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Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



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


Part 9e: World Laws and Reality Storms

Time to start digging into the mechanical side of the Cyberpapacy, and that means we start by talking about the realm's axioms and world laws.

The axioms of the Cyberpapacy have been bouncing up and down thanks to the Collapse and the Tech Surge. The Cyberpapacy is currently a rough mix of the axioms of Magna Verita, Core Earth, and Kandara. All of the Cyberpapal axioms were affected in one way or another, and in a lot of ways the culture is still catching up. The Cyberpapacy hasn't had to deal with real change for literally centuries, so while they're adapting to the new technology available, the other changes are making their lives difficult.

The Magic axiom is 10, allowing for full-on spellcasting, enchanted items, and witches turning people into toads. It's also just high enough to allow for the existence of supernatural creatures such as gargoyles, and magic is even capable of affecting the GodNet. For the most part, magic hasn't changed that much from Magna Verita's original level, although the increase from Core Earth's magic axiom has caused more mages to appear in France.

It should be pointed out that the general public at large is aware of the existence of magic, but according to Cyberpapal doctrine magic is the work of the Devil. Witch hunts are common, and even being suspected of being a practictioner of magic is enough to get you burned at the stake.

I've already talked about the axoims and world laws in the first Cyberpapacy post, but that was a while ago so let's revisit them.

The Social axiom is 18, which is actually a little lower than Core Earth's, but is a significant increase from Magna Verita's original axiom of 13. From a Core Earth point of view, it's a step backwards from France being capable of a democratic government to being under the bureaucratic control of a single totaltarian government. The only real chance France has at finding freedom on its own is the fact that the Church doesn't know how to deal with widespread change. While technically speaking the social axiom is a drop from Core Earth's, it's a large step up from Manga Verita's.

Before all the axiom mixing, the citizens of Manga Verita had no civil liberties, no personal rights, nothing like that. The influx of new social ideas is creating a new problem for the Church because the society is starting to evolve out of the idea of "whatever the Church says goes". Papal doctrine has to start allowing and accepting various forms of societal advancement instead of suppresing them, and some parts of the Church are having a harder time adapting than others.

(There's also the fact that the increase of the social axiom allows for a level of rebellion so you can have cyberpunk gangs and whatnot.)

The Cyberpapacy has a Spiritual axiom of 14, which isn't actually too high compared to the other realms. Aysle and the Living Land have higher spiritual axioms, but the Cyberpapacy belief system is more about following the will of the Church rather than the will of God. It's like Small Gods; people believe in the structure not the core.

That being said, spiritual power is manifest in the world. Believers can perform miracles, and angels and demons exist in the GodNet. While the focus of faith is more the Cyberpapal structure (and therefore the CyberPope), the power of Malraux's God is undeniable.

Lastly, the Technology axiom jumped from Magna Verita's original 15 (mideval technology) to 26. We all know what this has meant for the realm, so there's not much to say here. The technology jump has been a bit uneven; even though cybernetics and man/machine interfaces are commonplace, things like robotics and weaponry are lagging behind. Demand for high technology is also outstripping demand, since France's industrial infrastructure was hit hard by the Collapse and hasn't been able to get caught up to the level needed by the Tech Surge.

Meanwhile, back in Magna Verita, nobody knows that the technology level has improved by leaps and bounds; it's just that nobody knows it yet. Malraux has sent augmented operatives back up the bridge to keep a tight control on how technology will advance back home.

There are four world laws that are remnants of Magna Verita's reality, and weren't really altered by the mixing of realities. In the interest of repeating information, I'll just quote myself.

quote:

The most important is the The Law of the One True God. It's pretty straightforward: the catholic God is the only true god, He is the only source of divine power, and any other form of worship is heretical. In game terms, this means that people of any faith other than Cybercatholisism have a hard time performing miracles in the Cyberpapacy. The further away the caster is from "core" Cyberpapal doctrine, the harder it is for him to cast a miracle. For instance, a Catholic priest would have a +1 to his difficulty, a Jewish rabbi would have a +3, and a Buddhist monk would have a +6.

The Law of Heretical Magic is a bit of a double-edged sword. It makes magic more difficult to cast (since it's forbidden), but at the same time makes it more powerful (because it's "powered by Evil"). The difficulty of casting any spell is +3, but a successful spell has its outcome increased by 5. If you suffer backlash, however, then it's possible an actual demon will show up to try and possess you.

