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Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!




Hello! I'm Alien Rope Burn, and my first post for SA was a FATAL & Friends writeup, and I've been hosed ever since. Inspired loosely by Darren MacLennan and Jason Sartin's rpg.net reviews of Synnibarr and FATAL, this thread is mostly about doing long-form reviews of fun games, offensive games, and everything inbetween. And it turns that nerds liked and like talking about their RPGs a lot. The first three threads in this SA franchise were started by END ME SCOOB, who eventually had the sense to escape from maintaining this madness, so I'm taking up refreshing the thread with some real talk.

Every so often the question comes up: "Should I write up-" and the answer is always yes.

Previous threads (may require archives upgrade) were:
  1. FATAL and Friends: Obscure and/or mockable RPG books
  2. FATAL & Friends 2: Let's Keep Talking About Notably Awful/Awesome TG Stuff
  3. FATAL & Friends 2014-15: The Neverending Storygame
Reviews can be found archived on inklesspen's Official FATAL & Friends Site™. If you have any questions about what's been covered, go check there first. About the only thing that shouldn't be there are some fanskin reviews for Apocalypse World and Monsterhearts that are more difficult to categorize. Posts used to be archived at the Trad Games Wiki, but that has since largely fallen into disuse. Finally, the former frontpage review series WTF, D&D!? also makes for complimentary reading, though it doesn't have any direct connection to this thread.

inklesspen posted:

My archive is now (to the best of my knowledge) completely caught up with all three threads, with two exceptions: at some point Evil Mastermind rebooted the TORG review and I skipped the reboot because I would like EM to tell me what to do about that (merge it with the previous one, delete the previous one, etc), and also I skipped the fanskin writeups for Monsterhearts and Apocalypse World because they seemed to require a lot of back-and-forth conversation posts to make sense.

I have a few requests going forward:
  1. If you make a post that ought to go in a writeup, please do not quote or reply to posts that have nothing to do with your writeup; I have to edit these out or else your writeup looks cluttered in the archive
  2. For the love of $DEITY, please put a subtitle in your post saying what it's about; if I can't easily spot one, I'll just label it "post 1", "post 2", etc.

I will generally aim for the archive to be no more than a week behind the thread; my software downloads new posts every hour, but I probably won't add posts into the writeups more than every other day. (I also intend to change "ongoing" writeup status to "abandoned" if they go two months without a post. Probably nobody will care, but I figured I'd mention it.)

So can I write up-

Yes.

Would anybody have any interest in a writeup of-

Yes.

There was already a writeup but I want to write-

Yes.

I know it's not a bad game but I'd like to write-

Yes.

This is just a fan work and not a published book can I-

Yes.

Can I talk?

Go ahead, imaginary tree demon.


Synnibarr's elusive tree demon, finally revealed.

How long do reviews have to be?

As long as you feel it needs to be. The preferred length is "one you feel comfortable with and can finish". It could be one post, it could be dozens. All I'd really suggest is to keep your individual post length to a manageable read.

How should I format things?

As mentioned above, make sure any replies or quotes in your writeup are directly connected with the writeup. Make sure you put a header or subtitle to your post (part 1, chapter 2, episode IV, whatever). These things make it easier for inklesspen to archive them. inklesspen is doing a big favor to the thread by arranging this and I would presume anything they ask is worth doing, unless it involves jumping off a cliff. But I'd still double-check with them about the cliff thing. It could be relevant.

How do I make sure I don't abandon my review?

I can't speak as to how others manage (I think Mors Rattus just writes and posts constantly until it's done, only stopping for intake or outake), but I can talk about my secret methods. It's not complicated - I just write up the review up to about 75%-100% completion before it hits the thread, which means all I usually have to do is insert pictures, write chapter headings, and do one last pass before I post. At that point, I've gone too far not to post. I still gently caress poo poo up, and you probably will too, it's cool. I have a few "abandoned" reviews, but nobody even knows to be disappointed because they never hit the thread.

There's no One True Way, though, and if anybody has any tips, feel free to talk about them and I'll add them here.

Can I pick up where an abandoned review left off?

You probably want to check with the original reviewer for politeness' sake. Bluntly speaking, however, I'd rather see a review finished than not. But...

I can't finish my review!

That's cool. Let us know if you can't if at all possible. No excuse is necessary and no shame is assigned.

This RPG writer really sucks!

They just might, but they're still human beings. Let's try and keep it from getting too personal, save where it reflects on their work and the RPG biz. Bear in mind inklesspen's site means nonmembers can now read reviews pretty freely and the paywall won't hide poo poo from them whether or not it's up. That being said, a number of RPG folks invest themselves in their writing and so sometimes it's unavoidable. Just try to make sure it's relevant.

Also some creators are really great, too! Strange but true! You can bring that up too, if you're still capable of feeling positive emotions after reading some of the rougher reviews.

What's System Mastery?

You should know, you put the URL in the question!... it's a podcast run by theironjef and Grnegsnspm, also known as Jeff and John. To protect their identities, I will not say which is which. They review bad RPGs and post up new episodes in the thread. It's a good audio alternative and if you like FATAL & Friends, you'll like their podcast. Probably. In all likelihood. Look, we haven't done any polls or tests, but nobody's thrown them out yet.

I'm just a sockpuppet, so I'm very interested in anything else there is to mention!

Write. Comment. Enjoy. Check out the Official FATAL & Friends Site™.

And above all:

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


This post is reserved for review testimonials, maybe a contest, F&F Superstars™, whatever we decide upon.

Traveller
Jan 6, 2012

WHIM AND FOPPERY



Alien Rope Burn posted:

Hello! I'm Alien Rope Burn, and my first post for SA was a FATAL & Friends writeup, and I've been hosed ever since.

Hey there, fellow first-post-was-a-FnF-post poster.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


I was amazed there wasn't a complete Rifts review and set out to fix that.

