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Lynx Winters
May 1, 2003

Borderlawns: The Treehouse of Pandora

I read a post somewhere, can't remember if it was here or RPG, that basically explained how Mark MacKinnon, one of the two lead writers for BESM never actually used the combat system. The other one, David Pulver, forced him to sit down and play out a combat with two reasonably-statted characters and it was just a complete slog until one of them actually managed to touch the other resulting in an instant kill. BESM was awful.

It's also the game I probably played the most when I was younger, but that's mostly because I had a friend who more or less used as anime-flavored GURPS and refused to learn any other games because he thought he could do the same thing in the Tri-Stat rules. It was a situation made even better by the fact that he didn't really havea good grasp on how it all worked in the first place, which lead to him doing stuff like making up new powers that were just bad versions of the ones that already exist and requiring all the PCs to take it.

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Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


theironjef posted:

I still just can't get over the disconnected defense roll. If you maximize for defense it basically doesn't matter how accurate your opponent is, since you're not dodging them, you're just dodging your defense value.

Just like GURPS.

Of course, it was a little better in GURPS because defense values were comparatively abysmal, at least in the basic set. In BESM, you can make it so you can only fail on a 12 (automatically crit fails regardless of skill level) for pennies on the point-accounting dollar. And after that, there's not much value in raising your defense values... save to insulate yourself from capricious GM penalties.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



Also, BESM uses averages of various stats. I hate this and want it to be gone, but lucky me I tend to review old stuff so it probably is mostly gone. It was especially bad in Prime Directive, since the XP system was completely abysmal anyway, so that if you finally did manage to get enough XP cobbled together to raise your phaser skill, it didn't change your rolls til you also raised your Marksmanship stat (or whatever it was called).

Has anyone ever seen the D20 Prime Directive? Or the GURPS one? My partner hated that game like ... nothing I've seen before, and I really want to know if the other variants are as bad.

FMguru
Sep 10, 2003

peed on;
sexually

theironjef posted:

Has anyone ever seen the D20 Prime Directive? Or the GURPS one? My partner hated that game like ... nothing I've seen before, and I really want to know if the other variants are as bad.
The original PD used its own system, and it is pretty much the sort of train wreck you'd expect from a system designed by a company that publishes an infinitely detailed star trek wargame with 4000 pages of rules. Didn't someone do it for a previous iteration of the F&F thread?

(checks wiki)

Huh, guess not.

I assume the D20 variant is hilariously broken (as D20-derived systems usually are) and that the GURPS version is passable (simply by the fact that GURPS is designed to have a sturdy core that supports an enormous range of world-genre books on top of it) if you want to play in the Tom-Clancy-Does-Old-Star-Trek setting of Star Fleet Battles.

Lynx Winters
May 1, 2003

Borderlawns: The Treehouse of Pandora

Alien Rope Burn posted:

Just like GURPS.

Of course, it was a little better in GURPS because defense values were comparatively abysmal, at least in the basic set. In BESM, you can make it so you can only fail on a 12 (automatically crit fails regardless of skill level) for pennies on the point-accounting dollar. And after that, there's not much value in raising your defense values... save to insulate yourself from capricious GM penalties.

GURPS also has options BESM doesn't to lower an enemy's defenses. They are more or less required when attacks and defenses start getting pretty high unless you want fights to last forever, but not as important in low-power games.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



FMguru posted:

The original PD used its own system, and it is pretty much the sort of train wreck you'd expect from a system designed by a company that publishes an infinitely detailed star trek wargame with 4000 pages of rules. Didn't someone do it for a previous iteration of the F&F thread?

(checks wiki)

http://systemmasterypodcast.com/2013/09/24/episode-4-prime-directive-the-star-fleet-universe-rpg/

Boom! Had to cut some of the older ones down to just the .zip files since hosting space isn't as cheap as running a podcast for free apparently.

GimpInBlack
Sep 27, 2012

That's right, kids, take lots of drugs, leave the universe behind, and pilot Enlightenment Voltron out into the cosmos to meet Alien Jesus.




Last update we got a brief overview of Trollbabe, its world, and the influences that inspired it. This time we're going to start learning how to actually play the game. Now, a lot of RPGs frontload you with rules and character creation and whatnot, only to relegate "how to run this game" to a chapter somewhere near the back. Trollbabe is organized a little bit differently: the chapters are presented roughly in the order that you might encounter their topics during an actual game, and each chapter covers the players and the GM equally. So the next chapter covers not only character creation, but also how to prepare a Trollbabe adventure. It's a good layout for a book as small and rules-light as Trollbabe, and it makes it pretty easy to learn the whole game as you go.

Chapter 2: Getting Started
Trollbabe is a pretty prep-light game. It's not full-on no prep, like Apocalypse World, but I'd say it's lighter than, say, Dogs in the Vineyard. Maybe about as prep-heavy as TechNoir. We're told it should take about 40 minutes, total, between all the players creating trollbabes and the GM creating one or more adventures, and my limited experience is that that number feels about right.

(Yes, I said one or more adventures. We'll get to that.)

Remember how last update I said that you only need a single number to create a Trollbabe character? Here's how that works. All conflicts in Trollbabe boil down to one of three categories: Fighting, Magic, or Social. A trollbabe has a Number, ranging from 2 to 9, that determines how good she is at each thing. To Fight, you have to roll under the number (on a d10). To do Magic, you have to roll over the number. To be Social, you have to roll whichever range is smaller, but including the number. So if, for example, our trollbabe character's number is 4, she successfully Fights on a roll of 1-3, Magics on a roll of 5-10, and Socializes on a roll of 1-4.

There are a few more permutations that we'll get into in the Conflicts chapter, but this right here is the hot-rod engine at the heart of Trollbabe. It's fast, it's simple, and it reminds you just how much trollbabes are caught between two extremes. It also reinforces the fact that trollbabes are outsiders--with one exception, no matter what her Number is, her Social ability is always going to be her second-best resort for solving problems. (The exception, of course, is if her Number is 5, and we aren't told whether to roll over or under for Social actions in that case, so... I guess it's player's choice.)

This is also, incidentally, the first place where you really start to see the hacking potential of Trollbabe. As long as you can break the actions in your setting down into three strong, iconic types, Trollbabe will work beautifully.

So, on to creating a trollbabe. It's a simple, five-step process, and to illustrate it I'm going to be creating this trollbabe, who I found on the deviantart gallery of one of the Trollbabe artists:



I'm going to call her Hrefna, I think.

Step One
Choose the character's Number. Pretty straightforward, right? Any number between 2 and 9 is perfectly valid. This is the first and last mechanical choice you'll be making.

Hrefna looks like a fairly physical type, so I'm thinking her Number is 7. That means she successfully fights on a 1-6, Magics on 8-10, and Socializes on 7-10.

Step Two
Next we get a list of "impressions" for each of the three action types. These are roleplaying aids and character focus; they don't have any mechanical impact or determine what your trollbabe can or can't do, but they give you a guide on how to play your character and how NPCs might react to her. Just like Apocalypse World's Look options, we pick one from each list. No ad-libbing here.

Looking over the lists, I think Hrefna gives the impressions of "hand-held weapons" (for Fighting), "human magic" (for Magic; we'll learn more about the differences between troll and human magic later), and "feisty" (for Social--just look at that smirk).

Step Three
Here we get a little more freedom of description, as we're instructed to describe our trollbabe's hairstyle and color and the size and shape of her horns. It might seem like a small detail, but Trollbabe is designed to feel very visual, and these two aspects of the character's appearance are key.

Hrefna has straight red hair swept back from her face, a little longer than shoulder-length. Her horns project out sideways from her skull and are curved like a buffalo's.

Step Four
Now we describe two small items she carries, one human and one trollish. These aren't necessarily valuable or useful, but they're important to her in some way. This is also where we describe her clothes, again based on either human custom, trollish custom, or some combination of the two.

Hrefna carries a smooth stone with a hole through the middle; trollish lore says you can see spirits through it. She also wears a golden cloak-pin in the shape of the sun, a gift of thanks for saving the life of the thane's eldest son. She dresses in human clothing: buckskin leggings and a long-sleeved tunic, with fur-lined mittens and a heavy green cloak in bad weather.

Step Five
Finally, my personal favorite step: Take a look at the map your GM has prepared for you and point at a cool-sounding spot. Your trollbabe's adventure begins with her, hiking through the wilderness, toward that spot. It's totally okay to pick a spot nowhere near the other PCs if you want. Either way, it makes sure every game kicks off with a strong, iconic image. You can also detail out any other equipment your trollbabe carries at this stage if you really want to, but it's not terribly important. Just remember that the game begins with your trollbabe traveling somewhere on foot.

Because I'm a lazy SOB, I'm stealing a piece of the map from The Banner Saga for this demonstration. 



Looking it over, I think "Kingsbarrow" sounds like a cool place to be headed, so that's where Hrefna's story will begin.


And that's how you make a trollbabe. It's a really simple, easy process that should give you a pretty decent sketch of a character torn between the two halves of her nature. In keeping with Ron Edwards' "Story Now!" philosophy, we'll discover a lot more about who the character is in play, rather than writing out a long, detailed backstory and personality profile.


Stakes: four sheep.