The Law of Ordeal is part of why the Church is in change, and works thus: "In the Cyberpapal view of the world, the choice of a priest to accuse a character morally obligates the character to prove her innocence through a trial by ordeal. Failure to take the trial is an admission of guilt, and not incidentally, heresy." There are four types of ordeals: having your arms thrust into boiling water, being submerged in frigid water, burning, and trial by combat. If you're actually guilty, then surviving these trials is more difficult, but if you succeed you're considered innocent. If you fail, you're either dead or will be killed as punishment.

The Law of Suspicion means that strangers are not trusted, and everyone is, if not guilty until proven innocent, is at least under close scrutiny. Attempts to use the charm or persuasion skills are easier to resist, but at the same time trying to intimidate or taunt increases your skill by 3.

The chapter closes out with a discussion on the maelstrom bridge and the reality storms that surround the country.

The Cyberpapal maelstrom bridge connects the Avignon in Magna Verita to Avignon in Core Earth. The Darkness Device keeps one eye on the bridge, and if any Possibility-rated person tries to cross the bridge the Device will invoke a reality storm against that person in an attempt to transform them to Cyberpapal reality. If it succeeds and the target transforms, they automatically gain a neural jack in the neck or temple, and one to three more cyberdoodads of the GM's choosing. Presumably this is also the case for anyone who transforms to Cyberpapal reality, since the fiction of the book has been heavily implying that people had automagically getting cyberware and whatnot when the Cyberpapacy formed.

The reality storms that surround CyberFrance are pretty much standard to the rest of the game. The biggest issue are the storms on the border that touch the English Channel. The Channel separates the Cyberpapacy and Aysle, and in some parts the reality borders are about a mile apart. The close proximity of three separate realities makes the storms even stronger than normal, and the fallout of the storms affects pretty much everything touching the Channel.

It should be pointed out that if a Cyberpapal character transforms to a different reality, he actually loses one to three pieces of cyberware. Exactly how that works or interacts with the whole "living to living/unliving to unliving" rule is never explained. If I have a cybereye and transform, what's supposed to happen? Do I lose the eye? Do I just get a glass eye? What about an implanted system? I'd hate to think what a retractable forearm blade or cranial jack would change into.



Again, another short chapter without much to really say. But don't worry, we're going to get into bad mechanics soon enough!

NEXT TIME: Hanging with the console cowboys in cyberspace!

Evil Mastermind fucked around with this message at 19:04 on Jan 7, 2014

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Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Spoilers Below posted:

And this, I think, is one of the reasons that the Guide to the Technocracy was such a good book. Unlike the previous convention guides, it transformed the "I didn't understand 1984!" style mustache twirlers who wanted to crush all dreams and hopes and creativeness into a group of (mostly) well-meaning people who were terrified by the Randian psychos who thought it would be alright to reshape the world into a brutal nightmare and undo things like preventative medicine and hygiene in favor of whatever they feel like at the moment. Sure, your bosses are jerks, and some of the people on your side are fascist assholes, and some of those Iteration-X guys are pretty creepy, and those Progenitors clones are downright weird, and the Void Engineer guys who spend too much time in space tend to come back wrong, and the Syndicate guys keep falling to the Wyrm, and the NWO guys were cooler when Hulk Hogan was their leader... but, you know, they kept Ravnos from killing most of India, and have dropped infant mortality rates to almost nothing, and have finagled it so countries with McDonalds in them don't go to war with one another. That's progress, ain't it?

A good villain can be seen as right. You can understand their point of view, and why they are they way they are. The best villains are right. :v:

But...but...technology BAD! Technology gave us guns and bombs and vaccines that cause brain damage and a spy drone in every room of the house!

Yeah, the Technocracy was so bad as presented. Especially since oWoD had the subtlety of a thrown brick and it was total black-and-white morality at that point. Technically both sides are right, they just take things to the extremes without realizing it, but instead it's pretty much TRADITIONS GOOD TECHNOCRACY BAD.

It doesn't help that the Technocrats, who were the guys fighting the very idea of magick, were themselves mages. They just didn't realize it. :jerkbag:

Since we're on the topic of the dumber parts of oMage, who wants to talk about Paradox Flaws and Spirits? :v:

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Halloween Jack posted:

I could never reconcile the cosmologies of Mage, Werewolf, and Vampire, myself. Honestly I thought Gehenna was pretty ballsy for saying "Yep, Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, and Lilith existed and they were cursed by the God of the Old Testament, eat it nerds."

Hell, White Wolf couldn't even reconcile the cosmologies.

Which wasn't so bad until Mage came out and all of a sudden it was all "wait, how come vampires and werewolves don't generate Paradox", "How the hell can vampires use their Disciplines to resist someone reshaping reality", and "why do werewolves and mages go to two separate spiritual realms?"

