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megane
Jun 20, 2008



I mean, keep in mind that this is a man who legitimately, honestly thinks that he's going to bring about a brilliant and glaring dawn to gaming -- to call it a renaissance is not to do it justice, no, our very understanding of the word "game" will be rewritten in one glorious instant -- by introducing this one, heretofore-undreamt-of concept:

It's Like Our World... But Magic Is Real.

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That Old Tree
Jun 24, 2012

nah


This is also the game that brought us a brief brouhaha where some people on Twitter were like "it's nice if you can afford expensive boutique items, but this is pretty blatantly just a bunch of conspicuous consumption slathered on top of a really ordinary game, and that's a kind of gatekeeping" and, of course, a bunch of people were aghast at this clear call for all games to be government subsidized so that The Poors can get any game for $5 at the Walmart checkout. (Many of these same people suggested if you want a cheaper game, try out D&D5!)

wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion


That Old Tree posted:

(Many of these same people suggested if you want a cheaper game, try out D&D5!)

It's like, "okay". Enjoy playing with the 5 other people who were dumb enough to pay for the box.

That Old Tree
Jun 24, 2012

nah


wiegieman posted:

It's like, "okay". Enjoy playing with the 5 other people who were dumb enough to pay for the box.

Yeah, they really should've suggested a true complete-in-one-book game.

Like Starfinder. :v:

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018

wiegieman posted:

It's like, "okay". Enjoy playing with the 5 other people who were dumb enough to pay for the box.

It was suggested at one point by Monte Cook Games that a group would all pitch in to buy the box for their GM.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.



Mors Rattus posted:

It was suggested at one point by Monte Cook Games that a group would all pitch in to buy the box for their GM.
The idea of a group coming together to purchase a feelie-heavy campaign kit is not a bad one but surely you would almost get more mileage ordering one of those "mysterious items" kits and just writing a Call of Cthulhu adventure around it?

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

megane posted:

I mean, keep in mind that this is a man who legitimately, honestly thinks that he's going to bring about a brilliant and glaring dawn to gaming

Bear in mind Monte is and has been a relentless huckster. I don't know how much of of his own hype he believes, of course. But I'm not sure he could construct a sandwich without telling you that it's a not just a sandwich, but that if you loved Panera, Quiznos, or Schlotzskyís, that he'd distilled everything from those restaurants into a new creative masterpiece full of breathtaking craft for the sandwich art that he knows you'll die for.

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!
I strongly considered destroying my brain with Invisible Sun when it was being Kickstarted, but when this plan entered my brain I was quietly led away by compassionate people and subjected to a strong regiment of drugs and therapy until I stopped having such absolutely awful thoughts. I'm glad that someone else had the shortage of well-intentioned friends needed to talk them out of it. God speed.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012




The Key is the recommended starting point, the first book to read. It has the rules for character creation, advancement, items, etc. It is also, just as incomprehensible as ever. There will be many many many quotes, screencaps, and even pages from this book. From all these books.

It is hard to just describe why Invisible Sun is bad. Itís the language it is written in, it is the layout of the books, the graphic design, the footnotes and organization and how every book refers to every other book constantly. Itís a nightmare.

The Alchemy of Lies and Truth

The first chapter of this book is 5 pages long. It is made up of 7 pieces of short RPG fiction. It is in two-column format with art interspersed. The text in this section is inÖ 3 different colors, blue, red, and indigo. Iím so tempted to include all of them, because all of them are so bad, so poorly written, the text full of incomprehensible lingo. But I know nobody wants me to copy over an entire chapter of fiction. So Iíll post the first so you can get a feel for the writing style, and just explain the rest in recaps as well as I can.

FORCED FREEDOM posted:

I first escaped Shadow three or four years ago. The Hendassa dragged me out, so I suppose it was less an escape and more like a rescueóor a harvest, depending on your opinion of the Hendasa
and their grey reapers.

At first, it was bewildering. I would say that it was like waking up from a dream, but thatís not really it. More like going to sleep and realizing that the dream is real and waking life was the dream. It took me quite a while to acclimate to Indigo. Or rather, re-acclimate. Just the whole . . . idea of it. Those were rough times. I really donít like to talk or even think about those days. Some of the things that happened to me. Some of the things I did to survive. And, perhaps more important, to understand.

Like millions of others, I had submerged into Shadow to escape the War. But part of Shadow, of course, is the forgetting. Thatís its nature. Officially, itís called the Grey, and it is a place of distraction and nonsense. Endless meaninglessness and trivialities, always churning and turning in on itself. Always moving, but never going anywhere. In Shadow, I lived in a house, had a family, had a degree under my belt, and a job to earn money that passed through my hands and into the hands of others like a grinding wheel, all of us believing that amassing it was the ultimate goal, never realizing that doing so was impossible. I watched television and half paid attention to sports, politics, and culture, never recognizing that none of it made any sense, never went anywhere, never accomplished anything.

Once I re-acclimated, I never missed Shadow. Once I understood the Actuality, I never looked back.

I understand that sometimes people get dragged back into Shadow. I donít know if what happens is more like a snare that grabs you or a sirenís call that lures you back. Maybe you suddenly remember your Shadow family or your Shadow lover or your Shadow car and it drags you back down into the Grey, seeping down and down like quicksand. Or maybe you just fall back into it all because youíve always got a bit of Shadowís essence in you now, wherever you go, and whatever you do. It knows where to find you. Whatever the case, itís never happened to me. Not yet. Iíve spent the last few years entirely in Indigo.
Like most people, I found my place in the city of Satyrine. Iíve heard it called the City of Notions, the City of Forever, and the Glistening City. That last one is a stretch, but there are parts of the cityóthe Celestial Bazaar and the Marquis Quarteróthat glisten,
I suppose. Maybe the whole place did, before the War. Now more of the city is a ruin than not. Although people are working to reclaim it, now that the War is over. I have only general memories of what Satyrine was like before the War, and before I exiled myself to the Grey. Shadow does that to you.

I was one of the fortunate ones, though. My house was still more or less intact. I had to work to get it in order, but I managed to get the grigs cleared out and chased away most of the ghosts. Itís still a little rough around the edges, but itís home. Thereís a familiarity to itóitís an anchor when this weird and wonderful place gets to be too much. A sanctuary.
Most of the people I knew from before are gone. To be brutally honest, I barely remember them anyway. The time before the War, before the Grey, thatís like someone elseís life. But in the last few years, Iíve gotten to know my way around the city as itís being rebuilt, and Iíve made some friends.

Take, for example, my neighbor. He tinkers with rhyming magic. Heís also got a 1966 Lamborghini Miura parked in front of his house. Which might seem a little out of place here. Itís very . . . showy. Thatís his memento from Shadow. Remember, I said many of us have ties back to Shadow. A bit of Shadow that sticks. Well, some of them use that connection to reach in and pull out a memento. Iím not going to tell you what mine is. Thatís personal.

Which reminds me, Iíve barely mentioned the biggest, probably most extraordinary part.

Magic.
Magic is real. Which, where I live now, is like saying, ďgravity is real.Ē Itís a stupid thing to say. Although now that I think about it, Iím no longer certain about gravity. But I am certain about magic. There are energies that flow through the true worlds that can be harnessed to do all kinds of things. Although this can be expressed in many ways, most of those who work with magic in some fashion call ourselves vislae.

Those of us who exiled ourselves to Shadow are all vislae. Thatís how we did it. We attuned ourselves to the Grey rather than to the rest of the Actuality. Shadow isnít called that for nothing. In a real way, it is a shadow. Itís the shadow cast by the light of the Invisible Sun upon Indigo. Which is to say, itís a twisted, distorted, and limited version of what is actually real. Just real enough to fool us. For years. In the Grey, I thought I was a nobody, but that was part of the illusion. Iím actually a vislae. I can practice magic. And Iím getting better.

So thatís what you need to know about me. I used to have a life in another place, but it wasnít real. It was a life of illusionóa dull dream from which I finally escaped. The real world is a place we call the Actuality, and itís wild and weird and filled with magic. At the heart of Indigo is the vast city of Satyrine, where ideas and emotions are more important than money or power (or rather, they are money and power). I have a home in this city, which is recovering from an unimaginable war fought with hate given material form and weapons built like creatures of personified destruction.

