story is quite tragic - when Mug Ruith was studying with Simon Magus, she was his assistant in the creation of the flying machine. One night, Simon raped her and she fled to Ireland, causing her father to break with Simon before his death at the hands of Saint Paul. It was at home that Tlachtga gave birth to the triplets Doirb, Cumma and Muach, then entered the hill and withdrew from the world. Every Samhain, Tlachtga was remembered when the druids lit sacred fires on the hill, and the rath was one of the royal sites of Meath. The rath atop the hill is a great one, and in 1168, Ruaidri Ua Conchobair held a great gathering there, though Tlachtga did not emerge for it. In 1171, Tighearnan Ua Ruairc of Breifne came here to parley with Hugh de Lacy. Under flag of truce, the two met, but a fight broke out and de Lacy's interpreter was slain. De Lacy fled, and his men slew Tighearnan as he tried to flee what may well have been a conspiracy to kill him. Despite all of this, Tlachtga did not emerge.

Meath is also home to the town of Kells, not to be confused with the KElls of Leinster, which was briefly the center of a short-lived diocese but is best known for its monastery, founded by Saint Columba, and its church, founded by Saint Patrick. The town grew around the abbey and is ruled by the abbot. The monastery is home to two very famous books. The first is the scathach of clan O Domhnaill, an ancient psalter they carry to battle and keep here for safety. The second is the Book of Kells.

The mystical center of Ireland is also within Meath: the Hill of Uisneach, where all five provinces meet at Ail na Mireann, the Stone of Division. The stone is an Arcane Connection to the five provinces, assuming anyone was ever audacious enough to try to cast a spell on the entire province. It is here that the druids once lit a great fire each Bealtaine, which could be seen all the way to Tara. It s was here the Milesians met Eriu, Banba and Fodla, and Eriu's name was given to the island: Eire. Saint Brigid took her nun's vows here as well as her bishop's vows. Many of the Tuatha De Danann slumber below the sidh that dot the hill, and many of the stones of Stonehenge were stolen from the hill by Merlin. To this day, the site has a potent Magic aura. The Stone of Division is a tradition place for oathtaking and treaties that govern the entire Tribunal, and in the early days there was a covenant here. It vanished one night without a trace, and now only fragmentary records of it exist, even its name forgotten. Folk stories speak of a potent magician who saught to rule all of Ireland, but who broke a geas and was taken by the faeries. The truth is obscure. It is likely that a covenant will once again be founded there eventually.

Next time: Munster

Toph Bei Fong
Feb 29, 2008

Calde posted:

I have a strange relationship with old Mage nowadays. As a kid that stuff all made sense to me, the whole "Tradtions are good, Technocracy are evil" angle... but looking back I just cannot find the Traditions sympathetic. The Virtual Adepts still own, though. Then again, in oWoD they'd be responsible for bitcoins. Damnit.

Same here. It fostered a lot of my early interest in philosophy, got me to read a lot of books I wouldn't have otherwise touched, and and taught me a ton about relativism and perspective.

Now that I'm not in high school anymore and have a philosophy degree and actually work with disadvantaged groups on a daily basis, so much of it just either rings false, or I can successfully argue against to my satisfaction. I guess that makes me part of the duped technocratic masses, forever corrupted and banal, unable to see the bright dreams of awesome mages lording their powers over the unwashed? :geno:

I absolutely agree with the idea that nWoD is what happened when all the "Never Trust Anyone Over 30" oWoD writers suddenly found themselves in their mid-30s and that the world wasn't anything like the gothic/cyber-punk dream we'd been promised in the 90s.

Nov 1, 2012

Just keep on walkin'.

Spoilers Below posted:

Same here. It fostered a lot of my early interest in philosophy, got me to read a lot of books I wouldn't have otherwise touched, and and taught me a ton about relativism and perspective.

Now that I'm not in high school anymore and have a philosophy degree and actually work with disadvantaged groups on a daily basis, so much of it just either rings false, or I can successfully argue against to my satisfaction. I guess that makes me part of the duped technocratic masses, forever corrupted and banal, unable to see the bright dreams of awesome mages lording their powers over the unwashed? :geno:

I absolutely agree with the idea that nWoD is what happened when all the "Never Trust Anyone Over 30" oWoD writers suddenly found themselves in their mid-30s and that the world wasn't anything like the gothic/cyber-punk dream we'd been promised in the 90s.

I think this is one of the reasons I still like Sorcerous Crusade, actually. The Order of Reason and the proto-Traditions aren't a case of banal evil murderbots vs enlightened Magi; the fact is that many of the OoR types honestly want what's better for the common man, while the the Traditions often want to hold onto their power no matter the cost. Despite being about as historically accurate as most Saturday morning cartoons, the conflict felt a lot more interesting and less "Fight the power! who happens to provide clean water and electricity..." than M:tA.

Jun 5, 2011

I mean, if you're a successful actress and you go out of the house in a skirt and without underwear, knowing that paparazzi are just waiting for opportunities like this and that it has happened many times before, then there's really nobody you can blame for it but yourself.

Spoilers Below posted:

It fostered a lot of my early interest in philosophy
Now that's just sad. I wonder how many people who didn't get a philosophy degree got stuck at that point?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Ars Magica: The Contested Isle

Munster, aka Mumhan, is the southern province. Originally it was split into Desmond, Thomond and Ormond, but much of it has been renamed and redistributed to English lords. The Irish kings in the east keep English knights and retain native privileges in their ancestral cantreds, but English lords impose English law elsewhere. The foreigners and Ostmen of the cities are in theory ruled by the English but in practice do as they will. Outlaws live in the forests and prey on everyone.

Munster was the first land claimed by the Milesians, given to Eibhear Fionn mac Mil, whose descendants divide into several tuatha. The Eoghanachta are named for Eoghan Mor, and they were the strongest clan for centuries. They seperated, however, into several clans over the years. The most potant are the Eoghanachta Caisail, in Cashel, the Eoghanachta Aine, in Cnoc Aine, and the Eoghanachta Locha Lein, at the Lakes of Killarney. The Mac Carthaigh are the most potent of the Eoghanachta Caisail, and the current rulers of Desmond. Once, they ruled Cashel, but were driven west by the Dal gCAis. The English pushed them even more west, past the River Bandon and Kinsale. The hate the Ui Briain and the Ui Suilleabhan f Kerry even more than they hate the English; the Ui Briain are too strong to attack, but the Ui Suilleabhain are not. In 1214, at a peace negotiation in Raheen, the mc Carthaighs slew several nobles of Ui Suilleabhain, though the victory did not last, as it was only a year before the two most potent Mac Carthaigh, Diarmait and Cormac Fionn, were at war. The Ui Suilleabhains themselves are Eoghanachta Caisail, descendents of a seventh century king. Their most famous king, Fedlmid mac Crimthainn, was king of of Monster and the abbot of Cork and Clonfert abbey. While the massacre has set them back, they are still strong enough to fight the English.