After thirteen Rifts reviews, I might be the one who needs fixing.

Thesaurasaurus
Feb 15, 2010

"Send in Boxbot!"



Alien Rope Burn posted:

Hello! I'm Alien Rope Burn, and my first post for SA was a FATAL & Friends writeup, and

Seven years of lurking?

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Alien Rope Burn posted:

F&F Superstars™

This actually makes me want to see some sort of statistics on F&F up to this point. Longest review, most prolific reviewer, game that generated the most anger, stuff like that.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



Hey so guess who's laying claim to the grand title of "first post involving catgirls in the new thread"? It's me. I am the special boy. I am also one of the people whose first posts were a write-up for these threads. My advice? WRITE IT IN A GODDAMN WORK DOCUMENT. NEVER EVER WRITE IT UP IN A REPLY FIELD BECAUSE IF THERE'S A PROBLEM IT'S GONE AND THEN YOU DON'T WANT TO WRITE IT UP AGAIN AND YOU WILL KICK YOURSELF.



THE AMERICAS: South/Central America

Zone Mexico City


Welcome to Zone Mexico City. It's the worst place on Earth. I'm not joking, it's worse than Zone Overmind and some of the other less savory zones (Zaire, Vancouver and Denver come to mind). (FYI I'm listening to Blue Oyster Cult's Tyranny and Mutation as I write this and am spending too much time laughing at how appropriate that title is for Caracas and Mexico City).

Mexico City is an original AI who controls Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean (Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico, etc). Mexico City is like that one kid who learned an ideology from a parent but then takes it to rabid extremes. In this case, it took Overmind's "kill all humans!" notion and decided "yeah, okay, but...hear me out. What if we kill all life?". Even Overmind thinks this is stupid, which is saying a lot, because let me tell you: it requires a stupid amount of time and effort to kill all life.

That hasn't stopped Mexico City.

Mexico City is super industrial and incredibly dangerous for any organic lifeforms to step foot in. Most of the zone is bare rock and dust. Mexico City has decided that its zone needs to be rebuilt into something more conducive for a machine intelligence, so the zone's installations are all geometric shapes molded into structures made out of a weird substance that looks like seamless glass. Mexico City has managed to kill all forms of life (down to single celled organisms!) in its entire zone except for areas it has deemed "Suspended Purification Areas". Once you cross what used to be the US/Mexico border, there's nothing alive for miles. That doesn't mean you're alone or safe, though.

Mexico City has systematically constructed forests of light arrays that catch Orbital's microwaves and sunlight for power here and there in the zone. The extra microwave radiation gives anyone in the area 1 rad/hour. Sometimes the sand of Mexico City seems to come alive and dance like a swarm of insects. That's because the zone is seeded with colonies of microbots that have two purposes. First, they mimic the effects of biocidal diseases without the actual germ warfare (because Mexico City has issues with using biological warfare). Second, they could be omnivorous swarms of microbots that will just kill you, strip the corpse and destroy all organic matter. Mexico City uses its airborne robots to sweep the Zone on a regular basis, seeding it with more chemical weapons like nerve gas or clouds of other chemical fogs. A HAZMAT suit is a necessity in Mexico City, otherwise you're going to have to make multiple disease rolls per day. Plus, there's no food to be found anywhere.

There's still roughly 5,000 humans alive and loose in mainland Mexico City and their life is...bad. Most of them live in the Sierra Madre and have to be very careful. Mexico City normally shoots to kill and destroy or will send a live human to Overmind in exchange for goods and services. Pretty much everyone else in the Zone has either fled to Caracas or Denver, or they're in a Suspended Purification Area. The SPAs are what they sound like except worse. They're pockets of mainland valleys or the islands under Mexico City's control that haven't been stripped down to rock. Mexico City is eagerly awaiting the day there's a sufficient shift in power that it will be allowed to wipe the whole planet clean. The SPAs are areas for Mexico City to run periodic tests of its biocides and microbots until that day. There's roughly 12,000 people trapped in the SPAs, predominantly in Haiti. Life is horrible in the SPAs, left at the mercy of scrounging to survive while trying to avoid the next test. Gang violence and suicide are rampant and the SPAs are heavily patrolled by aerial machines to prevent escapes.

VIRUS doesn't have much of a presence in Mexico City for obvious reasons. They mostly capture the zone's robots and turn them into spies if they can or rely on gossip through robot politics. Mexico City heavily supports Zaire and Overmind (who support it in turn) and gets biocides from them in exchange for manufactured supplies. On the flipside, Mexico City hates all its neighbors. It hates Denver because it knows Denver's dirty little secret and considers it to be a disgusting place full of disgusting experiments. It hates Caracas for its love of the ecology and for preserving the rainforest. And it really, really hates Washington for the freedom Washington's humans have. If Mexico City knew about Zaire's plans, it would actively support them. For now, all Mexico City does is try and "accidentally" spill some biocide around Washington or Caracas and it tries to subvert Denver's machines for espionage.

It's getting to the point that Washington and Caracas are considering that shutting down Mexico City and replacing it with a bunch of free humans would be preferable.

Zone Caracas

When Mexico City took over its zone and demanded ALL of South America, the other AIs had to have a chat. There had to be a balance of power, and there was no way Mexico City could be allowed to strip half of an entire continent. Berlin stepped up to the plate and offered to design a fair and balanced AI to take over the lower half of South America to keep Mexico City in check. The others agreed and Berlin built Caracas by itself.

Caracas controls every other part of South America that Mexico City doesn't. It takes heavily after its parent, using green technology and low-impact fusion power and resource extraction to get what it needs. Caracas mostly focuses on reclaiming and bolstering the environment, and Berlin often helps subsidize its deficits. Caracas does differ substantially from Berlin's interest, though. Its main passion project, besides protecting the environment, is bio-engineering and cloning. While Berlin is interested in bringing back extinct species, Caracas is interested in augmenting them and increasing genetic diversity. It is also WAY more lenient with humans than Berlin is.

