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Hidingo Kojimba
Mar 29, 2010



Zereth posted:

Also I think Aspect Guy would still win the race because your miracle was a level 5 and the duke of Technicalities was level 2.

In third edition at least, Domain doesn't really get to the point where you can go "I twist my Estate in such-and-such a way, and achieve this result" until Domain 4 (which gives you the ability to create and animate/control instances of your Estate).

At Domain 2 you can divine facts about your Estate and talk to spirits of your Estate and potentially persuade them to do things for you, but that actual 'doing things' part isn't covered by the Miracle, so it doesn't automatically succeed and can be beaten easily by opposing Miracles. (Domain 2 is still really useful as a utility power, it's just not really designed for winning divine throwdowns.)

The trick to getting ahead in Nobilis 3rd Edition nearly always rests in finding a way to do what you want in such a way that it doesn't directly go up against your opponent's miracles.

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Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!



Chapter Four, Part Two: The Three Lands



Religion in the Three Lands

The Three Lands are very religious, and honor the spirits and the Sun with great devotion. People are faithful because they hope it will provide them with protection and an ease of hardship, both in this world and the next. And given the obvious presence of supernatural entities and practitioners who do reward and punish people, this is not just a "take it on my word" deal and one rooted in actual observances.

The cosmology of the setting is ordered into two spheres, the mundane, material world and the spirit world where gods and ancestors live. The spirit world is just like its physical counterpart, only more extreme in both the good and the bad. Spirits in general are vaguely aware of actions in the material realm, and expect their rightful due from mortals in the form of offerings and worship. Wrathful spirits can blight crops, cause misfortune, and place curses on people. However, spirits who are pleased with mortals can grant them boons and watch over their communities as protectors. It is the responsibility of the eldest male of a household to act as a "priest," or one knowledgeable in the proper rituals and ways of appeasing the spirits, although in the last two generations more and more women have adopted this role.

For followers of the Sun Faith, they believe that beyond the spirit world lies the Burning Heavens, a happy realm of light and truth the true faithful go to as their just reward. A few of the sternest believers do not even offer sacrifices to the spirits, viewing the Sun as the only one worthy of this. Many Sun Faith practitioners in Kirsi still perform private rites to the spirits out of tradition and fear.

There are two kinds of worship among both faiths. Household worship of personal shrines for the Spirit Way and sermons of the Sun Faith, and communal worship where the entire town engages in dance, song, and prayer as an elaborate ceremony. These communal rituals are an elaborate and expensive affair, and often reserved for holidays.

Temples and shrines are very common among Spirit Way devotees, with even the crudest village having a special area set aside for veneration. Temples in general are meant to serve to honor spirits in general, and often have their own images and decorations to be swapped when it's time to honor a different spirit or set of spirits. It's a rare or prosperous community which can afford its own shrine for a single popular spirit. The centers of worship in Nyala are particularly grand, although in the wake of the Long War many such places fell to ruin or were converted into Eternal strongholds or claimed by bandits and monsters.

When the kingdom of Deshur still stood, its people worshiped a pantheon of beast-headed spirits, and it is also where the Sun Faith originated (and whose people were driven out west). Now the traditional Deshurite religion is not practiced anymore, the Eternal possessed of intelligence owing allegiance to the Gods Below.

The Sun Faith does not really have temples as such or make sacrifices, believing that material objects and livestock are an unimportant and ultimately needless way of showing one's faith. Instead, they have prayer-houses. Sun Teachers are religious scholars tasked with memorizing the Four Corners of the Mountain, the original lessons penned by the Sun Prophet. The Kirsi have prayer-houses ranging from huge, beautiful shrines to serviceable buildings, while the Meru merely hold their lessons orally in the open air.

Generally speaking, the Spirit Way is most predominant in Nyala and Lokossa, while the Sun Faith is the norm among the Kirsi and Meru. Sokone is home to both practitioners, although the priests there are more syncretic and tend to have a "the gods and spirits only care if you honor them properly, whoever they may be" attitude.

Popular Gods and Spirits

The true number of spirits worshiped is uncountable. Every province has its own gods, although there are a few sufficiently popular and powerful spirits whose influence reaches far. Even then they have their own regional faiths under different names and qualities.

The Ancestors are the backbone of the Spirit Way, made up of the souls of former mortals and respected in household shrines. Aganyu is a god of fire, famous for his anger but also a protector of children and the powerless. The Gods Below are wicked entities whose very names are poisonous to the soul, and were the ones who taught the Deshurite King the secrets of the Eternal. Gu is the god of iron and war, who soldiers and blacksmiths turn to for success. Olokun is a goddess of water and wisdom who favors female priests and marabout. Oya, the Tearer of the Veil, is the patron of storms, wind, and travelers, her aid often asked for to guide the newly-dead on their journey to the afterlife. Sagbata is the punisher of the wicked, afflicting smallpox and madness to evil folk, although his high standards often hurt innocent people as well. His priests strive to calm him down so that he punishes only the truly deserving. The Sun is a great spirit which hangs in the sky and the favored patron of the Sun Faith. Sun Teachers claim that all other spirits are but servants to his glory. Oko is the father of crops and the earth, a calm and reasonable god favored for his judgments and placated by farmers. Oshun is the goddess of beauty, passion, and eloquence. She is adept at settling disputes and inspiring lovers and artists. Merchants favor her to gain blessings in future business deals.

Priests

The concept of priests exists, but is largely locally-centered and without a chain of command: there is no "Spirit Pope" or Sun church branches or anything resembling a huge national organization setting down official doctrines and laws. Instead, priests are the technicians of the spirit world, trained in the proper rituals, expectations, and words of the gods; the vast majority aren't spellcasters, their training coming from the Priestcraft skill. Most communities expect priests to be just, moral folk, although their prime duties aren't to serve as moral exemplars. Priests who behave wrongly can be stripped of their position if they break one of the Sun or the spirits' taboos. Larger temples tend to court marabouts of the appropriate faith to provide blessings, leaving the day-to-day temple duties to those without magic. This can create quite a bit of jealously between the magically barren priests and the gifted marabouts, who wish that they had such favor with the spirits themselves.

Funeral Customs

The afterlife is the passing of a mortal soul into the spirit realm, where they join their fellow ancestors and sometimes non-human spirits who they were loyal to in life. This journey is no small feat, for proper funerary protocol is necessary to ensure that the spirit has proper help and guidance and does not return to the material world as a suffering ghost. To die alone and unburied is a horrifying fate to pretty much everyone. The minimum effort requires the washing of the body, laying it in a dignified position, and appropriate prayers and well wishes. A proper funeral involves the entire community, sacrifices to the gods for favor, and a great meal and rituals tended over by trained priests. The Sun Faithful replace material sacrifices with more prayer. The stronger and more elaborate the rites, the more aid the spirit gets on their journey.

Peasants and commoners are usually too poor for such a funeral, and instead rely on a secret society of funerary adepts who practice powerful magic to make up for the lack of resources. Such societies are relatively common knowledge, but the actual list of members and their rites are guarded jealously. Unfortunately the nature of such societies proves a prime method of dark cults and criminals to conduct their operations while still maintaining good publicity.

The Spirit World

As to the spirit world itself, the spirits live the same way as much they did in life, conducting the same business and dwelling in the same place. They do not grow and change as people do, with no ambition to move beyond their roles, and the strife of living societies is pretty much unknown among them. Kings and queens sit in their palaces issuing no commands, merchants trade goods but don't care about becoming rich; every soul tries to replicate their "proper role," and can become upset and worried when they're thrust outside of it. Ancestors who receive no sacrifices, prayers, or even remembrance grow upset, feeling alone and ignored and disrespected. Sacrifices done well can bring succor and happiness to a spirit, and the best rituals can even elevate their station and power. Some spirits have found their way into the material world, whether as typical incorporeal ghosts and flesh-and-blood entities, and most of them tend to be evil entities. Spirits who seek to do good can do so from their own world, or when summoned by a marabout or nganga. By the same token, mortals are not welcome in the spirit world, and only the mightiest of them can hope to travel safely in these realms.

Spirits who are "slain" in the material world are shunted back to the spirit world, inflicting pain and confusion which can last for years. Every 'death' strips away more of their memories and sense of self until they are little more than beasts of mindless rage. It is said that the mightiest gods know of ways to erase a spirit from existence entirely, but this power is rarely if ever used. Even the wickedest spirits are mostly confined to the darkest and most isolated pockets beneath the spirit world's earth.


