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Tulpa
Aug 8, 2014


Every time I'd roll one of the growing up moves, I'd get 2 on the dice, so yeah. Improbably bad luck but it still occasionally led to good story opportunities. There was definitely an air of 'what happens now' when the rolls failed because it feels weird to say 'you acted like a mature adult, hard move.'

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Mr. Maltose
Feb 16, 2011

The Guffless Girlverine


Sometimes acting like an actual adult when everything is dialed to Highschool Drama backfires in real life. Occasionally it backfires catastrophically. I'm sure we've all seen that happen at least once.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Rifts Mercenaries Part 24: "'You have been very entertaining, mortals. In a few hours, I will pay you my respects - personally. The energies released in the upcoming battle will be enough to release me into your world. Soon to be mine.'"

Casualties of Peace

Finally, we end with an adventure, and certainly the only fleshed-out one Rifts has had at this point. I mean, Rifts Sourcebook had one that just kind of trails off, but this is a much stronger plot. In any case, it starts with an overview of the plot and the description of the two main factions, Hope City and Benford Town.

It notes you should have a psychic PC or an psychic taglong NPC present. This is not a polite suggestion; a party without one will have a much harder time getting a good end out of this adventure otherwise.

Hope City

Hope City is a fairly tolerant community of humans and D-bees, with a good number of elves (Rifts Conversion Book) and wolfen (Rifts Conversion Book, again), though they're wary of overly monstrous folk and will bar them from the city unless accompanied by trustworthy sorts (read: other PCs). It's run by a "Guilds' Council" which is a collection of wealthy merchants, and a "Citizens' Assembly", which is a democratically-elected group. We get a breakdown of their military forces, which is only lightly armed for the most part save for some power armor and robot suits, but nothing major.

Benford Town

Benford Town, on the other hand, is a mining town that's almost run dry, and fears the D-Bees, outsiders, and magic in sort of a Coalition-lite fashion, despite having a sizable D-Bee population. It's a lot more old-westy, with lynchings, mob justice, five wealthy ruling families, and that sort of thing. They have to fight off goblin and ogre raiders, and often raid local D-Bees tribes to keep them in line. "Keep them in line" generally doesn't mean extermination, but it can. They have a fairly eclectic military force with Chipwell and Titan (aka Cyberworks) suits, but have a pretty strong air unit. Generally, they're better armed than Hope City, which will be important.

The Conflict


No effective gun in Rifts actually uses casings.

There's a big long narrative, but the long and short is that the two towns are butting heads over mining rights. Benford Town seems to be in the wrong, having made unreasonable demands regarding this, but negotiations seemed to be going well until Benford Town representatives became unexpectedly demanding and belligerent and also has been crazy and racist towards D-Bee representatives from Hope City. Meanwhile, prospectors from Hope City were murdered, and Hope City sent troops to protect them, blaming Benford Town. Benford Town took offense, and claimed Hope City was trying to seize land with their troops. A mining dispute turned to a skirmish with deaths on both sides, and as Winter came, both sides turned to hiring mercenaries... like the PCs!

Help Wanted

It notes the player characters can be hired on either side of the war, either as part of an existing company, their own company, or as independents. Hope City has hired Braddock's Bad Boys and Crow's Commandoes, and Benford Town has hired fuckin' Larsen's Brigade. Things are set for a showdown.

Bad Omens

Psychics will have strange nightmares while in the city about a battlefield at war, and then tentacles bust up out of the Earth, and they wake up. Then a mysterious albino blind old man shows up and tries to warn the PCs that they have to stop the war, but then vanishes like Batman or a ghost, or a ghost Batman. Mostly, though, this is a period to get the PCs acquainted with the locale and their employer, if any, and maybe get into a scuffle.

Begins the War

Hostilities break out,a nd tthe PCs are assigned with a small unit to scout around in trucks or APCs, and psychics will still have the bad dreams. It gives a random encounter chart which is mostly fights with bandits, the enemy, air strikes, etc., with a few rare encounters with neutral animals or monsters.

News and Occurrences



This dog boy does not appear in this adventure.

A major skirmish away from the players is a victory for Hope City's mercenaries, where the Commandoes and Bad Boys take down some of Benford Town's air support. The only real involvement for the PC are the aircraft that pass overhead, and there's a reward if they shoot any foes down as they pass by.

The Battle

This is the first major battle for the PCs, in which Larsen starts with an air raid, and Braddock responds with artillery and a counterattack. There's a lot of notes here and opportunities for PCs to take an advantageous hill, spot for air strikes, set up ambushes, etc. It notes that things should be in the PCs favor, with support if they need it, but not so much as to make this a pushover. However, the PCs actions won't change much, as it becomes clear that even though it's largely a tie, Benford and Larsen have the edge.

Oh, and psychics will see a giant evil face laughing over the battlefield. Subtle.

The Cave


Game art.

It notes that any PC psychics won't be alone - Dog Boys and other psychics will have been sufficiently freaked out by Bighuge Evilface, and there will be a call for an investigation. Of the people involved, Larsen is most likely to want to find out more, but the governments of our two cities don't particularly care.

While on patrol, PCs will find a comatose man on a hill, who has been frightened into severe shock. There's a cave nearby that radiates Vibes of Evil to psychic PCs. If the PCs go on, they'll run into a mass of six clawed tentacles + two legs. It attacks! Roll for initiative.

It's a pretty badass tentacle flower, and has a special attack when it hits where it can drain Mental Endurance (temporarily) from characters, like the scared guy on the hill. There are mostly just other dead bodies in the cave, and stronger Vibes of Evil.

Commanders of the various mercenary groups will be curious and want to find out more, but won't have a lot of manpower to dedicate to the task. Enter the PCs! Adventurous! Skilled! Disposable!

Going further into the cave reveals a group of miners, or rather their corpses. The miners obviously went crazy and killed each other. Spooky! Then the PCs will encounter an open area where there's an evil ghost eye with evil ghost tentacles, who will taunt them about how it's already one, and that the upcoming battle will cause enough death energy for it to eat and be released on Earth. It'll then try and possess PCs, but the save is relatively easy, even though it can take over multiple bodies, and otherwise it'll try and drain their PPE and ISP. Unlike normal combat, only psychic powers can hurt the thing, or alternately astral projection can be used to engage it in astral fisticuffs. (No, really.) Beating it will only dispel it for a few minutes.

There's a small issue here, because it seems very possible that the PCs could defeat it, march off, and think things were resolved and its plot finished. That'd be very bad, as we'll see in the next scene.

The Last Battle

Larsen is getting ready to seize the disputed land, and is ready for an all-out assault, and Braddock is getting ready to counter it. It doesn't really matter who wins, though it's presumed Larsen is likely to be the victor.

Basically, the players are supposed to be tipped off enough by this point to try and stop the battle. It's open-ended as to how they do that, but generally speaking to Larsen and / or Braddock would be the key, or doing a convincing enough open broadcast. The albino blind old man will show up to try and spur them on (he turns out to just be a psychic who foresaw the ghost monster's plans) and try and stop the battle ineffectually; it's up to the PCs to do the heavy lifting.

The Price of Failure

If the PCs don't manage to stop the battle, Larsen's Air Castle planes will break through and bomb Braddock's lines, letting him break though and win the battle... at least until the ground breaks open and it's Tentacles Everywhere. A giant unstoppable eye-tentacle monster will show up with (1d4+1) x 1000 of the tentacle flower monsters, and roll over Larsen's (totally unprepared) Brigade. It's presumed that the forces have no chance and will be forced to flee or die, and the eye-thing will start rifting in another 1d6 x 100 monsters an hour until all 50,000 of its servants arrive. It'll make war on everyone, and likely other city-states and the Coalition will be involved pretty quickly.

The Conqueror Alien Intelligence

... is the name of the ghost-eye-tentacle thing. It turns out to have manipulated the conflict by possessing miners and other agents to stoke the flames of war (boy, it would be nice if that were clearer earlier on in the adventure), and is a 100K MDC supernatural powerhouse that can float around and shoot deadly psychic bolts or cast spells like Carpet of Adhesion. Well, giant flypaper is one of the strongest spells in the game. It gains power from death, and so people dying around this thing is supposed to empower it, but there are no actual mechanics for that.In any case, it's pretty much a Bad End for most groups to even consider facing this thing.

The Rewards of Victory

If the PCs stop the battle, they're likely to have Braddock or Larsen or both in their debt. It turns out the mines weren't that big a deal - the find was exaggerated by the Conqueror's possessed minions. The Conqueror will lose its toehold on Earth without the conflict and fade away. Benford Town will go nearly bankrupt due to war debts, Hope City will be struggling, and some mercs will hold a grudge against the PCs due to the loss of their contracts.

There's a note - which I'm pretty sure is by Siembieda - "No matter what, the Conqueror will remember the characters. One day, it will try to extract revenge.

I wish he'd just shut up and let the PCs enjoy a victory for once.

Continuing Sub-Plots

Also - and it would have been nice to have this mentioned during the adventure - is that the Coalition was also spurring on the war through Dog Boy and cyborg spies in Benford Town. It hoped to both wreck Hope Town and cripple Larsen's Brigade, and if the mercenaries wore each other out, the Coalition was waiting to march in and take over Benford Town. However, if the Conqueror is stopped, the Coalition will actually be satisfied enough with that and leave its spies around to evaluate Benford Town for a future takeover.


This was used as a piece in Palladium ads, has nothing to do with the adventure, but is in there anyway!

And that is all of Rifts Mercenaries. It's a bit of a mess, but has some promising bits. The best part of the book is that it's the first book to consider military conflicts in Rifts as something more than just banging two toys together. But the problem is that for every promising concept, there's another that's dull or facepalmy. I hate to jab a finger at Siembieda alone, but classes like the Safecracker or sections like the Golden Age Weaponsmiths are the weakest sections of the cool. It's clear, even though his work in this book is rough, Carella is a more consistent and thoughtful writer than we've seen so far in terms of considering all the implications of various supernatural and technological elements, a strength we'll see in the rest of his Rifts work.

Done.

The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007



Of all the RIFTS stuff you've seen so far, what would you say is the most horrifically overpowered / broken-and-abusable thing that players can access? I know there's a lot of competition there, but I'm curious.

Rand Brittain
Mar 24, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."

CHUUBO'S MARVELOUS WISH-GRANTING ENGINE

Part Two — Genres

The first big thing you'll want to decide when starting a new game of Chuubo is what genre you want to run it in. The rules support eight different types of game, each of which corresponds to one of the eight colors. They are as follows:

  • Pastoral (purple)
  • Gothic (silver)
  • Immersive Fantasy (red)
  • Techno (black)
  • Fairy Tales (green)
  • Epic Fantasy (blue)
  • Adventure Fantasy (orange)

and then there's also The Road of Trials (gold), which is a little different, because you won't actually set a whole game there.