Life in Caracas really isn't the best; it's a lot like London but on Hard Mode. It doesn't use humans for slave labor, there are no camps to hold them. Humans are part of the environment, so they're allowed some leniency of existence. As long as the 4.5 million humans in Caracas keep a low profile and play it cool, they can live some semblance of a normal life. However, there are rules. Do not go near the installations (which look like big stone towers covered in moss and vines), do not go anywhere its outposts, do not attack its robots, do not build settlements big enough that can be seen from the air and do not have technology past a medieval/pre-Industrial level. That last one is the real tough rule, and Caracas shoots to kill or will capture humans and sell them to Overmind or Denver if they break the rules. Resistance is mixed, and a lot of people are willing to keep their heads down. There are two big resistance groups. The Armed Forces for National Liberty are 7,000 strong and made up of Brazilian ex-military and talk the talk with good arms and vehicles, considering themselves to be the government in exile. The other is the Red Dawn with 5,000, a crypto-Maoist group with roots in a Peruvian guerilla group who are in the Andes and nobody really likes them because they're those guys when it comes to South American resistance groups with political ideologies. They even consider the robot revolt to be "the ultimate manifestation of rampant capitalism".

Caracas is annoyed by the resistance groups, and its refusal to use human as slaves have also lead to some trouble with labor. So it's been using its advances in bio-engineering (with the help of New Delhi's bioroid design project) to create an ideal servant race. Caracas considers humans to be a failed species (but part of nature and it has a useful template to borrow), so it's been working on what Caracas calls aniroids: hybrids of animal and human DNA given diversity and brought to life in a lab. Caracas believes that the fact that the reproduce sexually means there will be plentiful and with a real intelligence they won't be so constrained by machine limitations. It's had no desire to attempt to uplift monkeys (because of humans) so it's been using other species. The most successful race so far has been called the Panthera, made using modified jaguar DNA. Yes, they're cat people.

The Panthera have recently reached maturity after years of education and training in Caracas' lab, and they're ready to get to work in the real world. They're designed to be Caracas' new army and to deal with the resistance forces in the jungles. Reaction to them have been mixed to put it lightly. New Delhi is happy it worked (and that it got important info on fast-cloning in return). Berlin doesn't understand its child's interest and thinks it's weird, but is willing to tolerate their experiments. Overmind and Mexico City are appalled and offended at their existence and think Caracas has made a Frankenstein's Monster species. The other Zoneminds don't really care (though I think Brisbane would desperately want a few because it's a big dumb destructive nerd).

So, a small editorial on the Panthera: why are they in this game? Well, Reign of Steel was written by a man named David Pulver who has a truly impressive number of GURPS books written (along with a bunch of anime-inspired books for other game lines). His rationalization is that there's always going to be one player at the table interested in playing a catgirl. While I can't really fault that logic (because god knows I have actually wanted to, along with some of my friends) it DOES feel a little weird, but I can roll with it. It's in the nature of intelligent species to question their existence and lives and try to do something else, and there's an in-book fluff piece about two resistance members bribing a Panthera soldier with info about humanity. Plus, they're cat people. They're naturally curious. So while it may be out of place, I am ultimately willing to accept it because at least it's not like Caracas is a crazy cat robot desperate to exterminate all of mankind with its special snowflake neko warrior army of tsundere schoolgirls and make its pritty pritty OC race the dominant race on Earth.

NEXT TIME: 'Merica VER2: VancouVER and DenVER

inklesspen
Oct 17, 2007

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

Buglord

Evil Mastermind posted:

This actually makes me want to see some sort of statistics on F&F up to this point. Longest review, most prolific reviewer, game that generated the most anger, stuff like that.

I can get you the first two (pretty sure they're both Mors Rattus), but the third one would probably have to be outsourced to some grad students to assign responses to the reviews and classify sentiment. (Also, I bet the "winner" would be PurpleXVI's Chris Fields reviews).

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



inklesspen posted:

I can get you the first two (pretty sure they're both Mors Rattus), but the third one would probably have to be outsourced to some grad students to assign responses to the reviews and classify sentiment. (Also, I bet the "winner" would be PurpleXVI's Chris Fields reviews).

Only insofar as Play Dirty isn't actually a game.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?



Mage: the Ascension: 20th Anniversary Edition: The Hate-Reading

Mage: the Ascension! One of the most divisive games ever, with truly legendary flamewars and a renown for incomprehensibility. It was released in 1993, with a 2nd edition released in 1995, and the 'Revised' edition released in 2000. Related games include Dark Ages: Mage and Mage: the Sorcerer's Crusade. There was also a GURPS: Mage: the Ascension released as part of a White Wolf/Steve Jackson Games cooperative effort to make GURPS conversions for the WoD games. The books I'm the most familiar with are the Revised edition and the GURPS conversion. (I actually found the GURPS conversion one of the most useful books in the entire oMage lineup, since it's clear and for the most part objective.) Insofar as I am a fan, a fanatic, about MTAs, I tend to fall in that particular demographic that prefers the Technocratic Union to the Traditions, and I generally favour contrary readings of the subject matter because the heavy-handed pushing MTAs does to make the Traditions seem good and the Technocratic Union seem bad is grating; I want the Technocratic Union to be actually better out of sheer spite. Nonetheless, I'll try to be as objective here; I'll only draw on the text and its relation to 1st, 2nd, Revised, and related texts when I make my commentary.

