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Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012


Alien Rope Burn posted:

Well, way back when, I sat down and looked at the OGL of various d20 products with the curious notion of say, converting some of it to newer games, and SJ Games' was easily the most restrictive in regards to Product Identity, only following the OGL as much as it requires and basically restricting even rules text at times from usage seemingly arbitrarily. Compare and contrast with AEG, which has a similarly restrictive notion of what their PI entails, but also has a specific clause added that lets you rip their PI whole-hog as long as you aren't changing or building upon it - so you could use all sorts of PI stuff for Rokugan or Swashbuckling Adventures. This means its mainly just useful for mechanical elements, but if you want to use Porté Mages in your d20 book, you can as long as you follow the details of their OGL agreement. Which is pretty cool!

The reason SJ games' was the most restrictive was for two reasons. One, they very pointedly designate what's open content within tiny little boxes, which strangely enough means some of the rules are excluded, and nobody else I can think of ever tried to designate rules text as product identity. The second, and more major reasons, is that they got "cute" about it, like:


That renders the the entire skills and feats chapter unusable for people wanting to use any of that rules content under the OGL, for example, or there's:


Which means you can use the stat lines of any equipment, but, uh, can't use any of their descriptive text, which is where are all their unique rules effects are. (This also means stuff like "Glue", "Rock, Huge", or "Chaotic Evil" is product identity, somehow.) Basically SJ Games either didn't quite understand the OGL, was openly mocking it, or both, but the end result is whole chapters of rules material end up being rendered useless as open content for the sake of a (bad) gag.

So, for example, this is closed content:


And this was open content:


... but maybe SJ Games was just trying to make sure really, really awful jokes died mercifully with their book.
Okay, I'll freely admit that's a bit more than I expected. I'll admit I'm laughing, too, just from the audacity rather than the actual joke quality.

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Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Mage: the Awakening, 2nd Edition

Tucson, Arizona was, long before it became part of the US, the home of the Hohokam people. Until nearly 1450, they lived there, and their descendants, the Tohono O'odham, remain in southwest Arizona. By 1700, however, it was settled by Spanish missionaries - most notably, the Mission San Xavier del Bac, or Saint Xavier of the Water, founded by a Jesuit named Eusebio Francisco Kino. When Mexico became independent, Tucson was Mexican for 30 years before being sold to the US, and it was the largest city in Arizona until Phoenix surpassed it in the 1900s. It was the image of the Old West for many people. Now, Sleeper kids tell ghost stories of vengeful cowboys, desert monsters and the phantom bells. They say that if you hear the bells of the old missions, out in the desert, you will die. They rarely hear them. Mages hear them all the time.

The original mission was destroyed by the Apache in the 1700s, but the Franciscans who took it over rebuilt it, mostly using Native American workers and artisans. No one recalls their names, but their influence on the building was clear. When the Mexican government banned Spanish-born priests in the 1820s, San Xavier spent 30 years falling into disrepair, and it was the Tohono O'odham who first restored it before Tucson became part of the US. It was finished by the Bishop of Santa Fe, reopened in 1859. Today, the old mission is a church, a community center for the Tohono O'odham and a pilgrimage site. It hosts a yearly festival for the Tohono O'odham and Yaqui people. However, despite all the renovation, one dome is unfinished still. Local rumor claims it's a tax thing, while others speak of a prophesied Excellent Builder who will finish it. The bells ring out of this empty tower, heard by those who use Mage Sight to see and hear them.

Attempts to determine what makes the bells ring have been inconclusive. They ring at least once a week, often more, for variable durations. They can come at any time, sometimes for hours, sometimes just one peal. The bells do not always signal the listener's death - and indeed, the two events rarely seem to correlate. However, there is a kernel of truth: for those at the mission grounds when the bells strike, the dead come out. Specifically, the future dead. The 'ghosts' who appear at any given time will die within a few weeks of each other, usually. Sometimes the same day, sometimes the same time of day within the same month. How far in the future the death will come varies wildly, usually between a month and five years. On average, between ten and fifteen future-ghosts appear when the bells ring. Anyone using Active Sight can interact with them, though it's best to do so quietly, as the mission is an active church. Any form of Mage Sight works - no one knows why - so they clearly aren't normal ghosts, though that's the term mages have ended up using.

One Mysterium cabal has made it their job to study those whose ghosts appear, maintaining lists of those who have appeared more than once. They call them 'frequent fliers.' They have also noted that the future isn't set - sometimes, those destined to die do not, for various reasons. Over time, the Tucson mages have begun to set guidelines on interfering with the future dead. Twelve years ago, one manifestation was all mages, and attempts to fix the clearly-extant future disaster fell apart within hours, thanks to existing bad blood. Ten months of trying to control and prevent the outcome led to tragedy, with destiny manipulated daily. In the end, the battle came anyway, and all of those in the original vision died - plus four others. The survivors declared it would never happen again. Only two of them remained, and they formed a new alliance, and still head the local committee on guiding and mediating those who disagree on how to fix the future. There is no official punishment for disobeying them...except for social pressure, which is quite intense.

The mission isn't the only place with phantom bells, either - it's just the most consistent. Santa Cruz Catholic Church, built 1918, sometimes rings unexpectedly. The results are similar...but the 'ghosts' of Santa Cruz Catholic are scenes of future triumph, not death. They also aren't limited to the local area - bringing an item belonging to an ally or rival will reveal their victory or defeat no matter where they are. El Tiradito is a shrine in the Old Barrio. Legend holds it was built by a man who died fighting for his lover. Sleepers claim that a wish made on a candle will come true if the candle is still burning by sunrise. Mages sometimes see the entity that lives there, but more often, she is heard - quiet bells. She speaks in High Speech, sometimes, usually on matters of love and loss, but for the right offer, she will speak of the area's nature in the Time Before. Last, fifty miles southwest is Baboquivari Park, a sacred site of the Tohono O'odham and home of their creator god, I'itoi, who is said to live in a maze under the mountain there. Stories tell of a Spanish officer that tried to dig through the mountain to find I'itoi rather than use the maze, and how the ground swallowed him and his men. The sounds of the area are not bells, but shovel on stone, and they reveal hubris.

The ST advice section is pretty standard and uninteresting, talking about music and Shadow Names and how to make Mysteries. It also talks about the Duel Arcane. It is a form of magical conflict in which two mages can fight without actually hurting each other. It involves conflict of mind and soul, to allow you to determine who is most true and right. You set up the stakes of the duel - it could be anything from death to 'i want them to admit I was right', and you set up what conditions the winner and loser might get at the end. You then use the Display of Power spell to set up the arena. Rather than Health, each character gets Doors equal to their Willpower, plus modifiers:
  • -1 Door if facing a lover.
  • +1 Door if facing a rival you've declared your nemesis previously.
  • +1 Door if your rival has declared their intent to destroy you if they win.
  • +1 Door if your rival is from an allied sect - so Diamond vs Libertine, say.
  • +2 Doors if your rival is from a hostile sect - Diamond vs Seers, say.

The duel uses Initiative, but the bonus is Wits+Composure, rather than the normal Initiative modifier. On your turn, you can choose one of three actions:
  • Attack. You roll an Attribute+Arcana that fits the description of how you draw on magic to demonstrate your power. The spells you cast don't actually happen - rather, you show what you could do to your rival. You may not use Yantras, thus, and you can't get any Reach besides your free Reach - and you need to account for spell factors and resistance. If you succeed, you open a Door. If not, you don't. Any extra successes give you bonus dice to your next roll. If you fail, you must use a different Arcanum on your next attempt.
  • Defend. You can choose not to actively attack for a turn to instead make any attack roll against you contested, using Attribute+Arcanum as above to defend yourself.
  • Negotiate. You may make an offer to open a Door without attacking - say, 'I promise that no harm will come to your cabal as a result of your actions tonight' or 'I will teach you the Rote you've been looking for.' The power of Prime seals the promise - so these are never made or accepted lightly. If your opponent accepts your offer, you open a Door automatically. They can wait to accept the offer until a later turn, too. However, you must then uphold the promise, which mage society takes very seriously.

Once one of you runs out of Doors, they lose. The winner refills all Willpower and gains the Triumphant condition, while the loser loses Willpower equal to the Doors that were opened on them and gains the Defeated condition. If the terms were 'to the death,' that's taken care of mundanely after the duel ends - the dueling space fades with the duel.

Next time: the Sleeping Curse and how it works

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Alien Rope Burn posted:

... but maybe SJ Games was just trying to make sure really, really awful jokes died mercifully with their book.
Given how many times I've heard that Steve Jackson himself hates Munchkin, I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case.

Kellsterik
Mar 30, 2012


The Duel Arcane rules kinda elude me. What's that bit about Reach and accounting for spell factors? Is the attack/defense roll meant to be a purely narrative description thing, or are you actually casting a spell according to the standard rules? Are the imagined spells meant to have any mechanical effect beyond the binary "did or did not open a Door"?

SirPhoebos
Dec 10, 2007

Horned Rat-Sempai Noticed Me! :swoon:




Planescape Monstrous Companion: Githyanki and Githzerai (plus Bariaur and Tieflings)

The Githyanki and Githzerai are two humanoid species who share a common backstory. They were originally humans abducted by Illithids to serve as labour and food. Over the centuries, they secretly built up their power, until one day a woman named Gith led them in rebellion. After they won their freedom, the rebels split into two groups. One group followed Gith to the Astral Plane and became the Githyanki. The other group followed a wizard to Limbo, becoming the Githzerai.



Today, the Githyanki (xp varies) raid the Prime Material and continue their civil war with the Githzerai. The combat section is more about rules for making a raiding party. Githyanki raiders can have the character classes fighter, mage, fighter/mage, illusionist, and knights (i.e. anti-paladins). Githyanki can be equipped with magic arms and armor. Knights often carry a Silver Sword (not to be confused with a sword made of silver), which can cut the cord of astral travellers killing them instantly. If a Githyanki Knight loses his Silver Sword, they’ll go to any length to retrieve it. Individually, Githyanki can Planeshift at will. Also, there’s a stat block for psionic powers, but the character generator doesn’t have a psionic on it and no psionic powers are listed. Finally, when encountered on the Prime Material, they use Red Dragons as mounts, I assume because someone at TSR thought that would be rad (and I approve).

The Githyanki dwell in huge castles on the Astral Plane built on the corpses of dead gods. The ecology and habitat/society section provide detailed information on how the Githyanki survive on the Astral Plane, with weird names for fungus-farmers, magic architects and so on. In addition to their homes, Githyanki also maintain bases on the Prime Material from which they attack Illithids and just cause general mayhem. They are ruled by a lich-queen, who may or may not be the original Gith. Any Githyanki that reaches 12th level in their class are immediately teleported into the presence of the queen and drained of their life force. Despite being evil and ruled over by someone almost as bad as Lolth, the Githyanki never fight amongst each other.

So aside from the soul-sucking Lich Queen I think the Githyanki are pretty cool and I’d use them in a Planescape Campaign. As a side note, this section is more or less verbatim from the 2nd Edition Monster Manual.



By contrast, the entry for the Githzerai (xp varies) has been adjusted from the MM on account of them now being a PC race. The combat section is stupidly similar to the Githyanki, describing how to put together a group of them. They even have a chance to carry Silver Swords even though they don’t live in the Astral. The monster entry is also full of contradictions. For example, in one part it says that the wizard-god of the Githzerai destroys any wizard that gets above 10th level, but another part says that Githzerai groups can contain a master thief of up to 12th level.

