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kommy5
Dec 6, 2016


Just for comparison with the new stuff, how about a backported Chieron Group style scientist? Studying the monsters by taking them apart, piece by piece, and using that knowledge to help allies and deal with foes.

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hyphz
Aug 5, 2003






"Probably the most influential GMing advice in the world."

So, as I previously mentioned, a lot of the material in the DMG is either very system specific or to do with world-building, which I don't want to get into. But there are two sections of general GM advice in the DMG. The first covers adventure design, and kicks off with a "list of traits that make up a good adventure":

  • A credible threat - something that gets the heroes attention and makes the heroes want to stop it - specifically stop it. There's no consideration, at this stage, of the PCs trying to achieve something - although it is addressed later.
  • Familiar tropes with clever twists - this is presumably their take on the Robin's Laws issue of the line between unoriginality and incomprehensability. It does specifically mention that starting adventures in taverns is cheesy, but do it anyway, because it's classic D&D.
  • A focus on the present - a slightly peculiar one, but the idea is that the PCs should be dealing with things that are relevant right now, not managing things that happened in the past.
  • Heroes who matter - or, rather, that the plot should let the heroes matter. The example given is that the adventure should allow the PCs to defeat the villain, if they show up prior to the end of the adventure. I do not know a single published D&D adventure that did this, and many break if it happens. Still.
  • Something for all player types - and yes, it does say all types, with a side note that if you're creating an adventure for your own campaign then it only need be your own players. Which seems an odd thing to present as an exception, as if they were primarily encouraging the creation of adventures for the public?
  • Surprises - which isn't so much about surprises as interesting content, and especially unusual twists in fight scenes.
  • Useful Maps - yea. A critical part of a good adventure, apparently. I'm not saying any more. I'll get my coat.

This is followed by a section on Adventure Structure which is.. stuff your primary school English teacher told you about writing stories. But it was passed down to them from Aristotle, so it's probably pretty sound. It's literally: "a beginning, a middle, and an end", but it's the standard three-act structure. "Beginning" is a hook to get the players involved; there's a few suggestions, but the section ends with an odd paragraph saying "you want the players to go home looking forward to the next session" when none of the suggestions are likely to be things that would take up an entire session (such as "an assassin atacks the PCs"). The Ending should be a climax, although it need not tie up everything; and the Middle should be a series of challenges, each affecting the outcome of the adventure, and changing the circumstances or their understanding of the adventure as they go.

Sounds good. But again, I've never heard of a published adventure doing that. Still..

We now have definitions of the four "standard" types of D&D adventure.

Location-based adventures are "go to unusual place and explore it to achieve X", thus encompassing pretty much every dungeon crawl. The creation process is five step: work out a goal, work out a villain, build out the location where it happens, then top and tail with an introduction and climax. Then, actually design the encounters, which they advise doing the XP budget system which we're not getting into.

Event-based adventures are "this is happening, what are you going to do about it". The steps are: identify the villain, work out what they want and what they're going to do, work out what the party should want to do about it in general terms (but there isn't a whole lot of allowance for if that's not what they do), identify other important NPCs who might be involved, work out how the bad guy's likely to react, then design all the possible locations - although in less detail than for a location-based adventure (although remember that useful maps is still on the first list). Top and tail with introduction and climax, then design encounters.

By the way, all these things have random tables! Let's try a few for fun. Location-based first:

The PCs are going to a dungeon to (6) retrieve a stolen item hidden there.
They also want to (2) defend something from attackers.
The villain is (1) a beast or monstrosity with no agenda.
Their ally is (2) an inexperienced adventurer.
Their patron is (7) a temple official.
The introduction is (7) A town or village needs volunteers.
The climax is (4) a race to where the villain is completing their plan. Um, but it's a beast with no agenda. That's going to be tricky.

Now, how about an event-based adventure?

The villain is (9) a humanoid cultist.
The structure of their plans is (1) a big event. The stars are right, I guess.
The PCs want to (19) make sure a wedding goes off without a hitch. Wait. WHAT!? Ok, I guess we're stuck with the cheesy kidnapped bride, but the idea of a cult just crashing a wedding for the lulz made me smile.

The third adventure type is mystery, which is a variant of event-based, except that three extra things are considered: the victim, the suspects, and the clues. There's a few techniques suggested from detective fiction: make sure that the victim is tied to either the villain, the suspects, or the PCs; make sure some set of circumstances limit the suspect pool; and make sure that the murderer is not the only suspect who has secrets they don't want to come out. This is good stuff, but apart from that there's not much else, and there's still a focus on the location and encounter structure - which is understandable for D&D which runs on that, but it's not necessarily ideal for this type.

The final adventure type, and the one that gets the least detail, is intrugue, which means some kind of power struggle or decision to be made. This type doesn't have to have a villain, or it might have multiple villains, and it also suggests that you.. might want to give the players Influence points over the factions. That's more or less all, though.

Beyond that, there's some rather system specific stuff on creating individual encounters, a random event table, and one of the more intruging aspects: a random table and categorization of moral quandries; and they're all terrible! Seriously:

  • Ally: the PCs have to choose between two allies, but they hate each other and won't work together, so the PCs must choose the right one. Does the GM feel like running an adventure which is already lost because of a choice the PCs made at the beginning? I'm guessing not.
  • Friend: a friend or other connected NPCs makes an unreasonable request of the PCs. Some of these are reasonable, like "they might plead with the characters to spare the villain's life", but some are just dense, like "a love interest might say they shouldn't go on the adventure".
  • Honor: Ugh. A paladin or cleric has to break their oath or faith to accomplish the adventure, but the GM should make sure there's a way to atone. So there's no real choice at all.
  • Rescue: The hero's choice. Catch the villain or save the innocent? It's a classic device in literature, but I'm not sure it goes well at the gaming table.
  • Respect: two allies or patrons give different advice, and will be upset with the PCs if they are ignored. Could be interesting, but could backfire or just not be cared about.

Much later, there's a section on linking adventures.. but sadly, it only has rather weak ideas. The first is to just treat the campaign as an episodic TV show where a different thing happens each adventure and there's no real connection to them. The other two actual structures presented are "achieve an overarching goal in steps", or "agents who do stuff for an ongoing duty". There's a few better suggestions on seeding or foreshadowing the next adventure in a previous one, though.

Unfortunately, the section on actually Running the game doesn't have a whole lot of interesting material at all. It includes mostly obvious social things, like moderating table talk, when to hide dice rolls, how to avoid metagaming or manage missing players, and awarding inspiration. But there's nothing at all about how to handle unexpected situations or anything similar, even though the earlier section on adventure design says explicitly that that's something you ought to do.

So, a double-edged sword. While this advice is all good for a beginning GM, and will work fine for D&D, it also has the problem of.. well, the infamous issue of having structural components that are highly specific to D&D, and make assumptions about what "page" the reader is on (in terms of the Same Page Tool) with regard to what a GM ought to do. Everything is very focussed on locations, and maps are mentioned a ton of times (there's a much of statements that say "you can use a map", but nothing about if you don't want to). This could easily be a holdover from the earlier D&D games and their wargaming background, but it's not necessarily ideal for every situation - even the situations that D&D is often used for.

hyphz fucked around with this message at 17:08 on Jul 3, 2019

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.




Joe Slowboat posted:

Personally I really like the idea that Toreadors are fundamentally uncreative, that biting a fantastic new artist young actually freezes their development as an artist. But then I'm coming from Chronicles games where vampires are pretty much guaranteed to be a net negative in the world; player characters who buy into the idea that actually vampires are preserving artistic genius forever would have a really interesting hook there, and the clan would have a deep well of bitterness hidden by the glitz. But also you'd need some way to actually make that hook gameable, which I imagine Masquerade wasn't hugely prepared to do.
Honestly, I'm not a fan of that bit of Requiem. Unlife already makes it virtually impossible to be a good person, without them flat out saying "Your soul is dead, your mind is frozen in time along with your body when you die, you can never grow or experience everything real." Like, first, how do you play that and do you really want to play a campaign where it's The Sopranos, but Everyone is Tony.

Second, it just felt like they only said it to hammer home that they don't want you to play Superheroes With Fangs like you did in late-era original World of Darkness. I get it, White Wolf, I promise to be good, I will not play a guy who carries a sword around in his coat.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Night10194 posted:

(There's art! I can't find a jpeg to post of it, but gently caress yeah! Grandpa slamming a spoon right through a werewolf's chest to save his elderly wife rules!)

Here, maybe I can help you out with that—I said Hunter was the oWoD game I was least familiar with, but that's not because I don't have the book; it's only because I never got around to reading it. Sorry for the low quality scan, but hopefully it's better than nothing—is this the illustration you had in mind?:



Halloween Jack posted:

These clans/tribes/guilds/etc. came to be known as “splats” and are still widely imitated in the tabletop business today. The term arose because White Wolf published sourcebooks called Clanbooks, Tribebooks, etc. and the Usenet community collectively referred to them as *books. Some computer nerds pronounce the * as “splat,” hence splatbooks, hence splats.

This is something I was going to get into when I finally got through all Planescape's main precursors and to the Planescape Campaign Setting boxed set itself, but at least according to one former TSR employee, the Planescape factions were directly and intentionally inspired by White Wolf's Vampire clans—Vampire: the Masquerade was very popular at the time, and TSR (or one of TSR's writers, anyway) decided it might be a good idea to copy one of its concepts. In retrospect, I can definitely see the connection, though I certainly wasn't aware of it at the time back when Planescape was still in print.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Jerik posted:

Here, maybe I can help you out with that—I said Hunter was the oWoD game I was least familiar with, but that's not because I don't have the book; it's only because I never got around to reading it. Sorry for the low quality scan, but hopefully it's better than nothing—is this the illustration you had in mind?:



HELL YEAH.

This is the image that always springs to mind for me when someone is like 'Hunter's art depicts a very rad game that Hunter is not.'

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.




It really rubbed me the wrong way when Hunter not only had splats, but splats with Capitalized Names that were actually used in the setting, when that makes no sense.

Mummies were the first "fatsplat" publication, a type of monster PC that wasn't important enough to be a product line on their own. They didn't have real splats. When they gave them a product line, they fundamentally changed what a Mummy was to make them more samey, and gave them splats.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Halloween Jack posted:

It really rubbed me the wrong way when Hunter not only had splats, but splats with Capitalized Names that were actually used in the setting, when that makes no sense.

The most insane thing is they do this right after telling you this isn't a thing!

Dawgstar
Jul 15, 2017





kommy5 posted:

Just for comparison with the new stuff, how about a backported Chieron Group style scientist? Studying the monsters by taking them apart, piece by piece, and using that knowledge to help allies and deal with foes.

Visionary would be most apt. In one game I was in, somebody played a Visionary who was a morgue doctor and more or less did that, if not backed by Big WoD Pharma.

juggalo baby coffin
Dec 2, 2007

How would the dog wear goggles and even more than that, who makes the goggles?




i have to say i truly, truly hate how the white wolf books are laid out and the in-character fiction. I've been looking through a bunch of the books trying to look for the cool stuff, but its so hard to find out what gameplay stuff is even in half the books, the rules are all lost in a sea of garbage fanfiction level vampire stuff. There is at least a bunch of cool stuff, like you can be a soul stealing lich or a vampire who eats other vampires, or a jiang-shi who is just a cool chinese vampire who doesnt need to deal with half the whiny poo poo western vampires do.

then theres like the slashers you can play as? and the hunters who get monster bits grafted onto them. That stuff's cool. But you have to sift through 10 pages of fiction to even get to the contents table, which is inevitably in some kind of dumb font you can't read.

quote:


The bar smelled like vinegar and old diarrhea. I wasn't in there to drink, or have a good time. I was looking for the secrets of life, because my life was boring. I wanted something More. I looked at the bartender. She was pale and looked like amy lee from the band evanescence. She had a belt buckle saying 'Fangs for the Memories'. I looked at her and said it was cool. She looked at me like she was bored, or old, or weary beyond her years. She said to me 'I know you look normal but I know you want to know the secret'. I said yes. We went into the back and did a quick gently caress, i did my cum into the toilet. Then she bit my neck. It was even better than the cum.