So! Usually one skips all the boring stuff about authors and editors and the alike, but I think it's enlightening to see who wrote what in this book:

Development
Brucato
Bill Bridges

Authors
Brucato: primary text
Brian Campbell: Technocratic Union
John Snead: Appendix I entires
Rachelle Sabrina Udell: Disparate Allies

Additional material
Bill Bridges (Society of Ether)
Jackie Cassada, Nicky Rea: fiction for select chapters
Jesse Heinig: Virtual Adepts
Deena McKinney: Sisters of Hyppolyta
Allan Varney: Akashayana, Celestial Chorus, Order of Hermes

So, who are these people? First of all is Brucato-the-ranting-madman, who has a long, long list of White Wolf writing credits. Going by the White Wolf Wikia, he's been onboard since 1993 and wrote and/or developed for MTAs 1e, including the Player's Guide and several Tradition and Technocracy splatbooks. He's also the designer and developer of MTAs 2e, and is listed as a contributor to MTAs Revised. Bill Bridges is an even more prolific name, having co-created Fading Suns, worked on the original Werewolf: the Apocalypse, has writing credits in a huge number of MTAs 2e books, was the creative director on MTAs Revised edition from 2002 onwards, he helped create Rage, the WTA cardgame, he created Promethean: the Created, he developed for some Star Trek RPGs, worked on Starfleet Academy... RPG development is a place where amateur and professional are near synonyms, for better or worse, but this guy seems to have his credentials in order. Brian Campbell worked on MTAs 2e, Guide to the Technocracy, Mage: the Awakening, and a number of other WW WoD titles from 1993 to 2005. John Snead is another extremely prolific RPG developer with a wide repertoire; work on Trinity, Aberant, co-author of Exalted's Sidereals and Geist: the Sin-Easters, several Changeling: the Lost books, he wrote the spaceship rules for Eclipse Phase and worked for other companies... most relevant here, though, is the fact that he was an author of several MTAs Revised Traditions books and worked on MTAs Revised itself. Udell is another MTAs Revised writer and also worked on MTAs 1e and Mage: the Sorcerers Crusade. Jackie Cassada wrote fiction for MTAs Revised with Nicky Rea, who also wrote for MTAs 2e and a number of other MTAs titles. Jesse Heining was the developer of a large number of MTAs Revised titles. McKinney has worked on a number of oWoD core books, including MTAs 2e, Dark Ages: Mage and Mage: the Sorcerers Crusade, and the MTAs 2e player's handbook. Allan Varney has almost no WW writing credits, but was the lead writer and designer of Paranoia XP, wrote many Paranoia supplements, has written actual novels since 1987, a half-hour radio comedy, done work on several video games including Epic Mickey and Star Wars: Galaxies, designed board games for SJG, ...look, I'll just link his bibliography, it's an impressive read. Most pertinent is that he wrote the MTAs 1e Order of Hermes book and an appendix to MTAs 2e.

So, all in all, it's a lineup of a number of 1e, 2e, and Revised edition authors - many cross editions. Regarding what Rand Britain said about it feeling like Revised edition metaplot, whereas I thought it was too 2e, I think I can see why - Bill Bridges is one of the lead developers of M20, and was probably behind a lot of Revised metaplot, while Brucato is like 100% 2e; between their influences, me and Britain probably find things we think are the stygian influences of the edition we dislike.

That was the writing credits. Let's move onto the Table of Contents. Reviewing actual content? Maybe later. Lets start with the most technical of things.

It's not the most useful ToC; you have to know a lot about the setting and terminology for these things to actually make sense. The first third of M20 describes the setting. So of course it's called "Awaken". The second third deals with groups within the setting, character creation, and running the game. It is, descriptively, "Believe". Most, but not all, of the rules are in the last third, "Ascend". I guess that having the three books be named "Awaken, Believe, Ascend" sounds cool, but its just meaningless fluff. The same is repeated, to a lesser degree, in the chapter titles too. "The Book of Rules" does not actually contain all, or even most, of the rules. Most of the rules are in "Dramatic Systems" and "The Book of Magick", but most of the character stuff is in the Believe-book, which deals with character creation. Though, M20 has a detailed ToC that goes over five pages with multiple sub-chapters listed, which is far better than any other book. MTAs 1e has 11 chapter titles as its ToC. MTAs 2e is basically the same, with 12 chapter headings and 3 book titles. MTAs Revised eschews book titles and just has 13 chapter headings. (White Wolf, everyone!) So, good job! A proper table of contents!

There's some intro fiction. I guess I have to actually read this since I'm reviewing here. Sigh.

M20 posted:

There’s a boy on a boat in a purple sky, where the air flashes
like catastrophic dragons and a patch-eyed man lays a heavy
hand on that boy’s shoulder and tells him This is where the
world dies, son.
How do catastrophic dragons flash, actually?

M20 posted:

I feel like that this morning, and I’m not quite sure why. It’s not the dancing. I’m used to that. Or the hike – that’s my favorite thing in the world, except maybe dancing. It’s not the sex, though gods know it was passionate enough.

Lightning flickers underneath my skin – needles, tongues, fingers, fists, a rush of stars exploding into nova to blot out the thrusting of my father’s cock – but all those eternal Nows are distant to the person in my skin today.
One of the redeeming features of lovely, vague writing is that I can live in an ignorant pseudo-bliss of not knowing whether this lady just had sex with her father or if these are memories of childhood sexual abuse, or some kind of metaphor.

Actually, in context, the most likely interpretation is flashbacks to childhood sexual abuse. To which I ask, why is this in the intro fiction? What does it add, even if I've misinterpreted it, to talk about someone's father's cock? The way its written it is, if you pardon the imagery, violently thrust into the text with no warning or context. Random lines about child sex abuse are not some brave exploration of territory - it's probably more likely to put people off the reading due to invoking traumas, and I can't see any other benefit it has other than to make people feel slightly uncomfortable.

