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Robindaybird
Aug 21, 2007

Neat. Sweet. Petite.



I'm also kind of mad he used Houdini, as one of the big things about Houdini's life besides his magic acts is he thoroughly despised the Spiritualist movement, and became essentially a professional debunker of mediums and soothsayers, so making him secretly a real magician feels like a slap in the face of his actual skill as a performer and the fact he was not into any kind of mysticism.

As said, there's better candidates: Rasputin, Alister Crowley, or even Arthur Conan Doyle

Robindaybird fucked around with this message at 03:01 on Jun 12, 2016

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Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



It is pretty annoying that whenever there's a Real World Order Of Magicial Types, odds are their founder will be Houdini, Crowley, or Rasputin.

At least Deadlands went in a completely different direction and made it Hoyle.

gradenko_2000
Oct 5, 2010



Lipstick Apathy

Dungeon Crawl Classics #1 - Idylls of the Rat King



With the players entering the dungeon from the bottom left edge, you'll notice that the entrance to the very first room of the dungeon is keyed with a Secret Door:

quote:

Before you are the collapsed remnants of the tunnel you have been following. Small footprints can be seen entering the wreckage, as if it weren’t there. There must be a secret door!

Props to the game telling the GM to tell the players that there has to be a secret door, or else it'd be a pretty short adventure. It's a DC 13 Search/Spot check to find a hidden latch to make the debris rise mechanically. If the players don't/can't make the check, then they have to dig through the wreckage, which causes so much noise that the four goblins inside Room 1 will summon reinforcements from the adjoining rooms.

Because this is 3rd Edition, every door is statted out with its thickness, hardness, HP, Break DC when Stuck, and Break DC when locked. The walls are also statted out with hardness, HP, Break DC (of 65!) and Climb DC.

Once you clear out the four (or more) goblin guards (they're easy mooks with 1, 1, 2, and 8 HP respectively), it's a DC 15 Search/Spot check to detect the secret door on the bottom right, but let's assume for now that our intrepid adventurers go through the normal door at the bottom:



They'll first end up in Room 4, which is an abandoned dining room/kitchen. If the players get the bright idea to try and eat the leftovers, it's a DC 13 Fort save to avoid getting Goblin Food Poisoning:

quote:

Goblin Food Poisoning: Type: Ingested, DC 13; Initial Damage: 1 Con; Secondary Damage: 1d2 Con; Price: –.

Proceeding down the corridor would lead them to Room 2, which is the "Outer Barracks" with tables, chairs, bedrolls, and a pile of soiled laundry in the middle of the room. A Listen check will reveal a rustling sound coming from the laundry. If the players investigate it, they're attacked by two Dire Rats that were living in the garbage under the clothes.

At this point, I'd also note that there is a section on Wandering Monsters. You're supposed to keep track of time, because there is a 15% chance every 30 minutes that the party will be attacked by a random encounter (a 1d6 table of goblins, rats and zombies). The 15% chance is supposed to increase if the party is actively making noise and/or are yelling, breaking objects, or are otherwise causing a ruckus.

Personally, I'm really not sure how you're supposed to do this in a practical sense. I mean, I get that 3rd Edition has rules for how long it takes to walk down corridors and perform a Search check, or that breaking down the door to Room 1 can be done by Taking 20 on the Strength check to break it, and that takes 2 minutes, but it's so fiddly and book-keepy and rules-referency that I can barely imagine anyone doing it that way.

Anyway, after investigating Room 2, they have a chance of spotting the Secret Door leading to Room 3 with a DC 14 Search or Spot check. They sort of have to, since the adventure would dead-end at this point for not having any other place to go. I guess you're supposed to roll those checks until you pass, and keep track of how much time is consumed as it contributes to the Wandering Monster counter. A consolation is that the DC seems to be low enough to be routinely passable even by a level 1 character with 4 ranks in Spot that uses Take 10 on it.

Room 3 is the Main Barracks, and the party will have to fight the seven goblins inside. The game does give the GM leeway to let the players obtain surprise, such as if they managed to enter Room 1 via the secret mechanism and entered this room through the secret door. The game also has a Tactics section for most encounters with intelligent actors, although in both this and in Room 1 the goblins are said to fight to the death, since they're more afraid of their masters than of the players.



After clearing out Room 3, there's a winding series of corridors leading up to Room 7, which is the Inner Barracks, with bunk beds and foot lockers. There are no enemies here, but the players can score a whole 10 GP if they succeed in a DC 21 Search check.

(All these rooms have their own read-to-the-players flavorful description text, though I'm not reproducing all of them here)



Room 12 is a secret, and the door to it can only be detected with a DC 20 Search/Spot check. When you open the door, you also get the first trap of the game: a CR2 Portcullis trap that will make a d20+10 attack roll against the first person through the door and will deal 3d6 damage on a hit. It's a DC 20 Search to detect, a DC 20 Disable Device to disarm, and if it gets triggered, the portcullis will block the way into the room and it's a DC 28 Break check to get through it.

If you get through all that, you'll a missing/stolen silver shipment: three crates of silver ore worth 1500 GP each, except they weigh 600 pounds each, so it's supposed to be a significant task to bring it out of the dungeon. Hope you're tracking the time for those Wandering Monster checks!

Room 11 is another dining room. DC 17 Spot checks or DC 15 Listen checks will reveal two Dire Rats munching on the rancid and rotten leftovers. They'll attack the party if they get too close to the food, but will flee if they're reduced to half HP or less.



If the party decides to double-back by going north, they have a shot at Room 6, which is yet another secret door. The game notes that:

quote:

a character must be actively looking for secret doors or an elf must pass within 10 feet of the door. In either case, a Search or Spot skill check is required (DC 18)

That first part with the Elf is a call-back to earlier versions of D&D when detecting secrets was a racial ability of Elves, but as far as I know that isn't a thing in 3rd Edition anymore EDIT: Apparently is still is! Further, "passing within 10 feet" implies that maybe the writer was still in the older D&D mindset of a 10-foot gridded map, whereas 3rd Edition was already using 5-foot squares.

Anyway, the door is actually trapped: DC 22 to detect a Poison Needle Trap, and a DC 20 Disable Device to disarm it. If the party gets past this, they'll find a single wooden chest in the middle of room. It's only a DC 15 Open Lock check to open the chest, but it's actually empty. The real treasure requires a DC 18 Search/Spot check to notice a loose stone slab elsewhere in the room that can be moved aside to reveal a +1 Silvered Longsword. That sort of red herring thing is in keeping with the old-school dungeon crawl mindset.

We also get our first hand-out here, as the sword includes a note from its former owner:


This is quite transparently a way to let the players access to a silvered weapon if they didn't already have one, but it seems somewhat unlikely that they'd pass all the checks and cues necessary to get there unless the players are very familiar with the necessary playstyle.

Room 5 is an Inner Guard Post that could have been entered from Room 1 if the players made their Search/Spot checks, but otherwise approaching it from the normal door will reveal four more goblins. The Tactics section tells the GM to have the Goblins use their crossbows and concentrate their ranged fire on spellcasters, before switching to short swords and melee on round 2.



Moving east from Room 5 or north from Room 11, Room 8 is an empty room that's dressed up for a conference/meeting, but a DC 24 Search check will reveal a note hidden inside that brings us to our second hand-out:



This is our second reference to some kind of feminine evil that resides deeper in the mine, as well as clues to the players on what powers she has and what needs to be done to stop her.

Room 9 is locked - DC 25 Open Lock check to get through. If they get through, the players will find that it's an armory, with multiple crates full of weapons. If the players make a DC 20 Search check or better, they can find a Masterwork weapon. If it's DC 16 to 19, it's just a normal weapon. Anything less and it's crude and rusted. The game doesn't specify how many checks they can make, so I assume they can keep searching as long as they're willing to eat the time investment.

Room 10 is the Lair of the Rats:

quote:

A strange, magical darkness covers the interior of this room. The only sound escaping from the impenetrable darkness is a soft squeaking noise. As if noticing the open door, the squeaking gets louder and closer to the door!

This is where all of the rats reside, and the room is under a permanent Darkness spell (and the GM gets told of how that happened). The five Dire Rats will attack anyone entering the room, but they themselves will take the -4 penalty for fighting in darkness.

That's about half of the first floor so far. While all of the enemies that have been faced so far have never had more than 8 HP, this seems like a lot to deal with a party that doesn't have much more than 6-10 HP themselves, along with that one trap in Room 12 that's almost guaranteed to kill anyone that trips it.

Monster Count so far:

15 Goblins (CR 1/4)
9 Dire Rats (CR 1/3)

Up next: Abandoned Silver Mine, Level 1: The Goblin Lair, Part 2

gradenko_2000 fucked around with this message at 08:57 on Jun 12, 2016

Mover
Jun 30, 2008

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


Evil Mastermind posted:

It is pretty annoying that whenever there's a Real World Order Of Magicial Types, odds are their founder will be Houdini, Crowley, or Rasputin.

At least Deadlands went in a completely different direction and made it Hoyle.

Someone should write a setting where Eugene Sandow founded a secret order of ascetic muscle wizards

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Evil Mastermind posted:

It is pretty annoying that whenever there's a Real World Order Of Magicial Types, odds are their founder will be Houdini, Crowley, or Rasputin.

At least Deadlands went in a completely different direction and made it Hoyle.

Or Merlin.

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006



Robindaybird posted:

I'm also kind of mad he used Houdini, as one of the big things about Houdini's life besides his magic acts is he thoroughly despised the Spiritualist movement, and became essentially a professional debunker of mediums and soothsayers, so making him secretly a real magician feels like a slap in the face of his actual skill as a performer and the fact he was not into any kind of mysticism.

As said, there's better candidates: Rasputin, Alister Crowley, or even Arthur Conan Doyle

TBF, Houdini would be acceptable for all those reasons as well. He would approach it from a scientific point-of-view trying to debunk it, up until he either accepted the change in his world view or recoiled in horror from it. He would probably even codified the rules and everything, all done from observation and experimenting.

I remember coming up with a similar story idea of a James Randi character encountering legit psychic phenomenon through his $1 million challenge and eventually becoming something like non-psychic Professor X, mentoring psychics and other superpowered individuals that he's uncovered.

I Am Just a Box
Jul 20, 2011
I belong here. I contain only inanimate objects. Nothing is amiss.



gradenko_2000 posted:

This is quite transparently a way to let the players access to a silvered weapon if they didn't already have one, but it seems somewhat unlikely that they'd pass all the checks and cues necessary to get there unless the players are very familiar with the necessary playstyle.

I guess this adventure is for worlds where all adventurers are super into deadly puzzles. As my last deed before I draw breath no more, I strike what vengeance I can upon the devil of these halls by bequeathing my silver blade to you, the first adventurer able to open this door without suffering deadly poison who thinks to dig underneath my decoy chest. Yet if I only had the strength remaining, I would have hidden my last vengeance more cleverly and ideally added a few more traps. This is my only dying regret.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




Mover posted:

Someone should write a setting where Eugene Sandow founded a secret order of ascetic muscle wizards
Even better, Billy Sandow and Edward Barton Wright.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





Young Freud posted:

TBF, Houdini would be acceptable for all those reasons as well. He would approach it from a scientific point-of-view trying to debunk it, up until he either accepted the change in his world view or recoiled in horror from it. He would probably even codified the rules and everything, all done from observation and experimenting.

I remember coming up with a similar story idea of a James Randi character encountering legit psychic phenomenon through his $1 million challenge and eventually becoming something like non-psychic Professor X, mentoring psychics and other superpowered individuals that he's uncovered.
While I understand the, for want of a better term, narrative tension here, I would imagine that if psychic or magical powers did come about - especially if they only arose recently, or were very secretive for some other reason which has since lapsed - Houdini or Randi would actually, after abundant testing, probably eventually go "Well I'll be damned! You win!" I could even see them eventually making air-jackoff motions at people who are like "But psi violates all known laws of physics!" and explaining whatever drat-fool mechanism actually was involved, even if it was not completely known.

As I recall, Houdini actually established a specific code with his wife in case of his sudden death, just to be sure - and of course, the spiritualist seance didn't reveal that code. But he did, in fact, make the effort.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Houdini's feud against mediums was because he was a mama's boy, and when she died, he desperately wanted to speak to her again. A medium offered the chance, but Houdini realized it was fake and it enraged him. If it had been real, he'd have been quite happy.

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


Kavak posted:

So, you do realize that has to become an actual Metroid hack now, right?

Metroid with vampires, werewolves, wizards, Frankenstein monsters, spirits and biomechanical monstrosities is just Castlevania: SOTN.