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!





Nyambe takes a different approach than most 3rd Edition D&D settings. For one, the Player’s Handbook classes are not native to the setting with a few exceptions, usually originating among one of the three foreign groups: Northerners, Near Easterners, or Far Easterners, with only the Cleric, Fighter, and Monk common to indigenous Nyambans to any degree due to cultural contact with the latter two groups. Psions and Psychic Warriors, who are not “core,” tend to either be Far Eastern foreigners and Zamaran disciples or developed among the Mbanta. And no, we do not have an explanation for what psionics is other than “weird foreign magic.”

Instead, Nyambe has five core classes of its own design, mapping out evenly to the warrior/thief/priest/mage classic schematic, with the fifth a variant “mage.” A few of the PHB classes, such as the bard, monk, and ranger, have become Prestige Classes of their own. So technically speaking the Barbarian and Paladin classes are the only two you cannot replicate using Nyambe’s new choices. Overall this entire system feels unnecessary when the base rule options already give you all this and more. Nowadays we’d make such options alternate class features in Pathfinder.


Gamba Fighter: The gamba is a rural village warrior who are either part-time warriors with little formal training or join proper warrior societies. As standing armies are an overall rarity in Nyambe, most gamba spend a majority of their lives hunting, herding, or farming, taking up arms only in times of war.

They are basically the Fighter class, but they trade in 4 of their 11 bonus feats for Fast Movement and the Barbarian’s Damage Reduction progression, and have a d12 Hit Die and more skill points. Nothing really spectacular.


Mchawi Wizard: One of the two arcane casters of the setting, the mchawi are effectively ur-priest wizards who learned how to steal magic from the Overpower by selling their immortal souls to fiendish orisha. As such they cannot be of good alignment, and most are neutral evil on account that the fiendish orisha have a vested interest in making the world a worse place and don’t choose their bargains lightly.

They are much like Wizards, but with some deception and trickery-based class skills like Disguise, Escape Artist, and Intimidate. Instead of using spellbooks they prepare spells by making use of magical trinkets carried in what is known as a mojuba bag. They are also all specialists in Necromancy and can prepare extra spells from that school, but are forever barred from learning or casting Divination spells. At 2nd level they can summon a Fiendish Servant like a blackguard, and at 5th level their souls are damned such that if they die they automatically reincarnate into a barozi animal (evil spellcasting animal template), but cannot be truly resurrected into their “base form” by any other means.

I like this class; although the barozi animal death opens up various balance concerns, it is a good example of setting fluff and crunch melding together to create something truly unique.


Nanala Rogue: This is the rogue class, and is just as broad for all manner of occupations relying upon deception and stealth. What makes them different than PHB Rogues is that Sneak Attack is their only fixed class feature; at 1st and every even numbered level they get bonus feats for Roguelike choices such as Dodge and Point Blank Shot, or they can “buy” iconic class features such as Evasion or Trapfinding.

Being 3.0 the bonus feat list is not very impressive, but overall I love the concept of a custom-built mix-and-match Rogue class.


N’anga Cleric: This represents all manner of religious functionaries of Nyamban society; although anyone can honor the orisha, the n’anga devote their whole lives to serving as their emissaries in the mortal world. They can cast spells of up to 9th level, but derive spells from either the cleric or druid spell list depending on their patron orisha, or an orisha towards which they dedicate special veneration. They are otherwise clerics, choosing two domains related to their patron orisha and all that entails. There’s also a flavor effect of when they prepare for spells as their honored orisha possesses their body; a n’anga who undergoes this is known as a “farasi,” or horse, as the orisha is taking control of their physical functions. Technically speaking the player still retains full control of their PC, but they take on personality traits and motivations of said orisha and may do things like stand in the sun for minutes if a plant orisha, be polite and charitable to everyone they meet if a celestial orisha, etc.

Finally, n’anga gain unique special abilities based upon their worshiped orisha, most of which correspond to existing PHB class features: an Animal Orisha grants druidic wildshape, Ancestor Orisha gain bonus feats, Celestial/Fiendish Orisha may turn/rebuke undead, etc. The ones which I’d describe as “new” in a 3rd Edition context include shapechanging into an elemental form for Elemental Orisha or casting Tree Shape and gaining some permanent plant immunities for Plant Orisha.

The n’anga is a Swiss Army Knife of non-paladin divine spellcasters, and I like its versatility. It also handles the whole superfluousness of Clerics of nature deities and how they’re different from Druids in standard D&D by making them one and the same.


Sei Sorcerer: The sei are effectively sorcerers, although they have an explicitly draconic origin rather than more generic supernatural bloodlines. Although instrumental in overthrowing the Kosan Empire, the sei’s association with arcane magic makes them controversial in Nyamban society. As to why, it is unknown whether the Overpower approves or disapproves of the sorcerer’s loophole in accessing arcane magic.

They are PHB sorcerers, but get more class features depending upon their primary draconic heritage. They must learn a set of thematic spells as soon as they can qualify for a new heritage feature at certain levels, but in exchange they gain some of the abilities of true dragons. For example, a black dragon-blooded sei can breathe underwater indefinitely, a brass dragon-blooded can summon a djinni once per day, a gold dragon-blooded can imbue gems with good luck, etc. They tend to be more utility than directly offensive or defensive, but a few are clearly better or worse options than others. The green dragon-blooded gets water breathing and an underwhelming bonus to Climb skills equal to their class level both at 1st level, whereas a silver dragon-blooded can breathe a cone of paralyzing gas once per day at 10th level. The DC for sei abilities is 10 + their Charisma bonus + their class level, which is leagues better than the D20 default of 10 + Charisma + half your Hit Dice/class level, meaning that the aforementioned paralyzing gas can be very effective.

Finally Sei are a special case; due to being an inherited condition one cannot multiclass into it unless the character is unthlatu or the GM makes a special story exception for latent dragon blood.

Thoughts So Far: Back in the 3.0 days I could see several of the base classes as visible improvements, notably the Rogue and Sorcerer, and the mchawi wizard is my favorite mostly due to thematic reasons. However, in more modern 3rd Edition and Pathfinder games they’d feel artificially limiting. The magical classes are all full 9-level casters which makes them strong options, whereas the gamba and nanala have no magic and so are batting around their PHB counterparts.

Join us next time as we cover Nyambe’s Prestige Classes in Chapter Five!

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Deities & Demigods 1E
Part 4: Haida, Iroquois, Navajo... those are all basically the same thing, right?


We start out with a bang, with one of the worst-handled "mythoi" in the entire book: the American Indian Mythos.


Or as the title seems to have it, the AMERICAN...indian mythos

As I've already mentioned, this is a grab-bag of figures and concepts from different Native American peoples, all jammed incoherently together. And we start out with a solemn reiteration of the standard cliché of Native Americans being close to the land:

American Indian Mythos posted:

The gods of the Indians of North America were as close to nature as their worshipers could make them. The natural world is the most important aspect of the Indians' existence. The gods will always prefer to appear in the form of a creature of the land. They can, if necessary, appear in human form, but such appearances require great energy and may only last a short time.

Please note that this last bit about the gods rarely taking human form is flatly contradicted in the descriptions of the gods themselves. Of the nine gods in this section, six are described as typically taking human form; a seventh doesn't have his form explicitly described but is depicted as humanoid in the illustration (and is said to use a shield and a bow or hand-axe, which would seem to be difficult for a four-legged animal). This leaves only two gods out of nine that "prefer to appear in the form of a creature of the land"—though they happen to be the first two gods listed.

The text goes on to tell us that "Indian" clerics wanting to control something must have a part of that thing already; that "the symbolism of a name is very important to the Indians", and that "[a]ll Indian rituals involving demons or devils require the use of a large fire for control of the creature." (Nothing further is said as to under what circumstances "Indians" would perform rituals involving demons or devils.) "Rituals revolve around the seasons", we are told, and "[f]ood, finely made jewelry, weapons used successfully in battle and the like are burned at these times for the good of the tribe in the upcoming season." This is all, frankly, pretty generic stuff—generic enough that I can't even say if it was based on the practices of a particular Native American people; it just seems like boilerplate priest-of-a-"primitive"-culture stuff. Clerics dress with magical symbols, which are "buried with the cleric in the event of his death"; young clerics go into battle while older clerics call upon the gods for aid... none of this is particularly interesting or evocative. At the end we finally get to some things that at least sound pop-culture-Native-American: we get a reference to "the warpaint of the warriors" (which, to be fair, really was fairly widespread among Native Americans, though obviously it had different meanings and details in different areas), and are told that "the tent or lodge of the cleric(s) is a place taboo to the rest of the tribe and supposedly guarded by strong spirits."

And then we get a couple of paragraphs about "sacred bundles", which in real life I think were mostly confined to some of the tribes of the Great Plains (and, apparently independently, in parts of Mesoamerica, but that's not covered in the "American Indian Mythos"—there's a separate chapter for the "Central American Mythos", which we'll get to later). This is... actually pretty flavorful, if not necessarily faithful to real Native American beliefs, and pretty blatantly overpowered. A warrior makes a sacred bundle with the help of a cleric and a summoned spirit, and it gives significant benefits: +2 on all saving throws, an armor class of 2 (equivalent in first-edition to Plate Mail +1), one point subtracted from every die of damage taken in battle, and the character has only a 1 in 6 chance of being surprised. The bundle contains 5 to 10 items, and... what the hey; I'll just quote the last paragraph:

Sacred Bundles posted:

There are always from 5 to 10 items in a bundle, and the summoned spirit chooses several of the items so that they are very dangerous to secure (thus proving the worthiness of the supplicant). Things like a rattle from a cave of giant snakes, a feather from a high nesting giant eagle, or the hair of 13 enemies killed in battle are the type of items that go into a sacred bundle. When all of the items have been acquired, the priest of the tribe must be brought; he will demand that the last offering placed in the bag be of his choosing. This thing is always something that the priest can use a part of for his own purposes.


Wait... is that an "E.O." down at the bottom? Is this an Erol Otus drawing? Huh. Doesn't look like his usual style.

Now for the gods. In contrast to most of the pantheons, in which the gods primarily inhabit the Outer Planes, most of the "American Indian" gods make their homes in the Prime Material Plane. They're a mixed lot, though, and look pretty playable; all the alignments are represented among the gods except lawful neutral and neutral good. There's no information, however, about relationships between the gods, or how they interact with each other—which in one way is understandable, as the gods are drawn from several different traditions. The book does not specify which particular Native American culture each god is from, or in any way acknowledge that there is more than one Native American culture, but I've tried to track down the origins of each god and I'll state them as we go. (I am not, however, by any means an expert in Native American anthropology, and I may get some details wrong.)

RAVEN


Ah, distinctly I remember, in the marshes of Marsember...

In most of the pantheons, the head of the pantheon comes first, and the rest of the gods are listed alphabetically. In the "American Indian Mythos", Raven is listed first, out of alphabetical order, implying that he's in some sense the head of the pantheon, though this isn't specifically addressed in the text.

Raven is chaotic good, though he is worshiped by people of all alignments, and makes his home in the Elemental Plane of Air for some reason. He's a 12th-level cleric, a 12th-level druid, a 10th-level ranger, a 16th-level magic-user, a 16th-level illusionist, and a 14th-level thief, and—in accordance with what's mentioned in the preface about the leaders of pantheons—he has 400 hit points, more than any other god in the pantheon (though Shakak, whom we'll get to later, is a close second with 390).

Raven is "the great transformer-trickster who is responsible for the creation/transformation of the world". His big thing is shapechanging—both himself and others. He can change his own shape to "appear in virtually any form he chooses", and can also transform others (who receive a −3 to their saving throws).