The core of the XP engine runs around the "XP Actions" or emotional beats that each player will perform one of in each chapter. The in-character length of the chapter varies based on genre, but out-of-character a chapter lasts as long as each character needs to do one of the three or four XP Actions belonging to the genre you're playing in. So, the XP Actions for Pastoral games are Shared Action (do an ordinary thing with somebody else), Shared Reactions (talk about your feelings with somebody), and Slice of Life (look at the world around you and emote), and chapters last a week.

Once you take your XP Action for the chapter, you "fade" and let that mood summarize what you're up to for this chapter. Once that's done, it's good manners to let another player take the spotlight.

What is this for? It means that the backbone of a Pastoral game is going to be each player character doing something like watching another player character cooking, or drinking tea while watching the sunset, or having heartfelt discussions with each other, over the course of an individual week. In between these things, of course, there's plenty of time for standard player-character work like looking for the broken shards of a glass dragon or turning everybody French with your wishing machine, but these rules mean that no matter what, the timeframe is built around a certain degree of feelings-talking, tea-drinking, sunset-watching pastorality and that those are the scenes that set the pace. Meanwhile, in an Immersive Fantasy game your XP Actions revolve around beholding amazing things around you and you'll blow through three chapters in one in-game day.

(This variable pace also means that your once-per-chapter powers have different recharge times in different genres.)



PASTORAL

Pastoral games are meant to be slow and dreamlike. You'll tend to have chapters last a week and each story will last about a season, so that you'll move through the calendar as you go forward. The holidays on the calendar are important, because you get bonus XP for celebrating them. The first supplement, Fortitude: By the Docks of Big Lake, goes into more detail about the holidays and how Town celebrates them, including the awesome and apparently real Pancake Week, which involves making pancakes, wrestling, and harvest goddesses.

The three XP actions here are:

  • Shared Action: Connect emotionally to someone doing simple, honest things.
  • Shared Reactions: Connect to someone while talking about important stuff.
  • Slice of Life: Have an emotional reaction to something in the world, and get lost in the mood.

You'll use the pastoral mode to play games that remind you of Yokohama Shopping Log, Kamichu!, or some of the dreamier Ghibli films. It's also a pretty good way to simulate any of the various "club members doing nothing" shows.

GOTHIC

Gothic games are similar to Pastoral ones, but they add the element of obsession. When playing in a Gothic game, you'll use the Pastoral XP Actions, but you'll add:

  • Obsessive Action: Get worked up over something, and then go right over the edge.

Chapter lengths are going to vary in games of this time as you spiral outward and let time pass, and then spiral in again towards some event that you're highly focused on. You'll use this genre for things along the lines of Wuthering Heights or similar melodramas.

IMMERSIVE FANTASY



This one is my favorite. Originally called "Urban Fantasy," it got changed to the current name to get across the notion of losing yourself in experience of the world. Immersive games are all about exploration, about being in a world full of magic and wonder and being hungry to eat it all up. The XP Actions for Immersive Fantasy games are:

  • Sympathetic Action: See someone who's frozen up with emotion, and try to offer them help or sympathy.
  • or, Shock, the reversed form of Sympathetic Action, where you're the one who's frozen up.
  • Foreshadowing: See something happening and decide that it's important! Get caught up!
  • Discovery: Do or see something new, and declare that it's important enough to have an impact on you.

You'll use this mode for playing something in the style of Durarara!!!, The Eccentric Family or Gatchaman CROWDS.

TECHNO

Techno games build on Immersive Fantasy, and there's really only one difference: you're expected to use Rituals and Transitions a lot more often.

Rituals are odd. A Ritual is the go-to XP Action for anything that breaks the normal dramatic rules and goes straight for something stylized and magical. When you invoke your magical girl transformation sequence, that's a Ritual. A lot of other powers involve using a Ritual as well, like invoking the Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine. If your sister puts on a weird hat every week and yells at you about fate and survival strategies and then drops you down a hole, that's a Ritual too.

Performing a Ritual is a collaborative effort with everybody tossing an action or a reaction into the pot, so they're efficient sources of XP if everybody is on board. Which they may well be, if they watch the right kinds of TV shows!

A Transition is a similar kind of framing device but it's more like an short intermission between certain kinds of scenes where you stop and reflect a bit, usually with the aid of a bit of poetry. You use them to create a sense of distance or mysterium, along the lines of "You can tell the Headmaster's Methodology Tower is a special and spooky place because I have to read you a bit of 'Tyger, Tyger' before you can go in." You could also achieve a neat effect by doing something like requiring a Transition for anybody to enter or leave the School.

Next time: the other four genres!

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


The Lone Badger posted:

Of all the RIFTS stuff you've seen so far, what would you say is the most horrifically overpowered / broken-and-abusable thing that players can access? I know there's a lot of competition there, but I'm curious.

Depends on what you're looking for. Off the top of my head, Norse Giants (highest M.D.C. values + take a class of your choice), Dysasha demons (absurd M.D.C. + high-level supernatural powers), Godlings (top-end psionics or energy immunity + two spellcasting classes), Demigods (psionics or spellcasting + any class of your choice), Phoenixi (high M.D.C., start with 15th level fire elemental magic at 1st level), superheroes converted from Heroes Unlimited (lots of broken possibilities) and Glitter Boys / other high-end vehicle pilots (highest damage values in the game). Adding on being a Warrior of Valhalla is also always good, it's practically free (as long as you're willing to work for Odin) and adds several hundred M.D.C. Note you can combine some of the above, like playing a Demigod Glitter Boy Warrior of Valhalla, Demigod superhero (spellcasting and superpowers, sign me up!), etc.

Edit: This is just from the stuff we've reviewed, there's a lot more to cover from other books (Cosmo-Knights, Neo-Humans, "Fat Boy" Glitter Boys, etc.). And there's other stuff you can do if you can dig into some other Palladium games, like a Palladium Summoner who cherry-picks awesome monsters to enslave, time wizard dinosaurs, etc.

Alien Rope Burn fucked around with this message at 05:11 on Aug 24, 2014

Ratpick
Oct 9, 2012

And no one ate dinner that night.

neonchameleon posted:

Oh, has anyone else used Final Showdown to kill a Dark Power? (The Infernal in that game and the Dark Power tried so hard to recruit my Queen - and flirting with a Dark Power is a dangerous game, but one Queens are made for).

It's my dream to one day MC in a game of Monsterhearts featuring both a Chosen and an Infernal, so I can use the Infernal's Dark Power as the Menace and have an NPC playing the two characters against each other. Since Chosen have a high Hot stat as well, at best it'll turn into a very tragic romance with the Infernal in love with the Chosen but being forced to do bad poo poo to the Chosen because of the demonic voices in their head.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




The Mega-juicer probably deserves mention not because it's anything like the most power-bloated, but because no other class really displays just how much RIFTS says "gently caress it" to any idea to game balance.

The normal juicer gets all his drug-fueled minor super-powers which mostly end up not mattering since he's just as reliant on vehicles/MDC weapons and armor as any other character for the most part. These minor super-powers are "balanced" by a dramatically decreased life span (5 years and change). Something that doesn't actually matter one bit in 99% of games. Of course, they completely ignore possible interesting complications of the class like where the hell the juicer can get refills for the chemical cocktail they depend on, and how long they last (unless we're expected to believe 5 years worth of designer drugs are stored in the juicer's relatively tiny rig).

The mega-juicer on the other hand combines juicer conversion, M.O.M. systems and latent psychic powers to turn themselves into mega-damage beings. Of course, compared to most MDC creatures they're utter wimps but that still makes them several hundred times tougher and stronger than a regular juicer. In exchange, once their 5 years are up they catch fire and explode.

There are plenty of "souped up" versions of character classes that leave the original class in the dust and there are way more obscenely powerful classes, but the Mega-Juicer fills the exact same niche as the Juicer does with no meaningful difference in disadvantages but the Mega Juicer (and dragon juicer, etc) is clearly superior.

Tasoth
Dec 12, 2011


Alien Rope Burn posted:

time wizard dinosaurs

Go on...

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Tasoth posted:

Go on...

Transdimensional Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has rules for mutant dinosaurs. It also has rules for making one as a time-manipulating wizard. Now, being a wizard mutant dinosaur realllly isn't a big deal in Rifts, since you're not much different than a human wizard, save with maybe some claws or teeth that don't do damage against anything that matters. But being able to time travel... you can similarly do this if you roll the 7% or so likely chance to get your own time machine on Transdimensional TMNT's origin tables.

... well, it's not like Rifts has time cops or anything, so even with the limitations of time travel given, you can just go back and kill great-great-grandpappy Prosek, or otherwise do any number of things that might break the setting. Raid pre-rifts weapon stores, find a way to keep ARCHIE-3 from going mad, warn people about this disaster or that (Victor Lazlo's books would be a great means to send messages to the future, if you could convince him), etc.

ActingPower
Jun 4, 2013

Burgundy Twelve, at your service.


Rand Brittain posted:

CHUUBO'S MARVELOUS WISH-GRANTING ENGINE

Part Two — Genres

I love the Genre system of Chuubo's a lot, but there's one thing that bugs me. I think the primary genres (Pastoral, Immersive, Road of Trials, and Epic Fantasy) are much better than the secondary ones (Gothic, Techno, Fairy Tales, Adventure Fantasy). Part of that is the color system. I immediately get the connection between Pastoral, Shepherd, Work and Study, and Calling (all quiet and peaceful); I get the connection between all of the Red things and Immersive Fantasy (being emotionally invested, suprised, and driven); I get the connection between Orange stuff and the Road of Trials (all being about struggles and achieving greatness); and I even get the connection between Blue and the Epic Fantasy (being all about incredible powers and mighty feats). But what does Gothic have to do with Setting (or Emptiness, really, or Something to Deal With)? Or what about Techno and Mystic? (The connection between Techno and Ritual/Transitions is clear in-book, though kind of strained.) Green is always about walking two paths, except for Fairy Tales (okay, so transformation does happen in Fairy Tales, but it's not what I'd characterize them with). And Yellow... okay, Yellow makes sense, but why aren't there any Yellow XP Actions in the Yellow genre set?!

But anyway, like I said, I think the genre system is quite profound, and it works really well. I'll have to see what kind of stories defy those genres, though, just to see if I can. (For example, I'm thinking about making up a romance quest set. Hmm... which genre would be best for that? Pastoral, maybe?)

Rand Brittain
Mar 24, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."

ActingPower posted:

I love the Genre system of Chuubo's a lot, but there's one thing that bugs me. I think the primary genres (Pastoral, Immersive, Road of Trials, and Epic Fantasy) are much better than the secondary ones (Gothic, Techno, Fairy Tales, Adventure Fantasy). Part of that is the color system. I immediately get the connection between Pastoral, Shepherd, Work and Study, and Calling (all quiet and peaceful); I get the connection between all of the Red things and Immersive Fantasy (being emotionally invested, suprised, and driven); I get the connection between Orange stuff and the Road of Trials (all being about struggles and achieving greatness); and I even get the connection between Blue and the Epic Fantasy (being all about incredible powers and mighty feats). But what does Gothic have to do with Setting (or Emptiness, really, or Something to Deal With)? Or what about Techno and Mystic? (The connection between Techno and Ritual/Transitions is clear in-book, though kind of strained.) Green is always about walking two paths, except for Fairy Tales (okay, so transformation does happen in Fairy Tales, but it's not what I'd characterize them with). And Yellow... okay, Yellow makes sense, but why aren't there any Yellow XP Actions in the Yellow genre set?!

