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Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

Siivola posted:

That's from In the Cage: A Guide to Sigil. It's actually an ad for imported animals, for both food and pets, and includes miniature giant space hamsters. They're a bargain, too, at only a single gold piece per!

You're right, I need to refresh myself on it again.

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

Prism
Dec 22, 2007

yospos


Cythereal posted:

Miniature giant space hamsters (and regular giant space hamsters and carnivorous giant space hamsters) are from Spelljammer, another book that deserves a good write-up here.

I actually own the original boxed Spelljammer set (minus actual box, but I have all the contents of the Adventures in Space set). Somewhere. In a storage box.

If I can find it, maybe I'll write it up in a couple weeks.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Traveller posted:

Legend of the Five Rings First Edition

Way of the Phoenix: If you need to escape

Asako Ingen was a pioneer in the research of the Gift. He was convinced that the Riddles were only the beginning and sought to unravel the puzzle. At the end of his life he finally managed to lay down the groundwork for the modern view of the Path, but old age claimed him before it could be fully realized. His last words were reportedly "I would be as a god!", and in the 800 years since his death many other great Asako thinkers and scholars of the Gift have died with the same words on their lips, on the verge of a great discovery before unexpected death takes them. For 5 points, characters are considered to be 1 School Rank higher for Riddles, which makes Ingen a must for any henshin.

Ah, I see you have the errata'd later printing of the book. In the original 1st printing, Asako Ingen was 5 points, made you considered 1 School Rank higher when using riddles, and... gave a flat 20% bonus to insight. That's right, for 5 points you would be... oh... an effective Rank 3 Asako Henshin to start. At least.

And somebody nodded and said "That sounds fine." and let it go to print.

Robindaybird posted:

It's eyerolling how it flatout assume all the critters will love and want to hang out with beasts - and surprised no one commented the "I have a totally hot vampire girlfriend" text.

In Canada, no doubt.

Doresh
Jan 7, 2015


Godbound


Divine Powers - Part 3

Now for another set of Words, both strange and straightforward.

Health

quote:

The Buyer of Plagues stood on the bedar's deck, a merchant's
slate in one hand and a piece of chalk in the other. The pirate
captain lying on the deck was bound at hand and foot, the
cable that tied his ankles snaking over the ship's starboard side.
The Buyer smiled at the sobbing man, and spoke.
"My sister's navigator, Indah."
The six men on the port side hauled on the cable, and the
pirate went over the starboard side with a shriek. The men on
that side paid out the rope until its prisoner was somewhere
under the bedar's keel, and then they began to sing.
Port and starboard heaved in rhythm, the old Kasirutan
shanty singing of home and gold and foreign girls, sweating
backs heaving to and fro as the pirate was sawed against the
ship's keel and the broken shells of the barnacles beneath. They
sang for twenty verses and had started a second time when
they finally sawed through.
The port-side men had the bigger piece left when they
pulled in the line. The Buyer stepped forward to kick it into
a human shape again, and the first breath of the resurrected
pirate chief was a scream.
The Buyer waved the crew toward a fresh coil of rope and
chalked another mark on the tablet.
"My sister's bosun, Rakti…"


The healbot Cleric Word. Heal people, cure diseases, neutralize poisons... or be a bit more nefarious as the lovely fellow in the above quote, though your choices for that are limited with this Word.

Aside from a CON boost, you are so healthy that you are immune against diseases and poisons, and you can also instantly diagnose them on others.

For typical healbot duty, there's Ender of Plagues. The heal spell to end all heal spells, this little Gift cures all diseases and poisons in sight. If you commit your Effort for the day instead of the scene, this healing effect extends to a half-mile radius, penetrating any wall or other obstacle. You also immediately become aware of any curses or other sources for disease or poison.
Flesh made True lets you play Jesus, as you can instantly cure blindness, crippled legs, missing limbs even and really any physical defect you have. Doesn't heal any Hit Points, though.
Intrinsic Health is a simple passive that permanently boosts your maximum Hit Points based on your Level. Words like Endurance can probably get away with grabbing this one even without the Health Word.
Merciful Gaze lets you stare Hit Points back onto a target (2d6 + Level). The target has to commit Effort for the day, and NPCs and mere mortals can only be healed once per day from this Gift (also probably in general as most mortals have only one point of Effort)
Vital Furnace has you no-sell hits like Alucard. Any damage you suffered since your last turn is just gone. Doesn't help you if that damage was enough to kill you, though.

For Greater Gifts, Burning Vitality can either give your Regeneration until your back to max health, or can slightly heal any ally around you (which they don't have to pay Effort for) and ressurect the recently deceased.
Lifegiver is a more focused resurrection spell, and it also grants your a permanent aura that causes all nearby allies to automatically stabilize. The former effect only requires that at least some bits of the body are left, while the latter requires the body to be relatively intact.

More evil applications of this Word consist of the Lesser Gift Plaguebringer (afflict someone with a disease of your choice) and the Greater Gift Deplete Health (cut someone's health in half like the Demi spell from Final Fantasy, though this "damage" is not lasting and will disappear after the fight).

Journeying

If you like Lord-of-the-Rings-style montages of dudes wandering through breathtaking scenery, this Word is the epic version of that. You can pretty much "beat" Tolkien's classic tale in a session.
Many of these Gifts only work when you're traveling from one location to the other. They can get you to a dungeon, but don't help you with the crawling.

Unsuprisingly, Godbounds with this Word always know where they are and never get lost. Travelling is also such a part of your being that you can use it to replace sleeping and eating.

Dust at your Heels is a good way to troll pursuers. As long as you and your buddies keep moving, you will always be faster than them.
Know the Path is basically magical Google Maps, as you always now the best way to reach your destination. Your "travelling instead of sleeping/eating" ability also spreads to your travelling companions, which offers great synergy with the above Gift.
Master of the Key is actually useful for dungeon crawling, as you can instantly deal with any sort of mundane trap, lock or seal. Committing Effort lets you do this with magical stuff.
Opening the Way creates "holes" in a location's security to allow you and your group to safely enter. You have to enter a city besieged by a huge army? Now you can just walk through the camp of the besiegers, with their guards being suspiciously absent on your route.
Swift Progress not only protects your group from climate and similar effects, doubles your movement rate, but also lets you treat any terrain as flat ground, including mountain ranges and oceans.
Untroubled Passage simply makes it so that your travel won't be hindered by mundane enemy encounters or bad weather. The only ones with a chance of disturbing you are worthy foes (like Nazgul).

Greater Gifts give us The Exodus Road, which simply upscales the amount of people you can affect with your gifts to a ridiculous degree. The Greek needed the Trojan Horse to sneak into Troy? You could just have the entire army stroll into the city (the guards sure will have a hard time explaining how they missed that.
On the other hand, if you end up having to abandon a city, you could have the entire population flee over the seas to our allies. By foot.
The Hour of Need is a bit like "Guards! Seize Him!" in that it retroactively causes a group of allies to arrive just in time. This one can summon allies that are a week's journey away, and it explicitly mentions that this Gift can just mess with causality to achieve its effect.
The Path of Racing Dawn lets you and your group move at 100 miles per hour while travelling, unopposed by any sort of terrain. This most likely means you're flying, but you could also end up becoming intangible or something.

Knowledge

The Word for chess masters and other types of masterminds. You can't see into the future or uncover ancient mysteries whose last traces have vanished long ago, but you can still do a lot that gives you plenty of bragging rights. Like getting exclusive intel from your GM.

As an inherent ability, you get to boost either INT or WIS.

I should also point out that the universal attack Gifts Divine Wrath and Corona of Fury can be purchased with any Gift, even abstract ones like this. When fighting dudes, you can literally blow their minds.

The Best Course lets you get a sentence of information for accomplishing your current goal, and it can only be used again if you've made use of the information or switch your goal.
The Best-Laid Plans lets you better prepare for any plan, as the GM has to tell you the biggest threat or complication for said plan you don't already know about - and only the biggest one. You now know that the dungeon is guarded by a Beholder? Well, turns out there are also a lot of Gelatinous Cubes.
Excision of Understanding lets you make someone forget a specific thing until they relearn it or you stop committing your Effort. You can sadly not depower a spellcaster, but you can make someone forget his mother tongue. Or his knowledge about his own profession.
A Truth that Burns is an insidious move in that it lets pick a target and uncover the piece of knowledge it least wants you to know. As if people in power didn't already have enough reasons to be paranoid towards Godbound.
The Unveiled Truth allows you to get a short answer to any question, as long as the answer wouldn't require knowledge that is either gone completely or kept a secret by anyone in the know.
If you want to check back on what's going on a with a place you've visited before, but don't feel like getting there yourself, the Gift A Word Far Off lets you quickly gain the most relevant bits of information of any current events going on there.

