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Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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



Night10194 posted:

The fact that it wanted you to think a rad wizard vaporizing a bunch of idiots who thought skull-faces made them look scary is a bad thing was the first sign this was a crazy place.

E: Like what the hell? Vaporizing Nazis is the only completely 100% safe and ethical use of magic in all of fiction. No matter what you're doing, no matter how much a wizard might not be aware of right or wrong, they can know it's safe to assume that vaporizing Nazis is the universal point where magic is being used for the good of all.
But what if you run out of Nazis? Who will do the terrorizing necessary to produce the next generation of Rifts PCs then?

The Coalition sucks and Rifts sucks for being about the Coalition. The one thing that keeps me moving, giving me hope, is the sure knowledge that you will eventually reach Dinosaur Swamp.

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Zereth
Jul 9, 2003



Joe Slowboat posted:

According to the Narcissists book, yes. I'm inclined towards their point of view but both books are extremely inclined to side with and justify their own faction.
It does explain why Narcissists can do poo poo which would get a Continuum person fragged to death near-instantly and be fine afterward, which IIRC the actual Continuum book doesn't offer explanation for.

Hypnobeard
Sep 15, 2004

Obey the Beard



Halloween Jack posted:

I admit I haven't closely followed the Coalition/Tolkeen war, but my understanding is that the wizards had everything they needed to teleport into Coalition headquarters and level it, and the books never really explain why that didn't happen. Plus the whole thing where the Coalition has more military hardware than the modern United States.

The Coalition manages to misplace a force that's equal to about 20% of the current US military's strength and not particularly notice it, militarily. This is with a worldwide human population of under half a billion. (11 billion pop at the start of the Rifts event, 2% survive--220m--about a hundred years to double that given conditions on Earth). Imagine if tomorrow, all US Navy personnel were off doing something somewhere. That's the force that the Coalition loses and just shrugs and carries on, not really even losing... until they magically pop up, somehow concealing themselves and all of their equipment in arguably the most secure place in Tolkeen territory.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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

Hypnobeard posted:

The Coalition manages to misplace a force that's equal to about 20% of the current US military's strength and not particularly notice it, militarily. This is with a worldwide human population of under half a billion. (11 billion pop at the start of the Rifts event, 2% survive--220m--about a hundred years to double that given conditions on Earth). Imagine if tomorrow, all US Navy personnel were off doing something somewhere. That's the force that the Coalition loses and just shrugs and carries on, not really even losing... until they magically pop up, somehow concealing themselves and all of their equipment in arguably the most secure place in Tolkeen territory.

Which is full of seers and wizards, don't forget.

Also that force has been cut off, in hostile territory, with no resupply, for an extended period.

Hypnobeard
Sep 15, 2004

Obey the Beard



Night10194 posted:

Which is full of seers and wizards, don't forget.

Also that force has been cut off, in hostile territory, with no resupply, for an extended period.

Under constant Xiticix attack, too, IIRC, to which they just basically.. died in numbers? They literally Zap Brannigan'd the Xiticix.

Dawgstar
Jul 15, 2017

I get that taking the hard option can be strategically valuable, but the CS did the equivalent of just sticking your hand in a fire ant hill and just leaving it.

Tibalt
May 14, 2017

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

It's a little disappointing to hear that Jason Statham's character in Any Jason Statham Movie isn't supported by Spycraft rules, but I can't say in particularly surprised.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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

Tibalt posted:

It's a little disappointing to hear that Jason Statham's character in Any Jason Statham Movie isn't supported by Spycraft rules, but I can't say in particularly surprised.

One of the issues with 3e era d20 in general is that characters are never generally competent. You're either really good at a couple things, or you're moderately bad at everything.

And meanwhile looking through the Prestige Classes and what they require to enter, Jesus Christ. While I say that the Crafty Games people get d20 better than some of its actual designers (they genuinely do), someone needed to shake some of their writers and say "YOU DON'T HAVE ENOUGH FEATS TO WASTE SOME ON FLAVOR PRE-REQS".

FBH991
Nov 26, 2010

Alien Rope Burn posted:

[*]19. Expedition Expediters Unlimited: A second Naruni front business that eventually offers help with escape routes, but if the PCs use them they're automatically associated with the Naruni somehow and get killed by the Coalition or just people what hate the Naruni.


Given there's not one but 2 Naruni businesses here, and the Naruni presumably hate the Coalition, why isn't Tolkeen fighting the coalition with a ton of Naruni gear as well?

Dawgstar
Jul 15, 2017

FBH991 posted:

Given there's not one but 2 Naruni businesses here, and the Naruni presumably hate the Coalition, why isn't Tolkeen fighting the coalition with a ton of Naruni gear as well?

The Naruni are simultaneously the most prosperous and least trusted arms dealers in the Multiverse. They remain staggeringly successful despite nobody seemingly trusting them enough to buy a pack of gum off them.

FBH991
Nov 26, 2010

Dawgstar posted:

The Naruni are simultaneously the most prosperous and least trusted arms dealers in the Multiverse. They remain staggeringly successful despite nobody seemingly trusting them enough to buy a pack of gum off them.

You'd think, given how bad they are, and how desperate Tolkeen is, they'd set them up with a refresher army of interdimensional mercenaries and sweet gear (like a big technological air defence system to ground the CS skull transports) on a "pay later" basis then use this to make post-war Tolkeen totally dependent on them.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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

Sig: Manual of the Primes
Session Is Hard To Make Puns About

The first session will always begin the same way Ė you go through chargen and determine the Faces, who the PCs are connected by, and the Focus, who every PC has a connection to. The game begins because the Focus has just died (or vanished), and the first scene is about why. Between sessions, the GM will think about the opinions and plans of the Faces, Powers and Factions, figuring out what issues and problems they are dealing with and what schemes are currently in play. If Sigís just had a tether shift, that will likely be a major element in whatís going on in the next session. For sessions that arenít the first one, the session begins with everyone rolling their Smoke. Whoever rolls highest picks a Faction or Power and declares that their agenda has been completed successfully, working with the GM (if they arenít the GM) to determine what that is. Second highest picks a second Faction or Power whose agenda was foiled and, again, works with the GM if they werenít the GM to determine what agenda that was. The third highest creates a new Face NPC that got stuck in the middle of the conflict and has been affected by both the successful and failed agendas.

Now, chargen! Chargen is a communal thing, because of the fact that every character will end up tied to the setting and NPCs, and also because players should be interested in each otherís characters. Step 1 is to determine which planes begin the game tied to Sig. You roll 3d6 and, as a group, assign your results to the chart. A single 6 means that a tether has changed recently, and you decide which plane lost it and which gained it, with both having influence on the city. Multiple sixes mean the City Between is currently bound to at least one Shard Realm as well. Shard Realms are lesser Planes, still eternal but smaller and less influential than the 15 core Planes. Elemental shards might be Dust or Steam, ideological might be Compassion or Greed, and conceptual might be Time or Motherhood. The end of the book covers the example Shard Realm of Empire, or you can make your own.



Alternatively, you can pick one of the five example Cities, which show you ways the City Between can change based on whatís Tethered.
The City of Power (Fire/Destruction/Lore): The city is a brilliant and terrifying place, a bright and hungry light in the void. It is a city of brass and fire, where safety is about caution and etiquette. The city is full of demons, cultists and bargainers, each dangerous and each seeking lost and forbidden secrets. The City Between is a place of forbidden power, dangerous and untamed.
The City of Secrets (Waves/Order/Shadow): The city is a dark and gloomy place of mist and shadows concealing all. The roads have been replaced by a canal network flowing from the Great River, and the government maintains a tight control over the city. The laws have grown restrictive and binding, their touch applying to nearly every aspect of life. The City Between is a place of hidden lies, dangerous secrets and paranoia Ė not without cause.
The City of Revelation (Wind/Freedom/Dreams): The city is in constant motion. The rickety buildings are shaken and blown about by gale-force winds at all times, and on those winds come dreams and treasures. Strange gifts and prophecies abound, and the city life moves as if in a dream, always feeling slightly unreal. The City Between is full of visionaries and dreamers.
The City of Trials (Stone/Justice/Life): The city is alive. You can feel its heart beating like a drum in the stones under your feet, and you can see the trees bursting forth even though the hard stone, tended by ancient spirits. The city is full of trials, testing the virtue of the people, and of teachers, whose skill and wisdom are praised widely. The City Between is a place of judgment, growth and improvement.
The City of Endings (Ice/Tyranny/Death): The city is old, standing in monument to times before. Blades of ice and iron decorate the streets, and there are constant reminders of better days. Statues and frozen roses are all over the place, and all seem to be in mourning over some loss. Memory is more precious now than human life. The City Between is a place of the lost, dead and broken.

Step 2: You create you characterís name and title. Every character has a title Ė if not an official one, a nickname by which they are known on streets. It might be descriptive or ironic, but it tells you what the City thinks of your past deeds and reputation.

Step 3: Heritage. You decide who your parents are. They could be anything. In Sig, most people have at least some Planar blood, and explicitly, any couple can have a child if theyíre willing to pay a price for the right ritual, mystic blessing or technological assistance. Star-crossed lovers are fairly common in Sig, raising mixed-blood children. Adoption is also common in the Ďverse, and it has physical effects. When Giants adopt a human girl, she is going to grow up big and tall, possibly even full Giant size. Prisoners of the Devahil often make bargains to escape their torment that turn them into Devahil themselves. Your parents may be any mix of the 15 Planar heritages described in the book, which weíll get to in the chapter on the Planes, Primals, or weirder things. You might be the only person like you, or perhaps just you and a parent. Either way, you get two Talents based on your Heritage. Each Planar Heritage has four associated with them, but you can make up new ones easily. A Talent is just a single word or phrase that describes something youíre good at, after all.

Step 4: Profession. You decide what you do for a living. You then get five more Talents, which may reflect either your Heritage or Profession, your choice. Broad Talents represent a general understanding of some wide field, such as History or Huge or Fire. Common Talents are a focus on some particular subject, such as Biology or Flight. Deep Talents are a specialized sub-discipline, such as Burning Hands or Master Fencer. The game suggests you have two Broad, three Common and two Deep, with at least one Broad, Common and Deep reflecting the core abilities of your Profession. The GM is ultimate authority on what Talent is Common, Deep or Broad. Broad, remember, give +1, Common +2, and Deep +3, because of their varying ease of application.

Step 5: Faction Loyalty. Think about if you belong to a Faction. The game presents the 15 most influential ones, but theyíre not the only ones that exist Ė any plane will support multiple Factions in Sig, with the core 15 just being the most common and influential. At heart, every Faction is trying to advance their goals and influence Sig to improve their standing. The closer they are to their home Plane, the more resources theyíre going to have to draw on. Factions provide two things: Duty and Leverage. Duty is what the Faction does for Sig, and Leverage is what they have as their power within it. You may spend 1 Influence to be able to wield your Factionís Leverage to your advantage for a full scene. However, you are obligated to support your Factionís Duty. Not everyone belongs to a Faction, and some people may be members of a Faction for practical rather than ideological reasons. Itís good to think about how your character sees the Factions and thinks about their own economic and political standing, even if they arenít members of any.