On Limbo, the Githzerai live in cities of 100,000 or more. These are islands of stability in the CN plane. The largest city is the capital, Shraktlor. Like the Githyanki, they have bases on the Prime Material, which they mostly use to monitor the Githyanki and counter their moves if necessary. Besides the Githyanki, the Githzerai organize hunts for Illithids across the Multiverse. In the ecology section, we get this tidbit: “Although human and githzerai are not natural enemies, the two races sometimes battle, in part out of humans' desire to capture a live githzerai for study. To date, no human has.”

Overall, I find the Githzerai entry way too derivative of the Githyanki. Since they are a PC race, they get more work on them throughout the setting’s duration.



While I’m on the subject of player races, I’ll cover the other two introduced in the campaign box. Bariaur (2000 xp) as listed here fight with a special club that has the same stats as a two-handed sword, can charge attack for 3d6 and a 50% chance to knock down, get 10% magic resistance and a +2 to surprise roll. The sample Bariaur can move between the layers of Ysgard at will.

Bariaur on Ysgard live in flocks 5d4 males, 1d20+10 females,and 1d12-1 young (I’m saddened the goat gender names aren’t used). They are led by a particularly strong or charismatic male. While his rule is absolute, young males may freely challenge them in ritualized combat. I’m going to copy-paste the rest of the Habitat/Society entry because it’s pretty :3:

Habitat/Society posted:

An under-reported aspect of bariaur life is their robust playfulness. They believe that that the two great goods are the advancing of their strong sense of honor and the need to have a good time. The bariaur often meet in shows of friendly rivalry on the great grassy plains of Ysgard. At these festivals they stage singing contests, tell tale tales, and play an intricate game not unlike polo. Human observers often mistake the rivalry for pride or pettiness, and are often completely flabbergasted when, at the end of a festival, the bariaur depart on the friendliest terms.

Even bariaur adventurers on a hard quest may arrange simple contests to remind them of the joy of life. It is a magical moment when a grimly determined bariaur happens on one of his fellows and puts aside his honor-driven quest for a few minutes (or hours) of race and sport. Such events often do them as much good as a night’s sleep. Then they return to their quests.

Nothing saddens a bariaur like learning that a companion is sad. These brave ones fear neither death nor the most monstrous manifestation of the powers of darkness; yet they have been known to journey across the most dangerous planar barriers to visit the sickbed of a valued friend.

Yeah, I think the Bariaur are chill. The ecology section says they travel to other layers of Ysgard in search of grazing, but since the second layer is perpetually on fire and the third is underground, I don’t think they would find it.

One thing this entry has in common with the Githyanki one is a 4th wall-breaking quote. The initial description says that Bariaur are “probably a hardy relative of the centaur”, and on the next page we get this quote:

Gorad Drummerhaven, a noted biologist, upon reading this entry posted:

Related to Centaurs? Hmph!

And while there’s no quote on the Githyanki pages, at the halfway point there’s a big picture of a Githyanki (same as the one I linked actually that’s a lie, the picture is entirely different from the one in the MC which I couldn't find using GIS) with this quote:

Kharzed, a Githyanki Knight dwelling on the Prime Material posted:

You’re halfway there, berk! Don’t stop reading now!



Enough pointless details. Moving on to the final PC race, the Tiefling. (650 xp). Before Aasimar and Gensai are introduced, Tieflings weren’t necessarily the descendants of human-fiend pairings, just a human and “something else”. The combat section is more focused on describing preferred tactics and spell selections than providing a fixed list of attacks and defenses. It’s basically put together the same way the elf and dwarf entries in the MM are written. The habitat/society section reiterates a lot of the stuff from the players section of the Campaign Box, which an emphasis on the orphan mindset (I guess no Tiefling ever was actually raised by their parents). They have astounding self-confidence, a tendency to distrust others, and frequently con-artists. Groups of Tieflings sometimes band together forming informal Thieves Guild.

I was never a big fan of Tieflings, but I don’t dislike them either. They are very nineties. The book seems to swing between saying they’re unfairly persecuted, and that players are right to be distrustful. They aren’t so much a specific minority group but a mashup of every minority stereotype ever, which I guess is the way to do it if you want to have an ostracized downtrodden. Then again, I’m whiter than a snowman at a Donald Trump rally, so I might have a privilege or two to check.

The Prime, not knowing the Tiefling was in a mood to be generous posted:

A Tiefling to a Clueless Prime posted:

What’cha wanna bet I can chop your bone-box before you can even open it?
Say wha-

Next Time: We were too lazy to actually write a monster you could use

SirPhoebos fucked around with this message at 16:56 on May 19, 2016

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Kellsterik posted:

The Duel Arcane rules kinda elude me. What's that bit about Reach and accounting for spell factors? Is the attack/defense roll meant to be a purely narrative description thing, or are you actually casting a spell according to the standard rules? Are the imagined spells meant to have any mechanical effect beyond the binary "did or did not open a Door"?

Honestly I have no idea. I think it may be an artifact from when the rules worked differently because the binary is all the rest talks about.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Mage: the Awakening, 2nd Edition

The Sleeping Curse derives from the warping of Supernal symbols by the Abyss, rendering their meanings false and unknowable. Every time a Sleeper sees the Supernal, they are forced to 'choose' between unknowable, meaningless Truth or terrible, impossible Lie. It is not a choice. It is the nature of the Curse. Any time a Sleeper is faced with magic, their mind wrestles with these conflicting, impossible messages. Thus, any obvious Supernal or Abyssal manifestation is always an Integrity breaking point, no matter what.



Inflicting the Curse upon Sleepers is hubristic, an act that mirrors the Exarchs' arrogance in locking away the Supernal. Thus, causing a Sleeper to risk loss of Integrity because of your magic is an Act of Hubris against both Understanding and Enlightened Wisdom. Further, exposing Sleepers to the Supernal means they automatically think of Abyssal symbols as well, even if the Supernal symbol is pure and perfect and so would not risk Paradox on its own. Because the Sleepers cannot sort truth from Lie, they bring part of the Abyss out, corrupting spells. Any Sleeper witness to an obvious spell increases Paradox risk by one die, even if the spell would not normally risk Paradox. Multiple Sleeper witnesses don't add more dice, at least - they just make the roll get a dice trick, which might sometimes be worse. Human interconnectedness strengthens the Lie and complicates it, you see, but also allows individual humans to survive it without being crushed.

When a Sleeper struggles with the non-choice reality offers, that creates internal conflict. This degrades not only their own soul and mind but also the Supernal symbols they experience. This is known as Dissonance, and it weakens magic. Dissonance affects more than just spells - it also weakens Supernal beings...and strengthens Abyssal ones. At the end of any scene in which a Sleeper witnessed obvious magic, they roll Integrity, Withstood by a spell's dots, a Supernal entity's Rank or a number set by the ST for other stuff. Multiple Sleepers use the highest Integrity and then apply a dice trick, as per Paradox. Dramatic failure means the magic is fine but the Sleeper(s) suffer a breaking point. Failure means the magic's fine. Success, after Withstanding, does the following:
  • Each success reduces one of a spell's factors by one step, primary factor last, to a minimum of the lowest possible level of each factor. If all factors hit minimum, any further success ends the spell entirely.
  • Supernal entities take (successes)L.
  • Demesnes are suppressed, ceasing to function until no Sleepers have been present for (successes) weeks.[/list
    Exceptonal success does that, but also:
    [list]
  • Spells lose one Reach.
  • Supernal entitites take agg damage instead.
  • Demesnes are destroyed, though the soul stones involved can be used to make a new one as normal.

The good news is, Legacy Attainments and Emanation Realms are immune to Dissonance. Abyssal beings are treated as Supernal for the roll, but they do not Withstand successes at all and, instead, any Dissonance heals them by (successes) and gives them (successes) Essence.

Sleepers cannot remember Abyssal or Supernal events after they happen. This is, perhaps, the only mercy of the Curse. Yes, it protects the Lie and prevents Awakenings...but the alternative would be constantly being confronted by their internal conflict, forever. It would break them. Forgetting or self-editing the memories involved prevents this mental collapse. Some mages believe this is actually not an inherent part of the Curse, but of the human mind finding way to survive it. In any case, in the scene directly after exposure to the Supernal or Abyssal, a Sleeper forgets what happened or changes it into something mundane. Any serious attempt to prod at those memories, question them or correct them with magic causes a new breaking point as if witnessing the event again, followed by the memory being removed again. Like Dissonance, this isn't just spells - Sleepers will also forget the interior of Time Before ruins, the presence of the Mad, Emanation Realms or seeing Abyssal or Supernal entities.

Sleepers occasionally form or join Mystery Cults, groups on the outskirts of magical society. This is useful to many mages, who often run these groups. Examples include:

The Guild, who do not meet publically. They're an online raid group, see, the best team in Battle Sword Online. They've never lost in PVP, and the game's level cap has been raised twice entirely because of them. For them, raiding is life. "Kyle" is the name used by the Libertine that runs the thing. Well, Libertines, plural. 'Kyle' is a face, and one that has been worn by a few different Libertines for RL meets. The study and manipulation of the Guild is half research, half internet experiment. Most of the Guild is high-functioning members of society, not basement-dwellers, and they are often placed well in creative and competitive fields. The Libertines manipulating them plan to use them as part of a longterm plan to do magic via the internet.

The Truthers of America Liberation Coalition are an astroturfed political group. Originally, they were directionless malcontents, until the Guardians found them. They still have no unified purpose - they just show up for protests under a number of political events. Their protests often have very little to do with whatever they're protesting - maybe they protest a Summer City Carnival in the name of anti-abortion activism, even when no abortion clinics are opening in the area. They show up at city hall to demand better senior options at a diner chain in town. The protests don't actually have a purpose. Rather, the Guardians of the Veil use them as a distraction from actual magical events. The entire point of the TALC is to disrupt and derail. They go to random places to recruit and keep up appearances, but the atual targets are events that might interfere with magical society, or potential mages that'd be dangerous to allow to Awaken if not distracted. They're mostly retirees, political extremists and displaced veterans from all parts of the political spectrum, as long as they're willing to be loud and distrating.

Sleep to Dream are a K-pop phenomenon, though they aren't all Korean. A cult is growing up around their music, and their message is: the real world sucks, dream instead. The fans mimic their crazy costumes - Jungian dream archetypes, mostly. Wet Dream is a fan favorite for his provocative costumes. In reality, one of the band Awakened a few years ago, and it went...poorly. She saw the Lie, but never achieved Wisdom. She is now a deeply, deeply broken person who wants only to sleep and never awaken, ever. She's working by instinct on magic that will put her and her fans into eternal slumber. And worse - her magic may be able to spread the Banisher affliction to other mages that hear her music. Most of the cult are teenagers and young adults that have noticed some fragment of the Lie but remain Asleep and afraid. The music comforts them as a way of pushing back against a hostile reality.0

After that, we get advice on how to play a Sleeper, plus some Sleeper-only merits:
  • Actively Oblivious (2 dots): By spending 1 Willpower during an incident that might cause a breaking point, you can actively ignore the event and not roll. This takes only concentration. You see nothing related to the Supernal and, should you do it, do not count as a witness to magic or cause Paradox risk, though you do create Dissonance and suffer Quiescence as normal. However, whenever you do this, you get the Strained condition.
  • Communal Sleeper (1 dot): Your self radiates beyond just you. You are a crowd of one, and when leading, guiding or otherwise protecting at least one other Sleeper, you make the Paradox pool dice trick one step worse than normal.
  • Detail Oriented (2 dots): Any time an Awakened or Sleepwalker character fails an Investigation or Perception roll, if you try it, you get exceptional success on 3 dice, not 5.
  • Liar (1 dot): Your existence strengthens the Lie. Your presence gives +2 Paradox dice, not 1, and you get +2 to Dissonance rolls. However, you always have the Open condition regarding Abyssal entities and get -1 to breaking point rolls caused by the Abyss.
  • Strained (2 dots): You must have Integrity 5 or less. When faced with a breaking point based on the Supernal or Abyssal, you may choose to not roll and just take the Strained condition instead.