It's definitely not symmetrical. As with a lot of things Jenna's done recently, it seems to be basically a distillation of her ideas about how stories work.

(As for Gothic and silver, though, I think the common thread is suffering.)

Jenna Moran
Jun 6, 2013

It's nothing to someone with naturally curly hair, like myself.

ActingPower posted:

I love the Genre system of Chuubo's a lot, but there's one thing that bugs me. I think the primary genres (Pastoral, Immersive, Road of Trials, and Epic Fantasy) are much better than the secondary ones (Gothic, Techno, Fairy Tales, Adventure Fantasy). Part of that is the color system. I immediately get the connection between Pastoral, Shepherd, Work and Study, and Calling (all quiet and peaceful); I get the connection between all of the Red things and Immersive Fantasy (being emotionally invested, suprised, and driven); I get the connection between Orange stuff and the Road of Trials (all being about struggles and achieving greatness); and I even get the connection between Blue and the Epic Fantasy (being all about incredible powers and mighty feats). But what does Gothic have to do with Setting (or Emptiness, really, or Something to Deal With)? Or what about Techno and Mystic? (The connection between Techno and Ritual/Transitions is clear in-book, though kind of strained.) Green is always about walking two paths, except for Fairy Tales (okay, so transformation does happen in Fairy Tales, but it's not what I'd characterize them with). And Yellow... okay, Yellow makes sense, but why aren't there any Yellow XP Actions in the Yellow genre set?!

Bah, everybody knows that blue+blue+green+orange is yellow, and if you added actual yellow you'd get like black or something, that's implicit in the timecube. ^_^

quote:

(For example, I'm thinking about making up a romance quest set. Hmm... which genre would be best for that? Pastoral, maybe?)

Pastoral is probably closest to what makes a good relationship IRL, and Twilight's Gothic, but an awful lot of romance books seem to be adventure fantasies.

girl dick energy
Sep 30, 2009


Am I a bad person for wondering what genre Higurashi would be played in?

Jenna Moran
Jun 6, 2013

It's nothing to someone with naturally curly hair, like myself.

Poison Mushroom posted:

Am I a bad person for wondering what genre Higurashi would be played in?

I haven't played the VNs. If there's an event break that repeats itself maybe ... 10-15 times per VN? Like the moving clock hands on Umineko? But possibly more generic, like "this character narrates a thought" or "a new day"? Then Fairy Tale.

If not, then it's probably some nice genre---my original guess was Pastoral, and I even posted that here, but then I realized I don't really remember early Higurashi stuff well enough to be sure*---followed by a switch to the Road of Trials.**

The reason for this, btw, is that a key XP Action for both Fairy Tales and Road of Trials is Suffer Corruption, wherein you experience surreal effects and then the corruptive influence on you grows stronger. This seems like something you'd want to have as a standard action available in Higurashi.

* How embarrassing!

** I normally try to avoid recommending genre-switching, but the Road of Trials is kind of an exception that way.

Jenna Moran fucked around with this message at 07:14 on Aug 25, 2014

girl dick energy
Sep 30, 2009


I love that it'd imply "Fairy Tale" in the sense of "stories about magical creatures that will ruin your life; don't loving go into the woods after dark".

BerkerkLurk
Jul 22, 2001

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

Alien Rope Burn posted:

It's interesting to see Breaux try and make his designs more dynamic, but I just keep squinting at him struggling with perspective, mostly, particularly with those complex designs.
Poor guy was really prolific and never seemed to improve much. I'll still take him over most of the new artists they've had since Perez stopped contributing.

Ratpick
Oct 9, 2012

And no one ate dinner that night.

Monsterhearts time!



This time, it's time for the Mortal, a.k.a. the most destructive Skin in a game that is about monsters. The Mortal is dark, brooding, beautiful, and also probably caught in a dysfunctional and codependent relationship with someone who is actually a monster. So, that's fun.


Crawling in my Skin.

The Mortal is basically Bella from Twilight if the books had actually acknowledged the fact that her relationship with Edward was ultimately unhealthy and bad for her. Thematically the Mortal is about being infatuated with exactly wrong person: it's about codependency, one-sided love, and other such wholesome and unhealthy habits. It's also potentially the most monstrous Skin, which is appropriate, because one part of the MC's Agenda in Monsterhearts is to make the people look like monsters and the monsters look like people.

The Mortal starts with a 1 in Hot and Dark, and a -1 in Cold and Volatile. They're not well-equipped for physical confrontation, nor are they very good at keeping their cool or putting people down. They mainly rely on social wiles to get their way.

Moves: All Mortals start with True Love and get to choose two more.

True Love is the core of the Mortal: the Mortal always has one lover, the first chosen during their backstory. However, should the Mortal fall in love with someone else, they give that person a String and they become their new lover. The Mortal always carries 1 forward to winning their lover's attention or fancy. Yes, the Mortal is mechanically encouraged to obsess over a single person and to pursue their attention.

Mess With Me, Mess With Him gives the Mortal a way to cover up for their low Cold score: whenever the Mortal uses their lover's name as a threat, they can add 2 to their roll to shut someone down or hold steady, but their lover gains a String on them.

Sympathy is My Weapon rewards the Mortal for being caught in a dysfunctional and harmful relationship: whenever they forgive someone for hurting them and excuse their base nature, the Mortal gains a String on them.

Excuses are My Armor is the perfect pairing with the above: it allows Mortal to mark experience whenever they ignore some blatant problem with their lover or how they treat them.

Downward Spiral (named after a Nine Inch Nails album, or so I'm told!) allows the Mortal to deal themselves 1 harm to add 2 to their roll to gaze into the abyss.

Down the Rabbit Hole rewards the Mortal for getting caught in affairs beyond their reckoning: whenever they poke their nose in non-human affairs, they mark experience, but someone involved in the situation takes a String on them.

Entrenched really makes the Mortal shine: as you can see, a lot of the Mortal's moves are about giving people Strings. With Entrenched, whenever the Mortal and another person have 5 or more Strings between each other, the Mortal gets to add 1 to all rolls against them.

So, yeah, commentary. The Mortal is another example of how Monsterhearts uses its Skins and their Moves to encourage a certain type of drama. In the Mortal's case, the drama happens to be about unhealthy relationships with people. It's about being helpless and giving people power over you. It also encourages self-destructive behavior, as Downward Spiral and Down the Rabbit Hole demonstrate.

Robindaybird already said it, but as potentially triggering as the Ghoul is, the Mortal is also really dark, even without the self-mutilation angle of Down the Rabbit Hole.

Backstory: The Mortal always declares their backstory last. They declare one person to be their lover, they gain three Strings on the Mortal and the Mortal gains one on them.

The Mortal is the only Skin that can't pick a Gang as an advance.

But the real meat of the Mortal is this:

Sex Move posted:

When you have sex with someone, trigger their Darkest Self.

The Mortal's Sex Move is a great example of how almost every single Move in the game has been designed to drive the story in a certain direction. The Mortal is all about obsessively trying to get in their lover's pants, no matter how monstrous their lover may be. However, when they finally get intimate with someone, they show their really monstrous side, leading to a circle of abuse, followed by forgiveness at the expense of the Mortal's well-being.

Actually, I'm starting to think that the Mortal might be the darkest of all the Skins.

Anyway, there's still the Mortal's Darkest Self:

Darkest Self posted:

Nobody understands you, or even wants to. They’d rather you disappear. Well, you’re not going to disappear. You’re going to make life a living hell for them. You’ll betray the wicked to the judges, the weak to the executioners. You’ll pit humans and supernaturals against one another, until everyone looks like monsters. Only seeing the pain that you’re causing your lover will let you escape your Darkest Self.

Yeah. When the Mortal finally snaps, they take it out on everyone. Having had enough with all the abuse they've taken, they lash out against everyone around them, even their lover. And then it starts all over again.

Wow. I never thought that doing a write-up about a storygame could be so draining emotionally. Thankfully the next Skin on the list is the Queen, which has its own share of issues but at least isn't quite as depressing as the Mortal.

Gazetteer
Nov 22, 2011

"You're talking to cats."
"And you eat ghosts, so shut the fuck up."

Out of all the basic skins, I think the Mortal is the only one I'd caution a first time player against picking. The Chosen's the skin that gets a "use with caution" disclaimer, but it puts most of its extra work load on the MC, whereas the Mortal puts it on the player. In order to get the most out of this skin, you kind of need to have a good grasp on how the string economy functions, and its mechanics aren't really as straight forward as most of the other skins. You need to be able to understand the concept of longterm gain in exchange for short term losses. The Mortal only gets agency through giving up agency -- strings and experience in exchange for letting other people push them around. (There' are several reasons people frequently identify this as the scariest skin). A couple of times I've seen someone go in with the Mortal, not really understanding how the skin works, and end up kind of drifting around in the background ineffectually as a result.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

The Mortal reminds me of D&D's bard class, in that you've really got to be proactive in order to get the most out of it, pursuing and trading strings and all of that. Likewise, at a glance, the Mortal might look like a really basic Skin to use-- trying to play it as the straight man, a victim or even sidekick, instead of the monster it really is.

Gazetteer
Nov 22, 2011

"You're talking to cats."
"And you eat ghosts, so shut the fuck up."

Bieeardo posted:

The Mortal reminds me of D&D's bard class, in that you've really got to be proactive in order to get the most out of it, pursuing and trading strings and all of that. Likewise, at a glance, the Mortal might look like a really basic Skin to use-- trying to play it as the straight man, a victim or even sidekick, instead of the monster it really is.

Yeah, I've seen that kind of misconception happen before. We actually do have a skin that fills that roll, now, though -- The Neighbor, from Second Skins. You get to blunder around relatively obliviously, creating love triangles and plot complications as you go.

Robindaybird
Aug 21, 2007

Neat. Sweet. Petite.



Like if I ever ran a Monsterhearts game, I'd probably banned Mortal as it's theme hits a little too close to my family history.

As I said before, this is an amazing sounding game, but you really need to know your players.

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.

Robindaybird posted:

Like if I ever ran a Monsterhearts game, I'd probably banned Mortal as it's theme hits a little too close to my family history.
No poo poo. The Mortal is basically Borderline Disorder: The Character Class. It's disturbing.

Ratpick
Oct 9, 2012

And no one ate dinner that night.

I remember when I started reading up on Monsterhearts online I actually ran into several threads on the internet about how people had expected the Mortal to be more like Xander (i.e. just a poor sap caught in the middle of supernatural poo poo) and less Bella. The Neighbor sounds like it would be perfect for the former.

