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Feb 13, 2012

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

It's important to stick to these events

There's a bunch of stuff on 'evoking the city' by five senses but I'll just cut to the chase of what it's getting at: Early modern cities are crowded and dirty.

No, what we're here for is the timetable. So the entire billing of this adventure is 'you'll have 7 days to race against time to stop an evil plot!!!'. You are not, in fact, racing against time. Your players will not actually have any kind of indication there is a 7 day time-limit, though events will certainly escalate over 7 days. They don't even have any initial indication the serial killer incidents are linked to their case about the magic evil cup. In fact, until day 2 or so, the PCs probably don't even know there IS a serial killer incident going on. Nobody else in the city does. The book is very clear: You are to keep the players from actually altering the timetable at all. They cannot catch Rolf early, they cannot find out about the cup early, they cannot stop any of the killings, they cannot stop the sabotage of the Magnus cannon, and if they're getting close to any of these things, you are advised to throw in a sudden red herring subplot, a false lead, or just have random thugs attack them to reduce their wounds so they need to rest for a bit. Alternately you can just say one of the villains kills one of their NPC contacts off-screen to slow them down. Under no circumstances should the players' investigations actually mean anything or achieve anything; Rolf is only catchable on Day 6.

When the players arrive on Day 0, Rolf has already murdered a few people but he's been taking his time and being quiet up until now. Xath tells him to hurry the gently caress up, so he hurries the gently caress up, and stops being as careful in picking targets. On Day 1, he kills the son of the city's finance minister, and the disappearance is noticed but the watch assumes the lad is just getting laid because it's Black Powder Week and everyone is celebrating. On Day 2, we hit Misogyny Bingo! Rolf goes after his ex-girlfriend, who he left because she is a 'fornicator' who sleeps with many men. It's advised the PCs meet Magdalena before she dies, and that she be described as breathtakingly beautiful and eagerly hitting on any attractive male PC. Rolf slips over her wall, gets into her room, and kills her and the man she's cheating on her fiance with so he can steal her scalp for the flesh golem he's making. Yep, it's the old slasher movie sexhaver girl dies for having sex trope. And that's bingo. gently caress this adventure. It is specifically a thing that he decided to murder her because he'd originally planned to propose to marry her when he got back from the war, but heard she liked having sex with guys, so he decided she was impure and her scalp would be perfect on his hell-golem.

Again, if this was an isolated thing I'd be like 'this is a clumsy writer trying to pull the old, stupid tricks to show how awful his villain is and while he should know better it's not a pattern', but this kind of poo poo is everywhere in this adventure and it's formed enough of a pattern that I'm comfortable saying this is a consistent problem. Also, I'm not going into huge detail on all the 'how to investigate this part' bits because frankly, none of them matter. Remember: You cannot actually solve the mystery early. In any case where you have any kind of a lead on Rolf, he will turn out to be a body double or vanish into the crowd. So all the asking around and stuff is wasting time. The stuff about Magdalena talks about how her family was unaware of her 'low morals' but all the servants were ashamed and disgusted with her because it wants to keep emphasizing, apparently, that she was a shameful woman who fornicates. Despite some evidence in this section that all points to Rolf, his father will back up his lies about being out with his dad when Magdalena died because his dad will back him up on anything. Any attempts to stake him out or follow him after this killing lead to failure.

On Day 3, Rolf kind of fucks up, which a better adventure would make your opportunity to make some progress. For one, he's now killed 2 people in 2 days, so people are starting to get suspicious and notice a pattern. Our next victim is Harmann Oztlowe, a beautiful man with a beautiful face whose wife doesn't trust him because he could have any woman he wants, so he often goes out to escape 'the shrill sound of his wife's voice, having long sickened of her face and accusations'. Shrill harpies next, huh? We already got bingo, thanks. Oztlowe, though, realizes he's being followed and slips into a public bar to get a drink and try to figure out who's following him, before he's killed. He actually sees Rolf, buys a drink with him (they know one another), and leaves with him; there are a shitton of witnesses to this. Then he goes missing. Given that there's a bunch of witnesses to 'Rolf Vogt was the last man seen with Oztlowe' and there was evidence pointing to Rolf on Day 2, a reasonable party is probably already planning how to tail or deal with Rolf at this point. But remember, if you do that! Body double, false leads, red herring, random encounter.

Day 4 is when Rolf just decides to kill Gabrielle if the PCs aren't watching her. Despite being a powerful Death Wizard, she's no match for him and is killed easily and spirited off in the night, losing the PCs the adventure. If they have thought to put guards on her room THIS SPECIFIC NIGHT ONLY, Rolf instead kills Elsbeth Becker and her entire household to punish her for helping the PCs. He draws loving Khorne runes all over the mansion after slaughtering *the entire staff* by himself, easily. He stopped to draw the runes using her own severed hand! 'Reporting this to the authorities will prove fruitless', the book says. So what happens if the players are guarding both their allies? Remember, someone like Otto or Katiya could take Rolf. Hell, Katiya can even outrun him in a chase, easily. No provision is made for the possibility. Nothing really comes of the mass slaughter, either, besides the locals starting to get nervous about a serial killer exactly the same way they do if a single wizard goes missing instead. There are no clues and no additional leads for finding Rolf in this section, despite the massive pile of evidence he just left.

On Day 5, a madman turns himself in for the murders and is executed as a scapegoat, reviving the city's celebrations. There's enough evidence to tell PCs the guy probably isn't the killer, not that they don't already have plenty of reason to hunt down Rolf instead at this point. Meanwhile, Rolf just kinda stumbles on a guy whose ears he likes and stabs him in an alley then runs away with them, with no real leads dropped, because this leads to Day 6.

Day 6 has the Grand Masquerade at the Countess's palace. PCs are expected to go there because it's a huge gathering of nobles, and the killer has been killing nobles. They are now allowed to catch Rolf. There's a bunch of NPCs to meet, all of them corrupt or wicked or cultists in their own right for the most part, and the PCs attend a masked ball and all, but their investigations don't do anything to let them stop Rolf killing his last victim: He goes after the man who replaced his father, stabbing him to death on an upper balcony and stealing his nose, then running off. For the first time in the adventure, if the PCs manage to follow Rolf, they'll corner and catch him, and reveal that it's Rolf. The guy they probably suspected 3 days ago. Maybe 4. He will fight to the death if cornered. Killing him here won't actually prevent anything, though; the cannon is still sabotaged by his dad, nothing you can do will prevent that. Plus, the golem is already ready, and Liebnitz/Lang or the fat butcher that works with Rolf will kill Gretyl the spy tomorrow where Rolf would've if you miss him on day 6 and complete the golem. If Rolf gets away, Randolf actually tries to warn the PCs (obliquely) about the sabotage, realizing his rival is dead anyway and he doesn't need to kill everyone. Nothing will happen. They also could've investigated his house to find detailed 'sabotagin' this cannon' poo poo, or talked to him and gotten suspicious, but no-one will listen to any of that. There's even a percentage table for how much of his time he spends sabotagin' that cannon. PCs cannot stake him out or catch him in his cannon sabotagin', no matter what.

On Day 7, the cannon explodes and kills hundreds of people and imperils a bunch of NPCs, up to and including the Countess depending on what the GM wants. The PCs make some agi tests to save named characters. That's...that's it. That's the bit that's so important that the cannon plot had to be un-solvable. That's the payoff. Just a shitload of dead random people and some Agi tests. Then, if the PCs didn't grind the sewers (we'll get into the sewers and other events later) the unrelated mutant uprising happens and the PCs fight a pretty easy encounter with chaff enemies and one Daemonette while more people die off-screen. As this is one of the only terrorist/lovely things you can stop in the entire adventure, I suppose this counts as a bad end. You could've stopped this by exploring the sewers for hours and fighting ten identical random encounters with 5 WS 31, SB 3, TB 3 unarmored cultists and a single Daemonette. Yes, ten. 'Or more, if you feel it's too easy'. Nothing like grinding trash mobs for the good end!

Anyway, after that, the final boss shows up: The Abomination. It's...considerably easier than the Beastman fight. Yes, it's WS 55, Attacks 4, SB 6, TB 5, Daemonic, and has 38 Wounds. You know what it doesn't have? Armor. It also has Instability, so if it takes any wounds in melee on a round where it whiffs or deals none, it tests WP or dies instantly. In my test fight with Brute Squad, they killed it in a single round of melee when they dodged its counters and it peaced out from Instability. That's the sanity-blasting final boss who is meant to be the climax of the campaign. If it kills onlookers or PCs equal to the number of PCs in the party, it dies and summons Xath, the ritual complete.

IF you end up fighting Xath somehow, you've already 'lost'; he'll be 'freed' even if you kill him. He's WS 70, SB 4, TB 4, has 2 Armor and Demonic, has 66 WP and Instability like the Abomination, 5 attacks, and 46 Wounds. His axe has a special rule where if he's Frenzying, his axe *also* hits for a Damage 2 Ignores Armor hit as well as its basic physical hit, which has a next-round DoT repeat unless you make an Agi test. He's...manageable. I ran out Brute Squad vs. Xath, and he had one critical flaw that let them kill him pretty easily. Well, two of them. Three, actually. One, he doesn't have Instant Frenzy the way the lovely Bloodletter did in book 1, so he has to spend round 1 working himself up. Two, he still has Instability, so if he takes any melee wounds on that first free round, there's a 34% chance he dies immediately. Three, he's alone and has only mediocre DR for how high level this all is. The team teaming up with each other still gives them +10 or +20 to hit him if 2 or 3 or more engage. Now, a weakened party that lost members to the Abomination will struggle with this a lot more, obviously. But Xathy is still beatable. This is also the only possible point a PC party ever actually interacts with the loving main villain of a 3 arc adventure path and you're not supposed to do it. Remember also: This chump is supposed to threaten entire armies or burn Nuln himself.

When it's all over, the cannon's explosion is described in detail as making the Countess lose any credibility she had with the Electors and life goes back to normal. You find the chalice by following the Abomination's path of destruction, and either fight Katarine over it or kill Lang as an afterthought over it, and then if Gabrielle is still alive you win and the campaign is over. No moral, no rewards. Third fate point, 1200 EXP.

There are other clues you can find and all, but again: They don't matter. The sword you found in the monastery ruin is Rolf's sword, but he stole another of the same make to cover up losing his so that lead dead ends. None of the things you do in the adventure will alter any part of this ending except saving Gabrielle by guessing Day 4 is the fatal day and grinding the mutant fights. If Gabrielle is dead, time to go find another way to kill the last bit of Xath. Unless you went with the sewer necromancer I mentioned, in which case Xath at the above stats will show up 'several adventures in the future' to attack you. The main villain is a loving afterthought and the weakness of the whole 'three shards' plot can be seen in how none of the three adventures really bothered with it.

So yeah, that's the canon Forges of Nuln. You spend 5 days investigating poo poo that won't matter or change things, maybe grind mutant fights in the sewers until you're bored, maybe catch the killer day 6 but it doesn't change anything if you do (Randolf gets blamed as an accomplice and hung if you catch Rolf, otherwise he tries to warn you about the cannon but nothing comes of it), the cannon always explodes, hundreds of people and part of the Great Bridge are always destroyed, then you fight a disappointing and boring final boss and win. Hooray for the thrilling conclusion!

This one is so bad, so instructively bad, that I want to devote time to going over how to fix this adventure. Thus, we won't be leaving it here. Join me next time, as Brute Squad goes over a better way this pile of poo poo could have gone.

Next Time: Timed Adventures


Dec 4, 2013

The Realm: Chapter 2 - The Machinery of Empire

The Realm's bureaucracy is the most massive in Creation and has been cheerfully helping enable its imperialism for centuries. It is divided into four sections; the magistracy, who administer the Empress's justice in her name; the Thousand Scales, which comprises all the myriad ministries the Realm has within itself; the All-Seeing Eye, who maintain its intelligence networks and act as secret police; and the Deliberative, who act as the Realm's legislative branch. I'm going to sound like a broken record here, but as it shockingly turns out, the Empress's efforts to make herself the Great Woman of all history has resulted in the various parts of the Realm's government being thrown out of wack, as we'll see.