The Dal gCais, or tribe of Cas, moved north as they grew stronger, settling east of Limerick before heading north up the River Shannon. Eventually, that area and the land between the Shannan the Fergus as well the south shore of Liugh Derg would become the kingdom of Thomond. The Dal gCais claim their success comes from both Saint Patrick and and the faerie land goddess Aoibheall, who lives on the shore of Lough Derg. During their first migration, Patrick visited the tribe and they built the church Singeal, 'chancel', on the site. Saint Patrick often visits the clan, for they are his favorites. The mound of the faerie goddess, Craig Liath, is located on the western shores of Lough Derg, and every king marries Aoibheaill in a public ceremony. If the king is good and the clan prsoperous, she provides foresight, wisdom and prophecy. Aoibheall doesn't spend much time with her husband, who generally has a mundane wife. In 1220, both the sacred sites of the Dal gCais, Singeal and Craig Liath, are held by others. The English and Ostmen hold Singeal, while Connachtmen hold Craig Liath. The most potent of the Dal gCais are the Ui Briain, named for Brian Boramha, though their rise first began with his brother, Mathgamain mac Cennetig, and his conquest of Cashel and Limerick. The brothers fought constantly until Methgamain's death, and Brian eventually became so powerful that he claimed the high king ship. Brian married Aobheall, as expected of him, and some suspect this is what raised him to power, and that without her foresight, he'd never have been the ard ri. Her divination is, after all, so accurate that many refer to her as bahfhaidh Ui mBriain, the prophetess of the Ui Briains. Legend has it that she visited Brian on the eve of the Batle of Clontarf and told him he would die there.

There is also a collection of clans that were once vassals of the Eoghanachta, who live in the area north of Waterford. These are the Deise, who lived near Tara until Cormac mac Airt drove them out when their founder, Aonghus Gaifhuileach ('bloody spear') quarreled with one of Cormac's sons over a woman. When the English came, the Deise joined with the Ostmen to protect Waterford, but failed even so. They now respectfully serve the English by day and cause as much chaos as they can under cover of night.

In 1210, King John gave his favorite lords land in Munster, but retained control of Waterford, Limerick and Cork. The lands north of Waterford were given to Robert le Poer, Thomond to Philip de Braose and Desmond to Robert FitzStephen and Milo de Cogans. None of them were able to claim those lands, and in 1220 their sons have only limited control over Munster. Hostile neighbors and lack of military success have checked their ambitions. The English offer military assistance to the Irish in their internecine battles, and both Desmond and Thomond have had recent succession wars, with each faction hiring English mercenaries. Confusion and violence have allowed the English to very slowly encroach on Desmond, and the English still readily fight each other - land is land, after all. The cities aren't much safer - the Ostmen rebel constantly and Limerick cannot control them, so they raid the countryside indiscriminately.

The island of Tech Dairbhre is just off the Munster coast, connected by a slim isthmus. The faerie Mug Ruith lives there, having proclaimed himself the most famous druid in Eire, and is court wizard to King Mbod, leader of the Munster Tuatha De Danann. He owns a flying machine, the roth ramach or 'oared wheel', and goes about in a bull hide and bird mask when riding it. He regularly visits Tlachtga in Meath.

The river Shannon in Thomond is the longest in Ireland - almost 250 miles long, from the Dartry mountains to the Atlantic. It is named for the goddess Sionainn, who was a mortal woman that found a faerie well that gave knowledge. She removed the capstone and was overwhelmed by the rushing water, drowning her and forming the river Shannon. Transformed in the process, the faerie Sionainn now travels the river in a small hide-covered boat, overseeing it. The entire river has a very weak Faerie aura. In remote areas, that aura grows stronger, and some pools or eddies contain regiones. Faeries are more dangerous west of the Shannon, and malevolent fae are common.

Thomond is also home to the church of Saint Flannan. Flanna was an abbot of the 600s and the Kilaloe monastery, a nephew of the Ui Briain king. He had holy powers of divination, and he led his community well. He was canonized after death and Thomondmen still travel to his grave for guidance. A cathedral, yet unfinished, was begun in 1185 to honor him, and the foreman claims the saint visits him nightly with helpful advice and instruction. Next to Saint Flannan's relics are Saint Finbar's, relocated from Cork. In 1220, the cathedral is nearly done. A few yards from its foudnation is the Ogham Stone, on which a message is carved in Ogham: A Blessing on Thorgrimr. On the back is the signature 'Thorgrmr carved this cross' in Nordic runes. The stone is at least two centuries old and no one knows more than what it says - many not even that. While the stone is magical, the proximity to the cathedral has kept it from being stolen and studied. It represents some kind of connection between the druids, the Norse wizards and Christianity.

The Liberty of Tipperary, once Ormond, is a boirder kingdom full of Eoghanachta septs...and more importantly, Sidh Femen, the home of Bodh Derg, son of the Dagda and king of the Tuatha De Danann of Munster. This mound is a vast underground complex with all the trappings of a royal court - from minstrels to swineherds to warriors and wives. Bodh Derg is famous as a judge and dream interpreter, and other faeries often visit him. His smith, Len, makes magic items for them. At the end of the day, he hurls his anvil to a hill and, where it lands, the sparks from it become pearls. These pearls normally disappear when Len retrieves his anvil at daybreak, but one night per year, they remain and can be collected for Ignem vis.

Munster is home to the first covenant of Ireland, Circulus Ruber, which is also the largest and certainly the most vocally self-appreciative. They are traditionalists and they have no interest in changing their ways. We know how they were founded, and they've lasted a long, long time. They defend Irish culture and the current Code, and have so far ignored the English invasion as inconsequential, though not the English magi. Their cathach is the magic cauldron first found by the founders. It is not, as was originally thought, the Dagda's, but instead the Cauldron of Llasar Llaes Hyfnewid, a giant that lived under a lake. The Dagda's Cauldron reportedly produces infinite amounts of food and drink; Llasar Llaes Gyfnewid's CAuldron revies the dead so they may fight for one more day. Legend has it that it was traded byween the Irish and Welsh kings before being broken in a war; either the legend is wrong or this is a similar but different cauldron. Few know the cauldron's true power, which is kept secret. It will revive a dead warrior as long as the head and spine are intact. The warrior cannot speak, but will fight ofr 24 hours under the command of whoever put them in the cauldron. It cannot revive a corpse a second time. The magi of Circulus Ruber encourage the formation of new covenants and see themselves as the defenders of Hibernia. They like combative magi, and encourage Wizards' Wars, to the point of loaning magic wepaons out to help. They may love violence, but they also protect the sacred sites, mounds and other important areas in the Tribunal, support the Tribunal's Mercer Houses and sacrifice their time to aid the community. Both the Praeco, Milvia of Bonisagus, and the Presiding Quaesitor, Visoturpis of GHuernicus, live in Circulus Ruber, as does the oldest magus in Hibernmia, the 172-year-old Conan Derg of Merinita, the former praeco.