Step 6: Spiritual Power. The Powers are out there, offering up their gifts in exchange for faith. Their religions and doctrines vary - some are benevolent beings that wish to help others in exchange for faith, while others are vicious demons that terrorize people in to worship to propitiate them. Some release tantalizing lore and secrets as hints of their glory, or shape worlds to protect their faithful. The Powers all hunger for worship and faith, and all tend to have extreme personalities and issues with restraint. They may shower their followers in miracles and guidance when happy, or may unleash terrible plagues when their anger is aroused. For a Power, the moral imperative is upholding their nature and the thing they command. Powers have near-absolute control over their divine title, tha aspect of reality which they have control of. They offer great power in the form of potent rituals and miracles to their cultists, clerics or servants, but they demand much, as well. They are immortal, nearly indestructible, and faith is their bread. They tend to have long-term plans that their followers serve, both to provide them with more zeal on which to feed and to pursue their interests. Most Powers are bound to their plane, but can influence worlds outside it. They can easily reshape their domains within a plane to suit themselves, and outside of their plane they must act via avatars, servants and other, more indirect forms. Your character may well serve one of the Powers, offering up devotion.

Most of the faithful are reasonable people, though there's plenty of zealots around, and some followers of the gods are even mercenaries of faith, useful enough to their Power that the god doesn't tend to mind their lack of real conviction, as long as they follow the religious obligation or restriction that the Power demands ofthem. All Powers demand this - it is a show of devotion and a symbol of loyalty from their greatest servants. In exchange for this sacrifice of behavior, they offer their followers access to a powerful Ritual and the ability to pray for miracles. If you follow a Power, you must maintain that Power's Devotion. As long as you do, you can use the Ritual, and if you pay Influence while doing so, you avoid the usual price that the Ritual requires. Further, at any time, you may pray to a Power to grant you a miracle that is within their portfolio. The GM will decide if you get what you wanted, largely based on how happy the Power is with you lately. You may spend as much Influence as you want to bribe the Power with your faith, and the GM is instructed to take this into account in both whether a miracle manifests and how potent it is. There are 15 core Powers, one for each plane, but you can easily add new ones following their same pattern, which we'll see when we get to setting material. Even if your character does not follow any singular Power, however, think about their spiritual and religious beliefs (or lack thereof).

Step 7: Beliefs. Every character has three at all times, and Beliefs must be three things. First, a Belief must be subjective. In Sig, people tend to change what they believe in the face of overwhelming evidence, and so anything that is obviously true or obviously false is not a good Belief. Beliefs are philosophical things, and it should be possible for a Belief to be seen either way. Second, a Belief should be declarative. It's best if your Belief is the kind of thing your character might actually say in a heated argument about what they think. Third, a Belief should be controversial to at least a significant amount of people. After all, what's the point if your Belief isn't something anyone else cares about and you can't influence society on a whole about? The book gives some examples: "Family is a chain to be broken." "Violence is the best teacher." "Only sinners need masks."

Your first Belief should be centered on your relationship to your family, community, Heritage or culture. The game offers some questions to help you come up with it. Does your character advocate for their culture publicly? Is their ethnic or linguistic heritage core to their identity? Do they rebel against the backward ways of their family? Do they want to assimilate into the greater society of Sig?
Your second Belief should be centered on your character's politics or economic concerns. The game's questions to help that out: Do you personally care about your Faction's duty, if you belong to one? If you belong to one, how often do you use your Faction's Leverage for personal reasons? Is there some Faction you hate, fear or envy? Do you believe any Faction behaves in a moral way?
Your third Belief should be focused on your character's spirituality, ideology or morals. The game's questions to help you: Are you a zealot who strikes out at unbelievers? Are you an intellectual that debates issues of dogma or theology? Are you a missionary, out to convert the masses? Are you mad at any of those last three kinds of people?

Step 8: Attributes. You have your two. Spark, which represent's your character's personal capabilities to change the status quo and shape the world, and Smoke, which represents how the world reacts to you and how much you influence it just by being there. Spark is used when your character's personally doing something, and Smoke is used for framing scenes, starting new sessions, and controlling the environment, weird magic that is not your personal ability or the actions of minor NPCs. D4 is the lowest an attribute can go, and generally speaking no one will never have it; it will only ever come up due to having 5 Harm. D12 is as high as a PC can go - if you want a D20, you're going to need teamwork or the support of a Planar Belief on its home plane. The GM begins with one stat at d8 and the other at d12; Spark is high if the main danger will be coming from personal relationships, emotional pressure and zealous faith, while Smoke is higher if the greatest danger will be from force of arms, political strategy and arcane secrets. PCs start at D6 in both, and then can either raise one stat twice or both once.

Step 9: Personal Connections. This is the final step - creating the web of Face NPCs that tie everyone together. Each PC is bound to three Faces; at a physical table, you'll gather everyone in a circle and put index cards on the left and right of each player, plus one in the center. Yes, you share cards with your neighbors. Players then define each Face. They pick one of the three they are connected to and assign them Heritage, Faction or Power as the basis for their relationship, describing what bit of commonality they have. You start with the player who has the first idea, then go around the table clockwise until everyone's contributed to their three Faces. If your PC and a Face share a Heritage, talk about their familial relationship - are they a sibling, a lover, a child? Did they help you out when you really needed it? Did they hurt you somehow? If your PC and a Face share a Faction, talk about your professional relationship with them. Are they a rival, a colleague, a mentor? Did you once work together on some job, years ago? If your PC and a Face share a Power, talk about the spiritual relationship you share with them. Do you think of them as meak, misguided or righteous? Do they stand in defiance of your religion's teachings?

Having done this, the group now collaborates to give each Face a name, two strengths that describe their core competences and one wekaness, which represents some character flaw or vulnerability. The card in the center is the Focus, and because everyone is tied to them, they will end up with the most complicated and overlapping history. Now, you put another card next to their card. Each player provides one fact, which can be true or just rumor, that their character knows about the Focus. You write all of these down and the Focus' name. The first Scene of the game involves the death or disappearance of the Focus; at a physical table, you rip up the Focus' card and announce it, and the game starts.

Next time: The Planes

megane
Jun 20, 2008



What a shame RIFTS: Justified Genocide Part 6: Atrocity Porn is coming to an end

drunkencarp
Feb 14, 2012

Alien Rope Burn posted:

[*]13. King's Tower: The heart of the Tolkeen government, this is one of the most well-protected buildings, made out of self-repairing magic material. This is where the King and the Circle of Twelve rule from. Still, the Coalition manages to blow off the top floors before it can self-repair and they essentially lay siege to it as it becomes the last redoubt of the Tolkeen forces. The Tolkeen defense is led by "The Expendables" (no relation to the movie, given how much earlier this was), a handful of soldiers who end up having their hearts wired to explosives and make a death run at the Coalition lines. (This does not matter.)[/list]

As references to the Fall of Gondolin go, this is pretty weaksauce. There could at least have been a secret escape tunnel leading to a Coalition ambush, or something.

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers, stern and wild ones, and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.
Clapping Larry

Night10194 posted:

I used this system for Superspies vs. Eldritch Horrors and it was fun times.

I think every game I've played in or run did something besides the norm. Like game 1 was 'you're actually the forerunner to the X-COM project' as I've said, Game 2 was Ghost in the Shell, and Game 3 was more X-COM about a different team, while the game I actually ran was 'what if Delta Green was an action movie'.

I used this game system for a not-Stargate game (Before they released the Stargate licensed package) and it was awesome. I know I'm a freak for being in this forum and actually liking d20SRD based games over 4e, but that's just how it is.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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

Humbug Scoolbus posted:

I used this game system for a not-Stargate game (Before they released the Stargate licensed package) and it was awesome. I know I'm a freak for being in this forum and actually liking d20SRD based games over 4e, but that's just how it is.

Spycraft is not a bad game. Spycraft has a bunch of d20-isms I find intensely frustrating (like the implementation of Feats and the Skill system's quirks), and it Decker Problems very hard, but I can say that the Spycraft Rules actually contributed to the games I played in it and helped them to be fun.

Spycraft's tragedy to me is that I would have liked to have seen the same energy put to its own system, because the designers have real talent at crunchy rules work, and I don't think the actual d20 framework added anything to the game itself so much as the stuff they brought to it did the heavy lifting. It is a game that illustrates the tragedy of the OGL to me, where a bright team of decent designers are shackled to a basic rules framework that really, really isn't working with them in their desire to make a cinematic superspy game. Even if they did kind of make it work.

Though when I was running my "What if Delta Green, but significantly more 1990s X-COM" game, I threw the Modern Arms Guide in the trash where it belongs, gave each gun type a 'class ability' so you ever had a reason to use the poor neglected SMG, and just made like 3 mechanically distinct guns the agency issues per category. Because the Modern Arms Guide was absolutely peak 'we put minuscule mechanical differences and costs to the Jericho 941 9mm and the Beretta 92F and the Mateba Revolver vs. the Colt Python!' late 90s/early 00s poo poo. We're gonna be going into it a little when we get to gear because it's a particularly hilarious example of that old trope.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 03:00 on Jun 22, 2019

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Coalition Wars 6: Final Siege, Part 12- "Those troops hesitant to mow down unarmed women and children (90% of the Dog Boys are included in this group), even D-Bee women and children, will try to give them a chance to flee while the soldiers zero in on obvious resistance fighters, armed adults, monsters, dragons, spell casters and the more monstrous and alien looking D-Bees."

It's okay as long it isn't you that's mowing down civilians, skullboys, you're cool. That's war! The majority not even human!

War Stories

Remember the Summer Solstice? This book finally does, saying it could be used to give Tolkeen a last opportunity of some sort. I love how they introduce plot points and then... completely forget about them. Who needs plot outlines, though? Siembieda's a professional writer! In any case, we start here with a laundry list of adventure ideas for Coalition-aligned characters. Putting aside the issues with a Coalition campaign for a brief moment, it's not a bad list, even it's rather disorganized.

The list for Tolkeen or anti-Coalition characters gets most of this section, though. It's emphasized how hostile the Coalition is and what targets they prioritize, and then gets different adventure hooks around fighting in the city, defending civilians, and escaping the city. We're reminded Rifts Aftermath will have more on the Tolkeen refugee crisis. (One of the few claims made about that book that turns out to be perfectly true.)

This is a pretty long section at four pages, but it's perfectly functional without really being too specific, so there isn't much to add.


"If you will battle us, know our names: Coake and Pipsy!"

Hook, Line & Sinkerô Adventures
By Bill Coffin & Kevin Siembieda


This is, ultimately, another "Situations Critical" writeup up, dealing with various adventure hooks in order of metaplot.