I have a thousand opportunities before me.

And I am you.



If all these Fantasy Words are confusing, congrats, thatís the Invisible Sun Experience! But to summarize the important bits: Our world, the ďĒĒĒrealĒíĒ world is called Shadow or The Grey. Itís but one world in a big fancy multiverse of worlds, and itís the lame boring sucky lovely one. Vislae is a stupid word for Wizards. The main Sigil ripoff city of the setting that most stuff happens in is Satyrine, which is in Indigo. The multiverse is rainbow-coded. There was a war, what that was about is Metaplot secrets. This feels like Planescape via World of Darkness. Get used to all of this.



The next piece is called Angels on Street Corners. Dude sees a begging angel with words for wings begging for emotions in front of The Silent Church. Narrator goes home, meets his ďelderbrinĒ friend who is a shapeshifter? Because he looks different today. Narratorís house is filthy because the spirits that haunt his place havenít ďkept their end of the bargainĒ and heís gonna curse them later. Narrator and friend eat dinner. Next day he sees another angel, who tries to talk and feathers come out of her mouth, and he keeps walking.

If this sounds like a wannabe Neil Gaiman, you are correct.

All A Dream Is identical in content to the first fiction, but this one is only 2 paragraphs and is more vaguely written and confusing. It doesnít need to be here, but it is.

Mirrors Is a rant about how mirrors are an invasive virus, and mirrors are spreading when we donít notice, and if enough mirrors reflect enough of the ďrealĒ world everything inverts and weíre the reflection now man! Narrator heard this theory from a ďtruespiderĒ who heard it from a ďmakerĒ. Then it goes on to describe how the Maker once found God and turned him into a gun that was stolen by a Demon. But the mirrors ate him, and he vanished one day because he stopped looking. Or something?

A Mage At Arms is WAKE UP SHEEPLE but for wizards? Basically it introduces the idea that the multiverse is not really different universes (it is) but instead states of being (they arenít, you literally travel between them) and to point out that Vislae can totally fight and be badass warrior types not just bookish spell nerds! (The game has an entire book about magic).

Apostate isÖ OK so it introduces a lady who is an Apostate, who isÖ not part of the ďorders of magicĒ, so I guess an independent wizard? She does Spooky Research to summon a demon who has eyes ďfor she knew its pupils shone with a color otherwise unknown, anywhereĒ whatever that means. This helps herÖ take the next step down a path that would lead her to the ďLabyrinthĒ.

The last one is Reacquainting Yourself With The World which is essentially a player guide to get into the mindset for the game. This isÖ also insufferable. Mostly itís stuff about how things are DIFFERENT because MAGIC and WONDER. But also it emphasizes that Magical Interior Decorating is important. And it is important. Not kidding.

Next Time: Actual Character Creation, Layout Nightmares, Footnotes & Sidebars

(I farted this out to get started and have some Proper Content to argue about. Enjoy.)

Wapole Languray fucked around with this message at 00:55 on May 28, 2019

Tibalt
May 14, 2017

What, drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word, As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee

Oh hey another take on gnosis.

Just once I wish somebody would use the neoplatonic idea of the Demiurge. Creation is cool because Ideas are boring and suck!

ZeroCount
Aug 12, 2013


I feel like Gnosis is basically its own RPG subgenre now.

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements



Tibalt posted:

Oh hey another take on gnosis.

Just once I wish somebody would use the neoplatonic idea of the Demiurge. Creation is cool because Ideas are boring and suck!

Invisible Sun is a wildly uninteresting take on gnosis though, because it's just 'normies don't appreciate my weird and wondrous D&D art' - it has all the critical thought in this section as Changeling: The Dreaming declaring science and infrastructure fundamentally Banal.

It's the flattened version of Modernism, with 'normality' understood as a poison which only unbearably self-important whimsy can cure. There's no sense of a need to construct meaning, or that the anomie of normal life might have structural causes or meanings. It's totally easy to escape to the Meaningful Other World and then you just live there. "I cured my existential troubles by moving to Indigo and learning to contact juggle' is the vibe it gives off.

Modernism as Midlife Crisis, in the key of wizards.

E: basically I think gnosis is cool and good, and this is an insult to wizards.

Midjack
Dec 24, 2007



Hereís the good version of Invisible Sun.

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!
Hc Svnt Dracones 2.0



Furry Racism & Lore Leftovers

So this next bit is about what "morphisms" you can have, which is HSD's fancy term for "do you have two legs or four legs and do you have any arms?" as well as various other "mutations" that are anything other than "you are a normal anthropomorphic animal person." For instance, you could be something as horrifying as a hybrid! That is, a mixed-breed creature. It's been touched on before but it's all really kind of... weird.

quote:

Hybrids are a potential species endgame that was coded against since Generation One, where worries about too much mixing resulting in species-wide sterilization resulted in numerous systems to make sure that a tiger would always be a tiger and a rabbit would always be a rabbit and whatever the two of them produced together would end up being one or the other. The hybrids that do occasionally crop up in Vector society arenít much risk to the breeding population, as they amount to less than 1% and canít reproduce, but there is historical stigmata attached to the condition.

Hybrids in this setting are apparently arbitrarily sterile, despite all the other genetic wizardry in the setting, so you see, preventing miscenegation is necessary to avoid the death of furrykind. It's for the greater good, honest.

In the original, all of these were accompanied by little nickel-and-dime bonuses that you'd likely forget 99% of the time, but this time around, for some reason, only the robot versions actually have anything that affects mechanics at this part of the game. Unless, for some reason, they're mentioned only for the Cogs, and the Vector choices at this stage do have mechanical effects we just won't know about for another 50 pages. I'm giving it fifty-fifty odds on this since it seems like the sort of intensely moronic editing the author of HSD 2.0 would pull just to make my brain hurt.

And looking ahead, yes, they decided to list the choices first with only fluff and then not extrapolate on the mechanics for literally 50 pages, and no, I wrote the 50-pages thing above before actually paging ahead. I guess I'm just psychic. This also continues with other things, like picking your corporate background. You have to page a good chunk of the book forwards to know what your choices actually mean in terms of chargen results. At least it seems like you can't make any incompatible choices at this stage, but if you don't read the author's brain on what a given choice should do, and thus what kind of character it would let you make, you're poo poo out of luck and will have to redo a bit of chargen.


I'm glad they kept the Very Sad Tiger, it always cracked me up


Thankfully there's also some entirely novel stupid art that the old edition didn't have

Actual Mechanics Not Included(For Another 50 Pages)

So part of the Big Thing about HSD, both 1.0 and 2.0 is that rather than a government, the furries have like seven big corporations that raise their citi- sorry, their employees from cradle to grave, providing them with jobs, homes, food, etc. unless they intentionally choose to break away and form their own microcorp or join another megacorp. Funnily enough these corporate governments are, if anything, more intrusive and involved in their citizens' lives than about any actual Earth government has ever been. There's also next to no indication that the author ever twigs to this being absolute bullshit.

What exciting corporations can we join, though? Well there's MarsCo, who have no defining features beyond "we're really big on Mars and also generally we're really big!!!!!" because they're the successor to the original Mars corporation that made the Vectors in the first place. They've got a rivalry with the Lumen corporation which has now invented FTL travel, which the corporations were for some reason trying to prevent from existing for ????? reasons, possibly related to the fact that a furry super-geneticist made like a dozen HYPER SPACE GODS the size of planets and put them around the solar system to lock it down from intrusion or escape. No, I'm serious, this is in the loving lore supplement, I'm not making it up and it's every bit as stupid as it sounds. Anyway, MarsCo is just the generic choice if you really don't want to play this game and just want chargen to be over with as quickly as possible. Lumen is also run by some absolutely atrocious things called Cogsunes that I'm going to pretend don't exist.

ASR are the guys who invented sapient robots overnight and now produce more or less all of the new Cogs in the solar system. Their aesthetic is meant to be the Furry version of Apple, as far as I can tell from the text description, they also do cybernetics and they invented battle mechs, because of course this setting has battle mechs. Their rivalry is with Pulse, who are the SPACE JOCKS who really like to become big and strong and push themselves to be better and fightier and cooler. Imagine the Ultimates from Eclipse Phase in fursuits and constantly vlogging their workout regimens and getting into bar fights, that's Pulse. They also like genetic engineering for more strong rather than cybernetics.