In actual Native American culture, Raven as a creator and trickster god was basically a thing of the Haida and Tlingit and other people of the Pacific Northwest. The art, too, looks vaguely inspired by those cultures, complete with a totem pole (also a thing specifically of the Pacific Northwest.).

COYOTE


"Hello, Fire Head Girl!"

Of course Coyote is here, as possibly the most famous figure from Native American mythology. The trickster Coyote comes from the traditions of Native American peoples of the Plains and Southwest regions, but of course that doesn't prevent him from being crammed in here into the same "pantheon" with Raven from the Pacific Northwest and, as we'll later see, other entities from elsewhere in North America. He's a chaotic neutral 14th-level cleric/14th-level druid/15th-level fighter/14th-level magic-user/17th-level illusionist/18th-level thief, and after this I think I'm going to stop giving the class breakdowns of the gods unless there's something really interesting about them because seriously, they're usually like this.

"Although Coyote is responsible for teaching arts, crafts, and the use of light and fire, he is primarily a bullying, greedy trickster." (Which I think actually is pretty much how he was portrayed in a lot of the Native American myths, so fair enough.) He can also change his shape, but not as well as Raven; he can only change into different animals. He's largely worshiped by thieves.


HASTSELTSI


We can't have a chapter about Native Americans without teepees somewhere.

And now we toss in a god specifically from Navajo mythology, because why not. Actually, as we'll see, although this chapter draws from traditions from all over North America, the Navajo in particular get disproportionate representation.

Also known as the "Red Lord", Hastseltsi is a god of racing who appears as a man with all red equipment. (Exactly what equipment isn't specified.) He also has a giant maroon horse that "is enchanted so it will run faster than anything it is competing against."

quote:

When he enters a tribal area it is because he desires to race, with any person and in any way. He never shows his godlike abilities (always running iust a little faster than his opponent).

Which... seems like it would make for kind of a pointless encounter. There's nothing that says that he places any wager on the race, or that there's any consequence for losing, so basically I guess the PCs are just beat in a race by some guy wearing a red loincloth or whatever his "red equipment" is, and they never find out who he was, and nothing ever comes of it. I mean, sure, a creative enough DM could find a way to make something interesting out of this, but it certainly doesn't immediately lend itself to much. (And that's assuming he does beat the PCs... for all the emphasis on his divine abilities, Hastseltsi, unlike his horse, is not said to be enchanted to run faster than anything he is competing against, and his speed is twice the speed of a normal human, which is fast, but not insurmountably so; in first-edition he can be easily outrun by an eleventh-level monk. Granted, he can fly at twice the speed he can run (so four times human running speed), but if he flies during a race that might sort of qualify as "show[ing] his godlike abilities". (And even then, he'll lose to an eleventh-level monk under a haste spell.))


HASTSEZINI


I kind of like the stylized art that some of the gods from this pantheon are given. As we saw with Hastseltsi, not all the gods are drawn this way, but we'll see one or two more that are.

Also known as the "Black Lord", Hastsezini is a lawful evil god of fire who makes his home on the Elemental Plane of Fire. "This being is jet black and extremely ugly," and "is very fond of destroying villages by fire if they do not make sacrifices to him." Most of his description is about his combat abilities, which is odd, because how likely is it that PCs are going to enter into combat with him? Wouldn't it be more useful to give information about his worshipers, or heck, his relationship to other gods in the pantheon?

This is another Navajo god, by the way, as you may have guessed from the similarity of the name to Hastseltsi's. Which I'm sure never had the potential to cause any confusion in play at all.

HENG

Heng comes originally from the traditions of the Huron, a Native American people who lived north of the Great Lakes. Heng's header actually says "HENG (thunder spirit)", but he's listed as a lesser god, so apparently he really is a full-fledged divinity. "This god is favored among all the Indian tribes because he can sometimes be relied upon to bring rain to those that suffer, and give luck to those that hurt." But only sometimes, I guess. His priests "sprinkle large quantities on the ground to attract his attention" when they need rain, and then he may or may not choose to answer the summons. The guy's lawful good... one would think he'd be a little more conscientious.

Oh... Heng lives on the Elemental Plane of Air. No word on whether he and Raven are roomies.

We don't get an illustration for Heng, but since he just "appear[s] as a braided warrior of the tribe that summoned him", I guess we're not missing much. That doesn't mean, by the way, that he just appears as some generic warrior; he apparently copies the form of a specific warrior of the tribe, and the warrior he copies "will have luck in battle for the whole year (in the form of a + 2 to hit enemies)."

HIAWATHA


In his birch-canoe exulting / All alone went Hiawatha...

Hiawatha posted:

Possibly the greatest of all Indian heroes, this warrior can be found (with many other names) in many of the cultures of America. He is often depicted battling monsters and even gods on behalf of mankind.

Um... no, Hiawatha could not be found with many other names in many of the cultures of America. Hiawatha was not a mystical warrior who battled gods. Hiawatha was a real person. He was one of the founders of the Iroquois Confederacy, a semi-democratic union of several Native American nations that some scholars argue served as partial inspiration for the United States Constitution.

However, while the information here about Hiawatha is pretty much completely wrong, the authors of Deities & Demigods aren't the first ones to make that mistake. The Hiawatha in Deities & Demigods is almost certainly not based on the historical Hiawatha, but on the Hiawatha of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous poem The Song of Hiawatha, which had nothing to do with the historical Hiawatha either. Rather, Longfellow's poem was rooted in the stories of a figure from Algonquin folklore variously called Manabozho, Tcakabesh, Wisakedjak, or Glusakabe, among other names. Longfellow had originally planned on using the name Manabozho for the protagonist of his poem, but he somehow got the confused idea that Hiawatha was yet "another name for the same personage," as he wrote in a journal entry, and decided to use that name instead.

At least you could argue that the Deities & Demigods portrayal of Hiawatha is more respectful than Walt Disney's Little Hiawatha cartoon, I guess. I mean, would you rather be remembered as a lawful good druid/paladin/ranger who "transcends the normal boundaries of tribal feuds in that he will help all people in trouble", or as a clumsy young boy whose pants keep falling down?


The text says Hiawatha "fought the great bear of death and won through hand-to-hand combat". So I guess that's what's happening here. We do not get statistics for the great bear of death.

HOTORU

A chaotic good wind god who casts lightning bolts in combat, Hotoru has a couple of things in common with Heng. First, despite his good alignment, he apparently only sometimes decides to help people out by giving them good weather or making their crops grow. Second, he doesn't have an illustration, but that's okay because he just takes the form of some nearby mortal anyway—though in his case it's "the form of the chief of any village that he is near", rather than a warrior of the tribe.

Despite these similarities in their presentations, Hotoru does not have the same origin as Heng—Hotoru comes from the traditions of the Pawnee, a Native American people from Oklahoma and its surroundings.

QAGWAAZ

Like Hiawatha, Qagwaaz is not a god, but a powerful hero associated with the pantheon; he's a neutral good ranger/bard who enjoys "chasing and capturing horses and buffalo on the plains for sport, and entering villages to test his strength against the best warriors there." And... I'm not really sure where he comes from. Apparently, neither is anyone else; I found a whole thread on EN World about the topic. (Well, about the gods from the "American Indian" pantheon from Deities & Demigods in general, but the title of the thread was "Deities & Demigods: American Indian Mythos (or, Who the Heck is Qagwaaz?)", so it seems they found this hero particularly troubling.) There is a Qagwaai, or Qagwaay, from Haida stories, but he seems to have little in common with the Qagwaaz of Deities & Demigods beyond the name—not to mention the fact that Qagwaaz is supposed to be a "hero of the plains", and the Haida are a people of the Pacific Northwest, nowhere near the plains. Still, I can't find any better leads, so my best guess is that Qagwaaz did ultimately come from Qagwaai, though he seems to have been changed quite a bit along the way. Perhaps the authors ran across the name but no further information, and just invented their own details.

SHAKAK


"Ice to meet you. Ha ha ha. Shut up I am so the first person to ever say that."

Shakak is a white-skinned, chaotic evil deity who has a human form with a demonic face. People sacrifice to Shakak by burning valuable items to propitiate him so he'll make the winter less harsh, "but no one prays to this evil being for fear that he will come." Like Heng, he's parenthetically referred to as a spirit ("SHAKAK (winter spirit)"), but he's listed as a greater god. Apparently the writers decided that "American Indians" referred to (at least some) gods as spirits, which... yeah, okay, I guess that's not surprising.

Shakak is a spirit of winter from the folklore of the Acoma Pueblo of New Mexico, opposed to Miochin, the spirit of summer, who does not appear in this book because apparently the authors just threw together figures from various Native American traditions at random.

SNAKE-MAN


Bitten by a radioactive snake... wait, I may be thinking of someone else.

Snake-Man is a chaotic good god of reptiles, I guess. No reptilian creatures will attack him, including "fantastic reptilian beings such as certain devils, demons, dragons, and the like." He never fights physically; he either uses magic or summons snakes to fight for him—he "can summon 5-500 random types of snakes to serve him (once per day)." (So... if he summons 5-500 random types of snakes, does that mean just one snake of each type? Or if not, how many snakes does he summon, in all? One would think that might be more important than the number of types.) He also "ages at will, and often visibly turns younger or older in long conversations with other beings", and I'm not sure exactly how or if that's supposed to tie into the whole reptile theme.

Snake-Man "appears in the shape of a man with rainbow-colored skin", and "always wears 75,000 gold pieces worth of jewelry". (Always exactly 75,000 gold pieces worth?)

Traditions of some sort of "Snake-Man" existed among many Native American peoples, including the Blackfoot, the Hopi, and others, and none of them quite match the Snake-Man in Deities & Demigods, but if I had to guess, I suspect it was inspired by the divine Snake-Man, or Tł'iish Hastiin, from Navajo mythology, though I've been able to find very little information about this deity online or in any books I have and really I've spent way too much time on this already and ought to just move on.

STONERIBS

quote:

This hero is famed for his great strength and will wander from tribe to tribe and fight the best each tribe has. Sometimes he will lose, and when this happens he will stay with the tribe for one year and fight in their battles.

Also, he has "a cloak that enables him to turn into a halibut at will."

Stoneribs comes from Haida tradition, where he is most famous for killing a great sea monster and wearing its skin. That sea monster's name? Qagwaai. Remember how I said the Qagwaaz from Deities & Demigods seems to have little in common with the Qagwaai from Haida mythology except the name? Yeah. (To be fair, in some versions of the story Stoneribs assumed the sea monster's name after killing it, so I guess in a way there was a hero named Qagwaai, but he still... was nowhere near the plains, among other things.)

The turning into a halibut is straight out of the original stories, by the way, except that there he does it by somehow putting on a halibut skin instead of a "cloak".

Stoneribs is a lawful good 10th-level ranger, making him one of the few characters from this book (and the only one from this chapter) to stick to a single character class.

THUNDER BIRD


Thunder bird is go!

Yes, in addition to gods and mortal heroes, this book does, as the Editor's Introduction mentioned, "include some monsters" related to the various pantheons. The thunder bird is the only monster in this chapter, and its Frequency is given as "Unique", so it's a one-of-a-kind entity, not a species of which multiple individuals exist. It can cast thunderbolts and is never surprised, though I'm not sure why you'd want to fight it anyway, since it's chaotic good and it "warns of great disaster and is often found fighting evil creatures of great power that have been summoned by the enemies of good tribes." The thunder bird has been killed several times in the past, but it's always come back. No method is given of preventing its return from death, though again, there doesn't seem to be any real reason a PC would want to.

Thunderbirds were one of the few mythological motifs that actually were fairly widespread among Native American cultures; they're particularly prominent in the Pacific Northwest, but also appear in the traditions of various peoples of other areas as well.