Stage One: Desperate Measures deals with Tolkeen rebuilding after the Sorcerer's Revenge. You'd think we'd spent enough time in this timeframe, given the past two books were already about that, but no. The main adventure hooks involve trying to salvage equipment off of battlefields, dealing with summoners trying to make deals with mysterious or sinister powers to give Tolkeen an edge, and finding a way to improve their fortifications and arsenals. We get "Scoping the Boneyard" where the characters are sent on a mission to recover some inactive Skelebots, only to find that they're not so inactive after all. "Good Experiment, Bad Results" deals with a shifter accidentally summoning demons when trying to build a weapon for Tolkeen, and it's up for to the PCs to save a poor farm village from literal random demons (like, rolled up using charts). The Coalition version has them maybe using the random demons as a way to distract or entrap Tolkeen fighters coming to save the village... or maybe, just maybe actually save the village. The truth is somewhere in the... no, I can't. I just can't.

Stage Two: Dark Horizon deals with the period where Tolkeen struggles with doubt as to whether or not the war is ongoing after the Coalition retreat and the "Sorcerers' Revenge". Generally, the suggestions here have to do with scouting out the enemy or rebuilding Tolkeen's defenses. We have "Predator and Prey" dealing with skirmishes between Coalition and Tolkeen scouts. There, we're introduced to a Coalition unit called "Fighting 31st" and a Tolkeen unit called the "Chimeric Lot", both of which have levels from about 6-10... that is, roughly the apex Siembieda expects PCs to wrap a campaign at. Good luck dealing with them! The next is "Caught on the Edge" where PCs are with a Tolkeen group of groups that's caught off guard when the main Coalition wave arrives and have to escape in a chase scene. There's "The Fighting 31st" where it assumes the PCs are with the Coalition tracking Tolkeen air forces to an airfield to try and sneak in and blow up an airfield.


"It's time to show them the truth is in the middle, boys!"

Stage Three: Reaching Out has to do with Tolkeen realizing the Coalition army is on the way for a second time and seeking out allies. It talks about trying to get help from Lazlo, appealing to their practicality rather than their morality - that if the Coalition wins, they'll feel emboldened to attack other magic-friendly communities. There's also a curve ball that Warlord Scard has put out assassins to eliminate the top goodies at Lazlo, thinking with them out of the way they'll have Lazlo's help. Given the obvious issues with that, I'd have to say it terming it an "insane" plan is rather accurate.

They're also looking to get help from Stormspire, but apparently that Techno-Wizard city is afraid of Coalition retribution... but why? The Coalition already attacked them once and only hasn't followed up because they haven't found a way to defeat their magical defenses. Some at Stormspire feel that Tolkeen is "reckless" and associates with demonic forces making them bad customers, but this is a city under the thumb of the obviously evil and demon-associated "True" Federation of Magic, so that doesn't make much sense either. Speaking of which, it talks about getting help from Dunscon's evil faction of the Federation of Magic, but given the bad blood between Tolkeen and the Federation, that feels pretty unlikely.

There's getting help from the Juicer rebels under Julian the First (from Rifts World Book 10: Juicer Uprising. There doesn't seem to be anything in the way of getting their and probably should have already happened five books ago. Larsen's Brigade (from Rifts Mercenaries) tries to stay out of fights with the Coalition, but apparently was going to help out until Tolkeen summoned the Daemonix, which was a step too far for him. But maybe the PCs can figure out how to convince him otherwise. Similarly, there's talk of getting help with the Naruni corporation (see Rifts Mercenaries, but it's more Tolkeen's afraid of getting so in debt to the alien company they're effectively "owned" by them.

Lastly, there's apparently talk of getting help from the Splugorth, but we're told...

Rifts Coalition Wars 6: Final Siege posted:

Lord Splynncryth was actually intrigued by this "deal" offer, but has declined. Is there some way to sweeten the pot and win his assistance? Talk about a deal with the devil. Note: Lord Splynncryth will not change his mind. He has his own plans for Tolkeen in the Aftermath of the war. Plans that should not antagonize the CS (too much) or make it an enemy of Atlantis.

Rifts Coalition Wars 6: Final Siege posted:

Let's face it, these scenarios are all long shots at best. The odds of any one of them happening are slim and none, but Tolkeen still tries. Making them avenues for adventure.

"Reaching Out" is interesting because it feels like for a moment they're opening things up to having players find a way to change the war only to have Siembieda put the kibosh on it at the last moment, for the most part. And... how is getting the Juicers' help a "long shot?" Why is Splynncryth worried about antagonizing the Coalition? I mean, the Coalition formed an entire branch of the military (the Navy) specifically because they're worried about Atlantis. How much more antagonized can you get?

In any case, we get two adventure hooks. The first is "Chemical Warriors" where the PCs are hired to get Julian I and his Juicers on Tolkeen's side, but there are Coalition soldiers looking to stop them. We're told that it's going to be hard to convince him because he wants to go out in a "blaze of glory" and doesn't think Tolkeen is a glorious fight...

... :geno: ...

... and there's the flip side where the players are Coalition soldiers trying to stop a Tolkeen diplomat party from meeting with Julian I at all. The other adventure is "Made in America?" where Archie-3 (the AI from Rifts Sourcebook 1 & 2) drops off a bunch of walking factories with parts to make Titan robots in Tolkeen's backyard to help them out, but we're told the Coalition probably blows them up before Tolkeen can retrieve them because Siembieda obviously doesn't like that plot hook so why bother?

I wonder how Coffin got frustrated working on this book? I mean, the push-pull between him introducing ways players could help the war and Siembieda making GBS threads all over them sounds like an exciting work environment!

:iiam:

Next: The bigger skull theory of warfare.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

Night10194 posted:

So do we ever get a book where the Coalition similarly pays for 'its hatred' or whatever or is that something that only happens to non-nazis?

I know the answer, I just have to keep expressing my disgust because gently caress this poo poo.

The thing is, it wouldn't even be an issue if Rifts had stuck to its normal format where it's like "here's the threat, PCs, go deal with it!" But the metaplot opens the question of "why doesn't anybody else?" and the whole thing becomes far more of a mess.

FBH991 posted:

Given there's not one but 2 Naruni businesses here, and the Naruni presumably hate the Coalition, why isn't Tolkeen fighting the coalition with a ton of Naruni gear as well?

As mentioned above, apparently they'd rather die than sell out to The Manô.

Halloween Jack posted:

I admit I haven't closely followed the Coalition/Tolkeen war, but my understanding is that the wizards had everything they needed to teleport into Coalition headquarters and level it, and the books never really explain why that didn't happen. Plus the whole thing where the Coalition has more military hardware than the modern United States.

About the closest thing we get is that the Proseks are in hiding somewhere, so killing them is a little harder than that, but given psychics and wizards, it shouldn't be impossible. Moreover, the books seem to presume the Proseks are the only viable targets for teleport bombs or lightning strikes, and that's clearly not the case.

Alien Rope Burn fucked around with this message at 11:58 on Jun 22, 2019

Dawgstar
Jul 15, 2017

Aw, yeah. Another example of Splynncryth The Master Manipulator to actually impact the setting worth a crap and instead he... twiddles his tentacles and plays "the long game." He might be the biggest 'tell and not shown' NPC in the books, which is saying something. This seems to be a symptom of Kevin being super allergic to ever have anything interesting happen in his world that I'm sure he thinks is a grand design.

I guess I'm glad they remembered Larsen's Brigade? (I'm not. We're past caring.)

Seatox
Mar 13, 2012
RIFTS, smashing together your toys in the sandpit, but the other kid is that annoying one who always goes "NUH UH my coalition skullbots are infinity better and my Kung-Fu Genocide Grip Prosek With Real Missile Action wins because I say so!"

Then ten years later, said annoying kid goes off and becomes a Nazi skinhead - which surprises nobody who knew them back in the playground.

FBH991
Nov 26, 2010
Rereading what has been posted so far, and my own copies from back in the day, it's kind of interesting to me how much Tolkeen becoming evil is something we're told, not something we see. In general, Tolkeen fights a clean, defensive war without any attacks on anyone who's not a combatant.

There's no bombardment of CS civilian territories. Hell, is, as far as I can see, no attack on any CS person who isn't a combatant or a politician. Like, rather than having an Auto-G try to get all the way to Prosek, couldn't Tolkeen just take a suitcase nuke or some kind of magical weapon of mass destruction into Chi-town proper and blow it up? Given Rifts has long-range missiles with ranges of hundreds of miles why aren't they raining down on nearby CS cities? They have blight of ages as a spell, why aren't they sending teams into Missouri or where ever the CS grow food and just chain casting it until it's a magical version of the dustbowl.

The allies fought a dirtier war in WW2 than Tolkeen fights against the coalition. The North fought a dirtier war against the South.

Kevin seems to think that just them using demons will be enough for us to think that they're super bad guys, but I kinda... don't? And we never actually see the Daemonix or whatever do anything particularly bad. They're not demanding blood sacrifices or anything, or that after the war ever 10th Tolkeenite be given over to them. Nor even they get to eat CS prisoners. They're literally helping because Tolkeen was the first people ever to be nice to them.

The closest you get to any kind of atrocity on the Tolkeen side that in the heat of the moment, they may mistreat captured or surrendering CS genociders. Even then, Tolkeen mostly treats its prisoners fairly well. They're not exterminating them. They're not implanting them with mind control devices and sending them to kill their former comrades. They're not using them as part of mass sacrifices.

There's not even an incident where Tolkeen demon troops break through the CS lines, take over a CS town and eat everyone.

It would be creepy enough in modern conditions to portray Tolkeen as having gone too far against the CS Neo-Nazis. However even with the morals of the time, it looks more like Tolkeen is fighting a clean war, while the rest of the supposed good guys refuse to help them for petty reasons.

Seatox
Mar 13, 2012
Also the way the Coalition just gets away with genocide in a universe with fantasy elements. You'd think they'd lose half their armies to the vengeful spirits of the wronged and tormented dead, plagues of zombies, ghouls in the charnel fields, pissed off gods of justice, etc. Out here in the real world, sadly, we only have the Hague.

Cassa
Jan 29, 2009
Night10194, enjoying Spycraft. What a cool little game.

Have the devs gone on to much more?

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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

Cassa posted:

Night10194, enjoying Spycraft. What a cool little game.

Have the devs gone on to much more?

Yeah, though I haven't played it. Spycraft 2e is what Spycraft 1e is but more, with like 478 pages of rules with no fluff. And then they did FantasyCraft, which is their attempt to do d20 D&D Fantasy, but while I own it I've never really read it. So I can't really speak to how 2e works in play, or the quality of FantasyCraft.

SirPhoebos
Dec 10, 2007

WELL THAT JUST HAPPENED!

I had a lot of bad things to say about Chromebook 1, but at the end of the day, itís mostly harmless.



Chomebook 2, on the other hand, is not harmless. Itís better written from a technical standpoint, and there are a lot fewer instances of important stats missing. But this supplement changes the power scale of Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. in a way that canít be easily ignored.

Also there's one entire section that someone at R.Talsorian really should of just said "No" to. But we'll get to that.