Next time: Sleepwalking

Kavak
Aug 23, 2009




The Gith are metal as gently caress. I just wanted to say that.

What was up with 1st Edition's need for everything to be captured for study or spell components?

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Tieflings are fun if only because you can fluff them as all kinds of weird mutants and odd folk to add some planar flavor to a setting, rather than using them as oppressed minorities.

Kai Tave
Jul 2, 2012


Fallen Rib

Evil Mastermind posted:

Given how many times I've heard that Steve Jackson himself hates Munchkin, I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case.

Nothing's stopping Steve-o from going back to the crowdfunding well if he wants to make something that isn't another lovely vehicle for John Kovalic to keep drawing a paycheck. Seems to have worked out okay for Ogre unless there's some drama there I'm unaware of. I've heard the same thing, that he regrets SJG turning into "the Munchkin company," but it's not like he doesn't have the ability to try and break out of that.

kaynorr
Dec 31, 2003



Kai Tave posted:

Nothing's stopping Steve-o from going back to the crowdfunding well if he wants to make something that isn't another lovely vehicle for John Kovalic to keep drawing a paycheck. Seems to have worked out okay for Ogre unless there's some drama there I'm unaware of. I've heard the same thing, that he regrets SJG turning into "the Munchkin company," but it's not like he doesn't have the ability to try and break out of that.

More apropos for the TG Industry thread but whatever - I don't really see a way to wean SJGames off of Munchkin at this point. It brings in a majority of the revenue and subsidizes everything else they do. At this point fixing the underlying design of Munchkin just isn't happening, and it wouldn't really change matters at this point anyhow because the business problem isn't the design it's the fact that Munchkin drowns out every other voice on the balance sheet.

When Munchkin collapses someday, the chance that every other product which suddenly has room to breathe (in terms of creative & logistic attention) will take up the slack is almost zero. The death of Munchkin means that Steve is going to have to choose which of his other children, the ones he actually likes like Ogre and GURPS, is going to starve to death along with it.

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.


Unfortunately, good game design /= good business.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





What would make Munchkin hard to design for? Do they come up with meaningfully new rules? I thought it was just the same general poo poo with different themes and tags.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Evil Mastermind posted:

Given how many times I've heard that Steve Jackson himself hates Munchkin, I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case.

It is his iron lung.

That being said, yeah, crowdfunding could solve a lot of their problems for later releases. I'm still waiting to see that Steve Jackson is working on Car Wars. I have the shirt and everything.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012


Alien Rope Burn posted:

That being said, yeah, crowdfunding could solve a lot of their problems for later releases. I'm still waiting to see that Steve Jackson is working on Car Wars. I have the shirt and everything.
They've been doing short fiction pieces in the Autoduel/Car Wars universe (usually kind of stale, save for one that's literally just two old autoduelists being all :bahgawd: about new mutant autoduelists with their fox ears and their octopus tentacles, I tell ya what) with the notation "the next edition of Car Wars is coming!" at the end of every issue of Pyramid magazine for a decent number of months now, so that seems to indicate it's definitely moving somewhere forward.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Mage: the Awakening, 2nd Edition

The Lie imperfect. It must be, by nature. Its Curse is insidious but not flawless, and entropy weakens it. Thus, some people manage to escape the Sleeping Curse without Awakening. These are Sleepwalkes. They do not suffer the Curse, but they do not see through the Lie as the Awakened do, either. Sleepwalkers do not increase Paradox, cause Dissonance or suffer Quiescence. Some Sleepwalkers just don't suffer the Curse, while others have unique powers or innate abilities that set them apart from normal people. Possibly they have ties to the Supernal that even mages do not understand. Perhaps they draw on some other power source that shields them from the Lie. Maybe they're just weird.

There's a lot of people out there that count as Sleepwalkers, though they may never run into the Supernal or Abyss. Any character with Integrity and at least one Supernatural merit reflecting internal talent or inherent ability counts as a Sleepwalker. Owning a cursed camera? No. Being able to telepathically mimic a serial killer's mindset to better catch them? That pushes back the Lie. Drinking vampire blood? No. Developing mystical powers from the ghoul bond, though? Yes. Being wolf-blooded? Sure.

It's possible to force a Sleeper to become a Sleepwalker with the spell Stealing Fire, but it's a brutal experience and is always considered obvious magic for causing breaking points. Even if it works, it has to get past the Paradox from before the Sleeper becomes a Sleepwalker. And when the spell ends, Quiescence descends anyway. Beyond this method, mages have no reliable means of creating Sleepwalkers any more than they have a reliable means of Awakening others. Any of the means described before to try and force an Awakening might work. There's a theory that being blood related to a mage makes Sleepwalking more likely but it's unprovable if so - the influence must be very subtle. Certainly power has nothing to do with it. Sleepwalkers with skill and cunning often have no trouble fitting in with mage society if they learn it exists. They're useful - they can do things you have no time for and no skill at. It's unlikely that they'll hold major rank, sure, but that's not to say they'll never hold any - many positions of great respect and some authority have been filled by Sleepwalkers, even if some Awakened sneer at the practice.

Some mages believe that a Sleepwalker exposed to Awakened magic or society is less likely to full Awaken then mere Sleepers. The logic is that regular exposure means they're less likely to have a moment of sudden Gnostic revelation. There's no solid proof or way to study it, so it's just a traditional assumption - albeit one that is challenged occasionally. (The book says that if someone wants to play a Sleepwalker who Awakens, let them.)

Now, technically, anyone with a sympathetic tie to a mage can carry spells for them, and the Diamond hold that this ability was often used in the Time Before. Dissonance, however, means that in practical terms only Sleepwalkers can do it, and even trying to do it with a Sleeper is a crime in most Consilia. It's pretty simple, though - you can place a spell in the keeping of a Sleepwalker if you are connected to them and they understand and agree to it. The first part means that they need at least a Medium sympathetic connection to you to hold one spell, or a Strong one to hold two. These spells no longer count towards your spell control limit, but remain under your command and can be relinquished or canceled as normal. The Sleepwalker has no command over the spell, despite holding it.

The trick is the second part. Attempts to hang spells on the unwitting never works. Ever. Telling the Sleepwalker what's going on works. You don't have to explain all of it - it's often easier to explain in terms of traditional religious practices, supertech or philosophy so long as you get across the basic truth of 'I am using you to make me stronger' or 'I will use you to keep me safe.' From there, the Sleepwalker must agree of their own free will. Often a bargain is involved, but magical coercion cannot be used. It causes the spell in question to fail automatically. Some older and more studious Sleepwalkers of the Mysterium believe that this harkens back to ancient covenants between the Awakened and the Sleeping, and also believe that other such covenants also exist, still unexplored.

Placing spells in a sleepwalker's care is a double-edged sword for everyone involved. Carrying a mage's magical working makes you a target of their enemies, both to end the spells and use the sympathetic tie you have to them. This part, mages don't actually have to inform Sleepwalkers about before they agree, and some don't, because they're jerks. We get some advice on character types for Sleepwalkes, and new merits!

  • Banner-Bearer (1-3 dots): Sleepwalkers only. For each dot, you can carry an additional spell for a mage.
  • Deadpan (3 dots): Sleepwalkers only. You are immune to fear and revulsion, and automatically Withstand any spells that'd impose either No effect can make you feel those things - Mind can't scare you, Life can't turn your stomach, nothing so long as the fear is external. However, you remain vulnerable to fears that prey on Conditons or your Vice, but for those treat your Composure as 2 higher than it is.
  • Fitful Slumber (1 dot): You must have suffered at least three breaking points due to Supernal or Abyssal exposure. You are now a Sleepwalker even if you weren't before, and you get +2 to resist any breaking points caused by Abyssal or Supernal events or phenomena.
  • Loved (3 dots): Sleepwalkers only. Something or someone loves you with a force deep enough to fight magic. So long as the person or thing that loves you deeply continues to exist, nothing and no one else can have a Strong sympathetic tie to you, though you can have a Strong tie to other things. Further, if you are suffering wound penalties or are below half your max Willpower, the person or thing that loves you knows about it.
  • Proxy Voice (1-3 dots): Sleepwalkers only, requires Mentor 1+. You often act as your mentor's proxy in Awakened society, and may use one of their given Status merits when empowered to do so.
  • Relic Attuned (3 dots): Sleepwalkers only. You can use Artifacts, but it costs 1 Willpower per use. You may roll th Artifact's dice or your Willpower, whichever you prefer.
  • Ritual Martyr (2 dots): Sleepwalkers only. Uou can take on Paradox Conditions in place of the caster. You must be present for the casting, and the Paradox Condition must be one that could affect you - so nothing related to, say, the Nimbus. You get any Beats as well as the downsides, converting any Arcane Beats into normal Beats. For as long as you have the Paradox Condition, the mage involved has the Humbled Condition towards you. You keep the Paradox Condition until they resolve that or you choose to release them, whichever comes first.
  • Ritual Savvy (2 dotS): Sleepwalkers only, Occult 2+ required. You may establish a ritual space, rolling an appropriate pool for however you do it. Each success you get is a bonus die you can give to a mage involved in the ritual. They must spend 1 Willpower, and each mage can only get one die. This does not count against the Yantra limit by Gnosis.
  • Sleepwalker (1 dot): Integrity score required. You are a Sleepwalker despite having no other supernatural powers. (This is not needed if you have any supernatural merits involving internal power or any form of supernatural template.)
  • Slippery (2 dots): Sleepwalkers only. You may spend a Willpower to cause any Awakened to accuse someone else that could be a possible culprit for something before they accuse you.

Next time: Proximi

SirPhoebos
Dec 10, 2007

Horned Rat-Sempai Noticed Me! :swoon:




Planescape Monstrous Companion: Hordlings, Mediators, Einheriar and Bebilith

Hey, DMs! Are you tired of having monsters with defined appearances, stats, number of attacks and special abilities? Have felt that your Random Encounter tables weren’t random enough? Ever set up an encounter and thought you needed way, way more to keep track of?

If you said yes, then TSR has the monster for you: the Hordlings! (xp varies). They’ll even toss in two nice men in white coats to take care of you, because you are certifiable!