Doresh
Jan 7, 2015


Kavak posted:

So, you do realize that has to become an actual Metroid hack now, right?

Samus: The Araning, a grim science-fiction roleplaying game about owning a strange piece of Precursor power armor that can gobble up power-ups from all kinds of sources, but conveniently forgets them after each adventure. The main antagonists are the Ryd'Leis, strange primordial dinosaur beings that keep pestering the heroes no matter how often they get blown up.

Hostile V posted:

It's mostly because they want to make the game centered on America. So making the start of this metaplot (which will be standing in the corner visibly jerking off for the rest of the party) start somewhere else doesn't make as much sense. To my knowledge, Rasputin never becomes a Delta or anything.

Well, Rasputin could've moved to the USA (I mean, why stay at home where people constantly try to murder you in creative ways?) and spend a couple decades to become an upstanding American citizen.


Dat font.

Doresh fucked around with this message at 08:08 on Jun 12, 2016

Crasical
Apr 22, 2014

GG!*
*GET GOOD


gradenko_2000 posted:

That first part with the Elf is a call-back to earlier versions of D&D when detecting secrets was a racial ability of Elves, but as far as I know that isn't a thing in 3rd Edition anymore. Further, "passing within 10 feet" implies that maybe the writer was still in the older D&D mindset of a 10-foot gridded map, whereas 3rd Edition was already using 5-foot squares.

Still a thing. Elves only get "entitled to a Search check to notice it as if she were actively looking for [secret doors]", and it's 5 feet instead of 10 feet, but it's still a thing that exists.

Roland Jones
Aug 18, 2011

by Nyc_Tattoo


Doresh posted:

Samus: The Araning, a grim science-fiction roleplaying game about owning a strange piece of Precursor power armor that can gobble up power-ups from all kinds of sources, but conveniently forgets them after each adventure.

Like a reverse Mummy, losing everything at the start of each story only to build it all back up and then some.

Roland Jones fucked around with this message at 08:22 on Jun 12, 2016

gradenko_2000
Oct 5, 2010



Lipstick Apathy

Doresh posted:

Dat font.

If it's too hard to make out, it reads:

While I lay here dying of a mortal wound that I received from that evil demon from deep within this dreadful hole, I cast my eyes towards a vision of the future that may be brighter by my gift. I give to you, reader of this message, my family sword to use against the dreaded she-devil from the bowels of the Hells. Use it well against her and her undead minions, and may it strike her true.

Crasical posted:

Still a thing. Elves only get "entitled to a Search check to notice it as if she were actively looking for [secret doors]", and it's 5 feet instead of 10 feet, but it's still a thing that exists.

I stand corrected. That's actually pretty neat that they retained that.

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006



Doresh posted:

Well, Rasputin could've moved to the USA (I mean, why stay at home where people constantly try to murder you in creative ways?) and spend a couple decades to become an upstanding American citizen.

In one mental rewrites, the reason Stalin doesn't go tear rear end through Eastern Europe is not just he because he doesn't get the approval of Roosevelt and Churchill, it's also because a revived Rasputin and a Delta-powered Anastasia Romanov are leading a counter-revolution (first backed by the Nazis then, after Superior tears Hitler a new one, quietly by the Valkyire-Abwehr junta) and he's too busy trying to put that down. After that, it's anyone's guess, maybe Stalin beats them back and they become perennial boogeyman in the Soviet Union or maybe they liberate the Alphas that have been tortured under Stalin's Alpha program and they push Stalin's regime into Siberia.

By popular demand
Jul 17, 2007

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




:toot:June thread of the month:toot:

E: So can we all agree that Progenitor has the best alt-history of any RPG?
I`d be happy to hear about more games doing it well.

By popular demand fucked around with this message at 16:38 on Jun 12, 2016

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




Greg Stolze's Progenitor has a great alternate history, but I think Greg Stolze's Godlike is even better.

Tasoth
Dec 12, 2011


I have to ask, since that Metroid map is based off of nWoD, who the gently caress is Carl and why does he have the gravity suit?

Crasical
Apr 22, 2014

GG!*
*GET GOOD


Tasoth posted:

who the gently caress is Carl and why does he have the gravity suit?

Sentences you can use as campaign seeds for 100, Trebek.

Kavak
Aug 23, 2009




Or Aqua Teen Hunger Force episodes I wish they made.

I Am Just a Box
Jul 20, 2011
I belong here. I contain only inanimate objects. Nothing is amiss.



Tasoth posted:

I have to ask, since that Metroid map is based off of nWoD, who the gently caress is Carl and why does he have the gravity suit?

Carl's from War Against the Pure's chapter on conflicts with other types of shapeshifter, the sample character for the Deep Ones Brineborn. He lives in a small coastal town that's host to a colony of mad Brineborn that worship Mother Ocean and her alien murmurings, but he's never really had truck with any of that Mother Ocean stuff. Jesus, though, that's a man a fish-monster can understand. He just wants to live a quiet life, reading his Bible and taking tourists out on his boat for nature viewing, until a pack of werewolves move in, a ritually slaughtered corpse is found, and he gets stuck in the middle, unsure of what to do but knowing he can't just stand aside.

He has a name in the First Tongue too, but he doesn't speak First Tongue. He prefers Carl.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Carl sounds pretty great.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Demon: The Descent

It's never wise for a demon to underestimate humans. They're the most numerous sapient creatures on the planet, and while most know little to nothing about the God-Machine, a crowd of them is a great hiding spot for both you and your foes. They can also cause problems by accident or over mundane reasons. Still, those without knowledge are rarely a serious threat. It's the others that are the problem. Stigmatics are mortal humans who encountered the God-Machine and were unable to look away. The experience changes them, making them able to see past the veil that hides most gears and making them sensitive to Infrastructure. Not all are God-Machine loyalists and some can even sympathize with your cause, especially those whose will was left unaltered by the Machine. However, it has been known to brainwash or rework stigmatics, or even implant secret missions into them, turning them into unwitting sleeper agents. A stigmatic can be a potent ally, and it's possible for demons to turn mortals into stigmatics, but trust is, as ever, a rare commodity.

It's not just stigmatics that are going to cause you problems, though. The God-Machine has cults - and little wonder. It's so vast, so powerful that even without a clear idea of its scale or what it is, mortals can be easily inspired to worship it, especially when angels get involved. Most cults are small, and angels typically only recruit them to supply needed labor on a small scale. They don't usually have time to expand before their purpose is fulfilled, either. They move things around, provide finances or logistics for projects or even work as rudimentary components of Concealment, Defense or Elimination Infrastructure. Sometimes they are even literal fuel to the occult matrix. They rarely last beyond their project - sometimes killed by hunter angels cleaning up, but more often they are repurposed to a new task or left to disperse, as they usually do on their own, at best forming esoteric and bizarre but harmless spiritual practices. Larger projects, however, can call for much larger cults, even generational ones. These often are an elaborate piece of Infrastructure of their own, and hidden behind false fronts and decoys to avoid attention. These groups need organization and leaders, and when their projects end, they occasionally splinter. The God-Machine seldom pursues them unless they cause problems, and splinter cults can usually come up with entire theologies from their experiences. These cultists are common foes of demons, no matter if they're actively serving or not, because they are the simplest and most expendable of the God-Machine's tools. They flush out demons by forcing them to protect themselves, for example. Sometimes, demons will even make theiro wn cults - though rarely large ones, for fear of discovery. Still, fanatics are nice to have.

One of the more bizarre mortal groups that a demon might run into is the Deva Corporation, an Indian company formed by the family of the infamous Pain Prophet of New Delhi, Marco Singe, when he was a mere child. It began as a simple cult of the Machine, but has grown into a powerful conglomerate whose executives believe they know the truth, having studied Infrastructure and occult matrices across the world in hopes of finding a method to control the Machine. Some divisions work with the Machine in exchange for relics or artifacts that operate on scientific principles no mortal comprehends, performing tasks such as monitoring the Apocalypse Clock, which informs them how to prevent the end of the world, which inevitably involves a specific murder in a specific way by a specific deadline, always someone the killer loves or idolizes and never painlessly or quickly for either party. Every missed deadline causes cataclysms and makes the Clock count down towards the end of the world. Every successful murder stops or even turns back the clock. Other parts of the company work with occult objects in an effort to identify and duplicate how they work, or at least understand how to use them. At least one arm, Butterfly Cryptozoology Limited, is rumored to control Death, binding it to service. This may be exaggerated, but they certainly do own Packet Theta, a set of skeletal remains retrieved from the lunar Crypt of the Butterfly by Apollo 17. The corporation has been studying and cataloguing Infrastructure for a very long time, and some of their scientists even believe they might be able to build their own crude Infrastructure. One group, Luminous Labs, focuses on studying angels, but to avoid angering the Machine or drawing its destructive power down, they often make do by vivisecting demons. As a result, they know more about demons than practically any mortal group, including how to find them, hunt them, weaken their Covers and trap them. They have no particular interest in turning you over to the Machine, to be sure, and they don't see themselves as servants...but vivisection as a scientific test subject is hardly a pleasant fate.

Humans aren't the only things that are influenced by the Machine. Other living creatures are as well, sometimes deliberately and sometimes as a side-effect of a powerful occult matrix. Cryptid is the term used to refer to animals that have come into contact with the Machine in a way that has altered them fundamentally. Some become intelligent, turn into monsters or gain mystic powers, but most just become physically warped and gain the ability to spot Infrastructure. While cryptids are sometimes made intentionally, most are mere side-effects, and their limited awareness doesn't usually threaten the God-Machine beyond being a minor nuisance. However, they do tend to gather around areas of powerful aetheric resonance in a way that can give away Infrastructural or angelic location, and most breed true for some reason. Entire cryptid subspecies can infest Infrastructure if not exterminated. Demons also have to deal with this, as occasional beacons of Aether, and more than one demon's had their Cover risked in some small way and drawn down a flock of cryptid pigeons that cause an even bigger compromise. Larger and more dangerous cryptids can be a physical threat, as they often enter a blood frenzy on contact with Aetheric sources.

Animals aren't the only things changed, either - cryptoflora are plants, fungi and microorganisms altered by the Machine. They're like cryptids in many ways, but less of a problem because they usually can't move. The ones that are exceptions are very dangerous, however, ranging from parasitic fungi that can seize control of a host's nervous system to get clsoer to Aether or viruses that become cripplingly deadly to demons or stigmatics. Others can have practical uses, though - there's at least one kind of bacteria that allows its host to hear the voice of the Machine, while a kind of oak exists that masks aetheric resonance, and they can often be used as useful parts of mystical craft.

Ghosts and spirits are not commonly encountered, though the God-Machine's projects often do produce ghosts when it kills people, and it may or may not choose to ignore them or even incorporate them into a project as a useful tool. In some rare cases it has even modified ghosts into something...different, with strange powers. While most of these are kept loyal by careful rewriting of their souls, some do go rouge and can be used as valuable, if untrustworthy, assets. Spirits are more rarely encountered - the Machine has little interest in the Shadow realm in any meaningful way. Angels are preferred because they are much more loyal, though the Machine is not above using spirits if needs call for it. They are not usualyl reshaped the way ghosts are - instead, an angel is sent to find an appropriate spirit, trap and introduce it into an environment where its nature will do the rest.

Other supernatural beings are out there, and most of them have no realtion to the Machine. It may manipulate them, but not very frequently. Vampires, for example, seldom interact much with demons. They both prefer hiding in shadow and have little reason to interact (though demonic blood is just as good as that of any human). Few demons care to deal with them unless they are a specific problem or are being interfered with by the Machine in some way. However, demonic Agencies and vampires often compete for resources and manpower in fields such as organized crime, and while alliances can happen to keep the peace, it's never especially friendly. Demons are strong, but vampires are much more numerous and occasionally quite potent individually, with widescale influence. Many mortals die when vampires and demons fight.

Mortal hunters can cause quite a problem for demons - not least because the Machine's spent centuries ensuring that most sacred texts and religious traditions treat angels with significant respect and associate demons with evil and destruction. Even hunters that share your goals often are a liability. Most supernatural beings don't understand the Machine but at least have some sense of being manipulated and can resist its agents well. Mortal hunters are much easier for the Machine to kill or enslave, and they're entirely ignorant of the dangers they face, which can put you in a lot of danger. Bravery is not enough to resist the Machine's power.

