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Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Career Compendium

The Eternal Sadness of The Naked Dwarf

One of the iconic character types of WHFRP has never shown up as a PC in the games I've played in and run, and to explain why we need to do a careful examination of the Slayer. Everyone knows the Dwarf Slayer: They're front and center on the cover of every single edition of WHFRP, with their big spikey orange mohawk, their colorful tattoos, their big axes, and their totally ripped bare chests. Everyone knows their fluff, because it's genuinely pretty cool and tells you a lot about the dwarfs as a people: A dwarf who wants to die can choose to put themselves on a path to culturally acceptable, redemptive suicide by swearing to the Ancestor God of Vengeance and Warriors, Grimnir, and taking the Slayer's Oath. They'll go out and fight the enemies of their people until they finally find a mighty doom, the limit of their ability, the thing that finally manages to kill them. Naturally, this is a PC type; it makes sense that a Slayer'd be off adventuring, they're always off adventuring. They're very good fighters by pure stats, especially with the boosts dwarfs get (+10 Toughness and WS go a long way towards kicking rear end as a melee fighter). So what's their issue in 2e?

The problem for 2e Slayers comes in a mixture of fluff confusion, changes to the damage reduction system, and changes to the Career system. They're also sort of victims of being from the core book, though most of the core book Careers are well designed and stand up fine without really getting power-crept (outside of Bret Knights, no new PC career path has really been particularly overpowered). Their issue is that once you get to stuff like the Compendium, you get specific sidebars clarifying that a Slayer doesn't wear armor. This assumption is nowhere in their writeups in the core book. A big portion of the Troll Slayer writeup in the Compendium is defending the fact that their starting leather jerkin isn't really armor, it's cold weather gear (since a dwarf doesn't consider leather armor to be armor at all) and that most will shed it to fight bare chested when combat comes up. The thing is, this was a doable thing in 1st edition WHFRP: Armor protected you far, far less. Mail was 1 AP, Plate was 1 AP, and they stacked. A shield could give you +1 more if you had one. DR +2 was certainly significant from what I can tell, but armor was much less important overall; after all, a dwarf's +1 T (they didn't use TB or SB back then, just T and S) was already 1/2 the bonus of wearing full plate and mail. The other thing is a Slayer in 1e shot up to crazy levels much faster from what my reading can tell. A Troll Slayer who rolled well for toughness and managed to roll Very Resilient could start with T 6. Advancement was significantly faster going by the book in 1e, so that you gained 100-300 EXP a session and each Advance was +10 to a stat (or buying a new skill, or getting +1 S, T, or Attacks). A Troll Slayer could finish Troll Slayer and promote into their one upgrade back then, Giant Slayer, and get access to a huge +3 T advance very quickly. When you're running around with T 9 in a system where the average foe does d6+3? gently caress no, you don't actually need any armor. I mean you'd be better off with it but you don't need it. Note this is only my impression from reading it through; I have never played 1st Edition. But I suspect that the fact that this worked much better there (potentially) and wasn't as big a loss has a lot to do with why it's so ingrained in the Slayer's fluff. After all, if it works, a badass dwarf hero deflecting goblin arrows with their steely abs is metal as hell and being metal is a pretty big deal in Fantasy.

So the whole 'naked dwarf syndrome' thing was something the designers of 2e specifically say they wanted to avoid in 2e, by making armor significantly more effective. Armor is a really important part of a warrior's power curve. It's no longer a 'nice to have' sort of bonus, especially as damage dice have increased to d10 (since 2e standardized at using d10s for everything, and rightly so) so it's much harder to deflect a blow entirely without armor. The best possible Slayer, at Daemon Slayer, their 3rd tier career, has a TB of 8 (50 base, +30 Career). That's less damage reduction than much less physically capable Knight in full plate at 2nd tier. It might be flavorful and a part of the setting for Slayers to go without armor, but there's a reason the core book never actually mentions it as a requirement. The other issue for Slayers that gets addressed in the Compendium is that they originally had a little flavor rule where the Troll Slayer (1st tier) couldn't become a Giant Slayer (2nd Tier) until they'd participated in killing a Giant. Fair enough for the names of the careers, but this means a party with a Troll Slayer is going to need to fight a 5 Attack, Damage 8 Impact Unstoppable enemy. With 1st tiers. Or else their Troll Slayer will be stuck in Career 1 for awhile and their swole buddies can carry them through the fight and then the sad dwarf can spend all their pent-up EXP after winning and promoting. This is obviously not a very feasible or good idea. Hell, even fighting Trolls kind of sucks with 1st tiers.

So the Compendium comes to the rescue a bit with a sidebar on the Giant Slayer acknowledging this was kind of a stupid rule to begin with and saying 'Well, as long as they did something impressive and almost died at some point, they can call themselves a Whatever-Slayer like a Magus Slayer or Vampire Slayer and effectively use the Giant Slayer Career'. Which is nice, but it's sort of silly that that even has to be said. So you have two places the flavor writeups in the Compendium are pushing and pulling on the Slayer: On one hand they're telling them they can't wear armor now despite that not really being part of their original mechanical design (even if it was always a fluff thing) and on the other they're having to give permission to GMs to not have to force a Giant fight into their plot at around 1000 EXP. At the same time, you also get a nice sidebar talking about the spirit of the Slayer Oath: If you're a PC Slayer, you're trying to die, yes. But if you're a *PC*, with Fate Points and all, you're one of the dwarfs who probably really honors the spirit of their oath and refuses to die without giving it their absolute all. This is part of why Slayers join parties; fighting alone is much more likely to be a useless suicide, and more importantly it leaves witnesses who can go back to your Hold and tell them you died bravely. Still, things are pretty mixed in the fluff updates for the Slayers.

The other reason Slayers kind of suffer, but also a major reason they could shoot up in power quickly if it weren't for the 'gating' on their advancing their careers, has to do with how fighting classes are designed. You see, almost every Fighter in WHFRP can do something other than fight. A Mercenary or Protagonist knows how to barter their skills and plunder. A Soldier might know how to handle animals or treat basic wounds. A Hunter to Scout is obviously pretty drat good at surviving and tracking and stealth in addition to shooting orcs in the head. Knights are full on minor politicians in addition to heavy melee fighters. Thugs know a bunch of criminal and racketeering skills as well as being able to break faces. Diestros are learned mathematicians and scientists in addition to fencers. Sergeants and Captains are excellent leaders in addition to warriors. The way WHFRP differentiates the many flavors of warrior isn't just in which stats and which fighting styles they're good at, but also in what non-fight stuff they know how to do from their profession. If you ONLY know how to fight, you will really know how to fight; just look at Champions. We certainly will after I finish the Slayer stuff, to show why they aren't as great as they could be. Slayers only ever know how to fight. It's the only thing they do. And you can't break out of this career track or redirect your PC; the only Exit at tier 3 for a Slayer is 'Glorious Death'. So if you started out as a Troll Slayer, your PC doesn't know how to do anything outside of combat.

The issue is a Slayer isn't really measurably better at combat than other major fighters. They're worse than Grail Knights, but everyone is worse than Grail Knights because much as I love Brets, they're a little overpowered (I don't think they're gamebreakingly so outside of Heroism, but Virtues are damned powerful). But that's not all: They're honestly worse than the basic Champion in some ways. The thing is a Slayer is very, very focused. They only do melee. That's it. But with how Advanced Careers go, that means they also promote really goddamn fast: They don't actually have much to buy. We're going to have to go into a lot of detail here; Slayers are a marquee class and their confusion in fluff and mechanics and how the Compendium adds to it is worth going in detail for. A Troll Slayer gets +10 WS, +5 S, +5 T, +5 Agi, +10 WP, +1 Attack, +3 Wounds. Normal 10-11 advance Basic Career. Also get Strike Mighty Blow, Disarm or Quick Draw, Hardy, Lightning Reflexes or Very Resilient (+5 to Agi or T), Specialist Weapons (Two Handed), and Street Fighter (+10% WS, +1 Damage with fists/knuckledusters). They only learn Consume Alcohol, Dodge Blow, and Intimidate.

A Giant Slayer grabs +25 WS, +15 S, +15 T, +10 Agi, +20 WP, +1 Attacks and +6 Wounds. Since they already have the Troll Slayer Advances, that's actually less impressive than it sounds, at 13 Stat Advances (15 WS, 10 S, 10 T, 5 Agi, 10 WP, 3 Wounds) to buy. They pick up a Common Knowledge (but since they have Dwarfs to start, they don't have to actually do this if they don't want to spend EXP) and Perception. Then they grab Fearless, Strike to Injure, Flail, and Resistant to Poison. So if you buy the bare minimum, you finish your career in 1800 EXP. For a 2nd tier, that's lightning fast. It's not uncommon for a character to need 20-30 Advances to finish their second career. And everything you're learning is good for what you're trying to do (fight) it just only leaves you that one ability (fight). Also, Fearless is pretty goddamn great to have since it's just a straight immunity to Fear and Terror. The thing is, if you're playing the fluff about no armor straight, none of this is really much better than a more normal 2nd Tier fighter outside of Fearless. Compare the Giant Slayer to the Imperial Knight (not even Bret): A Knight is +25 WS too, with +15 S and T as well. And +15 Agi. And wider weapon talents (they learn Cavalry, Flail, and Two Handed). And no restriction on wearing armor. The only thing they're really missing is Fearless compared to the Slayer. So the Giant Slayer isn't actually much better at their job than a basic Imperial Knight. And a Veteran is a similarly pure combatant, but they learn a variety of ranged skills as well. The Slayer doesn't really have an 'edge' that makes up for the expectation of not engaging with how useful armor is or being fully pigeonholed into 'kill monster with axe'.

The Daemon Slayer isn't much better. +40 WS, +30 S and T (They do, at least, have the highest S and T advance until the Grail Knight was released), +20 Agi, +30 WP, +2 Attacks, +8 Wounds. They learn to Scale Sheer Surfaces (Shadow of the Colossus?) and pick up Lightning Parry (when using a two-hander or something, can give up an attack in your next turn to parry right now, once a round) and Unsettling (Enemies take -10 WS and BS against them until succeeding a Fear test). First, Unsettling is a pain in the rear end to keep track of, from experience. Second, remember the Daemon Slayer can't actually get out of this career. Yeah, they get +40 WS, great S and T advances, and 3 attacks. Compare this to a Champion. Champions get +40 WS, +40 BS, +25 S and T, +30 Agi, +20 WP, +2 Attacks, +8 Wounds. The Daemon Slayer is only slightly stronger and doesn't have the amazing ranged and flexibility potential of the Champion. If you wanted to be a pure fighter with a dwarf, climbing up from Soldier to Veteran to Champion would probably make you as strong of a fighter in the end. Without having to wrestle with fluff that gets confused with the fact that game mechanics make that fluff way less practicable now. The Slayer gets all this detail in this writeup because I think the Slayer is one of the few classes the Compendium writeups made worse because it codifies that they have to screw themselves on equipment, and they don't get much to make up for it. Also note the Slayer has to go through a normal 3 tier progression to get there, unlike the 1e situation where they just jump right into being one of the meanest melee fighters possible right after their 1st Career.