That’s supposed to be the pic of Hordlings in this book, but you wouldn’t realize it because they aren’t on the page for the Hordlings entry. If the drawing looks like a random collection of fiends, well that’s exactly what Hordlings are! :downs:

Hordlings are native to the Grey Wastes and make up the majority of the population there. They are technically fiends, but they are hardly mentioned in future Planescape material. I’m not even sure they were even included in 3rd edition. No two Hordlings look the same, so to simulate this, a DM is told to roll twenty-three to twenty-five times on random charts to determine its appearance and combat abilities!

:psyboom:

Just...what DM would ever bother with this? This had to be a holdover from 1st Edition. I mean maybe this would be useful if it was presented as a build-your-own fiend race. Unfortunately the highest intelligence Hordlings can have is 10, so the only use they have is for big dumb hordes. And to make things worse, have some poor editing!

Habitat/Society posted:

there are an infinite number of hordlings on the infinite layers of the Abyss. They have no purpose or organization.
Emphasis mine :cripes:

The entry says that mages sometimes summon a Hordlings, because the only thing better than summoning a fiend that wants to murder you and/or steal your soul is one whose capabilities are a complete crapshoot. The entry describes a magic device called The Bringer of Doom that can summon hundreds of Hordlings at once. Using it destroys everything in a 100 foot radius including the user, so we’re off to a great start already. There’s a story of an idiot mage using the device, with the results you would expect.



Hordlings are the dumbest thing in this MC, although not the most bullshit thing. That title belongs to Mediators. Mediators are proxies of Neutral Powers. The Mechanus Mediator (no xp) maintain the perfect balance of Mechanus. There are only three of them, but imo just one is too many. They have an unlimited Wish spell which they can only use to maintain the balance of Mechanus. So if they come across a battle, “the mediators can destroy combatants until the sides are equal or even telekinetically stop the battle.” There’s no way to destroy a Mechanus Mediator, since it’ll just use Wish to save itself. Specifically, “Without conscious effort mediators can affect any attacker, no matter where or in what manner the attack is launched. The attacker immediately undergoes an alignment shift to absolute neutral and, therefore, ceases its attack.”

So you know how Planescape is supposed to be about altering reality through the power of belief? Yeeeahh, with this fucker I guess players can forget about doing any of that on Mechanus. Luckily the writers decide to ignore the existence of DM fiat: the Monster, otherwise cool adventures like The Great Modron March would have never happened.

[couldn’t find pic-it’s just a ball]

There is a somewhat less-B.S. variety of Mediator, the Translator Mediator (1400 xp). Translators are the the messengers of the Neutral Powers (and occasionally other powers). They even pulse a yellow light when they have a message. They only fight if attacked, and use a beam that misses only on a hit roll of 1 and stuns a target for 1d12-3 rounds (if 0 or less, the target isn't stunned). Not only are victims stunned, if they are spellcasters they lose all their memorized spells. The next part, I’m going to quote:

Combat posted:

The gods of the Upper Planes take special care of the translators. These beings carry the plans and will of the gods from plane to plane. Therefore, if a translator is attacked while delivering a message, the sending deity always becomes aware of this and sends aid. In such an instance, roll d100. If the result is 99 or less, the deity sends an aasimon servant to help. If the result is 00, roll again. If the second roll is 99 or less, the deity sends ld6+1 aasimon servants. If the result is 00, the deity itself appears. Aid of this type arrives in 1d10 rounds after the translator is attacked.
So let’s break this down. We have a floating orb that, as rules written, is indistinguishable from any other, but when pulsing is carrying a message from an unspecified power, because the best way to communicate with their worshippers or other Powers is via a talking ball. Destroying one of these things rewards 1400 xp, but attacking one summons a servant of the sender that’s valued at at least 13000 xp. There’s a 1-in-a-hundred chance that several of these servants show up, and there’s a 1-in-ten-thousand chance that the Power itself appears. But this only applies to Powers that live in the Upper Planes, because Powers that live in Limbo, Mechanus, The Outlands or the Lower Planes are not bothered when their plans or messages get intercepted.

I...I have no words...


Not the Einheriar pic from the book, but an Aasimar, so close enough finally found the picture in a totally unrelated search. Go figure

And thankfully, that’s the worst this book has to offer, so the rest is uphill. For example, Einheriar (xp varies) Strictly speaking, Einheriar specifically refer to the dead of Asgard, but over time the term came to mean any humanoid spirit serving the Powers of the Upper Planes as servants or warriors. We get an excerpt from a Norse Saga of how a party of fantasy vikings are saved from being curb-stomped by frost giants by a company of Einheriar. After the battle is won the Einheriar return to the heavens, their numbers greater than when they first appeared.

:black101::denmark::black101::finland::black101::iceland::black101::norway::black101::sweden::black101:

Einheriar form loose companies that make up the armies of the Upper Planes powers. Individuals have the same class and level they had in life. They get the maximum number of hp for their level, and are equipped with the best arms and armor appropriate to their power. “For instance, einheriar in service to the Great Spirit of the American Indian mythology would not wear plate mail and carry two-handed swords.” :ughh: Einheriar have a 3% chance per level of possessing a mundane magical item. That seems kinda low, but maybe the Powers specifically reward Einheriar-status to PCs playing with stingy DMs. Defensively, Einheriar receive a 5% spell resistance.

Einheriar don’t have agendas of their own, being wholly devoted to the concerns of their Power. They respect Aasimon and Archons (Archons don’t get introduced until a later supplement) but they act independently of them, taking on lesser missions



I feel like I need one more write-up to recover from reading and then writing about Mediators, so here are Bebiliths (13000 xp). Bebilith live in the Abyss where hunt Tanar’ri, which is pretty hardcore if you ask me. Like a lot of entries, this one has a short story at the beginning. What I like the most about these is that they do a lot to sell the cosmopolitan nature of Planescape because of the huge variety of names the characters have. In this example, the alchemist Brahmadatta of Ind is trying to make a magic net capable of holding any being. Because this is 2nd Edition, his project required killing magical beings for their organs, in this case a Bebilith’s spinnerets. The story explores logical consequences of this methodology, as Brahmadatta is killed by Bebiliths and his workshop wrecked.

When a Bebilith hits with her forelegs, It has a chance to ruin the target’s shield or armor (40% chance, -10% for each magic bonus). Bebilith have a potent poison bite-Poison Save at -2 or die in 1d4 rounds. If the body isn’t blessed after one turn, it bursts into flames and disintegrates. 4 times a day, Bebilith can create a web (same as Web spell, but permanent and fire will only burn on a 25% chance per round of contact.) Bebilith can Planeshift, and even have the option to pull an opponent with it (Wand Save to resist).

According to some accounts, Bebilith don’t just hunt Tanar’ri, but actively punish them for unfathomable reasons. While there are certainly creatures in The Abyss that could destroy a Bebilith with ease, nothing ever does. Adventurers can even take advantage of their special status by hiding in a Bebilith’s lair. Of course this usually just trades one problem for another. Some have tried illusions of a Bebilith but with mixed results (read: up to your DM).

And just in case you still want to get ahold of their spinnerets, the rules are provided. :unsmigghh:

Next Time: Everything Else

SirPhoebos fucked around with this message at 18:42 on May 23, 2016

Kavak
Aug 23, 2009




Hordelings sound like fun to roll up but an absolute nightmare to use.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




It's been a long, long time since my last update, so links to previous chapters are here.




Chapter 7: Pillars of the Universe

Dune does something I rarely see in a game: it has two separate chapters on gamemastering. The last chapter, called “A Voice from the Outer World” was full of advice on how to run a session in the moment--describing scenes, when to use or ignore the dice, that kind of thing. This chapter, however, is about how to structure the campaign, with sections on implementing theme, characterizing NPCs, and writing scenarios.

The chapter opens with a section on theme--overarching themes, which it calls “pillars of the Dune universe,” and more narrow, specific themes that can inspire plots for a story. This section is the reason this chapter took an absurdly long time to review. It’s not long, but it’s dense, and section on theme in particular had me ruminating upon the themes of Dune and how they can be implemented in the roleplaying medium. The authors obviously have an excellent grasp of Dune and its themes, even if the specific examples they provide for incorporating them into an adventure are hit-or-miss.

Epic Drama: Simply put, everything that matters in the setting is huge and ancient. The Spacing Guild, for example, has been around for thousands of years and spans galactic civilization, and you see that manifested in the form of ships which are big enough to hold two cities (with enough space between them that they’d never know the other was there). The PCs aren’t space truckers roaming around somewhere in this setting--they’re part of the elite ruling class, playing for the highest possible stakes.

Human Conditioning: Many of Frank Herbert’s books deal with directed human evolution. (The Dosadi Experiment is a prominent example.) In Dune, humans are trained from birth, by organizations that have perfected their methods over millennia, to be superhuman by our standards. Following up on the advice from the last chapter, the authors encourage you to apply this to your games by embracing the characters being incredible polymath badasses. Mentats are smarter than computers, and Swordmasters are both generals and master martial artists like ancient epic heroes.

Preservation & Evolution: The institutions of the Imperium have remained more or less stable for tens of thousands of years, but the system creates prodigious individuals with grand ambitions, and even the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood itself has a long-term plan that would upset the whole system in their favour. Dune games aren’t meant to be a series of adventures with the backdrop of a status quo that never changes--it should be expected that the fall of Great Houses, the rise of illicit technology, all-consuming wars of religion, etc. should play a role in your campaign.

Karama & Jiaz (Miracle and Prophecy): This one is a little trickier, and concerned with the phenomenon of prescience in the Dune universe. If one can see the future, is free will an illusion? Do prescients only see possible futures? Is prophecy affected by the prophet’s biases? Does glimpsing a possible future doom you to follow that particular path?

The book provides an example: You could invent a great historical catastrophe, then run a campaign where the PCs are presented with developing events that mirror the catastrophe, raising the issue of history repeating itself. While I think this could work if you’re ready to do a campaign that mirrors, say, the Butlerian Jihad and changes the setting as much as Paul’s jihad, it still strikes me as contrived. I think it’s easier and better to do a campaign that explores the political impact of religious prophecy and mysticism, with prescience serving to give the prophecy undeniable substance.

Plans Within Plans: Everyone in the Dune universe has a scheme going, and it’s never obvious. The PCs shouldn’t be presented with tasks that are as simple as “go to a place and retrieve a thing” or “go fight these bad guys.” The closure they get at the end of each session should raise questions about what to investigate next. The game does a good job presenting this theme: even in the example of combat from the rules chapter, the Mentat PC determines that the attack is a feint to distract them from a frontal assault elsewhere.


Your face-dancer belongs to Noxzema.

After covering the “pillars,” the chapter covers more specific themes, or topics. To paraphrase the book, if pillars describe what the Dune universe is about, topics describe what a particular Dune story is about. This is where we get to that “hit and miss” part I mentioned--while I agree that all the topics listed show an admirable grasp of the setting, some of the suggested ways to introduce them to a story are just so-so. Specifically, I find that the examples given along with a description of the topic are often weaker than the ones succinctly listed in a sidebar on the following page.

Preservation of Key Bloodlines: The Imperium is a feudal, caste-based society, even if the fiefdoms encompass entire planets. The nobility are fighting for the survival of not only their genes but their way of life. The Bene Gesserit manipulate the system to serve their own ideology.