TOBADZISTSINI

Tobadzistsini is another god who comes from Navajo myth, and another god who's referred to as a "spirit" ("TOBADZISTSINI (war spirit)"). In the original Navajo accounts, he was the younger twin brother of Nayenezgani, Slayer of Alien Gods, who was at least as important as Tobadzistsini in Najavo mythology but who does not appear in Deities & Demigods. Also, in the original Navajo accounts, Nayenezgani and Tobadzistsini were heroes who slew terrible evil spirits, but in Deities & Demigods for some reason Tobadzistsini is neutral evil. He "usually appears as a massively built male", and likes to butt into battles between tribes.

YANAULUHA


"I suppose you're wondering why I've called you here today..."

quote:

Yanauluha was the first of all tribal clerics, and he is able to summon any spirit (god) of this pantheon to his people. The priest is now classified as a friendly spirit and is invoked by Indian priests whenever they need an especially large boon from the gods.

So... Yanauluha is not a god, but he's a useful go-between to communicate with the gods. So... kind of like a Catholic saint, I guess? He's not all that hard to summon, either; any sacrifice of magic items gives him a 10% chance of appearing, and it seems if it doesn't work the first time there's nothing stopping you from sacrificing another magic item and trying again. (There's nothing specifying how valuable the magic items had to be, either, so apparently you can summon him by sacrificing first-level scrolls or potions of delusion—though granted magic items in general were harder to come by in first edition than they became in some later editions.)

Yanauluha "appears as an old man in rich Indian garb and talks very slowly." I like the "talks very slowly" bit—the DM actually gets some information on how to role-play him.

Oh—I almost forgot. Yanauluha comes from the mythology of the Zuni, a Pueblo people who lived in what's now eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. (Well, still live there, in fact, though in a much smaller area than they used to, and now mostly just in New Mexico.)

Okay, that's it for the "American Indian Mythos". This may not have been handled as well as it could have been, but it's mostly uphill from here. Sort of.

Next time: gently caress You, Mordred

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


Chapter 4: History, pt. 2



Degenesis Rebirth
Primal Punk
Chapter 4: History


Post-Eschaton:
Everyone is working on rebuilding. Global communications and GPS were killed by the meteor EMP or ionized fallout. UEO (Euro UN) auxiliary troops are known as “the Convoy.”

Reaper’s Blow only opens in 2075, two years after the blast, and gets wider the next year. Geology nerds, help me out. HIVE finally reaches Europe for good (pre-Eschaton cases were effectively quarantined in Spain) and people are dying left and right. Proto-Spitalians seal themselves. World cooling starts in 2082.

A sub-section mentions that Ambrosia is the nanite solution is what flows in Sleeper pods and in the veins of Marauders (the god-cyborgs) – and they need more of it. This explains an early fluff piece. It also mentions Argyre – the guy that took over England as Argyre’s domain – as someone we would know.
Chroniclers and Spitalians emerge.



I too liked Frostpunk

2100s:

The Libyan emerges. Chroniclers take Cologne cathedral. Rhebus’ crew rises above cults that don’t survive their founder’s death. Exalt is founded in 2146, and it marks “the end of the era of the beast,” as it’s supposedly a civilized city close to what you had pre-Eschaton. Anabaptists take the Cathedral after Chroniclers had merely 30 years to work to decipher its treasures – goon projects, amirite? :v: First Sleepers wake u[ in 2173 to prepare the path for the 200-series, taking small towns and doing memes. East Borca becomes verdant.

2200s:

Purghans and Balkhani start killing each other in the Adriatic. So much for this being an age-old Jehammedan-Anabaptist conflict. Lybian’s neolibs flourish. In 2265, merely a hundred years after the Eschaton, Spain finally invades Africa. By 2269, the Africans are pushing them back into Spain, taking Andalusia. For some reason “No one uses the word “Spain” anymore; everyone calls the land ”Hybrispania”.” Why?

Exalt goes big. The 200s awake, but they’re clueless and brain-frozen. Many get owned by the Dushmans Dushani or the local Balkhanese. Palers support them anyways

2300s:

Giant barges with triangular sails land in Franka, scaring the locals (apparently, Hybris and Welsh are known pirates). However, only one kind of people in the world do triangular sails: the Chinese. Thus the only proof of life beyond the spore curtain is mentioned on page 342 and never again.

Adriatic conflict turns into trench warfare. Spitalians raise hospitals for the Purgans, making Balkhanese hate them. Ice Barrier pushes Scandinavians into Germany, revitalizing culture and bringing… a horse cult? What? Anabaptists start recatholocizing converting Purgare.

300 series fail to wake up. Maybe it’s 2^16, maybe it’s MYTSERIOUS PEOPLE ENTERING THE BUNKERS (Marauders, I’m sure) are to blame. Maybe it’s Maybeline.


The First Rule of Spital: Do Not Stare At The Crotch Bulge

First Judge appears. The first real explanation of Argyre: he’s not a cyborg, but a Sleeper who didn’t go to sleep because NANOMACHINES, SON.

quote:

Argyre’s foray: He is one of the old ones, winner of countless battles, his soul a bag full of swarming cockroaches. Northern Franka’s people call him the Vulture. He is a Sleeper who never slept but used the power and the possibilities that Ambrosia gave him early on.

Agyre declares Britain his via cunning use of flags in 2390; everyone else is told to gently caress off.

2400s:

Justitian is founded.

Meanwhile, Cultrin, a 400 series Sleeper, wakes up on time. He starts building an army by meme-enslaving other Sleepers, and arming them as well as mercenaries with arms from 100s and 200s warehouses. Everyone wants to be his friend. Except the Anabaptists, who attack his forces. He marches on Capital City. Exalt executes a Sleeper agent while their fellows are spotted in Berlin.

“War is in the air,” writes the book, treating the Anabaptist scuffle like the American establishment treated every conflict since World War II.
However, Cultrin disappears, either ensnared by a Pheromancer Queen or killed by a woman who was an ancient beauty that turned old and ugly. His army collapses like the Diadochi, and Exalt forces (as well as Spitalian planted plague) finish them off.

Osman Janissaries beat Cultrins forces in Berlin and the city gets named Osman. We still have no idea who or what those people are – and if they are supposed to be Jehammedan, the J’s never mentioned any of Janissaries.

Exalt undergoes its own civil war and is abandoned.

quote:

Irregulars occupy the market square, the Portal Halls.
Others defy the Last Rule and lay bare the forbidden portals. With jackhammers and explosives, they try to break through. A sacrilege!

I have no idea what any of that means :iiam:

Liqua emerges as a den of scum and villainy. Justitian starts gobbling up territory in Exalt’s absence.


Getrell had a lot of opinions about The Little Mermaid

2500s:

Prahan archeologists start constructing (?) The Great Library in Osman. They suddenly disappear after a few years. Spooky! :iiam:

Justitian rises and strikes an alliance with the Spitalians.

Needle Tower poo poo goes down in 2563. 500 series start awaking in a disorganized fashion in 2573. There’s a suggestion of RG facilities that exist beyond the Ice Wall.

2586: a Jehammedan assassin ruins the sculpture of Chief Judge Archot. The locals respond with violence. Osman sends a force of Swords of Jehemmed to teach them a lesson, but they get thwarted by Reaper’s Blow. There’s now a camp of frustrated Jehammeds who can’t reach Justitian - nor can they go home.

“The battle between Jehammedans and Anabaptists on the Adriatic Sea has lost quite some intensity in the last decades,” says the book, forgetting that the conflict started before any of the cults took power.

In 2593, a pulsed AM broadcast from the Balkhan awakens Chernobog, who takes Praha. Clans rise the next year, making protectorate crumble (well, start to crumble) and turning Balkhan extremely dangerous. Chroniclers and Anabaptists reach a truce.

2595:

quote:

Welcome to today! The Protectorate helplessly faces the Clans’ hatred; the Cults close ranks. Even former arch-enemies consider alliances. Chernobog’s hordes suffuse the Balkhan with violence and destruction – what is the Black God’s goal, and what will happen once he has reached it? What does Argyre do in Britain? What are the Great Library’s secrets?

Yeah, I don’t think anyone is too interested in Britain or the Great Library, as those have no detail besides what’s mentioned in the history part. What else is not mentioned? Most of the Cults, really, or anything that happened in Africa post Eschaton (Lybian aside).

Next time: Primal Punk in retrospect

juggalo baby coffin
Dec 2, 2007

How would the dog wear goggles and even more than that, who makes the goggles?




did they explain what exalt is yet?

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


juggalo baby coffin posted:

did they explain what exalt is yet?

quote:

Exalt is founded in 2146, and it marks “the end of the era of the beast,” as it’s supposedly a civilized city close to what you had pre-Eschaton.

It was this big city that marked the resurgence of civilization, but it fell to a civil war as the war leaders that crushed the remains of Cultrin's army didn't want to stand down. Very little explanation as to why its mentioned in such hushed and spooky tones in the book - you'd think it was Vault 0.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

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


Halloween Jack posted:

Second, it just felt like they only said it to hammer home that they don't want you to play Superheroes With Fangs like you did in late-era original World of Darkness. I get it, White Wolf, I promise to be good, I will not play a guy who carries a sword around in his coat.

White Wolf is, to me, notorious for not understanding their own games or players. :v: Because what they seem to insist you shouldn't play, aren't allowed to play and try to discourage you from playing, is in my experience what 90% of the playerbase actually players and has fun with.

"ah yes you must be this angsty shadowy pseudo-sexual predator in the shadows who has a hard life and also here are the rules for when you're powerful enough to throw a truck at a werewolf and you surf the truck through the air there while firing dual-wielded submachineguns and did i mention there are DEEPEST DARKEST VAMPYHRE POLITICKS?" meanwhile the player cashed out of reading that fifteen minutes ago and is calculating how much XP it'll take before he can do the surfing-truck-throw, and it'll be a cold day in Hell before the GM describes the feeding as anything beyond "alright you hoover five blood points out of some guy, now, moving on..." rather than making it a deep dramatic thing.

Cooked Auto
Aug 4, 2007

If you will not serve in combat, you will serve on the firing line!




hyphz posted:

[*] Something for all player types - and yes, it does say all types, with a side note that if you're creating an adventure for your own campaign then it only need be your own players. Which seems an odd thing to present as an exception, as if they were primarily encouraging the creation of adventures for the public?

Seeing as the current business model for 5e seems to be mostly make Adventure modules I guess they wanted to encourage others to do that as well.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Halloween Jack posted:

Honestly, I'm not a fan of that bit of Requiem. Unlife already makes it virtually impossible to be a good person, without them flat out saying "Your soul is dead, your mind is frozen in time along with your body when you die, you can never grow or experience everything real." Like, first, how do you play that and do you really want to play a campaign where it's The Sopranos, but Everyone is Tony.

Second, it just felt like they only said it to hammer home that they don't want you to play Superheroes With Fangs like you did in late-era original World of Darkness. I get it, White Wolf, I promise to be good, I will not play a guy who carries a sword around in his coat.

It also seems like it would make just make vampires boring and flat characters for the most part, since they're all parasitic mobsters stuck in their parasitic mobster rut.

Seatox
Mar 12, 2012


Just flipping through my copy of Hunter: The Reckoning, reached the section on Conviction (aka Hunter power points) and... Oh boy, Night is going to have a field day dissecting that one. I'd forgotten how plain awful the systems for Doing Cool poo poo was.

Angrymog
Jan 29, 2012

Really Madcats



Indian Dhows also have triangular sails. (And modern sailing boats)

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


Angrymog posted:

Indian Dhows also have triangular sails. (And modern sailing boats)

'twas a joke :colbert:

unseenlibrarian
Jun 4, 2012

There's only one thing in the mountains that leaves a track like this. The creature of legend that roams the Timberline. My people named him Sasquatch. You call him... Bigfoot.