I already mentioned this briefly in the writeup, but I think it's amazing that the Mortal is basically a travesty of Bella from Twilight: it plays Bella completely straight but in doing so reveals how hosed up Bella was. The Twilight books weren't all that self-aware of how terrible Bella's and Edward's relationship was, and instead ended up bizarrely romanticizing their dysfunctional relationship dynamic. The Mortal strips out the romanticism and ends up showing that a lot of these "girl meets boy, boy turns out to be a monster" stories actually glorify abusive relationships.

I might be reading too much into the Mortal, but since Monsterhearts basically started as an Apocalypse World hack for playing Twilight I don't think I'm too far off.

As far as banning the Mortal goes, yeah, that's an entirely valid approach. Monsterhearts' Skins deal with a lot of really hosed up poo poo and if a particular element hits too close to home, it might be best to discuss it with the other players before play begins.

Valatar
Sep 26, 2011

A remarkable example of a pathetic species.


Lipstick Apathy


(A lesson in why word of mouth is insufficient advertising.)


Before Pathfinder, before 3.5, Malhavoc Press put out a variant D20 system by Monte Cook, one of the D&D designers who'd left WotC some years before. It was called Arcana Unearthed, which served primarily to confuse the hell out of people who kept mistaking it for Unearthed Arcana. The homage was cute enough, as like Unearthed Arcana, Arcana Unearthed put forth more interesting classes and races and some rule mechanics, but I believe the confusion engendered by the name didn't do the book any favors. A couple of years later, Malhavoc re-released the book with expanded content and colored art, renaming it Arcana Evolved. 3.5 was out by this point and the gaming market was oversaturated with D20 content, so despite the fact that the name was less confusing, it still never gained much traction. Unfortunately for Arcana Evolved, Monte has a raging case of ADD and can't stick with any project for any length of time; AE languished with virtually no support from the day it was printed. By the time fourth edition came out and the world was clamoring for better 3E content, Arcana Evolved was well off most peoples' radars as an abandoned product, permitting Pathfinder to stroll in and scoop up the 3.75 crown without any competition.


Where Pathfinder made 3.75 by revamping the generic D&D classes, AE made 3.75 by throwing out the D&D classes and making new, better classes. Depending on one's attachment to the traditional D&D setup, this can be a pro or a con. AE's classes are fundamentally different and making them work with D&D settings and content is often much like getting a square peg in a round hole. Anyone attached to premade D&D adventures will probably not be able to get much from Arcana Evolved. But anybody who is willing to throw out D&D's trappings completely and work with a clean slate will find a lot to work with in AE. Races, classes, feats, and magic have all been cleaned up from their original iterations. Most stupid blunders have been fixed, poor options have been buffed, and generally speaking everything makes more sense. Additionally, several of the improvements over 3E in Arcana Evolved are implemented in 5th edition, including the more flexible spell use and combat things for melee fighters to do aside from basic attacks.

Race Upgrades
In a manner not unlike the Savage Species splatbook, AU introduced the concept of racial levels for its races. However, where Savage Species had racial levels to essentially let a player "buy" a powerful monster species over time by leveling up as the monster before being able to take character levels, the racial levels in AE are wholly optional for a player to take. Whether a racial level is a better choice than a class level hinges heavily on your character concept; racial levels include some very useful stuff like breath weapons, spell-like abilities, flight, and size upgrades, but they delay class progression and can lead to painful sacrifices, especially for spellcasters. AE goes a step beyond AU in having "evolved levels", which are levels above and beyond the base racial levels with even more benefits, but which require one to be beholden to dragons to acquire.

Class Upgrades
The eternal spellcaster/non-caster divide exists in AE. However, AE also contains several steps taken to turbocharge the non-casters and reduces the gulf between them and casters considerably. Many classes are hybrids that have some measure of available spells to go with face-stabbing, or other supernatural abilities to liven things up past "I attack with my axe." The pure-melee classes have access to abilities called combat rituals, which are free actions that give short term buffs to the user for various combat activities. In addition, everything in AE is writ large: none of the classes are subdued wallflowers and each one possesses at least one ability that lets them be a complete badass at what they do.

Feat Upgrades
I'm just going to paste the text from Sturdy, the feat that replaces Toughness, which provides a whopping +3 HP:

quote:

For the level when the character takes this feat, she
adds double her Constitution bonus to her hit point total. This
is in addition to the bonus she would get for her Constitution
modifier when she gains a level. If double her Constitution
bonus is less than 4, she gains 4 hp. This effect happens once,
not every level.
For example, if a 3rd-level warmain with 22 hit points and a
+3 Constitution bonus takes this feat, she gains 6 additional hit
points in addition to the 1d12+3 she normally would gain for the
level. So, if she rolled a 7, her new total would be 38 hp (22 + 7
+ 3 + 6).
Pretty much the whole repertoire of 3E feats are included, some of which have been tweaked upwards in usability, most of which are the same. Then new feats have been added, talents which are only available as first-level options and represent an innate background benefit that a character possesses, and ceremonial feats that require an expensive ritual be performed to gain the feat but which tend to be more powerful than general feats. Wanna be able to heal yourself, get a magic tattoo that you can cast a spell from, make your weapon do elemental damage, or scry through mirrors? Nifty things like that are ceremonial feats.

Magic Upgrades
AE's magic system is akin to D&D sorcerers in that like sorcerers you have spell slots instead of only having a specific number of spells to cast in a day, but like wizards you can swap around which spells you have memorized. The number of spells you can have memorized at a time rises with level, and you can swap out which spells are memorized with an hour of downtime, which is fine if you need to sit down for an hour to memorize Spell Resistance before going into the insane cult leader's tower, not so fine if you forgot to memorize Open Lock and the angry dragon is coming around the corner in ten seconds.
AE then goes on to leave D&D squarely in the dust by letting you swap lower-level spell slots for higher-level ones at a 3:1 exchange rate, or swap higher-level spell slots for lower-level ones at a 1:2 exchange rate. (You can't use these exchanged spell slots to then exchange to a yet-higher or lower tier. If you blow a 5th level slot for two 4th, you can't then use those to get four 3rd or things would get out of hand fast.) You can also choose to cast a spell at one lower level for a diminished effect, or at one higher level for a heightened effect. In many cases the diminished/heightened effect is obvious, in a few it makes the spell perform completely differently. There are additionally magical templates that can be applied to spells, you acquire them through feats or class features and they behave like metamagic, modifying the spell in exchange for adding a downside such as an expensive material component, taking longer to cast, etc. The end result is that spellcasters have more to do than ever before.

Anti-Magic Upgrades
No few people believe that magic doesn't need any upgrading whatsoever, and AE's casters are undeniably dangerous with the amount of flexibility they possess. So here are some steps taken to make sure that casters can't just faceroll their way through everything.
This is not 4th edition, and it really can’t be honestly claimed that pure melee fighters are going to keep up with the raw damage output of high-level casters when said casters are dropping ten fireballs in a day given that most gaming groups only go through on average three or so fights before stopping for a game-day. However, the pure melee people are going to be putting out consistently more damage and have more tricks up their sleeves than at any time in 3rd edition, and have defensive upgrades as well to put them in a better position to deal with a deadlier battlefield. I wouldn’t go so far as to call the casters squishy, as no class has a hit die under d6 in AU, but they’re also lacking a lot of the defensive spells that casters took for granted in D&D, so a big brawl is relatively riskier for the guy standing around without armor.

  • The concentration check to avoid AoOs is the big angry guy with the big sword's attack bonus + spell level instead of 15 + spell level, making it much more difficult to cast if someone's in your face.
  • Many casters are reliant on having access to magic tools to cast; if you disarm them and take their staff, pickpocket away their voodoo bag, sunder their magic sword, etc, they are gimped until they get it back.
  • Spells are now categorized as simple, complex, or exotic, and most spellcasting classes only get access to simple spells by default. Feats or special class abilities are necessary to get the better spells, and the most dangerous spells are walled away in the exotic spell class. While that doesn't make them unattainable by any measure, it does mean that they have to be paid for.
  • Save-or-die spells are gone. Save-or-be-screwed-and-coup-de-graced spells are not, however, so DMs may wish to keep an eye on those.
  • Spells in general are weaker than D&D standard. Casters still have decent access to raw damage, but the really exploitable stuff like Polymorph and the Summon Monster line are gone.
  • Magic healing is less abundant than in D&D and often carries a cost, either from emergency heals leaving scars on the injured person from the sloppy rush job, or more careful healing transferring the pain to the caster in the form of subdual damage in exchange for doing the healing.


Melee Upgrades
So you just want to avoid the whole magic thing entirely. You almost have to go out of your way to do so in AE; between the races with spell-like abilities, the feats that grant mystical powers, and all of the classes with a dabble of spells or other supernatural boosts, being the guy who just smashes someone else's face in requires a deliberate choice on the player's end. However, for those players, AE has you covered. Weapons and armor have been upgraded with a larger selection of exotic weapons, the introduction of exotic armor, the removal of some annoying weapon restrictions (weapon finesse now works on any weapon considered light for your size instead of a specific list, sneak attacks can be performed with any weapon, etc.) and the addition of a parry stat on several weapons that provide an AC bonus to the wielder. No longer are the weapon and armor lists comprised of 5% obvious optimal choices and 95% chaff; weapons and armor are better balanced than in core D&D. There are unfortunately still some fairly stupid impractical weapons (such as the swordaxe, which is as awful as it sounds) though nothing on the facepalm scale as high as the urgrosh, dire flail or the gnomish suicide pick.
Melee feats have been expanded upon over core D&D by a great deal, allowing for combat maneuvers like 'use your attack of opportunity to stab that guy your friend just stabbed' and 'nail the bugbear right in the nads to daze it for a round' and 'dual wield longswords'. The basic combat feats like expertise and power attack are still present, still mathematically relevant, and still mostly boring.
And as I mentioned up in the class upgrades section, AE introduces a feature called combat rites that expands greatly on melee combat. They're akin to spells in that you have a set number of times you can use them per day, but they don't require casting or materials, provoke AofOs, etc; they're free actions and the only restrictions are that you can only use one per round and you can't use them flat-footed. They significantly up the variety of what a character can do, giving bonuses such as boosted move speed, increased charge damage, deflecting arrows, instant self-healing, taking an attack meant for the guy next to you, and a fair bit more. Only one non-magical melee class does not get free access to these abilities, and anybody can get them by taking feats to buy access.

Quality of Life Upgrade
There is a much larger buffer past 0 hit points before keeling over for characters with higher consitution in AE. Instead of disabled at 0 and dead at -10, characters are disabled at 0-their con bonus, then dying all the way until they exceed their consitution score. So a tough guy with 16 constition is still able to act at -3 HP and won't die until hitting -17. Healing magic is also available to any and all spellcasters who choose to learn the spells, so nobody is stuck with being the dedicated walking bandage dispenser. Someone really eager to be a healer will get some added perks by being a greenbond or a wood witch, but any caster can do a good job of keeping a party on their feet.