The game says that this is the easiest topic to incorporate because, as elite members of a House, the characters are dealing with threats not only to their own lives but to their entire House and the society it represents, and can be explored in stories including everything from House vendettas to political upheavals to natural disasters. While this is true, I feel that it doesn’t fully address the element introduced by the Bene Gesserit. To put it bluntly, the BG breed people like livestock. Among the nobles they largely control who mates with whom, the sex of their children, and thus if they have male heirs. Arranging political marriages is as old as politics, but the Sisterhood is in fact principally concerned with genetics. That’s a very powerful and disturbing theme that goes beyond Machiavellian backstabbing.

Science of Tradition: This one’s relatively straightforward, concerned with what happens when one of the venerable traditions of the Imperium is challenged, or one of the power groups tries to exploit it for their own benefit. The caste system, the bans on technology, even the Great Convention itself.

Moral Incertitude: While Dune has obvious good guys and bad guys (or at least bad guys) it doesn’t really deal in simple good vs. evil narratives. Due in large part to how planetary feudalism works, the Great Houses have free rein to develop radically different ideologies on their home planets. The Atreides value integrity and noblesse oblige while the Harkonnen see themselves as apex predators who have the right to abuse and degrade everyone beneath them. Meanwhile, corporate entities like the Guild and Bene Gesserit have their own ideologies which supposedly promote the common good, but don’t respect individual rights or dignity.

The relevant blurb suggests that you can demonstrate this theme by contrasting, for example, an Atreides and Harkonnen character, which I find pretty weak. Examples from the sidebar include forced relocation, the fall of a demagogue, and labor strikes--immediately political topics that are much more interesting.

Taming of Worlds: Houses in charge of a world have to “learn the language of the planet,” both its ecology and its culture. Although the nobility develop their own ideologies, they’re usually removed from their populaces and united by a cosmopolitan, courtly culture. Failing to understand the worlds they rule is a recipe for a repeat of every colonialist fiasco in history. The game suggests that, rather than something as monumental as the change of fief on Arrakis, you can explore this theme in any story where the PCs’ House is given control of a region, an industry, or another planet, and has to physically explore the territory or overcome a rift in understanding between them and the common people.

(In previous chapters, I complained that the model for the PCs’ House Minor assumed they would just be controlling a region ranging in size from a city district to a continent, but not a whole world. Now we know that the PCs can indeed be given fiefdom over a planet, but I wonder if that makes their Fief stat pointless.)

Messianic Prophecy: The official religion of the Imperium is “Orange Catholicism,” but in practice, the ruling class are agnostic and adhere to the Great Conventions as a secular religion. But the lower castes follow any of a bewildering variety of religions, most of them esoteric hybrids of the ones we know. The books make reference to “Buddislam,” “Mahayana Christianity,” and most importantly, the “Zensunni” that is the basis of Fremen religion. Also, the Bene Gesserit have infiltrated many religions to “seed” them with myths of, among other things, prophesied messiahs and wise-women with mystical powers, in order to better manipulate them.

The thing is, none of those religions get a long extended discussion of their theology in either the original books or in this game, and that’s okay. The game is mainly concerned with how religion and superstition impact society. The PCs might find that their subjects project religious roles onto them, positive or negative, and they will have to deal with the consequences of adopting that mantle or rejecting it, as Paul Atreides did. Suggested story concepts include a prophet inciting religious war, the arrest of a religious leader causing riots, and the discovery of ancient texts prophesying an apocalypse.


Your Majesty, it’s very cold in here. Your penis candle just isn’t warm enough to heat the entire throne room.

The Supporting Cast

Dune reiterates that the PCs are the stars of the story, and everyone else, from nameless slaves to the Emperor himself, are all the Supporting Cast. This is where the game’s core philosophy of gamemastering comes into play, and it’s a good one. To sum it up: Everything in your game, particularly scenes and NPCs, should have a specific purpose. If you know the purpose of everything, you can describe it with some flair, get to the point, and know when to wrap up and move on.

First, decide what the character exists to do in the story, whether you intend for them to be a recurring antagonist or source of information or just a disposable messenger or thug. You don’t have to write a detailed biography, but you should give them a goal and a motive, however simple. It’s suggested that you give them a name along with a brief description that sums up their role and personality, like “talented and pompous Swordmaster” or “Loyal and subtle Mentat.” You can swap these traits around to get vastly different characters.

It’s suggested that you only give NPCs the stats you actually expect them to use, devoting the time saved to detailing their appearance background in proportion to how much screen time you expect them to have. Regardless, we’re told it never hurts to at least name characters in order to humanize them, no matter how minor they are. There’s more impact in a NPC lieutenant reporting “Sir, the Harkonnens attacked. They killed Murad and Hamza,” instead of “We lost 2 soldiers to a Harkonnen raid.”

Lastly, Dune wants you to tie the Supporting Cast into the story by emphasizing what it labels “the out-freyn (casteless) and unfamiliar” and “common origins.” While I’ve gone on at length about the Houses shape their fiefdoms in their own image while being part of a courtly, secular galactic society, there are some universalities among the common people, too. And it’s the little differences that often stand out, or turn out to be not so small after all. Wherever the PCs go, there is a universal language (Galach), the faufreluches caste system, the laws of the Great Convention, CHOAM’s economic bureaucracy, and representatives of the Guild, the Bene Gesserit, the Mentat and Suk schools, and so on. You can set the scene with differences in accent, fashion, and cuisine while also finding parallels between the worldviews of groups as different as the Fremen and the Sardaukar.


Disney lost millions on their “Magic Ziggurat” resort.

This is a good opportunity to go on a rant about what I see as a vital key to Dune’s overall themes. I say this as a fan of the series, not as a critic of this game--I don’t think it’s something obvious the authors missed or failed to grasp, just my own analysis.

To me, the throughline of Dune’s themes, and a useful lens through which to view its principal characters, is that culture is a survival mechanism. Our cultural differences are differences in how we adapt to our environment. Colonizing a foreign country is like introducing strange species to a different ecosystem--both the native and non-native species must adapt to survive the abrupt change in the environment.

The frighteningly evolved, capable, and Machiavellian main characters in the Dune series experience love, lust, greed, pride, and religious ecstasy like other people, but they have an alienating degree of sober awareness about the purpose and impact of their own attitudes. This raises disturbing questions about the deliberateness of their actions--for example, elite classes throughout history have often asserted that they are superior to the commoners by dint of genetics and education, and carefully controlled who marries who. But talking about controlling the breeding of people to produce desired traits is something else. So is engineering a religion in order to produce desired social consequences decades or centuries down the line--can you sincerely believe in a religion while manipulating and exploiting it towards a practical end?

And expanding on what I said above, Dune is very concerned with what happens when our ideology doesn’t serve us in an unfamiliar environment. The story of the first novel is a great example: The Bene Gesserit are obsessed with genetic purity, but they dismissed the Fremen as superstitious primitives. The Harkonnen are obsessed with profit and exploitation, but dismiss the Fremen as desert trash. The Emperor is obsessed with his military supremacy, but never suspected that the Fremen are better fighters than his elite commandos. The Guild is obsessed with spice, but cut secret deals with the Fremen for spice instead of investigating its source. This is an important point to understand if you’re going to try to play a game in the Dune setting: Even these ancient societies of superhuman geniuses make mistakes when their ideology blinds them to possibilities that don’t fit their worldview. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming the Imperium is too rigid and too powerful for the PCs to change it.


Nite Brite, Nite Brite, make a face to glow at night. Bilal kaifa.

Creating a Story

Although Dune is full of advice about crafting campaigns and individual scenes, it doesn’t prescribe exactly how many scenes should fit into a session or how many sessions should comprise a campaign. It prefers to discuss things in terms of “adventures” and “stories” and leave that up to you. So if the details going forward seem vague, that’s why.

First, the game is concerned with Homeworld vs. Off-World adventures. Homeworld adventures, set on the PCs’ home planet in and around the fief of their House Minor, serve to ground them in the setting and introduce many central themes of the game. Off-world adventures are opportunities to change the scenery, present different themes, and perhaps allow the PCs to confront some of the major power brokers like the Guild or BG in ways that wouldn’t normally happen in a House Minor’s domain. But a whole series of off-world adventures leads to the PCs just feeling like adventurers or “space truckers” like they would in many other sci-fi games. PCs wandering from planet to planet on miscellaneous adventures also don’t participate in House Ventures (which are covered in the next chapter) or aren’t around to see their impact.

Dune suggests that story creation should start with choosing one of the central themes discussed earlier, then creating a central conflict. If you’re at a loss for a plot framework, it suggests you borrow one from history, mythology, or Shakespeare.

When advising us on creating scenes, Dune hammers on the principle that you should have a clear idea of the scene’s purpose. That guides you in setting the scene properly (describing environments and such) and knowing when to wrap up and move on to the next scene. Character interaction is good, but if the scene has served its purpose, wrap it up. We’re told that handling scenes this way will, over time, teach players that each scene is a set of opportunities.

Dune instructs you to script the overall story according to the classic Three Act Model, including scenes that contain the setup, the turn, the midpoint, the second turn, a climax, and epilogue scenes. And while the advice for setting these up and executing them is good, this is the point where I find Dune’s GMing philosophy too scripted for my taste.

Continuing from the previous chapter, the example story goes like this: The PCs are trying to find a Moritani assassin. An artist in the capital reveals that the assassin has retired to a quiet life as a craftsman in a forest village of woodcarvers. When they find him, they’re suddenly attacked by Sardaukar! After making their escape, they later learn that the assassin played an important role in the Moritani-Ginaz war that wiped out the latter house. The PCs now have a moral imperative to safely escort the assassin to a Landsraad council, where his testimony will reveal that the Emperor had a hand in the affair, which is why the Sardaukar are after them.

But what if the assassin dies in the initial assault, and the PCs have to obtain the needed information some other way? What if they’d rather cut a deal with the Emperor to conceal the scandal? What if they fail to elude or fight off the Sardaukar? The model seems fairly linear, and doesn’t provide much wiggle room for the PCs to “fail forward” in way that’s interesting (and not totally obvious). Granted, this particular example assumes the PCs have been given a good reason to find the assassin in the first place, but it makes too many assumptions for my liking. I’m not the kind of GM who thinks that he can never fudge a die roll, or that PCs going monkey cheese crazy has to be accommodated, but I like to give them enough room to make big decisions that are logical to them, but not obvious to me, without being caught floundering.

Next is advice on crafting the campaign, or chronicle, as a whole. Episodic chronicles are exactly that, and a series of story arcs done this way can be said to comprise a “book.” This kind of chronicle allows you to complete a story arc and then move onto a different theme, present a different antagonist or central conflict, while remaining part of the same overall story. From time to time, a game session that explores a tangent can set up future story arcs.

The other model discussed is the “Epic Chronicle.” The main difference between the two is just one of attitude and vision: an episodic chronicle can chart the history of the PCs House Minor, perhaps as they take it from obscurity to greatness. Epic chronicles are more concerned with theme than with history, and every story arc needs to have an eye on that central theme. An episodic chronicle can be a picaresque, whereas an epic chronicle definitely cannot.



Mark Hamill was never the same after his drum majoring accident.


Next time, on Dune: Rules for advancing your character...and your House!

Kai Tave
Jul 2, 2012


Fallen Rib

kaynorr posted:

More apropos for the TG Industry thread but whatever - I don't really see a way to wean SJGames off of Munchkin at this point. It brings in a majority of the revenue and subsidizes everything else they do. At this point fixing the underlying design of Munchkin just isn't happening, and it wouldn't really change matters at this point anyhow because the business problem isn't the design it's the fact that Munchkin drowns out every other voice on the balance sheet.