Next up is the GM's section of Getting Started. Once all of your players have created trollbabes and decided where they're headed, it's your job to prepare an adventure at each location. Depending on how many PCs you have and how much they think like a traditional RPG "adventuring party," that might be anywhere from one to three or four adventures. Luckily, adventure prep boils down to answering a few simple questions to set up the stakes of the story, then turning the trollbabes loose to see what happens. No detailed synopses or plot maps; just an untenable situation the trollbabe is about to barge into and set on a collision course with drama.

First up is the "where" of the adventure. The players have done the basics of this part for you, so all you have to do is put a little detail onto the name on the map. Brainstorm some visuals, some sounds and smells, and think about what sorts of scenarios the trollbabe might encounter there.

Switching hats, I'm now prepping Hrefna's first adventure. I already know she's headed to Kingsbarrow, which looks like a pretty desolate place to me. I figure it was the site of a great battle long ago, and ever since the King of Grofheim was buried on the battlefield, it's been traditional to build royal tombs in that haunted place. I'm thinking blasted moorland, incessant wind that seems to carry voices from beyond the grave, and a haze in the air that cuts visibility to almost nothing.

Once we've got the where, we need to look at the "who." For a Trollbabe adventure, no matter how desolate the place, no matter how much the trollbabe just wants to be left alone, there's always someone there. Might be humans, might be trolls (but a mix is usually best), might be a whole kingdom or just one guy, but somebody's there and doing something.

I think there's a funeral procession from Skyhorn, bringing the body of their king to be laid in his barrow. I think about trolls, but decide instead that the ghosts of the warriors who died in the battle decades ago roam these hills, denied entry to the afterlife for some reason.

Next up comes the "what." This is where we start to get formal and nail down the Stakes of the adventure. There's someone, or something, that one or more characters want. That's going to be the fulcrum for the drama of the adventure, so it needs to be significant: life or death, victory or defeat, salvation or exile, that kind of thing. Stakes are always set at the same Scale as the adventure--remember we talked about Scale in the last update? Stakes are always a concrete thing, not a goal. "To save the troll's life" isn't a Stake, the troll himself is. Stakes likewise never say anything about the trollbabes themselves--how they react to the stakes is up to the players.

The real secret here, though, is that exactly what the stakes are don't matter. As long as you pick something that can reasonably be pulled in two (or more, but two is best for ease of understanding) mutually-exclusive directions and fill the adventure with people who won't rest until the stakes go their way, you're golden. Like Ron says, if you're still stuck thinking about this after five minutes, you're taking too long.

An obvious Stake that presents itself is "the ghost-warriors;" will they make it to Valhalla or be trapped forever on earth? Since this is Hrefna's first adventure, though, the Stakes are "personal." One, maybe two people at most. I mentally revise the time frame of the battle that was fought here and decide that the Stakes are one old man in the King's funeral procession, a veteran of the battle. Will he survive or be slain by the angry ghosts?

Lastly, we revisit the "who" and nail down a few specific characters. Likely we've already done a lot of this just by figuring out our Stakes, but now we can formalize that and jot down a few (very brief) notes about who's involved. It's also a good idea to jot down a list of names that we can pull from as new characters are introduced, and maybe sketch out a map of the immediate area.

Obviously we have the old veteran, who I'll call Asbjorn. I think he was a craven and his cowardice got a lot of his battle-brothers killed. Those ghosts now want him dead for his crimes. I figure we need at least one other member of the procession to voice support for throwing the old man to the ghosts once it comes out what he did. I'll call him Dagr, and say he's the King's son and heir-presumptive, but he hasn't been approved by the council of thanes yet. Finally, the ghosts get a "face character" in the form of Grimalf, the ghost of Asbjorn's closest friend. For added injury, I think Asbjorn ended up marrying his widow when he returned home. I'll call her Torleiva, and say that maybe she's with the funeral party as well. With that, and a handy list of names culled from Kate Monk's Onomastikon, I'm ready to see how Hrefna deals with this boiling pot of drama.


G-g-g-ghost!

And that's it. I'll let Ron himself sum it up:

Trollbabe posted:

Consider what you’ve prepared so far and think about what might happen when characters get desperate. Typically, that means various permutations of property, family, and romance, which in practice become issues of theft, fraud, feud, and murder.

Therefore, Trollbabe adventures often take place in seething cauldrons of social tension. If they haven’t exploded already, then they’re about to.

All that said, however, I can’t overemphasize: do not prepare a “story.” No climax, no planned confrontation at the end, no “mission,” no nothing. When I say “no more” for prep, beyond the list of material presented here and only to the sketchy extent presented here, I really mean it.

Next Time: We'll look at how scenes are structured and how conflicts work.

GimpInBlack fucked around with this message at 18:50 on May 9, 2014

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012


Wapole Languray posted:

Not mentioned in the corebook from what I remember, though the Ottoman Empire probably has that info. I don't have the book yet as it was made for the short-lived GURPS version of the game.
I took the liberty of checking for you. The answer is...well, here it is.

"GURPS Castle Falkenstein: The Ottoman Empire posted:

1258: Mongol invaders sack Baghdad; much Magickal knowledge lost or scattered.

Not exactly a huge mention, but a mention nonetheless.

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012

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





Alien Rope Burn posted:

Well, Toon is at least focuses around the Looney Tunes / Tom and Jerry sort of cartoons, though I don't know if the supplements try and drag into other genres.

One of the big issues with BESM 2e is that it's just trivial to make broken characters - people did it all the time when playing it in my experience, without meaning to. Unless the GM is willing to redline every character sheet, it'll fall apart once somebody actually decides to max out a useful attribute or trait to the exclusion of all else.

I just remember the one game of besm d20 I played where someone made a pokémon trainer except his pokémon was a mech pilot and he could end any combat in the first turn with the massive amounts of damage he could throw out.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012



A View from the Steam Age: An Overview of Life in New Europa



Im going to start posting a lot of smaller updates more often instead of the huge ones once an eon now, so first is a short bit that quickly describes the general setting of New Europa, broken down into topic:

Steam Power is everywhere! Ships, factories, automotives, war machines, trams, elevators, and anything else they can fit a boiler and stack to. Electricity is seen as dangerous, hard to use, and rather impractical, relegating it to the domain of eccentrics and scientists. Anything to small to be steam-powered use clockworks, which are much more advanced than the equivalent in our own 1800s.

Medicine still sucks. Theyve got things like carbolic sprayers and alcohol for antiseptic purposes, and morphine and opium for anaesthetic, but thats pretty much it. Doctors still operate in their street clothes, antibiotics havent been discovered yet, and the rule of thumb is When in doubt, get the bonesaw. A bigger problem is that theres no shortage of snake-oil salesmen looking to revolutionize the medical field. Potions and elixirs of every sort, rubs and ointments and miracle pills and powders, and those will just poison you! The worst is the new fad of Galvanic Therapy, which is a fancy way of saying they shock the hell out of you for health.

Warfare is both less and more advanced that the real world. While there are primitive submarines, the Prussian Landfortress steamtanks, and turbine powered ironclad destroyers for vehicles, guns are more primitive than in our world. Most guns are breechloaders, and the sword is still an important tool of war. This is likely a concession to make Fencing actually useful in a real fight compared to guns.

Police, at least in the modern sense, dont exist. London has the famous Scotland Yard, but most towns rely on a local constable or militia. Think a combination of Wild West sheriff and Medieval Town Guard. Generally chosen by the local lord, mayor, or other figure of authority. Forensics and criminology are unheard of, theres a reason Sherlock Holmes becomes world famous, and most detectives and constables rely on a network of informants, a lot of footwork, and the occasional bribery and beating to get evidence. There are real criminal investigation organizations, such as the french Surete, or United States Secret Service, but these organizations are more focused on international crime or espionage. And dont even think about the Secret Police of countries like Russia and Prussia, seriously, they can tell when you do and they dont like it.

Punishment isnt any more advanced, Your guild and sentence are both generally up to the local judge, with a Trial by Jury being generally unknown outside of Britain, and the French at least have a tribunal to decide. The general rule is that assault is a minor offence (Unless you assault a noble or rich man), with things like theft getting the harshest penalties. In actuality though, it just depends on what the Judge feels like today. Traditional punishments include: Hanging, Guillotining, exile, getting sent to Australia or Devils Isle, or brutal labor-imprisonment ala Les Miserables.

Communications rely on horse-based postal services, telegraphs, or magic. The phone isnt invented yet, though Bell is working on it. Postal services have pick ups once a day, or up to ten times in a city, and shipped via carriage or fast horse to their destinations. Sorcerers have an advantage, as they can instantly transport a letter to the target or use magic to send the message, but good ones are rare and their time is not cheap. Telegraphs are the main method of sending information nowadays, and connect all of New Europa together, and recently even stretch across the Atlantean (not Atlantic) Ocean to America.

Media is all about the paper. Because of the cheapness of printing and an explosion of literacy thanks to higher education across the world newspapers, magazines, and books are the preferred method of information and entertainment dissemination. Popular newspapers are the Daily Telegraph and Times (London), Le Moniteur and Le Figaro (Paris), Suddeutsche Press (Bayern), and the Neue Freie Presse (Vienna). Popular magazines are Vanity Fair (Gossip and Current Events), Popular Invention(Science and Technology), and The Strand Mystery Magazine(Mystery Stories).