Monster Upgrades
AE has taken some steps to cut down on the 'hordes of faceless cannon fodder' syndrome that exists in a lot of fantasy roleplaying. First, undead are a Big Deal: mindless undead like your random skeleton and zombie horde don't exist. Any undead you find are generally intelligent, have unique abilities, and are really pissed off. Most low-level fodder species are also absent, with the marked exception of goblins, who the book states are considered nothing more than pests by most people. "Moom, there's a goblin in the pantry eating the cereal!" Kobolds also exist, but only as the super-rare servants of Mojh, one of the new AE races, so people are unlikely to ever see one, much less fight a dozen of them. While there's nothing to stop a lazy DM from just popping a pile of monsters straight out of a Monster Manual into their game and calling it a day, AE seems to be encouraging encounters against a few more powerful opponents instead of hordes of chaff.

Crunchy Geek Upgrades
Geeks love crunchy rule things. It's a universal geek law. Arcana Evolved has lots of neat little details in its rules that add an extra element to the game. For example, truenames are a thing; in order to have access to certain feats, rituals, and magic (including, most importantly, resurrection magic) your character must know their truename, and have shared it with the person casting the spell on them. But if bad people have your truename, they can ruin your poo poo in a bad way; in the same way that there are good spells that require knowledge of the subject's truename, there are very bad spells that have the same requirement. You can choose to have your character not know their truename, making it impossible for bad people to use it against them, but you'd better hope that character never dies, 'cause there's no way back then. Additionally, using negative energy spells makes the caster go all Palpatine and exude an aura of unlife, giving them a penalty to social things but a boost to intimidating people. There are other such things scattered around the book, little effects that are nice thematic touches without a big enough impact to be explotable.


The setting's planet is named Serran, and that's probably the one and only time you'll ever see the name. The bulk of the world is undescribed entirely, and the game's setting is all on a single continent, and not even the whole continent at that. That's not a complaint; on a landmass the size of even just the continental US there's plenty for people to do without feeling hemmed in, it's just something of a curiosity when most setting worlds are more or less completely mapped out, at least to the extent of showing all of the continents. So the relevant portion of the setting world is an area called Dor-Erthenos, or the Diamond Throne. Initially the place was under the control of dragons, both metallic and chromatic, who had a more or less stable system right up until their god hosed off to take a vacation. About five minutes after he vanished over the horizon, the knives came out, the dragons fell into civil war, and someone had the bright idea to make dragon/demon hybrids to serve as WMDs. These things, called the dramojh, proceeded to stomp all over the metallic dragons until their god wandered back home to find that everything had gone to hell in his absence, booted the dramojh out of the dimension with the help of the human gods, and left with all of the dragons to rebuild elsewhere in the world.
Welp. They had one job and they hosed it up, because some seven hundred years later the dramojh broke back in, murdered the human gods so nobody could re-banish them, and covered the continent in blood and emo. Most everyone living there got rolled over in no time flat and generally enslaved, property values took a dive, and everything more or less sucked.

This is where the giants come in. They were busy living off on their own continent to the east, when one day a giant washes up on the shore and says, "West." before dying. Apparently being prone to snap decisions, the giants proceeded to build an armada of ships and sailed off to the west to see what this one dead guy was talking about. One can only imagine what they would've done if his dying word had been "pickles". When they landed they found the place in a shambles with demonic dragons everywhere, and being an innately orderly sort of people, they proceeded to flip the gently caress out and warred against the dramojh. And unlike the gods, they did the job right, hunting down and killing the dramojh to the very last one before they called it a day.

Called it a day and set up shop. The humans and other intelligent species living there found their evil demonic tyrants promptly replaced by giant rulers, who were generally much more polite about the whole thing but were disinclined to sail back home after going to all the trouble of murdering all the dramojh. Rather like the Romans, AE's giants are big on building stuff. Roads, cities, aqueducts, in no time flat they built up a huge monarchy that sprawled across the land and there was really nothing that anyone could do about it. The giants aren't bad people as a whole, and are arguably doing a better job of ruling the place than anyone else would, but some members of the other species are resentful about being "cared for" rather than being permitted to rule themselves.

This is where Arcana Unearthed left off. As many of you can probably tell, this is somewhat boring. There is conflict, there are other hostile species on the continent, but nothing fundamentally threatens the status quo.

So with Arcana Evolved, the dragons come wandering back. After centuries of interbreeding, the whole metallic/chromatic thing is gone; a dragon's color is no longer a metric for determining how good or evil they are or what powers they have. And they're none too happy to find that giants have moved in, as there was apparently some ancient accord between dragons and giants that each would stay on their own continent. It's unclear whether the dragons are lying about that, the giants simply forgot about it over the centuries, or the giants knowingly broke the accord when they came, but it is now a point of contention between the two powerful groups. "Thanks for cleaning up our mess", is the official dragon line, "now do please kindly gently caress off back to where you came from." The giants have proffered a counteroffer of, "How about you go gently caress yourselves."

Now there is conflict between two factions of literally earthshattering power, so things are much more spicy. The giants are well-established, numerous, and are generally viewed favorably by the other species. The dragons are dripping with money and power but far fewer in number and still working to rebuild their influence after their recent return, offering their servants magically-enhanced evolution (with no strings attached whatsoever, nope) in exchange for their loyalty. Most of the people who don't like being ruled by the giants aren't thrilled about being ruled by the dragons either. And the various antagonistic powers would love nothing more than the giants and dragons exterminating each other in a war so they can stroll in and take over.

AE has a lot of good potential with the people and factions and history of the setting, and then goes and drops the ball when it comes to the actual physical setting. The details of the land are covered briefly, if at all. The book describes a few major cities and the most prominent features of the continent, but smaller details are glossed over in a sentence or two at most, or simply not mentioned. When asked, Monte claimed that this "freed" the DM to do all the work themselves, and some people may agree with him, but in my opinion it's just a lackluster job that puts an unnecessary burden on the DM. It would be like Game of Thrones lavishly describing all of the houses and peoples and then writing the world as, "There are some cities and a desert country over the ocean and a big wall and it's cold at the wall." My only complaint with the entire contents of the system and setting are the crappy job he did with detailing the land. At one point it was mentioned that setting books were to be released with further detail, but they never materialized.

The tragedy of the setting is that there are in truth tons of great ideas scattered around in it, but none of them are developed enough to form any sort of useful coherent whole. Any DM is more or less forced to make a solid ninety percent of the world on their own if they decide to work with this setting. Some may love the opportunity, I personally consider it unnecessary work pushed onto a DM who should already have their hands full with characters.


(Why call them races when they're clearly completely different species?)

Humans
(Picture not found due to boring.)

Humanity is the same boring group of Jack-of-all-trades that they are in every other RPG. Unlike most settings, humans are not the de facto leaders of the world, and while they are the most numerous inhabitants of the setting they are not the majority. This can put a subtly different spin on roleplaying opportunities in a world where human dominance doesn't exist. Additionally, humans may transform themselves into mojh, which is treated as a separate race despite all mojh having begun as humans.

Dracha

What do you mean I’m trying too hard? Naw bro, I always lean on my axe to do wing-stretches.

Winged scaly bipedal servants of the dragons, they are new to AE as they were brought with the dragons upon their return. The dragons clearly did not intend for the dracha to be doing much of the thinking; their bonuses are mostly geared towards the physical and they're straightforward almost to a fault. They start off being able to glide with their wings, as they take racial levels they become capable of true flight, and with evolved levels they gain a breath weapon and improved flight. If you want to be a dragon man who flies around setting fire to thatched-roof cottages, Dracha is definitely the way to go.

Faen

Ha ha! Not to scale.

Faen actually refers to three fairly distinct subraces. Each would be distinctive enough to refer to as a separate species, but they interbreed freely and live together, so I suppose it works for them. The one element that connects all faen is that they're small and clearly drawn from legends of the fey, given the so-subtle hint in their name There is an immediate comparison to be drawn with the other small races of D&D tradition, but faen aren't annoying fucks like kender, fat layabouts like halflings, or wrinkly tinkerers like gnomes. Loresong faen are magical with innate spell-like abilities, and unsurprisingly serve as the scholars and historians of the species. Quickling faen are the more physical variety, being fast and agile. Both types of faen may choose to transform into a spryte at 3rd level or beyond, going from small to tiny and sacrificing their original racial bonuses in exchange for wings. And before I hear, "But how do they...", the book specifically mentions that sprytes are infertile, you sick gently caress. Neither loresong nor quickling faen have racial levels, spryte racial levels grant improved flying ability and spell-like abilities. All three types of faen do have evolved levels, pushing them further into their specialties, loresongs and sprytes grow more magical while quicklings become crazy fast. On a side note about mechanics, tiny creatures in normal D&D have some crippling disadvantages such as not threatening outside of the space they're in and having to occupy the space of anything they're trying to attack, but sprytes are treated as larger creatures for the sake of convenience and occupy space and threaten spaces around them. Despite that, there's the ever-present danger of blonde men in green dresses sticking them in bottles to later devour, so opting to play a spryte is something of a risk.

Oh, and they make loving airships. He calls them sky ships and they're of the blimpy kind rather than anything more science-fantasy, and propelled by magic instead of steampunk, but still, airships. Which is mentioned on exactly two pages in the entire book. You might think that the fact that air travel exists is sort of maybe an important detail to know about a world and deserves more than a throwaway mention. Monte Cook disagrees!

Giants

Try to get me to say ho ho ho one more time, motherfucker. I dare you.

Okay, you know how nobody takes Hobbits seriously because they're useless little bastards just scampering all over the place? Well welcome to being on the other side of that equation, because most everyone else is child-sized to the giants, who have a hard time taking them seriously when they're just so small and adorable. Most fantasy gamers when they think of giants think of big caveman-looking things with apeishly long arms and the intellect of a houseplant. These giants are not like that in the least. AE giants are proportioned like humans, not stupid, and live highly ordered lives centering around ceremony and ritual. Like I mentioned earlier, giants are planners and builders to put the Romans to shame. They are also the poster children for AE's focus on rituals in feats and magic and roleplaying; rituals are such a part of these peoples' culture that when they as a race decided to go to war against the dramojh, they didn't just flip out, they very carefully set up a ritual for flipping out super hard. If you take for example the Japanese love of various daily ceremonies and dial it up to 11, you get an idea about what the giants are like.

Giant characters start at medium size, albeit the upper end of medium at around eight feet tall. Taking the giant racial levels upgrades the character to large size, with all of the bonuses associated with it, and there is a prestige class that can boost it further to huge. There are evolved levels for giant, but as being mutated by dragons into a perversion of nature is not looked upon favorably by the giants, there aren't many valid reasons for a player to receive evolved levels.

Litorians

Mooom get out of my room, I told you I’m a lion inside!

We're going to have to stop here for a minute and have a little talk. The whole dragon-men thing with the Dracha probably made it under most peoples' radar, because lizardmen are sort of a fantasy staple, and because their backstory pretty much makes sense. Dragons built a dragon-ish servant race, sure. Well now we have lion-men too, and spoiler alert, it's not over with the lion-men; there are furries in AE. That being said, I have to give Monte Cook credit in the fact that none of the animalistic species were written so lazily as to just make litorians into purry yiffy cat people. Nor did he take the sci-fi cliche and make them a group of angry klingons with fur. No, he took the high road, and made them wookies. Litorians are a tribal race of nomads who, despite being conversant with cities and technology, mostly choose to live simpler lives of freedom in the wilderness where they regard the honorableness of their behavior with the utmost scrutiny and always repay lifedebts. He literally used the word 'lifedebt', I'm not making this up.