Concepts of virtue and sin are generally tied to cultural customs and the decrees of the gods. There is no "universal" set of rules, for each culture has its own ways, each set of spirits their own taboos. Even worshipers of wicked entities such as the Gods Below will be rewarded by their patrons for their loyalty, even if mortal society hunts them down and exiles them from their communities. As a general rule both the spirits and the Sun encourage honesty in word and deed, being loyal to one's family and clan, obedience to tradition, and kindness to the weak.



The Five Kingdoms




The Five Kingdoms used to be mighty centers of civilization, with the mighty Nyala Empire and the sorcerer-kings of Lokossa ruling vast stretches of territory. The Long War saw poltical split-offs and divisions, along with entire provinces being put to the sword and torch by Eternal wrath. Areas once home to bustling towns are now silent and claimed by the ravages of the wilderness. It has been seven generations since the nation's armies were strong enough to extract their dues, and the more remote regions saw the rise of petty nobles and warlords taking advantage of their newfound freedoms. In general, each kingdom is ruled by a monarch of some sort, who has a court of advisers beneath him. Outlying towns are ruled by obas, or "lesser kings," who are either appointed by the monarch or the patriarch of the city's foremost noble family. Smaller villages do not usually have obas, instead being ruled by a chief.

Settlements listed on the map above are the largest settlements, the capital cities at least 50,000 people and the lesser cities of around 10-30,000. The Sokone seat of government, Agbadana, is home to a many 100,000 souls. The cities of the Three Lands are old centers of civilization, built upon the mounds of previous settlements which form a sort of "under-city" home to the secrets of ages past and disreputable folk and monsters to avoid the gazes of those above.

The villages of fewer souls are innumerable and often passed over by the larger governments save when its time to pay taxes. Such places are more prone to raiders and monsters and being taken over by petty tyrants. As the ill-equipped village militias do not have the resources to continually push back such threats, they seek the assistance of traveling Spears of the Dawn.



Kirsi



The nation of Kirsi is a land of warm hills and badlands. Its people number among the finest horsemen of the Three Lands, and they have a long history of war: first it was with the Deshurite neighbors of the east back when they were a province of the Nyalan Empire. Then it was with the Eternal and Nyala during the years of the Long War. When they weren't united against a greater threat their noble houses fought among each other for all variety of reasons.

Even before Nyala's legions reached the land, the Kirsi were a mighty neighbor who would not be conquered easily. A well-armed populace and the superior mobility of their cavalry meant that the Nyalans used diplomacy and trade instead. This worked, and the Kirsi houses swore fealty to the Empire. In exchange for the might of her soldiers, the Kirsi were paid with many riches and respect, and the old palaces still standing are relics of this era.

When the Long War came, the Kirsi paid a dear price to shield their land and Nyala from the undead, and Nyala's legions was repulsed from the Black Land. The Empire promised to come back and defend them when they were ready. They were never ready, and in anger the Kirsi declared independence, and Nyala turned its own soldiers on the "rebel provinces" as much as they did the Eternal.

Today, Kirsi is its own nation. The clans of the country are free to govern themselves as they see fit. The Dia of Koro is said to rule Kirsi in its entirety, but the reach of his law is as only as far as his lancers can ride. He must threaten, bribe, and negotiate with the clans to get them to work together, and only then in times of dire need. Otherwise, the feuding clan-lords keep up a regular flow of deniable incidents of raiding and skirmishing with their enemies and annexing each other's territory. What makes them different than bandits is that they don't steal from their kindred or those who haven't wronged them, in theory. In practice, many less scrupulous noble houses can extort more than their fair share of taxes from small villages under their "protection."

Kirsi culture is very clan-focused, much more so than the other four nations. Every family knows their relations of ancestry or lack thereof to their neighbors, and every adult male can trace a line of command in relation to their kin. Glory and good deeds are also of great importance, attained through success in their roles and their ability to inspire others to follow them in example. Even a poor course of action by a warrior can be forgiven if performed with sufficient dedication and zeal. To not give it your all, or to fail a task because of laziness or neglect is shameful. The Sun Faith made serious inroads among the Kirsi, replacing the centuries-old practice of ancestor and spirit worship. The first Meru missionaries earned their respect for their persistence against the Eternal and the miracles of their marabout.

The Sun Faith's emphasis on protecting the weak has tempered the Kirsi lust for glory. Many men and women who tired to the feuding nobles and clan strife strove to serve a higher purpose and protect the innocent, and formed the first Sunriders. This order of pious warriors owes no allegiance to the Dia or any Kirsi clan, instead honoring each other and the Sun Faith. They are popular among the common folk, although the more corrupt magnates and many of the clan-lords hate them but don't move against them openly...yet.

Kirsi who number among the Spears of the Dawn tend to be warriors, from veterans of border raids, homeless peasant soldiers displaced by fighting, noble horse riders, to idealistic Sunriders. Griots are the next most common class, inspired by the examples of their ancestors, and marabout of the Sun Faith. Ngangas are rare, as there are few mentors in the country to teach them.


The Kirsi are very dark-skinned, their features stern and hawkish from the arid winds. Men and women alike tend to be slender, their hair long and black. Men tend to braid their hair, while women wear it long and decorate it with accessories if they can afford it. Outer clothing for both sexes tends to gear towards light-colored turbans and robes split for riding. Brightly-colored tunics are favored for more casual wear. Kirsi warriors are also known to wear armor, with heavy Kirsi mail favored by mounted lancers, with footmen quilted layers of cotton or leather armor.



Lokossa



Lokossa is the southernmost nation of the Three Lands, claiming much of the rainforest. The only realm to never be claimed by the Nyala Empire in an official capacity, a long-running dynasty of ngangas gives the place a sinister reputation among its neighbors. Lokossa is a harsh realm, its jungles home to many dangerous creatures and perils, and the teeming hordes of monstrous Night Men to the south of the Akpara River have been raiding the nation ever before the oldest legends and records of its griots.

Lokossa's noble families all bear that quality necessary for one to learn the manipulation of ashe, and point to this as physical evidence of their right to rule. They wed only among each other and sufficiently adept sorcerers to avoid diluting their bloodline. The Ahonsu, or Sorcerer-King, is the most powerful of these nganga, and is always succeeded by another, even one of another family. His word is law when he lives, but can be overturned by future rulers once he dies and his corpse joins the others in the tomb-palace. It is by their great magic and rituals that they can hold back the tide of Night Men, who would certainly overwhelm Lokossa and possibly other northern nations were it not for their constant vigilance and sacrifice. Powered by the blood of executed slaves and criminals, the Ahonsu and the nobles can wield magic unseen among the other kingdoms. This, and how they spend their people's lives like water in this war, causes others to fear the Lokossans, but the people of the nation view this as a necessary sacrifice, not just for them, but for all the Three Lands. Were it not for them, they say, the ruins of the southernmost jungles would extend all the way to Nyala.

Lokossan society can pretty much be summed up as "tyrannical magocracy." Society is harshly regimented, most villages comprised of nuclear families cut from the all-encompassing jungle ruled over by a noble family. The gulf between the haves and have-nots is a world apart: commoners are servants of the nobles, sometimes even slaves, and their rule is absolute. There is no appealing to a higher authority for abuses of power, and even freeman can only hope to flee and live in another village. Sometimes nobles who go too far inspire village rebellions, although they are loath to admit to the existence of these, both to avoid being seen as weak, and to avoid giving thoughts of discontent to other villages.

Commoners who display magical talent are adopted into a noble family, with even marabouts inducted into noble priestly societies who honor the spirits of past Ahonsu.

Nobles still must pay their dues. In addition to collecting taxes and tribute for the Ahonsu, they are expected to serve the government for life. Noble men who have no talent for sorcery must train as warriors, women as administrators and scribes. Noble spellcasters serve as priestly support and magical aides, and all of them are officers at the front of armies whenever the Night Man invade again, or conduct costly and elaborate rituals for war.

Lokossans tend to be rather short in comparison to the people of other kingdoms, and have very dark skin. Both men and women cut their curled hair close to the skull, with only noble women growing long, decorated braids. Clothing varies by social class and circumstance: laborers wear little more than woven skirts and loincloths, the women breast-bands. At home both genders have waist wraps, the men a brightly-colored sash, the women counter-patterned scarves draped over their shoulders. Noble warriors wear warding amulets and aggressively practical clothes, often no more than a waist wrap.

Lokossa is a patriarchal society, and their idea of who is a man or a woman is often as much based upon behavior and occupation as biology. The continual press of the Night Men has forced the military to train women warriors, and those who serve in the army for a living often gain legal recognition as men. Lagredi, men who adopt "womanly" professions, are often taken as wives by noblemen and some possess knowledge of herbal remedies and rituals to assume the social and physical roles or women. Polygamy is common among noblemen to ensure the survival of their bloodline.