The magistracy is wildly popular with the common folk, as they are all wandering Dragon-blooded heroes who serve to protect them from the corruption and wickedness of other Dragon-bloods (and acting as monster slayers on the side) in the name of the Empress. Each new appointment is eagerly watched to see what deeds they may do, and tales of the old guard linger throughout the years. If you're looking to play a Dragon-blooded character that isn't a horrible sneering imperialist/classist, a position as a magistrate may very well be a good fit for you.

The first magistrates were trusted colleagues from the Empress's days as a captain in the Shogun's armies. These individuals served as her proxies abroad, acting with her own authority. In time, she made the position official, with the stipulation that magistrates may never own wealth once appointed. This is to ensure that a magistrate cannot be corrupted; while Realm citizens are obligated to provide anything a magistrate requests within reason (food, shelter, clothing, armaments, and even artifacts should the situation demand it), they can't keep any of it. Thus, bribing a magistrate is generally a futile endeavor.

The magistracy holds authority over the Thousand Scales, which the ministries utterly loath. Magistrates are well known for disciplining the many grifters, tax cheats, embezzlers, and other overly ambitious individuals within the government. Now that the magistracy is bereft of the Empress's protection, many in the Thousand Scales are making moves within the shadows to take vengeance, and they are winning this war in the shadows.

Magistrates are untouchable by the law, save for acts of treason; only the Scarlet Empress may punish them. They operate independently, investigating whichever cause they deem important enough to require their attention: Assassinations in Dragon-blooded society, rumors of demon cults, corruption in the satrapies, and more. They mass pass judgment on any citizen, save for the matriarchs of the Great Houses (and the Empress, naturally), and may demand the services or cooperation of anyone. Those appointed to the ranks of the magistracy were chosen carefully by the Empress and were often chosen from those who had been disgraced or were on the outs with Dragon-blooded society; rebels, heretics, pariahs, and scapegoats were in high demand. The Empress would offer the competent among these a choice: serve, or resign yourself to whatever punishment you deserve. Not too many refused. Since magistrates have a bad rep with the Dynasty and the patriciate, marriage is far less likely for them than most Dragon-bloods (although it can still happen), allowing them to focus on the job.

As can be imagined, due to Immaculate propaganda making the Empress out to be a living saint, most are well pleased with serving her; after all, their quarrel lies with her idiot children, not her. This is my own interpretation of things, but it seems like this is a great way to get rid of potential rebellions by making former revolutionaries and people with the potential to do so into loyal servants of the Empire. While magistrates do good, they're never going to get to the root cause of the Realm's many flaws. In any case, magistrates are viewed as far better examples of the Dragon-blooded than the lazy idiots, corrupt hedonists, and predatory businessmen of the Great Houses. Rookie magistrates are given no formal training, but they almost always have gone through a secondary school of the Realm (learning martial arts at the Cloister of Wisdom or how to navigate the Realm's bureaucracy in the Spiral Academy probably helps a lot) and are often taken under the wing of a senior magistrate. As such, magistrates are usually intensely loyal to each other.

Each companion has their own scribe who writes down the many deeds they perform. Every five years, a magistrate would return to the Imperial Manse and detail in full the actions they have done to the Empress and the justifications for each, being rewarded or punished as she saw fit. Generally, punishment took the form of being assigned a much harsher route or task, to force the magistrate to make up for what they did. Conspiring with other governments against the Realm or serving an Anathema would result in the magistrate disappearing forever. Magistrates may hire servants called archons to aid in their work. Much like the magistrates, archons are usually skilled misfits and criminals; some are merely people who reached above the status society accorded them, while others involved themselves in disreputable business. In any case, the magistrate rescues such mortals from their fate in exchange for their services, although anyone may be an archon, so long as they consent and are not in the service of another Dragon-blood or Great House. Archons act on the magistrate's behalf, doing the tasks they request and acting with most of the same authority.

Archons usually serve to fill in the gaps in a magistrate's skillset; while a magistrate might be a peerless duelist, he many be hopeless at navigating the wilds, and thus request the service of a forester or hunter. Most are good at investigation and tracking in any case, learning from their commanding magistrate. Archons are, by law, required to die when their magistrate does. This is done to discourage treachery and encourage the archon to try their best at defending their magistrate. In practice, most archons quietly disappear and start a new life somewhere far off after their commander dies, and most authorities don't bother to hunt them down unless they become a nuisance. Archons share in the glory magistrates enjoy among the peasantry, being respected as reformed criminals easier to relate to then the holy Dragon-blooded. Some get just as famous as the magistrates. There's a nice little sidebar detailing an example archon's stats; the Storyteller is encouraged to mix things up and individualize a magistrate's retinue as they wish.

Romance is not exactly unheard of between archons and magistrates; hanging out with someone for a long time tends to breed friendship, and friendship sometimes becomes something more. Or, occasionally, they just want to gently caress because life as the Empress's law is pretty rough and it's a great way to reduce stress. Either way, this gets a mixed reception; it's not exactly something the Dynasts appreciate to see a Dragon-blooded mingle with mortals in that manner. Storytellers and bards go nuts for it, though. A veteran magistrate may have a dozen archons or more, and those who get about four or five start sending them out alone to cover more ground. Magistrates were generally free to roam, but told to examine certain hot spots of activity on their routes frequently. They used to like getting together with other magistrates, whether on mere social events or to collaborate on solving crimes, but now avoid that due to the fear of getting more of themselves killed in one go by their enemies. Day-to-day life is less exciting as stories tell; mostly, they just wander around through population centers and keep their ear to the ground until something interesting pops up.

Back in the day, the Empress would visit the worst punishments possible on anyone who dared impede a magistrate. Nowadays, magistrates are on the run, trying to do their duties while avoiding the knives drawn out by their many rivals in the Great Houses, the ministries, criminal organizations, and more. Many have went to the satrapies, hoping to avoid any assassin by means of sheer distance from the Isle. Others go on the offensive, seeking to root out those who would oppose them before they can strike. All fear coming back to the Imperial City to report their deeds, weighing whether potentially getting bumped off there or getting charged with dereliction of duty by postponing is worse. No new magistrate has been appointed since the Empress vanished, and thus they are a dying organization. Still, they are Dragon-blooded, so it's going to be one hell of a battle to get rid of them all.

The book graciously lists a few notable magistrates. Cathak Teneri Fanar was a legendary duelist and soldier, but botched a duel with the son of House Tepet's matriarch, resulting in his accidental death and thus getting herself charged with murder. The Scarlet Empress intervened, saving her life and ending a potentially nasty feud between the two military Houses. Ever since Tepet was beaten by the Bull of the North, Fanar concerns herself more and more with investigating the rumors that agents of the other Great Houses and the Imperial Service undermined Tepet's efforts against the Anathema. Tereya Vayu, a patrician, was considered to be a prodigy within the Imperial Treasury, until his embezzling was revealed by its head at the time, Bal Kesif. Nowadays, he puts his knowledge of the Realm's ministries to good use, rooting out corruption with them. He is currently focused on investigating tax collection within the Caretakers of the Common Folk. Coalbright, an outcaste legionnaire, had her forces destroyed by the Army of No Queen in the heated Battle of Five Bridges. She was made a scapegoat by her general and was rescued from a potentially nasty fate by the Empress. She has fled to the Threshold, wary of retaliation from the Houses, and has met up with the rogue legion of Saloy Hin. Ledaal Oraya used to be an honored Immaculate monk, serving well for over a century, but was ousted after being found in flagrante with a married Dynast. He considers the magistracy to be merely another way of serving the Immaculate Faith.

The ministries are the Empire's foundation, keeping it glued together. Of course, being the Realm, it's stuffed with overly ambitious backstabbers and Social Darwinists who crave the positions at the top, and corruption can be found in every branch. There are hundreds of ministries in the Realm, some merely comprising a single minister and her clerks, some spanning the Realm with thousands of employees, all focused on one specific task the Empire needs fulfilled. Its heart lies in the Imperial City, where most administration buildings reside near the Imperial Palace itself. Checks and balances are built into the system, designed by the Empress to make sure one ministry did not have too much control over its peers. The Humble and Honest Assessors of the Imperial Tax, but can't spend a yen of it without approval from the Treasury, and the Imperial Treasury relies on the Assessors to fill its vaults. This also results in useful redundancy; if a position is vacated by death, retirement, illness, or legal punishment, most functions can still be fulfilled while a replacement is found. Mergers occur occasionally, many overly similar bureaucracies merged into one more efficient ministry.

The patricians are forces to be reckoned with here. This is their territory, where they have worked for centuries and made connections all the while, and while their bosses may be Exalted Dynasts, they're not going to take poo poo from a mortal Dynast. Even Exalted Dynasts must play ball with the strongest patrician families, such as Bal, Rein, or Tereya. This reversal of fortune naturally delights the patriciate, and now that the Dynasts are trying harder than ever to muscle in on their territory, they're digging their heels in as hard as humanly possible.

To enter the Thousand Scales, one must pass the Nine Rigorous Examinations. These are held twice annually, once in the Imperial City and once in another city that varies from year to year. Anyone may take these exams, although travel papers and the cost of getting there are prohibitive to most peasants. The exams are exceedingly difficult, requiring much study and almost certainly a good tutor or teacher. A peasant that succeeds still requires a sponsor to have a change at getting a worthy position, and money to afford supplying her own paper, ink, and other tools needed for an office job. Thus, peasants most generally go in debt to patrician or Dynasts, owing them favors in exchange for a shot at a better life.

Advancement relies on connections and the ability to pass annual competency examinations to be considered for promotion. These examinations are mandatory every five years, but can be taken any year when offered. Vacancies can be immediately filled by a supervisor. Promotion to the highest ranks requires the Deliberative to vote, and several important positions have been deadlocked for years due to the decision now resting entirely in their hands. Assassination tends to be a common (but horrendously illegal) way of advancing; kill your boss and make sure her boss likes you, and you get a nice promotion. Most would-be killers delegate this to another person to maintain an alibi or make it look like an accident, since it's very obvious if someone in the ministries is stabbed to death that their subordinates are likely to blame. Of course, sometimes a junior minister's assassination scheme goes off without a hitch and oops, someone else gets appointed. Sometimes, more clever murderers kill their supervisor's boss, getting him promoted and then getting promoted to fill his place. Blackmail is obviously also employed; if it's not used to force a person to step down or step aside for a position, it's used to make rivals and potential snitches shut up. This strategy is getting harder, not because anyone cares to investigate, but because the Deliberative has been involving itself more and more in filling emergency vacancies.

The following list is not representative of every ministry, but these are the important/interesting ones, so they get a nice write-up while the Perfumed Inspectors of the Imperial City's Sewers don't.

The Imperial Treasury takes all tax and tribute into itself. Treasurers authorize all spending in the Imperial Service, which makes them rarely able to be beaten down. The Realm's wealth is kept within several manses, most near the Imperial Palace, each enchanted with a ludicrous amount of magical defenses; a would-be thief might avoid the mundane guards and then get beaten into a thin paste by a blood ape, or incinerated by stepping on a hidden glyph inscribed with an Ifrit's true name. Ironically, these security methods have resulted in several treasuries actually being unable to be accessed. Turns out leaving all your passwords with the Empress or extremely old people told not to write things down is a bad idea. Still, money is fake, so they just move it around anyways since it's still in the books. The Treasury also hands out loans to Dynasts or patricians who need capital to start a business. Some Treasurers have now started loaning themselves money under fake names and tax shelters.