Mages and demons run into each other a lot more than most demons are comfortable with, because the Machine's projects produce events that both like to look into. Some make good allies or partners, while others are quick foes and rivals. Even Inquisitors tend to admit that mages are useful because of their unequalled ability to gather intelligence and their near-infinite curiosity. Sometiems they'll refuse to believe in things that don't fit their worldview, but that's rare, so it's easy to trade information with them just because of that curiosity. However, despite their talents, mages are human and can be induced to betray you to the Machine. They may also suffer the same normal human prejudices against demons or may try to cheat you. Some will even try to capture you to force you to give up your knowledge or power...and what's worse, there's always rumors of mages that willingly serve the Machine.

Werewolves and demons occasionally have common cause, particularly when the Machine decides to gently caress with spirits. However, alliance is dangerous. Werewolves are much more brutal and direct than most demons appreciate, and a demon that runs with them is going to risk Cover, while werewolves have no patience for an ally that won't use their power to help the group. Most conflicts, however, come out of misunderstandings, such as werewolves believing demons to be corrupted spirits that must be driven out. Demons often suspect that werewolves are pawns of the Machine, which uses them to keep Earth free of unwanted spirits.

Changelings are also fugitives among humanity, but that's about the only similarity. Demons tend to look on them with a mix of pity and scorn, and changeling sympathy typically ends the moment they learn how pacts work. Stealing parts of human lives does not usually endear you to changelings - it reminsd them too much of goblins and the Gentry. If they ever learn about how soul pacts work, this usually gets violent.

Prometheans are created, not born, and demons are often fascinated by them. Their obsession to become human can seem small, even narcissistic, to demons, who tend to focus on the bigger picture. The problems their presence causes for humans are also occasionally taken advantage of by the Machine. Prometheans often mistake angels and some demons for qashmallim, which the Machine is not above exploiting, either, making these Prometheans easy to dupe into service, which can be...problematic, to say the least.

Next time: Agencies

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



I Am Just a Box posted:

Carl's from War Against the Pure's chapter on conflicts with other types of shapeshifter, the sample character for the Deep Ones Brineborn. He lives in a small coastal town that's host to a colony of mad Brineborn that worship Mother Ocean and her alien murmurings, but he's never really had truck with any of that Mother Ocean stuff. Jesus, though, that's a man a fish-monster can understand. He just wants to live a quiet life, reading his Bible and taking tourists out on his boat for nature viewing, until a pack of werewolves move in, a ritually slaughtered corpse is found, and he gets stuck in the middle, unsure of what to do but knowing he can't just stand aside.

He has a name in the First Tongue too, but he doesn't speak First Tongue. He prefers Carl.
So you can totally just talk to Carl and borrow the gravity suit? Cool.

Kai Tave
Jul 2, 2012


Fallen Rib

Halloween Jack posted:

Greg Stolze's Progenitor has a great alternate history, but I think Greg Stolze's Godlike is even better.

Having read both I'm kind of curious why you feel that way, because one of the themes behind Godlike was that the war was a bigger thing than even people with weird superpowers and things wound up playing out more or less as they did in the real world with only minor differences. I mean, I can't say that an alt-history is to be judged purely on how crazy and far out there it gets, but a lot of Godlike's timeline isn't really even alternate history so much as just history.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Nessus posted:

As I recall, Houdini actually established a specific code with his wife in case of his sudden death, just to be sure - and of course, the spiritualist seance didn't reveal that code. But he did, in fact, make the effort.

Yeah, that's the thing - many skeptics would be amazed and impressed if they actually discovered proof of the supernatural, but that's not something that's actually happened (so far, but I'd not expect it anytime soon). Houdini seemingly wanted to communicate with his dead mother, but wasn't going to tolerate anybody trying to exploit that fact.

That being said, the idea of a 60-year old movement still clinging to the trappings of its founder religiously is odd. Even actual religions have trouble managing that these days, outside of those that work to remove themselves from society as a whole. I guess they really liked Zatara.

Horrible Lurkbeast posted:

:toot:June thread of the month:toot:

:neckbeard:

kaynorr
Dec 31, 2003



The zika virus can get hosed, it's time to look at Medicine and Survival in...



Exalted 3rd - Bloodless Edition

Medicine - Shouting Wounds Closed As The Unconquered Sun Intended

Before we dig into the Charms, let's briefly cover the kinds of ailments can afflict characters in Creation. Poisons are fast-acting ailments that are intended to be applied and run their course during the duration of a combat. A character who comes into contact with a poison's Vector rolls Stamina + Resistance, with the successes reducing the duration on a one per unit (rounds, minutes, etc.) basis from the established duration of the poison. Note that while Exalted can be swole enough to ignore the effects of a poison entirely, mortals can AT MOST reduce a poison's duration to half.

Disease, meanwhile, is where the real pain is Diseases have a difficulty to contract when you come into contact, difficulty to avoid progressing, and an interval of time between checks to progress - these are the Virulence, Morbidity, and Interval respectively. While poison damage is represented as some sort of tangible loss of resources(usually health levels or initiative), disease is handled more freeform - diseases progress from minor, to major, to defining symptoms paralleling the severities of an Intimacy. And much like an Intimacy, the higher a disease's symptoms the more prominent those symptoms will play in the life of the afflicted. And once again Exalted have it easy - they cannot die from disease (unless, of course, explicitly called out in the disease), wherease mortals progress from defining symptom to no more symptoms because you're loving dead (unless the disease explicitly says it cannot kill).

Mortal healers can their best to treat afflictions - Intelligence + Medicine to treat either poison or disease, with a penalty to treat poison on the battlefield and an implicit penalty in that it takes a Long loving Time to treat disease. One hour per day of the sickness' interval - so a single healer could treat at most a dozen or so cases of cholera or hemorrhagic fever, or two people with infected wounds. It may or may not be intended that leprosy requires a doctor working night and day for three days straight to be treated, or that syphilis requires 365 HOURS of treatment to improve a patient's chances of recovery.

It is a recurring theme, no doubt intentional, that some systems are initially laid out in a punishing way just so Solar Charms can come along and make the whole thing look effortless. The very first Medicine Charm, Ailment-Rectifying Method, alone makes a single Solar doctor better than an entire loving army of mortal medicine men. It reduces the time required to treat a disease to one hour no matter the illness, at which point the patient gets to use half the Solar's successes an Intelligence + Medicine at the end of the current interval. The interval is no shorted and the patient must be receiving decent bedside care, but that can come from any number of nurses, assistance, or demon-summoned candystripers. So already, a Solar doctor can treat, conservatively, hundreds of patients a week more than his mundane counterparts.

If the Solar rolls well enough, the need to wait for an interval is dispensed of with Plague-Banishing Incitation, which can end the disease on the spot for the price of a single willpower (oh, which gets refunded if you save a patient from imminent death). Instant disease treatment comes later with a higher price in Instant Treatment Methodology, which causes any one Simple Medicine treatment Charm to become an instant - useful either in the battlefield or the treatment room. There is also one other Charm that augments Simple Medicine Charms, that being Benison of Celestial Healing, which reduces the cost of one Simple Medicine Charm to zero, once per scene. As per the Nothing Succeeds Like Success principle, this can be reset if you save a dying character. After instantly curing a patient, the Solar can also reduce the convalescence time to zero with the Body-Sculting Essence Method, ensuring that the patient is completely healthy in the time it takes to preparing the celestial insurance paperwork.

For those who are thinking less Red Cross and more White Mage, there are lots of Medicine Charms devoted to getting fighters back on their feet. Wound-Banishing Strike is the kung-fu version of status recovery, where the healer literally punches an ongoing penalizing effect out of the patient, so long as that penalty is temporary in nature - it's not clear whether poisons count although they certainly meet the requirements as written. Body-Purifying Admonition explicitly does cover poisons, although it's slightly more expensive AND requires the patient to eat one last interval of damage before the poison is gone for good. With an hour of treatment, Wound-Cleansing Meditation turns all aggravated damage to lethal, and can explicitly mend severed limbs (although that's immediately followed by "does not allow the regrowth of lost tissue", so be careful how you word those crippling wounds!). For those really grotesque injuries there is Wholeness-Restoring Mediation, which picks up where the Wound-Cleansing Meditation left off and can basically treat Everything and grow you back from anything so long as there is a pulse to work with. There is a special exception for Derangements, which can be treated down to a minor symptom but CANNOT be cured by the Solar, although the symptom can stay at minor so long as the Solar continues to treat the patient with weekly counseling.

Pain is just another condition to be treated, starting with Touch of Blissful Release which numbs the pains of surgery, childbirth, and other invasive illnesses for a few hours at a time - including up to -3 in wound penalties. The Charm abates if the patient is out of bed for a few minutes, so that wound penalty alleviation is of limited utility. Later on down the comes Anodyne of Celestial Dreaming, which cancels wound penalties for all circumstances - but if the patient does anything strenuous during the scene, the Solar suffers a -1 penalty as she takes on the pain that could not be nullified. Even better than nullifying wound penalties is not having any, which comes with Feit of Imparted Nature - this Charm lets the Solar grant -0 health levels to the patient, though at a healthy (ahem) cost of 10 motes which remain committed until they are checked off or the Charm is allowed to fade.

Rounding out the Charm list is a large number of meta Charms devoted just to larger, better, more handsome dice pools & successes. Healing Trance Meditation lets the Solar generate extra motes & willpower for use with Medicine, one per story; Life-Exchanging Prana provides another source of motes for Medicine, although these are bought with the doctor's (non-temporary) health levels instead. Life-Sculpting Hands Technique is the usual full free excellency Charm, Healer's Unerring Hands is the reroll Charm, Immaculate Solar Physician doubles all successes once per day, and Perfect Celestial Chirurgeon grants double 7s once per story.

Survival - Tracking, Hunting, and Capturing Pokémon in Tall Grass

There aren't much in the way of tangible systems for survival - the book wisely notes that characters going on a journey are assumed to take adequate food and shelter for the trip. Survival is called upon when you're dropped in a northern tundra unexpectedly, or when your pack yeddim falls over a cliff and you're two hundred miles from Nexus. The book also offers some good advice that failing survival checks shouldn't result in outright death, but coming into contact with more disease, death to those ever-present redshirted companions, or having to cut a deal with unsavory characters to make it back in civilization in time to do whatever is you wanted to do. Tracking is called out as a explicit contested action of Wits + Survival versus Perception + Survival, for what it's worth.

The Survival Charm tree implicitly builds out this system by laying out Charms for discrete elements of life in the wilderness. Food-Gathering Exercise does exactly what you might think, explicitly noting that you don't need tools of any kind and that even a roll with zero successes can still feed a single person. Hardship-Surviving Mendicant Spirit makes the Solar immune to being exposed to extreme climates, along with helping to forage and find shelter. Trackless Region Navigation lets you take a group of people flawlessly through even the harshest conditions, an unerringly find the next topographical feature nearby that the Solar wants. The ultimate in travel Charms is Element-Resisting Prana, which allows the Solar (but only the Solar, annoyingly) to survive in environments antithetical to life (mentioned are volcanoes, undersea abysses, and the very limits of the Elemental Poles).

Tracking is covered by a handful of Charms as well - Unshakable Bloodhound Technique is for the hunter, providing a cascading reroll of 5s and 6s along with taking the quarry's 1s and treating them as 10s for the tracker. Trackless Passage is the counterpart when you are the hunted - making it impossible to be followed by mundane means, and providing automatic successes and double 9s when in a contest with a supernatural opponent. Eye-Deceiving Camoflage rounds out the list by letting the Solar create a hiding spot that is similarly immune to mortal perception.

All that is fine and good, but now we come to the real meat of the Survival Charms - befriending the animals of Creation and getting them to do things for you. Masters of Survival can call upon a bevy of animal familiars, which can include some fairly terrifying creatures when you look at the bestiary in the back of the book. First up is Friendship With Animals Approach which lets establish a basic rapport with any non-sentient animal. Spirit-Tied Pet is the follow-up and for the cost of 10 motes, 1 willpower, and 1 XP you establish a bond of essence with the critter. This brings a number of baseline powers to the new familiar including a supply of 5 motes & 1 willpower a day to its Solar, a Defining Tie of loyalty to the Solar, and the ability to actively possess the familiar (sensorium & voluntary actions). That alone is no slouch if you can claim a tyrant lizard, armored terror, claw strider, or other example of why the God Of Animals is really good at his job. But that's just the beginning, as everything else in the Survival tree is dedicated to making your familiars (plural, it only costs 1 XP per familiar so there is no reason now to collect them all) more badass.

Beast-Mastering Behavior lets you train the animal in various special techniques such as disarms, rushes, grapples, blinds, etc. This can be done by a mortal trainer, but of course only after weeks of work with the animal and a number of required specialties. A Solar beastmaster just looks his new friend in the eye, maybe tosses him a bit of meat, and they're off plucking the eyes of out of anyone who gets in their way. Bestial Traits Technique expands upon this and lets you increase the attribute, abilities, and Resolve of your familiar for 2 XP per. Hide-Hardening Practice and Life of the Aurochs provide soak/hardness and health levels, respectively.