Disclose the Flaw is a Greater Gift that lets you scane a target like a Blue Mage from Final Fantasy. Not only do you know its Hit Dice and Effort, but also any weaknesses, including the secret ones.
Irrestible Query makes you answer the GM any question about a past or present event.
And finally we have The Omniscient Scholar, which turns you into the anthropomorphic personification of the Akashic Records. If a piece of knowledge is known to any mortal sage or scholar, you know it as well, and you automatically succeed at any intellectual task that can be tackled by a mortal.

Luck

quote:

"Please, gospodars. You should not frighten a girl with such
lewd talk." Sveta spread her hands as she backed away from
the trio of drunken serfs, silently cursing herself for being so
careless. The knives and sticks the louts held were of no impor-
tance, but she couldn't afford to leave unexplained bodies this
close to the border. Now would be a good time for a witness.
A watchman? This stinking mudhole had no such thing, but a
respectable goodwife… like the one who just peered down the
alley mouth. Now to finish it quickly, before the woman ran.

The goodwife's hands flew to her mouth as she took in the sight
of the ruffians and the slight blonde girl they were closing on.
She did not even have time to scream, however, before one of
the serfs squealed and clapped the kidney where his comrade's
careless knife had stabbed him. The third jerked around reflex-
ively at the cry, and the stick he carried sent its haft into the
groin of his comrade, doubling him over. He stared stupidly
at the writhing men as Sveta hurled a pebble at him. It was his
misfortune that the stone cleanly hit his right eye, crushing the
orb and leaving him shrieking and clutching his face.
The Three Stooges are petty violent.

Is probably the most subtle of Words. You don't really do flashy effects, you just cause things to happen in your favor.

Godbounds with this Word have the unique ability to roll a d20 once per day, keep the result in reserve, and use it to replace the result of a single d20 roll done by you or anyone else.

For hilarious hijinks, you can curse a single target with Blighed Luck, causing all sorts of non-fatal misfortune. For more specific effects, they gain the equivalent of a 5th edition disadvantage on their attack and saving throws (aka roll two d20 and pick the worse result).
Nine Lives lets you reroll any save or hit roll that would've killed you once. And no, you can actually pull this off more than nine times in total.
Salting away the Luck lets you reroll any die rolled while doing something of importance. Unlike many reroll abilities, the first result is kept in reserve for as long as you keep the Effort committed. This pretty much works like the innate Word ability, except you have to use it on others, and you can keep an die size in reserve (though you can only replace someone else's result if their die has the same number of faces).
Spun Fortune forces a reroll for a target as long as you are aware of the action that caused the roll.
Unmarred Beneficence grants natural AC 3 through sheer luck. If some bad effect targets a random member of the group, you will never be chosen.
The World Against You is weaponized slapstick, causing 1d10 damage at up to 100 ft. Mortals and other mundane beings can't figure out that you are the behind all of these crazy misfortunes.

Greater Gifts of Luck give us By Chance, with which you can cause any event to happen as long as it is probable. Impossible Victory by contrast lets you just automatically achieve your main goal on any conflict through sheer luck, though you can only use this Gift once ever. Thankfully includes a refund.
Unfailing Fortune is a bit tamer in that it merely allows you to reroll any natural 1. Oh, and you can decide the outcome of any sort of gambling or game. People will hate playing Monopoly with you.

Might

quote:

Self-Willed's short legs were tired of walking and his back was
tired of the pressmen's lash. Why the Order recruiters had
even seized a dwarf like him was a mystery, but anything was
better than the misery of home. Elder Impiety had threatened
to report him to the eugenicists the next time the red-robes
came around, and so when the recruiters had descended on
the fields, Self-Willed had run just slow enough to be caught.
But that was three days of marching ago and now they were
in the foothills, far away from Stiflers and red-robes and any-
one else but twenty shackled recruits and ten thin pressmen
of the Order of Reason. It was far enough. It was time to go.
His manacles shattered in hot steel fragments when the
dwarf spread his thin arms. A shard flew through a pressman's
skull in a fountain of gray matter and another man was split
in two by a sweep of the short steel chain. Self-Willed's small
fist went through the third one's belly to grip his spine, and
the pressman was still dimly aware when the dwarf used him
as a club to crush his comrade. The other six ran.
Long legs wouldn't help them.
This might appear like the only piece of Godbound fluff with a demi-human, but it's probably more of a Tyrion-type of dwarf. But we'll get to that when I cover the example setting.

The Word for those who want herculean strength to accomplish impossible feats of strength. Or just rip and tear stuff.

Taking cues from AD&D's obsession with high STR scores (aka your STR 18/xx shenanigans), this Word is the only one that can boost an Attribute beyond 18, in this case raising your STR to 19 for a +4 modifier. And even without any of the actual Might Gifts, you become the worlds greatest weight lifter, capable of lifting or smashing anything possible by a human.

Of course you want to be better than a human, so take your pick:

Descent of the Mountain lets you throw anything you can lift to any point within sight. Realy large stuff adds a -4 hit penalty, but it also causes a 1d12 area attack.
Falling Meteor Strike lets you concentrate to punch 10 ft holes into objects. You can use it for free on non-magical stuff, but have to commit Effort to do the same to magicla objects. Requires too much concentration to be used in battle, but if you happen to use it on an immobile target, the results aint pretty (your level times four in damage, which I think makes it the highest damage attack period, safe for blasting Mobs)
Fists of Black Iron turns all of your unarmed and weapon attacks into magical ones. All of your one-handed weapons also deal as much damage as a two-handed one (aka 1d10), while two-handed attacks get bumped to 1d12. The latter also includes unarmed attacks made with both hands, making you one badass Captain Kirk.
Shoulders wide as the World lets you pick up anything up to warship size, ignoring those pesky laws of physics that would cause the object to either break apart or push you into the ground. You sadly can't use it as a weapon, but it doesn't slow you down at all.
Stronger than You works exactly like it sounds: if you're in any kind of STR-related contest with someone else, you always win (unless your opponent also has this Gift, in which case you just roll it out normally). You can even grant this effect to others for one action, which is very handy to get allies out of grapples. Struggling with a Godzilla-sized kraken? Well, not any more.
Surge of Strength really puts on the hurt as you can maximize a single STR-related damage roll. Like the above Gift, you can also grant this effect to an ally.

Leap the Moon is a Greater Gift that turns you into either the Hulk or an anime character, as you can jump to any point within sight, without suffering falling damage in the process. You're limited to a total of 10 miles per hour, but it allows you to punch flying opponents in the face.
Loosening God's Teeth turns a single armed or unarmed attack of yours into straight damage. Can't be boosted further with other Gifts (like the maximize damage Gift above), but you punch so hard that even a miss deals normal damage.
Thews of the Gods is a suped-up version of Shoulders wide as the World. Now you can pick up buildings or smash through any non-magical substance as part of your movement. You're the Juggernaut. Or the Kool-Aid Man.

Night

Another rogueish kind of Word, this time focusing on stuff like sight or sleep. It's like a Shadowdancer in parts, except better executed.

As an inherent bonus, you gain perfect Darkvision, don't need to sleep, and never wake up others by accident - which is pretty handy for a ninja demigod.

drat their Eyes is a neat little debuff that lets you blind people, penalizing their melee attacks and making them straight up useless for ranged combat (unless they happen to have some supernatural sense). Lesser foes stay blind for as long as you want (no Effort required), while worthy ones recover after the end of the scene. Instead of blinding them completely, you act mor subtly and only make them blind towards a particular person or object. Nice to sneak part a guard, but more than one become a problem as the blindness goes away if someone else points out the person/object for them.
The Darkling Stairs is a very Shadowdancer-esque ability that lets you effortlessly move over vertical surfaces if its dark enough. The effect still lingers for a round if you come across a bright light, giving you time to grab onto something or hide.
Knives of Night is your 1d10 over 200 ft. attack, allowing you to turn the darkness itself into weapons. Knocking someone out with this effect allows you to either kill them outright, permanetly blind them, or just put them to sleep.
A Road of Shadows allows you to teleport via shadows, covering up to 1 mile at a time for a maximum of 10 miles per hour.
The Still Silence of Sleep is basically a Sleep spell with a 50 ft. radius and sight range, and the added bonus of you getting to choose what they'll dream about. As a much more useful bonus, you can also communicate with your pantheon buddies and other close allies through dreams.
Welcoming the Dusk surrounds you in darkness up to 30 ft. in radius. It moves with you and doesn't hinder your own vision in any way. The darkness can also have any shape you desire, allowing you to cosplay as a Nightwalker or similar critter.

Greater Gifts bring us A Darkness at Noon for some Castlevania flair, shrouding an area with a radius of 1 mile per Level in eternal night - with a moon phase of your choice! You could also do the opposite and greate an area in daylight, complete with the sun. You can also enchant any sleeping lesser foes to dream a dream of your choice and stay sleeping unless physically harmed, which is pretty handy for sneaky actions.