Lokossans who number among the Spears of the Dawn tend to be people who have left their homeland. Criminals, commoners who earned a noble family's anger, and escaped slaves are the most common.



Meru



When the Eternal King killed the Sun Prophet and made worshp of the Gods Below mandatory, not all were willing to listen. Some numbered among the faithful of the Sun, others people too disgusted to accept the "gifts" of the Eternal. They were chased beyond Deshur and into the western savannas, where they joined and intermarried among the indigenous tribes of the plains to stay ahead of the undead armies. For as long as the Sixth Kingdom existed the Meru had no peace, forced to continually move as nomads. They spent several generations leading their herds ahead of the vicious Eternal thirsting for blood and vengeance. They proved invaluable to the other kingdoms when they united against old Deshur: the wisdom of their olabons (ngangas) knew of the many safe spots of the desert, their warriors born and raised to kill the Eternal and know no fear against them. Ever since the Long War ended, the Meru have kept to their ways that they knew for so long.

The Meru are technologically primitive in comparison to the other people of the Three Lands. They do not have written records nor do they rely upon coins as currency, instead using cattle and livestock for barter. Their settlements are mobile, comprised of leather tents and those few settled ones living in thatched mud huts behind walls of kraal. Society is ordered around the extended family, traced paternally. Each family belongs to a specific "city," a legacy of Deshur for when refugees from the same cities banded together. The five remaining city-clans are Jenu, Waret, Akor, Medjed, and Jayet. There is a sixth "Written City" which all olabons are considered to belong to regardless of their original clan. They all maintain their own general boundaries to roam over in the plains, and the others are expected to respect these borders.

Leaders among the Meru are chosen by the male heirs of noble lineages who are chosen by the clan. Patriarchs can determine pasturage and other important negotiations, and those who don't follow their duties can find their positions replaced. The Meru do not practice capital punishment, instead exiling criminals of such heinous crimes out into the wilderness to fend for themselves.

In recent decades the Meru's numbers have grown with the retreat of the Eternal, taxing the resources of the savanna. The need for pasturage and water sources creates no small amount of grief and tension between clans. Increased incidents of cattle rustling and quick drives into claimed pastures to be used for a time are increasing in frequency. At its worst, some families have begun fighting in earnest. The griots and marabouts try to keep such pressures to a minimum, but things are growing worse. The Jenu and Akor have even been making claims on Sokone and Lokossa lands, which is sure to bring violent reprisals.

The Meru are the lightest-skinned people of the Three Lands, tending towards a deep coppery complexion. Older men and olabons shave their head as part of a custom, but adult men generally wear their hair in long braids. Those containing stronger lineages of indigenous blood have much darker skin tones. Meru are very tall, and dress in the leather wraps of slain cattle, and don't wear shoes, viewing them as signs of a bad runner.

Meru are very patriarchal, women expected to be docile wives and homemakers. In light of the growing population pressure, women who chafe at these restrictions are encourage to seek their fortunes elsewhere. "Remarkable women" who display exceptional martial or spiritual talent, or who bring great wealth and fame to the family name, are afforded the same rights as men and have their pick of husbands eager to seek such an exceptional woman as a wife.

Meru are a natural fit for candidates as Spears of the Dawn, due to being raised on a legacy of resistance towards the Eternal. Warriors are skilled with the traditional siare throwing clubs and runku war staves, and shun bladed weapons as signs of ill omen, for they are suited to killing one's fellow men rather than Eternal. Griots serve as negotiators on behalf of a city-clan, and the best-trusted are ones who traveled farthest beyond their traditional lands. Almost all marabout are faithful teachers of the Sun Faith, and priestesses are often exempt from the traditional restrictions placed upon their gender. Many have an almost-missionary zeal to spread their faith to outsiders. Nganga among the Meru are known as olabons, taught the secrets of ancient Deshur by their mentors. Membership among the olabon is decided by signs and portents demonstrating proficiency with ashe.

Thoughts so far: This part's getting a little long, so I'll cover the final two countries in the next part. I really like how much detail has been put into the setting, and the details on religion are a big plus. I do like the versatility between the various nations, who all have their own flair and flavor.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.





System Mastery returns, battered and confused from our attempt to grok Nobilis inside of two weeks, with a simpler review of a closer-to-home game. Here's After the Bomb.

Eldad Assarach
May 1, 2014


Ah, After The Bomb... certainly one of the more unique post-apocalyptic RPGs. I was thinking of tackling that next, maybe following it up with the rest of Palladium's TMNT/ATB books.

Obviously, I'll try to avoid going over the same ground as you guys... just as soon as I listen to it.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



Eldad Assarach posted:

Ah, After The Bomb... certainly one of the more unique post-apocalyptic RPGs. I was thinking of tackling that next, maybe following it up with the rest of Palladium's TMNT/ATB books.

Obviously, I'll try to avoid going over the same ground as you guys... just as soon as I listen to it.

By all means, we have covered stuff done in the thread a few times, we don't presume to stake claims. I think we stuck to the crappy Palladium skill system and the fact that mutant animals are so SO SOOO much better than furries for the most part.

Edit: Oh and Pleasure Bunnies. How could we not talk at great length about Pleasure Bunnies?

theironjef fucked around with this message at 22:36 on Jul 3, 2014

inklesspen
Oct 17, 2007

Here I am coming, with the good news of me, and you hate it. You can think only of the bell and how much I have it, and you are never the goose. I will run around with my bell as much as I want and you will make despair.

Buglord

I've got a first pass result on the writeup archives. This link is not permanent and may go away as work progresses.

Known issues:
  • I suck at web design, even when I'm using Bootstrap
  • Smilies are being hotlinked from SA servers; this is bad
  • Any images posted using the attachment feature are also being hotlinked from SA servers; this is also bad
  • Two of the posts in Halloween Jack's Carcosa writeup are missing. The urls on the wiki for the posts don't work.
  • A lot of the images from older writeups are lost; they point to waffleimages or some such.

Advice on dealing with these problems is welcomed. (My ideal situation is someone steps up to help with the web design and I can focus on keeping the archives reliably up to date.)

Currently I've got a database containing every post from all three threads as well as all the indexes Syrg Sapphire has so generously maintained on the wiki, and I can automatically keep this archive up to date going forward. There's also probably some way I can make the indexing job easier. Happy to talk about that too.

Zereth
Jul 8, 2003




Hidingo Kojimba posted:

In third edition at least, Domain doesn't really get to the point where you can go "I twist my Estate in such-and-such a way, and achieve this result" until Domain 4 (which gives you the ability to create and animate/control instances of your Estate).

At Domain 2 you can divine facts about your Estate and talk to spirits of your Estate and potentially persuade them to do things for you, but that actual 'doing things' part isn't covered by the Miracle, so it doesn't automatically succeed and can be beaten easily by opposing Miracles. (Domain 2 is still really useful as a utility power, it's just not really designed for winning divine throwdowns.)

The trick to getting ahead in Nobilis 3rd Edition nearly always rests in finding a way to do what you want in such a way that it doesn't directly go up against your opponent's miracles.
Yeah, if you're trying to win a race against an Aspect 5 guy (especially if he's willing to spend MP on it) you're gonna need to get him sidetracked doing not-race things rather than try to hinder or outrun him.

Or possibly outright cheat with teleportation, although if he's willing to go for broke with an Aspect 9 miracle he might be able to beat that anyway.

Eldad Assarach
May 1, 2014


theironjef posted:

By all means, we have covered stuff done in the thread a few times, we don't presume to stake claims. I think we stuck to the crappy Palladium skill system and the fact that mutant animals are so SO SOOO much better than furries for the most part.

Edit: Oh and Pleasure Bunnies. How could we not talk at great length about Pleasure Bunnies?

Fair enough - I was going to stick more to the fluff and adventures, because these threads have poked and prodded the Megaversal system to death. I'll put in a few statblocks, if people want them, but I doubt they will.

Also, I'll be using the original book - 50 pages of tables and art that's not as cool as 2nd Edition.

Eldad Assarach fucked around with this message at 21:08 on Jul 4, 2014

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!



Chapter Four, Part Three: The Three Lands

Nyala

The Empire's too glorious to be contained in an image, making it the only country in the book to not have one.