Familiar-Honing Instruction is the next major Charm, because it allows you to roll your familiar into battle as an independent actor - this is enhanced by Ambush Predator Style which lets the familiar Join Battle with the Solar's die pool instead of its own. Now that we're off to the races we have a similar list of Charms to Ride that enhance the familiar's fighting prowess in various ways. Red-Toothed Execution Order improves decisive attacks, Ghost Panther Slinking benefits the familiar's stealth, Force-Building Predator Style gives the familiar a constant initiative gain, and Crimson Talon Vigor lets the familiar gain bonus initiative every time its Solar makes a successful withering attack. Longtime Exalted fans will recognize the name Deadly Predator Method as the Survival capstone - this gives your beast a Beast Mode. At a cost of 15 motes/1 willpower, your familiar gains size, armor, an intimidation aura, automatic successes to all attacks, and a chance to Join Battle again and use the new result if its better. This transformation costs 1 initiative each round (and suspends Force-Building Predator Style) and can only be used once a scene with a reset upon felling an opponent with Red-Toothed Execution Order.

Also worth mentioning is that the Survival tree also grants some ability to interact with the immaterial - presumably as a way to not be at the mercy of the spirits of nature without having to go ask some bookworm occultist for help. Spirit-Hunting Hound lets your familiar see immaterial beings, and Phantom-Rending Fangs lets your familiar attack, grapple, and then make material the aforementioned spirits.

Solar Spotlight - Healing and Hunting

Although it tends more towards animal husbandry than actual outdoorsmanship, the Survival Charm tree is generally well-put together. The real advantage to familiars isn't so much raw power (they top off at 10-13 dice for attack, after that you have to start pumping XP into them to keep pace) as the special techniques they can make available - disarms, blinds, grapples, ambushes, etc. The bestiary in the back of the book is good (if limited), enough to get a sense of the power scale for both latent (mundane) and magical abilities. The XP cost of keeping a familiar's dice pools relevant is more than balanced out by the fact that you have another actor in combat who is independently building initiative and making attacks. Never forget that the action economy is king, even when the developers do.

Medicine is a little more interesting. There isn't a lot of instant battlefield healing (Body-Sculpting Essence Method being limited to once a scene), but that's probably for the best considering the last thing Exalted needs is ways to make fights go longer. Having a master healer on your team means minimum downtime between engagements, so your circle can press ahead where others have to turn away. Also, the number of dice trick Charms means that a master doctor feels impressive, rolling huge stacks of dice just as the warriors do in combat. Those huge dice pools are particularly important with Wholeness-Restoring Meditation, where 20 successes and up are the starting point for rebuilding someone better, faster, stronger.

Where Medicine can also make a huge impact is when a Solar healer sets out to make the world a better place. Mundane healers can do alright when it comes to minor diseases, the occasional infection or the like - but they absolutely cannot deal with even a minor outbreak. When plague comes to your village or city district, a Solar healer can singlehandedly turn the side - which is the kind of thing that gets people to follow your causes. Amongst the wealthy & nobility, a Solar doctor can fix maladies like no other, which can open doors when you can cure the satrap's son of his blindness or deliver the troubled baby of a Guild merchant.

A Storyteller with a devoted Medicine character will need to carve out spotlight time for that skill - poisons are a good thing to use regardless of Medicine (particularly as a way for mundane warriors to even the odds against the Exalted), but diseases are where a Solar doctor can shine. Solars can travel into parts of the world that no others can (particularly in the deep East), as they can survive the incredibly potent illnesses & venoms found there. Survival offers much the same benefit - it expands the world for masters of these disciplines, and lets you create spaces on the map at the edges where no one else is, because no one else can survive it.

Next time: Crafts, where White comes after Gold and Silver

Zereth
Jul 8, 2003




Tasoth posted:

I have to ask, since that Metroid map is based off of nWoD, who the gently caress is Carl and why does he have the gravity suit?
My favorite part is Kraid just still being Kraid.

I Am Just a Box
Jul 20, 2011
I belong here. I contain only inanimate objects. Nothing is amiss.



Zereth posted:

My favorite part is Kraid just still being Kraid.

Who else would be the boss waiting at the end of Red Arcadia?

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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





BARGAINS AND BARGAINERS

God, “bargain” seems like a non-word to me at the moment. So the game describes the Bargainer as “one of the most flexible and powerful power packages” and this is blatantly untrue because a Bargainer is not a Blaster. They also admit that the Bargainer in the core book was a snippet of a view and they did their best to make it not look out of place. Look, when you put “summon demons, make deals with them and cast spells” up against “fly” and “gun better”, you have fundamentally failed making your poo poo look coherent. But now it’s time to share the new totems and add the aspect of spell-casting to the Bargainer, so let’s get down to brass tacks. There are two things you need to know: a spell is gained with a quick negotiation and a handshake, a totem is a business deal with paperwork.

HOYLE’S BOOK OF RULES FOR CUTTING A BARGAIN WITH DEMONS

The first step is to contact the demons in your head and ask around for the one demon that can get you what you want. The first obstacle is the fact that most demons don’t speak English, but as a sign of good will they’ll offer you a free hit of a translation spell to negotiate. This step applies for both totems and spells.

TOTEMS

The amount of totems and spells you can have depends on your Spirit. High Spirit means you’re more of a desirable business partner and valuable mark. So to contact a demon to get a totem, you have to make a TN 10 Spirit roll and kind of just actively look around for 24 hours in your head. You can reduce the searching time by 8 hours but raise the TN by 5, meaning you can get the demon you need instantly on a loving impossible TN 25 Spirit roll. If this roll fails, try again the next day.

Have you found the demon? Cool. Now you have to propose a deal to the monster in your head. This is a TN 10 Spirit roll that takes up to 24 hours and also involves roleplaying between you and the GM playing the demon. Demons are interested in pain and suffering and, well: “The GM has full guidelines for running these negotiations. All we can do is tell you to be prepared for the worst. This is not meant to be pretty, and it should test your hero’s resolve to its limits”. Lovely! So if you make this roll and roleplay it out, you have a basic verbal agreement and you can move forward.

Now it’s time to make the contract. The Bargainer normally makes the contract and this is another TN 10 Spirit roll that can take up to 24 hours. Alternately, if you need it now you can have the demon write the contract and they can just whip one up on the spot. The downside of a demon-written contract is that it’s going to be full of loopholes for the demon to abuse.


Chandler's First Law of Theology: use an angel bursting in with a gun to speed up the action in a parable.

When the ink is dry, summon your business partner and negotiate the terms of the contract with the demon. This, again, takes a TN 10 Spirit roll and can take up to 24 hours. If you let the demon write the contract, you get +10 to the Spirit roll and you can just skip negotiating. However, there’s no way any of that is fair to you.

You have to find a suitable totem, something around the size of a wand or something you can easily use as a focus. The demon will grab a lesser demon and shove them into the totem then top it off with a little bit of their own power. Demons are picky fuckers and you can’t just choose a gun or a ring you got at a thrift store. You have to make a TN 15 Scrounging roll over 24 hours to find the right item. If you want to drop the time searching, raise the TN by 5.

The last thing you have to do is hold up your end of the deal with the demon, no matter what it is. There are no rolls here: do it and get your totem empowered fully or fail and try again (or face the consequences).

So say you fail a Spirit roll at any point. If it’s a normal failure, just try again unless there’s a time limit. If it’s a Disaster (majority of 1s), the demon gets pissed off and bails on the whole deal. You have to start over from finding a demon. If you roll all 1s during a roll, you have accidentally set the demon free on Earth and there’s nothing stopping them from going on a rampage.

Attuning a Totem: Say you find someone else’s totem. You already have the bargaining demon and the totem itself, you can skip those steps. You still have to verbally negotiate, write a contract, negotiate more and fulfill the contract. Generally speaking, the demon who made the totem will try to pitch the same deal and same powers attached to the totem but you can possibly change that.

Destroying a Totem: You can’t accidentally break a totem, you have to do it willingly. Any accidental strikes not meaning to break/hit the totem just deflect off. If it’s being purposefully attacked, it can only take a reasonable amount of damage inherent to the item. Fragile totems suck, make yours out of iron. Destroying a totem kills the demon inside of it and the demon that negotiated for it is banned from this dimension for a year, so no making new totems for a year through them. This also frees the Bargainer from any obligations to the demon at the cost of a broken, useless totem.

Did you already make a Bargainer in the core book? You poor sucker. If you did, enter play knowing exactly what your hero did for their totems. Finally, as long as you touch a totem, you’re in constant mental contact with the demon attached. If you make a disastrous roll while using a totem, the demon attached may decide that the totem is being misused or you’re unworthy. Make a TN 5 Spirit roll and add +5 for every totem you own. If you fail, the totem is shut off for one hour per 5 points short, minimum one hour.


Y'know there's something about this photo that reminds me of Astrix and Obelix.

SPELLS

It’s a TN 5 Spirit roll to find the demon that can give you the spell you need. If you fail, you can try again in an hour. Then, make a TN 5 Spirit roll to make a simple verbal agreement to exchange a favor for one reserved shot of that spell. Fulfill your end of the agreement and you get one future use of that power. You can reserve one spell per point in Spirit and if you’ve got too many, you can break a previous agreement or just use the spell before getting more. You can also promise an IOU to the demon on a TN 10 Spirit roll during negotiation and have up to Spirit IOUs.

To cast a spell, make a TN 5 Spirit roll and use a single action. If you fail, it’s still on reserve until you try another roll. You only lose access to the spell if you successfully cast it.

Babylon: Affect up to Spirit people with the inability to understand anything said to them and make them unintelligible for ten minutes. This is because the people affected can only speak a Hellish dialect or hear things in that tongue. You can still use ASL, gesture or write to get through to people.

Blustery Wind: Affect a room or a 10 yard sphere. The wind is strong enough to put out candles, ruffle clothes and blow away hats. In a sandy or snowy area, add +4 to any TN for ranged attacks. Also add 5 to Intimidation rolls against people affected by the wind as long as they don’t know anything about Bargainers or the supernatural.

Chill: Drop the temperature by 20 degrees in a 10 yard sphere projected up to 50 yards away. This gives you +5 to intimidate people who got chilled. You can also focus the cold in one point to drop it to 60 degrees.

Detect Magic: Sense the presence/source of any magic or Deltas up to 10 yards away for 10 minutes.


"New orb who this."

Hellcast: Turn a reflective surface up to 20 inches away into a scrying surface for 10 minutes. You can hazily see the other person you’re “calling” and if they “answer” the picture gets clearer and you can converse until either side hangs up or it ends. While using Hellcast, both parties can see each other as clear as a Skype call, projected in front of each other. Using Hellcast to find a demon means you don’t need to roll to find them and adds +5 to any roll to verbally negotiate with that demon.

Immunity: Seal off your digestive, pulmonary and respiratory system to protect it from poison, gas, disease, breathing, suffocation, extreme fire or extreme cold. This doesn’t protect against indirect damage or attacks. You could probably cast this spell and use it in lieu of STI protection, turning your genitals into a closed system. This is just me being silly and bored, sorry.

Lighter: Cause a small flame to erupt on something within your line of sight. Light cigars, impress people with prestidigitation, commit arson.

Lightbulb: Summon a red-tinted globe of light between your hands for ten minutes. If you open your hands, you can mentally control where it goes. The orb can act as a distraction in darker areas, adding +4 to the TN of enemy ranged attacks.

Shade: Create supernatural darkness that takes up a sphere of five yards around the caster. The Bargainer can shape how it looks and you can’t see anything inside the area from the outside by any means. From the inside, it’s maddeningly unclear if you can actually see anything.

Silence: Create a sphere up to 3 yards in diameter around the Bargainer that nullifies all sound inside from escaping. You can hear noises from outside of the area, you can hear them from inside, it’s just that the inside noises don’t go out. You can also shape the size of the area.

Understand: For ten minutes, anything you hear, write or say can be understood perfectly by you or any other person witnessing it. You can hear any language, say anything in English with someone in Japan understanding it and write something that anyone can comprehend. This is the spell that demons like to use to facilitate communication.

Unstun: Cast on yourself or someone else with a trigger that lasts for one whole combat. This immediately undoes stun and prevents any further stun for the rest of the combat encounter.

White Noise: Fill a target’s head with white noise for a minute. They can’t concentrate (requiring an extra success for any active roll), they can’t understand what’s being said to them but they’re pretty much immune to any Persuasion roll against them.