Spyglass is... oh my God. Spyglass is without a doubt one of the two most detailed corporations in the game and also the most obscenely loving stupid one. Imagine if the CIA was a privatized corporation that publicly existed only to make money off of blackmailing other corporations and their citizens with their intense spying.

quote:

Founded off a covert intelligence agency, Spyglassís original mandate included the sales of information achieved through corporate espionage. Selling company secrets, as it were. In the interests of preserving a working system of competition that served billions wonderfully,

Because instead of legislation mandating corporate open-ness and banning patents, let's just hire a corporation-sized squad of black hats to break open every corporate safe in the solar system. This will absolutely not upset the Free Market(tm) at all and crash dozens of corporations or anything.

quote:

Everyone was a liar, everyone was a cheat, and most importantly, everyone had to be or the system wouldnít function.

In a Spyglass corp town it's perfectly legal to lie to someone to sell them something, but it's then also legal for the person you sold something to, to come back and shoot you. This is somehow interpreted as a "utopic" environment, because clearly the average citizen has the firepower/legal power to fight back against a corporation that just sold them a lemon. Their whole thing is loving idiotic, they shouldn't exist, and the game desperately wants to promote then as heroes who, for instance, distribute stolen knowledge freely(in the lore supplement, at least), at which point you have to wonder what their loving megacorp business model is that lets them afford space fleets if they're not actually selling their juiciest info.

Anyway, guess who doesn't like the Space CIA? That's right, their rivals are the Space Cops, which in this setting is another really stupid loving thing. Because every corporation has their own police force, their own laws, their own legalities, their own loving fleets of battleships... and yet they sometimes hire the IRPF, i.e. Space Cops, to come enforce the law at their place. Like, the IRPF is supposed to be different because "they stick to the same set of legal principles for centuries, rather than changing with the wind." But if they're enforcing local laws. Won't they have to change to fit the local corp laws, or lose their contracts, no matter how rapidly those laws change? This is stupid. This is extremely stupid. gently caress this author.

Progenitus are space doctors who do space doctoring. Which, I mean. Okay. So in a space game where corporations are huge, but national governments still exist, you can have a Space Doctor Corporation that explicitly focuses on doctoring and has that as their actual identity in an interesting way. Hell, I think Eclipse Phase has two or three of the drat things, each distinct. Here the problem is that Progenitus are space doctoring but they also own towns and probably several planetoids where they provide near to all services. Once they're a loving government, their identity can't be The Doctor Guys, because a government also has to provide security, housing, transportation, etc. and likely has to field a military force to maintain its borders. And the game more or less completely fails to describe them in terms of how they function as a government, what they outlaw, what they encourage, etc. BECAUSE THERE ARE NO NATIONAL GOVERNMENTS IN THE FURRY SPACE FUTURE HONEST. Also Progenitus is literally described as a monopoly that everyone pays a "tax" to for free access to its services that cure literally every disease from the common cold to AIDS to cancer, because gently caress having any points of conflict or danger that might prevent you from getting your furry wank on, I guess.

But who could be rivals with Space Doctors, you ask? A corporation of Space Mad Doctors, clearly. TTI, Transcendent Technologies Inc, the morons who revived and then released an uncontrollable alien species on Europa because "lol i guess?????" invented the magic implants that in HSD 1.0 had really only the purpose of exploding you if you weren't pretty enough to use them(seriously, their controlling stat was related to physical beauty), destroyed reality millions of times using psychic powers to save and reload after playing with their captive Blood Ghosts and seeing how it went terribly wrong and have organic space battleships that regularly do things like not doing exactly what they're told to be because they may be worryingly close to sentient. Oh yeah and they also invented a blood replacement called Vitae that's literally better than blood in every way as long as you have a secure supply and also you can survive with only 20% of your body mass remaining if you're jacked up on it, or without oxygen for basically forever. It is arbitrarily a bad thing that's very unnatural say the creatures genetically engineered from the ground up, and refuse to have anything to do with it, except for the mad doctors.

ACTUAL MECHANICS

So back in HSD1.0, the game functioned as follows: You rolled a dice pool, and if any result came up 8 or more, you had a success. The number of dice was determined by how much we had in the stat, and the type of die was determined by how we'd prioritized the type of dice pool(for instance, we might have advanced our BODY stats to a D12 up from the base D8, and invested 5 points in the DO A STRONG THING stat, so we'd be rolling 5D12 and hoping one of them would land as an 8+.) Proficiencies would add a static bonus to each of the rolled dice. It had a lot of stupid things to it when you started looking at it more closely, but it was, I'll give it this, relatively easy to grasp and roll resolution was always pretty quick thanks to the fixed TN. Pretty much anyone could tell if they'd succeeded or not without needing to engage in any calcuations or remember anything too arcane.

HSD2.0's resolution isn't exactly more complicated, but holy poo poo it feels that way.



So it's a static TN of 12, which we try to reach by rolling two dice, and to which we add our proficiency bonus(this, for some reason, had to be written in another column).

The reason it says "two dice" isn't because, like in 1.0, we know what the die we're rolling is every time, because we chose it at chargen. Nooooo, that would make sense and make things resolve quickly.

Instead, the GM assigns a given task a difficulty, and then compares it to the player's trait rating, which then modifies the dice to roll.



I mean, everything about the HSD 1.0 resolution I could effortlessly recall in my head, but this garbage I'd need to be looking up every time. Properties are also, by the way, not explained on Page 116, which is instead a full-page splash art thing. So gently caress you, HSD, and, I guess, gently caress the player if he wants to look anything up. Now, I know what you're thinking. "Dang, Purple, I bet this is a pre-made selection of relatively cool outcomes and triggerable abilities like something out of a FATE game!" And you'd be loving wrong because that would be marginally clever and interesting and a reason to invest in dunking your skill to the point where you could rely on being able to bust those out.



It's just this tepid cup of stale piss. Now, even assuming it was a cool and good thing, you'd only ever be able to do it when pulling off challenges that were completely effortless to you, at which point it doesn't really matter much. gently caress this game! Mechanics that constantly require the GM to adjudicate difficulty are also poo poo, especially if they don't come with a handy chart for the GM to chart odds of success so he can quickly judge how tough he wants a thing to be and set it at that toughness.

Next up we'll see if we can recreate an old favourite and see if he can still beat the stuff out of the evil demon super ba- wait a moment, this book doesn't actually have a bestiary. So we can't actually see if El Gecko and Scrooge McDuck are as broken as they used to be. For all its flaws, at least HSD 1.0 had a playable-with-one-book system, it had a bestiary, it had chargen, it had lore, it had equipment all in one. But 2.0 does not, and as far as I can tell there isn't one released yet, and the changes to the system mean that the bestiary for the original is not going to be in any way compatible with the second, as far as I can tell.

Next Up: I'm Sure We'll Find A Way To Break This System Anyway

Dawgstar
Jul 15, 2017

HSD's megacorps make SLA Industries look refined and subtle.

Also, I guess I have to ask even if the question is pointless, HOW DOES THE PIGEON MAN PUT ON HIS COAT.

The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007

Dawgstar posted:

Also, I guess I have to ask even if the question is pointless, HOW DOES THE PIGEON MAN PUT ON HIS COAT.

Slaves Indentured servants The less fortunate citizens that he is graciously providing for.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.
It never ceases to amaze me that the Libertarian ideal of a world without government is a world that still have governments, they just don't call themselves that, and they're far more transparently corrupt, authoritarian, and generally shittier for their citizens.

E: Like, I know this is because they're another right wing nonsense ideology, but seriously. Even when they're writing the story you still get poo poo like Spyglass everywhere!

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 03:43 on May 28, 2019

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!
I don't get RPG factions that exist solely for skullduggery, but maybe you already knew that from my Way of the Scorpion review. I mean, that kind of group in real life can work as an arm of a more powerful established authority, like a government or company. But as a standalone organization, you're going to either be criminals or fairly swiftly criminalized.

It turns out powerful people take a real dim view of that kind of thing in the long term.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.
They also enable that most annoying of tropes, the Impossibly Vast and Clever Spy Network That Has the Script.

Aoi
Sep 12, 2017

Perpetually a Pain.