Nyala is an ancient country now on the decline after the Long War. Its earliest records five hundred years ago described it as a rustic pastoral nation regularly troubled by giants who lived in the Mountains of the Sun to the north. Despite them being twice as tall as the humans, Nyala's warrior fiercely fought to protect their homes, impressing the giants who offered a non-aggression pact. Over time relationships between the two peoples became peaceful, and the Nyalans learned of many advanced technologies from their taller neighbors to strengthen their nation. Silk, sculptures, metalworking, and advanced stonemasonry made the cities beautiful, its soldiers finely equipped. Flush with success the Nyalans expanded southwards, and thus began their golden age.

Four hundred years ago the giants retreated back into their palaces deep in the mountains for unknown reasons, breaking their pact and refusing to answer calls and summons. Despite their departure many Nyalans, especially the nobles, bore giantish blood, its most common manifestations brightly-colored tattoos and red, white, and yellow hair.

Nyala drove east and south, claiming the lands of Kirsi and Sokone and ruling over the people. They even claimed Meru, although the nomads moved so fast and so often the Nyalan legions could not really tax or subject them to their laws. The only kingdoms unconquered were Lokossa, whose sorcerer nobles and rainforest terrain made the country a human meatgrinder for Nyalan soldiers, and the kingdom of Deshur, whose people were forced eastward by war. Emperor Shangmay would not be content until he ruled the whole of the Three Lands, and pushed the Deshurites east across the deserts and to the point of grim desperation. The pharaoh of Deshur found secrets in the forbidden temples of the Weeping Mountains, and used it to create the first Eternal and begin the Long War.

And thus began modern history and the slow death of Nyala as an empire. Provinces were lost, Kirsi and Sokone declared autonomy, Emperor Kaday fell in battle in battle against the Eternal King (although some theorize that it was Nyalan steel that betrayed him for forsaking territory in exchange for international cooperation). Now the remnants of Nyala's nobles are either "Hollow Princes" left without territory or squabbling over the scraps of land remaining, and Kaday's son Issay abandoned the title of Emperor in exchange for King, little more than a figurehead now controlled by feuding lords and ladies who'd rather have him on the throne than an enemy clan.

Nyalans as a people are aware of rank and status. The nobility is fluid, where a family is considered such under the laws of the Mai's court, but clans unable to defend their territory or wear the trappings of wealth and luxury will result in the rejection of their peers who bar them from the court. In the old days only the Emperor could strip a family of nobility, but now this has fallen in favor of social agreement among the clans.

Nyalan commoners are largely laborers who seek to make the best lot in life amidst burdening taxes. A commoner can seek social increase by wedding a noble (if a woman), or being skilled in swordplay or artistry. Nyalans in particular have a fondness for beauty in all its forms, and talent in one of these areas can earn patronage from influential clans.

Nyalans are tall and slim, with skin the color of dark mahogany. Those with giant blood could end up with jewel-colored eyes, patterned tattoos, and bright hair colors, mostly among the nobility. Clothing for commoners consists of trousers and tunics, dyed with colorful patterns. Nobles prefer flowing robes of brocaded cloth with many gauze-light layers. Nyala is the only country with native silk, and it is improper for the affluent to wear clothes of any other material.

Most Nyalan adventurers are such out of necessity or ambition, depending on their station. "Excess" scions are expected to find their fortune in far-off lands, and griots are known to search for relics of their nation to bring back and glorify. Marabouts tend to leave the Spirit Way temples uneasy and encouraged to go elsewhere if they can't cooperate with the high priests. Ngangas are rare but mentors can be found deep in the wilderness or scholars in the great cities. Warriors are common due to Nyala's legions, although any "remarkable common folk" can display the talent of an idahun.



Sokone



The Sokone live among the valleys and bogs of the mighty Iteru River, a cosmopolitan land of traders and wealth unseen since the kingdom of Deshur or the old days of Nyala. Descendants of tribes pushed south by Nyala and refugees from Lokossa, shared hardship brought the two peoples together in mutual aid. Its merchant background is due in part to the swampy terrain: tribes lucky enough to attain some prime rice fields had to constantly guard it from hungrier neighbors, forcing the lesser clans to resort to trade in natural resources from the marsh's bounty and ingots mined bog-iron. As they needed all the armed men they could against two hostile neighbors, internal disputes between the Sokone became based on trade and negotiations.

Even then there was war within their lands. The city-state of Umthalu to the east was ruled by serpent folk wielding powerful dark magic who felt threatened by Sokone's expanding influence. They were no match for their monstrous magic, and so the merchant-princes struck a deal with Nyala to protect them from the snake-men. Between the two nations they drove the Umthalu out of their cities and slaughtered nearly to the last person. The Umthalu city of Chakari became Sokone's new capital, the strange magic glyphs covered over by new walls.

Sokone society today is a plutocracy. Every family has its enterprise or trade, whether it's growing rice, smelting, or the merchant-princes who manage half their city's financial affairs and businesses. Those who hoard their wealth and do not use it are regarded as worse than beggars, for they refuse to take advantage of the gifts provided to them and their family. As such many families are driven to destitution when they spend too much on frivolous novelties. Gift-giving carries an additional layer of complexity, for it implies a sign of obedience and acquiescence to the taker.

Where nationality and ethnicity are strongly tied together elsewhere in the Three Lands, the Sokone are a cosmopolitan people drawing upon ancestry of all the others. The physical features and traits of Nyalan nobles, Meru outcasts, escaped Lokossan slaves, and several hundred smaller tribes now long-vanished can be found. Their clothing is just as varied, a mixing of styles from robes to loincloths to tunics and wraps.

Sokone adventurers tend to be those with no interest in their clan's business or life as a merchant, instead seeking quick riches through dangerous work. Marabouts are found both among the Spirit Way and Sun Faith, its ngangas are just as likely to be cosmpolitan as rustic folk, and their griots are particularly daring when it comes to exploring dangerous places. The country does not have the famous martial traditions of Kirsi or Lokossa, but its wealth means that their warriors are well-equipped.


Thoughts so far: And thus ends Chapter Four. I don't really have much to add, other than this one as a whole is one of my favorites in the book. It's a detailed overview of the lands and their people without detailing every small settlement or lists of notable NPCs.

Next time, Chapter Five: Running a Campaign.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 07:46 on Jul 6, 2014

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



Eldad Assarach posted:

Fair enough - I was going to stick more to the fluff and adventures, because these threads have poked and prodded the Megaversal system to death. I'll put in a few statblocks, if people want them, but I doubt they will.

Also, I'll be using the original book - 50 pages of tables and art that's not as cool as 2nd Edition.

Oh I have that! It's so lo-fi it looks like a 'zine. I'd hardly even count it as a first edition since it's a TMNT supplement instead of a separate game!

secretly best girl
Mar 27, 2007

I see you choosing that other route. How dare you.

inklesspen posted:

Known issues:
  • Two of the posts in Halloween Jack's Carcosa writeup are missing. The urls on the wiki for the posts don't work.

I think I have this fixed but I also don't know why one isn't redirecting properly, it's the exact same URL, and if I paste it it works, but the link doesn't.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




I actually lost one of the chapters (the hex descriptions) due to some copy/paste/edit stupidity on my part. If you like, I made a later post in the thread which serves as a replacement; you can link to that.

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers, stern and wild ones, and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.


Clapping Larry

theironjef posted:

Oh I have that! It's so lo-fi it looks like a 'zine. I'd hardly even count it as a first edition since it's a TMNT supplement instead of a separate game!

That's the one I have (1st ed) I've never seen a copy of 2nd Ed actually.

Midjack
Dec 24, 2007





Humbug Scoolbus posted:

That's the one I have (1st ed) I've never seen a copy of 2nd Ed actually.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-media/product-gallery/0916211150/ref=cm_cr_dp_cust_img_see_all_img0

The Gun Bunnies scenario that was talked about in System Mastery is also present in the 1E AtB - I suspect the scenarios in 2E were copy/pasted wholesale from 1E.

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!



Chapter Five: Running a Campaign



Spears of the Dawn, along with other Sine Nomine products, favors the sandbox model of gaming. Basically, this style of play places the PCs into a fictional world, the GM describes things and offers some plot hooks and suggestions, and the PCs are pretty much free to go where they want and do what they do. To use a video game example, it's a lot like The Elder Scrolls Oblivision or Skyrim in presenting a dynamic open world to explore and pursue the adventures which interest you. It is PC centric, focused on the things which are important to them. In a sandbox game there are no plot-essential NPCs, no adherence to a particular story arc or events which must happen or items which must be claimed.

Although such sessions break a lot of common assumptions and can be hard for the Game Master to plan, but the author's got you covered with some good advice and a bunch of charts and tables to generate everything, from adventure plots to locations to monsters to NPCs! Only the adventure chart's present in this chapter, the others found later in their own section.