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



What's interesting that oChangeling is basically "how you remember being a little kid to be like", where everything was *~IMAGINATION~* and days lasted forever and you could pretend your stick was a sword and that rock was a dragon and and and

But nChangeling isn't about that. Yes, to a degree it is, but it's about what your childhood was really like. Yeah you played pretend and spent a whole summer day running around, but nChangeling also reminds you that between all that were bullies, school, chores, responsibilities. It was the game that said "you know, your childhood wasn't that great 24/7."

It's not surprising that a lot of people would resent being told that their childhood may not have been magically perfect.

Really, the oChangeling -> nChangeling tone shift is best summarized by the Twilight Zone episode The Incredible World of Horace Ford, which is about a manchild who gets a chance to relive his childhood.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enJ8EsqaX5E

fake edit: really I just wanted to link to the episode, because it really is relevant to what we're talking about here.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Meinberg posted:

Or something. I don't know what kids are doing these days.

I think kids today are pretty into that "pogs" thing.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



I'd actually forgotten that "freak the mundanes" was a thing people said seriously, completely unironically, and with conviction back in the 90's.

So thanks for that, I guess.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



As bad as everything in Changeling and Autumn People is, pookah are worse. They're basically kender without the useful "good at thief skills" part.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



pkfan2004 posted:

RE: Day After Ragnarok. I do like the idea and I do like it being possibly being WWII pulp/Thundarr and if it's actually good well you bet your rear end I'll pick it up and give it a read.

It is really good and worth picking up, and you can get either Savage Worlds or Fate versions.

For those who aren't aware, the basic idea is as follows:

In 1945, the results of Hitler's obsession with the occult comes to a head, and the Nazi empire manages to summon forth the Midgard serpent, ushering in the age of Ragnarok. 350 miles wide and of unknown length, the serpent arose out of the Atlantic Ocean and immediately began destroying everything it could reach.

President Truman, not having any other options, orders a nuclear bomb to be flown into the serpent's eye in a desperate attempt to save the world. Joseph Westover, captain of the bomber The Strange Cargo, succeeded and drove the nuke straight through Jörmungandr and into his brain, killing it.

What nobody thought about what what would happen when the world serpent died.

Jörmungandr's death thrashing created 100-mile high tidal waves awash with radioactivity and the serpent's mutating blood that destroyed the eastern third of North America. The serpent's body crashed into Europe, utterly destroying central Europe, the British Isles, and most of northern Africa.

Now, the remnants of the British Empire and the U.S.S.R compete for what's left of the world. North America is a splintered wasteland, Russia mines the body of the serpent for supernatural materials, and the British Empire engages in espionage against its myriad enemies. New technologies are born from researching the body of the serpent, and British Petroleum has begun mining and processing its blood as a new fuel source. Monsters born of Jörmungandr's flesh and blood roam the world.



A few highlights:
  • America is mostly a radioactive wasteland, everything within like 100 miles of the east coast is hosed, and the rest of the nation is small city-states of survivors. This is the "Thundaar" part where you can roam the land fighting mutants, or try to manage a survivor colony.
  • The British Empire is now the biggest power in the world, and is engaged in all kinds of spy games against Russia and China, complete with mystical spy gadgets.
  • Russia has gone into full-on Evil Empire mode, and has conquered most of Europe. As an added bonus, Stalin managed to get the frost giants that awoke during Ragnarok on his side.
  • China and Japan have allied into one empire, and as one of the few places on Earth not directly touched by the Serpentfall they're rapidly growing in power.
  • Nazis are still around for you to punch.
  • Magic has returned, and people have learned how to make techno-magic-ish devices out of the flesh, bone, and blood of the corpse of the Midgard serpent.

It also includes some great lists like "Top Five Places to get Mercenary Work", "Top Five Cities for Spies", "Top Five Places to Stomp Nazis", and "Top Five Places to find a Remote Castle Ruled By A Madman".

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Unhallowed Metropolis kinda reminds me of the world of Dishonored in terms of overall feel, except that UM is starting to look a little over-designed.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Bieeardo posted:

UM feels less like a game and more like a story bible to me, from what we've seen so far.