(The Gift is a bit confusing as it doesn't mention how long it lasts, but then again the default for these types of actions is "Lasts as long as you keep Effort committed")

Flesh of Shadows turns you intangible. You can't affect the real world, but neither can it. Only magical attacks can harm you.
A Speaker in Dreams lets you use dreams to communicate with anyone you've ever seen before. You can also spy on their dreams if you're into that.

Passion

The Word of heart and emotions, aka the power of all magical girls and that one Planeter everyone makes fun of.

Naturally, this Word grants you a CHA boost. But what further powers await our divine Princess Tutus and Ma-Tis?

For starters, Banner of Passion lets you infuse anyone in sight or earshot range with a strong emotion of your choice, to for example instill your minions with courage, or just start a party.
It should be noted that this and other Passion Gifts are a lot more fuzzy than say Command Gifts. Since emotions are so powerful, you can only nudge people towards one, instead of dictating their exact reactions.

Fashioning a Friend turns the target into your BFF. This works even if it would make no sense for the target to be your BFF, unless you actively show your true colors towards him. Worthy foes get to save (and no-sell with Effort) as usual, but lesser foes are BFF-ified without fail.
Follow the Threads lets you magically profile someone, learning general information about a target's most significant acquaintance, justby looking at him for a round.
Heart of the Lion makes you immune against fear and any other unwanted emotion-altering effect. You can also temporarily spread this immunity as an aura.
Snuff the Heart's Candle is the opposite of Banner of Passion. Instead of infusing someone with a specific emotion, you take it away instead for as long as you want. You can erase the emotion entirely (to say make someone completely fearless), or only against a specific subject (if you're in a love triangle and feel like cheating).
Terrifying Mien has you instill so much fear that NPCs must make an instant Moral check (with a penalty for lesser foes). NPCs themselves can't use this Gift, as PCs are just immune against it.

The Greater Gift A Heart like Clay is like fuzzy mind control, letting you rewrite the target's emotions and feelings towards anything.
Infectious Passion is a bit like Banner of Passion, though this time around the emotion can actually spread like some kind of infection till the emotion has jumped over aronud 5 or 6 times. Do you want an entire village to be engulfed in blind violence, or do you just want to kickstart the biggest party ever?
A Song buried Deep is another variation of Banner of Passion, this time linking the effect to a trigger, like a person, song or image, as precisely as you want. The effect is activated by any instance of the trigger within your level in miles, making it perfect to apply it to something like a common phrase or national coat of arms. Turn your armies into fearless fanatics, or just troll your enemy with the World's Funniest Joke.

And just to repeat myself, the universal attack Gifts work with Passion as well. You can break someone's heart so hard they die. Or just shoot heart-shaped laser beams I guess.

Next Time: The last batch of Words. Including spellcasting and time travel shenanigans.

Doresh fucked around with this message at 12:24 on Sep 24, 2016

Mitama
Feb 28, 2011



Doresh posted:

Lifegiver is a more focused resurrection spell, and it also grants your a permanent aura that causes all nearby allies to automatically stabilize. The former effect only requires that at least some bits of the body are left, while the latter requires the body to be relatively intact.

Lifegiver requires Effort for the day for each resurrection. The Buyer of Plagues is really vindictive there.

Doresh
Jan 7, 2015


Mitama posted:

Lifegiver requires Effort for the day for each resurrection. The Buyer of Plagues is really vindictive there.

You won't like him when he's angry.

DAD LOST MY IPOD
Feb 3, 2012

Fats Dominar is on the case





Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS part 15: Going Negative
The Moil map again:


When we last left our heroes, they had escaped the dreaded Vestige with their minds (hopefully) mostly intact. They have flipped the three necessary switches and are ready to get the hell out of Moil. Where to next? Well…
As I mentioned earlier, Acererak went to a great deal of trouble to set all this up. He is close to the apotheosis of his great plan (called The Apotheosis by the adventure) and is waiting on the last few pieces to fall into place. What he needs now are souls. Not just any souls, however. The souls he needs must be of surpassing value; great souls of powerful heroes. In other words, high-level PCs. In order to identify these souls Acererak set up the TOMB OF HORRORS and City as “filters” to simply kill off anyone who couldn’t hack it. The third and final “filter” is his true power base in the Negative Energy Plane: the Fortress of Conclusion.
Reaching the Fortress is naturally difficult, because of the incredibly hostile nature of the Negative Energy Plane. Acererak has therefore set up a gateway that leads there at Area 16. Unlike the other towers, this is a construction that the lich added later; it’s a massive square spire made entirely of black ice. Powerful magic keeps it standing. It’s got a few traps, of course, because why wouldn’t it?
A bridge leads to Area 16.1 of the Spire, but there’s no door into the interior. It’s not hollow at all. Instead, a very steep, very narrow staircase winds around the outside of the tower, going down into the darkness. Each complete circuit of the tower is 300 feet down, making it hard to see lower reaches of the staircase from above.



While on the Spire, all Dex checks are at an additional -2 due to the slippery ice. If you hit or get hit while on it in combat, you must take a Dex check (with a tiny +1 bonus, netting to -1) or fall over; if you’re on the stairs, this gives you a 50% chance of going over the edge, with attendant consequences. The ice can be melted, though it’ll magically regrow at 1 cubic foot/turn.
16.2 is merely the descent. This takes about an hour, and at some point a murder of negative fundamentals burst out and startle a character, who must roll for surprise, and if surprised must take a Wisdom check or jump backwards… and then a Dex check, with failure indicating a plunge into the darkness. The fundamentals of course attack, and there’s 2d10 of them.
At the bottom of the staircase, the PCs find themselves just above the roiling mists that mark the border of Moil. There’s a wide landing (Area 16.3) with a 20’x20’ shaft bored into the side of the Spire. It’s the only way forward, so in we go! The tunnel is lined with jackal-headed ice sculptures reminiscent of figures within the original TOMB OF HORRORS. No doubt your PCs will look upon them with suspicion, but these really are just harmless statues. Acererak likes to gently caress with people.



16.4 is, of course, a trap. The walls, floor, and ceiling are all filled with Moilian zombies frozen in place; their faint moaning and screaming can be heard by approaching PCs. Stepping into the corridor puts you in range of their life-drain ability, and since there are about 30 feet worth of zombies, it’s a bit of a gauntlet. To stop you from just running headlong through, the last 20 feet of the corridor are trapped. The ice is very thin and more than 20 pounds of weight will break it. Stepping on it will shatter it and send you plunging through! In one of the most gratuitous examples of dickishness in the book, you can check Dex (with the -2 penalty) to grab on to the edge as you fall, but even if you do the edge breaks off and you fall anyways.
The drop is 40 feet into a pit full of razor sharp icicles, with 4d6 falling damage plus 1d6+5 from the spikes. The bottom 20 feet of the pit also has a bunch more Moilian zombies frozen into its walls, so sitting down there puts you in range of their life leech—except for a 2’x2’ square in the exact center. The ice will gradually regrow if broken, and PCs can free the zombies if they want (but why?!).

We all know how much Acererak likes pit traps. Assuming the PCs get out of this one, they reach the end of the zombie gauntlet to find a concave depression in the far wall at area 16.5, with a 4-foot diameter shaft bored into it. It slopes away at 45 degrees, and the entrance is ringed with carvings of a ring of snakes writhing around each other. Their eyes gleam like living snakes, and coming within 20’ of the wall causes them to animate. They can’t get away from the wall but they’ll writhe and twist as though alive. If you get within 3’ of the wall they’ll attack you, 1d6+3 at a time, doing 1d4 damage each and injecting a paralytic venom. Fire attacks inflict double damage to these ice snakes but are a particularly bad idea. A fireball will collapse the last 60 feet of the tunnel, burying PCs under tons of ice for 10d10+10 damage. The heat also fuses the ice into a solid mass which takes a weak to naturally regenerate enough to allow passage. You can kill the snakes normally (there are 40) or just dive past them hoping to avoid their attacks; they can’t follow you into the shaft. Shockingly it is not trapped.

The slide dumps you out at 16.6, a slick and narrow platform inside the Spire. If you just dove stupidly into the slide you deserve what happens to you: a short trip over the edge into oblivion. If you actually slowed your descent with ropes, anchors etc. you are fine. If you didn’t you can try to arrest your descent by smashing something handheld into the ice, which takes an attack roll against an AC of 2. Any hit stops you. Once stopped, you can help someone else stop themselves, giving them a +2 to their attack roll, but if they miss you BOTH slide away and get one last chance each.

Also, there’s a winter-wight on the platform.

It’s a jerk, and if you’re hanging on to an anchor or clinging by your fingertips, it’ll stomp on your hands, kick out your lifelines etc. It’ll try to grapple you and throw you into the abyss. Also, being grappled by the thing sets you on blackfire.