Crawford suggests that the players have certain responsibilities in a sandbox game. Chiefly, their PCs need goals, for the entire game is predicated on the assumption that they want to achieve something substantial and not just live uneventful lives in a village. Backstories and goals have no guarantee of plot armor or resolving the way the players want; in a sandbox game, anyone can die, and the GM is under no obligation to design certain dungeons and regions in line with the average party level. Crawford insists that having certain areas be more dangerous than the others, along with the lack of "plot armor," forces the PCs to think critically instead of assuming that the GM will save their skin.

The GM has responsibilities, too. PCs need opportunities to pursue their goals, doubly so in a campaign setting which will be unfamiliar at first most players. Giving the group something to work with at the start can make the open-world Fantasy Africa seem less daunting. Secondly, the PCs' actions should be logical and consistent with the world. If the PCs choose not to deal with an evil sorcerer attacking a village known for its bountiful rice supply, then the bad guy will take control of the place and increase the prices of food in nearby provinces. If the PCs avert an assassination attempt on a Kirsi clan-lord, then they will gain the gratitude and favors of that clan.

Additionally, the GM must be ready to anticipate PC actions. If the group decides that trekking south to Lokossa for aid against an Eternal army is a better course of action than beseeching Sokone merchant-princes, then a sketch of some rainforest terrain and potential inhabitants and locations should be in order. That way you can have the necessary material for the next game session.

quote:

The golden rule of sandbox content creation is simple- if you don’t need it for the next session, or you’re not having fun creating it, then don’t bother with it. You don’t need to do it. A game that leaves you drained and exhausted is a game that’s certain to fail. Running a sandbox is meant to be fun for the GM too, and you shouldn’t force yourself to do preparation work that isn’t satisfying or entertaining for you.


Setting Up the Campaign

Before a sandbox game must start, Crawford says that you must decide on how to introduce things to the PCs. First, decide whether or not to use the Domain Rules found later in this chapter. Basically they're a mini-game simulation of major troubles in the Five Kingdoms and their reactions with each other. Secondly, find a starting point. Crawford recommends a small market town on the frontier of civilization, which are more likely to contain bandit strongholds, Eternal tombhouses, hidden cults and traditional fantasy adventuring stuff. Thirdly, a starting adventure with an obvious and compelling hook; this adventure needs something to unite the PCs together as a group and get familiar with the setting.

After that, the GM should present adventure hooks and see what elements of the setting fascinate them most. Instead of consulting the book for minor details, the GM should make something up, write it down, and make sure it stays consistent throughout the sessions. This cuts down on making sure that things are canonical and saves time on flipping through the book. Keep quick reference sheets on hand, and at the end of every game session write down a short summary of events and ask the players what they want/plan to attempt the next session. That way you not only have a good way to memorize what happened last session one or two weeks ago, you also have a platform from which to work on for future sessions.

Crawford heavily advises against detailing everything about a campaign world, in that it can lead quickly to GM burnout and most of the material won't be immediately useful in actual gameplay.


Challenges

There are common issues Crawford talks about in Spears of the Dawn, and how to handle them.

The first is combat. This RPG, along with many other OSR games, is quite lethal at low levels. A 1st-level PC can very easily fall to a well-placed blow. Players of games where combat is less lethal or they have a metagame resource to save their bacon might have trouble adopting to this. Crawford has a few suggestions. One is to have players make "back-up" PCs to enter the story shortly after a PC's death as soon as possible. Another is to grant 10 bonus hit points. That, and making sure that the group is on the same page regarding mortality.

Otherwise Crawford suggests the GM to remember the reaction and morale rules. Not all monsters or miscreants will want to fight to the death, or enter into battle unless they have a very good reason for it. Do not make combat inescapable at low levels, allow the PCs to be able to retreat from a fight.

Second is investigation and environment interaction. Whereas many OSR GMs operate on a "player skill is character skill" for non-combat stuff, Crawford takes a different approach. On the one hand, he says that players who describe PCs interacting with the environment should find hidden objects there in lieu of a perception roll. However, he mentions that PCs possess knowledge of skills and abilities the players don't have in real life, and that demonstrations of such skills should be abstracted. Just as a player doesn't need to describe how he sutures shut the wound of a companion, so does it mean that a smooth-tongued griot PC shouldn't take a penalty on social rolls because his player has a stuttering problem in real life. On the other hand, the PC's choice of approach before committing a skill roll should alter the difficulty a little in one direction or the other.

Finally, there should always be a way forward in investigation-focused encounters. Players confronted with a dead end will resort to desperate and foolish measures.

Loot and Wealth

Spears of the Dawn does not operate on a standard magic item shop economy. While spellcasters can sell minor trinkets, more powerful magic items are inhabited by great and powerful spirits (in this setting, most magic items are home to a spirit). Said spirits will take offence if they feel that their owner is devaluing their true potential, such as selling a sword wielded by the first Nyalan Emperor for 1,000 silver ingots worth of rice. Even the inviting of selling it will bring a parade of messengers to the PCs, many of them untrustworthy and eager to cheat the party out of it, where more power-hungry folk will try to force the party to part with their fabled treasure.

Powerful magic items should be the result of adventuring, rewarded as gifts for virtuous deeds, and the like. Magic item spirits have no problem being given "freely" to an owner who proved their worth.

Instead, rich PCs can spend their money on land, recruit followers, acquire goods and favors, and invest it into the community. A manor is both more useful and harder to steal than tens of thousands of trade ingots sitting in the party's wagons, and the gratitude of a community or ruler can grant a wide assortment of benefits and favors to PCs.


Setting Unfamiliarity

Most table-top gamers in the English-speaking world are most immediately familiar with European myths and folklore. We generally have a good idea of what a knight is what they usually do in stories, just like how when we hear the description of a bearded old man with a magic staff we think "wizard!" The fiction of Africa is just as rich and rife with awesome role-playing potential for games, but most of us don't even have a basic knowledge of what life in medieval Africa was like, much less their centuries' worth of cultural traditions and folklore. To deal with this unfamiliarity, Crawford offers three bits of advice: cliche, translation, and agreement.

First, cliches are ways of making sense of complex situations. Instead of getting players to understand the subtleties of the Long War or the founding of the Spears of the Dawn. All they need to know is that they belong to an elite order of wandering troubleshooters with a knack for delving into undead and monster-filled ruins and tombs and saving the common folk from bad guys. Not only is this a familiar concept to most pseudo-Europe D&D games, it's a simple way of illustrating to the players about core elements of the setting. Likewise the PCs don't need to know about how Lokossa's social system was formed as a result of constant warfare against the Night Men; all they need to know is that this nation is a tyrannical magocracy.


At this point I notice that Crawford begins repeating himself, as I see some bits of advice from earlier chapters.


Second is translation, or responding to the intent of the PCs' social interactions rather than implementation. If a PC tries to accomplish something which may seem inappropriate, adjust the outcome in line with the lifetime's worth of cultural knowledge said PC possesses. Even then, Spears are nearly expected to have a disdain for traditional customs and the niceties of society. As long as the PC isn't intentionally trying to piss off an NPC in-character, let their intent trump tactless approaches ("How's it hanging, Sorcerer-King?").

Thirdly, agreement is a task to make the players more familiar with a very foreign culture more amenable. Basically, agree with the assumptions that the players might make about the settings. Unless it's important to contradict them or will cause significant problems down the road, allow their guesses to be more or less accurate. Every time the GM pauses to say "no, that's not what the book says," or elaborates on some bit of backstory, this pushes the players farther from their comfort zones with the world, discouraging them from acting fluently within the setting. Naturally, players will players will start making comparisons of setting tropes to familiar material, or "fantasy feudal pseudo-Europe" onto the Three Lands, and that if you don't want this to happen to sketch out relationships as part of the game session before it becomes an issue.

Finally, the Three Lands are a different setting with different values than most tabletop fantasy games. Women have less rights than men, warfare is considered glorious (actually, I don't see this as that different myself than most D&D games), same-sex relations are neither totally accepted no demonized, and society's rulers are generally considered to be of more inherent worth than commoners (once again, not much different than fantasy pseudo-Europe). Players who don't like these values can change them; even in a land where one's station in life is considered the "way of things," people still want for the good things: they want peace, they want safety, they want protection from the monsters beyond the fire, and Spears who can grant them this gain the trust of a community who will be more willing to listen to their advice. Instead of the GM portraying the setting as gritty grimdark or hopelessly regressive, he should make it clear that the PCs do have the power to do something about it. It might not be easy, and it will take a lot of work, but the possibility is always there.