That tends to be the case with a lot of RPGs, I feel, especially the larger settings. TORG has that same kind of air about it where it feels like the designers wanted to be writers rather than game designers, and it really comes through in the presentation. It probably comes from the earlier days of gaming where it was felt that the more detail the better when it came to settings, coupled with the "metaplot is king" factor from the early 90's.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



theironjef posted:

Something slightly different, my goon buddy and I review old dead RPGs as a podcast. We just put up episode 11, which is covering Haven - City of Violence. Check it out if you're bored at work, especially for the batshit Skyrealms of Jorune and Ghostbusters RPG systems.

http://systemmasterypodcast.com/2014/01/22/system-mastery-11-haven-city-of-violence/



Do you have an RSS feed for the podcast that I can plug into my podcast reader? This is right up my alley.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



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


Part 9f: The GodNet v1.0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7tazcxWUwk

We're actually going out of the Cyberpapacy book and backing up to the core set. The reason for this is because the Cyberpapacy book itself doesn't have any real detail on the GodNet. The basic information on the GodNet and decking are in the World Book that came with the core boxed set, but were then expanded later when the GodNet got its own supplement. In point of fact, the rules in the Cyberpapacy book direct the reader to the GodNet book, not the World Book, for the rules on hacking and such.

I'm not going to cover the GodNet book itself until I'm done with the Cyberpapacy book, so let's take a break and look at how the GodNet works.

And even this early in the line things aren't presented in an order that makes sense. We learn how to enter a computer network before we're even told anything about the GodNet itself.

It's been established that the GodNet is a "virtual experience" that allows users to enter a virtual reality that represents the computer networks of CyberFrance. To access the GodNet, you need a neural jack and a cyberdeck.

quote:

Neural interfacing, or jacking, can be done by any person who has been equipped with a neural jack. A neural jack's visible component is a socket, usually on the head or the neck. Its most important pieces are the miniature axion amplifier (called an ax) for boosting nerve current and the dipolar receding chip (dipchip) for translating mental commands and images to the computer net, and vice versa. Neural jacks are fairly easy to implant. A user can jack straight into a VX net with no additional hardware needed.

If you only use a neural jack to interface with the 'net, you can't do much. Straight neural interfacing is like browsing through a public dumb terminal, except that this was 1990 and the idea of the web as we use it nowadays didn't exist yet; we were still rocking usenet, Gopher, and FTP sites. So you can use the neural interface to create a basic "virtual self" that looks like you, access file systems and email, but that's about it. You don't get much control over what you see and can do unless you use a cyberdeck.

Cyberdecks are portable devices that, well...

quote:

Comp-Plexes have the capacity to modify VXs sent to users. CompPlexes are axion boosters, dipolar recorders, cyber-signal (cygnal) filters, and media chips integrated into a horrifyingly complex system coordinated by vast computing power. Cyberdecks are portable CompPlexes, with small VX work areas (compared to a full net) within them. Within these work areas the net's VX are modified by programs carried with the cyberdeck and controlled by the user.

Uh huh.

Whatever, you need a cyberdeck to really use the GodNet for more than checking your email. Using a cyberdeck requires either the cyberdeck operation Cyberpapacy-specific skill, or the scholar (computer science) skill, but if you use this skill it's considered untrained use.

When using a cyberdeck, you can alter your virtual self's appearance to hide your idenity and give yourself a cool cyber-persona. You can also use it to hack computer systems.

Oh, and before we get into the nuts and bolts of things, I should point out that time in the GodNet actually passes at the same rate as it does in the real world. Unlike most other cyberpunk games at the time, it doesn't have the setup where things in cyberspace happen at the speed of thought, and hacking involves the decker getting his own little side-adventure while the rest of the group sits around doing nothing because said side-adventure only takes two minutes in game time even though the ~decker's magical netrunning adventure~ takes hours to run.

Every cyberdeck has four stats:
Response is how fast your deck can react to things in the GodNet, and improves your effective Perception stat in the GodNet. It also determines how fast you can read files.
Stealth is how well the cyberdeck lets you avoid security systems, and adds to your stealth rolls.
Processor power determines the maximum adds of software you can run at once.
Storage is how many programs you can store in your deck.

Just working with the Worldbook, we only have three cyberdecks available, and can't custom-build our own designs. The "standard" cyberdeck is the Delicious, which has Response +1, Stealth +1, Processor Power 3, and Storage 4, and costs 17,000 francs. The other options are the Marseilles Hermes and the ICROM Custom Vee but the only actual difference is just that the stats are a point or two higher.

When you're in the GodNet, you can use all your skills as normal because the GodNet is a weird mix of virtual reality and pocket dimension. You skill's "net value" is your skill value plus your cyberdeck operation or scholar (computer science) skill.