Travel is all about the horse, at least for most people. Hansom, carriage, or horseback is the standard method of travel for short distances or within cities and towns. For longer trips, trains are the norm, with a variety of ships for water travel, such as small steamships for rivers and seas, and steam liners and vane-clippers for crossing Oceans. Aircraft are almost unheard of, though Count Zeppelin is hard at work on his airships.

Magick is less common than youd think. First of all, real magickal talent is fairly rare, and most people go there whole lives without seeing a mage. Secondly, mages are traditionally members of various secret Lodges and Orders and therefore are rather private individuals who keep quiet about their affairs. Think high-level scientists: There arent many of them, youll never see one if you dont hang about the right sort of place, and they only occasionally make the news.

Next Time: Selected Personages of the Steam Age

NGDBSS
Dec 30, 2009








Kurieg posted:

I just remember the one game of besm d20 I played where someone made a pokémon trainer except his pokémon was a mech pilot and he could end any combat in the first turn with the massive amounts of damage he could throw out.
Any power in any RPG that gives you minions is ripe for abuse. How ripe, mind you, is based on how much ethylene the designers huffed in the process.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Kurieg posted:

I just remember the one game of besm d20 I played where someone made a pokémon trainer except his pokémon was a mech pilot and he could end any combat in the first turn with the massive amounts of damage he could throw out.

Yeah I had a summoner in a Final Fantasy-inspired game that had a lot of power not because I made the summons particularly abusive, but because I could buy a few of them and specialize each one. Of course, that didn't compare with the pilot who accidentally made his airplane have the equivalent of fully-automatic battleship guns...

... like I said, it was easy to break.

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012

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





NGDBSS posted:

Any power in any RPG that gives you minions is ripe for abuse. How ripe, mind you, is based on how much ethylene the designers huffed in the process.

The issue is when you can invest points in an item, and get more points because they're tied up in X thing. But then you can take the extra points associated with X, and spend them on Y, and then from Y on Z.


Ideally the DM steps in at some point to go "Nope, stop it." but the rules don't have a problem with it.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012


Before we get into Cerulean Seas: Indigo Ice, I decided I'd push out a snapshot related to a topic near and dear to my heart kaiju!

...No, this has nothing to do with the new Godzilla movie coming out on Friday whatsoever, why ever would you think that?



As I'm fairly sure I've said in my first review of material from The Game Mechanics, the enthusiastically pseudonymed Stan! was one of the original writers Wizards of the Coast had for d20 Modern material who happened to feel that there was more to be written about the system than what survived the cutting room floor. This is by far the smallest of such endeavors, a wee 13 pages not counting the front and back covers. Most supplements this small tend to be given out by The Game Mechanics as freebies, but for whatever reason Stan! Published this one solo as a for-purchase PDF.


As for kaiju, they probably need little introduction. The term means strange creature, as Stan!s supplement helpfully tells us, but in practice it tends to refer specifically to giant monsters. No matter what your opinion on kaiju are, youre likely to have heard of at least one at this point they have become imbedded in international pop culture at this point, from Godzilla and his prodigious rogues gallery to the fishy freaks of Guillermo del Toros Pacific Rim.


The art for Stan! Presents: Kaiju has cutesy black and white pastiches of several Toho kaiju and two enigmatic may-be-Toho-may-be-something-else critters decorating its limited pages. His references to Godzilla and King Ghidorah in particular were picked as the images Id show for the snapshots header, because theyre easiest to recognize. But who cares about that, lets actually discuss the supplement.



The Contents
After a two and a half page discussion about the history of kaiju from Godzilla and Gamera up to tokusatsu villains and a paragraph on what is and isnt a kaiju (Roland Emmerichs Zilla isnt but Ray Harryhausens Rhedosaurus is, according to our authors opinion), our first actual discussion of kaiju in a d20 game happens. Stan!s advice here ends up contradicting the direction the supplement heads in. He states fairly explicitly that kaiju are not to be the main focus of a campaign, but a big plot piece to motivate your player characters. He also states just as explicitly that kaiju are a force of nature that the heroes arent meant to fight directly.


This becomes rather confusing very quickly given that the next section after that advice is on how to stat up a kaiju. Id liken it to the whole stats for a god problem faced by D&D you have an extremely powerful entity that your heroes are not supposed to fight in the head-on murderhobo tradition, but you give them stats anyway. Rather than using the standard d20 size categories and creature types, Stan! Declares that these mighty monsters have their own size and type. The Monumental size category is given because it would apparently be more unrealistic to have a 300 foot kaiju and a 100 foot blue whale be in the same size category than it already is for the 65 foot Tarrasque and a 100 foot blue whale to be in the same size category.


The Daikaiju (giant strange creature) creature type gets a d12 for hit die like a dragon, a Base Attack Bonus of +10/+5 plus Strength, and saving throws of +12 plus ability modifiers of course for poor saves or +22 plus the modifiers for good saves. All kaiju get damage reduction 50 that is only bypassed by other kaiju, swallow whole, and trample as special qualities, which must be really awkward for the kaiju that dont have mouths or legs. Oh, and if they hit a monster that isnt a kaiju with an attack? Automatic save or die. Even if that creature may be Colossal in size or in a vehicle/mecha and probably should be able to withstand a hit or two at least.

The last part of building a kaiju are its unique special qualities, which are bought with kaiju points. Stan! recommends giving 5 to 8 kaiju points and keeping the points generally the same for all but the most powerful kaiju in the same setting. These points seem arbitrarily placed rather than all that thought out for instance, having a spiky back and tail that deals a measly 1d6 damage to other kaiju (who cannot have less than 40d12 hit dice according to Stan!s chart) costs 3 points, while being able to fly everywhere or regenerate 25 HP a round are both 2 points. For fun, I experimented with a rather famous kaiju, and it turns out that Godzilla has a total of 18 points with this system. And thats with me being generous and assuming he doesnt take the kaiju traits for extra skill points, higher ability scores, or a retaliatory strike. 5 points is recommended, and try not to go over 8 indeed.

The last bit of gaming info this supplement provides are three adventure ideas courtesy of Stan!.
  • It Came From Underground: The rural southwestern town of Red Rock Valley is under siege by a titanic mole kaiju accidentally created by the Manhattan Project. The heroes are supposed to investigate the US Department of the Interiors involvement, track down the mole, and get it to eat a long lost atom bomb buried in the desert to explode it for good.
  • The Curse of Bakemono Shrine: A giant monster of unknown description is released from its millennia-long bondage when a statue of the Shinto priest who sealed it away is stolen. Generic trampling over Japan happens and the heroes have to get the statue back from the thieves and place it in the shrine once more to stop the rampage.
  • Space Monster X: Literally the plot of the Godzilla film Invasion of the Astro Monster.



My Thoughts
Stan! Presents: Kaiju is a weird supplement. Hell, even as much as I like d20 Modern and Stan!, Im not so blind as to say that this isnt a bad supplement. It is definitely a bad supplement plagued with a sense of indecision. You have a system to create kaiju, but the heroes are not actually supposed to fight them head-on, and indeed cant really do so due to the whole damage reduction bypassed by other kaiju rule. This was written after d20 Future was already a thing, so the mecha rules were on the table, but the best mecha weapon (the far-future beam scythe held by a Colossal mecha) is still going to do no damage half of the time and deal 50 damage if it deals its maximum yield. Mechagodzilla, MOGUERA, Jet Jaguar, the jaegers of Pacific Rim? Chumps by the logic of the rules here, given that they wont be dealing nearly as much damage as even the best case scenario above.


This is where my whole its a weird supplement statement comes in. The only way the kaiju creation rules actually make sense to me is if they were meant to emulate characters playing kaiju for big ridiculous Destroy All Monsters-style battle royales. But this is something the book never mentions, not even in passing, as a possibility! Is this an oversight on Stan!s part? Cut content? Meant to be assumed even though the campaign ideas text says everything the exact opposite of that premise? I honestly dont know. There are books that manage to get the most out of the d20 system, Modern or otherwise, with atypical premises. This? This is not one of them.



EDIT: Oh, and while not important to the review, this quote from the index of good kaiju films and books should probably be quoted for who amazing it is.

Stan! posted:

Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) Probably the best choreographed of the pro-wrestling period of Godzilla films.

Fossilized Rappy fucked around with this message at 20:24 on May 12, 2014

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012





Selected Personages of the Steam Age

This is in essence a list of notable and important people who you may add to your game as NPCs, or even use as player characters if you want to. This section also establishes an important aspect of the Falkenstein setting: Fantasy is Reality. Every fictional, imaginary, or otherwise pretend person ever written of in the Victorian era, heck even set in the Victorian era, exist. THis also means all stories have likewise happened or WILL happen. Note, that just because they talk about novels in the past tense, thats no reason the PCs couldnt get involved! You dont have to set the game in 1870 after all. For example: Invaders from space piloting giant tripods really did invade Britain from a landing site in Essex. The rest youll see as we go!

    Charles Babbage: A Cambridge mathematician who invented the Babbage Calculation Engine, a primitive computer. While in the real world this was seen as an oddity, in Falkenstein it was quickly popularized and now plays a major role in New Europa. He currently works for the Lycee Analytique in Paris underneath Science Minister Jules Verne.