Night10194 posted:

It never ceases to amaze me that the Libertarian ideal of a world without government is a world that still have governments, they just don't call themselves that, and they're far more transparently corrupt, authoritarian, and generally shittier for their citizens.

E: Like, I know this is because they're another right wing nonsense ideology, but seriously. Even when they're writing the story you still get poo poo like Spyglass everywhere!

Well, of course they need governments, otherwise who would keep their slaves and people jealous of how many slaves they have from murdering them, and also keep their slaves from escaping/recapture them when they do so.

Only when they have these measures of security can they be truly free to pursue their liberty to the fullest possible degree.

RocknRollaAyatollah
Nov 26, 2008

Lipstick Apathy

Dawgstar posted:

HSD's megacorps make SLA Industries look refined and subtle.

Also, I guess I have to ask even if the question is pointless, HOW DOES THE PIGEON MAN PUT ON HIS COAT.



This but with fancy clothes.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!
It can work, but you need powerful sponsors (like the Pinkertons and Andrew Carnegie, for example).

Rifts Coalition Wars 4: Cyber-Knights, part 4- "This means exhibiting manners whenever appropriate, being polite and attentive to those who merit it, and to be respectful of women, authority and anybody who gives the knight help of any kind."


"Psi-Sword, you're the only friend I have left."

Dreams
By Bill Coffin & Kevin Siembieda
... 108 P.A., not long after the Sorcerers' Revenge


This is a short story about Sir Taloquin, an older Cyber-Knight, and his ex-student, Sir Rigeld. Largely, it's about Taloquin coping with the rift in the Cyber-Knights, as he receives a vision that Rigeld of his may go one to spark a war between the two factions of knights... that causes the Cyber-Knights to fall. But though he might be able to stop this by slaying his protege, he opts to try and find a way to forgive him and and bring him back into the fold. It seems largely Coffin-scripted, and is solidly evocative, if a bit overlong. There's a hook that hints that the Tolkeen conflict is a spark for some greater conflagration; this is not followed up upon.

There's a weird post-script flashback regarding Taloquin receiving an undetailed vision during his training, which I'm guessing was added by Siembieda by the dialogue tics, and is singularly confusing... given part of the whole point of the story was that Taloquin had never received a vision in his youth, which leads to his desperation to help Tolkeen thinking it must be his purpose. Not sure what Siembieda thought he was adding, because it's just confusing.


Maybe don't take this path.

One Way, Many Paths
By Bill Coffin & Kevin Siembieda


This is a section discussing the different "motifs" that shape the Cyber-Knights, in true '90s splatbook fashion. It's a deep-dive into their philosophy, but before we get too far into it, I'm going to divert into the book's talk of Code of Chivalry and skip the motifs for the moment. Historically, there was no "code" proper- it was a vague notion of Christian morality, feudal duty, and military excellence. Here's the full Cyber-Knight chivalric code, since I didn't cover it in core:

Rifts Coalition Wars 4: Cyber-Knights posted:

The Code of Chivalry

1. To Live

Live one's life so that it is worthy of respect and honor.
Live for freedom, justice, and all that is good.

2. Fair Play
Never attack an unarmed foe.
Never use a Psi-Sword on an opponent not equal to the attack.
Never charge an unhorsed opponent.
Never attack from behind.
Avoid cheating.
Avoid torture.

3. Nobility
Exhibit self control.
Show respect to authority.
Obey the laws if they do not supersede the rights of life.
Administer justice.
Administer mercy.
Protect the innocent.
Respect women.

4. Valor
Exhibit courage in word and deed.
Defend the weak and innocent.
Fight for an ideal, like freedom.
Fight with honor.
Avenge the wronged.
Never abandon a friend, ally, or noble cause.

5. Honor
Always keep one's word of honor.
Always maintain one's principles.
Never betray a confidence or comrade.
Avoid deception.
Respect life.
Honor all life.
Respect all views of life.

6. Courtesy
Exhibit manners.
Be polite and attentive.
Be respectful of host, women, and honor.

7. Loyalty
To one's principles and heart.
To one's friends and those who lay their trust in thee.
To the code of chivalry.

That's thirty-two strictures, and a lot of redunancy. Why have "Avoid cheating." when "Avoid deception." is already in? "Respect women." is there, then "Be respectful of host, women, and honor." We get "Live for freedom, justice..." and also "Administer justice.", "Avenge the wronged.", and "Fight for an ideal, like freedom." I'm sure you can find others- what I'm saying, ultimately, is that Siembieda Lord Coake really, really needed an editor. And if case you're wondering if the matter of respecting women is addressed in regards to female Cyber-Knights, no, it isn't. Presumably women have to respect women too. Leave your claws in, laaadies! :rolleyes:

Of course, a lot of it is vague and subject to judgement, and those who break it are taken before Coake or a senior knight for punishment. But who makes a judgement? Well, it's a mystery. Sometimes they're assigned a quest to atone, physically punished - really, the Cyber-Knights engage in physical torture of their own members? Okay, that doesn't seem chivalric, but I'm no Sir Cyber-Lawyer. Sometimes they're cast out to become grumbly or villainous cyber-"ronin". However, it's important to note that "Fallen Knights" don't actually lose any of their powers, unlike traditional paladins - they just lose their association with the Cyber-Knights.


"Arise, and skull no more."

We then get long descriptions on the details of such, which I'll try to deep-boil down to the important points:
  • Life: Sacrifice your life for tangible good thing good, sacrifice yourself only for intangible principle bad. Also don't be a bad martyr that get people killed. Be good martyr for positive action!
  • Fair Play: D-Bee with laser eyes or mega-claws be "armed". Not fair to disarm armed person and murder with Psi-Stabs! Also if enemy run out of ammo they no armed. Sneak attack bad, even when sneaking. Cheating only okay against cheaters and super-unfair bad guys. Torture only used if must. It gets result, and do not enjoy it or you are bad.
  • Nobility: Nobility is fairy tale virtue, not blood! Kings dead, nobility in heart. Be nice person. Be classy. Tolkeens murdering the running Skull guys not classy. Respect authority and laws of weirdoes unless no human rights then laws bad. Slam evil! Avenge troubles unless people bad then do not avenge them. Only avenge on bad dudes! Also mercy good, even if it be bad later.
  • Valor: Only fight for good things never bad! Fight fair! Nuke bombs never fair. Glow swords way more fair. Never abandon friend or being good!
  • Honor: Be true and be cool good person so other people want to be good person! Even if person betray be good to person so maybe again good and not betray again. But not trust lying person! Lies that kill just like killing with gun. All life precious like sparkly, even demon! Maybe kill demon but if not need then no kill demon. Tolkeen full of mean people and demon people. Knights help Tolkeen feel super-bad, maybe turn bad or try to make good until dead. It sad!
  • Courtesy: Mind manners! Respect authority and womens and helping peoples. Show people rude things bad!
  • Loyalty: Like beliefs and friends, no do bad to beliefs and friends. Lord Coake bestest friend! Also mentor bester friend. There numbers, Lord Coake number one, Coake teach knights they number 2, knights being taught by Coake number 3, knights taught by knights who taught by Knights taught by Coake 4. Always respect numbers! Some think numbers bad but repect mentor, mentor student debt! But bestet bester friend is Code of Chivalries, never forget Code. If no Code then just jerk bossing people. Have Code!
Mind, this is accompanied by a loooot of talking up the Cyber-Knights, as the book is super on board with them, even if it means trash-talking everybody else by extension:

Rifts Coalition Wars 4: Cyber-Knights posted:

In this world of dirty tricks, magic and overkill, fair play is something for which the Cyber-Knights are legendary. Their refusal to employ undue force when meeting a foe sets them apart, at least in temperament, from most other adventurers, warriors and would-be heroes.

Rifts Coalition Wars 4: Cyber-Knights posted:

Cyber-Knights are a cut above the petty warlords, bandits and other would-be conquerors who try so hard to carve out little kingdoms for themselves. These power-mongers are just craven conquerors who lack the grace and vision of true leaders. Brutes who rule by the sword. In short, they lack the refinement and purity of spirit that the Cyber-Knights exhibit.