Your net skills can be improved through the use of programs. You can buy software for any normal skill, so you can get find +1 to improve that skill in the GodNet. Here's the problem though: there's no list of what skills you can buy software for. There are examples of programs for normal skills like find or stealth, but you can also apparently buy attack or combat software instead of having to buy programs for the specific normal combat skills.

Anyway, programs are rated from +1 to +3. Your deck's processor power is the total number of pluses of software you can have running at once. So the Delicious can have one program running at +3, or three or +1, or one at +2 and one at +1. You can have more programs than that stored on your deck and can swap them out as needed. Unfortunately, we're not told how this interacts with your deck's storage stat. So I don't know if it's supposed to represent how many programs you can have all told, how many pluses you can store, if that's backup storage for software, or if it's total storage for everything.

And now we smash cut into talking about the GodNet itself.

quote:

Once he has jacked in, the first impression a user has of the GodNet is of a huge glowing cross with pulsating lines of circuitry etched into it and flowing out of it; the user is connected by a gossamer strand thrown off from one of these lines. As the user follows the strand down toward the cross, the other lines disappear and the cross expands to fill the field of vision, stretching to the vanishing points along the horizon. At the junction of the crosspieces is an angular, stepped tower which stretches into the sky. This is Babel Central. All information (including jacked-in users) entering the GodNet is routed through Babel Central for clearance and surveillance.

And from that we go right into GodNet combat. All GodNet combat is virtual (of course), but because you're hooking everything up to your brain the neural feedback mean you take real damage. Well, real mental damage, but still damage. If you die in the MatrixGodNet, you die for real.


A goon...of THE FUTURE!

Net combat works like normal combat, but your combat skill values for attacking or defending equal your skill value plus the adds you have in your cyberdeck operation skill plus your deck's Response stat. So if you have fire combat at 10, two adds in cyberdeck operation, and a deck with +2 Response, then your effective fire combat skill in the GodNet is 14.

Oh, now we learn what attack and defense programs are. They're basically the weapons and armor of net combat, except that they work off your Mind stat.

Combat results work a little differently in the GodNet than they do in meatspace. A "knockdown" scrambles your connection so you can only defend for a round, and you can't swap programs for that round. Getting KO'd screws up your cyberdeck so you can't access any of its programs for three rounds. Taking enough shock to knock you out still knocks you out both inside and outside the net (whatever that means). Wounds pretty much work the same way, except that your virtual self shows your wounds. Taking too many wounds will still kill you.

So now that we know how to fight in the GodNet, what exactly can we fight? That's where Net Defenses come in.

quote:

The GodNet has a number of defenses, most of which are not yet known to net raiders or even to priests of the Cyberpapacy. The Darkness Device is responsible for most of the GodNet's defenses, and the purpose, presence and strength of many of them are unknown even to the Cyberpope. The first line of defense, and the most numerous, are the priests who man the terminals hooked in through Babel Central. They share a massive CompPlex which is larger, more powerful than the mobile cyberdecks used by the net raiders. The standard terminal is the Penitence IV.
The most common form of defense is, of course, the cyberpriest. Babel Central has hundreds of cyberpriests jacked in at all times, with access to the best cyberdecks and software the Cyberpapacy can aquire. Even outside Babel Central, all GodNet exchange cathedrals have their own cyberpriests in place to defend them from outside hackers.

The cyberpriests, as numerous and well-equiped as they are, are not the main problem when it comes to hacking. The big problem is the Entities.

When the Darkness Device created the GodNet, self aware...things began to appear within. Some were the minds of the cyberpriests that were sucked in during the GodNet's creation, but others are unique beings that were born with the net. Part program, part spirit, these being inhabit certain areas of the GodNet (which we'll get to in a minute) and have their own agendas. They appear as angel, demons, and other mythological beasts out of Cyberpapal doctrine.

In the World Book, only one of them is stated up, of course. It's also given without any context or goals; it just is.

quote:

Beast of the Apocalypse: DEX 10, STR 22, TOU 25, PER 14, MIN 26, CHA 10, SPI 12.
Skills: stealth 22 (until beast manifests), find 17, missle combat 15, unarmed combat 17, trick 17, test 27, taunt (23), intimidate 17 (23), reality 14.
Net Values: net attack (melee) 20, net attack (missile) 18, net defense 14, net find 20, net stealth 25, net manipulation 17, net track 17.
Possibilities: 12.
Response/Processor/Storage: 3/16/32.
Programs: Onslaught 6 (5), Scramble 3 (3), MindWipe 3 (4), BrainBurn 1 (2), Surge 1 (2), DeckWipe 2 (3), Armor 4 (3), Scan 3 (3), Trace 4 (4), Grapple 2 (3).
Natural Tools: claws, damage value 28; bite, damage value 29; gaze, damage value 26, hide, armor +4.
Note: gaze is a missile combat attack. The pupils of the beast's eyes seem to whir and detach, propelled at unbelievable velocity toward the victim. The pupils reform in a round; its vision is unaffected by the attack.
Description: This entity is rumored to be able to appear in any region of the GodNet. Looking like the huge Apocalyptic beast, with seven heads, horns and a diadem, this horrible creature can cause such a surge of power that net raiders literally explode on the ends of their neura-jacks. The beast can travel nearly undetected, until it manifests itself by generating a VX form to use its attack and defense programs.
The only net creature the GM starts with, and it's this TPK monstrocity. That really sets the tone. It's also worth pointing out that all those programs the Beast has would not be defined mechanically until the GodNet sourcebook itself came out about a year later. :what:

Anyway, we close out our basic-set review of the GodNet by going through the various regions of the GodNet itself.


This is pretty much what we thought the future was going to be like, back in 1990.

First off, the Darkness Device Ebencrux has physcially moved itself into the GodNet. It hangs in the exact center of the pocket dimension, even though very few people know what it is or its true nature.

The operational center of the GodNet is Babel Central. It appears as a giant cathedral tower made of the fundamental cyberpunk elements: chrome, glass, and light. The inside of Babel Central is a made of stairways and corridors, and you can see thousands of VX user avatars milling around like some sort of futuristic Facebook town-management sim. Security and traffic guidance are handled by Gatekeeper programs. They appear as friendly human monks, except that (and I quote) "hey have perfectly white, nearly glowing teeth, upon which encoded signals occasionally flash."

Most of the real papal work is handled in the thousands of cathedrals dotted around the net. The physical cathedrals are basically holy server farms, and are often populated by civilians performing their cybercatholic duties. They are always manned by cyberpriests or cybernuns, and if they're lucky they may have an Entity hanging around.

Unsurprisingly, there is a Heaven, and very few have ever entered its doors. It is surrounded by a low wall, but nothing can be seen over it, it repairs all damage instantly, and attempting to climb over it makes it grow higher in response. The only gate is guarded by a VX simulation of the archangel Peter (at least, everyone thinks it's a sim), and only he can let people into Heaven itself. Very few have entered, and even fewer have returned. Those who have say that they were able to speak to angels, who relayed their messages to God Himself. Those who asked for large-scale changes GodNet itself say that the changes were worked into the system, which raises some interesting questions about the GodNet's nature.

And of course, if there's a Heaven, there must be a Hell. The sole gate to Hell is guarded not by a three-headed dog, but by a judge wearing a headress in the shape of a bull's head, and wielding a whip that destroys and absorbs the programs of anyone struck by it. No one who has entered Hell has ever returned. The souls of those excommunicated by the Church are sent straight to Hell.

Between Heaven and Hell lies Purgatory. This realm is only accessable by those unfortunate souls who are the target of a nasty miracle called Net Damnation that sends to straight to Purgatory the next time you jack in. It's a blank, endless plain where you can see all the other damned souls, but are unable to reach or communicate with them. It is a world of isolation and despair that can only be escaped when a cyberpriest removes the damnation, or your soul is uploaded and trapped forever in a "spirit chip"; a special piece of chipware that allows anyone who plugs it into their cybernetics to access your skills and memories. Although if you're good, you might be able to take over your host. Still, better than eternal damnation, right?

Of course, there's a lot more to the GodNet, but in true supplement treadmill fashion there's just enough to get you started but you'll need the sourcebook to really get any serious use out of it. And don't worry, I'll cover the full-on 90's cyberdesign when I finish the main Cyberpapacy book. Which we'll be returning to...

NEXT TIME: Non-l33t skills!

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Young Freud posted:

Am I getting ahead of you by bring up that Kadandra, the cosm that the Cyberpapacy's cybertechnology actually came from, has a backdoor into the GodNet?

Yeah, I'm going to cover that when we get to the GodNet book. (although it's unconfirmed if it's a backdoor to the reality or a simulation). I just wanted to hit the (skimpy) basics.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Rockopolis posted:

Oh man, I think I have DBZ in a box somewhere.
I guess I don't have to feel so bad about never being able to play it...just buying it.