This guy is like straight out of some kind of doofy slapstick comedy, look at this face.

NEW TOTEMS

As a reminder: to use a totem, it has to be held in a hand. If contact is broken, the powers end. You can only use one totem at a time. The previous two totems are Mimic (tap a Delta with it, copy their powerset completely) and Delta (perfectly replicate one Delta’s powerset for as long as you want but only that powerset).

Anti-Magic: You’re 100% immune to any Bargainer power or Covenant power. You are also completely immune to any Delta’s powers used against you. This doesn’t protect against indirect affects: you’re 100% immune to a Blaster’s energy balls (!) but a Gunner can shoot you dead. Also, any time a Delta or supernatural being touches you, they lose their powers as long as they touch you. You can’t grab someone and do this, they have to touch you. Immune to this snuffing: demons, Alphas.

Hellcaster: At-will Hellcast anyone you have met for as long as you want. Using the Hellcaster totem means you don’t need to roll to find a demon for bargains and gives them +10 to any roll used to cut a deal.

Immunity: Perma-immunity as long as you hold your totem.

Protection: Because you have to summon a demon to finish the deal, this runs risks. You have to draw a pentagram (for reasons) and as long as the pentagram is intact the demon can’t leave the circle. Standard demonic poo poo. The Protection totem is insurance against the times that the demon manages to breach the circle and go on a rampage. Any creature from another realm (demon, alien, Cenobite, Time Pony) can’t come within three yards all around the totem’s wielder and they can’t directly attack them. They can in fact indirectly attack them (destroying the room, telling someone else to attack them) and if the Bargainer ever touches the entity the entity can touch right back.


As the magician keeps shooting tentacles out of the hat, they start turning different colors and are knotted together like scarves.

Seal Totem: Permanently shut a door or enclosure. It only works if the area is self-contained when all entryways are shut. The seal is airtight and watertight and it’s all protected from all damage. Once the seal is on, it can’t be removed without being destroyed but the Bargainer can open and shut it as much as you want or make a key to open the seal. Only the demon that made the seal can destroy it, requiring a TN 30 Spirit roll. It’s explicitly mentioned that Bargainers like to put these on their houses and cars to make them indestructible.

Summoning: Any rolls used to find a demon or convincing them to sign a contract have the TN reduced by 10 to Automatic if at 0. The Summoning totem can also be used to summon a demon and use it for other people’s bargains.

Translation: Perma-Understand. You can also understand “morse, ASCII, semaphore and encrypted messages”.

Ward: Trace out an area and create a magical alarm if people trespass who aren’t on a list you can change at any time.

Thoughts: Okay. Let’s take it from the top before we talk about the premade characters.

The Summoning/Hellcaster totem is absolutely vital to the process of doing a Bargain because as written it’s real loving tricky to do any of this. You’re rolling off loving blind Spirit, you need one of your dice to roll a 6 and at least a 4. If my poo poo math is accurate, a single d6 has 8.3% chance of success. I am, admittedly, not good at probability. If anyone can figure out the probability of a success on, say, a 4d6 for beating a TN 10 on the way these dice explode that’d be appreciated. You have to do this four times total on a blind Spirit roll. You have nothing boosting/helping this without either of those totems or just letting the demon do most of it. It’s loving ridiculous and it’s a big loving distracting process that goes on and on over the span of four days at least. It’s probably going to take longer because of the chance of failure!

So you’ve got your Hellcaster/Summoning totem so you’ve got a better chance of making totems. Not counting those two, the Immunity, Anti-Magic and maybe the Translation totems are worth it. Maybe get a Tough totem (y’know I have no idea how a Bomber totem would work). Except. Except for the fact that every totem means you have to pay a terrible price. A cruel sacrifice has to be made. And that’s just not fun. I mean, it could work thematically in certain games and it could be a compelling plot thing. I’m not saying it couldn’t work. But the whole group would have to be on board with that and this is a loving gritty superhero game. Horrible sacrifice to demonic entities just doesn’t fit. Also if you take all of those, you’re now out of totems because I assume you have Spirit 5 and all you can do is gently caress around with demons and get magic spells. You’ve got these defenses but they’re pretty loving situational. You’re doing too much and where do you fit in with the group?

As for spells, they’re as good as the cost that you have to pay. It’s a light cost and the spells are kind of poo poo. You can only hold so many spells at once, you need to pick them and bargain for them in advance and they’re all pretty drat situational. Immunity, Detect Magic and Understand would probably be the top picks for spells. I just…I can’t recommend them.

Everything the loving Covenant does is better than what you can do. They know their magical abilities forever, they can summon holy fire or get ripped or gain armor and none of what they do requires sacrifice. You could probably even just get all edgy and drop the majority of the religious trappings and find yourself or however you want to spin it. It also just takes way less time and effort to be in the Covenant. And I have no loving idea how anything you do help save the world when no matter your intentions sacrifices must be made and blood must be shed for the actual powers which are heavily limited and which heavily limit whatever it is you can do. It’s ridiculous; they went from a lump on the game system to a full-blown malignant plot tumor full of lovely mechanics and ridiculous “OUR MISSION IS BIGGER THAN DEFIANCE” bullshit.

PREMADE CHARACTERS

The vanilla Bargainer is included in this section and I will not be revisiting him. All of my previous complaints still stand.


Dang, she angular. I dig the aesthetic.

Dealmaker: The Dealmaker is the one Bargainer most likely to gently caress everything over in regards to roleplay and metaplot thanks to her Charmer totem. Aside from that she’s really just incredibly focused in making a killing in the stock market. She could really just abandon the voices and the demons and just make a dumb amount of money. She’s also got that law background, which is good for her. Honestly she’s got her poo poo together the most compared to the others but she’s built for social combat instead of anything else. She’s got AP rounds in a gun she can’t even use. I can’t really recommend her because you could do this exact same thing, this exact same schtick with the Charmer Delta which is exactly what the Defiance book does.


*plays some kind of darkwave synth action theme*

Hard-Boiled Haggler: Dude, where’s your longcoat and katana? Anti-Magic is a good fit for this kind of guy because he’s, well. He would very much like to be the premade Snuffer. That guy was cool. I dug his deal. They’re trying to make an anti-magic Snuffer, sort of. It’s a shame his stats and skills don’t really match up to his theme. He’s okay across the board but he’s not stellar at anything and I don’t exactly see him being totally competent at actually hunting down creatures of the netherworld and shooting them.


Is that a skirt or, like, long-rear end pants? This is what I wonder.

New Ager: What do you do. Judging by that Immunity totem you can do all the drugs you want, drink until the bar runs dry but you have zero plot hooks. You have a van and a computer and you’re okay with that. But you have no point. You just exist. Ugh.


Hmm yes, fire is clearly written words.

Occultist: I don’t see a soldier as much as I see someone qualified enough to bargain for days because of that Summoning totem. It’s a shame you have a shitload in Smarts when you could have just pumped your Spirit up. Then you could have all of the bases covered for totems and a shitload of guilt for your terrible deeds. Or you could keep summoning demons and having your Blaster/Bomber friend murder them to protect mankind. Also you can’t use that gun.


Last time I saw a guy throwing a bird out of a hat on the streets it was much more profane.

Street Magician: You can’t use that knife. You also don’t have much to you. Mimic totem? Sure, whatever. You too are just there. Do illusions on the waterfront to save the world or whatever.

Thoughts on the premades: gently caress ‘em. The only one of them that has any real plot hook is the Haggler. They base their existence on them being a sliver of an idea and then they just throw Bargainer into the mix. And they just don’t get much to do. Even if these were in another system, I don’t think I’d like them all that much. They’re just not…good.

NEXT TIME: setting secrets and premade enemies. Let’s get ready to shut this book.

potatocubed
Jul 26, 2012

*rathian noises*




Chapter Five: Put To The Test
People, animals, and AMPs. I'll be honest, Officer Sylvester vs Tweety was probably the best thing to come out of this chapter.

Right up front we're told that this chapter focuses specifically on NPCs which might be a threat to the characters -- which is fine, if not exactly true. The majority of this chapter is in fact AMP opponents, who I suspect might also be playtester characters? But a lot of them aren't really threatening. They're just... folks.

Which is at least in keeping with one of the themes of the game: that people are people, superpowers or not.

We have a nod to minion rules as well, with fodder. Fodder have the stats of Average People, or

quote:

They may also simply rule that a successful Inflict Harm Action takes out the target in question, due to either luck or the difference in skill level between the character and the Fodder.

So yet more 'the GM might just rule things go like this, maybe?' in place of actual rules or guidelines. Ugh.

Anyway, moving on to the meat of the chapter.

Animals
We've got stats for bears, birds of prey, dogs/wolves, horses, and big cats.

Bears are moderately dangerous -- they do hefty damage, have loads of hit points, ok stats in attack and defence, and they've got natural armour that reduces all incoming damage by 1. They also have a Might + Athletics score of 9, which means they don't have the minimum strength to break a 2x4 (M + A 10). They've also got a Movement of 12, which works out to a sprinting speed of ~12 mph.

A quick Google tells me that a grizzly bear can roll around a quarter-ton dumpster "like a beachball" and sprint at 35-40 mph, so there you go.

We've already seen how dangerous birds of prey can be. Also worth noting is that they have Perception listed in their stat block but no number next to it. They're "Perception Speed 10".

A digression: It's interesting to me to note the oddity with the Movement system on display here. Basically, to stop PCs from dumping their Speed and taking a power that lets them get around that (like Flight, for example), all Movement is derived from your base Movement which is derived from Athletics + Speed. But then if you start with something particularly fast -- like a bird of prey -- you have to back-solve from a high Movement, giving it an arbitrarily high Speed.

But then you start deriving other things from Speed or Athletics, like defence in combat (or wrestling skill) and everything goes to hell.

Anyway, back to the animals.

Big cats "may attack and perform a Tackle with the same action at no penalty". There's no Tackle action in the book. Presumably they mean a knockdown?

A horse's back kick "automatically causes a Knock Back" which also doesn't mean much of anything RAW. Presumably it means that if a horse hits you with its back kick it does knockback in addition to damage -- which is totally irrelevant because a horse's Might + Athletics is 6, which will knock anyone hit by its back kick six feet away (i.e. just outside of melee range, because we're using D&D measurements) unless you have an M + A of 2 or better, in which case you won't even get knocked a full square away.

Having spoken to some horsey people in my time I'd judge that a stun would be far more likely than a knockback, but I'd also use a completely different system for animals than people because they're not really directly comparable in terms of raw strength or athletic prowess.

As a side note for this section, I'm going to complain that although several animals have size modifiers to be hit -- the size modifier table in fact uses animal sizes as examples -- those modifiers don't appear in their stat blocks.

Mundane Threats
Here we've got stats for Average People, police officers, small-time criminals, big-time criminals, soldiers, 'commanders', and men in black.

Average People are so useless they might as well just auto-fail everything. They have one skill at 3 and all others at 1, meaning that in their area of specialty they're rolling d20 + 4, which is terrible.

Police officers and small-time crims are fairly decent antagonists for non-combat PCs -- combat-specced characters (or peregrine falcons) will destroy them by the dozen. Although a thug with a baseball bat would have a pretty good chance of going one-on-one with a bear and coming out on top.

But soldiers... soldiers are hardcore.

Their skills are listed as

quote:

Choose one focus (Fighting 6, Knowledge 6, Medicine 6, Technology 6 or Travel 6), All others at +4

Now this is unclearly worded -- does it mean 'all others from that list' or 'all other skills'? The former would be more reasonable, but it would also mean that no soldiers have Marksmanship... so I suspect the latter is the correct interpretation. Which is ridiculous.

Oh, and this:

quote:

Other Notes: Soldiers fight as a team and receive a +1 bonus for each other allied Soldier to all combat checks for the Battle.

Oh, and if they have a commander with them they can clock an extra +3 on all combat checks while the commander's giving orders.

They're also all listed as having "Machine Gun[s]", which you'll note in the equipment list are actual belt-fed machine guns. (Assault rifles have their own entry.) A soldier with one of these has an attack bonus of +8 and does 6 brutal damage on a hit -- but they'll always be using short bursts, so make that 8 brutal on a hit. One of these guys alone will probably kill at least one PC if they start a fight; especially if they go all-out attack and attack twice per turn at +11 to hit, 9 brutal damage. Or they could empty the magazine in two long bursts, attacking up to 10 targets each time at +5 to hit and doing 11 brutal damage.

And that's just Rambo by himself. God help you if he brings his mates and/or his commanding officer.