Rifts Coalition Wars 4: Cyber-Knights posted:

That they respect everyone's culture, laws and customs is a welcome change from the crass indifference most travelers and adventurers show, or from powers like the Coalition States who try to crush individuality and free-thinking in an effort to create militant conformity.

Rifts Coalition Wars 4: Cyber-Knights posted:

As the institution of medieval knighthood faded, the reality of their deeds and practices became romanticized, and the pragmatic tasks of knights (who were simply a layer of government) became glamorized as a system of noble behavior performed by worthy champions upholding goodness for goodness' sake. Clearly, the Cyber-Knights have inherited this romantic tradition and are running with it. A good thing it is, too, since no other group in this part of the world so ardently embraces ideals such as these.

Rifts Coalition Wars 4: Cyber-Knights posted:

The Chivalric Code reminds Cyber-Knights that it is not enough that they travel the world looking for a good fight. That would make their efforts no different than that of a callous mercenary. No, Cyber-Knights are expected to fight for a particular cause, such as truth, justice, or peace. This notion of fighting for a cause is something lost on more callow adventurers, who typically find themselves on the battlefield out for profit, power or the sheer hell of it. The true knight is above all of that, and at the end of a battle, he knows that there is a greater good to be served than that of mere bloodshed.

Rifts Coalition Wars 4: Cyber-Knights posted:

This is the way of the champion. The way of the warrior. The way of the Cyber-Knight.
They are, in fact, the One True Way. :eng101:

Next: White Knight! Grey Knight! Black Knight! Every uncolor of knight!

Lynx Winters
May 1, 2003

Borderlawns: The Treehouse of Pandora
"The secret number between 12 and 13" is the first thing I think of when Invisible Sun is brought up because it's just one of the worst ideas I've ever seen written down. I try not to let pseudo-mystical nonsense bother me when it's a game about wizards and poo poo, but the idea of trying to discover something a seven-year-old could explain to you is so terrible and I'd say I don't know who it's supposed to appeal to if I didn't know that nerds are some of the dumbest motherfuckers on Earth.

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements



My real question is whether Invisible Sun is the child of Mage the Awakening with serious head trauma, or Kult with serious head trauma. The other parent is clearly Planescape.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

It's actually Magic the Gathering, Planescape, Everway, and Sandman in a blender with 3rd Edition D&D.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.



Everway! Was that that game with the fantasy art cards?

I mean like, you were supposed to just use them to like, explain your characters. No stats or nothing. Just "Yeah, these tiger-men are... my people! And the old wizard is... our supervisor!"

Also is Monte Cook's entire bag just warming over modern RPG concepts in diluted form and selling them to people who were tempered by the OGL to only be able to roleplay if a d20 is involved?

jakodee
Mar 4, 2019

Night10194 posted:

It never ceases to amaze me that the Libertarian ideal of a world without government is a world that still have governments, they just don't call themselves that, and they're far more transparently corrupt, authoritarian, and generally shittier for their citizens.

E: Like, I know this is because they're another right wing nonsense ideology, but seriously. Even when they're writing the story you still get poo poo like Spyglass everywhere!

Libertarians think a government is defined as a ruling entity that attempts to enforce moral frameworks other than property rights. They want absolute power over the things (and people) they own. How much do you think libertarians overlap with people who think they own their kids until they turn 18?

mllaneza
Apr 28, 2007

Veteran, Bermuda Triangle Expeditionary Force, 1993-1952





This is all bullshit in the worst way. Except for the illustration, which is great.

SunAndSpring
Dec 4, 2013
I figure that, in a stream of books that seem to really like horrible libertarian wet dreams or fascism, I might as well start doing a book that goes down into just how loving bad empire is for just about everyone that isn't nobility.
EXALTED 3E: THE REALM


This book is pretty much what it says on the cover: a sourcebook for the world-straddling empire of Exalted, detailing its internal politics and its relations with its many client-states or satrapies. While I am unaware of how the first edition handled things, previous books in 2e dealing with this faction were not very good in my opinion. Without a firm grasp of what exactly imperialism entails or how exactly poo poo goes down in a civil war, the Realm mostly just came off as the kind of evil empire one would see in an early Final Fantasy game: one-dimensional, static, and power hungry to the point of ludicrousness. While this book certainly does not going into "shades of gray" bullshit (indeed, its recommended fiction section puts the film "Hero" on blast for being propaganda for Qin Shi Huang and recommends it more as instructive of how the Realm views the Scarlet Empress), it does make things far more realistic as to how exactly an empire of its size and power functions, how any revolutionary potential people have is defeated by its economic and cultural systems, and how utterly hosed it is now that the immortal tyrant that centered all its mechanisms and functions around herself has disappeared. Let's begin, shall we?

Chapter 1: History and Life in the Realm

We start off with chapter fiction of acceptable quality, as Exalted 3e always does, and as such I'll just go through it quickly since it's never really worth going into in depth since it's very eh, save for a few exceptions. The problem of running an empire the size of the Russian Empire at its height is that one cannot possibly cover every road. As such, this book begins with a small caravan of assorted lesser ministers, patricians, and Immaculate monks getting robbed blind by a group of bandits. Their leader goes, "Where is your God Dragons now?", as she yanks out the silver teeth of a very nice statue of the Elemental Dragon of Fire the monks were transporting. The art is decent; 3e's gotten a lot better since the poser art and copyright infringement of the corebook.



Now, onto the meat of the first section, Birth of an Empire. Back in the day, the world of Creation got incredibly close to dying off. After a super-plague known as the Great Contagion spread and killed roughly ninety percent of every living thing, the Fair Folk on the edge of the world rallied under the banner of the dread Prince Balor to take a shot at unmaking what was left, since those beings of raw chaos aren't exactly happy that there's an island of awful stability smack dab in the middle of everything. At the time, Creation was ruled by a Shogunate under the Dragon-blooded, masters of the five elements, and unfortunately 90% of everything dying tends to deplete one's armies. The last remaining soldiers of the Shogunate rallied to prevent the hordes of Faerie from setting foot on the Blessed Isle, but were defeated at every turn. Eventually, a young Dragon-blooded officer of those armies, decides a better approach from her knowledge of the time before the Shogunate, when the Solar Anathema used their incredible artifacts to defend the world from the Wyld rather than just drowning it in bodies and hoping for the best. She and her four most trusted companions found the location of a promising site, the so-called Palace of the Anathema, which had been sealed away and abandoned after the Usurpation. They deserted the front-lines and spent their time getting past its powerful wards, insanely deadly security systems, and learned the pass codes to get its miraculous internal mechanisms churning again, racing against the clock before the raksha could flush Creation down the metaphysical drain.

This process killed everyone but the captain. In 2e, it's mentioned that this woman had to murder one of her friends to get the whole thing running, but here it goes for a more vague approach as to what exactly happened in the Palace. In any case, this officer booted up the most powerful weapon in Creation, the Realm Defense Grid (also called the Sword of Creation). With its activation, the tables were instantly turned to humanity's benefit: fire and iron rained down upon Prince Balor's host, the very elements scourging them all from the world. Creation was saved by this woman and a new Age had begun, but sadly this lady is also one of the bigger assholes alive. Immediately following this, the few remaining Dragon-blooded soldiers (also huge assholes) left immediately began rallying under the banner of Skri Shanash, the most veteran of the surviving forces, and her allied forces. The Seven Tigers, as they were dubbed by historians, immediately began conquering the lands surrounding the Blessed Isle, sending a wave of refugees towards it as they worked their way up towards building an invasion fleet to seize control of the island. The woman who had saved the world attempted to negotiate her way into leadership, but was denied. So, predictably, she turns on the Sword of Creation again and burns their armies out of the world.

Although she was now protected from getting a fatal case of daiklave-to-the-heart, the officer realized she couldn't exactly keep doing this forever; one can't exactly rule the world if they keep nuking it with unholy sorcerous power and to rule, one needs supporters. Luckily for her, this stalemate was broken by a ~*mysterious green robed man*~ from the Immaculate Order, an existing religion which venerated the Dragon-blooded as enlightened beings. This man, which a sidebar reveals to be Chejop Kejak (Sidereal Chosen of Endings, Architect of the Usurpation, Leader of the Bronze Faction, Smuggest rear end in a top hat Alive) thought the would-be Empress would probably be a big loving idiot and pawn like most Dragon-bloods were in his eyes. This was proven false immediately, and she forced him to kowtow outside her manse for a full day until negotiating with him. Kejak offered the support of his constructed religion in announcing her as the most enlightened Dragon-blood since the Immaculate Dragons themselves, and in exchange for him giving her the power base she needed, she would keep on doing what the Shogunate did and would uphold the Wyld Hunt to keep the Lunars and the few remaining Solars from undoing everything he strove to build. After nine days of negotiation, the deal was struck, and the Scarlet Empress proceeded to broadcast herself to every population center in the world to declare herself the sole authority on the Blessed Isle and defender of Creation.