When Munchkin collapses someday, the chance that every other product which suddenly has room to breathe (in terms of creative & logistic attention) will take up the slack is almost zero. The death of Munchkin means that Steve is going to have to choose which of his other children, the ones he actually likes like Ogre and GURPS, is going to starve to death along with it.

There's no need to wean them off it though. Steve Jackson could use Kickstarter to fund boutique projects the same way Onyx Path does with fancy 20th Anniversary books and still use Munchkin to pay his day-to-day bills.

SirPhoebos
Dec 10, 2007

Horned Rat-Sempai Noticed Me! :swoon:


Quote is not edit

SirPhoebos
Dec 10, 2007

Horned Rat-Sempai Noticed Me! :swoon:


Kavak posted:

Hordelings sound like fun to roll up but an absolute nightmare to use.

Actually, that's not a bad idea.



Planescape Monstrous Companion:Let's make a Hordling!

Before I begin, I need a name for my Fiend. Since he gave me the idea, in the tradition of L5R I'm naming this monster Oni-no-Buckley

I start by rolling the basic stats for Buckley-AC, base movement rate, hit dice, magic resistance, and size. I roll a d4 five times. My results are 1, 2, 1, 3 and 1. This translates to AC 3, movement 9, HD 6+3 (or 6d8+3), 15% MR, and size S. Our THAC0 is a function of HD, in this case 15. Not a great start for Buckley.

Next I roll for how many limbs Buckley has and what kind of arms are they. I roll a d6 four times. For the arms, I roll a 6-which translates to four arms-and 1-the arms are multi-jointed. On the legs, I get 4-two legs, and 6-telescoping, which adds 50% to the height. 4 arms gives Buckley at least 4 attacks a round, so at least he gets lots of attacks.

Detailing out our limbs as well as other possible extremities, we roll the d6 another four times. The results are 1, 6, 2, and 1. 1 for hands mean they are long, thick-fingered. This has the annotation (g) which is the type of attack that extremity can perform. The 6 for the legs means they are webbed, which means we can swim at our land speed. The 2 for back means it's hunched, so that gives nada (rolling a 5 or 6 indicates wings). Finally the 1 for tail means Buckley gets a prehensile tail. It doesn't have an innate attack, but it can use a weapon.

All Hordlings get a strength bonus. For Buckley, I roll a 3 on a d6, which is a strength of 18/50, or +1 to hit and +3 to damage. I make two d6 rolls for the mouth. The first role is 3, meaning the mouth is Large, and the second roll is 1, indicating protruding tusks (a).

Now we consult the attack table. Our prior rolls gave us (a) and (g). (a) is a tusk attack. Because Buckley has a large mouth, our tusks do 2d4 damage. Mouth attacks don't benefit from strength bonuses. The (g) tells us we punch with our four fists. Each attack is 1d4 plus strength (so 1d4+3 in Buckley's case). In addition, if Buckley hits an enemy twice in a round, it strangles for 2d4+3. I'm guessing that this is an automatic hit and the victim needs to make a strength check to escape, but this doesn't get spelled out.

Our last bit of crunch is to see if Buckley has any special attacks or special defenses. Hordlings have a 10% chance for S.A. and 20% chance for S.D. On a d10, I roll a 0 and 7. But that's no fun so let's give Buckley a break. I roll the d6 twice. For attacks, I roll 3. This gives us a trip attack (as the spell Trip, which I didn't know was a thing). And for defense, my roll is 2, making Buckley immune to fire and acid. Like all Hordlings, Buckley gets 120' infravision.

With all the crunch determined we make our finishing touches. I roll the d6 seven more times: 2, 2, 1, 6, 4, 1 and 2. Two for color is russet-red. Two for head means conical. One on head adornment is bald-but I decide reroll that to 3, or frills. The six for neck indicates that none is apparent. The four on nose means it's long and pointed. The ears are a one, indicating they're long and pointed. And the final two tells us Buckley's overall visage is glaring and menacing.

Bringing all of this together, Buckley is a short but menacing fiend with 4 multi-jointed arms and thick-fingered hands and 2 telescoping legs with webbed feet and a long prehensile tail. It has a hunched back and no neck, making it's frilled, conical head appear to just appear out of its torso. It's long, pointed nose and ears contrasts with it's large mouth and tusks.
  • No. Appearing: 1
  • Armor Class: 3
  • Movement: 9, swimming 9
  • Hit Dice: 6+3
  • THAC0: 14
  • No. of Attacks: 6
  • Damage/Attack: 2d4/1d4+3/1d4+3/1d4+3/1d4+3/1d4+3/weapon+3
  • Special Attacks: Strangle, Trip
  • Special Defense: Immune to Fire and Acid
  • Magic Resistance: 15%
  • Size: S
  • Morale: Unsteady (5-7)
  • Experience: I'm sure I could figure it out, but :effort:

So...any artgoons want to sketch up our monster?

EDIT

Thuryl posted:

I can't draw to save my life but I felt like doing this anyway



potatocubed posted:

I am also a poor excuse for an artist, but I couldn't resist.



EDIT 2: I counted, and it took 27 rolls to make our monster (plus one reroll). The Hordling entry suggests up to six of them for an encounter. :shepicide:

EDIT 3

Tasoth posted:

I've been drawing monsters for the past five months as a personal project. I could not pass up drawing a hordeling.



EDIT 4

U.T. Raptor posted:

I'm a lovely artist, but I do know how to use the Spore creature creator:

SirPhoebos fucked around with this message at 14:58 on May 23, 2016

Kavak
Aug 23, 2009




I don't know if it's the lack of sleep and espresso, but I want to make an autoroller to generate hordelings. Take out the busywork and use them on Roll20 or something and they could almost be fun.

Robindaybird
Aug 21, 2007

Neat. Sweet. Petite.



Nowadays, those kinds of critter creation tables wouldn't be so bad with the advent of autorollers and scripts one could throw together.

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012



Break Time 1: Amelia Earhart and Flying Orcs
You might recall that in the last update, I noted that I might look at at least one of the supplementary materials to GURPS Banestorm. I decided that before we head to the next set of nations, I'd give everyone a little break from nations and indeed hammer out a brief post about that supplement: "Whatever Happened To...?", a Pyramid magazine article by Andy Vetromile. Its entire premise is taking some people who famous disappeared without a trace and giving the explanation of "a Banestorm did it". Each entry is broken up into sections on playing around with these characters when they are still alive or after they have died off but left a legacy, and since there's no actual dates on the Banestorm timeline I'm going to be assuming that the legacy sections are the "here and now" of 2010 (not 2005, since the Pyramid issue was written five years after GURPS Banestorm, and the setting totally coincidentally happens to stick closely to its sources' publication dates) for the sake of simplicity.


Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan
On July 2, 1937, famed pilot Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan were caught in a small freak Banestorm that ripped their plane to shreds and threw them straight into the great mountains of Zarak. Miraculously, not only did they survive, but much of the meat of their plane did as well, the sight of which awed the tribal people dwelling in the mountain tarn they landed on. The hill folk were a collection of downtrodden exiles from human, dwarf, elf, and orc cultures, but under Earhart and Noonan they forged an actual identity as "the people of the Air Hart". The pilot taught the tribe how to create ziplines and primitive glider planes to master the rocky crags and vast chasms of their land. Even after her passing, the Air Hart tribe continue to build their gliders and consider themselves now a proud people separate from those nations that abandoned them to the wilderness, though they haven't become strong enough to not fear the potential reprisal were the wizards' councils of the lower nations to come in hopes of destroying their fantastical flying machines. Air Harts are willing to trade with anyone who actually manages to believe the legends of sky people in far Zarak, reach their inhospitable territory alive, and show them respect.


The Escapees From Alcatraz
One of the most infamous prison breaks of all time, Frank Morris and the brothers Clarence and John Anglin managed to break out of Alcatraz on June 11, 1962. Unfortunately, even San Francisco Bay can be struck by a Banestorm, and their escape from the Rock ended up leading to an entirely new incarceration. ...Or that's what I would say, at least, if it wasn't for the fact that Morris quickly grew to love Ytarria and its Medieval ways. He quickly rose to prominence as a renowned genius troubleshooter for everyone from orc tribes and thieves' guilds to nobles willing to get their hands a little dirty in the process. The Anglin brothers, by contrast, became merely Frank Morris's flunkies, "muscle" he could flex around when things got rough. A rift between the three eventually grew wider and wider until the Anglin brothers struck out on their own as petty bandits, eventually dying in a fight with some orc bandits. The fate of Morris himself after a sudden disappearance on his part is a far greater mystery. Rotting in some jail he himself helped make escape-proof during his time as a troubleshooter? Living in some secret hideout somewhere in the boonies? Six feet under? Nobody knows. Similarly, rumors fly that Morris had either a son or a daughter that he taught all his tactical secrets to, and every once and a while there will be a noble who claims to be from the line of Morris in an attempt to gain recognition.


The Princes in the Tower
Richard of Shrewsbury and Edward V of England were two brothers sent to the infamous Tower of London by their scheming uncle Richard III in the year 1483, never to be seen again by Earthly eyes. Turns out the reason why is that they were whisked away by a Banestorm to some small village in rural Ytarria. Their lasting legacy is the creation of the Great Hall, an orphanage and halfway house for those who have been left confused and alone by the Banestorms. Adherents of the princes of the Tower have spread and created more Great Halls in the centuries afterward, to the delight of peasantry and the disdain of Church members that found competition with these new havens as favored positions of refuge.


Judge Crater
An associate justice of the New York Supreme Court, Joseph Crater mysteriously disappeared on the night of August 6, 1930, after having dinner with a lawyer and his mistress, Sally Lou "Ritzi" Ritz. Literally walking into a Banestorm in the middle of New York City is probably the strangest case yet, and even stranger was the fact that he managed to be dumped in the middle of two tribal groups that needed an impartial arbitrator to stop a conflict they were having over marriage and property rights. Eventually, word of Carter's diplomatic skills spread from the tribe to merchants, and from the merchants to the cities and their lords. The New York City judge eventually became a well-respected legal counsel second only to the arbiters of Tredroy. His personal practice eventually took on proteges that have kept up a line of Carterian legal experts to the present, and while sometimes controversial due to its differences to the Medieval laws of Ytarria as a whole, most lawyers, judges, and legal scholars nonetheless respect the opinions Carter espoused.


Break Time Thoughts
This is exactly the kind of glorious/dumb poo poo Pathfinder should have more of. Some of the examples given aren't the most amazing, but the idea of having random famous disappearances be actually the result of the Banestorm makes perfect sense in universe and allows for playing around. Honestly, the author probably should have taken it further. Roanoke? Banestorm. Jimmy Hoffa? Banestorm. D.B. Cooper? Banestorm. Go whole hog, and also give them all effects as crazy as the Earhart entry.