Bal Keraz serves as the Empress' Exchequer. He's 180 years old, having inherited his position from his mom, Bal Kesif. Keraz has become immensely powerful now that several organizations rely on him for money (including the All-Seeing Eye) after the Empress vanished, and is firmly against all corruption. Indeed, the All-Seeing Eye has helped him to get his ministry in line, cowing some into submission, getting others executed. Still, corruption is sending the Treasury into deadlock as it hemorrhages money due to embezzlement within and embezzlement in other ministries meant to be giving money to the Treasury; incomes are one tenth of what they once were. Keraz anticipates that things will come to catastrophe in three years if severe budget cuts are not made.

The Humble and Honest Assessors of the Imperial Tax are supposed to be what feeds the Treasury, calculating and collecting taxes from every village, town, business, household, city, and estate in the Realm. Everyone dislikes them, so they tend to be quite good at fighting and investigating. Assessors can get entire communities dispossessed for holding out or failing to pay taxes; businesses and wealthy households pay their individually. Assessors now pocket more and more from what they collect, or are intimidated into giving what they gather to prefects by the Great Houses. The current head is Cathak Curul, who is an incorruptible and talented man who works with Bal Keraz to keep the Imperial Treasury funded despite everything. Many conspire to remove him from office, but he is a Cathak and thus incredibly proficient in combat.

The Wise and Knowledgeable Advisors of Foreign Tributaries, or more simply the Foreign Office, manage the satrapies. Every satrap and their staff belongs to it, although few ever enter its offices on the Blessed Isle. Reports are sent back to the Foreign Office from the Threshold, which are poured over by committees, as well as military advisors, who then send back recommendations to the satraps on how to proceed on screwing the holding out of its wealth without destabilizing it, or send teams when onsite advice and investigation is needed. Ledaal Arnis got the head position from her mother, and is getting increasingly more and more alarmed as satrapies ignore her advice; previously, she could have satrapies reassigned to different Houses if trouble seemed imminent, but now, she is seemingly powerless to stop incoming disasters.

The Curators of the Imperial Registry set the rules for every ministry, determining each's powers, jurisdiction, and so on. The original Registry itself is a beautifully illuminated and handwritten three-thousand plus page book, but only one the boss has the key to open the lock binding its cover. The Registry settles all legal disputes between ministries as the final say in the matter, sending interpreters to hear out both sides of an issue before reporting back to the Registry for adjudication. Each judgment is final and is added to a compilation of judgments for future use in judgments. Corruption is not tolerated; accepting a bribe results in an interpreter losing their hands and tongue, forced to wander the Realm with a plaque detailing their crimes hung around their neck, and those who bribed them lose their office or are executed. The Respected and Impartial Keeper of the Registry is Wave Akaru, who has run it for half a century and can recite the entirety of the Registry on her own. She makes sure that every ministry has an up-to-date copy of the Registry, which is an endless task since the drat thing changes every other month.

The Righteous and Implacable Courts of Imperial Justice manage the courts of every prefecture, hearing out criminal cases, labor disputes, and other issues. The Black-Helms generally are responsible for charging people with most crimes, and as such the system can be bogged down if some are overzealous, and other times lose out on things that should have went to court due to bribery. A judge acts as prosecutor as well as a judge, questioning defendants and witnesses directly. Lawyers are not allowed in court; defendants are on their own. Verdicts are informed by precedent and Imperial law. Sentencing ranges from fines, beatings, enslavement, dispossession, exile, or execution. Magistrates can overturn rulings on their own evidence and their decisions cannot be reviewed by other courts. The Empress' Own Court handles appeals of capital crimes for Dynasts, patricians, and outcastes. Three judges handle the case, and one is almost always from House Peleps. Judges are usually Spiral Academy and Outer Coil graduates and are appointed by the Deliberative.

Here a few ministries that don't get full write-ups. The Empress' Private Purse handles the production of paper money, while the Imperial Treasury handles jade. It is run by Cirrus Jezan, whose utter contempt of the Dynasty prevents it from being suborned by the Houses. The Bursars of Barbarian Tribute take in tribute of silver to the Realm, and its leader, Tereya Motas, is paying the Guild under the table to get her family a private mercenary army in the war to come. The Illustrious Compilers of the Perfected Curriculum organize the Realm's primary school curriculums and secures funding for its secondary schools, save for the Cloister of Wisdom (funded by the Immaculates) and the Heptagram (privately funded). Ravine Dal is utterly senile, and thus her staff does all the work for her. The Devoted Wardens of the Empressí Wilderness manages unleased tracts of wilderness and put game animals in forests for the Dynasty's pleasure, as well as preventing forest fires, managing natural disasters, punishing poaching, and issueing hunting licenses. It's run by Iselsi Shenesh, the only Iselsi left with a high position in government and a suspected members of the All-Seeing Eye.

The Honorable and Humble Caretakers of the Common Folk, or the Home Office for short, ensure the prefectures are doing their jobs, making sure taxes are collected and the peasantry does not starve. They oversee maintenance of all public works, including the Realm Defense Grid and the other defenses of the Realm, and manage the Black-Helms. They audit prefects over the taxes they collect, a task that's becoming more and more difficult. The previous division head (~*The Just and Magnanimous Custodian*~) was Sesus Sereda, but she got killed a year after the Empress disappeared and her seat is deadlocked in the Deliberative. Bal Keraz and Cathak Curul have stepped in to help, advising senior officials on what to do.

The Stewards of Imperial Assets are the guys the Caretakers leave in charge of actually maintaining all public works. Everything from sewers to roads to the manses that power the Realm Defense Grid is their job to keep up. They have their own builders and engineers, but usually contract things out to private companies, which causes furious (and sometimes, actually violent) bidding to ensue. The Home Office's disarray has hampered the Stewards; reporting is delayed, and as such Stewards will show up to assess a site and find its in even worse condition than it was when the problem was first reported. Money has become harder to come by, and thus laborers are cheaper and less skilled; the Stewards focus on the Realm Defense Grid and not much else these days. Rose Adal, a mortal patrician, has been in the position for long decades after her predeccesor was poisoned. She's a leading authority on geomancy, and many Great Houses are trying to pick her brain on what exactly she knows about the Sword of Creation.

More quick write-ups! The Diligent Monitors of the Diffusion of Divine Essence keep track of all Dragon-blooded lineages, marking births, deaths, and marriages in its ledgers. It is run by Sesus patsy Yanaz Ujara, who is currently shutting out House Nellens' scions out of the ministry. The Fastidious Keepers of the Imperial Peace manages travel in the Realm, issuing peasants their permits and checking caravans and boats for contraban, and is a great place to go if you wanna get bribed constantly. It is led by Kunon Fen, who secretly worships Asquin Zal, the god of territorial borders, in a shrine he keeps inside his office. The Infallible Conveyors of Official Messages and Heartfelt Expressions are much more easily referred to as the Imperial Post. I've gone over them already. Nellens Junaj runs this ministry, but his House wishes he were a little more corruptible, as so far he doesn't abuse his own position. The Ministry of Prehistoric Recollection and Antiquities is tiny and understaffed, and generally manages shoving potentially dangerous artifacts and dumping them into private dungeons, but Houses Ragara and Ledaal are more than willing to buy tips as to where these are and get them first. Its head, Mnemon Korame, hasn't been seen in months, but most assume she's just locked in her quarters, studying.

The Sagacious and Scrupulous Registrars of Sorcerous Puissance maintain the White Registry, which details every sorcerer in the Realm; any sorcerer on it is a known quantity, since it's pretty easy to infiltrate this ministry and take a copy. No sorcerers are allowed to join, although some serve as advisors on matters most magical. Each sorcerer in the Registry has an Obligation, a single formal task the Empress or Deliberative could call on at any time (and the Deliberative is cashing them all in now). Rein Melana is the current Warden of the White Registry, and is currently being gifted and bribed by Deliberative members on what capabilities each sorcerer in the Registry has, and by sorcerers who want her to say that actually, they suck and should never be called on ever. A few sorcerous societies are detailed; the Sorcerers of the Scarlet Throne were the Empress' court sorcerers, but now waste their times arguing with each other; the Cabal of Righteous Midwives provide their services in producing children via sorcery to infertile or same-sex couples for a steep price; and the Watchers, who punish reckless demon summoning and are very secretive boogeymen among other sorcerers.

The Righteous and Accountable Ministry of Weights and Measure handles, well, weights and measurement. It inspects scales used in ministries and mercantile work to keep tax cheats from rigging them, and makes sure all construction uses proper measurements. It also measures territorial boundaries for tax purposes, measures coinage and paper money, and tests the purity of satrapal silver tributes. Its corrupt as all hell, being decentralized and easy to grift in. ~*The Keeper of Perfected Measures*~ is a Peleps-fostered outcaste by the name of White Sage. She tried to stamp out corruption and got a needle full of deadly paralytic toxin stabbed into her for it, which has left her extremely paranoid and with a nervous tic. She has now begun ousting officials within the ministry on claims that they are Great House spies, but only she knows the reasons why.

The Splendid and Just Arbiters of Purpose are in charge of collecting and taking care of all the Realm's lost eggs, those Dragon-bloods that Exalt outside of the Dynasty. They bring outcastes with them (in the case of slaves, buying them from their masters and then immediately emancipating them) to the Obsidian Mirror, where they are given remedial education. Patrician outcastes are technically under their jurisdiction, but in practice, most patricians handle their outcaste issues with the Great Houses. Wards are taught to unlearn their old ways and to embrace being a Prince of the Earth, and are then given the choice between the razor (becoming an Immaculate monk forever) or the coin (being sent to Pasiap's Stair for further training and then to become a legion officer for 50 years). Agama Orir is a former ward of the Arbiters and now serves as the Master of Orphans after a successful military career. He has a mortal wife and two kids, but is loving his former commanding officer, Tepet Kyvul. Due to this affection for the Tepets, he's been steering outcastes towards rebuilding Tepet's legions, which makes the Great Houses who wish Tepet to stay dead pissed off. Movements have been made to abolish the arbiters and to let Great Houses adopt lost eggs themselves, but House Mnemon has prevented this due to not really wanting to dilute its bloodline with outcastes that it has to take on, and to prevent other Houses from getting those outcastes.

Next time: the All-Seeing Eye, the Deliberative, and cold hard cash.

Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.
I admit, I skipped a lot of the runaround in Forges. But that's because that's what it is: A runaround. Writing paragraphs about the dice rolls, skills, and approaches players can take to a problem the designer has already decided they can't solve yet/at all is a waste of your time and mine.

E: I should also mention there is literally one event I kind of like: When you're investigating the sword before that lead dead-ends, one of the other guys a similar sword was made for came home from the war and got super, super into Sigmar and left the knighthood to preach. If you accidentally get him in on the investigation, he goes and gets those chucklefuck Ordo Fidelus guys from Ashes and they come back and make a hash of investigating, again. They whip up a popular panic and rioting and suspicion and killing in the streets. I'd like it a bit better if he mentioned his friends from the 'faithful order' and PCs had a chance to remember that and go 'Oh, gently caress, no, not those idiots!' and turn him down but I do kind of like Hoffer, Bauer, and Fischer being available to fall down the stairs and gently caress up again.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 21:38 on May 30, 2019

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Fangs at the Gate: Moonipulation

Manipulation: Heartís Blood! Argent Tricksterís Rook lets you sacred hunt a human by challenging them to a game of chance of some kind and convincing them to stake their shape as a wager. You donít have to convince them you can actually take it, and you can use vague language, metaphor or half-truth. Your own wager must be something the target would consider equal in value to the theft of their form. If you win, which you can cheat to do as long as you donít get caught, you gain their form and the hunt ends. Your target must be playing to win. If they win or they catch you cheating, the hunt fails and you canít try this hunt on them again this story, though other hunts still work.