Which is sad, because Slayers are a really cool part of the setting. Now when I say their other issue is being core book, I'm not really talking about power creep so much as the fact that the core book didn't really want to do lots of 'special case' rules. Slayers would benefit immensely from some specific, special talents for their batshit insane lifestyle, but core was interested in establishing a solid basis for the system rather than dealing with specific exceptions and special rules (understandably, this is one reason the core book is so solid). But core also absolutely had to have the Slayer in it, because c'mon, the guy's on the cover of every edition of the game. It wouldn't be hard to fix Slayer; I'd give them a stacking talent that effectively gives them +1 AP of natural armor (from being tough as nails) per Tier of Slayer they've been through at start. That means they're effectively never better than Medium Armor (+3 at Daemon Slayer, after all), but at no penalties and they're always that tough even if they're without their gear. Then I'd hand them some equivalent to a Virtue; if anyone is going to have a cool 'this is how I'm an epic slayer of monsters' ability similar to the Brets, it's these guys. Some extra edge, like not needing to roll to confirm Furies when fighting tough enemies or doing extra damage against stuff with huge DR. While I don't really care for the Size rules in 4e, the basic idea of 'When the Slayer gets a good hit in on something way bigger than them, they reverse the size rules and kick the poo poo out of it' is the kind of thing Slayers needed. And I suspect a Dwarf Book would've given it to them. Alas, we never got a dorf book. We're stuck with the Compendium to fill in stuff for everyone's favorite mohawked murder machines, and it didn't do a good job.

Next Time: How Do Advanced Careers Work?

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 15:37 on Aug 27, 2019

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Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
When Things Go Wrong


WOLFTAUR

Geyn-Ur was, for a very long time, one of the favored patrons of the Pure, a great totem spirit and favored daughter of Dire Wolf. She was a symbol of predatory status as the apex of the natural order, an embodiment of the purity of the hunt. She was respected and feared by all the descendants of Wolf, claiming for her own several pristine forests and mountains in Wyoming. There, she and her pack of Predator Kings held sway for decades unopposed. Ten years ago, however, the government built a military hospital deep in the heart of her territory - the Caduceus Valley mental health facility. It was meant to study and treat those service members suffering from PTSD and other, more bizarre problems out of the public eye. This includes health problems caused by encounters with monsters, which the US government is aware of on several levels, though they don't know nearly as much as they want. Soldiers of all branches were treated there, but the doctors had no idea how to handle several of the things they were dealing with. More often than not, the wounded were left to suffer alone until their next appointment with well-intentioned but essentially clueless medical professionals. The resonance of the place was flooded with fear, anger, regret and loss, bringing in new spirits.

At first, Geyn-Ur ignored the human intrusion. They were not a threat, and surely her Predator Kings would wipe them out in due course. However, the newborn spirits changed the Shadow around her, twisting its spiritual ecology and infecting the local spirits with human anger and madness. Human faces began to appear on the bodies of animal or plant spirits, while wind spirits began to shriek the names of the dead. The spirit forests absorbed the nature of the hospital, and what was once a haven of the natural world became a laybrinth of padded walls and bloody sand. The government expanded the hospital, pushing deeper in Geyn-Ur's domain. Conflict came after they drove out a number of local Predator King Wolf-Bloods living in the forest - and worse, kidnapped some of them. The Pure attacked the hospital while Geyn-Ur stalked the Shadow, tearing apart any spirit she saw. The resonance of the maze, full of despair, lost innocence and pain, flowed into her until in her rage and sorrow, she forgot herself and began to feed on the Essence around her, changing her forever.

It was a slow, insidious change at first. Her mood shifted, becoming prone to melancholy and depression. She isolated herself from her pack, hiding in deep Shadow and howling for lost loves and the names of dead people she had never met. She did not protect her territory, ignored challenges, did not care for her children. She became a faded shadow of herself. Confused by this, her pack gathered in strength and attacked the totem in an effort to end Geyn-Ur's suffering. She resigned herself to death, but it never came. Her Essence of despair had trapped the entire pack, for she had become a living Barren, draining the Shadow around her of life. Watching her children falter and fail in their attack sparked something within her, and she rose up in counterattack. Geyn-Ur slaughtered her pack, then rampaged across her land, tearing apart anything she met. The few survivors fled, and they have not yet returned. Geyn-Ur maintains her lands now as best she can, lost in the duality of her madness. She is prone to long periods of isolated depression in the hospital ruins, punctuated by brief, terrifying acts of violence against local spirits or intruders. Where she walks, the Shadow dies, but strange abstract spirits still wander the ruins of the former hospital, whispering words of pain.

The power and glory of Dire Wolf still live in parts of Geyn-Ur - she retains her dark coat, vicious fangs and great size. However, now, a gray human head, torso and arms sprout from her back. The elongated arms wrap about her neck and muzzle, and the childlike face sobs constantly, pleading for comfort. Magaths are beasts of contradiction, and for Geyn-Ur, it is that the wolf must hunt. A hunting spirit was never meant to be depressed or suffer mental illnesses of humanity. She has fallen to more and more of these human feelings, and she hates herself more for it each night. She can do little about it, sitting lethargic and miserable in her lair. When her rage comes forth, she does not speak - there is only violence. Geyn-Ur wants to die, for she is ashamed of what she has become, but she has found no prey potent enough to end her, and she fears what will happen to her in death, thanks to her blighted Essence.

Deep in the forest, there is a small grove where Geyn-Ur's old pack used for their birth ceremonies. Despite everything, that place remains a Glade in Shadow, serene and beautiful. A few of the surviving Wolf-Blood children taken by the government have visions of the grove and, despite ten years of misguided attempts at rehab and coercive therapies, they still have some memory of who they really are. Some may wish to return home, despite all the dangers. In the few months that Caduceus Valley was operational, a prominent doctor's research into PTSD there also showed some fascinating results. His narcotics experiments were cruel and unethical, but he was able to induce hallucinogenic episodes. His patients claimed to witness strange apparitions that defied all logic - that is, spirits. The doctor died in the first attack, but not before his first reports got back to the military. In the quiet periods of depression, Geyn-Ur is comforted by the new addition to her body. The childlike torso wipes away her tears, strokes her fur and sings a strange lullaby to her. The lyrics are a confusing mix of words, names and rhymes torn from the memories of those slain in the Pure raid. Geyn-Ur cannot understand what the words mean, and is not anywhere near being able to understand the implications of the verses abouy valkyries and gates. (Mors notes: this is a reference to Task Force Valkyrie in Hunter, who have developed technology to open portals into "other dimensions" such as the Shadow.)

The remnants of Geyn-Ur's pack have not forgotten her. They call for a great Sacred Hunt led by the survivors - and at this point, they don't especially care if that hunt is Pure or Forsaken. Her existence, they say, is a blasphemy to her father, Dire Wolf - and it is rumored that Dire Wolf will grant a boon to anyone that ends her suffering. Even Forsaken. The massacre at Caduceus Valley also didn't go unnoticed, though the government attempted to cover it up by making up new causes of death for all the dead patients. They've put up a hastily built chain link fence to keep inquisitive people out, but many sensitive to the cries of the dead have been called to the ruins by the plaintive cries of those lost to the Pure attack. None so far have returned, of course.

They're not alone in looking into it, either. Davis "Copper" Hume, a Seattle-based Iron Master, wants to know what happened to his father, who was a patient at Caduceus Valley. Copper's had restless dreams ever since his First Change, seeing images of pale claws and bleeding eyes hunting him. He is a desperate wolf, with no pack to call his own, and he's been trying very hard to get to the old hospital ruins. All of his attempts so far have failed, as he is unable to safely navigate the Barren in Shadow and has been unable to get close physically. Task Force Valkyrie has a small Operation FORT team monitoring the area, but they are forbidden to directly approach the grounds, which are under Valkyrie quarantine.

Geyn-Ur is a potent rank 4 spirit, though as a magath her influences have gotten a bit spread out - Fear 2, Pain 2, Rage 2, Sorrow 2, Wolves 2. She doesn't wield too many Numina, but her dicepools are nice and big and she's very fast. More importantly, she's a mobile Barren, which makes it pretty hard to actually fight her in Shadow, where she spends most of her time. Her Ban is that she must eat any spirit she brings down, and her Bane is mementos from the slain patients of Caduceus Valley.


Moonstruck.

This is a story about a Lune called Broken Mirror. She began her life as one of thousands of silvery wisps. She did as she was bade, ordered to descend from the night skies of Shadow and sit in judgment over the deeds of Elodoth-Auspice werewolves. They found her beautiful and she adored their admiration. It ended too quickly, however. She passed her judgment and returned to the night sky, once more just a tiny piece of light in the moon's glimmering. The pack she had judged moved on and forgot her. They loved her only when they wanted something from her, and she took to stalking them from the sky. Finally, she broke free from the heavens, shattering her own nature to move into the world of Flesh. She knew Luna was jealous at best and cruel at worst, so she had to act quickly. Werewolves cared for her only when they wanted to know her thoughts on their Honor - but what Honor could there be in ignoring her beauty? She would have to teach them. They would understand how glorious she truly was, more than anything else on Earth.

Broken Mirror has possessed a young woman named Rebecca Cormac, and she wanders the world in search of that one pack that has entirely forgotten her existence. She asks werewolves to help her and protect her, for she knows the other Lunes are looking for her. Luna herself has too much to worry about already - surely she'd spare little attention to watch for a runaway Lune. So therefore, Broken Mirror has decided that she will hide among the werewolves and, in the meantime, make them understand why they should love her above all else. The Forsaken see Lunes as mysterious and strange allies, and Broken Mirror is counting on that to make sure a pack protects her from her fellow Lunes. She has no idea if Luna will give her another chance or just eat her if she gets caught, and she won't take that risk. While she needs protection, her intense jealousy will only grow when werewolves spend time with their loved ones or each other over her. She will quickly move on to the next pack, possibly even trying to lure down warrior-Lunes of the Full Moon on the ungrateful wolves that spurned her (in her own mind). If the wolves turn on her, killing Rebecca won't be a problem. Broken Mirror will abandon that body and wander off to plot their painful deaths in the future.

Rebecca Cormac is a pale woman with bleached blonde hair, and Broken Mirror picked her out because she feels the girl looks how Broken Mirror thinks of herself as being. She prefers to wear dark colors by day and light by night, and the spirit does nothing to conceal her true nature when around werewolves, though she acts more evasive at night. She is generous and willing to help on any hunt her wolves are doing, as long as they love and adore her. She will help them control their rage, but when they spend too much time away from her, she will try to pull them back. She is quick to become addicted to their company and increasingly jealous as time passes. Eventually, she will attempt to remove anyone her wolves focus on besides her and will try to ensure she is all they think about. More cautious Forsaken might question her motives, and Storm Lords especially will probably be angry that she's riding a human vessel, but she claims it is a necessary evil. She warns werewolves of "mad" Lunes trying to hunt her down before she can warn Luna of some terrible plot. If the pack believes her, she is doting with her attention and takes great advantage of their hospitality.

Some werewolves will find it very odd that an Elune, one of the Lunes famous for not being super angry is...super angry. Some werewolves believe that, like Luna, Lunes can change phases as well. They aren't exactly stagnant spirits, after all. Broken Mirror is changing with her descent into the world of Flesh, and it is unclear what she really is now or will become. She's certainly been busy killing folks - she doesn't care at all about humans and needed to get Rebecca Cormac out of her home. Rebecca's father wasn't strong, and she just had to wait for Rebecca's mother and brother to get into an argument to have a chance to strangle him to death. An argument she caused by manipulating the family's anger with her power, getting them to go from 'shouting' to 'literally killing each other with knives.' Then she just left. The cops are still looking for Rebecca, and the story's likely to hit the news shortly. Broken Mirror is also quick to turn her pet werewolves against other Lunes, whom she hates and fears, even if they're not hunting her. This is a problem - at least one pack torn apart by a battle with Lunes has a survivor, an Ithaeur gone mad with vengeance, who demands retribution against all the Lunes that killed his friends...starting with Broken Mirror. He's hunting her, too.

