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kaynorr
Dec 31, 2003



Welcome back to our no-combat, all-mechanics review of Exalted 3rd edition. This time we'll be looking at the abilities of Larceny and Investigation.



Larceny

The Larceny charms embrace a variety of effects revolving around criminal activity - pickpocketing, lockpicking, disguise and smooth talking your way into and out of places you shouldn't be.

Early on we have a pair of Charms intended for use at the gaming table, Swift Gambler's Eye and Lightning-Hand Slight. The first helps you read the tells of your opponents, the second lets you cheat successfully at a single round of a game (and doubles as a way to slip someone a mickey). The disguise charms start with a costume that cannot be penetrated by any mundane senses, and later on a master thief can wear multiple disguises simultaneously, choosing which one each person sees.

The basic lockpicking Charm is notable in that it's not just a boost to the Dex + Larceny roll, but explicitly says that when it is invoked the lock ALWAYS opens - a failure on the roll means that there is some sort of negative consequence in addition to the lock opening. The pickpocketing path also offers combat utility in the form of disarms and the Null Anima Gloves which lets the Exalt steal initiative or Essence, use a free full Larceny Excellency, free immediate disarm, and make a free immediate attunement to an artifact you just stole. The combat charms are fairly deep into Larceny, so it's intended to provide combat utility to a dedicated feat rather than something combat characters dabble in.

There is a meta Charm cascade farther down as well which simulates the just-in-time preparation of a heist. Living Shadow Preparedness creates a reserve of successes based on a Wits + Larceny roll that can be used to supplement a single Larceny or Stealth action until the Exalt sleeps. Unshakable Rogue's Spirit also functions as boost to lockpicking/pickpocketing/stealth/swindling, this time powered by borrowed initiative from the next time the Exalt gets into a fight. Finally there is Master Plan Meditation, which interlocks with the Investigation system we'll cover next. When the Exalt attemps something that might be investigated later (forgery, preparing an alibi, gathering info on someone covertly, getting blueprints in preparation for a caper, planning a caper, or running interference on the law/the mob), this Charm creates a pool of points that can be allocated to foil later interference or otherwise boost the impending caper - including leaving your calling card in a dramatic location.

Larceny's capstone is the decidedly underwhelming Unbroken Darkness Approach, which just allows a free full Larceny Excellency once per scene with the mute keyword, allowing the Exalt to spend a shitload of motes without flaring her anima.

Investigation

Any discussion of investigation in RPGs should at least mention GUMSHOE, which is pretty much the gold standard in how to handle investigation & clues. The core innovation is that whenever the PCs use their skills to investigate, they should always find the bare minimum to keep the story going (GUMSHOE calls this the core clue). Seems obvious but it wasn't - and we're all better off for it. What's relevant for a discussion of Exalted is that this mechanic is pretty much entirely system-independent - and interestingly enough, the investigation Charm Ten Magistrate Eyes literally enforces the GUMSHOE rules: "Even if the Exalt's roll turns up no successes, she gains at least one clue to her Investigation".

The core of investigation is in two actions - casing scenes and profiling characters. The very first Charm, Watchman's Infallible Eye, makes the Exalt aware any time that she should use case scene or profile character, so the Storyteller & PC are easily kept in sync about when things are Important versus window dressing.

Investigation has the full spread of standard dice tricks available - a free full Excellency once per scene right out of the gate with Essence 1, double 9s / double 8s / double Essence in successes at Essence 2. Most of the Investigation boost Charms are once per scene, with the ability to reset all these Charms once per day at Essence 4 - a master Investigator can throw very large pools at a problem.

Evidence-Discerning Method warrants a mention, as it's a scene casing charm that also lets you build a profile on someone who was involved - once the profile is built, the investigator automatically spots anyone who meets the profile and any scenes where the profiled took action. It's also worth pointing out that the Charms for profiling are narrowly focused on detecting lies and building a behavioral profile - they don't necessarily help in learning a person's intimacies unless there is some natural connection between the two.

At Essence 3 the Charms start to involve psychometry - the ability to reconstruct destroyed evidence, touch an item to learn its history, and mentally reconstruct a sequence of events at a given location. The capstone is the cool but mechanically underwhelming Mind Manse Meditation, which lets the Exalt enter a memory palace containing everything they know about the case at hand and make "psychic connections between evidence, ideas, and facts that would otherwise be impossible." There are no mechanical effects listed unfortunately - but the Charm text is honest and upfront about this to its credit. The best interpretation I see is that this is basically a "advance the plot for free" card that can be used once per story. A power like this can be tricky to deal with as any Mage storyteller can attest, but its certainly not game-breaking.

Solar Spotlight - Larceny & Investigation

Having laid out the mechanics in isolation, how does this come into practice at the power levels of Solars? What do Solar thieves steal and what do Solar magistrates solve? In both cases there are a fair number of opposed rolls, so the answer lies in finding equivalent opposition - Abyssals, second circle demons, and the Fair Folk all have plenty of possessions to be separated from and deeds to be reconstructed. Note that Investigation die pools get significantly bigger than Larceny pools - a master Investigator can throw 20 dice with double 9s, double 8s, and five automatic successes TWICE A SCENE (but can only do that once per day). A master Larcenist only gets 20 dice once per scene by comparison. The balancing factor are the heist Charms starting with Living Shadow Preparedness, which are harder to math out but definetly give the feel of being a supernaturally talented thief.

Given the large dice pools for investigators, even difficulty 5 actions aren't going to be a huge obstacle past Essence 3 or so. The choices are to effectively increase the difficulty past five (probably by ruling that the evidence was hidden with magical levels of Larceny) and/or extending the trail of clues before hitting the payoff (factoring in the once-a-story automatic advance of Mind Manse Technique).

Some examples of investigations worthy of a Solar magistrate might be:
  • Disappearance of the Scarlet Empress
  • The cirumstances surrounding the activation of the Realm Defense Grid
  • What caused the Great Contagion?
  • The existence and nature of the Great Curse
On the Larceny side, it's not so much about raw dice pools as versatility. A Solar thief can steal the rice bowl from the table of an Immaculate monk while he's eating, talk his way into the Imperial Treasury like it ain't no thing, and disguise himself as anyone in Creation. In my experience players with a skillset like this will create their own challenges - many more Larceny actions should be adjudicated as automatic successes with Wacky Consequences rather than opposed rolls. Storytellers should keep in mind the lower Larceny pools - only one full Excellency per scene and very little in the way of doubles or rerolls. Lower pools also mean that difficulty 5 is a reasonable hurdle at the top end for static Larceny challenges. This mostly applies to pickpocketing and lockpicking more than disguise or fast-talk.

One might expect that Solar thieves are so good that they can do their thing on immaterial things like memories, concepts, intimacies, and the like - outside of one particular Charm (Doubt-Sealing Heist lets you convince someone that the thing you just stole always belonged to you) this doesn't generally happen. I suspect that Siderial Larceny will explore this space - Solars are going to have to content themselves with raiding Malfeas' personal trove of vintage pornography and the like.

Next time - Tinker, Tailor, Awareness, Stealth

kaynorr fucked around with this message at 03:22 on May 6, 2016

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kaynorr
Dec 31, 2003



MonsieurChoc posted:

I've been slowly going thtough System Mastery and I've just reached the Aberrant D20 episode. You know, it's pretty blatant just how bad the game is compared to it's companions Adventure! And Trinity. Not just mechanically (base game was badly designed way before the D20 version) but just the writing. I still don't get why it's the one people keep talking about instead of the other two.

The thing about Aberrant is that it got more support than Adventure! (which is to say, any follow-up whatsoever) and it was more interesting that Trinity which suffered from being somewhat bland. And for all the system problems and mediocre writing, it has a genuinely interesting notion at its core (society copes with superheroes by turning them into celebrities) which still sometimes shines through.

MollyMetroid
Jan 20, 2004

Trout Clan Daimyo


Going to have to disagree there - Trinity was way more interesting than Aberrant's mess. There was something good in Aberrant, sure, but it was presented messily in the corebook and was less accessible-feeling to me than Trinity was. Adventure! was also made knowing it wasn't going to get any follow up books, so it didn't die off mid-stream leaving mysteries of the setting unresolved - it was metaplot free. As metaplot free as a game that's designed to finish filling out the metaplot of three game lines could be anyway...

Asimo
Sep 23, 2007




Aberrant's setting was deep into 90s supers deconstruction. The problem was it thought it was exciting and novel about this despite the same ideas being done in different ways for years beforehand in numerous different media. It was rife with obnoxious metaplot (both annoying contemporary stuff and the long term implications due to being a prequel to Trinity) and the rule balance was... well they tried I guess, but it's obvious Exalted took some lessons from the laughably skewed balance in the storyteller version. And the less said about the d20 edition, the better.