AMPs
There are 33 AMPs presented here, so I'm going to try and keep things brief. The back cover of AMPYO says they're pregenerated characters you can just pick up and play: of the six I ran the numbers on not one came in with the right points value to be starting characters. You could probably still just pick up and play since they're not hugely out of whack with one another, but you know. Details.

Anthem is a self-duplicating sound blaster who wants to be a punk singer. She's also a kleptomaniac, which is how she's likely to cross paths with the PCs.

Arbiter is a TV psychic who is also (unknown to most) an actual psychic. Her build is missing Wealth, though, so despite being a famous TV psychic she's nearly penniless.

Bombadil is a beardy weirdy who loves his plants and has an exact 50% chance of being able to stop you from bleeding to death. Also

quote:

Any time his home has been found, he welcomes the visitors in, offers them tea and asks them their purpose. If there to harm him or his plants (and he'll know because he talks to his plants quite often), their tea just so happens to be poisonous. If they are friendly, then they get to experience the strangeness that is Bombadil.

He's got no poison powers, so I guess he just straight up pours rat poison into the drink of anyone who wants to hurt his trees. He's got a lot of escape powers but no defence against mind control and no combat skills -- an Average Person could take him in a fight, assuming they didn't mention this intention to any of the plants they walked past to get to him.

On the other hand, with Medicine + Knowledge 9 he's one of the few people in the game as it stands who might be able to stop you from bleeding to death. Too bad that with Discipline + Empathy 2 if a PC rocks up on his doorstep he'll probably just poison them because of the law of attraction.

:sigh:

Breezy used to be a vacuous it-girl but a near-death experience gave her a new lease on life and air elemental powers. Now she's an instructor at the School for the Gifted, which I've just realised makes her a chilled-out Canadian version of Storm. She's actually built as a fairly decent pacifist character, and would make a decent PC with the addition of some bonus points. (To buy some Wealth, which once again has been forgotten.)

She's a pretty handy doctor too, and is a) more resistant to the law of attraction and b) less likely to murder you even if she fails than "the strangeness that is Bombadil".

Carver is a doctor with giant always-on sword-claw arms. He's trying to find a cure for having giant always-on sword-claw arms.

Charon is an emo teen from a lovely broken home who regenerates and can talk to the dead. He's a pretty good character as a PC or an NPC, with a built-in motivation (to help lay ghosts to rest) and a twisted past that can come back to haunt him. He's also completely incapable of resisting urges or impulses, but I figure that's okay for a teen.

Chrome is an anti-conformist invulnerable butch lesbian magnet-woman who fights crime. Which is p. cool.

Citizen Arcane is a stage magician who also has actual illusion powers and a pet squirrel. Somehow, he is even more twee than Bombadil.

Conduit is basically Rogue if Rogue was a bloke and a teenage rear end in a top hat. And he's leader of the Changelings!

Courier is a teleporting English teacher who lives in Japan, and somehow has a permit to carry a firearm which I thought was a big no in Japan? He loves his wife a whole lot. I don't know why he would be involved in AMP drama at all.

Critter is Stacie Winters, dog-thrower extraordinaire. She's probably missing as of the start of the game's timeline.

Cypher is a shadow-controller who works as an assassin for the UHF because his brother is a member. (Side note: He's got Love 4 for his brother and rubbish Discipline, so he mechanically cannot resist his brother tugging on his heartstrings -- which is sort of neat?) He's quite handy at fighting and godawful at anything else.

Diamondback is a poisonous assassin for Typhoon and... just look at this:



He doesn't have the Kid drawback, note. He also doesn't have any Wealth despite being a highly paid assassin who "live[s] the life of luxury".

He's also kind of poo poo at being an assassin. His poison spit is nasty but he's going to have trouble doing it more than once or twice per fight and with a base damage of 3 Brutal that's not going to do the job. His poison bite is at least lethal to an Average Person (over the course of a minute or so) but because he's got no Might he's going to have trouble getting the Grab he needs to deliver it and it's still not going to kill fast enough for him to avoid being smeared across the walls by anyone who knows how to fight. (He's not even very good at escaping for bite-and-run tactics.) His poison kiss is his best assassination trick because it knocks people out as well as hurting them, but he's pretty short on ways to persuade people to kiss him.

Here's how you make a better assassin: take Portals instead of Venom and take the Pocket augment. Pick up a bunch of social skills so you can get close to the target, then literally pull a shotgun out of your rear end and blow them away.

I think technically that augment only works on pockets, but if I was GM I'd let that slide.

With the same Portals you can stop your target from running away and make a clean getaway and leave fewer CSIs scratching their heads over a human bite wound with pronounced venom-delivering fangs. Hell, with the right augment you can even pull someone else's shotgun out of your rear end and frame them for murder in the process.

Portals is the best assassin power.

Frostbite is an ice-controlling street gangster who works for Typhoon and wants to expand his gang into a global crime ring. He could wreck Diamondback in a fight, and would make a better assassin too.

Hunter blames AMPs for the death of her husband and daughter so she joined the UHF to kill them. Then she got AMP powers. Oops! She hates the UHF but she hates AMPs more, so she's a self-loathing murder machine who plans to kill herself once she's killed all the others. Her only powers are Killer Instinct and heightened senses for Danger Sense, which I like as a power concept for a 'regular Joan' killer a la the Punisher.

She also has the Stable Psyche merit! Because nothing says 'stable' like a bereaved mass-murderer.

Inukpak is a Canadian First Nations teenager who turned into a giant and wrecked a TV station.

Juegar is a Spanish matador with stretchy powers who got "gorged on the bull's horn". :eng99:

The Lance is a cool concept. He's a paramedic by day, and a vigilante speedster with a healing touch by night. Unfortunately he's a poo poo paramedic with a Medicine + Knowledge of only 5. (That healing touch makes up for a lot.) With only Fighting 3 he's pretty crap as a vigilante too.

Lost Boy is a kid (with the Kid drawback) who was horribly traumatised by his parents' deaths and manifested erratic teleportation powers.

This guy has Wealth 2. Despite being about nine, and therefore not able to have a bank account in his own name or a job with which to provide income.

Oh, also? Dude is still subject to the law of attraction. If you meet him anywhere there's a bit of tension, he may well be compelled to confront you -- by attacking you or otherwise getting up in your face. Despite the fact that he's a kid, he's traumatised, and he's basically terrified of everything.

Even better/worse, if you meet him anywhere there's a bit of tension there's a non-zero chance that you will feel compelled to get up in his face, further traumatising him (at best) or maybe just blowing him away with lightning/disembowelling him with your shadow sword if your principle method of conflict resolution is violence.

Remember when I mentioned that the law of attraction is bollocks? And that the Kid drawback will never lead anywhere good? This is what happens when the two intersect: you roll badly one time and your Cool and Good PC ends up punching a small boy in the face. :downsbravo:

Nether lives in a nice neighbourhood, and brutally murders anyone who disturbs the peace. (Or at least he would if he had a half-decent build. Even with his powers I'm pretty certain a regular thug could take him.) I think he's a cross between D-Fens from Falling Down and that bit-part villain from Warren Ellis' Punisher run who also murdered anyone who disturbed the peace in his nice neighbourhood.

Oh, except he has Wealth 0 so he actually lives in a slum. Oops.

Nymph is a model with plant and pheromone powers. Fairly decent character build; not combat-focused but able to fight, but she's got no Persuasion skill to capitalise on her pheromones and her Attractive merit.

And she's rich! (Wealth 4)

Pattern is a :spergin: with psychometry and technopathy powers, meaning she's the clue dispenser. Good to have on your pub quiz team.

Radiant is a light-wielding rich girl who's basically crossed the line from 'vigilante' to 'arbitrary violence dispenser'. She's actually pretty well-built and would -- pre moral collapse -- make a decent PC. A notable problem for a PC Radiant is her Discipline + Empathy zero and aggression problems, which means she's a) probably going to fail any and all law of attraction rolls and b) jump straight to violence when she does.

Rapture is a powerful oneiromancer who is convinced that dreams are actually another dimension and she should be able to pull things from one to the other permanently. On a related note she's in love with a dream-character of hers called Lilith, who popped out of her head to murder her repressive parents when she was a kid, and is trying to find a way to bring Lilith into this world permanently so they can shack up. Well-adjusted!

Rapture is phenomenally powerful, although her stats don't quite line up with the rules as written. She also has a permit to carry a gun, which is odd because a) she can summon items from her daydreams and b) she has no Marksmanship so has no idea what to do with the gun she's legally allowed to carry.

Ripley is an amnesiac dual-pistol-wielding badass with Marksmanship 8 and hyper-agility. That's someone's player character alright.

He also has an "Addition" to cigarettes, so better pray to God he never runs out or he's going to murderise everyone between him and the corner shop.

Samaritan is an old dude who's had a great life and has a loving family, and now he travels the world using his portals to help folks out and take in the scenery. Another pretty cool character concept.

Savage is another Typhoon "killing machine" whose stats don't do justice to the concept.

Savior is a mind controller and water elementalist who's built a little cult around himself but isn't quite sure what to do with them. Another neat character concept, built in such a way that I'm getting ex-PC vibes from him as well. (Low combat skills bumped up by specialities in the weapons he was going to be using anyway.) He has a Hideout and followers, but no Wealth.

Shell makes forcefields and is almost terminally dull.

Stench is a concept straight out of the X-Men: a guy whose power involves being a walking disease vector, who tries to live like a hermit but keeps having to help people out of car crashes and muggings and things.

Thrasher is a Native American dude who has visions and can turn into a bird. He'd pretty much abandoned his heritage, and now is a bit conflicted about going back to his mother and asking for spiritual insight. Could be exploitative or a good story? I don't know. Kind of pointless as an NPC though because his plotline, such as it is, is contained almost entirely within his own head.

TimeX (capital X intentional) is a nigh-legendary kung fu master (Fighting 8) who runs a strip mall dojo with too few students to pay the bills. With Luck and Chronos for powers, he's the most dangerous fighter among the pregens. (Although Ripley's pretty close.)

Vigil is a homeless woman with earth control powers who doesn't sleep. She fights crime and looks after the homeless, which make for good hooks whether she's a PC or NPC.

And that's the lot!

----

Thoughts: The bulk of this chapter deals with the AMPs, so that's where the bulk of my thoughts are.

Basically, they range from alright to pretty good. There are a few with almost no reason to interact with the PCs even if they are the PCs (Thrasher being the best/worst example) but most of them are interesting concepts at the very least. The mechanical execution is variable (Diamondback) although almost none of them can reliably hit DC 20 Discipline + Empathy to resist the law of attraction if you meet them in a tense situation.

I'm 99% certain that these are the player characters of the playtesters. I can see what looks like the makings of a game set within each of the major factions plus maybe a street-level vigilante crime-fighting sort of game and a street-level 'among the homeless' sort of game. And one which is all famous people? (Nymph, Arbiter, Citizen Arcane)

Which does showcase the game's versatility. You can play games from a whole host of different angles with AMPYO, which is definitely a point in its favour.

The big mechanical problem is with the Wealth rules -- I suspect at least some of the games these characters came from didn't use them, which is why you have so many characters at Wealth 0 even when their description would lead you to expect more. But then that's what happens when you include a background that's pretty much compulsory to function in the modern world but make it cost precious chargen points. At least AMPYO beats out WoD by having Wealth 0 give you minimal wealth instead of the literal 'you own nothing, you are a homeless bum' of WoD's Resources 0.

Next Time: GM Advice. Insert your own 'use a different system' joke here.

unzealous
Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!



Part 1: Better Angels!
Better Angels is a game where you’re a human possessed by a demon, and the best way to keep the demon in check is to essentially become a super villain. In an interesting choice the demon isn’t played by the GM but instead the role is given to one of the other players. They’ll be the ones egging you on, asking you to be that tiny little bit more evil. Ultimately one of it's greatest strengths and weaknesses. Playing two roles let's you be active in scenes even when your character isn't present and the demons tend to be pretty ridiculous and fun to play as. The downside is if someone misses a session it throws the whole thing out of whack as you're essentially missing two characters from the group. It's a mixed bag but can be very fun.

The book itself begins with a bit of fiction.

A social worker was driving home one evening when all of a sudden she was wrenched from her car by DESECRATOR DREAD, a member of THE VILLAINOUS NINE. She was taken to one of their hideouts where they no doubt hatched their villainous schemes! They revealed to her their dark origin stories! One used to be a beat cop, drummed out of the force after they brought the corruption to the attention of the public. Another used to teach in an inner city high school. Others were civic reformers or zen priests. “How could this be?” she wondered, “What kind of strange trick was this, and why did they need her?” Well it turns out that all of their powers, their super strength, amazing intellect and energy blasts all had a single source.