Cliffheart is another local covenant - magi interested in studying faeries. They are rather paranoid due to regular interactions with the fae. They are staunchly traditionalist, and refuse to accept English magi or changes to tradition. They are trying to find a way to do magic in Irish, not Latin. Cliffheart was founded by three Merinita after their former covenant, Cosan Ceolaire, was destroyed in the Schism War. Most Merinita didn't take part in that, but those three fought because of Diedne's alliance with the Munster Tuatha De. After the final battle, they movedd to Cape Clear Island, just off the southwestern shore. Cliffheart has never learned why the Tuatha De sided with House Diedne, and fearing that it could happen again, with Teach Duinn so near and Donn's history, they continue to study the Tuathe De Danann. The original three are all gone, but their students continue their work. Their cathach is made of three standing stones. One of them is a Diedne magus, turned into a stone obelisk. It has a hand-sized hole through it, which they claim is a fatal wound. They annually renew the stone spell, for ifi t were to end, the magus would instantly die. Community members in the area refer to the stones as the Marriage Stones, thinking that if a man putsh is hand through the hole to grasp a woman's hand, the pair will remain together forever. The monks prevent couples from doing it, claiming the practice is evil and pagan. Both monks and couples have caused minor problems for Cliffheart before. The covenant is a huge mess, because Irish fae hate disorder. No member of the covenant cuts their hair or beard, they wear iron rings on both pinkies and necklaces of horses' back teeth, thery destroy eggshells so small faeries cannot live in them, they forbid cats and dogs entering, the make huts have front and back doors aligned, so that faeries will keep moving through them, theyn ever dig holes in the ground of a rath, never trim bushes or trees, sprinkle sale urine on every door threshold and never start work or journeys on a Friday.

Elk's Run is another covenant, founded only decades ago. They are meant to embody the best traditions of the Hibernian magi. When Oswald of Bonisagu and Lugardis of Huernicus arrived in 1159, they had cattle, silver and vis sources, as well as a pair of giant elk antlers meant as their cathach. They claimed the right to found their covenant in a remote valley, building a tower. Soon after, a dispute arose, as several covenants demanded to see their cathach. Oswald, while not a native, was ready and produced antlers which he claimed belonged to a true Irish elk, a seven-foot beast which he'd hunted and killed - a feat formerly done only by the Fir Bolg heroes that hunted the elk to extinction long ago. Oswald found them, he sad, in a FAerie realm while performing an ancient story. As those antlers are sometimes found in bogs, the magi were not convinced, though the cathach did radiate magic. It was clear these newcomers, however, were here for trouble. Oswald was English, and Lugardis clearly wanted to impose English rule, they felt. They were close to Connacht and could not be trusted. The Irish therefore challenged their claim to the local vis, arguing that by ancient tradition and agreement they belonged ot others, though strictly speaking, such a claim had no merit. Oswald was ready for this. He issued a challenge: that all the vis and land he could circle before sunset should be his. The Irish laughed, for it was late, and agreed. No spells, they warned. Oswald agreed and took his cathach, hurling it ot the ground. A great elk appeared, towering over every man there, and Oswald climbed upon it and rode off to the mountains, as the Irish realized they'd been tricked. The elk feeled trees rather than go around them, and as the sun set, Oswald returned, having earned Elk's Run. Many of the Irish felt he'd been amusing and easily shown his right, but others were angry., Many came to raid in their Macgnimarthas, and some even after. To date, none have taken and held the cathach long enough, for Oswald is still very, very tricky. Other than the power to become al iving elk, no one has any idea what its powers are besides Oswald. All three magi of Elk's Run and both apprentices are from Stonehenge.

The Mercer House of Leth Moga can also be found in Munster. It is sister to Leth Cuinn, serving all covenants south of the Eiscir Riada. Since it began, it has been interested in history. The northerners are more martial, but Leth Moga are the historians and witnesses of the Tribunal. They are not a covenant, and have no cathach or cattle. They exist to serve the Tribunal and are safeguarded by the Peripheral Code. Both Leth Moga nad LEth Cuinn formed in 898, during the first Tribunal meeting. The Redcap Imag, wife of the Abbot of Clyone, offered land and leadership and was given the right to build Leth Moga. Her husband, Cian Ua Cathain, led the monks and staff, while Imag ran the Mercer House. She recorded the Tribunal history in monastic traditioin, writing the Red Book of Cloyne, and all subsequent leaders have done the same. Initially, it was publically available, but after the Schism War, then-leader Fergal mc Cuirce restricted its viewing, feeling that the Schism War should be forgotten by literally closing theb ook on it. Now, only Redcaps could read it. In the 1100s, some magi complained to Fergal's son-in-law and successor, Diarmait, that the Red Book should again be made available, but Diarmait ruled that it fell under the protection of his sanctum marker, and the Tribunal ruledi n his favor.

Next time: Ulster

Dec 6, 2008

LeSquide posted:

I think this is one of the reasons I still like Sorcerous Crusade, actually. The Order of Reason and the proto-Traditions aren't a case of banal evil murderbots vs enlightened Magi; the fact is that many of the OoR types honestly want what's better for the common man, while the the Traditions often want to hold onto their power no matter the cost. Despite being about as historically accurate as most Saturday morning cartoons, the conflict felt a lot more interesting and less "Fight the power! who happens to provide clean water and electricity..." than M:tA.

This is actually untrue. The Order of Reason want what's best for Europe's burgeoning mercantile class, nobility, and clergy. The Traditions are on their heels and just trying to survive like they do for the next 500 years.

But, with all the weird TG baseless hostility toward perceived threats in White Wolf writing I wouldn't expect someone to have ever really thought about Sorceror's Crusade all that much.

Mr. Maltose
Feb 16, 2011

The Guffless Girlverine

Mexcillent posted:

But, with all the weird TG baseless hostility toward perceived threats in White Wolf writing I wouldn't expect someone to have ever really thought about Sorceror's Crusade all that much.

Ahaha, what?

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012
With the resurgence of White Wolf reviewing, I'm sort of hoping someone gets to the recently released Werewolf 20th Edition: Rage Across the World. It apparently tries to cover such topics as critically endangered wolf populations, South American political tensions, and the Arab Spring, and I'm genuinely curious as to whether White Wolf has gotten better about dealing with such subjects.

Considering I have my own writing to get to, though, I shouldn't just post my curiosity. It's time for the next Cerulean Seas post.

Part 2: Space Marine(r)s!

Adapting Existing Classes
Moving into chapter 3, our first stop is a look back at existing Pathfinder classes and how they are modified for the setting of Cerulean Seas. While some of these are simplistic cases of “move speed reference altered to swim speed”f or classes such as the Barbarian, as well as notes of the removal of the Bard, Druid, and Ranger in favor of three new classes (the Siren, Kahuna, and Mariner), some classes do have alterations worthy of noting before we head into the entirely new classes.

Alchemist: The Cerulean Seas Alchemist is mostly a case of replacing thrown potions with plunging potions, but they also get access to a new type of bomb – the boiling bomb, to be specific. Boiling bombs do exactly what their name suggests, causing ten square feet of water to erupt into a violent boiling steam bath that deals 1d6 heat damage (basically a renaming of fire damage) per round it’s active.

Cleric: Want more domains? You get more domains...sort of. The Plant and Fire domains are removed in Cerulean Seas, instead replaced by the Flora and Steam domains. The Flora domain deals with not just plants, but also algae, anemones, barnacles, coral, and sea sponges. The two non-spell powers granted by the Flora domain are Coral Fist (you can transform your hands into big coral mitts that deal lethal rather than nonlethal damage on unarmed strikes) at third level and Reef Armor (you can create a coral reef around yourself that transmits fire coral disease to foes that attack you with unarmed or natural attacks) at sixth level. The Steam domain gets Boiling Bolt (basically a boiling bomb but only targeting one enemy) at first level, followed by heat resistance 10 at sixth level that upgrades to heat resistance 20 at twelfth level and again to heat immunity at twentieth level.