And this is from someone who kinda liked it when it was new. Adventure! on the other hand was actually, genuinely good aside from a few foibles, and Trinity- well, I admire the attempt but after watching the aborted development of Exile at the time it kind of felt like a far more conservative and disappointing cousin.

Mover
Jun 30, 2008

Goodness no, now that wouldn't do at all!


Probably the coolest part about Aberrant was how as more books were released, the writers revealed that basically Divis Mal was 100% right. Trying to live as humans would almost universally doom themselves to madness or death, and only by living as gods or monsters could they achieve full potential and avoid mental taint, and this was mechanically supported.

Then he and his most trusted lieutenants eventually get powerful enough to make their own universe and just gently caress off entirely

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Mover posted:

Probably the coolest part about Aberrant was how as more books were released, the writers revealed that basically Divis Mal was 100% right. Trying to live as humans would almost universally doom themselves to madness or death, and only by living as gods or monsters could they achieve full potential and avoid mental taint, and this was mechanically supported.

Then he and his most trusted lieutenants eventually get powerful enough to make their own universe and just gently caress off entirely

Oh, I see, by coolest you meant 'the reason it was absolute trash.'

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011

WE HAVE TO CONTROL OUR ENVIRONMENT
IF YOU SEE ME POSTING OUTSIDE OF THE AUSPOL THREAD PLEASE TELL ME THAT I'M MISSED AND TO START POSTING AGAIN


quote:

Guardians of the Veil: Their dreams aren't as empty as their conscience seems to be.

Is there an antagonist who's love is vengeance that's never free? Can a Mage channel the power of a human creation that combines skill and chance in equal measure to be a pinball wizard?

quote:

When the Awakening is over, you perceive the material world again - but never as you did before you Awakened. Your eyes are open now. You can see the symbols that underlie the world. This, the Peripheral Mage Sight, can never be turned off. You will grow used to it quickly, the buzz of magic that you can always sense. When you focus, you can call upon the Active Mage Sight, perceiving the truths of all Arcana whose rudiments you understand. This will show you more - the nature of the things around you, the activity of the spells cast around you, and more. But that information may not be enough. By focusing all of your attention on a single thing, you may engage the Focused Mage Sight, blotting out the material world to gaze on the Supernal symbols within your object of focus. This can reveal deep, deep Mysteries - but it can also draw Supernal attention.

It's impossible for me to envision this as anything but the Wizard Eyes from Adventure Time: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2l67RK_tvaM

MonsieurChoc
Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.


kaynorr posted:

The thing about Aberrant is that it got more support than Adventure! (which is to say, any follow-up whatsoever) and it was more interesting that Trinity which suffered from being somewhat bland. And for all the system problems and mediocre writing, it has a genuinely interesting notion at its core (society copes with superheroes by turning them into celebrities) which still sometimes shines through.

Bland isn't a descriptor I'd ever use to describe Trinity.

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006



kaynorr posted:

The thing about Aberrant is that it got more support than Adventure! (which is to say, any follow-up whatsoever) and it was more interesting that Trinity which suffered from being somewhat bland. And for all the system problems and mediocre writing, it has a genuinely interesting notion at its core (society copes with superheroes by turning them into celebrities) which still sometimes shines through.

TBH, that's not entirely original. Underground alludes to the same thing in several places, with combat veterans attaining fame and fortune by selling out and getting corporate sponsorship. Even comics in the '90s where doing "celebrity superheroes" trope, the most obvious being Captain Amazing and his costume festooned with corporate logos in the adaptation of Mystery Men from Flaming Carrot Comics. Aberrant wasn't doing new.

In fact, I remember going through Underground for the first time in 15 years and wondering where the "designer mask" thing was, not realizing that it was really from Aberrant.

Edit: gently caress, Rob Liefeld's Youngblood is this. I forgot which Image comic had that premise of a high-profile superhero team getting TV deals and endorsements and it turns out Pouchy McNofeet was the guy who came up with that.

Young Freud fucked around with this message at 03:47 on May 6, 2016

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

Solving all of life's problems through enhanced casting of Occam's Razor. Reward yourself with an imaginary chalice.



Speaking of Aberrant and Underground and 90s superhero RPGs, I finally managed to get my hands on a series that I've had a passing interest towards on and off throughout the years when I remember it exists: Brave New World. Unfortunately I think my mind had a better executed image than reality but sometime soon I'll be starting with the core book for that.

To sum up one of the main problems with it in a sentence, it's a 90s Pinnacle Entertainment Group RPG (makers of Deadlands) and...well they certainly, uh, you'll see.

MonsieurChoc
Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.


Oh man, yeah, Brave New World. It's... almost good in parts? The Power packages are super specific and really unbalanced. One of them is simply the power to blow yourself up over and over.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



Hostile V posted:

Speaking of Aberrant and Underground and 90s superhero RPGs, I finally managed to get my hands on a series that I've had a passing interest towards on and off throughout the years when I remember it exists: Brave New World. Unfortunately I think my mind had a better executed image than reality but sometime soon I'll be starting with the core book for that.

To sum up one of the main problems with it in a sentence, it's a 90s Pinnacle Entertainment Group RPG (makers of Deadlands) and...well they certainly, uh, you'll see.

Oh yeah, someone just sent us that. I hadn't seen it yet, I was sort of hoping it was a licensed game.

FMguru
Sep 10, 2003

peed on;
sexually

BNW is a loving mess. An interesting premise (superheroes emerge and change history starting in the 1960s, creating a present day dystopia) with a catastrophic execution. It's pretty much Peak Nineties as far as RPG design goes, with every single pathology of that age cranked up to eleven. Dice system that doesn't work, metaplot with unkillable iconic characters, supplement treadmill, keeping critical setting secrets from the GM until many years (and supplements) down the road, padding out those treadmill supplements with big fonts and borders and generous whitespace, books full of in-setting fiction, a mechanically narrow range of rigid character options (in a superhero game, no less!), and on and on and on.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!






Psionic Artifacts of Athas part 7:
Rhul-Tal Wrapup


So, the second half of the living artifacts where we start ripping off Vecna, and body parts. Of course, its sort of understandable for bio-artifacts so I don't hold it against them.


The Ma-Kat Mannequin

You know, I've noticed a tendency in this book to confuse the Rhul-Thaun's lifeshaping with more generic "nature" based effects like druids. One of the ways this manifests is in the form of things like wood or plant themes (seen before with the green rhul or the last tree). Forgetting of course that the halflings of the Blue Age lived on a world covered in water and thus weren't likely to be very interested in things like trees. Say what you like about it but Windriders of the Jagged Cliffs at least had a consistent theme and style to their life-shaped creations that is completely lacking in these life-shaped artifacts. That said, this artifact at least was clearly built with life-shaped items in mind, not just a half-assed normal artifact that's claiming to be life-shaped like the Jade Marquess.

So, here we have the Ma-Kat mannequin, full-size wooden figurine of a halfling that is so lifelike it actually breathes, has a heartbeat and is warm to the touch. The mannequin has deeply carved "tattoos" that are filled with blue and green pigments and its completely indestructible. No weapons will harm it and neither magic nor psionics have any effect on it. The mannequin itself does nothing at all, but searching it (requiring a find secret doors roll) reveals a hatch in the chest which opens to reveal the mannequin's wooden heart, beating in its chest.

Now, in order to get any benefit at all from the mannequin you have to go full on "Head of Vecna"...cutting out your own heart and swapping it with the mannequins. Or I guess more accurately having someone else do it because naturally you die in the process. Hope you have someone you really trust. Once the wooden heart is placed in your chest cavity it will start to beat and your gaping wound will heal over and return you to life, while your heart beats inside the mannequin's chest. Sadly, the actual benefits of the mannequin are quite lame, especially given the curse.

You see, the mannequin serves as a "stand-in" for life-shaped grafts. Life-shaped grafts will "attach" themselves to the mannequin but will function for the owner. So for instance, if attach a set of platons to the mannequin you'll get the benefits of improved AC despite the fact that you still look normal. Attach an armblade and you'll have an invisible blade jutting out of your arm (useful for surprise attacks...not so much for 99% of the rest of your life where having an invisible sword that you can't remove jutting from your arm is a huge hassle).