1. Cybernetics

Chromebook 2 does better than its predecessor by not opening with a section called ďmiscellaneousĒ. This only covers new cybernetic components - the actual cyberware headliners are later in the book. This section is comparatively short, with 19 new options. And this time they didnít forget the surgery codes! My personal favorite is the Nanooptical Upgrade. This bioware gives the patientís natural eyes the ability to see in IR and UV, and ďallows +2 to night visionĒ whatever that means. While this doesnít do anything for Cyberoptics, it can be used with Smart Goggles, which frees up space for other options. Costs 1,500 eb and 1d6/2 HC. Surgery N.



The other good option here is Upgraded Skinweave. Skinweave now comes in various levels of SP, going up to 16 (costs 2,750 eb and 2d6+4 HC). There are other variable cyber-armor options, including upgraded subdermal chest and skull armor. Skinweave is the best because it ignores most of the armor layering rules. Skull armor is second because it mostly doesnít cause layering problems (though a strict reading of the rules says it would), but has the drawback of only protecting the back and top of the head. All these options cause permanent ATTR reduction. How crippling. :geno:



Chromebook 2 also provides new Cyberfinger options. I actually like some of them. The one that shoots a screw-sized tracking device is the exact kind of enhancement I would want to put in my finger (wait, come back!). The Vid Cam is also pretty dope, but itís let down a bit by requiring you to have a cyberoptic upgrade that uses two of the four slots. The cyberfingers can also have a Quick Change Mount that lets you swap in and out different options - though it does raise the question of how HC loss is handled.

Because there are fewer cybernetics, there are a lot fewer that I consider complete turkeys. There are only four cosmetic cybernetics, and only two cyberweapons of dubious efficacy. Iíve been unable to puzzle out what the Wetware Access Link actually does. Everything else I can see a PC using, or at least something to give to an NPC to give them a quirk.

So itís off to a nice start, and we actually get one more well-written chapter before we fly off the rails.

Next Time: Oh poo poo, tech expectations changed!

SirPhoebos fucked around with this message at 18:00 on Jun 22, 2019

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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

Sig: Manual of the Primes
This Hand Of Mine Is Burning Red



The Elemental Plane of Flame embodies the Belief that Passion is incorruptible. It is a place where the heart ignites, lit by rage and desire. The plane itself is made of solid flame, the land ember and ash. In the distance, against the void, pillars of fire extend out into the night. Shimmers dance at the edge of vision, guiding you through walls of incense and smoke. Solid fire blocks paths as easily as stone wood, and rivers of ash and lava flow freely. Only the strong or the pure can survive long. The Crucible is a scorched wasteland of warrying city-states, said to be the home of the bravest and most ferocious warrior clans and bands in the whole of the 'verse. The City of Smokeless Fire is made entirely of brass and glows with inspiration. Its many artisans are famous for their works of light and fire. The Lifepyre can always be seen, lighting the deserts of the plane. It is a fountain of azure flame that rises high into the night, and its touch burns away both physical wounds and corruptions of the heart.

The most common people of the plane are the Firehearts. Their passions burn hotter than any other people's, for their heritage is flame. So intense are they that their skin is the colors of ash and their veins course not with blood but living magma. They are famous for their sklll in alchemy, combat and dance, which are revered arts among them. Firehearts are often perfectionists, unwilling to settle for things half-done or works that are less than their best. Their common Talents are:
Fire (Broad)
Passion (Broad)
Purification (Common)
Burning Hands (Deep)

The greatest Faction of the plane is the Cleaners. Sig is a messy place and a brutal one, where people and things get broken. The Cleaners work with both. They are equally healers and garbage disposers, the people who most deel with the bodies that lie in the streets, living or dead. They pull them out of the gutter and into the infirmaries, where they cauterize wounds, burn out curses and patch up bruises. At other times, they dispose of the city's refuse - which, of course, they define. They clean out the litter and burn it away. They may not be appreciated by many and they may be overworked, but without them, Sig would fall apart.
Duty: Care for the sick, dispose of the trash.
Leverage: No one pays attention to the trash men. The Cleaners can easily move through Sig unseen or unnoticed to wherever they please.
Example Agenda: Build a new clinic in the Hive to manage the epidemic of the screaming sickness.

One of the notable Powers of the plane is Alius the Pure, Power of Healt, Judgement and Transformation. Once, she was a mortal man, but this was not her true nature at all. When she entered the Lifepyre, it burned away her false form, revealing her true being. She immediately ascended to divinity as the passions of flame rose in her breast, filling her slender form with white fire and her mind with unquenched ambition. Her worshippers now travel the 'verse, burning away both sin and weakness in themselves and others. Her flames transform the faithful.
Devotion: Bathing in water is forbidden.
Ritual: The Smoke Rite can be called on to burn away any wound or purge any toxin. If you do not spend Influence, it also destroys most of the target's self-control.
Example Agenda: CApture the Patriarch of Moran, God of Eugenics.



The Elemental Plane of Waves embodies the Belief that True power is hidden. It is a place of endless seas, bright at the top and dark in the depths. Brine and sweet water mix freely in floating kelp forests. The currents pull ever downwards, guiding visitors through glowing pods of jellyfish, schools of all kinds of swimming creatures, even ancient turtles with shells inscribed in mystic lore. The deep waters hide terrible behemoths, immense sharks and benevolent, scholarly krakens. No one can recount all the secrets hidden in the waters, but with effort, some can be uncovered. The Abyss, in the lowest depths of the plane, holds ancient, lost weapons that were hidden long ago by the Primordials during the war that destroyed them. They still wait to be uncovered once more. The Coral Mazes lie in the upper reaches, a network of bright and three-dimensional structures of living coral, carefully grown and cultivated by skilled artisans among the Waterborn. Sunk was, at one time, a mighty city on some prime world. Now, its marble and crystal structures are beneath the waves here, serving as the diplomatic center for the entire plane.

The most common folk of the plane are the Waterborn, often overlooked and scorned by other Heritages. They are a collection of proud but broken peoples, enslaved by dark and ancient Powers in the depths and remade in the image of their masters. Whatever they once were is gone - now, they are short creatures with webbed feet and gills, to better allow them to swim in the plane of Waves. Some of them have fish-like scales or stiff, hard shells, and others have strong claws or grasping tentacles. Their bodies are able to reshape themselves to adapt to any new environment, so long as there is water for them. Because of their history of captivity and enslavement, secrets are the chief commodity of Waterborn society. Privacy and secrecy are prized, and simply knowing something others do not is power. Many Waterborn have made their way to freedom from their aquatic masters, and they now travel the rest of the 'verse, reveling in their freedom. Their common Talents are:
Water (Broad)
Secrets (Broad)
Biology (Common)
Mutable Form (Deep)

The Riverwatch are the most notable of the plane's Factions. They oversee the Great River that flows through Sig and brings in clean water. Without them, it would be filthy and unusable. They filter out the sewage and keep the river flowing with trade. The waters remain drinkable because of their efforts, and so Sig remains inhabitable. When they aren't handling sewage, they manage what river traffic eexists and hunt down any predators or other dangers that manage to make their way into the River and its associated waterways.
Duty: Clean and patrol the Great River of Sig.
Leverage: Control of river traffic and access to water.
Example Agenda: Slay the juvenile leviathan that has killed 30 people so far this week.

Tritonous of the Hungry Seas is a notable Power in the Plane of Waves, the Power of Storms, Fury and Hunger. He is the beast beneath the depths, his bulk writing and squirming. His hunger is an ancient one, driving him to devour the vessels that dare to intrude in his territory. Once, he was a caring and benevolent deity, but his beloved children were slain by mortals, and he never forgave them. The loss of his children broke him, and his grief awoke the darker impulses of his nature, worse than anything from the depths of the sea. Now, he waits and watches, sending Waterborn slaves out to drag mortals into his watery embrace that he might feast on them.
Devotion: Never suffer a blond man to live.
Ritual: The Deepcall can summon one of Tritonous' powerful warriors forth from the Abyss. If you do not spend Influence, the warrior will only serve to kill and destroy.
Example Agenda: Destroy the island of Atlan, on one of the most civilized primes of the 'verse.



The Elemental Plane of Wind embodies the Belief that Every message is sacred. It is a place of constant flight, where anyone can pass through the air and clouds without a care for gravity. The rushing winds move everywhere, accompanied by birdsong and the sound of storms. On the other hand, there is no shelter in much of the plane. Nowhere to hide from the aerial beasts that hunt for food, from the danger of extreme weather. And the weather is definitely extreme - not just rain or snow or winds; falling brimstone, razor crystals or icy shards all fly through the endless skies as well. The Vault of the Skies is a series of floating islands that are home to the massive fortresses of the Cloud Giants. The Aerie is a towering set of stone spires that enter the Plane of Winds from elsewhere, which is not entirely clear. Millions upon mullions of birds and other avian beings roost and make their nests upon the spires. The Chorus Vortex is a whirlwind of light and cloud, where the Winged make their homes and spend their time singing, whispering secrets and living out their lives.

The Winged are the most common people of the plane. Each appears as a humanoid being with a pair of wings. Some are feathered, others batlike, and others insectile. They are nomads that belive soft and quiet speech is an act of holy devotion to their vairous faiths. They are well-known for their love of enthusiastic gossip and rumors among the planes; among the primes, they are often believed to be divine messengers. They aren't, but the Winged are happy to encourage primals to believe that they are. After all, many of them make their living delivering messages across the 'verse, to planes and primes alike, for all manner of clients. Sometimes they really are delivering divine messages. Their common Talents are:
Air (Broad)
Communication (Broad)
Flight (Common)
Unstoppable Message (Deep)

The primary Faction of the plane is the Heralds, who employ many of the Winged. Everyone needs messages delivered, and the Heralds don't let them down. Neither rain nor snow nor demonic invasion shall stay these messengers about their duties. They ensure accurate and timely delivery, and if that means they have to occasionally read the contents of what they're delivering to make sure it ends up where you intended, well, what can you expect? The Herald Guild, as they are also known, serves as the postal service not only for Sig but throughout the 'verse as a whole, ready to deliver to any of the planes and most of the primes. Next-day delivery is available, for a fee.
Duty: Deliver messages to the planes or the primes.
Leverage: Reading the mail. The Heralds, as a collective, know about nearly everything that's going on in the City Between.
Example Agenda: Deliver the peace treaty signed by Xeneth the Oppressor to Polena the Valorous.

The example Power is Ferrelux the Whisperer, Power of Thought, Chaos and Secrets. He appears as a beautiful Herald whose wings shine as bright as the morning star. (Yes, really.) He was first raised to power as the Voice of the Primordial Empress, who in ancient days ruled over the Plane of Wind with total and brutal authority. However, after she was slain and overthrown, Ferrelux began sharing dangerous and subversive ideas across the 'verse. Now, he has settled into his role as the bringing of political revolution and the inspiration for radical new religious beliefs.
Devotion: Direct lies are forbidden, though omissions are encouraged.
Ritual: The Rite of Rumor lets you implant an idea into someone, which they will remember as having been told them by someone they can't quite recall in the indistinct past. If you do not spend Influence, the idea spreads uncontrollably any time the target whispers.
Example Agenda: Make it known that the Silent Regent has a divine heir hidden on one of the primes.