Demons

With the fire and brimstone and hell and everything, demons. It turns out that demons are real, and they’ll possess people and in the process give them superhuman abilities. The downside is they really, really want you to do evil acts with them. Murder, arson, grand theft, the more people that are hurt, the happier the demon becomes. Do enough evil and they can drag you to hell to torture you for all eternity, which is a feather in their cap to be sure. But there’s something of a flaw in their plan. They also love spectacle and drama. A few people have found that, as long as your plans are sufficiently evil sounding, they can generally keep the demon in check. This is without concern for any inherent flaws or effectiveness a plan might have. Angels exist too, often fulfilling the role of superheroes, but what you didn’t hear in the media is how much they cared about punishing the wicked and how little they cared about keeping bystanders safe.

So then, what use did these people have with her, a lowly social worker? Well it turns out Doomslaughter, a former member of the VILLAINOUS NINE had gone off the deep end. He’d given in to his demon wholesale and done terrible, terrible things before finally being brought down. Not just by heroes mind you, but by his own team as well. And now he was locked up, in the most secure prison in earth, and the remaining members of the gang had a plan. They offered the social worker an option, she could wear an amulet which would draw Doomslaughter’s demon to her when he died, and then they were going to destroy the prison with Doomslaughter in it. Of course, if she refused...well...they’d let her go without question. They’re not murderers after all. Of course if she wasn’t wearing the amulet that demon would really just pick someone at random to possess. And it turns out that Doomslaughter was quite the nice person until the demon finally got the better of them. They were a philanthropist surgeon who would take days off to deliver medicine to kids in need. So imagine what would happen if that demon found someone with a far less stringent moral code? Spoiler: Bad Things

quote:

Play your human well enough and you might even force your demon back to the bowels of the Hell that spawned it. Play your demon well enough and you could drag a mortal down to Hell for eternity.
Walking that balance, between good and evil and power and fear, is the heart of Better Angels.

Supervillains are Dumb

Check out my sweet rear end drill submarine

Supervillains are Dumb
So, a core concept is that villains in comic books, and the ones you’re going to be playing as, are kind of dumb.

quote:

Remember the Tinker from Spider-Man comics in the 1980s? A guy who can turn a waffle-iron into a ray gun is working out of a radio repair shop building weapons for supervillains? Why wouldn’t he file some patents, get a few defense contracts and quietly reap the profits of Reagan’s peace-time military buildup?
Ultimately they use their ridiculous laser guns and hovercrafts to rob banks to fund...more of those laser guns and hovercrafts. They do not make sensible, long term decisions. There’s no shortage of people volunteering for extremely questionable experiments ready to turn to crime at a moment's notice. When they inevitably get out of prison in one way or another their first reaction is usually to go right back to crime with a side dish of vengeance. And there’s a reason for this. Mainly that the writers don’t have the time or money to introduce more villains. As well the villains goals should be something that can be pretty clearly explained in a few issues. This ties into a major theme of the game, which is EEEEEEEVIL vs evil.

EEEEEVIL is what you see in comics, where the villain’s plan is simple, if a bit ridiculous. The villains have stolen all the cheese in the city because they’ve developed a ray which turns money and gold into mice, which will all flock to their warehouse where they’ll be returned to more barterable form. The villains have taken a panda hostage and are threatening to dye it completely black if their demands aren’t met. Pies are stolen, weird gadgets are unveiled, you get the gist. Ultimately this makes for better reading than the kind of evil you see in real life. A comic about a lobbyist ultimately forcing a bill through congress through bribery and blackmail might be more realistic but isn’t as entertaining to most people. It’s also kind of depressing. It also tends to be disseminated amongst large groups of people, many of whom may not even know what they’re doing.

quote:

Hitler and Stalin didn’t do their own heavy lifting. They passed orders downward, and their massacres were invisible at the top levels until after the fact. The tasks required to murder millions get divided and sub-categorized and assigned to hundreds of bureaucrats so that the chemicals are requisitioned by one clerk, received by another, coordinated with train stations by a third and only deployed by soldiers after events have so much momentum and official approval behind them that disobeying becomes incredibly difficult. Even if one soldier refuses, what happens? He might get a bullet in the skull as his reward, but just as likely his commander shrugs and finds another. The conscientious objector can get transferred to the motor pool. He doesn’t need to be made an example because people who can stand up to the institutional evil of a Third Reich are so vanishingly rare that a government can afford to ignore them.
This kind of evil is slow, it develops momentum quietly and out of sight until it’s too big to stop and by the time people notice they’re already a part of it. EEEEEEVIL on the other hand is fast, spectacular and just riddled with flaws, but that’s okay.

Up Next: Let's Start Making a Villain!

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Demon: The Descent

Demons are fugitives, traitors and criminals against the God-Machine, and surviving that isn't easy. There's enemy agents everywhere, and the Unchained know that if they are caught, they will almost certainly be destroyed, remorselessly and without hesitation. They have lost much of their power in the Fall, much of their duability and survivability, and they know it. They need to hide, but working alone doesn't usually cut it - dying alone and hidden is no better than dying to the Machine. Every demon knows what they gave up, knows that they lack purpose and allies. One demon doing their best is never really part of humanity, no matter what they do. They're a creature pretending to be human. They know too much about the world around them, see the power of the Machine everywhere. Thus, demons that make contact with each other often form into what are known as rings - small groups of demons with differing goals, even incompatible ones, but a shared need to survive and avoid discovery. Thus, demons can usually trust each other not to turn each other over to angels, because that'd mean handing themselves over, too. On top of mutual protection, a ring also allows demons to teach each other. Most angels are given only the knowledge they require for their tasks, and while angels do not share this knowledge with each other, nothing stops a demon from doing it. Strong allies, after all, are more useful. Rings are great for sharing information on Infrastructure, angels, resources and other useful things.

While most demons never form rings larger than a handful of allies, some do join larger groups - Agencies. Most demons view them with a mix of suspicion, fear and respect. When the term is used, it most often refers to what are more technically temporal Agencies - organizations that exist to benefit their leadership. The demons heading these groups live in luxury, with their Agencies selling their services as fixers to anyone who can afford it. They provide demons with access to teachers for Embeds and Exploits, as well as arranging access to information dealers and the black market in all kinds of goods - even Covers. The more influential Agencies have hundreds of Pacts on retainer each year, offering the mortals who sign them things they could never get on their own - removing problems, gaining power, anything, really. The Pactbound just has to give up something of value - sometimes something tangible, sometimes part of their life, on top of, say, some part they want to get rid of. The pact is made, and the problem in the Pactbound's life becomes a part of a Demon's Cover rather than stick around. Agencies are also happy to work with poor mortals, helping them get what they want...in exchange for any part of their life they still have. Once that runs out, well, a soul pact is rarely far behind. These are often referred to as 'burn Covers,' serving the same purpose as burner phones for a demon - untracable, short-term-use identities intended to last just long enough for one job.

The use of burn Covers is not universal. More profit-seeking Agencies will clean up these Covers and try to make them more valuable and lonterm. Once the soul pact is signed, these Agencies not only deliver on their promises but will send a special agent to help get the Pactbound's life in order, using their powers to improve the mortal's situation so that their life can become a more useful, wealthier Cover, especially if they have specialized skills, which are also valuable to a demon wearing the Cover. You might mistake this for altruism; it's not. Ultimately, it's the same kind of self-interest you see in real estate investors that fix up old homes and flip them for a profit. It increases your resale value, and you will be resold. Your prosperity and newly fixed life last only until someone cashes you in and erases your personhood. Most mortals who come to an Agency for a pact are running from really big problems. The wealthy might sign minor pacts to jettison parts of their lives they don't need for things money can't buy, but almost none sign major pacts, and then only after long courting. Skeptical mortals may not understand quite how real a contract written for their soul is, but those who are familiar with religion or the occult will generally hesitate to sign them anyway.

Demons at the upper ranks of a temporal Agency rarely work hard to maintain their Covers. They hide themselves behind layers of minions and delegation and just live out the lives they want, often with a dozen or more soul pacts easily available if they need to change. The middle rank of Agencies tend to be specialist demons or managers of small groups of lower-rank agents. Either way, they're indispensable and have some discretion, plus probably two or three quality identities ready for them, though they can't burn them easily. In the event that angels come to take down the Agency, mid-level demons rarely escape unless they've been solidly planning an exit strategy - they're too visible to human outisders and outcast recruits that may or may not betray them to the Machine. Low-ranking agents are treated only slightly better than demonic clients. If they get a second identity at all, it's probably a burn Cover. They are most likely to be sent into dangerous situations, but if they can evade capture long enough to get in contact with the Agency they can probably get a new identity if burned. This is a benefit of service - most demons in those straits will be driven off or killed if they come begging to buy a new identity without notice.

Insurgent Agencies, meanwhile, do not exist for pleasure. They are founded by powerful, charismatic Saboteurs to help take down the Machine. Lesser demons tend to have trouble recruiting others for a such a plan, after all. They focus heavily on recruiting, and tend to be quite large if they survive the first month. Many do not. They tend to be top-down, with agents at each level knowing little about those above them. Orders come anonymously and reports are filed equally secretly. Most insurgent Agencies don't disclose their goals to new recruits, instead setting up fronts to collect intelligence and resources without telling their agents they're part of an army. This does, however, mean that if the Machine can infiltrate the upper ranks, they can easily destroy the entire group by tracing the chain downwards. Those at the bottom who don't even know they're pawns rarely get a chance to flee when the angels come for them.

Compromised Agencies are those which the Machine allows to form as a trap for demons. Sometimes, that means sending an angel to pretend to be a demon, but that's less reliable than suborning a real Agency. A handful of demons are allowed to remain free as long as they maintain a quota of other demons turned over to the Machine. This lasts only until the compromised Agency tries to get free or fails to make quota. Most of the time, demons notice the disappearance of their fellows and can identifgy the cause. They'll take revenge on compromised agents sometimes, but they rarely fight these Agencies directly for fear of angelic confrontation. Instead, they warn others of the trap and make it harder to fill quota. Integrators sometimes organize these Agencies on purpose to gain favor, but that's not common at all. In almost all cases, compromised Agencies are, in fact, compromised - a normal Agency subverted by the Machine, filled with undercover angels to watch over the newly suborned demons, who have a choice between betraying their fellows or being erased.

Free Agencies are informal ones, often organized largely to discuss experiences with other demons. They don't make large meetings or have specific goals. Their agents are nonexclusive and work largelt to share rumors with each other, debate theories on occult physics, give each other advice and argue about how best to survive. Most of this is done via listservs and invitation-only forums. In some cases, demons will even exchange anonymous stories about their angelic existences, but that can be dangerous - even without names or locations, the Machine might be able to connect the dots and out you. Some demons involved in free Agencies will compose long, detailed reports that have too many identifiers to show to others. In the event of capture, the report will automatically be sent to the Agency so all members can preserve knowledge that would otherwise have been lost with the agent. Thus, even the most paranoid Inquisitor will usually lurk in free Agency forums in hopes of gaining these manifestos before they are deleted to avoid God-Machine notice.

Now we get some short lifts of example cities. Washington, D.C. is full of demons seeking power, but also full of God-Machine agents. There's at least six Agencies in the area at any time, merging and splintering at random. They are always engaged in alliances and turf wars, and agents in DC are notoriously self-interested, swapping loyalties depending on who's winning at the time. They are bound up in mortal politics, with soul Pacts on several lobbyists and bureaucrats, and even a few politicians. One Agency claims they have a Senator as an agent, but won't say which. Saboteurs build secret Agency divions to harm the Machine, and while they've had some success, they're drawing attention. A local Agency has been infiltrated, but no one is sure which one. The Agency leaders seem more interested in using this to rally against rivals than to find the true threat.

Williston, North Dakota doesn't look like the battleground it is. It's an oil rush town. Saboteurs and Inquisitors hide as oil workers, investigating God-Machine activity that has been in place from a similar oil rush in the 80s. It seems clear that this is the next stage in some project. The local Agency exploits the mortals seeking oil and money, conning them or acquiring real estate and renting it out to newcomers at high rates. To minimize infiltration risk, the Agency does not advertise its stats as insurgent to new demons, recruiting the way most tmeporal Agencies do instead, talking abour resources and protection. Those that won't pay their dues or try to become competition will soon discover how much control over Williston's demons the Agency actually has. It doesn't demand everyone join, but it has no tolerance for threats and lots of power in the city.