The exact details on how this works are very vague, especially given the detailed requirements of several grafts. For instance, it states that an armblade graft will produce an invisible "edge" that can be used to cut foes and so on but the graft itself or the flat of the blade cannot be felt. But what about grafts that must replace a body part such as an eyestalk or that weird frog tongue? Do grafts still drain nutrients from the host? What about things like illness. If an inginie grafted to the head of the mannequin dies does the host still go insane and die? It makes a point of mentioning that no one has any idea how this works or even how the mannequin was created, it's named for a famous owner of the mannequin but no one has any idea how it is capable of doing what it does.

In addition, you get three random powers: Fate and Fortune, Immunity and personal enhancement. These are fairly lame (the example powers given are never being lost, immunity to energy drain and +1 to saves).

Now, the actual benefits of the mannequin are only moderate at best (and rely on having a lot of life-shaped grafts already) but the curse is the real clincher. You see, the mannequin's heart is only on loan and it will take it back. There is a 1%, cumulative chance per month that the mannequin will rip own the wooden heart and vanish. Nothing can stop this at all. For such relatively minor benefits that is a huge curse, absolute death in a matter of years (someone better at probability than me could probably calculate when an increasing percentage is becomes near 100%, I can't imagine you'd last more than two years without a lot of luck). The mannequin will vanish and then reappear at some later point (with no life-shaped grafts) ready to go again.

suggested means of destruction: a kiss from the daughter of a barren woman, burn it in the heart of the cerulean storm, throw its heart into the sun, fill in the carved tattoos with the blood of a rhulhisti (an ancient halfling, not merely a jagged cliffs halfling).



The Arm of Radu

Despite the visual similarities and being another "vecna-style" artifact the Arm of Radu has no relationship with the Ma-Kat Mannequin.

The Arm of Radu used to be the arm of a guy called Radu. Shocking, I know. This entry actually remembers that all Rhul-Tal are supposed to be intelligent, assigning the arm an intelligence of 15. By the way, for those keeping score there are 3 actually intelligent life-shaped artifacts (the arm of radu, the green rhul and the centennial brain) a set of artifacts that contain intelligent beings (the spirit wombs, yet to come), two artifacts that aren't intelligent but will act independently in some situations (the ma-ket mannequin and the jade marquess) and two that are basically just things (the wormskin and the tongue of glib the mad).

The Arm is also not actually life-shaped (which is notable because one constant theme of life-shaping is that while the halflings may create symbiotes or servants they never alter their own being). It belonged to an Important Halfling named Radu who was a great construction genius and general smart guy but when he died he (for no particular reason) became an undead and his arm fell off, becoming the Arm of Radu.

The book seems to indicate there are lots of legends about not simply the arm but Radu himself, which seems impossible considering that he lived during the Blue Age and the Rhul-thaun are so bad at record-keeping they can't even remember the name of their last High Lord and they practically worship that guy.

Anyway, if you stick the arm onto an empty shoulder socket it'll seal itself in place with its tentacles and become your new arm. If you stick it on a shoulder with a living arm it'll still lock-in but both arms will be useless until your original arm falls off 1d10+10 days later. The Arm of Radu cannot be removed without killing the host. The fact that the arm belongs to a halfling is never addressed in regards to other characters using it.

The arm will speak to characters in their dreams, appearing as a halfling in white robes and gives them dreams of building great wonders (it can only communicate while the host is asleep).

Despite being so obsessed with building the arm does not actually grant any powers related to building! It is very strong (strength 20) and has sharp nails that function as a powerful weapon (2d6 damage). On a roll of 20 the arm grabs the neck of whoever you're attacking and starts to choke them. If you want to let someone you're choking go you've got to make a saving throw to overcome the arm.

The only other powers of the arm are just a collection of random powers from different tables: Abjurations, Cataclysms, Combat, Elemental Earth, Immunity, Major spell-like power, and offensive powers. Well, we're told they're random because the entry then gives a "default" power for each table (the worst of both worlds) and we're then told that the earthquake power (the cataclysm default) activates itself at random whenever the GM wishes. It's also mentioned in the item's entry as being part of the curse. So presumably not random at all.

The main curse of the artifact is that it'll get pissy if you don't build stuff. If you aren't engaged in at least one hour of construction per day and using the arms powers to do so then it will scratch you. This makes the random power selection even stupider, if you roll randomly it is very possible you end up with no powers that could be even theoretically used for construction. Even the default powers aren't helpful there's Move Earth (only usable once per week, so good luck on the other 6 days) and Telekinesis. The TK at least can be used easily, but it won't really be helpful.

The scratches leave deep scars but do no damage. The scars are located on random body parts and every 3 scratches on the face drops charisma by one (up to 3 points). If the host suffers 1001 scratches the arm will fall off.

Otherwise the suggested means of destruction are for the shade of Radu to break the arm over its knee or for it to be hurled into the Dark (there is not actually a dimension called "The Dark", they're probably referring to "The Black", Atha's shadowplane). Or it can be dipped into elemental air, fire, water and earth within 3 days.

Despite this, it has only AC 2 and 5 HD. no indication is given as to what happens if the arm is damaged or reduced to 0 HP.



The Spirit Wombs

And the prize for "stupidest-looking thing in this book" goes to the water womb!

I've actually got a sneaking suspicion that the last illustration (which claims to be the water womb) was mixed up with the first one (which is meant to be the air womb) since the "water" womb has the light blue coloration you typically associate with sky and at least is somewhat streamlined looking while the air spirit has the deeper blue you'd associate with water and the serpentine shape doesn't make much sense for an air-based creature. The actual text descriptions to match however (except the part where it claims they all have "human-like faces").

Apparently each of these was actually created as a life-shaped "trap" for a Spirit of the Land (the beings that druids get power from) by an ancient, dickish life-shaper. They're apparently the reason that Spirits Of The Land are so reluctant to interact with anyone other than a Druid. As a result of course, Druids find the wombs to be an abomination.

They're very big (air spirit is 30 feet long, earth womb is 12 feet in diameter, fire womb is 16 feet long and the water womb is 10 feet in diameter) but are given absolutely no combat stats, despite nothing indicating that they would be incapable of combat. They're capable of speech and feeling pain but are invulnerable. Since they apparently have the sentience of the spirits it's not actually clear how these are artifacts and not simply powerful creatures. In fact, there's no indication given as to how they would be controlled, beyond presumably torture. They're all very slow (movement of 3) unless they're traveling through their element.

Air Womb
The air womb flies at a speed of 24 (dropping to 12 if it flies through impure air such as rain or dust). It has the powers of an Air Spirit (gating in air, creating an hour long hurricane, and casting whispering wind) as well as four random Elemental Air powers.

Earth Womb
Can phase through earth and rock at a speed of 24 but drops to 12 through mud, silt and lava. Powers of the earth spirit are gating in earth, creating a big, collapsing stone wall and communicate by transmitting vibrations through the earth. Plus four random Elemental Earth powers.

Fire Womb
You may be starting to notice a pattern. The fire womb can travel through fire at a speed of 24 but can move at 12 in "hot air" (over 120 degrees) or smoke. It also keeps the rider from being harmed by heat (something absent from the earth spirit...can the rider breath while phasing underground?) It has the ability to cast wall of fire, create a hot wind of volcanic gasses (acts like a stinking cloud but gives no area) and can use fires to communicate. Plus four random elemental fire powers.

Water Womb
The water womb swims at 24, down to 12 in mud or rain. Needless to say its not much use in that department although it does allow you to breath underwater. It can gate in water, cause a pool to try and grab someone and drown them and can communicate through water. Plus the same four random powers.

Each womb also has a more or less identical curse. After a month the owner will fall in love with a piece of landscape that matches the appropriate elemental theme and is compelled to visit the place at least one day out of every month and risk their life to protect it.

Owning multiple wombs gives extra benefits in that part of your body turns elemental depending on which two wombs you own (they won't tolerate opposing elements, only adjacent). Part of the owner's body turns elemental, granting airy legs (fly at a speed of 3), stone fists (d8 damage and can stone shape 1/day), fire hair (affect normal fires 3/day), ice face (what? apparently lets you use telekensis to control water 3/day and heal 1d8 dehydration damage with a kiss).

However, multiple wombs gives extra curses too: -4 to saves vs elements that oppose the element you're partially composed of and attacks with those elements get +4 to attack rolls. The owner also suffers a random cataclysm. Presumably you also have to visit and protect two different plots of land as well, but this is never addressed.

This does bring up a big issue that is completely unaddressed: Who is the owner of the wombs? These are massive, invulnerable, intelligent creatures...how does one become the official "owner" of a womb? Does anyone riding a womb count as an owner? anyone the womb uses its powers for? Does the womb have to give permission or consent? Can there be multiple owners? How does one stop owning a womb?