Once it’s dead, you can get your footing and look across the Last Chasm, the yawning gap that leads to the Negative Energy Plane. You need to either scale the walls somehow or fly to get to 16.7, a 30x30 foot landing. There are three sets of bars here sealing off a door-sized opening: one red, one blue, one green. They glow with a light that does nothing to dispel the shadows that pool in the chamber beyond. Observant PCs can spot movement beyond the bars: two black tentacles, a pair of massive wings, and a broad back are dimly visible through the gloom. Above the door is another message from Acererak.

“When the bars fall away
The flyer stands revealed.
It can bring you my way,
By the route once concealed.”

The three switches the PCs hit earlier each retract one portcullis, so if they came here in the correct “order” then they can just walk right through. The door leads to a holding cell of sorts, and one that is very well protected by magic: nothing short of a wish will get rid of a set of bars, and it’ll take a separate wish for each one. You can’t teleport in or out, and tunneling does nothing; the cell is in a pocket dimension, and approaching it from any direction other than the proper one gets you nothing but solid ice.

Past the three sets of bars is a specialized kind of golem: a Phantom Flyer. It’s manacled to the wall with golden manacles that only unlock with the key from the brine dragon’s hoard. A Phantom Flyer is, despite its horrific appearance, a harmless creature: it is massive, larger than an elephant, and exists to carry up to 10 people to a set destination. Acererak has enchanted this one to provide an envelope of survivable atmosphere around itself to let its passengers survive in hostile environments, and to find its way across the planar boundaries from Moil to the Negative Energy Plane and, in fact, to the doorstep of his Fortress of Conclusion. Freeing it causes it to move out beside the platform, unfurl its wings, and kneel down as if awaiting riders. It cannot communicate but will obey instructions to grab anything the PCs want to load up. When they order it to leave (anything from “go” to “take us to Acererak!”) it will dive into the mists and wing our party straight to the Fortress.

Next time: The beginning of the Conclusion

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

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


Great plan, Acererak. How long has he been stuck waiting for someone with the absurd levels and death wish to power through his gauntlet?

admanb
Jun 18, 2014



PurpleXVI posted:

Great plan, Acererak. How long has he been stuck waiting for someone with the absurd levels and death wish to power through his gauntlet?

Listen, you don't get heroic-tier souls by putting up a classified ad.

Kavak
Aug 23, 2009




It's been years since the review started. What's our motivation for charging into Acererak's Lair? Stopping the Dark Intrusion or whatsit?

DAD LOST MY IPOD
Feb 3, 2012

Fats Dominar is on the case




Kavak posted:

It's been years since the review started. What's our motivation for charging into Acererak's Lair? Stopping the Dark Intrusion or whatsit?

There's a number of hooks at the start, mostly related to the Intrusion, but really I think it's Monte Cook's standard hook "once the PCs see something's up they'll really, really want to know what."

Simian_Prime
Nov 6, 2011

When they passed out body parts in the comics today, I got Cathy's nose and Dick Tracy's private parts.

I'm tickled that Acererak is basically playing an enormous version of Boss Monster.

Asimo
Sep 23, 2007



Siivola posted:

To be fair, very few rule systems paid anything more than lip service to their settings until very recently. Most are just varying complexities of combat engines, with an afterthought of a skill list on the side.
This is a few days back now, but I want to chime in and say that this most definitely isn't true. There are a whole lot of RPGs that cared very deeply about trying to match the mechanics to the theme of the setting even going back to the early 80s, and probably even the late 70s if you want to be generous to stuff like Bunnies & Burrows. It's just the attempts tend to have... mixed success since RPG mechanics were still something in active evolution and development. But even there you started to see almost modern style light-ruled games in the late 80s with things like Teenagers from Outer Space or Toon, and strongly themed crunchier games like Paranoia.

Being a horrible clunky mismatch for its themes was pretty much an issue D&D and its clones and not really an industry-wide thing.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Yeah, you had early games like James Bond and Ghostbusters that were definitely meandering towards genre-based mechanics. Call of Cthulhu, too, in its own way.

FMguru
Sep 10, 2003

peed on;
sexually

Alien Rope Burn posted:

Yeah, you had early games like James Bond and Ghostbusters that were definitely meandering towards genre-based mechanics. Call of Cthulhu, too, in its own way.
I'd add Paranoia and Toon to that batch of mid-80s efforts at genre-driven RPGs.

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

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


Clapping Larry

Feng Shui of course.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




Even in the earliest days of the hobby, when there were games that were basically someone's minis wargaming rules with some roleplaying notes tacked on, you saw people reaching towards thematically appropriate rules. I remember there was a John Carter of Mars game where you tallied up each player's Princess Points at the end (based on winning battles and collecting booty). The one with the highest Princess Points is the one who marries the princess, of course.

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006



Siivola posted:

To be fair, very few rule systems paid anything more than lip service to their settings until very recently. Most are just varying complexities of combat engines, with an afterthought of a skill list on the side.

I want to think that the reason for that now is that you can't copyright a game engine but you can copyright a game setting, iconic characters, art, etc.

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012






You can't copyright mechanics like rolling a d20 to beat a target number. You can copyright rules and terminology like "Strength, dex, con, int, wis, cha"

BinaryDoubts
Jun 6, 2013

Looking at it now, it really is disgusting. The flesh is transparent. From the start, I had no idea if it would even make a clapping sound. So I diligently reproduced everything about human hands, the bones, joints, and muscles, and then made them slap each other pretty hard.




DDoS THE GOLEM… Let’s Read Cryptomancer! (Part 10)

pictured: THE ALMIGHTY CRYPTOSQUID

We’ve reached it, folks – 30 solid pages of lovely info on cryptosystems, golems, hacking, and more. Before we dive in, a quick refresher:
  • Everyone is capable of cryptomancy – the act of converting a written or spoken sentence into gibberish for those who have never heard the correct keyphrase
  • Most keyphrases are simple strings made up of unlikely-to-occur-together words – the phrase can be meaningless, but the words have to be real.
  • Advanced cryptomancy involves true names, the secret, utterly unique, names bestowed on children by their parents. All true names also come with a corresponding soul key, which is an even more powerful secret name that cannot be shared with others.
  • Your closest allies – those you’ve trusted with your true name – can use that name to encode their messages, which can only be decoded with the corresponding soul key (yours). In this way, people can send messages that are completely guaranteed to only be legible to one person.
  • Conversely, you can encode messages with your soul key, meaning they can only be decoded with your true name. This means only the allies you’ve trusted with your true name will be capable of reading the message – and they also know that the message must have originated from you.
  • Most covert conversations are conducted over shardnets, interlinked networks of magic crystals that allow their users to leave echoes for each other to hear (either in cipher or plaintext).
  • Shardnets are limited in size and scale, but there’s another form of shard communication – the Shardscape. Basically, it’s the magic Internet. Users are able to leave echoes and tag them with themes or phrases to allow other users to zero in on echoes left for themselves or other like-minded users.

Everyone caught up? Great, let’s get reading! This chapter goes over many of the cryptosystems and cryptotech involved in the world of Sphere. The first is the courier system, and if you guessed that wax seals aren’t enough security for Cryptomancer – well, you’d be right. Although messages certainly are sent from person to person via couriers, and encrypted with one of the methods above, it’s still not private enough for the paranoids of the world. Couriers were able to glean all kinds of metadata from traditional message deliveries (sender and recipient, most obviously) and these bits of information could be used to establish connections between people who’d much rather stay anonymous. The solution was an IRL BBS: a town bulletin board where couriers can nail up the day’s messages in an enormous smorgasbord of anonymous communication, allowing those who are able to decrypt a given message the ability to receive letters totally anonymously. Bulletin boards are the source of most community’s news and gossip, and the arrival of a new batch of letters always inspires a flurry of activity in the town square. It’s considered taboo to interfere with a courier or the bulletin board, and not even the Risk Eaters like to interfere much with the system (at least, too openly…) Of course, there are flaws with the system – anyone who gets access to the courier’s secure dropbox or delivery satchel could insert false information or even edit/remove other letters (assuming they’ve broken a specific keyphrase, of course).

Cryptosignatures! In business, these are a (somewhat) common method to verify that a document really is from the sender it purports to be from. The simplest way to use this system is to sign a contract or letter or whatever with your true name and then encrypt it with your soul key. This way, anyone who knows your true name will decrypt the signature, see your true name written, and know it had to have been sent by you. For legal documents, you’ll sign your name twice – once for the encryption dealio, and again in cleartext so a third party is able to verify that the signature is genuine. (Dwarven banks like these kinds of signatures because they can use the true name to track down people who default.)