Hong Kong has a reputation for free trade, low taxes and lots of people. The Agency there has been around for a century, and it claims it's made as close to Hell as anyone will get. Since the passing from British control, however, it's under siege. The Machine's plots have proliferated, taking advantage of the Chinese government's efforts to curb sedition to try and restrict demonic activity. To make things worse, Deva Corporation showed up and built an office recently, kidnapping several agents and loyal stigmatics. It's turned at least one demon into spying on the others, which forced the Agency out of its headquarters and into a skyscraper that it now shares with a dozen other companies, any one of which could be a Machine front. Another Agency has shown as well from mainland China. They seem to have access to one of China's political prisons, which they use to gain soul Pacts by threat or torture. Their agents have no fear of blowing their Covers as a result, and sometimes even attack rivals in the streets. The Hong Kong demons know very little about the newcomers or their goals. It's likely, despite accusations of collusion, that they just want the freedom Hong Kong has enjoyed for so long. Some local agents think it's time to switch sides and join the newcomers, but any defectors haven't been seen since, though it's unclear if that's because they were killed or given new Covers.

Berlin, Germany was long a city split by the Cold War. When the Berlin Wall fell, the Agencies that ran demonic concerns on each side went to war to control the city. While both were temporal Agencies, the Western Agency accepted Integrators as members, while the Eastern Agency was heavily Saboteur and often executed Integrators. During the fighting that followed, the Western Agency controlled more of the financial and tech markets, but the Eastern had more members. The two fought to stalemate for ten years before declaring a truce, having used up most of their resources and now being hunted by Machine agents. The two Agencies recruited new demons and each consolidated their power over half the city. Fifteen years of mostly peace and cooperation have brought them together. The Western Agency is sitll more friendly to Itegrators and the Eastern still more likely to attack Infrastructure, but they rarely fight openly these dies. Some demons even belong to both Agencies openly.

Moscow, Russia, was one of the most difficult places to be a demon, prior to the Soviet Union's collapse. The strict limits on speech made it easy for the Machine to subvert mortal institutions, and it had more undercover angels in Moscow than any other city in the world. The demons there lived in constant fear - not only of the Machine, but of being taken as spies by the KGB and Soviet authorities. Even investigation by the Soviets was dengerous, since it eroded Cover. Anyone without a bunch of soul pacts was probably going to get captured, and most of those who survive were part of Agencies tied to the mafia. After the fall of the Soviets, the most potent Agency in Moscow conquered or destroyed all other Agencies in the city. Today, they are infamous as criminals, hedonists and callous towards human life. They engage in all kinds of crime, and has thousands of pacts, mostly signed under duress, for burn Covers. They specialize in selling package deals - abducted humans forced to sign soul pacts, who are then sold, body and soul, to other demons, typically for use as untraceable Covers, as their buyers usually aren't anywhere near where the new Cover came from. Some don't cash in quickly, using the threat of doing so to force their victim to do as they say, while others try to treat their purchases well and make them comfortable, either to make their Covers more valuable for later or to resell the contracts.

Tel Aviv, Israel, is a major economic hub and arts community, as well as home to one of the largest non-virtual free Agencies in the world. They hide their messages and writings in libraries, museums and theaters across the city. Several agents work in publishing houses, hiding pages in a handful of copies of books on unrelated subjects, which they arrange to go to local libraries. Others use their power to hide writings in art, newspapers and movies, viewable only to other agents or even narrower audiences. To protect their members, every text has multiple copies and no agent knows where each copy of a document is. They often split longer or more sensitive documents between several books in multiple locations, so that finding all of the pieces can take days. If a patron checks out a hidden text or the library removes it from circulation, you're going to have to hunt down the mortal with the book or find another copy. The catalog is decentralized and involves contacting multiple agents to find one that might know where to get a document, assuming you know what you're looking for. No one in Tel Aviv's Agency can provide a complete list of every text. The complete collection has tens of thousands of texts - personal accounts of the Fall, dossiers on suspected God-Machine cults, theoretical discussions of Infrastructure and more. Some time ago, the acquisitions department Agency began actively collecting texts from demons in other conturies, and even got ahold of 250 pages of the God-Machine Manual, stolen from the Deva Corporation. They began hiding the texts overseas a year ago, when they found that several copies of key texts on occult physics had vanished. Most suspect theft out of curiosity by other demons outside Tel Aviv, but some fear that someone's trying to destroy the information deliberately.

Next time: Infrastructure

bewilderment
Nov 22, 2007
man what





I'm excited for more Better Angels!

Also I want to know where these supervillains get these names.

unzealous
Mar 24, 2009

Die, Die, DIE!


bewilderment posted:

I'm excited for more Better Angels!

Also I want to know where these supervillains get these names.

Well you're playing a random person suddenly imbued with an array of powers which may or may not be related to each other. So you just kind of make something up that sounds kinda evil, doesn't step on any copyrights and just kind of hope for the best. They can't all be winners.

Hostile V
May 30, 2013

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



Yesssss Better Angels. This poo poo is my jam.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



Afterthought 34 is up and stupid. I mean, way worse than usual.

potatocubed
Jul 26, 2012

*rathian noises*




Chapter Five: The Immersive World

OR

Chapter Five: Storytelling

depending on whether you're looking at the table of contents or the chapter header.

Themes/Moods
AMPYO takes its cues from WoD with regards to themes and moods, in the sense that it uses the words 'theme' and 'mood'. The book says the setting's themes are:

  • Unveiling the Mystery. Basically there are loads of conspiracies. It does point out in this paragraph that because of the way the strains originated in 1940 and follow bloodlines, characters' parents and grandparents may well have known each other -- which has the potential to be a great hook into a 'big setting mystery' plot if you want to go that way.
  • Most Important Things. What's important to you? What will you do to protect it? Good questions both, and actually mechanically supported (a bit) by the Loyalty system.
  • Hero vs Villain: Are you a hero or a villain? Are such distinctions meaningful? Since the answer to the latter question is (in-setting) a firm 'no', I don't know why this is called out as a theme. It doesn't really matter.
  • Danger Around Every Corner. The law of attraction forces AMPs to fight, but various groups (like the gubmint) are always on the lookout for AMPs and want to black bag them. Nothing is safe! This theme isn't mechanically supported at all, but the fiction leans into it.

So you know, not a bad answer to 'what is this game about?'

Inspirations
The films Push (which I liked a lot, which is apparently unusual) and Wanted (oh dear), the TV shows Heroes (um) and Misfits (yay!), and the comic books Gen-13, Teen Titans, and X-Men.

Although not listed the game's mechanical inspirations are clearly WoD and d20 grafted together, which makes for some uneven joins. I've mentioned before that the swingy d20 skill system combined with the WoD 'punish someone for trying the same thing over and over' is a bad fit.

Developing Stories
If you've been wondering 'but what do you do in AMP: Year One?' this section is here to answer you. Every faction (plus Unaffiliated) gets an overview of the sorts of things they're likely to get up to, and three concrete story hooks to get you started.

On the whole these are pretty good, although there's no section covering what to do if your players gen up characters of mixed affiliations -- I suspect the official advice would be 'don't do this' but it would be nice to have a sidebar or something to that effect.

I have a couple of minor gripes about this section, but they're pretty minor -- it is overall a useful and good inclusion.

First gripe: the UHF is treated as a faction that PC AMPs can join and work for. Because a game about working for a group of bigots who hate you for being un/lucky in the genetic lottery seems a bit... grim. Unless you frame the game as AMPs breaking free from the fucknut assholes and making a better life for themselves. That might be p. cool.

Second gripe: this is one of the hooks for the Seekers of Enlightenment:

quote:

Missing Teammates: As time goes on, many of the AMPs discovered and embraced by the Seekers end up missing. The characters may need to investigate their disappearances and may only find more danger in the process. AMP: Year One leaves the truth of their whereabouts hidden, but this could put them at odds with any of the other organizations quite easily.
My emphasis.

Yep, the first book encourages you to set up a mystery plot where the Actual Answers are transparently going to be revealed in a later book. I'll take "Why is metaplot bad?" for $300, Alex.

There's some advice about making NPCs which boils down to 'spend some time on the major ones' and a section about how the setting influences the game. This latter part is 100% devoid of useful advice. It might as well not be there.

GM Advice
A handful of pointers for the AMP GM.

1. Have Fun!
:phoneb: Hello, boardgame thread? Would you like to explain the definition of fun for us?

2. The Characters Are The Story
This is actually good advice about keeping the story focused on the PCs and making sure that what they do matters.

3. Don't Control Everything
Also good advice. It's 101-level good advice, but that's fine -- going into an in-depth discussion of illusionism and why it's bad is probably not the best use of page count for a product like this.

4. Involve Loyalties, Involve Everyone
Basically, 'make sure the characters have a reason to bite on the plot hook'. Although it could probably do with a little more on intermediate techniques like 'ask the players what would motivate their characters to get involved' or 'tell everyone beforehand what the hook will be and have them build characters with appropriate Loyalties'.

5. Be Descriptive, Not Definitive
Ehhhhhh. Basically 'don't spell out what's going on in short words, because this frees you up to mislead the PCs and throw them a curve later'.

And that's the end! That was a short chapter.

And apart from a glossary, that's the end of the book!

----

Thoughts: Well, that's certainly a game.

...okay, it's about 85% of a game. Depending on which powers you choose you may have guaranteed effectiveness in certain circumstances, or be entirely dependent on the GM permitting you to function, or sometimes both. Remember Heartstrings?

Honestly, I feel bad ragging on it so much because from what I'm told and what I can see Third Eye Games are one of the best companies in the industry (such as it is) and I think there's mileage in supporting that kind of friendly, positive, professional style.

But AMP is not a good game. :(

In terms of game design it's straight out of the 90s with all the flaws and wobbles that entails, most notably the metaplot and the eminently abusable merits and flaws system. It's also got the D&D problem that you can break the game over your knee without even trying just by accidentally picking one of the powers that lets you do so. The system itself is an unholy fusion of d20 and Storyteller, and has carried over some of the worst bits of each -- a swingy d20 roll, needing to invest in two skills to be good at one thing, a focus on narrative without any mechanics to support narrative... it's a hot mess.

It's also internally inconsistent. The Addiction flaw has different rules to the way addiction is described in the section on drugs. The drugs version even references the flaw version! Not that the two function together in any meaningful way. Or the Pain rules -- I just did a Ctrl-F through the pdf looking for them and found six versions, all very slightly different.

And I expounded on this when we looked at the Systems chapter, but the 'moderate' DC for things is too high. You could fix almost all of the mechanical problems this game has by dropping that DC to 15 and allowing people to take 10 or 20 to establish a baseline level of competence. (Although the areas where mechanics are incomplete or entirely absent would still be a problem.)

That would also allow you to circumvent the law of attraction if everything was chill when you met another AMP, although that's another area of the game that requires a whole overhaul. I get that it's meant to prevent AMPs from living a quiet life by forcing them to act out whenever another one shows up -- which could happen any time, anywhere -- but you don't have to do that by taking people's agency away. Have their powers flare up outside their control until they've 'attuned to the other person's aura' or something.

The game would benefit in general from better rules for handling beliefs and emotional states, not least because they have power sets and a combat action that interact directly with those. If that was in place you could refine the law of attraction into something a little like an Exalted limit break: hang around with other AMPs too much and eventually you'll fly off the handle -- but the player can choose the way in which their character goes when they do go, perhaps based on their current emotional state. You could do a lot with a system like that.

And that's kind of the thing, I think. AMPYO's major flaws are glaring but fixable, and they're pretty much all mechanical, but there's a major disconnect between the game's stated themes (conspiracies, shades of grey, superheroes taking their place on the world stage, the price of power) and what the mechanics support (fights, losing control). You could port the AMP setting to almost any other supers game and lose nothing. Hell, looking at those themes I reckon you could hack Night's Black Agents to do it.

But not so much Mutant City Blues? That has a strongly-defined powers system baked right in, so it's probably less suitable.

I started writing up this game because I thought a close read might show me what it was that other people love so much about it, and now I'm done I still have no idea. I get that with a skilled GM and a load of handwaving (and no-one setting out to break the game, or picking the wrong power and doing it by accident) you could have a good time playing it -- if I had the opportunity I wouldn't turn down a game of AMP, which means it still comes in ahead of Champions -- and that maybe the d20-based mechanics might make it an easier sell to the D&D crowd, but overall... it's just not very good.

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Kellsterik
Mar 30, 2012


I love Better Angels so much, I was anticipating it for years. Glad you included the sidebar on Evil vs. Eeeeevil!, that's a theme that kinda runs throughout Stolze's writing. Not to spoil anything, but later in the book is an antagonist section featuring some examples of what happens when a mundanely Evil person gets access to a demon, and it's...pretty unsettling.

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