The Tongue of Glib The Mad

This is the last halfling fleshlight, I swear.

The Tongue of Glib The Mad is more or less the same as the Arm of Radu. It's not actually a life-shaped item at all, it's just the tongue of some ancient halfling called Glib who was very persuasive and after he died apparently the life-shapers decided his tongue must be the reason he was so convincing so they had it preserved...a sort of superstition that is entirely at odds with the Blue Age culture we've been presented with so far. Apparently the tongue somehow grew a mouth and little tentacles and is totally magical (or whatever the excuse for life-shaped artifact powers are).

Oh, and as the name implies, Glib was kind of crazy because he eventually started believing his own lies. But the artifact is totally safe, I promise.

Of course, this requires that you replace your tongue with it, if you just stick the mouth end on your tongue it'll latch on and eat until it hits your jaw and fuses to your mouth.

This is by far the most powerful life-shaped artifact, in fact other than maybe the dark lens it's probably the most powerful artifact in this book. The tongue causes everyone who hears you to believe everything that you say. there is no saving throw and the only limitation is that they must remain within range of his voice (it doesn't say he has to be speaking...they just have to be within earshot). Once per day it can also do a Mass Suggestion spell and it has three random powers from the charm table.

The curse of the tongue is that there is a 5% chance whenever you tell a lie that you believe it as well, to the point of seeing a completely different version of reality from everyone else to match the lie. That's a big curse...but not nearly enough to compensate for the sheer amount of stuff you can get up to when anyone (up to and including rajaat and the sorcerer kings) takes anything you say as absolute gospel. The curse is also not very helpful if you keep lies vague or loose, like telling someone "It is very important that you do as I say" or "You should stay here".

The tongue can be destroyed by burying it with Glib (who presumably died over 15,000 years ago...I don't think there's a body anymore), feeding it to someone who has never lied or its host remaining mute for 33 years.


And that's it for life-shaped artifacts, and really the bulk of the book. There's a remaining chapter on magical items and a few psionically enchanted items which are certainly useful for a dark sun game but none are particularly interesting and they're all fairly well put together so they're not really interesting to critique.

So, should I continue Dark Sun and tackle defilers and preservers of athas next? Or should I move on to something else (probably the Whispering Vault).

oriongates fucked around with this message at 04:13 on May 6, 2016

Roland Jones
Aug 18, 2011

by Nyc_Tattoo


Silver Ladder Stereotypes posted:

Free Council: Even democracy must recognize the firsts among equals.

Free Council Stereotypes posted:

Silver Ladder: How does one exalt the equality of all, then claim to be first among equals?

I am amused that the Free Council stereotype here is almost a direct response to the Silver Ladder one. A response with a very good point, at that.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

Solving all of life's problems through enhanced casting of Occam's Razor. Reward yourself with an imaginary chalice.



Aaaand unlike Deadlands it didn't get a proper capstone to the metaplot. It went out like my hunky 90s bad boy crush SLA Industries did: died ignominiously and unresolved until the developers later just spilled the metaplot beans to the internet. I will be...completely honest. Normally I don't read books through entirely before I talk about them. 75% of the time you're getting my hot takes as I parse them and jot down what I'm sharing. I picked the entire series up through Bundle of Holding and I dug right into it in the same enthusiasm one goes to restaurant they pass all the time. I skipped to the mechanics after the setting fluff to look at the powers and such and...well. When your first powerset functionally cannot do anything useful without their splat book, you have a big problem.

Underground has ideas I love and it's just balls-to-the-wall biopunk and grim comedy but oh man that dice system is rear end.
Aberrant has tone issues and it lets you do anything and it lets you break the game in a snap and it's 90s White Wolf as hell.
I don't have much bad to say about Hero System. The books are gently caress-off big but they're kinda the gold standard when it comes to superhero RPGs.
I have no experience with GURPS beyond Reign of Steel so I don't know dick about their superhero mechanics/games but I hear it's quite solid.
Brave New World has a premise that interests me quite a bit because it predates Marvel's Civil War and it really does look very interesting but it's basically a Steam Greenlight Beta game where they're already selling DLC that you actually do need in order to add more variety and to make it functional but for the love of god you didn't even finish the actual game engine.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



Young Freud posted:

Edit: gently caress, Rob Liefeld's Youngblood is this. I forgot which Image comic had that premise of a high-profile superhero team getting TV deals and endorsements and it turns out Pouchy McNofeet was the guy who came up with that.

Nah, Booster Gold was doing the "celebrity superhero with endorsements and movie deals" thing a few years before Youngblood came along. So that's one thing Liefeld isn't responsible for.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Asimo posted:

Aberrant's setting was deep into 90s supers deconstruction. The problem was it thought it was exciting and novel about this despite the same ideas being done in different ways for years beforehand in numerous different media. It was rife with obnoxious metaplot (both annoying contemporary stuff and the long term implications due to being a prequel to Trinity) and the rule balance was... well they tried I guess, but it's obvious Exalted took some lessons from the laughably skewed balance in the storyteller version. And the less said about the d20 edition, the better.

Yeah, the thing about Aberrant was that it introduced a lot of RPGers who didn't already read comics or superhero fiction to the notion of "realistic superheroes", which seems really novel if you're not versed with the genre. Granted, it did take it a few steps further than most (mostly in the notion of super-inventions with an actual lasting impact), but wow, was it super-convinced they were the first to arrive on virgin soil. The nadir was probably the Aberrant Player's Guide which starts out with a introduction labeled "This Is Not The Super-Friends" in which the line developer (Kraig Blackwelder) tells you that there are no superheroes in Aberrant, that they're terrible cliches that couldn't possibly exist, and that if you make a superhero character or use comic books as your inspiration you are doing it wrong. Well, except for the right comic books, the ones he likes, that don't have real superheroes, or maybe they do-

It's immensely pandering even for a White Wolf essay of its era, trying to slag off online fans in a printed introduction that they're going to be buying. :rolleyes:

Hostile V posted:

Speaking of Aberrant and Underground and 90s superhero RPGs, I finally managed to get my hands on a series that I've had a passing interest towards on and off throughout the years when I remember it exists: Brave New World. Unfortunately I think my mind had a better executed image than reality but sometime soon I'll be starting with the core book for that.

And it was bought out from Pinnacle by AEG. Mind, most recently AEG seems to have been divesting themselves of the RPG brands they own (Legend of the Five Rings, 7th Sea). That leaves Spycraft, previously licensed by Crafty Games, but its 3rd edition fell into dev hell and has never reappeared, and these days Crafty doesn't even mention Spycraft on their front page. And then there's Brave New World, which was licensed back to Matt Forbeck so he could write a trilogy of BNW novels as part of his "write twelve novels in a year" series of kickstarters.

Oh. And this.

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

chiasaur11
Oct 22, 2012





Selachian posted:

Nah, Booster Gold was doing the "celebrity superhero with endorsements and movie deals" thing a few years before Youngblood came along. So that's one thing Liefeld isn't responsible for.

Heck, Spider-Man did it in a "What If" all the way back in 1980. I mean, he tried to do it back in the 60s, but it kept blowing up in his face.

Oh, and the Fantastic Four! Issue 9 had them making a movie to make up for Reed losing all their money on the stock market. Admittedly, it was all a plot by Namor to murder them, but the movie still came out.

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Aberrant is an insufferable game I remember fondly for just tossing out the entire canon setting/metaplot and instead running a story about a superpowered FBI lab tech, a DHS Nova agent, and an electro-powered neighborhood watchman slowly coming to realize they were all trying to foil the same plot and stopping a psychopath who had discovered a way to force uncontrollable aberration in unwilling subjects.

Asimo
Sep 23, 2007




Even ignoring the setting of Aberrant (and there's a lot of little hilarious issues there that haven't been brought up) the rules were just... rough. Trinity and Adventure! were pretty balanced there due to their lower power levels, but Aberrant tried to pretend that "guy who can throw lightning bolts that evaporate tanks" and "gal who is really good at mundane skills" were somehow equivalent, and hell, the latter usually cost way more points to accomplish. I mean I guess if you're going pure chat RP it's not a big deal, but the very second combat hits the former character is just going to obliterate the latter character in the first round and that's the end of that. It's a bit easier to run than Exalted since you don't need to remember a billion charms, but it lacks all cheap effective defense stuff that keeps social/skill characters from getting slaughtered. And that's not even counting the usual balance issues between powers and such, like one rank Claws power being objectively superior to the lethal damage Mega-Strength enhancement despite the latter costing more. And then there's the insufferable authorial tone, but that's more in the supplements...