The Bill Paxton/Matthew McConaughey vehicle Frailty seems like the most "Hunter the Reckoning as the fiction is written" movie despite coming out after the game and thus not being in the inspirations list.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.




juggalo baby coffin posted:

i have to say i truly, truly hate how the white wolf books are laid out and the in-character fiction. I've been looking through a bunch of the books trying to look for the cool stuff, but its so hard to find out what gameplay stuff is even in half the books, the rules are all lost in a sea of garbage fanfiction level vampire stuff. There is at least a bunch of cool stuff, like you can be a soul stealing lich or a vampire who eats other vampires, or a jiang-shi who is just a cool chinese vampire who doesnt need to deal with half the whiny poo poo western vampires do.

then theres like the slashers you can play as? and the hunters who get monster bits grafted onto them. That stuff's cool. But you have to sift through 10 pages of fiction to even get to the contents table, which is inevitably in some kind of dumb font you can't read.
I was going to say, now that I'm thinking about covering more sourcebooks, I'm going to have to skim a lot of them because of this. I don't know when White Wolf reached a tipping point where like 50% of any given sourcebook was in-character fiction, but it was uniformly terrible and you're not kidding about the illegible handwritten fonts.

The Vampire corebook, by the way, doesn't do this. Only the Prologue was written in-character.

One thing that was neat about 1st edition was that it had a running series of comic panels showing the unlife of a character from ancient Babylon to the modern day.


You're like five thousand years old, of course you love slavery.

dwarf74
Sep 2, 2012






Buglord

Jerik posted:

(content)
Thanks for bringing this one out for review. I got this book at an early, impressionable age - and I have to tell you, I was sorely disappointed when I found out various 'mythoi' weren't nearly as cut and dried as presented in this book. :)

I dimly recall using it as a resource for research papers in middle school. :blush:

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.




unseenlibrarian posted:

The Bill Paxton/Matthew McConaughey vehicle Frailty seems like the most "Hunter the Reckoning as the fiction is written" movie despite coming out after the game and thus not being in the inspirations list.
There was a thread on RPGnet that I still remember because I have Online Brain Poisoning, when word first got out that White Wolf was doing a new Hunter. The OP was ostensibly asking people what they wanted from a new Hunter, but he thought it should be Frailty: the Roleplaying Game, and basically tried to make the thread a workshop to write him a Frailty game while he constantly demanded more detail and pissed on everything he didn't like.

White Wolf "No Fun Allowed" scolds are some of the worst gamers.

Loxbourne
Apr 6, 2011

Tomorrow, doom!
But now, tea.

How much of oHunter's mechanical failings are poor design and how much are WW editors firmly trying to prevent mere mortals from harming their beloved angstlords from other lines?

unseenlibrarian
Jun 4, 2012

There's only one thing in the mountains that leaves a track like this. The creature of legend that roams the Timberline. My people named him Sasquatch. You call him... Bigfoot.

The folks designing the other lines really didn't have much input on how things worked for other games they weren't the lead designers for, despite what certain usenet conspiracy theorists tried to convince people of back in the day.

(There were a lot of folks really convinced that Justin Achilli was some sort of sinister mastermind forcing the mage developers to make Vampires more important in the metaplot than mages instead of just a weird dude who was really into wrestling.)

FMguru
Sep 10, 2003

peed on;
sexually

PurpleXVI posted:

White Wolf is, to me, notorious for not understanding their own games or players. :v: Because what they seem to insist you shouldn't play, aren't allowed to play and try to discourage you from playing, is in my experience what 90% of the playerbase actually players and has fun with.

"ah yes you must be this angsty shadowy pseudo-sexual predator in the shadows who has a hard life and also here are the rules for when you're powerful enough to throw a truck at a werewolf and you surf the truck through the air there while firing dual-wielded submachineguns and did i mention there are DEEPEST DARKEST VAMPYHRE POLITICKS?" meanwhile the player cashed out of reading that fifteen minutes ago and is calculating how much XP it'll take before he can do the surfing-truck-throw, and it'll be a cold day in Hell before the GM describes the feeding as anything beyond "alright you hoover five blood points out of some guy, now, moving on..." rather than making it a deep dramatic thing.
That''s very, very nineties though - games that talked a lot about the centrality and importance of narrative and drama and character and theme, and then had nothing in the mechanics to support any of it (but plenty of mechanics for traditional power-fantasy combat-mongering). My favorite example is Kult, which is a game of Clive Barker/Jacob's Ladder-esque reality fuckery, and whose core rulebook was mostly full of gunbunny nonsense about supressing fire, anti-tank rockets, and grenade scatter diagrams.

Hell, as an RPG tradtion it goes back to the very start of the hobby, with D&D and its endless lists of cool magic spells and powerful items, combined with neverending essays on how you were never, ever supposed to let your players get their hands on any of it until they had put in the hours and hours to earn them.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Hunter: The Reckoning

As real and timeless as a great hero in any literary work!

More admonitions to be very careful to make a character who is real and deep. "It's not about fighting monsters, it's about deciding if you cling to the tattered remnants of a false existence or stand up to insurmountable evil and shout ENOUGH! Next to that, fighting monsters is easy!" writes someone who has not actually examined the combat or bestiary chapters. I'm gonna have a hell of a lot to say about the combat engine in this game when we get to it because this is a game that thematically actually requires combat but boy did they make it awful. Why all of this sucks begins here, in character creation, our first actual interaction with the Storyteller system. We are also once again assured that the numbers aren't especially important and we should focus on persona generation and a logical, well rounded character instead of trying to build for stats or mechanics.

This is a goddamn lie, by the way. The numbers matter a lot! See, Storyteller has a dark secret: Storyteller is not a rules light game. Storyteller is not a narrative game. Storyteller is merely a very bad game with extremely overcomplex rules. It mistakes having lots of very poorly considered and defined rules for not being bound by rules. Carelessness is mistaken for being carefree, so to speak. As a result, you end up with massive dice pools and tons of mechanical levers pulled wildly at all times with no thought of how they actually effect probability of an action succeeding or fit into the overall themes the game is trying to get across. Storyteller, especially in Hunter, is written without an understanding that the rules are part of the fiction because we're using the rules to generate parts of the fiction. Instead, it is downright hostile to the idea of considered game design. Rules are derided as 'in the way' of trying to tell a story. For a game that thinks that, this game sure has a lot of loving rules! Nothing about the Storyteller system is going to add anything to Hunter as a game or as a story.

Throughout this review's mechanical sections, I am going to be comparing this game to Spire, by Grant Hewitt and Christopher Taylor. This is because I think it's a useful point of comparison; not only is Spire already a system about revolutionary action against an overwhelmingly powerful foe in service to a dubious force that assists and technically empowers you, but it is an example of a rules system that actually does the things Storyteller thinks it's doing. If you want more, I would refer you to LazyAngel's excellent review in the archives, but I'll be describing the relevant rules as means of comparison as we go through. I think having an example of how to do an actual relatively rules-lite game that centers around picking concepts for your character rather than min-maxing a bunch of fiddly stats helps reveal the flaws in Storyteller more thoroughly.

Anyway, you naturally start creating your character and assigning 'dots' to stats before you even know what they do. Stats are measured from 1-5, and you have 9 stats. 3 in each 'type' of stat: Physical (Str, Dex, Stamina), Mental (Wits, Perception, Int), and Social (Manipulation, Appearance, and Charisma). How does Manipulation differ from Charisma or Wits differ from Int? Uh, they just do, okay. It's important story stuff. Stop rollplaying. (Mostly they just wanted a neat 3, 3, and 3). You get 1 Dot in every stat, then get 6 in your favored category, 4 in your secondary, and 3 in your tertiary.

So we'll be making two Hunters as we go along with these. Dr. Kimberly Muldoon will be the character Hunter wants us to make; someone built entirely to the concept of a biologist who studies occult horrors after becoming aware of their existence, without any thought to combat or game rules. Wilhelm Metzger will be the character Hunter does not want us to make, here from Yarnham to get him some juice, fresh out of the werewolves and other gribblies he intends to hack apart with a cavalry saber because he's a Bloodborne character. He will be focusing on minmaxing the poo poo out of his combat abilities because it's funny and someone asked for Bloodborne Hunters. Wil will also be here to show off that making a 'combat monster' is, uh, a challenge in this game.

As a base rules system, you roll a pool of d10s equal to Stat+Skill+Modifiers against a TN set at random depending on the whims of the spirits and your GM, but usually 6. Any 1s are subtracted from your pool of successes, anything that meets or exceeds the TN is a success. If you have more 1s than successes, you botch. If you get multiple successes, you do very well. It seems simple, but between situational penalties or bonuses adjusting number of dice or TN at random, and the way 1s eating successes throws off the probability, and the way the bonuses, penalties, etc are assigned by carefree magical spirits? This poo poo is going to get crazy.

Muldoon looks at her character concept and goes with Mental Primary, Social Secondary, and Physical Tertiary. She takes 3 dots in Intelligence, 1 in Perception, and 2 in Wits; she's very smart and well trained, but wears glasses and can get distracted by work. She takes 'Education' as a specialty for her 4 Int; this lets her reroll 10s in her dice pool if an Int test focuses around stuff she's learned by long study rather than dealing with new and novel problems. For Social, she takes 1 in Appearance, 1 in Charisma, and 2 in Manipulation; she's better at reading people and thinking things through than making a big impression. For Physical, she decides she's in pretty poor shape from spending all day in the lab, and takes 2 in Dex, 1 in Strength, and 0 in Stamina. Good with her hands, quick enough on her feet, but kind of out of shape.

Wilhelm is here to kill some poo poo. Wil takes Physical Primary, Social Secondary, and Mental Tertiary; Wilhelm is not a wise man, as befits someone named after a ridiculous Kaiser who used to make battleship noises during meetings of state. Wil knows this system well enough to know Dex both fits his character concept and is the God Stat for combat, so he takes 4 Dex, 1 Str, and 1 Stamina. He'll probably spend some Freebie points to be buffer. He also takes 'Martial Artist' for his specialty for Dex, reasoning he can get away with this and that the katana he can justify with it is reasonably close to a cavalry saber (there's a katana in Bloodborne anyway!). He takes 1 in appearance for the sake of absolutely-not-a-cool-vampire vanity (let it never be said he is not roleplaying too!) and then 3 in Charisma because he wants to make an impression, taking 'Making an Impression' as his Specialty. Then he takes 1 in each mental stat because he's stopped paying attention to sketch out his cool hunting costume. It might include a tricorn hat.

Next you design your Abilities. Your Skills. As before, you get Talents (Self Taught abilities), Skills (Stuff you train at), and Knowledges (Stuff you learn). You pick one category to get 11 dots, one to get 7, and one to get 4. Talents are partly denoted by not taking penalties for having 0 dots; a good stat is enough to use a Talent without training. Skills you don't have raise TNs for the dice rolled by 1. Knowledges can't be rolled without at least 1 dot. You can only buy these to 3 at this point; starting with 4s and 5s in Abilities will take Freebie Points in a bit.

Muldoon obviously takes Knowledge as her main, then Skills, then Talents. She also immediately grabs 3 in Science, Research, and Medicine. She knows a lot and she's a highly experienced medical researcher. She also grabs a 1 in Academics for all those liberal arts courses she took to de-stress while she was working on her degree, plus her personal reading on the side and 1 in Investigation; she isn't really trained for forensics and all but she took a couple courses on it and she wants a dot to have a 'knack' once the adventuring gets started. For Skills she takes 2 in Firearms; she knows a little about a pistol and has done some self-defense training. She grabs a 3 in Technology because those drat lab robots don't fix themselves or program themselves. She'll also take a 1 in Demolitions; she knows enough chemistry and science for it. And a 1 in Stealth, again representing more of a natural knack like Investigation. Similar, she grabs a point of Dodge with her first Talent point, a point of Alertness, a point of Intuition, and a point of Empathy. She's not great at any specific Talents, but she's reasonably aware of her surroundings and decent with people and thinking things through.