Manipulation: Influence! Fox-Tailed Tricksterís Grace lets you make a Manipulation-based instill roll against all witnesses that belong to the relevant culture when you violate a custom or social norm. Anyone that it succeeds on will rationalize a reason not to punish, reprimand or think worse of you for it, and cannot form or strengthen negative Ties towards you or weaken positive ones based on your transgression. Resisting this requires a Decision Point and a Major or Defining Intimacy. It will not, however, prevent legal consequences, just the social stigma. A Manip 3, E2 repurchase lets targets choose not to even try to resist the roll, and you know if they decide to do this. You can pay Willpower to give them a bonus to their attempts to convince others to ignore violation of the same custom or argue against the custom within the next few days.

Uncertain Sky Ambiguity lets you make a special Manipulation-based instill roll with a bonus. If you succeed, targets doubt the truth of a specific fact of your choice, and that doubt can be leveraged as a Major Intimacy for the rest of the scene. Anyone presented with direct evidence of the factís truth can resist this without Willpower spending, and anyone with an Intimacy about believing the fact can treat it as unacceptable influence (so a Tie of loyalty will keep someone from doubting if they serve the Tieís target, but you could make them doubt if they heard an order correctly). Wayward Pariah Infliction works similarly, but instead makes the target believe theyíre secretly distrusted and scorned by other members of a culture they belong to, temporarily reducing the effects of positive Ties towards members of that culture or the culture proper, and giving a penalty to influence and read intentions rolls against members of the culture, all of which last until a member of the culture convinces them theyíre welcome in it. If youíre in a human shape that belongs to that culture, they get a Resolve penalty against your roll.

Commanded to Fly can be used when you are hit by a Psyche effect or other mind-affecting curse. It still works, but you add a stipulation or condition to the thing it compels you to do, equivalent to an inconvenient or serious task. The condition canít directly contravene the control, but can make it harder for you to do or later the intended outcome. However, it canít be a condition thatíd let you ignore the influence as unacceptable. You may use this once per story. Coyote-Laughing Hilarity lets you oppose someoneís influence roll with a Manipulation roll. If you win, your reaction convinces all other affected targets that the original personís intent was sarcastic, ironic or humorous, inverting its effect. Thus, an instill roll accusing you of misdeeds builds positive Ties as it is taken for praise, while an inspire roll to calm a crowd angers them. The influence still affects you as normal if it lands, however, unless you use the Charm Whispering Silver Serpent. Whispering Silver Serpent convinces you that one of your lies is actually true, and for the rest of the scene, all read intentions or profile character checks canít reveal any evidence you lied, nor can mind-reading. This can even contest lie-detecting magic such as Judgeís Ear Technique, forcing a roll between you and the user.

Manipulation: Guile! Anemones Conceal Clownfish is quite nice, because it lets you boost an allyís Guile when you see them getting targeted by something that opposes Guile. If used to boost your Solar mate, you also give the Mute keyword to any Essence they spend to boost their own Guile. Forgotten Self Wisdom lets you conceal part of yourself by taking the form of another. When you assume a human or animal shape, you can suppress an Intimacy that is not compatible with impersonating that shape. While suppressed, it cannot be detected by any means except people extrapolating from your behavior, canít modify your Resolve or justify persuade actions against you, and canít be used in Decision Points. You can use this multiple times to suppress multiple Intimacies at once, but it ends if you change shape again, and if you end it and then in the same scene use the Intimacy you had sealed to boost your Resolve or in a Decision Point, you canít use this Charm again for the rest of the day. Labyrinth of the Beast can be used when you successfully resist with Guile and the other character rolls at least one 1. The other character believes they succeeded, but instead of the truth, you reveal to them an animal drive of your choice, such as hunger, aggression or lust, and they ignore you for the rest of the scene unless you draw their attention by your actions. If you are in an animal shape, you can use this even on a successful read intention check from another character if it had a 1 in it, and they see you just as a normal animal.

River Reflects Desire works like Labyrinth of the Beast, but the victim sees what they most desire to see. A merchant prince might see you as someone who can be bought, while an Anathema-hunting monk might think you both know the true identity of the Anathema and want to help. Silver Mask Subversion lets you replace your own personality and Intimacies with those of a human whose shape you take on and whom you have a Tie to, or an animal shape. Your Intimacies are replaced by theirs for the duration, or a set the GM rules are appropriate to the person or animal in question. You can act against your normal Intimacies freely without penalty, but canít use them defensively, either, and they canít be detected by read intentions checks and so on. You retain your memories, but they distort to fit your new identity, and any that canít be made to fit are repressed for the duration. You may still act on your true motives, but your altered memories or Intimacies may change how you do so. You are not aware you are a shapeshifter, and cannot voluntarily shapeshift, but you can still use Charms, Evocations and spells, though you may be surprised by your ability to do so. You can define a condition that will end this Charm if met, such as hearing a phrase or a certain amount of time passing. You canít otherwise voluntarily end it until the story ends or you witness a threat to your Solar mate or one of your true Major or Defining Intimacies.

Manipulation: Subterfuge! Falling Leaf Distraction lets you use special voice harmonics to captivate people, making a special Manipulation-based instill roll that ignores multiple target penalties. Anyone you succeed against is drawn in by your speech, and for as long as you keep speaking, which you may do reflexively, they get a penalty to Awareness or Investigation checks opposed by Larceny or Stealth, except against you. This cannot be resisted with Willpower unless failing such a roll would threaten a Major or Defining Intimacy. In an animal shape, you instead distract anyone that can see you with unusual or cute antics. Night Sky Burial hides your crimes as blameless events, boosting a conceal evidence check. Anyone that fails an Investigation roll thinks they succeeded but discover clues consistent with your choice of: a crime of opportunity committed by petty criminals or undesirables, the actions of wild animals, a crime committed by spirits, fae or other inhuman beings, a freak accident of nature, or the actions of someone with authority over either the victim or investigator. A repurchase at Manip 5, E2 lets you mislead investigators even if they donít fail the roll, causing them to find both the false clue and the real evidence you left. They know the two donít match but canít tell which is fake. You may use this additional effect only once per story.

Candle-Eating Rat Trick lets you swallow the light. When you spend at least 5 motes with the Mute keyword and your anima is Dim, you extinguish all lights other than anima banners out to Medium range, or a single light source within Long range, your choice. Magical light sources relight after the scene ends, but mundane ones must be relit normally. You may do this only once per scene. If used with the Charm Clouds Cover Moon to keep people from noticing the extinguishing is not a normal, natural event, you only need one activation to cover all of the lights. If your spirit shape is Tiny or Minuscule, you can learn this via Dexterity. Reflection-Shattering Stroke can be used when you incapacitate someone with a Decisive attack while their reflection can be seen on any surface. You prevent the victim from dying, instead killing their reflection before their eyes, causing them to gain a Defining Tie of fear towards you or your current shape. Mortals permanently lose their reflection; Exalts and supernatural beings regain it when the story ends. You can pull the slain reflection into the world with a Willpower, creating a mirror-reversed corpse of your victim with mundane replicas of any equipment they were carrying. Detecting the reflected nature requires a Perception check with a sizable penalty.

Inchoate Self Realization can be used during any scene where you are not present. You reveal that a human or animal present is actually you, retroactively gaining its heartís blood via sacred hunt. This can only be used to replace narratively unimportant characters who are not Exalts or spirits of any kind. So in a court, you canít replace the prince or vizier retroactively, but one of the guards is fine, or a nearby dog, as long as itís a form youíre able to take. For the rest of the scene, no one can roll to read your intentions, profile you or spot your Tell Ė your mere presence is proof you deceived them all. Only Eye of the Unconquered Sun or similarly potent magic can reveal your deception. This is all your skill at infiltration Ė the GM may rule itís implausible if, say, the scene is one where the guards of a Dragon-Blood fortress are strictly on the lookout for shapeshifters, and require you to make a Manipulation check with difficulty based on the quality of their precautions, with failure meaning you canít use this Charm, and success meaning you have to explain how you got in. you may use this only once per story. An E5 repurchase if you have the Charm False Moonrise Phantasm means you can use this Charm even if youíre already present in the scene, revealing that the person who seemed to be you was actually someone youíd passed off as your perfect duplicate at some point in the last round and you are someone else per the normal rules for this Charm. This can be used to evade an attack even after damage is rolled, but doing so requires a Manipulation check as above.

Next time: Perception

Oct 29, 2011

I think I posted back when you started the adventure path review that I was looking forward to seeing how it ended as my group had given up midway through Part 3. Reading this makes me glad that we didnít finish it. I think we got to Day 3 or 4, possibly 5 before giving up. It was partly due to outside circumstances but enthusiasm had definitely waned considerably due to not having any leads or way to proceed with the investigation. We suspected it was Rolf nearly immediately but had no way of confirming it or not.

Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.

Miltith75 posted:

I think I posted back when you started the adventure path review that I was looking forward to seeing how it ended as my group had given up midway through Part 3. Reading this makes me glad that we didnít finish it. I think we got to Day 3 or 4, possibly 5 before giving up. It was partly due to outside circumstances but enthusiasm had definitely waned considerably due to not having any leads or way to proceed with the investigation. We suspected it was Rolf nearly immediately but had no way of confirming it or not.

He's incredibly, extremely suspicious and obvious. But yeah, you didn't miss much. Also now you know every lead was designed to dead-end so that you couldn't possibly catch him until Day 6 anyway.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 00:37 on May 31, 2019

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Creating a Vislae Character


Creating a character involves a number of steps,
and at each step, you must make choices. This
process isnít just to determine how hardy your
character is and how many skills and spells they
can use. Itís also to develop a character with a
background, a personality, and goals. A character
with a life.
Everything in the Invisible Sun game revolves
around the characters and their character arcs,
so characters are intricate and complex, just like
real people. Developing a characterís background,
home, connections, rivals, and so onóall of which
are called a characterís foundationóis such an
important part of the game that the first session
is always a group experience where all such
information is created. In other words, a player
creates their character, but the group helps create
the context around that character in a formal (and
fun) process that begins a narrative

I wanted to post that becauseÖ god, does this game not do that. I hope I can transmit just how bloated and awkward this entire process is. Oh wait, I know I can, because before we get to any rules we get to learn about The Testament and the Vertula Kada! God drat this is stupid.

Ok so, all Vislae who are part of an Order carry with them The Testament of Suns, which is a symbolic representation of their connection to the Invisible Sun and describes a Vislaeís individual nature.

Yes, it is in fact that stupid plastic hand thatís in the box. Why is there a plastic hand in the box? It holds cards. Like, it literally is for displaying cards. Weíll get to that nonsense later though.

So, just assume all wizards are carrying thisÖ hand statue around with them. I guess? Thereís no indication that it can be any other representation of a 6 fingered hand, so I guess you just have an awkward statue in your pocket at all times.

Each finger represents an aspect of your character:
TORÖ Order!
DAÖ Heart!
TUÖ Forte!
KAÖ Soul!
LAÖ Foundation!

Apostates, not belonging to an Order, do not use this. Instead they use the Vertula KadaÖ

Because Monte Cook didnít learn from Sword of Truth not to make your magical items look like sex toys.

Anyway, this all is a completely pointless excuse to make the fact that you have a Cypher Sentence to make.


Once character creation is complete, each vislae can
be described in a sentence: ďI am a blank blank of the
Order of blank who blanks.Ē Four of the characterís
aspects determine the parts of that sentence. So a
character is a [FOUNDATION] [HEART] of the Order
of [ORDER] who [FORTE].

If youíve ever played or read a Cypher System game, you know this already.