"THE DAIKLAVE IS GOOD, THE PENIS IS EVIL", declares the scary hologram.

Some Dragon-blooded officers, seeing the writing on the wall, joined up with her. Those who joined received visions from the Empress to kill or subjugate those that had more stubbornness than common sense. Within the year, the Empress had secured herself on the Isle. People began crowding around the newly dubbed Imperial Manse, the rich building up on its old First Age structures and the poor mostly just building anywhere really, setting the foundations for the Imperial City. The Empress gets her first marriage proposal from an Araka Jeresh, who pledged to help her share the burden of the crown. She responds by destroying his own manse to ashes with a scourge of emerald fire, and then eventually takes him on as a messenger after he backtracked on everything he said, and then as a consort, and finally as the spymaster of her new intelligence agency, the All-Seeing Eye. Following that, she founded ministries to manage the new Realm's burgeoning bureaucracy, magistrates to uncover those in the Dragon-blooded aristocracy who would dare to break her law, and a military to really get that imperialism going. The Immaculate Order does a pretty good job of keeping the peasants in line, mostly by telling them that it is their lot to toil in the fields for elementally empowered rich gits and that if they go along with things, they'll reincarnate as something better. Occasionally, the monks would aid revolts against the shittier nobles, keeping them manageable and unable to really destabilize the whole system by pinning the blame solely on mistaken Dragon-bloods who misinterpreted the Empress's divine judgment rather than, you know, the person who runs the whole system.

Now, the Empress owns all of the land in her Realm (leasing it out to whomever she pleased but generally the richest people in her empire, of course), but what about more land? The Threshold, those lands surrounding the Blessed Isle, have awfully nice stuff and now the Empress has awfully big armies. What else to do but to start throwing her weight around? Some places, seeing the places that got blasted by the Sword of Creation, fold immediately upon getting threatened and as such got the "privilege" of hosting Realm garrisons for which they could launch further invasions against those who held out or refused and the "gift" of mills and mines and roads constructed solely to reap the wealth of their countries. Of course, the Lunars, still rather pissed about the whole Dragon-blooded Usurpation forcing them out of their cushy First Age titles and lands, were a great enemy; several assassination attempts by shapeshifted Lunars almost remove the Empress and a Lunar infiltrator causes a rather nasty schism in the Immaculates. In addition, the Seventh Legion of Lookshy repels her invasions of the Near East and forces her into an uneasy peace, and a mortal sorcerer named Bagrash KŲl uses the artifact called the Eye of Autochthon to forge an empire greater than hers before it kills him and everyone in it decades later.

The Great House system gets made mostly to set the Empress's dumbass children and their kids against each other and the Threshold rather than herself, existing and ending at her whim (such as when House Manosque uses the Eye of Autochton to usurp her, fails because that thing is cursed, and then gets wiped out to the last woman, or when House V'neef gets created and given the Merchant Fleet solely to gently caress over House Peleps, which had grown too big). She makes one announcement regarding choosing an heir, in which she says on RY 1000, she'll "think about it". Then, in 763, she vanishes, leaving the empire without its fulcrum. Oops.

Next time: Chapter 1 - Life on the Blessed Isle

SunAndSpring fucked around with this message at 16:45 on May 28, 2019

Ronwayne
Nov 20, 2007

That warm and fuzzy feeling.

PurpleXVI posted:

(literally the argument is that they have sexy little hands)

New thread title.

Ithle01
May 28, 2013

SunAndSpring posted:


EXALTED 3E: THE REALM[/b][/u]


I feel like if we're going to do Exalted books we should at least put the opening quote from each book up first. If Exalted has one thing going for it, it's that the authors generally know what sort of poo poo show they're in for. Obviously, some exceptions may apply.

Also, one other thing, as some people have already pointed out, real world empires usually are cartoonishly evil so I have to give previous authors a pass on that. It's hard to portray them otherwise because it turns out that the people who benefit most from the concept of imperium are usually huge pieces of poo poo. A casual look at certain contemporary empires may confirm this.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

Lynx Winters posted:

"The secret number between 12 and 13" is the first thing I think of when Invisible Sun is brought up because it's just one of the worst ideas I've ever seen written down. I try not to let pseudo-mystical nonsense bother me when it's a game about wizards and poo poo, but the idea of trying to discover something a seven-year-old could explain to you is so terrible and I'd say I don't know who it's supposed to appeal to if I didn't know that nerds are some of the dumbest motherfuckers on Earth.

It's a perfect combination of being psuedo-esoteric and completely hook-free. At best, it sounds like some macguffin you have to seek out to satisfy some eccentric academic in order to get the next step of your quest done, but nothing PCs would be interested in.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018

Ithle01 posted:

I feel like if we're going to do Exalted books we should at least put the opening quote from each book up first. If Exalted has one thing going for it, it's that the authors generally know what sort of poo poo show they're in for. Obviously, some exceptions may apply.

Also, one other thing, as some people have already pointed out, real world empires usually are cartoonishly evil so I have to give previous authors a pass on that. It's hard to portray them otherwise because it turns out that the people who benefit most from the concept of imperium are usually huge pieces of poo poo. A casual look at certain contemporary empires may confirm this.

The main thing is that when Dynasts are a major, y'know, PC group, it is genuinely important to make playing them not also mean having to be the worst person unless you want that.

Ronwayne
Nov 20, 2007

That warm and fuzzy feeling.
Only Some Dynasts are Bastards.

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements



Minor quibble: I don't think the Empress used visions to torment commanders into ally slaughter. She used her hologram network to command ambitious soldiers to eliminate stubborn ones as 'proof of loyalty,' manipulating the Isle's armed forces from inside her impregnable fortress until there was a power structure to protect her.

The Empress was an immortal, power-hungry despot, but I appreciate that she's written as competent without being totally untouchable and blase about it.

Thesaurasaurus
Feb 15, 2010

"Send in Boxbot!"

Mors Rattus posted:

The main thing is that when Dynasts are a major, y'know, PC group, it is genuinely important to make playing them not also mean having to be the worst person unless you want that.

Also the system they're born to, designed to prop them up at the expense of the rest of the world, certainly blows chunks, but in the wise words of Morty Smith: "Nobody exists on purpose."

Xelkelvos
Dec 19, 2012

Ronwayne posted:

Only Some Dynasts are Bastards.

Of course. What else would you call illegitimate heirs :v:

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.
Warhammer Fantasy: Paths of the Damned Part 3: Forges of Nuln

The New City

Neuestadt is the most populous part of Nuln, with 2/3 of the population of the city crammed into 1/3 of its area. There is no generalizing about Neuestadt; you'll find everything from the squalor of shantytowns and tenements to busy government buildings and places of learning and business. Like most early modern cities, it is an extremely crowded place where privacy is rare. Actual privacy and personal space are something for the rich up in Altestadt. Still, even in the crowded Neuestadt you'll find some very nice neighborhoods, like the Handelbezirk, where the city's merchants do most of their business that doesn't involve the Altestadt. Coffee is becoming a fashionable import here, an exotic (if extremely bitter) drink imported from Araby and drunk in the Handelbezirk's cafes to show off that a merchant can afford it. The neighborhood also houses the city's hall of records, and if your adventurers have a literate PC in among them this is a great place to do investigative work. Someone who is able to get into the archives and who has the patience to deal with the filing systems can find all sorts of information, from extensive maps of the city's sewers to receipts for the city's gun sales (thus telling you who is building their army, where, and when).

Actually a bit of an interesting thing when you look at it. Everything about the city's arsenal and arms manufacture is state-owned. There's a lot of private business in Nuln, but the gun sales go directly to the city's coffers and the majority of arms manufacture is state directed. I've always suspected the reason guns are so expensive for Adventurers is partly that the majority of firearms production in the Empire seems to be done on contract and directly for the army.