As long as you can overlook the impending Lucasarts lawsuit, litorians actually serve an interesting role in the game as cultural foils to the giants and other 'civilized' species. They don't bother with ritual, ceremony, or laws, and go through life solely on their personal compass. Anthropology majors would call them a shame-based society, where most of the other people in AE are guilt-based. If you don't know what that means, get an anthropology major drunk and you'll find out soon enough. But in any event, the litorians weren’t a bunch of uneducated savages sitting around in squalor until the white man other species showed up with all this better technology; they stay nomadic instead of founding cities because they want to, not because they can’t. And ironically the litorians were pretty much the only group who didn’t get completely bent over by the dramojh during their reign, because unlike everyone else, when they saw a bunch of demon-dragons heading their way they could just pack up and leave.

Mojh

Smithers, release the hounds.

Mojh are… odd. For over a thousand years, humanity as a whole had its poo poo stomped by the dramojh. Generally speaking, this has given humans a fair distrust of draconic things. A minority of humans went the other way, believing that the dramojh held the key to power, and developed a ritual to sacrifice their humanity and even their gender to become an asexual being patterned after the dramojh. While frailer than normal humans and somewhat emotionally stunted, they gain in intellect and mystic power, along with a greatly extended lifespan. As you can imagine, this goes over about as well as dressing up as Hitler for a Bar Mitzvah as far as the rest of humanity and the giants are concerned, none of whom share the opinion that the dramojh ought to be emulated in any way. Most of the other species weren’t as badly hosed over by the dramojh as the humans and aren’t as likely to provide a free rear end-kicking as a human would, but the mojh are far from popular and tend to live as hermits as a result. Only humans can be transformed into mojh.

Roleplaying-wise, mojh can be really cool or facepalmingly bad. It’s entirely too easy for someone to play a mojh as a chaotic-neutral murderhobo, slap on a moustache for them to twirl, and make long-winded screeds about how they lust only for power, etc, etc. However, the transformation into a scaly Mr. Burns costs them dearly in addition to making them a permanent exile. It’s a change far above going to college and being all, “gently caress you dad, I’m getting a tattoo!” It even makes the trials that transgendered people go through seem easier in comparison, because they don’t turn into freakish snake monster people, no matter what Pat Robertson would have one believe. The point being, the transformation into a mojh is a life-changing event, irreversible, and not something that anyone would do lightly. And the only people who can do it are people belonging to the species most victimized by the dramojh, and therefore most likely to be reviled by everyone they knew if they do make that choice. Exploring what would drive a person to such an extreme act is fertile ground for GMs and players alike, as long as they don’t fall for any lazy cliches along the way.

Just as a bit of rules geek side-note, in AU mojh received a breath weapon in their racial levels but did not gain spells in a spellcasting class. Their caster level increased with racial levels, but they fell behind in spell selection. With AE their breath weapon got hijacked by the more physical dracha, so in exchange mojh levels are now less disruptive to a spellcasting career.

Runechildren

Yeah, so spring break was crazy. I woke up thinking I’d gotten a tattoo while blackout drunk, but turns out I have to defend the helpless.

Anyone of any species can become a runechild, a creature tapped by unknown forces to contribute for the good of the world, and as such the player doesn’t get to choose to be a runechild, it’s granted instead. A character level is sacrificed, and access to spell-like abilities is gained in its place, abilities that grow in number and power with total character levels. They are also marked with a rune on their hand or face to announce to the world that everyone should pester them to solve everyone else’s problems. Technically animals can be runechildren as well, there are rules for them in the monster book, but they’re only concerned with helping other animals and don’t give much of a gently caress about the bipeds, so PCs are unlikely to ever encounter one. For a setting that generally ignores alignment, runechildren are a bit of an abnormality in that they’re clear-cut paladinish goody two-shoes. As such, I’ve never heard of them being prominent in any AE game, but the option exists for any GMs who want to make use of it.

Sibbecai

Less useful than Bastet.

The second of the furry species, the sibbecai are effectively the exact opposites of the litorians. Instead of lion people, they’re jackal people. Instead of preferring to be in the wild, they prefer cities. Instead of putting value on honor and self-worth, they put value on their reputation and social standing. They’re motivated heavily by ambition and achievement. This doesn’t make them any better or worse than other people; if anything a ‘career-minded’ adventurer who’s in the line of work with the goal of retiring early as a rich local celebrity is probably one of the less-insane PCs you’re liable to meet when compared to the various fanatics, crusaders, and murderhobos. The giants brought the sibbecai with them when they immigrated, so the sibbecai have something of a reputation of being servitors to the giants rather like the dracha and the dragons, and given their love of cities and the fact that the giants build lots of cities, the two species get along well.

The racial and evolved levels for sibbecai are generally physical upgrades for them, providing a bite attack and the scent ability on top of stat boosts.

Verrik

Verrik invented ocean navigation. They’re still working on sunscreen.

Verrik are arguably the weirdest species available to players, while physically being the most human. They’re human-sized, human-shaped, and apart from the burgundy-red skin outwardly indistinguishable from humans. But they’re possibly the least human species when it comes to how they think, and in roleplaying that’s the biggie. I’m just going to quote straight from the book here: “A verrik considers not only how a given course of action will affect her, but also how it will affect others (and thus, how that effect will affect her later). She looks ahead not just to tomorrow, but to next year, to 10 years beyond that, and to her children’s time as well. Thus, verrik often see others as short-sighted and frivolous.” They have a perspective that most humans simply cannot share, on top of psychic powers and a general lack of ostentation and strong emotion. Not vulcan-level emotionlessness, but an ability that humans don’t share to set aside their feelings when problem solving. It can be challenging for a player or GM to handle these outlooks.

Racial and evolved levels for verrik are focused heavily on boosting their psionic power. AE doesn’t have psionics in the sense of the alternate D&D rules with power points and crystals and junk; psionics in the book are treated identically as spells for the sake of rule mechanics, and verrik psionic powers are spell-like abilities with a number of uses per day.

Verrik also freak people out. Their way of thinking comes across as alien to the other species, and their innate charisma penalty is explained as a vague but persistent feeling of ‘wrongness’ that others have around them. In reality, they murdered their god when they felt they had no more need of him in ancient days, and are all cursed as a result. The ones with the charisma penalty are the ones who got off lightly, while the worse-off are horrible Lovecraftian abominations that other verrik keep locked away where nobody can discover them and learn their species’ collective terrible secret.


So that’s the races. Some of them are neat, several are strange, and a couple are a bit underwhelming, but they are at least not the usual suspects of Tolkien ripoffs you’ll see in most fantasy gaming. so I’ll give them that much.

Next: Classes!

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

I want to read the Verrik as being something like Larry Niven's Pak. Especially the cursed ones.

And I like the sound of that Neighbor skin for Monster Hearts. I was never a fan of Buffy, but Xander was precisely the figure I imagined someone trying to play the Mortal as.

Robodog
Oct 22, 2004

...how does that work?


Bieeardo posted:

I want to read the Verrik as being something like Larry Niven's Pak. Especially the cursed ones.

That funny, since the Litorians also look a lot like Kzinti!

Gazetteer
Nov 22, 2011

"You're talking to cats."
"And you eat ghosts, so shut the fuck up."

The Neighbor isn't Xander, really. Xander was a proactive comic relief character who knew all about the monsters and helped out a lot. The Neighbor is like an NPC suddenly grew agency and is now walking around causing problems for the other characters. It's also just a weird skin because unlike every other skin, it has no goal to pursue and therefore only really works if the player is willing to pursue character interaction entirely for its own sake.

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.

Sounds ideal for the kind of player who doesn't like being restrained by plot and really just wants to mess around and make trouble for everybody else.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.





Here's some links, go see a Car War.

Well... listen to. And it's just the one link. I'm no Lucille Bluth. Anyway, this week we reviewed Car Wars, and it was super fun times.

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

Valatar posted:

Stuff about Arcana Evolved

Map of the World from Monte's old website...



I love this setting and have been running a campaign of it for the last two years. The biggest problem I have with it one of the classes in particular(which I'm sure will be coveredOathbound).

Valatar
Sep 26, 2011

A remarkable example of a pathetic species.


Lipstick Apathy

Humbug Scoolbus posted:

Map of the World from Monte's old website...



I love this setting and have been running a campaign of it for the last two years. The biggest problem I have with it one of the classes in particular(which I'm sure will be coveredOathbound).

The map kinda sums up the issue with the world, in my mind. All those features that are shown in there, a few deserts, a few mountains, a few rivers, would all fit in California. With room to spare. Instead that's a massive continent. The world has been badly broad-brushed 'cause Monte couldn't be arsed to develop it. And it's not like he couldn't do the work; he did that giant Ptolus book on just one city, guy's got the talent to have amazingly fleshed out the world. He just chose to half-rear end it. The western half of the continent is supposed to be unexplored country, so it's not a big deal that the details are sparser on that side, but even the eastern half apparently only has four forests, two mountain ranges, and one river.

Additionally, my group always called the Bitter Peaks the Bitter Pears thanks to that font on the mountain range making the K look closed on top.

NGDBSS
Dec 30, 2009








Humbug Scoolbus posted:

I love this setting and have been running a campaign of it for the last two years. The biggest problem I have with it one of the classes in particular(which I'm sure will be coveredOathbound).
Even the fan community acknowledged how many problems that class had. Funny enough, they tended to refer to its 15th-level ability as "Eschew Sucking".

Valatar
Sep 26, 2011

A remarkable example of a pathetic species.


Lipstick Apathy

Heren lies the second part of my Arcana Evolved writeup. Behold!



Akashic

Tank, I need a pilot program for a B-212 helicopter.

For anybody who is not up on their occult cosmologies, the akashic record is is an actual thing in Earth’s philosophies, the indelible store of all knowledge that has ever existed within all living things. Those who are interested in that sort of thing can go and wikipedia it, but the gist is this: akashics in AE can access the entire sum of knowledge in the universe. If you want a class that is all about creative problem-solving and exploration, this one’s for you.

So what does that actually mean, rule mechanics wise? Well fortunately for all GMs everywhere, things in the akashic memory are only findable if several people know or knew about it, so something known only to a small group (e.g. the specific details of the dark lord’s plans) are not something that a player could get just by rolling a 20. Akashics have every skill as a class skill, bonuses on remembering anything they’ve encountered, and then a huge assortment of options on how to customize themselves as they go up in level. They can gain access to feats, information-gathering spell-like abilities on par with a diviner, combat bonuses, access to sneak attacks, bonuses to impersonate people, the ability to steal or alter the memories of others, and eventually the ability to temporarily use feats and even spells on the fly. This is very much a jack of all trades class; depending on where a player chooses to specialize an akashic can wind up very like a rogue, a psychic, or a fighter, or likely some blend of all three.