Broken Mirror is a mere rank 2 spirit, not super powerful, but pretty good at emotional manipulation. Her Influence is Rage 2. Her victim, Rebecca, is essentially catatonic and while she is not fully Claimed, she is basically just doing anything Broken Mirror tells her to. When she wants more direct control, the spirit uses her Possession power on Rebecca. Broken Mirror's Ban is that she can't bear seeing her own reflection in an unbroken mirror, and her Bane is a weapon bathed in the light of the most recent full moon. Rebecca Cormac is physically unimpressive but quite persuasive and good at social stats, pretty and good at evoking sympathy.

Next time: Wounds and Wound Spirits

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!


Eclipse Phase: Second Edition



X-Risks and Threats


headlined by the mighty "may appear in a supplement some day"

This section starts off, rather like the X-Risks book for EP1, by summarizing some of the sorts of X-Threats that Firewall squads might be called on to deal with. Which is a good idea! It actually provides some adventure seeds and suggestions for what a Firewall campaign would actually focus on. Just kind of a shame that in EP1 the detailed delivery of that was kind of a late-lifecycle supplement...

First X-Threat suggestion is Aliens. Could be the Factors, could be Gatecrashers kicking in a door where there's a native welcome committee on the other side, could be people loving with the Factors and risking a war between them and Humanity in general(though it's extremely vague how much more powerful they are than humans. The text keeps saying "THEY'RE SO MUCH STRONGER AND TECHIER" but as far as I recall that was never actually given any mechanical backing in EP1 where an individual Factor was just a slightly beefier human who could spit poison and gattai into a giant battle worm). Also lol if you think you'll find any help with actual sapient non-Factor aliens, either how to handle first-encounter poo poo, how to stat them, stats for supposedly-extinct species like the Iktomi in case you want to have a surviving colony of them, any actual authorial fact on what happened to them, etc.

It could also be something Astronomical. I.e. the sun goes nova, a gamma ray burst, a wandering black hole, asteroids and comets aimed for habs, someone intentionally de-orbiting a large moon or hab, etc. Common among these is that many of them are... not something you could do something about. You might be able to evacuate a hab ahead of a solar flare, but gamma ray bursts we probably wouldn't know about until we were all toasted, is my understanding, nor can many of these actually be triggered by any sort of agency that can be stopped. In the "big rocks"-department, there's actually something to be done, however.

Economics, which you could basically shorten to Crime, i.e. someone disrupting supply massively to leave people starving or freezing or whatever. It feels... a lot below what Firewall should be dealing with, especially since self-sufficiency levels, at least in terms of survival basics, are really high in Sol.

Infectious Agents. Basically just the Exsurgent virus, in case it emerges in some form that can infect enough people stealthily enough to spread around. This one's alright. Though I like how medichines and space-medicine are now super-advanced that stuff like the Space Flu is no longer a problem, so they've just upgraded us to the Nano Space Flu and the exact same problems occur again, so having medichines and etc. don't actually change jack poo poo, fundamentally.

Intelligence Amplification. The situation where some moron builds a new TITAN or an Exhuman actually succeeds at becoming a large enough brain blob to think of a vaguely original thought, or stopping the run-up to said situation. I mean, yes, this is kind of Firewall's core mission, though lol Prometheans. I feel like the Exhuman variety or some of the various hivemind experiments taking off would be more interesting to deal with, since they'd actually focus on the changes that hyper-intellect would make to a human mind, rather than just "robot Cthulhu eats 1d6 cortical stacks every round." Because that's what the TITANs are, they're robo-Cthulhu.

Mega-Engineering. Discovery of a megastructure, or any faction having the expertise to build one by, say, stripping Jupiter apart, could destabilize the system's politics. The main problem with this one is that two have already been discovered, Iapetus, which is a bit spooky but otherwise hasn't done jack poo poo, and Olaf, an exoplanet which popped up in Gatecrashing and is literally a Jupiter-scale, habitable world at ~1G full of active alien tech. I guess you could argue Olaf hasn't destabilized the setting or started a war for control of it simply because its gate seems to fritz out often, making it hard for anyone to get a foothold. But even so, it seems to sabotage the book's insistence that such a structure would be massively destabilizing to the setting. Secondly, if a faction actually had the dominance to strip apart an entire world for, say, a Ringworld's materials unmolested, that would imply tech and general territorial control that would already have destabilized the setting. Feels like this one should just have been called "politics" instead(that one pops up later, actually).

Memes. Space memes could destroy civilization. Okay, more seriously, what they call "memes" here is more accurately what we, not being idiots, would file under "politics" as well, i.e. a powerful fascist or apartheid state in the Solar system.

Mental Subversion. TITAN memes.

Nanotechnology. Gray Goo scenarios, though everything in the writing so far seems to be completely unconcerned with it. We've got nano-stuff everywhere and apparently it's so well-understood and controlled that there's no chance of it running amok and needing some sort of killswitch or potentially countering agent. The only dangerous nanotech stuff is the stuff actively programmed to be a danger, i.e. TITAN swarms. So again, just TITAN stuff. Nanothreats of any scale tend to be either save-or-dies(exsurgent infections) or "run away real quick"(big waves of omniscient gray goo), so I find them unmotivating to use in any sense.

Politics. If someone goes to war.

SECRET LORE

Okay so aliens are loving everywhere and they hate us and will kill us, they already almost succeeded once. A civilization with the power to do massive stellar engineering apparently decided that throwing a plague at us that made Robot Cthulhus with magic powers was a more reliable way to destroy us than just marching over and vaporizing/conquering Earth with their massively superior tech. These aliens are not the Factors, they're the ETI, who are never explained, never detailed, we have no stats for them or any of their tech. Therefore literally no way to involve them in a game we run without inventing them from whole cloth, and they're probably also literally the dullest explanation for the whole exsurgent/TITAN business so why am I not loving surprised it's the one that the devs made canon in both EP1 and EP2.

Should have just suggested and then left it open-ended, assholes.

quote:

This ETI has seeded the galaxy with self-replicating machines known as bracewell probes. These probes lie dormant in every star system, patiently waiting and monitoring for millennia for signs of intelligent life but not just any signs. In particular, these probes are designed to watch for emerging ASIs and similar singularity- level machine intelligences. The probes are in fact traps, designed to lure ASIs in and then infect them.

Feel like you're ripping Revelation Space off much? Jackasses. The Inhibitors were way more interesting than the ETI.

Also every single dead alien civilization was killed by the ETI and their exsurgent virus destroying their TITAN-equivalents. Actually wait, hang the gently caress on. Doesn't that mean the whole Pandora Gate network should be swarming with TITANs? Or non-human Exsurgents as well? You assholes, you didn't even think this through, oh and gently caress the Prometheans, again. I probably mentioned it before, but we're re-introduced to them here. They're BENEVOLENT machine gods that never caught the exsurgent virus and are now primarily allied with Firewall. They serve no loving purpose in the plot at all except in case you want to go: "lol Firewall is a bunch of dense idiots who got scammed by the TITANs they claimed to be holding at bay."

And in fact let's just get back to the loving TITANs, you know why the TITANs are inscrutable and alien? Not because it fits with the plot, but because it's literally the only way humanity is still alive. The TITANS going "lol we out" and running away for UNFATHOMABLE reasons, rather than having them fightable on a human scale was the only way they could write themselves out of a corner. You know who had a similar scenario? Earthsiege did. Earthsiege and Starsiege. They didn't need any loving space magic or inscrutability, Prometheus was a rational mind traumatized by close contact with humans(when it helped its creator transfer his consciousness into an immortal machine brain, Prometheus, curious about its father, decided to peek at his thought processes and was horrified and disgusted by the human Id.), humanity had multiple run-ins with it that didn't need any wizardry to parse or resolve. And just because humanity survived the first battles, it didn't end Prometheus as a threat because Prometheus was canny enough to run away to fight another day. The destruction even resulted in the same basically-unrecognizable human society that EP did. Why can't the TITANs just be the same way? I guess it's not spooky enough.

loving hacks.

Also no, the secret lore chapter never tells us anything more about the Factors. Have fun making that poo poo up yourselves.

Security Systems

Remember how nano-stuff was a threat? The first security system is a system that just does 3d10 damage to all nano-things in range. Bzorp, eat poo poo gray goo. In fact since EMP will dunk it and we can produce arbitrary amount of EMP warheads and grenades(which apparently gently caress nano-anything up solid), why is nano-stuff a threat again? In general I'm not even sure why I bothered to give this chapter a headline, it's just five different kind of doors including one that's sort of a mimic with robot tentacles that tries to eat you if you piss it off. Also remember how you were gonna be able to be real useful to the team with wireless hacking? Ha ha no turns out a loving paintjob can block all wireless Mesh signals if it's the right kind of paint, so any high-security area where you might NEED to wirelessly hack something will of course have tons of this slathered all over the place.

There's also a section on traps, of course including several save-or-die traps(at least, if you're tossed into space and no one's got a vehicle ready to pick you up and you lack the EVA capability to negate the force shoving you away, you're pretty much dead or at least thoroughly lost.). Or traps that require a very specific sensor suite to be active or invisible nanobots will instantly build a cage around you in the air and then start filling the cage with spikes and oh also the cage is about as well-armored as a loving Scum Barge.

Some Actual Enemies

The only important rules bit here is that groups of enemies get their own Threat pool of rerolls to use in combat, just like players get their Insight, Moxie and Vigor pools. I'm okay with this, it helps defuse the issue of "I set up a decently challenging encounter but they keep rolling critfails, god loving dammit." just as long as the GM remembers not to use it to ice players double hard when he's already rolling well.

The ETI: They're the Outer Gods, okay? They don't give a poo poo, or if they do, they're inscrutable, and we can't even scratch them, the book even says they're unlikely to have much, if any, place in almost all games. The book suggests a few actual agendas for the ETI, most of which don't make sense. They could be out to ASSIMILATE CULTURES... by destroying them with their own AI's? Or they could be trying to PROTECT LIFE ON A GRAND SCALE... why not just send an occupation fleet so you don't have to burn them to the ground, then? Anyway, gently caress the ETI and gently caress the hacks who came up with it.

The Iktomi: Vague spider aliens that left behind a couple of vague artifacts that do vague things. Also some killer spiderbots that can't be communicated with and who exist only to blow up Gatecrashers in the wrong place at the wrong time. They, of course, cannot be hacked, and the game informs us that some of them have mental illnesses, though since they're alien killing machines, I'm not sure how anyone would ever find out.

Exhumans: We've gone over these edgelord idiots before, but are they actually threatening? Their statted guards are useless pushovers. Their ULTRAVIOLET(max threat level) Neurodes are supposed to be bosses who can "think circles around Transhumans," which is supposed to be carte blanche for them to rear end-pull infinite amounts of backup plans out of their cybernetic assholes in case anyone ever starts getting the upper hand. Predators are laughable failures that are about as powerful as a single starting PC. Both of the latter have almost the full list of possible augmentations so hope you can loving remember what 20 different modifications do in the middle of a firefight. Sure would be a shame if you had to page through the book to find them. They also contain "experimental mods" which are completely undetailed and basically just for the GM to make up Exhuman Bullshit with. And no, there are no suggestions for any of these experimental mods.