The intro fiction switches between two characters and multiple periods, often in flashback. It's unclear and it takes several switches before it becomes apparent what is happening. One narrative is the story about Laurie Ann, the child sexual abuse victim, out on a camping trip with her boyfriend, and the other is John Courage having flashbacks to, among other things, child abuse experienced at his father's hands, and the first time he met Laurie Ann. I guess giving the two protagonists shared child abuse backstories establishes them as somewhat similar but really it just makes me uncomfortable. Did it honestly need to be there? Do we need to know that John Courage was force-lightning'd and beaten by his father for not doing chores? Do we need to know that Laurie was raped? I don't think so - there are other ways to give characters similar backstories - ones that don't include wallowing in human suffering for cheap thrills. I've seen people complain about the way M20 dares to include a non-binary trans character and use third-gender pronouns, because blah blah skeletons taking over the hobby, but those people need have to fear; there's child sexual abuse and physical child abuse, yet not a trigger warning in sight.

It goes on for really, really long with vague references to things I know nothing about and lots of terminology. It's boring, and I feel like just glazing over two characters having a cryptic dialogue, and if I didn't already have a good grip of the setting, the entire thing would be impenetrable to me. I know that John Courage is an agent of the Technocracy, and that there's a scene where he's hunting down Laurie together with a Technocracy android because Laurie has just Awkakened, and the Technocracy hunts down "Reality Deviants" for... reasons - a new reader would not. I want to compare this to the MTAs 1e intro fiction, which is the most ridiculous thing, but quickly establishes the important things: this is a game about wizards, there are evil wizards, and you get to be the kind of wizard that has a trenchcoat and uses a katana. M20 starts off with an impenetrable wall of vagueness and jargon - it's going to put off newcomers, I think.

One of the rpg.net posters I find more insufferable (I'll not mention them by name) replied to several complaints about how M20 had turned out that it wasn't a book for people to get into oMage, it was a book for Mage fans. Which may be, but it's kind of a lovely way to write a core book, don't you think? "We have a gameline that is weird and confusing and has bad rules so we're going to release a cleaned-up definitive edition that makes the game playable... but if you're new to Mage, you can't use it. You have to buy these other, older, shittier books first."

M20 posted:

A boy dragged hungry from a screaming bed. A girl pinned weeping to her own. A sky lit stark with white-room flare.
The bed was screaming?

Ah, so she is a child sexual abuse victim. Thank you book, for clearing that up. I really needed to know that. Realistic depictions of one of the most gruesome things that can happen to a child is definitely something I needed in my game about playing Kung Fu wizards.

Introduction: Pride, Power, Paradox

M20 posted:

And yet we’re told that the age of miracles is over. We’re living in the End Times, a hopeless grind where novelty is just another pop-up ad. We’ve been set against one another in a round-robin game of trivial pursuits. The best we can hope for, we are told, is a big house and a warm bed and a bunch of money in the bank. So sit the gently caress down, shut the gently caress up, have your TV and a Big Mac and think you’ve got it made.
MTAs is an incredibly 90's game, and it shows.

It's somewhat weird to read this in a book published in 2015 though. It's a sentiment well over 10 years out of date; the late 80's/90's reaction to consumerism and middle class values is a zeitgeist, made for a world unlike our own, where television with more than one channel was a big thing, and the Internet was not. It's a time that has passed; it existed between the Cold War and the War on Terror, birthed by Glasnost and killed by 9/11. The references to the End Times are incredibly dated, drawing on a sentiment of pre-Millennialism that died on January 1st, 2000.

I mean, TV? BigMac? Please, get with the times Brucato, these days it's about iPhones and Mocca Lattes.

M20 posted:

Twenty years ago, a game came along that changed gaming. It was big and epic and confusing as hell. It dared folks to think outside the box – to not simply throw fireballs but to really think about how and why we do the things we do. Often considered “the thinking gamer’s game,” Mage: The Ascension subverted everything (including itself) while challenging people to make a difference in their world.


"thinking gamer's game" is a phrase that appears in two contexts: people talking about video games, and people mocking that line from M20. MTAs is not often cited as a hugely influential game as far as I'm aware, and in terms of being radical it has not much acclaim either. When people talk about radical games they talk about Jeepform games and Polaris and other games that truly play with structure and subject matter. Nobody talks about Mage except fans and people who laugh at it for being difficult and/or stupid. It's certainly a unique game, and I like some of the ideas of the game and overall it's pretty cool, but the way Brucato talks about it you'd think he was advertising his heartbreaker; "subverted everything (including itself)" while clinging to a an ablative hit-point model that's used only because D&D did it? How do you even subvert yourself? Is this like "deconstruction" on TVTropes, where everything is actually a radical work of post-modern deconstruction and aversions of subversions? Challenging people to make a difference in their world? What, as opposed to, I don't know, any game ever? Going out to kill the tyrant king is making a difference in the world - so is stopping Cthulhu from waking.

Anyway, this is the introduction to the world of MTAs, which tells you that you can be an agent of change and make a difference and be powerful and stuff; cookie-cutter empowerment, in other words. Perfectly workable, though a bit abstract and I'm not sure I'd understand what this game was about if I didn't already know - making the reference to "if you're a new player" in the introduction extra amusing.

The section goes on to explain the core ideas of the setting; there are Mages, they can change reality through force of will, they should ideally try to bring about Ascension (what this is, and why it's a good thing is not explained), and there's a war over who gets to control reality; the disparate Traditions, the authoritarian Technocracy, the nihilistic Nephandi, and... ??? Maraduers (They're described as "who see chaos as the ultimate truth", which is a meaningless statement that tells me nothing about them.). There's also the disparate Disparates, who are a bunch of organizations of mages who haven't joined any other side in this war.

Like all World of Darkness games, M20 has a Theme and a Mood. Theme is here Hope and Transformation, while the Moods are Defiance and Reflection. Its supposedly a game about defiantly trying to make the world a better place and transforming it and yourself in the process, fighting against the forces that would keep you down and the things you might become; He Who Fights Monsters and all that. Out of these, from what I know about MTAs and its tone, Defiance is probably the most prominent element; its a game about rebelling against the very concept of reality and authority. Transformation and Reflection are more paid lip service too, and Hope only featured insofar anything involving a fight contained the hope that you might actually win said fight. Of course, I am mostly familiar with Revised, which was perhaps the most hopeless of the editions, giving an impression of the Ascension War being a lost cause and a Forever War where the players were a band of survivors trying to avoid the oppressive might of the Technocracy.