Maybe I should grab it off the shelf and give it a proper review, if I can be assed to. :effort: I'm mostly just salty over it because I really liked Storyteller stuff around 2000ish when it was new and it overshadowed the far superior Adventure!.

Doodmons
Jan 17, 2009


Tendales posted:

Does Dodge work against ranged attacks now? Defense isn't subtracted from the normal pool, but dodge seems to be a separate roll?

I never was a fan of how defense doesn't apply to ranged attacks because 'you can't dodge bullets.'

In the old days if you were in close range against somebody with a gun, you got to apply your defense like you would against a melee weapon because you were trying to dodge the arm rather than the bullet. In CofD, I think you get to use the gun's Size as defense or something? Like if they're using a rifle, you get to have a defense of 3 whereas if they're using a handgun you only get a defense of 1. Sort of makes sense.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Asimo posted:

Even ignoring the setting of Aberrant (and there's a lot of little hilarious issues there that haven't been brought up) the rules were just... rough..

Oh, they were terrible. But you know how it is when you're still in high school and all you've really played is d20 or D&D2e so far. You get used to having to fix everything anyway.

Oh my god were Aberrant d20s rules awful.

unzealous
Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!


Doodmons posted:

In the old days if you were in close range against somebody with a gun, you got to apply your defense like you would against a melee weapon because you were trying to dodge the arm rather than the bullet. In CofD, I think you get to use the gun's Size as defense or something? Like if they're using a rifle, you get to have a defense of 3 whereas if they're using a handgun you only get a defense of 1. Sort of makes sense.

You are correct.

quote:

Any firearm larger than Size 1 is too big to accurately shoot
someone when fists and crowbars are the order of the day. In
close combat, the targetís Defense against Firearms attacks
is increased by the gunís (Size +1). If using a gun larger than
a pistol to bludgeon the opponent, treat it as an improvised
crowbar

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Mage: the Awakening, 2nd Edition

You can do magic, as a mage, by virtue of your Path. This grants you access to a functionally infinite variety of magical symbols that you can sense and understand. To cast a spell, you picture the effect you want, focus your mind on the appropriate symbols that will create the effect (called the Imago) and then you utilize your Gnosis as the medium by which you force reality to obey. Thus, your theoretical magical properties override the Fallen reality of the world, and it changes. Magic is extremely good at observing the Fallen World - practically anything can be analyzed by it, using the right Arcana. Those rare exceptions, it is usually agreed, are things that come from realms entirely alien to human thought, such as the Abyss. It is clear that not all Mysteries are tied to Awakened magic, of course, any more than the existence of water pressure is tied to barometers.

Your magic is tied to your Nimbus - a sort of spiritual signature influenced by your Path, any Legacy you have and your own nature. Your Nimbus is unique to you. Whenever you do magic, your Nimbus flares outward, revealing you to anyone actively using Mage Sight. Even once the spell ends, your Nimbus lingers on the target like a fingerprint for an investigating mage to find. You can also deliberately reveal your Nimbus to everyone, even Sleepers, though doing so will trigger Quiescence. Your Nimbus also reaches out to twist the lives around you, even if you don't intend to. It makes them more closely reflect your Nimbus. This can often negatively affect your Sleeping friends and family - but there is a solution: the Shadow Name.

Most mages adopt a Shadow Name, an expression of their identity in the Supernal, without their mundane persona involved. Most use the Shadow Name only with other mages and supernatural beings. Some go so far as to alter their voice or body language to make it harder to tell when they are 'out of character'. Shadow Names are taken extremely seriously for several reasons. First, they help to conceal your true, sympathetic name from enemeis, who might use it to cast spells on you from a distance by sympathetic magic. Second, and more importantly, the Shadow Name protects those who know only your Sleeping identity from being affected by your Nimbus without you intending them to be. This works best, however, if you also avoid using magic in their presence. If you allow too much connection to form between your Shadow Name and your Sleeping family and friends, they can still fall under your unintended influence. Using a mage's sympathetic name to address or refer to them when your friendship is not intimate is often seen as extremely rude by most magical societies. The Silver Throne, Guardians and Seers even see it as a punishable crime.


I'd put money that this is a direct response to M20.

Mage society is not normal, because mages do not live normal lives. Their obsessions with Mysteries do not make for easy small talk with Sleepers. The Lie overwhelms their families, making it hard for them to connect intellectually with the Awakened mage. This awareness of the Supernal often draws mages away from their old friends and into new social circles. The Awakened all understand a fascination with MYsteries, and odds are that anything that draws your attention has also captured the attention of another mage. This can sometimes lead to conflict if you see them as a competitor, but more often people treat it as a potential friendship. Older and more experience mages that meet new ones often use it as a chance to invite them into Awakened society by offering them assistance, and some Orders even dangle Mysteries in densely populated areas in order to identify new mages.

Most mages belong to a sect or Order, as noted before. The four Orders of the Diamond Precept claim common origin as spiritual inheritors of the Awakened of the Time Before, modeling themselves on what they see as a perfected, Supernal society - rather like a vast and shared Shadow Name. The evidence they base their historic claims on is inconclusive at best, but the symbolism has helped them hold together for centuries by giving them common cultural references. The current form of the Council of Free Assemblies is the youngest major sect, a former coalition of Nameless Orders that once fought the Diamond for resources, they now unite in common cause against the Seers and have quickly become a major force in the Awakened world. The Seers, of course, serve the Exarchs and so enjoy considerable wealth. They are happy to use magic for their own petty desires, and so have more resources than anyone else...but they are also hamstringed by constant infighting and resource disputes.

Not all mages belong to these sects. This minority of mages include the apostates, the Nameless and the Nameless Orders. An apostate is one who has rejected membership in any and all Orders for some reason. It's not an easy decision to make - the Orders grant so many resources and access to lots of knowledge. Some apostates once belonged to an Order and left, perhaps after stealing secrets. Their exit, whether voluntary or not, makes them distrusted by all Orders, who see them as potential enemy spies or traitors. A Nameless mage, too, is not a member of any Order - but not by choice. Rather, they are usually from a remote area or otherwise have not attracted the notice of an Order yet. Most join an Order when they get a chance.

The Nameless Orders, meanwhile, are any number of other magical groups - usually small and local - that mages set up that are not part of the major sects. Some are ancient magical traditions, while others are a small group of cabals with common cause. A handful of Nameless Orders are potent enough to have great influence in their particular purview, but none have the global reach of the major Orders.

So, what is a cabal? While mages tend to be individualists, most realize they're more likely to succeed at their goals with help. Most eventually join a cabal - a group usually ranging between 2 and 30 other mages. Large or old cabals may have a mix of mentors and apprentices, but most are peers at the same level of power. Cabals can be loose organizations that share little but communal rent on safehouses or tightknit circles who choose Shadow Names intended to complement each other and enhance group ritual - or anywhere in between. Despite the social pressure to join at least a loose cabal, the Orders do accept Solitaries - mages that work alone - as members. Cabals do have a lot of benefits, however.

First, cabals often have a symbolic theme based on one or more members, their practices, the area or some other factor they agree on. Elemental, astrological, Tarot, it doesn't matter what the specifics are as long as they matter to the members. This shared symbolism is as important as a Shadow Name to most cabals and most mages, and the choice of name and theme often dominates the destinies of members. Further, cabals that perform rituals together are more capable when using symbolism tied to their theme.

Second, cabals provide protection. At the very least, it means someone will notice if you vanish, and they'll come looking. Mages can usually depend on their cabal to support them in any dispute with others and to have their back if a Mystery becomes dangerous. It's good manners to tell your cabal what you're looking into and what kind of enemies you might be making, but when it comes down to it, a cabal will usually help you out and ask questions afterwards.

Third, cabals often have a common cause. Each mage has personal obsessions, but cabals frequently seek out Mysteries together, allowing them to pool their resources and cover more ground than any of them could alone. Each Mystery helps increase the Gnosis of the entire group as a whole, making them all stronger and better able to pursue other Mysteries.

Lastly, cabals provide a sort of collective bargaining power with other mages. A mage with cabal backing has a lot more to bargain with. The cabal, after all, is a sort of insurance that you'll keep your word - it reflects badly on the entire cabal if you don't, and so they'll make you do it. Plus, if something beyond your control keeps you from fulfilling a bargain, your cabal will help do it for you, usually. Further, the cabal will help enforce any agreements you make. Sure, a Solitary can appeal to the local Consilium for aid, but a cabal can carry out any justice it needs on its own most of the time.

Next time: Wait, what's a Consilium?