The Exsurgent Virus: It can Basilisk Hack your Brain, Bio Hack your genetics or Nano Hack your synthmorph, you're never safe. Also no, you can't copy and use the Basilisk hacks as weapons, they've got Super Space God Denuvo in them, and if you somehow get around that everyone will try to blow you up for having one. Stop trying to be creative. They're all save-or-dies, except for the nano-version which has no save, because gently caress you, I guess. Also great that the game reminds us that loving exsurgents will infect us. Thanks, Glory author Jack Graham, you creepy poo poo. There isn't anything interesting to say about the exsurgent virus(except that, for some reason, you can play someone brainwashed by it as a PC just fine(for a while, anyway), but if it's a physical transformation, hold your horses buckaroo, no PC's allowed.), and we already know that the Psi Epsilon stuff is half and half lame and OP instakill powers. The only interesting variant is the Whisper virus, which gives you bonus pool points if you do what it urges you to, and reduces your pool if you don't. This is actually the only one I think I'd ever consider using.

As for the exsurgents themselves...

Creepers are sentient Femtobot swarms, some TITAN-aligned, others with independent agendas(that they give you no suggestions for interacting with, of course). Probably the heftiest DUR and the strongest-damaging attack in the game(up to 10d10 damage AoE). Shame they never expanded on the independent agendas, PC's encountering a non-hostile Creeper swarm they could, at least partially, cooperate with could be interesting.

Fractal Trolls are insane big lads who attack everyone, but especially machines in a panicked frenzy because they think it's their TITAN torturers returned. Kind of a shame, again, that this did not get expanded on as a potential way of resolving things with them in a non-hostile way rather than just gibbing them. I mean, gently caress, you know what? That's really what's heavily missing from all exsurgents, the conflict between: "We should treat them, not just blow them up like videogame enemies" and "they're too dangerous, we have to gib them from a mile away." They're all incurable, completely void of any human/transhuman/uplift traits they might once have had(Fractal Trolls faintly excepted) and usually attack on sight or as soon as you turn your back.

Jellies are D&D slimes that can sometimes shapeshift into their victims' forms with their memories after eating them, potentially interesting except that the ubiquity of scanning equipment means they'd be rumbled in seconds for something as basic as having no Mesh implants. The book even notes how easy their loving disguise is to see through.

Shifters are the T1000 from Terminator 2 cosplaying as Number 47 from Hitman. All they do is move, hide and kill without even the vaguely implied motives of Fractal Trolls or Creepers. They are EXACTLY as easily rumbled as the Jellies unless they're in an anprim hab or something.

Skriks are what happens if you catch a specific virus that makes you puke up small, evil copies of yourself. Yes, like that bit from Army of Darkness. This keeps happening if you are somehow a moron who doesn't immediately see a doctor after the first time one of them scuttles away into the vents. And no, there's no note to the effect that the "mother" of the Skriks feels any urge to protect them or not just step on the little fuckers the instant he/she/it sees them.

quote:

Most skriks carry the exsurgent virus, exposing it to others if they are eaten or exchange bodily fluids (bio pathogen) or releasing it when they die (nanoplague).

DEAR GOD, STOP. I'M NOT GOING TO gently caress A MINIATURE VERSION OF MYSELF. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU, AUTHORS.

Snappers are robot centipedes that fight people.

Wastewalkers are tribal exsurgents who wander around the place in groups and kill people. No, they have no culture or in fact anything to make them more interesting than 2d10 orcs guarding a chest in a 50 by 50 foot room.

Whippers are evil sea anemones with legs that try to eat people.

Worms are yet another shapeshifting evil exsurgent, but this time they're psychic rather than jelly or liquid metal. Their only vague hint of personality to distinguish them from the others is that they're extra mean to non-exsurgent asyncs. I'll also note that none of the art, at all, is of non-human exsurgents. For all of the yammering about how neo-whatevers are a BIG IMPORTANT PART OF THE SETTING they're... almost completely unrepresented in the art or generally in the text. It's all about the humans. They get less screentime than halflings in D&D.

I was going to pause here, then scrolled forward and saw I had less than twenty pages to go. So gently caress it, let's finish this poo poo.

The Factors are cool slime molds that look like sea slugs that could have been a focus of the setting, and should have. They are... actually now that I think about it, uh. They're... uh. Listen to this: They're a race of traders that are out to defraud humanity and have a genetic predisposition for "patience, deceit and cunning." They're one quick search replace from being someone's Space Jewish conspiracy theory. Anyway, it's almost certainly unintentional, I really loving hope. They grow limbs as they need them, they're basically all engineered, and many of them are gestalts made from many minor Factors they can detach for specialty work, and the normal ones can also combo into giant BATTLE FACTORS the size of fuckin' worms from Dune that spit poison, acid and death shards. Neat. Stats-wise they're generic, psi-immune transhumans that regenerate and can vape asthma dust at you. It feels like a missed opportunity, since the Factors are basically all hive minds, to not have them have some interaction with the tentative transhuman hive minds in the system. Generally the Factors have no statted tech which in any way differentiates from human tech, not even, like, guns with different stats or anything. It's really kind of a sad level of :effort: they invested into them.

quote:

As traders, however, they do seem to carry a wide range of alien artifacts most opaque in purposes and use. The Factors have established trade agreements with numerous transhuman factions and habitats,

Just, loving. GIVE US AN EXAMPLE. YOU ASSHOLES. DON'T EXPECT THE PLAYERS AND GM'S TO STAT THE ENTIRE GAME FOR YOU.

Firewall is in this chapter for some reason. The only new info here is that Firewall has a Firewall Facebook which isn't a hilariously huge security risk or anything. Morons.

Project Ozma is Evil Firewall, and thus have about twice the personality and interesting characteristics. They're essentially Space MJ12, secret manipulators with vague amounts of power, money and reach, ostensibly basically anywhere they want to be and able to manipulate anything they want to manipulate. Mostly they gently caress around with alien/exoplanet/TITAN stuff, and in EP1's corebook they were intensely vague, they only started getting some characterization by the time of Gatecrashing, I believe, possibly also X-Risks had some stuff on them. Generally they're characterized as being from/drawing money from/controlling the Consortium at some level.

Other Intel Services ostensibly gives som detail on Titanian(2), Jovian(1), Consortium(2) and Argonaut(1) spooks, but generally only gives their purview of operations, at most. Titanian spooks keep Titan safe and are Good Guys, Argonaut spooks keep science safe, Jovian spooks are evil mass-murdering scum that kill without any remorse, Oversight is actually legally responsible if it fucks up or acts too inhumane(automatically making it more of a valid hero faction than Firewall or Project Ozma), Titan's Science Police is like store-brand Firewall, Stellar Intelligence is somehow a corporate CIA that goes half-and-half on a combination of blackmail and actual paid intelligence operations, yet has somehow not been annihilated by Oversight or a coalition of corps that don't want to be blackmailed yet.

The TITANs are just a dull recap of everything we know about the TITANs so far, with stats for some of their non-exsurgent goons, all copy-pastes from the X-Risks book that's already being reviewed.

Now, my main takeaway from reading this opponents chapter is that enemies are generally less dangerous than in EP1. Rather than high 80's and 90's for combat rolls, they've more commonly got 60 or 70, with their Threat pools balancing them out somewhat. The main problem with this is that a lot of them... if they empty out their pools, they end up being kind of... wimpy because the players can relatively easily kite them with their much better basic scores allowing them to win a battle of attrition unless the enemy is specifically regenerating or has something to really even the score, but considering that most of them have effectively the same gear and stats as the players, just a different cosmetic overlay, the players are much more likely to win fights if they're actually statted for winning fights.

Personally, I'm in favour of my players winning fights, I just fear that a lot of them will turn into whiff-fests that drag out if they don't end with alpha strikes in the first five rounds or so.

Also for every enemy they gave them an array of motivations, but considering that basically they all attack on sight, I don't get why. Secondly, a lot of them are "+TITAN Interests." BUT WE DON'T KNOW WHAT THE TITANS' INTERESTS, GOALS OR MOTIVATIONS ARE, BECAUSE THEY'RE INSCRUTABLE SPACE GODS.

Whatever, at least this is poo poo I can easily homebrew my way out of with a bit of writing.

loving Eclipse Phase.

Anyway, this review's reached the glossary and appendix, so it's over.

Final Verdict: The writing was better in 1 and its supplements, loot that, slap EP2's system on top, re-add the MoS system, hack in the missing morphs you like, uncap the skill totals and then sigh and get a stiff drink as you sit down to figure out how to respond to each given incident of vague writing or outright unspecified poo poo.

juggalo baby coffin
Dec 2, 2007

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




how many people do play d&d wargame style? the rules seem specifically built for it, but I've never played a game where we've used the cone templates and rulers and poo poo. i've played with maps and minis, but they're mostly there to show relative position more than like literal position.

hyphz
Aug 5, 2003






So, our next session is Getting The Most Out Of RPGs. Oh boy, that sounds promising! What things could we use RPGs to explore, what can we learn from them, how can they make people's lives better?

Well, here's an example of the kind of blinding insight you'll find in this section:

quote:

If you have three close gamer friends and you love playing with them, then your group size should be four (counting you).

Yea. This time we're moving away from anything to do with RPG design or insights and into social advice that follows the general theme of "vacuous and equivocal" perfectly. Honestly, there's not a lot to say about these, so let's just machine gun them.

Group Size: Pick a group size that's good for you, maybe play a lighter game with more players, bigger groups can handle absences more easily, you can split a bigger group into smaller groups if need be.

Scheduling: Scheduling is hard. If one player has a worse schedule that everyone else, maybe play multiple games when they are and aren't available.

Finding The Time: Most people can find three or four hours a week, so try and find the real problem and solve it, probably by playing online or by floating the play time. Ugh. That "most people can find three or four hours a week" bit is cringeworthy, like the infamous nerd who responds to you saying you don't have time for something by saying "well how much time did you spend watching TV?" There is one, small, maybe-good statement here, which is that you shouldn't have the impression that RPGs require regular 6-8 hour sessions because people may have played that when they were younger. There's also a sidebar where Monte mentions that when he worked for Wizards, they did a customer survey and found that the biggest competitor to D&D wasn't any other form of entertainment, but just "real life". Which has to be a pretty drat terrible survey if that's really true, because that just means it was losing the competition for entertainment time? Oh god, now I'm the TV nerd. Moving on.

Start Time: pick a time that's not onerous for anyone so that they don't have to rush. Then tell everyone to arrive half an hour early. :doh:

Session Length: pick a length that's between the minimum time it takes to do something in the game and the maximum time everyone can endure. Also, include a break.

Player Absences: Cancel the session if two out of six people can't show. There's no statement for any other group size, so I guess that's a third? Never mind that a cancellation threshold like that runs the risk of the players playing Prisoner's Dilemma with confirming. Make up a story reason why their PC isn't there. But don't use the reason "they mysteriously disappeared" or "they got captured by the bad guys" because that might prompt the other PCs to investigate and end up with the player feeling penalized. A much better reason would be "the PC had to return home for an urgent message" or "the PC decided to guard the horses" because there's no way the other PCs would want to know what the message was or find it strange that their badass barbarian would decide to guard horses while they fight a dragon.

Special Event Games: hey, you could run a game on New Year's or Halloween. If it's someone's birthday, you could let them have.. a mulligan on one dice roll.

Communication Between Sessions: make a group text or a social media thread to discuss scheduling and remind everyone of game stuff.

Who should be the GM? If no-one particularly wants to GM, take turns and used published adventures, or recruit a GM from outside (yea, there's no way that could go wrong). If multiple people want to GM, uh, take turns again I guess.