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:

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007


Mage: the Awakening, 2nd Edition

Salamenca is a small Spanish city that is home to Spain's oldest university, the third-oldest in all of Europe. Between students and faculty, it's nearly a quarter of the population. It has many rituals and traditions - but its core Mystery is a complex phenomenon centered on its library, the oldest in all of Spain. It is part of the oldest portion of campus, with buildings constructed according to Hermetic lore, and it has many old manuscripts. Occasionally, mages take note of books appearing in the catalog without explanation, or that their book request comes with a second text. These unexpected books are unique and occasionally very magical. Many appear only once, others only appear for one person, and a few appear to multiple patrons. All other attempts to get the online catalog or a librarian to find these books fails - the books have no other evidence of existing, even to the most thorough searches. Known as libros efimeros, or fleeting books, they are highly diverse. Some are diaries of events that never happened or haven't happened yet, others technical manuals for devices never made, or detailed explanations of very strange ruins, which may or may not exist. They can be any language, but always appear to someone who can understand them. All vanish instantly if removed from the library or when the library closes or when returned. Most seem ordinary, but some can only be read by Mage Sight, with photographs showing only meaningless gibberish, blank pages or mundane text. Others can be scanned or photoed, but this usually requires a librarian's permission to do so anyway.

I thought this must have some connection to Borges, but it doesn't. I'd move the whole thing to Argentina and make his ghost the librarian, but maybe that's too obvious.

Thuryl
Mar 14, 2007

My postillion has been struck by lightning.


SirPhoebos posted:

Bringing all of this together, Buckley is a short but menacing fiend with 4 multi-jointed arms and thick-fingered hands and 2 telescoping legs with webbed feet and a long prehensile tail. It has a hunched back and no neck, making it's frilled, conical head appear to just appear out of its torso. It's long, pointed nose and ears contrasts with it's large mouth and tusks.

So...any artgoons want to sketch up our monster?

I can't draw to save my life but I felt like doing this anyway

LaSquida
Nov 1, 2012

Just keep on walkin'.


Thuryl posted:

I can't draw to save my life but I felt like doing this anyway



You're doing god's work.

Probably Cyric's.

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


Does nMage not have Boston and New England as a sample place to set a Chronicle anymore? I loved that since I grew up in Lovecraft Country.

Kellsterik
Mar 30, 2012


Count Chocula posted:

Does nMage not have Boston and New England as a sample place to set a Chronicle anymore? I loved that since I grew up in Lovecraft Country.

There's nothing about them in 2nd edition, but to be fair they did get a whole supplement for 1st edition and an appendix in the core book.

Lurks With Wolves
Jan 14, 2013

At least I don't dance with them, right?


Kellsterik posted:

There's nothing about them in 2nd edition, but to be fair they did get a whole supplement for 1st edition and an appendix in the core book.

Well, there's some references to 1e's Boston. Like how one of the example Thyrsus is The Nemean after he got kicked out of the Diamond Order for being a bloodthirsty tyrant that made everyone fight and now he's roaming around building cults around himself and trying to evolve into his true bestial form.

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


Kellsterik posted:

There's nothing about them in 2nd edition, but to be fair they did get a whole supplement for 1st edition and an appendix in the core book.

That really sucks! Going to college in New England was great 'cause there were weird cemeteries and creepy old trees everywhere, and there's tons of easy lore to mine for ideas.

potatocubed
Jul 26, 2012

*rathian noises*


SirPhoebos posted:

So...any artgoons want to sketch up our monster?

I am also a poor excuse for an artist, but I couldn't resist.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Mage: the Awakening, 2nd Edition

Sleepwalkers whose powers are close to those of the Awakened are known as Proximi. A Proximus sometimes develops powers spontaneously, but most come from long family lines, or Dynasties, of Proximi that share their powers. Proximi are free of the Sleeping Curse, but cannot yet see past the Lie. Their blood is rooted in the Supernal, however, giving them talents other Sleepwalkers do not have. All Proximi have at least one Blessing - an inherent power to cast a single spell.

Proximi are Sleepwakers, but with the following changes:
  • Parent Path: All Proximi are linked to one of the five Paths of the Supernal. Except in extremely rare circumstances, if they Awaken, it will be to this Path.
  • Blessing Arcana: Proximi can purchase Blessings from their Parent Path's Ruling Arcana, plus one other Arcanum, chosen at chargen.
  • Dynastic Blessings; Every Proximus has the capacity for up to 30 dots of Blessings, chosen from their three Blessing Arcana. Blessings can be based on any spell of up to three dots. Blessings are bought as Merits; many Dynasties will have a list of available Blessings.
  • Mana Capacity: Proximi can use Mana have and have a pool of 5. They can regain Mana from meditation at a Hallow, and every Dynasty also has one Oblation that will recover Mana in the same way as a Legacy Oblation. Proximi can spend 1 Mana per turn to pay for Blessings with Mana costs or mitigate Paradox dice.
  • Limited Casting: Proximi have neither Gnosis nor Arcana. They use Willpower as their casting dicepool, penalized for spell factors. They cannot use Yantras, and their ritual interval is 5 hours.
  • Reach and Paradox: Proximi do not receive any free Reach, but can Reach. They get 1 Paradox die per Reach. Proximi cannot contain a Paradox. However, any Paradox successes rolled will, rather than warping the Blessins, just cancel it entirely and instead activate the Proximus' Curse. Obvious Blessings with Sleeper witnesses do risk Paradox, trigger Quiescence and suffer Dissonance as spells.
  • Familial Curse: Every Proximus Dynasty suffers a curse to go with their magic, and many mages point to these as proof that Proximi are specifically engineered. These are two-part Conditions. The first part is a low-level problem that is not crippling. It is a Persistent Condition that can never be removed, even by magic, but generates Beats when it impedes the Proximus. If they are forced to try to escape the curse, by magic or otherwise, the second part kicks in and they suffer it until it's resolved, earning a Beat when the curse reverts.

Many Awakened claim that Proximus Dynasties were created by ancient archmages and are tended to by modern ones. This may be so, but there is growing evidence that some Proximi lines have no identifiable source and just happened 'wild,' as it were. The Orders actively track and care for Proximi families, even groom them. Not all members of a family become full Proximi, however - Blessings can skip generations, even multiple generations, before reappearing.

For the Seers, Proximi are tools to be used and discarded as needed. The other Orders are typically more humanitarian about this, but not always. Every Order has a few Dynasties they consider 'theirs,' no matter what an individual Proximus might believe. The Silver Ladder tracks the most families. Proximi seem to Awaken more often than most Sleepwalkers, a trait encouraged by most Orders, who try to prepare young Proximi for the chance. In the moment of Awakening, a Proximus loses all Blessings and their Curse, but Sanctity of Merits does apply so they get a full merit dot refund - though the GM can instead convert some or all Blessings into Arcane XP instead.

The example Proximus Dynasty is the Sisters of the Mountain. They are a line of traditional Appalachian witches, the strongest out there, and loosely tied to the Mysterium. Their magic mostly focuses on health and longevity. They help families achieve genetic diversity where it might be lacking, ensuring the babies they deliver grow up strong. Occasionally, a family of Sisters will have a generation with too many strong girls born. When this happens, at the time of their "first blood" (read: menstruation), a girl will be prepared, geared up and sent out into the world to find knowledge and wisdom for the family. Boys often carry the Blessings of the family, but are rarely sent out into the world, as they are believed to return home less frequently. Either way, these 'pilgrims' gather what knowledge they can before a longing to return overtakes them and they go back to the Hills. Some had back to the mundane world a few more times over their lives, and most believe in fairly trading their healing powers for the wisdom they learn. The Sisters are also known as the Hill Hags.

Sisters of the Mountain live close to the land, such that they are a walking extension of it. All Sisters, women or men, contain plant life within their bodies. Most of the time it's not visible, save for a slight green tinge where the skin is thin. When they are stressed, performing magic or sleeping, however, the plants push up against the skin like throbbing, moving green veins. When a Sister dies, the plants inside them explode outward, creating a magical garden on the site of their death and entirely consuming the corpse. These death-gardens are practically impossible to remove.

The Parent Path of the Sisters is Thyrsus. They can have Fate, Life and Spirit Blessings, drawn from: Oaths Fulfilled, Exceptional Luck, Shifting the Odds, Monkey's Paw, Shared Fate, Cleanse the Body, Analyze Life, Body Control, Lure and Repel, Purge Illness, Degrading the Form, Honing the Form, Knit, Coaxing the Spirit and Gremlins.

The Sisters' Curse is...well, they have a garden inside them. It has needs, which cannot always be drawn off their bodies. Every night, they must lay down in fresh, healthy soil so the plants can creep out through the skin, digging into the dirt and feeding. In the morning, they wake and the roots recede, healing the skin, mostly. However, all Sisters have one health box full of Lethal damage at all times, which cannot be healed by any means. They get a Beat whenever their garden is noticed or discovered and makes someone react badly to them.

When a Sister suffers Paradox or cannot sleep in healthy soil, the plant-caused injuries worsen. Every additional night they can't sleep properly, they take an additional unhealable Lethal. When they do return to the soil, this heals at a pace of one week per extra wound, until it returns to normal. Wounds caused this way do not bleed out once they hit agg, but instead send the Sister into a coma-trance as the garden takes over their body, using all their physical and magical abilities to get them to safe dirt. They will actually dig into the soil and partially bury themselves then, sleeping until all but the first box is healed. (Presumably Paradox causes some extra injury as if they'd not slept for X days in dirt?)

The Oblations of the Sisters include tending wounds and offering succor, experimenting with the human body, gardening, and singing the old songs.

While one can complain that the Pentacle are condescending towards Sleepers and even Sleepwalkers, they are far better than the Seers. To the Seers, humans are cattle. Resources. They are commanded to keep humans from going extinct, but that's as a whole - the Exarch don't care about any single human. They are tyrants and symbols of tyranny - they need slaves. Successful Seers enjoy wealth and privilege, supported by the Ministries' resources and cults. Particularly loyal Seers are even given Artifacts to help them command Sleepers, most infamously the Profane Urim.

These can take many forms, but most are cloaks, robes or veils. They let the user take command of the body of any Sleeper with a Medium or Strong sympathetic tie to them - and worse, give them a Connected link while it's in use. Any Sleeper is a potential puppet of the Seers...but because many mages can detect possession, Urims are used mostly when it would be dangerous to be physically present or when they want literal human shields. A Profane Urim is a 6-dot Artifact able to cast Possession at Sympathetic range. Rarer versions exist with variant powers. Seers can pool merit dots to buy an Urim for their group.

Beyond mere puppets, the Ministries also command Servitors, humans twisted into forms pleasing to the Exarchs and enslaved. Some are Proximi Dynasties, like the Myrmidon clan serving the Praetorians. Others were created by archmasters, like the Hive-Souls - clusters of identical bodies sharing one mind and soul, making them excellent couriers and spies for the Hegemonic Ministry. Most, however, are forcibly transformed Sleepers and Sleepwalkers, like the Grigori and Hollow Ones.

One variant Profane Urim takes the form of a shroud or grave wrap. These exclusively are granted to the Panopticon, and when they bind a Sleeper in these shrouds, a horrible transformation takes place. Their body enters suspended animation, and their mind and soul are projected into an ephemeral being, an invisible spy and watchdog in Twilight. When viewed in Twilight, these Grigori resemble mummified, struggling humanoids covered in eyes, with six wings of smoke. Their bodies are stored securely, constantly whispering descriptions of everything they see. Removing the shroud is instantly fatal to them. These shrouds, known as the Shrouds of Observation, are 8-dot Artifacts only available to Panopticon Seers with Status 3 or higher. The Shroud consumes 1 Mana per day to maintain a Grigori transformation, but can absorb Mana from a Hallow, so typically 'Grigori farms' are kept in those. The Grigori itself is a Rank 2 Goetia with Influence: Watching and Resonance with its body and a target set by the owner of the Shroud. The Shroud can teleport the Grigori near its target for 1 Mana.