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

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


Clapping Larry

I've run Brave New World relatively recently (within the last five years). It is a mess for rules, but the core concepts of the universe are really cool and it's nowhere near peak 90s on metaplot. TORG wins that belt.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Speaking of which, the BNW entry on Wikipedia has all the metaplot stuff that was supposed to be revealed at the end of the game line to lead into (presumably) the next one. Such as Kennedy actually being dead since 1963 and a shapeshifter taking his place, Patriot still being alive but in hiding, the Russian Premier being a Delta with super-regeneration, and this whole mess:

quote:

Alphas and Deltas got their power from being descended from extra-dimensional entities. In other universes, the laws of physics were different, allowing beings to fly, or shoot beams of energy, or be incredibly strong. When they traveled from universe to universe, they were sometimes mistaken for gods, like they were on Earth. They interbred with the native humans, before being chased away by mysterious "multiversal police" who were an order of being far more powerful, "Omegas", who were as far above Alphas as Alphas were from Deltas. The Multiversal police considered it a serious crime to visit universes that did not natively have superpowers, as it seriously damages the fabric of reality to use superpowers in a world that isn't able to support them.

Thus, the gods and monsters of legend and the angels and devils of religions were real, and are not around anymore because they were chased away by other powerful beings. However, most of mankind is descended, however distantly, from at least one of these beings. Most humans have the raw genetic potential to be Deltas and Alphas, but never get the chance. Only the greatest stress could trigger the subconscious to actually use Delta powers, and the same stresses could turn a Delta into an Alpha. While Delta powers were not natural to Earth, their use was not very injurious to the universe. However, mighty Alpha powers were beginning to slowly destroy the world. If something was not done, the world would be destroyed fairly soon.

The Multiversal Police returned to Earth, and spoke with Facade (impersonating President Kennedy), explaining the real nature of their powers and the danger their world was in, and they made a deal with him. They provided Facade with a device which would eliminate most of the Alphas and prevent Earth's entire universe from collapsing. This device was handed over to Devastator, being told it was a doomsday bomb, which he activated during the Bicentennial Battle.

At the moment the bomb was activated, every Alpha on Earth who was not specially protected (such as being in a special prison) was teleported to a specially prepared pocket dimension, along with everything within 25 miles (40 km) of the bomb (the Chicago metropolitan area). Thus, the entire city of Chicago, along with almost all the Alphas on Earth, were imprisoned in a pocket universe, seemingly forever. It was intended for Superior, aided by a quarter century of work by every Alpha formerly on Earth, to escape, and for the truth about Facade, the Multiversal Police, the source of Delta powers to be revealed, and for heroes from Earth to be able to explore other universes, but that book, "Crossroads", never got to be published.
Man, talk about scope screep. :psyduck:

FMguru
Sep 10, 2003

peed on;
sexually

Alien Rope Burn posted:

Yeah, the thing about Aberrant was that it introduced a lot of RPGers who didn't already read comics or superhero fiction to the notion of "realistic superheroes", which seems really novel if you're not versed with the genre. Granted, it did take it a few steps further than most (mostly in the notion of super-inventions with an actual lasting impact), but wow, was it super-convinced they were the first to arrive on virgin soil. The nadir was probably the Aberrant Player's Guide which starts out with a introduction labeled "This Is Not The Super-Friends"
Except that "What if superpowers existed in the real world?" had been done to death in comics over the previous 15 years. Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns got all kinds of mainstream notice in 1985-6 when they came out, they kicked off an entire age of grim, gritty, cynical, "realistic" comics (and things like the dark and serious 1989 Batman movie), and that style of comic storytelling had largely become a tired and played out cliche by the time Aberrant came along (with things like Kingdom Come spading dirt on the grave of 1990s excesses). And then here comes White Wolf with its did-I-just-blow-your-MIND?!?! game of supers in a real-world context, just after most people had gotten past the whole "Biff! Pow! Superheroes aren't just for kids any more!" thing. Aberrant was very, very late to the party.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

Solving all of life's problems through enhanced casting of Occam's Razor. Reward yourself with an imaginary chalice.



Evil Mastermind posted:

Man, talk about scope screep. :psyduck:

Trust me, there's scope creep in the first book alone.

Doodmons
Jan 17, 2009


what the hell are alphas and deltas?

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


I mean I just ran it as the average super becoming a model, a celebrity, or just incredibly good at the job they were good at. Like, say, a super-chef, with the people with lightning powers being an even rarer form of a rare phenomenon who military and police and corporate interests all eagerly want to recruit. Emphasizing the human in superhuman instead of the super. Which is exactly the opposite tack that Aberrant official took.

The big Fireman-esque poster-guy went out and stumped and raised money for the Red Cross and fought natural disasters as a super-powered first responder, instead of punching out supervillains, etc.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Mage: the Awakening, 2nd Edition

Wherever a lot of mages gather, you get the problem of potential conflict. Cabals dispute resources, and some Mysteries can't be accessed by everyone. The Pentacle's solution is the Consilium - a panel of councilors led by a Hierarch, who hear and resolve disputes. Consilium decisions are enforced by social pressure - if you don't obey them, you get no Consilium protection. Plus, the judges tend to be older, powerful and backed by strong cabals and Sentinels. Sentinels are the enforcers and detectives of the Consilium. Mind you, Consilium decisions aren't all final - a Convocation can serve as a sort of court of appeal - and they aren't governments except where they make rulings to protect every mage in their terriory. As long as a cabal break no laws, they can do anything they like.

Most Consilia have several roles:
  • Hierarch: the leader of the council. In some places, councilors will defer to the Hierarch and merely act as advisors, but in others the Hierarch is more like a moderator and votes only in ties. Hierarchs typically serve for life unless they retire, and usually get to name their own successors...unless they are disgraced, in which case the councilors elect the new Hierarch.
  • CouncilorS: Members of the Consilium council. Traditionally, four or five councilors serve with the Hierarch, at least one for each Path. Councilors typically hold the past until death, retirement or falling from favor with the Consilium as a whole. The remaining ones usually elect the replacement for any vacancy.
  • Provosts: Mages tasked to ensure that council orders are carried out. Each member of the council names a Provost to represent them, so they often serve as proxies.
  • Sentinels: Enforcers appointed by the Hierarch and tasked to patrol the Consilium's sancta and Demesnes, and to carry out its rulings. They are usually sent out when someone breaks one of the Lex Magica of the area. They can deliver anything from a polite warning to a punishment, depending on their orders and the severity of offense.
  • Heralds: Ambassadors and messengers of the council, appointed by the Hierarch. They deliver news and announcements to cabals within a Consilium and messages to other Consilia. Frequently, they are also the welcome wagon for new arrivals, ensuring they learn the local rules.
  • Interfector: A masked mage that serves to execute sentences for the council. Only a Guardian of the Veil can hold the post, and most serve multiple Consilia in range of the local Guardian Caucus.

So, what are the Lex Magica? They are the body of laws of a Consilium. Typically, mages don't tell each other how to do magic, but some people get dangerous enough to need rules and limits. The Lex Magica names four kinds of laws: Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron. Gold Laws are those the Diamond believes are from the Time Before, as gathered from Artifacts, lost ruins and general consensus. They are rare, largely concern individual rights of mages to follow their studies unless they cause conflict, or to maintain their sancta and Hallows without trespass, or to be recoginzed for skill in the Arcana. Silver Laws, on the other hand, are the local laws the Consilium has made as part of their charter, or by concord - when all Consilia in a Convocation agree to alter their laws in a specific way. Every council ruling apart from these are Bronze Laws. Silver and Bronze are by far the most common laws. A few are commonplace in nearly every Consilium.

These are:
  • The Precept of Secrecy, or the Veil. It is a serious offense to speak of magic to the unenlightened or to openly perform magic in front of Sleepers.
  • The Percept of Protectorate. Cabals may not spy on, trespass in or attack another cabal's sanctum.
  • The Precept of Hubris. It is frowned on to use magic to manipulate or harm others without good cause.
  • The Precept of War. This regulates magical warfare between mages and cabals. Disputes that cannot be resolved peacably by a Consilium are encouraged to use the Duel Arcane, which minimizes bloodshed and accidental chaos

Last, the Iron Laws are all rules, oaths or treaties ratified by smaller groups within a Consilium's jurisdiction - cabal charters, sworn oaths of service, that kind of thing. Whenever two laws conflict, Gold is highest in precedence, then Silver and Bronze, then Iron, but a Consilium may judge any infraction. Consilia also typically act against Left-Handed mages. The definition of Left-Handed varies by place, but typically it maens someone whose obsessions or practices involve the abuse or destruction of souls, the destruction of magical potential, routine interference with Awakenings, casual abuse of Sleepers, Abyssal corruption, contact with the Lower Depths or prolonging one's life by ethically questionable means.