Shardnets! There are a bunch of ways to secure a shardnet, ranging from least to most secure. At the low end, you have total plaintext – messages are easily read by anyone who can gain access to one of the shards. Up one notch from that, you have a shardnet where everyone encrypts with a single keyphrase. Slightly more secure, but the moment the keyphrase is broken, so too is your entire network. You also need to find some means of communicating changes to the keyphrase, which obviously can’t be broadcast over the shardnet.

Finally, you have what I’ll call extreme paranoia mode. Literally every possible precaution will be taken: multiple concentric circles of encryption, including a “basic” channel using a simple keyphrase to share information widely, more restricted keyphrases for specific topics of discussion, true name encryption for extremely valuable information, periodic challenge questions, visual confirmation (i.e. an agent might be dispatched to check that someone is who they claim to be), specific rules relating to communication (i.e. messages can only be sent on even hours, messages sent at other times indicate the ‘net has been compromised), rotating keys based on some out-network solution (perhaps using a specific book, with the keyphrase being certain words from pre-decided pages). There are more precautions possible – but at a certain point, the GM is going to need a goddamn man page to keep track of how their systems work, so I’d advise them to keep to a handful of specific procedures that can be broken by savvy players.

Bridged shardnets! A fun little wrinkle to shard communications is that if you hold a shard in each hand, messages sent by anyone on either shard will be broadcast across both networks. (Historic messages that are resonating from earlier do not cross over). Assuming the other network is kept silent, this can be a great way of eavesdropping and sharing your findings with a large group – the only way to know that your shardnet is being bridged is that it’ll make echoes last longer (they now last as long as the number of shards from both networks added together). There isn’t any kind of immediate tell, so better hope your cryptoadmin is on the ball. Bridges can even be extended between three shards – person 1 holds a shards connected to networks 1 and 2, person 2 (usually some neutral third party or other broker) holds a shard connected to network 2, and the third holds shards connected to networks 2 and 3. In this way, communication can flow between person 1 and 3 without any information about their own network leaking out.

The Shardscape! Basically, the arrival of a big-rear end meteor-sized shard kicked off the Modern Age – and created the largest shardnet in existence. There are tens of thousands of connected shards, and because the volume of echoes is so large, you can’t simply “hear” them all as you would on a normal shardnet. Instead, you have to focus on a specific topic (say, “grain prices in Halmspire”) to hear echoes that have been “tagged” with that topic. It works to send messages, too – simply tagging a message with a person’s common name is an easy way to broadcast to a specific person. (Usually the first thing people will do after “logging in” is to search for their own name.) Just as you can search for a specific topic, you can also search for a given keyphrase, which will return any current messages encrypted with that phrase. Bridging to the Shardscape is possible, but not recommended (except as a hostile action). Any messages currently echoing in the shardnet are dumped into the Shardscape, while simultaneously a torrent of Shardscape echoes will flood into the shardnet.

Cryptoadmins! Cryptoadmins are (unsurprisingly) the equivalent to an intranet’s sysadmin. Wealthy organizations will pay for these admins to hang out in secure “cryptovaults”, where their job is to monitor shardnet traffic 24/7. Their remit is to monitor and secure the ‘net, while also updating a registry – a written documentation of every event and echo on their assigned shardnet. Some cryptoadmins will manage multiple shardnets (for different cells/areas of operation) and most will act as an all-purpose dispatcher and operator. Need to know where someone was last seen? Send a message to the cryptoadmin and hope he’s got some shard spells and an up-to-date registry.

Golems! Golems aren’t the shambling clay creatures you’ll see in most games – they’re more like Doctor Octopus crossed with Siri crossed with a firewall. Golems can help automate some of the tasks usually performed by a cryptoadmin, listening in on multiple shardnets while also updating a registry with the help of its swarm of mechanical limbs. Golems have a true name (which they will tell to the cryptoadmin) and a corresponding soul key (which raises all kinds of questions about what qualifies a being to have a true name... especially since golems aren’t sentient). Golems can switch between multiple shards but they can’t bridge them, meaning shard-based spells can’t traverse a golem. They’re capable of switching between shardnets so quickly, though, that the delay is imperceptible to the end user.
So what can golems do? Well, for one, the golem can act as an automated intermediary between multiple networks. A person on shardnet A who wants to broadcast to shardnets B and C would encrypt a message with the golem’s true name. The golem will notice the message and then encrypt it with a specified keyphrase before sending it out over the specific networks. This makes cross-shardnet communication quick and easy (and saves the poor cryptoadmin from having to juggle shards). The golem can also manage traffic from the Shardscape, without flooding the connected shardnets with garbage (as happens when someone tries to bridge them normally). Messages can be sent to a golem-monitored shardnet and then dispatched to the Shardscape, or sent into the Shardscape and relayed to a connected shardnet (the golem is always listening for messages encrypted with its true name across all connected networks). It can also be instructed to listen for specific keyphrases, which allows people to communicate to a golem-network without having to know the golem’s name.

Of course, this wouldn’t be Cryptomancer if this whole apparatus didn’t have a few flaws. Anyone who knows the golem’s true name (or monitored keyphrases) can essentially spam a private network – either with targeted malicious messages, or with a flood of spam in an attempt to DDoS the golem. If the golem receives too many incoming messages in too short a period, it will end up overheated and broken by the effort of frantically swapping shards and scribbling in the automated registry. If there’s a cryptoadmin nearby, they can attempt to perform emergency cryptomaintenance by making a Craft skill check – or they can just wait until the DDoS is over and then reboot the golem. After it reboots, it’ll generate a new true name which must be distributed again – a perfect opportunity for a malicious actor to try and masquerade as the cryptoadmin and get people to connect to their own golem-network.

Authentication! In short, many shardnets will have some kind of authentication scheme that requires a user to “log in” before they can get access to the wider shardnet. For instance, a bank might require you to verify who you are before the cryptoadmin will provide you your balance. The most basic form of authentication has the user broadcast their name and passphrase, encrypted with their name and passphrase.The cryptoadmin, who has access to a registry listing all verified users, will be able to decrypt and check that the user is valid. Once they’re accepted, that user will be able to access whatever privileges are listed in the registry (access to a specific bank account, e.g.) Obviously, there are flaws with this system – passphrases get stolen or forgotten, a user forgets to encrypt their passphrase before using it, and so on. In cases where it seems like something hinky is going on, cryptoadmins can dispatch physical security to the shard’s location, or simply stop responding to echoes (which creates its own problems, obviously). This kind of authentication scheme only really works for businesses who have shards in physically secured locations and who need to provide the public with some degree of access (as above, banks are the best candidate for this system of security).

It goes deeper (of course it goes deeper) with true authentication. I’m just going to quote the book’s explanation because I’m tired and lazy:

Cryptomancer posted:

To authenticate, a user simply declares who they are with their common name (or some other non-sensitive value, such as an account number). The cryptoadmin will then encrypt a shared keyphrase with the true name associated with that common name (written in the registry) and send it back to the user. The user then uses that shared keyphrase to continue her conversation with the cryptoadmin. Because only the actual owner of that true name could possibly decrypt the message in order to access this shared keyphrase, this validates that the user is who they say they are beyond a shadow of a doubt. In short, true authentication uses true name cryptography to securely share a keyphrase that both parties will use for the remainder of the communication.

True auth is super hard to break, but it also requires people to part with their true name, so only powerful institutions like governments or high-end Dwarven banks can get away with demanding its use.

Banners! Banners are basically a homepage or MOTD – simple cleartext messages that are rebroadcast constantly to provide instructions to new users. Of course, they can also be used for sinister purposes – if you manage to replace a shard with one belonging to your own network, you could spoof the banner to make a user think they’d connected to the legitimate network instead of your malicious replacement.

Cryptogears! These are basic mechanical inventions that respond to commands given to their embedded shards. The most common application of this technology is in cryptolocks – locks that require someone to touch them and broadcast a given keyphrase to unlock the chest or door. These shards can be either “loners” or connected to a wider network. In the latter case, cryptoadmins are able to monitor a building’s locks remotely. More broadly, cryptogears can also be used for industrial purposes – opening/closing sluice gates, changing railway turns, and so on. As with cryptolocks, these can be monitored and operated remotely. As with the real-world Internet of Things, these systems are of course vulnerable to being hacked and sabotaged (campaign idea: destroy a railway baron’s holdings by using last-second route switching to derail his trains)

Scryer Nets! As I mentioned in the magic update, the Scry spell can be used to essentially create a surveillance network. Casters (working in shifts to preserve MP) can use the spell to monitor the environs around a shardnet’s shards. It’s a great tool for your stock dictator or constabulary – but also incredibly expensive to maintain and keep protected from outside intrusion.

Codebreakers!