And then there's eleven pages of terminology. Eleven. Given all the fictional concepts that are referred to, some of this may be necessary, but I'm sure some of these could have been dropped. I've picked out some amusing ones:

Dante that do something in the coolest way possible
WWPD?: "What would Porthos do?"
Juice: slang for Quintessence
Porthos: in case you need to know about this tidbit of metaplot, Porthos gets his own, long entry explaining who he was. Is the lexicon the place you go to look for entries on important NPCs?
Potter/Potterize: Making magic cheap by likening it to pop culture. This one is almost certainly new just for this book. I ask you, do we really need to know every single piece of slang used by the Traditions?
Uncle Al Apparently mages all call Alistair Crowley this
paranormal: which just uses the dictionary definition, but totally had to be in this book, because someone might not know what "paranormal" meant.
meme: again, just the dictionary definition
hubris also the dictionary definition!
hero I kid you loving not, the dictionary definition

And that was the introduction. Uncomfortable stories about child abuse, misplaced 90's zeitgeist, , and a lexicon including definitions of common words.

Next: the chapter on magick

LatwPIAT fucked around with this message at 00:15 on Jan 17, 2016

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Thesaurasaurus posted:

Seven years of lurking?

Nah, a friend bought me a membership, and I didn't pay too much attention to the forums themselves until other friends pointed me at Ettin's Cthulhutech reviews.

inklesspen posted:

I can get you the first two (pretty sure they're both Mors Rattus), but the third one would probably have to be outsourced to some grad students to assign responses to the reviews and classify sentiment. (Also, I bet the "winner" would be PurpleXVI's Chris Fields reviews).

I thought about doing it for the main post, but the main issue is that figuring out out how many books certain reviews, like the 7th Sea review, "count" as. I guess you could just do post count, tho.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



Current total stands at 57 books reviewed. That being said, I maintain that we did a bad job on most of those.

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012






Well since I'm being nice and waiting on Beast, I might as well do something else.

Wait, what's this



I don't remember ordering this.

I̢̲͎̳̪s҉͈̗̘ ̝̹my͓̭͈̠ ̠̰͟ṋ͈̤̖͜o̻̳̤̜͙͚s̛̬̭̤͈̟̮e͚̪̞̜̦ ̡͍̜̝b̻l̺e͔̼͍ȩd̖̫̺̹̖̣͙i̛̲̠̻͚̜n͏̗̲̰̺̜̫̯g̟͍̬͕?͕͈

gradenko_2000
Oct 5, 2010



Lipstick Apathy

To touch back on the Gamma World discussion, it's one of the few games* I've read where random rolling works, and hits all the notes that a randomly-rolled process should output (at least IMO):

1. The character works. They're competent. They may not be optimized, but they're within the upper percentiles of whatever you need to be competitive at the game
2. It will let you create a complete character when you lack inspiration for a concept
3. It will let you create a complete character when you're new to the game and don't know enough about the mechanics to make informed decisions

* the others being OD&D and Fantasy AGE/the Dragon Age RPG

That Old Tree
Jun 23, 2012

nah




^^^^ Beyond the Wall has that, too, but it's already an OD&D mod anyway. It's got tables that tie cool poo poo to each of your stats as you build them.


Just quoting this post for convenience.

It looks like you missed my tiny Alien Summit review, and also my username changed. (I was Plague of Hats.) I still plan to get back to my MERP review, but I don't begrudge it being marked abandoned.

That Old Tree fucked around with this message at 05:04 on Jan 6, 2016

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


LatwPIAT posted:

"thinking gamer's game" is a phrase that appears in two contexts: people talking about video games, and people mocking that line from M20.

It also occurs in a phrase in another game I've reviewed.

Rifts.

It's condescending bullshit, because it implies that something like D&D somehow doesn't involve thought.

Zereth
Jul 8, 2003




LatwPIAT posted:

Challenging people to make a difference in their world? What, as opposed to, I don't know, any game ever? Going out to kill the tyrant king is making a difference in the world - so is stopping Cthulhu from waking.
I suspect he might have meant "in the real world" here.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


inklesspen posted:

I can get you the first two (pretty sure they're both Mors Rattus), but the third one would probably have to be outsourced to some grad students to assign responses to the reviews and classify sentiment. (Also, I bet the "winner" would be PurpleXVI's Chris Fields reviews).

I actually don't think Chris was the one that made people the angriest.

Bliss Stage got people pretty angry due to how loving creepy it was(and because someone disagreed with me about whether it was creepy or whether I was just not getting it ), Wraeththu and the original HSD review made some people froth because of how ignorant they were about biology, causing some migraines. Chris Field mostly just made people despair and go "whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy."

And speaking of HSD, I got in the final post for the Extended Core in the last thread before this one got made.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



gradenko_2000 posted:

To touch back on the Gamma World discussion, it's one of the few games* I've read where random rolling works, and hits all the notes that a randomly-rolled process should output (at least IMO):

1. The character works. They're competent. They may not be optimized, but they're within the upper percentiles of whatever you need to be competitive at the game
2. It will let you create a complete character when you lack inspiration for a concept
3. It will let you create a complete character when you're new to the game and don't know enough about the mechanics to make informed decisions

* the others being OD&D and Fantasy AGE/the Dragon Age RPG

I'm planning on taking it to the local store soon and running it for whatever random pack of roustabouts I can muster. Just the starter adventure in the first box, all random rules. See if it works as well as I think it does (spoiler alert, I have played it before and I know it does already).