I mentioned Guardia Caucuses. What's a Caucus? Essentialy, Consilia exist to keep peace, and little else. Your Order is much more influential on what you look into for study. They give you a philosophy to follow and often goals to pursue. Each is a global organization, but different locales need different focuses. Caucuses, then, are regional groupings of culturally similar mages of a single Order, typically led by the highest-status member. They tend to cover more land than Consilia do, often covering three to six different Consilia. Two Caucuses may well overlap for different Orders, but frequently they'll only ahve incomplete overlap. The structure varies heavily by Order.

Arrow Caucuses always have a clear chain of command. New members are Talons, with the most proven tacticians and leaders being First Talons. Above them are the Thunderbolt Guardians, instructors and trainers as well as specialists in some area of battle. Above them are Adamant Sages, the leaders of the Caucus, who typically advise Hierarchs in their territory on dangers and threats. Some Talons also receive formal recognition as guardians of a cabal, gaining the title of Banner Wardens, though not all Talons in mixed cabals get this privilege, as it places their duty to their cabal over their duty to the Order.

The Guardian Caucuses typically center around the Labyrinth, their vast network of mystery cults meant to misdirect Sleepers while finding new Awakened. Cultors are the ones that maintain individual cults, either as leaders or important members directing from behind the scenes. Emissaries serve as the Order's messengers to other Orders, delivering intelligence or threats. Susceptors investigate every other Order for signs of corruption or infiltration by the enemy. Last, the Epopi is the leader, secretly directing the Caucus from a number of false masks.

Mysterium Caucuses are built around clusters of Athenaea. Outsiders often think of them as massive libraries of lore, but they can take many forms - yes, centers of learning, but also Censoria, where dangerous artifacts and lore are kept locked away for the time when they are, regretfully, needed. Acquisitors seek out Mysteries to add to the Athenaea, while Censors ensure that dangerous Mysteries are kept away from the unworthy and reckless, even if they are other mages. Savants work to memorize entire bodies of lore, to ensure that should an Athenaeum fall, its knowledge is never lost. Each Athenaeum also has a Curator who determines who gets access and borrowing rights to an lore or artifacts in their Athenaeum. The religious aspects of a Caucus are led by the local Hierophant.

Silver Ladder Caucuses focus a lot on Cryptopolies, networks of mystery cults that both propagate their ideals (and hopefully guide Sleepers to Awaken) and also allow the to influence Sleepers socially against the Lie. Thearchs do not, however, control Cryptopolies directly. They rely on Illuminated retainers - Sleepers, Sleepwalkers and Proximi intiated into the Order as sub-members. Many Pentacle organizations and practices originate with the Ladder, such as the Consilia, Convocations, Lex Magica and Duel Arcane. New initiates, or Acolytes, do errands and carry messages for senior thearchs. Lictors act as wandering investigators and judges for the Caucus. Masters of the Lex Magica can become Factotums, essentially lawyers of the Silver Ladder. Clavigers ensure ideological purity and also serve as envoys to supernatural beings, in part for their expertise and in part because they're somewhat more expendable than Deacons. Most Caucuses have only one Deacon, who oversees all the local thearchs. Some very populous Caucuses will have an Archdeacon who rules over several Deacons with more narrowly defined responsibilities.

Libertines usually agree to obey Consilia they belong to as cabals, but they prefer their Assemblies. In theory, an Assembly is a democratic gathering of all mages in an area, voting on policy and abiding by it. In practice, they're Free Council Caucuses, except for a handful of younger mages that think they might get more out of the Libertines than the local Hierarch. However, not all members of an Assembly can vote right away. New initiates have only provisional membership until they prove their loyalty. Those who attend from other Orders can also become Voters by submitting to the Assembly's judgments and participating in thei rituals, but don't start that way. This is to ensure that infiltration and sabotage by Seers is harder, and also prevents voter abuse by the other Orders. Emissaries serve as contacts to the local Consilium and Caucuses. Minutemen respond to local emergencies. Letter Carriers deliver messages hidden telepathically in their minds. Citizen Agents serve as spies, watchmen and covert agents of the Free Council. In some areas, a Strategos will serve as a general and military leader, a chief executive or an expert on threat assessment. Libertines with enough reputation to sway many votes are known as Syndics, the politicians and lobbyists of the Free Council.

So what's a Convocation? They are meetings organized by the Silver Ladder to ensure Consilia don't become too isolated. Mages from many Consilia send representatives to the Convocation to make friends and trade information. The smallest Convocations cover overlapping territories of a Caucus from each Order, while the largest gather all Consilia on a continenet. The Ladder want to make a Great Convocation of all Pentacle mages, but it's never happened. Convocations keep the Orders together, allowing Caucus leaders to meet and plan. They also hear appeals for those that don't like a Consilium's rulings, serve as swap meets for lore and Legacy induction, and even the Free Council likes them, as their attempts to build large-scale Assemblies have yet to succeed. While anyone, even the inexperienced, can be made Hierarch if they are respected, and anyone can speak at an Assembly, Convocations are run by a council of Magisters - defined as any Pentacle mage attending who can prove mastery of at least one Arcanum.

The Seers organize in the Iron Pyramid of prestige and service, ranking themselves above Sleepers (and all other mages) and below the Exarchs. Each Exarch's Ministry is led by a Minister, the Exarch's earthly servant, who leads their Ministry in pursuing a specific form of world control. Many Ministers are archmages, living in Supernal Verges to better commune with their gods. Beneath them are the Tetrarchs, who command the Seers over a wide region. All Tetrarchs in an area make up one Tetrarchy, the groups that discuss Seer goals and plans and pass commands down the chain. Beneath the Tetrarchies are Pylons. They resemble cabals in size, but have a clear pecking order of rank and prestige absent from most Pentacle cabals. Most Pylons have ranks within their number, and also report to senior Pylons. Advancement requires becoming strong enough to demand it successfully, and most Seers watch their superiors like hawks for weakness while undermining their inferiors.



Next time: Legacy

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Doodmons posted:

what the hell are alphas and deltas?

Deltas were low-level supers, Alphas were the high-power ones. It's like a single-power person versus someone with a full power suite.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


FMguru posted:

Except that "What if superpowers existed in the real world?" had been done to death in comics over the previous 15 years.

Well, yes, I believe that's what I implied?

In any case, I mentioned it in another thread, but if you want "superhumans in the real world", Progenitor for Wild Talents is probably the best treatment of the concept so far, but that's what we'd expect from Greg Stolze, forming an immensely detailed and believable alternate timeline and focusing on how superhumans can change the world. I'm probably more fond of the the less serious apes 'n capes sort of superhero game, but it does it so well it's hard to imagine it being done better.

FMguru
Sep 10, 2003

peed on;
sexually

Alien Rope Burn posted:

Well, yes, I believe that's what I implied
Yeah, I was just contesting your claim that Aberrant introduced that mindset to a lot of RPG fans for the first time, and making fun of WW for being fifteen years late to the party.

Of course the idea that "Superheroes are really, really serious business you guys" is a bold, fresh new perspective is still with us today, thirty years after Watchmen, as evidenced by the resources poured into making and promoting the deadly serious Batman v Superman movie.

Doresh
Jan 7, 2015


So a while ago, I said something about doing a review relating to oldschool mechs.


From left to right: Unimpressed pilot lady, casual Samus Aran, Rebel Alliance soldier. And what the hell is going on in the left corner?

So before I get this boy started, I was thinking about making an example character for funzies. My ideas include:

  • A farmer boy who becomes an AeroSpace pilot.*
  • An emotionally unstable, spineless twat who somehow ends up in the cockpit of a high-end 'Mech.
  • A simple grunt
  • Attack on BattleMech

*) There's an April Fools' supplement that lets you build a Not-X-Wing.

I'm of course open for other ideas.

Doresh fucked around with this message at 16:14 on May 6, 2016

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

Solving all of life's problems through enhanced casting of Occam's Razor. Reward yourself with an imaginary chalice.