Next time: The Planes of Stone, Ice and Justice

SirPhoebos
Dec 10, 2007

WELL THAT JUST HAPPENED!



Part 2: Equipment

The first edition of Cyberpunk was released in 1987. Chromebook 2 came out in 1992, five years later. I remember it was around that year that my family got its first home computer, and I started getting keyboard lessons in grade school. I bring all this up because reading the Equipment section in Chromebook 2, it feels like a lot of the new equipment is updating CP2020 tech to not be lagging behind the actual real world at the time.



For example, out of the 69 new pieces of equipment, about a third relate to personal computers. I donít mean Cybermodems - in fact the book makes a special note that these canít be used for Netrunning. These are regular computers like the one that Iím typing this update on. And theyíre actually worth purchasing for certain characters. One of the issues with the core book is that if you werenít a Solo or a Netrunner, there really wasnít enough for you to spend your starting budget on. The computers here go a long way to addressing that, giving characters bonuses to TECH and INT rolls or acting as a substitute for rolling skill checks. I think. Because personal computers werenít given any detail in the core book, Iím not exactly sure what Iím supposed to do with the fact that a computer has an effective INT of 3. That said, thereís a lot of support given to computers, so even when the rules arenít clear, I think thereís enough for Referees to come to a reasonable set of rules.

Thereís also 5 entries dedicated to video game consoles! These are mostly superfluous, notable only because R.Talsorian put their chips down on Sega and Atari. Not all of these items are dumb kitch, however. The Scholar Home Learning System allows characters to learn a new skill up to +2 in two-and-a-half days. While this doesnít fix the glacial IP pace (as it only provides new skills), itís still a much needed speed boost to getting new skills.



The equipment section also gives more options for sneaking about. The Militech Ghostsuit and Mirage Gear, plus the Gibson Sneaksuit all basically do the same thing at different price points. The wording is that these suits penalize otherís Notice rather than giving bonuses to the userís Hide or Evade. All the suits have an additional rule where thereís an extra -1 to Notice for every 10 meters away from the would-be observer. These are really good for actually challenging Solos with high Notice and Combat Sense, but they have the issue of further siloing off combat from non-Solos. And of course now that's it possible to be effective at stealth, then stealth characters now have their own mini-game that is effectively similar to the one Netrunners play even if it takes place in MeatSpace. There are a few other questionable design choices, like giving some stealth suits EV penalties. Theyíre not huge, but they just require more math and calculations to figure out exactly how sneaky someone is being. (as a reminder, EV penalizes REF, the stat used for making Stealth checks)

Another interesting addition that Chromebook 2 brings is Drones and Remotes. Thereís a new skill to use them, Remote Systems Operations, that uses the average of REF and INT. However, a Netrunner can substitute in their Interface skill instead. There are a few things about drone combat thatís not clear, like how initiative is determined. The drones are also pretty expensive, with the cheapest option being the Bell Bumblebee Remote Rotocraft costing 4,000 eb, and can be outfitted with an SMG. Itís not outside the budget of starting characters, but because of the lack of clarity of the rules itís difficult to say if a player would want to go with it (especially when itís competing for other high-cost items). The other remote that PCs could purchase on their own is the Mitsubishi ďRoverĒ Wheeled Remote. The Rover is about the size of a riding lawn mower and can be fitted with assault rifles. It costs 9,000 eb



There are two other Drones that are in the Chromebook arenít really publically available. The Arasaka RDAK Spy & Assassin is a bug sized remote with sneaky assassination weapons that costs 12,000 eb, but Arasaka only sells it to ďfriendlyĒ corporations. Then thereís the Militech RPV-400 Light Combat Tiltroter Remote. Itís armed with two 12.7mm Chainguns that carry 1,500 rounds each, have an RoF of 150, and a range of 1 km. These guns do 4d10+2 damage, SP halved, normal penetrating damage. Itís also equipped with flares that reduce missile hit chance by 30%. And thatís just the integrated weapons, because the RPV-400 has 4 wing mounts and one centerline hardpoint. The RPV-400 costs 150,000 eb. Both can be pretty formidable opponents...at least until you remember that a Netrunner can use the CONTROL REMOTE function to hijack it pretty effortlessly. This whole subgroup of equipment is R.Talsorian continued effort to band-aid the problem with Netrunners, specifically by giving themselves something to do outside of hacking. This is evidenced by an in-setting quote (italics included):

Rache Bartmoss posted:

Netrunners moan all the time that they canít stand with Solos when combat comes. I never needed more than a couple assassin remotes or a handy Robo-CabTM to level the competition.

So how does this not work in practice? First, thereís no initiative advantage for using remotes. In fact, itís not fully clear how initiative is determined. Being able to shoot accurately with a remote does no good when your headís already been blown off. Second, thereís all the issues with CONTROL REMOTE that I brought up in my review of the core book. Third, the stuff that Netrunners can freely purchase isnít great. The rover may have been somewhat tanky prior to this supplement, but as we'll soon see it doesnít get the job done anymore. So in order to get the best use out of remotes, a Netrunner is either going to have to hijack one (making the usefulness of CONTROL REMOTE more dependent on Referee-may-I) or hack a purchase (which puts us back into lengthy Netrunning scenes).

Thereís a bunch of equipment for surveillance and counter-surveillance. Itís all very straight forward. Itís stuff you would expect if you wanted to do espionage scenarios in CP2020. The only notable thing is the artwork for the futuristic metal detector is a little juvenile, but not in a way thatís egregious I think. Iíll share it so you can be the judge.



While everything is pretty well organized, there are one or two items that just donít belong with anything else. They make up for it by at least being worth getting. In particular, the MedicGear Combat Medical Armor is a must for anyone that wants to play as a Medtech that doesnít just avoid combat entirely. It has a solid 20 SP to all body parts, comes with a bunch of medical supplies and gizmos, and provides a +2 to all ďon-the-spotĒ medical rolls. Itís got a -3 EV penalty, but that doesnít impact TECH skills. It costs 3,400 eb.



The only non-combat roll that I feel is left out from the equipment love is the Rockerboy. The DPI Body Rhythm Dance Bracelets let you use either Dance or Play Instrument (Synthesizer), whichever is higher. This feels like an item made for someoneís very specific character concept, or else pulled straight from a movie. The Washburn Soundmachine Guitar gives the user +1 to Perform if not performing in a band. Finally, thereís the SecSystems Protection Field, which zaps anyone that gets too close to the wearer. Itís presented as something to keep away overzealous fans. This game seems to imagine Rockerboys getting mobbed by fans a lot.



Overall the equipment section is a major improvement over the one from the last Chromebook. To drive that point home, of the 69 items in this section, thereís only one mention of fax machines, and thatís only an option for a cell phone. If Chromebook 2 had stuck to the level of gear weíve seen so far, it would have been an alright supplement. Instead...

Next Time: :hellyeah:

Tibalt
May 14, 2017

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

Night10194 posted:

Yeah, though I haven't played it. Spycraft 2e is what Spycraft 1e is but more, with like 478 pages of rules with no fluff. And then they did FantasyCraft, which is their attempt to do d20 D&D Fantasy, but while I own it I've never really read it. So I can't really speak to how 2e works in play, or the quality of FantasyCraft.
FantasyCraft was... interesting. I'll try to think back to my PbP experience with it when it came out, and maybe do a review later. It would make a great companion piece to your Spycraft review, especially as it relates to most D20 OGL fantasy stuff.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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

Tibalt posted:

FantasyCraft was... interesting. I'll try to think back to my PbP experience with it when it came out, and maybe do a review later. It would make a great companion piece to your Spycraft review, especially as it relates to most D20 OGL fantasy stuff.

I'd love to see an analysis of it from someone who's played it.

SirPhoebos
Dec 10, 2007

WELL THAT JUST HAPPENED!



Part 3: Weapons

There are two sections of Chromebook 2 that radically alter the power level of Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The weapons section is the first part. There are 50 new entries, and very few are just reskins of weapons from the core book. Most of these weapons do something new. Itís just that often the new thing is ďdo more damage than anything before.Ē



Prior to Chromebook 2, the hardest hitting rifle did 6D6+2 damage. Now thereís the Militech Cyborg Rifle, which does 7D6+3 AP. Itís not a complete replacement, because it only has a ROF of 2, so you can't just Full-Auto multiple targets like I showed in by review of the core book. Whatís more alarming is the entry right next to it, the Polymer One-Shot Cannon. At first it seems unimpressive (4D6+2, 1 ammo, 100 m) and has a 1-in-10 chance of blowing up on a jam. But the One-Shot Cannon fires a HEP round, which does 1/2 real damage, 1/2 stun damage, and ignores armor! It also only cost 90 eb and is concealable, so these are weapons that an entire gang can come equipped with and surprise a player with. This feels like the type of weapon meant to allow Referees to feel like cunning clods when they take out a well-tuned Solo by sheer volume of armor-ignoring attacks.



Chromebook 2 adds the Pursuit Security Webgun. If youíve seen The Running Man, you know how this works. Unlike other forms of incapacitating weapons, this one doesnít have one thing that instantly counters it. It can come with a taser enhancement or fire a net made of detcord, which will rip apart all but the most heavily armored cyborgs. The biggest limitation to this weapon is the range (only 30 meters.)



And hereís where Chromebook 2 says ďgently caress it!Ē with the Rhinemetall EMG-85 Kinetic Energy Railgun. 5D10+10 EAP (Armor is 1/4 effective, 1/2 penetrating damage), 1,500 m range, and +3 accuracy. Itís also extremely heavy (35 kg), which is one of the other issues with this book: whereas the core book went out of itís way to abstract the weight of everything, Chromebook 2 hopes you use encumbrance as a balancing factor. This comes with a bunch of special rules about using special harnesses and smart links. There are very specific rules to trying to acquire the Railgun on the black market (Roll 30 and a Critical Success on Streetdeal). Just under that is the Luigi Franchi ďKing BuckĒ Mulit-Magnum shotgun. Itís a pepperbox style gun that fires 10 gauge shells, doing more damage than any previous shotgun (6D6 at close range), although it forgets to list the range. Whoops. I've never been hot for shotguns in CP2020 mostly because I have trouble parsing the rules (it's like the Fireball from really old editions of D&D), but for players that have made them work there's no reason not to use this over any non-automatic shotgun.



The Techtronica M40 Pulse Rifle is another in a line of EMP weapons, but this one is different for a couple of reasons. First, it can incapacitate people for minutes, even if theyíre not loaded with cyberware. Second, if you use it at Point Blank range, it has a 50% chance of frying even shielded electronics. Itís main drawbacks are relatively poor range (50 m) and slow rate of fire (1/2 ROF).