Wil is, again, here to kill poo poo. He takes an 11 in Skills, 7 in Talents, 4 in Knowledge. He grabs Melee to 3, Firearms to 3, Stealth to 3, and Security to 2 from Skills. He can get into any building and murder people in it. With guns. And saber. He buys Dodge to 3, Athletics to 3 (He's gonna do some parkour), and a point of Alertness. For Knowledge, he gets Occult 3 and Medicine 1. He's a lot simpler than Muldoon and is mostly not paying attention to the non-combat skills, but he reasons Occult will probably help in a game about fighting the occult. High Insight is fun, anyway.

Next, a character gets 5 points of Backgrounds. These are basically little advantages related to what you did before you got into killing monsters for a night job. The GM is told to veto any attempted min-maxing or trying to be Blade. Wilhelm narrows his eyes behind his high collar and tricorn hat.

Muldoon is a moderately well-off professional but has student loan debts, so she takes 1 in Resources. She has a decent apartment in a nice part of town that she shares with her 1 point Ally, a roommate who is big into the occult and who owns a nearby comic book store. She has her Mentor, a highly respected biologist who advised her during her PhD, for 2 points. And she has 1 point in Contacts from her job at DNA Industries. She's a relatively realistic middle-class person with some social grounding and a minor web of normal people who support her, but no real contact with the extraordinary.

Wil takes one look at the Destiny Background and how it provides Rerolls and goes 'Yeah, this is me, I'm totally destined for some stuff'. He takes 4 points of Destiny immediately and 1 point of Arsenal, which gets him a 'collection of outdated WWII weaponry'. He will include a Japanese officer's katana in there (He's got his saber!) and a bunch of older revolvers and a shotgun. Wil is down to clown. Wil has 0 Resources, so he is a murder-hobo, but he cares not. Note that Destiny is also one of those 'by the way, I'm the main character, and more main character than the other characters' Backgrounds. While Muldoon was off thinking about a reasonable set of social circumstances for her character, Wil was majoring in protagonism.

Next, they pick Virtues and Creed. You get 3 points, and can go 1-1-1, 2-1-0, or 3-0-0, but no Virtue can exceed your 'main' Virtue. You 'buy' powers with dots of Virtue; you keep the dots, but mark them as spent. Meaning if you ever, say, buy a Martyr and a Redeemer power with Mercy you're now locked out of ever getting to max Martyr or Redeemer powers. We have no idea what the Powers are yet, but Muldoon decides she's going to be well rounded (and isn't especially interested in the magic powers part, since none really relate directly to her concept) and takes 1-1-1 and declares she's a Visionary, she guesses, since that sounds close-ish to 'I study this'. She gets the level 1 Vision power, takes the level 1 Innocent power since it hides you from monsters and that seems useful for studying, and then takes the level 1 Judge power so she can spot monsters for study. Wil...well, Wil slams the Avenger button so hard he breaks it and grabs 3 Zeal immediately, getting the 1st and 2nd level Avenger powers.

You also get Starting Conviction, your pool of Do Hunter Things points, and boy we will go into Conviction later. Neither character touches it because neither is stupid enough to spend permanent character resources on a mana pool that won't reset to the inflated level. Wil gets 4 because Avengers AVENGE and Muldoon gets 3 because Visionaries are waffly. I should also mention how much I have to flip through the book for all this. This stuff is very badly laid out. Then they both get 3 Willpower and 21 Freebie Points. Freebie Points are spent 5 apiece to raise stats, 2 to raise skills, 1 for WP, 1 for Conviction (but it won't raise your 'standard' Conviction, unlike raising WP, 1 for a Background point).

Muldoon spends hers on immediately raising Science to 5 for 4 points, giving herself the Biology specialty. She also spends 4 raising Willpower. She wants her character to be tough-minded. She raises her Stamina because she doesn't feel like her PC really fits as a total weakling, not realizing this is a very inefficient use of a fixed-cost character resource when she could do that for EXP extremely cheaply, but hey, she's the realistic PC. She also raises Per to be more generally clever. She then buys another point of Contacts (her job opens doors) and decides to throw one in Linguistics and know German from her PhD and reading research languages.

Wil buys Dodge and Melee to 5 immediately, spending 8 points right away. Taking 'Sidestepping' specialty for Dodge and 'Blades' for Melee. Wil knows what he's here to do. He then buys 2 points of Strength because he looked ahead and noticed Stamina doesn't protect a human from much anyway, and takes 'Strong Arm' for his specialty, whatever that means. He buys his Destiny to 5 for 1 point and then dumps the rest into Willpower. Wil is now set up to be about as strong in hand to hand combat as it is possible to be in this system. We are going to see what that does when he runs into a monster later.

Finally, both pick their 'nature and demeanor'. Demeanor is what you show the world, Nature is what you really are and actually gain Willpower for doing. Muldoon takes Architect for her Nature; she wants to build a legacy of knowledge and be remebered for it. She grabs Director for her Demeanor; she seems way more interested in 'order out of chaos' stuff than she is, but that's just a manifestation of how she wants to be able to make sense of things more than any sort of control freak streak. Wil grabs Celebrant as both; he loving loves his job and he doesn't care if people know it. He is here to bleed some monsters.

The thing to note is that Muldoon is not a useless character; if anything, she's probably more useful than Wil because what she's good at is stuff humans can actually accomplish in this system while Wil is trying to be a badass in a game system that is going to try to kick him in the dick for it. The thing is, combat is going to come up, and against weaker foes, a Muldoon will probably be glad to have a Wil around. I could have built Muldoon much worse if I'd tried, and she probably has some serious gaps and holes in her abilities, but she's at least good at her thing. Having a highly skilled doctor and scientist along in an urban fantasy horror game is usually pretty handy.

What I will note is that making these PCs took a long loving time. This post took me almost two hours to write. That's a hell of a lot more than normal. Two hours and a shitload of flip-time. And this is without the demanded shitload of extra background material the book wants you to write for these people. They aren't kidding when they say your first session will probably be character creation. Keep this in mind when we get around to how fast these characters can die.

Next Time: Edges and Conviction

Chernobyl Peace Prize
May 7, 2007

Or later, later's fine.
But now would be good.



Talking it over with friends, I came to the conclusion that WW games are frequently a case of:
ST/Writers: "Hey I just got done watching Manhunter. Classic. Now I want to run a game."
Players: "Cool! So I can play Martian Manhunter in that right?"

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

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


FMguru posted:

Hell, as an RPG tradtion it goes back to the very start of the hobby, with D&D and its endless lists of cool magic spells and powerful items, combined with neverending essays on how you were never, ever supposed to let your players get their hands on any of it until they had put in the hours and hours to earn them.

Kult was a very good example, "COSMIC HORROR except you can kick Cthulhu in half with sick Street Fighter kicks or go to bed and dream up a mecha battlesuit to destroy him."

D&D less so, because the whole "PLAYERS HAVE TO SUFFER"-thing always felt more like something the OSR community dreamed up than something that actually was in the game. 2nd ed AD&D DMG, for instance: "Players are gonna get the cool toys eventually, just make sure there's a bit of challenge, otherwise they'll get bored because they get everything they want too easily, and get ready to shift the focus of the game when they do because just mashing monsters probably won't challenge or entertain them for long at that stage." And the game's writing and mechanical focus was actually on getting and using the cool toys. It would have been a better example if the rules were entirely as they were but the fluff text instead of writing about wizards was entirely about socio-economic equalites in a medieval society and the odds that your Wizard would get dysentery or that your Rogue would die of tetanus after the big heist because he cut himself on a rusty nail.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Hunter: The Reckoning

Granularity

Okay, I am really aware this is an odd conceit for a review, but again, I have a second system right here that does everything Hunter says it does but doesn't so we're going to take a look at it and talk about some design concepts in the process. Because I just got out my book for Spire and I can make a Spire PC in 5 minutes built solely to concept and they will come out really interesting and mechanically useful, unlike Storyteller where it takes an hour or more a PC and you almost certainly have a ton of gaps you missed. Storyteller's issue lies in granularity and the number of skills and stats that you have. How do you know if Wits is going to be more useful than Intelligence for your character? You don't. Is it worth investing 5 points in Science to be an awesome scientist? Depends on if it ever comes up, and if it does, if it needs tons of successes; combat definitely will, but out of combat tests are much more nebulous. To be competent in combat against the kinds of foes they'd face, Wil had to invest pretty much his entire character into combat and physical skills. He could have used guns and not had to bother with Str as much sure, but hey. Avengers love melee.

The granularity of it all introduces a ton of variables, and it's again kind of hard to tell when you're 'good' at something. Take Wil. Wil is almost as strong at doing damage in melee and dodging as it's possible to be under the system. I've looked ahead and know this won't matter much against serious enemies. So was it a mistake to invest in combat as heavily as he did, or is it necessary to have multiple characters who are as skilled as him mobbing an enemy? Hard to say, because the system is inconsistent. Is Muldoon wasting her time having 4-3-3 in mental stats? Should she have taken a 5 Int and then a bunch of Knowledges at lower levels, or would she get hosed over by the GM deciding a bunch of them should roll Wits instead? Hard to say. She looks like she'd be useful, but is she? It's going to come down to her GM. A lot.

Let's compare this to Spire. Spire has an extremely non-granular rules system. You have a skill or you don't. Then you have general Domains of competence. If you have no Domain or Skill, you roll d10 and check against a table of 'did you succeed, did you succeed with cost, or did you fail.' 50% of the time, a character rolling d10 will succeed or succeed with cost in normal circumstances, 30% of the time they'll succeed cleanly. If you have a Skill, you roll an extra d10 and take the higher result. If you have the Domain, you roll an extra d10. If you 'doubled up' on a Skill or Domain or had very favorable circumstances, you get 'Mastery' and can get an extra d10 under specialized circumstances (Say a character got Fight twice, and they picked the specialty 'With my old Legrande Rifle from the Army', they'd roll an extra d10 with that rifle). If you're rolling 4d10 you've got great odds. If you're rolling even 2d10, you're got decent ones. Circumstances will take away dice if they're very hard. It's pretty simple. A character who has Fight or Sneak on their sheet can be reasonably confident they can Fight or Sneak. And say you don't have Sneak, but you were in the army and have the Domain of Order: You still know the military well enough to put on a stolen uniform and pretend to be a soldier even then.

Similarly, you don't have that many skills and domains in the game, and characters get similar numbers of them. Your character's class/splat/whatever instead ends up defining where you can withstand damage and pressure and what extraordinary abilities you have and where you can advance, but if you, say, have an unusual ability from your background? You're good at it. Local priest who had a rough 'durance' (a period of forced labor you had to endure for your oppressors) as an assassin? Now he's still competent at sneaking and fighting, even if his overall class as a priest will never develop sneaking and fighting skills. By having it be a binary 'are you good at thing' or 'do you know how to work in this social class/context', it's easy to tell when a character is competent or not and every skill or domain you learn is a significant boost and twist to what your character can do.

In that same vein let's ask how much Muldoon having a 5 in Science is going to help her. Who knows? Maybe 7 Science Dice would've been enough for anything Science ever does. It fits her character concept of being a brilliant scientist, but the granularity of the system doesn't add much when the system keeps telling us it wants us to focus on concept and get out of our way. It's more EXP efficient, since she bought it with fixed cost resources and you get diminishing returns on EXP spends, but who knows how useful it is and what sort of competence it reflects? Under the system in Spire, though, if Muldoon was a class/background that had the Technology Domain and the Investigate skill, you could reasonably guess she'd be extremely good at scientific investigation and manipulation of technology.

Similarly, there's a very long skill and stat list in Storyteller; what's Wits vs. Int? When do you use Manipulation or Charisma or Appearance? Is Etiquette going to come up? Do you need Alertness or was Awareness more important? Is this a Technology or a Science roll? How many points does it take to actually be competent in a thing going by game mechanics instead of the general rule of thumb fluff about 1 is beginner, 2 is average, 3 is good, 4 is great, 5 is human peak? There's so much variation in the rules when we get to them that I can't really tell you besides 'ask your GM'. In Spire, there are 9 Skills and 9 Domains. You will know (if your character is very broad instead of having Mastery) 5-7 of them at game start, out of 18. If you only know 5, trust me, the stuff you get in return will be worth it since it's extra insurance against terrible things happening. There's a good baseline of competence you can assume, and your PC will be widely able in a variety of potentially surprising ways, all of which are geared towards being good at doing revolutionary action and doing the things the game is about.