Handelbezrik also contains the Reikplatz, a large public square with a massive elm tree that has become a local message board for hiring and the posting of notices. Lots of little adventure hooks should be posted, looking for lost property, pets, or children, as well as other sorts of job notices and legal postings. Since most people in Nuln are illiterate, employers often come by to contact those looking for work directly, picking from among the day-workers and laborers who wait beneath the elm, staring at notes they can't read. I'd have just employed a public reader, myself; goodness knows there are enough broke students in the city who might do the job. The Town Hall also sits near the center of the city, a boring place full of bureaucrats who delight in helping people select the correct forms for everything (because then they have to fill out the forms! They love watching people do paperwork!). Most people think there is only one clerk at the Town Hall. In reality, there are several, they all just have the exact same look and character so no-one ever notices the differences.

The Universtat district is the pride of Nuln, containing not only the Grand University itself, but also the College of Engineering, the famed Imperial Gunnery School, a fledgling academy of magic, a halfling culinary school, the college of Barristers and legalists, and all sorts of other institutions of higher learning. Often stereotyped as a place of serious scholarship, it contains many, many bars that speak to the proclivities of excitable young students as soon as classes are done for the day; this can be a very wild place.

The College of Engineering is weird, given Nuln's Engineering schools are written of as being the best in the Empire in other books. Here, it's a small and new school that was lavishly funded by the Countess to lure staff away from Altdorf's supposedly superior civil engineering colleges, but it had the misfortune of being burned down by rat nazis (Or Bretonnians? I'm not sure why the book blames Bretonnians for this). The Countess 'half-heartedly funded a reconstruction before getting distracted by another party'. Still, the school has been rebuilt enough to still maintain classes and students, and is hard at work improving the engines in Imperial Steam Tanks in hopes that such a high profile success will return the Countess's eye and get them more funding.

The Imperial Gunnery School is 'Far more successful than the ill-conceived College of Engineering', which might have more to do with being an essential part of the city's economy and also being a much older school that has not, to date, exploded. Seriously, some of the writing doesn't seem to take into account that anything Countess Emmanuelle has built or funded can't be more than a few years old, as she became Elector Countess in 2503 and it's 2522. The Gunnery School was covered in detail in the WHFRP Companion, but it is both where the city casts the best of its cannons and trains the men and women who will fire them. The Gunnery School is completely essential to both the economy and prestige of Nuln, as well as strategically vital to the entire Empire. Remember: The best solution to a Bloodthirster is a Great Cannon, and this is where those Great Cannons come from. The city loves the Gunnery School, as you might notice from the various public holidays connected to it, and it is the pride of Nuln.

The University of Nuln is the oldest University in the Empire, one of the first great schools ever to be founded in Imperial history. While it is 'being outdone by the progressive learning techniques of Altdorf', it is still one of the most respected institutions in the Empire and part of Nuln's cosmopolitan character comes from the fact that nobles and wealthy individuals from other lands send their children to study here. It is not at all uncommon to find Arabyan, Kislevite, Bretonnian, Tilean, and Estalian students here. The school is still primarily focused on a broad classical education in mathematics, statesmanship, history, philosophy, and theology, which partly explains the popularity with nobles of other lands; a student of the University of Nuln learns almost everything that would be of use to a governor or noble.

There's also a weird bit on the College of Barristers that talks of Rosalia Schultz, the 'first female Barrister' of Nuln. She is considered a walking scandal, for being a woman doing man's work, and has become a professor and successful legal scholar despite this. Most assume she is a Slaaneshi or something, because how else could she ever have succeeded? This is weird primarily because the Empire's degree of sexism has always varied a lot from writer to writer; it isn't a firmly established thing like it is with Kislev (where women are fully culturally and legally equal and their full equal participation in society is seen as normal) or Bretonnia (where women being second class citizens is deeply embedded in law and function). Schwalb seems to prefer it turned way, way up. Which, combined with the depiction of the Countess, and some other elements of this adventure to come, and him being the one who approved of putting the first stuff that made me sound the Turbo Racism alarm in Tome of Corruption (the material on the Hung), I'm going to leave you to draw your own conclusions.

This is a good chance to digress a moment to talk about that kind of stuff, because I think this is something the fluff in the 4th edition of the game improved on significantly. The Empire's sexism grey zone isn't well handled in 2e, because it's so highly variable. It's the kind of thing that ends up giving cover to shitlords, because then they're free to go into weird sexist poo poo while going 'well I'm just playing the setting as written!' Now, I think there's a place for the Empire to be the middle-point between Bretonnia's gender politics (which are genuinely well handled) and Kislev's (which are interesting for being genuinely equal). The Empire has a lot of room to be the place where a woman in the Regiments is unusual, but not unheard of or forbidden, to make both Bretonnia and Kislev stand out, and to allow for plot hooks about being the first female Grandmaster of a Knightly Order or whatever. But that's the key; it's got to be put at a level where it's a plot hook. As in, if you don't want to deal with that poo poo, you won't have to. Where it's normal enough for a woman to be an engineer, or a soldier, or a knight, or an adventurer that your group can decide it passes without comment and you get on with it unless you actively want to bring that into your game as something to struggle against (and overcome).

This is why I keep coming back to the fact that Countess von Liebwitz is the only female Elector right now, and why that's a problem with her being depicted as a ditzy airhead who is so incompetent because she loves parties and dresses. 4e did a good thing by adding in more important female Imperials so that you had room for Imperial noblewomen to be a variety of characters without having to worry about 'oh, wow, the only woman at this level of political power is depicted as being an idiot because she's too womanly'. 2e's general handling of the Imperial sexism grey zone leaves room for it to come up in really uncomfortable and badly done ways like it does in basically all of Forges of Nuln. Throughout this adventure, there are 3 (4 if you count the Countess) women of any importance. One of them is an evil schemer who has no real reasons given beyond just being a seductive evil wizard lady. One of them is Gabrielle Marsner the Death Wizard, who wasn't written for this book, and who can get fridged if you don't do things right. Another is a positively portrayed politician who cares deeply for Nuln and who will get fridged off screen if Gabrielle doesn't, or who can be given over to a dubious ally for purposes of implied sexual menace and obsession to provide a false winning track. This poo poo is a problem in this adventure. This book implies, by its general character and writing, that someone like Katiya should be viewed suspiciously through the Empire, despite the fact that most of the rest of the line doesn't. And that kind of thing is opened up by never firmly establishing and carefully handling the issue of gender relations in the Empire. This is something that needed improvement, and that I'm happy to say was improved in the latest edition of the fluff.

And so that's how you get stuff like 'the first female barrister is obviously a Slaaneshi and everyone thinks she's "'licentious' in her spare time" and it's the kind of stuff that needed improvement, to guard against books like this one showing up. I love this game line, but don't think I'm not going to point out the places where it needed to be better.

Next Time: Shantytown and the Docks

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Fangs at the Gate: Charming

Lunar Excellencies are pretty much directly between Dragon-Blood and Solar ones in power. They function on the Solar model of being gained automatically most of the time, but they are normally limited to giving dice equal to your Attribute. However, a stunt allows you to add in a second Attribute to that Ė so they go from Ďabout as good as a DBí to Ďabout as good as a Solarí with a stunt, which should be fairly simple. Strength Excellency can also increase Withering damage before soak applies, and the Stamina Excellency can raise soak before damage is rolled. While these rolls canít benefit from stunt bonuses, description as per a stunt still les you raise your dice caps with them. Lunars automatically get any Excellency for a Caste or Favored Attribute they have at 3 or higher or for which you know at least one Charm. For all other attributes, you get the Excellency if the attribute is at 5 or if you know two Charms for that attribute.

Lunar Charms are limited in what they can boost by attribute, not ability. This is much more flexible, not least because they can be freely combined with Martial Arts and Evocations with much greater ease than Ability Charms would be able to. They also have two new keywords: Protean, which means the Charm gets increased power when used while in certain human or animal forms (but never your native human form). Totemic, which means the Charm can be learned with a different attribute than normal if you have a certain spirit shape, which may reduce the cost to learn it or have different requirements you find it easier to meet.