So, because the testament of suns has 6 fingers, you make the character in 8 steps! Yeah, that actually is a thing:


With the Testament in mind, you create a vislae in six
steps, listed below. Some of the steps are simple, and
others are involved. All exist so that you can develop
a deep and dynamic character. Six is the number of
death and is generally regarded as ill-favored, so we
shall include a seventh step, which involves the bonds
a character has with their closest friends. But seven is
the number of change and transition, and eight is the
number of rebirth and new beginnings (and in so many
ways, vislae returning from Shadow are, in a very real
sense, experiencing rebirth). So there are, in fact,
eight steps to character creation that we will number 0
through 7. (0 is numbered as such because it is optional
and exists outside the aspects of a character, dealing
more with the player.)
You can do steps 0 through 4 on your own,
although doing them in conjunction with the game
master (GM) is not a bad idea. Steps 5 through 7
should be done in conjunction with the other players,
and will likely be handled when you get together for
the first session of the game. Steps 1 through 7 all
have their own dedicated chapters in this tome to
help guide you through the choices involved.
Step 0: Choose a roleplaying style.
Step 1: Choose an order.
Step 2: Choose a heart.
Step 3: Choose a forte.
Step 4: Choose a soul.
Step 5: Build a foundation.
Step 6: Choose a character arc.
Step 7: Create bonds and an initial group

I wanted to include that in full because, god loving drat why did you feel the need to justify the number of steps in character creation using LORE.

OK so letís go through these. So, Step 0? Yeah itís not actually a step. No no, itísÖ itísÖ itís just loving GNS theory. Step 0 is you pick if youíre a Builder, Explorer, Attainer or Achiever! This signals to the GM what kind of game youíre interested in! The game is designed to hit all four kinds of player though, and in fact I have no idea how you would play this and not include them. Oh, each one is literally just: Do you want to make and change stuff in the setting? Do you want to see knew stuff and learn about the setting? Do you want to get more stuff and level up? Do you want to play out stories? Itís GNS with a new coat of paint, everyone knows it, moving on.

Step 1: Choose an Order
This is actually the real start of making a character. Orders are, in essence, your splats, your classes, they are your main mechanical THING. They are also terrible, but, the exact reasons why Orders are loving bullshit will have to wait until the Magic Book. Letís just say now that every one has a completely unique magic system. The Orders are: the Vance, The Weavers, The Makers, the Goetics, and the Apostates are their own thing. Want to know more detail? Too bad, those are in another chapter on their own. Weíll get to them when I get to the Orders chapter which is after the Character Creation Rules. Thatís true for every one of these steps.

Step 2: Choose a Heart
I actually had to skip ahead to understand what this was because itís so vague. Your ďheartĒ is your essence, according to the game. What it actually is, is a vague personality type, and your starting stat and skills. Itís literally just you picking a stat array and what your beginner skills are, there are four: Galants, Stoics, Empaths, and Ardents.

Step 3: Choose a Forte
OK these are your class independent special abilities. Theyíre in every Cypher system game, Numenera calls them Verbs, whatever. Itís a dumb descriptive phrase like ďFuses Nightmare to FistĒ or ďChannesl Strength and SkillĒ which sounds evocative but is basically a prestige class sorta thing with a lot of mechanics stuffed in.

Step 4: Choose a Soul
Right so, every Vislae have an allegience to one of 13 Secret Souls governed by the Magisterium, and each has a Soul Guardian that a vislae can call upon for a price. What does this mean? gently caress if I know. But looking aheadÖ oh my god. OK so, this is just your Star Sign from an Elder Scrolls game. Not even joking, it is LITERALLY the same as picking your star sign in Elder Scrolls. Goddamn. Itís basically your Zodiac Sign, you get an evocative name, some personality traits common to that Soul you pick, and each one comes with a minor and situational special ability.

Step 5: Build a Foundation
Right so thisÖ this is more of the ďOK time to fill out all the rest of the sheet!Ē step that every game has, where you fill out name and such.

I have no idea if this has hard mechanics behind it, but Iím guessing so because goddamn does Monte love sticking hard math behind everything.

Step 6: Choose a Character Arc
So this ties into the advancement mechanics. WhichÖ Iíll explain when we get to that part. But as far as I can tell (I know more than Iím saying, but Iím pretending I donít for entertainment purposes, shush, itís theatere) itís a sort of ďMake a goal for yourself, do the goal and get XPĒ system. Oh, but of course, itís not called XP, itís called ďAcumen and CruxĒ whichÖin a bit. Later on down this post.

Step 7: Form Bonds
Right class! Everyone partner up and write a little story about why you like the other person! You know how this works, itís Bonds from Dungeon World or any number of other systems. You write down a relationship you have with at least one other PC, binds the group together, etcetera.

Character Creation Concepts
OK soÖ this is a clear example of how loving terrible the idea to split the game up into four+ disconnected books is. See, you canít really make decisions about making a character without knowing the system, but the system is a completely separate book, so have some vague cliffs notes explanations of the mechanics now so you arenít totally lost. I am going to faithfully transmit this information, and if you get really confused congrats! Thatís the intended experience, Iím not helping you out with More Information, because Monte Cook doesnít think you deserve it.

Acumen and Crux
These areÖ sorta XP? You get them for doing stuff and for experiencing things. Crux are divided into Joy and Despair, and one of each equals one Crux. You get Joy and Despair, and therefore Crux, when good and bad things happen to you. Gotta have good AND bad things happen. Acumen you getÖ well it doesn't say. Crux increases your Order and Forte, while Acumen is spells, secrets, and skills. No, you donít get to know more, thatís all thatís here, wait till later!

Venture and Challenge
When you try to do something, the GM assigns it a challenge, from 0 to 10+. Not, ďif you do something riskyĒ, if you do anything.

ďGotta engage with the mechanics!Ē

Anyway, challenge is how hard something is to do. The player puts forth a venture, which is the total amount by which you modify the action. Subtract Venture from Challenge. If your Venture would lower Challenge to 0 you donít have to roll. If the result is 1 or higher, thatís what you need to roll on your die to succeed. No, I donít know yet (in this context of me pretending not to know poo poo) what die you roll.

Spells Are magical workings. They have levels, high spell level=more powerful spell. TO cast spells spend itís level in points from your Sorcery stat pool (nope, no idea what that is yet). Spells are not the only kind of magic, there are also cantrips, charms, signs, hexes, enchantments, rituals, and invocations. Nope, no idea what the difference between all those are, but boy thatís a lot of Stuff!


Iím just posting this so you can see how useless this is. Iím assuming Secrets are the catch all for special abilities that donít fit anywhere else. Or they may just be loving Feats again, who knows.

Damage is inflicted in Injuries. When you get 3 Injuries (3 points of Damage) they become a Wound or an Anguish, depending on if physical or mental Injuries. If you get 3 Wounds or Anguish you die. I have no idea how bad this is, but it feels like this game could get very Rocket-Tagg-y with these sorts of numbers.

Ephemera and Objects of Power
Itís Magic Items/Cyphers/Numenera/Whatevers. Ephemera are one-shot, Objects of Power have multiple uses or are permanent, you are limited in how many you can carry, rules are in another book, gently caress you.

Sooth Deck
Oh god this loving thing. This is one of the most stupid, pain in the rear end, penny pinching, loving nickel and dime busywork bullshit systemís Iíve ever seen in an RPG. gently caress sooth cards, goddamn. OK these dontí get really explained until Another Book ô But theyíre basically lovely Tarot Cards that give bonuses and penalties to magic.

Thatís it for character creation! Most of the rest of this is explaining the options more. Yes, I am going over them, no you donít get to learn the system any, gently caress you says Monte Cook! This is the Recommended Reading Order!

Next Time: Cortez and Quaaludes, Bene Gesserit, and Pool Parties

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements

Thank you so much Wapole. This is incredibly bad and exactly what I hoped for.

I can't think of a single dumber 'every character must have this' from any RPG than 'a big six-fingered hand statuette with no earthly use or functional way to carry it, carried at all times.'

Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.
I assign a 0 to this chicken sandwich, and you may eat it without risk nor resorting to secrets or the sooth deck.

Had I assigned a 2, disaster could have befallen thee!

The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007

The question I have re Invisible Sun is: Why not play Unknown Armies instead?

Jun 14, 2015

slime time

The Lone Badger posted:

The question I have re Invisible Sun is: Why not play Unknown Armies instead?

I get the impression that magic in UA isn't a power fantasy/all about sticking it to the muggles.

Just Dan Again
Dec 16, 2012

That last piece of art looks really cool, but it could have been from literally any of the Cypher games. Numenera, The Strange, and Invisible Sun all have settings that are so completely wide open in terms of what's possible, that they're ultimately only separated by broad themes and metaphysics.

I get that you could probably cram "huge magic city with floating buildings and big robot guards" into any number of settings, but I feel like Cook's games don't have their own aesthetic. It makes me appreciate games that have a tighter focus.

Dec 4, 2013
Yeah, Monte Cook is pretty loving good at finding quality artists. Shame about everything else.

The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007

Leraika posted:

I get the impression that magic in UA isn't a power fantasy/all about sticking it to the muggles.

UA magic is a terrible idea that you're doing anyway because you have brain problems.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

Rifts Coalition Wars 4: Cyber-Knights, part 7- "In fact, his old teammates, The Defilers, used to tease and razz Coake about the number of magic items he used for his adventuring, saying that he actually 'glowed' at night from the magic he carried."

"Christian? No, I'm from another world, I just appreciate your exotic mysticism."

Lord Coake
Founder of the Cyber-Knights

So, talking about Lord Coake really has to start with the Defilers. You see, the Defilers were Siembieda's original Palladium Fantasy group, and despite their odd name, they're often spoken of in reverential tones in Palladium products as great heroes. You may wonder why they're called "the Defilers". Well, this ballad from The Palladium Fantasy RPG explains it all. Kind of. I guess?

The Palladium Role-Playing Game posted:

The Defilers of Beelzebub - 1979-1981 Abzerdra and Arksam,
John, XarXar, Bunny, Bane, Rowmock, Coake the Mysterious, Lt. Death, Nameless One Jr., Feandr, Daniel, Nexine and Phillip the Axe, Glorbath, Prince, K K, Perfone, Lucifer Deeth, Doctor K

One thing that is curious about the Defilers is that they have a fair number of characters that look like they would be perfectly at home in Rifts, despite coming roughly a decade before it. Presumably, dimensional travel was an aspect of Siembieda's personal games for awhile. There's also oddities like the bunny named Bunny. I presume Lord Coake is the guy with the helm and the shield and armor, about a fourth from the left. And so, Lord Coake is one of those original characters. Coake's player went on to become a Palladium staffer, but... well. I'm going to leave that a mystery for now. Don't worry, I'll reveal the face behind Coake before the end.

In any case, Coake was a Palladium Ranger at first - mind, that pretty much just means being a wilderness warrior, not having spells, an animal companion, or other trappings of the D&D Ranger. A misspoken wish from a colleague apparently made him immortal or at least extremely long-lived. Eventually, he retired from active adventuring, forming a legion of rangers. He isn't sure how he ended up on "The Earth", but has traveled through dimensions in the past and was able to adapt pretty quickly. He sees his role here as likely guided by the gods, and formed an army to battle demons that eventually became the Cyber-Knights. He's noble and tolerant and seemingly given to giving speeches and spouting sayings, and all of his NPC description is self-written.

He's a 15th level Cyber-Knight with stats that make me wonder how Siembieda originally handled rolling attributes, because he had to make at least six rolls of at least 16 on 3d6. In addition, he's probably higher level than he ever got to see in play, based on Siembieda's earlier anecdotes. He's got a bunch of magic items converted over from Palladium Fantasy, like a Belt of Ogre Supernatural Strength, Speed Boots, and 300 M.D.C. Techno-Wizard armor. His two swords, Long Tooth and The Joker's Ace, are only potent weapons thanks to his boosted strength, though he does have farcical combat bonuses due to stacking magical weapon bonuses. Also we get numbers for Wild Wind, his bestest and most friendshipiest Psi-Pony friend. Ultimately, he feels like a long-time PCs with all the crufted-on goodies that implies.