    Alexander Graham Bell: Scottish-American inventor. Not famous as yet, but hes working on the telephone.

    Sarah Bernhardt: Half-Faerie French actress and rising star of the Paris stage. In the real world she was one of the most famous actors of the turn of the century.

    Elizabeth and Robert Browning: Poet couple who wrote Sonnets from the Portuguese. Elizabeth is unnaturally young due to an undiscovered and unconscious talent for Magick. In the real world they were two of the Victorian eras most famous poets.

    Sir Francis Richard Burton: Im just going to quote Wikipedia here.

    Wikipedia.com posted:

    Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton KCMG FRGS (19 March 1821 20 October 1890) was an English geographer, explorer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, Egyptologist, fencer and diplomat. He was known for his travels and explorations within Asia, Africa and the Americas, as well as his extraordinary knowledge of languages and cultures. According to one count, he spoke 29 European, Asian and African languages.

    Burton's best-known achievements include traveling in disguise toMecca, an unexpurgated translation of One Thousand and One Nights(commonly called The Arabian Nights in English after early translations of Antoine Galland's French version), bringing the Kama Sutra to publication in English, and journeying with John Hanning Speke as the first Europeans to visit the Great Lakes of Africa in search of the source of the Nile. Burton's works and letters extensively criticized colonial policies of the British Empire, to the detriment of his career. He was a prolific and erudite author and wrote numerous books and scholarly articles about subjects including human behaviour, travel, falconry, fencing, sexual practices and ethnography. A characteristic feature of his books is the copious footnotes and appendices containing remarkable observations and information.

    He was a captain in the army of the East India Company, serving in India (and later, briefly, in the Crimean War). Following this, he was engaged by the Royal Geographical Society to explore the east coast of Africa and led an expedition guided by the locals and was the first European to see Lake Tanganyika. In later life, he served as British consul inFernando Po, Santos, Damascus and, finally, Trieste. He was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and was awarded a knighthood(KCMG) in 1886.

    Yeah. Oh, and he knows Magick.

    Lewis Carroll: Oxford mathematician and author of childrens novel Alice in Wonderland. In our world it was just that: A childrens book. In New Europa? Its a fictionalized textbook of alternate realities. Turns out he (And Alice Liddell) found a way to enter the Faerie Veil, the world between worlds, and his writings are a fictionalized account of their journeys.

    Captain John Carter: Confederate veteran of the American Civil War, and Warlord of Mars. Captain Carter can psychically transport himself and others to an alien world called Barsoom, where he is a warlike King. From Edgar Rice Burroughs A Princess of Mars and sequels.

    Charles Darwin: Biologist and Naturalist, formalized and popularized the Theory of Evolution. Only real difference is that hes also interested in the evolutionary ancestry of Dragons, Faeries, and Dwarfs.

    Charles Dickens: Elderly novelist, world famous, etc. etc. you know who Charles Dickens is.

    Benjamin Disraeli: Novelist, statesman, former Prime Minister. One of Queen Victorias top advisors and considered to be the British equivalent of Bismarck.

    Count Vlad Dracula: Half Unseelie Ferie offspring between a Glastig and a descendant of Vlad the Impaler. The Count currently travels around the Continent, constantly persued by the dogged Dr. Abraham van Helsing. From Bram Stokers Dracula.

    Thomas Edison: Prodigious American inventor who has created the Light Bulb, mimeograph, was paper, stock ticker, and the motion picture camera. Most famous inventor of the age, and currently runs a consulting firm in New York.

    Prince Edward: Crown Prince of England and supreme socialite. The Marlborough House Set is the whos who of British Society and he decides if you are a Who or a Who Cares.

    Phileas Fogg: World traveller and writer, famous for circling the world in 80 days (Dont believe what that Verne man writes though, he dramatized it quite a bit). Surrounded by rumors of possibly being a Faerie, an Alien, a Robot, or other such outlandish tales. From Jules Vernes Around the World in 80 Days.

    Dr. Victor Frankenstein: A Swiss medical doctor and amateur magician who tried to combine Magick and Mad Science to create artificial life. While his first attempt ended in tragedy, he survived to try again! From Mary Shelleys Frankenstein.

    Ulysses S. Grant: General of the Union Army in the American Civil War and current US President.

    Sherlock Holmes: 20 something Oxford graduate who has recently opened an office in London as a Consulting Detective. Has just started his career, and is yet to meet Dr. Watson. From Arthur Conan Doyles Sherlock Holmes stories.

    Aldous Huxley: British biologist and supporter of Darwin. Well known lecturer and scientific advocate, heavily dedicated to Progress at any cost.

    Dr. Jack Griffin: Chemist who developed an invisibility potion, the use of which seems to have driven him mad. He is now an infamous criminal, famed for his unstoppable one-man crime waves.

    Lord Kelvin (William Thomson): Mathemetician and Physicist at Glasgow University. Formost authority of physics, electricity, and specialist in Engine Magic (More on that later) and member of the Second Compact (Likewise, but it means hes a Good Guy).

    Abraham Lincoln: Former president of the United States. Won the Civil War, ended American slavery, and survived an attempted assassination thanks to Magickal aid to go on and finish Reconstruction.

    Lady Ada Lovelace: Daughter of Lord Byron and assisstant to Charles Babbage. The worlds first computer programmer, and member of the Temple of Ra, a pro-superscience magickal organization.

    Ludwig the First: Grandfather of Ludwig II, famous architect, known to be loony. Married to exotic dancer Lola Montez, and now travels the world acting as a great patron of the arts.

    Karl Marx: Political scientist and inventor of Communism. Head of the Anarchist Brotherhood, a secret organization of political activists dedicated to bringing about a Communist Utopia.

    Professor Moriarty: Criminal Mastermind and head of the World Crime League! Future arch-nemesis of Sherlock Holmes, though now his greatest foe is the dogged Captain Nemo and his sometime ally Phileas Fogg. From Arthur Conan Doyles Sherlock Holmes stories.

    Emperor Norton I: Formerly a colorful San Francisco local and street-kook, he has been elected President/Emperor of the newly formed Bear Flag Republic/Empire.

    Dr. Richard Owen: Pioneer of Paleontology and discoverer of Dinosaurs.

    Rudolf Rassendyl: English Gentleman and look-alike to the King of the small German nation of Ruritania. Helped foil a Bismarckian plot to conquer Ruritania by imprisoning the king and replacing him with his pro-Prussian half-brother. From Alexander Hopes The Prisoner of Zenda.

    Robur the Conqueror: Airship designer and would-be world conqueror. Pilot of the Albatross, a 200 foot long proto-Helicopter. Aerial Pirate and member of the World Crime League. From Jules Vernes Master of the Air.

    The Time Traveller: A man of unknown identity who has invented a functioning time machine! Suspected to be a sorcerer as well as a master inventor, he appears mysteriously to shape history to change a future only he knows of. So, basically Doctor Who. From H.G. Wells The Time Machine.

    Dr. Abraham van Helsing: Dutch vampire hunter and occultist. Archfoe of Count Dracula, and dedicated to destroying all vampires and other evil creatures in the world. From Bram Stokers Dracula.

    Dr. Jules Verne: Inventor and Novelist. Minister of Science for Napoleon III, he comes up with the concepts and his teams of engineers and scientists make them reality.

    Queen Victoria: Queen of England and the most powerful woman in the world. Stubborn, autocratic and single minded, shes helped by a massive cabinet of Ministers and the fact that shes a relation to almost every crowned head in New Europa. Unfortunately shes heavily influenced by the Steam Lords (Later!).

    Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin: Inventor of the lighter-than-air craft, and former Union officer during the Civil War. Head of Bismarcks fledgeling Luftwaffen Airship Corps.

Next time: Secret Agents and Secret Societies

Asimo
Sep 23, 2007




Alien Rope Burn posted:

... like I said, it was easy to break.
Absurdly easy. Really, once Mutants & Masterminds 2e came about BESM was basically done (er, ignoring all the horrible business ideas that dragged GOO under anyway). There was basically nothing it could do that BESM couldn't, except it used a familiar rule system and had much tighter balance. Which... says a lot, since M&M is really easy to break too (ESP and perception-range attacks? Summoning multiple minions or other force multipliers?). BESM3e piling on even more complexity with limited balance improvements and its limited print run sealed that deal.

Not that I'll ever really hate BESM. 1e was a charmingly clunky rules-light game, and 2e had the "price skills by how useful they are in the genre of the campaign" thing that more universal systems really, really needed to copy. Although I guess we haven't seen many of those recently, have we? I guess the 90's were the heyday of those...

MalcolmSheppard
Jun 24, 2012
MATTHEW 7:20


Toon would work great as the Regular Show RPG, if you replaced some of the tables.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Rifts Sourcebook Three: Mindwerks posted:

Warning!



Rifts Sourcebook Three: Mindwerks posted:

Violence and the Supernatural



Rifts Sourcebook Three: Mindwerks posted:

This book may be inappropriate for young readers.



Rifts Sourcebook Three: Mindwerks posted:

The fictional world of Mindwerks and Rifts is violent, deadly, and filled with supernatural monsters. Other- dimensional beings often referred to as "demons," torment, stalk, and prey on humans. Other alien life forms, monsters, and demigods, as well as magic, insanity and mind altering cybernetics are all elements in this book.