Before any attribute charms, though, we get the Universal Charms, which have only Essence prereqs. These primarily alter your shapeshifting abilities. These range from Chimera-Soul Expression, which alters your spirit shape by chimerizing it with a second animal, giving it six dots of free mutations based around that animal, which automatically apply to you whenever you use Hybrid Body Transformation as well. Both animals are considered your spirit shape for purposes of Totemic Charms. (Mutations are defined now as any Innate or Purchased merits, mundane or supernatural, which alter or improve your physical body.) The aforementioned Hybrid Body Transformation turns you into a furry when activated. You pick six dots of mutations based on your spirit shape, and you gain those while the Charm is active in your true human form. Other examples include Life of the Hummingbird, which lets you drink blood from an animal or human you kill outside the sacred hunt, temporarily transforming into the targetís shape until you choose to leave it. At Essence 2 you can repurchase this to make it work by drinking the blood of a living human or animal. Many-Faced Moon Transformation lets you alter your formís appearance in a lot of ways, no matter what form youíre in Ė you can make it taller or shorter by about ten inches, alter your weight up or down by up to 10%, change or remove your sexual characteristics, change skin tone, eye color or hair color and length, add scars, whatever. These changes are permanent but can be reversed by using the Charm again.

From here, we get into Appearance Charms. Lunar Charms are divided further into topic, because each attribute covers a shitload of topics. First up for Appearance: Heartís Blood. Each Attribute gives at least one new way to gain forms. Appearanceís is Heart-Drinking Allure. You can sacred hunt a human who has a Major or Defining Tie of love or lust towards you or your current shape. If you do, you may conclude it with a voluntary act of physical intimacy instead of murder. (Physical intimacy is redefined in a sidebar, encompassing literally any form of intimate contact Ė a passionate hug or kiss counts, even if platonic. You can sacred hunt people by being a supportive friend whom they love and are comforted by. Which is kind of manipulative, but thatís a thing for Lunars.)

Appearance: Influence! We get stuff like Glance-Oration Technique, which allows a Lunar to communicate an influence attempt or a single sentence entirely through body language, denying the Resolve bonus for having no common language. Reflection Gazes Back lets a Lunar persuade those who wish to understand them, reflexively targeting anyone that rolls to read their intentions with an influence roll to threaten, seduce or instill a Tie of fear or desire, with a bonus based on 1s the foe rolls. Divine Paramourís Embrace lets a Lunar roll to seduce a single target. If that target chooses to let it happen without resistance, it automatically succeeds and the Lunar can transfer Willpower to the target based on the strength of the targetís Intimacy for the Lunar after a minute of physical intimacy, and once per story if used on your Solar mate, it also removes 1 Limit from them. At Essence 3, you donít even need the minute of intimacy Ė it just transfers automatically. Hunted Stag Mastery lets you make a reflexive Appearance persuade or threaten roll when ambushed, either being too sexy or too scary to attack. If you succeed, the ambush automatically misses unless the attacker spends Willpower to resist, and if the attacker resists with Willpower, they still attack but you get a cost refund on this Charm.

Perfect Fear Scent lets you emit fear-causing pheromones, making anyone that can see or smell you get a Resolve penalty against your threaten checks or against fear-based Charms that use Appearance, and also gives a penalty to attacks on you or attempts to speak against you. In predatory animal forms, you can use this reflexively if you win Join Battle. Inchoate Horror Embodiment lets you make an Appearance-based threaten roll against a target and appear to them in a way that aligns with their strongest fear-based Tie, though you do not learn what that actually is if you didnít already know. You get a refund if the target has no one they fear enough to have an Intimacy about it. If you are in a shapeshifted form that already matches this fear, the cost to resist your influence increases. Divine Terror Avatar invokes the fear of your foes. Anyone with a Tie of fear towards you or your current shape cannot attack or make threaten rolls against you, and neither can trivial foes. In combat, in any turn they donít move away from you, they lose Initiative, and if most of a battle groupís members have a Tie of fear against you, they get a penalty to rout checks when they can see you. This fear can be resisted via Decision Point and an Intimacy of equal or greater strength to the Tie of fear towards you, but canít be resisted while Crashed.

Appearance: Subterfuge! Subtle Silver Declaration is able to be picked up by anyone, as it only needs Appearance 1, and it causes your Tell to be utterly invisible at Dim anima to anyone who has never seen it before, even if they use magic like Eye of the Unconquered Sun. At Glowing anima, your Tell still requires a roll to notice, with a penalty if theyíve never seen it before. Shifting Penumbra Stance lets you roll an Appearance-based special disguise check to shroud yourself in a coruscating nimbus, and anyone that canít beat you with an Awareness check canít tell any details about your identity or what sort of being you are, and those who do can still only tell that youíre a Lunar, but nothing else. One of the Herd lets you, whenever you are in Short range of a group of four or more people, such as a mercenary company, a Dynastís servants or a wolf pack, behave like them in order to prevent anyone from telling you apart from the other group members unless they can perceive your Tell. This ends if you take overt action such as Joining Battle or blatantly using magic. If your spirit shape mimics the appearance of another animal, you can learn this as Manipulation rather than Appearance. Fickle Ladyís Shifting Star means that when you use the Charm Essential Mirror Nature to disguise your anima as that of another Exalt type, any attempts at divination or scrying will give false information if the truth would contradict your disguise Ė to all Sidereal divinations or spirit Charms that identify things, for example, you appear to be exactly what you have disguised yourself as. Only magic that directly contests disguise can reveal you, rather than these indirect methods.

Moon-in-Well Emanation lets you meditate on the reflection of your true human shape. You pull it into existence as an immaterial god that is physically identical to you but reversed left-to-right. It shares one Minor, one Major and one Defining Intimacy of your choice with you, and you can give it memories related to those if you want. If not, it has no memories whatsoever. It shares your stats, healthbar and innate Merits, and has Essence somewhat lower than you. It can materialize and can teleport back to you if youíre near a mirror and may enter mirrors as a living reflection. The first time you use this, you and the GM also design some spirit charms for it, and it gains more as you get more powerful and as you use it more. All spirits made by this Charm get the same set of spirit charms, though their memories do not carry over to each other. While it exists, you cast no reflection. If it dies, you get your reflection back a week later or when the current story ends, whichever comes first Ė or a season, if it was killed by magic that can permakill spirits. You canít use this while you have no reflection.

Appearance: Warfare! Wolf Devours Shepherd causes you to become so imposing that enemies who try to command battle groups that can see you get a penalty based on your Appearance, and if they fail to give the command properly, they lose Initiative and the battle group gets a penalty to acting. If your spirit shape hunts in groups, you can learn this with Strength. Victorious Beast-King Spirit makes you glorious, so those who fight beside you become braver; whenever you land an attack, you reflexively make an Appearance-based rally or rally for numbers check, too, with a bonus based on the attack roll. Again, if your spirit shape hunts in groups, it can be learned with Strength. Pride-Scattering Approach can be used when you or an allied battle group attacks an enemy battle group that can see you, and it boosts the damage roll and penalizes any rout checks the attack causes. If youíre shapeshifted into a person or animal the majority of the target battle groupís members have a Major or Defining Tie of fear towards, the penalty is worse. Again, Strength is possible if your spirit shape hunts in groups. Silver-Maned Warlord Glory gives a bonus to your Appearance-based command rolls based on your anima bannerís strength, gives allied battle groups a bonus to rout checks based on how strong your anima banner is, and once per scene you can expend your anima to reset your ability to make a rally for numbers check, as your argent glory calls back even the most distant remnants of your forces. Strength for group hunters again.

Next time: Charisma.

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Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.
Something I'd like to add to the digression on sexism in the review post: Another thing you need to do to really make it part of a setting is write with the awareness that it's bullshit. That is one of the strongest parts of how it's handled in Bretonnia (both class and gender actually have no mechanical effect, are easy to conceal and lie about, and there are multiple examples of how yes, this is insanely unjust) and why the handling of the Countess is so problematic in particular. Because it portrays a situation where it sort of implies the discrimination based on her sex is accurate and reasonable, since she's written as a silly woman who loves parties and art and womanly things. That's what gets at the heart of why it stands out. You can write a sexist prick within your story if that's a part of the plot everyone wants to deal with; you just also need to keep in mind they're loving wrong.

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