We also get numbers and art for the characters from the short story "Dreams" at length, including their codgery mentor I didn't even bring up. There aren't many surprises to them you couldn't intuit from the story itself, but if you want their numbers, here they are.

Oh, and Coake? He was the character belonging to Steve Sheiring. The fact that one of the moral centers of the Rifts universe turns out to be the worst "villain" in Palladium's real-life history is... well...


Next: Killstealers.

Nov 19, 2010
Seconding the art; what I'm seeing of Invisible Sun is just as fantastical and out there as the art from Numenera (either edition). It's loving gorgeous stuff.

Then Invisible Sun kinda just trips and falls flat on its face at the starting gate. I know Numenera has its problems with death spirals and GM intrusion, but at least it told you fifteen loving pages into Numenera: Discovery "Roll 1d20 vs. a set target number to succeed at narratively-important tasks." Where the hell does Invisible Sun tell you how to resolve tasks?

(DISCLAIMER: I have no real issue with Numenera's GM intrusions, but the one and only time my group played it, I was the GM, and the only intrusion I wound up doing was steering the group's fighter glaive to a different building in a city.)

Lambo Trillrissian
May 18, 2007

The Lone Badger posted:

UA magic is a terrible idea that you're doing anyway because you have brain problems.

So what you're saying here is that playing Invisible Sun will give me magic powers?

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements

Lambo Trillrissian posted:

So what you're saying here is that playing Invisible Sun will give me magic powers?

The Montemancer, drawing magic from the paradox of only playing games that are only fun when you ignore the rules, written setting, and intended style, but still founding your identity on them and obsessing over their texts.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

The Lone Badger posted:

UA magic is a terrible idea that you're doing anyway because you have brain problems.

UA magic is what you do when when you want to change the world too much to appreciate your mental or physical well-being.

Lambo Trillrissian
May 18, 2007

Joe Slowboat posted:

The Montemancer, drawing magic from the paradox of only playing games that are only fun when you ignore the rules, written setting, and intended style, but still founding your identity on them and obsessing over their texts.

Spend a significant charge, curse someone to obsessively document and share everything you write even though they hate it. This is real bleeding edge personal horror.

May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!
Cults: Anabaptists, pt. 3

Degenesis Rebirth
Primal Punk
Chapter 3: Cults


Rich on Emanations

The eight most insightful Anabaptists are above the council; they're nearly as close to God as Rebus was. The Baptists guide the cult, thought in secret, they rarely agree on stuff.


However, if the Pneuma only allows one way, why should one need eight Baptists?

However, the eight Baptists show a united front to the world. They also do the work they used to do before: Orgiastics fight, Ascetics plow. You can almost forget how powerful they are.


Anabaptists never lacked for enemies, and Psychonauts make it easy for them to have more. They hate Pheromancers (France) and Biokineticks (Pollen) the most, since they're obviously inhuman.

They also hate Sepsis and seek to purge it by working the land. Spitalians tell them that making the soil good and fertile isn't the way to do it; Anabaptists tell the geeks to gently caress off.


Borca was supposed to be the land of peace. However, Anabaptists had always been fighting Chroniclers and Jehammedans (I still donít know how they got his far west/north). But things are changing.


Liqua, one of the largest Anabaptist cities in Borca, only a few daysí journeys away from Cathedral City and her Orgiastic gangs, was under siege. The Exalter clan claimed the city as part of its heritage, and the population opened up the gates without much deliberation. They even cheered the invaders. The Anabaptists remained calm. In fact, they did not understand what happened there and thought the hubbub was a fun affair. When they realized that they had just witnessed the conquering of the city, it was already too late.

How the gently caress do you mistake a siege and takeover of a city for something else? What the gently caress? :psyduck:

Exalters now play at diplomacy, presenting warrants and treaties signed by Rebus (it's a lie, they're just playing Crusader Kings II). Anabaptists and Judges don't want to attack the city and risk one of the region's large water supply centers. Baptist Amos would have done that... but he's in Franka, squashing bugs and blowing up vents.

Meanwhile, Clanners keep getting bolder and attacking Anabaptist infrastructure and patrols.

Working the field never looked this good.

Baptism Amos

Side-section! Amos started his road as an Orgiastic in Franka, bringing ultraviolence to the hives. As a Baptist, he still does the same, personally leading attacks on ziggurats and ďbreeding mounts [sic].Ē

Amos is brave and good at the whole war thing, which attracts a lot of people to die at his side. The other Baptists maintain that they're as brave as he is. Two of them want to recheck his emanations, as his cult of personality seems worrisome. Amos doesn't care Ė he knows he could be declared the supreme Baptist if he gave the word.

Old Enemies, New Friends

A shift in Anabaptist/Chronicler relations came when Fragment Modus was accepted to study in the Cathedral. He's cooperating with Baptist Orphid (one of the people questioning Amos). Amos threw a shitfit over it, but what can he do? Heís stuck killing the stinky abhuman French Pheromancers. As long as Modus appears at the steps of the Cathedral every day to prove that he's still alive and welcome, the truce holds.

It's a wee bit different with Jehammedans:


The Jehammedans are a different case. Their demeanor, their cleanliness, their precisely shaved beards, and their starched garments expose the Anabaptistsí own crudeness. The Orgiastics repaid that arrogance a thousand fold: they killed their goat herds, dragged Abramis from tents, pushed
them into the dirt, and shaved them clean with their swords. Hagaris and Saraelis were raped.

This is so stupid. Itís like when the English killed the Vikings because they were too clean and seductive to their wives.

However, nobody is drawn to fight in Adriatic anymore. They're afraid that provocations might lead to war, and that's just not on the menu now.

Nest time: more baptist than thou

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Fangs at the Gate: Seeing The Moon

Perception: Heartís Blood! Face-Takerís Gaze lets you sacred hunt a human by stalking and observing them over the course of at least a week, during which you must spend the majority of your time watching, until you discover one of their Defining Intimacies, either via read intentions actions or observing and reaching your own conclusion. Once you do, you can complete the hunt by forming that Intimacy yourself and raising it to Defining. This counts as the Intimacy needed to take a human shape, and once you take a shape with this, you canít voluntarily weaken the new Intimacy for the rest of the story. If you guess the Intimacy wrong, the hunt fails and you canít hunt them this way for the rest of the story, though other hunts can also work. (Mostly this means you guessed wrong and didnít confirm via read intentions, but certain deceptive magic can also do it.)

Whispering Heart Revelation lets you sacred hunt a human by discovering a secret of great importance to them, one that would be a serious or life-defining task to get them to reveal. Once you discover the secret, you may conclude the hunt and take their form. However, if you are wrong about the significance or truth of the secret, the hunt fails and you canít hunt them this way for the rest of the story, though other hunts still work. A form taken this way is retained permanently, even if the secret is later revealed, but a single secret can only be used to take one personís form, even if that secret applies to many people.

Perception: Senses! Sense-Sharpening Change lets you alter your body to improve one sense. You pick a sense, and you reroll 1s out of all Perception rolls using that sense for the scene, plus reduce penalties for over- or understimulation of that sense on all rolls, even non-Perception rolls, such as penalties to vision from darkness or blinding light, though not fog or distance. Stricken Calf Sense gives you a predatorís sense for weakness, allowing you to reroll 5s and 6s on diagnosis rolls and perform diagnoses instantly, or alternatively to get a bonus to detect concealed characters or track characters if they are suffering from any ailment youíve ever diagnosed before. Sense-Borrowing Method lets you make a Perception roll against the Resolve of an animal you can see to telepathically link to it. You may meditate to experience its senses instead of your own, using your dicepools and Charms but its sense-enhancing merits. You canít ride the senses of familiars or magically enhanced animals except for your own familiars, for which this Charm is free and can be used indefinitely, even if you canít see your familiar when you activate it. With an E2 repurchase, you can pay Willpower to also use this on humans or magically enhanced animals, while a third purchase at Per 5, E3 lets you ride the senses of spirits or fae.

Blood on the Wind lets you sense the blood of your prey, boosting tracking rolls based on 10s and allowing you track even characters using Traceless Passage or similar track-concealing magic. If in an animal form with the Keen Nose merit, you also get a bonus based on your quarryís wound penalty at the time they passed through the area. Watchful Spider Stance lets you go into a meditative trance to greatly magnify your senses. For as long as you meditate, you can see in all directions at once as if every part of your skin was an eye, and you can see clearly out to a mile away. You can make hearing and scent-based Perception rolls out to several miles, with a massive range boost for very strong scents or very loud noises, and you get a large bonus to touch- and taste-based rolls. If in your claimed territory via Boundary-Marking Meditation, you can make scent, hearing or sight-based rolls to perceive anything in that territory via its geomantic flows, regardless of distance or obstruction. This Charm ends when you stop meditating. This can be used while hibernating via Bearís Sleep Technique, which reduces your sensory range but negates the normal Perception penalties of hibernation. A repurchase at Per 5, E4 lets you use this Charm even while not meditating if you have at least 10 motes committed to Sense-Sharpening Change, during which it lasts for a day.

Perception: Scrutiny! Understanding the Herd makes your read intentions or profile character checks also reveal what culture the target belongs to on top of normal information, and any Tie they have towards that culture, though if theyíre in disguise your results are based on the disguise unless your roll beats their disguise check. If you arenít familiar with the culture, the GM will give you some useful information about it, like Ďheís from a nomadic society that follows mammoth herds,í and if the GM doesnít have any info in mind already, you can instead introduce it as if your roll was also a roll to introduce a fact. With a repurchase at Per 3, E2, you can use this Charm on someone whose culture you know already to determine their social, political and economic standing in that culture, and the nature of their position in it, as well as if any characters present hold authority over them and any Ties the target has to those characters.

Shadow Hunter Insight can be used at any time within several days after profiling a character or reading their intentions without them being aware of you. You get a bonus to Join Battle against them based on their rolled 1s and 2s, and if you act before them on the first round and attack them, you also add that as a damage bonus. Secret Sense Intuition lets you sense those that hunt you. Once per scene, when someone you are unaware of comes within Short range, you roll to read their intentions, and if you succeed, their presence and location are revealed to you on top of the normal results and you may reflexively make an influence roll against them, which they get a Resolve penalty on. If you fail, you only know someone is nearby. If you have the Charm Perceiving the Hidden World, you can use this to detect immaterial beings within Short range even when not using that Charm.

Preception: Mysticism! Shed Divinityís Nectar can be used whenever you defeat a spirit or fae using the Charm Spirit-Drinking Fang (which normally kills them when you do this). You can pay Willpower to instead absorb its Essence into yourself. For one story (or your next use of the Charm, whichever comes first), you gain a Major Intimacy reflecting the victimís nature and purpose, a number of Mutation dots based on its abilities, and its Cult merit if yours is lower. Once the story ends, you may choose to either destroy the victim permanently or vomit it up alive. Divinity-Stealing Whisper lets you make a Perception-based Occult roll at a bonus when in the presence of a spirit or when in one of its temples or sacred places, which can be boosted by hearing-related magic. Success lets you eavesdrop on prayers to the spirit, identifying one desire or goal that the spiritís worshippers must desire its aid with. If you determine the spirit has no intention to do anything about it somehow, such as via read intentions rolls, you may choose to intercede for them. If you accomplish the desired goal and at least the majority of the worshippers recognize this, you steal the spiritís Cult merit, gaining it for yourself. If the spiritís Essence is at least equal to yours, you only steal a single dot of Cult, which cannot raise you higher than the spiritís original Cult rating. (They still lose the dot if you canít gain it, though!) If you know the Charm God-Body Consumption, you may use it to gain the spiritís Eclipse Charms as if youíd killed them.