Russian robot controlled by a dog wearing a space helmet.

gourdcaptain
Nov 16, 2012



Go for the not-Shinji Ikari. Also, I have experience with being in a group trying to play this game. I look forward to you having to explain the mess that is the hilariously large chargen and the optimization step.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Mage: the Awakening, 2nd Edition

Every mage has one of the five Paths, coloring their perceptions. The Orders give general guidelines on how to use magic. Legacies, however, are a chosen and narrow view on how you, specifically, should use your magic. Some are ancient belief structures, millenia old, that remain true today. Others are new but still highly specific worldviews developed by careful reflection. Those that share a Legacy are part of an elite clique, highly specialized. Some have hundreds of members across the world, others no more than a dozen, depending on how widely their beliefs appeal and how questionable their practices are. A Legacy offers its members a network of contacts with similar beliefs that understand each other deeply, and the bond of mentor and student within a Legacy is often stronger than between master and apprentice in an Order. Legacy members also develop Attainments, instinctive powers so often used that they carve channels in your soul, pushing it into a new shape, and so primal that they can be used without casting spells. Some Legacies also cause physical or mental changes. Choosing a Legacy is a sign of maturity for mages, marking your dedication to a magical style. Some mages do not develop one out of reluctance to reshape their souls, or wait to be able to create their own Legacies rather than the far easier route of joining one that exists, but masters without a Legacy are very unusual. However, while Legacies are expected, and often radically different from each other, Consilia do keep track of what they name Left-Handed Legacies - banned Legacies. These practice Attainments that are deemed unacceptable, or are placed under general interdict for vile or hostile practices.

This brings us to character generation! How's the Mage template work? Well, Mages are similar to base humans in a lot of ways. They get Virtue and Vice, the same stats and so on, though the book actually forgets the note Virtue/Vice stuff. But then you first choose your Path, to get your Ruling and Inferior Arcana. You then pick your Order. Order grants you three Rote skills - skills you get a bonus die to using Rote yantras for. More on yantras later. Stats are provided for being a Seer in general or a member of one of the Greater Ministries specifically, and a sidebar on how to be a Nameless Order mage.



If you belong to any Order at all, you also get a free dot in Status with that Order, a free dot of the Occult skill and the High Speech merit for free. Then you define your character's Nimbus, based on your Path and personal symbolism. You also define its Nimbus Tilt; more on that later. You also select your Dedicated Magical Tool - a specific magical tool you are most comfortable with, from among the things you can use based on your Path and Order symbolic tools. More on that later, too. You then select your Arcana. You get 6 dots of Arcana. Your Ruling Arcana both need at least one dot, and at least 3 of your dots must be spread between them. You cannot put any dots in your Inferior Arcanum. You cannot have any Arcanum over 3. So you can go 3/2/1, 3/1/1/1, 2/2/2, 2/2/1/1/ or even 2/1/1/1/1. You then select six dots worth of Rotes, all of which you must be capable of casting normally. (Rotes are spells your Order has taught you secret mudras for, allowing you to use the Rote yantra.) More on Arcana and Rotes later. Lastly, you get Gnosis 1, though you can spend 5 merit dots to raise Gnosis to 2, or all 10 for 3. (This is a bad idea.) You begin play with your maximum Mana for your Gnosis level.

On top of this, mages get Obsessions. An Obsession is an Aspiration...but instead of normal Beats and XP, it grants Arcane Beats and Arcane XP, and it must be related to pursuing mystical knowledge of some kind. More on that in a moment. Lastly, you get a number of Praxes equal to your Gnosis. Praxes are spells you know so well that you can cast them with great ease, which are symbolically important to you. More on that later, as well! Finally, you add 1 dot to your choice of Composure, Resolve or Stamina. Oh, and you replace Integrity with Wisdom, which starts at 7. More on that later.

Now, Arcane Beats. You gain Arcane Beats when:
  • You fulfill or make major headway towards an Obsession.
  • You resolve a Condition caused by spellcasting, Paradox or magic. Letting a spell that causes a Condition expire does not count as resolving it. You do not get a normal Beat for resolution if you get an Arcane Beat.
  • You fail a spellcasting roll and choose to upgrade it to a dramatic failure.
  • You make a check for Hubris against Wisdom.
  • You spend a scene being tutored in a Legacy by your mentor or tutoring one of your students in a Legacy.
  • You have a meaningful and new encounter with the supernatural, as determined by the ST.

5 Arcane Beats become an Arcane XP. Arcane XP can be spent on Arcana, Gnosis or Legacy attainments, either by itself or in combination with normal XP. Arcane XP is the only XP you can spend on new Praxes, raising Wisdom, or to learn Legacy attainments when you have no tutor.

Obsessions! The number you can have at once is based on your Gnosis. At Gnosis 1-2, you have one. At 3-5, you can have two. At 6-8, you can have three. At 9-10, you can have 4. Any time you resolve an Obsession rather than just making headway, you not only get you Arcane Beat but also gain 1 Mana. Obsessions also function in all ways like Aspirations besides what's noted here...and whenever an Obsession applies while you are using Focused Mage Sight on something, you get +1 dice.

The amount of Arcana dots you can have in a specific Arcanum is limited by your Path. After you hit the limit, it costs more XP to raise, you can no longer spend Arcane XP to raise it, and you need a tutor. The limit is 5 for Ruling Arcana, 4 for most Arcana, and 2 for your Inferior Arcanum.

What does your Gnosis determine mechanically? Well...
  • when casting a spell ritually (IE, not instant-speed), Gnosis determines how long it takes. More means faster.
  • Gnosis is part of every dicepool to cast a spell - it's usually Gnosis+(Arcanum).
  • Gnosis determines how many Yantras you can apply to any single spell - two to start, and more as you go higher.
  • Gnosis determines your max traits - if you hit Gnosis 6 or higher, you can raise traits over 5, to a cap of your Gnosis.
  • Gnosis determines how many spells you can have active at a time before you need to spend Reach. Specifically, the number is equal to your Gnosis.
  • Gnosis, as noted, determines how many Obsessions you can have.
  • To gain Legacy attainments, you must have a minimum Gnosis score based on how many attainments you already have and the level of Arcana required. More on this later.
  • The higher your Gnosis, the more Paradox you can potentialy cause by overreaching.
  • At Gnosis 3, you can combine two spells into a single casting. Three at Gnosis 6, four at 9.
  • Gnosis caps your Arcana. At Gnosis 1, your highest Arcana can't go over 3. At 3, it can hit 4. At 5, it can hit 5. Your other Arcana are limited to two dots at Gnosis 1, 3 at 2, 4 at 4 and 5 at 6.
  • Gnosis is your power stat, added to Supernatural Tolerance rolls and certain rolls to resist supernatural powers.
  • Your Nimbus grows more powerful as Gnosis rises.
  • Every dot of Gnosis gives you a free Praxes.
  • Gnosis limits how much mana you can spend in a single turn. If you need to spend more, you have to spread the action over several turns.

Mana is your power points. You can spend it to:
  • Cast an improvised spell outside your Ruling Arcana.
  • Reduce Paradox dice on a spell, one for one.
  • Activate certain attainments.
  • Perform certain powerful spells.
  • Heal yourself, at 3 mana per 1L or 1B healed, or 3 mana to remove a Mental Condition without resolving it or to remove a Physical Tilt.

You may gain Mana by:
  • Performing an Oblation, a targeted meditation in a Hallow. You roll Gnosis+Composure and spend an hour meditating, gaining 1 Mana per success, capped by the Hallow's limit on Mana. Any Mage with a Legacy may also perform a special Legacy Oblation, even away from a Hallow.
  • With 3 dots of Prime, you may use the Channel Mana spell to drain a Hallow without an Oblation.
  • You may eat food contaminated by solidifed Mana (called tass), or drain objects containing tass using Channel Mana. Tass forms when a Hallow is left along for a while and the Mana congeals into objects.
  • You may harm yourself, either reducing one physical Attribute (and all derived traits) by 1 for 24 hours, or dealing 1L of resistant damage to yourself. (Resistant damage can't be healed by magic.) Either provides you with 3 Mana. At Gnosis 1-4, you can do this once a day. 5-6, twice a day. 7-9, three times. 10, four times.
  • You can kill a living being for Mana, though doing so is always an Act of Hubris. The death of any living being by sacrifice releases Mana. Small animals give 1 Mana, while humans give 1 Mana per dot of Integrity they had before their death. If you immediately spend the Mana on a spell, it ignores your limit on Mana spending per turn.

Next time: Wisdom

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Covok
May 27, 2013

Yet where is that woman now? Tell me, in what heave does she reside? None of them. Because no God bothered to listen or care. If that is what you think it means to be a God, then you and all your teachings are welcome to do as that poor women did. And vanish from these realms forever.


Mors Rattus posted:


I'd put money that this is a direct response to M20.

Glad they finally acknowledged that M20's attempts to be progressive came off pretty regressive, IIRC.

Where does Mage: The Awakening 2e stack with the other Mage games?

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