Monk: There aren’t exactly a lot of times when you’re falling through the air from a cliff in a setting where the only dry land are scattered tropical islands and far away ice sheets. Unsurprisingly, then, the Monk gets two new class traits to replace those it has related to jumping and falling. Slow Fall is replaced by the ability to have neutral buoyancy even when unconscious, while High Jump is replaced by being able to "walk" (even if the species doesn't have legs) on top of the water for a distance equal to the Monk's extra speed gained from their Fast Movement class feature.

New Classes
It’s now time for actual new base classes rather than alterations to existing classes. I already mentioned what the three classes are, but let’s actually get a look at them proper rather than just saying what they replace.

Kahuna: These divine spellcasters of the waves call upon ocean spirits to empower them. They have great Base Attack Bonus progression and Will saves, but not so much on the Fortitude and Reflex. Rather than gaining any form of wildshape or any other archetypical Druid power, the Kahuna’s class features are the ability to take on the mantle of their spirit. These “spirit aspects” come in three ranks – lesser at first level, intermediate, at sixth level, and greater at twelfth level, each starting out at one use per day and gaining another use at the next two even numbered class levels. There are also an added “strength of spirit” at first level that is relegated to a number of uses per day based on the Kahuna’s Wisdom modifier plus three, an “aspect master” trait that is attained at eighteenth level that doubles that makes any of the three spirit aspects be usable as a free action and both last twice as long and be twice as effective, and the capstone ability “summon spirit” at level twenty that channels the full mojo of the spirit and has its number of uses per day based on the Wisdom modifier alone.

All of these abilities affect not only the Kahuna, but any of their allies within a thirty foot radius, giving this class a little bit of a leader aspect. They also all happen to only last one round, with the exception of the spirit summon which lasts for a number of rounds equal to the Kahuna’s Wisdom modifier, so the widespread application aspect isn’t too worrisome. The spirits that are most often venerated (read: the ones the authors wanted to create and put in) are the following. Note that I’m only going to give the full list of powers for the first to give you a feel of how they tend to be power-wise, and then generalize the rest for expedience.
  • Barracuda: Barracuda is an adaptable but impulsive spirit that emphasizes to its follower that you need to be swift both physically and mentally. Of course, one might say that’s a bit of a weird statement given that all of its granted boons are physical in nature – its strength of spirit is Darting Strike (move ten feet then melee attack) as a standard action, the lesser aspect is Lunge (+2 attack roll bonus and free access to the Lunge feat), the intermediary aspect is Hasty Retreat (+2 to Armor Class and Reflex saves, as well as a free ten feet of movement if an enemy's attack misses that same round), the greater aspect is Swiftness of the Barracuda (+2 dodge bonus to AC against attacks of opportunity, as well as a bonus to swim speed of ten feet per each positive number of the Kahuna's Wisdom modifier), and the spirit summon is Barracuda’s Assault (+4 bonus to AC and Reflex saves, as well as a free attack of opportunity against an attacker whose melee attack misses). Indeed, truly the paragons of quick wit, those Barracuda Kahunas.
  • Crocodile: In addition to being one of the most hardy watery ambush predators alive, crocodilians are adept at tender parenting, terrestrial hunting, “singing”, have a universal body and song language that almost all crocodilians understand, and even engage in mild tool use. This has nothing to do with the Kahuna, mind you, I just really love crocodilians. Anyway, Crocodile is a patient and persistent spirit who demands the same of its Kahunas, and has abilities that are both offensive and defensive in nature. The power of Crocodile is twofold, weighing damage reduction against abilities related to grapple attacks.
  • Dolphin: Dolphin inspires friendship and teamwork. All of Dolphin’s boons are related to the whole “allies are affected to” aspect of the Kahuna’s powers, granting boons such as the ability to reorganize damage taken between the allies in the radius and various bonuses when an ally attacks during the spiritual buff.
  • Great White: Great White is a voracious spirit whose main tenet is that words should be backed up with actions, not simply sat upon. Great White Kahunas don’t do a lot with their spirit, but what they do is very effective – strong toothy bites that deal bleedout, attack buffs, and the ability to sense foes around them.
  • Kraken: The creed of Kraken is to literally and metaphorically grasp at everything possible. Its spirit powers are focused heavily on granting reach and extra attacks, but also have a dash of abilities to inspire fear based on the legendary nature of the kraken.
  • Sea Lion: While Sea Lion’s gimmick is said to be cleverness, its actual boons are sort of a clusterfuck of various boosts. It starts out with a simple sonic roar attack and ends with the ability to boost a bunch of different abilities based on circumstances adverse to them (get a +2 to AC each time you’re hit, get a +2 to attack rolls every time you miss, etc.), with various stuff shoved in between.
  • Sea Turtle: Sea Turtle is plodding and planning, focused on the long term goal rather than the immediate benefit. This mostly translates into Armor Class bonuses and other forms of damage avoidance, save for having a greater spirit aspect that allows for the Kahuna to slow down a foe.
  • Stingray: Stingray is extremely pessimistic and seeks to distance itself from others, facing inevitable violence with its venomous barb. To the surprise of no one, its spirit aspects are related to poisoning foes.

Mariner: Don’t let the name fool you – the Mariner class isn’t some sort of seaborn sailor, it’s actually an aquatic warrior. The class has d10 hit dice, full Base Attack Bonus progression, and a high Reflex save progression at the cost of poor Fortitude and Will save progressions, making it a tough but swift class. And swift is the Mariner’s specialty, given that half of its class features are based on boosting swim speed, evasion, and maneuverability in some manner. The other big trait of the Mariner is the Sudden Strike class feature – think a Rogue’s sneak attack (it even has the by-the-1d6 damage progression), but rather than relying on catching a foe flat-footed, a Sudden Strike comes into play in an attack made as part of a maneuver feat (Combat Reflexes, Improved and Greater Bull Rush, Improved and Greater Overrun, Lunge, Nimble Moves and Acrobatic Step, Run, Shot on the Run, Spring Attack, Step Up, or Whirlwind Attack).

The biggest two bonuses the Mariner gets are, unsurprisingly, near the end of its class progression. Its eighteenth level ability, Deep Diver, completely negates any pressure damage, while the capstone ability Shark’s Frenzy lets the Mariner basically become a doom machine. In addition to granting 10 extra bleed damage to Sudden Strike, it also lets the Mariner get access to Sudden Strike on a round after they move at their full move speed. That means a level 20 Mariner is going to have a damage yield of their weapon damage plus their Strength score plus 5d6 Sudden Strike damage plus 10 bleed damage any time they use a maneuver feat or the round after they move at full speed.