Table Rules: Make rules on: cancellation threshold, roll visibility, off table dice, cocked dice, bumped dice, digressions, OOC knowledge and player memory. Ok, the dice things are a bit nerdy but I suppose the last couple aren't too bad an idea? Maybe? Also, just for Jef, there's a reference to the GM's pizza.

Rewards: ok, this is a bit better. First, it states that although a lot of games suggest or imply that XP should be tracked by the individual PC, in practice it's often better to track it for the group. If people complain this isn't fair, because people who don't turn up or don't participate get the same as everyone else, then you need to talk through what XP are actually for - pacing the plot, changing up the game mechanics over time, or rewarding certain player activities? That's pretty helpful, actually.

There's then a section on Treasure with the ironic beginning:

quote:

I've personally watched groups of hard-core conservative capitalists turn into absolute socialists when they divide up treasure, and I'm sure they'd be horrified to have someone point out that their plan to 'give each bit of treasure to the character who can make best use of it' is awfully close to Karl Marx's statement 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.'

Yes, Monte. There's also a thing called "optimizing return on investment" that you might be interested in. It's what people who bought Invisible Sun are not doing. Hmph.

Anyway, the point of this is that this allocation can end up with one character much better equipped than the others, and also favor player (not PC) persuasiveness. The alternatives offered? Determine randomly (hey, Sir Swordalot, have this spellbook!) or just sell it all and divide the cash (so much for games in which you can't just buy magic items). Which is immediately followed by a discussion of a "party fund" of in-game money. Again, every group I know has just pooled all their gold, but Monte says it should get only a restricted share. Huh.

Players Joining Or Leaving: if you have a new player, make sure they're friends with an existing player and possibly run a one-shot game with everyone having new characters so they can ease into the game and rules. Try to explain rules as you go, link mechanics together, and be prepared to repeat stuff when teaching. If they're new to the group but not to RPGs, it's much easier, but try to ease them into any group conventions or the current story. Make sure their PC has a reason to join the other PCs and give them a reason to trust them, or maybe even give them some unique power or item that would interest the group (yea, that could go very, very badly)

If someone's leaving, have something happen to their PC that takes them out but don't have them killed. And if someone's really a bad fit, you might have to kick them, and we have the following devastating sentence in the section regarding how to talk to them in that case:

quote:

Don't give them the hope that things might be different in the future unless that's actually true.

Being aware of sensitive issues: thing about topics that might affect people, including yourself, and if they should be avoided or not. Make your own preferences known to the group, but don't force others to do that if it'll make them uncomfortable.

Bonding with your group: ready for this? Two pages about how to make friends with your RPG players outside the game. Amongst these are "getting to know the player" by asking them.. exclusively questions about RPGs. Er, no. And the bizarre idea of giving each other holiday gifts in-game. No, not as a nice thing, as an actual replacement for a physical gift because they're expensive and there aren't that many gaming-themed gifts.

Now, a chapter on Hosting the game. Oh god, do I really have to go through this? How to leave a game store or public space tidy? Advice to make sure that there's toilet paper in your bathroom? (Just imagine that in the context of the title of the book: "It was the best game ever! The host had toilet paper!") Tell all your players where everything is in your house? If you order takeout, make sure everyone pays their share? Don't rush everyone out of the door and slam the door on them at the end? At least it's only 6 pages. I mean, look, let me be honest. If this book hadn't come out in the middle of this thread and it wasn't by Monte Cook I wouldn't have bothered doing it, because there's a ton of this kind of vacuous stuff and while it might be a sad inditement of the state of GMing advice it isn't really any fun to read about.

Playing Games Online is a bit better, but only because the online medium has less established social rules. To make sure people don't drift off as a result of not being around the other players, keep energy up, try to use something visual if you can that will take up real estate on their screen, and ideally dial up player agency in the game. In return, take advantage of the benefits - proper and transparent private communication, much easier visual aids, and a possible connection to modern games in which "Googling it" might be something the characters can do. There's a brief common-sense section on streaming - well, which ought to be common sense but I've seen plenty of clueless first-time streamers ignore it, so hey - leaving out only the actual most practical common-sense advice on streaming, which is "don't".

Finally, Solving Game Group Problems. Oh boy! Who wants to hear these kind of statements about resolving social conflicts? Actually, they aren't all that bad. Rules Lawyers should be encouraged to become Rules Experts by being asked not to interrupt or to get involved unless asked (although there's no mention of the one who plays the Bard). Don't feel that the GM has to arbitrate on all arguments, and if another player has to act as peacemaker in an argument with the GM, let that happen; and always reframe arguments in the context of playing a game to have fun. If a player is taking disruptive actions like stealing from the king the other PCs are negotiating with, ideally another player should warn them they're disrupting things (remember this is a player book as well as a GMing book) but avoid having the GM use the story to "teach them a lesson". If someone reacts badly to things not going right for their character, make sure that they know it's not a signal of their bad skill; doubly so if it's the GM.

But there's bad stuff too. Rules Ignorers, that is people who don't learn the rules, are bad. Yea, that's all that section says; it doesn't say what to do about them. If a player doesn't show up with their character sheet or dice, the GM should keep copies of them and you should ideally have community dice. If you don't want "community dice" then that person "should bring his own stuff". Uh, yea, we acknowledged that when we put this section in the "problems" chapter, now what do we do about it? If a player is bored, ask what will make the session more fun for them, and then press them when they deny being bored, and then act on what they say presumably even if it bores and/or annoys everyone else; or throw them out of the session. Distractions are bad, but try to keep things fast moving, and we don't know how. If players are preferring one other player then.. uh, they shouldn't. If someone is talking over everyone else then, um, they shouldn't. If someone is quarterbacking tactical subgames, they shouldn't, but maybe they could become a consultant to the players they're quarterbacking over but only if asked (I've seen that tried. It doesn't go well) If players are criticising how broken the game system is during the game then stop playing Cypher postpone it until after the session.

If a player is taking too long to choose what ability to use regularly, give them a program to follow that tells them when each ability should be used. That has to be one of the worst suggestions I've ever read.

On the other hand, the warning that trying to get more introverted players to engage with the game by putting them in the spotlight has the risk of making things much worse for them is well appreciated. But the advice that the introvert player should be given a "buddy" in the shape of another player who involves them in their decisions could probably have that effect too.

There's also a section on how to get rid of a bad GM. By social means, not by some dumb passive-aggressive method, which is good. In a book that includes GMing advice. I'm not sure what to say about that.

Finally, there's a somewhat overlong and out-of-place section on Character Death which advises making clear what the rules on death will be from the very start (ok, that's good), then.. considering how being raised from the dead might affect a character's personality going forward, or consider if the other PCs might hold a funeral? I mean, that's a neat idea but it really isn't in the same category as anything else. I'll leave you with this:

quote:

Allow the player whose beloved character died a little time to grieve. Don't make jokes about it or marginalize their pain. The won't need weeks or even days, but give them a few minutes or even an hour.

Now, I'm not going to deny that a player might get that connected to their character, but whether or not that's a good thing I don't know.

And with that I can finally put this book to one side. Honestly, compared to the other posts in this series this one has been a slog, and as I mentioned earlier I wouldn't have done this book at all if not for the timing and the author. There's one or two good bits, maybe. But like Invisible Sun itself, for the amount of hype and publicity this thing attracted, it's the Emperor's New Clothes.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


So by the canon explanation, Firewall is reliant on the Space Elder Gods helping them against the Space Outer Gods who wanted to Space Kill Them but Space Not Really?

Really not doing a lot to change the impression that the Titans and Cosmic Horror elements aren't doin' much good for EP.

By popular demand
Jul 17, 2007

IT *BZZT* WASP ME--
IT WASP ME ALL *BZZT* ALONG!




I'm really beginning to despise the term "inscrutable", related to this STOP BEING COY ABOUT THE UNIVERSE YOU MADE.
It's like having to assemble an Ikea table by a manual that forgoes diagrams to focus on the myriad types of lacquer you might choose.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


It's fine to leave ambiguity. Ambiguity isn't a problem. "We don't know for certain why the Titans turned, and we don't know why they let us live and left. Here are a bunch of possible reasons that people suspect, or reasons that people don't suspect but that you could write around." would be good setting writing because that gives you a bunch of hooks to write off of. Take the Syndics just vanishing in Myriad Song. Characters in setting have a ton of theories about why, and you have the records of the Syndic Empire and the actions of the Remanence to sort of pieces together what they might've been doing in the first place. There's no definitive answer given, but there's enough of the bones of things to work off of.

Here, not only do you not really have that, you also have an explicit 'Also it was the Space Outer Gods and their evil virus I guess' added in to it. It's an answer, but it's also an answer that doesn't do much for you since it doesn't really come with its own hooks. It's cosmic horror being used as a dodge for not actually committing to writing anything.

By popular demand
Jul 17, 2007

IT *BZZT* WASP ME--
IT WASP ME ALL *BZZT* ALONG!




I find that in every good work including ambiguity as a major factor every author always seems to have some definite idea in mind but chooses to make multiple options valid.
Here I'm feeling that no one bothered to walk the scenario to the end and then adding paths, I'm just feeling a sense of "whatever, I'm out of time"

Chernobyl Peace Prize
May 7, 2007

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



Even though Geyn-Ur was an antagonist / ally of antagonists before she got all magath-weird I still feel bad for her because of the major Sif vibes of sad big murder wolf. Get well soon pupper

Ithle01
May 28, 2013


Night10194 posted:

It's fine to leave ambiguity. Ambiguity isn't a problem. "We don't know for certain why the Titans turned, and we don't know why they let us live and left. Here are a bunch of possible reasons that people suspect, or reasons that people don't suspect but that you could write around." would be good setting writing because that gives you a bunch of hooks to write off of. Take the Syndics just vanishing in Myriad Song. Characters in setting have a ton of theories about why, and you have the records of the Syndic Empire and the actions of the Remanence to sort of pieces together what they might've been doing in the first place. There's no definitive answer given, but there's enough of the bones of things to work off of.

Here, not only do you not really have that, you also have an explicit 'Also it was the Space Outer Gods and their evil virus I guess' added in to it. It's an answer, but it's also an answer that doesn't do much for you since it doesn't really come with its own hooks. It's cosmic horror being used as a dodge for not actually committing to writing anything.

It's a shame too because they could have written an entire book with different possible scenarios for the TITANs and how to use them and their creations in games, sort of like X-Risks, but good. Instead it's just an endless stream of monsters that try to kill you because you exist with an added bonus of having to nuke the site from orbit afterwards because they all have extremely contagious Space Flu. And Space Flu is a femtobot, a word even stupider than nanobot, and no it only does bad things and you can't stop it with anything short of blowing it up from space so gently caress you.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
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#1 Builder
2014-2018



Chernobyl Peace Prize posted:

Even though Geyn-Ur was an antagonist / ally of antagonists before she got all magath-weird I still feel bad for her because of the major Sif vibes of sad big murder wolf. Get well soon pupper

I mean, she was pretty much only murdering random folks that went into the Wyoming wilderness before this. By the standards of the things in this book, she was pretty much a saint.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


It's one of the reasons writing for RPGs is actually really difficult. You need enough definition and material to give people stuff to work with and get excited about, but you also need to keep in mind you're basically writing to inspire other peoples' writing and leave room for that.