Champion

BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL!

Champion’s are AE’s paladins, and like the name implies, they get where they are by championing a cause. Unlike paladins, that cause needn’t be a good one. At the start, champions choose a fairly broad cause like life, death, knowledge, freedom, light, dark, justice, etc. When they get into the mid levels, they can choose to specialize and champion a species, a place, or a specific person, or remain in their general cause. The bonuses they receive for what they choose to champion vary fairly widely, but a common theme to all champions is that they get to He-Man out, summoning magical weapons and shields appropriate to their cause and eventually becoming able to just flat-out transform into an avatar of the cause with hefty bonuses. All champions are also proficient in heavy armor. Rules are provided for GMs who want to make a champion of a cause not already listed in the book.

Champions are pretty straightforward, generally speaking, in the same general area of complexity as a paladin without a spell list. They’re good for a player who wants a character that’s a badass for a specific reason, has some thematic powers for flavor and just wants to whip rear end without juggling spell lists.

Greenbond

You can tell how much they love nature because they can sit around a bunch of useless grass all day.

Druids. Next.

Okay, not entirely druids. But like druids, greenbonds are spellcasting specialists who are focused on nature and life. Unlike druids and their animal fetish, greenbonds focus more on the spirits in the world, able to see and talk to them where others can’t, and become more plantlike than animalistic as they level. They can heal the living and damage the dead with their touch, and the fact that they along with the magisters are the only class that gets to level 10 spells means that they are not to be taken lightly. Additionally, greenbonds are fairly unique in AE in not requiring a staff or somesuch to work their magic; the only way to keep a greenbond from casting aside from things like anti-magic areas is to interrupt them with an old-fashioned pummeling or somehow prevent them from talking.

To get the most out of the class, a player has to have a pretty firm grasp on just how weirdly spiritual it is. If you’ve ever seen Princess Mononoke with all the freaky little forest spirits, a greenbond is basically seeing those everywhere, all the time. While becoming more and more a part of the natural planet until they eventually become a literal plant. Most classes in RPGs are setting-neutral, but greenbonds are up there with paladins in the sense that the class itself has a strong impact on how a character would be played. Not in the sense of a rigid set of rules like a paladin, but in the fact that the world they live in is very different from what everyone else sees.

Mage Blade

The only class that gets an illustration where they’re kicking rear end.

Everyone who played AD&D as a kid at some point made a fighter-mage. Everyone. Yes, you too. Don’t lie. However, when you get down to it, fighter-mages are a poor mix. They sacrifice huge amounts of magey power in exchange for the ability to not be very good at hitting something for 1d8 damage. If you tried it in later editions you would be even more gimped by the impossibility of casting any spells with somatic or material components while your hands are full of sword.

Mage blades do a very good job of making the combo work. At their heart, they’re what all the old-edition fighter-mages wanted to be, a successful fusion of rear end-beating and setting people on fire while looking cool. They enchant their weapon, which must be bladed though not necessarily a sword, so pretty much any non-bludgeoning melee weapon works. As long as they’re holding their weapon, they can cast spells through it with only their voice, circumventing spell failure for holding a sword and being in armor. Speaking of armor, a class feature that is long overdue is one exclusive to mage blades that negates the movement penalty of medium armor. Yes, someone finally came up with an actual reason to wear medium armor instead of just chain shirts or full plate!

That would still leave you with someone who sacrificed high-level spells in exchange for hitting something for 1d8 damage, which is not a great trade. So here’s some of the cool stuff the mage blades bring to the table! Their chosen weapon grows in power as they level, gaining up to +5 and is eventually capable of being teleported to them (but if it gets busted they suck at spellcasting until they perform a ceremony to imbue a new weapon with that power). They can cut through magical protection, raise a force field around themselves for a deflection bonus, and eventually parry spells. If the thought of swatting away an incoming lightning bolt with your sword doesn’t give you at least a slight nerd boner, you’re dead inside.

Magister

This picture of Doctor Strange proves that Marvel will sell out for a crossover with anybody.

Gandalf as gently caress. Seriously, these guys get enormous cosmic power, and it all hinges on their staff, without which they’re gimped. It’s almost a copy and paste from Tolkien. They’re the most powerful spellcasters in the game, and they get to choose from selections of flavor powers like glowing eyes, becoming more intimidating at will, knowing whenever anyone speaks their name, using smarts instead of strength for skill checks to move or open stuff, and so on. If however their staff gets taken or destroyed, they cast at one level lower with doubled casting time, making the preferred tactics of dealing with them in a fight somewhat obvious. The staff gains hit points as the magister levels to keep it from ever being too trivial to sunder, and one of the options for their 18th level magical power is the option to not need their staff for casting, which some DMs will probably opt to house-rule out, as their reliance on their staff is a major balancing factor for the class.

Monte’s love letter to spellcasters, a.k.a. the spell system in AE, allows for a lot of variety for what would otherwise be a very vanilla class. No two magisters should be very much alike in their spell selections, as most of the best spells are walled off behind feats needed to unlock access to them. Those exotic spells are what will set the various casters apart from one another; most magisters should feel a lot like specialist wizards in AD&D where they’re great in their specialization and only middling at other stuff.

Oathsworn

Oh, you liked this building? Well gently caress YOUR BUILDING.

As the name implies, oathsworn are people who have bound themselves with an oath. Either to do something, or prevent something, doesn’t matter. Only these people are so batshit crazy for their oath that it gives them the power to kick peoples’ heads clean off without weapons, because weapons are for pussies, resist blows without armor because armor is for pussies, perform amazing feats of strength and endurance, and live without needing trifles like food, water, or air. Because air is also for pussies.

Oathsworn have most of the abilities of monks, given that they flip out and kick peoples’ asses with unarmed attacks. However, everything they do is framed in the oath they have taken. This is potentially a huge problem for one’s game, and a lot of care has to be taken involving the oath. The oaths can’t be stupid or vague, so your old-school chaotic neutral munchkining like, “I swear to keep all of the party loot and kill any party member who objects.” is not gonna fly. It has to be something specific that the oathsworn is working to cause or prevent. If it’s an oath to make something happen, it must be fulfilled within a year of being made or the oathsworn is considered to have broken it and loses their powers for a month before they can swear a new oath. If the oath is to prevent something, as long as that something has not happened within a year they can just renew their oath for another year without any break. This can put something of a strain on a player, because swearing an oath like “I shall retrieve the crown of McGuffin!” puts them in a bad spot when the party retrieves the crown. They either have to retire the character or find a new cause to follow at that point. There’s also a roleplaying restriction on them in that they shun tools and equipment for anything they could accomplish without it. So no armor, no weapons, no mount, no nothing that the character wouldn’t consider essential. The book does at least make a point of saying that they aren’t retarded about it and will accept expedient measures to accomplish their goals. They’re just so hard-core that they live an insane spartan life and shun anything that seems like a luxury in the process.

As they level, oathsworn pick up immunities like other classes loot corpses. Fear, fatigue, poison, disease, sleep, blindness, deafness, dazing, stunning, paralysis, nausea, aging, energy drain… It becomes more and more difficult to stop an oathsworn from reaching their goal, whatever it may be. They also get combat rites for free as they level, which leads us to:

Ritual Warrior

No illustration highlights a dynamic and tactical class like… standing in place slightly bowing.

A new class in AE, ritual warriors are sort of the fighty version of magisters: a mechanically-simple class that enjoys diversity through the abilities they bring to the table, in this case combat rites instead of spells. Without the combat rites, a ritual warrior is basically a 3E fighter with a worse attack bonus and better skill access. That would be boring as gently caress however, so the upside is that they get the most combat rites of any of the martial classes and eventually become able to use unlimited combat rites, the only class able to do so. This gives access to dozens of at-will combat options and a few out of combat perks like boosts to sneak, tumble, jump, and balance. Anyone who’s ever tried to “make being a fighter actually work” in 3E by taking the feats for tactical stuff like tripping and disarming things will be very pleased at the options this class brings to the table.

Runethane

It was evidently “bring your kid to work day” when this illustration was made. Distressingly, little Billy’s signature was cut from this artwork.

Runethanes are basic spellcasters, in the same boat with mage blades and witches in having a reduced spell inventory relative to magisters and greenbonds. The advantage they receive in exchange is runes. Which are awesome if you love being a sneaky bastard who gets enjoyment out of being two steps ahead of everyone else.

The deal with runes is that every level the runethane learns a new rune from a list of available options, and which are then drawn on things by the runethane. Some runes are meant to be drawn on a creature or item to enhance it in some way, but many of them are meant to used as touch-triggered traps drawn anywhere between one square inch to a ten by ten foot area. Oh, and they can be invisible at the runethane’s discretion. Muahahaha. At the highest levels, runethanes gain access to ‘ultimate runes’, which instead of working off of a fixed list of powers can replicate the effects of any spell or rune up to a certain level. Basically, a runethane with a few seconds to themselves can have an area covered in nasty surprises for enemies, have a few bonuses for friends up their sleeves, and still have a repertoire of spells to cast normally, while having a pocket full of stones painted with one-shot touch-activated runes.

Of interest to runethanes, there is a weapon enchantment called Runic, which makes the weapon able to hold a rune on it without counting against the runethane’s limit of active runes. There are a variety of runes that do bad things on touch like creating a blast of elemental damage, putting the target to sleep, summoning an angry elemental to attack the target, etc. And there is a feat called Hands as Weapons which lets you have your hands enchanted as if they were a magic weapon. Think about it. You’ll thank me when you’re punching peoples’ faces with fireballs.

Totem Warrior

Okay look, someone needs to tell George that wearing Ollie’s corpse is just freaking out the rest of the pack.

You know companion animals? Those things that suck and die and generally serve only to penalize your character because their beloved horse/dog/mongoose/etc. died and inflicted like a month’s worth of morale penalty on their master? Well gently caress those things (not literally) because here comes the totem warrior, the first class in the history of ever that made an animal-themed class not suck horribly!

So it’s simple enough. They pick an animal. The book includes bear, hawk, shark (yeah, useful in the forest), snake, wolf, and wolverine, as well as guidelines for making totem warriors of other animals. They then get the animal. Now this is where the magic happens, and I hope you’re sitting down: The animal gets a level every time the character gets a level, gaining hit dice, stat bonuses and eventually growing in size. MIND BLOWN. That way instead of your valiant wolf companion from 1st level with 8 hp being a lovely wolf companion at 17th level with 20 hp, a totem warrior’s wolf at 17th level will have an average of 128 hp, have grown to the size of a dire wolf, and be ready to rip faces clean off of people. The totem animal is a permanently useful feature for the class and not something that will be outgrown or a burden.

On top of that, the totem warrior receives very unique buffs and different skill proficiencies depending on their totem. For example, bear warriors get d12 hit dice, boosts to natural armor, strength, and reach. Whereas a hawk warrior gets d8 hit dice, dodge bonuses, boosts to archery skills, and the ability to fly. All totem warriors gain the ability to shapeshift into their totem form, with the same leveled-up boosts of their companion animal, communicate with animals of a similar nature to their totem, and eventually communicate with the spirit of their totem for information.