So what exactly is the Mariner’s role, beyond lots of speed and damage? That’s a good question. They are painted as being anything from a warrior or armed scout to a spy or courier, as their talents lend them to many different paths in the underwater world. My personal feelings on the Mariner are a bit...mixed, to be honest. While it’s not a bad class, per se, it also doesn’t really feel like something that is meant to be a replacement for the Ranger, which is the Mariner’s stated intention. With the Kahuna you can see the link of “divine spellcaster that does naturey stuff”, but the Mariner has no such ‘feel’ to it. It seems more like something that should be seen along with a Ranger replacement rather than being the Ranger replacement itself. that an algae bra? :stare:

Siren:With the same hit dice, BAB and save progressions, and arcane spellcasting as Bards, you can’t really mistake the intention of the Siren class to be its replacement. The main difference is that the Siren isn’t going to be defending anybody – this class is all about musical offense. Its songs include such gems as the Predator's Song (+1 to damage rolls and +5 swim speed for allies), Shattering Note (sunder things with your voice), lullaby (guess), Dominating Dirge (replicate dominate person), and Lamentations (foe is sickened, nauseated, or stunned depending on their HD compared to the Siren). Their other abilities are various boosts to their offensive songs, including targeting multiple foes, causing foes to be stunned and then sickened after the song ends, and the ability to double the range of a song they choose as a specialty. It could be easily argued that the Siren could have just been a variant Bard, and I can’t say I’d disagree with such a statement, but the class isn’t really that bad either.

Prestige Classes
The Arcane Archer, Pathfinder Chronicler, and Nature Warden are prestige classes not available in Cerulean Seas, while the only big changes to other prestige classes are changing the Dragon Disciple’s parentage to song dragons (the only group of true dragons in Cerulean Seas) as well as renaming the Horizon Walker into the “Seeker of the Blue Horizon” and granting it a few new terrain specialties based on the ocean depths. This means that, unlike base classes, we can walk right into the new prestige classes unimpeded.

You may have noticed that these classes and prestige classes use the opposite sexes from those presented in the racial portraits. The same is true here, where the female karkanak is looking calm but terrifying.

Beach Comber: Winner of the “most innocent-sounding deceptive name” competition in Cerulean Seas, the Beach Comber prestige class reflects the groups of hardened bounty hunters that seek the fugitives that can flee (and have fled) to what dry land is left in the world. The class is pretty blatantly focused on giving and taking damage, with d10 hit dice and a full Base Attack Bonus progression at the cost of an average Fortitude save progression and poor Reflex and Will save progressions. As for class features, they can be summed up as "want some Ranger stuff back? Here, have it". Beach Combers happen to inherit the favored terrain, trap sense, and favored enemy (toward a specific bounty) features of the extinct Ranger.

Glimmerkeeper: The Glimmerkeeper prestige class reflects a type of legendary magical folk hero in the world of Cerulean Seas, individuals who fight against evil with quick minds, quick bodies, and a little bit of supernatural help. In addition to swim speed boosts, the two most prominent class features o the Glimmerkeeper are increased uses per day of abilities entitled Spectral Form and Glimmer Armor. Spectral Form is, as its name implies, the power to take on a temporary spectral form, thus becoming incorporeal and getting those sweet, sweet touch attacks. Glimmer Armor is not quite so straightforward, as it isn’t armor in the literal sense so much as in the metaphorical sense of defending the Glimmerkeeper – it allows the Glimmerkeeper to force a Fortitude save on a foe that is struck by them in melee, and if the target fails they are blinded for a number of rounds equal to the Glimmerkeeper's Charisma modifier. The capstone ability is the rather interesting Keeper of the Light power, which can either take away light to create a magical concealment within a sixty foot radius or shine an abundance of light in the same radius to grant a +2 bonus to saving throws and attack rolls for allies as well as replicate the daylight spell.

And there's that convenient nudity coverage again.

Sea Witch: The Sea Witch is a prestige class that only characters with levels in Siren can enter, and is focused on new songs that deal with death and the undead. Their songs fatigue and deal Strength damage on a critical failure by the target, can create a ward against the undead, can siphon out the life force of others (read: damage in exchange for temporary HP), and can summon the undead. This class isn’t really what I’d say I envision when I hear “Sea Witch”, I must say...still, it isn’t bad, just different.

Entering chapter 3, the first and biggest change to the skill system is presented upfront. The Swim skill? Dead. Kaput. Axed. Pushing up daisies. An ex-skill.

“Cerulean Seas” posted:

Having a Swim skill for an underwater setting would be much like having a Walk skill for a dry-land campaign, and is therefore phased out for the purposes of this campaign setting. While it is true that some species can walk on land, that too is an innate ability, and therefore does not require a separate skill.
This means that any maneuvers related to swimming, such as dealing with rough water, are instead part of the Acrobatics skill. Most of the new skill uses are pretty obvious aquatic things like “Craft checks that need fire don’t work underwater” or “the ‘guide with legs’ use of the Ride skill is instead ‘guide with tail’ if you’re a merfolk”, but a few deserve at least a bullet point’s worth of attention.
  • Climb: In addition to being used to actually climb things, a successful Climb check can allow a merfolk or merped (animal version of merfolk) to crawl itself along the land at one fourth their swim speed rather than the normal 5 foot speed listed.
  • Handle Animal: For those who want more tricks to teach their animal, there are three more added in the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide that allow you to teach how to
  • Stealth: There's a special form of Stealth for "scuttling", a difficult maneuver that requires you to move at least six squares, meet various conditions, and succeed on the check to seemingly zigzag and then disappear entirely.

While some may tear over the loss of the feats Throw Anything and Tower Shield Proficiency, they can rejoice that there are a total of forty-five new feats. These feats can basically be broken down into four categories:
  • "Simple but Effective" Feats: As with many a sourcebook that contains a lot of new feats, there are always some that are effective for the campaign setting but can't have very much said about them beyond that they exist. In the case of the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide, these feats include Ambassador to the Deep (increases depth tolerance by 100 feet each time it's taken, to a maximum of 1,000 feet), Coral Link (you can communicate with anyone adjacent to the same coral reef as you through telepathy), and School Friend (gain concealment within a school of fish while not startling them).
  • Racial/Subtype Feats: Again, as with many sourcebooks, there are new feats dedicated to certain subtypes and races as well. While some are really unexpected, like selkies getting feats to allow them to shapeshift their gear with them or cast somatic spells while in seal form, karkanak getting bigger and more damaging claws, and pisceans and nommos getting toothy fish bites, there are a few that stand out such as Breathlink (allows a feykith subtype race to share their ability to breathe underwater with an adjacent air-breather), Caustic Skin (naiads with this feat have particularly virulent kelp-bodies that deal 1d4 acid damage to creatures that bite them), and Waterjot (mogogols with this feat can run across the water like a basilisk lizard – mogogols keep proving to be such a crazy fun race in every way).
  • Combat Feats: While combat feats are, again, one of those ubiquitous feats, I'd argue that they are the least interesting ubiquitous feat in the Cerulean Seas Campaign Guide. While feats lke Diving Strike (get a bull rush and then a melee attack when you make a charge), Opportunist (get a free attack of opportunity against a foe whose attack of opportunity just missed you), and Thickened Spell (spells that target a foe/foes also cause water to gel around said foe/foes, halving their movement rate and giving them a -2 penalty to melee attack rolls) may be good in combat, there's not much to say about them.
  • Class Feats: ...Actually, no, I take back what I said about combat feats. These are the least interesting ubiquitous feats. They're all either song buffs for the Siren or spirit buffs for the Kahuna, and none of them are even interesting enough for a minor parentheses-clad blurb.