There's also the issue that plagues settings like Glorantha where there's a huge amount of material and that can make players and GMs start worrying about getting it 'wrong' and feeling they have to stick to huge amounts of fictional reference material, no matter how many times it assures you everyone's Glorantha is different.

Kaza42
Oct 3, 2013

Blood and Souls and all that

juggalo baby coffin posted:

how many people do play d&d wargame style? the rules seem specifically built for it, but I've never played a game where we've used the cone templates and rulers and poo poo. i've played with maps and minis, but they're mostly there to show relative position more than like literal position.

Not with rulers, but I play D&D on a grid map with miniatures. The grid replaces rulers and templates, and it's all supposed to show literal position (+/- a few feet, since fighters aren't literally static)

Chernobyl Peace Prize
May 7, 2007

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



Mors Rattus posted:

I mean, she was pretty much only murdering random folks that went into the Wyoming wilderness before this. By the standards of the things in this book, she was pretty much a saint.
I'd even say by the standards of things in WoD in general, if you ONLY get murdered by a big wolf spirit if you're out in the wilderness then you've probably made it out better than any number of other people.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




By popular demand posted:

I'm really beginning to despise the term "inscrutable", related to this STOP BEING COY ABOUT THE UNIVERSE YOU MADE.
It's like having to assemble an Ikea table by a manual that forgoes diagrams to focus on the myriad types of lacquer you might choose.
The thing I find hardest to avoid in RPG writing, my own and others, is vague equivocations like "Elves are known for X, but many are not like X at all! Some elves are Y while others are Z."

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Ithle01 posted:

It's a shame too because they could have written an entire book with different possible scenarios for the TITANs and how to use them and their creations in games, sort of like X-Risks, but good. Instead it's just an endless stream of monsters that try to kill you because you exist with an added bonus of having to nuke the site from orbit afterwards because they all have extremely contagious Space Flu. And Space Flu is a femtobot, a word even stupider than nanobot, and no it only does bad things and you can't stop it with anything short of blowing it up from space so gently caress you.

I mean I know I'm the Hams Guy because of what I write up but goddamnit, writers. Please stop recreating Hams Chaos. It's already the weakest part of the settings it started in!

E: Everything here is why Chaos has issues, and nerds keep doing the same thing in other settings! "It's a powerful force bound to mostly personality-less assholes we assure you are very intelligent and have far reaching plans but mostly they and it just want to kill everyone, and if you get it on you at all you need to get set on fire." is just not that much fun to deal with in RPGs!

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 18:09 on Aug 27, 2019

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Night Horrors: Shunned by the Moon
Evil Radiation

The Shadow itself is alive. It reacts to the flow of Essence, and is itself made of Essence, just as spirits are. While most spirits operate on a simple predator/prey relationship, others are parasitic on the Shadow. Wounds are more than just places where negative resonance ruptures Shadow into somewhere else. They are cancers, infections in the living Essence of the Shadow, and they spread similarly to cancer in human flesh. The growth of negative resonance in massive amounts alter the Shadow's Essence much as radiation or toxic chemicals alter human flesh. They warp normal function, rendering it vulnerable. Negative resonance is itself normal, and in normal conditions, the influence will dissipate over time and restore balance. However, extreme negativity or continued buildup without any release, such as in places with mass slaughter or ongoing suffering and hate, the influence's weight punctures the Shadow and opens a baby Wound.

Newly formed Wounds are the most vulnerable to being healed and destroyed, but that's not a simple thing to do. While they fester and begin to grow, they rarely look very different than any other unpleasant part of Shadow. Spirits resonant with malevolent feelings and bad things are natural parts of the Shadow on their own, and new Wound resonance does not immediately appear different in taste to spirits of negative energies. Anywhere you find these things, Wound or not, is rarely a pleasant place. Just tracking negative resonance is not sufficient to find Wounds most of the time. Despite this, Wounds carry their infectious Essence from the moment they form. Corruption risk is low in the earliest stages, but increases as the Wound grows. Left unchecked, the Wound will embed itself into the Shadow's "flesh" and spread itself. Some Wounds fester but never progress beyond this early stage, while others, typically created by extreme vile acts, immediately progress to more advanced stages.

Suppurating Wounds are the earliest stage. They are often overlooked and unnoticed, and most cover only a very small area, though that's not a universal. They will only have a few of the potential effects of a Wound.
Oozing Wounds are the most frequently noticed ones, as they are more obvious in their effects on the Shadow as they grow. They are quite infectious to nearby Shadow and can spread their corruption over entire territories. Werewolf packs work hard to eliminate them before they can grow further, and they will have quite a few effects on the world.
Weeping Wounds are well established in the Shadow, gaping maws that are nearly impossible to eradicate. They grow and spread their tainted Essence into whatever they touch. This typically poisons nearby Loci and transforms them into nodes of the Wound's corruption, spreading it further. These Wounds are so advanced that even cleansing rites may well fail to close them, and they have a lot of effects.

Wound effects vary wildly, as each is a unique horror. However, they can take between 1 and 9 abilities, depending on the Wound's power, from a list. You can double up on them - stacking an effect increases its bonus or penalty effects by 1, or doubles/halves an associated duration, unless otherwise noted. Creatures tainted by corruption, such as Wounded spirits, Maeltinet or Bale Hounds, are immune to the effects. They can be:
  • Spirits near the Wound have to make a roll every day to not become Wounded.
  • Spirits that feed on Essence within the Wound, whether via a Locus or eating another spirit, must make a roll to avoid becoming Wounded, with a penalty based on how much Essence they ate.
  • Werewolves that consume Essence within the Wound must make a roll or take a penalty to all dice rolls due to tainted Essence, which can only be removed by purging all of their Essence and remaining empty for a full day.
  • Harmony rolls within the Wound get a penalty.
  • Rolls to resist death rage within the Wound get a penalty, and the time a werewolf can resist entering death rage is reduced.
  • The area is resonant with one of the Maeljin, giving a bonus to spirits using powers compatible with this resonance.
  • Wounded creatures within the area do more damage to non-Wounded creatures.
  • Non-Wounded creatures within the area heal slower.
  • The Wound is bound to a Maeltinet; as long as the Maeltinet exists, the Wound cannot be closed. The Maeltinet cannot travel more than...well, a wide area around the Wound, potentially up to 100 miles if it's a really strong spirit.
  • The Wound spreads itself like a cancer. Loci within 10 miles must make a roll each week to avoid being corrupted, transforming them into Suppurating Wounds after a few days of infection. New Wounds formed this way automatically have this effect on top of any others.

So how do you repair a wound? It's not easy. Rites exist to force one shut, yes, but unless you take additional time to nurture the area after, the corrupted Essence may well return. Fortunately, the rite is not the only way - it is possible to fight Wounds by harnessing the relationship between Flesh and Shadow. This means you have to flood the area around the Wound with positive resonance, reshaping the physical and spiritual neighborhood in order to draw out its natural and untainted resonance. (Which isn't always going to be a positive resonance, but more positive than a Wound.) This can choke out the Wound, but you have to ensure the area is well maintained and supported by the locals, spiritual and human, to keep it going. You also have to fight the corrupted entities of the Wound, which will be trying to make it worse. Over time, this will weaken and shrink the Wound. The period of time depends on the Wound's strength - a year for Weeping, six months for Oozing and a month for Suppurating - but after that period, the Wound loses one of its effects. Once a Wound loses all effects, it shrinks and closes. However, even a closed Wound will leave a sorrowful, resonant scar somewhere on its range as a reminder of what was once present.

For packs that can't or won't invest this level of time and care, cleansing rites force the matter. Unfortunately, they aren't easy. Performing a cleansing rite requires intense dedication and often personal sacrifice from the ritemaster and supporters. They must be performed inside the Wound itself, as close to the heart of the thing as possible, and often take hours or even days to perform. The rite serves as a spiritual flare as well, calling all kinds of malevolent creatures to disrupt it. It's best to plan ahead, bring allies and be ready for a fight when performing these rites. A large Wound may take the resources of an entire protectorate (read: loosely connected region of numerous werewolf packs) to close them. If a cleansing rite works, it will force the Wound shut and replace its resonance with weak but pure resonance for the area, typically with a flavor based on how the rite was done. The area remains weak and prone to backsliding if not cared for and fed with pure resonance until it can settle back to a natural ecology, and so they are often targets of corrupted spirits and other entities nearby.

Wounded spirits are those that have lingered too long around a Wound, becoming infected with the corruption. They take on a general negative resonance, which usually manifests through subverting the use and effects of their Influence, especially positive Influences, which are always twisted and tainted when used by the Wounded. A Wounded love spirit, for example, cannot engender positive love - its Influence will exclusively cause possessive, obsessive jealousy and abusive relationships. Wounded spirits can be infectious to other spirits, which is largely left to the GM to adjudicate, though important plotline characters, such as a pack's totem, should get a roll to resist infection ig the GM rules they are risking it. A spirit Wounded in this way will grow uncertain and confused over several days before discorporating and rebuilding itself in the nearest Wound as a Wounded spirit, with altered personality and desires. A Wounded totem remains a totem and can head back to its pack with whatever story it chooses to make up.

Maeltinet are more than simple Wounded spirits. They are the avatars of the Maeljin. They emerge from Wounds wholly created, and no one is sure how the Maeljin make them, but they exist to obey their masters. Some are unique, while others appear to be made as part of a choir of similar spirits or even swarms. The rarest Maeltinet are called Maeladar. Bale Hound legends claim that when a truly worthy Bale Hound dies, their soul is resurrected by the Maeljin to continue to serve. These Wounded ancestral spirits are the Maeladar, and they often appear eerily similar to the werewolves they claim to have been in life. It is not clear whether they actually are resurrected souls of the Bale Hounds or just another way for the Maeljin to offer a carrot or terrify their foes. Maeltinet and Maeladar obey all rules for the Wounded, but are almost never below rank 3, due to their links to the Maeljin. They are able to use Dark Numina as gifts from the Maeljin, which are potent abilities on top of their normal ones. They are able to hand out Gifts and be totems like any other potent spirit, and if they kill and eat a pack totem they can pretend to be that totem for a short time by quarantining its Essence within themselves. This lasts until they give it up or use up all of the totem's Essence.

Dark Numina can do stuff like prevent people from communicating at all, vocally or by writing or miming, can let a Maeltinet possess anyone that loses Integrity near them, can grant Dark Power much as Bale Hounds can, can send horrific nightmare visions to someone to give them penalties, or can make it so that anything they say seems true and believable, no matter how insane it is, as long as it's not directly contradicted by evidence.

Our example Maeltinet is Percupia, whom you may recall from the Bale Hound section last chapter. It's ambitious, desiring to become a Maeljin in its own right, and has latched onto the young Aishah in hopes that she'll be its ticket to stardom. It's not a great start, but what can you do. It might nurse her along to become a full Bale Hound and favored servant when it becomes a Maeljin, but odds are more likely that it'll abandon her the moment someone better comes along. Aisha believes Percupia is her spirit alone, but it's working on a number of different werewolves simultaneously. The other members of Aishah's pack, of course, have been easy targets, with each believing themselves to have a unique and special relationship with the spirit. Percupia's not worried about what'll happen if they compare notes. Maybe they'd fight and thus bring more death to its name as they killed each other. Maybe they'd unite and assist it in its project. Either way's a win, right? To become a Maeljin, it will need power, influence and followers, but in the meantime the pack's petty teen dramas are fun to watch while it looks for better servants. However, Percupia's tendency to dismiss Aishah may well be its doom - she's learned its Ban and Bane without its knowledge, and she's not about to tolerate another betrayal by a parental figure.