Unfettered

Not pictured: A magical floating balcony with a rope to swing from.

Unfettered are the sort of people who are only having fun while leaping off of a balcony to swing on a chandelier and kick some rear end in a top hat in the face while laughing the entire time. They’re a pure melee class, sort of a cross between a fighter and a rogue. They get an AC bonus as long as they’re in light armor, a bonus to parrying in addition to any parry bonus on the weapons they’re holding, evasion, and sneak attack damage. Unlike rogues, they aren’t restricted to light weapons for sneak attacking; go crazy sneak attacking with a greatsword if you feel like it. As they progress, the dodge and parry bonuses increase and they become capable of parrying ranged attacks and even spells if their weapon is magical (though unlike mage blades they can’t completely deflect the spell, they instead receive a +4 bonus on their save against it).

The spirit of the class is essentially being a rogue who is a front-line fighter rather than running up and backstabbing people; while they receive access to rogueish skills the dodge and parry bonuses to their defenses allow them to go toe to toe with bad things without feeling squishy about it. My only complaint is the lack of inherent combat rites in the class. They don’t have any supernatural tricks up their sleeves to liven things up, and can be prone to being dull in combat as a result. Thematically it makes sense as combat rites hinge on wisdom and swashbucklers aren’t a very wisdom-prone group, but I would opt to use feats to gain combat rites on an unfettered to allow for more flexibility in a fight if I played one.

Warmain

The first class in d20 to have a triple-digit AC.

The other side of the pure melee coin, warmains are tanks. They wear giant armor, swing giant weapons, have tons of hitpoints, and hit things really, really hard. And when I say giant weapons, I mean it: the class has a feature to let them wield weapons one size category larger than themselves one-handed, or two size categories larger than themselves two-handed. If rolling out onto the battlefield in inch-thick plate with d12 hit dice while dual-wielding greatswords is your thing, this is your class. They gain access to combat rites, though relatively meager compared to oathsworn and ritual warriors, the ability to automatically crit a finite number of times a day, and a pile of feats for further access to combat tricks.

Both unfettered and warmain are lacking in flashy tricks for my taste, but any player who wants to be a martial badass couldn’t do better than picking from these two. They both make D&D melee classes look like chumps in comparison, being powerfully focused on their respective specialties.

Witch

Weighs more than a duck.

The last class and another very flavorful one, witches are very like champions and totem warriors in that the class is more like a collection of distinctive subclasses each with very different flavors. Witches are focused casters with a fairly narrow specialty, broken down into iron witches, mind witches, sea witches, wind witches, winter witches, and wood witches. Each type of witch has their own bonus class skills, access to spell-like abilities themed to their ‘element’, additional thematic perks like resistances or saving throw bonuses against that element, and at 9th level gain access to any spell of that element of a level they can cast. That’s significant in that witches therefore get free access to exotic spells of their specialty without having to spend feats for them.

The downside of witches is their reliance on having a ‘witchbag’, or their pouch of random crap that serves as a material component for their spells. If they lose the bag, their spellcasting suffers in much the same way as a magister without a staff. The exception is mind witches, who can cast spells with the psionic descriptor without need of any components. Interestingly on the fluff side, it’s mentioned that mind witches insist that they’re psions rather than spellcasters. They don’t receive any distinction from other casters as far as mechanics go, but between their witchery powers and access to exotic psionic spells, they actually do give telepath psions a run for their money in the Professor X department.

The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007



Valatar posted:

There are evolved levels for giant, but as being mutated by dragons into a perversion of nature is not looked upon favorably by the giants, there aren't many valid reasons for a player to receive evolved levels.

This is interesting, because I remember AU saying that the Giants had uplifted the Sibbecai into their current (intelligent) form. Is that fluff gone, or is it a case of "the only good fleshcrafting is my fleshcrafting"?

Valatar
Sep 26, 2011

A remarkable example of a pathetic species.


Lipstick Apathy

The Lone Badger posted:

This is interesting, because I remember AU saying that the Giants had uplifted the Sibbecai into their current (intelligent) form. Is that fluff gone, or is it a case of "the only good fleshcrafting is my fleshcrafting"?

Pretty much the latter, as far as I can tell. The giants sort of have a point; the method the dragons are using to gift people with mutant powers now are the same method they used to create the dramojh, the tenebrian seeds, and everyone saw how great that turned out. But yeah, the giants did gently caress around with the sibbecai, and it's implied that they did more than just stick clothes on them and send them to giant college, so they have their own methods of messing with the natural order that they clearly didn't mind using.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012





quote:

Several generations have passed since Doomsday when the
Earth was wracked by the Final War. Our forebears told of
the devastation, of the great pillars of ash and flame, of the
clouds of manmade pestilence, of the waves of strangely scented death.
All the marvels our ancestors had striven to create, their towering edifices
of steel, concrete and glass, the lore stored on their webs of computers,
were torn asunder, rent and lost. Many died, man and beast alike, and
the Earth was tortured and twisted. Many more died during the Years of
Dark Ice that followed.
As heat and light returned, those few survivors began to establish
themselves anew, communities began to slowly grow again, both to
protect and nurture or to seize and pillage, for both are paths of survival.
Nations were gone, survival was paramount, trade was scant. What
useful implements of the Before Time that could be safely salvaged were
quickly hoarded and cherished, for future generations, for survival, for
protection and predation.
The damage and poisoning of the Earth was reflected in the warped
flesh of animal and man. Many were born with hideous mutations to
the horror of their parents. Most died, others were cast out, only a few
were nurtured or endured. Over time, the number of mutants has slowly
increased, reluctantly accepted in some places, still reviled in others.
Fortified settlements are scattered across and beneath the blasted
landscape now, linked by the battered roads our ancestors made. Road
warriors in their armed and armored vehicles guard these places of
civilization, escort the mighty trade rigs that ferry goods and people
between those settlements that trade. Raiders assault these in their crude
vehicles, steal and slaughter, constantly test the defenses of the towns
and homesteads nearby. The weak, the foolish, quickly fall to their
ravages.
This is a time of hardship, of rebuilding, a time when scavengers
pick at the scraps of the Before Time, a time when might too often
means right. But it is also a time of hope, for Humanity has endured
and the Earth begins to very slowly mend. The future will again be
wrought by our hands, for good or ill.
- Daniel Turing, Lore Keeper of Redtown

Welcome to Atomic Highway, the High-Octane Post Apocalyptic RPG!

It’s got action!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLCmcV4gC_0

Drama!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfL4xKQeSfo

Thunderdomes!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEgy_vIrTs4

AND EVEN MORE ACTION!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akX3Is3qBpw

Yes, this is basically Mad Max the RPG, though it’s a lot more than just that. With a wee bit of homebrewing, which is dog simple in this game, you can also turn it into an RPG version of: Planet of the Apes, Kamandi the Last Boy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Metro 2033, Borderlands, Fallout, Left 4 Dead, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., and pretty much anything else that involves lots of action, some survival elements, and weird unnatural mutants or similar things. If any of this interests you, Atomic Highway and its supplement Irradiated Freaks are both free on Drivethrurpg, so grab it and read along if you want!

Now I’m going to get the “What’s an RPG?” chapter out of the way, because nobody really cares about that stuff right? Well, you should, because this game actually has a good one! See, Atomic Highway is meant to be a very beginner friendly game, so instead of just saying what an rpg is it shows you how one works in play via a goofy rear end short comic!





Next time: A View Out the Window: The Default Setting!

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Other than the aforementioned issues of Arcana Evolved's timing, it never really had a hook other than being "Monte Cook's D&D". Don't get me wrong, it has a lot of interesting ideas, but it also generally lacks a central hook per se or a great back-of-the-book elevator pitch. It also didn't change anything too fundamental with 3e, so even though noncasters are better, some casters are ridiculously good to the point of farce. Monte Cook was always making jumped-up caster classes (see also The Complete Book of Eldritch Might), but some of the stuff in here takes the cake. Where the lack of support also really hurt it was the drop in compatibility. Arcana Evolved stuff is just different enough to throw off the balance with core 3e stuff that using it with them is a mess.

Still, I sold a copy of Arcana Unearthed at Gen Con, so somebody's still interested in this stuff, but it's in the uncomfortable space a lot of d20 settings were at the time (stuff like Warlords of the Accordlands) where it's different enough that it doesn't work with the core game but not different enough to stand aside from it.

Valatar
Sep 26, 2011

A remarkable example of a pathetic species.


Lipstick Apathy

Alien Rope Burn posted:

Other than the aforementioned issues of Arcana Evolved's timing, it never really had a hook other than being "Monte Cook's D&D". Don't get me wrong, it has a lot of interesting ideas, but it also generally lacks a central hook per se or a great back-of-the-book elevator pitch.

This sadly is true. If the setting had been fleshed out and was amazing, it would have brought very strong competition to the table. But the setting as written is just a skeleton and isn't going to draw anyone in. And the game races and classes aren't particularly compatible with just being plopped into a D&D setting.

quote:

It also didn't change anything too fundamental with 3e, so even though noncasters are better, some casters are ridiculously good to the point of farce. Monte Cook was always making jumped-up caster classes (see also The Complete Book of Eldritch Might), but some of the stuff in here takes the cake.

On this point I disagree. I feel that the casters gained in flexibility but lost in power compared to D&D baseline. I played a high-level wizard in a Planescape game in 3E, and he was effectively unkillable while able to brutally flatten all opposition. And that's without exploiting well-known loopholes like 'summon creature X so it uses overpowered trick Y for you' and the like. As far as I've been able to tell from going over the spell lists, Monte closed all of the munchkin loopholes that existed, got rid of insta-kill spells (though as I mentioned, insta-disable spells are still there and probably oughtn't be) and generally made it more difficult to lay waste to entire continents.

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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

There was some interesting stuff that was hinted at like the Vallorians...

https://web.archive.org/web/20071108014022/http://www.montecook.com/cgi-bin/page.cgi?mpress_Legacy_vallorians1
https://web.archive.org/web/20071108014022/http://www.montecook.com/cgi-bin/page.cgi?mpress_Legacy_vallorians2
https://web.archive.org/web/20071108014022/http://www.montecook.com/cgi-bin/page.cgi?mpress_Legacy_vallorians3

...he released conversion notes to use Arcana Evolved with Ptolus (I use Ptolus in my campaign)...

https://web.archive.org/web/20071108014022/http://www.montecook.com/cgi-bin/page.cgi?mpress_Ptolus_enhance3

...and there was supporting material that was released such as Ruins of Intrigue which went into the Giant/Dragon War...

Link to the old catalog page -- https://web.archive.org/web/20071111094905/http://www.montecook.com/cgi-bin/page.cgi?mpress_Ruins

but I agree, the lack of a defined setting really hurt the line even with the (admittedly limited) 3rd party support that was out there.

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