Some players may find the violence and supernatural elements of the game inappropriate for young readers/players.



Rifts Sourcebook Three: Mindwerks posted:

Note that Rifts, Mindwerks, Triax and all our role- playing books are works of fiction! NONE of the monsters, characters, magic, powers or depictions are real. None of us at Palladium Books condone or encourage the occult, the practice of magic, the use of drugs, or violence.



Rifts Sourcebook Three: Mindwerks - Part One: "There are enough adventure ideas, sub-plots, intrigue
and danger to keep a campaign running for a year (heck, maybe a decade!). Enjoy."


All the folks that have run a Rifts campaign for a decade, please stand up. Also, get the gently caress out.


All that brain is missing is spinners and underglow lights.

Why all the ? Well, it's time for a book that's all-Siembieda once again with Rifts Sourcebook Three: Mindwerks. How does it relate to the other sourcebooks? It doesn't! At all! It's the overflow material from Rifts World Book Five: Triax & the NGR. It would have been better to call it World Book Six or World Book Five-Point-Five, but that would imply some level of consistency to what the Sourcebook series is about.

A Few Opening Words


"We are strongly considering shooting you at this point!"

Siembieda opens up mentioning this is essentially all the material they couldn't fit into Rifts World Book Five, but emphasizes it was all part of his master plan and isn't just throwaway stuff. He also mentions Rifts Mercenaries coming out shortly, along with Rifts South America, Rifts Undersea, and Rifts Dimension Book Two: Phase World for 1994, which all ends up being true, as all of those projects will largely be written by CJ Carella, who is a deadline-hitting machine.

Next: No faffing about this time - Mindworks! Mindwurks? Mindwirks! Mindwerks? Mindwyrks! Well, that's enough of that.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



Alien Rope Burn posted:

Next: No faffing about this time - Mindworks! Mindwurks? Mindwirks! Mindwerks? Mindwyrks! Well, that's enough of that.

Mindverks. And I love this book. From the PC race that is just three long static statblocks to the company that makes lovely robots.

Nostalgia4ColdWar
May 7, 2007

Good people deserve good things.

Till someone lets the winter in and the dying begins, because Old Dark Places attract Old Dark Things.


That's the book that gave my campaign the fun stuff because I stopped trying to make it make sense.

Brodkil on jetskis!

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

I remember looking forward to Mindwerks because there was a chance that Crazies would suck less. I know, who in their right mind would play one? But still... and... yeah.

And there's the cover. Which is perfectly nice, if you don't dwell on the borg boobs or the apparent gargoyles in the background, whose bio-regeneration would cause them to spit those metal brains out like watermelon seeds.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Yes.

We are told later on that gurgoyles can get enhanced brains.

Those are not gurgoyles in the illustration. Those are gargoyles.

So that illustration can't actually exist in-setting.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



Alien Rope Burn posted:

Yes.

We are told later on that gurgoyles can get enhanced brains.

Those are not gurgoyles in the illustration. Those are gargoyles.

So that illustration can't actually exist in-setting.

Awww sure it can. You just can't see the little white strip on the polaroid where she wrote "First Experiment: Two minutes before they all regenerated and killed all my spare AIM henchmen! We were all so naive then."

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Sure!

I would presume a gargoyle minus brain would be dead and unable to regenerate, but that's one of innumerable things that Rifts doesn't really detail.

Nostalgia4ColdWar
May 7, 2007

Good people deserve good things.

Till someone lets the winter in and the dying begins, because Old Dark Places attract Old Dark Things.


I figured she was building/modding infiltration units.

Moto42
Jul 14, 2006



You guys are thinking to hard about Rifts.

Valatar
Sep 26, 2011

A remarkable example of a pathetic species.


Lipstick Apathy



ALTERNITY
The 'oh God why am I doing this' edition.

Alternity has been covered.

So this is not an attempt to do the usual FATAL chapter by chapter book review; anyone curious about it can read one of the earlier posts, assuming that the archives are ever fixed. Despite the broken archives, the newer Alternity posts are still accessible if anyone needs refreshing on the basics.

What this is is a quick-ish skim over the high and low points of the system. I believe that Alternity is a mostly-overlooked diamond in the rough for roleplaying games, thanks to TSR's horrible incompetence. It had everything it needed to make for an epic system, and if it had gotten better support I think it would not have fallen through the cracks.

Where Alternity shines.

Alternity's resolution system is fantastic in its verisimilitude. Where most games have just a pass/fail or a crit/pass/fail setup, Alternity has amazing/good/ordinary/fail/critical fail, providing a much clearer picture to a GM to work from than, 'Um, okay, you succeed.' In many cases, the system is set up to take the degree of success into account when a skill is checked. Most notably, weapon damage hinges completely on how well one does with an attack roll, and even some bum with a knife can put you on the floor if they stick the knife in the right spot, instead of just being a nuisance like you would find in most systems. And while characters may purchase more stun/wound/mortal boxes during their career, people don't magically become more resistant to bullets just by being more experienced. Additional nice touches abound, like being knocked out lasting for a realistic amount of time (as short as about ten seconds before waking up), and secondary stun damage getting through armor, because taking a magazine of bullets to the chest still puts you in a world of hurt even if you're in body armor. Additionally, taking any mortal damage whatsoever means that a character is loving dying, because getting a bullet in your liver is actually sort of a big deal, and it's kind of important to get them to a doctor sooner rather than later. A suitably tough person can hang on for hours after receiving a terrible wound, but they'll eventually die without real medical attention.

The system also streamlines play in several areas by favoring giving the acting player bonuses or penalties derived from their target rather than making the target engage in a contested roll. The situation die lets you work an opponent's efforts into just the one resolution roll. Trying to shoot some slippery fucker? Well his juiced-up dexterity gives you a two-step penalty, the bad light gives you another step, and the medium range is a fourth step, so add a d12 into that roll, the results of which will tell you whether you hit and how well you hit in one fell swoop.

While Alternity is a class-based system, your skills are what really make a character. Players are not locked into fixed archetypes, so while for example a free agent is going to be able to be a rambunctious gambler for less investment than a combat specialist would, there is nothing at all keeping you from having a combat specialist who makes a living hustling the poker tables in Vegas on weekends. There are no artificial class-based constraints on how good a character is at a skill.

Alternity's luck analogue, last resort points, costs experience to refresh. Unlike systems where willpower or luck or fate or whatever refreshes after every session or after sleeping or some other short interval, using a last resort point in Alternity is actually a big deal. As the name sort of implies. They still exist as an option for players to use, but you won't see anyone rerolling their dice half a dozen times on every gaming night.

The generalities of the setting are very interesting. The technologies are very advanced in some places, and somewhat utilitarian in others. By and large it's not at Star Trek levels of magic science, but then you find that they have pistols that shoot black holes. I suspect it's intentionally set up to give players something to do rather than sit around like George Jetson while a ship's computer handles every task for them, but the result is a weird vibe that appeals to me. I also generally like all of the alien PC races. Philosophical warrior-poet wookies with flintlocks, eight-eyed bat people, psychic greys, hyperactive lizards, and borged-out cyber people all bring interesting things to the table.

Where Alterntity stinks.

Remember when I praised Alternity's verisimilitude? Well that falls right on its face when you go into some of the more specialized rules. Vehicular and starship combat is a mess of maneuver templates meant to be played on a hex mat. Hacking is vague at best. In the case of vehicular and starship combat, I've found that it's best to just throw out the hex mat and play it like FTL: Instead of wasting time on charting out the position changes caused by a barrel roll on a mat, keep it to, 'There's a ship. It is X distance away,' and then let the players just describe what they want to do. Hacking was fixed somewhat in the Dataware splatbook which gave some actual detail about how computers and communication are supposed to work in the setting. It's still not Shadowrun, but people aiming to misbehave with computers have more to work with than they would with only the core book.

5% of the time, Einstein fatally irradiates himself. Coming from second edition D&D, Alternity suffers from the same unforgiving critical failure as 2nd edition psionics: Rolling a natural 20 fucks a character. (Low is good in Alternity.) Fortunately that one's easy to house-rule; I simply amend that to 'Rolling a natural 20 is a critical fumble only if the roll is also a failure.' If the roll involves a favorable situation die, it's very possible for a player to roll a 20 on the base die but still succeed after the situation die modifies the result. In those instances, I'm not going to arbitrarily turn a success into a failure. I will taint the success in some way to reflect the bad luck, if the situation allows for it, but I won't turn the success into a failure, and definitely not turn the success into a critical failure.

The Stardrive setting sucks. I like the species, I like the technology, and I like some of the social stuff, but by and large Stardrive is tedious and boring. There are something like twenty different governments described as existing as major players in interstellar space, and of those twenty about three are actually interesting. And while Bad Things are happening on the fringe of human space with mysterious aliens being all evil, and while there are supposedly secret plots going on among the nations, not much is actually going on for some ninety-nine percent of the population in the setting. It basically has the feel of the more mediocre 2nd edition D&D settings. Planets are described here and there, and there are some 'dungeons' in the form of alien space stations floating around, and there are bad guys doing bad things, somewhere. The rest? It's all just one big ???. The setting has some nice touches, I'm personally fond of VoidCorp, a company that grew so large that it became its own interstellar nation, within which every person is an employee with a serial number instead of a name and more or less enslaved for life. But the fun bits are few and far between.