Percupia is a rank 4 spirit, quite powerful in terms of raw numbers, but without much in the way of powers. It has Influence (Death) 2, but it's not got fighting Numina - rather, it's better at subtlety, social manipulation and mind control. Its Ban is that anyone who breaks a sworn oath in its presence can give a single command that Percupia must obey to the best of its ability, though any given oathbreaking can only be used this way once. Its Bane is bones from anyone directly killed by a ghost.

Next time: Void spirits.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

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


I mean, if I had to rewrite the basic EP setting fluff...

Have the TITANs go rogue and utterly destroy Earth in the battle with humanity(with it being vague whether humans tried to shut them down first and it was self-defense, or TITANs attacked first because they were assholes), making it completely uninhabitable and patrolled by rogue human and TITAN war machines, but have the TITANs lose. The TITANs still out there are the ones that fled, and that's why they cooked up stuff like bioweapons and basilisk hack sleeper agents, because they realized they couldn't win a straight war with humanity unless they sabotaged them from within first and/or spent a lot of time building up their forces on exoplanets.

Secondly, the exsurgent virus just isn't in the setting. The TITANs can still grow body horror critters in vats or grab people off the street to turn them into killer cyborgs. But there's no stupid loving save-or-die virus.

Make cortical stacks, backups and resleeving accessible only to the elite. Firewall agents, Oversight goons, Ozma infiltrators, PC's, the extremely rich and famous. That way death still matters and there are clear and tangible stakes for everything, that entire hab that got vaped or those workers that got iced by a corp to cover something up aren't just resleeved with their backups from last thurstday.

Make nanofabrication still exist, but nano-stuff really only works inside nanofabricator machines, and make it slower than just assembling the thing from ready parts or with a conventional factory if you have the necessary raw materials. No loose swarms or whatever except as permitted by alien/TITAN technomagic. That way it's still available as a way to emergency-fabricate stuff you're out of, but it doesn't completely shortcircuit the game's economy.

Shift the year to AF 50.

Try to alter the game focus from Space Cthulhu Horror to Space Politics. Factors show up in AF30 or something, with grave warnings about using ASI's and etc. Humanity worries that they might have sabotaged the TITANs and started the whole thing, Factors are a bit less shady and vague and openly admit to being refugees from a similar situation, request asylum with the implication that if they're not given asylum, they'll take asylum with their superior tech, leading to an uneasy truce between two traumatized species that don't quite trust each other. Mercurials and other uplifts are rendered suspect by being non-human thinkers, AGI's are suspected of being potential TITAN agents, actual TITAN infiltrators make well-argued cases to AGI's and uplifts stating that any day now humanity will get suspicious of them and start culling them, implying that a paranoid humanity struck first against the TITANs to prompt the Fall.

Exoplanets largely unchanged except scrape out all the dumb fluff about how every ruin humanity comes across was created by some other TITAN-style disaster. The TITANs, meanwhile, have splintered and are having internecine wars, with their own propaganda and disinfo meaning that half the TITANs are no longer sure if humanity struck first or they did, and some of them just want to retreat to far corners of the gate network and live their own lives, while others want to fight humanity either because they're assholes or because they're convinced they have to kill humanity before humans kill them.

Whoops look everyone has a clear motivation and yet it feels to me like there's still enough ambiguity that GM's can pick which themes they want to run with.

Thank you for reading my Eclipse Phase fanfic.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


In general, if you've put an element in your game where interacting with it immediately causes a save or die (or even just a Save Or Very Significant Permanent Consequences) that element is going to be a problem. Because now you've just made that thing really annoying to actually engage with and interact with on a mechanical level, which discourages people from doing so at all.

Ithle01
May 28, 2013


Night10194 posted:

I mean I know I'm the Hams Guy because of what I write up but goddamnit, writers. Please stop recreating Hams Chaos. It's already the weakest part of the settings it started in!

E: Everything here is why Chaos has issues, and nerds keep doing the same thing in other settings! "It's a powerful force bound to mostly personality-less assholes we assure you are very intelligent and have far reaching plans but mostly they and it just want to kill everyone, and if you get it on you at all you need to get set on fire." is just not that much fun to deal with in RPGs!

I really enjoy exploration aspects of games so I really dislike this stuff. Worse, I hate that a substantial number of people in the rpg community love it and spread it to everything.

StratGoatCom
Aug 6, 2019

Our security is guaranteed by being able to melt the eyeballs of any other forum's denizens at 15 minutes notice





Night10194 posted:

So by the canon explanation, Firewall is reliant on the Space Elder Gods helping them against the Space Outer Gods who wanted to Space Kill Them but Space Not Really?

Really not doing a lot to change the impression that the Titans and Cosmic Horror elements aren't doin' much good for EP.

Depending on how much the other intelligence agencies know about what Firewall is beholden to, it's also why no one outside of Fleet Intel trusts them, and even then it's a distant relationship, mainly because if they take a shot at Ming, they had better not miss, given his connections in both their government and Firewall; for how useful having AI gods may be, it's not damned worth it with the Exsurgent virus running about, and Firewall is just asking to be co-opted and end up "a bunch of dense idiots who got scammed by the TITANs they claimed to be holding at bay."

Might be an interesting game, playing as Fleet Intel agents trying to get enough actionable intel to roll up the various Titanian Commonweath notables who are in-bed with Firewall and get past both blockage by the government and possibly dodging Firewall interference and later, eraser teams if they panic, late game.

PurpleXVI posted:

A civilization with the power to do massive stellar engineering apparently decided that throwing a plague at us that made Robot Cthulhus with magic powers was a more reliable way to destroy us than just marching over and vaporizing/conquering Earth
Do you run around the house with a revolver full of ratshot shells when you have a rodent infestation, or do you put down traps and bait? Same thought process here - the Exsugent Virus is a time, resource and opportunity efficient method of clearing out infestations that lets you get on with more important things in the mean time. There's a lot of poo poo writing here, but this might make a certain degree of sense.

quote:

Economics, which you could basically shorten to Crime, i.e. someone disrupting supply massively to leave people starving or freezing or whatever. It feels... a lot below what Firewall should be dealing with, especially since self-sufficiency levels, at least in terms of survival basics, are really high in Sol.

Given that in universe, the world got burned down by climate change as it's happening now and was cracked enough by literal Doomsday economics for a space virus to get it's hands into them and wrench it right open, I can see how that would be of deep interest.

quote:

You know who had a similar scenario? Earthsiege did. Earthsiege and Starsiege. They didn't need any loving space magic or inscrutability, Prometheus was a rational mind traumatized by close contact with humans(when it helped its creator transfer his consciousness into an immortal machine brain, Prometheus, curious about its father, decided to peek at his thought processes and was horrified and disgusted by the human Id.), humanity had multiple run-ins with it that didn't need any wizardry to parse or resolve. And just because humanity survived the first battles, it didn't end Prometheus as a threat because Prometheus was canny enough to run away to fight another day. The destruction even resulted in the same basically-unrecognizable human society that EP did. Why can't the TITANs just be the same way? I guess it's not spooky enough.

Another Starsiege Fan :buddy:!

I think this can be explained from the ideological milieu that EP emerged from; those of you from the Big Yud thread may recall the AIs whose thought patterns are as above us as we are above a dog? Same thought process here. Of course the end of the world has to be brought about by gods of our own creation, anything else is 'not thinking though the implications of emerging technologies.'

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Ithle01 posted:

I really enjoy exploration aspects of games so I really dislike this stuff. Worse, I hate that a substantial number of people in the rpg community love it and spread it to everything.

loving agreed. These kinds of mechanics remove reasons to engage with stuff beyond 'I read no books, close my eyes, and keep swinging away'. They take away reasons to engage with and explore the forces you're dealing with. They also end up making all the people who poke them in hopes of understanding them/fighting them/finding some way to use them that isn't insane and destructive end up just looking like idiots.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Night10194 posted:

loving agreed. These kinds of mechanics remove reasons to engage with stuff beyond 'I read no books, close my eyes, and keep swinging away'. They take away reasons to engage with and explore the forces you're dealing with. They also end up making all the people who poke them in hopes of understanding them/fighting them/finding some way to use them that isn't insane and destructive end up just looking like idiots.

This, side note, is why I actually really like the corruption rules in Werewolf. Yes, it can spread like wildfire among spirits, but your PCs aren't going to be get taken away from you, and there are at least two clear paths to fighting it. They're not easy, because you're a bunch of murderous wolf monsters who are now having to make a place happier and nicer for an extended period, but hey!

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


It's also why I think 4e was one step forward, one step back on Corruption in Hams. Having it be a voluntary thing you can do to get an extra reroll at a critical moment and moving it to a 'gauge' that fills up instead of individual save or mutate moments is good, as is just plain stripping out the Insanity system since it always sucked.

Giving Demons and things a chance to inflict Corruption just for having an adventure that involves stabbing one of the fuckers? No.

E: Also the ability to say you gently caress up occasionally to clear Corruption is also a good move. Any good Corruption bar needs ways to vent it off.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 19:00 on Aug 27, 2019

Cooked Auto
Aug 4, 2007

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




One reason why I've never liked Corruption mechanics, because usually there is either no way to clear it or the way to clear is so costly or laborious that it's far better to shrug and possibly make a new character.
Not to mention the usual "You lose your PC after a certain threshold" drivel.

Ithle01
May 28, 2013


Mors Rattus posted:

This, side note, is why I actually really like the corruption rules in Werewolf. Yes, it can spread like wildfire among spirits, but your PCs aren't going to be get taken away from you, and there are at least two clear paths to fighting it. They're not easy, because you're a bunch of murderous wolf monsters who are now having to make a place happier and nicer for an extended period, but hey!

I haven't really paid much attention to Werewolf since high school when we played Apocalypse, my high school groups favorite WoD game, and although I have the 1st ed. Forsaken book I never really looked into it because it just didn't feel right to me and I was into other stuff at the time. Your write-up is making me rethink this because the spirits in the Shadow seem pretty cool. Umbra was easily my favorite W:tA book and although I still like the feel of the Umbra more than the Shadow the spirits in Shunned by the Moon easily surpass anything in old WoD.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Ithle01 posted:

I haven't really paid much attention to Werewolf since high school when we played Apocalypse, my high school groups favorite WoD game, and although I have the 1st ed. Forsaken book I never really looked into it because it just didn't feel right to me and I was into other stuff at the time. Your write-up is making me rethink this because the spirits in the Shadow seem pretty cool. Umbra was easily my favorite W:tA book and although I still like the feel of the Umbra more than the Shadow the spirits in Shunned by the Moon easily surpass anything in old WoD.

Spirits loving own in nWoD, and there's been several books on the Shadow and the spirits for 1e that are really, really good. Basically the key to spirits is understanding that they are space aliens. They don't think like humans do. They are obsessed with the thing that is central to their own nature, and that is the core thing that drives them. They may have personalities and wants beyond this, but their nature is going to color literally everything they do. The plague wolf up there? He literally cannot comprehend the idea that he should not spread plague. He's probably the most "pure" spirit listed in this book - he's pursuing his own nature without any other agenda. He's basically doing the thing that, according to werewolf lore, is the correct way for spirits to act. He doesn't invade the world of Flesh, he doesn't possess folks, he just spreads his nature.

Now, he can still be loving up your turf, which is a good reason to want him gone and a good reason to fight him, but you can't actually call him evil any more than you can call fire evil for burning things.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Cooked Auto posted:

One reason why I've never liked Corruption mechanics, because usually there is either no way to clear it or the way to clear is so costly or laborious that it's far better to shrug and possibly make a new character.
Not to mention the usual "You lose your PC after a certain threshold" drivel.