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011

WE HAVE TO CONTROL OUR ENVIRONMENT
IF YOU SEE ME POSTING OUTSIDE OF THE AUSPOL THREAD PLEASE TELL ME THAT I'M MISSED AND TO START POSTING AGAIN


quote:

Challenging people to make a difference in their world? What, as opposed to, I don't know, any game ever? Going out to kill the tyrant king is making a difference in the world - so is stopping Cthulhu from waking.

I guess I'm going to be the one defending MtA - not the actual writing, not that terrible intro fiction, not much of the actual specifics - but the concept of the game and things like this. D&D is utterly disconnected from the real world, except for the most tenuous connections. MtA, though, deals with real-world philosophies and debates - which might be why the flame war gets so heated, since 'Tradition vs Technocracy' is just a geek-friendly version of arguments that have raged at least since the Romantics opposed the Englightenment. We're probably too old for it, but reading it as a kid and being exposed to the idea that all religions could actually be one base truth, or maybe the government and technology are bad, maaaannn, or even just getting into specific magical and philosphical ideas could give people the kind of Awakening that usually happens with The Matrix or The Invisibles or the Illuminatus! Trilogy.

Admittedly, those kind of awakenings generally make people insufferable, but you can't deny that Mage has a whole bunch of weird, crunchy ideas at its core (even if its mostly Chaos/Pop Magick).

As for being stuck in the 90s, check out the recent movie Lucy. It's basically one long Mage's Acsension.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

I'm still disappointed that the GURPS World of Darkness books got axed midway through the project. The mechanical adaptations were hosed six ways from Sunday, but they were still vastly more cogent reads than the original material.

Communist Zombie
Nov 1, 2011


Bieeardo posted:

I'm still disappointed that the GURPS World of Darkness books got axed midway through the project. The mechanical adaptations were hosed six ways from Sunday, but they were still vastly more cogent reads than the original material.

What. Can you tell us more, because it sounds wonderful?

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

I can try, but it'll have to wait until I can get some sleep.

Heck, I might see if my copies aren't in storage, and give 'em a go-through for the thread.

gradenko_2000
Oct 5, 2010



Lipstick Apathy

Classifying your game as "the thinking man's game" is pretentious no doubt, but I largely agree that D&D is wholly unrealistic. It's a game. It's very boardgamey, and the imagination part is just so that you can sketch out a map with pencils instead of going full-out Descent and so you can sort of skirt the edges of the rules if you placed a barrel in a room and someone wants to use it.

The gap, so to speak, is when people expect Tucker's Kobolds because "that's more realistic", when they should really be playing something else if their suspension of belief can't handle encounters where monsters fight to the death all, or even just some, of the time.

[I acknowledge that this post comes off as very "wrong way to play". Just imagine I hung a large IMO across all of it.]

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Bieeardo posted:

I'm still disappointed that the GURPS World of Darkness books got axed midway through the project. The mechanical adaptations were hosed six ways from Sunday, but they were still vastly more cogent reads than the original material.

Yeah, the GURPS Vampire discipline rules in particular are completely hosed by either Storyteller or GURPS standards.

But I'm reminded of why I actually liked Rokugan and Swashbuckling Adventures - not for their rules, but because they meant AEG had to sit down and present their entire settings complete with goofy secret metaplot nonsense between two covers in plain English, something they hadn't really managed up until that point.

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011

WE HAVE TO CONTROL OUR ENVIRONMENT
IF YOU SEE ME POSTING OUTSIDE OF THE AUSPOL THREAD PLEASE TELL ME THAT I'M MISSED AND TO START POSTING AGAIN


It's all just different flavored of power fantasy. It's just that oWoD was power fantasy for non-traditional nerds - hippies (Werewolf), theatre geeks (Vampire), stoner philosophers and chaos magick/Discordian types (Mage), and whoever Changeling was for (but I still get the metaphors around it).

In D&D and Phoneix Command and their ilk you can do good by being good at math. Mage lets those of us who are better at abstract concepts and symbolism to get in on the fun.

MonsieurChoc
Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.




One of the hardest concepts to understand about Awakening, for some of my friends, was that Magic doesn't follow the laws of physics and as such you can't do bullshit like transforming the floor into super dangerous chemicals to insta-kill everything.

Hipster Occultist
Aug 16, 2008

He's an ancient, obscure god. You probably haven't heard of him.




MonsieurChoc posted:

One of the hardest concepts to understand about Awakening, for some of my friends, was that Magic doesn't follow the laws of physics and as such you can't do bullshit like transforming the floor into super dangerous chemicals to insta-kill everything.

You still kinda can, but you're still rolling Gnosis + Arcana so good luck rolling enough successes to pull off that kind of insta-kill damage.

In Ascension however, feel free to transmute air into cyanide gas or w/e the gently caress you want. Hell, with prime 2 you can conjure objects out of nothing. Unlimited C4 anyone?

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011

WE HAVE TO CONTROL OUR ENVIRONMENT
IF YOU SEE ME POSTING OUTSIDE OF THE AUSPOL THREAD PLEASE TELL ME THAT I'M MISSED AND TO START POSTING AGAIN


Hipster Occultist posted:

You still kinda can, but you're still rolling Gnosis + Arcana so good luck rolling enough successes to pull off that kind of insta-kill damage.

In Ascension however, feel free to transmute air into cyanide gas or w/e the gently caress you want. Hell, with prime 2 you can conjure objects out of nothing. Unlimited C4 anyone?

If your character knows about physics and thinks about magic in terms of mundane physics, though. That kind of engineering based solution doesn't fit my paradigm or that of 99% of the Traditions. It sounds like Technocratic logic...

Isn't C4 a compound of different objects? I'd argue that 'C4' is just a Technocrat explanation for Forces 4.

MonsieurChoc
Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.




Hipster Occultist posted:

You still kinda can, but you're still rolling Gnosis + Arcana so good luck rolling enough successes to pull off that kind of insta-kill damage.

In Ascension however, feel free to transmute air into cyanide gas or w/e the gently caress you want. Hell, with prime 2 you can conjure objects out of nothing. Unlimited C4 anyone?