Generating a character gives seizures to people who can't handle math. The Amazing/Good/Ordinary/Fail division of skill levels is not something that's ever given me any problem, but I've encountered players who had an awful time working out what numbers go where. Once a character has been made it's not really a problem any longer, as the character sheets have fairly clear places to put all the numbers down, but some players may need the help of someone who can perform basic math.

Advice

Get the various splatbooks. Dataware in particular is very useful in that it both fixes holes in the computer rules, adds more detail to AIs, and provides rules for making robotic PCs. The core books try to stuff a whole lot of content into not a lot of pages, so some of the optional stuff like cybernetics and psionics are not very fleshed out.

Be ready to improv. Alternity never got deeply expanded, and never got very polished. As a result, some of the rules are either too vague to be useful on their own, or are just bad. The rules that did get polished are fantastic examples of what more roleplaying games should strive for, but sometimes you're going to wind up with a situation not covered in any book and just have to wing it. Be prepared for this.

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk




I played Alternity all through high school, and the biggest gripes my group came up with were the overtly convoluted skill system, and the fact that the classes are either non-functional or actually work oppositely the way they're described.

The skill system struck me as some kind of malignant outgrowth of the 2E D&D Non-Weapon Proficiency system, where in order to shoot a bow and arrow, you now had to have Primitive Weapons -> Medium Distance Weapons -> Mechanical Energy Delivery System -> Bow & Arrow. I think that they game should have either used exclusively Broad Skills or Specialty skills and just given the axe to the other half.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Rifts Sourcebook Three: Mindwerks - Part Two: "What makes her all the more inhuman and menacing is her condescending and motherly demeanor."

Mindwerks

M.O.M Technology

Mindwerks, as it turns out, is a German company that pre-dated the rifts. They were into cameras and other recording devices for the most part, which makes their name really just kind of confusing. But it starts to actually fit once they start becoming interested in parapsychology as a research avenue... because!

Then, there was a South American company... wait, South America is a country? You can't say "Brazilian" or "Peruvian"? Come on. Anyway, there was this South American company named Psytronics that had claimed to create implants to tap the power of the human mind. What power that is, who knows. It's the start of the M.O.M. technology, or Mind Over Matter, which should be familiar to those who remember the Rifts corebook as the technology which is the Best Plan Ever and is used to create Crazies, which are also the Best Plan ever.

Mindwerks started a partnership with Psytronics to pursue this line of research, and they did succeed at making people who were physically superhuman, and believed they could even induce psychic powers. It was seen as the hot new thing, at least until Mindwerks' more inhumane experiments came to light. Worse yet, after several years of having the implants, people started to lose their minds. When those with M.O.M. technology lost their minds, some even becoming homicidal and going on rampages, the company was ruined, and barely survived the turmoil... at least until the rifts came.

The Dawn of a New Era

The technology was rediscovered after the Rifts, but often implemented in a more crude fashion, hence the big metal cylinders jammed into the heads of the corebook Crazies. A lot of the civilized nations like the Coalition or NGR want nothing to do with the technology, so it's usually traded illegally. Of the few groups doing widespread distribution of the technology is Mindwerks in Europe.

Of course, most post-apocalypse survivors just know Mindwerks as a mysterious, perhaps-mythical group that kidnaps people to do insane experiments on them, maybe on another world, maybe to turn them into monsters, etc. They often refer to an "Angel of Death" who is a maybe a demon or maybe a woman with the soul of a demon or witch or whatever, look, I'll let Siembieda wax on about this...

Rifts Sourcebook Three: Mindwerks posted:

The most popular story is among the gypsies and wilderness peasants says that The Angel of Death is an inhuman monster with the face of a beautiful woman but a body of living metal. She is said to speak in a commanding yet soft, gentle, sexy voice. Many report that she caresses and touches her victims in a loving manner, even as she cracks open her skull or performs some terrible act of torture. She tries to comfort those she experiments on by telling them she's going to give them a great "gift" and/or make them "more powerful" than they could ever imagine. Of course, she ignores people who decline her "gift" or who plead for mercy and freedom. No captive is released until Death Witch has their way with them.

... and wax off.

The Truth Behind Mindwerks

The truth is that Mindwerks had a newly-build facility - with only a skeleton crew of 450 - that survived the rifts (shock of shocks), led by one of Mindwerks' owners, Angel Herrenisel. A good number died early on, and she locked the place down after some early deaths on the outside, living largely in the underground facility for 55 years and emerging because, you know, I guess their 55 year egg timer went off. They hooked up with neighboring kingdom and lived there in peace and harmony until a rival kingdom blew it up. Angel and her daughter were horribly burned by the attack, Angel was made into a cyborg by Mindwerks, lost her mind, and had her child made into a cyborg. She became obsessed with revenge, and a good number of Mindwerks employees left as a result, while others tried to overthrow her. She murdered them. Some stayed, though, for their own safety or to get revenge on...

... wait. Who are they getting revenge on? Well, let's just forget about that for a bit.

The Legend Begins ...

So, Angel starts to kidnap people and monsters and does terrible experiments. What are these experiments? Who knows, she's evil! And she goes more and more crazy because she's a cyborg and cyborgs go crazy. I know it doesn't happen to other cyborgs in the setting, but let's just go with this.

It turns out some of the monsters she captured actually welcomed her experimentation, enjoying the power and giving no fucks about the price. So a group of Brodkil approached her (how they found about her Explicitly Secret Hideout, I dunno), and offered their service in exchange for implants, and so there are some Brodkil running around as crazies. It's become a tradition for her to give them M.O.M. implants hnow, and they give her loyalty in return.

Oh, and there's an offhand mention that the Mindwerks HQ is in "Poland near the Czechoslovakia border". Good to know.

The Angel of Death


Having sexy Nazi references is the height of taste.

We get a recap of the legends about her, ho hum, and it details that she has no regard for human life, is sadistic, loves to torture, rebuild people as cyborgs, hunt the most dangerous game... and yet describes her as somebody who plays it safe and doesn't take risks. Look, taking strangers into your house and buzzsawing their limbs off isn't the mark of a cautious person. She's obsessed with avenging herself against Triax, except... uh, Triax was never involved in her background? I guess they were the corporate rivals of Mindwerks, but it's not example the best leap of logic. Oh, and she wants to avenge herself on all of humanity. Sure, whatever.

If she sounds familiar to those have been following from the start, it's because her background is 80% identical to Archie-3 from Rifts Sourcebook. They're both involved with pre-rifts corporations, they both lead those corporations though the coming of the rifts, they both survived in underground, secret bunkers, they both go out after survival and meet the survivors in peace, they both then have their peaceful communities attacked savagely and brutally, they both go mad as a result, they both lose most or all of their remaining employees, they both develop god complexes, they both develop sadism, they both operate in secret afterwards, they both create "legends" and are not widely acknowledged to be real, they both have mechanical themes and robotic minions, they both often kidnap people for sinister and cruel purposes, etc.

She's also worked out some better M.O.M. implants that make people stronger or give them psychic powers, but we'll get to those later. Oh, and she has a special implant that keeps her brain alive despite her years as a cyborg that nobody else knows about. Just FYI.

In any case, she isn't vastly overpowered for a Rifts villain. Oh, sure, she's a 15th level cyber-doc, so she has great skills, and she's fairly tough as a full conversion cyborg, but that's all relatively mild compared to somebody like Splynncryth. She has no magic, no psionics, some great combat bonuses, but only a lousy vibro-blade to protect herself with. Definitely more of the mastermind sort.

Randomly, it notes that Mindwerks sponsors several body chop-shops (places what give you the cybers), and there's a 15% chance of her being present at one! Also there's a 25% change of the Angel of Vengeance (up next) or Marsalis (up next next) will be there. So there's only a 3.25% of encountering these two villains at once, which should make them easier to defeat just by trolling their chop-shops until you score free villainy (because Siembieda, not good at math).

Angel of Vengeance


Not really angelic in any sense.

So, this is Angel's daughter, and has basically been a cyborg forever, and is "obsessed with hate", but hate of what isn't terribly clear. She's really defensive regarding her mother and will come after anything that threatens her mom and kill, kill, kill. Not much of a personality here. There's not even really a discussion of why she's loyal or anything like that or what it was like to have a sadistic, abusive mom. Ugh, boring.

We get numbers for her, she's a unique full conversion cyborg with high locations and... robo-high heels. She's a very competent combatant, but still largely obeys the limitations of PC cyborgs. Also, she has a loving ridiculous rune sword called "Striker" which does decent damage, can cast some fire spells, and gives her all sensitive and physical psychic powers plus a psi-shield, group mind block, and hydrokinesis. Of course, naturally, fire spells and psychic control of water. Rifts!

Oh, and she can fire the spikes off her head as weapons, because of the Siembieda mindset that anything that could conceivably be statted as a weapon on an illustration must be one.

Marsalis


This skull guy is different! Sunglasses! See?