Apparently a loving railgun wasnít enough for this book, because we get two more heavy cannons. The first is the Colt-Mauser M2X. It does 4D10+6 Extra High Impact (armor 1/4, no reduction to penetrating shots), has a range of 600m, and requires you to make an Average BOD check to avoid getting bruised. The second is the Militech AM-3 ďAnti-Matter RifleĒ. It actually uses depleted uranium slugs. Itís the M2X, but more so: 6D10+12 EHI, 1,600m range. The rounds are rocket propelled, so the weapon does more damage at longer range. A funny thing about EHI rounds is that if the round doesnít penetrate but is half the SP, then it still does 1/4 damage from sheer kinetic impact. Which means there are ranges at which rolling lower actually does more damage. Game Design! :downs:



The weapon selections calm down after that. We get a micro-missile launcher. Micro-missiles have their own set of rules that I donít want to reprint here because they donít do enough damage to justify the book work (especially after the last couple of weapons). There are some more exotic weapons like the Techtronica Volt Pistol and the Arasaka ďNauseatorĒ Riot Control Device that have niche uses but arenít overpowering. The last set of weapons are a variety of melee weapons, including a chain knife (no sign of chain swords). My favorite of these is the Kedachi Mono Wire, which lets you re-enact those movie scenes where a well placed wire takes off a pursuerís head.



The power creep isnít over, though, because Chromebook 2 introduces new ammo types. Armor Piercing Incendiary (4x cost) works like AP rounds but do 1D6 extra damage the first round, then 1D6/2 the second round. Dual-Purpose Ammo (4x cost) works like AP against armored targets, but does 1.5x damage against unarmored targets. Then thereís Fragmentation Flechettes (5x cost). These treat armor at half value, but do normal damage if it gets through. We get a note that this type of ammo ďcannot be fired from weapons with Electro-Thermal EnhancementĒ. Weíll get to that pretty soon. Aside from these game-breakers, we get a bunch of less-than-lethal ammo options (kudos to the book for noting that they canít really be called non-lethal).



After the bullets we get a selection of grenade types, including options for pistol-grenades. Nothing really notable except here we get the labyrinthine rules for using micro-missiles. It turns out that you can get some effective damage out of them if you use HEP rounds. But it's hard to figure out because instead of repeating the rules for HEP it tells you to use the same rules as a weapon from Chromebook 1, but doesn't mention that it's in that book. Whoops. The section concludes with weapon modifications. It has some mundane options like a gun cam and security chips, but we get one more dinger for power creep derby. Electrothermal Ammo Enhancement is a modification for guns that still use cased ammo, (in CP2020 this means pre-21st century guns) and increases their damage by 50%! So if you go back to the core book, the hardest hitting old weapon is the FN-FAL, which does 6D6+2 damage. With this mod it does 9D6+3.

Well that was part one of ďHow Chromebook 2 Broke CP2020.Ē But before we get to part two, we have an intermission.

Next Time: If youíve got a problem, if no else can help, and maybe you can find them...

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Coalition Wars 6: Final Siege, Part 13- "When the 'Hard Rain' bombardment commences, it uses non-nuclear warheads (although the term "nuked" is still used to describe the destruction)."

And now, we complete the metaplot wrapup and its associated adventures. The suspense is not killing me. In fact, I feel very safe.


NOW LOADING WARCRIME.EXE

Stage Four: The Big Push has to do with the major movements of the Coalition Army towards Tolkeen in the second offensive. While guerrillas slow them down slightly, the redoubled Coalition numbers run over the worn Tolkeen forces. There are three fronts: the Southern Front and Eastern Front not having much difficulty from the skeleton Tolkeen defenses left outside the shielded area, and the Northern Front is made up of Holmes' surprise attack. With Holmes taking down Tolkeen's mystical defenses, the Coalition is clear to invade.

And so we get "Wolves Among Wolves", where Tolkeen takes stolen Coalition gear (and stolen Coalition codes using psionics) to inflitrate and attack the massive Coalition force in concert with ambushes by Tolkeen defenders. While this initially successful, later on the Coalition troops are so numerous that such operations are more likely suicide attacks. Moreover, the Coalition starts employing psionics and Dog Boys to try and find and capture infiltrators. "Run Like Hell" is pretty much just like the earlier "Caught on the Edge" earlier where the PCs are caught trying to escape from getting caught in the Coalition front and have Coalition "hunter-killer" squads pursue them. "What About the Civilians" is like "Caught on the Edge" or "Run Like Hell" only you're escorting civilians. Running out of ideas, Siembieda? Yeah, I see you there.

Stage Five: The Hardest Rain focuses on the Coalition bringing artillery to bear once Tolkeen's shield goes down. Why they don't just nuke the drat city at this point? Well, we're told that the Coalition doesn't actually use nukes, and that the commanders who did that were rogue and were executed.

Y'know, last time I wondering if saying that Siembieda was "making GBS threads all over" Coffin's writing was just too harsh, if maybe I was just assuming too much, but... no. The seams are obvious. There's no sane reason for them not just nuke the city at this point (other than "it'd be boring"), but we're told they're specifically only using non-nuclear warheads now. Because I guess Siembieda the Coalition loves the idea of throwing troops heedlessly into a meat grinder. "Shell Shock Frenzy" has to do with a Tolkeen unit going mad from literal "shell shock" and becoming spree killers. Really? That's how PTSD works? (It isn't.) I have no words. Also we're told the PCs have to stop them without killing them because... uh... fffeefehfefhfhfuffuuuuuuuuck-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mw91RJ_m_7g

"Payback" actually has to do with with the PCs doing a covert mission to blow up some missile tanks. That's a fine enough hook. "Ground Zero" returns to our nuke question, as a Coalition commander manages to (somehow) procure those nukes the Coalition doesn't use (except when they tried to, multiple times during this event), and is going to fire them on Freehold! However, the PCs - Coalition PCs, it seems to presume - have to stop him from firing before the death he unleashes "rips the Megaversal fabric" by causing a chain reaction of disaster similar to when the rifts first erupted, only localized to Minnesota. Oookay. Which raises the question - so is just a slow and steady gradual stream of deaths not enough to do that? It has to be all at once? Are we playing a match-3 with human souls? Do we just need a big enough soul combo to reopen the rifts? And how would Coalition troops know or really give a poo poo about that?

:iiam:

Stage Six: Iron Skies deals with the air war over Tolkeen. While Tolkeen (somehow?) has more skilled dogfighters, they're just too outnumbered, and will be ultimately unable to stop the Coalition's bombing campaign. Sooner or later the Coalition just owns the skies, so forget what we were just talking about! We get "Aerodrome 6060", where the Coalition air force has suddenly developed a sense of airman honor and decides they want a "fair fight" against the Tolkeen forces. So they drop leaflets in advance of the Coalition bombers over Aerodrome 6060, the largest Tolkeen airfield (and are not attacked immediately, I guess?). In any case, they'll do a series of duels with the Tolkeen fighters and if the Tolkeen fighters can win 30 fights out of 120 they get to go home which... uh, I'm not sure Siembieda did the math on that one, especially since earlier we're told that the Tolkeen air fighters take down 6 Coalition fighters for every 1 Tolkeen fighter that falls. By that notion, the Tolkeen fighters should just murder them all given the equal numbers, but "These fighter jocks are always playing by strange rules." Sure, okay.

"The Tolkeen Turkey Shoot" has to do with the Coalition loosening their air defenses once the the Coalition gains control, and Tolkeen unleashing a secret fighter force to down some relatively unprotected flying transports. Alternately, the PCs can be Tolkeen guerillas trying to salvage stuff from the downed transports. "Clipped Wings" have to do with a command vehicle being shot down over Tolkeen and the battle to claim the Coalition officers and their intelligence.


It's like a parade, only with murder.

Stage Seven: Siege on Tolkeen, subtitled Not One Step Backward, has to do with the Coalition going down to urban combat, sending a massive force to batter a Tolkeen wall down before it can magically regenerate, and then flooding forces in, which... seems like a bad idea, and it is, because Tolkeen defenders are desperate and entretched. We have "The Skelebot Onslaught" which has to do with Tolkeen fighters having to just fight waves and waves of Skelebots sent in as a suicide force to soften them up.

Stage Eight: Mean Streets is where the Coalition is able to finally just throw enough numbers to batter down walls and buildings while dealing with constant Tolkeen ambushes. The Coalition has horrific losses, but it doesn't particularly matter with their numbers. "Heavy Barrel" deals with either Tolkeen defenders using ambushes to take out Coalition armored vehicles, or playing Coalition troops escorting and seeking out ambushes to defend armor. "Sniper Alley" protrays a sniper war between the two sides, which Palladium combat is woefully unsuited for, but sure. "I roll my Prowl skill to successfully sneak past you!" "I roll Detect Ambush to successfully detect you!" "Which one of us wins?" "I don't know. It's still just a 5 or better to hit you at 2000 feet, though."

"House to House" portrays a battle between two street fighting units, the "Flatirons" (Tolkeen) and "The Silver Seven" (Coalition). Maybe the PCs are associated with them, or something? It's not real clear what the actual adventure hook is other than a vague situation.

That's it. That's the end of the war. No dramatic finish, no assault on the enemy commander, no all-or-nothing battle. Just a series of whimpers. War's done.

Well, we have one part left, and it's a doozy.

Next: The final villain, but not your villain.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.
It's sort of hard to write adventures in a situation when you already decided full stop that one side wins eight o' clock day 1 book 1.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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



Night10194 posted:

It's sort of hard to write adventures in a situation when you already decided full stop that one side wins eight o' clock day 1 book 1.
I think you could decide "the Coalition "wins the war"' but have a range of outcomes, even if you will assume going forwards that the middle-of-the-road one is broadly what happened. It's something of a kludge of course, and it is impaired by the fact that the Coalition's goal is so explicitly exterminatory and fundamentally opposed to just, what is going on in Tolkeen at all.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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

Nessus posted:

I think you could decide "the Coalition "wins the war"' but have a range of outcomes, even if you will assume going forwards that the middle-of-the-road one is broadly what happened. It's something of a kludge of course, and it is impaired by the fact that the Coalition's goal is so explicitly exterminatory and fundamentally opposed to just, what is going on in Tolkeen at all.

Yeah, you can't really run a war with this war goal and style as a 'multiple outcomes' scenario, since it's explicitly a war of extermination. Which is another problem with all these goddamn fanatical purifier nazi empires in fantasy and sci-fi: They make every war a total war, which sorta limits your writing options.

sexpig by night
Sep 8, 2011

by Azathoth
buying a rail gun and full mounting harness system is 100% one of my favorite things about Cyberpunk 2020's dumbass power creep.

"Ey I got cyber-crack, guns with the numbers filed off, or if you're a more discerning type a full body weight compensation harness system with a shoulder mounted railgun"

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 5, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!
I'll always remember having an argument in Cyberpunk 2020 with a fellow PC as to why he couldn't recruit a homeless child to act as his recoilless rifle loader, arguing he could just armor the child up, and my argument ended with "Because we work for the Mafia and we are a family organization."