In Storyteller, say I made Muldoon's roommate, the comic book shop nerd. Making that character wholly to flavor could end up with a PC who isn't actually good at, you know, hunting monsters and solving mysteries. Because Hunter's rules system isn't focused and doesn't do a good job of defining competence. This complexity actually does result in the rules getting in your way. Because you're playing a guessing game of whether or not the stuff you're putting points into is going to come up during the game. In a system like Spire, the character creation is drilled down to 'everything here is going to help you, and at the end of creation your PC is going to be useful to a revolutionary cell trying to overthrow their oppressors because that's what the game is about, so design whatever looks cool'. By actually drilling down the complexity of the game and making it much more focused, Spire lets you do the thing Storyteller is telling you to do and do it with confidence that your PC is going to be cool, potentially unique, and actually good at playing the game. Contradictions and complications actually become sources of unusual strengths instead of wasted points on 'dips'. A badass knight who did a term as a high society rear end in a top hat's personal assistant and learned all about upper class etiquette? Helpful! An artist who came back from the war to try to express what she saw in paint and performance? Actually useful! A revolutionary who did a term as a diplomat with other nations? Great!

Meanwhile, over here in Storyteller, you're playing a guessing game as to how much of which Fight Guy skill is going to make you able to survive and contribute if you get into a gunfight, and which stat is going to do what thing at what time because it's extremely variable and decided by your GM at random. What is going to come up in the game is plain: You're going to fight monsters. But what makes you decent at that? When have you put enough points in a thing? You don't know. The system is at once very complex, but very poorly defined, so you're in a guessing game about building your PC. Not to mention it takes an hour to do it and they can die in one or two bullets in a fight. This actually seriously impedes building a reasonable and realistic PC to concept, because there are simply too many numbers and rules in your way. The simpler, lighter system that actually thought about design and focused the game mechanics around the thing the game is about actually does free you up to build to concept and flavor, while the loose Storyteller system makes it much harder and brings the numbers much more firmly into focus even as it protests it doesn't want to be about the numbers. Most of my time spent making Wil and Muldoon was spent on numbers. Most of my time making Spire PCs is spent on character. Design matters! The granularity of Storyteller only works against its stated design goals because it pays no mind to actual design and mechanical work!

Next Time: Okay, NOW it's Conviction and poo poo.

Kaza42
Oct 3, 2013

Blood and Souls and all that

Honestly, I'm pleasantly surprised with how not-the-worst the AMERICAN indian mythos section was. Considering it was written in the 80s and should probably be graded on the curve, it just comes off as more "ignorant but well intentioned" than actively terrible. Compared to something like Scion 1e, it's actually refreshingly positive. I remember that I used to love this book back when I was first discovering D&D, even though I never used it. Thanks for doing the writeup, I've forgotten most of what was in it.
(Note: I am not Native American, so I could be horribly misjudging how bad this chapter is. If anyone corrects me, I won't argue)

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Kaza42 posted:

Honestly, I'm pleasantly surprised with how not-the-worst the AMERICAN indian mythos section was. Considering it was written in the 80s and should probably be graded on the curve, it just comes off as more "ignorant but well intentioned" than actively terrible. Compared to something like Scion 1e, it's actually refreshingly positive. I remember that I used to love this book back when I was first discovering D&D, even though I never used it. Thanks for doing the writeup, I've forgotten most of what was in it.
(Note: I am not Native American, so I could be horribly misjudging how bad this chapter is. If anyone corrects me, I won't argue)

It's pretty bad, note how many entries have caveats of 'this is actually not accurate at all basically.'

Like, better than Scion 1e is a very low bar.

e: I'll grant it's not hateful, but it's exceptionally wrong.

e2: as I go look again, there's also of course the huge loving issue of "all First Nations folks are the same right?" which is loving bad as hell, and several of the figures used are from religions which are actively opposed to the sharing of sacred secrets, like the Pueblo cultural complexes.

Mors Rattus fucked around with this message at 16:29 on Jul 3, 2019

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Sig: Manual of the Primes
Riverfront Property



Riverward is the mercantile heart of the city. Here, treasures are sold – any treasure, if you know where to look and how to ask. You can also find people willing to defend just about any opinion or tell any story here. Riverward is where the ambitious live, where merchants seek fortune and where the upper middle class of Sig tend to make their home. Their homes may not be large, but their meals are filling, and with some luck and good skill, they might even be able to get a place overlooking the river. If they fail…well, back to the Hive. Again, four major neighborhoods.

First, we have The Bizarre, the biggest market in Sig. The pun is wholly intentional, of course. Here, all kinds of wares can be found if you can afford them. In the early morning, things are quiet and the goods are prepared while the merchants gossip with each other about all manner of things and share delicious teas. Their friendliness fades fast, however, as the customers start to arrive. The crowds’ roar is interspersed with clever quips, outrageous claims and much haggling. The dozens of shops, stalls, display blankets and more fill the area, while more dubious goods are sold on the rough and rickety boardwalks that overlook the area. Anyone visiting is there to find something – food, spices, adventure gear, toys, mystic goods and more. There’s something for everyone, but the price can be dear.

The local NPC is Elakin the Runebound, an Elderskein and member of the Sage Collegium, devoted to Omulaub the Tranquil. His strengths are Artifacts And Relics and Psychometry, while his weakness is Greedy. He is a sage who speaks for the living and dead by means of their goods. His is one of the smallest shops, set behind a squid vendor and next to a loud fletcher. His stall always has a bunch of holy relics and small artifacts, and he is who you go to for appraisal, identification and trade of magical items. Elakin is deeply connected to his goods, because he has learned how to talk to them. His particular academic specialty as an Elderskein is cultural anthropology, specifically the analysis of artifacts to understand the lost cultures that created them. Whenever he’s between customers, he spends his time polishing and whispering to the objects in his shop, and he is always eager to hear more voices. He meets weekly with Kilku Ratface for tea and discussion of art and fashion. Elakin regrets that in their shared youth, he bullied and tormented Negasi the Planner. Once, he was business partners with Aradarai the Sharp, but they proved unable to work together.

The Oratory is the premier location for public speaking in Sig. Sure, there’s plenty of alleys and corners for private conversation, but when you want to perform or speak to the entire city, the Oratory is your goal. It is an immense amphitheater with huge granite walls and black marble benches, with seating for hundreds of people. A large wooden platform works as a stage for plays, concerts, rallies and even executions. The walls isolate the Oratory from the rest of the city entirely, preventing any sound from escaping to the streets outside, no matter what’s going on. More than one cult or revolution has been discreetly begun there – and more than one has been massacred there, with the neighbors none the wiser. The Performers’ Guild manages it ruthlessly, offering it up to those who do what they consider to be “good behavior.” Access is heavily coveted, for a performance in the Oratory opens doors. It is freely accessible to emerging artists, upstart firebrands and passionate rebels…but once they reach the halls of power and prominence, they owe the guild many small favors for that access, and speech becomes quite expensive for them.

The local NPC is Dzini the Peaceful, a Fireheart and member of the Performers’ Guild who is a devotee of Kalzak the Absolute. Her strengths are Demagogue and Mask of Kindness, her weakness is Hatred. She is famous for her message of peace and her kindness to others, and her preaching on self-improvement and care for one’s community have earned her a place of societal honor. She lives out of the Oratory itself, spreading her message to any who will listen to her guidance in keeping Sig safe from untrustworthy outsiders. She speaks out against foreign imperialist deities, who seek to impose their alien faith on others. In truth, of course, Dzini is a zealous follower of Kalzak’s dogma. Her preaching is carefully designed to build up fear of outsiders and distrust between different communities. She spreads hatred in the words of peace, her every sermon designed to make people fear and distrust those who are not like them. That she hides it in soft words only makes her more dangerous. Dzini is best friends with Cyathea the Tower, helping them tend the Garden. Her true nature has been revealed to Kinish the Crow, whom she now pays regularly to keep it secret. She has begun a whisper campaign against Slichk the Slime, spreading vicious rumors about the dark forces that she obviously worships.

The Isle of Spirits sits in the middle of the Great River, linked to the rest of Sig by bridges of gold and silver. The spirits here are less metaphysical and more liquid – it is the home of the city’s finest bars and pubs, where city-dwellers go to celebrate, escape pain or just drink heavily. It serves as a de facto entertainment district, full of trendy clubs, old eateries and pubs of great repute and hidden cellars and breweries for the creation of new and interesting drinks. It is a place of meetings, public or private, and no matter what strata of society you hail from, your appearance there will not bring comment, if you’re careful about who you talk to. Cults and religions mingle freely at the Chubby Crow even if they’d be at each other’s throats in Godstreet, and factional negotiations are frequent in certain establishments marked out as neutral ground. All are welcome, as long as they keep the peace.

Brok the Damned is a Giant, member of the Dustkeepers’ Guild and devotee of Aludra of the Frozen Tears. His strengths are Strength and Broken Things, his weakness Alcohol. Everyone knows Brok, the damned giant of the isle. He is a huge mountain of razor-sharp and broken slate, and anything he touches is marked, bloodied or scarred by it. None dare to come close to him, speak to him or ask him of his trouble. His only job appears to be terrifying other drinkers and stopping fights before they can happen. Only the bartenders that serve him ever really learn more. Brok lost it all, and it was his own fault. As a proud young Giant, he left his village to seek his fortune in the City Between. Greedily, he joined a team of adventurers that sought to plunder an ancient Prime world of the Serpent Dynasty. Shamefully, he abandoned both his team and his people to crushing retaliation from the Serpents. Now, only the bottle is his company in the darkness. Brok sought out Brunet the Mythender to kill him and end his suffering, but found in her instead a sympathetic friend. In his rare periods of sobriety, he discusses theology with Simus the Balancer. He was the one who slew Slichk the Slime’s cruel master, though he cannot remember doing it.

The Craft Quarter is the workplace of the best artificers and craftspeople of the City Between. Here, the obsessive, passionate and eccentric make their workspaces, etching the cobbles themselves with symbols to catch attention and advertise wares. The walls are coated with beautiful paintings by great artists, and the quarter is full of small clockworks of brass and copper doing many jobs. Skill is the only thing required to get a workshop in the Quarter – and lots of it. Primes, planar immigrants and Sig natives are all found there, and with so many artists and crafters in one place, drama’s inevitable. Ideological cliques form based on artistic philosophies, and rivals constantly seek to outdo each other. Countless insults, romantic entanglements and shouting matches are found on any given day, and even a few blood feuds to keep the place lively.

Aradarai the Sharp is half-Polari, half-Crystalian, and a member of the Artificers’ Guild. He is a follower of Magdak the Clockwork Page. His strengths are Artifice and Crystals, his weakness Perfectionist. Aradarai requires perfection in all things. His shop in the Craft Quarter is perfectly austere – a single featureless room for customers. Each day, he presents a single piece, some form of crystalline clockwork. Once it sells, he’s closed for the day. He spends all other time making new creations, and immediately destroying any that do not meet his exactingly high standards. Aradarai forgives others no more than he forgives himself, and literally all of his self-worth is tied into his creations. He treats any flaw as a personal failure and betrayal. His fear is that any weakness, even the smallest, might break him – and he might be right. Aradarai trusts Negasi the Planner more than any other. He is afraid The Lost and has hired assassins to eliminate them. He believes Ramella, the Golden Heir, is perfect in all respects.