Next time: I had thought about putting the equipment section in with this post, but it didn't really feel right, so next time we'll be having both it and the magic chapter. Ooh.

Fossilized Rappy fucked around with this message at 03:37 on Jan 12, 2014

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.
At some point I really should finish my Night's Black Agents writeup, but gently caress if there's not a ton of dry, fiddly rules stuff to work through before I get to the cool stuff. So in the meantime, let's take a look at a pretty neat and not very well known game from 2007. A game about weird Forteana, mysterious abilities, and all the ayahuasca tea you can drink.

If Walter Bishop ran the Planetary Foundation, the results might look a little bit like...

I'm not Daredevil!

Published by Abstract Nova Entertainment, creators of such high-concept RPGs as Heaven & Earth, Noumenon, and Exquisite Replicas, Aletheia describees itself as a game of big questions: how did the universe begin? Where do we come from? Where are we going? The title is a Greek word that variously translates as "unconcealedness," "disclosure," or "truth," so you know we're about to get all existential up in here.

Still, despite having a pitch rife with potential for sinking into pseudo-philosophical wankery, Aletheia by and large manages to sidestep the pitfalls of games like The Everlasting and Immortal: The Invisible war and present a pretty neat, pretty coherent world of modern "weird fiction" that unabashedly wears the influence of authors like Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison, and Arthur C. Clarke on its sleeve. Married to a solid if not hugely ground-breaking rules-lite engine that has shades of GUMSHOE and Over the Edge, it's easy to get into and does a great job of easing you from typical X-Files fare like alien abductions and spontaneous human combustion into full-on :catdrugs: territory.

It's also a very tightly-focused game: while you could use it to run a completely procedural "weird event of the week" type game with no overarching story, the entire setting is really built around telling one specific story of discovery and enlightenment... but we'll get to that.

All right, let's get this started. I'm going to try to cover two chapters per post for at least the first 3 or 4 chapters, but might end up going down to one per post when we get into the meatier setting stuff.

Albert Einstein posted:

All religions, arts, and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.

Between the image of the Tree of Life superimposed on a bunch of mathematical equations and that opening quote, Aletheia is pretty up front about its central themes. Expect a lot of Biblical apocrypha and quantum physics ahead.

In the meantime, we get a very brief summary of what the game is actually about : PCs are members of the "Seven Dogs Society," a group of scientists, philosophers, and investigators who look into strange, inexplicable events like hauntings, crop circles, and extraterrestrial incursions. The Society isn't a paramilitary group, they don't fight or hunt the bizarre. Rather, they believe that an underlying, fundamental truth explains and unifies all of these so-called paranormal events, and that by cataloguing and studying the extra-normal, they can bring themselves closer to that truth and to a greater understanding of the nature of reality itself. If you're getting a bit of a Fringe vibe... well, that's a coincidence, because that show didn't start airing till 2008, but you wouldn't be far off. We're not told much else about the Society for now; only that it's very wealthy thanks to "a generous benefactor" and that it's very small: as the name implies, the Seven Dogs Society always numbers exactly seven.

GMs get a brief discussion of the sorts of game Aletheia can be used to run. Its investigative focus makes it ideal for one-shots: just open with the Society receiving a report of an alien abduction and wrap up when the mystery is solved, just like a monster of the week episode of The X-Files. We're also assured that everything about Aletheia's setting is explained in this core book, which means the GM is in on all the game's secrets from the get-go and doesn't have to read a bunch of supplements to get the full story. That makes it easy to plan out a self-contained campaign beginning with the PCs' induction into the Seven Dogs Society and ending when they REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED. Finally, you can pull a Brian Michael Bendis and decompress the hell out of the storytelling, expanding the full reveal out over multiple campaigns, presumably featuring a succession of new Seven Dogs Societies--which I guess would look a bit like the various Leagues of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but the Introduction doesn't go into any more detail than that.

The Introduction wraps up with a quick overview of what's in the rest of the book, the obligatory What Is Roleplaying? sidebar, and a caveat that the game delves into sensitive topics like religion and drug use, and that players who are bothered by that sort of content should stop reading now. Apparently it's fine to play a game with content that might offend you, but for heaven's sake don't read it.

Forthcoming Chapters
  • Chapter Two: History discusses the origin of the Seven Dogs Society. Shockingly, it's not an ancient, vast conspiracy stretching back to the dawn of history.
  • Chapter Three: Hepta Sophistai is a detailed description of the Society's home base, an old Victorian mansion in the town of Seven Dogs, Alaska. Because every paranormal investigator should know where his butler sleeps.
  • Chapter Four: Characters continues the glorious RPG tradition of telling you how to make a character before telling you how to play the drat game.
  • Chapter Five: Mechanics tells us how many dice to roll when analyzing the meteorological effects of a rain of frogs.
  • Chapter Six: Anomalous Phenomena catalogues a wide cross-section of the types of cases the Society commonly investigates. Spoiler alert: Abduction, UFO cross-references with Birth, Virgin.
  • Chapter Seven: Revelations takes the GM up onto the mountain, doses her to the gills with peyote, and explains, like, the real truth of the universe, maaaaaan.
  • Chapter Eight: Gamemastering includes a picture of a kangaroo.
  • Finally, Chapter Nine: From the Heavens is a sample adventure about UFO abductions at Kansas State University. I don't really even have a joke for that.

A final note before we dive into the meat of the game: Since Aletheia is pretty light on images and walls of text can be tedious, I'll probably be supplementing these posts with photos and drawings pertinent* to the text of the review.

* "Pertinent" can sometimes mean "tangentially related at best."

The Seven Dogs Society was founded by Terrance Chastain in 1970, but the Societies' beginnings go back several decades before that. Yes, this is the first time we've heard the name Terrance Chastain, and yes, the book is just that matter of fact about it. Anyways, we're told that the legacy of the Seven Dogs Society begins with a man named Jericho Usher.

Wrong Jericho.

Usher was born in Boston on January 9, 1900, missing century baby status by eight lousy days but nevertheless demonstrating remarkable abilities by a young age. Violin virtuoso, polymath, and gifted athlete, Usher was hailed as a wünderkind, a 20th century Leonardo da Vinci. The world was at his feet--until, in 1922, he was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, an inherited form of macular degeneration that gradually destroyed his vision. Along with the Stardart's, Usher found himself suffering from Charles Bonnet syndrome, which left him suffering from visual hallucinations so vivid he feared he was going mad. (Spoiler alert: [spoiler]he wasn't.[/spoiler))

Shortly thereafter, Usher befriended Charles Fort, the paranormal researcher, and became an admirer of his work. This led to two decades of ostracism from the scientific community, during which time Usher read basically everything he could get his hands on, knowing that soon the written word would be lost to him. :smith:

In '46, Usher befriended Terrance Chastain, who we finally learn is an archaeologist specializing in Mesoamerican cultures. The two spent the next three years on various digs, "somehow" returning to the US fabulously wealthy. Indiana Jones would have been appalled. They bought land in the tiny Alaskan town of Seven Dogs and renovated an old Victorian mansion into a truly impressive research library. To further cement his Forrest Gump-like status, Usher struck up a correspondence with Einstein and talked a lot about the Unified Field Theory.