Red Metal
Oct 23, 2012

Let me tell you about Homestuck

Fun Shoe
so you're saying he should've gotten one of the other PC's kids to do it

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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

Sig: Manual of the Primes
Strong In The Real Way



The Elemental Plane of Stone embodies the Belief that Strength is a burden The caverns are buried in a world of endless stone, and they are said to be older than anything else in the 'verse. A faint grinding is always there underfoot, and occasionally a rock wil lfall and echo through the tunnels, which are often clauustrophobic. The passages vary wildly in size, going from tiny halls to massive caverns that could encompass even the largest city on a prime world. Living crystal formations provide a faint glow even at a distance, just enough to see them reflected in eyes in the dark. Veins of gold, lead and any other metal you might want can be found in the walls, and uncountable builders and miners, ranging from tiny dwarves to massive giants, work to exploit the wealth of the plane. Harvesting this mineral wealth is not generally safe, however. Cave-ins are frequent and often release tox gases, magma or flash mudslides. The Halls of the Deep is a metropolis built of gold, in theory home to the Everstone Giants. It was built long ago in a cavern larger than any mountain in the 'verse. The Earth-Heart is a living, breathing chamber of clay that pulses and writhes constantly. Here, all elementals of stone and clay are born. The Forge Primordial is a natural meeting point of a number of steel veins, rivers and magma flows. Here, the dwarves built an immense city-state dedicated solely to the art of the smiths. This is a sacred place, where practical metalforging is mixed with religious faith and spiritual fervor.

The most well-known people of the plane are the Giants. They emerged from the depths of the elemental planes, massive creatures carved out by some painstaking hand in the hollow world of the Plane of Stone. They work constantly to build greater and ever more elaborate wondrous creations, driven by some relentless cultural ambition. For the Giants, strength and skill must be used to be respected. Anyone that fails to take care of themselves or that becomes complacent is exiled from the mainstream Giant communities. Their raw, brute power is enough to crush anything in their path short of a Power or terrifyingly potent magics.
Stone (Broad)
Huge (Broad)
Strength (Common)
Irresistible Force (Deep)

The greatest Faction of the plane is the Guild of Toil. Labor is always in demand in the City Between. Without the Guild of Toil, the tenements and buildings would collapse or burn. Their constant work maintains the roads and buildings, their strong backs pull the loads and carry the burdens. The Guild manages and takes care of the common workers, managing civic projects for the benefits of the City. In "thanks" for this, they solicit cash "donations" from the citizenry, typically collected by large, muscular Guild reps. The Guild keeps the city going and feeds countless families, but they're not above flexing their muscles to make it all happen.
Duty: Maintain the roads and buildings.
Leverage: Demolition of infrastructure, whether by direct action or neglect.
Example Agenda: Dismantle a block of the Hive and rebuild it as housing for Guild workers.

One of the notable Powers of the plane is Morkanah, the Sheltering Stone, Power of Love, Hearth and Protection. The Stone that Shelters is the last of the Primordials. It is a simple being, dedicated to keeping its worshipers safe. It protects from the rigors of life, shielding others from conflict, fear or even death. It cares deeply for its followers, whether they are of flesh, stone or clay. It wants them to be happy, to be safe, to be together with their family. It very much misses family.
Devotion: Never harm family.
Ritual: Morkanah's Embrace summons forth an immobile shell of stone around someone, protecting them from harm. If you do not spend Influence, the shell will remain even after its job is over.
Example Agenda: Build a true sanctuary for star-crossed lovers on the Plane of Stone.



The Elemental Plane of Ice embodies the Belief that Beauty is fragile. It is...well, first of all, it is heavily cribbed from Polaris. Like, the game admits that straight up. I quote: "This plane is well renowned throughout the 'verse, thanks to the fame of the Polaris Chronicle by the noted planar scholar, Ben Lehman." We are inited to read Polaris if we want to get history and customs of the plane from there. The world itself is one of fragile splendor, vast wastes of ice and snow, and starlit cities. The blizzards howl, and duelists fight. The cold is everywhere, with the stars and aurora the only true guides. Broken ruins of old, frozen cities dot the landscape. The Remnants of Polaris are four towars from an ancient age, crafted long ago as glowing citadels of ice and starlight, which surround an evil vortex to the Plane of Flames. The Icy Wastes are a massive glacier, home to constant blizzards and massive trade caravans that crawl along the ice. The Crystal Caverns are a set of interlinking tunnels and caves in the ice that go deep within the plane. Within them, ancient nations still thrive.

The most notable folk of the plane are the Polari, once called the greatest people the planes would ever know. They clad themselves in snowflakes and starlight, living lives of perfect bliss as they ate grand delicacies and toasted themselves with wine distilled from the night itself. They were tall, slender, beautiful creatures with skin so pale that their blue veins showed through and eyes of pale blue or red and hair of silver or gold. They spoke rarely, and their language and voices were like the sound of water freezing. They excelled at poetry, ice sculpture and elaborate dances. Now, they are a people in decline, dying slowly. Hope is not yet lost, however, for some can still hear the songs of the stars. Their common Talents are:
Ice (Broad)
Light (Broad)
Fine Arts (Common)
Starlight Sword (Deep)

The Performers Guild are the most notable of the plane's Factions. In Sig, there are countless cultures and faiths, and inevitably, they come into conflict. Holy wars, Factional conflicts, culture clashes. The Performers use the fine arts, whether painting, dance, theatre, sculpture or otherwise, to serve as a cultural bridge. They believe art can soothe tensions, strengthen diplomacy and even facilitate ceasefires between the communities and organizations of the City Between. They're not wrong. It is accepted by all in the city that performances held by the Performers Guild are neutral ground.
Duty: Provide diplomatic services.
Leverage: Compelling propaganda.
Example Agenda: Perform a new play, The King in Yellow.

Aludra of the Frozen Tears is a notable Power in the Plane of Ice, the Power of Time, Memory and Grief. Once, she was a goddess of joy and life, but all was taken from her. Her husband was lost to his mad qquest, her lover to unbounded zeal, her home to her own mistake, her people to despair and grief. After a time, her loss brought her wisdom, albeit a said and melancholy wisdom. She froze her tears, making them into diamond sculptures that will last until the end of all time. Now, Aludra seeks only to preserve all that remains good and beautiful in the 'verse.
Devotion: Never forget the names of the dead.
Ritual: The Frozen Kiss can protect a person or object, shielding it from the flow of time entirely and so preserving it. If you do not spend Influence, however, whatever is frozen this way will remain unchanging and frozen until hope is found.
Example Agenda: Freeze the Great River of Sig for a season.



The Ideological Plane of Justice embodies the Belief that Virtue must be tested. It is a mountainois plane, full of ancient trees. The land thrums as if alive, radiating pleasant warmth for travelers, which are frequent. Pilgrimages are common, and pilgrims tend to help each other on their way, teaching each other lessons. The mountain peaks hide countless golden-domed cities, many of them dedicated to just Powers and the faiths that worship them. Thunder is a common sound, as is chanting and prayer. Law, on this plane, sheields the weak from the strong and empowers reconciliation over retribution. The Final Court is found on the plane's highest peak and is the greatst court of law in all the 'verse. Mortals or Powers alike can make the perilous journey to receive a scrupulously fair hearing from the Seven Magistrates. The Valley of the Thunder Queens is a lush and rich valley of gardens and palaces, overseen by a council of wise queens who are attended by humble sages. The Range of the Defenders is a mountain chain in which warriors of light and justice train eternally for battle, wielding arrows of solid lightning and blades of strongest steel.

The Ancestral are by far the most famous people of the plane. They were once primal souls who guarded their descendants for four generations. When their watch ended, beasts of living lightning came for them, bringing them to the Plane of Justice. There, they were inducted into the orders of the wise as honored teachers and warriors. They made wonders and carved tmeples throughout the plane, making new epics and songs to preserve their mortal knowledge. The Ancestral vary in appearance wildly, as they may originate from any Prime world and any culture. Each, however, has a spirit-form that is bound together by the noble-lightning, and patterns of power pulse just under their skin. Because of course you can play as benevolent lightning ghosts. Their common Talents are:
Justice (Broad)
Spirits (Broad)
Guardianship (Common)
Lightning-Rider (Deep)

The primary Faction of the plane is the Teachers' Guild. Sig has countless children within its streets and halls. Elsewhere, they might be dragged to work on their parents' farms or in factories, or suffer terrible fates. The Teachers' Guild is dedicated to ensuring this is not the case for Sig's many children. They set up small schoolhouses throughout the city, providing the young with a place to learn the basic skills they need to survive and thrive. The schools all have different curriculums - literature, sometimes, or history, or accounting. The Teachers don't care where a child comes from or what hardships they may face outside of school - while they learn, the Teachers will keep them safe.
Duty: Nurture and teach the children.
Leverage: Secret reports from students, past and present.
Example Agenda: Open a new school in the Hive to care for the hundred children who fled from the Prime world of Karn.

The example Power is Myn the Questioner, Power of Travel, Thought and Guilt. Myn always appears as a young girl with copper skin and green eyes. She wanders the planes without apparent direction, finding those who have become too complacent or comfortable in their lives. She approaches these figures and asks them a single question. To one warlord, she asked if his husband would condone such cruelty. To the Queen of the Emerald Rose, she asked when the Queen last spoke to a commoner. To Polena the Virtuous, she asked why Polena punished herself so harshly for human failings. Myn tests those who need it, but she does not judge how they answer her tests.
Devotion: Never carry more than you need.
Ritual: The Third Eye can be opened to reveal what issues someone is currently struggling with, even if they don't know themselves. If you do not spend Influence, you are bound to that person until the problem you detect is solved.
Example Agenda: Convince Moran, the God of Eugenics, to abandon his divine mandate.

Next time: The Planes of Tyranny, Destruction and Order

hyphz
Aug 5, 2003

Number 1 Nerd Tear Farmer 2022.

Keep it up, champ.

Also you're a skeleton warrior now. Kree.
Unlockable Ben
Hi. I'm hyphz. I'm a bitter non-GM who annoys people by asking questions about improvisation. As such, I also have a tendency to collect GMing advice, and it struck me that actually examining published advice isn't too popular a topic in this thread (or any other).

And so, Ladies and Gentlemen, come with me to the year 2002, when the most recent version of D&D was 3.0e, OWoD was still current, and GURPS was still a thing you heard about. And if you asked about how to GM, well, someone would send you to..



Robin's Laws, by Robin D. Laws (I see what you did there), published in 2002, was for a long time the de facto standard for published GMing advice. It's still available from Steve Jackson Games' site as a scanned PDF, with an additional front page that - oddly - has the GURPS banner on it, and claims it to be a "electronically rebuilt copy of the last printed edition of Robin's Laws". Which I can tell you it isn't, because the scanned back cover has "first edition, first printing" on it, and my ancient physical copy has "first edition, second printing". Either way, it's definitely an artefact of its time. So let's jump in:

The first section, titled The Great, Immutable, Ironclad Law is probably what you'd think it is: Your goal as GM is to make your games as entertaining as possible.. That's a pretty good law, but it's also the ever-popular darling of bad teachers everywhere: the obvious, unexplained, dead positive. You might as well say it should be a good game is an ironclad law too.