Next time: Highspire, For Real This Time

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Hunter: The Reckoning

How Not To Do Cool Stuff Points

Conviction is meant to be a major power stat for the Hunter the same way Blood is to a Vampire and Being Mad About Stuff is to woofs. This is your certainty, your willingness to trust in your new abilities, and your drive to punch dracula right in his smug dracula face. Conviction is supposed to be a powerful edge in the battle against night creatures, used to fuel a Hunter's amazing abilities. Conviction is mostly a huge pain in the butt. Remember: You could have bought extra Conviction at PC creation, and you have 3-4 Starting Conviction to form your 'normal' pool. Note that while spending points on Willpower (your other metacurrency, really) raises your characteristic WP rating, raising Conviction does not; this is why it does not seem like a good idea to spend permanent character points on your temporary mana pool. If your Conviction has been drained, you'll sometimes get refilled to your Creed's default of 3 or 4, at the arbitrary wish of the GM; it could be next session, it could be next scene. We're going to be seeing our friend 'arbitrary wish of the GM' an awful lot throughout Hunter.

You absolutely need Conviction. It is the most important tool a Hunter has. Spending a point of Conviction on a scene will grant you the immediate ability to perceive the supernatural for that scene, even if you don't have any Edges that normally let you do that. You'll see ghosts, you'll see a vamp is a vamp, you'll see the hidden zombies and awful things of the world, and you won't freak the gently caress out from doing it. You do not need to make 'fear' tests or whatever if you've got Conviction on. You become immune to mind-whammies and other powers of compulsion. Whatever tricks a monster is used to using to evade notice, none of them work if you've spent a Conviction point for the scene. You will completely no-sell illusion powers, domination powers, possession powers, etc. You see everything for what it really is, and you remember it; no Hysteria-ing your way outta this one, woofs! (Instead they probably just kill you, because it is a woof, and they are big and angry and stupid and very good at killing) The issue is that you can't afford to do this every scene, and if you don't have your shield of Conviction up, you will be effected just like a normal human. This is why there are so many Edges that let you see or mark the supernatural despite having an automatically successful option with Conviction; you need to know when there's something strange in the neighborhood so you don't constantly waste your pool of ain't afraid of no ghosts.

Naturally, after all this about one of the few genuinely awesome, thematic powers Hunters have (the whole second sight/no-sell domination ability) we get a sidebar about how maaaaybe it shouldn't actually work on a really old and especially cool vampire. The GM is, at the Arbitrary Whim of the GM, free to make you roll a Primary Virtue check against TN 6 or 8, which they can do for you, in secret. If this fails, you fail to detect the creature and are completely vulnerable to its bullshit, even though you spent a Conviction point and were assured by the rest of the game that doing that is a 'gently caress You' button for mind-whammies and illusions. This is bad! BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD! Do not do this poo poo, White Wolf! You gave the Hunters one really cool move that really stands out and then immediately qualified it in the most dickish way possible, the 'GM rolls under the table and then lies to you about you being protected while you waste resources' move. These poor bastards have a hard enough row to hoe already, don't take away the one genuinely awesome thing they can all do!

Also note Conviction sight won't reveal other Hunters unless they use their Edges. Hunters are still human, weird as they can be. Whatever they are, they don't show up on your spook radar.

If you run into a situation where you don't have any Edges that can detect the supernatural but you have no reason to suspect danger, the GM can let you make an Int/Wits+Primary Virtue roll, TN 6. If you succeed, you realize there's some bad poo poo trying to mind-whammy you and get the chance to spend Conviction in time to deflect it. If not, you probably get mind-whammied while your guard was down. Similarly, if a woof goes full woof and only some of the party realized they needed to spend Conviction right the gently caress now, only those people get the chance, while all the others go running and screaming from the woof's presence. Which is honestly not a bad idea when you're confronted by one of those things unless you were damned ready for it and convinced you'll win Initiative anyway.

So far, this sounds a little annoying but at least it powers a cool ability, right? Outside of the 'actually maybe COOL vampires should be able to slam on through' and all, which is the kind of stuff that should get a designer or GM slapped with a rolled up newspaper like a naughty puppy. You can also slam Conviction points into die rolls that involve a Hunter Edge. Doing this does not immediately lose you the points; in fact, if you succeed, you get the whole pool of what you 'risked' back AND an extra point! Score! This is one of the reasons Wil's a melee character: He can slam his Conviction into melee attacks with his Avenger ability and potentially really make that first swing a good one. If you fail, you lose all the Conviction you risked. Also note if you risked Conviction on, say, a roll to see if there's supernatural poo poo around with a Judge power and there turned out to be none? You auto-fail and lose the pool. So good luck with that. Stick to situations with a clear success or failure. You can also only do this once a scene, and the astute among you might notice that you probably also spent a Conviction on that scene to be able to handle facing the supernatural to begin with, so, uh, good luck gaining Conviction by Risking.

The GM, of course, has the option to award more points on a Risk rather than just one if they think it was important. The GM is a very powerful beast in shittily designed rules systems.

Oh, and if you crit-fail a role you put Conviction in you immediately lose your entire pool. You're probably going to die, but the game is adamant that this is instead the perfect chance to roleplay your despondency and that you must show the crushing agony of failure.

'Risking Conviction in every scene is a cheap way to try to power-up your character', they say. The GM, of course, may decide that any attempt to use Conviction that they don't like fails automatically, or may simply deny you the chance to Risk Conviction if they suspect you of level-grinding. It is meant to be used in desperate situations only. Naturally. Using Edges in cool ways or doing cool things will get you Conviction at GM option, because again, the GM decides everything in this game. Playing your Creed hard can get you conviction; Wilhelm reveling in cutting down several lovely zombies in one scene and being coated in their blood like a proper Yarhnamite might get him one, while Muldoon having a long scene of introspection about the source of her powers or the nature of Wyrm mutations might get her one. GM's option, as always. You ALSO get a point if you convince a Hunter of another Creed to do things your way; if Wil gets Muldoon to pick up a shotgun and blow a woof's head off with silver buckshot and then admit that was pretty cool, he gets a point. If Muldoon gets Wil to slow down and think about things for one goddamn minute in his goddamn insane murderhobo life, she gets a point. However, the other person can, at GM's option, lose a point for not playing their own Creed to the hilt because this game is badly made. You try to step out of your splat box and the GM has permission to slap you for 'one or more Conviction'.

And now the worst part: If you get Conviction to 10, you can spend the entire pool to add +1 to a Virtue. Yep! It's an EXP bar! Your Cool Stuff gauge/Mana Gauge (Many Edges will require spending points to activate them at high levels) is ALSO your primary EXP bar for your superpowers. You can stay at 10 so you can use Conviction on rolls and stuff, but if you do, any Conviction gains go in the trash. You should probably level up now. Also, of course, you should be heavily guided in what you can spend it on by the GM. If you got point 10 fighting, you should put it in Zeal, unless that would raise Zeal over your main stat, in which case you can't, because again: What you can do should be guided by the GM at all times. This game goddamn loves the GM doing whatever they wish. Thankfully, you dump down to your Starting Conviction, not 0, so you'll still have enough points for mind-whammy defenses. You get to buy new powers and stuff immediately and your Virtue raises immediately, at least.

Oh, by the way, if your Virtue ever gets over 7? You gain Derangements, which are insanity effects, for every point over 7 any Virtue gains. You become 'inhuman' because you have too much Hunter Power and you become more and more of a supernatural creature because this game loves to shoot its own pitch/theme in the foot. Also guess who assigns the Insanities and chooses them? It's the GM! The GM gets to decide what happens to your character's mind as you become the huntiest Hunter. Hunters who get to this point either retire to save their sanity or become alien to normal humans and 'lesser' Hunters, because this is a WW game and they love that poo poo. Virtues also max at 10, and the astute may notice that since you buy a 1 dot, 2 dot, 3 dot, and 4 dot edge on the way up, that adds up to 10. You cannot get 5 dot Edges in normal gameplay; the GM awards them if they feel like it. Your Derangements can't be removed, only alleviated by 'roleplay' and spending Willpower, your other metacurrency. Thanks, WW, I hate it.

Conviction is basically a textbook example of how not to do a metacurrency and/or power bar in a game. It's arbitrary, up to GM fiat, extremely important to advancing your character, completely necessary to the game, and has that awful feeling of having to spend EXP to activate useful or essential abilities. And your GM can just decide to negate the most important and essential use of it. While you still spend it. Oh, and you get more by convincing other players to go off mission, but they also potentially lose it for agreeing and doing the same. Holy god, this is a badly done subsystem.

Also, just to get them out of the way so I can get to the Edges: Humans have 8 Health Boxes, going from Bruised to Dead. As you suffer Bashing damage (which humans can actually soak by rolling Stamina vs. TN 6 to reduce incoming damage) you half-check these boxes. Any box with even a half-check also causes you the attendant penalties. Yeah, we got Wound Penalties here! You suffer -1 at 2 Wounds, -2 at 4, -5 at 6, and at 7 you're down, at 8 you're dead. If you fill up everything with half-check bashing damage, you suffer Lethal on any further Bashing hits. Lethal damage can't be soaked by humans (armor can soak some of it) and comes from pointy claws, teeth, katanas and guns. These mark off wound-boxes with a double-check right away and will kill you as soon as you take 8. You are extremely fragile; a rifle does 8 potential damage, for instance.

You generally get 1-4 EXP at the end of a session, based on 'if you learned a lesson the GM wanted you to', if you were heroic, if you succeeded at stuff, and if you came to the session. You also get more at the end of a story arc. It costs 3 points to buy a new skill at 1, 2xcurrent level to raise a skill, 4xcurrent level to raise a stat, and 1xcurrent level to raise WP. This is why Muldoon was kind of foolish to raise Stamina with Freebies; she should've just spent 4 EXP on it. Meanwhile, Wil raising his Str got him 20 EXP worth for 10 Freebie Points; a way better deal. It's more efficient to have higher stats/skills early.

Willpower is both a trait (You roll based on your 'characteristic' Willpower even if you've spent some) and a currency. You can always spend 1 WP to get a marginal success on any purely mundane roll; nothing with Edges can do this. It can also be spent to ignore Wound Penalties for a turn, or to avoid a Derangement manifesting. At GM's whim, enough effort in denying a Derangement will eliminate it; no guidelines are given on this, of course. It's their call. Everything is.

Next Time: This Game Is Not About Superheroes, Maaaaaan

Dawgstar
Jul 15, 2017





unseenlibrarian posted:

The folks designing the other lines really didn't have much input on how things worked for other games they weren't the lead designers for, despite what certain usenet conspiracy theorists tried to convince people of back in the day.

(There were a lot of folks really convinced that Justin Achilli was some sort of sinister mastermind forcing the mage developers to make Vampires more important in the metaplot than mages instead of just a weird dude who was really into wrestling.)

Yeah, I remember the dude who eventually got permabanned because he was convinced that Achilli as Dark Overlord was forcing Mage to be crappy so Vampire would sell better.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


I cannot wait to get to how Hunter views Mages because it's goddamn hilarious and I genuinely love it.

kommy5
Dec 6, 2016


I am morbidly impressed at well designed the Conviction system is. That is, assuming the design goal was to design a system that the players would both have to interact with while making them as miserable as possible.

I really hate this system and the people that made it.

megane
Jun 20, 2008





You have to spend EXP to be able to see your enemies :psyduck:

If there aren't any around you just spend it with no benefit :psypop:

Multi-use metacurrencies are crap to begin with but aaaaaggghdlkjnvlsdk;

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Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


megane posted:

You have to spend EXP to be able to see your enemies :psyduck:

Hey, if you have one of several Edges that let you see enemies without it, you can sense them without using Conviction! That's why there are tons of Hunter powers that do that, and basically only that. And you're still going to spend a point after spotting them because otherwise you will get mindmelted or hit by fear effects.

The Innocent one also tells all the monsters you're the one revealing them and that they should kill you immediately! And is irrelevant if everyone just spent the Conviction point they needed to avoid fear, insanity, and mind control anyway! Have fun!

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