I know I have a copy still. It's in the "get rid of this stuff" pile next to my bookcase.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



theironjef posted:

System Mastery Episode 12 is up and active. This time we're reviewing D20 Modern. Next time we'll be reviewing the Urban Arcana expansion. I've read them both so extensively that it was difficult to review one without accidentally talking a bunch about the other, but I'm definitely looking forward to talking about gnoll pimps and basketball minotaurs.

I do want to say that I really like your podcast. My fave so far is Haven (...City of Violence) but they've all been really enjoyable.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Grnegsnspm posted:

This thread continually gives me things I want to review for upcoming podcasts (Aletheia in particularly looks awesomely batshit loco) and if you guys have any suggestions for some good/terrible out of print games we should do, let us know. There are only so many things we can find in the FLGS' used bargain bin.

So what you're saying is that you're looking for guests? :v:

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



I really do have to wonder if WLD would have been, well, not good but less terrible if they went the "Castle Greyhawk" route and just let each designer write one level however they wanted instead of doing one huge map. I doubt it would have been much better, but at least things would be more self-contained.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Lynx Winters posted:

This has reminded me, though, can we write about games that never got released if we have the material that was going into it? Because I'd love to write some words about Capcom World Tournament, a cancelled d20 Street Fighter & Friends RPG.
Was that the one Last Unicorn Games was supposed to put out?

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Hulk Smash! posted:

Here's the damage chart from Living Steel which is based on Phoenix Command, for comparison.

Click for big:


That is the most ridonkulous hit location chart I've ever seen, and I've played Battlelords of the 23rd Century, which had a % chance to hit the genitals.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



theironjef posted:

Episode 13 of System Mastery is live, and we're finally straying off core books to talk about a campaign setting, in this case the D20 Modern expansion, Urban Arcana.

Spoiler alert: We loved it.
I really liked the d20 Modern episode. And you're right; it really had the potential to be really good, but they were hamstrung by needing to keep the D&D mechanics. I think if they had been allowed to go classless/point-buy and just be fully cinematic it could have been something special. :(

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



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

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



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

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


Part 9g: Skills and Miracles

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

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

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

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

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

quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eradicate Radiation does what it says on the label.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's probably a metaphor or something.


NEXT TIME: Monsters, fantatics, and heretics!

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



theironjef posted:

System Mastery 14 throws a quarter on the rail this week with a review of White Wolf's Street Fighter - The Storytelling RPG. We basically agree between the two of us that this is a great board game buried under a mountain of White Wolfiness and cheap stereotypes.

http://systemmasterypodcast.com/2014/03/05/system-mastery-14-street-fighter/

Aw yeah, can't wait to listen to this one. :dance: Please tell me you cover WoD: Combat too.

fake edit: and when are you going to start having thread reviewers as guests?

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



You know, listening to the Street Fighter episode actually reminded me a lot of Scion, which was another WW-style "jam <concept> into the Storyteller system, even if it doesn't fit" deal, with the same issue of giving players very limited options to the point where all you can really do is recreate the signature characters except with one different power or something.

Also how has nobody done Scion for these threads?

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



theironjef posted:

We have a copy right here actually. It's on the list.

I honestly can't wait to hear that one. Each of the three Scion core books somehow managed to be worse than the last, and the first book was pretty bad to begin with. Not to mention the loving "campaign" that took up a sizable chunk of each book that assumed everyone was using the pregens.

You think Exalted has some bad math? You ain't seen poo poo yet.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Grnegsnspm posted:

Also the different god powers were so wildly unbalanced with some being useful and some being absolutely pointless.
Yeah, that was the problem with the first book. The purviews were both incredibly limited and very unbalanced. I think the Plant purview doesn't really get a mechanically-backed useful ability until at least 4 dots, which you couldn't do until the second book.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Grnegsnspm posted:

It's sad, really, because I was super excited about the game when it came out. A modern day demigods game where you mix pantheons and have awesome superhero-like adventures and poo poo? That sounds awesome. Then I got the first book and was like "Whatever, I can work with this." I got one session in, got a look through the second book and then didn't have a second session.

Check out Part-Time Gods. I reviewed it before, and while it's still a little crunchy, it's nowhere near Scion's level, and it's designed to let you adapt a large amount of generally-defined powers to your godly concept instead of having to bend your character concept around a limited selection of rigid powers.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Robindaybird posted:

What's obnoxious is all the space they wasted for the adventures of the pregens could've been used to clarify rules (there were bits my then GM found confusing) and go a little more in-depth about the gods.