This will become relevant soon.

So, by the 1960s, Usher was completely blind and also in full on :2bong: mode. Experimenting with everything from DMT to psilocybin, he became convinced that his hallucinations were anything but. He believed he was actually seeing another level of reality he called the Otherverse, because drugs do not make you good at naming things. He would disappear for days or weeks on end, only to reappear walking out of a random room like nothing had happened. He talked a lot about how his Charles Bonnet syndrome, Forteana, and Einstein's Unified Field Theory were just pieces of a bigger picture, started making radical architectural modifications to the werstern annex of Seven Dogs House, and made Chastain promise never to go in there. Finally, in December of 1968, Usher left Chastain a single sheet of handwritten instructions, a ream of genealogical studies on looseleaf paper, and about 50 pages of ancient vellum covered in bizarre writing and drawings. Then he vanished without a trace, never to be seen again.

Now, as you might expect, Chastain was pretty much humoring his blind crazy friend for most of the 60s, and didn't really have any intention of following through on any of the crazy instructions Usher had left him. Then he decided to go and see exactly what Usher had been doing in the Annex. It was a simple enough bit of architecture: just a short hallway with nine doors off of it. Thing is, those nine doors didn't lead to rooms in the house. One led to an archaeological dig site in a desert. Another opened onto a jungle. Others opened onto strange libraries, Mayan ruins, and weirdly, a junkyard outside Taos, New Mexico. The portals were all one-way and led to places all over the world.

About then was when Chastain decided to follow Usher's instructions. Usher wanted Chastain to found a society to carry on his work: the society would always number seven, and prospective members had to come from the genealogies Usher had left behind. Said genealogies sometimes went as far back as 150 BCE--and as far forward as 2012 CE. In case that wasn't enough weirdness, radiocarbon dating confirmed that the vellum pages Usher left Chastain--the so-called Usher Codex--dated to the mid-15th century, but the handwriting and art style was unmistakably Jericho Usher's.

Nope. Still not the right one.

After two years of investigation and interviews, Chastain assembled the first incarnation of the Seven Dogs Society in 1971. Once they were all together, the purpose of Usher's genealogies became apparent: every one of the seven possessed a paranormal ability of some kind, from ESP to remote viewing to the ability to walk through solid objects. These seven spent almost 30 years together, investigating paranormal phenomena and working to decipher the Usher Codex. (At least, what they had of it: a fire in the early years of the society destroyed all but four pages, though a fifth was recovered from the Bibliothèque nationale de France in 1984. Nobody knows how it got there.) Finally, in 1999, they all disappeared, just like Usher had 31 years ago.

Displaying remarkable patience and forbearance for a man dealing with super-powered ghost chasers with a penchant for disappearing, Chastain assembled a second incarnation of the Seven Dogs Society in 2001. Less than a year later, while walking the Annex, Chastain discovered the bodies of all seven members, left to rot in the jungles of South America in plain view of the portal. The portal that, you'll remember, is only one-way and can't be seen from the other side. Once the bodies were recovered, the autopsies revealed that each had been shot in the head, execution style.

Which brings us to the present day (well, 2007, but "present" for the game). Chastain has finally assembled the third incarnation of the Seven Dogs Society. It's very likely this will be the last: Chastain is 83 years old and doesn't have it in him to go through the recruitment process again. The PCs make up some (maybe all, if you have a big table) of this incarnation of the Society. They've been members of the society for about a month, and their first case is coming up. It's time to learn the truth Jericho Usher found.

Thoughts so far: I really like this approach to opening a game book. It draws you in without bogging you down in world-building minutiae, presents a few really good, strong central mysteries to hook you into the setting, and actually tells you what the game is about without spoiling the big secrets of the setting. I also like that the History chapter includes a sidebar talking about the advantages of letting the players just read the whole chapter as a primer vs. giving them a brief outline (ostensibly in-character as Chastain). Personally, I'd probably go the latter route and ignore the "you've been a member for a month" caveat--the reveal of the Annex and its portals has a ton of potential, and I don't think I'd be able to resist holding back the second incarnation's fate until after somebody tries to kill the PCs during the first adventure.

Next Time: Twenty pages about a house. It actually manages to be kind of interesting.

GimpInBlack fucked around with this message at 21:14 on Jan 26, 2014

Toph Bei Fong
Feb 29, 2008

Cardiovorax posted:

Now that's just sad. I wonder how many people who didn't get a philosophy degree got stuck at that point?

Well, when you're 14 and already reading Plato thanks to a philosophy course at your high school, and the Illuminatus Trilogy and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and similar books thanks to the internet, and it turns out that there's a cool version of D&D set in the real world with vampires and werewolves and swearing and trenchcoats, and then it turns out that the game for playing wizards is based on the books you're reading and has, no poo poo, bibliographies in the front to check out! And then huh, a lot of this stuff doesn't follow at all. Why doesn't there...? No, no. It's published, it'll all make sense. Check their sources again. This RPG book was expensive, and written by professional writers. I must be the one making a mistake. :spergin::respek::pseudo:

Yeah... I didn't have a lot of friends as a kid. I probably would have ended up majoring in philosophy anyways, but Mage didn't exactly help me out of a situation I was already mired in. Better to get a lot of it out of your system when you're in high school and everyone expects you to be a dramatic and confused idiot who doesn't understand anything.

Hostile V
May 31, 2013

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

You had me at "Fringe-like RPG", I'm willing to pay five bucks to see how that plays out.

Nov 26, 2008

Lipstick Apathy

Fossilized Rappy posted:

With the resurgence of White Wolf reviewing, I'm sort of hoping someone gets to the recently released Werewolf 20th Edition: Rage Across the World. It apparently tries to cover such topics as critically endangered wolf populations, South American political tensions, and the Arab Spring, and I'm genuinely curious as to whether White Wolf has gotten better about dealing with such subjects.

Considering I have my own writing to get to, though, I shouldn't just post my curiosity. It's time for the next Cerulean Seas post.

If someone does W20, I will do Rage Across the World and throw in Skinner for free.

Rage Across the World from glancing through it doesn't seem that bad. I read the section on Shanghai and it wasn't bad or great. There seems to be more of a mixing of East and West though, not just the "inscrutable Orient" which is a step up from previous stuff. The bit of fiction is incredibly ironic because it deals with a plot to corrupt the Yangtze River, which is incredibly polluted like most rivers in China.

Aug 14, 2005

we aaaaare
not your kind of pearls
you seem kind of pho~ny
everything's a liiiiie

we aaaare
not your kind of pearls
something in your make~up
don't see eye to e~y~e

So I guess I'm going to take a brief detour from writing about Magical Realism NWA Fanfic to talk about something else.