Cryptomancer posted:

The great dwarven codebreaker engines resemble colossus-sized slot machines. However, instead of 3 to 5 spinning reels containing a few symbols repeated over and over, codebreaker engines have dozens of spinning reels containing thousands of words appearing only once. Every few seconds, the engine randomly shifts its reels. When they stop, they form a readable string of random words. This allows a cryptomancer with an extremely high tolerance for tedium to read the continually changing string and expand her mental lexicon of keyphrases considerably. Depending on how many reels it has, it can take anywhere from years to centuries for a codebreaker engine to cycle through all of its possible combinations. Dwarves consider it a form of meditation to gaze into a codebreaker engine and most clanhalls feature a codebreaker engine as a prominent and central feature in their great hall to promote this practice.

There are monks who take this practice to an extreme – devoting their entire lives to studying a nearly-infinite sequence of keyphrases. After a lifetime of study, these monks will know nearly every possible 3- and 4- word keyphrase.

This is a horseshit concept, and here’s why. There are roughly a million words in the English language – let’s be generous and say across Human Common, Dwarvish, and Elvish, there are a million words (and let’s also assume there are no other dialects). There are 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible 3-word combinations from the 1-million-word total vocabulary size. It would take you 277,7777,777,777,777.8 hours to see every single one of those combinations (assuming it takes you a total of 1 second to process/reset each new combo). Now, even if you take issue with the numberology here (and I am NOT a math guy, so I probably hosed up somewhere) and significantly cut down the number of possible words (people realistically only use a subset of a given language’s words), there’s still just no way for any one person to see even a small section of a language’s possible three-word combinations (and there’s no universe in which 4-word combos are even plausible).

Anyway… these monks will decrypt messages for a small fee and will even study a target’s lifestyle in an attempt to construct a custom word-wheel that’s targeted to their likely lexicon. These monks are scrupulously neutral – they will never use information learned through their work to their own advantage, and will never share it with other parties. They cannot be used to crack true name encryption, though, since true names are impossible to guess.

Shard stormers! These are basically internet hacker gangs who will attack a target’s shardnet for a fee. You can get cells of them as a hideout upgrade. Good times all around.

Next time… Mundane security and other adventures!

inklesspen
Oct 17, 2007

Here I am coming, with the good news of me, and you hate it. You can think only of the bell and how much I have it, and you are never the goose. I will run around with my bell as much as I want and you will make despair.

Buglord

Kurieg posted:

You can't copyright mechanics like rolling a d20 to beat a target number. You can copyright rules and terminology like "Strength, dex, con, int, wis, cha"

Only to the extent that there's other reasonable ways to express the same concept. "The stat representing physical strength is named 'strength'" is very likely not copyrightable. That people are represented using six stats, and specifically those six, may be copyrightable, but I wouldn't want that to be my only argument at court.

Siivola
Dec 23, 2012



Asimo posted:

Being a horrible clunky mismatch for its themes was pretty much an issue D&D and its clones and not really an industry-wide thing.
I admit to being a bit uneducated on this, but looking back at the big names, it seems like for every Feng Shui there was a Legend of the Five Rings or a Rifts or some other game that didn't get played by the rules even at their writers' tables.

Asimo
Sep 23, 2007



Siivola posted:

I admit to being a bit uneducated on this, but looking back at the big names, it seems like for every Feng Shui there was a Legend of the Five Rings or a Rifts or some other game that didn't get played by the rules even at their writers' tables.
I'll grant Lo5R, but RIFTS is a pretty bad example since it's just an awkward stapling of other game settings on top of Palladium Fantasy rules, which is pretty much just a straight up AD&D heartbreaker.

(And ironically it's not that bad of one. It's a bit poorly balanced and laid out, but it's fairly streamlined and playable compared to the giant kludge that is RIFTS.)

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Siivola posted:

I admit to being a bit uneducated on this, but looking back at the big names, it seems like for every Feng Shui there was a Legend of the Five Rings or a Rifts or some other game that didn't get played by the rules even at their writers' tables.

I mean Feng Shui was a mess, too, and still had a bunch of holdovers of standard RPG design like inexplicable drunkness rules or keeping track of exact numbers of bullets. But it was made in the 90s; 'Our game is a mess and has a resolution mechanic that isn't great but has SOME thought put into it' is stellar by the par of the time.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




Young Freud posted:

I want to think that the reason for that now is that you can't copyright a game engine but you can copyright a game setting, iconic characters, art, etc.
I think that's a factor, but not in the way that you think. That is, I don't think RPG developers eschew making their own system because they can't copyright it. Rather, they rip off other systems because mechanics aren't copyrighted.

In the period I think we're all thinking of (the 90s) you saw a lot of companies make a novel system, but their systems were often superficial variations of each other with a slightly novel die mechanic. (Like, everyone used some kind of system where you have Attributes and Skills, usually rated 1-5 or 1-6. But some were Stat+Skill+2d6 vs. TN, some were the same but roll-under, and there were a dozen different die pool mechanics floating around.)

A lot of it is just the same stuff you saw at the beginning of the hobby--doing stuff the way it had been done before, because it hadn't occurred to anyone to change it yet. But my pet theory is that there was a peculiar sort of angst at work, likely spurred by the continuing popularity of D&D. Game designers wanted a system that "made more sense" than D&D and was also "more about roleplaying." So we got games full of fussy combat rules and equipment stats, but with Humanity rules tacked on--yet the tacked-on story-bits were touted as the most important part of the game.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

Like early Shadowrun earnestly imploring you to blow precious skill points on hobbies.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




Bieeardo posted:

Like early Shadowrun earnestly imploring you to blow precious skill points on hobbies.
This is the worst thing in game design.

"We know our rules are lacking, and this is a bad way to spend your points. But if you don't do it, you're a bad roleplayer and shame on you and the GM should punish you."

Bad rules can be fixed, and most roleplayers will move on and try other games. But when the first games you play outright encourage lovely group dynamics, those are harder to fix, and stay with you longer. For years, I just accepted that roleplaying involves a tense agreement between the players and GM that they won't try too hard to be effective, and he will stay his almighty hand. It's bullshit.

SirPhoebos
Dec 10, 2007

Horned Rat-Sempai Noticed Me!


Halloween Jack posted:

This is the worst thing in game design.

"We know our rules are lacking, and this is a bad way to spend your points. But if you don't do it, you're a bad roleplayer and shame on you and the GM should punish you."

Bad rules can be fixed, and most roleplayers will move on and try other games. But when the first games you play outright encourage lovely group dynamics, those are harder to fix, and stay with you longer. For years, I just accepted that roleplaying involves a tense agreement between the players and GM that they won't try too hard to be effective, and he will stay his almighty hand. It's bullshit.

Even though System Mastery did a pretty good take-down, I would love it if someone reviewed Prime Directive

(my next update is written, but a FFXIV patch just dropped so it might be a few days before I post it.)

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



My favorite stupid mechanics thing in Ghostbusters will always be that a normal strength person couldn't carry a proton pack and a ghost trap or PKE meter at the same time without being overburdened. By the rules, Ray, Egon, and Peter should have been tipping over as soon as they geared up.

PantsOptional
Dec 27, 2012

All I wanna do is make you bounce

Evil Mastermind posted:

My favorite stupid mechanics thing in Ghostbusters will always be that a normal strength person couldn't carry a proton pack and a ghost trap or PKE meter at the same time without being overburdened. By the rules, Ray, Egon, and Peter should have been tipping over as soon as they geared up.

Is that something introduced in the 1989 revision? In the original you could carry 3 items of gear.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Yeah, I got in a nasty fight with a GM recently over maximizing a character for Exalted 3 over just this attitude. They provided zero guidance on what they expected for character generation, and then got genuinely angry when I showed up with a lot of 1s and 5s on my sheet. But when I asked them what they thought would be acceptable, they balked because it was about the spirit of the thing, not the numbers.

It's one of the few times you can say this literally: don't hate the player, hate the game.

theironjef
Aug 11, 2009

The archmage of unexpected stinks.



SirPhoebos posted:

Even though System Mastery did a pretty good take-down, I would love it if someone reviewed Prime Directive

(my next update is written, but a FFXIV patch just dropped so it might be a few days before I post it.)

Prime Directive at least forced you to spend some of your character resources on hobbies instead of begging you to, but it does have another amusingly passive aggressive sidebar about watching the players to make sure their hobbies aren't useful skills in disguise. "Whoa whoa fencing? Don't you go bringing that Sulu crap in here. You could use that! Switch that to fishing or GTFO."

Also yes, someone should cover it. We did that one way too early in our run, I almost want to revisit it.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

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


Evil Mastermind posted:

My favorite stupid mechanics thing in Ghostbusters will always be that a normal strength person couldn't carry a proton pack and a ghost trap or PKE meter at the same time without being overburdened. By the rules, Ray, Egon, and Peter should have been tipping over as soon as they geared up.