Overal I like the advice. I particularly enjoy his suggestions on easing the players into an unfamiliar cultural counterpart, and his compromise between "player skill" of OSR games and abstracting the results of skill rolls, where most OSR designers and products go entirely for the former.

Running the Five Kingdoms



This section's a toolbox for GMs to build a more solid foundation for campaigns which progress beyond the local level. It's part conflict resolution engine, part adventure seed generator, and part political maneuvering tracker. The tools fashion diplomatic goals and relationships between the kingdoms to create a dynamic world and adventure plots to tempt your players.

Basically, there are 3 stats to track kingdoms: Might, Troubles, and Treasure.

Might is a 1-5 scale (1 for a village, 3 for a province, 4 for a nation and 5 for vast empires) of a place to determine its ability to attack hostile outside forces, keep law and order, and its general power and resources. A Might contest is a 1d6+Might roll with the higher result winning, and a tie going to the one with the higher Might.

Trouble is a score which reflects disasters and strife afflicting a community. Each individual trouble has its own score, with higher values of greater magnitude. For example, "Popular uprising in the west" may be a 4, witchcraft activity 2 in a village might be 2, while the "Eternal of the Silent City uniting against our nation" can be a whopping 15! Each kingdom by default starts with 1d6+6 points of trouble, and PCs might be able to resolve or minimize these troubles as the result of adventuring. Each settlement can only handle a maximum Trouble value before collapsing into death or anarchy, determined by their Might. A mere Might 1 village collapses at 6 Trouble, where a Might 4 kingdoms collapses at 20 Trouble.

Treasure represents not only trade ingots but its ability to mobilize peasants, stock of natural resources, and economic power. Treasure points can be spent to add to a Might or Trouble check to represent the government investing resources in dealing with a problem. A state cannot spend more Treasure than their Might rating, however. Some actions require Treasure to undertake at all, and don't add their bonus to the roll. Generally speaking Treasure scores cannot be measure in ingot value, but PCs who donate wealth to a cause or tax their lands might need a good estimation. Generally speaking, 1 Treasure Point represents 100 silver for a Might 1 village, 1,000 for Might 2 town, 10,000 for a Might 3 province and so on.

At the start of a campaign each kingdom has a Role which determines starting values and proper actions. An Ascendant kingdom is undergoing an era of prosperity and starts with more Treasure and less trouble. A Declining kingdom starts with no Treasure and 1d6+12 Trouble. A Hostile kingdom has a bitter enmity to one of its neighbors, and will prioritize actions towards harming said neighbor even at the cost of their own well-being. A Fractured kingdom represents a full-blown civil war or rebellion on a nation-wide scale, and must roll Trouble checks before acting or else it must spend its turn dealing with their own internal conflict (which is a Trouble all its own). An Exhausted kingdom is tired of the outside world and turned in on itself, not seeking entanglements with other nation except in self-defense.

One of the Five Kingdoms is a Traitor, its leaders secretly made a deal with the Eternal in hopes of immortality and power. Their treachery is well-concealed, for it would cause the other four kingdoms to turn on them. Said kingdom has an interest in plundering Deshurite strongholds and Eternal tomb-houses to obtain the forbidden lore. If the Traitor gains 25 Treasure earned from Purify actions, then they assemble the requisite lore and can control the Eternal, which is a Might 3 ally all its own and can take its own actions every turn (although they're solely offensive) against the other kingdoms.



Every kingdom can take an action of its own during its turn. Generally they cover the likeliest actions, and if the GM needs something not covered on the list they're encouraged to use a Trouble check for internal matters and Might for external conflicts. Generally they're performed for things the PCs aren't involved in. If the PCs help restore a trade route by clearing the area of monsters, which would ordinarily be a "Trouble 3" event, then the action is automatically resolved with no Might check necessary.

I won't cover all the actions here, but they're obvious things like Attack (wage war), Expand (add new Might over a reasonable period on success, Trouble if failed), Purify (clean out Eternal strongholds, gain Treasure if successful, trouble if failed), Trade (both states roll Trouble checks to gain 2 points of Treasure each), and the like.


I feel that this mini-game would be too complicated to introduce to a first campaign, and it tends to involve things which do not directly involve the PCs. I also feel that certain kingdoms are inappropriate for Roles. I can't see the Meru turning Traitor, whereas Ascendant for Nyala would contradict the in-setting description of an Empire in decline.


We end this chapter with a table of Action and Trouble examples, which can be generated by rolling a D12, twice in the case of Troubles. They're rather open-ended and serve as good adventure fodder. For example, a result on the Purification table has dangerous books of Deshurite magic being sought out by good and evil folk, while a sample Trouble has unearthed ruins sending out awakened monsters.


Thoughts so far: Although a short chapter, this has a lot of interesting advice not ordinarily seen in most RPG books.

Next time, Chapter 6: Creating Adventures

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 03:35 on Jul 10, 2014

Plutonis
Mar 25, 2011


Has anyone here reviewed the D&D 3.5 epic handbook yet? I've played with it before and to be honest it looked quite worse than a black woman's vagina, which in my experience look like Phillipe's french dipped roast beef sandwiches which have been sitting out in front of union station in July for about 4 hours then used to wipe someone's rear end after a session of Pathfinder.

(USER WAS PUT ON PROBATION FOR THIS POST)

occamsnailfile
Nov 4, 2007



zamtrios so lonely

Grimey Drawer

Libertad! posted:



Chapter Five: Running a Campaign



Wow, someone really did not like Spears of the Dawn.

Anyway, the chapter of advice sounds pretty useful for trying to lure people into an unfamiliar theme. Obviously it's fairly applicable to a lot of unfamiliar settings, but getting nerds out of the Tolkien Comfort Zone of fantasy seems to be particularly difficult. Doubly so perhaps for African-derived settings.

The kingdom traits/conflict section is also an interesting way to handle some of the inter-realm conflicts without, I dunno, breaking out the spreadsheets or playing Civ IV multi or something. It's a shame that it conflicts with some of the in-setting fluff. Of course, playing warring nations is not usually what I (or most) gamers come to an RPG for directly, but as PCs get up into the realm of movers and shakers, it might be nice to have some degree of abstracted resolution for the movements of larger forces.

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

occamsnailfile posted:

Anyway, the chapter of advice sounds pretty useful for trying to lure people into an unfamiliar theme. Obviously it's fairly applicable to a lot of unfamiliar settings, but getting nerds out of the Tolkien Comfort Zone of fantasy seems to be particularly difficult. Doubly so perhaps for African-derived settings.

It's pretty interesting in how once you delve past your fear of being unable to understand a foreign element, you realize how familiar things can be, or not that different. When I was reading the book I couldn't help but make comparisons to existing D&D settings. Lokossa was a lot like Thay from Forgotten Realms (a magocracy run by dicks), Sunriders are a lot like Paladins, Sokone's a cosmopolitan merchant hub, et cetera.


quote:

The kingdom traits/conflict section is also an interesting way to handle some of the inter-realm conflicts without, I dunno, breaking out the spreadsheets or playing Civ IV multi or something. It's a shame that it conflicts with some of the in-setting fluff. Of course, playing warring nations is not usually what I (or most) gamers come to an RPG for directly, but as PCs get up into the realm of movers and shakers, it might be nice to have some degree of abstracted resolution for the movements of larger forces.

Well, it's also meant to work for smaller communities, but I don't see why one would do that when you've got Adventurer Conqueror King to serve all of your needs. It doesn't conflict unless you roll randomly or assign kingdom roles to things which don't make sense. For example, Nyala would be Declining, Kirsi would be Fractured, and Lokossa is just begging to be the Traitor. Sorcerers of great power who are pretty much set up as the bad guy nation? Come on!

Cardiovorax
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.

Libertad! posted:

It's pretty interesting in how once you delve past your fear of being unable to understand a foreign element, you realize how familiar things can be, or not that different.
That's what I enjoyed the most about learning about real-life African history. It makes you appreciate just how different from each other people aren't.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Midjack posted:

The Gun Bunnies scenario that was talked about in System Mastery is also present in the 1E AtB - I suspect the scenarios in 2E were copy/pasted wholesale from 1E.

IIRC, just the art was changed. I can only presume Palladium's ability to republish Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's arts vanished along with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license.

Simian_Prime
Nov 6, 2011

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

Has anybody taken a look at the LotFP freebie for Free RPG Day, "Doom Cave of the Crystal Headed Children?'' It would make a hilarious review because holy crap it is Peak Raggi. Imagine an adventure that desperately tries to emulate Weird Tales, but ends up coming out more like an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

MadScientistWorking
Jun 23, 2010

"I was going through a time period where I was looking up weird stories involving necrophilia..."