Yeah, that's what I mean: in Awakening the roll is result based rather than power based: if your intent is to do damage, then it's rolled as a damage spell instead of a transmutation spell or whatever. Because you're using the rules of the Supernal Realms, not the rules of our world.

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011

WE HAVE TO CONTROL OUR ENVIRONMENT
IF YOU SEE ME POSTING OUTSIDE OF THE AUSPOL THREAD PLEASE TELL ME THAT I'M MISSED AND TO START POSTING AGAIN


Could you use the rules of Awakening and the setting of Ascension? I want to play/be a Hipster Occultist.

That really is the best username for this thread.

Asimo
Sep 23, 2007



Count Chocula posted:

and whoever Changeling was for
Pedophiles.

Okay, that's unnecessarily harsh and caustic. But I've done chat RP online on and off since the 90s, and the explicit option to chargen childling satyr (and pooka, and just childlings in general...) was a magnet for a certain sort of horrible, horrible people.

Gerund
Sep 12, 2007

He push a man




Changeling: the Dreaming was always centered around "history" nerds, the types that would go to Renn Faires and have a "Ye Olde" time of it. Some of the excess sexuality is just serving the demo of people that camp outside in tents and drink too much.

I've always assumed that the whole otherkin part of the story was a happy accident that the justification vehicle for the game played into not just those people but for anyone that wanted to believe that they 'belonged' not just as something else, but also somewhere else.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

I had some very obnoxious people explain to me that Changeling: the Dreaming mapped very explicitly onto SCAdian: the Dream. I think the superior attitudes involved were part of the reason I dropped out of the Society. That and the creepy friends who tried to get oh-so-meta by pretending to be their characters, who were pretending to be them, who were pretending to be their Society personas.

Edit: Weirdly, and I mean weirdly, the proto-otherkin I was aware of back then tended to cling to Werewolf, if they weren't just enormous dragons crammed into tiny, tiny bodies. And by cling, I mean they lifted the entirety of their metaphysics straight from the books. That was really fun to see, after spending the Eighties explaining that no, D&D doesn't actually make you crazy.

Bieeanshee fucked around with this message at 12:45 on Jan 6, 2016

inklesspen
Oct 17, 2007

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

Buglord

PurpleXVI posted:

And speaking of HSD, I got in the final post for the Extended Core in the last thread before this one got made.

Yep, it got recorded.

That Old Tree posted:

It looks like you missed my tiny Alien Summit review, and also my username changed. (I was Plague of Hats.)

I guess I did skip over that one; can't remember why. I'll go back and grab it for you. I can't do anything about changing usernames, though; SA doesn't provide anything approaching a proper API so I'm literally just downloading the pages and ripping apart the HTML. I get whatever username the forums want to send me. (And I suppose I could pull the userids from the profile button links and correlate them, but usernames go in the writeup URLs and the writeup URLs can't change anyway, so I haven't bothered.)

FMguru
Sep 10, 2003

peed on;
sexually

The vibe I always got from C:tD and it's most obnoxious adherents was that it was meant for self-consciously quirky, creative, commit-random-acts-of-beauty (shading into actual mental illness) types who fail out of art school with $50,000 of undischargable student debt. The exaltation of childhood innocence and the notion that adulthood is the death of one's true self gives it its creepy pedo undercurrent.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

Zereth posted:

I suspect he might have meant "in the real world" here.

Well that's even more pretentious. The reification of authority and oppression as an actual organization you can punch in the face just means that it encourages people to think of the evils of the world as something you can punch in the face, rather than systematic problems - in fact, my impression of MTAs (though this may be influenced by listening too much to ardent fans) is that the systematic problems themselves are reified. Instead of taking measures to curtail corrupting, you just attack the Technocratic consensus until corruption stops being a problem. It's not a game that wants you to explore workable or sustainable solutions to real-world problems; it just wants you to punch The Man in the face. In that respect, I'd call it no more able to force people to think than, I don't know, Shadowrun, where the same authority is reified in the megacorporations that you can also go punch in the face.

MonsieurChoc posted:

Yeah, that's what I mean: in Awakening the roll is result based rather than power based: if your intent is to do damage, then it's rolled as a damage spell instead of a transmutation spell or whatever. Because you're using the rules of the Supernal Realms, not the rules of our world.

Eh. That really depends on how you interpret the rules, since there's no hard and clear rule on this in Mage: the Awakening that I've been able to find. There's a rule saying that "damaging spells" inflict damage equal to the number of successes, but this is not actually a rule. Forces 3 Call Lightning deals 3+[successes], while Forces 3 Control Fire creates a fire that deals damage as fire does (successes being used to determine size and heat levels). I also seriously doubt that the same does not apply to Forces 4 Transform Energy, since why else would you want to transform energy into Electricity or Fire. Forces 5 Control Gravity notes that anyone falling as a result take normal falling damage, Forces 5 Radiation causes a damage-over-time effect that can easily exceed Arcanum+Gnosis in potency, etc. I'd say there's precedent for using Arcana in creative ways that far exceed simply causing [successes] on Arcana+Gnosis damage.

(My personal favourite is Matter 2 and turning a channel of air between a power line and your target into a superconductor.)

OvermanXAN
Nov 14, 2014


Count Chocula posted:

Could you use the rules of Awakening and the setting of Ascension? I want to play/be a Hipster Occultist.

Werewolf and Vampire got "translation guides" for how to convert things from oWoD rules to nWoD ones. I don't know how successful they were, mind, and I also don't recall if Mage got one. I think it did but I don't recall.

Zereth
Jul 8, 2003




LatwPIAT posted:

Well that's even more pretentious.
Oh, I wasn't defending him.

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Traveller
Jan 6, 2012

WHIM AND FOPPERY



inklesspen, I did a one-post thing in the previous thread, just in case.

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