This is a mysterious unique and special alien who was captured by the Angel of Death, and was already evil and crazy beforehand, so it turns out her experimentation didn't change his disposition much. He's... sadistic and cruel, fanatically loyal to the main villain for no stated reason, pull out the Siembieda villain mold, pour him in, bam, you're fuckin' done and I'm fuckin' done.

Oh, and he looks skeletal and demonic! I need to start a Rifts bingo card for NPCs, because these characters would loving match it every time.

Stat-wise, he's got some armor and natural M.D.C., but isn't too hardy for a villain. He has some decent psionics and combat ability, but nothing to really stop a party of PCs from rolling over him. Oh, and he has 50 million credits, because Mindwerks, despite its near-bankruptcy, was apparently built on Scrooge McDuck's money tower.

Typical Human Technician


A typical human technician.

Sooo, it gives a generic statblock for the remaining Mindwerks employees. Most are human, but some are brodkil or "other". They aren't really combatants, though a good deal of them are crazies. It's not clear how the gently caress Mindwerks herds cats crazies, even with explosive chips in their heads. They are, as you may have guessed, "sadistic and cruel bullies" and "many suffer from delusions of grandeur" and they hate humans (even though most of them are human) and hate Triax (no reason given).

Some of them have 4d6 x 10,000 credits because as a secret organization in a secret location that doesn't trade with anybody but a group of face-eating savages, they can earn money by

Next: M.O.M. loves you.

Valatar
Sep 26, 2011

A remarkable example of a pathetic species.


Lipstick Apathy

homeless poster posted:

I played Alternity all through high school, and the biggest gripes my group came up with were the overtly convoluted skill system, and the fact that the classes are either non-functional or actually work oppositely the way they're described.

The skill system struck me as some kind of malignant outgrowth of the 2E D&D Non-Weapon Proficiency system, where in order to shoot a bow and arrow, you now had to have Primitive Weapons -> Medium Distance Weapons -> Mechanical Energy Delivery System -> Bow & Arrow. I think that they game should have either used exclusively Broad Skills or Specialty skills and just given the axe to the other half.

Most players tend to only pay close attention to specialty skills. Given that one can never be all that good at a broad skill, they really just serve to round out a character in the 'things the character knows how to do but isn't a pro at' category. In general broad skills could be ignored, but they don't really hurt anything through their inclusion and they do add some depth and options to characters that wouldn't otherwise exist. After all, it's not like the specialty skills are at all derived from the broad skills, you just need to get a broad skill before you can get a specialty of it. There's no need to consult the Primitive Ranged Weapon skill to shoot a bow, you just look at your score on the Bow skill and roll it.

As for the classes, I don't see how they work counter to their descriptions. Combat specs get a bonus to combatty stuff. Diplomats are jacks-of-all-trades with free contacts. Free agents are lucky and harder to kill. Tech ops are smarties who get extra skill points. None of the classes give a night and day difference from the others with just minor bonuses here or there, but I actually like that about them.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

Valatar posted:

Alternity's luck analogue, last resort points, costs experience to refresh.

This should always be filed under 'where X System stinks'. Alternity, Shadowrun, 7th Sea, Earthdawn, whatever: requiring a player to permanently burn XP to affect a roll, leaving their character that much worse off than the rest of the party, making them that much more likely to have to do it again in the future, is a bad rule. It's just as easy to give everyone a do-over that refreshes once a session or even once an adventure if you want them to have the opportunity to invoke adventurer's luck, but not doing it every time they go to the bathroom and want to make sure there's TP on the roll.

Alien Rope Burn posted:


This skull guy is different! Sunglasses! See?

Oh, awesome. I'll let Iron Maiden know we found their mascot.

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006



Bieeardo posted:

Oh, awesome. I'll let Iron Maiden know we found their mascot.

I'm pretty sure there's a whole race of Eddie the Head in RIFTS. Or, I should say, at least one whole race, because there's a lot of similar D-Bees.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



Moto42 posted:

You guys are thinking to hard about Rifts.

Impossible. No such thing. I sit around all night making Rifts characters and making my girlfriend also make Rifts characters.

ThisIsNoZaku
Apr 22, 2013

Pew Pew Pew!


theironjef posted:

making my girlfriend also make Rifts characters.

That's cool. Say, what's your home address and is there a phone number your local law enforcement agency has for receiving tips?

Just curious.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Moto42 posted:

You guys are thinking to hard about Rifts.

Welcome to FATAL & Friends!

That is what we do here.

Rifts Sourcebook Three: Mindwerks - Part Three: "Brain damage causes a reduction of the character's I.Q. by half, but instills savant powers!"

M.O.M. Technology

And now the book abruptly switches topics.

Who can get M.O.M. (crazies) Implants

Yes. Who can get crazies implants?

Well, it lists humans, true atlanteans (Rifts World Book Two: Atlantis), Altara warrior women (Atlantis, again), ogres (Rifts Conversion Book), orcs (Conversion), elves (Conversion), giants (conversion), brodkil (Rifts Sourcebook), and gurgoyles (Rifts World Book Five: Triax & the NGR). It then claims that most supernatural creatures can't use the implants, but then does an amazing series of gyrations to claim that gurgoyles and brodkil aren't real demons, but sub-demons. This distinction will likely never be important again.

It puts a point on that if you shapechange, have natural magic powers, are "clearly a supernatural creature" (whatever that means), or can't use bionics, you can't get the implants. The Brodkil are an exception, but to be fair, that's been their schtick since their inception. It also notes that if you have superhuman strength or healing or whatnot, that can't enhance it more than you already have.

We then get a table of brain damage from having the implants put in!... but it's not clear when you're supposed to roll on it. Do all crazies get brain damage? Only some? It doesn't say. "Personally, I like the random approach." Ugh, of course you do, Siembieda. Ironically, some of the brain damage is beneficial. Some examples:
  • Brain damage reduces your IQ, but gives you imperviousness to all mind control, plus bonuses against illusions and fear. Quite the positive trade, since if you don't have an exceptional IQ (which only 2% of normal PCs will), it's nothing but pure bonus.
  • Brain damage raises 1d4+1 skills to 98% and the rest of your skills are -20% or -40%. Could be quite beneficial, depending on how well you rolled.
  • Involuntary Spasms and seizure occurs whenever the GM wants to make you useless, or just make you fall apart during a fight and flop about. Whee! This random stuff sure is great!
  • You get psychic ESP flashes about people you care about, but it also makes you lose attacks and get distracted if there's a combat on. Once again, whenever and whatever the GM wants.
  • Hyperactivity, and your ADHD self gets a bonus to initiative, but a penalty to any extended task. You're also always late to things by 2d6 minutes, for people that actually track that. "Where were you at the big battle? We needed you, man!" "Sorry, I'm always 2d6 minutes late!"
One table of random fuckery? Nah! Here another for insanities, which has new crazy stuff plus refers back to the original insanity table. The all seem to be Angel of Death-centered, so presumably these tables are for people she's hosed with, but it doesn't really say who or when you roll on these tables. Random tables for jerk GMs, I guess.
  • Phobia of the Angel of Death. I hope you didn't want to get revenge on these people, because you'll curl into a little ball whenever she's around.
  • You have the Angel of Death in your head that tells you to do things contrary to your alignment, and if your alignment shifts because of that, she then tells stuff contrary to that.
  • Sadistic... because of loving course. It's like the Rifts version of herpes. "Don't get too close to the Angel of Death, I hear she has sadism."

Physical M.O.M. Augmentation


"No, man, you look... great."

It notes that a character can have two (three, if the GM likes you) of these implants without switching to the Crazy O.C.C. It doesn't say how you do that, but presumably it'd be like switching to the Borg O.C.C. in core (which sucks, you have to relevel to your previous level all over again with no benefit). It notes that physical and psynetic implants can only be combined in certain ways or otherwise you get brain damage (well, see the previous tables) and 1d4 insanities (same). You can be a partial cyborg and a crazy, but your borg parts get none of your bonuses for M.O.M. implants. Also, they can be removed, but any brain damage or insanity remains.

So here are some implants. Each one gets a special table of insanity you have to roll when you take one.
  • Brain Programming: Gain five skills at 88%, but this has the worst table, where you might lose eight other skills permanently or you get short-term memory loss (for real).
  • Enhanced Healing: You get a bonus againse poisons and disease and heal faster... but since this is an M.D.C. game, most of the time you'll just be worrying about losing your head. Not very useful.
  • Enhanced Physical Endurance: You're tougher - not that such matters if you're S.D.C. - but at least you get tired only one-tenth as quick. Mind, there are no firm rules for fatigue, but there you have it.
  • Enhanced Speed: You run about 4 MPH faster and can leap really high. But there are no movement rules, so...
  • Eternal Brain: This lets your brain live forever as a cyborg, but only the Angel of Death and Angel of Vengeance have it, you can't, nyah nyah. It's also an exception to the rule that total conversion cyborgs can't have implants, of course.
  • Hyper Sense: Gives a variety of small combat bonuses, probably one of the best implants because most of the insanity stuff is bullshit throwaway stuff like "is fidgety" or "takes foolish chances", and it's actually valid in just about any combat.

It should be noted how crap the insanity tables are, since stuff like Enhanced Healing can make you into a psychopathic megalomaniac... you know, since you can heal twice as fast. Or Enhanced Speed, which can make you into a sadistic bully... because you can run fast? It doesn't really follow.