Or even some setting info. Throughout the entire line there was zero information about how all these monsters and godlings and whatnot running around affected the world, especially since by the end of the line there were heavy duty world-shaking events and you were capable of being known and loved by everyone in the world simply because your Charisma has like 100 automatic successes.

e:

Tasoth posted:

I was about to suggest this. If you're good with Unisystem, you could also take Armageddon (I HAVEN'T GIVEN UP YET!), drop everything but the avatars/incarnates/inheritors and have Gods battling what you will through a modern day fantasy setting.
Yeah, but good luck getting your hands on a copy. :(

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Just wanted to point out that Jaws of the Six Serpents is part of the latest Bundle of Holding, and if you beat the average you also get PDQ game Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies (which is awesome) and Hellas.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Zereth posted:

It's been out for a while, so it's time for my review of...

World of Synnibarr Third Edition!




The End.

Best review we've ever had.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Alien Rope Burn posted:

There's something I find revisionist about deathtrap OSR stuff like Lament of the Flame Princess; the whole attitude that games were once three deathtraps per silver coin or the like, because a lot of old D&D adventures don't resemble that sort of play style. Granted, that's the way 1st level play tends to feel (given that just about anything can murder you in one hit), and you have things like the S-series or Grimtooth, but that's just a small section of AD&D's broad canvas. It feels more like a weird exaggeration, a funhouse mirror version of classic fantasy games. With jokes, it could easily be a parody of that style of play.

I think it's more of a mis-remembering of what old gaming was actually like. People get so focused on things like the S-series they start to think that was the default play-style.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Well, they're also the ones that stand out the most in people's memories. Most gamers have heard of the Tomb of Horrors than Generic Dungeon Crawl #17, so of course people are going to focus on.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



We all had that same skull-spider in an our high school notebooks.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



I actually played in a "campaign" of the Aliens RPG.

It was about as bad as you'd expect.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Halloween Jack posted:

I presume you shot an alien, then you shot another alien, then an alien killed you? And there was a lot of looking up rules involved in this process?
Not exactly. We also ran them over in the APC and dropped a tacvest stuffed with explosives into a xenomorph nest.

Just as an example of how badly broken the system is, an adult xenomorph jumped full-body onto my power armor, broke through the faceplate with the secondary mouth without slowing down, and hit me square in the face with said secondary mouth and yet did not do enough damage to kill my character.

Mutant Headcrab posted:

From what I understand, the aliens take the back seat in that book. The primary antagonists it sets up for are other human forces. Space communists and what-not, I think.

Young Freud posted:

There's also other aliens other than the Giger Xenomorphs, since you can have a bughunting campaign without encountering the Xenos from the film series.
That's honestly news to me, since all we did was hunt Xenos for four sessions.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Would it be spoilery of me to point out that Leading Edge Games also put out an RPG based on the "Lawnmower Man" movie, and said game was "fully compatable" with Aliens and Living Steel?

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Young Freud posted:

That's nothing. LEG licensed a game based off of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Yes, the Francis Ford Coppola movie where I don't think there was any guns and if there were, they're not very effective.
That's what it was! I knew they did another pointless movie adaption RPG, but I couldn't find it anywhere. They also did an Army of Darkness game, but it was a minis skirmish game not an RPG.

(As a side note, Eden Studios would release an Army of Darkness RPG a few years later using the Cinematic Unisystem. The idea of it tracked more to the video games and later comics, where people were being pulled back and forth through time to fight the Necronomicon's deadite army.)

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



theironjef posted:

Man oh man, one of our earliest podcast reviews was Cinematic Unisystem junk, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG. It was apparent early on that the book was going to stay in that smarmy tone of calling the reader "Slappy," and promising to fill the pages with "cool show quotes and pictures, honest."

I actually liked the BUffy RPG and Cinematic Unisystem, even if it did break at "higher levels".

Admittedly, the longest campaign I ever play with it was a game that started out as a "World of Darkness Potpourri" game and got converted to CineUni. The "conversion" by the GM was so badly done that we literally couldn't fail at any task unless we got a critical failure (because CineUni uses bounded math and we blew waaaaaaay past the boundaries).

If there's ever an F&F thread offshoot about terrible campaigns we've been in, I could fill up pages with just that campaign. It was by a wide margin the worst campaign I've ever been in.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



The worst merits/flaws in pretty much any game are the pure-roleplay ones, because they pretty much boil down to "free points". Take "shy" or "cowardly" or whatever, get some extra skill points, and then everyone forgets you have it and you play your character however you want.

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Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



It's funny...now that I think about it, I can't come up with any recent RPG that's had a merits/flaws system off the top of my head.

(I actually like them, but I think it's because I don't game with people who try to game the system (anymore) v:shobon:v )

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