To be fair, Ray, Egon and Peter WERE huffing and puffing going up stairs and they weren't exactly sprinting all over the place.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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




theironjef posted:

Prime Directive at least forced you to spend some of your character resources on hobbies instead of begging you to, but it does have another amusingly passive aggressive sidebar about watching the players to make sure their hobbies aren't useful skills in disguise. "Whoa whoa fencing? Don't you go bringing that Sulu crap in here. You could use that! Switch that to fishing or GTFO."
To be fair to Shadowrun, later editions gave you a pool of points to spend on "Knowledge Skills," and that's where you'd put points in Elven Wine and 20th Century Vids (as in Star Trek, everything was cooler a century ago). But you still had an incentive to put your points in skills like Corporate Security Procedures and Smuggler Havens instead.

Jef, did we ever discuss why the skill rolls in Haven: City of Violence were so weird? I'm pretty certain it's because Louis "G.O.D." Porter, Jr. based all the skill rolls on how monster identification checks worked in D&D 3. The difficulty is based on the monster's Challenge Rating, so it's easier to know stuff about some obscure CR3 Ethereal Humdinger than to know about Red Dragons.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



PantsOptional posted:

Is that something introduced in the 1989 revision? In the original you could carry 3 items of gear.

Yeah, that was in GBI, which didn't use the gear cards.

Of course, the original had the "beach kit", whose only purpose was to let you have fun at the beach. That was the other problem with WEG's Ghostbuster (and later, MiB) games: nobody who worked on them knew how to write comedy.

Doresh
Jan 7, 2015


PurpleXVI posted:

Great plan, Acererak. How long has he been stuck waiting for someone with the absurd levels and death wish to power through his gauntlet?

He is starting to remind me of a bad shounen villain (as if being brokenly overpowered wasn't enough). Now all he needs is to gloat how everything has always been going according to his plan.

SirPhoebos
Dec 10, 2007

Horned Rat-Sempai Noticed Me!


I think that the biggest problem with Acererak's plan is that the only way a group of adventurer's make it through his 3-layered death traps is if the players read the module before hand, and if players are resorting to this, they'll also figure out how to beat Acererak when they get to him.

Yes, that's an incredibly 4th-wall breaking fault, but when you're a super demilich you get held to a higher standard

EDIT: You could probably use the whole Tomb of Horrors complex as a setting for a Dark Souls-like game.

SirPhoebos fucked around with this message at 18:13 on Sep 28, 2016

Doresh
Jan 7, 2015


SirPhoebos posted:

EDIT: You could probably use the whole Tomb of Horrors complex as a setting for a Dark Souls-like game.

Dark Souls is hard, but fair. The Tomb is just bullshit.

(Then again, being able to endlessly respawn does make it more manageable.)

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012







Chapter 5: Heroes and Other Monsters
The game is wearing it's prejudices firmly on the sleeve now. In this chapter's Ben saga, he is being a hormonal teenager, surprising no-one except literally everyone.

quote:

Lair
This is such bullshit! Ben said the words, but the serpent simply roared, slamming its vast coils against a nearby tree and taking off a chunk of it. Not that it mattered; in Robin’s Lair, there were always more trees. Rows and rows stretching off into a misty distance, in fact, the scent of rotting leaves and fallen branches thick in the air. Right now, it was also as close to neutral ground as the brood could manage. You’re the one who told me to talk to Noelle in the first place!

That was when it was just Noelle. Robin’s reply was something between a growl and a low purr. Then she made another of her kind. That’s a problem. The monstrous tiger crouched, and Ben could hear the effort it was taking to control her voice. A big problem.

How? Ben spat. Just loving tell me already.

One vampire, nobody gives a drat. Not her kind, not ours. So long as she’s careful. Robin gave Ben a pointed look. The serpent was many times the size of the tiger, but this was the tiger’s Lair, and the serpent shuddered. But more than one vampire, in a town this size? Their kind start to pay attention. Which is bad for her, and worse for us.

Especially since you invited her in, James hissed from the shadows. What the gently caress were you thinking, letting her in here? And without asking us? The serpent coiled and reared back.

Enough, Robin snarled. Ben did as we asked getting to know her, and you didn’t complain when they were just hunting bullies and johns, so shut it. The shadows rustled, and a cold breeze blew from where James’ voice had come, but he said nothing.

But, Ben, Robin continued, why did you bring her here? I mean, you had to know we would want to be consulted on something like that. I know you’re close, but her seeing this place…it’s not good. Not without warning.

I love her. If James had said so much as a single unkind thing Ben would have spat poison into the trees, but whether he managed on his own or Robin kept him in check, he stayed silent. I love her. I’m sorry.

For a long moment, the only sound was the wind in the trees.

Look, Robin began, but Ben cut her off with a hiss.

I know what you’re going to ask, all right? He said.

Do you. James said, quietly. It wasn’t quite a question.

I’m not stupid. I know what happens if we draw too much attention. Ben exhaled, and venom dripped from his maw. She’s gotta get rid of the new fucker, or they both gotta leave town. He left the other option unsaid, but in the stillness of the forest he might as well have shouted it. I’ll make it happen. I promise.

You’re strong. Robin looked at the serpent’s yellow eyes, unafraid. I know you can do it.

Family first, right? Ben said. Robin opened the Pathway and they walked back to the waking world, leaving the serpent, the tiger, and the formless horror behind. Ben was already imagining how Noelle would react and hoping he was wrong.

Yeah this isn't going to end badly at all.

quote:

Tales of the Dark Mother - Embla
“If I fall and die, I’ll haunt you,” Embla says, clutching her safety rope as she climbs down the cave wall, inching over each rock at the speed of snail. Khepri makes no effort to slow, skittering down without so much as a second thought.

“Stop whining. We’re almost there.”

Embla tries to force herself into a faster clip, but every move makes her stomach flip. The cave grows wider with each meter, a great, bleak funnel through the earth. She feels increasingly like a bug in a bathtub. Friction was banished from this place. The rocks are slick with stagnant water, and blue, glowing fungus. She and Khepri have been descending for hours, a half-mile below any cracks or crevices that might reveal daylight. Embla tries to imagine the cloudless sky hanging over the forest in her Lair, but even her imagination is hard to make out in this light.

By the time she reaches the ground, Khepri is already digging. She throws him a sour look, and starts to assemble her pickax. “I don’t know why we had to go this way.”

He doesn’t look at her. “Are you helping or not?”

Embla fumbles with the handle of the ax, struggling to lock it in place. “Stupid piece of—”

“Forget it. I found it.” Khepri concentrates and turns his fingers to thick, sharp insect claws. He tosses clumps behind him as he burrows, and nearly clocks Embla’s head with a rock.

“Come on, man! poo poo. Why the gently caress am I here?”

“You’re the only one I know who reads Sumerian,” he says, and pulls something from the earth. It’s a clay urn, shaped like a headless, armless belly with two legs. It’s the color of ochre, but long streams of black ooze stain its sides. The spout is engraved with jagged cuneiform. It leaves its grave with little resistance, and dirt falls away as if the earth rejects it.

“What is—”

“It was the Mother’s vessel. Her royal cup, to sip the blood of her enemies.” Khepri beams, vindicated.

“You can’t be serious.”

“Listen.”

He holds the urn to her ear. The screams come in too many voices to count. All in pain. All begging. Embla’s flight instinct kicks in for the first time in decades, and it takes every ounce of selfcontrol she has not to jump straight out of the cave.

“I need you to translate it. It can’t be removed without the spell inscribed on it.”
“Christ. Okay, put it down and get out of my light,” she says, studying it for a minute. “I don’t think this is what you think it is, Khef. Look.”

Khepri kneels, and Embla smashes the pickax through his temple. She moves the urn to collect his blood.

“Mea culpa, but she’s been calling me way longer than you. And the voices were really clear about you being the sacrifice. If it’s any consolation, you were half right! But it’s not a cup.”

The ichor from the urn flows into the ground. The dirt and rock turn to mud, swirling into a spiral.

“It’s a key.”

I've asked this before and I'll ask this again, why on earth is the game even pretending that Beasts are good people?


And what the hell does this chapter image have to do with anything that follows?

The chapter opens stating that monsters exist in stories to be killed. And that Beasts are the monsters in the Story which means basically everyone wants to kill you. Always Heroes, sometimes other supernaturals, and even sometimes other beasts.

Heroes and Legends
Heroes like reading the old tales about Heracles, Marduk, Durga, and St.George. All of them they consider heroes out to slay some evil beast. I'm choosing not to quote three pages of literal hero worship but they call out Atalanta as being a "Feminist" icon so... yeah.


The Quest Begins
Like Beasts, Heroes are born different. But they don't "Dream Deep", they "Dream Wide", skimming the surface of the Primoridal Dream but experiencing a wider variety of it's offerings. In the past they served as an early warning system, sensing that the monsters were coming and trying to teach the needed lesson in a less deadly way. Heroes only hunted down Beasts that were driven to excesses by their Hunger. The game will not expound upon what "excesses" constitute. Then humans bred too much, got to numerous, and everything broke.