God-Body Consumption is as close as you get to sacred hunting spirits. When you permanently kill any character with Eclipse-keyword Charms, you may activate it to temporarily gain any Eclipse Charms you meet the Essence prereq for, committing 3 motes per Charm stolen. You have a limit based on your Essence for how many spirit charms you can have at any one time. You can permanently learn these Charms with XP, releasing your mote commitment to them, and once learned they donít count against your limit. The first Charm you learn permanently is free. If you have Charms that can perform non-lethal sacred hunts, you may trigger God-Body Consumption when you gain the shape of a god-blood, Eclipse Caste Solar or other magically empowered human to learn their Eclipse-keyword charms, too.

Next time: Stamina

Mors Rattus fucked around with this message at 15:17 on May 31, 2019

Nov 18, 2007

I can hear you
I'll be honest having to reference other books doesn't seem to be the worst thing? Most games' character creation stuff will have a reference to a later chapter in the same book and this way you have the character creation book and then you have the Magic/Feats/whatever book open instead of having to hold your place with your finger and flick through. The idea itself is not inherently terrible. Obviously execution is everything and there's issues with price points for the game and I'm sure Monte Cook doesn't execute it even close to good.

Jul 15, 2017

Alien Rope Burn posted:

Oh, and Coake? He was the character belonging to Steve Sheiring. The fact that one of the moral centers of the Rifts universe turns out to be the worst "villain" in Palladium's real-life history is... well...


It feels like Kevin missed a chance to work the Crisis of Treachery into the game world.

Am I correct in thinking all the Defilers are dudes?

Feb 13, 2012

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

Fixing the Story

I normally wouldn't do this part, as it's a little outside the scope of 'review', but going over how something was terrible is only half of analyzing it when you could also go over ways to make it better. Given Forges is the first of the 3 books that I'd return covered completely in red ink spelling out SEE ME if I was grading them, I think it's worth examining and discussing ways to fix the plotting and mechanical issues in Forges of Nuln.

Plus, you know, I put a lot of effort into writing the past stuff and my dumb take on the example party going through it, so I'm moderately invested in giving them a conclusion that isn't dripping with misogyny, futility, and the kind of atmosphere you'd get in something that describes itself as 'grindhouse' to cover up how badly written it is. Consider this my pallet cleanser after having to write up Forges' canon version in the first place.

One of the constant issues with the Paths of the Damned is that there's no coherent structure to the overarching story. It's too late to fix that; Xath is a sailed ship that's been bad since book 1. This is also partly a function of having 3 different authors who all have wildly different takes on the Warhammer setting. Graeme Davis in Ashes of Middenheim is very conventional, with a structure where there are some decent and reasonable people who the PCs can turn to (and who turn to the PCs) while there's also treachery, prejudice, and anxiety waiting to erupt into violence if it's fanned by the right demagogue, which works just fine. The PCs are also definitely the heroes of Ashes and the whole action hinges on their involvement, but they're also kind of in over their heads (which I think the Knight Fight tried to portray but was seriously over-tuned).

Chart plays up the humorous side of the story in book 2, but also writes the setting 'lighter' than any of the other authors on the line. Many of the people you deal with in book 2 are actually reasonable and intelligent, just they need the PCs to do some diplomacy to get them working towards the end goal. Similarly, little touches like every criminal in Altdorf immediately turning on Chaos allies the minute they realize they're Chaos is both a neat bit of setting building (Chart generally writes on the assumption that non-Cultists understand Chaos is bad news and that even people with few or no principles will understand practically that Chaos never leads anywhere good) and a good way to reward stealth and investigative PCs. Combats are generally quite easy if you're on the 'winning' path, because difficult combat is a gameplay punishment. The real meat of the plot comes not from the Xath side-story (really, the main plot of all the Paths of the Damned books is more a side-story and an excuse to get the PCs to new cities) but from the antics of an out-of-her-depth REVENGE CULTIST and a smug rear end in a top hat the players get to turn the tables on. It also generally assumes the PCs are well-intentioned if a little gritty and its railroading is in the direction of making sure the PCs succeed and get some kind of resolution at the end.

Book 3 is written with the idea that everyone is a corrupt, evil rear end in a top hat, no-one will ever help the PCs in any way, and the world is a grimy and unpleasant place at all times. Also, by employing literal Sierra Adventure Dead Man Walking poo poo and lying to PCs with false moral dillemmas (Why, if they DON'T hand over their friend to Sewer Necromancer's leering clutches, the whole city could be destroyed!) as well as lots of subplots you can't actually succeed at, it clearly thinks the PCs should have a high chance of failing at everything, all the time. This is the grimdark version of the setting where everyone is a cultist, the world is decaying, mutants are all monsters, and everyone is just deeply unpleasant all the time. That is not only at odds with a fair amount of the sourcebook writing, but the climax of the entire adventure path, where the PCs are going to hopefully get some payoff and resolution to this big adventure they've been playing for a long while, is not the place to suddenly get a hard-on for loving them over at every turn. Also, seriously, the misogyny is really, really noticeable and uncomfortable.

Book 3's general plotting problem, though, is that Rolf just isn't a great main villain for the 'epic climax' of this adventure series. The villains started with the deputy High Priest of an extremely powerful cult, who was politically difficult to touch and quite clever. And end with an obvious serial killer who gets away with it because the book says he does, no matter what you suspect. Plus, by having this single villain be the crux of the entire plot, they're left with a plot that can't handle the PCs actually catching the killer. Instead, I'd propose making Rolf one facet of a much larger plot against the city. Have him building the vessel of Xathrodox, but have a wider cult behind him that's planning a larger and more cohesive coup. Rolf can be shifted to a fringe asset, something the PCs identify to draw them deeper into a larger mystery with bigger stakes. They're high level characters at this point; one guy trying to play Michael Meyers really isn't grand enough to be a finale.

I'd also recommend cutting out the Tzeentch Sorcerer subplot, and the Lang/Liebnitz subplot. Lang doesn't really do anything all story. I would replace him with Carlott, since they automatically survives book 2 as written. You still get a callback villain, but now it's one with a clear objective: She wants the PCs dead, whether they got her in book 2 or not. After all, she still attacked them even if they never found her in book 2. And if they did find and attack her, now she double wants revenge. I would leave Katarine in the story, but shift what she's up to.

See, one of the issues with the Slaanesh Cult aspect in Forges is they don't act anything like Slaaneshi; they act exactly like Khornates, mindlessly planning to kill dozens of people with no goal solely to kill people. Having a Slaanesh Cult around in Nuln, the extremely rich city full of art and desire, is pretty much a no brainer. But there's a much better way to use them: As a group that is trying to use the PCs to stop the Khornates. Slaanesh and Khorne hate each other, and having the Slaaneshi have an interest in preserving the city so their own cult isn't uprooted and trying to use the PCs to do it by backing them from the shadows of high society is a much better way to get dubious allies into the story than Sexual Menace Sewer Necromancer. This adds a second mystery that the PCs can actually miss while getting a good resolution to the Khorne plot: They might not discover their backers and friends and contacts include some dark servants of the Prince of Pleasure. But if they do, it gives the opportunity to figure out what to do about it; do they keep accepting their help, trying to use them like the Slaaneshi are trying to use the PCs? Do they make plans to turn them in later? Do they just watch out more carefully for betrayal? I'd also add that the Slaaneshi are definitely planning to get rid of Gabrielle after she deals with Xath for them; that ritual is a huge threat to Chaos and they don't want her to live long enough to teach it to anyone. So there's a sinister plot from the PCs' mysterious allies that they have good reason to want to discover and stop. Katarine can be one of them and their means of getting the PCs to the city without changing her character hardly at all. She can even have the same crazy ambition.

As for the Khornates, I'd make Randolf the main villain and the Magus of the Khorne cult. The engineer dad sabotaging the cannon. I'd also have him behind the planned 'uprising'. He is overall one of the worst people in the original story anyway, given he kills hundreds of people (and covers for his serial killer son), and I'd make him a Khornate who believes he's found a new thing more pleasing to Khorne than simple axes and skulls. He has a vision of a world of metal and wheels, where destruction is more wide-spread than ever before and great machines kill hundreds of people in impersonal, endless slaughter. In short, a Khornate Magus dreaming of the industrialization of killing and warfare. He intended the Magnus Cannon to be his grand offering to the dark God, an example of his vision fulfilled that would be turned on the forces of the Empire when the time was right and he used his position as Marshal of Nuln to take the city...but then the Countess kicked him off the project and removed him from his powerful position as Marshal. He has no idea if she did that because she suspected something was wrong, or because it was a random whim, and it drives him loving crazy, so he's altered a ton of plans to ensure the cannon will destroy itself, hopefully her, and that her big 'unveiling' will be ruined as much as possible by insane terrorist activity and hopefully the destruction of her city.

Thus, the whole 'sabotage the cannon' plot and the Uprising (which the Khornates would be behind, instead) are all designed to help summon this Xathrodox his son has brought him, through the chalice he accidentally discovered. He's nurtured the darkness it started in his son when Rolf came to him for help, and has intentionally taken the pain in his son's mind and made it into a weapon because he's a Khornate son of a bitch. The cult still has members among the watch and military from Randolf's time as Marshal, and they are actively protecting Rolf in his serial killing until the unpredictable element of PCs shows up and starts following that plot thread. Randolf's insane plan to bring down the city for the Countess's insult to him (instead of his original, longer term plot to take over, which is now no longer possible anyway since he was fired) would be a hastily altered and violent thing, giving it the cracks necessary for PCs already investigating Xath to find all this out as they race against time, with the conspiracy growing far beyond the serial killer they started out investigating and spiraling into something that threatens the whole city.

I would also keep the Countess's character deeply ambiguous; is she a vain, self-centered woman whose vanity and impulses just keep happening to be for the better for Nuln and keep her popular? Or is all that a front and she's much smarter than people assume? Leaving that to an individual group gives them a lot of space to adjust the sort of official support PCs might be able to gain by finding evidence and making contacts. It would also let a group adjust the tone; it's really funny if the careful plans of an evil genius were undone solely because he neglected court politics and a lucky whim saw him randomly removed from the position he needed for his grand schemes. It also works well if people are consistently underestimating someone who managed to take a weak claim and somehow 'luck' her way into being in one of the most powerful offices in the Empire. By making it something you could take either way, you either give the PCs a potential very powerful patron or just a really funny way to watch a Khornate genius sputter helplessly in rage that gives the PCs a chance to kick his rear end.

Next Time: Restructuring The Timetable and Adjusting for PC Involvement

Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.

Grimey Drawer

Joe Slowboat posted:

The Montemancer, drawing magic from the paradox of only playing games that are only fun when you ignore the rules, written setting, and intended style, but still founding your identity on them and obsessing over their texts.

Please. We prefer 'Montebanks'.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

Dawgstar posted:

It feels like Kevin missed a chance to work the Crisis of Treachery into the game world.

Am I correct in thinking all the Defilers are dudes?

Nexine (the halfling or gnome or w/e with the axe) is female, but that's about it as far as I can tell. No idea if the axe has a gender, mind.

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk

i feel like whether or not all this bullshit amounts to an actually playable game is ancillary to the product's actual purpose, serving as a platform from which monte cook can demonstrate what a glorious and brilliant brain genius he is (and which you can also use to lavish your adoration upon him)

Monte Cook Presents: Please Look at How Smart and Mysterious I Am

edit: like he completely misses the point that the weird mysteries in other games are enabled because there's enough baseline, commonly accepted notions about the game world that the mystery stuff can then stand out as being cool or weird. when the default setting is the land of intangible dreams and every other word is a Proper Noun with Special Meaning, it just becomes repetitive and boring and not a mystery at all

Freaking Crumbum fucked around with this message at 19:01 on May 31, 2019

Sep 10, 2003

peed on;

Freaking Crumbum posted:

edit: like he completely misses the point that the weird mysteries in other games are enabled because there's enough baseline, commonly accepted notions about the game world that the mystery stuff can then stand out as being cool or weird. when the default setting is the land of intangible dreams and every other word is a Proper Noun with Special Meaning, it just becomes repetitive and boring and not a mystery at all
It reminds me of another one of Cook's designs, Planescape. One aspect of the setting was "portal keys" which were a feature of the big city at the center of creation (Sigil). Sigil was the City of Doors, and there were portals (known and hidden) to pretty much any place in the multiverse scattered all over the city. Except...the definition of "key" was completely open-ended. It could be a literal physical key-shaped object, or some other object, or a memory or an emotion or a series of dance steps or the whistled chorus of a song or...