The Hollow Ones are slaves of the Paternoster Ministry. They are victims of human trafficking gangs run as Mystery Cults, taken to a secret spot in North Africa, a Sanctum that is home to a monster of the Lower Depths that 'stings' Sleepers that see it, tearing away their sense of self. The results are then sent to ranking Seers with Mind magic skill. The Hollow Ones that result are 'blank' humans, souls stable but, without a steady Mana supply, empty of memory and drive - a blank canvas. Hollow Ones are special Sleepwalkers. They have a 5-mana pool but cannot refill it themselves. Every day, they consume 1 Mana. When they run out, their Mental and Social attributes become 0, their Virtue, Vice and Aspirations vanish, and they lose all skills. However, Mind spells are automatically Indefinite on Hollow Ones regardless of spell factors, Reach or Mana, ending when the Hollow One 'resets.' Paternoster Seers with Status 3+ and Mind 4+ can buy a Hollow One servant as a 2-dot merit.

Next time: The Fall

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Mage: the Awakening, 2nd Edition

Atlantis, they say, was the First City, the Awakened City, the greatest that ever was. It was the height of Awakened potential, where every mage could be their greatest self. It is a Truth that rings deep in the soul, the same thrill felt as you first touched your Watchtower. It is a Lie you tell yourself. Atlantis was, then wasn't.

Mages have passed the story of the Awakened City down for ages, for as long as any can recall. It has always been told, though no definitive proof it ever existed has ever been found. Perhaps it was true, but no consistent records survived its destruction. No one has ever found evidence to suggest, definitively, that there was an Atlantis. What they've found is evidence that...doesn't fit anything. The Mysterium have libraries of journals, full of sketches of ruins of civilizations that never were. In far corners of the Earth are the tombs of kings who never ruled, the bones of creatures that could never exist, painted caves that humans could never have reached.

Sleeper technology is utterly useless on dating these artifacts. Any results they get are contradictory, nonsensical and, often, result in the machine making weird noises or breaking. Time mage is no more useful - attempts at it tend to leave splitting headaches and days or even weeks of temporal confusion. No matter how far back you look, Atlantis simply has no place in Earth history. Further, the evidence found in all these ruins and digs cannot be fit into a single consistent history. Tales of glorious past cities are sprinkled through world myth, of course - Aztlan, the Naga Kingdom, Shambhala, Hyperborea. It doesn't matter what the name is. For the Diamond, 'Atlantis' is just a catch-all term, used because the Diamond's origins lie in Greece. For four millenia, mages have chased stories of ancient cities in hope of finding some greater truth, a world that existed in the Time Before. Little is known of what life was like then, but the Orders have managed to agree on a few things.

    1. The Awakened existed in the Time Before. Stories of all these mythical cities center on characters that were more, that were larger than life. Many mention feats performed by wizards or god-blooded beings. Others focus on people who were simply better than their foes. Whether those superlative traits wer granted by gods or the nature of the heroic will, there is no doubt that they were more than human.
    2. The inhabitants of the Time Before dwelt in or Ascended to the Supernal. You can find it in the cave paintings, if you look. It's in hieroglyphs in a lost tomb, kept hidden by the Guardians. It's in a snatch of High Speech in the lyrics of a song recorded by a lonely Libertine. The Awakened of the Time Before shed their mortal forms and returned to the Supernal as beings of pure magic.
    3. The actions of these Awakened drastically altered the universe. The Ascension broke the world. Legends speak of an ocean spire warped into a 'Star Ladder,' a portal to all worlds at once. The Mysterium have writings of wars in Heaven, of battles between Atlantean kings and Exarchs stealing the thrones of gods. The how isn't as important as the conclusion - the damage these original Awakened did to the Supernal caused it to drift out of reach. It left the Fallen World, a shattered remnant of the Time Before, with the Sleeping Curse and the Abyss. So devastating were these acts that they erased themselves from existence. The world now is as it has always been: one where Atlantis is a myth and a Lie.

Whether the Exarchs caused the Fall on purpose, it was the result of a war between mages or it was just caused by too much magic for reality to handle is a debate that's raged for millenia. The lesson, however, is not 'do not seek Ascension.' It is 'do not repeat their mistakes.' The desire to taste the Supernal directly survived the Fall, but the path to Ascension is neither easy nor simple. There are always rumors of the Ascended, but little can be known for certain. No two legends are the same, and there is no one, clear way to Ascend. Just about every wizard has heard an Ascension story. They're great topics of debate in philosophical circles, especially over drinks.

An Acanthus of the Silver Ladder, Xeras, spent his pre-Awakening life studying string theory and special relativity. He never fully abandoned that, and he discovered that you could see a lot more at the subatomic level with Mage Sight. He saw time as a vine, roots deep in soil, branching out below where the plant breaks surface. He was last seen on his way to the Tevatron at Fermilab, but no records exist of his presence there. His notes are a complex mix of Sleeper formulae, High Speech commentaries and a page in a language whose origins remain a mystery. Time mages have used vines, his name and some of the symbols from that mysterious final page to power their spells since.

Phrygia was a Nameless Moros in the early 20th century, who walked the entire US. She wasn't quite a phantom hitchhiker, but may have inspired the legend. She convinced many to let go of the heavy weights in their hearts, acting as the passenger whom you unburdened yourself to. After meeting her, you became a better version of you. She disappeared after the Depression began and hasn't been seen since. Her face appears in several Tarot decks made by mages, on cards signifying upheaval and change.

Neither Xeras, Phrygia nor any Ascended is remembered by any Sleeper that once knew them. They slip from Sleeper memory with Quiescence, especially their close friends and family. These people may wax nostalgic briefly, then quickly change the subject, resisting any attempt to return to it. The more distant the Sleeper, the foggier the memories get, until none remember at all. Mages, however, remember. They seek evidence of the Ascended with fervor, especially those who prefer to focus on what mages might become rather than what they were once. Finding proof of the Ascension is like finding a holy relic.

Ascension is a transformative act, and what you leave behind may be transformed as well. Your body may be converted to strange materials, Artifacts known as Sariras which have potent powers. The place you Ascended may be changed, forming a Verge that reflects your final moments as a mere mage. The environment can be profoundly altered. The Fall placed Ascension out of reach of almost all, but mages have not given up hope. The Supernal still exists, calling them home.

The End

Nea
Feb 28, 2014

Funny Little Guy Aficionado.

Did I miss the update where you mentioned what Techne did, Mors?

SirPhoebos
Dec 10, 2007

Horned Rat-Sempai Noticed Me! :swoon:




Planescape Monstrous Companion: What I missed

Well I don’t think I’ll ever top making a Hordling, at least in this particular book. So I’m going to quickly go through the remaining entries.



Incarnates are the sapient embodiment of abstract principles. They possess characters and give them benefits as long as they advance the Incarnates principles. Major Incarnates (5000 xp) represent either Good or Evil in general. Minor Incarnates (650 xp) represent specific facets of Good (Hope, Faith, Courage, etc) or Evil (Anger, Envy, Lust, etc). If you encounter one as a player, it’s either because the DM is being really generous or a tremendous dick.



Grue have nothing to do with the Zork adventure games, which makes me sad. Instead they are elemental underlings/vermin. Basically Imps for the Inner Planes. Chaggrin (1400 xp) are the Earth Grues, Harginn (650 xp) are Fire, Ildriss are Air (420 xp) and Varrdig (2000 xp) are Water.



Maelephant (10000 xp) and Per (12000) fill similar roles. The Maelephant are LN bodyguards of Lower Planes higher-ups. I suppose since they aren’t fiends, they’re not part of fiendish politics. Per are tireless LN guardians of portals that lead to the Upper Planes. The most amusing thing from both entries is this quote:

Poratius Tervo (‘P.T.’) Barnum, a Prime new to Sigil posted:

I’m looking for a Maelephant. Anyone see one around?



Marut (17000 xp) enforce the will of their Power with single-mindedness. Their punch attack does an insane 8d10 damage. :eyepop: They were originally created by the Indian Power Rudra, so they’re geared towards spreading diseases, but nowadays they can work for any Power.



Creatures from the Lower Panes that I skipped over are the Bodak (5000 xp), Shadow Fiend (2000 xp), Vargouille (650 xp) and Yeth Hound (975 xp). Bodak are humanoids that died in the Abyss. They have a death gaze attack and melt in the sun. Shadow Fiends have variable stats depending on how luminous the area they’re in. They can steal men’s souls but making them their slaves is too complicated a matter. Instead they trade the souls with other denizens in the Lower Planes. Vargouille can paralyze victims and then kiss them (presumably they’re humanoid) to make a new Vargouille. There’s another snarky quote about a dumb section of the fluff. The Yeth Hounds are used by the higher-ups of the Lower Planes as hunting dogs. Their baying causes enemies to flee in terror, and they proceed to run them down. The page for them has this amusing quote:

A Changeling to her Elven Foster Parents posted:

He followed me home. Can I keep him please?



Our final two monsters are from the Upper Planes. As with the mythology they’re based on, the Baku (14000 xp) are magic dream tapirs. Most are Good-aligned, but there are a few Evil ones too. They use Psionics, in case the players and DM want to drive themselves crazy with those. Foo Creatures are former petitioners of Chaotic Good powers that get elevated to Proxy status. They come in two flavors: Dog (6000 xp) and Lion (10000 xp). Good characters may be able to convince them to join or guard them.

And that wraps up the first Planescape Monstrous Compendium. It wasn’t the easiest thing for me to write up because I’d rather discuss the setting than the mechanics. However, rolling up the Hordling alone made it worth it. I’m going to refresh myself on Elminster’s Ecology and decide if I can give it proper justice on this thread. Special thanks to Thuryl and potatocubed (EDIT: and Tasoth and U.T. Raptor) for the drawings/Spore creature-maker.

SirPhoebos fucked around with this message at 14:59 on May 23, 2016

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Neopie posted:

Did I miss the update where you mentioned what Techne did, Mors?

That was way back in the Merits section! Essentially: Techne lets you name a societal activity as a Yantra. it's Free Council-only, 2 dot merit. So if you name 'computer programming' you can program computers to get a bonus on symbolically related spells, or you can get a bonus for being in the presence of Sleepers programming computers for symbolically related spells. Or 'playng D&D' or 'dancing' or whatever that Techne merit gives a bonus to. It also gives a minor benefit to group rituals in which everyone involved has the same Techne merit.

Kai Tave
Jul 2, 2012


Fallen Rib

potatocubed posted:

I am also a poor excuse for an artist, but I couldn't resist.



Quoting an amazing post.

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unseenlibrarian
Jun 4, 2012

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

The NWOD Changeling game I've always wanted to play in/run has basically been along the lines of that 'famous missing people' entry for Banestorm. A bunch of Lost who were famous for vanishing mysteriously. D.B. Cooper, Amelia Earhart, Ambrose Bierce, Glen Miller, etc, etc. who've now made it back to earth and have to adapt to life in some rural freehold to avoid everyone noticing them.

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