Other Implants of Note

These are some implants Mindwerks uses which aren't so helpful for their hosts.
  • Brain Wave Identifier: This lets Mindwerks identify you by your brain waves (?), which is mostly used as a means of internal security.
  • Controller Chip: This messes when your mind to inflict severe penalities and crippling effects when you meet a specific requirement, like "attacking the Angel of Death" or "gives less than one's all at work (must give at least 95%)".
  • Explosive Chip: They can make your head go boom. 50% chance of instant death, 25% chance of becoming a vegetable with no recovery, or 25% chance of becoming a Lenny and childlike, where you lose almost all your skills, and then -50% on those, and most of your attacks, your IQ is reduced to 1d4, and "2d4 x 10%" of your memories and why doesn't the table just let you die.
  • Tracking Device: For tracking.

Psynetics


WARFACE.

These are M.O.M. (mommmm!) implants that enhance psychic powers, but don't create them. The same limitations from physical implants still apply. For whatever reason - it doesn't give one - if you're from a non-Crazy O.C.C., you lose skills and even can gain skill penalities for having these. They also get a special Mindwerks explosive device in them that makes it so anybody tampering with them causes them to explode (and the user's brain along with it), lest Mindwerks' lose their recipe for their special sauce. Granted, it seems nobody's thought to use Telemechanics or an EMP pulse or the like...

On to the implants! A lot of these require a specific power to be enhanced, and generally require a roll on the insanity or brain damage tables, often per each implant. Given that the expectation is that you may have two or even three implants,
  • Advanced Sixth Sense: Like regular sixth sense, but you can actually get a glimpse of the danger in question, or sweep an area for dangers like traps or hidden foes. Oh, and you go insane.
  • Amplified Telemechanics: This lets you actually let you lock down or control any machine that isn't attached to something sentient (like a sentient robot or cyborg parts), so you can just take over Glitter Boys with this, but you're basically stunned while you do so. "Crazies with this implant tend to be maniacs and love to use high-tech weapons and machines to reap mayhem. Most find chaos, riots, panic, and destruction to be exhilarating." OMG, STFU. Well, I guess this makes you insane too.
  • Ectoplasmic Disguise: You can make ecto-putty to do lovely disguises. Seriously, it's got an 80% chance of disguise "from a distance", but 12% "under close inspection". Congratulations, you took brain damage for psychic face-putty when you actually could have just picked up the (already more effective) disguise skill instead.
  • Kinesis Engine: You can get a kinetic psychic power even if you're non-psychic (hydrokinesis, telekinesis, electrokinesis, or pyrokinesis). Also, you go insane.
  • Nano-Amplifiers: These nanites boost all aspects of your psychic powers (damage, range, duration), but you start to have psychic deterioration after five months and your powers become lovely and uncontrollable. The only way to recover is to get new nanites from Mindwerks, or have all your psychic powers reduced by half forever. But at least you won't go crazy!
  • Psionic Defense System: For non-psychics mostly, this gives imperviousness to most forms of ESP and mind reading, plus saving bonuses against all other psionic powers... but you have both brain damage and insanity. Nobody can read your brain, but your brain isn't worth reading anymore... psionics can take this too, but it reduces your power levels by half and blocks them from using mind-reading powers.
  • Psionic Inducer: This gives a non-psionic from random psionic power. Wait, there aren't any random psionic power tables... "G.M. can assign each power a number in numerical order, then he or the player can roll the appropriate number of dice." i.e: Write your own random tables, GMs. Oh, and you take brain damage.
  • Psionic Nullifier: This is an implant the nullifies most of the subject's psionic powers; you have to make a saving throw to use them, and only get a fraction of your psychic power. There's a 5% chance of brain damage or death (it doesn't specify which) when removed, or 1% if removed by Mindwerks. May I suggest an cheaper implant: a bullet.
  • Psychometric Amplifier: This gives psionics extra powers and Inner Strength, but hey! Welcome to Brain Damage country, population: you.
  • Psychometric Booster: Improves the overall power level of existing psionic powers, but reduces your Inner Strength and guess what's in the box? That's right! Brain damage!
  • Psynetic Eye: This is a cyber-eye hooked up to a psionic implant, which in addition to being a rad cyber-eye, lets you see invisible and astral and aura stuff, and shoot a lightning bolt that can hurt "astral beings". There have been no astral beings detailed in the game. Oh, insanity and brain damage, for the record.
  • Telekinetic Extensions: These are cybernetic limbs controlled by telekinesis... but really, there's nothing that much special about them. They're actually weaker than most bionic limbs, with the only difference being you can have special psionic weapons installed that aren't terribly impressive (fire a 2d6 lightning bolt!)... and you get brain damage and insanity.
  • TK Force Field Auto-Defense: This creates a force field that automatically erects to face attacks. Really sounds like the kind of thing that should be a psionic power, not an implant, but... it has really crappy M.D.C. for the most part, but it's decent at higher levels. Granted, you can just re-create it after it falls if you have enough Inner Strength... but, of course, it'll drive you insane.
  • Telepathic Sender: Gives telepathic communication with other people who have the same implant at a higher range at a whopping 1000 ft., so basically shouting distance. Mercifully, having a crappy psychic walkie-talkie in your head does not drive you insane or give you brain damage.

Some of these are interesting, like the Psynetic Eye or the Force Field Auto-Defense, but not only does Mindwerks get to be the proud owner of your rear end, but you're brain damaged or insane in any myriad number of ways, and likely nonfunctional as a party member. It's perhaps the worst pass-agg mechanic I've seen in Rifts so far. Crazies are already generally disliked for their monkeycheese random antics, and this makes them useless and hapless. Let's see, let's try some rolls for a character with... a Psychometric Booster, TK Force-Field Auto-Defense, and a Psynetic Eye. Three sets of rolls, just so you know that the results you get from these tables aren't a fluke.
  • 1st roll: Brain damage (low IQ, immune to mind control), insanity (phobic of cybernetics and implants), brain damage (left leg is randomly paralyzed 1d4 times a day for several minutes), and insanity (submissive in front of cyborgs and crazies).
  • 2nd roll: Brain damage (uncontrolled psychic ESP flashes), insanity (phobic of cybernetics and implants), brain damage (involuntary spasms and seizures), and insanity (paranoid schizophrenic).
  • 3rd roll: Brain damage (right arm is randomly paralyzed 1d4 times a day for several minutes), insanity (submissive in front of cyborgs and crazies), brain damage (hyperactive adrenaline bursts), and insanity (paranoid schizophrenic).
Viable party members all, I'm sure, except for their random seizures, brain damage, and absolute phobia of Robocops.

Next: Mindwerks' robot army. No, loving seriously.

JohnnyCanuck
May 28, 2004

Strong And/Or Free


Alien Rope Burn posted:

Rifts Sourcebook Three: Mindwerks - Part Three: "Brain damage causes a reduction of the character's I.Q. by half, but instills savant powers!"
[...]

It should be noted how crap the insanity tables are, since stuff like Enhanced Healing can make you into a psychopathic megalomaniac... you know, since you can heal twice as fast. Or Enhanced Speed, which can make you into a sadistic bully... because you can run fast? It doesn't really follow.

[...]
At least they're not using the original insanity tables from their 80s games.

occamsnailfile
Nov 4, 2007



zamtrios so lonely

Grimey Drawer

Alien Rope Burn posted:

Welcome to FATAL & Friends!

That is what we do here.

Rifts Sourcebook Three: Mindwerks - Part Three: "Brain damage causes a reduction of the character's I.Q. by half, but instills savant powers!"

M.O.M. Technology


I can understand wanting to give downsides to cool powers sometimes, but given how many much more powerful and less-crazy-making abilities are already in the line even this early on, it just doesn't make sense to take any of these unless you're trying to derail the party. Not that anybody playing Rifts would ever try to derail a party.

True story: When Rifts first came out, the original printing crazy was even crappier than the later version in the Ultimate. But one of my friends chose that, saying 'the worst you can get is just multiple personality disorder'.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


occamsnailfile posted:

True story: When Rifts first came out, the original printing crazy was even crappier than the later version in the Ultimate.

Note that, unlike Ultimate Edition, the (specified) nonhumans can get crazy and psynetic implants scot-free. When Ultimate Edition comes out, there is a new and exciting rule that nonhumans (other than ogres) have an 80% chance of being lobotomized by getting crazy implants. It's one of the only ways to die during Rifts character creation! Oh, and if you're one of those lucky 20%, you get the following benefits:
  • No psionic powers, so say bye-bye to one of the core crazy benefits.
  • A starting insanity, unlike normal crazies.
  • Another insanity every four levels (in addition to the normal crazy-crazy).
You may wonder "but doesn't that contradict this book, where Mindwerks is sticking crazy implants in brodkil like it's going out of style?"

Yes.

Yes it does.

BerkerkLurk
Jul 22, 2001

I could never sleep my way to the top 'cause my alarm clock always wakes me right up

JohnnyCanuck posted:

At least they're not using the original insanity tables from their 80s games.
Isn't that when one of the random insanities was homosexuality? Ugh.

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Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


BerkerkLurk posted:

Isn't that when one of the random insanities was homosexuality? Ugh.

Save vs. Pedophila.

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