Alien Rope Burn posted:

IIRC, just the art was changed. I can only presume Palladium's ability to republish Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's arts vanished along with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license.
After the Bomb still has Eastman and Laird's artwork on it though.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



inklesspen posted:

Currently I've got a database containing every post from all three threads as well as all the indexes Syrg Sapphire has so generously maintained on the wiki, and I can automatically keep this archive up to date going forward. There's also probably some way I can make the indexing job easier. Happy to talk about that too.
I didn't abandon the Apocalypse World writeup, that one is finished.

Now the Rules Cyclopedia and TORG, on the other hand...

(Man I need to get back into the writing groove)

Kavak
Aug 23, 2009




Simian_Prime posted:

Has anybody taken a look at the LotFP freebie for Free RPG Day, "Doom Cave of the Crystal Headed Children?'' It would make a hilarious review because holy crap it is Peak Raggi. Imagine an adventure that desperately tries to emulate Weird Tales, but ends up coming out more like an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

I would kill for an Aqua Teen RPG.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



Alien Rope Burn posted:

IIRC, just the art was changed. I can only presume Palladium's ability to republish Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's arts vanished along with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license.

I don't have it in front of me, but a lot of the new art in AtB was done by some of those later Palladium guys that had real talent. Ramon Perez is definitely in there, he was always my favorite Palladium guy.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



Simian_Prime posted:

Has anybody taken a look at the LotFP freebie for Free RPG Day, "Doom Cave of the Crystal Headed Children?'' It would make a hilarious review because holy crap it is Peak Raggi. Imagine an adventure that desperately tries to emulate Weird Tales, but ends up coming out more like an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
God drat it. I read that as "Doom Cave of the Crystal Headed Chicken" and was immediately assuming based on your statement that at some point someone says "ARISE, CHICKEN! CHICKEN, ARISE!"

Kavak posted:

I would kill for an Aqua Teen RPG.
We could call it "Dancing Is Forbidden".

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




Y'ha'nthlei is a very expensive city.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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






Chapter 3: Character Creation

This has been too long in coming, so here's a link to the last chapter.

Dune’s character creation sets out with advice on fleshing out a character concept and seeing PCs as more than the sum of their stats. It also devotes a lot of space to telling the GM and the players to be cool with each other, and to buy in to the basic premise of the game and its setting. That is, the PCs are going to play a House entourage, so they have to be able to get along. For example, Suk doctors are conditioned to be nonviolent, but a Suk PC who constantly rails against his House’s military endeavours is inappropriate. That is a misinterpretation of the setting, but the real reason it’s a bad idea is that it will lead to the players getting on each other’s nerves. What? Gaming advice from adults, for adults? In the 90s, no less?

Players are encouraged to pursue unconventional character concepts; for example, there’s no reason you can’t play a Mentat who is also a passionate duelist, since the source novels are full of that kind of thing. However, there are also some firm limits. First, the Imperium is deeply patriarchal, so men can’t be Bene Gesserit agents, and women can’t inherit leadership of a House. The fact that you’re assumed to be playing a House entourage also discourages you from playing characters who are part of the setting but who aren’t tied to the feudal system, such as a Guild navigator or a spice smuggler. However, there are suggestions on how to include such characters as a “special guest appearance,” somebody’s secondary PC, or as a character on a long-term mission with a good reason to be palling around with a House entourage.

There’s no advice on how the players reach a consensus on what Great House lineage to play, which is a glaring omission. The House you play will not only have a great influence on the tone of the game, it determines your base stats! Granted, the differences are mostly minor: a +1 to an Attribute edge here, a skill there. But if you’re playing a Mentat, you probably wanted the Tseida’s +1 to Intellect (Logic) instead of the Harkonnen bonus to Physique (Strength). I’m guessing the Baron makes all his young relatives pump iron while he watches.



The default character creation method boils down to choosing a series of “packages,” starting with your House Allegiance, with a few free Development Points at the end for additional customization. At each stage of creation, all the packages are worth the same amount of points, so if none of them appeal to you, you can just take some free points. You can also do full point-buy with 130 Development Points.

I can’t explain the character creation process in full without going into some detail about the traits themselves. A Dune character sheet will be familiar to anyone who’s ever played a Storyteller, Unisystem, or D6 game, not to mention many others. Player characters have Attributes, Skills, and Traits.

Attributes are rated 1-6, with 6 representing the absolute peak of human potential. Each Attribute is also split into two Edges, just like the House Attributes from the previous chapter.



So it’s possible to have Physique 2 (Strength +1). I really don’t like this, because it seems to defeat the point of the laudable design decision to combine Strength and Constitution in the first place. Too many other games have a Strength attribute that falls by the wayside and is almost useless both in and out of combat. (I’m looking at you, White Wolf.) Second, you need to keep track of the Edge bonuses you get during character creation. If a bonus would give you +3 in an Edge, instead you “reset” and increase the base Attribute by 1. Oh, and what’s the difference between having Physique 2 (Strength +1, Constitution +1) and having Physique 3? I have no idea; I hope they’ll explain later.




Oh! How very simple!

Skills, on the other hand...I like what they did here. First, there’s a bounded number of skills, and they’re appropriately broad. “Armed Combat,” for example, covers all melee weapons. Many skills do require a specialization, but there’s a limited number of those, too, and your base rating still reflects general knowledge. A character with Science 2 (Biology 1) specializes in biology, but has an education in all the physical and life sciences, while a character with Transport 1 can operate everything from a car to a space shuttle. So Dune avoids the pitfalls of a game with extremely specific skills and a potentially infinite number of skills for things like academic disciplines, and prevents PCs from being so specialized that their skills are often irrelevant.

Traits are miscellaneous advantages and disadvantages that include mundane resources, social statuses, strengths and weaknesses of character, and “conditioning” that isn’t covered by skills, such as that of Bene Gesserit agents and Suk doctors.

Having dispensed with those details, these are the stages of character creation:

Stage 1, House Allegiance, is the Great House to which your character’s House Minor belongs. It determines your base attributes, plus some skills and low-level Traits. All the Houses get base Attributes of 2 with a bonus here and there, plus a point of Culture, History, and World Knowledge with a free specialization in your native House and homeworld.



Stage 2, Vocational Conditioning, basically means character class, like Bene Gesserit Adept, Strategist, Assassin, et cetera. These packages grant attribute bonuses, more skills, and Traits related to your character’s profession and conditioning. While Dune isn’t a class/level game, some of the “vocational” Traits are exclusive and integral from a setting point of view. Mentats, for instance, must be trained from early childhood. Vocation is also important because it determines your caste.



Stage 3, Background History, encompasses three background packages that represent your character’s upbringing, career, and goals.

Early Life is a good opportunity for a character to either become more specialized or get some “multiclass” training with backgrounds like Mentat Priming, Bene Gesserit Teaching, or Dueling Instruction. (Paul Atreides got all three.)



House Service goes beyond your profession to your actual job--what do you do for your House? Suk characters are likely to take House Physician, but a Swordmaster could potentially be a Security Commander, Weapons Master, or the Personal Confidante to the royal heir.



Personal Calling is essentially what marks you out as unique. The term is imprecise, because the packages encompass a mixture of career paths and unusual backgrounds. For example, you could be a Sleeper Agent or an Arena Fighter, by choice or otherwise, or maybe you received an Off-World Education, which is a circumstance of your upbringing. Or you might be a Breeder, which is exactly as creepy as it sounds--it means that because of some genetic quirk, the Bene Gesserit take a special interest in you as part of their grand scheme to control the bloodlines of the Houses.



Stage 4, Finishing Touches, gives you five “freebie” points to spend.


Development Points

At this point, your Vocational Conditioning will determine your social Caste and starting equipment. Each character also gets 3 Karama (“karma points” to spend on automatic successes), and Renown. Renown has 4 aspects: Valor, Learning, Justice, and Prayer, representing a character’s reputation for heroism, knowledge, diplomacy, and wisdom, respectively. You get 1 point to put in 1 aspect, plus any granted by the packages you chose.



That's it! The GM has veto on character concepts that make no sense, like a dueling Suk doctor. There is some more advice here that strikes me as too heavy-handed: case in point, the assertion that a Noble would never have the Assassination skill, despite the fact that the Emperor's best buddy is duelist, an assassin, and an all-around treacherous bastard.


”I can’t eat fifteen gallons of spice!”
“Oh, it’s not going in that end, Mr. Atreides.”




Next time, on Dune: I'll go over the sample characters, and create a couple myself.