It All Went Wrong-
As mankind got larger their connection to the Primordial dream weakened, Beasts could no longer sate themselves entirely through Nightmares, they needed to go out hunting. Heroes could no longer skim the Dream, only sense where the disturbances were and go seek them out. The cultural narrative has changed so much that now Heroes assume that they must kill Beasts, and Beasts think the same.

quote:

A number of things can cause these disturbances, not all of related to the Children, and so some Heroes go their whole lives never knowing that Beasts exist. Once they find a Beast, though, they associate it with the constant turmoil in the Dream; they know, beyond doubt, that killing the Beast will calm the Dream. They are, of course, wrong about that, but they usually have no way of knowing it.
It is taking a Herculean amount of effort to not just spam the wank emote this chapter.

First Contact

quote:

Heroes feel the Primordial Dream in a light, broad sort of way, much like placing one’s palm flat on a smooth body of water. As long as nothing breaks the surface tension of the water, the hand doesn’t get wet, but the person can still feel the water quiver. Anything that disturbs the water, though, upsets that feel (and might even submerge the hand). Beasts have a habit of disturbing the Primordial Dream, and that means they draw the attention of Heroes.
That's not how surface tension works. water would adhere to the hand if you were touching the surface of the water and a human isn't light enough to support themselves on the water without breaking the tension, even just resting their hand. They'd need to hold it in place which means that they would be naturally counteracting any kind of feeling they'd be getting from the water and this is such a dumb metaphor.

A hero that feels a quiver in the dream finds themselves drawn to the physical location where that disturbance happened.

quote:

What he does next defines him as a Hero. He might ignore the feeling or attempt to learn what it stems from without actually tracking down that particular manifestation. In any event, he recognizes that whatever is going on, it isn’t about him specifically.

The Heroes who Beasts tend to encounter, however, lack that awareness. Misinterpreting their instincts as a call to action, they charge out to find the source of the disturbance. They find the Children and see the Horror lurking behind human eyes.
So the "Good" Heroes are the ones that run across a mugging and cross the street to avoid it, and he "Evil" Heroes are the ones who stop it.

I'm sorry what?

The "Hero-to-be" who decides to hunt down the beast falls into an obsessive spiral that takes over their life. They start being paranoid, carrying weapons, not out of fear but out of a determination to be prepared for the eventual fight. Others consider such paranoia unhealthy but the Hero dismisses these claims. How could they possibly know what he's gone through to protect them? Eventually the fixation turns to hatred, the Hero sees the Beast as an abomination, a Monster. And Heroes Kill Monsters.

Yes their excuse is "Moral Heroes never encounter Beasts because Moral Heroes never encounter Beasts" also "Violent or Destructive Monsters", there is literally a hunger for destruction and two for violence.

And yes they are discussed in chapter seven, but not well.

Tools and Weapons
Heroes are not the rank and file of humanity, after all they're special. They're resilient to damage, able to track Beasts that have raised their ire, and are able to impose("Discover") weaknesses on Beasts that find themselves unprepared.

First Blood
Most Heroes don't come out of their first encounter with a Beast prepared and ready to kill. They'll survive, surely, but a nascent hero isn't very powerful and it's usually the strong Beasts that raise their ire. Occasionally a Hero will encounter a weaker Beast and kill it. Other times a veteran Hero will take a newbie under their wing and grant them the rite of the kill. Regardless with each kill a Hero grows stronger.

The Rest of the Cast
Heroes are often surprised when they encounter others like themselves, but every Hero of myth has sidekicks and helpers. Usually these sidekicks aren't other Heroes though, since their egos can't abide not being the Star of the show for too long. And Heroes usually don't work well in groups, a particularly noble hero may lay down his life for "his men", but all to often they decide that their men would be fine dying for his cause and leave them to hang.

Worthy Companions
Two heroes hunting the same beast will find themselves often working at cross-purposes trying to isolate the kill for themselves. If a group of Heroes does form, it's called a Band, few of which last after their first kill. Though some stick around, particularly in areas were the Begotten congregate. The first challenge a Band faces is dealing with the other Heroes. Tempers flare regularly and arguments happen over every little thing. Attempts at cohesion turn into a battle of dominance where only one person can be on top.

A quick and dirty method of getting a band of Heroes all on the same page is to attack their mutual interests. Wise Children who hear of a band forming don't attack before they are sought out for fear of galvanizing their efforts. Canny heroes will provoke lesser beasts into attacking them to rally their allies behind them(and come out on top). The other problem that shows up is who gets the kill. Only the one who lands the killing blow gets the 'level up' and more than one beast has escaped while the Heroes who bested them squabble over blood rights. Such arguments usually cause them to disband. Occasionally they will 'feed' the least experienced Hero, though several will argue the validity of such a kill, it doesn't really matter as far as powering up is concerned.

When heroes gather outside of the hunt it's either a rollicking good time (No one drinks like Gaston!) or a contest of egos that turns into a brawl. Such gatherings are rare because who has time for anything other than the hunt! That's not to say they don't cooperate, Heroes will seek eachother out for specialized training or knowledge all the time. Though the price of such assistance can vary. The advent of the Internet has also made communication between Heroes all the easier, though older heroes see it as a waste of time.

Followers
Heroes and Hunters often cross paths, and sometimes they work together. But it's never an easy alliance.

Heroes see Hunters as useful tools and shock troops, best left to deal with the vampires or werewolves. Let the second string benchwarmers fight while the REAL men fight the REAL threat. For their part Hunters see Heroes the same way. They can use Heroes to seek out the Beasts that are the lightning rods of the supernatural world.

Some compacts and conspiracies make active use of Heroes. Ashwood Abbey uses them like hounds to flush out the proverbial Fox. Members of the Union often find themselves in hero inspired mobs. Task Force Valkyrie, on the other hand, has a standing order to observe but not engage with any independent heroes since they prove too great a risk to equipment and personnel.

Other Nightmares
Heroes often assume that Vampires and Werewolves are cut from the same cloth as a Beast, waking nightmares who disturb the Primoridal Dream. But if they try and hunt such creatures they find the experience unfulfilling. A dead Werewolf doesn't provide the increase in power that a Beast does. But since Kinship is a thing, Heroes will run across them.

Vampires
Heroes don't usually mess around with Vampires because Vampires police themselves and are fairly hard to tell apart from a normal human. Vampires who have had the opportunity to do so say that Hero and Beast blood tastes the same.

Werewolves
"On the surface, it might seem that the Uratha would sympathize with Heroes, focused as they are on defending their territory and hunting down threats." Sure they would... Of course werewolf packs are packs and Heroes are lone hunters, so that doesn't really work. Also Heroes think that Werewolves are Beasts.

Mages
When they cross paths, a Hero and a Mage will butt heads because they're both willful individuals who refuse to back down. That said they probably won't cross paths except if the Mage has a kinship with the current Hero's target.

Changelings
Apparently Heroes that know of Changelings see them as powerful allies, if they can be convinced that the Beast is a threat then their skills at dream combat will aid them greatly. Or they could accidentally give the Beast a new ally.

Prometheans
The Created cross paths with Heroes so infrequently that any encounter at all would probably be a noteworthy event. That said, the Ego of a Hero makes them incapable of understanding why wanting to be simply human is a worthy goal. Prometheans have formidable powers, don't need real food, and can shrug off fatal injury with ease. Then the disquiet kicks in, the Hero tries to kill the Promethean, and wonders why he even bothered.

Sin-Eaters
Heroes view Sin-eaters as too wrapped up in themselves to be entirely safe. The only exception is if a Beast is hiding in an Avernian Gate, or if a Sin-Eater is carrying a Geist that died as a result of the Beast's actions.

Mummies
They don't really interact. The heroes that do interact desperately want the Rite of Return so they can kill Beasts forever. The Mummies think that is an incredibly stupid idea.

Demons
Demons have better things to do than even acknowledge Heroes and their insane quests. If a hero does find out that Demons are more or less immune to a Beast's wiles, they might try to get a Demon's help in their hunt, gladly selling their soul for power. And the Demon may oblige.


I love how the game basically admits, in character, that the only way they could make Heroes non-sympathetic was to give them a body count in the thousands.

Next Time: Hero Mechanics and neckbeards Sample Characters

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LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

Kurieg posted:


Yes their excuse is "Moral Heroes never encounter Beasts because Moral Heroes never encounter Beasts" also "Violent or Destructive Monsters", there is literally a hunger for destruction and two for violence.

"Good" Heroes hunt down destructive supernatural creatures.

Beasts, overwhelmingly, are destructive supernatural creatures.

PC Beasts are encouraged to be such destructive supernatural creatures, c.f. "The rest of the players at the table shift uncomfortably."

However, PC Beasts will not encounter "Good" Heroes? Come on!

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