If you actually use Insanity in WHFRP2e, it will take out more characters than any other element of the game. Because a lot of the worse writers on WHFRP loved using Insanity and Mutation to try to cause a 'horror' atmosphere and there's no damned way to get rid of either of them. Worse, Mutation is just an immediate thing with a huge d1000 table (even the base game d100 table can be pretty brutal) so you don't even have a grace period to fail a few checks. You can usually burn Fate to avoid a mutation but that's putting it on par with your PC getting shot in the head and needing to spend an extra life as is. And there's nothing you can do to avoid Insanity usually besides extremely unreliable and weird medical treatment (that can definitely kill you) or knowing our dear friend, the hardest working woman in Warhams, the 3rd Tier Shallyan.

Who can just trivially clear permanent insanity effects. Oh, also, a Tzeentch mage can easily get rid of (or inflict) IP. Metal Wizards can cure it for some reason, too.

That's why it's terrible. It's either trivial to get rid of if you know the right wizards/priests, or it's just a complete bastard and most of the Insanities come with stuff like '-20 to everything when under its influence' or 'Roll WP or you try to set the building on fire'. They never actually directly take your PC out (except that the one that's obviously Depression has the very tasteless effect of potentially making you kill yourself if you take any further IP) but most are the usual 'aaaaand now you're unplayable' nonsense that bad insanity rules tend to be. They're taken really directly from the 1st edition, just given new names whereas the 1e ones just had the in-style-at-the-time 'I opened the DSM and made a table out of it' stuff like older CoC.

This is why on seeing them say 'Insanity is an optional subsystem' and on looking carefully at the IP rules and all we just chucked them in the trash where they belonged. From the amount of play the rest of the writers gave them they don't feel very optional in intent, but the game is way better without them and 4e was right to toss them entirely. Still, it's funny they have this whole push-and-pull extra lives mechanic that tends to make characters way more survivable than you'd think, then they toss in a corruption/Insanity system that can completely tank it.

E: Also, whether Exsurgent Save or Dies, or Chaos causing Insanity from 'horror', or whatever, another thing most badly done Corruption systems have in common is that the alternative to gaining Corruption would be not actually having an adventure. After all, if the final mandatory encounter with The Horror That Haunts The House or whatever causes Insanity and it's a mandatory encounter, what decisions am I making to mitigate Corruption gain or manage the subsystem? None, it's just a 'you get hosed' mechanic.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 19:27 on Aug 27, 2019

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




I mean if you want to run a horror game, you should obviously have Horror stats and have them go up, equaling more Horror. Duh!

wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion




Mors Rattus posted:

Now, he can still be loving up your turf, which is a good reason to want him gone and a good reason to fight him, but you can't actually call him evil any more than you can call fire evil for burning things.

Sure I can. A fire is evil when an arsonist uses it to murder, and I have a hard time believing there's a case for the existence of someone whose sole reason for being is to spread disease and kill people.

StratGoatCom
Aug 6, 2019

Our security is guaranteed by being able to melt the eyeballs of any other forum's denizens at 15 minutes notice





Night10194 posted:

loving agreed. These kinds of mechanics remove reasons to engage with stuff beyond 'I read no books, close my eyes, and keep swinging away'. They take away reasons to engage with and explore the forces you're dealing with. They also end up making all the people who poke them in hopes of understanding them/fighting them/finding some way to use them that isn't insane and destructive end up just looking like idiots.

To work, they need to be somewhat nerfed - you'll get hosed if you're not careful, but if you can figure out what you're dealing with, and have a suitable pair of tongs, it's only moderately hard - gently caress, even internet Creepypasta writers get this, as more recent SCP writing shows... and even the later Firewall book acknowledged this first ed - turn off wireless connectivity, wear a suit and if Basilisks are a risk, keep any video feed at 720p; old style computers too dumb to host an exsurgent process are also useful. Add in ways to inoculate against the virus or treatments - there's a pyschosurgical methodology for cutting out infections in both Firewall and this book, but it's too drat hard and dangerous to be useful in game.

The Exsurgent methodology also makes sense in a low-FTL milieu - it's hard to hump invasion fleets interstellar, and I suspect the pandora gates had to be built on site. It makes far more sense to use a Von Neumann approach, and construct the needed armies on sight, like in Total Annihilation or Supreme Commander; it just needs a supermind to take over so it can bootstrap from existing plans. How that squares with that the Factors... well, the factors are a mess anyway, so big whoop.

There's also subtle hints that the Exsurgent virus might be how the ETI ITSELF gets around - there's talk about how Haunting victims are literally being overwritten by an alien ego; it would also explain the weird thing looking over Async shoulders or how many non-monster exsurgents change their morphs.

Why they don't lean into that, and play along with the themes of their game is beyond me.

StratGoatCom fucked around with this message at 19:41 on Aug 27, 2019

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!


StratGoatCom posted:

Do you run around the house with a revolver full of ratshot shells when you have a rodent infestation, or do you put down traps and bait? Same thought process here - the Exsugent Virus is a time, resource and opportunity efficient method of clearing out infestations that lets you get on with more important things in the mean time. There's a lot of poo poo writing here, but this might make a certain degree of sense.

I mean, I might, if the poison in the traps was going to turn the rat's laptop into a rampaging demigod AI that was going to spread nano-garbage all over my front yard and try to gnaw my ankles.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



wiegieman posted:

Sure I can. A fire is evil when an arsonist uses it to murder, and I have a hard time believing there's a case for the existence of someone whose sole reason for being is to spread disease and kill people.

It's more 'this is a thing that is entirely natural and literally cannot act contrary to this.' It's not wrong for you to want to kill it or to hate it!

It's just, like, ascribing evil to a fire seems weird to me? The arsonist, sure. The fire, uh, is a fire. Similarly I find it hard to ascribe evil to something that literally cannot comprehend the idea that diseases are not, in fact, the ultimate goal of existence. There's no choice in its existence. It's a thing to fight and stop. (Or work with, if you're a dick and want to spread disease among your foes.)

wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion




I suppose at that point you're responding to a natural disaster and not a crime, but it still strikes me as something it might be worthwhile to get worked up about (especially if you're a rage fueled killing machine.)

Nea
Feb 28, 2014

Funny Little Guy Aficionado.

wiegieman posted:

I suppose at that point you're responding to a natural disaster and not a crime, but it still strikes me as something it might be worthwhile to get worked up about (especially if you're a rage fueled killing machine.)

Oh, for sure. Just, an earthquake isn't morally wrong. It's an earthquake, it just... is.

StratGoatCom
Aug 6, 2019

Our security is guaranteed by being able to melt the eyeballs of any other forum's denizens at 15 minutes notice





PurpleXVI posted:

I mean, I might, if the poison in the traps was going to turn the rat's laptop into a rampaging demigod AI that was going to spread nano-garbage all over my front yard and try to gnaw my ankles.

There's a reason why I like the 'war remnants' theory - paraphrasing it for the thread, the exact purpose of the Exsurgent Virus is creating rampaging demigods to spread nano-turds across the other guy's front lawn and gnaw his ankles, because gently caress him, that's why - and really works with their attempt at lovecraft; EP literally stepped on Cthulu's own landmine.

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!


StratGoatCom posted:

There's a reason why I like the 'war remnants' theory - paraphrasing it for the thread, the exact purpose of the Exsurgent Virus is creating rampaging demigods to spread nanoturds across the other guy's front lawn and gnaw his ankles, because gently caress him, that's why - and really works with their attempt at lovecraft; EP literally stepped on Cthulu's own landmine.

The problem is that the TITANs as insane, rather than rational actors with motivations, perceptions and ideals different from our own, means that they're just "unfathomable weirdness that does things." There's no theme, no guiding logic. You may as well just roll a die on a random table or make them fishmalk demigods.

Just going "we'll drive their tactical AI's insane" works if there's a follow-up invasion to clear the target out, if the exsurgent virus is a weapon. Otherwise it's moronic, because as humanity proved, someone might just survive it and now know someone's gunning for them, arm up to be more of a pain in the rear end.

It makes no sense with the well-meaning uplifters or the overzealous caretakers motivations.

"War remnants" is the only one of the potential ETI/Exsurgent things that makes even vague sense, but as I mentioned it suffers the problem of still having the TITANs as the weakest, dumbest most dogshit part of the game, and the exsurgent virus still sucks rear end in play, because the only cure is resleeving and/or restoring from backup. It's at no point a tool, outside of that one Whisperer sub-type of virus.

Like maybe... how about all of the Exsurgent viruses were like that one. You accomplish their goals, you get bonuses. Getting infected might be something you'd seek out if there's a strain of infection that works with you more than it works against you. And fighting it, opposing it, sure, would give you a temporary penalty, but it wouldn't just gently caress your rear end stone dead. And heck, if the TITANs were some form of rational actors, you might even have the necessary themes and motivations to whip those viruses up!

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


One of the things people writing Cosmic Horror RPGs tend to miss is that Cthulhu shouldn't be the primary antagonist the PCs usually struggle against. The dipshit High Priest they have to uncover and stop from performing the Ritual until the Stars Aren't Right Anymore is. And that High Priest so happens to be a character with motivations and ideals and reasons you can follow to track them down and stop them, even if they're irrational ones.

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StratGoatCom
Aug 6, 2019

Our security is guaranteed by being able to melt the eyeballs of any other forum's denizens at 15 minutes notice





PurpleXVI posted:

The problem is that the TITANs as insane, rather than rational actors with motivations, perceptions and ideals different from our own, means that they're just "unfathomable weirdness that does things." There's no theme, no guiding logic. You may as well just roll a die on a random table or make them fishmalk demigods.

Just going "we'll drive their tactical AI's insane" works if there's a follow-up invasion to clear the target out, if the exsurgent virus is a weapon. Otherwise it's moronic, because as humanity proved, someone might just survive it and now know someone's gunning for them, arm up to be more of a pain in the rear end.

It makes no sense with the well-meaning uplifters or the overzealous caretakers motivations.

"War remnants" is the only one of the potential ETI/Exsurgent things that makes even vague sense, but as I mentioned it suffers the problem of still having the TITANs as the weakest, dumbest most dogshit part of the game, and the exsurgent virus still sucks rear end in play, because the only cure is resleeving and/or restoring from backup. It's at no point a tool, outside of that one Whisperer sub-type of virus.

Like maybe... how about all of the Exsurgent viruses were like that one. You accomplish their goals, you get bonuses. Getting infected might be something you'd seek out if there's a strain of infection that works with you more than it works against you. And fighting it, opposing it, sure, would give you a temporary penalty, but it wouldn't just gently caress your rear end stone dead. And heck, if the TITANs were some form of rational actors, you might even have the necessary themes and motivations to whip those viruses up!

We're not the target; we're only important as we're a growth medium near the Other Guy; a few mad natives in a war between gods don't mean all that much, or so they'd think anyway, or is a problem that can be handled when the Other Guy has been. The Culture thing also makes sense, possibly as a side thing, as they were vacuuming up minds to do who knows what. They did have a means to save affected egos, but.. yeah, they need inoculations of some kind against the virus to reduce the number of save or die rolls; there's even plot reasons to keep them rare possibly - look at what happened with antibiotic resistance, and then consider that the thing is significantly intelligent.

Thought expecting good writing out of a propaganda pamphlet like EP essentially is, is certainly a bit much.

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