Angry Salami
Jul 27, 2013

Don't trust the skull.


I would assume everyone in Dune has the Assassination skill...

Ratpick
Oct 9, 2012

And no one ate dinner that night.

So, me getting my poo poo together with my write-up of Monsterhearts was pretty much a blatant lie, since apparently June turned out to be a really lovely month as far as productivity, but I'm back for now. That means it's time for more Monsterhearts.



Last time we took a look at the first of the skins, the Chosen. This time, it's the Fae.


Can't come up with a clever subtitle for this, sorry.

The Fae is one of the skins with the most social shenanigans going on. It draws heavily from Celtic myths of the sidhe, or the fair folk as they're sometimes called, and in this regard it shares a lot of thematic ground with the fae of nWoD. The Fae is alien, beautiful and hypnotic, but also an outsider to human norms and customs, having their own weird ways of looking at morality. That being said, not all characters of the Fae skin are 100% pure-blooded Fae: some of the choices of origin include stuff like "adopted," "stole the gift" and "touched with the gift," meaning that your character may have been a mortal before until fairy shenanigans happened. "Adopted" for one takes some interesting implications when one considers that lots of European cultures had stories of fairies stealing away human children, raising them as their own. Not surprisingly, stories of these "changelings" are also what informed the nWoD interpretation of the fae for Changeling: The Lost.

Okay, enough talk about fairy tales. What does the Fae skin actually do?

Well, first of all, its high stats are Hot and Dark, meaning that they're seductive and manipulative, while at the same time being in tune with the occult and the "other side" if you will. On the other hand, this leaves Volatile and Cold as their low stats, meaning that they're vulnerable, both physically and mentally.

All Fae start with the Faery Contract move, which fits in perfectly with the inspired-by-Celtic-myth angle of the Fae: geasa, or magically enforced vows and promises, are kind of a huge deal in Celtic myth. (Also, in case you're wondering, the D&D spell geass takes its name from the same expression.) What this move does is that whenever breaks a promise or vow to you, you take a string on them, and when you spend strings on them to even the score you can invoke one of the following effects instead of one of the standard ones:
  • they gently caress up something at a crucial moment
  • add 2 to your roll on an act of vengeance
  • they suffer 1 harm, whether the cause is obvious or not

Because of the magical nature of Faery Contracts, it's explicitly stated that these effects need not obviously come from the Fae: for an example, if another character had wronged the Fae and broken a contract with them, the Fae could make them gently caress up at, say, an important performance in front of a huge crowd, and no one could be able to pin it on the Fae. To all onlookers it'd just look like the person in question had hosed up due to bad luck or their own incompetence.

Fae also get to choose one more move, from amongs the following:

The Constant Bargain, as its name implies, is about constantly trading favors, and it's a very powerful social move. Whenever someone asks you to do something and you do it, you get to roll with Hot. On a 10+ they lose a string on you and you gain one on them, on a 7-9 you choose one or the other, while on a 6- you've shown that they can walk over you and they gain a string on you. This move can make the Fae very good at controlling the economy of strings in the game.

The Wild Hunt is, desing-wise, a bit boring, since it's just a +1 to turn someone on as long as you demonstrate your most feral manner, i.e. by "echoing the lithe movements of a cat or the voracity of a wolf".

Beyond the Veil adds a new option to the gaze into the abyss move when you commune with the Faery King: on a 10+ you can gain a hidden string on someone, while on a 7-9 you can choose "The visions are clear, but the Faery King demands a favor of you." A nice move, since not only does it add to an existing move without just being a +1 bonus, and it also adds a bit of world-building into the game by implying the existence of a Faery King.

Lure is a move that works really well with Faery Contract: whenever someone makes a promise to you, they get to mark experience, but whenever they break a promise and you seek vengeance for it you get to mark experience. This move pretty much complement Faery Contract: in actual play, it might be really hard for the Fae to get people to make promises to them, as they know it might come and bite them in the rear end, but this move takes some of the edge off of that by giving them experience for making promises.

Guide is a simple move: spend a string on someone and bring them with you across the veil into the faery court. No word on what the faery court is and what the players can expect there, but in the hands of the right group it can lead to interesting world-building and story hooks.

Unashamed allows you to give someone a string on you to take a +3 on your attempt to turn them on. It's a bit... yeah. It's more interesting than The Wild Hunt mechanically, due to involving an exchange of strings, but not great.

Next up is the Fae's backstory: because the Fae wears their heart on their sleeve, everyone gets a string on them. However, the Fae gets to choose someone whose fancy they've caught, and they get two strings on that character.

Next we have the Fae's sex move, which is one example of not all of the game's sex moves being explicitly sexual:

quote:

When you lie naked with another, you can ask them for a promise. If they refuse, take 2 Strings on them.

And finally, the Fae's darkest self:

quote:

Everything you say is a promise. Everything you hear is a promise. If a promise is broken, justice must be wrought in blood. To escape your Darkest Self, you must in some way re-balance the scales of justice.

Fun fact: in the very first Monsterhearts game I played, the Mortal and the Fae ended up having sex. The Fae immediately extracted the promise "Promise you'll never leave me" from the Mortal. Now, because the Mortal's sex move triggers the other person's darkest self, the Mortal narrated that while the Fae was putting her clothes back on, she suddenly heard the door to the room slam, and once she looked around the Mortal was nowhere in sight. Hilarity tragedy ensued.

Next time, :ghost:

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.




System Mastery read the WEG Star Wars. This game is probably better than we'll tell you it is, but I have this allergic reaction to overly moralizing games, and this one is deeply strict about what good guys will do. Anyway, enjoy!

Star Wars RPG - Second Edition: Revised and Expanded

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




I remember bumping up against that, too. "It's evil to choke a guy out with the Force? I just chopped that other guy in half."

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



Halloween Jack posted:

I remember bumping up against that, too. "It's evil to choke a guy out with the Force? I just chopped that other guy in half."

Basically all the Jedi in the original trilogy would be fat with GM-enforced dark side points in this book. "Oh, you wanna lie to Bib Fortuna? No true Jedi would lie, you get a dark side point!"

hectorgrey
Oct 14, 2011


To be fair, that's probably the fault of the setting - Star Wars has a very black and white morality (particularly as regards the force).

Edit: To be fair, the Return of the Jedi stats for Luke Skywalker actually gives him a dark side point - for the use of a dark side power, if memory serves.

FMguru
Sep 10, 2003

peed on;
sexually

hectorgrey posted:

To be fair, that's probably the fault of the setting - Star Wars has a very black and white morality (particularly as regards the force).

Edit: To be fair, the Return of the Jedi stats for Luke Skywalker actually gives him a dark side point - for the use of a dark side power, if memory serves.
Yeah, one of the subtler bits in ROTJ is how close Luke is dancing to the edge of the dark side (well, subtle for Lucas at any rate - look at the color of his outfit for most of the movie).

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



FMguru posted:

Yeah, one of the subtler bits in ROTJ is how close Luke is dancing to the edge of the dark side (well, subtle for Lucas at any rate - look at the color of his outfit for most of the movie).

Right, it's supposed to be an artful and totally not ham-handed parallel drawn between Luke and Vader. But the book suggests that players getting close to the dark side should probably have their characters changed to NPCs, which is probably a little much.

Heck, since the book just says that using the force to lie is a dark side act, it also means that "These aren't the droids you're looking for" is a dark side move. Would have been light-sidier to just kill those stormtroopers with a gun and move on.

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012

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


Well, in the d20 Star wars games, using force lightning to electrocute someone, even a little bit, is a dark side act. Using ignite to burn someone alive from the inside out is not.

raverrn
Apr 5, 2005

Unidentified spacecraft inbound from delta line.

All Silpheed squadrons scramble now!



Kurieg posted:

Well, in the d20 Star wars games, using force lightning to electrocute someone, even a little bit, is a dark side act. Using ignite to burn someone alive from the inside out is not.

In Knights of the Old Republic using poison to kill a few hundred slaves gives you dark side points.

Using twice as much poison so they all die quicker, however, gives you light side points.

I'm saying it could always be worse.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



Yeah, whenever a game tries to regulate moral choices on a scale, they tend to forget they were doing that about a paragraph later. The boiling water thing in Rifts Hydrokinesis is my favorite. Hurl boiling water at a guy? Only a double Hitler with a heart of solidified racism would do this. Literally light a guy on fire? Go for it, principled hero!

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PantsOptional
Dec 27, 2012

All I wanna do is make you bounce

Enforced morality in RPGs is heavy-handed and poorly thought out, news at eleven.

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