So! Earlier in the thread, two things came up. First, the amazing carnival of foam swords and forsooths and overgrown children that is Changeling: the Dreaming, and its Banality system (where, you know, FUN-RUINING ADULTS and science and cars and psych meds and really the field of psychiatry in general were literally poisonous to the land and to PCs). Second, Rand Brittain's idea that the WW writers genuinely believed YO MAN DON'T TRUST ANYBODY OVER 30 and wrote from that perspective when old WoD was still a thing. These things got me thinking about the Changeling antagonist book The Autumn People, which I....sort of remembered? And so I checked it out yesterday because hahaha I have no life what else would i even *do*, and holy poo poo. Holy poo poo. You thought the rest of WoD read like it was written by disaffected twentysomethings? Large parts of this book are pretty much Adolescent Resentment: The Fuckyoudaddening.

So I think I'm going to take a break from the other book (oh god i am going to finish that loving thing before another year and a half passes i really am okay) to treat (is that the word?) you folks to a writeup of this masterpiece.

It starts with a piece of fiction tracing the lives of a boy and a manic pixie dream girl! For some reason the style made me think of Goofus and Gallant, so I'm going to kind of run with that here.

GOOFUS spends her early childhood playing in gardens and making up fanciful stories in her head and regaling an audience of flowers and butterflies (TOTALLY HER FRIENDS BY THE WAY) with these tales.

GALLANT learns to be a meticulous woodworker from age 5 onward, and his father stresses boring stuff like "the value of hard work" and "being a provider." They bond over taking careful measurements and hammering stuff.

GOOFUS constantly sneaks out of the house "with the stealth of a night animal" as a teenager and runs around outside and runs away for good when she turns 17! Because her room is totally a prison for her and her stuffed animals and I guess the moon's kissing the mountains and she wants to watch.

GALLANT spends his adolescence working at a lumber yard and going to school, because his father was a traditionalist and taught him to be dependable. Eventually he buys a boring white station wagon and moves to California!

GOOFUS drifts through city after city, starving and stinking and eventually getting snapped up in the parking lot of a California 7-11 by a gentle giant-ish slouchy troll, an "eloquent, yet sly" thievin' pooka, and a mopey sluagh who "wore his bitterness with pride." (Oh and I guess they're the cast of Scooby-Doo, united in their love of a bright green van and couchsurfing? And they go on roadtrips because spontaneous.)

GALLANT gets a small apartment and works himself to the bone, but the hope of a raise in the future and weekend walks along the beach keep him going!

GOOFUS walks away because her friends constantly argue and being around an endlessly mopeybitter dude and an endlessly whimsical dude is exhausting. Goofus goes off to the beach and relives her childhood on a swing set and oh, if only the air could carry her away~! Because holy poo poo her housemates. Goofus went up and down and up and down and dreamed of paradise and went crashing down!

GALLANT totally thinks Goofus is some kind of ethereal fey princess, a one-of-a-kind jewel, and wants nothing more than to protect her from all the world's ills.

GOOFUS has her heart stolen by this non-mopey, non-whimsical dude who tends to her and scoops her up and they kiss and it's amazing!


"Each day was bliss. Every action I took each day was out of my love for him. I was obsessed. When I cooked a pot of rice for dinner, I thought of how wonderful our next dinner by candlelight would be. When I sorted his socks from the laundry, I thought of how they would keep his feet warm. When I washed the sheets, I couldn't stop smiling."

GOOFUS is, uh....yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeah.

GALLANT tries *so* hard to make Goofus happy, but she just seems more sad and languid and uneasy and I mean what the poo poo he keeps buying her stuff why won't she be happy why won't she love him ugh

Ten years later, GOOFUS is just mired in ennui and ugh the *phone* and the *baby* and her husband drinks all the time and she can barely remember her friends and the flowers are no longer her friends i mean holy poo poo she's got the anti-green thumb

GALLANT wallows in drunken misery as he contemplates his ailing marriage. He did everything his dad told him and tried to emulate his parents' marriage and bought her stuff and provided and why can't she be happy with it UGH

GALLANT also drunkenly crushes leaves beneath his feet because gently caress nature.

GOOFUS is reunited with her troll buddy who pretty much hasn't aged a day and learns the horrible truth about her life since meeting the loving mundane she came to marry.

GALLANT wonders why Goofus won't share a bed with him anymore.

GOOFUS skulks around her picket-fence prison in the middle of the night and shamefully sneaks ice cream and spaces out in front of the TV and goes to the attic, the one place where she can remember her old life, and sobs into a shoebox full of leaves because THIS IS WHAT I SACRIFICED FOR YOU I THREW AWAY MY WINGS FOR THIS loving RELATIONSHIP UGH

And that's the opening fiction.

Also, here's a fun fact that doesn't really come up in the opening fiction but still seems worth mentioning! So, in general Changeling gives you three different age categories for fae -- there are the precocious children full of wonder who can see the truths that those boring a-dults have long been blinded to (ages 3-13), magical fun-loving teens who burn bright with creativity and adventurous spirit (13-25), and the bitter, tired old folks barely staving off the cold grasp of spiritual death. You know, people in their late twenties! (no really the main rulebook says that the old ppl category starts at age 25 and most changelings' ~~faerie souls~~ don't make it past their late twenties)

So yeah.

Ningyou fucked around with this message at 18:47 on Jan 12, 2014

Rand Brittain
Mar 25, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."
Although the plot-important NPCs are all much older than that and the art rarely portrays Kithain society as all kids.

Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.

Grimey Drawer
I haven't looked in the Autumn People book in years, but I remember that some of the sub-types were particularly eye-rolling. I vaguely remember that some of their high-end powers got dropped from the book too (whoops!) and was later stuffed into an entirely different sourcebook.

Hostile V
May 31, 2013

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

Every time I hear about oWoD Changelings versus nWoD Changelings it's always the same old song and dance about how it was a "light-hearted, happy series about finding beauty in creativity in imagination~ that become the darkest and grimmest series about the destruction of your identity and self and picking up the pieces and you may never truly be free". But now that I'm actually looking at oWoD Changeling holy poo poo I am glad I never saw this stuff in highschool.


Jul 19, 2012

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

RocknRollaAyatollah posted:

If someone does W20, I will do Rage Across the World and throw in Skinner for free.

Rage Across the World from glancing through it doesn't seem that bad. I read the section on Shanghai and it wasn't bad or great. There seems to be more of a mixing of East and West though, not just the "inscrutable Orient" which is a step up from previous stuff. The bit of fiction is incredibly ironic because it deals with a plot to corrupt the Yangtze River, which is incredibly polluted like most rivers in China.

If there's interest, I can review W20 since it seems that the W:TA Corebook hasn't been F&Fed before. The problem with the book is that of the 550 pages probably about 300 are material that has been reprinted/reworded from earlier books. And reviewing 90 pages of gifts would probably make for a very boring read. I would probably gloss over the things like that and the Rules and Storytelling chapter.

By Comparison W20:Rage across the world is almost entirely new material and is actually a pretty good read. CB20 is definitely something I'll review once an actual physical copy comes out. Rage actually devotes a lot of page space to dispelling unfortunate stereotypes from previous editions. They use the Children of Gaia mouthpiece to say "Nature isn't inherently better than civilization, they're both important" and "Maligned native tribes aren't magically better than everyone else, Garou just think the grass is greener and are made up of 20% bards by volume."

Kurieg fucked around with this message at 19:40 on Jan 12, 2014

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