However, there is some other interesting stuff in this section, which goes a long way to date the book. First of all, it states the designer's admission that only about 30% of the RPGing experience is ever accountable for by game design. This is a tricky one, because it's hard to say it's wrong, but if a designer believes it it potentially justifies them writing weak or incomplete systems (5e anyone?). Secondly, it states that roleplaying compared to regular media trades off polish and strong narrative properties for active participation, but then comments that "someday we'll probably find ourselves making regular terks to our local multiplexes to see movie versions of our favorite roleplaying properties.." Well, of course, that didn't happen except for the most popular ones, but podcasts did happen, and it'd be interesting to see how this section would be written in their light.

The second section, Knowing Your Players contains probably the most well-known, and enduring, part of the whole book: the list of player categories. You've probably heard these categories even if you've not heard anything else from Robin's Laws. The author actually credits "many of the categories" to Glen Blacow, a name I'd never heard before. A bit of Google revealed that this refers to an article written for the 1980 edition of RPG fanzine Different Worlds, titled Aspects of Adventure Gaming. Thing is, as the title implies, that wasn't a list of player categories; it was a list of "aspects" that could all be part of the experience in different degrees. Blacow only defined four aspects, while Laws defines seven categories. Furthermore, at the time Laws' list was more commonly compared to another list that appeared in Champions: Strike Force by Aaron Allston in 1988.

As with almost all category-based GMing advice, the book acknowledges that many players won't fit in just one category or in any categories at all, and that they're only vague grouping.. and then ignores that and fills the rest of the book with advice rigidly divided into those categories.

So, let's go. First of all, The Power Gamer. We all know what a power gamer is. They make a character to be as powerful as possible and play to gain more power. Blacow listed "power gaming" as an aspect too; oddly, Allston didn't, with his nearest equivalent referring to abusing the rules to min-max as much power as possible (which, to be fair, is pretty much what power gamers did in Champions). Unfortunately, he used an awful, horrible, inappropriate term to describe them: Rules Rapists, which is changed in most reprintings, but still seen on fora as late as 2018 and could get you banned from RPG.net in 2016.

Next up, The Butt Kicker. This is the guy, or gal, who just wants to fight. Now, how on Earth do we distinguish from the Power Gamer? Laws writes: "He may care enough about the rules to make his PC an optimal engine of destruction, or may be in different to them, so long as he gets to hit things." Could this be the mythical player type that inspired D&D 5e's Champion path? The problem is, in most systems if you don't care about the rules enough, you don't get to hit things; you miss them.

And the problem is pretty plain from that: the power gamer's definition is about having power, but the butt kicker's definition is about a particular way of using power, which requires you to have it. Nonetheless, these are treated as different and separate categories throughout the rest of the book. Blacow didn't consider this an aspect separate from power gaming or tactics (which we'll see later), and Allston divided it in two: the Combat Monster who enjoys fighting as part of the regular game, and the Mad Slasher who seeks to create violent mayhem by attacking out of turn. Whether the latter should just be dismissed as assholery is not really considered.

Next, the Specialist. The example of the Specialist is the player who always wants to be a ninja. Or a cat-person or a fairy princess or whatever (Laws' examples, by the way) They favor a particular character type, play it all the time, and want to get to do the cool thing that's associated with that archetype.

I don't like this definition. I don't like it at all. Why? Because I've played ninjas, I've played knights, I played a fairy princess the one time I could get away with it without being laughed at; and you can bet that when I was a ninja I wanted to be sneaky, when I was a knight I wanted to be strong and honourable, etc. Yet by the definition given here, because I don't play any single one of these character types all the time, I am not a Specialist and doing the cool thing associated with my archetype doesn't matter. If that seems pedantic, then consider what happens if you remove the "all the time" rule: you're left with the player who just wants to do the cool thing associated with their current character; and that category covers almost everyone! This is especially weird coming from Laws, who wrote Feng Shui, which specifically uses classic cool archetypes as classes.

Blacow never mentioned this category, and Allston spun it in several different directions: the Copier who copies characters from other media (again, showing the Champions bias there, since copying superheroes is almost de facto for that game), and the Pro From Dover who plays a character who is the best in the world at something. Allston also listed The Showoff who wants to show off their cool abilities, but suggested that they did this antisocially at the cost of other players' spotlight time, implying that this is another thing that shouldn't really be a category of anything except assholery.

The Tactician is our fourth category, and one of the oldest: Blacow listed the Wargaming aspect. The Tactician is the player who wants to plan and think and come up with involved solutions to problems, usually fighting ones; and as such, particularly values strong rules and an internally consistent world. The nearest Allston got to this was the Mad Thinker, who tries to solve problems, fighting or otherwise. Unfortunately, Robin's Laws shows a kind of suppressed disdain for the Tactician; they usually show up at one or other extreme of the recommendations and the advice for what to do is often in a more resigned tone. I don't know if this is the influence of Vampire or general frustration.

The Method Actor wants to get into their character's head and experiment with aspects of their personality. Blacow listed this as the "role-playing" aspect, and Allston divided this into several again: the Plumber who explores their backstory, the Romantic who focusses on interaction with other characters, and the Tragedian who wants bad stuff to happen to their character to see what happens.

The Method Actor is distinguished from the Storyteller; while the method actor is about exploring characters, the Storyteller is about the flow of events in the game, and making this have positive narrative properties and keeping the story moving. Blacow listed Storytelling as an aspect; Allston - very vaguely - divided it up (again) into the Builder who wants to change the world, and the Genre Fiend who wants to follow fictional tropes.

And finally, the last one, the one that actually makes me angry to read. The Casual Gamer. Look, I get what he's saying here. He's saying that some people just aren't necessarily that into gaming, or the current game, and trying to push them beyond their comfort zone is a bad thing. They're still valuable: they fill out background characters, provide an audience for those who needs them, and often act as social moderators who keep the gaming activity is perspective. That's cool. But then we get:

quote:

"You may think it's a bad thing that he sits there for much of the session thumbing through your latest purchases from the comic book store, but hey, that's what he wants. The last thing you want to do is to force him into a greater degree of participation than he's comfortable with. (Of course, if everyone in the group is sitting their reading your comic books, you've definitely got a problem...)

Ugh. That last sentence shows the problem: that there's no way of providing any distinction between the actual Casual Gamer, and the player who isn't involved in the game because they don't like it, but would like to be if it matched them better. The only way the author can give for distinguishing this is, apparently, numbers. Why can't you have a group of Casual Gamers? Well, apparently you can't. And the real problem is that throughout the rest of the book all the advice to do with the Casual Gamer is basically "don't worry about them, unless they start to show signs of greater participation". Which is carte blanche to, if someone's not into your game, just stick a Casual Gamer label on them and proceed to ignore them. Ugh. Allston called this type the Buddy, using a slightly better definition of the player who's there primarily because of friendship with the other players rather than the game.

The rest of the section is just suggestions on finding the individual motivations of the players in more detail (Laws calls them "emotional kicks"), and on spotting the types of new players. Some of these examples are telling: the Specialist is spotted by having created a character that matches a particular well-known type, without consideration of how often they create that character. And the Casual Gamer is spotted by, bleaugh, having been given a character friend by the friend who got them into the group, which makes them.. well, just a beginner, really, not someone who deserves to be disregarded in consideration of play style.

There's another odd omission here. It's mentioned multiple times throughout the book that the GM's enjoyment is as important as the players'; and yet there are no categorisations for the GM, nor do any of the tables based on those categories adapt to the GM's preference. I presume that's just because the author assumed the GM can sort out things for themselves, which is understandable, but then again they did buy a book of advice.

The second main chapter is Picking Your Rules Set, but it's not all that deep. It starts with a few fairly basic points about the need to adapt to the local popularity of gaming when picking a system, but to allow for your own enjoyment as well; and a section on Winning Converts which goes through the categories and talks about how each might feel about changing system. That's a fairly typical structure for the rest of the book. Power gamers resist change because they identify wit the cool powers; Butt-Kickers want it simple (apparently?) and prefer what's familiar; Tacticans don't mind as long as the new system has enough logic to puzzle out; Casual Gamers don't care about the rules as long as they're simple; and "Method actors and roleplayers" see the rules only as a necessary evil. Yea, he switched "storytellers" for "roleplayers" there for some reason.

This is followed by sections on the properties of game systems. Theme And Tone covers the style of games, although it tends to focus on the difference between power fantasies and the inverted powerlessness fantasies (in games like Cthulhu). Accessibility covers the game's support for stereotypes and recognizable imagery that can allow the players to quickly identify their interests. An especially interesting point here is a discussion of the interaction of local culture with expectations in RPGs. For example:

quote:

British audiences, on the other hand, view the power fantasy with greater suspicion. The English concept of heroism is less about victory than endurance in the face of seemingly impossible odds. U.K. game masters therefore can assume a greater license to make things rough on their players.

I've never seen any sign of this in the UK, to be honest, but my gaming group experience is limited. But the most popular games in the UK tend to parallel those in the US. Ditto, Laws writes:

quote:

Unique, highly distinctive settings dominate the French RPG market. North American audiences, on the other hand, will give up their beloved archetypes when you pry them from their cold, dead fingers.

I couldn't find that much about French RPGs in 2002, but the games I could find - which are basically the ones on Wikipedia: Agone, In Nomine, Malefices, Nephilim, Polaris and Reve de Dragon - all have the standard settings with twists on them, letting a player quickly latch onto something they want to play (a wizard!) but then adding a twist to it (hang on, I have to have a supernatural spirit crucified to my chest?).

The final section, Power Balance, covers the well-known (and at the time well-believed, although it may be less so now) statement that "crunchy" RPGs favor the players, and "light" RPGs favor the GM. It then gives us one of several tables which lists the importance of crunchiness to each of the seven categories:



Average the players, and that gives a guideline on how crunchy your system should be. Yea, that.. doesn't really work. As written, a single Storyteller in a group tilts the entire system away from everyone else, among other things. Heck, by this logic if you have two exactly opposite players in a group they cancel out and everything is fine, which is totally the opposite of what would actually happen. Trying to reduce this to something as simple as an average is a bit of an unfortunate choice. There's an interesting sidebar, Homebrew Rules, which covers playtesting or modtesting and how the different categories react to it - but with a general warning that it's of more interest to the GM than the players.

Next up will be the sections on campaign and adventure design.

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Ithle01
May 28, 2013
As a GM there's a lot of things that stick out here, but there's one that Robin Law really managed to gently caress up.

hypyz posted:

Power gamers resist change because they identify with the cool powers

Which is that the most common type of Power Gamer in my experience is someone for whom mastering the game is itself the reward. Actually playing and experiencing the game is secondary concern to the primary concern of having a character who rocks the opposition using the rules of the game as written. For this sort of player every new game system is a new challenge to be fought and beaten and switching systems is not only desired, but almost mandatory to keep them interested. But that's just from what I've seen.

edit: also, I've only gamed with one person from the UK but that guy did look at heroism that way. Must be luck of the draw.

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