So a key could be anything or nothing, and therefore it rises to the level of pure GM fiat, and what could have been a cool or interesting part of the setting to interact with just becomes another arbitrary device for the GM to mildly annoy the players with.

Feb 15, 2012

Now prepare yourselves! You're the guests of honor at the Greatest Kung Fu Cannibal BBQ Ever!

FMguru posted:

It reminds me of another one of Cook's designs, Planescape.

Different Cook.

Nov 20, 2007

That warm and fuzzy feeling.

Joe Slowboat posted:

The Montemancer, drawing magic from the paradox of only playing games that are only fun when you ignore the rules, written setting, and intended style, but still founding your identity on them and obsessing over their texts.

I get a charge everytime I play shadowrun.

I get a medium one when I make it all the way through chargen.

Sep 10, 2003

peed on;

Ratoslov posted:

Different Cook.

That's right, Monte wrote for the line, but David "Zeb" Cook was the designer of the core.

Mar 4, 2019

Snorb posted:

Seconding the art; what I'm seeing of Invisible Sun is just as fantastical and out there as the art from Numenera (either edition). It's loving gorgeous stuff.

Then Invisible Sun kinda just trips and falls flat on its face at the starting gate. I know Numenera has its problems with death spirals and GM intrusion, but at least it told you fifteen loving pages into Numenera: Discovery "Roll 1d20 vs. a set target number to succeed at narratively-important tasks." Where the hell does Invisible Sun tell you how to resolve tasks?

(DISCLAIMER: I have no real issue with Numenera's GM intrusions, but the one and only time my group played it, I was the GM, and the only intrusion I wound up doing was steering the group's fighter glaive to a different building in a city.)

I will Stan Numenera until the day I die. That game would be great if only for the exact same mistakes Monte Cook made in every rule set and every setting he ever wrote. So if you know how to counteract some powerful Cookery, you should try that game.

Aug 5, 2003

Number 1 Nerd Tear Farmer 2022.

Keep it up, champ.

Also you're a skeleton warrior now. Kree.
Unlockable Ben

Wapole Languray posted:

OK so letís go through these. So, Step 0? Yeah itís not actually a step. No no, itísÖ itísÖ itís just loving GNS theory. Step 0 is you pick if youíre a Builder, Explorer, Attainer or Achiever! This signals to the GM what kind of game youíre interested in! The game is designed to hit all four kinds of player though, and in fact I have no idea how you would play this and not include them. Oh, each one is literally just: Do you want to make and change stuff in the setting? Do you want to see knew stuff and learn about the setting? Do you want to get more stuff and level up? Do you want to play out stories? Itís GNS with a new coat of paint, everyone knows it, moving on.

These sound like Richard Bartleís categories for MUD players, which are even older than GNS.

Edit, yup, he just swapped out Killer and Socializer for Attainer and Builder to hide the hack and slash and the fact that itís the wrong sodding medium..

hyphz fucked around with this message at 22:04 on May 31, 2019

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

FMguru posted:


That's right, Monte wrote for the line, but David "Zeb" Cook was the designer of the core.

Yeah, Monte was only a writer on the late-to-the-end supplements of the line.

Sep 10, 2003

peed on;

Alien Rope Burn posted:

Yeah, Monte was only a writer on the late-to-the-end supplements of the line.

Apr 15, 2008

Yosuke will now die for you.

hyphz posted:

These sound like Richard Bartleís categories for MUD players, which are even older than GNS.

Edit, yup, he just swapped out Killer and Socializer for Attainer and Builder to hide the hack and slash and the fact that itís the wrong sodding medium..

This is exactly what I was thinking, of course, I was thinking of the Kingdom of Loathing versions.

It's not a bad idea to do player 'flagging'. He's just gone about it in a completely archaic, backwards manner. So, Monte Cook, ladies and gentleman.

Dec 19, 2012

jakodee posted:

I will Stan Numenera until the day I die. That game would be great if only for the exact same mistakes Monte Cook made in every rule set and every setting he ever wrote. So if you know how to counteract some powerful Cookery, you should try that game.

Basically, if it wasn't a game made by Monte Cook, it'd be good? :thunk:

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Statistics and Skills

This is the first quote in the book, and no I have NO idea why itís in the chapter well they tell us what the stats do.

I hope youíre all ready forÖ some fun things. Mainly New Special Vocabulary for everything.

Right so, this game hasÖ three stats. Sorta. Actually two, or maybe eight, orÖ itís confusing. So Iíll try and make this make sense, there will be a lot of ďExceptĒ in this chapter.

So we have two main stats: Certe and Qualia. Why those names? I donít know at all, because you can literally just say Physical and Mental, because thatís what they mean. Certes is the physical stuff, Qualia is mental and magical stuff. Did you guess that Qualia is more important and useful to have? Because it is. Hooray!

So, each stat has as score, of ď8-10Ē as average. That score is divided up into stat pools. For Certe that is Accuracy, Movement, Physicality, and Perception. For Qualia those are Sorcery, Interaction, Intellect, and Sortilege.

The points in the pool are called bene. The value in a pool is now many bene points you have whenever they refresh. Bene are not tracked for Sortilege, which is measured in enhancements, which can be used with any action. What does that mean? Donít know yet.

Bene is a fancy way to say +1. Literally, itís just a +1. Spend a bene from your pool, get a +1 in that stat pool action thingy. An enhancement also adds +1 die to the roll for the action. Bene is a +1 to the venture, enhancement is +1 die for the rolling.

Yes these names are making it hard to coherently write this.

Anyway the stat pools are mostly self-explanatory, except they arenít! This is Monte Cook! He never saw a mechanic he couldnít cram special case rules into!
  • Accuracy: This is the pool for hitting someone with an attack, that is physical in nature. Like the attack can be magic, but it has to be physical, so likeÖ mind blasts and hexes donít count. Only damage to their corporeal meat body. But, it also has the special function that bene can be spent to increase the damage of an attack by +2. I think from the writing this is an either/or choice: Bene give +1 to the ventur, or +2 to damage but not both but Iím also not sure because it isnít explicit.
  • Movement: Ok so this is easy right? Physical movement. Run, jump, swim, balance, also used for dodging attacks. All fine, atheltics-y stuff, makes sense. Oh no itís also used forÖ hiding. And lockpicking. And crafting. All under Movement. So itís really Agility or Dexterity in other RPGs but Cook wanted to be different so now you have to remember that when youíre making a chair, thatís a Movement action that is.
  • Physicality: Itís strength/endurance. Lift gates, bend bars, resist poison and disease and you know how this works. You can spend bene from this pool to negate 1 Wound, and can spend multiple at a time. So this is basically your HP, but confusing and overcomplicated. Oh you can also spend a Physicality bene to negate an Injury at any time, even after. Wounds you gotta spend when you get them, but Injuries can just beÖ regrown or whatever. So remember that Physicality is also HP and therefore only a loving moron would ever spend a bene from this for a measly +1 when it could be the difference between you living and dying and WHY DO YOU KEEP DOING THIS poo poo MONTE. HP AND STATS BEING THE SAME drat THING IS A BAD IDEA YOU loving DONKEY.
  • Perception: Itís perception, literally nothing special you roll it to sense stuff.
  • Sorcery: Itís your spellcasting stat, itís your hexes, rituals, forte, orderÖ itís literally everything that you use magic with. Itís all magic. Magic is this. Bene here is spent to cast any spells at all, spend bene equal to the spell level, and you can spend additional multiple bene to bump up the venture. Also spell level IS the venture, so yeah, this is The Most Important Stat because it fuels literally the most important aspects of your character Monte you loving moron stop making godstats, IT'S OBVIOUSLY A GODSTAT YOU TIT.
  • Interaction: Itís loving charisma, moving on.
  • Intellect: Itís Intelligence. Also willpower. Itís like Physicality for your brainmeats. Spend a bene to negate Anguish as it is suffered, or can be spent to negate an injury at any time it works just like loving physicality ok? Oh, nice fact, there is no indication if Injuries are tracked by damage source. So I guess this is also anti-Physical injury as well?
  • Sortilege: OK so this doesnít affect venture. Spend pool points here for enhancements. This is an additional die ona roll, and you can use these on any roll for yourself, or give them to people within line of sight as well. You canít use this if anything already has additional dice, and itís 1 action unless you get a secret (AKA a Feat, itís goddamn feats poo poo).

Vexes and Scourges
OK so these are anti-bene. Vexes are a -1 to the venture, GM applies them, no idea how you get them. Apparently something called Kindled Items are a way, but thatís on page 183, weíre on 31. Yeah, forget that. Anyway, Scourges work like vexes except instead of one roll, they stick around and are a semi-permanent -1 to your Venture for any rolls using a specific pool. It has to be gotten rid of somehow, probably through GM Fiat.

Oh god. OK so characters can refresh one, 1, ONE, singular pool by resting. You can rest up to four times a day. The first two are short rests that take an action, for the next is a long rest of ten minutes, and then itís an hour rest. You can use any of these rests in any order. Your pools all refill with a D&*D style long rest for the next day. Or when the GM says they do. You can use the ten minute or one hour rests to heal a Wound or Anguish instead of refresh a pool. You can also use them to do other poo poo, like end ongoing effects, poisons, diseases, curses, etc. So you not only have D&D style Adventuring Day you have 4 other short rests, of 3 different durations, that you have to track as well, and they are tied not to session but to in-game time. Yay, more and more piddly annoying bookkeeping!

Hidden Knowledge
This is that third stat that isnít a stat, but it is a stat. Yeah. Anyway this isÖ stuff you know. Gossip, facts, education, secrets, lore, etc. etc. Spend a point from Hidden Knowledge to get a bene on any roll thatÖ you can convince the GM fits because You Know A Thing. Only one use at a time, but it can be combined with bene from other pools.

Itís just GM May I Have A Bene?

Oh goody, it also doesnít refresh. Not automatically, no you need to get back Hidden Knowledge by research, learning stuff, listening to gossip, etc. It is totally GM dependent, and the book even says that GMís should use it as a reward. So gaining it back is also completely dependent on the GM. yay.

Itís skills, you know what this poo poo does. If you have a skill itís level 1 through 4, add +1 to your venture per level of skill, they combine with bene and so on. Iím not listing poo poo, itís skills, you know how they work, thereís a lot of suggested ones but this is one of those games where they give you dozens of useless examples and say ďMake up your own!Ē

Next time: Orders, 3d Renders, Nightmares, See Other Book


Mar 10, 2019

by VideoGames

SunAndSpring posted:

in the Realm, men are considered to be hot-headed and too impulsive to trust with higher ranked jobs. Women tend to ignore men at conversations at best or interrupt them at worst, and men are expected to be sexually available. Of course, this cuts both ways; women are expected to be cool-headed and wise, which sets unrealistic expectations for many women.

Yo, why do we still have lovely male writers who think "yo what if women were sexist towards MEN instead of the other way around" is anything other than gross mansplaining nonsense when donald trump and saudi araba still exist in 2019? When will we get a game where you are expected to murder the fantasy version of the house of saudi and the entirely male rich with fireballs?

Oh, right, JRR Tolken was a sexist racist dumbass who declared that all fantasy must pander to white males and anyone else are "victims" of religions that aren't christiani-Er, I mean, Sauron's domination, and therefore any major fantasy media should follow in suite instead of actually saying something about society like Sci-Fi has done for centuries. And the RPG industry sucks it up.

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